by Suzan Abrams
This is the start of a piece of multicultural fiction made up of a group of Indian housewives, of whom I still remember holding similar rituals and living in a working-class neighbourhood in a town called Klang, in Malaysia.
…The rolling pin women, were in reality, a heavy breed of leftover housewives, who now marked the harem of jelly-bellied husbands. The frumpy females secretly had the word ‘dropout’ marked on their school accumulative cards. Now, they fancied themselves, a sly bit on the career side, having created an automatic self-promotion system where biscuit packers were turned into instant supervisors, ward aides into illegal nurses and temporary teachers into headmistresses. “From where you heard my daughter is working in the canteen?” Here an angry snort would follow. “Don’t talk nonsense! She is getting good pay, supervising 400 people in the factory!”
“I know people are saying my son is just a mechanic but you wait and see…after his bonus he is going to buy over the WHOLE gigantic business.”
Naturally, the rolling-pin women were manipulated, encouraged and lauded by ‘pregnant’ husbands: all of whom spotted belches in their windpipes and a bottomless pit of permanently, undissolved beer under their navels. The promotions in questions were designed to shock the neighbours and compete with the slightly upper-class Santamarias and aloof Anthonysamys….
Catch that loudspeaker voice on a nice Friday morning when the vegetable monger had just been.
“Did you hear about Mrs. Magdalena de Costa, you know, the one whose useless husband got himself dead roaring drunk and was throwing chairs at some political analyst fool at the Tequila coffee shop last Friday? Pay day, what! Money in the pocket and thinking he’s some big shot! Real samsu barbarian… Behaving like it was his grandfather’s shop! And who is going to pay for all those chairs, tell me?
The insider information continued to be long and merciless.
“Apparently, our de Costa friend, who knows out of misery or whatever, is playing nothing but Suspicion by Elvis Presley, day in and day out. People are saying one screw is loose in the head. Another is going to drop off. And some more, playing it at high pitch volume. And even worse, she is driving Mrs. Lingam next door, bonkers! I tell you, SIMPLY BONKERS! Can you imagine that?
The ruling flibbertigibbet of this parochial locality and who had now contributed to this haphazard hogwash was Mariammah Koshy, an inquisitive loquacious woman and currently, the street’s wealthiest resident. She had a reputation for ‘lording it over the rest’; what with her newly-renovated corner house, boasting a monster garden and specially imported turf grass.
Still, for an important illustration of volume and speed, consider too, the encyclopaedic spread of Mrs.Thanaletchumy Muthusamy’s 40D inch bust! It charted up a military, hardy and formidable presentation, from whichever angle, you cared to study it. Now, add on to the satisfied picture, the interesting prospect of a fat, flying plait and heavy-duty California raisins for a pair of sturdy nipples.
After all, the fullness of Thanaletchumy’s ample bosom, like wildfire rumours, hinted of many things. Her bust, packed clumsily together like fat, misshapen gunny sacks, were always trying to rush ahead of her.
The jellyfish tentacles of her uneven, fleshy mounds lolled about with unsure direction; then suddenly took eager astral flights before drooping down again and as with all bad news, finally heading for a downward parachute spin in slow motion.
Now Thanaletchumy with her excitable 40D inch bust offered a helpful interjection and a counterfeit Bugs Bunny smile that complimented her slightly moustached lip. Like her ‘plentiful charms’, her voice too was loud, full-bodied and voluminous.
“After all, you don’t know about Mrs. Lingam, isn’t it? The thing is this poor lady is already suspecting that her husband is keeping another woman with two miserable kids in this kampong place, you know, where is this hideout, uh? Ahh yes, Padang Jawa!
Thanaletchumy studied her star struck brood. Her plaits now performed a succession of gymnastic feats. Her head rolled about like an amateur classical dancer. Her fingers practised the usual Hawaiian twist gestures. Her raised hands exposed two Pluto circles of sticky sweat.
Finally exhausted, they called for applause. Her listeners, on the other hand, cursed impatiently for the predictable scene to be over. Thanaletchumy lingered for an ovation. Finally panting, her voice dropped to a low whisper.
“For five months, she has been living with this worry but he won’t admit his crime. Instead, the big hero is threatening to wallop poor Mrs. Lingam, give her one flying kick and chuck her clothes out. And furthermore, now with Mrs. De Costa’s ENCOURAGEMENT, she is thinking of packing up and returning to her mother for good in Madras. After all, she was only here on a visitor’s visa!”
