Thursday, 4 August 2005

Sing again, Uncle....

Yesterday T, my batman, was in such a rush. He had an assignment. To push uncle, in his wheelchair fom his flat to the hospital – a good 20 minute walk. He’d drop anything for uncle. I can almost imagine him and uncle in the wheelchair crossing the A-40. Ten years ago, the picture was different. It was uncle who was pushing little T in his pushchair, while singing to him songs from his favourite Bollywood movies. Little T would laugh and giggle and little N would say, “Sing again, Uncle”, and he would oblige.

It moved me to tears just thinking about this role reversal.

Uncle, who I called Abang and his wife, Kakak, are such a huge part in our life that without them, living away for so long, doing what I do, would not have been possible. They became our extended family in this country we have adopted as home.

Abang and Kakak came to London perhaps forty years ago. Being a staff of the British airforce in Singapore afforded Abang the luxury to seek employment here. But that wasn’t the reason that brought him here. Abang was riding pillion in a busy street in Singapore forty years ago, when his motorcycle was knocked down by a car – the driver a British officer. It was tragic because Abang lost a leg. And not only that, the officer returned to England, without paying the compensation for the injury.

It was the search for this officer that brought him and his young bride here. But luck was not on his side and he found jobs here and there and later worked with the London Transport. When we found this lovely couple, they already had four children, living in a council flat in west London.

When we had our first, we could still afford a nanny who would come to work with me and look after the baby at the office. You see, we would never leave our first born with anyone. Then, there were times when both my husband and I had the same assignment and that would mean having to leave H with the nanny. But to cut the story short, someone recommended Kakak and on our first meeting with the family, we knew we could leave our baby with them. H was one when he went to Kakak and Abang and that was 23 years ago. Since then, both Kakak and Abang were there from day one of my other children. The children were well fed and happy and clean! We’d take them there in the mornings and come back in the evenings, sometimes late, to find them under the duvet with Abang, watching TV. And the youngest one would always be under Kakak’s huge jubbah or cradled in her warm embrace. So comfortable, so loved.

A daily phone call from the office, would be something like this:
Me: Hello, kakak. Budak2 buat apa tu?
Kakak: T tidur. Dia tidur jam satu...er..satu empat puluh....(turning to Abang) satu empat puluh berapa, Bang?
(Abang, in the background): Satu empat puluh tiga, kut)
Kakak: Aa ahah..satu empat puluh tiga dia tidur sampai pukul tiga dua puluh, kalau tak salah. Lepas tu...

How can I not be assured when I got such detailed reports like this. But I always made sure never to phone her minutes before going to the studio cos, there was a time when she said, "Ahhh tadi kakak tengok dia main kat ampai di luar..ermmm sekarang mana entah...”
Eeeekk, I’d be panicking right thru the transmission!

Most of the time, when its winter and Abang had to work late, we’d take him to his workplace because walking on icy paths with one wooden leg can be very dangerous. And T would cry his heart out as he couldn't bear to see uncle going to work. Come morning, when we took them to their house again, Abang would be back from work and the children, would then rush to disturb him in deep sleep.

Their children – much older – became my children’s adopted siblings. We’d ferry them off on Saturdays to the mosque for their religious classes. Now they are all married with families of their own.

Our children soon acquired a funny kind of language:

Mama, aunty bilang hari dua dia kasi barang tu,” said H.

Hah? when did my children learn this strange kind of Malay?

And, from Abang, they acquired: “Ya maaan! “ That, from his West Indian workmates.

Once we were on working holiday in Vienna, the children were getting restless in the hotel room and then started singing Hindi songs, much to our amazement. Apparently, Abang, an avid fan of Bollywood movies, had been entertaining them with Bollywood all time greats! And P Ramlee classics too.

Kakak, bless her, was more than a childminder to us. On arrival at their small council flat to fetch the children, there’d tea or dinner ready for us. Or, if she knew I’d have guests, she’d pack food ready for us to take home. How spoilt I was compared to my friends back Malaysia who had to suffer heartaches when dealing with maids.

Anyway, as the children grew up, Kakak took on other children. But Abang, by then had bought a gleaming Mercedes with his pension money and was ferrying T to and from school. This, inspite of our protests that the school is just behind our house.

