Father's Daughters -- August 7 2007
When you're 16 and beginning to know about boys and to get noticed by them, being your father's daughter is not always helpful.
Not that he was not understanding. On the contrary, he understood this whole dating thing too well that he seemed to know every little trick in the book.
Okay, I was not the only one who was "my father's daughter". Kak Olin and Kak Eda were as well.
There were Kak Piah and Kak Ton before us. But they were so tame compared to the combined forces of Olin, Eda and Ena.
By the time we were all too ready to make our debut in the dating world, Bapak was pretty much a "pro dad".
Only we didn't know. We thought we were smart.
Bapak had this very disarming way of getting us to say things we would not normally want to disclose. You know, to talk about life in general.
Now, why would teenaged daughters want to tell their dad things?
I have no idea but I remember, during those occasions we chatted about life in general, usually over dinner, or while watching TV on weekends, or in the car on the way to somewhere far, we did not feel inhibited to tell Bapak what was going on in our lives. Of course, there were details we would resist disclosing but sometimes they would just slip out.
Essentially, he'd generally know what was going on in our lives.
Oh, don't ask me how Bapak did it. I'm trying hard to remember so I can apply the same formula on my two kids.
Of the three of us, Kak Eda was the hardest nut to crack. She was fiercely resistant to any attempt to let her defences down.
But even Kak Eda would let her guard down, perhaps because talking about life in general was infectious, taking a life of its own.
I remember though that Bapak would never give us the shock, "slap-in-the-face" treatment when he discovered we had been up to no good.
I remember when Bapak was told by Kak Ton about our never-should-have-been-held-while-parents-were-in-Singapore party.
Mind you, we had never done such a thing. We had never ever dreamt of doing something as daring as throwing a party without Bapak's permission.
Heaven forbids! But we did it.
It must have been in 1971. We planned the party so carefully although we knew that throwing the party itself, was really throwing caution to the wind.
The young heart, the young mind work in reckless abandon.
Bapak and Mak were off to Singapore.
Yes! Invitations had already been sent out. We were really going to pull this one off.
But, never for a moment were we not worried about getting caught.
Needless to say, as the evening went by, we soon forgot about any potential clear and present danger.
Oh -- great happening party it was - lights out, latest hot and slow numbers, our girlfriends, boys, boys and boys (but no alcohol ..of course not! ).
Now who should drop by, of all people on of all nights?
Newly-marries, she had come from Kuala Kubu Bharu where Abang Ani was working as a Magistrate.
Kak Ton must have been told by Mak to just check on us. She had come over out of concern for her little sisters.
But, aah, it would have been nicer if she had called first!
Kak Ton and Abang Ani came by when the party was in full swing and the living room was, er, dark.
Okay, nothing spectacular there because that was how parties were like those days in the 70s.
Kak Ton, needless to say, was not amused.
She stormed into the living room and switched on all the lights.
And the party was over. We thought we were done for.
Abang Ani was calm and did not say a word. But we knew that he felt so sorry for us.
Can you imagine what and how she was going to complain about our party to Bapak?
When Bapak came home, she wasted no time in telling him and Mak the entire episode.
They were in the dining room. We were in the library and we eavesdropped and heard every word Kak Ton said. And with relish too, we thought!
But we did not hear Bapak say much except the occasional, "ya kah?".
After Kak Ton had said her piece, Bapak called us.
You'd expect Bapak to have freaked out, gone ballistic.
Music, boys, and (soft) drinks at his home while he was away. Dancing in the dark, to boot?
He looked at his three very repentant and remorseful (and did I say, scared?) daughters.
We glanced over at Kak Ton and we were sure she was giving us that "padan muka" look.
Aah.... for the love of a blissful life with his three gung-ho devil-may-care daughters who must have reminded him of his irreverent and reckless youth!
Bapak looked at us, told us that we should not have held the party without his permission because as a father he wanted his children to be safe and having that party would have exposed us to some level of unknown and unrecognised danger.
Anything could happen, he said, very gently but firmly.
Kak Ton, he pointed out, might seem angry but she was really very worried and concerned for us.
So, as punishment we were to spend the next weekend with Kak Ton and Abang Ani in Kuala Kubu Bharu.
I don't think Kak Ton expected such a "punishment" for us.
Bapak did not make a big deal about the whole episode as we had expected him to do.
Kak Ton must have gleefully expected Bapak to reprimand us and ground us for a month or something as severe.
Not a weekend with her.
But Bapak knew that that was a real punishment. Being with Kak Ton at her home over a weekend after we were caught (by her) having a ball of a party, was going to be torture.
The prospect was killing us.
But, Bapak also knew that while we would initially be sulking in KKB, we would know how to spend our time in that sleepy town.
It was like doing community service.
Strange, we felt so bad about the whole thing. What if something had happened?
That incident actually charted the way for Bapak and his three rebellious teenaged daughters in dealing with one another.
I think, it was then that Bapak set some ground rules for our social calendar.
We felt somehow that not abiding by the rules would really be very foolish.
While we were forthcoming with him about life in general, it was not always easy for us or for him because essentially he was strict with us.
And for heaven's sake, we were teenagers. We had angst and whatever teenagers were supposed to have.
But we knew that he was always trying to understand us.
Perhaps, that was why he wanted to meet all our friends -- male and female.
"Garang" as he seemed to his daughters, he was really cool and with-it with our friends.
It was like that at UiTM when he lectured part-time after helping to set up the School of Mass Communciations in 1972.
His students seemed to gravitate to him. Never mind the four letter words which must have been shocking to some of them.
They liked him.
Today, I find myself trying to apply some hand-me-down formula on my own teenaged children. I know not everything can be applied, some approaches need to be discarded.
After all, don't I know all the tricks in the book. Perhaps more than Bapak did?
One thing I know Bapak never did, and that I will always remember -- he never talked down to us. Nor to our friends whoever they were.
That's one thing I will surely never do. Thanks, Bapak, for a lesson learnt.