The One I Knew
(in loving memory of Hamzah Hussin, 1927 - 2007)
by Tengku Adrian Ismail
On the faces of the aged there are wrinkles made by sympathy, by strong and pure thought, and are carved by passion. And those who have lived righteously, age is calm, peaceful, and softly mellowed, like the setting sun.
He was a talented writer with a little ego about the whole thing of his writings, one who wrote to do good, or at least to contribute to the goodness in the world. One who supported his own beliefs with arguments. He had someone who was the closest to him yet too far to reach out to. I keep thinking about him and thought if I should snap thoughts into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and start constructing a world where at least part of him lives forever.
It was in the year 2002 that brought me to knowing him, a man who had been physically weak yet strong in his will. The weakness in his movement was not the weakness in his heart. He was never and had never been a slave to his own self. He had walked with the aid of a stick with confidence. Yes, he was old but he was never weak.
I had then thought that humanity surged with uncontrolled passion, for passion was what I saw in him. He was a teacher, and probably a mentor or he could be a father, grandfather, friend. Whatever the term may be, I am glad that I met him.
That night when I stood outside the balcony of my house and listened to the breeze, the silence felt like divine. My conversation with the wind made me realise that he was right, that the home is where the heart is and that one’s house is one’s world (Rumah Itu Dunia Aku). Perhaps that was what inspired him to write that novel.
Soon it was that famous, classic novel of his that became my breakthrough. How thankful I should be for he had called me to turn that novel of his into a drama series, some sort of a telenovela he said. I was to co-write it with him and although I had, as a matter of fact, written almost everything, I was glad. Glad to be the chosen one.
I had thought to myself that it could probably be my winning the competition in 2003 with my Serendah Sekebun Bunga that he had chosen me, or probably he just happened to favour me. Whatever the reason might be, I was glad. Glad to be working with one of Malaysia’s greatest novelists and screenwriters, one who had been in the film industry as long as one can remember, one who had worked with great screen legends such as the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee and Puan Sri Saloma, M. Amin, Nordin Ahmad and many more. I remember how he had repeatedly told me about him being very close to the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee until the last of his (P. Ramlee) days, and how he had boasted about him being courted by some of the famous stars. I had been his good listener, not only to his funny stories but also to his sad ones. How his proposal of marriage had been rejected because of caste difference. This, according to him, became the basis of most of the stories he wrote. How true it is, that life’s experience always becomes part of a writer’s successful work.
The series was aired over RTM in 2004 and I had shared the honour, again thanking him and my lucky star. He then continued to serve his last days as a Script Consultant at FINAS. Even that did not stop me from being in contact with him. I had grown to know him not only for who he was and for what he was. Indeed I am indebted to him, he who had taught me, who had shared with me his knowledge and many years of experience. I could only do as much, to keep in touch and visit him and be with him as often as possible. He was staying at an apartment in Pandan Jaya, Kuala Lumpur and I would visit him at any possible time. There were also a number of occasions when he would call me to his house, at that very instant. I remember how I would come up with excuses whenever I could not make it, only to succumb to his request later.
He had since moved to stay in Subang USJ, and I continued my visits. There is a sense of sadness when I think about the times he had called to ask me to be at his house for many reasons, reasons he wrote in his own mind. He would tell me that he just fell from his wheelchair or he wanted a drink he could not get or he had been left alone by his son who was tending to him or he had just been poisoned.
My visits continued. I would listen to his ideas, his stories, how he was planning to write another script, another novel, and another, and another. He came up with all possible titles – Kunang-kunang Terbang Malam, Penjara Kasih and many others I can hardly remember now. He had also asked me to finish the unfinished story by the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee, Airmata di Kuala Lumpur. I had listened to whatever he was saying, without really giving full concentration, because I realised his mind never stopped winding when his physical health was getting weaker day by day.
Much to my regret, my story with him did not end as how I would hope it to be. A message went to me that he had left KL for Singapore and that he was being treated at a hospital there, the hospital that was to be his last home. I had since planned a visit to Singapore but time was the limit, or time became my excuse. I reasoned with myself that I had been busy with my day job and my writings of the first feature I wrote in 2005, followed by another script for competition entry in 2006.
That Monday morning of 23rd July 2007, as I was turning the pages of a newspaper, I read about the news. It was sad news. I was sad, and there was a feel of guilt and regret. I did not get the chance to see him before his last breath. I had let myself to let go of the chance to see him before his final breath. I started to form my own reconciliation. That there had not been a moment he was absent from my mind, not a moment that I was not proud I had known him. Perhaps the only regret was that I did not get the chance to show him the film I wrote, Bilut and the other script I won, Telaga Atas Bukit. But I know he would have been proud of me as how I have always been and will always be of him.
Then I realised that no one can go back to where he has left. He may turn back, however, just to find that it is no longer exactly the same. Seasons change and so do people. It is the ordinary pattern of life that we meet and part, fall in and out, tie and break connections - all around the edges of something, for the edges are always there, at times when we are arriving and departing, and these times, more often they come too swiftly, and unless we seize these brief moments, we may end up missing what should have been a part of us. I seized mine.
I may not have known him for longer years as many others have had, yet I am blessed. And I know well that it’s not how long you are together but it’s how much love you have shared within that period of time. He may have departed with the angels of the Lord, yet he lives on.
I may have met and known other notable people and maybe I will know more people as my journey continue. They have been and may be special, but he is he. He, who had lived a life among the legends, has now become a legend himself.
He is the one I knew. To him, I offer my prayer and Al-Fatihah. May you rest in peace, Pak Hamzah.
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