On Ramadan

I now live on top of a bakery, where Old and New Roads meet, next to the oldest lighthouse on the island.

In the mornings, there is sourdough in the air above my bed and The Harbour from the kitchen window. In the evenings, there is a moment just before dusk, when it should already be dark, but the cracks around the doors glow gold, the shadows soften and the walls of my entire, tiny flat are alight.

It lasts eleven minutes.

The first day of Ramadan was a day after storms, where the rain blew in horizontal streams, and rich people’s beachside infinity pools fell into the sea. Through the clouds, someone had found the new moon.

For a little girl in Malaysia, Ramadan meant changed opening hours, enormous feasts at friend’s family homes and trays of tiny, sugary sweets in pastel rainbows.

Golden minutes at sunset were accompanied by calls to prayer, scratchy through the TV, echoes through the window.

Later, I would spend a Ramadan on the Indonesian coast, with people whose homes and families had been washed away by a giant wave. We rode motorbikes around puddles that had been villages, where the graffiti was about survival. I fasted too, for solidarity, for awkwardness.

The sunsets were blink-rapid, the evenings warm and utterly dark. We swatted malarial mosquitoes from kerosene lamps, scraped fragrant mutton rendang from banana leaves, licked lemongrass from our fingers.

I watched as people knelt on grass mats and talked of gratitude.

A few years back, in Mogadishu, I watched a Ramadan dusk arrive from the roof of a building with no walls. Through a hole in the floor, soldiers were on their knees, foreheads bowed before a golden sea, guns laid down on the stairs.

In our compound on Eid, we woke before dawn to slaughter a goat. In the evening, there was music over the barbed wire.

This Ramadan, I went to a mosque on Sydney’s outskirts, to Blacktown. There have been protests here; for judgement and against. There have been assumptions, and anger. It’s acknowledged in the way some people speak the syllables: Black-Town.

I go to share iftar on the first day with Madina, a young Afghan woman, her husband, her children, her in-laws: a refugee family who raised accountants, the Australian Dream.

I stand in the Australian Dream kitchen and watch her cook.

The bulonee is hand-worked, dough flattened with her own palm, lined with chives and smashed garlicky potatoes, barbecued on the gas braai on the back terrace. The chapli kebab patties are gently cupped from hand to hand, later to be dipped in crushed coriander and chili from the garden. The buronee bonjaan is tender, falling from the fork, layers of eggplant slowly cooking on the stove with onions and tomato.

The sun sets on the lawn, gold on trimmed grass and facebrick.

Before we eat, I ask Madina whether it’s hard here, whether she feels different, judged. She is silent for a moment.

This is a time for testing yourself, she says. It’s about forbearance

Iftar for all at Blacktown Mosque, www.blacktownmosque.org.au