Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Little Tad - Part 1

Once upon a time, there was a tiny little being living in a small pond not far away from here (not that it matters where here is.  Here is most certainly not there, wherever there is). It had gills to breathe with, a small tail to propel itself forward, a lean body that could glide very well in water and a head so big with so much ideas that some days Tad felt it could just explode.  Yes, his name was Tad because he was a tad smaller than his siblings.  And his kind, they were all small.
He believed there was more to life than just scouring for food and living it just-because.  Surely, there would be purpose to his existence. Surely each creation was made for at least one specific purpose. Only he had not figured out his purpose yet. Our Tad dreamed big dreams.
But he was a tad too small to dream big dreams.
He could only watch with much envy as a neighbor leapt high in the air and plunged back into the water with a juicy beetle in his mouth. He could not leap - low or high. He watched longingly as another neighbor went out of the water to sunbathe in the comfy mud.  He needed the water to breathe, he would die without it. 
He would be thirsting for news from his more mobile neighbors, of their expeditions out from the pond. 
It is dangerous out there, some of them warned him and told him that he was better off where he was.
It is absolutely wonderful out there with the greenest of grass and opportunities as big and as many as your imagination would let you, encouraged a few others.
It is only meant for the privileged ones, boasted those who were bigger, stronger and more beautiful than he was (or could ever be, he thought dejectedly).
You need plenty of resources to survive, without which, going out there would be suicidal, said the wise elderly ones.  Truth be told, the grey ones never even left the pond.  When you have lived long enough, you would be handed the authority over any subjects. You would appear wise. They had been at the pond since it was huge and free of sedimentations that came with land clearing up north.  When the pond was pristine clean before it became polluted with industrial waste, the elders were already there. 
Tad had no scales or tough skin to shield himself with. He wasn’t blessed with stings to freeze predators. He certainly didn’t know anyone in high or important places, not even those from shady badly lit corners, whom he could extract favors from. He didn’t have layers of fat influence to survive the cold. He had no means to store water or find food too – in fact he didn’t even know if his type of food would be available out there.  He was resourceful though - very much, as some of his siblings would testify.  But the elderly said, being resourceful was not as good as being endowed with resources.
Tad was certain that the world outside the pond was a world worth exploring.  He would not just accept everything that they said.  He had to find out by himself.  He only wholeheartedly agreed with them on one point and that one point only - that he was small. But he was certain that he was not too small for the big world. 
Surely, nobody could ever be too small to take on the world, no?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Transgender John

Ada satu kedai ni dekat Melaka.  Barakat namanya. Jual roti john. Restoran tau,  bukan warung. Restoran - dua unit kedai dia ambik.  Pelanggan datang sebab nak makan roti john – baik pagi, tengahari, petang ke malam.  Roti john. Kedai dia yang dua unit tu, tiga tingkat – bukan sewa. Beli, guna duit hasil meniaga roti john. Unit atas tu, anak dia buat pejabat. Anak dia peguam syarie.

Roti john pakcik ni bukan main-main. Pelanggan bertali arus, bukan hanya dari Melaka. Saya yang duduk di KL pon kalau nak roti john, yang itu jugak la ndaknya. Yang lain tak lalu.

Roti john situ lain.  Tak sama macam yang kita biasa jumpa kat pasar malam tu.  Yang kat pasar malam tu lebih rasa mayo dengan cili sos kan? Lepas tu lebih telur dari daging, betul tak?

Roti john barakat kering. Tak ada mayo tak ada sos cili.  Telur hanya sebagai pengikat daging.  Dan dihujung rasa daging, ada rasa unik ikan bilis. Iya! Ada ikan bilis. Bunyi macam ganjil, tapi sedapnya tok sah kata lah… 

Sedapnya pakcik, keluh saya masa makan kali pertama.

Alhamdulillah,  saya tukang buat saja. Sedap tu anugerah dari Allah. Dia yang izin kan, kata pakcik.

Resipi pakcik ni kalau dapat pada orang lain, rugi lah, saya kata.

Eh tak ada masalah, ilmu bukan milik siapa-siapa. Ambiklah resipi kalau nak.

