Monday, 31 August 2009

Iftar with a good friend

The nature of my work has taken me to many places in Malaysia and also overseas. Most of the time, such postings were of a temporary nature and hence my family would be left behind in Johor Bahru. I was, in essence, a part-time bachelor (or looking at it the other way, a part-time husband).

I have gotten used to such situations but nothing brings about the real feeling of loneliness like having iftar (the breaking of fast) on your own.

Many years ago, I was working in a small family-owned construction firm in Kuala Lumpur. Most of my co-workers are Chinese and Indians. I was particular close to a Chinese colleague by the name of CP Toh, who is an engineer a few years my junior. During the non-fasting months, Toh and I would normally take our lunch together at a mamak stall nearby our office. It was only during fasting month that I see Toh have his lunch at the Chinese restaurants.

One afternoon, Toh asked me where I would be breaking my fast. At that time, I was a part-time bachelor staying at the company's apartment in Cheras. Sometimes I would just buy some food and break my fast at home but more often than not (to avoid going through heavy evening traffic), I would work late at the office and then break my fast at the same mamak stall.

"At the mamak stall," I replied.

"Let's go to a Ramadhan buffet at one of the hotels," Toh said. "Never mind... I belanja."

I remember Toh taking me to The Legend Hotel near PWTC for iftar that day. The meal costs RM60 per head, one of the most expensive buffet at that time. I told Toh that it costs too much but he simply replied, "Don't worry lah. Once in a while maa..."

A few days later, I thought I would return the favour and asked Toh if he'd join me for buka puasa.

"Sure," he replied. "Where shall we go today?"

I told him that I read about a few good restaurants at KLCC and thought of trying there. He agreed and so we headed for the city centre in my car. We were a bit late in leaving the office and were caught in the terrible traffic. By the time we reached KLCC, it was already a half-past six. We surveyed all the restaurants but they were all fully booked. Even the food court and fast-food joints were packed. Not a single seat available.

I was regretting my choice of place to buka puasa, when Toh suggested, "Why don't we buy something light for you to buka puasa first... we have the light meal outside at the park and try the restaurants again later when most of the people have finished."

What a wonderful idea... trust my Chinese friend to come up with a solution to problem that actually affects me more than him. And so we ended up buying some pretzels from the Auntie Anne kiosk and pack drinks from the newstand store. We then sat on the steps facing the fountain at KLCC park and chatted away while waiting for the sun to set. Although my friend could have munched into his pretzel anytime, he respectfully waited for the appropriate time.

After what we thought was ample time for the crowds to finish their meal, we went again to the restaurants to try our luck. There were seats available at Kelantan Delights, a restaurant serving Malay east-coast delicacies. Although the buffet spread was quite extensive, I didn't think it was that tasty and value-for-money. I can get more delicious Kelantanese food at cheaper prices at many other simple restaurants around KL.

Toh and I parted ways when both he and I left the company at around the same time. It has been quite a while since I last spoke to him. I am thinking that perhaps I should give him a call tomorrow, setakat untuk bertanya khabar...

25 comments:

Awang Goneng said...

What a wonderful heart-warming story. Our country has gone mad, people from different communities are no longer talking to one another, and we're drifting apart. I read your recollection with joy, especially on this our National day.

Who do we blame? Politicians? Ourselves?

I am not ashamed to say that I was close to tears when I read this entry. Thanks for sharing it with us. I hope you and Toh will remain friends for a long time.

ladymarko said...

I love catching up with old friends... you should call him and tell him that you are a blogger now!

Pak Zawi said...

It is incidences and stories like this that can spread goodwill among the races. All it takes is a little understanding among us to foster a wonderful friendship between the various races and religions. Toh understood it well and practised it. Find Toh, for he is worthy of becoming anybody's friend.

mamasita said...

What a lovely old time story..Toh sounds like a vv swell guy..sedih jugak..cepat! Go and contact him and then please tell us how is he getting on yer..

btw..Kelantan Delights dah tutup kat KLCC..I like their sira labu!!

