Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tales from the Sea: How Deep is Your Love

Rustam came from a small kampung in the East Coast of Malaysia and his success in getting the scholarship to further his studies in UK was a majestic achievement for the family. He was the calm and most pious among us and kept way from our normal night activities of clubbing and pubs hopping. Normally he will be the one reminding us about prayer and became the Imam. For the first few years in Liverpool and onboard ship he became a vegetarian to avoid the non halal food. I could not help wondering how he is going to cope with the seafaring life where most of the time he will be the only Muslim onboard. I guess his strong faith and inner strength will be the key assets to pull him through.

On his first trip to Far East, Rustam ship called at Cagayan De Oro, Mindanao. The ship was scheduled to stay three days in port loading canned pineapples. The people here were very poor but friendly and happy to see foreigners. After finishing his cargo watch Rustam was given a shore leave along with two other cadets to explore the Cagayan De Oro City. Shore leave has always been the highlight for any port call, its gave the crew the opportunity for sight seeing, shopping and unwinding their stress in whatever way they seemed fit. As Rustam and friends were exploring the city they met with a group of high school girls near the city park. As usual when youngsters met they smiled and giggles at each other and before long became friends. The girls became their tourist guide showing them the city and historic places. Rustam was particularly close with one of the girls named Maria, a beautiful and sweet girl. They parted before sunset and promised to meet again tomorrow afternoon after school. The few days in port gave Rustam and Maria the opportunity to know each other better. Maria was all tears when the ship finally left the port for Singapore while Rustam promised that he will never forget her.

Rustam wrote to Maria from every port and they became very close and attached with each other despite the distance and ocean that separated them apart. At times we shared his happiness when he received parcel from Maria with pages of perfumed letter and tapes of her voice for his ears only. She must be his first love and had become a very important part of his life. In fact after high school Maria wanted to start working to help her family instead of furthering her studies in college. She came from a poor family and could not afford the college fee but Rustam insisted that she pursue her studies and he will support her financially. Without fail every month he sent allotments to Maria to support her studies. This went on for about three years and Maria finally graduated. Their bond and love became stronger then ever and they agreed to get married after getting their family consent. Maria family had no problem to consent their marriage but Rustam family just could not accept it. As the eldest son of the family they expected him to marry a fellow Malay and Muslim. They just could not understand the bond that existed between Rustam and Maria. Being an obedient son Rustam did not want to go against his family and for that he suffered terribly.

He changed drastically from his previous self. He started drinking and enjoyed himself with nightlife that he formally avoided. He became a heavy drinker and this really broke our hearts to see one of our friends melted this way. The worst happened when he decided to marry an English girl named Jane. They got married in UK without informing his family. His marriage with Jane could not bring him back to the path of goodness because she was also a heavy drinker and happy go lucky type. His family was full of sorrow and sadness when they finally knew what has happened to him. They even regretted for not allowing him to marry Maria, but it was all too late. Rustam has two children out his marriage with Jane – Rustam Jr and Rose. He finally decided to work ashore in Malaysia and began to correct his mistakes and lifestyle. He tried very hard to change Jane to be a good wife and Muslim, but then she just could not blend herself with the new environment. His family after realizing their earlier mistakes made all effort to help Jane. However their marriage lasted only for a few years because Jane just could not changed her lifestyle to suit the Malaysian environment. Their differences became further apart and finally Rustam divorced Jane.

He started to pick up the pieces again. He began to give his full devotion to his children and work. By and by his life became more stable with the help from his parents and friends. They helped him to bring up his two children in a proper Muslim way and supported him to come back to his true self. It took a few years for him to finally settle down and married a Malay girl of his choice. They now have three beautiful children.

Like a ship on a voyage, Rustam life took a beating from a heavy storms, but thank God he survived and reached the save port.