The year was 1955. A year after their marriage, my parents immigrated to Malaysia from India. Traveling by sea was the only mode they could afford. It was also a good way to make new friends. My mother, only 17 years old then, was pregnant with her first child—me. My father, then a young man of 25, was a labourer in India, and was hoping to find a better job in Malaysia.
On the ship, they met a kind hearted man who was in his 60s. He was a frequent traveler to Malaysia and Singapore. They all got along very well. He had also offered to introduce my parents to a Malay family in Penang, Malaysia. He said that they were kind and surely would not mind my parents staying in one of their spare rooms. He would also help my father get a job. His name was Samy but he preferred to be called Jaffar.
Once in Penang, Jaffar promised to introduce my parents to a man named Omar. Omar owned a flour and spice manufacturing business. Jaffar served Omar by buying spices and lentil seeds for him on his trips to India. Jaffar was very fond of my father and had planned to speak to Omar about a job for him.
When my parents and Jaffar touched land, they met Omar, who was waiting for them with a car. Omar greeted my father and then complimented on how beautiful my mother looked. My parents were uncomfortable by Omar's bold remark. But being young and conservative in upbringing, they didn't criticise.
Omar drove Jaffar and my parents to the house of the Malay family Jaffa had talked about on the ship. There were 4 of them in the family, the head of the house was Syed. He had a pretty wife, Tipah, and two teenage daughters, Hasnah and Norma. Tipah immediately took a liking to my mother, and cared for her just like one of her own daughters. My father too was well liked by the family.
After having traveled for more than two weeks on a slow old ship, my parents slept peacefully throughout the night on a cozy warm bed.
In the morning, Omar came round to the house and paid Jaffar a visit; they had planned to go somewhere to talk business. Omar suggested that my father came along. My mother objected with a frown. She was a very good judge of character, and immediately sensed Omars ulterior motives. My father, being an obliging man, thought it would be impolite to reject the invitation. Despite my mothers obvious disapproving expression, my father went ahead and joined them.
Along the way, Omar talked to my father about working for him. He planned for my father to go with Jaffar to India every month or so to scout for cheaper and better spices. My father was so grateful to Omar for having blind faith in him that he accepted the offer without a second thought.
When my father returned home, he told my mother about Omar's plans to include him as a business associate just like Jaffa. My mother was furious and it led to a big argument. My father refused to accept her rationale about how Omar looked at her in a deprave manner whenever he laid eyes her. My father refused to believe her, saying she was too naive to know anything. He was so steadfast in wanting to work for Omar that he disregarded whatever she cautioned.
Omar, being also close to Syed and his family, visited them often. But, more often then since my mother was there. My father was indebted to Omar for the job and trust in him that he became too blind to realise what Omar was actually up to.
One day, my father had to leave for India. It was a three-weeks long trip. He would go to Jaipur with Jaffar and thereafter to Madras. Jaffar would stay in Jaipur for longer.
The weeks when my father was away, my mother had to rely on Omar for information about my father. She had to hide her personal disgust for him and treated him with formal respect.
Omar was a cunning and manipulative man. He had his ways to get what he wanted—he wanted my mother.
Omar visited my mother every day, showing great concern for her and her unborn child. He would spend money on her—buying food, gifts, and taking her to the doctor's whenever necessary. He extended similar generosity towards Syed and his family too. But for Syed, it was a strange experience to see Omar so generous and concern; he had always known Omar to be a miserly man. Syed suspected that Omar was up to no good, and cautioned my mother against trusting him too much. It was too late, though. My mother, who had always been strong willed, had fallen prey to Omar's deception. She became fond of him, truly fond of him.
Three weeks had passed yet there was no news about my father or Jaffar. That didn'tt seem to bother my mother at all. Syed, on the other hand, was very concerned. So, when Omar came to the house one day, he asked Omar about my father's whereabouts.
"Oh, there is a delay in Madras. I can't do anything about it. We'll have to wait for a while," Omar replied.
Syed, feeling responsible for my mother's care, expressed his concerns on Omars frequent visits to the house just to see her.
"Chik Omar, don't you think it is a little unnecessary for you to be giving too much attention to Mrs Gopal?"
Omar was offended by Syed's question. That let to an argument which left Omar furious. He stomped out of the house, cursing.
Omar stopped coming over to the house. Then, two days after Omar had had the argument with Syed, Syeds first daughter, Hasnah, became very ill. She was vomiting blood and screaming hysterically in pain. It didnt take Syed too long to figure out what had happened. He took her to a bomoh[witch doctor] immediately. The bomoh told him that she was possessed by a powerful evil spirit, and that her life was in grave danger. The bomoh, admitting he was not knowledgeable enough to remove the powerful hex, recommended they went to Perak to see a very powerful medium. Syed also asked the bomoh about my mother's condition, and wanted some help for her. The bomoh gave him a herbal mixture for my mother.
Tipah made soup, poured the herbal concoction in it and served it to my mother at dinner. After drinking it, my mother became nauseous and then vomited. Syed and Tipah stood in horror as they noticed tiny thorns in her vomit.
