Sunday, December 21, 2014

PENANG “Big bomb ends long nightmare for war-weary Penang folks”.

It's been awhile since my last posting. Oh, how time flies these days! After a long break, I like to divert to something else for a change.

I’ve extracted an article published by the New Straits Times on 19th February, 1992. The article was written by my late uncle Ahmed Meah Baba Ahmed, who was the eldest son of my late grandfather, Capt. Baba Ahmed, JP. 

He recollected memories of the last days of the Japanese occupancy in Penang, when the Second World War had just ended. Catch a glimpse (below) of what happened in Penang, during those historic moments.

Below, my late uncle, Ahmed Meah
receiving award from the 
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) .
Ahmed Meah is fondly remembered by me, and everyone who knew him, for his gentle mannerism. I was very close to him, especially in his later years. I remember him as a soft spoken uncle, who was always smiling. Oh yes, he was very good at relating stories, that would leave his audience spell-bound.

He was a highly sensitive person. However, I had never seen him angry, or utter any harsh word against anyone, even those who were not so popular with him. He was easily pleased and appreciated little gestures of kindness he received. He was grateful and content with the life that he was Blessed with.

He was acknowledged for his achievements and never once bragged about himself. He was humble, sincere, and generous in sharing his knowledge.

Ahmed Meah was raised well by his father, Capt. Baba Ahmed whom he respected highly. He followed his father's footsteps and chose a career in Medicine. In his early years he was very close to his father, and they lived a very comfortable life. However, their lives changed drastically when the Japanese invaded Malaya. Thereon, he and his family struggled, as most people did at that time. He had many stories to tell of his experiences during the Japanese occupancy, and this was one of his stories.

He is loved and fondly remembered by me.  May his soul rest in peace.

(Right)  Photos of him and his family. The government residence they lived in, became barracks for Japanese soldiers, when Malaya was invaded.

Written by Ahmed Meah Baba Ahmed. 

"The Japanese military occupation of George Town had lasted 44 months from 1941 to 1945.  During this period Penangites had been subjected to the nightmare and horror of an occupation by a totalitarian regime.

So when the occupation forces announced in the Press and through the radio on Aug 8, 1945 that Dai Nippon’s enemies had used a new type of bomb (only very much later described as the atomic bomb) on a Japanese city causing very extensive damage, Penangites with the exception of the quislings, were suddenly engulfed with a feeling of relief and high hope that the war and thus the brutal occupation would end sooner than expected.  

Malaya would not have to face another military campaign, this time, by the Allied Forces to recapture the country. This cherished hope turn into reality when on Aug 17 the Japanese Military Administration issued an official announcement stating that acting on the revered order of the Japanese Emperor, all hostilities had ceased on Aug 14, 1945.  However, Penangites had to wait another two weeks before the island was liberated.

Word spread like wildfire that the Royal Marines would be landing at 9 am on Sept 3, 1945 at Swettenham Pier.  Suddenly, thousands of Penangites had gathered at the pier, along Weld Quay, the Esplanade and along all roads leading to the pier.  Penang road was impassable because of the very huge crowd.  Never in the history of George Town had thousands of disciplined Penangites gathered for an occasion.

The Nips were also there at specific locations along the route staring ahead and seeing nothing.  No one was worried or interested in them anymore. This was their turn to experience the humiliation which they so cruelly inflicted on the British at Bukit Timah, Singapore, on Feb 15, 1942.  

The landing took place as scheduled.  Immediately on landing, the Royal Marines hoisted the Union Jack, the flag that was used in the Battle of Gibraltar. The Royal Marines in lorries, with tommy guns, looked serious and were apparently prepared for any eventuality. The serious look turned into broad grins at the first call of “Hello Johnny” from the crowd.  Then suddenly there were spontaneous and infectious “Hello Johnny” all along the route to the Royal Marines camps.

Handshakes, cigarettes, bread and chocolates were distributed as the happy crowd responded with thunderous hurray! There was this 11 year old beggar boy, shirtless, emaciated with scabies all over the body and terribly hungry standing with the others, along Penang Road near the former Queens’s Cinema (now Cathay Cinema).

His pathetic appearance must have tugged at the heart string of a young marine. This marine reached out his hand with half-a-loaf of bread towards the boy.  With a bewildered look in his eyes, the boy quickly grabbed the bread, his face turned into a broad smile.  The next moment he was already eating the bread with a relish suggesting that he had been starving for several hours.

