Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Malay Male Family Values

My family is weird. Which means they’re normal, as TV psychologists say that they believe more than 85% of families are dysfunctional.

I went back to Kuantan last Sunday and was reunited with all of them.

My father was recovering from his stroke. He no longer has to rely on the walker. And he still smokes four packs a day. As part of his recovery process, he ‘took care’ of half an acre of grass and weeds.

I went to meet him on the grounds and he was bitching about durian and rambutan trees.

“The fucked up neighbours didn’t keep their rambutan tree under control, and now the roots and branches are robbing nutrients from our durian tree. It’s half dead already,” he said.

“Why don’t you poison the motherfucking rambutan tree? Get lannate. That way, anyone eating the fruits will die as well,” I suggested, pumping water from an abandoned well.

“Nah. I don’t give a fuck about people. They can say and do whatever the fuck they want. End of the day, I’ll still be here. And so will that motherfucking durian tree.”

My father never did succumb to the temptations of winning friends and influencing people. He was a force of mechanical nature all on his own. He didn’t care for the nice praises of sweet-talkers and instead focuses on the end result. Always the results. Not what people say to him, but what they do, or are doing.

He, alone, understands the value of a man’s or a woman’s words – absolutely nothing. And God knows what kind of words were aimed at him throughout his life.

He was accused by the village Imam of getting money from all the developmental projects at the village. That’s why his children all could take care of themselves. Not because each and every one of us understood the folly of trusting and relying on other people, but because my father took dirty money.

Yeah, right. FUCK YOU.

“What if it dies? What then?”

“I’ll plant another one. It just takes 17 years to get a good one to bear fruit. The thing is, it’s useless to talk to those people. They won’t understand. They are a waste of my time. I much rather do something productive than think about idiots.”

So I climbed back up the hill and went inside, where my nephew was lying down cause he was just circumsized the day before. He was watching Totally Spies – colour-coordinated anime and Powerpuff rip-offs by Disney. The picture was getting darker as Alex, Clover and Samantha battle evil dolls and stuff.

“I had to pistol-whip the TV a few times just so that it would be okay again,” said my mother, in her usual dramatic fashion.

She’s never a direct person, which drives me crazy. What she meant was, “We need a new TV set.”

So I went to my brother and said to him, “Let’s go to town later today, after I finish some of my work, and buy a TV set. I also need to use your Internet to send my work to people.”

So we went – three of us, my brother, myself and my sister – and bought a new TV set.

This is the first time I ever did anything like this with my siblings. I mean, we are all strong individuals who value our privacy and our space. We are not like other families who like to do things together. We all move in very different circles and we have extremely differing values.

My brother, for instance, is the most street-smart person I know. He travels with his CB buddies, goes deep-sea fishing and off-road shit. I can always rely on him for the seedier, darker side of the world.

“Say,” I said, “How would you handle monkeys?”

“Real monkeys or human monkeys?” he asked.

“Human monkeys.”

“Destroy them. Kill them. Make their lives living hells.”

“No,” said my sister, “That’s a waste of time. Who gives a shit about other people? You got bigger fish to fry.”

My sisters are extremely strong women. In different ways. They never relied on men and never used them for anything. They rely only on themselves and have looked after their own shit since they were 12.

They repair their own cars, install their own shit in their homes, and managed to do everything they want on their own effort.

None of my siblings stayed at home. All left the first chance they get. I guess freedom and independence and a sense of self is the most important thing in our family.

It all started with my father. Since he was born, he had lived with other people. He was adopted and later sent to study all over Malaysia – living with strangers.

It was a hard life and I understood his desire for his own space when he built his first real home with his own hands. It was a crappy house, with Lovecraftian sensibilities, but it was home for more than 20 years.

Growing up, the four of us have seen the failings of the society and the community and we strive not to be entangled with dead weights and idiots. All around us, in the village, we have mothers who wake up early in the morning and start knocking on neighbours’ doors for last night’s leftovers in order to give her 7 children breakfast.

There is a man who can’t remember how many children he has had.

There is a family who bought a Kancil but rarely drive the damn thing because they don’t have enough money for fuel. They bought the car – a car they can’t afford – so that they can keep up with the rest of the people. To belong. To not lose face.

Fuck belonging. Fuck being one with the community. Fuck face.

My family believes in individuality and anyone or anything that has ever tried to change us have all been destroyed. Change comes from within. Not from outside forces pressuring us to conform to their stupid Kancil ideals. That’s why our family sticks out from the rest like a sore thumb. We are weird. We are dysfunctional. We do not belong, not even with each other. We are individualistic and we do not trust people.

Anyway, we managed to get the TV, splitting the price between us three and took it home.

My father, who never understood the saying never look a gift-horse in the mouth, said, “This must be an old model. They don’t make TVs this big anymore.”