At this time back home, our house will be brimming with activity. The 27th night of Ramazan as always is spent in prayer but afterwards, there’s a sense of anticipation which blurs the final days of fasting.
Every year, a week before the festival, my mum will announce that she won’t be making too many food items for the table. Each year we nod and agree knowing well enough that when Eid dawns, our table will be creaking under the weight of all our favourite food items. Each year, we tell my dad firmly in uppercase that the day will be spent with FAMILY ONLY. Each year, he nods and acquiesces but the night before, he would sidle up to my mum and casually mention that X uncle might drop in at night and do we have enough food to go around. My mum (armed with years of foresight to keep the freezer well stocked) would sigh and feign impatience and say yes, yes, we just might have enough food. Oh brilliant, my dad would sigh in relief. Then, he would wait till we get back to our work and hurriedly mumble that therewasachancethatafewmorepeoplemightdropin and then swiftly make his exit before either of us could register what he said.
The day before Eid is chaos. I’d run around in a rare mode of domesticity dusting this and washing that. My sister would help my mum in the kitchen and my dad would be sent out no fewer than five times on varied errands. The cat would lounge about everywhere, gazing at us languidly and tripping everyone over. I remember as a kid how my mum, aunt, grandmother and our faithful domestic who used to work for us before she became a nun (that’s another story) would get together and make sweetmeats weeks before. My grandmother would bring out all her utensils which her mother had used and our domestic would be coaxed into the daunting task of stirring the sticky, sweet mixture. I say daunting, because the mixture for muscat is incredibly heavy and has to be mixed by hand. Mixing it required immense upper body strength, fortitude and alarming amounts of patience. My favourite though, was making palaharam. The dough was made, rolled out and then cut into minute squares. Once they were cut, we would sit around the table, catch up on general chit chat and twist the squares into dainty shapes. Once the dough was ready, they were fried and coated in sugar syrup – A homemade recipe for a heart attack, if there ever was one. The food during Eid was fantastic. Our table would be filled with thakbir, date cake, donuts, marshmallows, cutlets, nuggets, cheese rolls, samosas, egg shaped moss jellies and cupcakes for all the visitors who came throughout the day.
On Eid itself, we would be woken up at an ungodly hour. I would wake up only when my mum would storm into my room yelling at me for sleeping while everyone else had been up for hours (Every. Single. Year. I kid you not) I would, as usual be the last to bathe and saunter to the breakfast table in my pyjamas while everyone else was squeaky clean and attired in their new clothes.
The first thing that pops to my mind when I think of Eid is the abundance of family (no, it’s not all about the food). The mosque is, as can be expected, overflowing with people of all shapes and sizes. Relatives I haven’t seen for months would troop into our house (and we, into theirs) as we wish each other for the season. Thankfully, most of the extended family has migrated abroad so the list of houses we visit isn’t too extensive but it can be an overkill sometimes. There’s only so many times you can politely answer that you’re not going to get married just yet and make small talk about the weather before you start yearning to throw objects at someone. But I usually avoid family functions and gatherings the rest of the year, so I suppose one day doesn’t really hurt.
The loot definitely helps ease any mental trauma. I used to get the funniest gifts. The loot ranged from money, cosmetics, clothes to the slightly more eccentric ones like chopping boards, digestive biscuits and underwear. Earlier, my parents would go out of their way to buy personalized gifts for the kids who come visiting but as the years went by the kids became harder to please so instead every kid who comes home now leaves with a handful of crisp notes and a mercenary smile on their faces.
Lunch is always a family affair at my grandparents. Biriyani, achcharu, green pea and cashew curry, tandoori chicken, raitha and of course the crowning glory – the watalapan. I love watalapan and I don’t know if its a Sri Lankan thing, but I haven’t been able to find it anywhere over here! The afternoon is usually a food-filled stupor with a bevy of uncles, aunts and cousins and after a quick breather, the evenings are spent entertaining the guests who come over.
There’s an uncle who always, always comes over just when we’ve called it a day. Every year, after we dust away the vestiges of the day and gratefully slip into the comfort of our ‘regular’ clothes and are about to turn in, the doorbell rings. We’d look at each other in almost comical dismay and groan audibly. Happens like clockwork every year. I couldn’t make this stuff up even if I tried.
So that’s a snapshot of Eid back at home. I’ve glossed over some details, but here’s the gist of it –prayers, family, friends and food. I used to crib about the visiting, the food and bustle while I was back at home but absence really does make the heart grow fonder – I guess that’s why I was seized with a sudden desire to document it.
Eid Mubarak everyone.