The recent yoga issue has brought back fond memories from my childhood days. In those days when our parents were dirt poor, the ultimate fun was to spend a day frolicking in the Kinta River with friends. And all these cost us nothing but a very sored-throat from all the yelling and shouting. It was all worth it.
Mandi safar to us (non-Malays) meant a license from our parents to play in the river because we were taken care off by the Malay families with whom we had tacked along – it was undulterated fun.
Mandi safar was a family event then, and at the end of the day, heavy our hearts were, as the fun ended, we would all collect sayur paku for our favourite dish – sayur paku sambal as a last leg of our day at the Kinta River.
The meaning of mandi safar meant little to us, 8 – 10 year old boys and in any case we were too young to have acculmulated enough sins to have an end to end cleansing in the river. Apart from mandi safar, my Malay and Indian friends would go the river to swim during the school holidays.
One year it all ended. There were no more calls from my two Malay neighbours – "Jom mandi safar."
In the subsequent years our "jom, mandi sungei" were greeted with "mak, marah."
Later we found out the real reason and we removed mandi safar and mandi sungei from our intinerary of fun.
My Malay friends still response to our other calls – "jom main layang-layang or jom coun-da-coun-di (Indian game)…."
As we recall, mandi safar (Hindu ritual of sin cleansing) was just a poor man picnic and we had no idea of the religious reason attached to mandi safar.
(mandi safar, sungei, coun-da-coun-di are spelled according to sound spoken)