Words ... are all I have to take your heart away
For someone who grew up with the music of the Bee Gees, I'd like to join the throngs of fans in writing a short tribute to the late Robin Gibb. Gibb, 62, died Sunday of colorectal cancer. Although Robin and his brothers - Maurice, Andy and Barry - were regarded as icons of the '70s disco era, with hits such as Night Fever and Stayin' Alive, I remembered them most for their early ballads. Words was especially popular among hopeful talent time contestants at my Petaling Gardens Secondary Girls School. Thank you, Robin, for the beautiful music which you and you brothers gave to the world.
On a upbeat note, I finally caught up with a long lost friend from my Petaling Gardens and Sultan Alam Shah days. I had not seen MJ since we were in Form Five. She managed to track me down via Mark Zuckerberg's billion dollar venture. Since one of the FB groups which I belonged to organised a BBQ/Karaoke session at the Ledang Urban Retreat at Nusajaya last Saturday, I decided to kill two birds with one stone.
On Sunday afternoon, MJ, her husband and youngest daughter picked me up from the Danga City Mall on their way home to Setia Tropika from a wedding at Taman U. Although there were only three of them at home on that day, MJ would normally have five of her eight grandchildren over on school days. After Maghrib, we had dinner at Remaja, a Malay restaurant at Taman Baru Uda. Earlier, on the lower bunk of a double decker with the corporate colours and logo of McDonald's in a room upstairs, MJ and I had reminisced about our school days in PJ.
Listening to MJ's life narrative, I felt like a self-absorbed person for having indulged in self-pity over my own misfortunes. MJ's childhood and adolescent was a poignant story of neglect and abuse. Neglected by her biological mother, who lived in her reverie of a lost love, in spite of having had seven children with MJ's father. And abused by her malicious step mother, who must have been the Asian version of Snow White's evil step mum in the latest remake (Mirror, Mirror).
I didn't know that when she was our school runner in primary five and six she had to spend nights sleeping at the top of the slide in the play ground of the Police Quarters at Brickfields. Being the eldest, her mother assumed that MJ would be able to take care of herself while Mummy Dearest slipped away with her fourth offspring (the second and third were under the care of her parents) to God Knows Where without thinking of leaving a spare key. That was when MJ learned to be fearless, not batting an eyelash even when she saw an apparition passed her at the top of that slide.
When her police inspector father married her step mother, whom he met when he drowned his sorrows at a cabaret, MJ was eager to please her by being useful around the house. MJ would wake up at four in the morning to sweep, mop, wash clothes and prepare breakfast for everyone, including two of her step mum's children from her previous marriage. When she was 14, her step mum began to suggest that MJ wed one of her younger brothers. That was when the three brothers, who were staying with them, started to sexually harass her. She vigilantly resisted them.
When MJ was 17, the step mum embarked on an aggressive campaign to get her to quit school and settle down. She persuaded her husband to stop giving MJ pocket money and paying for her school fees. When she burned MJ's text and exercise books on the eve of the MCE exams, MJ decided not to return home. Dressed in her school uniform and with not a single sen in her pockets, MJ managed to get RM11 from a stranger who sympathised with her plight. With that money, she took a train to Penang. There she met a drug addict with a heart of gold, who hid her to his shared home. Six days later, she saw her photo in the newspaper. Based on a tip from a neighbour, the police was soon knocking at the door. She turned herself in and promised to return home. But instead, she hitched rides from all kinds of lorries until she reached JB. There, she found a job as a waitress at the Straits View Hotel, where she met her husband.
I've simply gotta get a message to you ...