Humble, honest and easygoing ‘Tok’

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  • Tuesday, 23 Oct 2018

A file picture showing the late Amiruddin, his wife Siti and son Romi visiting the writer at his home during Christmas.

I FELL off my motorcycle and fractured my leg in a hit-and-run accident back in 1994. It was my second year as a rookie journalist at The Star in Penang.

And, I was out of action for almost a year after that. In that time, among the colleagues who fondly visited me was A.R. Amiruddin.

He brought goodies and also fetched me to a friend’s wedding reception as I hobbled around with crutches and a cast over my leg.

Despite being almost half his age (he turned 78 in May), we somehow became thick friends over the past 25 years.

Our friendship was based on respect, trust and understanding, and we used to share a common interest in books, music, animals, nature and the outdoors.

I fondly remember our regular ais kacang and laksa outings after work, while our trip to the orang asli settlement in Temenggor Dam at the Royal Belum Forest, Perak, was an eye-opener especially for a green horn like me.

Amir, fondly known as ‘Tok’ in the Penang media circles, was a humble, honest and easygoing person.

He got along well with people of all ages and was an inspiration to many of us.

His son Romi Erawan, 28, said he was in awe knowing that his Dad and I were best buddies despite the generation gap.

I never once quarrelled with Amir, and I believed his wife Siti Zaleha Hashim, 65, better known as Kak Siti, when she told me that Amir had never raised his voice at her throughout their marriage.

Such a gentle, patient and refined man he was.

Close to midnight on Oct 14, I received WhatsApp messages from colleagues informing me that Amir had succumbed to complications from colon cancer, which he had been suffering from the past one year.

I was away in Manila, the Philippines, for my university alumni gathering then and it broke my heart knowing that I could not attend his funeral the next morning.

But, I am glad I visited him several times this year, the last being just after Hari Raya, where he excitedly accepted a 2018 FIFA World Cup souvenir magazine I gifted him.

He was weak but was still able to walk slowly. He expressed hope that his articles in the Ruminations column in StarMetro every fortnight, would someday be compiled into a book.

He was also keen on returning to Mount Kinabalu, which he scaled on his 60th birthday earning him an entry in the Malaysia Book of Records for being the oldest person to celebrate his birthday atop the mountain.

Amir had often told me that he was ready to meet his Maker anytime, even during his adventurous outings, and that he could survive in any place as long as he had his prayer mat with him.

As an intrepid journalist, he was committed to his work — churning out many noteworthy pieces, while as a husband, father and grandfather, he provided his best for his family.

He was a journalist with The Star for 19 years and the defunct National Echo for 10 years.

Kak Siti told me that in the past one month, when Amir was bedridden and needed help with his meals and to change his diapers, in his frail voice he thanked her for doing so much for him to which she replied it was not a big deal.

She said he looked handsome when he passed away in his sleep and I knew he was in a better place.

I have lost an amazing friend who taught me valuable lessons in life especially in the early days of my career. He treated me like a family member, despite the different ethnic and religious backgrounds we had.

It is indeed heaven’s gain, for God loved him more. Till we meet again at heaven’s gates, rest in peace, my dear friend. I thank God that our paths crossed here on Earth.

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