My Mother’s Epiphany

My patient came to me recently, with a tinge of happiness in her voice, as she said, “I did as you said, doctor. I am finally free. I am so happy now.”

I swallowed. “What did you do?” I waited with bated breath. 

“I’ve left my husband. I gave him 3 years but he never changed. I am done with that useless man”

“Are you doing this for you? Are you doing this because this is really the right thing to do, FOR YOU? Or did you leave the man because you simply wanted to follow what I said when you asked me what I would do if I were you?”

“I have always known you were right. I just didn’t have the courage to do what I have to do. Your words gave me the right push to make that move.”

She is an educated lady of nearly 60 years of age and thus our whole conversation was in English. She is one of my favourite patients. 

I do have favourite patients, you know. I can’t help it. I treat all my patients the same – that is, I give them what they need. But with some patients,  consultations with them feel more stimulating than usual because they themselves are psychological minded and they ‘get’ what you are trying to say. These people usually have the capacity for self-reflection, self-examination, introspection and personal insight. When you ask them a question (which is meant to get them to think for the answers themselves, even though you already knew the answer) they give a delightfully honest answer that helps you to help them. I like these kind of patients.

This particular patient, let’s call her Mrs H, is a well-off lady. She has her own pension and has invested in a few lands as an asset. She has her own house in KL prior to coming to Alor Star. She plays the piano as a hobby, and she already has a grown-up son from her previous marriage. Unfortunately, when she first came to me in 2013, she had just recently remarried to a 70 year old Kedahan man, for whom she had left her KL hometown. She was stressed by that marriage. She felt cheated, used and taken advantage of by her new husband and his family. She was in the clinic crying her eyes out because she felt like she had made a huge mistake.

Even though at that time, I wanted to tell her that “yup, you probably did make a huge mistake” but I refrain myself (of course). You see, therapists in general TRY not to impose their own opinion on their patients. It is okay if you cannot help having judgmental thoughts, but you should not APPEAR to be judgmental. You MUST preserve the illusion that you are always on the side of the patient. The patient should always feel safe to confide in you about anything… and they would only feel that way if you give off the vibe of being understanding and non-judgmental. But human beings, as a species, are active thinking beings! Judgment and thinking are what make us so special. I would be LYING if I say I don’t judge what my patients do. Part of the evaluation process HAS to be judgmental. If you don’t judge, you can’t diagnose. If you can’t diagnose, you can’t treat.

If you go back to the psychoanalytic era when Freud and his followers reigned supreme… they could make snap judgment about others without any evidence whatsoever and they called it psychoanalysis. Hahha. Those were the DARK AGES of psychiatry, in my opinion.

So to be clear, I am a judging, thinking being. (Believe me, ALL OF US are. I am just more upfront and honest about it). But I just don’t have to tell my patients about what sort of judgment I come up with, that’s all. Instead, I store that judgment in my head and use it to treat the patient. I use my judgment to help them.

Some patients have zero insight about their marital problems.

“Saya tunggu dia nak berubah. Saya okay ja. At least, mak mertua saya baik. Suami saya pun kadang-kadang baik.”

“Apa contoh kebaikan yang puan dapat dengan dia? Tadi puan kata, dia tak cukup duit, kahwin sampai tiga. Siap perabih duit puan nak tanggung isteri ketiga.  Kereta dia pun puan bayar. Kalau puan rasa dia baik,  puan report kat saya benda-benda yang tak baik saja saya dengar selama ni. Apa kata puan habaq apa yang dia baik pula hari ni?” Nice, soft tone was used to mask the biting sarcasm. (So, dear readers, please reverse and read again my dialogue in a softer inquiring tone. Haha)

Some patients have good insight about their marital problems.

“Doktor, saya memang tak tahan dah dengan suami saya. Saya memang nak bercerai. Ni lawyer suruh mai psikiatri, sebagai bukti yang saya trauma dengan perangai suami saya. Senang ada surat doktor kalau pi mahkamah nanti. So saya mai lah.” This patient is direct, honest, and knows exactly what she wants. I like these sort of patients too. But…

“Baguslah puan dah ambil keputusan yang tegas dalam hal ni. Cuma saya tak bolehlah nak buat-buat puan ada kemurungan kalau puan tak murung.” I am also direct and honest. I like direct and honest patients because I reciprocate and mirror their own style, which is really my default style, anyway.

Some patients know what to do already, but they couldn’t commit to any action because they are afraid of the unknown.

“Saya tak mau orang mengata. Saya tak mau jadi janda kali kedua.”

Mrs. H belong in this category – fear of the unknown made her stay on until one day she couldn’t take it anymore. And neither could I.

So, it took her 4 years (2013-2016) to ask me “What would you do, if you were in my place?”

I was very upfront about it. “It is not my place to tell you what to do. After all, it is YOUR marriage and you are the one who have to live your life. Not me. But since you asked me about what I would do if I were you….well, I would leave him. But then, you have to understand that we make decisions based on specific context and our own natural inclination, and our own personality. My personality and my personal inclination is such that I can never love someone I cannot trust; and I can never trust someone I cannot respect; and I can never respect someone who cannot fulfil his responsibilities. I am very strict about these things. If I have a husband such as yours, I would have left him a long time ago. Of course, some women have such a huge capacity for love that she can continue to love just anyone regardless of whether or not she can trust and respect  that person… so if she’s okay with that, who am I to insist otherwise?” I paused, allowing her to digest what I really meant.  “At the end of the day, we live with the decisions we have made. I don’t mind to continue seeing you, because trust me, medication cannot cure you. Your husband is the perpetuating factor to your depression.”

She is an intelligent woman, dear readers. She knew that I also had had enough. She knew that my “some women have such a huge capacity for love” is an euphemism for “misplaced loyalty”.

I have mentioned before that it is not enough that we do what we like. We have to learn to like the right thing. For example, I have to learn to like literature. Haha. And I end up liking it.

Love and loyalty is also like that. Learn to love and be loyal to the right person. The person you can respect and trust.

So when one day she finally said, “I am finally free, doctor,” it truly made my day. It took her four years of suffering before she would commit to a decision. And that was only because she had asked me personally about what I would do, and I was impatient enough to actually give it to her. Who knows what would happen had she asked the question sooner.

Some psychiatrists would probably say that I am unduly influencing my patients.

Well, to be honest, we all influence patients in variable ways and extent.

I don’t like to stick to only one blanket way of dealing with patients. I would use different approaches for different kinds of patients.

As a doctor (and especially in psychiatry), we learn that there are a few models of doctor-patient interaction, namely:

The Paternalistic model: It is assumed that the doctor knows best and the patient is expected to follow the doctor’s decision. Usually this approach is desirable in emergency situations. However, this approach may result in clash of values.

The Informative model: The doctor is seen as a dispenser of information. The choice is left wholly up to the patient. May be useful in one-off consultations, but may not work well if strictly followed on long-term professional relationship.

The Interpretive Model: Here, the doctor will be treating the patient for a long time and might know his/her patient well and understand the circumstances of their micro- environment. Here, shared decision-making is established.

Deliberative Model: The doctor here may act as a friend or counselor to the patient, where information dispensing is coupled with advice on a course of action. This is commonly used to enable lifestyle modification and to address maladaptive coping.

Some doctors like to use only one approach regardless of what type of patients they are dealing with. Maybe they like that particular style and think it is the best interaction style with every patient. For example, some prefer the informative model because they think it is the most neutral and would suit most people. Maybe they don’t know the patient enough and therefore doesn’t want to feel responsible should something bad happens as a result of the patient following their advice.

I don’t know. To me, in each specific case, whatever model of doctor-patient interaction that we use, it actually reflects on our own conviction or our own insecurities about that particular case.

We learn from experience and we would know what approach to use for each of our own patient. Paternalistic style won’t work well with manic patients, for example. It would only make them more irritable towards you and you would then lose the patient.

I would use the informative model for someone who is educated, and like to make her own decision, especially if I don’t know this patient all that well (other than that she is educated and has good judgment skills). I would NEVER use this informative model for someone with low education level. I wouldn’t want to take a chance of her making the wrong choice as a result of her disadvantaged background. This model requires that the person on the receiving end can make sound judgment based on the information that doctors have given. This is not the case in patients with low education attainment.  

With Mrs. H, I have known her for 4 years. She is educated, and yes, I could stick with the informative model if I chose. But I know her case inside and out. I know her micro-environment. So, I think I am still within my professional boundaries if I use the Interpretive Model and Deliberative Model with her, especially when she had specifically asked me about what I would do if I were in her place. (To be honest, interpretive model is my preference, most of the time. Followed very closely by deliberative model. If I just want to be informative, I could just ask the patient to read a lot and google, right? Pfft. A doctor is more than that.)

She asked me a question. I gave her the answer.

Whether or not she would follow my advice, was totally out of my hands.

***

When I was in my early 20s, my mother imparted to me a piece of her wisdom when she said, “Older women and older men are not the same. Older men benefit more when they remarry after having lost their wives. But older women would lose a great deal if they remarry after having lost a husband. If anything happens to your father, I will never remarry.” She declared, confidently.

She came up with that epiphany after listening to the woes of her friend who was in the situation of suffering after remarrying at a very mature age of 50. It was not unlike the situation that Mrs. H herself was in when she remarried at the age of 60 in 2013.

At that time, I thought my mother was being loyal when she said she would never remarry. But actually, she was just being smart. She was right. There is very little benefit in remarrying when you are already old.

All the benefits are on the elderly man’s side – they get a free maid and a free nurse, all combined in one person. In fact, sometimes they even get a free financial provider if the women they marry are richer than them. 

Mrs H could have enjoyed her own money and her own freedom had she remained single at that age of 60. She has the company of her friends from surau and the care of her own son.  She could have been far more well off than she currently is if she did not remarry a man who was older than she was (and therefore, couldn’t even work or provide for her financially because he was too elderly). Had she remained single, she wouldn’t be expected to do any housework or housechores if she didn’t want to. She didn’t have to cook or clean or look after another person when she herself was at the age of 60. Her son wouldn’t come to resent her because she had to obey her new husband and hurt the feelings of her only son. She wouldn’t have to play the role of a breadwinner to an elderly husband when she herself was not that young.   

But…unfortunately… she had remarried.

Her pension, which should have been enough for herself, was no longer adequate. So she had to work, selling sandwiches, because her husband was no longer fit to work. Her husband’s children expected HER to care for THEIR father just because their father had married her.

This is the problem with our society!

The elderly man who had lost his wife wants to marry again. And their children also prefer their elderly father to marry again…so that they won’t have to be the ones who have to care for their own father and their father doesn’t have to live with them, disturbing the dynamic in their own household.

BUT, they don’t provide their father the money that is required for their father to be a husband again. So the new wife suffers! The household money would not be enough. In the case of Mrs H, the husband’s children often scolded her when she asked them for money. Such nerve! Such audacity!

Don’t get me wrong. I am not giving a blanket statement that elderly people shouldn’t get married. I am questioning the fact that some responsibilities might not be met with such marriage. (so, if you can fulfil your responsibilities, go ahead and marry even if you are already at 100 year old of age)

My own grandfather had remarried at the age of 72 to a 40 year old woman. That means, my  new step-grandmother is younger than my own father!  My grandfather remarried NOT because my father refused to care for him, but it was because my grandfather preferred to marry. I remembered feeling so perplexed that my grandfather at the age of 72 STILL wanted to marry another woman. It was all done within 6 months after my grandmother died. It just boggled my mind at that time. I didn’t say anything to my grandpa about what I felt. To be honest, I was really disappointed because I had expected that my grandfather would live with us.

I did NOT expect that he would remarry! My grandpa should have looked forward to playing with his great-grandchildren instead of playing house with another woman. I felt quite personal about the whole thing.(well, but to be fair, my sister was not yet pregnant at that time and there was no great grandchildren around to play with, yet.)

But since my grandfather just wanted to marry no matter what, my father had asked around for anyone who wanted to marry his 72 year old father. We NEVER thought it would ever come to anything. I mean, WHO would marry such an elderly man, right?  But miracles happened. Can you believe it?  A 40 year old woman agreed to the marriage. I was flummoxed by the development. My grandfather remarried when I came back from Australia at the end of my 2nd year in med school. (At least, he waited for me to come home before he tied the knot). I was by his side when he pronounced the akad. I had accepted (reluctantly) that it was his decision to marry and maintain his own household.

My father increased the monthly allowance that he gave to my grandfather so that my grandfather could provide for his wife. A small house was bought where they could live together, so that my grandfather didn’t have to pay the rent. My step-grandmother is a full time housewife and DOES NOT have to work to support my elderly grandfather. My parents were in charge of all my grandfather’s appointments with doctors and did not simply leave the care of my grandfather to his new wife.

Mrs. H was not as lucky as my step grandmother. Mrs. H was the financial provider, the carer and the maid, all in one. (It’s like being a mother to a big toddler, ain’t it?)And on top of that, her 20 year old son who is still a student resented her marriage and did not get along with her new husband. If I were the son, I would resent the whole situation too. Here’s an elderly man taking advantage of his mother! If his mother disobeyed this elderly man, the religious line “I am your husband. You must obey me,” would be flung around. Isn’t it ironic when a dayus husband insisted to be obeyed? It’s a trick designed to make the wife feels guilty, in order to deflect his own inadequacies. His mother was better off not marrying that man. When she married him, her life deteriorated right before her son’s eyes. It violates all sorts of social-exchange theory I have learned. In this marriage, the risk-benefits assessment skews in GREAT favour for the elderly man and a HUGE disadvantage for Mrs.H. 

I couldn’t bear it if I were the son. I would probably perform some serious rebellion and would say “You have to choose between your son or your husband.”. (Hahah. I am a dramatic diva like that.)

But here lies the problem. Talak is NOT in the woman’s hands.

That’s why when an elderly man remarries, his children don’t feel that they have lost their father as much. In fact, they would feel like they have gained a free carer for their father. A man holds all the executive decision making. So, his children won’t feel that they have lost their father so completely. If they want, they could influence their father to make any decision that would favour them against their step-mother and the father would say, “Okay, I have made my decision. My children were right. I am your husband, so you must follow me.”

But when an elderly woman remarries, the children would feel the lost acutely. Now THEIR MOTHER who they have known their whole lives is the new wife of a complete stranger. The happiness of their mother lies in the hand of someone they are not sure they can trust. And this stranger holds the power on their mother. Even if the children could influence their mother for a specific decision, what can the mother do if her new husband disagrees? Even if eventually their mother wants to be free from the marriage, talak was not even in her hands.

So a mother remarrying would be taken as a loss for her children, because like Mrs H, now her whole life and energy revolves around the new husband… as a breadwinner, a maid, a nurse! What’s left of herself for her children?

The bottom line is: The elderly man’s life becomes easy when he remarries. The elderly woman’s life becomes harder when she remarries.

And therefore my mother was right to decide never to remarry should anything happens to my father. (I wouldn’t allow it, anyway. I would be very forthright about it too.)

Of course, there is context to everything. Just like there is an exception to every rule. For example, the elderly woman could have married a richer guy, right? Haha. But then putting my self in the shoes of the richer  guy, I might as well marry a young woman instead of an elderly one (haha, just trying to think like a man). So MOST OF THE TIME, an elderly woman ends up with a poor elderly man whose children might or might not provide financial support for their father to enable him to provide for the new wife. 

So in general, my mother hit the nail on the head when she declared her epiphany.

Imagine if your elderly mother remarries? Can you bear the thought? I am not talking about young mothers, but elderly mothers! What benefit do they get from such marriage? Would you advise your elderly mother to remarry? Am I (and my mother and sisters) the only one who think like this, I wonder?

So that day, after Mrs. H finished telling me that she was now a free woman, and she was going back to KL, I smiled at her and said, “I wish you all the happiness in the world. Don’t hesitate to come back should you need anything else. If you need to talk to me about anything, just call the clinic. You know, I will always take a call from you.”

Since then, she had called me twice.

We kept in touch.

***

Disclaimer: Some details are hidden, altered or disguised to preserve Mrs. H’s privacy. But the gist of the case remains the same. This is not only the story of Mrs. H, but also the tales of many other women, even when they marry as a young woman. When they marry as an elderly woman, it gets even worse. Take care of your elderly mother. Never make her feel like she has to marry again for companionship. In most cases, it’s just not worth it.

Reading Is Life Long

I found out from RCPsych website that my exam result would come up in February. More than two months after the exam itself!

In my mind, I went “Another month of waiting and uncertainties?? I couldn’t bear it!”

We were speculating among ourselves: “Maybe most of the candidates had performed so badly that they need to review the questions again to decide which ones to include in the overall marking.”

This can be bad and can be good.

I am just not sure which one is which for me.

We had also gone to the website to analyze previous patterns of result pronouncement.

Guys, most of the time the result would come out only one month after the exam! So, this is a new pattern emerging all of a sudden!

I just don’t know what to think.

I was not kidding when I said the exam was tough. It was not false modesty on my part. If I pass, it would totally be by the grace of God. Most of the exam questions were HOT (higher order thinking). There was  not much of a straightforward question. It’s not a true and false…. which only requires you to KNOW rather than to apply.

Questions in MRCPsychs gave you situations and asked you to pick the BEST answer rather than the TRUE answer. Several of answer options could fit the situation just as well… and you really have to KNOW in order to apply your knowledge to choose which one is the BEST answer.

By the end of the exam, we were exhausted and depressed. Haha. One of my friends from SP did not finish answering six questions due to lack of time. I myself only finished answering all questions 5 minutes before the allocated time ended. I did not even have the time to check all my answers properly.

And now that the RCPsych examination board had moved the result date to another month, I am assailed by all kinds of apprehension.

Previously, I felt like I could use the waiting time to read a lot of fiction and literature, catching up on my readings. I told myself that it’s okay to be hedonistic for one month! But for two months?? My superego started prodding me to feel guilty! I couldn’t believe myself when at last I picked up my academic book after one month of complete fun reading.

My mother was astonished that I had bothered to study again. She knew me. I only study when the exam is near. (My parents used to badger us to study all the time when we were kids. But by the time we started studying away from home in residential schools, they pretty much thought that we were mature enough and left us to our own devices. I remembered thinking back then, “Yeah, freedom at last” hahha.)

“Baguslah kak ngah study.” She said one day, upon seeing me holding an academic book, while grappling with disbelief at my dramatic behaviour alteration. 

I cringed. “Lama sangat baca buku lagha. Takut otak angah berkarat,”

She laughed.

So nowadays when I am at home, I read on addiction since I am an Addiction MO. And in the clinic, I read a non-fiction book titled “Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry” by Jeffrey A Lieberman which was lent to me by my colleague. I am currently 3 chapters through the book. I must say, this book is quite good and doesn’t feel dry  even though it is a non-fiction.

So be proud of me, dear readers. I am diversifying into non-fiction too, these days! Hahah. I am proud of myself. 😉

You need to read a lot and diversify your reading in order to improve your knowledge and your writing. I believe that reading is the kindest thing you could do for your brain and your soul.

It’s like you are updating your brain software, you know.

My mom had once said to me, “Sampai ke tua ke angah nak baca buku cerita ni?” She had asked, half playfully and half incredulously.

“Ya lah, mak. Mestilah sampai tua. Takkan bila tua tiba-tiba nak berhenti baca buku pula?”

Really! Has anyone stopped feeding when they get old? Reading is like feeding to me. I cannot stop.

Some people are obsessed with gadget. They hold their smartphones all the time.

When I am alone at home, I hold books. So my friends already know not to whatsapp me if they want something urgent from me. Because I won’t notice the messages. If it’s urgent, just call. And I will pick it up, if I am in the mood.

If you are not a good reader yourself, you will never understand the difference between those who read and those who don’t read. I don’t connect with people who don’t read. I can do superficial conversation with them but I don’t feel  stimulated by their talk and their thoughts. I am bored to tears by ordinary small talk.

Stimulating and fascinating conversations can be found among readers… like Miss A, Miss L, Mr. D.

And great writing can only be produced by readers who read a range of books from trashy (picisan) to commercial fiction, to literature to non-fiction and finally academic books. If you don’t experience each category of reading, you yourself are not qualified to give a fair review of books. If you are an English teacher who don’t read a lot, you are going to be clueless on how to give marks to your students’ essays. You will set a low standard. And towards anyone who surpass your standard, you will have no idea how to deal with them.

A ‘picisan’ essay that is not glaringly obvious in grammatical error can obtain an A just like other better essays from other greater students. The marking criteria for English essay is so low that just anyone can get an A. (It’s like budak sekolah agama dapat A dalam karangan bahasa Arab. Entah-entah punya banyak orang yang lagi terer sastera Arab akan rasa karangan Bahasa Arab yang dapat A ni macam level sekolah rendah. Haha)

When I was in high school, me and my friends would read each others’s essay. I can tell, simply by reading their essays, what sort of books are their main staple.

I give you an example: Let’s say you are asked to write about your best friend.

Below are the examples of the many possible introductions to the essay. And I would tell you what I meant when I said I could tell what you read by how you write.

First Example:

I have a best friend named Ratna with whom I always hang out. I have known her since kindergarten and our friendship has remained strong through all these years.

(This is trashy/picisan, folks! While there is no grammatical error whatsoever, I would not give this essay an A. The sentences are simple rather than complex. There is no rhyme or rhythm; no variety in techniques. But at SPM level, this is already considered good enough and MOST English teachers would not mind giving this essay an A as long as there is no glaring grammatical errors. But in my opinion, this introduction is uninspiring, straightforward and nothing special. It is too clinical to be interesting. Sure, the language is effective enough to tell a story… but is it good? Heck, no! So, can you imagine my distress when I was in high school seeing other people had gotten the same A that I got? Look, I wasn’t great myself. Miss A was MUCH better than me. I bet, Miss A had also felt distressed that I got the same A for my essay as she did. Hers was literary, out of the league. Mine was inferior than hers. But what I am trying to say is, picisan kind of writing doesn’t deserve an A. But that’s the SPM level during my time). 

Second Example:

When I first met Ratna, I was struck by the elfin mischief in her eyes as she held my hand and whispered to me, “You and I are going to have the greatest adventure of our lives.”  Since that fateful first meeting, I was stuck with her through thick and thin and only now do I admit that there is no one better I would want to be stuck with.

(This is better! There is usage of complex sentences. The writer also employed the dialogue technique to create a variety. The usage of idiom “through thick and thin” would give the writer an extra mark. There is also an element of suspense when the writer wrote “You and I are going to have the greatest adventure of our lives”. The introduction is already gripping enough that you WANT to know what is going to happen next. You can picture Ratna as a mischievous, fun-loving girl who would bring some sparks into the life of the narrator! You cannot wait to read how the story of their friendship would unfold. I would say the language level of this writer is competent. I would say that the writer reads mostly commercial fiction. I wouldn’t mind giving an A to this writer if the rest of the story is as good as the introduction with no glaring grammatical error. This is good… but not great! I believe that when I was in high school, this is my level of competence. I tried to inject some element of suspense in my essay from the very beginning of my introduction and I use commercial fiction language to do it).

Third Example:

A friend is someone who knows the poetry of your heart and can recite the stanzas back to you when you have forgotten all the poignant words. Someone who can read the unspoken messages between your spoken lines. Someone with whom you can cast your silvery glance at her direction and she would smile meaningfully at you because she knew the hidden treasure of your mind at that moment in time. 

(See? Can you see the difference of the level of competence between all these examples! This one is literary! A lot of metaphorical words. There is some rhythm and rhyme to this whole paragraph. This is the level of Miss A when we were only just high school kids. Most adults and even most English teachers don’t get to this level of competence because they STOP reading… OR because they don’t read literature. This is only an introduction to the essay, not even the whole composition yet! But the beauty of the words struck you somewhere in your chest, and you just KNOW it is going to be a good story. You also just know that this writer is a better reader than you! And you will become slightly envious of her. Hahah)

So, this is why I read! Believe me, language becomes rusty if you don’t polish it up consistently. Ask your friends who attended Chinese School growing up. They forgot their Mandarin if they don’t practice enough after having graduated from school. Even my elder sister had said that her English has become rusty after she started working and having kids because she doesn’t have enough time for reading anymore. It is so sad when you don’t have time to read.

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***

I got along with my English teachers, most of the time. Out of all my English teachers I have had, I was in bad terms with three of them only. That’s not a lot, right? Hahha.

Mr. M was my English teacher when I was in standard 5 and standard 6. The reason we clashed was because I was always caught talking with my two friends at the back. We were not noisy or anything, but we might not be paying that much attention during his class. He called us ‘The Three Musketeers’, when he was in a good mood. But when he was in a bad mood, he would criticize my handwriting (okay, fair enough. I had the worst handwriting in the class. If I had known then that I was going to be a doctor, maybe I could tell Mr. M why my handwriting was actually prophetic in nature. Haha). But otherwise he was a great teacher. He gave something extra in his lessons that were not in the syllabus. He taught us idioms and where to place it in our essays. He explained why a particular sentence was grammatically wrong. Not many English teachers can properly explain grammar, trust me.

But I didn’t get along with my English teachers in MRSM Langkawi. When I was in Form 4, we were asked to form a group to come up with an essay. I attached myself to Miss A, of course. By that time, I already knew that Miss A would come up with better prose than I ever could. We also had another girl from KL whose command in English was great too. We were supposed to write an essay in two pieces of mahjong papers and read it out loud to the class. We had a great team and we wrote a great essay, in my opinion. Ours was the last group to present. But even before the presentation, some of my friends in other groups already commented on what a beautiful story our essay had been.

At the end of the presentation, we fully expected that the teacher would give us a good comment. It was so glaringly obvious that our essay was better than the rest. We had Miss A in our group. It’s a given! But the first comment from the teacher was, “Where did you get the idea for this essay from?”

We were so upset by her comment. It was as though she could not compute that we could come up with something like this on our own!

When I was in Form 5, again another English teacher had accused me of plagiarizing from a novel which she could not even name! How the hell was I supposed to plagiarize during an exam, I had no idea. How her brain could justify such a claim when there was no evidence whatsoever, I could not credit. (But I admit, that essay was controversial. She was a conservative. I was just being creative about a taboo subject. Haha. Like I said, my writings do get me in trouble at times). My mother came to my school to confront the teacher. For the first time, my mother had stood up for me against my teacher. Because my parents knew what I was capable of. They knew that this time their interference was justified.

I didn’t mind if my English teacher didn’t like the subject of my essay; I understood even then how conservative people could be. But she could just tell me why she disagreed with what I had written and why she found the subject distasteful. I could accept that (perhaps not gracefully, but at least I wouldn’t feel a sense of injustice had she simply said that she didn’t like the essay). But to accuse me of plagiarism, that’s a hit on my integrity and my pride and I would NEVER take such an accusation standing down. No way! No matter how controversial and distasteful the subject matter was, I came up with it myself during the exam and her accusation was unjust and unfounded.

She finally apologized… but I was still upset because I didn’t think she would have apologized if my mother hadn’t come to see her, bringing a whole lot of my previous essays and short stories as a proof of my creative acumen. (If it was my father who came, he would straight away see the principal. So, I was kind of grateful that it was my mother who came. I really didn’t want to make a big issue out of this. My father was far more intimidating and forceful than my mother. And as upset as I was, I really didn’t want that teacher to be in trouble. But at the same time, I had to stand up for my rights.)

What I have learned from this experience is that people can only judge you based on the level of their own capability. If they themselves have never been able to come up with something great, they would find it difficult to believe that other people could do something they never could.

Miss A has a far better command in English and writing than ANY English teacher I have ever had as a student. If Miss A were my English teacher, she would never think that her students could not come up with a good essay because she herself had been able to do it multiple times. To her, writing excellently is nothing extraordinary at all and thus she would not have any trouble believing that others could come up with the same quality just as well. She would have no reason to be suspicious of other people’s ability that she herself could display so effortlessly. (But Miss A is now a doctor in a Klinik Kesihatan. She is brilliant in BOTH arts and science). But these English teachers were not that good themselves, so they just found it unbelievable that their students could come up with something better than they could ever dream to come up with! So, the only explanation they could think of is “the student must have plagiarized this from somewhere. It’s just too good”.

I would respect a teacher, if the teacher has a skill worthy of my respect. I would even respect a teacher who may not be skilful in English, but has the mental capacity to recognize a good writing when she sees one. But I could NOT make myself respect someone like my English teacher in MRSM Langkawi.  If that means I ‘tak hormat cikgu’, well, be it!  Memang aku tak hormat pun!

Another lesson I have learned is teachers and authorities are not always right.

I believe that KPM has far better teachers than MRSM. MRSM was great because in the first place they have already chosen straight As students to begin with. My seniors won National Olympiad Competition (for physics, Math and Chemistry) beating TKC and other top schools because they could answer questions that were only appropriate for university level! In our school, it was not surprising to find students who could answer advanced physics and Add Math questions far better than the physics and Add Math teachers themselves. That’s how our school won the Olympiad… our seniors were geniuses whose understanding in those subjects had far surpassed what could be found in regular SPM textbooks and revision books.

Sometimes, we learned from each other far better than what our teachers could teach in the class room. During my time, MRSM teachers were much younger than KPM teachers, and they did not even have diploma of teaching. One of our Physics teacher has a degree in engineering rather than a degree in teaching physics. I also heard a rumour once that one of our biology teachers was supposed to be a doctor but ended up being a teacher in MRSM because she was not able to complete her training and thus she repaid her MARA loan by giving service to MRSM. (Again, she  didn’t have diploma in teaching) When I was in Form 5, our chemistry teacher had some health problems and rarely made it to class. We studied with each other using revision books and by doing a lot of questions.

In the first place, MRSM already have a highly motivated students who are also competitive with each other and would try to beat one another’s marks! Very little of our progress depended on the teachers alone.

So when my specialist Dr. S had sent her young daughter to MRSM Langkawi, I endorsed the school because of the learning environment prevalent in MRSM. But I told her “Tapi cikgu KPM lagi berpengalaman. Cikgu saya kat Asma lagi pandai mengajar. Cikgu kat MRSM pula, lepas diorang grad, sambil bekerja diorang akan buat teaching diploma walaupun diorang dah ada degree dalam bidang masing-masing. Sebab time degree dulu diorang tak diajar teknik mengajar because their degrees are not in teaching. They have degrees in biology, physics, chemistry… but not a degree in TEACHING biology/physics and chemistry. Some of them were supposed to be engineers, doctors or biotechnologist to begin with. Cikgu KPM pula waktu belajar kat uni dulu memang degree in teaching and they will be taught P&P techniques (teknik pengajaran dan pembelajaran). Diorang tak perlu ambil separate teaching diploma dah sewaktu bekerja.”

She shared the same view as I do that KPM teachers are better, because she said her own daughter had said the same thing. “Cikgu Sultanah Bahiyah lagi bagus daripada cikgu MRSM.” even though her daughter obtained four flat in MRSM Langkawi. That four flat was not a reflection of good teaching skills, but good competitive environment. All your friends are clever in MRSM and it is embarrassing when you get bad grades. And thus you tend to work harder and push yourself. So, don’t underestimate learning from peers and peer-driven excellence. Sometimes it might be the only thing that helps. 

***

If you are a science/Math teacher, your students can prove that they are better than you by producing OBJECTIVE answers to questions that you could not answer. (Ni dia, cikgu! Ini jalan kira dia. Ini formula yang kita kena pakai). The fact that you could not answer a question that your student could, is already an objective way of proving that the student is better than you. Math and Sciences are factual subjects. If you learn them, you will know them… and no one can dispute your answers!

But how would a student who is better than you in language or arts can prove to you that she is better than you? Arts and language are not factual subjects. There were times when I wished that I had had the heart to go to her and say, “Let’s compete! Choose one title for an essay. Let’s write the essay based on the title that YOU choose. Set a time limit. And let us write the essay within the given time. Then we can let other English teacher decides whose essay is better! Let’s see how good you are. Let’s see whether your grammar is flawless. Let’s see whether you can use complex syntax and metaphorical prose. Let’s see how well-read you are and whether or not you are qualified to judge my essay or Miss A’s essay. At the end of the day… let’s see whether we are the ones who can teach you how to teach English!” (But people would think I am rude if I ever say such a thing, right? Hahah. Tapi kalau kau tak cabar aku, aku pun takkan cakap macam tu! Aku tak pernah terfikir nak cakap macam tu pun to my other teachers in ASMA or KMB, for example.)

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Art is a talent. It is VERY LIKELY for you to be an art teacher and then find out that your students’ painting is much better than yours. A vocal teacher may not be a better singer than her own students. That’s why not all vocal teachers are also singers.

Language is partly talent and partly effort. Just because you are a language teacher teaching ‘high-school level’ language, doesn’t mean you are a talented essayist.

A teacher who doesn’t read well, would never be able to appreciate whose essay deserve what marks. That teacher may not even be able to appreciate whether the language used is trashy/commercial/literary if she herself is not good at language in the first place but just happens to choose TESL as her undergraduate subject. Even my own sister had admitted that her friends who were studying TESL with her were not very good in English and she could not compute why they wanted to be a TESL teacher in the first place. I was surprised that some of my friends whose command in English are far inferior than me ended up being an English teacher. They may be slightly better than the average Malaysian students (who don’t read much and prefer gadgets over books)  but if they ever come across an above average student who has been reading English all her life, would these teachers still feel they are better than the student? Would these teachers be better than my nephew Eshan and my niece Aayra when they grow up, for example? Maybe when Eshan and Aayra are still in primary school, these teachers might still have something they could teach the kids. But by the time Eshan and Aayra grow into their reading, get into secondary school and become friends with better readers than them, would these English teachers still be able to teach them much if they themselves have mediocre command in the language and just happened to choose TESL as an undergrad once upon a time? Or would they end up accusing their brilliant students of plagiarism just because their brains cannot come up with something good themselves?

So it is even MORE imperative for English teachers to get into the habit of reading continuously so that they can upgrade their language skills and would not embarrass themselves in front of students who are better than them. But how many Malaysian adults STILL read by the time they start working? Most of my friends don’t read anymore, citing petty reasons such as ‘Tak ada masa, anak kacau, banyak housechores’. Most of my doctor friends only read academic books when they are studying for their master, but how many of them read great works of literature? Not many of them do so.

‘Tak ada masa’ is simply an excuse, in my opinion. These people think that reading is a waste of time and something trivial and just a hobby for some people. They didn’t think of reading as a nourishment for God’s greatest gift to His greatest creation. The brain is God’s greatest gift to us, folks. Don’t neglect it.

So this is why I will always continue reading commercial fictions, literatures, as well as upmarket works. And I am now diversifying into non-fictions as well. You can never read enough. You can never improve your writing enough. Reading and writing are the exercise for your brain. It is one of the reasons I have a blog. I also have one specific folder in my computer for other essays/short stories that I write for fun, only to be read by myself and other close friends and family members.

And you cannot write well if you don’t read well. And this is the universal truth!

So I implore you to read continuously for the rest of your life. Reading has stopped becoming just a hobby for me. It has become my mental nourishment, my definition of having a quality of life. I am an advocate of reading because the joy of reading is too immense not to be shared with the rest of mankind. Try it and see for yourself how different your worldview will become the moment you realize how much reading has opened your mind.

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Being Yourself : What Do We Really Mean?

“Hey, since when have you been reading Orhan Pamuk?” he asked me when I was reading Orhan Pamuk’s A Strangeness In My Mind. He knew that I usually read mysteries and thrillers.

“I came across the book review of this book and it sounds good. Saw this book in Singapore. So, I just bought it. I force myself to read literature because my reading mates read literatures. I have to catch up. Haha” I said.

“Ala…be yourself. Just read what you enjoy. Tak payah nak ikut orang lain kata apa.”

I chuckled, outwardly.

But my mind was struck by the phrase of ‘be  yourself’. Because, ‘be yourself’ is something I had debated on and off with myself and I have come to the realization that the phrase ‘be yourself’ is so arbitrary and can be downright confusing and thus it needs further clarification, in my opinion.

***

My friends and colleagues are well-versed of my love for mysteries and thrillers and adventures. I love books that revolve around the theme of battling evil force. I adore the whole process of  solving problems in ingenious ways at the last critical moment when you think there is no hope left. And when suddenly the protagonist accomplishes the impossible, that is the euphoric part when a rush of dopamine is released in my brain and I get that high that all drug addicts yearn for! Adventurous fiction a’la Indiana Jones is my cocaine.

Skilful hero, bad villain, a beguiling mystery, an enormous problem to solve, effortful toiling… then AT LAST success comes in the form of the death of the villain when harmony and order and justice are restored. 

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This is why thrillers and adventures are addictive. I am part of the story that I read.

It’s very formulaic…but it works with me. Books like these taught me that unless it is a happy ending, it is not yet an ending. So in real life, when I come across something sad or something disappointing, I would remember that this is not the end. Something good for me is yet to come. Books like these help me define my notion of justice and why we must ensure that it prevails in the end. So this is how I justify my love of fiction. It is motivating!

Formulaic stuff like this is called commercial fiction! A happy ending is a must! When I read commercial fiction, this is what I want! Pure entertainment! And if it also happens to give me some new info or some interesting titbits that would then become part of my semantic memory, well, all the better. Because I can then pretend that I am reading it for the knowledge as well. Hahah (Think Da Vinci Code. It is formulaic and a commercial fiction. But this book incorporates a lot of facts about anagrams, fibonacci Sequence, history of Christianity, Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and The Lourve Museum. I honestly say I learned a lot when I read Da Vinci Code even though it is a commercial fiction.  It is full of facts, but at the same time it is fast-paced and full of exciting adventure). But no matter what facts they include into their plot, the main point of commercial fiction is entertainment, not knowledge or self-reflection! For Malay readers, think Ahadiat Akashah (as opposed to A. Samad Said).

Now literature (sastera) is different. The main point of literature is to educate and to criticize some element in the society that the author finds repugnant (kritik sosial). The author of literature hopes to trigger a paradigm change in the society. Happy ending is not guaranteed. In fact, sad ending is more effective! And most of the time, the ending is in the form of a cliffhanger and you get a feeling of things not being properly resolved. (And I feel unsatisfied! I hate that unresolved feelings. I rather have a sad ending than an unresolved ending. But maybe that’s the point! If most readers feel unsatisfied, then maybe we will get fired up, talk about it in forums, and at last campaign for a change in the society. So the author has reached his/her purpose: to make the readers feel so unsatisfied and so angry that they just have to talk about it in forums.)  Most literatures are really slow-paced. Where in commercial fiction the conflicts are usually external, the conflicts in literatures are internal. Where the character in commercial fiction is this perfectly handsome, intelligent and skilful hero, the character in literature will be flawed and the character will struggle internally to overcome his flaws. (Think Salina by A. Samad Said. Salina is the protagonist who is also a prostitute!!) So you see, some characters in literature are not always hero material. So it’s difficult for us as readers to admire and fall in love with this person. Unlike in commercial fiction, the protagonist here is not at all perfect; he is only human in this literature. And that’s just not good enough for us. (Well, at least AT FIRST, such protagonist won’t be good enough for us. But as you mature into your reading, you will grow to like this sort of protagonist. This protagonist is real and human, and perhaps as you grow older, you can relate to such a character. Protagonists in literatures are people like hawkers, farmers, taxi drivers…rather than CIA agents/ Secret Service Agents, SWAT agents/ successful CEOs etc etc. So really…they are NOT as exciting, but they are REAL every day people. As time goes by, you can possibly make yourself accept a hero that may not be so handsome, and not so successful, but just ordinary people struggling with life’s trials and tribulations. But remember, AT FIRST, it is so damn difficult to finish the book! But you just have to HANG IN THERE and finish it!)

So, reading literature is a struggle! You may not like the plot or the character because it is not entertaining enough and too real to be a source of fun escapism. (And most people read as a form of escapism. To relax from reality! And thus, literature feels torturous when compared to commercial fiction)

If you are a young reader and still struggling with reading literature, don’t worry! It’s normal. I STILL struggle. I have to MAKE myself read literature and Thank God I have this reading forum that would motivate me to do so. Like the character in a literature, I have a weakness too. I feel jealous of  anyone who seems to read better than I do (haha) and I want to compete against them. It’s really ridiculous of me…but heck, I have flaws!

So when I force myself to read literature, does it mean I am NOT being myself?
I don’t think so.

I AM being myself. Well, my competitive self, at least! 

If I had said “I love literature only… and commercial fictions are beneath my notice because they are so awfully trashy!”,… well, THEN I am lying and not being myself. But I did not say that. I fully acknowledge that literatures are hard to swallow and I have to force myself. So really, this IS myself. Haha.

But, this is the problem, you see! Is ‘being yourself’ means following your every inclination and not opposing your whims and desires at all…and not bothering to improve yourself at all and just remain the same… because you want to ‘be yourself’? Is that what we are supposed to do in life? Are we going to demand that people love us ‘just the way we are’ because we are just being ourselves?

I have problems with that concept. To quote Alanis Morisette, we will love you just the way you are if you are perfect. But no one is… so… well…the concept of ‘be yourself and never change’ becomes problematic in my analytical INTP mind.

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***

If I had come across the phrase ‘be yourself’ when I was a child, I might use it against my parents. But I don’t think it would be effective.

Nope!

“Kak Ngah, pi study”

“Studying is not myself. At the moment, myself wanna play. If I force myself to read academic books, then it means I am not being  true to myself. If you force me to study now, that means you are not accepting me for myself” Hahaha. 

I think if I ever said that, my father would quip  “Tak apa. You can be yourself. Cuma… ‘yourself’ nanti kena rotan jer lah. But yes, go ahead and be yourself. You have that option, of course,”

Haha.

You see? Maybe even my childhood self knew that the ‘be yourself’ rhetoric is too wishy-washy and arbitrary to be used in an argument (or else you bet I would have used it with my parents). Whatever valid argument out there for me not to study, I have used them. But I never used the ‘be myself’ angle with my parents. Because deep inside I knew, it was too stupid to say something like that (and I know how the argument will end up. Just like the above dialogue, that’s how! Haha)

The problem that I have with the ‘be yourself’ catchphrase is because it can be misapplied or taken advantage of, you see. A murderer and a thief would say “I am just being myself when I commit that crime.”

A cheater would tell his wife “When I fell in love with the other woman, I couldn’t help it. You might think I am cheating on you, but with myself, I am being true!”. Hahhaha.

What would the world turn into, then?

So you see, ‘be yourself’ catchphrase is very flawed at its core. It doesn’t stand detailed scrutiny. It is vague! It is fragile! And perhaps, should not be propagated!

We should not always be ourselves. Not in the way that they are promoting it.

We must first understand which part of ourselves are we talking about.

***

You see, according to Sigmund Freud, self/psyche can be divided into your id, your ego and your superego (tripartite).

Id: operates on instinct and pleasure principle. We want what we want and the reality be damn! This is me! What I want is unrealistic and selfish but I still want it.

(eg: I want to eat ice cream all the time. I don’t want to have to diet.)

Superego: this aspect of ourselves incorporates the values and moral of the society and is learned from our parents, our teachers or our religious upbringing.

(eg: I support the value of healthy diet because I am a doctor and I have learned it in med school that eating healthy is good for your health)

Ego: The job of the ego is to balance the demands of the id (our instinct to seek pleasure, to eat whatever we like) and the demands of the superego (our moral values and what we have learned.)

(eg: we then decide to eat regular meals rather than go on an extreme diet in order to satisfy our id’s need for good portion of food. To satisfy our superego, we reduce our ice cream intake to only once a week and exercise regularly. Id doesn’t get everything id wants. Superego also doesn’t get the ideal that superego wants. Instead, ego make them compromise and meet in the middle.)

Your superego and your Id will constantly influence your ego. Your ego will have to decide which way it should skew towards.

So, if ONE DAY, you decide to go on a diet, that is your superego winning against your id. Your superego is STILL yourself. So don’t go around thinking “Wow, I feel so fake and not myself when I am munching this carrot and celery. This is not right! I should be true to myself. I should just eat that double cheese burger because THAT IS MY REAL SELF!” 

Do you understand what I am trying to say?

Your id, your superego and your ego…they are ALL you and yourself. Just because you ignore your id and satisfy your superego, doesn’t mean you are not being yourself. In fact, ignoring your id makes you the better person.

The better self.

And the good news is your id can be trained to be more in tune with your superego. Initially all diets and exercise are hard to do (that is your id being in revolt and rebelling. Ignoring your id can cause tension and stress, initially). But after awhile, your id will follow through and eventually your id will easily accept the need for things to go the superego way most of the time.

On certain days, your id would win against your superego. You would eat a lot of ice cream and binge on junk food. When that happens, don’t go around saying “I am just being myself when I binge eat.” Instead tell yourself, that I am being the ‘id part’ of myself today. The superego part of myself lost today.

And that’s okay. Id must be allowed to win too, occasionally. It relaxes us. 

You can indulge your id occasionally, as long as you don’t do that by abusing the rights of others.

Below is another example of how id and superego influence your overall self:

Id: I am bored with my one wife. I want to have sex with more than one woman.

Superego: But Islam prohibits Zina.

Id: Well, I can have four wives,

Superego:  But as a husband, I must be responsible financially for all my four wives. I must be equal to all of them in terms of nafkah. I must lead them to the right path and be responsible for all their sins. 

Ego intervenes at this point: The reality is, I cannot afford four wives. But I might just be able to manage two wives in the fair and responsible manner that Islam stipulates. So I will have two wives, instead. (ego will try to satisfy both id and superego. But whether id or superego has the greater influence on your ego, that depends on many external factors and circumstances.)

In this example, if the id has a far more powerful influence than the superego, the man just might not bother to marry other women and simply hire prostitutes to satisfy his id. Lagi senang, kan?! If the superego (moral) is not well developed, the id wins easily and he can commit zina without feeling any guilt.  Is it then okay for him to simply say “I am just being myself?” 

Hell, no! You are just being the ‘id part’ of yourself!

Id is your nafs! So be careful when you say ‘be yourself’.The psychiatry MO in me might just ask “which part of yourself? You could have chosen your superego self to express, but you had chosen your id self to express instead. And then you go around using the convenient catchphrase of ‘being yourself’ as though that justifies everything.”

The phrase ‘be yourself’ is problematic because it doesn’t specify which part of yourself you should be! Your id…or your superego? And this arbitrary phrase can be misapplied by unprincipled crooks to justify whatever they do.

***

In my case…

My Id: I love entertaining books that are fast-paced, adventurous and fun. I feel relaxed. 

My Superego: But this sort of books that you like do not have much intellectual value, right? It is so ‘lagha’. God gives you brain NOT for you to waste it in fantasy adventure and la-la land. Your fiction doesn’t change the paradigm of the society. It’s fun, of course. But it’s empty calories. Why can’t you read something that feed your brain and nourish your soul? Read non-fiction, why don’t you? Those are factual and real!

My Ego: Okay, calm down, id and superego. Let’s compromise. Let’s read literature instead. It is still a fiction, but based on reality. It gives you something to think about without the boring academic feel to it. You don’t have to feel guilty about not feeding your brain properly if you read literature.

So, my point is: whether I am reading commercial fiction or literature or even academic books…all of them are MYSELF.

I indulge my id with commercial fiction. I satisfy my superego with literature and obligatory academic books (when the exam is near). Satisfying my superego improves my knowledge and my writing. Satisfying my id allows me to relax and recharge. 

So when I said I had to force myself to read literature, what I really meant to say was I had to force ‘my id self’ to read and enjoy literature. My superego didn’t need any forcing because that value is already within me. I just need my superego to be strong enough to wrestle the controlling rein from my id. And after awhile, when I do it often enough, my id would accept that literature is a superior reading material and we should read it more often. 

The take home message is: Your id can be TRAINED. Your id can be TAMED if you make it a practice to allow your superego to win most of the time. Eventually, it gets easier. It does.

***

So the next time I said I am being myself, I will say that phrase with the conscious awareness that the ‘self’ is FLUID and CHANGEABLE at any moment, depending on how good and pious I am feeling at that time and depending on which part of my self dominates my ego at that point in time.

And that’s normal! That’s human. 

So relax guys! Don’t feel fake and pretentious when we choose to rise above our natural (id) inclination. That’s what jihad is about; a struggle to force our id into submission.

May we all have the strength to be the better part of ourselves, most of the time (if not always). May Allah reduce the gap between our id and our superego so that doing good and being nice become easy. Amin.

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Hahaha! I love the quote above!

Until next time, folks!

Disclaimer: This is merely my amateurish take on pop psychology. Haha. I am not an expert or anything. But INTPs are annoyed by vague, wishy-washy stuff like ‘be yourself’ and we have the need to break it down and analyze it to death. No one else would bother to analyze this catchphrase beyond its superficial application. I mean, it is not worth the time to mull the matter over. It’s just an ordinary adage, after all. But this is how INTP use their brain. This is our eternal problem. Even as we are annoyed by vague, arbitrary, wishy-washy stuff like this, we are also fascinated by the thought of how we can attack and crucify the matter to smithereens. We are fascinated by contradictions, inconsistencies between theories and reality. Any type of dissonance holds our attention until we have thought the matter over and come to a decision. It is, alas, a never ending passion. So here you go. This is how INTPs spend their time thinking about abstract stuff that is not that important in real life. The only reason we STILL do it is because we enjoy it. 

HOTS or LOTS (KBAT or KBAR)

To those who have no idea what KBAT is, allow me to take full advantage of this opportunity to enlighten you that KBAT is an acronym for the phrase Kemahiran Berfikir Aras Tinggi (In English: HOTS/ Higher Order Thinking Skills).

It was the latest concept introduced by the Ministry of Education for Malaysian Students in a similar manner they have introduced other curriculum in the past such as KBSR/KBSM/KBKK. (During my time it was KBKK a.k.a Kemahiran Berfikir Secara Kreatif dan Kritis). HOTS is now the trend in Malaysian education. It is fashionable, at the moment (until the next education minister changes the whole curriculum all over again, haha). HOTS is the HOT stuff in the education industry now! Trendy! Au courant!

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HOTS, in a nutshell!

Higher-order thinking involves the learning of complex judgmental skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. (Judgment, folks!! The usage of your God given brain to make inferences and deductions and conclusions to come to a SENSIBLE decision based on what you have learned!)

Higher-order thinking is more difficult to learn or teach but also more valuable because such skills are more likely to be usable in novel situations.

But ah… forgive me, my dear esteemed readers.

I don’t mean to give a lecture on what HOTS is about. But the introduction above is necessary to put this post in its proper context.

I declare to all and sundry, that the entire purpose of this post is to unequivocally state in the boldest possible manner that Malaysians are NOT ready for HOTS because they don’t even pass LOTS, most of the time!  (In case  you are wondering, LOTS stands for Lower Order Thinking Skills.)

***

And what do I mean by that?

Well, this!

Jika diamati sebaik-baiknya. elakkan dari mencuci pakaian di tempat mencuci automatic public. kerana mesin tersebut digunakan oleh orang bukan Islam, kerana mereka ini tiada kebersihan. seluar dalam yang terkena darah haid. lebih maklum lagi semua tahu yang ada yang tidak membasuh punggung dan kemaluan selepas membuang air besar dan kecil. Pakaian yang dipakai dikesat pula mulut dan tangannya selepas memegang daging khinzir dan ada pula tuala yang digunakan mengelap kaki dan mengelap najis anjing mereka campurkan ke dalam mesin basuh. Itu belum tahu lagi adakah pakaian mereka ni yang terkena darah yang boleh membawa kepada jangkitan merbahaya seperti HIV  atau sakit kulit yang kritikal yang boleh berjangkit. Entah lah. Adakah pernah kita terfikir akan hal tersebut.

Selamat pg dan basuhlah pakaian sendiri di rumah, terjamin kebersihannya.

🙂 🙂 🙂

(Let me make it clear that I copied that statement word for word (including the triple smileys at the end) and any mistake in Malay grammar and sentence structure has nothing whatsoever to do with me) 

Upon reading that piece of asinine statement in one of my numerous whatsapp groups, I was struck by the compelling urge to leave that group for good. I have been patient all these time! But I just cannot stand this anymore! This is not the first time they posted something so moronic, it should earn a place in Guinness Book of Record as the World’s Most Asinine Whatsapp Group Text.

Every time I came across something THIS painful, I get disillusioned by the poor level of HOTS in our community. I rather just not know the truth. I want to keep imagining all the best things about the level of intellect in the muslim community, that I want to exit that whatsapp group! It is a testimony of the power of my self-control that I had limited my reaction to a few short responses. If I had given in to my inner (manic) diva, I could launch a long tirade about the  unfortunate lack of critical thinking in our Malaysian muslim community (which would hurt a lot of feelings. And that was the only reason I made myself stop. I nearly lost the battle against my inner diva, I tell you!) 

But because I was too fiery inside, I needed to vent out! So, I copied the whole stupid message and posted it in my Newcastle Batchmates Whatsapp Group. We had a great laugh out of it.

“Orang Islam tempat lain sibuk isu-isu besar. Isu Syria. Isu Palestin. Isu ummah. Orang kat Malaysia tak pass benda basic yang kita dah lama faham. What is wrong with them?”

***

Someone with HOTS would have the ability to make simple deductions and inferences. This is something that is introduced at the level of UPSR, and by rights, any adult should have mastered the art.

How can mature Muslim men and women be so insensible as to come up with something like this?

The person who posted this message in my Whatsapp group was only asking whether this message was valid. He did not straightaway take the message as the truth. So I did not, in any way or form, think that he doesn’t have HOTS. Maybe he simply posted this message BECAUSE he found it as stupid as I did and was only asking for clarification. So, I am NOT blaming him. In fact, I applaud his initiative to ask about the validity of the statement in the Whatsappp group. I think there is hope in the community when someone like him ACTUALLY questioned the statement rather than just posting the statement in a form of ‘sharing is caring’. Hahah. It is very heart-warming, to say in the least.

But the fact that he had obtained that message from SOMEWHERE before he posted it in my whatsapp group means that someone HAD come up with the statement in the first place. (That’s the problem, you see! That message must have been viralled somewhere in other groups until it made its way into mine; hurting my eyes, aching my brain and piercing my heart with it. And I bleed…and bleed…a slow, painful, torturous death. 😛 Hahha. My point is: if it has gotten viralled from whatsapp group to whatsapp group, that means a substantial amount of people kind of believe it, right? Doesn’t it alarm you, my dear readers? HOTS lah sangat orang-orang Malaysia ni, kan? Pfft!)

*Deep breath in*

***

How do I apply HOTS in this matter?

Remember! HOTS is all about application of knowledge and creating a new point of view from what you have learned. To put it in religious term, HOTS is like dalil akli (sebab setengah orang yang budget dia ni konon alim sangat, suka menggunakan tema dan warna agama untuk menampakkan hujahnya konon religious. So kalau aku sebut HOTS, tak cukup religious lah kan! So aku sebut dalil akli! ).

I am not saying that dalil akli is enough! No! But if you have HOTS, that is your FIRST filter that would trigger you to search for dalil nakli. When something ‘konon religious’ disturb your ‘akli’, you wouldn’t swallow everything hook, line and sinker. Instead, if you have well-honed HOTS and reasoning skill, hearing something like this would trigger you to search for the dalil nakli to clear your doubts! 99% of the time, dalil nakli and dalil akli are always in parallel! In the 1% of the time when dalil akli and dalil nakli seem contradictory, either your religious authority has misrepresented the issue or there is some other context to your dalil nakli that you don’t know about. So, search further! Don’t stop! Jangan malas berfikir! As a result of having HOTS as your first filter, you would not be someone who can be easily tricked into believing something weird in the name of religion.

If you do not have HOTS, everything that sounds religious…you would accept it unquestionably. And that would not just be unfortunate, but downright tragic!

So let’s talk about this. Let’s break down the above moronic text; sentence by sentence:

 “Tidak boleh menggunakan tempat mencuci automatic public kerana mereka ini tiada kebersihan seluar dalam yang terkena darah haid” 

  • Jadi bagaimana pula dengan darah haid perempuan Muslim? Adakah penulis statement ini rasa perempuan Muslim semuanya tak ada darah haid terkena di seluar dalam mereka?  Beliau boleh terima tak kalau perempuan muslim yang guna tempat mencuci public ni? Ke darah haid perempuan Muslim lebih bersih daripada darah haid perempuan bukan Muslim? Ke beliau nak cakap perempuan bukan muslim saja yang darah haid mereka boleh terkena seluar dalam… seolah-olah perempuan muslim pula darah haid mereka sentiasa elok terletak di sanitary pad tanpa pernah ‘terbocor’ barang sekali pun! Ke macam mana reasoning dia ni…too weird sampai aku tak boleh nak cerna! Newsflash! When you have heavy menstruation flow, your menstruation blood can spill into your panties, and it has nothing to do with your race or religion. (Benda ni saja dah sangat tidak cerdik! The very first sentence dah tersangat kelakar. You can use your common sense untuk bantai bendalah ni. Jadi, aku rasa stress bila ada lagi orang dalam Whatsapp group dok cakap “kena tunggu ijtihad dulu” baru boleh bagi opinion. WHAATTT?  It’s like guru sekolah rendah berkata kepada muridnya “kita kena tunggu sasterawan negara dulu untuk mengajar  kita macam mana nak mengeja.” hahah. Adoi!! Tak tahan!)

“Lebih maklum lagi semua tahu yang ada yang tidak membasuh punggung dan kemaluan selepas membuang air besar dan kecil.” 

  • Benda ni kita dah belajar sejak sekolah menengah lagi. Pernah dengar tak konsep ‘istinjak’? Kita beristinjak menggunakan batu dan bahan-bahan kesat. Ingat tak? Ni konsep bersuci yang asas. Orang Islam memang dah biasa menggunakan air dan kita memang tidak akan puas hati kalau tak guna air. Tapi istinjak juga adalah  salah satu cara bersuci! Dan sah wudhu dan sembahyang kau walaupun sewaktu berhadas tadi, kau hanya beristinjak menggunakan tisu. Okey? Are we clear? Kalau benda macam ni pun penulis statement itu keliru, beliau masih kena pi belajar balik bab istinjak Form 1!  This is not even HOTS. This is only LOTS! Ini hanya remembering dan recall…..tak sampai pun level knowledge application!(Ke yang ni pun aku tak boleh bagi opinion, nak kena tunggu ijtihad juga? Ulama dah tolong bahas benda ni dah lama, siap dengan dalil-dalil semuanya. Kita mungkin tiada kelayakan berijtihad, tetapi kita boleh belajar dengan orang yang sudah berijtihad! Tapi sebenarnya kan…istinjak ni bukan pasal ijtihad! Yang ni dah JELAS pun. Okay?) Jadi dengan pemikiran bagaimanakah penulis statement ini merasakan yang beliau begitu suci sehingga cara istinjak yang diiktraf dalam agama pun beliau nak persoalkan, sampai menghina orang bukan Islam sebegitu sekali dan tidak mahu bercampur public facilities dengan mereka? Dengan pemikiran jumud seperti beliau ini, megahkah beliau yang konon kedengaran lebih Islamik dari orang lain?! (Bayangkan kalau non-muslims baca penulisan beliau ini? Come on, lah!)
  • Dan ingat balik konsep najis. Semua najis yang BUKAN najis mughallazah (bukan anjing atau babi; sekadar najis mukhafaffah dan mutawassitah), bersuci menggunakan air dan sabun sudah cukup menyucikan. Jadi, kita guna saja public automatic washer pun, tiada masalah! Bukan nak kena samak pun tempat basuh tu! Kalau adalah terlekat tahi siapa-siapa pun kat tempat basuh tu (tak kira tahi orang Muslim atau bukan Muslim), membasuh hingga hilang bau, warna dan rasa sudah cukup suci. Penulis statement ini yang terlebih risau sorang-sorang, lepas tu beliau dok budget beliau lebih ‘menghalusi’ bab taharah daripada orang lain! Aduh!! (Sakit tu di sini; di dalam hati ku. Hahah)

Itu belum tahu lagi adakah pakaian mereka ni yang terkena darah yang boleh membawa kepada jangkitan merbahaya seperti HIV  atau sakit kulit yang kritikal yang boleh berjangkit.

  • Agaknya, dengan reasoning yang macam ni, kita boleh buat inferens yang HIV akan menular dengan cepat menjadi pandemic. Tak payah tunggu berkongsi jarum dan seks bebas! Menggunakan kedai dobi sahaja sudah cukup sebagai medium berjangkitnya HIV dikalangan manusia. Wow! Inilah kita katakan pemikiran kreatif dan kritis di kalangan orang Muslim kita. Amazing! Suatu hari nanti, bila kita bertanya kepada pesakit HIV akan sejarah mereka mendapat HIV, kita seharusnya tidaklah terkejut jika mereka berkata “Saya mendapat HIV kerana saya menggunakan kedai dobi untuk  membasuh baju. Mungkin ada darah HIV non-Muslim terkena di baju saya”. (By the way, penulis statement ini menyatakan sesuatu yang sangat berbaur perkauman. Racism is not endorsed in Islam. Statement beliau seolah-olah menyatakan yang darah HIV ada kat non-muslims saja. Sedangkan Malay Muslims pun banyak HIV. Malah, kebanyakan kes HIV yang aku pernah  tengok adalah dari kalangan Muslim.)
  • Opps….aku lupa. Aku ini hanya psychiatry MO. Aku kena tunggu, ehem, ‘ijtihad’ Infectious Disease doctor untuk bagi pendapat tentang hal ni.

Entah lah. Adakah pernah kita terfikir akan hal tersebut.

  • Hmm…sungguh aku memang tak pernah terfikir sebelum ini. Penulis statement ini memang terbaik arrr! Terbaik!! HOTS yang out of this world! Beliau memang orang Muslim yang hebat dan sensitif dengan isu agama. Beliau…ah, beliau begitu hebat! Enough said! 🙂 🙂 🙂

***

Just in case you think that I am putting more emphasis on HOTS (sorry, I meant to say dalil akli, so that I will sound religious, kan?) rather than dalil nakli, here’s a video to explain away all these nonsense using dalil nakli. In  this video, Dr. MAZA explained very well regarding the stupidity of those who over think stuff.

During the time of our beloved prophet, even dogs went in and out of the mosque!

Al-Bukhaari narrated that Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I used to stay overnight in the mosque at the time of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) when I was young and single, and dogs used to urinate and come and go in the mosque, and they did not sprinkle water over any of that.

And if we just move into a house whose previous owner is a non-Muslim who might or might not own a dog, should we then ‘sertu’ the house? I sought for the answer down below.

Pertama:

Adakah seluruh badan anjing itu termasuk bulunya adalah najis (mazhab syafie)? Ataupun seluruh badan anjing itu hatta airliurnya adalah suci (mazhab Maliki)? ataupun seluruh tubuhnya najis kecuali airliur (mazhab hanafi dan hanbali)?

Pendapat yg paling kuat dan dipilih oleh syeikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah: Anjing tidak najis melainkan airliurnya sahaja.

Majmuk Fatawa Ibn Taimiyyah 21/106

KEDUA:

Kaedah dalam syarak ialah: Setiap tempat di atas muka bumi ini dihukumkan dengan suci melainkan ada dalil yg zahir menunjukkan ia pernah terkena najis.

Kata syeikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah: Tidak digalakkan mencari2 najis yang tidka zahir kepada kita. Dan tidak digalakkan berjaga-jaga daripada sesuatu yang tidak ada petunjuk yg zahir berkenaan kenajisannya, hanya disebabkan KEMUNGKINAN ia bernajis.

Kemudian, beliau membawa cerita Umar al-Khattab dan seorang sahabatnya melalui satu tempat, lalu ada air jatuh melalui dari sebuah rumah menimpa sahabatnya. Sahabatnya pun melaung: “Hai tuan punya corong air ini!! Air kamu ini suci atau bernajis?”

Lalu Umar al-Khattab pula melaung: “Hai tuan punya corong air!! Jangan bagitahu pada dia. Ini bukan tanggungjawab dia”.

Majmuk Fatawa Ibn Taimiyyah 21/113.

KETIGA:

Jika anda memilih pendapat yg mengatakan seluruh badan anjing itu najis (kami tidak menggalakkan memilih pendapat ini kerana, dalilnya lemah dan memberatkan), maka ia hanya bernajis apabila berlaku sentuhan antara anjing dan tempat itu apabila salah satu itu BASAH.

Apabila sentuhan itu berlaku dalam keadaan kering, maka tidak perlu dibasuh dengan tanah.

KEEMPAT:

Sesuatu tempat yg bernajis apabila telah kering dan tidak meninggalkan kesan najis samda rasa, bau dan warna, maka ia dihukumkan sebagai SUCI.

Kerana itu ada hadis menyebut:

“Dahulu, anjing-anjing kencing, masuk dan keluar masjid pada zaman Rasulullah SAW, dan mereka tidak menyimbah sesuatupun ke atasnya”.

HR Bukhari 1/75 (dengan sighah takliq).

Abu Daud berdalilkan hadis ini mengatakan: “Tanah apabila telah kering ia menjadi suci”.

All those dalils above I had sought wayyyy before I went to Australia for medical studies. In fact, before Malaysian students go to overseas they are usually given a talk by many ustazs about practical stuff like these (especially on minority fiqh/fiqh al-aqalliyyat. Go on and google on minority fiqh if you never heard of it). During my time, KMB had invited Ustaz Hasrizal to talk about minority fiqh with us so that we won’t go around over-burdening ourselves unnecessarily.

But you would not be triggered to search for dalils and textual evidence if your MIND is not inquisitive in nature.

I am an ordinary Muslim. As ordinary Muslims who do not have the level of knowledge like the ulama, we NEED higher order thinking to trigger our minds to search for the truth. We need it as our FIRST FILTER, because we don’t have religious facts on top of our head like Dr. MAZA.

If every time you hear something religious-sounding and then you spread it across all whatsapp groups that you have, not using your brain at all, then would you be triggered to search for the proper dalil? You won’t! You would simply short-cut your thinking process: “sounds religious, so it must be religious. So let’s share it because sharing is caring” (Pffft!). Your first filter (your brain!) becomes non-functioning! You simply operate at the level of spinal reflex.

Even Nabi Ibrahim a.s used his brain before he was finally given his revelation. He looked at the moon and the stars and the sun, and ask himself whether any of these is The Creator? And then using the process of falsification, he discarded the option one by one based on his reasoning!

The first checkpoint is always your brain in ANYTHING. Our brains help us in digesting the textual evidence given by the Quran and the Sunnah too. Your brain must be sound!

***

Let’s get back  to our own problem at hand. Let’s employ our power of observation the way Nabi Ibrahim had. Let’s observe how people can simply pray on the street, at the park (jangan kata darah haid, entah berapa banyak anjing dok lalu kat situ!).  Look at yourself! Do you bring your own serviette when you go to a restaurant with which to wipe your own mouth when you travel overseas? Many non-Muslims stay in hotels…if you really wanted to ‘menghalusi semuanya’, who knows whether the hotel had mixed all the laundries between serviette used by pork-eating non-Muslims  and the bedsheets and towels used in the hotel. Do Muslims go around bringing their own towel or their own bedsheets when they stay in any hotels while on a holiday?! If you had used HOTS, you can already make inferences that ‘setakat guna tempat basuh baju yang sama di kedai dobi, apa bezanya dengan dobi di hotel-hotel yang kita dok duduk selama ni?’

Logik lah weh! Penat lah baca isu-isu macam ni! Lepas tu bila orang dah tolong explain, mai pula jawapan “oh…kita tidak layak ijtihad”.

Bukan nak suruh sesiapa ijtihad pun. Manalah ada orang dalam Whatsapp group aku yang cukup kelayakan untuk buat ijtihad. Hahah. Tapi… kita boleh cari jawapan daripada orang yang dah pun berijtihad. Memang itulah yang kita buat selama ni pun dalam semua masalah-masalah agama. Ini bukan benda baru.  Kalau kita tak layak nak ijtihad, takkan tak payah cari jawapan? Carilah jawapan dan bagilah jawapan itu pada yang bertanya. Tak ada siapa nak suruh sesiapa di sini berijtihad pun!

One day, I might end up committing a grave error in diplomacy by simply leaving the Whatsapp group. Part of me just couldn’t take this anymore. I have mentioned before that ‘being nice’ is a form of struggle for me. And faced with enough provocation in the form of religious misconception (disguised like a ‘good advice sharing’ / ‘sharing is caring’/ ‘sebuah perkongsian bermanfaat’ etc etc), I might not be able to stick to being nice. LOL. Faced with repeated religious misconception being shared like this, I might one day just launch a non-stop tirade in the group and end up hurting the feelings of others. You see, I have a history with pseudo-religious people like this (which I never fully disclose and only talk about in limited form here and there in this blog, as you may have noticed.) My transference in this particular matter is huge! And I might not be able to handle it. (This is me being realistic. With my own set of friends, including my uni batchmates, my traveller friends, and a few of my best friends… they know me in all my glorious anger and they share my enthusiasm in discussing these kind of things. With them, I have no need to curb my tongue and we freely discuss anything back and forth sambil tampar-tampar meja with no hard feelings. Hahha. But with others outside my close-knit circle, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Just too much drama.) 

So Ya Allah, give me strength.

I am staying out of trouble and keeping my mouth shut from now on. I am withdrawing myself from socializing with people who do not have similar wavelength as me. I am just going to silence that Whatsapp group for a year. I have too much Whatsapp Group, anyway. Unnecessary and overloaded conversations bombard me every day, it’s become intrusive and overwhelming. I have silenced a few Whatsapp Groups already. This will only be one of many that I have silenced and ignored. When I am not working and not on-call, I silence the department whatsapp group too. I am just not a big fan of whatsapp/we chat/ telegram and unnecessary sharing of information involved in those mediums. (I only have Whatsapp, and already I feel the pain. Hahah. I am just not a social butterfly, I guess).

I prefer books over people. Books and I, we are deeply involved and communicate on a higher plane. We understand each other. 😉

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….Or my writing!

Hahaha.

Until next time, my dear readers.

Books: My Hedonism

I don’t want to talk about exams other than to say that it was the hardest exam of my whole life and I am done grieving and worrying. I am going to stop ruminating. Done! Finito! Khalas!

Whether I pass or fail is something I only need to worry about in one month time (when the result will be announced or e-mailed to me). In the mean time, I am going to enjoy myself.

Be hedonistic.

Be carefree.

Get utterly lost in my internal world of adventurous heroes and daring women in all those books I am currently reading and will be reading.

I am also going to stop feeling guilty for being hedonistic for now (I kind of deserve it, right? After all those months of grueling midnight oil burning…I deserve a down time, kan?)

My reasoning goes something like this: I shouldn’t feel any guilt for putting off studying now because at the moment I don’t know what to study, anyway. If I pass this exam (Part A), then I will have to study the syllabus for my next exam of part B. Whereas if I fail this exam, I will have to re-study my syllabus in part A. Since I don’t know my exam result yet, I don’t know which part to (re)study anyway. So, I might as well just enjoy myself. Because by the time the result comes out,  I simply would not have the time to be hedonistic anymore regardless of which part of the syllabus I have to (re)study.

So at the Changi Airport the next day after my exam, while awaiting to board my flight to KLIA, I went a little crazy buying books. Even though I know that buying books in Malaysia will be heaps cheaper than in Singapore, but I just couldn’t help myself. I have always had some problems with delayed gratification. I gratify myself stat, if I can help it. I practice delayed gratification if I really have no choice. I subscribe to the idea propagated by Oscar Wilde when he said “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it” (Ah…what a wise man, especially when I desperately needed a quote to justify my impulsive spending.)

To take care of the guilt, instead of buying merely commercial books, I also bought one modern literature by a Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk… and also a classic literature by Rudyard Kippling. I have mentioned before that I like to force myself to read literature even though I always enjoy commercial fictions heaps more. Literature upgrades your reading repertoire to a level of sophistication that you will feel proud of when you discuss your reading with fellow readers. Trust me, if you are a reader, you will feel really embarrassed if you have to admit to other readers that you don’t read literature. If you have ever been a part of a readers forum or a readers whatsapp group, you will know what I mean. Seriously…readers can be really snobbish sometimes (Alas, I admit this failing in myself. We do judge you based on what you read or don’t read. Of course, we only do the judging in our head without telling you. If your reading is too impressive, we will feel quite jealous of you and won’t want to even admit it out loud. If your reading is lacking, we will be too polite to say it to your face.  So don’t worry…all the judging that we do will only be inside our head; it won’t ever translate into how we treat you as a person, hahah…well, mostly.).  So, you must keep up and force yourself to read literatures so that you can brag about the latest classic literature you have read and have analyzed to your heart’s content.  And make sure you remember some quotes that you can use to show off with. (Hahha. We  readers are a competitive lot! But we won’t admit it. On the surface, it’s all friendly bantering, of course.)

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Exactly right!  Does it make sense now why readers silently and unconsciously judge each other’s reading habits? We are trying to see the sort of person you are. Whether or not we should extend a hand of friendship towards you. I have even heard stories of how readers fall in love with each other because they have read similar books and have similar thoughts about the books they have read. I tell you, the connection is electric!

So, shall I show you the first book I have read after my exam? 😉

the-midas-code-sdl105217724-1-67d7c

The Midas Code by Boyd Morrison : not literature, just simple, fun fiction of adventure and cunning wit. I love it! Finished it in two days! You may read the reviews for this book at Goodreads

21bookparmuk-master180

A Strangeness In My Mind by Orhan Pamuk: This is a modern literature! This is the book that will increase my self-esteem the next time I discuss my reading with the rest of my reading mates. Hahaha. (Yeah, forgive my narcissism. But at least, I am honest about it).I am currently reading it at the page 146. It has 700+ pages. Usually, I can finish reading 700 pages in 3 days. But bear in mind that this is literature; not commercial fiction. I can only read a few chapters of it in a day because it is so heavy. Filled with messages and imageries, and facts about life in Turkey after World War II and the passing of Kamal Ataturk . What do you expect from Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel Prize winner for literature in 2006?! He is the superstar of the literary world. You can only take him in small doses. He is too great to be gulped. He must be slowly savoured. (So, for the rest of the day, I read other commercial junks. Haha). As a very competitive reader, I feel slightly mollified knowing that others have taken 2 months to finish reading this one. Just to beat them, I will try to finish it in one month. More bragging point for me, lol!  For the reviews of this book, please click Goodreads.

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Plain Tales From The Hills by Rudyard Kipling: Everyone knows Rudyard Kipling, right? He wrote The Jungle Book which I had read when I was 17 in MRSM Langkawi. And of course, we all have learned his poem ‘If’ in high school, arguably the best coming-of-age poem that ever has been created! Rudyard Kipling is a gem! Unfortunately, If and The Jungle Book are the only ones of his works that I am familiar with. So I was very pleased to find this book Plain Tales From The Hills (a collection of short stories) by Rudyard Kipling in the store. I couldn’t wait to start on this book. This is also another book that will puff up my self-esteem to the sky! No readers would ever look down on Rudyard Kipling, I assure you. He may not be Chaucer or Shakespeare, but he is really a decent enough read without being too heavy.

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The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins: This is a commercial fiction that has been made into a film. I haven’t watched the film yet. I am going to finish this book first before I hunt for the movie. This book was recommended to me by a fellow reader whose taste in books I have trusted in the past. So when I saw this book at the airport, I made a grab for it with no hesitation. This is the link to the book’s review if you are interested: Goodreads

***

I also bought a couple of non-fiction books out of pure interest.

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I picked up the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, simply because I am a psychiatric MO and happiness sounds like my core business. I don’t know what this book is about but I am looking forward to reading it at the earliest opportunity. It says on the book cover that this book is #1 New York Times Bestseller, so hopefully I would enjoy it even though it is a non-fiction. I don’t usually buy non-fiction, you know. I think I have read enough non-fiction to last me a lifetime (in the form of textbooks and academic notes that I have been ploughing through ALL MY LIFE!) But occasionally, I do give non-fiction a try. For example, I have bought A Doctor In The House (by Tun Dr. Mahathir) and I have also bought Nelson Mandela’s biography. But like I said, non-fictions are not my favourites at all.

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I decided to buy A History of God by Karen Armstrong simply because this book is so famous that you must at least know about it even if you don’t read it cover to cover. This is the book that everyone who searches for God would have come across at one time or another in their lives. We are lucky that we are born into Islam. Not everyone is as fortunate as us. Some have listed down all religions that exist out there and actually cross them out one by one by reading on them or experiencing the religion itself…until they arrive to the truth. And this book is one of the books recommended to be read. This book is for the searching souls who don’t want to simply believe what is told. Instead they want to believe after having understood. I have glimpsed this book when I was a medical student in Newcastle. The book was available in my uni’s library. But I was always too busy to properly read it back then. So this time, I decided to keep this book in my own collection and read it in my own sweet time just for the sake of a well-rounded knowledge into the history of religion. I don’t know when I am going to be able to start on this. After all,  this is a non-fiction, and I have all these enticing fictions around to distract me. Furthermore, I have my own academic studying to do, which is very non-fiction in and of itself.  (And knowing me, I keep non-fiction to a bare minimum). So, we’ll see.

I am going to get back to my reading now. Until we meet again, dear readers!

In the mean time, please pray for my success.

ADIOS!

Of UPSR And Exams In General

I was busy with my own studying these days and thus did not really pay attention to the gathering clouds of storm brewing in my Facebook Newsfeed.

Imagine my surprise when my newsfeed was full of people sharing articles about the UPSR result that just came out this morning. Apparently people are getting fired up about the massive drop in the percentage of students getting straight As compared to last year’s UPSR performance. Some articles ranted on our country’s flip-flop education system that keeps on changing the syllabus. Some other people expressed their concerns that parents are being very pushy and putting a lot of pressure on their kids to get straight As, forgetting the fact that it is the learning process that matters, not the number of As. Another friend of mine talked about how the kids are devastated and crying their hearts out after seeing their results, as though this is the end of the world as they knew it.

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This picture is courtesy of a friend of mine

I was fascinated by the brouhaha of it all. I had no idea what was the big deal. I was curious (darn my INTP trait, when I should be focussing on my studying). So I whatsapp my younger sister (who is a teacher) and I also asked my friend whose mother’s is a headmistress regarding the accuracy of the news I was reading in my newsfeed.

Is it true that the questions that came up in the UPSR was that hard? (Some even say that the questions asked were ridiculously difficult that it would only be appropriate for the level of SPM. Macam….exaggerate jer!! So, of course I am curious).

I asked my friend (whose mother is a senior teacher) whether they have a copy of the exam papers? (I wanted to see for myself how difficult it was. I still remember the level of difficulty that should be appropriate at SPM level. No one should be stupid enough to design an SPM-level kind of questions for a 12 year old kids, right? I strongly suspected that this is a mere exaggeration.)

My sister told me that she has seen the question papers for English. She said that the question is quite appropriate …at least for a standard 4 level. However, she could not be certain about the strictness and method of marking (marking criteria). So, for English at least, I am quite certain that there is no gross injustice regarding the level of difficulty that our UPSR kids were subjected to.

For BM…how difficult can it be? I mean, it’s Bahasa Melayu…right? We speak the language all our lives. BM had always been a bonus A for me and many of my friends (as well as Agama and Tasawwur Islam. We hardly studied them, but we know that we can get A in those subjects). Well, I might be wrong. Maybe I should see the papers first before I comment further.

So, there’s only left Science and Math…for these two, perhaps the questions might be tougher than they would be for 12 year old kids. I heard that these days even standard 1 kids have learned algebra. So…I reserve my judgment on this.

One of my friend (the headmistress daughter) said that the questions were not that tough. She has seen the papers. Hmm….but then she has always been a brilliant person. You never know what is her ‘not tough’ really means. Hahaha. 

Below is my facebook status about what I really feel about  the importance of getting good results in all your exams (not necessarily straight As, but good enough. I have mentioned before in my previous post about the importance of choosing the right school for your kids, and I stand by it).

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I am going to have my exam soon, too. I would be heartbroken if I fail. The only difference is, failing in medical profession is so common compared to failing during schooling years. So, it might not feel as painful; just part of the process of getting yourself educated to become a specialists.

With so many people failing their professional exams in the past, this is less of a pressure for me. When I was at school, I have the track record of my brilliant elder sister to break or be at par with. Hahhaa. And my parents are really the sort who put a lot of emphasis on education. They will never be the sort who said “Ala, berapa A tak penting pun.”. (Hahha, only in my wildest dreams they would say that. And I kind of agree with them.) My parents were always very strict about getting good grades. They would reward us well, too. They would say “Mak dengan ayah cuma berletiaq sementara kita tak exam lagi. Nanti bila result dah keluar, memang tak boleh kata apa dah pun. Waktu ni lah yang mak nak berletiaq pun. Dan waktu ni lah kak ngah kena pulun. Lepas result dah keluar, kita kena redha dan terima.” (See? My parents never over-protect me by trying to shield me from disappointment. Even without learning psychiatry, they have practiced the art of being ‘a good enough parent’ as per Winnicott’s theory.They would not say that what I fail to get is not important anyway and therefore I don’t have to be disappointed. She made me understand that this is important. But if I can’t get what I work for, then she taught me to redha. Teach your kids balance thinking. Teach them truth!)

In my opinion, school exams are more full of pressure. Failing at school would be more embarrassing I think, because it is so RARE among your bacthmates, especially if you are in SBP/MRSM. If you are in those SBP/MRSM school like me, you will understand what I mean. Hahha. They were so competitive, I felt stressed out most of the time!  (I always feel like my SPM was the most important exam of my life. It open doors to a lot of options in your future. It gave me medical school, at least. And the next important exam after SPM would be all the exams I took in medical school…because without passing those exams, I would not be a doctor. The MRCPsych exam I will be facing this year is also important, but it is not as full of pressure as the ones in SPM or med school. I took this exam using my own money. I don’t want the pressure of being bonded by a scholarship. And therefore, Alhamdulillah I don’t have another financial debt heaped on me. If I fail, I only fail myself and lost some money that I could collect again with the next salary. I don’t disappoint anyone else such as MARA or my parents or even my colleagues  (since I was forced to use my own cuti rehat for this when all these while I have been covering the unrecorded leaves of many master students in the past) Life is not fair but we move on. That’s life.)

So in the larger scheme of things, UPSR or PMR/PT3 is not important. (SPM is important, though, especially if you want to continue your tertiary education into the university and be eligible for scholarships. Otherwise you will have to apply for PTPTN and that means you will get a financial burden even before you can be assured that you can get a job in the future.Nowadays, even medical students are not guaranteed a job). 

Just don’t go around telling people that “Ah….number of As don’t matter. It’s your knowledge acquisition that matters.” I am one of those people who would roll my eyes and said to myself, “Yes, sure. Believe whatever makes you feel good about yourself.”

Passing exam matters. But only up to a point. Just like I won’t commit suicide if I don’t pass my exam, I also would not trivialize the matter as though it means nothing. It means something.

But ONLY something.

NOT everything. NEVER everything.

(And that’s what you should teach your kids! Stop with the “Number of As don’t matter crap”. Deep inside, no one believes it. And I am just a straight talker and calling a spade a spade.)

Dedicated To The Love of My Life

Today is my mother’s 60th birthday. She is still as beautiful as ever and actually looked 10 years younger for her age.

I have always been proud of my mother (and my father too, of course. But this post is not about him). Every time she came to school to take my report card from my class teacher, I would smile to the ear when my friends said “Cantiklah mak Afiza.” I always like walking around with her because I know that I have a beautiful mother.  Her skin is very fair that people always thought that she was Chinese when she was younger and did not yet put on the hijab.  When I walked around with my mother around town, some Chinese would stop us and talk to my mother in Chinese until my mother had to tell them that she was actually a Malay. All my relatives from my mother’s side of the family look like Chinese. We always wondered whether we have some Chinese ancestry on my mother’s side. My maternal great grandparents came from Indonesia to teach the religion in the early 1900s, and thus we are not entirely sure about the details of our ancestry from Indonesia.

(However, all five of us took after my father’s side of the family. We have some diluted Indian ancestry on that side. All of us have really tanned skin. Some of my mother’s friends might find it surprising that all my mother’s children look so different from her. None of us is as beautiful as my mother.)

My mother must feel some despair at times that all of us took up after our father so much more than hers. We all look like our father. We behave like him (because he is dominant in the house). We are not as concerned with convention and tradition as her (because our father encourage that tendency in us).

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My mother is really very conventional. She feels anxious at everything that doesn’t follow the norms.

When I was a HO and had done the unthinkable by writing disparagingly about one particular department in my hospital (and then it went viral accidentally), my mother was worried sick.

“Kak Ngah…nanti kak ngah yang susah kak ngah buat macam ni. Diorang saman macam mana? Nanti posting-posting kat department lain macam mana? Habislah kakngah kena target. Kak Ngah sabar sajalah. Tak payah lah nak tulis macam-macam.”

I just shrugged my shoulder and looked at my father. My father said “Tak apa. Kita pun boleh saman balik. Biarlah, dia tulis benda betul. Tok sah takut. Yang penting kita buat tanggungjawab kita, pi kerja macam biasa. Kita kerja untuk pesakit sebab kita dibayar gaji. Bukan kerja untuk boss. Tengok apa depa boleh buat pun” My father said. I immediately felt relieved that my father understood and supported me. You see, I can always count on my father for that sort of support…support against unjust authority is sure to gain his approval and he is sure to back you up. It’s been that way since I was a little girl. I had very little fear after my father said that.

At the end of the day, nothing bad happened to me because of what I had written. I was never extended; never targeted in any way; in fact my life as a HO went even more smoothly afterwards. I refused to take down the post even when I was advised to do so by my fellow HOs because I refused to be a coward. I had written what I felt was the truth and I’ll be damned before I took it down as though what I had written was false! The fact that it went viral spoke volume of how much the post resonated with the rest of other housemen. My father would not allow me to take down the post, anyway! He told me clearly that should anything unjust happen to me, I should fight and not have any fear because if push comes to shove, I could just quit and work with him or do other things. My father memang semangat bab nak melawan orang atasan ni. (He had enough experience of it in PDRM. He took an early pension out of the government when he was 40 years old and it was the best decision he ever made. He himself is not a ‘yes boss’ man)

That’s not to say that my mother is not supportive of me. She just thinks differently. But no matter how different she thinks and feels about stuff, when all chips are down, her support is ever constant, ever remaining. When I was a HO, I never went to work hungry. Even when I went out for morning rounds at 5.00 am, I would still go to work with my stomach full. My mother would wake up earlier than me to prepare breakfast for me. When I was oncall, she would come to the hospital, bringing me food. When other HOs had lost weight during the earlier part of their housemanship, I instead had gained 5 kgs. Hahha. Before I bought my car, she was the one who acted as my chauffeur day in and day out. She woke up and went to sleep at about the same time I did. She took care of me even better than when I was in secondary school because she had already stopped working by the time I started my housemanship and she had all the free time in the world to mother me properly. I don’t know how other people did their housemanship without a mother around. My mother was an immense source of support for me.

No matter how traditional and conventional she is, she would give it up when I insist. When I was 12 year old, we wanted to do a kenduri khatam Quran for me. My mother planned to serve pulut kuning and air sirap and some other side dishes for the kenduri at the local surau where I learned my Quranic recitation. But I was not appreciative of her plan. I told her “Angah tak mau pulut kuning dengan air sirap. Tak sedap. Angah nak bihun goreng dengan air Coke.” I told her in my characteristically opinionated manner. As usual, my conventional mother was not pleased that I wanted something different than the usual dishes served for such momentous occasion. But at that time, I was thinking that: “This is MY majlis khatam Quran. I want to eat what I like. I don’t like gulai and pulut kuning. And as for air sirap…I had hated it ever since Kak Long had once cracked a joke about how air sirap was actually diluted blood. (Hahaha!).

Because me and my mother could not agree about the food, we went to my father. My father then decided that I should get what I wanted: Bihun goreng and Coke. My father reasoned the way I did: because it was MY kenduri and it was a celebration of MY achievement, and thus I should get what I wanted. My mother, though worried and displeased, finally consented to the plan and I finally got my bihun and Coke. And guess what….kids always enjoy bihun goreng and Coke heaps more than pulut kuning and air sirap.  I mean, just talk to the kids. We like sweet, unhealthy things like Coke, right? And bihun goreng pedas-pedas makan dengan Coke yang bergas…hello! Of course we prefer those! All my friends said that my kenduri khatam Quran was the most delicious than any other kenduri before. I told my mother what my friends said and she was happy and relieved. 

So truly, what ever propriety and good manners that I have, they all belonged to the insistence and teachings of my mother. My mother would always comment about my attire, about what I should wear, about how I haven’t worn the baju kurung she bought me (and therefore she would never again buy me anything else, she said… but then she would end up buying me the same stuff again and again in the hopes that I would wear it. Hahha) My mother gave me all the proper conventions that I have now. And my father gave me all the radical beliefs that I possess. Between the two of them, they balanced each other and gave us balanced perspective. But of course, me being me, I tend to skew towards radicalism than convention.

My mother is also the buffer in any fight I have with my father. (Me and my father have our moments of truce and our moments of war.) Me and my father fought a lot. Because we are very similar, we tend to rub off against each other. He believed what he believed and I believed what I believed. We BOTH wanted to convert one another to our set of belief system. My mother would watch our verbal arguments in a concerned frown. At last she would say, “Ayah tak payah mengata kat kak ngah. Kak Ngah pun tak payah kata kat ayah. Dua-dua orang sama! Sudah!” And we would quit arguing when she said that. At that moment, we did not appreciate being said that we were similar to each other. Hahah.

My mother is a strong woman. If you are married to my father, you must be. There is a balancing art to it. How to please his fussy fastidious ways but at the same time retain the core integral part of your personality. That is hard. I don’t have the same gentle ways that she has.

As gentle as she was, my mother was expected to become the enforcer of my father’s disciplinary ways. Sometimes, even when she disagreed to the discipline. So, she was stuck in the middle. She pretended not to know some of our crazy misdeeds because if she appeared as though she knew about it, she would have no choice but to enforce the rule.

“You know, kak ngah…I think all those years when we thought our parents had no idea what we were up to….when we were kids..” My Kak Long said one day in one of our phone conversation.

“Yes?”

“I think they knew but only pretended that they didn’t know.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Because I am a parent now. And Eshan and Aayra were always up to something they thought I didn’t know. But I did.”

I laughed.

Kids are honest creatures not because they never lied. It’s because when they do lie, it’s obvious.

Me and Kak Long lied a lot when we were kids. We pretended to read academic books instead of the real fiction tucked underneath our bigger text book. We watched TV when our parents were not around, and then scrambled quickly to switch off the TV and ran to the study room when we heard the sound of the car engine outside, signalling that my parents have come home (Thanks to Kak Milah, our pengasuh who was so conspiratorial about it. Hahah. I love her still). When our parents looked in on us, we looked so innocently studious in the study room, the perfect epitome of hardworking angels.

“Kak Ngah dengan Kak Long buat apa?”

“Study,” We said in unison. (Looking back, I knew now that we were terrible actors.)

“Awat kipas memusing kat luar. TV pun panas ja.” (Yup, we forgot to switch off the fan. And we were caught by surprise that my father would bother to feel up the TV. Damn it. Busted!).

“Hmm…tak taulah. Tanya Kak Milah” My Kak Long said. I smiled at my Kak Long, applauding her quick thinking. My dad simply nodded his head and asked us to continue with what we were doing. We have always thought that we had fooled him that day. (And since then, we watched the TV without switching on the fan because even if we remembered to switch off the fan when my father came home, the fan wouldn’t stop moving immediately due to the leftover inertia/momentum. My father might notice how the fan was just recently being switched off when he walked into the living room. So we decided to forego the comfort of the fan when we watched the TV next time.But there was nothing we could do about the TV heating up. We could only pray that my father wouldn’t feel up the TV every time he came home from work. haha. Yeah, we were terrible kids who always came up with various ways and tricks to break the rules every time we got the chance)

There was another time when I did something naughty (usually it revolved around me not being home on time after playing with my friends outside. My father was very, very strict about time. If I said I would be home by 6.30, then there will be hell waiting for me if I got home at 7.00 instead.)

I knew a stroke of rattan would be waiting for me if I was late. But sometimes me and my Kak Long risked the consequences because we wanted to go on playing.

“Mana rotan ayah simpan atas almari?”

“Tak tau, ayah. Kak long tak tau.” My Kak Long said. (Yeah…we had hidden the rattan stick.)

“Kami tak ambil rotan. Jatuh belakang almari kot.” I said. You have no idea how many times the rattan fell over to the other side of the heavy bookshelf, making it unreachable to my father. We always thought he bought the act.

All those times we thought we got away from punishments because our parents didn’t know….now I knew better. Now, I think they must have known. When we were kids, we thought it was our cleverness that got us away from undesirable consequences. But actually, it was their love and mercy. They pretended to not know so that they wouldn’t have to administer the punishment they said they would give if we had committed something bad.

My mother, even though she is a strong woman, is the weak link when it comes to disciplined parenting. All of our requests for anything would go through her. We wouldn’t dare to ask straight from my father. My mother often said, “Awat tak minta sendiri kat ayah?”

Yeah, we would ask straight from our father for academic books, stuff for school and anything in the serious realm. But for anything frivolous or playful or trivial, we were scared to face the rejection if we were to ask them from our father. 

When I  started studying away from home, my father would give an allowance for me that he thought should last long enough until the next time I came home for school break. My father always said that I was the most ‘boros’ of all his children. He wanted to teach me a hard lesson about economy for so long….he said “Habis duit awal, ayah tak tambah dah.” He always said that ever since I could remember. But of course my mother would give me more money each time, outside the knowledge of my father. “Jangan habaq kat ayah,” She would whisper to my ear. I rarely run out of money…but my mother always thought that I would not be able to keep within the budget in view of my boros reputation in the family (I bought books, food, books and books. Hihihi) So she would automatically give more to me even when I didn’t ask for it.

I guess the economy lesson intended for me never really took roots inside my head because my mother secretly supplemented whatever my father gave me. My mother did the same thing for all of us sisters, silently slipping in more money than the amount my father deemed wise. (Compared to my mother,my father came from a poor family and he places a lot of values in money management. His degree is in accountancy, so go figure!)

I think, my mother made it easy for us to be disciplined by my father. She made the whole thing easier; more sufferable, I suppose. She… softened it. She made it less harsh. She made us know that the discipline was executed out of love; not malice. (because if it were up to my father to communicate that, we would never get the idea. Haha)

As I grew up into womanhood, I became more in tune with my mother, and less idolising of my father. There were times when I would tell her, “Mak, kalau mak tak setuju dengan ayah, mak cakap jerlah. Apa yang susah sangat?” But my mother has her own way of getting what she wants, I guess. When she told my father that she wanted another house nearer to a mosque so that she could worship properly, my father fulfilled that wish. Previously our house was located in a taman without even a surau nearby, as most of my neighbours were Chinese and Indians. Their house now is just a walking distance away from a mosque. When my mother said that she wants to go for umrah every year and my father must allocate some time annually for it, my father agreed to take a few weeks off every year to go to umrah with her. Maybe she just knew which battle to fight after years of marriage to a very strict husband. Just like we sisters learned how to do what we wanted behind our father’s back. It takes priorities shuffling, planning, trickery, evasion, and sometimes downright rebellion. Hahah. 

Even though I always felt that we siblings take after our father the most, there is something of my mother that I inherited: the gift of being self-contained. My mother is very self-contained. She didn’t need anyone to entertain her or attend to her.  She took an early pension at the age of 53 because “Mak tak suka buat kerja-kerja paperwork; pakai E-His, dengan akreditasi semua tu. Mak suka buat kerja nursing. La ni jadi nurse, asyik duduk depan komputer saja. Tak macam kami dulu. Dulu, kami attend to patients; observation buat kat bedside. We talked to patients. La ni semua asyik mengadap komputer. Mak tak suka kerja macam tu” I totally get her; that is another thing I inherited from her. I hate doing non-doctor things (organizing exhibitions, networking, ass-kissing, budget planning, attending meetings etc etc. I study to become a doctor and a healer. Not to deal with political crap and attitudish people. I know that there are times doctors must also be educators, do CME and attend courses or give courses. But the rest of the other administrative work, I don’t like it much and would find such stuff stressful.)

A lot of the older staff nurses who knew my mother had asked me, “Mak buat apa kat rumah, pencen awal. Tak boring ke?”

I laughed. “Mak tak boring lah. Dia banyak kerja.”

“Jaga cucu ka?”

I laughed again. “Tak lah. Jaga cucu kadang-kadang ja.”

My mother is a busy woman. She woke up before fajr for all the sunat prayers, then she went to the mosque and attended the subuh sermon. Then she would prepare breakfast  for my father and do the daily housechores. Then she would pray the Dhuha prayer and then she would cook lunch. And she would attend a lot of classes. Every day there are classes at the mosque. She has her schedule full of activities even during the weekend.

She told my sisters clearly, “Mak tak jaga cucu hari-hari. Mak tak mau jadi macam kawan mak. Nak pi ke mana pun tak boleh asyik nak kena jaga cucu. Anak-anak dia ni tak kesian kot kat mak depa asyik penat jaga cucu; sampai nak buat apa pun tak boleh. Mak nak seronok-seronok main dengan cucu bila-bila mak nak. Tapi tak mau nak kena jaga selalu. Hangpa pandai-pandai cari nursery or orang gaji. Zaman jaga budak-budak ni dah berlalu untuk mak. La ni, mak nak rehat dan beribadat.” And I applauded her decision. My mother has no problem with straight-talking when she feels like it. Hahah.

Like her, I never knew how people get bored. I always have things to do. I don’t even have time to be bored. I fulfil my friends’ request for hanging out for their sake rather than for mine. I feel close to them regardless of whether or not we meet frequently. But some people need rituals and traditions to cement a connection. I don’t. If I like you and consider you as a friend, I don’t need frequent catching up to feel like our friendship is still meaningful. But I have learned to accommodate that sort of request over the years.

The truth is I lead a busy life, myself. I come back from work, feed my cat, water my plants, go for a jog, perform my Maghrib and Isya prayer, and then I have to STUDY! And after I go to sleep, the next day I have to go to work and the same cycle repeat itself over and over again. During the time  when I do have free time, I would read thrillers/novels/mysteries/literatures….or I would write an essay, compose a poem or I would blog. WHEN do I have the time to be bored? Never!

Like her, I am very self-contained. The gift of never being bored is something I inherited from her. And we both were described by our friends as aloof and unapproachable at first but after getting to know us better, that impression would change. That is totally something both of us share. Being called ‘muka sombong’ is something I got from her. My father teased my mother about it frequently. Now, the internet has invented a term for that sort of thing. It’s called BRF (bitchy resting face). Hahah. And we predicted that Aayra (my niece) has all the potential to inherit the same BRF tendency.

My mother is the love of my life. Even when I argue with her or disagree with her, (and I do plenty of those, trust me) that fact would never change. Even when I am exasperated with her, or she is exasperated with me or we are exasperated with each other, my love for her will never fade, never die. She is the one person in my life that I can honestly say that I would do anything for; Anything within the bounds of religious jurisprudence… I would do it for her (of course when I disagree with her, I would try to convince her to change her mind first. Hahah. But if she said that obeying her is a matter of life and death and is very integral to her everlasting happiness, then I would do it. Hands down! No more questions asked!)

Happy 60th Birthday, Mother. Your daughter here is everlastingly grateful for the privilege of being able to call you her most beloved  mother. In your hands, gentleness becomes strength rather than weakness. In your hands, patience becomes courage rather than cowardice. You are The Incomparable among everyone  I have ever laid eyes on in this life. Thank you for dealing with my difficult, slow-to-warm-up phase of childhood. Thank you for dealing with my temper tantrums when I was a teenager. Thank you for always having my back even when you disagree with me. Your support means the whole world to me even if I may not know how to display the sentiment properly.

May Allah  bless you with His Mercy and His Love always, forever…to the hereafter. Amin.

I remain, your adorably loving daughter.