In the past year, many things have happened to me which are memorable. I had
scored very good results in school and even been selected as a trainee for the
national junior squash team. But the one event that has indelibly imprinted
itself on my memory is the resolve of a good friend to the death of his father.
Hakim and I had been best friends since we were in primary school. We shared the
same interests and played the same games. In secondary school, we both tried out
for the school squash team and were successful. In fact, he was the superior
player and made it into the first team on the first try. I was a slow learner
and made it into the same team only after several tries. Hakim was also an
excellent scholar and scored distinctions in his exams all the time. Although I
was always in his shadow, I never felt an instant of envy as I felt that he
deserved them all, as he was really a very good person.
But just eight months ago, Hakim's father passed away suddenly after a heart
attack. The family was left destitute, as he
had been the sole breadwinner. Luckily for Hakim, he was an only child and thus
had only to fend for his mother and himself. With the resolve and
resourcefulness that I had always known him to have, Hakim launched into a cycle
of work, school and squash that would have daunted anyone else.
He found a part-time job at a factory that required him to work from eight in
the night till three in the early morning. To him, the mundane work of operating
machines was a godsend as it provided him with the money to supplement his
mother's meagre income as a factory operator in the day and office cleaner at
night. After a few hours of sleep, he would be off to school where he kept
himself awake purely with steely determination and discipline. His homework was
done in between training hours, after which he would go home to prepare dinner
for his weary mother before catching an hour of sleep. Then it was off to work
at the factory.
All of us at school were worried for him. He was a good friend and we did not
relish the thought of him collapsing from
all that overwork. Even the teachers came into the picture to help him as they
paid extra attention to him and helped him whenever he was too tired to absorb
what they taught in class. It was not unusual to see the teachers staying back
after school to re-teach certain topics to him. Through it all, Hakim remained
the optimistic and responsible boy that we knew him to be.
In the end, he graduated from secondary school with results good enough to
get into one of the top colleges on a scholarship. He also made it to the
national team to represent Malaysia in the Asian Games. His philosophy of
"never say die" impressed me greatly as I saw for myself that he had made it
despite overwhelming odds. Above it all, he was not
embittered or discouraged, but he made it his responsibility to
provide well for his mother after his father's demise.
I was proud of being his friend, as was everyone who knew him. I am not sure
if I could have survived the ordeal of losing a parent, and a breadwinner of the
family at that, as well as he did.