This year Hari Raya Aidilfitri was meaningful although it was welcomed with sorrow.
Memories I had during childhood was really fun during Hari Raya. I will go to many Malay houses to visit them during Hari Raya. My immediate neighbours are Malays so I grew up with Malay children because they are the ones around my age. Suhaiza was a year younger than me – she was the eldest in the Zamri family. Suhaiza has a sister, Nurul and two brothers, Azhar and Arif.
I learnt from them how they recite the al-Quran when I see Encik Zamri sitting beside Arif with a short stick pointing to the holy Quran while Arif will recite them as instructed. It was from there that I wanted to understand my fellow neighbours and to be exact, best friends, better.
I had Malay classmates who stayed within the housing area where I stay in Taman Cicely, Teluk Intan, too. They were Hanim from the Ghazalli family and errm… well I forgot their names (it proves that I am old!). I still keep in touch with Hanim. Her house number was 403 – big numbering at the front wall of her house. Hanim’s father was a teacher and we were really close together at childhood. We were separated when she was off to the Religious School during Form 4 (4th year of high school) or Form 5.
One day, I went back to Teluk Intan, my aunt, Lena, related that a girl came looking for me. She was looking for me, hoping that Auntie Lena could at least provide my handphone number. Auntie Lena couldn’t search in time so she left a note. I read the note “Hanim” and her phone number written on the note, I almost felt like jumping with joy. I just had a thought about her a week ago!
During Hari Raya, my friends and I will gather together in a spot. I will first visit Hanim and children got together. We visited almost every house in the area with an open gate. I was told that if the gate is opened, guests are welcomed to enter. At that time, I was the only Chinese lady in the crowd. All other children wore baju kurung and beautiful clothes while I clad in my T-shirt and a pair of shorts. I am really used to being the only Chinese girl in many occasions by now so much so that I gave in to admit I am bangsa Malaysia more than a Chinese. I was the only Chinese lady in Persatuan Pemuda Negara, the only Chinese lady in occasions where we did street demonstrations during 911, the only Chinese lady in Biro Tatanegara camps and in many occasion, the only Chinese lady in meetings and conferences.
Being children and following the crowd, I came to understand the reason for the house-to-house visit – for duit raya (small packets with money)! We will walk in a house with open gate, shout a loud “Selamat Hari Raya” and “Assamualaikum” to the reply of “Mualaikumsalam..” Then we dashed in the house, sat down and greeted the host by shaking hands (with both palms) and kissing their hands and then placed it to our foreheads lightly.
As I followed the crowd, I also sat with them, eating the available biscuits and we always have cold drinks – orange juice and syrup will be the main drinks in most houses. The feel of refresh orange and ice cooling down the throat was great since we had to walk far and long to scout for houses with open gates! The group of children will leave only after receiving their duit raya.
By the time we reach almost the third house, I start feeling bloated with biscuits and drinks, especially after sumptuous meal at the first house – Hanim’s house – with ketupat, lemang, rendang and curry. So, subsequent houses that we visit were only to sit, sip a drink and collect duit raya!
After a long day, visited almost more than 10 houses, we got back home in the evening. I still remember the joy and happiness of opening each packet. Pops drop a 20sen as I turned the packet around. Sometimes the packets will drop put 50sen or even RM1. I will count the shillings – at times about RM2 and some years I could collect about RM5, depending on how many houses we visited.
The days were fun. It was only until when I was in Form 1 that I came to realize that the meaning of house visits during Hari Raya was not for duit raya after all. Hari Raya is the day where the Muslims celebrate the “victory” of having fast a whole month. In fact, fasting for about 10 years ago made Hari Raya more meaningful to me, too, although I’m not a Muslim. Muslims will also ask forgiveness from their parents and among siblings for whatever wrongdoings that they have done.
Likewise, visiting each other during Hari Raya was also meant to seek forgiveness from the hosts, further fostering better relationships and to catch up on each others’ well-being. I forgot which year I stopped following my friends to collect duit raya during Hari Raya.
As soon as I left home and could cook myself, I started fasting during Ramadhan. At home, when I wanted to fast, no one would cook so early and no food was available at dawn. Yet, I still wanted to have trial period on fasting so I would take breakfast just like I did before going to school and then fast in school till Maghrib. I find Hari Raya becomes meaningful for me this way. This year, after 6 years couldn’t fast due to stomach ulcer, I successfully fast during Ramadhan for about 20 days. I was all ready to celebrate and even arranged an excursion to visit all Malay colleagues – Negeri Sembilan, Muar, Teluk Intan and Kuala Lumpur. I also wanted to pay a visit to my new friends – Anas and Mahani in Penang.
The first day of Syawal – the first day of Hari Raya, I sent my Vietnamese friends to airport. Nine friends came for a short visit and I took them to Melaka the day before. The night before was really disturbing. I got a call from Alicia – An Qi (the recipient of my liver)’s aunt. She was crying and saying that she called just to inform me An Qi was in the ICU. The whole night, I could sensed that An Qi may not make it. I sms-ed many friends to pray for her and even placed a facebook status so those who read could pray for her. I had strong feelings that she could not make it. The voice over the other end of the phone does not sound “just informing” me. It sounds like “come see her for the last time”.
Remembering my duit raya during Hari Raya when I was a child, I even posted “My best Aidilfitri angpau this year will be to see An Qi, recipient of my liver, be healthy, happy and blessed with long life. She’s in ICU due to infection now, please pray for her.”
I was driving to airport. It was 11.56am on first day of Hari Raya. I thought to visit An Qi after the airport trip so I called her aunt again. I asked how was An Qi and the reply, “An Qi passed away at midnight.”
I was almost speechless. Apparently, she had cancer in the bone, diagnosed somewhere in June (only 5 months after receiving my liver). Subsequent chemotherapy has added toll to her immune system. Everything went on really fine and the chemo was successful. She had lungs infection and in only less than 48 hours, she passed away. When Alicia called the night before, An Qi has already stopped breathing and was put on a respirator.
The day was supposed to be spent with visits to Negeri Sembilan and Muar, cancelled but not too much because of the news but it was because the traffic jam was massive as I drove back from airport. As I saw the car from opposite direction building up to almost a stretch of 3km, my mind thought of An Qi and tears just rolled freely. I can feel my face became wet and I really wanted someone to comfort.
Today, my colleague, Allen and I went to Anas’ house in Penang – continuing the tradition of house visits. Kak Mahani was there and she gave comforting hugs and kisses that I felt so warm. We then went to Teluk Intan to visit another colleague, Hamizan and then back to Kuala Lumpur.
Tomorrow will be An Qi’s funeral and I will attend. Although I did not receive my “duit raya” or the Aidilfitri angpau I wanted this year, Hari Raya was not meant for duit raya anyway. Like Anas said, “You have given her 8 months of life, and a lifetime of hope.”
Although I welcomed this year’s Hari Raya with sorrow, I really appreciate all the comments on facebook, prayers for An Qi, all the comforting sms-es and the fact of knowing I really gave An Qi 8 months of life but not only a lifetime of hope for her. As Allen puts it, I have given hope to almost everyone around me – all of whom know about my liver donation!
I will welcome the next Hari Rayas with joy and meaningful days – not duit raya anymore.