The last member of my father's family passed on today. She was my dad's younger sister and was 74 when she died. Mami was my only aunt on my father's side and she was very sporting. I remember when we were teenagers and wanted to go to the cinema - she would be the one to take us there. In those days girls were not allowed out on their own and if we wanted to watch a movie, we had to have a chaperone. And who would our chaperone be but this favourite aunt. Like us she enjoyed Hindi movies and didn't mind taking us to the cinema.
I remember the time when she lived at the army camp in Kulai, Johore. My cousins and I went to stay with her for the school holidays and we had the greatest time there. She wasn't very strict - just expected us to wake up early and make our own beds but otherwise we could do very much as we please. Those were really happy and care free days - sliding down the drain (in those days there were no lazy rivers or Sunway waterparks) in the rain, climbing the huge rain trees behind the barracks, playing rounders ( a kind of baseball game), eating satay, playing police and thieves (a kind of game like catch) or just lazing around telling stories. It was one of my happiest holidays. Mami loved kids and even though she already had 3 of her own - all younger than me - she didn't mind having us for the holidays.
There were other memories - of her sitting at the verandah, gossiping with my mum or just sitting there with her sewing. By the time I was in my teens, mami was back in Banda Kaba, living in the house next to ours. Her husband - Baba Jalil was by this time retired from the army and with his pension they built their house on the land next to ours. Mami was good friends with my mum, sometimes passing on food that she had cooked to us, often making raya cookies together . In the evenings I loved to sit at her verandah and just talk. She was the aunt you could talk to because she always understood your problems. We didnt need an agony aunt - she was always there for my cousins and me. Kakak Rosnah who at the time was interested in a second cousin of ours, talked to her about it. When others scolded and gave us advice telling us to study and not look at boys, she was more practical and offered advice that we didn't mind listening to. When I felt my own mum was too harsh or too old-fashioned she was there too - the kindly go-between.Coming back from boarding school, hers would be the first house I'd go to, after my grandmother's. She always had time to listen to my stories of boarding school life, its highs and lows.Sometimes she'd comment but more often than not she'd just listen, a sounding board for most of my juvenile yearnings and complaints.
Some how in my busy schedule I'd forgotten how close I used to be with her. In the last few years I had not even visited her - just because I didn't like her son, my cousin. But today, after the funeral was over, I just sat and reminisced those days, so long ago and felt a pang. Its no use regretting what is over, but I wish I had visited her, and told her how much I love her.