I'm neither shy nor bashful, just reticent and perhaps a bit reserved. Unfortunately, some people have mistakenly put this down to haughtiness.
Also, it doesn't help that I have the schoolmarmish stern look. Many a times I was told I could pass for a headmistress or a disciplinary teacher.
It is truly complimentary to be thought of as an educator, for teaching is one of the noblest professions ever.
In fact, in my younger days, it was a toss between teaching and journalism careerwise, and the latter triumphed.
And they couldn't have been more wrong about the haughtiness. I'm neither 'sombong' (proud) nor 'garang' (fierce), far from it. That stern look is quite deceiving.
Anyway, I prefer the company of books and cats than fellow humans. I guess it is because you know where you stand with the first two but you can never be sure with the third.
I am sure all of us have, at one point or another in our respective lives, one special person whom we call "Best Friend".
A best friend can be anyone - childhood pal, college mate, colleague, spouse - although I don't subscribe to the idea of making one's parent a friend, let alone best friend.
One can be as open with parents as with friends but the special, elevated status of one's parents should never be compromised.
The line that divides the two should be very clear. It's an old-fashioned view, but one I am comfortable with, personally.
Of my four kids, the first three retain their special friendship with childhood pals, who evolved to become today's best buddies.
The fourth, Nawwar, used to have a best friend from school days, until the friend went into the entertainment industry, becoming a 'hot property' actress and in the process, discarding her old skin totally.
My eldest son Naj and best friend Dinesh grew up together and remain close till this day, despite the fact that Naj is a diehard Manchester United fan while Dinesh would give his all for Liverpool.
[Dinesh found an unexpected ally when I married Pak Abu, another Liverpool fan. He still has to contend with me though, for I have been screaming myself hoarse for MU since the 1970s].
Naj is a busy scribe while Dinesh flies with the national carrier but they get together whenever time permits. Their good-natured ribbing and bantering about their respective soccer affiliation is always fun to see.
The other son, Joe, and best friend Jason have been living in each other's shoes since God knows when.
In his schoolboy days, Jason would appear at our doorsteps at the oddest hours. He would then wave a nonchalant greeting to whoever was around before heading straight for our family refrigerator to check out its content.
His family and ours were neighbours when we lived in Subang Jaya, and I love that boy to bits.
There were times when he went AWOL for a few days, and missing him, I would call his mom, asking "Where's my son?" and she would break into a laugh, knowing exactly who I was referring to.
Today Jason is past 30 and already a father, of one little girl called Judith, but to me Jason will always remain my boy.
Joe is in advertising while Jason works in IT. They meet often, for 'teh tarik' and 'tengok bola' sessions, We get to see Jason more often than Dinesh though, because he is KL-based, thus easily available for dinners and celebrations.
Of the two girls, Ann's best friend is somewhat unusual, if I can call it that. Syadid is today a young man in his late 20s.
He and Ann have been bosom buddies since secondary school (they were boarders in a private school together).
Think American Idol's Adam Lambert; that's Syadid (minus the guyliner, thank God!). I love effeminate Syadid, he's such a sweet, sweet boy.
Ann is actually his Big Sister more than best friend. I refer to him as my third daughter. We care for this somewhat troubled young man deeply.
In more ways than one, I am his mom (his parents have been divorced for a long time and both have since remarried). Many a times these ample shoulders were his to cry on.
Syadid is the youngest child from a privileged family. He studied hotel management in Switzerland and worked a stint in Wales before coming home.
Last month he left for a new hotel job in London. We miss this emotionally turbulent young man lots; his expensive yet flashy clothes, his bangles and beads and other accessories, his soft-spokenness and gentle manners...
Our youngest, Nawwar, in turn has a Big Sister of her own. She's Karen, a bespectacled Chinese girl who shares our fascination with cats (she has a few of her own).
Karen is in retail while Nawwar services clients in an ad agency. They may be from different race and creed but they bond very well together.
Throughout my life, I only had two best friends; the first in my teens (read here) and the second acquired in the early days of my divorce. Distance has rendered both friendship stagnant, but it's still there nonetheless.
Hamidah, daughter of our maid Mok Cik Selema, was adopted by my grandparents to keep me company. We grew up together and were the best of buddies.
Although a Terengganuese, she has lived in Perlis for decades. A school teacher, she was posted there originally and must have found tiny Arau to her liking.
Now that her parents have passed on, the likelihood of her returning to roost in Dungun is highly unlikely. She doesn't have any siblings there anymore.
Soleh, one of her brothers, married a Japanese girl he met while working in a hotel, and the couple now lives in Japan.
The one friend closest to me, Julie, migrated to Australia last year with her husband and son. Julie, now in her mid 40s, was my sole crutch during the painful days of the big "D'.
Julie is someone with the biggest heart I have ever met. I could count on her at any time or day to help me in any situation. She was in a multinational ad agency while I had just started my PR consultancy when we first got to know each other.
God has blessed her with an equally wonderful husband, Chee Onn, who shares her kindness for mankind. Their son Oliver must be in Primary Two now. It's been a year since I last saw them all.
Yesterday I received a call from our mutual friend, Suzaina, who informed that Julie was in town for Christmas last December and was frantic because she couldn't get in touch with me nor Pak Abu.
In desperation she went to the karaoke lounge of KLGCC to find out, and was told by the staff there that we were on the Hajj pilgrimage. Smart woman, that one, going straight to the lion's lair!
I do miss our "Coffee Bean / Gloria Jean" moments and hope to see her again in the not too distant future, Insyaallah. True friendship is such a beautiful thing....