Time passes so quickly, don't you think? Just a month ago, I had just started to get my body, mind, and soul accustomed to the practice of fasting. This is a yearly tradition for Muslims, where the holy month of Ramadhan asks for the faithful to practice self-discipline, and repentance, or something of the sorts. As someone who is minutely faithful on the best of days, I see fasting as a coincidental way to balance out the junk that I traditionally absorb into my digestive system.
Unlike intermittent fasting that is becoming the fashion nowadays to promote a healthier diet, Ramadhan is much more stringent, though not as severed as that practiced during the Jewish Lent. For us, fasting means no food or water from dawn to dusk. That's the period between the first and fourth prayers of the day, which according to Malaysian time, is between 5.50a.m. And 7.20p.m. That's more than half a day of not devouring anything, neither a drop of liquid, nor a bite of a biscuit.
Three Days, An End To The Great Fast.
Credits to: Chris Phillips, Meatlovers Pizza - Behance
Now, after some number of days or weeks that has since been lost to my memory, we're now coming to an end. It's odd, seeing how quickly a month goes by, just at the flick of a finger. I swear, it felt as if it was only a week ago that we had begun. Yet, here we are, just three days away from Eid, marking an end to Ramadhan. I guess its significance to Muslims rival to that of Christmas, though unfortunately, we don't have jolly ol' 60-year old men dropping gifts under a pine tree.
Two-thirds of Malaysia's population is Muslim, which means that celebrations like Eid are huge, even though we have an ethnically-diverse community, where Lunar New Year, and Diwali acquires a similar amount of attention. Similar, but not the same. Eid still attains priority, as us Malaysians even colloquially refer to it as "Hari Raya", which literally means "Day of Celebration".
Thus, schools and offices are closed for a tad bit longer to mark the coming of Eid, even compared to other festivities. Double standards, perhaps? Maybe, but not by a large margin. Besides, having a multi-racial country means that there's a whole lot of holidays and celebrations, so I guess you'll have to make up for that in return.
In any case, as with all celebrations, Eid is a time for remembrance and forgiveness, alongside reunions with family members, friends, and neighbours. You can see then, why the latter would be a problem given the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Presently, even as Malaysia has eased its lockdown rules, there are still strict guidelines in place to ensure that all the progress made since 65 days ago, does not unravel itself.
Credits to: Dora Vincze, MOOD - Behance
There is to be no travel in-between the 13 states, not to count the three Federal Territories. Given how small of a country we are, it's easy to find family members stretched out across different borders. If we happen to be in the same state, then at least open-houses for Eid can still go on, but limited by the number of people that can be safely crammed into one building, while adhering to distancing measures.
Still, that's not going to stop Malaysian's from celebrating Eid anyways, because we're stubborn and care-free like that, keen to follow-up on traditions at all costs. There's a popular term in Malaysia, which is called "Balik Kampung", or "returning to hometown". This is something that we do fairly often, taking holidays or long weekends, sometimes even brief downtimes as a chance to pack up your bags, cats, and children for a road-trip, getting out of town to see the family in those quaint little villages.
In fact, we're stuck in this habit of "balik kampung", that we probably don't realise the dangers that lurk in the air around us. The more we travel, the higher the chance of us getting infected, and thus transmitting that sickness to others.
Credits to: Kenze Wee, Athens II - Behance
I get that we'd like to see our families again, but can't we make an exception for this one time, and perhaps consider going online? Nevertheless, we can forgive distant travels to meet lonesome families, so long as proper hygiene and distancing are in place. I'd be willing to turn a blind eye if this were the case, seeing and chatting with the relatives from afar, keeping one-metre away, and washing your hands regularly.
But to be honest, I can't see that ever happening, because I can't trust people, not even myself, to celebrate Eid without breaking all those rules. I can't put faith that we'll follow these guidelines, because our culture says otherwise, lest one wishes to appear rude. Every year, hands are shaken. For the youth, like myself, we're obliged to kiss our elders' in the back of the hands. There's always hugging, or kissing on the cheeks. I don't adore any of this old-timey tradition, as handshakes are more than enough.
Others however, swear by them. As they say, old habits die hard. Can you imagine how much germs could spread in that small exchange? All the contact between skin, mouth, and face? Moreover, we're talking about people from urban areas - where Covid-19 has the most rapid outbreaks - and port them over to the countryside. Despite all that, people are still flocking by the thousands to get back into the "balik kampung" mood, and are on the way to gran's house.
Making sure this doesn't happen, huge roadblocks are formed along major highways and roads, constructed by the Police and the Army. So far in the past few days alone, nearly 4,000 cars have been turned away. A lot of burnt fuel for no reason, I find. Just to make doubly sure, the Army and Police will be doing regular check-ups on neighbourhoods. If there's loads of cars on the driveway, or if there's a ruckus being heard from your house, then expect a knock on the door.
Credits to: Paultan.org | Flocks of people heading out of state for Eid.
For now, there's only been verbal warnings, but keep this up and there very well be fines in place, sooner rather than later. Perhaps, this might be a bit harsh, but I can see why it needs to be done, and the importance to keep enforcing this. Simply, our cultures clash with what measures might be needed to slow the spread of the virus.
Why is it hard to break from tradition, or the normal that we've accepted over the years, inherited from our parents, and their parents before that. Why has it been this challenging to accept a "new normal", even for just a few more months, maybe about a year until a vaccine can be ready?
We've eased ourselves from the brink, but it's that urgency of wanting, and thus forcing life to get back to normality so soon that is posing an incredible risk. Already, we've reached five million cases around the world, with 350,000 dead from this virus. Lost friends, loved ones, the cashier checking-out supplies, or the nurse who's been tending to helpless patients.
We're not only flattening the curve, but we're on the verge of descending, a sign that all the sacrifice has not gone in vain. We need to embrace this new normal, as hard as it may be. Otherwise, we may very well have all perished into the darkness, accepting its fate.
Credits to: Andre Levy, Stay Home Stay Healthy- Behance