Sunday, January 8, 2017

AL FATIHAH : MY DEAR SISTER

Exactly one year ago, my second sister passed away. Almost seven months after my Mum's passing. It was such a blow to me and my family especially to her only daughter. My sister was not even 60 years old yet and had only retired for slightly more than a year. After my Mum left us, we tried to support and console each other as much as we could. We went about with our daily lives although we were still grieving and mourning. It was difficult and I knew it was much more difficult for her since she was very close to my Mum. My sister had lost her one and only confidant. The 2015 school year had not even ended yet at that time and I promised that I would go and fetch her to stay with me for the school holidays. I was shocked when I received a phone call from her daughter telling me that she was in the hospital. I left everything behind and rushed to the hospital where she was warded. I stayed at the hospital for four days before she was discharged and I decided to bring her home with me. She was still a little bit weak but I was happy that she was with me. At least, she was not going to be alone and I could always keep an eye on her. She was always complaining of having stomachache and constipation so I took her to the hospital where she was given some medication. The medication did not work and I took her again to the hospital and this time, the hospital told me it could be appendicitis. She was sent to the General Hospital in Ipoh where a surgery was performed to remove her ruptured appendix. After the surgery, she was conscious and okay for a couple of days but further tests showed that her acidic level was very high. The hospital decided to conduct another surgery and that was the last we saw her conscious. She was transferred to the ICU and it was there where she was infected by a 'superbug'. I totally blew my top although I knew that losing my patience and lashing out my anger to others would not solve anything. She was transferred to an Isolation Room where only the doctor and nurses could enter. It was extremely heartbreaking. To see her unconscious and wired and intubated. And not being able to do anything at all. Her daughter decided to take a leave from work to be with her mother although her employer was not very happy with what she had decided to do. She was in the hospital for one month and it was the first Friday of 2016 when her daughter called me up early that morning telling me that her mother's condition was not very good. I left work and rushed to the hospital with a colleague. Together with us was Kak Minah, my loyal housekeeper who had been taking care of both my mother and sister. My niece and my second youngest brother were at the hospital and after much discussion and contemplation, we decided to allow the hospital to remove the tubes. It was a very difficult decision to make but one that we had to do. For the first time, we were allowed to be in the Isolation Room and to touch her. We had to wear masks and also special clothing before we could enter the room. All four of us, my niece, my brother, my housekeeper and I were in that small room. We sat down and read from the holy book and from time to time, whispered into my sister's ears. Then, the doctor and nurses came in. They did not even disturb us and went about doing their work switching off the machines that were supporting my sister. It was exactly Friday prayer time and I could hear the call of prayer from the mosque nearby when my sister left us. I decided to have the funeral as soon as possible since all who mattered were already at my house. We took my sister home that evening and she is now laid to rest next to my Mum. Al Fatihah for my dear sweet sister who took all her secrets with her. May Allah forgive all her sins and reward her with 'jannah' for all her patience, sacrifices and heartaches. Amein.

Monday, June 13, 2016

AL-FATIHAH : MY BELOVED MOTHER (PART 2)

Mak, it has been a year now since you left us and at the moment, I am at loss for words although in my mind, there are a million things that I want to write about you. In fact, I don't even know how or even where to start. Do I retrace the time backwards or do I start at a certain point in the past? One thing for sure is life will never ever be the same again for me. So far,  I have managed to do okay. Not great but okay. I still go about my daily business as usual but the routine that I used to follow when you were around is no longer there. Nowadays, I do whatever I have to do whenever I want to do it. Whenever I pass by certain places, memories with you would start flooding my brain and they can be quite overwhelming sometimes. Until we meet again in the hereafter. Al Fatihah for you, my dear beloved Mak. Amein.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

APRIL 8 2016

Abah, it has been 11 years now and so many things have happened since that April 8 2005. After you left, I tried to do what I was supposed to do as best as I could. I am not sure if everything that I did was right but I know that my heart was in the right place when I did them. But now, there is not much that I have to do anymore. Not for myself anyway. I have vowed to keep our family together but that is all about it. Everyone is doing fine and I only have to be there when I am needed which is not that often. Other than that, life seems so empty without you and Mak. At the moment, I am just going through the motion of living from day to day. I am not saying that I am unhappy but I can't say that I am happy either. I try to immerse myself in whatever joyful moments that come into my life since I know that those moments can be fleeting and brief. I have a lot of good things in my life but sometimes, I feel as if I have nothing at all. I miss you and Mak very, very much. More than I can ever express. Now, Ati has also left us to be with both of you and that makes it even harder. I never thought for a moment that she would leave so soon. And on the same date that you left too. On this day, I pray that all of us will be reunited in the hereafter. Al Fatihah for all of you and may Allah bless your souls. Amein.

Monday, November 30, 2015

AL-FATIHAH : MY BELOVED MOTHER (PART 1)

I wrote part of this post way back in June but did not finish it until today. Today is actually my birthday and for the past few months, I had to find back my strength and spirit when another light in my life flickered out, leaving me almost lost and without any purpose. My beloved mother passed away with me and my second sister by her side on Saturday, June 13. She had been hospitalised for almost two weeks since the beginning of the school holidays due to lung infection and breathing difficulty. At the beginning, her condition was quite serious and the doctors asked me to discuss with my siblings on the next steps to take. I called all my brothers and sisters to come back and we sat in the waiting room where I told them what the doctors told me. I told them she might not make it this time and I also advised them to prepare for the worst. I also told them that in case something happened to her, we should accept the fact that she had lived a very fulfilling life. My brothers and sisters said since I was the one who was taking care of her all this time, it was better if I made all the decisions. So I told the doctors to give her the best treatment that they could as long as my Mum was not in pain. I also said no tubes should be inserted to help her breathe since complications might arise due to her age. After two days in the Emergency Room, my Mum was finally transferred to the ordinary ward and I stayed there almost all the time to watch over her. She was still unable to consume solid food so most of the time, I would give her porridge and also 'Novasource', an oral supplement for renal patients. Since she could not sip the liquid on her own, I would use a 20ml plastic syringe to feed her. At night, I slept on the chair outside the ward or in the 'surau' and would check on her every one hour. I did not even go back home at all and had to ask my brother to bring me some clothes so I could change every day. I took my daily shower in the opposite male ward and bought food from the canteen for myself. Miraculously, my Mum got better and I started to think whether I had overreacted about what I had said to my brothers and sisters at the beginning of her admission into the hospital. I also had her transferred to a better room in the hospital which was more comfortable and peaceful. The doctors advised me to get an oxygen machine and by the grace of Allah, my cousin whom my Mum took care of when she was a toddler, offered the use of her late mother-in-law's portable oxygen machine. I felt everything was falling in place nicely and sent daily text messages to my family members reporting her progress. My eldest and youngest brothers came back bringing with them the portable oxygen machine. My friends and second sister cleaned the whole house and prepared her room so she would be comfortable when she came back. My second last brother and a friend adopted all my cats except for one that escaped and did not come back until my Mum got home. I went out and bought her a new wheelchair which was lighter and smaller. I stocked my larder with her 'Nepro' and 'Novasource' so I would not have to go out if they ran out. I was looking forward to her coming home feeling much more comfortable and at ease. I asked my sister to cook a special dish that she used to cook for us when we were still small children. We went home on Friday evening and I could tell that she was happy to be home. She ate the dish that my sister had cooked for her and finished her 'Novasource'. The next morning, after her breakfast, I went to the market and McDonald's. I bought porridge for her and that was what she had for her early lunch. After lunch, she started feeling sleepy so I lay beside her until evening. My uncles came to visit that evening and I left her for about five minutes to say hi to them. When I got back to her room, she was having difficulty breathing. As a Muslim, I recited the 'syahadah' repeatedly into her ear. After a while, she opened her eyes for a few seconds and closed them again. At that moment, I knew that Allah had taken my beloved mother from me. I could not even describe what I was feeling at that time. I knew that despite all my efforts and everything that we did, Allah loves my Mum more. As much as I love her, I know that there is no greater love than Allah's love. As much as I still want her to be with me, I know that what I wish for is impossible in this earthly life. It is hard to go on day by day with a pain that constantly tugs at your heart. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that we will be reunited in the hereafter where there will be no more pain for any of us. Al Fatihah for my beloved Mak and may Allah forgive all her sins and place her in 'jannah'. Amein.   

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

DAULAT TUANKU!

Today is a public holiday for the state of Perak in conjunction with the coronation ceremony of Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah Al-Maghfur-Lah as the 35th Paduka Seri Sultan of Perak Darul Ridzuan. I am sure under his administration, Perak will once again regain its glory and prosperity. Daulat Tuanku!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

APRIL 08 2015

That time of the year has come again. April 08. A date that will never be erased from my memory. It's been 10 years now and at times, it seems as if time flies without my ever noticing it. My Abah left us when I least expected it. I knew he was getting on in his years but it never crossed my mind that he would go so quickly. I guess nobody will ever be ready enough to face anything so life-changing like that. Since his passing, I have become more mellow and I am grateful for all the positive changes in me. This morning, I went to the graveyard and to my shock and horror, the rubber tree that once stood tall at the head of my late father's grave was uprooted. Luckily, no serious damage was done to the grave and miraculously, the tree trunk had missed the headstone by one and a half foot or so. I was stunned but there was nothing that I could do except remove the dry leaves which were scattered all over the place. There will be a 'gotong-royong' tomorrow morning to clean the graveyard and I will make it a point to be there to help. There is not a single day that passes that I don't think about him but I know I should have visited his grave more often. Next week, there will also be a 'Yaasin recital' and prayers that I have planned for him, one of my colleagues who passed away about a month ago and the late parents and spouses of my colleagues. I hope everything will go smoothly as planned and our prayers for the dearly departed souls are accepted by Allah. Abah, I am still missing you and I know nothing can ever fill this emptiness. May your soul be blessed. Al Fatihah.   

My Abah's grave.

The uprooted rubber tree.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

GST : WHAT TO EXPECT

The implementation of Goods and Services Tax officially started yesterday, April 1 2015. I am yet to do any shopping so I am not sure if there is any obvious price hike or not although a few of my facebook friends have been posting on their walls about the unscrupulous acts of certain businesses who have been taking advantage of the newly-executed GST. I will not write about what others say since I do not want to spread anything that might not even be true. I will only start bitching if what is happening is totally different than what has been said. From what I know, not all businesses have to register with the Customs Department. If they want to impose the 6% GST, they will also need to have (and prove) an identification number which consumers can refer to. It is indeed ridiculous and unscrupulous for any traders (both big and small) to impose any tax when they are not registered with the Customs Department (some of them don't even have a licence to begin with). I was surfing the Internet yesterday looking for more information on GST when I came across a GST website. The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore provides a website where consumers can check if a business is GST-registered or not. In this age of ICT when any information is just a click or a touch away, a website which enables consumers to check the identity of a business is undeniably necessary. Consumers can check if a business is GST-registered by keying in the name of the company or even the identification number provided by the authorities. In my opinion, consumers have to be more aware of their rights so as not to be exploited by unethical and dishonourable individuals and businesses who want to reap more profits than they should. In more developed countries where the rights of consumers are very much protected, those who are engaged in unscrupulous and exploitative business practices are punishable by law. In Malaysia, awareness of the rights of consumers is still low especially in certain areas and sometimes, consumers are much more willing to let themselves be taken advantage of rather than to fight for and defend their rights. All in all, I believe the GST is another way of educating consumers and ensuring transparency in our society. Its success (or even failure) very much depends on all of us and nobody else. Give it some time before we start judging, pointing fingers, blaming others and giving negative comments. As consumers, we have a lot of choices and it is up to us to exercise our rights. Below is a sample receipt to help those (and me, too) who are still not sure what to expect when certain items are purchased. Let us all become wise consumers and don't let anybody take advantage of us.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

