Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stories From My Grandfather

Human beings tend to overlook things that are essential to them, minute details that colour their lives never seemed to register in their minds, so adept at ambition and greed. I have lived for 20 years on this earth and it is only recently that I sat down and talked, really talked with my grandfather. Don’t get me wrong, I am not as dysfunctional as the previous sentence suggests. My grandfather and I have talked before but we never really connected emotionally, spiritually in our conversations prior to this.

Up to that point, I always viewed my “Tok” with quiet love, almost indifference (as bad as this will make me look). I respected him, but I manifested that love and respect in a rather limited way, the way I was brought up with. I never say out loud that I love him and I am sure that if I did it would invite weird stares from other family members. And this I believe is the usual scenario in a household that still practices the traditional way of communicating with their family members especially. This is probably innate in our culture, hence our lives.

Phew!!! That was some nice bullshit.

On to the story at hand! I was back in my kampung in Ipoh, Perak for the Eid-ul-Fitri celebrations. The first night, was spent by having a two-way discussion between my grandfather and I, although he did most of the talking because I was constantly bombarding him with questions about his stories and past experiences.

Anyway, that night my Tok sat me down on the sofa and we started talking. Initially it was about him advising me to cling vociferously to Islam, now and always especially so when I am about to confront the Evil culture that is the Western culture (ok, over dramatisation over there...) head on. I nodded curtly; listening to the clich├ęd statement was starting to irritate me. But then the conversation moved to a more meaningful and interesting plane. He started telling me stories of him as a child and teenager.

1. And so that night, I learned that my Atok was born in 1938. I never knew how old he was before that.

2. In 1953, my grandfather commenced his studies at Sultan Idris Teaching College. He finished studying at the venerable institution in December 1957. He told me he was over the moon when he got the offer. For him, going to Tanjung Malim inspired happiness similar to studying in a foreign country.

3. His teaching experience as a teacher after SITC began when he was posted to a school that had bamboo walls, palm leaves as a roof and dirt as their floor. He laughed when he told me that the students, in those days had to ensure that the floor was constantly wet. If they fail to do that, dust from the dirt would start enveloping them during classes, by a mere minor movement of their feet.

4. Respect for teachers in those days was insurmountable. However, there was the oddball parent occasionally. An angered father with a parang once chased down his colleague just because my Atok’s friend made a minor disciplinary action against his son. He supposedly pinched the boy. I suppose he was the prelude to future parents.

5. He married my grand mother in 1961 because their parents arranged it for them. When I asked him whether he knew my grandmother prior to the marriage, he smiled and said no. He quite simply said that in those days dating and pre-marital lovey-dovey relationships between boys and girls simply never happened because no one dared to defy tradition.

6. In 1962, God blessed him with his first child, my dad.

I may be speaking for myself but correct me if I’m wrong, human beings tend to look at others as a linear, single faceted person. We like to put labels on others to simplify our view of the world around us.

ALL Jews are evil.

Those who religiously support the opposition, say that ALL Barisan Nasional members are stupid and corrupted.

This is my grandfather. Nothing more. I never viewed him as a PERSON.

That night the perception that I had towards my grandfather changed. I saw him, for the first time as a complex human being, full of funny stories, loves, hates and experiences and skills and knowledge of his own and not just as my grandfather.

I saw him as a very respected teacher, a devout muslim, a hardworking teenager, a man with child-like innocence whose eyes shine when he speaks of a time and place long forgotten.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all! May the barokah of syawal and the holiday cheer open your eyes to things that are truly essential ; the ones that you love.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


(to Dai, i shall answer your tag in a couple of days' time ok? =)

I was reading an entry on a blog (I shall not disclose whose though) when the entry mentioned of midnight snacks of chocolate chip cookies. My sugar-deprived bloodstream curdled with hunger and I immediately remembered a box of “kuih batik” which I suspect my uncle brought back from kampung in the refrigerator downstairs. It was 3 in the morning, 2hours before sahur, and I was munching 2 slices of heaven seconds afterwards.

I forgot how this person’s face could really make my mind go awry. Smiles abundant even after a mundane and dull day.

Her infectious and booming laugh? It truly is a personal impossibility to forget that laugh. It never fails to carve a smile on my face.

Rudely awaken from a deep slumber by the annoying electronic sounds which my old hand phone emanates, only to be pleasantly surprised that it was an old friend calling to arrange an outing. It has been months since I last met or even corresponded in any way with him. It is very nice to know that your friends still remember you even though you yourself have not been a particularly good friend.

I love bugging my youngest sister. Guilty of being the cutest thing in the house, I incessantly pinch her in the cheeks or play with her long, straight hair, much to her futile protests and screams, of course.

Late night laughs courtesy of The Nanny.

The cancelled cartoon show “Arthur”. I used to wake up relatively early on Sunday mornings (9 in the morning) just so I can laugh out loud at the silly jokes made by Arthur, his family and friends. There is something enchantingly sweet, almost a nostalgic feeling, that sweeps in whenever I watch cartoon shows. I love to look at the colours of the characters and the make-believe world that the animators had made. It reminds me of times and innocence past.