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Rose and Rambutan

"From the Photography Series: Transparent" by Jimmy Dabbagh

There is an aching for home. 

But I do not call my mother, Mak, because no combination of utterances captures my longing. Instead, I send her wispy, truncated messages. I am overcome with rindu, as we  say in Malaysia. Occasionally, I share photos of roses that I encounter on my walks around Oxford.  

On our travels back home in Malaysia, Mak was quick to identify the location of nurseries that grow roses—we  must stop by to purchase a new sapling for her rose garden, she would say. Often, I was tasked with photographing Mak next to rose blooms in other people’s gardens. On trips abroad, she gingerly wrapped wild rose hips in a paper towel, hoping to seed them at home. All of  this seemed banal to me then, so habituated had I become to Mak’s proclivity for roses. 

In a call to notice the quotidian, Georges Perec implores us to “question that which  seems to have ceased forever to astonish us…How? Where? When? Why?” 

Aching with rindu, I now begin to ask why. This is how love blooms. It  transcends the clichéd grand gesture of a bouquet of roses. Love flowers in humble cultivation under sun and shade, the subtle difference in hues and scents, the polyphonic layering and ordering of petals.  

This is how love blooms; I wish to convey to Mak in words that escape me. Instead, I send her photos of roses from the heart (of empire). My own roses have perished, Mak replies. In the interior of Peninsular Malaysia, monsoon floods—fast becoming an annual  affair—drowned them with silt, and the tropical heat that follows.  

Her message is also wispy, truncated.  

 

 

Reflecting on the siege over Nagorno-Karabakh, Viken Berberian observes that peace and stability are precursors for any chance to “pay attention to the footnotes of the everyday.” Indeed, the political machinations of those in power within and across nation states of the world continue to b/order people’s lives in ways that efface their humanity. Survival is at stake. 

At home in Malaysia, mismanagement of the environment and the COVID-19 pandemic are outcomes of political machinations. Adding salt to the floods that destroyed Mak’s roses, prospects of rare earth mining upstream threaten the forest reserve and livelihoods of its stewards, the indigenous Semai tribe. The protracted ban on inter-state travel over  the pandemic has kept families separated even as more and more of our people perish. Without care, politicians continue to cavort and campaign across state lines in  ostentatious displays of wealth and power.  

There is an aching at home. 

It is rambutan season; the wooly, fiery red fruits hang low on trees near the house,  adjacent to Mak’s rose garden. Estranged by distance, I now have a craving for this fruit’s sticky, tart sweetness. Mak has taken to sending photos of rambutan from afar—mirroring my gesture—framing them with the maternal words of rindu: “Waiting for my children and grandchildren to come home.” 

"From the Photography Series: Transparent" by Jimmy Dabbagh
Contributor
Aizuddin Mohamed Anuar

Aizuddin Mohamed Anuar is a writer from Malaysia. His works of fiction and non-fiction have been published in collections such as Endings and Beginnings, Telltale Food, the Mekong Review and in mainstream newspapers in Malaysia. In 2020, he published his first collection of stories and reflections titled "The Towering Petai Tree". Aizuddin is currently completing his DPhil in Education as a Clarendon Scholar at the University of Oxford.

 

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<p dir="ltr"><strong>Aizuddin Mohamed Anuar</strong> is a writer from Malaysia. His works of fiction and non-fiction have been published in collections such as Endings and Beginnings, Telltale Food, the Mekong Review and in mainstream newspapers in Malaysia. In 2020, he published his first collection of stories and reflections titled "The Towering Petai Tree". Aizuddin is currently completing his DPhil in Education as a Clarendon Scholar at the University of Oxford.</p>  

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