Gender & Identity, Life

My favorite Eid moments aren’t actually about religion

We Desis are funny: everything we do revolves around “khaana peena,” or eating and drinking.

Most of my memories of Eid as a child don’t focus on the holiday itself.

I remember the people, the food, the clothes and the happy swirl of preparation surrounding the day. And while most of the hustle and bustle around the home involved the adults rushing around to prepare delectable quintessential Eid desserts – sheer qorma, halwa – I’ll always remember the small moments from my own preparations as a child for this holy day for Muslims.

Henna. I always chose the most beautiful, intricate and detailed patterns, even though the henna lady tried several times to have me choose an easier design. It was pointless to try and convince me otherwise, but every year she’d give it a shot.

“How about this one?” she would ask in an extra cheery voice, hoping to sway me toward the simple wave-like pattern starting from the wrist with a tiny leaf painted around the little finger. “This will look so different. Everyone will have their palms decorated but, look, you can have this pattern on the front of your hand.”

And every year, I would shake my head and insist on getting the beautiful design I’d carefully chosen after going through the dozen patterns while awaiting my turn.

[bctt tweet=”I have always treasured Eid lunch the most.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The best part was when it was done, running around the house with my palms outstretched towards my sister. “Eww! Get away from me,” she would scream. “Ewww, that smells disgusting.”

Of course, that only made me chase after her even faster, bursting into peals of laughter.

But before having my henna done, I’d spend hours picking out the clothes I’d wear on the most special day of the year. My favorite Eid dress, out of all the brightly colored shalwar kameez I wore year after year, was a little red lehenga skirt with sparkling sequins on it, complete with a tiny dupatta draped around my neck.

I was only about five years old that year, but it still stands out in my memory. Never mind that it was meant to be worn to a wedding. I still remember running around on Eid day, feeling so very happy– after the first twenty minutes, I had swapped my elegant kolhapuris slippers for sneakers.

I was the little girl who was totally overdressed in her red lengha but couldn’t care less.

[bctt tweet=”I remember the people, the food, the clothes and the happy swirl of preparation.” username=”wearethetempest”]

This inevitably brings me to kolhapuri shopping. Kolhapuris are leather slippers in silver and gold, or sometimes a combination of bright colors that go with traditional Indian and Pakistani dresses. They look very beautiful but, as anyone who has ever tried on a pair can attest, they can be ridiculously uncomfortable to wear if your feet are too small for even the children’s size. I’d usually opt for a light gold or silver pair. Better than that was shopping for bangles, brightly colored glass and plastic ones, which would sometimes break and so I was only allowed to wear the glass ones when I was older.

On the first morning of Eid – the festivities last a full three days – we would wake up early, bursting with excitement. Being in a Muslim country, it was a day off for everyone, so guests would begin arriving right after prayers. We’d meet our guests with feigned enthusiasm – honestly, how many times can you tell a bunch of different adults which grade you’re in (and why must they always ask that?) – and I’d only perk up only when I’d see my friends.

After saying Eid prayers, my sister and I would wait for my maternal grandmother bibijoon to finish her prayers, and race to meet Hajiagha and hug him after he’d return from Eid prayers. Together, we’d all eat the sheer korma my grandmother had painstakingly prepared and be sure to tell her how amazing every spoonful tasted.

We Desis are funny: everything we do revolves around “khaana peena,” or eating and drinking.

Love – even respect! – is considered to be directly proportional to food and overeating. If my family really loves you, they’ll keep filling your plate with food. The guest’s plate must never ever be empty, it’s a sign of being a terrible host. And so began the herculean effort to eat food that could just not be finished. Someone was constantly negotiating with you to take more.

“Just a little serving,” they’d urge. “Okay, just two more kebabs then.”

And if they, by some miracle, did manage to finally finish lunch, then rest assured that the desserts would already be lined up before the empty plates were even cleared away.

[bctt tweet=”On the first morning of Eid – the festivities last a full three days – we would wake up early.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I have always treasured Eid lunch the most. Though guests would start coming early, for lunch it would be just our family and a few others who we invited. The food prepared by my beloved bibijoon, and having both my grandparents there, and asking please please could we go to the park for the second day of Eid.

(The answer was always no – because then who would eat the huge array of the food that our guests brought for us?)

It’s this love and laughter that will always be my favorite part about Eid.

Even more than my little red lengha with sequins and its tiny dupatta.