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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, November 19, 2023

Cast From The Herd Excerpt # 104: Getting Ready To Leave For Canada

 Cast From The Herd:  Memories of Matriarchal Malaysia

M. Bakri Musa

Excerpt # 104:  Getting Ready To Leave For Canada

            Hujan emas di negri orang, hujan batu di negri sendiri

            Marilah sama kita menyemberang; burkat Illahi pantang dijauhi! 


            [If theirs be blessed with showers of gold while ours blighted by thunderous hails,

            Together we shall cross the ocean; the blessings of Allah we must avail.]

                        A twist on a familiar Malay saying. 

September 15, 1963, a Sunday, the day I was to fly out of Malaya to begin my merantau. My parents decided that it would be best for me to leave my village the day before and stay at my sister Hamidah’s house in Kuala Lumpur. That Monday September 16th was the official declaration of the new Malaysia, a public holiday; thus a long weekend. 

            Limited to only two suitcases, I had a ready excuse not to include the many things my mother wanted me to carry, like her kampung fried chicken so I would have halal meals on the plane. How sweet and thoughtful of her. I had earlier discussed with my Imam halal diet to allay my mother’s concerns. My father, as usual, viewed things practically. He said that with the hefty price of the ticket, the airline could throw in a free meal or two. 

            I was looking forward to eating airline food, in fact any Western food. Long brought up on traditional Malay fare, my palate now yearned for the delights of other cuisines. The only “steak,” the epitome of Western food, I had ever tasted was at a Chinese restaurant in Kuala Kangsar. It was more burnt meat. 

            That last evening in the village I slept in my grandparents’ house to share some quiet moments with them, especially my grandmother. She had had little time with me in the past few weeks what with my hectic preparations. I arrived while they were at their isha’a (late night) prayer. It was longer than usual. Typically those long sessions were on Thursday evenings (the beginning of Friday; in the Muslim scheme of things, the holiest day of the week). After finishing their prayers, my grandfather turned to me and said that he and my grandmother had just said a special prayer for me. 

            He did that often in the past as when I would be sitting for an important examination. Somehow that evening his statement touched me. He told me that I had done my part in studying hard and obeying the rules Allah had laid down upon us through our great Prophet Muhammad (May the Blessings of Allah be Upon Him). Only after we had done our part should we turn to God and pray for His blessings and protection. 

            “When you are far away in Canada,” he continued, “we wouldn’t know what dangers you may face. You’ll have to assess those and prepare yourself. There is nothing that we could do from here. Our contribution would only be our prayers.” He then reminded me of the wisdom of our Prophet, s.a.w.,:  First tie your camel securely; only then pray to Allah that it does not escape. While others may pray for me, only have the sole responsibility to make sure that my camel is first properly secured. 

            Over the years I had been in many dicey situations:  flipped over by a horse, caught in a winter storm, and stranded in a canoe in the middle of a lake during a summer squall. In each of those instances I would ask myself whether I had prepared myself well ahead of time. Did I learn how to handle a horse before I rode the beast? Did I have survival gear in my car before setting out in mid-winter? Did I have my life jacket on before heading out in a canoe? In short, did I first secure my camel properly before leaving it? 

            In those instances where I had not, I promised to do so the next time, and prayed that He would forgive me this time. On the occasions where I was fully prepared, I also prayed to seek His protection and blessings. That gave me the equanimity to face challenges and adversities. 

Next:  Excerpt # 105:  Where  Is Canada?


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