The Other Malay
|Main| The Journals ||
|“You did what?” |
“I slap her……..Only two times……one for Suraini another for all the other girls she have bullied...... not my fault.”
I could just laugh………“Suraini?”
“Yes Suraini…..you know her… that Malay girl….. Very pleasant and soft…. I came on duty one morning and I saw this girl crying… I asked the nurses from other station what happen……..and they told me… they were on night duty together... and she bullied her…that girl will never raise her voice at anyone. She will do her work quietly”
“Oh! And then……….”
“I went to the nursing officers...”
“No… to volunteer myself … as S/N Lateefa assistant for all the other duties schedules including the night duty...”
“You did? And what did they say?”
“They agreed…. And happy that I've volunteered because none of the nurses wants to be on night with her…”
“You’re up to something!”
“You’re right……I want to teach her a lesson… a taste of her own medicine... I give her a hard time”
‘I can imagine……….so what happen during the night duty?”
“I do my own work……. As usual she never come and helped at all…….. Spend most of the time at the nurses station talking over the phone…didn’t lift a finger to help me to change patient or change the IVs...at 12 midnight she went for her supper…. And when she came back…… she spend the rest of the night with her reports... never lift a finger at all……..even when the patient call when I’m having my supper she would call the other junior nurses from central station to attend”
“At 7am she insisted I must help her to file all her reports and update her census……”
“I said nope….its not my responsibilities……as soon as the morning duty staff came and I passed over my duty to them I will walked out of the ward…”
“How does she react?”
“She went bonkers……because she has not completed her report…”
“But she was with the report the whole night….. How come still not complete”
“That is the point…she grumble and shouted at me… said she will complained to the nursing officer”
“I am not afraid…. Complain lah! I told her... I will also complain……and my list will be very long and detail……I dare her to do it”
“You did? So did she complaint”
“Ah! S/N Latifeeh has found her match. I heard you’re being called to the HNO office……what did she said”
“The usual stuff….. You’re in uniform….how can you reacted such a way to another nurse……”
“I said, She is the one who started first…….I was sitting there minding my own business and doing my own things….. She has to open her mouth and say such nasty things about me… her mouth is bad…so I acted accordingly….”
“She said….. but not in uniform”
“How else can I do…its worst if I wait till I’m out of uniform…? As if I've plan it all…..but I never plan anything… its spontaneous reaction….. Because she is the one who provoke me……..”
“Right! Then…….. What did your fairy god mother said?”
“She wants to look at my shoe”
“To see what type of shoe I’m wearing……….apparently S/N Lateefa said I give her flying kick”
“Serious! Did you?”
“Give her a flying kick….you must be kidding. If she is a karate or Tae-Kwan-Do expert I might... it will be fun………but she is not….you see what a liar she is……….at that moment S/N latifaah was called in. and she being ask to show where I kick her…….There is no marks on her uniform… since she is wearing white uniform……you know what she told the HNO”
“I took out my shoe and then give her the flying kick”
I couldn’t stop laughing “it’s funny “.
“It is…at moment of anger………I could still think of taking out my shoe and kick her”
“So what your fairy god mother said”
“She said nothing….. Because she now knows S/N lateefa is telling a lie…. I told her I will tender my resignation….I'm not proud of what I did… but I do what I have to do…….I will take the responsibility……so I will resign. I'm lucky there's no witness in the staff room. So its her words against mine”
"She said she doesn’t want my letter of resignation... the reason why she called me… because she got something to tell me……she send the S/N out and spoke to me personally. She talk about being responsible…….then when you become a Staff Nurse... you will hold more responsibilities…you will have juniors to guide etc……why is she saying all that?”
“Its means…….you got selected for the Student Nursing lah…she is giving you a hint…”
“I wouldn’t want to challenge you on anything………only fools would have to do such a thing….but there is somebody who wants to meet you…..”
“Well I will leave it for you to find out…. This is the invitation card. You must bring t his card with you or they will not allow you in”
She took the card, immediately open it. She saw the inscription on the card….”I saw this symbol before somewhere and this place……. its damn expensive place”
“I know. You will like it… go... don’t worry about having to pay….you’re invited remember…. You will love the scenery…..aerial view of Singapore harbor…”
"you've been there before?"
