Writing this as Eid approaches, I’m reminded of all the different ways people might experience this occasion. This post is my way of showcasing such varying experiences. Each short story below is told from the point of view of a member of a household. I hope you enjoy them. Eid Mubarak!
Heels. For Tanzi, Eid is all about a pair of strappy, silver heels. They sit nestled in the corner of Baji’s almari, covered in a layer of forgotten dust. There’s a tear to one of the straps and the heel of the left shoe is loose. Tanzi knows this because she tried them on that one time when Baji’s rich son had come from Islamabad and taken everyone out for Iftari. It was a good day because Baji had shared roti and ketchup packets with her afterwards. Ketchup always makes Ammi’s daal taste better, like thick, chicken curry – salty and even a little sweet.
Ammi says never to covet other people’s things; not their shoes, their cars or their lives. She says Allah Mian gives everyone what they deserve. But Baji is not a nice person, not always. And Tanzi’s not sure that she deserves any of this. Sometimes when Baji’s happy, she thankfully ignores her. But when she’s angry, like when Nonni, her daughter, stumbles around, whimpering, struggling on her leg brace because she refuses to practice with crutches, Baji makes Tanzi work all day, even out in the courtyard when the sun is at its peak. It’s so humid in the summer, much like it is these days, and her clothes are always drenched in sweat by the time she leaves. She hates how stiff they are the next morning and always prays Baji doesn’t complain about the smell. But Baji does, about other things too.
Eid for Ayesha Begum has always been about family. Or at least that’s how it appears to anyone to drops in to visit the elderly woman. Her freshly painted, black gate is flung open, beckoning visitors to its courtyard where Ayesha rests, her considerable girth supported by an old charpai. A lonely guava tree provides minimal shade, its leaves wilting in the August heat. “See how strong it grows,” she rasps, to whoever cares to listen, fanning herself with an old tupperware lid. Despite her failing eyesight, they all indulge her, because no one can really say anything to a woman who has survived the shame of poverty and widowhood.
She owes much of her good fortune now to her son, the good one, not the deadbeat who hangs out at the Tuc Shop in his wilting shalwar and greasy tee, sweet-talking the owner out of another pack of cigarettes on credit. “My good son did this and praise be to God,” she repeats time and time again to the people seated around her. She gestures to a cowering young woman in heels to hurry with the sweetmeats. And through it all, Ayesha sits there, like a queen, her tiny world of mortar and brick bringing peace to her mind, telling the world she has arrived, reminding everyone that she has achieved respectability and no one utters a word.XXXXX
Eid for Aliyaan is about her. The girl. The one his mother says is a fairy that God created just for him. He hasn’t seen her since Ramzan started and knows she’ll be here today. He can’t help but wonder about her, her face, what her body must be like. Will her eyes flutter close when he walks up to her? Will she start if his hand grazes hers? Will it be everything he hoped for in a wife, in a woman? His mind, a fog of thoughts, of needs and wants that sneak up on him, make him want to shuffle around the room and take deep breaths. This is what God intended after all, a chance meeting, mutual acceptance, wedding bells and bliss of a different kind. He wants that. Wants it more than water, than any sustenance. He deserves this.
Eid day for Zulfi is hell. Or as difficult things can be in a small town, in nowhere, Pakistan. There is nothing quite like Eid prayers in a mosque reeking of mildew and wet feet, the heat and humidity of the day further stifling the air inside. The prayer hall is always crowded, children, men and boys waltzing into the place at all times of the day and yet, it looks like nothing has changed in 25 years. The carpets haven’t been washed, and he can feel the telltale constriction as his sinus’s react to the dust – cleanliness never being much of a priority here.
He and his son were up early for prayers and are now waltzing home to Eid celebrations at his house, which is seeing considerable renovation. He knows there’ll be no electricity when he gets there, and God knows if the water is still running. It is barely midday and already the sun is blazing, moisture from last night’s drizzle turning into steam and sweat.
From his vantage point at the gate, he watches the scene unfolding before him: at scrawny Tanzi scurrying about the house in heels too large for her tiny feet; at Aliyaan stealing glances at his bride-to-be, sitting on picket chairs near the guava tree. His sister is peaking through the kitchen window, still too embarrassed to use her crutches in public. And of course, his mother. His mother holding court, surrounded by nosy neighbors and family paying homage to a woman wearing more gold and tinsel than a Christmas tree. It hurts a little that she still feels this insecure, has so much to prove to those who have seen her hungry and dirty.
Zulfi knows it’s Eid and yet, despite the soft murmurs of Eid Mubarak, the smell of sweetened milk in the air and shrieks of children as they run around the hard, cement floor, it feels like another day of the week. He should feel something but all he’s looking forward to is a cup of tea and a chance to get some much-needed sleep.
For more on MMW’s Ramadan series, and to read the rest of this year’s Ramadan posts, click here.