THIS year, Father’s Day falls on the third day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Sunday). As Malaysia’s acclaimed dancer Ramli Ibrahim, like Muslims everywhere, prepares to welcome the month of Syawal, he pauses to reminisce about his late father, Ibrahim Mohd Amin.
“My father passed away in 1987 from colon cancer. He was 71,” recalls Ramli, who was then attached to a professional dance company in Sydney, Australia.
“I left the dance company and returned home to look after him – and I am glad that I did.”
The 65-year-old dance icon admits that he was closer to his mum than his dad, but he loved his dad just the same.
“My father was quiet, subdued and always calm and collected. He was the total opposite of my mother, who was more of a drama queen.
“I inherited my mother’s emotional traits, but I think I also inherited my father’s well-proportioned physique. He was outstanding in sport, and was a golf champion. Our cupboards were full of his trophies.”
Ramli notes that his dad was strict with his brothers, but not his sisters. As the youngest of six children, by the time he was born, his father had mellowed with age.
“He never scolded me,” says Ramli, but adds it might be because he always came first in his class, scoring all As in his exams, and even managed to get into the prestigious Royal Military College.
Ramli recalls one time when his dad was serving as an education inspector and came to conduct checks at his school (Pasar Road Malay School). Ramli was then in Standard One.
“He walked into my class and as the class monitor, I promptly stood up and commanded my class to stand while singing out: ‘Selamat pagi, ayah’ (Good morning, father), instead of ‘cikgu’ (teacher)!”
Ramli also has his dad to thank for his love and fascination for the hikayats (old Malay literature) such as Malim Deman, Pendawa Lima, and Panca Tantra.
His dad was a lecturer at the Specialist Teacher Training Institute (STTI) in Cheras, and specialised in Malay literature.
“He also exposed me to the works of Zaaba, the father of Malay literature. I used to read them in Jawi. I was fascinated by the stories I read.”
His dad, Ibrahim, was a graduate of Maktab Perguruan Sultan Idris (now Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris) in Tanjung Malim, which counts among its alumni, freedom fighters who fought against the Japanese and for independence, as well as distinguished artists such as Yeoh Jin Leng, Tuan Syed Ahmad Jamal, and many more.
Ramli’s father never shared any stories from the war, although his mum once told him his dad had been beaten by Japanese soldiers, which left scars on his back.
“My father kept in touch with most of his friends and whenever we visited Singapore, Malacca and other places, we would visit them and there would be a great get-together,” recalls Ramli, adding that once his dad brought Ramli’s sketches and drawings to show to the dashing Tuan Syed.
Ramli also fondly recalls the times he followed his father to the market in the early mornings.
“The Sentul wet market was my favourite haunt, and the Pudu market was the goriest. [In those days], one could find a motley of exotic animals – from pythons, monitor lizards to baby mice.
“Due to this exposure, wet markets are always the first place I visit whenever I am in a foreign place, whether it is in Chennai (India) or Kota Baru (Malaysia).”
Come Hari Raya, his dad always prepared lemang, which he cooked in the oven instead of on an open fire. His dad would cut the buluh (bamboo) to smaller pieces to put in the oven.
Ramli says his dad’s ingenious way of cooking lemang was not only convenient, but also cut down on smoke.
As for him, he started his own tradition of serving pasta and salads to his siblings who visit him on the second day of Raya.
“They enjoy what I serve because they get tired of the usual ketupat and lemang they get everywhere, and want to eat something different.”
As Ramli prepares for his Raya celebration, he joins theSun in wishing all readers Selamat Hari Raya, Happy Father’s Day, and a wonderful weekend.