Dana came to my door in the pretext of borrowing some sugar. She looked somewhat tearful, I didn’t notice at first and busied myself getting the sugar ready.
And then she told me. Did you know that my husband received a death threat recently? Huh? What? Death threat? What happened?
So she told me the story over tea. A few afternoons ago, her husband, Sam, was home alone because she was here having tea with me. Sam was about to settle down with a book by the poolside and noticed that two of the neighbours’ boys were somewhat rowdy and noisy at the pool. So he just blurted out telling them to tone it down a little.
Little did he know that his quest for some peace by the pool would change his relations with a neighbour forever.
The boys’ mother who sat chatting with a friend by the pool was very upset that Sam had told her sons to tone down and started a barrage of expletives. She promptly told him that if he had any problems about her children, that he could be telling HER about it and not to her children directly. She felt that it was an insult to her that her children were told off for being noisy.
Sam told her that the rules of using the pool was stated quite clearly on the sign board nearby and for her to ensure that her children obey them. Realising that the mother is not listening to any reason, he called up the compound security, explaining to them what happened, that the children were making too much noise by the pool.
So the security guys came, warned the mother and Sam thought that it was the end of the matter.
Later that evening, Dana received a call asking for her husband.
“Is your husband home? I would like to speak to your husband,” the caller said.
“Who is this speaking?” asked Dana.
“Well its none of your business I want to speak to your husband.”
“Well I will not give you any information about my husband unless you identify yourself who you are,” said Dana firmly.
He finally introduced himself grudgingly, and she told him that her husband is not at home and will be back in an hour or so.
Meanwhile, the compound manager also called, asking Sam to come by for a meeting at his office with regard to the incident earlier in the afternoon. Before Sam managed to go for the meeting, someone else had come knocking on their door, bearing a brick.
As Sam opened the door, he was greeted with words that shocked both him and Dana.
“Do you know that we are now in XXXXX XXXXX, and if I were to kill you with this brick, no one will blame me for killing you?”
On hearing that, Dana got very upset and suddenly started a barrage of verbal attacks on her door step visitor.
“Who are you to come to my door threatening to kill my husband?” she cried.
“Go away woman, I’m not talking to you. I am talking to your husband.”
“What do you mean go away woman? Yes you will talk to me “woman.” I will not scuttle away upstairs while you stand here on my doorstep killing my husband. This is my house and you have come here uninvited!” she cried.
Sam acted very calmly (little did the neighbour know that Sam is actually ex army fella who used to work for the UN, so he is quite used to some rough action. He just looks petite kinda like the cute Swiss army guards at the Vatican.)
Dana said that he neighbour was rather shocked that she stood her ground defending her husband. The visitor began to issue more threats to Sam saying that he knew Sam works for the XXXXXXX embassy and was going to write a letter to his ambassador, saying what a disreputable man Sam was. He somehow thought Sam had verbally abused his children, whom he said is now traumatized (both Sam and Dana said the children continued playing at the pool with lots of noise as if nothing that happened immediately after the incident.) He accused Sam of touching his wife, which Sam said, didn’t happen at all because he was no where near where she sat. He said Sam accused his wife of being naked at the pool and set the compound security on them, statements which they verified with the compound security people who said that no such allegations were made.
Dana said she got very upset and could not stand it any longer and started launching another attack on the unwelcomed visitor at her doorstep.
“Who do you think you are coming to our house, bringing this brick, threatening to kill my husband with it. And now you are making my front yard dirty and ruining my garden.”
She took the broom and promptly started sweeping on her front yard, sweeping as much dirt and broken brick pieces towards the neighbour, who finally left in a huff.
Dana and Sam tried to calm down a little bit and the phone rang, the neighbour was in the Manager’s office and the manager himself is asking Sam to come to his office so that he could hear both sides of the story before deciding on the line of action.
Apparently the wife had already wrote a letter to the manager detailing to him her side of the story, stating that she found it utterly unacceptable and was an insult to her that Sam told her children off in public at the pool.
The husband told Sam not to ever look at his children or wife again.
How does one not look at people who share the same facilities as you do? Dana told me about the long conversation she had with Sam about this. The reason we all chose to live in a “Western” compound is such that we are able to interact freely as one would do normally in the Western world. Ie no high walls between neighbours, the ability to wear any clothes we choose to wear and not restricted by the abaya, and of course to share all the facilities freely, no restriction of women only or men only.
But now you have a neighbour who insist that you musn’t look at his children and wife. Why are they living here then? Why don’t they just live in a private villa outside where they can get their own privacy, unseen by anybody behind the high walls, and where the children can make as much noise as they want to without bothering anyone else?
(Jiran depa ni orang sama sekaum dengan mereka yang baru-baru ni mengerjakan letupan di Europah tu. Kalau ikut passport, passport orang putih, tapi kalau ikut perangai dan cara hidup dan cara berfikir, dari benua lain.)
So now Sam wants to look for a different compound to live in. Perhaps in an all western compound. FYI, there are some compounds and clubs here which will admit “Western passport holders” only. Basically white people only. Because Dana said, Sam said if the neighbours had the same Western values as they do, there would be no misunderstanding.
Sam said, while growing up in Europe, if he did something wrong and a neighbour told him off in front of his dad, his dad would in fact called him, gave him a slap himself, and will send him back to the neighbour to apologize for his action. Sam felt that most European parents would not have reacted the same way his neighbours did and attributed it to a difference in culture and lifestyle. [Don’t look at my wife! Whats that all about?]
But Dana pointed out, those neighbours actually did have Western passport, and may have been allowed to stay in those “Western passport holder only” places.
Another friend, told us that there was a time when prospective residents who wanted to live in a Western compound was accepted by face-to-face interviews only. Ie not by their passports but rather based on the manager’s assessment (tengok kulit la tu.) But things have since change for the better, allowing basically any non locals in.
Somehow the whole incident has made me rather disappointed and disillusioned. Have we come to this? Is racial segregation back in fashion? Are we all no longer capable of being tolerant to one another?
What about you parents out there? Are you the type who thinks your children are pure angels, not capable of doing anything wrong at all, that your children are untouchables? And no one should ever tell them to shut up or tone down? And anybody who dares to do so should just be killed?
Or are you people without children? Who have very low tolerance level to noises made by children?
To me, the whole incident shows the great divide not just between people and their cultures, but also to their lifestyle choices. I know of some building in North America which forbid children and pets.
Now that the world is getting smaller and that we are able to learn more about each other, do we in the end just decide to stick to our own kind? Either of the same culture or the same economic status or same family units?
Prejudice makes us compartmentalize everything, including ourselves.
Kampung tul la! The sad part for me was, the family who threatened to kill Sam are Muslims. Thus reinforcing Islamophobia. Luckily, Dana said, she does have 2 good Muslim friends who assured her that not all Muslims are intent on killing others. I really find this part very sad, because there are so many Muslims out there behaving in very un Muslim ways and giving the rest of the Muslims a bad name.
Isn't being a Muslim about respecting your neighbours? About settling your differences amicably? Whatever happened to all that?