We got back to the house and the cats on Thursday mid-afternoon. They still remembered us and there was no sulking or biting despite our absence. Phew!!!
The verandah smelled of cat's pee because the neighbourhood's tom cats have been using our premises for loads of fun and games. As for the garden, it can but thrive in the tropics. The bunga tahi ayam, the bougainvillea, the cup and saucer flowers were bursting with bloom except for the frangipani, the spouse's favourite flower.
Where we live, the developers have planted a series of bunga cempaka on the wayside and when they are in full bloom the fragrance is quite intoxicating. The spaces in between (which are actually public domain) have been planted with flowering plants, trees of various shapes and sizes, serai and lengkuas by the house owners who live opposite these public plots.
Our neighbours, Puan Esah and Encik Yusof who live a few doors away from us had taken over a little plot about 2m x 1m in size and she had vegetables, chilis, serai, daun kunyit, lengkuas, banana and papaya plants growing in it. Typical kampung plants. They also made a kind of makeshift wooden fencing around this little garden. Again, typical kampung. Puan Esah came from a kampung in Malacca and she said to me they missed their kampung and the life style they had. Now they were in this Kuala Lumpur suburbia because this was where their children were. (That was exactly the same reason why my sister and 'Bang Long moved from their cosy house in Batu Pahat to Kuala Lumpur.)
Then about a year ago, workers from Majlis Bandaran came along, ripped up the little garden , dug up all the plants and threw them away. We found out later that this was done at the behest of the Datin who lived opposite the garden. She regarded it as an eyesore. Fair enough - but this was not part of her property and to add insult to injury she took over the same plot and started to plant (or rather got her maid to plant) a variety of flowers to provide a 'pleasant ' view from her house. She claimed she loved gardening but the garden plot of her corner house had been extended with concrete to enlarge her terrace house! It was a squalid thing to do, to chase out these kampung folks from this little plot and then to covet the same space for their ends, to grow pretty flowers. To me , this is the kind of mentality you often find amongst the Malay nouveau riche , our new middle class, or perhaps our new 'feudal overlords'.
In fact we were invited to visit their house and admire their English wallpaper!!
Years ago, Abah said to me the Malays are particularly partial to one nasty disposition - dengki, meaning spiteful. After over 50 years of independence, modernisation, material accretion and revitalized religious zeal, this streak still persists - from the lowest to the highest level. You don't need others to break up the Malays. They can do a jolly good job on their own. Thank you very much.
So, on the Thursday we got back, we went up the hill to buy some basic provisions. We bumped into Encik Yusof, he shook and held on to my hand and with tears shimmering in his eyes he said Puan Esah died just a few days ago on Saturday. I called Iain and he hugged our neighbour and Encik Yusuf recounted to us her last few hours. At last, Esah, you will find your little garden. Alfatihah.