My first Eid overseas was 20 years ago. When my family first came to these shores, Eid days were not really all that fun. I liked the prayer, but that’s about it. After the prayer, the local community would gather in the house closest to the mosque. Did I say ‘community’? There were only a handful of Bangladeshi folks in this part of the world in the late 1980s, community is probably an overstatement. Anyhow, we would go the house closest to the mosque after the prayer, and then after a bout of nashta everyone would move off to the next house, and then another, and so on.
It would be the same set of ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’ in these gatherings. They’d try to recreate Bangladesh, or what they’d remember as Bangladesh. They’d play casettes of whatever they bought from the last trip home. They’d discuss house prices here, and land prices in Dhaka. They’d debate over the latest political gossip – something about the two netris and an army general. They usually had a great time.
We, the younger ones, didn’t find any of that fun. We’d much rather be with our mates – Deshi or otherwise. Our normal routine – sports, debates, hanging out, or for a nerdy kid like me, simply reading – was upset by Eid. And we saw little upside. At least I knew how Eid was in Dhaka. For many of my peers, Eid was little more than another reason to put up with annoying elders.
Then I left home for university. All of a sudden, I started missing Eid. I started going to the uncles’ and aunties’ houses. If nothing else, I could have some great food. But even more so, just being in those settings was like being home (by which, I mean where my parents were, not Dhaka). Those of you who are in the West without family would know exactly what I mean.
I started enjoying Eid. On the Eid days, I’d just drive around in my beat up Pintara and visit as many families as I could. This was a lot of driving, as I lived in an urban sprawl.
Eid those days didn’t involve any preparation.
These days, Eid means cleaning house, and shopping, and lot of cooking, and mehmandari. These days, the community in my little town is a thousand strong. Gone are the days when everyone could meet up after the prayer. These days, after the prayer, we usually meet up with some friends. We go to the nearest house from the mosque. We play the latest music we downloaded. We talk about house prices, here and back home. And we speculate over the latest political goss – still involving two netris and a general. Plus ca change!
But that’s alright. These days, I look forward to Eid.
Eid Mubarak all.
(This is based on an e-mail to my comrades in DWC, some of the most inspiring people I’ve had the privilege to work with.)