There are times when I think people are very blind to injustice and unfairness.
If you cannot speak up against small injustice that happens in your surrounding and general environment, then you have no rights to talk about how bad the state of corruption in this country. How can you expect ministers and government officials to admonish their prime minister, when we ourselves cannot even speak up about things that happen in our own very small, very insignificant environment?
I personally do not feel the need to kowtow to people or kiss anyone’s ass at the cost of justice and fairness. If the cost of building harmonious relationship is by sacrificing justice and fairness, I don’t need to preserve such relationship.
I keep friends that have the same core values and similar life principles. Other friends can choose to align their principles with me or not… their choice. But I am not keeping close relationships with those who cannot appreciate basic tenets of fair treatment and justice. In this, I am firm.
If I am a client of a CBT session, the therapist would say that justice is my core belief. It is the lens through which I examine every single matter in life. Relationship is important, but not as much as justice. I didn’t say this, the Quran does.
Even in things that do not affect me personally, if I think it is wrong, I will speak up about it. And I am not like this by nature. No one, in their nature, simply for no reason likes to ruffle feathers and makes things uncomfortable. I am like this by training. Because it was ingrained within me (by my father, by my learning of the religion) that if you don’t have the strength to speak up against small injustice that happens around you, what makes you think you will have the strength needed to fight for bigger things later?
Some people told me that “decision has been made”. I just laughed. No one is questioning about whether or not decision is made or NOT made. We are questioning the fairness of the decision. Other people may not say it outright that the decision was wrong (because not many people are like me.) But they think it, they feel it. And they will remember it.
At least, when I am honest in my opinion, it gives everyone the opportunity to pause; to think first and not make a wrong decision. Or an unjust decision.
I have full insight regarding how I might come across when I am too blunt. But I still won’t change because I notice that without my bluntness, it is easy for people to sweep issues under the carpet and pretend that everything is right.
Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “May Allah have mercy on a man who shows me my faults.”
Al-A’raf 7:164 taught us that we should never be among those who are not worth mentioning. The people who are not worth mentioning are those who in this life, when they saw injustice, they fell silent.
No one likes to do extra-work.
But if you have failed miserably to complete your task last year, you should have the spine to shoulder the responsibility this year and try to compensate for what you didn’t accomplish last year. Other people had done their part. And now if it’s your turn, you have to develop the strength to get it done.
Someone who cares about you will take you aside and tell you, “Look, Allah will not put you through this if He doesn’t think you can handle this. This is your turn to do it. No one likes to do this task. That is why we should develop rules on how the decision is made regarding who must do it. As long as you haven’t completed your turn, other people will always feel resentful when they have to do something that you somehow can skip. When you give excuses like this, it reflects badly on you. People talk about you. How they have to pick up on your slacks because you couldn’t do what had been originally assigned for you! So, please do this! I will help you!”
A person who doesn’t care about you would say “Well, decision has been made. If the authority says you don’t have to do it, then you just don’t have to do it. No need to discuss anymore. Let the authority choose other people to replace what you should be doing. You can just ignore what other people feel about how you have shirked your responsibility.” A person who doesn’t care about your personal growth and development would encourage you to have the sort of behaviour that he himself has displayed all these while. So that you can become as chronic as him!
Is that a real friend?
If I had a friend who (by rights of justice and fairness) failed to do her responsibility, I will take her aside and tell her, “I know life is difficult for you. But citing a random personal reason for not doing something that you should be doing is not the right thing to do. Come on, you are better than that! There is more to you than that! I will help you!”
Strength of character is not developed by maintaining the same routine each and every time, hoping that you can somehow escape your task. We won’t get any new experience by behaving like any extra work is a burden rather than a challenge.
When I had to do it, did I like it? I didn’t! But I had to do it, so Alhamdulillah, I did it. When my friend had to do it, she didn’t like it too. But did she do it? Yes, she did. When she asked for my help, I felt GLAD to help and be involved in whatever way I could because I wanted her to be able to do it too. Now, that’s real friendship.
Real friendship is NOT you encouraging your friends to abandon ship and let it sink when the going gets tough. Real friendship is whispering to your friend’s ear “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Let’s do whatever we can to keep the ship afloat” Real friendship is telling your friend, “I will help you with your task.”
Don’t let it be said that men are slackers and it takes women to complete simple task that men simply cannot perform. Rise to expectation, and trust Allah to help you.
Trust in the most uplifting, most motivational Sunnahtullah that Allah has taught us: Effort is required to qualify for Allah’s help. As simple as that.
My father turned 61 a few days ago. He was born on the 5th of March 1957, the first born in his family. We all had a simple celebration at Swensen for my father’s birthday; Me and Alida’s treat for the whole family.
Even though he is now 61, but I still remember him as a man in his 30s, strictly checking my academic tasks and asking my mother or my nanny (my beloved Kak Milah) whether or not I had studied according to the schedule that I was supposed to adhere to.
As a child, whenever I heard the sound of his caron the driveway when he returned from work, I would run out of the living room (where the TV was, hahha) into the study room and pretended that I had been lost in diligent concentration of whatever academic book I was supposed to be reading at that time.
But then he would pop up into the study room and said, “Kak Ngah, tadi lupa tutup kipas kat depan ke?”
Damn! Busted! Hahaha.
When I told my friends about why I couldn’t go out to play for too long, all my friends in the neighbourhood never really understood.
And me? I never understood why their parents never asked them to study like my parents did.
I was also surprised that among my friends, the mothers were the ones who would pester them to study or to finish their homework. In my household, it was always my father who would put the fear of God in our hearts to perform our academic task. There are times when I wonder, how would my father deal with an ADHD child or a slow learner child? Haha. It would be interesting to see.
My father did not pester me to finish my homework, because he knew I would finish it on my own (simply because I didn’t want to be scolded by teachers. And I also had a reputation to maintain. I couldn’t let it be said that “Afiza is not as good as Afzalina at school.” Hahha. Sibling rivalry helped me stay motivated. Looking back, I really did owe my elder sister a lot.)
Instead, he would pester me to finish an additional academic task that he set out for me. I had one English article to translate per day. Every week, he would buy The Star or The New Straits Times newspaper, and then he would put an asterisk mark to seven articles he wanted me to translate into Malay for the whole week. In our childhood life, that was the most torturous task for me and my elder sister. But my elder sister had it even worse than me… she had to translate 5 articles per day.And she had to do it for 2 years. I only had to do it for one year…
Whereas Izati and Alida did not have to do it daily like I did. And Wani… didn’t have to do it AT ALL! (I guess, by the timethe younger sisters were at the age to do the article translation, my father was pretty busy with his business already and didn’t have the time to monitor them properly. So they got away from the worst academic task of me and my Kak Long’s life)
Until now, whenever we siblings get together, we STILL reminisce on the crazy brain-racking article translation that we had to do. And we would have a great laugh.
It is good being the middle child. Because the eldest child always gets it worse when it comes to parental expectation. The eldest child is the victim of parental enthusiasm. The eldest child is ‘the project’! The experiment! If the eldest child is successful, then the chance that the rest of the siblings would also be successful would be high too… or so most people thought.
My father only has daughters…. five of them. No sons. But because he is an enlightened man, we never got saddled with a lot of what society would label as ‘women’s task’. We mostly got saddled with academic tasks. Whenever people commented to my mother “Bestnya ramai anak perempuan. Boleh tolong mak.” my mother would roll her eyes. Because we rarely helped her in the kitchen, if truth be told. (Sometimes, I feel sorry for my mother. Most of us inherits my father’s genetics; not just in looks but also in temperament and personality.) Of course, she made sure that we knew how to take care of ourselves; we could make our own drinks, we knew how to cook scrambled eggs, simple fried rice…and we knew how to sweep or mop the floor, and how to operate the washing machine. We took care of our own school shoes and our own school uniforms and wrapped our own text books. My mother would always say, “Kak Milah is for me… to help me. Not to help you. Wash your own school shoes!” But we were not expected to do only house chores. Academic tasks always took precedent over anything else… because my father said so.
One of my friends used to tell me how her brothers never had to do any housework and she was the one who had to do it as the only daughter in her family. I remember thinking, “Thank God, we don’t have brothers.”(Look, I don’t mind doing housechores, but it must be equally divided, gender notwithstanding! Otherwise, I would totally rebel.)
My father has taught me a lot throughout my life. Even without learning psychiatry, he kind of applied the concept of Pygmalion effect (or Rosenthal effect) in raising us.
Basically, in the theory of Pygmalion effect, it states that “we become what is expected of us.” It all has something to do with expectation. It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy in which we strive and behave in a way as to be in concordance with our own expectation (or other people’s expectation of us). It can be seen among students at school. You can see the difference in motivation and attitude among students in the first class and students in the last class. Students with poor expectations from their teachers (those in ‘kelas belakang’) internalize their negative label and perform poorly, and those with positive expectations internalise their positive labels and succeed academically. (That’s why whenever possible, make sure your kids stay inthe first class…. teachers’ expectation on first class kids would propel them to succeed. It is the Pygmalion effect. You can google it yourself if you want to know more about this. I learned this in my Part A specialist exam.)
“You delivered because you were expected to.”
–> That is the gist of what Pygmalion effect is all about.
So you yourself can apply this Pygmalion effect on yourself. Ifyou put a high expectation of yourself, then you will push yourself to deliver. Even if you might not obtain the kind of result that you originally wanted, the result would STILL be so much better compared to when you expected nothing of yourself. My father might say that he expected all of us to get number one, but he was still just as happy if we obtained among the top ten. Had he not expected anything at all, we might feel complacent with just minimal effort.
There were so many incidents in my life in which I had internalized his positive expectations and manage to deliver what he wanted.
1)He taught me to stand up to bullies. Always.
When I was 10 years old, Izati who was seven years old at that time got elbowed on the face by a 14 year old boy in the school bus. I still remember what had happened. This 14 year old boy had stepped on Izati’s shoes. Izati was upset because her school shoes was new and white. She was just like a typical excited standard 1 girl who would be upset when people step on her school shoes. So, she retaliated by stepping on the boy’s shoes, just to even the score. The boy then elbowed Izati’s face on his way out of the bus. I was shocked but I couldn’t do anything at that time as the boy was already gone. My father always kind of expected me to look out after my sisters at school but at that time, heck, I was scared. I was a child myself.
Izati then told my father about what had happened. My father turned to me and said “Kak Ngah, esok Kak Ngah pi bagi warning kat budak tu.Kalau dia buat macam tu kat Izati lagi, ayah akan jumpa dia.”
I was like, “Whaaatt? Why me? It’s not my problem! Why can’t Izati warn him herself? Apa kata ayah terus pi jumpa budak tu saja? Why do I have to give him a warning? He is a big boy. He is in secondary school!” But I couldn’t say the words. Because I didn’t want my father to think I was afraid. (But of course, I was! Hahah). My father EXPECTED me not to be afraid, so what could I do, right?
When my father was out of the earshot, I turned to Izati, “Zati yang cari gaduh, kak ngah pula yang kena pi bagi warning!” I was so upset at Izati for putting me into this trouble. But I didn’t have a choice. My father ALWAYS followed up on the task he had given me to do.
So the next day, I gathered all my friends who also boarded the same bus as me and strategized about what I should do. It was a bad idea to talk to my friends about it. They made me even more scared. They were telling me, “Afiza, dia tu budak sekolah Al-Bukhary. Budak sekolah nakal tu. Dia tu memang kaki buli. Dia pernah tumbuk orang tau!” I was like, sh*t. What had Izati gotten me into?
But the thought of not doing the task my father had assigned me to do was never an option. I was more afraid of failing the task my father had set me out to do.
Another friend of mine said “Lepas awak bagi warning kat dia, awak terus lari pi seat belakang bas. Jangan tunggu depan dia. Nanti dia tumbuk.” In my mind, I was like “Lepas bagi warning, aku lari? Damn! The warning won’t be effective like that! It would look like I was such a coward.”
But what choice did I have?
So that was what I did. When I got into the bus, accompanied by a few of my loyal friends who also boarded the same bus, I went to the seat where he was sitting and said in a shaky voice, “Weh! Ayah aku cakap, hang jangan nak pukul adik aku lagi. Ayah aku warning dia akan mai jumpa hang kalau hang buat macam tu lagi.” I was trying to put on a brave face. And that was the first time I used ‘aku-hang’ to anyone. Hahah. I didn’t really plan to run, you know. I wanted to casually walk away. But then I saw him getting up from his seat. So, without further ado, I ran. Hahha. I ran to the back of the bus where I had more friends waiting for me there. Somehow, he decided not to pursue me to the back of the bus. I was so relieved. Maybe my warning was effective after all. Hahha. When I got home, I straightaway told my father that I had delivered the warning. My task was done and dusted! (Of course, I never told him that I ran away afterwards. Haha)
2) He taught me hard work and perseverance always yield a good outcome
Whenever I told my father I could not do some academic task or that I found certain subjects difficult to master, he would always say, “Baca sekali tak faham, baca lah dua kali. Tak faham juga, baca 10 kali. Sampai faham.” In short, you just have to accomplish your mission. No matter how hard you have to work at it, you just have to do it.
Just do it!
My father’s name in Arabic means The Determined One. The Resolute. The name suited him really well.
When he wanted something, he would not cease his effort until he got it. He told me that his life’s motto is “usaha selagi daya”. Admirable, isn’t it? He was the only one among his siblings who pursued a university degree. Also the only one among his cousins who has a degree. Despite my grandfather’s insistence that he stop schooling at the age of 13 (to help my grandfather with rubber tapping), he somehow got someone who was respected in his neighbourhood to convince my grandfather that education was important and he should be given the chance to finish secondary school, at least. My grandfather gave in under the neighbourhood pressure and my father’s determination.
My father was sent to Sekolah Menengah Khir Johari, living in a hostel where he could focus more on his studies. My father really enjoyed the school. He was the best student in his school for SPM. He wanted to continue into tertiary level studies but my grandfather could no longer spare himthe luxury. So, he worked as an immigration officer, and when he was about to marry my mother, he switched his job to a police officer for a better pay. When PDRM offered their officers a chance to pursue a fully-funded tertiary education, my father jumped at the opportunity. But instead of taking law like many of his friends in the PDRM, he took Accountancy. I guess, he loved business and maths and calculation and stuff like that. (I certainly didn’t get that genes. LOL. The Math gene went to my elder sister who is now a statistic lecturer). After he finished his degree, he quitted PDRM to do business. I guess, he was never the sort who can work for others or follow the dictation of someone whose order he couldn’t understand or respect. Blind following is never his strength.
