IN exactly one week from today, Muslims the world over will be celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which marks the end of Ramadan.
Between now and the month of Syawal, everyone, whether they are Muslims or not, will be greeting, wishing and forgiving each other’s transgressions. Past misunderstandings are best forgotten and the relationship begins on a clean slate.
In the past, greeting cards were dropped into the postbox for postmen to pick up and sort out. It was actually a tradition for many years to wish Selamat Hari Raya to families, friends and loved ones.
Even the corporate bosses would not miss this important occasion to send cards to their employees. The bosses, too, would ask for forgiveness with a few wise words printed on the cards.
The cards were priced from as low as RM5 a piece, to more than RM50 a piece with more exclusive designs. It was good business for small-time traders who sold the cards along roadside stalls and bookstores.
At home or in the office, these cards adorned the walls and ceilings to show how many friends had greeted you. Stringing the cards was voluntarily done to liven up the Hari Raya spirit.
It made some people happy, but for those who had to work over the festive holiday, the cards might invoke a sense of loneliness and sadness.
Those were the days.
Since 2000, this culture started to gradually disappear with the advent of new telecommunication technologies.
The transformation was inevitable, and one wonders whether there is a point where all this advancement and sophistication will stop.
Greeting cards have been rendered obsolete with the introduction electronic greetings (e-greetings). Postmen are having an easier time nowadays with fewer cards to deliver.
My conversations with postal workers at the Kuala Terengganu post office can prove the point. While most welcome the change, some old-timers say they missed seeing the smiles and happiness among those who wait for the cards to be delivered.
Now, the mailroom has fewer mailbags dedicated to sort out greeting cards. In the past, the postal service used to set deadlines for posting greeting cards so they can be delivered on time, but this is no longer the case.
The Y2K generation now prefers to use e-greetings, which provide many options to project their creativity to impress friends and families. They can be downloaded into mobile phones through the Internet.
Senders can “value add” their greetings to include music, flashing graphics and motifs from a range of popular designs, to the latest in demand. They can attach any type of flower or animation that catches their fancy.
They no longer need to queue up at the post office to buy stamps. The delivery of e-greetings is instant and can be done at the fingertips, using their phones in the comfort of the office or home, as long as they are connected to the Internet.
They can send as many e-greetings as they wish at practically no cost, except for their handphone charges.
But, with telecommunication companies and application providers always upgrading their services, the e-greetings of today may become as obsolete or redundant as greeting cards of the past in about five years.
It is already happening.
There are advancements in the use of virtual reality and holograms in information and communication technology. These could replace the use of cross-platform instant messaging to exchange texts, images and videos.
As the desire to get more intimate with the person on the other side, it will not be surprising that future devices will allow holograms of loved ones to be projected right in front of you, and the conversation will be much more realistic than just sending e-greetings.
It is just a matter of time before all these technologies, once regarded as science fiction or watched in cartoons only, become reality.
When it does, everyone will jump on the bandwagon to provide a new kind of service or application.
In future, Hari Raya greeting cards may come in the form of holograms that can be projected by laptops, or even mobile phones.
The increase in telecommunication traffic is unthinkable in today’s pace of development.
But then, there will be even less work for the postmen. Their job may just be confined to delivering parcels and legal documents.
The streets and popular traders’ haunts, such as Pasar Payang in Kuala Terengganu, may no longer sell greeting cards.
The traders who still sell the cards are already few, and they are harbouring hopes that the tradition will not vanish.
Rosli Zakaria is NST’s specialist writer based in Terengganu. He is an environmentalist and enjoys capturing the beauty of flora and fauna in their fragile environment. He draws his inspiration from cross-county drives and off-road adventures. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org