Ayah Is Just Ayah To Us

It is always a blessing to have parents still living. Alhamdulillah. We are grateful for these  moments we have together. My Ayah is 87. He still works. He spends his spare time studying the  Quran. The rest of the time, entertaining my Mom’s antics. He has the company of his family and  some stray cats. He is content, as far as I can tell. There are, of course, the pesky ailments which  plague octogenarians. This modest existence masks an illustrious life of achievements and  successes. Yes, my dad was a great man in his day. He is still a great man today. 

The name Tan Sri Desa Pachi is ubiquitous among the guards of old. Once, I had to stop a mid-sentence presentation in order to engage in a 10 minute conversation about my Dad with the  people I was pitching to. He was one of the first Malays to win a scholarship under the Colombo  Plan to study in Melbourne. He came home as a Chartered Accountant and started a practice  which still bears his name today. He went on to become the first Chief Executive Officer of  Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) and later Chairman to companies ranging from Malaysia  Mining Corporation Bhd to the Fleet Group Sdn Bhd and finally bidding adieu from his full time  stint at CIMB Group after a tenure of over 20 years. People held him in high regard. He made a  mark in this world. 

Ayah is just ayah to us. People who only know him by reputation may see him as an imposing  figure. I am usually amused when people are nervous to meet him. He is uncomplicated,  trustworthy, dependable and the epitome of integrity. This is consistent, be it, at home or in the  office. This is what we take inspiration from and has shaped our own sense of duty, morality and  humility. My dad is a man of few words. So, the lessons we learned were not instructive. We  emulated the principles he lived by.  

I never quite understood what my dad did for a living. Not for the longest time. I used to wonder  what those important sounding roles on his business cards meant. He was important. That much  I knew. It was not something which was ever played up and so I never paid any attention to it. I  appreciated his contribution to our country’s economy much later in life. It was then that the  enormity of his achievements dawned on me. 

We were still in school when my Dad was at the pinnacle of his career. So, he was understandably  busy. Yet, he was always present. We felt loved, protected and well provided for. That is all any  child ever needs. I remember looking forward to him coming home so I could get ice cream. Later  when I was older, he would come with my mom to visit me at my boarding school every weekend  bearing food and panacea for homesickness. I never quite figured out how he managed to  maintain the PIBG chairmanship of both my primary and secondary schools despite his  demanding schedule. Such was his commitment. This was how he expressed his love. Without  utterance but full of action. It is a currency we fully comprehend. 

My dad’s work afforded us perks which were a little more than what the average family would  have enjoyed but, by no means, extravagant. We went on holiday. We ate out. We received an  education. We did not want anything. We did not want much either.  Ayah worked hard.  But he never made it a mission to enrich us. He never inculcated in us a penchant for the highlife.  It was not what he aspired to. So, neither did we. We recognised these advantages were a  temporary privilege and not a permanent right.  

People might expect someone in my dad’s position to be demanding and difficult to please. In  reality, he never complains. He is loath to make a fuss. So, we learn to be grateful with  whatever we have and make the best of any situation. He taught us to have both feet on the  ground. 

My Dad accomplished a lot personally and for the country. This is a fact. From a kampung boy  with limited prospects to a corporate pioneer in the business world. I am ashamed to admit that I  would not be able to recount much of the successes attributed to him. Somehow, it feels tawdry to  even contemplate doing so. My dad peppered everything he did with a good dose of humility. So 

much so, we never felt able to brag about our own achievements. It is not how we were raised.  What great things he did are usually conveyed to us by others. My dad was very much about duty  above recognition. He got on with the job. An obligation well executed is reward itself. We saw,  we followed. 

People would be surprised at how modestly we live given my Dad’s illustrious career. He lives in  a humble 3 bedroom terraced house in a nondescript neighbourhood. This is by design. How we  live is a reflection of what we value most. I don’t think it is over-reaching to claim that it was  within my dad’s means to create an obscenely wealthy life for us. He didn’t. For that I am grateful.  

This wisdom has moulded us into more grateful people. We appreciate the blessings bestowed  upon us. We are not awed by extravagance nor are we blinded by material wealth. So, we are  better able to navigate the superficiality of life with an eye on what matters. This is a great gift. 

We learn a lot about giving from watching Ayah signing cheques to different causes. I have never  known him to turn away from a plea for help. It speaks to the quality of a person when they  extend aid without expecting something in return. 

I am glad I am able to look back and appreciate the virtues my dad has imparted to us. Our only  hope is that our characters are some representation of the goodness which my dad has shown us.  There are many more wonderful things that could be said about Ayah. We pray Allah will reward  him with His Mercy and Grace for all he has done for us. Thank you Ayah.  – Rizal Desa 

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