Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 19, Tuesday, November 2, 2004




THE residents of Bangladesh have far more holidays than they need. Just count the number of hartals. Despite that, Eid-ul-fitr becomes a much-anticipated holiday especially in the hearts of Bengali Muslims. Preparations begin much earlier during Ramadan. It starts from the night of Shab-e-barat when people start to count down the days until they can indulge in the festivities. In the meantime, some go for hunger strike while others actually fast. Its all a question of whether you pray during that time and work as well or just abstain from eating and sleep all day till iftaar.

Thus, a hungry nation waits eagerly for the moon sighting when they can go back to eating whenever they want wherever they want. In between resisting the murderous temptations, preparations are also on the way regarding Zakat, gifts for the family, home décor, shopping for eid clothes and avoiding eid muggers. While many stay in the cities to spend the vacation, some go to visit their respective village homes.

Till the eve
It becomes a special treat for those having family in the village. Reservations for trains, buses or launches have to be made in advance. The village homes seem like a place in a different planet. In most cases you will se uninterrupted horizons. It's a calm and serene place compared to what has been left behind. The city dwellers feel as if released from a cage.

The village folk generally follow the religious norms a bit more carefully than those living a hectic city life do. Fasting and the related sehri, iftaar and tarabi prayers are followed to the letter. The young people in the localities run around chanting in groups just before sehri to awaken the slumbering people. Some places still do not have electricity but that does not matter. Whether under a bright bulb or in the dim glow of an oil lantern, sehri takes place with all members present. You see, in the villages even young children keep fast as they often start crying when not allowed to. During the day they go to the mosques for reciting the verses of the Quran in accordance to what the imam tells often with the help of a cane.

In some localities, iftaar is announced using a siren but most people await the imam's azaan. The menu is also different form that found in the cities. You will find all kinds of pithas along with dried rice, date juice and fruits. The idyllic life has its perks with time for reflection. The Ramadan days for the village folk brings about a completely new difference. Most people pray devoutly asking for forgiveness and hoping for better days.

The sighting of the moon brings about an end to the month of abstinence and prayers. Open fields are filed with humanity waiting to catch a glimpse of the new moon. If not sighted by the evening everyone stays glued to the television or the radio until they hear of a sighting somewhere in the country. It's time to bring on the fireworks in celebration. The womenfolk stay up pretty much all the night feverishly cooking up the dishes.

The day arrives
The whole village wakes up with the sound of the fazr prayers. There is always some open filed that serves as an eidgah where the people congregate. For a moment, all distinctions are put aside as everyone embraces not only each other but also the spirit of the biggest festival. Children cannot wait to get their hands or rather into their new clothes.

If the community has a good number of people then it is not unusual to see a fair set up nearby. These consist of rides like the nagardola along with copious amounts of candyfloss and knickknacks. In some places the young boys hire a rickshaw with a microphone and ride around belting out their favorite tunes. It is a lot like the city boys riding around in their ear splitting, bass thumping CD player equipped cars.

The women may be tending to the household all day but the evening is set aside for their own time. Often there is an informal competition going as the bragging continues about the items cooked and the recipes used.

The difference between the villagers and the city dwellers can sometimes be seen in the way of dressing. Otherwise, things are pretty much similar. It is a day to meet with childhood playmates and reminisce over a cup of hot tea.

Festivities are happy times related to happy memories. Many who live in the cities have fond remembrances of their childhood in the villages. Going back to where it all started even for a brief moment as a respite well deserved.

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny

where are you going?

It is that time of the year when the city becomes a ghost town compared to what it usually is. No, I am not talking about a Brazil vs. Argentina football world cup final! It is Eid day and the last 30 days of non-stop shopping and not-so-non-stop eating has built up to quite an "anticlimactic" ending. "Anticlimactic" because as all your friends and family around you packed up and left for their Desher Bari, or wherever, for their Eid holiday, you were not wise enough to plan ahead regarding "Where to go?" and "How to get there?" Now, with Eid day already here, as all your phone calls to every travel agency requesting for a bus, train or even plane ticket, ends with a negative response, you wonder if you will be lucky enough to get a yellow cab to take you to your favorite restaurant. It is actually very simple to avoid this particular situation. All it will take is a little planning, some family input and for you to simply read on.

