it all began on one beautiful morning
when i went to town with abah and emak,
how excited i was to follow this outing,
we went to pekan, oh what a luck.
we were only orang kampung, you see,
and going out to town would be bliss,
abah said, "this is for your khatam ngaji",
he sealed his words with a long deep kiss.
i know he loved me most of all his children,
cause abah never did the same to others,
or maybe because i'm his last of seven,
or cause i'm the only girl among the brothers.
emak always tells me what abah used to do
to get a daughter long before i was born,
he followed petua and borrowed senduk sudu
from houses with many daughters, not sons.
how i laugh every time i hear this,
knowing abah did all sorts of sayings
just to have me, a little girl of his,
emak said, "you are his favourite darling".
we went by a trishaw after breakfast,
emak made banana cucur that morning,
but chores were given to my brothers first,
so when we go, they'd be busy with things.
i slept and woke from time to time,
felt so bored of the very long journey,
abah's voice sounded like wind chime,
emak stroke my hair listening attentively.
the sun on our forehead welcomed us
as we arrived at the heart of the pekan,
i was very excited, i can't believe there i was,
first time in twelve years, oh such fun!
i remember when the mat saleh were here,
people were divided by race and traits,
kampung was the place for malay culture
while chinese in towns and indians in estate.
i couldn't understand much until now,
why the separations had ever been made up,
why can't i still look for berudu with ah chow,
and trap wak-wak together behind the shrub?
i do remember crying when chow waved at me,
abah hugged chow's father, emak shed her tears too,
they are moving to the town to reunite with family
with no promises to return to kampung hulu.
abah said the mat saleh had planned for us well
and that i am too young to understand,
but i think i would, if one would tell,
so i could accept the fact of losing a friend.
the town was not like my kampung,
people were frowning at all times here,
some were standing, some just cangkung,
abah looked at me, "don't go near".
so we went walking towards the shops,
i wished to buy a scarf with big flowers,
everywhere i could see only backdrops
and walls of words pasted with posters.
'melayu sudah jatoh', 'ini cina punya tempat',
i stared at abah with puzzles and a bit of fear,
abah kept quiet and now emak played her part,
"adik, this is kerja lelaki, don't interfere".
we stopped at this one kedai kopi and sat down,
the lunch was silent until abah addressed me,
"'i'm going to the dewan there near that lawn,
you go with emak, buy a scarf for khatam ngaji".
then he went after paying for our nasi and his rokok
to the hall with long cloth spelling a gathering,
the building was filled with men with tilted songkok,
leaving me and emak for times for shopping.
most kedai were chinese and were everywhere,
i did try to smile but all i could was just grin,
why aren't they nice like chow and treat us fair,
they glared at us like we've committed sin!
emak never let my hand go for a long time,
she brought me to this small kedai kain,
and showed me scarves of green like lime,
to bright red ones, even those with sequins.
but none had captured my eyes or mind,
i was curious of what was happening,
how could ever people live here in fine,
with all puckered brow and their gawping?
i saw a school across the road and asked myself,
"could chow be studying in that yellow school?"
he was one of the finest when he went and left,
he helped my kira-kira work by che-gu abdul.
suddenly i missed chow and all our childhood,
emak was busy selecting with the shopkeeper,
so i slipped off my my hands as polite as i could,
and stand gazing memories i wish to remember.
like there were times when we played upih pinang,
when he pulled the pinang leaf strong, i fell,
or when we climbed trees to scream our lungs,
and times i got bantai, only to him i would tell.
"chow is in this pekan", i recall abah said,
"but it would be impossible to reach his family,
and by the time i'm done, it would be late,
plus i forgot to bring their address with me.
i paid emak few glimpses from time to another,
she gave me those look which asked "which one?"
the only thing right now i think i would prefer
is nothing but to tour all over this pekan.
after a while emak came with scarves she bought,
"we'll find yours in the next shop if you want"
instead i told her i want to walk along the lot,
so she clicked her tongue and expressed her grunt.
i looked down and scratched the soil with my selipar,
hope emak would feel bad and then allow me,
but she said to me, "you want abah's penampar?"
so i smiled and shook my head, i said "sorry".
two hours passed, i started to get exhauseted,
i hope emak is done buying stuff and groceries,
after all those shops, she gave no signs of getting tired,
but she permitted me to go to the stall under the trees.
"air soya satu", i asked the chinese vendor,
and there it was, the soy drink and him,
the teen of my age was still holding the order,
with me blinking my eyes to confirm the dream.
chow didn't recognize me in the first sight,
but i did, thanks to his mole under his left eyes,
'twas my best aim everytime i picked on a fight
cause he hated it, so i'd win over his cry.
but that day his mole made him attractive,
he looked much different after all these years,
i called emak out, but she was far to notice,
hence i let her be while i stayed across here.
i asked so many questions with sparks on my face,
yet he kept so low, i couldn't reach to my friend,
he chose to shut his mouth or spoke of no grace,
i was so frustrated, i passed the drink back to his hand.
when i turned my back to walk away from chow,
he shouted my name but i cared not to answer,
he came in front and said "we cant be friends now"
tears stung my eyes and heart all together.
i gave chow a sharp look with full of disgust,
"my father said malays are bad", said he as a start,
"i know your abah too said the same about us,
here, right now, everything had became so hard"
i hated him even more now that he accused abah,
chow was no longer my dear friend protecting me,
then i gawked at his face, oh i wish i could belasah,
i shouted, "you changed a lot, lee chow yee!!!"
i ran as fast as i could to emak with teary eyes,
i pulled her hands from whatever she was doing,
emak understood as she saw chow and my cries,
she followed my steps, wherever they were going.
suddenly emak asked me to stop and just settle
at a wooden bench a bit far from the dewan,
she sat down and took my hands like a throttle
while i kept chanting chow acted like setan.
"why?" i asked helplessly, questioning my mother,
"it's hal orang tua, so let us not meddle"
the answer made me frustrated and angrier,
"then why did chow made me feel like puddle?"
silence lingered for quite a while, yet it felt like heaven,
we let our hearts spoke to our minds to console,
as harsh wind kissed my face, i was saddened,
i lost a beautiful childhood friend with a mole.
"it's like abah and you", emak said abruptly,
"do you know how envious your brothers are?"
i squinted my eyes, listening to her religiously,
"cause in abah's eyes, you are his shining star"
i kept quiet and waited for more from her,
but emak kept caressing my face nonetheless,
"children would always compete one another,
fighting for attention to be the very best"
"when each other is special with his own qualities,
why bother fighting on who's winning your father"
i saw emak was very calm when she said this,
yet i dared not say anything to interrupt her.
"chinese and malays are not in good terms now"
i twisted my head to the voice from my back,
"we should not be feisty now should we ever bow,
but this this is our land, we have to protect.
we went back after abah bought me a scarf to be worn
on kenduri khatam, and i wish for peace on that day,
luckily the adat would be held on the day i was born,
on a summer in 1969, a kenduri doa on thirteenth may.
an assignment i did during my graduate studies to depict may 13th, 1969. i was 0.5 shy from perfect score. i loved the class.