Famous for their hospitality and celebration round the year, a large number of Bangladeshis had faced a double-blow as they celebrated this Eid-ul-Azha: living far away from home and amidst restrictions of coronavirus pandemic.
Non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) and migrant workers in different countries, who commonly celebrate with community members, mostly passed the day, spending it quietly.
“I can’t say how it feels as we’ve been used to it. But no doubt I wanted to be with my family on Eid day,” said Mohammad Al-Amin, working as a receptionist at a Dubai hospital for seven years.
“Numerous video calls with my family can’t do much to bring in me a celebratory mood,” said the man from Narsingdi. He just added, “With each passing year, I realised there were so many people like me feeling the same sadness and loneliness.”
Mr. Al-Amin and other Bangladeshis have formed a ‘family of brothers’ in Dubai and celebrated Eid as it is possible. “This has made it possible for us to at least survive on foreign soil.”
About 10 million Bangladeshis are believed to have been living abroad of whom almost 2.4 million are permanent residents.
The pandemic has made the jobs of Bangladeshi migrants more vulnerable and they had to accept the reality.
“I’m not fully habituated to the Eid celebrations here yet. People here perform the Eid Salah (prayers) roughly 30-40 minutes after Fajr (early morning) prayer and the sacrifices are made shortly afterwards,” said another migrant worker from Dubai, Hridoy Hasan.
As people start celebrating even before the Eid Jamaat back home, he reminisces the festivity in Bangladesh. “We try to perform the sacrifice collectively here, with some of our co-workers. But it’s never the same. Chopping of meat, distribution, the fragrance of freshly cooked spicy meat from the nearby houses – everything is missing. We spent the day chatting or just resting, if we have the luxury of free time.”
SM Syed Hossain, head of HRIS and Digital Employee Experiences of Telenor Group in Norway, called their experience during the Eid as almost 'no-celebration.' “Eid day is not a holiday here. You must attend office and complete other tasks before coming home. So, we celebrate Eid with our family and friends from the community at the weekend with Bangladeshi foods. We recall our Eid memories back home. It’s depressing, as there are no festivities like you’d find in Bangladesh.”
According to Farabi Shayor, the founder of IntelXSys (UK) and the author of Exponential Progress, “It’s very casual for me to work on an Eid day. Other times, I’d prefer driving to Leeds, where I have a number of relatives and we’d celebrate together as a family or visit other family friends. The images distorted to quite a bit after the pandemic hit.”
The Bangladeshi students overseas have a relatively hard time, being away from their families at a tender age and for a long time.
“This pandemic has changed our way of celebratory coping up with the Eid day, which is basically a day like any other,” says Fariha Parvez Yeasa, who studies at the University of Manitoba, Canada. “It’s already been hard to get some home-like celebration here; even with friends and some good cooking, we’d hardly feel the happy Eid vibes of Bangladesh. Most of us have jobs to attend, and Eid is like an after-job small event for us, with little to nothing interesting to do."
However, the pandemic had even washed off their only outing event on the Eid day- to their neighbourhoods.
"Eid is one of the hardest days for students like us. Living robot-like lives here every other day, the whole Eid day constantly reminds us of the void we feel, and we just yearn to meet our family and friends,” she said.
Wherever the members of the diaspora Bangladeshi community live in, each of them, as they commonly say, dreams of returning to the motherland to celebrate Eid the way they saw back home.