It was getting late and I was still far from done with whatever it was I had originally set out to do. It was that time of year again, and I found myself in the midst of happy people, laughing, talking, getting excited. The silvery moon peeped through a chink in a cloud and a few people looked up smiling.
The market square had been cordoned off, and everyone had had to park their cars a little way off and walk the rest of the way in. Girls of ages ranging from toddlers and teenagers to eighty-year olds walked around, hands held aloft and covered in mehndi. Others – looking pale as their bodies went numb from sitting in the same position for too long – sat around getting it applied. A few shy-looking guys, clad in white shalwar-kameez leaned against poles and cars and trees, pretending to go through their phones, just to avoid looking too interested in the scene. They had probably been forced to drive their sisters or friends or mothers here. I grinned at a particularly sickened face.
Feeling a wave of exhaustion wash over me, I deperately looked around for my cousin. She had gotten lost in the crowd and knowing her, she might not even remember me unless I called her up. But looking down at my mehndi-laden hands, I knew there was no way I’d be touching my iPhone.
There was a crackle of static and then a burst of bhangra music. There was a visible, palpable change in the crowd and the atmosphere.
It felt like Eid.
But it was getting really late and I was hungry. And thankfully, I spotted her just then.
Hurrying over, I poked her in the ribs with my elbow. “Let’s go! I’m hungry.” Zara rolled her eyes, “You’re always hungry. But how will you eat? Both of ours’ hands are off-limits right now.”
I groaned, “Seriously? Well – let’s get home anyway. Maybe someone will still be awake and can give us a few spoonfuls of something. ” Turning around, I started towards the car down the road. Of course that was way too easy.
I heard a shout behind me, “Hold on, bhai!” and turned to see a guy walking towards Zara. Sighing resignedly, I dragged my feet back to where I had started from. “Oh.. Zoya, this is a really old friend of mine from school, Mekaal. Mekaal, this is my cousin Zoya.”
I smiled politely at the guy, then looked pointedly at Zara. “Just a moment… Why don’t you go on, and I’ll meet you at the car. Tell the driver to start the car.” Adjusting my printed chiffon dupatta with the back of my hand, I walked briskly towards the sand-coloured Civic. As soon as I sat down inside, I was overcome with a sudden fit of giggles as I remembered last Eid, when Zara had met about ten people she knew from kindergarten and my Dad had referred to her as a social animal. Something about the term was just very funny. And meeting Mekaal in the middle of a random market square in Lahore, brought everything back.
Eid after eid, Zara and I had done everything together. Getting our clothes stitched, looking for the right color combinations, the right types of cloth, the accessories, the mehndi, the swiping of sweet-meat from the fridge on Chand Raat and helping eachother dress up on the first day. It saddened me to think this would be the last time we would be doing all this. At least for a little while. We had grown up; we were both on our way to universities abroad and being in Pakistan on Eid would not be feasible.
Thinking of what was to come, I felt a rise in my energy levels. It was Eid. I was with my best friend. The night was considerably young. There was still a lot to be done. And I wanted to get on with it. There was no Eid like the Pakistani Eid and I intended to fully enjoy my last one here. Getting out, I shouted at Zara to hurry up so that we could still catch tickets to the late night show at the cinema. She looked up in surprise and then grinned. “Be there in a minute!”
Waving goodbye to Mekaal, she hurried over just as the alarm on my iPhone went off. 12.00 a.m.
“Eid Mubarak!” I cried out, giving Zara a big hug.