Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Big Rice Jar

Often times, Mak would take us to Lorong Pintu Sepuluh and point to a dilapidated wooden house where, she said, I was born. I couldnt imagine living there, for when I saw it, it was almost leaning dangerously to one side. And much later, of course, it was bulldozed to the ground to make way for some big buildings. But I do remember the house with the iron gates next door. It was painted yellow with brown shutters. It had an iron swing and lots of guava trees. I remember this house well because this was where I used to play and be doted on by the kind couple who, I was told were childless. I remember the sweets, the kind words and most importantly the big gold medalion that they bought me and which I wore proudly around my neck to pose for a studio photograph. I remember  too the big rice jar, by the window in the kitchen. On our visits there, Mak always said, "Look at the jar. It is always full. Their rezki is always full." Until today, I am always mindful never to leave the rice jar empty.

Pak Mat and Mak Teh were my foster parents. I was always their 'cek' and 'sayang' and in their eyes, I could do no wrong. Apparently, before I came into their lives and into their house, a brother a little older than me, had been their frequent visitor. He was their ray of sunshine. Pak Mat even promised to buy a car to take the three year old around the small town of Alor Star. But it was not meant to be for my brother, Izham, was taken away one night and Pak Mat and Mak Teh were inconsoleable. Pak Mat took delivery of his new car, ripped open the top and took the small coffin in his car for a final ride around the small town of Alor Star.

So, it was after his sudden death that I took his place in their hearts. And even after we moved to the house that Pak built the other side of town, we'd make frequent visits and I'd play on the swing.

Anyway, when Pak Mat died, Mak Teh was cared for by some of her relatives. We kept visiting her, and even after my move here, I never forgot the couple who gave me so much love and treated me like their own child. But during one visit, I was told that she no longer lived in that house with the iron gates. She had been taken away somewhere. Her rice jar, apparently was completely empty, so to speak. I was distraught and when we found her, she was in a house, very much similar to the house that I was born in. In fact it was worse. I found her lying very flat on the floor, unable to move because of old age. And she couldn't see me. But upon hearing my voice in between sobs, she asked, "Bila cek balik, sayang?" Suffice to say, I couldn't say much. I couldn't talk but held her frail hands until she fell asleep. We left and that was the last time I saw her.

On this important day in my life, apart from remembering my mother and late father, I also want to remember Pak Mat and Mak Teh, neighbours who became family and gave me so much love.  When I see a full rice jar, I always remember Mak Teh. Sadly, towards the end, hers was left empty.

51 comments:

Life for Beginners said...

Such a touching story. I have a plastic rice bucket at home - gonna make sure that that is not left empty either.

May all our rezeki be always full. :)

mekyam said...

kt, this is heart-wrenching!

Kak Teh said...

Kenny dear, plastic or glass, make sure there's something inside. Not completely empty. Yes, may our rzki be always full. Amin.

Mekyam, to be honest i didnt know which direction this was going to take. And it wasnt meant to be sad in the first place - but now it is.

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Oh dear....I'm speechless... here's a furry hug for you...mmmmwwwaaaahhhh! We love you Mother of Tabby.

Kak Teh said...

CIS, thank you, tell your mama , she raised you well. Tell me, is it something in the Whiskers down under?

_deli said...

Salam Kak Teh,

This post conjure an instant memory of Wan Mok. She's a friend of my late grandmother, Wan Biah who's blindness limits her whereabouts. Wan Mok visited us a few times (this was somewhere in the 70s)to accompany Wan Biah during those days.

One fine day, we had a chance to 'balik kampung'. After all the pleasantries, I rush out to greet Wan Mok. I was at the 'tangga buluh' calling out her name only to be answered by one of the neighbour; "...Wan Mok kau dah tak ado..." Suffice to say, I was distraught to the max.

May all these souls who made us what we are today dirahmati ALlah berkepanjangan.

Al-fatihah

NanaDJ said...

Kak Teh,

So sad...there are those that we have loved and lost but life must go on. We still have fond and sweet memories of them. Alfatihah, to them.
Salaam

Lyana Mauseth said...

hmmmm my rice box sometimes empty smp sebiji beras pun xda...kena beringat lah kan..kkdg lupa..nmpk sgt jarang masak kat rumah...

Iron Butterfly said...

this is a sad and touching story..

Shahieda said...

Your post has me in tears KT, you must be missing your Mak very much! *BIG HUGS*

New moon said...

its really very good story and i like it. thanks for sharing with us...

Easter Poems

Queen Of The House said...

Oh dear, Kak Teh .... dalam terkejar-kejar antara bekerja (makan gaji) and buat kerja di rumah, sometimes I forget about this. Tak sempat nak buat grocery shopping sometimes sampai beras pun habis (and on those days we resort to calling the likes of Pizza Hut!). I have forgotten my Tok's advice to always keep the rice jar full and also, kalau ada cerek, to fill the cerek with water at all times, too. Thank you for this story and the reminder.

I grew up just one street away from Pintu Sepuloh. It is not hard to imagine the scenario.

Naz said...

Salam Kak Teh,
...thanks for this post. It serves as a reminder to me.
What are their names, Kak Teh? Mak would have known them, I think.

Salam to all.

lizaimen's blog said...

HAAAAAAPPY BIRTHDAYYYYYYYY MAK TEH!!! we missed u dearly at zhafri's wedding...hope you feel better...sorry.. no pak jie serenading you with hindi song this year....everyone is sooo dead tired from the wedding. InshaAllah we'll make it up once everyone has recovered...

pakmat said...

...I would supposed we all have our 'rice jars'..something that will bring us back into time when we were young..and youth will always be impressionable..and we will always remember those who were kind to us..as we will also remember those who weren't..:) for the most part, I am of the opinion that journos are sensitive ppl..and with feelings..their eyes see better sufferings and pathos...and u r one of them..cheers..

D said...

ah.. feel so sorry for Mak Teh; a very sad ending indeed. Rezeki comes in many forms. That's why they say we have to be careful & specific when making prayers.

May our rezeki be bountiful dunia & akhirat!

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Mother of Tabby,
Talking about rice, my Mama said she's sad that the price of rice in Malaysia had gone up so much. Thus, filling up the rice jar for the poor must be very hard indeed. Of course, there's the cheaper alternative but the quality is pathetic, she said. We remember watching old Malay films where the poor would only eat watered down rice with salt. But now, just salt?
ooops...membebel pulak kucing ni.
Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!! Another hug for you...mmmmwwwwaaaahhhhh! Kalau duit kutu dah cukup, datang sini ye? purrrr....meow!

3yearshousewife said...

I'm all teary now. Sob sob...
May Allah bless Pak Mat and Mak Teh's souls. Amin.

YMO said...

What a lovely, touching memory. Happy Birthday, Kak Teh! And may your rice jar always be full. Yang-May

Zendra-Maria said...

Kak Teh, when our immediate elders pass away, it reminds us that our own time is fast approaching, and we ponder on the "rice-jars" we leave behind, whether they be filled with good memories of us that they may say a doa or two on our behalf :)

You are one of those

Eh macam pakmat punya komen jer :D

tireless mom said...

Happy Birthday Kak Teh and thanks for the touching story.

Someone told me that not only we should not leave the rice jar empty, but pot kecik/cupak dalam dia pun should always be kept full.

MHB said...

sedihlah kak teh!!

how she remembers you just by the sound of your voice goes to show that when someone has a special place in your heart, they remain there forever!!

Jane Sunshine said...

Kak Teh, I didn't about your foster parents, such genuine love.... Happy Birthday my dearest Kak Teh . God bless you with all the love that you truly deserve.

p/s: miss you la...very sad that I didn't get to catch up with you or AG the last time around.

mekyam said...

on a lighter note, my rice jars are two 200-bags twinings of london tins that once housed earl-greys.

it used to be a rather nice covered earthen glazed jar, but it broke in 2001 [now wondering if that was significant...] and i didn't bother replacing it.

my measuring cup now is the plastic cup from my old national rice-cooker. the tempurung cup i used also broke with the jar and that broke my heart more than losing the jar. it was one that i purloined from the family home, you see. mom had two. both were black with age.

i wonder if my fortunes would improve if i go back to treating my rice with more reverance. :D

mekyam said...

b'day eh? tak habaq pun.

happy birthday and wonderful returns, dearest kak teh!

ilene said...

Quickly flew over to wish Kak Teh a wonderful birthday filled with blessings of good health and joy.

The Chinese observe that just before the Chinese New Year, our rice jar MUST be filled with the grains right up to the brim as this will signify that there will be food to eat throughout the year.

ubisetela said...

Selamat Hari Jadi kakTeh!

DrSam said...

Salam Kak Teh. thank you for sharing one part of your life-story for me to ponder upon (and learn from it). tempat jatuh lagi dikenang. thank you again kak Teh.

(Joining the crowd cheering) Happy birthday to you!

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Hi Zah,

I believed the generation that had gone thru’ the trauma of the Japanese occupation usually does that i.e. always making sure that their rice jar are never left empty. My mum, god bless her soul, did that too and somehow always impart that knowledge to her kids, teaching us to tip out the older rice first before refilling it with 10 kati of the fresher rice then tip back the remaining older one on top to be used first.

That was my first lesson in inventory control, stock rotation, FIFO. Til this day, I still apply this ‘first in first out’ principle in my everyday life and the most important lesson of all was always put aside some ‘bread’ for rainy days. Alas I cannot apply FIFO to Ah Soh, she’s a FIAT – ‘First In Always There’ for good :((

Cheers,
Tommy

P/S - Happy Birthday Zah, for u r a jolly good fella......how old r u?..........

Kak Teh said...

--Deli, Alfatehah to Wan Mok. Alas, as we grow older, there will be more news like this. I remember my husband going home to be told that his grandmother had died. I cant forget the look on his face when he heard that.

NanaDJ, Pak MAt and Mak Teh deserved better. Alfatehah to them.

Kak Teh said...

