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Of course I am going to talk (yet again) about the beverage that makes me tick: chai. Or tea, if you prefer English. The groggy morning self longs for a cuppa as I saunter down the stairs and sit lazily on the couch trying to get myself together. The cat brushes past my ankles and I frown, annoyed as I cast a longing look towards the kitchen.

If I wasn’t fasting, I would boil water and loose black tea for a good 12 minutes or so. I would then add evaporated milk, boil it a bit more till the colour and aroma feels just right and so incredibly inviting.

Then with a flourish, I would strain it into my beautiful blue and white mug. (Yes, the mug is new. And it’s beautiful, and he doesn’t know we have three of the same ones in case the kids or the dishwasher get overly excited and shatter the masterpiece). But I digress.

After pouring it into the said mug, a sprinkle of saffron and I’m charged with a million batteries. Suddenly I am good-natured and humorous and I can come up with sixteen very creative ideas for my daughter’s science project. But not so today. Today I’m feeling strictly ‘meh’.

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Ramadan, for me (especially it’s first few days) is always a bit tricky. Chai has a refreshing, energising effect on me, as a result I avoid drinking it at Suhoor (predawn meal). In any case, post suhoor, trying to sleep while the bathroom urges keep disturbing me, is already quite challenging and I imagine the diuretic effects of tea would only make it harder.

After breaking fast at iftar I avoid tea because I need to catch some winks in the night before it’s time to wake up for the predawn meal. In essence, there is a sad separation between me and chai in Ramadan. It’s painful and the fondness of it is such that I am writing an entire blog on it.

The caffeine withdrawal lasts a week at best and after that I realise I can function without it. I can be fun and funny and I don’t have to blame caffeine for it, plus the jitters of an extra strong chai can be thankfully avoided.

Steaming cuppa of dopamine

I also save myself some extra calories and nothing interferes with my sleep. It sounds impossible but my concentration levels and my ability to focus on one task with complete immersion has improved somewhat. Wait, am I seeing life outside of chai? Me, the addict — am I noticing that life might be good after all without my steaming cuppa of dopamine?

Perhaps this is an invitation to not just explore my caffeine addiction, but everything else that I think that I can’t do without. This is what Ramadan is really about, isn’t it? Breaking free of the chains we think bind us. Realising that we can do without our much-loved beverages, the frequent meals, the extravagance in food and more importantly, we can do away with habits like gossip and backbiting.

As Ramadan hurtles along towards its end, I wonder if I have truly cleansed myself of the addictions that plague me. I wonder if I have learnt to be with myself, in silence and solitude and lived the true purpose of fasting — connecting to Him and being aware of His presence in my life. I wonder if I have let go of comparison and competition and just like the desire to drink tea is waning, are my worries and anxieties fading?

As I sign off, I remind myself that Ramadan must bring about a reset of the body and the soul and I hope to celebrate Eid with a lightness that is both physical and spiritual, more calm and contentment and umm. I really wouldn’t mind a karak on the side. Just saying.

Mehmudah Rehman is a Dubai-based freelance writer