A Lesson From A Tree

I stood by my herb bed and looked up. The moringa tree that I’ve moved there two years ago was now more than twice my height, a testament to the length of time I had neglected my garden. What used to be a row of chili, eggplants, lemon grass and various smaller herbs was now a thick mass of ‘kadok’ and ‘belalai gajah’. Lemon grass leaves both dead and alive were tumbling everywhere like a wild mess of tangled hair. Amongst them were vines, which I do not recognise, climbing whatever they could grasp and pulling them down with their weight.

And of course, there was the moringa tree, towering over the whole place like a misplaced giant among dwarves. The thick and sturdy trunk stretched up into the sky to where I couldn’t reach if I wanted to fetch some of its leaves. Moringas are not hard to care for once they’ve gotten themselves securely rooted. They could withstand the lack of water when I forget to give them their drink so unlike many of the other plants that did not survive my absence, my moringas persevered.

In the past, I would trim down my trees at least once a year to allow for an easier harvest and to avoid having its roots digging in too deep so I could easily move them around. However, with my exams taking place last year and my months-long eczema breakout, my garden was slowly being transformed into a mini forest and as the number of days grow, so did the difficulty of the restoration project. And instead of taking the sensible and rational route of early intervention, I let the tides of sorrow crept onto me.

One of my biggest frustrations is how passionately I launch myself into things that I truly love and yet in the end, they somehow die away into nothingness. Some of them happen because of chances and circumstances but many, many more are lost by my own hands, either by neglect, fear, frustration or lethargy. Often times I find myself letting my own bitterness contaminate the sweet taste of pure fervor, and the satisfying scent that accompanies the exhaustion after a day’s work had soured into a musty odour of fatigue. Little by little, I lost sight of the sparkles that comes with tiny victories and saw only the mountains I have yet to climb–and I couldn’t find it within me to take another step.

However, every now and then my zeal would return and at a whim, I would pack my backpack and step back out into the blizzard with the intense wish to gain back all that I have lost. The medals in my trophy cabinet back at home assured me that I have done it before and I could do it again–but the assurance last only for a moment. Fixing a mistake is often harder than starting anew and while you may lose the height of your skills, the memories of them stay, mocking you in your face. It doesn’t take long for me to doubt everything that I do and sometimes everything that I am; because if this present me is nothing like the person I was–then who am I?

But for now, I pushed all of those thoughts from my head and I had one clear objective. This tree is too big for my herb bed and I am going to move it to a more suitable home,  some place where it would be given all the opportunity to grow and bring us the first of the much loved drumstick fruit. I sawed the tree down to a manageable height and kept the leaves for my mother. I pulled the mess of ‘kadok’ and ‘belalai gajah’ for our ‘ulam’ until there is nothing on the ground but the trunk of the tree and the roots beneath. And with a rusty trowel in one hand, I thrusted it into the Earth and started digging.

As it is my habit when I work in the garden, I began talking to the plant, apologising for my neglect and telling it that I am trying to get back into the swing. I told it about how the last time I felt I couldn’t do something turned out okay in the end and although I don’t really feel it, I think it’s a sign that I need to pick myself up and move on. I thanked it for waiting for me even though I don’t deserve it. The tree never said much but it lets me talk nevertheless.

The day was not hot. The sun hid behind clouds and our mango tree provided me a lovely shade from the dimmed sun rays. Nonetheless, my lack of physical activities in the recent months had started to make itself known. Although the moisture within the soil couldn’t be more perfect (not too dry and not too wet), I started to feel tired after going past half a foot down. It didn’t help that the deeper I go, the harder it was to navigate through the root and avoid the sharp edges of the sides of the bed which was covered in tiny stones. So I grasped the trunk tightly in my arms and gave it a gentle but strong tug. It didn’t give.

Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy. I know that, I whispered, as I continued to dig. Say what I want about my own inner conflict, I made the decision to leave my garden and I have to make amends.

But, my dearest, my sweet, could you please help me out a bit?

I paused to look up at its leaves. The little green circles danced prettily as the wind blew, breaking its perfect mosaic for but a few moments. No, I gulped and pressed on. No, the tree had done more than I had done. It too had its struggle when the ground was dry and the moths fly by. I wasn’t the only lonely one. 

Relationships go both ways, do they not? But love, would you please, please lend me a bit of a hand?

