I found this gem from my journal where I used to write down my thoughts and, from time to time, events which took place in literary nonfiction form. This particular writing is taken back from December 2010 when I was 15. As you could probably tell, I was very emotionally affected by the events in the story. Some of the dialogus are written in Malay as exactly as I could recall them when I wrote this down hours later. I have neither changed the formatting nor edited the writing so please forgive my teenage imperfections.
“I can’t believe it – it’s a real wastage of papers and ink!” I thought, as I saw Pak Cik Amin tearing off our paper signs and crumple them, ready to be thrown away. I don’t know if I have the courage to tell him so but I do know another way of reducing this wastage. I sprinted down the hall and very carefully, I pulled the paper off the wall and stripped off the tape. I managed to pull out quite a lot but I’m not fast enough – I had to run.
And so I ran upstairs to ‘rescue’ more signs… and that was when the Mak Cik, who was the head of the catering, called for me. “Dik, ni ada banyak makanan tak habis ni. Kalau nak, mari pek. Kalau tidak, makcik masuk tong sampah je ni.” I was stunned. I mean, throw all the tasty, food! How can you do such thing when there are thousands of poor people out there who couldn’t eat and would grab all these even if they were from the bin! How can even one think of throwing!
“Tapi makcik sayanglah kalau buang,” I stammered. I briefly closed my eyes to recover from the shock I had. “Em, macam ni, saya pergi tanya orang nanti saya datang balik.”
“Ok,” she said, “ Kita orang ada plastic dengan bekas nak bungkus semua ni tapi getah kita orang tak de tau. Cepat sikit ya. Kita semua ni nak balik dah. Kalau lambat nak buang je ni.”
I nodded. “Makcik tunggu ya, nanti saya datang. Saya janji.”
I ran downstairs, two steps at a time, and leapt down at the bottom of the stairs, skipping the last five steps. I felt pairs of eyes burning at me, accusing me of misbehaving, but I believe that manners and the perception of others could be ignored at a time like this. I found my dad packing in the conference secretarial room. “Abah, makcik caterer nak buang makanan tak habis. Dia kata kalau nak, pergi pek sekarang. So nak buat macam mana.”
My dad stood up and thought for a while. In the end he said, “Pergi cari Pakcik Burhan, suruh dia pergi berkira,” and he continued with his packing. I can’t blame him for not bothering. As the head secretary of MUAFAKAT, he has loads of things to do.
“Mana Pakcik Burhan?”
“Tadi ada dekat atas. Pergi cari.”
I ran for the stairs. On the way, I passed by the conference hall and decided to peak in. Nobody was there except for the two reporters from Utusan Malaysia and the TV crew from TV ALHIJRAH. I ran back up, two steps at a time and sprinted into the dining hall. He’s nowhere to be seen, I ran across the whole area of the 2nd floor until I came back to where I started. Presently, I found Pak Cik Amin tearing down more signs. I shook my head; I can’t be bothered just yet. Instead, I walked over to him to ask him a question.
I walked closer and tried again, this time slightly louder. “Em, Pakcik Amin.”
He turned around, “Ya?”
“Pakcik Amin ada nampak Pakcik Burhan tak?”
He straightened up and thought, his eyes wondering far away. “Tadi Pakcik Amin makan dengan dia dekat dewan makan.”
“Aiman dah tengok dah tapi tak de.”
He wrinkled his eyebrows, “Ya ke? Oh… mungkin ada dalam bilik.”
“Aiman dah cari tapi tak ada.”
He frowned and looked down to the floor. Then, he suddenly smiled and said, “Takpe lah. Adalah tu Pakcik Burhan pergi mana mana tu.” He then turned and went back to his paper tearing.
My brother came running with a few more crumpled signs. “Ni Pakcik Amin,” he announced and proudly handed him his ‘assignment’. A thought suddenly struck me. “It might work,” I thought and chased after Ali as he ran back to pull off more. “Ali, jangan koyak, ni semua waste kalau koyak sebab kertas ni boleh guna untuk lain kali.” Ali paled slightly. He hadn’t thought of it. As a boy who is very much concerned about the environment, he thoroughly understood what it means to waste, even if he is only seven. “Tapi Pakcik Amin yang suruh,” he said as he cast a guilty glance to Pakcik Amin.
“Tahu, tapi Ali tahu kan Ali tak boleh buat macam ni. Ali try save yang mana Ali boleh,” I suggested to him.
“Tapi Ali nak buat macam mana?” he asked me. Knowing how smart my little brother is, I knew that he’ll think of something himself. “Ali fikirlah, Kaman ada benda lain nak save.”
I left him standing solemnly with the paper sign in his hand. I went past the dining hall and the lady called for me again. “Cepat, dik. Kita nak balik dah ni!” I was already almost in tears. “Kejab, sekejab, please tunggu sekejab,” I pleaded to her and I ran back downstairs in the same manner as I had done before. This time, nobody bothers much. Everyone is just as busy at the moment, packing and rushing here and there. I found mum talking to Aunty Ram.
“Ma, makcik caterer nak buang makanan,” I almost yelled, words tumbling upon each other as they jumped out of my mouth. “Abah suruh cari Pakcik Burhan tapi dia takde. Nak buat macam mana ma. Diaorang nak balik dah. Kalau lambat they’ll just throw them away. Sayanglah. Mama, cepatlah.”
“Chop, chop, sabar. Nantikan mama pengsan dulu. Pening mama laju sangat.” Mum excused herself and walked up the stairs. I attempted to run but she stopped me from doing so. I thought we were wasting precious seconds.
Mum came up and met the woman. The woman told mum that there were a dozen packs of food, about 3 to 4 trays of kuehs, a whole tank of teh tarik and another of pengat pisang. “Tapi air dengan pengat tak boleh nak pek sebab kita tak de getah,” the woman said.
“Tak pe. First things first. Jom kita pek. Nanti akak pergi kutip lagi askar askar kat bawah,” mum replied.
“Ju, Hana, Khadijah and Sham dah balik.”
Mum looked at me and sighed. “Alamak, kalau macam tu susahlah. Tak pe, mama pack dulu. Aiman go and look for your sisters and Abang Sha-din,” mum told me.
I giggled as I ran back downstairs. Sha-din isn’t his real name but his actual name (which we found out later was Syarafuddin) is just so long that the ‘sha’ and the ‘din’ parts were the only ones that mum managed to remember. We all climbed up the stairs and went into their pantry. The floor was really, really dirty and it has the icky-sticky feeling that the kitchen floor at my house never had. I had to walk on tiptoes and imagine that I was somewhere else. Mum gave out the tasks: Aeshah and Anisah were told to bring down the food and offer them to the people around the area while Abang Sha-din and I would pack the food. And so we worked out quite well until Abang Sha-din’s parents were looking for him. Anisah brought the message to him saying that they were about to leave. Abang Sha-din took a generous amount of food back with him when I told him that we are unable to distribute all of them.
So I was left packing alone. We ran out of plastic bags and I went out to fetch more. Upon reaching the serving table (where on it was a box of plastic bags), I saw my eager brother at the other side of the corridor, waiting as Pak Cik Amin pulled out the signs. Once he did so, Ali would snatch it, solemnly fold in the tape and waited for the next one. Pak Cik Amin looked curiously at Ali but he then smiled. I stifled a giggle. Although Ali is famous for his ingenious ideas, this one is really funny. Especially when you look at Ali’s serious expression and Pak Cik Amin’s confused look.
I brought back the box with me and continued packing – the sticky floor doesn’t bother me any longer. The boys (employees of the caterer) ridiculed at me when they see me frantically packing the food. I ignored them. They then tried to insult me by asking questions on the wacana. Thankfully, I could answer all of their questions, I believe, correctly. They stopped their ridiculous behaviour after I answered them straight without showing signs of anger or despair. The lady pitied me and helped me packing after she’s done with her job, scolding the boys and told them to behave.
“Nak tak pengat ni?” one of the boys asked me. “Nak, tapi tak ada getah nak ikat.” I answered.
“Ha? Tak nak?”
“Dia kata tak ada getah. Dah, pergi buat kerja kamu tu.” The lady said angrily to the grinning boy.
“Okay! Jom buang!” yelled the boy and the others cheered. I closed my eyes when I saw them tipping the large tank of pengat. I just don’t want to see this. I prayed that I’m not a part of the crime. How can you laugh while throwing food? How would you feel if you throw a tank of edible stuff? Certainly you won’t laugh! What about your obligations to Allah? Oh, and they’re all Muslims, mind you.
I inhaled slowly and realized that my body is shaking from anger. I believe that had they acted out just once more, it would set my already boiling temper ablaze. This is REAL crime killing THOUSANDS of people who die from starvation and malnutrition. You could save many with that tank of food and they did what?
I opened my eyes and looked down at my unfinished job. Right now, this is my work and I must concentrate. I thanked Allah for allowing me to save most of the food. At least these won’t go down the drain, Insya Allah.