My family is either enjoying the cool breeze of Kundasang or busily gorging couterfeit-bonanza miscellaneous items in cheap Hatyai. I'm at home, where my heart is. I call this chapter of my life: Big Green Jealous Beast in Denial.
As I grabed an umbrella and took a stroll to the supermarket, painting Crocker hills on the grey sky and slightly tapping my feet to the rythm of the rain, I shook off my impression of Mary Poppins and remembered an interesting situation involving me, my father and a mosque.
We were on our way to Gurun for its infamous Bihun Soup Gurun; a contender of my father's Best in the World food list. We stopped by a mosque to perform our Asar Prayer.
The mosque was shady and smelled of clean underwear. Just after the Azan was sounded, a herd of Kopiah and Serban wearing kampung folks neared the parameter of the mosque in unison. Like penguins. Or old folks with gout. As they entered the mosque and began to chat about kampung politics, they stopped at their tracks when they saw me and my father.
"Ada apa-apa?" One of the men mumbled under his breath.
"Ada ape-ape ape?" I offered a salam, thinking 'lose the KL accent, this is Gurun.'
"Nak periksa masjid ka?"
"Tak tak, nak sembahyang."
"Owhhhh." The herd continued walking to the centre of the mosque. I deserved that, I thought. It was habitual of me to dressed up in my 'site visit' attire. I sat down and observed them ambiguously. One of them opened a typical exercise book and began preaching about the importance of pertaining one's Iman. I took interest and listened to the whole Usrah from the corner of the mosque, all the while scribbling some important points on my sketchbook.
After praying, I distant myself from the crowd and read my own doa. An elderly man with wrinkled serban approached me with a put-on smile and asked "Awat tak doa sekali?" I answered. "Saya tak faham la doa Imam, saya doa sendiri lagi afdhal." He nodded dissaprovingly. I didn't care less.
As we walked to exit the mosque, one of the elderly man who personafies as the leader of the group pat my back, signalling me to hault.
"Awat hang tak doa sekali? Bapak hang tak ajaq ka?" His tone was condescending.
"Takda la pakcik, saya tak paham doa tu jadi saya doa sendiri."
"Hang reti sembahyang ka? Mana ada orang buat lagu tu!" My father sensed the commotion and exited the mosque. He knew that I am entitled of my own commotion. Haha.
"Takpala pakcik, nanti lain kali saya doa skali." I answered as calmly possible, playing my cards carefully.
"Aku tau, hang muallaf, baru masuk Islam tapi toksah nak berlagak lagu hang tau! Lain kali hang ikot saja kami, jangan soal-soal. Nanti masok neraka!"
I managed to say "Insya allah..." instead of the much desired "Fuck You man..."
God! I pulled myself out from the crowd and smiled a -I'm in a rush-I don't have time for this- smile. I got into the car and told my father everything. Bapak began his usual lecture.
"Lebai mentality. Let them be. They talk about religion and scare people away with their brand of autocratic Islam. Think about it this way, they pray and learned about things they'd learned before over and over again. We pray, learn new things and serve our country by becoming successful. I'm not trying to be judgemental but that's how things are."
Yep, that's how things are. Lebai = Religion inspired fraternity club.
As we drove by the mosque, a group of malay teenagers and kids were playing football, oblivious to the calling of the Azan earlier. With people like the Lebais in the Kampung, I can't really blame them for being ignorant (or scared) of their responsibities.
Yep, that's how things are.