Tampines resident carries on festival tradition even for a bittersweet Ramadan

SINGAPORE – This Tampines family has been putting up decorations for Hari Raya and Chinese New Year for years, and did not break with their tradition even in the midst of pandemic and personal grief.

Still, Ramadan this year is a toned-down affair for Mr Abdullah Abdul Rahman.

The 36-year-old former sales assistant, who put up the Chinese New Year decorations earlier in 2021, has new decorations this month for Ramadan and Hari Raya Puasa.

This is Mr Abdullah’s first Ramadan without his father, who died last December at the age of 83.

Mr Abdullah, who lives with his mother and brother, suffered another blow this month when both fell ill and had to be hospitalised.

His mother was admitted for a complication linked to her high blood pressure while his brother had a high fever.

“This month has been a difficult period to get through as a family. We felt my father’s absence very clearly in our lives, and when my mother and brother were hospitalised, I broke fast alone at home. It was lonely, but I am keeping my hopes up to see them come home soon,” he said.

Despite his sorrows, Mr Abdullah has continued to bring festive cheer to his neighbours as he has been doing for six years now, with colourful decorations of orchids, handmade paper carnations and fairy lights along the corridor outside his fourth floor unit at Block 117 Tampines Street 11.

Sourcing materials from Geylang Serai a month before the start of Ramadan, Mr Abdullah tirelessly put up decorations, making sure the final display coincided with the street light-up in Geylang Serai on April 9.

“My neighbours pitched in, buying the items that could be added to the display even though I told them they did not have to. But they insisted, because it was their way of saying thank you. I really appreciate it,” he said.

Mr Abdullah had to leave his job as a sales assistant when his brother fell ill at the start of the month, so he could devote more time to looking after his 82-year-old mother.

His brother Azman Haji Mohd Salleh, 59, is unemployed and used to be the primary caregiver to their mother.

Before she too was hospitalised, he would get up at 4am and have a meal of fruits and milk before beginning his fast for the day.

After preparing his mother’s medication and tending to her, he would go about sourcing and putting up the decorations.

Madam Rashida A. Rahman (right) helped Mr Abdullah put up the decorations around the corridor. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

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In Mr Azman’s absence, their neighbour, Madam Rashida A. Rahman, 63, helped Mr Abdullah put up the decorations around the corridor.

She said: “I could see he was alone this year without his brother’s help to put up the decorations so I decided to help. When friends and relatives come over, they are always amazed by the decorations, and after a difficult year, they feel like its a really joyful Hari Raya season again.”

Once his mother and brother are discharged, Mr Abdullah said, he looks forward to spending the rest of Ramadan with them.

He shared some of the precious traditions he has missed enjoying this year, such as cooking a dish of Sambal Goreng Pengantin.

“The recipe has been passed down from my mother to my brother. I hope we will still get to prepare the dish this year,” he said.

“This year’s Hari Raya will not be very lively, keeping in mind all the challenges my family has been through. But we are resilient, and we know we must keep finding joy in the little things.”

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