Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eau de Cologne and Tiger Balm - Remembering Dadhi.

"You bastard! Bastard!"

I went on repeating the word as I chased my elder brother through the house. Mom wasn't in so it was a free for all, royal rumble sort of a day. He must have done something which annoyed me but my memory fails me. What I remember though, was what came next.

"Awat dok keriau pagi-pagi ni?" I stopped in my tracks and watched as my brother's shadow escape behind the corner. Turning around, I saw Dadhi standing by the dining table. She pulled out a chair and gestured for me to sit down.

I started to vomit out words on how my brother was the devil incarnate but she just smiled and nodded. Not in agreement obviously but to signal subtly that I should keep quiet and listen to what she had to say.

"Where did you learn that word? Do you know what it means?" She switched to English, in hopes of driving home her message better.

"Tak tau, Dadhi."

"You shouldn't use it," she said; her voice having no trace of anger. "Especially not at your brother."

"But why?" Curiosity replaced guilt and fear of reproach.

"Why? Hm, because it's a bad word."

"Why is it a bad word?"

"Because people use it only when they're upset," she said.

"... What does it mean?" Dadhi laughed; the wrinkles around her eyes deepening.

"Kalu hang tak tau maksud dia awat hang pi guna? You know what bastard means? It means a child born from parents who aren't married. Now do you think your brother is a bastard?"

"No," I said, on the verge of tears for some reason.

"Good, that's okay. You always have to know the meaning of what you say. You understand?"


I'm one of the few who can say that my grandmother taught me my very first curse word at the tender age of 4 years old. That memory stuck with me up until now, 22 years later.

For all that I say, I don't think I can claim I know my grandmother well. I came to the world a little too late - Missed the entire train my grandfather took, that'll always be a shame - but I am thankful. Thankful for the little time that was granted to me to spend with her.

The most vivid of memories of her are always in the kitchen. I remember being in the Penang house and watching her making cekodoks. By everything that's holy, that shit transcends the definition of food, a mouthful of one was nothing short of a spiritual event. Dadhi in the kitchen is by far, my favourite motherfucking thing in the world. Bengkang, pengat, all the curries, jeez. I can weep for the food alone but let's be honest, there's much more to it.

I see her in the garden often, tending to the flowers and orchids. And that jasmine tree, how she'd pick the blooms and put it in a small plate on her dressing table. In a sense the whole house became an extension of herself. Clean, warm and smelling of jasmines.

If we were ever sick, then there were only three antidotes that will be served. Headache? That calls for an eau de cologne head massage. Fell? If there's a wound then Zam-Buk, or else it's tiger balm. I'm pretty sure if I'm not a doctor, I'd have ended up a tiger balm ambassador or some shit. If you've got sinus issues then say hello to this miraculous shit:

A mixture of black cumin and aniseed toasted over low heat then transferred into a muslin cloth and tied into a pouch of sorts. Roll the pouch in your hands to ?release the magic then take a deep breath.

It feels like spears being stabbed into your ethmoids but man, that shit works.

It's inevitable to say that I drifted away from her. I have no excuses. As she deteriorated from old age and dementia, I saw less and less of her.

To be honest, I think that's why this draft has been locked up here for a good year plus. It's the guilt of knowing that I could have been more proactive and been there physically instead of just being a voice on the phone. The question arises to whether I have any right in writing any of this when I wasn't a particularly good child to her in her later years. The years where she needed me the most.

But I write it still because tonight, of all nights, I feel her warmth.

She taught me more than I could ever realise. As her lucidity faded away and her sight reduced to shadows, she was still giving me a lesson. What do you do when your loved ones look at you and think you're someone else? What do you do when they repeatedly ask you who you are? What do you do when they take your hands in theirs and kiss them thinking that you are the elder one?

Really, what do you do? I winged it. Honestly, I'm still a little unsure whether it was the right thing to do or not. Each time I go to see her I was a different person in her eyes. Rather than tell her over and over that I'm not that guy, I became that guy. One day I was telling her how the new shop I opened is doing just okay. The other I'm telling her how my trip to wherever it was went.

At the end of the day, she remains the greatest teacher I've had.

She taught me the value of words. She taught me that simplicity is best, regardless of who you are and what your stature is. She taught me about the importance of family; everything must revolve around them. If you make a decision, your family must be in the equation else everything is for naught. She taught me the dinner table can be filled with dirt but as long as your family is around, that's fine. She taught me about God and the meaning of devotion but I haven't come to the point where I can honestly get into that yet.