The trunk did not answer.

Ah, you are just as stone hearted as I. Then so be it.

My hands are now red and a few of the cracks on my fingers which were about to heal had burst back open as they pressed on the hard edge of my trowel. The small bits of concrete jutting out from the inside of the bed are scratching me every other minute and the roots showed now signs of tapering off. My back was aching and I couldn’t find a comfortable position. I had forgotten how to whisper, or the fact that I have neighbours, and they could probably hear me having a full blown one-sided argument with a tree.

My child, the reason why I couldn’t go out was because of my eczema. Well, partly anyway. And if you don’t make way any time soon, I’m going to hurt it and that could cause another outbreak. Yes, patience, I know. I am trying to be patient but patience would not stop my hand from breaking. Do you want me to just saw your roots off?

The trunk stared me down.

Fine. Fine. Fine. You were patient, I will be patient too.

I groaned and went back in with the thinnest of patience. My hand was now shaking with a mix of exhaustion and frustration. I was covered in soil from head to toe and I no longer cared about keeping my hand safe. I stabbed the trowel into the ground again and again and again and the dirt that got into the cracks of my skin were now practically cemented with sweat and bits of blood. I was now a foot in from when I started. I placed my hand between the two main roots and tugged with all my might but I couldn’t move it even a bit. And I was starting to feel like a fool for even trying.

Please, I am trying to be better. I want to be better, I really do but it’s already so hard. Just the idea of it all seems so insurmountable. If I can’t even pull you out, my sweet, what can I do?

The trunk stayed quiet.

I was now desperate. I had done nothing today other than digging this hole and I have nothing to show for it. The sun would be setting soon and the roots showed no sign of thinning. I looked around at my garden in its horrendous state and asked myself if I have anything to show for all that I have done in my life. I just wanted to stop.

Then I paused and looked back at the tree. Something clicked at the back of my head and I eyed it tentatively.

Are you… are you trying to teach me a lesson on perseverance?

I waited for an answer which did not come. I turned to the pile of unearthed soil and back into the hole in the bed. The way I see it, I only have three choices. I could just leave the whole thing be and probably let the tree die now that I’ve upset it so much. I could push all the Earth back in but that would only get me back to where I started.

Or of course, I could keep going. I know that somehow, in the end, I would get to tip of the roots. Even if I have to use a stone as a makeshift shovel, I could theoretically get it done eventually. The tricky circumstances, the need for time and my own doubts are obstacles I need to overcome all my life, whatever the struggle. Whether the problem is restarting a garden, finishing a book draft or just pulling out a tree, I still have to face problems from within and without, and I have to learn to wait.

Okay. Well, I guess I’ll take it then.

With that I went back in, this time quietly, as I reflected on the things that I already know deep inside and even discussed about in my head but which are now being repeated to me. I thought of the many tiny knolls I succeeded to climb because I went on despite the obstacles. Silat routines, NaNoWriMo challenges, artworks, school achievements and public presentations. Even little things that I am proud to have done but never shared because they seem so insignificantly small. But I did them.

And so with the hole nearly two feet deep, I hugged the trunk of the tree, took a deep breath and gave it a sharp tug. Finally it gave way and I had in my hand another medal to add to my cabinet. I grinned at it and thought I could feel it grinning back.

Was my tree really teaching me a lesson on perseverance? You tell me.

 

My Grandfather, My Confidant

His ‘kain pelikat’ was soaked with my tears as I clung to his knees and wept. The hour had passed with me sharing with him all my woes. I told him about the silliest, insignificant word someone had called me that felt unjust. I talked about the people I love with all of my heart, yet couldn’t connect with. I cried for all that I yearn for, all just within my grasp but which were denied. I expressed my fear at the unknown, donning the mask of an examiner, eyes never leaving, ready to pounce at every mistake.

As I finally threw out all coherency and lost all sense of language but for the sobs that burst out of my chest, he placed his hand on my shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze.

“Don’t worry, you’ll find your cat again. She isn’t lost.”

And in spite of all of my anguish and anxiety, I laughed. I looked up and saw him smiling at me, pleased to see that he made me feel better.

He was my grandfather. A nonagenarian who didn’t remember that he had ever married or had children, most of the time. A man who woke up at a different time period each day, with a slightly different view on life. A man who would delightfully share with you tales of his youth, which he remembered in great detail, if you ask the right questions. A man who would listen to you empathically whenever you have a weight you need to lift off your chest; and even though he didn’t always understand all that you shared, he would try to cheer you up and give you words of advice and encouragement.

