Bapak's Homecoming -- September 25 2007
The year 1981 was just another year. Or so we thought.
Bapak had been in detention for nearly five years and we had no inkling of any plan by the Government to release him.
Honestly, after five years of Bapak's incarceration, we were pretty much hardened, but not resigned to his and our situation.
We were not resigned to the fact that Bapak would forever be a detainee, that we would forever spend Tuesdays visiting him at the police station.
We continued to hope, to pray that one day, someone in power would be moved to have him released, that someone in power could see the injustice and cruelty of his detention,.
That someone in power had the heart to see that it had been years too long for a man, not a criminal, to be living life that way.
That year in 1981, Malaysia had a new Prime Minister -- Dr Mahathir Mohamad who took over from Hussein Onn.
We were oblivious to any signs indicating foreseeable changes that were to take place.
I remember I had just returned from my graduate studies in Boston, in the US. I was happy to be home and to be resuming work with the NST as I had been on study leave.
Everything seemed a blur. Some details of events leading to his release remain sketchy to me.
What I remember was that there was news that Dr Mahathir had ordered the release of Bapak and several others including Abdullah Ahmad, Abdullah Majid and Samani Amin.
I remember Kak Ton who was a journalist with Bernama telling Mak and the rest of us at home in Section 16 about Bapak's imminent release.
And then, I think Mak received an official call about it.
And then reporters, and photographers came to wait for Bapak's release.
They waited the whole day. Because I knew a couple of them who were senior reporters (compared to me who was then still a rookie), I chatted with them and served them coffee, after coffee. Maybe cookies too. Or some goodies.
Oh...words cannot describe the feeling, such elation. The heart throbbing as we kept on looking outside for Bapak to arrive.
Would he come home in a Black Maria? Or that red sedan? Oh, dang...does it matter?
Then, just as darkness fell, a car zoomed into Lorong 16/7C and screeched to a halt right infront of our gate.
The door (was it the front or passenger, can't remember) flung open and out came --- our Bapak. Yay! Hurray! Best-nya!
Oh, it was a celebration of the heart! Freedom! Homecoming!
He was wearing the same red and white checked shirt which he wore the night he was arrested.
Bapak was grinning at all of us. The (plainclothed) police officers accompanied him to the house. He spent a few moments with them, smiling and joking.
Bapak was home!
The story of his release was on the front pages of the morning papers. But the photo of a very happy Kak Olin welcoming Bapak with the rest of us surrounding him, was in the back page of the NST.
Those days when the NST was a broadsheet, the back page was a news page of equal importance and prominence as the front page.
That night, he received streams of visitors. He was kept up all night long, joking and talking with old friends.
He did not seem to mind staying up, satisfying the curiosity of his visitors with anecdotes of his incarceration.
"Dah biasa tak tidur malam...mengaji, baca Yassin," he said casually but with a glint in his eyes.