BY NAVANIL BARUA
Eid – the very word conjures up lot of memories of life gone by! Memories of food, of curiosity, of gaiety come to my mind. Being born and brought up in the cosmopolitan Assamese society of Shillong and Guwahati, religious part of any festival has always been of least interest. Be it a Hindu Festival, a Christian festival or a Muslim festival – the joy for us as kids and youngsters were almost equal. All these meant holidays and some good food. Eid, thus was no different. The preceding month of Eid- Ramzaan, was a matter of great curiosity for us as kids. We could see our uncles and Aunts not eating the whole day and sometimes even our friends keeping the same fast. I was always flabbergasted, how could someone not fall sick by not eating the whole day? Few did not even swallow their spit which to us was funny.
As I grew up, I began to understand the whole act of Roza and its significance. I realized that people wake up and eat at odd hours. Gradually, I began to be a part of Iftaars. The dry fruits of Iftaar always attract me even today. Sometimes, my wife cooks Iftaari food and we go to share it with a family who my wife considers her brother. Eid, to us as kids were like Muslim Durga Puja. For our Muslim acquaintances would buy new clothes, exchange gifts, very much like we do in Bihu and Puja. I remember the uncles and elders, who normally dress in Shirts and trousers, would suddenly come out in spotless white kurta pyjama with a tiny embroidered cap. We learnt our first hugging from the Eid celebrations. As kids, we looked forward to the invitations from our Muslim friends where sweets, Chicken etc were served in abundance. The omnipresent Sewaiyan never failed to attract me.
The one lasting image of Eid in childhood was a story we read in our Hindi text book. It was a story by Munshi Premchand called Eid. A small child goes to buy gifts for himself and ends up buying a tong for his widowed mother because he remembers her frequently burnt fingers while making roti. That story really touched me as a child. As we grew up, it was our turn to seek adventure. Learnt how to savour the forbidden meat and looked forward to the feast served to us — few heretics, in a side room. I cannot ever forget the Koftas of the mother of my senior Dr Zakir Hussain. Nowadays, I still get invited to several feasts in Eid and savour it with equal delight, although the sweets have deserted me and given diabetes in its place.
The most enduring incident of Eid that I remember was in our days of fiery youth. I was with a student organization and two cousins were also with us. They invited us to their home for Eid and a group of about 25 to 30 guys landed up in their place. They already had guests and the lady of the house must have panicked seeing us! We were promptly dispatched to the terrace and a big ‘dekchi’ of polaw landed up with disposable plates. We enjoyed it like anything. Years later, from the daughter of that house, I found out how her mother panicked yet still managed to keep the show going. The lady is gone but when her son and my friend, Syed Ahmed Shah recollected, his message was ‘the Biryani is still warm, only presence is needed’.
“The Eid festival is round the corner. What am I going to do this year?” This year, besides the feasting at different points, I shall pray – pray from the precincts of my home, not make a show of it. Pray in my own way. Appeal to the Almighty to protect all his Bandas from evil thought, evil desires and evil reactions to evil provocations. In an atmosphere vitiated by communal elements, we the Assamese people are struggling to keep our pride of amity intact. I can only remind those spreading communal hatred in their covert agenda of cultural imperialism, that we had Azan fakir who wrote “Hindu aru Musalman, ek Allar forman…..” and Bhupen Hazarika who wrote “Aajir eid majlisote, eke loge bohise….”. Eid Mubarak, Joi Ai Axom.