web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: Mokciknab will be Missed
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Mokciknab will be Missed

Many people have asked why I chose the name "Mokciknab" as a handle and I usually respond with the simple explanation that it is in memory of my paternal grandmother, Zainab.

They must think I loved my grandmother very much. I couldn't say.

I wish I had the kind of grandmother my own mom is to my children. My mother does nenek with textbook precision. On any given Saturday, she makes her grandchildren apple pies. She teaches them to read jawi and knead bread and doesn't complain that all her rolls turn out like deformed dinosaurs and stepped-on cowpat. She gets all my children's silly jokes and never calls them silly. She raises funds at the masjid to help the poor and dispenses big hugs the way politicians dispense election money. If I ask my son and daughters if they love nenek, I know they will answer with a resounding yes.

Mokciknab on the other hand, could play the definitive mother in law in a P.Ramlee movie. For a long time, she inhabited the role with such sureness, that my mother, otherwise good natured, can only speak of Mokciknab with bitter acrimony. My mother, the dusky daughter of a tailor, was not her choice of a bride to her only son. Mokciknab had planned for my father to marry his cousin, a doctor, a gazelle with alabaster skin and the right royal title. She made such a fuss about this lack of lineage that Mama, bristling with revenge, deliberately left out this family appellation when she filled out my birth certificate.

Until this day, to folk who knew her, the name Mokciknab will conjure up the image of an austere and forbidding woman given to telling people exactly what she thinks about them. She was all mouth and hurtful grumblings. Nothing you could do could approach her seemingly impossible standards.

I think of her, mostly with regret and guilt. It was not easy to love Mokciknab - it was easier to avoid her and leave her alone in her rambling house in Terengganu. But she was my grandmother, and my sense of filial piety accorded her some rights, rights which I'm ashamed to say, I did not fulfill. I could have visited her more often, but my visits were often postponed. When she made her frequent trips to Kuala Lumpur, we fought over who should host her stay, an exercise that usually ended with a resolve to send her to her son's house, knowing full well Mokciknab could not tolerate my father's second wife, any more than she could my mother.

Old age smoothed away the edges of her hard-bitten personality, but my mother could not forget and my sisters and I still saw her as a sneering grandmother who was impossible to please. We refused to look beyond the one-dimensional veneer of harshness we created of her. We ignored the fact that, she could be kind in her own way. Despite her tightfisted approach to money, she was extremely charitable to poor relatives. She gave loans, she gave them food and clothing. People endured her nagging because she never refused to help.

We may choose not to remember, she eventually enjoyed being a grandmother, although until her death, she forbade us from calling her "grandmother" but to address her as "Mok", which means "mother". She made us "magic" agar agar, a frothy multicolored jelly shaped like a rabbit, which would yield other animals within when we sliced it. She had a talent for acting out funny bed-time stories, my favourite being the one about a fox who mistook the sound of a baby chick's epic fart for a farmer's shotgun.

Of course, she also took pains to remind us of the family name , and gave strict instructions to every girl-servant that the grandchildren shall always be referred to as "Tengku so and so". Once, when I was a little girl, my grandmother scolded my friends for calling me my given name, she said it was beneath my stature to allow them to do so. She reminisced of her childhood in Kampung Gelam, that sprawling palace in Singapore which later became a warren of displaced royals, soon forgotten in the modern metropolitan island. I was glad she did not live to see the day when it was eventually torn down by the republic's government.

It was ironic that she defended my grandfather's pedigree, the man who had, at one time, driven her to seek momentary refuge in a mad-house. It was, perhaps, a key to understanding her bitter behaviour. My grandfather, an extremely attractive man with set jaw and hazel-grey eyes, was a philanderer. A few months after marrying Mokciknab, my grandfather slept with her cousin, a woman who was physically, the opposite of Mokciknab. The cousin was gregarious and had features that was proper on an Arab belly dancer. My grandmother, on the other hand, was a stern beauty - in old photographs she was a willowy girl with black hair perfectly coiffed, pointed sunglasses, cinched waist, aloof demeanor. In these old photographs she never smiled.

My grandfather's deed could not be hidden from my grandmother - the cousin was pregnant out of wed-lock and eventually gave birth to a daughter, one month before my father was born. A scandal of such magnitude, played out within a repressive Terengganu society of old - I could not imagine how she withstood the humiliation. I was not told of how she made that retreat into the asylum, but she eventually made her peace with both her husband and her cousin, which must have taken so much out of her. Were I in her shoes, I would have surely responded with violence.

The cousin passed away a few months after my grandmother's death. As long as I could remember, the two remained close and the terrible history between them was never mentioned. On her deathbed, my relatives tell me, the cousin was in dreadful remorse for the pain she caused Mokciknab, and indeed, had my grandmother been rewarded with a happy marriage, she might turn out less taciturn.

My husband often tells me of genetic memory, how we are all shaped, quite literally, by the experiences of our forefathers. And he also tells me that I display traits of my grandmother - I gravitate towards anything green, I have employed her manner of speaking, especially when aggravated and I have grown to be exacting in how I want things done. Happily, my circumstances are poles apart from hers. If she lives within me, then I hope at last she found the connubial bliss that so eluded her in her years.

I chose the handle "Mokciknab" to honour and embrace a woman I could not love while she was alive.I chose this name so that I do not forget how far I have come and to remind me of the guilt of having misunderstood my grandmother.
And to never repeat the mistake with another.


Oh thank you, dear lone guest who is the only one who reads my blog. (Now that is a good reason to cry)
I didn't know her. She's still a cantankerous, unhappy woman to me. And I still think she didn't care much for me.

But this piece at least made me understand her a little bit more. I wish she had been different, I wish I had known her better. I wish she told me bedtime stories.

What I remember most about her, though, is how her milky eyes would shine when she smiled and that "hik" laugh she had. At those times, she seemed so much more approachable.

Aiyah, get Haloscan lah. Then EVERYBODY can leave comments. Very annoying having to sign in. It's free, it's easy!
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aiyoh I tried pasting all the code from Haloscan but it doesn't seem to work. Have to learn HTML meh?
I was having lunch, and at the same time was reading ur entry( thanks to elisa's blog- your sister? elisa..relax eh!hehehe)..i was stuck!!boy,
this posting is really 'deep', if you know what I mean.
what else can I say?
Just to tell you that I make a copy of ur recipe, and see whetehr my baby likes it..erkk..boleh bagi baby ke?
hi ikantona,
I don't think you can feed my mee sua to your baby la. But wait, I will post my world famous creamy spinach pasta soon, and I'll bet your baby would love it!

Thanks for visiting!
Do you really eat mee sua?
My former baby care taker suggested to me that my baby would love to eat mee sua.
How could we feed her with mee sua when I have never eaten it and the mother just don't have any idea what it was.
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