‘Raya sakan’ by all means, but don’t let your guard down

Fans of old Westerns would be familiar with scenes like this.

The wide-open expanse of the Great Plains, set against an azure sky, fills the Panavision screen. A lone tumbleweed flitters across the desolation.

In the background, a steady rumble slowly rises in intensity, building into the inevitable, deafening crescendo. The screen is suddenly filled with a cloud of dust, fur, horns, and grime as a stampede of wild buffaloes, bison and steer, head hell-bent for the horizon.

After two years of lockdowns, movement control orders and travel restrictions brought on by Covid-19, this Hari Raya Aidilfitri promises to be the most ‘epic’. The flood of humans, cars, bikes, trucks, rickshaws, trishaws, buses, micro-mobility machines, roller skates, basikal lajak and kapchais this holiday season will rival that of any stampede of bovines across the prairies.

By the time you read this, you’re probably safe in the comfort of your Grandpappy’s home, tucking into your Raya fare. That chicken curry, along with a generous dollop of sweet peanut sauce and beef rendang, have never tasted this good. If you’re lucky.

If you’re not, you’re probably still stuck in the sweltering heat in your jalopy in the middle of Manjung, with three kids in the backseat screaming “Daddy, Daddy, are we there yet, Daddy?” every 300m, and a less-than-happy wife staring down at you for leaving the house at 4.08am instead of 4.30am, like she told you to.

Highway concessionaire PLUS estimates that more than 2 million vehicles will ply their stretch of asphalt this Raya week. The traffic jams have been downright biblical.

Millions of Malaysians, corralled and penned up for ages, will finally be allowed to scratch that two-year travel itch and roam free to meet their parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousin brothers, cousin sisters, nieces, nephews, and the pet goose in their respective kampungs. And scratch that itch, they will.

Kedahans have a phrase for this kind of Raya. They call it ‘Tudia, aih… Raya sakan, nooh’. This is the kind of Raya in which caution is thrown to the wind; the celebrants fully embracing the ‘YOLO’ concept, with reckless abandon.

And as if on cue, the government announced the lifting of additional restrictions. Just before the start of the fireworks.

Beginning May 1, the wearing of face masks outdoors is no longer required. The doe-eyed, rakishly handsome Health Minister with the devilishly good looks had spoken: “The wearing of face masks, however, is still mandatory indoors, and in public transportation, including e-hailing services. The wearing of face masks outdoors and in open spaces is optional, but still encouraged.”

But after two years of not seeing your parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousin brothers, cousin sisters, nieces, nephews, and the pet goose in a house meant for eight, but now resembles the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan at peak hour, do you think anyone will bother reading the fine print? Do you think anyone will care? Come here, baby, let the hugs fly.

Khairy Jamaluddin also said that business owners now only need to check and see if their patrons are Covid-19 positive or not, based on the status of their MySejahtera, but added that the scanning, using the app, was no longer compulsory.

Also, an individual’s vaccination status is no longer relevant. More fodder for the proponents of the “agenda Yahudi/Illuminati”, and anti-vaxxers.

The pent-up frustrations of not being able to see and touch your loved ones for two years can be hard. But like all things in life, it must be put in the proper context. At least, you’re not a political prisoner in solitary confinement, serving a 30-year term on Robben Island.

Just before Ramadan, the country was grappling with soaring daily Covid-19 numbers that hovered around 35,000 new cases every day.

Now, the tally has stabilised somewhat. Also, Malaysians’ threshold for Covid-19 numbers have risen, and we are now unfazed by fresh daily infections numbering in the tens of thousands.

After two years, life is slowly returning back to normal. We are now getting used to this ‘blight’; this ‘inconvenience’. The malls are now alive again, with families thronging them, in search of unbeatable Raya deals. Roads, even before the holidays began, looked familiarly like pre-Covid-19 days, with King (Myvis) darting in and out of lanes, the blaring of horns at peak hours, and boy racers flooring their souped-up GTIs as they exploit the gaps, and not signalling.

But “getting used” to something can be dangerous. It lulls us into complacency. It gives us a false sense of security. It induces us to let our guard down.

Sure, no one likes to be the party-pooper. Especially during Raya. But it is worth remembering that this virus is here to stay.

Be safe this Hari Raya. And may your Syawal be as beautiful, rewarding, and as fulfilling as you had imagined it for the last two years.

Selamat Hari Raya from us at Twentytwo13. Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

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