The good old Eid charm

Published: September 10, 2010

Bangles are an essential part of a traditional Eid. PHOTO: Asma Mirza

Eid – the excitement of Chand Raat, new clothes, bangles, mehndi, Eid namaaz, sweet dishes, guests galore, calling on relatives and friends and piling up Eidi. My father greeting the steady procession of guests who come bearing cakes and fruits and fixed smiles. I don’t know their names, but they appear every Eid to fawn over Abba and Ammi. Ammi, in her elegant shalwar kameezes which never seem to crease, always generous and welcoming to acquaintances, relatives and friends alike. The wonderful trolley awaiting to be devoured, dressed up with lace napkins, gleaming cutlery and tempting goodies. My siblings and I looking for a moment between guests, when we could pounce on the trolley and pile our plates high with yummy snacks to relish in a secret corner, instead of looking like gluttons in front of disdainful guests. Of course, we lived in dread of getting nabbed by Ammi whose one look of censure was enough to make us cringe.

Over the years, the flow of those unknown guests on Eid slowed down and then there was just a trickle. Abba was amused when I asked him once what became of those bearers of fancy cakes and fruits who used to turn up early every Eid, year after year. He replied, “This is what happens after you retire. All those hangers on and sycophants don’t want to waste their time here any longer. Now they must be bowing in front of other officers. Such is the way of the world!”

On Bakra Eid, the mandatory bakra was brought with great fanfare and soon we got used to the constant bleating from the garden. Suddenly, on Eid day he was gone from his customary spot outside, and everything seemed to go quiet. On one such Eid, I told my mother that I wanted to see the sacrifice which was considered so essential. I skipped over to where the animal was leashed and played with him until the Qasai (butcher) came over. Inexplicably, my heart started sinking and I kept asking for more time for him, until our cook shook his head and told me to step away. I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten the horror of what happened next, as the bakra was forced to lie down and it’s throat stretched, ready for the butcher’s knife, his screams of agony as the blood spurted all over the floor, and me clapping my hands over my ears, closing my eyes and running helter skelter inside. On that Eid, I did not touch meat.

An Eid ritual which was meticulously followed every year were the Eid calls. With my father at the wheel, my siblings and I would pile into the back seat of the car and set off on our Eid rounds. My brothers would sit in the back seats like emperors and squash my sister and I in the middle. Our protests were always muffled with the brothers haughtily pointing to their stiffly starched white shalwar kameezes, which apparently needed a lot of space. Of course, the boys were supported in their stance by an irate Ammi in the front seat. Still arguing and glowering, off we would go, packed like sardines, calling on relatives and friends alike. Naturally, we had favourite houses, which were defined by generous Eidi, interesting children, friendly hosts and delicious food as opposed to stingy Eidi, indifferent hosts, snooty children and unappetizing food.

In contrast, Eid in Europe seems to just an exercise in going through the motions… greeting guests dressed to kill, air kissing, small talk, hollow compliments, meaningless jokes, meaningful looks, dreary critiques of Pakistan, obsequious bowing and scraping, and overeating just to have the courage to sit through this futile exercise. How I wish I could be in Karachi this Eid amidst all the wonderful, feisty, warm people there who truly know how to celebrate the essence of this festival.

The Eid Milan family get togethers, the camaraderie, the corny jokes, the whispered gossip, the thorny issues, the jabbed elbows, the unfailing advice and the warm embraces are all now part and parcel of my storehouse of wry memories. There seem to be less relatives and friends now in Karachi as the Grim Reaper has wielded his scythe with ease. Caught up in the rat race of life, I did not notice until recently that my parents have now started walking so slowly and painfully, bending with difficulty, and have become more vulnerable to illness. My parents are going to be alone at home this Eid, like many others in the recent past, because their children are far away, in the search for better opportunities. I plan to come back one day, but will my parents still be there, waiting with open arms and loving hearts?

Maheen Usmani

Maheen Usmani

A freelance writer who has covered subjects ranging from socio-political issues to women's rights to counter terrorism, sports, travel, culture and music. Maheen tweets @MaheenUsmani (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Jack Bauer

    GR8 post

    Very Colorful and refreshing post. Thanks Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    a great read, Maheen. The best part about Eid is the Eidi. Recommend

  • uzma

    “Each day offers us the gift of being a special occasion if we can simply learn that as well as giving, it is blessed to receive with grace and a grateful heart.”
    Family faces are magic mirrors looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future.
    — Gail Lumet Buckley


  • sarah

    maheen, reading this brought back fond memories of eid in karachi for me too….i could relate to almost all the that you mentioned….miss karachi and family….so well written!Recommend

  • SadafFayyaz

    Colorful and soft article :)Recommend

  • Asma

    its best to ask the owner of picture if you want to publish it .. least of all give the credits at least.

    this photo was taken by me and published here

  • kk

    Maheen, fantastic blog !!! You took me back to my childhood and the wonderful Eid celebratations back home. I can relate to every word (especially the cake bearing guests- “haazari”, and how it slowed down over the yrs.)
    Thnx again for writing these lovely pieces as you seem to capture the essence of the moment so beautifully.Recommend

