Boston Celebrations a Reminder of Karachi Eid
By Siraj Khan
For Muslims, the festival of Eid is for showing gratitude to God and remembering Him and to celebrate the culmination of a full month of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan. Most of the Eid days during the years of my childhood make for some of my finest memories.
We lived in Karachi, Pakistan and I recall that I could hardly sleep the night before, as the anticipation of Eid day would keep us tossing, turning and dreaming. Getting up with an alacrity that was missing when we had to go to school, we would shower, put on our new clothes, socks and shoes. A touch of attar on the kurta by my grandmother from tiny fragrance bottles would complete the preparations for this joyous day. With our janamaz (prayer rugs) in hand, my father, brother and often some neighbors menfolk joining us, would head out for the nearest Eid congregation. On the way, we would find many beggars of all ages, men women and even children sitting on the roadside. We would give them some charity. In his sermon, the imam would invariably ask us to join him in asking God to accept our fasting during Ramadan, for forgiveness, relief to the suffering, health for the sick, marriage of the unmarried, with very little reference made to politics.
Returning home from the prayers, we would stop briefly to look at the hundreds of street hawkers displaying their wares, and reaching home would find our mother and sisters looking beautiful in their new dresses. Hugs would follow: warm, genuine, life giving ones. After exchanging Eid Mubarak, we would dive into the home-made sheer khorma (sivayyaan cooked in milk, cream and sugar, with almond, dates etc.). Relatives would arrive with their children. Their parents lovingly giving us Eidi; small amounts, but enough to trigger complex mathematical calculation on how many of this or that could be bought from the money in hand. Would it be three lollipops, one plastic puzzle and a book? Or, three kites, a flute or a new cricket ball? We would race to the little but well-stocked shop down the road and get even more confused when confronted with the dazzling array of colorful items on display. The money was small but the excitement overflowed at times.
In the US, the entire family goes for prayers in the morning. Our family goes to the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland. After the prayers, men hug and embrace each other and greet each other by saying EID MUBARAK.
This year Eid was on August 8th. Several families had announced open houses and naturally people gravitated to those homes. More and more women now have henna /mehndi applied on their hands by professional henna artistes or friends who may be good at it. Girls and women are at their colorful best and in heavy jewelry. Men too are not too far behind. Less colorful but looking equally elegant in new clothes and shoes. They are not allowed to wear gold but silver is generously used by many. No Eid is ever complete without the traditional sweet dish the Sheer Khorma, which one can easily over-indulge in.
We then visited those families where we know elders and seniors are present, to take their blessings. Reaching home, my mother (she is 80) was waiting for us and it was our turn to receive guests in the afternoon. We had a many traditional home-made delicacies to serve. At this stage in life, there is a lot of Eidi to give out to the many children. I had obtained crisp new dollar bills from the bank for the extra spark. It is always a pleasure that even now some of my elders still remember to give me Eidi....small amounts but full of love. Throughout the day and evening calls kept coming and going for Eid and the successful completion of the holy month of Ramadan. The Eid festivities continued until August 10th and were rounded off by a PAGB Eid Milan event which had great food and live music by a band called Load Shedding from NY. Most of us ended up on the dance floor.
What always intrigues me is that how Muslims are able to fast from sunrise to sunset for a whole month and yet on Eid day consume any food which comes their way, eating virtually all day wherever they go and without complaining of any stomach upset or indigestion.
Eid practices and rituals vary from country to country. However, one thing remains common. The process of switching from a whole month of fasting to a day of feasting almost effortlessly, becomes an acquired art which the Muslims somehow learn as part of their growing up. They love to celebrate with Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
It's a day of bonding.
(Siraj Khan considers himself a world citizen and lives a life without boundaries. Having organized numerous musical shows in Boston and overseas, he is now in the process of starting a new non-profit called FOURTH WORLD, with a focus on building cross-cultural bridges through music, arts, literary and cultural activities, to enrich the lives of our families.
He also serves on the Board of OP Nayyar Memorial Trust in Mumbai ( www.opnayyar.org ), which supports senior musicians, singers and dancers in their twilight years and who need our attention. Professionally, he is a global non-profit consultant, specializing in transition and transforming solutions.)