Dates and water make up family’s staple sahur

National 2 minutes, 53 seconds


BEFORE the crack of dawn, Hj Abeng Arif awakes from slumber to partake in the pre-fasting meal or sahur.

Running his bony fingers over the wooden walls of his aged house in Kg Serambangun, the 67-year-old switches on the lights to reveal plain interiors and sparse decorations. The old floors creak with each step as he walks over to the kitchen a few metres away.

His wife, 82-year-old Hjh Hasnah Ahmad, and their two granddaughters join him at the narrow, derelict kitchen table.

For the humble family of four, cooking during sahur is an unusual occurrence. Unlike many homes around the nation, Hj Abeng's pantry is not filled to the brim with food and drinks. A glance into his kitchen indicates a life isolated from comforts.

"We don't have much money, but we make do with what we have," he told The Brunei Times in an interview at his house recently.

The family's staple sahur consists of dried dates and water. "Sometimes we may have a little more to eat when there is some food from yesterday," he pointed out. During the visit, a small plate of leftover fritters were also seen on the kitchen table.

Earning a meagre $500 monthly from old-age pensions, Hj Abeng and his wife struggle to make ends meet, having witnessed the escalating costs of living over the years.

Despite this, the elderly couple refuses to "feel sorry" for their situation. On occasion, Hj Abeng would undertake odd jobs for friends and family, in the form of carpentry work, to bring in extra side income.

"However, I'm not as strong as I used to be. Now that I'm old, I'm no longer able to take on most of the labour work as it is quite strenuous," he explained.

The majority of the family's modest income is spent on bare necessities, such as food, petrol and utilities, leaving little to no money to save. With two young grandchildren to care for, Hj Abeng said that it worried him.

"I can't promise them any luxury, so I teach them that education is important. I make sure that they do well in school, no matter what," he said.

Although he left school at a young age to support his family, Hj Abeng believes that education is "the key to a better future". His granddaughters, aged 12 and 10, are determined to make good on his teachings.

Armed with a passion for helping others, his granddaughters are aspiring to become medical doctors and veterinarians.

"We're not well-off, but we're grateful to Allah for whatever we have been blessed with in life. There are people elsewhere in the world who don't even have anything to eat or a house to live in. We're lucky that is not the case in Brunei," said Hj Abeng.

After having their sahur, the family waits for the Azan (call of prayer) to perform the Subuh prayers together.

Hj Abeng leads the two-rakaat compulsory prayer as his wife and their two grandchildren stand behind him along the tattered prayer mats. As they raise their hands to offer doa (supplication), he asks Allah to bless them with the patience to endure their struggles.

"What's life if it's devoid of divine blessings? Money may make life easier, but it won't bring happiness," he said.

The Brunei Times