I grew up with memories of several characters that settled down in my Atuk's house. We are not related to them but their circumstances. Though my beloved Atuk was not the Penghulu or Ketua Kampung, somehow people would bring these circumstances to his attention. Yes, my Atuk had a huge heart that he could share with his family and strangers, alike.
The Enterprising Tok Lamit
My mom told me that Tok Lamit's parents 'bernazar' that if they got a baby boy, they will donate some monies to a mosque in Singapura. After he was born, the nazar was forgotten and as a result, Tok Lamit became mentally challenged. Instead of being loved by his family, Tok Lamit was 'ostracised' for they saw it as 'bawa sial'. Atuk raised Tok Lamit just like any other normal man till Tok Lamit 'graduated' to live on his own 'home sweet home'. Despite his condition, Tok Lamit was one honest man ('lurus bendul') that people started asking him to sell things as he bicycled around Kota Tinggi and Sedili. People trusted him with odd jobs around their house like plucking coconuts, 'tebas semak samun' and watched over their precious orchards at night.
When he's done with his works, he would dress up in shirts, samping and blazers (courtesy of my Atuk), went around the kampung, eyeing the beautiful ladies - his little weakness. Atuk instilled in Tok Lamit a good sense of pride, though some idiots did call him 'orang gila' (he would later march to my Atuk's house as he knew we would comfort his troubled mind), that made some people believed that he is such a fine 'calon' for their daughter. At the age of 70, Tok Lamit died after the tree he was chopping fell on him. He was loved - his funeral was well attended.
The Irritable Tok Anjang
Tok Anjang has a daughter, who works as a medical doctor, but in his old age, troubled with terminal breast cancer, he had nobody to care for him - how sad that one would neglect one's dad. My Atuk took him in and cared for Tok Anjang like a baby (yes, he wore diapers) with a huge temper (yelling and cursing in the middle of the night if he couldn't bear the pains or whenever he wet his diaper). For 3 years, we celebrated Hari Raya around Tok Anjang's single bed in the TV area (Atuk thought confining him in a room would make him sad and feet isolated). He died in his sleep one fine morning.
Saa'di The Tokeh Taugeh
I didn't know how she ended up spending her time at my Atuk's house but she had been 'nomading' from one house to another (all stranger's) - i guess she chose to stay there. Like Tok Lamit, Saa'di is mentally challenged that her lack of awareness to keep herself clean made her unbearable to many. So, we girls would bring back our clothes, taught her how to wear 'bedak' and bathe twice a day. Perhaps, she felt good about herself that she started going to Bandar and hanging out at the market. Out of curiosity, she asked one makcik if she could help her with the taugeh. Since that day, she went there every weekday - 'ambil upah siang taugeh'. With enough capital, she bought taugeh from 'pasar borong' and sold the ready ones to other stalls - hence, we called Saa'di Tokeh Taugeh! I had fun listening to her stories - how she went to JB on the bus, alone, without paying simply by 'pura-pura tidur' or told the conductor 'saya orang gila' :P.
This tokeh taugeh now lives with one 'cikgu pencen' who is very kind - Saa'di is now her 'masjid companion' and has since quit her 'taugeh' business for good. Every Raya, adorned in her bling-bling and soooo red baju kurung, Saa'di would come over, eat some food and start 'collecting' her ang pau from us. Though, she was once a 'tokeh', she still acts like a little girl of 5.
Tok Keno My Angel
My mom told me that I was the apple of his eyes - he even insisted for a photo shoot with me (as evidenced above) before my parents moved to Kedah. Tok Keno was diagnosed with TB during his teens, which resulted in him being sent to KL for treatments by his parents. A feeble-minded with TB was too much for his parents to accept him back into their home. As a result, Atuk brought him back after my Grandma passed away. Thus, my Atuk had one more 'child to look after in addition to his 9 own 'mother-less' children. They grew up together and Tok Keno got a job with Jabatan Kesihatan.
