Saturday, April 27, 2013

Friends are for the good times.... and the bad times

He was visibly moved, after the solat jenazah at the mosque.

"Thanks for coming Man. Susah susah engkau saja," Madi said. I stared at him; I not sure how how many hours of sleep he had for the past 96 hours. I am sure he would be able to count with fingers on a single hand, if I were to ask him. I am sure from the moment he was asked to return home (from Chicago) and onto the 24 hour (or more) flight to Kuala Lumpur and onto to Kuala Terengganu, he probably had not slept a wink.

Then I quickly dismissed his notion. "It was nothing," I said. "Don't you mention it. Friends are for times of joy..." I paused to take a deep breath, "....and for times of sorrow."

We then hugged each other. He was close to tears, and he was trying hard to control it. I would have understood him if he were to burst into tears. This year (2013) was really a trying year for him. Early in the year, he lost his father in law, right in the middle of a family wedding. Two days later, he was asked to returned immediately since his wife was admitted into the ICU at Hospital Sg Buluh.

"I think you better come home," his brother had said to him, breaking the news of his wife Baya's illness, over the phone.

My bro Madi working hard at the funeral of his dad. It has been a trying year for him
I am sure then in January 2013, he did not get enough sleep in the aftermath of that dreaded phone call, until his arrival at the ICU.

This was one of the dreaded occasions that we had on many occasions talked about everytime he returned to KL. He knew eventually it would be coming, wondering how to handle such an occasion since he is living and working in the faraway land called the United States of America. I should know too; I had experienced that dreaded phone call one night in August of 1984 in Melbourne.

But one has to experience it to really know it, and as as another of our mutual friends Aya had said, even at this age, losing one's parents is not something one can easily cope with.

I was contemplating hard the night before, right after getting the news from his brother, whether I could be attending the funeral. The return flight is a bit odd. There was a 1 pm flight which was too close for me to catch after the burial scheduled at 10 am, but if I were to miss it, then I would have to wait until 2120 hours, which was a tad too long for me to wait at the airport.

But I knew I had to be there. I knew his family well. I had on many occasions chatted with his dad at this bro's house in Shah Alam. I had spent days at Madi's house in Chicago; he had on many occasions bought me gifts from USA. So I knew I had to fly to KT - luckily there is one early morning flight.

By 11 am, Poi was worried that I was going to be late. "Let's go now," he told me. They were still filling up the grave with more earth. "Let's wait for a few minutes, until the burial is complete," I resisted him. I won't wait for the talqin. I need to catch the 1 pm flight, but at least I would be there until the grave is fully completed.
They have not met for so long, may be since in 1980 since Madi did not return home for the reunion of 2003. So there many stories told at the hospital when they met again for the first time after more than 30 years. Zai said: The stories told by him were as if that we were there again, and like we were 17 again - all over again. It must have been vivid.And livid.

Poi asked me to take a ride with Zai saying that I would have  better chance to catch the plane taking a ride with him. But it was Poi who drove like Vettel to be honest, arriving  5 minutes earlier than us. But by then, I had missed the flight. There was no amount of pleading from the dad of an Air Asia pilot that would make one En Redzuan change his mind, and allowed me to board the plane.

Aah, well. That's Air Asia for you.

So I had to change my plan, and find things to do while waiting for my 9 pm flight.

In the end, Zai and Poi decided that they were going to spend the day entertaining this old friend of theirs. Zai and I had gone a long way - we were classmates for five years at high school, and were roommates at Perth while doing our matriculation. On the other hand, I barely knew Poi, to be honest. While we were schoolmates at (same) high school, but we were of different class, so we seldom had the opportunity to interact with one another. Our chance came when I went to Melbourne for my tertiary education at Monash. By then, Poi had spent a year already there - he did his matric in Melbourne while I completed mine in Perth, but he went to Swinburne Institute of Technology and did not get involve much with student activism, so I don't believe we had even met, while we were in Melbourne.

His wife had asked him the night before about me, when he told her that he was picking me up at the airport. "Is he your best friend in Melbourne?" she asked. "I am not sure I had even met him there, to be honest," he replied. His children laughed.

Poi was being honest. I was trying very hard myself the night before trying to figure out if I even knew of Poi's existence then in Melbourne (and him of mine, obviously). I mean I contacted Rashid when I got an offer to study at Monash, and Rashid picked me up at the consul's house when I arrived one that wee hour of the morning in Feb of 1982. I knew of other schoolmates who were at Monash - Art Buteq and Doris.

And Art and Poi had even visited Perth late that year in 1981.

But somehow Poi's name was missing from my memory from the moment I stepped onto Melbourne's soil..

So on the way to Kuala Brang, we renewed our acquaintance. He spent more time with the local Australian moslem community, and seldom interact with students, he told me. No wonder, he was into tabligh (and still is,) and no wonder our path did not cross then in the 80s when we were living in the same city.

