Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Tribute to Tunku

An excellent article on the late Tunku by Prabhakaran S. Nair (Feb 15, 2009, The Star). A story about a compassionate human being and a true leader for all races. Some people are just naturally great leaders, but some try too hard because of the power that comes with it and the possibilities of reaping personal gains from corrupt practices. We were lucky to have Tunku as the first Prime Minister. Hopefully someday we will have a leader of such calibre once again.

Last Sunday, the birthday of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra passed unnoticed in the midst of dramatic political developments. The commemoration of Tunku’s birth could have provided a perfect occasion for Malaysians to reflect on our ideals and aspirations as a nation made up of people of different races, cultures and religions.

THE birth of Tunku is a story of compassion that Menjelara, his mother, never tired of recounting. According to various sources, the story is that before Tunku was born, his father (the Sultan of Kedah) had sentenced the Keeper of the Royal Seal to death, and ordered that the right thumb of his wife and that of all his children be severed. This was punishment for deceitfully misusing the royal seal to sell state land for personal gain.
The Keeper’s wife was in a state of great sorrow, unable to imagine the pain and suffering that her innocent children would have to undergo. She ran to Menjelara, the Sultan’s favoured wife, and pleaded in tears for her innocent children to be spared the ordeal.

Being a loving mother herself, Menjelara could feel her pain and sorrow, and promised to speak to the Sultan. But she knew she could not directly ask him or intervene in his prerogative.
Menjelara thought of an idea. She lied to the Sultan that she was pregnant, and expressed her fear that if he proceeded with the punishment, their unborn child might be born without a thumb, or perhaps without a limb.

Her arguments were helped by an age-old belief that the husband should do no evil during his wife’s pregnancy, otherwise something bad may come upon the unborn child. The Sultan ordered the dishonest official to be imprisoned instead, and revoked the sentence on the rest of the family.

Kind Soul: True to his name, Rahman, the Tunku did grow up to be a man of great compasion, with a forgiving nature.

It was now Menjalara’s turn to be worried. She had lied to the Sultan, and she was afraid he would discover the truth. She prayed fervently, and fortunately became pregnant soon after. The child, who was conceived in the womb of the compassionate queen, was named Rahman, meaning “compassionate”.

Interestingly, the words “womb” and “compassion” have a common root in Arabic, suggesting that the womb is not just the seat of life, but also the dawning place of compassion.
The people in Kedah believe that Menjelara’s act of compassion had enabled her to conceive, and that her own qualities of compassion, generosity and open-heartedness were passed on to the child.

True to his name, Tunku did grow up to be a man of great compassion, with a forgiving nature. His life story came to reflect the three most important duties of a human being: “The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” (Henry James).
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