The traffic gets heavier. Streams of vehicle rushing through the three-lane system, tailgating in a long que. He strode through the congestion, moving in between other big vehicles, efficiently overtaking each one with ease. It has been his daily routine since the last 2 months, leaving his Keramat home at 7.35 and reached the hospital at 5 minutes before 8. The brand new Yamaha XJ had radically changed his commuting life, no more headache from traffic jam. Be it peak hours or otherwise, it does not matter. It only matters when it rains. Or of course, when he has to travel outstation as part of his work, when riding on the motor is not a very practical option – especially because navigating by GPS system is not possible while riding.
However, this morning he felt a little awkward. Was it because he got a touch of flue, or due to work stress lately, he wasn’t sure. First of all, he missed the morning prayer at the surau, one of the daily routines which he rarely keeps these days, it therefore has not become a routine, rather an exception. As he only managed to get in bed at 1am, he felt a little drowsy when he woke up. People say that as you get older, you need less sleep, however in his case, it looks like he is needing more. 5 and a half hour seems too little for him, as he could hardly open his eyes at the repetitive whispering of his dear wife. ‘Bang, wake up, say goodbye to your daughter’. For the last 2 days, he had returned home late, when all the children were already asleep. Commitments with the national societies, and long hours at the Operation Room was his excuse. Due to this, he has not met the children for two days, and his wife was good enough to ensure that at least he wakes up to say goodbye to his eldest daughter who leaves for school at 6.30am.
‘Bye ayah…aw you look so awful, I can’t wait for another holiday, you need it so badly!’ grinned Liyana. ‘Come here’ he summoned his daughter close, gives her a hug and a kissed her on the cheek ‘hmmm I really missed you’. Not infrequently he overheard Liyana’s disgruntled, as she ‘rarely sees anyone’ when she wakes up and leaves for school. He was deeply aware of this, but just could not help it himself. Coming home late, and yet he still got loads of works to do, ended up going to bed past midnight. He just felt that his physical strength is diminishing. Erratic meal times, lack of exercise, long working hours plus frequent outstations, all have been his routine – is he getting burnt out syndrome? Sometimes he could not help it but put the blame on other people, for lack of understanding of his overwhelming commitment, or is that the case with everyone else? Despite all that, he rarely complains, and he still enjoys working – well perhaps because many of his close friends are still around, furthermore his private practice has just received a boost, when his income has tripled since last year.
After having a quick shower, he put on his clothes and walked to the lounge. The two boys sat quietly in wait – Zaid, who goes to evening school, and Azam who has morning session primary school, should be leaving home shortly after. As he stepped closer, the two boys stood up and greeted him; then Zaid called the iqamah for the morning prayer. He lead the two rakaah Subuh prayer and recited the Quran fluently. He could well have got Zaid – who recently committed the entire Quran into memory, to lead the prayer – obviously a more deserving ‘imam’, however, as the father he maintains the leadership role. Wife followed behind. Liyana had done hers, on her own, just before the school minibus fetched her for school.
He still felt drowsy, and felt like going back to sleep. Ahh he just cant afford to do that, his morning private clinic session starts at 8am, so he had to keep moving. By now Rina his wife, Adam, Fisha their 5 year old daughter and Iyad, their little baby boy, all are ready to leave. Rina is a head mistress at the preschool, she is on duty this morning so has to be at school by 7.30am. She has to drop Adam to his school, then leave Iyad at the nursery, then drive to her school with Fisha with her. Fisha goes to the preschool year 1 at the same school she is teaching.
Rina started the X5 engine, ushered Adam and Fisha in and carries Iyad in her hands to be seated at the child seat in the middle row. He usually helps little, more so when needed, this makes him guilty in retrospect, leaving his wife managing most of the childcare. Most of the time his wife does the shopping with the children’s help, she does her own cooking proudly even though they have their own maid. After work, she sends Liyana and Adam to tuition, later in the evening just before sunset she would go to Zaid’s school to fetch him – an act that she rarely asks her husband to help, knowing his business. She will also attends the parents meeting, send their cars to the garage by herself whenever services are due. She even takes care of all their pets, that includes taking their cats to the vets, something that is needed almost monthly. Excepting the many bills that he conveniently paid online, his wife does the rest – that includes renewing the car insurance, settling the children school fees and related etc. He happily gave his wife his bankard which she can draw as much money needed for the home maintenance.
Often, he wonders, what’s his role at home, apart from being the bread winner – of which he’s proud of, as he is earning 30 times as much as his wife. But money can’t buy everything, and with so little time left for the family, his wife rather have him spend quality time with her and children, than doing any of the house chore. How kind, he thought. He promised himself that Rina is the only woman in his life, though as Muslim, he is allowed another 3, he had never given that a thought. There are many beautiful and intelligent women he frequently meets or get acquainted to, seductive and charming – but he is fully aware that those women are good to look at, but in his home, there is a room just for one, and he is content with that.
‘Screecheeeeeeed, a hasty Wira driver behind him pulled his emergency break, as the car in front changed lane suddenly therefore blocking its passage. A Nissan Vannette van who tailgated behind made a swift move to the fast lane, almost crashing to the Kancil car in front. The Wira driver was obviously enraged. He floored the accelerator and swayed his passage to the left lane, charging at projectile speed. The sudden move was obviously against his favour, as he suddenly realised that there were a group of motorists riding by the lane, three or four of them. Salem was positioned second behind the Kawasaki, he was riding at 90km/h. The XJ body was just slightly protruding towards the middle of the lane as he was ready to overtake the Kawasaki. This put the Wira driver in dilemma, as to his right there was a long trailer, making it impossible for him to pull right. His right foot pumped the break pedal, trying to cool the speeding car down. This did him no good, as the Wira suddenly swerved leftward, almost touching the XJ. He manourvered right a bit, but he was too close to the trailer. He sounded the horn, but it was too late. Just as the critical procession has now reached the top of Shamelin bridge, there was a big thunder.
Salem’s helmet suddenly popped out of his head – his head now exposed bare. His body was thrown mid-air, his XJ was plunged to the middle of the highway, landed just right in front of the slow moving trailer. And the next thing, he saw darkness.
At 7.46am, at Shamelin bridge along the Middle Ring Road II, there was a harrowing scene of a multivehicle accident. A Wira car crushed under a trailer and the driver was trapped under the wheel axle. The back of the trailer had swayed to the fast lane, rammed by a Vannetta van, and an E class Mercedes crumpled to the rear of the van. Crushed under the bonnet of the trailer, was a Yamaha XJ, without its rider. There was a commotion. The already congested three lane traffic now had come to a halt. Several drivers have parked their vehicles along the hard shoulders, trying to assess the scene or offer any help. And the immediate thing they saw was a Wira car burning under the trailer. About ten metres ahead, on the left lane, the body of a young man lied on the ground, motionless. His head was covered in blood.
‘O my God, O my God, Hell, help, its disaster, Mayday!’ cried a woman who just came out of her 3 series bimmer.
Crowd of spectators started to gather. Some move around, trying to do what they think is appropriate. The police, ambulance service, and the fire brigade had been called, it will take at least 30 minutes before help arrived, in this dense jungle of traffic. Meanwhile it is all left to the good Samaritans to help the victims of the accident. Not the Wira driver anyway, left burning under the body of the trailer, there was little can be done, in fact the whole crowd are now keeping well away from it, in case its going to explode. The driver of the van and the Mercedes escaped unhurt, and speedily ran away from the scene, leaving behind their vehicles and all its content which has meant nothing more than their own lives now. The trailer driver also was unhurt, however, his door was jammed. He would not try escaping from the other door, as the trailer now has tilted slightly, leaving the passenger door facing the open air.
