Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Labour of Love

As a toddler, as far as I can remember, I have always been the observant one. A girl with few words. Hiding my charm and surprises and blurting them all out through singing, acting and reading my Peter and Jane in my solitude were my routine. By nightfall, I would read Peter and Jane to my mom while leaning against the tumbling washing machine. My mom whom I call 'ummi' would correct me when i wrongly pronounced a word. After dinner, I would place myself at the center of a newspaper and read every headline loudly out of goodwill so that my grandma wouldn't have to put her reading glasses on. Sometimes I think, I took after my late grandpa, who used to read the newspaper to us (May Allah bless his soul). When I reached 9 years old, my father whom I called 'baba', was no longer part of our life. Every once in a while, baba would take us for a holiday breakaway around Malaysia, perhaps to make up for all the time he lost spending with us. When the time came for us to head home, that's when I looked at him till he vanished from my sight. We started a new life by first moving into a small humble abode that is enough to keep us sheltered from the burning heat and the numbing cold. My mom was and still the sole breadwinner of the family struggling to make enough ends meet for the two of us. Working as a clerk by day and as an Amway direct seller by night, she never once forgets to be a mother. However hard it was being a single mother, she told us one night that she will never give us up. That night, she told me and my baby sister to look after one another because we are all she got left, her most treasured gifts. Looking after my sister was what I have been doing since. I would cook for her a simple snack, iron her crumpled clothes and walk with her holding hands to school to keep her out of harms' way. It was funny thinking that I would carry a big umbrella for self defense. When we got back from school I would lock all doors and shut all windows. The only person I trusted to walk through the door is my mother. Sometimes I think, I was too vigilant but to think again, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Time passed by, and I was 13. Everybody knew what it was like being a teenager but what I remember most was being 17, sweet 17. It was the crucial and pivotal time of my life when I saw my father for the first time after 8 years of his absence. Those 8 years, there was nothing left in me of my father except memories. There, I recalled paying him respect like a father deserved to. He brought along his wife and children with whom I got along with. The eldest was about 9 and we shared a meal together. I did not know what has gotten into me, but all I ever learn from my mother is to love one another no matter what. She always tells the most beautiful stories about my father even though we knew what he had done to us. She would say this was all a blessing in disguise. It was a brief meeting without an utterance of words from Baba. That was it and I never see him again until 2008. A few days later, I became aware that there was something wrong and something bothering me. I would resent and rebel in rage. I woke up in the middle of the night crying. I kept a book in which i wrote discouraging and degrading words. I would write them again and again until the words sank into my heart. Sometimes it would take more than one pages, until the words became my blood. All along I knew it was because I am afraid of giving myself to someone I might lost. I was being too hard on myself to the extent that everything I did was all because I wanted to prove to my father that I can do it.

Often, I detached and looked back at what I did to myself, telling myself to stop, let go and make peace with my past. Of course, ummi was always around to console me. She always replied “You can always forgive him for what he did. That way, he can never have the power over your feelings. No one can make you feel sad unless you allow yourself to." She was right, but, it was just hard for me to forgive because all I needed was time. A powerful thing, time is. Time heals, time distracts, and so magical time can even slow down and fly by. To me, time has given me the chance to forgive, forget and create the happiness of my own. Now, I’m at peace with myself. Thank you to those who has taught me one of life's greatest lesson, especially ummi.

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