Friday, 12 September 2008

More Ramazan Memories... The Drummer

Every year when Ramazan rolls in, the neighborhood drummer rolls on in along with it. He's up before the crack of dawn, before any rooster would dream of crowing, before the early bird is up to get its worm. He's punctual and he's LOUD.

Somehow the noise from the drum penetrates walls and spaces so that even though he is on the street below, and we are in our bedroom on the sixth floor, we can hear him as if he is in our living room. During the 30 days of Ramazan, every morning he jolts us awake with his sometimes almost beautiful, sometimes absolutely horrific, serenade.

The first few mornings of Ramazan, I think the drummer silently sneakes up to our building garden then starts in with a LOUD LOUD marching song, making everyone wake up and hop exuberantly out of bed. I suppose if I were Muslim, and if I were observing the fast, I would be happy for the peppy tune getting me up and moving:

Boom batt-a Boom batt-a BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!
Boom batt-a Boom batt-a BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!
Boom batt-a Boom batt-a BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!

But I'm not Muslim, and I don't observe the fast, so instead of hopping jubilantly out of bed, I'm jolted awake trying to figure out why there's a marching band in our home. Then once my brain has un-fuzzed enough for me to realize that it's the Ramazan drummer, and I'm not about to be trampled by the UC Davis Marching Band-uh, I have too much adrenaline in me to drift back off to sleep. On these mornings I generally end up lying in bed awake envisioning myself spilling a bucket of water from my balcony and onto the drummer's head.

Just kidding about the water... maybe.

A few days into the fast, the drummer has lost a little of his pep, and so rather than sneaking up on poor unsuspecting people dozing away in their warm beds, you can hear him slowly making his way toward you from way down the street. He's lost his zip. He's no longer a one man band. He's a tired half-alive man struggling just to lift his hands to his drum: Blech!

Poor guy. He's out there in the cold. He's tired, he's hungry, he's low on energy from being up so early and from fasting all day long. He sounds like an animal that needs to be put out of it's misery.

On these mornings I roll over and stuff a pillow over my head. I pray that the horrific drumming wont wake my kids up so that I can stay in bed. I try to go back to sleep, but then I start wondering just how many of my neighbors are in fact fasting. I can't help but get up and peek out the window to see how many homes have their lights on. If I spot a home where it seems everyone is still asleep, I pass the news on to James who rolls over, groans, and tells me to shut up. Then he puts a pillow over his head and envisions dumping water on me to get me back for keeping him awake longer than he has to be.

Just kidding about James telling me to shut up. He's more polite than that, even early in the morning. But I think he's thinking it.

Somewhere in the middle of the fast, the drummer seems to have adjusted to his new job, and he's back at jolting me out of bed with his peppy drumming:

Rat-a-tat-a BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!
Rat-a-tat-a BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!


BOOM-ba BOOM-ba rat-a-tat-a BOOM!!!
BOOM-ba BOOM-ba rat-a-tat-a BOOM!!!

and many many more variations along this theme.

After 30 days of waking up this way (did I mention this usually happens somewhere between 2:30 and 3:45 am?!), my nerves are frazzled, and the bags under my eyes extend all the way down to my jaw bones. And then to top it all off, one day he comes to the door asking for a tip. A TIP!!

Everyone in the neighborhood pitches in to thank him for helping them faithfully keep the fast. If you think I was kidding about wanting to dump water on his head in the early morning, then believe me when I say that when he asks me for money for his services, I really really do want to toss water, and the bucket, in his face. But instead, I politely tell him that I'm not Muslim.

He stares blankly back at me. This was not the response he was hoping for or expecting. Probably in his entire carreer as a drummer, he's never ever heard these words and he really doesn't know what to make of it (Turkey is a nearly 100% Muslim country). He generally stands there staring at me until I explain that I didn't observe Ramazan and therefore didn't need or want to wake up early, and for that reason I didn't need or want his services and I'm exempt from giving him a tip.

At this point the drummer either says OK, turns away and goes on to the next neighbor, or he sees it as his opportunity, no, his duty to try his best to convert me to Islam. Let me ask you, if you had suffered from sleep deprivation for 30 days, would you then want someone to try to convert you? Especially to the religion that caused your sleep deprivation, and by the person who woke you up so early every day???

Yeah, me neither.

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