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So what are you doing this Eid?

For Dhaka-resident Rumana Zaman, a teacher and a housewife, Eid is simply a twice-yearly routine that doesn’t change. ‘Get up, say the morning prayer, eat breakfast, wish people Eid Mubarak, cook, maybe go visiting, have guests coming over, feed them, eat, eat, eat, cook, clean, eat and sleep,’ she sighs ruefully.

This Eid she is bent on making it somehow more special. ‘We hardly get any holidays and when we do get these holidays, most of it is spent cooking, serving guests and working, and at the end of it all you get back to work stressed out.’

For most people, in spite of the excitement of reunion of friends and family, Eid revolves around a similar not-so-exciting pattern every year. The trend is changing towards finding ways to make a more enjoyable and relaxed; be it through visiting loved ones, taking a trip to the countryside, going out of the country or just celebrating at home. ‘The point is to let your hair down for a while and have fun!’ says Jamil Hassan, a copy writer with a Dhaka Advertising Agency.

This year, Rumana is planning ahead for Eid. ‘It is always the mother who is dumped with all the household work and responsibilities and this is exactly what’s wrong with most of these holidays.’ So this time, Rumana called an in-house meeting and delegated work to everyone at home including the three children. While twelve-year-old daughter Hridi will be cleaning up, her younger sisters Hrishi and Yushua will be helping their mother in the kitchen and serving guests. She has also decided that all the guests will be invited for lunch, and the family will go out for dinner. ‘I need a change. It seems ages since we went for a long drive or had dinner somewhere far away from home.’

‘Ten years back, perhaps it would have been much different. But now, we count days to get a holiday. And when Eid comes by, most of us jump at the opportunity of having a good time, setting aside worries and laying back,’ says Farhana Amin, working at a private bank in the city. ‘The holiday comes as a break from the tight schedule of work and I try to do something I can’t do during work.’ According to her, it’s a great idea to visit relatives who stay far away or are busy at other times. That way, you also get to go for a long drive.

Since time immemorial, it seems, it has been a tradition for many to go back to their village homes on Eid. Even people with all family members in the city, would go to their villages and spend the Eid holiday there. However, there is a definite change now. Dhaka dwellers in their droves are breaking free from this tradition and opting to spend Eid in the city. According to Mayeesha, a university student, people of her age have mixed feelings about spending Eid in the village home.

‘Five years ago, we’d perhaps go to Mymensingh to spend Eid. But we do not do that anymore.’ Although most families would not consciously admit it, this trend is disappearing significantly, as families become deeply entrenched in city life. ‘However, a lot of my friends still go and only a few of them have a problem spending time with cousins or second cousins who may be very different from them.’

Then again, some people actually welcome the break from city life and consider it as an opportunity to get close to nature once again. Tanjeem Ahmed, a manager at a publication house, agrees with this concept. ‘It does not have to be one’s own village, it could be anywhere across the country.’

He feels these Eid holidays should be spent on exploring the country and enjoying its beauty. ‘There are so many places in our own country that are worth a visit. For people who cannot afford to go out of the country on Eid, this is the best option. It is not necessary to spend extravagantly in order to have a fun filled Eid. One can spend a lifetime exploring the beauty of this country and still not see enough.’ This year Tanjeem and his family taking a trip to Cox’s Bazar for a week. ‘I am looking forward to the open place and the fresh air, after so long,’

he grins.

For some, Eid is the time to forget about all financial limitations and spend extravagantly. ‘We should use these holidays to get out of our cocoons,’ says Shampa Nasir, a working mother. ‘Getting away from our daily lives and taking trips, be it in your country or outside is a good idea.’ This year Shampa and her family are taking a trip to Dubai, where she has friends and a few members of her extended family. ‘Of course this year is an exception, but in other years, we do spend time with our close ones, especially parents. But, if you can manage to get a little change even once in a year, you are lucky!’

A few years back, Shampa and her husband would save up for these trips. ‘Sometimes it was Malaysia, Singapore and even Thailand. All its takes is a proper planning. Be it at home or outside- you can make it special,’ she adds.

While some families get a taste of life abroad on Eid, others come home to reunite. Nasim Ahmed, a Bangladeshi immigrant to Canada, has taken a whole month off from job and come back home with his family for Eid. For him the best way to enjoy Eid is to have the whole family together. ‘It is after three years that I am spending Eid with my parents. My siblings have also come back from different countries. It’s going to be the best Eid in a long time. I feel lucky to be able to be part of the Eid celebration.’

Unfortunately only a handful of people have the same luck as Nasim. To many Bangladeshis living abroad, Eid passes almost unnoticed. Sadat Anik Zuhir, a university student in Australia shares his view of being away from home in Eid. ‘A few years back Eid was all about being with friends and family. It was in the air- the coming of the big day, but it is no longer the same, you don’t even understand when it comes and when goes,’ he said.

Having spent more than five years in Sidney, Eid is now a just a formality of calling up parents and wishing them and rushing to work. ‘Even though life doesn’t stop at a standstill, even for a couple of minutes the general purpose of Eid which is to get together is in many ways is served. Although it is through a phone call or a mail- the purpose is served,’ he says.

As days pass on, bringing us closer to the big day, the city lightens up with its ever glowing colors of Eid. People look happier, families spend time together shopping.

The general air is more festive. ‘Shemai’ and ‘biriyani’ can’t taste any better, and the holiday season promises that long awaited respite to the tired soul.

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