Thursday, February 16, 2006

World Without Men.

Chapter IX
(A summary)

'The men who made nasty jokes about Aunt being a widow.'

There are secrets that I will carry to the grave without Aunt will ever know like what happened at one of the stalls in the market where three men made nasty remarks about her pulut panggang.

I was at Makcik Teh's (not her real name) stall to collect the payment for the delivery of pulut panggang I had made the day before. Looking back the world in the 70s was such a safe place for a kid my age to go around collecting money from the stalls that Aunt didn't have to hire a security company with a name like Safe Collect or Berani Mati to accompany me on my daily round. On a good day I'd have as much as hundred and fifty in my trousers, mostly in dollar notes with strong smell of fish, crumpled like starched shirt that hasn't been ironed. With this much money in the pocket I made a quick stop at kedai Cik Gaduh to look a the toys they've got in the glass showcase, making a quick note of the price so I could come back the next day with the exact amount because that way I didn't have to take out all the money out of my trousers in front of this clean looking Chinaman so he could have a good look at how much I got that he may charge me different for the toy that cost much less. Aunt said never show how much money you got that people may charge you different. Pretend as if you have just enough because who knows if you are lucky he might take a pity on you that he may give in to your persistent bargain. Years later when we went shopping for batik sarung in Penang she didn't pretend as if she hadn't got much money but instead looked the part of a rich widow with money to burn that she could buy the whole store including the owner if she wanted to. Of course this is for another Chapter, a different story.

I waited for Makcik Teh to count the money, checking with me the exact amount I had written in a note-book. She ordered forty sticks to be delivered the next day and I wrote this down under her name.

Mokteh, pulut panggang sapa ni?
Ni, hok mok budok nilah.
Mok dia hok comel macang Sara Banu?
Ha ha ha.

Sedap lain macam ni, dia buat macammana?
Janda buat memanglah sedap.
Molek ni, berminyak macam baru buat tadi.
Moleklah sebab kepit celah kangkang.

Next thing I remember I was crying, my head held down by one of the men because I was like a mad goat going after the men, my arms swinging in a helpless arc trying to reach them with a weak punch that wouldn't hurt a cat. I cried all I wanted. All around people were watching this boy suddenly gone mad in the middle of a morning when the market was busy with people going about their business, the medicine men selling minyak ikan linang as if it could cure the world of all its evils stopped to look at the commotion that annoyed him.

I heard Makcik Teh said, what's wrong with this boy all of a sudden gone insane?

You can't depend on another woman to come to the defence of a widow who had been made fun of by men with such dirty tongue that today, while writing this, if ever I come across those men again I swear to throw the law out the window and go after those men in a mad fury with a knife to rip their tongue out of the casing and slice it to a hundred pieces.

I got home, holding back the tears so Aunt won't know what happened but she started on me for being late and that there was little time left to prepare for school and that I may have to skip school for the day. Of course she didn't know that I didn't stop to look at the toys at kedai Cik Gaduh because no way I could be there with my tears kept coming non-stop that I had to run, to the beach to go sit among the huge rocks so I could cry and cry until there was no more tears left that I don't have to cry ever again. Ever.

The world can be a cruel place for single mothers but it's not the world that widows like Aunt had to deal with because the world has got nothing to do with it. It's the men who made it hard for single mothers like Aunt to live normal as would a married woman with a husband to take care of her, or to fight for her when someone makes fun of her, or looks at her strange that it can make her uncomfortable. Aunt used to say being beautiful is a curse but being a widow is a bigger curse.

There is no way for me to know for sure if Aunt ever knew what happened that day but I have the feeling she did because a few weeks later one of her customers who had a stall in the market came by the house to talk to her in a whisper, all the time glancing at me when I wasn't looking. Maybe she did afterall, and maybe this is no secret but one thing for sure she didn't know it from me. Maybe she did because one night she came to my room to hug me from behind and I could feel her warm tears on my back.


Blogger Noni said...

I'll help you sharpen your knives Berg...

