Coffee So Sweet…

Like a grand steamship unloading its precious cargo onto the wharf, the warung’s proprietor, an elderly lady with a kindly face piled-up the roti jala onto a plate. She then ladled the steaming hot gulai into a bowl and brought me my mid-morning snack. But this was no snack. The serving was so generous that it made the portions I was used to in KL look like a joke. An average-sized man could easily go through the entire day on this meal alone. Then again, I am not an average sized guy: this will see me through nicely till lunch.

I smiled at the proprietor. She smiled back knowing that I was silently pleased with what she had brought me. As she disappeared to the back of the warung, I found myself thinking about what her life was like. Was she happy? Was she sad? Did she have any children? Did they take good care of her? What did her husband do for a living?

No too long ago, upon seeing her rough work-worn hands, her weathered complexion and her worn-out clothes, I would have easily concluded that hers was a life of misery. These days, I am not so sure anymore. Her life might have been a hard one, strewn with obstacles and heart-breaking challenges. But it was also quite possible – and even very likely – that she was happier than I could ever hope to be. KL had taught me that living in a full facility condominium and earning a five figure monthly income had nothing to do with happiness. It’s about being accepted for who you are – and having the freedom to live up to nobody else’s expectations except your own. In the end, its about accepting that life is under no obligation to comply with any of our plans.

My train of thought was broken when an angelic young lady – probably the proprietor’s grand daughter – brought me my kopi tarik. She had a complexion that glowed like the breaking of dawn and eyes so soft that they could melt the hearts of even the hardest of men. I was so taken aback by her beauty that I found it hard to not to just sit there and stare at her. Though she had the plain scent of Palmolive soap and Yardley’s talcum powder about her, she was even more intoxicating than any French perfume I had ever known.

“Abang, minta maaf lambat sikit, ya?”

My heart palpitated as I fought to offer a reply – any reply. After what seemed an eternity, I managed a smile and a whole-hearted, “Bukan ‘abang’ anak oi  – ‘Pakcik’!”

“Baik, Pakcik. Minta maaf lambat, ya… ” she offered

“Tak mengapa, nak. Pak Cik pun bukan ada nak kejar apa-apa. Terima kasih, ya, nak”

With that she, too, disappeared to the back of the warong.

I took a sip of my coffee and smiled at myself. What had just happened? Wouldn’t the old Mat Bangkai – the one I used to know – have turned on the Henry Fonda charm, pressed his well-honed interpersonal skills into service and walked away with at least her name and phone number? Instead I found myself pondering what it would be like to have her as a daughter-in-law. She was a fine woman. She’d make a good wife for one of my sons some day.

As I was paying for my meal, I stole a quick glance at the back of the warung and caught the beautiful young lady’s eyes. She gave me a sugary smile and said, “Kalau kopi tadi tak manis, lain kali Gayah buat lagi best, ya Pak Cik!”

“Kopi kau dah cukup manis, Gayah… ” was my reply, all the time thinking of how I would get my eldest son to have coffee with me here at Gayah’s warung.

Yes, the coffee is much sweeter here in Umbai.


29 thoughts on “Coffee So Sweet…

  1. So sweet Pakcik (er?)…..A father knows what is best for his son. A father sees a future and quote everything with senses. A humble kampung coffee is always much better than the city’s overpriced action packed coffee, if you know what I mean. Care for some kampung (tumbuk) coffee someday?


    I would be honoured to have kopi tumbuk with you someday.

    Thanks for visiting.

  2. ..initial response..a smile that broke into a chuckle..the sweet ‘abang’ got to you, huh?..never mind the fought against yourself to remind her to call you ‘pakcik’?..:) in a flash you realised that age has crept up on you.? and the ‘abang’ reminded you that you do not deserved the title anymore?..relax, mate..there are many such beauties in Umbai and Bachok..and other places like that bloomed away from the glare of neon of big cities..with smiles that can swept 20 yrs of your life..hmm..should have brought that Fonda charm into play..had a feeling it won’t be as effective as it was in the cities..and your son might not even like her…it was your youth responding..cheers..


