by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz. First published in The Star 28 December 2012

THIS year has seen a ridiculous number of weddings. Especially in the second half, friends and relatives seem to have decided to voluntarily forego a measure of individual freedom at a rate of about one a week (which is rather inconsiderate towards their still-single friends).

The final one of the year was for a couple undoubtedly perfect for each other, and what a spectacle it was.

The akad nikah in Kuala Kangsar saw the fulfilment of enduring Malay traditions by resplendently dressed protagonists acting in perfect synchronicity (only the principal religious officer made a mistake, to everyone’s amusement).

The visual feast was balanced by heartfelt humour accompanied by celebratory (and celebrity) musical interludes and of course a fabulous banquet, accommodated in that royal town’s most magnificent venue.

Their reception a week later in KL repeated much of the splendour – and the now-compulsory video about the couple’s childhoods and how they met was the best that I have seen.

Sandwiched in between these two occasions was the wedding of another cousin – the third of six siblings to get married in the past three years. The mother has become quite a seasoned expert at organising these functions and the whole family leads in what becomes an evening of tearfully happy recollections and lots of music – led this time by Rod Stewart, in person!

The problem with attending these weddings is that older relatives invariably ask when it is going to be my turn.

I have found that one effective answer is “tomorrow”, in a deadpan way. Past the sarcasm, however, there will be all sorts of offers to arrange meetings (which almost never materialise, probably for the better).

However, having seen my friends go through so much stress to produce such perfect occasions, I have been doubly intimidated into postponing any thought of a wedding for myself until the memories of these glorious celebrations have faded somewhat!

One aspect that I particularly enjoy at some of these weddings is how, whether because of protocol or the hosts’ sense of humour, political enemies end up sitting together.

On a number of occasions one can read about two individuals insulting each other in the newspapers only to see them smile at each other at the dinner table that very evening; unfortunately not all true feelings can be successfully concealed.

I once sat in between two such feuding guests, but thankfully standards of Malay decorum survived intact so that both recognised the greater priority of celebrating the happy occasion at hand rather than aggrandising their own egos.

There was an age when political enemies often could be and genuinely were friends – or at least, cordial to one another.

The late Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik was one gentleman who exemplified this. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him, it’s clear from the cross-political testimonials that he was courageous in speaking his mind (including in meetings of the Cabinet in which he served) and respectful towards those on the other side.

Such traits are rare amongst politicians today, and when the next generation of politicians begins to perish it might be better for journalists to avoid asking their political opponents what they thought of the deceased, much of it could be unprintable.

There was a time too when newspapers could accommodate political opponents within the same pages.

The Star definitely lived up to its name, with first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman writing alongside the leader of the Opposition Tan Sri Dr Tan Chee Khoon for years.

I hope one day soon the same level of accommodation can once again pervade all our media outlets.

Nevertheless, it has been a privilege for me to be writing in this newspaper over the past 15 months.

I have also enjoyed sharing the space with civil society commentators and friends such as Karim Raslan, Dr Azmi Sharom, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, Dina Zaman, Jojo Struys and Ben Ibrahim.

Since my column started I have had many readers asking what the title of the column really means. Of course at a basic level it is a metaphor for going beyond borders to discuss and provoke new issues or viewpoints.

However, many people from Negri Sembilan also realised the historical reference to Minangkabau: to merantau (roam) beyond Pagar Ruyong (the capital of our ancestral in Sumatra; pagar on its own means fence).

I hope I have succeeded in some small way to portray this. As it is in our nature to migrate, the time has now come for me to roam beyond this particular fence.

I wish everyone success in the New Year!

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Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz is president of IDEAS.

Image credit: Suprizal Tanjung

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