As of this writng, Ramadhan comes to an end in about a week. Syawal comes next.
In ancient times prior to Islam, the Arabs called this month as Natiq. Though they don't use the Gregorian Calender back then, Natiq would always happen when the season is warm and dry just as July would always be summer in the western world.
When Islam came, the Arabs renamed the month to Ramadhan. The word comes from the noun Ramad, which basically means dryness. Which is fitting since summer is very dry, and scorching hot there.
Now remember, Islam uses a Lunar calendar so the yearly cycle is a bit shorter than the normal calendar. So Ramadhan doesn't necessarily happen in the summer. That is why we feel as if Ramadhan is coming earlier year by year.
There are people, like in Ireland who are fasting for 18 hours a day this year. Subuh at 3 o'clock in the morning then breaking fast at 10 o'clock at night. Isyak is at 11.30 PM.
Muar, Johor. Though I am a Kelantanese I consider Muar as my hometown. Remember the finals of the FA Cup that happened recently? I cheered for Johor instead of Kelantan. But Johor lost so I to save face I tell people that I'm a firm supporter for Kelantan.
What happened here?
This doesn't look pretty at all.
Aidilfitri is around the corner but somehow, I felt as if something is off this year. The mood, the excitement is just not there.
I can't be the only one. Bazaar Baitulmal, the place to go for Muarians when it's time to buy new clothes for raya, is not as happening as the year before. "Business is down this year dik", said one of the owner inside the premise. She's a Cambodian native, who came here during Khmer Rouge reign of terror in the 70s. But that is a story for another time and place.
But in short, close to 2 million Cambodians were massacred during that time.
There are 114 chapters in the Quran. There isn't any specific number of pages for a Quran, but most Quran in the market these days have a little over 600 pages in them. Theoratically if you read 20 pages a day, you can finish the Quran in a month.
But of course, even that takes a lot of dedication. Sadly I am nowhere near to finishing it. But I think what also matters is the effort that we take and make to improve ourselves during this month, and carrying that change for the whole year.
I got to hand it to these lads, they managed to finish the Quran in only 21 days. That is an achievement that I hope to achieve one day. This was taken during the Khatam Quran ceremony a couple of days ago.
Lots of events happen during this time of the year. The orphanage, the old folks home etc are filled with invitations from charitable individuals, groups and companies. I respect those that do.
Of course, beyond the old folks home and the orphanage, there are many more individuals and families out there who need help. One thing of note is most of those who live in poverty are too shy to ask for help. Either that or they don't want to garner sympathy from the people. I can understand that. So it is up to us to find these people and help them.
The activity of helping the poor really wasn't something that was planned at all. Originally the plan was to paint over an abandoned old folks home somewhere in KL. But the plan fell through and I was then tasked in finding one in Muar.
Though I'm familiar with the area I never really bothered to find infos on where the orphanage and the old folks home are. I'm sure most of us don't. But thankfully using the power of social media I was able to get some addresses and contacts.
But I got a message from someone on facebook, asking me of instead of going to these types of home, would I consider making a trip, and subsequently help a poor family instead? Of course I can't make that decision alone, so I had a little conversation with my group mate and we decided that yes - we are helping this family.
The picture above shows the house of that particular family.
The trip was decided to be on Wednesday. There were 8 of us in total. On Sunday which was 4 days before the trip, I decided to go and visit the house first. Firstly of course to confirm if the info was right, second to meet and greet the family first and ask for their permission to help, and lastly to survey the house, see if there is any specific thing that we can help.
After all this is our first time doing this without outside help.
Inside the house. Forgive the very blurry and noisy cellphone picture. The man in the picture is my father. He followed me because he also wants to see the house and also help me in getting permission from the village chief. I'm sure we don't need permission but again, this is our first time doing this and we don't want to screw anything up.
The woman in the picture is Puan Mizam, 55 years old, a single mother of five children. In the morning she works at a nearby Asam Pedas stall till evening. At night after 8 o'clock, she cleans the fishes at the same stall till midnight. Sometimes until 1 AM in the morning even. When asked how many kilograms of fishes she cleans everyday - "more than 30kgs for one type of fish".
That is a lot.
"How many days off per week makcik?". "None, working for 7 days a week. Even during raya there is no days off. The shop will open on the second day of raya so holiday only on the first day."
Fast forward to Wednesday and here we are. All 8 of us. 5 males and 3 females.
Makcik Mizam and her families were waiting for us. That little child on the right is her youngest daughter, aged 8. She familiarize herself with the nickname "Achik".
During the month of Ramadhan, the Asap Pedas shop is closed for a month so makcik works at a bazaar Ramadhan stall as a helper. She can't entertain us for long since she needs to get back to work. She works at the stall with her 3rd daughter.
Achik and her sweet smile. She's very smart and quiet talkative. I liked her personality a lot.
There was no time to waste - we clean up the house right away. There are lots and lots of clothes in the house. Most were given to them by donators. But sometimes too much is too much and I can't imagine them wearing all these clothes.
All the mattresses and old pillows are lined up at the side of the wall. With the money that we gathered, we bought them a new mattress and some pillows. A set of comforter too.
But to be honest there was an air of awkwardness between us and the family when we first begin to clean up the house. I felt it, and I'm sure everyone else felt it too. But I think that's understandable - having anyone intrude their personal belongings in their own house must be uncomfortable.
But thankfully overtime, they started talking and open up to us.
The clothes, all folded up.
At first they don't allow us to throw anything away, even things that are clearly unusable. But patience is virtue. Like stated before, they started to open up and began to give full cooperation. In the end, more than 10 large plastic bags of useless items were discarded.
I didn't work much to be honest, even now I kind of feel shy doing this thing. Maybe overtime this shyness will go away. Hopefully.
We also patched up the many small holes on the ceiling. Hopefully they can sleep comfortably after this.
We also bought them a new wardrobe and a brand new mattress for them to sleep on. The seller was kind enough to give us a big discount after hearing our cause.
The guy in blue looks like he's having fun. Achik too.
We break our fast there. Makcik Mizam got back from work early that day. Well not that early since we were already halfway finish with our meal when she got back. She brought back soy milk from her workplace for us.
We also had Laksa Penang (cooked by the 3 ladies), keropok lekor (brought by Kema - the guy in blue above) and Sirap Bandung Soda.
And of course, some delicious chicken BBQ.
At night, we brought Achik and Nad out the bazaar to buy them clothes for raya. Nad is the granddaughter of Makcik Mizam. She's 7 years old, so a year younger than Achik.
The third girl is a friend of Achik, whose mother opens up a shop here. I forgot her name but it was a nice name. A nice and modern name.
She looks excited doesn't she?
The choice is up to her.
Ultimately she chose a red dress this year.
Next up, shopping for new shoes.
You know in a perfect world, the rich helps the less rich, the less rich helps the moderate ones, the moderate ones help the poor, and the poor will help the much poor and so on. At the end of the day it is all on us. Why wait for them to ask when we can go and give something to them.
And the smile, the smile makes all this worth it.