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Eid in times gone by


Feb 16, 2010
During the last 64 years in Karachi, the most peaceful, joyful and memorable Eids were the ones which were celebrated during the period from the 1950s (when people had chosen to put behind them the horrors of the partition killings) to 1969 (when the sturdy rose that Ayub Khan had grafted onto the country’s soil began to wilt). The blossom continued to wither when the hawks in West Pakistan started to lay the foundations of the dismemberment of Mr Jinnah’s Pakistan and finally disintegrated during the dark ages of the grand inquisition when an obscurantist, retrogressive dictator made jolly sure that all semblance of secularism was wiped out.

During the presidency of Ayub Khan, life was peaceful and predictable. Motorists weren’t relieved of their wallets at traffic signals and there were no suicide bombers or terrorists blowing up public transport. Worshippers went to their mosques, temples, churches and gurdwaras in the knowledge that they would come out alive. I believe there was also a synagogue where a clutch of local Jews prayed to Yahweh. A healthy respect for one another’s religion was the order of the day. People were civilised. There was decency everywhere. Eid was indeed a joyous occasion.

The happiest Eids, however, were the ones I spent during the war years in boarding school in Panchgani, a tiny hill station tucked away in the western ghats of India. As far as I can remember, the Eids always seemed to occur during the rainy season which lasted from the beginning of June to the end of September. We never could spot the Shawwal moon during the monsoon because at the precise time the heavy clouds that had repeatedly ploughed some northern mountain, stubbornly blotted out the sky. We came to know about the sighting of the moon by telegram from some place in the UP or the Deccan where a Muslim cleric had spotted the thinnest of crescents.

The majority of the students in St Peter’s were Christian and either English, Australian or Anglo-Indian. There were 10 Muslim students, 12 Hindus and seven Jews, six of whom came from Basra in Iraq, while the seventh was an Ashkenazi from the US. We all got on like a house on fire. It was camaraderie at its best. There was no Hindu-Muslim tension or rivalry in the school. We never knew to which Muslim sect the maulvi who led the Eid prayers belonged. He was a Muslim and that was enough for us.

The principal of St Peter’s was a protestant missionary by the name of Rev FM Mckeown. He was a devout Christian, an upright, strict disciplinarian who smoked a pipe, went for long walks in the evenings and, after dinner, listened to Brahms. The teachers were terrified of him. On occasion, he became quite unreasonable, like the time a delegation of Muslim students led by Talal Asad, son of Muhammad Asad, author of Islam at the Crossroads and The Road from Mecca called on him to give Muslim students permission to fast during the holy month. It looked as if the principal would break into an apoplectic fit. “The next thing we know,” he said with a scowl on his face as he tamped aromatic tobacco into the bowl of his briar, “the boys from Basra will want to celebrate Yom Kippur and the Passover and the Hindus will want to throw coloured water on each other.”

But Talal was tenacious and obstinate and wouldn’t budge. Sir Richard had met his match in Saladin. At first Rev Mckeown was unyielding, but the thought of 12 young lunatics going on a hunger strike and The Times of India getting hold of the story must have flashed through his mind. After all, Indians went on hunger strikes at the drop of a hat. Eventually, a compromise was reached. Sehri would be served. But instead of iftar, which would create logistic problems for the staff, the devout would be served a double helping at dinner. That was the best Eid I ever had.

Eid in times gone by – The Express Tribune


May 3, 2011
I dont know what is there to enjoy on eid? Further i always failed to understand the three holidays on eid. This eid we will have 5 days off. Humaro qaum pehlay hi kaam karna nahi chahti :hitwall:


Oct 26, 2006
Entitled to Eid
Rafia Zakaria
August 31, 2011

THE Eid milan party at the Khan mansion is expected to be as resplendent as always, perhaps even more so to camouflage with opulence the dreary news in the world around it.

