web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: June 2007
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Friday, June 15, 2007

forehead to chin
cheeks to chest
grey light seeps into sight
breath, words, heartbeat
regret that ticking clock is an enemy
but the hum of living wins


Thursday, June 14, 2007
Baidura Ahmad! Tell Me if You're Coming Over

Google "Baidura Ahmad", and you will be able to read a few samples of my friend's fine writing skills, on subjects ranging from trendy grannies and Balinese massage to Islamic banking and reform of international financial architecture.

I got to know Baidura when we were both business reporters (okay, maybe she deserves to be called "journalist"), covering AGMs, signing ceremonies and economic meets. She was working for a very respectable (then) business broadsheet (then) and I was the token editor at the economic desk of a TV station. It just so happened that we'd always be sent on the same assignments abroad, and I grew to like Baidura's unforgiving humour and sense of adventure. (By unforgiving humour I mean we laugh and bitch about other people a lot). While most fellow journalists and camera crew would opt to go shopping when visiting a foreign country, Baidura and I would visit art museums and quirky restaurants and flea-markets. Oh, we love flea-markets and dusty op-shops! At the right price, we have no qualms lugging bulky purchases all around town. On one cold day in Auckland we hauled luggage and Salvation Army finds from bus to ferry to airport.

There is one thing I never spoke about to Baidura and since this happened a long time ago, I suppose the matter has lost some of its offensiveness (and mortal shame) and I can finally tender my apologies. Baidura and I were in New York in late August, 2001, and we were put up at the New York Palace Hotel, which was across St. Patrick's Church and a few skips away from Rockefeller Center. We shared a well-appointed bedroom and I think the first night we were there we went out to eat at a Jewish vegetarian restaurant and I had a heavenly dish of fresh pasta with broccoli and cream. Back in the room, my tummy reminded me why the meal was a bad idea. We just got off a very, very long flight and I hadn't done the No.2 in two days (I'm not sure what No.2 is, but what I mean is the besar one). I was pregnant at the time (it didn't work out, eventually) and pregnant women, especially pregnant women who've just eaten broccoli, can get extremely windy. Baidura settled into her bed, pulled up the plush cover and we chatted while we watched TV; or at least according to my feeble mind, this is how it went.

I can't remember what it was that we spoke about, but uncharitably, my colon decided to emit at that point one of those nasty, silent farts that I can only unimaginatively describe as stinky-poo.

I was aghast, but Baidura completely ignored it. There was no way she could not have noticed, because it was the kind of flatulence you needed an iron lung for, but she didn't give anything away. She may have crinkled her nose a little, but she didn't go like : "Elida, did you fart?" or the more appropriate, "Ya Rabbi, busuknya kentut! Bau macam telur tembelang campur air paya!", which would have been perfect for the occasion. No, Baidura was extremely polite and suffered in silence.

I should really have said sorry, but I was too embarrassed to bring up the subject, and besides the damage was done. So I ran into the sumptuous marble bathroom to finish venting off my bum in there. When I re-emerged, pretending not to be gasping for air, I settled back into bed and we continued chatting, as if nothing had happened.

By that incident, I measured Baidura as a good friend. I have no idea if she blabbed about Elida farting to other people later ( I would have!) but I, err never got a whiff of it.

We had a good time in New York, even though there wasn't enough time to see everything we would have liked to see. In between listening to stockbrokers explain the virtues of dollar denominated bonds, we went to the Guggenheim, took pictures of the Naked Cowboy, went to Sunday flea markets at the Village, and caught a Broadway show. Despite the legendary New York brusqueness, we met only nice people and on the flight home, I even made friends with a spiritual house-painter from Queens who asked me a lot about Islam. Two weeks later that sunny picture we had of New York was completely destroyed. Baidura must have been glad that it was only my butt that detonated throughout our stay.

Last week, Baidura called to say she'll be making a business trip to Jakarta and she'd come earlier to stay over at my place. I am notorious for losing phone numbers and emails so I don't know how to contact her (and I can't remember which central bank-related institution she works for now, hence the googling effort) . Thankfully she reads the drivel I write in this blog, so if she's reading this right now, I'd like to say : I'm sorry I farted in 2001 and please email me at mokciknab@gmail.com if your travel plans are confirmed! There's lots of musty, old shops crammed with furniture and stuff that we can rummage through together.


Monday, June 11, 2007
Welcome to My Gubuk

A few years ago, I travelled with a fellow newscaster, she's tres chic and is very, very particular about her appearance. I don't say this with disdain, because I accept people as they are and I happen to like her very much even though I don't understand her extreme (extreme to me, that is) pre-occupation with perception. Anyway, it just so happens that during the trip we bought more items than could fit into our lugagge. I solved the problem by buying a cheap and huge utility bag from the market to place the excess baggage. Because I was thoughtful, I bought the same bag for her. She cringed. And refused the bag. Because presumably it looked cheap and so obviously bought at the market, and she didn't want to be seen fishing it from the luggage carousel. No matter. We're still friends.

One of my sisters would understand this pre-occupation, because if we'd ever go shopping at One Utama and we'd happen to buy stuff from Reject Shop, I'd have to be the one carrying the bags. Or else we'd quickly buy something from a more expensive place, say Salabianca next door, so that we could stuff the offensive Reject Shop purchases into the more fashionably acceptable paper carriers. In this way, we would have totally cancelled out any savings we could hope to achieve by shopping at Reject Shop in the first place. Now that my sister has children, she probably has less concerns of this sort, and truth be told it's been ages since I last shopped with her, anyway.

Why are we so ashamed to be seen as poor? We judge others and we judge ourselves according to the money made, despite other intangible achievements or qualities. This point was underscored recently, when I visited Cikgu Ana, this lovely lady who teaches my daughters the Qur'an and all other things that a mother is supposed to teach.

My children have always been blessed with wonderful people to nurture them, to fill the huge gaps left behind by their mom. One of them is Ana, who is about 27 years old, a kindergarten teacher and a graduate student in Islamic studies. She comes to our house three times a week, is fiercely dedicated to educating Aiysha and Aliya and is a thousand times more patient than I am. She is indulgent towards my daughters and teaches the obstinate Aliya to recite the Iqra' while the girl lies on her lap. She is exemplary in so many ways, diligent, wise and kind.

Ana lives alone with her mother in Mampang-Prapatan. A few weeks ago, her mother fell sick and could not move. At that time, the kids were having their exams and Ana felt she was duty-bound to come and tutor my children. She was tearful and worried. We told her to go home. Then we heard that the mother's condition took a turn for the worse, but the old lady refused hospitalization. Ti decided to visit Ana at her home, and I felt that I should do the same. When Ana heard that I was coming, she was aghast, ashamed that I would see the squalor she lived in. In the end she relented and I finally saw her house.

It wasn't a house. It was a small room where the door was the only opening, and her mother slept on an old mattress on the floor. They had a small fridge and an old wooden cabinet where they kept books and mementoes, and those plastic drawers to keep clothes. It was indeed squalor. Ana kept apologizing about her circumstances, while her sick mother profusely thanked us for coming. I wanted to cry because I felt she didn't deserve to live in such dire straits. She kept saying, oh, this must be the first time you were in a house so poor, and I kept saying no, no it's not true, I come from a poor family too. She said I lied, and it was a lie, because no matter how poor my relatives were, and there were many poor people in Terengganu, no one was this destitute.

But while I am deeply saddened by Ana's living conditions, it does not in any way lower my estimation of her. Finally I told her that in my mind she is much, much nobler than me, much nobler than most people I know, because she is a teacher and she used her knoweldge to teach my children and the children of others, while I can't even recite the Qur'an with proper tajweed. She went quiet for a while, and then she thanked me for my words, and didn't say anything more about her house.