Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Riddle of the Sphinx

Myth has it that the Sphinx was a figure of half man and half lion. It stood guard near a road in Egypt, posing a riddle to all who pass by; those who fail to answer correctly were consumed. On its part, the Sphinx promised to turn itself into stone should the riddle be solved by anyone.

Centuries may have passed with not one person able to give the correct answer. Till one day, a young man approached the Sphinx and challenged the Sphinx.

‘What goes on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and on three legs in the evening?’ asked the Sphinx.

To its horror, the man replied with the correct answer, forcing the Sphinx to honour its pledge.

I do not know what happened to the young man as the story I read as a child ended there. Nor do I remember his name. But I do remember the logic of the reply: As an infant (morning), we use all four limbs to crawl. As we grow (noon), we learn to walk upright on our legs. In the later part of our life (evening), we are forced to use a walking stick.


I was reading kak teh’s 'Memories of Pak this Ramadan' about the old man in the television ad, and could not but be reminded of the riddle above. As the only child living with emak, I think can understand and relate to kak teh’s story and the old man. 74 this November, alhamdulillah, emak is still going strong and able to fend for herself. She still does her own cooking, sewing, cleaning, and even gardening. When she is able, she would refuse any assistance to the chores she has assigned herself to. But now, slowly, she’s beginning to accept.

Her other children may not notice it, but emak is getting to be slightly forgetful than before and she is often hard on hearing. These may be minor, but at times I do have difficulty dealing with it. For one, I now have to speak louder which has made me feel very much guilty. Another is that I may have to repeat things many times over as she may have not heard it, or forgotten what was said.

We still joke and laugh with each other. I still play antics with her in hope of keeping a lively atmosphere at home. But slowly, I’m beginning to see the signs of old age on her.

This Raya, she had the rendang ayam outsourced to a neighbour. I cannot ascertain the motive yet. She claims to be tired of having to cook too many things for Raya. Then again, I know she’s beginning to take a liking to the neighbour’s daughter who may be a divorcee. Honestly, I do not mind at all…to both! Perhaps the reason why I’m still single is that Allah would like emak to have a daughter-in-law she could live with. No, its not that her present ones are a bad lot, its just compatibility, I suppose.

Emak like to prepare things in earnest, and Raya is the time when she really tries to outdo herself…but not anymore. She’s given up on our favourite biskut sultana for sometime now, citing the tedious task of baking them. Can’t blame her there as the task of pulping those prunes is indeed tiring.

This Raya, emak has confined herself to making the lodeh, nasi empit, ketupat, rendang peparu, but no ayam goreng this year, unlike before. Alhamdulillah, her sambal daging is a dish that she herself insists on, one that I still dream of eating with the sweetest ketupat palas I can find. Sadly, there’s no such thing as the latter in KL.

Also, rather sad development that has taken place this year is that we – emak and I – are spending the Raya in KL. In the so many years that I can remember, never had we not been back to Melaka for Raya. At the very worse, we would be there by the morning of the third. But not this year. This year, it’s a concrete jungle Raya. We might only go back next week.

There are other things…but they’re things which can never be mentioned, little family secrets that best remain as such. Oh, nothing precious which certain daily tabloids would scavenge for, but, a secret nonetheless. Every family has one. Still, when I look around, I’m grateful that emak is still emak. Perhaps one day, when the riddle no longer applies to her, someone would take the pen and write her life story; the pain she has gone through, the sacrifices she has made, and the betrayal she received. I have asked her to write it all down so that her other children too would know, and weep, for the sorrow she has felt for every one of her children, including me, and more. But emak being emak, I know she will not.

May Allah subhanawata’ala bless, protect, guide and have mercy on emak, for truly, if there is a heaven here on earth, then surely it is at the feet of a mother.


Esah GRO said...

Sweetheart, stories you ni semua poignant belakalah...

Keep it up! (That almost sounds naughty kan, sweetheart?)

cakapaje said...

Haiya! Wa tulit politik pun salah, tulit gila gila pun salah, tulit sidih sidih pun salah! Ini matcam maanyak susah o! :)

Lu kasi can sikit sama wa lah...wa ikut itu olang putih kata 'go with the flow' lah! But thanks for the comment darling...naughty, memang naughty! :)

Kak Teh said...

kak teh pun terharu baca your account abt your mother. So similar...the person who used to be so strongfor us, our pillar of strength and now they are so dependable on us, eh. We still dont know what is in store for us.

cakapaje said...

Thanks kak teh. Alhamdulillah, emak is still far from the man in the ad. Maybe, its just me that needs to take grips of matters...

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