Thursday, July 12, 2007

In Memory : Usman Awang (July 12 1929 - Nov 29 2001)


Early this morning, as I was struggling up the Kiara Hill with my friend, Mia, I received an SMS from Lina (Haslina), the eldest child of (the late) poet laureate Usman Awang.
That got me worried for a while. Lina is close to me and my siblings - just like our sister - so I thought it must be something urgent.
Perhaps she was trying to contact me but could not.
Then I read the message: "Hari ini tarikh lahir Usman Awang, Al-Fatihah".
I responded immediately with "Al-Fatihah", composed myself because I was suddenly remembering our dear Pak CikTongkat, and then continued my climb, intending to call her later.
Oh... it seemed just yesterday that we got the news that Pak Cik Tongkat had died.
He had not been well. Still, news of death will always be shocking, no matter how prepared we are for the worst.
We rushed to the hospital after receiving the news.
Bapak, who was like a brother to Pak Cik Tongkat, was too distraught that he just could not make it to the hospital.

Usman Awang or known by his popular nom de guerre Tongkat Warrant was born on July 12 1929 in Kampung Tanjung Lembu, Kuala Sedili in Kota Tinggi, Johor.

Syed Husin Ali, one of Pak Cik Tongkat's closest friends wrote this:

Usman is popularly considered, and most justifiably too, as perhaps the best poet in the Malay language. Most important, he is accepted without question as a people’s poet. Writing since 1955, Usman did not produce a very large corpus of poetry, only about 200 of them. But the man, his personality, his poetry and his ideas have a much deeper and wider influence than that number would suggest. Much of his poems are simple, clear, oftentimes romantic, and just beautiful. He is a master at weaving words into striking phrases, sentences and verses that are of exceptional classical beauty and sometimes appear to be nostalgic and even escapist.

Usman Awang died at Pantai Hospital, Kuala Lumpur on Nov 29, 2001 of complications related to diabetes.
He is buried at the Bukit Kiara Muslim Cemetery in Petaling Jaya, near the grave of his wife, Hasnah Din who died two years earlier.

Pak Cik Tongkat was like a father to us.
Cik Senah, as we called his late wife, was like a mother to us.
So it is natural that we are very close to their children -- Lina, Iskandar, Yamin and Maya.

"Ayah would be 78 today," a wistful Lina told me when I telephoned her.
I thanked her for reminding me about Pak Cik Tongkat.

Lina said that she was in the midst of compiling her father's collection of "cerpen" or short stories that touched on Merdeka, in celebration of the nation's 50 years of nationhood.

Among the 18 stories are unpublished works, she told me.
Lina had gone searching for her father's short stories, including at the National Archives.
She hopes to complete everything by next month,

"I will keep you posted, Kak Ena," she said.

I am looking forward to read Pak Cik Tongkat's collection of cerpen.

Al-Fatihah.

Read about Usman Awang here, here and here
I talked a bit about Pak Cik Tongkat and Cik Senah here.

38 comments:

bergen said...

You're lucky to grow up among the literary circle. I didn't know what all this literary thing was about until a girl named Catherine opened up a whole new world to me, the world different from meat science.

a malaysian in riyadh said...

Sis Ena
Al Fatihah to our Sasterawan Negara. Just got to know that his real name is Wan Osman Wan Awang. Must search for old copy of Aliran in a jiffy to read the tribute by Amir Muhammad. I understand NST published that too but some unpalatable paragraphs were left out.
aMiR

Sri said...

How come people like him dont get Datukships...very strange!

Sri said...

My bad...he is a Dato.

Sri said...

Oh man....this reminds me of my favorite poem that I studied while in school, "Ke Makam Bonda".

Didnt appreciate the poem much thenn but now as I mature, I truly understand the beauty of the message and the author.

Enjoy:

Kami mengunjungi pusara bonda
Sunyi pagi disinari suria
Wangi berseri puspa kemboja
Menyambut kami mewakili bonda

Tegak kami di makam sepi
Lalang-lalang tinggi berdiri
Dua nisan terkapar mati
Hanya papan dimakan bumi

Dalam kenangan kami melihat
Mesra kasih bonda menatap
Sedang lena di dalam rahap
Dua tangan kaku berdakap

Bibir bonda bersih lesu
Pernah dulu mengucupi dahiku
Kini ku rasakan kasihnya lagi
Meski jauh dibatasi bumi

Nisan batu kami tegakkan
Tiada lagi lalang memanjang
Ada doa kami pohonkan
Air mawar kami siramkan

Senyum kemboja menghantar kami
Meninggalkan makam sepi sendiri
Damailah bonda dalam pengabdian
Insan kerdil menghadap Tuhan

Begitu bakti kami berikan
Tiada sama bonda melahirkan
Kasih bonda tiada sempadan
Kemuncak murni kemuliaan insan

j or ji said...

