Stories from Mecca Part Two
I don’t quite remember how many times Father went on the pilgrimage, one of which he also made the pilgrimage on behalf of someone who could not make it or had past away. I am not sure which applies. Was it twice or thrice?
Mother did spend more than 6 months there once, though Mother went for her first pilgrimage with Father. She had friends or rather she had Mak Aji’s relatives to count on. They provided for her stay, I believed. Some of you(this refers to schoolmates and playmates from my hometown only) might have remembered this particular Mak Aji. She was from Kokdiang but originates from Pattani. She would go around our little government quarters neighbourhood, especially to Mak Nah’s and Pak Sujak’s house to give her classes. I would usually be dragged along rather than tag along.
It was easier for a woman to be in Mecca without any proper papers because women usually will be covered from head to toe in a purdah so the authorities can’t really see who or what nationality is under it, unlike a man whose origins can be seen a mile away. But father was there too when some terrorist storm the Great Mosque of Al Haram back then. Luckily he wasn’t there when there was that great tunnel stampede. I shudder to imagine us, angst filled, waiting for news.
While making arrangements for a visa and passport before my trip I went through some unexpected moments. Mind you all these arrangements were made only a couple of days before departure.
Siti Hasnah is my eldest sister. It is because of her that took me to Mecca. My niece, Siti Sakinah, Siti Hasnah's daugther, who studied in Mecca was expecting. She got married mid term of her studies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and came back to be married in AU2A. Ampang Ulu Klang section 2A to the uninitiated. Somewhere between Dato Keramat and Ukay Heights. Nearby is the Texas Instruments factory. Well, she came back, got married and returned to Saudi Arabia to continue her studies.
Her apartment was very close to her university which was only a couple of blocks away and just across the road. Nestled at the end of a quaint little alley the apartment is on the ground floor. Well, not only her home but a few others more above hers. The alley which is two cars wide is not tarred. I remember that. Its not really sandy like a beach but the ground is quite firm but grainy.
As soon as I made the confirmation that I am ready to join her, she took me to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Embassy. There were no one else available! It has to be me.
At the embassy there was this very sexy Malay lady, in a lacy Kebaya, you can see right through and know what brand her brassieres were not to mention its size. They were the half cup type with her breast fighting for space outside her dress. I look at sis, and she just winks at me. Ok, I’ll keep my big mouth shut this time. I found out that this lady is a secretary to the man in charge of visas. She must be in her early forties or a bit younger. Definitely she is older than me, with her Sharifah Aini plumage but what the heck! The cleavage. Va va voom. Ha ha ha.
Our papers were prepared right away. She knows my sister, it seems or my sister knows her or knows someone who knows someone who knows her. I only had one look at her before she disappeared into that bloody Arab bugger’s office. He’s dressed in that white pious looking uniform of the Arabs with his headgear of red checquered Gadaffi shawl draped over it.
Well some Arabs believed that if one tawafs a few times around the cube, all sins are absolved. I’ll get to that story another day. Tawaf, circumambulate, to go around the Kaabah seven times..
Next after Siti Hasnah is Mohamed Sheriff. He is my oldest brother though he is the third in line. There was another sister in between them, Siti Sakinah whose name Siti Hasnah picked for her first born who is also the one we will be visiting in a couple of days. So off we went, my brother and I. It was to the immigration department headquarters at the Sultan Abdul Samad building in Shah Alam. Did I get the name right? Never mind. There we met a senior officer who filled the forms for me. Name please. I handed him my IC. Occupation? I told him that I am self employed. Manager, he filled in the blanks. That gave me something to smile about.
After all it was quite hectic. My sons were only 4 and 2 years old. I am about to leave them for a far away country for my sister’s sake but they make it out like they were doing me a favour. I had just started a business in Klang. At the Great Wall supermarket building cum bus station. The shop on the ground floor facing the junction belonged to my wife’s cousin. He was into souveniers and I fall into his plans perfectly. And here I am about to abandon it to go to Saudi Arabia.
A few minutes later the officer handed me a dark brown covered passport marked Emergency Passport Malaysia. He must be my brother’s tennis partner or something. It all took us only a few minutes but the man in the photograph in that passport sure looked dashing. Wonder where the other ones were.
Mother was there. Father too. Step mum also. My boys and the whole of my wife’s family including her grandma were there at the old Subang International Airport. I did not have one grand mama since I was four. But one grand dad who was more occupied doting Datok K in Sungai Petani. Ha ha ha. Grand dad from my father’s side passed away when I was in primary school. I remember my father cried when the local constabulary brought him the news at our government quarters home one night. I think that was the only time I saw his tears.
Some passengers were already in their ihram. But I chose to change in flight mid journey.
I was handed a camera. It was my brother in law, Lieutenant Colonel Meor Omar Baki. He later became full Colonel and heads the payroll department of the whole of the royal armed forces. UGAT. Urusan Gaji Angkatan Tentera. We took photographs, farewell photographs. They were destine to not see the light of day that night. More of that later in another story.
My wife still would not let me kiss her in public (err,, it's my ex wife now). But I kissed her mother’s forehead, shook her father’s hands then hugged my boys, toddlers still. I took both of them into my arms. I still carried them into the house even when they were in primary school. Whenever we return late after an outing. Then it was through the gates for us.
That was the first time I was flying. Words of advice up to my nose ringing in my ears, circling in my head. Remember to do this or that. Say that prayer. Don't forget this or that. I had 240 riyals on me. Courtesy of my Sheriff. He gave me six hundred ringgits but told me to hand over four hundred to my wife. First thing I spent it on were a couple of cartons of Marlboro Lights, in-flight. They didn’t have Benson and Hedges on Saudi Air.
The plane was barely filled. only a handful of passengers. And the seats were larger it seems. My sister told me that. At the back end were a couple of boys visiting their parents for christmas. Now its all coming back to me.
We’ll meet again some time soon.