This urchin could consider himself very fortunate along with many other fortunate Penangites, who were among the first to taste and appreciate bread, real bread, the type Penangites were accustomed to before the war, unlike the unpalatable hard, maize-based bread distributed by the Japanese.

Two inventions were introduced to Penangites for the first time.  The first was the jeep – a versatile military vehicle highly suitable for difficult terrain.  The second was penicillin which was immediately used in the Penang General Hospital with very dramatic results –much to the delight and satisfaction of surgeons Dr. R. Apparajoo and Dr. Tan Hor Kee and physicians Dr. S. M. Baboo, and Dr. R. Letchmanasamy.  

On Sept 9, 1945, the official landing ceremony was held at Swettenham Pier.  Several companies of Royal Marines took part.  This was followed by a route march. Admiral Walker took the salute. Thus ended an era of subjugation that Penangites would like to forget.  Today, 47 years later, Penangites marvelled at the achievement and prosperity of the Japanese nation. What their forefathers had failed to achieve through military force, the succeeding generations of Japanese have achieved the impossible through sheer hard work, and good work ethics with their first loyalty and priority to the prosperity of their nation.

In the dark days of the occupation, Penangites very reluctantly looked East to bow out of respect for the Tenno Heika.  Ironically, today they willingly look East for another reason – for Japanese technology, investments and loans to develop Malaysia into an equally prosperous nation”.

(Article source - The New Straits Times 19th February, 1992)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Since the beginning of time, endless stories have been told about how 'maternal love' influenced the lives of billions. Everyone has stories to tell, and none of them are ever the same.

For a mother, each pregnancy and delivery is different from the other. To feel a life growing and kicking in the womb, is a miraculous feat designed by the Benevolent Creator. Irrespective of whether the pregnancy is desired or otherwise, it is an experience that no mother can erase, and no child should ever forget.

How could a mother dump her foetus in a garbage bin, or suffocate her infant at birth? How could a child not love the mother who was conjoined by an umbilical cord that gave life, and provided nourishment from her own milk?  Surely, there are no generalized answers to these questions, only the actors themselves could probably justify their actions!

Irrefutably, love creates an ethereal bond between the giver, and the receiver.  Love is without doubt essential for emotional growth.  When love is deprived, a child can grow feeling dejected. It can leave a trail of unhappy stains in a child’s life. Fortunately, nature does provide substitutes.  A mother with no biological tie such as a foster mother, godmother, grandmother, and stepmother can give such love to a child, as she would to her very own. This same love can be lavished on a pet, as one would to a human child, and this can bring about the same happiness and contentment!

Fortunately for me, I enjoyed the benefits of an exquisite love of a mother from two angelic persons, and several more, who left a dramatic impact in my life.

Mariah - my beloved mother 
She was often admired for her natural beauty and poise. A mixed ancestry  of  Malay/Indo through her motherline, and a Dutch fatherline.  She was reserved with strangers, but when relaxed, she was friendly and chatty.  

She blessed me with her exceptional love.  She gave me strength and the aptitude to strive, and succeed in life.  She encouraged me in my studies, and in my pursuits to be a singer, and actress. Most of all, she was instrumental in my quest for spiritual knowledge. She sacrificed her life for everyone she loved, in many countless ways.

Knowing her high expectations of me, I tried hard not to disappoint her. She was alive to see that I had fulfilled my pledges to make her happy, and proud of me, in my own way.  
Che Puteh - the grandmother that I knew   
She was of Indo-Malay origin, born and raised in Kuala Lumpur. I was told that when she was born her parents could not decide on a name for her.  She had very fair complexion, and they named her, Che Puteh. I often teased her and called her  'Snow White Grandma'.  Heheee, sorry grandma, I'm still cheeky!

(Photo left) There's a stain on my poor face, that I can't do much to rectify. Seated next to me was  grandma/grandaunt, and mum standing behind. I was 3 years then,  and everywhere they went,  I was their only mascot.

Even though her role in my life was short-lived, she was important to me in my early years. She was mum’s auntie. My maternal grandmother Che Mah and her, were sisters. That made Che Puteh, my grandaunt. They were from Kuala Lumpur, and  moved to Penang, after marriage.  

