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This was taken on 31 July 2010 in Singapore. At that time I hadn't thought of writing this, though the label always reminds me of Papak

There are many things that remind me of my late father, some good memories and of course there would be some that are not so good. But I do want to remember, and keep, only the good ones forever.

Papak as I called him had a very strong character and as such he was a big influence in my life. He was such a strict man, an autocrat and a disciplinarian, quite typical of parents in his era. No matter how hard we, his children, tried, or how well we succeeded in our academics, careers or businesses, it was never good enough for him. Or so we thought.

Hari Raya 1970, somehow I had gotten away without wearing white socks. I had yearned to have one of those maxis my older sisters were wearing!
I recall the time when I had slackened in my Mathematics in a term exam, scoring 92 marks which still earned an A. When I showed him my report card, he was livid! He wanted nothing lower than 98. What followed was a six hour “personal tuition” with him which ended at 3 am. I was only eleven years old at that time.

Okay, so Mathematics is a critical subject, and it may have been necessary for a parent to be that concerned of his child’s performance in school.  Well, that wasn’t the only subject that was important to him; he also had me sit for hours on end practicing handwriting till it was just the way he liked it to be. And right under his nose too; he’d be standing right next to me and the moment he saw the exercise book at a different angle, he’d adjust it.

Subang Airport, one of Papak's favourite locations for a drive and photo shoot. That's me next to Yan.

I thought he was one of the best-dressed government officers of his time!
Papak was also very particular about the way we spoke, in English especially; we were only allowed to speak with knowledge and intellect, anything nonsensical would be met with a sharp warning. Our grammar and pronunciation had to be faultless too. He had a way of training to make us always remember our mistakes so that we’d never repeat them.
Table manners and etiquette were of utmost importance to him. He never could abide rudeness and loud-speaking and boisterous people.

Papak however, would easily remember someone for life if the person had been respectful and had pleased him. He drummed into us virtues like self-respect and humility, and respect for others. As a child, it wasn’t easy to understand this. I can only hope that now as an adult, I am in good stead and can pass these values to my offspring as well.
Me, Yan, Mama and Papak
A major part of our upbringing was dressing and personal grooming . Papak showed a perfect example, he was never sloppy. He was always clean shaven, well-dressed and smelt nice, very nice. It wasn’t easy keeping up to his standards. Even an evening drive with him in which we sometimes didn’t even get to come down from the car, entailed a bath, putting on a clean dress, neatly combed hair (he only approved of short, left-sided parted hair) powder on our faces, white socks and black shoes. For him and Azman, my only brother, shirts had to be tucked always into their pants. He even wore t-shirts (of colours that matched) tucked into his kain pelickat. 
In London, we had to make sure we had a nice jacket and shoes on if we wanted to walk with him!
I was actually compelled to write this after Abang Mat of the Mat Cendana Blog Review fame commented on an old school family picture posted on Facebook by my sister Aimi. In the studio photo, Papak was wearing a full suit and tie complete with a songkok and Abang Mat suggested that he had “the aura of a State Exco”. Of course Mama loved it when I told her that.
Penang, he always liked going back there, he had studied in Penang Free School once
Abang Mat himself is actually a reminder of my late father. I actually didn’t realize their similarities until my elder sisters, first Aimi, then Azni mentioned it. The most obvious similarity is in their writing. Papak loved to write too, letters especially, handwritten of course. Not only they both love to write but according to Azni,  Abang Mat writes like Papak. She must know, for she, being the eldest was the first to leave home to study overseas and was the recipient of long and frequent letters from him.

They both have a passion for music although not of the same genre. And reading too, of course, almost on the same material and subjects. Both their favourite magazines are Time and Newsweek, books - autobiographies and National Geographic. Incidentally, they both were teachers in a school once.

They both love the same gadgets – computers, cameras and hand phones. They even enjoy the same leisurely activities, window shopping and driving through scenic places, although Abang Mat doesn’t do it very often. The only thing Abang Mat doesn’t like to do is dining out. Papak loved eating out and enjoyed his medium-well to well-done steaks. Very recently, Abang Mat told me that he likes his meat and shellfish well done too.
Resting in Bayu bungalow, Port Dickson in his "baju sehe" or "baju basahan"

So it is inevitable that being with Abang Mat the past few months has flooded me with memories of Papak. The most pleasant were those during the holidays spent with him. Despite the fear of him that was still eminent in me right until the day he died, we still invited him along as he seemed so happy, and appeared to be a totally different person when on holiday with his two grandchildren,  Aiman and Marzia. In fact, he had mellowed a lot after I had them. He was especially fond of and close to Aiman.
In Cameron Highlands, my children and Yan's ; see how  all of them stand so straight with their Apak!
In my younger days I used to work with Guthrie and we had spent most of our holidays together at the company’s bungalows in Fraser’s Hill and Port Dickson. Papak loved Fraser’s Hill and the colonial bungalow there especially. We were there almost every year end during the time I was in their employment as it was the coldest time of the year. He loved the immaculate service rendered by the third generation Lim’s, caretakers of the Kayangan bungalow in their crisp, white uniforms.

Outside the Kayangan bungalow in Fraser's Hill with Aiman
As with most other grandparents, he was so stern and rigid with his children but with his grandchildren it was all hell broke loose. They could get away with anything and of course they had fun together. I’m sure the pictures here would surprise many, as they show a totally different side of him. Some of these pictures have never been shown to anyone, even within the family.
In Port Dickson, a very rare moment

Aiman, Mama, Papak and Marzia at the Awana Kijal pool. A rare occasion.

The holiday trips to London, his favourite city for some reason or other, however, were just with Mama and us, his children. The last trip in 1998 was the most memorable, as he was exceptionally happy then. Azni was about to receive her PhD.  That was one of the rare occasions when he did not make an effort to conceal his pride of his daughter’s achievements.
Picnic in Shah Alam with Prof Azni's family. This is the only picture I have of this outing.
Also, that was one of the last holidays we had together. Around the year 2000, his health had started to slowly deteriorate until he was finally diagnosed of cancer in early 2004. He died in May the same year.

On that particular trip, Papak had wanted to buy a jacket. He had gone to almost every store on Oxford Street to look for one. Being so meticulous and particular about fit and comfort, he was dissatisfied with every piece he had tried on. He was almost in a state of despair and I felt so sorry for him.

Papak was always at his best on the streets of London. This is what Mat Cendana will look like and be doing at 65 years old.
I didn’t want him to return to Malaysia disappointed. It would have taken him two months at least after our return to recover from the regret of not having been able to fulfill his intention. I had to do something. I had to sum up all my courage just to suggest something to him. Yes I was that afraid of him.

I suggested that he gave Burberry a try. I knew that once he had tried on a Burberry, there was a slim chance of him being able to resist buying it. He would appreciate the quality of it, not so much the name. I really wanted him to own one; he had worked and saved hard for us, and he deserved to have a good-looking and feeling jacket.
See that gleeful a Cheshire cat
Papak could have well afforded to adorn himself in designer clothes from head to toe. But he was such a prudent man, almost stingy actually, but only because he wanted to leave as much as possible for Mama and us. As stringent as he was, he had promised Mama, as if he knew he would go first, that he would make her a “rich widow”.

I was stunned, but delighted of course when he agreed to try Burberry, and with a cheeky smile at that. He seemed almost excited at the prospect of getting an apparel with a designer label. Needless to say, he fell in love almost immediately with the jacket he chose, what with the very impressive, professional and personal service of the staff attending to him, and of course with me urging him on. 

On the beach in PD. This is as casual as he gets.

He was like a child with a new toy, tak sabar-sabar nak balik. Once back in the apartment, he immediately tried his new jacket on again and the picture above says it all…he was absolutely thrilled with pride and joy.

Having written this, I have relived, the feeling of joy and happiness of that day, and hope it would remain until I die. Not that I equate his happiness to that of a designer jacket, but it is the precious and few joyous moments with him that I want to treasure. And this was definitely one of the times that I did with Papak… and his Burberry.

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