Tender is the Night – V

Grandmother, deep in her Kelantanese accent, used to say: “Setinggi mana pun Kak Long sekoloh, Kak Long kena dudok ce’rok dapor jugok.” What she meant was despite my education, I will eventually end up in the kitchen.

Of course, the little me back then, whose paramount interest was to cycle around the kampong, had no inkling what she was talking about. I brushed off her wisdom like any other child my age would.

Even when wifehood, and subsequently motherhood came knocking at my door, I was fortunate in that I wasn’t expected to do the entire gamut household chores: just a few of them. Help came in forms of mama, mama-in-law, and an Indonesian domestic help.

My friends told me I was lucky; some just smirked disgustingly at me.

I heeded not the glaring jealousy on their faces. I went back and forth to the office like any other working mom. I left my son in the care of our helper, Sue – under under Mama’s eagle-eyed supervision – and went about my merry way.

Often (sometimes more than twice a week), I found myself sipping latte at Pavilion’s terrace with friends, while watching life unravel before our eyes. I stole time to write whenever privacy permitted me to do so.

I would read myself to sleep in the dark; now I need reading glasses. I had hours of quality time to goof-off with Luqman, while Sue took to the task of cleaning, mopping, wiping and ironing. As far as I was concerned, it was an arrangement made in heaven.

Last week, Sue flew to Surabaya en route her home in Pornorogo: she wasn’t coming back.

My neat little world went asunder.

The house turned into a factory mess. Dirty clothes that needed to be washed piled up. After washing, they the needed to be hung out to dry, then folded before being sent back into their respective closets.

Without Sue scrubbing it, walking on the kitchen floor felt like walking on fly-paper. Dust coated other surfaces in the house. I had mountains (not piles, mind you) to iron. Of all the chores, I despised ironing the most.

Last night, as I was scrubbing the bathroom floor, I reminded myself to replenish the grocery supply for the family. Running a household is no walk in the park. 

But, what broke my heart the most was the clutter on my bookshelves. When Sue was around, she kept the shelves intact and free of dust. She arranged the books according to their heights. Whenever I tried to rearrange it according to genre, she would put the books right back to the way she wanted them – and that was that.

I used to sit for hours in the small library in pursuit of reading and writing. I have not sat in that space for a week. My soul is dying an untimely death.

I would often fall asleep there with a book spread opened and turned over. In the morning, Sue would bookmark the page and leave the book on the bedside table under my reading lamp: one of the sweetest things she had ever done for me.

I miss Sue.

As I await the arrival of the new “family member” who will be replacing Sue, I think of what my grandma said years ago: she was right after all. 

Postscript: Photo above of Luqman and Sue. 

2 Weddings & 0 Funeral

Ah, it is time to nurse my neurosis again, here at Write Away. As December inches away,  I am inclined to write a line or two in this favorite month of mine. Tonight, the sombre rain soaks the ground in front of me, the smell of heaven permeates the air from the bloom in my small patch of garden. Drops of rain refreshen the grass. 

I am sorry for blocking the previous posting’s comment section. The comments were getting too heated to my liking and I was away on a holiday. It would be despicable to moderate comments from the blackberry in the midst of our 3rd honeymoon. I also apologise for invoking sensitive issue in that last posting, it was never my intention to invoke the fire, please chuck it down to creative writing on my part for I can’t help myself. 

But tonight, let’s talk about weddings. 

I remember my friend Yanti, with her couldn’t careless expression, saying, “I don’t know, I am a born cynic!” Every time I thought of that face of hers, I burst out laughing. Just like Yanti, I am a born cynic.

 I don’t even like my own wedding let alone someone else’s. The thought of my face being caked up like a doll and being displayed in front of hundreds – at times thousands – of guests during the bersanding ceremony is intimidating to me.

I only like one aspect of my wedding: the two dresses sown by Rizalman Ibrahim for my akad and bersanding ceremony. Four wedding anniversaries and a baby down the road later; I could hardly squeeze myself in those dresses for I have succumbed to low metabolism and law of gravity.

But this December, the influx of weddings defy my cynicism. I found myself in tears during Leeya’s wedding at Kelana Jaya mosque. What makes the wedding extra special is the fact that, Leeya has found love again at places she least expected to find it.

Tajul Farhan was her schoolmate and we hang out a lot. How love found them is still beyond my comprehension. However, on Christmas day, Tajul and Leeya went to the mosque with their families and close friends to seal the deal. The serenity of the akad was too much for some of us to bear. I know they will make it, as Leeya will have nothing to fight with Tajul. What is there to fight with someone as cheeky as Jol?

