An Ode to Rooh Afza

An Ode to Rooh Afza June 9, 2016

Photo of author with her beloved Rooh Afza! (Photo by Saadia Faruqi)
Photo of author with her beloved Rooh Afza! (Photo by Saadia Faruqi)

This is Day Four of the #30Days30Writers 2016 Ramadan series.

By Saadia Faruqi

A week before Ramadan,

The questions begin.

You know the ones, don’t you?

Are you ready?

Have you prepared?

What will you be eating

At suhoor and Iftar?

I want to invite

All you curious people

Into my pantry and freezer

I want to shout

See how unprepared I am?

No frozen kabaab, no stacks of parathas

Not even a box of dates,

Cuz I’m the only Muslim in the world

Who doesn’t like dates.

But what’s this hiding

Behind the masala packets?

A tall graceful bottle

Dressed in blood red.

A throwback to older times,

Black-and-white classics,

And old Urdu commercials

Preaching taskeen-e-jaan

If you know what that means.

She’s a real beauty

An eastern Grace Kelley

A work of art.

The only one I really need

For Ramadan

Even if you frown and shake your head

And call me crazy.

She slakes my thirst

After ten and a half hours

Of hard fasting.

Offering silent succor

To my parched soul.

She shines like a beacon

To the finish line.

She’s a promise, a guarantee.

A glass or two after sunset

One at the first hint of adhan,

Another after I’ve eaten my fill

Of other foods.

Sometimes if it’s been

A particularly hard day,

A third one slides down my throat

After maghrib prayers.

But who cares about her these days?

There are other drinks now:

Vimto, smoothies, almond milk.

As if any of them could compare

To my beloved lady in red.

The desi store sold her at two-for-one

As if she’s a sale item that needs to be

Given away.

They give me odd glances

When I ask for her in February or December.

Stupid store clerks.

Uncaring friends,

Running after the latest craze

Low-calorie, high protein,

Not knowing the allure of that timeless

Blood red, thirst slaker.

It’s my year-round poison

After a tough day at work,

Or a game of soccer

Or even a fight with the hubby.

It’s better than drowning my sorrows

In a diet coke or two

Or eating a cheeseburger

With extra cheese.

Her graceful neck

And semi-transparent dress

Brings back happy memories

Of Amma cooking pakoras

Abbu checking the clock

And Dadi asking anxiously,

Is the Rooh Afza ready?

It’s time for Iftar.

So all you inquisitive peeps

Asking questions

Like nobody’s business,

She’s my preparation

For Ramadan.

It’s time for the beverage

Of kings and queens,

And the poor man

On the street.

And for the lonely immigrant

Who doesn’t really prepare

For Ramadan

Except for a pantry full of

Glistening red bottles.

Snagged two-for-one on sale

But full price in my thirsty soul.

Saadia Faruqi is the author of Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Brick Walls and editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a literary magazine of Muslim art, poetry and prose. She loves all things red, including cardinals, ladybugs, ripe tomatoes and of course Rooh Afzah. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @saadiafaruqi.

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