Thursday, January 26, 2006

I Miss My Real Aunt.

I grew up watching Aunt putting on elegant clothes, smelling all so nice with perfume. Her eyes made all the more wider by the way she applied the eye-liner. Her collection of batik sarung which she insisted must be only the best from the batik capitals in Indonesia. She made annual trips to Penang to see if I was doing alright, and in between, dragged me on a day-long batik sarung hunt weaving ourselves like eels in the bazaar that started right next to Pasar Chowrasta on Penang Road and ended on the perimeter of Campbell Street. For a form one student, this trip was counter-productive to my reputation as a teenager with adult-size problems. I used to hate these trips but I wouldn't want to leave her alone with a handbag full of cash. You'd hate this trip too if you went with her. She'd make the seller bring out his entire stock in the store. Having done this she'd drive a hard bargain that you could see the seller's face all black and twisted. In the end she'd have her way because she'd buy as if there's no tomorrow, which pleased the seller a great deal.

She was in her late forties then. I am inclined to put her picture in this blog so you can see for yourself what a beautiful lady she was at that age. If you suddenly appeared at the house to see her, she'd make sure you wait until she appeared in a fresh set of clothes, hair neatly combed into a perfect tight. I love the time when we got back from shopping for batik sarung, opening the packets to smell the fresh natural dye that you won't get to smell anymore, not with pre-prints batik using chemical dye.

Back in Dungun Aunt would spread out four or five pieces of batik sarung that she considered exceptionally pretty and started to work out her own design by copying and combining the elements such as pareng with Japanese pineapple elements, sprinkling flowers in baskets here and there, or grapes. I later learnt during one of the trips with her to Pekalongan that these are the signature elements of Eliza Van Zuylen, a Dutch woman who paved a new direction in batik sarung design that has stayed to this day. Sometimes I helped Aunt draw out the design, free-hand. I became quite good at it that she said I should get into this business big time, but that was before a group of young artists started the movement to revive batik which ended Malaysian batik losing its direction and in the end having no identity that you can connect with either Malaysia or batik or anything.

This was during the 80s. Cousin was in the university. Grandma had a few years to live, and I was at a stage when I didn't know any better about anything except I wanted to leave Dungun, to be as far away from the town because I didn't want anything to do with Terengganu. My restlessness made Aunt uneasy that in the end she gave in to give me the money to pay for the passage to Sydney. It was the trip that I shouldn't have made because I believe Aunt was full of regrets for giving in to my nagging. Especially when she came to know that I had fallen in love with Catherine.


Blogger AuntyN said...

Your real aunt sounded so beautiful, just from your description. I imagine her to be like one of those early Malay film primadona.

Say some prayers for all of them berg, just to ease the burden of missing them.

12:00 AM  
Blogger anedra said...

it would be nice to see her photo. She sounds like something else! I imagine her exactly like how AuntyN describes her to be. Like an early Malay film primadona!

And she had so much love for you; just like how a mother would. Of course you miss her. Write more about her, if that helps?

8:57 AM  
Blogger annckay said...

dont be sad..she loved u

9:21 AM  
Blogger Noni said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Noni said...

I'd love to see her picture Berg... post it... post it... post it!

You are lucky to have been the recipient of such love and care by someone so beautiful. Many people go through life never to experience that privilege.

Have an 'inspired' day today Berg...

5:28 PM

10:01 AM  
Blogger mommy@lif said...

nak tengok gambar! tapi i kenot view blogger nyer la using something else like photobucket ke he he so, en bergen sape Catherine? citer la!

11:13 AM  
Blogger Count Byron said...

Berg, the Count here loves your aunt to bits. Mommy Count comes in close.. very particular about batik and all the fineries.. a primadona she was

11:24 AM  
Blogger aalborg said...

The way she bargains reminds me of my mom. Except, my mom will probably buy only one piece! Frust betul mamak ngan apek semua.

11:37 AM  
Blogger dee3 said...


2:28 PM  
Blogger melor said...

restoran mamak hamidiya at jalan campbell is the best-est.
2nd floor of chowrasta is books haven.
and yes i can imagine oozing in and out from bazaars like theres no tomorrow.
ooh boy u made me miss penang even more..

2:51 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

AuntyN / Anedra: She often said being pretty, as widow trying to make it all by herself, was a curse in one aspect, and a blessing in another. I know exactly what she meant especially the blessing part. It made it easier for us to sell things to traders, especially the men who tried hard to get her as second missus. Or third. Fat chance.

Annckay: She is mother to me in every way.

Noni: I don't know if you can call this an inspired day - wrote three stories, two ghosts, and the third reads like a cheap porno. It's a dirty job and I've got to do it.

Alif's Mommy: Lemme figure out how to do this first.

Count Byron: Is Mommy Count is a Tengku?

Ailin: Do pick up after her in the bargaining department?

Dee3: Most men said that.

Melor: Hamidiyah and Meerah. Nice murtabak. Aunt and I had our meals here too.

To my friends, have a nice holiday. Aunt Su and I may make a trip to Dungun. The sea isn't pretty this time of the year. It's hot, most time humid. It's the time of the change in the weather thing.

3:12 PM  
Blogger aalborg said...

nope, I never bargain. Pay for every single sen they ask for, even if it's too much. And if it is too much, that is between the cheater and God.

5:13 PM  

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