(From left: Sue Tiptra, Kawthar, Yours truly, Tajul, Leeya, Rits, Majmin & Karina)

And at my cousin Ena’s wedding, I found myself in the heat of the wedding – my cynicism notwithstanding. This is a family affair ; there is no avoiding it. Off we went to the mosque again for Ena’s akad. After the khutbah nikah, I was deep in reflection of the past mistakes I had inadvertently done to Jefree. Ah, life is tricky at times, hey?

It’s hard to be cynical in the midst of happiness and prayers. When we sent Ena off to the groom’s house for bertandang, we were showered with beras kunyit, a sign of blessing from the groom’s family. Again, the sweetness of the tradition defied my cynicism.

So defied my cynicism was, Jefree and I actually sat on Ena’s pelamin to bersanding again! Here’s a peep at it:

So my friends, a thousand times good night and till we meet again in a new, and hopefully, better year of 2009.

Conversation with Luqman

Mommy, Mommy nak pegi mana?” My two-year-old boy asked. His eyes dilated.  His cherub cheeks smeared with traces of butter from his breakfast.

Mommy nak pergi office, Luqman. I am going to my office, okay?” Guilt consumed every fiber of my being every time I have to leave him behind.

Mommy, Mommy pretty sangat!” And he ran off to his grandmother, singing on top of his lung.

Ah, so sweet. I must have saved the world in my previous life to deserve this child.

I know, I know, I know…  it’s cheap to fish compliment from your own child. But it matters not if I am ugly to the rest of the world, so long as I am “pretty” to Luqman.

p/s: I apologise for serious lack of substance in this blog lately, I am trying to finish the write-up on royal charity dinner hosted by KL Foundation to Criminalise War- it has been almost a week, and I only have 2 paragraphs so far!

(Picture above is of Luqman and his cousin sister, Tia)

Kalam Aidil Fitri

Library
28 Ramadhan 1429
12:33 p.m.

Malam ini hujan. Kata Nenek, hujan di penghujung ramadhan besar berkatnya. Kemungkinan pintu syurga terbuka luas tatkala lailatul qadar diturunkan. Segala doa yang dipanjatkan di malam seperti ini akan termakbul.

Aku rindu Nenek, rindu bau bunga melur di sanggul rambutnya. Aku rindu melihat nenek mengacip pinang, mengapur daun sirih and menggulung tembakau selepas berbuka puasa. Terbayang kekalutan Nenek bersiap mengejar isyak dan teraweh di surau.

Teringat arwah Atok bertakbir raya pada setiap subuh aidil fitri. Sudah tujuh tahun aku tidak mendengar suara atok.

Jauh benar anak seluang ini melaut, kadang-kadang aku lupa kampung halaman. Alpa mengejar duniawi, tertinggal sesuatu yang fana bernama keluarga. Terkesima melihat dunia lalu tangkas melupakan asal usul.

Masa untuk pulang ke kampung halaman. Salam Aidil Fitri.

Note to self: never read books on Hari Raya, Mama hates it when you do that. Kata adek, “jangan nak anti-sosial, pegi beraya!

Anecdote on 14 Ramadhan 1429

I recovered one comment from Askimet Spam from my previous posting that I found rather suitable to be  answered right here on my latest posting.

One Familyguy says:

familyguy
dodotme@hotmail.com | 124.13.142.82

Come, darling, don’t be so dramatic. Jangan melatah tak pasai2. Calm down, itu separuh dari iman, ya. Go read what matbangkai has to say.
It’s just another day.

From Malaysiakini: MP Teresa Kok is ISA No.3!, 2008/09/14 at 3:55 PM

This is my reply to Familyguy:

Firstly, don’t be so confident to address me with a term so cordial the likes of “darling”. I believe that you have never read my writings and I dare conclude that I have never met you in my life. Secondly, I would venture to guess that, you will find yourself more comfortably settled in Tea & Scones rather than my “melatah” blog.

At this point, the only patience required of me is to deal with you. There you go, I have said it in the mildest manner I could possibly think of. I am sure you understand where you stand in so far as my blog is concerned.

On a lighter note, I was at Pasar Ramadhan, Section 6, Kota Damansara this evening notwithstanding the rain. I ordered 16 pieces of roti jala at the corner stall next to the ayam bakar . The cheeky boy  attending to the stall raised his eyebrows and said:

“Banyak nye akak! Tapi badan akak tak besar!”

“Family akak besar…so kena lah beli banyak.” I replied nonchalantly.

Ten minutes passed while the boy fried the roti jala on the hot pan. Splashes of rain soaked my back. I was getting jittery and restless in waiting.

“Lapan ringgit, Kak” The boy eventually asked from me. I handed him a tenner and thanked him. To which he replied:

“Terima kaseh Kakak mata besar!”

Huh? Is that good or bad?

Selamat berbuka kawan-kawan.

