Written by: Zeenat Hakimjee
The gaiety and glamour of Eid was hardly visible in Iqbal's jhuggi, as he woke up on Eid day. Just eight, Iqbal was still innocently unaware of poverty's pathetic 'penalty' and predicament. Dawn's Ray's of hope and happiness, 'welcoming Eid', could hardly penetrate the little boy's dungeon of darkness and despondency. The trauma in his tragic mind disturbed and perplexed him greatly: Was this really Eid for him?
Since Iqbal's father departed from this woeful world two years ago, life for his poor and loving widowed mother Asma and his doting older sister Shahina, was a dismal and doleful struggle for existence from dawn to dusk.
After putting on his tattered shalwar and kurta, Iqbal came out of his jhuggi. Jubilant and joyful greetings of 'Eid Mubarak' everywhere, were nothing but cacophony to Iqbal's ears, used to, as they were, to insults and abuses from our sacrosanct society. What significance had Eid for him, he wondered. Was Eid really meant for a pauper like him? His sad and sorrowful face clearly symbolized the obvious answer.
"Ammi, can't I have a new shalwar and kurta and shoes for myself and a lovely shalwar and kameez for sister Shahina?" asked Iqbal hesitatingly. Asma tried her best to control the painful emotion, but in vain. Tears trickled down her hollow cheeks. "Beta", she replied softly, regaining her composure, "If your dear father had been alive today, he would have purchased the things you want. But you are intelligent and realize that as a maid in Begum Shagufta's house, I earn just enough to make ends meet and that too with your sister supplementing the family income with her tuitions. Inshallah, the day is bound to come when you are educated and have a good job, and then you will be able to buy all the beautiful shalwar-kurtas and shoes you want."
Alas! was ‘hope’ to be the only Eid 'GIFT' for him on this auspicious day?
"Iqbal, get ready and let us go to Begum Shagufta's house to wish her 'Eid Mubarak'. Tell your sister to hurry up also."
As the trio entered Begum Shagufta's 'palace', Iqbal could not fail to notice the opulence which the plump and pudgy Begum so effectively symbolized. He could not take his eyes off the fabulous furniture, the superb crystal chandeliers and the artful abstract paintings, worth millions people said, but which neither Begum Shagufta herself nor the poor little Iqbal could frankly understand and appreciate. The table was set for a sumptuous lunch, laden with all the mouth-watering dishes one could possibly think of. Her elite guests, the selected cream of the ultra-modern, sophisticated, sycophantic and superfluous society, would soon be arriving and Begum Shagufta, bejewelled in her finest silk suit and painted with the widest available brush of puff and powder, to beat Madam Nurjehan hands down, was all set to celebrate Eid with her family and friends. All of them were immaculately dressed in Bombay's Kala Niketan saris and London's Saville Row suits. They were ready for the celebration which was full of pomp and pomposity to suit the rich Begum.
Iqbal, hesitatingly and a bit fearfully, sat down on the elegant, velvet sofa after wishing, respectfully, 'Eid Mubarak' to the bountiful Begum. "You dirty and mannerless boy," roared Shagufta Begum, "how dare you sit on the sofa? Go and sit in the kitchen and the khansama will give you some food after the guests have left."
True, how dare the poor maid's son compete with her Nawabs, elegantly attired in Nawabdin's latest shalwar-kurtas? Iqbal, a little boy as he was, felt as if a dagger had pierced his already wounded, heavy and humiliated heart. He left quietly, but the pain he felt resulted in a torrent of tears as he sat dutifully on the kitchen stool.
"And you stupid woman," shouted Begum Shagufta again at Asma, "You always want an excuse for a holiday. There is plenty of work today. Go and help the khansama and mop the drawing-room. You poor people don't want to work...you deserve poverty." And adding insult to injury, she emitted more filth from her paan-filled mouth. "And get your daughter married. I don't want to see her here every now and then."
Tearful Asma was stunned as if a bullet had pierced her forlorn heart. Did the gluttonous Begum have any idea of her poor daughter's immense dowry problem? Didn’t she know how full of gratitude and expectations she had come to greet the graceless Begum? Was this also her Eid gift?
In our materialistic society today, we have conveniently forgotten the millions of Asmas and Iqbals and Shahinas of our society. We have forgotten the deprived and the dispossessed, the hungry and the humiliated, the poor and the pestilential, the shirtless and the shelterless, in whose bleak and baleful lives, there is nothing but despair and despondency, tears and torments.
On the auspicious occasion of Eid, which will soon be with us, we should not forget what our great prophet Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم said, "Truly none of you believes until he desires for others what he desires for himself." And hasn't the Mercy unto Mankind also said, "No true Muslim has the right to eat when his neighbour is hungry."
Our society today is suffering from tension and turmoil, unrest and unhappiness due to the Almighty's rightful wrath because we have deviated from the fundamental values of life---compassion, love, kindness, justice, equity, tolerance, mercy, courtesy and humility. Love of materialism and hedonism are rampant in our society, and the teeming millions suffering from the painful pangs of hunger and humiliation, pestilence and poverty are treated as disposable objects to be despised, tormented, oppressed and suppressed at the will and whim of the powerful, the influential, the mighty and the rich---the sine-quo-non of respectability in our society, whose dutiful and obedient sycophantic servants are plentiful and always ready to serve their Masters’ vested interests.
During the holy month of Ramazan and the joyful day of Eid, we should seriously ponder deeply over these vitally important questions disturbing and disrupting the very fabric of our society today and try our best, in our small humble way, to make the forthcoming Eid a day of joy and jubilation, gaiety and gladness for all the sections of our society, whether rich or poor. Only when we succeed, and not before, in wiping away the tears from the weeping faces of our innocent orphans, giving succour and solace to our wailing widows and ameliorating the suffering of the deprived and the dispossessed, will Eid have a real meaning and purpose, in conformity with the immortal message of the great Messenger, Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم.