Celebrations follow in many forms. The exodus of 'balik kampong' capped it all. Sons and daughters make a point to return home to the family roots. Those with wives and husbands naturally have to transport their retinues. Airline, railway and express bus tickets were grabbed month ahead. Extra leaves were requested beside the extensive four or five days closure of offices and establishments. It was returning home of a special kind: to enjoy the special atmosphere and exuberance that comes once a year, to be in contact with all relatives near and far, friends and classmates and admittedly to touch ground and taste home cooking. Wedding celebrations are held during the week with the expectation of a larger attendance especially of relatives. Attendance at functions during the festive week took a grandeur scenario when all came in their finer attires, typically in traditional dresses in hues of colors. The quiet home at all time, inhibited by two loving couples suddenly awoke to laughter, merriment and joyfulness as all shared the treasures it held all the while. All rooms and spaces were occupied: sleeping on the floor and hitting the hay stack hours after midnight chatting over old tales came naturally as that was how it began earlier. Pillows and mattresses suddenly came out of no where to cater to the needs. It was a sin and uncalled for should family members resorted to check into hotel rooms in town. In reference to the many foreign workers in the country, they too made the annual home visit in preference to this auspicious day. The Indonesian being closer made a beeline to their nearest ports of call.
The Aidilfitri prayer at the local mosques attended by all: men, women, boys, girls, parents and their siblings turned to be a large gathering after it was over. Everyone met each other offering greetings, affections and forgiveness. Many then walked beyond the gates of the mosque to visit and offer prayers at the graves of their love ones, rekindling loves and affections to the departed. Alfatihah.
Back at homes, sons and daughters kissed their parents, asking forgiveness and likewise parents too. Son and daughters- in- laws followed with grand-children each and every one in that brief moment realizing filial piety . Soon it became a never - ending queue as others visited the home and meeting in like manner too. Children received 'raya' envelopes containing 'ringgit' as token of goodwill on this occasion. The more adventurous of them made a beeline to the neighbors' homes collecting their dues and planning to purchase the best of gifts with their new found wealth. Some among them would intimate to proceed to the nearest cinema hall and of course to view the latest of the shows aptly put up for the day.
For this auspicious day, we had all our five siblings ( sons and daughters) at home on the first three days. With their spouses and children it grew to two dozen and expectancy grew with the arrival of three sisters and a brother along with spouses and their own productions. Not counting the home crowd and relatives, it was a feast to cater to all. Preparations had been made to provide for eventualities such as this and the self -service counter at the corner of the house helped greatly. No doubt 'ketupat', 'rendang', 'nasi Mansor' ( from a local restauranteur) with the inevitable 'dalca' and 'ayam masak rose' were pullers. Added to that a fresh addition of 'laksa siam' with its aromatic 'curry or 'kuah' kept all in good mood.
The festive atmosphere however had to bow down to reopening of work schedules and schooling. Slowly but definitely the visitors had to start packing, loading their unwashed clothing, piling one another into the Nissan, Proton, Isuzu, Honda vehicles that carted all of them here, contented and happy for a break that promised goodwill and family indulgences. Never mind the long queue of vehicles on the return journey. The children would for sure be quieter on the return leg, having frolicked all the days. Goodbyes with kisses and and deep embraces accompanied all that had come home to root. Next year's Aidilfitri would see them again. 'Balik Kampong ' will be a sure fire anecdotes to home grown family gathering solemnized by the ending of Ramadan and the resonance of 'takbir' that play on your deeper emotions.