VOICE FROM THE PAST BY JOURNALIST ZUHAILA SEDEK DE BOOOIJ

Posted on December 30, 2012

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image gambar apa dlm nst by lala 30dis 2012

The late grandpa’s pix with his official signature and pages from his personal diary

This write-up by Zuhaila Sedek De Boiij appeared in the New Sunday times, 30 December 2012. The write-up was about Zuhaila’s grandfather from his humble beginning and being an immigrant from Central Java, Indonesia. The personal diary was being kept in a safe place by Zuhaila’s Uncle in-law, Ahmad fadzil Yassin, being himself a former journalist with Berita Harian way back in 1971. Below are few comments picked up from family members, in response to the published write-up. For those interested in the Group’s Haji Rahiman and Minhat’s Family, please surf  http://www.nst.com.my and go to the Section on  “life & Times” pp 6-7.

Pages of her past by lala 30 Dis 2012 new sunday times

The 6-7 spread pages of  “Life & Times”

Pages of her past

Seen by 12

You, Nurul Shaheerah, Irfan Faizal Al-Hafiz, Izanul Ahmad Fadzil and 3 others like this.

Comments:

Izanul Ahmad Fadzil:  Hahahaaa I loike the photos esp ada my pic..thanks lala. Must go n buy nst now!

8 hours ago · Like

Zuhaila Akmar:  Beli bebanyak! Hehe

8 hours ago via mobile · Like

Noraleeza Suleiman:  Tq Lala. Aunty bo rasa bangga sangat. Kalau tok Apa ada lagi, mesti dia suka. Really appreciate ur effort.

8 hours ago · Like

image from nst lala 30 dis 2012

Grandpa and grandma with children and grandchildren. Front row from left: Leeza, Akeen, Ina and Noi. Back row standing from left Ruby with son Faiz, Normaizon and Anakali.

Rosmawati Yunus:  Same here Lala….proud of u. Byk info psl family. Besides, kita juga dpt tahu bakat menulis yg ada di kalangan ank cucu Tok Apa dtg dr mana….

5 hours ago · Like

Zuhaila Akmar:  Thanks aunty bo and kak ros..buat kenangan esok esok supaya suma dalam keluarga kita tahu sejarah sendiri:)

4 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1

Adeline Sedek Adms:  mana gambar kakak??? naik basikal dgn tok pa?

4 hours ago · Like

Adeline Sedek Adms:  jgn lupa thanks pd uncle fadil….his effort keeping all d journal

4 hours ago · Edited · Like

Noraleeza Suleiman: Aunty bo ada suruh uncle buat 1 copy utk disimpan. Kos cuma $45 je. seronok baca kisah2 dlm tu. Anak menantu bergaduh pun dia catat berapa haribulan. Hahaha…nak tau sapa, bacalah sendiri.

4 hours ago · Like · 1

Adeline Sedek Adms:  huhuhuu

4 hours ago · Like

Zuhaila Akmar:  Tu lah.. Thank you so much uncle fadil! Lala akan copy diary tok ..nanti lala pulang diary tu pada uncle fadil yek:) thanks uncle for inspiring me!

3 hours ago · Like

Zuhaila Akmar:  Actually dalam tu Banyak kisah2 sensasi tapi kena filter la..heheheheheh

3 hours ago · Like

Ahmad Fadzil Yassin:  no hal punya Lala. Anytime dan anywhere we’ll share anything on Tok Apa. I mean beside the existing diary, uncle spoke and share with Tok Apa lot of things of mutual interest during his life time. If only uncle has the time to jot them down, it would have been a glorious effort to unravel tok apa’s inner strengths and weaknesses. Well, anyway, only time will tell.

3 hours ago · Like

Pages from her Past

By Zuhaila Sedek De Booij 30 Decemer 2012

Reading her late grandfather’s entries makes Zuhaila Sedek-De Booij realise how special the art of keeping a diary is

AS I turn the pages of the diary belonging to my late grandfather, Suleiman Rahimin, what is most obvious is how old this document is.

The sound, as I turn the brownish-hued pages, is very crisp. From time to time, I sneeze from the dust on these pages which are older than I.

I read with awe as his life unfolds before my eyes. Thanks to his diary, I now know him a little better. It’s amazing to see the information in the diaries (my family managed to salvage three sets). The stories written were from the 1930s to the late 1980s. Events such as the daily weather, wedding invitations, and amenity bills to his haj pilgrimage — all were neatly documented. Ninety-nine per cent of the writings were handwritten — in Bahasa Malaysia and Jawi. The words in Bahasa Malaysia were spelt the old way, making the diary a classic.

image from lala nst 30 dis 2012

Singer Miss Puchung of the celebrated 1930’s era, closely related to Grandpa’s family

On the cover of one of the diaries, my grandfather, who was also known as Tok Apa, wrote a set of Pantun Seloka (a type of Malay poetry) to greet readers. It read:

Disimpan jangan, dibuang jangan,

Diletakkan di tempat yang tinggi,

Kalau hendak tahu peristiwa ini,

Lehatlah baca sendiri.

When translated, the pantun means that one doesn’t need to keep or throw the diary, but if one is curious about its contents, one is welcome to read it.

Other than family members, nobody knew Tok Apa. But what was special about my grandfather was that he had devoted his days to writing his diary — an art few of us are interested in anymore. In those days, technology was not as sophisticated. A lot of things were written by hand, including feelings.

I tried keeping a diary when I was in my teens. But most of the time, I got bored halfway and ended up losing it. In the end, the missing diary would be found by someone else and the result was very embarrassing for me.

But my grandfather’s diary contained interesting stories that coloured every page.

DIARY FOR A REASON

I wonder why Tok Apa bothered to write diaries? I found the answer on one of the first pages of the diary. He had written in Jawi: “Riwayat dari kecil hingga dewasa” (tales from childhood till adulthood).

He mentioned: “Every person or every single thing in this world must have a story to tell. And if you are curious about the story of every living thing, this (diary) will be your answer to that. What is written here can be used as guidance for those who want to use it as an example in life. If not, this diary can just be read like a storybook.”

image lala nst 30 dis 2012

Pages from the past

Most importantly, he wanted his children and grandchildren to know his stories. He wanted to be remembered.

I never really knew the origin of my family. We are aware we have Javanese blood, but that’s about it. My late grandfather was fluent in Bahasa Jawa. So is my grandmother. I remember the time when Tok Apa conversed in fluent Javanese with his Indonesian maid.

As I continue reading, the understanding of my family origins grew. According to Tok Apa, my great-great grandmother, Maimunah Abdul Shukor, was from Jawa Pati (central Java). She left Java after the death of her husband. She had one son and three daughters — one of whom was my great grandmother, Musminah.

Tok Apa wrote in the diary: “When my mother arrived in Johor Baru, she was a single parent. Her son’s name was Karwi (Tok Apa’s half-brother). She sold kuih for a living at the shop house.”

The stigma towards single parents seemed so apparent. He wrote the word “janda” as the reason Musminah became single parent. But there were no further explanations.

My great grandfather, Rahimin, met Musminah by chance. He, too, was from a village in Java. He always wanted an adventure but never really got the chance until 1904.

His aim was to work in Tanah Melayu and earn enough money to go to Mecca. It was during a visit to Johor Baru that he met Musminah. They fell for each other and tied the knot. The couple was blessed with nine children. Tok Apa was the fourth, born in the famous Jalan Dhobi in Johor Baru.

As for the entries in Jawi, I was thankful that my parents had sent me to Sekolah Agama. At least I could read Jawi. Tok Apa’s Jawi writing is immaculate. It is clean, clear and poetic.

HISTORICAL PAST

A few pages ahead, he wrote that his marriage to my grandmother Asiah Minhat was the result of match-making by his godmother, Yang Cik Awang. My grandmother was Yang Cik’s niece. Tok Apa and my grandmother got married during the Japanese invasion.

On November 1932, Tok Apa was offered a job as a draftsman at Jabatan Ukur Johor Baru. The description of the job was appalling. “I was offered the job with a pay of 75 cents a day,” he wrote. This meant he earned less than $300 a month. His salary increased gradually every year by five or 10 cents. In 1938, his daily wage was $1.10.

In his diary, Tok Apa included some drawings of his home and pasted pictures of his dead relatives. The black and white photographs look haunting and I feel a chill in my bones. It feels as if the eyes of the people in the picture are following me. Creepy.

As in any Malaysian family, there is always someone with talent in singing. Mine is no exception. My dad for instance appeared in 1977’s Bintang RTM show. He made it to the finals but lost because he had forgotten the lyrics of the song, Widuri. But before him, there was a relative, Miss Puchong, a singing sensation in the 1930s. She made a few records and was considered popular, a la Saloma’s standard during her heyday.

MAN OF PRECISION

Tok Apa was so detailed that his diaries not only contained his feelings but also facts and information. On one page, he drew a picture of his father’s kampung house, surrounded by coconut trees. It looked not unlike my grandmother’s present home, which was designed by Tok Apa himself.

There are also details on the weather. If the meteorological department needs some historical data on weather then, they would do well to refer to his diary. The weather records are extensive especially in the 1980s entries. Tok Apa described weather details such as cuaca redop (cloudy) and hujan (rainy) at the top of every page. On one page he wrote: “Cuaca hujan renyai-renyai pagi-petang redop (rainy in the morning, cloudy in the evening).

Then I recalled that Tok Apa was a meticulous man. He liked everything in order, so he probably felt the need to comment on the weather.

Every public holiday, school holiday and lunar eclipse was jotted down. Any major incident — local or international — was noted in short paragraphs while some were in log-book style. On a page, he listed the events that took place in February 1984. One of these was the death of Yuri Andropov, leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, who was succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko.

His writing style changed drastically in the 1980s. In the beginning, the script was in Jawi but in the 1980s, the sentences were all in Roman letters.

Of all his entries, my favourite posting is: “30.4.84. Ana gave birth at 9.45pm (Zuhaila Akmar).” Ana is my mother and he was talking about me. Reading this, my eyes become teary. I am touched that my dear grandfather had immortalised me in his memories. Knowing this is the best feeling ever.

DIARY TO INSPIRE

I have learned a lot from his diaries. My late grandfather had even jotted down his bills and data of the taxes that he had paid. Not a single tax was unpaid. Even though he didn’t earn much, he knew how to manage his money properly.

His words were positive and in almost every entry, praise to God was mentioned. It is his wish that his family would be blessed for eternity.

I was one of the lucky grandchildren who had the opportunity to spend time with Tok Apa. He used to buy candy whenever the grandchildren came to visit. I remember when all my cousins and I would queue to get some candies. I miss that moment.

My grandfather passed away in 2005. If he were still alive he would have been 96.

A diary like his is rich, with not only memories but the history of one’s origin. It reminds me to be proud of whom I am and most importantly, inspires me to start writing a diary. Who knows, when I am no longer around, I will still be remembered by my grandchildren.

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