Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A shocking morning for Rokiah

Some of the early high rise buildings along Jalan Suleiman, Kuala Lumpur.

Thirty-three year old Rokiah kissed the back of her husband’s right hand to bid him goodbye and left the car swiftly as she had arrived at her office block entrance. “It’s going to be a great day for work,” she murmured to herself, “weather was fine, traffic flow was okay this morning, the kids went happily to their nanny in the neighborhood, without putting up resistance…….” Rokiah’s mind was then filled with images of recipes of Malay dishes she wanted to prepare for dinner at the end of the day.

It was 7.30am in the morning and the traffic of the city was quickly building up; soon there would be massive traffic jam along the road that fronted Rokiah’s office building. She had been working diligently as an administrative officer in a motor car sales office for the past 10years and had been promoted few times since she joined the company as a junior clerk. The office cum motor-car show-room opened each working day at 9am but Rokiah was early every day as she followed her husband out of their home at Kampung Pandan, (a suburbia residential area of Kuala Lumpur). Her husband Othman worked with the Kuala Lumpur city hall as a health inspector; he began his usual working day at 8am.

        Malaysian ladies chatting happily on the way to work

Rokiah hummed softly a Malay song only audible to her as she climbed few steps to gain entry into her office building. She was surprised that the glass door remained locked from inside since the security guard, old Pak (Uncle) Mat Din would greet her every morning without fail at the entrance. Rokiah yelped few times to call up for the attention of the security guard. After failing to get any response she grumbled softly and took out a set of keys from her handbag. As Rokiah entered her office she glanced left and right to catch a sight of Pak Mat. He was there alright at the far right end of the rectangular-shaped show-room. Rokiah walked over to her desk at the left end of the office, passing by some glittering, new car-models as she spoke to the old man in the Malay Language: “Salam, Good morning. Why didn’t you open the door Pak Mat, you know that I come to office everyday at 7.30am!” She sounded a bit annoyed, though she had been friendly and cordial to the old guard in the past; they had been able to get along quite well. Pak Mat, a retired policeman of small built had been a good listener and a good company to chat with. Rokiah was a bit puzzled as her words drew no reply, not even a standard greeting of ‘Salam’ was returned to her accosting.

                        A security guard on duty at the shopping mall

Despite the cold shoulder she received from Pak Mat, Rokiah sat at a table next to the silent security guard and began her usual light make-up, just like she did every morning. This has been the routine for the past two years since Pak Mat began his service at the office. Rokiah found the senior man chatty and warm hearted; they would discuss any issue ranging from politics to P. Ramli movies etc. before more staff arrived.  Then again she noticed that her old colleague was conspicuously different than normal, he was wearing t-shirt and was sarong-clad when he should be in full security guard uniform. Besides that his head was slightly tilted as he stared at Rokiah without a wink, with his eyes half-opened, while remaining steadfast on his seat. Poor Rokiah felt that the old man was still smiling at her, she broke the ice by saying: “Alright then Pak Mat, I’m not angry with you for not opening the door; now it’s close to 8am, go change into your uniform. Otherwise manager Steven will complain about you wearing sarong while on duty when he arrives shortly.” Still there was no response from the senior man; Rokiah began to sense something not right. She hesitated for a few seconds and finally she jabbed Pak Mat’s shoulder with her polished index finger nail to get his attention. There was no reaction from Pak Mat and at that instant Rokiah came to her senses that she had been talking to a dead man since the moment she stepped into the office.

How to tie a sarong onto your waist as demonstrated here. Sarong wearing is very popular in South East Asia nations and in India and Bangladesh too. Many wear them comfortably at home and when going to bed.

Wailing out loud she stood up immediately, toppling the chair she sat on, and almost tripped herself to the floor. Not wanting to remain in the office-cum-showroom of new cars alone with a dead man, she ran to the front glass door to make her exit. Then she realized the damned door was locked earlier by her as that was her practice normally to prevent strangers walking in before the office opened for business. In frenzy she ran and moved in rapid successions to look for her set of keys and promptly realized that she left those on the table where Pak Mat sat motionless. Shouting and cursing incoherently, Rokiah was in tears. It was a situation of fear, tense and desperate disposition, and desolate loneliness for a disoriented Rokiah. When she came to her senses ten minutes later she calmed down and walked feebly to her desk to make some phone calls. Soon her husband Othman, her manager Steven and most colleagues began to arrive one after another to find her slumped at her desk, far away from the dead security guard.

A Black Maria is a police vehicle for transporting prisoners but sometimes.....it's a van used to carry dead bodies.

By 9am, there was a large crowd gathered at the front entrance of the motor-car showroom; as well as two police patrol cars and an ambulance too. Eventually a Black Maria was summoned to take Pak Mat’s body to the general hospital for postmortem. It was known later that Pak Mat Din (Pakcik Mohamed Zaifuldin) passed away of a massive heart attack in the early hours of the day around 5am. He was 65year old.

                               A traditional Malay funeral in progress

For the next few weeks, Rokiah still arrived early with her husband around 7.30am. Her husband Othman had been compassionate to keep her company till 8am, even though there was a newly recruited security guard stationed at the office, a young man in his twenties.

A true story (names have been changed
to keep the identities private)
Alan CY Kok

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