A collection of Short Stories on my Grandfathers

In this short story, my grandfather, as a young boy, is tortured by the thought of having to drink a particular oil during his holidays. It takes place in Malaysia, in the year 1946.
This is a story which I have written for my Personal Project at school. I will be writing a total of 13 different stories about my grandfathers and this is the first one! I would appreciate any feedback!


7. How about a promotion


Behind a desk covered with cardboard files, paperwork and a corner full of stamps, sat a man with thin black hair, neatly combed back and thick, brown boarded, circular spectacles that rested on his nose. His eyes were fixed on the document before him; they were scanning the small printed words and analyzing sentence after sentence. His arms were folded and lay on the edge of the cool wooden desk, his back was straight, and his feet tapped the green tiles below him. Rajaratnam had been working silently for the past hour, as his deadline was approaching and there was one more file to look through. His boss, Mr. Raman, had promised him a promotion after completing this project and he was pleased when hearing this.

Five desks behind him, Muthu lay back on his chair and flicked the small paper clips onto the floor. In between his crooked teeth he chewed onto the end of a toothpick; breaking it apart into fine pieces of wood and then rolling them into balls before spitting them out into his mini rubbish can. His eyes were like those of a bull; fierce and filled with anger. Muthu observed Rajaratnam and his mind constructed new bitter thoughts by the second.

            A pang of pain stabbed into his back as he got up from his chair and dragged his feet into his light leather slippers. His round flabby stomach bulged over his belt and jiggled as he walked across the sparsely filled room. A mini maze had been created from the formation of steal desks and he ambled through them until he reached the corner of the room where a round table was dense with brightly colored mugs filled with boiling teh tarik[1].  Five men sat around the table sipping their tea and they eyed Muthu as he grabbed a chair and dragged it along the floor, causing the legs to scratch and produce a scratching noise.

            “Pour me some.” Muthu told the Chinese who was sitting opposite him.

            “So, you heard Rajaratnam will be getting promoted. He’s a good man; always working hard, he deserves it.” The Chinese told him as he poured a cup of tea and gently pushed the cup towards him.

            “No, he doesn’t. Out of all of the people in this office, why should he get it?”

            “What are you saying? He has been working so hard and never disturbs anyone.”

            “I disagree. Did you know he takes gifts from all of his customers and accepts money from them?”

            “No. When did that happen?”

            “Last week, didn’t you know? He accepted a few thousand ringgits as a reward.”

            The five men all took a sip of their tea and looked at each other. They were surprised by what they had heard; Rajaratnam had been a friend of theirs and they respected him greatly. Somehow, whenever they talked to Muthu about Rajaratnam, they always heard something bad about him. Sometimes they wonder if what he said was true.

            Muthu stood up, grabbed his mug and nodded goodbye to the five men. He mooched about the office until he passed by the tinted window of Mr. Raman’s window and then peeped inside to find him chatting on the phone. He twisted his pointer finger around the coiled telephone wire and fiddled with the pins that lay in a transparent tub. Muthu took three steps back so that he was in front of the door and then peeked through the blinds, waiting for Mr. Raman to put the phone down.  When he finally did end the conversation, Muthu knocked on the door.

            “Come in.” Muthu heard Mr. Raman’s faint voice from inside the room.

            “Good morning Mr. Raman.” Muthu greeted his boss.

            “Good morning to you too, is there a problem?” Mr. Raman was a tall man who had his shirt tucked in; it was creaseless and inside his pocket, a blue ballpoint pen was clipped on. In his hands he held five folders, each of which had multiple sticky notes amongst the pile of papers in side.

            “I’m sorry to say so, but there is.”

            “Please sit down and tell me.” Mr. Raman gestured for Muthu to sit on one of the two blue cushioned seats that he had in front of his desk. Muthu sat comfortably and looked about him; particularly at all the awards that hung by nails on the walls.

            “Well, I care very much about this company and so I feel that it is important to inform you if any of the workers have been unethical.”

            “Who is this worker whom you know is being unethical?”

            “Mr. Rajaratnam, Sir.”

            “Rajaratnam? I don’t think so. He has always been hard working and shows kindness to everyone. That’s why I was going to promote him.” Mr. Raman said in a tone of surprise. He moved back into his seat and slouched in disappointed.

            “I thought so too, but after what he did, I don’t see him to be man of good deeds.”

            “What did he do?”

            “Haven’t you heard? Everyone in the office is talking about it.”

            “No, I haven’t.”

             “Well, he has been excepting gifts, lots of them. I’m sorry, but I don’t think that someone of that character should be promoted.”

