A humourous tale based on a real life narrative from a friend from Bangladesh, five young girls hide their Eid dresses to outwit two teenagers so they can wear ‘new clothes’ for Eid.
The Eid Dresses
“Ammu! Have you bought me my Eid dress yet?”
“I will, soon!” Ammu smiled reassuringly.
The chatter outside drew me to the window. My friends stood around talking. And Farhana! She looked so sad! Was she crying? Sayeda put her arm around her and said something. The others looked sad, angry, and confused. What was going on?
“Ammu, I’m going out. My friends are here,” I called out as I opened the door.
“It’s her Eid dress. Her mother had put all the new clothes in the almirah, and her Bua almost saw it. If she had, Farhana wouldn’t have had a new dress for Eid!” Sayeda told me.
“And when she saw how upset Farhana was, Bua didn’t say sorry! She just laughed!” Nazia looked fierce.
I hugged Farhana. Her Bua, Fazila, lived with Farhana and her parents. She was in high school here. We walked around on our street, wondering why Fazila teased Farhana.
The sun blinded me as I turned toward the voice calling my name. It was over our heads. No wonder the heat was unbearable! I shielded my eyes and saw Bhaia standing by our gate, waving to me.
“We’ll think of something, Farhana. Let’s go inside now,” I told my friend. One by one, we went home.
I ran home, looking for Ammu. She was showing Appi’s dress to her friend, Najma Aunty.
Bhaia nudged me. “Why the glum face, eh?”
I told them about Farhana and her Bua. “If Fazila Bua had seen the dress, Farhana wouldn’t have a new dress for Eid anymore!” I felt the unfairness of it all over again.
“Hey, it doesn’t matter that someone saw the dress. It is still new, okay?” Bhaia was amused. I was not!
“Ammu, when you get my dress, please, please hide it.” I pleaded with her.
She nodded yes.
The holy month of Ramadan always fills me with excitement. That year, I kept Roza with the others on some days. Ammu and Papa said I was old enough. I couldn’t wait for Eid. The prayers, the food, the new clothes, friends, and family coming over to greet us…it is the best time ever!
One evening, Farhana’s Bua passed us by when we were playing outside. “BUA!” Farhana stopped her. “You really shouldn’t try to find my dress. That’s not fair!”
Fazila Bua looked at her, eyes wide. I went to stand by Farhana. Fazila Bua looked over her shoulder at her friend, Amina. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Amina’s eyes sparkled.
“Tell you what, Chottu. Let’s make a bet! I will find out not only what Farhana will wear for Eid but also yours, yours, yours, and yours!” her long thin finger pointed at each of us.
“WE will find out! And we’ll tell you the night before Eid when we come for the mehendi!” Amina laughed prettily.
Farhana’s face was red. But I wasn’t going to let them scare us.
“DONE!” I said. She swung to look at me and then back at her Bua. “Done.” One by one, the others came to stand by us.
“Oh, we should do this every year. It is already so much fun!” Amina stood with her hands on her hips, challenging us. We stared back.
Our parents knew Amina and Fazila Bua well, and they were free to come and go in our homes. Who knew what these two would do to see our dresses? The five of us put our heads together to plan. There was no way we were going to let these two win!
When we met every evening, we could only talk about keeping the dresses safe from Amina and Fazila Bua.
“Bua offered to help fold the clothes in the almirah. But my mother told her to wait until after Eid because other work is to be done now.” Farhana worried.
“That Amina! She asked my Ammu for our old school bags. “Those bags could be useful for some of the poor kids I tutor.” I’m sure she wanted to look in my cupboard. I told Ammu I was a big girl who could clean the bags myself.” Salma giggled.
“They were talking to your Aappi yesterday. Have you told her about the bet? I hope she doesn’t give away anything by mistake.” Nazia warned Sayeda.
I was a little calmer because Ammu hadn’t bought my dress yet.
When I came home, Ammu held up the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen—pale green with cream lace. I touched it, and it was the softest. And then came a worrying thought! “Oh, now I must keep it safe from Farhana’s Bua and Amina too!” My voice rose in excitement and worry.
“What is this ‘keeping safe’?” Papa asked.
Ammu explained the bet to Papa.
He put the dress in my hands. “Here, find a safe place to hide your dress until Eid.” Was he trying to hide a smile? I didn’t mind, for I was happy to take the dress to my room.
In my school bag, between old clothes? Under my pillow? What was the safest hiding place? The sticky situation with the Eid dress niggled at me all day long. How do we win the bet? We had to make sure that Amina and Bua didn’t lay an eye on not one but five dresses!
A glimmer of an idea came to me when I was folding the washing. I thought some more. Yes! That was it!
By now, all the parents and siblings knew about the bet and promised not to help either team. So when I whispered the plan, the others nodded and agreed happily. It wasn’t all play during the Ramadan break. Some wise soul decided that the kids must study during that month and set the exams right after we returned to school. The five of us grabbed our book bags and met to review daily. But we were no longer worried about losing the bet.
Eid came closer. Amina and Bua tried to trick us into admitting the colour of our dresses and the style. Was it a shalwar Kameez, a frock or a lehenga? We just ignored them.
