In Memorium: Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj

February 8, 2016

In Memorium: Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj

COMMENT: It is sad that Malaysians of the present generation no longer have any recollection of our First Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj from Kedah Darul Aman. Over the years, especially during the Mahathir Era (1981-2003), the names of our distinguished Prime Ministers–Tunku himself, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and Tun Hussein Onn–disappeared from our national consciousness.  So I am glad that Terence Netto has written a thoughtful article on our First Prime Minister.

this above all to thine own self be true and it must follow as the night the day thou canst not then be false to any man - Google Search:

The Tunku embodied the qualities of  Malaysian politicians who put Malaysia first and led by example.  Yes, he was a Gentleman but he was more than that. He was to my mind a compassionate leader who was also a good judge of human character. That enabled him to choose a team of Cabinet colleagues like Tun Razak  Hussein, Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, Tun Tan Siew Sin, and Tun V.T. Sambanthan who shared his vision of a united Malaysia.  Above all, The Tunku was the embodiment of authenticity.–Din Merican

by Terence Netto

Today is the 113th anniversary of the birth of Malaysia’s founding Prime Minister and statesman Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, a remembrance hard to keep in mind amid the Lunar New Year festival.

From all counts, the 2016 festivity is subdued because of the exactions of rising living costs and the plunging value of the ringgit.But the economic overhang is not as sapping as the clouds that shroud the political horizon which some say are the most worrisome in our country’s 59-year history.

The noxious fumes that continue to swirl over sovereign wealth fund 1MDB and the donation/investment of RM2.6 billion in the bank account of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, show no sign of abating one year after the controversy first began to poison the national well.

In times like these it is perhaps understandable that the mind harkens back to the ethos of a less contentious past and to the man, whose birth anniversary this day is, who embodied the old world charm and sagacity of his era.

More than ever marking the Tunku’s birth anniversary is something Malaysians must to, if only because the effect of the 25 years – he died on December 10, 1990 – since his passing has compressed and intensified the figure of the Tunku retained by memory.

Shades have ceased to count and accidents have fallen away: his life stands sharply for a few estimated and cherished things rather than nebulously for a swarm of possibilities.

The Tunku was a gentleman.It is difficult to say what the term may mean in the context of the political life where fair can be foul and foul can be fair in the fog of the blood sport of realpolitik.

“Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail,” was one definition from an American practitioner in the era before the demands of counterespionage made Henry Stimson’s stricture baloney.

Testimony of Derek Davies

Let’s allow the testimony of Derek Davies, an editor of the defunct Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), speak for what ‘gentleman’ may mean to a hard-boiled journalist in a long career of writing on politics in the region his newsweekly covered from the time of its founding in 1946.

Invited by FEER to reminisce on the occasion of the weekly’s 50th anniversary, Davies recalled an episode when his magazine carried a report the Tunku thought was at variance with the facts and had put the Malaysian prime minister unfairly in a bad light.

At the Tunku’s urging, Davies flew into Kuala Lumpur from Hong Kong where FEER was headquartered to see the Tunku. He waited in a room in Parliament while the Tunku was busy with business in the House.

Once done, the Tunku sauntered into the room where Davies was cooling his heels and after a brief exchange of each’s take on the matter, Davies said he saw that his publication was at fault, quickly tendering an apology which was received with aplomb.

No threats to sue, no demand for an apology in the next edition. Davies’ summation: “Truly,” he said in recollection to FEER on leaders he had encountered in a long career, “the Tunku was a prince among politicians.”

The Tunku was unpretentious and unsanctimonious as someone of royal lineage could be.A couple of months before the 1969 general election, he turned over prime ministerial reins to his deputy, Abdul Razak Hussein, to lead the Alliance campaign for the polls in May that year.

In the lead-up to the vote, he was the target of intense vilification by the Pan-Malayan Islamic Party ((PMIP) (subsequently called by their current shorthand PAS) in which the Tunku’s morals were attacked.

Parrying the attacks, the Tunku, then 63, joked with press: “I wish I were 20 years younger.”At Alor Star airport, after a campaign tour of his home state of Kedah, the a reporter told the Tunku that he was wearing an old shirt. “I like old things,” he said, and pointing to Puan Sharifah Rodziah seating a short distance away, he added, “You see my wife over there.”

Seen in the perspective of the quarter century that has passed since his death and the events that have taken place, it can be said his faults were negligible, his strengths considerable, and the stock of values his career highlighted is hollowed by absence.


Singapore: The Passing of Francis Seow (1928-2016)

January 28, 2016

Singapore: The Passing of Francis Seow (1928-2016)

by John Berthelsen

Francis Seow, once a high-ranking Singaporean official, died on January 21, 2016 in the United States, where he had spent the past 25 years as a refugee from the late Lee Kuan Yew’s petty vindictiveness.  He died at the age of 88 in Boston, where he was an adjunct professor at Harvard University.

Singapore has supposedly loosened up in its treatment of dissidents. However, the cases of Roy Ngerng, who dared to question the operation of Singapore’s Central Provident Fund earned him a libel suit that bankrupted him from Lee’s son, the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and teenager Amos Yee, who was temporarily committed to a mental ward for an obscenity-filled video criticizing the country, show that it hasn’t lightened up that much.

But what Lee ordered up for Seow is a prime example of just how far the elder Lee would go to crush his enemies. After two years as the island republic’s Solicitor-General, Seow quit in 1972 and went into private practice. He was also appointed senior counsel to a Commission of Inquiry after Chinese students boycotted an examination in 1963. He had the cheek to challenge Lee on several different fronts, and he paid for it by losing his country.

Never a favorite of the Lee administration, Seow was suspended from practice twice after he left as Solicitor-General, once for a year on Lee’s instructions to his cousin, then the Chief Justice, over an undertaking given to the Attorney- General. Nonetheless, he was elected to the council of the Law Society in 1976 and became its president in 1986.

The late Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, brooking no opposition, reacted negatively to Seow’s plans to restore the role of the Law Society to comment on legislation. In 1987, Lee pushed through legislation barring the organization from lending official comment on legislation unless the government specifically asked for it.

Later, Seow won a seat on the board of the venerable Singapore Turf Club. Lee in turn pushed legislation through the parliament abolishing the turf club and replacing it with his own, with the government controlling the appointments to its board of directors.

But it was his decision to represent two dozen church organizers and professionals involved with the Catholic Church in 1987 that caused the final explosion.  Lee during that period was said to be deeply concerned about Catholic liberation movements in South America and was determined to make sure it didn’t spread to his island.

The alleged offenders were originally arrested in 1986 and held for several weeks until they traded televised “confessions” of such innocuous deeds as sending books from capitalist Singapore to communist China. After several months of silence, the youths delivered press releases to the international media saying they had agreed to the confessions, and to statements that they had not been mistreated, for the right to be left alone, and that the Singapore government had broken the promise, continuing to make examples of them and to hound them.

Immediately after the stories were printed in the international press, authorities rounded them up and arrested them again.

Seow agreed to act as counsel to them. Almost immediately he was himself imprisoned without trial for 72 days and suffered “enhanced” interrogation techniques that included long periods of sleep deprivation and interrogation in freezing cold without adequate clothing, which landed him in the hospital in fear of a heart attack. Reportedly authorities were afraid they had endangered his life.  The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Human Rights Watch, the Canadian Parliament, the UK Parliament, several US senators and others delivered stinging criticism of the Singapore government, to no avail.

Seow was accused of receiving political campaign funds from the United States to promote democracy in Singapore and meeting with Hank Henderson, then a US political secretary, to further democracy in Singapore despite the fact that at the time the US remained one of Singapore’s staunchest allies. Henderson was vilified on the front page of the Straits Times for having fathered a “love child” in the Philippines despite the fact that he was married to another woman. Henderson had actually adopted the baby, who was born before his then-current marriage. He was forced to leave the country.

A Catholic priest involved in the situation was also trashed in the Straits Times for having been observed entering the home of a single woman and leaving several hours later, in the middle of the night.

Lee Hsien Loong, then the Defense Minister, held a press conference to detail Seow’s transgressions, including one that he was “seen entering the home of the Asian Wall Street Journal correspondent.”  Later that year, the correspondent was refused an additional work visa and was forced to leave the country.

After his release, Seow ran for parliament as a member of the Workers Party, which Lee hated, with his group constituency losing marginally to Lee’s People’s Action Party. Eventually Singaporean authorities descended on his law office and collected virtually every scrap of paper in it.  He was ultimately accused of 60 counts of tax evasion, impelling him to flee the country for the United States. On top of that, at the time of his arrest, Seow was involved in a relationship with a Singaporean businesswoman who was financing a business deal through Bank Nationale de Paris. The bank suddenly dropped her line of credit and forced her out of the business deal. Bank officials at the time said the government had nothing to do with aborting the transaction.

