Sahabatku – My friend

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This tribute to the late Dr M K Rajakumar comes in the form of a poem which the late national literary laureate Usman Awang composed in Malay – and which Wong Soak Koon has now translated to English to reach a wider audience.  

Sahabatku

(Kepada Dr M K Rajakumar)

Menemuimu ketika remaja dulu
Ketika kemarahan rakyat bermula
Di kota raya yang memancarkan suara-suara baru
Aku mengenali sekumpulan generasi mahasiswa
Dalam keghairahan menggengam idealisme
Menolongku memperteguh keyakinan
Persahabatan dan persamaan rakyat
Impian mewujudkan satu dunia baru.

Lama masa berlalu
Pengalaman dan usia mengajar kita
Betapa ideal mimpi alam remaja
Memetik bintang-bintang di cakerawala
Dengan jari dan puisi
Dengan buku dan teori
Tanpa membakar tangan
Tanpa menghaguskan badan.

(Kini pun masih kutemui lagi
 Orang-orang muda yang setengah berani
 Sesekali datang membisikkan impian
Untuk membakar bintang menjolok bulan:
Aku macam memutar kembali
 Pita rakaman silam.)

Sahabatku
Suatu bangsa merdeka yang kita impikan
Terasa jauh dari kenyataan
Kemarahanku menjadi kepedihan
Bila kita dipisah-pisahkan
Jarak itu semakin berjauhan
Aku dapat gelaran ‘bumiputera’ dan kau bukan.

Di klinikmu masih kutemui keramahan
Ketika jantungku hampir dilumpuhkan
Engkaulah pertama mendengar degupannya
Menyukat tekanan darah di salur nadi
Melihat paru-paru tuaku kehitaman bersawang
Asap rokok yang sangat kau benci.

Percayakah?
Aku dapat pula mendengar detak jantungmu
Detak jantung yang dulu
Kehidupan baru untuk masyarakat baru
Impian satu bangsa merdeka
Kebenaran dan keadilan yang sama
Sebagaimana pesan nenek moyang:
        ‘Hati kuman sama dicicah
         Hati gajah sama dilapah’.

Bilakah kita dapat memadamkan
Perbezaan keturunan yang kian membakar kita
Dan membiarkan curahan minyak yang kian menyala
Oleh mereka yang sering bermuka dua?

Bilakah kita dapat mempertaruhkan nasib
anak-anak kita yang tak berdosa
dan generasi akan datang keturunan kita
oleh mereka yang mementingkan laba dan kuasa?

Bilakah kita dapat menimbusi jurang perbezaaan
kemiskinan dan kelaparan dengan kekayaan berlebihan
Antara dua golongan dan darjat masyarakat
Suatu janji dari erti kemerdekaan rakyat?

Bilakah semua warga negara mendapat hak
layanan dan keadilan yang sama
Dikenal dengan satu rupa nama:
Bangsa Malaysia?

My friend

(for D M K Rajakumar)

Meeting you in youth
When the people’s anger begins
In cities which resound with new voices
I knew a generation of undergraduates
Passionately holding onto idealism
Helping me to strengthen confidence
Friendship and equality among the people
The dream of creating a new world

Time has run on
Experience and age teach us
How ideal that youthful dream
To gather stars from the universe
With delicacy and poetry
With books and theories
Without burning our hands
Without immolating the body.

(Now I encounter again
Young folk not quite as brave
Coming to whisper their dreams
Of burning stars, of shaking the moon
I seem to replay
The tape of times past.)

My friend
The one free race we dream of
Seems so distant from reality
My anger turns to sorrow
When they drive a wedge between us
The distance grows
I get the title “bumiputra” and not you.

In your clinic I still find goodwill
When my heart almost stopped
You were the first to hear its beat
Listening to blood coursing in the artery
Seeing my old lungs riddled with blackness
 Smoke from the cigarettes you so hate.

Do you believe?
I too can hear your heartbeat
The heartbeat of times past
New life for a new society
The dream of a liberated race
Of the same truth and justice
As ancestral wisdom advises:                     
     ‘Hati kuman sama dicicah
       Hati gajah sama dilapah’.*

When can we extinguish
The ethnic differences which continue to madden us
How long allow the flames to be stoked
By those who are constantly two-faced?

How long hand over the fate
of our children without sin
and the generations to come, our heirs,
to those who covet profit and power?

When can we erase the differences
Between the starving poor and the exceedingly rich
Between two social groups and stations
The promise to the people of what merdeka means?

When can all citizens enjoy rights
To the same justice, the same treatment
And be known as one race:
Bangsa Malaysia?

                                                   
Usman Awang, National Laureate 1979, wrote this poem for his dear friend who was detained under the ISA in the 1960s.

The English translation of this poem is by Wong Soak Koon.

(* It is near impossible to translate this proverb. It means that we should share in all gains, however small or large. In brief, we should practise just equity)

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