Uci Mahani and I, photo taken during Eidul Fitri 2008 by Pak Long, in Batu Tiga (Temoh), Perak.
Mahani has endured so much pain and turbulence in her life. Now aged 94, she is greatful to Allah for gracing her the strenght and wisdom of a woman. She has endured the greatest fear of a mother when her son and daugther-in-law died in a car crash, less than 1km away from her home. It was very tragic. When the pain of the lost lingers in her mind, she would shed tears, for who could ever endure the death of your child. The bitter sweet memories of feeding your child, changing the diapers and holding his tiny hand when crossing the roads, stab your lonely hearts like a dagger. I know how it feels as I am a mother too.
Uci, as her grandchildren fondly call her, is a Ravanese. I have been told by a friend, who is also a Ravanese, that women of this race are perfectionists. They have also very strong will power and are excellent homemakers. Well, I do not know how far that is true, but it is fair to state here that my Uci possesses all of these qualities. Honestly, I have been so many times reprimanded by Uci for being unladylike, well..what to do, I am only a quarter Ravanese.
Indeed, lessons in life are best acquired through observation. Since young, I have seen Uci managing her family with intelligence and grace. She does not have to be a degree holder to have her children to be very successful in life. She believes in the wholesome goodness of home food and everything homemade. She demands precision in doing house chores as she believes, every virtue starts from home. A mother must sow, in the hearts of her children, the seeds of love and faith to Allah, for that would be the guiding light in life.
I have personally learnt a lot of things from her. Here I would like to share some of them. In order to make it more expressive (as she speaks Ravanese not English), I will try my best to write in Bahasa Melayu with hints of Ravanese.
1. Uci is blessed with beautiful skin, when asked about her secret for having such flawless skin, she replied, "Indo berasio, pakei la bodak sojuk Uci buek ke..". Translation: Mana ada berahsia, pakailah bedak sejuk yang Uci buat tu. Before she became immobile, she used to prepare homemade 'bedak sejuk' . This is done by soaking rice in a clay pot for three years. As she is very particular about cleanliness, she would regularly rinse the soaked rice. Uci's 'bedak sejuk' is perfumed with "Cologne Nyonya Kembar', pandanus leaves and jasmine. She would supply us with her bedak whenever we visit her, but we have to promise not to snack on them. (My mama loves to snack on her bedak sejuk).
2. Never to bathe after 5pm, as she believes it is bad to bathe when it is almost dusk or worst, after dark.
3. On tips to restore the freshness of your vegies in the fridge, she advises, "Kao keno rajen membaluit sayor dongen keroteh, lopeh tu dibungkuih dongen pelestik". Translation: To maintain the freshness of your vegies, you must wrap them up with papers and later wrap them in individual plastic bags. I have improvised this practice by labelling my vegies after wrapping them up.
4. Uci's green coloured syrup is the best in the world. It slates your thirst in so many a hot afternoons.
5. On our effort to reduce sugar and salt in our cookings (in the name of healthy life style), she commented, "Ondek, biya la laki kao maken yang sodop, jangen lah dikurangken gulo atau garom, indo beraso apo-apo teh kao masak..". Translation: You are a lousy cook as your food is tasteless..hahahha. Joking. (Ondek is an expression to indicate surprise).
6. When drying out clothes in the Sun, one must make sure that they are hung according to the types, that is all shirts must be in one line, whereas pants in another. Do not mix everything up. Personally, I do adhere to this. I just hate to see my clothesline unorganized.
7. Leftover rice or pulut must never be thrown away. One must dry it out in the Sun and fry it to become delicious snacks. She believes that it is "berdoso kao membuang nasik".
8. On my wedding day, Uci told me a secret, she said, "Kao Ida, keno bangun copek, toruih mandi, bebodak, jangen kao bagi Sazeli tengok kao bolum mandi rambuit indo bersikek. Potang kao besiop la copek, bilo pulang si Sazeli, jangen memarah..". Translation: Ida, you must wake up early and groom yourself, do not allow Suzalie (my hubby) to see you in a mess. In the evenings, get yourself ready before he is home. When he is home, don't you nag at him. Yea, I am a firm believer in this too.
9. When asked how she maintains such excellent memory despite of her age, she said by reciting the Qur'an daily.
10. Uci cooks the best "ayom masak lomak" in the world. She used to share the recipe, even demonstrated the whole process. But when I tried to cook it at home, it tasted really different..tak sodop..hahaha.
Those are some of the things I've learnt from my Uci, there are other more, but I guess I'd better keep them here in my heart. She has become quite frail now, due to her age. Her memory slips sometimes, but she never forgets me and my hubby. I never get to tell her that I love her so much, the last time I saw her she was down with high fever. Her internal organs are failling, one by one. She is not suffering any sickness or disease, she is holding on to her life like a fighter. This life, she has is a good one, and we are thankful, as she has sown within our hearts the seeds of love that will flourish for generations.