The Plot From The Master Storyteller

You guys know that I love reading. The plot is important. But so do characters and characterization. Even with a good plot, having boring characters would fail to launch the plot into a beautiful story.

Allah is the Master Storyteller of this universe. For each of us, we have been given our own characterizations. There is a grand plot for the world (the beginning started when Adam and Eve came down to earth, and the first exciting conflict in the grand plot began when Abel and Cain fought one another, and then life went on for many millennia with battles and wars and great flood, and the rise and fall of great kingdoms, the rise and falls of civilizations, the failure and success of various propagandas and ideologies, ….all these might continue for thousand of years to come…until finally, the earth is destroyed on the day of apocalypse).

But God has also created for each of us our own plots that serve as micro-plots that would fill up the general progress of the grand plot. Micro-plots and micro-characters like us are needed to launch the grand plot. And sometimes these plots of ours will intersect, interconnect or interact in some beautiful (or nasty) ways. Our characters will have to learn to live with one another, or love one another or hate one another. Or simply indifferent to one another.

Or maybe…God has designed for us to never come across one another ever in this life.

But the main point is : We all have our own plot. We all have our own purpose in this life. We all sometimes may be at cross-purposes with one another, creating tension and conflicts at various points in our lives. But at the end of our plot, we will understand why things happened the way they had.

***

Gretchen Rubin
Disclaimer: I have not read this book fully. But when I read on the four tendencies concept briefly, I kind of get what the author was trying to convey

According to Gretchen Rubin in her book “The Four Tendencies”, when it comes to societal interaction and expectation, there are FOUR indispensable types of personality profiles that can be found and they are all important in the society. These four are called Upholder, Obliger, Questioner and Rebel. Each of them can be good, valuable, and necessary in the society. But each of them can also be bad and troublesome… but VERY MUCH indispensable.

We need ALL FOUR TYPES to make up a balanced society. Whether each of the character types are good or bad or neutral depends on the context and the plot that is involved or laid out to you.

In my opinion, I fall into the category of questioner (ehem, with some rebellious tendency).

In short, the concept of the four tendencies is simply described as below:

1)Upholder will meet outer expectations and meet inner expectations

2) Obliger will meet outer expectations and resist inner expectations.

3) Questioner will resist outer expectation and meet inner expectation.

4) Rebel will resist outer expectation and resist inner expectation

upholder obliger

***

Upholder

Kita mungkin terfikir bahawa menjadi ‘upholder of values’ adalah sesuatu yang baik. Walaubagaimanapun, ini bergantung kepada konteks dan keadaan. Sekiranya beliau berada di kalangan pembuli yang majoritinya mempunyai norma moral membuli, maka beliau akan berkeras mempertahankan tradisi membuli itu. Contohnya, beliau mungkin akan mengatakan “Ah, setiap tahun kita sambut juniors dengan ragging. Biasalah. Dulu kita kena lagi teruk kot. Tradisi ni menyebabkan kita lagi tough duduk asrama. Inilah caranya kita baik dengan senior dan kenal dengan senior. Aku dulu enjoy ja orientasi. Senior ragging sikit-sikit tu biasalah.” Hmm….ini memang perangai KLASIK Upholder. Mereka tidak nampak apa yang salah dengan tradisi yang sedia ada. Mereka comfortable dengan keadaan semasa. Jadi mereka ada kecenderungan untuk meneruskan tradisi, walaupun tradisi yang buruk. (Ini satu lagi contoh perangai Upholder dalam masyarakat Melayu : “Baca Yassin malam Jumaat ni dah lama kami buat. Kenapa tiba-tiba nak tukar kepada Al-Kahfi? Kami pun dah lama amalkan tahlil kematian. Pandai-pandai jer kau nak kata Bid’ah. Kau ni Wahhabi ek?” Itulah contoh perangai Upholder. Sticking to tradition and resistant to change.)

Tapi sekiranya beliau berada di kalangan orang-orang yang mempunyai nilai-nilai yang baik, maka menjadi upholder of values adalah sesuatu yang sangat bermanfaat untuk dirinya sendiri dan kepada masyarakat. Contohnya ketika di mana ada golongan yang cuba memperjuangkan hak perkahwinan sejenis di Malaysia, beliau (sekiranya seorang Muslim yang hidup di dalam masyarakat yang mungkin kebanyakannya beragama Islam) akan bangun menentang dengan lantang “Buatlah apa yang kamu nak buat di belakang pintu. But to formally recognize and legalize this, NEVER. Jangan kucar-kacirkan adat dan budaya di dalam masyarakat kita.” Di sini, beliau akan dianggap sangat berjasa oleh ahli-ahli masyarakat beliau yang beragama Islam di atas ketegasan beliau mempertahankan nilai-nilai agama.

Kita SANGAT memerlukan Upholder dalam masyarakat kita terutamanya apabila keadaan tengah stabil dan tiada apa-apa isu yang sedang bergolak atau perlu diperbetulkan. Sekiranya masyarakat kita hanya dipenuhi oleh Questioner dan Rebel, masyarakat tidak akan stabil, nilai atau polisi bertukar-tukar setiap tahun sesuka hati dan kelangsungan hidup jadi celaru.

Obliger

Mungkin kita terfikir bahawa obliger adalah seorang yang senang dibuli. Dia akan ikut saja apa orang mahu daripada dia dan tak pandai menjadi tegas mempertahankan hak sendiri. Tetapi, jika kebetulan dia berada di kalangan orang-orang yang baik atau pandai, dia yang nakal atau malas belajar mungkin akan cuba perbaiki akhlak diri dan rajinkan diri sampai pandai. Sebab masyarakat di sekelilingnya expect dia pun baik dan pandai. Jadi dia cuba untuk oblige that good expectation of the society. Namun begitu, jika dia berada di kalangan pembuli-pembuli yang expect dia untuk ikut cakap mereka and cater to their needs, habislah Obliger itu! Asyik jadi bahan buli jawabnya. So take care of yourself, please. Because I like you best (compared to the Upholder or the Rebel!)

Kita sangat memerlukan Obliger dalam masyarakat kita. These people will play nice with all characters. They would try to ease social discomfort by catering to people’s expectation and smooth the way out of conflict. Mereka ini pelincir dalam masyarakat.

Rebel

Kita mungkin berfikir bahawa menjadi rebellious adalah perkara yang negatif. Tetapi jika seseorang mempunyai watak rebellious di kalangan surrounding yang suka membuli, mungkin dia akan terlepas dari dibuli kerana dia berani membuat tunjuk perasaan dan membangkang. So, good job, oh my dear Rebel! But if you are in a good surrounding with good rules and yet you STILL rebel, then it can only lead to disaster for your own selves. So think before you give in to your tendency to rebel.

Masyarakat SANGAT PERLU kepada Rebel ini ketika mana sesuatu keadaan yang tidak adil sedang berlaku, dan semua Upholders and Obligers tak rasa nak ubah apa-apa. Mereka sangat diperlukan sebagai pencetus perubahan yang akan menyedarkan golongan-golongan lain di dalam masyarakat untuk berubah ke arah sesuatu. Ya, Rebel adalah pencetus, penyemarak dan pembangkang.

Questioner

As for questioner (I think that’s me. Haha), kami ada kami punya nilai sendiri. I have a set of values that I pick up from my upbringing… and ESPECIALLY from my reading. As a Muslim, semua benda yang jelas dalam agama, I will agree to it. Tetapi semua ruang kebebasan yang telah diberi dalam agama (perkara-perkara harus), aku akan ikut kepala aku sendiri.

Jadi adakalanya, aku tak dapat ikut apa yang masyarakat nak daripada aku sebab ia bercanggah dengan apa yang aku nak atau apa yang aku rasa betul. To get me to do something, you simply must make sure your expectations fit my inner expectations of myself and my worldview of how the world should be.

Orang macam aku tidak gemar berpersatuan sangat. We are okay fighting alone. Of course it’s good to have a group of friends who will cheer you on and fight along with you… but it is not strictly necessary to us. We are not great in society though we can try to work and compromise with them in certain things… but we minimize the need for society because there are things (like principles and our own ideas and expectations) that cannot be compromised. Kalau aku yakin yang kamu boleh terima karakter aku yang penuh dengan soalan, then I will be happy to join your society. (For example, I did join usrah in Australia. Because the seniors welcomed my questions and did not force me to comply to things I wasn’t ready to). Kalau aku puas hati dengan jawapan-jawapan kamu, aku akan ikut. You might confuse me with a rebellious person. But no… I don’t rebel against what I think is good. Only in what I think is bad. I follow rules when I can see the rational for it (and a lot of rules are rational and make sense, I must admit). Sometimes the rules are neither good nor bad… it is just the way it is (I will try to follow these type of rules when it is convenient. But if it wasn’t convenient… well, oops!)

BUT! when following rules would result in a greater evil, I will resist your expectation of me. I will break the rules. And I will fight it, bear the consequence and pray Allah will ease the way for me.

Because you see, Allah is the Master Storyteller. I put all my trust in Him. He gave me this particular character for this particular plot that He had set out for me. My responsibility is to make sure that I use my character that He bestowed on me in the way that He would approve. At the end of the day, He will be the one who will take care of me and it is to Him that I place all my reliance.

Screenshot 2018-09-28 22.01.49

Screenshot 2018-09-28 22.02.06
My Facebook status after the recent issue involving an ex-HO Miya Wong, started becoming viral in the social media. In this case, she is playing the role of the Rebel. I like her.

* * *

Believe me, your character suits your purpose in life. Suits your life plot. Allah designed it for you because He knew you are going to need it in the plot that He had specifically created for you.

However, the good thing is, characters are not carved in stones. Some aspects of your character are fluid and malleable. Allah asks us to get to know one another and learn good things from each other in order to grow into a more accomplished and well-rounded version of ourselves. I learned that some rules that are neither good nor bad (but just inconvenient) should not be questioned…buat penat jer dan no point for you to spend all that time arguing and questioning a neutral rule. (Waktu aku muda dan belum matang, semua benda pun aku rasa nak question haha) Kalau sempat comply, kita comply. Kalau tak sempat comply, mungkin tak boleh comply…. Tapi tak perlu buang tenaga dan meletihkan minda untuk question the rule. So, I adopt sikit perangai Obliger kat sini.

Apa-apa saja yang melibatkan prinsip yang jelas dalam agama, aku adopt perangai Upholder. (Unless kalau kau cakap tentang sesuatu perkara dengan konotasi agama yang tidak kena tempat dan mempergunakan imej alim untuk mepertahankan sesuatu yang salah… that’s another story. Contohnya, bila kau suruh orang yang didera atau dibuli untuk sabar dan redha tapi kau tak komen langsung betapa buruknya akhlak si pendera atau pembuli… haih, ini bikin aku panas, dong! Kau cakap macam tu depan aku, daripada aku nak adopt perangai Upholder, terus bertukar perangai Rebel pula jadinya. And I will call you out on your skewed judgment.)

Apa-apa saja benda yang melibatkan systematic injustice (injustice that has been legalized or accepted as a norm), I adopt sikit perangai Rebel!

See?

Regardless of what your character is… you have your own agenda in life. Your agenda sometimes might be at cross-purpose with another character. For example, the Questioner might get in conflict with the Upholder but find it easier to team up with a Rebel or even with an Obliger. On the Upholder’s part, he would feel like the Questioner are stirring things up for no reason with all his questions. (“Dah memang macam tu, kau ikut jerlah. Nak tanya banyak buat apa” the Upholder might feel irritated) The Upholder would ALSO find the Obliger as a better team mate.

(Obliger is well-liked by everyone. Hahha. Tapi dalam hati, entah-entah dia depressed kot! Sebab asyik nak kena oblige orang.)

Bayangkan bahawa pada masa dahulu, betapa banyak watak-watak telah berinteraksi bagi membolehkan sesebuah revolusi berlaku. Contohnya, dalam plot penghapusan amalan hamba di Amerika. Watak Rebel sangat perlu, bukan?! Watak Questioner who questioned the norm of the slave system was very much needed too. Mereka ini mungkin akan bergabung menentang watak Upholder yang masih mahu meneruskan sistem hamba di Amerika (as part of the Southern American culture). The Upholders at that time upheld the Southern culture and insisted on continuation of the slave system.

Boleh jadi ke ada watak Upholder yang mahu menghapuskan slave sistem pada ketika itu? Yes, mungkin ada watak Upholder juga yang tak suka slave system. Tetapi, diorang akan cakap “Okey, aku pun tak suka slavery semua ni. Tapi kita fight secara polisi dan diplomasi. Diplomasi ni memang adat kita dari dulu. Kita go through the channel. Tak payah lah nak question atau nak rebel.”

See? Upholders are not necessarily against the agenda of the Questioners or the Rebel. They might all have the same agenda and the same purpose. But they differ in their opinions regarding the methods of how it should be done. Yes, that can happen. Upholders can also side with the Rebels (imagine that!).

So things are not always as clear cut between Upholders, Rebel, Obligers and Questioners. Different type of characters can have the same goal.

***

Pada pendapat aku, asalkan kamu mempunyai matlamat yang sama, kamu tidak perlu nak halang orang lain yang mahu memperjuangkan isu dengan cara mereka sendiri.

Upholders might want to go through the diplomatic route… tapi itu adalah sesuai di peringkat policy-making atau di peringkat pentadbiran. Memang sesuai sangatlah untuk mereka menggunakan cara diplomasi tu sebab mereka yang dok attend meeting dengan pihak-pihak lain. Takkan dalam meeting dengan pihak lain nak bergaduh macam Rebel.

Tapi untuk orang biasa-biasa, rakyat marhaen, golongan bawahan yang bukan policy-makers… mereka akan merasakan “There will be no change in the policy, unless awareness has been created first.” Untuk golongan yang tak terlibat dalam pentadbiran dan tak attend apa-apa meeting, apakah peranan yang perlu mereka mainkan apabila mereka melihat sesuatu yang mungkar telah berlaku?

Sedangkan Allah asked us to fight evil with our bare hands or our tongues or with our hearts, whichever we can do best! Everyone has a role in this. The role of forbidding evil is not limited to those attending diplomatic policy meetings at the admin level!

forbid evil

It takes a Rebel to create chaos, FIRST! And then the chaos must be reported and widely publicized, FIRST! And then, Questioners and Rebels must loudly DEMAND for policy change continuously and incessantly, FIRST.

Lepas tu, barulah ada ‘political will’ dan ‘society pressure’ untuk berubah sehinggalah orang atasan (yang kebanyakannya Upholder of policies) terasa dah sampai masa untuk kita buat polisi baru. Lepas tu Upholders yang budiman (yang dalam diam menyokong Questioners and Rebel selama ni) bolehlah memainkan peranan…. when you go to that meeting pentadbiran, please use all your expertise in arranging diplomatic words to champion our mutual cause. Kerana kalau yang pergi meeting tu adalah the Questioner or the Rebel, meeting tu akan penuh dengan pergaduhan dan akhirnya polisi tak digubal-gubal sampai ke sudah sebab Questioner nak tanya semua benda. Hahaha.

So, Upholders tak perlu nak kacau method orang lain yang memperjuangkan isu yang sama. Kita semua ada watak-watak yang perlu dimainkan sebelum sesuatu benda terjadi. Just because you want to fight things diplomatically at the round table of any meeting, doesn’t mean you don’t need the Rebels and the Questioners to stir things up in the society. You guys perlukan kami untuk dapatkan political pressure… barulah senang korang nak insist dan point out ‘the need for change’ dalam pertemuan penuh diplomatic nanti.

Our methods can be used simultaneously in parallel! That’s the point!

Dalam apa saja bentuk perjuangan (Renaissance/ Menuntut Kemerdekaan/ Menuntut Sistem Hamba Dihapuskan / Penyebaran Agama Islam / Menuntut Wanita Dibenarkan Mengundi/ Menuntut Orang Kulit Hitam Dibenarkan Mengundi / Mengubah kerajaan BN kepada kerajaan PH), kronologi akan lebih kurang begini:

Screenshot 2018-09-28 23.53.51

Telitilah APA SAJA bentuk perubahan atau perjuangan, plot dan kronologinya akan lebih kurang begitu! These are the sort of books that I read all my life; makanan harian aku. I recognize that the plots in these sort of stories don’t differ much! To Kill A Mocking Bird is about treatment of Black People, and Go Set A Watchman is about the rights to vote among Black people, and 12 Years A Slave is about slavery. Dalam matapelajaran Sejarah, kita belajar bahawa kewujudan Protestant yang keluar daripada Katolik pun begitulah kronologinya! (Injustice had happened first apabila rakyat biasa tak puas hati dengan Spanish Inquisition yang kejam dan juga marah dengan paderi yang tamak mengutip duit indulgences/ duit pengampunan. Maka, berlaku perjuangan kecil-kecilan – memerlukan Rebels dan Questioners kan? – dan kemudian perjuangan ini bertambah lantang. Akhirnya muncul mazhab Protestant yang diasaskan oleh Paderi Martin Luther. Paderi Martin Luther menang bukan hanya kerana Rebel and Questioner… ada juga golongan atasan Upholder di kalangan paderi yang menolong beliau dengan cara diplomasi di meja runding. My point is : kita perlukan SEMUA watak, get it?).

Menuntut kemerdekaan Tanah Melayu pun begitu juga (British SUDAH TENTU kata pejuang kemerdekaan adalah pemberontak! British pun akan label orang-orang yang menentang Malayan Union sebagai orang yang ‘caustic, uncooperative, trouble stirrer’. Tapi sebab mereka QUESTION dan REBEL lah maka Malayan Union dibubarkan dan kedudukan Raja-Raja Melayu selamat hingga sekarang! At last bila public sentiment lagi kuat, Tun Abdul Rahman guna cara diplomatik merunding kemerdekaan dengan British. Tapi mana mungkin tiba-tiba British nak berunding kalau sebelum ni tak ada siapa cetuskan public sentiment! Think about it!) Aku dah banyak baca buku-buku melibatkan sejarah dan antaranya termasuklah autobiografi Mahatma Gandhi dan Nelson Mandela. Ini semua adalah sunnahtullah perjalanan melakukan perubahan! Read! Read and you will know why I believe the way I believe. I am influenced by my reading and by my basic knowledge of the course of history (yes, my history knowledge is very basic… but I have read enough to be able to detect the similarity in the plot pattern. You cannot possibly miss it when you have read enough!)

We all have our own roles to play. I won’t question your method when we have the same goals. Our characters have been made that way by God for a reason! Kalau semua orang mempunyai karakter polite Obligers, tak ada isu yang akan meletus untuk mencetus perubahan polisi.

Kalau adalah watak Questioner who are AGAINST my own goal, I will STILL oppose him. Walaupun kami ada watak Questioner yang sama, do you think we would mingle well together regardless of our similar character? No! Selagi mana aku rasa kau mempunyai sentiment yang salah dan bercanggah dengan apa yang aku rasa adil dan betul, aku tetap takkan mix well with you no matter how similar our characters are.

So… I don’t oppose orang yang berlainan watak dengan aku. Aku cuma oppose siapa-siapa saja yang bercanggah matlamat dengan aku, especially bila ini melibatkan soal keadilan dan ethical conduct.

Questioners and Rebels need Upholders. Just like Upholders need Questioners and Rebels. And we all need Obligers to support our causes because they will make up the majority!

Bila kita nak memperjuangkan sesuatu isu, make sure kita semua ada matlamat yang sama dulu. Lepas tu, let us work in our own way according to our own character. Jangan lah ada yang nak memaksa orang ikut cara dia. Sedangkan dia sendiri, jika dipinta, tak boleh nak ikut cara kita, kan?

* * *

Dulu! Dulu zaman aku naif dan berdarah muda, aku selalu cakap dengan kawan-kawan aku “Apsal kau tak lawan jer? Kenapa kau kena bertahan?” (Dalam hati: kenapa kau lembik sangat, hah?)

“Aku tak nak benda jadi lagi teruk. Ada cara lain yang lebih okey. Sabar tak semestinya mengalah.”

Dulu aku tak faham kenapa orang tak boleh be more assertive. Tapi sekarang I have become, ehem, wiser. Aku faham diorang tak boleh jadi macam aku. Plot cerita diorang lain. Character diorang lain. Plot cerita aku lain. Character aku lain. So, I appreciate them better and have stopped questioning how other people do things.

But that doesn’t mean I will follow their method. Like I said, my plot and my role in any particular event is different than yours. Our plots are now intersecting and interconnecting (like God has pre-ordained in the creation of His story) but we have different roles to play.

“Afiza, kau dah matang sekarang ni kan? Kurang melenting sikit. Tapi kau tetap cakap apa kau tak puas hati tanpa menidakkan point orang lain. That was very well done. Dah diplomatik sikit la ni” said my friend one day after I had finished debating an issue in one of our numerous whatsapp groups.

I just laughed. Because now I understand. And I can laugh. (Kalau dulu, tak cukup perkataan aku nak kritik… diorang lembik, tak reti nak speak up, tak reti nak fight, tak nak cakap benda yang betul and so on and so forth. Now I knew better. You do it your way, I do it mine. May our route converge to the same goal, Amiin. But if you have different goals than me, I will always oppose you regardless of what method you use. Sorry, nothing personal. It so happens that your goal is opposite mine).

Upholders yang pandai berdiplomasi dan bersopan santun di meja perunding, takkan nak jadi outspoken macam aku tiba-tiba. Setiap watak ada advantage and disadavantage masing-masing dalam pelbagai situasi. I will die of suppressed anger (or boredom) at meja perundingan. The meeting won’t end well if I open my mouth when I am too upset. That’s why dalam meeting apa pun I usually don’t pay attention that much and selalunya senyap (unless that meeting is interesting in some way, then I pay attention). Because the meeting table is not my turf. Meetings and me… we don’t do well with each other.

But I can, Insya Allah, thrive in a harsh environment that challenge my values because my character suits that kind of environment. That was how I survived housemanship. My attitude was “Lagi kau buli aku, lagi aku nak tunjuk aku tak kisah dan lagi aku nak stubborn. Jangan ingat aku takut nak datang kerja jumpa kau just because semalam kau marah aku tak bertempat dan tak hormat maruah dan air muka aku. No way! Aku takkan EL. Aku takkan MC. Aku takkan MIA. Sebab lepas aku keluar daripada department, lepas aku bukan lagi HO, aku akan fight isu HO cukup-cukup dan aku tak nak kau ada alasan nak jawab yang aku ni ‘not tough enough’ when I say what I say or write what I write. Bila aku raise issue, you can never say that it was because I could not survive the hostile treatment… because I could and I did… WITHOUT ANY EL/MC/ MIA… but I STILL complain because it was the truth!”

This is just how the Questioner (and the Rebel) do things! #SorryNotSorry

***

In the saga of housemanship training, Miya Wong plays the role of a Rebel. I stick to my role of a Questioner. We also have many Obligers who keep sharing her post all over social media.

The awareness is there already. Insya Allah, political will is getting there.

Now to upholders of system (they keep saying to go through the system. Go through the right channel. What if the channel is broken, though? Sampai bertahun-tahun HO Orthopaedic Sungai Buluh ketakutan dicabul kot! Channel apa slow sangat ni!?) and upholders of politeness (“diplomacy is the best way because we cannot fight alone,” they say. But I never minded fighting alone. But perhaps, I won’t get far.)… you guys can now play your role because the Rebel Miya Wong had stirred up an issue and the Questioners/Rebels/Obligers pun dah share dia punya status all over social media to create awareness and stir public sentiment. This is the ideal time to change the culture and win our mutual goal. Use your charming diplomacy at the meeting table NOW and prove to us that it works!

Oh all Upholders, are you going to uphold the bullying of house officers (in which case, I will continue to fight you and I will keep creating awareness in the social media and rebut all your biased posts. Sorry, nothing personal. I am just playing my role), or are you going to use your diplomacy to uphold the principle of Primum, non nocere in the training of housemen.

Primum, non nocere. First, do no harm!

Please , if you are going to uphold anything, uphold that, first!

gandhi
Satu lagi Aturan Alam yang tak dapat dinafikan. Dulu isu Housemen was ignored… aku pun sempat lalui fasa itu. Dan kini mereka sudah habis tertawakan isu housemen. Sekarang adalah fasa ‘fight’. So, dah tak lama lagi dah…Insya Allah

#RiseIniKalilah

Disclaimer:

After recently doing an attachment in another hospital, meeting other MOs who are based in many different hospitals all over Malaysia, I’ve had an opportunity to discuss with them regarding health care issues at their respective setting, and about how they run their service in their respective hospital. My eyes were open to the fact that no system and no service is perfectly run. But we must continually improve the system, regardless. The conversation that I had with fellow attachment doctors reminded me that I had written about some of these issues that we have talked about a long time ago.

I wrote this article below about one year ago, before the GE 14. But I did not publish this post publicly because it was still a bit of a sensitive issue at that time. Now that we have changed to a new government, I decided that I should publish this post publicly. One year ago, I had written this article after a very emotionally-charged encounter with a patient that made me feel defeated. That made me feel like I couldn’t do much for her. That made me question myself regarding why I was even a government servant? That made me want to migrate elsewhere! That made me feel very hateful of the BN government! Last year, there were so many issues that affect the provision of healthcare in Malaysia that made me wonder if I could ever be the kind of doctor that I had always envisioned myself to be.

And I blamed the government then. Hahah.

Of course after the GE 14, I am all hopeful and optimistic these days. But I also think that the issues I had ranted about one year ago are still relevant. And therefore, since I am having a writer’s block at the moment and have no materials or issues to update in this blog for the time being, I decided to publish this old article of mine that had been collecting dust in my hard drive. (One blogger had asked me regarding how I manage to maintain my blog since 2009 and not suffering from a writer’s block like her? Most of my friends’  blogs were not updated for many years. Writer’s block is real, people! It is the most dreadful thing that can happen to a writer. So I told her that I write a lot of things that I don’t always immediately publish in this blog and simply keep them in my hard drive. When I have no materials with which to update my blog, I will simply choose one of those unpublished articles to be posted. Writer’s block sometimes can persist for months, folks. So when I do have things to write, I would go on a binge writing session and put those articles away as reserve. When the next writer’s block strike, at least I would still have something to post in this blog. So that’s the secret. Maximize your articles productivity when your thoughts are clear and chockablock with ideas but don’t publish all of them immediately in your blog. Keep a few of them away to tide you over in the months when you are suffering from lack of productivity secondary to writer’s block)

So here’s the article I had written one year ago and it was about social justice. Enjoy!

***

For The Sake of Social Justice

The problem with me is that I have a pretty high expectation about most things. I really do.

I am not a perfectionist, though. I am a practical idealist (though some would argue that the term ‘practical idealist’ is an oxymoron).

You see, there are times when I can relate to difficult patients, because I am pretty difficult myself (with very good insight about my difficult temperament. Hahaha). Trust me, you don’t want me as your patient. 

For example, if I had waited for four hours to see a doctor, you can bet your little finger that I expect a lot from the consultation later. A lot!

I would feel pretty disappointed (like I was short-changed)  if the doctor simply asked “Ada dengar suara bisik kat telinga? Ok, tak ada. Ubat makan tak? Boleh kerja? So, semua okey? Okey, kita sambung ubat macam biasalah.”

Four hours of my time yields only 5 minutes (or even less) of consultation?! Any REASONABLE patient would feel short-changed (let alone a demanding and a difficult one!). The patient might even decide to default follow up next time because he/she didn’t feel the consultation was worth the trouble and the waiting time. (I certainly know that I am the type of person who HATES waiting. Hahaha. Orang macam aku takkan mau dah jumpa doktor kalau aku rasa tak berbaloi! I won’t do something that don’t give me worthy outcome!)

Sometimes, I feel so terrible about my inability to spend more time to see each and every one of my patient. There are times when I want to prolong the consultation simply because I want the patients to feel that their waiting was worth it. But when I look at the piles of cases left to be seen in front of me, all my good intentions fly out the window.

However I always make sure that I ask a token question of “Ada apa-apa dak nak tanya lagi?” or “Nak habaq apa-apa ka sebelum kita habis?” or “ada apa-apa lagi nak bincang dengan doktor sebelum habis?” (Nampak tak perkataan ‘sebelum kita habis’ dah ada unsur-unsur nak kejar patient? Unsur-unsur nak menutup consultation, tetapi masih berlapik. Hahah)

You know, it is laughable. Usually we said “Sebelum kita habis, ada apa-apa lagi ke nak tanya or nak habaq?” for a conversation that has been going on for a long time.