It was only until recently that we didn't need a childminder but the children still went to see their uncle and Aunty down the road.They still send cards for Mother's Day or Father's Day and never forgot their birthdays. We had actually bought a house to be near them. And the last few years, Abang’s health had deteriorated. His amputated leg which was always giving him phantom itch, was becoming more of a problem. He couldn't walk now and his hands tremble so much, he couldn't feed himself. When Kakak went back to Singapore for a while , our H spent two weeks looking after his Uncle. I asked him what he did.

“I had to button his shirts and cut up his food,” he said trying to hide the sadness in his voice. Sometimes, he helped his Uncle to shave.

“That was what he used to do to you when you were small, H” Abang and Kakak looked after our children in a way that disqualified me as a parent.

Abang doesn’t go out much now, only trips to the hospital. Kakak, who has severe chest pains, goes to her weekly mengaji at the mosque and T would sit with his uncle, cutting up his food and help him to the bathroom.

I admit I have not done much recently, too absorbed and too selfish in my pursuit in I dont know what. But I am thankful that my children see that it is now time they look after their Uncle and Aunty.

"Sing, Uncle..." and I imagine the sound of Junglee drifting along with the busy traffic of A40.


37 comments:

Sunflora said...

Kakteh such a beautiful yet heart wrenching story. Its amazing how bonds are forged with people when we are away from our family. Which reminds me, I need to send an email to my Abang & kakak in London.

I am sure you're proud of your son :)

klmuk said...

kakteh, your children are truly well brought up. ever willing, ever caring...

Uja said...

wow kakteh. If I were you,I would be so very very proud of my kids...just reading about this makes me determined about only one thing:
budak-budak tu kasi susu apa?! ;) Heee..

Nanti when I have kids, you tell me what to do k?

Sang Kelate said...

a romantically written entry. AG & u should be very proud of yr children. May Allah improve the health condition of yr 'Abang'.

SK

anedra said...

I can't imagine uncle and aunty being that old. can still remember aunty how she says "Semprenges". Am so proud of my baby cousins! Such caring babies! (they're still babies to me!)

Maya said...

Dear Kak Teh,

What a lovely story! Yes, wonderful kid T... and you shd be proud of him.I think when kids are brought up with humility (yours and AG's) and a special spirit (your friends')they can't go wrong.

Reading your story reminds me of my own sloppiness with some old relatives. I shd find the time and visit. No more excuses! Thanks KT

Love,
Maya

gasman said...

Sad to hear about the kakak and the abang that we used to visit during our occassional sojourn to London. Remember their lingo very well. And indeed am proud our nephews and nieces are so caring. Please send our salam to kakak and abang.

Kak Teh said...

SunFlora, yes, we are lucky in thatsense but I have neglected them so..must really visit them.
klmuk: Alhamdulillah.
uja: susu apa? is it okay to say here? will sms! and draw for you!
SK: thanks - insyaallah they will be okay.

anedra: yes..she still goes to portobaluuu

maya: thanks - u've been gone a while. We try..its hard but we try.

gasman: you said : "our nieces and nephews" - now, been probing my brain..none of our relatives work for the gasboard!..and it could only be dr bius!

k.d said...

kak teh..very inspiring and i can relate about being away from family and found friends who treat you like family without asking for anything in return.

i hope my daughter and children turn out as good as yours..caring, willing, appreciative of their life

Diz said...

I enjoyed reading that, Kak Teh. Funny, the places that life brings you to.

faux diamante said...

very touching indeed.n alhamdulillah all of you have ur hearts in the right places.

Jane Sunshine said...

Love breeds more love. No two ways around it. Somedays, it is heart warming to hear stories like this when everything around the world is topsy turvy.

RedKebaya said...

being away from home memang brings us together somehow but you're really lucky KT to have such wonderful people to depend on... bukannya senang nak dpt org yg caring & bertanggungjawab cam tu.

sejuk hati ibu2 bila dgr pasal anak2 yg loving & prihatin.... kirim salam kat diorang boleh ?!! :)

nadya said...

kak teh ~ touchy entry la this time..sedih la pulak. but its goos to know that ada org look after uncle. bagus anak2 kak teh...

thanks for the comment earlier,in my blog.

waaa..nak add the link? boleh ajer kak teh, satu penghargaan tuh..terima kasih byk2..

ps: blog sentraal station tu..blog kak ke teh ke? ke link lain?

Endeavor said...

i wish i could get such detailed reports....

lilheaven said...

alhamdulillah. yet another good reminder for us all of the importance of pemeliharaan ukhuwah and bringing up our children well. =)

AuntieYan. said...

