When Abang & I first went out seriously in 2005, one of the first few people that Abang actually made an extra effort to introduce me to was Pak Rustam.
Being fellow 'pejuang', Abang addresses Pak Rustam macam kawan-kawan lain address Pak Rustam -- just plain "Rustam". Since I was uncomfortable calling him just plain "Rustam" (which I find is pretty disrespectful) or "Abang Rustam" (since he's a couple of years older than my dad), I just avoided having to address him as anything during my first visit over their house.
I never knew who he really was at first, but on the way to visit him at his house in Bukit Lela Gombak, Abang briefed me that his friend Rustam is the son to Ahmad Boestamam, one of Malaysia's great historical figure.
(Read what Pak Rustam wrote about his late father here.)
On our first visit, the four of us sat talking in their study room facing the front garden, the study room brimmed with books and paperworks, and framed family photos neatly arranged on the walls. There was a cat that they both adored, and also their first new-born grand-daughter Arissa (and with the daughter-in-law still under confinement) that both Pak Rustam and Aunty Rohani couldn't stop talking about.
Both Pak Rustam and the missus, Auntie Rohani spoke highly of their two intelligent grown-up kids. Back then, Auntie Rohani pula baru balik dari tolong set-up libraries in tsunami-hit Acheh.
Little did I know that the daughter-in-law was actually my housemate of two years and close friend, Salha, back in Edinburgh days!
The day I discovered Salha was quite funny to me. It was my 2nd or 3rd visit to Bukit Lela, and Abang and I was already engaged to be married. Dok tengah borak-borak kat living room, the son and daughter-in-law balik dari kerja.
When the son Azi first emerged from the front door, Pak Rustam said to Azi, "Haa ni Zunar ni..." and Azi salam Abang.
And then suddenly I saw a familliar face behind Azi -- it was Salha! Kami macam terpempan gitu.
Aku siap jerit, "Eh. Salha! Fancy meeting you here!"
And then dia pulak went, "Eh, Faz! What are you doing here???" and when I said I'm engaged to Zunar, we just laughed.
I knew she's gotten married, tapi aku tak pi wedding dia in Perlis hence tak tau who she's married to and she of course didn't know that I was going out with Abang.
Small, small world eh. Tak bley wat jahat langsung, haha.
Anyway, that was when it made it a lot easier for me to call Rustam as Pak Rustam and the wife as Aunty Rohani since they are both Salha's in-laws.
And so along the years, I occasionally met Pak Rustam and Aunty Rohani -- at my wedding as part of Abang's entourage, at functions, demos, talks, dinners. Pak Rustam and I exchanged a wee bit of notes when Pak Rustam baru nak dabble in blogging, and he would be The Person who Abang would refer to kalau Abang rasa sedih bila Labu Labi jatuh sakit.
I think, apart from Pak Rustam being one of the loyal contributors to Suara Keadilan, Abang looked highly upon Pak Rustam as one of the elderly figures he could feel at ease with and also could refer anything to.
And then...... this morning masa aku tengah mandi nak bersiap pi kerja, tiba-tiba aku dengar Abang ketuk pintu bilik air, which is something extra ordinary 'coz selalunya masa aku tengah mandi, Abang masih lagi guling-guling atas katil.
Abang kata, "Abang dapat 7 smses pagi ni --
Rustam meninggal dunia mengejut kena heart-failure pagi ni! We have to go. We have to see him."
We were just.... speechless. We never knew he had heart problems, just sakit-sakit kaki sebab diabetic aje.
Unfortunately, Abang has to attend a mentioning at the court untuk kes tahun 2001, along with Tian, Nora and Abg Isham Rais among others. So, I had to follow Abang to court first before convoy 3 kereta dari Jalan Duta ke Bukit Lela - our car, Tian & abang Isham in Tian's car, and geng-geng Nora in another.
We reached Bukit Lela by almost 11am, and by then orang dah ramai ada. Since jalan masuk is so sempit, people had to start parking dari bawah bukit lagi, which is around 400m down from Pak Rustam's house.
So Abang and I parked our car near the main road, and then tumpang naik kereta Tian (maklum, kereta YB, buleh tumpang sekaki) sampai ke atas.
Kat atas at the house, I saw Ginie, Lim Kit Siang, Raja Ahmad, Amir Muhammad, Che'gu Bard, Black, Pak Syed Husin Ali, Dr. Nasir, Nat, YB-YB baru lain and a lot of Abang's friends. The so-called two-face Dr. Chandra pun ada. DSAI, Kak Wan and Izzah dah pun balik by the time we arrived. Abang sempat solatkan Pak Rustam. Aku pula hanya sempat derma baca Surah Yassin dua kali. Aku tak sempat tatap muka Pak Rustam untuk kali terakhir sebab ramai sangat orang dalam bilik.
My heart goes out to the family, especially to Aunty Rohani, and the cucu Arissa who is very very close with the atuk. The four of them were all a picture of total shock and grief. Tak boleh nak bayangkan perasaan mereka.
What a great loss to us all, and to the Nation.
Pak Rustam was actually in the midst of releasing a new book, "Failed Nation? Concerns of Malaysian Nationalist dan Social Roots of The Malay Left" this Saturday in Shah Alam too. But we heard it'll still go on in his memory.
We will definitely miss his gentle ways and smiling face.
1. On Pak Rustam's passing over -- The Star, NST, Kak Nuraina Samad, Nat's own moving entry, Politikus, KLPos, Sang Pemantau, MSOMelayu, or just google Pak Rustam on his passing-over
2. Belasungkawa: Siapakah Pak Rustam
3. Pak Rustam's moving poem to his son Azi in 1974