Tuesday, 29 November 2005

As I was munching muruku

I sat on the 0815 going towards East Anglia, feeling very much like Michelin’s grandma trying to feel my feet under those layers and layers of socks. I had rolly-pollied down the platform just minutes before the train pulled away and plonked myself, quite breathlessly, on the seat and I swear I must have bounced up and down a few times much to the amusement of prim proper lady sitting in front of me, trying to concentrate on her John Grisham.

When I had peeled off my coat and jumpers and whatnots and piled them neatly like freshly made laundry on the empty seat next to me, I proceeded to take in the English countryside whizzing past. Posted by Picasa
The once yellow fields of rapeseeds are now bare, succumbing to the harsh winter that is intruding into autumn like an unwanted guest. The farmer’s cottage looked so calm and peaceful – the only hint of life being the soft, willowing smoke coming out of the chimney. Oh, how I envy the farmer’s wife cuddling up to the farmer under their feather-filled duvet, warmed by the crackling fire from their fireplace.

And how I envy the sheep their thick coat of wool as they stood still, dotting the bare field, as if they are glued by blue tacs to the ground. Oh, how I envy.....stop it, stop it , stop it! I told myself as I furiously munched my muruku, grinding them to a paste and downing them with strong starbucks latte that I had bought at the station.

Alas, at this ungodly hours of the morning, as the temperature dipped further and further, self pity was also fast setting in, especially when thoughts of what I was doing in good old sunny Malaya three weeks ago flashed by like those unsolicited Tourism slide show . Oh what am I doing here? It is cold and wet and gloomy!

“Yes, what are you doing there?” “How long more are you going to be there? “ “When are you all planning to come back and work here?” “ Do you plan to queue up with other OAPs (Age Old Pensioners) for your pensions at the post office?”

Those are the harsh, no nonsence, mind probing questions from friends that came like flashbacks...questions I don’t have answers to. I swear prim proper lady peered from behind her Gucci framed glasses, taking her attention away from Grisham momentarily. Had I been talking out loud to myself? Am I going crazy? I smiled sheepishly and continued munching my muruku courtesy of friend from good old Malaya.

Next month (and I thought I had stopped counting) it’ll be 26 years away from good old Malaya – the Malaya where I can wear my colourful kaftan up and down the streets and eat roti bakar with generous dollops of planta margerine and even more generous spread of kaya, at any time of the day or night. So, it has been 26 years of cold wet and glomy winter and I still can’t get used to sitting on cold toilet seats in the morning, without it giving me a jump start. Twenty six years and I still yearn for mee goreng mamak that never failed to bring tears to my eyes and make me rush to the toilet in five minutes flat – yet I keep on yearning, especially on a cold, gloomy day like this. When the train pulled in at a small station, I half expected a food vendor to come rushing to the window with nasi lemak and beehoon goreng and even kacang kuda rebus. Prim proper lady looked up unamused as if she could read my mind. Dream on, she seemed to say, raising one well plucked eyebrow before turning back to Grisham.

As the train left the platform, it seemed to be going through a wad of cotton wool. Gone were the leafless trees and the bare fields and I was feeling a tad claustrophobic. It was fog! Even prim proper lady seemed a bit ill at ease by this change in scenery. She muttered something under her breath that betrayed her breed and background. I only knew this after watching many repeats of To The Manor Born.
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Self pity was rushing in at full speed and I overdosed myself with more muruku as if that would help, but it only brought back memories of that brief but fun evening at a deepavali open house eating chapati and curry to the sound of Selamat Hari Raya by a sittar player. This can only happen in good old Malaya.
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The fog lifted but it failed to leave my mind. It was still foggy and muddled up – my mind, that is. Someone cleverly mentioned my life as one being cradled on two cultures. It has made it more muddled, that’s what it has done. And what have I done in my 26 years here? It stocktaking time!
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Anyway, the scenery outside the window was becoming more interesting. The little lanes snaking into the woods were white against the dark gloomy background. It was like strokes of white chalk on a painting. The ground was frozen! Even the streams running alongside the tracks were frozen. Luckily I had my layers and layers of jumpers and shawls! Then, like wads of cotton wool, they drifted down gently settling on tree tops and roof tops turning it into fairyland at Christmas time. And as I stepped off the 0815 from King’s Cross, I felt the first snow drop of the season, on my nose.




35 comments:

Maya said...

KakTeh,
Stocktaking is always good eh? Remember some one else is planning your life all the time. I mean some one else besides God Almighty :)

Lovely description of the scene whizzing past your window with murukku crunching in your mouth.

All the best my dear :)

MamiJarum said...

Oh Kak Teh! After 2 years of staying here in the UK, I yearn and yearn to be back home but that will be a wishful thinking (at the moment)... Still, we can wish can't we? 26 years is a long time and somehow you manage to cope it well... Well, 24 years more for me to go!

Jane Sunshine said...

Don't envy the farmer's wife too much-she's probably out in the freezing mornings doing farm chores. It's this weather I say, spreading an impossible gloom on every spirit. Cheering up over kuehteow goreng @ Mawar very,very necessary.

may said...

reading ur post makes me miss home even though I AM home! yet I still look forward with anticipation to move on next yr down under, & see what awaits me there :)

red said...

eeerr...kak teh?! winter early izzit?

kak teh, you should have been munching muruku and TEH TARIK..!!!

oh, how i miss the chilly morning's with the wiff of "asap" as you breath out...

anyways, keep yourself warm...

atn said...

OMG, i was thinking of blogging abt *winter blues* today and here you have arredi done it. i'll still try to do it but definitely will pale compared to yr entry. err no mention of the 3 bowls of thai sin prawn noodles? chuckles

klmuk said...

kakteh, its -5 here tonight and have been munching entah apa-apa dari petang tadi. looks like bombay mix (no muruku here) will be on tomorrow's shopping list!!

Anonymous said...

beautifully written...well expressed. i like it.

*nefertiti*

LifeBloom said...

Kak Teh

There is a restaurant called Kluang Station at One-Utama which serves the best roti bakar ever. Crispy. Salty. Sungguh berlemak. And Soooo good for you...The roti bakar will ooooze with the unique flavor of interspersed margarine and kaya...and I will be trying to get all that gooey goodness before it drips to the floor.

Keep warm during the coming winter months!!!

anedra said...

8 years back, I would hv been at the Colchester station just to wave at you as you whizz by in the train to East Anglia!! The things you got me to do!! hahaha!

Yeah..watcha doing there?? We miss you here! Imagine, all those cheeks and bums to pinch!!

DEWA said...

I took a wrong train 15 yrs ago. Misheard Dochester for Corchestor. Instead of arriving at Norwich U, I ended up somewhere near the coast in the middle of the night. Thank God Bed and Breakfast was only 15 Quid those times. With breakfast. anyway, whever u are kak teh, what matters most is that u are happy.

tj said...

Kak Teh,

Ur post is, always, a delicious read.

Ewok said...

KakTeh,
I dread going back after long holiday. Macam mana ni? Mati lah i!

Ely said...

best nyer naik train. dont tel me u wear kaftan 'top' in winter! habis ur ketiak will get icicles hehehe. jgn marah!

kaezrin said...

well kak teh..but ur experience really counts kan! I envy u

Count Byron said...

Grand brilliance of the dazzling order; winter, freeze or just wheez!

You've done it again Kak Teh!

Jane Sunshine said...

I want to add another thing: All the stocktaking should really have spread a warm glow around you by now: you've touched so many people in such special ways, no matter that you've stayed far away from tanahair. Remember that always.

Queen Of The House said...

Kak Teh, I'm sure not very many people can take stock and see that they have accumulated as much as you have. You get to have the best of both cultures; how many people can munch on murukku while riding on that train in winter?

Mama Irma said...

Still homesick,eh Kak Teh? no worries, just think of how many people in Malaya envy your adventures in life.....

AuntyN said...

Kak Teh : Stock taking is good, something for us to reflect what we have done.

But, HOME is where the heart and love is.

So melancholic (sp?) this entry is. Feel like reaching to hug you.

*hugs*

Atok said...

KT,
I drive about 35 miles to get to work via winding rural road in the early morning and a couple of days ago was greeted by a short shower of snow... reminding me of my first step onto this island 12 years ago in wintery Glasgow.

scenic the view might be, which has never bored me after all these years, coldness and its fog fail to exite my daily journey, and driving home in the total darkness is worst, especially when it rains.... my eyes get confused and dazzled by all those glitters and reflections....only to be kept alert by Radio 4 or some beautiful qasidah burdah.

looking back at my commuting times to and from paddington in my previous life, it was indeed more pleasant to be able to sit on the train and looking out in between sipping my hot choc and browsing my newspaper [or glancing at gorgeous blonde in the carriage...:))].

keep warm.... :)

bibliobibuli said...

we just traded places, that's all! what am i doing here in sunny malaysia missing steak and kidney pie and treacle sponge??

if you came back here for any length of time, you'd be missing there ... this is how it is when you live between places ...

arggghhh, but how am i going to deal with the cold??

dr in the house said...

