I felt a sudden longing to be back in Kuala Kangsar. Tok's home.
Kuala Kangsar is a small town where my mother was born. Her father (my beloved Tok) migrated there from Bukit Tinggi in the early 1920's (yes, I have Sumateran blood running through my veins).
As far as I could remember, we would always celebrate Hari Raya at Tok's house in Kuala Kangsar. Not until quite recently, Pekan (my father's kampung) had never been the other alternative.
It was either Kuala Kangsar or Kuala Lumpur. Never Pekan.
As a child, I never asked why we do not celebrate E'id in Pekan. As I grew a little bit older, I figured out that maybe the reason was because there were no Tok and Opah in Pekan.
You see, I didn't get the chance to know my paternal grandfather. He passed away before I was born. I only had little memory of my paternal grandmother. Of someone who was bedridden from a critical illness. She left us when I was five.
I love Tok's house in Kuala Kangsar.
I can vividly picture the two storey half wooden and half brick home . Painted in a nice shade of light blue. A small iron swing on the left of the porch. A wooden garage a bit farther to the left. A sole durian tree in the front lawn.
A railtrack runs at the back of Tok's house. Whenever there's a sound of that familiar horn, Tok's grandchildren would sometimes scurry to the back to catch a glimpse of the passing train.
Farther back, accross the railtrack, there's a small stream. A place where my cousins and I could only dream of venturing. Tok would never allow his grandchildren to wander beyond the back fence. When Tok says no, not even his grown children dared to override his decision.
Tok was a Head Master. A strict diciplinarian.
However, there was this one particular time when we made it to our little stream of dream. Accompanied by our uncle, Tok's youngest son. Needless to say, we had a splash!
It was unfortunately our last adventure beyond the railtracks. A younger male cousin was bitten by a bug and had two wear sarong for 2 days. He looked like someone who had just gone through the boyhood to adulthood ritual of circumcission. Yes. The insect bit him there. The rest of us cousins, naturally, made him the laughing stock for the rest of that E'id holiday.
Tok loved his grandchildren so much that the following E'id, there was a small instant pool made of canvas placed at the back of Tok's house. It was barely big enough for all his grandchildren (almost fifteen who went back for E'id at that time) but nevertheless we had fun.
Tok was also proud of his grandchildren. There was one wall in Tok's house dedicated to family photos. On that wall too, he placed photos of his grandchildren in graduation robes.
I was (and will always be) Tok's fourth grandchild. I was full of envy seeing on that wall for the first time, a photo of my cousin (Tok's eldest grandchild) in graduation robe holding a scroll.
3 years later, his brother made it to the wall.
Both of them were really close to Tok. They went to Malay College Kuala Kangsar. The Eton of The East, some say. Tok took care of them during their days at MCKK.
I remember very well when I received my own graduation photos from the university, I headed to Debenhams in Commercial Road to find a pair of nice frames.
One for my parents and one for Tok.
I passed it to my mother who was leaving for Kuala Lumpur after spending a week and a half in Portsmouth for the graduation ceremony.
"Jangan lupa bagi kat Tok," I reminded her.
I did not make it to the wall. I found about it the following E'id after my return from the UK. I asked Tok where had he placed my graduation photo.
"Ada tu. Kat atas bukit," he said.
Tok's atas bukit was atop a cabinet. Apparently, by the time I had my own graduation photo, the wall had ran out of space. The vain in me had bought quite a large frame which made it impossible to be hung on the wall.
Well, at least, consoling myself, I was the first to be honoured a place at atas bukit. It faced the main living room. In full view of Tok's guests.
Tok passed away on 8th August 2004 at the age of 88.
A week before his passing, the whole family went back to Tok's house. He had just been discharged from the hospital. Tok barely recognised the people around him. The house was full with uncles, aunts and cousins. It was like Hari Raya. But sadness lingered in the air.
That night, we had to rush Tok to the hospital. From the waiting room in the hospital's emergency unit, we could hear Tok screaming in pain as the medical officer made the IV infusion.
That scream never left me til this day.
The next day I went to see Tok at the hospital before leaving for Kuala Lumpur. He was heavily under medication that all he could do was sleep.
It was the last time I saw Tok alive.
A week after, on our way to Tok's house, my mother got a call from her sister. It was the call. The rest of the journey to Tok's house was eerily silent. I was expecting my mother to cry after the call. But she did not.
It was when she kissed Tok's forehead for the last time later that day my mother let go of her emotions. It tugged my heart at that very instant.
After Tok left, Tok Wan, my step grandmother moved to KL and stayed with my aunt. Tok Wan passed away 2 years ago.
Nobody is taking care of Tok's house. I believe it's about time I go back to Kuala Kangsar to visit what's is left of Tok's house. I will do that once I'm back.
And to visit Tok's final resting place.