Remembering Kak Eda: Nina's Story - Tuesday March 13 2007
Bapak lost his eldest child, Kak Piah to cancer in January, 1995. Last week on March 8, he lost another child, Kak Eda, also to cancer.
When Kak Piah died, he was devastated. Mak had passed on 4 years earlier, in June.
"How can I bury my daughter?', he had silently wept.
These days, Bapak floats in and out of his past. Some days, he would not remember names, faces and events. On other days, he would remember things so lucidly.
At his home now in Section 16, Petaling Jaya, Bapak lives with his wife, Habibah and my youngest sister, Nina, her husband, Mazlen and their two children, Sara Hamidah, 10 and Heikal Sufiyan, 6. Nina is due to deliver their third anytime now.
Although we visit him regularly, it is with Nina that he is in constant communication.
Bapak is usually in bed in his room downstairs.
The room used to be the study. He and our step-mom (whom we call Mak Cik) moved into it before Lalin's wedding in 1994 because the master bedroom was turned into the bridal suite.
Bapak decided to stay put downstairs. That had been his room since.
For quite some time now Nina would always tell us of Bapak's "quirky' days. Sometimes they are amusing. Sometimes they would make us so worried.
Like the time he had asked to visit his parents in Singapore. Or, when he asked why Mak had taken so long to come home.
We sometimes wonder whether he was always pulling a fast one on us.
Last week, when Nina walked into his room as he was lying in bed, to tell him about Kak Eda's passing, he looked at her, his eyes, glazed and blinking.
"Eda or Ena?", he had asked.
"Kak Eda, papa... Kak Eda is older than Kak Ena. She had cancer, remember, papa?", said Nina patiently.
He turned his face away.
And wept silently.
In this segment of Tuesdays With Bapak, I would like to introduce Nina. She has "penned"
something in memory of our beloved Kak Eda. This is her story:
"I paced up and down hoping that Kak Eda would be back from ITM that day. It was Ramadhan 1978. Hari Raya was about 2 weeks away and Kakak (Lalin) and I had not bought our Raya clothes.
I pestered Kakak to ask Kak Ena to get in touch with Kak Eda.Obviously, Kakak thought it was a silly idea because that would mean asking Kak Ena to drive all the way to ITM.
I justified my urgent request by saying that we would not be able to choose our Raya shoes with Abang Ani and Kak Ton because we would not know what clothes to match them with.
Kakak, a little impatient with her younger sister's pestering over such an inconsquential matter, told me to go read a book or something. To keep myself occupied.
She was sure Kak Eda would be back that weekend.
"And don't bother Mummy with our problem, ok?", she reminded me. It sure sounded like a warning.
For an 8 year-old, not having her Raya clothes in time for the celebration, was indeed a big problem.
Kak Piah had earlier brought us around to shop but the options were so limited. The clothes were either too girlish for me or too childish for Kakak who was 11.
So I begged Kak Piah to wait for Kak Eda to design our clothes. Kak Piah did not bother to argue with her youngest sister but cautioned me that we might not get our clothes ready by Raya.
Kakak agreed with Kak Piah and turned to me and said: "Tak tahu awak. Nanti kita tak ada Baju Raya".
I was adamant. I was sure Kak Eda would be back early. She had the Raya cookies to bake, hadn't she?
Baking Raya cookies and cakes was a responsibility Kak Eda had taken took over from Kak Olin who had left for England.
For a few years, Kak Olin fooled Kakak and I by using the same dough to bake cookies of different colours, shapes and toppings.
We later became wiser and made sure Kak Eda baked us the ones Kakak read from recipe books. Yes! The tarts, kurma gulung, biskut cornflakes and if we were lucky, the English cookies from the recipe books Kak Olin sent from England.
God must have answered my prayers that evening when my thoughts of Raya without new clothes were interrupted by a familiar figure at the door.
"Kak Eda!" I exclaimed. I could not contain my excitement and relief.
"Eh! Kenapa Nina? " She gave me a look that told me I had better have a good reason for welcoming her that way.
Kak Eda always knew when something was up with her younger sisters.
As a little girl, I knew Kak Eda was as indulgent with me as Kak Ena was. But she was the firm one.The disciplinarian who never tolerated me eating maggie mee, going around the house without taking my bath or doing my homework while the family was having dinner.
Kak Ena was the other extreme who gave in to my wants, whims and fancies. It was a blessing then that Kak Ena had just started work with NST .
Well, thank God Toys R Us had yet to arrive in Malaysia. Otherwise I would be spoilt-rotten.