BUT! If they just came and ‘bontot pun tak panas lagi” and then suddenly I used the phrase “sebelum kita habis…” Hahaha. God… it is ridiculous, isn’t it? (If I were the patient, I would go, “You mean, we are already about to finish? We barely even started, doctor.”)

Most patients would say no. That they have nothing else to say or to ask. And some chronic Schizophrenic patients with negative symptoms really have nothing else to ask. In the first place, some of them are monosyllabic in answering questions. And some of them have poverty of thoughts and would not volunteer any information that is not directly asked. They don’t elaborate much on their answers because after years of illness and cognitive impairment, they are not able to produce the sort of spontaneous speech that we all have taken for granted. 

And some patients who are rushing to pick up their kids from school really don’t mind that the consultation is short. (“Saya tunggu lama sebab nak ambil ubat ja. Memang saya nak rushing balik kerja/ambil anak/nak masak. So tak pa lah, doktor sambung ubat ja lah.” they would say with an annoyed tone because they have been waiting for so long just to continue medication) But I still ask that token question of “ada apa-apa nak bincang dengan doktor?” just to comfort myself that I have done my job. That I have invited them to say their piece. That I have fulfilled my obligation to hear them out after they have waited for so long. And if they said they were fine, then I won’t feel guilty if I decide not to probe further. So it makes me feel better that I have asked. (As if my ‘ajak-ajak ayam’ to talk further is good enough! LOL)

Of course, we KKM staff can comfort ourselves by saying “Ni hospital kerajaan. Nak buat macam mana? Kalau nak cepat kena pi private. Patient lain dok tunggu lagi lama. Kalau tak boleh tunggu lama, pi lah private.  Kalau nak luah perasaan lama-lama, kena pi private. Kalau nak dapat doktor yang layan awak macam raja, kena pi private.”

Is that gonna be our tagline? “Kalau malas tunggu, pi private” or “Kalau nak demand, pi lah private”, dan yang sewaktu dengannya?

Whatever the patients want that we cannot fulfil, let’s direct them to the private clinics, huh?

So, other than our routine core business of seeing patients (furiously fast) what are we doing here as a government staff?

See…we in the government, have no choice but to prioritise. Some cases are difficult and we do spend more time exploring their issues to their hearts’ content (and our hearts’ content). Not all cases can ‘touch and go’. Affective disorders (with new stressors) will take up almost half an hour of our time, at least (and in the mean time ,’to be seen’ cases keep piling up in front of you. Patients keep knocking on your door, asking for you to hurry up because they have some other urgent matters elsewhere).

Some people think Schizophrenia is difficult to see. (“Pesakit Schizophrenia mesti aggressive. Susah. Mesti lama nak kena settle,” some inexperienced non-psychiatric doctors might think). But actually, psychotic disorders are the best cases to handle when you are rushing. When they are aggressive, you just jab them with IM Haloperidol.  (If they are already stable and not aggressive, you just asked “Dengar suara tak? Kalau tak dengar suara, dose ubat ni kira dah oklah. So, kita sambung ubat macam biasa.” End of consultation. That’s the main gist of it, with some variations. When you are rushing, you cannot be as thorough as you like. It is so sad.)

It is the affective disorders that always make me feel guilty when I cannot see them longer than I want to. They would cry, then they need to talk…and talk…. AND talk. And they will cry some more. They deserve my time… and I cannot fulfil their expectation, sometimes. Not because I am rushing to go out for lunch. But because other patients are waiting too and they keep rushing you! I could forego my lunch if patients are willing to postpone the rest of their activities just to wait for me to thoroughly see each and every one of them. But they are not willing to postpone picking up their children, are they? They are not willing to postpone going back to their office too, are they? They are not willing to postpone getting back home so that they can carry on with their routine, are they? THEY couldn’t wait! And therefore, I couldn’t spend more time than I would have liked to if it were up to me.

But when I DO spend my time with them, we get distracted a lot. By noises! By people going in and out. By conversation crossing over, here, there and everywhere. I lost focus. My irritability raises quite a bit when I am forced to converse in noise. I hate it.

It’s just not ideal.

The ideal side of my ‘practical idealist self’ finds it intolerable. But the practical side of the same self know that I should learn to accept the situation and make do with whatever we have.

If I were the patient, I would write a letter of complaint to Pengarah and said “Dahlah masa menunggu lama. Bila masuk bilik, jumpa doktor tak sampai 5 minit. Dalam 5 minit tu pun, bilik penuh, sendat macam dengan apa. Saya cakap pun kena kuat-kuat, sebab bising. Bila saya cakap kuat, pesakit sebelah lagi pun cakap lagi kuat sebab dia pun nak didengari juga. Doktor saya pun terpaksa cakap kuat sebab bising. Doktor sorang lagi pun akan cakap lagi kuat. Belum lagi medical students yang dok berkeliaran sana sini. Saya rasa saya lagi stressed out. Dalam bilik tu kena share punya ramai orang! Ada 4 doktor dalam satu bilik, campur empat pesakit dan campur keluarga mereka sekali dalam bilik tu. Dan student-student dok pi mai, pi mai. Rasa-rasanya, saya ada mood tak nak cerita masalah peribadi saya dalam suasana yang macam tu?”

(I told you that I am a difficult person. You really don’t want me to be your patient. See? You have no idea how thoroughly I can voice my complaints, and how profoundly I can elaborate on it. When I have something to say, I REALLY say it. Haha)

But as a pragmatic, we deal with the limitations that we have. We make things work because we have NO OTHER CHOICE. And this situation is similar in ANY government setting. Consultation rooms are shared because there are simply no more extra room to be used. When I talk to my friends elsewhere, they told me that in certain settings in KKM, even the pantry is used to see patients! (Again, if I were the patient, I will definitely complain.)

We in KKM might say, “So what? Bayar RM5 saja, dah mengada-ngada. Patients tak berhak nak demand dengan RM 5,”  Eh? Betul? Cuma kita sebagai doktor, patut ada rasa tak puas hati bagi pihak pesakit. Kita kena ada rasa nak improve kita punya service. But who would care about what the doctors had voiced out to the admin? People would only start to care once the patient himself/herself complains against any hospital in the social media and it becomes viral. 

Imagine if all doctors told their patients, “Encik pi lah mengadu. Nah….ni borang aduan. Lagi banyak encik mengadu, lagi senang kami nak justify buat perubahan. Semua ni perlu budget yang kami tak ada.” Why don’t we encourage patients to complain against us?!  You see….that’s what the practical side of my ‘practical idealist’ self would think as a good solution. My practical side thinks that encouraging our patients to complain against us is the most effective way to get the ball rolling. To get the attention of the higher up.

But no! Once you are in admin, you don’t want to hear complaints kan? Sebab nanti kau yang nak kena jawab. So…I don’t know. It’s a Catch-22 situation. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Maybe admin should welcome complaints as a method to pressure the powers that be to pay attention. When called to produce an explanation letter, we can simply write as follows: “I have nothing to explain. The patient was right in everything she said. Now, you deal with it! How can you help me to improve my service with the paltry, minuscule budget you are giving me? Call me when you have the answer. I am most anxiously waiting.”

Tak cukup staff kat ward sebab memang tak ada pengambilan staff baru… okey, we deal with it.

Tak boleh start appropriate medication untuk patient sebab tak ada quota, we deal with it.

Tak boleh nak provide more comfortable consultation environment for the patient, we deal with it.

Tak boleh claim elaun untuk provide good community service during oncall, we deal with it.

We are okay to deal with it as long as we think the government has no money through NO FAULT OF THEIRS. But that is not the case! The case is they are very much at fault! Where the hell is the GST money?  Budget cuts for health is starting to affect our patients.

The case is, the government is very incompetent through blatant corruption that has been swept under the carpet again and again.

The case is, all these difficulties are secondary to greedy politicians swindling money right, left and center!

That’s the case!

So nowadays, I push all my patients to apply for OKU cards and allowance. I used to dread seeing the OKU forms being brought by patients…. because it meant that I would have to go to my specialist, wait outside her door and pounce upon her once she has ended her consultation with her patient in order to get her to sign the OKU form. I hate waiting. The time waiting for my specialist to sign the OKU form can be used to see patients. That’s why I used to feel a sort of chest heaviness whenever I saw my patients bringing OKU forms that needed to be signed (In my mind, I went, “habislah masa aku terbuang menunggu depan bilik specialist untuk sign OKU form”. I generally don’t like to interrupt an on-going consultation and would wait until my specialist has finished with his/her patient before I would ask them to sign the OKU form. I project my own tendency to feel irritated when people interrupt my session with my patients. So I would have to wait in front of the specialist’s door until his/her patient comes out of the room… only then, I would enter the room to get the form signed.)

But nowadays, I stop rushing or thinking about wasted time. I give away OKU forms to most patients who don’t yet have an OKU card, even when they didn’t ask for it. “Nah, ni borang OKU. Akak balik isi borang ni, nanti bawa mai kat saya.” Some of them did not know that such welfare money is available, but I would voluntarily tell them to go and apply for it, overzealously pushing them to get the OKU card.

I want my patients to get the money, because otherwise those money will only sit around waiting to be swindled by other greedy hands. My patients have the illness, and they are entitled to it, in a way that no politicians are. At least I know that some of the taxpayers money are spent where it should be. That is my version of social justice. Distribution of wealth of the nation must be fair. In the cases when it is grossly unfair, then we should do everything in our power to help tip the balance.

In my current situation, the only thing I can do is to promote to every patient to apply for all sort of welfare aids that are available in the country. My patients are more deserving of the money than undeserving kleptocrats. Khalas! And if it means that I am going to have to waste some time getting the OKU form signed, then be it! For just a little bit of social justice, the wasted time would be worth it. 

Because, really, what else is there to do? When you are working as a public servant of a corrupted government, what else is there to do to ensure just a little bit of social justice takes place? Maybe… the time has come to really grieve.

The End

***

When I read back  the above article that I had written one year ago, I remember again all the anger and frustration I had felt at that time. But I also experience that bittersweet sensation one usually feel after having defeated an oppressive opponent in a torturous drawn-out battle.

Bitter from remembering the anger I had once felt against the government! Sweet because I had played a small part in toppling the kleptocratic government when I became a PACA for PH!

When I heard that a movie has been made about the saga of GE 14 and it would be released this September, I just couldn’t wait to watch it! Guys, I don’t usually watch local movies, but I do watch all local movies when they are about patriotism! And this one is special… because this patriotic story happened in my lifetime. I was a witness to a great history! And now that it is made into a movie, I will not miss watching this.

And what makes the movie even better is, one of the directors for the movie, Nik Amir Mustapha, was my batchmate in MRSM Langkawi! So, there are so many reasons why I am so excited to watch this movie.

Come on guys, let’s watch it when it is released on 16 September 2018! Tempt yourself by watching the trailer of the movie below. The trailer is inspiring!

#GE14

#RiseIniKalilah

 

 

 

My GE 14 Saga With Invoke (Illustrated By My Facebook Status)

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“Kak Ngah, careful what you write on facebook. Kak Ngah tu penjawat awam.” My mom admonished me one day when I went back to my parents’ house for a visit.

“Kenapa pula, mak? Kerajaan dah bubar. La ni mana ada kerajaan. Time ni lah nak berkempen, nak cakap apa pun.” As usual, I was being my obstinate self.

So, my mother left me to my own devices.

 

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The truth is, I use social media to advocate for what I believe in… not really to connect with friends or acquaintances. With real friends, I would just call, or whatsapp or simply meet them face-to-face.

I use facebook to read interesting articles shared by friends, to follow pages of political parties,  NGOs or associations, to follow the news by BBC/Al-Jazeera/CNN… well basically, just to be in the know. And just to update my store of general knowledge. I think Facebook revolutionized the rate of news acquisition and the variety of general knowledge we can be au courant in. That’s why I usually approve most of my friend requests by Facebook even when I don’t really know the person requesting to follow me. These people will share their own news and articles of their liking, and therefore I get to read and learn something new other than my own existing interest. At the same time, the more people reading my Facebook status, the more people I get to reach to share ideas and beliefs with. Facebook is great for social advocacy, if you care about that sort of thing. (But I make sure my instagram followers are real friends that I have actually met and like. haha. I post a lot of silly pictures on instagram, so I am pretty particular about who I am friends with on instagram. My silliness  are reserved for certain people only.)

In the days leading to the historical GE 14, I was very, very active on Facebook. I shared article upon article from many sources that I came across. All those articles had one important thing in common; they all condemned the BN government. My parents were getting pretty worried about how transparent I have made of my opinion about the government.

But to me, if not now, when?

Are we supposed to keep silent when something clearly evil and unjust are happening around us just because we are too selfish to jeopardize our position? Even at the stake of the nation?

So how are we different from the people around Najib whom we labeled as “spineless, corrupted and brainless” in their blind support of Najib. People were always wondering “Kenapalah orang-orang sekeliling Najib ni tak tegur dia? Kenapa diorang tak cuba perbetulkan apa yang salah? Don’t they have the balls to fight for the rakyat?”

Wow! Pandai kita nak suruh orang lawan Perdana Menteri! *clap clap* Well, ask yourself why you couldn’t even speak up for something right even in your own small department! If we ourselves are a ‘yes-boss’ man, then we have no rights to criticize the ministers around Najib! Kita yang lebih bacul! Pengecut di medan kampung! I have no respect for any type of cowardice. These sort of people will never earn my respect or admiration. They hide their weakness and cowardice behind the mask of diplomacy… when the truth is, they are cowards… fighting is just too hard for them… so they just go with the flow. Selfishly, ruthlessly uncaring of the subordinate’s or the rakyat’s plight. Shameless! Shameless! Shameless!

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My facebook status, sharing Tun M’s open letter to all UMNO members! One really powerful letter! I am sure ramai ahli UMNO sendiri undi PH!

