Tuesday, 9 December 2008

"Your days are happy"

Only twice a year did I feel incapable of sleeping. No matter how hard I shut my eye-lids, my mental machinery kept working away and conjuring up all sorts of scenarios and preparing suitable verbal and physical responses. The night before the first day of the new school year was a night of planning, unprecedented ambitions and promises of academic improvement. The night before Eid Al Fitr, however, was all about money. 'How much am I going to make tomorrow?' I constantly asked myself. Hours later, I would shut my eyes and force myself to stop thinking.

Eid was arguably the highlight of the year's religious and social calendar. A day when everyone came together, putting personal piffs aside and reaffirming our human unity - as if! For kids, however, Eid was like the financial district's bonus season (in the long gone times when such rewards existed!) The more relatives -investors- you had, the higher your dividends. After showering and putting on my new or new-looking clothes, I had celebratory breakfast with my family for the first time after a month of fasting - Geimar (thick cream), strawberry jam and tea made for a delicious meal. A few of us would be miming names of particular firework types and one of my brothers who was responsible for supplying them would either mime back or make gestures with his hand to inform us of his final reduction in price.

Having visited our relatives and collected our semiannual pay-out, we rushed to what is known only for the day as 'Eid Square.' Scores of children shouted and sprinted from one ride to another, like a flock of seagulls pouncing on a fisherman's boat. A small ferris wheel was the centre point of a number of lame attractions that included a raffle stall; a fireworks stall; a shoot 'em up table and a candyfloss corner. The main attraction was a couple of group swings with two smoking men with thick moustaches at the helm doing all the pushing and shouting so as to excite the lunatic crowd. Only I seemed to notice that one of the swings was right next to an electric post with dangerous-looking cables dangling from it. Unfortunately for me, it was the swing that I was sitting in. As the kids bellowed out a traditional Eid chant: "Push harder! We won't come down unless we're beaten up!", I screamed my heart out. "STOOPPP!! LET ME DOWN!" I never liked being pushed hard on swings but this was swings liked I'd never seen before: with a group of crazed children and an ominous man pushing so hard that my seat would occasionally hit the cable from the nearby post. I got off that ride with my hands on my face and my brothers' mocking laughs ringing in my ears.

Eid also meant new clothes, for young and old. Children wore different kinds of outfits to mark the occasion. Some wore checkered suits with elastic ties that made them look old and stupid; others wore jeans, shirts and sunglasses eventhough it was during a relatively cold time of year. As I look back now, I'm grateful to have been the odd-looking kid who dressed casually and sometimes didn't even manage to buy new clothes for one reason or other. I was content with what I had and didn't pay much attention to sartorial details - oh how I'd love to be of such aesthetic modesty today!
After spending hours on minute-long rides that seemed to our naive and mathematically-inept brains like an eternity, we would call it a day and go home with bucketloads of joy, excitement and inevitable regret at wasting all our money. If we were lucky, we'd be treated to a film or other such luxury. Our minds would then go back into school mode and we would start methodically panicking over our unfinished, or unstarted, homework.
This was how I celebrated Eid more than a decade ago. Today, as hard as I try and as desperately as I search, I cannot find much happiness in such communal festivities. People always asked me why I never look happy whenever there's something to celebrate; my robotic response is something along the lines of "Who said I'm not happy? I am, but I'm not going to dance about it, am I?"
As you may have gathered from previous posts, I'm not exactly a party animal. To me, most festivities are off-puttingly exaggerated and I find myself raring to slap anyone who smiles too much. Particularly difficult to stomach are the three big festive occasions; the two Eids and Christmas - the latter I have never enjoyed and this year seems to be no exception. Karaokeing to The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl may have offered a glimpse of Christmas's reputed sense of community and togetherness, but I remain unconvinced.
Eid is embarrassing; Christmas is cold and birthdays are, well, check the archive. True happiness needs no occasion and we should be forever grateful to be alive and to have one another.
By the crack of dawn, my eyes sumbit to physical exhaustion and.. slowly.. I fall asleep.


Anonymous said...

loved every part of it.wish you all the happiness in the world.

Anonymous said...

Your writings always have me hooked, I always check how long your piece is before reading, and if it’s long I get extra happy and read it slowly to take everything in and make sure I don't miss a thing.

Another great piece, but i couldn’t stop laughing at how grumpy this sounded:

“To me, most festivities are off-puttingly exaggerated and I find myself raring to slap anyone who smiles too much.”

Hahaha you are officially the Eid Grinch! :D

Little Penguin said...

anon1, thank you for your warm wishes.. all the happiness in the world? I'd hate to be that happy.. :)

anon2, i've been called killjoy, depressive, boring, a man with issues, etc.. Eid Grinch must be the funniest name to date.. thank you very much for your kind words.. if your words were money, it'd be just about 75 syrian liras.. :)

Abbas Hawazin said...

you should see the festivities here in Amman, It's raining, nobody is on the street, verrrrrry dull.

Anonymous said...

Mention the ‘Eid trip’...Those were the best trips.Shaped the majority of what I believe a trip ought to be. In that particular restaurant. Only you were too young to partake in the enterprise of climbing that mountain, or were you? I don’t remember did you climb it with us? I like how selective you are from the data base of your memory; I too try to be selective displaying only the pick of the crop.
So very proud of you.

Touta said...

Eid + UK= I would rather watch 300. And that is really saying something. The atmosphere is so dead. have you ever visited the eid parties that the arabic school/iraqi communities put on? :S

Anonymous said...

Nicely done; again bringing back the good old memories. And isnt it ironic that over a decade later, the supplier still supplies lol..

Good work man.. i'm waiting on your next piece

Anonymous said...

Nice. I have to be honest, it wasnt AS enjoyable to read as some of your other pieces, usually im reading so fast and yet i dont want the paragraph to end! but still a great piece of writing. Still waiting on school daze part 3? .. :)

"The more relatives -shareholders- you had, the higher your dividends." lol and the electric post swing was just loool

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the last few pieces, every sentence is a tickle (oocasionally a sting but only because of the vainly denied truth to them...!) Enough for now, you're not short of praises it seems, elhamdillah :)


Miss Violet said...

لو أنو متأخرة... بس كل عام وانت بخير وأيامك سعيدة

Eye Raki said...

I missed your posts bro, keep them coming.

I'm in your brothers house now and hes boring me to death practicing his Muharram na3i voice. If only he could recite as well you can write.

"anna khaaaaayfa let goooool maadri" is the only phrase he managed to get stuck in my head.

Cheer up man Muharram is only hours away.

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