Saya... said...

Bang,

What a nice friend!

(I if cannot puasa, makan sakan depan anak2...depa tension...tak beradab langsung (depa sound i la)! Abis..nak goreng telur senyap2, depa bau pulak...tak makan, pedih perut pulak..heheh...tahan lapar posa dengan tahan lapar walau cuti, lain wooo!)

D said...

A simple yet warm recollection, I must say. It's great when people respect each other's religion and customs. Don't forget to write an entry once you've managed to meet up with Toh again, eh?

Anonymous said...

A heartwarming story indeed. I wish the generation of today were more like us from the old school. More tolerant and understanding of other races.
Thanks to FaceBook, I am tracking down the ppl who once were part of my life.
Call your friend old stock and hope you and him remain friends for a long, long time.

Patricia said...

It's your stories, like this one, that keeps me returning to your blog again and again :)

Oldstock said...

Dear readers,

Just to update : I called my friend CP Toh yesterday after a lapse of more than 5 years. He is now temporarily based at a project in Melaka. We agreed to meet up again when I next make a trip up to KL.

Oldstock said...

Sdra Awang Goneng,

It is indeed sad to see where our country is going but let's hope and pray that our leaders have some sense.

Personally, I try my best to maintain my friendships will all races.

Nice of you to drop by an leave a comment. I am only a silent reader of Kecek-kecek... selalu baca tapi tak pernah komen :-)

Oldstock said...

ladymarko,

Dah call my friend cuma I tak cakap yang I wrote a story about him in this blog. Maybe I'll tell him when we meet up.

Oldstock said...

Pak Zawi,

Being good friends, whether inter-racial or otherwise, require understanding on both sides. In a sense, I am lucky to find friends who understand my situation too.

Oldstock said...

mamasita,

Kelatan Delights dah tutup? Kenapa agaknya ya...

My favourite place for Kelantan food in KL nowadays is at Leha Kelfood at Taman Melati (on the MRR2 to Gombak).

Oldstock said...

Saya,

Kesian anak-anak hang didera sebegitu rupa, heheheh...

Oldstock said...

D,

I'll do a follow-up entry after I meet up again with my friend, Insyaallah.

Oldstock said...

Anon@16:51 (is this you, Miezarra),

Altough some people say FB is a waste of time, I do agree it is a very good way to find long lost friends.

Oldstock said...

Pat,

You're such a kind soul :-)

Saya... said...

Leha kelfood used to be great when it was at the old roadside site kat Melati...bila dah pindah kedai baru, dah tak dak kick and ambience...heheh...and mahal sangat dah

Oldstock said...

Saya,

Yup, asal-asal gerai tepi jalan je. Bila dah naik taraf restoran, harga pun kena up jugak... heheheh.

Aizan Suhaira said...

Hehehehe... what a 1Malaysia story. The late Yasmin might have been inspired to make Raya ad out of it.

HLiza said...

Sometimes other community understand us better than what we think..I am one of the only 2 Muslims now working in the company and I've never feel left out or unappreciated; especially when it comes to religion sensitivity. I wish most people can experience that..

Anonymous said...

dear oldstock,

no, it's not me...
but yes I do agree abt FB..
I did manage to get in touch with a long lost good friend thru her sister who is my FB's friend.

it's good to know that you had called Mr Toh...a good friend like him is a rarety now..

selamat berpuasa..
miezarra.

Oldstock said...

Aizan,

The late Yasmin had many ideas, so I doubt my little story would have caught her attention. But it's a nice story anyway and I feel good about it.

Oldstock said...

Hliza,

Pada saya, yang penting dlm persahabatan macam ini (sebenarnya, untuk semua jenis persahabatan) ialah keikhlasan dan bebas prasangka. People can easily detect if you are not sincere.

I am sure you have wonderful friends at work too.

Oldstock said...

Zarra,

So if that was not you, who was it, eh? Would love to know who my anonymous commenters are...