Six Degrees of GUiT
We were sitting in a café in the bowels of the KLCC, Kak Teh, the pizzaman and his pal Robin and I when a lady from Uruguay came to ask me to sign her GUiT. I said to her what I say to everyone else kind enough to ask me for my signature, “The pleasure’s mine entirely!” Is GUiT read even in Uruguay? Well, no, her husband manages a resort on the Lake Kenyir, and we were sitting there in Delice de France while I was signing a stack of GUiTs for the Pizzaman to deliver. But I can, I suppose, claim that GUiT is now truly international.
We were tucking into our breakfast when Pizzaman phoned to ask where we were. He wanted me to sign a stack of books, so could he come now? Well of course, I said, the tea here’s not too bad, but not as good as the Monsoon Cuppa. And that was quite a cuppa.
What so surprises me about this GUiT event is how we are all inter-linked. My old Form Teacher came to the signing and I had time to ask “How are you, Sir!” (Sorry Dato’ Wee, I still called you Mr. Wee). Many came for a cuppa and a chat, and during the course of many conversations they somehow ended up in how we were – in one way or another – related to each other. A prosperous looking businessman from next door to the Keda Pök Löh Yunang came and said his name was How. “How Kok Kong, aren’t you?” I asked. And so he was, we were schoolmates, though he was my senior. “I used to have a deskmate in class named Kho Sheue Fei who lived in the shop at the end of the block,” I remembered. The surprise was that she was still there, and she turned up for the Monsoon Cuppa the following day. Thank you Sheue Fei! And so did Toh Swee Choo, another very young old classmate, and it was a great pleasure to sign GUiT for her while her husband photographed this happy reunion of SSSSers. I rattled off names of my other former classmates – Chee Poh Sian, Lim Chee Hian… How pulled out his handphone and minutes later, lo and behold, Chee Poh Sian came and how we reminisced over kopi tiam and roti kaya in that old coffee shop that served satay and toast to celebrate the break of Kuala Trengganu mornings, many, many years ago. “Do you remember Chua Chee Peng?” Do I remember Chua Chee Peng? Not only do I remember Chua Chee Peng, I also remember a little boy named Yeo Chong Kong who lived on the bridge in Banggol, and who returned to Batu Rakit every weekend to his family.
“How much you remember,” Poh Sian said. And yes, I also remember the day I went to your house one morning, where there were many pigeons and your grandfather, unable to understand my mumbled Malay, kept asking me, “Poh Pian? Poh Pian?” And here you are now, years later, sitting down with me and two other school pals, eating tea. Well that’s how they say it in Blighty, eating tea.
The surprise was yet to come. A day after the Monsoon Cuppa, we had a small family reunion at Dah’s house (my cousin Dah of ‘Fish on a Bicycle’ fame) when Abang Lèh, husband to cousin Yöh, Dah’s sister, confessed that he was actually the cousin of Cik Kalèh. Cik Kalèh the fabled trishawman and bon viveur of old Kuala Trengganu…I nearly had a fit. It is finally confirmed, me and Cik Kalèh are related – even if it’s just through marriage – whay hey-hey! How soon now before one of us is found to be related to Mat Sprong? Nothing surprises me no more.
And me and the Pizzaman are related too, through another marriage of my Cousin Chén’s brother (see GUiT) to his kinsfolk, and I think half of those who attended the Monsoon Cuppa went away discovering that they were somehow related to each other.
In GUiT there’s mention of another man who did magic tricks, and who could rattle off all the Chinese shop names from Jamabtang Banggol to Keda Payang in one long stream-of-consciousness way. In real life he was also named Che Awang King George (for reasons too long to tell), and he was also from the family of Dato Amar (see GUiT, ‘Man of Oob’). My brother now tells me that while walking with Che Awang in Kampung China one day, an elderly Chinese lady stopped him (Che Awang) to ask, how’s so and so in his family. Che Awang replied, “Dia baik.” (He’s well). Later, when my brother asked Che Awang who the lady was and why she was so interested in his family, Che Awang said, “Well, she’s my relative, a sort of distant auntie.”
So, GUiT it or not, we’re all family.
To all who have posted comments to my blogs below, my appreciation and thanks.