Friday, 14 October 2005

Baju raya revisited

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Aiyaaaaaah! dok diam-diamlah, said Ah Gek as I fidgeted in front of the mirror in her kitchen. I looked forlornly at the reflection in the mirror and back to the hourglass figure, Audrey Hepburn look alike in one of Ah Gek’s well thumbed fashion magazines. I had wanted THAT look but forgot that while Ah Gek could be magical with her creations, she stopped short of performing miracles. At the age of 12 or 13, my puppy fat, especially around the waist, meant that pencil lined skirts with slits at the back, and the famous Audrey Hepburn collar would not sit well on my chubby figure.

But year after year, it had been Ah Gek, our neighbour and seamstress who made our Hari Raya clothes. One year, it was a full flare skirt with those petticoats that
made you look like you had an umbrella fully opened underneath, then it was a simple cut polka – dotted number with a big ribbon either in front or at the back – anything, anything at all that was fashionable in Hollywood, and Ah Gek, in the small town of Yan, would humour us and kit us out in her creations for our Raya. If at all, she was amused by our choice of patterns, she was wise enough not to show it. She hid her smile, as she gritted the tacking pins in between her lips and adjusted pleats and darts on our choice of patterns on our ample bodies.

Yes, it must be about this time of Ramadan that the rush for making Hari Raya clothes starts. Why we do not make Hari Raya clothes before Ramadan, God knows....well, I supposed it wouldn’t be Hari raya clothes then, would it?

Sitting in my front room, watching the autumn leaves fall, leaving patterns on the pavement, memories flitted back and forth to how Ramadan used to be like for us children back in Malaysia. My own children now, don’t care much about Hari Raya clothes. Year after year, the girls wear my old kebayas. The boys will have their Baju Melayu from yesteryears if those still fit. If not, yes, we will get new ones from home. It is not such a big deal. Afterall, most of the time these clothes will be hidden under thick coats and jumpers. One wintry Raya, I saw young Malay girls, my children included, dressed in their best lacey kebayas, but all hidden underneath anoraks and woollen jackets, complete with trainers, shivering under the tents at the open house of the Malaysian High Commisisoner.

Once we took the children back for Hari Raya in Malaysia after 17 years here. And gosh, I had forgotten what it was like joining in the mad shopping rush two or three days before raya. But all they said was, “Oh, can I have those shorts and trainers?” Whaaat? whaaat? whaaat? Shorts and trainers for raya?

Anyway, when we were small, Pak would give us a treat, hire a car and take us all to Penang. Waaah, shopping in Penang for Hari Raya clothes was really something. By the time we reached Penang, we’d be half dead with exhaustion and hunger but for the promise of some new clothes, we’d soldier on going from one crowded shop to another, all with that familiar smell of moth balls. Once, and I supposed at that time Mak couldn’t fast or something, we went to Daud Restaurant. During Ramadan, these restaurants usually had curtains and sectioned off areas for Muslims who had “travelled more than 60 miles to do their shopping” in Penang.

We’d come back from Penang with bales and bales of materials, some for baju kurung that Mak would make herself and some for Ah Gek, who’d make us our western clothes, reserved for second of third hari raya. Baju kurung was for early in the morning to go to prayers and kubur. But even if Mak bought us these materials early, our baju kurung were the last to be ready because she made baju kurungs for raya for people in the neighbourhood. So, ours would be the ones without the tulang belut, or hastily hemmed up sarungs. But we stressed on mak that we did not want materials for the baju kurung from the same bale of material!!! Hmmm macam boria!

Sometimes, we’d just go to Alor Setar to get our materials, either from Pekan Rabu or Sin Sin or Lorong Sempit, thus called because it was so narrow you’d actually be doing dirty dancing to get from one place to another. This was where Mak would excercise her skills in haggling.

Mak: Berapa satu ela??? Alaaah, kedai Pak Mat tu lagi murah! (she’say as she pretended to walk away.)
Pekedai: Aaah, mak cik makcik,, tak pa.tak pa...wah rugi macam ni ..tapi tak paa...
Mak: ha..macam tu lah...tak boleh kurang lagi ka?

