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!!