One year before that he invited me to his house. I was a delegate for my Non-Government Organization's (NGO) national conference at Kuantan. One of our programs was a visit to the Sungai Lembing Museum, about 40 kilometers from Kuantan. From there I received a call from Kamal requesting me to drop by his house which happened to be situated along the road connecting Kuantan to Sungai Lembing, on my way back to my hotel.
Since the route was foreign to me I passed the call to the bus driver who brought me and my fellow delegates to Sungai Lembing. The bus driver understood where to drop me off. At the designated place, Kamal was waiting in his car. Then he drove me to his house. He was alone. After a few hours, he drove me back to my hotel.
At the hotel, our program that night was dinner with the Sultan of Pahang who is now the Yang di Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, Al-Sultan Tuanku Abdullah. The next day I left for Seremban with my delegates.
The next year, I heard Kamal was not well. He was having a heart problem. But from what he wrote on Facebook, he did not want to go for a coronary bye-pass as advised by medical personnel. He showed photographs of him getting thinner and growing shorter hair as if to coincide with that. When he showed a photograph of him being warded at the Tuanku Afzan Hospital, Kuantan, I decided to visit him.
I took the KTM Komuter to Terminal Bas Selatan (TBS) in Kuala Lumpur and from there I took a bus to Kuantan. Before that, I booked a return bus ticket from Kuantan to Seremban.
I have another Facebook friend from Kuantan. From the Kuantan Bus Terminal, this friend carried me to the Hospital on his scooter. I wanted to introduce this friend to Kamal but he declined.
When I saw Kamal in person at the hospital, I almost cried. Gone was the long-haired and macho Kamal. In his place was the skinny guy with 2 mm hair. Before I opened my mouth to urge him to be operated on, he said he had decided on that. He was going for the surgery after all. Happy with the decision, I called my other Kuantan friend to fetch me back to the Bus Terminal. I reached Seremban at past midnight.
Kamal's surgery was a success. So I was eager to meet him again but due to Covid-19, this was delayed. Towards the end of 2020, when the Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed my school friends arranged for a reunion at Kuala Terengganu and Kuantan. I joined the Kuantan one while thinking I could visit Kamal.
Less than one week ago I decided to bring my wife for a long drive. More than one month ago I brought her to Pulau Pinang for my classmate's son's wedding although my children were against it as my wife is not in the best of health. So I thought it was all right if I brought her to Kuantan. This time I kept my fingers crossed hoping that Kamal would meet me.
So it was a delight when Kamal invited me to see him at his house after checking out from my hotel. Five years ago Kamal drove me to his house and now that I was driving my car, I was confused at first as to how to go there. But when I saw Kamal again after four years (the last time at the hospital) I was totally surprised. I was looking at the original Kamal, the one with long hair and a macho look.
As if that surprise look was not enough, Kamal have another surprise for me. He introduced me to his wife. I never knew that Kamal had a wife all this while. When I pressed him for his wedding details, Kamal said 'Next time'. So his wife took care of my wife while I and Kamal talked about old times.
So off we went to Sungai Lembing on Kamal's 'claw' or Honda Civic. I had a great time taking photographs of the town from his car.
Thanks, Kamal and Nor for your generosity. I owe you one.