Thursday, 30 December 2004

Who's that again??

A week into blogging and the list of members I've become acquainted with reflects some kind of family network here in bloggers' world. So far I've got maknenek and atok, with pok ku and mokciknab as well as awang goneng. Pls read on:

AS I watch my children grow, I often wonder how much they know their relatives. Sure, there are the trips home where they meet and get together with the family but before long, the holidays are over.

Usually there are too many people to get to know in such a short time. While the first and second cousins get on like a house on fire at such gatherings, the third cousins and those down the line cannot help but feel like strangers.

My children cannot understand how we can sit, chat and laugh throughout the day and night and still can't get enough of each other. They do not understand why we need to visit so many relatives. Why, oh why, then we ask ourselves: "Can't they get to know each other the way we did?"

"Look, this is the son of Tok Teh's daughter. Tok Teh is Tok's brother and he is my uncle. That makes his grandson your cousin. And that is my cousin's ...", I would say, only to be greeted with blank looks.

Every time a cousin, an uncle or aunt visits us in London, there's the usual explanation of the family tree. But the minute we wave them goodbye at Heathrow, that's the end of it for the children, except for the reminder in the form of obligatory pictures taken together at Hyde Park or Madame Tussaud's.

Beyond their grandparents, uncles, aunts and first cousins, they do not understand how family ties can mean anything to them.

Perhaps they do not have a wonderful person in their lives that we had in arwah Tok Su Pa. Now, Tok Su was my late grandmother's cousin. In his younger days, Tok Su would tirelessly drive us to remote villages past rubber estates or vast green padi fields just to introduce us to uncles and grand aunties and cousins several times removed.

That was his mission in life. "We must know our flesh and blood, our own relatives," he would say before proceeding to tell us how we are related. Nothing would stop Tok Su from visiting someone he believes was even remotely related to us.

When I last saw him, he was 86 and although he could hardly see our faces, he recognised our voices and lamented how the younger generation do not see the importance of knowing their own kin. And visiting is very important. "Alas, these days, people don't visit anymore," he said sadly. Tok Su remained my top priority during my trips home, until I heard of his passing three years ago.

There's a lot to be learnt from Tok Su. Sure, everyone is busy with their work and commitments and it is certainly very easy to forget and ignore family ties.

Sometimes you do not even know that the person you're dealing with in the boardroom is your cousin from your father's side or the one you meet at the supermarket every weekend is your granduncle. You need someone like my Tok Su or my mother to start asking a few questions about their families and bingo!

I once took a classmate home. He was going to help me with my maths homework. And trust Mak to ask about his parents, with "Anak sapa ni?" and then..."Laaaaa! Anak Cik Yam, cucu Tok Tam Man...Awaat tak kenai pulak!!! Adik beradik kitalah!" So, that was the end of my maths tuition.

Recently, thanks to technology and of course to Tok Su, I ventured into an unknown territory of family websites. Now, my children are getting to know their uncles, aunts, cousins and second cousins from all over the world.

We post old and new family photographs and send news about each other. We go into the chatroom and talk to a niece in New Jersey and nephews in Bayan Baru and a cousin in Dubai - and have so much fun that it reminds me of the time we chatted right into the night during our get-togethers at Mak's house that Pak built.We would communicate from under our own mosquito nets in that big lounge, talking about whatever comes to mind.

The chatroom is not unlike that. Some time ago, my nephew posted photographs of a reunion of family members from my father's side - the Saadi clan. The first reunion attracted nearly a thousand members that it took several pictures to show all of them. And as a result, a family tree was drawn up and now fourth reunion is being held.

Tok Su would have been pleased to hear of this new development although he did not belong to that branch of the family tree. But given half a chance, he'd discover a link.

7 comments:

famygirl said...

the family tree is pretty much straightforward on my side, but on my hubby's side, i have cousins who are as young as 1 year old (making this cousin an aunt to my almost 4 years old daughter and 4 months old son), and aunties and uncles who are almost the same age as i am or even younger. sometimes feel ackward calling a much younger (and still single) relative 'makcik' although it's only a title as a sign of respect. i *think* i might even have a grandchild or two somewhere in the branches.. :)

Kak Teh said...

Yes, that reminds me..I have Anak Dah and Anak Li who are much older than me...and I am no spring chicken. Thanks for dropping by!

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Bustaman said...

It is important to have roots and to know our roots. My uncle painstakenly drew the family tree on the back of a calendar page. I brought it home to copy but it got lost.

mokciknab said...

Kak Teh,
This is so true. And as my parents get older, and the lines to the past gets foggier, I worry about how much my children would eventually now of their family.

Shouldn't have thrown that piece of calendar, I guess.

The family chatroom is such a good idea, and probably a necessity too given the Malaysian diaspora. Every family has at least one member who lives abroad. Next year we'll have two. :(

Berisman said...

I agree with your Tok Su.I am now worried even my sons ddonot know their first cousins:-(.May be I belong to older generation, but to me family comes first.

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