Monday 9 January 2006

The year Mak went to Mekah

The year Mak went to perform her Haj was the year of rites of passage for me and my siblings. The night before she left, I remember sitting on the bench outside the bungalow in Penang that Pak rented for three days, feeling the cold wind from the sea, on my face. And I remember with sadness that Mak would be gone in that big ship that would take her out into the vast unfriendly ocean for months and months. Before her Haj, the furthest ‘oversea’ land Mak had been to was Singapore, to visit her brother – Pak Lang. And that was with family members. And now, she was travelling alone – with just some friends from the surau and it will be the longest we had ever been separated from her. It was heartbreaking.

I remember the family photograph that we took the morning she left. I was wearing the batik pinafore that Ah Gek made for raya. So was Kak Cik but my eyes were swollen because I cried so much. Mak was wearing, what I thought was a jubbah that was way too big for her.

We said our tearful goodbyes, along with hundreds if not thousands of other families at the port and I watched Mak disappear into a sea of white jubbahs heading towards the Bunga Raya which swallowed them into her bowels. And with a final hoot – sailed off into the distance.

I didn’t want to go home cos I knew Mak was not there. I felt the same kind of emptiness I always felt when Mak went to visit Kak in KL or anywhere. But we did – we headed for our home in Yan after which we began a new chapter in our life. We were soon despatched to Alor Star to live with Tok while Lilah, our youngest sister went to stay with Abang Man and family. Pak couldn’t take care of us as he needed care as well. Abang and Nyak were there to look after him in that government bungalow in Jalan Tungku Mahmood.

Kak Cik and I shared the same fear and trepidation at the thought of living with Tok. The very mention of the word Tok would bring shudders – she never needed to live with anyone before and sending off two young girls, never educated in culinary skills to live with her, was like despatching them off to some charm school ready for the kill. The only reason I looked forward to the ‘stint’ with Tok was because we were to be schooled at the St Nicholas Convent. We were very impressed with those boxer pleat blue uniform that convent girls wore. I was to learn about the disciplines much much later.

Tok sewed baju kurungs for a living and sold bunga melur from her garden to an Indian guy who came every morning to collect them. Thus our chores before school would include picking those scented flowers after subuh. Tok would measure them in cupaks. Rumours had it that Tok went several times to Mekah using her ‘duit bunga’!

After school, we were taught the art of cooking – starting with the introduction to the various spices and herbs. Tok was not impressed with our lack of skills and knowledge. I was sent off to the garden to look for daun kesum and never to return until I found it. My hands blistered for days because I had to use the parang to peel the coconuts, crying as I did so – not unlike the anak tiri scenes in Malay movies. We were rewarded then, with trips to Mak Jah’s house down the road whenever there were Malay or Hindi movies on TV.

Tok was not the orge that she was made out to be. We learnt a lot from her – not least the tulang belud for the baju kurungs that she made. She was a tough master to learn from though and a perfectionist. Any imperfections and the air would turn blue. It took me a long time to figure out some of the similies that she used to describe our shoddy work. Anyway, we did learn. And she would reward us with blouses made from cloth remnants – patchwork to make a-go-go blouses, complete with a peek-a-boos around the neck, that were the in thing in those days, worn with tight fitting jeans that Kak bought from Singapore.

We also learnt to make patchwork, again from remnants.

But we looked forward to the weekends to go home to Yan. We soon became experts taking the two hour bus ride to the house with the Jerai as its backdrop. So peaceful, serene and beautiful compared to noisy and rowdy Alor Star. The only excitement in Yan was when the two local drags paraded in their new clothes. The small town would slowly stir to life as people peeked out of their windows, twitched their curtains and made catcalls from behind their net curtains. Or when Indonesian magicians cum medicine men pulled the crowd with their brilliant orations at the square near the market.

Pak and Abang were coping alright under the care of Nyak – someone we adopted during our stint in Yan. Pak complained that Abang made jemput pisang as big as the fist but the house was always full. Abang’s friends would congregate there in his small room and they’d be playing songs by the Beatles on the small record player. On nights when Malay movies were showing on telly, Pak would buy packets of kacang goreng for those people who came to watch. The whole village, it seemed, would turn up.

Lilah, our youngest sister was coping alright too with our cousins down the road. I supposed she too acquired the art of cooking from our aunty who was a caterer of sorts.

The highlight of our visits back would be letters from Mak. They were not really written by her but for her by someone. She was well etc, etc. Letters used to take weeks if not months.

