Mandi safar to us non-Malays meant a licence from our parents to play in the river because we were taken care of by the Malay families with whom we had tagged along. It was unadulterated fun; we had no idea of the religious reasons attached to it, recalls Choo Sing Chye.
The recent yoga issue has brought back fond memories of my childhood days. In those days when our parents were dirt poor, the ultimate fun was to spend a day frolicking in the Kinta River with friends. It cost us nothing but a sore throat from all the yelling and shouting – but it was all worth it.
Mandi safar to us non-Malays meant a licence from our parents to play in the river because we were taken care of by the Malay families with whom we had tagged along. It was unadulterated fun. Mandi safar was a family event then, and at the end of the day, with heavy hearts as the fun for the day drew to a close, we would all collect sayur paku for our favourite dish – sayur paku sambal was the last leg of our day at the Kinta River.
The meaning of mandi safar meant little to us, eight- to ten-year-old boys and in any case we were too young to have accumulated enough sins to have a thorough cleansing in the river. Apart from mandi safar, my Malay and Indian friends would go to the river to swim during the school holidays.
One year it all ended. There were no more calls from my two Malay neighbours – “Jom mandi safar.” In the subsequent years, our “jom, mandi sungei” was greeted with “mak marah”. Later we found out the real reason and we removed mandi safar and mandi sungai from our itinerary of fun.
My Malay friends still responded to our other calls: “jom, main layang-layang” or “jom, coun-da-coun-di” (an Indian game)….”
As we recall, mandi safar (derived from a Hindu ritual for the cleansing of sins) was just a poor man’s picnic and we had no idea of the religious reasons attached to mandi safar.
Note: mandi safar, sungei, and coun-da-coun-di are spelled according to how they are pronounced.
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