What a tragedy, most harrowing. Suddenly there was explosion, and a huge fire went off, ripping the middle body of the trailer. The truck driver was frantic, he still could not escape. He tried breaking the window but it proved stronger than his hands which are partly injured. He jumped up and down in the hope of drawing help. But no one dare to come closer, with the flame threatening to kill, no wise person will attempt a heroic deed now. All they can do is try to salvage the motor rider who is lying unconscious, that is, if he is still alive.
The truck driver now started to feel breathless. His legs were trapped under the seat, his both arms injured, he lost all might to fight the impending doom. He shouted unwavering voice, which only himself can hear. ‘Cut me, cut my leg, just break the door, get me out!!’ if only any person could hear his desperate scream.
Some of the spectators have turned their faces away and tried to move away further – perhaps did not have the strength to witness the driver burned alive, or perhaps afraid if the fire could suddenly turn wild and throw shrapnel or arson at them. The driver of the bimmer, the van driver who survived the accident, and another two people who were motorists riding behind the RX, were the only people trying to help now. They have wisely decided to avoid the truck and the Wira, now they marched to Salem. “Too much blood” commented the woman. She was right, as the van driver bravely touched Salem’s head and tried to turn it aside, they saw a huge laceration on his cheek extending all the way to the scalp. He was lying on his back, and the back of his head was heavily bleeding, in fact the skull frame felt flattened now. No motion, no eye opening, speechless, just occasional breath. CPR? Sure one of them knew, either the bimmer driver, or one of the motorists but perhaps not the van driver, who did not even complete his primary six. Uneducated be he, but kind hearted enough, leaving all those others supposedly more intelligent and capable spectators doing nothing, not even witnessing the event due to fear. He just shrugged his shoulder and shook his head, as if implying that they are dealing with hopeless situation.
Finally he stood up, firm. ‘Look’, he said firmly, ‘the police or ambulance are not here, and they may not reach here for another 20 minutes. Every minutes count for this young man. I don’t know whether he is still alive or not, but I must take him to the hospital myself!’ Then he remembers that he did not even have a vehicle to drive. His van is lying there, stuck to the trailer’s body, perhaps awaiting the fire to engulf it.
The van driver’s act had brought consciousness to the woman bimmer driver. She quickly gather her thought, and without hesitation, blurted out: “You got no car right…I will take him, you just need to help me get him into the car, then we drive him to Ampang Hospital, the nearest place we can get to.” Without second thought the van driver waved at the two motorists signalling them to help lifting the lifeless body to the car. Several spectators who have now learned about small deeds, moved in to help. The woman drove her car slowly, closing on the body. This time the spectators were again made speechless, as they saw, a young Chinese woman, driving a brand new, all singing all dancing 3 series BMW, volunteered to help a Malay motorist who had become a victim of a horrific crash. Little did she hesitated to have her brand new car littered with the blood of a stranger. And moreover, a stranger whom they know have little or no chance to survive, judging by the severity of the injury sustained. So now, the BMW is moving away, driven by a young Chinese woman, helped by an Indian Van driver and a young Malay student, on their journey to save the life of an unfortunate young Malay man – what a true 1Malaysia spirit. After all, they are all human, servants of God. An act of kindness on this bright Friday morning, may pave their way to the future heaven.
A TRIP HOME
A young girl is playing outside the house. She clumsily tries to climb the scooter, gives it a push and rides on, not for long, before it stops and she fumbles. ‘Alaaa…’ she sounded frustrated everytime she fumbles. Not giving up, she keeps trying. All around it looks so quiet. No one can be seen around the neighbourhood. The girl has got all the compound to herself. It’s getting sunnier now, she still keeps practising her scooter. Then she takes a new move. She started to move a little away from the house compound, out of the gate. The road is uneven, and leading away from the house, it takes a downhill course. Salem always reminded his kids to be careful when cycling down the lane, as the slope is drastic and had caused a few serious falls. But for Fisha, today is her first time trying the downhill slope, on her own. Whatever happens with her other brothers and sister, may be they are busy with homeworks, or are they getting engrossed with browsing the net, or watching favourite TV programs.
The road is dry and no obvious obstacle or dangerous objects along the way. Fisha in her casual style, started riding, bit by bit. Suddenly she lost control, just as she strides along with both legs on the scooter, it sharply glided fast, and faster. She held on tight to the handle, but could not think of what else to do. Now the scooter has glided about 30 meters away from the house gate, passing several neighbours front gates. Still no signs of people around. Fisha felt nervous, and surge of cold blood tracks up her throat, she panicked. Now the scooter hit a bumper, and the small wheel was too unstable to climb over the big bumper, as a result, it jolted and spinned sideways. Fisha scream, and the next thing, she fell on the ground, face down.
“Fisha! Fisha!” Salem called. Poor little girl. Her nose was bleeding, she bleeds from the lip as a result of accidental bite from her upper teeth, during the sudden fall. She cried louder, but no one heard. “Oh, Fisha, you poor little girl” Salem came close, stretched his hand out, tries to help her daughter get up. But no hand can be seen, and no voice can be heard by the girl. She continues to cry, and once she was able to get up, she ran straight to the house.
Salem moved closer to the house, his house, which he now does not belong to. The single storey bungalow is a handsome building, brightly painted, surrounded by a well maintained garden which grows a variety of flowers and shrubs. There is a small fish pond at the left inner side of the entrance gate. There is a spacious driveway lined with marbles, facing the verandah, that can easily accommodate 4 large cars. The 3 series bimmer is parked, and he thought it must have not been used much. The X5 which is his wife favourite car, is not there, means Rani must have been out somewhere, leaving the kids at home to look after themselves. The Audi TT is parked closest to the house entrance, which it has always been. The hot hatch which they brought home from London, is rarely driven and despite its age appears immaculate and plushed. The grass which grows around the pond shows sign of recently being cut. Salem carefully moves closer to the door, which is ajar, left open by Fish when she rushed in. He spotted the house number, of course he knows it well and he does not need permission. After all no one will be aware of his presence. In a flash of wind he is already in at the lounge. Now he can clearly hear Fisha’s voice talking to the brothers, who are sitting in their rooms. He peeked inside.
The two boys were busy playing Playstation – Tekken 5 game. The console is kept in their room, so they could spend all day there playing. Liyana’s room is vacant, Salem scan around the house but she could not be seen anywhere. Rina and the baby neither, perhaps she went out for a meeting. Rina holds several key posts in the national NGOs as well as community organisation. She also conducts weekly circles with the students from the Technology Institute. Even when Salem is around, and occasionally had free weekends, he found his wife was busier than him, having at least one long meeting every weekend. 2 or three evenings of her weekdays filled with either meetings or student circles. Even at home, she spends time designing the school planning or online meeting with people in or outside the country. She still does her own cooking though, and that fact alone never fails to leave impact on Salem’s mind. No doubt she is a good wife, despite her busy commitment, she never neglected the children.
However, today was a bit different. Salem wonders how she is now, managing without a husband? Life must be different, he could not wait to see her face, what signs is she showing, of frustration, unending grief, or is she holding strong?
Fisha sits at the lounge, alone, still crying. She had gone in to her brothers, who kept on playing despite hearing her cries. Her eyes swells with tears. No one to talk to, she sobbed “I want dad…where is dad…dad, when are you coming home”. Salem could not hold his emotion, draws himself close and tries to give her a hug. It’s all vacant. He can’t feel or touch her, and she can’t see or hear him. Now Fisha moves towards the computer, and still sobbing, said to herself “I wanna see Upin dan Ipin”. Upin dan Ipin is her favourite TV series, she has watched all the series numerous times, but it never bored her. Now she had the CD on her hand, she press the button but nothing happens. Obviously the DVD player is turned off, and the cable not connected. It really pities him seeing his daughter cries and not getting what she wants, just simple thing like watching her favourite DVD. Maybe, this is what has been happening all this while, but he never realised it, due to his business at work. Only now he has the luxury of time seeing his children in action, which before he has not seen – like what are the kids doing when both their parents are away. But now, it’s too late, nothing that he can do. Not even helping his daughter turning the DVD on, let alone calm her down when she is crying from the fall.
