It’s the same as last year and the year before that and the year before that as well. Family coming from everywhere, crashing into the Batu Arang House and bringing pot-luck food which you can only pray that it’s digestible.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Okay, I know I’ve been pretty cynical about my family (because I wanted to) and that’s because it’s the truth. And that I wanted to.
Ayah is a busybody, Mak doubly so, (between the two of them, nothing gets done in time). My eldest brother *Arsenal is still being plagued with “Why aren’t you married yet?” inquisitions, my sister... MySis... had to bail quickly so she can suffer her husband’s family as well and my younger brother *Genius is so blur, he’s deploying his ‘whatever’ attitude.
For a genius, my little brother had to ask my parents, “Where are we going for Hari Raya Haji?”
Oh geez, Genius. Let’s see, we have a map of Batu Arang. We’re all leaving at 1030, 1100 and 1130 hours, depending on who is not ready and whose car is running for the last 10 minutes.
Mak borrowed PakSu’s Nissan van so she can transport the barbecue, turning the seven-men vehicle into a 2-and-a-half-men-plus-oversized-barbecue-set vehicle. Oh, and we do this every year so my brother really HAD to ask.
Me? I’m sick dammit. If I didn’t prepare myself for a stomach of steel, I would have literally made myself v-o-m-i-t. And it’s rude to barf up your aunt’s rendang so soon after you’ve swallowed it.
The thing is... I liked my family gathering holidays.
No really. I do. A lot. There are times when I think I shouldn’t be feeling so darn happy to see my close relations.
I mean, I’m surrounded by my mom’s 9 brothers and sisters and each one of them had multiplied to an average of 5 children each so that’s 45 cousins on all fronts. Several of my cousins had multiplied as well so that’s a total of 5 or so ‘little people’ running everywhere, getting into trouble so their elders can scream at me, “Why didn’t you watch them?!”
Do the math. I have a big family. Big Freaking Malay Family. If you’re not tripping over the little people, you’re being cornered by 2 aunts (my mom’s sisters travel in packs) so they can ask you everything about yourself since they already know how many diapers you use a day, back in the days when you had diapers.
Don’t they look like brothers? Cousins? No... they are uncle and nephew.
Of course, some of my cousins are celebrating with their in-laws or that they couldn’t come home from overseas so the total number had been helpfully reduced this year. Oh, one of my cousins brought a tourist with him, a Muslim convert from USA.
The guy was born in Malaysia actually (or so I’ve been force-fed the info) to a pair of globetrotting professor parents. *TanFace, my cousin, brought him over from Massachusetts to experience Hari Raya Haji in Malaysia.
“Clan Jailani, meet *Abdul-Something.”
“Abdul-Something, meet Clan Jailani. Now you’re the flavour of this year’s Haji. Brace yourself.”
My father, Ayah, was at awe. Ayah was self-learning bits and pieces of Arabic so he’s trying to impress Abdul-Something with his lame Arabic vocabulary (it turns out that Abdul-Something is an Arabic teacher). In return of listening to Ayah, Abdul-Something gets a bit of Ayah birthday cake.
It’s raining in Batu Arang... but that’s not going to stop the cow slaughtering!
That went on and on until after the lunch hour passed and the men left to send our family’s 2 cows for slaughter at the local ‘surau’. Then the meat-feast begins with Barbecue Party (just like last year).
Sorry Abdul-Something. Hary Raya AidilFitri is all the traditional food eating. Hari Raya Haji is when Clan Jailani eats Western. And Westerners are delicious. Especially the pale, skinny, Half-Dutch-half-Irish origin.
All and all, like I said, I reluctantly enjoyed my Hari Raya Aidil Adha 2007. Because unlike most families, Clan Jailani actually made the effort to keep in touch with each other throughout the years, even after my grandparent’s deaths.
I got an uncle’s family living within walking distance from my school and another uncle’s family within my house area. And the latter uncle’s wife, my aunt, has HER family within walking distance as well.
Cheap and lazy photograph copy of my mom’s family.
And every year, every body converges into Batu Arang (eldest uncle’s house) for whatever holiday they can drag their children too. Heck, even NOT-HOLIDAY, like cousin’s new house, aunt’s job promotion, whatever, is an excuse to get as much as mom’s 9 brothers and sisters under one roof.
With food. Golden rule; must bring food.
However, stray birds that flew into peoples’ homes by mistake, need not stay.
The family will be having another biggie gathering again in 2 months or so. It’ll be a family discussion on one of my aunt’s medical bills, the bungalow rents and late grandfather’s pineapple farm in Pontian. Maybe this time it’ll be in the uncle’s house in Kelana Jaya or maybe the aunt’s house in Seremban.
How the hell should I know? We do this every year. Oh hell, we do this on average every three months for freaking sakes! It’s just the same like every other gathering. Bring food, bring family members and bring gossip.
It’s just that Hari Raya Haji gives the excuse to indulge even more and maybe bring a tourist friend or so. Just like last year. Or like the last super gathering at Aidil Fitri, barely 2 months ago (aunt’s house in Seremban, I passed some books to my cousin, TanFace).
Funny enough, I wouldn’t have it any other way...