When Bapak Returned -- Tuesday April 8 2008
I had been in the NST for about four years before rumours were rife that "Pak Samad was coming back".
Everyone asked me and I had to confess that I was as much in the dark as they were. I think I disappointed many people because I couldn't confirm those rumours.
How could I, his daughter, not know what was going on with his life?
"Alaa...surely you know. You're the daughter," someone would remark.
But, really. How could I?
It's hard to believe, but there were things, Bapak did not and would not tell, even his own daughter.
No, he did not tell me anything about his imminent return to the NST.
After graduating from UiTM (then ITM), I was offered a job at the NST. (The late) Dr Noordin Sopiee who was then managing editor, was already familiar with our (mine and that of my classmates -- Zaharah Othman and Fatimah Abu Bakar ) work and performance having done our practical training with the NST as requirement for our second and final year journalism studies.
After about a year at NST, I was offered a place at Boston University for a masters programme. I went on study leave and returned early 1981 to complete and finalise some research.
After that, I wanted to take time off to "rest and relax". It was at this time that Bapak was released from detention (under the Internal Security Act).
That gave me more reason to not return to work yet and spend a bit of time with Bapak.
I didn't mind being Bapak's driver as he did not have a valid driver's license. After his release, he wanted to go on a "visiting spree".
And being gainfully "unemployed" then, I was appointed his personal chauffeur. Unpaid, of course.
I remember I was driving him to the Utusan Malaysia Jalan Chan Sow Lin office one morning when I was "hailed down" along the highway by a traffic policeman. There was an anti-speeding operation.
I was speeding a little and Bapak did remark so. In fact, he warned me to go a little slower.
"No-lah...tak laju-lah," I had responded, a tad smug.
So there was I, being made to pull over. The policeman said I had exceeded the speed limit.
Bapak wasted no time. He wound down the window, looked up at the policeman and said: "Saman dia.... memang laju". And he cackled.
It was a "serves you right" message written all over his face.
The policeman was momentarily stunned. It must have dawned on him that this old man wasn't jesting. No negotiations for a reduced rate or sweet talking to get off scot-free but a "saman dia" gentle order.
He smiled and quickly gave me a ticket.
I could not say a word and, perhaps, it was just as well that I was lost for words.
Throughout the rest of the drive to the Utusan office, Bapak wore a mischievous smirk on his face. I kept silent.
I had intended to resume work but still had a bit of holiday left. It was during one of my visits to NST that Dr Noordin convinced me to cut short my "vacation" and "come back to work".
I suppose I didn't need much persuasion or convincing. So, back at work it was for me.
I was assigned to the newsdesk (to which I was attached to before I went on study leave).
After Bapak was released, he accepted an offer to be editorial adviser with the Star. He couldn't refuse the offer.
At that time, the Star office was very close to our Section 16 house. Most of the journalists at the Star were formerly with the NST and had worked under Bapak.
After Bapak's release, they would visit him almost everyday, Bapak would be regaling them with tales -- old and new, and they would be telling him about office politics, political developments and well, gossip and rumours.
Whenever I came home for lunch, he'd always have visitors. I could hear laughter filling the living or dining room, and most distinctly, Bapak's signature cackle.
So, I suppose it was only natural that he was happy to join his "girls and boys" at the Star.
Then, Bapak and Mak went to Makkah to perform the Haj.
Not long after their return from the holy land, there was a buzz. A little rumour of Bapak returning to the NST.
I wanted to confirm the rumour and asked the man himself. You know, to get it from the horse's mouth.
And the horse was not telling anything. He would never actually deny it but made it seem as though they were really rumours.
But I know that on several occasions -- at night -- I could see a car waiting for him and he'd leave and would only return very late.
I always asked Mak. She'd say that he was meeting "old friends". Hmmm....like I was born yesterday.
Kak Ton, my other siblings and I did discuss this and we had our suspicions but could not confirm them.
It was frustrating.
Then one day, as I was talking to my news editor ( I think it was Bakar Hashim). in walked a man in a short-sleeved shirt and dark pants, wearing a "kopia", accompanied by a senior editorial and management executive.
It was as though, he was given a guided tour.
A deafening silence seemed to shroud the entire newsroom.
You really cannot imagine a "silent" newsroom.
And almost immediately after people realised who that person was, you could hear the buzzing, the chatter.
"Assalamualaikum, Pak Haji", someone yelled afffectionately from across the room.
"Eh, isn't that your dad?" my news editor asked.
I must have been equally stunned.
Could the rumour be true?