Sunday, January 23, 2011

Money, Money, Money...

I was browsing through Facebook post-subuh today when I chanced upon a friend’s excited whoops at having found some forgotten dough.

The young working mother had thoughtfully stashed away a substantial amount of cash to meet the expenses of her kids’ new school year, and had promptly forgotten all about it.

The money had been languishing in an ang pow packet carefully slipped between some stuffs in a bottom drawer. For how long, I know not, perhaps months.

Naturally she was elated at the windfall, and at this time of the month too, when “whatever’s on hand is cukup-cukup makan aja,” as she woefully admitted on FB.

Many women I know, especially the stay-at-home ones, do this; regularly frittering a small amount from duit belanja rumah (household expenses), and setting it aside for that proverbial rainy day.

It’s a practice not alien to me, considering that for the longest time the family wasn’t in the best of health moneywise, particularly in the years following my divorce, when the kids’ education took precedence over practically everything.

It became so habit-forming that I couldn’t see a coin without wanting to chuck it into an empty balang (glass container) or small tin, just so we would not be caught off-guard, completely and absolutely broke.

I think women in general are like squirrels. It’s a natural instinct to scrimp and save to ensure the family won’t go hungry.

Speaking of scrimping, I am reminded of my late grandmother, the fiercely independent, no-nonsense Puteri Habibah Megat Ibrahim, the woman of fiery temperament who raised me and loved me unconditionally.

Widowed in her early twenties and with four little kids in tow, Opah had refused to return to the family fold in Kuala Kangsar and be married off to some Megat guy within the family, whom she hardly knew.

Instead, she chose to struggle alone in her adopted land, Kelantan, the land of her late husband, that she had grown to love as much as she had loved him before death claimed him at 25 in the early years of the Japanese Occupation of Malaya.

There must have been something about Kelantanese men that she had found intriguing, or endearing, for she chose to wed another Kelantanese; my strong, silent Tok Ayah, a scholarly man who introduced me to the wondrous world of Reader’s Digest when I turned 7.

Although life was quite comfortable following her remarriage, Opah never rested on her laurels, preferring her own hard-earned cash in addition to Tok Ayah's regular paychecks.

For as long as I could remember, Opah continued to generate side-income by baking, catering and sewing. A woman of exceptional culinary and sewing skills she certainly was, none of which I inherited.

I remember in the late 1960s when the neighbours started getting TV sets. I had asked for one for the house and she had dismissed the idea as frivolous.

[I watched TV for the first time in 1967, in the house of an uncle in Kuala Lumpur, during a school term break].

“Mana ada duit?” she had retorted. Of course that had silenced me big time. I felt so guilty for asking. Tok Ayah had, by then, retired, and Pah was running a school canteen.

What I had not known till much later was the fact that she had asked her engineer son, my Ayah Cik Ali, to buy one for the house.

“Mana ada duit?” duly became her oft-quoted mantra so much so I came to believe it. Of course with the benefit of hindsight I could see that was not quite the whole truth.

Not only was there money, there were quite a lot of it too, only that the dear old lady, for some unfathomable reasons, had not wanted to part with it.

This was brought home days after her death in Dungun in 1980, when all her children (led by my late mother, her eldest), myself included, went through her belongings to take stock before returning to our respective lives.

Stashed between the layers of her large and precious collection of Indonesian batik panjang were wads of cash; we kept pulling out fifty ringgit notes by the tens.

In all, there were more than RM15,000 hidden between the folds of those 50-odd pieces of batik alone. If my memory had not failed me, a few more were found elsewhere.

Pah, oo Pah.. "mana ada duit” indeed.... :-)


Oldstock said...

Kak Kama,

My mother spoke to my wife recently, telling her to tell me that when she passes on, for me to look for things kept under her bed. I have a fair idea what she keeps there..

Pak Zawi said...

I consider it as unfortunate for your grandma to have struggled so hard thru her life only to leave the fruit of her labour for others who didn't need it as much as herself. I admire her grit and wisdom though. May Allah bless her soul.

HHalem said...

Now you remind me of my balang full of old coins from the Continental. Coins that backdated more than 100 years ago, Chinese, Japanese dan Tanah Melayu coins included.

