With just a few days to go before Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Syafiq Aziz and his housemates are furiously cleaning up their bachelor pad and putting up new curtains to make it Raya-ready. They’ve got their brooms, dustpan and mops out, and also their scissors. Last weekend, Syafiq got his housemate Muhammad Yusril Harith Mohd Koma to trim his hair since barber shops are still closed during this conditional movement control order (CMCO) period.
“He is pretty good at cutting hair, ” says Syafiq Aziz, smiling self-consciously at the attention on his new hairdo. “I think my hair doesn’t look too bad.”
Though most of them have lived together for half a decade, this will be the first time the boys – eight of them share the double-storey link house in Section 17, Petaling Jaya – will celebrate Hari Raya together. Like many Malaysians, they are not able to balik kampung because of the interstate travel ban.
Also read: Recreating kampung festivities in her home in the city this Hari Raya
Although they will miss their loved ones and riotous gathering of family, neighbours and friends coming together on the first day of Syawal back in their kampung, the young men are determined to make the best of the situation.
They plan to invite a few of their ex-housemates over to the house on the first day of Raya - “adhering to the CMCO protocols, of course” - and play Raya songs throughout the day to keep the spirit of the festivities alive in their rented home.
“Raya tetap Raya, ” says Azriezul Roslan, 25, a data management executive, who is from Sabah.
“Even though we can’t go home to our families, we are still brothers - from different mothers. For the past month we have been preparing our Iftar meals together, trying new recipes every day. And in the past few days, we have organised gotong-royong sessions to prepare the house for Raya this weekend, ” he adds.
Their efforts have paid off - the house is spick and span and their cars and motorbikes are gleaming under the sun. In the living room, there’s an array of Raya cookies neatly laid out in jars on the coffee table.
“We didn’t make the cookies ourselves, ” explains Muhammad Arif Aziz, 29. “But throughout Ramadan, we have been trying our hand at making traditional dishes and kuih for iftar. We never thought we would be able to cook some of these dishes like ayam percik, nasi ayam, agar-agar santan, bread pudding, onde onde, kuih kaswi and sekaya telur. We are all hantu kuih here in this house!
Also read: Father of three Alif Satar has had a 'Ramadan to remember'
“For Raya, we will be preparing nasi dagang, based on my mother’s recipe. We tested the recipe out a few days ago and it turned out really well. Although we can get most ingredients here, I had my mum send us the beras dagang from Kelantan via courier, ” adds Muhammad Arif, who is a biomedical engineer.
Most of them have even managed to buy new Raya outfits online.
“For me, Raya isn’t Raya if I don’t have new baju raya so I tried to find something that would fit my budget, ” says Najhan Nabil, 23, the youngest of the group, who is an undergraduate at Universiti Tun Razak.
“I am really sad to not be able to go back to Kelantan. It never once crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to celebrate Raya with my family but I am grateful to have such great housemates to celebrate with. We have planned so many things throughout Ramadan and for Raya that I have overcome my sadness.”
Apart from preparing delicious delicacies for iftar, the boys have also been performing terawih prayers at home together every night during Ramadan and they plan to perform Raya prayers together on the first day of Hari Raya this Sunday too.
“We have been taking turns being the imam every night for terawih prayers and it has been a really great experience, ” says Muhammad Arif.
The first order of the day - once Raya prayers are over - will be video and phone calls to their loved ones back in their hometowns.
“The first thing I want to do on Raya morning is video call my family. Thankfully, with technology, we can still ‘be with’ family even though they are so far away, ” says Yusril, who is also Kelantanese.
Apart from calling his mother and siblings, Muhammad Arif has another important call to make on Raya morning.
“I will also video-call my sweetheart Nur Syazwani Wahid who is currently in Terengganu with her family. That’s the only way we can take a Raya day photo together this year. I usually spend the third day of Raya with her and her family.
Muhammad Arif has 13 siblings, half of whom are in Machang and will be celebrating with their mum.
“I have some siblings in Selangor and I will visit them on the first day of Raya, ” says Muhammad Arif
It will be a different kind of Raya for the boys but it will be no less special.
“These guys are my second family and we will make this a Raya to remember, ” says Syafiq, who hails from Terengganu.
Adds Muhammad Yusril, “I am so glad I stay with such cool housemates... I have really enjoyed Ramadan with them.”
Media Gallery: Hari Raya with a difference
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