3 May 1998

... continued from page 1

As a matter of general interest to young readers, I became a Member of Parliament five years later adding more than footnotes. I was the government's senior assistant whip. Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam, the Minister of Labour, was the Chief Whip.

Razak had at first told me he wanted to hold the reception at Seri Taman, his official residence, but changed his mind. I could only speculate why he did it but that is another story. In any event he gave a witty speech, out of his character, actually which raised much laughter, and guests called out for me to reply. I did not speak.

The late Tan Sri Nik Ahmad Kamil, MP for Kota Baru and chairman of Rothmans, an old family friend, spoke on my behalf and that of my family. Musa Hitam, my chief gentleman usher, told every guest: "Mana boleh, Dollah tak boleh cakap (Dollah did not make the speech himself because he can't speak!")

I was and am an extrovert, taking life as it comes; a risk taker; never really concerned with my goals (many would disbelieve me). I always wanted a good, happy, healthy and long life and be a useful member of the community.

I loved taking non-physical risks like playing the stock market even when I was in detention. How come? I will eventually tell you why Special Branch allowed it. However, it took palce only in my third year of incarceration. I must confess I made more money in the Kamunting Detention Camp than I did when I was a free man!

Many bankers (Bank Bumiputra), Special Branch and prison officers who knew all this are still alive and their names shall be mentioned in my memoir. I did instruct one or two "civilised" ones about the virtues of capitalism. And yet I was accused of being a communist. That hurt deeply and still does.

Fauzah was and remain the opposite: a private person who dislikes publicity; an introvert and diplomatic; one who loves music and the arts, who dabbles in interior decoration for our own house and cooking, (an inspired cook when the mood suits her) and who collects old stuff and an occasional antique which does not cost an arm and a leg.

She is happiest when she is univolved and when there is peace and quiet. She hates confrontation and controversy, and is not afraid of her own company.

On the other hand, I not only thrive but thoroughly enjoy being occupied, and in the company of others, always. Fauzah loves dancing (including Scottish Highland dances). I do not (except for very, very slow foxtrot in a semi-dark dance floor). She is reserved and shy when she is not performing -- singing, dancing and presiding at her old girls' association meeting.

The only obvious thing we have in common, I suppose, is a love for travelling and the theatre. My wife does not share my passion for politics and I for her love of music and singing.

Before she does anything, Fauzah likes to engage in thoughtful discourse on why we are doing or not doing something while I jump into it and shoot from the hips! And sometimes say things I have not inteded. I rarely avoid confrontation. I face issues as they come and deal with them as best as I can.

Her quiet strength, discretion and moderation in her taste attracted me to her. Then, as now, she always has provided me the strong moral and political anchor. She proved a capable single parent for five years when I was a political prisoner. To me her quiet personality is her greatest attraction and asset.

In Fauzah's life, her mother and father (a Malay school inspector in Kedah) were her role models. She had a different parenting attitude and a dissimilar perspective of family responsibility than me. Our three children refer to her more than they do to me. However, when they need anything and everything they all come to me because unlike their mother, I tend to give in more to their demands and I do not temporize.

When friends evaluated Fauzah and I, they came to these conclusions -- I, decisive, positive, determined, and that I have a studied straightforward manner. Fauzah is congenial, reticient, supportive and charming. They also found we do share one or two trait: we are both dependable and self-deprecating, sometimes. It is absolutely accurate.

In the Seventies and some part of the Eighties, Fauzah found great bliss being in the shadow and carrying on her duties as a civil servant. We have a good marriage, perhaps, because we were relatively "late bloomers". She was 28 and I was four years her senior when we tied the knot. The differences in our nature and outlook were never an issue.

We were in love and were not from a dissimlar social background. We have what most lucky people have: a good life of humble elegance which meets its purpose. Fulfilled? Well, well, not quite. We could have attained more if certain circumstances had not intervened.

I have to admit that being what I was, adapting to my present life has not been easy. Since Razak died and my release from incarceration in July 1981, life has been a series of crash courses in the art of breathing outside the "power vent". However, Fauzah loves this because that was what she has always wanted: a quiet life in the slow lane. She dreads it whenever I am involved in anything controversial becuase more often than not, I rightly or wrongly, am always perceived to have caused it.

However, after a long period of time, I am delighted with my present being: I have less to do (I enjoy work) but I also have fewer people to help me carry out my responsibilities.

We have always tried, and I hope, successfully, to find time for the family which is made up of six: Fuad, Didi and Adhha and his wife of seven months, Mariati. The well being and happiness of the children and our daughter-in-law are of the utmost importance to my wife and I.

We have raised our children to be good Malaysians who are at ease with both Asian family values and Western civilisation; creating for them the opportunity to adopt and adapt the best of both traditions while steadfastly fastened to their Malay roots. Unlike my wife and I, none is in government service.

This "profile" on my wife is, of course, admiring -- she is a great woman, a great wife, a good mother and a good friend and I do pretend to be unbiased.

I am a very, very lucky man to have married Fauzah.

Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )