Remembering Hari Raya during the Japanese occupation

OCTOGENARIAN Juriah Sualman was just a child during the Japanese occupation of Malaya. It was a time of little, but also a time of plenty in many different ways.

While food and luxury were scarce, goodwill and camaraderie prevailed during those grim times.

Juriah remembers the good as well as the bad of living in a village in Morib when the country was controlled by soldiers from another country.

“I was a small girl back then. I have always heard stories of Japanese soldiers arresting random people on the street,” she is quoted by The Malaysian Digest as saying.

“There was this one time me, my sister and my brother-in-law hid in the bushes to stay out of the Japanese’s sight.”

Juriah’s her brother-in-law wounded his legs after stepping on a booby trap.

Despite the hardships, the kampung folk still tried their best to celebrate Hari Raya. She remembers them preparing for the celebration just 10 days after the fasting month started.

“We would start baking the kuih very early, as the process to make them can take quite some time,” she recalls. The kuih of the time, such as lengkong, wajik, kuih bangkit and putu kacang can last up to two months before they spoil.”

They were baked to last for a long time as ingredients were hard to come by at the time. The cakes could be consumed even weeks after Hari Raya.

“We could not buy a lot of rice, only in small quantities, as the Japanese rationed it. Many of us resorted to ubi kayu (tapioca) as our daily staple food, including during Hari Raya,” says Juriah.

Almost everyone planted tapioca to sustain themselves during the hard times.

New clothes for Hari Raya were a true luxury. Only the lucky few could afford a new set of Raya clothing. Most had to patch up their torn clothes.

“During Hari Raya, those who were lucky could buy maybe one new set of clothes. Unfortunately, most are not as lucky. We just stick to whatever clothing we have,” she says.

Cloths and threads were made from fibre of pineapple leaves.

This article was extracted from a post in the Malaysian Digest