It had been barely 6 hours since Mak Minah passed away. Ita, Mak Minah's eldest daughter-in-law, Leman's wife, glanced at the clock - it was 12.10 midnight. The stream of visitors had eased considerably. There were only her and Sal in the room where Mak Minah lay. Sal was Usop's wife, his first in fact; his second one had chosen to remain home with her young children for the time being.
Mak Minah had 5 children, all boys. Leman and Usop, her third, both lived in the same district somewhere in Masjid Tanah, whilst her other three, Kamil, Yem and Epol were working in KL, Ipoh and Johor respectively. They wiould all be making their way back to the kampung soon after Subuh the following day, for the funeral rites.
Mak Minah was 85, and a diabetic and had complained of general weakness and a lack of appetite the past week. Mak Minah was fortunate that Ita and Sal had volunteered to take turns caring for her. As it turned out, she had slipped away while in bed with only Ita and the maid present. Ita had hastened to the bedside and whispered the syahadah in her right ear, after the maid noticed a change in Mak Minah's breathing and called for Ita.
This kampung house where Mak Minah had lived had been renovated by Usop for his mother some years ago. The upper house is on stilts and has a guest-room and a nice verandah with Melaka-style tiled stairs leading outside. The lower house has a kitchen, 2 bedrooms sharing an attached bathroom, and a huge foyer for family gatherings and the like. When she was still sprightly, Mak Minah had looked after the house really well, keeping it presentable all the time in case of unexpected visitors.
It was very generous of Usop to have undertaken the renovations although he himself had to rent two separate homes for his families. But having been a Class F contractor at that time, he had access to building supplies at discounted prices, so it wasn't too bad. However during Mak Minah's illness, times were getting to be rather challenging. Had it not been that both his wives were working, Usop might have to consider other means of income like selling at pasar malams in KL, or driving a taxi.
Sal was placing a CD of quranic recitation in the mini-compo. Ita closed her eyes, feeling grateful for being able to rest awhile.
"Kak Ita", Sal shook her from her mini-slumber, "I need to tell you something".
"Mmmmm what?" Ita was slightly annoyed.
"Like this, I'm only telling you because I have to get it off my chest". She lowered her tone. "I'm filing for divorce from Usop".
"What???" Ita was wide awake, "are you mad?".
"No, I can't stand it anymore. He doesn't come home at nights anymore, I can't even remember when the last time was, definitely more than a year, two years. I use all my pay for the bills, food, the children's schooling, I might as well be single!"
"Shhh, not so loud" said Ita.
"I've had it, Kak Ita. In fact I have bought a house somewhere near Jasin on the quiet, and it will be ready in another 6 months. By that time the divorce will be finalised and I can move in. Even if he doesn't grant me it, I will move out with the children."
Ita stared at her in disbelief.
"I'm serious, Kak Ita. That woman he married? She wasn't the first. He went for my own good friend before that, ferrying her here and there while I had to catch the bus to work, see to the children and cook his dinner. Kak Leha knows about that, that blardy friend was in the same government department as her and she had the cheek to go see Kak Leha in KL to get her advice. She knew Kak Leha is Usop's sister-in-law."
"What did Leha say?"
"Kak Leha told her not to waste her time and her future on Usop. So they broke up but he found another stupid woman. I've had enough Kak Ita. I want to be free, independant. I'm earning so I'm not worried, I can make the house payments, it's low-cost anyway. Along will finish schooling soon, she can pick up a trade or something."
"You better think some more Sal before you take this drastic action."
"I've thought 10, 20 times already Kak Ita, only I didn't want to say anything when Mak is still alive. Now she is no more there is nothing else to consider".
Epol and Mim from Joor appeared at the door. They had decided to come back earlier after all after leaving their children at her sister's.
"I'm going back home Epol, I was here since last night. See you in the morning then," said Ita after exchanging salams and went off looking for Leman at the verandah. It was really late, 1.10 am.
Kamil woke up with a start. Leha was sleeping quietly beside him. He went downstairs for a glass of water. Yem, who had driven down from Ipoh after maghrib, and his two boys were sleeping soundly in the living room. His wife and daughter were in the guest bedroom downstairs. Everything was OK. They had all recited Surah Yasin and a short tahlil for arwah Mak Minah before they retired last night. They will all drive down to Melaka after Subuh tomorrow maybe stopping for a quick breakfast at Seremban R&R.
What a strange dream, he thought. I'll talk to Leman about it after the funeral.
Next day, Mak Minah was laid to rest beside the grave of Pak Busu at the kampung cemetery. Sal had gone back home, and Usop's second wife and Mim were around to organise a light lunch of fried mee-hoon and black coffee. Usop had an appointment with someone or other and had excused himself, promising to be back for the tahlil session later in the evening. Kamil was hunched in deep discussion with Leman, Yem and Epol on the verandah.
