Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Remembering Pakcik Ajis

"Aman, assalamualaikum. Apa khabar? Bila nak datang Lumut? Lama tak jumpa Aman, Pakcik Ajis rindu. Kalau ada masa, datang lah rumah."

That's the text he sent to me in March 2009. I was having my dinner at a small restaurant in Jakarta then and as I had just arrived a couple of hours earlier, I was tired and not in the mood to chat over sms.

So I sent him a quickie reply, telling him that I was in Jakarta, and would call him when I return at the end of the week.

But I did not do what I promised him. I did not call him when I returned to KL. Things were just too hectic for me to begin texting each like we used to. Or at least that's my excuse. An excuse that I'll regret till the end of my life.

Definitely it took him to the end of his, for he passed away today last year - the 15th day of Ramadhan.

We have a reasonably close relationship as we would normally text each other every now and then. I had visited him a couple of times at his home in Manjung, and stayed for a couple of nights there. So I was not too sure why I did not visit him again, after the text message he had sent.

Or for that matter, to call him or even message him in between.

Death is an event that you can never prepare for, irrespective of the circumstance. Especially in his case, it was totally unexpected. I was told, after the burial by his neighbour, that he collapsed while he was mowing the lawn at a school, if my memory serves me right. In an instant, he was gone, taken from his loved ones. There was no sign that he was sick or ill, or that the time for goodbye was so near.

Only for the fact that he told his neighbour that he wanted to jalan jauh only two days earlier. But at that time, no one had batted an eye lid with his remark.

I did not get to wish him goodbye in person, as I was late for the funeral. I knew of his demise reasonably early - Mak called at around 11 am, but I only left KL for Manjung at around 1 pm.

But the funeral started immediately after asar, within a space of 6 hours after his demise, and at that time I was still driving like a mad man playing catch up. Most of the time I was doing 140-150 km per hour on the hiway and on the state road I decided to throw caution to the wind in overtaking trucks and cars to try and make sure we would be able to see him one last time. But alas, all I got to see was a freshly filled bun of earth. Hence in some sense, it is hard to accept the fact that he is no longer with us, as I did not get to see him at all. Normally I would be writing about event like this one in my blog, but a year has now passed and I have not written about him at all. For nearly a year, I can't write about him. And I didn't.

May be I was hoping that it was not him, and that he is still alive in Manjung. I was waiting for him to sms me; to ask me how I was doing and ask me to come over his house. But a year has passed, and the sms that I have been waiting from him tak kunjung tiba.

He is one uncle (from Mak's side) who was very close to us. First and foremost, he was very close with mak. By extension of that, we would feel very attach to him. And by nature, he is a loving person and humble too. He would typically visit Mak and us and definitely on Hari Raya day, though he had not done so the last Raya (2008) prior to his death. So I called him to wish him for Raya and if he was planning to come.

But he was celebrating Raya in Jeram that year and hence could not make it to our house in 2008. I did not ask further - to me it was a break from the norm that year. Obviously I was not too pleased. I am used to having him come around at noon and have the nasik tomato meal that Mak used to make on Raya day. But I can't dictate and demand that he comes for the Raya.
Caption: The three siblings - PC Ajis, MC Maznah and Mak in Paroi, Seremban attending a wedding in 2004. You can read about this wedding here.

As I understand from stories Mak told us when we were kids though I can barely remember the details, he did not live with the family when he was young. This story has been told many times when I was a kid, and that this tale was like urban legend to us. But I have forgotten the finer details, when I wanted to write this tribute to him, so I had to call mak again to reminisce about.

After nenek gave birth to him in Port Dickson, Tok Adam's brother - Pak Andak to mak, came and asked Tok Adam to give the baby to him. Tok Adam was reluctant, eventhough he has many kids already, but his bro told him in a not-so-subtle way that he would severe the ties if he was not given the baby. So in the end, in order to maintain family ties, nenek and Tok Adam relented, and gave away PC Ajis when he was 4 days old.

