“It will be Eid next week,” said Sarah as she brushed 8-year-old Dania’s hair to the shiny long mane it had become. “Let us take the girls out and show them the lights and the celebrations in town.”
“Are you nuts?” Tanya said looking incredulously at her partner. “You want us to brave the crowds and take the children with us?” She was upset. Not because of Sarah’s suggestion, but because she had an acute aversion to crowds.
“Oh, come on Tanya, it will be fun. And if you are so worried, we could always ask Razia to come along, then we would be ensured a police escort,” said Sarah holding her hand out to her nonplussed spouse and laughing.
Sarah and Tanya had travelled to Pakistan after being away for over five years. Sarah wanted to show the little girls some of the traditions that revolved around Ramadhan and Eid. While Dania was old enough to enjoy the lights and the festivities, Hana was still a bit young to even remember if they did anything out of the ordinary. The pretty five-year-old was already overwhelmed with the attention she received from her grandparents and cousins and tended to get over excited.
Sarah continued to look beseechingly at Tanya until she sighed deeply and agreed to this folly, as she thought it was. “Ok, ok, but I will tell Razia that we don’t need an escort. The police have other things to do. They are not paid to babysit us.”
Razia was just in time to sit down and break the evening fast with them. As usual there was a traditional culinary spread on the table, and it wasn’t unusual that people were invited on the spur of the moment to join in and eat with them.
“Did you know that Farooq has been extradited to Pakistan now?”
“What?” said Sarah in surprise. “I thought he was in the Iranian jail for at least another two years!”
“Apparently there was an agreement between the two governments, and he was sent back here. But rest assured, he still has to be tried for the murders of the Interpol agents, the air hostess and the high jacking of the plane. He is in maximum security custody, so you don’t have to worry about him harming you or your family anymore.”
“I should hope so. Gulnaz is such a nice person; it’s really sad that her own brother is such a despicable man.” Tanya said as she leant over to see that Hana ate what was on her plate.
Once dinner was over, they all piled into Razia’s SUV. The roads were jammed with traffic as it seemed that the whole of Karachi had the same idea as the friends had. Razia was able to reach the shopping center via the back streets and to her delight she found a convenient parking place nearby. Sarah and Tanya unbuckled the children from their car seats, and each held on tightly to a child.
“I want to buy some traditional Eid clothes for Dania and Hana,” said Sarah happily. She loved the bustle of the bazaar and the festive pre-Eid ambience even though it tended to be crowded.
“Now you will say that you want to buy matching bangles for the girls too…?” grumbled Tanya.
“Of course!” exclaimed Sarah. “And you won’t be spared as well. I plan to buy some bangles to match that stylish off-white outfit you bought for yourself yesterday.”
“Hey! I had hidden that because I wanted to surprise you and show you that I can also do elegant at times! How did you find it?”
“It’s not so difficult,” laughed Sarah. “If you just throw your bag on the floor of the wardrobe, this nosy doc will always peek in.”
Razia couldn’t stop laughing at their antics. “Come along before the crowd gets unbearable. I want to get over this jaunt just as much as Tanya want to.”
There were little booths set up all along the roadside. Some were selling bangles while others had a roaring trade with street food and cold drinks. Some artisan women were also applying henna in intricate designs. Sarah and the girls were fascinated. Both little ones sat patiently on the little plastic stools provided outside each booth, waiting for their turn to get their hands decorated.
“I don’t think I will have henna applied to my hands this time,” said Sarah to Tanya.
“Why? You love the designs!”
“Just look how cute the girls look, they are so patient waiting for their turns. By the time they have had their hands done it would just be too late. So, I am doing the mommy thing and will just let them have their fun.”
“You don’t look too devastated about it,” said Tanya as she spoke in her ear. The noise around them had risen to such a crescendo that speaking normally was becoming difficult.
“I am a mommy and I love it! And so do you. You can’t deny it,” she said in a sing song voice as she poked her partner playfully in the ribs. Tanya just smiled and her expression softened as she looked at her two daughters.
On Eid day, Dania and Hana looked very festive in their traditional clothes along with matching bangles and shoes. Dania wore her favorite purple and Hana was in her red mood. Sarah had instructed the cook to make a traditional Eid breakfast, but she made it a point like she always did, to cook the seviyan (sweet vermicelli) herself.
After breakfast, they all piled into their car and went to visit Sarah’s family. Tanya’s mother was travelling to Switzerland at the time, but she had asked Tanya’s brother to send some Eid gifts to the girls on her behalf. Tanya’s father was of course out of the picture, and no one really missed him.
On arriving at Sarah’s parents’ home, the girls waited impatiently for Tanya to unbuckle them, after which they ran into the house shouting “Oma! Oma! Where are you?”
Hearing them call her, Sarah’s mother came out of her room and spread her arms wide as the children ran to her and were soon enveloped in her warm hug.
“Eid Mubarak Oma!” they chorused excitedly. Seeing their grandfather walk into the room they yelled from the confines of their grandmother’s embrace to him, “Eid Mubarak Opa!”
“Sarah, Tanya, you are blessed with your beautiful daughters. I love having them over. May I ask you if they can they spend the weekend with me?” said Sarah’s mother wistfully.
“Of course, they can,” said Tanya immediately as she swiftly looked towards Sarah for confirmation. She had already thought that this would happen, and it would be a good opportunity to get Sarah alone and spend some quality time with her. God alone knew how busy they had been since the girls had entered their lives. Having full time jobs didn’t help as well.
Tanya’s drew her mother-in-law aside to talk to her and tell her of the plan she had thought of just that morning.
“Ammi, would you mind looking after the girls for about a week? I thought that I would surprise Sarah with a trip to Singapore.”
“That is a very nice idea. I know how involved and busy the both of you have been. It will be a nice break. And if I need any help with them, then I will ask your mother to spend a few days with us when she gets back from her trip. I think she will be back in a day or two, isn’t it?”
“That is perfect then Ammi. I was just worried because I didn’t want to inconvenience you, but if Ma will help you as well, then I can spirit Sarah away with a clear conscience.” She smiled at Ammi, marveling at the change in the matriarch since the time she first met her. “Not a word to Sarah. I have already asked Razia to pack for us and meet us at the airport. Actually, I was going to ask you to keep the girls anyway, so I have already bought two open first class tickets for our journey. We will be leaving quietly from here in about an hour. Sarah won’t have a clue. It will be so much fun to surprise her,” chuckled Tanya.
Well, Sarah was definitely surprised when she was escorted to the VIP lounge of Karachi airport and was soon after seated in the comfortable first-class seats of Singapore Airlines. It was like a dream for her. She was so happy that she was with her Tanya and was thrilled that they were going to have some alone time together. That was such an amazing surprise. A real Eid gift from her beloved. As she settled into her seat and accepted a drink from the cabin crew, her last thought before the flight took off was of her children. She knew the grandmothers would take care of them… but after all it became the norm for her to worry… she was their mother..