The oldies' stories

January 31, 2013

Went to visit my oldies (mum's) last week. Healthy and happy they were. I was so glad to see them in such a shape. I was glad that I still have the chance to talk to them. The smiles on their face, they were priceless. And while I was there, I watched this cerekarama (Malay movie) on TV3, something about a son who despised his mum without knowing the actual story of why his mother abandoned him when he was a child. I didn't really pay any attention to it because it was boring, dull and too usual. Yeah sure, all of us have our own stories, our own secrets, I got that. Then I looked at my grandma and grandpa, a struck of thought hit my head - behind those crinkly, aged faces, what were the stories behind them? 

Gong Badak, Noir, Camera 360

I bet this will be a lengthy one.

So I had this idea to talk to them about their pasts, which I was quite unsure of, as there were bits of stories told by my mum and aunties here and there - they were disorganised and I had a hard time connecting the storyline. We sat around the dining table having our late supper, and I interviewed my grandpa hehe. This happy-go-lucky jii-chan was born on 1940s, thus he got to experience the Japanese and British invasion. He had a sight-disabled mother named Zainab, a sister named Salmah and a step-father. According to him, he experienced a struggling life back then. Both his mother and sister were deceased due to Malaria plague, which was very hard to cure during those years. Though he had a hard life, he still went to school until Standard 6 or so. He became a begger at 16, and after his mother's death, he began to live on his own. 

He said he used to walked for miles just to get a job. Along the journey before he found a job, bringing a small pot with him, he fed himself by begging for food from the villagers. He then worked as a labour at a military base, under British reign. The British officials treated him well, because my grandpa was a hard worker. After working for the military, he worked with JKR (Public Works Department), until he retired. He was an active person too. He joined body-building championship, plays, sports, and others. 

My grandma on the other hand, had her own story. She had a difficult life too. My late great grandma was a hawker - well, without a stall. She dwelt in the town selling legumes and others. My grandma helped her with that. She was a brilliant student at school. She entered an Islamic school and was able to recite and understood Quran very well, she even taught other students (she is still good at it until now). 

Now, this is the interesting part - she married my grandpa without even knowing who he was. My grandpa's uncle was the match-maker. He urged my grandpa, who originated from Kuala Lumpur, to move to Besut, Terengganu to marry my grandma. After some months being persuaded, he decided to finally move there. They got married, but both of them were still struggling to live.

My grandpa told me that he had to do so many jobs to feed his family - washing the dishes, laundry other people's clothes and iron them, rubber-tapping, etc. etc. until he got to work with JKR. My grandma rented a warong and started her own business. Her children helped her at her warong. When my mum was born (she was the third among her seven siblings), the mid-wife opted to adopt my mum, but my grandma strongly refused to do so. She said to me, even how hard her life might be, she would never ever give her children to other people. Though their life was hard, they sent all of their children to school, because they believed education was extremely important.

Seberang Jerteh People, Besut, Terengganu
From left: 1) My grandpa, my grandpa's kins, & my grandma; 2) Me, aunt (6th), my mum, grandma, aunt (5th), & le cousin at my back; 3) Me & my grandma

Listening to their stories made me realised that I was living a far more comfortable life than they were as a child. Alhamdulillah. Even now, there are many more out there who don't even get a chance to go to school, what more to enter a university. They don't even get proper water and food supply, an Internet access, or a house to live in. Masya Allah, at times I valued these for nothing. Thank you for the reminders, grandpa and grandma. Thank you for your willingness to share your life experiences. Such great inspirations. I hope I can be as strong and determined to live as both of you too. Insya Allah.

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