Anak Komunis - Tuesday March 6 2007
The day looked promising. A crisp and cool morning. But I knew that it would be hot in the afternoon, as usual.
Did I want to go for lectures? That'd be better than staying cooped up in the room. Might as well.
Hope it won't rain later, though.
Last night was rotten.
Last night Bapak was on TV. Not the way anyone would've liked to see their father. I wished I had been home with Mak and everyone else.
At ITM (short for Institut Teknologi Mara), we were on high ground but days were hot.
That was why I always carried an umbrella and because I wore contact lenses, I needed to have on my Paloma Picasso-styled sun glasses.
In fact, I had just started wearing contact lenses earlier in the year and had got used to them.
It was unbearable in the beginning. I got them, tried them and they hurt. So I kept them out of my sight.
Not a good idea, Ah and Fati had said.
"You bought them to wear them, you vain girl and now you don't wanna wear them. How-lah you?", lamented Fati.
"Come, come, Ena. let us help you get used to them, ok?", chipped in Ah.
So, Ah (Zaharah Othman) and Fati (Fatimah Abu Bakar) made sure that I put the contact lenses on. Waited by my side to make sure that I did not take them off even though the lenses were stinging my eyes.
This went on until I got used to the lenses. After that, it was a breeze.
Wow, I could really see my face minus the glasses in the mirror.
I could see the world. I could see the guys.
Why couldn't I see the world and the guys before that?
How could I with my very thick prescription glasses? I must have been 10 years old when I started wearing glasses.
They got thicker over the years as my vision got worse.
It was okay when you were in an all-girls' school. Not so when you just started campus life where the boys were.
Anyway, I had always thought that even Raquel Welch would have looked ugly in my prescription glasses.
So, for a quite a while, I would only be wearing my glasses at home, in the hostel, in my room, when reading, driving, having my meals, with the girls and in class.
As soon as I stepped into the world outside, I would take my glasses off.
Which meant, of course, that I was very "rabun".
So when you could not see, you were quite handicapped. Although you could hear, you couldn't be so sure who among the many people was talking to you.
Someone would say "hi" to me and I couldn't see who in heaven's name it was.
It was not the best situation but heck, vanity reigned.
That was why I thought contact lenses were the best invention in that part of the 20th century.
I did not want to skip classes although I had a damn good reason to.
After the show on TV last night, I didn't want to be alone.
Couldn't go home. Maybe later I'd get a ride home from one of the lecturers.
Gotta see if Mak was okay. And the kids too.
Damn King Ghaz!
For now, I knew Ah and Fati would make me feel better.
There would be Mia, Ina, Riza, Tini and Kat who'd would want to be sure I was okay.
Thank God for good friends. They're the next best things after your own family.
In campus, they were your family.
I had not seen Bapak for more than 2 months since the morning of his arrest.
They said his detention was for an indefinite period.
What did that mean?
Was he still alive? Were they giving him anything to drink, to eat?
What were they giving him?
It was agonising. It felt like forever.
Worse when you were not told anything.
Time was really taking its time to just past by.
The police officers who came by our house several times after Bapak's arrest, were no help. Mak had pressed them for details.They couldn't give her any.
And ITM semester had started.
Last night, Bapak was on TV.
At least we knew he was alive.
Bapak confessed to being a communist, that he went by the name "Laniaz" which was "Zainal" backwards.
His confession was part of a special programme.
I had walked into our classroom where there was a TV and caught Bapak as he was speaking.
Bapak was seated as he spoke. I couldn't make out the room he was in. I couldn't make out anything. It was only his face and his voice I was seeing and hearing.
He looked so thin and was wearing the same chequered shirt that he was wearing the morning they took him away.
He was speaking slowly in Malay. But not in the way that he was known for.
So uncharacteristic of Bapak.
If Bapak spoke Malay, his accent was a cross between Bahasa Baku and Bahasa Indonesia.
"Saye mengaku bahawe saye....", I heard him say.
That's not him. What have they done to him?
He said many more things, about communist, mastermind, Singapore. Some names were mentioned. All so untrue.
How could they be true?
Ask us. Ask his chidren.
He is my father, for God's sake. I know him.
Lies, lies, lies.
After his confession, Ghazali Shafie said: "Ini lah manusia bernama Samad..."
"Manusia bernama Samad". How dare he!
I ran out. It was too much. It was unbearable.
Ah, Fati, Mia and gang came after me.
"It's okay, Ena..", they said.
I didn't sleep too well that night.
"Hey Anak Komunis!"
Say what? Did I hear that right?
I almost lost my footing as I was going up the steps at the School of Architecture, enroute to the 13th floor in the multi-storey building where the School of Mass Comm was.
It was not the shortest route but I decided to use it.
It was one of those mornings when you just did things without any good reason.
"Hey Anak Komunis!" again. A guy's voice. It was coming from the right.
And yes, I could see someone, his head bobbing in and out from behind the pillar.
Pengecut, I thought.
Aah. I could see the idiot now. He'd have been lucky a few months earlier for I would not have been able to see him.
But now I could see. Maybe it was better to be "rabun". Then I could pretend I couldn't see.
Too late to even mull over such things.
Now I could see other people as well. They quickly retreated into the classrooms.
But not that head behind the pillar.
I rushed to where I thought I saw the culprit, the coward.
But he was trying to make a quick dash. He was running away. I gave chase.
"Oi, mari sini. Oi, pengecut. Mari sini, kalau berani," I shouted as I ran after him.
He had gone. Out of sight. I stopped not because I was tired.
There was no point in looking for that guy.
And it was not so easy chasing people when you were wearing heeled shoes.
I looked around. There were a few people, looking quite stunned.
I asked whether any of them knew that guy.
"You go and tell him to see me. I am in hostel two. Or 13th floor, multi-storey. Tell him to say whatever he said to my face," I instructed, my voice quivering.
I didn't wait for any response. I turned and walked slowly away.
Then, when I was out of their sight, I ran and ran.
Tears started streaming down my cheeks. My eyes began to sting.
Hell, where was Kak Eda? That guy must be one of her course mates.
"Anak Komunis. Anak Komunis".
I made my way to my classroom.
Would they be calling Lalin and Nina that too?
Azah and Kamal?
"Anak Komunis, Anak Komunis."
Damn you, King Ghaz!