It was a sight to behold. A middle aged Malay man holding a young boy’s hand, aged 6, walking all around Segamat town. This Malay man brought the young boy to most of the toy shops in town during the early 70s. He never had any issue about buying any toys for the young boy.
They would travel by the Yow Hoe bus from the boy’s house to town. And everywhere people were amused with this malay man and his chinese “son”.
The Malay man was the late Uncle Abdul Aziz bin Daud. Here was this man who practiced the 1Malaysia concept years before the idea was born. He was practically colour-blind (to the skin colour), never lost his temper and most condescending when it came to buying gifts for the young boy — ME!
Uncle Aziz had been a school clerk with the Segamat English School. He had a sweet temper, never raised his voice and is absolutely fond of young children, especially with me and my elder sister, Cristin.
He and my Dad had carved a friendship into a bond that’s stronger than tempered steel. Mainly because Dad was a school teacher in those days.
After he left his school clerk job, he went to work in Rembau (in Negeri Sembilan) as a clerk. He would be my family’s permanent guest every weekend. Although his family stayed in a nearby kampung in Segamat, he would never fail to visit us.
He would be amused with my antics. I remember once, being cheeky, my mum brandished a cane. She was about to give me a beating and I ran behind Uncle Aziz for cover. He protected me and bargained with mum not to beat me. He just loves children and he was to me, my foster “dad”.
I learned a lot of things from him. He even bought us a set of encyclopaedia way back in the 70s because he insisted that knowledge is power. He taught me about Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. About Sir Edmund Hillary & Sherpa Tenzing, the first men to scale to the peak of Mount Everest. He taught me about the cheetah, being the fastest animal in the world, that could even outrun a car.
The years passed and soon I was a teenager. I guessed that was when he stopped coming over because I was no longer in Segamat. But still – when he got wind that I was home, he would mosey over to be with me.
After college, I started working and never had much opportunity to see him. I got married in 1998 and a couple of years later, he passed on. I was at the hospital to visit him, to be with him. I remember him clasping my hand, the way he held on tightly to me as a small boy. He looked at me as a father would to his son. His last words to me were, “I am going home”.
A few days later and back in KL, I received a call from my mum who told me my uncle Aziz passed away. I was shocked. The man who had been my foster “father” passed away. The memories of him walking with me, holding my hand. He in his trademark white shirt and gray trousers. He was no longer there.
Here was a man who loved unconditionally. I never once heard him chide me for my misdemeanour. Before leaving for work back to Rembau, he would make sure he’d leave $1.00 for me. Every monday morning I’d wake up and find the money in the place he promised to put.
Dearest Uncle Aziz. I am proud to have had you shape the best years of my life with me. You loved me as a father would to a son. You played with me, teased me when I was a toddler. You were always there for me and I will always cherish those fond memories.
And I will always regard you as ‘family’.