If you think that my ex-mother-in-law is going to start a fan club in my honour anytime soon, you probably also believe that there is a Tooth Fairy, and that the BN government is a clean government. On the other hand, if you think that I am going to form the same club in honour of my ex-mother-in-law, you’ll probably believe that I am Humphrey Bogart, and that if PKR ever came to power, it will conduct its affairs differently than BN. Fact is, my ex-mother-in-law never liked me, and I was never exactly in love with her in the first place: She never forgave me for marrying her daughter, and I never forgave her for letting me do it. But that’s another story.
Our differences aside, her request for assistance in getting her some medical attention isn’t something to be trifled with. Besides, compliance might even win me some brownie points which, in turn, might even earn me some favours from her daughter. Of course, this was in the days when I was still married to her daughter and I when actually gave a damn. So, I duly took her to GHKL where the doctors could take a good look at her.
At her request, I went into the examining room with her (I was much braver in my younger days). The reason why my presence in the examining room was needed was, if the doctors began speaking in English, I would be there to interpret. A reasonable request, I thought. So, in I went with her – like any dutiful son-in-law would.
As it turned out, my presence wasn’t really necessary after all. Within seconds, she got both doctors conversing with her in Malay, and generally got them doing whatever she wanted them to do. I shall never get over the fact how women from Negeri Sembilan always manage to do this; not if I live to be a hundred. Since my translation skills were not needed, I sat there quietly and relished the sight of somebody else bearing the brunt of her bullying tactics – for a change.
After a lot of history taking, testing, and prodding, the doctors were discussing possible provisional diagnoses. Though the medical terms were alien to me, I managed to figure out that the doctors were in disagreement. Much to my disappointment, it wasn’t over who was to administer the lethal injection. They just disagreed as to what was wrong with her.
“None of the above, Dr Karim! She is simply obese. Just look at the fat slob!” boomed the older doctor to the younger one.
The younger doctor, concerned about the remark, gently cautioned the older one. “Shhh! The son is there, sir. He might understand…”
“Don’t worry, Dr Karim. He looks too dumb to understand English!”
I was ready to blow my top when I caught my reflection in the mirror above the sink. Hey, I did look as if I was too dumb to understand English; there were no two ways about it. So, I took a few deep breaths and let it go. After they made out the prescriptions, I shook hands with both doctors and said, “Thank you, gentlemen. You’ve been very kind to my mother-in-law. We shall eternally be in your debt.” I led my ex-mother-in-law out of the examining room and didn’t bother to look back to see their expressions.
As we waited at the pharmacy for the prescription to be filled, she asked me, “What did the doctors say, Bangkai?”
“Oh, nothing much; there’s nothing that’s seriously wrong with you. And, Mak, they also said that you were the sweetest little old lady they have ever met.”
“See, Bangkai? I am not an evil person.”
“No, Mak, you’re not”
I should have been a diplomat.