CARAN D'ACHE

When I was in college, I took quite a number of art classes for my elective courses (unlike my other college mates who preferred to take more academically-related subjects). I took drawing, lithography, ceramics and even jewelry-making. There was also a time when I wanted to enrol in an oil-painting class but I had to drop that class after seeing the list of what to buy. For my drawing class, my professor had insisted that we use Strathmore drawing paper of certain texture and weight. He also asked us to use only certain types of pencils and charcoal to produce our artwork. So I could not imagine how on earth I could afford to buy the paints, brushes and canvasses if I were to take up oil painting. Unlike other Fine Arts students who proudly walked around campus carrying their professional-looking folios (some were leather, let me tell you), I was quite content clutching my cheap black hardboard folio and art box on my way to class. I would spend a lot of time in the art studio especially for my ceramics and lithography classes since the projects could only be completed there and not at home. By the way, I found out that I was extremely hopeless at 'throwing'. My free-form projects were so much better but they also lacked any consistent concept or idea. I had never had any formal art lesson in school so to be able to do what my heart desired was definitely a dream come true. Since taking the oil painting class was out of the question, I began to look for other alternatives which would enable me to use colours. Water colour was not an option since no water colour courses were offered (and even if they were, I knew that I would be terribly bad at it). My 'big sistah', Dana, had a set of coloured pencils which was quite expensive. The coloured pencils were special since they were water-soluble and could also be used as water colour. I had never seen any coloured pencils which could do that and to me, that was truly amazing. The coloured pencils were Caran D'Ache, a Swiss product. Those Caran D'Ache coloured pencils belong to me now although I rarely use them anymore. The company was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1915 and that means this year is its 100th anniversary. Caran D'Ache has quite a number of products ranging from pastels and coloured pencils to fibre-tipped pens and acrylic paints to high-quality writing equipment and exquisite pens  (all of them expensive, let me tell you). If anyone is interested, feel free to surf their official website. Unfortunately, they do not ship to Malaysia. Caran D'Ache has a few boutiques in Kuala Lumpur and I think the company wants to retain its exclusive market among the more affluent, hence no shipping to Malaysia. For their coloured pencils, there are many different ranges to suit different budgets, techniques and users. There are Supracolor, Swisscolor, Neocolor, Pablo, Prismalo, Luminance, Museum, Fancolor and Tootuff. Now, let me get back to my Caran D'Ache story before I keep on rambling endlessly and unnecessarily. A friend of my younger brother (who is a Swiss) was planning his annual visit to Malaysia and I immediately asked my brother to ask him to buy for me a set of Caran D'Ache coloured pencils. I wanted to try to do something related to arts again and drawing using coloured pencils, in my opinion, would be most convenient and less time-consuming compared to using any other medium. I could have bought other brands such as Faber-Castell and Staedtler (which are available locally in most stores) but I wanted something not owned by a lot of people (my vanity took over for a while, okay?). I told my brother that a basic set (with 12 colours) would do since I did not want to pay through my nose for a luxury product that I might not even use at all. Anyway, the colour pencil set that I received was more than I had expected. It is from the Swisscolor range and there are 30 vibrant colours altogether and of course, they are water-soluble. This range is actually more suitable for students and beginners since it is harder (which makes the pencils less prone to breakage) but who is complaining when it is Caran D'Ache? I still have not taken the plastic wrapper off the tin box since I haven't done any colouring or even drawing for quite a while now. I hope that I can find the time to start doing something on a small scale, at least. And I know I will need lots and lots of practice before I can even produce something that is equivalent to a kindergarten colouring project. To Eddie, thank you so much for the Caran D'Ache set. It will be put into good use but I can't promise how soon that will be.

The Caran D'Ache colour pencil set from my college days.

My new Caran D'Ache colour pencil set.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

AL-FATIHAH : KAK INA (ZARINA MOHD HASIN)

It was after Maghrib this evening when I received a phone call from a colleague informing that one of the administrative assistants at my workplace was involved in a car accident on her way back home. She was said to be injured but nobody knew whether it was serious or not. I tried to call her number but there was no answer so I tried her brother-in-law's number. I was numb for a while when he told me that Kak Ina (that was what I called her although she was younger than I) had just passed away. It was only yesterday evening when I last saw her after fetching my Mum from the dialysis centre. Kak Ina was the one who handled my monthly claims for my Mum's dialysis treatment. For the past few days, she had kept on asking me about the receipts that I should give her so she could settle her work. On Thursday, I gave all the receipts to her and on Friday, she called me to the office to tell me that the dialysis centre had left out one receipt. She had insisted that I go and get the receipt from the centre that Friday evening. I stopped by at the office to give her the receipt on Friday evening and she pointed out that there was a mistake in one of the forms from the dialysis centre. She asked me whether I could get another form but since I did not want to delay her work, I simply asked her to correct the form since the error was very minor (it was my identity card number). That was the last time I talked to her. After I received the news from her brother-in-law, I immediately called Kak Minah, my mommy-sitter, to come over to my house since I wanted to go to the hospital. When I reached the hospital, some of my colleagues were already there wait6ing for her to be taken for the post-mortem. Now that she is gone, I began to notice some of the subtle changes in her before her passing. Kak Ina, you will be missed and I cannot thank you enough for all the things that you had done for me. Al-Fatihah and may Allah bless your soul and place you in jannah. آمين

Saturday, February 28, 2015

PIECES OF MALAYSIAN NOSTALGIA : YOU ARE ALREADY MIDDLE-AGED IF...

Growing old can be a pain in the ass (and other parts of the body as well) and it's not something that we can easily avoid no matter hard we try. No amount of ointments, lotions and rubs can restore that vitality and strength that we once possessed. The physical aches that we suffer are somehow incomparable to the longing that some of us have when we reflect on our youth and the carefree times that we had. Sometimes, that longing can be more piercing than the sharpest of blades and more. Many people have discussed in blogs and forums how simpler life was when they were younger and I couldn't agree more. We did not have a lot of money back then but we were okay. We did not have a lot of facilities to make our life easier but we managed to get by. Most of us did not have university-educated parents but they made sure that we got proper education. We had to help our parents before or after school yet we never complained. We only got hand-me-down clothes yet they were clean and mended. Reading those entries and comments sometimes makes me want to go back in time at least for a while just for old time's sake. If you grew up in Malaysia in the 70s and 80s, I'm quite sure you will be familiar with most of the things I've listed below. Generally you can be considered almost (with the emphasis on the word 'almost') middle-aged if :

1. bas mini (the most famous was Bas Mini Wilayah @ BMW) or 'bas loncat' was your choice mode of transportation.

2. you know what a 'basikal Chopper' or a 'Pasola' is.

3. you envied the guys who rode their Yamaha RX-S and got all the girls.

4. the first novel that introduced you to the concept of the birds and the bees was 'Mona Gersang' or something similar to it (I wonder if anybody still keeps a copy).

5. Syed Sobrie, Razis Ismail, Ogy Ahmad Daud or Mazuin Hamzah was your teenage crush.

6. Mimaland was the choice theme park to have fun with your family and friends (it was the only one that was family-oriented).

7. Aliph was your favourite brand of shoes (if you were a Mat Rock).

8. your favourite local sitcoms were 2+1 and Pi Mai, Pi Mai Tang Tu.

9. you were inspired to become an athlete by Marina Chin, Zaiton Othman, Rabuan Pit, Istiaq Mubaraq and Nurherman Majid.

10. Mum 21, Cuticura and Amami were the talcum powders in your household.

11. you went to ITM and not uITM.

12. you often refer to UPM as Universiti Pertanian Malaysia.

13. you know what 'tudung dakwah' means.

14. you went home early because you were afraid of 'Hantu Kum Kum' and 'Hantu Kepala Anjing'.

15. you attended 'usrah' during weekends with your 'brothers' and 'sisters'.

16. Minah Karan and Mat Spanar were derogatory terms you used to refer to the factory workers (a big salute to you guys and gals for your economic contributions).

17. you listened to FM Stereo or Rediffusion.

18. you hung out with friends at Pertama Kompleks (KL) or Komtar (Penang) or Yik Foong (Ipoh).

19. you skipped school to play Pacman, Pinball and Space Invaders at video arcades.

20. you once owned a pair of bell-bottoms, carrot-cut jeans or a maxi dress.

21. you competed with your friends to see who could solve the Rubik Cube puzzle first.

22. your favourite reading materials were Gila-Gila, Remaja, Siri Bercakap Dengan Jin and Variasari.

23. typing and shorthand were two favourite courses to take while waiting for SPM results.

24. you learned cursive writing using your fountain pen at least once a week in primary school.

25. you remember fondly watching the latest movies at these cinemas : Lido, Cathay, Odeon, Ruby, Majestic, Rex or Princess.

26. on hot days, you bought 'ice balls' wrapped in newspaper or 'ais krim Malaysia' to quench your thirst.

27. you played marbles, batu seremban or galah panjang and went to catch fighting fish or spiders.

28. your Home Science teacher and Discipline Master were the most feared people in school.

Time has changed and most of the things I've listed above are no longer known to many, especially the younger generation. Some things are better left forgotten but certain things will always be kept fondly within our hearts.