I always looked forward to Hari Raya back in Plymouth. I think I had celebrated raya without my family for 5 years.... Instead, I would celebrate Hari Raya with my Marjon friends, my Plymouth Uni friends and my Plymouth CFE mates whom I still keep in touch with until today.
Our reunion dinner last year..... The Marjon families have grown! ( Literally and figuratively..hehehe)
Our Malaysian friends from Plymouth CFE and Plymouth University
Photo from Irman's FB
Ramadan was easy during winter but harder during summer. The reason being fasting was shorter during winter and we usually broke our fast around 5pm where it was already beginning to get dark. In summer, we could be fasting until 8pm or 9pm.... We took turn to cook dinner and if we had to break our fast during class, we would prepare a light snack first like sandwiches, chocolates or fruits. Then after class, we would go back and start cooking. My specialty was fried pasta since it is easy and fast. ;)
At first it was strange to see other students on campus eating but after a while, we adjusted to the situation. Fasting wasn't very difficult since the balmy weather made it bearable. The cold made us forget our thirst. But the cold also made us crave food like chocolates at times... :P
When it was near Hari Raya time, I would start blasting Lagu Raya from my cassette recorder / player over and over again. That was when I missed my family the most. I would leave my window open and so, Sudirman's , Saloma's and P. Ramlee's songs could be heard by people walking passed my village house.... On Hari Raya and a few days after that, I would play the recorded Takbir Raya continuously to ease my longing for my family. The takbir heard in UK is just not the same as the one heard in Malaysia. The latter suited my situation perfectly.
We performed Terawih prayer from time to time in an annexe in the college. It was too far to go to the one in the city centre. Our Terawih prayer depended on whether the Imam was available. One year, our Imam was an International student from Yemen, if I am not mistaken. His name is also Ramadan. After prayer, we would have a small more, consisting of hot tea or coffee and some kuihs or snacks.
The college would usually grant us a day off for us to celebrate Hari Raya. On that raya morning, we would go to the designated place in town to have our special prayer. One time it was at Plymouth Uni hall and at another time, it was in unused old church. The gathering was an eye-opener for us. We met Muslims of different backgrounds and races and we were the only ones wearing telekung for the prayer. The Pakistani and Bangladeshi women were in their colourful punjabi suits while the Bosnians were in t-shirts and jeans. But, regardless of our choice of clothing, all of us prayed in the same direction towards one God.
After prayer, there would usually be a small feast shared by all. Usually, an Indian restaurant run by a Muslim would prepare rice biryani and some sweets for those attending. Then, we would disperse and return to our college or visit a Malaysian family who organised an open house for other Malaysian students. This was the time when we could taste the raya delicacies like sate, rendang, nasi impit and cookies. This was also the time to wear baju kurung and baju melayu. We also visited the CFE and Plymouth Uni students at their houses and ate some more.
The Marjon students would also prepare a feast for the Muslims at the college. We would invite our lecturers, and other Malaysian and International students as well. We would delegate the food to be cooked and later have the feast in one of the annexes. Tharu, our couse mate from Maldives, would make her delicious spicy tuna balls. Our MA / Phd senior, kak Jay @ Jamilah Mustafa (now a professor at UNISEL), would also invite us to her house since she usually cooked delicious food for Hari Raya. One year, I went to visit my Kurbani boss and his family. They served me Bangladeshi food and sweets which included sweet vermicelli.... that was something new to me since I was more familiar with the savoury fried vermicelli.
photo from kak Jay's FB
Of course Raya in UK was not the same as Raya in Malaysia since we were not with our loved ones and missed all our favourite food. But, we had to make do with what we had and luckily for us, we had close friends and understanding lecturers who helped make the celebration a joyous one.
How I miss those moments, mates...! :)