A brief history of human achievements and my wait for the Rooet-Hilal Committee to announce Chaand for Eid.

“Did they see it yet?” I asked my already irate mother as she fluffed the pillows on the various couches in the living room. She obviously seethed but didn’t answer. I stared at her expectantly as she busied herself with the couches and pillows again.

What is she even doing? My eight year old brain screamed inside.

She finally smiled a satisfied smile.

“Did you ask something, honey?” She asked kindly.

“Did the men see the moon for Eid yet?”

“No”, She said as she went back to critically examining the couch, “And I hope they don’t. I’ve got tons to do for Eid still. There won’t be any time”.

Crestfallen, I made it back to my room.

“Did they announce the sighting yet?” I asked as I dusted and fluffed a few pillows myself, my room a chaos of disorganized thoughts that was so indicative of my teenager mind.

“Not yet”, My mom’s face lined deeply as she examined my room, trying to pick faults with it and failing, “You know how they are. Always springing it on us last minute”.

The committee of men in charge of the sighting of the moon sat seriously as my siblings and I hustled around the house, yelling at each other. The yelling was occasionally broken up by raucous laughter.

“What the hell is their deal?” I asked, almost as irate as my mom, “Why would they just not spit it out? Don’t they know when the month would start? This is science. They are sitting there waiting over a cauldron”.

“Hush!” My mom, the biggest believer of organized religion and all its keepsakes, tried to stare me down, “That is disrespectful”.

“How? Why?” I argued, “They will see the moon by sitting around a table? And why do we need such a huge team? One man is enough to use a device to see the moon, binoculars or a telescope”.

“Well”, My mom said with watery-eyed admiration for the patriarchy around the table that constituted the meeting place for the Rooet-e-Hilal committee, “It’s auspicious to see the Ramzan moon. And then pray”.

“And is it also auspicious to spend so much money paying them to sit around the table?” My sister chimed in. She’s not the middle child but has modified her ideas to fit the middle child psyche and syndrome.

“Ask for forgiveness”, Our mother snapped, “They are serving religion and Muslims. They know what’s important. If left up to your generation, you might not even let the lunar calendar be anymore”.

“The lunar calendar is a valid thing”, I said, “Some people follow the movement of the moon to mark their days. But this committee is confusing. What’s their job exactly?”

It was still seven o’clock. We knew that as the night wore on, our mother’s true feelings regarding the committee will come out.

Eight o’clock came around.

“Wonder what’s taking so long”, She muttered under her breath, her eyes seemingly on the vanilla custard that she was expertly stirring but her ears pricked for news from the TV about whether we expected Eid the next day or she’d have another day to be ready.

Then at eleven o’clock,

“They might as well just postpone Eid for another day”, She said bitterly, “I can’t take the shock of Eid being tomorrow at such late notice”.

I felt sympathy for her. But this was quickly replaced by anger at the committee when two hours later they announced that the moon indeed hadn’t been sighted and therefore, Eid would be the day after the next day.

Meanwhile, Peshawar celebrated Eid a day before the rest of Pakistan.

“Because they could see the moon”, My mom reasoned when I mentioned how this additional fast was probably not a Ramzan roza. “They’re higher up than Karachi”.

“But the committee isn’t limited by human vision. They have powerful devices to see celestial objects. Plus they don’t aim to view the moon from Karachi”.

“Are you crazy?” She said, overwhelmed by the reverence for the men that sacrificed a full evening sitting around a windowless room to sight the moon. “They don’t have devices. They don’t have anything. They do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They aren’t getting paid or funded to do this”.

I rolled my eyes. We fasted another day.

“Is it Eid tomorrow at your place?” My mom asked as I got my daughter ready for school, my hands full of the peanut butter that she had insisted on putting on the bread herself.

“Yeah”, I said as the thick New York air enveloped us as I stepped out on 42nd street to walk my kid to school, “We have known for a month that it’s tomorrow. The lunar calendar is all plotted for us. What about you? Is it Eid in Pakistan tomorrow?”

She sighed audibly.

“These idiots”, She swore, her tone scandalized at its own endeavor, “They’re saying they can’t say if one more roza might be left to observe”.

I laughed. Karma, any time it gets my philosophical opponents, makes me happy.

“Mom!” I said, my voice many octaves more jovial than it had been a few seconds ago, “What happened to the poor men who gather around a table full of food, in an air conditioned room, with an army of sighters? What happened to your advocacy of their noble cause?”

“I still believe in the nobility of it”, She said, the cadence of her voice not deceiving me. I could hear the battle between her indoctrinated reverence for archaic practices with the innate desire to not leave the sense of belonging that she feels with the continuation of obsolete ideas. “Just that sometimes I wish we could know these things before ten o’clock at night. I’m not as young as I was once. Surprises are harder to take now”.

Sometimes, in moments like these, organized religion makes sense. Even if for a fleeting moment. Even if it’s not going to be for me. The communities that form around how a religion is organized and the reliance on these ideas by some of us to maintain their foothold in this life makes me be kind to my mother. Her indoctrination and blind defense of many practices isn’t her fault. It is, however, sometimes to her detriment. But that’s a debate for another day. What I call detriment is what she believes is how practices are exalted. So there’s that!

But this does bring me to the timeline that has developed parallel to many other timelines in my mind.

4.51 billion years ago the Earth came into being.

4.51 billion years ago the Moon followed around the same time.

8000 BC – 17000 BC: The lunar calendar came into being.

1947: Pakistan came into being.

1974: Rooet-e-Hilal committee was formed.

Sometimes between the 80’s and 90’s, my mom became a mother to four.

We have watched the committee conflicted since our birth. We have had comical and sarcastic offerings as our opinion of this committee. We all were eventually liberated of its tedious ways.

2023: The committee will sit again to physically view a weak sliver of a moon after vehemently refusing to follow a lunar calendar which actually is now predictable based on astronomical advances.

So…..nothing changes. Pakistan will always be my pride. Guess my mother and I are indoctrinated through the same systems of supremacy. She absorbed religion. I inscribed my soul with nationalism.


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