Usman Awang adalah seorang penulis/penyair hebat yang berani.

Kebetulan baru saja membaca buku BIOGRAFI USMAN AWANG : SEORANG PENYAIR,SEBUAH BENUA RUSUH oleh Muhammad Haji Salleh.

Melihat gambar2 dan membaca ceritanya
tak salah kalau dikatakan Usman Awang tiada pengantinya.Beliau memang seorang manusia yang hebat!!

Al-Fatihah untuk Usman Awang dan juga Mokhtar Dahari,seorang lagi legenda yang tidak berpenganti.

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

Bergen : i never really ever thought about being lucky until much later in life when i appreciated having known some of the literary greats.

and wonder what Catherine did..

aMiR: Al Fatihah.
He was absolutely a beautiful soul.

sri:thank you.

Jorji: yes.. he is irreplaceable.

Penanak Nasik said...

Hello Nuraina,

Usman Awang merupakan salah seorang penulis yang saya minati sejak saya terbaca puisinya yang bertajuk "Kekasih". Sungguh indah bahasanya dan dalam maknanya. Semasa kecil saya tidak memahami betapa indahnya bahasa Melayu. Saya selalu terdengar arwah ayah menyanyikan lagu P.Ramlee dari filem Anakku Sazali semasa kecil dahulu. Ia bermula dengan sebaris ayat mudah iaitu "Tiada kata secantik bahasa". Dulu saya selalu tertanya-tanya apa bezanya bahasa dan kata. Apabila saya dewasa barulah saya tahu apakah perbezaannya dan betapa indahnya baris tersebut sepertimana indahnya tulisan Tongkat Warrant tentang Kekasih. Terasa bagai bahasa digunakan sebagai senjata bagi menawan kalbu yang ragu tentang cinta yang belum pasti. Bagi mereka yang tidak pernah membaca puisi tersebut saya perturunkan disini bagi tatapan semua. Moga kita melihat Bahasa Melayu (atau Malaysia) sebagai bahasa yang mempunyai jiwa.

Penanak Nasik

Kekasih

akan kupintal buih-buih
menjadi tali
mengikatmu

akan kuanyam gelombang-gelombang
menjadi hamparan
ranjang tidurmu

akan kutenun awan-gemawan
menjadi selendang
menundungi rambutmu

akan kujahit bayu gunung
menjadi baju
pakaian malammu

akan kupetik bulan gerhana
menjadi lampu
menyuluhi rindu

akan kurebahkan mentari
menjadi laut malammu
menghirup sakar madumu

kekasih, hitunglah mimpi
yang membunuh realiti
dengan syurga ilusi

Nukilan: Usman Awang 1971

Oh yes, by the way Nuraina, regarding P.Ramlee; i think you saw one of the television programmes on Pak Samad. He did say that he is "Raja Wartawan" and P.Ramlee is "Raja Seniman". P.Ramlee was sad and was crying because he was no longer the flavour of the month. The younger artiste took over and he was being cast aside. Pak Samad told him to snap out of it because he was "Raja Seniman" and he will write about why P.Ramlee is a "Raja Seniman". So he wrote an article about P.Ramlee the "Raja Seniman" thrusting P.Ramlee back into the limelight again. The interview was conducted circa 1998-1999. By the way, your dad's house has lots of ashtray yeah.

Penanak Nasik

a malaysian in riyadh said...

Sis Ena
Do you know (excuse ya Kak Teh I have to pinjam your husband's famous chat up line or ice breaker)that when we were in Tanjong Jara last week, while stretching on the beach to catch some sleep, I was thinking about our People's Poet the moment I had the sensational feeling that the "bayu segar Laut China Selatan menjadi selimut tidurku dan deruan ombak dan anyaman gelombang sebagai dendangan tidurku". I really tried to pintal the ombak-ombak, tapi apakan daya ia tidak menjadi tali. Must say his poem Kekasih is so so seductive, just like P.Ramlee's Tunggu Sekejap.
aMiR

Nora said...

Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat-Nya ke atas roh beliau. Al Fatihah.

Mat Salo said...

It's so sad for me to know that in my flaming youth, I never bothered to meet the great man, although I easily could have. My mom and Cik Senah (or aunty Hasnah as I called her) were friends and I often times dropped my mom off at their house. I just never went in.

Didn't occur at the time to meet him. You don't know how much I've regretted it ever since..

Al-Fatehah to Pak Usman.

ahmadt said...

Aina,

I rememember vividly the night when Pak Usman died. I can't remember who it was who told me (either you or Azmi or Yamin). It was very late night/early morning. I remember getting into my car and driving to Pantai Medical Centre where he was getting treatment. I was told the van carrying the jenazah was already leaving for his house. I followed at a distance, recalling along the way the times I had met him and the times I had listened to him reciting his sajak, and the moments I had gone through his dog-eared book puisi-puisi Usman Awang! When I reached his house, there were few close friends and relatives. I remember taking my wuduk and reading the Yasin. I went home with a sense of deep loss. I went back to the house for the funeral and joined a huge crowd as he made his last journey on this earth. There has never been another Usman Awang.

Apabila Pak Usman membaca sajaknya lengkap dengan pakaian baju melayu hitam...tak siapapun boleh menandinginya! Kata Pak Usman:

salam
tanpa visa
pasport
golf
warna
kemanusiaan rakyat
seluruh benua.

Al-Fatihah...

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

penanak nasik,

lovely tribute of Usman Awang.

On P Ramlee. I am sure it was not from that tv program. I read about it much much earlier.. late 70s or early 80s. certainly not 1998-99.

thank you.. and yes.. banyak ashtrays.

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

aMiR;

the first time I read it, my heart just went so weak.
and then Mahadzir Lokman sang a song that carried the lyrics from the poem, i was just so emotional.

so beautiful...

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

nora:Al Fatihah.

Mat Salo: Don't feel bad, brother.

AhmadT; Yes, Ahmad, I know how much you loved Pak Cik Tongkat's poetry.
I had known Pak Cik Tongkat since, goodness, since I was a baby. Inly I don;t remember.
In Singapore where I lived until I was about 3 years old before coming to PJ, Cik Senah's aunt, Mak Chak, took care of me while Mak went to work. Cik Senah;s family lived across my grandfather's house at Jalan Sudin.
We all loved Pak Cik Tongkat. But you know, I never heard him speak in "public" until he received the hadiah sasterawan negara at Parliament house (I think).
When he delivered his acceptance speech years ago -- one of the most beautiful and touching speeches I had ever heard -- I couldn't help getting so teary-eyed. Not just the words, but the way he spoke.
I can never forget that.

Ahmad, thanks for visiting.

a malaysian in riyadh said...

Sis Ena
Oops, I meant pintal buih-buih, not pintal ombak-ombak in the previous comment. Got hold of Aliran issue 21(10) where several tributes to Usman Awang was published, including Amir’s Death of a Patriot. Ooops, the “radically censored” version was published in the Star, not NST as I alluded earlier. Sorry for this inadvertent error. Amir has indicated the sentences and paragraphs that were expunged, all seem innocuous and inspirational to me. I just cannot fathom The Star’s editorial decision. Here are some of the sentences that The Star deleted (according to Amir):
Raja adil raja disembah, Raja tak adil raja disanggah!
In its depiction of the lonely struggle of maintaining integrity and self-worth against the lure of easy money, “Sebuah Khemah Didirikan” is one of the finest short stories written in the country.
Equally powerful is “Matinya Seorang Perempuan” (1959) in which the murder of a woman becomes the catalyst for a boy to realize just how dangerous his politician father is.
Bilakah semua warga Negara mendapat hak layanan dan keadilan yang sama, Dikenali dengan satu rupa nama: Bangsa Malaysia?
It was wonderful to see artists from so many language streams pay tribute to him at Salam Benua, an event organised in 1998 by the privately-owned Actors Studio, which is most commonly associated with English language theatre.

A few paragraphs that summarise the poems Pak Utih (1954), Pak Utih (1974) and Kekasih (1971) were also expunged, and the phrase “spirit of questioning those in power” was replaced with the less blunt “spirit of exposing social injustice”.

