My Favorite Storyteller

She would visit us in Kampong Bharu very infrequently. I suppose it was because she lived a long bus ride away from us. And she had to trudge a good distance from the bus stop on the main road to our house set deep in the kampong. She was tall, shapeless and very old and walked with a stoop. And how she loved her brooches. Three large ones always adorned the front of her kebaya. I remember my mother wore beautiful sparkling ones whenever she needed to attend a wedding. But Grandma Chak wore hers even to come visit with us and how I loved to look at them.

But what I loved even more about Grandma Chak were the stories she told us. When I think she’d chatted long enough with my mother while munching betel leaves with betel nut smeared with some chalky white stuff, what old women did in the old days, I would beg her to tell her stories. I would sit at her knees enthralled while she recounted the adventures of Sang Kanchil, the clever mouse deer. She told us many different kinds of stories but the Sang Kanchil ones were my favourite. I was sad whenever she stopped and said she had to leave.

I lived for her stories then and would wait impatiently for her visits so I could enjoy my favorite character’s new adventures which never failed to enthrall me.

And then Grandma Chak stopped coming. I waited and willed for her to come but many weeks passed without her making a single appearance. I asked my mother who said she was probably unwell. Finally my mother told me she had passed on. And that was the saddest day of my life.


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