Missing celebrating Hari Raya back home
By Sonia Ramachandran and Chandra Devi Renganayar
Rohingya refugee Zafar Ahmead Mohd Abdul Ghani (third from left) celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri with family and friends in Cheras. — Pictures by Khairunisah Lokman
Latifah Tun Hutbah, her husband Abdul Rahman (centre) and Ahmad Ali Rangtendar celebrating Hari Raya Adilfitri in Malaysia with traditional Indonesian delicacies. — Picture by Zunnur Al Shafiq
KUALA LUMPUR: The last 18 years of Raya has not been the same for Zafar Ahmead Mohd Abdul Ghani.From family to friends, food and culture, these are all the things this 40-year-old Rohingya from Myanmar misses dreadfully.
Although happily married to a Malaysian, Maslina Abu Hassan, 33, with two adorable sons — 3-year-old Muhammad Ridwan and 4-month-old Muhammad Yusoff — Zafar still longs for his homeland.
“Sometimes I cry during Raya as I miss my family and friends very much. Back home they host open house all day and this goes on for two weeks.
“It is very hard for me. I have not seen my father for 18 years and I was not even allowed to call him as my phone calls are monitored. My father passed away last year and I could not even attend his funeral,” said an emotional Zafar, who is president of the Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation of Malaysia.
Zafar was speaking at their open house on the first day of Raya, which was attended by the Rohingya and the other Myanmar communities, as well as Malaysians.
When asked what food he missed during Raya, he said: “I miss many things from home such as the rudifida, a traditional bread that looks like chappati but is made from rice flour. This is usually made during big celebrations like Raya. There is also shai mai, which is a main Muslim traditional food during Raya made of sweet vermicelli served with fried cashew nuts, shredded coconut, raisins and milk.
“Then there is the fasofida, which is something like the kuih kochi. Various meat dishes are also served like the gaita kho swe which is a beef dish in thick gravy,” said Zafar.
He said although most of the ingredients for Myanmar dishes were available in Malaysia, the taste wasn’t always the same.
“In Myanmar we get our meat and vegetables from our own farm. Even our rice is grown on our farm so the taste is different. It is much fresher,” said Zafar.
On traditional attire for Raya, Zafar said most men wore shirts and pants, and sometimes the salwar, similar to the ones used by Pakistani men, while the women wore sarong batik and the feushad, which is like a salwar kameez.
When asked if he was happy in this country, he said: “I like Malaysia but some Malaysians do not accept us.”
For Indonesian cleaner Latifah Tun Hutbah and her husband Abdul Rahman, Raya is not complete without their only child.
They had to leave their son in Indonesia when he was only 5 years’ old and have not seen him for three years.
“I miss him very much, especially so during Raya. We want to go back and see him but we don’t have enough money yet. We call him regularly and exchange photos, and we send him money and Raya clothes but we just can’t see him or hold him,” she said.
Latifah, who is from Surabaya, tries to make the Raya celebrations here as close to those back home by making traditional Indonesian cakes and cookies such as Kuih Bunga Teratai, a curry puff shaped like a water lily stuffed with beef.
Other delicacies she prepares include Kuih Cuci Muka, a kuih with glutinous rice and egg, as well as Lemper, a dish with steamed glutinous rice in banana leaves with dried shredded meat and carrot filling.
Raya for Latifah is always about being with family and since she is away from home, she makes it a point to be with her sister who is also in Kuala Lumpur.