Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Being Bapak - August 28 2007

When I was younger, maybe in my early 20s, just after Bapak was released from detention, I told myself if I were to get married, I'd want a husband just like Bapak.
Of course, if it were possible - minus his talent to spew profanities.

We saw a lot of Bapak after his release in 1981 as he was home most times before he was recalled to the New Straits Times.
We saw him do a lot of domestic chores. One that struck me was seeing him get hot water ready every morning for Nina and Lalin who were still in school -- Lalin was in Form 2 and Nina, in standard 5.

Then, we did not have hot water in our bathrooms. I suppose it was not a necessity and hot water facilities did not come with old houses.
Strange, but I don' quite remember showers being very very cold.

Bapak was the first one up and about.
I remember Bapak carrying a pail of hot water up the stairs to our bathroom. He poured some cold water into the pail of hot water.

Oh...I just felt so touched.
He saw the look on my face. A grin, a smile and a remark -- "Kesian Lalin dengan Nina. Sejuk pagi-pagi."
He'd do that every morning until we installed hot water in the bathrooms.

I also caught Bapak do his laundry. Ok...just the washing.
He would put all his used clothings in a pail next to the washing machine. But he would usually soak them in soapy water and then wash them himself.

That day I watched Bapak bring his used clothings down to the laundry area and put them in a pail. He filled it with water and spinkle some washing detergent. He left it there and went to the kitchen to make a mug of coffee.
I followed him. When I saw that he was making coffee, I told him that I'd make a mug for him.

"That's ok. I'll make it myself," he remarked as he poured hot water into a mug of nescafe with sugar and "Ideal" milk.
Then he went to the dining room to read the papers. I joined him.

A little later, he returned to the laundry area and ......began to wash his soaked clothes.
I asked him why did he not just dump his clothes in the washing machine.

"Let me do it for you," I offered. How could I let my father wash his own clothes?

"That's ok. I'm used to this," he said as he bent over to scrub, soak, rinse and squeeze his clothes.

Something tugged inside me.

Bapak was so used to taking care of himself and his personal items for the past five years that it came so naturally to him.

I believe he enjoyed doing all these chores.
When he was washing his clothes, he was humming a tune. When he was carrying the pail of hot water, he was smiling and grinning.

We were talking about Bapak one day over tea and pisang goreng in the kitchen.
We said that if our (future) husbands were like Bapak....what a picnic we'd all have.
Mak intimated that Bapak was actually a very independent man.
He was not the sort of husband who expected coffeee on the table for him, meals to be cooked for him or the usual domestic demands.
Of course, Mak would have coffee ready for him and cooked his meals. But that was no big deal for Mak. Bapak loved Mak's cooking and Mak was a devoted wife and mother.
But, if it came to the crunch, Bapak could take care of himself and his children.

Although his parents were very protective of him when he was young and as he was growing up, he was thrown into the deepest end to learn about the ways of the world when he began work as a reporter while still a teenager.
His friends were much older than he was and they happily taught him, about...well, life in general.
Oh yes... he grew up very fast. And we were told that he was a very fast learner.

After his release from (ISA) detention, Bapak took to the kitchen with ease and, sometimes, abandon relish.

I was at the NST then.
Bapak's reputation as a cook preceded him. At least among my friends.

One day, my colleague and very dear friend, Fatimah Abu Bakar and another colleague, Harbant Kaur, came over for lunch.

"What's cooking?", Fati asked.
"Nothing spectacular... nasi ayam," I said.

"Your mum masak?" Fati asked.
"No....my dad," I replied.

"Waah.... Pak Samad cooked!" Harbant remarked.
"Yah-lah.... but this is his first nasi ayam attempt. So brace yourselves," I said.

Bapak loved to go through recipes in magazines and newspapers.
If he were tech-savvy today, he'd be surfing the net for all sorts of recipes.

It was not surprising then that Bapak was so enthusiastic about cooking Ramadhan dishes for the family.

That first Ramadhan after his release, he prepared our buka puasa menu.
Mak didn't have a say. Somehow I got the feeling that Mak was very amused by it all.
She was very sporting. There were times she'd tell Bapak that a certain condiment was "kekurangan" in a certain dish.

"Yah kah?," was always Bapak's response.

I remember Bapak would cook all our favourite dishes during Ramadhan - one on each day.
First day was Bamia, the next day Soto Ayam, then Mee Siam, then Laksa Johor, then Mee Rebus, Macaroni Sup, Mee Mydin, Lontong and so on.

Of course, he could not permanently dominate Mak's kitchen. When Bapak returned to the NST, Mak got it back.

