Usually Chand Raat is a dedicated title for the night before Eid, but for me Chand Raat has always been the night before Ramadan begins……..
Living in a small town in America, actually a village when we first moved here; every milestone of our Deen imbued in our culture becomes precious as a jewel to be passed on lovingly to our children.
It is the probably the night before Ramadan, I ask who else wants to go with me to find the moon that announces Ramadan.
Tariq and Shireen and a bunch of kids their friends and a few adults pile in and a caravan of three cars travels toward a mall in the outskirts of the city, which is the highest point and with least buildings.
We reach the back parking lot of the Mall, the children spill out of the car and search for the moon and play and dance around in the parking lot. The sickle of the Ramadan moon is as fickle as the sickle of the Eid moon. One of the teenagers spots it and suddenly he gains a hero status as all the kids and even the adults mob him………..
“Where is it” I ask, “there between the two wires and the pine tree” he says pointing. I search and search and just as I am about to give up I see it light up. its slim outline highlighted with the deepening pink of the sunset.
I am all about drama as I close my eyes remembering what we used to do on the top of our rooftop. I turn around and open my eyes and the first people I see are my children…….. Life is good, happy and content! Love permeates me.
The old culture of Pakistan, my home faraway……comes back with the intensity of the fragrance of Raat ki Raani at night. I am on the Chaat or rooftop, my Bua is saying “whoever you see first after seeing the moon, you love the most!” where did that come from I think, as I repeat her words to my children and they make a game of peek a boo of it.
Bua the lady who cooked our meals and talked to herself. We did not dare correct her or complain about her sometimes-burnt daal, which she had forgotten while talking to the people she had left behind after the partition, in Gwalior.
Fleeing Gwalior as a young woman with her son on her hip, she had lost her husband and most of her family. If I ever asked her about it, she gave me a stare that would freeze the words on my lips…..was she a servant or our boss?
We never could disobey her because her most daunting threat was “ Wait till you mother gets home, I am going to quit” It was the most effective torpedo which even stopped my most recalcitrant brothers in their steps and they would proceed to apologize profusely and beg forgiveness. There she would sit like a queen and ignore their lamentations till they left with their proverbial tails under their legs.
She was a story teller, and I loved that, but her stories were not on demand, only when she felt like so we had to hang around and be useful and she might drop a pearl like the one about the moon and the loved one.
“Yaaaaay it is Ramadan tomorrow!” Shireen, Tariq and their friends happily skip around the parking lot.
As I load them into the car, mentally counting off my “to do” list I am not even aware that a stone throw from this parking lot will be the last abode of both Tariq and Ammi……… where they will forever have the best view of the rising sickle of the Ramadan moon and then the Eid moon. The cemetery next to the mall is on my map now, it was not then.
This year I cannot bring myself to go there, the mall has gone out of business, the parking lot is abandoned, no children play there. ISNA tells you a month ahead of time when Ramadan will begin and end. There is no excitement to search the moon. The Sunnah has been put to bed with all the other practices that do not fit the time schedule of work and play in the west.
The sun still sets over the parking lot of the Mall and over the cemetery, the pink spreading over the pale sky like the blush of a virgin bride. The sickle moon still appears briefly, remains unsighted by the local muslims to disappear quickly, yet bringing intense joy to the believers who then brace themselves with anticipation for what is to come, never aware of the fact that some of us may be absent this or next Ramadan.