Members of the Indian and Pakistan American communities at the joint celebrations of Eid in the San Francisco Bay Area
It is not just an idea that has just caught on, since such events used to occur on a smaller scale when our populations were much lower and the mainstream world here in America was less familiar to us. Indian and Pakistani-Americans are themselves a part of the mainstream now and in this country events like Diwali and Eid draw large numbers of participants in major cities across the US. Indian and Pakistani Muslims have jointly celebrated Eid under the Muslim banner here for years but it was refreshing to be invited to a joint “Countries” event on October 4 th because this was a collective effort from our people here in the San Francisco Bay area.
The program itself was held at the India Community Center in the city of Milpitas and the participants were South Asians from Afghanistan to Bangladesh, and both the entertainment and food was “Pakistani” resulting in a hugely successful mix. The
inclusion of parenthesis here becomes important because if one takes just the example of the star entertainer for the evening, Munni Begum and her own life, she was born in India (West Bengal), lived in Bangladesh first, then Pakistan and like all of us is now settled permanently in the United States (in her case, Chicago). And some of the best “Pakistani” food this reporter has had was on the periphery of the Jama Masjid in Delhi , India. Since then I cannot question where some of Karach ’s best cuisine originates from. In other words cultures are much more fluid than borders and cannot be stopped there.
One can ask, “Who came up with the idea first?” but since (in alphabetical order) the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association (AMUAA), the India Community Center (ICC) and the Pakistani American Culture Center (PACC) jointly celebrated Eid, all three deserve full credit for creating bridges between our communities openly. The AMUAA ( www.amualumni.org or (650) 212-2544) has been dedicated to not just its alma mater in Aligarh, India for a number of years here, but its annual Sir Syed Day banquet and International Mushaira (to be held on November 14 th at the ICC this year) has been a resounding success locally for the past decade. The ICC is a regional success story with its huge facilities which cater to the needs of Indians of all ages here and has succeeded in its goals to Unite, Serve and Celebrate. And last but not least the PACC which is the new kid on the block and serving the cultural needs of Pakistani-Americans needs to be commended for adding its color to Pakistani culture in Northern California. And let us not leave without mentioning the idealists of FOSA (Friends Of South Asia) who have kept the little Dia (lamp) of Indian-Pakistani peace lit here for quite a long time, and the local chapter of the DIL Organization ( November 7 th Gala with Greg Mortenson, Adil Najam and Tahira Syed ( http://www.dil.org/sf/sfgalapay.html)) which has added another dimension to mutual co-operation.
The evening started off with a fine food in the Mughlai tradition from Mehran. Emcees Huma Abidi and Omair Farooqui kicked things off as the invocation was presented by Maulana Abdurrahman Anwar who explained the significance of Eid and especially fasting which he said is something that is common in varying forms in all major religions, not only the three Abrahamic ones but Hinduism as well. He said that an example was the fasts that Gandhi Ji himself utilized in his non-violent campaigns. He also quoted Gandhi’s words of praise on the Prophet of Islam.
President Barack Obama’s Ramadan message to the world’s Muslims was next shown on screen followed by introductions of the work that the evening’s three sponsor organizations (AMUAA, ICC and the PACC), which was applauded by all.
Next, the kids program was quite a moving and colorful affair. First kids who kept their first roza or fast were recognized, followed by a fashion parade organized by Shazia Imran which presented children in their best Eid clothing inclusive of many regions in India and Pakistan .
And last but not least Ghazal Great Munni Begum accompanied by Omaid Hussain on Tabla from Chicago mesmerized the audience with their performance to close the show. In the interest of South Asian peace the song “Aik Baar Muskura Do” just might most aptly describe the best advice for the quarreling governments there. And in conclusion, “Eid Mubarak” from the ICC and AMU, and looking forward to the PACC inclusion in the next Diwali celebrations.