Kak Teh, donno why la....we always like to tell stories of yester years.... telling stories as such may invite 'heart-ache'at times....sedih & sayu...

AuntyN said...

Kak Teh, you are always so lucky. You are blessed with such a good "extended" family, and your children who are a reflection of their parents good upbringing.

p/s Kak Teh, nak risik Batman T boleh ke? :-), :-)

MA said...

Kak Teh : you are so blessed ! We should count our blessings, kan ?

Your kids are wonderful, too.

lion3ss said...

Kak Teh, this is such a touching entry! Your kids are well brought up, that is for sure.

pembacha said...

cerita lah lagi!

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BQ said...

Dear Kak Teh,

I love your stories. I am a big fan, I am practically addicted to your blog. I am always coming back for more stories! :)

raudha said...

hai kakteh!

deliciousnyer blog awakkk!

i dah lama tak makan chocolate tau. must go get kinderbueno tomoro lar camni.

anywayys! thank u ya for singgahing my blog. nanti kita link awak yea :)

Ewok said...

you are blessed with lotsa love and extended family. And your children are beautiful kakteh.

faux diamante said...

raudha, kita pun suka kinderbueno

Kak Teh said...

kd, thanks - and Insyaallah am sure yours will be lovinga nd caring too.
diz, ..yes, thank God for letting us meet the people we met..like you lah! how I miss u!
Nazrah - amin!
sunshine, this is so true...the more love we have, the more we get, dont u think?
redkebaya: insyaallah!they are truly caring people.
nadya - yes, sentraal station ilhamnya auntyN who said my blog was like a station so many people passing thru - so, with maknenek's help - we created this ..and also thanks to nana and eda.

Kak Teh said...

endeavour..eh, dah tukar nama?
lilheaven - how true.
aunty Yan - kan kita oranglama..ada tanggungjawab bercerita kepada yang muda2!
auntyN - nak merisik???? di abukan lawya, bukan majistret...hehe...untuk yang mana?
MA- ada trying times nya jugaaaaak!
lion3ss - we try, we try!
pembacha - insyaallah, i will.
bq - thanks..so kind of you!
raudha - yr blog apa kurangnya!
ewok..u baru jumpa satu...and yang lain kucing!

iJun said...

bestnya ada batman sendiri... i'm still waiting for my catwoman! meow! hehe

shidah said...

love is everywhere, to be found and cherish. Even with a total strangers :)

Kak Teh said...

ijun - pasang perangkap!
shidah - thatis true - its there when you give and you will receive.

Asian said...

Such a heartfelt story.. made me bawl my eyes out... but alhamdulilah that your children eventhough being brought up in a foreign land never forgets their culture, morals, values etc. Because being Asian, means that in the end of the day, we do know our responsibilities in taking care of our elders when the time comes. It is IN us.

Mutiara said...

Your children learn by examples..sapa lagi kalau bukan their parents to emulate. Cangratulations for successfully bringing up your children ;)

atiza said...

i wish mine would do the same thing

NorEEz said...

Kak Teh, touching story...
That reminded me of my ex-fiancee parents. Elderly folks, use to visit them often.
When his son announced the wedding is OFF, the parents cried so much.
I regret didnt call them anymore till his father pass away was told that he kept asking abt me..
Oh Ya, orang melayu Spore suka cakap "hari 2, hari 3" mcm tu. My Nenek will say the same thing too, like "Hari 6 pun kau kerja?" something like that.. heehehe..
Anyway, nice entry Kak Teh. Your kids must have made Aunty & Uncle as part of the family... Right??

Anonymous said...

KakT aka KakZ, Like others, I fall in love reading your blog.You are indeed blessed with wonderful children, and hope mine will be like yours. As a Spore Malay, I never realised that we always say "hari 1, hari 2" how true ha..ha..!

Norabella

Kak Teh said...

Asian, yes, very true - it is IN us and I hope our children remember that.
mutiara: Alhamdulillah...but kadang2 quite a struggle jugak. very challenging.
atiza: of course yours will grow upa nd be responsible, Insyaallah. kecik lagi ni..
noreez, thanks for sharing your beautiful story here and in the email!
norabella!!!!!..whata wonderful surprise! you found me here...and thanks for nice and kind words.
ya, hari satu hari dua...and i have to work that out mentally!