Friday, February 24, 2006

World Without Men.

Chapter IV
(A summary)

(Aunt's business acumen that I never inherited.)

You must be born with the gift to be able to convert everything into numbers. Too bad I didn't inherit this mathematical gift from Aunt but instead, and I don't know where it came from, I have this natural ability to convert everything people say into pictures. Sometimes into moving pictures. Sometimes in short television commercials so funny that I had to excuse myself to go some place quiet so I can laugh myself silly.

Aunt used to say I could be one of the leading batik artists in the country if only I put my heart into sketching, drawing, coloring, and adding final touches on the top layer of a design we had worked on for weeks. At a young age you didn't see things the way adult did. Adults are different, and especially Aunt. She had the ability to see the big picture and the big picture to her was always mathematically inclined where I had no part in it.

I was wrong of course. She tried to instil the spirit of entrepreneurship early in my life by asking me to sell coklat nissang at school. Looking back, I believe it was part of her plan to get me to be interested in mathematics, counting, adding, multiplying, dividing or whatever, so that I would come home with a report card that she could be proud of. But I was hopeless. To me numbers were images in moving pictures complete with cowboys shooting each number down either with a .45 Colt, or a Winchester rifle. Sometimes even the Red Indians joined in to shoot the numbers with arrows. And I could hear the Red Indians riding away after having successfully attacked the numbers, leaving them dying like cigarette butts in the dirt sand of a prairie.

Will you please pay attention! Aunt said while I got loss in my imagination. There are a hundred coklat nissang here. Get it? How much will you bring home if you sell these at five cent for 5 pieces? In my mind I saw coklat nissang lining up by a huge white wall ready to be shot by Mexican revolutionary soldiers, and those soldiers go around making so much noise in their poncho and sombrero hat wide as a stadium. A senorita was at a cantena drinking tequila and she was in a white cotton dress with the kind of skirt that twirled in the wind. Yes, she got flowers in her hair.

Oh, you are just hopeless!

Of course I wasn't as hopeless as you think because I brought home money although I had no idea how to work out the profit but that didn't matter because Aunt let me keep the money I made and I'd spend it to buy toys at Kedai Cik Gaduh at the junction of Jalan Sungai Penaga and Jalan Tambun. When I got home with the toys Aunt would start on me real good with me not having any sense at all how to value money that I spent it as if money could be made by dreaming away about cowboys and indians. Next day I'd sell more coklat nissang that in the end I became quite good at simple calculation like for a ringgit you could buy quite a lot of apples from kedai Leong Thye where on Saturdays Australian mems came in a flock to buy groceries in their beautiful summer dresses and hats going about calling out to their children in a singsong voice, here Tommy, come here Tommy. Those were the first English words I knew very well how to say in Australian accent but somehow it didn't sound quite the same after the dream I had of a girl with flowers in her hair who worked in a saloon that in the middle of the dream I woke up to find my pyjama all wet with something I never knew I could produce by dreaming.

One time Aunt took me with her to Golok to buy kitchen utensils people said were much much cheaper there than anywhere else on earth. We went by bus with a group of women fond of stuffing their money in their brassiere because they said it was safer there than any place in the world. I can't remember what Aunt bought but I remember very well that the shopping spree lasted all day and all she bought for me was a pair of red jeans that I had to wear it underneath my pants because she said that way we won't be taxed by the border guards. I wore the jeans like this until we were safe from the border guards, taking them off in the aisle of the bus in full view of the middle-aged women in their seats with ToTo piled up to the chin, their chubby faces looking all so rotund and delicious like coconut buns fresh out of the oven.

We got home late in the night but Aunt, in her usual fashion, was up all night to do the maths while I slept on her laps thinking of the trip which I didn't like one bit because it was no fun to go shopping with chubby middle-aged women who talked too much and had an advice for everything including how I should wear my jeans. It was a bad buy because the jeans shrunk to a size that would fit a baby monkey quite nicely for a performance in a circus.

