Welcome to Hari Raya HQ
This family is so close, all 22 members break fast at matriarch's home almost every day during Ramadan
When The New Paper first asked Madam Rozana Anuar, 65, about the crowd she was expecting at her home yesterday, the cleaning coordinator warned: "You may not be able to enter the flat."
And that was exactly what happened at her first-storey maisonette at Pasir Ris on Hari Raya Puasa, as relatives started streaming in from about 5pm.
People came and went, but the crowd never thinned for the next few hours.
There were about 50 people in the evening and more were expected to show up.
"Every year, we have to act as valet drivers for our relatives. Many of them come and somehow, we manage (to find parking lots for them)," said Madam Rozana's son Rizal Rais.
For close to a decade now, Madam Rozana's home has been the "headquarters" for relatives to visit during Hari Raya.
It is also where her extended family of 22 break fast almost every day during Ramadan.
The four families, who span four generations, live just a stone's throw from each other. Madam Rozana lives with her husband, her mother, her daughter Masyita and her helper.
Two doors down from Madam Rozana is her sister-in-law's family. Another sister-in-law lives a block away with her family.
Mr Rizal, 39, lives in a fourth-storey flat in an adjacent block that faces her maisonette.
Madam Rozana said: "You know a flying fox? Maybe (my son's family) can attach that (to our flat) and they can zoom down."
Mr Rizal, a football coach, joked: "How about a fireman's pole?"
They live so close by that sometimes they just shout for each other through the windows.
Mr Rizal's wife Nazrah Hanani, 37, added: "When my boys are playing (at my mother-in-law's place), I can hear them from my room."
Mr Rizal said: "Sometimes I will hear my son shout, 'Daddy, can you please throw a ball down?'"
It was a conscious decision that the extended family made to live in the same neighbourhood.
Madam Rozana's family moved into the maisonette first, in 2002, followed by her sister-in-law's family a few months later.
In 2006, her other sister-in-law's family moved in.
Mr Rizal moved into a nearby block in 2007, but 2½ years later, he moved to his current flat to be closer to his parents.
Part of his decision to join this "kampung" in Pasir Ris - he used to live in Bedok and Tampines - stemmed from his own childhood experience.
"I spent a few years of my childhood in a kampung in Kaki Bukit. I was there till about six or seven years old. Old enough to know how it felt like back then," he told TNP.
Adding that it would be a heathy environment for his children, two sons aged eight and 10, to grow up in, Mr Rizal said: "I think kids nowadays can be in a bubble of sorts. Most of their interactions are through social media or YouTube on their iPads."
Another perk of living close together is not having to plan family events.
"We can have spontaneous sleepovers or movie nights with our cousins," said Ms Masyita, 33, who is a teacher.
Madam Rozana's cooking skills are a bonus that everyone in the extended family appreciates.
"My neighbours are used to seeing me carry plates of food in the lift," Mr Rizal said with a grin.
Madam Nazrah, a primary school teacher, said she asks her mother-in-law for help whenever she has to cater food for school events.
"My excuse for not learning to cook is that she is too good at cooking," she added.
This family does not deny that they have had their share of squabbles, but Madam Rozana said it is much like any other family.
The more important thing is that nobody takes this closeness for granted.
"Even though we live so close to each other, we don't take it for granted. Each time we meet, we can talk and talk," she said.
Mr Rizal said: "Having meals together every day may seem like a small thing to others, but to us, it's very special."
He added: "They say familiarity breeds contempt. But I think for us, it's really the opposite."
Having meals together every day may seem like a small thing to others, but to us, it's very special.
- Mr Rizal