Hundreds are expected — bejewelled women, starched men, the very best of the set, who will titter with amusement at the peacocks that roam in the front lawn, and will covet the crystal goblets in which they sip their soda. Warriors are these, both hosts and guests, their commitment to merriment untouched by war or violence. As stalwart soldiers of celebration they will ensure that this Eid is just like all others in better, more peaceful times.

There is variety in their ranks, rich and poor united in shutting out the mayhem. Across the city in the Ahmeds’ second-storey flat, another raucous celebration is in progress. There are brothers and sons, daughters-in-law and cousins, comparing their mehndi and polishing off plates of biryani.

The clan pulses with the anticipation of the Eid holiday untrammelled by the heat, the smallness of the flat or the lost grains of rice that get caught between the toes of toddlers. A picnic is being planned for the day after Eid, the family’s annual pilgrimage to the faraway ocean whose breezes never quite seem to reach their inland abodes.

The Khans and the Ahmeds live in different worlds, their economic spheres as far apart as the pretensions of their guests. One boasts of vacations in France, the other of job leads in Bahrain. But for all their differences they agree on one thing: Eid and its celebration must remain impervious to all misery. These revellers will tell you that celebration in the face of war and violence and death is a testament to life’s continuation, that optimism allows the beleaguered to live through the death and destruction that surrounds them.

This is the narrative of contemporary Pakistan, where patriotism has become a dogged, irrational optimism beyond all odds.

Under its auspices, mirth untouched by mayhem is a testament of faith, one that transforms all self-deceptions necessary for such glee into courageous acts of resilience. Neither the Khans nor the Ahmeds are insulated against the ravages of a country teetering on the edge.

In the same upscale suburb where the Khan mansion stands suspended in yards of impossibly green lawns, the young scion of a wealthy feudal family was gunned down a few weeks ago, his killers never caught. Mrs Khan attended the funeral, inwardly preoccupied with deciding which of the mourners she would invite to her Eid bash, serious in wanting to limit her invitees to the truly important, the definitely significant.

On the seventh floor of the same building where the Ahmeds celebrate, an only son died last month after being hit by a bullet meant for an unknown someone else. Every Thursday until now all the women in the Ahmed family trooped upstairs to attend Quran khwanis for the boy, nodding with sympathy before his dying mother.

But that was last month, and one must live among the living and not the dead; look to the future not the past; hold on to hope instead of despair. These and other useful phrases will oil the celebrations absolving the lucky living against any
embarrassment at their own joy. Grim anchors on television screens and weeping editorials in the papers must be forgotten to accommodate the holiday.

Unsurprisingly, such platitudes do little to assuage the grief-stricken, their losses lasting beyond the deliverance such totems to optimism can provide. Their grief must be taken into private realms, left out of the collective narrative of Eid in Pakistan, where the accrued entitlement of a month of fasting trumps all else.

Pakistan, then, is the land of dual Eids, a condition promulgated not simply by the disparate sightings of a single moon but also by the barriers between in bloody 2011 year are allotted some small crevices in the conscience of a nation either truly oblivious or intentionally uncaring.

As Eid embraces gather many in their grasp, the memory of a month of fasting and afternoon naps requires happy commemoration and the consciousness of another’s pain is a dreary burden that must be kept at bay.There have always been strong connections between war and hedonism. During the Second World War, while Europe rocked with death, Parisian cafés were bursting with those committed to having a good time; the evening air echoed with music, the restaurants with diners.

The proximity of war and misery did not deter them and they never pondered whether their joy mocked another’s pain.

In Pakistan, the pain of a few thousand, even a few hundred thousand, however undeserved and heartbreaking, is still not the collective pain of a nation. Unsurprisingly, then, there is no embarrassment in the public celebration of Eid or anything else, no moral discomfort in the continuation of rituals or acts of unabashed merriment even if they occur amid never-ending funerals.

These lines of separation, invisible and formidable, divide Pakistan, becoming a barrier against the avowal that things are truly bad enough and thousands of deaths unjust enough for the ordinary to interrupt their lives and their celebrations in some extraordinary way.

The writer is an attorney teaching political philosophy and constitutional law.

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