And then it was the night before Eid! I had butterflies in my stomach. Would we see the Eid ka Chaand? Will tomorrow be Eid or not? I went to the terrace to look.
It looked like a durbar with bhaia’s friends, aappi’s friends, and lots of grown-ups. Asif Kaka laughed as he told recollected the time when the moon didn’t show up. They had to wait for one more day to celebrate Eid. I hope that doesn’t happen tonight! I’m ready for Eid. I want to see the moon tonight. And then another worry popped up in my mind. It was cloudy! What if no one can see the Eid ka Chaand from the rooftop? How will we celebrate Eid? I pulled at Papa’s hand to ask when Aappi came running up the steps. “The moon! The moon was seen. The TV NEWS just announced that people saw the moon in another part of the country. Tomorrow is Eid!”
Above all the noise, our Imam broke the news from the mosque. “To my fellow neighbors …Eid Mubarak! Eid Mubarak! Eid Mubarak! The moon is up and shining, and tomorrow is Eid! I wish you all Eid Mubarak! Eid Mubarak! Eid Mubarak! May Allah grant our prayers and bless us with good health, wealth, and peace. Eid Mubarak! Eid Mubarak! Eid Mubarak!!!”
The excitement with the dresses, waiting for the moon, the anticipation of Eid, it was all for this moment!
Cheering and clapping, children rushed out of their houses and onto the streets! TV sets blared, “O mon! Romjaner oi rozar seshe , elo khushir Eid!”
“Tonight, we’ll settle the bet,” I smiled as I ran down the steps. Papa and Bhaia rushed to the market for last-minute supplies. The kitchen was a whirlwind of activity as Ammu chopped onions, ground spices, cleaned chicken, rolled rotis, and boiled a pot of milk for sweets. Delicious smells filled the house. The lights were on in every kitchen in our neighbourhood. The festive spirit took over our town.
“Sara, do you want to get the mehendi ready with me?” Aappi stood at the door.
“They’re here!” I shouted when I heard the knock. Amina and Fazila Bua stood there with knowing smiles.
“Are you ready for us? I mean, is your Aappi ready? We’re here for the mehendi,” Bua walked past me twirling her hair.
“You should be more worried, little one,” Amina wagged her finger at me.
“No, I don’t think so!” I shook my head.
They shared a puzzled look and went in.
Aappi drew the glower with the mehendi paste. Then she said, “If Sara says she isn’t worried, then you know, I would take her seriously!” She gave them a friendly warning.
“We’ll see,” replied Fazila Bua.
All the neighbourhood girls and a few aunties trickled into our house one by one. Were they here for the mehendi or to find out who won the bet?
“Are all your friends here?” Amina ran her eyes over the girls waiting for their turn.
“I feel bad about this, but a bet is a bet. Would you like me to describe your Eid clothes?” That smile from ear to ear didn’t convince anyone that she was sad. A hushed silence fell in the room.
I held up a hand to stop the protests.
“Nazia has a red shalwar kameez and dupatta with tiny gold bells,” Fazila Bua stopped.
“No, my Eid dress is not a shalwar kameez!” Nazia replied.
“Farhana has a pale green dress with cream….”
“NAA,” Interrupted Farhana. “My Eid dress is different. You are all confused.”
The two teenagers named the other clothes, and the rest of us just shook our heads.
Ammu’s voice came from the kitchen. “No, dear. I didn’t get Sara a lehenga choli.”
Fazila Bua blinked. “How…?” Amina shrugged.
Nazia and Farhana put their heads down to cover their smirks. Sadiya and Salma hugged each other. The room burst into laughter! Luckily, we kept our cool and didn’t say anything more. I tried to stay up late until the room emptied. I even washed my face, but it was no use. I dragged myself to bed around midnight, leaving Aappi to finish the mehendi on her own.
Papa’s voice came to me in my dream. “Beta, Eid Mubarak!” “Time to go to the morning prayers.”
“Next prayer, please,” Bhaia mumbled.
No, it wasn’t a dream at all. It was Eid today! I was wide awake instantly. My dress!
When I came down, Ammu was in the kitchen, our hot breakfast almost ready. Did she sleep at all, I wondered! My eyes fell on the rows of people walking to the mosque. Papa was there in his crisp white kurta. Even though the prayers are not long, it will take Papa some time to come home.
I whispered to Ammu, grabbed a bag, and went to Nazia’s. The others were waiting for me. Salma took my bag, and Farhana gave me hers. I skipped all the way home.
The rest of the day was a blur. We dusted, made the beds, cut fresh flowers from the garden, put them in the vases, and swept and mopped. We gorged ourselves on parathas, halwa, egg, and homemade lassi. Yum yum!
At last, I wore my Eid dress and waited with my friends. We didn’t have to wait long. Fazila Bua and Amina came by to greet our families. “Your clothes! You are wearing each other’s clothes!” They yelled.
“No, they’re wearing the right clothes; their clothes! They exchanged the bags of new clothes for safe keeping! That’s why your descriptions last night didn’t match,” Aappi shook with laughter.
“Eid Mubarak, Bua!” Farhana greeted her aunt. “Eid Mubarak!” we chorused.
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