My daughter Nadhirah university’s convocation day fell on the 18th of May 2013. Coincidently, 18th May was her 24th birthday as well. We planned a double celebration for her. Her success in completing her degree and her birthday. A day before the event, my husband, my youngest daughter Regina and I headed to Kuala Lumpur. On the way, we stopped by a hypermarket to buy a birthday cake. At the bakery we picked a black forest cake with white whipping cream and blood red maraschino cherries on it. I wanted the salesperson at the cashier counter to write some words on it. The lady customer in front of me was taking her own sweet time checking out her two trolleys full of goods. The queue was starting to build up.
“Aunty, if you don’t mind, can I pay first?” A voice spoke up with a slight lisp.
The term ‘Aunty’ was commonly used here when a younger person addressed a much older lady. When I turned around, I saw a young man of about 19 I guessed. He was rather short for his age. Other than that, I noticed he had a long winding surgery scar across his bald head. He had difficulty holding 3 small mineral water bottles in his hands. Forgive me, I have to describe his physical condition. Both his hands were deformed and curled in. Both his legs were curled in too and he was barefooted. He was a special need person. I hate calling a special need person ‘disabled’.
“Sure, it’s okay, go ahead.” I answered almost immediately as I saw his needs.
He thanked me politely, smiling happily with a grateful face. After a while, he seemed exhausted standing for too long. The lady who was in front of me was still verifying her cards which was rather a slow process. He later put down his bottles and sat on the floor comfortably. He broke the silent moment and begin to converse with me.
“Who are you buying the cake for?” he asked smilingly.
“For my daughter. Tomorrow is her birthday.” I replied.
“How old is she?” He asked curiously.
“24” I answered briefly.
“Oo, 24? She is still celebrating her birthday ya?” He said it like celebrating birthdays was supposedly only for kids.
His words tickled my heart. As he approached the cashier to pay, I saw him opened his wallet. He was digging into it. I saw there were just a few Ringgits in it. He took out 1 Malaysian Ringgit, turned around and handed it to me.
“Aunty, please give this to your daughter as a birthday present from me.” He said with a happy grin on his face.
My heart sank. Soon my eyes were blurred and brimmed with tears. His gesture has left me flabbergasted. It took some time for me to decide whether to accept or refuse the gift. I asked for his name. He said his name was Assyakirin. Assyakirin came from the word Syukur, meaning being grateful and content with God’s gifts and will. I was still holding that 1 Ringgit in disbelief. After he paid, the cashier gave him a 50 sen change. He turned to me and yet again said,
“Aunty, here is 50 sen more for your daughter. My treat. Bye aunty.”
For an instant, I was breathless and a feeling of shame rushed through me. The question is, shouldn’t I be the one to give him? He walked towards the exit where my husband was waiting for me. I followed him leaving my daughter Regina to manage the cake. My husband held his hands and conversed with him. He said he had brain surgery due to brain cancer when he was 9. He did not want anybody to feel sorry for him. He was happy as he was because there were more underprivileged people suffering worse than him. Assyakirin had such a big heart regardless of his physical flaws.
Every time when I think of him, it multiplies my gratitude to God. Ten years have passed and each year on her birthday my daughter will hold the RM 1.50 tightly and remember that special young man named Assyakirin.
Author: Fatimah Aini, Malaysia