Shaniz Mobarak: Growing up in a loving family, having the parents that I have and being brought up with a whole lot of love to go around, I would say it was filled with incredible adventures. Both Mummy and Daddy, who are our true blessings have been with my sister Shakira and I very step of the way, teaching and guiding us through every moment in our lives.
Papi loved the outdoors, he always had a way of making an ordinary day an exciting one. So, it was only natural that we were always outside with him exploring every moment possible.
He always had a way of explaining and letting me try something new. He would first show me the basics, and then let me try and venture on my own. Once I had got the hang of it, he would teach me techniques on how to improve, and in a way that I could make it my own.
He always supported what I did and was a step away to catch me when I fell, like in my first bicycle ride. I remembered it was late in the evening, Papi had just got back from work and he had bought me my first bicycle with training wheels. I was so excited I insisted on trying it out. He showed where sit, where to put my feet and how to use the brakes. He then got me on it, held my seat and gave me a light push to start off.
After few paddles, he let go and I was on my way. Excitedly I pedalled so fast that I got to the end of the street, and instead of braking as I should have, I turned the handle fast round the corner, and went crashing down. Papi ran to me, picked me up, wiped my knee, and asked if I was okay. I was okay but I was crying. Then he calmed me down and explained what I did that caused the fall.
As a kid, I always had fond memories of when I would sit with Papi and we would have our conversations about anything and everything. This would happen throughout my childhood. He would always have his way of explaining how the world operates and how I should look at life more positively.
Papi and I always had similar moments that we could relate to. When I was two, I scared my grandparents to death. One morning when mum and papi were at work and my grandfather had to make a run to the market, I decided I would follow him. So I put on my shoe on my own, and followed him without telling my amma (grandmother). My appa (gandfather) was ahead of me, I assumed he knew I was tagging along behind. Amma assumed I was playing outside, and had not realised I was following my appa as he walked and turned right to head to the main road,
I was distracted by something and had turned left. Naturally I assumed he was ahead of me and kept on walking without fear. Amma, at that point had realised I was nowhere to be found and kept calling out for me, making the neighbours come out to ask what had happened.
The uncle from next door, without hesitation got into his car, and went on to look for me. As I was walking, a lady saw me and stopped me and asked where I was going and why I was alone. “I said I wasn’t alone. My appa is in front and I am following him to the market.”
As I was talking to the aunty, the neighbour uncle has spotted me and was worried as I was talking to a stranger. He stopped and called out and said: “Your amma is worried sick, where were you off to?” I said again, “I was following appa (grandpa) to the market.” He said, “appa has gone another way, let’s go home.”
The lady was suspicious and hesitant to trust my uncle, so she followed as uncle took me back. Amma and appa did not tell my parents till that evening, as they were shaken by it. But at the end, I found out that papi had done the same when he was two years old. Like father like daughter.
One of my fond memories was being in Maybank Bangi headquarters, where the track was our biggest playground. We loved it.
I especially loved the holidays, when Shakira and I would have our cousins (Kuhan & Kuilan) over. We were called the little mascots for the athletics team. Reason being is every morning like clockwork, we would get up and run out in our over-sized T-shirts that belonged to papi, to the track. We would lead the athletics team as we sang Negaraku before they started their morning training. In a single file we would stand proudly and tall in our over-sized jammies to sing the national anthem. After we were done, the athletes would start their workout and we would wander off playing, or attempting to train with the team.
One of my first attempts to hurdle was in Bangi as well. Papi exposed me to hurdles at a very young age. I would try the mini hurdle and also the regular sized hurdle (where it was placed down and tilt backwards in a triangle shaped) so it would be an easier height to clear for me. I had the best of times as it beat playing hopscotch.
Papi loved taking us to the pool as well. The same as teaching me how to ride a bicycle. At the beginning he got into the pool with Shak and I, teaching us the techniques of swimming.
How to swim, dive, float, sink, and do flips and even float. It didn’t take Shak and I long to catch up. After a while we were bored swimming in the shallow end. As we were rebels and little mischievous all the time, we were itching to swim at the deeper end of the pool. And so we did. Even the lifeguard couldn’t stop us. Because, even with Papi chilling by the pool, and reading his newspaper, he was always aware of where we were. So like gangsters we were the only kids swimming at the deep end.
Moving to Zoo View was one of the highlights of my childhood. Sister and I were the mini tomboys of our neighborhood. We lived on the hill, and right in front of our house was the jungle. Papi had spent time clearing a small part of the jungle for us to play. We would swing from the tree vines exactly like in the cartoon Tarzan. Papi will smoothen the ground as he had a set of golf clubs, and we would try to putt. We would have bonfires, roasting potatoes and have barbecues for every occasion.
Mummy and Papi ensured we had the full outdoor experience learning and exploring.
When I was 12 years old, after UPSR, mummy and papi had a serious discussion about my future. They asked me what I thought about joining Bukit Jalil Sports School. I hadn’t really thought about it.
“Papi, do you want me to give it a shot”? I asked him. I would need to qualify first, of course. And so we went for the open day trials. As it turned out, I qualified and so my journey started as an athlete.
Papi applied to be a coach in MSN, and we were the young troops of Bukit Jalil. Papi was in charge of the senior athletes at that point, as he was the national coach then. But after a year, he insisted on coaching the junior athletes, and so he started coaching my batch, and from then on my journey with Papi began as a coach and athlete.
For him, athletics wasn’t just about sports. For him it was about life and shaping one’s character and perception the many challenges that one will face. He would talk to us as a team, and at times individually. If I was having a bad day or was distracted, Papi could always sense it. He would always address it privately at the end of the session. He always cared for the well-being of his athletes, and would do all he could to help in any way possible.
During competition, Papi will ensure that he speaks to us reminding us of what we should do, our targets and techniques. He was always at the starting point to start his athletes off, and at the end of the race he would sit us down to explain what we did during the race, showing us how we could improve, and what we needed to focus on.
He always had time for us. He never favoured any of his athletes especially with me. When on track, I wasn’t his daughter, just one of his athletes. Papi taught me to believe in myself, to always fight for what I wanted and do what I loved. He taught me never to do something to impress others. He always told me to be strong, be the best version of myself, to always know my roots, be humble, and be kind to others.
The strongest memory of my childhood is filled with lessons that my father and mother bestowed upon me. Sometimes memories can take different versions when they related by different people in family gatherings.
A memory that belongs to me and has not been tainted by the different versions, was about me as a five-year-old girl, running into the waiting arms of my father when kindergarten ended. My dad was always at the gates of the school waiting for me. Not once was he ever late.
I remember our adventures to the Klang Gates Dam on Fridays or the weekends. Fortunately for me it was only a five-minute journey from my school. I remember walking along the gigantic water pipes. “Be careful” he would say to me, but never once did he discourage me from being adventurous. Passing by the kampung folks who were always happy and friendly, he would always greet them as if they were close friends. When we got to the fringe of the forest he would always let me lead the way. Can you imagine a five-year old happily marching through the forest with only one goal in mind, and that was to get to the river as soon as possible. As soon as we would reach the river, “splash” in I would go. I remember this one weekend our neighbour’s boys who were much older, followed us on our adventure to ‘the river. At five, you couldn’t comprehend fear the way you would when you were older. So when I climbed up a tree to jump into the river and said “your turn” to the boys, I couldn’t understand why they were afraid. He would never taunt the boys but always encouraged them.
Five years ago after my father passed away, I was feeling lost and disconnected to the life I had been living in the city. I was driving around while thinking about my father and found that I ended up at the parking spot near the river. I passed the water pipes that looked gigantic when I was five and I couldn’t believe how small it looked now. Slowly I drove past the kampung and arrived at the parking. As I made my way through the forest and to the river, all my memories as a child and my visits to the river came flowing back as easily as the river flows. I sat on a boulder that I used to jump off and just closed my eyes and took in the sounds of the river flowing, birds chirping, and crickets and cicada’s singing. I took in a deep breath and let the smell of nature fill my lungs as the wind caressed my skin and stoked my hair. I sat there and I relived the memories of my father.
My father had been grooming me to be courageous and to fully commit to any decisions I made and to always be aware of my surroundings. He had created such a strong bond between me and nature that I will always be grateful for.
He had always encouraged me to make my own decisions and constantly reminded me to be careful as I followed the path I had chosen. He encouraged me to be more, do more. He had taught me to never look down on others for their fears but instead help them to overcome them. He taught me to face my fears and I do that on a daily basis. Most of all, he taught me to love nature. To love Mother Nature and to respect Mother Nature.
“Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life,” he said to me once. Those words came floating through the trees, carried by the wind, I could almost hear him say it. Feeling renewed I left the Klang Gates Dam river knowing that my father had prepared me for my future. He had hidden important life lessons in every memory that I had of him. He had prepared me to go out, be adventurous and to always be kind and stay humble. To love and care for all. I will forever be grateful to have had a father who always encouraged me to be the best version of myself.
Papi devoted his time, love and passion to what he did. He would love being at the track, he was always the first and last to leave and never missed training unless he it there was a thunder storm,
Papi was a simple and humble man with no expectations, and everyone loved him and respect him. He was a loving family man. He lived a simple life. He appreciated everything that life had to offer, and never demanded for anything more. He was always to himself and never troubled anyone. We miss him dearly. We love you Papi.