"Penang's prosperity attracted people from far and wide, making Penang truly a melting pot of diverse cultures. Among the ethnic groups found in Penang were Malays, Acehnese, Arabs, Armenians, British, Burmese, Germans, Jews, Chinese, Gujeratis, Bengalis, Japanese, Punjabis, Sindhis, Tamils, Thais, Malayalees, Rawas, Javanese, Mandailings, Portuguese, Eurasians and others" Wikipedia 

Long before I was born, Che Puteh (my grandaunt) married my paternal grandfather Capt. Baba Ahmed JP., who was a widower.  By this marriage, she also became my grandmother - the only grandmother that I knew. They had six children from their marriage.  After her last child, there was a gap of several years before I was born. From the moment she set her eyes on me, she loved me instantly, and took over a motherly role. I grew up in my grandparents’ home, and she was always around fussing, and favouring me over her own kids. Living under the same roof, I benefited by this all-round affection, smothered on me by both grandparents, and parents. 

(Left) This was the last time I saw my grandmother. She passed away a few months after my visit, in 1988.

(Right)  Mum standing on the left with her mother (Che Mah), little 
brother, and 
elder sister.

Che Mah - my actual maternal grandmother  
The late Che Mah (photo on the right) was the elder sister of Che Puteh (photo above).  I know this segment is a little confusing,  please read on!  I was not so exposed to Che Mah (my actual grandmother) when I was small. Only in later years that we became more acquainted, and closer. There are many fond memories of the short stints, when she stayed in my house in Kuala Lumpur. 

What I remember specifically about her was her mannerism, and etiquette, that many people can learn from. Each time she heard that I was in Penang, she would walk miles to visit me at my mum’s house.  She preferred to walk rather than wait for me to visit her. She had no income of her own, yet, during each visit she would never come empty-handed.  She would cook my favourite recipes, and bring them along with the usual grapes (her trade-mark gift). I  remember how happy she was when she saw that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the food she prepared.

Ancient knowledge
My mum’s grandfather was Indonesian-born, renowned for his knowledge in ancient health therapies. He lived in Kuala Lumpur until a ripe old age of 108 years.  I remember him clearly when I was a little girl, because he often visited his daughters (my grandmothers) in Penang.  I was exceptionally intrigued by him.  

After leaving the entertainment world,  for 12 consecutive years, I delved deep into investigative research, and study of alternative therapies. I have them all to thank for, because they sowed the seeds that spurred this interest.  I later immersed myself in humanitarian activities that benefited many.  

The wedding
My father had seen, but never spoken to my mum. His step-mother, Che Puteh,  was my mum’s auntie. My father was the only man that mum had known and loved. They fell in love after marriage - a love that grew and sustained throughout their entire lives. 

This was the first time a wedding was held in my grandfather’s house.  It was a double wedding for the sons - my father and his elder brother.  (Wedding photo below). The couple on the right was  mum and dad.  

My paternal grandfather Capt. Baba Ahmed JP.,  was a prominent person in the community. Inevitably, the invitation list became longer by each day. It turned out to be a meritorious occasion, like a fairy-tale wedding. 

Mum moved into my grandfather’s house. Of course, like in every household, there were minor rifts with in-laws her age. She was like Cinderella, envied for her beauty. Fortunately, her fairy godmother Che Puteh, was around to ensure that the home-front was cordial, and conducive.

Her characteristics and traits
Mariah was remarkable for her determination to make possible, the near impossible. She had to struggle in her early childhood, and that turned her into a survivor.  She was  sincere -  call it frank or outspoken,  but totally generous, zealous, self-taught, and enterprising. She believed that people should try, and never to give up, without trying. To her, this was the key to success.  

She once engaged an assistant, and sewed 50 uniforms in a week. This job was contracted by a small factory, through a family friend. Within weeks, she became a proficient part-time seamstress, operating from the house.  She even designed, and sewed some beautifully embroidered evening dresses for my TV shows.  (Right) - The outfit was designed by me, and sewn by mum.

She could have been a famous designer of this generation.  Some of the clothes that she designed, could easily outshine many that are paraded on catwalks today. To her, it was more a challenge, and not the money. Once she succeeded, she would normally move on. 

There was an occasion,  when she wanted to learn to create floral mini replicas from bread, and this person refused to teach her. She was determined to produce her own creations. She spent hours experimenting, and finally turned out these masterpieces (right).
Not only were these made from bread, but some had trimmings of pearls, and other accessories. This was certainly a surprise to everyone.  I still have a few, kept as mementos.

