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Monday, June 26, 2017

Where’s my duit raya?

Sadly today, many of our younger generation grow up with a sense of entitlement thanks to traditions like the giving of duit raya during the month of Syawal.
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duit-raya-1“Kami datang bukan nak beraya, kami datang nak duit raya.” (We didn’t come to celebrate, we came for our duit Raya packet).
I still remember the kids who hopped around my grandpa’s village during Hari Raya in Kampung Rawana, Penang, happily muttering these words when they dropped by.
Dressed in their new baju melayu and baju kurung, they would present themselves at our doorstep with huge smiles plastered across their faces as they greeted “Selamat Hari Raya” to everyone at home.
However, when we invited them in for some kuih raya and dodol, they’d quickly save everyone’s time by making it crystal clear that all they wanted were the green packets consisting of money.
Those kids weren’t the exception, for the tradition of collecting duit raya is widely practised throughout the Muslim community in Malaysia, especially during Hari Raya.
Even the children of my relatives who visit us on Hari Raya, have a tendency to extend their hands, expecting something in return after giving salam. Some without any hesitance will ask straight faced: “Duit raya mana?”
Oddly though, when I was little, my mom would gather my two brothers and I just before setting off on our Hari Raya visits, and lecture us about not embarrassing her and dad by asking for duit raya.
“If people don’t give you those green packets, don’t ever ask for it. But if they themselves give it to you, then you should thank them and keep it away. Never open the green packs in their presence and compare the contents.”
Having experienced my mom’s long and excruciating pinches numerous times before, my elder brother and I obeyed her commands without a second thought. And that surprisingly earned us more duit raya actually.
“Such well-behaved children you have, Nisha! Nah, here is a special duit raya for you.”
But my younger brother was usually the troublemaker in our family. No, he wouldn’t ask for money, instead, he would never accept the packets, no matter what.
Once, an old friend of my dad’s visited us on Hari Raya and gave him some duit raya. My younger brother refused to accept it. When dad’s friend placed the green packet in my brother’s hand, he quickly dropped it, placing both his hands inside the pocket. Surprised by his behaviour, my dad’s friend, took the duit raya packet and stuffed it into my brother’s other pocket.
Immediately, my younger brother screamed. “My mom said never to accept money from anyone, do you understand?!”
And then he grabbed the green packet from his pocket and tore it apart, including the ten ringgit note inside.
Growing up, my brothers and I were taught never to ask others, relatives included, for anything. It was instilled in us since young that asking for things we were not entitled to, didn’t only bring shame upon our parents, it tarnished our dignity. Like my mom often reminds us – “have some pride”.
Throughout our childhood, my brothers and I were made to work to earn money. Chores around the house included scrubbing the toilet once a week, taking out the trash and cycling to the grocery store to get mom her supplies, entitled us to our RM10 monthly allowance.
Besides that, there were always plenty of other opportunities for us to make money. For example, massaging my mom’s legs for 50 sen; killing three houseflies with our badminton rackets for 10 sen; and pulling mom’s grey hairs, for which we were paid one sen for each strand.
Having been trained in such a way, my brothers and I did not believe in asking for favours, including from our own parents. We are quite used to working hard for our money.
In his university days, my elder brother survived on free packets of McDonald’s ketchup when he ran out of money for food. Later he was a “runner” for a small fee, for students who wished to have their books photocopied.
I myself once resorted to making curry puffs and kuih-muih for a street stall; taking sewing orders; and tutoring children, among other jobs to make ends meet at one point in my life.
Sadly today, many of our younger generation grow up with a sense of entitlement. Thanks to traditions like the distribution of duit raya, we teach our children that they are entitled to receive money in pretty, glossy green packets if they dress up nice, smile as they salam and kiss the hands of strangers during Hari Raya.
Thanks to technology, we have even begun to send out duit raya via electronic banking transfers known as e-Duit Raya.
I must say, it makes me laugh to see  society condemning the act of giving and receiving monetary gifts while at the same time, cultivating this very same mindset throughout the month of Syawal.
Fa Abdul is an FMT columnist.

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