Pensive. That’s how Pak Din described me in the drive home from Ulu Tiram. I moved back to my kampung only a few days ago and already I get three surprises, none of them pleasant.
I discovered that the only man closest to me other than my father has kept a scandalous secret. The man who almost killed me when I was a child is now hale and healthy and married to Azizah, the very woman whose wedding he crashed. Surprise number one.
I discovered that Kak Azizah was Pak Din’s training partner in the mysterious silat style known as Silat Tapak Sendeng in 1969. She was 14 years old at the time while he was 24. They were the only two students accepted to study the art, or so they say. Surprise number two.
I discovered that Pak Rashid and Kak Azizah had been married for almost 20 years but never had any children, even though doctors agreed there was nothing wrong with them. They were now too old to conceive, but the third and biggest surprise is what Pak Din said about it to me.
“Rashid had always wanted to apologise to you, come and find you in Kuala Lumpur, but he was too afraid of your father. Rashid heard about what your father swore after he was put away. That’s why he never came back to the kampung. He knew that your father would make him pay for what he almost did to you,” Pak Din explained.
“But most importantly, Rashid believed that their childlessness was his fault, that your family, your father, had cursed him and his lineage. Azizah never knew he felt this way, only that he was remorseful,” he continued.
“What? That’s rubbish,” I cried. “My father isn’t a… wasn’t a… bomoh or something. I mean… what kind of…,” I stopped and looked at Pak Din.
“It’s not true, right? All this mumbo-jumbo is just fantasy, right?” I asked for reassurance.
Pak Din looked sympathetic. Maybe he felt that he had just burdened me with the responsibility of the couple’s unhappiness.
“I’m not a bomoh, nor am I a doctor. All I do know is that, he carried around a mountain of guilt for two decades, and for me, that can mess up a man’s brain and his biology. When I married Mak Jah, my business wasn’t doing too well, and we could never seem to conceive. But a couple of years later, when the business picked up, then we got Aminah, and then Amran. Less stress, I suppose,” he said, trying to calm me.
“Anyway, it’s a moot point now. Thanks to you, Rashid is now a happy man. Just be content in the fact that just by standing there, you gave a man his life back”.
I sighed and just drove the rest of the way home in silence.