Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I can see him now, standing at the road corner under the scorching Jeddah heat, two worn suitcases by his side, in all probability waiting for a bus or a cab.

The heat may be unrelenting but his heart is singing, for he has just spent three absolutely wonderful months with his family back home in Bangladesh, savouring home-cooked food and enjoying all the attention lavished upon him by his grateful family.

He considers himself to be very lucky indeed to have been given the opportunity to earn a living in faraway Saudi Arabia, even if it means long bouts of separation from his loved ones.

He is only a farm worker, but the money is substantial, much more than he had ever hoped to earn in a lifetime back home. He feels proud and manly to be able to contribute to the family coffer in a big way.

An approaching vehicle, luxury wheels by the look of it, jolts him out of his reverie. Such wheels are aplenty in Saudi Arabia, especially Jeddah.

After all, Jeddah is home to a large community of highly paid expatriates and an even larger community of workers from the sub-continent and Asia.

He takes no particular notice of the vehicle. Why should he? It's not like he is ever going to be offered a lift by any of them. Nobody has ever stopped for a lowly farmhand before. It's just not the norm in this country.

Sighing heavily, he turns his attention to the road ahead. He knows he has to endure the baking sun a while longer.

Maybe a bus or a cab may come soon enough, he consoles himself, shifting uncomfortably in the absence of a shade.

But the luxury vehicle slows down and comes to a halt right in front of him. A window winds down; a face, pleasant and kindly, appears, offering him a lift, taking him completely by surprise.

For a moment he is at a loss of what to do; how to respond to this unfamiliar situation. Truth be told, he feels somewhat embarrassed by this uncharacteristric show of kindness.

Gathering his wits quickly, in a soft voice he declines the man's offer. But the man behind the wheels is not easily dissuaded.

So, after a few moment of hesitation, the worker lifts his suitcases and shove them into the vehicle before climbing in.

"Where are you heading?" asks the man with a smile.

"Farm Number 5, sir," he replies politely, shifting shyly on the comfortable seat, with the pleasing coolness of the air-conditioning full blast against his body.

"What's your name and where are you from?" the driver asks further.

"My name is Abdul and I am from Bangladesh, sir. I just got back after a three-month holiday with my family in Bangladesh, sir," he explains at length.

"How nice," the driver responds, nodding his head slightly. A wave of anguish washes over the driver's heart, for he too left his own family in Dubai just days before to take up a new posting in Jeddah.

While he doesn't relish the idea of being an absentee husband and father, he knows a good career move when he sees one. He knows he is doing it for his family's future.

It's only been a few days, but he is already missing her and the boys. What is she doing now? How are the boys coping? The silence in his heart is defeaning.

"Sir, are you Malaysian?" The farm worker's sudden query transports him back to the present. "Yes I am," he replies with a tinge of pride.

"Sir, you are the first manager ever from here to offer a worker like me a lift. Thank you very much, sir; you are so kind." He says it with such sincerity that the driver feels a catch in his throat.

Long after he drops the worker at his 'kongsi' (the latter invites him in for a drink but he declines because he is running late for a meeting), the driver is unable to erase the day's event from his mind.

The image of cracked heels, upturned in noon prayer hours before, haunts him. Those heels, in broken rows, belong to the likes of Abdul, here in Jeddah in search of a better future.

In the quiet comfort of his dwelling, he pens his thoughts as a tribute to the thousands of Abduls everywhere, and as a reminder that he too is an 'Abdul' in Jeddah, even if their circumstances differ vastly.

Tapak-tapak retak seribu
Merantau jauh beribu batu
Tinggalkan anak, isteri, ayah dan ibu
Sering memujuk hati yang rindu

Mereka yang sujud dihadapan ku tadi
Dapat ku rasakan rintihan di hati
Mereka memohon doa kepada Ilahi
Semoga dipermudahkan pencarian rezeki
Demi sehelai baju, sesuap nasi
Untuk anak isteri yang di kasihi

Tapak-tapak retak seribu
Mengingatkan kepada asal usulku
Berselut, berlumpur, tanpa sepatu
Memijak, menguis kerikil dan sembilu
Rupanya rezeki aku juga di sini
Memegang amanah dari Ilahi
Supaya berkhidmat setulus hati
Mempermudahkan mereka mencari rezeki!

Lantas aku sujud ke bumi
Membisik doa di dalam hati
Air mata jatuh ke pipi
Aku mohon hidayah dari Nya
Membimbing aku terus berusaha
Memudahkan perjalanan tapak-tapak retak seribu
Mencari rezeki di perkampungan berdebu!

(Nukilan Ariffin, Al Lith, 11 Mei 2009)

Thank you Pak Payne for your "Retak Seribu.." posting that has allowed me to take liberty with your heartwarming experience.


Gurindam Jiwa said...

Uuuh, what a post. Must be more "tersirat" than "tersurat."

Bijou said...

This is much better than reading a morse code.

Kama said...

oopps, i didn't realise it has somehow disappeared..

Ariffin said...

puteri kama ..

huhuhu...u brought tears to my eyes again this morning reading this.
what u hv written so beautifully representing what could have gone on inside Abdul...
thank you.


Dalam Dakapan Ibu said...

Dear Kak Puteri,
Bergenang ayaq mata I baca posting you ni. Somehow sedih pulak teringat my weekly Bangla gardener I tu...

TQ for the beautiful story :)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It feels good whenever we get to pick them up along the way for Jumaat. Try tomorrow.


kay_leeda said...

Kak Puteri,

That's the greatest sacrifice of all. Leaving the loved ones. Rezeki itu ada di mana-mana di bumi yang Maha Esa ini, most importantly - usaha.

Beautiful posting kak.

Kama said...

Pp - What you did was commendable, Pp..not many people would give as much as a thought to these workers.

DDI - I have always placed myself in their shoes, Ibu.. macam manalah kalau kita yg kena merantau cari duit untuk sesuap nasi mcm tu..

Anon 4.18 - tq for dropping by.

Derebar - what a good idea!

Kay - Indeed. we are so blessed not to have to cari rezeki elsewhere. Tu pun ada yg tak bersyukur, asyik komplen memanjang kan..

ruslileman said...

Sis, you are really a very talented person...can't wait to read your next posting.

Kama said...

ruslileman - tq for visiting and for the kind words...