By Mumtaz Moosa-Saley
The Eid spirit filled the homes and masajid with ladies chatting about menus and the older men on a mission is to find butter on special at the supermarket. Nusaybah and I too were on the butter mission. We woke early and checked online prices versus how long and how far the stores were.
“Nana, what was Eid like for you while you were young”, Nusaybah asked, as the memories came flooding back.
“Eid for us was a simple affair. People made only what they could afford, and most people didn’t have much. We treated our neighbours, Muslim or not, with the treats that were made at home. But it was a time filled with love and unity despite family issues. Eid day meant gathering at the home of the eldest family member for breakfast. Paper plates and paper tablecloths were laid out to accommodate guests.”, I related to her.
“For children, Eid was a true celebration; it meant eating all the goodies and collecting Eidi. Families were poor, so gifts were rare, but we did not mind for the day of Eid.”, remembering how we saved the pennies to buy sweets or small gifts for each other.
“Nana, did you get new clothes, or did you use potato sacks?”, Luqmaan chimed in after overhearing the conversation.
Amused at his question and wondering where he would come up with the idea, I chuckled.
“Sometimes we received new clothes. My father would save, and he would take Baboo and me to the store to choose for ourselves. My mother, on the other hand, would have us wearing white suits, which meant we could not even eat on the day as we had to be so careful not to mess up our suits.”, I said laughing. “So, we always tried to cajole my father into taking us.”
“When my parent couldn’t afford clothes for us, my mother’s sisters and a few ladies would give us hand-me-downs. They would arrange to meet at a central point and “shop” each other’s unwanted kids’ clothing. Nevertheless, we were still excited to go out and pick what we wanted, and sometimes you would lucky and find a fine outfit.” I explained.
“My favourite part of the day was after the Eid salaah, when we would make sure we passed by the house of the “Attar Uncle” as we knew he would have a beautiful rose or mask scent attar for us at a discount price.”, I became misty eyed as I remembered my long-forgotten childhood.
Out of the blue, Luqmaan asked, “Nana, why are you called Solly, and why is your brother Baboo? Is that your real name, or did your parents not come up with better ones?”
Ah, this child with his inquisitive mind! ” No Luqi, my grandfather used to call me Solly, and it stuck, even though I didn’t like it much then or now. And my brother Baboo, well, now his is an interesting story. Sometimes I think he knocked his head one time too many whilst playing! Anyway, Baboo, would always wear a suit with a bowtie, even if he attended a soccer match. I think he saw himself as a suave gentleman, and for some reason, the elders took to calling him Baboo. His name is Rashid.”, I explained to eager ears.
“Wait! So, you have a real name, and it’s not Solly”, Luqmaan asked with wide-eyes and an utter look of surprise on his face.
I left him in suspense, as I asked Nusaybah to get ready, so we could get going to the shops. As I walked past the kitchen, I found Ayesha and Mohammed sitting at the table together. I brought back memories of when they were little kids, sitting at the kitchen table the night before Eid, watching their mother prepare the breyani for lunch the next day. They would both take turns to taste for salt, but mostly arguing about who would receive the most money on Eid day.
It would have been great to have Mohammed’s family, especially the children, over for Eid. Forge those family bonds, as they say!
“You guys better have the right intention when preparing for the Eid lunch. Remember, it is all from Allah, so be grateful and don’t go overboard.” I cautioned my adult children.
“Now, what’s with the randomness, Dad?”, Ayesha asked, looking at me slightly confused.
“Ah, I’m your shepherd, so I am tending my flock by giving you guidance. Sometimes, our so-called good intentions can also lead us astray, so I’m just reminding you to be mindful.”, I say before Nusaybah arrives, ready to go.
The butter hunting mission wasn’t such a good idea, especially for an “old-timer” like me. The crowded stores made me realise that you needed stamina and strength to push, grab and even beat people out of the way if you are going to grab those bargains. Well, I certainly had those in short supply.
Nusaybah, though, came up a plan – I could pretend that I had fainted and the aunties making a run for the butter would take pity on the old geyser and allow him to help himself to his share. I tried to imagine myself pretending to faint, and just the thought of having to wake up from the floor with my aching, arthritic joints were enough to make me remain there permanently.
But my mind was still sharp, and I had a better idea. I decided to call the store and placed an order for the butter, telling them that my age rendered it impossible for me to come into the store and my granddaughter would collect it in 20 minutes. Of course, who could refuse an old man who asked so nicely! Pensioner perks, I call it!
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (RH), ‘How can a believer not shed tears at the departure of Ramadan, when he doesn’t even know whether he’ll be alive for its return or not?’ [Lataif al-Ma’arif]