6 September, 2010

The Community Spirit


My trips back to my hometown and constituency of Pekan always evoke a sense of nostalgia. I am pleased to be able to visit Pekan several times this month, considering the amount of workload in Putrajaya. Since these visits become more frequent every Ramadhan, so do the memories.

One childhood memory that I recall takes place during the fruit season. During such times we would receive visitors from all areas of Pekan who brought with them some of the produce from their own orchard as gifts. The family home would always be stocked with all types of local fruit – durian, rambutan, langsat, you name it.

In appreciation of these thoughtful gestures, my late father would make the effort to personally thank the village folk who had come by. He would personally travel to the homes of his constituents and thank them for their gifts.

I’m certain many of the people of Pekan still remember his visits. While this memory is special and unique to my family and the people of my hometown, the gesture and intent behind it is familiar to all of us. It is a simple, yet meaningful reciprocal relationship that fosters respect among individuals. The spirit of neighbourliness in Malaysia has always been a part of our national culture, regardless whether it is during Ramadhan or other festive occasions. Communal activities like gotong-royong, kenduri (or open houses) and balik kampung are a reminder of this relationship.

The culture of balik kampung is important in preserving the connection between those of us who live in more urban and developed areas of the country and the traditional, cultural and rural way of life. I observed that the recent long weekend was just one example of many in our rich Malaysian culture where most of us return to our hometowns to reconnect with relatives and friends.

While we make our contribution to the development of the nation, the continuation of such traditions and relationships is crucial for us to preserve our culture and identity as Malaysians. How do you plan to connect with your neighbours and community this coming festive season? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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