Eid, when I was six.

This is a brief account of what Eid was like a ten years ago, to me. Tomorrow being our festival, I think this is an appropriate post. While some of the things remain unchanged, most of the things have changed with time…

The rush begins with the sighting of the new moon. The phone rings without a pause and my mother keeps going on about how much more work there is to do and how today everyone should get to bed early in order to wake up early the next day. Somehow the day before Eid happens to be the day we all go to bed late. Bags of sweetmeats are packed and our new dresses are ironed and hung up for the next day. Just when my brother and I’ve been put to sleep the phone rings again, waking us both up as my mother hurriedly tells her sister that it’s 500 grams of sugar and 10 eggs (or something like that) and my father would come to check how red the henna on my hand has turned. Mom would chide us all back to our beds before she goes to sleep herself. Some nights, I used to be so excited that I couldn’t sleep so I’d grab a pen and my diary to write on it under the night light, sometimes falling asleep atop it. 

The day of Eid, my mom and dad would wake my brother and me at 04:00 am. I always woke up first full of excitement. Having a cup of milk in the morning after an entire month seems a bit weird but soon enough we would be filling our stomachs to make up for what we didn’t. My father would recite aloud the ‘thakbir’ and that is one of my favorite things about Eid. The sound of his voice echoing around the house. Slightly shaking, I would get dressed in my new clothes and my brother as usual would be late but he always made it a  point to make a  special entrance. Then he would poke me lovingly, I’d poke him back a little harder, a quarrel would start, my parents would say “you should not fight on the day of the festival” and  then we would exchange smiles and  be friends again. By 05:30 am we begin the hour long journey to our grandparents’ house, from Kandy to Matale, a whole hour worth the ride.

Now, if you haven’t taken the road from Kandy to Matale at 5:30am, you wouldn’t know what I’m talking about. The sun would be peeking out from between the mountains and the paddy fields as you pass Alawathugoda are a splendid sight to see, especially with Yes Fm tuned in on 96.8 (if I’m not mistaken).

My grandfather would wait to welcome us with a hug and the warmest smile I will ever know. My cousin would run out of the house in her pyjamas, see us and run back in to wake her little brother up to tell him his favorite cousins were here. We’d spot our grandmother busy making festive specials in the kitchen, and my uncle would come running and give us presents and he always has such perfect choice of clothes that my favorite dresses were always from him. My aunt would go around asking my cousins to hurry up or we’d miss the festival prayers. By 06:50 the beautiful  ladies of the house start our ten-fifteen minute walk to the mosque. It would always rain on the day of the festival and we had to constantly jump to avoid a splash of mud on our new clothes. We would walk in pairs. My cousin and I would always walk together, catching up on what we had missed since the last time we met (the 24 hour break we had between us).

Sometimes my cousin and I didn’t pray at the mosque… we were too small to understand how it all worked so we would sit and talk in hushed voices, making sure we didn’t disturb anyone. Then we would spot someone we knew and try to get them look at us; “psychic power” our paranormal activity obsessed uncle had once let slip.

We would walk back home, stopping every now and then when we saw someone we knew, asking them to stop by our grandparents place. Soon we would be back and the men would go to the mosque. Until they came back, we would all help prepare the table for breakfast.

When they come back from the mosque we would greet each other with “salaams” and the rest of the morning would be spent visiting relatives, being visited by relatives, and my cousin and me making secret plans. At times, my cousin and I would be lucky enough to squeeze in some time to hear a bit of the ‘Johnson’ story from our grandfather. Then lunch would arrive from the famous cook in town, Mr. Dawood. My uncle would sneak in and steal some food (Chicken, if we were lucky) from the lunch basins and share it with us. The cats would also try sneaking in but they were never as clever  or skilled as my uncle was.

On the way to my dad’s parents’ house in Akurana, we would stop by the burial grounds to pay our respect to my dad’s father who was always a man of cheer, especially around Eid. Around the time of dusk, the sky turns a beautiful shade of orange and as night falls and we approach Akurana our grandmother would welcome us home. Slowly, the crowds would start pouring in. Aunts, uncles, cousins… and every one of them came with a smile.

Greetings are exchanged and relatives come over, and my aunts would complain about how little of their dodol or boondi or wattalapam I ate. High on sugar, my cousins and I would walk outside, laugh till we were out of breath. Sometimes we managed to get to the top of the roof. The stars look way better when you watch them, lying flat on your back at the top of the roof. But soon someone would slip, yelp and my aunts and uncles would rush out thinking it was the monkeys on the roof again, but find us instead.

Dinner is always extra special… home-made and nothing like it anywhere else. Signature dishes coming from family recepies and a load of sweat meats to top it off again. I would already feel sleepy but the grown ups would have just started speaking. They speak and speak and speak and only when the day dawns, do my parents realize it’s time we got home.

On our way home, I would fall asleep and my father would carry me to my room in his strong arms. My day ends with the warmth of dad’s hugs the way they dawned with mom’s voice. Growing up I’ve come to realize that even the cousin who swore to eat with you ten years later might have forgotten she said that, and the people you were so certain would be with you till the end of time might see their end before time does. A lot has changed but a lot still remains the same, and what I’m grateful for is that after all the years, my day still ends with dad’s warm hugs the way they began with mom’s voice waking me up.


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