Friday, December 30, 2016

2017: New Horizons....

Another day closer to the end of another year.

It's just another day in the Gregorian calendar. Muslims already had our new year a couple of months ago, and, was treated by many as another public holiday.

The Gregorian Calendar is named after Pope Gregory the XIII who refined the original calendar started by the Romans. Julius Caesar tweaked it a little and changed the name of the 7th month from Quintilis to Julius... or as we know it today, July. (Subsequently, Augustus Caesar also changed the 8th month to August from Sextilis... which is a good thing).

Anyway, 2016 was an eventful year I supposed, with all the things happening around the world, death and mayhem, suppression and oppression, corruption and pollution. Children killed, women raped, immigrants drown fleeing unrest in their home country.

Sometimes I can't believe that we are already in the 21st century, almost 2 decades deep. Yet, racism is still as much a problem as it was in the last century.

For me, 2016 has been a year of change. A shift in paradigm. My wife quit her job in October 2015 and, to occupy her time after the novelty of not having to go to work wears off, she start selling stuff she bought from Bandung. Textile, blouses, dresses, hijab and telekung... even hoodies and ointments and cosmetics.

We were never business people. I have made that conclusion when, in 2003, I tried and failed as a businessman. Robert T. Kiyosaki wrote in his book that to do business you need a mentor. I mean that's what his book Rich Dad Poor Dad was about. His mentor was his Rich Dad.... but I guess I miss that part... emblazoned on the front page.

Wiser and older (in that order), and with a bit more resources (a.k.a Money) to spent to go to seminars and courses, we are now weighing anchor and casting off on our new ship, into areas we never thought we'd ever venture into. We have new circle of friends... or at least my wife has. Friends who's been there done that and friends are doing it as we are.... although, most of them are much younger than us....

So here goes everything. Will we make it? I pray to God we will.... there's no turning back now....

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Wind and The Sun

Image result for the wind and the sun

Aesop's Fables was probably the first book that my father ever bought for me. It has left a couple of profound marks on my development as a human being. One, I now only read short stories... and two, I am Shams... the Sun....

THE WIND and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.


That's why many people tell me I am soft.... but hot tempered.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A dish best served cold

I don't like babies. They are so cute and cuddly, then the next thing you know they are adults. But, you are still responsible for them. It's not fair, for God to make these babies so cute that, as they were growing up, you just want to give them everything. We feel really bad when they cry and we are happy when they laugh. So, we want to keep them happy, and by keeping them happy, we are happy... I guess it's self-serving.... like everything else we do in life.

God made us such that we keep wanting things. When we were small, we want to grow up, when we're grown up we want to get married, after we're married we want to have babies... then we can't wait for the babies to grow up and when they've grown up they treat us like a bottomless ATM machine. And, they think they have a right over whatever we own. And, that the things we gave them, are their rights to have. And, you ask yourself..... why did I want babies?

I am envious of a friend. A very successful friend. He treats his children like adults. He doesn't worry where they are, or whether they'll come home or not, in fact he encourages his children to get out of the house as soon as they turn 18. They all turned out ok, I think, at least, from where I was, as we sat on the patio of his club, smoking cigars.

Me... I am one of those over protective dads. I get anxieties, thinking about my children. Are they safe? Will they be able to take care of themselves when I'm dead? What if they get into trouble and I can't get to them? I need to know where they are all the time..... It calms me to know they have reached their destination. When one of them comes home late, I have this imagination that they could be in an accident and bleeding to death somewhere.

But, in return, they think I am being silly. I think so, too.

The weird think is, all this seems oddly familiar. A dejavu.... from a different angle.

I read somewhere that, children are the grandparents' revenge. How true that is, at least in my case. This was how my parents felt while bringing me up. These are their anxieties, their anger, their exasperations. Only now as a parent, I am understanding what my own parents went through bringing me up.

If both of them are alive today, they will probably say... Serve you right!!

God bless their souls.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Living in fear of not being able to breath

I am afraid of drowning. For the last half century, as much as I like to frolick in the water, I would panic the moment my feet can't feel the bottom.

This year, one "brave" thing I did, is to take swimming lessons. Actually, I signed up my youngest son, Aiman, whose most strenuous physical activity he ever engaged in was to mop the kitchen floor at the behest of his mother.

I had to drive him, of course, to his lessons, at the Darul Ehsan Aquatic Center, and hang around the crowded swimming pool together with the other parents.

The lessons were on Saturdays, and after four Saturdays or so (I can't quite recall), I decided to join him in the pool. We started in the public pool, the outdoor pool where most lessons start since the depth is just 1.5 meters. I had eight lessons, and after being taught the correct technique for the breaststroke and the freestyle, the coach told me that I have practically learned all I need to learn, because the next lesson will be for the backstroke and the butterfly. While the backstroke is not as physically challenging as the butterfly, I knew the coach was trying to tell me that, unless I am trying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the breaststroke and/or the freestyle would be sufficient for me to, perhaps, get me to the shallows, should I accidentally find myself astray in the deep part of the swimming pool.

So, I have graduated. Still, the next weekend, I signed Aiman up for what is known in the swimming community as the "pre-com", where you are taught more seriously, to improve your swimming to a more competitive level. I am not counting Aiman to be in the next national swim meet, but it provided him good exercise and, most importantly, make him not afraid of jumping in waters out of his depths.

Which what I have been for the whole of my life.

But, having learned how to swim, I want only to swim in the big pool, where you can't reach the bottom. Mind you, I am still not all that brave as I would swim near the poolside, so I can grab the edge once I get nervous or panicky. And, the furthest I swam was about a quarter of the Olympic size pool, or about 25 meters.... Until yesterday.

Apparently, there are more people like me, cowards who swam close to the side, than people who swim in the middle of the pool, where there is nothing for you to hang on should you, for some reason, cannot make it to the other end of the pool. This situation forced me to swim further because the "landing sites" on the on the poolside has become scarce as more and more people were hanging on to it. At one point, I had no choice but to make it all the way to the end of the pool.... an achievement for me.

I have just discovered that all I need to do is keep calm and that the chance of me drowning is really quite remote, especially when there are a lot of people around who, I am sure, are willing to throw me the lifesaver bouy, should they see me flailing in the water and screaming my head off for help.

That was all it needed. A small amount of bravery to face your fears. And, I suppose this applies to other parts of my life, too. We fear that we do not understand. Now that I have learned how to handle the water, I am not afraid of it anymore.... 

Now, my real fear is that, with my own anxieties and fears,  I may have inculcated fear into my children.... I hope not.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Plight of the Lonesome Monkey

Something is bothering me. It's something that was said (texted actually) by somebody to someone else, but I cannot get myself over the prejudice and how much bile and hatred that laced the simple few words.

have the utmost respect for the person to whom the words were directed, as she had chosen to totally ignore it, a sign of maturity and sensibility. Had it been uttered to me, I would have probably went on a rant that I know I will later regret. What more, if the person saying those words is one that I am supposed to have respect for.

Also, what was uttered made me rethink of filial piety, something that is expected in our society. We demand respect from our children, sometimes forgetting that our children will grow up to be another member of the human race just as we are. I dislike those who "remind" us that a mother can care for many children but the many children can't care for that one mother. I believe that if the mother had brought up the children right, all of them will care for her. Those parents that are sent to old folks home, or those who are abandoned, shunned by their adult children who have their own lives, must ask themselves, have I really showed them love and really showed that I cared for them.

Then, there are those introverted people who are often vilified as "sombong"; people who are not comfortable to be in a crowd. Some people, just have a bigger personal space than others. I enjoy being alone, away from the maddening crowd... sometimes. But, people say I am being a "kera sumbang", a lonesome monkey. I say, not all monkeys are created equal, and the other more social monkeys , should just respect the lonesome monkey's right to not join them.

Well, that a load off my chest. Maybe, this lonesome monkey can have a good night's sleep tonight.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Pak Mat Beca

I started school in 1971. I went to Sekolah Ismail (Dua), as far as I am concerned the only primary school in the whole universe and every kid must go there or the government will put their parents away forever.

The "Dua" or Two (2), does not mean there were two Sekolah Ismails. There was only one, except that there were two sessions, morning and afternoon. When I started in standard one, I was in the morning session. Apparently, somehow, the two Ismails alternate, and I really can't recall ever having to go to school in the afternoon.

Every morning, my cousin, the late Hashimah Hashim (Allah bless her soul), and I would wait for Pak Mat to pick us up in his beca, his trishaw. And, until I changed school in 1976 (that's another story to tell), Pak Mat and his beca would take me to school every school day. I know of no other way to go to school and I did not really appreciate the distance that Pak Mat had to cycle to pick us up and send us to our respective schools, which was practically on the opposite sides of Muar town (Shimah went to Sultan Abu Bakar or popularly know to Muarians as SAB, an all girls school; while Ismail school was an all boys school).

Nor did I ever knew how much he earned ferrying us, and (I assumed) other children to and from school. I never knew of his life besides toiling morning, noon and until late afternoon, bent over his trusty trishaw, fighting headwinds caught by the green canvass collapsible roofs over our heads, braving torrential rain and searing afternoon heat, to ensure we arrive safely at school and back home again. 

I never ever found out whether he was married, how many children he had, how old are they, which school did they go to.... And, how do they go to school?

Even well after I graduated from college, I am sure I saw Pak Mat and his beca along the route between Ismail School and SAB.

And the saddest thing of all, I don't even know his real name.

It is one of life's ironies I guess, that a person whom has such a contribution in shaping our futures, remains in total anonymity. 

I am sure he probably has left this earth by now.... I think will dedicate a prayer for him today.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Zainal Abidin Jaafar: Beating His Own Path

If there is one in my family who have truly lived, it would be my brother Zainal. I must, regretfully, admit, that, as an elder brother, he has always been an elusive man of mystery for me. Being the youngest, by the time I was born, Abang Enal, was already in form 2. When I started school in 1971, he was already in Melaka studying at the Vocational Institute of MARA. I have vague memories of visiting him with my parents.

Then, he was off to Japan, I don't know for how long, and then, he came back home with a beautiful Japanese girl in tow. I remember, she had picked the name Suzana as her Muslim/Malay name after she converted, and they got married. We all lived together with my late sister Aishah and her husband Abang Haris, and their two sons, Zulkifli (Zul) and Sallehuddin (Hud). The one memory I have of my Japanese sister in law, was; Abang Haris once bought one of those racing track toys with tiny motorcycle riders going around in a figure of eight, then up a conveyor belt, then down again around the track. The instructions to assemble the toy was in Japanese, and we (Zul, Hud and myself) asked Suzana to read the instruction, but since her grasp of English was still in its infancy (much less her Malay), it was quite stressful to understand her explanations. Thinking back, if you were an observer looking at three kids sitting around a pile of toy parts listening open mouthed to a Japanese woman explaining how to put it together, it must have been a hilarious sight.

The marriage did not last....

But, with his wits and charm, it wasn't long before Abang Enal wooed another beautiful girl, but wisely ensuring she is a local girl.

This, in my mind, is the perfect match. Kak Maya, the energetic, robust, straight to the point kind of girl, is perfect for the soft spoken, laid back Abang Enal. They had four children, and to the annoyance of Abah and Mak gave them weird names.... Nina Eza Maria, Ezwan Razak, Assalamia and Al Haq....

The ups and downs of their lives, would have made the bestseller's list. God only knows the hardship they had gone through, which makes them what they are today. The children grew up fine, married to wonderful spouses, their business started to pick up..... Unfortunately, there are those who cannot stand to see others happy.

Abang Enal is now in a much better place now. He is resting now... He had lived this life walking his own path. He never asked for approval not did he expected any. He seems content, having all that he loves, and loving all that he has.

I don't think I have ever heard him complain or see him sad, right to the last days of his life, he was ever jovial, with a permanent smile on his face.

I am envious of him, both in life and in death. There can be no other reward for him, in the afterlife, than heaven.

The blessings of Allah upon him.... Alfatihah.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Last Miracle

One morning, at the outdoor agro mart (Pasar Tani) in Kampung Melayu Subang, a man approached the butcher stall and asked for a rib. The butcher’s assistant brought a few pieces from behind him and put them in front of the man, for him to choose. He held up one sizable one with a lot of meat on it and asked the assistant for the price. The assistant said RM30. The man put down the rib, looked into his wallet, and sighed. He asked the assistant which one he can get for RM15. The assistant looked behind him again and took a smaller rib with less meat on it. The man said he will take that rib, asked the assistant to cut it into smaller pieces. He walked off saying he will be back for the ribs, as he wanted to buy some other ingredients for the soup he was planning to make.

A woman who was waiting for her order to be prepared, saw how sad the man was. She called to the assistant and told him to take and cut up the RM30 rib for the man and then she paid for it.

I saw all this, too. I happened to be there as this act of generosity unfolded. Later, as I was waiting near my car for my wife, I saw the man sitting in the passenger seat of a car, blankly staring out into nothingness. He, too was waiting for someone, the owner of the car with whom he had come to the market to buy the ribs. Then, as the driver came in and start the car, I saw the man almost in tears thanking God and telling the driver that a miracle has happened today because someone had paid for the ribs he will be taking home to make a soup and eat it with his family.

For us, the ummah of the end of time, even though we are privileged to have the Quran as a miracle, to guide us until judgement day, we are not privileged enough to live at the time when our prophets lived to see true miracles. But, the Quran itself is a miracle of giving. That is the last miracle God has bestowed upon us.

So, give.... then sit back to watch miracles happen....

Monday, June 6, 2016

A letter from my mother

Today, on the first day of Ramadhan in the 52nd year of my life, while I was rummaging through some old stuff, I came across a letter written to me by my mother, folded and enveloped into a prescription drug package.

My mother taught herself to write in Rumi, so some words are quite difficult to figure out. She was probably more comfortable writing in Jawi, but she knew her son is useless at reading it.

The letter was not dated, but I would say it was written circa 1985, the year that I dropped out of UTM. The letter was an angry letter, as angry as my dearest mother would be. I cannot remember the occasion that warranted such letter, but I think I must have said something that hurt her.

She wrote that I should have told her or father (unlikely) or my brothers and sisters that I am having difficulties in my studies. She wrote that I have ostracized myself from my family, and she understood that I did this because I do not want to be any more a burden to my parents and my siblings.

This is where her anger showed. The words she used was "konon-kononya tidak mahu menyusahkan sesiapa". It hurt me then, and it still affects me today.

I hope and pray that Mother will forgive me. I was young and stupid and I was apt to blame others for my own failures. I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life. And, being a small town boy, given so much money (from my scholarship) and freedom in the big city of Kuala Lumpur, I forgot what I was there really for.

No, I did not spent my money on women and drugs, but, I converted a lot of it into tokens to play video games. It was unfortunate for me that the UTM campus at Jalan Gurney was just a bus ride away from Ampang Park, where on its roof top, was heaven to video game addict such as I. I became so good that my initials SBJ would be in the top ten of almost all the games there.

Alas, it was a lesson too late for the learning....

I don't know why Allah make me find this letter, on the first day of  this blessed month. Maybe, I have strayed from the path. Maybe I have become complacent. Or, maybe, this will be my last Ramadhan.

Alhamdulillah. I am forever grateful to You, ya Allah.... thank you for thinking of me.

I definitely, do not deserve it....

 "Ya Allah, forgive my parents, and show them love as they have shown me love while I was small.... Amin."

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 - the good stuff.

Not really keen on looking forward for 2016
I think 2015 was my most successful year in my entire life. Which I thought is sad considering I have been living for more than half a century on this earth.

I don't really like celebrating new year, because on the first Monday after 1 January, you have to get back to work. And work is usually the same thing it was before you went on leave, either before Christmas or maybe just before the New Year's celebration. So, as far as I am concerned, a New Year is just adding one to whatever number it was that signified the last year.

I do want to celebrate last year, though. These are 6 things that I thought were the good stuff that happened last year. Why 6? Well, 6 was all I could think of.....

1) My Dahlia - I struck out one major item on my bucket list: To publish a book. It wasn't very good. But, it prompted me to write a better one this year. So, that I think is good.

2) Venus and Jupiter - It was the most amazing thing ever - the "race" between Venus and Jupiter. I watch it every night after Iftar (breaking fast in Ramadhan for the uninitiated). Each time I look at the two planets, I felt like I was stand on an observation deck of a starship and I can even imagine the orbital lines of the two planets as they make their way around the sun.

3) Star Wars VII - I made the excuse that my son Aiman wanted to see it, but actually I was the one who was itching to go... I even contemplated to take leave on 17 December (Thursday) to catch the Premier, but there was a few meetings I had to attend to that day. As usual, my work get in the way of my life

4) Liverpool signed Jurgen Klopp - I think he'll bring some positive changes, although, the game against Watford made me want to throw out my TV over my verandah, I must say some players that I know are good but wasn't able to perform under Rodgers, are showing what they can really do. Herr Klopp must really out these guys through some rigorous training, much more than Rodgers... because all of them have hamstring injury at one point or another. Or, they've been pampered too much by Rodgers... Whichever, I think things are looking up. YNWA!!

5) Surviving on a single income source - I landed my first real job in 1991.  In 1992, I got married. Ever since, our household has always had two income source. I knew for sure that if one of us were to stop working, we cannot survive. I knew because I tried it in 2004. I quit my job to try my hand at being a businessman, not understanding that you must first be a salesman. I suck at selling stuff, much less insurance, so I ended up back in the rat race. A decade later, my wife said she wants to quit, but of course, this time the circumstances are different, but still, it looks like that I am earning enough to cater for our present requirements to live happily.... . And, my wife is now selling Telekung and Kain Sulam. She achieved the impossible... Selling these high quality stuff and a low price. Check out our Facebook page Saffiyyah

6)  Peace - Not for the world like what most Miss Universe contestants want. But, more like inner ones, like what Kung Fu Panda achieved. Having lived for so long in this world, there are not much more things that can excite you. I had to revise my bucket list, get rid of things like bungee jumping, sky diving and even scuba diving. I like to say I am not afraid of death but I am frightened of dying. I believe God is for giving and I avoid everything that He says I shouldn't do and do the things He likes, although, I keep finding people doing far more than me. I will try.... Maybe I am delusional, but, I believe if you feel you are ok with yourself, you accept your shortcomings and be grateful for every little thing that you are blessed with, you are not doing too badly.

Let's hope 2016 brings more than 6 good stuff....