Wednesday, August 20, 2008

White Eid Part 1

We started to explore all our options regarding Eid-ul-fitr (a muslim celebration after the month of Ramadan when devoted muslims fast dawn to dusk). We could drive to Toronto and spend the Eid among friends. Sounded great but there was a problem. According to prior calculations the Eid would be either on Thursday or Friday (based upon lunar calender), which meant I would have to take those days off and loose remuneration (being a contractor). That line of thinking stopped right there. Another choice was to go across the border to Michigan and visit Mili’s niece who lived in Midland with her family. She had invited us earlier and we knew there were a large number of Muslims there. Midland was four hours trip on car, quite doable. But again taking a day off was unavoidable. We had to reject it too. Economy here hadn’t been too good lately and loosing money was no option.
A week before Eid-ul-fitr Mili did something very clever but obvious. She looked up into the telephone book for known Muslim names. Bingo! She had a match. A quick call established association with that name to a Bangladeshi family. I saw smile in her face. This wasn’t going to be a solemn Eid celebration after all! I guess after a month of fasting she could expect to celebrate. A formal visit to the other family revealed that the gentleman, Shabuj, a former lecturer of Applied Physics taught in a local college. From him we found out that though there weren’t too many Muslim families around, a couple of dozen students from Bangladesh had recently come to the town to study in Algoma University and Sault (Soo) College. One of them, Sumon had rented the ground floor of their house and was living with his wife Sonia. We were very pleased to see a house full of compatriots after a seemingly long gap. The Eid celebration looked very prospective.
Owing to its location Sault Ste Marie gets more snow than its southern neighbors. It was only the beginning of December and the town was already covered with inch thick sheet of snow. The glorified appearance of green summer grass had disappeared completely, from every inch of ground that one could see, replaced by the glossy, soft, ubiquitous crystals of snow. To a mind that is open for novelty and exotic beauty this view could be overwhelming. While I enjoy every bit of short living summer here, deep inside me something also lusts for the delight of viewing a good snow fall, something that’s quite rhythmic, queer and someway strange. No matter how much mess the piled up snow creates and how difficult it becomes to drive on slippery and sometimes icy roads I have always, in a rather weird way, loved a snowy winter. That’s why I was quite excited when my journalist friend Ekram gave me the idea to write something about a white Eid. While in west a white Christmas is something expected and cherished for, a white Eid is definitely not something very usual for us, though living in this part of the world had rewarded many with that experience, more or less. I got my partly wrecked camera (thanks to screaming machine) out and loaded it with a film. It was clicking time.
It was already Wednesday and tons of things had to be done before the Eid day, which we decided to celebrate on Saturday, not Thursday, not Friday (having seen Arabs and Indian, Pakistani communities battling over Eid days several times in USA and actually celebrating it on different days sometimes in the same city, made taking my decision much easier). For me there was no taking work off. Initially I thought of arranging this party into a community center, which had to be rented. My goal was to find as many people as I could for the party, religion was not an issue. If it was a celebration, Eid or not, it had to look like one. That wasn’t going to happen without the diversity. After a frank discussion with Shabuj bhai and bhabi we all agreed that cooking for thirty-forty people could be a problem. So, it was time for plan B. Ming’s Buffet – a Chinese restaurant located only minutes away from my work place had won my heart at first gulp. I love the greasy food and never forget to gorge. I greedily mentioned about Ming. To my satisfaction everybody else agreed. Ming came here from Toronto a year ago and had been battling to survive in a slow town. Since we came here another Chinese restaurant had already closed its doors due to lack of business. I didn’t want the same ending to Ming. His food was good and affordable besides the pleasure of having a strange conversation with him where half the time none of us had any idea what the other one was saying. Ming had come from Hong Kong just a year ago and was yet to get proficient in English.
It was becoming difficult to get our guest lists going. The colleges were closed for Xmas vacation and many Bangladeshi students had already left Sault for Toronto. Only six stayed back. Mili and I invited our Srilankan friends and Shabuj bhai promised to bring his neighbor and an Indian friend. I had a senior friend from an American university who was working as a teacher in the Lake Superior University, just on the other side of the US bridge, a long stretch of metallic overpass that joined Sault, Canada with Sault, USA – a much smaller entity. A quick call to him revealed that he had two colleagues who were Muslims, one from Iraq another Palestine. I was quick to invite them all though none of them could make it due to their busy schedules.
Friday passed by quietly. In most places Eid was celebrated. I later heard some students had said their Eid prayer somewhere in Sault College that morning. I was at work and had no information regarding this. I wasn’t too crazy about the prayer but I felt bad for missing a good photo opportunity.

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