(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=void 0!=f?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(void 0==f)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=0=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; 0=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&0=b&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

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, October 30, 2022

Cast From The Herd Exceprt # 52: Attempted Wedding

 Cast From The Herd:  Memories of Matriarchal Malaysia

M. Bakri Musa

Excerpt # 52:  Attempted Wedding

Then there was my older sister Hamidah. When she was not promoted following her Lower Certificate of Education (Year 9) examination, even though she passed it, that ended her schooling. She remembered only too well her cousin’s Azizzah’s fate, and was determined to avoid it. My sister too had her moments of moodiness, nonetheless she tried hard to overcome them. She went to town often to meet her former classmates who were in the same predicament. On returning she would be her bubbly self again. My parents encouraged her with her outings. 

With a young maiden available, wedding proposals soon came. That horrified my father as he thought his daughter was still a young girl. The first was from a police officer, an assistant superintendent no less, and from a prominent family. Any potential parent-in-law would drool at such a prospect. My parents broached the matter to my sister but she would have none of it. She was adamant that she was not ready for marriage. Her refusal to even consider the proposal strengthened my father’s resolve. He too was not keen. To him all police officers were corrupt. He did not want his future grandchildren to be fathered by other than an honest, God-fearing man. So much to the horror of the tribal elders, my father decided against the offer, but not before going through the rituals with the emissary of the prospective groom. My father had a plausible excuse:  my sister was contemplating “further studies” and as such the family could not entertain any marriage proposal. 

With that disposed, there soon came another, from an army captain. Not any army but The Malay Regiment, the pride and glory of the race. Even in civilian clothing he had an officer’s bearing. The only problem was that he was neither single nor young; he was already married with children and now contemplating a “junior” wife. That officer was also from a prominent family. 

Now it was my parents’ turn to be dyspeptic. Declining without a good reason would be taken as an insult; you would not want to do that; there would be a price to pay. Think of my grandfather with Raja Nordin earlier! 

That officer, or rather his family, was persistent. He was used to his commands being executed right away. He wanted an answer, yesterday! My father could not use the excuse that the officer was already married. The taking of multiple wives is allowed in our faith, the only provision being only four at any one time. 

Then there was the pride that your daughter would be the “new, junior” wife, bini muda, to reign supreme over the older faithful one. My sister was considered a catch because she could speak English. An officer had to attend those socials at the officers’ mess; it would not reflect well if your wife could not carry on a conversation with the other English-speaking wives. 

It was fortunate that meanwhile my sister had been accepted into teachers’ college. My parents kept that a secret in part because they were superstitious and did not want it jinxed even though Raja Nordin had long retired. 

Only when my sister was off to college at Kota Baru did my father go through the rituals of entertaining the proposal. Now he had a ready excuse. On acceptance to teachers’ college my sister had to sign a bond that stated among other things, she could not get married during training. She would risk expulsion and be made to reimburse the government. My parents could not afford that. That still did not give my father complete confidence. What if this officer’s family were to offer paying off the bonds and consider that as the dowry? 

My parents’ worry was misplaced. That officer was in no mood to wait; he was off hunting elsewhere, much to our family’s relief. 

My sister met her future husband Ariffin Hamzah at college and they were married a few years later. My parents held true to their values and the wedding was a modest affair, dispensing with separate engagement, akad nikah (exchange of vows), and the dual formal wedding ceremonies (bersanding), one at the bride’s home and the other, the groom’s. They morphed all that into one event and held it in the evening, inviting only close family members and neighbors. Being in the evening, the lack of a crowd was not obvious. It was an intimate gathering and we got to know Ariffin’s family well. My father stayed true to Za’aba’s admonishment against lavish weddings. 

The next morning as my brother and I were busy taking down the tents and cleaning up, new guests came trickling in to what they presumed to be the day’s bersanding ceremony, as was the tradition. They were puzzled to see us dismantling instead of setting up those tents. When we told them that the wedding was over the evening before, they left disappointed.

I often wondered as to the divergent fates of my sister and cousin Azizzah. Personality was a factor, as always. More pivotal was my sister’s English education; it opened up greater opportunities for her. 

Only over half a century later would my mimosa cousin Azizzah open up again as she proudly introduced to me her granddaughter, Helena Varkkey, fresh with her University of Sydney PhD. I saw in this bright, charming and vivacious girl a young Azizzah, before her world was turned upside down by that rejection letter from the nursing school. 

Next:  Excerpt #53:  A Traditional Wedding


Post a Comment

<< Home