“You are not coming with me?”
“Get inside first,” Clarice replied, sensing a long discussion ahead. Once she was in the driver’s seat, she said, “I can’t come with you. I can’t just leave work to go to a funeral.”
After her father’s dismayed, “Oh” they said nothing for the next 20 minutes.
When they arrived at Clarice’s two-bedroom condominium unit, she placed her father’s overnight bag in the guest room, and went to the kitchen to make some coffee for both of them. Her father followed her and said, “I suppose I will take the taxi to the church myself. Can you book one for me?”
“Which church is it?” Clarice dropped two lumps of sugar into the mug of coffee and handed it to her father.
“What do you mean which church?” Her father stopped stirring his coffee. “I have no idea.”
Clarice took a deep breath. “Dad, this is KL. It’s the city. There are hundreds of churches. Don’t tell me you didn’t find out which church it is?”
“Oh …,” he said, as though it was the first time he was privy to such information. He walked into the sitting room and followed behind him. They sat opposite each other in the living room and slurped their coffee.
“I know, I’ll call Directory services. I’ll ask for Sudah Karan’s address and phone number.” He plonked the mug down on her glass coffee table and pointed at Clarice.
“Daddy, it’s not Sudah Karan.” Clarice shook her head and said, “His name is Sudhakaran. Say it the Indian way. Sudah Karan sounds likes sudah karam. If you do direct translation from Malay, it’ll mean already sunk. And, honestly, Dad, Bandar Utama is a huge suburb. Without the exact address, I don’t think they can help you.”
“Aiya, at least let me try,” her father said and picked up the mobile phone outside Clarice’s room. “Don’t tell me what to say. I am Chinese. What can I do if my sister married an Indian and I cannot say his name the Indian way? We have been calling him Sudah Karan from the time they got married.”
Clarice drunk the last of her coffee.
“OK. It’s ten fifteen. I have to sleep soon,” she said and took his mug into the kitchen.
“Ya, ya, ya. You go and sleep. Leave me in peace,” her father said to her back and started pressing the digits on the phone.
Clarice gritted her teeth and concentrated on washing the mugs in the sink. When she finished and dried her hands, he came to stand in the doorway of her kitchen. “They don’t know any Sudah Karan in this area.”
Resisting the urge to say ‘I told you so,’ Clarice made a suggestion: “Why don’t you call Mummy? She might have the number.”
His eyes became large. “No way. She will only get angry with me.”
Clarice shook her head and watched him walk away. He had to sort this out himself. He was using the phone again. Who was he calling this time? At one point, she held a plate mid-air and didn’t open the cupboard door in case it creaked and she couldn’t hear her father’s words. She heard him say, “I knew I shouldn’t have called you. No need to shout at me. I just want the number. It’s clearly written. My handwriting is better than yours.”
It had to be her mother on the other side of the line. Clarice put the plate away and went to stand in the doorway of the kitchen. Her father’s back was to her and a notepad was thrown onto the table top. “It should be under ‘S’ lah.”
Clarice walked past him and sat on the sofa. He didn’t look at her, but continued to speak into the phone. “What do you mean it’s not there? Are you wearing your glasses? It must be there. I would have written it down.” He picked his nose while waiting for an answer. “See, I told you it was there.” He flicked his nose pickings away and rubbed his hands on the front of his shirt. “What do you mean why is it under ‘B’ and not ‘S’. ‘B’ is for brother-in-law lah. What is the number? 012, 2345. Ok, then what? 805. OK. OK,” and he hung up.
Better to be silent right now.
Clarice rose to her feet, went into her bedroom, closed the door and changed into a tracksuit bottoms and T-shirt. Back in the living room, her father was staring at the painting of a waterfall mounted on the wall.
“So, are you going to call him?”
“How to call? So late. Already past midnight.”
This was the limit. “Aiya. Just call. I tell you. This is a funeral house. No one will sleep. They’ll hold a vigil for the body. At least that way, we will know where he church is and I can book a taxi to take you there tomorrow.”
“You are like your mother,” he muttered. Still, he stood up and picked up the phone again.
While he made the call, Clarice checked that all doors and windows were locked.
“What happened?” he asked when he was back in the living room.
“Err… It’s all over.”
“What do you mean it’s all over? He only died very early this morning.”
“My sister and her children became Christian. Sudah Karan never converted. He was a Hindu until the day he died. So, they cremated him in the afternoon. It’s all done.”