Ahmad’s Story: Part 1

 

Among the three, he is the smallest at *91.44 cm. Yet, his mischief knows no limit. And that’s how he made a name for himself. From school gardeners to the Headmaster, he is very well-known. Funny how even though there are probably around ten Ahmads school-wide, everyone’s thoughts turn to Ahmad (or affectionately known as Amat) of Year 5 Anggerik whenever that name is mentioned in a conversation. And they always put another noun to his name which at the end of the day speaks volumes about how mischievous they think he is.

At first look, that is, if he doesn’t open his mouth, people will think he’s a cute, harmless boy. Why, other than being classified as ‘tiny’, he does have a cute face.  Being only eleven, his voice too, hasn’t broken. So yes, his size, face and voice all point to him supposedly being a cute existence. Of course, this is only if he doesn’t speak, or worse (because it’s deceiving), if he manages to stop his eyes from twinkling. Which is very, very rare. Yet, if you ask anyone, from school gardener to the Headmaster, you’ll notice how the edges of their eyes crinkle, how their mouths soften the moment his name is mentioned. Indeed, in an odd and perhaps twisted (or not?) way, Ahmad of Year 5 Anggerik is quite the darling of many.

One might argue that it’s probably because his father is an honourable member of society. *Inspektor *Tuan Yusuf Ismail of *Crime Investigation Department D7 of District T comes from a long line of the ‘men of uniform’. All the men in the family had always been either a policeman or a soldier. Some distant granduncles might have branch out a little when they notice their fathers and grandfathers lived a short (though eventful and dignified) life – they almost never reach their golden jubilee since they died in the line of duty (or if they do they won’t be as whole as when they were born) – by joining the lines of men’s defence against fire instead of bullets. It was a choice that serves to remind them of one thing: nothing in this world is more destructive than human being. The mortality rate of those in firefighting profession is significantly lower than those who stay true to their family’s original choice of career.

However, the fact remains that more than half of the men in the family has fought a war (or wars) to defend their country’s sovereignty. From fending off the British pre-colonisation, the Japanese army, then against the communists pre, during and post-Emergency to the face off with the Indonesian army during the Confrontation (1963 – 1966), they have always been there in the frontline. They were involved in a more peaceful aspect of their duty as part of the UN Peacekeeping Operation during the Bosnian War (1992 – 1995). The later generation of the family has been continuing their ancestors’ heroic legacy by joining the national defence line, though this time they fight against a different, more modern enemy; the black-hearted criminals who feeds on other people’s misery. To many others, sacrifices of blood, sweat and tears are mere singsongs, subjects of poetry and prose or something ‘boring’ found in history books. But this particular family gave birth to, loved, raised and buried sacrifices. To the more understanding and aware, their blood is more fragrant than any flowers on earth.

That being said, surely the boy’s family background (and his father’s current position) will rub off of him a little, hence earning the favouritism from the adults? Or so some of them thought and said. No matter if Inspektor Yusuf Ismail, policeman of 23 years has been adamantly against his only son’s dream to follow his footsteps or any of the family’s males’ (The boy cried his eyes out when he found out about this, really, he just wanted to be a hero like his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, great great great great grandfather, great great great grandfather, … you get the drift.).

But the truth is, Ahmad really isn’t that bad. He pranks people every day, he loves instigating noises during classes and the time in-between, he chases after the chicks kept in the school farm, laughing hysterically when the mother hen chases him back, but he never skips school, play truant, be tardy or even get his school uniform dirty (except his white shoes. He runs around too often for his own good.). Why? Because as much as people know Inspektor Yusuf Ismail, they also know *Puan Hasnah, the boy’s mother. The moon to Inspektor Yusuf’s sun. The day to his night. The queen to his king. The tigress to his…well, in that aspect, she’s just the tigress (Fun facts! 1. Tigers don’t share territories. 2. Tuan Yusuf is not only fearless, he’s also very wise.). Ahmad’s mother stands to a full height of a mere *140.208 cm and weighs around *45 kg. Petite. Small. Deadly. Just like the bird’s eye chili. To put it simply, the adults put high confidence in Puan Hasnah’s ability to rein her son in. So far, the confidence has produced great results. While Ahmad is mischievous, he is mostly polite, never minds helping the teachers, actually does his homework and pays attention in class, even actively participating albeit a little (a lot) noisily. He excels in quite a number of subjects while having an average to better than average grades in the rest. Hence his placement in Year 5 Anggerik, the first of seven Year 5 classes.

