Thursday 5 May 2022

My Solar System - an observation on Hari Raya Aidilfitri May 2022


We expected Eid on the third of May!  But the panic was felt most by all the Emak, Mama, Ibu, Mummy and Umi in Malaysia - the cooking, the children's outfits, the curtains and cushion covers to be changed, the sweeping and cleaning inside and outside the house, the cutlery, crockery, glasses, tablecloths to be laid out and on top of it all, the last minute shopping that had been planned for the last day of Ramadan.  

But we all know Mothers are superwomen!  They will see all this through no matter what.

I can recall two occasions when this happened - when Hari Raya fell on the day before the expected/scheduled date on the calendar.

It happened the first time when I was a young teacher in Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak / Yusof Ishak Secondary School, West Coast Road, Singapore during the late 1960s, sometime between 1967 and 1970.   On Hari Raya Day, all Malay and Muslim students (including those in the English medium) were allowed time to attend the Hari Raya prayers and they had then to report back to school as usual.  Their Hari Raya holiday would be officially celebrated on the second day of Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.

Well, the Malay-Muslim teachers in the school, all men, most of them older than this female in her early 20s turned to me and said, 

"Cikgu pergi lah jumpa Mr Lazaroo (the Principal) dan minta cuti satu hari untuk kita orang!" (Teacher, why don't you ask Mr Lazaroo (the Principal) for a day off (on Eid) for us?)

They forgot I am the bolshie/maverick AnaksiHamid and I replied very nicely, "Cikgu semua pergi lah sendiri minta rayuan Mr Lazaroo!"  (Teachers, why don't all of you make a plea to Mr Lazaroo?) That was the end of that.   Good try! To put my head on the block while they skulk in the background.   If it works, great for them.  If it doesn't, only Maznoor will be in the dog-house.  We shall just go home and and carry on, our record remains intact.  They would certainly say,  "Tak cuba, tak tahu" (If you don't ask, you will never know).   Except for my record, if it fails!!!!  Aaah, the early signs (for me) of Malay-Muslim-Males' strategy and tactics.   Hardly Malay Sun Tzu, but very typical.

So all we Malays and Muslims had to go by the book.  On Hari Raya all the teachers duly turned up after Prayers, but - bully for them - hardly any of the kids turned up at all.  They took the risk and were willing to face the consequences!  The bravery of youth - the young who are unaccountable to the boring mores and dregs of the old.

The second time occurred some ten years later in 1977 at the Chinese/English Integrated Jurong Secondary School, Corporation Road, Singapore.  I was as usual in the minority English stream.  But I was no pipsqueak!  I was now the Senior Assistant for the English Stream.  Mind you, it took me some years to get there.  Some or most of my peer group from Singapore University were Principals by now - despite my very extensive Curriculum Vitae and my post graduate qualification from London University.  But beggars can't be choosers, can they?

By the mid-1970s, the Malay (and Tamil) medium schools  in Singapore were dying out, as more and more parents decided to send their children to English schools.  The tail-end of the the Malay stream from Yusof Ishak Secondary were all shifted to Jurong - about 2-3 classes if my memory serves me well. When the Public holiday for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (I cannot remember the exact year) fell on the second day of Hari Raya again, life and school went on as usual.  Hari Raya or no Hari Raya, Malays and Muslims reported for school after the Prayers.

In the next few days and a week or so after that, stories, snipings and grumbles were coming back to me, about how Miss Hamid (my nomenclature then in JSS, not Cikgu Maznoor as in Yusof Ishak), as a Muslim and the Senior Assistant, should have spoken up for them, especially the Malay medium section to give them concessions to celebrate Hari Raya in the full sense of the celebration - to grant them an additional 'Public Holiday' so to speak.  I left it alone until it became personal, very personal, and I feared a repetition of what happened to me in Yusof Ishak when they applied the tactic of "tak dapat dengan cara kasar, kita gunakan cara halus" (If we can't get you one way, we shall find a subtler way) 

I had to do what was then necessary to maintain the morale and administration of Jurong Secondary School- and with the permission of the Principal we had an emergency Staff Meeting to explain the policy of the School (and the Government ) about Hari Raya Public Holidays on the second day of Hari Raya.  I also asked that this should be explained to the pupils as well and that Miss Hamid does not have the power or the credentials to make adjustments to a government edict.

I had had enough of teaching in Singapore - whether in a Malay-English Integrated School (1967-1974) or in a Chinese-English Integrated School (1975-1977).  

I would soon have an interview for a teaching appointment in Brunei.   In February 1978, I left my Singapore teaching days for good.  Brunei was good to me (1978-1984) and by then Singapore had become merely a transit station for me.  By 1986 I had no more reasons to stay.

So Hari Raya 2022 brought back this septuagenarian's memorable moments of 'premature'  Hari Raya  days/daze!  


It also sets her thinking of more ethereal and astronomical things like the sun and the moon and the stars and loved ones.

The moon is such a crucial feature in the life of a Malay-Muslim.  One of his  most significant religious activities like Ramadan and the festival of Eid is determined by the sighting of the moon.  Even the  word for 'month' is 'Bulan' which is the Moon.  Endless love songs and music and poems and novels have been written in honour of the moon.  Even the word for madness is derived from  ' lunacy' , an ailment connected to the transits of the moon.

An old Malay school poem comes to mind.

This is from my Primary School Malay textbook. "Beneh Akal" ( The seed of wisdom) when I was attending Pasir Panjang English School.

I loved these lines :  Bulan tanya pada bintang, (The moon asks of the stars)

                                 Mana jatoh mata hari. (Where does the sun set.)

This Hari Raya, I remember my moon and my sun.  (The title of this love song from the 1960s is "The moon enclosed by the stars")

My mother the moon and my father the sun on Hari Raya 1950,  at 680 Pasir Panjang Road,  Singapore.


Malam terang, nampak bayang, (The night is bright, the shadows are visible.)

Banyak bintang kawan bulan. (So many stars, so many friends of the moon.)

Emak with her 3 stars - the 4th (Mustakim) was still an infant, having a snooze inside the house.   Abah made those Hari Raya Stars.


But their second star, is so happy (over the moon!) to have this picture in her keeping.

Maznoor Abd Hamid celebrating her third Hari Raya at Kampung Chantek, off Dunearn Road.
The two stars were made by Abah!


Umpteen years later - many, many moons later - about 480 months later  and more - came this shooting star into AsH's life.

The shooting star is a streak of light in the sky orbiting round the moon.  At times he can be an asteroid (a small rocky body orbiting the sun) or a meteor (a space rock that enters the earth's atmosphere). 

Whatever he turns into, even when he's howling at the moon - he still draws great pictures for AnaksiHamid.

Eccentrics Extraordinaire.


Selamat Hari Raya from long ago and far away.


PS :  Just a little reminder, just so that "pisang tidak berbuah dua kali"  or  "Once bitten, twice shy".

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