Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Expressions of Love

Indonesia lost her former first lady recently - Ainun Habibie, the wife of former Indonesian president Habibie, who is remembered for her sweetness, gentleness and enormous devotion to her husband. And whose funeral attracted many people and the media pack anxious to give her a fitting final farewell and to show to her family that she will always be remembered with great affection.

At the same time former Indonesian president B.J. Habibie graced us with a rare and much needed sentiment on the broadcast media (and for the entire country, come to think about it) through his genuine and sincere display of love and affection for his wife Ainun Habibie, when the latter passed away earlier this week.

I say rare because lets face it, when it comes to covering stories, we in the media tend to dwell more on the stomach-churning, the macabre and the distasteful rather than give our precious airtime up for some touching and fine sensibilities based on true love. And it is a much needed sentiment too because at the end of the day we could all do with a bit more tender loving care coming in our direction.

Stories of never-ending devotion, sincere but heart-breaking displays of grief, overt though not effusive expressions of love from one person to another, these sketches became news items in themselves, not only because the persons in question were the country’s former president and first lady, but because we for a change, actually deal with genuine and worthy human emotions that are not only hard to come by, but for reasons I cannot fathom, are normally discouraged.

No doubt many women witnessing how lovingly Habibie kissed and caressed his deceased wife as he bade her farewell for the last time after half a century of never spending a day apart and, listening to testimonials of their relationships, of unwavering romance and constant holding of hands, wonder if their husband would display a fraction of Habibie’s expression of true love when their time is up.

And no doubt Habibie himself would be remembered not just as a president who loosened the Indonesian media’s shackles, who let East Timor go and whose intellectual genius borders on the slightly manic and somewhat cuckoo, but also as someone genuine in his actions, unaffected in his mannerisms and unabashed in showing affection to the person he loves. A wide-eyed ingĂ©nu who is not afraid of ridicule or criticism, but also unafraid of expressing his true feelings

This indeed is a rare and refreshing trait in our society that seems to react vehemently against things pertaining to human affections, expressions of love and appreciation of beauty and fine emotions. Kissing, public displays of love and affection even between married couples or lovers are generally frowned upon as improper.

Sweet words, niceties, thank yous, excuse mes and expressions of gratitude and appreciations are rarely heard whether at home talking to the spouse, children and the housekeepers, in the streets and other public places where politeness should go without saying, and of course on the television screen, that purveyor of a rich variety of over-the-top and mostly negative emotional outbursts.

Instead we wilfully surround ourselves with rude behaviour and base emotions in our daily lives. We are quick to judge, sneer and put down while slow to extol, praise or express appreciation, finding the former sentiments the easier to adopt than the latter. We find it easier to point out what we deem pornographic in cultural or artistic expressions and difficult to find elements of beauty, creativity and harmony to admire.

We cringe at the sight of lovers in love and showing their feelings and desire to be close to one another and yet barely bat an eyelid when people display cruelty to animals or treat children as objects whether at home or at school.

I could never understand why for example, we tolerate a bunch of thugs who, with or without turbans, create damage and havoc to public property and intimidate the ordinary person in the street without so much as the authorities lifting a finger to arrest them or stop them, and yet find the zeal and the energy to censure so-called improper behaviour and poke our noses into private businesses that don’t concern us.

Notice for instance, how in the case of Alterina, a man suffering from a syndrome that made him a transgender, instead of focusing on the fact that there exists a woman who actually loves him, marries and accepts him for the way he is - an admirable example of how love is blind and knows no boundaries, hence, let’s leave these God’s creatures alone to enjoy their happiness - the poor man is jailed for falsifying his ID because he was wrongly registered as a woman.

Not only is Alterina jailed in a body that is not to his liking, he is physically jailed for supposedly breaking the law, while the wife is punished by being forcefully separated from her loved one.

So who gains from this tragic incident? Nobody, except those who find their life’s meaning through judging and condemning others. And for these people, expressions of true love are beyond their understanding.

(Desi Anwar: First Published in The Jakarta Globe)

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