The streets of Phnom Penh were bustling with machines on two, three or four wheels. Horns blaring to a deafening state and people shouting to the crazy motorist that does not take heed about traffic rules.
I was in this worn out Camry with Major Tha Dern who works part time as my driver on his off day and we were slowly going to this famous kedai mamak in central Phnom Penh. I was craving for his roti canai, nasi lemak and teh tarik.
Malek the Maybank officer was already there when I reached. As we exchange greetings I wave to Ali, the mamak who operates the kedai mamak with his Vietnamese wife, and ordered all that I wanted.
“Hang tengah kebuloq kaa” Malek teases me.
“Oih aku dah lama tak kluaq. Banyak kerja la ni” I replied.
“Kita bedua saja ka hari ni?” I asked Malek
“Haah. Yang lain-lain tu bini depa mai, jadi kena dok diam-dima kat rumah lah” Malek said and we both laugh at it.
“Malam ni buleh la kita ajak bini depa skali pi New World” I said to Malek
“Gila hang. Nanti abeh depa semua kena bagi notis brenti 24 jam” Malek replied and we were both laughing like hyenas.
We spent almost 2 hours chit chatting about nothing as I scour my menu clean.
We left afterwards and as I was waiting for Major to drive me home came this frail looking boy uttering something in Khmer. As I have been in Phnom Penh for quite some time already I understood him. He said he was hungry and sick. He has no money and no might to steal.
He was a pitiful sight.
Major step out of the car and shouted at the boy angrily. I shielded the boy when Major tries to kick him. Uhuh..my silat is still intact I thought.
I asked Major to get a pair of shirt and pants which I bought for my son and ask Major to wash the boy at the mamak’s toilet. I saw tears in Major’s eyes. He was so humiliated. I ask him to calm down.
I told him that it is not for me to go around and offer my help as I am not UNHCR. While I thought those in the Central Market, Olympic Market, Russian Market and the Flea Market a nuisance, I felt for this one as I have lavishly finished a meal that could feed five people for the Cambodian standard. It could have been different if I am in the state of hunger too.
After Major washed the boy I asked mamak to give him a warm glass of milk and a piece of roti canai which he ate like a hungry beast. I was smiling and Major was stunned with the boy.
I then called up my Malaysian doctor friend and ask Major to bring the boy to his clinic buy him a loaf of bread and put him at the nearby Masjid Kompong Cham where I know a lot of other good Malaysian samaritans will willingly feed him even with a small piece of bread. I SMS everyone I know in Phnom Penh and plea for their help.
Seven years later I met Major on his rare visit to KL and he told me that the boy has grown up to be a fine young man and was looking for me. He now works as gourmet chef in one of the hotels in Phnom Penh. He was never hungry again as he keeps telling Major that the piece of roti canai he savors that day brought him back to life. I am thankful to God that my USD 1 brought a soul back to this world.
I told Major to keep my identity concealed.