Wednesday, 11 March 2009
From Pusara Aman to Pusara Abadi (CsH) - The other Much-Beloved Man
My sister and brother , because of health reasons and bureaucracy, could not be present at the exhumation and re-internment - and my heart feels for them and the grief they were going through.
I have a special visa in my Passport : SWS (settled with Spouse), Given leave to enter the United Kingdom for an indefinite period.
This is for my spouse. He was a pillar of strength on the 9th and 10th of March. Often couples feel no need to articulate their appreciation of their partners but this time I shall.
He never met Akim. In fact a few days before Akim passed away, he asked Rojiah 'Who is this Iain Buchanan? I would really want to meet him.' But it was not to be. My father had met him many years ago, but the old man did not figure on this character becoming his son-in-law.
The word 'abang' took on a very endearing meaning for us when Khamis, the man who was in charge of exhuming Akim's grave put out his hand to Iain and said "Saya minta izin, abang" which means "I ask for permission, brother" Somehow the word brother is not an apt
translation for 'abang'. Muslims, especially in the West, call each other, of all races, brother and sister - to indicate a sense of brotherhood and unity. 'Abang' however has different connotations in the Malay world - it carries with it shades of respect for the older person and also a sense of affection.
What Khamis conveyed to Iain was very touching and kind - it helped us tremendously on that difficult day.
But it was not only Khamis who showed such warm-hearted sensitivity. In the office, there was Saridah and Azizah. Johan, the young man in charge of the whole procedure was admirably efficient, cool and patient while facing outbursts of anger, and very much the man of the moment. I reckon he could run big corporations and even a government efficiently without losing the human touch. And dear Encik Hamid who had to work for two days on my father's grave because of the torrential rain on the first day, worked his guts out with water up to his chest without any complaint or impatience and above all, very respectfully removed my dad's remains under a scorching hot sun on the second day.
Then there was Zainal, a complete stranger who offered us a lift to the new gravesite at Pusara Abadi for the re-burial, about a kilometre away. All the way , he was caring and solicitious to 'kakak' and 'abang' and when the day was done he made sure he got us to the MRT Station of our choice. We both cannot get over this immense generosity of spirit from these Malays from Singapore. They are sometimes criticised for being brisk and efficient 'robots', but on those 2 days, they showed a mighty big heart. In the winter of my years - I feel relieved. There is hope for our people to integrate modernity and the Malay ways and purpose.
Finally for my sun-burnt spouse, ( from nearly 2 hours of standing under the midday sun by my father's grave ), Hamid's chidren and grandchildren thank you. The two departed could not have asked for a better son-in-law and brother-in law. You may have wilted under the sun but not your heart and your spouse says it all in George Harrison's "What is Life". You know I can't play the guitar and you would not be able to cope with me singing.
Thank you, me duck!