30 August 2009

Downplaying emotion/events

The Dusuns are really good at downplaying emotions/events. It is not considered good to say something as it really is. It's even worst if someone makes a mountain out of a molehill. There is a word, 'ronob' that means exaggerate, that connotes something negative in the society. A person who is 'koronob' or 'momuronob' (exaggerating) is scowled upon by the people.

I didn't really appreciate the value of downplaying emotions until the day my grandfather died. Being far away, my family members had to break the news over the phone. They did it as emotionless as they could using the standard idiom to explain death: "aa no nakatahan do toruol dau" (he couldn't bear his pain any longer), (except that my dad said it in Malay, the language we use to communicate to each other).

Giving the news in such a way, I realized later, is very considerate. The person hearing it has the time to slowly digest the information, before the big boulder that is grief hits. At least one is given the time to delay one's reaction. I didn't get into shock (perhaps partly because I knew he had been really ill for a few months), and at least I managed to get myself to a private place before the waves of emotions crushed me.

And so I really do appreciate their knack of downplaying emotions. It does make me wonder though, whether something is worst than it is made to sound each time I hear the news that a family member or a person I know is not well...


Rem said...

My dad passed away when I was in UK, two weeks before my viva. My eldest brother called me, and told me (with no emotion): "Nokoilo kono matu. Inggino poh di Yama. Napatai no kosuab."

This particular brother of mine, his Dusun is always crude. Very! :-) So, I wasn't really surprised when he used the word 'napatai'. I personally would use 'nokohibok' or I would just stop at 'inggino poh', which is more than understood.

But the thing is: he delivered the news in such a blatant way -- that I actually didn't able to react to it, with emotion. I just said, "Bah. Ok." In equally emotionless tone. It took another two months (when I was already back -- after my viva) -- before the news finally (really) hit me. I was so much into my PhD then -- that I didn't have any emotion left for other things. Including the death of my own father.

That is one thing I really (always, and still) hate about my PhD experience. I let the entire process to dehumanise me for a good 4-year. If anyone asks for my advice on how to deal with pressure (of doing PhD), I always say: "Yes, PhD is important. But it's only one small aspect of our lives. There are lots other things, which are either more or equally important. PhD should never dehumanise you. If anything, PhD should make you more human. So, enjoy every single day of your PhD moment!"

vpa73 said...

Oh, Rem...I'm so sorry to hear that. I wonder if your brother did it that way because that's the only way he knows how to do it. At least the absence of emotion helped you to deal with it.

I do admire you greatly for having managed to complete your phd successfully despite that unfortunate event.

As for me, I live day by day. My children/family are very important to me so I am actually guilty of giving more attention to them then my work. My phd is lagging behind and that is not something favourable to many. But then again it depends on perspective- as you say, it is only a small aspect of our lives. I'd like to be able to say one day that in the process, I did not neglect my children...:-) (oh yeah, some will say this is cheap consolation but that's how it is for me)