My mum was taking a stroll with my dad around the neighbourhood last week, because there was a new housing estate being constructed just next to our home. Early home adopters already have much to complain about because of the government’s oversight in approving the construction of a highway right in front of our houses.
As my mum was walking past one of the newly occupied houses, there was a young boy playing outside the house. Being my mum, she tried to be friendly by saying hello. The young boy didn’t reciprocate the greeting, but instead stared intriguingly back at my mum. However, it wasn’t my mum that he was interested in, he was instead interested in my dad.
Boldly, he asked my mum: “Why are you walking with this indian man?”
At this point, if you were my mum, how would you have responded? Whatever ideas you may have come up with, I assure you, answering the young boy’s question was harder than what it appears to be.
You see, the boy had spoken to my mum in mandarin. This little detail adds a whole new layer of complexity to the situation doesn’t it? It takes away the innocence of the little boy, and it adds the weight of intention to his question. Maybe he was asking my mum in a language that he was most comfortable with. Maybe it was because my mum greeted him in mandarin. But what if, the reason the little boy spoke in mandarin, was because he knew, or at least hoped, that my dad would not understand his question.
In a sense, he wasn’t just asking why was my mum walking with my dad; instead, the question behind his question was why would my mum want to walk with my indian dad.
If we spend some time pondering on the entire incident, we may begin to appreciate the nuance of the situation. We may begin to understand the young boy’s mindset, thought, and appreciate that his question highlights what seems obvious but is hard to put into words. It’s hard to digest, and describe why this boy would ask my mum such a question.
My mum was taken by surprise when the question was posed to her. Though it may have seemed apparent and simple to explain that the indian man was her husband, my mum would not have answered his real question. In fact, I don’t think she could have said anything to help the boy understand.
The boy’s question, his curiosity and his understanding echoes loudly of the mindset that we Malaysians have today. It shows us that our children are being brought up in an environment that makes interracial marriages seem illogical. Furthermore, I wonder if the child would have understood better if my mum had instead explained that my dad was just her friend. Can the boy understand friendship that transcends race? Can that then be extended to help the boy understand marriages which transcend race?
Actually, all of us were once like the young boy. We may all still have a part of us that wants to ask why people would choose to marry someone from another race. Can racial and culturul differences be overcome in marriage? Will we ever understand the weight of our questions, and will we ever understand the answers that we discover?
Today, my mother conveyed all that happened to me while she was looking out her window. She pointed the young boy out to me, while he was trying hard to carry a big stone across the road. While she was telling me about the incident, two other boys came along, also carrying big rocks. They were trying to pile the rocks together to bury something underneath the ground. The two other boys were, surprisingly, little indian boys, his neighbour’s sons.
Maybe the little boy has since found the answer to his question. Maybe he has finally understood something that many of us don’t. Maybe the answer to his question, came in the form of my mum and dad. My mother didn’t answer him that day, and in my opinion, she didn’t need to. Maybe, just maybe, he saw my mum and dad, and finally understood.
Maybe today, if he saw my mum and dad walking together, he wouldnt ask my mum the same question anymore. Maybe today, he might ask my mum if she has any children that he can play with.
Maybe today, we as adults, will learn from our children the lessons that we were not able to teach them ourselves.
I’ve recently made available some short stories from my archives. Please see below:
Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to…
Mummy: Here you go sweetie! you’re finally 2! big baby already! see, mummy bought you a present!
Papa: It might be a little big now for you, but you’ll grow big real soon! and then you can be as big as your doll sweetie.
Parents: We love you our little angel…
There I was, peering into that pair of big glossy eyes, handled in her small tiny hands. She looked curious and innocent, switching glances between her parents and me. Her small palms squeezed my fur, and before long she was shaking me, whacking me on the ground, up and down and almost hitting her big birthday cake. This kid must be crazy or something! let me loose you freak!
Suddenly, she stopped, as if she finally understood who I was. Looking at me more intently now, she wrapped her arms around me, and hugged me closely.
Mummy: Ok time for bed sweetie, come to mummy. -claps hands-
(tingalingalingaling anklet bell rings)
Baby: MEK MEK MEK!!! -runs amok, dragging me along the way-
-happy music in the background-
His shoes were brightly polished, a perfect shine against its smooth black surface. Every step he took resounded louder and louder in Subang Parade. It was just too obvious that it was made from PVC.
Everyone looked his way, some puzzled, some.. well actually everyone was just puzzled. He was extremely happy, light almost beaming out of his face. He had ‘I just became a billionaire' written all over his face, but sadly that wasn't what happened. He just felt like it.
Neatly dressed in a tux, cotton grey slacks, and a bouquet of yellow, red and orange daisies by his side, he made his way through the crowded saturday mall. He had a delightful spring in his step, as he headed to TGIF.
The clouds moved in on the morning sun, and a gentle breeze swept over the leaves on the ground, ruffling them in twirls around his feet. He paced along the pathway, to the tune of I’m Your Angel, intentionally missing the cracks in the pavement. The music in his ears drowned out the murmurs of the people in the park, as his hands thoughtfully brushed the stubble on his face before tucking them back into his pocket. Not too far away was a bench, a vacant bench, perfect.
