Of UPSR And Exams In General

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

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

15032156_10154253278319107_161646901538030918_n
This picture is courtesy of a friend of mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

screenshot-2016-11-17-21-36-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

But ONLY something.

NOT everything. NEVER everything.

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

Dedicated To The Love of My Life

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

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

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

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

look-like-dad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes?”

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

“What makes you say that?”

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

I laughed.

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

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

“Kak Ngah dengan Kak Long buat apa?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Mana rotan ayah simpan atas almari?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jaga cucu ka?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I remain, your adorably loving daughter.

What If? (The Exam Musings of A Panic Psychiatry MO)

What If?

What if it doesn’t work out,
What if all my dreams shattered,
buried under layers of shroud,
What if I come home battered,
or become  lost in the crowd,
Nothing to show for my effort,
But bruised, bleeding pride.



Ah…but someone wise had once
Whispered to me with love,
"I’d rather with danger prance,
Roughshod ridden, punched and shoved, 
Than with cowardice partnered in a dance,
Still with nothing much glorious to prove."



So, with those words of thought,
I bit my lips in a monologue,
“What if I fall... but what if I fly?" 
“I want to live...but what if I die?”
Will I take the chance? 
Or wonder for decades hence?



“My love, would you merely wait to exist,
in the life of no risks and 'what if?'
Or  would you prefer to thrive, to live,
With "oh well, next hurdle please,"


Thus, courage becomes my reprieve
Be gone, oh, the fear of 'what if'
Give me a lifetime of ‘oh well’
Because the chance of heaven after hell
Lies in facing the question of 'why not'
Because at last, all shall die and rot
The life of this world easily beguiled
One day as you say goodbye, do it in style.

-Afiza Azmee-

And so it went that I paid RM3000 examination fees to Royal College of Psychiatrist a few weeks ago.

After all that musings, angst, self-doubts and poems…I thought to myself, I have to take this step. Part with my money and risk failure. *sobs sobs*

If you know anything about my personality type, INTP, you would know that we hate failure. And that’s why we obsess about stuff. It’s not healthy. Nowadays I have controlled that tendency to a manageable level. That’s the perks of being a Psych MO; we manage our own anxieties and fears ourselves and pray it doesn’t seem obvious to others. Hahah.

Rudyard Kipling had once written the beautifully insightful poem entitled ‘If’. It has become a coming-of-age poem that every school student memorises at one time or another. I love that poem to bits. It is a poem about having a sturdy moral compass; how to conduct oneself in life. So when I wanted to write about my fear of failure, I naturally chose the theme of similar colour. Adding ‘What’ to the ‘If’.

I wrote this poem ‘What If’ because this is my weakness. ‘What If’ is my automatic negative thoughts in any new life direction that I contemplate taking. What If is always in my mind. I would never take the next step if I cannot  make sure that I have a pretty good chance of an excellent ‘What If’ in store for me.

You see, the thing is, I am very satisfied with my life. I see no reason to change things the way they are. I love my work, I love going back to my house relaxing, reading fiction, writing poems/stories, playing with cats. I mean, why would I want to change things the way they are? Why should I purposefully make my life difficult? I don’t have to be a specialist to be happy. I am just as happy now. Hahah. In fact, there is a high chance that the process of becoming a specialist (the wasted money if I fail, the rigorous studying, the withholding of pleasurable activities for exams) would burn me out and make me less happy. Right?

But sometimes, you can’t be more than you potentially should by remaining satisfied. That’s  the self-actualisation part of Abraham’s Maslow motivational theory. (Damn, the theory is accurate! When I was a HO, I thought I would be satisfied just being an MO…I mean, I don’t have expensive needs. My salary is more than enough for a modest lifestyle and an occasional luxury. I really don’t need a lot to be happy, you know. But Maslow had anticipated that people would never be satisfied for long. At the top of the hierarchy of needs is the concept of self-actualisation…the need to be the best of what you potentially can be. How to self-actualise if you cannot do what you want as a doctor because you have to follow what your specialist says regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with him/her? When that happens too many times,  you will feel like “damn it, I wanna be a specialist and then I can make my own decisions.” Self-actualisation is empowering, and that’s why it’s in the top hierarchy of needs!)  

So, I have no choice. I have to take this exam…take this first step to becoming a specialist. Even if I am risking hard-earned money and battered pride in the process. (Failure is quite a high possibility. Not many of my acquaintances had passed this exam, previously. And they are quite smart,  themselves. I am really quite apprehensive about this. Which is why I wrote this poem. For a psychiatry MO, I am really not that good at talking about my own feelings unless I disguise it in a literary piece of poems or short stories. I am like Taylor Swift, in that sense. Hahha)

While writing the above poem, I talked to myself like a psychotic patient in the midst of a severe hallucination: “Let’s live the life of ‘oh well, I tried’… than the life of ‘what if'”

P/S: Still, my heart aches a bit when I see the balance in my bank account.  Oh, well. 

A Rose By Any Other Name… (2)

screenshot-2016-10-22-10-51-00

So many of my acquaintances had shared the facebook status above and it appears in my newsfeed, boiling my blood anew. Below is my own comment, in response to this status.

screenshot-2016-10-22-11-05-19

 

I am frustrated and disappointed. That so many of my friends cannot see eye to eye on this.

Some of my close friends and my family members do see the way I do. But unlike me,  they are the silent ones.They have their own opinion, but they don’t feel the need to comment and spread the truth.

I have mentioned before, that people care about different things in life and it is okay. Not everyone has to behave like I do, or else the society would always be in a state of arguments and debate. Hahaha.

Some must be the diplomats in the society, preserving harmony by ignoring their own opinion and ‘appear’ to be sweet and nice. They sacrifice the need for their version of truth to be heard, preferring to maintain the status quo of harmony and tranquility. That is actually admirable in its own way.

Some must be the feelers in the society, who makes caring about other people’s feelings as their main priority, making ‘saying the truth’ as something secondary. That’s okay (I guess, hahah. But will I choose people like this as a close friend, as my companion? Of course not. We don’t have similar wavelengths. You go along and do your thing. And I will continue to do my thing. Adios! All the best!)

But society also needs someone who is predominantly a straight talker. And that’s me. That’s Wardina. That’s Dr. MAZA. And people like us will always be thought as someone who “dia asyik ingat dia sorang betul.” Like we are arrogant… but that’s not it. We place truth and sincerity as our main priority and feeling is secondary. That’s all! We will take care of your feelings as long as it does not compromise the truth!

Blame it on my INTP trait. INTPs gift the world with radical honesty. And people are not always comfortable with that.

So I posted my facebook status above, knowing that many of my friends online do not see eye to eye with me. Because I need people to open their eyes and understand the essence of our religion. How beautiful it is. How logical, how intelligent, how intellectually appealing it is….and that’s why it is beautiful. If Islam is represented this way, there would be many non-Muslims in Malaysia who will be attracted to Islam.

Isn’t it ironic? In a Western country in which they have no pro-Islam policies, amidst all the negative propaganda, people still convert to Islam almost every week. But in our own country, where resources are being distributed for Islamic propaganda, the apostasy (murtad) rate is worrying. Some don’t even bother to declare themselves as an apostate but simply stop practicing. The beauty of Islam cannot shine through layers of bureaucratic dirts we have piled upon our religion!

I learned to appreciate Islam in Australia. Not in Malaysia! That is the irony.

That irony is most hurtful. And so writing about this becomes my catharsis.

