Seeking Forgiveness

[This was my article published last Monday on Brunei Times.]

Seeking Forgiveness During Eid Fitr

Ramadan is the Muslims’ month of fasting. It is a time for Muslims to learn to be patient, to be humble and to understand more about spirituality. Ramadan is also an auspicious month. It is during Ramadan that the Al-Mighty first revealed the first verses of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). It is also the month where everyone asks forgiveness for past sins and past misdeeds. The practice of asking for forgiveness from misdeeds continue not just during Ramadan but also during the Eid month of Syawal more commonly known as Hari Raya in Brunei.

A common practice in Brunei and elsewhere in the world is to seek forgiveness from relatives and friends as well as to send Hari Raya greetings. These can be done in person when one meets them but can also be done by sending out Hari Raya greetings in whatever form. In today’s technological world, Hari Raya greetings including seeking forgiveness, ‘Selamat Hari Raya Maaf Zahir Batin’ can be sent out electronically as well via the various modern means – short message services (sms), e-mails, electronic cards, twitter or even via one’s social electronic networks. In today’s modern day society, Hari Raya greeting cards have become digitalised courtesy of advancements in technology.

A recent news article on Brunei Times indicated that social networking websites have taken precedence over conventional mails, short messaging system (SMS), and emails for conveying festive greetings to friends. Many of those interviewed preferred to use such sites as it offers a faster and cheaper alternative. It is hassle free rather than going to the shops to buy greeting cards.

Some argued that most of the cards received are either left lying around or thrown away. Some argued that even when a greeting card is sent out, nobody replies. For the environmentally aware, using electronic cards is more efficient and cut down the costs of buying the cards and posting them. Electronic cards on the internet are also simple, free and can be customized. One can even add animation and music.

Despite that, most still agree that the actual Hari Raya greeting card is the best. Hari Raya cards are more personal and reflect more care, sensitivity and effort. There is also a sentimental value in receiving conventional Hari Raya cards and many would be happy to receive personalised cards. Some employed both - using cards for sending out to those in the work community and the other methods for friends and relatives.

In the 1980s and 1990s when electronic cards have not yet make an impact, many Raya cards were sent out. The Brunei Postal Services Department even offered the services of typing addresses on envelopes as part of its services. Cards can be as big as an A3 size paper depending who it is one wants to send the card to. Cards are colourful and one can spend hours searching right cards with the right messages to send out to their loved ones.

One former minister recalled that he received a huge beautiful card with loving texts sent by one of his expatriate officers. Apparently the expatriate officer, wanting to make an impact with his new minister, decided to send the biggest card he could find. He did not realize that the card was meant to be sent by those who were in love to his or her beloved one.

In the 1970s, some cards were sent scented with perfumes or powders. This is to send the same message from your loved ones or from an anonymous admirer.

The interesting part was that prior to the 1970s, cards were not bought but rather hand-made. Many would make home-made greeting cards in preparation for the Hari Raya festivities because unlike today, Hari Raya greeting cards were not available or sold.

One had to be fairly artistic and imaginative. To create a card, one would need a big drawing paper or board complete with black and colour pencils. The design can be anything whether related to Hari Raya or otherwise. One can even include any other scenic photographs or anything.

Suitable greetings can be included. There were those who remained loyal to their school would indicate the school’s motto and the school’s badge even after they have started work. Those in SMMP (Sekolah Menengah Melayu Pertama or First Malay Secondary School), the precursor to today’s Science College remained very loyal. Their school’s EXCELSIOR motto remained. SOAS College too had its own following.

Most importantly the card would have a self portrait of the creator somewhere in the card. Some remembered that one must be smartly dressed whether wearing a suit or a tie or at least be macho looking complete with sunglasses and dresses well. One or two even had their photographic persona to appear in various scenes posing as if they were there. The most important thing is that one must look cool and be as good looking as possible. These cards also go out to potential suitors.

Once a card is drawn and completed, the finalised version is then sent to a photo studio in town. Studios in Bandar, Kuala Belait and Seria offered these services. The chosen studio would take a snapshot of the card and would print the card on a postcard size paper. The studios would take took around three days to print the cards at a cost of $3.00 per dozen cards.

Dato Rahman Mohiddin recalled that by belonging to the SOAS Photography Club, the members and their friends only had to pay for the cost of the paper which was about 10 cents each. Though they had to do everything else themselves in the dark room including developing the films and printing the prints on paper. It is also imperative that the cards’ borders must be cut using specialized cutters to produce beautiful edges.

Most cards produced in those days did not have straight edges whether produced by the studios or the photography club. Unfortunately not many of these cards survived. Not many were actually produced. One person probably produced at most about 30 cards to be sent out to very close relatives and friends.

To save costs, most Hari Raya cards were produced half postcard size. So each postcard size paper can have two cards printed on it. Half postcard size is the size of today’s credit cards. Sometimes the original wording and design became too small to be read.

At the end of the day, it does not make any difference if Hari Raya greetings are sent out by using cards, text messages or social networking sites. Both traditional and new ways of sending Hari Raya festive greetings serve the same purpose because it is the thought that counts.


Anonymous said…
oh we had maybe 2 or 3 this nostalgic hari raya greetings back in the old days. i thought it was awesome and creative for these people in that era to come up with that idea and it was truly original. the art of letter or card writing is really dying and this is what im going to miss and regret alot.i still keep old hari raya cards posted by my friends and cousins back in late 1990s.browsing through each one make me reminisce the old good time we had.we even competed with each other who got the most cards... kira popular lah tu hehehe.we should revive this. never too late.

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