“Thanaletchumy felt as regal as a queen. Her chest rose to the imaginary Himalayas. Her ambition was to aim for the Everest and plant a flag somewhere in her deep lost cleavage. She added on a social commentary for good measure.
“First, blindly marry and come…Which man will want her now, tell me?”
“Mrs Mariammah Koshy, fed-up with the stolen limelight and Thanaletchumy’s ramblings, had decided enough was enough and that it was now time for her to throw her weight about with some surety of dignity. Her emergency trump card strode out from behind the curtains.
“Tell the girl if she is planning to go to India, to hurry up, for God’s sake! Otherwise, she’ll be here next year itself and that useless God-forsaken bum would have beaten her up, nicely black and blue. Once it’s October, they will close the bookings and you cannot get any ticket from KL to India. Impossible, I’m telling you!
“Last year, my doctor husband and I tried. Oh God, how we tried! With the best connections available, mind you! What a headache! MAS cannot, Air India cannot, Air Lanka also out; the whole works. In the end, from all this trouble of course, we had to fly first class. And from the stress for nothing, I caught high fever and was hospitalised.”
Mrs. Mariammah Koshy sucked in a long, deliberate breath and waited for what seemed an eternity. She would torment her star-struck group, working up to a standing ovation.
Thanaletchumy stamped her size 8 feet in frustration. Her shiny new varnish called You Sexy Vamp You disguised the ugly yellowish hues of her chipped toenails with its flamingo pink passions. She had bought it from the nearby Ocean supermarket for just RM$1-50. She had heard of a similar cheap brand that had exploded like firecrackers onto a woman’s nose and damaged ‘the finer nasal interiors’.
Of course, she could only pray to her various deities, Lord Ganesha, in particular that her nose, a plump circular blob would stay prosperous and attractive, all the way into eternal splendour, where she hoped to be reincarnated for good, as a Revlon supermodel. In her absent-mindedness, she was unable to remember the heavily-censored Carry On films shown over Radio Television Malaysia in the 1980s
But not that anyone had noticed, anyway. Her hangover breasts made a sudden plunge into Never-Never land. They sank, subdued. Her nipples debated if they should attempt an underwater snorkel, for a change. Spontanous mountain-climbing Thanaletchumy-style could prove highly strenuous. The darkie twins were starting to feel like beanstalks.
Thanaletchumy hated it at times like this, when the gossips ignored her existence. Very clever, isn’t it. Very smart… First like big-shots, mind you, voting her in as general-secretary of the informal Rolling Pin Beauty-Queen association.
Then, making her do all the “donkey jobs” Just because she was good at snooping and specialised in undercover activities. Just because she was excellent at extracting information from the hardened of the wise. Just because she was always admiring Johnny English and Simon Templar. First, praising her. Calling her the CIA, the FBI, then God-knows-what-not; then making her do all the filthy work. No shame, these people. No shame at all.
After all, she never asked for much.
She thanked God for her sickly husband who had mastered the art of managing the bandaged limb as he was forever falling down from his motorcycle and skipping work. She thanked God for her obese 11-year old daughter who was never invited to any of that stuck-up (“who the hell does she think she is?”) Deborah Madonna Santamaria’s exclusive barbecue parties.
Don’t think the wounded mother hadn’t noticed. Just watch out, by the way.
One of these days, she was going to teach that woman properly. Give her hell and high water.
Pinky-pinky ponkie…Lily’s grinding chilli, for her God or bitter-gourd..Lily mangles Pinkie!
Or if you’re talking Klang, think of a scratchy Revolvers spin instead, with its intriguing rendition of Santana’s Black Magic Woman or Johnny Chua’s Love on a Monday Night, accompanied with all of his puckering, shivering and shaking that sent the frozen spinsters and confused housewives wild.
Melodrama was the name of the game and after all, there were a fair number of Plain Janes who qualified for a Johnny Chua crush, on old Dondang road.
For instance, the trio of Pereira sisters, all confirmed spinsters, who lived just round the corner… Who would think they would attempt a limbo rock twist, unless one afforded them the greatest torture?
They could hardly walk, having been caught in a time warp where they seemed to be forever floating about on a carousel, waltzing like ghosts, to an old Hollies’s hit. That was the best they could muddle through.
They looked neither young, nor old. They were here, there and everywhere and yet, they were nowhere. They were believed to be around 58.
