.. with a unique element in Malay culture.. the ‘washing-hand-pot’.
This is NOT the pot that we used to fill with drinking water. Instead, we filled it with plain pipe water to wash the hand before we eat.
Why do we do this?
So that.. when our guests are ready to eat the food we serve or have eaten the food we served, they don’t have to get up to the wash basin to wash their hands there. But if you use fork and spoon.. you don’t have to wash them with the pot, ok? Just leave them as you would normally do.
I went back to my village last week and saw this silver pot and suddenly, I realized that this tradition is slowly disappearing in the city. In modern homes, almost all dining halls have a nearby basin/sink for people to wash their hands. Sometimes, guests who do not use fork and spoon have to go to the kitchen or bedroom with attaching toilet to use it. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that.. (especially when it’s a good excuse for the guests to check out your new house – hehe). It’s just that I think the pot actually represents an essential part of our culture of welcoming guests to our home.
In many houses back in the village, people eat on the floor. The food will be served nicely on a piece of cloth, complete with drinks and all. So, it’s even more convenient to have the pot around when the guests need to wash their hands.
Perhaps for many Westerners, eating like this is quite uncomfortable. In addition, you have to use your fingers to eat rice or noodles! Definitely quite awkward for some of you to do so.. but don’t worry, we won’t laugh at you. It’s our tradition to respect our guests especially those who try hard to fit in! Well, when you eat on the floor with others, we will all feel even closer to each other, more at ease as everyone put his/ her guard down, everybody is seen as equal as no one is raised higher than another,.. and if you make a mess, it’s easier to clean it up.
The pot becomes the center of unity as everyone will use it to wash his/ her dirty hands as if washing away our wrong doings to each other after all these times.