It was after Mak died in 1990 that Bapak did most of the cooking. He'd cook meals from old recipes and experimented new ones.
When Hari Raya came, dear dear Bapak would prepare the same dishes that arwah Mak cooked. And they were elaborate dishes.
He would tell the maid the ingredients to be prepared but did not allow the maid to cook.
"Biar aku saja yang masak. Lain hari kau boleh", he'd tell her.
But "lain hari" he'd still be doing the cooking.

So, for Hari Raya, Kak Piah, Kak Ton, Kak Olin and Kak Eda insisted on preparing one main dish so that Bapak would not have to do it alone.

Kak Piah was tasked with making Sayur Lodeh and Serunding Kelapa (to go with Lontong) and Kak Eda' Sambal Tumis Udang was to-die-for. Kak Ton would make Mak's Mee Rebus and Laksa Johor while Kak Olin makes a smashing Bamia and Sambal Goreng.
Azah was the one we'd go to to have the everyday fare of Mak's Assam Pedas, Lauk Pindang Serani, Sotong Masak Hitam (southern style) and Masak Kelo (vegetable soup comprising 'ketola", dried tauhu and glass noodles) and Sambal Tumis Ikan Bilis/Udang/Sotong.

As for me, I learnt to cook very late in life. I think I was the only daughter who enjoyed eating everybody else's cooking but never learnt to cook....until I was overseas.

You see, when we were young, we had our duties whenever our maid balik kampung.
Somehow, the kitchen evaded me. I was tasked with doing the laundry.
So I never had to cook. But when you are student away from home, you are left with no other option but to learn to cook if you do not want to be eating take-aways all the time.

So...I learnt to make Soto Ayam and Taucu Udang/Ikan Masak Lemak from my mum.

Bapak enjoyed cooking. In fact, later when he was ready to remarry, he impressed my (now) step mother with his culinary skills.
I think she was suitably impressed.

It has been quite sometime since Bapak stepped foot in the kitchen.

Age has caught up with Bapak. His diabetes took a toll on him some years ago, rendering him less mobile. Today, he is a little frail.

I stopped looking for a man like my dad a long time ago.
Washing his own clothes? Detention forced Bapak to take care of himself.
Cooking? That was how Bapak passed the time in detention besides his innate passion for cooking.

I got realistic. It was simply asking for too much.

But not so if he can make his own mug of coffee as well as mine the way I like it. Now that's a plus point going for him, wouldn't you say?


Anonymous said...

Hiya Nuraina,

So didn't find that man who's like your dad? I guess not. Your dad is a unique person. I have not met a man like Pak Samad and I don't think I ever will. Profanities aside, he is so damn sharp in the most understated manner. You take Samad for granted at your own risk.


Rockybru said...


I know it’s tomorrow but I think your TWB readers should know.

Here wishing you all the best things in life …

I can make good coffee, but i love goooood coffee. Still cant get over the fact that Austin at BSC is no more there.

Dancy said...

Assalammualaikum .

Reminded me so much of my own father .your father and mine are a rare breed nowadays.

not only does my father helped my mother to clean and cut up the fish and chicken , he also helped me during my 'confinement' days at my parent's house ...it was my father who would wake up and helped me when my babies cried at night . are you sure you had fed him / maybe he is wet . come ..come...let me hold him .......

according to my late mother ..my father had always been helping her during her confinement days as well .

now he is 82 yrs old ....and he could not sleep much ...he would be up by 3 every morning .....and a teapot of hot tea would be ready on the table at that time . not only that , he had the radio switched on ...real loud ...he took his bath at that unearthly hour ...air sejuk pulak tu .....

any thieves yang tried to ' visit ' his house definitely had to re timed their schedule ......

Anonymous said...

Salam Nuraina

Like your father, I was protected from young by my grandmother, (GOD BLESS HER SOUL),when she passed away grandpa took over and I was never allowed to be in the kitchen when he was doing the chore but somehow I managed to sneak in and learned a few recipes here and there but not the actual cooking.

I got to apply what I have learned from grandpa was when I am away oversea, it was all experimental at first but all my friends would gave their arms and legs to stayed with me in our rented apartment during the holidays.

In my prime, I could challenged anybody from the opposite sex in my prowess of cooking sambal goreng udang, kari terung ikan masin, come to think about it even the girls that I knew were queing at my apartment window (summer) for my curry ikan masin, he hee.


Peminat: Ya-lah. I stopped looking.
But...i found one who makes his own coffee and mine too.
thanks for visiting.


Rocky (ahirudin):
Alamak.... i hope no one asks how old I'll be tomorrow.

thank you! sigh,... a cliche but so true: another birthday and another year older and wiser.

A-hah! I know you make good coffee!
A little bird told me so!

And a pity about Austin Chase. Sob sob..


dancy: wow!wow!wow!
that is so amazing! what a wonderful dad you father was!
and a wonderful husband (to your mum)!
I think men like your dad are too few and far between. I maybe wrong...I hope I am wrong.

Annon99:Waah....that is so cool! I realise that most guys who studied abroad can cook pretty well! some turned out to be really good cooks. you are one of them!

your mention of the curry ikan masin is making my mouth water.....alamak sedap nya!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kak Ena

I think every daughter who is close to her dad would always dream of marrying someone similar to him. I'm no exception. My hubby has two similarities with abah; they were both journalists and even share the same birthdate!(of course 29 years apart). So its was easy telling him abt my then boyfriend-now-hubby....So each year when celebrating my hubby's birthday, i would always call mak to remind her it's abah's birthday too.




how amazing is that? same birthday and all.

as for me...very difficult for most journalists to fall for me. i think they saw Bapak's face whenever they look at me. especially his flaring nostrils. and i imagine they imagined fire flaming from those nostrils. and of course, fear of profanities aimed at them.

Please kirim salam to everyone..

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Nuraina!

29th isn't it?

Yes, I know. They stopped producing the calenders in the mid eighties :)

Just to share same experience on the same subject matter.

Anyway, when I was Nina's age or slighly younger, my father would step into my room after my mother's third attempt to wake me up and yell something like "Kalau tak bangun jugak, aku simbah air!".

What's even worse than that was I was doing homework over breakfast (it totally slipped my mind the night before I actually had homework to do - shows my state of mind, huh!)and while waiting for the school bus and obviously I could not finish it.

And of course Mr Robert Yong and the class teacher next year, Mr Ong Beng Jin (who always call me "Hey you, monkey face!") would make stand up on the chair almost all day long for unable to come up with a finished homework.

Funny, this is NOT an isolated case and it repeated for 2-3 years!

Imagine what would happened to me had I been an obedient studious kid then? Look how I turned out to be now!



thank u.

Yes.....look what you are now and where it got you?

Can't imagine you as an obedient kid!

memang....cheeky tu!

Anonymous said...

kak ena,
after reading your postings about Bapak today..... I must admit that my hubby is just like Bapak. Yes, God dont make too many like them. Aruah Abah showered me with all his love and attention and hubby just continue that. Tapi kadangkala rasa bersalah pulak,..sebab terlalu dimanjakan.

Anonymous said...

My wife and kids enjoy my cooking. But I only can cook for them during weekends. For Raya I always had nasi beryani, lodeh and rendang. Since I got married, all family members from my in-law side will wait for my beriani and rendang each Raya. They used to have lontong before I became part of their family.

My kids favourite is my carrot cake! He he...

Anonymous said...

hey nuraina

apa itu sayur ketola?

anyway, selamat hari jadi ke 31.


zaitgha said...


My late dad was like yours. He took care of my mum during all her 8 confinements, he was so at ease in the kitchen and his specialty was steam white pomfret...my mum once told me how when all of us were very young my dad would come home from work at abt 10 am to cook lunch

and i m kinda a bit lucky that my husband is comfortable in the kitchen and his specialty are beef pie ala Dome and chicken yogurt...and he makes a mean pot of coffee with the help of our old faithful Braun coffee maker ....

as usual your TWB brought back fond memories...thank you

the Razzler said...

Kak Ena ..

Pak Samad is a Dad any child would be proud to have .. & you, the daughther any parents would love to have!!.. hehe :) :)

Happy Birthday!! Kak Ena!! :) :)

Mior Azhar said...

Kak Ena,
From Azian and I, Selamat Hari Ulang Tahun, moga bertambah iman di dada, rezeki yang murah and bahagia yang ada.
Pak Samad is the ultimate husband and bapak lah, cooking and washing his own laundry. As for me, if "the weather is good", boleh lah menyibuk di dapur but when it comes to washing my own laundry, I surrender - it's either Azian or kalau dia balik kampung ker , Kedai Dobi it is.


MC: lucky you! Not many husbandws are like that...a rare and possibly endangered breed.

basree: woww! every woman's kind of husband!
Hope your son takes after you!
by the way, you're from down south?

