As a kid, all Eid meant to me was – A lot of Non-veg food at Junaid Uncle’s house. He was a dear friend to my father, residing in a flat right above ours. Like a tradition we used to go their place on Eid for dinner and Aunty used to be ready with all the delicacies you expect in a Muslim home. Mind you, not everyone was invited for this dinner; others in the colony used to meet Ahmed family to wish them and were only entertained with dahi bhalla and meethi seviyan, much to their dismay. It was only the Srivastavas who were called for dinner year after year, coz of affinity between the men of the two families. I remember while walking to the room for dinner, I used to cross their kitchen to see huge taambautensils (big enough to cook a full grown man), tons of mutton, biryani to feed our mohalla and say it out in my head “Oh God! How much can they cook and eat?”
Now I sense, God must actually be looking down at me smiling and saying “My dear child, just wait for some more years.” Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t cook and definitely not the way Junaid Aunty or my mother-in-law can. My only hall of fame was 2 yrs back in the US, our first Eid together as a couple. Shahzeel being the only Muslim in our group, we hosted a lunch and I cooked for 18 hrs straight a day before Eid, just to make him feel little less homesick. The success of the Eid gala is not verified by the hours put in cooking but the content look on the faces of invitees. Also, I mentioned to them that there won’t be a party at Jawed-Srivastava’s for alteast an year, as I was dead tired of all the cooking.
This year marks my third Eid with Shahzeel, and hence third Ramzan (30 days fast). To be honest, when I saw him go through this the very first time, I found it highly eccentric. In my defense I was not raised with a Muslim or their set of traditions, but over the period of time, his spunky spirit answered the cynical side of me, helping me see the exquisite part of this long live tradition.
Shahzeel is one of the biggest foodie I know of, may be the biggest. I am not exaggerating when I say this; you can actually control his mood through food. When this man enters home and smells bhuna murga or any non-veg item, his face lights up as if a 5 year old has entered Disney World and in case he smells aloo gobhi or green veggies (which isghaas phoos to him), it’s like the same kid learning that it’s Disney, Paris and not Florida, i.e., disappointment. It amazes me when this bon vivant refrains from food and beverages for a stretch of 12-18 hrs a day for 30 days straight. I know it’s a matter of practice and eventually you acclimate, but from what I have learnt it’s all about FAITH in yourself (willpower) and your God! Day 1 is the most difficult of the lot, when this T-man(His love for the beverage is insane)skips his cup of morning tea, and goes without food & drinks until the sun makes its peace with earth. Eventually the days start getting easier and person starts getting stronger – physically and more importantly, mentally. But yes, it’s not easy, saying not as an observer but as a performer. With famished eyes and parched lips, I kept my first roza 2 yrs back to accompany him. I remember asking him then “How do you manage this? What keeps you going?”
His confident answer still echoes in my ears “11 months your creator gives you the liberty to do things your way, and in return you only have to give a month. I think I can do that bit! ” He keeps his belief system so guarded and secured that it is impervious to the battering of doubts. Many of us question our faith coz of the unfortunate incident(s) that occur in our lives, but in his case it made him closer to Allah. My husband had the most troubled childhood I know of, yet, his faith in Allah stayed intact, if possible, it grew stronger. It’s not that I have not seen people paying gratitude to God before, but his way of thinking and performing his righteous rituals never stops to amaze me. I believed Eid was a day of celebration, rich food, family get-together and Eidi, which it is, but now I know it’s more about Ramzan that leads to Eid, which is about perseverance, dedication, humility and submissiveness to God.
So far, this has been my understanding of Ramzan, and I’m still on the learning curve. I’m not sure what Eid has in store for us this year, though last year Eid was a lot of fun, given we were in India celebrating with his family and festivals are all about family, isn’t it? Shahzeel was cribbing about his height coz he thinks he is short and you can’t blame the guy totally. Abba is 5’10.5”, amongst these three brothers – Shahzeel is 5’10”, Adeel is 6’, Shameel is 5’11”, his Chacha is 6’ and his two sons are 5’11” and 6’2” respectively and are still growing. BTW, females there are not far behind, Maa and my two devranis stand above 5’6”. There is a reason why I call them Eriksen family (Reference: How I Met Your Mother), all boys, all tall and huge and glued with insatiable love. Me, the badi bahu being Lily and of normal height (5’4”) sometimes finds it hard to make her head visible when all of us stand together. I may be the odd one out there but then I love what I am and where I am, being different always has its own perks!
Coming back to the original track, I wish that all our prayers are answered as more than a billion across the globe observe this pious month. Ramzan Mubarak!!