Inductive Learning Vs Deductive Learning

Whenever people ask me “how to be good in English?” I am really at a loss for how to answer the question. Because, I actually am not that good. And this is not false modesty. There are so many other brilliant English writers and speakers out there.

Trust me, I still make grammatical mistakes. I check, double check and then triple check my assignments/medical reports all the time just to make sure I don’t make simple grammatical mistakes (as opposed to complicated grammatical mistakes, in which case, I can still forgive myself because I am not a native English speaker, after all).

We all have different ways of learning. My way of learning might be different from yours. Some people learn deductively. Some people learn inductively.

Deductive and inductive reasoning are both a method of learning. But I would argue that in general, when you are studying science, you must primarily go deductive; otherwise you will learn very slowly via the inductive method because you need a mountain of evidence before your induction can be proven. (In science, there is an equally important place for both inductive and deductive reasoning. But we generally do deductive reasoning when conducting our systematic reviews/meta-analysis)

When you are studying arts/language/ religion, you must primarily go inductive, because deductive reasoning in arts/language/religion will not yield a comprehensive view of the matter! (But there is a place for deductive reasoning in arts/language/religion as well)

Let me explain.

In general, inductive reasoning uses a large number of specific observations to reach a general principle. (the bottom-up approach)

induction

 

Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, uses a premise (a general principle assumed as true) to decide what must be true in a specific case. (the top-down approach)

deduction

 

Deductive Learning

Deductive Learning is simple. You have a hypothesis. You come up with premises/evidence that support your hypothesis. You then confirm your  hypothesis with your conclusion.

If A is B (premise 1) , and B is C (premise 2) , therefore, A is C (conclusion).

Hypothesis: All cats have hearts.

Premise 1: All cats are mammals. (general observation/evidence)

Premise 2: All mammals have hearts (another general observation/evidence)

Conclusion: All cats have hearts (specific confirmation that will only be true if the premises are true)

In science, we mostly use deductive reasoning to reach a conclusion. This is the method we use in quantitative study like systematic review and meta-analysis.

You gather all the premises pertaining to the subject, and then you analyse the premises, and then you come up with the conclusion.

The downside of this method is, if your premise is wrong, if your ‘evidence’ is manufactured/faulty/misleading, or if you have not finished examining ALL evidence out there, then your conclusion will be incomplete or actually wrong altogether! Khalas!

For example:

Premise 1: All birds can fly (false)

Premise 2: Ostrich is a bird (true)

Conclusion: Ostrich can fly (false)

 

Another example of deductive reasoning:

Premise 1: If God exists, there will be no disaster in this world (false)

Premise 2: There are many disasters in this world (true)

Conclusion: God doesn’t exist (false)

 

Inductive Reasoning

In inductive reasoning, you examine specific examples/options to get to a general conclusion. Say, you have Option A, Option B or Option C. How are you going to get a nice general conclusion (or make the best choice) out of these options? How to choose properly when you have not experienced each option individually, yet?

Inductive reasoning are more exploratory in nature. You are not trying to come up with general statements and narrow it down to a conclusion like in deductive reasoning. Instead you explore and keep on asking further questions and branch out into other related issues and keep on researching until there is nothing else to research (until you reach data saturation or theoretical saturation!) This is the method we use when we are doing qualitative study.

For example, you will start by asking specific questions (as opposed to general statements assumed to be true like in deductive reasoning): Does God exist? What are the evidence for it? What are the evidence against it? Why are there so many disasters in the world if God exist? But there are so many beautiful events as well. Maybe God exists but does not really play an active role in our lives? Is it possible to believe in God without having to follow any organized religion? Hmm… I wonder, what do other religions say about God?

Get it? See the difference between this type reasoning compared to the deductive one? This one is very deep, very exploratory. This is something you do when you are studying arts and philosophy! 

An atheist who suddenly wants to investigate the existence of God, for instance, would learn Buddhism first and will explore everything there is to know about Buddhism. When dissatisfied with Buddhism, he might go on to learn Christianity next. And if he fails to find the evidence of God in Christianity, he will then learn Judaism next. And then he might move on to Hinduism and then Islam. But each time he moves from one option to another, he would learn it thoroughly and experience it and live it. He will keep on exploring one option after another until he finally finds the one true religion (if he ever finds it).

So, in religion, you must do inductive reasoning in order to feel properly settled that you have come to the right one! You must explore! Explore all statements and experience all options. Go through the process!

Did you know that in the Quran, we are taught to do inductive reasoning? Allah always asks us to look at specific examples in order to reach a conclusion. He asks us to look at the moon. Look at the sun! Look at the mountains and the seas. Look at the signs in the human embryology.

“Those who listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it. These are the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones possessed of minds.” (39:18)

 

These are the things that I learned in my philosophy class when I was doing IB. (I am sure IB kids like me still remember the torture of doing our Theory of Knowledge essay. It was such a pain but I am proud to say that Alhamdulillah I was among the few who had obtained full marks for it. I got the highest grade (Grade 7) for it, something not many students could obtain back then. Scientific medical students really hated Theory of Knowledge class…. but I was among the few in my batch who loved it. Because learning philosophy involves a lot of language play and involves exploring with facts. It feels like being involved in a mental debate.) Philosophy teaches you how to think. Not to follow people randomly but to know why you think the way you think. To a certain extent, this is what we do in psychiatry! We examine and we analyse… not just our own thoughts but also the thoughts of our patient.

So in arts/language/religion, if you want to be a good artist/linguist/religionist, you must have a lot of experience. You must try every method, and visit every possible conclusion and question the conclusion again and again until there is nothing else to question (until you reach data saturation). This is what we mean by “going through the process”. The process itself taught you. The process is your primary aim; your aim is not really the conclusion (but the conclusion is the by-product of having completed the process). This will broaden your horizon, and thus enable you to make the right choice that will beautify your craft and your art! As an artist, inductive learning gives you breadth of knowledge. It completes the arsenal of your skills so that you can choose and pick which one of your skills/knowledge to use when you are in the middle of creating something beautiful.

You need to go inductive when it comes to perfecting your arts! Otherwise with a limited experience, every problem will look like a nail if your only tool is a hammer!

if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problme as a nail copy
And this is ok, if you are a scientist who relies on precision, accuracy and reproducibility. Go ahead and use the hammer if that will give you the precise outcome that you want. (scientists are very particular about reproducibility of experiments. Experiments that are not reproducible are not scientific!) But this is thoroughly bad for an artist who relies on creativity and originality!

***

So, if you ask any enthusiastic reader of English books, they will probably agree that they become passably good (not excellently great, mind you. Just passably good. Or good enough) in English due to their extensive reading. Sure, English teachers at school help too… but come on, how many of us are passably good in English upon finishing high school? That is 11 years of formal education, folks (6 years in primary school and 5 years in secondary school). But how many of us are passably good at it? 11 years is a long time to learn English without being a real expert at it.

Now compare this to a Russian spy who must learn English in 6 months in order to pass herself off as an English clerk in the UK Embassy in Australia. How come they can learn that fast? The answer is simple… for that 6 months, they go inductive. Learn everything there is to learn about English. The books, the culture, the fashion, the phrases, the common expressions… go broad and go deep. They immerse themselves in the whole way of life as an English person. And after 6 months, they speak like the native and are ready to spy on the West and risk their own death for the sake of Mother Russia. Haha (Can you see the influence of my thriller reading here? I love spy stories)

Now, I am not saying that in order for you to be good in English, you must change your whole lifestyle and immerse yourself in their culture. After all, we are not aiming to be a spy, here. (Haha) Our aim is simply to be good in writing our assignments and to be just good enough to present our slides and posters. That’s all. So, what is the next easiest thing to do to be good in English without having to change your lifestyle?

Read a lot of books, of course!

Read fictions written in that language! That’s the best easiest thing for you to do in order to experience breadth and depth of a culture while simultaneously learning the language and their common expressions. By reading their fictions, depending on the protagonist of the book, you get to be a spy, a supermodel, a scientist, a professor, a wizard, a secretary, a handsome hero, a beautiful heroine, an ugly duckling, and an intelligent nerd, or a snobbish cheerleader. You get to experience being a teenager, a young adult, an elderly man/woman… you understand the culture broadly.

And by reading a lot of books, you learn ‘exceptions’ to the rules that were taught to you by your English teachers in class (in class, the teaching is deductive).

I give you an example.

Example 1: Root Verb Vs Gerund

Teachers would teach you that you MUST use root verb after the word ‘to’:

  • I loved to dance (not ‘danced’, even when it happens in the past. Not ‘dancing’… because we need to use ROOT verb.)
  • She liked to swim (not ’swam’ or ’swimming’, Because after ’to’, you must use the present form of the word, i.e the ROOT verb… even if the event is in the past).

 

But when you read a lot of books, you will notice how the author would write:

  • I am looking forward to dancing with you later. (What? I thought after ‘to’, you must use the present form. Why dancing instead of dance here?) (You will start to wonder)
  • When it comes to doing the right thing, she is totally unreliable. (again! After ‘to’, the author here uses the word ‘doing’ instead of the root verb ‘do’.) (You will wonder again)

 

You will then be triggered to ask, why there exists a discrepancy between the deductive rule taught to you by your teachers, and your inductive experience while reading many books?

You will notice many different patterns that were not taught to you in class. This is something you will never get in formal class, trust me!

Unless, your teacher is very good, (or the students are so good that they will ask about this discrepancy to ’the rule’ in the class) you might end up FOREVER writing : I am looking forward to dance with you, (and you think you are grammatically correct when you write that sentence and you might think other people are wrong when they write ‘looking forward to dancing…’. Hahah.) Even worse, you might mistakenly try to ‘correct’ other people’s sentences!

A good English teacher, while teaching the rule, would ALSO teach the exception! I repeat, a good English teacher while teaching the rule, would also teach the EXCEPTION.

But how many English teachers are that good out there? My younger sister Alida is a good one. I know that as a fact. Me and my siblings challenge each other’s language command often. That’s like our small talk during raya and get-together! We test each other and tease each other’s comprehension. But I have argued with a few of my English teachers in the past… so I should know that not all of them have comprehensive knowledge of the language (because even English teachers don’t read a lot, sadly).

A good English teacher would say, “Afiza, the word ‘to’ in ‘looking forward to’ and ‘comes to’ in those sentences function as a phrasal verb. After such phrasal verbs, you must use gerund, NOT root verb.

Then, she will explain to you what is phrasal verb and what is gerund. That is what a good English teacher would do without you even having to ask! (Ok, guys. If you don’t know, please google this yourself, because it is beyond the scope of this blog post. But if you google gerund and phrasal verb, you will get the answer easily)

 

Example 2: Subjunctive verb

We all know that the proper ‘verb to be’ for ‘I’ is ‘am’ (present tense) and ‘was’ (past tense).

  • I am dancing with the wind. (present continuous tense)
  • I was dancing with him. (past continuous tense)

We all know that the proper ‘verb to be’ for he/she is ‘is’ (present tense) and ‘was’ (past tense).

  • He/she dances to the music. (present tense)
  • He/she is dancing. (present continuous tense)
  • He/she was dancing. (past continuous tense)

We all know that the proper verb to be for you/they is ‘are’ (present tense) and ‘were’ (past tense).

  • You are adorable. (present tense)
  • They were so cruel (past tense)

 

That’s what English teachers in formal class will teach you (deductive learning).

But remember, you read a lot, right? So one day, you come across these sentences in the fiction that you read:

  • If he were to ask me to dance, I would have said yes. But he didn’t, so I went home with a broken heart. (why use ‘were’ here when the subject is a ‘he’?)
  • I know that if I were to get an A, I must study hard. (Why use ‘were’, when this is a present tense and the subject is “I”. Why not use ‘am’?)
  • She insists that he come (why not ‘comes’? Shouldn’t we use singular verb by adding an ‘s’? The subject is ‘he’; a singular subject, isn’t it?)
  • The board suggests that he join the company (why not ‘joins’? )

If you don’t read, you will never know to ask your teacher the next day regarding the discrepancy between what she taught you in class and what you had read in your books.

A good English teacher will tell you about subjunctive verb. She will tell you that in a ‘wishful’ situation or ‘hypothetical’ situation (denoted by the word ‘if’ in that sentence) we must use subjunctive verb ‘were’. And she will tell you that in a sentence structure involving  ‘that’ clauses (suggestion/recommendation/insistence/advisable + ‘that’), we must use the base of the word (come instead of comes, join instead of joins… even when the subject is singular) 

Now, imagine if you don’t have enough reading experience, and then you go around thinking that other people’s usage of subjunctive verb is a gross grammatical error! And imagine if you were an English teacher trying to “correct” your students’ usage of subjunctive verb. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing? Your well-read students would know that their English teacher is more ignorant than them. (That is why it is even more imperative for English teachers to read a lot!)

Like I said, a good teacher will teach the exception to the rule!

A good teacher will be able to anticipate!! the confusion that her students might come across later. (But a good student will learn more outside the class and then ask the right question to the teacher).

If you were a linguist, you would have come across the concept of “deductive and inductive grammar learning” (google this, guys. You will understand what I mean better). Sadly, a lot of English teachers during my time only apply the deductive type.

teaching-grammar-8-728

 

But my argument here is, the inductive type should be the PRIMARY method of learning English or any language!

If I were an English teacher (notice my subjunctive verb here? I use ‘were’ here), I will give a weekly reading task for my students and I will ask them to spot ‘exception to the rules’ in every reading text that I have assigned them. And I will discuss the exception with them. I will have a set of compulsory books and short stories that they must read and summarise and I will ask them to discuss characters and characterisation, themes and plots and conflicts and resolutions in the books that they read. That’s a more hands-on and inductive way of learning English. It will benefit them so much more.

***

When I was in Australia, I got to know a Malaysian family who had just arrived to Newcastle, following the career move of the head of the family. There were three children in the family around the age ranging from 4-10 years old. And they did not know much English when they first arrived in Australia.

But after 3 months of schooling, they spoke like the native Australians.

Imagine that!

Initially, they did not even know the rules of grammar. The 4 year old child did not even know what it means by subject, verb, subject complement, object. They didn’t know what are nouns, what are pronouns. They didn’t know what does adjective mean. They didn’t know what does adverb mean. Let alone subjunctive or phrasal verbs or gerunds. But they were able to speak like the native Australians without learning all these ‘deductive rules’ that were taught to us in class for 11 years!

Why? How?

Well, because they experienced it through inductive learning! They unconsciously absorbed the patterns and when they noticed that certain ‘language event’ did not fit what they previously observed, they then absorbed ‘the exception’ to the pattern.

And they wouldn’t even be able to explain it! Because they just experienced it. And they just knew! Without knowing how they knew.

Of course, we can talk about critical period of language development as well, and in human beings, the critical period is in childhood! You might want to argue that those children were good in English after 3 months due to them being in the critical period. I admit, adults are much slower in learning a new language compared to children. But the adults are still able to master the language better if they go out and experience the culture and just interact with people rather than exhaustively learning the grammatical rules in class without applying it somehow!

I had met an African lady in her 50s (way past the critical period for language development in human) who just came to Australia 3 months prior to work as a berry picker and she spoke much better English than a 17 year old Malaysian student who has been learning English for the past 11 years in Malaysian classroom! And that was because she had been interacting with international people who were picking berries with her at the local farm. (I was berry picking too and that was how I met her.)

This is why I said, when you want to learn language… go inductive! Experience the process! Get absorbed. Immerse yourself. Read fictions first. Listen to songs! Read poetry! Don’t try to understand the grammar yet! Forget the rules! Just read! Experience the rules (rather than knowing the rules), and then find the exception. In short, go inductive, folks! Go inductive! 

***

When I was not yet studying for my specialist exam, I had the time to proofread my (master student) friends’ case protocols. I will tell them why their sentences were wrong, and how the sentences could be improved.

They used to tell me “Afiza, you should turn your skill into an income. My friends actually pay someone else to check their case protocols. You can make a lot of money.”

And I was like, “But I am not a professional linguist. I cannot charge people for something I am not properly trained for. And I don’t think I know everything. I might miss something… and it wouldn’t be fair for me to charge them when I don’t have any professional qualification.”

And my friend said, “But these people who have been proofreading our case protocols are also not professional. They are doctors as well.”

Hmmm….I don’t know.

