AFTER one month of fasting, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, marking the end of Ramadan, is finally here. But, unlike the name itself, Hari Raya (celebration day) does not actually involve just one day.
For many in Malaysia, "Raya" stretches to at least a week, if not two. For instance, the mass exodus from the cities to the kampung has been a carefully planned operation: airplane, train and bus tickets booked months in advance, and cars sent for servicing two weeks before. Some decide only at the last minute to go "home". Whatever the level of preparation, everyone ends up in the biggest parking lot that is our highways at this time of the year -- a testament to the undeniable attraction that is balik kampung (going back to one's ancestral home).
One of the preparations will also be about ensuring the safety of the house, left empty for the duration of one's balik kampung. All the necessary electrical appliances will have been unplugged, car batteries disconnected (for cars that are left in the porch), doors locked and pets left in the care of (hopefully) responsible and humane people. But, just as surely as women of even the simplest means will be wearing jewellery of some sort and working adults will have a lot of cash in their pockets to give to visiting children as duit raya, and the said children will be all cashed-up and keen to count their week's takings in front of everyone, entire stretches of neighbourhoods will be occupant-less and ripe for the picking.
As with previous years, the police have advised holiday-goers to take the necessary precautions, including halting newspaper deliveries, informing staying-behind neighbours and signing up for the special police watch. And, no doubt, many will have taken these precautions, and more, to heart. But in this online social networking age, the one thing people will forget -- in fact, won't even think of -- is not updating their status on Facebook and Twitter. Sure, it's easy enough not to say, "Going to Muar for Raya!", but few people can resist sending photo updates of the stalls, roadsigns, milestones or traffic jams along the way -- all sure signs of one being anywhere but at home. And once Raya itself kicks in, there will inevitably be photo updates of the "fantastic spread at (friend, family or boss') house" -- sent in real-time. Many social networkers also do not disable their Facebook or Twitter GPS (global satellite positioning system) location-tracker, making it easy for people to figure out whether they are near or far. As with any tool, this can be a boon or a bane. For Raya, it's better to just turn it off and save all the updates for after Raya, when one has returned.
Have a truly Selamat (safe) Hari Raya.