The tradition of Eid invokes a feeling of warm familiarity in most people that includes memories of a grandparent’s house, the coming together of families, tables laden with steaming hot food, all add to the imagery of the occasion. There’s something about waking up knowing that a dish of sweet Sheer Khurma is waiting for you, made lovingly by your mother, wife or sister. (Because men in the family do not concern themselves with cooking and serving the guests — it’s the women who are supposed to look after the kitchen.)
To us it’s just a bowl of vermicelli and dry fruit tenderly stewed in milk till all the flavors break down their barriers and become one. But to someone in charge of making the quintessential Eid dessert, it involves a night full of hard work, from individually toasting the vermicelli, nuts and fruit, to letting them stew in milk for hours, work that often begins the night before, while everyone else is busy celebrating Chaand Raat.
It doesn’t end there. Women, who are often in charge of managing and cooking for the Eid feasts, must juggle the preparation of multiple dishes at once, all to be served to their families with the biggest smile on their faces on the day of Eid. In the course of Eid traditions, and perhaps even Ramzan traditions, this becomes quite the thankless labor, which is taken for granted year after year.
Many in our society think it is a woman’s duty to cook for her family, without acknowledging the amount of labor that goes into it. From waking up early from sleep every day at Sehri time in Ramzan, to slaving in front of a hot stove, frying pakoras and cutting fruit and making drinks at Iftaar, all the while fasting herself, to being expected to plan and execute elaborate Eid luncheons the very next day, is no small feat. Or how on Eid-ul-Azha, women are the ones in charge of portioning, cleaning and distributing the meat. It’s a man’s world, but somehow the woman gets all the work.
For women, chaand raat festivities are marred by fears of street harassment
And even outside the physical labor that the kitchen demands of a woman, if she goes out to take part in the Chaand Raat celebrations, she cannot enjoy the same freedom as a man, because the risk of cat-calling and harassment is all too real, especially during festivals like Eid. Crowded market places and shopping centers serve as the ideal place for harassers to make women uncomfortable, a task they unfortunately excel at.
To confine yourself to a stuffy, hot kitchen, working tirelessly to ensure your family gets to enjoy a wonderful Eid meal appears to be the fate of almost every woman in the country. The invisibility of this labor is highlighted even more when we see our fathers, husbands, brothers and uncles get to sit back and bicker over who gets the TV remote, feet up, not a care in the world. To watch the men of your family be so oblivious to the labor you put in for their enjoyment is never fun.
Every year around the time Ramzan, and then Eid-ul-Fitr rolls around, I am reminded of this fact. How the women in my family, myself included, are subjected to a seemingly endless cycle of 3 AM Sehri preparations, Iftars spent in front of a vat of hot oil, toasted nuts and fruits turned into Sheer Khurma, a seven course Eid luncheon, and then cups and cups of never-ending tea. All while the men get to laze and lounge and talk shop and politics, clueless to how hot the kitchen can really get during the months of April and May.
It is about time men realised the importance of stepping up and sharing the load instead of just glamorising the struggle the women in their family go through. How about an Eid where no woman has to miss out on the festivities just because there is something on the stove that is holding her (and only her) back? An Eid where men are appreciative of everything women do, not just on Eid, but every day, to make their lives smoother and easier.
All this for what purpose? The best thing is stop this show of sehri and iftaar.
Good piece. I would love to hear what boys of this generation think and feel about it.
What a refreshing voice, clear, passionate and honest. Amazing writer and writing.