Where is Anita Sarawak?

When Anita Sarawak was caught for close proximity (khalwat) 16 years ago with her third ex-husband J.D.Nicholson, (her fiance then) she handled the issue like a true professional.

Not only did she attend hearing in court and paid the fine, she also appeared on stage several hours later to fulfil and honour her singing engagement.

That time, she was slated to give five performances at the Petaling Jaya Hilton over three days. I happened to catch the show the evening after Anita was caught. Anita had been up almost all night talking to religious officials and she attended the hearing the following day immediately after her afternoon performance.

It was close to 5pm when everything was finally settled. Anita barely had a wink of a sleep.

Yet, she came back to perform that evening. After opening the show with her usual fast numbers complete with slick moves and choreography, Anita asked the audience how they were doing.

"Did you have a good day? I'm glad you did. I had a good day myself. Yes, sometimes in life we go through many ups and downs and no matter what, we just have to learn to face them head-on. We have to be positive and move on."

Despite her lack of sleep, Anita gave her audience their money's worth.

Yes, although the singer who popularised the song Sophisticated Lady was a very private person, she never ran away from the press or her problems. As such, her sudden departure to the United States has left many befuddled.

"It is not like Anita," said Hanizam Abdullah, Berita Harian associate editor, weekend edition.

"She would usually text if there's anything," echoed Harian Metro entertainment editor, Roslen Fadzil. They are right.

Having known Kak Nita (as we all like to call her) for 22 years now, I'm usually on the phone with her every other week. Her call would usually come on Sunday when Kak Nita would ask me what I had for lunch.

"Sardines," I told her once. The next week, she called me again: "Guess what I had for lunch today? Sardines! You think you're the only who can have sardines? I prepared it exactly like you did -- fried onions, chillies and some lemon! I had it with toast too."

Just before Ramadan this year, I received a call from Kak Nita. Only this time, it wasn't the kind of news I had expected to hear.

After wishing me, my family and friends "Selamat Berpuasa" she dropped the bombshell.

"Shuib, Kak Nita wants to retire soon. Kak Nita dah penat. (Kak Nita is tired). I'm almost 60 and after discussing with Abang Mahathir (her husband), I have decided to slow down my activities and then retire.

"It's about time. I plan to spend the rest of my life with Abang doing things we never got to do together. Maybe we might do a bit of travelling and if we feel like going somewhere, we will just do it."

Little did I realise that that would be the last call. I received another text wishing me Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri and that was the last time I heard from her.

When I interviewed singer Nurul Wahab recently, she said that she and Ning Baizura had bumped into Kak Nita at a local shopping mall three months ago.

"Kak Nita was alone at the time. She is always jovial and happy when she meets people but that day, she didn't seem like her usual happy self. She seemed to be bothered by something. Of course we didn't ask her why," said Nurul.

Some even speculated that Kak Nita might be having problems with Mahathir but based on a recent phone conversation I had with her sister Noorkumalasari, that is not the case.

"I last saw Kak Nita and Abang Mahathir on Hari Raya Aidilfitri. That day, my siblings and family members met and we 'bersalam'.

"Kak Nita had asked me to help her look for a suitable property or a condominium for her to invest in.

"However, not too long after that she told me to shelve it. Tak payah cari, she said, without giving me any reason. Kak Nita said that she and Abang Mahathir would be going back to the US for good.

"The last time I spoke to Kak Nita, she was already at her home in the States. We couldn't speak long because Kak Nita was in the midst of re-arranging her house.

"She was busy making space in her home to make way for all her furniture which she had shipped back from Malaysia. Basically she is okay. I haven't spoken to her since," said Noorkumalasari.

As far as she was concerned, Kak Nita and Abang Mahathir are still together.

I tried to call her home in the States.

Having done this before, I had expected to hear only Kak Nita's voice mail. It was not her.

The search for Anita Sarawak continues.