Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Brotherly (Macho) Love

Looking at my children, how close they are with each other, made me realise that I don't know how it feels to be them... to have siblings with age difference small enough to actually share an era.

I was born in 1964, which means that I started school in 1971, at which time my youngest older brother is well into his teenage years, my eldest sister is 30 years old.

I was almost like an only child, spoiled silly by my mother and sisters, frowned upon by my father and brothers as an annoyance. I have no fond memories of brotherly love, like wrestling each other or playing a game together, which makes me rather apprehensive of how my two sons relate to each other. They are 5 years apart, but I was often afraid that Afiq will treat Aiman as a nuisance and leave him out of whatever he was doing. That, happened for a while, but I found out that Afiq blamed Aiman for not being able to play his PS2...(long story).

I straightened that out, and ever since, he and Aiman are so close, it warms my heart... and saddens me that I never had such close relationship with my own brothers, largely due to our age difference, and that by the time I was approching my teenage years, all my three brothers have flown away from our nest. So, I end up spending most of my time next door, at Pak Uteh Hashim's house, whose children are nearer my age group.

Not that I blame my brothers. I was such an annoyance..... A whiny kid, a cry baby who ran to mother when he couldn't get his way or if my brother/s played a little rough on me. I know that today, if I ever come across a child like that I'll really like to give him a good spanking.

Even later in my life, as I imposed onto the lives of my sisters, Kak Esah, then Kak Sarah, then Kak Esah again during my college years, while there is a closeness between me and my sisters, there was a marked distance between me and my brothers. And more often than not, I have the impression that my brothers are closer to their repective wives' families than they are with us. (And I am just as guilty of this myself, having lived my entire married life in my in-law's house).

It seems like, there is a bubble of space between me and my brothers. Was this created by my childhood behaviour? So much so that, in the subconscious of my brothers, I am still, and will always be, that annoying little brat? Or is this just the way we (the men folk of our clan) were brought up? To be manly is to shake hands and that's it. Any display of emotions beyond that is just not...macho.

I like to think it's the latter. Our father is one macho guy, as far as my memory serves. The emotion that he would willingly show is anger. There is no doubt of his love for his children, but he's the old school type of dad... if you know what I mean.

But, this does not mean that there is a lack of love between the men folk of the Hj jaafar clan. Far from it. Perhaps, just a lack of expression. That is all... And, honestly, I don't think I am ready to start hugging and kissing my brothers from now on.

But, I would like to say to Abang Mail, Abang Enal and Abang Fuad... I love all of you!! (Said in a deep manly voice with a clenched fist beating my chest).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Memory Full...

The arrow of time can only move in one direction. Forward. That is the law of the universe... the law of God. What this means is just that we only have memories of the past, and we can't see the future. And (it is theorised) that even if one has gone to the future, and come back to the past, he will not have any memories of the future he's gone to. So all we have in our minds are things that has happened in the past.

I am trying to think of things that happened in my life, and the more I think, the more I realised that, I seemed to have forgotten of so many things in my past. This happens all the time, (especially during Eidul Fitri), when the conversation, inevitably, steered itself to comparisons of then and now. More often than not, I am surprised that some people remember things about me or what I said or do that I have no memory of. And it amazes me that some will remember every detail of a certain long gone event like it only happened yesterday. Once, I showed an old picture to Din (my cousin, my brother, my friend) and he recalled almost everything that transpired that day, why we took the picture, who took the picture, what we do after that... Amazing.

I have memories of smells, sights, feelings... of how it was, but I cannot recall specific things. I remember how it feels to be looking out the window of my father's house in Muar on hot afternoons, or the scent of the air just after it rained. Or, mesmerised by the multitude of ripples in puddles of water that formed every time it rained on the field between our house and Mak Uteh's house. I remember the smell of mother, the scent of "bunga cempaka", I think, which grew in our front yard, which she liked to put in her hair. I remember how frightened was I when I awoke in the middle of the night, when there was only silence but the ringing sound in my head, and I remember the warmth and security of my mother's embrace, when I whispered to her that I was scared. I remember the joy of waking up, and finding that my father and mother has come home from their trip and next to my pillow was a set of miniature cars.

I remember the sadness of evenings, when the school holidays are over. That feeling of anxiety when I just remembered that I have unfinished assignments that needed to be submitted on the first day of school. I remember the feeling of falling in love, or having a crush on a girl. Of the embarrassment of rejections, the joy of acceptance.

And in these memories, things seemed to be simple. We all seemed to be carefree. Living our lives just for the moment. Que sera sera... What will be, will be. And, many a times, as we reminisce, how we wished that we can go back to that time....

But we can't. We only live in the present. And, what we are today is the results of our decisions yesterday. Those decisions we made, are the building blocks upon which we stand today. The path we chose that led us to where we are now.

I for one, do not dwell too much in the past. I don't know why... maybe, it reminded me of those things I want to forget. Or maybe, it is my laziness that just do not want to bother with the things I cannot change. But, truth be told, it is those regrets that bother me most. Those times when I got caught in the moment and do or say stupid things which I thought were clever or cool at that time. Or, lies I told to save my skin, at the expense of others.... especially of those we love. Maybe I have too many of these kind of memories that leave a bitter taste in my mouth, which repulsed me from reminiscing about my past life. So, I tend to forget.....

It is always good to reminisce. But, memories are like dreams... we can't hold on to it.. we have no control over it.

We must not let it have control over us....

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Wind and the Sun

My mother told me that my name means the Sun. And, she bought me a book of Aesop fables and, though I love all the stories with its moralities, I can’t help but become attached to the story of the wind and the sun.

Thereafter, somewhere in the beginning of my life, I made the unconscious decision to adopt the sun’s virtue in making people to do things. And, today I can’t do it otherwise.

Throughout my life, people around me tell me to be more aggressive. They say I am too soft. Some adults say that I’ll never survive in the real world, if I continue to let certain things go... not get back at those who have put me down or bullied me.
Maybe it is the result of people constantly telling me that I am soft and indecisive that has made me soft and indecisive... Maybe this sun attitude as opposed to the wind attitude is just my way of consoling myself.
I don’t know. Perhaps, I am too much like my mother. My father is very assertive and will tell people exactly what’s on his mind. My mother tended to accept things. Most women in those times had to, I suppose.

But I get things done. I just do not like to dwell on what has happened and concentrate what we can do to correct the situation. Punishment? I will try to avoid that, too. Simply because, when something goes wrong, the further you dig into it, the more you will see that it cannot be attributed to just one person....

It the nature of human beings, I supposed, that one is very rarely complimented for a good deed, but, make one error, you will receive advice you never asked for, from so many “experts”. I’ve had a fair share of these advices, and from my experience none of them is useable.

So I don’t give advice, unless asked to.

Call it whatever you want, a low self esteem, lack of self confidence, not assertive, reserved, conservative..... I am what I am....

Non Sequitur

If life were a premise of death
I’m dying to live
If death is what we live for
Live and let live
If the rich are kind
There will be no hunger
If the poor are apathetic
What are the rich?
If war is the answer
I shall not ask questions
If peace is what we kill for
Please don’t have children....

Haji Jaafar and The Devil....

Haji Jaafar knows where the devil lives. He told me, and at first I didn't want to believe him.

"The devil called my name once," Haji Jaafar said to me. "It was when we, your mother and I, were travelling to Alor Star... or somewhere, I can't recall, but I know it was a long journey."

There were no expressways then. The roads were narrow and dangerous, and the journey up north will take maybe ten hours from Muar.

Hj Jaafar told me he heard it clearly, above the drone of the car engine and howling wind as he sped to his destination.

"Maybe it was the wind rustling the leaves in the trees," I suggested.

"No," Haji Jaafar said, "it can't be." I waited for his point of argument, but it never came. Instead, he fell silent and looked out the window.

"He even tried to cause an accident..." Haji Jaafar said to no one outside the window. "He pulled on the steering wheel... but I managed to fight him... I read out the ayat Kursi... and he went away.

"That's what happen that day, too. It was raining heavily, Bad was asleep in the back seat, your mother was awake.. she couldn't sleep, maybe she was a little scared. I wasn't going very fast, but the car just appeared out of nowhere... and hit on your mother's side. If it was a japanese car... maybe we'd be dead. The Opel Kadett is really tough.

"The devil... he blinded me. And he blinded the other driver. He caused this accident and it's my fault... I couldn't fight him then.

"The devil, he lives in your blood... he sits in wait... in your blood and make you lose your concentration, makes you careless, makes you reckless. He makes you feel lazy, he makes you want to do something else when you know you want should be doing another thing. He tells you there's no hope... that it's not worth it, whatever you are trying to achieve, he tells you, it's not worth it...

"How I wish the devil looks like those monsters on TV. You know, red coloured humanoids with tails and horns... and a goatee... if they really look like that, it's easy to fight them. But, no... if you want to see the devil, just look in the mirror...."

Mother had to undergo a hip replacement. Apparently, when the people of Tanjung Gading realised that Haji Jaafar and Hajah Mahani was involved in the accident, they all came to help. But, moving mother out of the car had caused her hip bone to shatter. And, for a while nobody noticed the little boy on the floor of the car behind the driver... but he was fine. Yes, the Opel Kadett was a tough car. The other driver (I heard) lost an eye.

I thought, maybe the anesthetics or the pain killers were talking. After all, he just had the stitched on his head removed. But, then, almost three decades later today, before I start on a long journey, although most people will recite the travelling prayers (doa menaiki kenderaan), I will always say the Ayat Kursi.... to keep the devil away.

Praise be to Allah... It has worked thus far.

(Note also how easy for us to perform ibadah during Ramadhan, when he who live in our blood is shackled...)

(Haji Jaafar, Hajah Mahani & the Opel Kadett)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

For the Love of God

Someone told me a joke about a man who had just bought a car. It was his first car and, not wanting to have even a scratch on it, he took it to a hindu temple, a buddhist temple, a church and a mosque.

At the hindu temple, the hindu priest chanted mantras over the car and tied a red string around the car's right wing mirror.

The buddhist monk sprinkled the car with water after chanting traditional mantras and then a white string was tied to the left wing mirror.

The christian priest blessed the car with holy water and gave the driver a cross to hang from the rear view mirror.

At the mosque, the imam was astounded since nobody ever asked to bless a car before. So after a recitation of selected verses from the Qur'an, he took a hacksaw and promptly cut the tip off the car's exhaust pipe..... to circumcise it.

When I first heard this story, I thought the new car owner was an atheist, albeit a superstitious one. This man, I had deduced, did not really believe in the existence of God, but he just didn't want to take any chances.

Furthermore, it is inconceivable in my mind that anyone should have more than one religion.

Then there's Piscine Molitor Patel. A hindu at (after) birth, he met a christian priest when he was sixteen and became a christian and soon after that he met an imam and became a muslim.

You will find him on Thursdays at a hindu temple for Pooja, on Friday afternoons at the mosque for Friday prayers and on Sundays, he's at church. Had he been a Jew, he'd be at a cynagogue on Saturdays.... and as his brother chided him, he needs to finds only three more religions and he'll be on holiday for the rest of his life.

He requested from his parents for a baptism and then for a prayer mat for his daily solah (five times a day). It was strange at first, but soon his family got used to it, although the pandit, the imam and the priest of his local temple, mosque and church respectively was utterly incensed when they found out about this multi-faithed teenager. Thereafter, he only goes to temple at crowded times, had to attend mass at another church and no longer lingered after Friday prayers at the mosque.
When asked why... his answer is always the same..."Bappu Gandhi said that all religions are true... I just want to love God."

"I just want to love God"

Is it really possible then for a person to have multiple religion? Why not? Is there so much difference between the beliefs and practices? All religions preach goodness and all religions are against what's the problem?

Being a born muslim, I was taught that there is only one God. And, it is wrong to say that the non muslims, when they are performing their prayers, are praying to their god/s. There is no other God, the ustaz told me. And, Islam is the completion of the human faith in God. And ,despite what Mahatma Gandhi said, I am told there is only one true religion, and that is Islam....

It is the only religion I know.

So, in my mind, Piscine, just like our new car owner, is an atheist, too. Praying is just a hobby for him, a past time. Like learning different kinds of martial arts or various types of dances. Because, had he really studied Islam, than he would have inevitably come to the surah called the Disbeliever (surah 109). It is the revelation that clearly defines that there can be only one faith in a muslim, for in the last verse God tells Muhammad to say to the disbelievers who had asked him to compromise his beliefs: "For you your religion, for me mine." (La kum deenukum wa liadin).

Piscine Molitor Patel was born in Pondicherri, India and later moved to Toronto Canada. On his way to Toronto, the ship he was on, capsized and he suddenly found himself in a life boat, along with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450lb Bengal tiger...

It's a good book... check it out: The life of Pi by Yann Martel.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Abilene Paradox – because we didn’t want to let others down…

Abilene is a place in Texas, USA. I’ve never been there, but the first time I heard of the place was when I was in college (UiTM) during the Organizational Behaviour class. Dr. Zulaika told the class about a bunch of people, a husband, a wife and the wife’s parents, who were sitting around, doing practically nothing when all of a sudden the father said, ‘Let’s go to Abilene.’ From where they were, Abilene was 85 km away. Because he sounded so enthusiastic, the son-in-law said, 'Ok, why not.' The wife said, 'Yes, let’s have dinner there.' The mother said, 'Sounds like fun.'

The trip was bad, and the food was lousy and then they had to travel all the way back again. Then, the mother said, 'Maybe we should’ve stayed home.' And the wife said, 'Yes, I thought, everybody else wanted to go, so I went along.' The husband said, 'I thought you wanted to go, Dad…I didn’t want to disappoint you.' The father said, 'Not really, I just made the suggestion because everybody looked bored.'

It is a weakness. On everyone’s part for wanting to please others. That’s why a little impertinence is necessary. In the story above, impertinence would have saved them money and precious time.

Imagine, then, if the husband was a jerk, and instead of saying 'why not', he’d look up from whatever he was doing or while sprawled on the couch, and say something like, “WTF for?”…..

It is the right response… it was what the wife and the mother in law would like to say but is inhibited somehow by a hormone in their body. (Yes, there is such a hormone… it was in an episode of House MD). And, it is probably the answer the father-in-law was really expecting, minus the expletive, perhaps, but he would’ve been happy if his suggestion was shot down.

So, why am I writing this? Because, I can't get this one memory out of my mind.

Din (my cousin, my brother, my friend) and I were in Johor Bahru. This was a very long time ago, we were in our late teens. Din's father has taken ill and for some reason, he was sent to a private hospital there, away from our hometown in Muar. I can't remember how I got there, probably I went with my parents but then decided to hang around with Din. It was fun. We put up at another cousin's house, Aboy, and we listened to a new band called Alphaville and their hit songs "Forever Young" and "Big in Japan".

The next day, Din and I were asked if we want to go back home to Muar with my parents or hang around a few more days then go home with Din's sister. I really wanted to go home, but I thought Din wanted to spend another day in JB. So, I said lets stay.

But, the day was spent hanging aroung the hospital because nobody was available to take us around, and Aboy could not spend time with us beauce he had a tennis tournament or something. We complained to an adult (I can't recall who it was) who got angry and scolded us, and Din said to me, 'You are the one who wanted to stay...'

I walked away from Din and I didn't speak to him for a while.

Perhaps, I owe Din an apology, for walking away and not talking to him... but, neither of us wanted to make a decision and when things didn't go as we planned, I had to bear the blame for saying what I thought the other party wanted to hear.....

Sorry Din....