Eid ka Chaand

Eid is being celebrated worldwide, albeit on different days based on the sighting of the moon in each country. Our friends in North America would have fasted on average for close to 15 hours each day during the month of Ramadan. Living in the Middle East, we were frequently invited by close Arab and other friends for iftar (breaking the fast after the evening prayers). In Canada however, we have participated in only a few iftars, possibly because life is much faster paced here, with commuting time and distances posing additional hurdles.

In these days when people are out to ‘trump’ others every which way, tales of bonhomie – when they occur – must be celebrated. A couple of days ago, news stories appeared in the press about the famous Indo-American chef Vikas Khanna. He was provided sanctuary by a Muslim family and saved from death at the hands of rioters during the communal violence that gripped Mumbai (Bombay) in 1992. Since that time, Vikas – a Hindu – has observed a one-day fast during the holy month of Ramadan each year to pray for the well-being of the strangers who provided succour in his hour of need. His efforts over the years to locate and reconnect with his benefactors finally succeeded and he was able to meet up with them after 26 years over Eid this year. Vikas expressed his emotions thus, in a heart-felt tweet, “Heartwarming evening. All Heart. Tears. Pain. Pride. Courage. Humanity. Gratitude. This will be the most significant and important EID of my life. Thank you everyone to connect me with my souls.”

At school, we read the famous Indian author Munshi Premchand’s celebrated short story in Urdu “Eidgah” (mosque, or typically an enclosure for offering Ramadan prayers). The protagonist, Hamid is a recently orphaned four-year old, living with his aged grandmother in abject poverty. He has been told that his father is away on business and his mother will return with gifts from Allah for him. The story opens with Hamid and friends going off to the Eidgah to celebrate Eid. While his friends have easy money to spend, Hamid has to fight temptation as he has only a few coins that his grandmother could provide, urging him to buy something to eat. His friends continue to flaunt their purchases while taunting and shaming him for being stingy. Hamid eventually buys a chimta (pair of tongs) in spite of his friends’ sniggers and on the journey home robustly defends his decision, even managing to convince them that his acquisition is sound. However, his grandmother is beside herself that her little boy did not break his fast, staying hungry all day and scolds Hamid for wasting money on a useless contraption instead of buying food for himself. Teary-eyed, Hamid sobs, “But, I see you burn your fingers on the tava (iron plate) every day when removing the chapattis (Indian bread). That’s why I got the tongs.”

The sighting of the moon determines when the holy month of Ramadan ends and Eid celebrations commence. It is interesting that poets, authors and other romantic-at-heart litterateurs from the Indian subcontinent have, since time immemorial used Eid Ka Chaand (the Eid Moon) as a metaphor for the much awaited sighting of, or, meeting with the beloved. Friends who meet after having stayed away from each other for a long period of time often remark, “Kya bhai, Eid kaa Chaand ho gaye ho aap toh!” (What is this, you are (not to be seen) like the Eid Moon!)

In referencing the moon, I reproduce below one of Mulla Nasrudin’s many amusing anecdotes. The well-known author and teacher in the Sufi tradition, Idries Shah states that Mulla Nasrudin “…(is) the wise fool of Eastern folklore, holds a special place in Sufi studies. The Sufis, who believe that deep intuition is the only real guide to knowledge, use the humorous stories of Nasrudin’s adventures almost like exercises.”

Out for a stroll one night, Mulla Nasrudin chanced to look down a well and saw the reflection of the moon in the water below. He thought that the moon must be rescued otherwise she would never wane and the fasting month of Ramadan would never end. So, he got a rope, threw it inside the well and called down, “Hold Tight and stay Bright! I am here to get you out!” As he swung the rope around in an attempt to ensnare the moon, it got entangled under a big stone in the well. Mulla tugged hard to get the rope out. The rope suddenly tore loose and Mulla fell flat on his back. Laying on the ground panting, he saw the moon in the sky and said, “My efforts were not wasted. Though I faced a lot of difficulties, I am glad to be of service.”

An unknown Urdu shaayar (poet) writes:
“Eid ke baad vo milne ke liye aae hai.n
Eid kaa chaand nazar aane lagaa Eid ke baad”
[He/she is arriving after Eid to meet (me)
The Eid Moon is now being sighted after Eid]

To conclude, one of my favorite “Eid” related songs, beautifully composed by Madan Mohan and sung by the immortal Mohammad Rafi and Sudha Kalyanpur, “…. Ik zamaane ke baad deed hui, Eid se pehle meri Eid hui …” [Seeing you after ages, (it is as if) my Eid has occurred before the Eid …]

2 Replies to “Eid ka Chaand”

  1. What a treat this post is – as lovely as the sheer khurma enjoyed at Iftar feasts! Loved reading about Vikas Khanna’s experience and re-reading Eidgah. The timeless appeal of that short story is reflected in a recent Indian television commercial in which a little boy – the son of a homeless pavement dweller who is cooking on an open fire – fashions a chimta out of wire he finds on the road. His mother, her eyes bright with tears, makes him rotis using it.

    Also, beautiful song. One, I have to admit, I had never heard before and I didn’t think there were any old songs I was not familiar with! My favourite Eid song is the chirpy “Mujhe mil gaya bahana teri deed ka, kaisi khushi le ke aaya chaand, Eid ka.”

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    1. Thanks a lot; glad you enjoyed the blog. The song you mention had come to mind, but I preferred the deep longing and overwhelming sense of gratitude at the much delayed pleasure of union reflected in the one I selected. Both poets (Rajinder Krishan for baad muddat and my favourite Sahir Ludhianvi for mujhe mil gayaa) have written absolute gems!

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