19 October 2007

Neither Ritual Nor Spiritual?

They were cute. They meow-ed to me. They brushed their furry heads against my feet. They got the food they wanted. They ate.. and they left. Obviously, I'm talking about some cats I've encountered.. but this blog post isn't really about them.

When I was small, I was taught that when we "bersalam raya" or "beraya" with a person, we should bend down in humility, extend both our hands to the person's hand(s), look at the person in the eye as sincerely as possible, ask for forgiveness and really really mean it. Of course the subsequent action would be to place our hands to our chest, which signifies "bringing the love to the heart".

[Oh yes, my parents didn't encourage the tradition of kissing the hands of others so that's why I didn't mention hand-kissing. To be honest, even I would get uncomfortable when children suddenly kiss my hand while "bersalam", especially when I've just had some strong-smelling curry with roti canai or whatever.]

Anyway, I was taught that when we ask for forgiveness from a person, it doesn't matter whether we've known the person for a long time or it's just the first time we've ever met the person.

This is because, if we've known the person for a long time, then there'd most probably be some kind of mistake that we've done to the person, whether in the form of thoughts, words or actions. If it's just the first time we've met the person, then there might still be some form of mistake that we've done during that first meeting, which may have offended the person even though the person did not express her/his discontent.

However, everytime we celebrate Aidilfitri after Ramadan, I could witness this scene in many houses:

A group of children enters the house of the host. They know the host, as they all live in the same neighbourhood.

Host: Nak duit raya ke nak makan? (You want raya money or you want to eat?)
Children: Duit raya!!! (Raya money!!!)
Host: Ok, mai beraya. (Ok, let's beraya.)

The group of children then approaches the host. They take turns to extend their hands to the host's hands, they take the money from the host and they leave. In other words:

No eye contact (probably because of stage fright).
No asking for forgiveness (maybe because they've already asked for something else).
No sign of uttering a simple "Thank you" (perhaps because it's a foreign language).

Hmm.. I'm just not sure whether we're training children to understand what "humility, gratitude and asking for forgiveness" means or whether we're training them to become efficient beggars & subsidy-worshippers instead. In my humble opinion, children don't need US to train them to become efficient beggars & subsidy-worshippers. Cats could do a better job in that department.

P/S: It's 19 October 2007. I'm in Langkawi, playing with island cats.