In January 1975, I came back to resume my studies at London University. My father passed away in December 1974 and I had gone back home for over a month to be with the family.
When I went for my lecture, my lecturer Lady Rosemary Firth glared at me and angrily asked "Where have you been?"
I broke down and cried and uttered " My father died. I went home." I wasn't angry with her. It was because she cared.
When class was over, she took me by the arm and said, "Come with me." We went to her room and she told me how she dealt with the loss of her father. She wore black!
She had been in Trengganu for some time where her husband researched and wrote the book " Malay Fishermen : Their Peasant Economy, 1946 ". She told me she was aware of how Malays, as Muslims, dealt with bereavement. But as I was alone in London, she wanted me to see the University's counsellor. It was my choice.
She further added, "Come and see me when ever you feel like it". In fact she invited me to her house at Highgate and for me , that was one of the kindest and enriching visits in my life. There I learned from her about "Wayang Kulit" . They had been presented with the whole set of puppets and she reassured me they have all been 'de- spiritualised'. She understood the reasons why this had to be done and I think somewhere in her she also believed in the spirit of the need to do so.
So I went to the University Clinic at Malet Street, to see the psychologist/psychotherapist . It helped me tremendously. After about five sessions I thanked the doctor ( I've forgotten his name) and told him that I did not "need him any more". He smiled and said " Good, remember my door is always open".
That's a long preamble for what I actually wanted to post. My father, up to his death, kept up a correspondence with me about what was going on in the Federation ( his way of referring to his tanah air) in the 1970s and how he was concerned about what was happening to the Malays.
When I saw this poem at the University Clinic, I thought about my father and his love for his homeland.
And now, when I receive comments from my readers about their sadness and despair over what's happening in their motherland , I recall Rabindranath Tagore's Let My Country Awake.
Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)