"Sambal mestilah pedas." I replied to my youngest brother's question at a birthday celebration in my elder sister's house last Saturday.
"Sorry, tak boleh habiskan sambal ni. Pedas sangat." I surrendered of having to finish up the meal.
The cili was definitely too hot for me.
"Tulah, lain kali jangan cakap habis. Kita ingat lagi, Makcik Johor yang kita pergi rumahnya, banyak kali cakap - Jangan cakap habis."
So all those while my youngest brother was listening to what the lady, my eldest brother's ex-neighbour, was saying.
When the lady was talking to my eldest sister, he was glued to the tv set.
I wasn't close to the person whom the lady was referring to, although my eldest sister used to mention the person to me.
The person, *Ros was, and is a person who sets a certain standard and perfection - and nothing else.
For her marriage then, all bridal accessories, dais, and gowns were brand new.
Totally new clothing in her wardrobe too.
I was still in school then, so what my sister said did not make any difference to me.
Not long after I stay in JB in the 80s, I was informed that *Ros had sold her house in Singapore and was making arrangement to move to the new house in Taman in JB.
By then, I had heard more of her.
A classy people as *Ros, would want to trouble herself with the chaotic Causeway?
Travelling almost 30km to school daily?
Then, in the 90s, I used to meet her at Komtar.
I had to choose my words when talking to her.
When one of those meeting day at the Komtar bus-stop she did tell me that she's no more married, I did not ask why.
I heard the news quite sometime already.
Almost everybody pointed fingers at *Ros - Not that her husband refuse to work, but he simply could not get any job since the 80s retrenchment.
A Singapore permanent resident, he brought his family back to his country of birth - Malaysia.
Not wanting to be further humiliated after more than ten years being a house-husband, he moved back to his late parents' three-acres land - staying alone all by himself.
"Siapa kahwin yang *Ros suka?
Semua dia tak suka. Ada aje cacat cela laki orang.
Kakak kahwin lagilah dia tak suka.
Lagilah kakak kahwin bukan suka sama suka."
Yes, the lady knew she was very much older than her husband and she doubt if her marriage could last very long.
But the early 20s Malaysian man insisted on marrying her.
She abide her mother's wish in not wanting to see her becoming an old spinster, already in her late 20s.
After more than thirty-years of marriage and she has five children who love the mother dearly, she knew at least she's in a safe net now, than before.
*Ros did not like the lady's husband because he was a labourer building HDB flats when marrying the lady.
*Ros did not like her sisters' husbands too who's just so-so in her eyes.
Fast forward, when all marriages intact, *Ros's marriage to the most perfect husband, crumbled...