Gearing up for Raya away from home

Friends Nur Hidayah (left), Fitri Nur Liza Syapri, 23 (right) and Siti Sakinah Mohd Noor, 21 decorating the entrance of their dormitory with Raya-themed decorations to keep the festive spirit alive on campus.

THE announcement of yet another movement control order might have been anticipated judging from the rise of the Covid-19 numbers, but many held on to hope of reuniting with family members this Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Those living away from home have accepted that with the right attitude, the Raya spirit lives on no matter where they are based.

Campus celebrations

Being away from family during Raya is not stopping Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) student Nur Hidayah Iqbal Fithri from creating memories with her friends on campus.

The 22-year-old third-year chemical engineering student from Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor decided, in March, to spend Raya away from home.

“I was appointed to the student representative council (MPP) in UTM, and wanted to be hands-on in carrying out the programmes we have planned. My family was supportive of my decision.

“Most of my teammates decided to stay back too as we had lined up Ramadan and Raya events for students.

“We were also involved in managing travel arrangements for those returning to their respective hometowns in conjunction with Raya, ” she said.

Nur Hidayah added that some students were unable to return home for Raya with the recent implementation of the MCO, so it was important to put on a good show for those staying back.

It is learnt that about 2,000 UTM students in Johor Baru and Kuala Lumpur are spending Raya on campus this year.

“Our programme started on the first day of Ramadan with the lighting of lampu pelita to keep the festive spirit alive, besides distributing bubur lambuk to students.

“On the first day of Raya, biscuits, kurma and food will be handed out to students, ” she said, adding that takbir raya was planned in some of the colleges here.

Nur Hidayah said being away from one’s family was difficult for some and the MPP team was eager to make staying back on campus during Raya worth their while.

“We have decorated our dormitory to welcome Raya and planned what clothes to wear tomorrow.

“Once we are done with the MPP programmes, we plan to stay in our dormitory and have a small celebration, ” she said.

Second Raya in Singapore

It will be another year of missing out on celebrations as technician Iskandar Mat Jusoh remains in Singapore.

The 37-year-old from Johor Baru said he had looked forward to spending Raya with his loved ones, this year, after having missed last year’s celebration due to the pandemic.

His hopes were shattered when the Singapore government extended its quarantine period from 14 days to 21 days.

“It broke my heart when I realised I could not go home for Raya again.

“I miss my wife and 10-year-old son. I have no other option but to stay here as I cannot afford the quarantine fees.

“All I can do is connect with them via video call to ease the sadness and loneliness, ” he said, adding that he would chat with his family every day.

Like many other Malaysians working in Singapore, Iskandar left home in March last year thinking that he would be home soon.

“However, the weeks turned into months and I remember spending Raya alone for the first time last year. I never expected it would come to that.

“Singapore was still under its circuit breaker measure during Raya last year.

“I was unable to do much as I was observing the standard operating procedure in Singapore, ” he recalled.

He met his family in October last year when he managed to get a 12-day visit under the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA).

Last week, Iskandar received a special Raya package containing a baju melayu, songkok and some Raya biscuits from his wife Siti Nur Ain Sheikh Abdullah, 35.

“It was such a sweet gesture and I became nostalgic for home as I was reminded that I would miss another Raya with my family.

“Family is very important to me. Each year, I spend Raya with my extended family and my wife’s family.

“We usually spend Raya eve at my grandmother’s house and on the first day of Raya, my son and I go to the mosque for morning prayers, ” he reminisced.

Iskandar said what he missed most about Raya was the cheerful atmosphere when family members from other parts of the country would visit his home in Johor Baru.

Raya, this year, will be spent with five friends whom he shares a flat with in Singapore.

“At least I have Raya biscuits this year and I get to wear a matching baju raya with my family.

“Interacting with my family via video calls is my main agenda on Raya as it is the only thing that will brighten my day, ” he said.

Missing Kelantan

For 27-year-old Nurul Athikaf Yassin, Raya is best spent with her family in Pasir Putih, Kelantan.

The factory operator, who has been working in Johor for five years, will not be able to return home for Raya for the second year.

However, all of her immediate family members will be under one roof with her to usher in this year’s festivities.

“Last year, I was away from my parents and my youngest sibling during Raya as they were in Pasir Putih.

“The MCO was announced suddenly so my seven siblings and I were unable to get our parents to join us in Johor.

“My Raya celebration was incomplete last year and I felt sad for my family back home as they were alone.

“Luckily, my youngest brother, who is a person with special needs, and my mother are here this time to celebrate Raya in Johor, ” she said, adding that they came down after her 76-year-old father died of kidney failure in October last year.

She said the family is sad that they would not be able to visit his grave as customarily observed by Muslim families in Malaysia.

“Our extended family is in Kelantan, including my husband Mohd Izawan Mohd’s family.

“He is sad that he cannot be with his parents.

“We will probably have our family members over on the first day of Raya, ” she said.

This year, Nurul Athikaf is thankful that her mother is around to teach her and her siblings how to make ketupat palas, a must-have for the celebration.

The family plans to keep things simple and be grateful for small blessings.

“The atmosphere will definitely be different from being in the kampung but a celebration with family is meaningful enough.”

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