Here's wishing a Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all Malaysians celebrating this joyous occasion.
Just hours away before the first day of Syawal, my mum and I was driving around our housing area, scouring for a clinic that was open as most shops and businesses had called it a night by then.
After what seemed to be an endless drive from my home, and close to giving up, we found what we were looking for - Poliklinik Cahaya.
We stepped into the clinic, illuminated under harsh fluorescent light, and were greeted by a long queue of people – some staring languidly – after what has been a long wait, I suppose. But I felt most of us were glad that at least one clinic was available.
After registering, I plopped down in the middle of a long, red-coloured cushion chair, stretched against the narrow pathway of the clinic, while I take in the many faces around me.
On my right was a Malay family of four – with two young sons decked in a navy blue and cobalt green Baju Melayu, respectively.
‘Adik’ in the cobalt green was jumping up and down the cushion – definitely not the one in need of a doctor, I thought.
Standing across them by the wall was a Chinese family of three – a grandmother carrying a baby and the baby’s mother, trying her best to cajole the young one not to cry.
Seated between the two families was a couple from Indonesia; the mummy had her baby wrapped up in sarong under her arms.
"Baby boy?" asked the grandmother, nudging at the baby in the sarong, now awake and wide eyed.
"Perempuan (Girl)," said the Indonesian lady.
“Hah, macam lelaki (like a boy),” she exclaimed, followed with a loud laughter, triggering a giggle among the parents and other patrons nearby. They continued discussing about the babies.
Standing on my left was another Chinese family – this time, a grandfather, his daughter and a young girl with tight short curls, a bit unusual for a Chinese, I thought.
‘Fish,’ said the grandfather as his grandchild tapped excitedly on the aquarium located by the entrance of the clinic.
Shortly after, 'Adik' came rushing down the long aisle, screaming incomprehensible words, before arriving at the aquarium with a huge smile and joined the little girl in their fish spotting endeavour.
Meanwhile, over in the examination room at the back of the clinic, I spotted a big burly Indian man, helping his mother to an oxygen breathing device.
More patrons walked in and out. Faces from different walks of life.
It had been more than half an hour of waiting. I was getting anxious, amidst the chattering and mixture of babies laughing and crying.
Then, a young Malay man walked in with blood stains on his white sneakers, followed by a very concerned looking Chinese uncle. I suspect there had been a motorcycle accident. We quickly made way for the young man to get into the emergency room.
Just as that happened, my name was called and I went in to see the doctor.
Five minutes later, I came out and took a seat nearest to the medicine dispensary.
Another family of three then walked into clinic – the father in light orange Baju Melayu took a seat next to my mother, with a sour faced little girl on his lap.
‘Anak demam ke(Is your child sick)?" he asked my mum.
He and my mother started talking to each other, presumably about each other's daughters, as I stood at the counter with the clinic assistant explaining the prescription for my illness – a menu of fever, sore throat, flu and cough.
Just before we left, we wished Selamat Hari Raya to the family my mother had been chatting with. They reciprocated with the same greeting and a warm smile.
By now, you might be thinking why have you spent five minutes to read a story about a trip to the clinic.
Indeed, there is nothing out of the ordinary about this story – just a few families, in need of a doctor, at the same time, while sharing stories, greetings and laughter among each other, regardless of age and race.
For me, it's a reminder to be appreciative that even in such mundane activity, there is diversity and that there is always room for conversations.
As I sat there in the clinic wheezing in my breathing, it felt quite good in my heart to know that most of us were talking and engaging with one another.
No need for expensive, soppy TV ads – such a scene reflected harmony and respect in the simplest way, I thought.
Here’s wishing a speedy recovery to the families I met at the clinic.
And Selamat Hari Raya to the Muslim community, and also to all Malaysians who are on work duty during these few special days to serve the needy.
- by Astro Awani, Cynthia Ng