"Yes! many times"
“They’ve open the gate…… better go in now. It’s a long walk to the gate” her husband gently touches her shoulder. All her children with exception to the other two still in the rehabilitation table took her hand and kiss it gently. “Don’t worry about us mother, we will be alright” Zawiyah tried to reassure her. She is not worried about these children she know they will be. It’s the other two who is always in her mind. Who will visit them once she is away? No matter what, they are still her sons. If anything happen to them, she will still feel the pain. Her other step children with exception to the second eldest son too were at the airport. They came to her, kiss her hand and her youngest step daughter embraces her. “Don’t be afraid mak cik… you will be safe… “As she smile gently at her. “She knows my fear” she thought to herself…the image she saw on TV still strong in her mind… image of the airplane crash and the burnt bodies. She tried to remove the horrible image from her mind but it kept on coming back.|
They walked pass the immigration…..she turn to look at them…. they wave at her…… he gently held her hand and lead her … she followed him……to the waiting airplane that will carry her to a place she have never been before…….
She showed the man standing at the door the invitation card |
”Come this way please….she is waiting for you”
“She?” The thoughts running through her mind. She saw the lone figure sitting and staring out of the window. There was an instant recognition………She turn and smile at her. “Hello. We meet again…I am happy you have decided to come”
“It’s her…. the 4th interviewer”
“Look at you……you look so pretty….. The red dress suits you perfectly” exclaimed Aunty Mary as soon she saw them walk in to the house. Everybody including Lionel his cousin is there too, waiting for the two of them|
“Sorry to keep you waiting aunty…..uncle… I left the ward slightly late today… last minute I have an emergency.”
“Oh! Don’t worry about it…. come...you both can sit here ....... we can now start…”
“You don’t have to worry about the food ……all halal…you can eat. No pork… even the utensils are new” Uncle Freddie reassures her.
“All the food here catered from the Chinese Muslim restaurant at Serangoon Road. We use their utensil too”
“Oh!” Suddenly she felt embarrass…..they do all these because of her?
“Ya lah... because of Poh Poh we all have to be pork less……he said if we cook pork he will not eat at home” Lionel teasing…
“Is that so? I turn to look at Poh Poh. He grinned at them.
“Doesn’t matter…… pork or no pork… main thing is we are all here… tonight. It’s an occasion to celebrate… May the coming year brings us joy and happiness and abundance good luck….” Uncle Freddie began as he stood up and hand over the first dish around… “Come let us first say our prayers of thank our own way… and start our dinner” This is her first Chinese reunion dinner. She knew how reunion dinners are very important for the Chinese; a time when all in the family come together for a feast to celebrate the coming of the Lunar New Year.
The Pork…. The swine…..this issue of Pork again……
In the hospital canteen few days ago…
“Mei Lan.. Why are you sitting there alone… come join us?” she asked when she saw Mei Lan sitting all by herself on the next table. Mei Lan is a staff nurse... a Malaysian from Penang. Join the hospital 3 months ago.
“Is it okay for you” Mei Lan responded
“Of course it’s okay……why not okay”
“I’m eating pork rice….”
“You’re eating pork rice…..so?” She asked again looking lost.
“Okay for me to sit on the same table with you… with my pork rice”
“It's you who is eating not me….. I don’t see the reason why you should sit far away from us……the pork not going to jump over into my plate right? ….come over here……its strange… we all work in the same ward… and we have to be separated just because you eat something different from us”.
“Ya Mei Lan... come over. Its okay with us… no issue” The Other Malay girls in the table join in…
“Well you know in Malaysia, the situation is different”
“Lets not talk about Malaysia… everything different in there… there’s a lot of things they do I can never understand…… come over now”
The Pork….. The Swine…….. “Pork is dirty animal… they eat shit and all the dirt. That is why we’re forbidden to eat them……” the voice of the ustazah echo in her ears……..”So ustazah... what about the wild boar…. They are classified as pig too…. And they are vegetarian… they only take greens and roots…. Are they considered Haram too?” The Ustazah look at her….. Not responding…. “Okay... maybe olden time the pigs are dirty animal…. Kept in unhygienic environment….. But what happen if the times change…. They keep the pig in a modern environment, clean and sterile… feed them good food….would they be considered as Haram too? I remember reading somewhere in a book said why we cannot eat pork because the Pork flesh taste almost the same as Human, that is why its haram….is it true?” The Ustazah resign into silence…… thinking to herself “How am I going to reason with this child” she asks too much question... some of which she is not able to provide the answer” In all her religious education she is not being train to deal with children who ask such question. You are taught, and you just follow….you do not question. “Is it true Ustazah... in extreme condition if we are really in shortage of food and there is no other food for us to eat….its okay to eat pork?” The Ustazah stared at the young inquisitive girl… speechless.
