This week’s column may appear to be a little premature, but with the way things are going, who knows if we will be able to afford traditional Eid celebrations in the months to come. So dear readers, buckle up and accompany me on a journey through time to Lahore in the 1950s, when life was uncomplicated, relationships sincere and celebrations affordable.
Eid eve saw us scampering up the staircase to the roof to peer westwards in a bid to spot the thin sliver of the moon. An excited shout of nazaragayaa, initiated a rush around the keen-eyed individual, who would guide others to the desired point on the horizon. Hands would be raised in prayer, followed by the quaint custom (now rarely seen) where the younger members of the family ‘salaamed’ their elders and greeted them with the traditional phrase of ‘Chand Mubarik’.
As night fell and the telephone carrying ‘Chand Greetings’ stopped ringing, members of the family from the old city began arriving. Soon the house was bustling with one group of ladies busy in the kitchen, while a second group could be seen ironing dresses for the morrow. Very few family members slept that night and dawn saw everyone up and about to secure early slots in washrooms.
As the sun came up, everyone turned out in their finery for the drive to the Badshahi Mosque. I, nostalgically, remember the scene at this historic spot as total strangers embraced each other just out of bonhomie. By the time, the male members of the clan returned to the house, the females had also dressed up for the occasion and the traditional Eid breakfast was on the table. This consisted of puris made from common flour, a special potato bhaji prepared from a closely guarded recipe, shikam-puris (shami kebabs filled with chopped onions, mint and green chilies) and vermicelli in its multiple forms.
Breakfast was hardly over when the youngsters began clamouring for ‘Eidi’. The term youngster was fully exploited on this occasion as even adults, who were down in the age hierarchy stood expectantly in front of their elders in order to lighten the latter’s purses.
It was now time for a more sombre ritual - a visit to the ancestral graveyard. These were moments where departed family members were remembered and a few moments spent in introspection. On returning home, many relatives succumbed to the need for a siesta, while the younger lot spent the afternoon turning the house inside out.
Evening was spent entertaining guests and friends, who called and the day was finally and rather simply wound up by having a dinner of shola - a dish made from rice, lentils, minced beef and spinach all cooked together into a semi-solid concoction that was spicy and delicious.
Next morning, found the ladies once again in the kitchen for the annual family lunch attended by everyone, including extended family members. This was a time when acrimonies developed during the year were set aside and the whole clan integrated into one unit in a remarkable show of unity.
The guests began leaving after lunch, leaving my parents and grandparents free to visit friends and also to return calls in the evening. As the day wore on and night fell, so did our energy levels, telling us that our two days of festivities were done.
I recently asked the son of an old friend as to how he and his family spent Eid holidays. He gave me a strange look that plainly indicated that I was barmy and said: “Uncle, we normally get up late and then go calling on Mum and Dad. It’s as boring as any other weekend.”
n The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.