Prayers for Raden Galoh

I knew Dalilah – or darling as she is fondly known among good friends – through blogging, where the spirit of sisterhood is palpable in the air every time we meet. She survived breast cancer four years ago and she moves one with such a positive attitude I wonder where she gets it from. Her amiable husband, Mambang Hijau, adores her to bits. So do her two wonderful boys: Adam and Idris.

And today is her birthday. I planned to call her this morning to ask if she is coming to Mee Rebus Tuesday tomorrow so I could secretly buy a cake to surprise her. Instead, she has a surprise for me. Raden Galoh sent me a text message. The text reads, “Inna lillahi wainna ilaihi rojiun. The cancer spreads to the ribs, liver, left collarbone nodes and the nodes at the right jaw“. I learnt later that she just came back from seeing her oncologist and that is the diagnosis.

I was dumbfounded for a good half and hour before I could think again. Soon phone calls started flying off among the bloggers. I managed to talk to her and I was a wreck. I can’t be like Doctor Zulhisham who has been a her pillar of strength. Neither could I be as experienced as Kak Ena and Kak Ton – they lost 2 sisters to cancer – in facing the monster of all disease. They surely know what to say. So here I am, writing incoherently, as I don’t know what else to do.

Darling initially planned to bring her two boys to Cherating this weekend to celebrate her 14th wedding anniversary which falls on July 23rd. But now she has to cancel that as she is scheduled for a chemotherapy treatment a day after tomorrow. Apparently the Oncologist thinks that “the condition is not good“. I don’t have the strength to ask what she means by that.

What is left for me to do now is say a prayer for her. I hope we all can do that for Darling, Mambang Hijau and her two boys.

[Above: Pictures of Darling and us during happier times few months ago]

Of Chicken & Banana

In my course of practice, I encountered a lot of interesting conversations with unique characters created by God. Recently I am a solicitor on record for, let’s name him, Pak Hitam of Kampung Tanjung Sepat, Banting, Selangor. I am defending him in a land acquisition matter where his land has been acquired by the Government pursuant to Land Acquisition Act 1960.

The proviso in the Act accords the ruling government a right to acquire privately-owned piece of land for a price. Disputes often occur on the basis that the government usually acquires the land at nominal price instead of the current market value. The land owners usually appoint a lawyer to represent them in a tussle to get higher price for the land at High Court of Malaya.

Here is our phone conversation – in verbatim – to remind me why certain matter may be trivial to the Government but otherwise to the Rakyat.

Assalamulaikum Cik Elviza,” Pak Hitam greeted me as his call went through my line.

W’salam Pak… apa khabar? Lama saya tak dengar cerita Pak Hitam dan kawan-kawan di Tanjung Sepat,” I replied back

Alhamdullilah. Hari tuh ada Pakcik suruh anak hantar pisang setandan kat ofis cik, ada dapat ker,” Pak Hitam asked me cheerfully.

He is indeed a client from heaven as opposed to those high-profile clients who usually raise hell to yours truly at slightest opportunity.

Ada, terima kaseh banyak Pak Cik. Dah habis pun saya makan!” Yours truly loves banana to bits. Pak Hitam laughed outloud.

Ni, saya tengah baca surat yang anak hantar pada Pakcik nih… Jadi kerajaan dah bagi tawaran kenaikan lah untuk tanah saya tuh ye?” Pak Hitam further asked.

Saya Pak, terpulang lah pada Pak Hitam nak terima atau tidak. Kalau tak nak diterima, kita lawan lah kat Mahkamah.” I painstakingly explained the same issue to him. But since the delivery of the banana, Pak Hitam could ask me anything under the sky.

Cubalah Cik Elviza pikir, ada ker reban ayam saya tuh diaorang nak bayar RM150 aje? Modal saya buat reban tuh pun dah dekat seribu. Belum campur dedak, beli anak ayam, beli lampu, bekas air bagai…” Pak Hitam lamented, his voice was laced with despair.

Yours truly gulped and gasped for air. Sense of pity was palpable in the air. I wish I could do more for him.

Saya paham Pak… tapi itu tawaran rasmi, saya mesti kena bagitau Pak Hitam. Terpulang lah pada budi bicara Pakcik samada nak diterima atau ditolak,” I replied hopelessly.

Pak Hitam heaved an audible long sigh and said,

Dah lah tanah diambil murah, reban Pak Cik tu pun diaorang tak nak bayar. Dulu bila Pak Cik balek dari kebun, Pak Cik suka jaga ayam ayam tuh, sekarang nih dah tak boleh…

Tak pe lah Cik, nanti saya akan kemukakan pada Mahkamah semua ini Pak Cik,” said yours truly.

Buatlah yang terbaik nak, kalau dah tak boleh nak buat macamana, ” said Pak Hitam forlornly.

The question is now, would the Judge understand Pak Hitam’s predicament or his sadness over that mere flock of chicken he used to have? I have faith, I have faith still.