Alhamdulillah, my daughter finally posted a photo of her Atuk (my Baba/Father) on Instagram.
He must have been in his mid 30s here.
How young and carefree he looks.
The glint in his brown eyes, the sparkle in his wide smile, the sense of independence, I guess they're mine now.
In my mind's eye, I imagine him as a darker, fuller, happier version of Chairil Anwar.*
But a fierce freedom fighter nevertheless.
The backdrop could have been a wall facing the back lane at Wak Aman's pre-War barrack house on Lorong 37, Singapura 14. Perhaps taken on 28 January 1952, after my Mak delivered my second brother after 36 or 72 hours of labour.
When he finally succumbed to stomach cancer in 1992, I was on study leave overseas. It was a very stressful period for me then ... preparing for my prelims at UW-Madison's grad school, with two rambunctious kids in elementary school, no support group whatsoever. Although there was minimal contact after he married his secretary when I was 11, I felt the loss, the void in my being, nonetheless.
For those with parents who did not see eye to eye on most issues, we tended to take our mothers' side, especially if we were very close to them. And the situation was exacerbated by our fathers' long absences and silent, dark moods whenever they were home ...
May Allah bless his soul, pardon his sins and reserve a place for him in Jannah. Aamiin.
Thank you for giving me the sense of pride in my 'bangsa' (race), 'bahasa' (language), 'budaya' (culture) and 'tanah air' (homeland).
If not for you, I would never have felt the stirrings of the spirit of Pan-Arabism, Melayu Raya, Maphilindo, Nusantara ...
* The iconic poet of the hungry and angry 1940s in the Nusantara.
* A poem by Chairil which captures Baba's spirit of liberation:
PRAJURIT JAGA MALAMWaktu jalan.
Aku tidak tahu apa nasib waktu?
Pemuda-pemuda yang lincah yang tua-tua keras, bermata tajam
Mimpinya kemerdekaan bintang-bintangnya kepastian ada di sisiku selama menjaga daerah mati ini
Aku suka pada mereka yang berani hidup
Aku suka pada mereka yang masuk menemu malam
Malam yang berwangi mimpi, terlucut debu......
Aku tidak tahu apa nasib waktu!
Th III, No. 96 1949
Eric Clapton's My Father's Eyes