Eidul Fitr: It's not 'Choti' Eid at all!
I wonder why it’s called Choti Eid. It’s so much cooler than Bari Eid, or any other festival for that matter.
Writers’ folklore says that the five elements that comprise a popular story are: religion, mystery, relationships, money and sex. Amazingly, Choti Eid brings all of them to the table.
Religion – celebrating a month of abstinence, giving and worship
Choti Eid is the culmination of a full month of religiously obligated prayer, restraint and abstinence. It’s been a month that people have been praying more regularly (including taraweeh prayers!), using less abusive language, giving more in charity and generally trying to be better human beings.
Some people would argue that driving home in Karachi 30 minutes before iftar can be more dangerous than taking a stroll in Gaza. But I would argue that if you are late for iftar and maghrib prayers begin while you’re on the road, the nearest rehri wala (hawker) will offer you a piece of whatever goodies he’s selling and refuse to accept money for it, which is absolutely wonderful.
Which reminds me, people getting together for iftar is another wonderful religious-cum-cultural tradition that helps foster a sense of community as a precursor to Eid. Friends and family getting together to break their fast is always fun. Okay, I admit things can get a bit awkward when most of the people attack the food at 7:10pm while our Fiqh-e-Jafria brothers have to wait for 7:20pm without trying to look conspicuous, but I say a little awkwardness is a decent price to pay for sectarian harmony. My Shia friends have found a non-awkward solution for this turn up 10 minutes late!
And to those who are on their worst behaviour while fasting: it is okay, we understand you were hungry. Enjoy Eid and try harder next Ramazan please.
Mystery – chand raat or taraweeh?
Choti Eid has always been big on mystery. Thousands of children and their parents go to their rooftops on the 29th of Ramazan, after maghrib prayers (pakora in one hand and binoculars in the other) to look for the new moon.
Will it be Eid tomorrow? Is Mufti Muneebur Rehman in a good mood? God, I hope he didn’t have a fight with his wife today!
What are the Pakhtuns up to? After 67 years, will this be that elusive year in which we have only one Eid throughout Pakistan? Do we go take the girls out for choorian and mehendi or do we go for taraveeh? Will masterjee (tailor) or rangwala (dyer), as the case may be, have my suit/dupatta ready on time?
While we respect the concept of 30 rozas and all, one has to admit that nothing beats the exhilaration (and relief) of a chand raat announcement on the evening of the 29th. And they’re probably right when they say that Satan is locked up during Ramazan, because the moment chand raat is announced, all hell really does break loose!
Aunties are running after masterjees for their suits, girls are looking to kill the rangwalas who didn’t get the exact colour on their dupatta, and the neighbourhood boys are manning the choori and mehendi stalls in the hopes that the pretty girls living in the house across the street will visit and ask for their assistance to try on choorian!
Relationships – chachus, khalas and SMSs
With no distractions like bakras or butchers, Choti Eid is all about relationships. Poor people take their children to Minar-e-Pakistan, the rich ones take their families to the golf course, and almost everyone takes their kids to meet their chachus, phupos, khalas and mamoos. The big cities tend to empty out as millions of people travel back to their pind (if you’re from Punjab), mulak (if you are Pathan) or gaon (if you are from anywhere else in Pakistan). There are reports every Eid about the transporters increasing charges before Eid, but hey, doesn’t the bus wala deserve to take his children to the zoo?
My personal favourite family ritual is going for namaz on Eid day. Even after 36 years, the routine is exactly the same.
1. I oversleep – my mom bangs the door down.
2. I accompany my brother and cousins to Model Town Park, Lahore, for Eid prayer (something that has changed is the level of security – now we have to navigate through scanners, metal detectors, and snipers at every entrance).
3. We give fitrana on the way in (another change I’ve noticed is in the recipient of the fitrana – a couple of decades ago people would line up to donate to the religious outfits waging war in Kashmir; now the religious parties’ stalls are visibly empty while the number of people lined up at the Shaukat Khanum Hospital, Sahara for Life and other non-religious NGOs is much more).
4. The maulvi prays to God for everyone’s health, safety, prosperity and asks for our sins to be wiped clean.
5. He then goes on to ask God to liberate Palestine and Kashmir (Chechnya made it into the list during the 1990s but isn’t there anymore, I wonder why). He also prays for the progress of Pakistan and the destruction of Israel and all other enemies of Islam (one of these days I’ll ask him why his dua isn’t working – which my brother thinks is not a very bright idea).
6. Maulvi sahib reminds us of the steps involved in the Eid namaz (it’s a bit tricky).
7. He reminds us that while we are free to do so, we should remember that hugging each other three times while wishing ‘Eid Mubarak’ has nothing to do with Islam.
8. Namaz begins and the person next to me messes up his namaz steps, disorienting us all. A few people start following him and now we have half the row standing up and the other half in rukoo.
9. After namaz, all of us religiously hug everyone else three times regardless of what maulvi sahib had just lectured us about (this is probably the only time of the year when Pakistani men go around smiling and hugging random people... it’s wonderful!)
9. On the way out, I wish ‘Eid Mubarak’ to the security guards and snipers at the entrance (this step was added in 2007).
10. We come home to a delicious breakfast, which we are having for the first time in 30 days – I am convinced that this is the best, most tasty meal of the year.
And immediately after breakfast, the flood of Eid Mubarak SMSs (of every variety, from religious to loving to funny) begins.
Over the years, I’ve realised that I miss Eid cards – the real kind that you would have to go out and buy from the same mohalla stall that sold mehendi and choorian. The ones which you would address to every chachu, khala, phupo and mamoo and spend time remembering their children’s names to make sure nobody was left out.
Eidi is probably the cornerstone of Choti Eid, especially for the children. Little do they know, if they are below the age of 12, chances are their Eidi will be ‘embezzled’ by the parents to account for the outflow of Eidi to relatives’ and the neighbours’ children.
Fresh crisp notes actually become an industry in the week running up to Eid and immediately after namaz, the entire public workforce (the dakia (mailman), the kachra walay (janitor), the bijli walay (electricians) and the likes) starts turning up at the door to collect Eidi.
“Humari sarak itni saaf tau nahin hoti jitni safai walay Eidi lenay pahunch jatay hein!” my mom always complains.
Sex – no more abstinence!
Let’s admit it, between the preparation of iftar, rising early for sehri and other household chores, there is not much going on in the bedroom for a great many couples. Choti Eid brings with it the lifting of all restrictions on copulation and, in many a pind, several bundles of joy.
Like I said, with all the elements of a hit story, I wonder why it’s called Choti Eid... it’s so much bigger than any other festival round the year!
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