One Ramadhan in the 80’s, my late X (Al fatihah) and her two sisters and families went back to Alor Setar to celebrate the Eid with their parent or my parent-in-law. As the Eid was still a few days away, the husbands of two SIL went out visiting long-lost friends/ relatives or attended to other businesses. They went out in the morning and came back a short duration before the time for breaking of fast or ‘buka puasa’. The three sisters would be busy preparing the house for the Eid or exchanging news.
FIL would be busy reading the newspapers and reciting the Book, whereas MIL would be busy with the household chores in the morning and preparing food for ‘buka puasa’ in the afternoon. Yours truly ended up, a ‘free roamer’ having ample time with little or nothing to do.
After competing for a glimpse at the newspaper with FIL, I tried to make myself useful to my MIL (partly because FIL would be reciting the Book and three sisters doing womanly things together, it took too much effort for me to join in). I ended up following my MIL every activity, helping her de-husking the coconut, grating the coconut flesh, preparing the fire, kitchen and what-not. That 2 or 3 days helping my MIL in the kitchen ended up with MIL getting a little bit comfortable to talk to yours truly. This, however, did not go unnoticed.
One of my SIL confronted my MIL (jokingly) a day after the Eid, “Ooih Mak ni bila dengan suami saya, mak tak cakap sepatah pun, bila sampai tang si Sharif tu, mak bukan main lagi.. bergebang sakan” ( Ooih Mum, when my husband is around you did even speak a single word, but when it come to that Sharif fellow, mum talk like a long lost friend.. like there is no tomorrow).
“Ooi, aku nak buat lagu mana, si Sharif tu dok ikut aku tang mana mana.. dok tanya itu, dok tanya ini, tolong sana , tolong sini ..apa aku nak buat dia nak tolong. Sampai aku terpaksa sembang dengan dia. Laki hang mana pernah lekat kat rumah dan kalau bercakap dengan aku pun bukan pernah lebih dari 5 patah.. lepas tu aku naik malu aku pi ke dapoq.. (Ooi, what can I do, that Sharif followed me everywhere, ask this and that , help here and there.. whatever I wanted to do he wanted to help, until I no longer feel too awkward to talk to him. Your husband has not been in the house too much and if he talks to me, it would not be more than 5 words before I feel embarrassed and ran off to the kitchen..).
So every time I came back o Alor Setar I made it a point to help my MIL in her kitchen. My MIL could not get over her shyness as far as sons-in-law are concerned. When she has a prolonged sickness (something to do with wrong medication for diarrhoea), she specifically sent out words that she would be very embarrass if I were to see her in her condition, then. Unfortunately that health problem brought her to the end of stay on this earth. Her passing away saw me taking 10 days leave to accompany my FIL.