*A journal entry – story from my childhood.

I first knew the word ‘interest’ or Bunga in the Malay language, (which means flower) when I was in Standard 1.

It was from a friend whose name is Nurul Ain. I can’t remember her father’s name, whether he is Isnin or Misbun or Marzupi – it must be something around those three. In my class, we were the only two girls wearing the hijab. For a seven-year-old of me, I felt connected to her instantly because she dressed like us; like my sisters and my mother (Ummi).

The same hijab made me feel like she was one of my friends from the Islamic kindergarten (PASTI) that I attended for three years before I went to that school. The primary school is a public government school of multiracial and multicultural kids.

My sister, Kakak, was sent to a private Islamic school (ABIM) in town with my two other cousins. I always thought that they were in the ‘cooler’ school, for all of their meals (recess, lunch, and tea) were provided, so the students do not need to bring pocket money. The session ended in the evening, while my school, only for half day.

It was my earliest feeling of unfairness and pile of questions I kept from my parents for quite a while, and whether they unconsciously and unintentionally did that to me, I have more accounts later in my teenage years that accentuated that feeling – that stories for later time but at this point, the most important thing to know is that I’ve moved on from the rage.

At my 30 years of age, I assume that Abi (my father) sent Kakak to ABIM’s school because she was the first child. At that time he had no idea which school to send her, and how the logistic should be so, he put Kakak with her sister’s children. Kakak went to transit at my aunt’s place before Abi fetched her late evening.

Back to Nurul Ain, I borrowed 50 cents from her one day because Abi forgot to give me money for recess. The next day, I returned 50 cents to her with the money Abi gave me for that day, he didn’t make up to what he had forgotten the day before, and it was the first time in my life that I borrowed money from someone.

Perhaps, the reason I still remember this event is that it felt tragic to me. I was embarrassed. The following day, that girl still asked money from me as if I hadn’t paid her. When I told her I already did return her money, she told me I still needed to pay the Bunga.

For two days in a row, I didn’t eat during recess. However, I didn’t remember feeling hungry or weak, so I’m sure hunger wasn’t a part of the ‘tragedy’ because I knew that when I returned home, Ummi had prepared a comprehensive lunch that I really loved like the fried fish and cabbage in coconut milk. A few years later when I was already big enough to tolerate hot and spicy things, Ummi added chili paste on the fried fish, called it Masak Terutup and that becomes the favorite dish of mine till now.


Anyway, I didn’t hear any more of Bunga until a decade later when Abi gave me some young adult’s financial advice.