Fisha went to her brothers again and demanded their help. “Fisha! Just press the button, the thing will pop up, there, you just slide in the CD!” shouted Adam. She left the room sobbing even harder. “Come dear, I’ll help you” Salem whispers. Oh, what a pain, he sees everything, he hears everything and yet he can do nothing. Fisha threw herself on the sofa, and sobbed again “ayah….ayah…nak ayah…(dad…I want dad…)”.
“This is not fair!” Salem jerked, and went to his sons’ room. “Zaid, Adam, help your sister…please” suddenly it took him by surprise. A Deja Vu? How so familiar, yes he always uttered the same sentence, all the time, not long ago. Sitting in his sofa, busy tapping his laptops keyboard, writing scientific articles, or reading his students’ case reports or research proposal, he could not be bothered by his kids behaviour. And each time Fisha demands something from him, he will just summon one of the other kids to attend to her request. What’s the difference now? You such a hypocrite, Salem scowl at himself. If he WAS alive now, and sitting at the sofa, busy with his works, will he have attended to his daughter’s request promptly? Not, judging from his past behaviour. No other greater regret than having to blame oneself for neglecting such small deeds could make a difference to a kid’s happiness.
The sobbing had eased off, but she is clearly in pain, her nose and lips were bleeding, and smears of blood can be seen on the leather sofa. Poor Fisha having to bear all these torment herself. Finally she regained her energy, got up, walked to the corner of the lounge, where her school bag is kept. She unzips the bag and took a drawing pad and her pencil case. She began drawing. She is drawing something peculiar. At first it did not seem to make sense, but as she continues sketching, now it became clear what she is drawing. Figure of a man, crooked, jagged here and there, but a near perfect drawing for a 5 year old. Beside, she drew another figure, much smaller, a girl, with pony tail, then she drew her face, smiling face, and her right hand, reaching her father’s. How symbolic. Then she wrote under the figure – ayah, I love you. Does she understand where her father is? Did she know what happened? What does death mean, to a 5 year old? It’s a real pity, at her age, she is perhaps the most unfortunate of the family member to have lost her father, Salem thought. She is too young to understand, and yet she is big enough to remember her father and of course to keep wondering of his whereabout. The baby, is still too small, it makes no big difference to him, since at this age, he is fully dependent on the mother. As to his older kids, they would have understood, and by now, 2 months since the incident, they must have recovered. Or, have they forgotten their father? Are they still praying for him?
Fisha wipes the blood on her lips with her sleeve. Then she stood up, reached for a tissue, and pressed it on her face. Next, she walked towards the kitchen. Her gait is steady, as if she has forgotten all that has happened a few minutes ago. At the kitchen, she took a stool, climbed on it in order to reach the top cabinet and got hold of a plastic cup. Then she went to the fridge, again took the stool with her, climbed up, opened the fridge door and poured a few ice cubes from the freezer compartment. Next she walked to the dinner table, where a jug of plain water is to be found. Slowly Fisha reached for the jug that is full with water, grabbed it and tilted it sideways, towards the plastic cup that is now half filled with ice cubes. The jug felt heavy on her hand, and as it tilted further, it just slipped of her hand and gushed out its content on the table. Fisha quickly caught the nearly empty jug, now she held it tighter, that it had lost most of its content, she could easily handled it and poured the water into her cup. Finally, after a long struggle, she manages to enjoy a cup of chilled water. Just as she made the first few steps away from the table, her right foot landed on the wet floor, that had been sprayed with water from the falling jug. The wet marbled floor was too slippery to hold her feet and she slipped to her right side, banged her head on the table edge and fell under the table. Salem could only watched in horror. How much more accident his little girl has to suffer, and he could only watched in silence, helpless.
