Raya reflections of a migrant in Malaysia

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Isn’t it time that we all celebrate our diversity knowing that our own lives are enriched and enhanced by our cross-cultural contributions, asks Bina Ramanand.

Choodi Bazaar in Hyderabad - Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

Terima kasih to my dear Malay friends who opened their home to us this Raya.

We came to your Hari Raya open house, looking forward to ketupat and rendang and I was pleasantly surprised that my plate of haleem, channa pulav, kadai murg and hara bara ghosh swiftly transported me to Eid in Hyderabad!! Thank you all for a wonderful evening..with a bonus of recollections from my childhood..

As I savoured the flavours of sevyia and kubani ka meeta, I realised that with almost two decades of living in Kuala Lumpur, I was actually looking forward to some Raya delicacies, lemang with kuah kacang, buah acar and kuih. Definitely, two decades in another country is not sufficient to wipe out memories of Ramazan in Hyderabad.

Back in Hyderabad, we assembled on the eve of Id, at the gates of old city Jama Masjid, shoulder to shoulder with others, waiting for the Id ka Chand to be sighted and the blast of the siren to signify Id the next day.

The gates of chudi (bangle) bazaar would be thrown open. What joy to watch the burka-clad ladies, with their children on their hips and in tow, jostle to buy the coulourful chudis for Id the next day. As we sipped our chilled floodas or eat the hand-churned chiku ice-cream, we would be just happy to watch the festivities around us and almost as excited as our Muslim friends with the Ramazan holiday and celebrations.

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I’m nostalgic from memories of biryani being cooked over firewood, the aromas of sizzling kebabs and downing vast quantities of Rooh Afza to bring down the spiciness of the food and the heat of the day. I can still hear the rustle of the lenghas and the gauze dupattas, the tinkle of the chuddies and the splendour and colour of festival attire as we celebrated Id with our Muslim friends.

This brings me along to present day Malaysia and a continued craving for Raya delicacies! Sometimes I’m almost terrified that my “Malaysian-ness” will anaesthetise my “Indian-ness”. Need I be afraid? Nay, my rich Indian heritage is an integral part of me, will remain with me, until the grave.

Then should my Malaysian family and friends be worried that their culture is being diluted? Isn’t it time, friends, that we all celebrate our diversity knowing that our own lives are enriched and enhanced by our cross-cultural contributions and the benefits it can bring to the culture and society that we live in?

As I celebrate this Raya/Id with my friends, it is my wish that we not allow ourselves to be divided by politicians or by divisive policy. Let each one of us, hands held together as one nation, consciously protect, safeguard unity, peace and harmony be it in Multicultural Malaysia, Incredible India or any other part of the world.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin.
Eid Mubarak, my friends.

Bina Ramanand is the spouse of a Malaysian citizen, residing in Malaysia for almost two decades, eagerly awaiting PR in Malaysia

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