Sunday, December 6, 2009

Business Matters

Mother makes karipap segera to finance my education. Note that I used "makes". That is perfect present tense. None of her parents were in business field. Grandfather once worked at Kuala Trengganu Town Board as an officer (until he, dressed in his full regalia, received a medal of honor from the erstwhile Sultan of Trengganu for a reason I do not know) and Grandmother was a good cook, just like Mother.

However her elder brother and three younger sisters share the same interest, where they had established businesses ranging from a small scale tailoring business favourited by the Toh Puans of Trengganu's royal families to a big scale tile suppliers for mega-construction planners. Sadly, this business trait will never get a place in my chromosome or being passed down to the forthcoming generations of mine. It will stuck there in Mother's, and will be faded by time like colours on a piece of kain batik left under the burning Trengganu sun for two weeks straight.

Back in the old days, Mother made popiah's (Chinese spring roll) skin layers for our dear late Mok Cik Gemok to be used for wrapping her chunks of chestnut, kangkung, bean sprouts, carrot, mashed eggs, and other mysterious ingredients until they turn into sticks form, each a size of an adult's toe before serving them raw or deep-fried for her customers. Mother made them by dripping her whitish concoction of flour, water, a pinch of salt, and Sanisah Huri's Aidilfitri song onto a preheated frying pan that was bigger than a truck's steering wheel. She organized them into stacks to be taken away to Mok Cik Gemok's popiahs' lair. After that, everybody in the neighbourhood of Taman Sura Gate teleported into the fantasy built Mexican air after having their bits of Mother-made delicious local tortillas, minus sombrero hat and flamencos.

That was apparently a good sign for Mother. She made more popiah's skin layers for the upcoming days until Mok Cik Gemok smiled from ear to ear. As a result, Mok Cik Gemok brought a huge bunch of black grapes for us that made me treasured such exquisite fruit of the faraway land by plucking one or two or three but fourth no more and kept the other remaining grapes for the morrows. But Mother told me off for that. She said they will get all wilted to the seeds and disappeared from their hiding place in the refrigerator if I did not eat them within two days.

The popiah feast went on for eleven months in a year and stopped when an old man dressed in Baju Melayu with the brim of his songkok stood close to his eyebrows declared the first moon sight of Ramadhan as projected on the bulgy screen of our Panasonic television. The nationwide declaration caused children happily scatter around our Taman and shouted "esok pose!!!" in the sweetness of night air that has been laden with magical sparkles of China-made fireworks and boomers of firecrackers to tell the slumbering chickens in their coop that tomorrow they will start fasting strictly from sunrise until sunset, even though they were the same old faces of the previous Ramadhans who were spotted licking icecreams in the afternoon heat at Surau Haji Bideng, near Kedda Bodo.

Still remember the night air's sweetness those children had been burning firecrackers in? Although fasting month declared the temporary halt of Mother's popiah skin business, Mother had a new plan to keep things going. She accepted offers to bake cakes and cookies for Raya, thus, the nights' air of Ramadhan were joyfully immersed with the sweetness scents of custards and doughs.

Mother made them into either crescent-shaped or rectangular with black forest topping or as crumby as a biskut mayat can be. But, in the matter of nomenclature, they were all made no difference for me. It may either be called "sekkuk bulang sabek" for its shape resembled a Ramadhan's crescent, or "sekkuk perahu" because it looked like a canoe. For others which defied description, I called them "sekkuk raya" instead. Meant, "Raya cookies", and no more questioning afterward when mouth is full at 2.00PM.

While poking the tip of my tongue through holes on the molars, attempted to dig out cakes of grind "sekkuk raya", I saw Mother sat on a black leather-bound secondhand office chair which was given by Pok Cik Rozak from the nearest videotapes' rental shop. It creaked most times whenever she swiveled the seat to pick up her scissors and a ruler which resembled the shape of a Samurai sword, hiding its blade under a heap of colouful cottons and silks on the table of her west. Northward, there was a machine with a word "Singer" engraved on it. That was the time I thought it was the actual spelling for "singa", which means, "lion". But how did a lion contribute to tailoring?

She might had munched a lot of her hand-made Raya cookies while sewing countless fabrics between the jaw of the lion and sometimes halted for tediously attaching labuci glitters onto silks while watching emotionally boring Malay dramas on television. Curiously, I learnt to lick the tip of a sewing thread for it acts as an aglet to be poked into the hole of a needle. And I learnt to fix my lose button all by myself, just like Mother who learned to fix our life all by herself. As time moved swiftly, she had to say a good-bye to munching and making Raya cookies when tailoring had contributed a rough income about one thousand ringgit per month. In a particular year, she even made it two thousands. Big money means big effort to carry on. Big effort subsequently means a pain in the back after sitting for too long on the constantly creaking leather-bound chair given by Pok Cik Rozak.

Nowadays, Mother realized poking a drenched tip of a thread into a needle's hole is as hard as catapulting a flying bird. I might be able to teach her to hold her breath for a moment to avoid trembling her hand while doing it but "cataract" is a term Mother has been deeply understood and she can rattle it off as good as a professor can be.

