Sharjah: My house used to look like a war room on Eid day but this year it’s as quiet as the hush of an evening in Dubai after 8pm.
I miss the whirr of the blender as it would grind meat for those delectable galawati kebabs and the clanging sound of the pots and pans in the kitchen from where the appetising aroma of Avadhi biryani, qorma and siwain wafted through the air and fanned the hunger pangs.
I miss the sights and sounds of my girls as they skittered around the rooms in their new clothes and makeup, scattering smiles and holding up their henna-filled palms to accept Eidya from the guests who arrived at our place like a gentle stream at first, and then in an uncontrollable gush.
Last Eid we had 120, nearly half of them at the same time, much to the consternation of my wife.
I remember how she shot me an accusing look when I sneaked into the kitchen to grab some plates. “This is so embarrassing. I told you to get some more chairs, didn’t I? But you wouldn’t listen. I hope you are more prepared next year,” she said angrily as she struck the wooden spoon against a near-empty pot of mutton kadhai. I got the message and slipped out. With her dupatta wrapped around her waist, she resembled the 19th century warrior Queen Rani of Jhansi as she stirred the gravy and shouted instructions at my daughters.
It’s just that instead of a sword, she wielded a ladle.
But this Eid, an odd silence has fallen over my house.
I woke up late and performed the Eid prayers at home alone while my wife and daughters lazed around with their cellphones.
As I unrolled the prayer mat, my mind raced back to last Eid and the many before it when we used to pray in congregation at the picturesque Noor Mosque in Sharjah.
Hugs and handshakes, which were the order of the day, now seem a distant memory as do visits to friends and relatives.
Such trips would now cost me Dh5,000 while my host could be fined Dh10,000.
Another family tradition was watching the newest Eid release in theatre. Salman Khan entertained with 10 consecutive Eid releases including blockbusters Dabangg (2010), Ek Tha Tiger (2012) Bajrangi Bhaijan (2015) and Sultan (2016).
But now cinemas remain closed. There are no Eid concerts or fireworks either. Dubai’s World Trade Centre and the Sharjah Expo Centre which hosted Ramadan fairs have been turned into field hospitals for COVID-19 patients.
As I gazed out at the deserted Buheirah Corniche from my bedroom window, I prayed for things to return to normalcy. I prayed for the sick, the frightened, those who have died, and those who grieve. I prayed that Eid 2021 is vastly different from this one and my guests make up for their absence next year. I can’t wait to welcome them with open arms.