What's All the Fuss About?
Over the years, you must admit, for better or for worse, Eid has changed so very much. And I mean much in every financial sense of the word.
Imagine a shirt at half a lakh taka, a lehenga (never existed even ten years back) at daer lakh, a saree (does not seem to exist even when worn) at two lakh and a car at three, I mean a ten-inch remote-controlled one for the nine-year old that swirls, turns turtle, and flashes lights. And all some better-off families will manage is a hearty meal of chicken curry and rice on Eid day. There are some who will wonder why all the hustle and bustle? It's business as usual begging at a cross-section or tilling a dry patch of farmland belonging to someone else. It was different when it all began.
Gone are the crackers bearing the good news; instead we await the scroll on the television screen to reveal the revelation of the new moon. Whatever the criticisms about moon-sighting, we have improved a lot. And instead of district-wise jamaat (no relation to Jamaat-e-Islami or their district committees) we now have a national day of celebration, although there have been surreptitious attempts to revert back to history; the most recent being the 3AM coup (no politician should take that word into cognizance in the greater interest of the country) that made some people jump from their bed and start fasting a day before the others did. We await the forthcoming Shaw'waal moon with interest. Could it be a 28-day Ramadhan for some? Only the moon will tell.
Whether the moon has been sighted or not is a big question both at the beginning and the end of Ramadhan. Everybody is asking everybody. Here's an adaptation to an old comic piece.
The phone rang at the newspaper office and an authoritative voice demanded to know whether the moon had indeed been sighted. Just about finishing his iftar, Mainka was in no mood to repeat what he had been saying since the siren was sounded and answered, "We've had eleven reports, all unconfirmed: five from Barisal, three from Noakhali, two from Sylhet and one by my fat-bottomed boss who swanks around in a Lexus."
There was stone silence for a second or two.
"Do you know who you are speaking to?"
"No," said Mainka.
"It is your so-called fat-bottomed boss you so insubordinately referred to."
"Well, do you know who you are talking to?" asked Mainka sheepishly.
"No," roared the boss.
"Well thank God for that," said Mainka, slamming the phone down.
By this time five years back I would have received about 15-20 cards, screaming Eid Mubarak, glitter and all. This year I received three, two from commercial promoters and one from an aspirant Rotarian, a phenomenon that brewed conviction within my jittery self that my popularity was plummeting along with Bush and Blair, until I realised that I was passing through the E-Age. (I don't mind being ostracised; it's being bracketed with the two that I find objectionable. I am sure the feeling is mutual.) Nowadays people will simply sms or email you their good wishes, but there is inherent danger because of globalisation. You may receive one felicitating you on Hari Raya Puasa and you would not have an inkling what was going on until someone told you that your mobile-happy Mamu was enjoying Eid in some Southeast Asian country. If someone mentioned Seker Bayram, you may let it pass as some healthy additive to your sugar-free tea but it is the first day of the tenth month of the Islamic lunar calendar in Turkey.
Bangla sms are also very popular because in this festive season they make a lot of sense. Here's one I found very original:
Tumi ekhon bondhu amar khub-e Dear,
Amakeo rakho tumar ridoyer Near,
God chara cow-ke tumi korona Fear,
Dekhba kovu jiboney tomar aashbena Tear.
This one is for you romantics, and I tell you, one little message on that one inch by one inch screen of your mobile set speaks more than a thousand words:
Aar lagey na bhalo priyo,
Eka eka thaka.
Tumi chara jibon amar,
Boro-e faka faka.
Life-ay amar joley utho
Phillips batti hoye.
Ridoy ta hok fok-foka
Shab aadhar jaak dhuye.
The Eid morning table is also going through a transformation. The shemai is gradually vanishing or at best remaining in the fridge while among several other imported items Chinese dishes are finding favour. This came about because everyone thought that everyone would be serving shemai at their house, so why not surprise everyone and do something unique? And thereby the entire mahalla ended up with noodles and fried chicken. (There was a mad rush to the fridge in some places.)
formation. The shemai is gradually vanishing or at best remaining in the fridge while among several other imported items Chinese dishes are finding favour. This came about because everyone thought that everyone would be serving shemai at their house, so why not surprise everyone and do something unique? And thereby the entire mahalla ended up with noodles and fried chicken. (There was a mad rush to the fridge in some places.)
That is probably more than a coincidence because since 500AD, even before the advent of “Yisilan Jiao” (meaning “Pure Religion” and Islam in Chinese), Arab seafarers had established trade relations with China. They probably embraced Islam when news arrived that their families and friends back in Arabia had already embraced the new religion during the revelation of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The first copy of the Holy Qur'an reached China in as early as 637AD and today the native population of Chinese Muslims is greater than the population of many Arab countries. Hah! That is the very logic why you cannot avoid Wun Thun on Eid day!
Also you could not avoid the clear difference between BTV and the private channels during this holy month. And I am not referring only to their quality of programmes or the truth factor in their news. The difference is in the head, and that is no reference either to their respective wisdom. Newscasters and ghoshoks in the state channel have lived up to their long-standing bizarre stance of pulling the pallu over their head come only the month of fasting, while continuing with all other programmes sans hijaab as if nothing had happened, their counterparts in the private channels appear unperturbed about the religious connotation in news, views and even cine materials.
I am also not too sure what appeal Eid issues (not babies born on the day of the festival, but special editions such as this mammoth effort by this magazine) will hold, what with satellite transmissions drawing all the attraction, elections bogging everyone's thoughts, and power failure making reading impossible at night, but some things will not change, at least not that fast. Eid is still considered incomplete in many houses without a copy of the crore-patra, although they may sell only a few thousand copies.
Here's wishing we can share this Eid and the many more that Allah subhanu wa ta'ala may bless us with, with those children who beg in the busiest street traffic, taking no notice of the hazards around them including our shooing away, in an environment we the fortunate ones do not allow even our teenager children to venture.
Have a wonderful Eid and please remember us in your daily prayers. Eid Mubarak!
(R) thedailystar.net 2006