I knew What I Did Last Raya

I am not exactly a fan of Raya — a day when 1.6 million of Muslims around the globe celebrate as a symbolic of humanity’s triumph over Evil by fasting for a month.

The degree of celebration differs from country to country and in Malaysia, we like to extend our privileges.

One day is not enough after thirty days of fasting, we *need* to extend Raya for thirty days too

Sound logic, isn’t it? The incessant feasting and house visits are exactly the reason why I am not a fan. Family gatherings are inevitable, which I had problems with while growing up (things getting easier as I’m becoming an adult, it scarred me nevertheless). The real reason why I am not a fan — something that I only realized recently — has much deeper significance. This is a story of my family.

If I were to categorize my family socioeconomic class, it would be low middle class. We’re better off now, but there were hard times. I don’t claim the monopoly of tragedy nor do I claim my family’s hurdles were noteworthy. You’ll see my point later.

As the eldest, I am in a position to be witness of the ups and downs of my family. A family of nine, my dad is the only breadwinner in the family. You know, most families would spend more during the Raya months. New clothes for kids, and for our family with seven kids, my parents challenge wasn’t small. Most of the time, they would sacrifice their wants for us, the kids. My parents haven’t bought any new clothes for years for Raya that time. There were times that my Mom would only buy clothes from Night Market. One day she chose to wear it during my Dad’s company’s Family Day and some of my Dad’s colleagues (or their wives) thought my Mom was a maid for the family (I’m sorry they are just too many possessive pronouns here). I didn’t like that. I didn’t like that my parents had to sacrifice because we couldn’t afford to.

Pre-2009, my dad only owned a 1998 brownish grey Saga (the boxy one). The car, if anything, wasn’t suitable on the road. Even the aesthetics. With dried and peeled paint over its roof, the car is a sad sight. All seven of us would not fit comfortably, but my parents would make it work somehow. Each of us (the three of the eldest ones let the the other three younger ones sat on our laps. While the youngest would sit on my mum’s laps). As we grew older, and more independent, we would take KTM. So during Raya, my dad would go for work (he worked in shifts so he has no fixed holiday) and left us at KL (yes, that was our Kampong). Usually my uncle would drive the old Proton Saga while his son drove his family’s car. So some of us, would be divided into the other car.

Even during that time, I didn’t mind not going at all. Hey, my dad isn’t here so why should anyone bother? Plus, I knew there is a pity trip going on with our relatives seeing all of us fitted into the car. We were grateful that our relatives are more than willing to help but I just don’t understand why my dad wasn’t there. It’s not just one Raya. As far as I can remember during my teenage years, it was almost most of the Rayas. Is my dad trying to escape? So for me, Raya is an accumulation of all of these feelings. I am not looking forward for Raya, to have these feeling swelling in my chest. It sickens me.

So when I have had my driving license, I would drive during Raya to pay a visit to our relatives’ houses. Post-2009 my dad changed his car — a newly released Proton Saga BLM. Well, space-wise, it didn’t change much. But things got better after that. Recently my Dad got himself a car that would fit all nine of us (despite my objection). All are better. But my feelings for Raya doesn’t.

Raya 2013. Guess which one returned for a break from studying abroad?

One thing changes, that I’m grateful for: How I perceive my parents change. As I grow older, manage my own financials, and through interactions, I can understand and gained insights, in retrospect, why my parents did what they did.

My Dad worked during the Festive Seasons because he would be paid higher, so he can earn more for his family. Simple maths. Maybe he’s trying to escape, but I guess, it’s easier to escape from the sights of not being able to provide comfortably for the family — while doing something that can provide, like working long hours, or during holidays.

Kids may compare their parents to others’ parents, but parents also do the same. The frustration that they can’t provide to their kids like other parents would is painful, too. It hurts them, more than we can imagine. But they did not throw any tantrum because that it is un-adult-like, and they would forgive us doing that long before we realize that our actions or words, did hurt them.

It just a parent-y stuff to do.

My Dad in one of his contemplative modes.

My Dad insisted on buying a big car despite three of his kids are able to drive because that’s his dream. Something that he couldn’t do while he was younger and when we’re more dependent to him. He bought the car anyways and yes all nine of us can fit comfortably in the car. I guess my Dad finally achieves one of his dream, although the timing is a bit off.

Come to think of it, my Dad is doing okay. His dad died when he’s 10 and he got me when he was 27 (an age I would be in less than a year). With no parenting model he can learn from, he’s managing it pretty well. And with my Mom, they are formidable.

Parents do not necessarily know best — most of the time they just plow through on whatever decisions they have made. But be assured, good parents will do their level best for their kids.

And that’s how I perceive my parents.

Alhamdulillah.

Wait, about my Raya? I don’t intend to change it. As far as I am concern, I am okay with the way my family and I celebrate Raya. Selamat Hari Raya then, I guess!

I know, I should get better, without watermarks and all. But this is fine I guess. Credit to the designer.

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