Sunday, January 27, 2013

My first drive to Rantau Panjang via Gua Musang, unintentionally! :P

We shifted base back in the early 90’s. From Kampung Bharu to Pusat Kraf Tangan Jalan Semarak. Prior to that we were located at Jln Kia Peng, at some millionaire’s bungalow. No 19 if I remember it correctly. And before that we were operating at 101, Jalan Genting Klang, at Selangor Pewter’s main showroom. I was actually offered a place at Jln Semarak before, but in the earlier days, the place sounds so remote, plus I haven’t anything on me. No tools, nor raw materials or operating equipments. I guess I declined the invitation then. I was young and wet around the ears too. We here means, me, the late Khairul Tan bin Abdullah and about 8 staffs members. I made friends new and acquaintances quickly at the new place. Some still in contact and some on and off. A few more are like family even. I also made the acquaintance of a short, stocky Tom Yam cook. She had her sister assisting her and a couple of guys, young men. She was single but one of the guys lost no time and married her. They were after all living under one roof. Its better for them anyway that they got married. After four children and some poor investment strategies, thanks to the husband, she sold the brand new Toyota HiLux 4WD. Later he fled and married a sweet young thing he fell head over heels to. Contact was only when they needs help with documentations where her husband would called. Being the Samaritan, I almost never ever say no. Besides, I get a free dinner and some ciggie money and then some. Hell, I even helped her husband with his Identification card. I sensed some hanky-panky here. Your father did not register your birth until you were 23? He showed me a letter from the Kelantan branch of the Registration department confirming his birth late registration. Oh,, what ever. Its not my place to question your papers. Back in her home country, her mother pleaded for her to return home. Her two older boys are in Pondoks and the youngest already with Granny leaving her only daugther with her who by now is already a fifteen year young lady.. This is where I came into the picture again. Our paths crossed once in a while before.I saw her recently walking with daughter walking along the road besides the lake opposite the Mosque. I stopped to chat for a while. She told me then that she’s tired, that she wants to return home. Home to Pattani. Fine. What has that got to do with me? Oh! I need someone to drive my car up to Pattani. Uh oh?. No way will I do that. I’ll pay Three Hundred Ringgit. Say again? Three hundred did you say? I’ll do it!. Call me when you’re ready to go, I told her. So she sold her shop, and prepared her car to be used in Pattani after her re-Hijrah. Unfortunately, unscrupulous mechanics did not do a good job on her car or ill advised her on its roadworthiness. She did asked me to have a last inspection on her car, but I thought since you had done everything yourself, there would not be any need for me to give the thumbs up. Its different if you asked me to have it repaired. I’d call once or twice asking if she’s ready. No, the car is still in the workshop and so on and so forth..The call finally came. “Can we go tonight?” She called that morning. I said, “no problem”, I figured I’ve had enough rest already, sleeping for hours on and off the day before, due to late nights on line and karaokeing with my new Beau. :P. That evening I was still driving in my part time capacity for another dear friend. She knew about this “assignment” and ended my day early. I answered another call. ”We start after 9pm”, Mek Peah said. Ok. Wait for me near the lake side hawker centre, I said. Where is it? Rolling my eyes. Its near where we met last. :D. So I went to the designated location, had ox tail soup, fried eggs and rice for dinner and watch the first and second half of the Kelantan vs Johore match, if I’m not mistaken, but Kelantan is a positive. She arrived before the match was over and I began having second thoughts about making the journey there and then. I should suggest to her we do it in the morning, I thought to myself. But she’s already dressed in her Sunday best and ready to go. Her daughter too, so I’d hate myself to send them home and return the next day. I said, Lets GO! But first you will have to follow me to my place to park my scooter. Only then did Fatin said she’s hungry. Oh dear. Ok, let Fatin have her dinner but you, Mek Peah will have to follow me in the car there.. We got back to the lakeside in double quick time. I’ll go get Fatin, Mumsie said. Yeah yeah yeah, why don’t you just go? I was getting agitated. I waited and waited, the minutes passing. Oh dear oh dear, oh dear God please grant me overwhelming patience only to realize mummsie too haven’t eaten yet! No wonder they were taking so long..  Finally, they were finished and ready to go. I thought of topping up my Touch and Go but decided not to. I’ve driven her car before, some years ago, either to the Thai Consulate or the Education department to register her children for schools and various other mediocre tasks, mostly to the nearest Cyber CafĂ© to type her documents . But that was years ago. But the car felt fine and I wasn’t moved to test the steering or brakes. But one thing I realize later were the lights. All the way I thought we were on low lights. Too late, we were already near Genting Sempah. We were driving with the high beam on and the low lights were pointed down, about five feet away! We passed the second toll and turn into the junction towards Bentong, and Raub. We’re now on Federal Main Roads. Two way traffic. Hey! There’s a bus ahead. We can just follow her, said I. I should have google maps to check out the route. Regrets. I began to reminisce going to Raub with Khairul. It was his hometown. I pointed out the Police Station and Quarters where Khairul use to lived. It was near the junction to Fraser Hills. “So, you’ve known Khairul long ago?”