You see this all the time.

One year. Lipah and her sister from next door had this beautiful pleated skirt – one you didnt have to iron to keep the pleats in place. And I was so envious cos I wanted one too and then Kak came back from Johore, I think and had bought us one each. I tell you, we had a beautiful raya sashaying up and down Jalan Tunku Mahmood in the pleated skirts that didn't need ironing.

When we moved to Alor Setar, we found another seamstress that would make our catsuits, au dai (sp) (the Vietnamese outfit) and kebayas. Aaah, the day I could fit into a kebaya, I wore nothing else!

Yesterday, I had to sms my sister in law to get Taufiq and Hafiz some new baju Melayus. They grow up so fast. The girls might want some new kebayas as they have out grown mine. (I had outgrown mine a loooong time ago!) So, I will join the mad rush along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman when I go back. Oh, how I look forward to that!


Queen Of The House said...

Kak Teh, back in those days (eh when aaa?) pun dah ada that Lorong Sempit ka? Aiyoh how I cringe kalau kena lalu kat situ, takut 'belaga pungkoq' or anything else dgn orang lelaki gatai!

Bergen said...

Daud Restaran is up there with Hameediyah and Meerah restoran for real Penang style murtabak which is slightly a different version than murtabak Singapore.

Beautiful entry wish I can write my childhood raya like this but I don't have that many memories of raya from that period.

Where's your hometown, ma'am?

Arena said...

Anytime soon nak shopping kat Jalan TAR tu kak Teh? :-)..myself pon tak daya nak ke sana..

Kak Teh said...

Bergen had commented this earlier on the Audrey Hepburn fashion:

This to me, is the epitome of female elegance. Of course women from that era had what it took to put on a nice dress like that.

AuntyN said...

Kebaya ?? AGGGGGHHHHHH. Nak kena excercise ni, posa siang malam nak celen kak teh pakai kebaya..

My daughters had never been able to wear my old kebaya Kak Teh because I was so "petite" when I was younger.

Kak Teh said...

QOTH -the lorong sempit was sempit even when I was young - that's a long time ago. memang sah kena belaga!
bergen- yes, i was trying to think of the restaurant Meera!! thank you for reminding me. I think meera is better. My home town? Alor Setar and I will be there for raya. My husband -(Awang Goneng of Kecek-kecek) is from Terengganu.
Arena, kak teh pikiark pun seram dok ingat nak kena berkungfu, bersilat nak cari sepasang baju.
auntyN - kak teh pun tak boleh pakai dah - kena pakai kebarong saja...pinggang tinggai dalam kenangan.

KC said...

kak teh,
oh you should see the situation here in Jalan TAR at the mo. My office is a walking distance from jalan TAR and it's already 'like mad':) i just love it! Seronok tengok barang, tengok orang..hah hah..

About Blogreader said...

I love this story Kak Teh! As always, vivid storytelling with a charming twist of humour. (Not sure how to feel about the choice of pleated skirt, though.)

Nazrah Leopolis said...

can imagine all of you girls in jackie O style even. la ni mana nak cari seamstress lagu tu na?

aishah and her nani( grandma) will be wearing baju boria, siap sulam lagi.

kalau kak teh mai sini time raya, banyak sekali boria, kain satu papan, dan yang paling ketara, lip lap lip lap sampai silau...

born-again drama queen said...

bab liplap liplap tu, nazrah ler...the liplap queen of anchorvale...yeehaaa!!

dith said...

~She hid her smile, as she gritted the tacking pins in between her lips~

Luckily she managed to stiffle her laughter in between gritted teeth. I can just imagine if she didn't! Mahu tertelan jarum tu!

So Kak Teh no 1 fan Audrey Hepburn ye? Funny tho she was never my icon during my young days back then :)

Nadia said...

waaaaaaa kak teh will be going back for raya? BESTNYEEE

as always kak teh....ur writing....lots and lots of umph!!!!! :)

EM&EM said...

