Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Tuesdays With Bapak (12)
The Red Sedan - May 1 2007
Kuala Lumpur, 1978: Toyota Corollas cutting in and out of traffic. Datsun 120Ys making sure their presence was felt on city roads.
There were Fiats too.
And everyone was competing with the mini buses that would make a deadly stop anywhere they wished to.
We were in Abang Med's mini minor trying to work our way around the traffic of Jalan Bandar, chasing a red sedan.
Trying, of course, not to be noticed by the driver and occupants of the sedan.
There is power in a mini minor driven by Abang Med. I suspect driving the way he did, was therapeutic for Abang Med.
Kak Eda and I were keeping an eye on the sedan which was not going fast at all. It was, in fact, cruising. But we were trying to keep up with it during lunch hour in the city and that was not exactly our idea of passing the time.
But, we had to know where they were taking Bapak. We had to know where they were keeping Bapak.
So far, we had a clear view of the sedan which was nearing the traffic lights. We kept pace while trying not to be too conspicuous.
Actually, it was easy because the mini was tiny and we could hide behind a mini bus or a Volvo. But that would mean we could not get a view of the sedan and risk losing it in traffic.
Abang Med's mini minor had no air-conditioning. How that never bothered us then, amazes me now. Strange too that we did not feel smothered by the city air.
The sedan, it seemed to us, was going around the city as though its driver was taking its occupants on a tour.
"You think they have noticed us?," Kak Eda asked.
"Don't think so," Abang Med said, quite confidently.
"So, why are they going round and round?," I asked.
"Maybe, taking Bapak for a ride. Hahahaa," Kak Eda quipped.
"Betul-lah. More like taking him on a tour. After all, he gets to go out only on Tuesdays. So, he probably wants to make the most of it," I remarked.
"But why the city, why not PJ or other places?" Kak Eda asked.
There were so many questions. And we could think of so many possibilities. We could be wrong on all counts. The SB guy driving the car was probably trying to find the best way out of the city. Or, he could have noticed us, and trying to shake us off.
How did we get involved in Abang Med's crazy idea to tail the SB car? We knew he had been wanting to do it but he never actually told us when.
Earlier, after the customary goodbye to Bapak, Abang Med told Kak Eda and I that we could get a ride from him as he was going home.
We were so excited when we found out that our aunts -- Wak Mah, Wak Lah, Wak Eichon, Cik Ah as well as our uncles and cousins -- were waiting for Bapak's car to pass by.
We wanted to see them but Abang Med hurried us along and asked us to get in the car with him.
"We'll meet them and talk to them when we get home. But now, come with me," he said, briskly walking ahead toward his mini minor which he had parked so near to the entrance of the police station.
As we got into the car, he told us that he was going to tail Bapak's car.
For a moment, we looked at him in disbelief. Just as quickly, it hit me that we really did not have a choice, because Abang Med looked so raring to go.
The sedan was now on Jalan Lornie (Jalan Syed Putra) and it was picking up speed.
"It's heading for PJ," Kak Eda said.
"Or Old Klang Road," I offered, dreading the thought of having to pass the road which was bumpy and so congested.
Abang Med stepped on the gas, trying not to lose the sedan which was already speeding way ahead, in the direction of Petaling Jaya. We were nearing Angkasapuri.
Federal highway was jammed with cars on both sides of the traffic. As Abang Med tried to keep up with the sedan, we noticed that there were other red sedans weaving in and out of traffic.
Ahead of us, just then was a Sri Jaya bus. Not good, I thought.
"It's okay, I can still see the car," Abang Med said.
Kak Eda got excited as we saw the car turning left past the EPF building, heading towards Jalan Gasing.
"They're going to PJ, they're going to PJ," she said.
In my mind were pictures of people in a detention camp hidden somewhere in PJ. I could imagine the red sedan entering a gate and then Bapak getting out and being met by camp guards.
He would be taken to his cell where he would have to change into his uniform. I could imagine just a small window on the wall.
But where in PJ was this camp? I have never heard of one in PJ. Was it anything like Kamunting where Pak Habib (Syed Husin Ali), Pak Cik Samani (Samani Amin) and Uncle Dollah (Abdullah Ahmad) and Pak Cik Dollah (Abdullah Majid) were?
Or, was it a safe house, as I had been told by the (NST) crime boys? There were several in KL and PJ, they told me.
And then something quite odd happened. As we were chasing the sedan, another car emerged from the left and kept speed ahead of us.
We didn't think much of it. We thought it was just one of those speed maniacs. Road hog! On Jalan Gasing too!
We were trying to follow the sedan which was now going down Jalan Gasing. By then there were other cars in front of the car which was ahead of us.
And then, we lost the red sedan. Just like that. And the car ahead of us sped off.
We were straining our necks trying to look for the sedan but it was nowhere to be found.
"Abang Med, it must have gone into one of the roads on the left... let's look for it," I said.
That was section 5, PJ. We used to live around that area from 1962 or 63 to early 1969. It was familiar to us.
So we set out looking for the red sedan. And then it hit us that Bapak could be staying in one of the houses in the area.
It was already 3pm and we were cruising the hilly road of section 5 in PJ, looking for a red sedan parked in a garage or compound of a house in the neighbourhood.
We drove past the government quarters --the bungalows and terraced houses. We went around the single storey detached houses and we looked at the beautiful bungalows in the upper part.
There were red sedans. But somehow it did not seem possible that Bapak would be staying in a luxurious double-storey house located on a sprawling compound, with a swimming pool! Unlikely too in another house full of kids.
It was a failed mission. We decided to call it quits and head for home across the highway to Section 16. Next time lucky, we promised ourselves!
Back home, we were met with excited and curious looks. Mak wanted to know what we had been up to. She was pretending not to know what we had been doing.
Everyone was just dying to know what happened.
Kak Ton went straight to the point and demanded to know if we found out "the location".
There was a little feast in the dining room. We were famished. As we sat down for tea, everyone gathered around impatiently waiting for either of us to tell our story.
Kak Eda and I looked at Abang Med. He got our message and told them how we attempted to locate Bapak's hide-away.
Our aunts who were so thrilled at having seen their brother, could not hide their emotion when Abang Med related our adventure on the road --from Jalan Bandar to Section 5.
We decided that we all should take a nice leisurely drive one evening around Section 5. Even Mak appeared thrilled.
We were looking forward for the following Tuesday for our rendezvous with Bapak. Perhaps we would be luckier.
Tuesday came. This time, Bapak was already in the room when we arrived.
Bapak smiled as we walked into the room. He asked how everyone was. We kissed his hand and sat around him as the SB guys stood behind us, smiling.
Then, Bapak turned to Abang Med and said gently, softly: "Lain kali, jangan ikut kereta Bapak."
He smiled. Abang Med's eyes almost popped out.
Bapak turned around to where the SB guys were standing. They smiled.
(Photos: 1.Studio photo of Kak Ton, Abang Med, Kak Olin, Kak Eda, Azah and Me, circa 1961: 2. Bapak and Tun Razak in Africa sometime in the 60s and: 3: Lalin and Nina in 1973)