This Eid I just want Santa Claus!

Published: August 10, 2013
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Celebrating Eid in the right spirit doesn't cost a thing. It's shouldn't be all about money!

Eid Mubarak everyone!

I am sure all of you are enjoying the day today – eating scrumptious food, wearing gorgeous new clothes, visiting your family and friends and then, obviously, eagerly awaiting your Eidi. What fun. After all, this is what Eid is all about.

Unfortunately, not all of us will be celebrating Eid the traditional way.

There was a time, a few years ago, when shops on Chaand Raat would be bustling with men and women frantically getting their last minute Eid errands completed. Every store had a bigger, brighter sign exclaiming it was giving a better discount than their counterparts and even the thelay waley reduced their already low prices as a gesture to welcome the pious holiday we would all celebrate together.

We accommodated and compromised to make sure everyone had a chance to celebrate – in whatever fashion they could manage.

A few days ago, I walked out of my room and saw the maid sewing away at a slightly ripped shirt. She had asked my mom to give her buttons that my mother was no longer going to use so that she could stitch them to the top she had in her hand. I asked her what she was doing and she replied,

Baji, yeh Sana ke liye Eid ka kurta tayar kar rahi hoon.

(“Baji, I am preparing an Eid dress for Sana.”)

Ignorant to the fact that she was mending a ripped shirt, I continued to ask the obvious.

Lekin Khannum baji, yeh toh phata howa hai!

(“But Khannum baji, this is torn!”)

I regretted saying this as soon as the words had tumbled out of my mouth. A little embarrassed, she went onto sheepishly explain how her pregnant daughter would outgrow the clothes anyways and things were just too expensive for her to buy her an outfit this time around.

As many of us already know, the word ‘sale’ in Pakistan really doesn’t mean sale. I am sure every woman reading this blog would agree – it’s a hoax that our brains fall for each time we see a banner inviting us to splurge. The concept of a sale here is to increase the already extravagant price of a product by 20% and then put a 20% sale tag on it. Now, although I do believe, in some dark business-minded corner of my head, that this was a really smart way to cut losses, my conscience just cannot reconcile with the concept of fleecing someone when I’m obviously making a profit anyway – especially on occasions like Eid!

As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, my grandmother is a Czech national who converted to Islam from Christianity upon marrying my grandfather. We do, however, celebrate Christmas at my house with as much zeal as we do Eid and in recent times, much to my disappointment, I have found celebrating Christmas to be so much more fun.

My conclusion here really has nothing to do with religion. I respect the premise of Eid and would celebrate it regardless but I believe that holidays like these, especially religious ones, are for children to enjoy. When I was younger, my grandfather did not believe in giving us money as a form of Eidi. All the kids of the house, including myself, were given sheets of paper with various clues and those clues led us to our Eid presents! Yup- we used to have a scavenger hunt and that was tradition until my grandfather passed away. This did not mean that we were given extravagant presents, these gifts consisted mostly of sweets, a lattoo (spinning top) and maybe a board game, but the thrill of looking for those presents was unmatched! At that point in my life, Eid won. Hands down!

Recently, however, the trend has changed and become so money minded that from the time Eid is anticipated to the end of the third day, you see children running around adults stalking them for money they can add to their already overflowing wallets or adults hiding in remote corners resigned to the financial pressures of the holiday.

Clothes have to be bought and food has to be served, so prices are automatically increased. Eidi has to be given so you see little palms sticking out everywhere but is this what Eid is really all about?

Having been exposed to other worldly festivals I cannot help but compare the fact that on Christmas the world bustles with excitement because things are suddenly so much more affordable. Prices are reduced to the absolute minimum possible and the spirit of the occasion takes over the airwaves weeks in advance. Enthusiastic shoppers go well in advance but those who have less affordability wait until a little closer to the holiday for better deals, but everything becomes within your means. Children are excited about the presents filling up under the tree and lights and decorations capture the streets. The presents are not gaudy shows of affection but mere gestures wrapped up in lights, decor, a tree and an imaginary Santa Claus. It is enthralling.

For me, my grandfather was Santa Claus and Eid was Christmas and he made this special effort on Eid just so that we, the children, never felt more inclined to celebrate events other than Eid. I learnt the importance of Eid and enjoyed it to the brim; nowadays however, I can’t even afford the teacup let alone enjoying it to the brim!

Working a nine-to-five job still does not afford me the means to celebrate Eid in the pompous Pakistani way, so how would my maid be able to afford it? Do the less fortunate not deserve to celebrate this day?

Every Eid, my father buys clothes for the people in our village and for our house help. Each one of them gets a new outfit but, because they have other responsibilities as well like food and their own children, Eidi is also a must. We help where we can, but there are many more out there that are seen in a distraught state of affairs. Eid is becoming more unaffordable with each passing year and has already become a holiday for the elite; I fear in due time it might not be a holiday at all.

If things continue the way that they are, there will come a day that Eid will not be celebrated in this country. Our government and business industries need to understand that they can only juice their citizens this much and no more. Although I do believe that there is more to Eid than just the shopping aspect, the fact that people are left with no other option but to stop celebrating is a cause for concern.

I asked my maid,

Toh Khannum baji, ap log Eid pe kya karien ge?

(“So Khannum baji, what are you all going to do on Eid?”)

She laughed and what she said to me made me understand that maybe this unaffordability is something that will take us back to understanding the true meaning of Eid, where money will not be the reason driving the holiday. She replied,

Baji hum toh sub saath mien samandar (Sea View) jaien ge. Iss tarhaan naye kapron ki zaroorat bhi nahi ho gi, bachey enjoy bhi karien ge aur Eid bhi ho jaye gi!

(“Baji, we are going to go to Sea View. That way we will not need new clothes, the kids will enjoy themselves and we will also get to celebrate Eid!”)

She had it all figured out and she was excited despite the fact that her daughter may not be able to wear new clothes on Eid.

This Eid I would ask you to try and enjoy the free benefits life has to offer and realise that sometimes that’s all one needs to enjoy oneself. And the next time you pass a comment about those ‘Gulshu’s invading your side of the bridge’ please remember that they have a right to celebrate as well, and while you’re out and about strutting your new outfit to the world, just know that not only are they celebrating Eid in the right spirit, it didn’t cost them anything to do so!

It’s not all about the money!

erum.shaikh

Erum Shaikh

The writer is a News Editor at The Express Tribune and has an Undergraduate Degree in Law from the University of London. She tweets @shaikherum (twitter.com/shaikherum)

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