List of Oppression committed by Najib (and the list is NOT exhaustive)

-Dropping Abdul Ghani as AG and replacing him with Apandi

-Removal of two MACC directors for investigating 1MDB (Datuk Bahri Mohd Zin and Datuk Rohaizad Yaakob)

-Removal of Bank Negara Governor (Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar)

-Sacking of Muhyiddin Yassin and Shafie Apdal

-Removing of Mukhriz as Kedah MB

-Unfair election tactics in which the Election Committee was basically under Najib’s thumb-

– gerrymandering

-election day set on a weekday 

-unfair anti fake-news law

-Registrar of Society refusing to recognise Pakatan Harapan 

-the banning of Tun M’s face in campaign posters

-the rule of 10 days notice to campaign in other constituencies.

All these resulted in an unlevelled playing field between BN and PH in the GE 14. These are Najib’s obvious attempt to steal an election. 

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I was getting heartily sick of the oppressive cruelty of BN, to the point that I have made some mental plans to migrate to Brunei or Singapore or the UK when I have finished my final exam. I remember thinking “Thank God, I took the MRCPSYCH pathway, so that my qualification is recognized everywhere in the world. I can just pack up and get out!” And I was not the only one who had made plans. Some of my Chinese friends wanted to migrate to Australia… and I didn’t blame them. They have kids whose future are their primary concern, enough said.

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A few days after the dissolution of the parliament, I saw the status in the INVOKE Facebook page about how they needed 20,000 volunteers for the election. And they only had 4000 so far. That piece of news came across as very alarming to me. That was 16,000 volunteers short of what they actually needed!

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I started calling for other people to join INVOKE when I found out that they only had 4000 volunteers at that time.

I wanted Najib and BN to lose… but how could I expect PH to win when they were the underdog fighting against the bully in an unlevelled playing field that seemed to  favour the bully?

PH did not have as much funds as BN to help them campaign and win the election. They didn’t have much funds to entice people to act as their polling agent and counting agent. All they had were their ideals and their integrity and their sincere desire to rebuild the nation.

Guys, I am not the sort of person who like to do any sort of work that involves having to meet and socialize with complete strangers. I don’t enjoy being placed in a situation of discomfort involving getting to know people in order to have to work with them.But it spoke volume of how much I loathed and despised Najib and the BN government that I could even overcome my dislike of meeting strangers and just registered my name online as an INVOKE volunteer. (It spoke volume of how much Mahathir and the opposition hate Najib when they could collaborate to topple him! I NEVER thought I would see Mahathir and Anwar team up again in my lifetime!)

I am the sort of person who love spending my free time reading and writing and surfing the internet for ideas and inspiration to write…that I have never done one single locum in my entire life! All my free time is for me and my hobbies and my family….I make sure my salary is enough for my lifestyle without any need to supplement my income in other ways. And now that I am furthering my study, my free time is even more precious because I get so little time to read now.

If the situation was not so dire, I would never willingly volunteer at INVOKE. I would just inconspicuously watch the progress of the election campaign while being an ardent supporter in the social media rather than actually having to be personally involved or having to come down to the Pusat Operasi Pilihanraya, or having to meet complete strangers and making small talk. In my mind…. doing all these is agony! 

But the situation was dire. It was critical. They needed volunteers and I could not ignore the Invoke’s call anymore. (I had ignored some of the INVOKE facebook status calling for volunteers in the past. I tried to silence my conscience by thinking that other people would step up soon and there was no need for me to volunteer.)

As I have mentioned before… I believe in effort. I really do. I believe God will help you if you are sincere and your effort is enough. The fact that you put in some effort is already a mark of sincerity. If you are just being wishful of a government change without really doing anything…. how really sincere is your wish for a government change?

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I took the opportunity to attend a MEGA PACA course when it was held on the 13th of April at Dewan Lip Seang Khor in Sungai Petani, which was quite convenient for me as I live in Alor Setar. I didn’t know anyone there. I went there and had to make conversation with a bunch of older ladies because I sat with them at the same table. But despite all the social discomfort, I learned a lot at this course. It was packed with knowledge regarding the election process, the important roles played by PACA as the last defense against a rigged election process, what we have to do if there were some hanky panky (blackouts, anyone? haha). And I noticed how utterly prepared the PH people were this time around. For example, we were provided with the number of lawyers near our area who we could contact should we need them to come to us for any legal issues that might have taken place in each saluran.

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I guess, many people were like me. We were all so alarmed by the small number of volunteers… so we volunteered ramai-ramai and within a week, the number of volunteers increased from 4000 to 17,594 PACAs!

 

Within a few days after registering online to be an INVOKE volunteer, I was added into INVOKE Kedah Whatsapp group. And later, I was added into Parlimen Pokok Sena Whatsapp group,… and then later I was added in DUN Bukit Pinang Whatsapp Group… and then I was added in Hutan Kampung Whatsapp Group (because that was the polling centre where I would be doing my PACA duty).  Yupp… so many whatsapp groups. My whatsapp traffic had never been so busy before the days leading to the GE14. These whatsapp groups contained political hot news and latest information, but sometimes also rumours and hearsay. I was inundated with political datas! But it was up to my judgment how much I wanted to believe them.

When I first went to Pusat Operasi Pilihanraya DUN Bukit Pinang, I met Kak N (the DUN candidate’s agent) who proceeded to brief me regarding my PACA duties and the area I would be assigned to. We went straight into business without much unnecessary small talk (Thank God). I was asked to sign Borang Sumpah Kerahsiaan (Borang A) that all polling agents must sign.  Then, I was immediately made comfortable when we talked politics and our common aspirations for Malaysia and our dissatisfaction towards PAS (the PAS topic will be in my next post, insyaAllah)

I tried to avoid telling the people in the pusat operasi about my job as a doctor. I really didn’t think it was that relevant to what I was volunteering to do. But they kept on asking where I was working, and then which department… and what exactly did I do in that department… they were relentless in pursuing all my vague answers. They were so surprised to have a doctor volunteering as PACA. All these while they had people of a lower socioeconomic status volunteering to do these sort of work… and mostly for the allowance money (which was not even that much. Only RM 50).

It was like PKSN (program khidmat sosial negara) all over again. I was the only one from MRSM school who volunteered to attend PKSN… and had to make new friends with people of different background from me. Intelligent students don’t seem to care much about volunteering… they are less patriotic… they care only about studies and the number of As they could obtain. After SPM, they will go travel overseas, and get a driving license… they care about themselves and things they can do to advance themselves. If their names come up for PLKN training, they rush to see a doctor to get the doctor’s confirmation of how unfit they are to be a PLKN trainee.  I wonder sometimes, do these intelligent people have any higher ideals in their lives beyond their own day-to-day life? Don’t you care about the country? 

I guess, doctors and professionals are just too busy to be volunteering. But wait a minute… my Chinese friend who is also a doctor had volunteered as PACA too (but at a different DUN than mine). Most of my Chinese friends do a lot of volunteer works for Tzu Chi. My doctor friends from Australia do a lot volunteer works too. Volunteerism is like a way of life. Intelligent people in other places and within other races will volunteer because they have ideals they want to champion!

It is not so among Malay professionals, though. What we like to do is simply to become keyboard warriors and just ineffectively vent out our frustrations with each other (but not in front of the boss. Hahaha! See?) Anyone who is too vocal or too blunt is considered an anathema. This is something in the Malay culture that is so rotten that it stinks so bad. The Malay attitude of  “berdiplomasi, hormat tak kena tempat,” is the very reason BN could get away with daylight robberies and blatant oppression all these years. They KNEW the Malays’ anger  “tak ke mana”. Maybe we had deserved the sort of government we had had all these while.

The day before the election, I came down to Pusat Operasi again to take my SPRM name tags as a counting agent and a polling agent. I realized that our situation was so dishearteningly sad. I was quite worried, to be honest, when I compared the PH’s resources to that of BN and even PAS. Other parties had many agents, so they could do a duty roster consisting of 3-4 shifts, allowing their polling agents to rotate duties frequently. And they had different people to be the polling agents and the counting agents. Whereas for us, our duty as a polling agent was continuous with our duty as the counting agent too. We only had two shifts as polling agents from 7.30 am until 5 pm. From 7.30 until 12.30, the first polling agent would be on duty (while the second polling agent went to vote). From 12.30 to 5.00 pm, the second polling agent would take over from the first polling agent (to allow the first polling agent the opportunity to cast his own vote)  Because I was the second polling agent, I had to negotiate with my first polling agent to allow me to pray my Zohor prayer first before I took over from him. And after 5 pm, the first polling agent will return and join the second polling agent at the saluran, but this time, both of the polling agents would switch their ‘polling agents tags’ to ‘counting agents tags’. 

See? That’s why I was given two tags: polling agent and counting agent! We were so short of staff. We could only watch as other PACAs from other parties came and went and rotated multiple times for toilet breaks, lunch time and even ‘rokok time’. 

 

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And while other parties sent two polling agents each shift (one for the DUN candidate and one for the Parliamentary candidate), we could only send one agent. So I was the polling agent for both DUN and Parliament candidates. Double the work…. double Borang 13 to be filled, double Borang 14 to be filled. And it was also my first time doing all these! I was such a novice and was simply learning everything on the go. Thank God the PACAs from PAS were quite helpful. PH agents and PAS agents formed a kind of team, helping each other… we didn’t talk to  the BN agents as much. Haha. 

The polling and counting process in my saluran was quite smooth-sailing. Our presiding officer (ketua tempat mengundi/KTM) was quite cooperative and very reasonable. After all the paperwork was done, and all the numbers tallied nicely, my Borang 14 which contained the formal result for each saluran was signed without any hassle. I snapped the picture of Borang 14 and sent it through the Whatsapp Group. And then all the PACAs and SPRM officers said our goodbyes and our apologies for any offences caused.  I went out of the polling center at 8.00 pm and managed to submit my Borang 14 at the Pusat Operasi around 10 minutes past 8.00. People in the Pusat Operasi asked me to join them hanging around but I politely excused myself. My duty was done and I needed to withdraw to my own familiar environment.

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My facebook status after I have submitted my Borang 14 to the Pusat Operasi, which meant that my PACA duty was done and dusted. Alhamdulillah.

I rushed to my parents’ house for Maghrib prayer and Isha prayer and then I came down to be with the whole family in the living room to watch Astro Awani on TV (even though we ended up following the results through the internet because the election results on TV was so slow). I have never been THIS excited in following the election results before. This time, I was directly involved in the process, directly involved in the making of history.

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This was my facebook status while awaiting the results of the election. I was alarmed when I heard that in some places in Sabah, KTM had refused to sign the Borang 14.  My friends in my various Whatsapp  asked me whether everything was ok at my saluran. I reassured them that everything was smooth and fine at my saluran. And they made their usual joke about me “Berani KTM nak buat pasal kat tempat Afiza jaga”. Hahha. But actually, the more experienced PAS PACA was much more vigilant than I was. I only followed what they did and supported all their objections. LOL.

I only slept at 4.00 a.m when I was reasonably sure that PH had won. I could never sleep before knowing for sure who was the winning party. The whole family was jubilant! We had dreamed of this… but we didn’t dare to dream hard because it felt like a battle between David and Goliath! In that historical battle, David had won, of course. But how sure were we that PH could replicate David’s epic win against all odds? It felt too far-fetched…too good to be true… too much of a fairy tale. We toiled and persevered to  the end, of course… but we didn’t dare to hope too much, lest we would be too disappointed.

But miracualously, Alhamdulillah, PH had won against all odds too! What do you know, huh? See? Dreams do come true, sometimes. 

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Haha! Nampak tak merah menyala status Mak Ngah! Merah itu kemarahan rakyat terhadap kleptokrat! Dan merah itu juga semangat juang dan semangat kemenangan rakyat!

I felt like all my effort and my exhaustion and my emotional investment in the whole thing had paid off. I played a very small role in this election, I only did what I could… but it accumulated into a big collective effort. Our role as PACAs and as responsible Malaysian voters paid off! We had grasped in our hands a resounding success!

Thank You, Allah, for always reminding me repeatedly that efforts are required for us to receive YOUR help… even when it felt like it was against all odds. YOU had allowed me to experience the same Sunnahtullah again and again. That I should always “Tie my camel, then trust in Allah.” Don’t bother about the odds. Just do your part!

Allah said that He is what His slave expects Him to be.

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’”

So expect that Allah will grant you your dreams when you do your part! And you yourself will channel your effort according to your expectations. Expectation is a powerful thing! We work in accordance to our own expectation and ideals about ourselves and others. And if we set a low standard in how we should behave, then that’s it! We won’t volunteer, we won’t fight, we won’t lift a finger, we won’t speak up… we will just be cowards!

I am sure the GE14 saga will be made into a political case study in political science courses around the world. Our election was closely followed by International media the world over. How a small nation can topple a kleptocratic government without shedding even one drop of blood! That’s gloriously inspirational! That’s something Malaysians should be proud of!

The peaceful Malaysian Spring bloomed hopeful flowers rather than burned building and damaged bridges! May 13 tragedy has been overshadowed by May 9 victory. People won’t talk about May 13 without also talking about May 9 to the future generation next time. This is the power of the rakyats who came together for their love of Malaysia, putting their racial consideration aside! Look how far we could achieve when we fight hard enough.

For now, I leave you guys with more pictures of the election day and some of my FB status throughout the election day.  Here they are!

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I put up this status the day after the election day! I was so happy that PH won! Alhamdulillah.

Everyone played a small part… even the postal voters did what they could in their own limited capacity! But collectively, it made up into a gigantic effort that had succeeded in toppling the kleptocrats! This is our glorious Malaysian history!

And yes… oh yes… what a time to be alive!

 

 

Work Hard, Play Harder, Contribute Always

WORK HARD

The month of April (till early May) has been a helluva hectic time for yours truly.

I have been swamped… right, left and centre. At the end of most days, I was left exhausted. 

When my colleague Dr. T said that she needed me-time in one of our binge-whining session, I was quick to jump in and said the same. “Yeah, I need me time, too.”

She looked at me incredulously, “Kau single, punya banyak me-time lepas habis kerja”

No one has any idea.

My idea of me-time is me on the bed… with a good book… for two straight days, at least. A really good book that left me staring at the wall, stunned… by the beauty of its words. By the crazy plot twist! By the dialogues! 

When I am at home, I may be by myself… but not the whole of that alone hours are me-time.