"Bang Man, I dreamt about arwah last night, you know. She was sitting and talking to me as real as I am talking to you now"
"What? and she wasn't even buried yet! Didn't you wash your feet before going to bed?" Leman joked.
"Bang Man, I was still in wuduk after reciting yasin and tahlil lah. Listen, how is Usop and Sal, are they still together?"
"What do you mean? Off course they are as together as your Kak Ita and I. Well maybe 50 percent, ha ha ha".
He's never serious this guy, thought Kamil.
"In the dream Mak left me a message to be conveyed to Usop."
"So go tell him, why tell me?"
"What did she say?" asked Yem, curious.
"Wait, wait Epol call your Kak Ita here. Maybe she knows something, they are quite close, those two." said Leman.
Ita sauntered over to them with a tray of mee hoon and plates, with Epol following behind with hot steaming coffee.
"Not a moment too soon lah you guys demanding your food. Poor Epol got teased by the women-folk downstairs", complained Ita.
"Ita, sit down here, we want to discuss something with you", instructed Leman.
"Eh, this is men talk between you siblings, I don't want to be busy-body" said Ita while dishing out the mee-hoon.
"No, no not about that stuff, there is ample time for that and there's nothing much to discuss anyway. All the hibah had been settled by Mak a long time ago. This is about Usop and Sal."
"Usop and Sal? What about them?" Ita was wondering whether Sal had indicated anything about her intentions to them.
"Kamal, you tell us about your dream, please" said Leman.
"Kak Ita, Mak came in my dream last night" Kamal began.
"Oh really? What did she look like? At peace or troubled or what?"
"Kak Ita, this was what she said in her own words because I remember it vividly. She said Kamal, tell Usop that I love all my daughters-in-law whether they be near or far. I have no daughters and they were the ones who looked after me whenever I was ill. Tell Usop not to mistreat Sal and not to divorce her. Tell Usop to let her live in this house with her children after I'm gone. Please tell him that. This house belongs to Sal and Sal alone. I love all my children and my grand-children and I will be very sad if my family breaks apart. That was what she said."
Ita felt goose-bumps on her arms. "Did you remember what time you had this dream?"
"Yeah I woke up and went down-stairs, about 1 am. Did Usop or Sal say anything to you?"
Ita tried to remain calm, but she could feel her heart beating hard and fast. This can't be true, she thought. It was about the time Sal had talked to her. This is impossible, impossible.
She decided not to tell anyone about what Sal had told her, after all she had been trusted into secrecy by Sal. And she won't tell Sal about this dream thing either. Or should she? She felt confused.
"Why should they tell me anything anyway? It's their own masjid, it's their business," said Ita, skirting the question. "Why don't you tell this to Usop directly, that's the correct thing to do. If you'll excuse me, I've got things to do in the kitchen. They are all waiting for me."
Fast forward three years..... Sal had moved into her new house. She had filed for divorce from Usop citing fasakh - i.e not providing maintenance for more than the pre-agreed 4 months. Usop claimed they were still legally married and he was regularly depositing some amount of money into her bank account. He had never received any official summons to attend court or even to meet the Kadi.
Sal even resigned her job after successfully securing a supplies contract for a government department through a company she jointly set up with a lady polical party chief. She told Ita that sometimes her company and Usop's were in direct competition bidding for the same tender.
She was driving a very nice Honda, was very well-dressed, and wore her make-up elegantly. She was taking all kinds of supplements to maintain her health and well-being, at times recommending them to Ita. But she was still bitter about Usop - always telling people within ear-shot that one day God will show who's right and who's wrong.
Mak Minah's house, meanwhile was transferred to Sal's children, after Sal did not want to have anything to do with it whatsoever. Once in a few months, the children would stop by and open the windows and sweep and mop the place.
About 2 months ago, Ita rushed to Sal's house after receiving a telephone call from Sal's eldest daughter who was crying into the phone saying that her mother was unconscious in her car in the porch. When she arrived, the ambulance had already arrived and the medics were placing Sal onto a stretcher.
Sal had suffered a stroke due to a brain aneurysm. She is now partially paralysed, has lost her speech and is incontinent. Usop brought her back to Mak Minah's house and is being cared for by her daughter with the help of a maid. Sal's mother, whom herself is ailing visits about once a week.
As Ita was driving over to the kampung to visit Sal, she thought about Kamil's dream. Mak Minah got her wish in the end.
(This story stems from a figment of Zendra's wild imagination. Any similarities to real life situations are purely co-incidental )