Following the weeks of fasting, Eid-ul-Fitr, one of biggest religious festivals for 1.8 billion Muslims the world over, marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Eid this time came in entirely different backgrounds, when the whole planet reeling from the unmatched public health crisis. It came around a time when the country witnessing the gradual soars in Covid-19 infection rates and death tolls inflicted by the life-threatening illness. More importantly, it came on the heels of devastating cyclonic storms, Amphan, that raged through the southern part of the country, leaving thousands of people marooned on coastal areas and rendering them helpless.Being the Muslim majority country, the entire region takes up a festive mood in the run-up to Eid. It is full of customary rituals and rich traditions that involve not just the immediate family but entire community. People put on new clothes, have big meals with family and friends, offer Eid prayer in outdoor congregations, give a new look to their houses by maintaining, cleaning and furnishing them with new furniture, decorations and fireworks. These vibrant activities marking the celebration of Eid trigger an economic boom in the country.
Sadly, Eid-ul-Fitr looked and felt very different this year. First, it was observed in an unprecedented confinement amidst the entire country being put on long drawn out shutdown. Second, maiden in its history, with no congregation on fields, Eid prayer was offered in mosques across the country as outdoor gatherings were outlawed by the government. Third, devotees were requested to shun embracing or hugging, an inextricable part of Eid ritual and a common practice throughout the Muslim world, after prayer on health ground. Last, contrary to the usual practice, children, elderly people, people with physical ailment, and those taking care of the sick were asked to not attend Eid jamaat in mosques.
With the closure of shopping malls, fewer people plying on the streets, absence of never-ending queues of ticket-seekers at transport counters, nonexistence of mad rush of holiday makers and the sparse roads and highways devoid of Eid-time hustle and bustle, it was a far cry from the usual scenarios on the eve of Eid in the country.
With many thousands of people staying in the capital refrained from travelling to their ancestral homes for the sake of protecting loved ones by staying away, it had never crossed their mind to enjoy Eid without immediate family. Many went stir-crazy for not being able to embrace or hug, shake hands or simply sit next to each other. For many others being unable to come together as family were dreadful and tough. And for the quaranteens--teenagers in this time of Covid-19 lockdown--a bar on unfettered movement with friends or mates left them climbing the walls with frustration. So, restricted Eid this time brought about cultural and traditional shock to say the least.
On the other hand, stagnant economic activities were plain to see before Eid. Eid festivals have significant impacts on our lives and the country’s economy as the shot from the Eids keep the businesses going round the year. Owing to the emerging economic crisis, businesses are melting away. Consequently, lots of companies are being unable to give regular pays to their employees, let alone the Eid bonuses. Any numbers of people have already lost their employment; with situation getting from bad to worse and uncertainty looming large, many are petrified of what the future holds. Even with spending sparingly and tightening their belts, they are unsure as to whether they will continue to be able to keep body and soul together.
Just hours before Eid day, our Prime Minister in a televised speech rightly hit the nail on the head by calling upon all to stay home this Eid and celebrate the occasion with family members in a bid to stay safe and prevent the virus transmission. The premier also stressed on following health guidelines on an individual level to stay alert and save lives. Despite the PM’s request swarms of people could be seen going to their villages. Their actions whipped up a barrage of criticisms from different quarters for crowding into ferries and buses to get home, although many liked to think it from a purely practical point of view. Because of the economic meltdown, these people might find it hard to afford to stay in Dhaka and decide to go home so they can at least have a roof over their heads, and maybe find some work in the village.Suffice to say, Eid celebration was largely reduced to own home, and spilled over to social media. While an insignificant proportion of festival-revellers cleaved to the tradition going out defying health guidelines, the vast majority of the population took to social media and video-enabled apps to see and talk to their dear ones. Some enjoyed virtual get-togethers online while for some people, this was ideal the ideal opportunity to get to grips with technology that they have never used before.
Besides, as the brick-and-mortar stores shuttered down, it fuelled a remarkable boom in online shopping and home delivery business at the time of Eid. Nevertheless, being holed up, people taking up new hobbies to while away, and keen cooks digging out cookbooks tried out dishes in this Eid that they have never done. Overall, the Covitime Eid undeniably saw many disruptions- seismic shift in traditions. Whether, looking on the bright side, people would stick to the new normal or get back to older traditions remains to be seen.
The writer is an Associate Engineer, Thakral Information Systems Pvt. Ltd. Email: [email protected]