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Session 1 - Budi

Writer-in-residence for Kembali: Liyana Nasyita

Engagement date: 19 May 2022


This year, P7:1SMA is working with elders from Montfort Centre towards a collaborative performance together. I was approached by P7:1SMA to be a writer-in-residence for this project in which I will observe and facilitate the interactive sessions conducted with the elders and subsequently provide my reflections. Being trained in social sciences, my insights and reflections would generally lean towards explaining human behaviour and thoughts to wider values, groups, cultures, thinking and institutions.

My first session with them was on 19 May 2022. In this session, we explored the questions on forgiving and seeking forgiveness, which was apt, given the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations going on then. We sat in a circle with the elderly (Malay Muslim women aged between 50s – 80s) and began our sharing session. The first question asked was “how do you and your family seek forgiveness in your family during Hari Raya?” Different responses floated – some sat in silence, and some were open to share. Some shared that the morning of the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a special time for them to seek forgiveness from their family members and vice versa.

In conjunction with celebrating goodness and revitalisation, Aidilfitri is deemed as an opportune time for the Malay community to seek forgiveness with one another. Hence, it is interesting to observe that when we asked “is it easy to ask for forgiveness? Or to forgive someone?”, the elderly resonated the same spirit, where they believe in “forgive and forget”, “kosong-kosong” (0-0) or “Maaf zahir dan batin” (I seek forgiveness from you physically and spiritually).

Such effortlessness in forgiving and seeking forgiveness is very much conditioned by the Malay value of budi which is central to Malay culture and philosophy. “Budi” refers to rationality, intelligence and courtesy. In Malay sayings, proverbs or maxims, the concept of the “Budiman” (a person who possesses budi) is frequently articulated. The “budiman” therefore refers to a person who possesses all three traits of “budi”. Having “budi bahasa” (good manners, good language) is also a highly cherished value in Malay culture. Additionally, the origins of the word and concept “budaya” (culture) comprises “budi” and “daya” (ability).

Hence, it is not a stretch to say that the concept of forgiving, and forgiveness is part of possessing budi. In fact, in the conversations with the elders we often heard them saying “Alah, maafkan saja lah.” (Oh, just forgive already) or “Nak marah sampai bila?” (How much longer do you want to stay angry?). Such utterance is reflective of the forgiving nature of most Malays, which is also nurtured by values in Islam.

In Malay culture, the concept of “budi” and “Budiman” can be gleaned from Malay literary art forms such as “peribahasa” (proverbs), “bidalan” (maxims) or “pantuns” (rhymed quatrains).

Some examples are below:


English (translation my own)

​Burung serindit terbang melayang,

Terhenti hinggap di ranting mati;

Bukan ringgit dipandang orang,

Tapi memandang bahasa dan budi.

​The hanging parrot flies in pure bliss,

And later stops by a dry branch;

It’s not wealth that people cherish,

But courtesy, good manners and heart.

The questions we have on forgiveness and forgiving are a lead-on to a bigger question on regret, which may or may not be something the elders are conscious of. While we shared a lot on forgiving others and seeking forgiveness from others, the topic that remain off the coast is on forgiving oneself. As I sat there, observing the elders talking calmly, I wonder if they will ever be ready to talk about the regrets they have.

Letters written by our elders to seek for forgiveness


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