Thursday, March 17, 2005

Writer's Block: Another Cendol Story

Like I had several times before, I found myself alone in Seri Petaling at 4pm after a foolishly-spent RM9.18 KFC lunch.
Alas, this tale gets off to a most predictable start: a blazing hot Malaysian afternoon. However, this time around I was a man with a mission. I knew what I wanted, and where I was headed.
There. Tucking itself neatly under some trees was the Cendol Stall Of Lore. The one which would deliver me from the sun's unrelenting rays.
And like the script says, I park my car, order a standard bowl of cendol, refuse his offer for rojak as well, and kiasu-ly ask for lebih kacang. Round and round his machine grinds the ice, giving birth to my beautiful bowl of cendol (okay, maybe that's taking it a bit too far).
As I take the first few sips, a wind starts swooshing to life. Little droplets land themselves on the table, and I, fearing for the blemishing of my pure cendol, make for his sheltered van.
The cendol man sat there on his stool, smoking a cigarette. He looked at me briefly before resuming his smoke. "Nak duduk kah?"
"Tak payah lah, uncle."
He was a cheerful-looking Indian man, probably in his early forties. Murugan. He looked every bit like a Murugan. I didn't have the nerve to ask him his name, but I felt quite sure he was called Murugan.
Casually I chatted up with Murugan on how business was. "Aiyah, ini hari teruk lah...lagi-lagi hujan, mana ada orang datang."
As he spoke, the small drizzle turned into a considerable downpour. Not the sort that'd send you scurrying home totally soaked, but enough to put any sane person off cendol.
Apparently Murugan had been selling cendol for quite a number of years, having moved his stall from Old Klang Road due to increasing competition. He had two children, the older one aged 14. Quite a difficult time for the pockets.
Though he had lips forever curved upwards, Murugan's eyes revealed some degree of hardship and toiling. There was a certain weariness in the way he sat smoking, looking at cars and people passing by in hope they wanted to buy cendol.
"Ini hujan takkan lama punya."
I nodded instinctively to agree, then paused. Was he making a statement of affirmity, or was it one of hope?
"Baik jugalah hujan, hari-hari pun begitu panas."
Simple words, but ones which I felt spoke deep into the heart of an ordinary cendol seller. Many times in life, we are torn between what's best for ourselves and what's best for others. On one hand, Murugan needed it to be unbearably hot so that he could earn more. But on the other, he, like any other one of us desired a clear blue sky. What Murugan was selling - comfort from the heat - was suddenly being given for free by God.
I placed my empty bowl on the counter, and handed him one ringgit.
"Dah nak balik?" he asked.
"Yalah, bos. Hujan."
"OK lah. Hati-hati."
And so ended my latest Cendol Moment. Now, if I could just find an ice-cream man...

1 comment:

nEphilim said...

oi... next time u minum cendol call me also-lah...