Many common stories were told. That one hour ride was our way of getting to know each other, from our days at school to Melbourne and until present day. Poi was so much in home schooling and all his children (3 of them) were home schooled, which was the main reason why I had contacted him to hitch a ride to Kuala Berang.

"Depends on what you want to do in life, Man. My kids are into IT and programming, so there is no requirement for college diploma or university degree. What's more important is certification," he explained.

Understood with my own limited knowledge in the IT and programming world, I guess.

After I missed the 1 pm flight, Zai and Poi were scheming for things for me to while my time away. "First, we'll drive you to the hotel, and we'll come back to pick you up after Friday prayer and go for lunch. You go and take rest now," Zai told me. He did not even allow me to go for Friday. "Allah has given you the lee way not to have to do your Friday, so take it with an open heart," he told me when I protested.
Three friends having satar and air nyior at the beach in Marang. I shared with them at least five years of my school life, and our Australian adventure. Poi perhaps has more stories to tell of his Australian experience as he spent nearly a decade there, mixing with the local Australian muslims community. I like your green eyes story, bro. Hehehe, Zaid did not understand it, and had to ask me later about the green eyes.

Would you believe it that Zai even paid for my hotel room, despite my protestation? Zai is certainly not just a friend, not even a good friend. He is making me feel like we are family!

In fact, he apologised earlier for not being to take me to his house since there was no one at home.

They came back at 3 pm and Zai took us to this Briyani Gam restaurant. It was really good. The rice was all pure basmati, with just the right spices. The same goes to the gulai - enough spices, with little hint of sweetness. 


But I must add the lauk kambing was mewah. Ample of kambing and in the end when we had finished our rice, we still have ample of the lauk kambing left. All three of us. Poi and I agreed that the lauk kambing was perhaps a bit too mewah.

I did not know till later that it was Zai's restaurant, so we had given him our honest opinion.

And our honest opinion is that we would frequent it, for it is that delicious. Unfortunately it is not in KL for me to enjoy this weekly. But now I know where to go for my lunch if ever again I found myself in Kuala Terengganu.

Obviously right after lunch, we ended up at the beach of Marang for our by-the-sea satar. We had to do it by the beach since we knew of someone who for some reasons always crave for satar and had been imagining herself having it by the sea, so it would be good to tease her.

I think the stress of taking on KL's notorious traffic jam is taking the toll on Aya. Take a break Aya, go and visit KT with your partners in crime. You know where to have your Briyani, and I am sure you will enjoy the satar by the beach. Traffic on a Friday is very light.

All in all, while it took the death of Madi's dad to make me come to KT, I surely hope that I would not have to wait for another death for me to enjoy friend's company again. Poi told me that it is his wishes to go and visit his schoolmates and their parents, and if the parents are no longer with them, that he would like to visit their graves.

Good on you, Poi. You have my respect for how you are leading your life, and if you start your endevour very soon, I would salute you. That would be icing on the cake of your life, so to speak, something I am sure I would not be able to emulate.

Thank you Zai and Poi for taking time off entertaining this old guy. I had enjoyed their company, and wish to reciprocate soon in Kuala Lumpur.
My early morning flight at LCCT. Notwithstanding the at-times-soulless service counter, especially if you were to request for something outside their SOP, I am grateful for its existence, as it allows me to fly anywhere at my whim and fancy.
That Friday morning was all about Madi and his aruah dad. Moga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas ruh beliau. Takziah from all of us Madi, let's continue being an anak yang soleh, for that's the only way for us to now help our demise parents.
And the return flight from KT. It was dark when I left home and it was already dark when I came home. I like the KT airport, love the architecture, it is expansive albeit I believe a bit too expansive. Perhaps it was built with the future in mind, too far in the future, I think.
I reached home at 2330 hours having left home at 0445 hours,  tiring but it was a journey I had to make for my bro Madi at his time of sorrow. There is a reason why I missed my 1 pm return flight - it is so that I could renew my acquaintance with bros Poi and Zai.

Everything has been set by Him.


I am sure this is what my bro Madi feels and would do for his aruah dad.


  1. Salams,

    An interesting plan set by Him.

    Mind telling us about the green eyes story?

  2. man
    bila berkesempatan cg mesti baca apa yg man tulis......penulis yang gifted.bila nak bukukan? Take care from cg fatanah.

  3. Alamak cikgu, I am not sure about that gifted part, tapi apa pun terima kasih cikgu masih sudi menjengok saya di sini. Buku? Teringin tu ada, tapi tak buat apa2 pun yg menjurus kearah itu.

  4. Assalam Anon, boleh. Boleh sangat untuk dicerita, but over teh tarik la ;)