This Raya, no handshakes or hugs, just a smile and a squirt of sanitiser

Ariana (standing second from right) and her father’s side of the family at the family home during last year’s Hari Raya celebration.

PETALING JAYA: Hari Raya celebrations are on, if in a limited way.

The big question for many will be how to prevent Covid-19 from gatecrashing family festivities.

Ever since Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that people living in the same state could, within limits, visit each other for Hari Raya, Muslims have been figuring out how they can get together and still keep their family safe, especially the venerated but vulnerable matriarchs and patriarchs.

But even if families cannot physically come together, there are now virtual ways of meeting up that were not available even 10 years ago.

Can older folks learn the requisite hi-tech skills needed to join in a Zoom get-together, or give out duit raya by smartphone?

One person thinks so.

Ariana Amirul Azam, 28, is teaching her father Amirul Azam Ahmad Badri, 58, how to give duit raya, the cash traditionally handed out to children in coloured packets, by using his smartphone to make cashless transfers.

“I’m coaching my father on how to transfer money using a QR code on his smartphone,” the media relations executive told FMT. “I’m encouraging the whole family to do so.”

With Covid-19 still a threat, especially to the elderly and infirm, Ariana, wearing her family “health and safety officer” hat, has developed ways to keep everyone safe for the festivities.

“My father is the eldest sibling so every Hari Raya, on the first day, his brothers and sisters and their families visit his home for lunch.”

But this year, as both her parents are at-risk due to underlying medical conditions rather than age, Ariana says a traditional group gathering is out of the question.

“This year we’re still welcoming them all, of course, but everyone has to stick to my new standard operating procedures,“ she said firmly.

Ariana (second from left) with her grandmother Zaiton Markaya (third from left) when they got together for last year’s Hari Raya celebration.

“I’ve scheduled my uncles and aunties and their families to come over at different times during the day.”

The usual handshakes and hugs at the door are definitely off this year. Guests will instead get a smile and a squirt of hand sanitiser.

“Also, I’ll help to plate all the food for our guests as a way to reduce physical contact.”

Ariana, who works at KLIA, is well versed with health and safety precautions, and plans to keep disinfecting the house throughout the day.

“We’re not making our guests wear masks, but if they start sneezing then they should be prepared for a sanitisation session,” she said ominously.

In the evening, she and her parents usually visit her widowed maternal grandmother, who is in her late 70s and lives alone in Shah Alam. She’s healthy for her age apart from high cholesterol.

Her home-cooked kuah kacang peanut sauce and lontong banana leaf rice cakes have been a highlight of the celebrations for as long as Ariana can remember.

“She is the family matriarch, so everyone likes to visit her. She cooks everything herself, and there’s really no substitute for her dishes.

“But this year she can’t have any visitors,” Ariana said sadly. “Her doctor has advised against it owing to her age.”

But Ariana is determined that her grandma will be included as much as possible.

Ariana’s uncle works in New York, so won’t be able to make it back for his annual trip home, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be left out of the festivities.

“We’ll be having a late night group Skype session when it’s morning in New York.”

And Grandma will be included.

“Thankfully my grandmother is quite tech savvy for her age so we’ll all still get to catch up with each other.”

So there seems to be a smart solution to most of the problems of isolation at Raya.

Still, what is a Hari Raya gathering without food?

Ariana’s family is planning to have a virtual potluck dinner with the help of food delivery services.

Though Covid-19 is making 2020 very different, Ariana sees a silver lining as the restrictions on movement and her working from home means she is spending a lot more time with her parents.

“I get to cook with my mother more now. That is something I truly cherish.”

Of course, she and her mum are good cooks but there’s one thing that she simply can’t imagine doing without at Raya.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to stand missing out on my grandmother’s kuah kacang. I think I’ll just have to get the food delivery service to bring it round from her home.”

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