Baik kan pakcik tu?

Berkat meniaga roti john saja, pakcik dan isteri, setiap tahun menyambut Ramadhan dan Syawal di Mekah.  Awal-awal meniaga dulu, dia bukak warung je kat tepi pantai.  Warung tu sekarang diserahkan pada adiknya.  Pelanggan di sana beratur punyalah ramai.  Di restoran tak jugak pakcik putus rezeki lepas pindah, sama rancak perniagaannya.

Kesahnya, ini lah resipi asal roti john. Dia dulu pergi belajar kat Singapura dengan kawan-kawan lain. Ada lah dalam 60 orang. Yang mana belajar yong tau fu nya, pasembornya… macam-macam lah. Dia berguru dengan Kak Juana (tak tau macam mana eja).  Jadi roti tu dipanggil Roti Jun sempena nama Kak Juana.  Ini awal tahun 70an. Hari ni tinggal dua orang je lagi yang masih meniaga dengan resipi asli menuntut dari Singapura. Dia dengan sorang lagi yang buat yong tau fu.

Bila balik Malaysia, kat tepi pantai tu lah dia mula meniaga.  Dia jual Roti Jun.

Lama-lama resipi tu ditiru orang lain dan dipelbagaikan, ditambah perisa moden dan sebagainya, jadi lah Roti John.

Apa yang pakcik jual, tetap Roti Jun resipi asli dari Kak Juana sejak tahun 1970an.

Sedapnya, aduhai….

Monday, May 11, 2015

A mother is just a human

My mother had one leg amputated - below the knee. We got her a prosthesis but she found it to be too heavy to swing around and the material too 'stuffy' for the stump, and so more often than not, she would wear the prosthesis but preferred to sit on the wheelchair.

I have memory flashes every time i see an old woman in a wheelchair or anyone with plastic limbs. I am getting old myself, and with osteoarthritis and slipped disc lurking by, i find myself on a wheelchair sometimes. Some days i would need a walking stick and i use hers. And so i am more and more reminded of her - or rather, her absence.

There are a lot of regrets - that i should have taken better care of her, that i should have empathised more, that i should be there for her more, that i should made it known clearer to her that she was loved.

Someone said, i shouldn't dwell much on the regrets and the 'could-haves' as such thoughts are futile. While that may be true, aren't regret and remorse part of the grieving process? That we need to bash up ourselves a bit, knock our senses real hard so it could feel again after the initial reaction of numbness. Perhaps, my grieving period is taking longer than it should. But i am not mourning a goldfish, it is my mother i mourned. Didn't my mother and i, once shared a lifeline? When i was born, wasn't i attached to her through that cord? Which point in that umbilical cord indicates where a mother ends and her daughter begins? Wasn't i a tiny live growing inside her imitating her heartbeat? And when i was born, wasn't i just an extension of her?

As a little girl, she was everything i wanted to be - there was no woman more beautiful than her (which explains why i played with her make up) and there was absolutely no other woman as knowledgeable as her. Her words were the fatwa, the law, that ended all but-mak i could ever attempted.  My mother was a perfect being, she was a mother, didn't she? Mothers to a kid, are exactly that - semi gods.

And as this little girl grew up, she began to notice that her mother was not the semi-god she thought her to be. I didnt know exactly when, but i started to see that she was getting old, and she couldnt really help me with my homework anymore. My mother was not sophisticated, she did not go to high school, she didn't speak English, and it turned out her knowledge and the rules she abide by were all hand-downs from her mother, who did not go to school at all. Without me realising this, mak must have fallen from grace. The elevated status accorded to her was stripped back, she walked amongst my siblings and i - a human being.

It was easier to love her when i stopped worshipping her. I loved her more reastically, and there were other feelings then too. Grateful, for she worked hard at making me achieve more than she did through her incessant drill of the importance to continuously seek knowledge and self-betterment. Grateful. She accomplished more than her illiterate mother. She wanted me to achieve more than her. Where would i be today without that drive in her?

And sympathy too, because she realised that the more knowledgeable her children get, the farther apart we would stray from her.  She opened up all opportunities of acquiring knowledge to us, knowing well the price.  Her authority in various subjects were reduced. The distance between her and her kids grew. Where would i be today if she kept me cocooned around her skirt?

