In light of a pandemic, missing a festival seems like a small thing. But it is also about missing the reassuring smells, sounds of home and that of Iftar.
My phone beeps, it is a message on Khan House, my family group, “Aaj ka waqt 6:58 hai.” (the time for Iftar today is 6:58 PM.)
It is 6: 30, so I have another 28 minutes. I take the time to set the table, lay out my coffee, the pizza I made, dates and other things. All portioned out and click a nice picture.
At 6:56 pm, I pick up my phone again, go to the family group and press video call. Ammi or dad will pick up the call and we talk and then they say, “Chalo bhai ho gaya time” (It is time.) And that’s how I break the fast every day during these lockdown times Ramzan.
Ramzaan is a time for celebration and being together with family and friends. Iftar parties, trips to Jama Masjid for Seheri and Iftar and the night markets, have been the essence of Ramzaan for me for as long as I can remember. And it seems like a distant memory now.
2020 was going to be just like every year but here we are, separated from everything we love as Indians, festivals being the topmost thing. We are in our little locked-down boxes, hoping, praying, and wishing for a better next year; making 2020 seem like a bad dream and nothing more.
Long before the Junta Curfew and the consequent lockdown was announced, I made a conscious decision not to meet my parents. We are all social distancing but I would be lying if I said that the distance hasn’t been hard this time around.
They are old, and my weekly trips to their place were as much for them as they were for me, though I would probably not admit it enough. I thought Ramzaan would be okay, but as March melted into April, I knew that wasn’t going to be the case.
We would have to stay where we are, avoid meeting each other, celebrate, or at least try to and would still have to keep our spirits about us. I decided to make sure that no matter what I do, I will break the fast with them.
Technology helps. It has been a boon because I get to see them every day. But it makes me feel even more isolated than before. It is not the same without sitting across from them and telling my mom how good the food is.
I post the pictures of my Iftar every day. It is to maintain a sense of reality around me. I put them on the family group, I put them on my insta stories and I put them on twitter. Whether its validation or whether it’s just to anchor myself, I would not be able to tell at this point. But it is just another way to make myself feel like I am celebrating this month.
When Ramzaan began, I also put out a tweet saying if anyone wants to do an Iftar with me over video call, I would be willing. And two of my friends, Sameer and Anuja both offered as well.
Sameer goes so far as to send me a picture of himself holding up hide and Seek biscuit saying, “Can I join you in your Iftar with these cookies?” It may not appear much. But to me, it’s a sign that I am being thought of, even at this time. Nothing compensates for the lack of family at this point, but friends remind you they are family too.
Eid is also going to be similar this year, with social distancing being the norm. And I can feel how painful it is going to be for everyone to not be able to celebrate festivals this year. It is the one thing you look forward to without fail every year, a major festival. But this year all we are looking forward to is things going back to a bit of normal. Celebrations will have to wait. Because what is a celebration without the ones you love, being around, year after year.
In the larger scheme of a pandemic, missing a festival seems like a really small thing. And talking about it and lamenting seems to be a sign of not acknowledging my privilege. A privilege which allows me to stay at home, have a job, cook the food I want and get on a video call with my parents every day.
But in my microcosm, it is akin to taking away memories that could have been created. It is about missing the reassuring smells and sounds that characterise as home. And it is about not being able to crack jokes with Dad and not being able to tell Ammi that even when she makes lauki (Bottle Gourd), it tastes better than the best food in the world. It is about missing a part of me this year.
I shall be making burgers and a coffee shake for Iftar today. And have a virtual Iftar ‘date’ with my parents. Maybe that is a memory I can look back on in 2021 and smile about.
Till then, Stay home and Social Distance.
Picture credit: The author provided the images
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