Remember when I left home to seek for adventures? You cried and said I was a quitter. “Who was going to put rice in the bowl?” you lamented. “Who was going to protect the house from burglars? Who was going to take care of old me?” you sobbed. I reminded you that you had other children too.
Ma, though I was far from you, I thought of you always. I miss your cooking, especially nasi lemak and Aunty Mei’s ang
ku kueh. My homesickness was “cured” whenever I meet our family and friends, and sometimes, strangers from our neighbourhood. I even drove for four hours to meet Teacher Mohan’s niece who was studying in another part of the country I was in. I tried to keep abreast of news of home. Alas, even our phone calls were never enough.
When I decided to return, I thought you would be ecstatic. But you seemed pre-occupied.
Ma, you said that what makes us special is how we would help one another in the spirit of gotong-royong (cooperation). I remember how people would willingly work alongside you for a good cause. You also said that no individual amongst us is as strong as our collective selves. But, I sense that the spirit is waning. Please help us find our way back home again, to where our hearts truly belong.
Where have the smiles and nods gone? What happened to the mama shop selling my favourite gem biscuits? Why is everyone rushing? And where are they heading towards? Why are things so expensive? I suddenly felt lost.
Your daughter, Hidayah
Hidayah Amin is the author of six nonfiction books and six children’s picture books. She’s also the publisher of Helang Books, an independent publishing house. Her most recent work is Leluhur: Singapore’s Kampong Gelam.