'We are going all out': Geylang Serai market a hub of activity as Muslims prepare for Hari Raya Puasa

Customers shopping at the Ramadan Bazaar in Geylang Serai on May 2, 2022. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
People buying fresh produce at the Geylang Serai market on May 2, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Brisk business and smiles abound at the Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre with festive preparations under way on May 2, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Ms Aziza Osman will meet with more than 20 members of her extended family at her mother's house on Hari Raya. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Ms Aziza Osman, 54, will wake at 5am on Tuesday (May 3). There will be much to do – slow cooking the lamb, simmering the coconut gravy and so forth.

It will be another four hours before her four children wake, partly by the fragrance of her mutton briyani and lontong.

Then, they will travel to her mother's home in Bedok South, where more than 20 members of her extended family will have gathered, meeting in the same place together for the first time since Covid-19 struck.

"This Hari Raya is special for my mother. She hasn't been well the last three months and just had a forefoot amputation," Ms Aziza, a librarian said.

Her mother is 80 this year.

"She is happy we are all visiting. This occasion has greatly lifted her mood."

Tuesday is Hari Raya Puasa, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

After a month of fasting, the public holiday will see Muslims visiting their family and friends, preparing a lavish spread and reuniting with those whom they have not seen for a long time.

After two years of Covid-19 restrictions, large groups will finally be allowed, and families said they are going "all out" this year.

Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre, in particular, was a hub of activity for preparations on Monday, with families pushing trolleys laden with fresh produce and spices that they have bought to usher in the festivities.

Stall helper Ismail Yusof, 25, jokingly compared the brisk sales of his ketupat to the "panic buying" seen in the early days of the pandemic.

The 3,000 rice cakes that arrived on Monday were nearly sold out by 9am. This was a world of difference from last year, he said, when, despite ordering just 1,000, the stall had to give them out for free to passers-by to prevent wastage.

"It is much better this year, 100 per cent. It feels much more like Hari Raya Puasa. We got many orders from our customers months ago," he said.

People shopping at the Geylang Serai market on May 2, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The lemang stall manned by Mr Jaafar Ahmad, 62, was also doing brisk business. With many queueing to buy tubes of the glutinous rice, those at the stall were splitting the bamboo stalks with a machete at a quick pace.

The "tok tok" sound this emitted was deeply satisfying to Mr Jaafar's ears, who said that the stall had sold more than 500 bamboo sticks of lemang over the long weekend, a fivefold increase from last year.

He and his family will visit several homes the next day. Asked how many people will be at the various gatherings, he said with a smile: "As many as we can get. As many as the house can fit."

"We are really thankful that we can all get together, otherwise it doesn't feel like Puasa at all. This is part of our culture. Everyone has been looking forward to this for months," he added.

A clothing store at the Geylang Serai market on May 2, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Mr Hamim Yacoob, 61, an administrative supervisor, was resting on a bench flanked by weighty plastic bags, waiting for his wife to finish shopping.

He said his family still has time slots for various groups to visit, an arrangement that had already been made months ago before the relaxation of the restrictions was announced.

"The announcement was timely and I'll leave it up to those who are visiting whether they mind all coming together. We had no choice last year because of Covid-19, but we tried to think of the bigger picture, of the need to balance the risks with the reward," he said.

"Now, we have the option. It is time to celebrate."

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