Mak, it would seem, went on the pilgrimage with several missions. Pak had been unwell and from the moment I could speak and was able to go to the shop by myself, I knew that he was taking a kind of tonic with the picture of the tiger on the dark coloured bottles. We were always told to wrap the bottles from Ah Leng’s shop and Ah Leng knew this was the ritual. Why, we didn't know – and we didn't ask. Pak said, the tonic eased his pain in the joints, especially after the accident. Mak wasn't very happy but kept her silence. But everytime we had visitors, like a ritual, we would collect all the bottles and hid them. When there were too many, we’d sell them to the keling botol and made quite a tidy sum for ourselves.

Abang, as the eldest son, wasn’t doing too well with his studies but would rather while his time by the sea, painting pictures of the sunset. Mak wanted more for her eldest son – her only son then. One son died after birth and another son at the age of three.

Time flew fast, what with perfecting tulang beluds, the forays into Tok’s garden searching and identifying all kinds of ulams, and then Mak retuned. Almost all of her hopes and prayers were answered. Abang got into high school and later to ITM and then studied in Ireland. He was to become DG of a very big organisation. We gradually stopped having to buy those ‘tonics’ in the dark bottles with the tiger on the labels. Alhamdulilah. And most importantly – she brought us back a gift for the family. She brought back another little brother – so fair and cuddly and smelling of the minyak attar. Mak in her big white jubbah had unwittingly fooled us and the authorities that she was only a few months pregnant. She went into labour in Padang Arafah and it was on that sacred land that she gave us our brother – Mohamad Arafah – who until today is known to all as Ajie.

So that was the year that Mak went to Mekah when all her prayers were answered. We now need all our prayers to be answered for her.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha to all. Maaf zahir dan batin.


SimplyMas said...

Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha to you and your family kak teh... Teringat jugak bila time my mother went to the pilgrimige without my dad and I was left taking care of my ayah and since my sis is married and living with the family... Never realised how much she meant to me but then again, my relationship with Ayah somehow got better too!

Hope that your mum is sihat walafiat Kak teh!

MA said...

My parents went to Hajj when I was in Form Five.

I saw my Mak cried that morning as they were leaving the house to the airport.

It was the first and only time I ever saw her crying.It was the first time she was leaving us, the children too.

Nostalgic memories. Nice one Kak Teh.

Kak Teh said...

mami, yes - its an experience we all go through, kan? Selamat ari raya to you too.
MA - yes - it wasn't one of the easiet posts to write. Thanks

dith said...

Subhanallah! I would say that your mum was the 'soul' of your family. She braved the sea all 'alone' to perform the Hajj bringing along many hopes and prayers and to think that she was pregnant!!

To be present at Arafah to observe the wukuf in solitude and khusyuk is a sublime experience. But to be in labour and deliver another soul overthere during wukuf is real blessing!

Thus it's so appropriate to remember mak on this blessed day! ALhamdulilah!

Eid Mubarak Kak Teh!

Kak Teh said...

DITH -Thank you. it would still be an understatement to say that she is the soul of the family. She is one great lady and i need yur prayers for her well being at this time.

Anonymous said...

Saya sekolah st nicholas dulu, kak teh :)
And, I love all your entry about your Mak. Salam Eid Mubarak, kak teh.
Kak teh pegi sembahyang raya kat mana this yr? Maybe bulih la ketemu kak teh :)

Maya said...

Oh Kak Teh,

Lovely story this. I am so touched by how you kids kept together when your Mum went away. But it was all well worth it, wasn't it?

A mum's love is magic and her doa must be more than that...look at how everything turned out. WOnderful.

ANd I love your writing. Excellent!

Happy Eid to you and yours and tell your H that he does indeed look younger than me :)

nadya.s said...

salam kak teh,

terbaik kak teh..terbaik!
salam aiduladha buat kak teh dan keluarga. :)

nad+family di raub.
ps: abah kim salam...

Anonymous said...

doa hamba yang jahil ini bersama ibu kak teh. bersama iringan harapan agar dipermudahkan urusan beliau didunia dan diakhirat. And kak teh pulak, jgn dok malaih pakai baju tebai musim musim sejuk ni.

Ordinary Superhero said...

Kak Teh, salam Eid ul Adha.

SubhanalLah, saya kagum dengan kekuatan seorang wanita seperti ibu Kak Teh.

Kak Teh said...

marlinda - another exsnc?? wow! tahun bila? anyway - kak teh solat di restoran mawar, edgware rd.
ailin - hah - another rites of passage story! Thanks for sharing.
maya - thanks for nice words. I will tell H that!

Kak Teh said...

nadya - selamat hari raya to u too . and salam to yr parents from moi!
adiejin - i promise to do that if u promise to take care of yrself! Thanks for the doa for my mum.
YB OSH - terima kasih yang tak terhingga!
Jane - thanks! see u soon! Its been too, too long!

Honeytar said...

Dearest Kak Teh,

A beautiful write. Thanks for sharing Kak Teh.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha to you and all in the family. I'm sure you've done a lot of Korban by just being there in the UK.

Honeytar said...

ps. Mak Andeh,

I LOVE that photo of "Mak Andeh" !


Anonymous said...

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha to you and family, Kak Teh!

Nazrah Leopolis said...

my grandfather told me that those days long before jetplanes, ppl pack up for hajj as though they were going to die, with kapan kapan and other funeral items. they needed to bring stoves, food supplies etc for the journey aboard big big ships.

i shudder at the thought my own mom performing the wukuf in her condition but i am am humbled by what ur Mak has had to go through.

she is truly a fighter. Prayers shall continue for both our moms, may Allah bring forth what He wills as best for them and may we be able to find the hikmah, come what may.

Nazrah Leopolis said...

yikes, even when typing i stutter. sorry...

LifeBloom said...


I was 14 When my parents performed the Hajj - I remembered feeling so helpless. I had sleepness nights thinking of the possibility that they might not return and figuring how I would feed and clothe my siblings should the unthinkable happens. Alhamdullilah my parents returned safely and I learnt to appreciate them more after the experience.

Your Mak is indeed an exceptional woman - she reminds me a lot of my grandma. Will be praying for her.

May you and yours have a peaceful Eid'ul Adha.

anedra said...

this story is new to me! I know about Tok boarding the ship for Haj, but I never knew you were all separated, and that you and mom stayed with Tok Nek! Heheh!

Tok was a determined, strong lady then, and she still is today. Very inspiring isnt she?

Selamat Hari Raya. All my love to the family!


Its great how you managed to conceal about the tonic bottle. It made me think a bit. I had the same issue with my late father too. Happy Eidul Adha as well. I had to work, so tak dpt sembahyang raya. I pray for your mum too. It brought tear to my eyes. See you tomorrow!

mama irma said...

Kak Teh, Your mum must have taken a long time to be able to get out of Ihram since she gave birth in Arafah. Memang pengorbanan yang besar by her!

Queen Of The House said...

What a lovely entry, Kak Yeh! You made me think about the time, only time, I ever went onto the big kapal haji at Penang - to send off a grandaunt. We got to visit the cabin she was to stay in. Shortly after that, all trips to the Holy Land were by flights only. But the memory of the kapal haji was to be treasured (in the heat while waiting for the boarding, so many orang pengsan!)

And St Nicholas Convent was my alma mater too! (But I never got to wear the light blue pinafore - they changed to the current dark blue ones the year I entered Std 1), And some aunts of mine who are now in the 50s (would be your seniors, I guess).

Where was your house in Yan? My husband's family were originally from Yan. We've been there often, just to visit the old houses they lived in, and to visit the graves of dearly departeds.

By the way, what happened to Ajie Kapai's blog? I enjoyed reading his entries.

Queen Of The House said...

Oops, sorry, make that KAK TEH! I dah berjangkit this mistyping thingy lah, Kak Teh!

Anonymous said...

hi k.teh,

this is my first entry to your blog, even though its been months following your blog..

i'm an ex s.nicholas convent too - back in 1983 (std 6)till form 2. pas tu pindah gi kl. luv that school.

i remember when my parents went for haj, my grandparents came and stay with us.. kecut perut coz arwah tok ayah garang sikit.. but reading your entry rasa tersentuh, tak tau kenapa.. but one thing for sure, your mom is a tough lady after all.

selamat hari raya... tee71, shah alam.
(i've been blog hopping kat kak lady, ksya, anedra n others..since last year, best gak ye... ok kak teh, see u later and by the way luv your blog...muaaahh)

Kak Teh said...

honeytar - thanks and selamat hari raya to u too.
apples -and to you too. Have u been busy?
faux diamante - Alhamdulillah your mum's wish is fulfilled now and Allah has given her the strength.
Lifebloom - yes - being away from our parents some how made us more amture..rasa ada responsibilities.