Kak Teh

Enjoy your Raya back home ok? Reminds me of my kampung!

Ni said...

masalah kalau buat baju raya sebelum bulan posa (macam saya lah) ialah dah TERpakai walaupun belum raya

so kena tempah lagi masa bulan posa ni supaya ada baju yang betul2 baju raya heheheh

Ely said...

kak teh dengan baju kebaya dan kain batik nya, berserta gelang jurainya yang sampai ke siku, terkedek2 berjalan raya tahun nih di Malaysia hehehehe.

(remember that mak bonda forum?)

mama irma said...

Kak Teh, you don't need to battle the crowd at Jln.TAR anymore, lots of malls are in town: midvalley mega mall, One Utama (complete with high street), The Curve....Plenty of Raya accessories are already on sale!

Kak Teh said...

KC - dari jauh memang nampak interesting, kan? can't imagining what its like. In fact, trying to get a taxi back to Gombak was so difficult - terpaksa naik bus - penuh sesaaaaak!!
blogreader - hmmm pleated skirt masa tu vogue ler!
nazrah - for me , no lap lip or lip lap - nanti malap lampu raya.
nef - i agree with you.

Kak Teh said...

dr in the house - bukanlah fan, tapi fashion dia tu menarik, kan? kalau badan langsinglah, masa tu dan sekarang tembam - hmmm kena pakai kaftan!
nadia - yes, i am and cant wait!
em - thanks and yes - I will certainly enjoy being with my siblings and our mak.
cikni - haa...memang tu lah masalahnya!! terpakai dan ada yang dah tertengok! tak sah untuk jadi baju raya.
ely, yes, how can i forget mak bonda! hehe
mama irma - yes, but i will need a guide - i dont know most places amnymore -hehe - macam tourist!

MA said...

kebaya oh kebaya !

Reminiscing the time me in kebaya bandung with baju sulam lagi.

Kak Teh nak pergi Jalan TAR - Never on a Sunday. Pergi time office hour, still ramai org but not as bad.

Anonymous said...

somehow i wish i could sew baju like your mom..ready made baju melayu for kids cost a teluk belanga baju for jimi cost more than RM40 and he's only 1 year's even cost more for the older kids..

pereh mak depa..kena saving wayyy before ramadhan..

HH said...

It is interesting to see the ranges of humanly behaviour before the day of festivity - chaotic, gaiety, unpredictable, etc. Amateur writers tend to get melodramatic in their attempt but you Kak Teh... you have definitely encapsulated that in your text. A definite avant-garde in the making.

p.s - count me in the seentral station. Thanks for the invite!

elisa said...

Mak cik kak teh,

thank you very much. I feel very excited to see my blog in the sentral station.

AdieJin said...

12th time oredy visit this particular post..still donno what to comment..This is so not adiejin..Helppp

Kak Teh said...

MA - la ni - tak boleh lagi dah...pinggang dah tak dak.
atiza - i know what you mean, so bil aorder baju melayu for the boys - i order dr sini - tak terasa sangat.
anim, thanks for kind words - yes, I have linked you!
elisa - yes, I have linked you too.
adiejin - i think its due to one of two problems - either perut kosong or perut kenyang - terlalu kenyang!

thinktankgal said...

KakTeh - My mom said that you were very fashionable masa muda-muda dulu...and still a fashionista now!!! he!he! Happy shopping :P

Anonymous said...

kakteh, balik raya nanti, bila dah pakai baju kebaya, bertumit tinggi dan berspek hitam... jalan baik-baik, sana depan ada longkang :)

Lydia Teh said...

KT, Mama Irma is right. Now got so MANY shopping complexes around, no need to push and shove around. Those were the days when Globe silk Store at T.A.R. Road was a must-go for festival shopping.

Anonymous said...

hi kak teh,

seblom pi jln TAR, jgn lupa sahur pagi tu, pakai baju cotton dan pakai sandal, selamat 'berperang'!

kalau menang, bole la dpt tudung + baju + eksesori raya for very reasonable price

Blabarella said...

