I remember the summer before we went to Uni - there were 16 of us Oxbridge students who didn't go back to Malaysia. 8 girls and 8 guys (including 3 of my Cardiff guys), and all of us stayed at Malaysia Hall throughout the long hot summer holidays. With Ayah back in Malaysia for the break, it turned out to be a very long summer for me indeed - and a lonely one at that.
All 16 of us decided that rather than not doing anything, lazing around waiting for our A Level results to come out, we'd better earn some dosh, and all of us ended up working. Some of us ended up slaving away at Mc*, KF* (Oxford Street) or Sat*Ria (Bayswater). Some ended up working at Bal*y and Se*fri*ges. And some, like me who preferred easy, straight forward jobs, ended up working at Malaysia Hall itself. I became a part-time cleaner there, while my room-mate R*e helped out in the kitchen/dining hall/cafeteria. The pay was good, considering that we didn't have to pay rent or for our meals throughout our stay there! More importantly, it helped to keep my mind off Ayah somewhat.
I still kept my house in Western Avenue, Llandaff then (but, paying only half the rent throughout summer) as all my stuff were still there in the house. Furthermore, my juniors in Cardiff, O*a and Il*a who were going to Upper Sixth Form that year were planning to continue renting the place when they came back from their Summer break that September. And even though most of my stuff in Cardiff were all packed and sealed, I was still not sure of which Uni I would end up at in September as I had a few offers and it all depended on my A Level results.
I remember being very busy in the mornings in London, but very free in the afternoons and the evenings - which led me to feeling very blue most of the time, desperately missing Ayah. It became so bad that when I heard that Ros*an was going back to Cardiff for a few days, I even kirim through him to bring back the small Teddy Bear which Ayah had given me early in the year. I gave him my house keys, and three days later, being a sport he was, he came back to Malaysia Hall with the Teddy Bear! Now when I think about this, rasa kelakar la pulak...Si Ros*an tu pun, layan ajer I?!!
Ros*an was indeed like a big brother to me, and I remember every night he would intercom me from the second floor (all the guys were staying on the second floor, while the girls were on the third floor), and we would melayan each other. He was also missing K**or, his then girlfriend, and I was missing Ayah! Imagine two angaus on the phone/intercom every night talking about their bf/gf to each other! But, I guessed, in a way, it helped ease the pang somewhat. Even though I would get Ayah's numbered letters from Malaysia every now and then, it was just pure torture. Yes - the Summer of 1988 felt like it was the longest summer ever indeed!
Our A Level results finally came out and I was so happy as I got to go to the Uni I had hoped to go to in Norwich, and Ayah got to go to his Uni of choice in Newcastle upon Tyne.
I remember waiting desperately for him to come back to the UK that September after the long break. Ayah had in fact called a few times and had informed me of his flight details. He was flying Air Canada and I had blocked the date he was supposed to be arriving in London in my diary. Berdebar-debar macam first time nak jumpa pulak! I remember having difficulty sleeping the night before and I was so looking forward to seeing Ayah again.
But, I also remember feeling SO upset that morning when the receptionist at Malaysia Hall - K.Maz*i, conveyed me a message. It was from Ayah. Apparently, Ayah's flight had to be diverted to Bombay (then) due to some technical problems two hours into the flight! A few hours stop-over turned into a day stop-over...which in the end turned into a 5 days stop-over!!! Penantian itu, satu penyiksaan they say....What an understatement!
All our major life decisions by then would involve inputs from the other, and I was so looking forward to seeing Ayah - not just because I was missing him (of course!), but also because I had also started to don the tudung on the day he was supposed to arrive back in London!
We had discussed it before but never seriously, and Ayah had left it for me to decide whether I was ready to take the big step. He never indicated that he wanted me to wear the tudung. Neither did he indicate that he was against it. I guess he didn't want his opinion to influence me in such a personal matter. (However, I had the feeling that he was not really up to the idea then). So, you all can just imagine how anxious I was waiting for him then! I had not, till that point, informed him of my decision to go ahead with it, and it was meant to be a surprise...
And I had to wait for SIX days before I could surprise him eventually when he arrived at Malaysia Hall - looking all haggard and exhausted! Being stranded for five days in Bombay was no joke...He must have lost 3 kilos over the five days he was in India!
And I can still remember seeing him (despite being so jet-lagged and bushed) giving me a very pleasant, approving smile, when he first saw me in my tudung... The way he looked at me was...simply endearing...and for that I am forever thankful to him for making it easier for me to continue with my niat to don the tudung...IT REALLY MEANT A LOT TO ME...
Our Uni years were somewhat not as eventful as the early years of our relationship. I guessed our hearts were very much settled, and we were continuously getting to know each other better. Those were the times when our true colours came out, and in a way those were the times when we were tested - whether, despite knowing that both of us had our own Jekylls and Hydes, we would still remain as an item. And syukur alhamdulillah, we learned to accept each other, faults and all, during our Uni years.
Our relationship continued to develop over the three years. Most of the times, Ayah would be the one visiting me in Norwich as accommodation was easier for him. I was staying at the Uni's Halls of Residence throughout the three years - sharing with both girls and guys, and every year there would be at least one Malaysian guy staying on the same floor as me! So, there was always someone's room he could bunk in at when he came for a visit. And again, he became a regular in Norwich...
One thing that I would always remember about his visits to Norwich would be this one time when I was pretty sick during one winter. I was down with a very bad flu, with a very bad lung infection and was flat for nearly a week, and I could not even walk to the public phone which was just 15 feet away from my room to call him! Even if I could, I would not have been able to talk to him as I had lost my voice totally! I had to miss a lot of my classes and I just could not bring myself to keep anything down. Whatever I ate just refused to be digested and would find its way down the sink every time!
Re*a (one of my MT friends who also ended up in Norwich with me) had pestered me to inform Ayah of my condition as she was getting pretty worried about me. But, I told her not to tell Ayah, as I did not want to worry him. It was after all, just a flu. However, after 3 unsuccessful days of trying to get me to eat something, Re*a decided to take matters into her hands and she called Ayah one evening behind my back. And Ayah who had not heard from me for nearly a week then, just dropped everything and took the first train out from Newcastle the next morning, and by lunch time he was standing there right in front of my room!
I was so touched, and what with feeling miserable and under the weather for quite some time then, I just broke down and cried - which was HELL, as I had such a sore throat and my cough was as good as killing me while I was sobbing away!
And Ayah stayed on for nearly a week looking after me - his worst patient ever! He dragged me to see the doctor (Yup - all those while I was sick, I refused to go to the Medical Centre!) He cooked for me. He washed my clothes. He did my grocery shopping. He even got the notes for all the classes that I missed out from my course-mates! So much so, that when I eventually got better, I berlakon sakit coz' tak nak dia balik Newcastle....Hahahaha!
So, THAT was one of the things I remember about our Uni days...
Both of us did pretty well in our studies at Uni. And by the third year, when both of us were 23 years old, we had already decided that whatever it was, God willing, we would ONLY tie the knot at the age of 26 - not later, not earlier. We had even decided on the wedding date! But, the funny thing was - Ayah had never ever proposed to me... and I guessed it would be an insult to me if he WERE to propose... It was understood.
And as I was preparing for my Final Exams and Graduation Day, there were a few matters which Ayah and I needed to sort out. Ayah had another 2 years before he was to graduate. And he was planning to continue with his MRCP after that. Would both of us be okay if Petronas were to ask me to go back to KL straight away after graduating? Would we be able to survive yet an even huger distance love affair considering how close we had become then?
We needed to buy time. We needed to think fast.
It was April/May 1991. And I was graduating in July that year...
To be continued...