Eid morning and, as happens every year, a seemingly never-ending procession of children arrive at the garden gate for their Eidi: Zooming in from all over this scattered mountain community, they demand and yes, actively and loudly demand, Eidi and, when handed the traditional miti and sweets I always have ready for this special occasion, they don’t baulk at refusing as, like far too many other people these days, all they want is cash in hand and not Rs10 either but Rs50 at the very least!
The children, ranging in age from tiny tots of two to three years up to 12 to 13 years, are a sight to see in their spotless new clothes: the girls in brightly coloured, heavily decorated, latest fashion shalwar kameeze or frilly Western style dresses, intricately hennaed hands clutching glitzy handbags in which to stash their loot, their faces heavily made-up in parody of the women they will eventually become, are just as money hungry as the boys in their freshly starched shalwar kameezes, or jeans topped with t-shirts blazing with slogans such as “just do it” and, making this base crassness even worse, no matter what they are given, only about one child out of 10 will bother to mutter a hardly audible “Eid Mubarak” let alone give thanks.
Children, as is natural, learn much from their parents, plus, once they are of school going age, presumably from their teachers too. But both, at least in this neck of the woods, appear to be sadly lacking in the manners department and are, in addition, instilling in these young, impressionable minds, blatant elements of outright avarice and greed which, however one looks at it, is wrong and which will, undoubtedly, be carried on, honed and sharpened to the point where their adult lives are coloured with a selfishness that does not bear thinking about: a poisonous selfishness which, frankly speaking, has, over the last couple of decades, polluted this Islamic nation to a shocking degree.
The situation may very well be completely different outside the realms of the once idyllic Murree Hills - and it will be a massive relief if it is - but I have my doubts as the widespread societal change over the last 20 to 30 years has certainly not been for the better: as is more than amply illustrated by the increasingly selfish attitude of people, in all walks of life, everywhere in this hugely diverse country on each and every single day.
Laying the blame for avarice and greed on the table of economic difficulties does not, in this case, work, as the segment of society that can so easily afford to be generous if they so wish, are rarely anything of the sort and are often greedier than those who really do have much less to share.
The poor, and their numbers are rapidly increasing, are all too aware of what it is like to have nothing and yet it is often they who, when such a miraculous opportunity happens to come their way, are the first to share any bounty around and are incredibly happy to be able to do so.
All throughout what was, due to high temperatures, loadshedding, flooding and various other difficulties including the long length of rozas, a far from trouble-free Ramazan, intolerance, greed and selfishness have marred what should be - and once was - a month devoted to prayer, to fasting for those who are able and to the strengthening of communal bonds through the sharing of traditional Iftari with family, neighbours and friends. But all of this once upon a time joy seems to have completely disappeared.
Ramazan, to a huge percentage of the population, has become a time of sunset and night-time feasting, a time during which, if at all possible, they sleep all day and entertain themselves all night, a time in which ladies berate tailors about stitching their Eid outfits on time or splurge on overpriced boutique clothes and all the associated glitz and glitter that has, let’s face it, absolutely nothing to do with the true spirit of Islam and the celebration of Eid.
As these hordes of ‘crazed’ shoppers push and shove and compete for attention in whatever store or bazaar they happen to be, the last thing on their fashion filled minds is the sad plight of their fellow human beings who, with this country being in the state it is now in, may not even be able to afford a basic Iftari of any acceptable nature let alone a new outfit, shoes etc for Eid and whose children will most definitely not be given the latest computerised gizmo to mark what is supposed to be a purely religious occasion, but which has, for a variety of reasons but largely due to materialistic ones, gone so very badly off track.
This sad ‘misinterpretation’ of Islamic principles in what is supposed to be the ‘land of the pure’, is further illustrated by the blatantly un-Islamic practice of avoiding obligatory zakat by withdrawing money from banks immediately before zakat is due to be deducted, then re-depositing the same when all danger of having to meet this religious obligation is over and done with and it is back to ‘business’ as usual.
The saving grace though is that Pakistanis still, somehow, manage to hang on to being ranked amongst the most generous people in the world when it comes down to the brass tacks of helping their fellow country people in the wake of any major natural disaster. Yet, oddly enough, when people are displaced as a consequence of the so-called war on terror, this admirable generosity has a puzzling tendency to vanish and, quite unlike the cash demanding kids on ‘my’ mountainside, the children existing in squalor in camps for internal refugees are unlikely to receive any Eidi at all and where, it is pertinent to ask, is the spirit of Islam in this?
The writer has authored a book titled “The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War” and lives in Bhurban.