During her kampong days, how she often would be seen standing outside the pig farm to look at the pigs… She would stand far but not that far, enough for her to observe them. The way they sleep and eat. They smell stinky… they are dirty… and yet she would still be watching them….Porky Pig is one of her favorite cartoon character. Very difficult not to like Porky Pig. You poor animal. The Ustazah did say that we should be kind to all animals. “Allah created all animals with a purpose” she further remarked. "Pigs created to be hated and ostracize?" she asked herself these question many times."We should show the same kindness as we showed to other animal" the voice of the Ustazah could be heard. "other animal like cats? We would touch, caress and kiss a cat, why not a pig? Cats too carry disease not only in their body but their furs and all. Why didn’t they get ostracized?" she questioned the teacher again. "I read somewhere pigs have high animal intelligence just like the whale and dolphins" what do you think of this ustazah, her inquisitive voice could be heard, while the other children would stared at her in disbelieve. "Why you have this obsession with pig huh?" one would ask her. "You read too much, child..." her ustazah reminded her
Why would God create such animal only to be hated and marginalized? Like humans too perhaps some are born to be persecuted and hated….. God create all these people… as avenues of others to vent their hatred?
“S/N Mary you still have a lot of dressings to do? Its almost break time” She asked the Chinese staff nurse who just came out from the patient room with her dressing trolley.
“Ya lah….. I don’t think so I can finish”
“I will be going with the girls… let me buy your lunch then……what do you want?”
“No! No! Its okay, don’t have too”
“Come on…..who else will be going? Other staffs too have requested me to buy for them…. So what you want?”
“Mee Pork… you sure it’s okay”
“Mee Pork for you…. The same shop where you normally buy right?”
“Yes….” The staff nurse look at her strangly.
Somewhere in her mind, the memories resurface again……..
“She is a traitor” one of the boys from Kampung Dalam shouted. “I saw her walking with a Chinese boy…
“We went to the library... what’s wrong with that” she shouted back at them
“He is still a Chinese……. He will ask and you will tell”
“No I did not…. He never asks… He is not like other Chinese boys. He is different”
“How different can he be?”
“He doesn’t take pork”
“All Chinese take pork…. How can he be a Chinese and not take pork”
“It is true. If you don’t believe me you ask him yourself or his cousin, he will tell you. He is the only one in the family who don’t take pork”
She turned and looked at him. He was talking to Lionel. “All this time……..why didn’t I see it…” thinking to herself
“You seem to be so quiet” Aunty Mary asked her “how is the food. I hope you like Chinese Food”
“I am alright Aunty…. The food really delicious…..”
“You’re okay” as he lean closer to her whisper gently on her left ear…
“I am…just that I’m overwhelmed that is all” She could feel his hand reaching out for her's and squeeze it gently….…. under the table. Their eyes met…
“There you are” she exclaimed as she took her seat “what you’re having?” |
“Fish and chips….. Banana split later on…… how about you”
“Only Ice cream for me……”
“So they’re off……”
“Good for her…. She needs to get away….it will be a new experience for her…..”
“It will be…..you could see the fear in her…… first time getting on the plane and to a country she only sees in pictures and movie. And that father of mind…… knows she is afraid, last night he showed her the news about the plane crash… you could see how horrified she is”
“She’ll come back a different person….”