Above all, she taught me to love the earth. To touch the soil and feel the life flooding from it. To grow things and care for them so that they may flourish and in turn reward me with beauty.
Thank you Dadhi for everything that you've taught me. May your legacy pass on to my children and I hope that they'll be a much better offspring than I did.

No automatic alt text available.
The later years. My one wish is to have been able to photograph her better.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

25 Year Old Boy

I turned 25 a couple of days ago, I'm also very well aware that the last time I wrote in this well of sadness, agony and depression was 1 year ago. I'm not particularly sure if that's a good thing or not.

Wait, what am I saying, of course that's a bad thing.

My one year closer to death anniversary wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be, if I were to be completely honest. Perhaps it was the people I went out with to celebrate. Perhaps it was the booze and the idea of liver failure which made that night so much more special. Perhaps it was the girlfriend who took me out to a fancy dinner which made me feel like a storybook princess. Perhaps it was this cake...

By @mangkiubakes on instagram

Perhaps it was everything and nothing.

What I did realise though, is that I have not learnt to deal with any of my insecurities. Instead they seem to be growing in number like rabbits or... URs. It's like my mental age is frozen but I keep getting older and older and older like some sort of cheap Benjamin Button ripoff.

The worst part is knowing that I haven't progressed with any of them, not even the basic ones. You know, the ones you gain when you're a kid like a parasite that latches on to your jugular when your father accidentally tells you that your brother is better than you in every way. Well, that parasite was supposed to shrivel up and die a long fucking time ago but nope, still here. Still feeding on that sweet sweet inferiority.

This does sound as if it's going down the same road every birthday entry made but give me a minute. It's been a while since I ranted like this and by God why did I ever stop writing. This feels amazing, like waking up in the morning with a raging boner.

See, the difference here is I don't give a fuck anymore. On the eve of my birthday, while we were out drinking, they asked me to give a speech. Everybody was bright and happy and having a jolly fucking time so I thought why not dampen their spirits a bit. Too much of anything is a bad thing, someone said (The Prophet?). So I told them none of it matters anymore considering we're all going to die. So why worry about anything when the end result is already set in stone? Understandably they thought it was a little too dark for the mood but I felt that the speech was more for me. It's as if Drunk Me had to address Sober Me through retrograde memory.

This past year hasn't been the kindest, I have to say. There were a couple of events which fucking sent me reeling into the realm of limbo, Dadhi's death being one of them. I still have an entry I wrote a few weeks after she passed but I can't bear to finish it off.

Maybe next year will be a better one.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

EOP and Jokes about Death

So I went home for a couple of days. Finished Surgery and hopped on a plane as soon as I finished work. In retrospect, that might have been overzealous of me.

I had a couple of things I desperately wanted to do once I got back. I wanted to see my parents because God knows this line of work makes you worry sometimes. I wanted to go back to Penang to see Uncle Ameer because nobody seems to know whether he has cancer or not. So begins the endless drive from north to south and all the way up north again.

Uncle Ameer has always been there for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories had him in it; he was about to send me to kindergarten and he said 'Mai I hantaq pi sana. Kita nek motocar'. And I remembered wondering what on earth a motocar was. I thought it was a car on two wheels and got super fucking excited.

It was a strange moment meeting him. He has always been this fit guy who smokes like chimney. And honestly, he was dapper as fuck. Now, he lost a lot of weight and looks pretty tired which is expected considering he's 75 but I just couldn't shake off the feeling that something is terribly off.

I read the TRUS biopsy results. Flipped the page and saw all twelve samples was adenocarcinoma. Gleason 8. Looked at him and his wife. Told them that yep, it's cancer. The whole room became silent. My father held his cigarette in between in fingers and let it smolder. My mom sat unmoving. I expected some form of sadness to take hold of everyone but surprisingly, it didn't. Uncle Ameer just sighed and said 'Betui ka?' and after a pause, 'Takpa la, apa nak buat.'

And that was it. We started talking about death in such a comical manner, it was difficult to believe, especially considering I've always been assailed with an immeasurable sadness when someone in my family is ill. My dad complained to Uncle Ameer that developers are about to start construction on ten new houses in front of ours and he can't take that. He said he wanted to go and live on the farm and Uncle Ameer told him that he should build a proper house there. My dad laughed and said that he's been sleeping over at the farm so often nowadays. Mom complained that our house is too silent now that my father is gone to which my dad said:

'Well yeah, soon when I'm dead, what are you going to do?'

