Friday July 13, 2012
Advancing in age with passion and grace
Roaming beyond the fence
By TUNKU 'ABIDIN MUHRIZ
Sports stars may necessarily tend to achieve their dreams at a younger age while successful figures in the corporate or political world are likely to do so at a later stage.
DURING the weekend of my birthday I received a number of SMSes simply asking “Does he mean you?!”
I did not reply, thinking it was a diabolical plot connected to my new decade of existence.
As much as possible, I overrode all invitations by invoking tennis.
The final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray was to make history either way, and in the end the Swiss won his seventh Wimbledon singles title and seventeenth Grand Slam, rather than the Scot becoming the first Briton to win since Fred Perry in 1936.
(Many who wear his or Lacoste’s eponymous labels are unaware of their tennis provenance.)
Federer’s victory put paid to those critics who were saying he should have retired, owing to the primacy of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, apart from his “advancing age”.
Indeed after his gracious victory speech, the commentators observed that he is extremely fit for a 30-year-old.
At this point I could not help but reflect upon my own level of fitness and achievements. It was useful to be reminded that sports stars necessarily tend to achieve their dreams at a younger age, while successful figures in other sectors – particularly the corporate or political world – do so at a later stage.
The British Prime Minister used the event to say that winning the Wimbledon singles title is tougher than being in government because “the pressure on the individual single person is immense. In doubles you share it, in Government you have a Cabinet, you have a team” – not a very good analogy, I thought, given splits seen in his Cabinet on a number of issues.
At the same time, two Malaysian politicians 15 years of age apart were battling each other in a debate, purportedly on issues.
This was also exciting, though a little less civilised, with clapping before points were won, more booing, and a superfluous decimal point in the fray (imagine Wimbledon 126.0).
I witness far better behaviour at school or university-level debates in Malaysia – and often the issues discussed are similar.
Clearly age is not correlated with levels of decorum, or perhaps Malaysian politics is particularly synonymous with incivility, and our brilliant young debaters decide to do something else as a result.
It does not help, of course, that incidents of crime are perceived to be on the increase. It is true that statistics can be used to prove anything (even the truth!) but my friends and I are certainly more wary in shopping mall car parks and when driving in the evenings.
The awareness campaigns on radio stations also reinforce the notion that we should be more careful than we used to be.
In a weekend away to celebrate my mother’s birthday recently – she turned exactly double my age a few weeks ago – I had the chance to hang out with my anak saudara, an eight-year-old US citizen descended from both Siamese and Terengganu royalty (dynasties politically close to each other until the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909).
He had his own all-terrain vehicle and was excited to drive me round his circuits consisting of public roads, jungle, rubber estate and beach terrain. He anxiously let me have a go, and I won his trust when I charged through a receding wave at high speed.
My cousin who would have been the same age as me lost her life in those waters in the 2004 tsunami.
Her hotelier father has since reconstructed the now-successful property, with still more plans to expand it. As I reflected on the poignancy of this story, my young relative declared: “I like hanging out with old people.”
“Do you mean me?!”, I asked.
> Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz is president of Ideas