The end of Ramadan was nearing and everyone was scrambling to shop for their new baju raya. Sarah looked forward to Hari Raya every year, she thought that everyone looked like walking jewels and gems in their baju raya.
It was sahur time and the night was dark and silent. Sarah ate her breakfast groggily– as she did every morning. Mama had made eggs over rice as she herself overslept. Usually, Sarah would be able to sleep right after sahur but today she couldn’t. She stayed up until she saw the crack of sunlight. Looking out her window, a white bird flew onto one of the fruit trees she had growing outside her house. The white bird snatched a rambutan from the tree, “Hey! That’s my tree!”, she yelled. It didn’t pay any heed towards her and flew off into the distance. Sarah noticed a shimmer of gold on the tip of its beak. “How beautiful! It even has a yellow crown. I’ll call it Burung Kakak Tua. Like the lullaby Tok Mama used to sing to me”, she thought.
Sarah decided that she wouldn’t sleep and quickly got ready to go shopping. The family reached the mall around noon to do their Hari Raya shopping. Many people were trying out the clothes and the place was littered with trash and plastic. It wasn’t a pretty sight to see for Sarah and she said under her breath, “Surely Hari Raya doesn’t have to involve so much waste and plastic.” Couldn’t Hari Raya be more sustainable? She had learned at school about the state of the Earth and that it was vital that we did something about it by changing our habits.
“Maybe I’ll help the Earth after a nap!”, she said. Sarah was sleepy and couldn’t stop yawning after trying out so many outfits. While her parents were still looking for theirs, Sarah walked silently behind them, her eyes slowly drooping to close. Right before they could close shut, Burung Kakak Tua flew at her with its wings wide open. Sarah quickly ducked and rubbed her eyes to shake off the sleepiness. She looked around to find the bird, but there was nothing in sight. She shrugged off thinking it was part of her falling asleep– a little dream, perhaps.
A loud caw from above rang in Sarah’s ear. She looked at everyone around her before looking up. Why was no one alarmed even slightly? There’s a bird in the mall! She finally looked above her, Burung Kakak Tua was sitting atop a branch. You know those kampung house displays at malls during Hari Raya season? It was one of those. Its golden tipped beak twinkled against the warm spotlights of the display.
“Who are you?”, Sarah asked, an odd question to ask a bird. She stared at Burung Kakak Tua awaiting a response but it just sat there cooing and cocking its head. Sarah thought it looked quite silly.
“I have come to give the answers you seek.”
Sarah was stunned. Burung Kakak Tua did not open its beak to speak; it spoke in her mind.
“…And, what questions are those?”, Sarah shot back.
“Being festive without costing the Earth.” Burung Kakak Tua spoke in a deep humming voice in her mind, it didn’t scare Sarah at all.
“Humans take many things for granted especially during their days of celebration. So many things are wasted and thrown away– damaging our sacred Earth. Ramadhan is passing and Hari Raya is nearing. There are better ways to celebrate with lesser impact on the Earth, I have come to answer your question so you can pass the baton of awareness.”
“Who would’ve thought a parrot would choose me! Tell me more.” Sarah’s curiosity sparked. What awareness was this bird talking about? How was Sarah supposed to help save the Earth? Everyone around didn’t seem to notice her looming up towards the white bird with the gold tipped beak.
“Firstly, Hari Raya is all about visiting relatives’ houses and celebrating together. So many cars pile up in front of the house. It looks cluttered and makes our air less breathable with all the additional smoke. You should carpool to houses, isn’t it more fun to stay in a flock?”, Burung Kakak Tua spoke calmly.
“You’re right! I would love going to my relatives’ houses with my cousins. It would be so much fun. Like a mini road trip!” Sarah’s curiosity was slowly being satisfied.
“Now, when you’re at someone’s house for Hari Raya, what do they give you?”
“Free food! Are you telling to eat more food?!” Sarah said loudly in her mind.
Burung Kakak Tua laughed coolly, “You’re a funny one aren’t you? I don’t mean food, I mean the paper you receive, money. Money enclosed with another pouch of paper. We can recycle that can’t we? Definitely reuse them to the limit before throwing them out.”
“I get so much duit raya and throw away the envelopes every time! I’ll give them to Mama and Abah instead, so that they can use it for next year.”
“That’s right, Sarah. Listen carefully, plastics are everywhere now, moulded into shapes to hold liquids or food. I’m sure your relatives want you to take home their food. Instead of taking food home in plastic bags, bring your own tupperwares. At home, you should make your own kuih raya too instead of buying them. When you buy them, they come in plastic bottles. Reducing plastic waste is good for the environment.”
“I learned this in school and yet I never thought about it.”
“Lastly, there’s a traditional way of making lemang that you humans make by using periuk kera. It’s unhygienic and damages the ecosystem of the bats in our forests. This tradition should be avoided.”
“But I like to eat them, it’s way better than normal lemang. I guess the added poop makes it nicer.” Sarah said jokingly but not really. Maybe the poop did make it taste better. Hmmm.
“Maybe that’s just your preference, dear. These steps are small ones, Sarah, but nature will thank you and celebrate with you. I hope you remember what I’ve taught you and that you tell as many people as you can.”
“I’ll have to go now.”
“Will I ever see you again?”, Sarah asked. She was not excited about losing her new feathery friend.
“Only if you want to.” Burung Kakak Tua said as its beak twinkled yet again– maybe for the last time.
Burung Kakak Tua’s voice slowly faded from her mind though its last words echoed in her thoughts. From the distance, her parents shouted for Sarah’s name, she quickly snapped out of her trance and ran to her parents. Finally, finishing their shopping, Sarah couldn’t stop thinking about her encounter, she wouldn’t tell a soul about her parrot friend but she definitely could not stop talking about saving the environment to improve sustainability during Hari Raya.
That Hari Raya, she made a difference. We can too.