Thanks to Malory Towers of Enid Blyton, I was itching to go to a boarding school. She let me. And so i left home at twelve.  After which there were the universities, then i couldn't get a job in Kluang (not that industrial then, not much opening for a fresh grad female engineer), and then marriage.  As i grew farther and farther away from her, never once did she ask me to come home and be near her. I could go wherever i wanted to, whichever way my ambitions took me.  She never complained. She was all encouraging - cheering me to go higher and further. Go realise your potential, she said, you can do so much, you can go so far.  She was never an obstacle that blocked my path. She was the gentle but persuasive wind that kept pushing me forward, so much so that i didnt turn back often enough to see how she was doing behind me.

I have my own children now - three of them are girls. I knew when i was worshipped. I can sense how i am beginning to take up a human shape in their eyes. And i know they are beginning to realise that i dont know everything, and Dato Seri Najib does not always report to me.  They can see how my waist has thickened and my hair kept on changing colours.

Despite the human form that i take, the limitation of my knowledge, and the long leash i will (eventually) allow them, i hope they wont forget that i was once their home.

I miss my mother. I would so much want to tell her all this even if it would only make her say, see, i told you.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Sentraal Station has reopened! Hoiyeah!

I am in charge of the company’s newspaper, I also write for several other techie-newsletters - dry boring nerdy staff no one cares to read. And my Facebook entries are always too lengthy for my own good - personal bare-all no one at FB cares to know.  So, just because I haven’t blogged for a while doesn’t mean that I don’t write anymore.  But I don’t, you know write write.  Blogging is not just any type of writing. So, not blogging means not writing – if you know what I mean.

I blog to tell a story, to vent, to laugh at myself - anonymously.  It was easier to be myself when I could hide behind Edna (from The Incredibles).  Now this sounds like an oxymoron statement.  But it is true, I am myself when I am Edna.  It helps that I look like her too.

I started blooging when I was put in a cold room.  I had the whole floor to myself in a location so remote it had no postcode (I think).  There was nobody else there and no work whatsoever was assigned to me.   The boss whose advances I rejected, would only come by once in a few months, just checking to see if I have turned into compost yet and that was it.   I would check in in the morning, turned on the radio and stared at the walls in between playing Dynomite and pumping breast milk for my son, the Sun. Dot was about 2 years old then.

I was as super-bored as bored could be and a friend introduced me to Kak Teh’s blog.  For a while, I was merely a bloghooker.  Going from one site to the other.  But blogs had a tendency to grow on you.  Reading them was almost like reading someone’s diary – you ended up feeling like you really know the blogger.  You cried with them and would be just as happy when they were.   And soon the itch to respond started to gnaw at me.  It wasn’t enough anymore to just read.  Some entries made me feel like reaching out, just to say, ‘hey I understand’, or, ‘when the same thing happened, I did something else’ or just ‘hahaha’.  And when the itch became something that had to be scratched raw, in 2005, I registered for a blogspot account. 

And how I thrived on it.

It opened up so many windows into the lives of so many nice people in various countries.  Their stories sobered me up – how could I complain about my occasional sniffles when a fellow-blogger was braving through cancer?  How could I complain about boredom in the cold room when some other blogger was in-between jobs and could not even make ends meet? 

Through blogs I realised over and over again, that my life may not be perfect but it was perfect for me.

I met some bloggers offline. Went to London and must look for Kak Teh & Tuang AG, had many meals with K.Jasmin, Anedra and Maya, went on blind dates with AuntyN, Shidah, Mak Andeh, Nefertiti, Dr Buble and Hana Kirana - oh the first meeting was already like meeting old friends.  Some blogships just last and last (it was last year, I think, years since blogging went out of style, I went to San Francisco and met up with Ely. She turned out to be just as how I imagined she would be – bubbly, warm, beautiful and a friend).

I was always blogging.  Some days, I would have two postings!

