Tuesday, 25 August 2015

When life gives you lemons

We need someone to show us real strength and dignity

Yesterday morning, as usual, after dropping my son off at school, I went to my favourite mamak place – I needed a boost before starting my journey to Penang for work. The place is nothing fancy like Kayu or Pelita – it is very simple, situated on a pavement and under two enormous trees but has a really pleasant atmosphere.

I looked around, trying to figure out what to have as I was getting sick of tosai and capati for breakfast. My eyes spotted an aunty having roti telur and by the looks of it, she was really enjoying it. It had been quite a while since I had roti telur. I will be hitting my big 4 in a matter of months and am trying to cut down on calories. But the scrumptious looking dish really got me hooked, so I gave up and ordered an extra crispy roti telur.

While waiting for my breakfast, I sipped my coffee, my eyes browsing the morning newspaper.

“Any good news for us?” asked an elderly man occupying the table next to mine. He cracked a smile.

“Well, so far the only good news is that you don’t have to balik China and I don’t have to balik India,” I joked.

His face brightened up as he laughed. “Malaysia has changed a lot…” he said.

I could sense him going into a deep thought, so I decided to get back to my newspaper. While reading, my thoughts flew to the last time I had roti telur.

It was a few months ago and as usual, I was having breakfast alone. I was nibbling my roti telur back then when a 70 something year old pakcik walked in, dragging along a big plastic bag. Like me, he too looked around at the neighbouring tables before ordering a humble tosai and kopi O.

I knew it was impolite to stare but he had a peculiar look which I could not resist. So I continued watching him while pretending to be texting.

“Itu surat khabar ada baca ka?” he suddenly asked, pointing at The Sun on my table.

I shook my head and passed it to him. As he slowly chewed his tosai, he held his eyes wide open, trying to make out the words on the newspaper he had laid on the table. He clearly had trouble reading but had no glasses with him – perhaps he couldn’t afford a pair, I thought.

A man occupying a table not too far from us suddenly yells to the waiter in Tamil, saying he will take care of the uncle’s bill. I was quite surprised by his generosity as he did not look anything like a charitable person. To put it bluntly, he looked like a rowdy based on his attire, language and the amount of gold jewellery he had displayed on his body.

Minutes later, the pakcik called for the bill.

“Sudah bayar,” said the waiter.

“Saya tadak bayar,” explained the pakcik.

“Saya tau. Ada orang sudah tolong bayar,” the waiter said with a smirk.

Not knowing who settled his bill, the pakcik told the waiter that he is not used to eating for free. He took out a crumpled ringgit note and a few coins and left the money on the table.

“Ayooo…sudah bayar la,” the waiter insisted as he pushed the money across the table.

“Kasi itu duit bayar untuk orang lain. Ini saya punya duit kasi bayar saya punya bil,” he pushed the money back as he walked away carrying his plastic bag.

I was amused. So were the other customers. We smiled at each other as we watched the pakcik walk to a green bin located outside a fruit store nearby. He removed the cover of the bin and took out a few bottles, placed them in his plastic bag and moved on to the next green bin for more recyclable goodies. I smiled as I continued enjoying my roti telur.

People like the pakcik inspire me every day. They remind me that life is meant to be lived with dignity. Life may sometimes hit us hard, but instead of succumbing to its hard hits and coming up with excuses to give up, we should become stronger.

I wish the elderly man had met the pakcik – he certainly needed the inspiration. On second thought, I wish everyone in Malaysia meets someone like the pakcik. We need someone to show us real strength and dignity. God knows only the strong ones are capable of putting up a fight to make wrongs right.

And we so desperately need to make things right.

Moral of the story:

I should have roti telur more often. 

By Fa Abdul

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