My husband Noramly* was born in a rice-growing village in Malacca.
As he was growing up in the post Second World War years, attending the local elementary school carrying his shoes because he didn’t want to get them dirty in the padi fields, he had high aspirations. He wanted to do well, so he looked around for people he wanted to emulate.
Back in those days, Malaysia was not yet independent of British rule, and in those times he knew he couldn’t aim for the top because he wasn’t British. So he looked for people like him who were successful. And because he had dreams, he chose the most important Malay he knew: the Chief Clerk of the district, serving his colonial master at the District Office.
“I’m going to be a Chief Clerk,” he announced to his Dad.
Fortunately, the coutry gained its independence and he found other role models as time went by, and had other dreams come to fruition as he grew older. University lecturer then Professor at the National University; Dean of the Science Faculty then Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and now Adjunct (Senior) Professor. Head of the Malaysian Nuclear Agency, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Licensing Board. Head of the Defence Research Institute. Deputy Director-General of the U.N’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria.
No other Malaysian has reached such a high post within the United Nations.
Always he felt that he had something to contribute, and that when he moved on he had left something good behind. He had, in effect, became a role model himself.
He is still striving, still wanting to contribute, still wanting to make the world a better place.
Oddly there are people who say he shouldn’t try: sit back and do nothing, they say. Retire. Travel. Go fishing. I can see their point, I suppose, but I know my husband, and that’s not him.
But much, much worse, there are others who say, what if you lose? How humiliating!
I don’t understand that last, at all. If he’d never tried, he’d probably be a Chief Clerk somewhere.
You have to risk failure to be a success. And there is no shame in the failure of dreams. There can never be failure in trying, especially when you have something to offer.
He is a towering Malaysian, worthy of emulation, an example to young Malaysians. And yet there are people who want to teach young Malaysians another lesson: don’t try, you may fail.
Shamefully, in this case, those are the people who look like succeeding.
What’s next I wonder: don’t send a Malaysian team to the Olympics – they won’t win?
*For people from other parts of the world: A Malay Malaysian has only one name (sometimes double barrelled like, say, Mohd Ali), followed by his father’s personal name. He doesn’t have a surname in the Western sense. My husband’s name is Noramly. I call him Ramly for short. His father’s name was Muslim. Yes, his name, just as Christian is a boy’s name in some countries, or Jesus in others. So my husband is called Noramly bin (son of) Muslim. His father’s name was Muslim bin Taib. And so on.