During the financial crisis of 1997-1998, he was hit really hard. It affected all of us, I still remember. But my daily routine didn’t change much… school was still our priority. My father made sure that there would always be money for school stuff and for books… but perhaps not for Taekwondo lessons or school trips or camping expedition that Scouts organized. After all, there were 5 of us to feed, all in schooling age.
My UPSR was in 1997, the year of the financial crisis. My father had promised me that if I could get straight As for my UPSR, I would get RM50 for each A that I got. But if I couldn’t get straight As for UPSR, I would only get RM20 for each A that I got. Despite the financial constraint, he didn’t break that promise. And when I obtained my 5As, I was given RM250 on the very day I got my result (but he made me save half of it in the bank. LOL. I spent the rest of the money on story books, of course.) I remember feeling bad for taking the money. I was worried that they might feel burdened by the promise they made. But I knew, my father would have insisted that I take it anyway. So I said thank you with a lump in my throat.
My elder sister got offered to go to MRSM Taiping after beingthe school’s best student for PMR at that time. Whether or not she was going to MRSM, was never a question. Not even when the expense was quite high. She went to MRSM Taiping all the same. We let go the maid. I helped my mom with house chores. After a few years of financial constraints, my father managed to bring the family’s finance to a stable condition when he joined his cousin in setting up a security company. And Alhamdulillah, it’s been stable since then. By the time I was going to MRSM Langkawi, we could afford a maid again. I remember saying to my sisters, “When I was around, mom didn’t need a maid. When I go to MRSM, mom needs a maid. Because you guys are such lazy bums and couldn’t be relied on to help mom! PMR tak score, hangpa siap!” My younger sisters simply rolled their eyes.
Throughout the financial crisis (which my younger sisters did not remember much. Only my Kak Long and I really vividly remember the experience), I never saw my father give up his efforts. He really is the determined one; the resolute.
3) He placed education as the most important aspect of childhood
Perhaps, he was affected by his hard life as a child who had to fight his own father simply to stay at school. And that might be why he worked hard to make sure we got the best schooling experience he could afford. We all went to the best national school in the state of Kedah. He would change his address to make sure we all got into Asma School. Perhaps, he didn’t want us to experience the difficulties he had to undergo as a poor child in school. Maybe he wanted to give us the opportunity he himself couldn’t get as a child.
My father loves education so much because that was something he had to work so hard to obtain. He was very single minded in his effort to stay at school. When most kids his age had started smoking (because smoking was cool back then), he never did because he couldn’t afford the cigarettes. All his scholarship money (apparently during his time, secondary schoolers were given scholarships) went for books and savings. Not clothes, not cigarettes…things that other kids who received the scholarship would buy at times. He had to take a longer route to get to the uni. But he did it finally.
Until now, he is STILL very passionate in encouraging us to continue our studies. He stopped asking my Kak Long to study ONLY after my Kak Long had completed her doctorate. (My first nephew was born ONLY after she was done with her thesis. Priorities, huh?) At the moment, I am pursuing my studies as well, so he stopped pestering me already. He supported my effort by sponsoring my hotel and flight tickets for exams. He is now pestering Izati and Alida to do master every time they come home for a visit. Wani’s time to be pestered will come once she has finished her first year dental officer, I am sure.
As a child, I knew that he would not listen to any excuse of why we couldn’t perform well at school. He would tell me, “Ayah nak pi sekolah, naik basikal buruk tok wan. Jauh berbelas kilometer; naik bukit turun bukit kayuh basikal. Bila naik bukit ayah tak larat nak kayuh, so ayah kena turun basikal, tolak basikal naik bukit. Ayah tak bawa bekal pun, tak ada duit sekolah. Waktu rehat ayah lapar. Tak ada duit nak beli kat kantin. Kadang-kadang cikgu bagi ayah makan. Kadang-kadang ayah minum air paip. Tapi ayah pi sekolah. So korang demam sikit-sikit, kena pi sekolah. Semangat lah sikit!”
I think for my father, the option was easy. It was either rubber tapping, or going to school. Of course he would choose school! For me, it was either story books/playing, or going to school. Of course I would not choose school, if given a chance. We couldn’t be as motivated as he expected us to be. But none of us had ever skipped school; well, except when we had chicken pox.
When I told my father, I could not do Add Maths, he was concerned. Add Maths simply stumped me. My father asked to see my Add Maths textbooks and revision books when I got back from the hostel at the end of Form 4. I didn’t know why he wanted to see my textbooks. Perhaps, he wanted to see whether or not he could teach me himself. (There were a lot of things he could teach me himself when I was a child. And he could teach them better than most teachers. I did not have to go to any tuition class for my UPSR or PMR)When he found out he couldn’t grasp Add Maths, he simply hired me a private tutor because he could not teach me Add Maths himself. “Tak payah pi mana-mana cuti ni. Kak Ngah pi belajar Add Maths saja dengan Cikgu R hari-hari. Dia ajar Kak Ngah sorang saja, 2 jam sehari. So Kak Ngah kena tanya semua benda yang Kak Ngah tak tau… Buka sekolah Tingkatan Lima nanti mesti dah pandai.”
In my mind, I was like, “Hmmm, I couldn’t ask what I don’t know. In Add Maths, I don’t know what I don’t know.” Hahha. But the private tutoring ended up to be really helpful, even as I regretted my lack of holidays that semester break. I did get an A in Add Maths later for SPM. Thanks to my father who refused to give up. He pushed me harder when I just thought that I could only get 9As1D. I was very proud when I showed my parents my SPM result at the end of the year.
When my younger sister Alida was having trouble with Accountancy during her SPM year, he taught Alida accountancy himself. (As my father’s degree is in Accountancy, he did the tax for his own company every year. He still remembers most of what he learned). Alida ended up teaching her classmates when she became the top student in Accountancy for her class.
4)He taught me to do my best work
He taught me to learn from the Chinese. To emulate Chinese’ work ethics. To work hard like them.
He is not a typical Malay, my father. He is always on time, for example. He is very logical and very practical. He doesn’t like to talk non-stop about something nonsense. He is a serious guy who doesn’t crack stupid jokes all the time in an effort to appear jovial and approachable. Like me, he was not that comfortable with small talk. He is very reserved and taciturn. He even relied on my mother to keep in touch with his own relatives. Hahha (Actually, all of us relied on our mother to smooth the way for social interaction with relatives)
He is also very meticulous in his work. Before he started his security company, he worked as a Chief Inspector in PDRM. I remember the time when he brought me and my mother to his office one day because he needed to pick something up while we were on the way to go to some place. There was a clerk outside my father’s room who was so nice to me. I couldn’t remember her name. But that clerk had told my mother, “Tuan Azmee ni cerewet. Kalau surat ada tak kena sikit, tertinggal titik ke.. dia suruh taip lain semua.” They used a typewriter at that time. So can you imagine the trouble of having to write everything again just because of some minor error? My mother could only sympathize but she could not do anything about it. My father was exactly like that at home too.
But the good thing is, people learn to present their best work when they deal with my father. He wouldn’t put up with anything less.
5) He taught us to prioritize practicality over idealism
“Kak Long dengan Kak Ngah nak jadi penulis? Nak duduk di tepi sungai… berkhayal…. dan makan pasir?” He asked both me and my Kak Long sarcastically when he caught both of us writing a story when we were supposed to be studying. I was only 8 years old at that time. I still remember the story I was composing. It was about a couple of brothers named Steve and David who just moved into a new neighbourhood. The plot revolved around them investigating about the ghosts who were disturbing them in their new house. They were trying to find out how the ghosts came to be haunting the house and how did the ghosts die… well, something like that. As an 8 year old child, I thought it was a very good plot. Haha. (I was influenced by Tamar Jalis stories. Hahha. Except that I was writing my story in English.)
I was so absorbed in writing those stories in an exercise book that I didn’t hear my father entering our study room. I could not hide the exercise book from his view fast enough. I was caught red handed… and the lecture ensued. *sigh*
There were so many times when me and my Kak Long were caught reading fiction when we were supposed to be studying. Every single time, we would get scolded and sometimes given a stroke of rattan on our palms. But me and my Kak Long never learned our lessons. No punishment was enough to keep us away from stories.
My father is the original language lover in our family. He wrote poetry on the front page of his text books when he was a student. Or he would write some quotes he made up himself. It was not unusual for me to find some words of wisdom scribbled on the front page of any old textbooks of my father’s which I took from our bookshelves. It was ironic that he would not let us pursue something that he himself had loved.
I guess the hardship of his own childhood taught him that “Yeah, it is great to do what you love. But in reality, we have to survive and earn our living. We have to be responsible, and not simply follow our hearts or our ideals.”
He just could not imagine us being able to survive on writing. He didn’t envision his daughters as merely housewives. He believed education is the key to a good life. So he was alarmed if any of his daughters played too much or became absorbed in stories too excessively. He was distressed when we did not display the sort of diligence he expected from any of us.
His expectation ended up making me a doctor.
6) He taught me to have excellent work ethics
People have always said, “Don’t be a doctor because of your parents’ expectation. Or else, you wouldn’t be able to do it. And then you will quit half way.”
That’s not true, guys! There are many people who become a doctor when they didn’t originally want to be one. I am one of the examples. Many of my friends are like that too. You can be whatever you want and succeed in things you never dream of. But you have to put expectations on yourself! You have to put standards about your work ethics. You have to possess the right attitude about responsibility and behaviour at work. Just…have some standards and expectations on yourself! The rest, leave it to God.
My father never pushed me to be a doctor. I could be anything I like (except as a singer/model/actress or anything in the entertainment industry. My parents would have my head if I ever choose to do something like that. Not that I ever had any talent in those things. Hahah). And I wanted to be a lawyer. But the scholarship I was offered was for medicine. So, the rest is history.
Because of his expectation towards all his daughters, all of us pursued our tertiary education in overseas fully-funded by government scholarships. My sister’s master in Statistic was in Warwick, UK and her doctorate on statistical analysis for three-arms clinical trial was in Sheffield, UK. I went to Australia for medicine, as you guys well-know. Izati and Alida went to Auckland for biology and TESL, respectively. And Wani went to India for dentistry. His investments in us as children (he invested his time, teaching us the right values about education, lecturing us, fighting with us against what we wanted to do VS what we should do) saved us from having to borrow from PTPTN because our SPM results made us eligible for scholarships. We started our working life debt-free.
I couldn’t be what I am today without his effort to shape my behaviour and my character. When I was a houseman, he never told me that I shouldn’t quit my work whenever I told him about certain MOs and specialists I just really hated. He said, I could work with him at the company, if I ever wanted to quit housemanship. “But if you want to quit, do it properly. Don’t simply not turn up to work. ” He emphasized.
But I knew he preferred that I completed my housemanship. Because all my life I was taught to do my responsibility, I didn’t quit. Looking back, I don’t think my pride could ever handle that sort of failure. I knew that my MARA contract stipulated that I had to serve the government for 3 years. It was my responsibility to finish what I had started. So, I handled the pressure of working life and gradually found myself able to enjoy housemanship after finishing my first posting! I had only one day of EL as a HO when I had to send my parents’ for hajj… until now I never again had any EL. I’ve only had one day of sick leave for anaphylactic reaction when I was a HO… and then never again. All my holidays are planned. I take my work seriously. Just like I take education seriously. And those are the things my father taught me and all my siblings. His work ethics and my mother’s work ethics were really admirable. I could never surpass them in that.
And because ofthis, I must admit that I look down on people who took ELs for petty reasons. Really, I look down on people who are not serious about their work. Sure, you can EL if your family members are sick. I can understand that. But NOT for reasons like “Mak mertua aku mai.” or “Aku kena handle pasal rumah sewa somewhere.” or “KL jammed… tak boleh balik hari ni.” or “flight delay.”
Look, your mak mertua will just have to handle your absence because she came when you were supposed to be working. She would learn her lesson next time and plan her visit properly. And if you are intelligent enough to plan for contingencies such as “KL Jam” or “flight delay”, you wouldn’t need to take ELs. You can plan your departure one day earlier.
The word ’emergency’ in the phrase ’emergency leave’ MEANS something!All right? And if it is the same person who repeatedly does this EL thing almost every month? Well, my patience would be running thin! I have expectations on people! Not outrageous expectations… just reasonable ones. I like people who can display some shame when they trouble other people. Because when they feel ashamed for having no choice but to take ELs, I know that these people have standards!
My study leave was deducted from my own cuti rehat! My friends take unpaid leave when their children were sick too long… or they simply took a maid to help with the kids if they wanted to continue working without having to take repeated ELs. Solve your problems! Don’t trouble people continuously with your lack of life-management skill!
Just…plan your life! Please! That’s another thing my father taught me. To plan! Troubling people with our lateness/ tardiness/ flakiness is NOT acceptable.
7) He trusted me with his company; his life’s work.
When my parents went for hajj in 2011, they had told me that they put me and my siblings names on some of their properties. They said, if anything were to happen to them, each of us is the trustee to the property under our name. But each property must be EQUALLY divided later on regardless of under whose name it is.
For example, they put my Kak Long’s name for the house and my younger sisters’ name for some of the lands they had acquired before.
My name was placed for my father’s shares in the company. My mother said, “Ayah cakap, Kak Ngah lagi garang dan lagi pandai nak bergaduh kalau ayah punya partner nak tipu saham or duit. Ayah tau Kak Ngah mesti takkan lepas saja.” I wanted to laugh.
See? He expected me to behave like that, so for sure I would fight nail and tooth if any of his business partners ever try to cheat me out of my inheritance.
Because my father does not have a son, we talk about inheritance/ hibah a lot. My mother and I made sure that my father had done a proper hibah to all of us. Not because we want the money so much (not that my parents were wealthy or anything). But because if faraid happens, I won’t have the money to pay my uncle for his share of the house/cars/shares according to faraid laws. If my mother and us want to keep my father’s house, we will have to fork out the money to pay our uncle for his rights to the house and other properties according to the Faraid laws. And that’s something I don’t want to have to do, if I can help it. I don’t want my mother to be stranded with minimal security should anything happen to my father.
I even posted and shared a lot of facebook status about hibah. I also followed the page of Roslina Sabiyah & Co which deals with a lot of inheritance issues. I think it is important that we understand that Islam is very beautiful and gives a lot of options in dealing with any matter. Faraid is only one of the options in dealing with the issue of inheritance.
Below is one of my facebook status regarding Faraid Vs Hibah. I believe, that a responsible man should never rest easy until the security of those who are dependent on him are taken care of properly.
Not many people are lucky to have a father they can be proud of. In my experience as a psychiatry doctor, I certainly witnessed many sick, irresponsible bastards who think being a father is about being a sperm donor.
Truly, me and my siblings were lucky.
In psychiatry, we have this theory called ‘Goodness of Fit’. Between me and my parents, there certainly exists ‘goodness of fit’. They put pressure, and we deliver instead of breaking under it.
Goodness of fit is defined as the congruence between the child’s temperament and the personalities, attitudes and parenting practices of the parents. A goodness-of-fit is seen as fostering healthy psychological and social development.
Whenever I saw the children in my child clinic refusing to go to school, or was depressed by parental expectations… I always wonder why I didn’t react like them when I was placed under various expectations and pressure? I couldn’t understand why the parents couldn’t manage to persuade their children to go to school? In my household, we have always known that the parents are the boss. Their words are law! If they say I have to go to school, then that’s where I am going. It seems like our parents were so much better at rearing children when there was very little knowledge about psychology and psychiatry in their days.
Now, with so many books on child rearing and general psychology, parents are even more clueless!
Parents would say, “Kalau kita tekan dia sangat, nanti dia buat perangai. Kita takut dia stress.”
And I was thinking, how come my parents never thought that my siblings and I would get depressed by their expectations? They expected anyway! We got punished, anyway! They didn’t handle us like a fragile, easily-broken porcelain china dolls. As though we will shatter at the slightest stress. Pfftt! Teachers back then were even more fierce than teachers these days but none of my siblings ever refused to go to school and neither did most of my friends at that time. Is it possible that parents these days are just too ‘soft’, and therefore the kids are spoiled…. becoming as fragile as the parents had expected them to be (Pygmalion effect, remember?) Paradoxically, it may be that our softness and indulgence, instead of making them into happy children, make them less resilience in facing pressure in the future.
Nowadays, we have kids that fail to launch themselves into adulthood. Kids who couldn’t take scoldings and stress… with poor coping mechanisms. They grow up into big babies instead of mature adults. (Some HOs rely on their parents to give their specialists some excuses for why they couldn’t turn up to work! This is ridiculous!)
Resilience is not really born. It is made! And it wouldn’t get made if your kids never had to measure up to reality and expectations. Attitude and work ethics are not born, they are acquired… and taught… and carved… into being a deep-rooted character of a person. It is not something you develop suddenly when you start working. So if you want to see what kind of adults your children would be, see their attitude to homework and house chores now. You have to start teaching your children the right values now… when they are still malleable kids. This is something I believe with all my heart.
So this blog post is especially dedicated to my beloved papito. I have often written about my mother on her birthday. This is a first for my father.
This year, as usual, I bought him a shirt. In fact, all of us bought him a shirt. He doesn’t have to shop for his own clothes because he will get many new ones on his birthday.
Allow me to share with you guys some of the pictures we took at Swensen to celebrate my father’s birthday. We were sad that my eldest sister and my youngest sister couldn’t join us due to work commitments (but it didn’t stop us from enjoying the food. Haha.) But the three middle sisters were available for the fun family times. Alida’s and Izati’s husbands were also around. And of course my beloved niece and nephew (Alida’s children), Ammar and Arissa were also with us that day.
It was a great catching up session. As we all are grown up now, get-together event is not easy to organize and plan. Selalu tak cukup korum. Adeh!
I don’t have a lot of my father’s picture here because he is a shy one and he only takes group pictures; never a selfie. The role of the selfie queen in our family is shared by both Alida and Izati.
And the food guys! Especially the dessert! I love, love, love desserts… I have always had a sweet tooth, which is why I need to exercise regularly. Because I just couldn’t say no to ice creams and cakes and basically, anything fattening, really! Haha.
Until next time, my dear readers.
Have a great weekend. And enjoy the time spent with family and loved ones. There will be few and far in between as we grow older. So cherish all the time you can get. *sobs sobs*
Disclaimer: This is a rant! Do not read beyond this part if you cannot take the negative vibes of outpouring annoyance from yours truly.
(I did warn you. Proceed at your own risk)
Family and friends are some form of rizq. A blessing, really. Your treasure, truly.
Take me, for example. With my family, my best friend, my close friends (some of them work with me in the same department, and some are my school/uni friends), I can be irritable, bossy and annoying… but somehow I manage to keep them anyway. Or they manage to keep me. Or perhaps, we decide to keep each other. Maybe, (well, hopefully haha) my good traits outweigh my annoying traits and the net result is, I am considered fun enough to hang around with. Haha.
I was told that INTJ don’t keep friends. But friends keep them. I think that used to be true, before. But now, I too have learned to make an effort to stay in touch with them and did not depend merely on them to keep in touch with me. As I grew into adulthood, I learned the true value of great friendships that stand the test of time.
I play fair with friends. I don’t like to take without giving something in return. I don’t allow myself to take advantage of my friends. It is just against my friendship policy. I will feel ashamed of myself if I keep taking your generosity without returning it in some way.
If you have always been there for me, I will rush to you in time of needs.
At the back of my mind, there is always that account columns I need to keep in balance. It hurts my sense of independence if I feel like I owe something to someone no matter how small. I don’t want to feel like I just HAVE to comply to anyone’s wishes, just because they have been nice to me or because I have been indebted to them. I don’t owe anyone any blind loyalty because when it comes to friendship’s give-and-take, we have been almost equal. I have made sure of it! You can’t turn around and say, “Afiza, you have to do what I say. Remember how much I have given and sacrificed for you?” Haha. None of that. We are equal in terms of favours and services rendered. I don’t like to owe anyone anything. So when I am pissed off with you, I can be straight and upfront about it. And when you are pissed off with me, go ahead and be straight and upfront about it. In true friendship, we survived all that. And those are the friends that I keep.
With my best friend Dr. F, we take turns paying for food or movies. We decide together where to go for hanging out. Neither one of us has more power over the other. We understand the tacit rule of what makes friendship work.
With my close friends from the Newcastle Uni, I still keep in touch with them in our WhatsApp group all the time. While all of us are busy with our own lives, any of them can simply holler any of us and ask for help/opinion/a listening ear. It is not unusual for us to ventilate in that group about our daily stressors in our working life and our collective frustrations with the Malaysian way of doing things. There is no fear that other people would say “Pi la balik Australia. Dah suka sangat compare-compare!” Haha. We have been through a lot together when we were in Newcastle, having only each other for support and strength when our own families were not around for that whole of 5 years. Those kind of bond is not something that can be easily broken… because we have shared a very significant and meaningful past. A beautiful period of life.
In friendship, I don’t allow myself to be taken advantage of. At the end of the day, if I don’t enjoy being with you, I am just not gonna keep you as my friend. (And I won’t enjoy being with you if I feel that I was being taken advantage of) Sooner or later, I will drop you…. because we just don’t suit. But I wish you all the best, regardless.
If you are too high maintenance (in terms of time, money and lifestyle), I don’t mind losing you. I can’t hang out with you at expensive restaurants all the time, even if you are paying (because next time, I will insist to pay to keep the balance… but then, your lifestyle is out of my budget. Haha). I have never been the sort who is easily affected by peer pressure even when I was a kid. I didn’t pester my parents to buy me branded stuff so that I could hang around the cool kids. In my opinion, kids were cool if they were intelligent and competent. That’s it! If they also happened to be beautiful and kind-hearted, my interest in them will surpass into the realms of admiration. Otherwise, I was just not interested to go out of my way to please anyone… I won’t try too hard, beyond casual friendship. Even in those I respect or admire (perhaps because of their intelligence or kindness or charisma), I don’t necessarily want to be their friends. Friendship requires certain alignments in values, principles, habits and taste… it takes time, adjustment, compromise… and over time, you will reach that stage when you can just be frank and honest with each other when it comes to any issue. There is no longer any need to stand in diplomatic ceremony with one another. Your friend could take one look at your face and just knew that you were upset about something and pretension became pointless.
If you want to hang out with me, you are just going to have to tolerate my wanting to be in nature and go hiking once in a while. After all, it is free. Expensive restaurants all the time may not be the way I like to spend my money. If you expect too much of my time in order for me to keep your friendship (heck, I have house chores to do, cats to take care of, plants I need to water, parents I need to see, academic books I have to read, and uh, non-academic books I have to devour haha. And there are times the introvert in me needs to be alone and I just don’t feel like hanging out) then I am more than willing to let you go. Go find your own friends. If you expect the sort of investment I could not commit to, I think it is only fair that we go our separate ways.
It comes down to values. Me and Dr. F… we have the same values and therefore we understand each other’s decision. We both value our study time…so if one of us cannot keep in touch because we were busy studying, we don’t go around feeling hurt. We both value punctuality to time… we are always on time whenever we plan to meet each other. (Because if you are not on time consistently and habitually, I will not keep anything beyond casual friendship with you. All of my close friends are on time. Whenever we couldn’t be on time, we actually have the courtesy to let you know immediately so that you can adjust accordingly and won’t have to wait). We both value our families…. if we could not keep our promised date because some emergency involving the family came up, we would simply cancel the date with no hard feelings. We both value honesty, ethical way of doing things… we share the same frustration towards people. We share similar kind of humour too. And most importantly, we share similar culture and similar background, and thus similar way of thinking. (We were in Sekolah Rendah Sultanah Asma, then Sekolah Menengah Sultanah Asma, then MRSM Langkawi. After that, we were separated for some years after she went for her A-Level and her medical school in the UK ,whereas I went for my IB and my medical school in Australia. We returned for housemanship in the same hospital. We became MOs in the same hospital but in different departments. And now, both of us are furthering our studies. We just found out recently that we even attended the same kindergarten when one of our kindy friends shared our kindy class photo and tagged us on Facebook. We never knew before that we had attended the same kindergarten. See how beautiful fate works? Very serendipitous, ain’t it? )
It is the same with my colleagues. We tend to gravitate towards those who share our values. Opposite doesn’t attract… likeness does. I like people who can get things done. Who have a sense of responsibility. Who would do the hard thing just because it is the right thing.
We annoy each other, occasionally, of course. But we also respect each other. We stick together without being too clingy and dependent. There are space to BREATHE in that kind of friendship. We run programs / events together. Take exams together. Or went for a hiking/kayaking trip together. Or we went out to eat together outside office hours. Or went to travel across the border to Thailand together.
It is through doing all those things together that friendship is developed and strengthened and before you realise it, you are already comfortable with each other and consider each other not just colleagues, but friends. It developed very naturally, without anyone trying too hard, or trying to push our boundaries, or trying to get us to be dependent on him/her so that he/she could dictate how things should be done.
With real friends, none of us has ever tried to over-step the boundaries or micro-manage one another. It just never happened. If it did, we would voice it out and the person would understand and back off and everything is right again. There are times when I can be bossy. But there are times, when they can be bossy with me right back. There are times when I make decisions. And there are times when I ask them for their decisions. Like I said, I need that account balanced.
My weakness is… in dealing with people I cannot stand . These are usually people who did not understand basic courtesy like I have mentioned above. People who don’t understand boundaries. People who don’t respect each other’s private time by his/her constant whatsapp messaging. People who always come up with “helpful” suggestions and ideas ad nauseum, ad infinitum… or people who want to micro-manage other people so that other people would become dependent on him/her, so that FINALLY, he/she could pretend that he/she is somehow relevant and likeable.
Here’s a tip: If you notice that everywhere you go, you end up not having friends, no matter how ‘nice’ or ‘helpful’ you have been… please do some self-introspection. Doing any of your ‘extra efforts’ will not get you to keep friends if they end up feeling uncomfortable with you. In fact, all your ‘efforts’ would even alienate you from them.
Like I said, I don’t have to be ‘extra-nice’ or ‘extra-helpful’ or act like I am the manager of everyone and everyone must depend on my direction in order to keep friends. I don’t rely on friends being dependent on me in order to tie themselves to me. (Heck, to all my friends, please be independent for your own sake. While I am more than willing to help you when you are in a tight spot – not just because I am your friend but because I am a Muslim – I have no desire to be anyone’s super hero. I have my own life to lead!)
In a naturally-developed friendship, we keep friends when our friends happen to have the same values with ours, complimentary attitude to ours, or when all of us happen to enjoy spending time together due to our common interest. We don’t try to force the friendship at the early stage of getting to know one another, and ‘offer’ them help, and ‘get them to feel dependent on us so that we can then dictate the course of events’. Trust me, people will resent you when you try to manipulate people like that. While you may appear nice and tolerable at first, one by one of your friends will walk away from you because they resent your obvious attempt at your over-involvement and manipulation.
And me? I am a very independent person. At the slightest threat to my autonomy, I will leave the friendship. And if you try to control me and boss me around? That’s a NO-NO anywhere, any time, any place… and any one!! You broke that cardinal rule, I am done with you.
So, I’ve left her a long time ago. But I thought, maybe that was just my own issue. I never tried to influence other friends against her. But over time, I realised… it was not just my own issue. Because other friends also keep away from her without me even having to say a thing.
Another one of my friendship policy is: I do not influence any of my friends regarding how they should perceive others who I don’t get along with.
I mean, hey… we are not kids, here. (My gang will not mix with your gang and all such nonsense). I don’t have gangs. I have friends. They are free to make their own decision regarding who they want to be friends with. I value the principle of autonomy and freedom. I would never subject my friends to an ultimatum of “if you are her friend, then you are not my friend.” I have more self-confidence than that. Well, I have more pride than that. I don’t need to resort to such things to keep friends. In fact, I would really be upset if my friends try to dictate to me who I can be friends with. Just because I am your friend, doesn’t mean I can’t also be her friend. Just because she is your enemy, doesn’t mean I share the same opinion you have about her.
Live and let live! Be professional. Be mature. Respect each other’s autonomy.
So, when some of my friends had asked me. “I heard that you don’t get along with her? Why?”
I never told them a single thing. I simply said, “Our personality clash. Nothing really major.”
I never tried to ‘poison’ their minds about that person. I don’t need anyone to fight my battle for me. I can handle it myself. Any of my friends are free to go out with her or talk to her and collaborate with her… whatever. You do you.
I believe, time will tell. Time will tell why that person is somebody I cannot tolerate.
And true enough, time did tell the rest of my friends what is it about the person I simply couldn’t stand. Slowly, I watched how people came to me and said “Now, I know.”
In general, I don’t do public fights or snappy comebacks in Whatsapp groups. I ignore people I dislike. People I dislike do not warrant a single iota of my energy being spent thinking about them.
However, all bets are off if that person becomes too annoying or try to push my buttons. If you cannot take subtle hints, I will give you the obvious door-slam to shake you awake! And if you lit my fuse in public, then expect an equally public display of fireworks. I am not a doormat. And unlike others who have been secretly moaning over your behaviour, I have no problems simply being forthright to you about it. Yes, even in public.
And I didn’t try to hide my obvious displeasure at her over-involved behaviour, and at her ‘trying too hard’ to stay relevant. Funny enough, without me trying too hard to be diplomatic and ‘helpful’ and ‘over-involved’, I still keep friends. Despite my straightforward, forthright “garang” ways, me and my friends maintain our friendship. Yet her, with all her efforts… manage to piss people off and drive people away.
Because at the end of the day, please know that friendship comes from a place of genuine regard, respect and acceptance. Never manipulation! Once you have reached a level of comfort in your friendship, friends will tolerate each other’s bossiness, quirks and habits. Because they remember all the good times they’ve had with you and would not ditch you when you are occasionally being difficult. Haha. But if people were never comfortable with you in the first place, and you’ve never had a place in their hearts because of your general annoying habits, do you think people will tolerate your bossiness, quirks and habits? NO WAY!!
Please know that the worst thing you can do to a budding friendship is you trying to force the natural way a friendship should develop at its INITIAL stage by all your manipulative “I am such a helpful person” behaviour. Without you knowing it, you are taking away their autonomy and freedom. And instead of being thankful to you, they wish you to perdition! They feel smothered and suffocated by your over-involvement and your ‘helpfulness’.
Some people can take the hint when people are put off by their behaviour and they will back off. But some people are oblivious to diplomacy and tact. Getting them to read between the lines is as painfully slow as pulling teeth. So sometimes, you need to be assertive.
When push comes to shove, I will push, shove and slam-dunk! Then you know, that you won’t get away treating me the way you have been treating others before. Others have tolerated and avoided having to deal with your bossiness. But not me. Never me. I don’t tolerate rubbish and nonsense coming from anyone!
I will deal with you! So that you yourself won’t want to deal with me again.
So remember, not everyone you can poke at without you being poked back! Certainly not me. And if my friends are like me (and most of them are), certainly not them too. We are a bunch of independent, go-getter ladies who give as good as we get. We are not going to depend and rely on anyone without bringing along our own judgment and autonomy.
And most certainly, we are not going to rely on bossy people trying too hard to stay relevant.
Whenever people ask me “how to be good in English?” I am really at a loss for how to answer the question. Because, I actually am not that good. And this is not false modesty. There are so many other brilliant English writers and speakers out there.
Trust me, I still make grammatical mistakes. I check, double check and then triple check my assignments/medical reports all the time just to make sure I don’t make simple grammatical mistakes (as opposed to complicated grammatical mistakes, in which case, I can still forgive myself because I am not a native English speaker, after all).
We all have different ways of learning. My way of learning might be different from yours. Some people learn deductively. Some people learn inductively.
Deductive and inductive reasoning are both a method of learning. But I would argue that in general, when you are studying science, you must primarily go deductive; otherwise you will learn very slowly via the inductive method because you need a mountain of evidence before your induction can be proven. (In science, there is an equally important place for both inductive and deductive reasoning. But we generally do deductive reasoning when conducting our systematic reviews/meta-analysis)
When you are studying arts/language/ religion, you must primarily go inductive, because deductive reasoning in arts/language/religion will not yield a comprehensive view of the matter! (But there is a place for deductive reasoning in arts/language/religion as well)
Let me explain.
In general, inductive reasoning uses a large number of specific observations to reach a general principle. (the bottom-up approach)
Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, uses a premise (a general principle assumed as true) to decide what must be true in a specific case. (the top-down approach)
Deductive Learning is simple. You have a hypothesis. You come up with premises/evidence that support your hypothesis. You then confirm your hypothesis with your conclusion.
If A is B (premise 1) , and B is C (premise 2) , therefore, A is C (conclusion).
Hypothesis: All cats have hearts.
Premise 1: All cats are mammals. (general observation/evidence)
Premise 2: All mammals have hearts (another general observation/evidence)
Conclusion: All cats have hearts (specific confirmation that will only be true if the premises are true)
In science, we mostly use deductive reasoning to reach a conclusion. This is the method we use in quantitative study like systematic review and meta-analysis.
You gather all the premises pertaining to the subject, and then you analyse the premises, and then you come up with the conclusion.
The downside of this method is, if your premise is wrong, if your ‘evidence’ is manufactured/faulty/misleading, or if you have not finished examining ALL evidence out there, then your conclusion will be incomplete or actually wrong altogether! Khalas!
Premise 1: All birds can fly (false)
Premise 2: Ostrich is a bird (true)
Conclusion: Ostrich can fly (false)
Another example of deductive reasoning:
Premise 1: If God exists, there will be no disaster in this world (false)
Premise 2: There are many disasters in this world (true)
Conclusion: God doesn’t exist (false)
In inductive reasoning, you examine specific examples/options to get to a general conclusion. Say, you have Option A, Option B or Option C. How are you going to get a nice general conclusion (or make the best choice) out of these options? How to choose properly when you have not experienced each option individually, yet?
Inductive reasoning are more exploratory in nature. You are not trying to come up with general statements and narrow it down to a conclusion like in deductive reasoning. Instead you explore and keep on asking further questions and branch out into other related issues and keep on researching until there is nothing else to research (until you reach data saturation or theoretical saturation!) This is the method we use when we are doing qualitative study.
For example, you will start by asking specific questions (as opposed to general statements assumed to be true like in deductive reasoning): Does God exist? What are the evidence for it? What are the evidence against it? Why are there so many disasters in the world if God exist? But there are so many beautiful events as well. Maybe God exists but does not really play an active role in our lives? Is it possible to believe in God without having to follow any organized religion? Hmm… I wonder, what do other religions say about God?
Get it? See the difference between this type reasoning compared to the deductive one? This one is very deep, very exploratory. This is something you do when you are studying arts and philosophy!
An atheist who suddenly wants to investigate the existence of God, for instance, would learn Buddhism first and will explore everything there is to know about Buddhism. When dissatisfied with Buddhism, he might go on to learn Christianity next. And if he fails to find the evidence of God in Christianity, he will then learn Judaism next. And then he might move on to Hinduism and then Islam. But each time he moves from one option to another, he would learn it thoroughly and experience it and live it. He will keep on exploring one option after another until he finally finds the one true religion (if he ever finds it).
So, in religion, you must do inductive reasoning in order to feel properly settled that you have come to the right one! You must explore! Explore all statements and experience all options. Go through the process!
Did you know that in the Quran, we are taught to do inductive reasoning? Allah always asks us to look at specific examples in order to reach a conclusion. He asks us to look at the moon. Look at the sun! Look at the mountains and the seas. Look at the signs in the human embryology.
“Those who listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it. These are the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones possessed of minds.” (39:18)
These are the things that I learned in my philosophy class when I was doing IB. (I am sure IB kids like me still remember the torture of doing our Theory of Knowledge essay. It was such a pain but I am proud to say that Alhamdulillah I was among the few who had obtained full marks for it. I got the highest grade (Grade 7) for it, something not many students could obtain back then. Scientific medical students really hated Theory of Knowledge class…. but I was among the few in my batch who loved it. Because learning philosophy involves a lot of language play and involves exploring with facts. It feels like being involved in a mental debate.) Philosophy teaches you how to think. Not to follow people randomly but to know why you think the way you think. To a certain extent, this is what we do in psychiatry! We examine and we analyse… not just our own thoughts but also the thoughts of our patient.
So in arts/language/religion, if you want to be a good artist/linguist/religionist, you must have a lot of experience. You must try every method, and visit every possible conclusion and question the conclusion again and again until there is nothing else to question (until you reach data saturation). This is what we mean by “going through the process”. The process itself taught you. The process is your primary aim; your aim is not really the conclusion (but the conclusion is the by-product of having completed the process). This will broaden your horizon, and thus enable you to make the right choice that will beautify your craft and your art! As an artist, inductive learning gives you breadth of knowledge. It completes the arsenal of your skills so that you can choose and pick which one of your skills/knowledge to use when you are in the middle of creating something beautiful.
You need to go inductive when it comes to perfecting your arts! Otherwise with a limited experience, every problem will look like a nail if your only tool is a hammer!
And this is ok, if you are a scientist who relies on precision, accuracy and reproducibility. Go ahead and use the hammer if that will give you the precise outcome that you want. (scientists are very particular about reproducibility of experiments. Experiments that are not reproducible are not scientific!) But this is thoroughly bad for an artist who relies on creativity and originality!
So, if you ask any enthusiastic reader of English books, they will probably agree that they become passably good (not excellently great, mind you. Just passably good. Or good enough) in English due to their extensive reading. Sure, English teachers at school help too… but come on, how many of us are passably good in English upon finishing high school? That is 11 years of formal education, folks (6 years in primary school and 5 years in secondary school). But how many of us are passably good at it? 11 years is a long time to learn English without being a real expert at it.
Now compare this to a Russian spy who must learn English in 6 months in order to pass herself off as an English clerk in the UK Embassy in Australia. How come they can learn that fast? The answer is simple… for that 6 months, they go inductive. Learn everything there is to learn about English. The books, the culture, the fashion, the phrases, the common expressions… go broad and go deep. They immerse themselves in the whole way of life as an English person. And after 6 months, they speak like the native and are ready to spy on the West and risk their own death for the sake of Mother Russia. Haha (Can you see the influence of my thriller reading here? I love spy stories)
Now, I am not saying that in order for you to be good in English, you must change your whole lifestyle and immerse yourself in their culture. After all, we are not aiming to be a spy, here. (Haha) Our aim is simply to be good in writing our assignments and to be just good enough to present our slides and posters. That’s all. So, what is the next easiest thing to do to be good in English without having to change your lifestyle?
Read a lot of books, of course!
Read fictions written in that language! That’s the best easiest thing for you to do in order to experience breadth and depth of a culture while simultaneously learning the language and their common expressions. By reading their fictions, depending on the protagonist of the book, you get to be a spy, a supermodel, a scientist, a professor, a wizard, a secretary, a handsome hero, a beautiful heroine, an ugly duckling, and an intelligent nerd, or a snobbish cheerleader. You get to experience being a teenager, a young adult, an elderly man/woman… you understand the culture broadly.
And by reading a lot of books, you learn ‘exceptions’ to the rules that were taught to you by your English teachers in class (in class, the teaching is deductive).
I give you an example.
Example 1: Root Verb Vs Gerund
Teachers would teach you that you MUST use root verb after the word ‘to’:
I loved todance (not ‘danced’, even when it happens in the past. Not ‘dancing’… because we need to use ROOT verb.)
She liked toswim(not ’swam’ or ’swimming’, Because after ’to’, you must use the present form of the word, i.e the ROOT verb… even if the event is in the past).
But when you read a lot of books, you will notice how the author would write:
I am looking forward todancing with you later. (What? I thought after ‘to’, you must use the present form. Why dancing instead of dance here?) (You will start to wonder)
When it comes todoing the right thing, she is totally unreliable. (again! After ‘to’, the author here uses the word ‘doing’ instead of the root verb ‘do’.)(You will wonder again)
You will then be triggered to ask, why there exists a discrepancy between the deductive rule taught to you by your teachers, and your inductive experience while reading many books?
You will notice many different patterns that were not taught to you in class. This is something you will never get in formal class, trust me!
Unless, your teacher is very good, (or the students are so good that they will ask about this discrepancy to ’the rule’ in the class) you might end up FOREVER writing : I am looking forward to dance with you, (and you think you are grammatically correct when you write that sentence and you might think other people are wrong when they write ‘looking forward to dancing…’. Hahah.) Even worse, you might mistakenly try to ‘correct’ other people’s sentences!
A good English teacher, while teaching the rule, would ALSO teach the exception! I repeat, a good English teacher while teaching the rule, would also teach the EXCEPTION.
But how many English teachers are that good out there? My younger sister Alida is a good one. I know that as a fact. Me and my siblings challenge each other’s language command often. That’s like our small talk during raya and get-together! We test each other and tease each other’s comprehension. But I have argued with a few of my English teachers in the past… so I should know that not all of them have comprehensive knowledge of the language (because even English teachers don’t read a lot,sadly).
A good English teacher would say, “Afiza, the word ‘to’ in ‘looking forward to’ and ‘comes to’ in those sentences function as a phrasal verb. After such phrasal verbs, you must use gerund, NOT root verb.”
Then, she will explain to you what is phrasal verb and what is gerund. That is what a good English teacher would do without you even having to ask! (Ok, guys. If you don’t know, please google this yourself, because it is beyond the scope of this blog post. But if you google gerund and phrasal verb, you will get the answer easily)
Example 2: Subjunctive verb
We all know that the proper ‘verb to be’ for ‘I’ is ‘am’ (present tense) and ‘was’(past tense).
I am dancing with the wind. (present continuous tense)
I was dancing with him. (past continuous tense)
We all know that the proper ‘verb to be’ for he/she is ‘is’(present tense) and ‘was’(past tense).
He/she dances to the music. (present tense)
He/she is dancing. (present continuous tense)
He/she was dancing. (past continuous tense)
We all know that the proper verb to be for you/they is ‘are’(present tense) and ‘were’(past tense).
You are adorable. (present tense)
They were so cruel (past tense)
That’s what English teachers in formal class will teach you (deductive learning).
But remember, you read a lot, right? So one day, you come across these sentences in the fiction that you read:
If hewere to ask me to dance, I would have said yes. But he didn’t, so I went home with a broken heart. (why use ‘were’ here when the subject is a ‘he’?)
I know that if Iwere to get an A, I must study hard. (Why use ‘were’, when this is a present tense and the subject is “I”. Why not use ‘am’?)
She insists thathecome(why not ‘comes’? Shouldn’t we use singular verb by adding an ‘s’? The subject is ‘he’; a singular subject, isn’t it?)
The board suggests that he join the company (why not ‘joins’? )
If you don’t read, you will never know to ask your teacher the next day regarding the discrepancy between what she taught you in class and what you had read in your books.
A good English teacher will tell you about subjunctive verb. She will tell you that in a ‘wishful’ situation or ‘hypothetical’ situation (denoted by the word ‘if’ in that sentence) we must use subjunctive verb ‘were’. And she will tell you that in a sentence structure involving ‘that’ clauses (suggestion/recommendation/insistence/advisable +‘that’), we must use the base of the word (come instead of comes, join instead of joins… even when the subject is singular)
Now, imagine if you don’t have enough reading experience, and then you go around thinking that other people’s usage of subjunctive verb is a gross grammatical error! And imagine if you were an English teacher trying to “correct” your students’ usage of subjunctive verb. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing? Your well-read students would know that their English teacher is more ignorant than them. (That is why it is even more imperative for English teachers to read a lot!)
Like I said, a good teacher will teach the exception to the rule!
A good teacher will be able to anticipate!! the confusion that her students might come across later. (But a good student will learn more outside the class and then ask the right question to the teacher).
If you were a linguist, you would have come across the concept of “deductive and inductive grammar learning”(google this, guys. You will understand what I mean better). Sadly, a lot of English teachers during my time only apply the deductive type.
But my argument here is, the inductive type should be the PRIMARY method of learning English or any language!
If I were an English teacher (notice my subjunctive verb here? I use ‘were’ here), I will give a weekly reading task for my students and I will ask them to spot ‘exception to the rules’ in every reading text that I have assigned them. And I will discuss the exception with them. I will have a set of compulsory books and short stories that they must read and summarise and I will ask them to discuss characters and characterisation, themes and plots and conflicts and resolutions in the books that they read. That’s a more hands-on and inductive way of learning English. It will benefit them so much more.
When I was in Australia, I got to know a Malaysian family who had just arrived to Newcastle, following the career move of the head of the family. There were three children in the family around the age ranging from 4-10 years old. And they did not know much English when they first arrived in Australia.
But after 3 months of schooling, they spoke like the native Australians.
Initially, they did not even know the rules of grammar. The 4 year old child did not even know what it means by subject, verb, subject complement, object. They didn’t know what are nouns, what are pronouns. They didn’t know what does adjective mean. They didn’t know what does adverb mean. Let alone subjunctive or phrasal verbs or gerunds. But they were able to speak like the native Australians without learning all these ‘deductive rules’ that were taught to us in class for 11 years!
Well, because they experienced it through inductive learning! They unconsciously absorbed the patterns and when they noticed that certain ‘language event’ did not fit what they previously observed, they then absorbed ‘the exception’ to the pattern.
And they wouldn’t even be able to explain it! Because they just experienced it. And they just knew! Without knowing how they knew.
Of course, we can talk about critical period of language development as well, and in human beings, the critical period is in childhood! You might want to argue that those children were good in English after 3 months due to them being in the critical period. I admit, adults are much slower in learning a new language compared to children. But the adults are still able to master the language better if they go out and experience the culture and just interact with people rather than exhaustively learning the grammatical rules in class without applying it somehow!
I had met an African lady in her 50s (way past the critical period for language development in human) who just came to Australia 3 months prior to work as a berry picker and she spoke much better English than a 17 year old Malaysian student who has been learning English for the past 11 years in Malaysian classroom! And that was because she had been interacting with international people who were picking berries with her at the local farm. (I was berry picking too and that was how I met her.)
This is why I said, when you want to learn language… go inductive! Experience the process! Get absorbed. Immerse yourself. Read fictions first. Listen to songs! Read poetry! Don’t try to understand the grammar yet! Forget the rules! Just read! Experience the rules (rather than knowing the rules), and then find the exception. In short, go inductive, folks! Go inductive!
When I was not yet studying for my specialist exam, I had the time to proofread my (master student) friends’ case protocols. I will tell them why their sentences were wrong, and how the sentences could be improved.
They used to tell me “Afiza, you should turn your skill into an income. My friends actually pay someone else to check their case protocols. You can make a lot of money.”
And I was like, “But I am not a professional linguist. I cannot charge people for something I am not properly trained for. And I don’t think I know everything. I might miss something… and it wouldn’t be fair for me to charge them when I don’t have any professional qualification.”
And my friend said, “But these people who have been proofreading our case protocols are also not professional. They are doctors as well.”
Hmmm….I don’t know.
I still don’t think it is the right thing to do unless you have made sure that your clients know your lack of formal qualification and your limitation. The rate that you charge must be reasonable and must be less than that of the professional proofreader.
But imagine my shock when I read a Facebook status of a so-called “English proofreader” (with no formal qualification) and I could point out so many grammatical mistakes that she had made in that status (subjunctive and phrasal verbs mistakes were among the mistakes she had made!)
I am not the sort of person who go around correcting people’s language when they don’t ask for my correction. I am not a Grammar Nazi. We should encourage people to speak English even when they make mistakes, and correcting them with the purpose of embarrassing them in public doesn’t help them at all. English is not our native tongue, after all. So, do not expect perfection in non-native speakers and deliberately correct them in public. I too make a lot of mistakes, obvious or otherwise. That’s why I don’t charge people for my help! Language is just my hobby and if I can earn some pahala for something I like doing, why not, right? Easy pahala for me. (now, I don’t do this anymore because I am busy with my own studying and when I do have free time, I want to read for my own pleasure). But this so-called proofreader actually charges people for her service, which judging by her many mistakes in her Facebook status, she should have given her service for free. Gratis!!
I couldn’t believe it. Pity the students who had engaged her service in the past! How do we justify the fees that we charge when we are not professionally accredited or trained for the service that we are charging?
Isn’t it, like, unethical?
I love checking people’s grammar because I get to learn something myself in the course of trying to come up with an explanation for the grammatical mistake. Being a proofreader to my close friends’ essays has been my role since I was in MRSM Langkawi. I checked my friends’ grammar. In return, I get to copy their Add Maths solution. Haha (Quid pro quo! Symbiosis at its best! Smart partnership, isn’t it? Easy pahala for each other, right?)
In IB, I retained my role as an amateur proofreader. I didn’t mind doing this. Language is my strength. Maths is my weakness. So by offering them my service, I felt better whenever I had to ask them to help me with my Pure Maths. I am the sort of person who hates depending on other people without having my own bargaining chip. So when I had to ask for help, I would repay them with other favours. Kind of to balance the account, so to speak.
In my early years of amateurish proofreading, I would tell them that their sentences were wrong because they sounded weird to me. But I couldn’t tell them exactly why they were wrong. I would simply say, “Peliklah ayat ni.” What I mean was “I read a lot. If these sentences are correct, I would have come across them before. I knew they were wrong because of my experience in reading many different types of sentences.”
I have inductive experiences, but not the deductive theories. So I couldn’t explain it properly to them.
But I myself was not satisfied with the service that I gave. You see, I am the sort of person who wants to know your reasoning. “If you say I am wrong, you explain to me why. I want to know. You can’t just tell me that I am wrong without explaining to me why. How am I supposed to learn, then? Am I supposed to accept your word just because you said it? ” (People think I am rebellious because I refuse to listen to their advice. But the other side of the coin is, they haven’t convinced me.)
So, when I too couldn’t explain to my friends why their sentences were wrong (but I just knew it based on my inductive experience), I was not satisfied with myself.
My friends actually never wanted to know my explanation. Haha. They just wanted me to correct their assignments before the final submission to the IB examiner. They couldn’t care less what is the correct term for the mistake. But it was me… I didn’t like it when I couldn’t give them the reasoning. I was projecting my own tendency on them and felt like my friends might not feel satisfied with my corrective work. Because if I were in their shoes (notice my subjunctive verb here?), I would feel unsatisfied as well.
So that was how I came across subjunctive verb and gerund and syntax and phrasal verbs. I came across ‘the rules’ while trying to research for the proper explanation to give to my friends for why their sentences were wrong. Because just knowing that something is wrong without knowing why is not enough. It might be enough for your own self-application, but it is not enough when you want to justify it to others. You must be able to describe it and explain it!
An experienced chronic PSY MO might know psychosis when she sees one… but if he/she never learns clinical psychopathology, she wouldn’t know how to use the proper term to describe what she sees. Even I am not always ‘on point’ when describing what I see when I’m doing Mental State Examination (MSE). Some other doctors might be able to describe MSE much better than me because they have more appropriate vocabulary to complement their vast experience.
An experienced ED MO will know that a patient will deteriorate before the patient ACTUALLY deteriorates, even though at the moment the patient is actually looking quite ok. Her instinct would tell her to watch the patient closely. When the patient then does deteriorate, the ED MO would say “My instinct was right. Tak sedap hati dari tadi.” Because of her inductive experience, she just knew without being able to explain how. Her subconscious mind must have retained some obscure patterns that she didn’t know how to describe based on her many years of service. But because she never properly and formally learned it in post-graduate class (formal deductive teaching), she couldn’t describe it.
That was exactly me when I was in MRSM Langkawi. I just correct my friends’ sentences without telling them why they were wrong. In IB, I improved my language service to my friends by my ability to explain why certain sentences were wrong. Still, I didn’t always know everything back then.
Until now, I am still learning. It’s just that because language is my hobby, this learning is heaps more fun than learning psychiatry (which I also love, of course. Haha)
So, back to the original question, how to be good in English?
I would tell you, “If you really want to be good in English, just read. There is no short cut, guys! I wish there were short cuts, but nope! No short cuts… unless you want to migrate to an English-speaking country and interact with English-speaking people on a daily basis. Read! Listen to English songs! Sing! Copy common expression. Memorise quotes. Experience writing simple stories. Create silly poem. Or have a blog just for the sake of practicing your writing skill. Basically, you just go inductive! After you have gained your experience, then you go deductive! It would be easier that way. When you are learning the deductive rule AFTER having your inductive experience, you will understand the rule much more easily because your brain has been primed for it, and you have wondered about it in the course of your reading experience before. On the other hand, if you only learn the rule without having enough experience on how the rule is used, your learning will be much, much slower. Even 11 years won’t be enough!”
In my experience, a good artist always has a bit of a scientist in her.
And a good scientist, always has a bit of an artist in her.
You need both deductive and inductive reasoning in order to make sense of your knowledge, either in arts or in science. It’s just that one of them should be the PRIMARY method depending on what you are trying to learn.
And when it comes to learning language (notice my usage of gerund and phrasal verb here?), I propose that inductive grammar learning is much more efficient in the long run.
I hope, you guys have learned something from this post.
I leave you guys with a quote from the father of medicine, William Osler, which I think kind of explain inductive (experience) vs deductive (rule/formal learning) method of learning and why these methods complement each other.
I think I have come to that saturation age where fictions have stopped being exciting. (God, I sound so old).
Guys, I am grieving.
I am grieving over the fact that I no longer have the time to read commercial fiction. When I finally do read fiction, I didn’t get the same kind of enjoyment that I used to get as a child (like any addiction, this is a symptom of tolerance, perhaps). Nothing surprises me anymore. I could guess the plot half-way into the novel that by the time I reached the end of it, I felt like “meh, is that it?”
I still remember how Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code amazed me throughout the whole time I was reading it when I was 20 years old. But his latest book ‘Origin’ that came out a few months ago, well, I just didn’t get the same kind of buzz from it. I imagine, if I were to read Origin at the age of 18 or 19, I would get pretty excited and couldn’t wait to discuss it with my sisters and friends. Now? I just went, “Same old, same old, Dan Brown!Can’t you create better stories? Ok… you are good at writing because you are Dan Brown. But why can’t I enjoy it as I used to? Is it you? Or is it me?”
I was just as upset with the latest book in The Millennium series ‘The Girl Who Take An Eye for An Eye.’ I was disappointed by how simple the plot really is. I used to feel really excited when halfway through the first novel in the series (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) I still couldn’t figure out who the culprit was. I even enjoyed the second, third and fourth instalment of the series. But this latest book felt flat and plain uninteresting to me.
Is this anhedonia, or what? (Hahah. But my appetite, sleep, function and most of everything else is normal. So don’t worry about me, ok).
Let me tell you how reading fiction used to feel.
I daydreamed about it at school. I prevaricated (read: lied to my father) that I had a kelas tambahan or latihan sukan at school so that I could get my reading time at my school library (I finished the whole Nancy Drew Series in Asma School library. And then I started on other mystery series by Enid Blyton interspersed with the series featuring Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators. All of them were read in the school library. Because at home, I had other academic tasks to do and would not be excused from them by my parents.) I hid library books that I hadn’t finished reading during recess, by placing the book in different shelves (in between revision books far away from the actual shelf it should be placed) so that other students would not be able to get to it until I was done with it. And the reason I did that was because most of the time, I had reached the quota of books I could borrow and therefore could not borrow any more. And thus, the only alternative I had was to hide the book from other students. (I was bad, bad bad. And I did that while being a school librarian *facepalm*. In my own defence, it was my elder sister who taught me to do it because she too had done the same thing. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures. Hahaha.).
In MRSM Langkawi, I became a school librarian again so that I could spend my time in the library for, ehem, librarian duties (haha) instead of having to be in the class for prep.
For birthdays and rewards, I wanted fiction. I saved half my school money to buy fiction every month. The anticipation was half the pleasure. Like I said, I daydreamed about them.
When I finally got my hands on the book I had been daydreaming of, the happiness was immense and intense. When I finally started to actually read the book, my mind was empty of other things. And I was transported to another land… I was there with the characters… doing all the detecting, thinking the same thing the characters were thinking or speculating, going through the same adventures, the same trials and heartaches and facing the same evil force. And when they triumphed at the end, it felt like it was me who had succeeded. Whenever something sad or something bad happened to me, I would remember to be like the heroes that I read; heroes don’t give up, they push harder until they win, they never give in to the evil force; if they die, they will die with honour while accomplishing a critical mission.
To me, reading fiction was all the motivation and inspiration that I needed.
I didn’t need to read books like “How to be happy in 10 simple steps”…. or “La Tahzan,”… or “Chicken Soup For Whatever”…I don’t think I would follow the advice in such books anyway (I know some people love reading non-fiction self-improvement, self-help and motivational books like that. And as a psychiatry doctor, you might think it is weird that I don’t read books like that. But to be honest, I was never able to finish such a book, alas)
Books like “7 habits of highly effective people”, I could never finish them! If I wanted to be effective, I thought of Sherlock Holmes. If I wanted to be kind and fair, I thought about Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mocking Bird). If I wanted to push myself to do the right thing and be firm, I thought about the story of Umar Al-Khattab.
I was motivated by stories. Not self-help books or motivational books.
So, a large part of my life was influenced by fiction. And I enjoyed them… so much…. until recently.
Well, actually, when I really think about it, I started noticing my lack of enjoyment since early 2016. I still loved reading fictions in 2016….but the feeling was not the same as when I was a teenager or even as when I was a HO. The level of enjoyment and excitement was not like before. It still gives me pleasure, but it wasn’t as intense.
Am I becoming jaded? ‘I have read everything, I knew everything, no author can surprise me anymore’ kind of jaded?
Or am I just finally grown up? Haha. Maybe all these while, I was still a kid trapped in a woman’s body. And now, my soul finally catches up with my physical body, wrinkles and all. Haha. (When you think about it, books are like my toys. If you ask a girl aged 4 years old about whether or not she would ever find playing with barbie dolls a boredom, I am sure she could not imagine being in the position of not loving barbie dolls ever. Because at 4 years old, that was the only thing she knew to find pleasure in. That was the only thing important enough at that age. Her world is small and limited. And in that limited world, Barbie Doll is the best! But when that girl reaches a certain age, barbie dolls will stop being entertaining anymore. Now, there are video games, and school sports and academic stuff to focus on. So her attachment to Barbie Dolls diminished. Maybe, I am just like that girl. It’s just that with me, because books are varied by different genres and different characters, it took me longer to detach myself).
In 2016… things happened that made me reevaluate how I used my time (like how I could have died in an accident that happened in Ramadan 2016; and when I survived the ordeal unscathed, I had wondered whether there are things in this world that I am supposed to accomplish that go far beyond fiction reading; things I must accomplish before I can finally meet my Maker)
And then there was the exam… I took my Part A in December 2016.
Since then… reading fiction makes me feel guilty. I used to be able to forget everything when I read… but now, even as I am reading Jeffrey Archer or Dan Brown, my mind was thinking about the house chores I haven’t done or the academic stuff I haven’t mastered, or the fact that I should visit my parents this weekend because last weekend I had already stayed at my house reading. It lessened my enjoyment of my fiction considerably because I just couldn’t be as absorbed as I used to. Adulthood, responsibilities… they stopped me from being absorbed… and therefore I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I used to. (Well, make no mistake. I am not saying I don’t enjoy reading at all now. Because I do… reading is still my number one hobby. I just didn’t get as much euphoria with it now.)
Then, there was also that soft whisper in my heart telling me that I could die tomorrow not accomplishing anything worthy in this life because I was busy reading fiction. That other people got involved in NGOs, doing charities, organising events for the greater good of the community… they were out there doing things that are good for others, that would benefit them in the hereafter. (I really do admire my friend Dr. T… she is so devoted to her NGO. Me? I have issues about committing to an organization. I am afraid of restrictions, ‘kepatuhan kepada pemimpin’ and group thinking and all that. In fact, I have trust issues with any hierarchical organization… I just don’t like it. I will avoid belonging to one if I can help it. But then, another friend of mine who knew my issues had recited to me an old African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together”. This is why people join NGOs or any organization despite all the hassles! Because they want to go far. Because they know they can’t do much to benefit the society when they are alone. But hah… my aversion to hierarchical organization always rein me in. Each and every time, I just couldn’t do it.)
I saw people who become the best at what they do because they spend the bulk of their time on their career. For example, maybe I should spend my time by doing a study on some aspect of psychiatry that I can then publish in a reputable journal. Maybe I should spend my time writing a book about psychiatry for lay people. Maybe I should do a vlog in you tube for education purposes. (I followed a few dermatologists who created a youtube channel talking about skin care and busting the myth of beauty products out there, educating their viewers with their knowledge so that their viewers can make better life choices. I mean, that is a very useful way to spend your time, right… by making educational videos and at the same time promoting your service at your practice! Such a clever and business-savvy thing to do!)
Below is an example of a dermatologist-youtuber, Dr. Davin Lim, whose videos I actually find very educational. He spends his energy on educating the public while at the same time attracting a lot of future clients to his private practice. That is brilliant marketing without being shallow or cringe-worthy.
Look at Neelofa guys! She is so successful. Maybe this is why people become successful… they focus their energy and their free time doing beneficial things that directly or indirectly propel their career and their life forward!
When Neelofa has an instagram account… that instagram account actually serves a purpose of promoting her product and herself as a brand.
Look at Vivy Yusuf… her instagram, her blog and her you tube channel all serve a purpose to promote her business.
And that’s why she and Neelofa made the Forbes 30 under 30 list last year!
Look at us, ordinary people. Our instagram and Facebook accounts are used just for fun. Not for career purposes or anything really meaningful. When Neelofa and Vivy actually update their accounts, there is a higher purpose to it other than simply updating or checking in just for ‘fun’ or just for the heck of it.
See? We waste our time! Our time and energy are scattered and unfocussed.
Maybe if I were a journalist or an English teacher or a novelist, I can justify how much time I spend reading fiction because reading fiction would inspire more ideas and improve my language command which I could then use in my career as a journalist/English teacher/ novelist.
But I am a doctor. I should spend more time reading doctor’s stuff, right? *sigh*
So either I give up reading fiction, or I change my career?
Or…. I must tell myself that I can only read fiction sparingly because there are other things that are more important in life that deserve my time more. And I have to make myself happy with just that! Happy with just sparing reading. (Can I do that?)
Can I be happy struggling with myself to read journal articles instead of commercial fiction? I don’t know. But the need for me to moderate my obsession is there… especially now that my enjoyment in reading is dimmed by my own realisation that I should spend my time better. That there are bigger things in life other than my own selfish enjoyment. (cognitive dissonance is really wreaking havoc with my ego! I am in the eternal battle between my id and my superego)
This really feels like a relationship break-up, you know. Actually, it’s like a divorce. Haha. (When I think about it, this break-up has been coming gradually for the past few years. I was just never ready to admit it. In fact, the crack started slowly in medical school even as my seniors were telling me that I should spend more time reading Islamic books. I have had attacks of cognitive dissonance on and off since then….but I held on because reading fiction was my first love. But I guess, I grow up now and have become more matured. Like the girl with the barbie doll. Maybe I am more ready to give up fiction now when I never was before.)
And therefore now, I am grieving. Because once upon a time, reading fiction has been a beautiful journey and experience to me. I said before how it shaped my character; it gave me my ideals and principles and philosophy. The fact that I could write a blog, compose a poetry and express myself in writing like this… I owe all of it to fiction reading. Once upon a time, when I was a kid, a teenager and a young adult, fiction reading was very important to me and I revolved my time and my life around it. I turned to fiction reading during times of sadness and tribulations as well as during times of happiness. Fiction reading to me is like a toddler’s version of a favourite blanket or a bantal busuk that the toddler needs when his mother is not around. To the toddler, the blanket and the pillow is a substitute mother that calms his anxiety when his mother has to leave him.
Fiction reading was my emotional crutch.
So this, indeed, feels like a break-up. Like I am saying good bye to a certain lifestyle I have always known.
But eventually, everyone leaves their attachment blanket and pillow behind. They have to… in order to mature and break away from their restrictive cocoon.
But I remember a story that has been told numerous times before that will console my grief. The story of rocks, pebbles and sands and how they all can fit in a glass jar. I admit now, my fictions have been my sands all these times.
It’s time to make more room for rocks and pebbles, eh?
I am really going to do this, insya-Allah. I am so ‘berkobar-kobar’ right now, that I will be surprised if you cannot feel my enthusiasm as you read my post. LOL.
But for now, I need some time to properly grieve. *sigh*
Adieu, compulsive fiction reading. Adieu!
I do feel quite moody lately. Is it because of the psychological withdrawal of not reading fiction? Haha. Been restraining myself from reading fiction since the start of the new year. (This is part of my new year resolution!) That means I have not been reading fiction for the past one month! Detoxifying from fiction is really full of suffering, guys. *sigh*
Now my replacement therapy is this non-fiction I am currently reading, a book on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy authored by Judith S. Beck (she is the daughter of Aaron Beck. Aaron Beck is the father of Cognitive Therapy, which is one of the most commonly used psychotherapy in the psychiatry field) which I had ordered online straight from the UK. So far, I am not bored yet because this is directly related to my work. But Wallahi, there are times when I seriously pine for the next mystery and thriller.
Ya Allah, grant me patience. Can’t do it without Your help.
She was not that bad. She was actually quite entertaining. I was, to be honest, totally flummoxed by the fact that there was a side of her I found quite engaging.
I must admit I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed her talk on that day. When I first saw her as one of the relatives of my patient many, many years ago, she was, quite frankly, a long, sharp thorn on my backside.
But on that day, she was in her element. She knew her stuff. She took questions from the audience and answered them well, full with comprehensive explanation. Pretty impressive, I must admit. Far from the image of an overbearing, fussy and difficult-to-please relative that I have always associated with her in the past.
When I told one of my colleagues about her the day after, she was full of disbelief. “Split personality?” She joked.
I shook my head, after reflecting for awhile. “Different context yields different persona. In different settings, you put on different masks. After all, that is exactly what persona means.”
Persona means mask. And just as the actor may change his mask and costume, so does the individual ‘seems’ to change. Deep inside, she/he may be NOTHING like the mask she/he puts on.
It is a scary thought, isn’t it? Because how do we know, which one of the many different masks truly reflects the person underneath?
During housemanship, I was with a bunch of HOs eating a late lunch when my friend had jokingly said, “I wonder macam mana husband specialist S ni boleh tahan dengan dia. Mesti husband and anak-anak dia depressed.”
Even when I was not yet a PSY MO, I knew that sentence was illogical. “Mana kau tahu dengan husband and anak-anak dia, dia akan jerit-jerit juga macam dia jerit dengan kita? Entah-entah solehah, mithali habis! Who knows dengan diorang, mungkin dia macam perempuan melayu terakhir.”
They thought I was being sarcastic, and they all laughed.
“My father behaved differently lately. He talked over the phone for hours at night and not sleeping. He started singing randomly. And lately he started buying that coffee for ‘kuat batin’. He is also divorcing my mother and plans to marry another person. You should have read his messages to his new girlfriend. It sickens me. I think he is manic.” Said one relative of a patient.
“Hmm…. but his so-called manic mood is not pervasive. He functions well. All his behaviour can be attributed to someone who is falling in love with another person.” Said the doctor who treated the patient but couldn’t see anything that can be attributed to any particular disorder.
“But this is not the father that I have known all my life.”
Look, do we know our parents in all the different contexts that exist in their lives?
Come on! You probably started having memory of your parents starting from the age of 4-5 years old. Before that, you were babies and you couldn’t really remember anything much. If you are a second child, and your elder sister is 4 years older than you at 8 years old, it means by the time you were 4 years old, your parents had been married for 8 years already (and that is if they had conceived your elder sister immediately upon marriage. Otherwise, they might have been married much longer before you finally have any memory of who they are as a person).
You have missed how your parents were when they were kids, themselves. How naughty they might be, for example. You might have missed how your parents were as a teenager. Maybe your father really was the ‘gedik’, over-familiar, licentious type of a person when he was drugged by love. So his whatsapp messages that sicken you now might simply be part of his premorbid personality. You don’t know how your father is among his friends and colleagues. (For example, an elderly mak cik was surprised that her elderly husband had belonged to a whatsapp group consisting of all his male ex-classmates. And the contents of the whatsapp group, said the makcik, was shameless and overtly sexual. She could not believe her husband and his friends could talk like that and when she confronted her husband, the husband just laughed it off by saying “orang lelaki memang cakap macam tu!” What the hell?? Won’t the mak cik’s childen be shocked if they knew? See? The kids do not know their parents in other contexts!)
Even a wife does not know how her husband behaves at his workplace! Her husband might be the flirtatious type who talks to all his colleagues and staffs inappropriately and when the wife finds out that her husband has an affair, the first thing the wife would usually say is “I never saw this coming!”
You see, she only saw her husband when he puts on the ‘husband’ mask at home. He has many other masks; one of them might happen to be‘the one that saja suka test market’ mask, for example. (A lot of guys like putting on this particular mask. An intelligent woman will never fall for it. It never fails to amuse me when I saw such mask being put on!)
I was a HO when I saw a married person in a superior position speaking inappropriately to his subordinates (in case, you are wondering, that subordinate was not me! I don’t think anyone would dare. I have that malignant vibe that scares everyone. I always make sure my boundaries are clear! I simply put on my ‘bitchy’ mask and people know to stay appropriate. This is actually my favourite mask, LOL.) And I remember thinking, “My God, aku ingat doktor-doktor ni busy, dan tak mungkin akan ada affair. Shit happens even in the hospital. Poor his wife.”
I learned to ignore such occurrences and thought to myself “this is none of my business. As long as you guys don’t do anything more than a verbal banter in front of me, I will ignore it and pretend I don’t know.”
But believe me, behind your back, people do talk.
I was impressed with my mother whenI saw the sort of respect she got as a senior midwife when I was in my 4th year and had followed her to her workplace in order to observe how Malaysian labour room worked. I went with her when she was doing her night shift at the hospital and I saw how hardworking she was and how knowledgeable. Before that night, I never knew that she was one of the trainers for midwifery and also an exam invigilator for midwifery exams. I saw how the junior midwives all consulted her, asking her to verify their VEs.
I saw my mother in a new light that night.
I was so used to thinking of her in the context of her being my mother. I loved her. I knew she loved me. She cooked delicious meals for me. She made sure I had everything I needed to be a good student. She worried for me when I fell ill. She pushed me to toe the line of etiquette when we had guests at home. Sometimes, she nagged at me when I didn’t do my house chores properly. She could be real fussy but still adorable. That was how I thought of her.
I never thought about her intelligence and competence as an experienced midwife. I knew my father is an intelligent person because he was the one who taught us our academic stuff when we were growing up; he was in charge of our academic discipline. My mother was not in-charge of our academic. She was in charge of cooking and cleanliness and shopping and stuff like that. Somehow, my mom’s intelligence was not something I consciously thought of, before that night. Whether or not she was an intelligent person, was neither here nor there because it wouldn’t change anything, in my short-sighted opinion at that time. She was just… my mom!
But that night, I saw her in a different context. I saw her in the midst of enjoying her conversation with her friends. She didn’t talk with them the way she talked with me and my sisters at home. At her workplace, she was the most senior midwife, someone with a level of authority (that didn’t show much when she was at home because my father was more dominant) and she was also someone’s friend. She was more light and carefree. Their conversation could turn silly too… and at times, my mom was downright hilarious. I never saw her as someone hilarious, before.
I was like, “Damn… I don’t know my own mother. All these times….” It was like I had been blindfolded before and now, someone had released my eyes from its oppressive covers.
I was glad I saw this side of her that night. I felt proud of my mother in the context of her as more than just my mom. I saw her as a person in her own right regardless of whose mom or whose wife she was. And that night, I truly saw her as an intelligent, competent and incredible woman.
Since then, I believe that a woman must contribute to the society to remind herself that she is more than just a wife and a mother. It might not even be a paying job… she might just be volunteering at the local surau or at any soup kitchen. But she must do something for the society in her own capacity. Even if she has a rich husband, she must do something to feel worthy in her own right as a person. Otherwise, people around her may underestimate her and do not truly SEE her… even as they love her.
No one can ever make me give up my work. I might not always be a doctor later… I might take an early pension or do something else.But I will always work in one way or another. It is what God created us for… “memakmurkan bumi, isn’t it?”
In a way, this is how you fulfil your purpose of life. By working!
When I was just a junior MO, I was upset by a talk given by someone in MMA regarding ‘housemen these days’. The talk was mainly about how the flexi hours would make HOs incompetent as an MO and they would be a burden to specialists later and so on and so forth. *rolled eyes*
When I was a HO, flexi hours were not yet implemented in full. I worked in on-calls for most of my Housemanship training. So, I didn’t feel personally attacked by the talk.
But in principle,I just hated “senior budget bagus”. Hahha. I have issues with seniors like that.
So I wrote a blog post entitled “Practicing Medicine In The Age of Doom and Gloom” and it went viral (unintentionally, of course). Some specialists had written on their facebook comments about my arrogance. I read that comment and I laughed out loud.
Sometimes, I wonder whether or not people really understand what the word arrogant really means. Do they just use the word to describe anyone who disagrees with them or anyone who retaliates to their own arrogance?
You were the one who had said that the juniors would never be as competent as you were because of the flexi hours system (isn’t that arrogant too?), and yet we were the ones who were arrogant when we defended ourselves against YOUR arrogance? (In psychiatry, this is called projection, ok!)
You were the one who shouted at HOs, enacting histrionic drama in the ward, and bullying HOs unnecessarily, (one particular specialist actually commented on HO’s clothing and make-up, deliberately embarrassing her in the rounds. How does her make-up or clothing in ANY way related to her work, you tell me. And one MO had said to another houseman, “You tak payah mai kerja kalau macam ni. Kenapa? Husband you tak dapat tanggung you?” How does her husband’s ability to support her become a topic related to her work performance? Ridiculous!) And when one HO decided that such unacceptable conduct should not be tolerated and then wrote about how she felt on her own blog, suddenly you thought the HO was arrogant?
Give me a break!
Why don’t you connect with her in a different context and behave better yourself, then maybe you will find her humble and nice. Maybe, she just refused to be nice to bullies! As simple as that!
It was Plato who had said, “the measure of a man is what he does with power.”
You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. So, you can judge whether or not a person is arrogant based on how the person treats someone below himself/herself. Is she nice to staff nurses, other HOs, other PPKs? Does she say thank you to her subordinates who had assisted her on-call or does she simply complain about HOs non-stop and didn’t bother to thank people who had helped made her life easier?
Some people can be polite to their superiors. And that is not surprising! Of course, a self-serving kaki-bodek would do so. But the same person can find so many things to complain about HOs in whatsapp groups non-stop, blowing things out of proportion.
Ifyou want to know who is arrogant, ask people of the lowest position in an organization. Don’t take the word of the highest echelon in the organization who might feel easily offended just because other people don’t meet his expectation of how much he should be respected. Sometimes, people don’t respect you out of your own doings and your own faults.
Who exactly are we?
If we take off the many masks that we put on in our daily life, who are we?
Depending on contexts, the person I am dealing with, how closely connected I am to that person, how annoying a person is (and many other factors), I too have masks.
Indeed, everyone does. It doesn’t mean we all have split personalities! It doesn’t mean that we have some sort of personality disorders or are manic or whatever.
When I was in my 5th housemanship posting, one specialist had said to me “You look so quiet! But in your blog, you seemed so outspoken.”
In my heart, I was like, “If you give me enough reason to attack, I can be that person in my blog, too. Give me enough reason… then watch me.”
Instead of saying that, I didn’t make any comment. I just laughed.
She asked “Did you write about me?”
“No…” I paused. “Not yet.” I added cheekily.
She laughed and said, “If you write about me, make sure you let me read it first. If I say ok, then you can put it in your blog.”
I never wrote about her. She wasn’t a bully.
I was just a houseman. Of course, I would pick my battle… and my main target in my daily houseman life was just to finish my job as soon as possible so that I could go home as soon as possible. I didn’t pick a fight for every single thing that annoyed me… I only picked up the ones that had crossed the boundaries into abuse of power and bullying.I didn’t seek unnecessary interaction with MOs or specialists. I only talked to them regarding work-related issues. I had no desire to socialize with them beyondthat. If I seemed quiet, it was because I had no reason to be noisy. Not yet.
That was my persona (my mask) as a houseman when dealing with MOs/specialists. The mask of quiet, reserved, not-excellent-but-good-enough-not-to-be-extended HO.
But among fellow HOs and friends who I already knew and felt comfortable with, I could be loud and opinionated (just like in my blog) and I could be the life of the party too.
And among fellow HOs or people I wasn’t really comfortable with, I would be back to being quite reserved.
But try crossing my principles (unnecessary bullying, unfair treatment of subordinates, unjust accusation, unreasonable demand for me to do something that goes against what I think is the right thing to do) you will be surprised at how fast I can change my mask. This is what my siblings say, “my lioness mask”.
Don’t wake the sleeping lion (or was it the sleeping giant? Well, something like that… you get the drift.)
Now as an MO, I maintained the same masks and the same boundaries between me, my HOs, fellow MOs and my superiors. I am friendly but firm with my HOs…. I have never shouted or unnecessarily scolded them. My instruction towards them is straightforward and easily understood. There is nothing I hate more than being nagged when I was a HO, and likewise, I refrain from nagging them. Among the many phrases that I refrain to say to them (no matter how tempting) was “during my time… (insert your budget-bagus sentence)”. Haha.
Even if I were to do that, it was not done in a way to patronize them, but more in a way to reminisce about how ridiculous some of the rules were when I was a HO. I am not jealous of their shift system. In fact, I look forward to improving working conditions for everyone and this is a good first step towards that.
With my superiors, I can take reasonable scolding especially if it is my fault. But if it is not my fault, I will certainly speak up and defend myself. Depending on the types of superiors I have to deal with, I mirror their attitude towards me. I can be friendly, polite, indifferent or even hostile, depending on how they themselves treat me. I am not an ass-kisser and never will be. If I am nice to my superiors, it must be because I genuinely like them as a person. Otherwise, I will give them basic level of politeness; just enough in order to work with but nothing more.
When it comes to my patient, since I am the one who see the patient first and clerk the patient fully at the emergency department, I know best whether or not my specialist made the appropriate decision regarding my patient (whether to admit or not admit the patient, for example). If they disagree with my judgment, they can just ask me the appropriate questions to ascertain whether or not the patient should be discharged or admitted. And if my answers all point towards admission, yet they still don’t want to admit the patient, then I would be quite upset. In my opinion, if I distrust the clerking of my HOs, I will see the patient myself and re-clerk the patient myself (my control issues, hahah). So, I expect that if anyone were to disagree with my impression of my patient, then rather than nagging non-stop over the phone, asking the same question over and over again no matter how clear I have been about my judgment, they should see the patient themselves. In fact, I think that is what being on-call is all about regardless of whether you are a HO/MO/Specialist/Consultant.
If a HO distrusts a SN’s report, the HO must go and see the patient herself rather than just ordering the SN to do something over the phone. If an MO distrusts or disagrees with a HO’s assessment, it is the most responsible thing for the MO to see the patient herself (and I always do that. Otherwise, I will put my trust in my HO! Rather than nagging non-stop to assuage my own anxiety). Likewise, if a specialist feels unsettled and feels dissatisfied with an MO’s assessment, I believe it is the responsibility of the specialist to see the patient herself! Why not? Otherwise, just trust the assessment ofyour MO, because she is the one who actually gets up from bed, drives to the ED, clerk the patient for a long time and facing the aggression of the patient and educates the family members for hours. If you are not willing to go to the ED yourself, then you really have no choice but to trust your MO’s report and manage the case according to her report.
No matter who you are (HO or MO or specialist or consultant), always remember that “No trust = go and do it yourself.”
This has been my mantra ever since I started working in 2011. That’s why we are on-call! (I will always remind myself that if I ever become a specialist, my MOs are not my sounding board to release my anxiety of my indecision. If I cannot decide, if some bits of the history are still not clear, I will do it myself!)
So my personality would seem different to anyone who knew me in a different context or in a different setting… and depending on how annoyed or benevolent I feel towards that person, I would of course behave differently. For a person to make an arbitrary inference of my whole character based on the limited context that the person had known me, would be inaccurate and sometimes, quite foolish.
So to my blog readers, do not expect me to behave the way you think I might behave in person just because you have formed an impression about me based on my writing. Just because you read my blog, it doesn’t mean you know me. You only know me in the context of me as a blogger. This is my blogger persona. In real life, I might not talk the way I write.So, don’t be surprised (the way the specialist in my 5th posting were surprised. Haha. She is one cute lady.)
You do not know me as a daughter or a sister, or a doctor or a friend. I choose what I want to write and what I want to share. It would certainly skew your perception of me. I might not tell you all my weaknesses and my flaws. But at least, you know my life philosophy, my principles and my thoughts.
No one really knows anyone, really! When you say you can get along with someone, you are actually getting along with his/her mask! One aspect of his/her personality was harmonious with yours. And that’s all. Nothing more than that. One day you might be surprised when you saw the same person in a different setting and find yourself unable to accept how she/he has behaved in that particular context. (Trust me, this is why the rate of divorce is increasing everywhere in the world. Because you find out later that you had married a persona.)
At the end of the day, you are not a sum of your many personas. Deep inside, you know who you are.
The only One who knows you truly and deeply is Allah.
He is the best of Judge. Other people’s judgments of your personas (your masks, really!) do not matter all that much.
So, let’s pray that He favors us on the day of judgment.
When I was just a young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, 1st year medical student, in the University of Newcastle, I got into a heated argument with another medical student regarding the issue of Palestine.
Jerusalem belongs to whom, was the matter of contention between the two of us in the Auchmuty Library that morning. It ended up with me feeling battered and stupid. In general, I hate losing a debate. I hate even more when I lose an argument on issues that matter a lot.
And on that day, I felt like I had lost this particular argument on Palestine. And Palestine matters. A lot!
You see, I was young and fiery. (ehem, I’m still relatively young but less fiery nowadays. Haha… I think). I had more sentiment than facts. And in the end, I lost because I didn’t have enough facts to back me up.
Every debater knows that excellent research is the most crucial aspect of your preparation before you engage your opponent in an argument. Not just any research… but excellent research. Your oratory skills, the inflection of your voice, your outward appearance…. they are merely the icing on the cake of your substantial facts! If you don’t have facts, you will most certainly lose regardless of how much charm you can ooze out of your pores!
However, in my own defense, I didn’t know that I was going to get into a debate of the issue on that day. (Or else I would have done my research like any good debater out there.)
It began as a normal day; me being in the library doing my studying and checking out the news from the internet in between. It began as a discussion on current issues and it so happened that the topic of Palestine cropped up between us. What began as a friendly discussion ended up in a heated snappy comebacks that I was totally unprepared for.
I wanted to educate him so that he could stop spewing biased, unlearnedviews regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict. I told him that historically, Palestine belonged to the Palestinians. I told him that Post-World War II, the British had given away Palestine to the Jews when the British had no rights to do so.
He came back at me vehemently and said “Come on! Who are you to say that Palestine belongs to the Palestinian? Just because your Quran says so? But according to the Bible and the Torah, that land belongs to the Jews. God gives the land to the Jews thousands of years ago. So which should we follow? The Quran or the Bible or the Torah?”
Okay, he had a point. Muslims cannot say Palestine belongs to them by making the Quran as their reference because then the Jews and the Christians will say Palestine belongs to them by making the Old and the New Testament as their point of reference. And we will then end up arguing in circles because neither party believes in the other’s holy book.
“No, I am not basing my argument based on anybody’s holy book. But historical facts show that the Palestinians had taken in the Jews who had escaped the Holocaust in Europe and welcomed them into Palestine in good faith. Before the Bristish Mandate, Palestine belonged to the Palestinians.”
He scoffed at me and said “And if you want to talk about history…. Sure, before World War I, Palestine was the land of the Palestinians. But thousands of years ago before it was the land of the Muslims, it was also the land of the Jews and the Christians. Before Umar won the war….Jerusalem did not belong to the Muslims, it was the land of the Christians! And then Umar won the war and Muslims then ruled Jerusalem for a time. And then during the Crusades…. the Christians got the land back from the Muslims. And after that, Salahuddin won the land back from the Christians! So historically speaking, should we establish who got the rights to the land based on who FIRST arrived on the land? Because it was not the Muslims who first arrived on the land! Muslims got it much later…because of Umar and Salahuddin!”
I knew I was losing the argument. He had more facts than I did.
He went on to ‘educate’ me in his patronizing tone, “In the case of the Palestine, the land is claimed by three major religions as theirs. Whoever conquers the land would own the land. Once upon a time, the Muslims had wrestled away Palestine from the Christians. And now, the Jews have wrestled away the land from the Muslims. So, whoever wins the land gets to keep the land. It so happens that at this time, the Jews are winning instead of the Muslims.”
In my mind, I hastily reviewed my knowledge on Palestine history. My brain was working in overdrive, trying to recall the historical chronology:
“Mula-mula Saidina Umar dapatkan Palestin, kemudian Palestin dirampas balik oleh Christians through the Crusades. Kemudian Salahuddin Al-Ayubi dapatkan kembali Palestin. Palestin kemudian memang dimiliki oleh orang Islam berkurun2 lamanya hingga Sultan Hamid II daripada Khalifah Uthmaniyah jatuh…World War I happened… Balfour Declaration 1917 happened ….after World War I, Kerajaan Uthmaniyah dipecah-pecahkan… Palestine jatuh ke tangan British and British Mandate in 1922…. Sistem Khalifah dibubarkan 1924….Then British bagi Palestine kepada Yahudi… Palestinian Exodus/ Nakba pada tahun 1948…. We lost the 6-day Arab-Israeli War 1967…”As I recited the chronology in my brain, I realized how patchy my historical knowledge really was. I didn’t know any real details in any real certainty… because I did not have the opportunity to do a proper and thorough research. And I am the sort of person who is very bad at bluffing or faking it when I don’t know something. I can only sound confident when I really am confident. And I can only be confident if I am convinced. And I can only be convinced if I have read the facts and done the proper research myself. (Other people telling me the facts do not convince me. I have to search and do it myself and read it with my own eyes. That’s my problem.) It is the process, you see! I need to go through the whole process of research before I can be convinced enough to be confident and to sound confident.That’s just how I am. (Yes, I am a control freak with trust issues! Hahah)
Unfortunately at that time, I did not have enough facts and I felt like a fool!
I broke a sweat and in my heart I knew “Aku tak boleh nak bagi argument bahawa Palestin tu milik orang Islam hanya kerana orang Islam lagi lama duduk di Palestin. Sebab sejarah Palestin ialah ia sentiasa direbut dan siapa yang menang, dia yang dapat. Aku tak boleh deny yang argument dia tu valid and logic. Damn, I am stuck!!”
At the end, I could only say to him “Fine, then don’t call the Muslims terrorist. They are trying to fight back for the land and when they win, the land will be theirs. Because according to your views, whoever wins the war for the land could claim the land. So, stop calling the Hamas terrorist while calling the Zionist as the victims. It is a war between them that is yet to end. It is the battle for the holy land.”
We went our separate ways after that. I packed my books, got out of the library and went back to my hostel at Edwards College, abandoning my plans to study in the library…because I knew I would not be ableto focus on my studying anyway. On my long walk back to the college, I was fuming with suppressed anger. Mostly anger at myself! I replayed in my mind the scene of our heated altercation. I analyzed where had I gone wrong.
And after awhile, I realized that from the very beginning I was destined to lose because I had taken the wrong angle. I had said, “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians.” I said that in a way that people would say “Tanah Melayu milik orang Melayu.”
The truth is, no land belongs to any particular race. That’s why “Go back to where you come from” isa stupid thing to say to someone . Once your ancestors have migrated to another land and breed generation upon generation there, then you belong there! But the land is not yours for you to deny anyone! You belong there…. but the land is not yours! You cannot tell anyone else to go back wherever….because it is not yours!
Can the Native Red Indians say to the White American to go back to the UK because America was originally their land? After all these centuries? Can the aboriginals say to the White Australian to go back to the UK because Australia was originally their land? After all these centuries? Can the Malays say to the Indians/Chinese to go back to India/China? After all these centuries?
Can I say, “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, so the Israelis should go back to wherever they came from before the World War I, before the Holocaust… back to Poland/German or wherever their ancestors had come from?”
It doesn’t matter how brutally unfair and cruel the method of land acquisition by your ancestors were (talk to the aboriginals in Australia regarding how the White Australians had murdered their native ancestors), but once decades have passed, and generation upon generation have existed in the land, then you belong there just as much as the generation of the original native.
If we were all to go back to where our ancestors came from… well, we all can trace our ancestors to Adam and Eve. And they had come from the heaven. And when you think about it, that’s where we all want to go back to…. we all want to go back to heaven. Right? In this world, we all come from the same ancestor, and therefore the same place… there is no particular place for anyone to go back to in this world. So no one should be able to tell us to go back to somewhere else! Once the migration process have fulfilled the legal requirements of the man-made law, you and your generation belong to the place you have migrated to. It is up to you and and your generation to make the best out of the migration…. to assimilate and integrate into the society as you see fit. (Many Muslims staying in the West have experienced numerous times being told to go back to the middle east. Haha. I myself had experienced such audacious rudeness when I was in Australia. So, next time some impudent rednecks shout at you “Go back to where you come from.” You can just say, “Yes, I am planning to go back to heaven where my ancestors come from. Thank you for your concern.”)
When I arrived at my room, I sat on my bed in silence while acknowledging to myself how stupid I was. I deserved to lose. Because my knowledge regarding Palestine was laughable! Spirit and passion alone would not win against cold, hard facts! I called myself as a Muslim… and yet my knowledge about Palestine was superficial at best, and paltry at worst! No wonder I had lost!
It was a wake-up call for me.
Maybe God wanted me to lose, I thought. So that I would learn. Just because I thought I was arguing for the right cause, it didn’t mean my lack of knowledge was forgivable. I had no business getting into an argument about something important like this without having enough substantial knowledge at the tip of my fingers and I knew it! (Oh yeah, how much I had learned on that day!)
It dawned on me that I should have taken the angle of justice. Not the angle of land belonging! Because no one can argue with justice! Whereas land belonging is something arbitrary and arguing on it will lead us nowhere.
I should have said, “Yes, throughout the history, whoever wins the war gets the land! But Saidina Umar had never stolen the homes of the Christians and gave them to the Muslims. Unlike what the Zionists are doing now… taking the home of the Palestiniansby force and simply giving them to the Jews without any rights, violating multiple International Laws countless times! Salahuddin Al-Ayubi did not terrorize the civilians, and did not bomb hospitals and holy buildings. In fact, he had reformed military and war ethics in his days. The land of the Palestine could have been shared by all three Abrahamic religions, and before the British Mandate, that was exactly what had taken place. All three major religions had lived in Jerusalem in peace. The Muslims even helped the Jews escaped from the Holocaust in Europe, remember?! Saidina Umar and Salahuddin Al-Ayubi won Palestine by winning the war with honour! Not through cruel trickery, savage land hijacking and barbarous land occupation.”
I should have said, “If you knew history so well, you would be familiar with the Covenant of Umar which was also recognized by the West. It was the assurance of safety by Umar to the non-Muslims after he obtained Jerusalem! And the history of Salahuddin Al-Ayubi with Richard the Lion Heart are stuff of legends that is also recognised bythe West….the history of Salahuddin has been made into numerous Hollywood films… showing that Muslims had dealt with the Jews and Christians with justice, integrity and honour! The issue of Palestine is not the issue of land belonging. It is the issue of justice!”
The Covenant of Umar
The text as reported by al-Tabari:
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety [aman] which the servant of God Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted. No Jew will live with them in Jerusalem.
The people of Jerusalem must pay the taxes (jizya) like the people of other cities and must expel the Byzantines and the robbers. Those of the people of Jerusalem who want to leave with the Byzantines, take their property and abandon their churches and crosses will be safe until the reach their place of refuge. The villagers [ahl al-ard, who had taken refuge in the city at the time of the conquest] may remain in the city if they wish but must pay taxes like the citizens. Those who wish may go with the Byzantines and those who wish may return to their families. Nothing is to be taken from them before their harvest is reaped.
If they pay their taxes according to their obligations, then the conditions laid out in this letter are under the covenant of God, are the responsibility of His Prophet, of the caliphs and of the faithful.
I wanted to smack my head. So typical of me to start having so many ideas about what I should have said after the argument was already done and dusted! It is too late for brilliant ideas now, Afiza. You lost! Accept it! Move on!
And I moved on. But this time, I moved on with an action plan.
I studied the history of Palestine. I attended talks about Palestine given by my alim, knowledgeable seniors who were dedicated members of IKRAM/ISMA. Every year they would organize the same talks and the same seminars for the new first year juniors and I never failed to join. (At that time, I did not yet join their usrah groups. I could not commit to it… I was cautious about committing to any particular group. But I always joined their Palestine seminars which was opened to the general non-usrah Muslims. I only started joining usrah when I was in my 4th year of Med school… when most of my friends already joined in when they were only in the first year. It took my seniors 4 years to convince me to participate in their usrah and finally my heart cracked open. Hahah. Yup… I am stubborn and I like to observe and think for myself and come up with my own conclusion before I commit to anything. I was afraid that if I commit to a group, then I cannot be free to think for myself. In psychiatry, this is called group thinking, although at that time I did not yet know what label to give to my hesitation to join them, until I learned about group thinking and group dynamics for my Part A exam last year. I was afraid that I would lose my identity and my freedom. Silly me, yeah? It turned out that joining them was one of the most enlightening episode of my life.I should have joined sooner. As I mentioned before, this is my problem. I don’t want to listen to others. I need to go through the process and come to the conclusion myself. And as a result, I always end up taking a longer, circuitous route… but I believe, this is also a more satisfying route, because I can say that I do something based on my sincere, heartfelt conviction! I am not just going with the flow, following the herd.)
I was intrigued by my seniors’ enthusiasm regarding the movement for BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanction). I stopped drinking Coke or eating McD. I chose Gloria Jeans over Starbucks. (Sadly, when I returned to Malaysia, my resolve is occasionally weakened, I must admit. There are times when I couldn’t say no to Coke. Or Starbucks. But at least, my frequency of buying them were heaps less than it would have been if I did not support the BDS. I still need to work on strengthening the muscle of my will. Sometimes I lost the battle… and I bought myself the Java Chip drink. Oh well.)
During Islamic Awareness Week, I prepared myself by reading on many hot issues (Palestine Issues, The Rights of Muslim Women, Terrorism In Islam, Polygamy, etc etc)so that I wouldn’t stutter and stumble when I answered the questions of non-Muslims as they gathered at our booth. It was part of my duty as the treasurer of the Newcastle Islamic Society to man the booth with a couple of other Muslim students. We created a timetable that would not clash with our classes and we took turns being in the booth, promoting Islamic awareness. This is something I would never have done if I were studying in Malaysia. It was in Australia that I learned to interact rather than making holier-than-thou religious preach. (I believe, that preaching doesn’t work, especially with people like me. Interaction does! If you want to change, it must come from within, triggered by an interaction you experienced with someone. I was triggered to learn about Palestine because of my interaction with someone who had made me angry….in other words, I changed NOT because someone had preached to me. Something MUST happen inside myself first.)
When I was in my 4th year, one of the seniors asked me whether this time, I would like to be the presenter for one of the Palestinian talk for the juniors. I said yes, I would do it. In my talk, I went through the history of Palestine which I had taken special care to know and understand inside out (after that humiliating encounter when I was in my first year) and in my talk I took particular steps to highlight on how we should tackle the issue of Palestine when we talk to the non-Muslims.
See? There was a reason I lost the argument… so that I would be motivated to learn my stuff properly and pass on the knowledge.
It is true that we learn more through failures than successes.
I wasin my 5th year when the Gaza Flotila Raid by Israel occurred in 2010. The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was a civilian ship bringing aid to the Palestinians, were attacked by the Israel Navy in May 2010. The attack by the Israel Navy was bravely resisted by the civilians on the ship; nine activists died and many were wounded. Some of them on the ship were Malaysians.
I was about to face my final exam at that time, dealing with a lot of stress and pressure. But when I read on the tragedy in BBC news and Al-Jazeera, I realized that nothing about this world was worth feeling stressed about. “Other people in other parts of the world are fighting for their livelihood with courage and honour! And here I am, thinking that my life is so hard just because I have to face an exam! You should be ashamed of yourself, Afiza.” I had berated myself.
And today, after a few days of nursing my anger and resentment towards Trump,to quote Celine Dion, “it’s all coming back to me now”. How when I was a medical student, I had promised that I would not lose my interest in the Palestinian cause. How I had promised that I would do something worthy as a Muslim just like those activists in the Mavi Marmara had done. How I had promised I would try to persist with my boycott.
Well…. I did break those promises. Shamefully, I did.
I think, my spirit has lost its fiery enthusiasm since I returned to Malaysia. I am back to my pre-Australia selfish self who did not care about things other than myself and my career and my exam. I couldn’t remember the last time I clicked on the website ‘The Electronic Intifada’, which I used to visit every day when I was a medical student. And nowadays, I am not that strict with my boycott anymore.
My God….truthfully, I have lost my idealism after housemanship. I am no longer that wide-eyed, bushy-tailed eager youth so many years ago who had cared about the suffering of other Muslims.
What have happened to me? I wonder, sometimes.
I guess, housemanship happened.
Adulthood and responsibilities happened.
Life happened… we drifted apart.
I lost contact with good people of good hearts. Some of them are still in Australia, continuing to educate new juniors, building foundations for future leaders who, hopefully, would not forget to care.
Maybe Trump’s announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the new capital of Israel could jump start my idealism and enthusiasm all over again….
Maybe this anger and restlessness would fuel me to stop dreaming, start reading useful materials and stick to reality. (I still remember the soft voice of my senior when she said, “Cubalah Afiza baca buku pengisian juga. Muslim ni berjiwa besar… dan dia kena ambil berat benda-benda yang besar.” Maybe that was why I didn’t want to join usrah in the first place. I knew I was not ready to change. I knew that when I finally joined them, I would feel the pressure to change… but I didn’t want to.)
I know I should read again the history of Palestine that I had forgotten. Read the sirah! Read on jihad and struggle!
I know I should read real stuff…
So that perhaps, I would start caring again.
Because The Chronicles of Jerusalem is still ongoing; its journey is long and torturous, fraught with trials and troubles. But like all other great chronicles of the world, its ending is promised to be sweet and victorious.