Studying at home is NOT me-time…. that is studying time, all right? Going shopping for groceries or clothes or shoes is NOT me time… that is necessary shopping time (I don’t enjoy it much). Doing house chores at home is NOT me-time… that is a necessary household maintenance time! Hiking is NOT me-time… that is exercise time which is necessary for physical health and fitness (though I enjoy it, of course). Listening to political lectures or religious sermons through Facebook and Youtube is NOT me-time… that is increasing-general-knowledge time (though it does feed my need for intellectual stimulation and I like it too). Going out with friends to catch up and gossip is NOT me-time… that is socialising time (and it is done so that my friends won’t think I didn’t care about them or have forgotten them. Because I do remember them in my heart… of course.)

Seriously! I need a lot of alone time….to do all those things… and a portion of those times MUST be spent reading a good book in order for me to feel like I have enough me-time. In order to feel refreshed and rejuvenated! 

Adulthood is killing me slowly (okay, I have to stop being a drama queen. Hahha. I like having my own money as an adult. LOL. But seriously, what was I thinking when I used to want to grow up as fast as possible when I was a child?)

Whenever I feel extra tired, I would remind myself of what Imam Ahmad Hanbal had said to her son:

When do we rest

So, yeah…. life is a never ending struggle. Don’t expect to rest here in this world. Just work hard. 

That was what I told myself when I had to organise Autism Awareness Day on the 21st of April 2018. It took 2 months of careful planning, various meetings, numerous phone calls and a few unrestful nights to get it done but Alhamdulillah, after all the hard work, it was done and dusted. 

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The picture of the staff and committees that had worked so hard to organize Autism Awareness Day on the 21st of April 2018

PLAY HARDER

It was very nice and sweet of my colleagues to say that “We should all go to Pulau Songsong to blow off the steam and relieve some stress.” As though they were planning this trip for the sole purpose of making me feel refreshed after the past hectic months.

The truth is – and I know it – they wanted to go to Pulau Songsong… because they WANTED to go to Pulau Songsong. Whether or not it was specifically for my stress relief was neither here nor there. The fact is, they needed a driver to drive them there, anyway. And as I have always been the designated driver for the girls, of course they wanted me to come along. Hahah. Nice of them to pretend that it was all for my stress-relief, though! LOL. 

But yeah, I was glad they pushed me into doing it. Just like in any social activities, I ended up enjoying it more than I initially thought I would. And I need these type of friends to push me into it… otherwise I will be forever buried inside my house with books. 

The truth is, I relieve stress by solving the cause of the stress. If it is exam that’s causing me stress, I deal with the exam and get it over with. If organising an event is the source of stress, then again my stress can only be gone once the event is done. And all I need afterwards to de-stress is just to be alone, to enjoy my solitude and  dive into the fantastic world of my mystery and fantasy books. That’s all. 

But I am glad for people around me who didn’t give up on me when I was quite hesitant to go. If they didn’t push, I wouldn’t go. But they did, and I ended up really enjoying myself. 

That’s why an introvert person need an extrovert friend…. yin and yang and all that. The introvert is content with what she already has; already content with her own thoughts and the world inside her head. She doesn’t think she needs more. She doesn’t know that there are just as many fascinating things in the real world outside… until the people around her had pushed her to and she has no other choice but to realise  that the outside world is just as great. So that next time, when they plan another trip, she will be much more willing to go because she remembers her positive experience from the previous outing.

In fact, I really can’t wait for the next trip. 

Below are the pictures of the beauty of Pulau Songsong. It ALMOST felt like we were in the cheaper and primitive version of the Maldives. To those who don’t know the history of this enchanting island, Pulau Songsong was previously used by the Royal Australian Force as a missile testing ground in the 50s. The island has been closed off to the public for many years until circa 2008. Until now, the island does not have much in terms of amenities. No chalets (so camping out is the only option), very primitive toilets and a very simple and small surau. I hope the state government would do something in terms of development for this island. It was said that this island has one of the best coral systems compared to the rest of the nearby islands in the area. 

Below are some of the pictures of the enchanting Pulau Songsong. I highly recommend my dear readers to pay this island a visit. The cost of the entire trip was only RM50 per head (for the boat and for the food that we brought to be barbecued).  So much value for money, isn’t it? 

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Such a nice clear water…
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The rocks are really that colour. It casts a beautiful hue and glow to the surrounding water.
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This picture was taken on the other side of the island (the less crowded side)
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The turquoise colour of the sea is really calming, ain’t it?
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Haha our creative photographer had edited the picture of us posing in the water . It looked as though we had just finished fighting off monsters deep inside the water.

CONTRIBUTE ALWAYS

Another reason why my April month was so busy was because I had used up most of my free times to volunteer at Invoke for the recent election. And I was so happy and jubilant when Pakatan Harapan won stunningly and gloriously against the oppressive Barisan coalition led by the kleptocratic Najib and supported by his shameless cronies. 

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I have decided to write a specific post about my involvement with INVOKE (the brain child of PKR’s vice president, Rafizi Ramli). Perhaps, I will do that in the next post, Insya Allah.

But in short, I had volunteered at Invoke to be a PACA (polling agent and counting agent) for Pakatan Harapan around one month before the election. I had to attend a few courses and talks organised by INVOKE, Pakatan Harapan and Pusat Operasi Dun Bukit Pinang. I learned how to ensure a fair election, how to detect any hanky panky during the voting process, how to fill up specific forms while being a polling/counting agent (Borang Bantahan, Borang 13, Borang 14. Borang 10/ Akuan Identity, really so many borangs) and I was also given the phone number of lawyers that can be contacted if the presiding officer (Ketua Tempat Mengundi) refused to sign Borang 14 (the formal final result of the voting for each saluran). We also went through scenarios of what to do if certain circumstances arise (electricity/power blackout for example) and who we should contact to advise us on legal matters on the election day should any skirmish/argument take place. 

So the duration of April and early May was so exhausting, guys! Sometimes I was post-call, but I made myself attend the talks/ceramahs anyway at the pusat operasi. I believe that I am doing this for my beloved country.

I was raised by my parents to be really patriotic. We were hard-core UMNO supporters once upon a time. My father encouraged me to volunteer to go to PKSN (Program Khidmat Sosial Negara) while awaiting for my SPM results… in fact, I used to like going to BTN (but mainly for the outdoor activities haha). After medical school, I could have stayed in Australia like some of my other batchmates but my parents had reminded me of my duty as a Malaysian scholar to come back and serve the country. It was one of the hardest decision I had to make that I actually had to do istikharah for it because I was so torn apart (I rarely do istikharah in general because most of the time, I am pretty certain of my decision based on the facts and figures of the situation). I watched and enjoyed a lot of patriotic movies like Sarjan Hassan, Leftenan Adnan, Tanda Putera, and Ola Bola. My father would always say things like “Orang Melayu kena kerja kuat dan rajin, Tengok macam orang Cina! Siapa lagi kuat berusaha, dia yang akan berjaya.” My father would feel so proud when my school marks were better than the Chinese in my school or if I was the top scorer for any particular subject. In his mind, he was not being racist but he was being patriotic. He cares about the Malays and he has always been a part of some political party or some organizations that champion the Malay cause. 

Every general election is like a raya for our family. My maternal aunt’s house in Sungai Limau has been a bilik gerakan for BN since I was a child. It was still used as BN’s bilik gerakan for the recent GE14. But this time… WITHOUT the participation of my parents’ and myself. My aunt was so disappointed when my parents and all my siblings had, ehem, well..  ‘defected to  the other side’ (hahha. In her mind, it was the ‘evil’ side). Unlike the top UMNO members, my aunt was just an ordinary patriotic party member who thinks of UMNO as the Malays’ sole chance of surviving. In her mind, she is doing all these for her country too. She thinks she is supporting the same UMNO that she has been supporting since she herself was a small child. Nothing my parents said could ever shake her belief in UMNO. 

My parents are now a proud member of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. They had switched allegiance since all Najib’s scandals started coming out in the social media 3 years ago. Then they joined Parti Pribumi Bersatu after Tun M set it up around one year ago. Me? I am not sure if I will ever be able to overcome my hesitancy in joining ANY organization, unnecessarily. Organisation has rules. And with me, I tend to break any rule if I don’t agree with it. I don’t respect position, insensible rules or diplomacy or form without substance. I respect fairness and justice, ideas, intelligence and plain speaking. You can be my boss, but I can go against you if I think you are wrong. And because of this, I can never be a good member of any particular organization. And I probably never even want to. I love being free to form my own mind and if it happens to be against any organization… well, that is EXACTLY why I am not a member of any. 

I prefer to volunteer the way I did with INVOKE. In my mind, I was not volunteering to be a PACA because I was a member of any of the component party of Pakatan Harapan (because I wasn’t and I am still not. I probably won’t ever). I volunteered because I wanted to ensure a fair election that will bring Najib down! The destroyer of this country must be punished and justice must be served. I volunteered for my own personal principle even if it meant I had to sacrifice my study time or my reading time. 

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And when Pakatan Harapan Alhamdulillah won, I felt an immense joy that was bordering on euphoria. I felt glad for the opportunity to be directly involved in this historical election that had seen Najib and BN perished in the hands of ordinary citizens who love Malaysia. The parliamentary candidate I was assigned to be a PACA to (at Sek Men Hutan Kampung Saluran 2) was Dato’ Mahfuz Omar… and Alhamdulillah he won the parliamentary seat of Pokok Sena. 

After seeing our beloved Tun Mahathir being sworn in as the 7th Prime Minister at Istana Negara via the LIVE broadcast of RTM2, the whole family cheered. Welcome back Tun Mahathir! And of course, welcome back Mukhriz as the MB of Kedah!

For now, I am your fan… but remember, if you betray the rakyat’s trust I will not hesitate to change my allegiance again. And so do many Malaysians in our age group. They say that this is the Malaysians Tsunami…. but it is MOSTLY the tsunami of the younger Malaysians! Who would have thought that we could do it? Alhamdulillah!

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A proud Kedahan. That’s me.

And thanks Rafizi, for creating INVOKE as a platform for many patriotic Malaysians to volunteer and be part of this momentous occasion. The kleptocrats are down! Alhamdulillah! Alhamdulillah! Alhamdulillah! It’s time to rebuild the nation. 

In the mean time, now that the election is over with a resounding glory, I can finally rest. May the rest of the month of May be a bit more pleasant and peaceful. I suspect that until the election fever is over (personally, it takes me some weeks to get over my election fever; I always have the tendency to follow many political news for many months after the election day. And what I read and thus what I think, is what I tend to write), many of my future posts will be about this country or about politics in general. So, stay tuned, if you like that sort of posts (and I am sorry if you don’t. Please feel free not to read my posts. If you do like that sort of posts though, you might encounter ideas or opinions of mine that you don’t agree with. Please feel free to comment or better yet, create your own blog and spread your own beliefs and ideas. This is now a FREE country!)

I leave my dear readers with a reminder to “Work hard, play harder and contribute always”.

Until next time, insha Allah. 😉

You Reap What You Sow

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There are times when I think people are very blind to injustice and unfairness. 

If you cannot speak up against small injustice that happens in your surrounding and general environment, then you have no rights to talk about how bad the state of corruption in this country. How can you expect ministers and government officials to admonish their prime minister, when we ourselves cannot even speak up about things that happen in our own very small, very insignificant environment?

I personally do not feel the need to kowtow to people or kiss anyone’s ass at the cost of justice and fairness. If the cost of building harmonious relationship is by sacrificing justice and fairness, I don’t need to preserve such relationship. 

I keep friends that have the same core values and similar life principles. Other friends can choose to align their principles with me or not… their choice. But I am not keeping close relationships with those who cannot appreciate basic tenets of fair treatment and justice. In this, I am firm. 

If I am a client of a CBT session, the therapist would say that justice is my core belief. It is the lens through which I examine every single matter in life. Relationship is important, but not as much as justice. I didn’t say this, the Quran does. 

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Even in things that do not affect me personally, if I think it is wrong, I will speak up about it. And I am not like this by nature. No one, in their nature, simply for no reason likes to ruffle feathers and makes things uncomfortable. I am like this by training. Because it was ingrained within me (by my father, by my learning of  the religion) that if you don’t have the strength to speak up against small injustice that happens around you, what makes you think you will have the strength needed to fight for bigger things later? 

Some people told me that “decision has been made”. I just laughed. No one is questioning about whether or not decision is made or NOT made. We are questioning the fairness of the decision. Other people may not say it outright that the decision was wrong (because not many people are like me.)  But they think it, they feel it. And they will remember it. 

At least, when I am honest in my opinion, it gives everyone the opportunity to pause; to think first and not make a wrong decision. Or an unjust decision.

I have full insight regarding how I might come across when I am too blunt. But I still won’t change because I notice that without my bluntness, it is easy for people to sweep issues under the carpet and pretend that everything is right. 

Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “May Allah have mercy on a man who shows me my faults.”

Al-A’raf 7:164 taught us that we should never be among those who are not worth mentioning. The people who are not worth mentioning are those who in this life, when they saw injustice, they fell silent. 

***

No one likes to do extra-work.

But if you have failed miserably to complete your task last year, you should have the spine to shoulder the responsibility this year and try to compensate for what you didn’t accomplish last year. Other people had done their part. And now if it’s your turn, you have to develop the strength to get it done.

Someone who cares about you will take you aside and tell you, “Look, Allah will not put you through this if He doesn’t think you can handle this. This is your turn to do it. No one likes to do this task. That is why we should develop rules on how the decision is made regarding who must do it. As long as you haven’t completed your turn, other people will always feel resentful when they have to do something that you somehow can skip. When you give excuses like this, it reflects badly on you. People talk about you. How they have to pick up on your slacks because you couldn’t do what had been originally assigned for you! So, please do this! I will help you!”

A person who doesn’t care about you would say “Well, decision has been made. If the authority says you don’t have to do it, then you just don’t have to do it. No need to discuss anymore. Let the authority choose other people to replace what you should be doing. You can just ignore what other people feel about how you have shirked your responsibility.” A person who doesn’t care about your personal growth and development would encourage you to have the sort of behaviour that he himself has displayed all these while. So that you can become as chronic as him!

Is that a real friend?

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If I had a friend who (by rights of justice and fairness) failed to do her responsibility, I will take her aside and tell her, “I know life is difficult for you. But citing a random personal reason for not doing something that you should be doing is not the right thing to do. Come on, you are better than that! There is more to you than that! I will help you!”

Strength of character is not developed by maintaining the same routine each and every time, hoping that you can somehow escape your task. We won’t get any new experience by behaving like any extra work is a burden rather than a challenge. 

