If you live in a Malay kampung like I do, you would have definitely felt (or rather, heard) the celebratory atmosphere in welcoming the Hari Raya. I am talking about children (and sometimes adults too) who light up fireworks and firecrackers after the breaking of fast.
Every night you can hear the whizzes, pops, bangs and booms of various types of firecrackers. Some of these things give such loud explosive noises that even set off car alarms. It surprises me sometimes that Malays can be playing more fireworks than Chinese. Mengalahkan orang Tionghua sambut tahun baru.
Call me a spoilsport, but I don't really approve this main mercun activity. I don't mind the sparklers but the noisy ones are a pain in the butt. At least, there is an underlying cultural reason when our Chinese friends light up firecrackers. For us Malays, what reason is there... except just for pure fun? Every year during Ramadan, I would wait for news of the first fireworks casualty. More often than not, it would be a young boy from a kampung on the east coast. Stories of missing fingers and burnt hands, mostly.
The selling of firecrackers is supposed to be illegal but I see a few vendors openly trade their stuff at the Ramadan bazaars. The array is quite mind-boggling and come in fancy names and sizes. They sell Thunder Cap rockets, Dragon Eggs, Super Pop, Mini grenades, Starburst, Flying spinners and whatever else have you.
I have never bought any for my children but that did not stop my youngest son from buying them on his own. Last year, he set aside some of his pocket money to secretly buy some firecrackers from his friends. He brought the firecrackers along when we balik kampung at my in-laws home in Mersing. Since there would be other cousins who would be playing the firecrackers, it would be difficult for me to object.
One afternoon, on the third day of hari raya I think, he came into the house to ask my sister-in-law for some minyak gamat (ointment) to apply on a cut on his palm. He told his mother that he got the cut from a fall while playing at the rear compund of the house. I wasn't shown the injury directly but looking at it from distance, I suspected my son was not telling the truth. But I did not press the matter because there were many other relatives around.
The next day, his wound did not get any better and overall he looked a bit feverish. My wife started to worry and wanted me to bring my son to the hospital. I asked my son what really happened. At first he stuck to his story of getting the cut from a fall but then, one of the younger cousins spilled the beans by telling that my son got hurt when a firecracker exploded in his hand before he could throw it away.
I grilled my son on this and he broke down in tears, admitting his fault. I was angry with him, not because he got injured but because he lied. As punishment, I confiscated the rest of his fireworks stock and withheld his raya angpow.
My wife and I then took him to the hospital for treatment. The Hospital Assistant who did the dressing, asked my son how big the firecracker that exploded was. My son replied that it was the size of a small marble.
In jest, the HA responded, `Alaa... kecik aje tu. Lain kali main yang besar terus. Biar power habis!'