Further adventures of Kak Eton the sultry janda (divorcee) reveal a most sensitive topic too politically incorrect to be publicly discussed, but too great an implication to be hush-hush. [Earlier Kak Eton episodes can be viewed here and here].
Datin Nor’s daughter Lara was about to get married. Datin Nor is Kak Eton’s twice-removed cousin, but due to their once being classmates too, they got to be as close as if they were sisters. All of them, cousins, sisters, distant aunts, grandmas, had gotten together for the happy occasion the night before the wedding. The groom was one Mat Salleh who had just embraced Islam. Well, I might as well say it: embraced Islam so he could marry. The family was not very particular about religion, so it mattered to them least whether the groom was going to practise Islam or not.
So there they were all gathered the night before the wedding. Even the neighbours were helping: Some did the bunga telur, some did the dais etc etc. Few folks from the village also came: bit kampung-ish, country bumpkin, less sophisticated and definitely less savoury. But it was a joyous occasion anyhow.
Now it goes without saying that these kampung folks had to do the most menial of jobs of course. Internal strata of familial society, you see. So while the most glamorous of the lady folks, the Datin Elenas and the Puan Sri Lorettas did nothing beyond lipat bunga kertas (for fear the expensive pedicures got compromised), the unsavoury Mak Esah and Mak Ngah Kalsom were wetting their dresses washing the dishes, squatting and all. Kak Eton was doing something in between.
At one point,though, the mother of the bride was eulogising about her recent predicament of matrimonial windfall: “You all know something …. I never expecteeeeeeed that I would be getting a Mat Salleh as my Son in Law. But then you know… Lara has high tastes: she won’t even bat an eye on our own Melayu guys, ”to which the other women-folk jibed, what a lucky future mom-in-law you are. Does John have a brother? I heard these Mat Sallehs are … err… well-endowed. Is it true? Etc etc.”
Now Mak Ngah Kalsom, the mother of the bride’s own cousin, who was washing the dishes squatting by the pipe just outside the kitchen, could not stand it any longer. Her forehead had been furrowed ever since she arrived from kampung by bus in the morning.
She stood up from her dishwashing station, wiped her sweaty brows with the sleeves of her baju kurung, and approached the group. She demanded that they all drop whatever they were doing and listen properly. Unsavouriness or kampung bumpkin aside, when Mak Ngah Kalsom the wife of the clan’s Godfather Pok Long Jaafar speaks, everyone better listen—Puan Sri, Datin Sri or whatever Sri is attached to your name. Kak Eton recollected almost verbatim all of Mak Ngah Kalsom’s admonitive monologue, which went like this (and it’s in Malay because speaking in English Mak Ngah definitely did not):-
“Aku pelik dengan engkau orang semua. Adakah berkahwin dengan satu orang Mat Salleh itu menjadi sesuatu kebanggaan bagi kau orang? Itu kah puncak kejayaan bagi kamu? Sejak mendengar berita ni dari hari pertama lagi, bukannya Mak Ngah gembira. Tapi hati Mak Ngah penuh kerisauan memikirkan si Lara. Bagaimana agamanya kelak? Siapa nak bimbing dia? Dah nak di bawa pula ke Amerika. Bagaimana solatnya? Siapa yang nak didik anak-anaknya nanti? Nak harapkan suami bimbing? Suami baru mengajar mengucap. Kalau mati nak ditanam di mana? Kalau kenduri siapa yang nak bacakan do’a?…” [I don’t understand you people. Is marrying a caucasian a thing of pride? Is that the pinnacle of success for you? Since hearing this news from day one, I have not at all been happy. My heart is full of doubt and misgivings about Lara’s future. How will her religion be? Her prayers? Who will guide her? And now I heard she is to be brought to live in America. Who will educate their children later? Her husband? The one who had only learnt to recite the Shahadah last week? Where will they be buried if they die? Who will recite supplications in feasts…?]
And she babbled like that for a good 15 minutes. Everybody looked down—at their feet, unable to move, unable to counter any of Mak Ngah Kalsom’s qualms, unable to justify, unable to rebut. No one dared to meet Mak Ngah’s fiery eyes then.
Having said her piece, Mak Ngah went back to her station to continue with the job that only people of her stature were fit to do. The joyousness was still there throughout the night, but nobody denied that the festive mood was somewhat reduced by Mak Ngah’s words.
Now Lara’s gone to the US of A following her hubby. From any scrap of news Kak Eton obtained, her situation is not that far off from what Mak Ngah had been feeling queasy about. Kak Eton never met them again and that was a good 10 to 12 years ago. A few years later Nita, Lara’s younger sister, married a Canadian. Mak Ngah Kalsom was no longer invited, but Kak Eton was. They had to get somebody else to be in charge of cleaning all the utensils.
Mak Ngah Kalsom is no longer around: she died some years ago. Perhaps she died a poor death. An unknown demise befitting an unknown personage. A personage which is non grata in the strata of her society but famous and well known among the denizens of the sky. But Puntum her son (real name Abdul Karim but Kak Eton called him Puntum because he became a traitor by reporting to their parents when they were kids that they all went mandi sungai which they forbid) told Kak Eton that arwah had a streak of a smile on her face when they kafan-ed (the funeral shroud) her.