Your first task is to decide "Where to go?" The way I see it, it comes down to two very basic options. They are-

The traditional option, i.e. your Desher Bari
It is all well and good if you think that going to your home town is simple enough when own a reliable car. However, I must warn you that some of the roads leading to some of your hometowns are pretty nasty. Thanks to the recent floods, some of the roads have enough bumps and potholes to churn any milk you might be carrying into butter. Be sure to check up on road conditions before you start off on your journey. They best way is to call you hometown and ask the people over there. For those of us looking for others means of transport than a private car, our choices are buses, trains, planes and even steamers and ferryboats for certain destinations.

Buses are definitely the quickest way to get around the country. However, keep in mind that a journey in just about any ordinary bus, for e.g. one you might get on from the Tejgaon bus station, is not for the fainthearted. In fact, the whole process of catching a bus from the Tejgaon station is quite a complicated one if your not used to it. Firstly, the rush that starts from the beginning of the month of Ramadan is insane. Most tickets are purchased on the spot, so it is not possible to book your tickets by making a phone call. Secondly, thanks to the rush, ticket prices eventually get hiked up to almost twice their normal amount. It would be more advisable to use one of those "Luxurious A/C Bus" services such as Shohag or Green Line. They provide the option of being able to book your tickets through a telephone call. Just to give you an idea, if you decide to travel with Shohag, here is an overview of their general ticket prices-

A/C Bus-Chittagong TK 300, Khulna TK 350, Jessore TK 300 and Non-A/C Bus- Chittagong TK 190, Khulna TK 260, Jessore TK 230. These and buses to other destinations leave daily but even then you should call at least 15 days before your estimated departure date to book your tickets. You can also expect prices to go up by about 10% to 20% during the holiday rush.

Trains are a good alternative from buses and cars in case you find out that the roads leading to your destination are in poor condition. Train ticket prices do not go up officially during the holiday rush, but they are definitely more expensive then. Provoked by excess demand during Eid, dealers tend to buy off all tickets from before and scalp them at higher prices later. Your best bet would be to go directly to the station at least 2 weeks earlier and buy the tickets yourself.

If you have to go towards Barisal, then you can also choose to take a launch or a steamer. A decent A/C cabin on a launch to Barisal will cost you about TK 400. There is a bus called Dhanshiri that goes to Barisal as well. Ticket prices are between TK 200 to TK 220.

The Alternative Option, i.e. anywhere else
It is quite difficult to be able to squeeze in a decent vacation in between the three or four days of break we get during Eid. If you are lucky enough, Eid will fall right before or after the weekend so you can get a combined holiday of about a week. If that is the case, then I suggest you try out one of those "3 days, Four nights" type offers which are going around. Not only are they offered at very cheap rates, they also sometimes have they added advantage of providing a booked hotel room as well. Contact just about any travel agency and they can fill you in on these great deals.

If you do not mind "roughing it" a bit, then you can try going to India by road. A return ticket to Kolkata will cost you about TK 1200 on the Shohag or BRTC bus. If you are looking for a vacation that is cheap, fun and time saving at the same time, then this option is for you. Find Kolkata too boring? No problem! An innovative way to have more fun would be to tour India by train. "Omni Travels" at Gulshan South Avenue is the official sales agent of the Indian Railways in Bangladesh. You can get train tickets to just about anywhere in India from here. Prices range from between $70 for A/C service to $30 for Non-A/C service.

If stepping out of your country's boundary during Eid is not your thing, then consider the great tourist spots that Bangladesh has to offer. These spots are great because it is usually comparatively inexpensive to get there however you decide to go, you can go and come back within two to three days and sometimes you will be amazed that places like that exist inside Bangladesh. Two such favorite tourist hot spots are St. Martins Island and the Madobhkundo Water falls. "Parjatan" offer tours to both these places.

There you go! By now you should be an expert at arranging and planning your Eid holiday trip. So go ahead and start talking to you family about where they want to go and how they want to get there. Even if you decide to stay home, it is not a total loss. Save this article for next year then.

By Farhan



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