As part of our Art Walk Series, we had a conversation with Begum Abida Rasheed on how she celebrates Eid with her family.
Begum Abida Rasheed – who better to talk about the Eid traditions of Malabar than the undisputed queen of Moplah cuisine, and fashionista par excellence, who has clothed the crème de la crème of Malabar for more than 30 years. She is one of the first people to introduce exclusive brands like Ritu Kumar, Kilol and Anuradha Raman to Kerala many years ago.
Just as Ms. Abida is particular about sourcing the best, authentic, local ingredients for the sumptuous feasts that she cooks, she is equally particular that she brings carefully and tastefully curated set of clothes and fabrics for her stylish, refined and sophisticated clientele. She has a knack for grasping the very latest in trends in the textile and clothing industry. The collections she brings to her store are on trend, but never ordinary. What makes each of her pieces special is the element of elegance and detail.
A saree bought from her store never goes out of style …. the subtle differences and nuances in the patterns and motifs, the details on the pallu or the border, makes a chanderi saree bought from Saree Sellers stand out from that of a chanderi saree bought from any other store.
Ms. Abida is very proud of her Moplah culture & cuisine and she enjoys going deeper into the past to learn more about the traditions and the reasons behind those traditions. She has taken it upon herself to promote and popularize the beauty of this culture and its exquisite cuisine. As a result of her work as a consultant for Taj Hotels, they have included dishes from Malabar in their menu all over India. Her work with 7 star hotels like The Park, The Falaknuma Palace, Ashoka, and The Oberoi among many more and appearances in acclaimed international travel & living shows for BBC, Fox TV, Netflix etc has helped to spread the taste of Moplah Cuisine far and wide.
As we spoke to her, she recounted to us her memories of Eid celebrations of days bygone and also how it’s celebrated now.
Ramadan is a month of fasting, spiritual reflection, charity and prayer which culminates in a day of celebration and gathering on Eid.
The preparation in homes start before the onset of Ramadan when the homes are completely cleaned and anything that needs to be discarded including old curtains and fabrics are replaced with fresh curtains and cushions.
After a month of sacrifice and fasting, the sighting of the moon to mark the end of Ramadan and advent of Eid is a joyous time for the young and old alike. As part of the celebration, a special payasam called the ‘Chakkara Choru’ is prepared. Different parts of the state have a different versions of the payasam like ‘Pidi Payasam’, ‘Kadalaka Kanji’ etc. Women enjoy applying Mehendi on their hands and late night trips to the town with family are the norm.
On the day of Eid, before attending the morning prayers, a heavy breakfast of pathiri, stew, samosa and fried liver are a must.
As the people here follow the matriarchal family system, the highlight of Eid is visiting ‘Ithothu’ - the father’s family home. The whole extended family of aunts, uncles, children and grandchildren gather at the ‘Tharavadu’, and everyone is dressed in their finest. In fact, as Ms. Abida recalls; in earlier times, the clothes bought on Eid were the best for the entire year. Of late though the trend has changed and people seem to buy the best for weddings that they attend.
In the afternoon the whole family partakes in the delicious lunch for which ‘Aleesa’ and Biryani are a must. Back in the days, the ghee used to cook this feast will be prepared by collecting butter from milk throughout the month of Ramadan.
As a child, Ms. Abida looked forward to Eid for the gifts she received from the family. The elders gifted children special biscuits in tin boxes, aflatoon, Army chocolate and money. These biscuits were not available during the rest of the year, and were shipped in on Urus from Bombay, especially for Eid, to be sold in a few specialty stores on S.M. Street. Kids will have a purse or a bag ready to collect the money and at the end of the day comparisons happened as to who got how much. Family friends from other religious backgrounds were gifted pomegranates (again rare at the time) and apples wrapped in red paper and kasavu detail fabrics.
As far as interiors go, nowadays, the living rooms are spruced up with fresh curtains, decorative cushions and elaborate table runners to receive guests. Also interesting is finding new ways to serve the dry fruit platter and drinks.
Although many aspects of the celebration may have changed, Ms. Abida believes that the spirit of celebration, gathering and love remains the same and makes Eid the holiday everyone looks forward to the most every year.
Interview & Content: Nazneen Ali
Photographs Courtesy: Abida Rasheed
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Art Walk is a series through which we look forward to explore & portray different aspects of Art, Design, Food & Culture in all its grandeur. This series is a compilation of all things wonderful about Art & Cultural experiences that we come across in our daily lives and also during our various travel expeditions. From the simplest of things that bring us joy, to the most intriguing life experiences, will be showcased here.