6.00pm. Immediately our body clocks signalled tea-time.

Having tea with friends at the mamak (said in the very broadest of terms) stall is a Malaysian pastime. It’s a time to take a break from the drudgery of work as we make our way to the stall and partake of the local fare. Half an hour later, after a satisfactory meal, we return to our tables and chairs and computers and calculators and files. Until it’s time to go home.

Pretty Pui (PP) and I had a favourite tea-time stall. Located at Jalan Tun Sambanthan 3, opposite the Petronas petrol station in Brickfields, we had been frequenting this place for several years. The slightly wrinkled man with smiling eyes knew our orders by heart. I would get a teh halia (ginger tea) while Pretty Pui’s order was a Nescafe Ais. If we wanted to eat the prepacked nasi lemak, we knew we had to go there early. I would always request for extra sambal for that extra oomph. And sometimes, when I felt extravagant, I’d order a fried omelette, generously drizzled with soy sauce, for that lovely saltiness that tasted so good. On days when we were staying back late at the office, we would order maggi goreng (fried instant noodles) or nasi goreng (fried rice).

At this stall, PP and I would update each other on accounting standards, legal updates and news of the stock market.

That would have taken the whole of 2 minutes.

For the next 28 minutes, we would discuss in detail on ways to get the attention of the cute guy next door.

Occasionally, the wrinkled man with smiling eyes (we called him Uncle) would join in our discussions and offer us nuggets of wisdom. Well, not about getting the attention of the cute guy, but about life in general. He’d always say that it didn’t matter what our jobs were, as long as we earned an honest living.

He led a simple and happy life. When his daughter gave birth, he explained that his wife, who normally worked by his side, had to stay at home to help take care of the grandchild. He loved his wife, giving her whatever she wanted. On Deepavali day, he’d go to Jalan Masjid India to buy new clothes for his wife and his children, ignoring his own needs. He always told us that he didn’t need much to be happy.

Weeks before we moved out of Brickfields, PP and I discussed how we’d inform Uncle of our move. “He’s definitely going to be upset”, we told each other. “We need to soften the blow.”

When we finally summoned the courage to tell him (or perhaps, it was only a way of comforting ourselves of the big move), he took a deep breath and his eyes looked tired. “Jangan lupa kawan lama,” he told us. Don’t forget old friends.

For months after the move, despite not being able to visit his stall as frequently as we did before, PP and I still made the effort to drive over to Uncle’s stall for our favourite drinks and familiar company. When one of us went without the other, he’d ask, “Mana kawan? Ada sihat?” (Where’s your friend? Is she okay?) Sometimes, Boss Man visited his stall, and he’d come back and tell us that Uncle asked about us. Boss Man told us that he could tell that Uncle was very fond of us. Words like that warmed our hearts.


It has been over a month since I last visited Uncle’s stall. Boss Man told me today that Uncle had passed away from a heart attack 2 weeks ago. I never got to say goodbye.

This is my goodbye. What a privilege it has been to be a part of your life. I’ll never forget you, old friend.