The yin and yang of a marriage

3 May 1998

In magnetism, opposite poles attract and like poles repel. In Chinese cooking, a good cook will always prepare a menu which adheres to the concept of balance, of hot and cold and "heaty" and "cooling" dishes, thus satisfying the principle of "yin and yang".

These are fundamental principles which apply to the fine arts of all cultures, including marriage.

I have known a lot of people who often marry people like themselves; some of those marriages last while others break up. Love aside, I married a girl 29 years and 44 days ago who was almost in perception and reality entirely opposite of me.

Relatives, friends, colleagues, powerful politicians (one offered me the hand of her daughther who latter married and divorced) and even Tun Razak volunteered to find me a suitable bride. I politely declined their help because, then as now, I believe love is a personal matter at most times and love is more important than the prospect of material gains or a desirable political alliance.

Before I met Fauzah in 1967, even after having met her and during our courtship, I was dating several other girls as "alternative candidates".

She was working as an assistant secretary in the Home Affairs Ministry which was just opposite from where I was working in Tun Razak's office, then Deputy Prime Minister, at the Jalan Dato' Onn Prime Minister's Complex. She had just graduated from the University of Singapore with a law degree. I had been working since 1957 when I was just 20.

We were introduced by mutual friends: Ismail Ahmad (now a Datuk), then a principle assistant secretary in the Home Affairs Ministry, and retired as a commissioner of the Commodities Exchange, and his wife, Maimunah Arshad. Maimunah was in school with Fauzah at the Malay Girls' College in Damansara (the forerunner of the Tunku Khursiah College which was moved to Seremban) while Ismail, whom I knew came from Tok Uban, Pasir Mas, Kelantan.

On our first date, I went to the house where Fauzah stayed, rented by a colleague and a former student of the Malay Girls College, at Jalan Othman in Petaling Jaya. There I met a contemporary (not from MCKK), who later rose to be a controversial government servant, who was wooing a sister of one of Fauzah's housemates. The girl spurned his advances because she simply was not interested in him. The good girl has died but had a happy married life, through brief.

I left the dejected and rejected suitor to console himself and drove Fauzah in my convertible Mercedes 190SL, (bearing a Terengganu number plate TA 181), to Lake Club to meet up with Maimunah and Ismail who had arranged the date.

That first meeting was a success (this is a moot point between Fauzah and I). Fauzah and I hardly knew each other but to say it was a blind date was inaccurate because we had encountered one another at the parking lots and along the corridors of power in the Prime Minister's complex. Fauzah had a Mini Clubman. Both of us had no reserved parking lots. Come to think of it, that seemed to be the only similarity we shared at that time.

I wish to emphasise here, not as a boast but rather to correct a generally-held wrong impression, that even long before the "Melayu Baru" was created there were already, although not many young non-royalty bumiputras with good jobs and driving nice cars. Indeed, one schoolmate working in a British import and export firm, Jardine Waugh, had a Bentley.

Education did (and does) give you good employment and a good life.

A Malay doctor practising north of Kuala Lumpur, in an essentially Malay township had an expensive American limousine. I think it was a Cadillac. He took me around in the car whenever I visited him or when he brought it to Kuala Lumpur which was often. The doctor had a Chinese driver to boot. And this was in the early 60s!

Another friend drove the famous Italian car -- Lancia Flavia. This particular friend had a sports car, an MG, when he was in Form Five. Those were the days we had a wonderful time. Yes, but those were the exceptions, not the norm. Nowadays it's more common for Malays to drive big cars.

In the days when I was perceived to be powerful and influential, I was both criticised and critiqued mainly by people who did not know the facts and I could not reveal the reasons for my decisions to them. In any event, Razak stood by me through all my 14 years with him.

On being told of my intention to marry Fauzah, Razak gave me his approval. Unasked, one morning, he told me he had made inquiries about my would-be-bride and her family. He was always solicitous about my happiness and future.

"I am happy you've chosen a good girl with a good family background. I will attend your akad nikah (marriage solemnisation and vow) in Alor Star, and give you a reception in Kuala Lumpur a few days later."

I often wondered whether he would have attended my akad nikah and given a reception in my honour if I had married someone he disapproved of? As a matter of general interest, despite the numerous receptions in Alor Star, KL and Kelantan, we did not, by mutual consent, have a bersanding.

Ours was a simple Malay wedding. The date was Feb 20, 1969. The akad and the subsequent reception were well covered by the media because I was Razak's political secretary. The Straits Times then described the groom "as one of the most eligible bachelors about town". In any event that was what theStraits Times and other broadsheets claimed.

The full coverage was made simply because, I think, of the who's who graced the four receptions. There were two in Alor Star and two in KL. A month later, several receptions were also held in Kelantan.

The reception given by Razak was at the Banquet Hall of Parliament House, the first and only wedding reception ever to have been held at Parliament House. Several months later a bemused Razak told me: "I made the mistake of holding your wedding reception at Parliament House. At yesterday's Cabinet (always on Wednesday), a senior minister asked permission to stage his son's bersanding there. The Tunku reluctantly had to say no. It was an awkward moment for Tunku and me."

I shall disclose the minister's name in a future book.

Razak said to me,"Tunku did not want the Parliament House to be a hotel. It was difficult to say no to a senior colleague especially when a precedent had been created. I had not thought it would have caught on. You will now have a footnote in the annals of our Parliament".