Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Butter Prawn Symphony

"Jacob punya anak! (roughly translated, child of Jacob, which is what he called me)," he shouts from across the room.

I look up from my PC and the story-du-jour I am constipating through. "Yeah?"

"You got hot date on Saturday?"

Uh-oh. This could only mean one thing. I run through my mind for a possible topic. Never mind. If I can't think of one, I'll call Mark. Or Scott. Or Jan. One of them will be able to come up with something for me. They always do.

"No." The result being a foregone conclusion.

"How bout I take you out for butter prawns."

Code for, you write the column this week and after that I'll give you a treat at red tableclcoth. (Red tablecloth was the most popular Chinese restaurant in Bangsar. The Mat Sallehs called it Cheap Charlie. Everybody else called in Kam Yin. It is gone now. As are the creamy butter prawns. As are the honey spare ribs. Bangsar is devoid of love for my tummy. Oright, maybe there's the mushroom tapas thingy at Bodega's and full-bodied red number 3. But nothing else)

"Aiya Yongie, nobody else to do Adi, ah?"

Because that's the column that needs to be serviced. And whadayyaknow, we don't have one for this week.


So I get on the phone to all my dial-a-quotes. They're all supersmart and plugged in and when I talk to them I don't have to think. I'm allergic to thinking.

So Saturday comes, and I thump out the Adi in question: "Welcome to Planet Internet, where the rules of earth gravity don't apply...(and then go on to talk about the earnings price ratio of Amazon as opposed to say, GE) Or else..."whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of OUTRAGEOUS fortune or take arms against a sea of troubles and by Opposing, END THEM! (There was this financial crisis, see, and these currency speculators who were wrecking our economy -Munir Majid said the belonged in the 10th circle of hell...and we were going in for capital controls)

Basically you could write anything for Adi. There was no byline. You could be sweet, poetic, sarcastic as hell, no one minded, I don't even know if anyone read it. That was the nice thing about writing for a small newspaper. You could write what you wanted. No one cared. And even if they did, they said, only 5,000 readers, no big deal.

(I miss the hungry years - fortified as they were with food from red tablecloth and Herbal Soup House)

And after the labour, the sweets. Oh those creamy butter prawns. Oh the claypot chicken rice. Oh the asparagus belachan. Eating till stuffed and then, to eat some more. After Yongie left it was no fun to work Saturdays. It was just something you had to get through. You never know till someone is gone, just how much they meant.

You don't know that those bad old days would turn into the good old days.

You don't know.

I went to visit the old office today. It is sparkling, gleaming, impersonal.

No more shouting across to one another.

No more, tangkachi, (that's how he pronounced it) you want to date me this Saturday?

No more butter prawns.

Oh death in life, the days that are no more.

1 comment:

Nessa said...

Change can be very sad.