“She will……she is a wonderful person"
“She looks like it….experience is the better educator for some people….books and going to school doest not guarantee a person have learnt”
“How is your second brother now….. Still ostracize her”
“He is one person I can never understand….I doesn’t know…. I don’t think so being religious have make him a better person. One evening while walking back home from work…..I met up with my father’s cousin… the one who match make my step mother and my father….they told me things I never thought my brother would do…they make have exaggerate but still… I am not surprise it happen”
“You know right after my mother passed away…..it’s was a shock for all of us….strange right about death. You feel sad when you see death in other people’s family……and you thought, oh! Well it happen all the time….. You react indifferently…you never thought it might strike your family too…. And when it really happen we go into shock….into stage of denial…..it takes me a long time to overcome it”
“Well you know…if your mother died after a prolong illness…..the expectation is different…..but she died of shock right…… you told me… pulmonary edema”
“yes…..she collapse when she was at the hawker center…having her tea…..and in the midst of buying dinner for us…we were not prepared…..I am not prepared….. surprisingly as a nurse, I thought I could be able to handle it better than the rest…..but I took it more personal……I pretend I am alright….but I went into break down whenever I talk about her…… and I still am” I could see she almost in tears…..trying to control herself….
“Police suspect foul play right……to rule out poison… possibility she may be poison”
“I don’t know……but who would do that……she’s put under police case because she’ brought in dead. She collapsed on her way to the hospital. All brought in dead cases automatically becomes police case. All police cases are coroner’s case that is what I know”
“But they did not do the post mortem?”
“Nope… I made an appeal via the police inspector who was sympathetic to us…… I brought in all her x-rays, medication and the doctor’s appointment cards. She is a known heart case. She’s been diagnose with left bundle branch block, scheduled for angioplasty. … All I want is for her to go peacefully”
“But do you know your mother been in contact with your brother….. The missing brother”
“Oh! You think somebody poison her?”
“Don’t know…..you managed to convince the coroner not to do the post mortem right…… so you never know. They want your brother….so why want to poison her. They should have followed her just like we did. They thought you are the one who will try to contact your brother because of the company ….they are wrong. You see when people are angry… and there are a lot of people angry with your brother. They do anything to take revenge”
“At that particular moment all that never crosses my mind….. ….. She has long history of heart disease and on medication…….anything can trigger pulmonary edema… I just want her to be at peace.”
“So what’s the outcome of the court case…… the one that you’re being called in as persecuting witness….remember the case of the tapping of your home phone… you follow up on the case?”
“no…I didn’t…. right after the court I went back and never thought about it…..I just want to get over with it…..The investigating officer called me, wanting to pay me for attending court…….. I told him look I care not for the money, I did not volunteer myself to be a witness because of the money. When I think about it, it makes me angry”
“Angry? With whom?”
“With the investigating officer… you know he called me at home and I came to his office…the first thing he told me… if you do not be our witness, you can be charge…”
“Don’t know... for not cooperating with them…… I am not sure I know anything…but he seems to think I do…It was my mother who made the complain to Telecom about our faulty lines…I just happen to be at home at that particular moment when the Telecom guy came to our house to say that they have mend our lines. That is all. The guy never mention about our line being tampered etc. He just said, the line should be okay now... and I check, they are okay... that is all. I can’t even remember how the guy look like... but the investigating officer said I still have to come and be witness…. So I be witness. The whole court proceeding is a mockery to me honestly. I don’t know why I am there in the first place. The telecom guy said I am not the one and I said I am not sure he is the one who came.”
“That guy who is being charge in court have been paid by somebody to tap your phone line…..don’t you want to know who”
“No I don’t want to know…..my brother is still missing……the company is closed... my mother is dead….. Now my father has remarried….life must go on... I want to bury all of them behind….and move on”
“something I want to bring to your attention…….you know your mother spend a lot of time at Johor house……all by herself…..ever thought what she did there alone?”
“We know….. She has made contact to your brother…….and left in the house in the middle of the night not once but several time…. to meet up with him…do you know that…”
“No… but I am told he is in Indonesia and not at Thai Border as the rumor pass ... How she met him?”
“Through Bantam…….there’s a boat from Johor to Bantam”
“Oh!” She remember now.. at the back of her mind ... Dad accompanied them to the door. Mom sitting near the living room on the sofa lost in her own world. Mother has not been herself for the past few weeks. She has been observing her all the time as those guys talk. “Does mother knows anything about this?” she thought to herself “Did she know where he is now?”
“You know I am really tired… I want to move on and put all these behind me …….I went back to work as usual…. Then my worries about my father…. He is so attached to my mother……… and he depended on her…suddenly he becomes a broken man…… not the same person I knew……every time I went to work, I was worried about him. My younger brother busy with his work. My father left alone at home all the time…..even at work, I would call him regularly to find out what he is doing etc……weather he have taken his lunch or dinner.. I can see he feels lonely”
“Almost a year after my mother’s death…….. I came back from work one day. He look so happy……told me he wanted to talk to me about something……suddenly this lady’s name come into the picture…..arranged by his cousins….. They too pity him…. and decided to look for a companion for him……”
“His concern that I will not approve …….but I did not at all. In fact I was happy for him….. He looks so happy…..suddenly there’s life in him again…..how can I as a daughter not to be happy? At least now I can be reassured that there’s somebody at home to keep my father company…. This is what’s its all about… why can’t my second brother see it that way? I do not understand why he is so angry about.
“I was in my room …when I heard my second brother came in….he was so angry when he heard about it….my father told him about his intention to remarry…I am still trying to understand his anger…why can’t my father remarry…….you know the words he hurl at my father that night…. I couldn’t forgive him for the words he uses especially coming from so called religious person….. “You’re already old and always fall sick... why still have this thought of remarry……you will be a burden for her”
“Chey! He said that?”
“Yes…..I heard the conversation……all of it. I wanted to go out... I could have started a fight that night with him…..but I maintain my silence….what ever respect I have for my second brother…. died that night”
“Did they come for the solemnization ceremony?”
“Nope….never even call... and they maintain their distance from him and my step mother ever since. Instead he went to my father's cousin house and quarrel with them. Blame them.. Accusing them of trying to make us forget about our mother. Told them, he could easily find a wife for my father”
“And my step mother…. Poor her got caught in between. She knows nothing…..then they accuse her of trying to take over my mother’s property from us…. For her son, could you believe it?”
“Man……this is so sad... poor lady….she thought when she marry your father, life will be better for her…..but she got blame for something she knew nothing of”
“that is the point… she is just a simple minded lady….. life have been hard for her.. widowed with several children to take care.....how her heart must have been broken when two of her sons end up as drug addict... now trying very hard to be a mother to us….but you see we don’t need mothering…..so the first couple of months its rather difficult for her…..trying to adjust to us and we try to understand her… just imagine she have been widowed for a long time…….suddenly she have a husband and another set of family totally different from hers…… she wanted so much to be a good wife and mother to all of us.”
“Yeah... what there is for her….she does what she knows best.”
“My second brother still has not forgiven me….”
“Forgiven you for?”
“Agreeing to my father remarrying”
“Ah! Why is that so………”
“When he found out of my father intention….. He told my father’s relation… the same people who arrange the marriage….. that I will oppose to it….being the youngest daughter and very close to my father, he is so sure that I will say no……..but when he found out I supported it……he went bonkers…..said I kurang ajar”
“He is such a complicated man…..”
“Maybe he feels you have betrayed your mother…….you know... this attachment with the mother’s memory etc”
“ I am attach to my mother too……but she is dead…..no matter what you do, you cannot bring her back alive again……what is the point when she is alive you care less about her but once she is dead you spend thousands building marble made grave for her as memory….doesn’t make sense to me. I feel my mother is still alive and she is within me….no grave or any material things can replace her…..one day I too will take that journey……to met her … to try to understand all the things that has happen….. There are still many unanswered questions…and I intend to seek the answers….”
“Aha! The Journey back to Mother……”
He came to us when he was only 17… I can still remember the young boy… wanting to convert… but we advise him to hold on first as he is still under age. Still under legal care of his grandmother… we knew his grandmother would never allow him… he still needs her permission….. So we ask him to wait... till he reaches 21…. He then disappear….suddenly one day… this same boy reappear again…….this time he said... he is already 21… and his grandmother have passed away… said his uncle and aunty have given him their blessings….I went to meet his aunty and uncle. Since then he have been coming to us for guidance. We’re his other family. |
They were asking her about her training… she answered them…..but her mind were thinking of something else….
It never crosses her mind, all these time while they’ve been going out together. They talk almost about anything and everything with exception to religion. She is the one who dosen't want to talk about it. He tried, but she stopped him. It depresses her. She knows this will definitely come up…….if he is really serious would he convert but what if he will not. Her father will definitely oppose if he refuse to convert. The thought of disobeying her father and loosing Poh Poh is too much for her. So she goes on pretending, hoping it did not happen. It is not fair. When she finally met him after all these years, she must now let him go again……. Just because of religion…
The image of that Chinese boy sitting at the back of the surau came back to her……and the voice again ... his father died when he was still very young…one of the victim of the riot. A case of mistaken identity... his father look more Malay than Chinese. He is the only child they have. His mother has to go to work. Their Malay neighbor took care of him. That is how he got the influence. They brought him just like their own children with all the religious education. He followed them for their religious classes. His mother is a heavy smoker. When she died of lung cancer, the Malay family wanted to adopt him legally, but the welfare department rejected their request as he still has a family, his maternal grandmother. They send him back to his grandmother who is staying with his mother only sister…. In Kampong Ladang.
She remained silence listening to the elderly man…….
All these years… when he’s with us… he talk so much about his time in the kampong and one particular girl… he never knew what happen to her……then suddenly one day he came back looking so happy said he have found her……
Almost everyday he talked about you. I can see that you both have become so close. For the good of our family I would suggest that it’s better for both of you to settle down. Nice age for you and for him too. We are happy he has found you if you permit me, I will go to meet your parent… his aunty and uncle leave it to us to settle this as they are Christians… we do it simple… the most important … the solemnization… once its done people will not talk… I know your father….he is a respected man in the kampong...
All these years... she is too busy looking up in the sky…….. When she should be looking at this person in front of her... she never look…... the verse from the Butterfly lovers came into her mind…“I am hearing but I do not hear…….I am seeing but I do not see”
“I let you and father to decide what is best for us. I will follow…...I need to know just one….. What’s his Muslim name?”
“And how is your father and mother?” Uncle Freddie asks her...
“They are fine uncle… aunty”
“Good……we will visit them again sometime…send them our regards. Don’t forget to bring the oranges back for them”
“When will you be going to science center again” he asked her as they were walking back towards her flat. |
“I’m not sure I want to go there again. What there is to look up there?”
“What do you mean by that…? Why the sudden change... something happen?”
“All these time….. .. I became so passionate about wonder of the universe up there; thinking to myself there is where the answer lies …..not realizing….”
“not realizing the real answer is right in front of me and I never see it…because I am too busy looking up there……”
“Oh! Let us sit here for a while… I have something for you… a small gift as a start of the new year” He took out a parcel, wrapped up in red floral wrapping paper. “go on …open it”
“A red shawl…… …” Her memory triggered “Oh! No…… my shawl” when she realize her shawl is missing “mom going to get mad at me this time... what am I going to tell her” she could hear her mother about to say “this is your sixth shawl gone missing.. How your shawl can goes missing. You are supposed to put it on your head… from home to the surau and back. Never to take it off…”
No… not good… cannot say “the Chinese boys chasing after me” mom going to ask “and why is the Chinese boys chasing after you? What did you do this time?” must think of another reason!
“Is this yours?” suddenly a voice from the back. She turned around….. It’s him! The boy … she saw sitting outside of the Surau. He showed the shawl to her “yes…mine... thank you” She took it from him. She saw the mole on his cheek and the two dimple as he smile. He has such nice teeth too.
“It’s a pretty shawl…. You shouldn’t poh poh…….. must be very expensive”
“You mean much more……..to me.”
“Can I put it on now?”
“If you want to”
She held the shawl in her hand… it feel soft as she place it on her cheek and it smell wonderful too… spread it out …about to place it on her head…….. As he looks on…. She stop…..hand over the shawl over to him "why don’t you put it on for me” … and he did. “You look beautiful with the shawl on. Thank you for coming…. It meant a lot to me. You’re the first person I ever invited for our reunion dinner”
“No I should be the one to thank you for inviting me... I am honored to be included in such auspicious occasion… Sulaiman Keng Hock Poh”
He looks surprised ”you knew!”