Saya tulis shorthand…saya baca longhand. That line from the Bujang Lapok series always makes me smile – a warm and “feel good” smile. Its Sunday morning and old habits die hard. I go first to The Straits Time but now read what is in there with a sense of merriment and “do you think I am stupid?” questioning of some of what is written in that paper “under orders” from the powers that be. Those guys working in Jalan Riong also have to “cari makan” so let us not judge them to harshly.
On Buletin Utama TV3 I saw Mahathir and Pak Lah embracing on stage at PWTC. What else can they do but that with all those on stage pressing them together? What was telling was that Mahathir made it plain that he will be joining UMNO with conditions “saya akan masuk mengikut syarat syarat yang saya letakan…saya akan masuk” The Old Man will always have the last words.
As I sit in the quietness of a Sunday morning – my son Zack is still asleep and my Lucy is in KL on holidays – I allow myself to go back in time. Back to Kampong Kassiplilay in Sentul where my Tok lived. My Tok was Dr Latiff – the first Malay Doctor. In the time that I know him I remembered him as a kindly white haired man who needed to have his daily intake of his Medicinal Compound (commonly known as the hard stuff) for him to be a more agreeable human being. Grandmother was of a more sterner demeanour and did not suffer fools gladly. I spent a lot of time at their house because it was where his nine children and their Family will get together whenever we had the time. Wonderful memories spent in the companies of Aunts, Uncles and cousins.
I remember the time, in 1960 I think, when my Auntie came back from Washington after her husband had served his time there working at the Malayan embassy in Washington. Her two children, Iskandar and May were a source of amusement to us because they could not speak any Malay then. We were suitably impressed with the car they brought back from Washington – a grand Oldsmobile – a convertible. The car generated much interest where ever it went and impressed us all to no end. The fact that we were not invited to go for a ride in the car could be directly attributed to her husband – a man very economical with his speech and even then was regarded by us as a man different from the norm. Her husband was Ismail Ali, ( for generations a titan of the Malaysian economic and financial world, "a man of great integrity" who spent long period as governor of Bank Negara to promote financial transparency, accountability, integrity, uprightness and good governance – to quote Abdullah Ahmad). I remember one Hari Raya morning when we were at his house sitting down to a ketupat rendang breakfast when my Auntie came in and told her husband that Mahathir was at the door. I though that it was Mahathir my cousin because her husband did not register any interest whatsoever and continued to sit where he was quietly suffering our intrusion into his private world when THE Mahathir walked in - after all there were brother in laws and he was the older one - so what need is there for him to go greet the Prime Minister. We will never see the likes of him again in our lifetime. It was my privilege to have known him.
This was also the time in my life when having fifty cents in my pocket meant having Chendol and Rojak for a treat. Then a leisurely stroll to the main road to wait for the comics man to pass by and for 5cents spent a pleasant time with others sitting under the tree flicking through the Roy Rogers or Buck Jones issue while the Indian Man waits. Then over to the Chinese sundry store for some asam boy or sweets before you head back towards grandfather’s house still with some change jingling in your pockets. All this done in the early afternoon and still time to get back for an afternoon tea of fried bananas cooked by your aunties.
These time of innocence was a long long time ago. During these times I never remembered having anything like a dollar on me – there was no need. I could get all I want with 50 cents with change to spare. The dollars came into my possession only when emak wanted me to get some things from the sundry store – a chicken and some eggs perhaps, coconut, cooking oil or even condensed milk – in the age when health was not an issue when having a meal – the only issue that counts was whether it tasted good - no calories counted – nothing matters. And once in a while you get handed a red $10 ringgit because that was all that emak had. You guard the money with your life. On entering the shop you hold the money in the palm of your hand making sure that the Chinese shopkeeper knew that you had real money to spend. Those were the days my friends…I though they never end……