Quinn: Ketola is a vegetable, long and green -- very hard on the outside and very soft inside. can't remember the english name.
before you cook it, you have to peel the outside layer. you'd know if u see it.

lunch? yes... boleh.. confirm tomoro. I'll txt you pagi2.

amboi.... 31 yrs old... say it more often and i will be really convinced i'm 31, haha


zai: such a lovely person your dad was.
I can see where you inherited your love for cooking.
so wonderful to know all these about our loved ones.
thanks, zai, for visiting.

Razzler: thank you. very very much.

mior & azian: terima kasih. Insyallah! Alhamdulillah. Kita berdoa untuk semua ni.
Mior, ok-lah boleh masuk dapur tu.
Laundry? Normal lah tu.
But I'm sure you are a heavyweight in other realms of domesticity.
Thanks again!

Elly said...

dear nuraina,

wow, your dad really sounded like the perfect guy to me!:-)

btw, here's an advanced "happy birthday!" wish for you! May God bless you and your family always...

Keanorlinsya said...

My abah cooks too. Really good.
Eventhough im not allowed to say this out loud because of fear of denial, he cooks way better than mama.
(lets just hope she doesnt read this comment) hehe..

Happy birthday in advance aunty ena!

Anonymous said...

Dear Nuraina,

Wishing you a Happy Birthday and a great year ahead.

I am sure you will have a wonderful day tomorrow with friends and family.

Bailey said...

Kak ena ( i hope u dont mind me calling you kak ena)

first of all, happy birthday to u. semoga panjang umur and dimurahkan rezeki.

how lovely pak samad is. i wish my dad was like him specially when it comes to cooking and laundry. =)

Pi Bani said...

Happy ____ birthday Kak Ena. Fill in the blanks with whichever figure that makes you happy. :)

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

happy birthday, Pn Nuraina! semoga sihat selalu, inyaAllah.

eh, whats bamia? i swear ive never heard of this dish my entire life.

Anonymous said...

Have a beautiful day, b'day girl!


elly: thank you, girl!
perfect? hmmm....i wouldn't be too hasty to describe him so.
he has some traits that cannot put him in the category of "the type you'd like to take home to meet your parents".
however, it's the fact that he is not an MCP (male chauvinistic p**), has no hang-ups about doing chores that are usually done by the wife or women despite the fact that he grew up "di tatang bagai minyak yang penuh".

one of my blog sisters, Husna has a son, Aiman,12 who happens to be a very young blogger (choc-o-blog2).
At last Saturday's Bangsa Malaysia merdeka gathering, after it was over, Aiman helped to clean up, including mopping the kitchen floor without being asked.

i told husna: "you brought up your son well".

and husna replied : I raised a man, not a boy".

thanks for the birthday wish, elly....


kea: ok ok....let's hope your mom does not read this.
but....way to go-lah your dad!
Pandai Faikha cari suami!

kerp: Bamia is a gravy dish akin to Goulash but a little savoury, made of okra, onions and some condiments.
you eat with bread, preferably french loaf.
i think it originated from turkey/middle east....
it is a known dish in Johor, Singapore.
thank u for the birthday wish!

sesat: thank you, sesat. a year older and those bones should be feeling creaky and cranky.
so far so good....


bailey: thank you for the birthday wish.
and Bapak is really cool about doing the cooking and laundry...
but of course....he has his quirks and idiosyncracies.

Pi: Hmmmm.... can I be 30 for always.
honestly, after i touched 35...i literally had to count by minusing the year (whatever it was) and my birthyear.
it was that bad....i just didnt want to think about a year older a year wiser....

roxanne: hey there! thank you. read your piece about "losing" your friend.
"islamisation" of the heart and mind. but the askewed kind.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am from JB. But now living in KL.

pull ma finger! said...

tante, just so you know, when you said you've stopped looking for a man like datuk a long time ago, i couldn't help but wonder; have you looked around lately? there is a part of datuk especially in his grandsons. like abang (ale) and adel's knack for cooking, they can dice, chop, sautee, masak masak whatnot and whip up something good just the way datuk makes his soul food:) and they're stud muffins; macho outside, soft & fuzzy inside.
and of course, selekeh.

so tante, have happy happy happy birthday. you are perpetually 28 to me. love you!

mutalib saifuddin said...

firstly, happy birthday, mdm ena!

i can say that your Bapak is a 'suami mithali'.

your late Mak surely would be lucky to have such a good hubby.

I think he must have mastered all those 'doing laundry' or cooking thing since his teen-days, apart from his detention.

