Jailani was introduced to us by Yuwrajh (posting of 21 March 2010) some time around 1990. Whenever we came back to Singapore Jai would visit us in the Boon Lay flat. From after Isyak to 1am we would spend all that time talking and discussing local and world politics, the Malays in Singapore, the Palestinians and Salman Rushdie too! It took some time before we three could find a way to negotiate our differences about most issues. Jai was young, bright, idealistic and hopeful. We were just two jaded and cynical ex-academics. But we managed to find a common ground and developed a deep respect and affection for one another.
Jai read a lot and read widely. His sharp and analytical mind and his flair for writing impressed us very much. He worked himself to the bone because he believed in the tenets of his profession. For a young man, he practised what is now a forgotten principle, a work ethic - that one should give of one's best so as to deserve a blessed rezeki . We would go as far as to describe him as a perfectionist who could not tolerate mediocrity in his work and his endeavours. But he had the utmost patience in dealing with his students.
We knew how stifling and depressing a teaching institution can be for someone like Jai. After much persuasion he enrolled in Glasgow University School of Media Studies in 1994. In Singapore, if you want to go overseas to further your studies you have to pay your own way and beg and borrow if necessary to secure your own funding. Despite that obstacle, with the help of his mother who was a firm believer in the power of education, Jai completed his Masters degree in 1995.
Jai was not born with a silver or even a plastic spoon in his mouth. From his early schooldays he helped his mother to supplement the family income by selling Malay kuih which she had made, to workers at the building sites of Jurong Industrial Estate which - in the late 60s and 70s - were just starting to be developed. At night he often studied under the street lamps in Boon Lay Housing Estate and when the library at the Community Centre was opened he found a more congenial place to study for his 'O' and 'A' Levels.
He is a Singapore Malay through and through, belonging to Singapore's First People - perhaps even from the line of the inhabitants of "Pu Luo-Chung" or Pulau Ujung. Jai cannot claim any relatives from Malacca or Johor or Java or Bawean or Sumatra.
His maternal and paternal grandparents and their predecessors were from the Southern Islands of Singapore. Today all these islanders or Orang Pulau have been moved or evicted(?) into high-rise flats on the mainland. Perhaps an example of the Little Diaspora? When I started teaching in 1967, most of my students were from these islands. Read http://anaksihamid.blogspot.com/2008/12/my-lovely-island-kids-shame-about.html
Also Read http://anaksihamid.blogspot.com/2008/11/how-we-laughed-away-hours.html
In the years after Glasgow, Jai kept faith with himself and his causes. He remains the pillar of his family and they could not have asked for a better son, brother and uncle. His generosity stretches beyond his kin to the needy - humans or birds and animals wherever he sees them - in Singapore or Malaysia or Indonesia,
Last year Jai went on his pilgrimage to Mecca.. Because of what he saw during his Umrah three years ago, he took a risk and decided to include a bag of dried cat food in his luggage when he went on the Hajj.
To ignorant mortals like us, Jai's pilgrimage is so complete. He had woven together his practice of Islam with his compassion for Allah's creatures - for the stray cats in Mecca.
to grow into a man like Jai.
Bless you Jai for being you and revitalising our hope in human nature.