My Muslims friends around the world are celebrating the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Growing up in Malaysia, I’ve observed many Muslim events. Over the years of being a bystander of Ramadan, I’ve fasted with friends, respected their quieter times, recited a few lines of their routine prayer, sat in our empty school canteen, preserved energy with my friends and weaved “Ketupat”, a weaved coconut frond case, used to fill and cook rice, as part of our preparation for “Raya”. We would also make a list of friends who had invited us to their homes during the week of celebration, and plan routes of whose home to visit first.
If I was in school till evening, mom would pick me up and head to the night market, or “Pasar malam”, as we call it. You’ll recognize one when you’re close – stalls lit up our little town at dusk, where glorious home-cooked were dished atop plastic or worn out laminated wooden folding tables. The aroma of spices, and smells from different curries, satay, roti, seafood, blend so well, as if the air molecules were dancing to Vivaldi’s Spring. If we were a little early, the sun ray would peer through the gaps of the stalls’ tarp that was held up by aluminum rods and tied down by a rope and boulder. As I wander shoulder-to-shoulder, with the rest of most likely 3 quarters of the town, very likely, we would bump into someone we know, and mom will stop for a little chit-chat, while my eyes roam around to see what I want for dinner. On a successful evening, we would score pink plastic bags of goodies bought from various stalls.
The end of Ramadan is followed by a week of visiting homes of various Muslim friends (and teachers), where we were welcomed with a feast of “Ketupat” (steamed rice in weaved coconut fronds), “Rendang” (beef curry stew), “Sayur Lemak” (vegetables in coconut milk), served with “Air Ros Sirap” (ice-cold rose water in condensed milk). We would greet each other with “Maaf Zahir dan Batin”, which means “pardon my physical and emotional wrongdoings” in Malay. After good food, drinks and sweets, it’s time to move on to the next home! Adults would send children of friends’ home with a green paper pocket filled with some pocket money.
One year, I remembered a friend gifted me a set of “Baju Kurung” that she grew out of. It was a little tight, but I wore it for a few special occasions.
Here’s a photo of me and the rest of the non-Muslims in my high school, making “Ketupat”, while our Muslim friends were in their Religious studies class. It had been more than 20 years…
… and here, a photo of my class, one of the “Science-stream” classes, after a period of Chemistry lesson. We are now mothers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, therapists and broadcasters. I was seated in the front because I was short, and in the center, because I was the loudest. 😀