. Yes. He was the first person I met in Kay Ell and vice versa. Everything there is to know about him is in my back pocket. And that’s for me to know and for you not to be too nosy about. Of course I told her about some harmless detail. How his girlfriend was the daughter of the Chief Khadi of Raub. I met her once or twice when she visited her relatives in Kampung Baru whose house was near to the Pasar Minggu. She came to our workplace once or twice, at President’s House which was the annexe to the former Regent Hotel. Sungai Wang Plaza was nearing completion. They said the owner, Simon Chong or somebody, who was also the principal investor of the company, Glass Art. They said Simon Chong named the Plaza after his winning racehorse. And that he built it with the winnings. Being 17, we swallowed part too. LOL. What happened to her? I thought Khairul only converted to marry Tipah? No, no, he converted way back when he was in secondary school, along with his younger brother, Latiff. What about his girtlfriend? She has the same name as my mother–in-law Khamsiah. I paused before answering. Her mother forbids her to marry Khairul.but she later told Khairul who told me that she was forced into an arrange marriage. But I gather she got a good husband. Ok that’s enough questions! Now where did that bus go? Oh oh? We’ve lost sight of the bus. Never mind, look for the directions boards. There!, there! said Fatin from the back seat. Jalan Alternatif ke Kota Bharu. Jalan Alternatif? Whatever as long as we get there. So I followed the pointed way. What happened to the radio? Kaput! So I sang a few lines and hum the rest of the tune. Lalalalalalaa. :P She did not notice me rolling cigarettes earlier on but as the road began to snake only did she became aware of that. Let me do it, no, no, no way! I can do it even in the dark, I only need an oncoming car to show me which end of the paper to smoke through. :D I thought the lights were ok. I can see the road fine and oncoming traffic never once use their high beam on us. So we went on. Not too fast but not slow either. The km stones were still 3 figures, the first digit, 4. I think? Never mind, whats a little exaggeration? The road was not that narrow, nor very wide. Some parts have cats eyes. Some parts they have the the post with little white reflectors on the left of the road shoulders and red reflectors on the right-hand side. Other than that, I can depend on the big square Yellow and Black directional boards when approaching curves. Some places have two smaller boards and one bigger one in between, other places have more than 3 or even bigger and more Yellow boards. It was really late by now. The road was lined by small villages and of course the little posts and the cats eyes and the Yellow boards. Hmmm.. wonder where we are? Hey, there is that alternative road sign board again. This way to Kota Bharu, it whispered. Next right. Luckily I saw it soon enough. Traffic was, hey there’s nobody else but us? But after some minutes I’ll detect a light in the rearview mirror. Slowly it approaches. Must be a lorry. Sure enough, it’s a lorry and it overtakes us. At another time, a Yellow Alza zooms pasts. Then the road straightens. Bumpy. With potholes. Never avoid pot holes, Just slow down or simply hover your right foot over the pedal and ride the bumps. Then the Yellow boards instructs again. Left left, left. A few kilos later, its right, right, right. Traffic was almost non existent. The road became more bumpy and twisty. The middle white lines were faded and the surface almost reflecting. Guess even the tar is gone. Every one was not in the mood for chit-chat. Left, left, left. Then right right, right say the yellow directional signs. Hey! Where‘s the road? I turn the steering harder to my right trying to stay on the road. Too late, I swerve right harder because the road is outside of my side window and braked. HARD!. Oh God Oh God Ya ALLAH Yaa ALLAH,, burst from Mek Peah. The car jumped a bit a couple of times. Now, why was that? I wondered. Wait a minute. Did I not mention that “ayat Kursi’ was on my lips many times after that last junction at Sungai Koyan. To the uninitiated, that’s a verse from the Quran, usually to protect against unseen creatures. I heard about cars getting heavier and uninvited passengers suddenly hitching a ride. The car halted in the darkness. We sat for a while and my passenger was lamenting her future expenses cause by this crash. It’s still dark except for our head lights. My heart was not thumping. As if nothing has happened. There no traffic. I tried to reverse but the car won’t move. Forward. Same result. Looks like we’re stuck somehow.I gathered myself and tried to open the door, but it was stucked! Oh dear! Out! You go out first. I can’t open the door on my side. Fatin! Are you ok? Everyones’ ok. Thank god. I opened the door. Oh dear. Its jammed. Can you open your door? Good. Get out. I can’t open it on this side. I wriggle across to the passenger seat and out the other side. We hear funny sounds, animals or birds probably. I looked aaround and spied a light a little lower from where we were about 30 metres behind us on the left side of the road. The ground on the left near the rear wheel was a little higher. Raised like a dike. There was still no traffic. We had gone over a fallen concrete lamp post. The bottom end is stuck under the front spoiler. The post was broken like an ”L” shape with the top going past the right rear wheel. We had gone over the fallen post and hit the broken bottom end. I better try and get help. I went towards the light and saw a Guard House/room, whatever down a sloping laterite road. There was a bar with weights at one end and the other end on the other sideceivee, blocking the road. I called out, SALAM ALAI KOM!! There was nobody around. Only then did I reach for my phone. Emergency Calls Only. Alamak.! My eyes drifted to a post on the left. Di Larang Memburu. Oh oh. No hunting? Hunting what? Lets go back to the car, and hurry up. Lets sit in the car for a while. Lets see your phone Fatin who, strangely, received a call from her Father right there and then. Better not be long. We don’t want low battery life. I tried the Emergency number, 999. . there's more to this story.. only I couldn't wait to finish it. :P

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