Monday, July 02, 2007

Friends for Life

by James Ooi

I could see them ending up fighting each other soon. Yeah. What a way to end twenty years of friendship from the time we were in kindergarten till now, a few years after university graduation.

I could hear them arguing. Siva was berating Roslan for having an affair with this married woman and well, telling him to stay away from trouble and not flirt with fire. But in the argument that followed, Roslan lost his temper.

Roslan shouted at Siva, "Babi punya keling! Jangan sibuk aku punya hal. Siapa kau nak nasihat aku? Kau dah lupa yang aku telah selamatkan kau dulu ya!!! Aku dan kau bukan kawan lagi mulai hari nie! Pegi mampos!!!"

[Loosely translated - "Pig of an Indian. Don't interfere into my matters. Who are you to advise me? You have forgotten that I once saved your life!!! You and I are no longer my friend from this day onwards! Go to hell!!!"]

Angered and deeply wounded at the racial slur, Siva walked off and didn't answer nor did he turn back. It was finally the last straw for him.

Ever since we had started going out again after a few years of absence because each had gone to their own separate universities, we had changed but for some of us even more. In particular Roslan had become kinda arrogant and racist in his outlook these past few years.

Sad to say that two decades of friendship finally had to end today. All because of an argument which led to an exchange of angry words and racial slurs. Ours was a friendship that was based on the fact that we lived in the same housing estate in Petaling Jaya and the fact that we had grown up as neighbors and friends who attended the same schools throughout our teenage years.

We were team mates in the local football team battling other teams not just on the field but standing by each other in some of the occasional fist fights which ensued after either teams lost. And there were many times when we came to each others aid when either one of us was in trouble. Together we became known as the three musketeers.

Funny actually it was. We were bosom friends coming from the three main races that made up Malaysia. A Chinese, Indian and a Malay. Kinda rare these days in Malaysia. But twenty years ago, this was not uncommon and we didn't have the racial segregation you see commonly occurring these days.

I guess when it comes to friendship, perhaps race does matter or does it not? Seems it does in this case. Sad to say. Seems that it does.

~ *** ~

I still remember my first day at the kindergarten. Mom had left me there alone. In the class of thirty other kids, some of whom were getting red eyed and a few were already bawling out in utmost misery, I felt miserable and didn't know what to do.

Suddenly this dark skinned tall boy looked at me and said, "You want some sweets?" Offering me a "Hacks", he smiled at me. I had never had a Hacks before and I popped it in my mouth with much thought. Within seconds the burning sensation hit my mouth and I spat the sweet out onto my right palm.

You know, for a kid aged five, spicy things normally consumed by adults are really unbearable for our delicate palate. Perhaps you may have forgotten this but I remembered it well because that was how we first met up.

I heard a laugh coming from my right side. I turned irritably to the right and there was this small sized Malay boy laughing at me. Pissed off, I handed him my barely eaten sweet saying, "Not funny, you try lah" With that the Malay boy popped the sweet into his mouth and his face suddenly contorted, "Yucks!!!"

Then we both turned onto the Indian boy and spent the next thirty minutes chasing him around the class screaming wildly. By the end of the day, we became friends and this was to be a friendship that would last the next twenty years.

Soon we found out later that we were neighbors and that we stayed nearby to each other. In the afternoons, we'd go to Siva's house for tea and his mom would fry curry puffs and fried bananas and sometimes we'd head off to Roslan's home for some pengat-pisang and later head off to watch the football game being played in the nearby field.

We hung out practically everyday. As we reached our teens, we looked at girls together and blew wolf whistles at the girls every afternoon as they walked past the football field after school. Friendship was just based on our liking for each other, common interests and the fact that we shared so much history over the years.

One evening at about the time when we were about fifteen years old, Roslan and I was walking back home from school and we saw that five Malay youths had surrounded Siva and it appeared that they were beating him. Quickly Roslan called out to some of his Malay kampong pals and we ran to the field with a crowd of ten other people behind us. Roslan shouted at them, "That's my pal. You better leave him alone or I'll get the whole kampong after you. This is our area."

Grudgingly, the five youths left and at that point in time, I really felt that ours was a friendship that transcended even racial barriers. Looking back, we were brothers in spirit even though we were of a different race.

Each of us that is.

~ *** ~

A few weeks had passed since that incident.

It seemed to me that Siva and Roslan had finally ended our two decades of friendship. I said 'we' because in a way the friendship that we had was a tri-party friendship. We did a lot of things together. Clubbing, football, eating and hanging out together.

So when the other two ended it, it seemed to me that I had lost both my friends.

That fateful evening, I met up with Roslan at the football field to talk with him and try to patch things up. It was late. About eight in the evening. Kinda dark and most people had left the field for dinner and prayers I guess.

Without telling both of them, I told Siva to come and meet me at the same place at about eight thirty later. I thought that I would try and reconcile the both of them. But I guess I could only try.

Roslan and I, we talked about the earlier incident and the clash between Siva and him. Roslan sighed, "I feel sad too. I just was too pissed when he interfered with my relationship with Mas. It's my personal matter and I know the risks of having an affair with a married woman. But it's my choice and he should leave it at that."

It was a dark night that day. No moonlight at all.

Suddenly we became aware that a group of six men had surrounded us. It was dark but through their lighted cigarettes and their voices, we knew them to be Malay youths. They were not from around the area and they were holding bottles and a few had sharpened parangs. Seeing the glinting blades in their hands, we sensed that we were in danger.

One of them spoke, "Bastard! You shouldn't sleep with another man's wife!!!" With that they started beating us. I tried to ward off the blows by putting my arm in front of me but to no avail. I felt myself losing consciousness with every blow that fell onto my head.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Roslan was lying and writhing on the ground in pain. I saw the ringleader lift up the parang to slash Roslan. I tried to reach Roslan in time but in my battered state, I could only look on helplessly.

As the razor-sharp blade swung rapidly downwards, I saw a dark silhouette of a man dive over Roslan's body. The man took the brunt and full force of the blow meant for Roslan. I could hear him groan and the gruesome sound of his neck being slashed by the parang. Despite being slashed over and over again, he refused to leave Roslan and continued to cover him with his own body.

Sirens blared.

Apparently someone had alerted the police. The youths ran for their lives. Under the headlights of the police cars parked around us, I saw Siva bleeding profusely from the many slashes on his neck and his back. Roslan held Siva in his arms as he bled continuously.

Murmuring with great effort, Siva said, "Remember the time you saved me from a beating all those years ago? Tonight I repay my debt to you, my friend."

Silent tears flowed down Roslan's cheeks as his friend died in his arms that night.


Anonymous said...

James, a turn in style. But a good one. Like it!

Rumaizah said...

Touching story... had me reading quickly until the end:)

wickedwarhol said...

Really touching story and I had goosebumps all over my body.
What a sad story to end it this way.

Jacko said...

A fantastic attempt at 1 Malaysia. If only it's true.