Of course the fact that he’s best friends with Ravi and Amir helps. Ravi especially is an honour student. Excellent in Maths, Science and English, one of the school pride who is expected to get straight A’s in next year’s major national exam for primary schooler. Even with his family’s condition, the boy is just great. Amir, the less popular among the three is a straight-laced, mild-tempered diligent boy who doesn’t like confrontation or trouble. The two of them keep Ahmad balanced, while Ahmad’s (well-controlled) devil-may-care attitude brings in spice into their life, keeping it from getting too mundane. Some teachers think Ahmad is a great field exercise to develop problem-solving skills among his two friends. The two of them will get caught in Ahmad’s scheme from time-to-time, of course, but in the end, all’s well that ends well. And then there’s the fact that Ahmad as an only son is a daddy’s boy. Which means while seeming uncaring, he does listen and take heed when his father gives him lessons, whether by speech or by actions. By speech, as in the stories the Inspector will narrate to his son; by action, as in just being a policeman. It’s no surprise the boy is more aware of certain things compared to other children his age. For example, why are bad things bad and good things good. And why you should always have your friends’ back as well as how. The adults notice these, and that’s how we return to the observation: Ahmad of Year 5 Anggerik is quite the darling of many. Even to his tigress mother.

********

Puan Hasnah observes her son. She had felt something was a bit off ever since Ahmad came home. This afternoon, he had been his usual cheerful self, skipping away for a meet up with his best friends at Amir’s place after performing his afternoon prayer. Puan Hasnah had passed to him her custard pudding to be enjoyed with his friends there, much to his delight.

Then, to her surprise, he had returned not even an hour afterwards, looking torn and gloomy. He had evaded her eyes when she asked out of worry then refused to talk ever since. At this moment, this son of hers is staring fixedly at the television, his face switching between thoughtful, depressed and angry. Nadia, Ahmad’s thirteen-year-old big sister is suddenly heard coming down the stairs, stomping her feet. ‘*Mak, it’s my time of the month again! Do you have extra pads?’ she asks, lips pouted. She just got her period a few months ago and is finding it hard to cope with the changes in her body. She especially hates her period and the growth of body hair on her. Puan Hasnah stops folding the newly washed laundry and turns her attention to her daughter.

‘Go and look in my vanity drawer. There should be some left. I’ll get you a new pack when I go shopping tomorrow,’

‘Thanks, mak.’

Once Nadia left, Puan Hasnah returns to observing her son. He still appears moody and withdrawn. Puan Hasnah tries again, ‘Amat, you don’t seem very good. Did you fight with your friends? If you do, be the one with the bigger heart and apologise first. I know you like your friends a lot,’.

Hope blossoms in her chest as she catches him glancing her way.

‘We didn’t fight.’ Ahmad finally replies. With creased eyebrows, he proceeds to look down and starts paying full attention to the *Ultraman on his shirt. Puan Hasnah knows she has to tread carefully or the chance will be lost. She starts folding a shirt, her movement light-hearted, her senses sharpened.

‘That’s great. But something did happen with your friends?’

An uneasy glance.

‘Do they need any help?’

A pause, then a slow, doubtful nod.

‘Do you want to help, but you can’t?’

Ahmad looks at her, looking more ill at ease than before. His face has completely dropped now, with a hint of shame, and the air of gloom surrounds him in a more profound tone. He looks down again.

‘You know, Amat,’ Puan Hasnah begins gently, ceasing her activity, ‘if it’s something you can’t do alone, mak and *ayah will always help you. But you have to speak to us first, so we can decide if we’re in the place to do something about it.’ she finishes. The boy looks up.

‘But how do you decide?’ he asks. He looks lost.

Puan Hasnah smiles.

‘Amat, why don’t you tell me about it first?’

 

Note:

  1. 91.44 cm: 3 ft.
  2. Inspektor: Malay spelling for Inspector. If you haven’t guessed yet, the ‘-ck’ and ‘c’ phonemes are all replaced with ‘k’ in Malay language.
  3. Tuan (pronounced twan): A title in Malay for males. Literal meaning is ‘mister’, but refers to someone more honourable then the common/ laymen ‘misters’. Closest equivalent in English is probably the knighted ‘Sir’. Keep in mind that in the timeline of this story, any police officers ranking higher than Sub Inspector of Police is referred to as ‘Tuan’ or ‘Puan’ (female equivalent).
  4. Crime Investigation Department D7 (Gambling, Vice and Secret Societies): CID is one of the police departments. D7 is one of the most important divisions; D7 officers are responsible to cleanse out triad and gang activities, illegal gambling and casinos as well as prostitution rings. Prostitution is illegal in my country.
  5. Puan: A title for females in Malay language. However, unlike its male equivalent of encik, which is a respectable title used to refer to common people, puan is used widely to refer to females, whether for a higher ranking one, common laywomen and married women. In this context, the title puan attached to Ahmad’s mother’s name is because 1. She’s married, 2. She’s married to an Inspector.
  6. *140.208 cm: 4 ft 6 inches.
  7. 45 kg: 99.208 lbs.
  8. Mak: Short for emak, it is Malay for ‘mother’. You will see that this is not the only variation further in the story.
  9. Ultraman: A Japanese tokusatsu science fiction television series created by Eiji Tsuburaya. Ultraman is the superhero who defends earth from monster and alien attacks. Extremely famous among children in my country. Also the reason for many of my injuries during childhood (I thought it was real and was training to be Ultraman).
  10. Ayah: Malay for ‘father’. Also not the only variation.

 

 

Ravi’s Story: Part 2

 

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