Monday 12 December 2005

The Lie Must Go On...

The water flowing down from the imposing Jerai that formed the backdrop of our quiet little town, was, needless to say, very cold. I shiver at the thought of that afternoon, that episode, after our Quran class. It wasn’t the quick dip in the cold water that made me shiver, just the thought of what we did after that.

“We came here to get clay for the art class. That’s all,” Kak Cik said taking matters into her hands. “Listen, we need not tell her anything”.

We were perhaps about nine or ten when we began this conspiracy against Mak that was to continue until now. Kak Cik seems to take charge in matters like this. I meekly obey when she says, “Listen”. You see, Mak must never be subjected to any worry. Imagine had she known that her two little girls were splashing about in the river behind Mak Aishah’s house, she’d be worried sick. That’s for sure.

And we don’t want that, do we? We have seen what she went through when Abang did his disappearing act. He sold his bicycle and with what little he had, took off for some adventure. I didn’t see Mak cry but I know she didn’t sleep at night, waiting up for Abang. And the same thing happened when he went up the Jerai and came down carrying a huge python. Or the time he spent nights at sea, with the fishermen. Abang must have told her he was there to paint the sunset.

We must never make Mak worry or sad. She had never seen us quarrel or heard us raise our voices to each other. This means we grit our teeth or just hiss out whatever we want to say to each other when she is around. We do not bring up any sensitive subjects in her presence. One look from Kak Cik, my sentences will hang midway. There are taboo subjects. London is taboo. Cos she wants to visit me. So no one talks about London.

And we have learnt to deal with certain situations quite early.

I remember how she’d patiently wait while we read letters that Abang wrote from Belfast. When we finished she’d ask:

“Abang kata apa?”

“Dia kirim salam,” we’d reply after digesting the chronicle of explosions which had happened within earshot of Abang’s rented accomodation. This was in the seventies.

“Amboih – tujuh lai surat, dia kirim salam saja?” came the retort.

”Aaha – dia kata dia sehat,”

And so the lie goes on and on. Or perhaps, it should be termed being economical with the truth. Why would we be telling Mak the truth? Censorship was exercised very early in our household and storylines get changed very easily during conversations among us siblings when Mak suddenly makes an appearance.

Kak Cik has devised an effective way to let us know when storylines have to change. A very painful one too. I’d get a very strong kick under the table and believe you me – the storyline WILL change.

For example:

“Pak Tam kerabat pokok moktan (rambutan). Lepaih tu jatuh....” the story got interrupted as she sensed Mak's slow walk into the kitchen.

“Pak Tam?” Mak was curious about her brother. You see her hearing is selective.

“Dak, pokok moktan Pak Tam lebat tahun ni,” Another lie – another version of Pak Tam’s accident that resulted in his broken leg.

When Kak Piah was very very ill, carloads of relatives were visiting her at the hospital. And of course they’d visit Mak as well as Mak is now easily the great grandmama of all in the clan. The official version was that they were all attending kenduri of some friends that Mak didn’t know, or something like that. I find that hard to believe cos Mak seems to know everyone.

And when Kak Cik herself went into hospital to remove something which was not supposed to be where it was, there was a wall of silence. No one knew how to explain. But deep inside, I think she suspected something.

And another thing, we do not speak in English when she is around. She knows that is one way we are talking about things we dont want her to know.

And the conspiracy still continues – for it must. The last few days had seen a frenzy of sms’es and yms and phonecalls back and forth.

YM form Ajie "Dont say anything to Mak, Ok?"

SMS from Lilah - "she doesn't know - so dont say anything".

And the phone call from Kak Cik, “Listen, we must not tell her, okay? She must never know. We need not tell her anything,” said Kak Cik, taking charge once more, and I was transported back to the riverbank, standing there, shivering and almost in tears.

“Yes,” my voice broke as it did on that afternoon on the river bank.

Kak Cik sounded very strong. She said that she is alright. But she is lying too – we have been in this game for too long. I knew that she went into the shower and had a good cry and came out to face Mak again as if everything is alright.

When I called home, I was pleasantly surprised that it was Mak who picked up the phone. I was taken aback by the strength in her voice and more importantly, was happy that she could hear my voice.

“Mak sehat?” I asked not daring to utter more than three words.

“Mak sehat. Zaharah sehat?” she always called me by my full name.

“Sehat, Mak” we both lied.


Maya said...

Oh Zaharah, what to just got to be strong. Maybe the one thought that shd give you some sort of restitution is the fact that she has seen it know, the weddings, the grandkids, the kenduris, the festivals, etc. It's good to hear that she sounds good. I hope the news is also good, Z. Hugs

Anonymous said...

Nama kak teh cam nama mak saya... Tak boleh bayang perasaan kak teh lama berjauhan ngan your mom ya...

anedra said...

Yes, the lie must go on, as hard as it is.

Hang in there. We (the family) will find comfort in each other.

On a lighter note, everybody is getting so good at this act! ;p

Berisman said...

Can you tell me the named of the writer who said,"Ask me no question and I tell you no lies" ?

Anonymous said...

Unbeknownst to us, mothers always know everything. They have the "truth radars" and can tell when the kids are lying. Entah2, she is the one pulling the wool over your eyes to give you guys the impression that she is not worried. Betul tak?

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Queen Of The House said...

There is no keeping anything from Mak. Yet at times, we all do that act of being economical with the truth. Kak Teh, I hope you and all yours are sihat .....


All the stories when you were young does invoke lots of memories. Ahhh..the good old days.Love every bit of it.
Mr Berisman, the name of the writer whom you quoted above is Oliver Goldsmith. Very apt, he quote is for KT's latest entry.hehe

Ordinary Superhero said...

KT, I will not call it a lie, but it's a constructive cencorship. It is something that we may have to do using our best judgment. Hopefully our judgment to to the best interest of our love ones.

Anonymous said...

kakteh, its not easy living with these 'lies' and having to disguise the voices ... dalam hati cuma Allah yang tahu!! be strong and banyak-banyak bersabar. meh sini.. a big peluk for you !!

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh, seriously, you sihat ke? Did you get my YM? Have been thinking of you. But I think the big fire is far away from where you are huh?

MA said...

"Doktor cakap apa ? " Mak asked me after I came out from the doctor's room, being slapped with the ultimate truth of Mak's condition.

That she only had 4 months to live.

"Doktor kata Mak boleh balik rumah "

I didn't actually lie. I just didn't tell her the whole truth.

Along the four agonising months, I knew she saw through my "lies".

Hang in there Kak Teh.

My prayers are with you, always.

* Hugs kuat-kuat *

dith said...

Both my parents had over the recent years come up with fairly serious ilnesses and each time I had to shoulder the responsibilty to tell them the truth. Alhamdulillah so far the diagnosis are all benign ...I always dread for the worst.

AuntyN said...

Kak Teh, I know the feeling. There are times when I have to tell all my siblings not to tell my mak all their worries and troubles. For the same reason I do not want her to worry.

We jsut want to be king therefore sometimes we have top be "cruel"

Our prayers are with you and you mak. Hang in there Kak Teh.


Count Byron said...

Kak Teh. I love your lies. I love your Mak's lies. I love the strengths you both have, and Kak Cik.
May Allah make it easy for you.

LifeBloom said...


As usual - another great piece!!

Lying to a loved one for what we perceive will be best for them is most difficult to do - but what is worse is when they find out about it!

OOD said...

my mom said, tell her only the truth and nothing but the truth. She said she could handle any bitter painful worrisome truths better than a decent well-meant lie.

And we still tell her the lies.

As a mom, when from the kitchen, i hear a crash, of something breaking and i ask my Dot, APA TU? Her standard answer is, tak ada apa apa pun, i dont do anything pun' it sure makes me wonder! Is she being over protective of me or her hide! :o0

MISS you kakteh!

SimplyMas said...

Sometimes we do have to lie to parents just so that they won't worry... Sometimes me and my sis have to refrain from telling the truth when things doesn't go the way we want to...

I hope that you and family will stay strong Kak Teh! Hope I'm able to meet you soon too!!!


Anonymous said...

I was back home with Tok... and not here... - A @ NYC.

Anonymous said...

Sorry.. what i meant was... I wish I was back home with tok.. not here where I am - A @ NYC

Nazrah Leopolis said...

i hope u are feeling better.
apapun kakteh, semuanya ada hikmah.
and hikmah is always positive.

these are trying times.hang in there ok?

take care of you.

Bergen said...

I believe you know that they know you lie. As history has a way to repeat itself, your children will lie to you too because they will think truth will hurt you. They forget that you've been through things they will never experience, bitter things that make a strong person that you are.

You will be amazed at how well they can handle the truth, and you will be sorry if they find out later that you lied to them because an elder doesn't forgive easy.

I've seen enough at the old folks' home.

Anonymous said...

Hope all's well, Kak Teh...but I know deep down you wished the lie would end..somehow it does make us guilty: white or not...hope it doesn't have to go on for too long...

'Macbeth' has taught me the more we hold on to our guilt, it will take us to a point of no return....Pray that won't happen..which I'm sure for your case, the Lord understands..

...hang in there!

atiza said...


sometimes white lies are far better than the truth.

meandbaby said...

Kak Teh, we as children sebolehnya tak nak our mother to burden herself with all this problems so we tend to hide from her..but some how or rather a mother instinct is always there...sooner or later she will know tapi kalau boleh kita memang tak nak Mak kita tau...I know memang susah nak ditelan..semua serba tak kena..but Hang in there..mintak-mintak Allah permudahkan segalanya..Stay strong...

Kak Teh said...

salam to all - and words failed me. I can just say thank you and thank you very much for comforting words and doa.