Ramadan and Eid..back then
Much has been written about what Ramadan was like in the olden days; hence what I'm penning today is not much different. But I think everyone's childhood experience is unique.
I don't know whether it was due to lack of awareness or what but people in those days didn't pray like they do now. But come Shab-e-Barat people would start saying their prayers five times a day. As the new moon was sighted on the last day of the month of Shaban, my mum and her sisters would start the Taraweeh prayers. Sehri used to be very exciting. I remember waking up for sehri in the cold winter nights just to eat rice and aloo bhaja. Now I can't even think of eating rice so early.
I would keep five to six rozas a day, storing them in tightly lidded bottles and I had many iftars before it was time for the real iftar. I don't think that children of today can fathom the fun of blowing the rozas into bottles. I've asked a few kids how many fasts they have kept during the day. Most of them answered that they don't fast like that. They either fast the whole day or they don't.
As a few fasting days passed, my mother and aunts rushed to the only decent cloth store in town for their Eid shopping. Baksh Brothers at Bandar Bazar was the ultimate place as far as fashion was concerned. They stocked up on saris, dress materials, suit materials, materials for blouses, petticoats, shirts, trousers, panjabis and pyjamas. They even had lungis. But readymade attires were unheard of in the elite circle. They were available at Hasan Market, a market for the lower income group and the stuff they had were not fashionable at all.
Everybody got their clothes stitched. There were tailor shops. The tailor masters were not like the tailors of today. Along with their extraordinary sartorial prowess, they had the ability to deliver the goods dot on time. And they did home deliveries too.
I don't ever remember getting mad at our Lola Master for messing up any outfit of ours. The memory that I have of him is a grey haired, fair man with the measuring tape around his neck. He measured us and produced such excellent outfits in no time.
My aunts stitched clothes at home too. Khoka khala, my mother's cousin, had a knack for stitching and made some of the best clothes that I wore when I was little.
Shoes were next on the list. We would go to Sylhet Shoe House and get our footwear. Shoes didn't touch the ground till the Eid morning. I kept mine next to my pillow. The smell of leather was better than the best perfume in the world!
My mum and aunts got the provisions for Eid from “Friend's Society”, a shop that was heaven for us kids. They sold everything from food, toys, stationery, jewelleries, crockery, cutleries and everything that one needed for day-to-day use.
It's a shame that these two shops, Baksh Brothers and Friend's Society, that stood next to each other in their glorious days are mere relics now. The owners of both shops have passed away.
One thing I remember from my childhood days is that we had clothes and shoes for Eid but we never got any trinkets to match our outfits. This was probably because my mother and her sisters were not really jewellery people.
Finally the new moon for Eid was sighted. The siren was heard. My mum would cook for the next day. Lunch was at my aunt's place while everyone came to our house for dinner. This was the norm for as long as I could remember.
My khala, whom I fondly called mamon, made a special chicken roast that was red in colour and very, very spicy. I still drool when I remember the taste. It's a pity mamon passed away before I learnt cooking. The recipe is lost with her. My mother has a lovely silver receptacle that used to be full of yummy dried fruits and nuts on Eid day. In those days dried fruits and nuts were abundant and cheap.
Eid was also a day for visiting friends and family. We went to pay our respects to our dadi as well as our maternal grandparents. Other relatives and friends came to visit us. And everywhere there was the expectation of Eidi.
Five, ten or at the most twenty rupees (this was during East Pakistan time) would be sufficient from each elder to anyone younger. Photo sessions would follow after all the sumptuous Eid snacks and meals.
Before dinner my mum, her siblings and us cousins would go to the latest movie that adorned one of the three cinema halls in Sylhet. Most of the time, it was a classic movie with Razzak and Kobori or Azim and Shujata in the lead. It was a ritual for us.
After the movie, we returned home and gradually everyone would come for dinner. As the auspicious day ended I would drift off to a peaceful slumber clutching all the money I had collected from all the elders.
It was good to be one of the youngest in the family.
Photo: Zahedul I Khan