Za, or “Kak Za” to the children came into our lives when Bok (child no.2) was about 1 month old. I was about to finish my 42-day after birth confinement, and needed to go back to school (to teach).
We had to look for a domestic help, and Za was like God-sent to us. She was 19 and single , and I was 24, with 2 kids!
Za became our first and last domestic helper (maid). She hails from Kg Tegayung, Melor, and the eldest in the family. Her mum (and later her younger sister) took turn with me to give birth 🙂 but Za stayed with me.
Za was no ordinary girl. She was a science stream student. In those days if you got 5 credits for your SPM, you’ll be eligible to apply to become a teacher trainee in one of the teacher training colleges. In those days, teaching was not an attractive job, so most of the applicants would be accepted. Unfortunately Za only got 3 credits. She was eligible to join the nursing college, but her father was strongly against her becoming a nurse (she would make a great nurse, but then it would be a lost to me!). While she was with me, she took up SPM again, but this time around she did the commerse subjects. Luck was not with her – she only scored 4 credits and 5 passes.
Her lost (opportunity of becoming a nurse) was definitely our gain. She stayed with us for over 12 years! The first 9 years she stayed full time with us. There was a time when a friend was going to UK for her Master’s degree, and needed a helper, at least for the first few months. I asked Za if she wanted to “go abroad” and she said yes. So she was with my friend in Scotland for a good 6 months.When she came back she came to work for us again.
Nafis, Nukman and Aina were sent to a day-care baby-sitter despite having Za at home. This is to lighten Za’s burden. Once she’s done with the laundry and cooking, she would go to the baby-sitter’s place (just across the playground) to take the kids home. Whenever Za got bored, she would go back to her hometown, and all my kids would be staying/transitting (for the school-going kids) at the baby-sitter’s place. This arrangement went on until Za eventually got married and no longer came back to us.
Why is Za so special to us? She cooked well, she was fast, she was smart, she taught all my kids to read and write, and also taught then to read the Al-Quran! But most important of all, she just loved and adored the children.
Whenever there were visitors, I needed not worry because Za would know what to do, what to cook and when to cook. I enjoyed inviting my students home for makan2 (lunch) because Za would be doing most of the tasks in the kitchen, and she definitely was a good cook! I still remember those times when I called the kids to come down for breakfast of fried beehoon (noodles) or nasi lemak they would ask me who cooked? If I said “Mama” they would say OK (or “later”) but when I said “Kak Za” they would rush down to have their food immediately!
Kids, you forgot that when Kak Za first came into our family, she didn’t know most recipes, it was ME who taught her, but of course as years passed by she became a better cook than me…
We do not have many photos of her because Za didn’t like to have photos of her. I went through our collection and found only 5.
Here’s Za with Nuni and Bok at Pantai Cahaya Bulan:
and another one here (Bok trying to get a sip from Nuni):
Here’s Kak Za with her favourite kid, Ayi in the hotel room in Awana Genting (Nafis asleep on the floor? LOL!):
Kak Za with Nuni and Ayi inside Singapore Science Centre:
And here’s a pic of her with Bok, Nuni, Aina and Ayi in front of Singapore Science Centre (1998):
We still keep in touch, though we’ve not met in person for about 4 years now. The last time we talked over the phone was at the end of last year. She told me that in 2008 she underwent an operation to remove her cancerous ovaries.
Yesterday, I got an sms from Lan (Za’s hubby) that Za is currently undergoing radio-therapy treatment at Hospital Kuala Lumpur. This afternoon DH and I went to visit her. She looked cheerful and fine but she told me after each session she would feel very tired.This week is the second of 5 weeks of the daily (mon-Fri) treatment. Our visit was definitely not our last. We’ll visit her again and for now we are praying for her complete recovery.