I dated Izzy two Ramadhans ago. We had Uni. tutorials together the previous semester, but it was only an agonizing accounting unit later that we met formally, through friends of friends. The usual college-relationship story, save the messy break ups and soapy courtship period typified by the peers I hang out with. We still talk semi-regularly these days, ‘grown up talk’ my mum calls it. But deep down inside I still feel like a college kid when it comes to relationships.
Our relationship ran into a ‘crisis’ several days before Hari Raya. Firstly, I barely saw her that entire month. Our usual lunch/tea meet ups were slashed off things to do during the day, nor did it help that our schedules were entirely different that semester. She would buka puasa with her family every evening, all of whom were very tight knit. Although I had met her family members before, no formal invitation to join them was ever extended. I took that as an affront, and for the first time in my life I questioned if my Chinese ethnicity was an issue.
Izzy’s half-birthday was around the corner, and on the evening of the day she had made plans not to join her family but to break her fast with me instead. The idea was mine, I admit. Izzy herself was too commonsensical to do things like celebrate ‘half-birthdays’. The problem was I also was pretty low and cash.
I did consider putting together a medley collection of foods from a nearby ramadhan evening market. My two housemates shot down the idea point-blank, after all I was supposed to prepare buka puasa for a double date for us and her cousin and her cousin’s date. They cleared the apartment that night and left an unmanned kitchen at my disposal. I almost hit all panic buttons the day before.
But it was amazing how far RM40 worth of groceries and a helpful neighbour brought to the dinner table that evening, and in and out Malaysian meal. We had Penang pai tee as an appetizer, tomato rice with ayam masak merah and nyonya fish curry, two veggies and sago puddings for desert. Izzy even came two hours early and helped with the preparation. In the entire busy month of Ramadhan, it was only in that short couple of hours in a kitchen for two that we were able to bond.
Then several weeks later we went our different ways for our higher-education pursuits.
It is strange how relationships work out in a life time. I have come a long way since, diversifying my relationships further during my study abroad, growing closer to my siblings and parents especially since I left my Malaysian home two years ago. Actually just last week, this Bulan Ramadhan round, I finally have the chance to buka puasa with Izzy’s family. Over the excellent food, we even talked about our previous relationship when Izzy’s mum popped the egging question not fully resolved from two years ago. “How come we never had you over last time? You know that you were always invited to join the family right?”