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Dear Covid 19

Dear COVID-19, 

 

Thank you for this valuable lesson. You made this year’s Hari Raya Puasa a memorable and special one. Raya celebrations this year was definitely different. Because of the circuit breaker, absolutely no visitings or gatherings were allowed. When I found out that the circuit breaker was going to be extended, I was completely heartbroken. There were so many people that I’ve been missing, but there was one special person that I wanted to meet the most. 

 

And that person was my lovely nenek (grandmother). I had not seen her for about 3 months and I missed her so much. There were so many occasions where I took visiting her for granted. I was always “too busy” and “too occupied with work and school” that I’d find myself postponing visiting my nenek. 

 

Every year for Raya celebrations, the whole family would gather at my nenek’s house. Seeing all her children and her grandchildren made my nenek so happy. Growing up, I would often catch her smiling to herself as she watched all our antics and everyone enjoying the amazing food that she had tirelessly prepared for us. Seeing everyone happy made her happy. 

Instead of gathering at nenek’s place to celebrate Raya, we were all in our own homes, in front of our computers. But all of us were dressed up in our traditional baju kurung, we were all still eating the same Raya food and kuih, and we were all still so happy.

When news of the extension broke, I knew that my nenek would be affected the most so I gave her a call to reassure her that I would go and see her as soon as the circuit breaker is lifted. But thanks to you, calling her weekly or every few days is something I have adopted. I’d call to ask her about her day and to make sure she has everything she needs. I don’t think I’ve spoken this much to her in years. So, thank you.  

 

A few days prior to Raya, I called her again. This time around, she sounded a little sad. I asked her what’s wrong. She said that there will not be any Raya celebrations and she will not get to see the whole family. I told her not to worry, we will still get to celebrate Raya together while staying safe at home. 

 

On Raya eve, back at my own home, my family have been spring cleaning, making kuih, cooking Raya food and listening to Raya songs on the radio. It felt the same. The same atmosphere of Raya eve. Honestly to me, Raya eve or as the Malays call it, “Malam Raya”, has always been the highlight of Raya itself. This is the time we are the busiest, preparing food, preparing the house and this is also when the excitement levels are at their peak. I was elated that despite all the changes that have been happening or changes that we’ve all had to adapt to, it was nice to have that familiar “Malam Raya” feeling.

 

The next morning on Raya day itself, I woke up to the sound of the Takbir Raya or Eid Takbir. My mother was tuning into the live stream takbir online. Before I indulged in the extra calories, I went to do a quick workout before taking a shower and getting myself ready for the Raya festivities. After that, I helped my mother prepare and set up the table for our usual Raya breakfast as a family. But before we got to feast, we did a virtual photoshoot with the talented photogapher, Samuel. It was a whole new experience. Having our pictures taken on Facetime and having to follow instructions on where to place the camera, how to set up and stuff like that. My family and I had so much fun with the shoot. Thanks, Sam!

 

And then it came, the moment we’d all been waiting for. TO EAT! And it was also time to start the Zoom meeting with our extended family. This was the main difference this year. Instead of gathering at nenek’s place to celebrate Raya, we were all in our own homes, in front of our computers. But all of us were dressed up in our traditional baju kurung, we were all still eating the same Raya food and kuih, and we were all still so happy. Talking and catching up. My nenek was still there, watching her screen, smiling to herself again as we all laughed and played around with Zoom’s virtual background feature. One of the Raya traditions is to seek forgiveness. Having to do this on Zoom was very different. And for some reason, it was even more emotional. As I spoke into the camera to all of my relatives, asking them for forgiveness and wishing them good health and to stay safe, I looked over at my nenek and I started bawling. I was full of remorse and regret. I regretted not meeting her more often when I could. I regretted not hugging her more. I regretted not spending much time with her. And now that I couldn’t meet her and hold her, it shook me to the bones realising that one dreadful day, it’ll come, the day I would have to say goodbye to her forever. And when that day comes, with or without a pandemic, with or without a circuit breaker, I will not be able to see her or hold her anymore.

 

Therefore, thank you COVID-19. Thank you for teaching me the value of family, the value of love and most importantly, gratitude. I am thankful that although we can’t celebrate Raya at nenek’s place as usual, I still got to celebrate it with my mother and my sisters, I still got to eat amazing home-cooked Raya food, and with the existence of technology, we still got to see our extended family members through Zoom. And most importantly, I got to ask for forgiveness from my nenek and I got to tell her how much I love and appreciate her, and that my only wish is to be able to celebrate Raya with her next year and for many more years to come. And when Phase 1 commences, I’ll be able to meet her and give her the biggest hug ever.

Faiqah Ghazali

25 May 2020