Last night I had dinner with Samad Kassim, an old college mate of mine from MCKK days. He was in Form Four Arts Two and I was in Form Four Arts one. I have not seen Samad from the time we left college half a century ago, but, like the proverbial son who had returned home, after the first handshake, all the years were cast aside. We talked with the familiarity of friends who had once studied at MCKK and shared nasi kawah together at mealtimes. He was in Melbourne with his wife to visit his son Fajar and wife. Joining us for dinner was Hisham, the son of another MCKK old boy. And so the stage was set for a few hours of pleasantness and reminiscing over dinner.
How I longed for my late wife to be there with me for that dinner. How can I not wish for that when I can see the love and respect Samad and his wife had for each other. If my late wife was with me last night I know she would want to know what I wanted to eat first before she worried about what she would eat. I know that she would be sitting beside me and be there for me through the dinner…. a drink, the salt, and pepper and attend to the need of others around her before she attended to hers. And so it was with Samad and his wife. And that was the most pleasant and wonderful memory that I took home from the dinner – the memory of a couple, content with their lot and with the company of each other.
And then there was our conversation. As we budak kolet are wont to do, we talked about our friends from Kolet days. Acknowledging those who have since left us and sharing what we know of the others with each other. But most of all we lamented the passing of an era. Our era. Good manners, morality, ethics, and respect for each other seem such a distant memory for the Malays of today. Yes, we talked most of the Malays, Malay leaders, and Malay politicians. We regretted so much that generations of Malays have lived through a time when all that matters were kebendaan (material things). We lamented the disrespect and disdain many Malays now had for other Malays and for the “nons’ which has now become the “new normal” for many Malaysians. I asked Samad how was he able to remain unaffected by the times we have just had to live through. He said that he had focussed on earning a living and was never a participant nor affected by the excesses of the times we had just lived through.
And we talked about Mahathir.
Samad was a civil servant before he went into business and he said that neither he nor his colleges in government ever suspect or witnessed a time when Mahathir’s conduct as PM was suspect. The man’s life and passion have always been for the good of Malaysia and Malaysians. As far as Tun’s children were concerned, Samad and I concurred that Tun’s children had been given the same opportunities to do business as other Malays to have been given. While many children of other prominent Malays failed to make good of these opportunities accorded to them, Tun’s children thrived and succeeded way beyond even Tun’s expectations. So kudos to them for succeeding and let them be an example of what other Malays could have had if they had only put energy and vim to what they do.
What of the future of our people and our nation? That, we concurred, would be up to the leaders we have today and the people who are being led by these leaders. We were cautious but hopeful that all will be well for our beloved nation. The food at Mercadante in Lygon street is good. The company was pleasant. How else would you want to spend a wet Wednesday evening in Melbourne?