As we draw to the end of Ramadan, my thoughts turn towards Eid-al-Fitr, the day which marks the end of the fasting period. This is one day in the Islamic calendar where it’s forbidden for Muslims to fast.
Pakistani families have a pudding, seviyan, or vermicelli noodles for breakfast and then leave to go to the mosque for special Eid prayers. They give money to charity and then return home. The rest of the day is spent visiting family and friends. Older people give presents (usually cash, called Eidee) to younger family members. It’s a joyful day with laughter and happiness. For me, this year, Eid will be different. I will make seviyan and go to the mosque to offer Eid prayers but this year will be the first year my father won’t ring me and say Eid Mubarak, baitay (Eid greetings, my child) and that’s hard to bear.
My father, my loving Daddy, passed away on 31st October 2018. I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that I can’t see him, I can’t pick up the phone and hear his voice, I can never have the sense of security again which he gave me. I have now lost two important persons who used to make Eid special, my grandmother and my father.
My grandmother lived about 100 miles away from us. We used to spend all our holidays at my grand parents’ house and obviously that included Eid. A few days before Eid, my grandfather used to withdraw cash from the bank and give it to my grandmother. She would use this to give Eidee to her grand children and to people who worked in their house and on the farm and who would come to visit her on Eid. One day I saw my grandmother putting the money away which she’d just been given by my grandfather. As he used to get out a significant amount, it came in bundles like one below.
In those days we used to have a one rupee note too (now replaced by a coin). I picked up a bundle of one rupee notes and asked my grandmother how much money was that. She said Rs 100. Now hundred seemed like a really big number to me (remember I was very little then) and I couldn’t believe that a small bundle could actually have a hundred notes. I asked her if I could count them. She said yes. So I sat down and carefully counted them and was amazed that there really were hundred notes in that bundle. I stood up and held it towards my grandmother. She told me that as I had counted it I could keep it. I was so happy; it seemed all my Eids has come together! From that day onwards, she would always give me a bundle of freshly minted, 100 one rupee notes as Eidee. This was a secret between us (it’s only recently that I told my mother about the story behind my getting Rs 100 on each Eid day). I also got what other grandchildren got but I got this additional 100 too. So, when I think of Eid and Eidee I always think back to the little girl looking in wonderment at the riches before her, made to feel special by her grandmother who handed her that bundle to count so she could satisfy herself that it actually was 100 and then rewarded her curiosity by gifting her the same bundle of 100 crisp, one rupee notes.
The night of the last fast, the night before Eid is called chand raat (night of the moon) in Urdu. The Islamic calendar is a lunar one and the sighting of the new moon signals the start of the new month. A lunar month is of 29 or 30 days. If the moon is sighted on the night of the 29th Ramadan then that night is chand raat and the next day is Eid. If it’s not sighted on the 29th then chand raat will be be night of the 30th. When I was living at home with mum and dad we had a tradition to go shopping on chand raat. Our new clothes, which we would wear on Eid, would already have been stitched and hanging ready in our cupboards. Shoes would’ve been bought. Matching bags too if we needed one but we would leave one item till chand raat, matching glass bangles like the ones below.
Once the announcement was made that the moon had been sighted and Eid would be tomorrow, we’d eat dinner and then Daddy would take us out. Karachi is a huge metropolitan city; it’s among the top most populated cities in the world. Traffic on chand raat is chaotic, cars are bumper to bumper on the roads, there’s no parking to be found for miles, the pavements are heaving with people but Daddy didn’t mind. He would drive us where we wanted to go and then patiently go shop from shop while my sister and I tried to find the perfect set of bangles. He would never hurry us along, he’d never say make up your mind now, I’m not taking you to yet another shop. But that was Daddy all over. Nothing was too much trouble for him where his family was concerned. I know he would’ve walked over hot coals for us if he had to.
As I said, there were literally thousands of people out shopping too. Daddy would hold our hands and we loved having this tall, handsome man hold us close to him protectively. We knew as long as he was around we were safe.
That warm feeling of being loved more than anything else in the world and being protected from anything and everything is what Daddy gave us and it’s going to take a long time to come to terms with the fact that I don’t have that anymore. In fact I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with it. It may get easier to bear the loss but that loss now defines who I am and the person I am now is different to who I was before 31st October. It took me years before my grandmother’s loss became a bit easier to bear but it’s still there in the background. She used to pickle mangoes and other fruits and send us jars and jars of the stuff. She passed away in 1980 and I have not eaten pickles since then. With Daddy I suspect it’ll take even longer for the loss to feel a little lighter. Maybe even my whole life won’t be enough and the big, gaping hole will always be there.