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.