Against their wish. Reluctantly.

I am sure it was hard on nenek. They were not planning to give the baby in any case. They had not done that with their earlier children and had never done it again since.

So began his hard life in a kampung in Jeram. Pak Andak did not have a proper job; proper here means modern, governmental and pensionable job like his brother. He would do all kind of kampung jobs, including as fisherman, and I believe PC Ajis' love for the sea probably stemmed from him and the life he had when he was a kid.

When he was 10 years old, Tok Adam and nenek came to take him back so that they could school him in an English school. PC Ajis wanted to follow, but of course he was not allowed to. Apparently the nenek on the Jeram side side had sweet talked PC Ajis to ensure he would not follow his parent back. In essence, he missed quite a bit of opportunity he would have had, had he returned to the family. This was of course told later by PC Ajis himself.

In many ways, he led a harder life than his siblings would have endured in Taiping.

Only when he was 17 or 18, he would come back and look for his family in Taiping. Mak told me that he rode the sampan from Jeram to Pantai Remis, and probably took the bus to Taiping and went to Assam Kumbang. I am not sure what's the motivation. May be he was old enough to go on and live his own life by then so that he decided to be looking for his own parents.

He found nenek in the compound of the house (read Beautiful houses of my souls to know more about this house). Approaching nenek, he said, "Mak kenal saya tak?"

Nenek looked up to him, and not recognizing the young man before her, asked, "Ni sapa?"

He looked at her and with tears in his eyes, replied, "Aziz." (I have not checked with Mak under which name he was known to nenek then). It was a straight forward answer. There was no you-guess-my-name-first game at that encounter. The prevailing mood on that occasion would not have allowed such premise.

I am sure nenek did not recognize PC Aziz because she was not expecting him at all. Travel in those days is not like today's travel. He had taken the sampan and the bus to reach home - how many of us would have to endure that to go home?

Upon coming to her sense, and the reality in front of her, she was overwhelmed by the presence of her long lost son. With tears in her eyes, the two of hugged each other. Berderai airmata. I presume they had not seen each other at all for at least 8 years, since nenek and Tok Adam were not allowed to take him back when they went to Jeram to pick him up. May be more. May be nenek did not follow Tok Adam to Jeram, I don't know. The last time she saw him, he was just a kid. Or may be even just a baby. Now he was practically a grown up man.

It was a touching moment for a young man who managed to track his own mother. It was drama in real life. There was no FB then to help you trace your roots, families and friends.

So began his second life with his real family. Tok Adam would get him job and he would move from one job to another, as he tried to improved his life. It would also took him to Lenggong, and he stayed there for quite sometimes before he got himself a job as a Polis Hutan.

He did drift back to Jeram after awhile, and prior to his Polis Hutan days, one day he contacted Mak telling her that he wanted to return, but did not have enough money with him. So Mak, through bapak posted him RM30 and it was for this reason, Mak believes, that he was very close to Mak as his elder sister. His gratitude to Mak for the RM30 would last him a lifetime. I guess it was his passport then to get out again and get back to with his other life.

But then again, I guess PC Ajis too is not of generation Y, and hence his lifetime of debt and gratitude to Mak for helping him out when he was in need. Unlike the current generation, I guess you may spend hundreds, if not thousands of ringgit, on your siblings and you would not even get a thank you. In fact, sometimes they would question you for not giving them more. Aah, well, kids of the newer generations.

Caption: PC Ajis at the back with Mak and the Hariri family on a train in the 60s. My sis KSham was having her forty winks.

I guess by this time he would not return to Jeram and would spend time with his real family in Taiping. By then, he was an independent person capable of deciding of his own destiny in life.

Even in the early days of him returning, he would often visited us in Lenggong at the house on the opposite side of the Balai Polis. I remember very well what he brought that day; an EP containing the song The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. So it was he who introduced us the wonderful song of Ennio Morricone.
Then we would be listening to this song over and over again. Mind you, we had no television then. With him around, we were introduced the wonderful sound of contemporary English music.