Whatever happened that night in Datin Nora’s house remained buried in the deepest psyches of Kak Eton, but it surprisingly surfaced again a couple of days ago when she read the news about a Malay Muslim lass marrying the captain of a hockey team who was a Sikh.
To Kak Eton, the case was pure and simple, unlike the much-ado-about-nothing hullaballoo displayed by netizens on the internet. It was clear that the girl had NOT embraced another religion, and that the groom had converted to Islam instead.
Not A Big Deal
Her wedding reception in a Sikh Gurdawara? Not a big deal. The food was probably good. Did she change her name? Not a big deal too. Heck. Someone she knew and hated so much had changed her name from Saleha to Sally, so who gives a hoot?
Did she prostrate in the Gurdawara? Hello. Prostrated to WHAT? God doesn’t have a representation in whatever form according to the Sikh religion. There are no stone gods: Idolatry is an abomination in their faith. Besides, whatever non-God she was bowing down to under the requirements of their culture — she made it clear that that was done in ignorance, she didn’t realise the gravity of it, that she had no intention of doing it and will not do it again, and that she emphatically denies she had changed either her religion or her name.
Tell me, dear holier-than-thou netizens: besides these, WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT to appease you, thought Kak Eton. They shouldn’t be bothering to demean her. They should be thankful and helpful that now she has a new husband and a new Muslim for them all to help and assist!
Yes, Kak Eton admits. Bowing to any other than God is a grave sin in Islam. The prophet Muhammad had said roughly, “If it were allowed that anybody is making prostrations to anybody other than Allah, then I would have asked that wives prostrate themselves to their husbands.” But hey! Is everybody a Muhaddith? Aren’t there allowances to the inevitable fact that we all are, up to a certain degree, lackadaisical in knowledge in our religion even in matters as important as marriage?
But be that as it may that Kak Eton appears to be a bit more sympathetic when it comes to love and marriage between a man and a woman, she has an unflinching conviction that there IS something greater than Love itself that warrants full attention, full dedication and full subservience. And it is the God of this Love instead.
Kak Eton recollects a Hollywood movie she saw once that parallels what she is seeing and experiencing now: the Epic film “Fiddler on the Roof“, a semi-humorous but deeply serious and informative insight into the life of Russian Jews in the midst of the Bolshevik Revolution.
It tells the story of a poor family headed by a strong-willed but illiterate farmer Tevye with wife Golda and three beautiful daughters in their married bliss. Tevye always dreamt and day-dreamt of being wealthy, deadening the realities of his day-to-day life where he had to put up with the intricacies of a wretched peasant’s life such as his, complete with an incapacitated horse that he used to till his fields but now couldn’t.
The viewers could get to see how Tevye’s hope of being rich, from marrying his eldest daughter to a rich widower who was older than him (“never would I have thought of getting a father in law who is younger than me,” said the incumbent bridegroom Lazar Wolf), got dashed when she dropped the bomb that she had wanted to marry her childhood sweetheart, a poor tailor, instead.
Then her second daughter decided to follow suit by asking his permission to marry a young but handsome Bolshevik revolutionaire Perchik instead, regrettingly knowing that ultimately his revolution and himself will end up in jail and destruction.
Then his third daughter broke the mould. The youngest and pretiest of them all, she told Papa that she was in love and wanted to marry a …. Christian! And that’s when Tevye put the pugstop.
You can break my heart by marrying the poorest dolt in the village. You can marry a jailbird for all I care. But to marry outside of your faith? To reject the religion you were born into? That is something I cannot tolerate.
Love Surpasses Everything?
In other words, Love (and thereby happiness), surpasses everything: the wealth of the world, political kingships, guaranteed happiness. But as far as faith is concerned, no. Love is not greater than that. Love is not eternal. At least not physical and luscious love. Love is fleeting, time-dependent, situation-dependent and even compromised whenever there are … err… other people around.
Ask those who cheat on their wives. Or forsake them to look for another one. Or ready to die for her, irrespective of what. Where is the chivalry or dedication that was once declared? Where is the honesty that seem to be built on this pedestal called Love?
There is only ONE kind of Love which is ever-lasting, eternal and unwaveringly True: and that is the Love of the One True God, and He may or may not trickle this Love down between two slaves of His should He decide to.
And you are now saying what: you are ready to forsake this One True God in exchange for a fleeting happiness? Sacrifice an eternity of Love for a 60-70 year old one which, in all probability, might not even last that long? May the curse of Avram be upon you!
When she first saw the film, Kak Eton unknowingly felt a trickle of tear roll down her cheek. She thought hard on that last one. Would Bang Halim have loved her until their dying days if that bitch of a witch Saleha (Now Mrs Sally Halim) had not come in the picture?
But Kak Eton is not one who sulks on situations and feed on sorrow to live. She gets up, folds her sleeves and take on the world as much as it was needed to.
Because ultimately , we all will stand in front of God one fine day, and our rights and wrongs reckoned. Who will intercede on your behalf should God ask you for what reason were you not remembering Him as much as you should? To not help your needy folks when they needed it most?
For what reason would you forsake God in favour of your own whims and desires and loves and fancies? And what greater thing can there be that you can forsake Him in exchange of? Love? – New Malaysia Herald