It was all done with haste. The divorce. The big move. The new life. In less than a week, I was on my way to IQKL Institut Al-Quran Kuala Lumpur, a tahfiz smacked in the middle of TTDI, an affluent neighbourhood with shady trees and clean back alleys.
Even when I was 10, places named with acronyms conjures an image of an instutional looking building. IQKL didn't quite fit its name. It was a bungalow house with 50 kids. Even then, before the architecture degree, I knew something was off.
Umi looked at me, her eyes pooled with hope. I looked at her rather indifferently. With my eyes I asked her "Why are you doing this to me?". She blinked and hope trickled and dissapeared into a darker shade of grey 80% cotton 20% polyester long dress. I turned away quickly. My eyes were dry. Too dry for comfort. So dry that I have to rub them to make my tearducts to function as natural eyemos. That gave the illusion of a small boy crying.
There you go. You got what you want. You will spend months thinking that I miss you.
A boy with a permanently surprise look told me to get my things and take my bath. Just before I officially stepped into IQKL, I heard a familiar honking sound. It was the international call for bread, novelty toys and snacks. It was the Babu.
I told Mr. Surprise that I left something outside and ran to catch up with Babu's motorcycle. Babu suddenly stopped near a corner house and honked a jingle. Back in Sabah, when a Babu stops and honks, kids from all corner of the neighbourhood will swarm Babu's motorcycle like ants apprehending a small piece of cake on the floor. In TTDI, parents forbade their children to roam around the neighbourhood and sent surrogates in the form of maids and servants to buy chocolate pies and butter cakes.
I plucked three chocolate pies, two marble cakes and a packet of homemade keropok. The Babu was preoccupied with international diplomats representing their ministries of domestic affairs so I waited by the side of his motorcycle and sat on a curb. To many, Babus look alike. They say that because they haven't seen a fair deal of Babus to notice their uniqueness. From my observation of having to move around every year, Babus are gentle creatures. The source of happiness from their job is not the money they make but the joy and excitement of hungry children gathering and circling around them. Imagine the Kaabah and the myriad of muslims who circles it. Same story, different setting.
I tore open a chocolate pie and devoured it quickly.
Different people require a set of different circumstances for them to freely express their anguish. Sadness and sorrow, like happiness and excitement can only strife in their preferable habitat. Some people cry when:
- They are taking a bath.
- They are with their closest friends and family.
- They are alone
- They are going to sleep.
- They eat.
I am a no.5 cryer.
When the international diplomats dispersed to serve their respective constituencies, I handed over a ten ringgit bill to Babu.
"Hai adik kecil, kenapa nangis?" he folded the ten ringgit and put it in my shirt's pocket.
"Mak saya hantar saya pergi itu tempat" I pointed towards a nearby IQKL's signboard.
"Owh itu macam ka? Janganlah nangis adik kecil... Babu tengok adik kecil nangis, Babu pun rasa mau nangis." he said tenderly with a lingering growl. It wasn't an indifferent passing comments by most Babus that indicates haste. This Babu wants to stay. Babu plucked two chocolate pies, tore open both and gave one to me.
"Ya?" Babu sat down beside me.
"Kenapa orang bercerai?"
"Orang pun macam itu pai coklat juga." He answered quickly and pointed at chocolate pies hanging on the metal container connected to his motorcycle. "Bila ada orang mahu amek itu pai, kena cerai la!"
"Tak masuk akal la Babu ni!" I laughed. "Metafora tak kena!"
The Babu grinned widely and pinched my tear-traced cheeks. "Banyak nakal macam mana mau jadi pak aji?"
"Wokey, roti baru!" Babu snapped with his coarse fingers.
"Hah? Roti apa?"
"Babu cerita sikit, pagi-pagi Babu amek roti sama Ah Chong. Kalau ada roti baru, Babu rasa dulu. Sedap ka, tak sedap ka, Babu kena jugak jual. Lepas rasa, Babu kata Roti Baru! Hapiz tu roti baru Babu hari ni." Babu plucked a packet of keropok and tore it open by twisting the tip before poking the base of the twisted tip. He then simply pulled the tip and it magically tore itself in a circular motion.
"Roti baru!" I exclaimed excitedly.
"Halo uncle!" an ustaz I saw when I was in the registration office shouted from a distance.
"Ha! Itu pak aji sudah panggil. Amek ini kek.." he plucked a few cakes and put it quickly into a red plastice bag. "Babu bagi free, kongsi sama kawan Afiq."
I looked at him like he was a magician who pulled off a trick. "Macam mana Babu tahu nama Afiq... Afiq?"
Babu smiled and offered me a hand. He pulled me up from the curb and whispered in my ear. "Kalau Afiq dapat lima roti baru, datang sini balik minggu depan. Babu bagitau macam mana Babu tau."
I shook his hands and ran back to IQKL, passing the disgruntled ustaz.
In my first seven days at IQKL, I learnt not 5 but 50 new rotis. So I made a list and ranked them in order so I can present Babu the top 5 most interesting rotis.
- Steam comes out of my body when I take a bath just before dawn.
- When canned, the best way to minimise the pain is to tickle the inflicted area.
- When my head was shaved, it feels cold the first day but hot on the following days.
- The best way to stay awake during early morning Quran recitation is to nod repeatedly.
- Our names are written on the back colar of all of our shirts.