Sunday, 26 October 2008

My Diwali Story

My dearest R,

This Diwali, I suddenly thought of your mum. I met her at a friend’s house. Her vivacity and warmth just meant she stood out in the room full of people. I took an instant liking to her. She was intelligent, friendly and she was pregnant - with you. The evening went too fast and soon it was time to go.

It was at our hostess’ door that we kissed goodbye. Patting her belly, she said, I want you to teach my child Malay. I want him or her to be able to speak Malay, at which point I laughingly said, yes, sure, call me when you are ready and we said goodbye. Our last goodbye.

We had heard of the move your parents made, taking you away to foreign shores, where they worked. But what stunned us most was the news of your mum’s sudden and untimely departure, leaving you when you were only sixteen months old. Your father, needless to say was devastated.

I had forgotten the promise we made in jest at the door of our friend’s house, a few winters back. But promises, even in jest, tend to find it way back. I received a call from your Dad who had heard that I dabbled in this and that and part of what I dabbled in was teaching Malay. We reminded each other of the time we met when your mum was still around, and foolishly, I agreed to give it a go – teaching you Malay.

When I first set eyes on you, I fell in love with you the way your Dad fell in love with your Mum. You had those big round eyes of hers and the biggest and sweetest smile, that is, when you chose to share your smile with me. The smiles became more frequent when you became more comfortable with me.

It was understandable that you were suspicious of my presence in that huge apartment of yours. After all, after your mum’s death, you only had your Dad, and K – your nanny. I was after all a stranger who only knew you as that bulge in your mum’s tummy. It took a while to win you over.

After work in central London, I’d make my way to north London. In summer, the walk up the lonely path to your place wasn’t too bad, but in winter it was a struggle. But I persevered because that huge smile waiting for me at the door was well worth the walk and the cold.

To say the two hours spent with you were lessons in Malay would be a violation of the job description. We played with your train set, read your books and messed about on the floor of that spacious apartment. We went to the playground where I pushed you on your bike and chased you around, pointing out to you, ‘daun’, ‘bunga’, ‘anjing’ and ‘kucing’. I think we had more fun in the garden than in the apartment.

The apartment was more like a shrine for your mum – she was everywhere, her pictures, her things – it was as if she never left. She would have been proud of the handsome son you were growing up to be. You were also very intelligent.

But as we became closer, it also became more difficult for me to leave. Already I was struggling emotionally. The few times that you cried when you saw me leave left me an emotional wreck. I couldn’t help you who definitely needed your mother, nor could I help your Dad who was still struggling to come to terms with your mum’s death.

To this day, I remember the last evening we had together. You wanted me to stay for dinner. While K placed the plates, you arranged and lit the candles on the kitchen table; one for Daddy, one for Mummy, and one for Zara, for that's what you called me. I choked back tears I shouldn’t be showing in front of a four year old. And then when dinner was over, you cried and pleaded; Please don’t go Zara.

When I left late that night, I knew then I couldn’t go back. I cried all the way back in the train full of rowdy passengers. And like a coward, I phoned your Dad to say I couldn’t teach you anymore.

I am sorry.

Today, as I write this, I know you must have grown to be a handsome young boy. I was sorting out some old pictures and found some pictures of yours. I also googled and found some on the net and read your Dad’s beautiful story of his love for his young wife, snatched away from him so soon after their marriage. And I remember one Hari raya or was it Diwali celebration in London when I bumped into your Dad and you looking so handsome in that Indian Kurta.

This Diwali, I felt the need to write to you to explain why I left without a goodbye. But I will never forget that dinner by the candlelight when you begged me not to leave.

Your Mum was a true Malaysian. Even on foreign land she wanted her son to learn Malay. So here’s a few more Malay words “ Selamat Menyambut Diwali, R.” And take care of your Dad.

Zara.


And Happy Diwali to all my Hindu friends.

49 comments:

D said...

wonderful recollection here - somehow boleh miss pulak the taken-for-granted celebrations back home!

yeah, happy deepavali to those celebrating!

Ms B said...

Kak Teh,

What a beautiful story and thank you for sharing it with us. I could sense how difficult you have felt for leaving that boy.

Happy divali to u too!

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Kak Teh - that was one heart-wrenching story that left me feeling choked so early in the morning.

Ninnie Fayek said...

i am so 'touched' everytime i read any of your so many stories....

Madam Tai Tai said...

Oh Kak Teh, very touching post on Deepavali Day. I do hope R reads this so that he'll understand the reason behind your absence.