I’m now re-reading Sasterawan Negara Usman Awang by Zurinah Hassan.
aMiR

Athene said...

Kekasih - sung by Kopratasa was among the songs that used to be on air during our cyberdating days thanks to Katak & Kodok of Radio Muzik. Those listening to that channel at that un-godly hour were either 'in-love' or just 'out of love', so you can imagine the kind of songs usually requested.

The beautiful poetry actually melted a lot of hearts, yours truly included ;).

Btw, Kak Ena do you know the extra paragraph in the song that was sort of the chorus? Was it written by Tongkat Warrant himself for the song or added by Kopratasa themselves?

Athene said...

Thanks Tongkat Warrant for the beautiful 'bahasa' that has affected so many lives, for the gift of words that has touched so many hearts, thank you for sealing my 'jodoh'.

Al Fatihah to our Sasterawan Negara.

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

aMir: i can see why STar censored those bits.
thanks for showing us, aMiR.

Athene: i remember, yes, though I was not among the listeners.
Kopratasa was probably the only "folk" group that got into mainstream music in Malaysia.

I don't about whther Pak Cik Tongkat had a hand in the chorus.
However, I thought (somewhere in the back of my mind) that Samad Said had something to do with the group's work. I maybe wrong on this.

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

kea: sudirman from Kea punya homne state... yay!

let me tell you the first time i met sudirman. I think 1977. lepas dia menang bintang RTM, i believe.
Zaharah Othman (Kak Teh) was doing practical training at RTM. it was a saturday, i was doing practical training at NST. i am not sure if our friend, fatimah abu bakar, was with us.
anyway, i am not sure how i ended up at the RTM canteen -- whether i gave Kak Teh a lift to RTM from NST or whether she was at RTM and I went to see her.
Anyway, Kak Teh took us (me and someone else --- maybe Fatimah) to the canteen.
so when I was at the cashier/counter, there was a very "petite" guy next to me.
Masa tu, Sudirman not so hangat lah but known-lah.
he smiled a very friendly smile. i smiled back. very familiar, i thought.
only seconds later, i realised it was sudirman.

i got back to our table and giggled with Kak Teh.
I never realised he was really very very petite.

yes, i do agree that sudriman was very very talented. a great performer. and his songs are unforgettable.

when i went to the US to further my studies, i brought a few tapes of Malay songs. mostly of p ramlee's and sudirman's. i would play their songs whenever i missed home.
sudirman, soon-to-be another legend.

AHIRUDIN ATTAN said...

bergen's right. you are lucky to have known so many great sasterawan, negarawan, dan bangsawan. i only have heard of usman awang (or pakcik tongkat, as you get to call him). in school we learned about him and appreciated his fiery poems. i hear his daughter is republishing Tongkat Warrant's works. at the Popular book store in IOI puchong, I saw some of the new prints on display.

thank you for the posting, Ena, but more should be done so that great sasterawans are not forgotten and so that their work can be appreciated by our children's generation.

elviza said...

Dearest Kak Ena,

The man who penned Kekasih? He can never go wrong in my eyes.

Thanks for everything Kak Ena, really.

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

ahirudin (rocky),

as you know, i have never really thought about that -- being lucky and all.
pak cik tongkat was part of my life. so, as they say -- biasa aje.
of course, that didnt mean that i regard him as ordinary. not at all. i was in awe of the man and his talents.
he was so so dear to us.
rocky, i shall be going to visit Pak Cik Tongkat's grave soon.
perhaps, you'd like to come.
see, about the bukit kiara cemetery -- my late mum and my late sister (Kak Piah) are buried there as well as my uncle (my Mak Busu's husband) and soooo many people i had known in my life.
so I "grave"-hop...

take care

see you later

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

elviza,

imagine that -- "Kekasih"... so beautiful.
my cousin held her daughter's wedding and, in the "bunga telur" was a piece of silver paper on which was written verses of 'Kekasih". I kept the paper and pasted it on the mirror of my dressing table.

and you are so welcomed...take care, my dear.

Kak Teh said...

ena, thanks for this post. Recently i was reading his collection of poems again and how beautiful they are!

Al Fatehah.

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

Dearest Ah (Kak Teh),

i know, Ah.. so beautiful.

take care

Kak Teh said...

