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Eid is just an

Life is such that what is old is best left somewhere dark and out of sight. That includes all the old possessions like white leather shoes from the 70's, vinyl records, aluminum pots with holes in the bottom and grandparents. The loud and shiny present push the seemingly old and dull past into meek silence. Boxes loaded with books along with old furniture become stacked up in the attic space or somewhere in a storeroom. While the new matters rule the day, the old silently gathers dust.

And this is where mentioning the age-old line that old is gold makes a lot of sense. Dusting off the old material can engross you into reminiscences. At times you find treasures you didn't notice when you were too busy making space for the new. When you wipe off the mould you see that the silly white shoes come back in vogue, the books offer recreation and the grandparents provide fascinating tales. Yep, the old have a charm of a totally different kind. A whole world of history, culture, rites and memories are locked away in those dusty storerooms inhabited by large families of mice. It is amazing what you can find there.

Old Dhaka is similarly a storeroom material for many people. First of all, it has the word old before it. To those of us who like to be up to date with the happening culture tend to see Old Dhaka as being, well, old. It's a place that seems dull and lifeless compared to the centre of the town with its big bright shopping malls. Of course, nothing is always what it seems. Old Dhaka still looks like it did several decades ago and there lies its charm. There are still the buildings that are attached to one another. When one topples they might all fall providing a scary example of unity.

There are a lot of people walking through narrow lanes where two rickshaws can have difficulty passing. Load shedding rules while the reputation of crime and murder hang ominously. Despite all the doom and gloom there is one aspect of Old Dhaka that still rocks. That's the fact that when festivals come up the whole area comes to life unlike other places. Yes, it rocks.

Lunar attraction
The neighbourhoods in Old Dhaka contain families who have raised generations in the same place. Places like Lalbagh, Chawkbazaar, Azimpur, Bongshal, Armantola, Mowabazaar, Islampur, Sutrapur, Agasadek Road, Abul Hasnat Road contain households that existed since the days when Dhaka was spelled Dacca. It still contains cultures unique to each section.

There's little to be stingy about. Everybody does whatever he or she can to make a joyous occasion memorable. Eid is one such occasion when no punches are pulled. Everything that can be done is done. After a month long period of fasting and abstinence it's time to let loose. But it's not really the Eid day that is the focal point here. What's more important is the eve before Eid, the night of the moon sighting.

There's the all-important preparation prior to Eid. The young children get busy gathering up the required crackers. The older children set up their outposts in balconies, in front of the houses and even fields. Chairs and tables are arranged for lengthy 'addas'. The women folk also join in this momentous occasion when the new moon peeps out from behind the clouds.

Calm before the storm
The night of the moon sighting brings out all the people into any and every available open space. It doesn't matter whether it's the rooftop, an open field or the vantage point of the spires of a mosque. Almost everyone is busy trying to get a first glimpse of the new moon. Others sit in front of the televisions waiting to hear the announcer mention the magic words through a smile concealed by heavy makeup.

Of course the moment it is spotted pandemonium breaks loose. Anything that can be beaten up, blown up, cranked up or revved up to make a noise is used to make a deafening noise. Pot, pans, helmets, motorcycle engines join in the din along with drums, crackers, trumpets and loud speakers. Boys set up their boom boxes on the streets playing music in Bangla, Hindi, English or any other language as long as it makes people want to move their bottoms in tune. All this accumulated noise is not a din but more of a music of joy. Problem is you won't make much money by selling it on CD.

The women get busy greeting each other while the young and the young at heart get down to a very important business of applying henna on their hands. At times it becomes a contest to se who can come up with the most creative designs. Then there's the need to get all the shemoi and chicken to treat the guests the next morning. It's a busy night that involves putting up the special curtains, bed covers, sofa cushion covers etc. Flowers have a sad life as they are gloriously cut and slaughtered to adorn vases. There are some who set out to do some last minute shopping while others throng the parlours and salons. Shops stay open as late as three in the morning. As for the music, it continues into the next day.

The morning after
The Eid morning starts off with the Fazr azaan. People walk back and forth the mosques trying desperately not to be tempted by the delicious aroma in the air of hot food waiting to be tasted. Those who were busy setting up the décor at home decide to take some time out and maybe even get some shuteye. Eid is just the epilogue to the actual event and that is the sighting of the moon.

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated By Ehsanur Raza Ronny
Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain


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