    Indeed! No one born after 1985 has any business calling me Abang (unless, of course, they are trying to seduce me or sell me a overpriced product). And how true. The Fonda-esque thinggy might not have worked (people value different things here) and my son may not like Gayah at all (she may prefer Klasik Nasional to Hitz FM)

    But I like your expression “…flowers that bloomed away from the glare of neon of big cities… ” That was a gem. Wish I had thought of it myself.

  3. Macam ni punya gaya, hari-hari singgah warung Gayah ler…


    Tak ler hari-hari: nanti obvious sangat 🙂 At least, not until I’m sure my son likes Gayah…

  4. Hahaha zendra, you took the words right out of my mouth! tapi kan, tapi kan.. Mat B has nobler intentions… I know he does 🙂

    Ma B, bawakla your anak bujang to the warung, Let him see the real thing, the original kampung beauty, the kind yg still pakai bedak sejuk or talcum and not compact powder.

    All thigns said and done, this is such a sweet posting. Umbai is doing wonderful things to you Mat B..

    puteri kamaliah

    Dah jadi bapak-bapak and pakcik-pakcik…

  5. Pretty irresponsible of MB…cos of ur total intoxication with Palmolive & Yardley (either u got the “nose” or the gal was breaching the close proximity zone) certainly forgot to remind them kampung folks that sugar is bad .Didn’t you listen to our Ministers advise?Are you encouraging a whole generation of sugar crazed Umbaians?
    And in Outer Sumbawa islands Pa Ci is a sugar daddy…are you trying to corrupt a sweet little precious innocent gal in your particular wily foxy style?
    You got the GPS coordinates for the stall?I must sacrifice myself to save them from the evils of sugar and sugar daddies…


    uh-uh… not so easily, sir. I assure you my credentials as a sugar daddy, and any intention of going down that path is woefully inadequate. Nonetheless, the location of this warung shall a remain secret – at least until my son is married off to Gayah or he confirms that she does nothing for him.

    But I appreciate the offer of sacrifice, though 🙂

  6. Matt, sometimes I seriously think that ignorance is bliss. I meant ignorance of all the shenanigans going on in the political scenes. This could explain why the little old lady’s happy as can be going about in her very own simple ways, despite what others might think of as a ‘hard’ life.

    I can live with Abang or ‘Ah Heah’ for that matter, good ego booster mah..hahaha. And Gayah sounds so kampungish, bet in the big city, she’ll be the fabulous looking ‘Roy’.

    Glad u r finding your inner self and all the other lives simple pleasures in Umbai.



    P/S – Don’t ever go home smelling of any traces of talcum powder 🙂


    The way I figure it, there is very little I can contribute to the turbulent (if you can call it that) political scene. There is an army of SOPO-bloggers, SOPO-blogger wannabes, intellectuals and pseudo-intellectual out there ever-willing to put things right with their writing. Assuming all their effort does amount to something, I have nothing to worry about, do I?

    Or, could it be that all that angst and all those angry words actually mean very little? In this case I still have nothing to worry about: I needn’t have bothered in the first place, nature will eventually take its course.

    So, its better to sit here and sip Gayah’s coffee. In the immortal words of Atticus Finch, “Its not time to worry yet…”

    But when it is time to act, I hope I will have you by my side out there in the front-lines. If we have to fight, then by all means, lets fight – but only when it really matters.

  7. Now look what you have done! The men all wish that they are 20? 30? years younger.
    I think Umbai has turn you into a romantic soul. Like you, I wish my eldest son (who is still single)would meet her but on second thought, they would be like chalk and cheese. He would be talking about Nuclear aircraft carrier, the latest weapons etc and she would run a thousand mile. Sigh…


    On the contrary, ma’am. If Gayah is what I think she is, she’ll probably hang on to every word he says, be it about nuclear aircraft carriers, Ohio-class ICBM submarines or the characteristics of accelerated sub-atomic particles. The content would not be as important to her as hearing her husband’s voice.

    Wait a minute, why am I promoting Gayah to YOUR son? No, No,no, no… Gayah is a bad, bad girl… very bad girl!

  8. Mat B,
    Sounds like you can give my Defence Analyst son a run for his money. Maybe he should meet you, then you can introduce him to Gayah( my daughter in law to be?)


    Defence analyst. How cool is that! Sure. It would be great to meet-up with him. But MY son still has first dibs on Gayah 🙂

  9. Mat-san,

    Back to the rustic and the simple,uncluttered order of things is fast becoming in vogue these days…the minimalist school, as the architects would call it.

    Gayah is the personified ending of one`s journey back to life as it should be lived…full of honest to goodness childish innocence,a simplistic view of life, fully trusting in each other, and acting in a totally unrestrained, uninhibited, and naturally instinctive manner.

    Ever wonder why “Avatar” is so hugely successful?Deep down inside,we all harbour this desire, this pining, to find our very own Pandora, and meet up with our Nyetiri, where emotions, and feelings, can be freely expressed
    without society at large watching and judging our every move, measuring them against their skewed and biased standards and values.Pandering to these raw, primitive insticts inherent in us all makes that wonderful movie the phenomenal hit it is today.

    Umbai, Mat-san, is your Pandora.Truly you are blessed!



    Maybe its time I watched this Avatar movie…

  10. Mamak,my advise to Gayah :

    ‘Gayah nak,
    Biarkan timba mencari perigi,nak.
    enggang sama enggang,biarkan pipit sama pipit.
    Atap nipah,nipah juga,tikar mengkuang juga akhirnya.nak..’ takut nanti nak nanti dikata orang…

    Ikan dikupas dengan tangan
    Dipuput bayu di Seri Medan
    Intan terlepas dari tangan
    Takut terlucut baju dari badan.

  11. Ahh PakCik..Gayah actually sukakan PakCik laah..hehehe..mujurlah PakCik bukan yang jenis miang keladi..kalau tak siap kena kejar dengan parang by Makcik!! Wohooo!

    Ok Mat..better toksah minum kat situ dah! Bahaya!!


    Tak bila lah, mamasita. Ada ke plak Gayah boleh suka kat pakcik yang dah tua kerepot ni? Makcik kalau dengar pun tergelak terguling-guling. System pakcik ni semuanya dah condemn…

    Mana bahaya, mamasita. I’m just a harmless old man. Nak panjat tangga pun mengah… ni plak nak panjat ngorat anak dara orang.

  12. Salam Mr B,
    I apologise if I offend your sensibility. Can I make it known here that I am not trying to pick you up? I wrote to you because for some inexplicable reason I like you. You sound like a man with conscience as your middle name. You give away vibes like someone who can work well with my husband. It is an oversight on my part for giving my e-mail instead of his.
    If I may start over, his name is Azhar Borhan and is the GM, Content & Industry Development at Primework Studios Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Media Prima Berhad. His e-mail is I know his hopes and some of his frustrations at work, simply because I was with TV3 for 8 years before leaving to ‘take care’ of my two children and I know some of the people that he is working with. (However, you sound expensive too so perhaps this is not a good idea after all…)
    And Mr B, I too, look at men but the younger ones for my daughter, 19, who is studying architecture and young ladies for my son, 22, studying screen and sound production – for potential son and daughter-in-law. Both Azhar and I will hit the big 50 Sept/Oct this year. Peace?


    No, ma’am. You did not offend me in in any way. I should have responded sooner. I’ve been a silly bugger. Its just that currently I am working on extracting myself from a business partnership that has gone south and I thought I’d square that away first before I start on a new project. However, it looks like things will normalise in a few days, insyalah. I will revert to you by then.

    No! No one in their right mind would think you were doing a pick up. You’re just a kind soul who is gracious enough to extend a helping hand to stranger (me) who is a bit down on his luck. Thank you, ma’am. I really appreciate it. And no – I am not expensive. If I had a middle name it would be ‘cheap’ 🙂

    Peace? My peace offering is my an apology and my gratitude.

