I went to a government clinic in Petaling Bahagia the other day for a blood test after a bout of fever. I reached the clinic quite early, at around 7.20am, hoping I could be spared the hassle of queuing for a number or sitting in a crowded space with crying babies and chattering adults. Boy, was I wrong!
The clinic lobby was packed with patients. The seats were almost all taken and yet a steady stream of people marched in. I scanned the seats and noticed mostly Indians sitting next to Chinese patients. The Malays were somewhat a minority that day.
I made my way to the ticket dispensing machine and pressed the button for a number. Once, twice, thrice, nothing happened – no beeping sound nor ticket issued. I pressed harder, and still nothing. An old Chinese aunty approached me, placed her hand on my shoulder and informed me that the machine was faulty and asked me to wait for the receptionist.
I waited and waited until my feet felt swollen. Feeling nauseated and dizzy, I found myself an empty seat. From where I sat waiting, I could see more people walking to the machine and looking puzzled each time the machine refused to churn out a number for them – and like clockwork, some aunties or uncles sitting nearby would take the trouble to walk to them and inform them to wait instead.
I thought it was a really nice gesture. However, the nasty Malaysian in me began to wonder why it was only the Chinese and Indians who were making the effort, not the Malays who were seated on the front row closest to the machine. Even when a Malay makcik came in, barely able to walk, it was the non-Malay patients who gave her a hand.
Anyway, as I continued to observe my surroundings, the receptionist arrived, dressed in her purple baju kurung and matching headscarf. She had a roll of printed numbers in her hands, to be given out to the patients waiting. I wondered how she was going to tell who came first, and who later. Knowing only too well how Malaysians rush for everything, I anticipated a scuffle among them.
“1001, 1002, 1003. Siapa yang mula-mula datang, sila angkat tangan,” the young lady announced.
I saw three hands in the air – two Indian aunties and a Malay pakcik. The receptionist passed the numbers accordingly and was about to carry on with the other numbers when one of the Indian aunties stood up.
“Itu pakcik datang dulu sebelum saya. Dia kena dapat nombor satu, bukan saya,” she said and limped across the room to pass the number to the pakcik, who nodded with thanks and took his number.
I felt a warm sensation all over my body. It could very well been the fever but I’d like to think it was the effect of witnessing such kindness taking place right before my eyes.
The receptionist walked to him, patted his arm and with a big smile, said, “Uncle tunggu dulu, sekarang belum pukul lapan lagi. Kalau uncle demam, kita bagi ubat dulu sementara uncle tunggu. Boleh ya, uncle?” (Uncle, please wait, it’s not eight o’clock yet. If uncle has a fever, I can offer some medicine while uncle waits. Is that alright, uncle?)
Soon, everyone had received their numbers and it was almost eight o’clock. Suddenly, I saw the Malay pakcik who held the 1001 number making his way towards a very old Punjabi woman sitting in a corner. She had just arrived in a wheelchair. He remained mum but handed over his number and took hers in return. The people accompanying her, whom I believe were her children, bowed to him in appreciation yet he did not show any emotion, he just walked back to his seat.
I felt so touched that I began to tear-up almost instantly.
Apart from these gestures of kindness, there were so many other things that took place that fever-filled day at the government clinic.
Like the nurses who treated me for my fever while I awaited the doctor’s arrival; the wonderful doctors who were so attentive to the patients; elderly patients of different races sharing tips on how to lower one’s cholesterol levels; a concerned aunty who handed me her bottle of minyak gamat for the eczema on my feet; the male patients at the pharmacy who gave their seats to women and children waiting for their meds. Oh, how I wish I could tell you everything that happened!
The thing is, we so often hear unpleasant stories of how unkind and rude our society has become. The truth is, the Malaysian spirit is pretty much alive in many of us. Despite our obvious differences, deep inside, we still respect each other and accept one another as our Malaysian brothers and sisters. We do love each other.
I came home from the clinic that day feeling a bit better. No, it had nothing to do with the treatment or the medication I received. I was just overwhelmed with the kindness which unfolded right before my eyes. Alhamdulillah.
With all the challenges and difficulties we foresee ahead of us, I believe as long as we have this Malaysian spirit within our community, we will be just fine. Insya Allah. We will be just fine.