untitled 5-3-1 i

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Continued from here.

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For those of you who want to play "catch-up" here are the previous sections in sequence.

They sat for the longest time on the verandah not saying anything. Every once in a while Mina would look over just to make sure her dead grandmother was actually sitting next to her. She had always thought that superstitions were quaint belief systems but never really subscribed to any. Yet, here was the ghost of her grandmother sitting not more than 5 feet away.

Finally Mina asked, “Why?”

“My child… “ replied her grandmother. “There are certain questions that have no answers that we are capable of understanding… and we just have to trust that it serves its purpose.”

“Then, this is my destiny?”

“Your destiny was to be born. How we use the gift of life is only dependent on the choices we make. And these choices will determine our enslavement or our freedom. This is why I never told you of this before. You had to be free to make your own way in this world and come to your own decisions.”

“I don’t know what to do, Nenek.”

Her grandmother smiled serenely at her. “Let your heart decide, my child. The head will often attempt to escape into the limitations of logic where none exists. This is why many say that the time of the old ways are done. It is true that we should move forward to evolve and improve our lives but in some cases the old ways will always be the only ways.”

“If I do accept this responsibility… how do I help someone like Kamal? Is there some kind of… procedure?”

“Only your complete acceptance will bestow that knowledge. Your instinct will be your guide and teacher. I am allowed to say that when a life is transformed suddenly or as a result of violence there exist a period of denial and confusion. They straddle both sides being neither here nor there and the awareness of the past is soon eroded away. It can often last a very long time. They see the living but are unseen by them. It is those cases where a little creativity is essential. ”The old lady looked out at the bamboo grove. “The sun will be up in a few hours, my child. Rest for now.”

“Nenek!” Mina called out as the old lady began to make her way out into the ochard. “Will I see you again?”

The old lady stopped, turned around and smiled. Mina detected sadness in her eyes just as she turned again and disappeared into the night.
It was the sound of hammering and the voices of men that woke Mina the next morning. The sun was already high as see peeked out the door of the back verandah to see 2 men from the village working away on erecting the roof of the kitchen.

She came out with a tray holding a pitcher of lime water with a sprinkle of salt and 2 glasses for the men. Most of the old roof had been torn down and lay in a pile on the side. Since the kitchen was unusable Mina decided to venture into the village to acquire lunch for everyone. She hopped on to the bicycle and headed out.

As she was about 100 yards away from the house she heard someone call to her.

“Hello! Hello!” She looked back to see Kamal on the side of the road. The sight of him just made her pump on the pedals harder in an effort to get away from him.

She got to the open market just in time. It was close to 11 and the local merchants were beginning to pack away their wares. She stopped by the old lady selling Nasi Lemak and ordered 5 packets. The old lady looked first in her wooden tub of coconut rice then checked to see if she had enough sambal, cucumber and billis to complete the order.

“Yes, I think I can make your 5, Miss Mina. You continue shopping before everything closes. When you come back I’ll have everything ready for you to take. I’ll even get some pieces of beef rendang Pak Awan for your order.”

“That won’t be necessary, Mak Cik… “

“Oh no… I insist! You are granting fortune by buying me out today… I must give you something in return.” The old lady then motioned Mina to step closer and whispered. “His rendang is not the best but they say his food is lucky when he whistles like he’s doing now. The last time it happened someone won the 4 digit lottery.”

“Very well, Mak Cik… thank you.” Mina then walked 2 stalls down and bought a papaya. As she waited for it to be bundled Osman strolled by.

“Miss Mina, I hope you are considering our… business proposition. If you do accept… I think you will agree from the evidence you saw that you will want for nothing.”

“I am still considering it, Mr. Osman.”

“Well, let us know what you decide then.” As he began walking away he looked around smiled and said, “On days like these I often wonder why some of the young ones leave here for the confusion and loneliness of the big city.”

She looked around and watched the unhurried life of the village saunter in front of her. There were the older ladies enjoying a game of mahjong on the verandah of a coffee shop. There was the fish monger sorting and icing the fresh catch for sale and the 2 vegetable farmers catching a short siesta under the shade of the banyan tree… everyone here so-existed in the village with a sense of place and purpose. As long as she could remember these scenes changed very little from the time she was a child. Mina pondered what Osman had said as she clumsily attempted to tie her bundles to the handlebar of the bicycle for the ride home.

“You can have this…“ Came a voice behind her. Mina looked up to see the widow offering up a basket to her. “It would make it easier for you to carry your food home.”

A pang of guilt emerged as reluctance but Mina gladly accepted the offer and took the basket. “Thank you… I will return it when I come back into the village tomorrow.”

“If you don’t find me here at the market… I only live around the corner… the second house with the blue steps. You can just leave it there.”

“I will.”

“I hope you do not mind if I ask you something.” The widow continued. Mina’s mounting unease was making her not want to engage in any extended conversation.

But she relented. “Yes, what is it?”

“I wanted to thank you for your kind medical advice yesterday at the kenduri. I went to the government clinic today but they didn’t seem to understand what I was saying. Maybe I got the terminology wrong. I was wondering perhaps if… “

“I will go to the clinic with you and explain…”

“No.” The widow’s face flushed a little by her own assertiveness. “Miss Mina… perhaps I am being too bold… but I was hoping you would consent to examining me yourself. You are a specialist in these matters. The doctor at the clinic is a GP… and a man.”

Mina understood perfectly the predicament of the young expectant mother but was reluctant to honor the request. “I do not have the right equipment here… the best I could do was to give you a general examination.”

“That would be enough.” Came the quick reply. “Just knowing that I was examined by an expert would put my mind at ease. Perhaps tomorrow when you return the basket… ”

“I cannot promise you anything because my schedule…”

“Of course. I understand. I know that you are leaving in a few days… but I just want to know. Only if you have time… you know where I live. I am sorry to have taken your time…”

“No, no… it was a pleasure talking with you. And thank you for the basket.”

Mina rode back with a little trepidation hoping against hope she would not see Kamal. Her luck held out as there was no sign of him on her entire ride back home. After lunch she went back into the house to continue her sorting and packing. After about an hour she walked out front to take a break and sat on the front stoop. She looked down the road to the village and saw someone walking toward her. It was Kamal looking forlorn and lost. She hurried back into the house to escape any more encounters with him.

Not looking where she was walking in a hurry, she tripped and fell. On the floor she looked up to see that it was the old doctor’s bag that once belonged to her grandmother. She picked herself up and looked out the front window. Down the road Kamal was sitting on the side of the road with is face in his hands.

“Miss Mina! Miss Mina!” came the calls from behind. She went out back to see the men packing up their tools. “The sun is getting too hot. We’ll be back in the morning to finish up.”

“Can you deliver something for me in the village?”

“Of course, Miss Mina… anything you need.”

Mina ran into the house found a pencil and paper and quickly scribbled a note. She hurried outside and gave it to one of the men. “Please deliver this to the widow…”

“Kamal’s widow?”


“As soon as we get into the village… this will be in her hands.”

Mina followed the men a little ways down the road. As they disappeared into the distance Mina looked around but there was no sign of Kamal. She took a few steps then stopped.

“Kamal, if you are here… listen carefully. Tonight when you see the oil lamp lit and placed on the front step come around to the back of the where the verandah is. Do not say anything… just listen. It will be very important that you listen.”

With that Mina returned to the house. As she entered the front door from the corner of her eye she saw Kamal step out from behind a tree from where she was earlier.

continued here...


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