Kin, Kith & Kahwin - December 11, 2007
My very first major school examination was the Lower Certificate of Education or LCE.
Like everyone else, I was nervous.
So was Bapak although he never showed it.
I never showed it either so much so that Bapak thought I was too relaxed. Actually, being relaxed was the only way I knew to deal with my nerves.
Many times Bapak caught me reading my "Archie", "Princess Tina" or "June and Schoolfriends" comics.
Bapak was all for Kak Eda and I taking a break from studying but he caught me far too many times reading comics than reading my school books.
One day, during dinner, Bapak asked me:"Dah belajar? Dah prepared?"
"Dah", I replied.
Bapak, perhaps not entirely convinced, said: "You know if you fail your LCE, I'll marry you off to one of my relatives in Banting or Kuala Selangor."
I wasn't sure whether or not he was joking.
But if he was, it was not funny.
Bapak had never said that before.
"Alaah, Bapak," Kak Eda and I said almost in chorus.
What was that suppose to mean?
We decided not to pursue the matter. But, for the rest of dinner, there was silence in between changing subjects.
It was the most awkward situation for Kak Eda and I.
We really did not want to know whether or not he was serious.
What if he already had a candidate for each of us.
No, we were not going to push it.
Later, we asked Mak about Bapak's veiled threat.
Mak was probably in cahoots with Bapak but at the same time she did not really want to frighten us too much in case we'd go into a shock or something.
I think, (on reflection), she really did not like threatening her children with marriage to make them study and pass their exams.
I think she was afraid that it would be counter-productive or have a reverse effect.
But, she played along without giving the game away.
She, however, did not have to worry.
Kak Eda and I took the threat so seriously.
Bapak has always taught us to value family and kinship.
He would be most upset if we did not recognise his uncles, aunts and cousins living in Banting and Kuala Selangor.
We are from Singapore because both my paternal grandparents made Singapore their home (from Java).
One of my paternal grandmother's three aunts left Central Java and headed for Banting where she began a new life.
My great grandmother and her two sisters began their new life in Singapore.
In Kuala Selangor are my grandfather's kith and kin.
I don' quite remember when it was that I knew we had kith and kin in Banting and Kuala Selangor.
I think when I was about 8 or 9.
Where we lived at Jalan Lembah in Section 5, Petaling Jaya in the mid 60s, we had a Banting relative living up the road in one of the government house near Gasing Hill.
He was Othman Dahlan. He was my "nephew" because his (late) mum was my (second) cousin.
His children (then) were Norlin, Liza, Reha and Lina.
I think that was when I knew we had relatives here.
I remember visiting Banting and Kuala Selangor during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, weddings or "khenduri", when we were young.
I remember "pokok kopi" in abundance surrounding the compounds of my relatives' homes.
I remember a pond beside almost every house.
And best of all, I remember being served delicious but sinfully sweet pisang salai.
And we would have all sorts of fruits that were packed for us.
I remember my aunts and cousins.
I liked my cousins. But when I was 14, sitting for my LCE, I was sure I did not want to get married to any of them.
It was an awful thought. Marrying cousins?
Besides, Banting and Kuala Selangor seemed a world away.
So, to cut a long story short. Yes, you've guessed it, Kak Eda and I survived the threat.
Two years later when we sat for our form five exams (Malaysian Certificate of Examination), Bapak never repeated the threat again but we were not taking any chances.
There was a point some time this year when I found Shaira slacking in her preparation for her PMR.
I thought I'd try that number on her and told her that if she failed her exams I'd marry her off to my relatives in Banting and Kuala Selangor.
But I suppose it was just not on. As I said it, I could not stifle my laugh because the whole thing sounded so ridiculous.
And really, they don't make kids like they used to.
It would not have worked on Shaira. Besides, what if, feeling so rebellious, she might just take me on.
Much later, in our adulthood, we reminded Bapak of his little threat and told him it was terrible of him to have put the fear of marriage in us.
He cackled. He roared with laughter. But he never told us whether or not he was serious.
You see, with Bapak, you can never really tell.