The spirit of Eid-ul-Fitr in modern Dhaka

by Chaman Khan

On the Last day of Ramadhan
eid09SHUFFLING through her Ramadhan diary, the lady was pleased that she had managed to deftly balance her Ramadhan duties with such perfection. Juggling iftars, sehris, tarabi and shopping, keeping all the
fasts wasn’t easy, especially in this oppressive heat. She was glad it was all coming to a close; eid was tomorrow, no doubt about that. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia celebrated Eid today, which meant Eid in Bangladesh the next day. ‘Oh thank God it will all be over in a few hours’, she mutters under her breath.
Thankfully, the streets were now bearable due to the slow flow of traffic. The piety, the enforced compassion for poverty, the impossible task of staying updated with eid trends; the anxiety and the hunger during fasting hours, all of it was taxing. On top of which, between piyajus and antacids drowned
with endless cups of green tea, maintaining a steady weight loss was really biting on her nerves. It really wasn’t easy! She felt proud of her willpower, she really did.
Sighing, she mentally compartmentalised all the things left to do on her ‘to do list’. There were still people to pay off, bonuses and eidees to gift. It was most important to play this part well. Piety
certainly came with a price in this city nowadays. She called her tailor, reconfirmed her 5 blouses and 2 suits, her niece’s suits, her bua’s daughter’s suit, her mother’s blouses and threatened the man with dire consequences perchance he messed up any of the trimmings and fittings of the dozen details
she had entrusted him with. He promised, falsely, that all would be tailored to perfection and delivered on time, before sweetly reminding her of his ‘eid bonus’. He was almost about to embark on a tirade of the difficulty of city dwelling and how he also had ‘shokh alaad’. It was eid after all, and it was dreadful to be poor. She was tired and cut him short promising to do the ‘best she could’. And of course she meant it. People like her tailor, the parlour girls, the masseuse lady, the woman with the endless supply of maids were very important persons in her life; keeping them happy ensured she looked and felt like a
million dollars. Yes, she felt a deep sense of responsibility towards all of them and pondering over all these wonderful thoughts, her heart surged with insight and she toyed with the words of a potential Facebook status, linking it all up with the Spirit of Eid. Oh how she relished the thought!
Distracted by the beep of an electronic message, she remembered that she was supposed to pick up the ‘jeelebies’ for the iftar party today- it was the last iftar of Ramadhan this year and the entire family from her husband’s side had been invited. Later, there would be mehendi, music and malt whiskey! Thinking about all the upcoming shenanigans and whether she should match her outfit with the shade of nail polish she was wearing, she asked the chauffeur to take her to a particular famous Indian eatery. All the girls had voted their ‘jeelebies’ the best this roja and the boys in their gang claimed their ‘haleem’ was the tops! She remembered all the commentary on Ramadhan delicacies from all the iftar and sehri parties she had attended, and smiled. How wonderful that this month brought us all together, united in the spirit of religion, sober and inspired, sharing and caring. ‘I love the spirit of Ramadhan’ she said out loud with a smile on her face, and entered the restaurant.
‘Salaam aunty’, she rushed over to greet her mother’s MP friend, gave her a genuine air kiss and promptly took a selfie. ‘Aunty, I am checking in with you’, she said in a sing song voice, while editing with the photo filter which would best enhance her new highlights. ‘Of course darling, I’ll ok the tag as soon as I get a request, give your hubby my love. Do come over on eid!’
After purchasing ‘jeelebies’ and ‘firni’ in quaint ‘matir bati’, she had already impressed the guests at her iftar party. On her way out she generously tipped the doorman, filled the begging hands on the street, and promised to give ‘eid bonus’ to her aunty’s chauffeur. Engulfed in the giving spree, she ordered her own chauffeur to bring out a few lungis and Jenny print sarees from the car and distributed them amongst the destitute. ‘The spirit of giving is such a humbling experience.’ She felt very down to earth and she meant every word she had said.

Eid Day
DRESSED in pastels, it was difficult to trace the signs of a night of revelry on her face. She looked like she had stepped right out of pages of the eid specials, appropriately dressed. Everything about her was morning fresh and glossed to perfect prettiness. A picture of the charming hostess at breakfast presiding over a lavish spread befitting her precious family. Some people told her that she was abiding by their every whim, and she sometimes agreed with them wholeheartedly. But despite all that, they really had been very generous and she felt obliged. There was so little on her part to please them; plus her Amma
taught her well on how to win hearts and be genteel like a good woman, and she didn’t ever disappoint her Amma! Yes, she considered herself lucky as she smiled down at the new eid present adorning her wrist, every cut and stone glistening under the lights of the chandelier overhead. She looked up and beamed down on her family thinking how perfect this Eid moment was. Soon she would summon the
servants to clear away the breakfast things, and prepare to greet the entire battalion of relatives. Her father-in-law was the head of the family so obviously all eid celebrations centered around him. Unnecessary to mention, but a worthy slip was the fact that he was rich, powerful and had powerful friends; things like that could make you a king amongst kings in this city of clans. Thinking all these thoughts, she feit another surge of gratitude. Eid was a good day to be mindful of gratitude. Was it possible that God responded more to prayers from a grateful heart? Did prayers get answered more especially on eid? She remembered reading something about an attitude of gratitude and mindful living in one of those self-realisation books, but was unsure if mindfulness was haram in Islam, and made a mental note to ask her Islamic teacher aunty, who was well known for her knowledge and had a supplementary prayer to fix every ailment, bless her soul. The peal of the doorbell interrupted her
thoughts and she glided over to take her place next to her father-in-law’s armchair- a perfect fixture to the family portrait.
After lunch, and much laughter and posing for family photographs later, she began to feel a bit tired. Much as she loved to entertain, with the in laws it was not always so easy. The constant holding back
of remarks and holding on to fixed smile could be tiring for even the most seasoned socialite. Stifling a yawn, she attended to the last of the guests, all the time wishing for a quick nap. She still had an eid dinner at her mother’s to attend and her awful bore of a ‘bhabi’ was going to be there. Being nice to that bhabi would take a lot of effort. Secretly, she was always wishing her brother to leave her, but for the sake of the peace in the family she tolerated that awful woman, even going for lunches and shopping with her. It all looked especially splendid on Facebook.
Dinners attended, friends met and duties done, this lady of exceptional organisational skills and generosity reflected on what it all meant, as she settled into bed later that night. Soon she would have her own family to raise and it was imperative that she passed on these traditions and lessons to them. It was said that children learnt through examples and what better way to instill values into them than during Ramadhan and Eid? This truly was the best time to uphold the value of a family, the value of friendships; to teach that Love and Duty held the highest place and that sharing made a person more beautiful; to show them that ‘charity begins at home’. Yes! By indoctrinating this very spirit of eid, she would ensure that her future generations were bound and shaped by these rich lessons. With the best education from the right schools and these valuable teachings of religion and service, she would embed in them great feelings for humanity, family, and community. After all, to be successful is to be worthy citizens of tomorrow….
Yawning, she slipped into a deep sleep of complacence, dreaming of her future generations as worthy citizens and the many accolades they would win, and how their success would save the world from its horrors. •

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