Ramadan does not absolve the faithful from spending wisely
WHILE many are exclaiming over the ever increasing cost of Ramadan buka puasa buffets in hotels and restaurants, and the annual discussion gets under way over the morality of such extravagant meals, few debate minutes are spent considering the cost of food sold in Ramadan bazaars. Admittedly, the food sold at these bazaars for the masses may not be as opulently prepared or displayed, and cost a fraction of what is charged in expensive hotels and restaurants. But by dint of sheer volume, more must surely be spent and over-spent in the humble pasar Ramadan in total than is spent at elitist buka puasa buffets.
Set up specially for the Muslim fasting month, these bazaars are much anticipated by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, because of the array of mouth-watering food available. They hold the greatest concentration of traditional Malay cakes and food that are not easily sourced at any one spot the rest of the year. Often, the food is bought not only because they are delicious but also because they have sentimental value -- taking people back to the food eaten in their childhood, or at least to previous fasting months. Some food, like bubur lambuk, seem to be made and served only during Ramadan.
As with buka puasa buffets, it is also possible to go to a Ramadan bazaar and pay for more food than one can reasonably consume at one sitting. For, when shopping for food after more than 10 hours of fasting, it is very easy to let one's desires rule one's purse strings and common sense. People tend to reward themselves for fasting the whole day by treating themselves to their favourite foods at breaking-fast time. And, it is while walking down the aisles of the bazaars surveying the food, that, in the Malay saying, the buyer's "eyes are bigger than the stomach" -- meaning that the desire is greater than what the person can realistically consume -- and the buyer, acting on impulse, buys more than he needs, and inevitably, most of it is thrown away.
It is this unbridled desire that makes it so easy for food sellers to raise their prices, for an empty stomach is easy to hold hostage. But even if there are people who can afford to pay whatever price set, as consumers, buyers must reject unreasonable prices and boycott sellers who unashamedly practise price gouging. Giving in to the seller's unreasonable demand on our pockets can affect everyone, particularly busy working households who have no option but to buy from the Ramadan bazaars. As in the spirit of the month, spending and consumption should be in moderation.