  13. wowowow Mat B… what have we got here? Umbai, Gayah, and now Azhar Borhan.. I’m all “pasang telinga” Mat B, for the latest..

    (Psstt.. nooo, I’m NOT trying to pick you up.. although you sound DAMN interesting!.. hehehe)

    puteri kamaliah

    You’d better not be picking me up, ma’am. I wouldn’t want to end up with Pak Abu’s golf club wrapped around my neck! 🙂

    I am eternally grateful to V for giving me the business lead w.r.t. En Azhar. At this point even the opportunity means the world to me.

  14. Congrats MB…but m a bit confused.Are you gonna be working with Mr Azhar or gonna be his son in law?
    Btw..was mulling over this Gayah Cafe concept>.how many outlets can we bring out over the next 6 months.Can we get enuff Gayahs?We need 76 to hit critical mass..b4 we go international.
    There’s a huge demand for Cafes serving wholesome virginal smiles where everyone calls u Abang…
    Pls chk out with Yardley & Palmoflife if they wanna do X-branding?
    I expect full report delivered by dawn tomorrow (u r at liberty to choose which Dawn..but u know my taste?)

    To: Mr Ismail, CEO
    From: Bangkai, Chief Machai
    Subject: Gayah Cafe Chain

    Dear sir,

    I regret to report that at this moment the concept (while innovative and capable for fulfilling a serious niche) is operationally unfeasible. Our Human Capital Group and Operations Group are adamant that we will not be able to recruit enough front-line staff who will be able to to dispense the much required ‘wholesome virginal smiles’. This is due to a chronic lack of virgins who are of employable age in and around the location of our target markets. Our Strategic Planning Group suggests importing the necessary workforce from China but I over-ruled this for fear of melamine tainted milk.

    Thus, I would recommend postponing this project till such time we are able to employ females of virginal quality.

    Best regards,

  15. Mat-san,

    Trust me.Give that “V”`s call some serious thought.I know her hubby but not too well..we`ve talked on occasions though.He`s a good man, nice guy, steady head above his shoulders, and used to be Head of Entertainment a TV3.My instinct tells me, though I`ve never met you personally, that you and he can hit it off.So, working for him should be a breeze,plus that busking experience of yours during those “bell-bottom” /”flower children” era, at Tottenham Court Road Station, should put you in good stead for complementing whatever he`s doing now at at that Media Prima subsidiary. Call it a hunch, ok?

    If it`s some consolation, too, my friend,Azhar`s my junior at that Eton of the East premier boarding school in that small royal town called KK up north.

    And, Mat-san, I vouch with whatever it`s worth that V is definitely not trying to pick you up.Call that a hunch too.Will I do the same in the case of Mat-B vs Gayah?Put it this way, my dear friend.Our religion advocates that no matter how strong your faith in Allah,i.e. your aqidah, make sure you tie down those camels at night.Just in case, you know.I think you get my drift.



    As I mentioned in one of my replies above, only a lunatic would conclude that V was doing a pick up. The thought never crossed my mind even for a nano-second. As to why or how it could be construed in that way escapes me. V is simply a kind-hearted woman who wants to help out a stranger. Sadly, there are very few like her around. But the good news is we can all learn from her.

    I am excited at the prospect of having a chance to work with your junior, En Azhar. From what I gather he is a thoroughly nice guy who is doing great things for TV3. Its just that I have not been able to capitalise on the lead yet because I am tying-up some loose ends with my former-partners. As you probably know, this can be quite unsavoury. But as soon as this is done you can be sure I’ll be beating a path to En Azhar’s door – praying that he will find me worthy.

    As for Gayah, I get your drift, my friend… fires have a way of getting out of hand. Its best douse even the smallest spark (if any).

  16. ‘Rezeki jangan ditolak,maut jangan dicari’

    …jangan le jadi ibarat nak diajar anak rimau makan ikan Gayah,pasti tak mahu dia.
    Daging jugak jadi pilihan Gayah !!

