Years ago when I was small, I would wonder where my dad and mum were. They were not living with us. And I would remember never to have seen any of them until much later.
My grandma would tell her side of the story. This was her story as I would remember (I might have lost some details – as I would try to recall those events in a universe far far away):
My grandpa Muda Haji Ismail came to Terengganu with nothing in his name but a son, Mustafa (my grandpa had a daughter earlier – Ramlah whom he had left behind with his ex-wife somewhere in Kuantan, Pahang). At that time, my dad was in his teen. My grandpa was down with malaria and life was very difficult for him with his teenage son.
A woman (my grandma) who was a divorcee with a daughter (my mum) took pity on my grandpa and nursed him back to health. Short story – my grandpa married my grandma and my mum and dad became brother and sister.
They (my mum and dad) were always quarreling and my grandma would warn them to behave; less they would be married off to each other. Indeed – that was exactly what had happened sometime later.
My grandpa was a tailor and a ‘songkok’ maker. He was also an Imam at our local mosque. My grandma was a petty trader and had a little grocery shop. She would want my dad to look after the shop because her own daughter (my mum) was attending a nursing school. But my dad was more interested in politics and would always be missing to attend UMNO (United Malays National Organization) meetings, gatherings and functions.
My grandma would always scold my dad for playing truant. Her fiery temper was legendary. She was rumored to have thrown a spear right onto a ‘pelamin’ while her earlier husband (my mum’s dad – my other grandpa) were sitting with his new bride during a ‘bersanding’ ceremony.
She was called Cik Da Nipis for her small body and fiery short temper – Cik Da probably came from my grandpa’s name Muda. My grandpa was called Ayah Da. I would call my grandma Cik Tua and my grandpa To’Ki. And I would call my mum Cik Mummy and my dad Bat.
Consistent nagging and scoldings from my grandma would drive my dad away from our home. He would leave for Segamat in Johor to stay with one of my grandpa’s sister. Together with one of his uncle, my dad would embark on a journey that would make him an excellent public speaker later in his life. He would travel places (mostly in Johor) to sell medicinal herbs concocted by his uncle for a couple of years.
My mum would finish her nursing school and would start her own career with the Government Hospital, staying in a provided quarter. Thus, my parents lived a separate life – amplified by the distance of their dwellings in those early independence days. (They were about 300 miles or 483 kilometers apart – which was a huge distance at that time)
One fateful day, my grandpa would receive a letter from my dad addressed to his wife (my mum). It was a letter containing ‘an utterance of a divorce’. My grandpa would not have the heart to tell my mum; he would place the letter in between pages of a magazine (Pembangunan – if I may recall) which my mum would always read when she would come visiting her mum and father-in-law who was also her step-dad.
My parents were divorced then. My mum who was staying about 20 miles or 32 kilometers away would often visit us. But it was until much later when I would see my dad again. My sister Sabariah would think that our grandpa was her father. She would refuse to answer when her standard one teacher would call her by her full name. She would say that her father’s name was not Mustafa but Muda.
My dad and my mum would remarry again (to different persons) in the same year, in the same place; which was my grandparents house.
I would have 5 more siblings from my dad’s new family and 3 more from my mum’s new family. At this point in my life; I would have 2 dads and 2 mums with a number of grandparents. Later, I would have another few mums and 2 more dads when I myself would start my own family. Of course the number of grandparents would increase too – as well as the number of in-laws.
I have loved every single moment I have had spent with every single member of my extended family. I have loved them dearly; and still I do.
Love is eternity and beyond. It is the single most important fabric in human life that would hold people together; no question about it. Those without love are definitely the most unfortunate beings ever to grace this beautiful life on this beautiful blue marble of a planet.
Feel the love that surrounds you; and you will never be alone even when you are alone with your own being. God will be there; watching your conducts and listening to your heart – loving you as one of His creations.
And I am full of love; I would gladly suffocate and die in my own ocean of endless love. Now, would you do too?
My dad and I were not in this picture. My mum Kasmah is on extreme left (kneeling with her hand-bag), my sister Sabariah is being held by my grandma Fatimah (standing on extreme right), my grandpa Muda is slightly behind my grandma. The others are my family members from my grandma’s side.
This picture was taken in 1961 when I was 3 years old