Mama said I was so eager to come into this world that I didn’t wait for the doctor to get to the labor room. It was the nurse’s hands that welcomed me instead. It could either be due to my eagerness or that my two elder sisters had loosened the grip of my mother’s uterus to allow for my easy trip out. There was no drama in the world when I was born, 16 years after Malaysia gained her independence from the British, in a small town off the coast of Peninsula Malaysia, where fishing and agriculture were the main preoccupations. It was two months before the monsoon season on the east coast started, and would drench the coastline for the next two months with floodwater, raging waves and winds. It was the weekend and people had one hour of sleep left before the azan or the call to prayer can be heard from the mosques. But at the time when the umbilical cord that connected me to mama was cut and the salty air of the east coast filled my lungs, all was well.
The place of my birth, Kuala Terengganu, was a small idyllic town, where people moved and talked slowly and gently like the lapping waves on its shores except during the monsoon season, when they raged and wreaked havoc on the silky white sandy beach, pounding upon it, creating undulating sand dunes, which the wind later carried grain by grain leveling the field literally and metaphorically. My childhood memories of this languid town included following mama to the wet market on weekends; taking walks on the beach at night; being lulled to sleep by the sound of the gentle waves; catching tadpoles and dragonflies; and wading in the flood water during the monsoon season.- AAA