Being a constant Musafir, I often get the oppurtunity to meet all sorts of people. Some I managed to keep contact over the years, some I haven't had the oppurtunity to meet up again.
I am terrible at keeping in touch. For that I apologize to my friends.
One of the most recent characters I met was Kak Z. She is a single mother of 5 children, 3 daughters and 2 sons.
How did I meet her? She was the relative on the Ustaz who was accompanying us to Umrah and she was kind enough to invite us to stay at her place while we were performing our Umrah.
I found Kak Z very fascinating. She was sent off to Cairo to study at age 4, and married off at age 14. "After my second menstruation," she told us as a matter of factly.
Not only she was kind and understanding, she was generous and very resourceful. She shared with us stories of her experiences, many of which I found very interesting but I lack the time to retell it all here. She was very religious, but not preachy, even though she told us many stories, it was not told as if she was boasting, but rather that she was sharing with us her tips in life. And for all that Kak Z, I have to thank you for them. It made me see some things in a different light.
Many people just mentioned the joys of having children, but she actually shared with us the difficulty of raising them (somehow people don't tell you about the difficult parts but just talk about the nice parts) and what she did to overcome adversity.
Thank you Kak Z for the glimpse on your rich experiences. We have only just met but I felt that I learnt so much from you and took so much of your generosity.
Then there was Kak S, she was from Malacca and married off to her first cousin here. She yearns so much to return to Malaysia. One of the things that first stumped me was the story of how she clung to her Malaysian passport for as long as she could.
"Yerlah kalau suami kita ceraikan kita nanti, kita takde hak di sini. Macam mana nak balik Malaysia." She said as a matter of factly.
Her sister-in-law told us how, she has even planned how she would distribute her children should ber husband divorce her, and if she had to return to her hometown. Her daughters will be given to the elder-sister-in-law as that sister only had 2 daughters and her sons to the second-sister-in-law as she didn't have many sons.
But after 15 years she finally surrendered her Malaysian passport. And she said she would try to re-apply for Malaysian citizenship the following year.
I feel so much for her. She married a local man here because her parents had promised her to her current husband. She obviously loves her husband and her children but her heart is not here in this country, its back there "di kampung halaman."
And then there is B. She is kind, helpful and I think, lonely. She is very keen to make friends but sometimes I feel she is too enthusiastic to a point that she drives people away. She does not understand the concept of space and privacy and often oversteps them, without realizing that she has offended the other person, causing them to withdraw away from her.
Since I do not know how to tell her about this nicely, (plus I don't think its my place to tell people anyways for I am less than perfect myself) I keep my distance. I keep my distance because I do not want to get hurt. I know she is not being malicious but her words often does hurt me and I am not the confrontational sort.
And then there is O, we met briefly in Nara, Japan. She was a "cultural volunteer." She donates her free time bringing tourists around town, explaining to us the cultural aspects of the city, most of which I wouldn't know or be able to comprehend if she wasn't there to explain to me. She sent me a lovely Christmas card, and I am still surprised that she remembered me. For I was just one of the many clueless backpackers who visited Nara. Japan, felt like a page from the past for me, but she managed to bring back the good memories to me.
And there are more, perhaps one day I will write about them here.
All these characters have enriched my life, one way or the other. They have either given me some lessons in life, allowed me to be grateful with what I have, and made me more aware of myself and how I should behave towards others.
There was a reason why our otherwise separate paths meet and for that I am grateful. My lesson from 2004 is that the spirit of generosity is the most valuable gift one can give to others. And I hope that I would learn to perpetuate the spirit of generosity for the years to come.