When the roti john knows your name

Ramadhan bazaars are a serious source of temptation for those afflicted with fiscal impairment, also known as itchy fingers 

I JUST bought an item off the Internet called “kettle spout extension for coffee drip pour over”. Obviously, I have a fiscal judgement problem. 

This “spout extension” is a little plug you out in your kettle own spout, so that when you pour hot water over your grounded coffee beans it will taste better. So far, I’ve used it once. 

Scientists, believe it or not, actually have a name for this, fiscal impairment or something, but among our circles of acquaintances, it’s called itchy fingers. 

Whatever the nomenclature, most of us have gone through this affliction, this compulsion to buy things we know we will never use. Where does it comes from? 

It could be that is how humans, especially my three daughters now that I think of all the doll makeup sets I have had to buy, are predisposed since before birth, like the urge to eat snacks. Or it could be the leftover of some primal human survival instinct like the flight or fight response. 

As this was a serious question, I asked my Iftar WhatsApp group. (In non-Ramadhan months, this group operates under the name Second Breakfast WhatsApp group.) 

“I find that people are especially vulnerable to this thing when they’re in a bad mood or tired,” said one member. “Like the time I got that 8000 lumens ‘Midnight Sun’ torchlight, I was really down, man.” 

The only other member in the group agreed. He tends to buy kitchen gadgets that make cooking easier, even though he lives alone and has never ever cooked anything. 

Here’s a tip for people who are unsure if they have this problem. 

If you are constantly looking at Shopee deals when you have nothing to do, you have your answer. 

Kitchen gadgets are the canary in the mines of fiscal irresponsibility. They are, for anyone not cook- ing for 20 people regularly, just a waste of money. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s kitchen gadget output are stored in drawers all over the world gathering dust. 

At this very moment, my neighbourhood, and every other neighbourhoods in the country, are being overtaken by Ramadhan bazaars. That magical maze of blue canopies that once you enter takes hours to find your way out. 

This annual homage to food is a serious source of temptation for those afflicted with fiscal impairment. It brings together the perfect storm for impulsive buying. The Ramadhan bazaars are stocked with all the things that, to a hungry and thirsty Malaysian, you need to buy before sundown. 

You can actually buy most of the items at any other place, at any other time whole-year round, but when presented at a Ramadhan bazaar, you want all of them. 

Normally, I stay away from Ramadhan bazaars because I have a healthy aversion to crowds or walking a few kilometres under the hot sun, negotiating the aisles of these food monstrosity. 

I also avoid them because I know I will succumb to temptation, without fail. First buying will be just a little morsel of buah melaka before being burdened by plastic bags of food just a minute later. 

But last Thursday, the first day of Ramadhan, I found myself at the centre of one. A daughter expressed a desire to consume apam balik and who am I to say No? 

I strolled nonchalantly through the Cyberjaya Ramadhan bazaar that at other times of the year served as the Central Park and Ride car park. 

Just a couple of stalls in, a sizzling roti john was calling my name. Well, I have not had one of those in ages, so I bought one. Next, a box of buah melaka beckoned me and since they were selling mix-and-match three for RM10, I bought those. 

The lady selling turmeric chicken was persistent, so I ended up with two of those. Ditto the martabak and the iced corn juice drink. Same with the churros. 

There are kiosks selling mee goreng, laksa, pasta, martabak, kueh koleh kacang, satay, nasi biryani, nasi goreng, nasi kerabu, ayam golek, not to mention all those ice cold drinks in giant vats. 

In the end I didn’t find any apam balik, but my daughter had a hundred other things to satisfy her fiscal impairment. 

Ramadhan Kareem. 

  • ZB Othman is an editor at The Malaysian Reserve.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition