Sunday, February 14, 2010

CNY Holidays in the Village.

We have often seen, in real life or on TV, and read about the CNY celebration in Kuala Lumpur or other major cities in Malaysia. We see the rich and wealthy holding family dinners and open houses, throwing lavish parties,celebrating in crowded hotels and exclusive clubs,and we hear the familiar exuberant cry ' yaaam singggg' denoting the highlight of the feasting sessions.Some of us might even have been a regular guest at such receptions.

Ever wonder how the CNY celebration is like in the remote and rural villages of Malaysia where some Chinese families live as shopkeepers, petty traders and also farmers. They have formed an integral part of the village population which is usually dominated by the Malays. In my younger days I know they lived in separate wooden houses pretty much like their Malay neighbors except that their houses were not built on stilts. But all the separate houses in the villages had been vacated during the emergency years when the communist threat was great, and the families moved to what were called the New Villages. Some of these had grown into small business centers or mini-towns after the emergency ended. Others have been moved into new residential areas with rows of shop-houses and low-cost terrace houses, semid's and even bungalows.

In my village called Juasseh in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan, the Chinese population had mostly become traders occupying most of the two-storey shop lots built in the center of the village, straddling the main road running between Kuala Pilah and Bahau (See pic as seen from the KP-Bahau main road). The ground floor becomes the shop while the top floor is the home. There are also Malay and Indian shopkeepers who may or may not live in the shoplots themselves for low cost public housing had sprung all around the shopping centre and some of the Chinese taukeys themselves have bought separate homes for their families to live in while using the shoplots strictly for business.

Our Chinese friends and neighbors have of course become totally integrated with the community and we know them all by their nicknames like Gemuk, Gagap, Panjang,Sayong, Ah Chong, Ah Meng, Ah Seng etc. They have of course multiplied in number and the younger ones have gone out to make their fortune in the world and we hardly know them any more. But in the main we still know the family and they know us like good neighbors.

So how do our friends in the village celebrate the CNY? Since I came back to the village late on Saturday evening, I had no opportunity to look around. But that very night itself gave me a good idea on how they were doing. There was an unending series of fireworks lighting up the sky and bathing it in brilliant multicolored sparkels,not just in one but a number of places, as if they were competing with each other. Boy, they must be really burning up money for the fireworks cost quite a fortune, involving a few thousand dollars per box. I of course don't want to ask how they could be acquired since their sale is illegal. It just showed that anything can be made available in the village if you have the money.

Today, the CNY day itself, I woke up early to make a tour of the shopping area with my wife and see how the shop-houses are decorated. They are full of the red lantern or tanglung, embroidered in gold, decorating most of the shophouses (see pic). I saw some of the kids and parents hanging around the front of the closed shops but to my surprise they were not dressed up in what the Malays would call 'baju raya'. There did not appear to be any sign of a prayer session in the morning although one shop displayed a prominent prayer alter as in pic, nor any big grouping of cars to show that there had been a gathering of family members the previous night for the big family dinner.

Everything was so quiet and normal. Perhaps all the celebration was happening in the house or I was making my round too early in the morning though it was already 7.45am. Since I've not taken any breakfast I stopped at the Indian-Muslim restaurant at the end of the shophouse block for my favourite 'nescafe tarik' and 'roti canai'. The place was already buzzing with hungry early morning clients.

And there I saw the real early morning CNY celebration. While the majority of the customers enjoying their breakfast were Malays, there were on that day just as many Chinese and a number of Indians, filling up the chairs and sitting around the round or square formica-topped tables without any obvious racial grouping, busily eating away and holding a spirited conversation in genuine Negri slang."Camno rayo tahun ni, Akong? Hebat tak? ( How's the new year celebration, Akong? Great or not?)". "Cam biaso jo, Suman. Pagi ni semuo e nak makan roti canai. Tulah den datang pagi-pagi ni. Dah konyang isi porut den kang. baru boli bawak balik." He then shouted to the owner of the restaurant."Oi, camno, Hasan! Dah siap ghuti canai den bolum?". From somewhere among he busy kitchen staff came a shrill and tiny voice issuing from a well-rounded man:"Bolum, Akong. Ramai na oghang lapar hari ni!" Akong replied, "Copeklah sikit. Oghang rumah dan anak-anak den dah lamo nunggu 'tu." Hasan: "Yolah. Kito bekecapuih lah ni buek kojo."

Sorry, no translation. If you haven't been to a village coffeshop in Negeri Sembilan and also in other States I believe, you have missed a lot in terms of national integration and community neighborliness and friendship in this country. Everyone mixes with everyone else in the towns and cities too, but not in the style they do in the remote rural villages where people know each other by names, speaking in their own local variations of Bahasa. Who says we need the English language to bridge the gap between racial groups. Only the town and city people say this, speaking more in terms of professional and business interest.

As I enjoyed my own breakfast rogether with my wife and some friends who have joined us, I realize how enjoyable the CNY holidays can be in the village, even before going to the homes of some friends. And tonight we hope to witness and enjoy more colorful fireworks in spite of the noise. I'm happy that our Police friends in the village Police Station are taking it easy and not spoiling the fun. On CNY I see that they are doing the same even in the towns and cities. They only harass and arrest people during the hariraya celebration for playing with cheap fire-crackers. The fireworks cost a lot of money and beyond the means of the Malays in the villages and even in the towns and cities.

Gong Xi Fa Chai and a Happy New Year.

No comments: