DATIN Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood is not rushing to be the new lady of the house at Seri Perdana although she has had over a year to get used to the idea of being First Lady.
In fact, she said, if she had her way, “I want my things to be here forever” as she was dreading to leave the Deputy Prime Minister’s official residence in Lebuhraya Perdana Selatan, Precinct 1, Putrajaya, which she has painstakingly decorated with her many art pieces over the past two-and-a-half years.
“I have grown to really love this house. I have done so much to it and now I will have to redo everything again. As the Malays say, berat hati nak tinggal (I will leave with a heavy heart),” she said, adding that she had not made any preparation to move into the Prime Minister’s official residence.
Endon, who returned from homeopathy treatment in Los Angeles on Oct 22, said she had been resting a lot and just spending time with her family at home.
“I have not touched anything yet and we have not set a date to move to Seri Perdana,” she said as she gave a tour of the cosy Deputy Prime Minister’s residence.
Endon said she also understood that Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali would have a lot of packing to do.
“I told Siti Hasmah to take her time as I myself have not done any packing. There are lots of things for her to do and I want to give her a chance to move out slowly,” she said.
Endon's favourite spot in the house is her bedroom and one of the things she will miss doing is having tea on the patio outside the dining room, which faces the lake with a view of the Putrajaya mosque.
“It is so beautiful at night when you can see the reflection of the brightly lit mosque on the lake,” she sighed.
Saying “I love this place and am comfortable here,” Endon sounded as though she still thought of herself staying on there. She pointed at two framed pieces of old baju kebaya hanging on the wall of one of the rooms and observed: “I am still trying to put spotlights on the wall.”
Endon said she did not expect to move too soon, and she and Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would hold their Hari Raya open house at Putra World Trade Centre and not at Seri Perdana.
When asked if she was busy preparing for changes in her life as she and Abdullah assumed their new roles, Endon said life still went on as usual for her.
She said they had had over a year to plan for their new roles and the excitement of it all had waned.
“People often asked me if I was excited but I feel normal. I have not made any preparation. It had been over a year. But I am happy for Pak Lah.”
Of the former First lady, Endon said Dr Siti Hasmah was someone she admired.
“I hope to be as tolerant as her. She’s a wonderful person,” she said, adding that people should praise her as much as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Endon added that Dr Siti Hasmah would still be active with Bakti (Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers).
Dr Siti Hasmah has been made chairman of the board of the new Bakti building, which is named after her. It was Endon who had initiated the idea of naming the building Bangunan Siti Hasmah.
“We have been friends for a long time. When I went to see her after Pak Lah was named successor, she did not advise me on what I should do, maybe because she thought I was doing things properly,” she said.
Endon added that she hoped people would not compare her with Dr Siti Hasmah, saying she was more of a homebody who valued her family and interest in craft.
“You will understand the person I am if you visit my home,” she said.
Endon’s passion and love for collectibles are evident the moment one steps into the residence, which looked like a gallery, with each corner, even the guest toilets, decorated by Endon herself with her collection of artefacts and furniture.
Most of the items – which she started collecting about 20 years ago, mainly during her travels with Abdullah when he was Foreign Minister – were sourced from flea markets around the world.
“People might think I spent a lot for them but they are cheap although the frames cost me a bomb!” she said.
Her “treasures” include framed rare coin collections, an old Indian sewing box, boxes and chests, a wooden telephone from China, four sets of opium pipes made of different materials such as silver, onyx and wood, songket, nut crackers, African hair combs, Chinese chairs, porcelain pieces (her favourite) and paintings of porcelain she had commissioned an Iraqi painter to do.
“I don’t go to special shops to buy them. I don’t read books on antiques so I don’t know what is valuable. I just have an eye for beautiful things,” she said.
Endon said many of the items such as furniture from Vietnam and the Philippines were bought cheaply as she was “there at the right time.”
For example, she bought rosewood chairs with French influence in Vietnam during the time just when the Vietnamese government opened up the country to foreigners.
There are also many expensive art and furniture pieces she bought cheaply in the Philippines from rich Filipinos leaving the country after the fall of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos.
In the residence is a room she calls the batik room, which holds her collection of batik cloths and decorative items using batik, and another called the kimono room.
Endon said she was also attracted to Oriental artefacts, “probably because of my Japanese blood.”
Preferring to decorate the residence in her own style, Endon even re-did the upholstery for the government-owned dining chairs with materials she had bought from India.
“Every two years, I would re-decorate my home and I just had some of the rooms here done up,” she said.
Endon said only two collections in the house belonged to her husband – his golf ball collection, kept in the library in a table with a glass top and numerous drawers that Abdullah had specially designed, and the collection of walking sticks, placed at two spots in the house.
She said that Abdullah used to remark that she collected rubbish but when she finished decorating the entire house with her items, her husband complimented her.
“I told him this is my rubbish,” she laughed as she proceeded out of the dining room.
At that moment, at 4.15pm, the side door of the house opened and a voice greeted: “Yoohoo!”
It was Abdullah, who had popped back from office before adjourning to a buka puasa function. He greeted his wife with a hug and a peck on her forehead.
After a few pleasantries between the loving couple, Abdullah showed off his walking sticks. He took time to explain about one made from sliced betel-nut glued together by a man in his hometown of Kepala Batas, which he said cost him a bundle.
Another had a head made from amber while there was also one made from turtle shell and a third with a carved duck head he had bought for £5 (RM34) in the Lake District in Britain.
“All these tell a story of my travels. This is precious. This is precious,” said Abdullah, adding that he had chosen to collect walking sticks as a hobby because to him they were “works of art.”
“Some people collect cars, some diamonds, but I just collect these, which are affordable. It is a simple pleasure for a simple person,” he said with a smile.
Drawing attention to a vase made out of a tree trunk and decorated with pewter, Abdullah said the collectibles in their home were to emphasise value-added products or handicraft.
“I like collecting things that show creativity and in so doing add value to them. You don’t have to have lots of land to do things, just two hands and something between your ears – your imagination,” he said.
As it is the fasting month the couple would wake up for subuh prayers. For sahur they have a simple meal of water, dates and fibre drinks, said Endon.
“After Pak Lah goes to work, I would continue my sleep if I feel I don’t have enough. I wake up at 8am to do my qigong exercises before my day begins,” she said.
Endon, who underwent a mastectomy last year, said she wished she had more time to support cancer-related causes, in particular through improving counselling for cancer patients in hospitals, especially those with breast cancer.
During her treatment in Los Angeles, she was inspired by a shop at the hospital called Positive Image, which sold items such as wigs for those who lose their hair through chemotherapy and special underwear. The shop also provides information and advice for cancer patients on how to take care of themselves.
“I hope to see such shops opened in our hospitals to provide support for the patients,” said the First Lady, who has also initiated a post-care unit at Putrajaya to help patients deal with their condition after cancer treatment.
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