We had several helpers when we were living at the government quarters from January 1976 through July 1994. And two days before Hari Raya, they would be busy at the rear portion of the house. Kak Ziah would be the Chef de la Cuisine, while Abang Mazlan (her husband), Pakcik Shukor, Pakcik Saad, arwah Pakcik Mat Nor, “Inspector” Kana, and arwah Pakcik Ramli, would be helping her, as well as help do the arrangements for the 3-day open house my father would be hosting annually. Save for arwah Pakcik Ramli, who was a police corporal from the Federal Reserve Unit (replacing Pakcik Samad, who was also from the FRU) when he started as the driver, and Kana, who was a general labourer seconded to our quarters, the rest were all Auxiliary Policemen and Policewoman. In between that, in the late 1970s, we would have arwah Pakcik Salleh, who was my father’s second driver, and his wife, arwah Makcik Jam, joining the group.
The basics like Rendang and other dishes would be cooked in-house, while stuff like lemang, nasi himpit, drinks etc would be provided by the Officers’ Mess.
While all that’s happening, my mother would be spearheading cookie-making operations at the Officers’ Mess with the senior officers’ wife, that would be distributed among policemen all over the country who would be on duty during the festive season.
On the eve of Hari Raya, the preparations would be at a feverish pace, dying down usually past midnight; and almost all of them would be sleeping at the workers’ quarters behind our quarters. I would be there to listen to their jokes that they would be cracking ’til the break of dawn.
Year in, year out – the routine would be the same. Gone are those days now.
Pakcik Ramli was later transferred to Bukit Aman’s store when he suffered a heart attack and was no longer fit to drive. He passed away in his hometown in Jerantut after his retirement. Makcik Jam passed away at her in Seri Lalang home near Kluang, when she fell in the bathroom. Pakcik Salleh passed away several years later. Pakcik Mat Nor passed away several years ago. Before he passed away, he asked for my brother, Joe, but his family had no idea how to contact him.
Next year, Wifey and I will host our first berkampung when we’ll have all our children together with us, preparing and celebrating Hari Raya together.
I hope, they will have sweet memories of their Hari Raya with us.