IT IS STORY TIME! ENJOY...
“Can you tell me how to get to the KL Sentral”, he asked. I turned around to the voice and saw a man, probably in his late 50s clutching onto to a few shopping bags. He looked Malayish, but I could not tell for sure. He could very well be from Myanmar or anywhere. We were at One Utama shopping complex in Bandar Utama.
“Well, just take a taxi. There is a taxi stand just outside”, I replied. How can I give directions to a destination which is more than 15 kilometers away?
“I know. I came with a taxi. Are you a Kuwaiti?, he asked me. I have been mistaken as a Kuwaiti many times before. Once at Heathrow Airport, I was husked away by the immigration to a safety lane because there was apparently an Iraqi security threat against Kuwaiti. “No, I am Malaysian”. I quickly wondered if the man was all right.
He put his bags down and stretched out his right hand to me and said, “Hello, I am Dr Rasuwahi. I am from Juburti”. Never heard of the place but then my geography was never hot in school. I decided to introduce myself as “Jahamy” since it seemed to rhyme with his “hi” And “ti” and shook his hand. I was now becoming curious.
He looked very affluent and judging by the branded shopping bags he was carrying, he must be some very rich foreign businessman or a foreign politician. I knew from observation that only very rich businessmen or politicians can afford such expensive stuff. Anyway, I finally ended up driving him back to his hotel at KL Sentral. He told me that he has been staying in the hotel for the past 3 weeks – alone. This fact admittedly did cause me some discomfort especially when I recalled the name of the country he came from.
Once in his suite (and what a luxurious suite it was), he poured some coffee for me and we indulged in small chat. When I told him I am a lawyer, his eyes sparkled.
“Good. Good! Now I want to engage your services and then I can tell you things in confidence”.
“Well, engage me for what kind of legal work?, I asked and continued. “ why don’t you tell me your story and then I can tell you whether I am the right kind of lawyer for you”. He seemed very pleased with the idea. He then started his story:
“I was from a poor family, youngest among nine children. My father died when I was 15 and my mother took care of all of us working as a maid in neighbors’ houses. We were so poor that we could not go to school except for my second elder brother. Anyway, I had a hard life all along, working in hotels, restaurants, and finally ended up as a stage actor with a local theatre company. I was then 24”.
He paused and then asked me a rhetorical question: “Do you know that up to 26 years of age I slept in a room smaller than that bathroom?” I looked at the bathroom behind me and was almost tempted to ask how much smaller as the bathroom was huge! I wisely decided against it and just shook my head sideways. He continued:
“Yes my friend. One night when I had finished performing in one of the shows, a pretty young girl came to the actor’s room and asked for me. Her name was Deliverance. She gave me flowers and since then we dated and finally got married. I simply could not resist her from the first time I found out that she was the central bank’s Governor’s daughter. It was simply a dream come true. You know what I mean? A chance to change social circles? But I tell you, it was not easy. No, it was not.”.
He sipped his coffee, dragged on his Havana cigar and looked at me with his eyebrows closing in, “Her father was such a haughty, class conscious son of a female dog. He will not even look at me, me from the bottom of the social ladder! Can you imagine enduring such prejudice and discrimination? I tell you, it was painful”. He paused again as if to recoup the soldiers in a battle.
“But I never gave up. You see, his daughter was his only child and she meant the world to him. I know that I meant the world to her. The rest is as the Spanish say, plain sailing”. He winked at me and gave me the “you-know-what-I-then-did-look”. I returned him the “I-don’t-know-what-you-are-talking-about-look”.
He shook his head vigorously as if disappointed at having considered taking me as his lawyer and exclaimed: “emotional blackmail, of course my friend! I taught Deliverance all the tactics of emotional blackmail- in the name of love, of course - and finally on the night of her staged suicide, he relented and agreed that we should get married. Her father was almost an emotional wreck!”.
He smiled proudly at me and added “I even arranged the reporters and cameramen to be present at the bridge she was supposed to jump. You should have seen the papers! I was on every front page. I was a hero. Every VIP in my country was at my wedding, including the President. Of course, some were talking behind my back…but who cares? I was now one of them….no higher than some of them. And I will be the one sleeping with the Governor’s daughter”.
He leaned back onto the sofa, taking a slow, deep breath and closing his eyes as if to relive and relish every single moment of that past event. What a fatherless creature I have bumped into, the devil in my mind whispered. Some people do take glory in such achievements. I know. While I was contemplating getting miles away from him, I was equally curious to let him finish his story. I needed to know who he really was. So I patiently waited for him to return to the present moment. And for the untrained, patience is foreign.
Then he slowly opened his eyes, had a sip of his coffee and cleared his throat.
“Since then my friend, I never knew the fear of financial insecurity. Truth be told, I cannot even remember what it means to be poor. Deliverance was a good wife. She was instrumental in opening doors that I never dreamed of going through, knowing people, who wouldn’t come near me with a one foot pole. And yes…she gave me an experience of being a father. I have 2 lovely boys and a daughter. All them except the youngest son are very well off today".
"They studied in Juburti, of course?", I asked.
He replied, "Heavens no! Schooled in Harvard and Cambridge, you know. The best. They are set for life”.
He then looked directly at me, posturing his body towards me and in almost a whisper, he said, “Make sure your kids are married into connections. That’s the secret. Either you are elite or not. Middle class are mindless leeches who cannot look beyond their own noses….but don’t tell them that. They are an easily excited bunch given to sensations. They are your stepping stones to success.”
The nerve of this man! How insulting and degrading he can be of the majority. Being middle class myself, my mind was telling me that I should remind him that he has a nose by punching it. But my legal training halted me. Let him talk. Listen.
He got up from the sofa and went to fetch a leather briefcase. I got up too. While walking, he turned around to me and said,” Sit down please”. I replied, “If I do not go, I will have to wet your expensive sofa” and proceeded to the luxurious bathroom. Having answered nature’s short call, I returned to the sofa to find Rasuawahi holding some photographs.
“These are the photos of my family that I took 3 years ago. I have not personally seen them since … only through the webcam.”
I saw a photo of a woman, probably in her 50s with 2 young men and a young lady. The woman was beautiful even at that age. The “kids” looked very polished and upper class. What a lucky fatherless creature this guy is. I was confused with another photo of him embracing a lady, probably in her early 30s.
“Who is this lady?”, I asked.
PART 2 - The Political Marriage