Heartbreaking News In New Zealand

NZ

When I first found out that there was an ACT OF TERRORISM being committed at two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand on Friday resulting in 49 Muslims killed and many others injured, I was devastated.

I had  to stop my studying for awhile and just devoured the news that were spreading like bushfire in my Facebook newsfeed. I wanted to cry. But I couldn’t. My eyes just refused to cooperate to tear up. So, I was left with deep heaviness in my chest instead. I know that the heaviness will go away if I just cry. (This is my problem. It is always difficult for me to cry. I think if I could just cry, I can relieve this ache in my chest.)

I have been to Christchurch when I was a medical student. I went there  with my housemates for a holiday during the first semester break of my 4th year of medical school. We enjoyed our New Zealand trip very much because New Zealand is just such a beautiful country. I never thought that this tragedy could happen in New Zealand because my impression was New Zealanders were much more tolerant towards ‘other’ people compared to their Australian counterparts. They are more progressive in terms of giving their indigenous people (the Maoris) their rights and privileges. The rights of the Maoris in New Zealand are better preserved and protected than the rights of the Aboriginals in Australia.

So when something heartbreaking like this happened in Christchurch, I just could not process it!

And then I found out that the evil perpetrator behind this massacre was an Australian who has a Neo-Nazi political leaning.

Well…. I love Australian people. Most of them are lovely and kind. But some of them can be such racist rednecks! Five years in Australia taught me all I need to know about white supremacy and racism. My experience in Australia shaped me into the kind of person I have become now. I am a person who is super-sensitive to any form of racism or supremacy or ‘budget bagus’ group. You can judge anyone as an individual if you are so inclined. But don’t overgeneralize the whole group because of any mistake done by some individuals in that group. I COULD NOT tolerate that EVER. Muslims living in the West post 9/11 would understand the kind of suffering we had to endure when we were all painted with the same brush. To them, either we were evil terrorists or oppressed Muslim women! Either way, we were treated with suspicions and being looked at as inferior just because we wore the hijab outside the house.

I remember how I felt like I had to prove myself as a Muslim medical student in Australia. I had to do MORE to get the same kind of respect or esteem that the Australians effortlessly enjoyed. As an introvert, it took some adjustment for me to push myself to be extra-friendly, to be outspoken in tutorials, to join group discussions, to mingle with people (now doing these things is much easier for me these days… especially the outspoken part. Haha)  I had to do all these extra efforts in an attempt to contradict the degrading narrative of what being a Muslim woman was perceived to be (when actually, I really preferred to keep quiet and just went home and read my books). Whenever I couldn’t answer any question in the tutorial group, I felt so embarrassed (more embarrassed than I would have been if I were in Malaysia) because I felt like I was feeding the stereotype that Muslim women are stupid by my inability to come up with a sensible answer. I felt like I had to say something (anything!) in the tutorial even when I had nothing to say. I felt like I had to fill up my speech quota of the day in order to appear fully switched on and involved in the tutorial discussion. I felt that way after finding out that some tutors had complained to the admin that “the Malaysian students are too quiet and not participating in the tutorial discussion”. So during each tutorial session, I doubled my effort to appear extrovert because apparently, the more you talk, the more intelligent people think you are. *rolled eyes* (And yes, Australians are very extrovert! And so, people who are too quiet would be thought of as less intelligent or less capable) So, I strove harder in order to contradict the stereotyped image of what being a Muslim woman was. My sweetest moment was when my assignment on Health Equity Selective was being put up on my uni website (in our students blackboard page) as an example to the juniors in the batch below mine on how to write a Health Equity Selective project in the category of Psychiatry.  Me, an International student whose English is only a second language, got the opportunity to display my assignment as a guidance for the juniors to emulate when doing their psychiatry Health Equity Selective… I was over the moon! (Yup, I had chosen Psychiatry for my Health Equity Selective project. I have been interested in Psychiatry since I was a medical student and had chosen that field for my elective.) I was over the moon because I felt like I had proven a point. It was like, I was saying “See… a Muslim student is not that stupid. If we don’t talk as much in our tutorial session, it is because some of the things are obvious already… that it is not even worth mentioning. And English is our second language… it takes more energy for us to come up with any sort of conversation compared to you guys. If we are a bit slow in articulating our thoughts, that is only to be expected, isn’t it? Besides, we just don’t feel the need to stand out all the time.”

My Malaysian juniors were like “Kami bangga sangat tengok Health Equity Selective Kak Afiza masuk dalam blackboard. Malaysia boleh gitu!”

I laughed.

I am proud of my juniors too. I was proud whenever I see my Malaysian juniors were more well-adjusted and had assimilated better with other Australian students compared to us, the seniors. The juniors learned from our own mistakes and put more effort in making Australian friends. They experienced less criticism that “the Malaysian students do not mingle with people. They like  to keep  to themselves and don’t put in any effort to assimilate with the whole batch”.  As the years progressed and we started getting more Malaysian students among our junior batches, I thought, we were doing such a good job of portraying that Muslims were not as bad as what were shown in the media. Slowly but surely, I felt like the stereotype against Malaysian students were eroding. My heart burst out with pride when I saw how Malaysians were very heavily involved in our university Islamic Society (I myself was the treasurer of University of Newcastle Islamic Society at one time) and we were always the front-liners when it came to interacting with non-Muslims at the Islamic booth during Islamic Awareness Week. Compared to the Saudi or other Middle Eastern Muslims, Malaysian leadership shone bright in the Islamic Society. (Perhaps because our command in English was better than them). We could answer controversial questions about Islam quite well while guarding the booth. All in all, we were making pretty good progress.

But it could get pretty tiring. Always having to prove yourself over and over again is tiring. Whenever there were new incidents of terrorism and bombings in the Western world, I felt like all our hard work to prove that Muslims are good people were completely undone. And we had to do it all over again. Prove ourselves all over again. It was exhausting. Mentally and physically draining.

But I never regret any of it! Because the struggle that I had gone through made me who I am today. There is beauty in the struggle that we have to face in order to live up to our Muslim identity and Muslim ideals when we are living in a non-Muslim country. Looking back, I was my best self in spirituality when I was a medical student in Australia. Because of the struggle I had to face in Australia, I was more conscious of God and more connected to my religion than I ever was in Malaysia. I invested more time to learn about Islam properly (partly because I had to prepare answers for the questions that non-Muslims liked to ask). I was my most patient self when I was in Australia… because I was carrying the image of a Muslim and I did not want my bad behaviour to tarnish the name of my religion. In Australia, I had a purpose GREATER than my own self because I had to be a small ambassador to my religion! So despite all the struggles and the difficulties, I was very motivated. Our social support were the usrah-attending seniors who kept reminding us to be good, to do good, to strive for the hereafter and not just the dunya. (This is the part of myself that I miss the most, now that I am in Malaysia. I miss the Afiza who was nice. Because the current Afiza is not so nice! Hahah. Somehow, after coming back from Australia, I have retained my outspokenness but have not retained being nice. Perhaps because Malaysians are not always nice too….they are not always ethical…they don’t have values of respect or punctuality or cleanliness or efficiency…. they can be lazy…  they can trample on your rights… and if I am too nice and not outspoken enough, I will be oppressed. And I don’t want that.)

***

Allah had planned my life so beautifully, Alhamdulillah.

At 18 years old, I was grieving the death of my friend. Looking back, maybe I had an existential crisis at that time because I was so shocked by the fragility of life. That my friend could die at such a young age! I wondered, what was this life all about? For two years, I was wondering to myself about existential stuff, but afraid to vocalize them out for fear that they would label me “tak kuat iman”. And then Allah sent me to Australia where I met religious people who could answer all my questions. Alhamdulillah, my existential crisis resolved then. I became a firm believer. I came across someone in Melbourne who answered my questions patiently, systematically… scientifically, even! Suddenly, I felt a sense of spiritual awakening that I had never experienced before that summer, which was my first summer in Australia. I knew then that Islam is logical; that it makes sense! If things do not make sense, you must double-check whether it is truly religious in the first place. I was ecstatic and grateful for all that I had learned that summer.  It is nice to have real faith!  (I was so relieved! Finally, the horror of the Israilyat stories I had to swallow in KMB can be vomited out once and for all without feeling any guilt. That’s why I will always love Australia, the place where I had experienced an exponential growth, mentally and spiritually! There would never be a time when I think of Australia without a sense of nostalgia. It’s just not possible. Some of the things I had learned in Australia STILL influence my behaviour until now!)

I believe, some Muslims would have an existential crisis after witnessing this current heartbreaking incident. Some of the family members of the deceased might experience what I had experienced during the period of grieving. They would start questioning… why are there so many dreadfulness in this world? Why do people do evil things? Why didn’t God do something about it? Why didn’t He intervene? Why is this world so unfair? Why was I even created? What am I supposed to do in this life? Is Islam really the right religion? How do I know that? What if I am in the wrong faith… what will happen to me when I die, then?

They might have all these questions as they deal with the death of their loved ones. And hopefully, they will go through the cognitive process of finding the answers… and finally be at peace in their faith. You cannot bury these questions and silence your conscience. Repressing your doubts will not help you find peace. You must actively engage with your intellect and answer the questions that you have about the religion, about faith, about life after death. Otherwise, you will always be in doubt. And it won’t be real iman. You will not experience true peace that comes with firm belief. You will not feel confident to take any action, to speak up, to do what you believe is right… because you are not even REALLY sure if God is real and that He will help you out of any trouble.

So, don’t bury your internal existential crisis or your philosophical conflict. Answer them! Seek and you shall find! And believe me, what you find will be beautiful and priceless!

1771957-Yasmin-Mogahed-Quote-Your-life-is-nothing-more-than-a-love-story

 

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Screenshot 2019-03-16 22.45.22
My Facebook status on the act of terrorism at the two mosques in Christchurch.

I have been busy preparing for my CASC exam these days. As usual, I am at my most neurotic self while preparing for exams, LOL. I would start thinking about how much money will be lost if I fail my exam. I would start thinking about “ah, aku dah tak larat nak study! I just want to be a chronic MO.” Hahha.

Sometimes, I mourn my lack of time for fiction reading. It is ridiculous how much I sweat the small stuff.

I forgot that there are other more important things in life other than being a nerd and passing your exam. I forgot that my fiction-reading are trivial, picisan stuff! Stuff of amusements and ‘main-main’.

Siapa yang melaksanakan kewajiban, mereka diberi PAHALA, dan bag

In other parts of the world, people are fighting for their lives!

On the same day that the mosques in  Christchurch were attacked, Israel had also launched series of airstrikes across Gaza! We have thousands, if not millions, of our Muslim brothers and sisters in various parts of the world undergoing physical and mental suffering… all at the same time! And I am worried about exams? And about reading fiction? Gosh, Afiza… you are preposterous!

Screenshot 2019-03-17 08.22.45

Sometimes, I have to admit, I can be really stupidly ridiculous. I am done worrying about trivial stuff! Because there’s more to life.

For as long as I can remember… everytime I was overwhelmed by my study, some sort of tragedy would be breaking news and made me realize that my struggle was not significant at all in the general scheme of things. For example, in 2010, while I was preparing for my final General Medicine exam, the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was a civilian ship bringing aid to the Palestinians, was attacked by the Israel Navy in May 2010. The attack by the Israel Navy was bravely resisted by the civilians on the ship; nine activists died and many were wounded. I was worried sick about my exam at that time. But after reading about what had befallen the Mavi Marmara ship, I had felt similarly ridiculous as I am feeling now for being too worried over small stuff when people are fighting for something greater than even their own lives!

I composed a poem for Mavi Marmara at that time entitled FORGIVE MY SCOWL which I had uploaded into the poetry section in this blog. I composed that poem after taking a pause from studying my General Medicine notes in order to clear my muddled head and to lift up the overwhelming heaviness in my chest.

This is also why I am taking a pause from my CASC studying and writing this post today. To clear my head. To lift up the heaviness in my chest. Because I just couldn’t cry. Because to compose a poem, it would take a much greater mental strength than I possess. Because I am too mentally exhausted by all the bloodshed.

I pray, that all Muslims would unite together and peacefully respond to this sad calamity in a positive way. I hope, there will be no revenge bombing by Muslims because it would only make matters worse for our brothers and sisters in the West. Trust me, I had enough experience of how terrible it is to be in the West when so-called Muslims commit an act of terrorism somewhere. (Nak masuk lecture hall keesokan hari pun rasa nervous! Rasa malu! Belum lagi rasa takut kena attack bila terpaksa jalan berseorangan.) Please, no revenge bombing targeting innocent people, be it Muslims or non-Muslims. Please, no more bloodshed.

***

I leave all my readers with a reminder to live in this world like a traveler or a stranger. Because, really… isn’t that what we are? Until we reach our final destination, we are only a traveler along the path of life. Hopefully, we will find something precious and beautiful along the way.

stranger

Dear Readers, Live Your Life Free!

Screenshot 2018-08-04 21.40.05

It was a sad day for the medical fraternity in Malaysia when we woke-up last weekend to the breaking news of having a sex predator in our midst, holding the significant post of a HOD in one of the hospitals in the Klang Valley.

I could NOT believe my eyes when I read the article shared by one of our members in our forum. It sickened me! Not just for the fact that the sex predator is a senior doctor who has been using his high position to prey on vulnerable housemen for many years! But for the fact that MANY people in the department as well as in other departments in and out of the hospital had KNOWN about it and yet they DID NOTHING!

Some of these people were specialist and consultants too but they turned a blind eye and DID NOTHING!

I felt disgusted and nauseated by such cowardice.

***

I don’t blame the victims for not speaking up. They are vulnerable, after all. But I blame the specialists (even the MOs, when I think about it) who had known but kept silent. Anyone who has been secured in their position (confirmed in their posts/ sah dalam jawatan) not speaking up against injustice done towards vulnerable people in their circle (innocent, green HOs who have not been confirmed in their posts and IN NEED of the good will of others) are accountable, in my opinion!

This was EXACTLY the sort of shameful cowardice I talked about many, many times in my previous blog posts.

How DARE specialists scream at HOs for not presenting properly or for making some mistakes that they did out of ignorance…. but turned a blind eye when their own colleagues or their boss had committed a crime purposefully! 

All specialists in that department who knew this and did nothing are also accountable! Shameful!

Next time, don’t talk about low quality housemen! Look at low quality specialists who were as mute as they were spineless!  And look at the HOD of an outstanding criminal quality! Bravo!

What an amazing outcome of having been trained ‘during your time’, huh? (Yup, this is not a fair statement. Many other older specialists who were trained during that time are good. But I just want to demonstrate to you how it feels when the juniors have to listen to you huffing and puffing about ‘housemen these days’ as though none of them is good! Because THAT is also not a fair statement, isn’t it? So, let’s stop talking about your time and comparing it to the current time! Your time has passed! Move on! Our time is current… it is more relevant! Help us make the best of it, ok?)

***

It baffled me.

How could you NOT take complaints like this seriously when it was informed to you? When I was a HO, I won’t even tolerate unfair scoldings…I would speak up and defend myself if I knew I was right. 

So, it baffled me why SPECIALIST and people in the higher position can turn a blind eye to SEXUAL harrassment! 

Your higher position comes with RESPONSIBILITY….not just privilege! Think about what it means, for a moment, to be called a specialist and a consultant. Think!

You are at a MUCH better position to go against the HOD than anyone else. 

Who can we rely on to help the juniors if not you guys?

When I was a HO, I have heard stories of some of my colleagues who had been romantically propositioned by specialists too… but it was never up to molestation or sexual harassment (that I know of). Or else, I was sure people would have spoken up (of course, now I am not so sure anymore). I NEVER thought that any one who called themselves a doctor would just do nothing if he or she knew that someone was sexually harassed.

To think that MANY PEOPLE knew of this behaviour and DID NOTHING other than secretly warning the HO to be careful… why didn’t they go to the pengarah or lodge a police report instead?

Or maybe they did…. but THEY also did nothing?

***

“Hang boleh cakap lah, Afiza. Hang tak dak kat tempat diorang. Depa nak kena jaga periuk nasi depa juga. HOs semua nak kena pass posting. Master trainees semua depend on him. Specialists pun belajar dengan dia, indebted to him, depending on him. Cuba kau letak diri kau kat tempat depa. You were not there!”

Hahah! Damn! I couldn’t believe it!

Look, just because I wasn’t there, doesn’t mean I cannot talk about it and cannot have an opinion about it! (I wasn’t there when  the BN government stole the country’s money! Most of us Malaysians were not there among the BN kleptocratic circle when Najib committed so many atrocities against many people… but didn’t we TALK ABOUT IT? Didn’t we blame the whole BN party when they failed to stand up to Najib, and thus we had punished them in the last election by voting for PH? Heck.. yes, I wasn’t there but I am STILL gonna talk about it. This will serve as a lesson against anyone in the future who knows something like this is going on but keep their silence!)

Only people who don’t know me would ever think that I would do NOTHING if I ever find out about something like this! I have created havoc for even less than this, ok! So, I would have NO COMPUNCTION WHATSOEVER in creating a lot of chaos over something as serious as this. Mark my words! I will go against anyone who do this to my friend, let alone to myself or my family. I have spoken up for something even less.

Just because YOU are a coward, doesn’t mean everyone else is like you, ok?

And for that, I thank the tarbiyah that I got from my seniors in Australia. I thank God every day of my life that He put me in Australia and open my heart to be receptive to dakwah. I may not dress alim… but I know the basic tenets of justice in my religion! I fight when I believe I am right.

Against oppression, Islam told me to stand firm and resolute! Even against your own selves or your parents or your relatives (let alone your boss!!). Islam told us not to follow personal inclination (such as passing your master training, maybe?). Islam told us not to distort testimony or refuse to give it (by keeping silence like what we have done!) when it comes to standing for justice. 

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever acquainted with what you do.

(Al Quran: An-Nisa 4:135)

My Prophet p.b.u.h told me to ALWAYS look out for the weak  and the vulnerable among us! That we are only supported and provided for by the Almighty if we support the weak and the vulnerable in the community. In our case as doctors, the housemen are the vulnerable among us! And we should look out for them! 

Abu Darda reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Seek out the vulnerable among you. Verily, you are only given provision and support due to your support of the weak.”

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1702

So, how do you justify your silence when you KNOW there is a sex predator in your department? How could you do NOTHING?

“Mungkin depa dah buat something. Tapi nak buat macam mana? Dia lebih powerful.” Said someone else in the forum.

Ah, I couldn’t BRAIN this kind of response!

“Oh, ok. Depa buat something. Bila tak jadi, so depa stop doing anything? That’s it? Responsibility done? So, pi kerja macam biasa? Bila tahi macam ni dah viral, baru tiba-tiba nak tunjuk concerned??!” I STILL couldn’t brain this!

For something as sinister and evil as sexual crimes, you should NEVER stop doing something until the bastard is convicted! Just because you have done something that didn’t work, doesn’t mean your responsibility is done! Not until you accomplish the mission… your responsibility is STILL not done! No!

Think about what you would do if these housemen were your wives? Your daughters? Your sisters? How could you have been SO SELFISH!!

***

I have a theory regarding why Malaysian are too timid in speaking up against injustice.

Everyone ‘kalut’ to please the boss! What is the worst thing that can happen if you speak up against anyone? You lose the job, maybe?

Well…

We have to live FREE… not tied to any ‘artificial’ sense of obligation or fear when we speak up for the truth.

By all means… respect your superiors and respect the system… but not beyond a certain limit. 

  • Naik pangkat, naik gaji…. don’t upgrade your lifestyle just yet. Don’t increase your commitments just yet. Don’t start shopping for new cars or buying another house. Instead, save that money! Invest it! Have other source of income! Should something happen to you because you speak the truth against ANYONE, you have that money to tide you over until you can find another job or hire a lawyer against that person. 

 

  • Some people said “you don’t understand.. these people are powerful.” But all it takes is for someone in the department (preferably the specialists who is already established and can always find other jobs in the private setting should something go wrong) to speak up, lodge a police report and if those actions failed, just viral it macam sekarang! Can’t you see the power of social media? The bastard’s immunity is gone because public sentiment is more powerful, thanks to social media! Why was it so hard to viral it THEN compared to now? Sure, the government had changed from BN to PH now, which might explain why it would be easier to go against the bastard NOW. But the social media has been around for many years and it was successfully used by the former opposition all these while! Heck, social media is one of the best factors of why we were able to change the government!  Why couldn’t it be used back then, against this predator, if push comes to shove? Why didn’t any specialist use this as the last resort if all police reports or any appeal to the higher authority have failed? Perhaps even the victims were too scared to use the social media back then because they perceived that even the people in that department, (her superiors who should have known better) did not lift a finger to help them. 

 

  • Actually it wasn’t that hard to speak up… it was only hard because we all have our own conflict of interest against speaking up (takut kena target, I need my salary, takut training tak lepas, takut this and that). So we become selfish and we silence our conscience. 

When we start putting priorities on other things over principles/values/justice… that’s when it is so hard to speak up!

Live free! Live with REAL freedom! 

In order to do that, we must not be dependent on anything or anyone too much. We must be able to walk away and say “my career is not worth putting up with THIS injustice.” And you CANNOT do that when you depend too much on your work… and you depend too much on your work because you want to live a certain lifestyle that you used to be able to live without before. 

You used to be able to be content before you went for master training! But because you value your master training more, you won’t speak up against your  boss… even if he is a sex predator? You used to feel content with just a simple house and one small car.  But now that you have upgraded your lifestyle and have acquired a lot of loans to finance that lifestyle, you NEED the job too much now. Because you value your job more (the salary from which you get to afford your bungalow and your BMW), so you won’t speak up against your  boss… even if he is a sex predator?

Is that justifiable?