Kak Teh,

Trust you to make a short train journey that interesting, filled with emotions and nostalgia.

Are you sure the prim proper lady was reading your thots or actually annoyed at the noise of your muruku munching??? Heheh

So after 26 yrs, are you now having thoughts of coming back???

RojakBuah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RojakBuah said...

Lovely! Kak Teh..nice story..your AURA dh level WORLD ni..

atiza said...

somehow your story reminded me of a leg warmer..perhaps if you have a cup of tea and a plate of scones with it, it'll be much better...prop you chair up with lots of cushion and enjoy all those in front of a fire (or gas heater or whatever)

take care..

RedKebaya said...

Take it easy KT... the cold winter winds can be a real killer. keep warm will ya!!

pu1pu3 said...

Kak Teh,
A'kum. I stumbled upon your blog by accident, actually. I was looking for Tun Kudu's blog.So I typed Pinch of Salt in search for her blog. It somehow pointed me towards yours thru your jottings on your good old days with Fatimah Abu Bakar under the title Sepet. Since then (which was yesterday) I couldn't stop catching up on reading your earlier article right up to your first one. Its all coming to me now. I first saw your pic at Nadia's blog. And was wondering where have I seen you before? THen I remembered our Diva singing in RAH. The puzzle is solved. YOu are sort of a celebrity as well now, looking at the amount of people visiting your blog. Gosh, I'm rambling in your blog. APologies for this. Will keep on reading your blog. Do grace your presence in mine at http:pu1pu3.blogspot.com
LOVE ALLLLLL YOUR WRITE UPS.Keep em coming!!!!
So if you'll excuse me , I need to continue reading your previous entries from May up till November 05.

Mak Hariz said...

wow! 26 years! Lama tuh.

26 years ago umur saya 7 tahun lah

~cikni~

bergen said...

This must be a perfect timing between you your hubby Awang Goneng, writing about trains. His entry on Bukit Besi reminds me of Uncle, and this entry on 0815 and muruku is to me, a perfect scene for a music video for Il Divo. Right, I need to work out the sccript and shot sequence. If Il Divo isn't going to buy this since I am unknown, I'll sell it M.Daud Kilau. He'll do for now as I need a bit of cash to pay a down-payment for a vintage Volvo.

Lollies said...

and here I am missing winter there

Nazrah said...

if two PMs could not persuade you to come home, I won't even try.

InsyaAllah, one day when things are sorted out differently eh?

And you would not believe how many arms would be wide open celebrating your homecoming.

Meanwhile, maruku is best eaten with the least table manners as possible.The louder the better. But better check for bits and pieces of karupullai before you smile...greenstuff on pearly whites is "very the ewwwhh"

Maz said...

kak teh, i too am going through a bout of homesickness having came back from kedah just a week or so ago. this is the hardest part about going home. having to pack up and go again. having to put on a brave face and go about your daily activities knowing your body is here but your heart and mind is all the way across the pacific. it never gets any easier and i've been doing this since the late 80s. i should have been a pro at saying goodbyes. but as mom gets older I kept asking myself will this be the year that I get the dreaded call in the middle of the night. come to think of it, i never really miss the food (rarely eat out even in kedah), it's my people that i miss the most and the things were. the little things that make the ambience in your household like the way your mom clears her throat in the middle of the night, the way somehow a conversation will steer into cerita hantu after midnight, it's how a simple dish like cekodok taste so good when about ten or twelve other hands are dipping into the same basket. nowadays when I go home I try to give my kids the best of times. When they are older, I am counting on those memories to pull them back to their msian roots.

the kimster said...

a little melancholic this cold winter, are we? :)

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh, I don't think the prim and proper lady read your mind. More like she could hear you munching your muruku and would have loved to ask "What is that you're munching on?" but being prim and proper, it's her loss for not being able to ask. If she had asked and you had offered some to her, she may give up her prim and proper life for muruku altogether because life is worth the muruku on a cold day! I really must go through your archives month by month. I enjoyed this one. :)