Harvard took Seow in as a visiting fellow. He conducted research on human rights and the rule of law, publishing several books, one of which recounted his detention, To Catch a Tartar, and continued for the rest of his life to pound the Singapore government for its lack of civil liberties, and meeting with Singaporean student groups overseas. 

“He was a necessary milepost in the development of Singapore and of the rule of law and democratic accountability in Asia,” his nephew, Mark Looi, wrote upon his death. “One day hopefully his native country will recognize this.”


Your Weekend Entertainment: Our respects to the late Natalie Cole

January 9, 2015

Weekend Entertainment: Our Respects to the Late Ms. Natalie Cole

Dr. Kamsiah and I have decided that for this weekend’s entertainment, our first for 2016, we should pay our respects to the late Ms Natalie Cole who passed away at the closing of 2015. What a great voice and a special entertainer she was.

The multiple Grammy Award winner will no doubt be sadly missed, but  she will never forgotten by her fans around the world. A talent like Natalie comes our way, but once. Please join us in sending our condolences to the surviving members of the Cole Family. –Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican


The Passing of the Incomparable Natalie Cole

January 2, 2016

The Passing of the Incomparable Natalie Cole

by Bill Trott

poses in the press room during the 51st Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

The Incomparable Natalie Cole-Grammy Award Winner who sang “Unforgettable” in virtual duet with her  late father Nat King Cole.–Din Merican

Grammy-winning singer Natalie Cole, whose biggest hit came in a virtual duet with her late father, pop legend Nat King Cole, of his decades-old hit “Unforgettable,” has died at the age of 65, her family said on Friday (January 1, 2016).

The family’s statement said Cole died on Thursday night at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles from “ongoing health issues.”

Cole’s career spanned five decades in the R&B, soul, jazz and pop genres. In 2015, she had canceled appearances citing medical reasons.

“It is with heavy hearts that we bring to you all the news of our Mother and sister’s passing,” the Cole family statement said. “Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived – with dignity, strength and honor. Our beloved Mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever.”

The statement was signed by Cole’s only child, Robert Yancey, and her twin sisters, Timolin and Casey Cole.

Tributes quickly poured in for Cole, with singer Tony Bennett saying on Instagram he was “deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Natalie Cole, as I have cherished the long friendship I had with her, her father Nat, and the family over the years.”

Bennett added: “Natalie was an exceptional jazz singer and it was an honor to have recorded and performed with her on several occasions.”

“Unforgettable” Comeback

Cole broke out in 1975 with the hit “This Will Be,” which won the Grammy for best R&B female performance and also earned her the Grammy for best new artist. Critics compared her to Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin but her career floundered in the 1980s when she ran into problems with heroin.

She bounced back, and her career reached the superstar level in 1991 when she recorded “Unforgettable … With Love.” The album contained songs associated with her father, the silky-voiced baritone who was one of the most popular performers of the 1940s and ’50s but died before his daughter began her solo career.

Using technology that was cutting edge at the time, studio engineers merged her voice with her father’s in the song “Unforgettable,” which had been a hit for Nat King Cole in 1951. The result was a moving, sentimental No. 1 hit 40 years later, that actually sounded as if the two were singing a duet.

The song and the album it came from earned Cole three Grammy Awards.”I thank my dad for leaving me such a wonderful, wonderful heritage,” Cole said in accepting her awards.

Cole’s other hits included “Everlasting,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “I’ve Got love on My Mind,” and “Good to Be Back.” In all, she won nine Grammys.

The success of “Unforgettable” capped her comeback after a dark period of heroin, crack and alcohol abuse. In “Angel on My Shoulder,” her 2000 memoir, Cole said she turned to drugs because of unresolved issues in her life, including being molested as a child and her father’s death when she was 15.

She spent six months in a rehabilitation program at the Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota and told CBS in 2006 that “those people gave me my life back one day at a time.”

Cole was diagnosed with hepatitis in 2008 from sharing needles with drug addicts, and underwent kidney transplant surgery in 2009. This past autumn, she canceled several concerts scheduled for November and December, citing a recent medical procedure.

Her 2008 album of pop standards, “Still Unforgettable,” included another duet with her father, “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home.” Her most recent work was 2013’s “Natalie Cole en Espanol.”

Cole was only 11 when she first sang professionally, with her father. But she went to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst with no plans of an entertainment career. While in college, she performed with bands and set aside plans for being a child psychologist.

Cole’s mother, Maria Cole, also had been a singer with the Duke Ellington and Count Basie bands.

Cole portrayed herself in “Livin’ for Love: The Natalie Cole Story,” a 2000 television movie that depicted her drug addiction. She was married three times.

“We’ve lost a wonderful, highly cherished artist and our heartfelt condolences go out to Natalie’s family, friends, her many collaborators, as well as to all who have been entertained by her exceptional talent,” Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Singer Patti LaBelle tweeted “Sending prayers and condolences to all the loved ones of my friend #NatalieCole! She will be truly missed but her light will shine forever!”

Singer Lenny Kravitz posted on Instagram: “As the new year was ushered in, an angelic instrument moved on. Natalie Cole’s voice was perfection. And what a lady… You will be missed my dear. Love.”

(Reporting by Sandra Maler and Bill Trott in Washington and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney; Editing by David Gregorio)

This is how I wish to remember Natalie Cole in Jazz. It is always sad when a talent like her, although haunted by the emotional presence of her Dad, the Late Nat King Cole, dies suddenly. –Din Merican ( I am just back in Phnom Penh after spending Christmas and New Year in Kuala Lumpur with my wife Dr. Kamsiah. Which Islamic nut in UMNO and in Mullahdom can say to me that I cannot spend Xmas and New Year with my beloved wife and our Christian friends and associates.)


Remembering Francis Albert Sinatra

December 12, 2015

Remembering Francis Albert Sinatra

Frank Sinatra: A Hundred Years On, the Voice Resonates Still

by Steven Holden

Frank Sinatra gave pop music a beating heart.


The Crooner of the 20th Century-Francis Albert Sinatra

Before Michael Jackson, before Bob Dylan, before Elvis Presley, there was Francis Albert Sinatra, the first modern pop superstar. In the flood tide of centennial tributes (he was born on December. 12, 1915), we celebrate the cool, ring-a-ding-ding Sinatra, a man with the world on a string — but his most far-reaching accomplishment was infusing popular song with intimate personal emotion.

His union of the singer and the song was fortified by his protohipster image: a film-noir loner in a fedora with a cigarette and a drink; the flip side was the swinger bedding countless beautiful women and partying with his pals till dawn. To borrow a title from Tom Wolfe, he was “a man in full.”

In Sinatra’s intensely emotional interpretations, popular standards took on a new life by becoming quasia-utobiographical confessions. The lyrics mattered as never before, foreshadowing the singer-songwriters of the next generation. Men didn’t simply admire him; they wanted to be him, partly because he revised the definition of masculinity. He made self-pity a virtue.

Beginning with his somber 1955 album of torch songs, “In the Wee Small Hours,” which some believe to be the greatest pop album ever made, Sinatra gave men license to cry without shame. Sanctioned by a tough guy who consorted with mobsters, behavior once synonymous with cowardice and weakness became noble suffering.

Before 1955, most popular music was dismissed as kitsch by the reigning culturati, and distinctions between “high” and popular art were rigidly demarcated. By treating popular standards as secular art songs dressed up in elegant semiclassical and pop-jazz trappings by his most brilliant arranger, Nelson Riddle, Sinatra began blurring the distinctions.

Almost single-handedly, he canonized the American songbook, a body of work created mostly for Broadway and the movies that looms much larger than it might have had he not given it his passionate, sustained attention. It became a platform for philosophical ruminations on the meaning of it all.

Ella Fitzgerald also contributed to that preservation with her monumental “songbook” albums, but with a couple of exceptions, they pale beside the power and authority of Sinatra’s best work. Fitzgerald, with her phenomenal gifts, was not emotionally invested in song lyrics. Everything Sinatra recorded he made sound intensely, sometimes agonizingly, personal. Songs like “Night and Day,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “One for My Baby” and “Laura” became his and no one else’s. He recorded these and others more than once over a period of years. When you think of them, it is likely Sinatra’s voice you hear in your head.

No matter what he’s singing, you listen to the words and how he phrases them and often have the sense that they’re coming spontaneously out of his mind and not from the pen of the song’s lyricist, although in his concerts he was scrupulous to give writing and arranging credits.

With each re-recording they expressed Sinatra’s changing point of view over time and became the story of his life. Other singers followed his lead, and the interpretation of popular songs took on an entirely new significance.

Evolving technology conveniently and happily coincided with his ascendancy. Until the invention of the microphone, the pop crooner adopting a relaxed conversational tone couldn’t have existed. The sound of Bing Crosby, Sinatra’s most influential forerunner and role model, evoked congeniality, nostalgia and the comforts of hearth and home — but not the joys and pains of love.

Sinatra used the microphone to convey an astounding intimacy, infused with a tender eroticism that turned increasingly bitter as the years went by. Crosby was your likable, easygoing next-door neighbor; Sinatra was your personal confidant, or in the case of women who adored him, a surrogate lover.

The best of his ’40s recordings, made mostly with the arranger Axel Stordahl, are delicate musical valentines gently murmured by an ardent young suitor to his dream girl. The tinkly hearts-and-flowers arrangements for a chamber orchestra conjure an innocent paradise of lingering kisses and endearments shared by sweethearts floating in a rapturous shared fantasy. Listen to his Columbia recordings of “My Melancholy Baby,” “Dream,” “I Don’t Know Why,” “Oh! What It Seemed to Be,” “Laura,” “The Things We Did Last Summer,” “You’re My Girl” and “If I Forget You” and be transported. These performances have the devotional fervency of whispered prayers.

In the early ’50s, the skinny, blue-eyed boy from Hoboken re-invented himself as a cosmopolitan performer with a purpose: to enshrine the songs of Berlin, Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Arlen and others once and for all.

At a time when novelties dominated mainstream pop, the rise of the long-playing record enabled Sinatra to create the first “concept” albums years before the term was coined around the time of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The output of Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and others is synonymous with what many believe to be the golden age of the LP. On their albums, romantic love — the subject of a majority of popular standards — was explored from an adult perspective.

In the ’50s, his once celestial baritone acquired a slightly rougher grain, and he became the voice of experience. The bobby-soxers’ idol had evolved into a sexually sophisticated swinger. His increasingly emphatic, upbeat syncopation spurred a full-scale swing revival — newly focused on the singer instead of a bandleader — and heralded an age of individual self-expression that has only expanded and continued into the hip-hop era.

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra–Merry Xmas to All Friends and Associates from Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

“Come Fly With Me,” the title song from his 1958 album, was an invitation to pleasure delivered in a rough, joyful voice that promised good times ahead if you followed Sinatra, now the ultimate American playboy. In the ’40s, he had played the role of an imaginary boyfriend to women on the home front while their husbands were fighting overseas. The swinging Sinatra announced himself in 1953 with a joyful, confident “I’ve Got the World on a String.” At his peak in the next decade, the world revolving around Sinatra was a hedonistic playground, with the singer the master of revels.

But it was a bipolar world that had a shadow side: The pied piper of good times endured bouts of melancholia that defined his increasingly tragic vision of life. “In the Wee Small Hours,” “Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely” and “Where Are You?” with their quasi-Wagnerian orchestrations were eloquent, even desperate cries in the night.

It’s unfair to claim that the ’60s English rock invasion blew Sinatra out of the room. In 1966 he had huge pop chart hits with “Strangers in…

At the same time, Sinatra’s uptempo albums vented a swaggering aggression that signaled the furies unleashed by the rock and hip-hop revolutions of the future. After the high point of “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers,” that aggression became steadily coarser, harder and more pugnacious. It’s a sad reflection on contemporary tastes that the rude, swaggering entertainer of the Las Vegas “rat pack” is considered quintessential Sinatra by younger generations unacquainted with the voice of the ’40s crooner.

In the late 1970s and early ’80s, his singing had become so crude that some rock critics even adopted Sinatra as an avatar of punk. But that wishful comparison makes only partial sense. Sinatra never wavered in his undying loyalty to the pre-rock American songbook, and most of his attempts to sing contemporary songs on his 1980 album, “Trilogy: Past Present Future,” sounded naïve.

Beginning in the mid-1960s, his career was the story of an established monarch reviewing his accomplishments while consciously engaged in a losing battle with time. In his last great album, “Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim,” in 1967, he sang Brazilian bossa nova ballads in the soft, weary voice of aging Lothario yearning for his lost youth. After the grand formal statement of “September of My Years,” his turning-50 album, the slow fade of his career accelerated.

His last attempt at a major statement was his 1981 studio album, “She Shot Me Down.” This groan of exhaustion included a funereal version of the Cher hit, “Bang Bang,” and a gloomy new reverie, “A Long Night,” by Alec Wilder and Loonis McGlohon, that looked back in defeat.

You feel his despair:
I’ve seen what the street corners
Do to things like love and dreams
Seen what the bottle can do to a man
With his hopes and his schemes
In the end, noir always wins.

A version of this article appears in print on December 12, 2015, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Voice, Resonating Still.

Malaysia: We have lost our core values

November 25, 2015

We have lost our core values based on respect, care and compassion, says FA Abdul. Cash is King under Najib’s Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua Philosophy

by fa Abdul

Family ties, brotherhood, friendship and a common sense of respect and understanding are becoming such a rarity in our society. Everyone is talking about togetherness and a sense of belonging but fewer and fewer people are practising it.-fa abdul

Respect for the Old

Everyone is talking about togetherness and a sense of belonging but fewer and fewer people are practising it.

When I was a little girl, there was a man who lived opposite our place. He was as old as my grandpa so I referred to him as ‘Tok’. Tok never talked much to anyone. He was always busy.

Every morning, he would ride his old bicycle to the marketplace where he sold Indian spices or ‘masala’ as we knew it. At noon, he returned home for a quick shower, lunch and prayers before returning to work. Later in the afternoon, he would get groceries on his way back home. This was his routine every day.

Tok had seven children – four boys and three girls. They were all grown ups and had their own families, yet they always stayed over at Tok’s house. Most of the time Tok and his wife took care of their grandchildren while their own parents, i.e. Tok’s children, were away working.

As I grew older, so did Tok. His forehead became wider and his hair became whiter – even the ones on his chest. I remember sitting by the street in front of my house, enjoying some cream crackers soaked into a cup of hot ginger tea, watching him cycle home. Over the years, his paddling became slower and slower.

Tok’s family grew bigger in size as the years passed. He had more grandchildren and in-laws. And their small house became more and more crowded with people and filled with much more laughter. I used to envy them because there was so much more going on in their house compared to my quiet home.

When I moved out came to the city some fifteen years ago, my mom kept me updated about Tok and his family. From time to time she would tell me how they were doing. I learned that his wife had become ill, most of his children had moved out and his health had deteriorated.

A few years ago, Tok’s wife passed away at the age of 85. Tok was devastated. After spending all his life with the woman he loved, he was now alone although he still had his children and family. At the age of almost 90, he was forced to stop working. He had to stay home.

There were a few times when Tok took his old bicycle and disappeared. According to mom, whenever this happened the entire family would embark on a search mission to find him. Once, after searching all night for him, they finally found him a few kilometres away from where his masala shop used to be, laying by the roadside, shivering. He had gotten lost and couldn’t find his way home.

That was when the entire family decided that it was in his best interest that he moved in with one of them. They did not think he could be left alone in his old house. But the question was, who would take care of him? Apparently, it wasn’t easy for seven children to take care of one ailing father. Thus, Tok was sent to a home for the elderly.

The last time mom and I spoke about Tok, she told me that Tok had celebrated Hari Raya with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mom who visited him said he looked happy and at peace until it was time to return to the home for the elderly, Tok cried and hugged a pillar of the house. He refused to let go.

Just a while ago, I received a text message from mom – Tok has passed away. He closed his eyes at the home for the elderly, surrounded by strangers, far from those he loved his entire life.

I realise this column is usually used as a platform to talk about politics, current issues and matters of our country, however, I decided to write something different today as I feel that our society desperately needs to get re-connected with its lost soul.

Every day we indulge in talk about corruption, racism and bigotry. We criticise those whom we feel are contributing to the illness that is creeping under our skins. Yet we ignore the fact that our values as a society are deteriorating by the day.

Family ties, brotherhood, friendship and a common sense of respect and understanding are becoming such a rarity in our society. Everyone is talking about togetherness and a sense of belonging but fewer and fewer people are practising it.

Perhaps Tok is in a better place now…Al-Fatihah. May you rest in peace, Tok.