So, here it is, A Rose By Any Other Name (2). You may agree or you may disagree, but know that this is me, being a straight talker, gifting you with my radical honesty. You might not like the gift, but I insist that you should have it. This is me being sweet. If I don’t care about you, I wouldn’t have bothered to explain myself. But I do. Care about you.

So, yeah…who says I can’t be sweet?  *wink, wink*

A Rose By Any Other Name…

I couldn’t bear it.

Intelligent Malays are in hiding. Meanwhile, those intelligent Malays who came out of the closet are being treated like they are weirdos. But if the majority are stupid people, then the intelligent minority would be perceived as weird by the stupid majority. That’s a no brainer. Poor Wardina, Ustaz MAZA….they are always being looked at as different in Malaysia because they are the ones who actually dare to come out of the closet! Nowadays, proclaiming your intelligence by going against JAKIM take courage! Because you would be instantly perceived as anti-religion instead of anti-stupidity that has no basis in Islam.

I tried to stop myself. I tried (very hard) not to write about this because I have written about this so many times, I have lost count. But I couldn’t stop myself. These are issues that fire up my soul. I am passionate about truth. About justice. About fairness. About social equality. About things having to follow universal ethics.

What is wrong with religious authority in Malaysia? Why are they SO STUPID!!  (There! I have said it! Damn it!)  And this is where people would start saying I am arrogant. (And I am not!)

cedb5d10-db35-414d-b06e-da330ad0555d-400
This came out in the International magazine, TIME! How is this not embarrassing! It looks as though Muslims are so anal retentive (or so stupid) that we can get easily confused  when we call our sausages as hot dogs! This came out in TIME, BBC , Channel News Asia and God knows how many others!

I don’t think I am arrogant towards the poor, the needy or even towards my subordinates (HOs, nurses, clerks). I am usually perceived (perception is not necessarily the truth) as arrogant by authorities (teachers, seniors, some MOs and specialists when I was a HO). I don’t need to turn up my nose towards those below me because they are not the ones who would impose their authorities and their opinions on me. To THEM, I have no reason to be arrogant to because I am not subject to their unreasonable whims and desires!

It is with the authorities that I usually have problems with (and this runs in the family; from my father, to myself and my sisters. We are all very stubborn people when we believe we are right. We are stubborn even with each other. Hahah. It is one of the reasons my father quitted the government and went into business.)

Whenever I have problems with the authorities,  it is always either because I think they have faulty opinions, inefficient way of doing things or simply wrong in what they say and how they conduct themselves! And they are the ones who would have problems with me. I almost never have any problems with my subordinates… it is the authorities I really cannot stand! It must be in my genetic make up or something. Hahah.

***

images-2

Shakespeare had famously written ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ in his Romeo and Juliet play. It means, outward appearance and outward persona do not matter. We should prize substance over form.

Shakespeare is brilliant. (Some had even speculated  that his real name was Sheikh Zubair, possibly a Muslim. But that is a speculation and a debate for another day. But taking my lesson from the great man, I say “Shakespeare by any other name would still be as brilliant.” Haha)

A hot dog by any other name would not be any more halal than it already is. If the process of making the hot dog is halal, then the hot dog is halal. If it is made from haram meat and through a non-halal process, then calling it as a sausage instead of a hot dog would not make it less haram or more halal.

Learn from Shakespeare!  Substance over form! Character over persona! This is very simple!! Such a simple concept that if I were to teach it to primary school kids, they would get it! You would think someone in JAKIM would be more intelligent than primary school kids, won’t you?

screenshot-2016-10-20-23-17-17

This is the reason I love Dr. MAZA. Intelligent, sharp, on point!

I think brilliant students should be sent to learn the religion. We shouldn’t let only less brilliant students take up religious studies. Not all brilliant people should take medicine, engineering and accountancy. We need brilliant people in the religion as well! (But the fact is, most of my naughty primary school friends were sent to Sekolah Agama Secondary School by their parents in the hope that they would turn out well. And all the good-mannered brilliant kids continue their studies in Asma/SBP/MRSM during my time. And the trend continues. The straight As students get to be doctors, engineers, architects. The straight Bs, some Cs students can only further their studies in social sciences…. including the religious line. Some drug addicts were sent to Sekolah Pondok…. in the hope that they will be religious. So why are we so surprised if they end up becoming ustaz who spewed up nonsensical stuff like this? Well! I am not saying that all of Sekolah Agama students are not brilliant. But when they ARE brilliant, they continue their studies in medicine or law or engineering… instead of Syariah, Pengajian Sunnah etc etc) 

Dr. MAZA was a best student in his schooling days! And it is reflected in how he comes up with his opinion in most issues. He was educated in Jordan… but also studied in Oxford afterwards. He pursued his religious studies to the level of doctorate! His mind is broadened by knowledge and travel! He is the religious figure who rational, logical Muslims would gravitate to because his explanation makes sense and is appealing to our fitrah that NEED things to make sense, to be fair, to be just. Ustaz Harizal was also a best student and he is also brilliant. But they both are the minorities among Malaysian Religious Authorities, unfortunately.

I also, personally like Wardina. She had addressed this issue in one of her facebook statuses. I can feel the wave of frustration engulfing every cell of her body, coming from every syllable of her writings. Because  I feel the same way. I am tired of feeling frustrated! Exhausted! If I am still in Australia right now (where Wardina currently resides), I wouldn’t know how to show my face in the lecture hall. This is embarassing….our tiny minds made us a laughingstock overseas.

14611014_682682421887220_1048184229277989887_n

And then we lament the fact that Muslims are not respected! Well, look at ourselves! If I, a proud Muslim, can’t respect JAKIM who claims to represent the interest of Muslims in this country, then what makes you think that non-Muslims would ever respect us?

Our own so-called religious representative is laughable, for God’s sake!

And when a professor herself cannot see the truth, even I give up! Below are the words of a Professor Madya! I give up! (well, not really. The fact that I am still ranting about this means that I am not giving up! Hahaha)

Puan Wardina Safiyyah seharusnya memahami JAKIM sebagai badan yang diamanahkan untuk menguruskan pensijilan halal makanan mempunyai peraturan dan “standard operating procedure” yang telah lama ada. Sudah banyak syarikat makanan yang “comply” dengan peraturan JAKIM tanpa kita sedari eg A&W Coney Chicken yang berasal dari Coney Dog. Tidak boleh lah mereka bersifat “inconsistent” dalam peraturan mereka. Tambahan pula budaya Malaysia berbilang kaum, sudah tentu kita terdedah kepada banyak jenis makanan dari kaum lain yang mungkin ada nama resepi mereka berasal dari bahan yang dilarang oleh agama.Tidak wajar juga kita sebagai pengguna mula mempertikaikan peraturan institusi agama di negara kita hanya kerana “malu” pada publisiti media asing, yang jarang benar memihak kepada kita, dan membuat tajuk yang menyimpang dari isu asal. Kebenaran agama itu tidak terletak kepada “endorsement” pihak media asing. Sebagai seorang Muslim, seorang rakyat Malaysia kitalah yang wajar menerangkan pada pihak lain tentang peraturan di negara kita dengan sebaik-baiknya.

As a psychiatry MO, when I read her words, I already know one thing : She doesn’t get past the stage of Conventional Morality. Lawrence Kohlberg was right. Only 10-15% of people ever get to the stage of Post-Conventional morality. Not even a professor is guaranteed to ever have the sort of mind to be able to reach this stage.

image1

Her words  such as “Tidak bolehlah mereka bersifat inconsistent dalam peraturan mereka” (what if the peraturan is wrong, in the first place?). Words like “Tidak wajar juga kita sebagai pengguna mula mempertikaikan peraturan institusi agama di negara kita” (what if the institution did not create a good rule and a good SOP in the first place? Your SOP is NOT Allah’s words. They are not sacred and they are changeable! But of course, someone who never gets to the stage of Post-Conventional Morality will never understand that!)

