Age is just a number. In my early thirties, I use this idea to navigate every crisis, dilemma and doubt in life. I see age more as an enabler than a barrier.
Eid, however, is one exception when age really does define your experience. Over the years, my Eid celebrations went from full throttle to unrecognisable to gaining back some of its original momentum. Emigration, full time work, marriage and finally parenthood dictated what I could or couldn’t do to mark the occasion. And then Covid happened, introducing us all to an ‘unprecedented’ Eid.
A walk down memory lane
Childhood Eids were unequivocally the best days of our lives. I still remember the hasty urgency with which I bit my piyaju as Maghrib Azaan descended on the last Iftar, rushing up to the roof to spot the new moon that would kickstart Chaand Raat. Romjaner oi rojar sheshe blared from the TV, cranked up to full volume. The rituals it initiated were sacred: a trip to the nearest vendor to buy fresh flowers, special dinnerware emerging from the depths of the dinner wagon, new dresses being laid out with matching goyna and the earthy smell of henna swirled in artful patterns on brown palms. I went to bed with anticipation bordering on dread over the outcome of my mehendi colour. In the wee hours of the morning, we tiptoed into the kitchen with giddy eyes to rub lemon on our palms, willing the colour to bloom. After ghusl, we said our Eid prayers and had breakfast at my Nanu’s (may Allah bless her soul), digging into her soul-enriching shemay and infamous polau. Lunch usually took place at my Boro Chacha’s where my large paternal family gathered every Eid. A decent round of Eidi exchanged hands. Over the three days that marks the Eid festival, we stuffed ourselves with Ammu’s delicious food, cooked on Eid Eave. I still remember Ammu sweating profusely over big pots and pans (my favourite was her extra cheesy pasta – non traditional but oh so good), staying up as long as it took to get it all done. We enjoyed multiple rounds of firni refills and pudding slices while watching Eid special natok on TV (my favourite was Ittadi). Those were the days.
When I moved to UK as a student, Eid was no longer a traditional affair. Iftars were lonely, and there was nothing around me to signal Eid festivities (Glasgow was more subdued than London). I remember wearing my kameez down to the dorm canteen one night, determined to lug the spirit of Eid around. The dinner menu consisted of the Scottish dish called Haggis. I had no idea what it was – the first bite came as a huge shock. I remember spitting the food out in disgust (I would eventually fall in love with it), going to bed feeling sorry for myself and missing Eid food terribly.
As a working woman, I spent most Eids in the office, scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook feed and suffering from acute FOMO. On the next available weekend, we met friends, had shisha and ate out in fancy restaurants. After I got married, I started taking the day off and what a difference it made! Now with Aryan in the picture, it has become even more important to go all out on Eid. I want to create a festive atmosphere he can enjoy and look forward to. I want to create a home away from home.
I try cooking Eid food when I can but often I don’t (how my mother does it every year without fail in the scorching Dhaka heat is beyond me). I made butter chicken and kebabs the night before Eid which tired me out, forcing me to abandon my ambitious agenda. I didn’t deep clean my house like everyone else on Instagram stories. I really wanted to, I did, but my body protested. I listened to it.
I woke up on Eid day feeling good. I smiled inwardly thinking of my morning coffee. This renewed appreciation for the little joys in life made me reflect on how easy it is to take things for granted, something all of us have pondered on repeat during the pandemic.
As I stood under the shower, I felt something I haven’t felt for days: a tidal wave of hope. I felt lucky to be alive. I felt excited. I felt gratitude. I thought of all the adventures we could still have. It wasn’t all over. Not yet.
I felt like me again.
I consciously slowed down and took my time to say my Eid Prayers.
Nizar made a breakfast of eggs, porota and sausages and we enjoyed it as a family. We gave Ary a battery operated train set as an Eid gift, picked by Nizar. It kept him busy and happy throughout the day.
In the afternoon, I wore my new kurti and dressed Ary in a vibrant blue Punjabi I bought from Aarong during my last Dhaka visit. Then we drove to Wanstead Park. The English weather was too good to be true – sunny spells with a cool breeze. While Ary and Nizar darted around me playing footy, I sat on the picnic mat eating chicken wings and wafers as though they were the most natural Eid food combo, the wind caressing my cheeks.
We met some friends in the park, observing social distancing rules. How lucky we felt seeing their loving faces. Once back home, we put Ary to bed early and had butter chicken for dinner.
It was a simple Eid, a subdued one. But it was steeped in gratitude and solidarity.
Someone had the clever idea of coining the term ‘Cov-Eid’, which is how we will always remember it. An Eid overshadowed by deaths, mortal fear and the anxiety over exiting lockdown. But we made the most of it – we dressed up for family, loved each other from a distance, and indulged in park footy with our children which might not have happened during a ‘precedented’ Eid. Even in the toughest times, we found joy through celebrations.
A lot of times this pandemic has been likened to war. But during war, people still had each other, hugs and kisses were still allowed. Human touch was not a means to the end of life. To have survived so far, especially through a month that meant so many things for so many of us, none of which happened, is not a small feat. To survive so long without a loving hug is not a small feat. To do without Eid prayers at the mosque and not indulge in kola koli is not a small feat. To wave at our loved ones through windows and car doors, and not rush in to hug them, is not a small feat. To celebrate Eid over Zoom and Facebook Messenger and not beside each other, is not a small feat.
But to be alive? Its everything right now. As I read somewhere, বেঁচে থাকাটাই এবার ঈদ. ❤️🌙