Mum could get bored easily, and often preferred to experiment new things, and hobbies.  Once, she started collecting mini cacti in different varieties, shapes, and sizes. This, she was not bored. She tended to them like they were her kids, until she passed away. Surprisingly, these cactus thrived under her loving care, and those that I took back with me to Kuala Lumpur, did not survive.

A great cook
Mum was a great cook.  She would experiment different dishes and create her own recipes. She was able to duplicate any dish, from any restaurant, or cafe, which were to us, much tastier and visually more appealing.  She was happy to lavish the family with food, and each day was something to look forward to.  No one could duplicate her dishes, except me (grinning)!

Mum once told me that “the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. Funnily, food was never the criteria for my father. Only after she departed that he really missed her cooking.

This is the time of the year that I  specifically miss my mum’s recipes.  She would create her own cookies for the festival. I would be perspiring profusely  in the confined kitchen while waiting for the mouth-watering cookies to be baked. Today, no one could duplicate her recipes, not even me. I often wonder if she added some secret ingredients that she forgot to tell.

Well groomed
My mum was very particular about her personality. No matter how busy she was, right on the dot, an hour before my dad came home from work, she would be dolled up. He was not much of an eater, but nonetheless, she would have something on the table, for him to nibble.  She once said to me: -  “Aside from looking after the husband’s stomach, a woman needs to be groomed and sweet-scented for her husband. A proud and contented husband, will not look at another woman”

Her generosity
Mum had many good qualities, but her main persona was her generosity. All visitors to our home, even those who came unannounced, were served with a meal. Her family members were showered with gifts, clothes, and any money that she could spare. No one left the house empty-handed. 

(Below) Mum with her 
late sister Sabariah in the 60s

She had other sisters, but the one she loved most, was her younger sister, Sabariah. They were like identical twins, both beautiful, and fashionable. They often wore similarly designed clothes, and would regularly talk on the phone, or visit each other. Those days, when I watched them together, I often wondered what it would be like to have a sister. Anyway, I did not really feel deprived. After all, I enjoyed the attention of being the only girl in the family!

Auntie Sabariah was close to me, and I have many fond memories of my days with her.  Mum told me that my auntie would scout around the record shops for my new albums, on her behalf.  She would immediately inform anxious mum, whether the original or pirated versions were on sale. Sometimes, they were together on these searching sprees.  About my albums, mysteriously, on many occasions the original versions  would appear a week after the release of the pirated versions! 

Childhood memories
This baby story when I was  a few months old, never fails to amuse me. When asked if I loved my father, and grandparents, I would stretch both arms out-wide, indicating that I loved them enormously. When asked how much I loved my mum, my outstretched arms would shrink, and touch each other, showing that I loved her less.  

I seem to recall clearly, early memories with my father. However, memories of my early years with my mum that I can vividly recall, are not too great. Perhaps, it was because grandma was always around to pamper me.

I was around 5 years then (right). Mum was obsessed about cleanliness. Bathing time meant running around and hiding, because I was terrified by her shampooing. By the time I was caught, her patience was exhausted. I hated the stinging soapy water that she poured  over my hair and face, while I gasped for air. I would scream and wail for my grandmother, who would immediately run to my rescue. She would reprimand mum for her impatience. This regular ordeal certainly made mum and I, very unpopular with each other. 

We became bonded
It was in my teens that we really became bonded, and appreciated each other more. We moved to our own house,  and there mum became my confidante. She taught me all that I needed to know on how to be a lady.  She was eager to impart her material and spiritual knowledge, consistently.

Most supportive
My mother was supportive from the first time she watched me performed on stage at age 5. I remember how excited mum, and grandma were, when they stitched the dress for my first school event. On that day, when I delivered a welcoming speech, and sang, I  could spot them, smiling from their seats.  In later years, I was active in sport, and badminton. At every competition, mum and grandma would be grinning proudly, each time I received a trophy and medal. 

Mum encouraged me in every extracurricular activity that I participated in. Soon, all activities were drastically halted,  because she was also adamant that I should do well in my studies. This, I did, and excelled fairly well.

Mum knew all my songs, and even suggested songs that became hits. She confessed that each time I was on TV, her heartbeat would race with excitement, and the tension was sometimes too much for her heart. 

(Below)  'Teruna jiran tetangga' written by composer, Akbar Nawab. The song  was irrelevant, but  just hearing me singing out “mama” got her so excited.  The song is about a girl who was asking her mother for advice, when she fell in love with the boy next door.

Her last visit
My mum visited me for the last time in 1992.  It was an unusually short visit.  She was not herself throughout the entire 5-day stay.  Mum had always been intuitive, and on many occasions her visions and dreams turned out correctly, as foreseen. That trip, she felt that she was seeing me for the last time, and I felt the same way too.  

Mum came fully prepared, and handed all that she wanted me to have as my heritage. Most treasured and cherished by me, was the knowledge, that she had acquired from her forefathers. In addition, she handed her valuables accumulated from savings and tokens, received from me, the past years.  Mum distributed gifts fairly to everyone, including a poor family that she sustained financially for years.

Her spiritual views
Mum was a spiritual person, but certainly not a religious bigot.  She believed that one's spirituality is private.  It is between the person, and the Creator, and should not be paraded or used for any ulterior agenda. She was vehement that no one should judge another person's spiritual values, based on the exterior. In short, don't  judge a book by its cover. 

Aside from performing her religious obligations ardently, and lovingly, she had done many good deeds.  These were mostly concealed. What amazed me most was the contents in the note books written by her, that were found in her cupboard, after she passed away.  She had written thousands of entries of her recitations, back-dating to her early years.  These were carefully recorded, and maintained. She had immersed herself spiritually, and was fully prepared for her journey to the Hereafter. Concurrently, she had performed her worldly duties, to the utmost satisfaction. 

(Above) This photo was taken on her last day with me, at my home. Like most women, mum was quite vain.  She once said to me that she hoped to leave the world looking intact and not disfigured. Her prayers were answered. This was exactly how she looked,  serene and smiling, when I saw her on her funeral day.

The last farewell                  
Mum called me the night before she was hospitalized. She had a failing heart, and was experiencing discomfort.  She was placed under an overnight observation, in a normal ward in the Penang General Hospital.  At noon, the following day, she developed a severe chest pain. Sadly, she was not attended to by anyone, although she did ask for help.  Apparently, the hospital was short-staffed.
On that fateful day and moment, I know that she would have prayed for the last chance to see my father. Her prayer was blessed.  He entered the ward, and saw her sitting on the bed. As soon as he approached her, mum held his hand, and told him that she was in severe pain. She cried and said that it was time for her to leave.  As she spoke these words, she collapsed, while he held on to her hand.  He was totally lost and distraught. This was the first time in his life, that he shed a tear. Helpless he was,  he could do nothing, but watch his beloved wife being taken, before his very eyes.

A few agonizing minutes later, he was told that she had departed peacefully.  It was meant to be that the last face she saw, was the man she loved - the man who had equally cherished, and stood by her for decades.

Mum departed in 1993, and dad joined her in 2012. He survived 19 lonely years without her, and missed her extremely,  but never once spoke of her to me.  I knew that he could not hide his emotions, and therefore preferred not to mention her.  I could see the distraught look in his eyes, whenever I spoke of her.

Her Idol
After my father departed,  I discovered that he had not tampered with mum's belongings in her cupboard. Except for her clothes that were taken away by her sisters, and other family members, other items remained intact. There were favourite photos of her and dad, family members, and birthday cards received over the years, plus other paraphernalia. 

What surprised me most, was to find a folder labelled ‘Ena’ strategically placed on the shelf, in her cupboard.  I am not sure whether mum left it for my father, or for me. The folder contained publicity clippings of my singing days from the early start,  audio cassettes of my TV shows, albums, newspaper clippings on my business and community service activities, etc. These were painstakingly compiled, and kept. There were personal notes written by her, indicative of her pride, and  admiration for her only daughter. 

I was completely baffled. I had not realized until then, that she was so proud of me!  I was her 'Idol', and she was really my most ardent fan!

The Queen of my heart
Mum left behind her wisdom, and memories to carry me through. These, will be cherished for the rest of my life. I am blessed to have a mother who was proud of me.  Sadly, I did not get the chance to say goodbye, and tell her that she was actually my inspiration and role model, and that she was indeed, the Queen of my heart.

Today, as I float on the stream of time and reminisce, I await my turn to take the same journey – the journey that no one can escape.  

I want the world to know, that a mother like her, is not just a wishful hope, but a reality!  

May my beloved mother and father be together for eternity, in the blissful Hereafter. May the souls of the loved ones mentioned here, be placed among the righteous in the Hereafter. 

Friday, July 25, 2014


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 Meah 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”. 

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.

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!

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.

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!




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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