For a few years, my father had encouraged me to write about my experience caring for my grandfather, in hopes that it would help others who also have someone dear to care for. He wanted me to share how I felt and the struggles I had to face so others won’t feel like they were alone in this. And no matter how much I tried to convince him that this wasn’t a chore for me, he would insist on thanking me for my ‘sacrifice’.

I initially didn’t want to write about this, which is why it has taken me years to finally put this together. The days I spent with my grandfather and what I shared with him was something very close and personal to me, something I feel irrationally possessive about.

Because it had never been a sacrifice — it was one of the most fulfilling years of the latter half of my life. I felt loved, cherished and richer than I had been for so many years.

I cannot honestly say that every day was a walk in the park. There were days when he insisted that he wasn’t hungry and I had to wreck my brain in trying to find something which would coax his appetite. There were nights when I found him with the wardrobe door wide opened and all of his clothes piled high on his bed. He was fit for his age but he had accidents — he once fell asleep while having tea and fell to the floor — so I always had to keep a sharp eye. We even had days when he woke up and was only able to converse in Arabic (which my very rusty elementary Arabic couldn’t keep up with) and another in German. And I remember a day when he insisted that he had to leave the house because he needed to see a friend even though it was past midnight.

But at the same time, I enjoyed whipping up crazy ideas to make his food appealing to his eye. I was entertained when he suddenly went to my brother late at night and spent an hour teaching him the correct way to march. When we left the house, I liked to show him odd and fascinating things I could see that others may find silly. I shared the funny videos I found on the internet that I thought he would enjoy and we watched them together. I even spoke Trengganuspeak with him, something that I had been too anxious to try out with anyone else.

But the thing I never told my father was that, beyond all that, my grandfather was the one person I could share all of what I hid from the rest of the world without the fear of disappointment or prejudice. He was my source of comfort when the nights felt so dark and cold. He was my confidant and my friend; never expecting more of me than what I feel I could shoulder and always offering me his strength when I feel too tired to stand. Caring for someone like him had given me such a sense of purpose, acceptance, appreciation and validation that I hadn’t found elsewhere.

At no time had the days I spent with him felt like a sacrifice more than it was a gift.

I don’t know who I was to him, he only referred to me as ‘ganda-ganda kita’ (one of us), but to me, he had a life worthy to be painted in a series of books. He was a man who had walked on the Earth before me and tried his hands at something grand and amazing and was somewhat disappointed with the response he received. He was someone who had so much love in him that it had broke him several times over. He was one of the people I had to thank for the life I have and for being the person that I am.

He was the one person I spilled all of my heart to ever since my brother was old enough to understand the weight of the words I say. He was my sanctuary from scrutinising eyes and the solace that soothes my turbulence. He was the best of my friends and he was my dear, old grandfather.

Reclaiming My Ship

(You can play the video if you prefer to listen to this post instead)

In my ‘writing’ years when I devoted myself to the art of telling stories and weaving words, I enjoyed participating in writing prompts and exercises that I find on the web. One that I remember fondly was Plinky, which acted as a starter to kickstart your writing gear. All they did was give you a question; how you wish to address it or create your prose is all up to you. It used to be a feature offered here on WordPress. However, I used mine separately, as back then, my blog was where I wrote my writing assignments and I wasn’t sure if the journal-style writing I wrote there was up to my parent’s passing grade.

Similarly, I enjoy almost all of the composition papers I had to sit through recently on both my A-Level and SPM exams. Stripped from all of their disguises and the pressure of knowing that whatever your ink happens to spew at that moment shall determine your future career, they are in fact, writing prompts — with an added time limit and a wandering invigilator who sometimes glance over your work and remind you that you haven’t written your identification number at the top of the page.

Whenever I do those exercises, I try to detach myself from reality. I try to forget that this is going to make or break my future. The path of my pen, the shape of my ink and the message I craft were mine and my own. Even though I had technicalities to mind, formats to memorise and the examiners to please, I was an illusionist on stage, bending the limitations of senses to my will.

I may not be the best performer but I was my own and come what may, I have an audience waiting. I shall run my own show.