And then she TOTALLY missed the point by implying that the only reason Wardina is opposed to Jakim’s latest buffoonery is because she is embarrassed by the International coverage of our stupidity!  Madam, we are not embarrassed to defend Islam against feminists who frowned upon our hijab. We are not embarrassed to defend out religion against extreme right-wing politicians who accuse Islam as the religion for terrorists. We are not embarrassed to defend Islam in issues like polygamy, inheritance, syariah and jurisprudence. During  Islamic Awareness Week in Australia, I stood up inside our booth to talk to Australians about Islam… and it was proudly done. I did not need nor want the approval of the West. And I believe, so did Wardina.

The reason we are embarrassed is NOT because  we want to kiss the ass of the Western media! No! We are embarrassed because Jakim who claimed to represent Islam in this country is wrong and foolish in their statements and conduct, which have no basis in Islam! It reflects badly on Islam! That’s why we are embarrassed!

You totally missed  the point! You assumed (wrongly!) about what Wardina meant by being embarrassed (as though Wardina was embarrassed about Islamic values; when in actual fact, you failed to discriminate between Jakim’s foolish SOP and actual Islamic practice. Wardina is embarrassed about JAKIM. Not about Islam! Takkan tu pun tak faham!), and then you dare to ‘advise’ (macam baik) that ‘kebenaran agama itu tidak terletak kepada ‘endorsement’ pihak media asing. Sebagai seorang Muslim, seorang rakyat Malaysia, kitalah yang wajar menerangkan pada pihak lain tentang peraturan di negara kita dengan sebaik-baiknya’  (ayat umum yang benar, diaplikasikan pada konteks yang salah. And by doing that, you can make make yourself sound like you are right. It’s a cheap trick that all competent debaters are familiar with!)

Seriously, this is not only a failure in the attainment of Post-Conventional Morality, but also a failure in basic comprehension. Khalas!

So if a professor cannot grasp this simple concept, what hopes do we have in our general public?  Seriously!

When you read the comments from the general public in facebook, there were so many supporters of the professor’s words. It boggles the mind! It scares me to know that there are so many Muslims who are so irrational and fail basic comprehension. They think they are religious but actually they are not! These supporters would write comment such as “Wardina ni asyik rasa dia betul. Pi jadi ustazah lah. Dia ni rasa dia lagi pandai dari ustaz and JAKIM” (Again! The words of someone who failed to reach post-conventional morality!)

Fortunately, I could see that there are also many supporters in the page of Dr. MAZA and Wardina. It relieves me to know that there are just as many people who are rational and intelligent among us Malaysian Muslims.

Our general public’s lack of critical thinking reflects badly on our education system, in my opinion. What do the kids learn at school that they grow up into adults who fail basic comprehension?

Dear parents, if you want your kids to be critical in dealing with issues, please talk to them about worldly matters and what’s in the news. Don’t simply entertain them layan kartun and dramas. Don’t be too frivolous. Talk about issues that matter! Ask them regarding their opinion about politics/ religion/books. Shape their minds. Enrich their internal world. Encourage them to read! Don’t delegate the task of educating their minds to teachers at school. Teachers are anal-retentive about finishing the syllabus (because the ministry put them up to it). They teach your kids WHAT to think; not HOW to think! They give your kids fish, but your kids need the fishing rod!

If you want your kids to grow into a well-mannered kid, don’t simply put them in a Maahad Tahfiz Hostel at the age of seven years old and think your job is done! Just this week, I have a case of one kid who was put in a religious hostel at the age of seven years old. Too young!  Now, he is already 10 years old. And he developed depression since the age of 8 years old but no one ever knew until now! The only reason he came into my attention was because he was abused by his father (who is also a Ketum abuser) and the case was referred to me. Isn’t it ironic? A ketum abuser who abused his own child claimed that the reason he put the kid into a religious hostel at the young age of seven was because he wanted the kid to grow up religious! With that sort of reasoning, I would expect the father to be a decent human being himself; certainly did not expect such a father to be a ketum abuser who kicked his kid and hit the kid’s head against the wall!

You would expect that a kid would not form any attachment to an abusive father. Perhaps, it was better for him to be placed in a hostel, right? At least, that’s what most people would think. But heck, kids do form attachment even to an abusive parent. They still crave love and attention from the same parent who abuse them. It may not be understandable, but that’s a fact of life and there is nothing we can do about it. And the kid has been feeling rejected since the age of seven years old (because he was placed in a hostel), and then he developed depression. Is there anything more heartbreaking, than a small child who should have no other worries in life other than learning and playing with friends, yet is dealing with depression and struggling with low self-esteem? This is just so sad. And as usual, when I feel sad, I become angry instead. I ranted to the mother about the father’s lack of fatherhood qualities and urged the mother to take the child out of the religious hostel. God, I was pushy. Usually, I can hide my pushiness with some tact of diplomacy. But that day, I couldn’t help myself. The mother is in the process of divorcing the father and I urged the mother to place the child in sekolah kebangsaan ASAP, regardless of what the father thinks. The mother agreed. And I am satisfied.

You yourself is responsible to educate your child to be religious, to be moral, to be intelligent! Do you think teachers can replace the parental attention that your child needs from you? Teachers are not gonna give your kids any special attention over the rest of other kids in the school. Teachers are not as personally invested in the well-being of your kids the way you would! When you put them in a hostel at such a young age, you miss the opportunity to shape their characters and their minds. Teachers can only do so much. It is your responsibility!

Don’t let them grow up into someone who cannot attain post-conventional morality secondary to lack of intellectual stimulation! Teachers can’t stimulate their brain to the extent that you can as a parent! Your kids can turn out to be professors, doctors, engineers, lawyers, clerks, factory workers, cleaners…whatever.

But they may never attain post-conventional morality. Because they were not stimulated enough! Even a cleaner might have an instinctive grasp of post-conventional morality than a professor. Truly!

In the world of intellectual pursuit, it would be a tragedy to have gained the title form of a professor without the substance of an intellectual!

These types don’t deserve to remain in the ivory tower of academia.

I leave you guys with a screenshot of my own Facebook status regarding this issue. I just couldn’t help myself. Haha.

Until next time.

screenshot-2016-10-21-00-05-11

The Ideal School

bdbc

I was horrified when I first read the above issue. I have been following the issue quite closely and pray that justice would be served for the sake of all parties involved.

What I couldn’t understand was why Ustaz Kazim then lodged a police report against Wardina and Syed Azmi?  Why had he accused them of ‘mencemar nama baik beliau’ when they never mentioned his name or his Maahad Tahfiz in their facebook posts? Granted, they did highlight the issue of sexual abuse in one Maahad Tahfiz in Malaysia, but the actual name of the Maahad Tahfiz was never mentioned. It was Astro Awani who had mentioned the specific Maahad Tahfiz in relation to the sexual abuse allegation.

Are we supposed to sweep issues like this under the carpet and allow sexual predators in our society to run amok despoiling our kids?

The reaction of Ustaz Kazim Elias disappoints me but I guess I should not be so surprised. As I have mentioned before, there are very few religious leaders in Malaysia that I actually trust and respect. Ustaz Kazim was not in the list, anyway.

