Before and after: Chaand raat in the city of lights isn’t the same
Chaand Raat, 1995
Lights, camera, action, food! After thirty days spent in prayer, fasting and being on our best behavior, Chaand Raat is finally here.
Our emotions about this joyous night vary from excitement to contentment and relief to gratitude.
It’s time to let loose, put on your favourite henna design, iron your spanking new clothes, and paint the town red with family and friends.
The city shines with colourful qumqumay (small light bulbs), while the roads are flooded with cars blasting loud songs in celebration. Women gear up in glittery outfits and put on matching bangles; then go out to shop for more!
You can see stalls everywhere, selling coloured hairclips, jewellery and henna cones. Everyone is trying to benefit from the Eid sales in malls, which are to last for a few more hours.
Children dressed up looking exceptionally tidy with their freshly polished shoes, too prepare for their own battle; their fight to get attention amidst others of their kind. Men in their crisp white shalwar kurtas, looking handsome – and slim after a month of eating some less – flaunt their victory. It’s time to celebrate.
Cars and motorbikes overflowing with passengers crowd up the roads, as people try to catch a glimpse of the magic that emanates from within the city. Each person with a smile on their face and a yummy treat in their hands makes the most of this night in their own way. Shopping centres in or out are crowded, restaurants packed, streets flooded with empty wrappers and henna cones. Eid lacks exclusivity and all appear committed to celebrating its well earned arrival.
For those who remain unimpressed by the numerous lights or crowds, there is the liberty of getting away. Often groups of young boys are found racing around town; some decide to even have dance-offs (Read: Karachi Sea View on Eid!). The silencers in their motorbikes are out, and although this can really annoy others, they do what they feel like; after all, it’s Chaand Raat.
This is not because the law and order situation is out of control; this is because it is harmless in 1995 and adds to the verve of Chaand Raat.
Families and friends celebrate together and everyone forgets and forgives. Children can hardly wait for their pockets to fill up with Eidi. The spirit remains alive and happening till the early morning.
Ramazan flies by and just like that, it is time for Eid. There are no celebrations, plans or excitement. In fact, just recently, there were four bomb blasts in the city. Are the lack of celebrations because people have become too consumed in their own lives? Or is it because it is unsafe or pointless to even plan the celebrations that mark this holy day? A mix of both, I suppose.
Last year on Chaand Raat, we were excited to hit the markets only to find out that mobile networks were switched off; friends and family couldn’t be contacted and we all ended up spending the night meant for family and fun alone.
Not only were our plans thrown off but so were our moods. Our phones didn’t buzz with ‘Chaand Mubarak’ messages or early morning ‘forwarded’ SMSes wishing us a ‘Very happy Eid’ from strangers and distant relatives.
Today, the Eid stalls outside Aghas, Aashiana and other shopping malls although present don’t have that sort of excitement as they did when we were younger. The beauty of the Meena Bazaar is lacklustre, with fewer bangle stalls and customers.
It seems the whole concept of celebrating the end of Ramazan, thanking God for being able to witness and be a part of this Holy month, has lost its spirit in the city of lights. No more do you see children lighting phool jharris on the roofs of their homes.
People have moved away from the things that they found happiness and ‘togetherness’ in; they don’t appreciate the little things or value them.
Guilty, I don’t have new clothes or plans for Chaand Raat either. Albeit, it’s unsafe to go out, we are too busy to celebrate with our loved ones. Each one of us has commitments that are more important and therefore timelier. The scent of henna in the Chaand Raat air is dying out; dressing up isn’t as important it used to be; expensive meals and cakes to distribute have taken precedence over just dancing in the street and having fun.
This family affair has narrowed down to an individualistic one and this is something to think about. What happened to our spirit? What happened to the hustle bustle of the city – the loud horns, the traffic, the aroma of desi food and henna combined? When did we become so aloof from our religion, from our people? A month of fasting no longer brings us close to our souls and elevates our spirit like it did in the past.
In addition to the security issues and the plummeting crime rate, our wants have become more complicated. Gone are the days where a person would fall asleep smiling, satisfied at the thought of having matching bangles or a new kurta. As the rich get richer, their demands are not as simple. On the other hand as the poor get poorer, fulfilling basic needs leaves little resources for sequinned dupattas, and sets of glass bangles. As the divide between the two widens, the faint knocking of the festive night goes unheard.
Another important aspect that has made us lose sight of the significance of Eid day and Chaand Raat is the fact that we have truly moved away from the entire month – the prostrations have become shorter, the fasts have become fewer and the late nights at mosques are substantially reduced. For so many, Chaand Raat is no longer a reason to celebrate, simply because they have not earned it with a month of being pious. Having lost a connection with the holy month, they feel less for the night that embarks its end.
I yearn for the days gone by – for the lost laughter and joy, not for the bangles or the clothes, but the excitement with which they were procured; not for the numerous cakes ordered and delivered amongst family and friends, but for the promise of sharing the event in a spirit that speaks of unity and love. And not for us to rush past the night crossing things of a to-do list but for us to stop and break a bite together.
Let’s celebrate this one like we did in 1995!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.