Monday, 2 April 2012

Unity versus Unanimity

Over the next few days, I will be featuring "family stories" from a coffee table book on families that I contributed to.


Cos (as Mark would say), I can.

Also cos you can't buy this book in the shops, which I think is a pity. It was a really good one. My Mummy has my copy.

Take the highly gifted intellectual author and film-maker Jivan for instance. When he decided to settle in the Orang Asli village in Kampung Pertak, for its natural beauty, little did he know that he would be marrying a local girl, some 21 years younger.

“My friends expect me to do crazy things because I am unpredictable but it still came as a shock that I should marry Ana, who was not only an Orang Asli girl, but one so disadvantaged. Physically, she is a cripple and she was born with water in the head. In terms of compatibility, I would say it is less than zero,” he said with a laugh.

Yet, he has been married to Ana for 11 years and they have a 10-year old son, Crane, a quaint, affectionate, bird-like little boy. “I cannot explain rationally why I made a jump except to say that when I see a waterfall, I jump. I’ve always thought that modern industrial society doesn’t allow people to do anything heroic. Well, this was heroic.”

How does he reconcile the differences in mentality and intellect? “I have had many different women in my life who were more compatible with me intellectually, but somehow, none of these relationships lasted, none of my formulas worked. With her, I have someone who is loyal, who will stick with me through thick and thin. I value loyalty very highly.”

He describes the marriage as alchemical; a reconciliation of opposites in metaphorical terms.

“What keeps it going, I think, is that I have sworn eternal love to her. I never did that to anyone before,” he said with a smile.

He says that Ana accepts him as he is, without the expectations of a middle-class urbanite woman: “She doesn’t want a BMW, gold credit card or to have the child sent to an expat school. She has no social ambitions for her husband to be a Tan Sri.

“Our communication is simple and limited. Like, have you packed the garbage, I am going into town. Or have you bathed Crane?”

Being an intellectual, Jivan used to live in his head. With his wife and son, however, he is forced to relate through his heart: “I relate to them purely on the level of just loving them. It is very much a shift for me as I have spent most of my life valuing the intellect.”

He added that they opened up an entirely new side to him: “I am now comfortable expressing my own emotions. When I’m happy, I’m happy. When I’m angry, I’m angry.”

He added that as disparate as the family seems to be, they are very close knit: “If I have to travel for work and don’t see her for a week, I miss her very much and can’t wait to get home. Unkind people would say that Ana is not very bright but she manages to do some very smart things like operate a DVD player or pack my telephone charger (without me asking) when I am going to travel. She constantly surprises me.”

Jivan pointed out that despite their differences, there is unity in the family. “There is a difference between unity and unanimity. Unanimity dictates that you should all think alike. But with unity, you are one, even if you have different perspectives.”

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