Thursday, September 24, 2009

Raya Report

Just reached my apartment in Bangsar. I topped off the one week Raya celebrations with sending my father to a medical center in Kuantan for his monthly checkup with the amiable Dr Ooi.

Blood sugar level is slightly high, and blood pressure is surprisingly normal. Some minor eye issues. Otherwise, the old man's fine. Despite protests that he should be given MORE cookies and glutinous rice, in an attempt to die by food.

It has been a strange Raya. My little house beside the swamp received no less than 400 visitors, draining 25 1.5 litre bottles of 100 Plus and more than two jumbo boxes of teabags.

200 ketupat puluts were gone by the second day, and we exhausted all our supply of ketupat nasi as well. rendang on the second day, though carefully refrigerated, was only an inch of spices in one of the smaller bowls, sans the meat.

My family is a family of teachers. Three generations of students came for a Raya visit. Just today, on the fifth day of Raya, seven cars filled with students arrived. Thankfully, after I have left for KL.

We also have a large extended family. While my family do not believe that much in reproduction - only one of four siblings are married - others treat it as some sort of religion. One aunt brought 24 grandchildren, in three separate visits.

The last remaining sibling my late grandfather had also brought his brood of around 20 family members.

Raya angpows finished yesterday.

Two days before Raya, I suffered a mental burnout. So I got myself some painkillers. I took one every day since Raya eve.

The only clan who did not show up was the KL branch. Kuantan - check, Cameron Highlands - check, Pekan - check.

The Chinese side came in three separate visits over two days.

One of them proceeded to do some free plumbing on my house while the rest sampled some of the food we served.

In truth, I have always hated Raya. It usually meant drama and pain and suffering. And hard, hard, work.

This time, I decided not to be a victim anymore and do things as I see fit. We bought most things, instead of cooking them from scratch, and sets of plates and cutlery my mother has accumulated over the years - enough to feed 2,000 people at one go - made way for the now traditional (traditional for three years) polysterene cups and plates with plastic cutlery.

The only problem was, to keep my father - suffering from stroke, diabetes and heart disease - from eating too many things that could kill him.

I almost had a breakdown on the eve of Raya when, fueled by my burnout, I speculated that if he continued to eat ketupat pulut and the super-sweet kandi - not a stripper name, but an east coast delicacy involving shaved coconuts, milk and lots of sugar - he would die come the evening of the first day of Raya.

It was tough, but I decided not to be part of something that could very well kill him.

Well, he's still alive, angry as hell, but still breathing, and all the guests finished off most of the unhealthy stuff. My father could very well hate me till the end of his days, but I did what I thought - and think - is best. As much as I could.

Raya also gave me a chance to show some people a spice garden I set up for my mother. There are now, at the back of my house in Bukit Kuin, several pots with basil, sweet basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, Italian parsley, chilvers, cilantro and sage growing in them.

The basil turned out especially good. It grew to hip length and we used it to cook that traditional Bukit Kuin dish - the fresh mushroom fussilli. Which we forced Malays to eat, sans the parmesan for a healthier diet. They hated it, but I don't give a fuck.

Meanwhile, this year also marked the first year my mother stopped making biskut dam - the texture of which has been a closely-guarded family secret. Gone also are Biskut Jakarta and Bangkit Susu, which came about because of a mistake in mixing the ingredients.

This year also saw myself running out of Raya money-packets. So for any of my friends and bosses in KL with kids, sorry, but no money for the kiddies. I'm all tapped-out.

Despite the simple and meagre preparations for Raya, I managed to burn several holes in my pocket.

Also happy to report that my nephews are growing like weeds. Am not going to have kids because I believe they are a huge responsibility and only millionaires should have them.

Imagine if you have nine kids. Between 10-20 years time, you would have to spend between 500,000-1.5 million on their college educationS. And that's for a low-level institution. Fuck Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Brown, Imperial, Cambridge or Oxford.

People who believe that kids will simply grow into responsible adults on their own and magically, miraculously, find their own way in the world are irresponsible motherfuckers.

If I could have chosen, I would not have been born. And I am not saying that with an ounce of emotion, but with the utmost pragmatism. I do not think my parents should have had four kids, because they could not afford to. But what's done is done and that is the hand we've been dealt, so there.

They did the best they could. Best effort.

Anyway, on a more upbeat note, this Raya I met an old man who is conscious. When I say conscious, I mean someone who knows what is important in life, and forsakes drama and pain and suffering in favour of a calm I have never seen before, but have read about in Buddha comics.

Oh, and during this Raya, four people commented on my single status, to their utter regret and dismay, as I took a hammer and pounded on their notion and understanding of family.

For the record: I do not put breeding at a high place on my priority list. Fucking? Yes. Breeding like sheep? No.

And just because you have something - like the ability to beat up your wives, does not mean I want it to.

With that, I conclude my Raya report. Now, back to work.