Balik kampong

Tonight I depart for my native homeland to celebrate Eid’ul Fitr with my wife. My wife, – sometimes its easy to forget that I have one – we have been apart for so long. This is the first time I am returning to Singapore for Hari Raya, ever since I left Singapore for my new home in the north, in what seems ages ago but in reality, it has been almost 17 years.

I have forgotten how Hari Raya is celebrated back there, but I can imagine nothing has changed. Lampu ‘lap lip’, new baju raya, new curtains, new everything — some things never change. Over here it is decidedly a small affair (for me anyways) — praying at the mosque in the morning, visiting my uncle and his family, and usually that’s it. My mom cooks lontong (delicious as always), with rendang, and other fixings. Usually the last night of Ramadhan we invite people over to recite the takbir, and have a mini-feast during the breaking of the fast. Undoubtedly the atmosphere is not the same as back in Singapore, because the Malay community is smaller, besides there is a multitude of other ethnicities here, each celebrating it the way they know how according to their tradition, with their various Eid delicacies.

Ramadhan here is not without its own politics. The mosque we most frequent, and the closest — Masjid Al-Hidayah — has always gone its own way in determining the first day to fast. They always follow the Saudi ruling, while the rest of the mosques (I believe) follow ISNA (Islamic Society of North America). So, this led me to fast one day before the rest of my family – which will mean possibly that I will celebrate Eid one day before my family. I was following ISNA, while unbeknownst to me my family was following the other way. But in it there was a blessing – it didn’t matter anyway because I will be in Singapore and I will follow Eid there (which has a fixed date). And I don’t even have to make-up any days (even though in travelling to Singapore, technically I lose a day from not fasting). Long story!

Coming from a quiet part of Canada I wonder how I will take the hustle and bustle of Singapore during Raya time. I’m sure I will be exhilirated and frustrated at the same time! The night before Raya in Geylang at my wife’s Ra Ra Bazaar TV shoot will be an interesting experience. At least at the end of the day I can retreat to the full-blast of my wife’s air-conditioned room and her big fan…

I can’t wait to experience a bit of kampong life at my wife’s Busu’s house in Malacca. It’s been over two decades since I lived in a kampong – at my grand-aunt’s place in Jalan Ampas. I loved the animals there – chickens, cats, and there was even a monkey once! What I didn’t look forward to were the snakes – sometimes I found snake eggs and baby snakes in old furniture stored underneath the stilts of her house (“bawah kolong”). But then all the kambings are gone at Busu’s house 🙁 🙁

My “Malayness” is literally a snapshot of what I left Singapore with in 1989 – me and my brother have memorized lines from P. Ramlee’s movies, and we enjoy them still. Are there no high-definition transfers of these films to DVD? But our fascination for P. Ramlee is considered ‘kental’ by our Singapore cousins (and my wife too! but I don’t care, hehe). “Ah jaga Cik Salmah jaga… ah… jaga… ah apasal tak jaga kan dah jatuh tu…” “Ini cat ke kapur? Bedak, tuan!” Both of us still reminisce about the rock bands we loved during that time – Search, Wings, Headwind… with Wings being our favourite. Whatever Malay culture that we had resided in those tapes (and VCDs). It is never easy having one identity being usurped by a newer one (out of necessity), but such is the life of a (young) immigrant.

Last year I had to console myself with celebrating Hari Raya without my wife – it broke my heart. I sang to her “Dari Jauh Ku Pohon Maaf” during my phone call that pagi Raya, which I found had the appropriate lyrics to explain our situation (with some of my edits):

“Dalam dingin subuh hatiku terusik
Kenang nasib diri di rantauan
Bergema takbir raya menitis air mata
Terbayang suasana permai desa

Rindu hati ini inginku kembali
Pada istriku yang mengembara
Tetapi aku harus mencari rezeki
Membela nasib kita bersama

Hanya ku sampaikan doa dan kiriman tulus ikhlas
Dari jauh kupohonkan ampun maaf
Jangan sedih pagi ini tak dapat kita bersama
Meraikan aidil fitri yang mulia”

I am glad that we will not have to be in that situation again. Insya’allah, we shall have our first Eid under one roof, and many more together as we grow old in the years to come.


  1. aaaah ajun balik kampung jumpa bini dia hehehehe.

    have fun shaz…not the crowd, but the food. insyaAllah, tahun depam u guys wont be separated. and then u guys can visit me in SF!

    Salam Aidilftri, maaf zahir batin!

  2. reading this sure touched my heart so bad.

    expecially when coincidentally, i am listening to this song over at the stereo.

    semoga lebaran menjadi lebih bererti to you and your wifey! i was just bloghopping from sentral.

    selamat beraya di singapura, yang yes typically semua sedondon jalan across the streets and hope you have a blast while you are here!

  3. waaaahh.. lomantik nya ajun! lama tak tulis entry plak tuh. selamat hari raya aidilfitri to both of you and maaf zahir batin dari kami sekeluarga.
    dari jauh..uweekkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk.
    not fair… ajun dapat balik raya..aku!!!???? uwekkkkkkk

  4. “jolok motor ye bang?”

    i am a big fan of p.ramlee flicks too!

    this post is so sweet….So YOU are the mushy half of the equation.but wait aminute, did uja suddenly turn mushy too…awww


  5. awwwww…so shweeet! Selamat Hari Raya to u and yr lovely wife Uja, whom I have heard so much about but have yet to meet! Hope u have a great raya celebration under one roof this year…errr..among other activities that is! hahaha! *winks*

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