Eid Mubarak, version 2020
Two families tell us how they are reimagining the festivities in an unprecedented year.
'T' for two
This Eid was meant to be a special one for Jehan Ahmed. She got married three months ago, moving into the same house in Bandra with Farhan, her husband. And this would have been the first festival that the two families celebrated together. It would have been double the fun in that sense, had it not been for the lockdown.
But Jehan tells us that both of them have a practical bent of mind and are happy that at least they are in this together, and not apart. They are also realistic.
Jehan Ahmed and Farhan Khan during the lockdown
Breakfast this year will thus be a fairly simple affair of one sher khorma and khari sewaiyan, when Jehan would otherwise wake up to Meethi Eid every year, a tradition that involves six to seven types of sweet dishes and two savoury ones to start your day off. The 34-year-old talent management professional adds, "We'd also go over to the homes of different aunts and uncles in the afternoon and have lunch, maybe two two or three times over. So, I'd have to be very careful about eating just the right amount every time, to keep space so that the others wouldn't feel bad."
Jehan (in red) with Farhan’s siblings, with whom she was planning to spend Eid for the first time this year
Dinner would usually be reserved with friends, except that in 2020, they can't meet each other. But, Jehan tells us, the minimalism of the lockdown life has — to give it a positive spin — helped her understand the ethos of Ramzan and Eid better. "This, for me, has always been more than just a holy month. I take it very seriously — fasting, praying and eating simply. The act of fasting has been easier this year because we haven't had the exertion of travelling for work. But it's the spirituality and essence of Ramzan that I have understood deeply during the lockdown, about having empathy for the suffering of others and gratitude for the things we have," she says, adding that it's all right that she won't be able to celebrate the festival with her husband's family. There is always next year.
Weaving new plans
Eid isn't just a festive time for businessman Faisal Khan. Things are so frenetic that it's almost as if there's a wedding at home. The family decides beforehand whose turn it is to host the rest in a given year, and around 15 to 20 people camp in that person's house the day before. The girls get their mehndi done. The guys hit the salon for hair-cuts and facials. The uncles dye their hair black, and Faisal says that the tailors stitching all the new clothes are curiously never on time, and yet always on time. They magically manage to deliver the goods right before D-Day arrives, only for some of the women to send them back for alterations soon after, despite having already clicked 1,000 photos.
This year, it's exactly the opposite. There is no camping. There are no tailors. And it's only the children who will get new clothes so that they are protected from the harsh reality of the prevailing situation. Some of these clothes are thanks to friends and acquaintances who run garment businesses, and the others have been sourced from pages on Instagram. The adults, on their part, won't be getting facials or alterations. Instead, they are distributing sacks of grain to people who might need them, such as those employed in shuttered salons.
Then there are the compromises on food. The extended Khan family has a tradition of getting together for a grand barbecue on Eid. But the goat that was meant to be roasted this year has been called off. "We can't even have a barbecue in our building with our neighbours," Faisal says, adding that unlike earlier, they are not gifting any dishes to loved ones either because no one can be sure of the whole process being safe. His mutton supplier has tested positive for COVID-19, for example, so it's going to be just chicken biryani for the 37-year-old's mother, wife and child at home. They will get on video calls with multiple relatives across time zones. But, the ghar-mein-shaadi feeling will still be watered down.
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