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It was 11 am when I got out of the house that morning. I wanted to arrive earlier for the event so that I could capture the atmosphere before the function begins but I was greeted by a massive traffic jam after exiting the SMART tunnel.
"Oh, no!" I thought. After half-hour of creative maneuvering, I arrived at Hotel Istana just in time and in one piece. Headed straight for the Grand Ballroom where the function was held and I managed to greet some early birds along the way. It seemed that I was not alone in having trouble to get there. There was something on that evening that forced the authorities to close one lane of traffic, causing the massive jam at Jalan Sultan Ismail.
The Grand Ballroom has been chosen to host the KLHQ's guests for the annual Hari Raya event for two years in a row. It was a brilliant venue for the event and what a magnificent site it was that day, with yellow and green streamers lining the ceiling, just above the dining tables, covered with crisply-ironed linens. A maroon cloth draped from the center of the ballroom and the VIP table was laid out just underneath it, adding a touch of opulence to the kampung-themed ballroom.
Tables with spreads of delicacies were fashioned like small huts where the kampung folks would normally come to gather and share stories in the evenings while enjoying the cool breeze. A small yet charming kampung house stood on the stage, in the middle of the ballroom with an old-fashined bicycle parked on one side and an old-school motorcycle on the other. In front of the 'kampung house', a ghazal group lined the stage to serenade the crowd with soothing music, not forgetting nostalgic Raya songs.
Ah, such bliss! At noon, the invited guests started to trickle in. En Nordin started the ball rolling by greeting the guests and gave duit raya to the children. The entrance was also creatively decorated with electrically-powered pelita, with a row of lemang being 'cooked' on the left and a cauldron of 'ketupat' on the right. If it wasn't for the hall, I'd thought that I was in a kampung.
Soon more guests started to arrive, including the VIPs, comprising of the board of directors, corporate guests and business associates, children from Malakoff's adopted schools in Lumut, Prai and Tg Bin, guests-of-honour from Pondok Penyayang Raudhah and staff of Malakoff with their respective families.
Bintang Raudhah, a group of talented children formed by Pondok Penyayang Raudhah, sang and played musical instruments while the guests enjoyed the scrumptious spread.
Later, Chairman of Malakoff, Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali and MD/CEO of Malakoff, En Ahmad Jauhari Yahya were invited on stage to present our special guests, the children from Pondok Penyayang Raudhah and children from the adopted schools with school shoes and duit raya from the Company. The eager children almost missed their duit raya when they passed by En Ahmad Jauhari until he called them back and playfully asked, "Adik tak nak duit raya?"
After the train of children came to an end, Tan Sri Halim and En Ahmad Jauhari stepped down to their table to make way for the group of traditional dancers. Clad in maroon songket with tompok manggis pattern, they danced away and charmed the audience with their flawless routines. After dancing to three songs, they gracefully cleared the stage and the ghazal group continued to serenade the guests.
It was definitely a good day for celebration, music, good food and good company. The kids left with smiles on the face and their pockets full of duit raya while the parents were contented with the delicious spread by the hotel. As the function also coincided with the Mooncake festival, the hotel threw in a platter of mooncake laid out in a pagoda-roofed hut to suit the occasion, making it a true Malaysian celebration.