Atchafalaya Swamp

Monday, May 19, 2008

Your Last Goodbye, And A Grandson Who Deserves Hell

2003© matsalo.com

Hajjah Khamsiah Bte Haji Ariffin ( Bte Darmataksiah, mother) b.1916, d.2008 -today

Sometime before dawn broke today, in a nursing home in the leafy confines of Section 16, Petaling Jaya, an underpaid and overworked Filipino male nurse working the night shift noticed something unusual.

The old Malay lady at the bed closest to the wall had not stirred. Although bed-ridden and immobile, she was 'an early riser', often speaking to herself, cataract glazed eyes blinking at the fluorescent lamp overhead.

But not today.

This harried male nurse, Nelson, perhaps shedding a tear from having to care for this lady during her dying days; having fed her through the feeding tube, had bathed her and moved her limbs every so often lest she gets bed-sores. He then sets in motion
events that would culminate in a phone call a quarter of an hour later, across the seas to the grandson who had put her there in the nursing home.

The grandson, her first, her most beloved, the one she cared for in the early years of his life, right until his second year of school. That impudent boy, often forcing his grandmother to walk in the dark to the well at the back of the village house, to bring him bath water which she must first boil in a huge blackened pot underneath a crackling fire. The boy simply must have hot water to bathe. If he remembers correctly, it took at least three trips to the well as the zinc pail was rather small. The boy refused to bathe at the well, even with his grandfather present. Because he was afraid of walking in the dark, or of slithering creatures that might cross his path, or of the freezing water. Because being the only grandson he was used to being the center of the universe.

And what the insolent boy wanted, the insolent boy always got.

Now the boy has grown into a man; a man full of guilt, full of impotence at his inability to care for his maternal grandma. In 2004 when his grandma was staying at his mother's house, grandma slipped in the bathroom and broke her hip. She was hospitalized, and from that day on everything quickly deteriorated. After recovering sufficiently enough, she was brought home again to his mother's house. He tried hiring live-in maids (illegally procured in Kampung Pandan) but none could bear the heavy responsibility of a total invalid, often leaving within days of arriving.

His own
mother at the time was approaching seventy and a decision, however unpleasant, needs to be made. He did not want to burden his already aging mother to care for an invalid. The only thing to do was seek professional care. And that was how the grandson had 'sentenced' his very own grandmother, the one who had selflessly bathed, clothed and fed him for the first eight years of his life, to a nursing home a few houses away from Anwar Ibrahim's PKR headquarters in leafy Section 16, Petaling Jaya.

But that insolent boy who grew up to be an insolent middle-aged man, whatever his faults, still had a rational mind - if one could charitably call it that - an ability to still feel something.

Because each time he drives past the nursing home, his hands never fails to bang on the steering wheel -
and he can't help but think:

"You're going to hell for this boy, and you know it."

That's why nothing fazes him anymore. He resigns himself to circumstance, accepting fate, feeling hell is something he deserves.


He doesn't have to go so far, oh no. Hell has already visited him today. When he received the phone call barely three hours ago, he knew then that he was never going to see his sweet grandma again. Even if he had managed to get off the ship now, the soonest he could get to Kuala Lumpur is tonight.
It will be too damn late. The remains would be sent from Section 16, to UH probably, before being sent in a van to Seremban for a quick burial after zohor today.

Yes, Muslims go for the quick burial thing; something he strongly disagrees with, for it does not fit in with his selfish needs. And the thought probably will seal his fate in the afterlife. He laments; why can't Muslims have a wake, like the Chinese who
for a few days could parade the embalmed body? At least time enough for her beloved first grandchild, the one she fondly calls Abang, the one who had shackled her to a bed in a nursing home, in leafy Section 16 at that- to come home from overseas so he can lay eyes on her for the very last time?

2004© matsalo.com

The last photograph was taken in 2004, on Hari Raya Haji Idul Adha, a month before she fell in her daughter's bathroom, broke her hip and quickly began to lose her faculties.The boy is her great-grandson, her beloved grandson's second son. The one working overseas. The one who had not bothered to carry her to her final resting place. Or pour dirt in the well of her grave, nor sprinkle her flowers.

For those so inclined, the grandson had also blogged about her once, and you can read it here.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mayhem in May?

BAD THINGS HAPPEN IN THE MONTHS OF MAY? But don’t just buta-buta and swallow this lock, stock and barrel. Perhaps it’s all just a bad coincidence? For a Muslim it might unnecessarily cause you to teeter on the brink of being shirik – (commit apostasy).

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Almost four decades back in 1969, a newly-cobbled Malaysia had almost came undone, a nascent nation descending into inter-ethnic chaos. Every adult born before 1965 will remember that day. I know I did, because it was the year I started school.

Twenty years later came May of 1998. Millions of Asians –Thais, Malaysians, Filipinos and Indonesians reeled from the aftermath of a financial tsunami that had landed their shores the year before. Tun M brazenly claimed it was the work of Soros the Jew. The worse to bear the brunt of it was Indonesia. Over 1300 of their citizens (need I say of Chinese descent?) were killed during the ensuing riots . Over 1300 dead my friends. That’s ten times the casualties that Malaysia experienced in 1969. But of course, you say, Indonesia has ten times the population. But to me the ratio is about the same, per capita wise.

