Why I Refuse to Abstain During Lent


Why I Refuse to Abstain During Lent

Illustration: Juergen D


rowing up Catholic, three things are sacrosanct: Country music on a Sunday afternoon, jiving at weddings, and abstaining during Lent. Abstinence takes many forms, to some it’s as simple as not doing your favourite thing during Lent; to others, it’s about going an extra mile. Like putting a blanket ban on smoking while only drinking water, and for extra piety points, donating the money saved on alcohol and cigarettes to the poor. Somehow, this deprivation is supposed to make your passage to heaven a tad easier.

At my home, Lent was usually observed in the form of a diet devoid of meat and fish. Every year for 30 whole days, my family of three would sit down to dinners of dal, rice, roti, and seasonal vegetables cooked to a mush that would make a toothless geriatric salivate. To break the monotony, there would be the occasional papad, because fried food was viewed as a luxury. This seems like a mild change, but for my meat-loving self, it was nothing short of torture. I’d crave meat like a crackhead – I needed my fix, but for the love of Jesus, my mum, and my soul, I’d hold off.