So change is not a buzzword in Alor Setar. That’s what I read in the papers today. And sitting here 8,000 miles away, I am a tad worried. And we are just five days before the big day.
In the next few days, Mak is flying back to her beloved Alor Setar, the name forever on her lips during her waking hours and in her dreams during her restless nights. I can imagine her excitement as she boards the plane in her wheelchair, pushed by the ever so friendly MAS stewards. She is going home to the house that Pak built for her.
Yes, she is not likely to see much change around the area where Pak built the house for her. May be the traffic from Kepala Batas will get a bit busy by the time the car gets to Pekan Cina. She’d cast a glance over the
and scan for MAHA clinic, the clinic she used to frequent where a young doctor once held court before becoming the Prime Minister. bridge of Seberang Perak
She’d smile at the sight of Ali nasi lemak for that is where her offsprings would rush to as soon as they drop off their luggage in the front room of the house that Pak built.
As the car swings into the small lane past the kilang ais, her tired eyes would take in the clogged drains, a sight that repeats itself right up to the front gate of our house and beyond. For as far as I can remember, as a child I used to squat by the side of the drain, usually swollen after a heavy rain, to try and catch those little catfish just for fun. The water, all muddy and filthy had no where to go with over grown grass and lalang from the neighbour’s neglected piece of land spilling into the already clogged up drain upstream. Just the right breeding place for mosquitos.
The house that Pak built would be just as she had left it. Nothing would have changed except there’s no more laughter and screams of children running up and down the house. It has been left empty for so long. The old iron swing would be just where it has been left some forty years ago.
The wooden stairs leading up to the upper front door, has been the setting for so many family photographs and as I looked at it again, I notice d that so many uncles and aunts have left us.
As Mak steps into the house, she’d be reminded of the newly raised floor that she had done from the monthly pension that she receives. Once the floor was raised and leveled, she could sleep soundly at night. Before that, she’d be woken up in the middle of the night by the heavy rain and with Tok and Tok Som and with some energy left in them, they would roll up the carpets and beddings before the front room got flooded with water from the clogged up drains seeping in through the door.
Mak never slept soundly during the rainy season. She wanted to display her beautiful carpet that she bought with her kutu money, yet, she knew that if she and Tok Som couldn't move fast enough the carpet would be ruined.
With the rapid housing developments in the surrounding area, where we are became like a valley with rainwater rushing in and no where to go. Every time we went back, we see new housing developments but we don't see any improvements to the drainage system. Mak can’t afford to keep raising her floor anymore.
And I do hope that the stench coming from the fish factory is no longer there. Mak used to remind us to open the doors and windows early in the morning for rezki to come in. But of late, it was the stench that kept our windows firmly shut. And another reason why those windows and doors remained shut, with grills firmly locked is the rise of crime rate in the area. Young thugs roam the place during the nights and once during our return we saw evidence that our backyard where abang used to grill ikan kembong and cut the ulams, had become a meeting place for drug addicts.
I have read several atrocious crime committed in that area but I was quite unprepared when I read about the Indian Muslim shopkeeper who was slashed to death in his little shop up the road – the shop where we as children used to go and play tikam, buy kacang tumbuk and gula-gula Hacks, the little shop that our children started going whenever we went back on holiday. Mamak Zakaria, fell victim to the increasing criminal activities in the area. Most probably he fell victim to the very customers who frequented his shop and befriended him.
No, I do want to see some change, please Datuk Chor.