Pak Tuo said...

hehe...Kak Teh,

Sembayang sunat Depavali macam mana?
Hindraf celebrate tak kat London
hehehehe!!!!!!!
entah apa-apa lah tu.

Kak Teh said...

d, thank you - its something that i suddenly remembered last nite.

ms b, i doubt that he will read but I am thinking of getting in touch again. It was difficult to leave.

Puteri, I always find it difficult to separate work and emotions. i tend to become very involved. And it was inevitable that I was drwan into this. My shoulder wasnt sreong enough to help carry the emotional burden they have. That I regret. I should have stayed but I couldn't.

Kak Teh said...

Ninnie, thank you for dropping by.

Madam TT, i think i will let him know about this post when he is bigger. and i hope he understadns but I believe the love his father has for him, the dedication - that's enough for the two of them. He is the world to his dad.

Pak Tuo - Hindraf? Tak tahulah apa plan perayaan depa.

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Teh,

This is what being human is all about. Without pain there is no true joy.

You reminded me of a teacher I once had. Didn't know what was in me that she doted on me. Even after 20 years I left school, she still remembered me as if it was yesterday. Her kindness looms large in my life.

Kak Teh said...

Hi & Lo, in my case, I am hoping that to be kind I had to be cruel and leave. I was too weak to handle things like that and perhaps at that time I had too much on my plate.

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Pi Bani said...

Reading this posting, my guess is if you join my NGO you won't stay for long because you'd probably get emotionally involved. Am I right?

Kak Teh said...

PI Bani, sememangnya tak boleh. Even in my work as a journalist , i meet with all kinds of people, and I tend to get emotionally involve. Kena bawa tissue paper.

Sunflora said...

This entry brought tears in my eyes. What can I say *sob* *sob* I am soft inside.

I hope he gets to read this entry. (not my comment)

NJ said...

Salam Kak Teh,

I read this entry early this morning (MY time), but I got too emo indulging into this touching piece, can’t afford to leave trail. I wish when R is big enough, he will read this entry someday, so he can understand why Zara suddenly dissappeared.

God bless you…

Hazia said...

That's a very touching story, Kak Teh, precious memory. Happy Diwali:)

mamasita said...

Ahh..a very touching masterpiece..R will never forget you too..baiknya you KT!

Kak Teh said...

SF, as mothers, this story is bound to touch us. I hope he reads it, one day.

salam NJ, when I was writing this last nite, I was in tears - and then I saw his pictures, his mum and his dad - i cried more. But what we feel is nothing compared to how they feel. The loss is so not justified.

Kak Teh said...

Hazia, thank you. This is one of a few stories that will remain with me forever.

mamasita, I dont think i was kind. I was too weak to do more. I wish I could have done more for him.

mekyam said...

thank you, kt!

visiting you is always so very rewarding. your blog never fails to teach and touch. even as it delights.

happy diwali to you and all your visitors who celebrate this festival of light!

Lollies said...

a wonderful Malaysian story of friendship and love.

Kak Teh said...

mekyam, thanks for the visit - it is something I needed to air out after such a long time battling inside me.
Hope you had a nice break too.
Shouldnt you be blogging too? With all your travels and adventures, am sure there's a lot to tell.

Lollies, thanks for dropping by. Dah lama tak nampak. Ya, its a sad story - but am sure he is coping. he has a wonderful father and lots of relatives.

MrsNordin said...

It's so sad!!! I'm crying here!!

Next time,I suggest you put a caution statement: "Don't read this if you don't feel like crying". Make it easier for people like me, who don't want to be caught teary-eyed in front of the PC in the office! :)

Kak Teh said...

Mrs N, am so so so sorry. It is a sad story. What I have written is nothing, didn't even scratch the surface.
Its okay to cry for R.

kay_leeda said...

Kak Teh,

What a touching entry. I know the feeling, why do we often get so involved kan? I get all teary with my kanak-kanak project after spending time with them. Apa lagi lah with you and R, your closeness with him.

But I am sure R knew you meant well. Take care...don't you go too sedey-sedey sangat yah :-)

melayudilondon said...

Kak,
I remember meeting you, R and his dad at Oriental City.

R was staring at me with his huge eyes and whispered a secret to you.

When you tell me his story, hmmm payah betul to keep myself from tearing up.

Please tell us if you managed to contact them again.

Kak Elle said...

sedeh nya kak teh..why not give R a tinkle it will be nice to meet again:)

Kak Teh said...

kay, yes, we tend to get emotionally involved. After all these years, I still dont know how to do so without taking a step back. By the time I realised it, its too late.

