Why is it that we become reflective of certain events, and people long gone, during Ramadan?
I remember when I was younger, and Kak Piah, Kak Ton, Abang Med or Kak Olin was abroad, Mak would say at the start of Ramadan : "Dah setahun kakak awak (or abang) di Canberra (or Sydney, Ohio or London)".
Ramadan would always be the time when Mak would make that point. It was her way of saying it out loud, that she missed her children and Ramadan gave her that perfect excuse and timing to do so. And that it was okay for her to display a little bit of emotion.
After Mak passed away, we'd feel it the first day of Ramadan, that she was gone "for a year". We'd start reflecting and reminiscing about Mak and what she would usually be doing during Ramadan.
"Eh...baru puasa lepas Mak ada, ya?" we'd reflect. Oh, we'd always do a great job of reminiscing.
It was the same with Kak Piah and Kak Eda. The first Ramadan without them brought that tinge of sadness and loss.
This time last year, Ramadan arrived as Bapak lay gravely ill.
He was admitted to the Pantai Hospital's ICU the week before Ramadan.
It seems like yesterday that we were going through the roller-coaster of those 12 days at the hospital, waiting anxiously to see signs that Bapak would make it through.
He died on the fourth day of the blessed month.
The sadness, the grief and the hollowness have not quite gone away. They remain fresh. Busy work schedules are a distraction. A panacea, even.
This time last year, I was doing my own thing. Thankfully. As I was able to be at the hospital when I was needed or when I needed to be.
Memories of Bapak's last days are crystal clear. I've learnt to store them somewhere deep inside. There are times, as I indulge in a little reverie, I play them, like a film but where I could pick the scenes at will.
I don't know why I want to remember those moments. Perhaps, to remind me that he is no more. That he is gone. Or, simply to remember.
Throughout our time at the hospital, our buka puasa was either in one of the guest rooms at the ICU, or at the cafeteria.
Because he died during Ramadan, we spent "buka puasa" together (in our section 16 family home where our youngest sibling, Nina, now lives with her family)), opting not to accept invitations outside.
Aidilfitri celebration was subdued. Friends and relatives visited during the first two weeks of Raya but we did not hold the customary open house for Bapak's close friends.
Bapak's final days were not all that I remember, of course.
Now that Bapak's gone, memories of our Ramadan childhood come flooding back.
Those days, there were no neighbourhood "pasar Ramadan". The only "real" one was in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur.
Weekdays, Mak would make her signature kuih kosui, ondeh-ondeh or kuih lopis. Mak would also prepare Bapak's (and of course, our) favourite dishes -- bamia, soto ayam, laksa johor, mee siam or mee rebus as a special dish (in addition to rice and other dishes) -- spread throughout Ramadan.
Bapak never bought dishes for buka puasa. He'd buy certain kuih, and only on weekends.
That's when we'd accompany him on that long drive to Kampung Baru. Something we'd always look forward to every Ramadan.
Pasar ramadan in Kampung Baru was not as massive as it is now. It was manageable then (in the 70s). We could find a very decent parking space not too far from the rows of stalls.
We'd start from the first stall and make our way to the end. We would drool just looking at the delicious and delectable kuih. Bapak was a load of fun. He'd tell us that we could buy anything we wanted but when we made our pick, he'd playfully discourage us, saying that the kuih did not look nice, the colour's too bright yada yada yada. He'd end up buying what he liked. Which was actually a good thing because we'd end up with a delicious fare. Which were always the same kuih-muih.
The visits to Kampung Baru stopped after Bapak was detained (under the ISA)
By the time he was released (some five years later), the Kampung Baru appeal was no longer there for him, nor for us. Besides, it was also when pasar ramadan began mushrooming in local neighbourhoods which was a good thing although it took a while for these "pasars" to be like Kampung Baru's.
The ones in Section 14, and then Section 16 (Petaling Jaya) became his regular Ramadan bazaar.
Then, it was our turn to take Bapak to these places.
Later on, old age forced Bapak to remain very much indoors.
It's a Ramadan ago that Bapak was with us. And left us. (Al Fatihah).
How time flies. Ever so quickly.
But Ramadan will be Ramadan as we celebrate its glory and blessings with the ones we have and are with us.
And it is always during Ramadan that we feel the most that sense of loss of our loved ones who have left us. Al Fatihah.
But we will always remember them...Amin.