CONCERNS: Veteran leader worried about the younger generation and their declining morals
IT was on the second last day of my holiday back home and I simply couldn't leave without meeting her. I had requested for just 15 minutes, but the formidable lady gave me nearly an hour of her precious time.
That was to be the most memorable hour with the late Tan Sri Aishah Ghani during which she had talked not just about her book Ibu Melayu Mengelilingi Dunia which had just been republished by Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia, but also about her worries and concerns about the young generation of Facebookers, the Mat Rempit and drug addicts, and about their declining morals.
We met at her office in Kampung Baru in Kuala Lumpur. Already frail and nursing a cold, she had lost nothing of the vigour and passion for the present day coalition party, of which she was a staunch Umno supporter and rose to be one of the first few women ministers in the cabinet. She was really looking forward to this general election.
"This general election, it will be nonsense if people, (especially the Malays) vote other than Barisan Nasional. No matter what you say about Umno, this is the party from before until now," said Aishah.
Speaking about the position of women in the society now, Aishah, who struggled to get to where she was, said she was extremely proud of the achievements of Malay women now.
Still very much well informed about current developments and the movement of women on the corporate ladder, she took note of who's who in the corporate world.
"Oh, I truly salute her," she said referring to Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz.
"She is the governor of Bank Negara and a very good governor at that. I knew her from when she was small, because I knew her mother. And look at the chief executive officer of AirAsia, Aireen Omar. Things are not like before during my time," she said.
"The way I see it, there are opportunities given by the government. Take it. It wasn't like before during the time when I was growing up," she said reflecting on the days when she was a young trainee teacher and denied by her father from grabbing opportunities to study at the Kajang Convent to improve her English, although she was picked out by the school inspector for the golden opportunity.
"Kontek Kamariah was the supervisor of Malay schools and she approached my father, but he and my mother didn't agree.
"I was disappointed. When I saw Kontek Kamariah driving to the school in her red car, I was very impressed.
"I thought, who said women should stay at home and just do needlework?" she said admitting she was a rebel as a child.
"But my father then sent me off to a boarding school in Padang and there I learnt a lot.
"They had a better education system there." Aishah, at the age of 12, became independent, living in a hostel with about 500 other girls. She was then exposed to a lot of literature. Although it was freer to mix around with the opposite sex, people knew the boundaries, she enthused.
"Those days mothers were not very educated but they could discipline their children, but look at the situation now. Mothers are so well educated but it is sad to see how the children behave," she despaired, blaming modern day technology for the social ills among the young.
"Look at Facebook, Internet. I belong to the old school. I still prefer to go and pay my own bills rather then pay through the Internet.
"There are so many social ills that we read about today. What has happened? Drugs, Mat Rempit, incest. And they don't read and are not well informed," she said. She had seen it all during her time and her apprehension over the route the young generation is taking was clearly bothering her. "I believe I have been well prepared to face anything. Come another war and I will survive. But I don't think the young ones can," said Aishah who was in Sumatra during World War 2. It was a hard time, she reflected but they survived. It was then that she met her husband.
Taking me back to her journey to the United Kingdom when she left her young children under the care of her dedicated husband, Abdul Aziz Abu Hassan, she said she had learnt much from the experience.
"People there read a lot. Every morning when I left my house, I could talk to the road sweeper about political developments of the country. They can discuss because they read," she stressed.
Aishah fervently hoped that the younger generation had as much loyalty to their parents as well as to the government.
"They get everything too easy these days. They don't have the commitment, but there are opportunities out there, go and get it."
Zaharah Othman The New Straits Times Columnist 21/04/2012