"Who's that?" he asked his aunt.
"Oh, that's Aliya, your Pak Su's student who's staying here for Raya," replied Makcik Nah. "She's a new sister."
I smiled at him and left quickly to entertain the children.
"So this is Aliya.. alhamdulillah."
I 'salam' with the beautiful lady. "How are you, Puan."
"Just call me Mak Su laa.." she smiled warmly.
Her daughters laughed. They have inherited her beauty and friendliness. I had initially felt shy before her as she's the Dean's wife, but the whole family had been very kind and hospitable.
Finally the big day arrived. The house was spick and span, and everyone was busy. I was no longer treated as a guest but rather, as a member of the clan.
"What's Pakcik doing?"
"He's cooking the dalca for Raya," replied Makcik Nah. "Dalca's his specialty."
Nowadays Chinese don't cook a lot during festivals. The most I've seen my grand-aunts did was a big wok of stir-fried vegetables during Chinese New Year. It was an eye-opener for me to watch the men cook over charcoal fire, stirring curries and rendang in big pots, and frying chicken in the extra big woks while the women prepared the ingredients. Despite the hardwork involved, everyone was happy.
"So how are you enjoying your first Eid?" asked Mak Su.
"Great, " I answered, tucking in the delicious rendang.
On the first day of Eid, I helped to serve relatives who visited Makcik Nah at her house. There was no invitation cards given at all but people came because they're families and friends. On the second day it was our turn to visit theirs. We carpooled in several cars and visited all the nearby relatives. I listened to the Penang Malay lingo spoken and smiled when they kept asking me to add more of the yummy food.
"Aliya, do you already have anyone special?" asked one of the women relatives."If you like, I can introduce you to some nice men."
"I've asked her first la," commented another sister.
I just shrugged my shoulders, preferring to tuck into yet another bowl of delicious chicken soup.
One of the things about being a new revert to Islam is the constant questioning of whether I've any special man in my life, and the sincere offers to help speed up the process of finding me a suitable husband. It was so embarassing. I knew I was not the only revert who had faced this blushing moments. They meant well but as I told Makcik Nah, I was not ready for a serious relationship at that moment. Apart from some awkward moments with Makcik Nah's nephew, I enjoyed myself very much during my first Eid. I returned to my hostel with lots of cookies.
Things I learnt during my 1st Raya:
1. Family ties are important. A family with good silaturrahim among its members is a happy and blessed family.
2. Respect the elders. You won't be where you are without help and guidance from the elders. Always be courteous and polite to them.
3. Visiting relatives and neighbours during Eid is more important than staying at home and watching tv.
4. There can be fun and merry-making without the need for gambling and liqour, contrary to what some people believe.
5. Aurat between nonmuhrim family members should be observed at all times, including in the house.
6. Prayer times should be observed including during house visits. Inform guests about the nearest surau/mosque or direct them to the prayer room in the house.
7. Help out as much as possible, including washing the plates and utensils you've used as a guest so that the host can rest after you've gone home.