In 2010, I wrote an entry lamenting about Facebook.  I had only nine entries in that year, and nine again in 2011.  There were only three entries in the year after that.  There was one posting in 2013 and one more in 2014.  From a record of two postings per day, I was reduced to only one per year.  Since then, the blog just died a natural death.

I have always missed Sentraal Station and the crowd I met there.  They were all strangers really – but not quite.  This revival of the Station is wonderful wonderful wonderful.  But I still cant get used to the blogger’s FB names and faces.  I still cant remember Blab’s full name or Arena - maybe i don't need to. And Joe Perantau and Jokontan will always be the Joes to me – no matter their full name.  Ijun started me on James Blunt, and I will never forgive him for popping lizard’s eggs in his mouth like one would a candy or stepping on lizards just to hear them go pop. And how thrilling it was to get a comment from the likes of Pak Bustaman.

Some updates since my last entry:
  • Dot is now in Standard 6.  Sun is 10 years old, and they have younger sisters now – Tiga and Dora. 
  • I am now working in KL, not at No-Postcode Boondocks anymore.
  • I still don’t drive (envious of you, Nazrah!).
  • Yamtuan is still my teh-tarik buddy.
  • I have donned on the head scarf (remember talking about it with Anedra) and realized that the obstacle was really just me.
  • I still believe that I have books to be written (Tuang AG, you have no idea how much it means to me to be introduced around as ‘someone with books in her head just waiting to be written’. Thank you for making me believe.)
  • I have not written the trilogies in my head yet (envious of you, Dr Buble!). 

Cant wait to get hooked again!!

Saturday, April 25, 2015



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Beautiful Death

7th January 2013.

It was his 44th birthday. He was with his mother in an ambulance, on their way to UM Medical Centre.

The mother didn’t go without resistance. She wanted them to just stay in Seremban Hospital.  She was very tired. Since her third child was diagnosed with pneumonia, and then TB, that aged body of hers have been tasked with a lot of physical work.  Not that she was complaining.  She would take care of her son by herself, even if it would kill her. She would brave the long hours at the hospital, she could help wash him up, clean his vomit, even carry him if she had to – he was just skin and bones anyway, didn’t weigh much.   Taking care of him wasn’t anything new to her.  Wasn’t hers the first face he saw when he was born? Didn’t she wash him when he was just a wee little boy?  She could do it all over again.  Looking after her son was not a chore at all. She took it as a privilege, a rezeki, it was her pleasure.  But she needed to be in Seremban. Her husband had a weak heart. She wanted to be near her husband too.

‘It is your choice, makcik. Your son agreed to go to UMMC. If you want to come along, get in the ambulance. If you don’t want to, we will still take him there.’, said the white-coated young looking man to her when she voiced her reluctance.

'But I don’t want him to go there too. Why cant he just get the treatment here?', she pitched in her last try.

‘Do you want him to die?’

‘No. Of course not.’, she replied, bewildered at such preposterous suggestion.

‘He must be transferred, makcik.’, the doctor said to her, the tone is now kinder.

And that was how she ended up in the ambulance with her son.  There were a lot of scary looking machines in the ambulance. They all had tiny bulbs that wouldn’t stop blinking and beeping.  And the fact that there were no windows to look out to, made her feel suffocated.   Not that there was much to see outside, since night had curtained down the day.  The handphone – his son’s, was busy beeping away too.

‘Sobri, your friends are texting you.  They all said happy birthday. Do you want to read the messages?’, she prodded her son.  

She knew he was tired. But she had to wake him up. She would feel nervous if he slept too deeply, you know, she had to be sure.

‘No, mak.  I will read them later.’, Sobri whispered, she could barely hear him.  His throat must be parched dry.  The last drink and meal he had were, well, she couldn’t remember. It felt like so long ago.  Sobri could take sips of water, but he couldn’t swallow any food.  The IV drip was his only source of energy.

When they checked in at the UMMC, it was already very late.  She was tired but the cough just wouldn’t let them rest. And the nurses kept disturbing their sleep – taking Sobri’s temperatures, blood pressure and pulse, and every so often trying to draw blood samples.  They seemed to have a tough time at that.

