Things which make Eid special, home and away
When you have recently moved to a new country, there are plenty of things you don’t know for certain. Little did I know that I would even have to add “when to celebrate Eid” to the list.
There may be difficulties coming under one umbrella in unity and solidarity in a massive country like Australia, but surely, the Muslim (and Bangladeshi) dominated suburb I live in would be an exception, or so I thought.
Despite there being plenty of perks of living in a deshi area, there is no consensus on when to start and finish Ramadan. Without going into much detail (and create further confusion), let me just say there are two groups: One which celebrates Eid based on the lunar calendar, and one which relies on visual sighting of our only permanent natural satellite.
But, I must admit, the spirit of Eid remains the same whichever group one belongs to. For us, the newbies without many friends and families in town, it meant invites spread across not one, but two days of Eid.
Camel and deer burger in Haldon Street
In the run up to Ramadan, all I’d been hearing was how delectable the Iftar and Sehri scene was in Lakemba, a suburb in south-western Sydney. Yes, when the time came, it did not disappoint. Beef burgers are so passé, it’s now time to taste cooked patties of ground deer and camel meat.
And, once the main course is done, why not try some Palestinian Kanafe or sweet cheese pastry as dessert? During Ramadan, the restaurants remain open until late into the night, throbbing with thousands of visitors.
With coverage of its food extravaganza in The Telegraph, ABC, and SBS, Haldon Street in Lakemba has truly gone mainstream.
It’s not surprising that I first learned about the food scene from a non-Muslim colleague who apparently is a fan of this area during Ramadan.
Inclusive Aussie society
Some may debate about whether Australian society is truly inclusive or not. But to me, being inclusive is when my colleague, who is a member of the LGBT community, writes a blog promoting the spirit of Ramadan.
It’s inclusive when a newly-arrived Bangladeshi family is welcomed with an open heart to an Iftar organized by a completely different community of Muslims; it is when the local Caucasian Christian MP visits the Eidgah to thank the Muslim community for their generosity in the month of Ramadan.
The vision of one of the local charities sums it up nicely: “Confidently Muslim, comfortably Australian.” Sadia Bashir, a mother of two, came to Australia in 2005 and shared her feelings about Eid in Dhaka and Sydney.
“It’s like comparing apples and oranges. When we first came here, it felt lonely during Eids, we missed everything from my mother’s cooking to the Dhaka atmosphere. As years passed, we started making more friends, and now we celebrate Eid with a lot of people.”
“The two days of Eid makes it more interesting,” says Hemayet Hossain Himu, a resident of Australia for almost two decades. Himu adds: “Actually, the two groups with opposing views of when to celebrate Eid get along well.”
Himu’s father-in-law, Md Shafiuzzaman, who is currently in town from Bangladesh, thinks Eid here has its own advantages too.
“Two days of Eid, in a way, adds to the diversity of this land. Also, I really enjoy the fact that many families come together and celebrate Eid together, which I feel is, sometimes, absent back home.”
It’s time for that cliched sentence in a piece, illustrating the experience of Eid far away from home for the first time: As I was leaving the Eidgah, I reminisced about Eid in Dhaka. The empty city without its usual pandemonium always signalled the best time of the year. What made it more special was the warmth of my loved ones.
Yes, Bangladeshis residing in Australia miss it, and, probably we will get used to celebrating Eid here eventually. But what will make it more special in this land, which I now call my home, is all Muslims celebrating Eid on the same day. After all, unlike Mars, we only have one moon.
Radef Anwar is a communications professional, currently residing in Sydney.