“Mum!” Maira bumped into the room where her mother had just finished the Isha prayers and was folding the prayer mat.
“Yes dear, what happened?” Mrs Ali looked concerned.
“Mum, all my friends are literally done with their Eid shopping and here I am still left with shoes, jewellery and dozens of other things to buy! And there are only five days are left for Eid,” Maira grumbled.
Her mother smiled at her daughter. “Don’t worry, we will go shopping soon!” she said dismissively and walked out of the room.
Maira belonged to an upper-middle class family and was quite spoilt, being the only child of Mr and Mrs Ali. She always got what she wanted. Her parents sometimes used to get worried that their pampering would lead their daughter to develop a sense of entitlement and a demanding personality.
The next day, Maira woke up pretty late in the afternoon as she was also fasting. Her school had given them a week-long Eid break so that children could relax and spend the last days of Ramazan at home and enjoy Eid. Mrs Ali was reading the Holy Quran when Maira strolled into the lounge and grabbed her mother’s phone to play games.
“Very bad, Maira! Have you offered your Zuhr prayers? Always remember that Salah comes first. Go upstairs, pray and then do other things,” her mother instructed her and then went to the kitchen.
“Oh God!” Maira sighed. She looked disgruntled and slowly started going towards the stairs.
That night before going to bed, Mrs Ali kissed Maira’s forehead and told her the good news that they would be going to shopping tomorrow. Maira sighed happily and snuggled into her covers.
The next morning, Maira dressed up quickly and went to the lounge where her mother was already waiting for her. She had her long shopping list ready and was very excited. They sat in the car and went to the shopping mall.
After an extensive shopping of four hours, Maira finally bought three pairs of sandals for each three days of Eid, bangles, jewellery, makeup, two handbags and a lot of other unnecessary accessories. Her hands were full with shopping bags, she walked out of the shopping mall. Her mum had bought an unstitched suit for herself which they had to drop off to a lady tailor for stitching.
The lady tailor, whose name was Amna, lived in an underprivileged area, but she was well-known for her expert stitching skills. It was the last days before Eid and Mrs Ali’s regular tailor was too busy to stitch the suit for her, so she had decided to get her dress stitched from Amna. Mrs Ali was really satisfied with her services.
So when they arrived near Amna’s house, they stopped at a little distance in the narrow lane in front of the house. Both Maira and her mum stepped out and walked towards the house and knocked at the door. Amna opened the door and greeted them with a smile and led them inside the house.
This was the first time Maira was visiting Amna’s house. Maira stared at the house with so many of thoughts in her mind. “How can anybody live in this place? They have just a few things! How do they survive without an air conditioner in this scorching summer heat? Can a whole family fit in two small rooms?”
Amna led them to a room with a charpai, two chairs and an old table, and in the corner there was a big trunk placed. Mrs Ali sat on one chair and asked Maira to sit as well. Maira was reluctant, but she had no choice.
Amna went to the kitchen and came back with cold water for them. Then she took out a copy and pen to jot down the instructions form Mrs Ali. Maira saw a girl of her same age playing with an old broken dirty doll outside the room. Maira kept staring at the poor condition of the doll that had one arm missing.
Just then, Mrs Ali’s phone rang. It was an emergency call from the hospital. Maira’s aunt had fallen from the stairs and her foot got fractured. As a result, Mrs Ali had to rush to the hospital. She quickly told Amna about the dress and other important instructions. Then Mrs Ali asked Amna for a little favour: to look after Maira for some time because she didn’t have time to drop her off at home or take her to the hospital along either.
Amna welcomed Maira. When Mrs Ali left, Amna asked her daughter Ayesha to see if Maira needed anything and give her company while she prepared dinner. Ayesha came closer to Maira and greeted her with a smile. In return, Maira also smiled back at her.
“Umm so, are you done with your Eid shopping?” Maira asked, trying to break the ice with the most obvious question.
“Yes, by the Mercy of Allah, everything is good. My mum stitched a pretty dress for me,’ Ayesha chuckled.
Maira looked blankly at Ayesha, “Okay, how many dresses? And other things? Have you bought them?” Maira asked again.
“Is there more than one dress needed on Eid? I don’t know about other things, but I may buy sandals if mum gets paid by a client today. But if not, then I will wear the ones I bought last year for our relatives’ wedding. They are very nice, you know,” she seemed so happy with the thought of her sandals.
Maira looked at her in disbelief and asked, “So where is your father?”
“My father recently fell ill and so all our money went into his medication. Therefore, we could not arrange enough money to do Eid shopping,” Ayesha stopped to take a breath and then continued. “But it’s completely fine and I am happy that I have a new dress.”
In her simplicity, she continued, “There are little kids living just beside our house, who haven’t bought anything yet. No dress, no shoes, nothing! I feel very sad for them. But mum told me that if she gets some money from her clients, she will try to arrange something for the kids, too!”
Maira could not believe her ears. She was already shocked to see and hear about Ayesha’s Eid shopping and her state of living. Listening about the kids living next to Ayesha’s house made her wonder where she was standing! How blessed and carefree she was. She never imagined people could live in such a state and still be happy.
“You are a nice girl Ayesha. I mean your heart is filled with so much gratitude. Today, you made me truly understand the meaning of celebrating Eid.
“It is more than just wearing new clothes and accessories, it also means to share smiles as you go along! And that is what I am going to do now.”
Maira reached for the shopping bags that were lying there and pulled out her new sandals and handed them to Ayesha. Next she opened other bags and pulled out some jewellery and a handbag and handed them to Ayesha, who was very surprised.
“These are for you! I will really like if you accept them as a gift from me. I am now feeling thousands times happier because I have spread one smile and my Eid is already complete!”
Ayesha was speechless and emotional at the same time. First she was hesitant, but then she humbly accepted the things from Maira and thanked her with a radiant smile.
Published in Dawn, Young World, April 30th, 2022