            “Are you sure?” Mr. Raman thought about Rajaratnam; he didn’t seem like the kind of man that would do that. Yet, he was always disappointed by some sort of story about him that was told Muthu right before every promotion.

            “Yes, you can ask tall five of those men drinking tea, they will agree too.” Muthu looked at his boss, almost as though he was reading his mind. “If you don’t mind, I suggest you give the promotion to somebody else. Uh-uh-uh Pong, he is a great worker, why not him?”

            Silence. There was four minutes of silence as Mr. Raman thought about Muthu’s suggestion.

            “Thank You, Muthu, for informing me about Rajaratnam. You may leave now and tell everyone in the office to meet me in the meeting room.”

            “Of course.” Muthu stood up, turned around and grinded at the reflection of himself on the window. Now, he was happy.

            Outside the bosses office, he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “Everybody, please proceed to the meeting room. The boss has an announcement.”

            Rajaratnam stood up from his chair and walked with the rest of the office to the end of the room and then inside the last room. Eight rows of eight chairs had been arranged and he sat down in the third row, in between two Chinese men. He sat quietly with his legs crossed and arms folded, listening to the chatter of men and women that began to grow louder. The windows in the room were wide open, allowing the fresh air to enter and the ringing of the fruit man’s bell to be heard from the road side. Rajaratnam poked the back of man in front of him.

            “Amur, how is your mother? I heard she had an accident last week.”

            “Ah yes she did, but she’s alright. She went for a couple of stitches, so she’s in a little bit of pain.”

            “Alright that’s very good -”

            “Okay can everybody please take a seat?” Mr. Raman said as he entered the dense room and shut the door close. He stood in front of the white board and tip toed so that he could tuck his shirt further into his pants. “Thank You, it has been a good second half of the year and I wanted to take the time to congratulate everybody before the holidays.”

            The crowd clapped.

            “Also, I am pleased to announce that Mr. Pong will be promoted as----- . He had done excellent work and we should all give him a round of applause.”

            The crowd hesitated in surprise of what they had just heard, for they were expecting another gentleman’s name, but then applauded for Mr. Pong after coming out of shock.  Rajaratnam was only slightly surprised, for this had happened before; he would be told that he was going to be promoted and then once he had completed his work, somebody else would receive it. Yes, he was well aware that Muthu might have made up some awful story about him, as he has been doing this for the past year. Rajaratnam often wondered why Muthu this did, but at this moment, despite his feeling of disappointment and sadness, he felt it’d be better for him to congratulate Mr. Pong and not cause any problems.

            “Congratulations Pong, good job.” Rajaratnam firmly shook Pong’s hand.

            “Thank you very much. I’m sorry you didn’t get promoted, I mean I heard that you were supposed to take this position.”

            “No, no. This is alright, no problem. You deserve this position!” Rajaratnam laughed with Pong. They hugged each other and said goodbye.


***2months later***


Rajaratnam humbly entered a furniture cluttered room, sweeping the thin layer of dust that covered the floor and then sat on a torn poof that had been placed beside the bed of Muthu’s. A minute of silence passed as Rajaratnam looked at Muthu, who was now pale faced, breathing deeply and developing teary eyes. His think, ebony black hair had disappeared and was replaced with a naked scalp and his eyes lay fixed on the fan that spun above him. The sarong that wrapped around his waist was loose and his long singlet stuck to the flabs of his stomach.

“How are you, Muthu?” Rajaratnam asked. He rubbed Muthu’s arm and then squeezed his lifeless palm to get his attention. Muthu’s eyes drifted from the spinning fan to Rajaratnam, and he smiled at him as tears swam down his cheeks.

“I’m very sick. Rajaratnam, I don’t know what to do. How will I support my family now that I can’t go to work? My wife only works in the market for a few hours selling kathirikai and for months I have to stay in bed. How will we pay for our children’s education?” Muthu spoke a few words at a time, swallowing gulps of saliva in between. His hand rubbed against his chest and he asked, “Why are you here?”

“I came to see you. I also want to say some prayers for you and your family.”

Muthu held tightly to Rajaratnam’s hand and cried heavily. “Why? I have done nothing but caused problems and you have been so nice to me. After everything, you are the only one that has come to see me.”

“It’s okay, all of that doesn’t matter-”

“Yes it does. I told false stories about you; it is because of me that you were never promoted. You never deserved any of it, I’m very sorry for all the troubles I have caused.” Muthu sniffed as snot ran down his upper lip and around the sides.

Rajaratnam sat in his puff and quietly looked around him before asking Muthu, “Can I say a healing prayer for you?”




[1] Malaysian Tea


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