Merry making, et al

So many bloggers have updated their blogs about their Eid/Raya this year with colorful photos of happy families etc. Our Eid was in Singapore for about a week. 2 days of Ramadan there and 4 days plus of Shawal and I had a blast. I ate and ate ( ok, that’s nothing new about me ). I ate every 2 hours. I fulfilled all my food wish list, all the 15 of them too! Accidentally, we left our trusty camera at home which means we had to wait for others to take photos of our trip and send them to us.

If the hadith stated that the happiest period for a person who fasts is during the break-fast time and the Eid, I must say that I was indeed happiest during this Eid. I saw all my family members who are healthy and happy. I saw for the first time the new nephew, my nyai’s first ever great-grandchild and he is oh-so-handsome at 2 weeks old! I saw a much slimmer mum, who lost like 13 kg in an exercise regiment she signed up for, and boy! She looked in the neon pink of health! I met an ex-colleague for late night latte at CoffeeBean on the eve of raya, someone whom I have not seen in 6 years and was my travel mate when we were both teaching in the same school. On another day, I had a 3 hour girlfriends reunion, some of whom I have not seen for years at Fika Halal Swedish Cafe on Beach Road and we ‘pot-pet-pot-pet’ the time away which felt like 3 minutes.

I was happy! happy! But too short, I feel for 6 days to be in a hometown in which I have so much to do, so much to catch up on. The FAQ is always– why don’t I come back more often since it is quite near, just a 5 hour drive down. I would if I could, but I can’t. I applied for Malaysian PR and for that I can’t go back to my home country for more than twice a year ( immigration officer said so ) for my PR to be approved faster. Like it takes 5 years? I don’t have to apply for PR, really, since we’ve never wanted to be rooted to any one place as part of our ‘plans’. But I want to. I want to be a Malaysian PR because at the end of the day, this place really offers lots of opportunities which will get me nearer to my goals with a PR status. I can go to any other countries, but my hometown visit has a quota per year limit. AND for that, I go back and bask in all these beautiful things like once a year? No pain no gain, so it’s ok. We always tend to appreciate things better when we have very little of it. I have very little family contact so when I do meet them, it’s always a blast!

I wish I have photos but I have to wait for the rest to send me what they have taken. I tapau-ed sarabat from the corner shop at Arab Street and their famous Sugi Bhai back, konon nye the sugi can be for the guests of our home later. But by the time we reach BU, only the plastic was left and yours truly was feeling the guilt-laden glee with mouth covered with crumbs. Ooops!

The husband started training again yesterday. I refused to go, too embarrassed at the extra spare parts post one week in Singapore. Perhaps after I’ve paid back my fasting debts and ‘puasa 6’ then I dare show up at the dojo. Otherwise I look too much like kung fu Panda and it ain’t cute.

Goodbye, Shaykh…

Thank you for all your guidance, your nasihat, your listening ear, your awesome funny lessons, your presence at the zikr session at MasjidKampungSiglap where I had my akad nikah, and for gracing my wedding, for your prayers when I felt down, for introducing and guiding me to traditional Islam, for teaching the newcomers to Islam the way you did, for assisting us in our work for them. Thank you for all of that. May you rest in peace, may Allah bless your soul and put it amongst those whom are pious and amongst His beloved. May Allah continue to bless the family you left behind, your grandchildren whom I used to teach, and for your daughter and son-in- law who are amongst our best friends here. Dear Shaykh, you know you will be sorely missed. By all your students. Thank you so much. Al Fatihah.

shaykh zakaria baghrib 1

Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib, passed away this morning, Friday 25th September 2009 in Singapore

Abang, revisited 25 years later

Circa 25 years ago when I was in primary school, the film ‘ABANG’ was shown here in Singapore as one of the hari raya programs. It was a repeat telecast of course, as the film was first launch in 1981 with the then star studded cast of RahimRazali,AhmadTarmimiSiregar,NoorKumalasari,FauziahAhmadDaud,S.Roomai etc. Hence when it was showing here that raya, my father taped it on our then VCR tape recorder and watched it a few times and kept repeating on how fantastic that film was.

I watched it then, probably more than once but I didn’t understand it at all. It was all too melodramatic for me, what with NoorKumalasari and her over the top acting, my own confusion at how come we were told that alcohol is haram to be drunk and yet here on tv a family of rich Malays were having elite business parties serving alcohol fully permissible by the father of the house ( Dato’ Din ) whose speech was peppered with ‘Ya Allah..’ ‘ Jangan jadi orang tak beriman..’ etc. In short, it was all paradox. In fact, even the idea of ‘rich Malays’ to the child in me– in Singapore, in the late 70s to 80s era, was in itself a great paradox. In the late 70s and early 80s, the term ‘rich’ and ‘Malay’ was rarely, ( if non-existent altogether) synonymous. Linguistically, it was an oxymoron.

Earlier on, after a hearty dinner at Sakunthala in Little India, we had a little discussion on the Malay film industry in the car on the way home, in which my father mentioned in passing that none of the post P.Ramlee era of Malay films can beat the film Abang. He mentioned that he still watches it again and again now. Knowing how gadget savvy my old man is, I can’t possibly imagine that he still keeps that tape in which he used to record ‘Abang’ 25 years ago. Of course not, he got the copy of that film in dvd now, which I insisted on watching the moment we got home just now.

25 years later, watching the film Abang as someone from down here who lives up there, brings about a whole different spectrum of perspectives. Had I been a sociology postgrad student, I would be inspired to use this film as a cross study tool to dissect the differences between the Malays in Singapore and the Malays in Malaysia. But I am not. Hence what I have now are just post-watching-Abang-film-reflections-25-years-later-as-an-adult-Singaporean-Malay-in-Malaysia. It may be a candid observation, it may be discerning, it may also be bias. But it is just my observation through my eyes and my perspective of the film in relation to my life experiences on both sides of the causeway.

In 1981, when the film Abang was produced, Singapore Malays were going through the final stages of relocation from Malay kampungs especially in the eastern side of Singapore to government flats. Meritocracy rule under the then prime minister LKY meant that only those who can qualify and those who can afford it get to study up to tertiary level. And Malays back then were ‘famous’ or ‘infamous’ for the community in which it was common for each couple to have as many as 10 to 13 children. My own grandmother had 13 with my father being  the eldest. Survival was the primary concern, university education was seen as a burden as children were rushed to finish school to quickly get a job to help contribute feeding the family. The vision of the Malay families in Singapore back then was simply, if I may–( in my limited knowledge and memory) sum up, to survive. I grew up in that era, lived through it and watched it as part of my father’s history. It was a community which struggled, and I was a part of it.

However, up there in Malaysia, late 70s to early 80s was the era where Malay boys especially, were returning home from their fully sponsored UK education. They were probably not the first batch who left after Merdeka, but the products of parents who had been the privileged ones who may also have had the same sponsored opportunities. With UK degrees and Anglo life experiences in hand, they returned home to the great independent motherland ready to change the social landscape with a gusto. They somehow formed the class we saw in the Abang film.

Now this is the interesting bit. 25 years down the road, as a person who lives in the very place where the film Abang was set, I found that NONE of the issues in the very same film Abang, watched 25 years ago is alien to me now. Whatever issues of the elite family of Dato Din, either I see it for myself here, or are depicted in the dramas here to mirror the elite or upper class society similar to the one we saw in Abang 1981. It’s like different cast, different costume but same plot–decades down the road.

On the contrary, I am typing this down in Singapore 25 years later where the Malays are no longer the same people they were 25 years ago. The society in which I was watching the film Abang in, no longer exists. My generation has emerged through the blood, sweat, tears and struggles of our parents who had a vision further than that of our grandparents’. Meritocracy driven struggle has brought about the sociological metamorphosis of the Malay community here to a different socio-economic and spiritual standing into that of  a much higher level than they were in 25 years ago. Different costume, different cast, different plot. In literary terms, we use the term ‘plot progression’.

I cannot fully articulate it at this moment ( it is past 3 am where it is more beneficial for me to do tahajjud instead of blogging! ), but I cannot help but begin to understand the differences between the term ‘regression’ and ‘progression’ which to my understanding today, after watching the film Abang 25 years later is that it has alot to do with struggle and faith. That one society remains stagnant and still dealing with the same old issues, while the other morphs and continues to morph with new challenges and new plot.

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Biology ended  my Ramadan a little earlier and I spent a bit of today trying to look back and see how it has been this year. It is, as Is said in her blog about this month– more poignant than any other months as we tend to look back to the last Ramadan and see how we do this time round.

This time last year, I was too excited to celebrate the coming of Eid that I was not prepared the slap that was to come when my mother was hospitalised just a couple of days prior to Eid. And Eid/Raya then was mostly trying to deal with her looking all ill at the hospital ward. It was not a homecoming I was actually expecting. This time round, thankfully as I am typing this down nothing as yet of any tragic events hover up in the air and I hope for nothing of that sort.

I think this Ramadan has been a slightly better one than last year. We spent the first week breakfasting outside our neighbourhood, at a small surau in a close by town. We could have actually walked to the mosque nearby to our house where we hear the call for azan 5 times a day from our house. But hmm, how do I say this?  That mosque, in our humble opinion is very affluent and ‘monochrome’ if I may put it that way. Iftar and ‘moreh’ ( post terawih supper) is usually quite elaborate and oh well, how do I put this? Quite feudalistic (?) where the LV totting datins and their business/politikus/socialite husband sometimes have a table of their own. Where you know who are the maids and who are the drivers and who are the somewhere in the middle and who are the, oh well.. like the who are the who like Horton Hears The WHO in Dr Seuss. You get the idea.

So in the small surau, the iftar spread was modest, majority of the congregation were bangladeshi workers, indonesian maids or flat dwellers, and a good mix of social rainbows of the upper class, middle class and no class like ourselves (:P). Social demarcations are starkly abolished by the prayer mats, the way Islam wants it to be and more often than not, I got humbled by the sheer glee of these foreign workers at their once a year experience at a buffet table, where they can eat good food for free.

We organised an awesome iftar session at our place with our closest friends and their kids which rocked the house down. But we love them to bits so we didn’t mind it at all. We did terawih together and the husband was the imam. At the expense of being a bias wife, I was actually honestly impressed with his recitations. It was fluid and he has memorised much more surahs than he did last Ramadan, almost halfway through the Quran now with his memorisation. Comparing his background and mine, that kind of put me to a more ‘face in the sand’ humbling moments. It teaches me that faith is not about inheriting it, but disciplining the soul to seek it. I have been taking faith culturally for granted.

( While typing all these down, I suddenly feel like having kuih makmur. Ape jer!)

The last significant bit this Ramadan has to be about the changing direction in our life’s path in a full swerve. The last two weeks or so we were both in hot seats as to where we are heading when this year ends, which land we will call our home next and what lies in ahead of us. We started the year 2009 with the mentality that once the year ends, it will be time to pack up our bags and move on to the next phase of our lives in another faraway land which we envisioned will be home for the next 3 years or so.

The perpetual nomads that we are, we were prepared for it to happen, mentally and physically. Until we took a sudden halt, tell ourselves ‘wait a minute’, anchor down for a while and let’s do the ‘adult’ thing for once in our marriage instead of gallivanting here and there and everywhere like the airy-fairy bohemic couple we have always been. At the moment, we are still at the halt stage, but what we do know at this point of time is that it is time to be a family in a family home instead of just a couple in rents. Age is catching up and we cannot be still caught in the ‘la di da’ stage where although it is fun and exhilarating, there would be a time when it does take a toll on our sanity, pockets and overall well-being. SO yeah, this Ramadan brings about all that realisation. Better late than never.

I am going for a break now to go back to my hometown and spend time with my family, friends and all things familiar ( or otherwise, I dunno.. ). If I have written anything untoward in this blog of mine be it intentionally or unintentionally, that’s just me being who I am in my dot of a place in this cyberspace. No harm intended, really!  Honestly, other than those who have left comments and personal friends whom I know who read this blog, I don’t know who else reads it. Who reads all these rubbish anyway? Put your hand up!

Ahh…Ok I see some hands now.  😛 To you, you and you and all of you, I would like to wish a very blessed Eid, Selamat Hari Raya, Minal Aidil Wal Faizin. Till I find more rubbish to churn out as the toilet seat philosopher, I sign off now with TCHUSS!

neun neun neun

Murphy’s Law, to put it simply states that “anything that can go wrong, went wrong”. I had a bit of Muphy-ism on the neun/neun/neun 090909 day today.

First it was a student who screwed up his exams, and then a situation which threatened quite a bit of problem as it involved a shipment of goods not arriving on time and one or two personal stuffs which chose to surface today, of all days.

However I surprised myself with my own reaction or rather, the lack of it. On most occasions, a bullish arisian like myself would — well, go on one of these : 1) highly charged emotional rampage, 2)  fret/fret/fret 3) panic 4) have a headache or stomach upset due to stress. Somehow none of those happened. I found myself remembering what I learnt in aikido about not allowing multiple attacks overwhelm myself but to just focus on my centre and treat multiple attacks as simply “many opponents but just one attack.” With that, my focus is just on one attack instead of getting distracted with the many opponents. With that, I can relax and tackle one opponent one at a time because truly, although many, they are all one kind ( opponent ) against me.

So with that, somehow I managed to stay calm and then forced myself to repeat the mantra ‘ I’m fasting, I’m fasting, I’m fasting’ in my head till it ached. I reminded myself that yes there are many problems, but they are all one kind ( all collectively known as problems ). I did pull the “i’m so disappointed in you emotional blackmailing speech upon the screwed up student which made him bawl his eyes out”— it is a teaching skill which only comes with practice ( followed by sheer private glee later when the student is not looking ).  I didn’t hang him upside down, even if that thought momentarily did cross my mind, he is still in one piece now, thankfully ( for him ).

I iftar alone, which was not a problem really because it’s not the first time the husband had Ramadan functions in his campus. But right after that, there was a problem, Houston. My blood almost drained out of my face when I got news of the problems with the couriers etc. All I could say was that I was going to do ‘solat hajat’. Almost shaking, I took my wudhu’, did my maghrib and begged a long prayer for the problem to be solved. Then I finished Surah Shu’ar’a, the 26th Surah on the Quran as I am there in my reading now in my quest to khatam by the end of Ramadan. I was going to do solat hajat later, I thought. Barely 10 minutes after I put the Quran down, I got a phonecall to tell me that the problems are solved! Just like that!  How swift was my prayer answered…Glory be to HIM, as He promised on the last ten days of Ramadan. It was surreal.

And now, it is down to the other 2 personal challenges that is creeping up on me. But I am relaxed and come what may, I realised it is better not to worry but to divert my energy ( aiki ) to seeking HIS help. When I am relaxed, I think better. And when I am relaxed, I accept.  And when I accept, I can tackle one problem at one go while focusing on one centre, HIM. Acceptance, as I learnt today lifted a whole huge burden off one’s shoulders. Today I learnt the true meaning of ‘pasrah’.

Thanks to faith and aikido, the husband’s already thining hair is still very much intact ( each time I fret, it seems to go thinner.. heh 😛 ) despite the threatening Murphy’s Law rain clouds hovering over me on this neun neun neun neun day.

It’s her candyland in her barbie world…

A few days ago, I received an email in my mailbox from Minah, one of the coolest ‘makcikrock’ I’ve known back from my hometown. It pointed to me to the news site and the article written by KhartiniKhalid on TheMalaysianInsiderdotcom entitled Proud To be A Malay Singaporean. I read it once, as a passing through and wrote a reply to Minah saying well, it is a nice article, after all, Khartini-“THE Malay Singaporean” is indeed articulate and there was a somewhat coherent flow to her article. Fair enough.

Then I read her article again, this time for content. And again. And again. And I couldn’t help but felt 3 things–it was 1) defensive, 2) myopic and 3) plastic. At some points, I was left sniggering, sometimes wondering which cocoon has she just emerged from, especially the part she related her “one week experience in a kampung in Negri Sembilan”.

While not trying to judge her on her social and wandering radius, had I not been a Singaporean and never been to Singapore, just from her article –I’d have to be forgiven if I have the impression that Singapore is this utopic multicultural “candyland” where every facet of multiculturalism is “oh so perfect and good la di da”. Which we all do know that is not all true, but which the good soul KhartiniKhalid found it imperative to defend herself as, not just as a Singaporean mind you, but a Malay one at it.

Just when I thought I was the only one feeling this way, because after all I have left the island for a while already, AlfianSaat came along with a brilliant piece of article, which somewhat echoed many of the sentiments I had after I was done sniggering to Khartini’s.

KhartiniKhalid’s article can be found here.

AlfianSaat’s articile can he found here.

Oh well…