  • FA

    Nice post Mehreen but would have been great if you had posted Photo credits. The photo used in your blog post was originally clicked by Asma and was posted on her Flickr here:

  •!/pages/Jahanzaib-Haque/149352001744540?ref=ts Jahanzaib Haque

    Apologies Asma, the photo was on a different site, else we would have cited the photographer. Change has been made. Best regards (Web Editor)Recommend

  • Asma

    Thanks :)

    but on which different site?Recommend

  • Sajjad Ahmed

    Well written article!
    Many country gave me so much blessings since the day I was born in the form of a great family, relatives and sincere friends who are always there through thick and thin. Lets be thankful and rejoice :)Recommend

  • fara

    Reading your words articles at least give me strength that I m not a alone suffering back home memories of eid day..there are many victims like me who are missing each n every beautiful moment of eid day..Recommend

  • Hina Mehwish

    such a beautiful article maheen…. it brought so many smiles on my lips and tears in my eyes… i guess this is life… Recommend

  • Sara Ali

    Well written piece Maheen…I know how one feels when they are not close to their loved ones. It’s good to share your true feelings and wish you all the best for your future endeavors. Surely you will see your parents InshaAllah.
    Have a festive day & Eid Mubarak!Recommend

  • Shez

    The article represents the typical mentality of the elite officer class. Cook did this, servant did that. Only representative of a few thousand people of Pakistan.Recommend

  • aliarqam

    Ver refreshing piece….Recommend

  • shahid

    Great article Maheen. Does make celebrating Eid away from Pakistan a sad affair.Recommend

  • Aaliya Khattak

    Excellent piece, Maheen! Recommend

  • Sadia

    I can relate to everything in this wonderfully written article. Very nicely encaptured.Recommend

  • rehan

    I really like it Maheen. With Eidas a topic … hmm… i think you really do bring out some interesting perspectives into your arguements in this piece. I enjoyed reading it Maheen.
    Great topic and very fresh to read.Recommend

  • Immy

    Tear drops sewelled up in my eyes, oh those pleasent memories…….. am too away from home………………………..Recommend

  • Schehrbano Khan

    What a great Piece. I love how the past as been so well incorporated into the present. Also loved the element of neutrality at the end… Made me sad and think of home!! i would give anything to spend eid with family. Lying in the strong but aging arms of my mother and talking to my father about his eid as a child. How much I used to enjoy meeting cousins at our dadis place. even though I never really shared a deep bond or so to speak connection with any one in that side of my family. sitting thousands of miles away I still remember those days when we would go meet everyone..
    I miss my neighbors, who I have been friends with since childhood, and the amazing Chana chaat their mu used to make.. God I can go on and on and on. I wish I could just give it all up and go back home for there is no roza no eid no namaz no social calling without your family who will forever be an integral part of my existanceRecommend

  • Shahid Raza Imam

    Agreed absolutely. Eid when celebrated in Pakistan has the original charm and color.Recommend

  • Parvez

    A nice, touching well written article but it relates to a very, very small segment of society.Recommend

  • Ashmeet singh sidhu

    Eid Mubarak,Maheen sahiba.Recommend

  • Kamran Iqbal

    Very good write and in fact so true and touching it is. The details you have mentioned are so much of story of every home. Eid is something of a culture, its where we all are distinctively ‘us’ that is Pakistanis. Lets hope the kind of open hearted society we all Pakistanis become on Eid should continue some day even after eid. Recommend

  • Sajjad Ahmed

    Nicely written – Our Eid traditions are surely missed once we are away ..Recommend

  • Saman Ali Abbasi

    Dear Maheen, you touched my heart. I felt as if someone had turned back the clock. You are right about our parents getting old and vulnerable. I lost my dad 14 years ago, so Ammi is more precious now. My heart skips a beat everytime I see my Karachi home number on my mobile and I pray that everything is OK. Yes, we will return home one day and I hope and pray to see my mom and your parents happy that day, Ameen. Recommend

  • Saman

    Maheen, your writing always touches my heart. I love the way you captured the spirit of this wonderful occasion . I remember I wouldn’t be able to sleep with excitement the before eid, waiting impatiently to put on my “gotay key kaprey” and “choorian”, and ofcourse get my hands on the “eidi”. Look forward to reading more posts by you.Recommend

  • sabiha

    yet another good pieceRecommend

  • Guinevere David

    Dear Maheen, thanks for informing me about this blog or I would have missed something really good. It’s a touching piece specially towards the end with all the human emotions and sentiments for our near and dear ones. You know why I read it late, because I was busy calling all my dear friends the whole day on Eid. Yes, I realize how people can change when you are not on ur seat. ISSI KO DUNYA KEHTAY HAIN. I’m sure you’ll give ur parents all the joy in the world when you go to them. And yes, must try to go soon.Recommend