Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seven-year ‘exile’


TO sacrifice and to serve – these are the characteristic of heroes.

I’m not a hero, I have too many flaws. But I don’t deny that I had always wanted to be one. Ever since the days when I was growing up in the sleepy hollow of Anak Bukit in Kedah. Everyone I knew there wanted to be a hero.

But then life takes over and we settle into our regimented lives and earn money to be a good consumer and rakyat.

I, too, settled into this routine. My dream of heroes was confined only to the movies and comics – until tragedy struck.

In 1999, my mother, Faridah Khalid, suffered a stroke. Half her body was paralysed and she couldn’t move or talk properly. All she could do was lie on her bed. Her pain was not just physical but also emotional.

You see, my mother is a strong career woman. She was dedicated to her job. She is also an out-going person. People around her love her and she is always the centre of attention. For her to suddenly be robbed of mobility and speech was devastating.

When news of her stroke reached me, I rushed home. Seeing her helpless numbed me. It hit me at that moment – I had to do something. I had to take care of her. After all, I was the eldest of her three children and should take the lead.

So I resigned from my job in Kuala Lumpur and went back to Kedah to take care of my mother.

I had another motive, you see – I wasn’t close to her. I had grown up hungering for her affection as I didn’t feel loved by her.

Maybe it was because I wasn’t the best in school, or I wasn’t the best child of hers. That was how I felt, rightly or wrongly.

So I wanted to prove to my mother that I was worth something. That I would take care of her when she needed me. And that time was now. So I just went home and did it. I fed her, washed her, cleaned her and kept her company. I was the one who took her for therapy after she regained movement.

It wasn’t easy. People whom I thought were my friends abandoned me. No girl wanted to be with a jobless guy taking care of a sick mum. My siblings were busy with their careers.

Sure, my father was around but he was busy with work. I also wanted to prove to him, too, that I wasn’t as useless as he thought I was.

Heard about kicking a guy when he’s down? Well, ridicule and put-downs came my way. Like vultures, there are people who will circle you in your weakened state, waiting to see you fall. I saw the worst of human nature.

Looking back, I don’t know how I survived. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. All I could do was hold on to faith, and hope that things would get better.

After seven years, I got a job offer in KL. Mother had fully recovered by then and she gave me her blessings to go.

In 2007, when I returned to work at the age of 35, there was a gap in my resume. Thankfully, I got the job.

I am no hero in comic book terms, or like in the movies or politics. The only thing I am proud of is that I am a hero to my mother – that is enough for me.

As a family, we grew up poor. But my mother never complained about life to her children. Growing up, I never felt, or was made to feel, that we were poor.

That’s one of the most important things about my mother which I remember till today. Yeah, she rocks my universe!

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