I still don’t think it is the right thing to do unless you have made sure that your clients know your lack of formal qualification and your limitation. The rate that you charge must be reasonable and must be less than that of the professional proofreader.

But imagine my shock when I read a Facebook status of a so-called “English proofreader” (with no formal qualification) and I could point out so many grammatical mistakes that she had made in that status (subjunctive and phrasal verbs mistakes were among the mistakes she had made!)

I am not the sort of person who go around correcting people’s language when they don’t ask for my correction. I am not a Grammar Nazi. We should encourage people to speak English even when they make mistakes, and correcting them with the purpose of embarrassing them in public doesn’t help them at all. English is not our native tongue, after all. So, do not expect perfection in non-native speakers and deliberately correct them in public. I too make a lot of mistakes, obvious or otherwise. That’s why I don’t charge people for my help! Language is just my hobby and if I can earn some pahala for something I like doing, why not, right? Easy pahala for me. (now, I don’t do this anymore because I am busy with my own studying and when I do have free time, I want to read for my own pleasure). But this so-called proofreader actually charges people for her service, which judging by her many mistakes in her Facebook status, she should have given her service for free. Gratis!!

I couldn’t believe it. Pity the students who had engaged her service in the past! How do we justify the fees that we charge when we are not professionally accredited or trained for the service that we are charging?

Isn’t it, like, unethical?

I love checking people’s grammar because I get to learn something myself in the course of trying to come up with an explanation for the grammatical mistake. Being a proofreader to my close friends’ essays has been my role since I was in MRSM Langkawi. I checked my friends’ grammar. In return, I get to copy their Add Maths solution. Haha (Quid pro quo! Symbiosis at its best! Smart partnership, isn’t it? Easy pahala for each other, right?)

In IB, I retained my role as an amateur proofreader. I didn’t mind doing this. Language is my strength. Maths is my weakness. So by offering them my service, I felt better whenever I had to ask them to help me with my Pure Maths. I am the sort of person who hates depending on other people without having my own bargaining chip. So when I had to ask for help, I would repay them with other favours. Kind of to balance the account, so to speak.

In my early years of amateurish proofreading, I would tell them that their sentences were wrong because they sounded weird to me. But I couldn’t tell them exactly why they were wrong. I would simply say, “Peliklah ayat ni.” What I mean was “I read a lot. If these sentences are correct, I would have come across them before. I knew they were wrong because of my experience in reading many different types of sentences.”

I have inductive experiences, but not the deductive theories. So I couldn’t explain it properly to them.

But I myself was not satisfied with the service that I gave. You see, I am the sort of person who wants to know your reasoning. “If you say I am wrong, you explain to me why. I want to know. You can’t just tell me that I am wrong without explaining to me why. How am I supposed to learn, then? Am I supposed to accept your word just because you said it? ” (People think I am rebellious because I refuse to listen to their advice. But the other side of the coin is, they haven’t convinced me.)

So, when I too couldn’t explain to my friends why their sentences were wrong (but I just knew it based on my inductive experience), I was not satisfied with myself.

My friends actually never wanted to know my explanation. Haha. They just wanted me to correct their assignments before the final submission to the IB examiner. They couldn’t care less what is the correct term for the mistake. But it was me… I didn’t like it when I couldn’t give them the reasoning. I was projecting my own tendency on them and felt like my friends might not feel satisfied with my corrective work. Because if I were in their shoes (notice my subjunctive verb here?), I would feel unsatisfied as well.

So that was how I came across subjunctive verb and gerund and syntax and phrasal verbs. I came across ‘the rules’ while trying to research for the proper explanation to give to my friends for why their sentences were wrong. Because just knowing that something is wrong without knowing why is not enough. It might be enough for your own self-application, but it is not enough when you want to justify it to others. You must be able to describe it and explain it!

An experienced chronic PSY MO might know psychosis when she sees one… but if he/she never learns clinical psychopathology, she wouldn’t know how to use the proper term to describe what she sees. Even I am not always ‘on point’ when describing what I see when I’m doing Mental State Examination (MSE). Some other doctors might be able to describe MSE much better than me because they have more appropriate vocabulary to complement their vast experience.

An experienced ED MO will know that a patient will deteriorate before the patient ACTUALLY deteriorates, even though at the moment the patient is actually looking quite ok. Her instinct would tell her to watch the patient closely. When the patient then does deteriorate, the ED MO would say “My instinct was right. Tak sedap hati dari tadi.” Because of her inductive experience, she just knew without being able to explain how. Her subconscious mind must have retained some obscure patterns that she didn’t know how to describe based on her many years of service. But because she never properly and formally learned it in post-graduate class (formal deductive teaching), she couldn’t describe it.

That was exactly me when I was in MRSM Langkawi. I just correct my friends’ sentences without telling them why they were wrong. In IB, I improved my language service to my friends by my ability to explain why certain sentences were wrong. Still, I didn’t always know everything back then.

Until now, I am still learning. It’s just that because language is my hobby, this learning is heaps more fun than learning psychiatry (which I also love, of course. Haha)

So, back to the original question, how to be good in English?

I would tell you, “If you really want to be good in English, just read. There is no short cut, guys! I wish there were short cuts, but nope! No short cuts… unless you want to migrate to an English-speaking country and interact with English-speaking people on a daily basis. Read! Listen to English songs! Sing! Copy common expression. Memorise quotes. Experience writing simple stories. Create silly poem. Or have a blog just for the sake of practicing your writing skill. Basically, you just go inductive! After you have gained your experience, then you go deductive! It would be easier that way. When you are learning the deductive rule AFTER having your inductive experience, you will understand the rule much more easily because your brain has been primed for it, and you have wondered about it in the course of your reading experience before. On the other hand, if you only learn the rule without having enough experience on how the rule is used, your learning will be much, much slower. Even 11 years won’t be enough!”

In my experience, a good artist always has a bit of a scientist in her.

And a good scientist, always has a bit of an artist in her.

You need both deductive and inductive reasoning in order to make sense of your knowledge, either in arts or in science. It’s just that one of them should be the PRIMARY method depending on what you are trying to learn.

And when it comes to learning language (notice my usage of gerund and phrasal verb here?), I propose that inductive grammar learning is much more efficient in the long run.

teach grammar

I hope, you guys have learned something from this post.

I leave you guys with a quote from the father of medicine, William Osler, which I think kind of explain inductive (experience) vs deductive (rule/formal learning) method of learning and why these methods complement each other.

Until next time, my dear readers.

Lots of love from yours truly.

William Osler

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O Companion Most High

O Companion Most High

O Companion Most High,
As his head rested on his wife's thigh,
As his face perspired his exhaustion,
He softly whispered "With The Highest Companion"
And thus he left the world in grieving,
Void of his presence we've been missing.

O Companion Most High,
Your beloved once recited a narration,
"No prophet dies till he is shown,
His place in heaven with an option,
whether to live or to die"
So as he rested on his wife's thigh,
And as he chose "O Allah, The Highest Companion"
He made the world all over grieve,
Void of his presence we sorely miss.

O Companion Most High,
As Your beloved's precious final breath
Rise to heaven, mixed in the air,
He left us forever with The Greatest Miracle,
Messages of beauty without rival,
Of true words and faithful revelation,
To tide us over till the day of judgement,
When we too shall meet The Highest Companion.

O Companion Most High,
In my dream on the mighty throne You reside,
The mercy of Your love rise high,
The sword of Your justice drawing nigh,
I feel scared but I remember what You said,
I'd read it many times and it made me cry,
"O serene soul,
Return to Your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing,
And enter among my servants,
And enter My paradise," 
And in that dream, those words were uttered,
In my general direction as I entered,
Into the light of Your Grace and Mercy
Of untold happiness, zero misery, 
For the rest of my life, for eternity.

-Afiza Azmee-
 02/06/17

***

Okay, I haven’t written poetry for a longgg time. And that is because I also have not read poetry for a longggg time too. There is a connection between what I read and what I write. One inspires the other in a complicated two-way  direction I have always found very amusing.

So my effort above is a bit rusty. But you’ve got to push yourself and start somewhere, right? I can feel my literary skill becoming as dull as the rear of a knife. LOL. So I need to sharpen it because I was told that ‘belakang parang jika diasah lagikan tajam’ and so on and so forth. Haha.

But these days, I have been inspired to write poetry again. A few things happened to me these past few weeks that made me feel like I have to pause, take a breather and just read and write. These things that happened are listed as below:

1) I found Miss A again

I finally found and connected with Miss A again on facebook. Two weeks ago I found her. After all these years!! She was my good friend and my roommate in MRSM Langkawi. When I befriended her, she upgraded my reading from childish ‘picisan’ Sweet Valley/R.L Stine/Christopher Pike books to great classic literatures that improved my language very significantly. I owed her a lot! She was the reason I started writing poetry as a 16 year old. To be honest, I have always been more at ease with essays or short stories or novels than poetries. (You have to be patient in reading poetries because the meanings to the words are not immediately apparent upon reading. And to ACTUALLY compose them… that is a saga of headaches in itself and a practice of dealing with frustration.)  But because I wanted to compete with Miss A (haha! Silly teenager me!) so I took up poetry… and ah… I was never that good at it. Of course, she is better than me! Her literary prowess is as sharp as a point of a sword. Effortless she made it looked to me, who was completely clueless about poetry-writing at that time! Fortunately, she was pretty encouraging of my pitiful effort to compete with her.

So, meeting her again on facebook kind of inspired me to do this again! Miss A is currently in her first year of Master of Surgery. Miss A had found me first and she was the one who added me on Facebook. Needless to say, I was exhilarated when I saw her profile. She is married to a Turkish man (and that is why I haven’t been able to find her all  these years! She has been using her husband’s surname on facebook!) and her son is so cute and adorable! Miss A is one of those people who are good in BOTH the sciences and the arts. She will be a great competent surgeon with a soul of a poet, I believe.  She kind of reminds me of my elder sister; a statistician with a mathematical brain but a soul of a novelist. Maybe that’s why we clicked almost immediately.

You know, I have come to actually know that there might be some transcendent, metaphysical reason why some people are drawn to each other and click almost immediately even though initially, they don’t know each other all that much. I have experienced it only VERY FEW times… but I cannot deny the phenomena. Below is an authentic hadeeth that might explain the phenomena. But bear in mind, that there are many possible interpretive explanation to this hadeeth. Go and search them yourself. It is fun to learn things like this once in a while.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: “The souls are (like) an army joined (in the world of spirits) whichever souls knew each other (in that world) are attracted towards each other (in this world) and whichever remained distant and indifferent (there) are disinterested to each other (in this world)” (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Kitaab Ahaadeeth al-Anbiyaa’, Baab al-Arwaah junood mujannadah).

See? I think that hadeeth really explains some of the immediate connections that we occasionally have with certain people. And that hadeeth is AUTHENTIC, you know!

