KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — This year’s Hari Raya will go down in the books as the first post-movement control order (MCO) Raya after two years of almost no state-to-state crossings.
Which means that balik kampung is back on schedule and as the spirit of festivities fills the air, some Malaysians from all walks of life shared with Malay Mail their balik kampung plans ahead of the holidays.
‘Loneliest Raya ever’
For Aida Nazlyn, a researcher at a local private palm oil research company and her husband along with their two-year-old son have only one objective this Hari Raya and that is to go all out in their celebrations.
“This year we want to Raya kaw-kaw (all out).
“We even took leave from work as early as Wednesday this week just to avoid the traffic and our schedules are already packed from day one,” Aida told Malay Mail.
The reason for Aida’s enthusiasm is due to the fact that she and her small family of three had to celebrate Raya in Kluang, Johor after she was transferred there from Selangor just a month before Hari Raya last year.
To make matters worse, on Raya eve last year, Aida’s son was diagnosed with food poisoning and admitted to the Kluang’s KPJ Specialist Hospital.
As a result, Aida had to celebrate last year’s Raya with only her son at the hospital ward while her husband, Ungku Adika Zulkarnain Ungku Fadzil had to celebrate alone at their new Kluang home.
This was due to the hospital’s current standard operating procedures (SOP) at that time which only allowed one parent or guardian to stay with patients.
According to Adika, last year was one of his loneliest Raya ever.
“When I heard the news that my son had to get admitted, I was frustrated. Even though our neighbourhood was quite lively on Raya eve, only our house was quiet.
“I didn’t do much that night. After sending essential needs to my wife and son, I got back home, had a bowl of chicken soto that my wife made for me before going to the hospital and all lights were out around 8.30pm that night,” Adika said.
Their son was admitted for a total of six days before being discharged.
After their unexpected predicament last year, Aida and her family are looking forward to celebrating Raya back with families and friends in Selangor this year.
Both of them are also looking to satisfy their cravings of having rendang itik (duck rendang) and ketupat palas along with soto and lontong on the first day of Raya this year.
Aside from that, Aida said that this would be their son’s second time celebrating Raya as last year’s celebration in the hospital didn’t count.
“So, this year we’re looking forward to seeing him (our son) collecting duit raya from all his uncles and aunties.
“And we’re also looking forward to him spending this Raya with all his cousins because he’s at the stage where he’s learning to make new friends.
“Hopefully we get to see him enjoy his Raya with all his cousins this year,” Aida said, adding that she has made all the necessary preparations including preparing freshly-cooked meals for her son to avoid another food poisoning.
Working every eve of Raya
Malaysian Institute for Medical Research’s Bacteriology unit research officer Nur Asyura Nor Amdan said she was looking forward to reuniting with her family this Raya in Melaka after two years of being apart.
Dr Asyura who’s a frontliner based in Setia Alam, Selangor said that she has been on duty on every Raya eve for the past two years.
“I still remember that night in 2020 clearly. I finished work at around 8pm that eve of Raya and as I reached my apartment, I could already hear the Takbir Raya through the Surau’s speakers.
“There I was, sitting at the bench near the playground after work thinking to myself ‘Ya Allah, what am I doing here, it’s Raya eve’.
“I decided to linger at the playground while listening to the Takbir Raya. Plus, I was staying alone and there’s nothing much for me to do at home, so I stayed for a while to get a feel of Raya before going up to my apartment,” Asyura told Malay Mail.
The Takbir Raya usually resonates on the eve of Hari Raya and during the Hari Raya prayers the next morning.
Asyura added that she held small gatherings with her friends at her place for the past two years.
The last two years, however, was not Asyura’s first time celebrating Hari Raya away from family as she studied in the United Kingdom for her PhD previously.
“In the UK, we have our own community there, so every Raya, all of us would cook together so it’s not that lonely there.
“But during the MCO, it’s heart-breaking knowing that your family is just an hour and twenty minutes away, but you couldn’t do anything to get to them,” she said.
As Asyura is excited to get back together with her family this Hari Raya after two difficult years, she also expressed her worry about the traffic condition during the long weekend that Malaysians are going to enjoy soon.
“The standard time from Selangor to Melaka would take about an hour and a half but if there’s heavy traffic, it could take up to three to four hours with high chances of traffic delays taking place in the Seremban area.
“But to be honest, I need to prepare mentally for the drive back home because I will be bringing my two cats along with me.
“So, it’s more about me preparing my mind for my cats rather than the traffic jam because one of them likes to throw tantrums in the car so I have to make a stop a few times just to check on them,” Asyura said.
Long drive ahead
Aliff Maaruf Halimi who just tied the knot in February this year, is excited to take advantage of the long weekend as he is celebrating Hari Raya in two hometowns this year.
The Silara Akses’ sales and marketing executive will begin his Hari Raya journey on May 1 to his hometown in Ipoh, Perak before continuing their journey to his wife’s hometown in Pasir Gudang, Johor Baru.
According to Aliff, the Raya vibe this year was definitely different for him as this was his first Raya spending it with a spouse.
“We’re both so excited for this year’s Raya. Because this is our chance to properly introduce each other to our families back home after the MCO.
“Alhamdulillah this year the restrictions have been lifted and insyaAllah I’m excited to introduce my wife to my family’s tradition and I’m excited to learn hers as well,” Aliff told Malay Mail.
He added that it was a tradition for his family in Ipoh to hold a feast for family members on the second day of Hari Raya.
When talking about the long journey ahead of him, Aliff said that he had no problem driving on long journeys as he was used to being the ‘designated’ driver for his family before this.
He added that he could always take turns with his wife as well in case he’s feeling sleepy.
“So, we will be heading to Ipoh on May 1 where we will be spending the last day of Puasa there until the second day of Raya.
“On midnight during the second day of Raya, we will be heading to Pasir Gudang, Johor.
“Based on Google maps, the journey from Ipoh to Pasir Gudang would take around six hours excluding the traffic, so InsyaAllah we will be arriving in Pasir Gudang on the morning of the third day of Raya,” he said.
Raya via WhatsApp
As for Singapore Airlines customer care officer, Syed Amir Khizar, he has been celebrating the last two Raya via his family’s group video call on WhatsApp and he was glad to be able to go back to his hometown in Rembau, Negri Sembilan.
Syed added that he was looking forward to reconnecting with his mother and sister back home and to perform the Hari Raya prayers together with them again.
Syed, who’s staying with his brother in Subang Jaya, has been stuck there since 2020 due to the MCO and his work.
“What I miss the most is the Raya atmosphere, eating rendang with lemang. Visiting neighbours that I haven’t seen in a while, lighting up the pelita in front of our house, I miss that joy of being together with family.
“I’ll be heading back to Rembau on May 1 as well and I don’t mind the traffic because I’m looking forward to following our Prime Minister’s traffic advice which is to travel before 10am,” Syed said.
As Hari Raya is in a few days, Malay Mail would like to wish a Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to those celebrating and to all, have a safe holiday.
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