Business is quite simple really. You buy something cheap, and sell it slightly more so you can make a profit. It's a simple concept but of course somewhere along the line you will have problems like suppliers not coming in on time with the delivery, and the transport charges suddenly go up. And traders changing their mind at the last minute. All this will cause everything you plan to go haywire and you've got to have a cool head to handle the situation. Of course all the time you've got to keep your eyes on the numbers so you won't make a loss that will leave you penniless. It's not a big problem with stuff like batik sarung, gold, kitchen utensils and other non-perishable items because you can keep this for a long time without they going rotten. But it is totally different with nekbat, nissang pulut, pulut panggang, coklat nissang and buahulu. That's why Aunt insisted on payment the next day for these whether or not you managed to sell everything. She didn't extend the credit for people she didn't know because I learnt early that people can make promises after promises to pay but in the end vanished without a trace.

You know something? I miss Aunt that tears are welling up in my eyes. Guess I am not so macho afterall when it comes to memories of Aunt whom I loved very much. She'd kill me if she knew I am going to let out this cry like a sissy. I can hear her, men don't cry, don't ever ever cry.


Blogger Queen Of The House said...

So why didn't you become an ad-man instead???

I love this entry ... don't ask me why.

1:35 PM  
Blogger AuntieYan. said...

As you had said...Life is like that.Yang pergi takkan kembali...hidup harus diteruskan...

1:39 PM  
Blogger thinktankgal said...'s ok to shed some tears for your aunt...remembering the good times with her....It's ok Bergen...and yes, it is a very very tears prone entry this is :)

1:44 PM  
Blogger cloudchaser said... and maths..we’ve never been friends either. I guess it all boils down to whether or not you have the knack for it, for business I mean. Though I believe that if you work hard and smart you’ll achieve whatever your heart desires, in business, it is hard to say. Experience I am not. But my oh my..your Aunt is one smart lady!

You've scored yet again Bergen. Your story-telling always have the soothing effect of a black and white wayang gambar..if you get what I mean lah. ;-)

1:59 PM  
Blogger AuntyN said...

tears welling in my eyes as well. I know you love her very much. But she would be proud of you, if she knew that you take care of a lonely old soul (aunt Su). Not many would be willing to take care of an elderly like you do.

Take care now, you hear!!

2:14 PM  
Blogger anedra said...

very touching bergen. of course you miss her.

btw, did the lady in the saloon who caused the wet pants look like Liz Taylor? ;p

take care sir..and keep writing. enjoying this immensely, thank you!

2:24 PM  
Blogger LifeBloom said...

A lovely rendition of your childhood. Par excellence as usual. I don't know your Aunt of course, but your narration of her is so vivid that I feel as if I know her.

Have you considered writing about Dungun in its heydays through the eyes of a little boy? It would make an excellent book. The way you write - I know that I will not be able to put the book down!

3:05 PM  
Blogger anne said...

what is coklat nissang?

bergen, i am hopeless in math, neither am i artistic..doesnt that make you feel a bit better? :-)

3:26 PM  
Blogger A Babe Of Very Little Brain said...

god give humans the ability to shed tears for various reasons. so let them flow.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Sayuti said...

qoth, i love every entry with the same title. beautifully worded expression of experiences. how i wish i could do the same.

if only every Malay parents or guardians have the same vision as your aunt, i believe we have more entrepreneurs instead of unemployed graduates in this country.

"Blajar2 rajin2, nanti besar2 dapat kerja bagus2, gaji besar."

if only i have someone like your aunt when i was a child...

7:05 PM  
Blogger anggerik merah said...

Berg,..I used to tell my baby when ever he cried, man don't cry, man should be strong and even if you cry don't show it in front of woman...After a while I realised i was wrong! Man with romantic and loving character do express their feeling by crying too..

About one's ability, God had made everyone of us to be good in certain thing. So find it and make the best of it in your life!

7:43 PM  
Blogger NBB said...

what happen to the red jeans? u still keep it?

8:47 PM  
Blogger torts said...

you are real - so real.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Em said...


Ya its truly touchin ey...