Apart from the 1338 victims (official figures) that perished in Indonesia, thousands more, women particularly, suffered brutal sexual assault and rape. And millions of dollars worth of properties were damaged through arson and looting.

Personally for me too, May of 1998 was a very bad month. I lost faith altogether in my ability to cari makan digging holes in my own back yard. So I tendered my resignation; foregoing future EPF proceeds to parlay my fearsome digging skills in somebody else's back yard. And that was how I found myself in Jakarta a month later; laying witness to burnt houses and looted mom-and-pop stores; remnants of havoc that descended Jakarta barely weeks prior.

Okay-lah. Instead of wallowing in the past, let’s cut to the present: May of 2008.

Unless one’s head is so far buried up his or her ass, everyone knows a calamity had befallen
Burma. First, the news said it was 10,000. Of course, hard news is hard to come by from that reclusive dictatorship. Yesterday’s paper said the death toll had reached 22,000. I think you and I know the death toll is going to be a lot higher. Why? Because permission is needed first before we send aid. And while all this diplomatic ping-ponging is going on between U.N. - ASEAN and The RanGOON Regime, more and more people are going to die of associated health related problems. Or simply die of starvation and bad drinking water.

That’s why, God Bless them, there’s NGO’s like Mercy Malaysia . But is it really comforting to hear of Datuk Jemilah Mahmood’s two officers, carrying a grand total of 50 kilos of medicine? Heck, that’s about the combined weight of my family’s luggage when we travel. Now before you point an accusing finger, yes, I had done my very small part.

Besides Mercy, I am also heartened to hear of Dijaya Corporation Berhad donating RM 300, 000.00. Even Indonesia, mired in its own internal strife and troubles has pledged USD 1, 000, ooo. As I write, two TNI’s Hercules aircraft are already loaded with humanitarian aid supplies and ready for take-off pending clearance from those Ruthless Goons in RanGOON.

But that's not going to be enough, is it.

And what is Malaysia doing about it?* Do I hear our Defense Minister pledging relief?

Oh, that’s right. He’s got other things on his mind. But let’s not talk about him shall we? Because as someone dear to us found out the hard way: Talking about him or his half can certainly be hazardous to one's well being.

So . . . let’s talk about what goes on in the minds of the internet-enabled Malaysian adult population today.

The Jailing of Pete aka RPK.

Yes, RPK, the bald, bespectacled crusader who refuses to post bail, opting prison over freedom on a point of principle. Already someone has accused him of showboating.

RPK has garnered more press and internet hits than stories of the impending humanitarian disaster up north.

So I'm not going to bore you. I too am outraged that RPK lays languishing in a Sungai Buloh jail, refusing food, refusing to see even his wife. He chose jail over bail; fancying himself a human ticking 'time bomb' ready to 'detonate' come early October. Boy oh boy, aren't we all just dying to know what goes on in that noggin of his...

And he's got us ordinary folks eating out if his hands. We are held spellbound at his sheer heroics and one may wonder; is that coming from the Welsh side --or the Bugis ? It may be worth pointing out that the so-called aggrieved party is also of Bugis descent. But has our Premier-in-Waiting shown any heroics lately? Take a good close look at recent photos of him in the mainstream media. What comes to mind? How does he look to you?

I think you have already answered the question.

I just want to put things in perspective in this Mayhem Month of May, that’s all.

Notate Bene

But some good things do happen in May, too. In 2006, after fourteen years of ups and downs (depends on who you talk to) my wife and I were finally blessed with a girl. She turns two next week and I’m just dying to hear her call me Papa. Sadly, Papa is away in some internet-enabled godforsaken swamp, somewhere in Borneo.

Happy Birthday, my Princess. Bad things happen May? No, of course not, And I hadn't meant you, Princess. You are the exception to everything including this stupid article. In fact you're the best thing that's ever happened to me. And your mother too. And I love you so, so very much.

*Two nights ago I clinked chilled glasses with Captain G---, Commander of RMN's
Newport class tank landing ship, the K.D. 1505 Sri Indera Pura. Built by the US Navy in the early seventies (ex-LST 1192 USS Spartanburg County), the amphibious assault craft berthed in Balikpapan while en route from Auckland to Lumut. Captain G--- commands some 300 officers and enlisted men (and women --including two tudung-clad recruits). Over some amber colored liquids I said to him: If I were the Defense Minister, I'd be sending this ship to Burma immediately after docking in Lumut. It would be the right thing to do. Send aid. He just looked at me, eyes pleading. He's been sailing for two months already. He needs to bring this ship back to port. I know what it's like. So I bought him another round.

After causing untold grief to Iraqis in 1991's Operation Desert Storm, the United States Navy had decommissioned this warship before selling it to RMN. Yes, this ship certainly has blood on its hands. As taxpayers who 'bought' the ship, I too am guilty of aiding and abetting, and have blood on my hands. But what about you?

[This just came in: Pete has met his wife and agreed to post bail.]