Strangely, the table accident did not seem to affect her, and Fisha swiftly got up and walked again. Now she looked so tired that she reached for the sofa and lied face down, probably trying to sleep. In less than ten minutes, she fell asleep.
The whole house seems so quiet. The boys now have stopped playing, they stepped out of the room, and Zaid suggested to his brother to play badminton. Adam went to the storeroom and took out a pair of badminton rackets and a box of shuttlecocks. “Look, I got ayah’s racket, Im going to use it today, I know ayah loved playing badminton…if only he is around now” Adam remarked. “What are you talking about?” Zaid was a little hurt. They ran outside, put on their shoes and began playing. They started long rally of play, both are getting good with the game now. “Aaah it so boring, just the two of us…if ayah…” Adam could not continue his sentence. “Adam, stop it…you can’t bring ayah back, you know that” Zaid tried to live up to reality. They played for another 15 minutes, now both are exhausted. They stepped inside and walked to the kitchen. “Zaid, look, this must be Fisha, she drop the jug and the whole floor is wet, I could have fallen” Adam was quick to point his finger on his sister. As if realising their own fault of neglecting their sister, both were now quiet. Zaid took the mop and dried the floor with it.
They both went back to the room to watch TV. The biggest looser is on and it is one of their favourite series. They have been playing the game all morning, and now they are going to watch TV, up to the evening? What a waste. Salem knew he could do nothing, not that he would have done anything before either. There were time when he sat at home, engaged with various office paperworks, and the children were let alone to do whatever they want. If the mother was at home, she will impose a schedule on them. Salem tended to be a liberalist, or perhaps due to preoccupation with his works, he just could not be bothered. Rather he just let them do what they want. How spoilt are they, now that they have made TV and internet as their main routine. Everyday has to be filled with at least 2 hours or more of watching their favourite programs – from the Biggest Looser, Wipe out, football etc, the list goes endless. If nothing too exciting, they just flip the remote control button from one channel to another until they come across something worth watching.
The whole house is quite again except the murmur from the television set in the boys room can be occasionally heard. The silence of the scene is so engaging, this is interspersed with the ticking from the cuckoo clock that Salem had bought from Geneva last year. The hallway looked so gloomy without the light on. Now he has the opportunity of entering his room, which now does not belong to him. The room has been cleaned, the bedsheet has just been changed. Everything is in order. Salem noticed a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Was it there before, he could not quite recall, but it looks so beautiful, Salem wonders how it looks when the lights is on. He scanned the other corner of the room, there sits the office table. What used to be his table. The mahogany furniture purchased from Mid Valley shopping centre has been his working desk since ever. His wife never work on a desk anyway, though at times she has a lot of writing and typing to do. She just sit on the sofa, or rather works from her bed. That is, when he is not around. When he is home, she just prefer to sit by him, watching TV or just getting huddled quietly, while watching him does his work. To her, the husband must spend a quality time, that is with his wife and children.
The bathroom door is left ajar, fresh smell of air freshener can still be detected. A strange feeling awakes him, there is no sign that the bathroom has been used. The floor is dry, the sink looks untouched. All the toiletries are put in such order as if they have not been disturbed for so long. Has the wife not been using this room since? He has no idea, and suddenly there is this urge to know. Then he moves out to the hallway again, down the kitchen. The rear room which used to be the maid’s room, is also empty, Perhaps they have not had a maid since he left. Salem had a peek anyway, and he could clearly see, the wardrobe, which is half open, contains a few piece of his wife’s dress. And the dressing table too, is lined with a few simple make up set, all belongs to his wife. Salem knew instantly now, that his wife has now taken up this small room. How about the baby? He still was not sure.
…to be continued…