Some coins that got lubang in the middle, I guess it is from China. Plenty of coins with the Kepala Queen. Year 1800 something.

The last time I asked my Darling, she said it is there somewhere, but don't know where.

HHalem said...

By the way, love your story.

It is down to earth and a shattering one too:-)

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Oldstock - at least dia bagitau siang2.. no need to go a-hunting later. ours was like a treasure hunt.. :D

Pak Zawi - what you said is so very true. simpan punya simpan, langsung tak merasa. ameen to your doa, pak.

Halem - aiyo, halem.. itu coins ada value maa, kalau hilang rugi! and yes, kind of melancholic pulak rasa when i think of her..

Queen Of The House said...

I guess our grandmas and those of their generation loved to 'stash', hide, or whatever. When my grandma passed away, her things at my mom's house were untouched. For some reason, my mom did not see the need to go through her stuff. After my mom passed away, I had to go through two generations of belongings. Amongst the layers of my grandma's kain batik, we found several gold jewellery, wrapped in tissue paper. In many angpow packets, we found cash and more cash. I guess spending was not what our grandmas did best :)

Saudagar Kacang said...

My mom just told me yesterday, all the coins she collected in her tabung buluh dia dah bank-in di BSN, beli sijil simpanan premium. Total collection, RM1200. All coins!

Anonymous said...

This nenek duduk rumah anak dia, my cousin's neighbor. One day dia ajak my causin masuk bilik dia. Pesan kalau dia mati nanti kain kapan dan segala kelengkapan dah cukup termasuk buku-buku Yasin. Showed my causin kat mana dia simpan. Kain kapan tu dia dah bawa pergi Mekah 'basuh' dgn air Zam-Zam. Duit sedekah untuk org gali kubur dan buat nesan pun ada plus duit untuk bagi kat anak dia kalau anak dia nak buat kenduri arwah and/or bayar hutang dia kalau ada, plus medical expenses, if needed.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

qoth - indeed. so different they were from us, to whom spending is a way of life. it's interesting to note your mom didn't hv the heart to do the necessary and eventually you had to 'cover' 2 generations of stash.

sk - tu baru betul2 menabung! :D

anon - bersedia down to the last details ya.. bagus sungguh dia, jelas nampak hasratnya tak mau menyusahkan sesiapa apabila dia dah pergi.. what a woman..

kay_leeda said...

Kak Puteri,

I guess that's how it was with our grandparents. After mine passed away, my aunties found cash and gold stashed away in nooks and corners of the old kampung house. Rasa macam buat treasure hunt plak!

But the best part about her was she always kept her money in her inner baju when she was alive. Every time she gave us money, panas je...and bau best je....he he :)

Anonymous said...

Pendengki macam orang DAP. Berlagak Islamik dan pro-Umno tapi nak jatuhkan bisnes orang Melayu sendiri.Kau patut duduk Penang tolong Lim Guan Eng halau peniaga-peniaga Melayu.Bila Melayu buat silap sikit, terus nak kritik. Bila mamak charge mahal, tak senyum, makanan lambat sampai, kau ok je. Bila Melayu terus nampak.Hati busuklah kau ni.

Aku bukan owner restoran, aku adalah orang yang benci Melayu dengki kat Melayu. Aku berani junjung Quran. Kau mana berani kan? Kau ni macam Anwar lah perangai.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

err anon 8.14: before you open your mouth and put your stupid foot into it again, please go read this okay, you nutcase?

Anonymous said...

apa lah masalah anon 8:14 ni. sihat ke tidak akal dia ni? melalut dgn benda-benda tak relevan langsung.

kenapa review kedai makan sampai masuk ugama, bangsa, politik, lim guan eng, anuar ibrahim semua ada? hosni mubarak tanak masuk sekali?

adakah dengan disebabkan seorang itu melayu, maka kedai makanan nya yang service sebegitu teruk maka harus di puji juga?

kalau begini lah sikap tuan kedai dan suku sakat nya, saya pun takut nak pegi kedai tu, tak kira lah melayu atau tidak.