12:27 PM  
Blogger Count Byron said...

Tears welling up here.
I always feel for ladies who are taken advantage of; be they girls, mothers, anuties, grandmothers..
ever since I was a kid.

Thank you for the beautiful piece Berg

1:01 PM  
Blogger Kak Teh said...

hmmm, will help noni.

1:44 PM  
Blogger AuntieYan. said...

I feel sorry for you.Don't know why men (not all)always had such funny ideas about single women (Jandas)....guest,they never ever think that such situation may be fall on their women. tears are welling up too...:-(

2:23 PM  
Blogger MA said...

Thank you for this piece Bergen.

2:40 PM  
Blogger nadya said...


will help noni and mak teh. im good with punches too..

good one, admire men like u even more.

2:44 PM  
Blogger anedra said...

am clumsy with knives..but I have pepper spray??

You go get em Bergen!!

Actually, this thing on jandas (single women) is actually created by women too. Some are afraid that the jandas will go all out to get their men etc..etc.. I hope that sort of thinking does not exist anymore..but sadly, we still hear of em!

2:55 PM  
Blogger cloudchaser said... usual

3:40 PM  
Blogger mommy@lif said...

i am defensive towards my girl friends/sisters/cousins/aunties/ women in the world.kesian en bergen sejak kecil diuji macam tu sekali. thanks for sharing

3:56 PM  
Blogger thinktankgal said...

I will "knee" those sort of people if they say such things about my sister...She is very strong indeed (including your aunt)

4:19 PM  
Blogger torts said...

you made me kye - again!

4:34 PM  
Blogger AuntyN said...

Tak cukup pisau, my house ada parang, nak ke?
I used to see how my grandfather asah pisau from berkarat tu berkilat, I can train kak teh and noni for this purpose.

Normally yg cakap tu lah penyebab lebih ramai janda kat kampung tu. Kalau tak pun, sebab depa tu jeles tak depa tak dapat Saira Banu tu.

5:40 PM  
Blogger LifeBloom said...

Those punks are A$%#Ho*&s!!!

Your rendition of the incident - is so vivid..How do you do it Sir?? Am on the verge of tearing already - in my mind's eye I see a little scrawny boy crying by the river as if his heart would break thinking that he probably failed at defending the honour of his beloved aunt.

But you didnt - you stood up for what's right even though you knew you probably would be hurt doing it.

Lovely piece and heart rending at the same time.

6:04 PM  
Blogger NBB said...

i have PM 40, the knife used for autopsy examination, if u want...

6:50 PM  
Blogger anggerik merah said...

Berg, thanks for sharing this..

8:10 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

To all the visitors to this entry,

let's just hope that the law doesn't make it any more difficult for single mothers and widows to claim what is rightly theirs.

And let's hope that there is serious efforts to shorten the time they have to wait to get what is rightfully theirs.

And let's hope the society will come to their defence when they need it most.

And let's hope that married women don't look at single mothers and widows with a suspicious eye because they, like you, don't want to be in the position they are in if they had the choice.

And let's hope there are brave sons out there who won't think twice about coming to defend their mothers, sisters, aunts, or grandmas.

And let's hope they won't have to suffer anymore than what they have to endure.

And let's hope there are brave Muslims out there to champion the rights of the single mothers and widows the way Rasulullah has successfully showed us.

And let's hope the world will finally see that only in Islam we put our trust to see this through.

For my Aunt - my next entries are for you, and all the memories of growing up under your guidance.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Nurelhuda said...

I have noticed that widows are considered easy meat. One of my patientsa school headmistress, a widow a long time ago said to me she prays I d never experience widowhood at a young age because then I will know how gatal men are, married men and what have you...she said you will learn their true nature and she was talking from her experience

8:12 AM  
Blogger kenakelayan said...

Sick men like those make me want to become a feminist all over again...

8:08 PM  
Blogger Em said...


Mashallah sedapnya mulut...The men tak tahu ke dorang pun ada anak ada bini...

2:45 AM  

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