UAE-based software engineer Fariyal Shaikh shows me a picture of her six-year-old Ayesha’s henna, “She asked for Corona 2020 and Ana (from Disney’s Frozen) for henna this time, so I bought a stencil.” The reason for little Ayesha’s request, “Her 9-year-old cousin in Bombay put a similar design on her hand because she is so upset that Corona has ruined her Eid, so Ayesha is showing solidarity, albeit the Ana is her own addition.”
When asked what a typical Eid is usually like in her home, the mother of two reminisces, “I remember growing up, all of my siblings and I would go with Abba in the last two weeks of Ramadan to buy our Eid clothes, we’d all each get two outfits, a pair of shoes, accessories, watches, you name it, we would buy to our heart’s content since Amma said that Allah does not take into account what you buy for Eid, so get all your new things now. I don’t know if that is true, but it sure felt great to have untethered access to my father’s wallet for that day.
“My father would then arrange for somebody to come and apply henna to the ladies of the house, sometimes if we didn’t get anyone we would do it ourselves, staying up all night, bubbling with excitement about the next day. My siblings and I would arrange their clothes and shoes in the study, living room and the dining area the night before, the excitement of Eid is indescribable, it used to be at least.
“When you’re just a kid, you wake up to your mother cooking Biryani, Nihari and Sheer Korma (Sweet vermicelli), the smells take over the entire house. But the rule always was that you get cleaned first, dress up, pray Eid ki namaz (Eid prayers) and then you get to feast to your heart’s content. It was so funny, we would all be so uncomfortable eating food the first day after Ramadan was over. It felt very haram. We would host a party at home every year, all our friends and relatives would come over, on the first day it’s usually some of your relatives and all your non-Muslim friends, as all Muslims prefer to host their own Eid gatherings.
“The best part as a kid was always the Eidi (token money you get on Eid from your elders), be it gifts or money, but we did prefer those relatives that handed cash. I feel sad that my children won’t be able to experience it this year, I hope it gets better next time. “
Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims all around the world, during this month Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, practice self resolution, offer Salaat (prayers), give Zakaat (charity), improve the quality of their Imaan (faith), read the Quran, pray special prayers called Taraweeh, among other things, for a period of 29-30 days. This year most Gulf countries including the UAE and others (Malaysia, Europe, etc) are celebrating Eid, while in India it will be celebrated on May 25, i.e. tomorrow. Other than the spiritual aspect of Ramadan, there is also the social aspect, people often gather for prayers, meals, shopping and more. However this year amid the lockdowns on account of the coronavirus pandemic, Ramadan spirits have been dull. Ramadan ends with a grand feast and celebration, Eid ul Fitr, where Muslims go for prayers, get together to eat lavish delicacies during the daytime after a month of fasting, share gifts and visit their loved ones, but that seems unlikely this year. With Eid right around the corner, Muslims (especially children) around the world aren’t feeling too festive knowing that they won’t be able to meet their loved ones or engage in any of the festivities of Eid like they usually do.
Zoha Khan, the nine-year-old who inspired little Ayesha to draw the henna, speaks of her Eid plans (translated), “I just drew Corona on my hand because everyone is always talking about it. It has made things very different, in a bad but also good way. Good because this Ramadan we got to help mom more in the kitchen. We didn’t feel too bad about this situation during Ramadan since my sister Samara and I play at home. But for Eid we go to meet my grandparents, buy new clothes, get dressed up and get Eidi money from all our relatives and eat yummy things. But I won’t be able to go anywhere this time. Mom says it’s okay because we are helping a lot of people by not celebrating, and I will give some Zakaat from my savings to mom to buy something for Jyoti Didi (their house help).”
11-year-old Malaysian national Zahaan Azam, an aspiring doctor has some noble plans this Eid, “I can’t do anything this year, we usually go to Dada’s house for Eid dressed in Baju Melayu (traditional Malay attire), meet our relatives and friends there, eat and get lots of gifts and money. But there’s a lot of people who haven’t been able to go home at all, like the security guards where I stay. So mom and I have decided to spread some Eid cheer by sharing our Biryani and Sheer Korma with them, from a safe distance of course. We will distribute food and some money among all the staff that have been working here.”
Zahaan Azam at last year’s Eid celebrations with his grandfather and younger brother.
Delhi girl and content creator Farzeen Ali who is away from her family in Mumbai currently plans on recreating all the delicacies that are made back at home so she doesn’t miss her family too much. The 26-year-old says, “I have been cooking for a while now but even for Iftaar I made sure that I cooked things my folks would have. I’ll definitely miss being with my family on Eid, I will miss getting Eidi and wearing new clothes. I think I’ll just have a big virtual Eid wishing call with my family but I will definitely be eating Eid food like them. I know Eid isn’t the time to try something for the first time ever, but I will, and make Biryani using my mom’s recipe. I am a little stressed about that.”
Farzeen Ali during previous Eid celebrations.
She adds, “Because of the lockdown, things aren’t as easily available so I’ve been stocking up since weeks to ensure I have all my ingredients in place. I’ll make the whole spread, Biryani, Kebabs, Sevaiyan, Sheer Korma, all of it. I really want it to be perfect, and even thought of making practice batches but didn’t want to waste food. I don’t know why I want it to be perfect it’s not like there’s anyone else who will eat it, but Eid needs to feel like Eid. So at least if the food is perfect, it will feel that way.”
Mumbai based make-up artist Midhat Contractor has been donating to local mosques to help migrant Muslims who are stranded on account of the pandemic and is most upset by the cancellation of Eid prayers, she says, “I’m sad that there will be no Eid ki Namaz this year, I think that has to be what I will miss the most. There is no excitement for Eid like there usually is as we won’t be able to meet relatives, buy new clothes or get henna drawn, but the situation of all those who are stranded away from their homes is so much worse, that our problems seem like nothing.”
Jewellery designer and mother of two Shahida Parekh is sad about missing Eid prayers, she says, “The spirit of Ramadan always remains high in all of us but this time the environment has been quite grim. The festivities may have reduced but the praying definitely increased. We don’t mind staying home and praying honestly, but Eid will be hard. This year, Eid will be more virtual than ever as I will be ‘meeting’ my relatives and friends on video calls, something I have only done excessively since the lockdown. Eid will be much simpler this year. We won’t be going outside the house, nor will the iconic Eid ki Namaz take place so we will pray at home. And of course, for children who do not completely understand the gravity of the situation, it will be very tough too. They are devastated about missing all their Eidi.”