I usually don’t click with people immediately. I took a lot of time to warm up to people. But once I do, it is usually genuine (unless for the sake of politeness, I am somehow expected to fake it, but that is another story. haha) But Miss A was one of the few who I hit it off immediately…perhaps because we started our initial acquaintance talking about books. But then, I have also met people who talked to me about books but I still couldn’t connect with. (So, I think just talking about books with me doesn’t ensure immediate connection. Maybe something in our souls knew each other previously… just like what the hadeeth said. Similar souls recognize each other in this world and all that. I find this concept very interesting.) 

2) I feel burn out (for the second time in my life after housemanship)

I need to write again to recharge. We have lack of MOs in our department these days. So unfortunately, our annual leaves were temporarily frozen. And whenever I actually do have some free time, I have to study. So I stopped reading fictions as much as I used to. I used to read fiction everyday, you know. Continuously even! If people have chain-smoking habit, I have chain-reading habit. Hahah. I finished one book, after another, after another and another! Now, that habit has stopped. It was forcefully stopped too. So, you see, I don’t get as much inspiration to write when I don’t read. And that is to me, like experiencing anhedonia. Writer’s block is just not fun! So, even though today is Friday and it is weekend and I am supposed to study, I decided to take a breather, and take the  time to read something else no matter how guilty I feel about not studying.

3) Inspiring Seerah In The Month of Ramadan

Because this is the month of Ramadan, I have been reading and listening to seerah (because seerah are historical stories. And I love stories, you guys know that). I read again the story of my favourite superhero, Umar Al-Khattab R.A. And I read again about the many victorious wars that our Muslim forefathers had won in the month of Ramadan, making Ramadan literally the month of victory for us. And I also came across the story of the the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) last moment in this world.

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And in my poetry, I coupled that story with one of my favourite verses from the Quran, surah Al-Fajr verses 27-30.  Personally, I find the Malay translation of this verse more beautiful than the English ones, but BOTH cannot beat the rhyme and rhythm in the original Arabic language. It came out so beautifully when you recited them in Arabic. The words in Arabic, because of their rhymes and rhythm, are therapeutic, I feel.

Try reciting them yourself. It gives you immediate optimism.

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So I leave you guys with that real motivation booster.

And have a blessed Ramadhan, dear readers. I feel more recharged now just by channeling my creativity into composing the above poetry.

Until next time, insya Allah.

Book Review: Go Set A Watchman

I know. I know.

It has been more than a month since I last posted in this dearest blog of mine. (hang on while I sweep the dust and cobwebs away  for you, LOL).

I feel the pain, trust me. One of the goals I set for myself is to write at least weekly because I personally think of writing as my brain exercise. The way I make hiking my favourite weekly physical exercise, I have made writing my weekly brain stimulation. When I don’t write, at the risk of sounding like I am having a nihilistic delusion, I can feel my brain shrinking. *drama queen sangat*

The only reason for my tardiness (because I do have one) is profound exhaustion due to my hectic schedule these days and because I have set other priorities to come first before blogging. I was swamped, to be honest. Inundated by work, housechores, studies and my stubborn determination to finish two literatures at the same time within the time period I have pre-determined for myself. (Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee and Langit Petang by A. Samad Said. Of course when I said literatures, I didn’t mean the scientific journal kind. Hahah. I mean, the novel, fiction kind, of course!).

Usually, when I don’t blog weekly as I am apt to do, it must be because I am busy reading; either reading my academic books (my exam is in October, peeps) or reading my fiction/literature. On top of everything else, I was just recovering from URTI  and a severe allergic reaction that made my lips look like I had a botox injection gone wrong! (Oh, the horror of it all!) If anything is guaranteed to spoil your mood to write, it is general ill health.

So, today I am back to write a book review on Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. (I am so sorry. I know some of my readers are med students and some are fellow doctors who prefer that I write about medical life most of the time. But oh Gosh, my first and foremost passion will always be reading. Been doing it all my life. Addicted to it like one can be addicted to heroine. Hopelessly, helplessly powerless against the lure and magic of reading a good story. So occcasionally, that’s what I will write about. Please feel free to skip reading this post, adik-adik. You don’t have to read this really long book review.)

A Background Story of Go Set A Watchman

To those who don’t know Harper Lee, she was the famous, acclaimed writer and a Pulitzer Prize winner of my all-time favourite novel To Kill A Mocking Bird.  (Ring a bell, yet?)

Harper Lee
Harper Lee

To Kill A Mocking Bird has been made a compulsory text in many English classes all over the world (but not in Malaysia, alas). When I first read the book in my teenage years, I had fallen head over heels in love with Atticus Finch, the lawyer who had defended the black man who was wrongly accused of raping a white woman. Atticus Finch was an upstanding, noble-hearted man who had defended, to the best of his ability, a wrongly accused black man and standing up against the racist society of Maycomb, Alabama, with the support of his family, consisting of his tomboyish daughter (6 year old Scout), charming son (9 year old Jem),  younger brother (a doctor), and his black maid (named Calpurnia). Atticus Finch was labeled as a nigger-lover (a derogatory term) by his neighbours, and was called as a traitor to the White people just because he wanted to ensure a fair trial for a black man. Throughout the court trial, Scout was bullied at school and was unfairly punished when she fought with other kids to defend his father’s good name. Atticus Finch was depicted as a wise, loving and patient father to his kids as he tried to shield his kids from the repercussions of his work as a defender of a black  person, but at the same time he educated his kids about what justice, fairness and kindness were all about. Atticus Finch taught his kids about courage and compassion. He told them that  courage is “when you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what”.

Atticus Finch
Atticus Finch (the film version) defending Tom Robinson (the black man)

In short, Atticus Finch is the moral center of the novel. The superego in To Kill A Mocking Bird…. that is Atticus Finch.

And if you belong to any book forum discussing To Kill A Mocking Bird, you will find many women readers all over the world had placed Atticus Finch as their benchmark of what a good man should aspire to be.

Sometimes, I even speculated that the reason Harper Lee never married was because in real life, she couldn’t find someone like Atticus Finch, the hero that she had created so many decades ago.

Harper Lee was said to be the ‘Jane Austen of Alabama’  and Jane Austen also never married. In fact, many great novelists I know didn’t get married. Harper Lee, Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma and all her other great works and I have read them all), Anne Bronte (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall), Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights), Emily Dickinson, Louisa May Alcot (Little Women)…. they never married.

Charlotte Bronte (author of Jane, Eyre, The Professor and Villete) finally got married at the age of 37, but she died only one year into her marriage. Only one year, folks! Makes one thinks that marriage is simply not compatible to the nature of a writer, huh? When they got married, they died SOON after. LOL.          

Another way to look at it is, what if being single gave some famous writers the freedom they needed to go on a writing binge without having to think of someone else? Maybe not having to face marital issues, make these women the great writers that they were. Maybe the solitude and peace that they got from spinsterhood inspired stories that are evergreen and stand the test of time?

“So, you are saying that the reason you are still unmarried is because you are like Jane Austen… like Anne Bronte?” my sister rolled her eyes.

“Pandai pun. You got the point.” I laughed.

“Perasan!” Hahhaha. Me and my sisters do goof around about writing a lot! Sometimes we do a lot of basket lifting (Read:angkat bakul, haha) about our writing abilities. Of course, I am NOWHERE in the league of Jane Austen. NEVER! But it doesn’t hurt to dream, right? *goofy grin*

But jokes aside, I believe that most writers are very idealistic. And the real world cannot meet that idealism. And they’d much rather enjoy their peace and solitude than being shackled and trapped with anything less than their ideals.

And in the minds of many readers, Atticus Finch is the ideal!

Harper Lee had published To Kill A Mocking Bird in 1960. Then, she didn’t publish any other novel for a very long time (almost for the rest of her life) until she FINALLY came up with Go Set A Watchman in 2015. She then died on the 19th of February 2016 at the age of 89, only one year after the publication of her second novel. So, for most of her life, she was an author of only ONE novel… but what an awesome novel it was! And only one year before her death did Go Set A Watchman get published, which was considered as a sequel to To Kill A Mocking Bird.

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According to an article that I read, Go Set A Watchman was actually her first novel; her first draft which she sent in the 1960s. It was rejected by the editor. Instead, the editor had suggested that Harper Lee revise the plot to focus more on the childhood experience of Scout and Jem while Atticus Finch was handling the controversial trial… and so Harper Lee then followed the editors’ advice, and the rest is history; To Kill A Mocking Bird was born!

So, I advise that readers should read To Kill A Mocking Bird first. Otherwise, you might not enjoy Go Set A Watchman as much. You wouldn’t be able  to understand what makes Go Set A Watchman is as good as To Kill A Mocking Bird if you don’t get the context of how great Atticus Finch was in the first novel.

Because in Go Set A Watchman, Atticus Finch was no longer as idealistic as he used to be. One might even say that Atticus Finch had become a racists in Go Set A Watchman, albeit, with his own reason for being one. I felt like I was reading about a different Atticus Finch, at first. But at the end of the novel, I understood why Atticus Finch did what he did and said what he said.

When you read To Kill A Mocking Bird, you love Atticus Finch in the way a child loves her parent. An immature child has the purest of love towards her parent; ‘my father is so great, he can do no wrong in any situation’ kind of pure, undivided love.  But when the child grows up, goes on in life to see the world, she will start noticing that her parent is not as flawless as she once believed when she was just a kid, and so the now grown-up child has to readjust.

To me, Go Set A Watchman is THAT readjustment. Scout was readjusting her opinion of Atticus Finch and found that she could not agree with her father this time, that her father was not as perfect as per her childhood memory, but after much argumentation, screaming and tearing-up, she still loved him anyway. 

In my opinion, To Kill A Mocking Bird is Atticus story (even if it was told from the perspective of a 6 years old Scout), and Go Set A Watchman is Scout’s Story!

And I love them both!

A summary of the novel (copied from Goodreads):

Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch (“Scout”) returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

My literary analysis of this novel:

The setting of the novel is around the time when the blacks were fighting for non-segregation between whites and blacks in America. In this novel, the court had just ruled that in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, it was unconstitutional to establish separate public schools for black and white students. In conjunction with this court decision, black students  now deserved to go to the same public schools as white students. This court decision together with the tension caused by the activities of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) had raised racial discord and controversies among the races in Maycomb Alabama.

By principle, Jean Louise Finch (nicknamed Scout) supported for non-segregation and equal rights between the races. When she returned home for a holiday in Maycomb, she was surprised when she learned that her neighbours and the Maycomb community did not share her sentiment. But she was even more devastated when she found out that even her own beloved father Atticus Finch and her own sweetheart, Henry, were against non-segregation. She felt betrayed when Atticus, who had taught her about justice in her childhood, had now turned out to be a ‘secretive racist’. She broke up with Henry because she found out that Henry did not have the same worldview as she does and that she “could never live with hypocrites”. Scout believed that the two men in her life did not possess the same integrity as she did in this issue and it hurt her tremendously.

Later, we found out that Atticus was not against non-segregation per se. He just thought that the Black was not ready for it. Examples of the blacks’ non-readiness to get equal rights were being placed casually throughout the book. There was one occasion narrated in the book when Henry mentioned that “the black people in the county now have money for cars but neglect to get licenses and insurance“.

