Tradition continues via web connections

(seated from left) Shamsuri and his wife Munirah giving Hari Raya blessings to sons Muhd Kabil,and Muhd Nabil at their home in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur. - Photos: FAIHAN GHANI/The Star and courtesy pics

HARI Raya Aidilfitri this year in the Malay enclave of Kampung Baru in the heart of Kuala Lumpur will be a more low-key affair.

The Health Ministry has issued an advisory to avoid or reduce

visits to neighbours and families within a state as part of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.

A recent stroll through the neighbourhood of homes on stilts nestled among coconut and banana trees against the backdrop of the city skyline, revealed a subdued atmosphere.

Normally at this time, Kampung Baru would be filled with the hustle and bustle of Ramadan bazaars and Muslims doing their festive shopping.

But now, most food stalls and shops remain closed amid the movement control order (MCO), now in its conditional phase.

The residents there have also embraced the “stay at home” mantra, only heading out for work or to buy essential items.

“It’s a sad time, because we are unable to have our obligatory terawih prayers during Ramadan, and there will be no mass Raya prayers too.

“I will miss seeing the many children lining up at my house to collect their Raya money packets on the first day,” said pensioner Adam Mohd Sahat, a long-time Kampung Baru resident.

Adam plans to spend a quiet Raya with his wife and two of his four children, without the usual visits from neighbours.

“We did not make a lot of Raya cookies this time, only about four types.

“Although this has dampened the Raya spirit, all of us have to obey the government’s directive to flatten the curve,” he said, referring to the Health Ministry’s measures to bring down Covid-19 infections and prevent new cases.

It will also be a small gathering of five this Raya for Malay Agricultural Settlement (MAS) honorary secretary Shamsuri Suradi, who lives not far away from Adam.

He told StarMetro now was the time to cut back on festive food wastage.

“If we think about it, the open house concept encourages people to overeat, whereas Ramadan teaches us to practise moderation and give to the poor,” he said.

During Ramadan, he and his neighbours have been exchanging homemade dishes with each other to keep the festive spirit alive, despite the current situation.

“We will do the same for Raya as well,” said Shamsuri, whose family comprises wife Munirah Looi and sons Muhd Nabil, Muhd Jabir and Muhd Kabil.

Pertubuhan Pemilik Tanah dan Waris Kampong Bharu (Pewaris) lawyer representative Shahrom Mohd Haron, who is in his 70s, said the unprecedented situation due to the pandemic was something everyone had to accept.

“It is safer to just stay at home during Raya with your immediate family members.

“If we fail to maintain social distancing or adhere to the government’s orders, there would be more infections and all our effort and money spent so far would be wasted,” said Shahrom, who lives in Kajang.

During Ramadan every year, Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru is famous for handing out bubur lambuk to be distributed to the community, but all that ceased because of the outbreak.

The village bubur lambuk is considered legendary because the mosque has been doing it for the past 100 years.

However, the MCO has meant the mosque, in partnership with corporate sponsors, has only prepared the porridge for delivery to frontliners.

But all is not lost for those hankering for a taste of the delicacy. Along Jalan Raja Abdullah as you pass the Kampung Baru gateway arch, bubur lambuk seller Marzuki Sallehudin, 31, sells the sought-after dish from his motorcycle.

“I can sell between 60 and 100 packets of bubur lambuk a day,” he said.

Staying connected

It is a surreal experience for large families who are unable to physically meet up with each other this Raya, as they resort to online video conferencing.

For university lecturer Mazliyana Zainal Arifin, 36, who hails from Batu Pahat, Johor, but currently lives in Seremban with her husband Fairuredza Kassim, four children and parents, it is a strange feeling to not be able to enjoy the festivities with her over 100 extended family members this Raya.

She has more than 50 cousins, including their spouses and 42 nieces and nephews on her mother Mazniha Selamat’s side of the family, fondly referred to as the “Selton clan” (a combination of her grandparents’ names Selamat and Zaiton).

Mazniha also comes from a large family of 11 siblings.

One would imagine the challenges of organising a family reunion of this size, which is why they have a family organising committee.

“We have a committee chairman and a representative from each family.

“The committee started 17 years ago when the first cousin got married, and now it’s easier with WhatsApp group chats to keep up with everyone,” said Mazliyana, adding that they were supposed to meet for Raya at her grandmother’s house in Batu Pahat this year.

Everything from colour-coordinated wedding outfits to Raya attire is done through the family committee, and this year, the chosen colour was emerald green.

So committed is the family to keeping the tradition alive that last week saw them doing a rehearsal to choose the best video conferencing app for their virtual Raya gathering.

“We had a few options such as Zoom and Google Meet, but Zoom could only allow 40 minutes per session, which is not enough for the number of people we have,” laughed Mazliyana, adding that they settled on Cisco Webex for the Raya video conferencing.

She has four siblings – sisters Mazrayahaney, Mazizwanee and Mazrafizani as well as brother Muhammad Firdaus – and they reside in Rawang, Batu Pahat and Shah Alam respectively.

Mazrayahaney, 40, said although a Raya where she was unable to gather with her close-knit family is far from ideal, she hopes to meet with her sister and brother in Shah Alam if time permits.

“We have not met each other since the end of February, and I cannot stand it.

“Never have we been apart this long, but the video calls do help,” she said.

One of Mazliyana’s aunties is none other than singer Datuk Syafinaz Selamat, 47, who is sad that she will not be able to meet her epic Selton clan this year.

“The last time I was apart from them for Raya was in 2008 when I was in Germany.

“When the government announced the ban on balik kampung, I teared up.

“But on the bright side we will still get to ‘see’ each other thanks to digital technology of video conferencing,” she said, adding that she would spend Raya with her manager Tunku Marina Tunku Zubir and her family.

The government has banned interstate travel to balik kampung for Raya this year, and put a limit on house guests to fewer than 20, depending on the space, and only for the first day of Hari Raya.

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