When I had to do it, did I like it? I didn’t! But I had to do it, so Alhamdulillah, I did it. When my friend had to do it, she didn’t like it too. But did she do it? Yes, she did. When she asked for my help, I felt GLAD to help and be involved in whatever way I could because I wanted her to be able to do it too. Now, that’s real friendship. 

Real friendship is NOT you encouraging your friends to abandon ship and let it sink when the going gets tough. Real friendship is whispering to your friend’s ear “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Let’s do whatever we can to keep the ship afloat” Real friendship is telling your friend, “I will help you with your task.”

Don’t let it be said that men are slackers and it takes women to complete simple task that men simply cannot perform. Rise to expectation, and trust Allah to help you.

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Trust in the most uplifting, most motivational Sunnahtullah that Allah has taught us: Effort is required to qualify for Allah’s help. As simple as that. 

 

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The Enlightened Man & The Pygmalion Effect

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My father turned 61 a few days ago. He was born on the 5th of March 1957, the first born in his family. We all had a simple celebration at Swensen for my father’s birthday; Me and Alida’s treat for the whole family.

Even though he is now 61, but I still remember him as a man in his 30s, strictly checking my academic tasks and asking my mother or my nanny (my beloved Kak Milah) whether or not I had studied according to the schedule that I was supposed to adhere to.

As a child, whenever I heard the sound of his car on the driveway when he returned from work, I would run out of the living room (where the TV was, hahha) into the study room and pretended that I had been lost in diligent concentration of whatever academic book I was supposed to be reading at that time.

But then he would pop up into the study room and said, “Kak Ngah, tadi lupa tutup kipas kat depan ke?”

Damn! Busted! Hahaha.

When I told my friends about why I couldn’t go out to play for too long, all my friends in the neighbourhood never really understood.

And me? I never understood why their parents never asked them to study like my parents did.

I was also surprised that among my friends, the mothers were the ones who would pester them to study or to finish their homework. In my household, it was always my father who would put the fear of God in our hearts to perform our academic task. There are times when I wonder, how would my father deal with an ADHD child or a slow learner child? Haha. It would be interesting to see.

My father did not pester me to finish my homework, because he knew I would finish it on my own (simply because I didn’t want to be scolded by teachers. And I also had a reputation to maintain. I couldn’t let it be said that “Afiza is not as good as Afzalina at school.” Hahha. Sibling rivalry helped me stay motivated. Looking back, I really did owe my elder sister a lot.)

Instead, he would pester me to finish an additional academic task that he set out for me. I had one English article to translate per day. Every week, he would buy The Star or The New Straits Times newspaper, and then he would put an asterisk mark to seven articles he wanted me to translate into Malay for the whole week. In our childhood life, that was the most torturous task for me and my elder sister. But my elder sister had it even worse than me… she had to translate 5 articles per day.  And she had to do it for 2 years. I only had to do it for one year…

Whereas Izati and Alida did not have to do it daily like I did. And Wani… didn’t have to do it AT ALL! (I guess, by the time  the younger sisters were at the age to do the article translation, my father was pretty busy with his business already and didn’t have the time to monitor them properly. So they got away from the worst academic task of me and my Kak Long’s life)

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I have to admit that I have been the cause of many rules formation in the household.

Until now, whenever we siblings get together, we STILL reminisce on the crazy brain-racking article translation that we had to do. And we would have a great laugh.

It is good being the middle child. Because the eldest child always gets it worse when it comes to parental expectation. The eldest child is the victim of parental enthusiasm. The eldest child is ‘the project’!  The experiment! If the eldest child is successful, then the chance that the rest of the siblings would also be successful would be high too… or so most people thought.

My father only has daughters…. five of them. No sons. But because he is an enlightened man, we never got saddled with a lot of what society would label as ‘women’s task’. We mostly got saddled with academic tasks. Whenever people commented to my mother “Bestnya ramai anak perempuan. Boleh tolong mak.” my mother would roll her eyes. Because we rarely helped her in the kitchen, if truth be told. (Sometimes, I feel sorry for my mother. Most of us inherits my father’s genetics; not just in looks but also in temperament and personality.) Of course, she made sure that we knew how to take care of ourselves; we could make our own drinks, we knew how to cook scrambled eggs, simple fried rice…and we knew how to sweep or mop the floor, and how to operate the washing machine. We took care of our own school shoes and our own school uniforms and wrapped our own text books. My mother would always say, “Kak Milah is for me… to help me. Not to help you. Wash your own school shoes!” But we were not expected to do only house chores. Academic tasks always took precedent over anything else… because my father said so.

One of my friends used to tell me how her brothers never had to do any housework and she was the one who had to do it as the only daughter in her family. I remember thinking, “Thank God, we don’t have brothers.” (Look, I don’t mind doing housechores, but it must be equally divided, gender notwithstanding! Otherwise, I would totally rebel.)

My father has taught me a lot throughout my life. Even without learning psychiatry, he kind of applied the concept of Pygmalion effect (or Rosenthal effect) in raising us.

Basically, in the theory of Pygmalion effect, it states that “we become what is expected of us.” It all  has something to do with expectation. It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy in which we strive and behave in a way as to be in concordance with our own expectation (or other people’s expectation of us). It can be seen among students at school. You can see the difference in motivation and attitude among students in the first class and students in the last class. Students with poor expectations from their teachers (those in ‘kelas belakang’) internalize their negative label and perform poorly, and those with positive expectations internalise their positive labels and succeed academically. (That’s why whenever possible, make sure your kids stay in  the first class…. teachers’ expectation on first class kids would propel them to succeed. It is the Pygmalion effect. You can google it yourself if you want to know more about this. I learned this in my Part A specialist exam.)

“You delivered because you were expected to.”

–> That is the gist of what Pygmalion effect is all about.

So you yourself can apply this Pygmalion effect on yourself. If you put a high expectation of yourself, then you will push yourself to deliver. Even if you might not obtain the kind of result that you originally wanted, the result would STILL be so much better compared to when you expected nothing of yourself. My father might say that he expected all of us to get number one, but he was still just as happy if we obtained among the top ten. Had he not expected anything at all, we might feel complacent with just minimal effort.

There were so many incidents in my life in which I had internalized his positive expectations and manage to deliver what he wanted. 

 

1)He taught me to stand up to bullies. Always.

When I was 10 years old, Izati who was seven years old at that time got elbowed on the face by a 14 year old boy in the school bus. I still remember what had happened. This 14 year old boy had stepped on Izati’s shoes. Izati was upset because her school shoes was new and white. She was just like a typical excited standard 1 girl who would be upset when people step on her school shoes. So, she retaliated by stepping on the boy’s shoes, just to even the score. The boy then elbowed Izati’s face on his way out of the bus. I was shocked but I couldn’t do anything at that time as the boy was already gone. My father always kind of expected me to look out after my sisters at school but at that time, heck, I was scared. I was a child myself. 

Izati then told my father about what had happened. My father turned to me and said “Kak Ngah, esok Kak Ngah pi bagi warning kat budak tu.Kalau dia buat macam tu kat Izati lagi, ayah akan jumpa dia.”

I was like, “Whaaatt? Why me? It’s not my problem! Why can’t Izati warn him herself? Apa kata ayah terus pi jumpa budak tu saja? Why do I have to give him a warning? He is a big boy. He is in secondary school!” But I couldn’t say the words. Because I didn’t want my father to think I was afraid. (But of course, I was! Hahah). My father EXPECTED me not to be afraid, so what could I do, right? 

When my father was out of the earshot, I turned to Izati, “Zati yang cari gaduh, kak ngah pula yang kena pi bagi warning!” I was so upset at Izati for putting me into this trouble. But I didn’t have a choice. My father ALWAYS followed up on the task he had given me to do.

So the next day, I gathered all my friends who also boarded the same bus as me and strategized about what I should do. It was a bad idea to talk to my friends about it. They made me even more scared. They were telling me, “Afiza, dia tu budak sekolah Al-Bukhary. Budak sekolah nakal tu. Dia tu memang kaki buli. Dia pernah tumbuk orang tau!” I was like, sh*t. What had Izati gotten me into?

But the thought of not doing the task my father had assigned me to do was never an option. I was more afraid of failing the task my father had set me out to do.

Another friend of mine said “Lepas awak bagi warning kat dia, awak terus lari pi seat belakang bas. Jangan tunggu depan dia. Nanti dia tumbuk.” In my mind, I was like “Lepas bagi warning, aku lari? Damn! The warning won’t be effective like that! It would look like I was such a coward.”

But what choice did I have?

So that was what I did. When I got into the bus, accompanied by a few of my loyal friends who also boarded the same bus, I went to the seat where he was sitting and said in a shaky voice, “Weh! Ayah aku cakap, hang jangan nak pukul adik aku lagi. Ayah aku warning dia akan mai jumpa hang kalau hang buat macam tu lagi.” I was trying to put on a brave face. And that was the first time I used ‘aku-hang’ to anyone. Hahah. I didn’t really plan to run, you know. I wanted to casually walk away. But then I saw him getting up from his seat. So, without further ado, I ran. Hahha. I ran to the back of the bus where I had more friends waiting for me there. Somehow, he decided not to pursue me to the back of the bus. I was so relieved. Maybe my warning was effective after all. Hahha. When I got home, I straightaway told my father that I had delivered the warning. My task was done and dusted! (Of course, I never told him that I ran away afterwards. Haha)

 

2) He taught me hard work and perseverance always yield a good outcome

Whenever I told my father I could not do some academic task or that I found certain subjects difficult to master, he would always say, “Baca sekali tak faham, baca lah dua kali. Tak faham juga, baca 10 kali. Sampai faham.” In short, you just have to accomplish your mission. No matter how hard you have to work at it, you just have to do it.

Just do it!

My father’s name in Arabic means The Determined One. The Resolute. The name suited him really well.

When he wanted something, he would not cease his effort until he got it. He told me that his life’s motto is “usaha selagi daya”. Admirable, isn’t it? He was the only one among his siblings who pursued a university degree. Also the only one among his cousins who has a degree. Despite my grandfather’s insistence that he stop schooling at the age of 13 (to help my grandfather with rubber tapping), he somehow got someone who was respected in his neighbourhood to convince my grandfather that education was important and he should be given the chance to finish secondary school, at least. My grandfather gave in under the neighbourhood pressure and my father’s determination.

My father was sent to Sekolah Menengah Khir Johari, living in a hostel where he could focus more on his studies. My father really enjoyed the school. He was the best student in his school for SPM. He wanted to continue into tertiary level studies but my grandfather could no longer spare him  the luxury. So, he worked as an immigration officer, and when he was about to marry my mother, he switched his job to a police officer for a better pay. When PDRM offered their officers a chance to pursue a fully-funded tertiary education, my father jumped at the opportunity. But instead of taking law like many of his friends in the PDRM, he took Accountancy. I guess, he loved business and maths and calculation and stuff like that. (I certainly didn’t get that genes. LOL. The Math gene went to my elder sister who is now a statistic lecturer). After he finished his degree, he quitted PDRM to do business. I guess, he was never the sort who can work for others or follow the dictation of someone whose order he couldn’t understand or respect. Blind following is never his strength.

During the financial crisis of 1997-1998, he was hit really hard. It affected all of us, I still remember. But my daily routine didn’t change much… school was still our priority. My father made sure that there would always be money for school stuff and for books… but perhaps not for Taekwondo lessons or school trips or camping expedition that Scouts organized. After all, there were 5 of us to feed, all in schooling age. 

My UPSR was in 1997, the year of the financial crisis. My father had promised me that if I could get straight As for my UPSR, I would get RM50 for each A that I got. But if I couldn’t get straight As for UPSR, I would only get RM20 for each A that I got.  Despite the financial constraint, he didn’t break that promise. And when I obtained my 5As, I was given RM250 on the very day I got my result (but he made me save half of it in the bank. LOL. I spent the rest of the money on story books, of course.) I remember feeling bad for taking the money. I was worried that they might feel burdened by the promise they made. But I knew, my father would have insisted that I take it anyway.  So I said thank you with a lump in my throat.

My elder sister got offered to go to MRSM Taiping after being  the school’s best student for PMR at that time. Whether or not she was going to MRSM, was never a question. Not even when the expense was quite high. She went to MRSM Taiping all the same. We let go the maid. I helped my mom with house chores. After a few years of financial constraints, my father managed to bring the family’s finance to a stable condition when he joined his cousin in setting up a security company. And Alhamdulillah, it’s been stable since then. By the time I was going to MRSM Langkawi, we could afford a maid again. I remember saying to my sisters, “When I was around, mom didn’t need a maid. When I go to MRSM, mom needs a maid. Because you guys are such lazy bums and couldn’t be relied on to help mom! PMR tak score, hangpa siap!” My younger sisters simply rolled their eyes.

Throughout the financial crisis (which my younger sisters did not remember much. Only my Kak Long and I really vividly remember the experience), I never saw my father give up his efforts. He really is the determined one; the resolute.

 

3) He placed education as the most important aspect of childhood

Perhaps, he was affected by his hard life as a child who had to fight his own father simply to stay at school. And that might be why he worked hard to make sure we got the best schooling experience he could afford. We all went to the best national school in the state of Kedah. He would change his address to make sure we all got into Asma School. Perhaps, he didn’t want us to experience the difficulties he had to undergo as a poor child in school. Maybe he wanted to give us the opportunity he himself couldn’t get as a child.

My father loves education so much because that was something he had to work so hard to obtain. He was very single minded in his effort to stay at school. When most kids his age had started smoking (because smoking was cool back then), he never did because he couldn’t afford the cigarettes. All his scholarship money (apparently during his time, secondary schoolers were given scholarships) went for books and savings. Not clothes, not cigarettes…things that other kids who received the scholarship would buy at times. He had to take a longer route to get to the uni. But he did it finally. 

Until now, he is STILL very passionate in encouraging us to continue our studies. He stopped asking my Kak Long to study ONLY after my Kak Long had completed her doctorate. (My first nephew was born ONLY after she was done with her thesis. Priorities, huh?) At the moment, I am pursuing my studies as well, so he stopped pestering me already. He supported my effort by sponsoring my hotel and flight tickets for exams. He is now pestering Izati and Alida to do master every time they come home for a visit. Wani’s time to be pestered will come once she has finished her first year dental officer, I am sure.

As a child, I knew that he would not listen to any excuse of why we couldn’t perform well at school. He would tell me, “Ayah nak pi sekolah, naik basikal buruk tok wan. Jauh berbelas kilometer; naik bukit turun bukit kayuh basikal. Bila naik bukit ayah tak larat nak kayuh, so ayah kena turun basikal, tolak basikal naik bukit. Ayah tak bawa bekal pun, tak ada duit sekolah. Waktu rehat ayah lapar. Tak ada duit nak beli kat kantin. Kadang-kadang cikgu bagi ayah makan. Kadang-kadang ayah minum air paip. Tapi ayah pi sekolah. So korang demam sikit-sikit, kena pi sekolah. Semangat lah sikit!” 

I think for my father, the option was easy. It was either rubber tapping, or going to school. Of course he would choose school! For me, it was either story books/playing, or going to school. Of course I would not choose school, if given a chance. We couldn’t be as motivated as he expected us to be. But none of us had ever skipped school; well, except when we had chicken pox. 

When I told my father, I could not do Add Maths, he was concerned. Add Maths simply stumped me. My father asked to see my Add Maths textbooks and revision books when I got back from the hostel at the end of Form 4. I didn’t know why he wanted to see my textbooks. Perhaps, he wanted to see whether or not he could teach me himself. (There were a lot of things he could teach me himself when I was a child. And he could teach them better than most teachers. I did not have to go to any tuition class for my UPSR or PMR)  When he found out he couldn’t grasp Add Maths, he simply hired me a private tutor because he could not teach me Add Maths himself. “Tak payah pi mana-mana cuti ni. Kak Ngah pi belajar Add Maths saja dengan Cikgu R hari-hari. Dia ajar Kak Ngah sorang saja, 2 jam sehari. So Kak Ngah kena tanya semua benda yang Kak Ngah tak tau… Buka sekolah Tingkatan Lima nanti mesti dah pandai.”

In my mind, I was like, “Hmmm, I couldn’t ask what I don’t know. In Add Maths, I don’t know what I don’t know.” Hahha. But the private tutoring ended up to be really helpful, even as I regretted my lack of holidays that semester break. I did get an A in Add Maths later for SPM. Thanks to my father who refused to give up. He pushed me harder when I just thought that I could only get 9As1D. I was very proud when I showed my parents my SPM result at the end of the year.

When my younger sister Alida was having trouble with Accountancy during her SPM year, he taught Alida accountancy himself. (As my father’s degree is in Accountancy, he did the tax for his own company every year. He still remembers most of what he learned). Alida ended up teaching her classmates when she became the top student in Accountancy for her class.

 

4)He taught me to do my best work

He taught me to learn from the Chinese. To emulate Chinese’ work ethics. To work hard like them.

He is not a typical Malay, my father. He is always on time, for example. He is very logical and very practical. He doesn’t like to talk non-stop about something nonsense. He is a serious guy who doesn’t crack stupid jokes all the time in an effort to appear jovial and approachable. Like me, he was not that comfortable with small talk. He is very reserved and taciturn. He even relied on my mother to keep in touch with his own relatives. Hahha (Actually, all of us relied on our mother to smooth the way for social interaction with relatives)

He is also very meticulous in his work. Before he started his security company, he worked as a Chief Inspector in PDRM. I remember the time when he brought me and my mother to his office one day because he needed to pick something up while we were on the way to go to some place. There was a clerk outside my father’s room who was so nice to me. I couldn’t remember her name. But that clerk had told my mother, “Tuan Azmee ni cerewet. Kalau surat ada tak kena sikit, tertinggal titik ke.. dia suruh taip lain semua.” They used a typewriter at that time. So can you imagine the trouble of having to write everything again just because of some minor error? My mother could only sympathize but she could not do anything about it. My father was exactly like that at home too.

But the good thing is, people learn to present their best work when they deal with my father. He wouldn’t put up with anything less.

 

5) He taught us to prioritize practicality over idealism

“Kak Long dengan Kak Ngah nak jadi penulis? Nak duduk di tepi sungai… berkhayal…. dan makan pasir?” He asked both me and my Kak Long sarcastically when he caught both of us writing a story when we were supposed to be studying. I was only 8 years old at that time. I still remember the story I was composing. It was about a couple of brothers named Steve and David who just moved into a new neighbourhood. The plot revolved around them investigating about the ghosts who were disturbing them in their new house. They were trying to find out how the ghosts came to be haunting the house and how did the ghosts die… well, something like that. As an 8 year old child, I thought it was a very good plot. Haha. (I was influenced by Tamar Jalis stories. Hahha. Except that I was writing my story in English.)

I was so absorbed in writing those stories in an exercise book that I didn’t hear my father entering our study room. I could not hide the exercise book from his view fast enough. I was caught red handed… and the lecture ensued. *sigh*

There were so many times when me and my Kak Long were caught reading fiction when we were supposed to be studying. Every single time, we would get scolded and sometimes given a stroke of rattan on our palms. But me and my Kak Long never learned our lessons. No punishment was enough to keep us away from stories.

My father is the original language lover in our family. He wrote poetry on the front page of his text books when he was a student. Or he would write some quotes he made up himself. It was not unusual for me to find some words of wisdom scribbled on the front page of any old textbooks of my father’s which I took from our bookshelves. It was ironic that he would not let us pursue something that he himself had loved.

I guess the hardship of his own childhood taught him that “Yeah, it is great to do what you love. But in reality, we have to survive and earn our living. We have to be responsible, and not simply follow our hearts or our ideals.” 

He just could not imagine us being able to survive on writing. He didn’t envision his daughters as merely housewives. He believed education is the key to a good life. So he was alarmed if any of his daughters played too much or became absorbed in stories too excessively. He was distressed when we did not display the sort of diligence he expected from any of us.

His expectation ended up making me a doctor.

 

6) He taught me to have excellent work ethics

People have always said, “Don’t be a doctor because of your parents’ expectation. Or else, you wouldn’t be able to do it. And then you will quit half way.”

That’s not true, guys! There are many people who become a doctor when they didn’t originally want to be one. I am one of the examples. Many of my friends are like that too. You can be whatever you want and succeed in things you never dream of. But you have to put expectations on yourself! You have to put standards about your work ethics. You have to possess the right attitude about responsibility and behaviour at work.  Just…have some standards and expectations on yourself! The rest, leave it to God.

My father never pushed me to be a doctor. I could be anything I like (except as a singer/model/actress or anything in the entertainment industry. My parents would have my head if I ever choose to do something like that. Not that I ever had any talent in those things. Hahah). And I wanted to be a lawyer. But the scholarship I was offered was for medicine. So, the rest is history.

Because of his expectation towards all his daughters, all of us pursued our tertiary education in overseas fully-funded by government scholarships. My sister’s master in Statistic was in Warwick, UK and her doctorate on statistical analysis for three-arms clinical trial was in Sheffield, UK. I went to Australia for medicine, as you guys well-know. Izati and Alida went to Auckland for biology and TESL, respectively. And Wani went to India for dentistry. His investments in us as children (he invested his time, teaching us the right values about education, lecturing us, fighting with us against what we wanted to do VS what we should do) saved us from having to borrow from PTPTN because our SPM results made us eligible for scholarships. We started our working life debt-free.

I couldn’t be what I am today without his effort to shape my behaviour and my character. When I was a houseman, he never told me that I shouldn’t quit my work whenever I told him about certain MOs and specialists I just really hated. He said, I could work with him at the company, if I ever wanted to quit housemanship. “But if you want to quit, do it properly. Don’t simply not turn up to work. ” He emphasized.

But I knew he preferred that I completed my housemanship. Because all my life I was taught to do my responsibility, I didn’t quit. Looking back, I don’t think my pride could ever handle that sort of failure. I knew that my MARA contract stipulated that I had to serve the government for 3 years. It was my responsibility to finish what I had started. So, I handled the pressure of working life and gradually found myself able to enjoy housemanship after finishing my first posting! I had only one day of EL as a HO when I had to send my parents’ for hajj… until now I never again had any EL. I’ve only had one day of sick leave for anaphylactic reaction when I was a HO… and then never again. All my holidays are planned. I take my work seriously. Just like I take education seriously. And those are the things my father taught me and all my siblings. His work ethics and my mother’s work ethics were really admirable. I could never surpass them in that.

And because of  this, I must admit that I look down on people who took ELs for petty reasons. Really, I look down on people who are not serious about their work. Sure, you can EL if your family members are sick. I can understand that. But NOT for reasons like “Mak mertua aku mai.” or “Aku kena handle pasal rumah sewa somewhere.” or “KL jammed… tak boleh balik hari ni.” or “flight delay.”

Look, your mak mertua will just have to handle your absence because she came when you were supposed to be working. She would learn her lesson next time and plan her visit properly. And if you are intelligent enough to plan for contingencies such as “KL Jam” or “flight delay”, you wouldn’t need to take ELs. You can plan your departure one day earlier. 

The word ’emergency’ in the phrase ’emergency leave’ MEANS something!  All right? And if it is the same person who repeatedly does this EL thing almost every month? Well, my patience would be running thin! I have expectations on people! Not outrageous expectations… just reasonable ones. I like people who can display some shame when they trouble other people. Because when they feel ashamed for having no choice but to take ELs, I know that these people have standards!

My study leave was deducted from my own cuti rehat! My friends take unpaid leave when their children were sick too long… or they simply took a maid to help with the kids if they wanted to continue working without having to take repeated ELs. Solve your problems! Don’t trouble people continuously with your lack of life-management skill!

Just…plan your life! Please! That’s another thing my father taught me. To plan! Troubling people with our lateness/ tardiness/ flakiness is NOT acceptable.

 

7) He trusted me with his company; his life’s work.

When my parents went for hajj in 2011, they had told me that they put me and my siblings names on some of their properties. They said, if anything were to happen to them, each of us is the trustee to the property under our name. But each property must be EQUALLY divided later on regardless of under whose name it is.

For example, they put my Kak Long’s name for the house and my younger sisters’ name for some of the lands they had acquired before. 

My name was placed for my father’s shares in the company. My mother said, “Ayah cakap, Kak Ngah lagi garang dan lagi pandai nak bergaduh kalau ayah punya partner nak tipu saham or duit. Ayah tau Kak Ngah mesti takkan lepas saja.” I wanted to laugh.

See? He expected me to behave like that, so for sure I would fight nail and tooth if any of his business partners ever try to cheat me out of my inheritance.

Because my father does not have a son, we talk about inheritance/ hibah a lot. My mother and I made sure that my father had done a proper hibah to all of us. Not because we want the money so much (not that my parents were wealthy or anything). But because if faraid happens, I won’t have the money to pay my uncle for his share of the house/cars/shares according to faraid laws. If my mother and us want to keep my father’s house, we will have to fork out the money to pay our uncle for his rights to the house and other properties according to the Faraid laws. And that’s something I don’t want to have  to do, if I can help it. I don’t want my mother to be stranded with minimal security should anything happen to my father. 

I even posted and shared a lot of facebook status about hibah. I also followed the page of Roslina Sabiyah & Co which deals with a lot of inheritance issues. I think it is important that we understand that Islam is very beautiful and gives a lot of options in dealing with any matter. Faraid is only one of the options in dealing with the issue of inheritance.

Below is one of my facebook status regarding Faraid Vs Hibah. I believe, that a responsible man should never rest easy until the security of those who are dependent on him are taken care of properly.

Screenshot 2018-03-09 12.32.27

 

***

Not many people are lucky to have a father they can be proud of. In my experience as a psychiatry doctor, I certainly witnessed many sick, irresponsible bastards who think being a father is about being a sperm donor.

Truly, me and my siblings were lucky.

In psychiatry, we have this theory called ‘Goodness of Fit’. Between me and my parents, there certainly exists ‘goodness of fit’. They put pressure, and we deliver instead of breaking under it.

Goodness of fit is defined as the congruence between the child’s temperament and the personalities, attitudes and parenting practices of the parents. A goodness-of-fit is seen as fostering healthy psychological and social development.

Whenever I saw the children in my child clinic refusing to go to school, or was depressed by parental expectations… I always wonder why I didn’t react like them when I was placed under various expectations and pressure? I couldn’t understand why the parents couldn’t manage to persuade their children to go to school? In my household, we have always known that the parents are the boss. Their words are law! If they say I have to go to school, then that’s where I am going. It seems like our parents were so much better at rearing children when there was very little knowledge about psychology and psychiatry in their days.

Now, with so many books on child rearing and general psychology, parents are even more clueless!

Parents would say, “Kalau kita tekan dia sangat, nanti dia buat perangai. Kita takut dia stress.”

And I was  thinking, how come my parents never thought that my siblings and I would get depressed by their expectations? They expected anyway! We got punished, anyway! They didn’t handle us like a fragile, easily-broken porcelain china dolls. As though we will shatter at the slightest stress. Pfftt! Teachers back then were even more fierce than teachers these days but none of my siblings ever refused to go to school and neither did most of my friends at that time. Is it possible that parents these days are just too ‘soft’, and therefore the kids are spoiled…. becoming as fragile as the parents had expected them to be (Pygmalion effect, remember?) Paradoxically, it may be that our softness and indulgence, instead of making them into happy children, make them less resilience in facing pressure in the future.

Nowadays, we have kids that fail to launch themselves into adulthood. Kids who couldn’t take scoldings and stress… with poor coping mechanisms. They grow up into big babies instead of mature adults. (Some HOs rely on their parents to give their specialists some excuses for why they couldn’t turn up to work! This is ridiculous!)

Resilience is not really born. It is made! And it wouldn’t get made if your kids never had to measure up to reality and expectations. Attitude and work ethics are not born, they are acquired… and taught… and carved… into being a deep-rooted character of a person. It is not something you develop suddenly when you start working. So if you want to see what kind of adults your children would be, see their attitude to homework and house chores now. You have to start teaching your children the right values now… when they are still malleable kids. This is something I believe with all my heart.

***

So this blog post is especially dedicated to my beloved papito. I have often written about my mother on her birthday. This is a first for my father.

This year, as usual, I bought him a shirt. In fact, all of us bought him a shirt. He doesn’t have to shop for his own clothes because he will get many new ones on his birthday.

Allow  me to share with you guys some of the pictures we took at Swensen to celebrate my father’s birthday. We were sad that my eldest sister and my youngest sister couldn’t join us due to work commitments (but it didn’t stop us from enjoying the food. Haha.) But the three middle sisters were available for the fun family times. Alida’s and Izati’s husbands were also around.  And of course my beloved niece and nephew (Alida’s children), Ammar and Arissa were also with us that day.

It was a great catching up session.  As we all are grown up now, get-together event is not easy to organize and plan. Selalu tak cukup korum. Adeh!

I don’t have a lot of my father’s picture here because he is a shy one and he only takes group pictures; never a selfie. The role of the selfie queen in our family is shared by both Alida and Izati.

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My father really enjoyed the lamb chop here!

 

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Ammar, my 2 year old nephew, really loooved the mushroom soup! But we still think that the mushroom soup at Dave’s Deli is still the best we have ever had.

 

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With Mom, the other love of my life, and Izati.
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The middle sisters! All with identical  thick eyebrows… my father’s genetic gift to all his daughters. Thank God that the model, Cara Delevigne, makes thick eyebrows fashionable these days. I used to grow up feeling like my eyebrows were too thick for a girl. LOL!
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With Izati…. the person who had caused me the trouble to face up to the big boy who had elbowed her face when she was in standard 1. We still laughed about it until now.

 

And the food guys! Especially the dessert! I love, love, love desserts… I have always had a sweet tooth, which is why I need to exercise regularly. Because I just couldn’t say no to ice creams and cakes and basically, anything fattening, really! Haha.

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This is the best dessert we had that day! No question about it! I think it is called Banana Crumble in Sizzling skillet… or something like that. So good, guys! I feel like going there right now to order this dessert again, as I am writing this.

 

 

Until next time, my dear readers.

Have a great weekend. And enjoy the time spent with family and loved ones. There will be few and far in between as we grow older. So cherish all the time you can get.  *sobs sobs*

Adios! And lots of love from yours truly.

Adieu, Compulsive Fiction Reading

I think I have come to that saturation age where fictions have stopped being exciting. (God, I sound so old).  

Guys, I am grieving.

I am grieving over the fact that I no longer have the time to read commercial fiction. When I finally do read fiction, I didn’t get the same kind of enjoyment that I used to get as a child (like any addiction, this is a symptom of tolerance, perhaps). Nothing surprises me anymore. I could guess the plot half-way into the novel that by the time I reached the end of it, I felt like “meh, is that it?”

I still remember how Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code amazed me throughout the whole time I was reading it when I was 20 years old. But his latest book ‘Origin’ that came out a few months ago, well, I just didn’t get the same kind of buzz from it. I imagine, if I were to read Origin at the age of 18 or 19, I would get pretty excited and couldn’t wait to discuss it with my sisters and friends. Now? I just went, “Same old, same old, Dan Brown!Can’t you create better stories? Ok… you are good at writing because you are Dan Brown. But why can’t I enjoy it as I used to? Is it you? Or is it me?”  

I was just as upset with the latest book in The Millennium series ‘The Girl Who Take An Eye for An Eye.’ I was disappointed by how simple the plot really is. I used to feel really excited when halfway through the first novel in the series (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) I still couldn’t figure out who the culprit was. I even enjoyed the second, third and fourth instalment of the series. But this latest book felt flat and plain uninteresting to me. 

Is this anhedonia, or what? (Hahah. But my appetite, sleep, function and most of everything else is normal. So don’t worry about me, ok). 

***

Let me tell you how reading fiction used to feel.

I daydreamed about it at school. I prevaricated (read: lied to my father) that I had a kelas tambahan or latihan sukan at school so that I could get my reading time at my school library (I finished the whole Nancy Drew Series in Asma School library. And then I started on other mystery series by Enid Blyton interspersed with the series featuring Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators. All of them were read in the school library. Because at home, I had other academic tasks to do and would not be excused from them by my parents.) I hid library books that I hadn’t finished reading during recess, by placing the book in different shelves (in between revision books far away from the actual shelf it should be placed) so that other students would not be able to get to it until I was done with it. And the reason I did that was because most of the time,  I had reached the quota of books I could borrow and therefore could not borrow any more. And thus, the only alternative I had was to hide the book from other students. (I was bad, bad bad. And I did that while being a school librarian *facepalm*. In my own defence, it was my elder sister who taught me to do it because she too had done the same thing. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures. Hahaha.). 

In MRSM Langkawi, I became a school librarian again so that I could spend my time in the library for, ehem, librarian duties (haha) instead of having to be in  the class for prep.

For birthdays and rewards, I wanted fiction. I saved half my school money to buy fiction every month. The anticipation was half the pleasure. Like I said, I daydreamed about them. 

When I finally got my hands on the book I had been daydreaming of, the happiness was immense and intense. When I finally started to actually read the book, my mind was empty of other things. And I was transported to another land… I was there with the characters… doing all the detecting, thinking the same thing the characters were thinking or speculating, going through the same adventures, the same trials and heartaches and facing the same evil force. And when they triumphed at the end, it felt like it was me who had succeeded. Whenever something sad or something bad happened to me, I would remember to be like the heroes that I read; heroes don’t give up, they push harder until they win, they never give in to the evil force; if they die, they will die with honour while accomplishing a critical mission.

To me, reading fiction was all the motivation and inspiration that I needed.

I didn’t need to read books like “How to be happy in 10 simple steps”…. or “La Tahzan,”… or “Chicken Soup For Whatever”…I don’t think I would follow the advice in such books anyway (I know some people love reading non-fiction self-improvement, self-help and motivational books like that. And as a psychiatry doctor, you might think it is weird that I don’t read books like that. But to be honest, I was never able to finish such a book, alas)

Books like “7 habits of highly effective people”, I could never finish them! If I wanted to be effective, I thought of Sherlock Holmes. If I wanted  to be kind and fair, I thought about Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mocking Bird). If I wanted to push myself to do the right thing and be firm, I thought  about the story of Umar Al-Khattab. 

I was motivated by stories. Not self-help books or motivational books. 

So, a large part of my life was influenced by fiction. And I enjoyed them… so much…. until recently.

Well, actually, when I really think about it, I started noticing my lack of enjoyment since early 2016. I still loved reading fictions in 2016….but the feeling was not the same as when I was a teenager or even as when I was a HO. The level of enjoyment and excitement was not like before. It still gives me pleasure, but it wasn’t as intense. 

Am I becoming jaded? ‘I have read everything, I knew everything, no author can surprise me anymore’ kind of jaded? 

Or am I just finally grown up?  Haha. Maybe all these while, I was still a kid trapped in a woman’s body. And now, my soul finally catches up with my physical body, wrinkles and all. Haha. (When you think about it, books are like my toys. If you ask a girl aged 4 years old about whether or not she would ever find playing with barbie dolls a boredom, I am sure she could not imagine being in the position of not loving barbie dolls ever. Because at 4 years old, that was the only thing she knew to find pleasure in. That was the only thing important enough at that age. Her world is small and limited. And in that limited world, Barbie Doll is the best! But when that girl reaches a certain age, barbie dolls will stop being entertaining anymore. Now, there are video games, and school sports and academic stuff to focus on. So her attachment to Barbie Dolls diminished.  Maybe, I am just like that girl. It’s just that with me, because books are varied by different genres and different characters, it took me longer to detach myself).

In 2016… things happened that made me reevaluate how I used my time (like how I could have died in an accident that happened in Ramadan 2016; and when I survived the ordeal unscathed, I had wondered whether there are things in this world that I am supposed to accomplish that go far beyond fiction reading; things I must accomplish before I can finally meet my Maker) 

And then there was the exam… I took my Part A in December 2016. 

Since then… reading fiction makes me feel guilty. I used to be able to forget everything when I read… but now, even as I am reading Jeffrey Archer or Dan Brown, my mind was thinking about the house chores I haven’t done or the academic stuff I haven’t mastered, or the fact that I should visit my parents this weekend because last weekend I had already stayed at my house reading. It lessened my enjoyment of my fiction considerably because I just couldn’t be as absorbed as I used to. Adulthood, responsibilities… they stopped me from being absorbed… and therefore I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I used to. (Well, make no mistake. I am not saying I don’t enjoy reading at all now. Because I do… reading is still my number one hobby. I just didn’t get as much euphoria with it now.) 

Then, there was also that soft whisper in my heart telling me that I could die tomorrow not accomplishing anything worthy in this life because I was busy reading fiction. That other people got involved in NGOs, doing charities, organising events for the greater good of the community… they were out there doing things that are good for others, that would benefit them in the hereafter. (I really do admire my friend Dr. T… she is so devoted to her NGO. Me? I have issues about committing to an organization. I am afraid of restrictions, ‘kepatuhan kepada pemimpin’ and group thinking and all that. In fact, I have trust issues with any hierarchical organization… I just don’t like it. I will avoid belonging to one if I can help it. But then, another friend of mine who knew my issues had recited to me an old African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together”. This is why people join NGOs or any organization despite all the hassles! Because they want to go far. Because they know they can’t do much to benefit the society when they are alone. But hah… my aversion to hierarchical organization always rein me in. Each and every time, I just couldn’t do it.) 

I saw people who become the best at what they do because they spend the bulk of their time on their career. For example, maybe I should spend my time by doing a study on some aspect of psychiatry that I can then publish in a reputable journal. Maybe I should spend my time writing a book about psychiatry for lay people. Maybe I should do a vlog in you tube for education purposes. (I followed a few dermatologists who created a youtube channel talking about skin care and busting the myth of beauty products out there, educating their viewers with their knowledge so that their viewers can make better life choices. I mean, that is a very useful way to spend your time, right… by making educational videos and at the same time promoting your service at your practice! Such a clever and business-savvy thing to do!) 

Below is an example of a dermatologist-youtuber, Dr. Davin Lim, whose videos I actually find very educational. He spends his energy on educating the public while at the same time attracting a lot of future clients to his private practice. That is brilliant marketing without being shallow or cringe-worthy.

Look at Neelofa guys! She is so successful. Maybe this is why people become successful… they focus their energy and their free time doing beneficial things that directly or indirectly propel their career and their life forward! 

When Neelofa has an instagram account… that instagram account actually serves a purpose of promoting her product and herself as a brand. 

Look at Vivy Yusuf… her instagram, her blog and her you tube channel all serve a purpose to promote her business.

And that’s why she and Neelofa made the Forbes 30 under 30 list last year! 

Look at us, ordinary people. Our instagram and Facebook accounts are used just for fun. Not for career purposes or anything really meaningful. When Neelofa and Vivy actually update their accounts, there is a higher purpose to it other than simply updating or checking in just for ‘fun’ or just for the heck of it. 

See? We waste our time! Our time and energy are scattered and unfocussed.

Maybe  if I were a journalist or an English teacher or a novelist, I can justify how much time I spend reading fiction because reading fiction would inspire more ideas and improve my language command which I could then use in my career as a journalist/English teacher/ novelist. 

But I am a doctor. I should spend more time reading doctor’s stuff, right? *sigh*

So either I give up reading fiction, or I change my career? 

Or…. I must tell myself that I can only read fiction sparingly because there are other things that are more important in life that deserve my time more. And I have to make myself happy with just that! Happy with just sparing reading. (Can I do that?)

Can I be happy struggling with myself to read journal articles instead of commercial fiction? I don’t know. But the need for me to moderate my obsession is there… especially now that my enjoyment in reading is dimmed by my own realisation that I should spend my time better. That there are bigger things in life other than my own selfish enjoyment. (cognitive dissonance is really wreaking havoc with my ego! I am in the eternal battle between my id and my superego)

This really feels like a relationship break-up, you know. Actually, it’s like a divorce. Haha. (When I think about it, this break-up has been coming gradually for the past few years. I was just never ready to admit it. In fact, the crack started slowly in medical school even as my seniors were telling me that I should spend more time reading Islamic books. I have had attacks of cognitive dissonance on and off since then….but I held on because reading fiction was my first love. But I guess, I grow up now and have become more matured. Like the girl with the barbie doll. Maybe I am more ready to give up fiction now when I never was before.)

  

And therefore now, I am grieving. Because once upon a time, reading fiction has been a beautiful journey and experience to me. I said before how it shaped my character; it gave me my ideals and principles and philosophy. The fact that I could write a blog, compose a poetry and express myself in writing like this… I owe all of it to fiction reading. Once upon a time, when I was a kid, a teenager and a young adult, fiction reading was very important to me and I revolved my time and my life around it. I turned to fiction reading during times of sadness and tribulations as well as during times of happiness. Fiction reading to me is like a toddler’s version of a favourite blanket or a bantal busuk that the toddler needs when his mother is not around. To the toddler, the blanket and the pillow is a substitute mother that calms his anxiety when his mother has to leave him. 

Fiction reading was my emotional crutch. 

So this, indeed, feels like a break-up. Like I am saying good bye to a certain lifestyle I have always known. 

But eventually, everyone leaves their attachment blanket and pillow behind. They have to… in order to mature and break away from their restrictive cocoon. 

But I remember a story that has been told numerous times before that will console my grief. The story of rocks, pebbles and sands and how they all can fit in a glass jar. I admit now, my fictions have been my sands all these times.

 

It’s time to make more room for rocks and pebbles, eh?

 I am really going to do this, insya-Allah. I am so ‘berkobar-kobar’ right now, that I will be surprised if you cannot feel my enthusiasm as you read my post. LOL. 

But for now, I need some time to properly grieve.  *sigh*

Adieu, compulsive fiction reading. Adieu!

 

 

P/S:

I do feel quite moody lately. Is it because of the psychological withdrawal of not reading fiction? Haha. Been restraining myself from reading fiction since the start of the new year. (This is part of my new year resolution!) That means I have not been reading fiction for the past one month! Detoxifying from fiction is really full of suffering, guys. *sigh*

CBT

Now my replacement therapy is this non-fiction I am currently reading, a book on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy authored by Judith S. Beck (she is the daughter of Aaron Beck. Aaron Beck is the father of Cognitive Therapy, which is one of the most commonly used psychotherapy in the psychiatry field) which I had ordered online straight from the UK. So far, I am not bored yet because this is directly related to my work. But Wallahi, there are times when I seriously pine for the next mystery and thriller. 

Ya Allah, grant me patience. Can’t do it without Your help.