Eid Al-Adha Part ONE
By: Wonuola Lawal
It’s the first of September and once again we’re celebrating Eid Al-Adha. It is Islamic tradition to go to the Mosque in the morning before preparing for the feast later in the day and it is our tradition to ride with Grandfather on the way to the mosque while Grandmother drives in her own car. Every time we drive to the mosque, Grandpa would instruct the driver Mr. Bello—who has been his driver for twenty years— to play his Islamic CD, then we would all sing along chanting:
When we arrive at the Mosque, my Grandfather would find my mother and hand my sisters and I over to her. Then Mr. Bello would walk to the men’s section while Grandfather would climb the stage where he leads the prayer. It happens every year like clockwork and the only things that change are the colours of our Eid clothes and the colours of the rams we slaughter. I look forward to Eid because it’s always a few days to my birthday and as a result, I either have a four-day birthday weekend or a week. I will be turning ten in a few days and my parents are planning a big party for me.
We arrive at the mosque and once again we find my mother among a group of older women. You always have to meet relatives you don’t know during Eid. All I remember from these encounters are the different scents of perfumes that dance around my nostrils and the different shades of lipstick that speak to me. My sisters and I find my mother and we position ourselves in the space she usually leaves for us right beside her. She uses her bag, scarf, and notepad to hold three spaces for us. My favourite moment is the moment leading to prayer, where some people would carry out their Nafilah, while others sit on their mats awaiting the call to prayer. I spend that moment standing and admiring the different colours of Ankara, iro and bubas and agbadas. It’s as if I’m in a field of flowers, with every petal displaying the exquisite colours and patterns of the different attires. When the call to prayer is finally recited through the megaphone at the stage, everyone rises to their feet and in that moment it’s like staring at a painting of the sea except the sea exhibits different colours and patterns that move like figures dancing in the water. When I grow up to be a professional painter, I will paint this scene and sell it for millions of naira.
It’s fun when prayers are over, because Grandpa is the head of the Islamic society Ansarudeen, they always let him make the first cut on the jugular of the ram that belongs to the mosque. I don’t like to watch this part because of the way the ram writhes and bleats in pain. Every ram tries to wriggle away to freedom but is prevented from doing so by the numerous hands holding its horns in order to steady its neck for Grandpa. I don’t like the sight if the blood squirting out of the ram’s sliced vein as it continues to bleat. I also don’t like the thought of the blood getting on Grandpa’s white agbada, the colour he wears every Eid. Every year, I think we’ve reached the year a drop of blood would splash against his clothes and every year it fails to be so. It’s customary to kill animals for Eid-Adha as a form of sacrifice. I don’t care about that though, I just look forward to eating the peppered ram and spicy jollof rice. I also look forward to how full Grandpa’s house gets with the number of visitors that troop in as well as distant relatives that help with the cooking and serving of food. Most times a group of imams will troop into the house and carry out some prayers and attractive older cousins would visit and we’d hear tales of how they are trying to survive adult life.
I have two favourite aunties, Mama Ibeji who has two cute identical twin girls and Mama Joju who is very lovely and gives me the sweetest hugs a little girl could ask for. I always look forward to seeing her because she has the kind of personality that makes you feel relaxed, like you can tell her your deepest secrets without worrying that she would tell a soul. She has two children, Joju and Dapo and her husband is one of those men that hasn’t let good cooking give him a pot belly, which I find very impressive.
As we walk to grandfather’s car, I can’t help but think how much I love Eid. It’s one of the holidays where our Nigerian culture is high on its colours, pouring of prayers upon one another, with Yoruba and Hausa flying across the air like darts. If there’s one thing Nigerians know how to do, it’s how to pray. It’s the reason we think the solution to the problems of our country is prayer not the replacement of our corrupt politicians. Go figure.
We enter the car and as usual, grandfather beckons at a young man selling yoghurt and buys each of us Fanyogo, which we happily suck on as we drive back to the house with the air conditioner on and his CD singing:
As soon as we get to the house, we are hit with the smell of flesh, the sounds of rams that have yet to be killed and the sounds of aunties chatting as they carry out the preparation of different foods in big black pots over chunks of firewood. I always run towards the aunties shouting greetings as we exchange pleasantries over the pot. I love the warmth of the flames on my face because I’ve always had an obsession with fire. The house is full of familiar faces and it’s exciting to run from aunty to uncle exchanging hugs and updating them on school and friends. I see Mama Joju and run over to her. I’ve always admired how she’s managed to stay trendy even though her children are about to begin secondary school. All the women in the house are in t-shirts, wrappers and head ties but Mama Joju prefers to wear a t-shirt and shorts to cook. When I come in contact with her, she wraps her arms around my small body and asks me how I’m doing. I smile and tell her that I’m doing extremely well and I’m excited to eat the ram. She smiles that smile that whispers, ‘I hope you know you can tell me anything’ and I smile back in response as if to say, ‘I know’.
I walk into the house and bump into Mama Ibeji’s twins running around the dining table. They are five years old but are so tiny that people still think they’re toddlers. I sit down to observe them play. Taiwo is the daring one with a mischievous face. She’s always up to something naughty and tries to drag Kehinde along. Kehinde is quiet with a sweet face that screams innocence. She can mostly be found in a corner playing by herself while Taiwo may be off climbing something she shouldn’t.
After observing them for a while, I walk into the living room and spot my grandmother in a bright yellow ankara blouse and skirt. Grandmother is very flamboyant and is usually adorned with jewelry. Today is no different as she has six gold bangles on each arm and gold earrings in the three holes on each ear. She smiles as I walk in.
‘My baby, I hope the food is almost ready?’
‘It is grandma. The rice is almost done and they’ve already begun to fry the ram.’
‘That’s good because I’m very hungry.’
‘Me too,’ I smile as I come to sit on her lap.
She hugs me when I do so and we both sigh as we enjoy a few minutes of the Yoruba movie showing on television. It’s our favourite thing to do together. Since none of grandfather’s guests have arrived, grandmother and I have a few minutes to indulge in the peace and quiet of the living room protected from the noise coming from the other parts of the house.
Grandfather comes out of the bathroom and smiles when he sees me on grandmother’s lap. He knows it’s our favourite thing to do when we get the chance to. He walks over to us and plants a kiss on both our foreheads. Grandma giggles when he does as and he winks as she does so. Then he walks out of the living room, most likely to observe the men slaughtering the rams.
‘I love him,’ she whispers.
‘Me too,’ I say even though I know my love is of a different kind.
The food is ready an hour later and I find myself on the dining table tucking into a hot plate of jollof rice and spicy meat making sure saliva doesn’t escape out of the corner of my lips and the juices of the meat don’t fall on my outfit. I resist the urge to shout ‘I love Eid!’ as I work on the remaining remnants of my food with my oily lips shining as if I applied lip-gloss.