She once read, that if your time was near, the blood would stop circulating.  Is that why they couldn’t get blood samples, she wondered.  But she pushed the thoughts away.  My son is going to survive this, my flesh and blood are strong, he would come out of this, help him ya Allah, help him, she prayed for the thousandth times.

'Must you? Cant you just stop poking at him?’ once she chided a nurse, as Sobri winced with pain.  Another episode of too-many-tries.  

‘We must, makcik. I am sorry,’ the nurse did look sorry. But sorry or not, she kept on jabbing at Sobri, to no avail. The blood just refused to flow out.

Friday, 10th January.

It was 6.30am. Makcik just did her Suboh prayers. As she gave salam, she saw that Sobri was looking at her.  He smiled at her and pointed to his wrist.

'Ha ah, it is 6.30 in the morning’, she smiled back.     A smile from Sobri was a rare thing nowadays. How she missed that smile.  As skinny as Sobri may be, as changed as his facials may be, that smile was the same.  

She went to him and put her hand on his forehead, trying to see if his temperature was raging. But it felt cool to her touch. Oh, good, he is getting better, Alhamdulillah.  

'You want to drink?’, she asked gently.  Searching for her smiling Sobri inside those deep sunken eyes.

'Yes, please, mak.’   As she was about to spoon him water, he turned his head away.

'I don’t want that water.  I want the water from that cup you just used.’ Sobri said.   She obliged but again Sobri resisted.

‘No, mak, don’t let me trouble you again. Let me hold the cup.’   Her heart skipped.  Was it happiness or hope? Was it fear? She wasn’t sure, but she let him.   And when Sobri settled in again, she gingerly put her hand on his forehead.  No fever, insya-Allah, he was getting better.

‘Mak, that feels so nice.’


‘The feel of your hand on my head. Don’t move it. I like it there.’ Sobri said.  His eyes were like a bottomless well.  Deep and dark. What went on in your head, son?  

'And you know what I really wanted now? A bathe from the well at Wan’s house. The water is always so cold, so refreshing.’, that smile came back, lightening up his tired face.

Nobody lived in that old house anymore. Childhood memories of the days spent romping around in Juasseh made him smile. And Makcik was reminded too of those days - when she was still young and Sobri was just a small package of enthusiasm and potential, a boy like any other, full of hope and promise, and mischief. They both went quiet. Each lost in their own version of the past.  And Sobri soon fell asleep again.

The hour went by, with her Sobri drifted in and out of sleep.  The cough persisted, shaking him like a rag doll.   She kept her hand on his forehead - caressing the hair that had gone coarse and matted from an illness that had raged for far too long, or massaging his creased temple.     Ya Allah, ease of his pain, ya Allah help him, the prayers had become a mantra, a zikir now to this mother.  Throughout, she kept her hand just where her boy wanted it to be.

'What time is it, Mak?’ he asked her at 7.30.  What is the time to you, she wondered, but answered him anyway.

At, 8.30, when Sobri just signaled his question by tapping his wrist, she told him the time.

He asked her again at 9.30.

At 10.30, Sobri woke up again.  His eyes held his mother’s gaze. And she knew.  It was time.     He then took a deep breath, closed his eyes. He did not breathe out.

She exhaled. She didnt even realise that she was holding her breath watching him leave.

She didn’t cry.  He had made her promise. He wanted her face to be the last face he saw.  He wanted no tears on that creased face.  He did not want tears to mar that face he found comfort from.  

That was how I found her.  Strong and steadfast – a well-weathered solid rock that somehow felt out-of-place in the cold unyielding morgue. The occasion was somber only she wasn’t. She was as warm as her son was.  

Alhamdulillah, she told me, God gave me him for forty-four years and two days.  I thank God for each day of those forty-four years.  He was a good son who had my redha, he left a good daughter who would be generous with her doas.   He would be fine in the other world, insya-Allah. Why wouldn’t he be, he was a beautiful son, even in his death.  

Insya-Allah, makcik.  

Oh how blessed you are my friend.  To die with your mother’s hand on your head, to die with her gaze fixed on you, to have her redha and her doas.  

