Cultural difference or callousness?

I’ve always thought there’s something not quite right with Mum’s Picky Siti, mainly because she’s not appreciative of anything — especially when it comes to her pay and all the privileges she enjoys, being treated like one of the family and where in effect I’m the second domestic helper in our home.

But what’s taken the cake in recent days is the way she’s reacted to death.

I came back from Guangzhou last week after my aunt — my father’s only sister — passed away. I hadn’t informed mum of the event, as her mind nowadays can’t receive and digest too many things, especially anything emotionally upsetting.

By extension, I didn’t speak to Siti about it when I called home– although she already knew that my rushed trip to Guangzhou with one of my brothers and his wife was because aunt was seriously ill. Also, she had met my China-based aunt on a few occasions when she was in Singapore.

So I was both startled and annoyed to be greeted by what she said when I stepped into the flat after arriving from the airport late in the evening. Without prompting or preamble. And with a gleeful smile. Everything totally inappropriate.

“She died right?”

I was too tired to reprimand her for staying that.

“How did you know?”

“Oh Popo FY called and asked for auntie’s number…”

Popo FY is my brother’s mum and “auntie” is my sister.

I tried to change the subject, bustling around with unpacking and checking on what’s been happening to my mother and my home while I was away.

I tried to forget such callousness but I was reminded about it starkly today. As we were driving out for lunch, Picky Siti dropped this gem.

“The Indian upstairs mati.”

I was naturally startled. A wasn’t young but he wasn’t old either.

“Who told you?


Budi is actually the immediate neighbour’s dog but its minder is also known by us by the same name, although her real name is Yanti.

“When did it happen? Where? Upstairs?”

“Saturday. In Batam.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. He’s a very nice man.”

“Better,” muttered Picky.

“That’s not nice. Why better?”

“Because of the arbok. He always smoked in the balcony.”

I should have reprimanded her but didn’t. I just reiterated that it’s a pity. He was a very nice man.

When we returned home after lunch and I was dropping Picky and mum off at the lobby, two other domestic helpers were there and she had a loud exchange of the news with them.

“Pinocchio mati,” was her gleeful pronouncement. (A did have a very prominent nose 😦 )

One replied: “Asthma”.

More chatter and gossip.

Even as I saw a small stream of sari or kuta clad women and more casually clad men of Indian appearance arriving and heading for the 9th floor home of the late A.

Bottom line: Picky’s behaviour could be due to cultural difference or callousness or both. But she still stands by her views about my recently departed upstairs neighbour, according to my sister. Guess in Lampung, Sumatra where she comes from, no one taught her never to speak ill of the dead! 😥


2 thoughts on “Cultural difference or callousness?

  1. If u are referring to the nose and smoking I actually thought it was a description to me as I don’t know the man. Excuse my deaf condition, just to put the matter straight .

  2. Good that u’ve clarified Daffy. I don’t know first hand what she told you but if “nose” and “smoking” are the gist, then for u r right, it’s “description”. For me, her words were comment n judgement. Guess she’s worked in a household dedicated to what’s news too long 😆

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