Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Balik Kampung - December 18 2007

I know Bapak gets a little emotional whenever we tell him about our annual "balik kampung" to Singapore. It's especially so since he's been unable to travel down south to be with his surviving siblings and extended family.
I understand that very well. I get emotional too everytime I visit my uncles, aunts and elder cousins.
I see them getting older. And, for the past few years, I have never been sure if I'd see them again the next time I visit.
My father's only living siblings now are his younger brother, Kamaruddin (Cik Din) and his youngest sister, Salha (Cik Ah).
Bapak's older sisters Fatma, Kamlah and Aichon and his youngest brother Abdul Majid have passed away. These were the ones who survived infancy and adolescence during those early pre-war years in Singapore.
Nine other siblings died in infancy or childhood before Bapak was born.

Yes. It's been a while since he's "balik kampung". Not because he is persona non grata but because he is too frail to travel.

When Nina told him that it was that time of year again for our annual year-end visit to Singapore, Bapak was misty-eyed.
I know what he was thinking -- his brother Cik Din and his sister Cik Ah who is not well and also Cik Ah's husband, Cik Salleh who is suffering from Alzheimer's. And his nephews and nieces, some of whom are almost his age.
"Will they still be around when I next visit them?" or "Will I still be around when they.....?" -- these must be what he was thinking.

"Kirim Salam -lah", he said.

I'm not sure if Nina told him that we would not be staying at Cik Ah's apartment in Bedok Reservoir because she is not well.
There were 17 of us this time. We would usually stay at Cik Ah's on the third floor and Hanim's (her second daughter) just up the fourth floor.
We'd love to have stayed at Cik Ah's but we know that she would not be able to "layan" us and she'd be so beside herself if she could not "layan" us.
So, this time we decided to stay at a hotel -- York Hotel at Mount Elizabeth, a 10-minute walk from Orchard Road. Of course.
And Nina, as usual, had our programme ready for us.

I started realising that my aunts, uncles and elder cousins were getting really old about five years ago.
That was when Kak Oyah began to show some disabilities -- in her eyesight and movement,
You see Kak Oyah is one very feisty lady and I adore her. If we didn't visit her, she'd "kecik hati" and we would not hear the end of it.
And this "kecik hati" business is not confined to Kak Oyah. I'd say all my aunts, uncles and elder cousins are prone to it as far as their KL relatives are concerned.

That time we visited Kak Oyah, she said her eyesight was failing her. She had to be aided to walk around. I was so sad.
That was also when I realised how old her husband, Abang Bakar, had become.
Suddenly everyone was getting old.
From then and now, two elder cousins have passed away.
It was a kind of revelation and realisation for me. I felt so sad.
I had a good hard look at my own mortality.

I began to reminisce those years when I was young visiting my relatives in Singapore.
And they were all so much younger and full of life, zest ....

We'd usually visit Singapore during the Eid. This time around, it was not possible because most of our children were facing major examinations during Aidilfitri. Adel had his SPM, Shaira, her PMR and Haris, his UPSR.
So, we thought we'd all go to Singapore together after the Eid, and last weekend was most agreeable to us all.

The first time Bapak went to Singapore after so long, he was confronted with the country's no-nonsense anti-smoking regulation.
He travelled by car and it was going through customs, a Singapore customs officer stopped to ask him a question.
Being a smoker, he was naturally, holding a cigarette.

All I can say is that thankfully Bapak has mellowed over the years.
So when the customs officer asked how many cigarette packs he had with him, he was taken by surprise.
Nobody had warned him about the Singapore law that only allowed each person to bring in no more than a single opened pack of cigarettes into the island republic.
Bapak just looked up, grinned and muttered something to the guy.
Nothing untoward happened so I guess everything went well at the causeway.

I know that he would have loved to come with us last weekend.
He'd be just fine staying at Cik Ah's while we checked out Singapore's night safari.
He'd probably be having loads more fun there with all our relatives.
He could not care less for Orchard Road.

What he'd have craved for would be a drive along Jalan Eunos, a stop somewhere for murtabak or mee rebus or nasi rawan. Perhaps nasi jenganan thrown in.
He may even want to go to Geylang.

One thing he would not be able to do is to visit old friends.
They've all gone -- either passed on or migrated to other parts of the world.

For us, Singapore remains the place of our birth -- with or without our Kampung Melayu.
For our kids -- where they re-establish kinship and a damn wonderful end-of-year holiday destination and where they get duit Raya (in Sing$) during the Eid or otherwise.

I don't know what Singapore is to Bapak now though...


Anonymous said...

Assalammualaikum .

What you wrote about your father , pulled my heart strings too. I could see my own father there . He's 82 yrs old ...alhamdullillah ..he is still active ...doing marketing and paying the bills ....he used the bus now for transportation .Alas ,he is on Borneo Island .....me and my family on this part of the peninsula since last December .

I was home during the last Eid .....I had always done so for the past 20 years ; though at that time I had lived about 200kms away . I would be home for HAri Raya Haji too....apa orang Sarawak kata ...masih se tanah .

Only this time around ...I'm not coming home . I know he will miss me ...as I am missig him too . My consolation is ...my other siblings are there with him .

I would love to bring him here ...for a holiday .....but he's just scared of airplanes . He always said ,"who will look after the house ? " or " Your mother will miss me ". Mother passed away 12 years ago ...but my father will visit her grave every friday .

I know tears will flow this thursday morning when I hear the takbir raya .

I wish I could make the sacrifice too ....by taking the next flight home ...be with him...make him happy ....but my own family commitments is stoppig me right now .

To you and yr family and yr father as well " Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha "

P/s. As I'm writing this , my eyes are misted with tears .



oh dear... this is so sad.
you are really missing your father.
i can feel your ache.

i hope you'll be able to see him soon.

take care and selamat hari raya aidil adha!

zaitgha said...


Thanks for sharing...my siblings and i will visit our parents at their eternal home on Thursday...

Selamat Hari Raya and God bless

zainul said...

Salaam Kak Ena,

As I read, I was thinking what will become of me when Allah subsidized my age to 80+.... can't walk, can't talk much, just lie there, ain't dead, ain't alive.. can't meet my old friends, can't talk to them anymore... oh my.

There just might be one thing left to do. a video chat thru' Yahoo Messenger or Skype should do the trick I guess.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha buat semua.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nuraina,
I share your dad's sadness, despite knowing that "life goes on" and that we are part of the "circle of life"... take care & salam eiduladha to you & pak samad.

Rockybru said...


Some months back during one of my irregular visits to your family place in Section 16, your dad and I sat at the dining table. You were out, I think, and he was enjoying his smoke. That's one of the things I miss about smoking - sitting down and listening to Pak Samad, lighting up a cigarette for him and then mine.

But that one time at the dining, he told me, out of the blue, "Kawan-kawan aku semua dah mati, kau tahu?"

I thought he looked sad but then there was this spark in his eyes, there's always that spark in his eyes when he's up to mischief.

Like that time when he told off Rahman Maidin in front of us editors: he looked absolutely grim and scary but for that spark in his eyes that told me he must have been guffawing inside.

It's hard to tell with Pak Samad. So I told him it must be depressing to find out that all yours friends have passed on.

"Tak da lah ... I just have to prepare to join them," he smiled.

I pray God keeps him in good health. We need a book from Pak Samad, especially on his ISA years.


Mat Salo said...

Kak Ena..

Even if he's capable of traveling, the Singapore of old is long gone so he might be disappointed. Only his siblings and relatives there occupy his thoughts..

It's good of you to keep the connections alive. Savor it --because one day it's just a distant memory...