The Best Days Of My Life: The Memories Of Eid, Celebrated With My Family
Remembering the heady, cheerful days of Eid from my childhood, in this quiet, locked-down year
For most of us, this Eid will be truly exceptional. There will be no congregational Eid prayer, no customary hugs or celebratory Eid-milans. Muslims across the world will offer their Eid prayer at home and share a modest meal with just the family. Such an Eid would have been inconceivable any other year.
Cling and Bling – Those Heady Days
My mind is racing down memory lane to the cheerful Eids, which we, as kids, waited the whole year for. The excitement of Eid would start mid-Ramzan, when we started exchanging notes with cousins and friends on what clothes to get. Arm-twisting Ammi (our mother) to buy me cham-cham (blingy) gharara and kum-kuma churi (clanking golden glass bangles) was such joy. The boys in the family would, of course, go in for pristine white mul-mul kurta-pyjama with a crisp do-palli topi to match. Eid shopping would mean several trips to the market and how we loved it.
From the age of 9 or 10, my brother and I fasted on weekends and holidays because it had its own reward—“Don’t say anything to this kid, she is fasting”—you could be as naughty as you wanted and get away with it!
The Charms of Chaand raat
The evening before Eid, when the moon was sighted had a special aura. At sunset, my brother and I would drag Abba (our father) to the vantage point on the hillock nearby, from where the beautiful sliver of the crescent moon could be seen. We would rush home to give Ammi the good news, “Chaand ho gaya, kal eid hai!” (The moon is out; it is Eid tomorrow!). In case it couldn’t be sighted, Abba would tune into All India Radio, as soon as we got back, to find out if the moon had been sighted elsewhere to signal Eid celebrations the next day. We didn’t want to wait even one more day!
For Ammi, chaand raat would mean working late into the night, preparing for the tons of kebab, sewai and biryani that guests had to be served the next day—her body frail with the month-long fasting, but her spirit ever so high.
The author and her family, sometime in the mid-2000s
Eid mornings started with a flurry of activity—the house had to be spruced up with festive table linen, ceremonial silverware and shiny cutlery. The silver itardaan (perfume case) always occupied the pride of place at the entrance and itar (perfume) was the first thing offered to guests on Eid. The whole house would be fragrant with the smell of “Jannat-ul-Firdaus”, a fragrance I still associate with Eid.
By eight o’clock, my father and brother would set-off for the Idgaah (congregational prayer ground) for Eid prayer. Before they returned, breakfast would be laid out—roghni roti, kebab, sheer khorma and kimami sewai. Breakfast over, the table would be re-loaded for the guests. For the rest of the day, there would be a stream of visitors—ours was an open house on Eid—we would have 75 to 100 guests stopping by. Ammi’s butter biryani and gilawati kebab (recipe below) were the most sought-after delicacies.
For us, the high point of Eid was the Eidee—a small sum of gift money our elders gave us when we wished them “Eid Mubarak”. In those days, a rupee or two was the norm, a fiver or tenner was a princely sum! The aunt/uncle who gave the largest Eidee was our favourite until the next Eid. I remember how eagerly we waited for Babajaan, my father’s eldest cousin, who always pressed a tenner into our palms. My brother, an enterprising kid, would venture out to relatives’ houses nearby and hang around, wishing everyone “Eid Mubarak”, to maximize his Eidees. By the end of the day, he always managed to “collect” twice the amount I received. While my Eidee money went into a piggy bank, my brother would buy himself a cricket bat or a fancy t-shirt the very next day!
In the evening, the extended family would come over for an Eid dinner, which my father, being the eldest, loved to host. Everybody would bring along something and the table would overflow with the aroma of exotic Mughlai dishes—joy and laughter.
My parents are now gone. My brother is in another city, while my son lives in another country. My eyes mist over, as the festive memories of Eid come back, bringing with them the joy and laughter of days gone by. This Eid will be unusually quiet—no visits or hugs, no dawat either. But I tell myself, that’s okay, there will be others, soon, when we can make up for what we will miss this year.
Gilawati Kebab recipe
- 1 kg fat-free fine mince meat
- 3 large onions (finely chopped, fried and crushed)
- 50 gm ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 4 tbs roasted chana powder
- 2 tbs khas-khas powder (posto or poppy seeds)
- 1 tsp garam masala powder
- 50 gm raw-papaya paste
- 200 gm ghee or refined oil (100 gm for kebabs and 100 gm for shallow frying)
- 3 tbs finely chopped coriander or mint leaves
- 4–6 finely chopped green chilies
- Salt to taste
- Mix all the ingredients well and keep aside for two hours. In summer, keep the mix in the fridge
- Knead the kebab mixture for 5-10 minutes and make small patties about 1 cm thick and 5 cms in diameter
- Shallow fry in non-stick flat pan on both sides, for first 10 minutes on medium flame and next 10 minutes on low flame. Serv with mint chutney