When we met, usually starting from Friday night, we filled up the time recalling our fine memories with Mom and Dad, working together cleaning the house, the compound, pruning the wild thickets, cooking and having our meals together, so on and so forth. The air was always cheerful, in fact, noisy, but always interesting. In fact, all of us cherished the time we spent together and it never failed to tighten the bond between us.
|We spent the time together eating... (one day after wedding)|
When it was time to go, usually on Sunday evenings, one family after another pulled their cars out from the house compound. Then the house was quiet again, deserted.
|The house was quiet again, deserted|
But time is not always on our side. Sometimes we had other commitments which we needed to do that took away our precious time which was supposed to be spent with our dear siblings. That was what happened to me recently.
During the weekend, I had to go somewhere else while my siblings gathered at Dad's house as usual.
"Never mind," I thought, "I can go there tomorrow," I pacified myself.
The next morning, I had to go to Air Hitam to attend a function. Then in the afternoon I went 'rewang' at Cikgu Romli's house where I saw Apar, Kak Long, Bang Ngah and Kak Ngah. I decided to go to Dad's house after rewang and meet them.
After rewang, I came home to have a rest.for a while before going. Lay down a while. Tiredness took the better of me. Zzz...
* * *
When I woke up, it was already 6.15 p.m. My God! I quickly rushed to Dad's house. Unfortunately, I was late. There was nobody at the house. They had left!
I walked slowly around the house. Everything was still. The light at the side of the house was bright in the cool evening. The door of the store at the back of the house was open. There were signs that it was being tidied and the task had not been completed yet. I closed the door and went back home.
"So early? You said you wanted to meet your siblings?" my wife asked.
"They're gone. I was late."
That was the same feeling that I felt when I was at Bukit Serok way back from 1979 to 1981. I was teaching at Sekolah Kebangsaan Bukit Serok, a national primary school where most of the pupils were aborigines while the rest were children of estate workers who were Javanese and malays. It was runned by JHEOA, a department that concerned the welfare of the aborigines in Malaysia. What is the relationship of my sorrows with the JHEOA?
Well, From time to time they would come to the village to deal with certain matters. When they did, they would put up the night at my house, making it cheerful, noisy and entertaining. We would chat away at night until the wee hours, cracking jokes and enjoying the company of each other. Sometimes we would reminisce out own experiences so that others could share the enjoyment, and so on. There was once when Rahman, the driver was still lying down asleep in my house while it was already light and others were already up and calling him and making such a noise in their attempt to wake him up which he didn't budge. Then finally, he woke up, looking very relieved. It was an odd thing to see, and we were surprised.
"Why so early? It's only nine," Mustapha quipped.
"I heard you. I heard everything you said. And I tried to get up. But something big, black and hurry was sitting on my chest, pinning me down. I tried to call you, but my voice couldn't come out." Rahman answered.
"Then, what'd you do?"
"I read a few verses, then that thing disappeared."
"My God. Luckily I didn't experience the same thing all this while," I answered him.
Well, that's that.
Then, after a few days, they would go back to headquarters, leaving me alone and lonely, longing for them to come back.
Another sad feeling was when I had to leave the entertaining environment at Dad's house on Sundays to go back to my quarters at Bukit Serok. When I reached the quarters, I would sit on a bench on the verandah and look towards the school field, at the end of which was the school building with the mountain at the background. On the right was the Keratong River.
|This school is like the school that I used to teach in when I first started my service.|
The place was empty. The only companion at that time was the transistor radio. The disc jockey, Azmi Rais Noor was hosting the programme 'Nostalgia'. Although I had just got back from my 'kampung', I felt a pang of loss. I yearn to go back home to mama...