Eid Mubarak, dearest reader. My wish for you is one of peace and prosperity in your family, town, country, and beyond. The holy month of Ramazan, with fasting, prayers and reflection, as well as joy and togetherness, has made our destination clearer; we have come closer to God and fellow human beings. Yet, the proof and purpose of our faith is seen in the journey: in how we live our everyday lives. In certain ways, faith can be likened to poetry, music and beautiful hymns. Everyday, life is more prosaic; it has all that is good and positive, but it also has what is sad and difficult. If we have faith and interpret it in positive ways, it will help us in our lives at all times; when the sun shines, and when the days are dark.

Last Sunday, when I walked out to buy my newspapers, it was a bit late in the morning, and still raining. All the papers were gone, so I had to walk a bit further along to the bookshop. It became a pleasant diversion for me. I ran into a group of young boys I know. They had been out in the yard on the side of the usually busy office complex, but because of the holidays it was a bit quiet. The young boys in their late teens and early twenties were hard working; they had embarked on the special project of repairing an old Suzuki Mehran. All the panel-beating had been done as well as the spray painting, and now only the interior remained. The boys had bought new door covers, floor mats, sun shades and various styling gear. The seats were nowhere to be seen since they had been given to professional upholstery men in a backyard nearby, and two of the professional mechanics and locksmiths had come around to give advice and help. Obviously, the boys were Muslims, but those who had done the paint job were Christians; the locksmith, and even the young boy who had been called to scrub and sandpaper the floor for old rust before the new carpet and mats could cover it all.

The boys were so busy that they had little time to talk or smile for a photograph. One of them, Saeed, quickly explained how much they had paid for the car, and he said the engine was perfectly all right. He wasn’t sure if they were going to keep the car, although he was the one who had chipped in the most money. But it was quite clear that the dream was to keep it, and to let their motorbikes take a rest. The boys were getting older and had ambitions to move up a step, to find safer means of transport and be able to take their mother (and maybe a secret admirer) for a spin.

I was glad to see the enthusiasm of the boys, the purpose and determination with which they worked, and the joy they felt. I thought of similar projects myself and my brothers would undertake in our youthful years, and later, our children’s projects. Sometimes, they were about rabbit keeping, or pigeons, and later, it was about photography and darkroom work (now unfortunately taken over by computers), and some small-scale business projects too, like hiring out seasonal sports equipment in order to make some extra money to supplement student loans.

My three friends in Layla Market in Islamabad and their whole little cricket team of friends and helpers, reminded me how important projects of this kind are. Yes, because they bring life to any neighborhood. They help young people make their dreams come true, albeit in a small way.

The boys, Saeed, Ali and Haider, were very busy all day yesterday as well, because they knew that today, on Eid Day, there were other things to do at home and in the mosque, and the whole family would come together, at least for two or three days. The Suzuki project would have to be put on hold. But on the third day of Eid, the activity could resume, discreetly at first, and back to full force on Friday. Luckily this year, there is a long weekend after Eid, before everybody goes back to ‘real life’ on Monday.

And really, what is ‘real life’? Is it not equally important, the task the three boys engaged in? They learnt a lot from it, I am sure. They learnt about each other, about working together, about creativity and innovation, and more. They had fun and pleasure; and these things are vital in everyday life, year after year, when we are just walking the ‘treadmill’, doing a job, raising a family, perhaps climbing the ladder and making a career. We do the best we can, considering our lot in life, the place we have, our family and friends.

Because it is not only the destination that is important, but the journey as well; the way we live our everyday lives - on the days that are glorious, and the days that are fraught with sorrow and loss. Faith helps, but good relations with the people around us are essential.

When we talk about destination, its meaning extends beyond religious life. It is also about everyday life, about the aims and goals we possess without which most things become purposeless.

Now, when the holy month of Ramadan is over and as we celebrate Eid, let us remember that for the rest of the year, it is everyday life that counts. It is how we live with God and people when the feast is over that counts. Our journey may not always be glorious and happy, but it will be our journey; my journey and yours. Let us do what we can to make the best of it, the way Saeed, Ali and Haider did, working hard for a dream. Let us pray that our days do not have more clouds and rains than we can bear, and let us remember that God is our guardian and comfort in this journey we undertake with a world full of fellow human beings.

Again, Eid Mubarak, dear reader.

 The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist with experience in research, diplomacy and development aid.

atlehetland@yahoo.com