If the passing of time is signified by the alternation of the four seasons in the West, in Malaysia it is marked by the coming and going of various festivals and public holidays. New Year. Maal Hijrah (New Year in the Islamic calendar). Chinese New Year. Thaipusam. Wesak Day. Merdeka Day (Independence Day). Hungry Ghost Festival. Ramadhan. Hari Raya (Eid ul Fitr). Mooncake Festival. Hari Raya Haji. Deepavali (Festival of Lights).
Right now, we’re in the last few days of Ramadhan, the month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims all over the world are enjoined to refrain from food, drink, sex from dawn to dusk.
Ramadhan is marked by the banging of pots and pans from neighbouring houses at 3 or 4 am, as an early morning meal called sahur is being prepared. Many offices, shops and clinics change their hours of operation — opening and closing earlier than usual — to give the staff sufficient time to go home in the afternoon so that they can prepare the meal for breaking the fast, the iftar. By 4 pm, hawkers’ stalls mushroom by roadsides and designated Ramadhan bazaar areas, selling everything from pre-packaged drinks to meat dishes to regional specialities, as well as sweet and savoury treats.
And one more thing that I always associate with Ramadhan is ‘Upin & Ipin‘, a locally produced TV show that recounts the (mis)adventures of identical twin boys, together with their grandmother Opah, their big sister Kak Ros, and their Malay, Indian and Chinese friends.
The show was first broadcast in 2007 during the month of Ramadhan, scoring some 1.5 million viewers per episode back then. The first few episodes recounting the twins’ introduction to the intricacies of fasting. Memorable lines from those first episodes include “Haaa? Matilah!” (Ha? We’ll die, if that’s the case!) when they first found out that fasting is for one whole month and not just a day, Upin’s trademark “Betul! Betul! Betul! Betul!” (Correct! Correct! Correct! Correct!).
Upin & Ipin’s popularity continues to soar until today. Aside from being aired on Malaysian TV, various episodes have also been made available — and are still there — in YouTube. The show is also being aired on Indonesian TV right now.
The stories are simple yet and endearing, the rural setting gives the show a certain charm, and I’ve lived long enough in Malaysia to understand and appreciate its humour. And the twins are just so darned cute. Never mind if their heads are drawn disproportionately bigger than their bodies.
The show has been a smashing success. Its movie spinoff, ‘Geng: Pengembaraan Bermula‘ (Gang: The Adventure Begins), reportedly raked in $1.8 billion box office gross. A new movie called ‘Upin & Ipin: Angkasa‘ (Upin & Ipin: Space) is in the works and is slated to be aired in 2011. The quality of animation for the Geng movie is quite good, with fluid movements and very clear graphics even on large LCD tvs, so I have high expectations for the Space movie.
My twins love the show so much, they’ve already memorized the lines to their favourite episode, ‘Basikal Baru‘ (New Bicycle).
They’ve even identified Twin1 as ‘Ipin’ (totally bald, always in blue) and Twin2 as ‘Upin’ (a single strand of hair on his head, always wearing yellow). This point creates quite an issue every time I try to correct them. You see, it’s actually Upin who’s the older twin, hence Twin1, by right, should be Upin). My twins apparently based their choice of character on the colour of the shirts that their virtual equivalents wear — Ipin wears yellow; Ipin, blue — and the colour of the t-shirts that I bought for them as a souvenir from Oman which are, you guessed it, in yellow and blue!
If you wish to gain some insight into Malay culture and Malay humour, Upin & Ipin: Season 2 (with English subtitles) is available for viewing on YouTube. You can also visit the official Upin & Ipin YouTube Channel to catch the latest episodes.
Download desktop wallpapers, ringtones, avatars, smileys and various episodes of the show for your mobile phone from the official site: http://www.upindanipin.com.my/downloads.html. All for free! Isn’t that just great? Betul, betul, betul, betul!