An all rounder, suppose saying. Being a bigshot in the newspaper at such a young age, + could master+write English and Malay (those days), + cooking, wow.

only few Bapaks i think, in the world, would conquer the kitchen from Maks.


basree: aaaah.... i thought so..judging by the dishes you enjoy.

Khairena (skinnycow): you are right-lah. tante ena never saw that side of them.

selekeh is so apt...
so...Datuk is good at this and that...tapi alamak... selekeh.

i remember we were talking about people..and men in general. ad i said "i shall not go out with a guy who spends more money on his clothes and accessories than i do or who have a thing about expensive designer shirts because it shows little substance in him".

alamak...dahsyat, ek? and i was only 19 years old, i think.

i think that was influenced by Datuk because one time he said, pointing to his head, "ini penting...apa yang ada i sini".

in a way, i stll believe in that. that is why i am NEVER impressed with guys wearing expensive suits or drive expensive cars....


pull ma finger! said...

hehe, its not dahsyat tante, its congenial!

Anonymous said...

kak ena,

happy 31st.
somehow I feel that you're 20 more years wiser. wild guess.


Anonymous said...

Happy (?)birthday Tante.

Heard the bloggers had a small birthday do for you at our house yesterday.

If you are 29 (that's what Bigdog says), that makes mommy 35, omp Hamed 33 and Tante Olin 31.

And mommy's gonna like that. So will Tante Olin. Tee hee!

p/s Ciman also sends birthday greetings to you. Kisses from you cucus, Ayra & Ayna.


zainul: thank u. and wow...thank you...sigh sigh sigh ....i wish-lah...31st. now when was that..seems so so long ago.

thanks again.

Jay: thank you...kisses to Ayra and Ayna and salam to Ciman.
yes-lah, they had sort of a surprise. i came late to your house because i had some chores to complete...u know-lah...no maid.
so sweet of them.
Aishah (Bigdog's daughter) got me a book "The Unmaking of Malaysia". Of course, i'm sure it was her father who chose the book. that wa sreally sweet.

hahaaa.... I am still 29...
Elviza asked me what i wanted for my birthday....
now i wonder... i have some lines on my face.. u think botox injection is haram? besides that, u think it will harm my face?

hahaaaa..... kiddng kidding

Bailey said...

kak ena,

i saw pak samad at discovery channel today. he's talking about Lat. =)



yes... i saw a bit. Azah texted me to say that Bapak was on.
i'm not sure...but this is a repeat programme.

thanks, Bailey

Anonymous said...

Dear Kak Ena

Here's wishing you many happy returns of the day.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Ena...
Alamak terlambat pulak...better late than never ..

My Abah lost his wife (my stepmom) slightly more than a month ago. He is 80 and she was 63.Now, he insist on living alone in his house in our kampung.Its not really a kampung but a linkhouse in a 'taman perumahan'.But still, an 80 yr old man living all by himself anywhere is worrying.
Abah, despite his age is still a much able man.The mini fruit trees plantation around the house speaks for this.
So I'm having this idea of playing matchmaker for him with a certain widow cousin of his.
Is it a crazy idea? I dont know...

Anonymous said...

Many Happy Returns, dear Ena!

Been away almost the whole month. Different time zone each week. Afraid Internet connections had been too sporadic for me to be able to check out my fave blogs during the time.

Glad I'm back at my ground zero in time to greet you on your b'day.

Now to catch up, starting with yours, with the millions of entries I've missed. Sorely, I've to add.

P.S. Will be sporting yellow on Aug 31st. Yep, have read abt that non-violent protest drive. :D

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

thank you!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to Kak Ena!!!!!!

Happy Birthday to Kak Ena!!!!!!

Happy Birthday from both of us yg kat sebelah dunia ni...

Semoga murah rezeki and in good health all the time.

Nani and Michael
Big Apple

Anonymous said...

It was touching to read your piece Nuraina. Can't imagine Pak Samad being frail. He was a firecracker in the NST, when I was there. I remember the news meetings in Shivadas's office which would be filled with smoke much to PC's ire. Please send my warmest regards to Pak Samad - a journalist extraordinaire - Fabian Dawson


adik: thank you.

Wak segen: your dad is quite a guy! if you want to play matchmaker....make sure you get the right woman for him.

Mekyam: Great to hear from you! was wondering what happened to you!
thank u!

Kerp: Thank you.

Nani and Michael: thank you, guys!

Fabian; My, my, my.....
how are you, Fabian? How's Canada? and Ann and the kids?
wow! seems like only yesterday you were seated at the crime desk, humouring Rudy Beltran.

thanks for keeping up with old friends this way!
keep in touch.
and regards to yr family.

take care!