Sunday, September 28, 2008

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri!

It's that time of the year again when Indonesians make their way back to their hometowns to celebrate Lebaran (Hari Raya to us Malaysians) with their loved ones. The printed edition of Jakarta Post claimed a few days ago that this mass exodus called mudik is unique to Indonesia. I beg to differ. We do exactly the same in Malaysia, ours is called balik kampung lit returning home to our village.

But mudik is conducted on a much, much larger scale. Photos of the mad rush have been shown on the front page of the Jakarta Post in the past week and I marvel at the tenacity of those involved. A few days ago, the Post printed a photo of a new carriage class on the local trains. It's seat-less and you simply scramble on and plonk your bum on the floor and rattle the entire journey home. The carriage was jam-packed with people either sitting or stretched out, sleeping on the train floor.

Other pictures show locals waiting to board ferries home to other islands. (Note: I couldn't find the picture I wanted off the Jakarta Post website but this blog has a picture that is almost similar) There is no queue, just a mass of human bodies, many of them shouldering huge cardboard boxes bearing goodies for their loved one back home. Similar scenes were seen at bus terminals and I read that people had to board buses early and waited inside them for hours before the buses even departed the terminal just to secure a seat. Mind you, bus rides aren't short here and some of the buses don't even look like they have air-conditioning. My maid told me her village is an 18-hour bus ride away.

Scenes like these make the mad rush at Puduraya back home tame in comparison. Sure there is a lot of people but I've never had to wait inside a bus for hours BEFORE it leaves the terminal just so I can be assured of a seat for the whole ride home. And the longest ride I've had to endure was an 8-hour drive in the relative comfort of my car. It was pretty uncomfortable then as the highway was packed and I was crawling on 2nd gear all the way home but compared to a seatless train ride, it was luxury.

In the world's most populous Muslim nation, Lebaran is THE holiday of the year. Many Indonesians take a week or so off at this time of the year and for some, it will be the only holiday they enjoy annually. This is also a time when thewell-to-do madams of Jakarta suddenly find themselves without their domestic helpers who have mudik-ed and panic at the thought of unswept floors and unwashed dishes. :)) Actually, I know how they feel. My trusty compound superintendent left for his village last Sat and I've been praying hard ever since that nothing will go wrong with the house until he returns. Sure, he has a temp replacement here but there can only be Supardi in my heart when it comes to house matters. He's reliable and he's very trustworthy.

As a result of this rush out of town, Jakarta will be very quiet for the next week. I, for one, will be enjoying the quiet roads before the mad traffic returns for another year.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri to all Muslims - wishing you a safe and happy holiday!

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