THE only child in the family, Datin Dr Rayslida Rashdan Baba, had an “eventful childhood”, thanks to her parents Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Mohd Rashdan Baba and his wife, the late Puan Sri Robiyah Abdul Majid.
|Dr Rayslida, an anaesthetist with three children.
Dr Rayslida Rashdan sharing a light moment with her father.
Mohd Rashdan is the first vice chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and the then Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (now Universiti Putra Malaysia). Robiyah was a graduate teacher from United Kingdom and she worked in the UPM library upon her return.
“Although I was an only child, I was brought up in a strict and regimented way. My father is a disciplinarian but not in a military manner. Discipline is important to him,”says Dr Rayslida, an anaesthetist with three children.
“I have to sit down with him and my mother at every meal. For him, mealtimes are best for catching up on the day. We bonded over meals.
“And I had to be at the door to welcome him home from work, and hug and kiss him,” she says, adding that these practices helped to shape her character.
Her parents knew all her friends and her father remains friendly and helpful to them till now. “My parents showed concern for my friends after they left school and cared about the progress they made in life.”
Dr Rayslida recalls her father’s determination to set up the universities. “We lived on the campus of Serdang College, now UPM. While growing up, my home was the centre of discussions. Friends, staff and students from the university and elsewhere held discussions at our house till the wee hours of the morning. My mother prepared pot after pot of coffee.
“In those days, the visitors were like family, they had developed a close bond with each other. To them, there were many things to discuss and too little time to get things done.
“They sacrificed their time with their family to establish the universities. They were full of sincerity, honesty and dedication. I have never seen such passion — they came and went for days on end, and my parents welcomed them without complaint.
“The vice chancellor’s house became a hub of the university; it received many visitors. A curtain separated the kitchen from the lounge and I eavesdropped. My mother always told me jangan dengar orang besar cakap (don’t eavesdrop on older people’s conversation) but I listened in regardless.”
Mohd Rashdan is not only a disciplinarian but also a no-nonsense man. Those who worked for him in the early years of the setting up of the universities remain his close friends who understand him very well. He could be hot-tempered, but remains composed during challenging times.
“The early days of setting up the universities were a stressful time. My mother helped out at the first UPM convocation to make sure everything went smoothly while my father sat in the front row. She became my father’s buffer and moderator. Not many people understood his sense of urgency which could be misinterpreted as being temperamental. If he wanted something to be done, it had to be done. I tell my children that they are lucky that their grandfather has mellowed.
“But despite his hot temper, his friends appreciated his dedication, efforts and struggles in the field of education and they respect and love him for what he is till today.
“My father believes in giving equal chances in education to everyone, regardless of their background. He especially gave due attention to students from the rural areas. He wanted them to come out of poverty by using education and knowledge as tools for this transformation.“
The late Robiyah was his pillar of strength. “She went through thick and thin with him.”
Apart from her mother, Dr Rayslida’s grandmother also played an important role in her father’s life.
“My grandmother believed in a good education. Although they came from a poor family, she made sure he attended school. She woke up at 4am every day and walked 11km to tap rubber, sold kuih and worked in the paddy field.”
Now at 79 years of age, her father is not as healthy as he used to be. “He can’t converse as well as before. Occasionally, he needs some time to gather his thoughts and compose his sentences. Nevertheless, his mind is still sharper than most of us. He reads the newspapers and analyses every detail.” NST Learning Curve 26 OCTOBER 2014 @ 8:03 AM