Monday, August 12, 2013

Al fatihah untuk Bapak - 29 years ago

Latif Hariri
(Written 2009)

That evening at Taiping train station, Bapak kept on reminding me to pick him up at after the maghrib prayer, and to take care of Mak. “Your mother has sacrificed a lot for me,” he said. “And take care of your siblings too, he continued.

He kept on repeating them. As a teenager, I was nonchalant about his advice, to be honest. After all, he was only going to KL for a couple of days.

I was late in fetching him that evening, and by time I arrived, he was gone. I tried looking for him along the road from the train station to Sri Kota, but he was nowhere to be seen.

So I decided to return home. And upon arrival at home, I can see him sitting on the sofa with Aishah, who was then 8 month old, and his chubby brother Zali. He looked at me; so I pretended to regret that I did not get to pick him up, and asked him how he managed to get home.

He responded in a soft but firm tone, “I have told you to pick me up after magrib!” Mak who was in the kitchen chipped in, telling me that bapak walked all the way home from the train station.
I knew they were upset with me, so I decided to stay in my room that night all night.

That morning at dawn, I heard a commotion downstairs. I can hear Mak calling for me. I was still in a daze from my sleep, but went down nonetheless. “Bapak is unconscious. Call the next door neighbours for help." I saw bapak; he was still alive, but I can see that he was writhing in pain.

I am not sure who called for the ambulance; it could be me or the other siblings. I knew we can’t get him into the car, so we had to wait for the ambulance.

I took emergency leave that day; and called his elder brother Pak Long, his sister Mak Cak and my eldest sister K Sham, informing them that bapak is dying. I also made a direct call to his other brother Pak Lang in Australia using my office phone line. Everything was chaotic that day.

While we were waiting  at the ICU, Mak was allowed in by the Indian doctor to be by his side. She recited the surah ya seen, while at the times trying to recite the syahadah at his ear. He was still breathing heavily; and he gave responses everytime we touched his thumb. He could not speak, but it looked like he was responding to the syahadah.

I can only watch from other end of his bed.

I don’t remember if I was by his side when he passed away, but I reckon it happened at about 12 noon. I can still see with a tinge of sadness – and guilt – whenever I see my younger siblings’ faces especially Ata, Ashi, Fadhil, Farah, Zali and Aishah. They were still in primary school and innocent, not knowing what was happening to bapak – and them.

I am sorry, I am crying as I wrote this as I recall this and all my mistakes and sins to bapak, mak and the siblings.

It is not easy being the eldest at that point in time.

Again my apology, even though 25 (now 29) years have passed.

Rahman Hariri

Tonight  twenty nine years ago, he would not pay RM3 for his cab to take him from Taiping station to his home in Sri Kota, say 5km away. Or more likely that he could not afford to pay his cab, and hence would rather walk.

Tomorrow morning, 29 years ago, he was struggling with his life at Taiping Hospital, while his student son thousands of miles away was watching the marathon an Australian favourite Rob de Castella was supposed to win (but lost). I remember that afternoon – it was not a good feeling, but not knowing any better and not having a phone, I thought  that feeling was due to the loss of a sure gold for Australia. 

Tomorrow at noon 29 years ago, he left us all without saying good bye and to make it worse for me, I last saw him in February during the summer holiday that year i.e. more than 6 months earlier.

Tomorrow night 29 years ago, I got a call I dreaded the most from his bro Pak Lang in Sydney. A call I would not want to re-live. I was broken hearted at Dr Rayney's apartment - he immediately called Qantas and booked me a flight out the next day. I did not sleep the whole night while waiting for my flight.

The day after 29 years ago, I got onto that plane that took me back to KL (and eventually Taiping), practically sponsored by fellow students at Monash, but by then obviously it was too late even to pay my last respect.

Life and death; they are facts of life. One kind of expected them all the time. And yet when it happens, one can never prepare for it.

Alfatihah for bapak.

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