It was supposed to be the mother of all reunions, so to speak. Having my sisters, brother, brother-in-law, cousins, my parents and nephew in the same platform is no easy feat. Work commitments had kept us from fulfilling this wish many a time….’political’ connotations played a part too. We are all different in many ways; the only similarity is perhaps the size of our shadows. So it was a happy setting at my eldest sister's house in Kulim where we met last weekend and engaged in merriment in the evening with my Klang sister’s chicken briyani that superbly complemented the scotch that I had taken along to celebrate the occasion. My ever so curious Dad would peek out from his room to see the goings-on in the dining every few minutes. We had been conditioned from a young age that drinking or smoking in front of parents was disrespectful. So to keep him happy as well as to safeguard the principle of respect that we had been indoctrined with, we served him a couple of 'fixes', thereby removing his 'intrusions' from then on.
Conversation with my cousin Suba picked up momentum after we started on the scotch, peg by peg. We were the only 2 active participators, the others preferring to just listen. We go back a long long way. We virtually grew up together during our formative years. We reminisced of our past and the various stages of life that we had spent together. He lived close to 'civilization' in Perai while I grew up in the estates. He would spend every school holiday with us and I used to look forward to it. He was the only cousin who was in my age group. Only 26 days separated us in age, he being the elder. I recalled all those moments that we spent together…….. helping him ride the bicycle the first time…..waking up early each morning to pick a type of large white roses from a tree in our compound that we tied together to kick-about sepak raga style…..played with home made kites that somehow never got off the ground however hard we tried……..played with Tops and found immense pleasure in destroying each other’s when one lost……….played for hours with rubber-bands with one person throwing and the other trying to overlap the distant band with another. And when you manage to do it, you get to keep both. Otherwise you restart the throw to a distance again, repeating the process until one runs out of rubber-bands. We played with marbles, coming up with all kinds of games. We collected rubber seeds to play with, climbed hills and trees. All these and more……….. just between the two of us. Once in a while Ashok and Vanaja (my brother and sister) would join in. Otherwise we were left to our own until it was time for lunch or dinner, depending on the time of the day. We never had any other friends to play with. The boys from the estate seldom joined us. And Dad made sure that we too didn’t join them. I suppose he considered them too rough to play with and was perhaps concerned that we might get hurt. I’m not suggesting that we were timid in any way; we had our own robust moments too when we would engage in wrestling with each other, usually at the conniving urgings of my brothers. But it was all in good fun. Of course at the end of the wrestling matches, regardless of who won or lost, we still would not talk to each other for a few hours or even a few days but we got back together somehow. There was no malice, no grievance, no grudge…nothing! It was all part of growing up.
He was known as a quiet guy among my family members. But tonight, he was monopolizing the conversation. He had so much of stories to tell; each with its own punch-line. And I could see that the rest were all laughing away at his recollections and ideology. He kept insisting that “nothing happens by chance. Every occurrence has a specific purpose in life”. When you reflect on that statement, you tend to agree.
On the whole I felt happy for being able to bring the family together again…...if not all, at least part of the family…….. and hope that it stays that way. Whatever differences we had were swept aside on this occasion for goodwill to prevail. There were no issues to contend with tonight like there were none to contend with during our growing up process. The drift-apart probably happened without anyone realizing it especially after our perspectives in life changed…..after we had families of our own and our focus in life narrowed. It appears to have been some sort of a ‘trade-off’ when it should have been the last thing on anyone’s mind. I personally believe that relationships formed during your youth should be maintained at any cost….nurtured even. To conveniently disregard it and moving on with new found pleasures and priorities is indeed a compromise. I’m not too sure of how the others handle such emotional issues but I for one have difficulties digesting such truths and realities. Once the bondage has been established, it should stay that way, regardless of our commitments.
After a wonderful evening, the party finally came to an end close to midnight with renewed plans made, albeit in the brink of inebriation, to hold another in the not too distant future.