Wednesday, March 09, 2011

IWD: Tribute To Minah Karan

Yesterday was International Women's Day. I got to wish a few women I know and by lunch time my mind started wondering and remembering all the women I've met in the past and we never crossed path again.
During my second year doing my Bachelor's Degree a few of my housemates decided to work during semester break. Three of us went for job interview at an electronic factory in Balakong. We were staying in Taman Muhibbah then, so Balakong was just 10 minutes bike ride from our place.

We got the job as operators. The interview was hilarious. My friends told me to not reveal to the interviewer that I was a student. So, I pretended that I was a jobless woman living nearby and when he asked what I was currently doing, I told her that I just stayed at home, watch TV and did some sewing (and that was actually the truth - those were my activities during semester breaks!)

Two of us started work the next day. I quit on the second day. My friend was mad at me because she was the one doing all the homework to find the place and taught me how to excel the interview. I quit because I couldn't stand the environment. We were all sitting in lines, doing repetitive work, which was making my fingers and back hurt. While working, the women around me were all gossiping, cursing, fighting with each other and during short breaks most of them went to reapply their make-up. Some of the boys there were bullying some of the girls and there was one particular guy who was trying to his luck on me. I told him off. He never came near me again that day.

After quitting that job I went to another interview at another electronic factory in Seri Kembangan with my other housemate. We got the job and we didn't even have to lie. The manager knew we were students. He welcomed us because he wanted undergrads to have a taste of working life. And it's cheap labour too. I think we were paid RM400 per month, which was good enough. I paid the rent and bought a few pairs of clothes with that money.

But still, we had to do the usual repetitive work. I remember the factory was producing computer chips and cell phone parts. I was assigned to a line that assembled really tiny LEDs and their tiny housing. I was told it was for Ericsson cell phones. My guess was they're battery indicators. If you still remember those days, when the battery was full, the green LED will flash. If it's orange, your battery was weak and needed recharging.

At this small factory I got to know three girls who happened to be siblings: Along, Huda and Lynn. They lived nearby and we went to their house a couple of times. The three of them had no resemblance at all. I was quite surprised to learn that they're sisters. Along was in her mid twenties, Huda was 19 and Lynn was 18 that year. But all of them looked much older than their age.

The three of them fought a lot, even during operation hours. Lynn would call her elder sisters' names and Huda cursed the most. Along is the quieter one but she loved to pinch people. After a short gossip session with her, you'll surely bring home a few blue black spots. Lynn was a tomboy. She dressed, walked and talked like a boy. Huda told me that her younger sister had a few girlfriends. During one of our short breaks, I asked Lynn about it but she denied being a lesbo. She told me she just liked girls.

One weekend they invited us to have lunch at their house. The three of them were staying with their parents. The house was quite small for 5 adults, they were sharing rooms and the mother told me that Lynn was still sleeping with them. No wonder she's still the youngest, I told the mother.

That day Lynn sat next to me after lunch and told me that she's envious of us. I asked why. She said she wanted to have higher academic qualification but her exam results were not good enough and her parents couldn't afford to send her to any private college. In her tomboy voice she told me,
'Aku benci tau korang dapat belajar sampai university. Tapi aku kena keje.'

There's no better advice I could give her than,

'Kau keje lah kumpul duit, bila dah cukup kau sambunglah belajar sendiri.'

Well, it's quite easy to advice a tomboy because I don't have to find flowery sentences to start with.

'Oi, blah la kau. Berapa tahun aku kena keje kilang ni nak kumpul duit?' She gave me a soft punch on the shoulder and I just laughed.

That conversation took place in 1996. Two years after graduation I was back in Seri Kembangan because I was craving for Pisang Sira sold at the Pasar Ramadhan. While walking towards my hubby's car, a girl on a bike called out my name. I turned to look and it was Lynn.

We shook hands and asked about each other's life. I told her I was recently married and working in Damansara. I asked about her and she let out a big laugh.

'Aku tengah final year Diploma ni. Akupun nak jadi pandai macam kau!'

Well I was so happy to hear that. Apparently, she took my advice and continued working in the factory to save money for her education.

Ever since that day, I never looked at all Minah Karan the same again. They might be doing those boring repetitive works and underpaid. But deep inside many of them have ambitions and the drive to be better.

Happy International Women's Day you all!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

an interesting story kak dayang!!