Melayudilondon, yes, i remember that too - we went bowling, didnt we? I have those pictures of him. We can be sure that he is getting 100 percent and even more love and attention from his dad.

kak elle,i will, insyaallah, one day.

A Mother said...

kak teh, what about MY kid? when are YOU going to teach him Malay?

hey, by the way, the word verification down here, says "empat"--a malay word. How suitable is THAT for this entry?

Kak Teh said...

Hey Mother, we can skype and I can teach him Malay. anyway, i left a comment in one blog and the word verification says BARAT.

Welcome back to blogosphere! You've been missed.

tireless mom said...

Dear Kak Teh

I am touched by your luv and kindness. No wonder they call Diwali the festival of lights. It is people like you who take the trouble to enlighten other people's life.

Kak Teh said...

tireless mom, I dont think I was being kind. I was too weak. But given another chance perhaps I can help him again.
Yes, this story has given me a new meaning to the Festival of Lights.

I think each of us do whatever we can in our own way to lessen someone's burden.

ruby ahmad said...

Hi Kak Teh,

What a touching piece this is. So sad indeed.

R calls you Zara? Hey K Teh, nice name lah.

The way you taught him Malay, frolicking in the garden, playing with his toys together, is to my mind the best way. Children learn better in such playful easy atmosphere. You have talent in teaching.

Anyway, Happy Diwali.

Kak Teh said...

Ruby!!!!!!! You are back!!!! You have been missed. And I want to know everything about what you have been up to. Email me, Pls.

Oldstock said...

Salam Kak Teh,

Some people briefly pass by our lives but leave a lasting mark. People like these are a treasure. Hope you do get the chance to meet your young friend again one day.

Thanks for the link. Will link you back.

Kak Teh said...

Oldstock, those are really beautiful words. Thanks.


Anon, alas , I didnt, if not it would have made another story. as it is i dont have enough love for too many people.

.:HalogAmora:. said...

kak teh, beautiful story indeed. if yasmin ahmad read this, she wld film it. trust me!

Kak Teh said...

halogamora - hehe - just let me know if it happens. She must then go for a search of the cutest boy with the sweetest smile for that role.

AKG said...

P.U...geez sis..a beautiful write up indeed. managed to tickle a man's heart. kids, in so many ways leave us with many things, many kind of things and feelings.

God bless

Kak Teh said...

AKG, thank you.

Ida Hariati Hashim said...

Salam kak teh,

I'm touched by the story of R here..i understand it must have been very hard to leave the boy, but that's life..at least you can cherish the fond memories you guys had together.

I kesian betul dgn anak tak de ibu ni..i wonder how difficult their life can be..

Jane Sunshine said...

Just back from our balik kg sojourn- this is such a touching story. I tear so easily now that I am a mom and this one made my eyes well up.

Thanks for Diwali greetings. Diwali in Malaysia after many years was pretty good!

.:HalogAmora:. said...

Dear Kak teh, as am reading today's NST, i'm pretty much assured that i'm reading ur article title 'Facebook Moments'. tell me if it's yours :)

Kak Teh said...

Ida, latest is , we'll be meeting again soon! Quite soon! He is a big boy now and his father has sent me his latest pictures. Still as cute.

Jane, aaaha, yes. Hope you enjoyed the trip back. hehe! I read that Sharon said she didnt hug you...nearly fell off my chair when she came back and said, she did hug you but she was so stressed out and blurred to know that it was you she hugged.

Halogamora - alas, there's no prize for guessing right. Take care.

zaitgha said...

hi Kak teh,

i am in a very low mood this few days...and your story made the dam burst but its so beautiful...

btw, if ever you were back in Msia, let me know...need not teach you lah, just tell me which cuppies you want he he...

thanks for sharing....

Manal said...

We get to read that Aimi news too on BH written by u.

On that deepavali (in tamil) or diwali (hindi) story, what wud the songs in the background be? some classic ones from the classic hindi movies perhaps?

Kak Teh said...

zaitgha, am so sorry. Hope your FIL will recover soon. Yes, will certainly take uo that offer of cupcakes!

manal, dalam nst pun ada! and what a brilliant girl, dont you think? Semua students IC macam tu kan, you pun sama.
Background music? let me see, kabhi kabhi?

Anonymous said...

Salam Kak Teh,

sebak dada saya membacanya..

Jani

Kak Teh said...

jani,
memang sedih tapi kak teh ingat dia akan hidup seperti kanak-kanak lain.

anon, yes,for now I will say yes to your question.