12 is the age for childhood to end and taking flight into the adolescent years, but not for this Makcik. Her hometown was in Kelantan, near the seas. She was a gung-ho for the seas and catching fishes, but everything changed since leprosy hit, she was 12.
Her subcutaneous layer was tearing apart, her skin was reddening, her soul was encapsulated in a walking corpse, malodorous, shredding dead skin wherever she walked. Ostracising was the initial action that her family and relatives took. She was akin to a wandering virus, not welcomed in anyone’s sight.
Rejection and dejection struck at the same time, leading to more than depression, a living hell, mentally and physically. Medicine was not advanced at her times, she waited, and being tortured. Makcik was the only one among her family and relatives that got leprosy, she blamed herself for having bad blood.
Hope came, researches were heavily promulgated throughout Malaysia due to the leprosy epidemic. Makcik was escorted to their research centre in Kelantan and then transported to K.L. A battery of tests were run through her, but until then, when I met her, Makcik had lost a leg to negate the spreading of the virus throughout her body, her features were distorted, her fingers were torn-out- lacking of some bones, and her hearing was severely deteriorated.
Even though she was in her 60s, she stood strong against the time and tide of the impediment and adversaries of life. She is a champ, a survivor of a Pyrrhic victory against the vicious leprosy, an individual who knew that her life was going to be claimed by death itself sooner or later. Makcik did relish her times of being ‘famous’ by being interviewed or being on TV, she fought valiantly, I admire her.
Being a factory girl in the nascent stages of life was a norm when the labour law was non-existent in the 1950s. Aunty was a slave to the industrial revolution in the factories, generating countless rubber. She had to work round the clock, and even being up at 2 in the morning to be in the fields.
21, where people were getting married and stuffs in those days, Aunty got hit by the leprosy outbreak, she was forced to get into the leprosy centre located in Sungai Buloh. Escaping the claws of the factories just to jump into the mouth of the disease’s devil.
I got to talk to her, in Hokkien, how long had I not had a chat with someone old in Hokkien? Almost three years since my grandma’s demise. It was a nostalgia and a disgrace at the same time, I had a lot of hiccups in my Hokkien, but we still managed to carry out a decent conversation.
Our conversing topics ranged from how life has changed from the past to our lives. Tears were tinted in her disfigured eyes, she was teary when she talked to me, I was holding back my feelings for her too. I got to her height- the wheelchair, just to talk to her, purely enjoying her presence, relishing bits of breadcrumbs from the past.
It is a blessing that many people visit us, they have hearts. Study well. These were the two things that was important in the exchange of words, and hearts.
Meeting lepers really opened my eyes to the remnants of the terror of the viruses that plagued the world. This visit had shed a new light into my life, I should be more grateful of what I have, and I must give back to the community from time to time.