by Azly Rahman
A few months ago, when I was working on it, I wrote these, I am sharing with you wonderful and supportive readers since eight year ago when I first started writing for Malaysiakini. Here it goes:
My greatest moment of joy, in my years of writing, will be for my ideas to be translated into the Malay Language. I have often told myself that I will one day find that moment to celebrate - I think this will be the moment.
To me, there is a sense of awe, mystery, magic and humility in this beautiful language I find enchanting as an effort to convey my ideas to Malay-speaking readers. I grew up in this language and my social and inner reality was constructed out of the tools and materials, artifacts and consciousness, offered by it.
This language will always be the beautiful bridge that connects me to the person I loved most in my life: my mother. She passed on a few years ago. My only regret is she did not get the chance to understand what I have been writing all these years.
Language constructs reality, alters it, shapes, it deconstructs it, or even destroys it to have it evolve into a karmic cycle. Throughout my life, my worldviews have vacillated and oscillated between these two worlds. I think in both languages and direct my consciousness to act in the worldviews of both.
There is a challenge, however. I write better in the English Language having been schooled in it since the day I set foot in an English-medium school in Johor Baru: Sekolah Temenggong Abdul Rahman 1.
The challenge is to express my thoughts to others in the Malay Language and to convey the meaning as accurately as I can by using metaphors, similes, examples, extrapolations, and clarifications in the Malay Language. The biggest challenge is to convey anthropological, philosophical, philological, and technological ideas to a speaker of the Malay Language.
In the case of my writings on the 'Allah Controversy', how, for example would the English language be able to fully convey the ideas of the nature and attributes of God when words such as 'ujud, qidam, baqa', muha-lafatuhu lil hawadis, walqiamuhu binafsih wahdaniat, kudrat, iradat, ilm, hayat, sama' basar, qalam...' of 'ruh, jasad, zat, sifat', of the concepts addressing complexity of the 'ilmu kalam', and so on and so forth are to be translated or transliterated into the English Language?
What about words such as 'nafs ammarah lawammah, suriyah, mutmainnah' to be understood as the evolutionary and vacillationary stages of anger? This is the complexity and the daunting-ness of the works in translations.
My thoughts are essentially Western-centric
This is the dilemma. My thoughts are essentially 'Western-centric' and my hopes are to get the ideas to the world of those who are 'Eastern-centric', with the goal of coming to an agreement of the universality of the ideas on politics, education, semiotics, cybernetics, and spirituality.
I have never given up on this hope, although I have found it daunting to think how Malaysian readers well-versed in the beautiful and aesthetically pleasing Malay Language can grasp the meaning of my ideas presented in the functional and technologically-inspired English Language. I know that it is not merely a 'translation', whether direct, or in 'spirit'; it is a complex cognitive process of 'shifting, vacillating and oscillating' world views.
Countless times I have been asked to have my writings translated, so that "the Malays can benefit from my calls for change" as it is often said, and my commitment to share what I believe a beautiful country such as Malaysia ought to evolve into, given ideas of ethics, creativity and futurism drawn essentially from a 'Western-centric' point of view.
I know I will one day honour that request. I know that what I have been sharing will reach the minds of the Malay-speaking readers. That moment has arrived - with my first book in the Malay Language. I could not have done this with the excellent work done by Pauline Fan, who I believe is one of the best translators to be able to read my vacillating-oscillating thoughts well, having also been the editor of two of my previous books.
I know that my mother will be proud of what I have been doing and from where she is now, looking at me in the eyes with the look of the profundity of love, she too will read the artifacts of my mind, with ease.
Given a good translator, my dream of not being lost in translation will became a reality. The moment has arrived - with my first book in the Malay Language. I could not have done this with the excellent work done by Pauline, a fellow columnist Bahasa Malaysia section and a cultural activist.
Our work is collaborative with the support from my excellent and most efficient publisher Gerakbudaya, which has faith in my writings and have published the two previous works, 'The Allah Controversy', and 'Dark Spring'. Needless to say my gratitude to Malaysiakini for letting me share my views, for social improvement, for the last eight years,
I hope I have honoured the request of many of my readers who have given me the encouragement to write, and whose words of praise have humbled me.
Till then, here is poem I wrote for my mother:
I am at a loss for words
I could just write “Words cannot describe my love for you.
Thank you for everything …”
Like everybody said
In those cards, those poems, those moments of well-wishing
I could just say that
And wait for another year.
At each and every breath I take
As each and every thought of every veins in my body that makes me stay awake
Each and every cell I bathe with mantras to
Each and every corner of your womb my eyes glanced through
I want to say “thank you …”
But that would be ordinary
As others too have wished.
Maybe I could send you a card
A prayer to your soul
And remind you of a memory of me when I was a child
And tell you where I have been as I walk on this world they called “maya”
I could tell you now what you meant by the path of righteousness
The path I took
The road not taken
That may have made a difference
But mother, on this day of yours
Those would be ordinary.
I am at a loss for words
Unless my thoughts and my words are in the Jawi you know
I could write about the days when I was a child
Strange creatures in my mind
Out to destroy our kampong
I fought them alone
None will ever know
On those trees
In the rivers
In the room I locked myself in
No one knew . Not even you.
I could write all those on Mother’s Day
But those would be ordinary stories.
Mother, on this day I must confess
That I was an existentialist as early as when I started to:
Climb that tree
Sneaked out of that wooden back door
Jumped out of those old Javanese looking windows
Roamed the city alone in my Japanese slippers
Walked along the huge huge water pipes that lead to Singapore city.
I was an existentialist, mother.
I cared about the Universe
But did the Universe care about me?
I wanted to tell you all these
On Mother’s Day back in the day
But my story would be ordinary.
You combed my hair daily
Laced it with Brylcreem
Masked me with Cuticura talcum powder
Tucked my shirt well into my neatly pressed pants,
You held my hand everywhere I go
Afraid that the world would take me away
You held my hand tight as we crossed roads
Afraid that I would come to multiple crossroads
I wanted to tell you all these Mother.
On the following Mother’s Day.
Back in the day.
Ordinary story to me.
Mother you are sweet
You said I had beautiful eyes
Those eyelashes too
Eyes that came from the depth of the night
Somewhere you and I may know
I saw you smile
When many came to look at my eyes
But what have those eyes seen now?
I don’t know how to say “Happy Mother’s Day”
That would be too ordinary to you and me.
I can only feel everyday is your day .
Though for many years I was sent away.
Like an anarkin.