Friday, July 25, 2014

MY FATHER - HASHIM MEAH

Parental love
I dedicate this posting to my dearly beloved parents. Both have left this world. My heart aches more during this time of year, as I relive nostalgic moments with them.

I am blessed to have them as my parents. They taught me wisdom that no tertiary education could provide. They demonstrated by examples the true meaning of integrity, humility, and perseverance. They were not wealthy, yet charitable. They gave generously without expectation of reciprocation or reward. They exemplified that love had no barrier or boundary.

For any child, an assured parental love is a blessing needed to begin the journey in life. With this love, I confidently took each stride, knowing that they were there for me. When I fell, they gave me their supportive hands. When I cried, they dwelled in my sorrow. When I laughed, their faces lighted up with joy.

Today, I dedicate this first half of my posting to my father. I hope that his life story could inspire someone else out there, as it inspired me. I want the world to know him, and I am proud that he was my father.

(Below) Hashim at 19 years old)
Asian traditions
Lets slide back in time to the early 1920s, for a glimpse of the trends, in many Asian families. Parents who owned big houses, often kept their children and grandchildren under one roof. No child was expected to leave their parental home at 18. Children stayed on unless they chose to leave, when they were employed, or married. 

Here is a tradition that is still widespread. Children generously contribute a small monthly token, plus occasional gifts, even though their parents are financially adequate. It is considered unkind to leave an old surviving parent alone, or abandoned in old folks’ homes.They often stay with either one of their children, or with close relatives.

Today, this particular tradition is nearmost obsolete in many developed society. Parents habitually chose spouses for their children. This was either entrusted upon them to do so, or by circumstances. While identifying the right person for their children, they would leave no stone unturned. By all means they would locate someone from a good family, with an unblemished repute, and trusted capability of raising their grandchildren. 

In instances when children identified someone they liked, parents would secretly probe, to ensure that a wrong person is not brought into the family.

Prior to the wedding, the young couple would be shown photos, and possibly a quick meeting in the presence of both families. The anxious couple would secretly inquire more about their chosen partner, from members of the family.  

The actual courting, getting-to-know, and falling in love, would then begin, after marriage. Strangely, some of these marriages turned out well. The secret vows exchanged within the vicinity of the bedrooms, remained  sanctified throughout their lives. 

Family traditions
Yes, my father was born into this kind of home, that practiced these traditions. He was from a reasonably well-to-do family. He was the only son who remained in the family home, after I was born. He proved himself as a doting son, who admired the father. Throughout his life, he had never spoken a single negative word about his father. 

In my grandfather's home, discipline was the keyword. However, everyone loved and respected him, and his children excelled materially, and spiritually.

Some of our family traditions seemed rather quaint to me. As an example, each time my grandfather entered the living room, everyone would stand. They remained standing, even when they were told to sit down. Apparently, this was a spontaneous gesture of respect, and not demanded. I was not allowed to participate in this ‘standing parade’ because I was a child!

Fortunately, this tradition disappeared during my generation, however, one still remains. No one smokes in the presence of their parents, and elders.

(Right - Hashim at 6 months, with his mother, 
Siti Fatimah bte. Sheikh Abd. Razak Al Madan 
of Middle Eastern ancestry). 

Hashim - my father 
He was a caring family member, a loyal and trusted friend. He took pride in his honesty and integrity. He was intolerant to corruption, or any form of abuse, and injustice.

As a teenager, he acquired the marshal arts training, and perfected himself with rigorous body building routines. This served to be advantageous. The weak in his school who were terrorized by bullies, were defended by him. He was feared by the unruly, and admired by the weak, and the poor.

His childhood days
My father was very close to his mother, sadly, she died when he was 10. His father remained a single parent for several years, and his grandmother managed the children. (Right - My father at age 9). 

One day, his grandmother heard clacking sounds coming from his bag, as he was leaving for school. She checked and found dozens of forks and spoons, about to be given away, since his friends had never eaten with fork and spoon.

Below, school children from Balik Pulau, during an outing. My grandfather  was a Medical Officer/Hospital Assistant in the district hospital there. My father invited some of these kids to help themselves to his family orchard. They joyously ate the fruits to their hearts content. Some durians that dropped overnight were kept aside for the family. The kids were leaving with the durians, when his grandmother put a stop to this. Persuasively, she allowed them to take home the durians for their families. These children were mostly from poor homes. 

My father was very disturbed by this incident. From then on, he refused to eat durian, and in later years, even the smell nauseated him. This fruit was taboo in the house. No one knew the real reason, or even dared asked. I only presume that the smell of durian triggered painful memories of the unpleasant incident.

This generosity trait carried on throughout his entire life. He would set aside a small portion of his monthly salary to help relatives, and the poor, even after his retirement. All gifts from me, and from others, were secretly handed to those he thought, needed them more than he did.

Unforgettable incident
I had the opportunity to witness his demonstration of the martial arts when I was young. We moved out of my grandfather’s house for a quieter environment. This was when my father pursued a part-time diploma course in Accountancy, and Company Secretarial subjects.

It was a nice kampong house, but situated in a rough neighbourhood, in Ayer Hitam, Penang. New comers were not welcomed, unless they paid homage to the local ‘lords’. One night I was awakened by voices of people shouting. A group of men carrying sticks, had gathered around my father in our compound. They accused him of being arrogant for not paying respects to the neighbours. He explained that he just moved a week ago, and had not settled in. Before he could utter another word, the leader of the group slapped him once on the face, to exhibit his authority. This man was no different from the school bullies that my father was accustomed to. 

Although his patience, integrity and pride were tested, my father restrained himself, and did not retaliate. His immediate concern was the safety of his own family in the house, and this, he would not compromise.

The following day, my father reported the incident to the police. He demanded an apology from the man in public, failing which, he would take whatever appropriate actions that he deemed necessary. At the village mosque on that fateful Friday, local authorities, and people from the neighbourhood, witnessed the humiliated rogue, grinned and apologized.
  
Weeks later, my father began conducting free martial arts, and body building classes to friends, and office colleagues, within our compound. The weekend classes were immediately packed with enthusiasts from the village, including the rogues who visited him that night. This certainly turned out to be a good strategy. My father instantly became a popular figure in the neighbourhood!

(Right) A man being lifted by my father with his bare hands, during a martial arts session. By the way, when I was a teenager he taught me some defensive moves too. Of course not this move in the photo!

When it was time for us to move to our new house in Tanjung Bungah, many came in tears to bid farewell to Hashim, and his family. Our 3-year stay left a significant impact on the people in this neighbourhood. My father also assisted in many charitable, and community service activities.

When questioned why he did not retaliate that night, since he could have easily taken them on. This was his answer :-
“I had to restrain myself, as I did not want to risk the safety of my family. My enemies submitted, and became my loyal friends. This gave me far greater satisfaction than winning a physical bout”. 

Employment
Penang Port Commission was a second home to my father. This was his only place of employment. He turned down jobs with higher remunerations, to remain at the Commission, until his retirement. He was acknowledged for his proficiency, and work ethics. 

He received an award from the Malaysian government for his meritorious service. This award was conferred by the King, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Abdul Halim, in 1973.

Integrity
At the Commission, he is remembered as a kind, supportive, and compassionate senior executive. He spontaneously helped many families, by assisting in providing employment within the Commission, and outside. Many benefited from his assistance.



I cannot forget this particular incident. As the Assistant Secretary, he once extended a contract to a Chinese caretaker to continue managing the Commission’s holiday bungalow, in Batu Ferringhi.

In gratitude, the man delivered a basket of fruits, and eggs to our home. He was fuming mad at my mum and I, for receiving the gift, and at the caretaker for giving. To him, this was tantamount to accepting a bribe. The gift was immediately returned, and it was the first and the last gift that entered our home. 

My fond memories  
It was a clear night, and the stars were shining brightly. My father pointed out to the stars, and told me their names. I was more interested in the ‘twinkle-twinkle little star’ nursery rhyme that he taught. The very next day, I proudly recited, and taught the rhyme to the kids next door.  

This story may sound unbelievable. Amazingly, I can remember everything that happened on the day this photo was taken. My father was carrying me, and he crossed the road and entered some place. He talked to a man.The man fiddled at something, and then covered himself with a cloth. Suddenly lightening flashed before my eyes. I was startled, and held on to my father (it was the flash from the camera). Then, my father fed me something nice and cold. Yes, it was ice-cream!   

(Right - The startled look! I was 18 months then. This photo is shared for the first time).

Years later, when I related what I remembered, my parents were surprised. They had not told anyone, and my father could not recall the details of this event. As an adult, I revisited the same photo studio. It was in Penang Road, and next door to it, was a coffee shop that served ice-cream!

Tutored
In that same kampong house, my father became the 'man of the house', and enjoyed the monopoly of his own family. He taught me ceremonial prayers. He spoke of his spiritual views - that God-given faculties in hearing, sight, feeling and understanding, should not be swayed by religious fanaticism, and hypocrisy. Lessons taught by his father were passed on to me. I was cautioned to balance both the material and spiritual pursuits in life, equally.
  
 (Below) In Singapore with my parents
and my favourite cousin
Devoted father
He sacrificed his own comfort to provide for his family. I remember the days when he would patiently sit in the car waiting for me to finish my extra-curricular activities in school. 

He did not know that I was an athlete, and a state runner. One day during Ramadan, he came earlier than expected, and saw me participating in a 200 metres sprint, and hurdles, while fasting. He was annoyed, and said that I was irresponsible, and behaved more like a boy. I cutely told him that I must have taken after him, and that kept him slightly appeased.

I hated mathematics, and skipped the subject in my final year in school. I substituted this with Commercial subjects. My father persistently tutored me in principles of accounts, and I scored excellent marks.  

