Friday, May 18, 2012

In a small village I found Gems of the Heart and Salt of the Earth - proud in the most noble sense of the word

Back here again.
Yesterday morning we made our way back to Kak Mutiah's house, a wooden kampung (village) home, standing solitary in acres of paddy fields. She is coming back with us for my late mum's tahlil (traditional prayers for the deceased) this coming Sunday. As it always happens, a visit to the little hamlet in Tanjung Karang is always wonderful - amongst familiar and friendly friends, generous and humble, yet proud in the most noble sense of the word...

The two coconut trees are still there, standing tall in front of the house. Flowers of their garden
are in bloom and feels so familiar to me. It should, because Kak Mutiah used to bring home some
of the plants from my mother's own garden. So the DNA of the trees, leaves and flowers
surrounding her familial abode is the same as mine. This leaves me feeling somehow happy. 
Last I was here the Hibiscus was not flowering. Now its magnificent red petals are
floating in the gentle afternoon breeze. It is Malaysia's national flower. Many long
years ago her father and mother migrated from the island of Java, Indonesia to make
a honest toil as gardeners. Then an opportunity opened for them they became paddy
farmers in Tanjung Karang, as pioneers in this rural area of Selangor. They still speak
Javanese and hold to their customs, but they have become Malaysians and are salts
of the earth. It was not easy, being paddy farmers.
After lunch my auntie, Mak Ndak and Kak Mutiah's mother are resting in the
living area. After 3 visits, I have become particularly fond of her mother whom I
simply call Mak Cik (little or middle auntie). She is tough as nails and kind as a cloud
that passes over the Sun. She doesn't speak any unnecessary word, but is attentive
to her guest's comfort and food. You know... the sort that makes you feel like a Sultan.
When we said goodbye I had to kiss her hand and hug her.
The inner rooms are much more cooler during the day.  After the amazing lunch
cooked by my kindly hosts, I fell into a contented slumber. I am not the sort that can
just fall asleep anywhere. My heart is fussy where I rests my head, I guess. But after this
third visit, I have lost whatever inhibitions I had and  when Mak Cik told me to 'rest',
I did just that. "Ooh... this is too nice..." I remember
thinking, before losing consciousness.

When I woke up later, I explored the kitchen and I found an ancient-looking cabinet where the family keeps the dry goods. Kak Mutiah noticed me pondering over the beat-up old furniture and said, "This is very old. A reminder from the time when we really had nothing whatsoever. My father built it himself when I was maybe 5 years old (she's in her fifties now). You know how it is in those days, we were very poor and couldn't even afford a simple cabinet. Even for the wood my father had to scrounge about for spare or unused planks."

Later as we were leaving, my cousin, the indomitable Ramlah (I call her Kak Lah) succeeded in giving Kak Mutiah's mum a token gesture of money. I was sitting at the backyard when I saw her practically scuffling with the old lady and then chasing her into the rooms. Kak Lah later came out looking a bit breathless but victorious, "She always does that! I literally have to wrestle her down to give her a little gift! How I wish for once she would not put up such a struggle..."

Deep, abiding, sincere respect. That was how we all felt for Kak Mutiah, her father and her mother. They are Gems of the Heart and Salt of the Earth. And as I said, proud people in the most noble sense of the word. 

I feel so lucky to be able to share with you a little of their story. Thank you for coming by, sunshine.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

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