Childhood Memories: Thanks to Our Folks
Ab Syahid reflects on his rockin’ childhood to illustrate the relationships that young Muslims in Singapore have with their ageing parents.
During a recent visit to a coffee joint something caught my eye. A mother was pushing her baby in a pram. Rather than wearing typical infant attire, though, this baby was sporting a Led Zeppelin T-shirt. The sight immediately conjured fond memories of my childhood.
I was about six years old when my father first brought me to a record store, and I’ve never really thanked him for it. That was when my education of music began. From Led Zeppelin to The Beatles, the lyrics went past me like a freight train rumbling into a dark tunnel. I didn’t understand them at the time – but it didn’t matter. I boogied to the sounds of Lennon and McCartney’s genius and Jimmy Page’s intense guitar solos, without any sense of self-consciousness inhibiting my groove. Genius artistry knows no boundaries. It transcends age seamlessly, like quality tapestry. Rock ‘n’ roll remains a fixture in my household to this day. At certain weekends, when my mother isn’t around, my father will insert a Led Zeppelin CD into the stereo. He reads the papers while I do my work. It’s an unspoken bond we’ve had for years.
But don’t let the rock ‘n’ roll talk mislead you. My parents – especially my mother – take religious education very seriously. They enrolled me in religious classes, and from those classes I learnt how to pray and read the Qur’an, and the attributes of tafsir and fiqh. Although I was often dragged kicking and screaming to those weekly classes, I do see the benefits now and I’m utterly grateful for it.
Seventeen years on, things haven’t changed a bit. My mother still goes to mosque with her friends regularly, my father is still a huge advocate of good old rock ‘n’ roll and I still order the Happy Meal when I visit McDonald’s. My parents have given me more than I could ask for. So it is only natural if they expect me to provide for them now. Somehow, though, they don’t fit under the category of parents who hold a warped outlook towards parenthood, treating their kids like some sort of investment for an early retirement.
It tends to be the eldest sibling who is most aware of the need to care for his or her folks. Mohd Shahman, a 25-year-old undergraduate at Singapore Management University, is the eldest child in his family. He feels that he holds a certain responsibility when dealing with his ageing parents, and recalls how his folks worked hard to provide for the family – his mother even held down two jobs at one point. It was apparent how much he appreciated her effort, describing her as his hero and leaning forward excitedly as he told stories about her sacrifices with a subtle yet powerful glint in his eyes. ‘I think it’s important for us as Muslims to take care of our parents when they get older. It’s a natural cycle which needs no reminding. They took care of us when we were young, in sickness and all that. There comes a time for reciprocation and it’ll be my pleasure.’
He added that youths nowadays feel that their ageing parents are like a ticking bomb that they need to defuse by taking care of them, which shouldn’t be the case. ‘When we are young, we think our life will unfold like a storybook; that when we get older, our mindsets will stay youthful. But that’s just us being naïve. People change, and I am a firm believer of karma, what you do to your parents, your kids will do to you – that sort of thing.’
Shareen, a 24-year-old teacher who is currently living with her boyfriend of two years, shares these sentiments to a certain extent. ‘It’s not all about financial support. Our parents will always be our parents, no matter how old we are. They will still see us as the bundle of joy that came into their lives, their “little boy” or “little girl”. All they want is their kid to succeed in life and not completely forsake them when they are too caught up with school or work. My father always wanted me to be a lawyer when I was younger, but my heart wouldn’t allow it. We got into heated arguments at times about my career path, but now he’s come to terms with it and supports me completely in my teaching career.’
Shareen explains that her parents want a certain reassurance that they are still a part of her life. ‘My mother once called me, choking on tears, accusing me of forgetting about her and my dad. I was too caught up with work commitments, with the exams period coming, that I’d forgotten to call them for about three weeks. I felt really guilty and from then on, I have made it a point to visit them once a week and call them regularly.’
Unlike fame, fortune, wealth or happiness, growing older is one of the few guarantees in life. And in Islam, it is obligatory for children to respect and obey their parents, regardless of age. We should always be there for our parents, as they are for us, in good times and bad.
With that thought firmly in mind, I still await the day when I don my Tom Ford–tailored black baju kurung and perform a sick guitar solo to a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall, where the great Joni Mitchell once played. It would be the ultimate symbol of appreciation to my folks. A boy can only dream.
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