My friends and I were about to go out for a cendol session on a hot day. I was washing my feet and my sandals because they were covered with sands and dusts from a construction site nearby when one of them suddenly blurted,” You are perfect la bro”. I looked at him and tried to figure out what made him said that. I then acted as if I just shrugged off the statement and started the engine. The problem with me is, I don’t take statements, more like I can’t take statements just as that. My mind would continue churning, analyzing the whats, whys, hows, ifs, buts of these statements which were directed at me.
I’m not perfect.
I make do with what I have. His statement drove my mind to past memories which I treasure so much because I used to hate them but as I get older I saw the chain that these events were leading to, I was touched by its mysterious beauty.
Everybody should have a few vivid moments embedded in their memories of their life as a really small kid. I have a lot. One of the most memorable was when I asked my father the permission to live with my mother. I was 5 years old. It was Aidilfitri and I had just returned from visiting her in Gopeng (her hometown), I was sitting at the back of the car and looking at the envelope containing the duit raya she gave me. We were on the way to Taiping. I still remember when I asked the question, my father was silent. When we arrived at home, he asked me about what I said earlier. I was firm with my answer. I’m not sure how did a small kid come up with such a decision and such a resolve. My younger sister was living with my mother, probably that was it. The moment was so clear it was as if it happened yesterday. And so it happened.Amongst the things I dragged into the car was a small brownish lunch box with pictures of little animals. I was happy and oblivious to what my father was feeling. All I knew was I would be with my mother and sister.
So there we were on a bus to Bandar Tun Razak. I was eager to see our house. “Ma, tu sebut dia NO ESS-MOKING kan?” I pointed at the No Smoking sign. “Sebutan dia bersambung la – No Semoking”, my mother answered. Ohh…”Naik bas 123 kalau dari Pudu, nak berhenti tekan loceng”, she continued.
Life in Kuala Lumpur was way different than what I had experienced in Taiping. I’ve made plentiful of friends with whom I’d go catching spiders at the huge Chinese graveyeard near to the Ramly Burger factory, swimming at the swimming complex and sometimes in the small creeks flowing into the Permaisuri Lake! We played soccer or police and thief in the evening. Life was all about that- School in the morning, Religious School in the afternoon, and boys-will-be-boys fun in the evening. In school, I was having a blast, I loved the choir, I played tennis, played soccer, found myself a bunch of really close friends and thankfully for my mother’s strict guidance, doing quite good in class too.
We stayed there until I was 10 then my mother wanted a ‘change of wind’ as she called it and we moved to Cameron Highland. The first few weeks after leaving my friends in Kuala Lumpur, I would cry every night because I missed alot. I couldn’t see why she wanted to move to Cameron Highland other then she loved the place so damn much.
In Cameron Highland, my mother enrolled me in Sekolah Kebangsaan Tanah Rata, just a stone throw from where she would be teaching, Sekolah Menengah Tanah Rata. The secondary students there were driving their own cars as most of them were sons and daughters of the vegetable tycoons in Cameron Highland. In my school, there were loads of orang asli and I was amazed by the tenacity and the willingness of the teachers there. “Awak punya BI bagus, jadi saya nak awak baca satu perenggan dari buku ni depan kelas tiap hari”, my class teacher said to me. I just agreed. “These shoes are blue in colour…”I was reading when suddenly she interrupted,”Haa dengar tu, shorts ye, maknanya seluar pendek”. “Bukanla cikgu, kasut, shoes”, I corrected her. She laughed and the whole class laughed and I laughed.
One of my best friends there was a son of a tea leaves picker. He would get up at 4.30 in the morning, prepare the stove to boil water and wait for the water to boil before using it for bathing, every day. It struck a chord because I was living in a comfortable apartment in Brinchang with the hot water only a turn of the faucet away. At that time, my mother gave me RM1 per day as meal allowance, it was a lot. So I would usually buy something for the both of us. The food in the canteen was horrible, cold and tasteless but it was the only option we had. I missed the 50cent curry noodle in the canteen in SKBTR, Kuala Lumpur. My friend had no problem gobbling them up. I used to observe how he managed to finish those horrible food. He appreciated whatever came his way. Slowly I learned of his views and his reasoning.
To be continued