(this appeared first in my Facebook note-post)
Since hari raya is a couple of days away, I thought I’d share in public, for the first time, my kitchen burning story so that you can learn from this incident.
The year was 2006. It was the 4th or 5th Hari Raya. Everyone had gone back to work; I was about to start my new job on the 13th so I had a few days off before I re-join the makan gaji population.
There were the usual suspects from kampung, you know.. the rendang et cetera and I thought well, it’d be nice to reheat (please note that it was REHEATING, not actual cooking) the food so that my sisters could have a nice hot meal when they come home from work (they were working only 5 mins away from the apartment so they could pop by for lunch). Overcame by an unusual and extremely rare sense of selflessness, I also decided to clean the house and did the whole rigmarole – swept & mopped the floor, cleaned the ceiling fans, folded the clothes, did the laundry… oh well all the stuff that regular people do on a regular basis.
Anyway, while I was cleaning I shut all the windows and sliding doors. After everything was spick and span, I went into the kitchen to boil some of those mini ketupats in my outrageously expensive tefal pot that costs as much as half a handbag. Then I decided to go to my room and sort my wardrobe.
Now if you have seen my wardrobe, you will know that this is a behemoth task. I think Awa took 8 solid hours cleaning my room when she thought it’d be cute for her to “do” something instead of “buying” me something for my birthday (she fell sick the next day from fatigue. Next time choose the buying option). Anyway I digress. I was happily sorting my clothes when suddenly I decided I wanted to read a book (my mind jumps to random thoughts all the time). So, I rolled around in bed and read a book and sure enough after a few pages fell soundly asleep.
I woke up when I could not stop coughing. Went to the bathroom to wash my face then opened up my bedroom’s door. And what did I see? Smoke and fire snaking out from the kitchen and had spread to about half of my living room’s ceiling. The whole place was filled with smoke (coz I shut the windows and doors!!!). I walked into the kitchen all the while saying out loud oh my god oh my god oh my god my sisters are so going to kill me for ruining the ketupat (didn’t I tell you my mind jumps to the randomest things at the oddest times?).
Ok, so this was what I found out: the kitchen was completely engulfed. I didn’t notice it at the moment but even the ceiling light had exploded and there were bits and pieces of broken glass everywhere (amazingly I didn’t cut myself at all), and the whole doorway was ablaze (a lot like cerita End of Days by Arnold Swachzerneger or however his name’s spelt) like an archway from hell and what did I do? I walked calmly to the sink, turned on the tap and tried to put out the fire by splashing water from the small coffee mug that was right beside the sink!! Then I noticed that the gas cylinder was on fire and that gas was leaking out – a lot like one of those oil well fires that you see on TV, it was like this “mushroom” of fire and the leaking gas was feeding it and thought, hell, no way I can put THAT out with this coffee mug. I need a bigger tool, like a bucket or something.
What did I do? Instead of running out of the house like a sane person would, I went to the bathroom, picked up the bathmat, dumped it into a bucket of water and poured in some detergent.
Then, I went to the gas cylinder and dropped the soapy wet bathmat onto it. The fire instantly went out but the gas was still leaking. And then there was still the matter of fire that was still raging all around the kitchen. I looked around and realized I could actually become roasted Ijah and only then, grabbed my keys and left the apartment.
I didn’t have any phone or wallet on me but I managed to find some coins in my pocket and called one of my sisters (Aning). What? she said; obviously annoyed that I called her in the middle of work day. Err… I burned the kitchen, I said (how else could I have said it? There was no gentle way of breaking the news). She screamed some obscenity over the phone and asked me if I had called the fire brigade. I said oh, I didn’t even think of calling them. She told me to just wait there. By this time smoke was pouring out of my apartment and the guards where hopping up and down trying to figure what to do.
You know what I did? I went upstairs (yes, back into the burning apartment – I never learn), grabbed my purse, combed my hair (I figured sure the house was on fire but that’s no reason for me not to look nice), called my other sister Ina to ask her to pick me up for lunch and then hightailed it out of the apartment complex coz I didn’t want to be there when the fire brigade arrive. But… just as I was about to exit the apartment, I could hear the loud siren nee noo nee noo-ing from a distance – so, no such luck at making a quick exit. I forlornly sat at the staircase while these 4 muscular, young men with axes and fire hoses ran up to my apartment and put the fire out. Aning arrived and sat beside me while we waited for these gentlemen to finish doing whatever it is they do in the case of fire.
After a few minutes they came out. An elderly gentleman joined them, I supposed this was the head honcho lah coz the 4 men called him Chief. He came to me (who was sitting like a comot kid at the staircase) and said, we need to interview you in order to write our report. Ok, I said. What was the cause of the fire, he asked. I hesitated for a while. You must understand my hesitation. Here were 4 men, who for all intent and purposes were there to rescue me, and I basically had to confess in front of them, who were looking at me expecting something dramatic, that the cause of the fire was me trying to boil some mini ketupat. If you were in my shoes, wouldn’t you hesitate?
I went…errrr…uh….. then one of them came out from the kitchen holding my tefal pot which incredibly survived the fire with only its plastic ears melted off. The fire started here, Chief, he said. A pot left unattended on the stove and it caught fire. What WERE you cooking? Chief asked. I figured there was no way I could be any more embarrassed than I already was so I told him the whole story.
Here was what happened next:
1) He gave me a long, stern lecture about how I was not supposed to try to tackle the fire; the right thing to do would have been to close the kitchen’s door and leave the house as soon as possible, and then call the bomba.
2) He will have to report the fire as “kecuaian tuan rumah” (carelessness of homeowner);
and last but not least, he had one bit of advice to impart
3) that I should never EVER attempt to cook again.
Then he asked me to sign the fire report. The 4 men giggled like schoolboys and made jokes about how bad my cooking skills are (it’s very bad, that’s why I eat out people!) and that I should be the spokesperson for tefal since its cookware survived a gas fire.
Wait wait, Aning said, as the men were leaving. The Chief turned back. What about her? Anin asked? Shouldn’t you throw her into jail or something as a lesson? The Chief just laughed and reminded us again that we were not supposed to enter the house for a few days to let all the dangerous fumes out.
Anyway, I had the kitchen fixed up and the walls repainted soon after. The only reminder of the fire was a copy of the fire report and a strip of the kitchen wall that is still bare because the guy who did the kitchen didn’t have time to finish the re-tiling (and he still didn’t have time to finish it 2 years on apparently).
MORAL OF THE STORY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IS THIS: leave all those housework to the maid! It could literally save your life.
That, and do watch the Discovery Channel, coz that’s how I know that you need to use soap water to put out a gas fire.
So there you go. A Hari Raya wish with a little spicy side story to remind you not to play with fire.
Have a Selamat Hari Raya!!