Real freedom can never be attained when you attach yourself to any artificial sense of well being that is material-dependent! Can you PLEASE attach your sense of well-being to having good principles? How about attaching your sense of well-being to freedom of action, freedom of speaking up your mind, freedom of movement, freedom of doing what you believe as right!

Thanks to the tarbiyah that I got in Australia,  I associate my well-being to freedom from any artificial attachment to material things that don’t guarantee happiness anyway.

I don’t depend too much on my work. I can LIVE not being a doctor. I can honestly say that if push comes to shove, I can walk away and do something else. I love my job as a means of contributing to the society, as a means of ibadah…but when all is said and done, there are other ways I can contribute to the society. Other jobs can also be an ibadah. I can downgrade my lifestyle any time! I can walk away from my job if my principles are violated. (But before I do, I will create a lot of shit! Since I am gonna lose my job anyway, I might as well exit in style and make sure the evil person pay for what he/she had done! If you put me in a position when I have nothing more to lose, then OF COURSE I will give you my best fight! Bring it on!)

dangerous
A wounded lion is the most dangerous. I can be a lion when I have to.

I don’t depend too much on the good opinion of my boss, though all my boss now are nice (but who knows what sort of boss I will get in the future, right?) I specifically design my life that way when I choose the external pathway over master! Because I KNOW myself… I am not the timid type and I am quite abrasive against an unjust authority. But EVEN if I had chosen master, at the end of the day, I also know that I can live just as well not being a specialist! But I can NEVER live with myself if I let a sex-predator continue to commit heinous sexual crimes against my subordinates! I would have spoken up!

I also value freedom of movement! If I ever become dissatisfied with the injustice in my country (which was the case before we switched the government, recently), I can work elsewhere. Again, that is WHY I choose MRCPSYCH over master, so that my qualification is recognized everywhere. That’s why I had OPENLY campaigned for PH in my facebook and my blog… because I could walk away! Anytime! I was willing to  take that calculated risk when I became a PACA! 

I make certain choices in my life so that no one has TOO MUCH hold on me! I will never allow it! And I pray to God that He would never make anyone have any hold on me because I can never tolerate living that way. And in order to do that, I know I must lead a simple life.

No grandeur lifestyle that entangled my routine; no unmanageable excessive loans that would make me depend on my job until I cannot speak up against anyone; no unmanageable ties and relationships that become a burden rather than a comfort.

I will speak up! If I am wrong, rebut me! Debate me! Make me see… then I will follow you willingly. Otherwise, don’t force me. Because I won’t follow. And I am willing to pay the price.

To me, THAT is real freedom. To me, THAT is real happiness. And I would never give that up for specialty training or lifestyle maintenance.

THIS, my dear readers, is my life philosophy!  It has been my life philosophy since I was in Australia.

And I thank God that I live in the age of the social media.  It is a tool that all of us can use wisely against ANYONE who violate us unjustly, regardless of their position! Let the public sentiment decide!

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***

Dear readers,

Live as free as possible. And one day, as you spread your wings, look up to the sky and say Alhamdulillah for the gift of freedom in your life.

 

Personality And Context

She was not that bad. She was actually quite entertaining. I was, to be honest, totally flummoxed by the fact that there was a side of her I found quite engaging.

I must admit I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed her talk on that day. When I first saw her as one of the relatives of my patient many, many years ago, she was, quite frankly, a long, sharp thorn on my backside.

But on that day, she was in her element. She knew her stuff. She took questions from the audience and answered them well, full with comprehensive explanation. Pretty impressive, I must admit. Far from the image of an overbearing, fussy and difficult-to-please relative that I have always associated with her in the past.

When I told one of my colleagues about her the day after, she was full of disbelief. “Split personality?” She joked.

I shook my head, after reflecting for awhile. “Different context yields different persona. In different settings, you put on different masks. After all, that is exactly what persona means.”

Persona means mask. And just as the actor may change his mask and costume, so does the individual ‘seems’ to change. Deep inside, she/he may be NOTHING like the mask she/he puts on.

It is a scary thought, isn’t it? Because how do we know, which one of the many different masks truly reflects the person underneath? 

***

During housemanship, I was with a bunch of HOs eating a late lunch when my friend had jokingly said, “I wonder macam mana husband specialist S ni boleh tahan dengan dia. Mesti husband and anak-anak dia depressed.”

Even when I was not yet a PSY MO, I knew that sentence was illogical. “Mana kau tahu dengan husband and anak-anak dia, dia akan jerit-jerit juga macam dia jerit dengan kita? Entah-entah solehah, mithali habis! Who knows dengan diorang, mungkin dia macam perempuan melayu terakhir.”

They thought I was being sarcastic, and they all laughed.

***

“My father behaved differently lately. He talked over the phone for hours at night and not sleeping. He started singing randomly. And lately he started buying that coffee for ‘kuat batin’. He is also divorcing my mother and plans to marry another person. You should have read his messages to his new girlfriend. It sickens me. I think he is manic.” Said one relative of a patient.

“Hmm…. but his so-called manic mood is not pervasive. He functions well. All his behaviour can be attributed to someone who is falling in love with another person.” Said the doctor who treated the patient but couldn’t see anything that can be attributed to any particular disorder. 

“But this is not the father that I have known all my life.”

Look, do we know our parents in all the different contexts that exist in their lives?

Come on! You probably started having memory of your parents starting from the age of 4-5 years old. Before that, you were babies and you couldn’t really remember anything much. If you are a second child, and your elder sister is 4 years older than you at 8 years old, it means by the time you were 4 years old, your parents had been married for 8 years already (and that is if they had conceived your elder sister immediately upon marriage. Otherwise, they might have been married much longer before you finally have any memory of who they are as a person).

You have missed how your parents were when they were kids, themselves. How naughty they might be, for example. You might have missed how your parents were as a teenager. Maybe your father really was the ‘gedik’, over-familiar, licentious type of a person when he was drugged by love. So his whatsapp messages that sicken you now might simply be part of his premorbid personality. You don’t know how your father is among his friends and colleagues. (For example, an elderly mak cik was surprised that her elderly husband had belonged to a whatsapp group consisting of all his male ex-classmates. And the contents of the whatsapp group, said the makcik, was shameless and overtly sexual. She could not believe her husband and his friends could talk like that and when she confronted her husband, the husband just laughed it off by saying “orang lelaki memang cakap macam tu!” What the hell?? Won’t the mak cik’s childen be shocked if they knew? See? The kids do not know their parents in other contexts!)

Even a wife does not know how her husband behaves at his workplace! Her husband might be the flirtatious type who talks to all his colleagues and staffs inappropriately and when the wife finds out that her husband has an affair, the first thing the wife would usually say is “I never saw this coming!”

You see, she only saw her husband when he puts on the ‘husband’ mask at home. He has many other masks; one of them might happen to be  ‘the one that saja suka test market’ mask, for example. (A lot of guys like putting on this particular mask. An intelligent woman will never fall for it. It never fails to amuse me when I saw such mask being put on!)

I was a HO when I saw a married person in a superior position speaking inappropriately to his subordinates (in case, you are wondering, that subordinate was not me! I don’t think anyone would dare. I have that malignant vibe that scares everyone. I always make sure my boundaries are clear! I simply put on my ‘bitchy’ mask and people know to stay appropriate. This is actually my favourite mask, LOL.) And I remember thinking, “My God, aku ingat doktor-doktor ni busy, dan tak mungkin akan ada affair. Shit happens even in the hospital. Poor his wife.”

I learned to ignore such occurrences and thought to myself “this is none of my business. As long as you guys don’t do anything more than a verbal banter in front of me, I will ignore it and pretend I don’t know.”

But believe me, behind your back, people do talk. 

bitch
My bitchy vibe!

***

I was impressed with my mother when  I saw the sort of respect she got as a senior midwife when I was in my 4th year and had followed her to her workplace in order to observe how Malaysian labour room worked. I went with her when she was doing her night shift at the hospital and I saw how hardworking she was and how knowledgeable. Before that night, I never knew that she was one of the trainers for midwifery and also an exam invigilator for midwifery exams. I saw how the junior midwives all consulted her, asking her to verify their VEs.

I saw my mother in a new light that night.

I was so used to thinking of her in the context of her being my mother. I loved her. I knew she loved me. She cooked delicious meals for me. She made sure I had everything I needed to be a good student. She worried for me when I fell ill. She pushed me to toe the line of etiquette when we had guests at home. Sometimes, she nagged at me when I didn’t do my house chores properly. She could be real fussy but still adorable. That was how I thought of her.

I never thought about her intelligence and competence as an experienced midwife. I knew my father is an intelligent person because he was the one who taught us our academic stuff when we were growing up; he was in charge of our academic discipline. My mother was not in-charge of our academic. She was in charge of cooking and cleanliness and shopping and stuff like that. Somehow, my mom’s intelligence was not something I consciously thought of, before that night. Whether or not she was an intelligent person, was neither here nor there because it wouldn’t change anything, in my short-sighted opinion at that time. She was just… my mom!

But that night, I saw her in a different context. I saw her in the midst of enjoying her conversation with her friends. She didn’t talk with them the way she talked with me and my sisters at home. At her workplace, she was the most senior midwife, someone with a level of authority (that didn’t show much when she was at home because my father was more dominant) and she was also someone’s friend. She was more light and carefree. Their conversation could turn silly too… and at times, my mom was downright hilarious. I never saw her as someone hilarious, before.

I was like, “Damn… I don’t know my own mother. All these times….” It was like I had been blindfolded before and now, someone had released my eyes from its oppressive covers.

I was glad I saw this side of her that night. I felt proud of my mother in the context of her as more than just my mom. I saw her as a person in her own right regardless of whose mom or whose wife she was. And that night, I truly saw her as an intelligent, competent and incredible woman.

Since then, I believe that a woman must contribute to the society to remind herself that she is more than just a wife and a mother. It might not even be a paying job… she might just be volunteering at the local surau or at any soup kitchen. But she must do something for the society in her own capacity. Even if she has a rich husband, she must do something to feel worthy in her own right as a person. Otherwise, people around her may underestimate her and do not truly SEE her… even as they love her.

No one can ever make me give up my work. I might not always be a doctor later… I might take an early pension or do something else.  But I will always work in one way or another. It is what God created us for… “memakmurkan bumi, isn’t it?”

In a way, this is how you fulfil your purpose of life. By working!

***

When I was just a junior MO, I was upset by a talk given by someone in MMA regarding ‘housemen these days’. The talk was mainly about how the flexi hours would make HOs incompetent as an MO and they would be a burden to specialists later and so on and so forth. *rolled eyes*

When I was a HO, flexi hours were not yet implemented in full. I worked in on-calls for most of my Housemanship training. So, I didn’t feel personally attacked by the talk.

But in principle,  I just hated “senior budget bagus”. Hahha. I have issues with seniors like that.

So I wrote a blog post entitled “Practicing Medicine In The Age of Doom and Gloom” and it went viral (unintentionally, of course). Some specialists had written on their facebook comments about my arrogance. I read that comment and I laughed out loud.

