UnRepresented: KL, the writing program in and about KL and the lesser known narratives within its midst, wrapped up its 10-week run in May. This is a continuation of a work-in-progress excerpt from a piece written by participant Shahriman Latif and workshopped during UnR.
‘Good evening, Tauke,’ said Encik Mahadi, his tone genial, warm and genuine, ‘I am glad to see you in good health and spirits,’
The old man at the mahogany table seemed unimpressed. He turned to Parjo, and said ‘You are with this man?’
‘What does he call himself these days?’
‘Encik Mahadi,’ said Parjo, not certain if that was the correct answer.
The old man chuckled and turned to face Encik Mahadi, ‘You bring hired hands. You must be very serious about whatever it is that you come to see me for.’
‘Times are changing, Tauke. I can sense it. It threatens our very existence. We must be unified if we are to…’
‘Times are always changing,’ the old man said calmly, ‘like the flow of your rivers, now sullen beyond saving,’
‘But this time it may very well wipe us out, old friend. We would be forgotten,’ said Encik Mahadi.
‘I was already forgotten once,’ the old man said, ‘Remember? You asked me to give up my land and in return the road should bear my name in perpetuity. Forever. Then your people broke the promise the moment a Ceylonese died and named it after him,’
‘But we gave it back to you, Tauke Choo,’ Encik Mahadi whispered, Parjo saw him waver slightly, ‘The problem with people is that they forget. You know they are incompetent sometimes. But we rectified it, did we not? You have your road again, your name is still remembered,’
‘The point is,’ Tauke Choo’s voice was calm, but firm and deadly to Parjo, ‘that you have gone back on your word. You broke a promise. It should never happen in the first place. You. Of all people, you should know a promise is not a thing to be taken lightly!’
‘Tauke,’ replied Encik Mahadi in soothing tones, ‘we’ve gone through this. It was an honest mistake. It was after the war. In their grief, people forget. You knew I changed too. It was out of my power,’
‘I was the President of the Chamber of Commerce! I saved lives. I sacrificed my time and effort to build this city! All I asked was a small boon, a token of remembrance. If you did not consider me a friend, at the very least consider that I was loyal to you till the end,’
‘And you will be remembered, Tauke,’ Encik Mahadi said, ‘but we are at the precipice of something which threatens all of us. Not just me. You know this. I am sure you have felt the waves. The cracks are appearing and if we do not act in time our memories will be gone, and everyone will perish. If you do nothing, we will all be lost. Everything will truly be forgotten,’
Parjo bristled at Encik Mahadi’s words. It was the dread reverberating from his words that got to him. For what seemed an eternity of silence, he saw Tauke Choo give thought to Encik Mahadi’s words.
‘I call upon your aid again, old friend. If we survive this, I will do everything in my power to restore your glory. In perpetuity, as we agreed. You will never be forgotten ever again.’ Encik Mahadi added hesitantly, breaking the silence.
‘You always were very good at bearing news of dread and ill-omen, Encik Mahadi,’ said Tauke Choo, ‘very well, I shall give my support, as I always have, unquestioningly,’
Tauke Choo picked up a scroll from a bookcase in the corner of the room, and made his way towards them. For the first time since they arrived, Parjo realised that Tauke Choo seemed smaller than he really was. A frail old man almost withered to dust, as he dragged his feet carefully across the opulent room.
‘Take this,’ he said to Encik Mahadi, but handing Parjo the scroll, ’this is my tribute to you. May it serve you to your satisfaction, and when the time comes myself or my influences will be present to turn the tide to your favour, as is the ways of our unquestioning loyalty,’
The scroll’s case was inlaid with jewels and made of gold. Parjo felt that it was heavy to wield, and despite his curiosity he knew better than to open the case and view the scroll. Encik Mahadi seemed pleased with Tauke Choo’s decision, though Parjo thought that the resolution seemed far too easy. As was his custom, Parjo reserved his opinion as they left Tauke Choo’s hall.