Obviously he was fond of Mak and of course her children. I guess by then Mak would only have the first two. I was told by Mak that how he would one day carry Kak Sham from our Jalan Maxwell home to the Tekah Airfield because a heli is supposed to be landing there. It was quite walk - at least a couple of km, more if you were carrying someone with you, and I know Mak's children are not kecil molek.

Mak said he adored the two of us, and it shows with the text message he sent me. The only thing is that his nephew did not know how to reciprocate or have the courtesy to show his respect.

PC Ajis and his sister MC Nolly in Assam Kumbang. I am not sure about the date and when this was taken in relation to his homecoming, but I am sure this was the 60s.

His transition to living with his actually family and getting to know his many sibling was not without hiccup and problems. He was practically the only kid at Pak Andak's home in Jeram. His daughter - Kak Esah to PC Ajis, has practically grown up, so he has the whole home to himself. In Taiping with Tok Adam's family, foods were ample too but had to be rationed to ensure everybody would get their share.

He was not quite used to this and time would tell Mak of his frustration at home. But there's nothing untypical about this.

In the end, he would settle down in the field force (PPH) until his retirement.

Aruah PC Ajis when he got married in Teluk Anson, I guess, in the early 70s - has to be 1972 or earlier. There are so many aruahs in this picture. One can see aruah nenek Bulan, aruah Tok Adam, aruah PC Man (Cikgu Othman Mansor, squatting), aruah bapak and a few from Lenggong - aruah Mak Anjang and MC Sabi. I guess since he had worked before in Lenggong that there was an entourage from Lenggong for his wedding. (Updated 26/8 Is it possible that the old man at the back behind the pengantin is aruah Tok Bab? it surely looks like him.)

I remember chatting with him about the old days. He did lament about the non-existence of opportunity for him to make it good in his life, unlike my generation. May be his life would have changed had he been able to return home and finished his education in an English school as Tok Adam had wanted him to do. Instead he was stuck in a kampung, and I believe he may not have even finished his Malay school education.

Opportunities in his lifetime were rare, and life I guess was difficult for his generation.

But he has a big heart. Compared to Mak's other younger siblings, I guess, we are closer to him than everyone else. We would not hesitate dropping by at his house in Ipoh, and many times we would, either on our way back to Taiping or the reverse journey back to KL. My family and I, in December 2004, spent 3 nights at his house in Manjung, and returned to Taiping on the 24th December.

Two days later, at noon, he texted me, "Aman kat mana?"

He knew of my plan - I was supposed to go to Penang, and Langkawi, after holidaying in Lumut. So I was a bit surprised by his questioning of my whereabout.

"Taiping," I replied. "Demam, tak jadi pegi Penang. Kenapa?"

He did not reply.

Only in the evening, we got the news of the tsunami, and that Penang and Langkawi were all hit by the waves. So that was the reason why he sms-ed me that day. He was concerned about our wellbeing.

That's him; that PC Ajis as we know him. We were almost always in his mind, unlike us. I have blogged about this incident here.

He may be 63 when he passed away, but he was in good health, so I thought he would be with us for many more years.

Tapi ajal maut, jodoh pertemuan, tiada siapa yang dapat menentukan, atau menduga. Kita hanya merancang, Tuhan yang menentukan.

I can only pray for his well being in the afterlife - that's all I can do nowadays. Akmal did perform an umrah on his behalf in February 2010, but I was told by Ende that she had paid someone to perform the Haj last year.  He did not have the opportunity nor the privilege to have performed it himself, so I do hope that that would pay for the visit that I did not do for him in Manjung when he texted me earlier that year. This umrah was done by his flesh and blood and done without expectation of monetary gains, so it I believe it is better for the ruh.

Moga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas ruhnya dan dimasukkan dia kedalam golongan orang-orang yg solleh.


Alfatihah for PC Ajis.

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