He also taught me to drive when I was 17. Below - flashing my victory smile after learning to park the 'Hillman' car perfectly. When I started work, we would travel to work together, and he would drop me at my work place. Later, when he finished work, he would wait untiI I finished my work, to go home together. 

When I moved to Kuala Lumpur and started my own business, he was instrumental in making this pursuit a reality, by his support.There were many countless ways he demonstrated his unspoken love for his daughter. These were the times when I realized how fortunate I was to have him as my father.
















My singing career  
It was no surprise that my father did not encourage, nor totally discouraged  me - not that he had much say over this. My mother proclaimed herself as my amateur manager but in actuality, she was an ardent fan!. 

Once she called out to my father "Come quick, you'll be on TV in 5 minutes". He could not catch what she meant. When my show started with the announcement  "Sarena Hashim - in Saturday Night Entertainment"  she teased him - "There, you are on TV, following her everywhere, with your name".  He smiled, and was lost for words. Mum could be witty at times. For this, and her many other qualities, she made life pretty interesting for my father.

His lifestyle - Tips
My father followed a strict daily routine of sleeping sharp at 9 pm and up by 4.30 am. His day would commence with the usual early morning prayer, followed by a routine walking exercise, and light body-movement exercises. He was active in sports in his younger days, a badminton champion many times over, and a good swimmer too. Until the age of 80, he was still driving, and running around on the badminton court. 



(Right - My father standing on the extreme left with his PPC colleagues. This photo was taken during a friendly badminton tournament in the 60s).  






 Below - playing 
badminton at age 80.
His diet
My father was strict with his 2 main-meal diet, with no in-between meals, only a light breakfast, and biscuits for tea. He was picky about food, and consumed mostly fish, and in small portions. Junk food was never in his menu. He remained slim, and fit, throughout his life, and was never ever hospitalized. His minor self-medicated problem in later years, was low sugar and low blood pressure.

Live in moderation
My father believed that when people live beyond their means, they become slaves to themselves. Stress robs people of their mental peace. Despite being brought up in a big luxurious house, he was content living in this small house (below) that he bought with his hard-earned money. 



He drove the same car that he lovingly maintained for decades, and refused to change, when offered to. Some may conclude that he was peculiar, and frugal on himself. He said he had better sleep than many people, and enjoyed a healthier, and contented life.




Marriage
Their marriage was based on the old tradition that I related earlier. My mother, Mariah, was a natural beauty, and of mixed ancestry - (Photo - right). More on my mum in the next half of the posting. 

Their families were distantly connected through marriage. They had seen each other from afar, but had not spoken. My father happened to be the same handsome bachelor that her relatives were eyeing. It was an ideal choice for both. This was a blessed and happy marriage that lasted for decades. It ended when she died in 1993.

(Below) 'Hingga akhir nanti'  is my adaptation of 'Eternally' - a song of their time. It was their life-story that inspired me to write the Malay lyrics. I  imagined that this was how they had fallen in love, once upon a time!


 

 

HINGGA AKHIR NANTI 

You are my love, my heart, my soul
I miss you truly and extremely
From the moment our eyes met
I visualized a perfect world 
With you by my side 
High hopes and visions 
Of togetherness til the end of time
Though the sky should fall before our eyes
I will never be weary, 
For my love is yours, for eternity



Till the end of time
Truly, like the words of the song, they were together till the end of her time. Sadly, she departed early, and he was left to survive 19 lonely years, without her. 


Each day for one hour, before his evening prayer, he would play the CDs of the oldies by Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Paul Anka, Andy Williams, Ricky Nelson, Connie Francis, that I gave him. 

During this hour he would not accept calls, and preferred to be left in his own world. As he flipped through the old photos in the albums, he reminisced their happy years together. 

Slowly dementia robbed him of his precious memories of the woman he loved. This was the turning point of his frustration. However, I look upon this as a real blessing. Had his memory not failed him, his last few years without her, would have been even more painful to bear.


At the burial ground, the remains of the woman 
he loved, laid below his feet. In this same 
patch, he too was laid to rest, in 2012.


We spoke on the phone two days before he passed away. Initially, he seemed unusually sad, but when I told him that I was coming to see him within two weeks, he was happier. He then spoke to my husband, and it sounded more like he was bidding his last farewell. 

Sadly, we were not destined to meet. I had no idea that he had complained of indigestion earlier, and refused to go to the doctor. That night, after prayer, he slept at 9 pm, as usual. He passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 91. He was seen the following morning in his normal sleeping position. 

His words kept ringing in my ears: 
"I pray that I be granted to leave the world, without being a burden to anyone".  For his spirituality, and good deeds, his prayers were answered. Hashim, my father, was indeed Blessed, to leave peacefully!

To my dearly beloved parents - you are remembered in my daily prayers, and deeply missed. May you be reunited, and placed among the righteous in the Hereafter. 

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