    Kisah SiGayah macam Kisah Esah sikit mamak !! Cuma plotnya lain sikit.
    hmmmm…entah le….SiEsah itu ada pusing cerita sikit macam Elisebert Hart dlm ‘Women of Substance’
    SiGayah ni macam Victoria ‘High Capparall’ kawin dengan Mr.Cannon bapak siBlue atau
    Rita dlm.’Educating Rita’dengan Michale Cane.
    entah le sir… Happy Hunting sir.

  17. Hey Matt,

    Gua percaya sama lu lah. I got a feeling u r like that Arnie Susahnakeja’s character in ‘Commando’ or like the recent Mark Wahlberg’s character in ‘Shooter’. Either way I wouldn’t like to be at the receiving end when u let loose…hahaha. The only fights I ever got involved were only in Football & Rugby games in my college days, which was beyond my control, you gotta lookout for your mates. But then again all were forgotten after the game, no hard feelings.

    This song came to mind when u mentioned about young Gayah, enjoy;

    You’re much too young



    P/S – Wow, u r attracting a fear bit of affection from the fairer sex 🙂

  18. MB—-ur in deep ****

    I was not suggesting that u go round poking ur nose to check out the physical attributes or rather the non existence of a certain attribute of the ladies of Umbai…now u hv opened up a real big can of jenahaks…i just hope ms sharixat does not trawl the local blogs..

    anyway..wat about a old codger cafe concept?…with frontline personnel made up of bloggers,commentators who can still dispense virginal smiles cos “its been so long ago…” so its as good as new?

    Anyway..enjoy ur wit..n look fwd to see some of ur stuff on TV3 soon..i hv this idea about a school…zzzzzzzzzzzz

  19. Salam Bro. Mat,
    This posting and the various comments, especially the hilarious one by Ismail (and your reply) really made my day after coming back from another late nite lecture! They sure made a great panacea for a lonely bujang kawin in a one-bedroom apt. in Ajman, UAE! Take care Bro. & keep the juice flowing… I’ve yet to visit that infamous nasi lemak warung in Jalan Gombak…

  20. ..a fair bit of affection, Tommy, is putting it mildly..but this oldster have to warn with the words of Voltaire..’It is not enough to must knows how to seduce…’:)
    ..but then MB has always been true as a man.. for ‘The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.’ I remember the quote..but cant recall who said it…cheers..

  21. Hello Sofian. Nice to see you at last. Understandable why Gayah calls you Abang in the first place hehe. But I’m wondering why Pak Tuo calls you “mamak”.

    Love the new template, too.


    In Minang, I think ‘mamak’ is a term of endearment that translates to ‘uncle’ (mother’s side) in English. In context, its usually the tough guy in the family who watches out for the clan; the enforcer, so to speak.

    Yeah, I, too, wonder why he calls me mamak… I don’t exactly qualify as tough and there are many who will dispute that I am even a guy 🙂

  22. From the beginning I never agree to Boe’s penname as Mat Bangkai but it is his perogative then.

    Apa ada pada nama ya ?
    Segala-galanya Kak Zendra.Kakak lebih arif,akan maksud saya.
    Sudah dijelaskan beberapa kali pertanyaan sebegitu kepada pengunjung namum untuk dijelaskan buat Kak Z.
    ‘Mamak’adalah kata kosa ganti diri tinggi dulu kala.
    Dlm.masyarakat minangkabau,Mamak memainkan peranan peting dalam memelihara nasaf keluarga.Istilah kini mungkin boleh disamakan dengan ‘GodFather’.Ia memegang tampok penting dalam susun jalur keluarga.

    Sofian,dia mempunyai cici=ciri karisma memimpin.Dia bukan qualiti seorang ‘Pengurus’ yang hanya fungsinya mengurus tetapi dia seorang ‘Pemimpin’.
    Ada perbedaan anatara ‘Pengurus’ dan ‘Pemimpin’.Ciri-ciri tersebut jelas kelihatan pada diri Sofian sejak mula saya kenal dengannya nun 30 tahun dahulu.