Such silliness!

Sometimes, I wonder whether or not people really understand what the word arrogant really means. Do they just use the word to describe anyone who disagrees with them or anyone who retaliates to their own arrogance?

You were the one who had said that the juniors would never be as competent as you were because of the flexi hours system (isn’t that arrogant too?), and yet we were the ones who were arrogant when we defended ourselves against YOUR arrogance? (In psychiatry, this is called projection, ok!)

You were the one who shouted at HOs, enacting histrionic drama in the ward, and bullying HOs unnecessarily, (one particular specialist actually commented on HO’s clothing and make-up, deliberately embarrassing her in the rounds. How does her make-up or clothing in ANY way related to her work, you tell me. And one MO had said to another houseman, “You tak payah mai kerja kalau macam ni. Kenapa? Husband you tak dapat tanggung you?” How does her husband’s ability to support her become a topic related to her work performance? Ridiculous!) And when one HO decided that such unacceptable conduct should not be tolerated and then wrote about how she felt on her own blog, suddenly you thought the HO was arrogant?

Give me a break!

Why don’t you connect with her in a different context and behave better yourself, then maybe you will find her humble and nice. Maybe, she just refused to be nice to bullies! As simple as that!

It was Plato who had said, “the measure of a man is what he does with power.”

measure of a man

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. So, you can judge whether or not a person is arrogant based on how the person treats someone below himself/herself. Is she nice to staff nurses, other HOs, other PPKs? Does she say thank you to her subordinates who had assisted her on-call or does she simply complain about HOs non-stop and didn’t bother to thank people who had helped made her life easier?

Some people can be polite to their superiors. And that is not surprising! Of course, a self-serving kaki-bodek would do so. But the same person can find so many things to complain about HOs in whatsapp groups non-stop, blowing things out of proportion. 

If  you want to know who is arrogant, ask people of the lowest position in an organization. Don’t take the word of the highest echelon in the organization who might feel easily offended just because other people don’t meet his expectation of  how much he should be respected. Sometimes, people don’t respect you out of your own doings and your own faults. 

***

Who exactly are we?

If we take off the many masks that we put on in our daily life, who are we?

Depending on contexts, the person I am dealing with, how closely connected I am to that person, how annoying a person is (and many other factors), I too have masks.

Indeed, everyone does. It doesn’t mean we all have split personalities! It doesn’t mean that we have some sort of personality disorders or are manic or whatever.

When I was in my 5th housemanship posting, one specialist had said to me “You look so quiet! But in your blog, you seemed so outspoken.”

In my heart, I was like, “If you give me enough reason to attack, I can be that person in my blog, too. Give me enough reason… then watch me.”

Instead of saying that, I didn’t make any comment. I just laughed.

She asked “Did you write about me?”

“No…” I paused. “Not yet.” I added cheekily.

She laughed and said, “If you write about me, make sure you let me read it first. If I say ok, then you can put it in your blog.”

I never wrote about her. She wasn’t a bully.

I was just a houseman. Of course, I would pick my battle… and my main target in my daily houseman life was just to finish my job as soon as possible so that I could go home as soon as possible. I didn’t pick a fight for every single thing that annoyed me… I only picked up the ones that had crossed the boundaries into abuse of power and bullying.  I didn’t seek unnecessary interaction with MOs or specialists. I only talked to them regarding work-related issues. I had no desire to socialize with them beyond  that. If I seemed quiet, it was because I had no reason to be noisy. Not yet.

That was my persona (my mask) as a houseman when dealing with MOs/specialists. The mask of quiet, reserved, not-excellent-but-good-enough-not-to-be-extended HO.

But among fellow HOs and friends who I already knew and felt comfortable with, I could be loud and opinionated (just like in my blog) and I could be the life of the party too.

And among fellow HOs or people I wasn’t really comfortable with, I would be back to being quite reserved.

But try crossing my principles (unnecessary bullying, unfair treatment of subordinates, unjust accusation, unreasonable demand for me to do something that goes against what I think is the right thing to do) you will be surprised at how fast I can change my mask. This is what my siblings say, “my lioness mask”.

Don’t wake the sleeping lion (or was it the sleeping giant? Well, something like that… you get the drift.)

Now as an MO, I maintained the same masks and the same boundaries between me, my HOs, fellow MOs and my superiors. I am friendly but firm with my HOs…. I have never shouted or unnecessarily scolded them. My instruction towards them is straightforward and easily understood. There is nothing I hate more than being nagged when I was a HO, and likewise, I refrain from nagging them. Among the many phrases that I refrain to say to them (no matter how tempting) was “during my time… (insert your budget-bagus sentence)”. Haha.

Even if I were to do that, it was not done in a way to patronize them, but more in a way to reminisce about how ridiculous some of the rules were when I was a HO. I am not jealous of their shift system. In fact, I look forward to improving working conditions for everyone and this is a good first step towards that.

With my superiors, I can take reasonable scolding especially if it is my fault. But if it is not my fault, I will certainly speak up and defend myself. Depending on the types of superiors I have to deal with, I mirror their attitude towards me. I can be friendly, polite, indifferent or even hostile, depending on how they themselves treat me. I am not an ass-kisser and never will be. If I am nice to my superiors, it must be because I genuinely like them as a person. Otherwise, I will give them basic level of politeness; just enough in order to work with but nothing more.

When it comes to my patient, since I am the one who see the patient first and clerk the patient fully at the emergency department, I know best whether or not my specialist made the appropriate decision regarding my patient (whether to admit or not admit the patient, for example). If they disagree with my judgment, they can just ask me the appropriate questions to ascertain whether or not the patient should be discharged or admitted. And if my answers all point towards admission, yet they still don’t want to admit the patient, then I would be quite upset. In my opinion, if I distrust the clerking of my HOs, I will see the patient myself and re-clerk the patient myself (my control issues, hahah). So, I expect that if anyone were to disagree with my impression of my patient, then rather than nagging non-stop over the phone, asking the same question over and over again no matter how clear I have been about my judgment, they should see the patient themselves. In fact, I think that is what being on-call is all about regardless of whether you are a HO/MO/Specialist/Consultant.

If a HO distrusts a SN’s report, the HO must go and see the patient herself rather than just ordering the SN to do something over the phone. If an MO distrusts or disagrees with a HO’s assessment, it is the most responsible thing for the MO to see the patient herself (and I always do that. Otherwise, I will put my trust in my HO! Rather than nagging non-stop to assuage my own anxiety). Likewise, if a specialist feels unsettled and feels dissatisfied with an MO’s assessment, I believe it is the responsibility of the specialist to see the patient herself! Why not? Otherwise, just trust the assessment of  your MO, because she is the one who actually gets up from bed, drives to the ED, clerk the patient for a long time and facing the aggression of the patient and educates the family members for hours. If you are not willing to go to the ED yourself, then you really have no choice but to trust your MO’s report and manage the case according to her report.

No matter who you are (HO or MO or specialist or consultant), always remember that “No trust = go and do it yourself.”

This has been my mantra ever since I started working in 2011. That’s why we are on-call! (I will always remind myself that if I ever become a specialist, my MOs are not my sounding board to release my anxiety of my indecision. If I cannot decide, if some bits of the history are still not clear, I will do it myself!)

***

So my personality would seem different to anyone who knew me in a different context or in a different setting… and depending on how annoyed or benevolent I feel towards that person, I would of course behave differently. For a person to make an arbitrary inference of my whole character based on the limited context that the person had known me, would be inaccurate and sometimes, quite foolish.

So to my blog readers, do not expect me to behave the way you think I might behave in person just because you have formed an impression about me based on my writing. Just because you read my blog, it doesn’t mean you know me. You only know me in the context of me as a blogger. This is my blogger persona. In real life, I might not talk the way I write.  So, don’t be surprised (the way the specialist in my 5th posting were surprised. Haha. She is one cute lady.)

You do not know me as a daughter or a sister, or a doctor or a friend. I choose what I want to write and what I want to share. It would certainly skew your perception of me. I might not tell you all my weaknesses and my flaws. But at least, you know my life philosophy, my principles and my thoughts.

No one really knows anyone, really! When you say you can get along with someone, you are actually getting along with his/her mask! One aspect of his/her personality was harmonious with yours. And that’s all. Nothing more than that. One day you might be surprised when you saw the same person in a different setting and find yourself unable to accept how she/he has behaved in that particular context. (Trust me, this is why the rate of divorce is increasing everywhere in the world. Because you find out later that you had married a persona.)

At the end of the day, you are not a sum of your many personas. Deep inside, you know who you are.

The only One who knows you truly and deeply is Allah. 

He is the best of Judge. Other people’s judgments of your personas (your masks, really!) do not matter all that much. 

So, let’s pray that He favors us on the day of judgment.

Post-Exam Promises

Warning: this post contains exam rants and regrets. Please don’t read further if you cannot take some whining! Because this one contains a lot of whining! 

 

Okay, the real title of this blog post should be The Post Exam Promises That I Always Break. 

Yup…. I made the same darn promises over and over again since I was a kid every time I finished an exam, but I always ended up breaking them after some time. My consistency and reliability in breaking my post-exam promises is so impressive, the chance that I will break them again this time will be almost 1.

P(event) = 0.9999999

The event here being: Afiza breaking her post-exam promises again.

My post-exam promises always consist of:

  1. I will study consistently and be prepared as early as many, many months before my next exam. I will not rely on study leave alone in order to cram everything. Study leave duration is NOT ENOUGH to really learn everything I should know. I will not repeat this mental torture ever again and will be more committed and consistent from now on. Please God, just let me pass this one and I will behave MUCH better for my next exam.
  2. I will only read commercial fiction once a week. For the rest of the week I will make myself study and venture out into other necessary life activities. I will be more community-oriented and sociable and I will go out with friends and  ACTUALLY socialize with REAL people rather than with imaginary characters of  a book. I will learn to be nice and tolerant with other people when I socialize with them (which is something I don’t have enough practice doing because I always spend time with books). I will not let reading fiction monopolize the bulk of my time to the extent that I ignore the more important aspect of my life such as my academic learning and my relationship with my friends, and neighbours and my own family. I will keep in touch with all my friends after this exam and will not abandon them the way I did during my study leave. I will be NICE. I will reply whatsapp messages promptly. I will return phone calls straightaway.
  3. I will read more religious books and non-fiction. I will spend my time wisely. I will have more self-control regarding the frequency of my fiction reading.

You have no idea how difficult it is for me to keep those promises. And like I’ve said before, I always break those particular promises. The lure of new books from my favourite authors and new stories from new authors… they will ensnare and entrap me in mid-resolve and I lost myself.

***

It is ridiculous how much time I arrange my activities around my reading habits.  The problem is, it is so hard to change the habit of a lifetime.

When I am exhausted, I want to read stories to relax.

When I am already relaxed, I want to read books to maximize this pleasant feeling of relaxation.

When I am sad, I want to read stories to remind me of happy endings.

When I am happy, well, I thought I should multiply this happy feeling by reading. It will make me even happier.

When I am angry, I read stories to calm down.

When I am calm, I read stories so that I can absorb them better.

See? I can find many excuses and various reasons to read fiction for every occasion and every emotion.

But these stories are junks! They are pure entertainment! They are not real! I didn’t gain any earth-shattering insight or ground-breaking information from them. In fact, my hobby is correctly termed as ‘lagha’. While it might be okay for me to indulge in them once a week, but to do so for MOST of whatever free time I have….day in and day out… that is like a sickness. I know that!

And while I was struggling to cram everything I had to know during the one month study leave, I gained an insight regarding the debilitating nature of my condition. “If only I had started studying earlier! Kalaulah aku guna semua masa yang ada waktu aku baca buku cerita dulu-dulu dengan membaca dan menghafal my academic material, I won’t be suffering this much. Why do I always do this to myself over and over again? Orang lain ada free time, buat locum! Dapat juga duit! Otherwise, they do something very adult like cooking for their family. You? You read stories! When are you gonna grow up?”

Yes… you have no idea how many times I berated myself.  But like I said, I had done the same self-scolding in the past, but I always forget and relapse into my addiction every time the exam is over.

During that one month study leave, I hardly went out of the house. When I finally came out of my cave for some much-needed fresh air, it was because I was so tired of eating my home-cooked nasi goreng/ bihun goreng/ Maggi over and over again that I just HAD to eat something else and therefore I had to go out. Otherwise the only fresh air I enjoyed would be from the balcony of my house. Towards the end of my study leave, my mother actually brought me food because I just couldn’t be bothered to get out of the house anymore. She was probably worried I was not eating well. (And she would be right)

And I totally blamed myself. Because time is so precious and I have been wasting them by reading fiction all these time and simply relied on study leave to cram everything.

The problem with me is that, I will only do something I dislike when I absolutely have to do it. And study leave and exams force me to study when all I want to do is to read fiction, write my book reviews and occasionally exercise with hiking, jogging and an occasional weight training. Those are ALL I want to do during my free time when I don’t have exams. I am absorbed in them and I think those activities are more than enough to keep me fully occupied and satisfied. So you see, without exams, it is so easy for me to allow myself to drift away in the clouds of my fantastic tales. My parents had been saying to me since I was a child, “Kak Ngah, cuba kalau Kak Ngah baca buku sekolah macam kak ngah baca buku cerita. Mesti lagi pandai. Buku cerita tu tak bagi faedah satu apa pun” My mom said that every time I finished my ujian bulanan when my results was not as good as it should be. And I simply told her,  “Nanti periksa akhir tahun, angah buat betul-betul lah.” And I always delivered that promise. During my final end of year exam, I made sure I did well enough to maintain in the first class. And in all my national big exams, I got straight As… because I was able to cram in the last minute.  I was happy to push myself and went all out during those final moments as long as throughout the year I can enjoy my hobby.

And this pattern of last minute cramming persisted throughout medical school.

But I think, it must be the ageing process in me. I cannot cram as well as I could when I was younger! I think the recent exam was the hardest exam of my life! I am not kidding! Not joking! Not exaggerating! It was HARD!! I fear for my result but knew that it is too late to regret. I must learn from this lesson and do better next time. I hope I will pass even though I knew it would take a miracle.

This time, I cannot break my post-exam promises. I know now that my brain is not as good as it was before.

Below is the findings on how our memory and learning evolve as we age:

  • IQ peaks at 25 – plateau until age 60-70 , then declines (maybe my brain declines early.  Hahaha.That was how I felt during my recent cramming fiasco)
  • Simple recall becomes difficult as we age (darn right!)
  • Working memory shows a gradual decline and worse with increased complexity of task and increased memory load (Yes…there was a lot to remember and my memory load was overloaded! My hippocampus simply could not take it anymore!)

I cannot afford to waste my time with fiction anymore. Cramming doesn’t work as well as it used to.

I am aging! *sobs sobs*

I told myself, that I have to do what I have to do. This time, what I HAVE to do is stop being so absorbed in fiction and grow up into a responsible adult who does what she must! And that is painful. Like making over my life.

It is a life makeover. *sigh*

I hope, I don’t break my post-exam promises this time. God knows I cannot afford to break them.

 

P/S: I just finished reading Dan Browns’ latest book entitled Origin that came out just a few weeks ago. But that was not exactly breaking my post-exam promises. I specifically wanted a break after the exam, so I read the book to reward myself after the crazy tough exam. But my next reading will be next week. I will try to stick to the schedule. Once a week. No more! Yup! Wish me luck, won’t you?

 

 

The Art Of Socializing

“You Have To Do What You Have To Do.”

That is my maxim in life. Regardless of your feelings, if something must be done, then it must be done.

I am a problem solver. I don’t allow problems to continue wreaking havoc in my life.

I might not like certain things, but if there is no getting around the problems/issues, then I will make myself deal with it.

I used to dread socializing. I couldn’t make myself do it as a child. I always pestered my mom “Mak, bila nak balik rumah kita ni?” whenever we were out socializing at other people’s houses. My mom had to excuse herself early than she intended to because it would not take long for me to start causing tantrum. 

I didn’t think I had any social anxiety or social phobia. I just felt awkward having to pretend that I was interested in other people when I actually didn’t. I felt awkward having to suffer the painful silence as the conversation dried up with no one having anything to say.

I was just bored. And could not make myself put the effort. 

But I recognized that I had to overcome my inability to make small talk. I have to do what I have to do, I told myself. I couldn’t hide away in my room every time guests came to our house. My mother would  have my head! “Tetamu mai kita kenalah keluar, Kak Ngah. Semua tanya kak ngah dok buat apa sampai tak keluar bilik. Very rude lah.”

I always had some excuses. Tidur. Baca Buku. Tak perasan orang mai. 

I am not shy. I never was shy. I am just an introvert. But when it comes to things I am really interested in, I can be chatty enough and sometimes downright vocal. I am a vocal introvert. If a topic interests me, you will have a hard time shutting me up. But if a topic does not interest me (let’s just admit that small talks are crazy boring and we just do it socially in order to be polite) or I am meeting someone for the first time, I would be very reserved and awkward and therefore I would try my best to avoid having to deal with such a situation.  

But I knew I could not get away with excuses for long.

So, I solved my problems when I was in my early 20s. I observed how people make small talk, I analyzed how they carried themselves during social events and then I imitated accordingly. And now, I am quite good at faking my comfort at making small talk (while deep inside, I cannot wait to get back into my private sanctum sanctorum; the innermost of my private world where stories are enthralling and mysteries are beguiling)

So when one day my patient came to me and told me that she was a very shy person (but her shyness is not yet a disorder of any kind) and she didn’t like that shyness (she is a shy extrovert. Yes, there exists a shy extrovert; just like there exists a bold introvert) I was very sympathetic with her plight. She reminded me of my younger self. Like me, she has problems coming up with something to say to keep the conversation rolling and ends up not saying anything and then the whole awkward silence embarrasses her. 

This inspired me to write about tips on how to make a small talk for this post. I would share with you what I do to make small talk appear effortless. (I am not always spot on and successful in how I do it. But at least, I no longer feel agonized when I have to do it) Hope it helps everyone out there who has the same problem as me and this patient of mine. All these tips are the result of my reading, my observation of other people’s conversation and from my own extended practice at small talk. I am very proud of these tips because I think it’s been working great for me. Maybe you can practice them when you are attending the many open houses throughout this month of Syawal. 

So, here they are:

1)Be approachable. Just smile.

-Ok, my sisters would laugh their heads off at this. Because I am actually not approachable at all. My colleagues and my own close friends had told me of their first impression of me so many times in the past for me not to have a good insight of my unapproachability. They said it was my bitchy-resting-face that scares people from trying to approach me. But that is because I was not trying to be approachable at that time. I was not making any effort to seem approachable because the situation didn’t require me to do so.

-But what if you are attending a social function or you yourself is the host for a kenduri or a family event? You have NO CHOICE but to mix and mingle. In THAT situation, I MAKE myself approachable. The simplest thing to do is smile! And talk about food. And keep asking them to “tambahlah lagi,” or “makanlah lagi”. You know, things like that! Over and over again. So bosan, but you get the idea. 

-Or if you are the guests (instead of the host), you can comment on the deliciousness of the food. Or exchange recipes on how to make some of the delicacies (even though you KNOW you are not going to cook any of it. But just show that you are interested in all the ingredients and how to prepare them. The point of the whole thing is just to keep the conversation rolling. Yes… we have to suffer the boredom! But you have to do what you have to do.). 

-The point is just to keep it superficial and light. 

-Avoid talks of politics/race/religion. Again, keep it light and superficial. (unless you are lucky enough to find that rare deep thinkers among the guests with whom you can talk about any controversial topic that strikes your fancy. In that case, go ahead and show your true nerdy, geeky colours. Hahhah). 

 

2)Go to an event with a friend(s) who is more outgoing and extrovert than you. 

– This is my favourite trick! And it works every single time! 

-This friend can do all the approaching and all the talking with the host and you simply comment and interject every now and then. Whatever it is your outgoing friend said, you simply confirm it and elaborate on it. That way, you don’t need to rack your brain trying to come up with things to say because your bubbly friend will do it for you. 

-I see how great this works every day between my mother and my father. My mother do all the talking/ ice-breaking and my father do all the nodding and brief elaboration. It’s like watching a beautiful dance. But you must see my father when he is talking politics/business… THEN, he can really talk! Hahah. 

 

3)People like to talk about themselves. So, ask them questions about themselves. And elaborate and respond accordingly based on their answers.

Ask them about their children. People love talking about their children (something free, single people like me might not be able to relate yet). This is something I notice in almost everyone. 

I memorized the names of my neighbours’ children. Whenever I bump into my neighbour, I would ask her about her children and she lights up when she talks about them. When I was a teenager, I would not bother asking these type of questions because I was not interested to know, anyway. But the main point of socializing is not for extracting information that you want to know. That is not the point. The point of socializing is just to be nice and to establish a connection and not looking awkward doing it… I think. (Actually, I don’t know what is the point of socializing. Hahha.) 

And please, appear interested with their answers. When they give their answers, you follow it up with further questions. 

When I was a teenager, my conversation was very short and awkward. Because I didn’t yet bother to learn to solve my ‘small-talk problem’ at that time. So my conversation always turned out like this:

My neighbour: “Anak Kak N yang bongsu tu dekat UITM la ni. Dia dok buat engineering.”

Me: Oh. Hmm…Okey. 

(Hahhaha. Yes, pathetic gila! Because, I was just not interested to know. So I would just say “oh, ok.”)

But now I have improved. *proud silly grin*

Me: Oh, buat engineering. Dah tahun berapa dah (really, I don’t care tahun berapa. But as I mentioned before, socializing is not about getting any information that you really want to know. It is just about appearing interested even if you actually aren’t)

Kak N: Dah tahun tiga dah. 

Me: Oh, tak sampai setahun lagi dah nak grad la. (yup…. saying the obvious is part of the socializing game. Hahha. When I was a teenager, I would not bother saying something like this. I mean, if her son is already in 3rd year, OBVIOUSLY there would only be one year left until graduation, right? So, why bother saying something like this, I thought. But now, I know the reason we bother to say things like this… it is to fill up our quota of the conversation. Seriously! That is the whole purpose of saying the obvious, and now that you know, just do it even when you think it doesn’t make sense!)

Kak N: Tu lah… lega lah. Tinggal dia sorang ja tak habis belajar lagi. Lepas ni Kak N tak gaduh pikiaq dah. 

Me :(Because I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I then introduced another related topic… which was, her OTHER children, of course).  Fatin pula dok buat apa la ni? (of course, it requires you remembering the name of the other children. LOL)

Hahha. Yes, I have sooo mastered the art of making small talk! Now, I can do it almost automatically! It was painful at first. But I did it! 

So the tips is simple: Keep the conversation rolling by asking questions about themselves because people love talking about themselves and follow up on their answers with appropriate comments (even when you have to say the obvious, and feeling stupid for saying such an obvious thing). And when you have nothing else to say on one topic, introduce another related topic with another question. Do NOT abruptly introduce on an unrelated topic because that would’t look or sound smooth. ‘Related-ness’ and ‘smooth transition’ of one topic after another, after another and after another…. that is the trick!

 

4) Don’t Avoid Social Situation. Practice until it becomes part of your skill. (this is easier said than done, I know! Our first instinct is to avoid and run but we have to resist the urge to run if we are serious about improving our socializing skill)

We can all learn a lesson from this dialogue between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (this reminds me why i love reading literature. It makes you pause and think):

Mr. Darcy: I do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before.

Elizabeth Bennet: Perhaps you should take your aunt’s advice and practice?

Elizabeth Bennet was being sarcastic but quite accurate! 

Back in form 4, I hated Add Maths… but I wanted to get straight As, and therefore Add Maths must be mastered by me no matter what. So I practiced Add Maths in every spare moment I had leading to SPM and I made it happen, thank God!

Socializing is just like Add Maths! If socializing was made an exam subject, I bet I would bother to master it ever since I was a child. But unfortunately, it was not an exam subject. I didn’t feel the importance or the need to master it the way I had to master Add Maths. I thought that socializing involved a lot of discomfort and play-pretend and I would not stoop to that level, I felt. I should be myself, I thought.

But I had my paradigm shift, thanks to Elizabeth Bennet! Haha. She made me realize that socializing is a skill… some are natural at it and some require practice with it. Just like Add Maths! It is not about not being yourself and being pretentious…. you practice it because it is a life skill! If you can practice Add Maths, why can’t you practice socializing? Right? 

I didn’t go around saying “Practicing Add Maths is like being fake and pretending to like Add Maths.” No! I STILL don’t like Add Maths. But I had to do what I had to do, remember?

Just like we shouldn’t think “practicing to socialize means we are pretending to like socializing and not being ourselves”

 This is not a question of ‘liking’ or ‘being ourselves’. It is the question of having the skill so that you can do it in a situation when it is not avoidable. Because we are problem solvers! We just have to do what we have to do! Being good at socializing, is unfortunately, a coming-of-age skill. Part and parcel of becoming an adult (because you can no longer depend on your parents to do it for you.)

 

5) Try to be as genuine as possible even though  socialising  requires some amount of ‘faking an interest’. 

Just because socialising does require an amount of faking your interest (by asking questions you don’t really actually want to know), it doesn’t mean you cannot be genuinely yourself. What do I mean by this?

Well…

For example, when people ask you questions, you can answer those questions honestly. They might ask you back the questions you have asked to them. 

For example:

You: Anak hang Aidan buat apa sekarang?

Acquaintance: Dia buat engineering la ni. Alhamdulillah, results  okay. Pointer four flat baru-baru ni.  Alan pula buat apa la ni?

You: Dia major sains politik. Minor in literature. Dia memang minat social sciences. (this is an honest answer, right? Don’t say your son is doing medicine and also has a four flat pointer if it is not true! I mean, there must be limits to bragging too!)

Socializing is not something we introverts are naturally good at… so it does require an effort to fake an interest and to ‘seem’ like we are enjoying ourselves. Our general demeanour might be jovial, but inwardly we might be longing to get home and get started on our reading. We have no choice but to fake this general happy demeanour in order to maintain politeness. (it would be rude to have people think we feel bored by their conversation, right?)  But that is where the faking stops…. the actual content of the conversation must be real and true. 

 

6) There are online social skills guide

Yup! There are a lot of articles and books written on how to socialize. I have read them myself (in the course of trying to solve my problem with small talk)

But I don’t suggest you to buy any books for it. Internet articles will do. 

Because like Add Maths, you cannot just read on it! Practice is key! 

But reading on the theories would come in handy too…. so just read off the internet on that subject. And then go out to practice. Practice, practice, practice. 

***

I have mentioned before that the ‘self’ is fluid and changeable. That is why I always say ‘we do what we have to do’ regardless of our discomfort or real feelings about it. If that is our responsibility and it is expected of us, then we have to learn to adapt.

Instead of having a ‘fixed mindset’, we must have a ‘growth mindset’.

What do I mean by that?

The concept is a bit like “nature vs nurture”:

When you have a fixed mindset, you believe that you either are or aren’t good at something, based on your inherent nature, because it’s just who you are.

Whereas people who have a growth mindset believe anyone can be good at anything because your abilities are due  to your actions.

And personally, I think having a fixed mindset is harmful and one of the perpetuating factor to depression and anxiety. If you believe that you cannot change even when what you are doing is not working in your favour, then what else is there to do but to give up?

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This is what I always tell my patients. To have a growth mindset!

Remember Elizabeth Bennet? She told Mr. Darcy to practice! Practicing is something that those who have a growth mindset will do.

So, all the best to all aspiring socialites out there! We can do this! 

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****

Last but definitely not least, Selamat Hari Raya from the Azmee family and Maaf Zahir Batin. Taqabballahu Minna Wa Minkum.

Below are some of the pictures that we took on the first few days of Eid (some of the pictures do not contain my Kak Long as she didn’t make it back until on the 3rd day of Raya). There are a lot more pictures in Facebook and Instagram but I decide to only post a few here. I think my blog deserves a bit of colourful spicing up in this blessed month of Syawal.

 

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Our formal Raya picture. Look at my father… so serious! Hahah.
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Our silly free-style picture
More silly free-style pictures without our father because he is not into taking pictures/selfies like all his vain narcissistic daughters. Haha
And even more silly pictures…
Just the girls and the mom…😍😍😘

 

Sisters Bonding Time was on the 2nd and 3rd day of Raya. Tak sah raya kalau tak ambil gambar kat halaman rumah dengan baju raya. LOL. We missed my youngest sister because she was not around at that time. And my eldest sister was also not here because she was stuck in traffic jam on  the way to balik kampung here. So just me, Izati and the heavily pregnant Alida.

 

 

On the 3rd day of Raya, we went for our usual sisters-coffee-time at Starbucks. They left their husbands at home, because, of course! Who would want  husbands to tag along when the sisters are gossiping? Right? They would only feel excluded by our loud voices speaking on top of each other as we tend to do every single time.  Haha.

We missed Alida here because she was very, very pregnant and didn’t feel like going out and we missed my youngest sister Wani as she had gone back to the uni to start preparing for her final exam in dentistry. Their absence was deeply felt but it didn’t prevent us from having a great time. (LOL, sorry Wani and Alida.)

And on the 4th day of Raya (my last day of cuti raya, sobs sobs), I brought Kak Long to Gunung Keriang for hiking because she said she wanted to give it a try. I was happy to do it because I had started feeling guilty about all the calories I had consumed in the past few days. At the end of the hiking trip, my Kak Long learned to respect the level of my fitness to be doing this activity so very frequently. Hahha. She learned that she needed to increase her fitness level ASAP. “Tunggu aku balik next time… I will be fitter,” She said.

I laughed at the hilarity!

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Healthy life-style.. KONONnya!

 

Until next time, my dear readers. 🙂

The People Not Worth Mentioning

#RamadhanReflection

Whenever Ramadhan arrives, my heart deeply misses my Muslim sisters in Newcastle. They made me realize something I would always be grateful to them for.

They made me realize that all the Israiliyat stories I had questioned in the past….well, I was right in questioning them. They opened my eyes – widely! – that religion IS logical.They made me realize that religious people are not weakly passive, terribly soft-spoken or yawningly dull. Because THEY were not dull and  yet they were one of the most religious people I have ever met.

They made me realize, that in matters of religion, there are rooms for people like me…. the ruthlessly logical and aggressively out-spoken people like me are also acceptable in Islam. That I was not un-Islamic when I questioned things I really didn’t understand. In fact, they were delighted by my questions and when they in turn answered my questions, I was delighted by their answers! Because now, it makes sense! Finally!!

They made me understand that my concept of religious people as people who “asyik cakap lemah-lembut, pakai baju besar dan tudung labuh, pijak semut tak mati… tapi asyik suka bagi orang rasa bersalah bila kita tanya balik kat depa benda yang kita rasa langsung tak logik!” was so wrong! I was wrong to stereotype ‘religious people’ and I was delighted about being wrong, at that time! I knew then, that there did exist outwardly religious people who were also inwardly Islamic in their principles and worldviews. 

I was intrigued by the sisters when I went to Melbourne for the Summer in my first year of med school (initially just to have a fun holiday for a month) and the Melbourne sisters then took me and my friends under their wings and taught me to understand my religion beyond its mere rituals. Because of them (supplemented by YOU TUBE videos of Nouman Ali Khan, Yusha Evans and Dr. MAZA) I understood the core principles of my religion and I stick to it as much as I can.

Some of them were one of the most energetic people I have ever met. And all these while I thought “Orang agama ni mesti jenis jalan menunduk all the time.” Well, not them!

Listen to this clip by Dr. Maza about how ‘kewarakan’ and ‘kesolehan’ has nothing to do with you “jalan lembik-lembik menunduk, konon soleh”. (Gosh! I get really irritated by pretentious people like that. *rolled eyes*)

Let me recap on the main point of the video. Sahabat-sahabat menyatakan “Sesungguhnya kami telah melihat Umar Ibn Al Khattab. Bila beliau berjalan, dia cepat. Beliau bercakap, ianya jelas. Bila beliau pukul, sakit. Tetapi beliaulah yang paling warak dikalangan kami.”

So this is to me, an image of a Muslim I could relate to! Cergas! Cerdas! Kuat! Tegas!

Our religion celebrates differences in personalities and habits as long as they are not against the syariat.

In fact, they told me “Saidina Umar Al-Khattab was very outspoken. When others made the hijrah in secret, he had boldly said, “Whoever wants his mother to mourn him, his children to become orphans and his wife to become a widow should meet me behind this valley to try and stop my Hijrah.” And no one dared follow him out. He had such spunk!”

Since then Saidina Umar is my favourite figure in religion, after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Not because I think Saidina Abu Bakar and the rest of the companions are not as great. No! But I can RELATE with Umar. Saidina Abu Bakar might have diplomacy and patience…. but I am weak in those aspects and I couldn’t relate to him the way I could relate with Saidina Umar. How am I supposed to be patient when something really unjust is happening right before my eyes? I couldn’t relate why I could not simply call it out and tell them frankly to their face that what they are doing is wrong, regardless of who they are in the society! While I admire Saidina Abu Bakar just as much, it is with Saidina Umar r.a that I can relate the most.

Saidina Abu Bakar made the hijrah in secret together with the prophet, being so patient in facing the adversities and the terror of being chased by the enemies of Islam. Whereas Saidina Umar R.A had boldly challenged anyone to try to stop him from making the hijrah. And BOTH of them made it to Madinah at last. Even though one had patiently travelled in secret, while the other had boldly travelled in the open, BOTH of them reached their destination and their goals. So, BOTH are equally admirable… but I am more likely to do what Saidina Umar did, because I can relate to that. In my mind, I would be so angry that the people of Makkah was trying to stop my basic human rights to move wherever I wanted. That kind of nonsense would spark my temper and I would go, “Apsal pula kau nak halang-halang  aku ni? Kau siapa? Apa hak kau nak halang aku? You are not making any sense. Nak halang juga, cubalah kalau berani! Jangan cabar aku, okey!” 

Thats’ my fi’il… my tabiat…don’t force me, don’t cross my principles, don’t violate my boundaries. Because I will fight when it matters enough! You don’t get to me by force. You get to me with kindness and patient reasoning. The way the Newcastle and Melbourne sisters did. 

They taught me something I have always known: Sabar itu bukannya merelakan diri kena tindas kemudian menyatakan “yang aku ni sabar.” Sabar itu adalah menentang semua kezaliman yang ada kemudian bersabar dengan akibat yang kita terima disebabkan kita berani menentang kezaliman itu. They confirmed my belief that sabar in Islam is not something passive the way the Malays were doing it when they were being a coward!… but Sabar is an ALIVE, ACTIVE struggle. Saidina  Abu Bakar made the journey to Madinah with patience too…. and then He succesfully arrived in Madinah. His patience, just like Saidina Umar’s boldness, yielded the SAME result. He arrived with Rasulullah in tow! That kind of Sabar is productive! The concept of patience in Islam is NOT “biarlah kita bersabar kena tindas di Mekah.” (This concept of Sabar is always being adopted wrongly by Muslim Malays. When they used the word Sabar, what they usually really mean is ‘jadi penakut. Jangan cakap apa’.Haha)

I was so impressed by the things I was taught in Melbourne that summer. This!! THIS is the version of Islam that was never taught to me in Malaysia. This version of Islam taught us how to live and live well! And live honourably! And live courageously! 

They also instilled in me the concept of speaking up against injustice. Speak up… not because you think you can change anything by speaking up. But speak up because it is THE TRUTH and on the judgment day you can AT LEAST say to Your Lord “Ya Rabb, I spoke against that injustice when it happened!”

They told me to learn and internalize the lesson from the Quranic verse surah Al-A’raf 7: 163 -165

Dan tanyakanlah kepada Bani Israil tentang negeri yang terletak di dekat laut ketika mereka melanggar aturan pada hari Sabtu, di waktu datang kepada mereka ikan-ikan (yang berada di sekitar) mereka terapung-apung di permukaan air, dan di hari-hari yang bukan Sabtu, ikan-ikan itu tidak datang kepada mereka. Demikianlah Kami mencoba mereka disebabkan mereka berlaku fasik. (7: 163)

Dan (ingatlah) ketika suatu umat di antara mereka berkata: “Mengapa kamu menasehati kaum yang Allah akan membinasakan mereka atau mengazab mereka dengan azab yang amat keras?” Mereka menjawab: “Agar kami mempunyai alasan (pelepas tanggung jawab) kepada Tuhanmu, dan supaya mereka bertakwa.” (7: 164)

Maka tatkala mereka melupakan apa yang diperingatkan kepada mereka, Kami selamatkan orang-orang yang melarang dari perbuatan jahat dan Kami timpakan kepada orang-orang yang zalim siksaan yang keras, disebabkan mereka selalu berbuat fasik. (7: 165)

“Cuba tengok, Afiza. Dalam ayat-ayat ni. Ada tiga golongan di sini. Golongan pertama, yang melakukan kejahatan. Golongan kedua, yang menghalang kejahatan. Golongan ketiga, yang berkecuali … malah golongan ketiga ni siap bertanya kepada golongan kedua, kenapa nak sibuk-sibuk bagi nasihat? Kemudian dalam ayat 7:165 Allah memberitahu akan nasib golongan pertama yang melakukan kejahatan itu….. yang mereka ditimpakan azab. Nasib golongan kedua yang menasihati dan menghalang kejahatan, mereka ini diselamatkan. Tapi apa jadi dengan golongan ketiga ini… golongan yang berkecuali tadi? Apa nasib mereka?”

Hmm… I had no idea. The Quran didn’t mention what happened to them. I shrugged my shoulder at the naqibah and shook my head. 

“Bila Allah tidak sebut nasib golongan ketiga ini… maksudnya mereka adalah golongan yang tidak layak disebut.”

I was stunned.

“Jadi, ketika kita nampak kezaliman berlaku, jadilah orang yang berani menegur “Ini Zalim!”. Janganlah jadi orang yang berdiam diri, yang berkecuali, yang akhirnya nasibnya jadi tidak pasti. Neither here nor there. Not worth mentioning!”

Desmond Tutu was really wise and quite Islamic (whether he realized it or not), when he said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

***

Believe me, there are times when I really miss how I was when I was in Australia. I think my behaviour was at its best when I was there because the environment there made it easy for me to be nice. I was not exposed to much injustice that would disturb my psyche at that time. I surrounded myself with nice, and intellectual people who could satisfy my thirst for knowledge and could sooth my insistence for things to be fair and logic.

Then I returned to Malaysia as a houseman. I was shocked.

“Hang pun tau, aku dah inform MO yang patient tu punya Blood Pressure low and Pulse Rate tachycardic. Dia kata suruh observe dulu. Run fluid fast apa semua. Sekarang patient ni bleeding teruk… tiba-tiba dia kata aku tak inform. Padahal dia yang tak attend.” said one of my fellow HOs to me when I was in my first posting. I told her to report the matter to the specialist. That I would accompany her to do it! She didn’t want to. Since this incident involved her, I couldn’t do anything much if she herself didn’t want to fight for herself. Takkan aku pula nak lebih-lebih involved?

But what I did was, I told as many HOs as possible about what had really happened. So that among HOs, we knew she wasn’t guilty. But I was ashamed of myself because I didn’t do what I was supposed to do… to internalize the Al-A’raf concept and speak up LOUD that the MO was the culprit! I didn’t do the most I could have done. Instead, I gave myself petty excuses by saying “I am just a HO… what can I do? Sekurang-kurangnya aku benci benda ni dalam hati… tu dah kira selemah-lemah iman. Yang paling aku mampu buat setakat ini adalah benci dalam hati.”

Screenshot 2017-06-16 12.23.08

 

But my weakness haunted me for the rest of my first posting because I felt that I had fallen short of my own standard that I had nurtured for 5 years in Australia. I could not get over my boiling anger at the injustice and at myself… so that when I finished my posting, I wrote about things that had happened in the department that disturbed my sense of justice! I needed to let that out and purge it out of my system. Sue me if what I said was wrong! (I didn’t intend for it to become viral. But it became viral when I was already in my 3rd posting… by that time I have done all the major posting including surgical and medical… I was already a senior. They couldn’t do anything to me. I was ready to face anyone, anyway. My father said, “Don’t worrry. Jadi apa-apa, kita ada lawyer.” But Alhamdulillah, nothing actually did happen. I wasn’t even called to explain myself even though I was ready for it.)

In Malaysia, people don’t reward being nice. Instead, being nice gets you bullied. Bullying is something I have never experienced until I became a houseman… even then, I didn’t tolerate it for long! By the time my blog became viral, no MOs dared to bully me anyway. “Takut masuk blog.” they joked to me about it. (Hahha) Most of them were simply curious about me and I ended up becoming friends with most of them. Instead of being targeted and my life being made difficult (the way other HOs had predicted), my life became even more smooth after my blog became viralled. I thought that… maybe, hopefully… it was Allah’s reward for me because I wrote the truth. Maybe HE rewarded me because I finally returned to the principle of justice I had lovingly nurtured when I was a medical student in Australia. I was a coward just like any other housemen when I was in my first posting. Allah taught me to never again be like that! To maintain my outlook in life and let Allah handle the rest.

In Malaysia, you can request for one tiny reasonable thing in the most gentle tone you can muster, but it would get rejected as long as they think they can get away with it. By the time you raise your voice and threaten to take some action, only then you get what you want. So, the Malaysian culture rewards me when I am being my loud, rude self. The culture doesn’t reward me by complying to my reasonable request when I am being nice.

So I then learn that if I want what I want, I will have to be tough and fight with my bare hands until I get it because with you guys, diplomacy doesn’t work!  Even my younger sister had experienced the same thing once she started working. By the time she threatened legal action against the PPD in Sarawak for withholding her husband’s BKLP (Bayaran Khas Lokasi Pedalaman) allowance, only then they decided to comply to her demand. And so she won! PPD gave her husband back his rightful BKLP money.

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My father looked at me and Alida, and he said “Alida dah mewarisi perangai Kak Ngah.” (In my family, I was called Kak Ngah Singa. Singa jadian…that is me. Hahaha.)

Then we looked at our father who was also just like us and said “Di mana tumpahnya kuah kalau tak ke nasi?” 

(I asked Alida to do a personality test once. Turned out that Alida is also an INTP. Go figure! I too, always tested as an INTP and sometimes INTJ.)

Some people said “Alida, buat apa hang pi cari  lawyer tu… lagi mahal kau kena bayar lawyer daripada duit yang kau akan dapat balik. Buat rugi jer.”

These people… they don’t get it!. Their priorities are not the same as us, the INTPs/INTJs. Our priorities are truths, justice and principle. Money comes second. Preserving harmonious relationship comes second (sometimes last!) It is okay if you have different priorities than me…. BUT!, don’t push your misguided notion on me! As long as we can afford our principles, we will go all out for it, khalas! If you are the sort of person who don’t have principles, you would not understand.

Initially, Alida wanted her money because it was rightfully hers! She requested for it reasonably. But when people were being unjust, difficult and refused to do the right thing, suddenly her priorities changed. Suddenly, this was NO LONGER about the money! She didn’t want it anymore! Now this was about justice! And she was willing to spend money to win against the PPD because they were being unjust! Let Alida be the lesson the PPD would never forget! And I supported her all the way by encouraging her to play their unjust game to the end by hitting below the belt and threaten them with not just legal action but ‘viral action’ too. My father supported her by offering to pay for the lawyer. And viola, suddenly it was so easy for the PPD to give her back the money that was rightfully hers.

See? See how they reward our frank, hard ways instead of our initial reasonably nice, soft ways? *shakes head*

When Alida got her money, only then the parasites who had told her “Hang pi lah fight. Tapi, aku rasa tak dapat punya” came to her, seeking her guidance. They asked her for a copy of what she wrote to the PPD so that they too could claim their money by using her letter as an example to write their own. Sheeshhh..

What sort of respect do we feel for these kind of people…. who didn’t want to do the dirty work of fighting in  the first place… but when winning is finally assured, only then they came running, asking for how to get it done! When Alida had first asked them to fight together with her, they didn’t want to move their lazy bums to do it and in fact, had discouraged her from fighting! But afterwards, their behaviour went exactly the opposite!  Isn’t their behaviour the perfect epitome of shameful cowardice? 

***

Dear adik-adik (medical students, HOs, junior MOs)

Allow me to impart you an advice I always believe in. Giving this advice is part of my civic duty and social responsibility as a senior MO (now that I am already in my second year of UD48 Hahaha. Senior la kan?). When you see injustice happens, call out on it.

Because Al-A’raf!

Because that is  the most Islamic thing you can do!

Because that is ACTIVE Sabar!

And don’t give yourself excuses that ‘at least, aku benci benda ni dalam hati.’ (I tried that excuse when I was a HO; it didn’t sit really well with me and I could not respect myself).

If you were a HO, maybe you can be forgiven to still be in the ‘selemah-lemah iman.’ To just ‘benci dalam hati’.

But if you are already an MO, or one day a specialist, a Jusa, a Dato, a Tan Sri, a Pengarah here and there…. there will always be someone higher than you who would tell you to do something your conscience says is wrong! Even when you become a DG, you still have someone else higher than you who would dictate to you things that are so unfair and so wrong that your blood boils because of it! Jadi, takkan sampai ke sudah hanya nak benci dalam hati dan berpuas hati dengan hanya memiliki ‘selemah-lemah iman’? Hanya kerana ia adalah arahan orang atasan?

Come on, por favor!

By the level of MOship, you should set standard for yourself… that I will speak up. As an MO, dah sah dalam jawatan, takkan masih selemah-lemah iman? Speak up! By the time you are a specialist, the standard should be “I will  speak up AND take action in the best way my position allows me to when I see injustice happens.”

For example you can say, “I refuse to allow my staff to oncall if you don’t want to pay their mileage claims. It wouldn’t be fair for them. The MOs can oncall by themselves if my staff cannot claim their mileage.” 

Or say, “Apa kata kita potong pengarah dan penolong-penolong pengarah punya elaun, potong orang-orang management punya elaun… korban sorang sikit bagi pada staff yang nak claim! Gaji staff lagi kecik daripada gaji korang kan! Gaji diorang lagi kecik daripada gaji orang management yang asyik nak potong claims orang padahal orang management tidur sedap kat rumah. This is not fair to my staff! How can you justify doing this to staffs whose salary are much less than you… but when there is financial constraint, it was THEIR claims you decided to cut first. Ini zalim!”

Say, “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty… so how can you devalue him by putting him in a department where he cannot utilize his excellent skill? Why not put him in Ortho/districts/Klinik Kesihatan where his skills can be put to its optimal use?Inilah ketidakadilan…. tidak meletakkan sesuatu kepada tempatnya. Tidak meletakkan staff yang kemahiran post-basicnya patut boleh diletakkan ditempat yang lebih memerlukan skill tersebut. But instead, you put him in my department? How could you do this to him… devalue him like  this… when you said he is innocent? And how could you do this to my department… to only place someone with a tainted reputation into our department time and time again! How could you devalue our department by always sending us staff of questionable calibre? In this case, you had created a lose-lose situation for him and for us! Your management is zalim! And I am calling you out on it!”

***

One of my friends told me, “Kalau kita speak up pun, kena ikut arahan juga. Orang management memang macam tu! Buat penat argue ja.”

I frowned. In my head, I reflected, “I know… I know that most of the time, kita speak up pun takkan dapat apa-apa. Buat kita rasa frust saja. Sebab at last, mungkin kena ikut arahan juga. Tapi can you imagine kalau yang speak up to ramai dan bukan seorang? (Like Alida’s case. She spoke up alone, she won! But how easier it would have been if ALL OF THEM had spoken up together in the first place) Tapi katakanlah dah ramai-ramai speak up pun, masih kena ikut arahan yang zalim, so what? The reason we SHOULD speak up is… because Al-A’raf. Remember? We speak up so that  we can say…. for the record, I oppose your injustice. For the record, I have made absolutely clear what I think of you when you made that decision. So that I can stand before God, and say ‘I have spoken, Ya Rabb.’ Because for the record, I can say that YOU KNEW you were wrong… I have made it so clear to you… now, the guilt is on you! It’s on you! I speak up because I am NOT content to always be in selemah-lemah iman like you.”

Because Al-Araf 7:164. 

Because I don’t want to be among people who are not worth mentioning.

Inspired!

Assalamualaikum to all my blog readers.

I hope it is not too late for me to wish all of you, my dear readers, Ramadan Mubarak and happy fasting.

May Allah grant us our best Ramadan yet. Amin. 

I have been so busy that I haven’t had the time to write these days. I think I am about to burn out. But never fear; if I am still reading (even when I am not writing), then my burn out is not so serious. 

And at the moment I am reading a book written by one of the most inspiring person I have ever had the fortune to know. Dr. Azlan Kamalludin is an emergency physician who I first met as a houseman in the emergency department of HSB. During my first few months of being a houseman in the ED, I had no idea who Dr. Azlan was because at that time, he was in Makkah being part of the medical team for Malaysian pilgrims. But a lot of senior housemen told me that Dr. Azlan was very good and very efficient and I was told that he was so inspiring to listen to when he taught housemen and MOs during morning rounds. 

And days before Dr. Azlan returned from Makkah, HOs/MOs were already talking about how much they missed Dr. Azlan’s teachings. So, of course, I became even more intrigued to know who was this Dr. Azlan. On the day he finally returned from Makkah, I found out that what they said about Dr. Azlan was not an exaggeration. Not at all. 

Me and a few of my friends had our end-of-posting assessment with him. In that short session, he shared his experience as an MO fighting for his patient’s rights. I have always been inspired by that.  

The day when I had my end-of-posting assessment with Dr. Azlan was the last day of my housemanship. I went to psychiatry after that. (But I added him on Facebook. Haha.)

Dr. Azlan had talked about wanting to write a book a few years ago and through Facebook he asked my opinion about what to write. Him, his wife and I met at Coffee Bean a few weeks before he got posted in Langkawi 2 years ago and we talked about his wife’s cancer being in remission and about things in general. I told him that ED HSB has suffered a great loss by him going to Langkawi. (But then, Langkawi ED is very lucky to get him.) 

On Monday last week, it was a very pleasant surprise for me when he and his wife came to the Methadone clinic to see me and present the book that he had been writing since working as an ED specialist in Langkawi. The title of the book is ‘Three Cancers in Ten Months: When Doctor Becomes Caregiver.”

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He had autographed the book with a personal message for me on the first page. It was such a great honour to be receiving such a gift from him. A book given for free, and delivered into my hands by the great author himself! I was very humbled by all his effort. ( Furthermore, I have always loved having books that are personally autographed by my favourite authors.)

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My facebook status on the day I received this gift of a book. 

As my readers probably know, there are not many specialists (or anyone in the position of authority) that I actually find inspiring. I respect any specialist who is nice… but not everyone who is nice is also inspiring. He is one of the few that I actually do find inspiring. In general, I am impressed by anyone (regardless of their position in the society) who can speak up their minds and say what they mean and mean what they say. No deceitful diplomatic crap is ever going to impress me. I like people who have strength of conviction and will do what is right no matter how hard they have to fight. No matter WHO they have to face! These people will always earn my lasting admiration. 

I am now half way through his book, and so far, it is such an inspiring read. It is highly recommended.

Below, is my Amazon review of his book.

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I have mentioned before that after housemanship, I was placed in ENT. But I have zero interest in ENT. My interest has always been in psychiatry. I fought so hard to get into the field of my interest. I went to see the Hospital Deputy Clinical Director, initially. Then, I went to see the Hospital Director herself! I wrote an appeal letter…. then, I wrote another! Deep inside, I know no other department will do for me other than psychiatry. After not getting into law school (because my scholarship was for medicine), Psychiatry was my SECOND CHANCE to do what I actually love! I was not going to give it up! Not that easily. 

But even so… I had written in my appeal letter that “If you can’t give me psychiatry, place me in Emergency rather than ENT!” Because in the emergency department, working with outstanding specialist like Dr. Azlan will inspire you to be better too. To fight for your patients to be admitted when all specialties reject your referrals! To be outspoken and bold “fine, I will call your specialist myself!”. To NOT BE AFRAID to fight for your rights and for your patients. 

I can do that! I can do it! Arguing and debating… well, that’s my second nature. I love psychiatry, but I wouldn’t mind being placed in ED even though the department is busier than ENT. ED would be my second best choice after PSY. Because I can sense that Dr. Azlan has the same kind of work ethics I have always respected in anyone. Because other than real interest in the field you choose to practice, working environment matters too. And if Dr. Azlan is in the ED, then the working environment should be fine, I thought. More than fine, in fact. 

I am thankful that I became a psychiatry MO. The environment in my department is quite good. Everyone is so nice. But being too nice sometimes makes for a perfect condition to be bullied by others! 

And my one absolute abhorrence is being bullied by unjust authority in the position of power. They hide their real agenda behind various circulars and ‘surat arahan’. And we have no choice but to do what they ask. 

I hate that! It violates my belief system! Because deep inside, I believe we always have the choice of fighting. The only problem is, are we willing to do it?

 I don’t like being bullied! 

So in this month of Ramadan, I declare, that I will NEVER be too nice! I will always ONLY be just ‘nice enough’… but no further. If you push my bullsh*t button, you will witness my massive retaliation. 

It just makes me SO BLOODY FURIOUS when I see injustice happens. 

Or maybe most people just have a passive personality. Maybe the world cannot accommodate too many people who are aggressive and abrasive… because then there would be wars happening every few minutes. Hahah. 

And now… even though it is Ramadhan and I am supposed  to have nice, benevolent, charitable feelings…but I cannot deny the truth. My feelings at the moment is far from nice….

In fact…

#AkuBengang!

But then, it IS Ramadhan.

So, I took a deep breath in and let it go. For now.

“Positive vibes, please come to me stat!” I craved silently.

But then I remembered that I still haven’t finished Dr. Azlan’s book. That’s the positive vibes, right there, waiting for you! 

So I smile and continue my reading.

And the world is right again. For now.