Naturally, when I opened my inbox today and received a message from the Australian Writer’s Centre asking me to share a one word theme I am choosing for the year 2020, my brain launched into a state of excitement, generating vague thoughts and ideas until a shape began to form. I lunged at it, peered at it and watched it grow into a word, a command, a statement: Reclaim.

Reclaim. The past decade had been like a tumultuous storm and waves of all sizes had crashed into my vessel. On the peak of crests, I had grown and matured, standing tall above the ocean and reading the curls of every wave as I do the names of every star. In the deepest of troughs, I had withered in fear as the sea, that I have loved as my home, stretched its maw and threatened to swallow me whole. For the most part, I had watched passively from the bridge with my compass long gone, glancing at the stars only when the whim strikes me. But this year, I want to try something I had been afraid of doing; to hold the wheel and reclaim my ship.

I am not delusional enough to think that the waves would stop crashing just because I tell them to stop. I am aware that shouting my resolution to the sky to be carried by wind is to tempt untethered wild emotions both from me and others around. I also know that I will have days when the storm seems everlasting and all I could think of is the deep set fear that haunts my nights and tortures my days.

But they will be my challenge, my journey, my adventure.

I am the captain of this ship and it is my hand that should steer it.

Grammar Discourse

The other day, I was talking with my sister when she said “it had shrunk”.

“Shrunken,” I corrected.

She paused and gave me a puzzled look. “No, it’s ‘shrunk’.”

Had shrunk. Past perfect.”

“But… ‘shrunk’ is the past perfect. The simple past of shrink is ‘shrank’.”

My mind went blank with confusion. When looking for the correct verb according to its proper tense, I usually refer to what sounds right to me and almost always it has served me perfectly well. However, now that my sister had mentioned it, my inner tenses directory did indeed agree with my sister. Shrink, shrank and shrunk.

“But why is the movie titled “Honey, I shrunk the kids?”

This little intermission in our small talk lead to a Google search that brought us to a page that listed the “10 grammatically incorrect movie titles” which indeed listed the movie “Honey, I shrunk the kids” as one of them and the discourse was settled – ‘shrunk’ is the past perfect tense of shrink. Had I not interjected and attempted to correct my sister’s perfectly correct tenses, I would probably still be using shrunken and be none the wiser.

In our casual conversations, everyone in my family is under constant grammar (and at times, pronunciation) scrutiny. We’re all acting as unsolicited grammar polices which, at times, can be incredibly frustrating when you have a good flow in your dramatic retelling of the previous day’s events and you are interrupted by “he has, not ‘have’.”

On the flip side, however, this attitude had been ingrained in our familial culture for so long that such corrections are, for the most part, taken without a negative perception or ill feelings which has created an environment that promotes and encourage constant improvement in our use of the language. I remember being constantly corrected for my tenses as a young child, doing the same to my siblings and now even have them correcting my mistakes. Speaking personally from my point of view, I correct other’s mistakes because I want my own mistakes to be corrected as I don’t know what I don’t know.

This is why I feel really strongly about correcting someone’s grammar whenever I catch someone using an incorrect term.

At the same time, I am fully aware that grammar policing is generally frowned upon as a ‘prescriptivist’ approach towards language by linguistic aficionados while the rest of the society often view it as being rude. Thus, it bothers me when I go to various places and notice signs which are misspelled or are grammatically incorrect and I have no acceptable way of letting the owners know and giving them a corrected alternative. If the place has a suggestion box lying around, I could simply write a note and hope that it would be taken seriously by the person who is going through the forms and that they would act according to the manager’s wishes.

I am not strictly a prescriptivist when it comes to my approach to language (I might write on my approach to language someday) but I do know that there are many people who are eager and willing to improve their proficiency but are either not given the chance to, or are simply afraid of being perceived as a bad speaker of the language. I myself might feel a little uncomfortable if a stranger decides to correct my grammar simply because I am aware that in our society today, such acts are often considered as distasteful and I could never tell if it was meant as an honest correction or a thinly veiled insult.

But as strongly as I feel about having the capability to use good the ‘standard’ version of a language, I don’t feel the need to force it down throats that does not wish to swallow it. I am sure that some people are perfectly contented with speaking a language at a basic comprehendible level even if they only use a single verb for all of the tenses. If it isn’t detrimental to their own chosen paths, that’s perfectly fine with me. It’s just unfortunate that those who are struggling to improve their Standard English proficiency are not able to get easier access to as simple a help as a gentle correction or even a lengthy discussion on why a word is used in a certain way.

I believe that if we wish to improve our language proficiency as a group, be it a community or a larger society, we should adopt a more receptive attitude towards corrections. However, it is just as important for those involved to not abuse this accepting nature by hiding behind disguises of superior grammar to throw insults and win petty arguments (as witnessed by anyone who is familiar with the comment section of YouTube videos or any posting on the internet in general). This attitude of mutual correction should be used as a means for growth and improvement and remarks should be made politely with the intention to help and not to scorn or belittle.

And don’t be ashamed to ask for corrections or guides either. If you have a disagreement the way my sister and I did, have a discussion and search for more information. At the end of the day, everyone would be learning something new about the convoluted system of English grammar – or any other language of your choice.

If we all work together to guide each other, it would not only help to improve our capability to use language in both writing and speech, it would also create an environment that promotes an open approach to learning and growth, where a curious thought is not dismissed by embarrassment but developed by discussion, research and voluntary study.

What A Waste!

I found this gem from my journal where I used to write down my thoughts and, from time to time, events which took place in literary nonfiction form. This particular writing is taken back from December 2010 when I was 15. As you could probably tell, I was very emotionally affected by the events in the story. Some of the dialogus are written in Malay as exactly as I could recall them when I wrote this down hours later. I have neither changed the formatting nor edited the writing so please forgive my teenage imperfections. 

“I can’t believe it – it’s a real wastage of papers and ink!” I thought, as I saw Pak Cik Amin tearing off our paper signs and crumple them, ready to be thrown away. I don’t know if I have the courage to tell him so but I do know another way of reducing this wastage. I sprinted down the hall and very carefully, I pulled the paper off the wall and stripped off the tape. I managed to pull out quite a lot but I’m not fast enough – I had to run.

And so I ran upstairs to ‘rescue’ more signs… and that was when the Mak Cik, who was the head of the catering, called for me. “Dik, ni ada banyak makanan tak habis ni. Kalau nak, mari pek. Kalau tidak, makcik masuk tong sampah je ni.” I was stunned. I mean, throw all the tasty, food! How can you do such thing when there are thousands of poor people out there who couldn’t eat and would grab all these even if they were from the bin! How can even one think of throwing!

“Tapi makcik sayanglah kalau buang,” I stammered. I briefly closed my eyes to recover from the shock I had. “Em, macam ni, saya pergi tanya orang nanti saya datang balik.”
“Ok,” she said, “ Kita orang ada plastic dengan bekas nak bungkus semua ni tapi getah kita orang tak de tau. Cepat sikit ya. Kita semua ni nak balik dah. Kalau lambat nak buang je ni.”
I nodded. “Makcik tunggu ya, nanti saya datang. Saya janji.”

I ran downstairs, two steps at a time, and leapt down at the bottom of the stairs, skipping the last five steps. I felt pairs of eyes burning at me, accusing me of misbehaving, but I believe that manners and the perception of others could be ignored at a time like this. I found my dad packing in the conference secretarial room. “Abah, makcik caterer nak buang makanan tak habis. Dia kata kalau nak, pergi pek sekarang. So nak buat macam mana.”

My dad stood up and thought for a while. In the end he said, “Pergi cari Pakcik Burhan, suruh dia pergi berkira,” and he continued with his packing. I can’t blame him for not bothering. As the head secretary of MUAFAKAT, he has loads of things to do.
“Mana Pakcik Burhan?”
“Tadi ada dekat atas. Pergi cari.”

I ran for the stairs. On the way, I passed by the conference hall and decided to peak in. Nobody was there except for the two reporters from Utusan Malaysia and the TV crew from TV ALHIJRAH. I ran back up, two steps at a time and sprinted into the dining hall. He’s nowhere to be seen, I ran across the whole area of the 2nd floor until I came back to where I started. Presently, I found Pak Cik Amin tearing down more signs. I shook my head; I can’t be bothered just yet. Instead, I walked over to him to ask him a question.

“Pakcik Amin.”

No answer.

I walked closer and tried again, this time slightly louder. “Em, Pakcik Amin.”

He turned around, “Ya?”

“Pakcik Amin ada nampak Pakcik Burhan tak?”

He straightened up and thought, his eyes wondering far away. “Tadi Pakcik Amin makan dengan dia dekat dewan makan.”

“Aiman dah tengok dah tapi tak de.”

He wrinkled his eyebrows, “Ya ke? Oh… mungkin ada dalam bilik.”

“Aiman dah cari tapi tak ada.”

“Dalam dewan?”

“Pun takde”

He frowned and looked down to the floor. Then, he suddenly smiled and said, “Takpe lah. Adalah tu Pakcik Burhan pergi mana mana tu.” He then turned and went back to his paper tearing.

My brother came running with a few more crumpled signs. “Ni Pakcik Amin,” he announced and proudly handed him his ‘assignment’. A thought suddenly struck me. “It might work,” I thought and chased after Ali as he ran back to pull off more. “Ali, jangan koyak, ni semua waste kalau koyak sebab kertas ni boleh guna untuk lain kali.” Ali paled slightly. He hadn’t thought of it. As a boy who is very much concerned about the environment, he thoroughly understood what it means to waste, even if he is only seven. “Tapi Pakcik Amin yang suruh,” he said as he cast a guilty glance to Pakcik Amin.

“Tahu, tapi Ali tahu kan Ali tak boleh buat macam ni. Ali try save yang mana Ali boleh,” I suggested to him.

“Tapi Ali nak buat macam mana?” he asked me. Knowing how smart my little brother is, I knew that he’ll think of something himself. “Ali fikirlah, Kaman ada benda lain nak save.”

I left him standing solemnly with the paper sign in his hand. I went past the dining hall and the lady called for me again. “Cepat, dik. Kita nak balik dah ni!” I was already almost in tears. “Kejab, sekejab, please tunggu sekejab,” I pleaded to her and I ran back downstairs in the same manner as I had done before. This time, nobody bothers much. Everyone is just as busy at the moment, packing and rushing here and there. I found mum talking to Aunty Ram.

“Ma, makcik caterer nak buang makanan,” I almost yelled, words tumbling upon each other as they jumped out of my mouth. “Abah suruh cari Pakcik Burhan tapi dia takde. Nak buat macam mana ma. Diaorang nak balik dah. Kalau lambat they’ll just throw them away. Sayanglah. Mama, cepatlah.”

“Chop, chop, sabar. Nantikan mama pengsan dulu. Pening mama laju sangat.” Mum excused herself and walked up the stairs. I attempted to run but she stopped me from doing so. I thought we were wasting precious seconds.

Mum came up and met the woman. The woman told mum that there were a dozen packs of food, about 3 to 4 trays of kuehs, a whole tank of teh tarik and another of pengat pisang. “Tapi air dengan pengat tak boleh nak pek sebab kita tak de getah,” the woman said.

“Tak pe. First things first. Jom kita pek. Nanti akak pergi kutip lagi askar askar kat bawah,” mum replied.

“Em, ma?”

“Yes, Aiman?”

“Ju, Hana, Khadijah and Sham dah balik.”

Mum looked at me and sighed. “Alamak, kalau macam tu susahlah. Tak pe, mama pack dulu. Aiman go and look for your sisters and Abang Sha-din,” mum told me.

I giggled as I ran back downstairs. Sha-din isn’t his real name but his actual name (which we found out later was Syarafuddin) is just so long that the ‘sha’ and the ‘din’ parts were the only ones that mum managed to remember. We all climbed up the stairs and went into their pantry. The floor was really, really dirty and it has the icky-sticky feeling that the kitchen floor at my house never had. I had to walk on tiptoes and imagine that I was somewhere else. Mum gave out the tasks: Aeshah and Anisah were told to bring down the food and offer them to the people around the area while Abang Sha-din and I would pack the food. And so we worked out quite well until Abang Sha-din’s parents were looking for him. Anisah brought the message to him saying that they were about to leave. Abang Sha-din took a generous amount of food back with him when I told him that we are unable to distribute all of them.

So I was left packing alone. We ran out of plastic bags and I went out to fetch more. Upon reaching the serving table (where on it was a box of plastic bags), I saw my eager brother at the other side of the corridor, waiting as Pak Cik Amin pulled out the signs. Once he did so, Ali would snatch it, solemnly fold in the tape and waited for the next one. Pak Cik Amin looked curiously at Ali but he then smiled. I stifled a giggle. Although Ali is famous for his ingenious ideas, this one is really funny. Especially when you look at Ali’s serious expression and Pak Cik Amin’s confused look.

I brought back the box with me and continued packing – the sticky floor doesn’t bother me any longer. The boys (employees of the caterer) ridiculed at me when they see me frantically packing the food. I ignored them. They then tried to insult me by asking questions on the wacana. Thankfully, I could answer all of their questions, I believe, correctly. They stopped their ridiculous behaviour after I answered them straight without showing signs of anger or despair. The lady pitied me and helped me packing after she’s done with her job, scolding the boys and told them to behave.

“Nak tak pengat ni?” one of the boys asked me. “Nak, tapi tak ada getah nak ikat.” I answered.

“Ha? Tak nak?”

“Dia kata tak ada getah. Dah, pergi buat kerja kamu tu.” The lady said angrily to the grinning boy.

“Okay! Jom buang!” yelled the boy and the others cheered. I closed my eyes when I saw them tipping the large tank of pengat. I just don’t want to see this. I prayed that I’m not a part of the crime. How can you laugh while throwing food? How would you feel if you throw a tank of edible stuff? Certainly you won’t laugh! What about your obligations to Allah? Oh, and they’re all Muslims, mind you.

I inhaled slowly and realized that my body is shaking from anger. I believe that had they acted out just once more, it would set my already boiling temper ablaze. This is REAL crime killing THOUSANDS of people who die from starvation and malnutrition. You could save many with that tank of food and they did what?

I opened my eyes and looked down at my unfinished job. Right now, this is my work and I must concentrate. I thanked Allah for allowing me to save most of the food. At least these won’t go down the drain, Insya Allah.

Show Your Support To The Sovereignty of Our Country

Seperti buah padi, makin berisi makin rendah; jangan seperti lalang, makin lama makin tinggi

A common problem faced by developing countries is getting their ‘developed’ peers to respect their sovereignty. Indeed, our forefathers have long warned us against arrogance and imperiousness in the Malay saying quoted above. Technologically advanced and developed countries tend to belittle the significance and importance of their less developed counterparts, perhaps unconciously believing that their success in managing their own people earn them the rights to rule (or guide, as they say) the helpless.

Although countries worldwide need to establish good, well rounded relationships with each other, like in interpersonal friendship, there is a limit to how far we could intervene in another country’s decision making. When one party tries to force their domination over the others, whether their intents were based on malice or goodwill, it could easily escalate to bullying.

The generally accepted standards of the world set by international bodies such as the United Nations are very majorly those of their founders; the developed Western countries. Just as they want us to accept their norms in our own places, they first need to realise that we too have the sovereignty over our own country. Just as they wish to decide for themselves on what is going on in their grounds, we too have our own vision for our future.

In the latest case of Anwar Ibrahim’s imprisonment for sodomy, in an unpatriotic and disrespectful act against the country that gave them food, shelter and support, Anwar’s supporters are trying to lobby foreign powers to force the Malaysian government to release their idol both publicly and privately. Under the various claims from ‘political imprisonment’ to ‘archaic laws’, they are calling for the intervention of foreign powers into Malaysia’s internal affairs.

As no humans are flawless, it is possible for developed countries to take their power for granted and unintentionally fall into the trap of bullying their developing counterparts. Let us all remind them that while it seems more imposing to force their will onto other rightful countries, they would likely to be more respected if they first learn to respect the sovereignty of other countries.

To all Malaysian, let us all show our support to the sovereignty of our own country and that no foreign bodies have the right to impose their wills over us. Sign the petition here!

Picture credits to Ahmad Ali Jetplane

When The Confused Man Speaks…

One of the most overlooked responsibilities of Muslim leaders is that they are answerable for the faith and beliefs of the Muslims that they lead and as well as the position and dignity of Islam. It is especially so for Malaysia, whose Federal Constitution has stated that Islam is the religion of the federation (NOT the official religion).

This is the fact that Dr. Reza Aslan, a confused outsider with a skewed idea of how Islam should be, but claimed himself as a theology expert could never understand.

From The Malaysian Insider:

Putrajaya is setting itself up as a “parent” rather than an elected government, in banning the use of the word Allah among non-Muslims and dictating how Malaysian Muslims should practise their faith, prominent Iranian-American theologian Reza Aslan said.

In October, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) said that Malaysia as a nation “officially” adhered to the Shafie school of thought, in response to the backlash over the “I want to touch a dog” event which proved popular among Muslims.

(read the rest here: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/putrajaya-should-not-dictate-muslims-beliefs-says-reza-aslan)

It is also interesting how Dr. Aslan blamed the Putrajaya for the Allah issue when the Head of the Religion of Islam is in fact the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong. By pointing his finger at Putrajaya instead of Jakim alone, it is safe to assume that either Dr. Aslan or The Malaysian Insider or both of them, were politically biased (not that it’s a big surprise).

Please take notice the words coloured in red where The Malaysian Insider wrote, “…in banning the use of the word Allah among non-Muslims…”. That statement is incorrect. The word Allah is not banned from use among non-Muslims but instead they are banned from referring Allah to anything but the Muslim God alone.

The article also mentioned:

He said that centralised religious authorities should not exist in countries that profess to adhere to Islam, adding that such a practise was akin to usurping the authority of the Prophet Muhammad.

“Islam allows me to follow any mufti that I please. We don’t have a pope, we don’t have a bishop who tells us what we can do.

“The very notion that a group of old men gets to decide for me or for you what is the proper interpretation of my faith, that goes against the very fabric and nature of Islam,” Reza told The Malaysian Insider in a phone interview.

“Anyone who tells you there is only one version of Islamic behaviour or ideology or morality is speaking out of pure ignorance,” said Reza.

As you can see from his statement above, it is obvious that his views are that of a liberal and of a person who seems to be so egotistic to believe that only he knows what Islam really is. He is apparently ignorant of the fact that the Muslims in Malaysia are Sunni Muslims;”people of the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad and the consensus of the Ummah”, meaning that we follow a consensus and not make up our own rules as he did.

And atop of that, he declared in another interview that Islam is simply nothing but a man made institution.

See 19:42 of the video:

Islam is a man-made institution. It’s a set of symbols and metaphors that provides a language for which to express what is inexpressible, and that is faith. It’s symbols and metaphors that I prefer, but it’s not more right or more wrong than any other symbols and metaphors. It’s a language, that’s all it is.

Also, at 05:14 of the video, he said:

Somehow Harris is a better expert at what Islam is or means than the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.

When (Sam) Harris shares his imaginary idea of Islam, Dr. Reza says that this one person is better than “the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world”; but when commenting about the Islamic authorities of Malaysia; he argues how the minority voice can claim that they are right. Remember what he said earlier in The Malaysian Insider article?

and then you tell me that 99.9% of Muslims who don’t think what you think, who don’t feel what you feel, are not Muslims. That only you and your version is the correct one.

If he does not believe that his version of Islam is the correct one, he would not enforce its principles now, would he?

This is not the first time Reza Aslan has shared (or forced) his opinions on Islamic matters in Malaysia, especially on the Kalimah Allah issue despite he believes that Islam could be interpreted as any way a person wishes to. And as before, his statements had been very self contradicting as well as embodying the voice of a liberal Muslim.

I wonder what is the opposition media ‘The Malaysian’s Insider’s motive in featuring such an ‘expert’? This certainly says a lot about the supporters of the oppositions’ stances on the principles of Islam.

NaPoWriMo Poem #11: Why?

Today I decided to use the NaPoWriMo’s daily prompt: Twenty questions.

Why must it rain to make a brilliant rainbow?
Why must animals eat others to help them to grow?
Why must there be heat for birds to fly high?
Why must eyes be wet before they could dry?

Why do creatures evolve to adapt after time?
Why do freshly cleaned hands get dirty with grime?
Why do cells regenerate before they die?
Why do joys make us smile, with sorrow we cry?

Why is there a silver lining under each cloud?
Why could some see the sun behind the fog and shroud?
Why couldn’t disasters stop the birds from singing?
Appearance can be blinding, reach behind them and think.

NaPoWriMo #8: Lick-a-Stick!

Today, I decided to use the NaPoWriMo prompt of the day: “to write your own advertisement-poem”.

Lick-a-stick! We’ve got lick-a-stick!
All of the colours for you to pick!
A strawberry red,
Or orange instead,
Come and buy your lick-a-stick!

Natural colourings, flavourings too,
An ice lolly that’s good for you,
Made of fresh juice,
For a healthy boost,
It’s almost too good to be true!