Mak Cik Salmah is sixty-two but she does not look a day over fifty. She is
forever complaining that she is overweight but we tell her that she is
pleasantly plump. Her hair is always swept neatly back into a bun, not a hair
out of place.
Mak Cik Salmah lives just next door to us. When we first moved
in, she was the first to come over and introduce herself, holding a hot plate of
meehoon in her hand. Her warmth and joy was a welcome change from our
previous neighbors. Since then, she has become a regular visitor to our home.
We soon discovered that Mak Cik Salmah did not have any children and so, she
doted on us like we were her own. She insisted that we call her Opah and
we became her first Chinese grandchildren. When I was young, I used to look
forward to her visits as she would always hand me some goodies which she keeps
in between her sarong belt.
Mak Cik Salmah is never content unless her hands are occupied. Whenever she
comes over for a chat, she always brings along some chores to do. Her favorite
is to peel anchovies. The more interesting the conversation, the faster she
would peel. In no time, her lap would be filled with anchovies. Then, she would
get up and dust her sarong the minute the clock strikes six. "It's late. I have
to go. Pak Din will be expecting dinner soon," she would proclaim. However, she
always lingers for another fifteen minutes or so, as if she was reluctant to go
back to her lonely home.
Our day is never complete without Mak Cik Salmah's stories about the Japanese
Occupation. She was just a little girl then but she remembers her time spent in
the jungle vividly. She keeps us mesmerized
with her stories, which are often scary as well as hilarious. As I grow older, I
often wonder whether she makes up all those stories. Nevertheless, the children
Apart from her ability to spin stories, Mak Cik Salmah is also a great cook.
Her acar timun and otak-otak is well-known in our neighborhood.
Whenever there is a wedding feast or kenduri, she is called upon for her
The most wonderful thing about Mak Cik Salmah is her ability to see some good
in the worst character. So, whenever I got into trouble with my parents, I would
turn to her for advice. She would listen without condemning me but at the same
time, she would help me see my parents' point of view. In a way, she has been a
great influence in my life and I am very fortunate to have such a great Opah.