Eid then and now

Simon Mohsin | Tuesday, 18 April 2023

Families and friends gathering for delectable meals and enjoying each other's company; kids happy, bragging and nagging with their new shoes, toys, clothes, and Eidi received on the special day…all of it and more…Eid Mubarak to you all.
Being of a generation that has experienced first had the advent of modern, smart technology, and the absolution of numerous other techs in the process, certain transitions naturally baulk us. We can truly see them to be a novelty or a change, and not just a transitory phenomenon that does not really grasp the thought process.
One of it is the reluctance of today's youngsters (the spectrum of school and college age children) from visiting their relatives. We, as my very observant friend said, were (habhaitta) a generation that loved to go to as many relatives' as possible to taste whatever was cooked there. And we truly stuffed ourselves. Maybe that nature of ours facilitated the mushrooming industry of eateries and restaurants in the country…but that is a tangent we can discuss some other time. Coming back to the point, today's children are confined within their own figurative world filled with gadget, screen, games, marvel heroes, and many other things that we truly find amazing to see that they are even interested in them. What also amazes us is the number of stuff that they are fully disinterested in and visiting relatives is certainly one of them. For them, it is like leaving their comfort zones. They are at ease in cafes, restaurants, resorts, and game arcades. Ordering food from a menu, and telling the attendant to bring this or that is natural to them. Thus, the parents by default spend their Eid day (also) in those vicinities. For us, going to aunt's or uncle's house and asking to eat this, cook that, prepare something, asking for seconds and thirds was inherent nature. This is a real difference that baulks me immensely, as we see the money spent on food on Eid has converted into an actual expense in eateries from social, emotional, and familial investments that we used to reap high returns on.
Another change that is starkly remarkable is the youths' (college and university aged spectrum) differentiated outlook towards Eid celebrations. Special hangout with friends, going to meet friends who are distant or in other areas, seems to still be there. But the hangout agenda and venue has changed drastically. It is now less about friends, less about loose talk without any clear beginning or end, it is now less about pulling each others' legs. The topics seem to range from cars, to girls (speaking from a male perspective), movies, apps, games, and whatnot, with a key focus on getting high with 'drink', at the very least. I say this with the utmost concern and sadness that when a special hangout among friends is pivoted on being tipsy and illicit behaviour, there is definitely something wrong with the way society has evolved these last few decades.
While the detriments are concerning, there are also positives that we notice today. We actually see a large number of youths working in the eatery joints, earning wages and contributing to the economic cycle. For us, tuitions were seemingly the only means. But, today we see the market trends allowing a huge youth population to become economically active and on the Eid day, we can truly observe it in its fervour, in cafes, super shops, and other venues of entertainment.
But thank goodness that the old Dhaka continues to maintain certain trends of the old. Put up speakers on the street corner and continue with loud music for all to hear; as boys are marking and exercising their territorial right - this is our neighbourhood. Although the songs have changed drastically, another tangent for another time. But, even now in my forties, a group of friends in old Dhaka continue with this trend, and it is riveting. Those who know, will realise. But this sphere too has witnessed some worrying evolution. Street gangs are the new vice. We used to have a gang or batch culture too. Elakar boro bhai - big brother of the area was our role model, and there was a set and effective hierarchy of social order among the batches of each group. That hierarchy that was once a key element of our social fabric in areas of our residence, is now extinct. Transition to apartment buildings from houses and colonies has infused sheer numbers in residential areas that maintaining a cohesive social fabric is a challenge.
Also, for Eid at least, it is the smart technology itself that has changed the celebration of Eid extensively. I receive a generic text on texting apps, or sms or any other means, saying Eid Mubarak from several people. I feel so untouched by them. I know it is the sender upholding a social responsibility for the sake of ensuring that all know he has done so. The Eid Mubarak I feel, when embracing my friend whom I have not met for months, or the warmth of friendship I feel when a friend calls me to genuinely wish me Eid Mubarak…these generic messages are truly, surely devoid of this warmth and purity. I would much rather not receive them. But when I do, I respond to the person in the customised text so that he/she knows, this is specially and specifically written for them. Have to practise what I preach or underscore as a concern. Smart tech has made us ubiquitous in communication but isolated us emotionally. I daresay, I observe this too much on Eid. I would like to propose that one doesn't truly need to wish everyone, nor do I think that anyone really expects such overwhelming outreach…at least those who are the aam jonoto…mango people…general population. Celebrities and politicians, to each his own, I guess that is all I can say.
Eid is all about the latest fashion trends and shopping sales. Wasn't really different for us either. What we will wear and where to buy it from, all of it was a concern then, and continues to be a concern for all now. But there seems to be an unhealthy competition and boastfulness associated with it that is egregious.
Eid is no more a token gift but rather a boast of one's affluence in many cases. From being a family centric affair Eid has been contorted into a Black Friday-esque holiday where the simplicity and joy of what it stood for have been replaced with a crazed race to accumulate more, isolate more to underscore undue uniqueness, and practices that are truly grey in nature, raising questions about their emotional integrity.

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