In a few days, the month of Ramadan will come to an end. And the following month, Syawal, comes with the celebration of Eid. Amongst the Malays of South East Asia, Eid is better known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri (shorten to just Hari Raya), or Hari Libur in Indonesia.
Eid celebration may not be a big thing in some parts of the Muslim world. However, in Malaysia, the celebration is akin to Christmas or Thanksgiving or Chinese New Year. Families, especially the younger generation, would try to make every effort to return to the family home to celebrate with their elderly parents and siblings. This results in a kind of exodus out of the cities causing massive traffic congestions on highways.
I have many fonds memories of the Hari Raya celebrated during my childhood. In those days, Eid was something everyone looked forward to. The children were eager and excited because they would get new clothes and a small token of money on Hari Raya. As for the adults, it would be a time to entertain guests and to visit families as well as friends. And, of course, as with any celebration, there would be plenty of food on the table. We kept this tradition even during our Eid celebrations abroad.
After Nik and I got married, most of our Eids are celebrated with his family. In 1993 however, I insisted on spending Hari Raya with my mother, whom I called Mak. In February Mak was diagnosed to have stage 2 lung cancer. By the time we took her to the hospital for treatment, the tumour had been detected in her brain. The doctor gave her two and a half months. Hari Raya that year was around 25 or 26 March.
Mak was weak, but still able to manage herself with occasional help. We had anticipated a quiet Hari Raya. It would not be appropriate to go out visiting family and friends leaving Mak alone with the maid. It was a normal morning for us, just like any other day. I had just finished preparing lunch when Aunt Zainab, Uncle Hamzah and their young children rang the bell. Our two families then had lunch together. There wasn’t all that much food on the table, but it was enough for our two families. “We can hava a prawn each,” I told Uncle Hamzah.
Some moments later another family arrived, followed by yet another one. Tok Cik, Chak Rahmah, Mak Cik Jah and Mak Cik Kiah all came with their children. These were our relatives from Mak’s side and Tok Cik was my late father’s uncle. Mak Cik Jah and Mak Cik Kiah were Mak’s good friends. They all came to pay Mak a visit. I’m afraid I cannot recall all the families that dropped by that day. The maid took out whatever raw food there was in the freezer and cooked them. Not expecting many guests, I did not stock up on food. And the food in the freezer ran out in no time. Fortunately, Chak Rahmah brought along some cooked food which she shared with other guests.
Nik and myself knew that it would be our last Hari Raya with Mak. And, I was pretty sure our relatives knew, too. Mak’s siblings and her nieces were fussing about her that day. They combed her hair and powdered her face. And, knowing Mak, having so many visitors, more so on Hari Raya really cheered her up and made her day. Yes, with all the attention on her, it really made her day. She had no time to be sad or show any remorse. It made my day, too. It had been quite a while since I had the opportunity to be in the company of so many relatives and family friends. As for Fatimah, our maid, the constant stream of visitors kept her in the kitchen all day long. When the guests had gone home, she said, “I don’t even get the chance to dry my hands.”
In the following weeks, Mak’s health deteriorated and she passed away on 12 May 1993. She died knowing that she was very much loved and would be missed by her family, relatives and friends. As the years go by, and I grow older, Eid gets less and less meaningful. However, the Eid or Hari Raya of 1993, our last one celebrated with Mak remains as my most memorable one.
Some of the people I mentioned above-Uncle Hamzah, Tok Cik, Chak Rahmah and Mak Cik Jah are sadly no longer with us. May they all rest in peace.