Log 9-8-13 Raya / The Day after the New Moon.
August 9, 2013
I wait for the kampung elders to come for a do in my plantation – it’s a small, but formal affair – only a few sombre old men have been invited. It is a custom that predates islam by at least a good 500 years – an ancient tradition where the serious men would attend by clutching their ceremonial daggers dressed in their finery, as they crack beetlenut and smoke cloved ceruts sitting beneath the gentle sway of the palms – a goat has been prepared for slaughter, it has been blessed by the dukun (shaman) – he recites ancient vespers that these days is considered ‘haram’ by the religious teachers.
But what to do? Tradition runs deep in these parts – this is after all the creche of the Malay warrior – here a man is judged by his peers on the sheer power of his word and standing in the community.
I will not go into the custom. As I believe many will never understand and instead ridicule it.
All I can say is at the end of the ceremony after all has been said and done – I will take each man by the hand (like you sometimes see in Singapore when men hold each others hand and walk together) and lead him to a discreet corner – there I will confess my sins for the last year in gentle and sincere tones – thereafter, I will embrace and kiss him and I will say, forgive me for all the wrongs that I have done to you. He will do the same. We will then exhange tributes along with daggers – it is symbolic and speaks of the depth of our eternal friendship that can weather even the fiercest storms – this will be strategic for me next year. As I plan to move against my enemies in earnest. I will need the support of the villagers for the big push to kick them all out! Once and for all – tabula rasa!
In this one solitary act – it is as if a man is able to press the reset button and everything goes back to a blank page.
I must exercise restraint this year and be more mindful of my thoughts, actions and deeds – instead of flying off the handle – as it is quite common in the kampung for the farmer to take off his shoes and throw it at troublemakers – to even scold them in tones where I threaten to kill them and their entire family.
I realize this is not something that most people can fully understand in a city state – but here it is really quite normal. What remains important to me is no matter what the trespass – in this one solitary act of contrition and supplication my friends will realize – these are merely words of anger and frustration – they do not mean anything at all.
Thereafter a brand new wheel of life will prepared to turn again. I want to be good this year. Really, I genuinely want to be a good man. Not just someone who writes and talks about it as an abtraction – but to be genuinely good. The only trouble is, I just don’t know how to be good any longer…these thoughts sadden me acutely, as I wait for them all to walk up the road where the man lives on the hill.