Ramadan, Bazaars and Racial Unity

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The past month in Malaysia has been full of opinions and discussion from Muslims about what is proper and what is not.

This coming Wednesday marks the end of Ramadan – the Muslim holy month. In case you’re not familiar with this, Muslims spend the month fasting from food and water (among other things) from sunrise to sunset. In a nutshell, this is to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are less fortunate – to know what it’s like to want what you can’t have, basically.

On one end you have extremos telling your non-Muslim friends to not eat in front of them and on the other you have normal Muslims like me who try to tell you why that defeats the sole purpose of Ramadan. The again, this worrying mentality is slowly becoming another norm in Malaysia lately.  When we’re not arguing about racial politics, some religious folks will try to justify why their way is better than yours. It makes me sad that a country I was always proud to be a part of for its beauty and diversity is slowly birthing self entitled assholes from every corner. Our new generation is disgusting.

Then again, it’s not always like this.

With Malaysia being a Muslim majority country, Ramadan is kind of a big deal here, whether that person is Muslim or not. There are non-Muslims who fast with their Muslim friends too as a sign of solidarity or just for fun.

But the best part about all of this would have to be the Ramadan bazaars found in almost every housing area. The delicious food spread and colorful drinks are worth drooling over.

These bazaars consists of families and businesses serving their food on tables, with royal blue tents, shielding them from the sun. It’s usually very noisy due to everyone talking about their day at work /school and the sound of  ladles hitting against the frying pans – the sign of food being freshly prepared for customers.

Oh yes, the food! Don’t get me started on the food.

They have everything from kuih lapis, ondeh-ondeh, seri muka to nasi lemak, deep fried squid, ayam golek percik, asam laksa,  ikan bakar and a spread of traditional malay curries and sambals. The drinks range from coconut water to blue lemon drinks – they tend to go a little overboard with the coloring on this one. But well, after 14 hours of hunger and thirst, you’d be surprised at what you walk out of the bazaar with.

Seeing multiracial shoppers (yep, you could call them that because everyone comes back from it with morbid amounts of food that make them look like they just walked out from a sale) walking together, laughing and interacting. Everything seems so simple and calm. Nobody seems to be divided by the politics or bothered with the outside world.

I’m sorry if I made you think Malaysians are racist during the remaining 11 months. We truly are not. But like I said, a lot of things have been happening lately. Ideologies are being spread, religious teachings are being corrupted and people of faith are being stereotyped. Even when someone doesn’t openly state what they truly feel towards a certain group of people, it’s not something you can hide. Sometimes, even I get tired of the constant bullshit.

It’s so easy to hate, isn’t it?

Which is why I look forward to the evenings just to see this calmness amidst the crowd. Yesterday I saw a lady donate money to a man in the bazaar and then I watched as a couple of women walked down the street in their old fashioned kebayas. One stall started blasting old Hari Raya music. Everything about that day felt so good.

This morning in the wet market, an elderly woman randomly made conversation with my mum and I while we were busy picking out chilies. She asked us what we were cooking and I told her it was for the beef rendang. And to think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning due to having only two hours of sleep last night. I just felt better instantly. She lady’s friendliness really did brighten up both my mum’s and my day.

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Picking fresh fish from the market this morning.

Too bad this month is coming to an end in a matter of days. I see racial and religious unity around me in the way my friends and I respect each other all the time, so I’m no stranger to the beauty of it. But there is truly nothing better than seeing different people bonding together over food.

xx

Kelly

P.S: Hari Raya literally translates to ‘day of celebration’ , which is the Malaysian way of saying ‘Eid-il-fitri’, which marks the end of Ramadan.