More Like His Old Man By The Day

There were thousands of humans swarming the area before the Dewan Tunku Canseler in Universiti Malaya today. I swear if I didn’t know there were individual consciousness behind the motile meatbags I’d say they were subject to nothing more than Brownian Motion.

And so it came to pass that it was Ain’s sister Emma’s graduation convocation today at UM, or commencement, as some of you might call it.

Ain, Irfan and I were at the Dataran Canseleri during the afternoon waiting for Emma and my in-laws to be let out of the Dewan Tunku Canseler, the university’s main hall, so we could take pictures, just like the several hundred or so other families that were there today.

At this point, the number of people swarming the area was phenomenal. Also because of that the noise level of the crowd was ear splitting. Irfan was running around, weaving in and out of the crowd, but keeping a constant distance from a central point for his activities, which was a recently planted tree sprouting from an opening in the paved ground.

Suddenly graduates and their parents (or whomever that they invited into the hall) flooded out of the Dewan Tunku Canseler. I would guess that the number of people doubled. Unfortunately, the noise level must have increased tenfold.

I don’t remember when and how, but I realized that Irfan was hugging my leg. I took him in my arms while the family did its thing, trying get everyone together at a single location and taking photographs. I noticed that Irfan was silent and unmoving, his chin on my shoulder. Which meant I couldn’t see his face. Intelligence data from Ain indicated that he was wide awake.

Why was he so quiet?

So half an hour later, I got the key to the in-laws’ rooms at Rumah Universiti and carried Irfan there, pushing through the crowd, crossing the street and treading up the steep hill towards the hotel. Once Irfan was secure on the comfortable bed with the TV running, he seemed to relax better.

I asked him (translated from Malay), “There were lots of people today, weren’t there?”

Irfan turned his big, bright eyes on me and told me, “I was scared.”

What? I asked myself and did a double take simultaneously. He wasn’t usually this forthcoming about being scared.

“You were scared because of the crowd?”

“I was scared. Lots of people.”

It hit me immediately. Irfan is behaving exactly as I did at his age. Heck, I still am disconcerted by large crowds, only nowadays I’ve learnt to tolerate it.

I leaned closer and asked him half-jokingly, “There were too much people weren’t there?”

“Too much, yes,” Irfan said. “I was scared.”

I kissed him on his forehead. And he proceeded to watch the TV.

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Khairul Hisham J. is a tabletop RPG artist, writer, proofreader, translator, teacher, grad student and learner-in-general.

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