Normally, during this time of the year, people are always in a rush—whether it is the rush to beat traffic and get home in time for iftar, wake up and gulp down some sehri before going to sleep, waking up groggy in the morning and rushing to make it to work on time, racing to the shops to buy Eid clothes and gifts for one’s loved ones, or trying to make it to the many iftar parties. It all boils down to this: Ramadan passes by in a blur, and then comes what everyone looks forward to, Eid and Eid bonuses.
But this time things are different. Unlike other times, this year, time seems to have slowed down somewhat. The absence of feverish shopping, making plans for iftar, preparing for Eid is loudly absent from our lives (well, some of our lives. I will not get into the shoppers crowding the stores). One of the perks of Ramadan, the shortened office times, is also missing this time in most cases. I am quite confident no one is missing the end-of-office traffic though.
Due to the emerging economic crisis, lots of companies are not being able to give their employees their Eid bonuses. Some are not even being able to give regular salaries! Tons of people are losing their jobs, and with the situation only getting worse, many are terrified of what the future holds, and whether they will continue to be able to afford food and shelter for their families. Hordes of people are going to their villages and being criticised for crowding into ferries and buses to go home. I, however, have a different view. Because of the economic crisis, these people might not be able to afford to live in Dhaka and want to go home so that they can at least have a roof over their heads, and maybe find some work in the village, where helping hands are almost always needed.
As Ramadan is ending and Eid is approaching, a new terror has gripped this part of the world—cyclone Amphan. At a time when everyone is normally excited about spending the festival with their loved ones, planning what dishes to cook, what clothes to wear, and where to visit, hundreds of thousands of people’s lives are being torn apart. Many people have lost their homes, possessions and some have lost loved ones. Adding to this is the continued threat of Covid-19, which means people cannot gather together to protect themselves or even seek comfort, because it may place them in danger.
Covid-19 has gripped the world in its claws and is refusing to let go. Recently, it has hit very close to home. It very possibly claimed the life of our neighbour’s father and put our neighbour’s sister in the ICU. Many in their family have tested positive for Covid-19. Our neighbours have a small son, close to the age of my little niece. The grief of losing a parent, being afraid for the sister, concerned of whether they themselves have been affected… I cannot begin to imagine how they must be feeling. As their neighbour, we feel devastated for their loss and anxieties, and worry about exposure ourselves due to the close proximity. I have two parents at home, and a large portion of my day is spent spraying disinfectants around the front door, making sure my parents stay away from there. All of us in the building are in self-imposed quarantine, which means this year will be the first year I will be spending Eid away from my husband and parents-in-laws after marriage (I had come to visit my parents for a few days before this happened). But on the plus side, it means I get to revisit my childhood and stay with my parents for Eid!
Similar situations are present in hundreds of thousands of households across the globe. Millions of people have already been affected, and the dire warnings of more to come is ever-present. Some people call Covid-19 “the rich man’s disease” as it does not seem to be present in the slums of Bangladesh. But if that were the case, all the people not being able to afford to stay in Dhaka and are heading to their villages should be safe and free from criticism right?
I could go on about all the worries and bad things happening in the world, but I would also like to remind everyone of a tiny ray of hope that is present in these dark times. Every Eid we run around trying to get everything ready before Eid and/or focus on material things such as clothes and compete with extended family and friends to see who makes the best nashta, which means Eid is almost always exhausting. This year, we can take some time to relax during the (short) holiday and enjoy it with family, and maybe connect with extended family and friends over phone or video calls and just spend some time to catch up with each other. We can also make the special food that we ourselves love, instead of what other people might like. Most importantly, we can take some time to be thankful to be alive, and pray for those who are not, and for those who are suffering from illness, loss and financial hardship.