"NO matter what, we have to 'balik kampung'!" This is the spontaneous answer I received from a friend. Moreover, this friend is among the lucky ones as her husband also comes from the same state, hence there is not much fuss on which side to go.
Malaysians have taken for granted the annual "balik kampung" routine during Hari Raya each year without realising that married couples may end up in a dilemma in deciding which in-laws they should celebrate with.
It is no small matter in deciding where to go and it even caused many couples to split though it only takes some give and take in finding a solution, a public servant Ainul Huda shared with me.
This year Ainul will be celebrating Hari Raya with her in-laws in Alor Star, as for the last two years she celebrated with her parents in Shah Alam, Selangor as she was under confinement.
The couple also took the trouble to return much earlier, not only to get a taste of the fasting month in the kampung but also avoid the 'balik kampung' rush as Hari Raya closes in.
AS LONG AS THE KAMPUNG IS THERE
The 'balik kampung' rush returns each year, where those living and working in the towns and cities, whether single or married join the exodus to their ancestral villages to celebrate with the family. Massive movement of people and vehicles from towns and cities occurs, with the highways and federal roads witnessing extraordinary traffic volume.
Going back home is a great feat for many as a drive from Kuala Lumpur to Kangar in Perlis during the rush could take 17 hours, where for the same duration one could fly from Kuala Lumpur to London. However, for most of them the excitement in getting back home to be with parents and relatives easily overcomes the agony of the gruelling journey.
And while in kampung, one should try to keep away from the handheld gadgets. Spend more time speaking with parents, siblings, relatives, neighbours and friends. It is meaningless to travel back home so far and end up spending much of the time with the communication gadgets.
THE KAMPUNG NOSTALGIA
However, the rural-urban migration has sent many of the Malay villages into oblivion. Hence many no longer have a kampung to return to. I too miss the 'balik kampung' excitement as there is no village to go to.
My own memories of my village is very limited, I only could recall my maternal grandparents' village in Sg Plong, Selangor.
I still remember the black wooden house standing on pillars beside a main road. There was a verandah and a room. Had to take a small staircase from the ground to get to the kitchen. We used wood and branches collected from the rubber estate on the opposite site of the road for fire. We lit the house using kerosene lamps that produced black soot.
Apart from the well beside the house, we also sourced water from the well located in between the sago palms with their leaves used for making the thatched roof. Tadpoles were plentiful in the clear water.
The balik kampung ritual during Hari Raya will last as long as parents and family members remain in the kampung. If they are no longer there, the balik kampung tradition will be a thing of the past. This is something that we cannot rule out as 85 percent of the population will be living in urban areas by 2040.
For those who still have a village to go to, they have to find a way to preserve their family home and heritage even if the elders are no longer there. The village could serve as the congregating point for their descendants.
DRIVE HOME SAFELY
There is also the other side of the balik kampung apart from the horrendous traffic crawl, road accidents that took many to the graves instead of the kampung. So those on the journey should always be mindful of road safety, speed can kill.
The nation is still recovering from the road tragedy on June 11 at KM25 Jalan Bahau-Keratong, Jempol, Negeri Sembilan that claimed eight lives including six from a family.
Drivers should be aware of the Automatic Enforcement System (AES) and Kejara Demerit Points. These enforcement measures are meant to ensure road users adhere to the rules and regulations, and avoid ending up as accident statistics.
The police has launched Ops Selamat 11/2017 from 18 June to 2 July in conjunction with the festive period. The police will also utilise the intelligent Compound Online Payment System (iCOPS) to enhance the effectiveness of their operations to ensure smooth traffic flow and no major accidents.
Malaysian drivers often lack discipline on the roads and are known to drive on emergency lanes, overtake over double lines and drive while talking in their handphones.
Drive safely to the kampung! Don't forget other are on the road too. Wishing all readers Selamat Hari Raya!