I remember May 1981 as if it was only yesterday. It was the summer when I was heavy with baby and wrought with anxiety of how I would cope with the pain, the responsibilities of a new arrival in the family.
But it was in May, I distinctly remember the arrival of a couple and their young son at our apartment in Bayswater. They were relatives from the husband’s side of the family. Before this, my introduction to his side of the family was short and sweet and before I could understand their Trengganuspeak, it was already time to say goodbye.
Their brief stay with us was the beginning of a relationship that has come to mean a lot to me. They came into my life at a time when I needed much pampering and Kak Mah provided that plus nasi dagang on a platter. Abang Ngah reminded me of my brother, my uncles all rolled into one. They were easy to talk to and I felt most comfortable with them, so much so that when the time came for them to leave, I practically begged them to stay. I remember standing there at the door of our apartment in Chapel Side, tears rolling down my cheeks as I begged them to stay and be with me for the birth of my first child. But they had to leave and it was a few days later that I gave birth.
But we were to meet again when they came again, this time for a longer period as Abang Ngah came to work. In them, I saw a model family, so caring, so loving. I will always remember Kak Mah’s words; be friends with your children. Make sure that they come to you when they need to speak about anything.
Anyway, what I am about to share here, is more than just our relationship. In the spirit of Maal Hijrah, I would like to share a story of a journey that both Kak Mah and Abang Ngah had embarked on. On their journey, they had selflessly taken others on board.
When Abang Ngah retired, he and Kak Mah could have enjoyed their retirement days travelling the world, but instead as a family, they pulled their resources together, garnered their energy and knowledge to set up a trust – The Almanar Trust - in 1994. The aim was “ ….to provide academic support to deserving individuals who have slipped through the formal channels due to various circumstances.”
In short, Abang Ngah, Kak Mah and their children felt it was time they repay society by handpicking students in need, by offering free tuition in English, Science and Maths. In a house across theirs, built in 1996, Abang Ngah tutors children from neighbouring areas. Those in need of transport were offered bicycles. To persuade others to help with the teaching, he has even offered motorbikes. Their own children, who by then had their own careers, donated the first few computers. Read here for more Pak Cik's Stories, where he shares with them his adventures abroad, his life's experience.
I am humbled by their selfless efforts; Abang Ngah’s tireless devotion and dedication and Kak Mah’s and the children’s unwavering support. Over the years, Almanar had seen the fruits of these dedication – many had passed with flying colours, especially in Maths, English and Science.
Last year, at around this time, I met up with Abang Ngah and Kak Mah, in their house in Terengganu, overlooking the South China Sea. It was an ideal setting for a couple in retirement, to enjoy their time together. But for Abang Ngah, there is still a lot of work to be done. Over the sound of the roaring sea, Abang Ngah talked about the lack of reading materials and most of all support, to help him tutor these children in need. But I do not see him giving up. And now through his blog, he has taken them aboard this journey with him in the quest for education.
So, on this blessed day of Maal Hijrah, may I wish both Abang Ngah and Kak Mah and their wonderful children, more wonderful years ahead in your endeavour to take others less fortunate on this journey with you.
Picture taken from www.almanar-nuri.blogspot.com