The Good Ship Hari raya
We are now going a-sailing, the seafaring people on the shore of Ujung Tanjong in Kuala Trengganu for it has always been in us, wind blasted souls encrusted with salt to the core, brine and brackish water in the Pantai Teluk with skeletons of abandoned boats that came back and could take the journey no more to Senggora; ikang belukang and tiny crabs peering out from the mud, pincer-waving to one and all.
We have made this frame from thin bamboo, stolen probably from the bamboo hedge of the Sekölöh Paya Bunga, glossy paper from Indian shops, red and green and blue, and streamers entwined from crepe paper and gaps in the ship patched up - so as not to strain the budget - with old copies of the Straits Times and Utusan Melayu.
They call it tujuh likor, a word that has long vanished from our everyday tongue. What is likor? And why seven of them in this lengthening month of puasa? It is time for ships standing in the front yard of our houses and bamboo cannons blasting away carbide fumes and deafening the cries of mothers and excited children and the voice of Pök Lèh from the surau.
Ramadan has been a-sailing so quickly but never too quickly for a child. The night is flickering with lights and shadows and paraffin and whiffs of carbide in the air. Rushed is the iftar, rushed is the prayers of children of prayerful people for this is the night of the beginning of the month of Shawwal.
The day after this is Hari Raya, oh the day after that perhaps, it all depends on the moon in the sky but oh joy is the night and food on plates, and ketupat and kuah kacang and beleda, the dry, sugar-coated coloured jewels.
Would Hari Raya come every day, would all those past Rayas that have gone lost in the mists of years, would they all come back now, for now is the time for forgiving, for visits to past people all lying in the solace of their earthly beds marked with stones, time for children everywhere to feel a little rich, for a while.
Dear Readers: Selamat Hari Raya. I have been away on a ship and have just come back to shore.
Raya image courtesy of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats.