Saturday, April 25, 2015



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Beautiful Death

7th January 2013.

It was his 44th birthday. He was with his mother in an ambulance, on their way to UM Medical Centre.

The mother didn’t go without resistance. She wanted them to just stay in Seremban Hospital.  She was very tired. Since her third child was diagnosed with pneumonia, and then TB, that aged body of hers have been tasked with a lot of physical work.  Not that she was complaining.  She would take care of her son by herself, even if it would kill her. She would brave the long hours at the hospital, she could help wash him up, clean his vomit, even carry him if she had to – he was just skin and bones anyway, didn’t weigh much.   Taking care of him wasn’t anything new to her.  Wasn’t hers the first face he saw when he was born? Didn’t she wash him when he was just a wee little boy?  She could do it all over again.  Looking after her son was not a chore at all. She took it as a privilege, a rezeki, it was her pleasure.  But she needed to be in Seremban. Her husband had a weak heart. She wanted to be near her husband too.

‘It is your choice, makcik. Your son agreed to go to UMMC. If you want to come along, get in the ambulance. If you don’t want to, we will still take him there.’, said the white-coated young looking man to her when she voiced her reluctance.

'But I don’t want him to go there too. Why cant he just get the treatment here?', she pitched in her last try.

‘Do you want him to die?’

‘No. Of course not.’, she replied, bewildered at such preposterous suggestion.

‘He must be transferred, makcik.’, the doctor said to her, the tone is now kinder.

And that was how she ended up in the ambulance with her son.  There were a lot of scary looking machines in the ambulance. They all had tiny bulbs that wouldn’t stop blinking and beeping.  And the fact that there were no windows to look out to, made her feel suffocated.   Not that there was much to see outside, since night had curtained down the day.  The handphone – his son’s, was busy beeping away too.

‘Sobri, your friends are texting you.  They all said happy birthday. Do you want to read the messages?’, she prodded her son.  

She knew he was tired. But she had to wake him up. She would feel nervous if he slept too deeply, you know, she had to be sure.

‘No, mak.  I will read them later.’, Sobri whispered, she could barely hear him.  His throat must be parched dry.  The last drink and meal he had were, well, she couldn’t remember. It felt like so long ago.  Sobri could take sips of water, but he couldn’t swallow any food.  The IV drip was his only source of energy.

When they checked in at the UMMC, it was already very late.  She was tired but the cough just wouldn’t let them rest. And the nurses kept disturbing their sleep – taking Sobri’s temperatures, blood pressure and pulse, and every so often trying to draw blood samples.  They seemed to have a tough time at that.

She once read, that if your time was near, the blood would stop circulating.  Is that why they couldn’t get blood samples, she wondered.  But she pushed the thoughts away.  My son is going to survive this, my flesh and blood are strong, he would come out of this, help him ya Allah, help him, she prayed for the thousandth times.

'Must you? Cant you just stop poking at him?’ once she chided a nurse, as Sobri winced with pain.  Another episode of too-many-tries.  

‘We must, makcik. I am sorry,’ the nurse did look sorry. But sorry or not, she kept on jabbing at Sobri, to no avail. The blood just refused to flow out.

Friday, 10th January.

It was 6.30am. Makcik just did her Suboh prayers. As she gave salam, she saw that Sobri was looking at her.  He smiled at her and pointed to his wrist.

'Ha ah, it is 6.30 in the morning’, she smiled back.     A smile from Sobri was a rare thing nowadays. How she missed that smile.  As skinny as Sobri may be, as changed as his facials may be, that smile was the same.  

She went to him and put her hand on his forehead, trying to see if his temperature was raging. But it felt cool to her touch. Oh, good, he is getting better, Alhamdulillah.  

'You want to drink?’, she asked gently.  Searching for her smiling Sobri inside those deep sunken eyes.

'Yes, please, mak.’   As she was about to spoon him water, he turned his head away.

'I don’t want that water.  I want the water from that cup you just used.’ Sobri said.   She obliged but again Sobri resisted.

‘No, mak, don’t let me trouble you again. Let me hold the cup.’   Her heart skipped.  Was it happiness or hope? Was it fear? She wasn’t sure, but she let him.   And when Sobri settled in again, she gingerly put her hand on his forehead.  No fever, insya-Allah, he was getting better.

‘Mak, that feels so nice.’


‘The feel of your hand on my head. Don’t move it. I like it there.’ Sobri said.  His eyes were like a bottomless well.  Deep and dark. What went on in your head, son?  

'And you know what I really wanted now? A bathe from the well at Wan’s house. The water is always so cold, so refreshing.’, that smile came back, lightening up his tired face.

Nobody lived in that old house anymore. Childhood memories of the days spent romping around in Juasseh made him smile. And Makcik was reminded too of those days - when she was still young and Sobri was just a small package of enthusiasm and potential, a boy like any other, full of hope and promise, and mischief. They both went quiet. Each lost in their own version of the past.  And Sobri soon fell asleep again.

The hour went by, with her Sobri drifted in and out of sleep.  The cough persisted, shaking him like a rag doll.   She kept her hand on his forehead - caressing the hair that had gone coarse and matted from an illness that had raged for far too long, or massaging his creased temple.     Ya Allah, ease of his pain, ya Allah help him, the prayers had become a mantra, a zikir now to this mother.  Throughout, she kept her hand just where her boy wanted it to be.

'What time is it, Mak?’ he asked her at 7.30.  What is the time to you, she wondered, but answered him anyway.

At, 8.30, when Sobri just signaled his question by tapping his wrist, she told him the time.

He asked her again at 9.30.

At 10.30, Sobri woke up again.  His eyes held his mother’s gaze. And she knew.  It was time.     He then took a deep breath, closed his eyes. He did not breathe out.

She exhaled. She didnt even realise that she was holding her breath watching him leave.

She didn’t cry.  He had made her promise. He wanted her face to be the last face he saw.  He wanted no tears on that creased face.  He did not want tears to mar that face he found comfort from.  

That was how I found her.  Strong and steadfast – a well-weathered solid rock that somehow felt out-of-place in the cold unyielding morgue. The occasion was somber only she wasn’t. She was as warm as her son was.  

Alhamdulillah, she told me, God gave me him for forty-four years and two days.  I thank God for each day of those forty-four years.  He was a good son who had my redha, he left a good daughter who would be generous with her doas.   He would be fine in the other world, insya-Allah. Why wouldn’t he be, he was a beautiful son, even in his death.  

Insya-Allah, makcik.  

Oh how blessed you are my friend.  To die with your mother’s hand on your head, to die with her gaze fixed on you, to have her redha and her doas.  

Farewell, my friend.  May Allah place you among His favourites.  May all the good that you have done; all the sedekah you have generously given;  all the redha from your mother; all the love from your father, siblings, Hez and friends; all the ilmu you have shared with us all; all the good in your daughter, will help make your journey easy, insya-Allah.

I remain as ever,
your friend.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Close Encounter with Lady Geneva

Work brings me to many places - exotic Africa to spacious Canada to mythical Greece and few others in between. Each time I landed on a foreign land, I would enthrall myself with the mission to touch the soil, sand or sea. I must plant my feet in the earth of the country and then at least my toes must be dipped in the sea. They have had the pleasure of skin-dipping in the waters of Aegean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and South Pacific Ocean too. They absolutely love the foreign feel at each dip.

Work brought me to Geneva last week. There was no sea, only a lake. I was strolling by its shores yesterday having stumbled upon it after a pleasant walk in the Botanical Garden.  What a splendid specimen Lake Geneva was - its sheer size and sea-like behavior were fascinating. She presented herself to me adorned beautifully with swans, ducks and boats.  The waves came to me, or rather came at me, laughing and then pulling away, teasing me like a coy lover, daring me to do what I was already dying to do.  But I looked away - loyal to my love for the sea and Lake Geneva was just it, a lake. A distraction.

But Lake Geneva was persistent - the temptress that she was. Its face was taking on a crimson blush as the sun set putting my heart ablaze with desperate desire to caress her and make her yield to me as she must.

And just as fate had it, I came upon an opening that could lead me nearer to her. The sun was insisting to retire and light was fading fast.  I looked around and noted that the park was almost deserted.   There was just me and Lake Geneva, we were alone, together. Lake Geneva saw what I was seeing and could guess what I was thinking. She beckoned at me shamelessly. Come to me, now, she demanded, while no one is watching, I could be yours, claim me.

My resolve was fading fast. My heart boomed within its shell urging me to quickly do what I was helplessly drawn to do.

I entered the opening and how she writhed with pleasure to have won me, to have me fall into her snare.

Then I fell.

Yes. Not fell for her, you silly goon, no, she was just a lake remember? The slab i was walking on was mossy and slippery - I should have known better. I slipped and fell down, butt-first into the water. If you watch Tom and Jerry, the slapstick part where the cat stepped on a banana peel, went somersaulting sky-high and then fell with a thump butt-first? Yes? Now, replace Tom with me and change the sound effect from 'thump' to 'splosh'. A big splosh. No, on second thought, make it huge.

And so there I was, waist-down in the water hlooking every inch the silly girl that I was. Romance, under the sorry circumstances, was the last thing on my mind. It was cold, the day was fading fast and I had a dinner appointment in an hour that I must not miss and as dinners must have it, it was not to be attended soaked through the way I hopelessly was.

Desperate to come out from the lake, I tried to stand but it was slippery and the attempt only made me slid further in. This is not good, not good at all, I thought to myself - some coherent thinking at last. You see, earlier in the day, my boss lost his wallet and with it all the company's credit cards meant to pay the hotel bills for us all. With that gone, we were dependent on my cash and cards. If I get swallowed by wanton lady Lake Geneva, how would Intercontinental Geneve be paid? And how were we to go home? And I certainly wouldnt want my boss to have to carry me, stiff and  lifeless, in a black plastic bag, no thank you. Imagine the cost of extra baggage weight he would have to pay. Without credit card too.

There was no one around to help me and frankly I wouldnt want anybody to see me like that, it would be too embarassing.

I crawled out. Yep, that did it. I crawled out hauling my aching butt and hurt pride while Lake Geneva laughed and mocked me.

To cut the story short, I rushed back to the hotel, took off my jeans and changed into the only pants I had left, pyjama pants (courtesy of the Malaysian Airlines, bless them), put on a warm sweater in replacement of my damp tee, donned on the soaking sneakers again (the other option were black heels) and was only late thirty minutes for dinner. For a Malaysian, this is acceptable, no?

End of story. Nobody knew about this though my boss did ask why my sneakers gave out squelching sound when I walked to which I just grinned and evaded the subject by  discussing his lost wallet. Pajama pants went unnoticed.

Lake Geneva, wipe that smirk off your face. I survived you.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Vacancy: Ustaz

I watch with much interest how religion has made its niche in the entertainment biz. Soaps and movies with Islamic theme where the actresses have their heads covered, and then you have pop icons who reverted and now teaches religion. You also have celebrity preachers, young and old, who give talks, write books and conduct ‘summer camps’.

Certainly much better to have celebrity ustazs as idols than the Malaysian Idol. Certainly better to have more Nur Kasih dramas than the likes of Niyang Rapiks.

If I say, lets be careful, would I be throwing a wet blanket?

I remember when nasyid was the in thing, when it first entered the pop stream. All wanna-be singers instead of coming out with rock or ballad album came out with nasyid album instead. Because it made economic sense, at that point, nasyid sold like nothing else. A launch pad was needed, and nasyid as a genre served the purpose. Fitnah occurred when the nasyid singer was found cruising the night clubs. Well, he said, going clubbing does NOT mean i am drinking. Is it just about alcohol intake? Singing nasyid songs to him is just singing another song. Big deal.

My office is looking to invite a certain ustaz for its regular Friday lessons. The ustaz that we have in mind, apparently is so well-sought that his calendar is only free for a Friday in September. That is a good 5 months away.

A certain friend is on Ustaz Hunting mode. She would go to wherever this particular celebrity ustaz went. She described to me a dinner event hosted by the ustaz where all tables were bought, and the queue during photography session was very long. Did the ustaz give lessons that night? No, it was just dinner - a bit of Q&A plus photography. Oh wow.

Religion certainly sells.

The public’s demand for ustaz seems to exceed ASTRO Hijrah’s production capacity. WANTED! Good Ustaz with sound Islamic knowledge, young and hip, good presentation skills, good humour and good looking is urgently needed. If the ustaz is single, even better. Sounds good to you? It probably is. And I should be contented that this is something to be taken positively.

I only hope that those applying will not be mere job-seekers.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Weight of a Straw

i tendered in my resignation today.

Have i really thought things through? Not really. But i am not the breadwinner in the family, and as such, impulsive behaviors can be accepted. In the letter, i did not state why because i don't have one good reason why i must leave, i have plenty, or do i?

As per the norm, i submitted the notice to CEO, cc-ed to my immediate superior and the Human Resource Dept's head.

The HR called me immediately. She laughed and i laughed. She asked me whether i have received an offer that i couldn't resist. No, no offer. In fact, i have not even been looking. So why? Are you angry at anything anyone? Did i sound angry in my email, i asked her. No she said. Then i am not angry.

Her call got me thinking the kind of questions that i would ask if i were her.

A camel can take a lot of weight on its back. Infinite number of straw (and a nomad and his herd of goats and an eager pilgrim too perhaps). So why is it that one extra straw can cause the camel's back to break? Focusing on that straw which broke this camel's back is wrong. It is not the entire picture. I can easily tell her about the straw. There was this meeting i attended today that totally frustrated me - it was absurd and impossible, i didn't get the support i needed when i needed it the most. But despite all that, the whole episode is just one blooming straw. On its own, it wouldn't have broken my back. Comparatively, i have taken worse belting before, that was certainly not the worst. Nope. It is never that one piece of straw, it is the total accumulated straws (and a nomad and that eager pilgrim with pointy camera).

So why did i quit?

Now that i have in fact quit, now that the camel is broken and of no use, i will have the time to rummage through the load (including the pilgrim's camera) that once presided over its back and figure out why ;)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Antarctica and the car

I attended an all-important event at UTM KL yesterday. It was launching of a book on the then Agung’s expedition to Antarctica. They had this musical play, staged in the Dewan Besar. I thought it was a bit off because the hall was not meant for plays. And plays were not really suitable to be enjoyed over lunch on a workday. The hall was fully lit and so was the stage. I don’t know about you but I feel stage shows should be in a dimmed hall so you could play with lightings on the stage. When the whole hall is lit like Christmas, everything will feel, well, very staged – if you know what I mean.

The lunch was quite good though.

By the time my job was done, it was close to 4pm.

Hez, my colleague was with me. And we went to the car. Her car. The car is only 3-month old. Brand new. Not a scratch, not a dent. She pressed the buttons of her key but the car ignored her. No ‘ninnit’ sound indicating that the car was unlocking and doors could be opened!

You must know that the days are awfully hot here lately. Her car is Dynamo-detergent kind of whiter than white.

Sun was bright and this was in the middle of an open-air car park.

The car wouldn’t go ninnit.

She tried again many many times but the car refused to respond.

I realized that the headlights were on. Ahah, battery problem. You think I don’t know cars? Well, I do. The car was so dead it was frozen cold.

But, Hez argued, the lights are small ones, they wouldn’t have drained the battery so fast.

Press again. Still no ninnit.

Call your mechanics, I said.

But she couldn’t because we couldn’t open the door - the number was in the car! And it was such a hot hot day to have to stand in the car park under the brilliant Malaysian sun.

We can jump-start the car. Do you have the cables, I asked Hez. No, never. But even if we did have cables, how to jumpstart the car if we couldn't open the engine hood? Duh!

Luckily, I have a friend in Mindef. An air man. Hopefully he knows cars as well as he does planes.

I sent him an SOS message and he arrived within 5 minutes with a battalion of two soldiers. By that time, my make up has already melted and formed a puddle in which I was standing in – so hot was the day.

I explained our problem to him and he asked for the car keys.

And lo and behold, he inserted the key into that tiny hole on the door and opened it! No ninnit required, the door could be opened! Oh!

And that was when I prayed real hard that the car wouldn’t embarrass us. If he could start the car, I would really bury my face in the ground. Luckily, the car was really truly dead. This friend then opened up the back and front part of the car, (you know the engine compartment and the luggage compartment - I think I know the specific names for the two but I wouldn’t risk using them in case I got them wrong) and found the cables to jump start. She had it in her car all along!

Hez whispered to me that that was the first time she saw the guts of her car (the car being new and all) and she didn’t know she had those cables.

In a matter of minutes, the car went NINNIT in the loudest of voice and the engine wailed to life. Real loud. The whole kawasan DUN Titiwangsa could hear it.

This friend then explained kindly to Hez how her battery is not the dry type and she needn’t go buy a new one and stopping at traffic lights after this wouldn’t kill the battery again.

I know Hez and I probably are the reasons why women drivers are always stereotyped. I am also very aware that some lady drivers out there know cars so well that they could do the whole minyak hitam routine by themselves and show you the finger when you drive too slow too. But I am guilty to have shamed the Women Ministry.

And so I hereby publicly declare that I am ignorant about cars (but I am not the only one, Hez is too, ok?) and I am sorry, sisters.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kasut Merah Jambu

Aku merasa begitu bertuah kerana tidak seperti rakan-rakan lain yang perlu menempuhi kehidupan sebagai penganggur berdiploma, rezekiku lebih murah. Belumpun tamat peperiksan, aku sudahpun menerima tawaran bekerja. Walaupun gaji yang ditawarkan begitu sedikit , hanya RM650 sebulan, untuk seseorang yang tiada pengalaman bekerja sepertiku, gaji tersebut amat lumayan.

CPT adalah sebuah kilang milik syarikat dari Taiwan. Ketika itu, CPT merupakan pengeluar terbesar tiub television di dunia dan kilangnya dikatakan antara yang terbesar di Malaysia. Ia terletak di Batu Tiga, iaitu kawasan perindustrian di Shah Alam. Terdapat kuarters khusus untuk pegawai-pegawai tingginya berhampiran dengan kilang. Untuk pekerja kilang yang lainnya, beberapa pangsapuri disediakan di Pelabuhan Klang dan Alam Megah. Khabarnya, di Taiwan, CPT mempunyai universiti serta rangkaian sekolahnya sendiri. Ditawarkan jawatan sebagai Juruteknik di CPT adalah sesuatu yang ku kira akan menambah nilai pada resumeku.

Sementara menantikan hari Isnin untuk melapor diri di tempat kerja, aku 'menumpang tanpa izin' di kolej Seroja ITM. Setinggan, mengikut istilah kami di zaman itu. Manalah mampu hendak menyewa bilik di luar sana? Duit di kocek hanya ada RM50 yang baru dikirimkan oleh Abah dari kampung. RM50 itulah modal untukku hidup sementara menanti gaji pertama nanti. Janji CPT, asrama dan pengangkutan ke tempat kerja akan disediakan. Cukupkah RM50 untuk belanja makan dan minum selama sebulan? Entahlah, aku belum berfikir sejauh itu. Hendak minta lebih, aku tahu sangat yang Abah tiada duit. Dia hanya menerima wang pencen yang setelah ditolak hutang pinjaman bank, hanya berbaki RM115. Bila memberiku RM50, entah bagaimanalah Abah mengadakan makanan setiap hari untuk dirinya, Mak dan adikku yang masih bersekolah. Gaji pertamaku nanti, akan ku beri kesemuanya pada Abah - begitu tekad hatiku.

Jadi, di Serojalah, aku menumpang tidur. Menyelinap masuk diam-diam dan bergelap sepanjang masa. Jika diketahui oleh Penggawa, entah apa tindakan yang akan diambilnya.

Masa berlalu begitu perlahan untuk seseorang yang sedang setinggan. Namun seperti yang dijanjikan alam, Isnin akhirnya tiba juga. Awal-awal pagi lagi aku sudah keluar dari asrama dengan seluruh harta yang kumiliki - muat diisi di dalam hanya satu beg. Bangga hati tatkala menaiki bas 222, kerana pertama kali menaikkinya sebagai seorang yang bekerja, bukan lagi sebagai pelajar ITM. Bas membawaku ke Batu 3 Shah Alam dan dari situ, aku berjalan ke CPT.

