Awang and the floods

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Ever-willing Awang

By Jagdesh Singh | Opinion |

The rain has subsided. The roads are dry, caked with mud. And people are desperate to get back to their homes, to their lives. But the chaotic days leading to this point was far from settled as the flood dry mud and sludge.

He has a toothy smile, the gap from two missing front teeth on the bottom gums. Far from making him look menacing, he oozes out a comical look that anybody would warm to instantly.

“I couldn’t sleep all night. I won’t be able to rest until I’ve done something to help these friends of mine. Their lives have been devastated by the floods, Jag,” he tells me this in his native Malay, the day after the recent floods hit Selangor hard. It was the Sunday morning, and social media was going crazy with reports of the floods hitting areas literally next door to my home.

I’ve known him for 17 years now, ever since I moved to our current home. We both share the same passion, playing football. But Awang isn’t always about football. His outlook on life, the struggles and the joy of it all, resonates with me ever so deeply, inspiring me at times.

Thirteen months ago, Awang lost his 18 year old son to a motorcycle accident in an unexplainable tragic manner. His only son, whom he adored and treated as his best friend. His loss was unimaginable to me. But his acceptance of his fate, of his pain was herculean. “We can only but accept God’s will, Jag,” he would repeat to me while crying. Yet, if there’s anyone else who would be as strong as this, it would be Awang whom I’ve known for so many years.

On the second morning itself after the flood hit, Awang had organised a mobile generator set and a powerful jet spray. Did I mention that he was a really resourceful man? He was already ready to singlehandedly go on a mission to start cleaning the homes of those hit badly. I knew this because he was looking for sponsors to buy the equipment.

“When you go, take me along, Pak Wang!” I asked not fully knowing what that would entail. Suddenly at 5 pm the very same day, I find myself in a 4 wheel drive truck, with just slippers on. My wonderful wife decided to tag along, and we both got a first hand tour on an unrecognisable Bukit Lanchung, the neighboring village devastated by the floods. When we got out of the vehicle, the water level was knee high, completely black and smelled horrible. Awang had already begun his mission alone a few hours before.

The next day, I was more prepared, advised by Awang to get proper footwear (he called them Phua Chu Kang boots) and gloves. And we helped strangers clear the debris from their homes, and get back some semblance of what the homes looked like before.

I had observed volunteers coming in groups, from different backgrounds, coming to help. “God is one, and every religion teaches us to be kind and do good to others, no matter race and religion. It’s so good that these volunteers have come, Jag”. Another gem from Awang. His second nature was to take the good at face value every single time.

Today, he looks a bit more relieved. He wasn’t just being idle and helpless. He had done a lot, with the least of fanfare. I also quickly notice that the villagers welcomed Awang to help them, not as a stranger or a volunteer, but as one of them. His reputation of doing good was already well known, even before the tragic floods. But just as how he accepted the mission as the sole actor, he would ride the sunset alone as well. No fuss. Just relieved and sleeping better.

Jagdesh Singh, a Kuala Lumpur-based executive with a US multinational company, is a father of three girls who are as opinionated as their mother

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.

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