Regret and sorry
Not easy to feel and say,
Yet flushing the guilt.
Look! It’s rain water pouring
On the roof, sweeps away dirt.
Ramadhan is starting tomorrow, it’s my 38th year in which I do full fasting. I’m so grateful with this achievement. Achievement? Yes! Imagine for one full month during the day we don’t drink, we don’t eat, we don’t smoke, we don’t sex, we don’t let out uncontrolled emotion, we simply hold whatever we normally let out easily with no delay. We are human beings though, we can do all those at night. Ahem!
As a Javanese Muslim welcoming Ramadhan is as special as the fasting itself. We welcome the Ramadhan with a small celebration called megengan which literally means holding (esp. the breath).
In megengan a Javanese family will deliver a basket of rice with dishes to neighbours and extended family members living separately. While each family can choose what they share, there is one must specialty in this occasional delivery so called “apem” in Javanese or “kue apam” in Bahasa Indonesia or Malay.
Apem is steamed cake whose ingredients are rice flour, coconut milk, coconut water, yeast, sago starch and some sugar.
The word apem is derived from the word “afwun” (an Arabic word) meaning apology. Why apology? In Ramadhan when a Muslim is fasting, s/he is not only holding her/himself from hunger, thirst, lust, uncontrolled anger, and exercising her/his integrity; but s/he is also recommended to contemplate her/his own “action records” for the past one year. It is not easy for one to bear the guilt during the contemplation, so it is recommended for a Muslim before Ramadhan to apologise to their family and friends or to whomever s/he did wrongdoing, to ease the contemplation process. As it might not be easy to say sorry through a naked word, Javanese Muslim will include a symbolic apology in the food called apem when they deliver the whole food package. Everyone knows what it is, what it does— it is up to each person whether or not to accept the apology. And there they go starting the fasting month with a light heart to physically, mentally and spiritually exercise her/himself for one full month.
I used to think that that celebration was a waste of food. For one week I used to see sooooo many plastic and bamboo baskets piled up in our dining table and shelves — all those megengan packages which would be eaten just a bit and end up given to our chickens at the back yard. Fyi, the apem is never wasted though as every family has different taste and ways of how to make their best apem – maybe it’s a symbol that everyone is taking the apology seriously. I used to say to my mom that megengan was more about chickens celebrating than human beings celebrating. However after I understand what is symbolised through those simple deliveries, I highly appreciate the way we Javanese hold the integrity through our humble tradition.
I used to tell my mother to not do it, but now I’ve always been a reminder to her to not forget doing it and done it myself although I’m living around those not familiar with this tradition. I normally cook some simple food for the cleaning ladies and the gardeners who are assigned in the block two days before Ramadhan. Unfortunately minus the apem, simply because I am not confident enough to make my own apem. Tried this year though and failed 🙃
I promise to myself that this year is gonna be a good Ramadhan.
Welcome, month of holding, month of exercising integrity. It might not be always easy but doable.
I’m sending out apology to all the people having felt hurt by me. I’m sorry with my heart and soul in naked words. 🙏🏼
May all beings be happy.