By Jan & Peter Pula
We remember Beni as a special friend. Our friendship with Beni (and Soffie) spanned over three decades and thousands of miles. We consider ourselves fortunate to have been part of his vast circle of friends.
When I (Jan) think of Beni, I think of the Chinese Horoscope. At a social gathering in Soroako, Beni and I discovered we were both born under the sign of The Dog. Years later (February 15,1982), Beni mailed to me – The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes by Theodora Lau, which I still have to this day. Of the Dog personality Lau comments, ”Their warmth, empathy and genuine interest in others win them many close friendships”. Inside the book is the note (to Peter) that Beni included with his gift. It read…
Attached is a book, which I acquired yesterday at Singapore Airport on my way back from a business trip in Manila. I am sure it would intrigue Janice to the oriental astrology – tell her, it is from a dog to a dog.
Fact or folklore? …. Intrigued I was and still am. To this day everyone in the family knows their Chinese horoscope personality. We have two monkeys, a horse, two boars, a rabbit, a dragon and another dog amongst us.
Two short stories to share, that are examples of Beni’s expansive knowledge on a variety of subjects, his generosity and his genuine interest in other people.
Peter recalls talking with Beni (1970s) about the flora and fauna of Sulawesi. He was fascinated listening to Beni describe some of the island’s unique plants and animals, especially of those in a “secret place”, that was known to very few people. Here there were plants and animals that had not yet been “”discovered” or catalogued.
More recently in 2011 at a Soroako Reunion, at the Ahmads’ home in Mississauga, Ontario, Peter remembers reminiscing with Beni about some memorable times in Soroako. At one point Peter mentioned his interest in the sailing ships on which the Bajo people used to live. A few months later Peter received, in the mail from Beni, a beautifully bound book on the sailing ships of Indonesia.
The constant values that graced Beni’s life were unfailing courtesy towards others, an unwavering commitment to the highest principles and a willingness to see only the best in people. The word friend is a small word but it has so much meaning. To have been blessed with a friend like Beni was indeed a gift.