Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hari Raya Haji with My Taxi Driver's Family (And, Reflection)

Hasan, my taxi driver invited me to his house to celebrate Hari Raya Haji today. He lives just across the road from my apartment. At 10 a.m. his wife and almost-2-year-old daughter were waiting for me downstairs at their block and ushered me up to their home. They are no strangers to me because sometimes they accompany him when he fetches me or his other customers. The phone at the house rang, and she told me he called and sent his apologies for not being there because he had customers—public holidays are the best time for additional income, he told me some time ago.

I’m bowled over by the simplicity of their living space. No furniture—just a huge rattan mat, a television, a basket of toys, a toy car, a very simple kitchen, and a bedroom with mattresses on the floor. The wife kept apologizing for the lack of chairs to sit and table to dine on, but I told her not to worry about that at all. She immediately got to work to prepare the chicken curry and ketupat and nasi pulut for me to feast on. She also asked if I like laksa and I said oh yes. She prepared that for me too. We all sat on the floor and ate on the huge rattan mat.

We watched the TV together, played with her daughter and chatted over our food. It was a very enjoyable gathering. Being at their place makes me realize how much I have (material possessions) and that I should appreciate them. I am not rich and I do not have a big house with expensive furniture, but what I have is good enough for me. I may never be an expat and live like one, but then I realize, deep inside my heart I do not want that lifestyle.

I’m blessed with a good taxi driver that sends me to work every weekday morning and whenever I need to go to the mall or some other places. And sometimes after work if it rains. Initially I was thinking about getting a car but I’m glad I didn’t, because then I will not be able to contribute to the income of this family. Also, the other positive side of this is that I can continue to walk home after work as part of my fitness program. (Sometimes, he will honk from his taxi if he sees me walking by the roadside.)

Spending this morning with them also makes me reevaluate how I spend my money. I am glad I have sort of stopped buying books on a whim. I want to make it a point to read the ones I have in my existing collection (I have more than 1,500 books in my personal library), and only buy those I absolutely must read at the moment. If not, I can wait. When I stopped buying, I notice I started winning books from giveaways hosted by my lovely blogger friends. When I am about to buy that piece of clothing or “invest” in a pair of boots, not because I need it but because I want it, I will think about how what I’m about to spend on will benefit the lives of so many other people who are in need. Over time, I want to increase the ratio of charitable spending and decrease on personal ones. I am already a supporter of World Wildlife Funds (WWF), Budimas and several others, but I know I could do better. I need to get my finances right.

It’s amazing how people touch your life in ways you cannot imagine. We should all stop fussing about what we want and what we lack, and focus instead on what we do have and to bless others.

SELAMAT HARI RAYA HAJI to all my Muslim friends!