The countdown for the Eid-ul-Azha begins at once the Eid-ul-Fitr ends. The “Feast of Sacrifice” in which Muslims slaughter livestock and distribute meat among the poor, brings forward festive vibes everywhere. Mouth-watering delicacies remains the best attraction of this festival of sacrifice.
“We arrange mezban on every festival, however, the one during the Qurbani Eid remains the biggest arrangement. From my 5-years-old sister to my white-hair grandpa, everyone gets involved in this festival by this way or that,” shares Rakib Hasan, a second-year student of Physics at Chittagong University.
However, everything related to Eid seems uncertain now. Before the pandemic, Eid activities used to start 2/3 days prior to the main day. Going to the cattle markets, exploring different shops, gathering at a common space where all the purchased livestock would be stored, asking around which cow or goat cost how much, the adults gossiping at one corner, the children running around and playing with cattle- these are the pictures missing this time.
Well, Rakib will miss that festive look of his house as no mezban will be arranged this year. “As the Delta variant continues its horrors, my father has decided not to arrange any gathering this year,” he dais.
As family gatherings might be missing this year, households might miss the familiar busy kitchen vibes. Family members would divide the works among themselves and start preparing the sweets and savoury on the night before. But it won’t be that exciting as there will be no guest to serve those foods.
On the day of Eid, after the Eid Jamaat (congregational prayer) the males of the households sacrifice the animals and take meat up to their houses. That’s when the actual feast cooking usually starts.
But the traditions have changed in the past two years. When social distancing is the new normal, all the customs surrounding Eid have been modified. The Eid Jamaat at the National Eidgah is not participated by all. The tradition of visiting relatives and neighbours have also been minimised. And this has resulted in the scarce of mouth-watering smells from the kitchen during the last Eid; this Eid won’t be different either.
Coming to the special dishes of the Eid-ul-Azha, it is the part people are generally most excited about. Every household has a few favourite dishes for this particular Eid. Those dishes include Beef Rezala, Nehari, Kala Bhuna, Hari Kabab, Sheek Kabab etc.
Malibagh resident Tahmina Chowdhury, a mother of three, used to cook some of her specialities with sacrificial meat, like spicy beef gravy and rice flour roti, Beef Rezala, Mutton Rezala, Beef Kata Moshla, chicken korma, etc. She used to collect all kinds of spices for cooking before every Eid-ul-Azha.
“You see, I cannot find the enthusiasm to cook so many dishes now because there are not many people to eat them. I might cook only one curry and Polao for my family this time,” she said the middle-aged homemaker with a heavy heart.
On the other hand, Mrs Afrida Khan’s family will be missing the whole sacrificial part as they have decided to perform their sacrificial duties through Bidyanondo Foundation considering the current Covid situation in the country. This drastic change in their process of Qurbani has impacted all of their Eid traditions.
She used to cook 6-7 dishes before, but now she has lost her enthusiasm. The brighter side is, she has now more free time to spend with her family members.
“The pressure used to be huge on me due to all the sorting and distribution of the meat and then cooking all the food, but since last year it’s become a little easier for me to handle all the work,” said the only cook in the family.
Every kid has a favourite house to visit during Eid, so does the 12-year-old Alvi Ishmam. As his school is closed ever since 2020, Alvi’s aunt’s house used to be his last resort of fun. However, the grim COVID picture will make him even miss his aunt’s Beef Korma and Porota this time.
“Khalamoni used to serve me the beef and porota with some chilled coke. After that, she would give me her special firni on a bowl and my Eid Salami in my Panjabi’s pocket.”
While Alvi will be missing his aunty’s specially cooked firni, Fariha Afsana is more than upset as the situation seems not favourable for her to experiment with some delicate dishes like she does during every Eid with her friends. As her professional medical exam got postponed, she has been in her home in Narayanganj for the past 2 months.
“I thought I would be cooking a dozen of dishes this Eid as there is no pressure of study right now. But no parents are ready to let their children go even to their friend’s house. I’ve no option but to cook alone, which I am sure won’t taste good,” said the final year medical student of Central Medical College Cumilla.
There is one more thing that has really turned to a negative direction that is the smooth process of distribution of meat to the poor. Amid the government-imposed lockdown protocols and the strict health guidelines maintained by the city people, the homeless folks, beggars and destitute cannot reach the doors of the wealthy.
This includes another change of Eid cooking which is arranging feasts for the poor. In many parts of the country, rich people follow a tradition of arranging feast for the poor after Eid day which is going to get cancelled for the second year in a row.
The writer is a third-year student of Journalism at Dhaka University.