The Journey Within
December 05, 2010

The following article was published in The Star on December 5, 2010.

Caught on camera, the two seconds when I wasn't weeping that morning

The haj changes a pilgrim, as well as the people he leaves at home.

The sun was just peeking as I got out of bed on that cold November morning. A sombre one too, I should say. As it has been the past few days.

I saw my parents taking out their luggage as I peered through the door, half-awake They were already in their ihram, the white garment worn for the haj. A sight that, while foreign to me, got me choked up a little.

It wasn’t too long ago when we were told that they would be performing the haj this year, although I’m sure it had been in their plans for a while. The time was right, I suppose. My father was a year into retirement and my younger sisters, who used to go to my mother for the smallest things, are big enough to do some of those things themselves. Or make mum make me do it for them.

The plan was to drive to the neighbourhood mosque where some of our family members were already waiting to pray Subuh together before bidding my parents farewell. We would then head for the Tabung Haji Complex, their final stop, before boarding the bus that would take them straight to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. A straightforward itinerary, had it not been for all the tears I had to hold in.

You see, I haven’t been the most obedient of sons. I had my share of mischief. Suffice to say, I have given them enough headaches to consistently make Panadol the number two item in our grocery list, after random candies my sisters throw into the trolley.

So sending them for the haj, as simple as it seemed, was a daunting task for me. And explaining why is just as challenging.

It’s not that I’ve never been apart from them in the past. There were those two years in boarding school and five in college abroad, compared to the 30 days they would be spending in Mecca and Medina.

But having them away to perform one of the pillars of Islam is an entirely different experience. You can feel the magnitude of the voyage as they join millions of other Muslims, the chosen ones for the year, in the glorious pilgrimage.

The weeks leading to the day of their departure for Jeddah brought me closer to their preparation for the journey and, consequently, closer to them.

As the eldest of their four children I wanted nothing more than a smooth-sailing haj for them. I felt the need to be responsible for ensuring that things are okay at home while they’re away.

All I wanted for them over there was peace of mind... something they were denied during my coming of age years, thanks to my antics. The sleepless nights I caused them; the misadventures I stumbled into as I made my transition from childhood to adulthood.

These were the images that crossed my mind as I was driving them to Tabung Haji that morning. I couldn’t help but reminisce about the times when I could have paid more attention to what they said, made better decisions, and not given in to the immaturity of youth. Only to realise there’s no way of reversing the bad turns I’d taken in the past. And there’s no point regretting.

Alas, those were lessons I probably couldn’t have learned better otherwise. And through it all, they had stood by me. Never short of the love and care they’ve given me since I was a child; which I couldn’t be more grateful for.

At the departure gate, I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer as I hugged them goodbye. The macho, impenetrable man in me was thrown out of the window and boy did I weep. Probably the loudest I’ve cried since Finding Nemo.

It’s been two weeks now since my parents began their journey and things are going well. They have completed the requirements and are currently on their way to Medina. Over here, apart from the fast-food diet I’m feeding my younger siblings for breakfast, lunch and dinner, things are fine.

We’re all eagerly waiting for them to come back. While we have been in contact through phone, there are simply too many stories to be told and anecdotes to be shared. Tales from what seems to be, as we’ve only witnessed in pictures, a breathtaking voyage.

I’ve surely learned a lot while my parents are away. Well, even before that actually. And I look forward to their return. For I plan to be a better son, brother, and soon, husband.

That’s the beauty of the haj, I believe. It doesn’t only change those taking the journey, but also their loved ones at home.



Comments:

doakan ibadah haji mereka diterimaNya... ameen
 

may your parents safely return berbekalkan iman & ibadah. ur a good man,dol. next year u'll become a better man & hopefully a loving husband!
 

Well written, and so true, how the people who are left behind are affected as well. It is a journey of magnitude.

By the way, congratulations. :)
 

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Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

About
  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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