web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: Welcome to My Gubuk
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

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.


I have read this for countless times. It reminds me that when we feel that the world has been unjust to us, there are others who are much worst than us. Each time time I am feeling helpless, this type of article invigorate my attitude. Thank-you for sharing this.
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