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Malaysian Alien


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Monday, June 19, 2006
The Good Old Days

“Would you like some Italian?” he asked as he opened the car door. It was not his usual car. It was two years ago on an evening such as today’s when Mr. DL came over to pick me up for our dinner in Castle Douglas. He had such beautiful eyes that twinkled with excitement, almost childlike.

Mr. DL had the charms of an old fashion Englishman, courteous and warm all at the same time. He wore a grey suit. I do remember that. That he did. Mr. DL wore a grey suit and I wore my fur lined coat.

The waiter nodded when Mr. DL walked through the door. He was their regular customer, dining at least once a week in that tiny Italian restaurant painted pale yellow. It was warm and busy, with all tables but ours occupied.

I remember a conversation I had with E before. She said most lovers begin their courtship sitting opposite of each other. “So they live in their own world, looking into each other’s eyes,” E said. As the relationship matured, so do the sitting arrangements. E reckoned that most couples (when more relaxed in their relationships) would sit next to each other. E always sat beside her boyfriend while I always sat across.

The waiter led us to a quiet corner. Mr. DL pulled the chair for me and I slid into the seat, thanked him and smiled. He then sat next to me, to my right. I could see his grey eyes clearly when he sat next to me. We shared a starter and then, we had different pasta dishes as the main course. I can no longer remember what we had then after.

What I remember clearly was what Mr. DL said some time into our dinner date. "Oh my goodness!" Mr. DL exclaimed, "you are young enough to be my grand daughter!" The tables around us were staring and I think it made Mr. DL feel a little uncomfortable. In actual fact, Mr. DL turned out to be my oldest date ever. I was 28 then and he was 44 years older than I. Mr. DL was 72. Age did not tear us apart. I think the age gap made it easier for Mr. DL and I to be friends and to be good companions whenever I was in Scotland.

I remember our conversations. He related to me stories from his youth. I loved listening to any story, especially youthful adventures. I grew up listening to my father’s playboy stories, so Mr. DL’s stories commanded my attention immediately. How different his youth was from mine. How charming and how innocent!

Mr. DL was a young man no more than 22 years when he sailed to Malaysia to work for Tun Tan Cheng Lock. He was a plantation manager and each morning, he woke up to teach the locals methods of growing rubber efficiently. He was a beautiful young man, slim, tall with a winsome smile.

I returned to his house for tea the next morning. His house was conveniently was three doors away. Actually let’s make it three gardens away. He was Alex’s neighbour for many years, coming over to Alex’s parents for some weeding, to pass the time. There to greet me was his grey cat, a bundle of skin he found in his shed. He named it Tikus (trans: mouse) “because it looked like a tiny baby mouse when I found him,” said Mr. DL.

Seri Carcosa in the 1950s.

He led me to the drawing room, where he hung many photos from his days in Malaysia as a young man. There was a photo of Seri Carcosa in the 50s, when he attended parties and balls. There he met her. She waltzed into the ballroom in the most beautiful smile and dress. She was the secretary to the British Ambassador and soon she was his wife.

He brought her to live with him in the plantations. She ran the household of gardeners, cooks and house helpers while he ran the rubber plantations. Mr. DL recalled vividly the pleasure of bathing in a Shanghai Jar. I did wonder what a Shanghai Jar was and so he took me to his vast garden to see the two jars he brought home.

The jars were brown and jade coloured, large enough for Mr. DL to stand in it for a refreshing shower everyday. Dragons and phoenixes motifs were adorned on the jars. How befitting. Dragons and phoenixes were mystical creatures, believed to represent lovers in the Chinese culture and often symbolically used during traditional Chinese weddings.

He showed me photos of a sweet young woman. She wore pretty dresses and looked serene, almost like a magical creature from fairy storybooks. There were photos of them together, having tea or attending parties. There were photos of them with their children, in the plantations, lazing on plantation chairs.

They were together every day till the day she was sick. It was then that Mr. DL had to pack his bags and return to the UK with his wife. He cared for her to the best that he could and when she died, he never remarried. He eventually returned to Malaysia and worked for Sime Darby, holding a resident’s permit until he was denied it in the late 80s. Feeling depressed and desperate, he returned to Scotland and lived as a neighbour to Alex’s parents.

I love Mr. DL with all my heart. It is always a great joy to come back to Scotland and to run into his arms, to be hugged so tight that I could hardly breathe. His eyes always glistened while his smile was infectious. Mr. DL invokes the most fatherly feelings and I feel like a little chick running to him each time I see him.

The very super heavy book that I dragged thru
two airports to share with Mr. DL.

When I saw “Malaysia: A Pictorial History from 1400 to 2004” by Wendy Khatijah Moore, I knew instantly that I had to bring a copy to him. I know Mr. DL would love it. All the photos in that book were simply amazing and at RM80.00 per book, I would purchase it as a gift for friends for a long time to come! How different Mr. DL’s life was from mine, with rubber plantations and tea dances with pretty women in frocks. Everything was in a deeper shade of romance.

Alex and I drove 7 hours and reached his parents’ house at 10 p.m. Alex’s father came out to greet us. A tall man standing at 6 feet 3 inches, he towered above me and gave the most squeezable hug. I asked for Mr. DL and he lowered his eyes.

“Old DL passed away an hour ago. You are too late,”.

My eyes watered then and it is watering now. I have lost the only grand father figure that I have in my life. All the cookies and teas are now lost. Everything is but a memory and I cannot hear Mr. DL laugh anymore. There are no more teas and stories of Malaysia in its sexier days. The book does not matter now.

Although everyone knew that Mr. DL was terminally ill, knowing it never prepares you for the actual event. I imagine Mr. DL must have laid cold in his house three gardens away. I did not attend the funeral. Neither did I see him one last time. I like to remember him by all his sweet smiles and twinkling eyes. I like to remember Mr. DL’s vigour for life and spirit for living. I like to remember him for his love for Malaysia. I am thankful that he had the great opportunity to visit Malaysia in September last year, before he found out that he was terminally ill. He was so excited to meet his old friends in the rubber plantations and to meet with a special lady, whom he had helped when she was a young girl. Her daughter visited him late last year, to meet the man who changed her mother's career and life.

I did not see him one last time when he laid there cold. I like to remember Mr. DL for his warm personality. I like to remember a man who loved living and lived loving.

In Loving Memory Of
Mr. DL
who lived, loved and was loved.



Very well written and I'm sorry to read about your loss, Otto. Do take care. Hugs!

1:27 pm  

I feel sad that you didn't get to say goodbye but also glad that the memories you will continue to carry with you are of the beautiful days when he was self-sufficient. *hugs*

1:32 pm  

Condolences, Otto. I guess I wouldn't be able to bear the sight of him at his funeral too if I were you.

Get happier soon...

4:03 pm  

Thank you everyone for your little comments. Means much to me.

3:17 pm  

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