Thursday, December 31, 2009


This is a holiday season for most people. It seems quiet round the neighborhood. My phone didn't ring at all the whole morning except an sms from a friend who is also on holiday. I haven't had a holiday for a long time and it seems like ages.And so I remember the poem, "what is life if full of care, there is no time to stand and stare." I did English literature in secondary school and Western values, good or bad, sometimes stick to my memory.

At times like this I often think of my late parents, especially of my mother. "She is tough and very calculative," said my brother  on one occasion. He differs with me a lot about my mother's strong character.Usually I would apologize on her behalf but at the same time I would tell my brother how detached he is from my mother's world view, and that he was missing a lot in life.

My father and mother whom I prefer to call bapak and emak were both immigrants from Solo Indonesia.They are both deceased. My bapak died when I was sixteen and my emak died four years ago when I was fifty seven. Five years on since loosing her, I am still missing her a great deal. A mother is a mother no matter how old you are, believe me.

Immigrants (especially Javanese by ethnic classification) are by nature very hardy people, very determined, hardworking and always hold the principle of work before pleasure. My parents were no different. We were poor as my parents had to start from scratch. However, being youngest in the family, I did not experience what my older siblings had gone through, especially my sisters as my brother was just four years ahead of me. But the legacy of hard work, less sleep and meagre food on the table made me what I am today, tough in thought and no nonsense approach in dealing with highly principled issues.In many ways I am a survivor driven by my mother's strong sense of making it good in life whatever the price.

My mother was the sole bread winner when my father became ill with what I believe was complications as a result of diabetes and high blood pressure. We were limited in resources and my emak worked extremely hard  to make sure there was food "on the table" and we could go to school like other kids including my nieces and nephews who were about the same age. By today's standard she is an Iron Lady, though her success is very modest as I was the only one who finished tertiary education. But success is  relative. On a scale of 10 (ten) I would rate her  as 7. But if you started with a  minus 5, then  a plus 7 is a fantastic achievement.

I pay tribute to her determination and single mindedness in bringing the family above the poverty status without any help from "the politicians". That culture was non existent at that time.But even if it had, we would not do it any other way. We were poor but we "Did it our way".

The Power of Legacy is stronger than the Power of Dreams. Legacy is built on realities, on hard facts of life and on  the belief that nothing is impossible if you set your mind on it and struggle if need be.We were achievement-driven. Hard work, sacrifice and to some extent "make-belief"  are second nature to the family. We grew up with strong attitudes on self sufficiency, dignity, endurance and pride. We seek no help unless extremely necessary and we were told never to beg for anything.

This must sound Draconian to some people. But this is nothing if you are first generation in a foreign land, though Java is a stone's throw from Malaysia in proximity. Therefore when I went back to Jakarta and Bandung recently with my husband to help some friends  start a traditional school (pasentren) in Garut, three hours of  grueling drive from Bandung,  I am very focused on making this a success. I owe it to my parents.

I fumbled many times  in trying to live this life to the fullest. I was on my own the moment I finished secondary school. Evidently Western education derailed my father's wish to make me strong with traditional Islamic values. My mother was no wiser. The legacy almost fall apart and my inability to withstand  the pressure was totally to blame. But it must have been my parents' sacred prayers and du'a that has put me back on track, of course in the "watchful eyes" of God Allah Almighty, most Gracious and most Merciful. I told myself to work even harder and made myself  like a "come- back kid" in Islam. And I hope and du'a that this Legacy of strong determination and single mindedness in pursuing  the Quranic Truth will put me in the company of the righteous. May Allah take my parents into his fold and may this Legacy fully strengthened and lives on.
Allahuma Amin.

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