The One With Back To Back Part 1

Often we heard people say, things happened for a reason. I, for one, a truly believer in that quote. Although, at times, I do questions the logic behind it. No doubt, for me, it is always difficult to apprehend, as hard as to beam the silver lining in each cloud.

When I was just a little girl, I was told by my father never ask of my  arwah Mak’s history. Being a good daughter, back then, I obliged with no question. As I grew up, I tend to examine of my own action. Why was I not allowed to even ask of my own Mak’s history? Did Mak had a bad childhood years? Why was it a very sensitive issue to Mak? Since now, my Ayah’s state of health is not in his pink bloom, I do not really know of my own parents’ histories. There were few on and off stories, my arwah Mak used to tell me in the past.

As per story being told by my arwah Mak :-

My arwah Mak was the youngest of two elder sisters. Her father and mother were both farmers in Guangdong, one of the provinces in the People’s Republic of China. She was the rebellious and the most stubborn daughter among the three. They were expecting a son to help them at the farm, but however, God has His own plans. Oftentimes, we heard the Chinese preferred a son than a daughter. To them, a son equals to pride. A son will carry the family name. A son can do tough labours. A son will bring his family to special festival dinners. So, when my arwah Mak was born, they were a bit disappointed. As my arwah Mak grew older every year, they expected her to help them at the farm, just like her two elder sisters. But, she would give million reasons to not to. My arwah Mak was born during the foot binding custom; which was a must practice to young girls. She would rebel every time her feet we forced to be wrapped by her mother. She used to say to her parents, it was a foolish thing to do. She would disobey them if they wanted to marry her at a young age. However, she was very good in calculation. She could count, multiply, divide, minus and plus without the help of Abacus. She was the accountant of her parents’ farm. But to them, just acing in Mathematics was not good enough. Either my arwah Mak was being a silly little girl or she was a plain lazy girl. She was lazy to help them at the farm. She was lazy to do household chores. She was lazy to cook for the family. She was lazy to clean the house. She was lazy to clean the dishes. She was lazy to wash clothes. As her parents did not know what else to do with her and they already had two daughters that they favoured very much and could count on, they decided to sell her.

Before they departed, her mother gave my arwah Mak a Jade locket; in which before she passed away, she gave to my eldest sister, Kak Ti.

So, that was how her journey to Tanah Malay began with a long sailing in a huge Tongkang…

She was first being sold to a Baba and Nyonya family in Malacca. She did not tell me much about this family. All she ever told me was, she fell in love with Kebaya Nyonya; in which she used to wear in her entire life. In my Terengganu house, we have a wardrobe fill with her Kebaya Nyonya. When I was a little girl, she would forced me to wear those Kebaya Nyonya. Like her, I too, was a rebellious child.  In that family, she was called Mariah.

After the Baba and Nyonya family, she was again sold to another family in Pahang Darul Makmur, and again, she did not disclose much about this family. The only thing she ever mentioned about this family, “I did not like that family”.

The last family to her was to a businessman in Terengganu Darul Iman. This businessman, whom she called Tok Wan had a lot of wives. Out of his wed and divorce, wed and divorce, wed and divorce many many times, only four remained attached as his wives. My mother was brought up with Tok Wan’s first wife. I did not have the chance to meet Tok Wan, but I had the chance knowing Che’. Che’ had a son named Muni with Tok Wan. Unfortunately, he died at a very young age. So, Che’ decided to adopt my arwah Mak as her own daughter. My arwah Mak said, at that time she was already around 13 years old. She was taught to be a Muslimah. She was taught mengucap dua kalimah shadah for the first time. She was taught to recite the Quran. She learnt how to fast. She learnt how to pray. Tok Wan was very strict when it comes to their children’s education. My mother was sent to a Secular school in Terengganu. There she had her proper education. It was the British Colonial era in Tanah Malaya. In Tok Wan she felt she had a father. In Che’, she felt she had a mother. In them, she felt she had parents. In Terengganu Darul Iman, she felt she had a home. There, her name was changed to Nik Yah Binti Abdullah. As I mentioned earlier, Tok Wan was a successful businessman in Terengganu Darul Iman. He had acres and acres of rubber plantations, acres and acres of orchards and never ending list of poultry farms. However, his wealth distribution came with a huge argument within the family members. My arwah Mak was his pet child. He favoured her because he trusted her with his money. She often told me Tok Wan would, every night, came back to the house with bags loaded with money. He would ask her to count his profit and later to put in his safe box. She said, “Tok Wan did not trust them with his money because they would steal”. Because of this, most of the family members envied her. To them, she was an outsider. Not Tok Wan’s flesh and blood. To make matters worst, Tok Wan did not live long enough. He passed away when she still needed him. She was 17 years old. She just passed her General Certificate of Education (GCE). She wanted to share her joy, but instead she had to mourn. Few days before he passed away, he talked to my arwah Mak, “I want you to be taken care of even when I am already dead. I have written a legal will. Nobody will take away what I think you deserve”. After that conversation, he would go to his normal social activity, drinking alcohol and gambling.

Conflicts resurfaced after that, and Che’ remarried. Che’ Jak was an antique trader, and my arwah Mak did not have the same fatherhood.

She was a teacher. A primary and secondary school teacher. She taught English, Geography, History and Mathematics. In Tengku Ampuan Mariam, she met my father. He was a religious and a disciplinary teacher. He was the only teacher who rode a Honda fame motorcycle to school when others would walk. She laid her eyes on him. He laid his eyes on her Kebaya Nyonya figure, the rest was the cupid’s job well done…

She was Abang and Kak Ti’s teacher, till Kak Nan was born. My father asked her to resign and take care of the family. My father was then being sent to Chendering school. Our first family car was Ford Capri. Then when I was born, my arwah Mak asked my father to changed to Ford Escort. The Capri did not have seat belts, so my arwah Mak was scared the safety of the car. However, my father changed to Ford Escort with Carbon Fibre roof panel, too much her dismay. Our first family home was a flat in Bukit Kecil. A two bedroom flat – A 226, Rumah Pangsa Bukit Kecil. I still remember the address till now…

Actually, they never expected of my arrival. They thought they would only have seven children. They thought Abang Fali would be the last. They thought Abang Fali was a girl because of the minimal movement in my arwah Mak’s womb. She had me when she was 39 years of age. She thought I was a boy. I was rough inside her, but God does work in mysterious way… I was born. I would not have the life that I am having right now if I was indeed a boy…

The doctors predicted I would not survive the birth because of her age.

Before she was sick, I managed to ask her few questions.

1 What was her real name? My father till her last breath would call her Mariah and not Nik Yah. She answered with, “I do not remember my real name”.

2 What was it to be in that Tongkang. She answered, “You would not want to be in that situation”.

3 Did you ever eaten pork? She answered, “Yes, and I do not like it”.

4 Do you want to meet your real family again? Bluntly she said no.

Before I could ask further questions, I could see teary in her eyes. She said, the best thing Tok Wan had done to her was converting her to Islam, and for that she owed him a lot. And that night, I was scolded by my father for asking those questions…

I was a spoil child. Most of the time, I would get what I want. Che’ spoilt me when she was still around. She would gave only me for Duit Raya. She would cook the dishes that I like every time we came for a visit . My arwah Mak would lavish me before she passed away. She would pasang kelambu for me so that I would not get any mosquito bites. I drank using crystal glasses. I ate using fine China. My brothers and sisters lush me with imported stuffs and high end eateries. All that changed when I met him. It was hard for me to get use to it, but, things do happen for a reason…

1 What would have happened if my arwah Mak married a China man?

2 What would have happened if she was not sold and sailed to Tanah Malaya?

3 What would have happened if she was not adopted by Tok Wan?

4 What would have happened if she did not met my father?

5 What would have happened if they only have seven children?

Things do happen for a reason. A reason that only HE understands, and beyond our awareness…


But there is a secret garden, she hides…

~Nani Mansor~





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