There I was, happily browsing through some karaoke VCDs at Speedy's in One Utama Shopping Centre this morning, when the phone rang. It was my chatter friend Ana, who teaches English in a secondary school in Ipoh.
She was in One Utama herself, checking out the department stores for Raya clothes. She arrived from Ipoh earlier this morning for a quick visit to an ailing uncle and had to be back in Ipoh by the breaking of fast, to be with her children.
It has been almost a year since we last met. We embraced warmly, found an empty bench next to British India, and made ourselves comfortable. Under normal circumstances, it would have been endless chatter and lots of laughter over mocha or latte at Coffee Bean or Starbucks, but it's Ramadan...
I asked after her eldest, Melissa, and was pleasantly surprised to note Melissa has completed her degree course and would be graduating very soon.
I have nothing but admiration for this plucky, single mother of three who raise her children single-handedly while holding a fulltime teaching job. This diminutive woman faces challenge head-on.
I vaguely remember her pursuing her masters programme on a partime basis in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang; faithfully travelling up and down from Ipoh to Penang every weekend for two whole years, despite every conceivable constraint (mostly financial), to attend classes and lectures.
I asked after her studies. "Oh, I have just completed my course and have received a teaching offer in Penang," she confided. "I am taking it up because I intend to pursue my doctorate at the same time."
What she said next almost broke me. "Would you and Pak Abu represent my family at my convocation in March next year? My kids are not likely to make it and there isn't any one else." Oh girl, you can count us in to be with you on your big day! Insyaallah..