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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Excerpt #54: Friends' And Family Weddings

Excerpt #54:  Friends’ And Family Weddings

         The day after I reached Seremban, the Sultanah died. I did not hear the actual announcement, only the ritualistic broadcasting of Koranic recitations on the radio and television, much like the year earlier with the death of Tun Razak. I told my parents that if anyone from JB were to phone, to take the message and tell the caller that I won’t be home for a few days. I feared that my vacation would be cancelled and that I would have to report back right away.

         There were no phone calls and I had a much-needed uninterrupted break, unlike the previous Hari Raya when I took some time off from GHKL and had to return prematurely because one my patients turned sour and my back up was not available. This time we managed to be involved with Adzman’s wedding to Azizah. That meant a lot to me. Theirs was the third Malay wedding I attended since returning from Canada. I also attended a Catholic wedding in a church in KL for one of the hospital workers, Nathan.

         The first two Malay weddings were both in Muar for friends we had known since our Edmonton days. The first was Ghaffar’s. I met him through a colleague, a neuroscience post-doc fellow at our research institute. I had barely introduced myself to Ghaffar on the phone when he invited himself to our apartment. Very un-Malay, where the tradition would be to wait till at least the third invitation.

         Ghaffar struck me as being very bright. I was surprised that he was not attending university. He quit Sixth Form in Malaysia because he found the classes and teachers boring. He became an international hippie hitchhiking through Europe before ending up in Edmonton where we met.

         When I met him, he was a bartender at one of the exclusive bars in the city. His claim to fame was having an autograph from Rod Stewart. He was staying at the majestic MacDonald Hotel, thehotel in town, and came down after his concert late one evening to the bar when Ghaffar was working. He showed me the singer’s autograph.

         I encouraged Ghaffar to take the provincial high school examination as a private candidate. He did and through that secured an admission to the University of Alberta. When he graduated, I congratulated him but he was nonplussed. It was more for his parents, he said. The degree did not alter his life plans. Very confident young man!

         A few years later there was a Malaysian cultural group visiting Canada. They performed on campus and Ghaffar met and fell in love with one of the dancers. That was the first wedding we attended in Malaysia. A degree did not change Ghaffar’s life plan; a beautiful girl did. What’s new?

         The other wedding was Mat Sabtu’s. He had a special place in our hearts. When we first met, he was a student at the Faculty of Agriculture. Karen said that he reminded her of me in my younger days even though I was only a few years older. Unlike many Malaysian students who were content hanging around with each other or returning home to Malaysia during the summer holidays, Mat Sabtu worked on a farm. He could grasp a fistful of prairie soil, smell it, and pronounce it too acidic or lacking in nitrates. A born farmer!

         After experiencing all three Malay weddings, I was glad that I had a small civil one in Edmonton. Malaysian weddings were (still are) huge, elaborate, and exhausting on all, guests as well as (I am sure!) the wedding couple.

Next Excerpt #55:  An Unfortunate And Frightening Incident Involving Royalty

From the author’s memoir, The Son Has Not Returned. A Surgeon In His Native Malaysia (2018).


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