Friday, October 07, 2005

Special October Feature: Ten Things I Love About You, Twisted Tales (No. 9)

Whoopsie...a day late, am I not? Blame it on the still-in-progress conclusion to Kat's saga which whished my whole day away yeterday, making me forget about this till it was too late. No worries though, that means you're gonna be getting the next installment in a mere TWO days! Let the good times roll, I say.
Speaking of good times, today's number is part one of a very popular Writer's Block series I still cherish a lot. It's doubly satisfying when I know that I was never one for descriptive writing - the sort where pretty much nothing but swaying palm trees happens. Yups, you guessed it - "The Cendol Stall" is the closest I think I've ever come to a regular spur-of-the-moment inspirational blog entry. After the overused portrayal of mamak stalls and Indian barbers as muhibbah places, it suddenly struck me how simple and down-to-earth a cendol stall could be. No frills, no Bangsa Malaysia, just a shelter for all trapped in the heat.
Unfortunately, I still regret the last third paragraph which seems overly personal and VERY out of place. But hey - I shouldn't be harping on that if I'm gonna be learning from the moral of the story. So grab a rickety stool, find a shady spot, and enjoy your delicious bowl now!

No. 9 Pick: The Cendol Stall
First posted on January 14th 2005

It was a blazing hot afternoon, like most Malaysian afternoons are. You know, the sort that makes you all sticky and agitated and envisioning mattresses and pillows everywhere? Yeap, it was 3 something in the afternoon, and there I was, driving back home...
Oh sun, go hide behind a cloud or something. I could barely keep my eyes open. My brain was overflowing with...brain-dust, if I may coin that term.
Down a long, long stretch of road in Sri Petaling. It wasn't really that long, but it did seem so, given the speed I was driving at (why does my petrol meter like the letter "E" so much?). Noo! When would this ever end? Traffic light! Great.
Oh joy, a red light. Condemning me straight into the deepest bowels of misery. I could almost feel the wicked, wicked traffic light cackling away.
Green. It HAS to turn green now. I said NOW. NOW! HEY!! WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM ANYWAY? There were no cars coming from the opposite direction, and still I @#$(^%*#@%>:{&^?!!!!
Abandon all hope, laughed the hysterical red light. I have captured Green Light and taken him far, far away where you shall never find him.
Aha! But what was that coming from the opposite way? Another car from afar, racing full speed to try and make it just before the lights turned red.
Consider yourself fortunate, snarled Red Light. I shall get you next time. The other car slowed down, coming to a halt eventually and I realised that THIS WAS IT!! Vroom, vroom, GREEN! I was FREEEeeEeeEEeEEeeeeee......till the next traffic light.
Then it appeared. A beacon of hope, so inconspicuous that anyone could've missed it. An oasis in the midst of the desert of hopelessness.It was a cendol stall. How much I would've loved a bowl, but this little guy in a suit and tie, sitting on my shoulder said: forget it, you're broke. Save every bit you can.
But there was no possible way I could resist. Just one bowl. One ringgit wouldn't make a difference.
And so my weary soul (not to mention butt) plonked itself onto a tattered plastic stool. Deftly the Indian man scooped a spoonful of red beans and those long green stuff into a bowl. Rrrr, rrrr, rrr went the spinning block of ice as it was turned into shavings. Then came the syrupy brown sugar and my favourite part of all, the giant pot he opens and ladles coconut milk out of. Clonk, clonk.
This seemed familiar. I'd once always sat down for a bowl of cendol before going for tuition back in Form 3. Back then things, I simply had to let go of the past. It was dangerous to keep harping on memories. Faces came to my mind, faces of friends whom I had knew and loved through the years. It wasn't like I would never see them again, but it just wouldn't be the same. It was more than the people involved, it was the circumstances and the times.
I took another slurp of the sweet liquid, worried. Sooner or later, this bowl of yummy cendol would come to an end. And it was time to pay for it and go back into the hot sun. I had still so much to learn, to see, to experience, and I just didn't know how. A final gulp, and I was done.
"Terima kasih, bos."
Then the sun went behind a cloud, casting a much needed shadow over the people at the stall. From the hardworking Indian man, to the loud-mouthed Chinese businessman, to the chattering Malay ladies, all continued tucking into their cendol with much pleasure.
Have you had your bowl of cendol today?

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