Over the years, he has been waiting for someone to organise a gathering of all relatives. This wasn’t going to be easy. But a small committee was formed and tasked with organising the first-ever Hari Raya gathering of everyone in the big family.
Hamdan’s niece, Yong Rafidah Yaacob, became the main organiser. Hamdan volunteered his house in Gombak to be the venue for the event. Set in a lush garden setting with mangosteen and rambutan trees as the backdrop, the venue was just right.
What with a traditional wooden house as another natural prop, the setting was picture-perfect. Hamdan, to his credit, gathered his brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews to help out with the preparation.
Yong, a cancer survivor who has spent the last few years battling the big C, gave us the full story. “Today’s families are spread out by social and economic reasons.
“Over the years, I have seen my family members busy with their own immediate family, so much so that less time is spent visiting relatives, such as uncles and cousins.
“I have not met everyone in Hamdan’s family for a long time. So when the idea came about to have a Raya gathering, my SS committee went into action with much enthusiasm.
By the way, SS stands for Syok Sendiri if anyone asks. “I have been bringing families together for almost 15 years. It takes a lot of effort and resources. But let me tell you this — it’s worth every sen, every effort.
I’m thankful that uncles like Hamdan and his siblings were very supportive from day one.” The gathering went well. It wasn’t possible to get everyone to attend because some kin were out of town, the furthest being in Bintulu, Sarawak.
Some couldn’t make it because they had weddings to attend; some were not well while a few made a touch-and-go appearance because they had open houses to attend.
The SS committee made an extra effort to sort out the big family tree. During the fact-finding assignment, they traced six surviving generations from three original matriarchs.
The eldest are two women aged 90 and 91, and the youngest a 3-month-old baby! This was quite a feat, which made designing the family tree quite a challenge.
When the family tree was presented to everyone present, some gaps were filled and some errors rectified. It was a fun and meaningful gathering.
Lots of photographs were taken, addresses and telephone numbers were exchanged; there were tears, too. Many people take for granted their place in a big family.
They think that it’s not important to know as many relatives as possible. How many times have you encountered scenes where friends meet at weddings and funerals only to be told by their elders that they are second cousins or nephews and such?
Hence, Hamdan’s big Raya gathering was a kind of “jejak kasih” of sorts, a gathering of long-lost relatives, some of whom have never met before. In today’s fast-paced environment where work and earning a living is priority, friends and relatives are often left aside.
We should put a stop to this and make every effort to maintain contact and build relationships. Salam Malaysia. Ahmad A Talib NST Columnist 16 August 2015