Friday, October 28, 2005

Special October Feature: Ten Things I Love About You, Twisted Tales (No. 2)

Sorriesorriesorrie...late again! By a mere matter of hours, but late nonetheless! Guilty I plead! Haven't been posting as much as I'ld like to this past week, but things are perking up with a week-long break next week. A torturous November, and then we'll be staring at the back of 2005 soon! Yippee!
Can you feel the tension in the air as we approach Number One?! It's so thick, you could cut it with a knife! But then again, you could cut most things with a knife.

Blunt jokes aside, we have here today what I call the epitome of the Cendol Series - Part Two of Three. You might be interested to know that this was originally planned to be Number One, all the way till last week. However, interesting read as I think it is, Another Cendol Story doesn't deliver an impactful enough message to deserve it. It is, essentially, a story about ordinary people interacting in the most everyday of surroundings God conveniently places. Not my best piece yet maybe, but very definitely one I'm proudest of.
And what a pity...I never had another good bowl of cendol after that.

Pick No.2: Another Cendol Story
First posted on 17th March

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...

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