Out and about: Zahariz Khuzaimah, an adventurer, is currently in China, and says being on the road, fasting and celebrating Eid in a rather stark and minimalist way has become normal. - ZAHARIZ KHUZAIMAH
While spending Hari Raya away from home can make one nostalgic, it can also be an eye-opening experience.
The trouble with us is that everything is Kuala Lumpur-centric. Everything happens here: work, love, occasions. And so it is, with religious holidays like Hari Raya Aidil Fitri or Eidul Fitri. Less and less are observing the ritual of balik kampung as everyone prefers to congregate in the city. It’s more convenient, and there is a lot more to do.
More and more are celebrating the end of Ramadan, and the beginning of Syawal in the city. If they are moneyed, club function rooms and hotels are hired for their open house. Some prefer holding their open houses at their respective homes, so white tents, rich Malay food and cars parked askew on roadsides abound, as family and friends visit and celebrate the festival.
Then, there are those who are celebrating Raya outside the country, finding joy in the occasion even though the celebrations are different from what their best festive memories are.
Zahariz Khuzaimah is an adventurer, whose Facebook page and blog have a growing number of fans. We first met when he e-mailed, rather shyly, to ask if the news organisation I worked for, would publish his travels in China. Armed with a borrowed bicycle, Zahariz wrote an enchanting travel column, and today, his travels are documented on YouTube and on his website.
He has fond memories of his childhood Raya spent in Segamat, Johor. It was a time for all the family to congregate, when cousins met and played throughout the day and night, and being with his late grandmother. The duit Raya was a bonus to a rather idyllic childhood.
Today, Eid is “just another day”. Most of his family members prefer to spend it in the city, and they meet for an hour after prayers before they go back to their homes. Raya in a concrete city is not the same; it is a cold way of greeting a beautiful month.
Zahariz is now in Kashgar, in China close to the Kyrgyztan border. In 2010, he decided to do the unthinkable; throwing in his job and travelling on a bicycle a friend lent him. He hasn’t looked back since.
“I have a new life now. I am a nomad. The first time I celebrated Eid overseas was in 2006 when I was studying in New Zealand. Back then. I felt lonely and sad... celebrating it alone, eating only instant noodles and plain water in the morning, and having to rush to class.”