web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: October 2006
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Sunday, October 29, 2006
Dendang Perantau

Minal Aidin wal Faidzin, albeit belatedly. How did you celebrate Eid this year? My family and I found ourselves away from home this Hari Raya, and we had a frugal festival that somewhat resembled Aidil Fitri, Alhamdulillah.

My wife, Kak Ti left for her hometown of Sragen in Central Java, on the weekend before Eid, and the kids and I let her go somewhat reluctantly. We didn't panic until it was time to do laundry. This is her first Hari Raya with her family in seven years, and we can't begrudge her this trip, because we realise this is more important to her than knowing where our panties are.

Two days before Hari Raya (or hari minus dua, as the news people here call it) the kids and I made kueh raya -- kuih siput, chocolate oat thingies and kueh batik. They were edible. I don't expect you'd want pictures or recipes.

Saiffuddin, always Indian when it comes to food, wanted to make beryani for Hari Raya. So during the weekend, we went to Shalimar, this tiny shop in Passer Baroe, for ingredients. Shalimar is the only place in the entire Jakarta-Bogor-Tangerang-Bekasi area where you can buy real curry powder and pappadoms, and if it is closed we would be reduced to eating cheese sandwiches on the first of Syawal. When we got there, the shop assistants were busy clearing shelves, we hadn't realised it was Deepavali. We managed to grab what we need, pay the grumpy cashier and leave just before they locked their doors.

Passer Baroe, or New Market, was built late in the 1800's and it is essentially a street mall and is somewhat reminiscent of Jalan Masjid India. It is famous for fabric, curtains and shoes, but in Ramadhan, there were also fireworks openly on sale. Fireworks are illegal in Malaysia, and previously I had always bought mine at the office, from enterprising cameramen who sold their wares from the boot of their cars in the basement carpark. Now, in Jakarta, we could buy what we please, so naturally my husband and Adam bought the largest, most phallic rockets they could find. (We forgot the camera during this trip, so no pictures, sorry. Just imagine a large, pointy thing in red and yellow, with parachutes)

On the eve of Eid, we found that Jakartans welcome the festival by going round town and making a racket, just like it's New Year. You can see families of five riding on motorcycles, while girls and boys sat on top of buses and lorries and sang songs and banged on drums and shouted out the takbir and shot handheld firecrackers, until the small hours of the morning. It was charming in the beginning, but not so when you can't get any sleep.

When we say the eve of Eid, we mean the eve of the day officially recognized as Hari Raya by the government. In Indonesia, groups of people started celebrating Hari Raya two days before, and the Muhamadiyyah followers, which included a couple of Cabinet Ministers, declared Hari Raya on Monday and had their prayers earlier. But of course, we celebrated Eid on Tuesday, because we officially declared Tuesday freeloading day.

On Hari Raya, we went to the Malaysian Embassy for prayers, seeking the silatturahmi of other Malaysians, as well as the erm, free food. The beryani remained a plan. Mokciknab, who is not at all Martha or Nigella or even Mokciknab of the Agar-Agar Magic, had other people's nasi impit and satay and roti bom on the morn of Syawal. There was a twinge of guilt, but this was quickly washed down with sirap ais and plain laziness.

Following prayers and meals, we had wanted to go home, and jump into the pool, because it was such a right thing to do after freeloading. But a call from Nandar, Adam's tuition teacher, set our heads straight. Nandar, who is a student at the Arab Saudi School in Jakarta, could not afford to go home to Pekan Baru. Tickets to anywhere during Raya is ten times more expensive than usual, no exaggeration. Nandar was spending the first day of Hari Raya alone in his rented room and the twenty year old sounded miserable. So we invited him over, and the afternoon was spent cooking the beryani, with chicken curry and roti canai.

After dinner and Isya' prayers, it was time to try out the gargantuan fireworks that we bought. Problem was, Jakarta is one of the most densely populated cities in Asia, and it would have been impossible for us to light up one of them CBM's without setting our neighbour's roof on fire. (And our neighbour is the District Chief of Police) We thought, maybe we can launch the fireworks in the largest open space in the city - the park around Monas, a soaring national monument otherwise known as Sukarno's last erection. When we got to the park, Saiffuddin was worried if we could actually shoot fireworks there, because no one else were; and because we're law abiding Malaysians, we asked the park ranger if we could. He said we can only light up the small ones, and certainly not the hunge dongs we were totting. Dissapointed, we were resigned to keep the rockets unlaunched, and go home, when the park lights were suddenly turned off. It was closing time. It was pitch dark. In a corner of the park, we could hear and see : fireworks. The others had waited for closing time to fire their weapons.

Encouraged, Nandar and Saiffuddin set up the artillery and brought fire to the fuse. The rocket shot up about fifty feet into the air, threw off a greenish glow, before releasing a paper parachute, which is usually ash by the time it hit the ground. I am so tempted to make stupid jokes about size and performance at this point, but I won't. Other people had obviously better stuff. One person was putting up a display that was like a mini version of what you'd get at KLCC. My kids were ecstatic.

We had fired several rockets when I saw the headlights of a park ranger's motorcycle coming towards us. I called out to Saiffuddin to cease and desist. Nandar put all the remaining fireworks in his knapsack, and we slowly walked back to the car, a long walk made harder because we can't really see. After stumbling over some people making out on the sidewalk, we made the turn that would take us to the park gate. Then from the corner, came a patrol car, and the officer was announcing something through a haler. "Act like a normal family!", said Aliya and we shuffled our feet and looked down. Getting caught with explosives would be sticky, since we're Malaysians and we can't prove we don't know Nordin Mat Top. Nandar, with his seluar senteng and tartan shirt and goatee, looks every inch Jemaah Islamiyah, and he has a Saudi scholarship some more. The patrol car slowed down and turned our way, and Saiffuddin suggested throwing away the fireworks like you would ecstacy. But the car moved on, perhaps because we did look like a normal family, and we reached the gate without incident.

We then sent Nandar home and that is the end of our adventure, on the first day of Eid, our first Hari Raya in Jakarta.

(There are pictures to this post, but I can't seem to upload. Maybe later, yes?)