This is so reminiscent of the tales my mom would tell me of her and her siblings growing up and how they'd prepare for Raya. Only difference was that, mom and her sisters actually MADE their own clothes!!

Somehow as I read this, my mind vividly pictured those young women sashaying about in their Western clothes in P. Ramlee's movies. :)

And I didn't know that bit about Daud (or was it Dawood?) restaurant in Penang!! They actually HAD that closed section?? Cool! Ya lah, that time didn't have the PLUS highway and all. :)

Ordinary Superhero said...

Wah Kak Teh nak shopping kat Jalan TAR? Tell me the date and time, I'll clear the path for you.

Kalau banyak sangat barang, my 'baby' can help.

From Datuk Bandar Pertama Complex.

mommy@lif said...

i so LOVE this entry! kak teh, kat sini tgh demam baju kebaya pendek sulam(laboh pon ade jugak) from indonesia and they cost a bomb! baru pegi ampang park last friday.. telan ir liur je lah...**sigh

Norma Kassim PhD said...

those days when i was still a kid in alor setar

Hari said...

Hmmm, Alor Star. Must go visit soon.

shidah said...

kak teh, baru semalam i pegi jln tuanku abdul rahman. didn't get anything orang mcm semut. so i'm taking leave tomorrow just to shop :)

Anonymous said...

heheheh..very cute... i love going to our tailor in melaka and queing up, getting measured and making 3-5 helai of baju kurung for raya... i remember the time when i was turning into a woman, sally our tailor ..whenn "OOOOOOOh..wah.. lu sudah manyak besar aahh atas itu musti buat longgar aaahhh " alamak, i was so embarass.... so much for puberty! :P

heh like your daughters i gave up on making new bajus.. i've been going around all my family asking for old skool vintage baju kebayas and songkets.... i just love the cuttings.... not too big, not too small....perfect!

Kak Teh said...

thinktankgirl - that is so funny- yes your mum should know cos we had to walk past her house to go anywhere! and fashionista??? aaah, if only!
klmuk - aiyaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
lydia - will need a guide but if everthing else failed - there's always my sisters' clothes that i can share.
nohachomel - kalau masih dilondon, ingat jam and sesak2 kat jln TAR tu pun rasa exciting!

Kak Teh said...

blabs - may be it is Dawood - yes, Dawood sounds better -yes,believe me - they had curtains!
Ordinary supehero - yes, I might need yr help..hehe! and hwen are you going to reveal yr secret?
alif's mommy, I loveeeee kebaya pendek and kota baru..they are so so elegant!
annckay- thanks for the visit - alor star has changed so much!
hari - yes - do visit!
shidah - i have not even thought abt clothes for myself. Kalau pakai baju last year pun orang tak tau!
anon: u know what i love abt the time when we started developing in certain areas?? well, i actually wanted to include that - It was when the tailor suddenly made darts!!! and that meant we had finally blossomed. a simple thing like a dart - to make you feel so adult!

Anonymous said...

ZAZKY... anon is me lah.. emi... i type salah and cant get my name printed for whatever incompetent i am within this system..heheh

yeah..darts... hehheheh2 at the front and 2 at the back... nak add to the 'shape' we are forming... and then the next year the darts have to be looseened again...:P heheh

Kak Teh said...

ezinom!!! thanks for visiting! what a wonderful surprise - visit more lah!

Anonymous said...

hehehe...been reading heaps of your blogs, and that 'particular blog'addy u gave me ..does not exist or do i have to be a member to see it? hehehehaha

i dont know but should i blog in here...? hmmm macam malas gitu.... if i start here like many of people have asked me to. i'll have about 3 already and i will be hogging web space?

HCI said...

thank you, very nostalgic, pleated skirts and all.

Anonymous said...

cari baju anak, cari aja di

whosale children wear, please visit

Rachel said...

Where can i buy diamantes for tudungs in Selangor or KL? please click my username and reply to me if you know where. Thanks. :)