Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Auntie, St. John's and a Deep Purple Gem

78? 79? 81?This is my auntie, my late mum's last living elder sister. She is 78, or sometimes 79, or maybe even 81. In the old days, some Malays take their sweet time to register the birth of their children. So accurate information about dates of birth can be a hit or miss thing. I have known her since my birth, all that 41 years ago. When I was 6 years old, she taught me to memorize the al-Fatihah, the opening verse of the al-Quran. I am a sinner and under-achiever but however low I fall, the al-Fatihah was the treasure upon my lips, the light of my eyes and the constant calm in my heart through life's many storms. To be quite honest here, I doubt I could ever equal my auntie's gift to me. From Yusuf Ali's translation (1934), this is al-Fatihah's sublime literal meaning...

1. In the name of God, Most Gracious,
Most Merciful.
2. Praise be to God,
The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds;
3. Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
4. Master of the Day of Judgment.
5. Thee do we worship,
And Thine aid we seek.
6. Show us the straight way,
7. The way of those on whom
Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,
Those whose (portion)
Is not wrath,
And who go not astray.

ZEN AUNTIE. I was studying in St. John's Primary School in Kuala Lumpur in the mid 70s. Normally, my mother would pick me up. I would then be her passenger and observer as she goes from one social, charitable and community engagement to another. Sometimes, she is so busy, she would ask my auntie to pick me up. I would only know of the change in routine when I find my auntie waiting after school, sitting patiently under the big banyan tree (maybe it's not banyan...) in the quadrangle. That means I am going back by public bus with my auntie (always an adventure for me). But before hoping on Bus No.170, she would feed me roti canai (something like roti prata) in the Bilal Indian Muslim restaurant down the hill from St. John's. Ya Huuu! I loved my mother to bits, but she can be a bit impatient with me (to be fair, I can be difficult at times). My auntie however always had a kinda default Zen mode, and hardly anything ruffled her feathers. But I think she has always been extra kind to me.
ACCIDENTAL WORLD TRAVELLER. Well, 79 or 99 years old, she is a veteran of life and a real trooper. She's seen it all and have been to places I haven't even dreamt of going. For instance, I think she is one of the few Malaysians to have ever ended up in Acapulco, Mexico. She is an accidental world-traveller.

GRACE UNDER FIRE. My auntie used to wear a golden locket with a deep purple amethyst-like gem. I loved staring into the stone, because like my dear auntie, it looked pretty, calm and with a depth of warmth that the surface only hints at. Older people? Senior citizens? Just because they appear still, it doesn't mean that they are not moving. They are worth observing for the lessons they can teach us in grace under fire. Because, you know... they have been through it ALL.

4. Old cinders, Futuwat III
And the old?
They may appear still,
But their power hums,
Like a high-voltage generator,
Casting a constant light,
And empowering those around them
With the power of truth, patience and constancy.

For those too long suffering
In a dark and sunless place,
The blinding flashes of passion
Is too truthful.

But at the end of the day, my Auntie is worth observing because I think she is beautiful.

Don't you think so, sunshine?

Pax Taufiqa.

Pics courtesy of Balqies Arafia Zaid (granddaughter of said auntie), a talented and talkative photographer (her link is in my blogroll).

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