My mother was ill for two days afterwards. Her disgust for Omar returned and she started worrying about her husband's whereabouts once again. There was no alternative but to face Omar if she wanted information on her husband. So, along with Syed, my mother took a taxi to Omars house. He wasnt home, so they went to his factory. What awaited them there was the biggest surprise yet—my father.
Apparently, my father had not gone to India at all. Omar had lied and had made him work at the factory as a slave. When my father saw my mother, he didnt show any sign of enthusiasm. He stared at her as if she was a stranger. Then he turned away and cried on working at the flour grinder machine. The ordeal was too much for my mother to handle; she fainted into Syed's arms.
Syed put my mother into the taxi still waiting outside and rushed to my father. He shook my father by the shoulders but my father was lifeless and just stared expressionlessly at Syed.
He's turned him into a Zombie! Syed thought.
He tried to pull my dazed father away from the machine but he wouldn't budge. He tried hard but my father pushed him away and carried on working at the mill. There was nothing else Syed could do but return home with my mother empty handed.
They visited the bomoh again the next evening and attained a concoction for my father to drink. Getting him to drink it would mean going to the factory again and maybe even a confrontation with Omar. Syed advised my mother to stay home while he went with a friend, Amin, to see my father.
At the factory, when Syed saw Omar, he immediately charged at Omar. Omar and Syed engaged in a violent fight. If it hadn't been for Amins intervention, Omar would have perished because Syeds rage was uncontrollable. He was kicking and punch the fallen Omar till he was bleeding from his head, eyes, and mouth.
Omars three workers, including my father, just stood and watched the incident, unmoved. Omar knelt before Syed, crying and pleading for forgiveness, but Syed kicked him away. "If my daughter dies, I will kill you!" Syed shouted the words at Omar. He and Amin then grabbed my father and brought him home.
The next day, Syed, Amin, and the sick Hasnah, made their way to Perak. After some days of travel, they came across a remote village. There were no motorized vehicles; only bullock carts, so they hired one to take them to the mediums house.
The house was a simple wooden structure on stilts and with a thatch roof. They called from outside, and an old man in his eighties stepped out and stood at the doorway. He welcomed them in with a wide smile. They had not even told him about the situation when he said, "Don't worry. All will be fine."
He was indeed a powerful medium, thought Syed, for Hasnah was showing signs of normalcy immediately upon entering his house.
The old man was said to be able to see, and talk to, spirits.
"The spirit that is trying to destroy your daughter is outside this house. It won't come in," The old man said.
That explained Hasnahs sudden recovery, Syed felt.
The medium then went outside, did some chanting, and splashed water around the perimeter of his house. He gave Syed two talismans; one for Hasnah, and the other, for my mother.
"Tuk, how did you know about the other person? I haven't told you anything about her," Syed asked, bemused.
The old medium smiled and said,"Someone is trying to win her over with black magic and he wasn't going to stop trying until he has her. Therefore, she should wear this talisman always."
Syed then asked him about my father, but the medium only shook his head in sadness. "I can't do anything for him. His soul has been captured and without him here, there is nothing I can do."
That was a heart wrenching news for Syed and Hasnah for they knew it would devastate my mother.
Syed was happy to see his daughter recover and he would pay the medium anything he wanted but all the medium asked for was a simple favour. He gave Syed a bundled cloth and told him to burry it by a banana tree somewhere behind the house. Syed did as he was told without questioning, then gave him 25 ringgit as a token of appreciation.
Meanwhile at Syeds home, three days had passed after drinking the concoction given by the local bomoh, my father still showed no improvement. My mother and Tipah took him to the hospital but he still remained mindless.
Syeds return showed promise for peace for his family but not for my mother. My father died four days after Syed's return from Perak. My mother was so distraught, and fell into depression. Had it not been for the talisman protecting her, she would have committed suicide. And, I wouldn't exist today.
The eeriest thing about the whole event was the recovery of a doll. It was a muddy looking doll made of sticks and cloth. There were some Arabic words written on the cloth. Part of what was written was my fathers name—Gopal. The doll was apparently dropped somewhere in the bushes in front of Syeds house. The dolls limbs were bound very tightly so as to render the represented person a prisoner—zombie.
If only they had found the doll sooner, I think they could have saved my father's life.
I was born on the 15th of March 1956. Wasnt born healthy though, I had yellow fever and a weak heart. I had given the doctors at the hospital lots to worry about. Nevertheless, I survived and was brought home after a month of intensive care. Life was hard on my mother but, thanks to Syed and his extremely kind family adopting my mother as their own daughter, she survived the ordeal and brought me up well.
If youre wondering what happened to Omar, well, he was last heard of in 1956 leaving for Singapore.
Jaffar was never heard from. I really wonder what happened to him.
Syed died peacefully in 1988. His wife, Tipah died in 1991. His two daughters sold the house and left for Kuantan after his death. Where exactly, I don't know. I really wish to know them.
My mother and I are still living in Penang. I have a beautiful wife and a 12 year-old son.
I hope I will never cross path with Omar or anyone related to him, for I dont know what I will do. If Omar ever reads this, I want him to know that there is a severe punishment awaiting him in hell.
My advice to all you readers—please dont meddle with the supernatural. You really dont know what you are getting yourself into.