Along with all their kith and kin, this family of four also migrated from eastern part of the country, which was named East Pakistan after the great Indian partition. Staying jointly was not possible any longer. Hareram Ghosal took his wife and two kids to Niyamatpur, a small town on the border of West Bengal and Bihar where he found the job of headmaster in a school. The small but busy trading hub, inhabited by people mostly from northern part of India, provided the family some feeling of comfort. The sight of hapless refugees overflowing streets was absent here. Children were free to roam in the neighbourhood and talk to the neighbours and also learn a new language called Hindi in order to communicate with them. The political trouble might have uprooted them from own land, but could not change the habit to interacting with people from different places, believing in different forms of the almighty.
It was a day in the sacred month of Ramzan. The day of the summer used to be scorching hot, but the evening breeze brought the delight of tranquillity at the end of the day. This was time for the seven year old daughter of Hareram to go out and explore the neighbourhood. Parul had already developed friendship with all the kids of her age in the locality. Her best friend was probably Khalil, son of a government clerk who stayed in the adjacent house. Khalil’s mother, a meekly lady in comparison to her mother, attracted her attention. The soft spoken aunt used to talk in a dialect she could only partially understand; but her beautiful eyes revealed her graceful persona such an expressive way, Parul didn’t need the help of words much to get the meaning. She used to sit beside aunt sometimes, observed her weaving laces with only one thin stick and a bundle of threads. That day aunt was preparing semai sitting in the veranda. People in the neighbourhood had told next day was scheduled as Eid day. Khalil told her that was their biggest festival. They were playing grocer-purchaser as usual in the courtyard. Aunt came down from veranda and stood beside her, silent, as if she was struggling to find her words. Finally she spoke whispering, “Parul, would you please ask your mother one thing?” Parul looked at her with curious eyes; what could be the information that makes aunt so hesitant? She nodded. Aunt continued, “I know you will not eat anything cooked by us. Would you please ask your mother whether she will accept some fruits and dry-stuffs if I send?” She was almost begging. The little girl felt embarrassed. Aunt never offered her foodstuffs like others in the neighbourhood. She didn’t even know the reason for the lady’s being so doubtful about offering food. She couldn’t stand there before the pleading eyes of her gracious aunt. Somehow she told, “Right away!” and ran towards home.
What a wonder! It was a saint sitting in the porch. A man with shaved head and in saffron cloths must be a saint! Parul had seen them on the road once in a while, but never in their home. Her mother was standing nearby – she looked serious. Parul went close to them. Her mother asked, “You came back so early?” The child was uncertain how to express the eagerness she had seen in her aunt’s eyes. Her own eyes filled with tears as she tried to explain, “Ma, aunt asked if you will accept some dry foodstuffs from them. Why can’t we have food from them? Would you please accept, Ma?” Her mother didn’t reply. The saint did, “Where did you go my child?” “To Khalil’s home – the neighbours,” Parul informed. “You shouldn’t visit the homes of people following other religions. They are bad people…” – the saint went on preaching, but his first sentence angered the girl to such an extent that she was not listening at all. Anyone who could call Khalil and aunt ‘bad people’ must be foolish! She didn’t feel like standing near the saint; ran towards kitchen the moment he stopped. Her mother was arranging rice and dal and vegetables in a basket for the saint. She again asked, “Would you please accept, Ma? That saint is telling me not to visit them!” Her mother winked, “Don’t tell him anything. He will leave soon. Then go meet Khalil’s mother – its okay with uncooked edibles.” She smiled. Parul felt relieved – as if a heavy stone choking her throat was removed.
The saint left with his collectibles after sometime. Parul almost flew to the next-door neighbours. The aunt was still sitting on the veranda, busy preparing some sweets. The little girl was cheerful, “Auntie, mother told we would love to have it!” The aunt looked at her. She large beautiful eyes looked grateful. She hurried inside the room, uttering only two words, “Then please wait here!” She came out within a couple of minutes, with a basket filled with fruits, semai and dry fruits. She covered it nicely and handed it to her. “Tell your mother, I am so thankful that she accepts our small Eid gift.” Her eyes expressed much more than she spoke in words, as always.
Parul learned the meaning of Eid – a day to share own happiness with others; a day on which people feel obliged to others for accepting gifts; a day to express gratitude; a day which erases the difference of language and religion among neighbours.
That year was Parul’s first Eid.