    Hanya persuratan takdir yang menentukan jalan kehidupan kita yang ditentuka oleh allah azwajallah.Kami pasrah dan redha kurnian illai kepada kami.
    ‘Mamak’ adalah peneraju.
    Putih katanya putihlah semua,hitam katanya hitam lah.

    Dalam masyarakat Bugis,ganti diri ‘WAK’ merupakan peneraju keluarga.
    Kata putus ‘WAK’ adalah autonomi.
    Ketegasan ‘WAK’ dalam mengendalikan nazafnya dan tanggungjawabnya terhadap keluarga ialah kerana Allah.

    Ia berganding kait dengan Islam dan Hukum hakamnya.
    Sila rujuk kepada Hukaun Kanun Melaka sebagai rujukan.

    Dalam masyarakat Bugis,Minang traditional, kesalahan anak buah seseorang ‘WAK’ atau ‘MAMAK’,yang akan dikena sanction ialah WAK atau Mamak,keran mereka gagal mengawal pebuatan salah anak buahnya.
    Tetapi seselurohan hukuman jatuh kepada tertudoh.

    Oleh itu panggilan Mamak bagi masyarakat Minang atau Wak bagi masyarakat Bugis amat tinggi berpandukan cici-ciri dalam diri individu.

    Sofian mempunyai ciri-ciri tersebut.
    Kalau mahu diceritakan perjalanan kami berdua akan mengalirlah air mata ini semalaman,namun kami bersyukur limpah kurnia anugerah yang di beri oleh Allah azawajjalah.

    Salam buat Keluarga Kak Zen.


  23. Seronok baca penerangan Pak Tuo. Abang sofian, is Pak Tuo from mrsm sban too?


    No, dear. He is not MRSM. Met him when studying in London. Nice chap.

  24. Salam Pak Tuo Wel, terkedu saya baca penjelasan ni. Amat nyata sekali keakraban antara Wel dan Boe(nama ini ingin saya fahami juga – timangan kah?). Dan panggilan “mamak” itu merupakan suatu tanda kehormatan dari seorang sahabat, mungkin bagi mengingatkan Boe tentang warisan serta kedudukannya? juga bahawa beliau seorang pemimpin berkarisma, yang punya jatidiri? Namun yang diserlahkan dalam penulisannya ialah seorang yang rendah diri, baik hati dan bersahaja – seorang yang redha dan sabar. Saya doakan kejayaan buat Wel dan Boe, segala cabaran dan rintangan ditemukan penyelesaiannya, segala kesenangan diiringi dengan kesyukuran.

    Saya memang biasa dengan gelaran Wak itu sebagai ketua dalam keluarga keturunan Bugis – setakat ini ia masih dalam pergunaan dalam keluarga sepupu saya – cucu Wak Omar 😀

    Dalam bercerita pasal nama, mungkin Pak Tuo sudah tahu nama saya yang sebenar. Oleh itu saya tidak keberatan jika Pak Tuo ingin menggunanya, seperti juga saya harap Pak Tuo tak ambil hati saya tadi terus terjah dengan panggilan manja sebenar Pak Tuo.

    AMBOIII formalnya dengan dua-pupu saya sorang ni.

    Boe Sofian – you have in Pak Tuo Wel a fine “brother”. Is there a 3rd musketeer?


    No,ma’am. We are not the three musketeers… more like Batman and Robin 🙂

  25. My my, this is a really lovely article ,sir. It’s nice to find a reading source that can make you laugh and forget about all the stress of life.

    Glad you enjoyed your visit, Grey

  26. Salam MB,
    cerpen yg menarik huh?…..which warung in Umbai?…My son took me and my hubby to every warung in umbai …roadside or kampung,included warung ikan bakar everytime we visited him in Melaka ( he studied there…)I am yet to focus my memory …..which warung is Gayah’s?…(should I ask my son to look for Gayah?….he..he…)
    MB…exact location please..or GPRS?


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