Time is like the wind. It passes without us realising it.
'O' level student-inmate from institution TM1
As someone who was born to a Singaporean father and a Malaysian-born mother, I have the luxury of having two huge families from two neighbouring countries- Singapore and Malaysia. It is something to write home about as I am able to experience two disparate ways of life-the hustle and bustle of city life, as well as sequestered and undisturbed village life. Despite my parents busy and tight schedules as educators and myself as a student, we would always make a mental note to visit my Malaysian grandmother who we called "Mak', several times a year. This particular trip to visit Mak for her 75th birthday in 2020 was indeed a melancholy one, and has been imprinted, perhaps indelibly, in my mind.
It was a sultry and sweaty Sunday morning when we safely arrived at Mak's humble abode at Kampung Pasir Gogok (KPG) in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The heat was unmitigatedly oppressive which could easily spawn a cascade of perspiration on one's body. The fireball in the sky burnt down like a raging inferno, scorching every nook and cranny of the entire village. Ironically, we did enjoy the torture as we were able to meet our beloved Mak, who would, without fail, welcome us with a wide motherly grin, which could effortlessly extinguish a burning house. After a warm reciprocation of hugs and kisses, we breezed into the half- wooden-half-cement with zinced roofs traditional house to meet the rest of our dearly missed family members.
Before proceeding with other activities, we congregated and sat down on the floor of the kitchen to satiate our uncontrollable hunger and thirst with all the delectable food and beverages. As KPG is a fishermen village, we had the golden opportunity to feast on meals of fresh and succulent catches from the nearby sea. There were various local favourites such as, Ikan Lemak Cili Padi, Sotong Masak kicap -just to name a few. All crockery were placed on a long and thick hat with all of us seated in a U-shaped position- a typical kampung style of having a repast together. Happiness and solace were written all over our faces as we savoured the mouth-watering dishes in parallel with animated conversations between the youngsters and the grown-ups.
Shortly thereafter, we assembled at the spacious living room to have a chit-chat while nibbling on some chocolate pudding and fruit cocktails. The tantalising aroma of these handmade desserts managed to draw all the young children to the round table like bees to a honeypot. Lessons on table etiquette were forgotten as they slurped the cocktails like a vacuum cleaner at work. Constant Stream of idle chatter and, intermittent roars of laughter permeated the entire house as everyone was as busy as bees- exchanging stories and cracking jokes with one another. Such a heart-warming spectacle of affectionate family ties really did my heart good as it assured me that this relationship was like a glue that will always keep all of us together, despite of the low Frequency of meeting.
While we were deeply engrossed in a seemingly endless rumbustious prattle, Mak voiced out to take a rest in her room, citing headache as the reason. Declining all sorts of assistance, Mak rose up from the sofa and plodded carefully towards her room. All of a sudden, two hours later, while we were watching television in the living room, my cousin, Kharul darted towards us and dropped a bombshell, informing that Mak was no longer breathing when he tried to wake her for the midday prayer. On spur of the moment upon hearing that, with the speed of a bullet, the whole household careered into Mak's room to make a confirmation.
In the room, we gave way to my uncle, who was a doctor, to do a check on Mak. The rest of us waited with bated breath and only God knew how fast our heart palpitated during that nerve-racking moment. Lamentably, after what seemed like an eternity, my uncle, with a default lock, mouthed the dreadful words, "God loves Mak more than us.” Frozen. Everyone stood frozen with the sudden news. There was a deafening silence for a moment before by degrees, it metamorphosed into hysterical waits and convulsive sobs. I found myself pouting to keep in my tears but unfortunately, it came to no avail, and I, too, dissolved into tears.
It has been three years since Mak left us to be with her 'Maker'. Initially, I could not accept her passing and that I had to mention her name in the past tense, but gradually, I managed to surmount sorrow and accept the immutable fact that Mak has gone and safe in the care of the Almighty, from this incident, I came to realise that wounds can be healed with the passing of time. As what my mum used to reiterate whenever the wanted to console me, “Time is like the wind, it passes without us realising it”.