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Friday, April 23, 2010

Family

Current location
Passenger seat of my brother’s borrowed red Gen2, driving around Damansara
Now listening to
US3 – Cantaloupe on Bernama 24 (93.9 fm)
Mood
Content
Other activities
Discussing philosophy and other profound things with my brother while trying to sound intellectual and fascinating

Hello there,
Today, I discovered that I have several relatives scattered all over Semenanjung Malaysia. I also ate so many doughnuts that I nearly split my pants, but that’s beside the point.
It’s remarkable how when you walk into a distant relative’s house, they treat you so well, even if they’ve never met or even heard of you before. I experienced this special treatment firsthand today when I went to meet some relatives from my mother’s side of the family. It all started with an email my mother sent to me, as well as a few phone calls she made to some relatives.
Subsequently, the whole universe started to try to contact me on my hand phone while I was sound asleep. Specifically, I got 5 messages and 6 missed calls. 2 messages from an unknown number saying:
Hakim ni sepupu u.
Can you call me ?

Later on I got a call from the same number and I discovered that it was Mak Rubiah. I hadn’t read the email yet you see, and I had just woken up, so I was having some difficulty getting a grasp of what was going on.

I also got another two messages from Digi informing me that I had a missed call from my father, and also from this new found relative Aunty Rubiah. The final SMS was from Digi, and it began – RM0: Isn’t it COOL to b... – which I promptly deleted and thought nothing more of.
...I feel that I have diverged quite far from the topic now...
Anyway, Mak Cik Rubiah called again around 2 pm and told me to wait for her at KL Sentral. So I got a lift from Abang Fadhil to KL Sentral and I waited there for my relatives who appeared around 3 pm.
I was met by this 23 year old guy who was somehow my cousin, named Azim.  He looked so different than me that when I first saw him I thought “I’m actually related to this guy?” He looked so markedly different than me – I mean, he looked so typically Melayu! He looked like any of the regular Malay people I see anywhere. To think, any of them could be related to me somehow. And I only just realized this today.
Then we got to the car and I met Hadi, who is also my cousin, and also Mak Cik Rubiah. This was the first time we’d met, and in fact, she never knew about my existence until just this morning. Yet, instantly she greeted me with such warmth and familiarity, and instantly started chatting with me as if we’d known each other forever.
Certainly it’s not the first time I’ve met my relatives, but for some reason, this is the first time I’ve really appreciated the beauty of this family system.
And it continued when I got to their house at Kampung Jawa, Klang. They made themselves very much at home, and told me to do the same, and I felt so comfortable and at ease at their house; this house of these people who had been strangers to me up till an hour ago.  Mak Cik Rubiah saw that I was sleepy and she let me lie down on the living room couch. I’m pretty sure normal guests don’t usually get that kind of privileges.
We all got along instantly, and it didn’t really feel like we were strangers. We talked about the family, trying to trace our other relatives, and I discovered that I actually had so many relatives from my mother’s side scattered all over Semenanjung Malaysia! When I mentioned my aunty, Kala Jaibun, Mak Rubiah seemed to know who she was. One phone call later, we’d set a rendezvous with Kala Jaibun, at her place in Taman Berkeley, Klang at 7 pm.
Azim drove us to Kala Jaibun’s home and luckily we managed to get there without much trouble. I really liked exchanging salams with everyone. It’s such a joy to have that warm, intimate greeting. At Kala Jaibun’s we talked some more, and I got to know more about my mother’s side of the family tree. I learned that my maternal grandmother, whom we call Opah, had 7 siblings. That would mean that I have so many relatives and extended family.
Now this was something that I’d never thought about before. For so long what I considered family consisted of my parents, my 3 brothers and one younger sister, my paternal and maternal grandmothers, my father’s brothers and sisters and their children, my mother’s sister, and that’s basically it. Even then, I wasn’t especially close with my cousins, nor my maternal grandmother. I had a notion that Azura, a local celebrity TV host was somehow related to me as a second cousin or something, but I only remember  meeting her once, and I didn’t know her well enough to really consider her as close family.
 
Azura Zainal and I are related, and not that distantly.
Then of course there was a recent addition to the family when my brother married Kak Wani and had a baby girl, Aisyah. Those were the people whom I considered family, fundamentally because those were the only people I knew.
Yet, today I just found out that I actually have a lot more relatives on my mother’s side than I’d ever known. My grandmother had 6 sisters and a brother, which makes a lot of second cousins. I learned that I’ve got relatives scattered around Selangor, including Bangi, and a few in Terengganu, and a whole bunch of them in Kelantan.
While at Kala Jaibun’s house, I noticed that she spoke with a markedly northern influenced accent. Actually, all my other relatives peppered their speech with a few Utara sounding phrases now and then. Turns out, my great grandparents were from Kedah and Pulau Pinang.
After dropping by Kala Jaibun’s house, we visited Mak Cik Rubiah’s aunty, my grand aunty Tok Cik Sabian. She seemed genuinely happy to see me, and she introduced me to everyone, “Inilah anak Yam, kat Sabah tu,” obviously very content that I came to visit her. It was really nice to meet her, she’s such a nice lady, and she served us doughnuts and mee goreng and crackers and tea, which I helped myself to generously because I know how much older people like watching young people eat happily.
This Tok Cik Sabian told me about even more about my mother’s side of the family, and she mentioned that she even had a nephew in Bangi. I’d really love to visit his family tomorrow, since I’m going back to Bangi, but then, he’s really a distant relative, and without anyone to introduce me, I don’t think I’ll go and surprise him and his family with a visit.
 I was really happy to meet my relatives for the first time today, as it’s given me a glimpse of what it must be like to Balik Kampung each year and get together with all the relatives and have fun like that. Now I understand better all my friends’ excitement when it’s Raya time and everyone’s so eager to balik kampung. It’s about meeting the family. Gosh how I wish I had that growing up...

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