I met Nenek ( grandmother!) in 1995. She had a food stall close to my home selling fried Kway Teow ( penang Char fried). I love good food. But of all the good food that I love, Char fried Kway Teow is my favourite and is also the only thing that I don’t know how to cook. ( I have practically tried every single recipe that is on the net and to this day haven’t been able to replicate Nenek’s char fried kway teow).
The fried Kway Teow is cooked with prawns and one prawn is all it takes to kill me. So I make it a point to talk to the hawker and explain my allergy every single time. That is how I started to talk to Nenek. She was in her late 60’s when I saw her first. Sometimes when she closed the shop for the night, she would come and sit with me while we both listened to the karaoke skills of my neighbours ! ( In 1995, after work there was not much entertainment available in KL, except for going to Bangsar on Friday, I spend most evenings in the food court listening to Karaoke while eating my dinner)
Once I asked Nenek “how many kids you have?”
( my life at that time revolved around babies.. each month I spend a day crying when I got my periods, for the periods was a sign that I didn’t conceive)
Nenek looked at me and shook her head
“How come?” I persisted
( I needed to belong somewhere and all my friends and relatives were having babies.. all except me..)
She pointed to her left leg. She had polio as a child and had a limp.
I couldn’t figure out what is the relationship between a limp and conceiving. So I asked again
“No one wanted a crippled for a wife” She replied matter of factly.
I didn’t know what to say to her.
But this post isn’t about an unhappy crippled woman no one wanted.
Wait, I will get there!!!
Nenek’s Kway Teow goreng was very popular. She opened the stall exactly at 6.30 and by then there would a be queue of customers waiting. Each day she brought a fixed amount of raw materials needed to make the kway teow goreng. And each day she closed the shop when she ran out of noodles ! Often there would be at least three or four disappointed customers.
I did my master’s degree in Health services management and anyone with a bit of marketing knowledge would know that all Nenek needed to do was to bring more raw materials.. Nenek was ‘sitting’ on a golden goose.
Being the smart person that I am, I suggested to Nenek that she should bring more raw materials, so she can open her shop longer.
“what for?” Nenek asked
What a stupid question, I thought.
And Nenek explained
“I am 67 years old. I only need money to pay for my rent, my clothes and to buy raw materials for tomorrow. The noodles I cook each day and the money I earn from that covers what I need”
“What about your future Nenek?” I asked
“What about my future?” She asked me back.
I thought of her falling sick, not being able to work, her hospital expenses…etc etc..and I thought she was irresponsible for not saving up for her old age..
Nenek was one of the happiest people I have ever met.. She lived a life worth living..and I have always asked myself if I would have the guts to live a life like hers..and say I have enough..