Get­ting that warm and tingly feel­ing again

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Opinion - By AISYA YUSRI star2@thes­

IN the midst of the mind-numb­ing rou­tine of driv­ing to work, a fa­mil­iar song comes on the ra­dio.

“Ber­lalu­lah su­dah Ra­madan se­bu­lan berpuasa / Tiba Syawal kita rayakan den­gan rasa gem­bira.” (Ra­madan and a month of fast­ing has passed / Syawal has be­gun, to be cel­e­brated with joy.)

I in­stantly feel my lips curl­ing up. The clas­sic song, Suasana Hari Raya, by Anuar Zain and Elina, gets me ev­ery time be­cause it re­minds me that my favourite hol­i­day will soon be here: Hari Raya.

As I sing along to it, I think about how I usu­ally cel­e­brate the joy­ous day.

Ev­ery night be­fore the first day of Raya, I dream of wak­ing up early, danc­ing around the house, and wav­ing to my neighbours on my way out to the mosque like peo­ple do in the Raya ads.

But of course, that never hap­pens.

“Ban­gun, ban­gun! GET UP, ev­ery­one!” are usu­ally the first words my sib­lings and I hear on Raya morn­ing from our mother. We are not early ris­ers, the lot of us .... We haul our­selves out of bed to get ready, dress in our new clothes, pile into one car and drive to the mosque, where we spend a long time (OK, maybe about a minute) look­ing for a park­ing spot be­fore de­cid­ing to dou­ble park like a typ­i­cal Malaysian. Ev­ery year, we tell our­selves that we have to be ear­lier the next time (yeah, right).

Af­ter prayers, we usu­ally head to my ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents’ home in Kota Da­mansara, Se­lan­gor. As soon as I step into their house, I’m met by the sweet aroma of ren­dang and lodeh. A ca­coph­ony of sounds can be heard re­ver­ber­at­ing through­out the house as my grand­mother con­venes ev­ery­one in the liv­ing room for the cus­tom­ary fam­ily photo. Or at least, she tries to.

“Can you all cepat sikit (hurry up)? We have guests com­ing!” she says ev­ery year, usu­ally being the first to be dressed and ready for just about any­thing.

“Wait, wait, I need to touch up my makeup!” shouts one – some­times all – of the ladies present.

“Can some­one help me with my sampin?” goes one of the men. Usu­ally that’s my grand­fa­ther’s cue to step up.

“No, Mummy, I don’t wanna wear this!” cries at least one kid.

“Eh, let’s eat first. I’m hungry!” That’s usu­ally me.

Hon­estly, this is the best time of the day; my ab­so­lute favourite. All of us run­ning around the house in a sim­i­lar colour theme (you know, to sig­nify our fa­mil­ial bond). It’s chaotic but also won­der­ful. The at­mos­phere ex­cites me and, ul­ti­mately, spend­ing qual­ity time with loved ones is what truly makes the busy­ness of the sea­son so mean­ing­ful.

Next comes the bermaaf-maafan, for­giv­ing each other for the year’s wrong­do­ings to­wards one an­other.

We be­lieve that by fast­ing dur­ing Ra­madan, our sins against God is for­given, hence what’s left is just our sins against each other. So to “com­plete” our Ra­madan, we seek each other’s for­give­ness on Hari Raya morn­ing.

“Se­la­mat Hari Raya, Ummi!” Ummi is what I call my mother.

“For­give me for all my wrong­do­ings, in­clud­ing, ahem, es­pe­cially, the ones that you don’t know of, hehe.”

I re­peat this sen­tence to ev­ery­one. To my grand­par­ents, aunts and un­cles, cousins. Ev­ery­one ex­cept my sis­ter and brother, to whom I say, “I for­give you”.

And it’s the same ev­ery year. Maybe I should come up with a dif­fer­ent line this year ....

Tra­di­tion­ally, the bermaaf-maafan ses­sion goes hand-in-hand (pun fully in­tended) with the giv­ing or re­ceiv­ing of duit Raya.

This used to be one of my favourite parts about the cel­e­bra­tion un­til I started work­ing three years ago. Now I also give in­stead of just re­ceiv­ing – some­thing I am still try­ing to wrap my head around.

With that said, there’s a lot of joy in giv­ing too, es­pe­cially to those younger than me.

They have to be nice to me first, of course. “Kalau nak duit Raya, salam dulu!” (If you want duit Raya, greet me first.)

The af­ter­noon is spent entertaining guests and nurs­ing our lethargy af­ter in­dulging in one or two (or maybe four) rounds of won­der­ful food.

There’s a wide va­ri­ety of scrump­tious dishes served at my grand­par­ents’ place ev­ery year, which in­cludes my mum’s ren­dang tok, my grand­mother’s lodeh, my aunt’s kuah ka­cang, ke­tu­pat, le­mang, and jar af­ter jar of home­made cook­ies.

In the evening, we visit the homes of some friends and rel­a­tives where we, nat­u­rally, eat some more. Which ex­plains why, by night time, I al­ways feel as if I’ve gained dou­ble the weight I lose dur­ing Ra­madan.

Re­call­ing all this, it sud­denly oc­curs to me how rou­tine my Hari Raya cel­e­bra­tion is. Yet it’s some­thing that I look for­ward to year af­ter year.

Know­ing what to ex­pect – the food, the ac­tiv­i­ties, the peo­ple – and all the fa­mil­iar­ity that comes with ad­her­ing to our tra­di­tions con­trib­ute a sense of com­fort and be­long­ing. Just think­ing about it as I write this makes me feel all warm and tingly in­side.

Touche is a monthly column in which team Star2 shares its thoughts.

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