The Thing That Still Bugs Me At 43

Just the other day I went out with Wifey and the kids, and I looked at them eating. I did the same when my stepchildren ate. I just looked at them. I am always reminded of my childhood.

I learnt table-manners the hard way. That included the use of hand while eating; the use of fork and spoon and fork and knife while eating – all the hard way.

I think I was eight or nine years old. I would assume children of that age would have problems eating at their own house. It’s not fun to eat unless it’s something that cannot be cooked at home ie. hot dogs, burgers etc. And it is always more fun eating when there are people of your age: friends, cousins etc., that even if the food’s not that good, you tend to eat more than you would at home.

So, there I was, at the house of a family friend, eating plate after plate of rice with their children, and my elder sister. It felt so good eating with people around your age, and my friend’s mother would pile scoops of rice onto my plate.

A week or two later, back at our Section 16 PJ home, I was having dinner, and ate very slowly. After a while, I turned to my mother and told her that I didn’t want to eat anymore. My father was furious. He got up, scooped some rice into his hand, and literally shoved the rice into my mouth. When I did not chew as fast as I could, he would either twist and pull my ear, or slap me. I ate as much and as fast as I could even though I could taste blood. But I guess that tasted better than the ear-ringing slaps that were offered as the alternative.

Another reason to get slapped is when you go for a dish with your rice-covered hand – in this case, it was a fried fish. The fish was good, and I went for it. As soon as my hand touched the fish, a slap landed on my face.

And I dreaded those trips to Fraser’s Hills. Those were when I learnt the hard way how to use the fork, spoon and knife. My dinner would end more than an hour later until I got the correct way of getting all those peas and corns onto my fork using the knife or spoon, depending on whether it was local or western food being served. Come to think of it, maybe that is why I have tinnitus. Just by having dinner.

Sometimes, you get punished for not even being there. There was once when my younger brother had his fingers trapped by my father’s car door. I was inside my room, upstairs, when that happened. Then I heard my father yelling my name out. I quickly rushed downstairs and when I got to him, a hard slap greeted me – the kind where your vision blacks out momentarily and your ears ring like mad, but by the time you regain your senses, you’re being dragged by your ear to his favourite place for you – where all his canes were stored, and he would whack me with only two – either the Officers’ Cane that would leave the back of your thighs promoting the Royal Malaysian Police force, or the Kayu Tas cane from Sarawak that was covered in beautiful beads.

I was so terrified of my father. And it was not just me. Even my mother’s friends would scamper into the kitchen whenever they hear the sound of my father’s car. But why me is the question that keeps bugging me, even until now. Is it because I was born exactly 40 days after my elder sister died? I don’t know. I don’t ever want to know, and I will never ask.

It is because of the past that I still have problems talking to my father (not that I have for the past 2 years and 5 months anyway). But it is also because of the past, that I would give my kids big hugs whenever I see them.

Although I have this rampart built around me because of my past, my kids are inside with me.

13 Replies to “The Thing That Still Bugs Me At 43”

  1. Thank you for sharing..I’ve been following your journey here (& jazz too). Walaupun org selalu kata bapak borek, anak this particular case, you choose to make a different! That is something that differentiate you & other guys out there – stories like kecik2 kena dera pastu bila besar panjang dia pulak mendera.

    1. Rad…thanks for your comment. I cannot bear the thought of my children having to re-live the nightmare I keep re-living from time-to-time. Yes, I am in a way strict with my kids, and at times with my step-kids, but only if they are way out of line. But to beat them senselessly, that is not I want them to grow up remembering. I want them to grow up appreciating what had been done for them, and the lessons imparted. Not growing up like I do, with a thick wall around me to keep my parents away.

  2. I thought Nuriza and me were the only persons having this ‘scold-me -every-2 seconds-for anything’ problem when we were young. However, we only had this problem when we were in Jeransang. The villians were our aunties- 2 of them! Luckily it stopped when we got older~fuh! I detest the phase till today.

  3. I thought Nuriza and me were the only persons having this ‘scold-me -every-2 seconds-for anything’ problem when we were young. However, we only had this problem when we were in Jeransang. The villians were our aunties- 2 of them! Luckily it stopped when we got older~fuh! I detest the phase till today.

    Of course your experience was worse because it involved physical torture. Ours was a verbal one- yet very painful!

    1. Fidah…I can guess who the aunties are. One thing I do not like is how people discriminate one and the other. In a way, I know how they discriminated between you and Kak Long, just because Kak Long was dubbed the Tanty Josepha of the family, while you were putih sikit (manis lebih) as compared to your sister. That’s one of the reasons I am closer to you than I am to Kak Long. Nuriza faced the same thing – Su was never there; Harry also never liked going back to Jeransang. Maizura seldom went back. Nuriza grew up having to follow her parents to Jeransang. And because they were Pahang-based, they were always the runners in the family – the ones having to work when the family members are back in Jeransang. Arwah Pak Teh was luckier as Mak Teh preferred going back to Kuala Lipis.

      I was still slapped around by my father even when I was in England. I really enjoyed my 5-year stay at the Malay College not having to be screamed at, or blamed for nothing. For that reason, I never served in KL when I was in the Air Force. I just wanted to get away, and bring up my children the way I see fit – not the way THEY see fit. Look at my sister’s children – spoilt rotten!

  4. Yup, the discrimination thing- that was why! After all these years it kind of slipped my mind. Thanks for the enlightenment. I’ve found the missing bit of my childhood puzzle.What’s yours then? Oh..that’s the thing that bugs you~:p

    1. I dunno la really. I can only think this way: my elder sister’s the first. The first always get preferential treatment. Then came my other sister. She died 40 days short of my birth. So I was born when they were still grieving. After 5 years came my other sister – so that was the bundle of joy. Then my brother. So, I was there only to fill up the quorum.

  5. Sometimes parents tend to let it out on their kids when they’re stressed or faced with problems. It’s never fair and I’m not saying that what your father did was right, but I suppose he was undergoing a lot of stress when he did all that. Although I was not beaten up, I did face some verbal abuse when I was a kid. And the worse thing is, I can still remember what that person said until today, and I was only 6 or 7 when it happened. Let’s be thankful that we are not like that to our kids.

  6. Fidah, I think some people was born to be the one that have the ‘muka mintak pelempang’ muahaha. Lucky for me that you and kak long are the 1st two not me and farid.hehe but there is sumting that keep bugging me until now – how can I be so invisible to certain people? or is it everyone? hihi

    1. Ecah….ello…you thinking I muka mintak pelempang meh? Kekekekeke. By the way, you’ve never been invisible to me – just that we don’t see each other often.

  7. Hahahahahhaha- ha’ah ecah. Are you saying that Y.Dol ‘muka-mintak-pelempang’? Ei..once upon a time, Y.Dol (SD) was known as Man Bai a.k.a. lelaki paling ‘jambu’ abad ini! That was after he sang ‘Masih Aku Terasa’ at one of the parties in Bukit Aman. Now, he is still ‘jambu’. Tak percaya, tanyalah Mdm JZ.

    Despite all the discrimination episodes by the aunties, Klong, mak n ayah had never treated me the way the others did. That’s what matters to me. I’m sure you (SD) will be a great father to your kids.

    1. Haiyo Fidah….bikin malu gwe aja donk! BTW, Man Bai pun ikut my hairstyle…cukur habis jugak. Kak Long loves you. I remember how her eyes gleamed whenever she saw you. Anyway, I can only try my best to be a great father to my kids, try my best not to let them miss out on anything much.

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