A friend of mine was scandalized to find that I will only have two days off for this year’s Idul Fitri’s holiday.
“How could they do that to you? It’s an important religious event for you! How cruel of them!” she said, indignant on my behalf over the telephone.
I started to tell her that it’s perfectly understandable.
I work for a newspaper, and a newspaper isn’t like a government office where they have two days of joint leave prior to the Idul Fitri holidays proper, plus one extra day off on Friday because it’s a Harpitnas, the National Sandwiched Day, a work day squeezed between a holiday and the weekend. (And don’t get me started with the habit of some, if not most government officials to extend their vacation up to a week after they are supposed to get back to the office.)
A newspaper provides services only slightly less important than that of doctors and nurses, firefighters or the police. Imagine what would happen if the medics, the police, the firefighters insist that they have a full week holiday, to visit their hometown, to make sure their house gets a fresh coat of paint, or to go on one final session of spending spree before their THR runs out. Imagine women in labor arriving at hospitals (clutching their harassed husbands who had just battled their way through traffic more impossibly tangled than Eddy Brokoli’s hair, due to a fire caused by unchecked explosion of firecrackers) only to find that all the doctors, nurses and midwives are out having Idul Fitri vacation.
Okay, so maybe I was exaggerating. And, okay, I’m only a translator at the paper. But that doesn’t make the above statement any less true. And I do like my job, so sue me.
“But don’t you have tons of things to do? Sacrifice your nails grating coconut, and stain your fingers yellow cooking for a battalion of relatives? Making the impossible happens as in trying to tidy up your house?”
Well, yeah, I do at that. And despite my moaning and groaning, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been doing the forced labor organizing for the past several years. But it’s not the issue here.
It’s not the sadness of ending Ramadan, and not buying the media hype that it’s a triumph because I don’t feel very triumphant in this month-long battle against my own lust. It’s not the commercialization of Idul Fitri, the way people try to use Idul Fitri (hence the iconic ketupat, headscarf for women and men’s embroidered koko shirt) to sell everything from mouthwash to instant noodle. And, no, it’s not the brain-numbing TV fare, either, the regulation hours of slapstick jokes interspersed with old Warkop DKI films and one hour long music program where everyone covers up from top to toe, for once. No, it’s not any of those issues.
It’s the attack of the aunts.
They are sly, they are cunning, they are relentless. You need to be constantly on the look out for their maneuvers, be on the alert for their attack.
It can come out of the blue. In the midst of a prayer. “Let there be an addition to our family, O Lord, next year when we gather here before you…”
Between mouthfuls of ketupat opor. “Ah, your mom’s chicken is always the flakiest. So when are you going to bring the young man over to our house?”
While we are merrily shaking each other’s hands, exchanging hugs and dainty dabs on both cheeks. “Oh, come now. Why do you keep this beau of yours hidden?”
Aunts, I find, are selectively blind and deaf. They are blind to the fact that people can have a rich, exciting life without having to get married, and they are deaf to arguments to that effect.
Aunt: Come on, you’re not getting any younger. No need to be so picky. I’m sure you meet tons of great young men out there.
Me: Yes, but they’re mostly either married, engaged, gay, or not interested in me. Or interested in me, but I find them icky.
Aunt: (looking glazed) Be sure to take him to our house, you hear? So your uncle and I can get to know him.
Me: I don’t have any young man, Auntie. But don’t worry. I’m very happy. I have my friends, I go out almost every night, I’m doing things I love doing….
Aunt: (looking vaguely over my head) That’s nice, dear. Just remember, be sure to pick a good muslim.
Aunt: Good girl.
So yeah, let my friends and family complain about the unfairness and insensitivity of companies. Let them think I’m being abused by corporate giants or that I’m a die-hard workaholic who doesn’t know just when to stop. Let them, because you won’t hear a peep from me about working on the eve of the Eid, or the lack of extra day offs. In fact, my boss is welcome to tell me to come show up every day during the Idul Fitri holiday. Just save me from the aunts.