I don’t know Said’s exact birth date. But I distinctly remember meeting him for the first time in 1981. We were both working under the umbrella of a newspaper organization in Singapore.
Said strikes me as such a very cheerful person, so conversant in Mandarin that it amazes me how trilingual he is. And his world view is so broadly humanistic, his laughter so infectious. Of course, I had known that Said had suffered detention without trial for more than 16 years. His cheerfulness, a perpetual smile as he talks, is all the more unexpected.
Over the years, my husband and I had occasion to visit Said in Malaysia. Once we enjoyed a meal of salt-baked chicken, brought from Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur! We ate, we talked. Of socialist ideals and the ordinariness of family life.
I consider Said a renaissance man. It is not in disrespect that I address him as “Said”, without any honorific. He is just that very simple, no fuss sort of person, my ideal of a man who, instead of paying lip-service to racial and religious harmony, truly lives it.
May you rest in peace, dear Said.
Chan Wai Han