The Festive Season – Eid Ul Fitr


The most memorable events that always remain etched in our minds are the festive times of childhood. Growing up in Kuwait during the 70s and 80s, Eid was celebrated with all the fervour befitting a Middle Eastern festival. I don’t remember celebrating Eid in Kerala during my childhood. It was always in Kuwait because we rarely visited India (traveling was not a pleasant experience during those days).

Eid in the Middle East is a five-day celebration. We would get five sets of new clothes. Everybody celebrated Eid those days irrespective of religion or ethnicity. In fact, we celebrated all the festivals. On the eve of Eid, we’d adorn our hands with henna designs, curl our hair (mine never got curled though) and decorate our houses with lights. We’d wake up at dawn, take a bath, get dressed in our new clothes, and pray. This is considered as ‘sunnah’ (following the path of the prophet). The menfolk would go for the Eid prayers. After my father  returned from the mosque, he would give us Eidi, Eid money (It is customary among Muslims to give money to the children of the family on Eid.) Zakat (compulsory charity-2% of whatever we own given in the form of money or goods) was sent to the needy back home before Eid itself so that they could be distributed on the morning of Eid. My mother would serve us payasam and sweet dishes. The Muslim families would prepare sweets and give them to all the neighbours. On the morning of Eid it was a pleasant sight to see children all decked up going with colourful dishes to different houses with the sweets. We went not just to give the sweets but also to flaunt our attires. We would fight to go to the Muslim houses to get Eidi. The taste of the delicious ‘Seviyaan’ with nuts and saffron made by our Pakistani neighbours are still on my tongue. My mother would give them our Kerala payasam. They loved our jaggery payasam. Residential areas were not so congested those days. We had spacious parking spaces which doubled as our playgrounds as well. All the children staying on the same street got together to play, blow bubbles and burst crackers. The ‘Baqalas’ (the grocery stores) put up stalls to sell the traditional sweets, savouries and toys. We bought toys and goodies with our Eidi.

Back then, Eid was all about get-togethers, garden parties, feasting, long hours of chit-chat etc. My mother would start the preparation of sweets and her signature dish: ‘mutton biriyani’ the night before itself. She cooked for our entire building and her Thalassery Dum biriyani was an all-time favourite (I still think nobody can beat her in that). So many people learned from her. We all make biriyani now but we still can’t beat her dish! Our father used to put us to work. We had those branded dinner sets and cutlery. He would make us wash all of them, wipe each piece, and polish the cutlery. Then we’d peel the onions and garlic.

My parents didn’t create celebrations just for us but for many others as well. Those were the times when there weren’t many families from our ‘Mappila’ (Muslims from the Northern part of Kerala) community in Kuwait. So, our house would be flooded with men without their families here. Most of them were distant family members or acquaintances from our homeland. But for them, our parents were closer than siblings. They came not just to have a feast but also to talk to our parents, vent out their frustrations and grievances or call their families back home. The labour camps they lived in didn’t provide trunk call facilities. We had guests every day of Eid (they came in batches each day of Eid.

Most of them used to come as a matter of respect and greet our parents on Eid. Among them, some were our relatives. My maternal and paternal uncles, my aunts’ husbands. The funny part was they used to bring gifts for us, and my father would pay for them. When I asked him about it, he said that would spoil us and we would start expecting returns from people who received his help.

Our friends used to make fun of us because they had all the sophisticated people for their festivals, and we had the labor class. There was a time when we were embarrassed, but as we grew up, we realized the magnanimity of our parents.

I can’t help but marvel at the way my parents spent their time and effort to serve people. Bringing a smile to every face is ‘Zakat’ in the true sense!

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