Nuances of ‘hati’

Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Learning Curve: Perspective
New Sunday Times - 9-11-2014

GIVEN current events, a I Want to Touch a Heart campaign is most appropriate and timely.

Let me stress that the word “heart” is symbolic, in case someone cuts open someone’s chest to literally touch a heart, rendering useless the aim to bridge closer understanding and instil mutual respect.

Yet the “heart” is not necessarily the anatomical heart. It is better understood in Bahasa Malaysia as hati — but it is not the liver either! It is best explained by the many proverbial hatikeras hati, busuk hati, hati batu, buta hati and the like with a negative connotation. These are the hearts that need to be touched so that they can be softened (lembut hati), enlightened (celik hati) or cleansed (terang hati), among others.

Touching a heart can create a sense of satisfaction (puas hati) or cause one to be upset or take umbrage(berkecil hati) when an expected response is not forthcoming. One can also offend (menyakit hati).

In touching a heart, one must mindful of the way to generate a favourable response through the gestures of mengambil hati, namely by observing proper decorum (adab) and etiquette.

Done the right way, it engenders the much needed understanding when all doubts and prejudices vanish.

This is usually accomplished by meluahkan hati, literally spilling the gut (which refers to hati too).

This leads us to the term berhati perut — a combination of liver and gut, anatomically-speaking. The phrase tidak berhati perut conveys a negative expression of being abrasive, abrupt and insensitive. This can cause sulking (jauh hati). Jatuh hati, on the other hand, is quite the opposite where one gets overwhelmed to the extent that one falls for someone.

More complex still is hati budi or hati nurani — both conveying even deeper feelings, within the realm of sincerity and magnanimity, usually expressing the positive. Berhati budi is being sincere and magnanimous.

It is commonly associated with bermurah hati — a genuine act of generosity.

The word budi is innately Malay in its nuances and has no equivalent in the English language.

The word nurani falls into the same category.

All these point to the fact that touching hearts is not difficult if it is well-intended, not only in gestures (budi pekerti) or voicing concerns in the most appropriate way (budi bahasa).

As such, the outcome is just, balanced and fair by projecting budi bicara.

In short, touching hearts is neither limited to the “physical” nor about any form of measures such as performance indicators.

Bermurah hati has no ringgit sign attached to it.

A truly generous person does not only give his material wealth willingly but also his spiritual self without expecting anything in return.

Islam advocates the practice of “giving” with humility in a way that the left hand is not aware what the right hand gives.

I Want to Touch a Heart campaign is for all times. It needs no booths or stalls, no publicity stunts because humility is such a funny trait — the moment you think you have it, it is lost.

There is no room for bragging about being superheroes or doing good.

This campaign covers all including animals because they can be more reliable “friends” — so too the other creations that we share the planet with. In fact, it includes keeping Earth intact.

It is easier said than done, we need to exercise caution — berhati-hati — rather than take things for granted as the Malay proverb rambut sama hitam, hati lain-lain cautions.

Touch a heart everyday, it is just a heartbeat away!