I'd want to follow Kak Ena everywhere, even when she was out on her dates.
She indulged me.
In fact, there was a time when Kak Ena seemed to enjoy teasing me, saying that I was actually her daughter. And I believed her!
"Baju raya," I said, forlornly.
"Tak beli lagi?" Kak Eda asked Mummy. Before Mummy could explain, Kakak pulled Kak Eda aside and complained: "Tak cantik. We want you to design for us. You can get the idea from this book".
After Buka that night I showed Kak Eda the designs Kakak and I wanted. Kak Eda told us that if we had the same designs, we would look like 'Boria Bergerak Maju'.
She suggested that we had different designs with the same materials. We agreed. Kak Eda not only designed us three Baju Raya each but managed to convince Kak Piah's tailor to accept our orders.
We also helped bake cookies of our choice, and did so wearing the St Michael aprons which Kak Olin had sent.
No. This time the cookies were not of the same dough.
And so, that Raya, I had my tailor-made Baju Raya on time (apart from the Baju Kurungs Mummy had earlier made for us) and matching shoes from Kak Ton.
Now, I could show papa my new Raya things during our Raya morning visit.
They would bring him from wherever he was incarcerated, to the Jalan Bandar police station in KL to meet us.
I couldn't wait to tell him the story of our Baju Raya and the agonising wait for Kak Eda to come home from college.
Papa always loved listening to this trivia.
Oh! Yes. Papa is my father. The one whom Kak Ton had promised would come home the day after that fateful night.
(Kak Eda was one of my two elder sisters with whom I loved to tag along. She was fun and adventurous. Because Mummy was a not-so-young mother when she had me, Kak Eda took the role of those young/modern mothers.
She made sure I had my share of fun at playgrounds, picnic outings, funfairs (the annual funfair at ITM was something I demanded every year) and even on her monthly visits to the hairdresser - Guys and Dolls in Ampang.
Hari raya was also synonymous with her, particularly malam raya.
She would supervise Kak Azah in cleaning the house and Abang Kamal with the ayam goreng and ketupat.
She used to send me to bed early with Kak Ena but by the time I was 10, I proved to her that I was no longer a pest in the kitchen.
When Kak Eda decided to tie the knot in December 1981, I was happy to help with the wedding preparations - bunga telur, the red baju kebaya to match Abang Aziz's Baju Melayu and, of course, asking her every now and then about the "barang-barang" she bought as hantaran.
That was the fun part. The reality was that she was leaving us and moving out.
That would also mean -- malam raya without her.
She told me that it did not mean she was going to abandon us and not visit at all.
"What about malam raya?" I had asked. She just smiled.
That question must have lingered in her mind for some time, I presumed.
Kak Eda spent malam raya with us the following year after her marriage and left by train to join Abang Aziz in Johor Bahru later in the afternoon the next day.
After that, we never asked her to stay on for malam raya.
Mummy said that it was thoughtful of Abang Aziz to give permission but told us not to make such a request again. Kak Eda was already a wife and had obligations to fulfil - with that we became secondary to her.
True to a certain extent but not all the time.
When Mummy was hospitalised before her death on June 2 1990, Kak Eda was the one who was with me during the nights I was caring for Mummy throughout.
Perhaps, there was a reason why Kak Eda did not have children then.
It was also Kak Eda who stayed with Kakak and I at home for a month after Mummy's death and made sure that our faith kept us going.
The last time I was with Kak Eda, we talked about the Rahmat to an unborn child if the mother regularly recites the Quran.
That, I could not agree more. I see that in her children.
It was also odd. I had never stayed long at her house during my visits due to my advanced pregnancy.
That evening, I did. I was joined later by Kak Ton and Kak Ena who stayed on after I did.
Kak Eda served us Kueh Teow soup. Then Abang Aziz bought some satay.
Everyone, including Abang Aziz and their kids tucked in. It was a load of fun.
We talked about everything under the sun -- from family, friends and current issues.
When Kak Eda wanted to go to bed, I realised it was already way past 10pm.
As I kissed her hand for the last time, she stared at me and whispered that I need not visit her if it meant I had to drive.
I assured her that my tummy had not reached the steering wheel. That was a lie.
She told me to drive carefully. I looked back and said: " Ok. I won't drive anymore and will visit you when Mack (my husband) comes back from Perak."
Yes. I did come and visit her with Mack the next week. This time to recite the yassin beside her lifeless body. Heeding her last advice to me).