By: Zeenat Iqbal Hakimjee
The gaiety and glamour of Eid was hardly visible in Iqbal’s junkish “jhuggi”, as he woke up on Eid day. Just eight, Iqbal was still innocently unaware of poverty’s pathetic ‘penalty’ and predicament. Dawn’s Ray’s of hope and happiness,’welcoming Eid’, could hardly penetrate the little boy’s dungeon of darkness and despondency. The trauma in his tragic mind disturbed and perplexed him greatly: Was this really Eid for him?
Since Iqbal’s father departed from this woeful world two years back, life for his poor and loving widowed mother Asma and his doting older sister Shahina, was a dismal and doleful struggle for existence from dawn to dusk.
After putting on his tattered shalwar and kurta, Iqbal came out of his “jhuggi”. Jubilant and joyful greetings of ‘Eid Mubarak’ everywhere, were nothing but cacophony to Iqbal’s ears, used to, as they were, listening to insults and abuses from our ‘sacrosanct’ society. What significance had Eid for him, he wondered. Was Eid really meant for a pauper like him? His sad and sorrowful face clearly symbolised the obvious answer.
“Ammi, can’t I have a new shalwar and kurta and shoes for myself and a lovely shalwar and kameez for sister Shahina?”,asked Iqbal hesitatingly. Asma tried her best to control the painful emotion, but in vain; and tears trickled down her hollow cheeks and skeletal frame. “Beta”, she replied softly, regaining her composure,”If your dear father would have been alive today, perhaps he could have purchased for you the things you want. But you, although a small boy, are intelligent and realise that as a maid in Begum Shagufta’s house, we just make enough to make ends meet and that too with your sister supplementing the family income with her tuitions. Inshallah, the day is bound to come when you are educated with a good job, and then you will be able to buy all the beautiful shalwar-kurta s and shoes you want.” But, alas!, was HOPE the only Eid ‘GIFT’ for him on this auspicious day?
“Iqbal, get ready and let us go to Begum Shagufta’s house to wish her ‘Eid Mubarak’. Tell your sister to hurry up also.” As the ‘tearful’ triad entered Begum Shagufta’s palatial ‘palace’, Iqbal could not fail to notice the ‘obesity of opulence’ which the plump and pudgy Begum so effectively symbolised-the winsome world of wealth and wastefulness. He could not take his eyes off the fabulous furniture, the superb crystal chandeliers and the ‘artful abstract’ paintings, worth millions people said, but which neither the ‘ connoisseur of art’, Begum Shagufta’s, nor the poor little Iqbal could frankly understand and appreciate. The table was set for a sumptuous lunch; full of twelve course mouth-watering dishes one could possibly think of. Her ‘elite’ guests; the ‘selected cream’ of ultra-modern sophisticated, sycophantic and superfluous society, would soon be arriving, and Begum Shagufta’s, bejewelled in her finest silk “joda” and ‘painted’ with the widest available ‘brush’ of puff and powder, to beat Madam Nurjehan hands down, was all set to celebrate Eid with her family and friends, all immaculately dressed in Bombay’s “Kala Niketan” saris and London’s “Saville Row” suits-a celebration which was full of pomp and pomposity to suit the “Daulatmand” Begum and enjoyed with all the joy and ji unsure which is the sole and ‘prideful’ prerogative of the ‘haves’ of our ‘artificial’ society, devoid of sincerity and warmth, and a virtual impossibility for the ‘have-nits’ of our teeming millions.
Iqbal, hesitatingly and a bit fearfully, sat on the ‘elegant velvet’ sofa after wishing, respectfully, ‘Eid Mubarak’ to the bountiful Begum. ” You dirty and mannerless boy,” roared Shagufta’s Begum, “How dare you sit on the sofa which the ‘jamadar’ has just cleaned. Go and sit in the kitchen and the ‘khansama’ will give you some food after the guests have left.” True, how dare the poor maid’s son compete with her ‘Nawab’, elegantly attired in “Nawab-din’s” latest shalwar-kurta?! Iqbal, a little boy as he was, felt as if a dagger had pierced his already wounded, heavy and humiliated heart. He left quietly, but the pain he felt resulted in a torrent of ‘tears of blood’ as he sat, dutifully, on the kitchen stool.
“And you stupid woman”, shouted Begum Shagufta again at Asma, ” You always want an excuse for a holiday. There is plenty of work today. Go and help the ‘khansama’ and mop the drawing-room. You poor people don’t want to work-you deserve poverty.” And adding insult to injury, she emitted more filth from her ‘pan full’ mouth: “And get your daughter married. She has already become an ‘awara’. I don’t want to see her here every now and then.” Tearful Asma was stunned as if a ‘heartless’ bullet had also pierced her forlorn heart- full of agony and anguish, deprivation and despondency, sadness and sorrow. Did the gluttonous Begum have any idea of her poor daughter’s immense dowry problem? How full of gratitude and fervent fond feelings she had come to greet the graceless Begum. Was this also her Eid ‘GIFT’?
In our materialistic society today, we have ‘conveniently’ forgotten the millions of ‘Asmas’, and ‘Iqbals’ and ‘ Shahinas’ of our melancholic and mournful society
the deprived and the dispossessed, the hungry and the humiliated, the poor and the pestilential, the shirtless and the shelter less, in whose bleak and baleful lives, there is nothing but despair and despondency, tears and torments.
On the auspicious occasion of Eid, which will soon be with us, we should not forget what our great Prophet (PBUH) said: “Truly none of you believes until he desires for himself.” And hasn’t the “Mercy Unto Mankind” also said: ” No true Mislim has the right to eat when his neighbour is hungry.” Is Eid only meant for the self-chosen ones’ of the Almoghty?
Our society today is suffering from tension and turmoil, unrest and unhappiness, due to the Almighty’s rightful WRATH; because we have deviated from the fundamental values of life-compassion, love, kindness, justice, equity, tolerance, mercy, courtesy and humility. Love of materialism and hedonism are rampant in our society, and the teeming millions suffering from the painful pangs of hunger and humiliation, pestilence and humiliation, pestilence and poverty, are treated as ‘disposable objects’ to be despised, tormented, oppressed and supressed at the will and whim of the powerful, the influential, the mighty and the rich
the sine-quo-non of ‘respectability’ in our society, whose dutiful and obedient sycophantic ‘servants’ are plentiful and always ready to serve their ‘Masters vested interests.
During the Holy month of Ramazan and the joyful day of Eid, we should seriously ponder deeply over these vitally important questions disturbing and disrupting the very fabric of our society today and try our best, in our small humble way, to make the forthcoming Eid a day of joy and jubilation, gaiety and gladness for all the sections of our society; whether rich or poor. Only when we succeed, and not before, in wiping away the tears from the weeping faces of our innocent orphans, giving succour and solace to our wailing widows and ameliorating the suffering of the deprived and the dispossessed, will Eid have real meaning and purpose, in conformity with the immortal message of the great messenger. We should also give serious thought to the luminous dedicatory lament of the great crusader for the ‘cursed’; Faiz Ahmed Faiz:
” To this day,
And the deep pain of our lives each day:
A pain that is a silent insult
To the false glamour of life around
To those without a future
The wretched of this earth.”