So, I’ve spent the last three Eid-al-Adha’s in three separate countries, but before you think I’m Carmen San Diego, you should know that one of those countries was the United States. A year ago it was an interfaith exchange trip to Amman, Jordan and the most recent was the country of my birth: Pakistan. So really, I’m not a Globe Trekker; it wasn’t very normal for me. A normal Eid for me is sitting on the floor, eating from the coffee table in some suburban Chicago home. For this Eid, Eid-al-Adha, we usually plow down on goat we have to buy pre-sacrificed, commemorating the Prophet Abraham. Believe me, the Eid I consider normal is completely different from Eid in Pakistan.
Instead of staying in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, we traveled two hours west, nearing the Indian border to go to the (somewhat) ancestral farmland that our great-grandfathers originally owned. We stayed, about seven families to one house with only two bathrooms in each. The houses were connected by a simple archway and a veranda. And as you might be able to imagine, this was not only Eid, it was also, in the words of my little brother, “complete and utter mayhem.”
There were children running around without supervision, pounds of our fanciest fresh new Eid outfits that needed ironing, only one available iron, and about a two hour wait for the bathroom. The December sun was hot and unfiltered as there was only one cloud in the sky. After everyone finally got dressed, we all wondered what all the fuss was for because we only ended up doing exactly what we had done the day earlier – sitting on the manjas, the outdoor woven beds, and talking about how uncomfortable we were in our fancy new clothes. There we were, about twenty of us cousins that were at least seventeen years old, playing the only two card games that translate well across oceans, Speed and BS, and eating the cheap potato chips that you can buy for three rupees a pack (about five American cents).
We sat around, complaining that we wanted to return to Karachi, because despite our rural ancestry we were all self-proclaimed “city kids,” and yet none of us wanted to admit that we enjoyed this. Without the internet, or laptops, or television, and cell phones that only worked on the roof, we did what was the only thing left to do – actually talk to each other. Exams that my cousins were taking after Eid were left unstudied for as we played Pakistani playground games, like Kings or CoCo. The Americans lost horribly at both. We went on Djinn hunts to the unused Arain guesthouse down the dirt path road from our houses, playing practical jokes on those most easily scared. We stayed up until three in the morning until it finally rained on us and forced us to get some sleep.
And while this may seem like a well-learned, almost commercialized, lesson, I didn’t realize how much fun I could have with twenty other Arains, the starriest night sky I have ever seen in my life, and a hot water machine that really didn’t like me very much.
- Hafsa Arain
Interfaith Scholar 2008-2009
Published in the Winter 2008 Issue of the Interfaith Review