SSEAYP family celebrate Festival of Light – Happy Deepavali –

SSEAYP family celebrate Festival of Light

– Happy Deepavali –

Two dozen people, who have connection with the Ship for South-East Asian Youth Programme (SSEAYP), met on Saturday evening (3 November 2018) for a get-together during which food was aplenty. The drizzle and the wet environment did not dampen the spirit of the attendees who comprise SSEAYP officials, past Participating Youths (PYs) of SSEAYP and homestay hosts.

The gathering aimed at building and strengthening rapport and fellowship among them. My wife and I are among the homestay hosts. We have been contributing our services and giving close attention to SSEAYP PYs as well as participants of a few other student-exchange programmes for their homestay stints over 25 years now, since 1989.

The usual 3-day, 2-night stay homestay stint is part of the participants’ official learning programme in Singapore for about 10 days. During their homestay, the participants get close-range exposure to Singapore’s cultural practices of their hosts and experience the Singaporean way of life.

The get-together, headed by Mr Hairil Johari, newly appointed SIS’ Director of Alumni Affairs, and supported by Mr Imhar Said, long-time SIS’ Director of International Affairs, and Mr Desmond Yew, Director of Homestay, was held at the compound of the historic Matilda House of A-Treasure-Trove Condominium in Punggol Walk.

In the compound of Matilda House: It was difficult to take this photo. Imhar gave me his handphone asking me to take a photo of this special group but I was not able to click it, even after trying a few times. But somehow I managed it and then I used my own handphone to take a photo of the group, also successful after a few tries, but the photo was dark as you can see. It could not brightened up. But who is that person behind Imhar and on the right of John?
By the way, this sheltered barbeque pit area is just opposite Matilda House.
Wikipedia says that Matilda House, now beautifully renovated, was built in 1902 and later went into disuse. Rumours had it that “it cannot be demolished. It was referred as “Ghost House” or Istana Menanti (The Waiting Palace)”.
Rumours also had it that some people had seen a stranger – a tall, slim pretty woman – aimlessly walking around this area, always alone and looking sad, sometimes with a noose-like ring around her neck. Some people in this area had even complained that a woman had photo-bombed their photos but complainer had seen the photobomber coming and leaving the photoshoot scene. (See ‘PS’ for more about the “stranger”.)

Gloomy weather

The weather that evening was not that welcoming. Nevertheless, the get-together function went on smoothly with some absentees.

Mdm Hadijah Osman with her husband, Mr Zakaria Mohd Shariff, and their granddaughter, Maryam Nuwaira, together with the youths from the JENESYS programme, Ayumi (left) and Saya (tall girl), who stayed with the couple for the homestay stint in October this year (2018). Hadijah says the Japanese girls love to the Muslim attire and they tried it with excitement.

Among those who did not turn up for the function were homestay hosts Mr Zakaria Mohd Shariff and his wife, Hadijah Osman. When contacted, Mdm Hadijah said: “I really wanted to attend the SSEAYP to meet up with friends. But, my husband and I had something on. The SSEAYP officials and homestay hosts are like my family. We share the memories we had with the homestay participants and that of the annual SIGA meets. I miss them. But, I hope to meet them next time. InsyaAllah.”

She added: “Apart from missing my friends, I also miss Kak Khairon’s favourite cuisine – subsuka; it’s nice and spicy. I also like Bro Imhar’s cooking. He’s a good cook. I miss Joyce’s dosey and dhal and Kak Zainah’s kueh mueh.”

Preparation of food, the glorious food

Not all food were cooked on-site as the function was a potluck event. Almost everyone brought home-cooked food. Fruits, cakes and various kueh were also contributed for dessert.

Getting ready for the feast: Perhaps former PY Evelyn Chua is asking Imhar how he can cook so well. Serious faces show cooking is not easy.

More hands, many ideas, more bonding…

Wow! A enticing spread of food items fit for a King’s belly. Yah, we even have a Queen who helped out in the “kitchen”.

Wait! Wait a minute! Don’t stating yet! Let’s take a selfie first. Yah! Good effort, Hairil managed to take a nice shot…

Okay, time to really sit and fill up your empty tanks…there are crab sambal, mutton briyani, subsuka, mee siam, mee goreng, chicken curry, roti kirai, ayam lemak chilli padi and more…

“Kak Khairon! You eat just one piece? How to grow fat like this…” Anyway, Chef Im would not be happy if the visitors ate little as he had spent much time in cooking super hot stuff…

Time to relax, chat and joke

There were jokes and laughter. Many chatted away as they did not meet each other for some time. By the way, this was what the gathering aimed at – building and strengthening rapport and fellowship.

All handsome lah!  From left are Zahari, Youth Leader of 1996; John (in pink shirt); Ramlan, National Leader of 1991; and Hairil, PY of 1996 and current SIS’ Director of Alumni Affairs.

Among the jovial and chatty gathering was John Vijayan Vasavan, Advisor to SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS). He was SSEAYP PY in 1986 and National Leader in 1996.

Asked for his thoughts on the day’s event, he beamed with a “Wow!” and poured out his feelings: “I must say we have an awesome group of homestay hosts who helped out to make the event successful. They, especially the ladies, laid out the tables with a professional touch and loving hospitality.”

Although the drizzle wetted the floor, John felt that the spirit of SSEAYP helped the attendees’ mood soar high and about. “Their happy mood lingered throughout the event. With mouthful of foodstuff or not, they moved here and there to chat and exchange ideas. I was indeed overwhelmed by the display of closeness and camaraderie amongst us.”

After a few moments of reflection, he added: “I think, the word ‘SSEAYP’ is magical. It keeps us close, regardless of whether we are officials, former PYs or members of homestay host family.”

John (in all seriousness): “If anyone dares, let him come near me. Don’t play play with me, I know karate. One strike with my right hand and I don’t know what will happen to him.”
Juliana, hiding behind Imhar and holding him tightly for protection: “Alamak! Why is John so fierce today? I’m scared! I’m really scared!”
Habsah in doubtful thought: “Wah! He’s so strong, kah? One strike with his hand and his opponent will roll in mid-air like in Indian movie fights. Sure or not?”

Happy family: Those who remained behind had the opportunity to be in this group photo. By the way, why is the baby looking the other way? Is she attracted to someone behind the group and her cute face has made the “stranger” not to photobomb the group this time!!! Maybe.

The SSEAYP gathering went happily well. In the words of John: “Today’s gatherings is certainly an excellent starting point to make plans to host the 46th SSEAYP in Singapore next year (2019).”

I wish all Hindus connected with SSEAYP as well as other Hindu readers A Happy Deepavali.

Shaik Kadir
6 November 2018

The “photobomber” mentioned in the caption of the first photo in the article is fictional. It was an inserted photo of my wife from a photo that appears under “About the author” of my book, “A kite in the evening sky”. See photos below.

“A kite in the evening sky” was first published in 1989 by EPB Publishers (far left) and republished by Marshal Cavendish this year (2018). It is available online at Amazon and at Popular and Kinokuniya.

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