Usually, that statement - which he uses a lot - chills me to the bone. But that day, I genuinely laughed. Perhaps it's the job that makes the thought of death so commonplace. Then the jokes about death came on full blast.

Uncle Ameer: Doctor told me to stop drinking coffee and tea.
Dad: Hang ada tanya dia beer boleh minum ka dak
UA: Apa la hang ni
Dad: Kopi teh tak boleh minum... Hang habaq kat depa soh bunuh hang teruih.

UA: Zufar, doctor habaq haritu depa nak buang teloq uncle haritu. Explain sat, betui ka ni?
Me: Ada pernah baca jugak la lagutu
UA: Alamaaak mintak simpang la. Mati baguih.

And we just laughed at all of these. It hit me right then; death is what we make it to be. It can be a cold, dreary topic or it can be something you laugh about. All it takes is a bit of humour and perhaps, some acceptance.

Tomorrow I'm starting my journey in Medical. Tagging here we go again.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Turned 24 today. Got the day off incidentally so that's cause enough to celebrate. Went out with the boys yesterday and just shot the shit over beers. That was nice change of pace, even if it was just for one night.

Been thinking a lot about the idea of happiness. Somehow I believe that happiness are for those who've given up. Who ended up settling for something less and deluding themselves into thinking that it was what they wanted all along. If I were to be simplistic; happiness is not meant for those who are young.

And why should the young be happy? They strive for things that are constantly out of reach and they'd go through hell and back to try and achieve it. There is no crack that can be filled with happy juice in that situation, just a constant depressive atmosphere that actually has a pretty good chance of fucking you up for life. It's alright for the young to be depressed because they have the mental and physical attitude to absorb it. Until they shoot themselves in the head or jump off a building that is, but we'll leave that for later.

Really though, we put too much emphasis on being happy, as if it's the only thing that makes life worth living. I'm not going to fuck with you, being happy is awesome but let's face it, not being happy isn't going to fucking kill you.

In other news, I have exams. 24 years old and I have to study for a fucking exam. Well done, man. This is the life. I have an 80% of being extended apparently so that's going to be something to look forward to.

Well, fuck this shit, back to studying. Next thing I know, I'm going to be 40 and still studying some shit that's fucking ridiculous and has no practical use in life. Wonderful future.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Relationship Goals.

I had this one patient. Obviously, I can't give out his details and come to think of it, it doesn't matter.

To put it simply, I pegged him to die every morning I walk into the ward. Not because I'm a cruel bugger but honestly, he was in such a shitty condition. Drains jutting out everywhere and frank blood pouring out of them. Severe bleeding disorder, Hb 2, PT/aPTT max.

But the fucker continued living. That's goddamn amazing.

This story isn't some motivational bullshit because the main character to this isn't the patient. It's his wife.

Now, see, let me be frank. This guy has nothing going for him. He isn't good looking, doesn't make good money and unfortunately, I know that he doesn't have a big dick. I can only assume that he is the greatest of men personality wise.

Why, you ask?

Because his wife is fucking smoking hot. I'm not shitting you. Blazing. She could rival the fucking Sun.

I observe her daily - in a non creepy way - and I've been trying to understand why she stays. I still don't fucking know. Everyday I see her taking care of this patient and it baffles me because even for me, the smell of his wound is something that I can't deal with. Yet there she is, chilling out with this guy who's bleeding non-stop. Who smells like Satan's gangrenous butthole.

People talk about loyalty a lot. I doubt they understand what it is but from now on, this woman will be what I think of when the word comes up.

I don't know if she takes time off to vent somewhere. Maybe she has ulterior motives. Maybe she cries in the toilet everyday. I don't know. What I know is that she has stayed by her husband's side, unmoved, unfazed and undaunted.

You see people posting shit on facebook. 'Relationship goals' or whatever the term is. And there'll be some sort of shitty caption like 'He braided my hair' or 'He let me be the bigger spoon'. I get upset nowadays when I see that shit. Genuinely upset.

You want a relationship goal? Here's one: She stayed by my side even when I'm bleeding the fuck out and have a rotting wound.