I do not know that I will be able to show you women (especially the pretty ones) that I'm gonna be all teary down to the core when it comes to writing about her sacrifice for our better living so that you (the pretty ones) can give me a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. But I'm sure I can't help but blotting my watery eyes after she texted me about her new karipap business that it needs no explanation to tell me that she does that for me to ensure my well-doing in this faraway land called Sarawak where I just need to spend a few more months before graduating as a tiny man with a small brain but with a big degree in Biotechnology.


  1. Mak kamu sangat tabah
    terharu baca this story

  2. Sir Pok Deng, you could be writing about my Mak as well. She did the same thing; cooked in the early hours of the morning for the mamak kueh to come and collect on his morning rounds. In the afternoons, she'd be sewing bajus or making hantarans. Now at 93, she still thinks she hasnt done enough for her children.

  3. Hurm. My mom as well. Well I can see the common thread that bind us all. Biotechnology in Unimas. Phew! U can't be anymore mysterious than this i tell you that.

  4. hans,
    Terima kasih. Sayangilah emak kamu juga.

  5. Kak Teh,
    In those years, my Mok made popiah's skins in the daytime. She usually started at noon, after a good nap around 10.00 o'clock in the morning. Tortillas finished within a few hours after the frying pan sizzled the first drip of popiah skin's concoction. This went on for about a year I think. In the next year, she left popiah skin business and started tailoring for more years to come.

  6. Tranquility,
    Seems like three of us have some similarities here. Yep, Biotechnology in Unimas. A fourth year undergraduate. I shall keep other details private. :)

  7. Aisha (Silent Scribbler)December 7, 2009 at 9:50 AM

    The sacrifices our parents make for us; this is a really good post, all touchy-feely. :-) Keep em coming! ps: Fourth year undergraduate eh? you are much younger than I thought you were.

  8. Tengku Aisha,
    Mind me to complete the sentence? "... are priceless." :)

    Thanks for liking this post, ma'am. Yes, I am a lot younger than you. It is not a surprising thing for me to hear such prediction about my age.

  9. My Lord, Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.

    Amin. Insya Allah.

  10. Reading on any Moks sacrifices toward their son betterment will always bring tears into my eyes. You are one lucky son Sir Pok Deng.

    By chance, is Mok cik Gemok the one who owned a chalet at Pulau Kapas?

  11. The Tea Drinker,
    Amin. Amin. Yaa Robb Al-Amin.

  12. DrSam,
    Oghang llaki kene kuak dok? Dokleh sikek-sikek nangih. Dok gitu deh? Yes, I am the lucky one being her only son.

    I reckon that we could have hundreds of Mok Cik Gemoks in Trengganu. I do not know who Pulau Kapas' Mok Cik Gemok is. In my story, Mok Cik Gemok was the one who owned her own lively evening snacks' stall, selling banana fritters, keropok lekors, and of course, popiahs for the bi-racial community (Chinese and Malays) of Taman Sura Gate.

    Nowadays, Taman Sura Gate is still harmonically bi-racial, with the loving memories of Mok Cik Gemok the popiah seller and Mok Cik Gemok (another Mok Cik Gemok) who had her big time satay business in the [once] sleepy town of Dungun.

  13. You? Tiny? Get outta here!!! You are not tiny okay.

    p/s: I wish I am pretty so that I could lend you my shoulder.

  14. gheee..u r one lucky young man( i never thought that u r this young..!!) and needless to say, ur mom is one lucky mokcik..such a gud son she has brought up..

    a ah..there is one ( not sure still around or not..) Mak Cik Gemok in Pulau Kapas she owns a resort there..

    good luck on ur studies..and keep on mesmerising me ( though am far far far away from the pretty gals league..hehe..) with ur n3s..

  15. Everytime i wrote my mum a poem, or i draw for her on her special days, or i make her a card..i always end my speech with,

    Maak, you're my second sunshine. It's a blessing...that of all creatures He had made, He decided that I'm the lucky one to be born to you.

    er, and some more really emotional stuff. hehe.

    but not a day passed since the day i realized how lucky i am to have her for a mum, that i wasn't thankful for the blessing. and that day was so long ago already. i'm now a very happy person.

    this is a wonderful post. almost dampen my eyes.


  16. Dottie with Dots,
    I'm outta here. Would you like to come along with me, pretty lady?

  17. tchersally,
    Thank you for your warm comment. And thank you for introducing me to Pulau Kapas' Mok Cik Gemok. I never thought that we have another Mok Cik Gemok running a chalet business somewhere in the germ of Trengganu.

  18. Max J. Potter,
    Yours are part of my inspirations. You taught me how to scribble plots into fragments while playing with words to attach them. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Miss Potter!

  19. nicely told pokdeng.

    glad to be back here.


  20. gumbleed,
    Thanks gumbleed. Glad to see you back.

  21. Spd,my mother became a babysitter to pay for my tuition fees and school expenses. Now i m a teacher, but she passed away before i could enjoy the fruits of her labour.i miss my mak. Your entries on parents reminded me of my beloved departed parents....