Come this Friday, I will be joining the massive traffic exodus heading South. I will for the first time since I left Singapore at the age of 10, be spending Hari Raya in the country of my birth. The funny thing is I do not remember Raya at all during the first ten years of my life. So I guess saying that it is my first Raya in Singapore in 50 years is quite accurate.
Why the sudden need to Raya in Singapore? Some close friends even look at me in a funny way, especially when they realise that my parents are not coming along. My parents will celebrate Hari Raya in Petaling Jaya with my brother's family. "How could you celebrate Raya away from your parents??" they ask. Why not? So many actually do....well at least one half. You know what I mean...c0uples who quarrel every year before Raya to decide which parents to spend Raya with. So the one who loses the argument, does not spend Raya with his or her parents.
Anyway, I thought why not now? The kids are all grown up. It would be great for them to meet their cousins and I get to meet and spend one Raya with my favourite uncle too. He's my mom's brother. In fact, he is my only uncle since my Dad doesn't have any brothers.
I will also be visiting my Dad's younger sister, my aunt Busu, in Singapore.
And on the way back to KL on Wednesday, I will be stopping by my Dad's hometown of Parit Sulong to visit his other younger sister. Mak Ning.
Anyway, for the past few years, my Raya has been very regulated.
The night before Raya, the family would go up to Janda Baik to our family homestead.
In the evening after berbuka, we'd start preparing food for Raya. Mom will be preparing her lontong and rendang, with the girls helping her out.
The guys will be in the living room making ketupat shells. Yes, making our own ketupat shells is a family tradition. So this will be one of the few times if not the only time I won't be making ketupat shells with the family the day before Raya.
Surprisingly, there's no takbir in my area in Janda Baik. Most probably because our home is too deep inside for our villager neighbours to walk all the way to takbir in the house.
At around ten, the kids will be in the lawn playing with fireworks. Yes, one of the best things about being home in Janda Baik on Raya night is that you get to play with fireworks. All kinds of fireworks collected the month before....worth about RM500.
The next morning, we get up early. This is tough because for the past 30 days, we do not have breakfasts only breaking of fasts. So the Raya morning breakfast is like a shock to the system. Oh mannn coffee tastes sooo goood in the morning.
By about 8am, everyone will be ready with their baju Raya and the guys will head for the Janda Baik mosque for Raya prayers.
Since we celebrated Raya there in Janda Baik, I have not heard a single Khutbah Raya worth listening to. Sorry, it's true..at least to me. It's either boring or not informative at all. Anyway, after prayers we would stop by at the cemetery where my dear late grandmother's grave is. Sometimes, we visit her grave later in the day.
Back home, the first day's meal is being prepared. The breakfast before prayers was just a snack, this one, the one waiting for us upon our return from prayers, would be lavish. Lontong, rendang, ketupat pulut et al.
So when we reach home, we would all gather round the dining table. The adults sitting down around the table, and the kids in seats around us. Then Dad would recite the doa.
After the doa, we would dig in for our first Raya feast. This is of course one of the best parts about Raya.
That done, it would be resting time. Watching tv and such. And of course, just before noon, we would be salaming and bermaafing with each other and to our parents.
This would be a solemn moment for most of the family..as it should be...asking for forgiveness from one another.
After that it would be waiting for guests from the village to start coming, especially the kids.
That my friend is Raya for me. We would stay on for another night, and after lunch the next day we would head for home.
We hardly go visiting...or rather me, because the rest of my family would actually go visit relatives - mostly relatives on my wife's side. Me, being the anti-scocial person I am, will always find excuses not to go.
So, this time around, I will go visiting. In Singapore. And to my relatives homes.
My cousins, about a dozen of them, will be expecting me. And to tell you the truth, I am looking forward to all this. It's been a long while since I went visiting relatives or friends homes during Raya.
All I've got to do is cringe when giving duit Raya in SingDollars. Argghhhh!!!!
But there, the Raya fare would be really excellent. Singapore beriani, ayam masak merah, ketupat and rendang, lontong, soto singapore, nasi lemak, ayam kurma, sop tulang, bistek, laksa...oh mannnn...you know, the 8 kilos I lost after my recent operation may be making a comeback soon.
So it will be an exciting Raya for me. A different Raya at least.
And yes, I will miss my parents. Who doesn't? I will call them Raya morning. But they will be in my brother's good hands.
Anyway, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and to those who know me through my blog and through facebook, a Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Maaf Zahir Batin.
To those, who, like me, will be on the road doing the balik kampung thing, do drive safe and be aware of the other drivers on the road to.
I wish you all a happy and safe Raya.