Nenek Suraya

I rarely talk about my job because it is so medico-legal related nowadays. I worry that I would accidentally spill on sensitive and confidential information regarding the case. Even if I take extra precaution to not mention the patients profile or disease – there is always a fear that someone who reads my blog would know that patient and proceeds to condemn me for say, embarrassing the patient and what not. Sedangkan Wardina and syed Azmi who did not mention the name of a Madrasah pun kena kecam.. apatah lagi kita kan.. 

But I just had to share about my anecdote with an elderly patient I came across last night during my oncall.

She was in her early 90s, a foreigner from our neighbouring country. She is of Malay descent who speaks very good English. She was at the emergency department for a fall and her small, weakened body sustained an injury at her right ankle. She was seen by my colleague and while awaiting for the porters to transport her to the Xray department – she kinda beckoned me over to her bed. Probably needing more painkillers, I thought.

In fact, I have treated her before for a simple fever. It was a visit many years ago when her also elderly husband was still around. I don’t think she would remember and just made it seemed like our first time meeting each other.

She quickly grabbed my hand as I neared her and asked of my name. She smiled and volunteered her own, “I am Suraya (not real name). I’m a Singaporean and I just hurt my foot”. All this in clear, crispy Queens English.

Her husband and one of her sons had recently passed away. She was a mother of 9 and specifically mentioned how blessed she was to have one daughter. A daughter she raised like carrying a cupful of oil. This lady encouraged her daughter to get a good education – a tertiary education. Indeed she succeeded as later the daughter landed a high paying job in the immigration department. The daughter got married , had a child and that’s when Nenek Suraya mentioned, “she broke my heart”.

“She wanted to quit her job. A job that puts the food on her table, a roof on her head.A job that makes her who she is. Why would she want to do that for her husband. You are supposed to think about your child – yang dia nak fikir pasal laki dia sangat kenapa. I can help cook for her. I can help care for her child. I just want her to keep her job and stand on her own two feet. And not having to ask of her husband for money each month for her own use! “

Honestly, I don’t see a problem in a woman wanting to do what she wants as long as she is clear about her plan and knows what she is doing. Long gone are the days where netizens debate on SAHM vs Working mom. In fact, it shouldn’t happen anymore in this era. Instead – we should move towards supporting fellow women with their decisions the best that we can and raise a community together.

But Nenek Suraya is heading to 100 years old. Perhaps there are pearls of wisdom I should pay attention to. I kept mum and kept my ears open.This was after all a woman who lived during the times when women were not as liberated and free to make their own choices as compared to what we are today. She experienced the whole world maturing and accepting women’s roles as equals when it comes to serving your nation. It seemed to her personal opinion that she failed to bring her daughter out from the traditional role as the one in the kitchen to the lady of certain power in the office. It was understandable . There was no need to be severely offended if say, you choose to achieve financial freedom by having a homebased business for instance or adopting homeschool to your kids full time. It was just her personal idea of how she chose to value her daughter. And I respect that.She’s not waging a war against women who makes informed decisions in quitting their 9 to 5 job for their family.

Because you see, I come from a similar background. Although my mother did not get to step foot in university – she was street smart and managed to command the household accordingly. It would be devastating to her if say, I chose to quit medicine despite completing my bond with the government to be at home. To her, it’ll be a waste of my ‘education’ because education was something she was deprived off in her younger years due to poverty and social circumstances. Although I yearn to be this mom at home , I still have second thoughts. out of respect for my moms wishes and her understanding of an empowered woman. Perhaps later, should I choose to pursue my freedom to dictate my own life – perhaps I could make her feel less sore by reassuring her that I’m replacing my income instead. At least she knows I’m not wasting my education but channeling it in a different manner.Kan? less mengejutkan… buat stationary based business ke apa kan.. 

At the end of the day, mothers just want their daughters to lead their lives better than how it was for them before. Who would want their precious daughter to go through hardship similar to theirs kan? After much sobbing and pouring her heart out, Nenek Suraya finally let go off my already numb hand. Again, she asked me of my name and returned the gesture with, ” “I am Suraya (not real name). I’m a Singaporean and I just hurt my foot”.

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