10:57 PM  
Blogger Nurelhuda said...

beautiful entry .You have the an imagination that is creative also associative. The style is unique and totally yours..
Hmm I sound like Paula of American
Men can cry ...tears are always good.
Do you know that men who are sensitive and imaginative with a sense of beauty are rare?Yes you are one in a million...My doa that you will find your answers

7:48 AM  
Blogger dr in the house said...

You've got vivid memories. You've described things to the explicit details. Especially those rotund faced makcik that looked like fresh hot buns from the ovens, hehe

But what I love most is when you described lying on her lap at night.

Well, too bad you didnt inherit her business mind or you'd probably be a wealthy tycoon who'd have no time to blog at all!!hehe

1:17 PM  
Blogger Nurelhuda said...

He probably is a wealthy tycoon who has a lot of people working for him so much that he has passive income and therefore a lot of free time to blog!He is closer to being a metropolitan man that to being a cowboy!

3:46 PM  
Blogger Liza said...


Now come here, if only I could give you a big hug :)

11:57 PM  
Blogger dr in the house said...

Look what you have done! You ve even got people wanting to hug you! hehe

9:41 AM  
Blogger MA said...

REAL man DO cry.

That I know.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”
-Carl Gustav Jung -

9:39 AM  
Blogger IDA said...

and i so loveee coklat nisssang.. hardly get it anywhere nowadays..

11:39 AM  
Blogger bergen said...

QOTH: Maybe I should. Thank you, ma'am.

AuntieYan: Yes, we gotta move on.

Thinktankgal: Somehow I haven't got used to the idea of this tears thing.

Cloudchaser: I like the way you put it i.e black and white thing. Life is pretty much the same thing, it's black and white. It's heaven and hell. Nothing in between. No half-way house. It's pretty clear. I don't ever believe in doing thing half way. It's either not at all, or all the way.

AuntyN: You are so kind.

Anedra: Elizabeth Taylor? I am not telling, ma'am. LOL

Lifebloom: Surfing the net on Dungun to start on the entry of the town in its heydays. There are things I need to check against my memories, details that can help me remember better. Unfortunately so far I haven't come up with anything that could help me in this. We'll see how it goes.

Anne: It actually gula-gula, made of gula Melaka. I think Aunt added a bit of air nira. Usually she did this after we got a bit of extra gula nira for the nissang pulut. Sometimes she added in sesame seeds. Pretty popular then before Trebor, Cadbury and the rest came to town.

Xaviera: I still go by the principle men never cry, ma'am.

Saytuti: Thank you for writing nice things about Aunt. I believe she had the foresight because of the situation we were in. Business was in her blood. It's the only venue to survive being what she was, a widow whom the villagers considered wanton all because she was the prettiest.

Anggerik Merah: It's good for men to connect with their soft side.

Dr Nurul Bahiyah Baharudin: LOL. I word it once and never wanted to see it again because it was a horrible pair of jeans. The fabric wasn't dungaree but a thick cotton. You made me laugh because of all a sudden images of that jeans came rolling on.

Torts: We've gotta be real, ma'am. Nothing plastic or styrofoam about it.

EM: Thank you, ma'am.

Dr Nurelhuda: You are ever so kind, ma'am.

Dr Roza: Nothing felt as safe as putting my head on Grandma's or Aunt's laps while they carried on with their work. Sometimes she'd jerk the laps softly when you suddenly woke up because of a dream or something. That way you'd get back to sleep and not disturb them. They'd lift you up when they were done. It was the safest place on earth.

Dr Nurelhuda: A typcoon? Me? LOL.

Liza: Wow!

Mak Andeh: I'm half a man, ma'am. And the other half? A cowboy.

Anonymous: Wise man that Gustav guy, sir / ma'am.

Ida: They've got colorful candies by the kilos nowadays. It would hard for coklat nissang to compete in a world where candies come in nice transparent, gooey and fun colors.

To everyone who visited this entry, thank you very much. Have a nice day, and stay safe, y'hear?

1:26 PM  
Blogger Mama Rock said...

it's okay to cry bergen, it'd do you good.

1:41 PM  

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