Naturally, they made a sad picture; provoking graveyard images, all at once, of the terrifying, wrinkled bride in Great Expectations.
They appeared forgotten and discarded to all but themselves.Rosemary and Lily prided themselves on Jupiter circles for face, neck, bust and stomach in what could only be termed as a somewhat wobbly effect. Because the structure was never quite that right, the froggish orbits looked somewhat twisted and dented in no particular order.
It was an open secret that their down-unders, hoarded with all the delicate assortments that made for a potential fiery sexuality, had been shut for business from even before they were born.
“Close shop…close shop…can see your coffee shop…coffeeshop…cofeeeee shop…”
In fact, so tightly bolted were their doors of empty desire, that even a pinkie finger bearing a delicate temperament and trying to weave its way in, would face dishevelment, crushing defeat and perhaps even as a last resort, subjected to counselling.
Such was the rumoured song, “Pinkie pinkie ponky, Lily’s grinding chilli, for her god or bitter gourd, Lily mangles Pinkie!”
In fact, it was argued that to restore healing as believed by a staunch Catholicism, angels would have to labour on 24-hour shifts, hammering their way in…to God knows where! It was a tricky business all round. It was also whispered that they had no periods and would never experience the traumas of menopause.
The standing joke was that Rosemary and Lily could both acquire a small fortune, presenting their ‘jewels’, as museum exhibits. And while they were at it, to mind the cobwebs.
The third sister and youngest of the three at 56, Lucy-Daisy, looked a belligerent old woman with her face, morose and black like thunder, ready to pick fights at the slightest opportunity.
She fancied herself as some kind of leftover from the Gidget films. She demonstrated this by carrying old fashioned handbags and donning frocks and flowers, her terrifying white hair, bunched into a messy ponytail.
This in turn, horrified the trembling Malays as the hair-band of frangipanis were said to attract top-class bloodthirsty devils, like a powerful magnet. The controversial frangipanis were a familiar trademark of Malaysian cemeteries. “Tak boleh pakai bunga lainkah?” Why couldn’t she adopt the bougainvillea for God’s sake?
Not that Lucy-Daisy minded. She took to mumbling and murmuring, while marching long distances in her shocking pink Wellingtons that a pitying relative had parcelled from England.
Sometimes, she would stop suddenly, in the middle of the prominent Klang bridge that separated North from South, just to fix her lipstick, her face having already been snowed under with half a tin of London Bridge talc.
It was an open secret that Deborah Madonna Santamaria, youngest daughter of Judas Alacantra, was referred to as the ‘clownish Eurasion.’
Who was to tell that Alacantra worked as a humble fisherman on the Portugest settlement in Melaka town, Malaysia and not as was rumoured, a butler service on a makebelieve castle in a faraway tourist spot.
Mrs. Santamaria took to wearing see-through negligees about the place, a cheap cigarette in one hand, a can of beer in the other and Presley drooling a rusty number on the dusty cd.
At 41, her flesh appeared to want to disengage themselves desperately from her midget bones. Instead, they retired to multi-layered flab that dangled dangerously from arms, thighs and hips.
Her breasts looked like they were suffering from a permanent inferiority complex, preferring to stare at floors, and settling for a lopsided view of the world. Her nipples were like worn-out bullets, staring miserably at the carpet.
Sinking dangerously downwards, they swung about like pendulums clashing and banging, half-witted and half-blind. They pleaded confusion and insanity. Not even Mrs. Santamaria’s
Wonderbra doubled up as an emergency bandage. These were troubled times and troubled waters.
Were her drop-downs planning to run away to greener pastures?
The sad news, was that Deborah Madonna Santamaria’s boobs were destined for a nursing home, hospice-style.
The weekends brought about pure relief. Deborah Madonna engaged a frail Indonesian maid borrowed from a friend, to “make a job of it”, pounding on her naked back and bottom until her
body was hoarse and the servant’s hand was sore.
The assignment was an hour long body massage using selected Indonesian oils. There wasn’t much to massage or thump about as Deborah Madonna Santamaria was known to be the shortest woman on the block.
To make up for her Lilliputian frame, she portrayed a loud and aggressive manner like the midget fire-hot chilli that the Malays labelled, the volatile, violent chilli padi. Neighbours stayed convinced that she was baptised as a feminine derogatory vision of Hitler and the like…
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ⓒ Copyright Suzan Abrams