Kak Teh said...

anedra - bit by bit u will learn more from this blog - hehehe...But yes, Tok is one extraordinary lady! Take good care of her for me.
pu1pu3 - hehe - yes, yes, yes - lrets talk abt it later over koayteow!
mama irma - how she did it i did nt know - but she did it - and then went on - much later to perform several hajs for my father.
QOTH - u are lucky to have been able to get into the ship. I remember banyak orang pengsan! and hey! another st nick(er)s? yr aunts could be my batch - sapa depa?
anon - another st nicks - sure my super duper junior..and thank you for such kind words. Ya - i thought my grandmother was so garang...but she mellowed later in life.

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh, yeah I had 3 weeks of MC and right after that went on a holiday trip to Malaysia in Dec... 3 times in a month!..Just about to start school now..oh forgot to tell you..I've moved to a new reason... just wanted to try wordpress..saja...grinz*

...sorry for the inconvenience, AGAIN! blush*

Blabarella said...

Subhanallah!! The whole post was extremely moving, but the last bit .. the delivery in Arafah .. of Arafah .. God is truly truly great!!! Thank you for sharing what must have been such a blessed experience!! It really perked me up, that.

Count Byron said...

My prayer and Countess' go along with yours for Mak. I feel very close to Mak.. and would love to speak good words from a "son' she had never met. And my prayer goes to you and your family too Kak Teh.

I am extremely relieved too that all Mak's prayer were answered.. including the dark bottles.. alhamdlillah. Allah open the heart of men as and when He likes..

It is indeed a brave write KT. May Mak gain her health.. and may she be in the greatest care of Allah.

Kak Teh said...

apples - hope u are better now.
Blabs - thank you. Yes, my mum brought back a gift from the sacred land!
Count - what can I say - and thank you is not enough.

Arena said...

Kak Teh,
Another great entry, so moving. Arena doakan, semoga Allah berikan segala rahmat, dan kesihatan kepada ibu kita. Take care and keep writing ya.

Anonymous said...

Akum Kak Teh

I used to be your silent reader, but now rasa macam nak bukak mulot.
I like reading your blog, somehow rasa macam baca buku cerita pulak. Rasa macam pernah jumpa but takot jugak nak serkap jarang ( takot salah orang ).
Are you from up north ke Kak Teh, sbb panggil Tok ( my parents are from Kulim, dan saya juga panggil Tok dekat my grandma ).

Macam pernah jumpa tu sebab haritu pi bukak puasa di Holiday Villa London, then saw Atok with his wife and kids, I thought I saw you too.

Anyway keep on writing. I used to live in Manchester, but now dah pindah ke Sydney, but not forever. InsyaAllah, in the next few years !


mommy@lif said...

every time i read ur entry, sure rasa semacam & sometimes menangis.

my prayes to ur Mak and family.

salam eidul adha

Anonymous said...

Your Mak is a good friend of my Tok, Mak Tam. I remember your Mak very well; "putih dan cantik" as my Tok refers her, because Tok thinks shes as black as her name.

Your Mak always came to my Tok's place almost every other day and they would chit chat until "Pak Man Jual Ikan" came. At times, I would be asked to go and get bunga melor from your mother's garden. Tok loves bunga melor very much, its her favourite.

I can still picture your Mak standing at the door, smiling. And I do remember her as "putih dan cantik".

I wish both of your Mak and my Tok well.

mokciknab said...

Kak Teh,
What a lovely, lovely post! Have you ever thought of compiling all the stories about your family into a book? If Frank McCourt can bring the small town of Limerick to the reading public, think of what you can do for Yan. (And Awang Goneng can do for KT)

AuntieYan said...

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha to you & family Kak Teh.
My parents went to Mecca sometime back in 1981. That was the first time both of them travel by plane.And my mak keep on asking whether they still provide the kapal haji as she was so scared to fly...anyhow, she made it and said she enjoyed the flight....:-)

HH said...

To all mothers in the world! (salute!)

Anonymous said...

Stumbled upon your blog after hopping from one blofg to another in this lazy afternoon...
Excellent writing!
And May Allah bless your mother for being such a dear soul, with her courage and all..
Slamat Hari Raya Aidiladha!

AuntyN said...

KakTeh : I remember my tok and tok ayah went to Mekah naik kapai ayaq. Depa bawak peti besi masa nak pi Mekah tu. But my parents went by flight, kami semua dah besar panjang dah. so tak lah terasa nostalgia macam Kak Teh tu.

InsyaAllah Kak Teh, your mak will be fine, she was a strong person so I know she willpull it thru no matter what. KakTeh be strong too OK?

~ said...

kak teh... nice entry. selamat hari raya and semoga semua jemaah selamat pergi dan pulang. and to the ibadah yg ditunaikan, harapnya diterima ALLAH dan diberkatiNYA.

ubisetela said...

Selamat Hari Raya KakTeh,
beautiful! love reading your Mak stories, my prayer that she's well. Insya Allah.

I didn't get to join my siblings at the airport sending Mak & Ayah for haj, was in boarding school sitting for my exam. Cried alone in the class on the day Mak & Ayah left.

KakNi said...

kak teh- masa tu umur kak teh berapa dan umur mak berapa?

Ewok said...


My mum got to rasa naik kapal laut and also kapal terbang masa dia ke Mekah. First time she went when she was 13, I think, back in the 50s. It was experience of a lifetime she once told me. The way they makan ramai2 dlm talam, throw dead people into the sea and tengok dolphins swim ikut kapal. The worst when kapal dipukul ombak kuat, abis tunggang langgang org and barang2 dlm kapal tu. Second time she went, that runtuhan terowong Muassim happened. Her life was spared from the incident because my father forgot something and they had to patah balik to hotel. Imagine not knowing whether your parents were trapped in that runtuhan. We had sleepless nights but thank God depa selamat.

btw Kakteh, ramai gak yg sama alma mater ni. SNC rocks!

ps: MakAndeh... lawa gambar :) (sorry can't help it. kena komen jugak)

Anonymous said...


wow... i would feel so grand to have been born on THE padang, I imagine ur Mak macam Siti Hajar lari ke hulu ke hilir carik air for her new-born... but pls excuse my penchant for dramatics.

My mother had a bad experience when she went for the haj. She had gone with my sister and they had a MAJOR falling out right there in the holy land. But other than that seeing the Ka'bah and doing the tawaf was a magical experience for her who is a mu'alaf. I shall not bore u with the details but nuff said that my sister and her have now reconciled.

One thing that still puzzles me about musim haji is why people cry... while sending off people cry while sambut balik pun people cry... me included hehehe... why lah???

Kak Teh said...

Arena, thank you for the doa. Really appreciate it.
TTG - macam fashion show?? hahaha!
Rini (anon ) yes , I am from utara and yes, I think we have met. You were chasing your cute son arund the room and then you saw Atok and kakak. I was there with them on the night they had ketam sambal. Yes - we have met!
You are now in sydney?

Kak Teh said...

alif's mommy - thank you , thank you and thank you.
ann - i think i know your Tok. and thank you for bringing in the subject of Pak Man ikan!! LOL. He called me 'orang susah' because everytime i went home, he'd have to stock up daginga nd ketam as I wont eat fish! Oh the memories! When Mak ordered crabs - he new 'orang susah' dah balik!
Mok Cik, u reckon I could? Oh dear - perhaps AG and I could co-write dari Yan ke Kuala Terengganu - hehe - thanks for kind words!
Auntty Yan - I'd go by plane anytime - I hate the sea!

Kak Teh said...

anim - yes - salute to them!
Rafiqah, welcome to my humble blog. Hope u had a wonderful raya too.
AuntyN - thank you - yes I will be.
superBabe - insyaallah.
ubi - hehe - there will be more - wait for further Mak stories..hehe.
Ni Ummi - masa tu kak teh baru in primary school - perhaps 11 and Mak must have been in her late thirties kut.
Ewok - thanks for the additional account - I wish there are more stories from people wo remember what it was like in those kapal haji.
noni - i think we cried because takut tak jumpa pulak, dak? and bila balik nangis lagi sebab - hehe - JUMPA PULAK!!!! well... sebab dapat berkat haji baru!

Anonymous said...


saya cikgu midad. dulu belajaq kat uk jugak, plymouth. sekolah rendah kat convent as jugak. kampung kat yan besaq, kpg lubok boy......

KakNi said...

kiranya kak teh, awal jugaklah dia berpeluang ke mekah ye...

saya ni setakat ni tak nampak lagi peluang nak ke sana, macam my officemate cakap: "duit dalam tabung haji baru boleh buat tambang sampai ke ipoh" (maksud dia duit dalam tabung haji tu sikit, tak boleh sampai mekalh lagi)

Kirra Khairuddin said...

kak Teh...

I was "made" in parents p mekah (naik kapal haji) tu, balik 9 mths later....tadaaaa...hehe....

My prayers for your mum, for you and your family!

Kak Teh said...

anon, w'salam - u orang lubuk boy?? sekolah convent - tahun mana?
cik ni - insyaallah nanti cukuplah tu...
Lady K...wahhhhhhhhh can u imagine u were also there!! Thanks for the doa.