The Help

Just finished reading the book The Help. One review said it was about the other side of the story of Gone with the wind and is equally unstoppable to read. And so true! (I loved resding Gone with the wind too!)

Anyway in case you guys dont know, the book (and now turned movie) is about BLack maids during the 1960-1970s in US with background of civil rights movement then. It tells about the heavy segregation between the white and colored, so much so different that you cant believe that people actually think like that, lived like that just decades ago.

It reminded me of having a maid growing up and Though by and large, the maids in brunei are well looked after. I know thats not the case all the time and know how racist people are or could be. That there is/can be a mentality of ‘the maid is below us/ stupid’ etc etc (my heart boils thinking of this). The welfare of maids in Brunei are not the most ideal and still yet to be much improved on.

Sure there are cases of maids stealing and I know some women are scared of the maids seducing the men in the house, but Alhamdulillah I’ve grown up with plrnty of sincere ones too.

When I was 6-7 yrs old, Kaka xxxx (inda ingat her name) taught me how to sew. She taught me how to sew my name on my towel. All my sewing skills were handed down from her.

When I was 10-11 years, Kaka xxxx (new Kaka as the other one left) couldnt read much so I taught her how to read. I remember hanging out in her room a lot, listening to her stories whilst she was ironing, and also having a notebook for her to learn letters and words. Being the youngest and only girl (minimum 5 yrs difference between me and youngest older brother), I sought company from my Kaka.

When we moved to our current house, we had a new Kaka – this is in my early teens. I remember her face the most but vaguely remember name (Halimah?). She encouraged me to read the quran and told me random stories from the quran. She was very proud of my achievements and praised me lots – thats the memory I have of her. That she was proud of me. She didnt stand no nonsense though and would tell me her honest opinions of things. She used to work in Saudi and was quite knowledgable too.

Later on, we had a new Kaka, older than the ones we used to have, maybe in her late 30s or esrly 40s, and she was my favourite. She was open and witty, conversed a lot with my brothers and I and we find ourselves tellng her sbout whats going on in our lives. She has a big loud laugh and a lot of times, I could hear her laughing over a joke my brother made. She would remember my friends’ names and whenever one pops by the house, even though she’s only met them once, she would go ‘Lai, ada kawan mu *insert name* di bawah’. When your friends are the centre of your life then, this was a cool thing ok. I was always late too for functions/ meeting up with friends and she would get ready my baju for me without me even telling her. She had good fashion sense (or more like she knew what i like to wear) … ok she spoilt me, but she was the awesomest ok. When she left, I found out that she has kept all our secrets (my brothers and I) well. For that, we were grateful. I also sulked like a lil kid when she left. Bear in mind that I was a teen by now, but I was quite attached to her. When she told me that she was gonna leave, I went all ‘huuuuh? kenapaaaa? kaka inda sayang aku lagi kah??’ (dont you love me anymore???) and she said she does love me but she loves her children too and she’s going back to her children now. I understood all this, but I felt quite hurt too that ‘she would just leave’. In a way, living with us for so long, it was difficult to imagine her having another life, a life away from her family. Its like that difficulty imagining your teacher having a life outside school.

I like to ask my Kakas about their family though. Where and which part of the country they’re from, how many kids they have if they have any, who takes care of their kids. I feel sad for their kids but they always say it matter of factly and sfter lingering about it for awhile, I would soon forget about it.

I hope I wasnt too bratty at them or too demanding. They were a big part of my growing up and I hope they know how much it meant to me, the things Ive learnt, those little pearls of wisdom that was handed over to me. I remembered asking about God and where He is (in the clouds kah?) and Kaka trying to tell this 5yr old kid the best answer to make her understand.

Now I get upset if any of my nephews/nieces act all demanding and bossy to their Kaka/Aunty. Are they learning it from us adults? They are human too, and just because of their circumstances, doesnt mean they have to be treated differently. I cant imagine working 18 hours a day, under the watch of someone, and living in their rules… Just because I have a degree and have lived s comfortsble life does not set me and anyone else apart with regards to our human rights.

We all deserve respect and appreciation.

Love, me

ps. When my favourite kaka left and bapa and I dropped her off at the port (ia pakai ferry), I refused to look at her and say goodbye – so hurt was I. I regretted it soon after and wish I can take back that moment. I pray that she’s well in herself and her family, amin.

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