He pulled out his earphones and slowly coiled the cable around his ipod, before sliding them back into his pocket. Not too far away, he heard the laughter of little children, the giggles and shuffles of little feet on the grass. Two little boys, one in red, and the other in blue, were chasing each other around a big oak tree. He silently watched them, as he leaned back into the contours of the bench.
She slowed down a little, waiting for him to catch up.
“Yes, Dr. Branson?”
He caught up to her, and smiled. “Please, call me Jack.”
She returned his smile, and said, “Jack then. Is it something about the medical reports? I’ve actually passed everything to Amy, if you need any – ”
He cut her off with a laugh. “No, no, Emilia, nothing of the sort. I was actually wondering if you’re free for a cup of coffee. There’s a lovely little restaurant on the corner of Broonwick Lane, and I’d really like you to join me… If that’s okay with you.”
Emilia smiled at him, but shook her head firmly. “Unfortunately Jack, I have to visit someone at the Armada Hospital. I’m sure the coffee there is excellent though.”
He looked slightly crestfallen, but kept his smile in place. “How about another time then, Emilia?”
Silent sobs wracked her slim frame as she struggled to compose herself. Tears trickled unheeded down her cheeks before she whispered in a small broken voice,
“Please, tell me it isn’t true.”
“Emilia…” came the deep, anguished voice on the other end of the receiver.
“Just SAY it! I need to know!!!” her voice almost a scream.
“I can’t… I don’t know how it could have… Emmy, I’m sorry.”
The last remaining shred of hope she had left dissipated into the reality she was facing with those words. Her heart felt like it had been hit by a sledgehammer. A fresh flood of tears almost blinded her before she said brokenly, “I’m sorry too.”
“Emilia, wait, please listen to me, don’t – ”
There was a phrase that was stuck in my head all day long today… I might not have shown it or said anything about it, but it was there, a replay.
We had last night’s leftover dinner for lunch this afternoon, and I must say leftover food never tasted better than this. She was sweetly beside me, apologising for the water that she mistakenly over-poured into my rice to soften it. It was already sweet enough that she did all the work of cooking for me last night, but she went the extra mile to heat the food up for lunch again today.
There wasn’t much of the salt and pepper chicken left, and the prawns were a rare few, too little to fill two hungry adults. I ate one, followed by another, but left, what in my opinion, was half of the dish for her to finish.
But she didnt eat much, and made sure I had most if not all of the meat on the plate. I even tested her by asking if I could have the last piece of chicken, hoping she would put up a fight like she always does when I finish the last of her bubbletea pearls. She replied:”I saved it for you dear…”
And that was it, no fuss, no childish acts of how I should have loved her more by giving her the last piece of food on the plate. She usually does that, the best should go to her, and rightly so, since she practically cooked all of it (except for the chicken, I fried!). I was surprised, such love and sweetness in a subtle manner, not demonstrated in a grand way, but having a lasting effect on me. I was truly grateful for such an act of kindness. I love you dear… so very much.
She quietly finished off the rest of the steamed brocolli, and subsequently boiled some pearls so we could have some cold home-made bubble tea. I did more study with her by my side than the three days I had to myself over the week.
Well, at least I did the dishes for her…
Thanks again my darling! I will save it for you next time… dear.
Once upon a time, I used to be a sweet guy, who would take the time and effort to express my love for my darling sweetheart. I used to give her surprises every month, and celebrate anniversaries in a memorable way. I used to convey my love in songs and letters, never forgetting to remind her to sing with me every once in a while. I used to take her out for movies and dates, random outings just because.
Our love was full of flare, zest and excitement.
Things have changed now, and circumstances are tough. She is going through a lot, and words cannot begin to paint the emotional tug she deals with daily. Yet at these times I cannot help but fall out of character, the usual sweet charming character that I was 2 years ago. Why have I changed? Have I grown cold and selfish?
No, I have never stopped loving her, and by my heart I swear that I love her more and more every day. I need to remind her of my promises to her, in a consistent and sincere manner. My surprises may pass, our fun times will fade, but there is one thing I will keep going, and that is my promises to her. Things are tough now, I know. I was there when your tears flowed. Our relationship is worth every bit, our love grows stronger with each sigh, each tear.
She doesn’t need 12 surprises yearly anymore, she doesn’t need the fancy dates and the late night movies frequently. Instead, she needs me to be there when she calls, to hear her when she cries, to open my arms when tears well, and to prepare to put aside everything when her pain and hurt is too much to bear.
I may not as sweet anymore, but I have never changed. She’d love for the old loving Nat to come back again, but thats not what she needs now. She needs me to be strong for her, and thats what I will be, not a man that she wants, but a man that she needs.
For a little while my darling, this is how things will be. Just for a little while, and I will be back soon enough.
But for now, my lsl, let me be the man that you need.
I hope you understand.