Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fulbright Blog
Date: October 26, 2006
Place: Dhaka

Yesterday was Eid ul-Fitr. It was pushed back from Tuesday October 24 to Wednesday October 25 because you couldn't see the moon on Monday night (apparently it was cloudy and the new moon marks the beginning of the month after Ramadan...)

I spent Eid day with Shefali and her family. In the morning both Shefali and her sister-in-law, Lily, invited me to have breakfast with them. So, I first went up to Shefali's house where I had a very yummy breakfast comprised of very sweet, greasy fried things. "Mishti" is apparently the Bangla word for sweet and I certainly had a lot of that! It was great though, since I LOVE sweets - like dessert for breakfast! Then, I went down to Lily's house and had tea. They tried to get me to eat more sweets, but I just couldn't manage to eat more.

The Eid tradition is to exchange gifts before the Eid feast (several days before usually), but I brought a gift for Shefali (a blue silk sari) and a gift for her family (a basket of fruit) when I went for breakfast. I also gave small toys to children all throughout the day.

After the second breakfast, I went back to my apartment to rest, which was a good thing since my stomach was not happy with me for eating all of the sweets that morning! Then, lunch came around and I went back upstairs to Shefali's for the main Eid feast. The entire family was present this time. The children, younger family members, and servants ate on a mat on the floor while the older members and the men ate at the table. The food was delicious! There were all kinds of chicken and beef curries, shobji (mixed vegetables) and of course, sweets again for dessert. I made the mistake of taking larger portions initially. I found out that it is better to take smaller portions and then have several helpings than to take one larger portion. This way, your host/hostess gets the satisfaction of repeatedly serving you! If you only take one serving, they think that you do not like the food!

After the feast, I went back to my apartment to rest again. Later, Shefali came down and took me out with her to visit a friend. Apparently, the morning of Eid is for family, but the afternoon is for visiting friends. The one friend that we visited told us that she was booked for the next three days with visits to friends! Eid day some of her friends were coming to her and the two days after she was travelling to visit friends. Many Bangladeshis also travel to see family during this period. I was fed more food at Shefali's friend's house. Her friend was a great cook (and preferred to cook herself, rather than having a boua cook it.) She gave me some of desert to take home. (It tasted a bit like a very soft, chewy peanut brittle without the large peanuts in it...)

It was a great experience! I am very grateful to Shefali for letting me spend it with her family. I missed out on Iftar this year, because I arrived too late, but hopefully I will get to experience that next year. Iftar is the daily meal of fried foods that the family eats after sunset. At the start of Ramadan, Muslims have a large feast. Then, during the holy month of Ramadan, they eat a large breakfast before the sun rises. (A guy comes around all of the streets at 4am with a loud horn yelling at people to get up - I don't miss that!!) Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink (even water) during the day. Pregnant women and the infirm are exempt from fasting. Then, after the sun goes down, they have Iftar which is the traditional fried meal. I believe the foods are fried for the additional calories...

Eid is the beginning of the month after the month of Ramadan; this is when the fasting ends. The end of the fast is celebrated with the large feast which I described above...

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