Lyana, memang kekadangboleh lupa. Tapi kak teh make sure juga walaupun sikit, mesti tinggalkan juga dalam balang.

Iron Butterly, thanks for the visit.

Kak Teh said...

Shahieda, I do miss her. You know what she is like as you have met her. She is so loving and warm.

New Moon,thanks for the visit.

Kak Teh said...

QOTH, oh i didnt kow abt keeping the kettle full as well. Thanks for the reminder. I know my husband keeps water to cool in the kettle before he pours them in the bottles, now i know it must be refilled!

Naz, thanks. I have replied to you via email.

Kak Teh said...

oli, i missthe serenade and i miss the fun at the wedding!!!! tak aci laaaa. never mind, get everyone to marry at the same time, including syajie and then we go home.

Pak Mat, how right you are. We always remember those kind to us and those very nasty ones, except that of course we cant blog abt the nasty ones. tak baikla cakap at yang dah pergi, kan?

Kak Teh said...

D, yes, rezki comes in many forms and we have to e thankful. Yesterday, a friend baked a birthday cake for me.

Hi kucing membebel, its true, harga beras dah naik and susah nak top up balang. Tak pa - simpan tiga empat grains pun jadilah.

Nazrah Leopolis said...

HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY KAKTEH! Jangan bersedih ok? Hugs!

i can almost feel your longing for familiar things from your childhood. such a sad, yet sweet story.

i was also taught the pantang pertaining to the rice jar/bin. the same goes with garam jar, and belanga, cannot be left empty. but i have extended the pantang to my perut too! cannot be left empty!

have a good one kakteh! i love u!

aliff muhammad said...

Salam,

Kak Teh,

A very touching story, I had to build a dam inside my heart so my cries didn't flow out freely in front of my office mate (ha!ha! kantoi baca blog masa kerja)

Thank you for the old timer wisdom Kak Teh...now I know why my mother always fill her tempayan beras full to the brim!

Kak Teh said...

3yrshousewife, thank you. al fatehah to them too.

ymo - thanks - see you tonite and hopefully our tummies will e full.






.

Kak Teh said...

zendra - now you have taken a different perspective - and its an interesting one. I hope i have left good memories in the jars...errrr not sure.

TM, my pot kecik pun yang datang denganperiuk yang dibeli tu. I love the old tempurung ones.

Kak Teh said...

jane, miss you too. And i so wanted to see you and the growing family. Tell M, the ketam will have to wait - there will be more opportunities but i know this time around yr hands will be full. Love u Jane and take good care of yourself.

MHB, yes, she did remember my voice. She spoke to me without even turning because she was too frail. As I type this, i could see it all again. So, very sad.

Kak Teh said...

mekyam, when we first arrived, our rice jar was the small one - my mother when visiting was so worried that we didnt have enough. Now, tong minyak pun tak cukup. Dont u go worrying about the significance of the broken tempurung.

Ilene, i know it must be a Chinese belief too. Hope yours is full to the brim too.

Kak Teh said...

ubi setela, thank you. hope you are well.

Dr Sam, sometimes, small little things in our past surface when we least expected it. And then we realise the significance. I didnt know how the direction of the story was going to take until the rice jar loomed large before my mind;s eyes. then i knew what i had to do.

Kak Teh said...

tommy yewgofigure, ha, you nailed it. That's the generation that went through the war and the hardship, that is why they are so careful with things. Anak selepas merdeka lain pulak mentality, right?, hmm poor Ah soh!

Intan, birthdays do bring these nostalgic thoughts. you take care too - have a safe journey home.

Shahieda said...

A belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY KT! I'm sure you had a ball of a time with the family spoiling you rotten. I didn't realize that it was your birthday when I responded, my apologies.

And how very warm & endearing your Mak was when I met her. I almost ended up in tears because she was trying to converse with me, and I couldn't understand what she was saying because of the language barrier.

Please don't forget to email the pics of her with me, I'd like to add it to mine.

Zubaidah Arshad said...

I want to leave a word or two, but I don't really know what to say. The story touches my heart, and I think it doesn't need to be commented.

Just read as it is, and ponder.

Kak Teh said...

Shahieda, well, it was a so so kin of day. We had different sessions with different children as they all had their own commitments and one child is away in Malaysia but she called to wish me. At night a friend baked a birthday cake and tomorrow night a treat out to see the musical "Sister Act" I am so going to enjoy that.

Yes,I will certain send you the pictures of you and Mak. Language is no problem to Mak as she speaks the language of love.

Kak Teh said...

Zubaidah, your presence here is more than enough. Thank you.

Tranquility said...

May her soul rest in peace.
Al Fatihah.

Kak Teh said...

Tranquility, thank you. Al-Fatehah.

Tok Bet said...

Half way tru, glimpses of my 'Mak Yun' in the kitchen & 'Pak Awang' with his pipe flickered into my mind... TQ for reviving these memories..

Kak Teh said...

Tok Bet, banyak kenangan lama kita. Pi lah tengok Mak sekali sekala.