Like Tok Lamit, Tok Keno is 'lurus bendul' with a golden heart but some people thought that with his condition allowed them to 'bully' him into doing dirty, back-breaking jobs. He was their angel whenever they were in need but later, he was just nobody.
But for me, he's my angel, always - i had many sweet childhood memories, thanks to Tok Keno. During 'malam tujuh lekur', Tok Keno would lighten up Atuk's house - dari depan sampai belakang - with pelita for us to play with firecrackers. During kenduri kahwin, he would gather all the spices and herbs to cook his 'telur pindang' - they were so tasty. During his 'hari gaji' or friday night, Tok Keno would bring back some great satays or noodles for us (no, i never abuse my 'apple of his eyes' status). We got our pocket money once in awhile and of we went to the shop for some junks and pops.
Whenever Atuk going places to my mom's or Chu's, Tok Keno would tell them what to and what not to cook for my Atuk - we cried at times since he knows my Atuk best. When Atuk passed away 2 years ago (yes, this coming 14 July), outsiders were busy telling us that we should send Tok Keno to 'some rumah kebajikan' for he is not the mahram (someone we cannot marry to) and since the stroke attacks he suffered few years back, have resulted in him to be physically assisted, whenever necessary. As my mom and Chu do not reside in KT, those people back home sent him to one rumah kebajikan in JB. We were broken hearted - even having sleepless nights thinking how is he coping there, away from his 'family'?
I went to visit him once - the place, which i thought should be built to make life easy for these people, who physically challenged in mobility, was like a 'place to put you six-feet under sooner'. Located in hilly side of JB, these pakciks would have to walk up to go to the restroom, far far away from their rooms. The daily foods - thick coconut milk, mutton, beef - are for the 'killing'. They have to clean their own clothes and no doctors came around to check on them. After a long 3 months there, Chu decided to bring Tok Keno back - to be cared by my aunties that live around my Atuk's house. He has never been so happy - he's finally back home.
Though i am slightly disappointed by some of my relatives who take no iniatiative to visit him (when Tok Keno pampered them when they were small), I make a point to spoil him with attention and choices whenever i'm back and listen to him telling me stories, which he had told me hundreds of time before.
Well, why i write this long today (heck, i always write too long a post right?)? I came across "Ray of hope’ that turned out to be a nightmare" on MT, today. How could we be so cruel? How could those people entrusted with funds and responsibilities become so inhumane to another human being?
While I know all along that Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat is totally fcuked up (OMG, me and my word) - it is such a huge discredit to all good women out there for it is indeed being helmed by one WOMAN minister and assisted by emotionally-challenged management team, I wonder how could we put a stop to this cruelty. Tak ada Hati Perut!
What do you think we should do? We can't be the crazy ones to handle these mentally challenged people? "Kalau nak padam api, kena pakai air', right?
I am mean, so here's my proposals: -
1. We should never let such cruelty happen in your family;
2. We should ensure all corporate organisations send their people to such establishment to collect merit points under their CSR and enjoy some tax rebates on the company-side and on the people-side too (i know it's 'paksa rela' but until we get more people exposed such scenario, we won't be able to inculcate a culture, starting within the family itself, that we should all care for each other, through good or bad times);
3. Instead of 'rombongan Cik Kiah sambil berbelanja to Kelantan or Terengganu', why not visit these people instead?
4. It should be made compulsory to all children born in this country to visit such establishment, at least once in their lifetime?
5. Train more people to be hired in such establishment, instead of training two 'space tourists' , as I am sure we have many more kind-hearted people out there?
6. Change those heartless people and if we can't, how about changing those people acting as the Government to the Malaysians?
7. And not forgetting, open up more opportunities for students to take up psychiatry. I, for once, applied for this but was laughed at during an interview because they said i should not waste my time with crazy people in Tanjung Rambutan and Tampoi.