Ena, I was reading KEKASIH recently - and cant believe how beautiful the words are - thanks for th ereminder. I have also blogged abt this. Arwah visited us in 1992. And his poems are being discussed in our other website rantauan.com

old female fart said...

Nuraina Hi There!

Do you know that Usman Awang is among the 50 nominees of Anak Gemilang Malaysia (all deceased). Well-deserved nominations indeed by a distinguished panel!

What you should look into and invite your blogger colleagues to comment on is the way Astro Prima and some newspapers have taken over ownership of what is supposed to be a list of 50 Malaysians, highly regarded in their own fields because of their contributions, and turned it into a ranking exercise of unequals. All for profit!

In simple language Astro Prima charges 50 sen for every SMS vote and the final ranking depends on who gets the most public votes.

You and I know Nuraina that SMS voting is the activity of the young, most of whom have no idea who Usman Awang or Zain Azrai are. Yes they know Sudirman who came out 3rd yesterday after Tun Razak (2nd) and Datin Seri Endon (1st).

My point is and I hope you agree Nuraina - do we need to rank these outstanding Malaysians whose contributions in their various fields are unique and special.

The organisers should reorganise the list. Enter the nominees' names alphabetically with honorary titles within brackets (Tun, Tan Sri...) - field (politics, profession...)

STOP THE SMS EXPLOITATION OF THE PUBLIC BY ASTRO!

BRING BACK THE DIGNITY THAT THESE OUTSTANDING MALAYSIANS BROUGHT TO THE NATION!

Anonymous said...

Ena, thanks for reminding us all. I am trying to recollect of any incident when and how Tongkat looks like when he lost his cool. Did he ever get angry at all? Or, did he knows how to be angry??
As far as I can remember, he always had that charming, melt-your-heart smile (esp for the ladies), plenty of humour..soft and berseni...puffing his kretek..(Tongkat was the first man that I know of smoking kretek...I do not know who was responsible for sosialising kretek, probably Tongkat or Dato' Asri??).

Syed Husin will be very sarcastic when angry. Kassim will show red face and bit grumpy. But Tongkat...I dont know!!

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

Old Female Fart:

Oh... this is so terrible.,
such indignity.
to the dogs to the dogs.

thanks for that bit of info..

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

anon@4:34pm:

in all my life of having known Pak Cik Tongkat, I have never seen him lose his cool.
I am sure he is only human .. but no, i had never seen, heard him.

One of the most gentle human beings i was lucky to have known and to regard as family.

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

Everyone:
Haslina, Usman Awang's daughter would like to thank commentors here for remembering her "ayah":
she txted me. this is what she siad:
"Hi Kak Ena! I wanted to post commetn but tak dapat. Anyway, please say thank you to those who remembered Ayah."

and anyone who is interested in buying his book, can do so through her at a discount.

Thank you.

lyna ua said...

hi kak ena
i agree on the cmnt about astro being an oportunist. they exploit the younger viewers without ever considering the 50 tokoh anak gemilang that they have put forward.
sms voting is a bad habbit. which should be broken, before we get too addicted to it!

Penanak Nasik said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NURAINA A SAMAD said...

penanak nasik.

thank you for your comment that you asked not to be published. i did not want to delete it but it was not possible to copy/paste comments directly from the moderation mode to anothe file. so i had to publish it first, copy/paste into my notebook and then delete it from the comment box.

thanks again.

Penanak Nasik said...

Nuraina,

Wow! that sounds like a lot of work i'm sorry to burden you with such unnecessary work. But what do you think of my idea to record anaecdotal experiences and incidence of great Malaysians before they passed on?

Tata

Penanak Nasik

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

penanak nasik,

i think that is a great idea. but dont let anyone hijack the idea/exercise and make a mockery of it.

Anonymous said...

Saya kini berusia 25, namun rata-rata rakan sebaya sudah mula asing dengan nama Usman Awang, apatah lagi Tongkat Warrant. Sajak pertama saya belajar dalam buku teks KBSR Tahun 3, 1997 - Ke Makam Bonda.

Kini sedang melakukan kajian pelancongan negeri Johor dimana skop di daerah Kota Tinggi. Saya berminat untuk mengetahui lebih lanjut tentang S.N Allahyarham Dato' Usman Awang, maka saya ke Tanjung Sedili hari ini.

Andai kita boleh menghargai insan ini dengan matahati, mungkin rumah tempat lahir SN Usman Awang seperti Starford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare.