Went to ziarah Arwah Ben yesterday, with Dany (Class of 90) and Rashad (Class of 08).
I wanted to rush, make it by 8 am and planned to be back in KL by 11 am. As always, rushing for things.
But I was late and Dany sent me an sms “please don’t rush”. I had rushed all my life in whatever I did, always looking behind at the invisible clock that ticks at every junction of my journey so far. Last year, I had 2 serious accidents (one that wrecked my car completely) because I was rushing.
So I inhaled and told myself that this time, especially for this purpose, I would not rush. I took my time, picked up Dany and Rashad in Shah Alam – then made that solemn journey to Seremban, to visit Ben.
It’s been 2 years and many things had changed – though the longing for the emotional support and cushion that was gone with him, never cease to haunt me.
Immediately after Ben was gone, I knew what I needed to do and what he would have wanted me to do. We made a promise and though I strayed for a while, if I could not keep my promise when he was alive, I certainly would try when he was no longer around.
So I found myself living the life that he would have enjoyed and thrived. We were almost the complete opposite as a person – he charmed and awed the public, I was usually the shy one who sneaked out when everyone did not notice. He was intellectual, I was practical. He was philosophical, I was methodical. We were very different in many ways, yet it was the differences that made us get along so well as we complimented each other.
I put a framed photo of us waiting for a train in
in any office that I have occupied since he passed away (and I had had 4 rooms as offices since then ha ha). Cambridge
Nowadays, each time someone from Ben’s previous life drops by in my office, he/she would go and lift the frame, looked at me with a tinge of sadness in their eyes and almost without fail would say “if only Ben is alive”. Then, he/she would recall how wonderful or unique or genius Ben was (and I silently listened and told myself that this life does not belong to me – it was meant to be Ben’s. I am only an accident who has to fit in his shoes, to honour a promise made to a dead brother).
Anyhow, the whole trip was peaceful and it reminded me what our childhood was. Ben, Dany, myself and some others liked to debate and put forth our views on many things – usually on historical or political events. Dany and I spent one good afternoon recalling the evolution of French’s political system – from the days of Danton and the “incorruptible Robespierre” to the madness of Napoleon; to the time of De Gaulle’s Fifth Republic, the romanticism attached by the left to Mitterrand and the current lurch to the right in the form of Chirac, Le Pen and Sarkozy.
I wish we are still young and can spend our days endlessly pretending to be intellects, talking about things we barely understand.
But we are old now and burdened by the contrasting realities of the world.
Soon enough, it will be my time to make the journey. I wish it can be on my own terms but looking at Ben, he never had a chance. Most probably I too would never have the chance to plan for my departure to be exactly how I have envisaged it in my mind – at one point in life, to withdraw completely from the world and spend time preparing for that eventual journey.
Until then, we can only cherish the little reminders of the casualness of the friendships and the brotherhood of those who have looked after and watched over you all these years.
Thank you to one Adany Ismail who took it upon himself to offer the protection and counsel to a person who never listens to any counsels, now that Ben is no longer around.
I looked back at all the postings I made and realised how foolish I was thinking that it would never happen.