Grandmother always took me to the Toh Puan’s house when I was little. Every time she asked me to follow her, I would jump on my two feet with joy. Sometimes I went there with just my grandmother and sometimes my mother tagged along. The house was an old fashioned bungalow; situated at the end of Jalan Tun Ismail (grandmother still calls it Maxwell Road). It has a small garden in front and a weird looking swimming pool in the backyard. A pleasant old lady whom people called Toh Puan lived inside. But the best thing on my mind back then was being in a large room inside the bungalow, filled with the latest brands of toys from all around the world. It was just too exhilarating, thanks to the hospitality of the Toh Puan’s grandchildren.

It took me a while before I finally asked my grandmother, “Who is Toh Puan?” I know she’s her friend but who was she, really? The answer I got from grandmother was plain simple, “The Toh Puan and I used to play badminton together when we were young.” But the oil portraits, pictures and the decorations on the walls and mantelpieces of the bungalow dissatisfied me with the answer I got. I grumbled for more. Alas, grandmother surrendered to my tantrum thus replied, “Toh Puan Neno was the wife of Tun Dr Ismail, the second Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. He died in his position (acting Prime Minister actually) long before you were born. A good man”.

It was around 88 or 89 at that time. I tried to picture the face of the then deputy prime minister. Was it the man with the mole on his upper right cheek or the chubby guy? Ah, Musa Hitam resigned and he was replaced by Ghafar Baba. The people were still in transition. I was still in transition.

How come people never talked about Tun Dr Ismail?” I asked my grandmother. “Maybe someone currently in power digressed to the point of vengeance with the Tun when he was alive. What not to do but to wipe off the Tun from the pages of history after he died?” said grandmother calmly.
Can they do that?
In these times, nothing is impossible

I can’t help but to picture old man Mahathir’s face. Back then he was THE prime minister, the leader, a hero and all that is good. Nobody dared to question his actions, except the opposition. It was then, maybe still, maybe forever for every Tom, Dick and Harry in power.

I was reading The Reluctant Politician recently. I stumbled across an excerpt from a 1973 edition of the Malay Mail. It said that (more or less), “… after Tun Dr Ismail’s death, his deeds and sacrifices for this country will be remembered by generations to come. His contributions to this country’s achievement will be placed in history and text books for the readings of our children”. Ooi was right, too bad it didn’t happen.

A few months ago, I asked grandmother about whatever happened to the Toh Puan. She replied, “She’s fine. Old people tend to socialize, but we are beyond old.