Eid and the moon are both part of the festival

Afsan Chowdhury
Published : 17 July 2015, 03:10 PM
Updated : 17 July 2015, 03:10 PM

Eid and the moon are both part of the festival. In a way one births the other. And like all births and deliveries, there can be occasional complications. Did it happen this time?

I remember an Eid in 1962 when we went to bed thinking there would be another Iftar the next day to find that it was Eid in the morning. Our mother woke us up saying, "Eid is here. Get ready for prayers. Put on your new dresses …"

She had to quickly prepare the dishes, send us off to the mosque with dad, and return to cooking the feast. A great happiness was to watch mother in a new sari and we would feel happy, though we never realised how much hard work she had to put in to make our Eid happy. We just had fun.

The sudden Eid that year didn't go down too well with the people though. I remember meeting people socially who said it was "Ayub Khan's Eid." He was the President of Pakistan and had sort of ordered the Eid, people said.

"So Ayub Khan made a paper moon and asked the Moon Sighting Committee what they saw. They said we are seeing a moon. So Ayub Khan said, in that case the moon has been sighted and so tomorrow is Eid." It was obviously religion with strong political overtones.

But in the lazier days, Eid was laid-back. It meant new clothes. I remember howling in pain and disappointment because I didn't have a new kurta. I was seven years old. My dad took me to Chowkbazar in the old city which never sleeps.

This was my first sight of a proper crowd, since people were still shopping close to midnight. I remember the dazzling jewelry shops as well-off people entered with their spouses to buy gold gifts. Clothes were piled on the road too and people searched in them to find something for their own. I found mine in a shop — a white kurta. The shop-owner smiled knowingly.  "The tailor didn't deliver? We sell many on this night." I remember that night so well.

When we returned home, my maternal grandparents who lived next door were cooking in their make-shift extended kitchen. There was a candle-lamp that lit the space. My nana gave me a piece of meat, and as I ate, I showed him the kurta.

Of all the Eids we have experienced, the one in 1971 was the strangest. No one wanted to celebrate. In a way, it was the most religious and ritualistic Eid. Many didn't even go to the mosque because people were worried that they might have to pray for the health of Pakistan, which nobody wanted to.

So a somber and grim Eid. It was the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra that was switched on in the evening that brought some cheer. And of course people watched PTV/BTV and wondered how many had been coerced to go to the station and make merry.

In Toronto, where religious positions are more rigid than Dhaka, the Bengali community was split around moon sighting. One group followed the Saudis, particularly those who had come from there after living there awhile. Others wanted to see the moon before celebrating Eid the day later.

Looking for the moon in the bright Canadian sky is quite a sight. Many sort of celebrated it twice.

But the true festive Eid in Toronto was on the day when Bengalis held their first ever public Eid prayer on a community maidan. We listened to many khutbas, but in the end, the prayer was done and we celebrated a social victory. Everyone was happy except the young kids who hated wearing their kurtas, and my son kept sticking the tails inside his trousers like his friends.

Eid in Nepal for me was mostly about eating. The small expat community and their families organised formidable feasts. It was all about munching and chewing and gulping wonderful Bengali-Muslim food.

A fun Eid I celebrated was in the US in 2008, when I was teaching a course. Students organised it all and the college, Colby, paid for it all. People drove from all over to attend the gathering and there were speeches, singing, greetings, and food. Of course, I remember the lead was taken by a Pakistani girl who had incredible organising ability.

Here we are in 2015, and celebrating once more. More or less, everything has remained the same, though the variety, conspicuous consumption, traffic jams et cetera have all gone up. There is a continuity about observing Eid that is not just fun, but offers a sense of being part of everything as well.

Eid Mubarak!

Afsan Chowdhury is a bdnews24.com columnist.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher