THERE can be few individuals with whom even some fleeting brush of acquaintance can leave so indelible and lasting an impression.
In amongst that rare breed of men you can definitely include Rehman Rashid.
It was way back in 1974 when, as a Prep School freshie in Form 1 at the Malay College that I noticed – no I heard – his stentorian presence. So many years have intervened that I can’t quite recall what that occasion was; but it was from a podium on a stage. Being megaphonic, opinionated and cocksure in delivery, that was my first impression of the towering figure for which the lectern was too small and the microphone quite unnecessary.
There he was, a departing sixth former who had made time to come back to his alma mater to grace an event, and impart some words of wisdom to the new batch of impressionable newbies.
In cricket terms, Rehman had a good innings. His departed this life aged 62 in the first week of Ramadan, following a bicycle mishap in January from which he never recovered. Some say 62 is too young to go, but the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) died at 63.
It was later when I became a rookie journalist under the paternal coaxing of former NST Group Editor PC Shivadas that our paths crossed again. Emulation by observation
He was by then someone who was making executive editorial decisions as a Leader Writer and I was just starting out to attend my first police news conference, being made to man the trenches – as all newbies were – by the inimitable Crime Editor Rudy Beltran.
Rudy – legend has it that he was once a law enforcer with a hint of the Clint Eastwood persuasion. He was a dab hand twinkling the ivories (he could be seen behind a grand piano some evenings in one of the city’s grand hotels after a day at the office) and; boy; could he rewrite your crime stories as if he was actually present at the scene and directing the (mis)deed!
If at the Crime Desk I was coached by the economy of words and precise though at times liberally-imaginative narration of events drilled into me by Rudy; it was the grandiloquence of Rehman Rashid’s Scorpion Tales and the mellifluously scripted comment pieces and editorials that I would read and re-read.
To my eternal regret, I never worked with or under Rehman; the Crime Desk considered the most junior rung down the ladder in the newsroom hierarchy. Desk reporters were seldom stuck indoors for any extended length of time for their lot is out there, pounding the streets.
Later he just disappeared from the news room only to surface in that venerable institution called Asia Magazine. I learnt later he was plying his trade in Hong Kong and later in Bermuda demonstrating the truth of the adage that; `..have pen, will travel.’ Influence from a distance
Every now and then his name would surface with a book launch and guest spots; enough for him to sprinkle a little stardust or spread a little vitriol by way of pithy comment in response to some event on the social and political front.
To this day, stuck in my memory was his graphic description of the newly-built Menora Tunnel on the northern section of the North-South highway as a gruesome drive down some minister’s nostrils. He was not averse to dishing scatological barbs in describing the motivation of some of the more mercenary members of the modern-day fourth estate.
You’d do well to Ignore the bluster. Some writers turn you off by bombast – each time you read Rehman, you are humbled to learn a new word.
I leave it to others to scramble and come up with subjective interpretation of Rehman’s place and contribution to Malaysian journalism – or his personal crusade to cajole a nation to wake up from stupor and wiggle itself out of malaise.
Perhaps he was too far ahead of everybody else, his foresight out of radar range of others. Impatient he may be that others were stuck in stasis, Rehman can rest assured that some of the glitter from his literary exertions have served as an inspiration for others to try to emulate – and carry on the torch.
From Allah we come and to Allah we return. Alfatihah dear Rehman Rashid.
*Razak Chik is Astro AWANI's Executive Editor.
**The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI