Eid as a kid in Pakistan: after Chand Raat shopping, one is sleeping like a baby only to be awakened with a jolt by the brothers hammering on the door after returning from Eid namaz at the mosque with smiling father in Ray Bans. Bleary-eyed, staggering in rumpled attire, you meet the pristine men of the house, brilliant in white, wolfing down a hearty breakfast of paratha and egg with tea. They refuse to exchange Eid Mubarak greetings until the women smarten up.

While getting dressed to say Eid namaz, again there is loud banging on the door amid shouts of “Bachay! Eid Mubarak. Bachay! Darwaza kholo! [open the door]” On opening the door, you see your maternal uncle in his Jinnah cap and ittar [Eastern perfume], offering gaily-wrapped bangles and the most loving bear hugs. Adaabs [greetings] and then receiving Eidi is made all the more sweeter by his beaming face. Wearing matching bangles, flaunting colourful dupattas, strutting around in heels, adjusting earrings, posing for pictures with elders in their elegant finery.

Guests pour in wearing sober shalwar kameez, the ladies in neat buns and side-swept hair, pearls and discreet gold jewellery glinting from silken outfits. The drawing room hums with the chattering of guests and clinking of bone china plates and tea cups, crocheted tablecloths and crisp napkins on the trolley. Eyeing the samosas, sawaiyyaan, dahi barray with imli (tamarind) sauce, chholay, chocolate cake and mithai; grabbing a bite as fast as mercury when backs are turned, avoiding gimlet stares from the parents. You shimmy away to a corner to do justice to the goodies, while the brothers are busy raiding the soft drinks being poured for the guests. Once the guests leave, kids are scolded for misbehaving as always and told how not one was like the immaculate cousin next door, more’s the pity.

The excitement of Eid one felt as a child has all but turned into a chore for an adult

Siesta for parents and then it’s time to pile into the car to go visiting. The brothers take up all the backseat space with their starched white shalwar kameez and the sisters squash into a corner like sardines. Once you alight, the pretty Eid outfits look as if they have been through the wringer with new wrinkles which will not disappear no matter how much you try to smoothe them out. What makes it even more galling is the backslapping by brothers as if they have scored the winning goal at the World Cup. Unity only strikes when it is time to garner Eidi from as many relatives as possible.

Conversation moves on to politics interspersed with disagreements, jokes and anecdotes between relatives supporting different parties. Eid spirit and bonhomie is emphasised by elders as warring parties in families are ordered to embrace and cast aside grievances. “Eid Milan hai. Gallay milo. Gillay shikway chhor do!” (It’s Eid today, embrace, let go of grievances).

Next day, the tummy aches and you take Hajmola after devouring yummy food, but it does not dent appetites.

Eid as an adult: one wakes up early, but no knocks on the door. You pull on heavy bangles and new ensemble, venture out in the killing humidity with beads of sweat coating your upper lip. Aesthetic sensibilities are offended by women in shiny shoes dressed like Christmas trees — squeezing in as much crochet, lace, embroidery, glitter, graphics, prints as possible with the objective not to leave a bare spot on the outfit. And the statement earrings — because how else can one make a mark in society?

Conversation moves on to politics interspersed with disagreements, jokes and anecdotes between relatives supporting different parties. Eid spirit and bonhomie is emphasised by elders as warring parties in families are ordered to embrace and cast aside grievances. “Eid Milan hai. Gallay milo. Gillay shikway chhor do!” (It’s Eid today, embrace, let go of grievances).

Sizing up looks not dissimilar to those given to the decked-up Eid bakra or cow. Women are staring at other women more than the men. A barrage of questions are aimed at your appearance — the logic being that if you don’t like another woman’s outfit, you will burst if you don’t let it out. “Why are you wearing something so simple? You don’t even look dressed up. It’s Eid!” Or “Where is the jewellery? Such small earrings! Can’t even see them!” Or “Why is your hair so flat? Didn’t you get a blow-dry?”

Women are swanning past in elaborate hairstyles and contoured faces, men in brightly-coloured embroidered kurtas, kids on phones and iPads, tables laden with spicy food and melting cakes, but not one satisfying dish. There are selfies galore, posers looking like asses, the insistence on being as loud and cheery as possible. 

Politics is discussed in high-pitched tones with cuss words for detestable politicians and their disgusting families, age or illness not denting the flow of abusive commentary. Boys, girls, uncles, aunties nearly falling off sofas in rage, threats hurled to titters from kids.

‘It’s Eid, we are all brothers today’, echoes in the mind, but it has a hollow ring now.

The columnist is a freelance writer.
She tweets @MaheenUsmani
Email: maheenusmani25@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, EOS, August 26th, 2018