Farewell, my friend.  May Allah place you among His favourites.  May all the good that you have done; all the sedekah you have generously given;  all the redha from your mother; all the love from your father, siblings, Hez and friends; all the ilmu you have shared with us all; all the good in your daughter, will help make your journey easy, insya-Allah.

I remain as ever,
your friend.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Close Encounter with Lady Geneva

Work brings me to many places - exotic Africa to spacious Canada to mythical Greece and few others in between. Each time I landed on a foreign land, I would enthrall myself with the mission to touch the soil, sand or sea. I must plant my feet in the earth of the country and then at least my toes must be dipped in the sea. They have had the pleasure of skin-dipping in the waters of Aegean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and South Pacific Ocean too. They absolutely love the foreign feel at each dip.

Work brought me to Geneva last week. There was no sea, only a lake. I was strolling by its shores yesterday having stumbled upon it after a pleasant walk in the Botanical Garden.  What a splendid specimen Lake Geneva was - its sheer size and sea-like behavior were fascinating. She presented herself to me adorned beautifully with swans, ducks and boats.  The waves came to me, or rather came at me, laughing and then pulling away, teasing me like a coy lover, daring me to do what I was already dying to do.  But I looked away - loyal to my love for the sea and Lake Geneva was just it, a lake. A distraction.

But Lake Geneva was persistent - the temptress that she was. Its face was taking on a crimson blush as the sun set putting my heart ablaze with desperate desire to caress her and make her yield to me as she must.

And just as fate had it, I came upon an opening that could lead me nearer to her. The sun was insisting to retire and light was fading fast.  I looked around and noted that the park was almost deserted.   There was just me and Lake Geneva, we were alone, together. Lake Geneva saw what I was seeing and could guess what I was thinking. She beckoned at me shamelessly. Come to me, now, she demanded, while no one is watching, I could be yours, claim me.

My resolve was fading fast. My heart boomed within its shell urging me to quickly do what I was helplessly drawn to do.

I entered the opening and how she writhed with pleasure to have won me, to have me fall into her snare.

Then I fell.

Yes. Not fell for her, you silly goon, no, she was just a lake remember? The slab i was walking on was mossy and slippery - I should have known better. I slipped and fell down, butt-first into the water. If you watch Tom and Jerry, the slapstick part where the cat stepped on a banana peel, went somersaulting sky-high and then fell with a thump butt-first? Yes? Now, replace Tom with me and change the sound effect from 'thump' to 'splosh'. A big splosh. No, on second thought, make it huge.

And so there I was, waist-down in the water hlooking every inch the silly girl that I was. Romance, under the sorry circumstances, was the last thing on my mind. It was cold, the day was fading fast and I had a dinner appointment in an hour that I must not miss and as dinners must have it, it was not to be attended soaked through the way I hopelessly was.

Desperate to come out from the lake, I tried to stand but it was slippery and the attempt only made me slid further in. This is not good, not good at all, I thought to myself - some coherent thinking at last. You see, earlier in the day, my boss lost his wallet and with it all the company's credit cards meant to pay the hotel bills for us all. With that gone, we were dependent on my cash and cards. If I get swallowed by wanton lady Lake Geneva, how would Intercontinental Geneve be paid? And how were we to go home? And I certainly wouldnt want my boss to have to carry me, stiff and  lifeless, in a black plastic bag, no thank you. Imagine the cost of extra baggage weight he would have to pay. Without credit card too.

There was no one around to help me and frankly I wouldnt want anybody to see me like that, it would be too embarassing.

I crawled out. Yep, that did it. I crawled out hauling my aching butt and hurt pride while Lake Geneva laughed and mocked me.

To cut the story short, I rushed back to the hotel, took off my jeans and changed into the only pants I had left, pyjama pants (courtesy of the Malaysian Airlines, bless them), put on a warm sweater in replacement of my damp tee, donned on the soaking sneakers again (the other option were black heels) and was only late thirty minutes for dinner. For a Malaysian, this is acceptable, no?

End of story. Nobody knew about this though my boss did ask why my sneakers gave out squelching sound when I walked to which I just grinned and evaded the subject by  discussing his lost wallet. Pajama pants went unnoticed.

Lake Geneva, wipe that smirk off your face. I survived you.