By Faridah Merican & Joe Hasham
What can be written about Kak Endon that hasn’t already been read, digested and wept over time and again? She was destined to leave an indelible mark on our lives and it’s difficult to express the impact this wonderfully passionate woman has had on many of us. Her legacy is recognisable across the land and beyond. In her moments of solace she would often put others before herself. Close up, when she smiled, you couldn’t help but be touched by her absolute transparency.
October 20, 2005, was a sad day for us all, especially for her family and loved ones. God decided to take her home at 7.55am. Dato’ Seri Datin Paduka Endon Mahmood, beloved wife of our Prime Minister, left us peacefully on a blessed day for Muslims, petang Jumaat. Days have passed and the emptiness continues; but our thoughts and prayers are with her beloved Pak Lah, Nori, Kamal, Khairy and Azrene, her sisters and brothers, and her grandchildren. We know they will find comfort in her love and warmth. As a wife, mother, sister, mother-in-law, grandma and close friend, she would ask for nothing more than that they take care of each other.
When it mattered, Kak Endon was an absolute woman of action. She would be the first to pick up a phone. Her love and concern for the performing arts exemplified her course in life. When The Actors Studio at Plaza Putra was devastated by floods and all was lost, she made it her personal mission to right the wrong. She immediately set the wheels in motion that ultimately resulted in the performing arts community coming together, under the ‘Banjir’ banner, and staging a fundraiser at the newly renovated Old Town Hall (Panggung Bandaraya). Added to that she also made it her mission to speak to some corporate citizens and was able to raise a considerable amount of money.
In the wake of the flood, we happened to be together and Kak Endon insisted that we continue with our work. She was adamant that we should not be disheartened. We should remember that at that time her personal health was in the balance; but she was not deterred; her unselfish attitude and care for others took precedence over whatever problems she was facing. It was also at that time that we had discovered what is now The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. Kak Endon was also aware of its existence and of our imminent meeting with Tan Sri Francis Yeoh. It was as though divine providence had stepped in and taken over. From that day on, Kak Endon became our Patron Saint and Tan Sri Francis, our guardian angel.
One of the most touching experiences we were fortunate to share with her was when she was still living in the DPM’s residence. We were having tea in the late afternoon. Also there was one of her doctors; she had not been feeling well, but to look at her you would never have guessed. She wanted to discuss, in particular, the plight of our veteran performing artists. On one hand, she shares our vision of nurturing the young – our children must be grounded in the arts through their schools and our education system must create a space for that. But on the other hand, she also had a profound respect for people who had paved the way for us and had devoted their lives to promoting the arts. Her concern was that those who were not in a position to help themselves should not be forgotten. She insisted that they should be recognised and celebrated. We talked about setting up an NGO, supporting them with money and manpower, bringing them back to the fold and giving them opportunities to create again. Sometimes the older ones cannot find the ways and means of helping themselves in this day and age as we the younger generation move along with our own ideas for the arts. Kak Endon wants to remind us of our responsibilities.
Kak Endon’s departure is not only a great personal loss to many of us; her loss to the performing arts and the country is immeasurable. But her memory remains; she will always be our ‘first lady’. May she rest in peace.
First Published: 10.11.2005 on Kakiseni