Melting moments

She had done all sorts of nonsense in the house that had made me gone through the zinc roof and back, figuratively speaking. And yet, when she sits down and licks her paw like this, I wonder to myself, how can I ever get angry at this sweet innocent thing?

Right equation

The Reader’sDigest junkie that I am, I came across, in one of their issues from the yesteryears on how the Banofee Pie got its name. Since then, I have constantly been in the lookout of this particular dessert in cafes or cake shops wherever I may be.

I finally found it, a couple of years ago in the DELICIOUS chain of restaurants. And I can go around eating other desserts but will always come back to this at any other times. I am not sure how the better ones would taste like since I’ve only tasted the ones by DELICIOUS. But the dessert itself, banana and melted toffee as a pie filling with cream and chocolate swirl, can never ever go wrong.

You believe?

Geron Matters

I was once told by one of my lecturers that there are 2 professions which would always be in demand in our little island down south and if we do well and climb all the way up in these two professions, we would never be out of jobs. He mentioned teaching and gerontology, which actually took me by a little by surprise, because I had half expected him to say ‘teaching and social work for Malay issues/social problems’, the latter which never seems to end, but then again, I digress.

Anyway, we know that there will always be a job in the teaching profession. Whether it attracts the right kind of people is a different story altogether, but it is a job that would not go ‘out of business’ for as long as there is humanity needed to be educated.

However, ‘Gerontology‘ is not the common term on the streets. You can hear children saying ‘I want to be a teacher, a soldier, a pilot, a baker..’ But I have not heard any child, or even young adults fighting for those coveted places in the universities to have said ‘I want to be a gerontologist’.

Gerontology (from Greekγέρωνgeron, “old man” and -λογία, -logy, “study of”) is the study of the socialpsychological and biological aspects of aging. It is distinguished from geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that studies the disease of the elderly

Hence someone who studies gerontology becomes a gerontologist, the antithesis to child psychology ( although eventually from my experience over the weekend, there are many similarities in both, which I will go into later).

Last Friday I made a quick dash back home to Singapore right after subuh prayers. The day before, I received an update from my mum that my nyai- (my paternal grandmother and the only surviving grandparent I have left), who was warded in the hospital a couple of days earlier suspected of mild stroke.

Oh well.

I knew then that what I wanted, more than anything else, was to be back and see for myself, instead of relying on sms and FB updates from family members back home. So that Friday afternoon, although I did surprise everyone for appearing in the hospital without notice, I was surprised myself with what greeted me upon arrival at ward 35.

The hand which once upon a time rocked my cradle. She once upon a time rocked my world but over the weekend, she was, to put it simply–another patient in that ward full of senior citizens her age and all of their geron issues. I stayed in the ward for most of Friday, since I arrived at noon and I observed the whole ward. Each elderly was with their own ailments, bedridden and there were a few who had gone back to being like little children.

With my Nyai being the exception, for she had constant supply of visiting children and grandchildren, I observed that the few others in the wards were not so lucky. Some were just left there and for the two days I had taken the shift to babysit nyai, I observed that some of her other ward mates had no visitors at all. They were left there all alone, in the hands of the nurses, staring into space, sleeping, waking up and sleeping again. One of them communicated by moaning her pains, another one watched my nyai and another– too weak to even smile.

It was at that moment I suddenly remembered my lecturer’s words, that the gerontology industry would never ‘run out business’. Strong and mighty with youth on our side, we all know that it would not last forever. For the lucky ones, some would be called back to be with HIM before we reach the age where all of our faculties fail us. But for many such as the people in this ward, the nursing homes or even in home care–their faculties, especially when their mental and physical abilities fail them before their times are up, and taking care of them is painfully difficult.

I grew up shuttling between Jalan Eunos and Kaki Bukit, both of my grandparents’ houses then. At the Jalan Eunos house, I watched my mother’s sisters taking care of my maternal grandmother who suffered from whole body stroke. She was wheelchair bound and the only parts of her body she could move were her neck and her eyes. Her speech was slurred and she communicated by just voicing out the slurs. Young as I was, I remembered seeing that it was tough for my aunts. Both them and nenek were frustrated at times and I saw that their level of patience was super high, to be able to take care of a wheelchair bound elderly which had become a toddler all over again.

And that memory, resurfaced over the weekend. This time, I had the chance to be in my aunt’s shoes, only that to my last surviving grandmother, nyai. And just for the weekend, I found it so exhausting, not to mention sometimes frustrating.

Now that I am back, in the comforts of my own home-office, basking in whatever energy youth still has for me, I came to reflect upon a few things. Firstly, I have a newfound respect for ALL nurses and doctors and especially those whose duties are to care for the elderlies. These are indeed the unsung heroes of our society. In my education industry, we are focused in moulding the future of our nation/world. But these doctors and nurses of the elderlies take care of the people of the past, who have built our present.

Next, I was humbled by the fact that no matter how high and mighty we may be right now, there would come a point of time that we would have to depend on someone, when we are unable to take care of ourselves. And in this light, bless those who have raised their children well, who are able to take care of them towards the end of their lifetime. Both my grandmothers was and is such lucky ones.

Lastly, I pray that as independent as I am now, I hope that when I reach that stage where I can no longer take care of myself, HE will send along my way, the ones with patience to spare. The biggest test in taking care of the elderlies is in the patience department, and in this day and age, patience is no longer a virtue but seen more as a bane. And this, I suspect–is the very reason why the gerontology industry is always open for recruitment.

The Quandary of a Gadget Goondo

9 months down the road, I had to eat up my own words or risk losing clients. I had resisted for a long time and pondered even longer about the ‘not so gadget smart me‘ getting a smart phone.

I was not the only one with this dilemma, the husband– who is also not a gadget savvy person, had stubbornly remained true to his classic ‘text and call’ for as long as I can remember, until of late, when his work gets busier and it is really not so smart of an engineer like him in managerial position not to own a tool in which he can check emails on the go in this day and age. As for myself, I just had to succumb to it for work purposes as I realized (again, in this day and age) it’s not professional to keep leaving clients with ‘I’ll check the docs when I get back to the comp later’.

So there we were, two gadget goondos– went out on our lil excursion to get ourselves the blackberry bold on sale for Rm 999, only in the month of September. Moments before that, I looked at the husband and said, ‘ I’m feeling a little nervous’ and when he replied,‘ I feel more nervous than you!’. There and then I knew we were made for each other. Two souls probably stuck in the stone age where technology is concerned.

As I am typing this, the two boxes of blackberry bolds are STILL sitting in my haversack, untouched. The husband has gone to do some reading (a book, I may add–not from an iPad or Kindle). I have gone straight up to our home office to check my mails, the good old way of logging into my gmail on the desktop computer.

I suddenly feel so ‘suaku’. Life was so much easier in the 80s/90s ain’t it? What happened?

‘Social retardation’

In one of the years in the last decade, Hari Raya coincided with Chinese New Year and I remember having a conversation about our respective celebrations with a colleague by our cubicles at work. Then in her 30s and not yet married, on top of that being single and not dating anyone, I remembered her telling me that she was going to make use of that long holiday for a trip to somewhere nearby and just chill out.

For what? I asked her.. ‘if I were you, I stay to get my ang pows!’ of course, referring to the Chinese culture that singles still get ang pows or red packets containing money from visiting relatives and friends during the Chinese New Year celebrations. She smirked and rolled her eyes, saying that she’d rather forgo all the red packets, than having to face ‘kaypoh’ relatives asking the viciously insensitive questions of ‘when are you getting married?’ ‘why till now no boyfriend?’ ‘you high maintainance is it?’ ‘ eh not shy ah you left on the shelves?’ ‘ eh go get married lah, cialat lah you so old I must still give you angpow’

Of course, at that time I just laughed it all off with ‘ thank God my Hari Raya is not that drama’ comment. Firstly, I don’t remember any of my relatives being that orally brutal, secondly, I had the answers to the questions all ready in the mental suitcase. I was in my early 20s, just starting my career, had a boyfriend then (whom fortunately did NOT become my husband!) and hence I was in the comfort zone of ‘ask them silly question and thou shalt be answered!’. I was not as unlucky as my colleague then.

However, my ex-colleague was one of the probably thousands out there who are victims of what I term as ‘people with low SQ’. SQ, or ‘Social Quotient’ refers to the measure of social skills one has, not unlike IQ or the level of intelligence in a person or the much talked about EQ- emotional quotient these days.

I have been observing for many, many years, (and have also occasionally been a victim of some), on how people with low SQ prey during the festive seasons, when they know that everyone is listening. Festive seasons are times when families and extended families meet and be merry. Friends who have lost touch meet again, to renew ties and ask for forgiveness or for the good old times sake. On paper, festive seasons are joyous occasions indeed, time to look forward to and get excited about.

But on the contrary, festive seasons can be the leper or the pariah to be avoided by many individuals, for fear of their encounter with relatives with low SQ. In laymen’s term ‘foul mouth/insensitive/mulut longkang/askstupidquestions/purposely set out to embarress/etc’.

Examples of these, usually asked in the presence of the entire clan of relatives or other attendees of the festive events are:

” Oi Cik Kak.. kamu tu usia dah senja.. bila nak kawin ni? Kita tunggu makan nasi minyak dah lama dahhh’

“Aik.. kawin dah lama anak satu pon takde?! Kau sakit apa?!”

“Eh you got boyfriend or not?! He work as what? Got degree or not?!”

“You work so hard, takkan tak mampu beli kereta? Beli lah condo ke, landed property ke”

and it goes on and on. The above are collections from personal friends. If you have been a victim of these low SQ relatives, feel free to add on.

It has, however been pointed out to me that these relatives, most of which are in the makciks/pakciks category (although the pakciks during raya usually start any meetings of sorts by bitching about Malaysian politics, and I am not kidding!), they intended no harm. It is just their way of starting conversations and that’s the only way they know how to do it, by attracting attention to themselves, by picking up a scapegoat to be laughed at or by joking. Yes, they really think that they are joking, these low SQians, although no one else finds their remarks or jokes remotely funny. In my humble opinion, whether or not they intend any harm, it is rude. Period. No one should be made the scapegoat of entertaining others, especially about something that is so personal.

So. For those of you who have been victimized by these low SQians or in my term ‘social retards’, there are proactive measures you can take.

1. Smile and act stupid

2. Pretend that you have blocked ears because water from the shower went all the way in.

3. Entertain their FAQs. And for the suggestions to their FAQs, I have some, in case they are useful for you, please feel free to use them.

For the questions of ‘Bila nak kawin ni?’

– ” Saya tunggu laki makcik ceraikan makcik ye.. lepas tu kita kawin lah. Ticket feri nak pegi Batam pun saya dah sediakan…’

‘Bila kita boleh makan nasi minyak you?’

– ‘ Bila free? I ajak you gi Arab Street sekarang pun boleh. Pulun lah berapa pinggan nasi minyak you terdaya… sumpah I belanja!’

For the questions ‘Bila nak dapat anak ni? Dah lama kawin takde apa-apa lagi ke??’

– “Jap lagi saya balik saya tengok dalam tong sampah eh, entah ada yang orang buang ke, boleh saya pungut!”

– ” Makcik free tak besok? Boleh tolong buatkan?”

For the questions ” Rumah berapa bilik?/ada kereta apa?/Kerja apa-Gaji berapa?…’

– ‘Rumah saya takde bilik. Tidur dalam khemah kat East Coast? Makcik nak join? Boleh kita buat bbq’.

– ‘Kereta saya besar makcik. Brand KTM. Makcik sekaum sepuak nak tompang pon boleh’.

– ‘Saya kerja dengan orang bunian makcik. Gajinya sebesar istana kayangan’

But of course, if you were to use any of the above, do it tongue in cheek, not in rudeness. Do not stoop to their level by having no manners yourselves. Treat it as a big joke and then laugh it all off afterwards. And then, one can really see that it is really silly to be affected by these low SQians come every festive season or weddings or any events in which relatives and friends gather.

May I also suggest Radio Warna/Ria do a segment on these? With more awareness of social quotient, together we can make the supposedly beautiful festive season a less stressful period for many individuals, whom I know are dreading it year after year.

Good will wishing

I hope it is not too late to wish whoever that reads this blog Selamat Hari Raya, Eid Mubarak and please forgive me for anything untoward that I have written. I am after all human and I have human brain which is always in perspective. And perspectives differ with different people. If I have ever offended anyone with what I have written here, I seek humble forgiveness.

I hope you have had a wonderful Eid yourself, which I did and now I shall pick up where I left in the month of Ramadan. This year Ramadan had been quiet, good and calming. Eid has been noisy and too much merry-making. I enjoyed both but on different level.

And no, I didn’t make it to my ideal weight. So did my cousin. So we gave ourselves new deadline which is May 2011, with double the stake. Such is our desperation… But we both gorged during Raya and this whole deal made no sense at all.

So Eid Mubarak/Selamat Hari Raya. May we still be able to celebrate it next year…


Let’s just let the pictures do the talking first…

Bazaar Ramadan in the neighbourhood. I went here to get food only 4 times in the whole month and that is quite an achievement

The people of my neighbourhood drink this much sugarcane in a day in ramadan?

The cosy little surau we went to every evening for Terawikh

My very first attempt at making kuih sarang semut. I used Ikea’s garlic squeezer to achieve this, when the recipe said to grate the dough. This saved me from all the mess. This is before topping it with chocolate rice…

Ketupats hanging by the roadside lemang stretch

Annual Lemang Stretch

I love them.

A long pole of goodnessAt mum’s place

First breakfast at mum’s place

And so, in conclusion, Eid in our region is all about food and merry making. That’s factual, ain’t it? No matter how much I want to be in denial about it.. 😛

About Godot…

A couple of days ago, Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett was playing at KLPac. It was said to be one with an interesting twist. I really wished I had caught it but for some reasons, I didn’t.

I studied Waiting for Godot the same year I studied Jane Eyre. I found it to be really absurd…Basically, it’s about 2 characters, Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for someone name Godot, who never appeared nor were they sure of who Godot is. In fact, Godot has been the subject of many interpretations. Some said he is a metaphor, some said he is a real person. Some said that the whole play is a political satire.

The play itself, has been debated on numerous accounts through the decades, with no conclusion on what the play is actually all about. While waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon engaged themselves in a conversation that caused so many misunderstandings between themselves. They quarreled, they laughed, they agreed and disagreed on different subject matters. Basically, both of them were off tangent to each other during the conversation in which they were talking to each other. That’s how absurd I found this play to be.

However, this point now,  I came to realise that there were many Vladimirs and Estragons around and someone like myself is either one of them. To the extend, I am beginning to think that the play is not as complex or absurd as how I used to find them.

Everyone at some point or the other is ‘waiting for Godot’. We don’t know who or what Godot is, but we are waiting for it/him/her to fulfill something in our lives, or to give ourselves reasons to move on or to live. Some Vladimirs/Estragons within us just don’t move on, but continue to ‘wait for Godot’ while as the same time engaging in ‘parallel conversations/relationships’ with those around us, which sometimes don’t make sense at all. We may not be on the same page as them, but because we too, are waiting for our Godot and they are waiting for their Godot, we wait together and coexist side by side, without realizing how absurd the situation, if seen from the outside is.

The Godot in Beckett’s never did turn up for Vladimir and Estragon. But unlike Beckett’s Godot, sometimes mine does. And when it does, I would suddenly snap awake and realise  how absurd my coexistence with ‘Vladimir’ is if I am ‘Estragon’ at that point. Or vice versa…

To teach…

I am already in my 30s and yet each year, on this day I would be reminded of what someone did to me when I was 11 and 12 years old. That person, Ms B, gave me the gift of belief, the belief that no one else had in me that I had what it took to achieve. And to this day, I am forever thankful to her, and in many ways, I have tried to emulate her in the course of this profession that is an art on its own, that not many can master, yet let alone do.

Since we were young, I have been taught that as a Muslim, when a person passes away, 3 deeds will forever go on i.e one’s possession left to benefit the needy, the prayers of your good children upon you and lastly, knowledge which you give that benefits others.

Ms B, have benefited myself with plenty of her knowledge beyond the classroom. When I teach, there was never a moment I didn’t think of her and thought, given a similar situation, what would she do and how would she teach it/handle it. And this is not only for myself. 6 peers from the same class under her wings those two years ended up as teachers and to this day, we still keep in touch and fondly share notes on how she would teach us and how we can apply it in our own teaching methods at present. She was that influential as a teacher, and myself and my peers who have been given this gift of belief from her, will be forever be in gratitude to her and will continue benefiting our students from what we had learnt from her. And when she dies, I pray that this will be amongst her deeds which will benefit her in the hereafter.

I have since lost touch with Ms B. If I ever have the opportunity to meet her again, I would want to wish her a Happy Teacher’s Day, thank you for believing in me, thank you for all that you have done for me and thank you for being a teacher which none of us can hold the candle to.

And to the rest of my peers in education in Singapore who are celebrating Teacher’s Day today, a very Happy Teacher’s Day to you. I may have left the system, but I never ever set foot out of this profession. And for all of our struggles to educate, please take heart that no amount of money can be worth all that, and our reward is solely in HIS hands.

Cliche as it may sound, but yes, to teach is to touch a life forever, just like how my Ms B did.