Saturday, July 25, 2009

Malaysia Has Lost Its Mother

Yasmin Ahmad passed away at 11.25pm on July 25, 2009 in the Damansara Specialist Hospital in Petaling Jaya without regaining consciousness.

She was hospitalised there at 3.45pm on July 23, 2009 after suffering a stroke while attending a meeting at private TV station TV3 a short distance from the hospital.

The meeting was also attended by Pop Queen Datuk Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin.

Malaysia has lost a mother, and to quote Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (India's first PM) following the death of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Father India), the light has gone out and to millions there is darkness everywhere.

Yasmin dedicated her 51 year life to spreading the message of love and was always passionate about fostering a Malaysia for all Malaysians and keeping the vision of first Prime Minister and Father Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra alive and burning.

Through her many TV ads and her independent films, she made Malaysians believe that a Malaysia for all Malaysians was possible, and this vision of Rahman Putra would never die.

Yasmin coached some of the country's finest new stars of cinema and they included Malaysia's Natalie Portman Sharifah Amani Syed Rashid Al-Yahya, who acted in her most famous movies Sepet, Gubra and Muhsin.

Yasmin's movies won numerous awards in international film festivals, and she was even chosen as a judge in such festivals.

Amani's mother is my ex-neighbour and former colleague Fatimah Abu Bakar, herself a brilliant actress and writer.

Yasmin was a godmother of sorts to Amani and her three sisters who were all her proteges in acting.

Whenever I met Yasmin, I felt most happy and honoured to share my thoughts about the nation and its future with her.

She came across as a most sincere and caring person, and an eternal optimist who always believed that Malaysia had a bright future despite the social and political ills that have been plaguing us for quite sometime.

It was because of her optimism that I developed mine, and challenged some of my most gloomy colleagues to think on the bright side of life.

I was looking forward, like all Malaysians, to see more of Yasmin this year and in the years to come.

But alas, God loves her more.

Malaysia must honour Yasmin as its Mother of National Unity.

Malaysians should go beyond giving her posthumous knighthoods and awards.

Malaysians must strive to live her vision and mission.

We must work hard and strive hard for One Malaysia.

Only then can we truly call ourselves eternal friends of Yasmin.

Here's a little song by Malaysia's King of Entertainment Tan Sri P. Ramlee (1929-1973), who like Yasmin, left us too soon.

This poignant song reflects exactly how most young Malaysians feel about losing Yasmin. It's exactly how I feel.

Ibu, ibu engkaulah ratu hatiku
Bila ku berduka engkau hiburkan selalu
Ibu, ibu engkaulah ratu hatiku

(Mother, mother you are the queen of my heart
Whenever I'm down, you lift me up
Mother, mother you are the queen of my heart)

Yasmin is one of 2 Malaysian women I truly revere.

The other is the first lady of Malaysian theatre Datuk Faridah Merican, who is my relative by marriage (her cousin married my mother's cousin).

They are, to me, the Mothers of National Unity.

The Mothers of Malaysia.

(The 2 Malaysian men I revere most are Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra and Tan Sri P. Ramlee. They are the eternal Fathers of Malaysia)

I have just contacted Faridah and she is terribly saddened by the loss of Yasmin.

Faridah said it's a sad, sad day for Malaysia, and that the country has lost a champion of national unity and a truly remarkable woman who dedicated her life to nation-building via the arts.

Faridah and Yasmin knew each other a long time ago when they worked in the same advertising agency Ogilvy And Mather (founded by the late Sir David Ogilvy, the uncle of Ian Ogilvy of The Saint fame).

She described Yasmin as a brave film-maker who was unafraid to tell stories about Malaysians, and tackle issues that stood in the way of unity and nation building with superb tact and style.

Faridah said Yasmin rose to meteoric heights with her God-given brilliance of telling stories about Malaysians via film.

She left us too soon, and had a lot more to say about Malaysia, its people and its future.

Faridah said Yasmin's legacy of love to all Malaysians would be her passion and sincerity in creating all-Malaysian films that entertained and educated viewers, and fostered the spirit of One Malaysia.

She is confident that the many young actors who were coached by Yasmin would strive to keep the late film-maker's message alive and promote excellence in the arts, highlight issues of public interest with courage and tact, and promote national unity and Malaysian-ness for a better tomorrow.