Wednesday, July 8

My hobby is eating


Ramadhan bazaars, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman for the baju raya sales, an assortment of kuih raya samples in the office, gorgeous duit raya packets and the Petronas Hari Raya commercial. These are just a few of the things that have become synonymous with celebrating Hari Raya here in Malaysia.

Over the years, Petronas Hari Raya commercials have evolved into short films telling us stories that bring us back to the essence of celebrating Hari Raya – sacrifice and forgiveness. We’ve seen stories of every day Malaysian families with every day Malaysian issues resonate with us through our television screens as they invoke all kinds of emotions and reactions from their viewers.

I’m sure we all shared the Mak Cik’s pain as she tirelessly tailored the baju raya for her kampong folk into the wee hours of the morning just so she could save up as much money during the festive season for her daughter’s college fees. And then laughed out loud when she dropped the ‘kalau tak gurau, pergilah ke surau’ punch line. Do you remember how you quietly went ‘ambik kau’ in the commercial where the kids play ‘adults’ and place their parents to eat outside, mirroring what their parents were doing to their grandfather in real life? Or how you shed a quiet tear as Azlan took his father down memory lane in last year’s ‘Vroom Vroom’?

With a consistent focus on family, the Petronas Hari Raya commercials have showed us in many ways to always remember our roots and appreciate the sacrifices our family members take on so we can have the lives we dream of. Every commercial culminates with forgiveness and the family celebrating together.

This year’s Hari Raya commercial from Petronas takes on a slightly different twist. While still carrying on the theme of sacrifice and appreciation of others, this year’s commercial brings us back to when we all experienced the month of Ramadhan for the first time.

Whether we are Muslims or Malaysians of other faiths, growing up in Malaysia where children of all religions attend school together, the month of Ramadhan during our first school year is a similar memory for all of us.

Whether in school and fasting for the first time or being friends with someone who is, the month of Ramadhan becomes a time of connection for every child regardless of race or religion. Whether it stems from the curiosity to experience the fast or from encouragement and camaraderie to ensure your mate gets through their fast, practicing the fast becomes sort of a team activity where everybody joined in.

This year’s Petronas Hari Raya commercial will definitely take us back to our first bulan Ramadhan experience in school as we watch Hakim and his friends Ah Keong, Anang, Joseph and Aarati go through the same motions.

From the get go, the opening scenes puts a smile on our faces as we watch Hakim convince himself that he can fulfil a full fast. Smiles grow bigger as the class room is interrupted by Hakim’s growling tummy in the middles of a lesson!

The commercial then cuts to his classmates trying to get his mind off fasting by getting him to think about football. More laughs in this scene as the look of determination on Hakim’s face wanes and he starts day dreaming about a rolling dough nut instead of a rolling foot ball!

To encourage Hakim to continue fasting, the five friends make a pact to fast together with him the next day.

Cut to the next few scenes and you’ll see five friends brave through the day, counting down the hours to when they can enjoy a meal. These scenes will truly take you back in time as it reminds you of riding the bus to school together with your class mates and waiting around to pass time. If you grew up in a time where your bas sekolah had huge open windows and PVC covered seats, nostalgia is surely to set in during these scenes.

Finally, fasting time is about to end and the five friends walk home together in glee. Just as they get off the bus, Hakim’s attention is drawn to the curry puff stall across the street. He bolts for it! Shot in classic slow motion, this scene perfectly depicts every Malaysian’s love affair with a freshly fried steaming curry puff! How can anyone say no right??

His friends yell out and try to stop him but their views are blocked by a huge oil tanker passing by. Convinced Hakim would have caved at the eleventh hour, their disappointed faces search for their friend as soon as the oil tanker is out of view.

The last few seconds of this year’s Petronas Hari Raya commercial is where it truly brings home the essence and spirit of the month of Ramadhan. Hakim is then seen walking over to the less fortunate and handing them the steaming hot curry puffs for their break of fast meal.

Aside from sacrifice and showing gratitude for what they have by abstaining during the Holy Month, the month of Ramadhan is also a time for Muslims to develop a deeper inner awareness of their surroundings and their relationship with the Almighty.

The act of fasting is seen as a great lesson in developing humility and sincerity. This common act among all Muslims bridges the gap between all aspects of society. For that one month, whether rich or poor, urban or rural, content or still seeking – everybody of the Muslim faith are on the same platform as the fast is observed. The Holy Month will see heightened activities of help and generosity as we are encouraged to share our wealth and blessings with the less fortunate. It serves as a great lesson in inspiring charity and mercy as we practice the basic tenants of sharing wealth, food and even experiences.

While this year’s Petronas Hari Raya commercial does contain elements of sacrifice, it also embodies the pure spirit of caring for others, self awareness and sharing. Hakim’s friends choosing to fast together with him not only gave him the drive to complete his first fast, it also showed him that there is long term happiness in doing things together. More importantly, it inspired him and taught him that true happiness lies in doing things for others.

This year’s Petronas Hari Raya commercial culminates with a celebration not only among family, but also with those who become your family through shared teachings and common experiences..your best friends.