Sometimes 24 hours is just not enough. The energy I have inside of me is not enough to use 24 hours to do things.But then again if I use the 24 for work, I’m only paid 8 hours.
By right, 8 hours is not enough. Contemplating on that, I just think maybe I just have too much to do and too little time to do it. First there was the coming of Syawal. There were things to buy and things to be figured out and things to plan. I come from a huge extended family and this year, being so close to my grandmother’s house, I thought I was going to have it easy. Let everyone do the big brunch party and me and my mom can just swing our lazy legs back home, wait till my dad and brothers come back from the mosque and gobble up happily the ketupat, lodeh & semur ayam.
Then, the unexpected happened. Late Saturday night of October 14, 2006, my grandmother’s house was burnt down to ashes. My dad, didn’t want to raise the alarm only told me the news the next day.
Nenek’s house before the blaze
Nenek’s house after the blaze
Poor Nenek. It was only a week before Syawal and now she was left with only her clothes on her body and it was my dad who had to put a roof over her head now. The issue of “swinging our lazy legs” was just a wishful thinking. I kept wondering how will we manage to put 13 uncles and aunts and their family under our small roof for the celebrations of the coming of Syawal. How will I ever manage to cook ketupat, lodeh & semur ayam plus rendang for that much people. Usually it was my duty to cook because I promised myself that for any celebrations, it was a time for my mother to rest and let me do the cooking. Besides, I never come home often enough to see my family and they are taking care of the only daughter I have. I never took advantage of the fact that Aliya was with them. My father who always wanted the best said that no maid, no babysitter will be good enough to take care of her and insisted that she went to a kampong school with good religious teachings and be surrounded with things that are positive in the upbringing of a child who will turn into a teenager in 6 years time.
We arrive a day away from the coming of Syawal and mom was already busy in the kitchen. I was surprised to see a lot of food on the table, much of it were ketupat, lodeh & semur ayam plus rendang. What miracle can this be? I had forgotten that there was this tradition that goes around the village where my parents live now, one to two weeks before the coming of Syawal. Its called Ngunjung. It’s the act of cooking the ketupat, lodeh & semur ayam plus rendang and as much as you can, distribute it amongst your family. This would mean, the ones in your village and the one’s maybe 2 to 3 villages apart. This year, my parents, coming from a life that was not so carefree and was well organized back when they lived in the city, decide that things should follow a carefully planned duty roster. Out of the 13 siblings that he has, 5 of them and their families live nearby. My mother has 6 siblings and about 2 of them live nearby as well….again with their families and their families’ family. So 3 families would at least do a cook-out and sent out the stuff to be distributed a complete dish of ketupat, lodeh & semur ayam or rendang. One set of dish for one family. Since my grandmother was with me, they sent over 2 sets. And in the case of my aunty who’s daughter (my cousin) lived with my aunt, with husband and their daughter (my cousin niece) who was already married and had a kid (my grandniece), that meant 3 sets. My mother said it was the best last week before the coming of Syawal. The only day she felt that her knees where going to crumble was the day when it was our family’s turn to do the cook-out. The rest of the days went by like breeze and she didn’t have to even cook but see all those glorious food on the table. I totally forgot about my husband and daughter because it was like a long awaited reunion with the dishes I only see once in a year. Just a bit of everything to savour that wonderful soft meaty rice cooked in fresh coconut leaves woven so carefully together. I was torned between the black or the yellow gravy that had all kinds of vegetables, even to the young bark of a coconut tree (umbut) that was cruncy. Then came the sweet salty and fragrant gravy of home grown chicken, boiled and then cooked in soya sauce, a bit of coconut milk and sauté onions, star of anise, cinnamon and garlic. As I ate I saw the long rows of cookie and biscuit jars on my mother’s kitchen cabinet. I saw the huge containers of banana crisp and rempeyek (savoury crisp with peanuts on top). I also saw the tapioca crisp, savoury and plain. I saw the cute containers they were going to be put in. I saw the packets of dodol (springy confectionary made from coconut milk & palm sugar) Somehow, a little girl inside of me screamed out “Esok hari raya…esok hari raya” (It will be Eid tomorrow…it will be Eid tomorrow)
Mom entertaining her nieces & nephews and greatgran nieces & nephews in the kitchen
We waited in the living room to take turn to eat..he he he