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Growing into my father’s son — Shazwan Mustafa Kamal

JUNE 19 — A grunt, a shadow of a frown or dead silence. These things tell me whether or not Abah is upset with me. 

All my life, I’ve known Abah to be a man of few words. A quiet, unassuming type, aunts and uncles call him, but a proud man nevertheless. 

Take a walk into Abah’s study at home, or his office at work, and you’ll be greeted by an army of books, yellowed by time and dog-eared with overuse. 

“His study is so messy, you won’t be able to find a place to sit, the study chair’s hidden beneath the maze of books!” was my mother’s oft-heard line whenever she entered Abah’s study when I was younger. 

When I was a child, I’d remember that after hours of being carried, bathed and fed by mother, I’d walk slowly into his dimly-lit study. 

Abah would always be there, white T-shirt and sarong, eyes glued to the screen. “Good night, abah,” my little voice squeaked, and he would return it with a hug. 

Growing up, I always felt that there was a disconnect between me and Abah, sometimes to the extent that I wished he was more like my mother. 

But at 25, I have come to realise that you have to learn to love and care for somebody for who and what they are, warts and all. 

Abah may not have been the kind of father who would bring his son to football games, but he influenced my life in more ways than I’d care to admit. 

Childhood memories of “father-son” bonding time include candlelight vigils, forums on media freedom, the importance of voting, worker’s rights, women’s rights, religious freedom. 

Abah always told me that understanding the history of our country, knowing your rights, and respecting others were some of the most important points to grasp growing up. 

And Abah, I know you care, because you never missed any of my articles, and will call me every time there’s a grammatical error! 

Happy Father’s Day, Abah. From your son. 

* Shazwan Mustafa Kamal is a reporter with The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

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