Setibanya di pagar CPT, tekad hatiku bertambah kuat. Di sinilah, Mak dan Abah, permulaan di mana kehidupan kita sekeluarga akan bertambah baik. Anakmu ini akan bekerja serajin-rajinnya supaya Abah tidak perlu lagi mengambil upah memotong dahan di tepi jalan dan Mak tidak perlu lagi pening kepala memikirkan menu harian dengan bajet yang amat terhad.

Hairannya, aku tidak dibenarkan masuk oleh Pengawal pagar. Tebal kumisnya, tegap sasa susuk tubuhnya, aduh, layaknya dia warden di penjara penjenayah tegar. Keningnya bercantum menjadi satu garisan marah bersesuaian dengan lakaran cemuhan dibibirnya.

"Saya kerja sini, hari ni mau report duty. Ini ada surat.", aku memberanikan diri cuba untuk menjelaskan keadaan. Bagaimana mungkin aku tidak dibenarkan masuk, apa kata majikanku nanti jika aku gagal melapor diri di hari pertama!

"No slippers", jawabnya ringkas namun kedengaran begitu keras.

Sememangnya sepanjang tiga tahun di ITM, aku tidak pernah berkasut. Apa yang ku ada hanyalah selipar buatan Bata, berharga RM7.90 sepasang. Talinya berwarna hijau atau merah, itulah fesyen ku kerana hanya selipar itu yang aku mampu. Aku tidak bersukan, jadi tidak juga mempunyai kasut kanvas.

Tanpa kasut, aku tidak akan dibenarkan memasuki CPT! Apalah ikhtiarku? Aku tidak boleh kehilangan peluang pekerjaan ini hanya kerana ketiadaan kasut!

Dengan izin warden penjara tadi, aku menghubungi pejabat syarikat dan memaklumkan kepada mereka bahawa aku hanya akan hadir keesokan hari kerana tidak tahu peraturan syarikat berkaitan penggunaan selipar. Mereka bersetuju.

Segera aku menuju ke perhentian bas menanti 222 semula. Aku perlu kembali ke Seroja.

Setibanya di Seroja, misiku bermula - memasuki semua bilik asrama mencari kasut yang sudah tidak dikehendaki pemiliknya lalu ditinggalkan dibilik atau dibuang sahaja.

Mana tong sampah yang tidak ku selongkari? Aku perlu mendapatkan kasut dan sebagai penceroboh di Seroja, misiku perlu berjaya segera, sementara hari masih siang.

Puas mencari, akhirnya ku temui sepasang moccasin. Jika ada sesiapa yang melihat wajahku ketika itu tentu akan menyangka bahawa aku telah menemui harta karun paling berharga. Memang yang ku temui itu sesuatu yang berharga, biar ianya sampah di mata orang lain. Riangnya hati ku, leganya dadaku, apabila kasut syarat kerja telah berada di dalam tangan! Biarlah jika ia jauh dari sempurna! Kasut bersaiz 5 sedangkan aku bersaiz 4 1/2. Tapak kasut bahagian kiri sudah separuh tanggal. Kasut sebelah kanan pula sedikit koyak di hadapan. Dan paling menyerlah, warnanya merah jambu.

Tapak yang tanggal, ku lekatkan semula menggunakan stapler. Bahagian terkoyak kubiarkan sahaja kerana ketiadaan jarum dan benang.

Esoknya, aku melapor diri di CPT majikan pertamaku, dengan seluar denim biru, kemeja-T hitam dan moccasin merah jambu.

Selama sebulan, moccasin merah jambu tersebut berjasa kepadaku walau setiap hari ia perlu di stapler dan koyaknya semakin mendedahkan jari.

Sudah begitu lama aku meninggalkan CPT. Menyambung pengajian ku ke peringkat lebih tinggi seterusnya bekerja dengan pelbagai majikan lain. Sekian lama meninggalkan CPT dan begitu jauh kerjayaku menyimpang dari bidang Sains sehinggakan CPT tidak lagi ku nyatakan di dalam resume. Malahan, CPT juga tidak lagi wujud setelah teknologi plasma dan LED menggantikan tiub sinar katod (CCRT).

Sejak hari itu, aku tidak pernah lagi menggunakan selipar Bata. Mungkin Imelda Marcos juga menempuhi pengalaman yang sama sepertiku. Kerana itu kami berkongsi minat yang sama - membeli kasut.