It’s so typical that when ‘orang awam’ say the truth or question something against a religious figure, they would be labeled as ‘arrogant’, ‘angkuh’ etc etc. It makes my blood boil, sometimes. Anyone who questions your authority is angkuh, is it? Ugh!

Untitled-3

***  

“Kak Long, have you chosen a school for Eshan? Would it be an all-boys school or a co-ed?” I asked my elder sister one day.

My sister is a statistician and she teaches in UPSI in Tanjung Malim. (Her doctorate was in medical statistics and she always told me that I should write a paper and collaborate with her. We always fantasize that one fine day we would produce a paper “Azmee, Azmee, et al.” Hahah)

There really isn’t much choice of schools around Tanjung Malim, alas.

I did not ask whether she wanted to put my nephew in a Maahad Tahfiz or sekolah agama because I knew that would not be an option.

I don’t think my family is secular. I think we are religious in our own way. We have faith and we practice the basic tenets of Rukun Islam. However, we believed after we understood. We have problems accepting things just because it was spoken by someone without any proof or reasoning. (and some teachers can never get it). By the way, believing without really understanding, is not real faith, anyway right? So how worthy is that sort of belief in the eyes of God? God Himself had emphasized and reemphasized “afala tatafakkarun”. Tidakkah kamu berfikir? God did not ask you to have automatic faith and mindless obedience. He wanted your mind to be engaged as well. You have to wonder, and think, and find out. And only then you can be firm in your belief. You can’t just read the Quran in arabic without ever bothering to read the translation, and then suddenly think that ‘reading Quran everyday’ is good enough.  Granted, it is better than not reading the Quran at all. But God did not reveal the Quran to our prophet so that you can sing the words in rhythms without understanding the message that you are meant to internalize in your daily living.

When things don’t make sense, you have to find out! How can you justify how much research you have done for your thesis, painstakingly making sure that every sentence in your thesis has been checked out and properly referenced and all the evidence scientifically documented…. and yet for something as important as your religion and faith, you can simply believe just by hearing some ustaz/ustazah say something that doesn’t make sense.

Would Allah be proud with that sort of mindless belief, you think?

I don’t know how a religious school function. But I trust SMAP Labu and SMAP Kajang kind of religious school rather than private Maahad Tahfizs. (I might be biased out of my ignorance in how they function. But after the recent issue of Ustaz Kazim’s Maahad Tahfiz sexual abuse scandal, I get even more hypercritical towards these sorts of religious schools)

My sister and my brother-in-law trained their kids to be inquisitive. I cannot imagine any traditional religious teachers would be able to cope with Eshan and Aayra’s questions. Aayren is still an infant and thus I could not yet discern her temperament, but if she took after her elder brother and sister, she too would be a handful to handle. Between Eshan and Aayra, I worried about Aayra more because she is the rebel. At 3 years old, she could stand her ground like nobody’s business.The harsher you are with Aayra, the more stubborn she becomes. She is easily won over by praises and soft words, though. So I would always tell her how beautiful she is and what lovely hair she has, appealing to her vanity. Hahaha. It works every time.

With Aayra, I am worried that teachers would not understand her  and would construe her silent contemplation as quiet protest or her sincere inquisition as her loud mutiny.

With Eshan, I am worried that he would be bullied. He is so mild-mannered, and so easy-going. When one kid at his taska had slapped his cheek, he did not cry or hit back. Instead he asked “why did you hit me?”, as though it was something to be intellectually curious about. The same thing happened when Aayra hit Eshan. Eshan would frown and said “Why Aayra hit Eshan? Eshan tak buat Aayra pun. Aayra ni lahh….” Then he continued to play like nothing happened.

I had never asked my sisters why they hit me when we were children. I just retaliated straight away. We would hit each other until one of us cried or my parents broke up the fight. Usually, I wasn’t the one who cried. It would always be my younger sister who cried first, and then I would be the one who seemed guilty because I hadn’t cried. I had told my parents once, “I can cry too, then you have to scold her also.” Hahha. (I was quite sarcastic. But what I really meant was, if someone is right on the basis of who ends up crying, then everyone would compete to cry first so that she would appear to be the victim.) 

You see, I am afraid if Eshan goes to an all-boys school, he would turn every fight into an intellectual quest and would try to reason with his opponent instead of hitting back. I really like the fact that Eshan is a clever boy and is always so curious and such a wonderful, good-mannered sweetheart. I admire anyone who is intelligent and smart and inquisitive… but I would rather have that person survives to live another day so that he/ she can continue to be intelligent, smart and inquisitive. If you die, your intelligent-smart-and-inquisitive self would cease to exist anyway. 

So, I told my Kak Long one day, “I think Eshan and Aayra should learn martial arts; you know, Taekwondo or Judo. Not silat, though. Silat sometimes have nonsensical ritual with their tok guru asking them to oil their body with a special oil that has been ‘jampi-serapah-ed’. That’s just insane. But Taekwondo or Judo should be fine. They don’t have all these funny mystical rituals.” As always, I was giving her unsolicited free advice which my Kak Long listened quite patiently without really committing herself to it. She was simply humoring her opinionated little sister. Hahah.

You see, I believe in the value of being able to take care of yourselves, for both boys and girls. Once, it was a Prophetic tradition to teach every kid “memanah, berenang dan menunggang kuda”.

In a hadith narrated from Ibn Umar (R.A) in which our beloved Prophet said ”Teach your children swimming, archery and horse riding”. In Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (s) said,  “Practice archery and horseback riding.” The Prophet (s) said “Any action without the remembrance of Allah is either a diversion or heedlessness except four acts: walking from target to target (during archery practice), training a horse, . . . , and learning to swim.”

Archery, for self-defense and battle-skills. Swimming, for survival in water. Riding, for practical purpose of movement and also for survival.

Nowadays, not everyone can swim (including yours truly, alas!). And Archery is almost obsolete as people don’t go around carrying their bows and arrows anymore except during Sports Events. Once upon a time, the Malays carried Keris everywhere, slipping it in between the folds of their sampin at their waists. And it was considered a part of their normal attire when they went out of their house. I am sure at that time, being proficient in wielding a Keris is considered the norm in the Malay Society then. Now, guns have replaced bows and arrows when it comes to self-defense, but not everyone is trained or licensed to carry one. So we are left with only martial arts and perhaps a pocket knife for self-defense. (I always carry a pocket knife in my bag or in my pocket whenever I go out. So be warned. Hahaha)

Thank God that we still practice the modern equivalent of horse riding in this age, as most people are expected to be able to drive nowadays (Having said that, our poor sisters in Saudi Arabia are still legally prohibited to drive. In this age, that’s just crazy). But the norm that everyone should be able to swim and defend themselves are no longer taken that seriously.

You go to a driving school after SPM to learn to drive and that is like a culture in our society. All your friends do it and if you are the only one not going to driving school, you would feel seriously left out. 

But martial arts training and swimming classes are not the norm anymore and subject to affordability rather than being looked at as a necessity; which is different from the way we treat the matter of going to a driving school. That has to change.

One of my bucket list is to learn Taekwondo. I wanted to learn when I was a kid but at that time my father was at the early stage of his career where all the money must be poured back into the business. The Taekwondo attire itself cost a small fortune. And the monthly payment cost too much for my father at that time. If my father allowed me to learn Taekwondo, then he would have to allow my other sisters to learn as well because they would say “Tak aci, ayah bagi untuk kak ngah boleh. Awat kami tak boleh?” hahah. Our household is a fair household. My father couldn’t allow one child one thing and refuse another child the same thing. It just didn’t happen. In the rare times it did happen, we’d raised a ruckus! Hahaha.

Between all five of us my youngest sister was the only one trained in Taekwondo because she grew up when the household money was not that tight. But she did not continue the training when she got into her secondary school.

***

Choosing School

I have always thought that for boys, a co-ed school is advantageous to their emotional health and educational growth compared to an all-boys school.

But for girls, it would be the other way around. For girls, a single-sex school is much more beneficial than a co-ed school.

I have mentioned before that all five of us sisters spent a very large chunk of our schooling years in an all girls-school of Sultanah Asma.  From the age of 7 years old until 15 years old, my Kak Long, myself and my younger sister Izati went to Sekolah Rendah Sultanah Asma and Sekolah Menengah Sultanah Asma, before we finally continued our upper secondary school in MRSM.  Whereas, my two youngest sister spent all their schooling years in Sultanah Asma only. We are all a product of an all-girls school and we like how we turn out to be.

When I went to MRSM Langkawi, I had a serious culture shock. I felt that teachers paid more attention to boys. Of course male teachers could not (and should not) pay attention to girls (just imagine the sort of malicious gossips that would ensue). But even female teachers gave more attention to boys. I was not used to that, coming from Asma. I felt that girls could not shine in a co-ed environment even if they were much better. If girls were too loud or too brazen and too forthright, they would seem like a different species. In Asma, loud, forthright, brazen girls get to be on top. But that would not be the case in a co-ed school. That was tough adjustment, for awhile. But I got used to it.

I believe that a single-sex environment  confers the most benefits for girls because they get to be the best version of themselves there. It is not surprising why for non-residential schools, an all-girls school always emerge to be the best in the state compared to an all-boys school or a co-ed school. Sultanah Asma has always been the best in the state among non-residential schools, beating KSAH (an all boys school) and other co-ed schools in Kedah. Methodist Girls School is the best school in Penang. Tengku Khursiah College and STF are some other examples of good all-girls residential schools.

Of course during my SPM year, MRSM Langkawi was the best in the country even though it was a co-ed school. But remember, they had pooled best students all over the country into MRSM and that explained why residential co-ed school can do better than an all-girls school. All-girls non-residential schools don’t always get to choose their students in the same manner.

My younger sister Alida had taught English in both an all-girls school and a co-ed school and she noticed the difference in the attitude of girls between those schools. She taught at Sekolah Kebangsaan Infant Jesus Convent (a cluster school) in Johor Bharu once and she loved it there.

“I loved teaching girls in Convent. They were active. They answered question promptly. They participated freely. I miss my time teaching there.  Nowadays aku mengajar kat sekolah co-ed ni…aku sendiri notice yang aku lagi pay attention to boys. Aku bukan sengaja tak mau pay attention to girls. But boys respond to my question in class. Walaupun jawapan diorang kadang-kadang entah apa-apa, but something is better than nothing. Even their wrong answers can promote further discussion.”

“Tak ada budak perempuan yang pandai ke kat sekolah hang ni? Takkan semua soalan hang, budak lelaki ja yang jawab?” I just could not compute the situation where only boys answer questions and participate in class. I was so used to thinking that girls are much more intelligent than boys. It was so totally different from my own experience in Asma. I may sit at the back of the class, but I got my share of attention from teachers. I could not imagine a class where all the girls were just listening passively.

“Ada, tapi tak ramai girls yang bother nak participate. Girls in co-ed school is not as loud… bukan macam kita kat Asma dulu. Kita dulu, lagi funny than boys kot. Teachers were entertained by our antics when we were in Asma. Tapi, kalau in co-ed school memang boys dominate the fun department. Girls terlebih pemalu. Kadang-kadang aku suruh depa buat kerja berkumpulan saja pun, girls dok buat malu-malu. Aku pun naik geram. Aku suruh buat kerja, bukan suruh kahwin pun! Hang nak malu apa?! Adoiii!”

I laughed out loud! Oh My God, can you imagine! Kids at the age of 7-8 years old already feel ‘malu-malu’ with boys? I mean like….what the hell weh? Like my sister said, “orang suruh buat kerja, bukan suruh kahwin!” Hahah.

So that’s the problem for girls in a co-ed school! They become too self-conscious, too much and too soon! Which hinders their educational development. And they would learn different values… that it is normal for boys to get more attention than girls. That it is normal for boys to hoard all the praises in academic performance. Sometimes the performance of girls no matter how much better than boys, were not acknowledged because girls don’t brag about their successes. But boys do that nonchalantly and pass it off as a joke. Arrogant boys are considered macho. But if girls show even the slightest dominance, that girl is considered attention-seeking.

Girls in Asma never had to worry about all those things! We be ourselves. Tak ada malu-malu. If we fight, we really fight. Tak ada control ayu! And that’s why my best friend is an Asmarian too. And I usually can relate to girls who are assertive, frank and forthright and able to do a great job in doing her responsibilities (regardless of which school they went) and those are the ones I would be close with. I am not that good with women who are too soft-spoken and too weak-willed. I cannot understand them. Friendship is out of the question with women like this. I would end up feeling stressed because they don’t settle their problems and only cry ad nauseum, ad infinitum. I don’t like women who cry in public, and I resent anyone trying to gain sympathy after fighting with her colleague at the workplace, by crying in public (which I had witnessed a few times in my career as a doctor). Some women can be really manipulative with their tears and they are usually these soft-spoken, lady-like women; making ‘loud, frank, assertive’ women like us appear evil in contrast when we fight with them. Hahah. (True story. So I learn to not fight with soft-spoken women. I think of them the way  I think of childish toddlers. We don’t fight with toddlers because they are not up to our standard in verbal argument. When they lose, they will cry. So they become the victim, and we end up being the evil stepmother in contrast.)

The whole situation translates to me that a co-ed school is not at all beneficial to girls! I would never place any daughters I have in a co-ed school, especially not at the primary school level. I want them to learn to be free to express themselves without feeling self-conscious, first. I want them to learn that girls can be as brave, as intelligent, as funny and as interesting and engaging as boys, first. I want them to know that girls can do just as much of a good job as boys in being the head prefect, the class monitor, the club presidents and the public speakers as boys (and sometimes even better). Once they have grasped those values, only then I would allow them to go to a co-ed school, so that even when the teachers pay more attention to boys they would know that it isn’t something wrong with them, but it is the environment that makes it so. (The environment involving the social construct that places all top leadership roles to boys. The social construct that looks at assertive, tough females as ‘difficult’ whereas, assertive, tough males are considered ‘strong’. Etc, etc.)

But for Boys….

There are too many incidents of rape/sodomy among boys (especially in residential schools)  for me to feel comfortable for boys to go to an all-boys school. Who knows what sort of homosexual tendency he would develop?! I couldn’t bear thinking any of my sons or nephews would turn out that way.

Besides, there is no academic need for boys to be in an all-boys school (unlike the situation for girls). As my younger sister had told me in our numerous discussions, boys shine in a co-ed environment, anyway. Teachers naturally pay attention to boys than girls because they are more active and louder than girls. So why risk having boys in an all-boys school when there is no academic benefit to it, anyway? Other than MCKK (which was not that good compared to TKC), there were not many good all-boys school, anyway. See? There is no academic benefit in placing your boys in an all-boys school because most all-boys schools are not that good (unlike the situation in all-girls schools). 

So there is only left the risk of them being bullied or developing homosexual tendencies after a sexual encounter with their peers of the same gender. (I shudder in my boots, just thinking about it).

I am not saying that there is no incidence of lesbianism in Asma. There had been rumours to such incidence, even during my time. But most girls outgrow that sort of tendencies, eventually. Most tomboys that I knew back then, are more lady-like than me now. (not that it takes a lot to be more lady-like than me. But I have never been a tomboy, at least). Furthermore, girls don’t usually like just any type of girls. They actually like girls that look like boys…which really means that they actually really like boys. For example, the most populour girl in Asma during my time was a tomboyish, androgynous Police Cadet Sergeant (who gave commands during our marching practice). Head girls, prefects, best students, sportsperson, school singers and school debaters also got a lot of admirers during my time… but only if they also looked like boys. So ….really. I won’t be too worried about it.

Some ‘relationship’ between these girls do get intense. Tears, jealousies, break-ups, all those emotional turmoils… you name it, we have it! But, very rarely do they get physical or sexual. Unlike with boys! 

I used to be approached for ‘adik angkat-kakak angkat’ relationship when I was in Asma. But I never entertained those things because such relationship requires investment in time and money. Some of these adik-angkats expected gifts, for God’s sake! I might as well buy a novel for myself rather than spend some money on an ‘adik’ that I already have a lot at home (THREE younger sisters is a lot, hahha. Whenever I fought with my sisters, I would feel that my mother should have stopped at two, making me the last child). Those who have never been in an all-girls school will never understand these ‘female crushes’ girls usually have, but they were quite normal. Ask any TKCians, or STFians or Asmarians or anyone who used to attend an all-girls school. There was even an article talking about “11 things that only Malaysian Girls Who Went To An All Girls Schools Will Ever Understand”, and the number one item on that list is ‘female crushes’. Yup! Weird but true!  If you are interested to read the article, CLICK H.E.RE

The risk of developing homosexual tendency and being the victim of sexual abuse is even higher if these boys are put in a hostel (even the hostel of a co-ed school, because the hostel would still be single sex; only the school is co-ed). 

Putting your son in a hostel without your son knowing basic self-defense skill is very risky. I really think it is imperative to teach your sons martial arts. (I talked about this multiple times with my sisters, as I have mentioned) I would abandon music class, tennis class, riding class (now that we have cars, riding is no longer that important) or even swimming class in favour of martial arts class. If you don’t have that much money to spend for all these extra-curricular activities for your children and you can only choose one, choose martial arts. It does not only teach your kids fighting skill and survival, but also mental and physical discipline, concentration and self-control. It even boosts their self-esteem and therefore they are less likely to be bullied. (There is such a thing as a ‘bullied personality’. Some people are more picked on than others because they have that sort of personality that makes them a target). I would not send a boy to a residential school without making sure he can survive there. That would be irresponsible.

Regarding Residential School….

I don’t think it is a great idea to allow them to go to a residential school at the age of 13 years old.

My Kak Long and I was quite upset when my father refused to consider the idea of us applying for SBP/MRSM when we were 12 years old. We wanted to apply for SBP/MRSM because most of our friends had applied for them as well and we didn’t want to be left out. My Kak Long got an offer to MRSM after her UPSR result had come out. But my father said “13 tahun kecik lagi. Ayah tak mau anak-anak pisah dengan ayah awal sangat. Tunggu 16 tahun”. I remembered how my sister waited for my father to change his mind, but he never did.

So when my time came, I did not even bother applying because, having learned from my sister’s experience, I knew my father would never allow me to go into SBP/MRSM at the age of 13 years old (I knew my father would not change his mind for me, because then my sister would ‘ungkit’, “Tak Aci! Kenapa Kak Long dulu tak boleh?” I guess, sometimes, it is not always beneficial to be fair all the time. hahaha)  I was very jealous when I saw how some of my friends were offered various schools around the country such as Kolej Yayasan Saad, STF, TKC. I just swallowed and endured the envy.

But a few years later, I came to know the wisdom behind that decision.

I don’t think I could survive residential schools at 13. I was too immature (even though at that time, I thought I could handle it!). When I first went into MRSM Langkawi at the age of 16, I hated the hostel environment. How some students simply took your things in the room without asking your permission first. And how crowded the toilet became in the morning and in the Maghrib time. And how noisy some of them were at night. And the hostel rules drove me loco! (Suka hati aku lah aku tak mau riadah. Kenapa nak buat rule macam ni? Semua benda pun kau nak atur untuk aku, for what?)

I was also quite stressed with their habit of asking to share my bottled water. I just…haih…I could not stand sharing my bottled water. I did not even share like that with my siblings! I would never drink from the same bottle again afterwards, unless I have cleaned the bottle and refilled the water. But later, another friend would ask for my water again, just after I have cleaned and refilled the bottle. I wanted to cry because it was so frustrating! But at the same time, I did not have the heart to refuse them my water. I just felt really stressed because I couldn’t say  “Why don’t you have your own water!! Get your own bottle, come on! What if I don’t have water, then what are you going to do? Are you simply going to go thirsty throughout the night? Might as well have your own, isn’t it?”

I am usually pretty assertive… I am even quite garang. But only towards those who I think have crossed certain boundaries and certain principles or those who tried to bully me. To me, those people deserve my put-downs because they are the ones who behave badly, first…. I am only retaliating. But I am not at all capable of saying what I feel when a person hasn’t done anything really bad…in this case, she just needed water. How could I refuse? It was very stressful… this thing of sharing bottled water, you could not imagine. (It’s because I have this thing orang Kedah called ‘pancin’; macam geli share bekas orang, I guess. I was this way since I was a small child. My younger sister Izati, has the same ‘pancin’ tendency like me. But instead of suffering silently, she actually told her friend, “Okey, you can have my water. Tapi make sure hang minum jangan kena mulut. Tuang air dari jauh”. Hahha. So, if you think I am frank and forthright, my sister is even worse than me. But the good thing is her friend actually didn’t mind and just did as she asked, pouring the water without touching the mouthpiece. My ‘pancin’ tendency has become better over the years… but still….I prefer not to share my food and drinks. Makan ramai-ramai dalam talam….lagilah aku stress!)

But those were the experiences that forced me to learn how to interact with people socially. How to compromise and reach a middle ground.  How to survive in a communal environment when things are not ideal. I learned to sleep in the noise. I learned to be less possessive of my things and at the same time learned to hide things that I didn’t want to share. I learned to be less rigid with personal boundaries. In the case of the bottled water, I simply decided to have two bottles in the room. One for me and one for the rest who asked.

So, residential school can be a good learning experience….but perhaps, not too soon. Or else, your children might end up fighting with other kids because of their immaturity at that time and therefore would not enjoy the hostel experience at all. I only just able to restrain myself from fighting with my roommates because I was more patient at 16 and had understood certain social expectations. At 13, I wouldn’t be like that.

***

So choose your kids’ school wisely. A good educational environment helps your kids to grow into the sort of adults your can be proud of. In fact, when you are choosing schools for your kids, it is almost like choosing how their future would be shaped.

My father was very resourceful about choosing our schools. When we first came back from Kelantan, we did not live anywhere in Jalan Langgar or anywhere in the vicinity of Asma, initially. My father moved into Lorong Titi Siam so that he could register my Kak Long into Asma. Later, when we have moved to another area far away from Jalan Langgar, my father did not change his address in the IC and still used our previous address so that he could register me into Asma. Later, after he had to change the address in his IC, he still insisted that all my younger sisters be placed in Asma, regardless. He told the Guru Besar that “semua kakak dia duduk di Asma, saya nak adik pun duduk kat Asma. Senang saya nak hantar pergi sekolah” when actually we went to school by the school bus. Hahha. Most of the time, my father got what he wanted because he wouldn’t stop insisting and would throw his weight around until he got what he wanted.

And that was how it went that all five of us received our early education in an all-girls school and we loved it.

Even though I spent my last two years of schooling in MRSM Langkawi, Asma remained my most beloved school. 

So parents, have a deep thought before deciding on your kids’ school, where habits are formed, characters are shaped, values are internalized, self-esteems are nurtured and life-long friendships are made. Your kids will certainly be thankful to you.

Hail the new addiction MO!

God doesn’t give you what you ask for. What you want doesn’t simply materialise from the great blue sky.

Life doesn’t work that way, alas.  

Instead, He gives you the means and the tools and the experience that you can make use of to attain what you want.

As I have mentioned before, I asked God for patience as I am fully aware that I am  lacking in the quality of patience. I am easy-going in mundane, daily matters. Mundane routine don’t flap me, don’t faze me, or disturb my mood. I couldn’t care less about which restaurant serves what good dishes, I am not a hypercritical foodie. I eat anything and everything. (I am only particular about coffee. But not even the brands of coffee do I care. Just any good tasting coffee will do no matter what the brand is). I am not a fashionista. I am not brand-conscious. I wear whatever that is nice-looking and cheap. You don’t have to please me with expensive presents. When in doubt, just give me the latest book that has won an Orange Prize or a Pulitzer Prize or a Booker Prize. 

I don’t get offended easily. I don’t have an opinion about food, clothes, houses, cars, the best way to clean or cook. I am not a fanatic fan of football/celebrities/dramas/movies. I can never understand how fights ever get started at the stadium. Just doesn’t make any sense to me. I am, however, an ardent fan of books but it’s been a long time since I last got worked up about which book  is better than the other. 

But when I feel some people have crossed certain boundaries, certain concepts of truth/justice/fairness (my version of it, at least) or certain universal principles that I think everyone should have, I cannot calm myself down. In such situations, I am adamant that things should go my way. My way of thinking is better. And if you refuse to see it and put the blame on me, manipulate me in anyway (or try to)… if you don’t immediately see that I was right (that I don’t insist you to go my way because it is MY way, but because it is the right way and the most just, the most righteous for everyone), then I get immediately upset. 

You see, a beauty queen will be upset if people criticise her image.  A surgeon is defensive if people criticise how he approaches a certain surgery. A  designer is upset if people criticise her design. A singer would feel humiliated if people criticise her singing. A chef/a cook feels defensive if people suggest that there is a better way to cook rendang, for example. (Been to any gotong-royong memasak, recently? You will get what I mean about how sensitive and defensive a cook can be, it is so funny!) 

I consider myself as a self-developed thinker and ethicist (hence, this is my area of sensitivity). I don’t defend only myself, but I also defend others, especially my patients, against stigma, against their bosses, against their tormentors (read: husbands). I have called up employers, I have called up husbands, I have called up instructors (pretending to ask for collaborative history but actually really just want to SUBTLY let them know that ‘hey I know what you are doing to my patient. She confides in me. I am on to you, now. You better be careful in how you proceed with my patient from now on. She is no longer alone in this. You better watch out’ Hahah. Contrary to the belief of my family members, I can really be charmingly harmful and subtly dangerous when I put my mind to it, as opposed to stormily harmful and obviously dangerous. The storm and danger can come later, if required. There is an art to subtle threat that I have learned in the past. Sometimes, just doing the phone call is helpful…sometimes you need to follow-up on the phone call with a more assertive action. Once, I even offered to accompany my patient to lodge a police report against a particular member of her family… so that she won’t chicken out at the last minute and  things will actually progress SOMEWHERE! But she didn’t take up on my offer and I was left frustrated. Maybe I should be less over-involved to protect myself against this sort of frustration. Some people will never take the assertive action  that they should, it makes you want to pull your hair in distress on their behalf. Maybe I should really learn to accept that some people just deserve the problem that they have. Even Allah won’t change the condition of His slave without the slave himself putting in some effort. So who am I to try to do anything more? I couldn’t, even if I want to.)

There are risks I took without consulting my specialist because I know if I consult them, I might get a different management plan altogether that would not allow me to do what I want to do for my patients. It doesn’t happen always. Most of the time, management is pretty straightforward and we see eye to eye. But when it does happen, it makes me feel stressed. 

(I think most MOs feel the same way, anyway. Many MOs take risks of doing something behind the specialist back because that’s what they want for the patient. I am not the only one. Many MOs in other departments also, if they are senior enough and if they feel bothered enough, would have learned how to manipulate the system to get what they feel their patients deserve. I bet, many specialist when they were an MO would have done something like that as well. So they really shouldn’t be upset if their MOs now do the same thing. It’s part of our learning process and that particular action of taking-risk would enrich your clinical experience and eventually serves you well as a specialist. We are no longer HOs who just follow mindlessly. Sometime we make mistakes and commit errors in clinical judgment but those experience must be gone through.  Sometimes we need the freedom to determine what we want for our patients, right? So, there are minor things you do for  your patients that you won’t consult with your boss if you know he/she won’t agree with you. Or you will manipulate the system in your own way, present things in a different way. I know which specialist will sign OKU form easily so that my patients can get a much needed welfare money, before some politicians can swindle the money away. I know which specialist will allow me to admit patients into the ward. If my patient needs expert counselling that I cannot deliver due to time constraints and lack-of-expertise,  I know which specialist will willingly takeover a difficult case if I consult the case with her. I know which specialist will deliver a good scolding to a patient who needs that scolding. If I don’t want to give something that a rude demanding patient insists for, I know which specialist will have the same line of thinking as I do and I will consult with that specialist so that I can tell the patient “Sorry, even my own specialist say no. See?” Haha. All of my bosses are good in their own way and I have learned to choose and pick with whom I can discuss regarding which type of cases. That’s how MOs manipulate the system… and this is like an open secret. I am not saying anything new here.)

So, because I think of myself as a logician, a thinker and an ethicist, I get defensive if people criticise my logic and my ethical reasoning and how I want things to be done. (Well…everyone is allowed to be upset about SOMETHING, right? Like the beauty queens, the designers, the surgeons, the singers and the chefs of this world. Depending on how you define yourself, you get defensive about those things.)

I also pride myself of being an amateur linguist. I would probably be quite sensitive about anyone criticising my essay or my short stories. Once when I was in Form 5, I had argued with my English teacher when she criticised my English essay. (But I never, for example, argued with my Math teacher because heck, I knew I was bad in maths, so why would I get defensive about it, right?) My excuse for arguing with her was because she said the essay that I wrote for the monthly test was plagiarised from a novel. I asked her, “which novel?”. She couldn’t name it, of course. Just because my essay was good with a different plot twist, doesn’t mean it was plagiarised from a novel, for God’s sake. (she hated that plot twist because there was a controversial element to it that she opposed to, being conservatively religious as she is, compared to me at that time. In my defense, I was just being creative. If she didn’t like that plot twist, she could just tell me so; rather than accusing me of plagiarising!) My sister was a novelist! My father wrote poems and quotes at the first page of all his text books when he was younger! My younger sister is a TESL teacher. My inclination towards language and literary creativity runs in the family!  All my siblings are great readers! We talk about books all the time and we compete with each other in coming up with great phrases all the time. So can you imagine how upset I became when I was accused of plagiarising a non-existent novel?? (By the way, the essay was written in a test. How the heck was I supposed to plagiarise during an exam? Did she suppose I have an amazing photographic memory or something? Did she suppose I memorize a whole lot of paragraphs of that non-existent novel and had committed into my amazing photographic memory of every ‘and’ ‘or’, ‘if’ and ‘but’, every conjunction, every phrase, every colon and semicolon? Did she even know what plagiarism even mean? In any creative writing, having similar plot does not suffice to accuse a writer of plagiarism. If you read mysteries often enough, every novel feel similar and familiar after awhile. All ‘drama pukul 7’ on TV3 are more-or-less the same romantic stories… do we get to accuse the scriptwriters of plagiarising each other?? That’s why genre exist! Similarities in plots are related to genres, my dear readers! It doesn’t matter if the plot is similar, it is the style of writing that matters!  And in my case, I hadn’t read any such a novel that she accused me of plagiarising from! I wrote that essay in an exam, where I could not open any book for reference without anyone noticing! It wasn’t like the essay was written as a one-week-assignment where I would have the opportunity to ‘copy and paste’ some paragraphs out of some books. If that were the case, then her accusation would make some sense! As it was, her accusation only made me assume that she was not pleased that I had written something controversial that she could not accept as  a religious, tudung-labuh-wearing muslimah. Just because she had never read any amazing, grammatically-correct, controversial essay from students in her short duration as a newly-graduate TESL teacher before, doesn’t mean she would get to accuse me of plagiarism. I was instantly inflamed!) Such an unjust accusation, not supported by any evidence, directed towards my ability which I took most pride in…. My God, my 17-year-old self wanted to blow up at her! I called up my parents and told them what this teacher said to me. My father was very angry when he heard about it. I had no idea that he could be that upset over it, or else I wouldn’t have told  him.

For the record, my parents were never the sort who would fight my battle for me. Before this incident, they would always assume that I deserve whatever rare scolding I might get from teachers. If I got bad marks in any of my test, it must be because I did not study enough rather than because the teachers were bad at teaching. They have never confronted any of my teachers for anything…. until this! I was surprised when my mother and my elder sister came to MRSM Langkawi bringing a bag full of my previous essays and short stories that I had written in the past to show to the teacher that writing have always been my hobby and I have always written with the objective of being creative. That my essays have always been this amazing (hahah, my parents’ words, not mine!) That just because I introduced a plot twist that her conservative self may not like was not enough justification to accuse me of plagiarising. 

I tried to stop them from coming. But my father vehemently insisted that I should be defended. (My father has always been a fighter and would push us to do the same in anything!) I felt so stressed that they wanted to come. It was so ironic. All these times, they never wanted to side with me when I felt I was unfairly scolded by my teacher. But when I didn’t want them to come, (because heck, I was already 17 and I could fight for myself) they insisted in coming! I didn’t know whether to feel touched or irritated.

The teacher finally apologized to me after my mother and my sister went to see her. (I was not there when they confronted her because I had a Math test.) And I also apologized to my teacher because I knew how forceful my mother could be when she was feeling angry. I was thankful that it wasn’t my father who came. Or else, the situation would totally be out of control. And I learned from that experience that I should never tell my parents things that I could handle myself. Haha. (This sealed my fate as a very skeptical person towards authority, in general. I became even more skeptical after 2 years of housemanship. I swear I will never put myself in the position of needing any validation from an unjust authority ever again. I avoid authority because I never want to kiss their ass. I think of all authorities as having a tendency to abuse their power until proven otherwise. I don’t know how I am going to cure this overvalued idea of mine… just knowing that I might not be thinking fairly doesn’t cure my tendency to feel exactly like that! I have met many nice people in the position of power, and I think of them as the exception rather than the norm. I guess, even I can be illogical at times.)  

I also pride myself of being a good reader, so I was VERY DEFENSIVE when I first met the brilliant Miss A who interrogated me on my choice of reading which, I now admit, was not as sophisticated as her own choice of delicacies consisting of many notable classic literatures that I had never even heard of before our paths crossed. Compared to Miss A, I was a novice in reading. My defensive stance became meek when I realised I could actually learn from her.

Well, everyone has some stuff they get very sensitive about and thinking, reading and writing are mine. I am sensitive when I am criticized in those. 

c67ce34cc2f677063c80d36738ef4c27

But whatever it is, no matter what I said to defend my temperament, it does not justify my lack of patience. Like Miss A had said, we should aspire to be the one with the bigger heart. Ignore minor annoyance, walk away from the source of your major irritation, and if you can’t ignore those things any longer, then educate people with kindness. Don’t snap! 

Or perhaps, I have attained the age of maturity to have learned not to respond to anything and everything. Just walk away. If they never see what you see, don’t force the issue. (I feel more wise and matured just writing about this! Haha. But even now, I cannot imagine how I could have dealt the situation with my English teacher any better. I mean… even maturity and wisdom have a limit somewhere.)

So, having an excellent insight about my severe lack of patience, I plead to God to bestow on me some measure of patience. Make me nice, lol.

And He answered my prayer by making me into an Addiction Medical Officer.

Hahaha. Yeah. He gives me the tools and the experience I need to acquire patience. He doesn’t just arrange for me to wake up one day and be Mother Teresa.

Addiction patients can be manipulative. Check.

They sometimes use religious concept out of context to justify their actions. Check

They don’t have baseline standard criteria that I demand in people around me. Check.

They tick all the boxes that would totally TRY my patience. And if patience is a sort of muscle that have remained atrophied all my life before, I am gonna get a lot of exercise these days, trust me! Haha.

So, wish me luck. Hopefully, I can become a nice person through this experience. Something good may come out of me having to deal with the population in which anti-social traits are prevalent. 

After all, who am I to judge people? We never know how we will end our lives. Just because some people are not up to snuff now, doesn’t mean they will never change. Maybe the ongoing never-ending struggle that they have to face to overcome their addiction (although at times they fail in their struggle again and again) gives them one massive pahala jihad people like us don’t get. 

You earn pahala through struggle, right? It is not the outcome/natijah that brings you the reward from Allah. It is your effort that counts. And with drug addicts, the effort is constant for the rest of their lives. And every time they fall from grace, fail in their struggle and then repent, they get pahala taubat each time.  Who knows, maybe some drug addicts are more beloved in the eyes of God, than us normal people who only go through life blindly and repetitively with no major struggle whatsoever.

A food for thought, huh?

So far, life as an addiction MO is nice. I get to stay in my own Addiction room at the back, that’s the best part. Even though anyone can use that room at anytime (it’s not like I am given an exclusive right to it by my HOD, unfortunately) but not many MOs go to that room anyway, because the room is quite isolated at the back of the clinic. So I have come to think of that room as mine. (I am quite possessive of that room, to be honest. Even though my name was not written on the door of that room, I really think of it as mine and would feel quite forlorn if some other MO sits in that room instead of me. Haha) The isolation space that the room provides is the best part…. a space for me to do my work and to think out loud while listening to my kind of music. It’s like a separate universe from the rest of the crowded chaos at the front.

Ah… peace and serenity! I could really get used to being an Addiction MO. Having my own room is sweet! Sweet, indeed! I love it. My patients love it. We can talk privately without background noises disturbing our conversation. No patients knocking on my door, asking “Lambat lagi ke, doctor?”, annoying me with their disturbance while I am talking to another patient.  I can focus on my patient in tranquility. They feel heard and satisfied. And I feel satisfied. That is the sort of environment conducive for proper consultation and disclosure. 

That room at the back is also very conducive to turn me into a Miss-Nice-Girl. LOL.

So, that’s how it comes about that this ‘being nice’ business is not so hard these days. In fact, it is rewarding in its own way. 

So, until next time, folks! I shall try to update once a month. Might be hard though with the exam looming near. 

Until then, I remain, your humble blogger.