In other words, the black people in the America AT THAT TIME, was not ready for the responsibility of a full citizenship. Atticus believed that citizenship should be earned. That if we allowed the backward blacks an equal vote, then they would run the country to the ground because they would not know how to manage the country. (and in that time setting, blacks were quite backward secondary to their segregation and lack of education; even Scout could not deny it when Atticus pushed the point).

The conversation between Scout and Atticus Finch below would make it clear that Atticus was no racist; he was just not as idealistic as Scout; more practical and more realistic,

Scout said, “….I heard a slogan and it stuck in my head. I heard “equal rights for all; special privileges for none”. And to me it didn’t mean anything but what it said….”

“Let’s look at it this way,” said her father. “You realize that our Negro population is backward, don’t you? You will concede that? You realize the full implications of the word ‘backward’, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir”

“You realize that the vast majority of them here in the South are unable to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship, and why?”

“Yes, sir”

“But you want them to have all its privileges?”

I think the round above belongs to Atticus. Atticus drove his point here admirably well. Atticus was able to demonstrate that the blacks were unable and not ready to share the full responsibilities of citizenship, so was it then fair that they should have all the privileges that should come with responsibilities that they were not ready for? Here, Scout had stumbled and lost, I feel. 

If you read many book reviews and discussions in book forums, many people were frustrated that Atticus was made as a racist in this book. They lamented ‘where is the great Atticus that we so loved?’. But if I were to write an analysis of Atticus’ characteristics, the conversation above would be the evidence I would use to say that Atticus was not a racist. After all, he had defended a black man in a court trial in his younger days, remember?!

Atticus said that he just always thought like Thomas Jefferson (The Founding Father of America and its third President) and he elucidated his point by saying “Jefferson believed that full citizenship was a privilege to be earned by each man, that it was not something given lightly or to be taken lightly. A man couldn’t vote simply because he was a man, in Jefferson’s eyes. He had to be a responsible man. A vote was, to Jefferson, a precious privilege a man attained for himself in a live-and-let-live economy”.

So you see, things are not as black-and-white anymore. Atticus no longer seemed as racist as he appeared, at first. And Scout was made to look too idealistic, and less practical. And that’s what made this novel Go Set A Watchman so good! You are torn between supporting your ideals absolutely or planting your feet firmly in your flawed reality.

Another scene I love best is the scene between Scout and her ‘almost fiance’ named Henry (who she later broke up with). Scout had said that she was disappointed that Henry (who was also a lawyer working with Atticus) had not shared her worldview about equal rights and non-segregation.

Henry tried to justify his position by telling her that, sometimes there is a need to go with the flow, be like the rest, in order to best serve the community. (Scout thought that Henry was a coward when he said that).

Henry said “How can I be of any use to a town if it’s against me?….. Now, shall I throw all that (my education, reputation) down the drain…. when I could be helping them with what legal talent that I have? Which is worth more?”

This was the moment when Scout broke up with Henry. And personally,  I think she did the right thing. Henry had lost her respect from that moment forward and marriage will spell disaster for them both if they continued with the plan.

But I kind of understand why Henry said what he said to Scout.  Henry had come from ‘white thrash’; he began as a nobody (until Atticus took him under his wing) and he always had to be careful with what he said or what he did in the community. Whereas Scout had the reputation of a Finch surname that made the community viewed her with more indulgence. Henry told her that “There are some things that I can’t do that you can (because you are a Finch)”.

In a way, Scout was more privileged because she belonged to a reputable family in Maycomb. She could say any outrageous thing she wanted and she could deviate from the societal norms (within reasons) and the members of the community would simply chuckle and say “That’s just same old Scout,”

But if it was Henry saying or doing exactly as Scout said or did, the community would harshly say “That’s the thrash in him.” They would not view what he said or did in the same indulgent way as they did with Scout.

And this is something that Scout had taken for granted. She had her freedom simply because her life circumstances were much more privileged than the rest. So she sat on a high pedestal and could judge Henry as a coward. But what if Scout was also born as a ‘white thrash’? Would she have the means to be as outspoken and as courageous as she did? Maybe not. And that was what Henry was trying to point out to Scout.

Again, this is what I mean when I said there are so many nuances to Go Set A Watchman. More grey; not much black-and-white.

(When I read this part of the scene, it reminded me that this sort of double-standard occurred everywhere. Kalau specialist yang rude dan kurang ajar, they would say “Ala, that surgeon/specialist memang macam tu. Kitalah yang kena adapt”. But if it was a houseman who retaliate and being frank (not even rude, just frank), the houseman will be labeled ‘tak padan dengan houseman, dah kurang ajar, berani nak cakap banyak/tulis macam-macam.’ Hahha. And like Scout, I would not be able to respect Henry. I also would think that Henry was a coward. Hang takut apa orang nak cakap apa pun? Because if you keep on doing what you think is right, one day people will also finally said “ala, dia memang macam tu. Kitalah kena adapt.” Sementara kita nak dapat reputasi tu, memang tadah telingalah kena kutuk. But once you get to a certain level and you always have the reputation of doing what you feel is right, people will finally give you the same acknowledgement…“dia memang macam tu. kita yang kena adapt dengan dia.” But then, maybe I am more privileged and I didn’t realize it? This scene really made me think! It made me think a lot about my expectations of others around me. Maybe it is just not realistic for me to expect that people should be frank and forthright against any unjust authority that they don’t like. Maybe I should not base my respect and trust on whether or not someone is courageous enough to speak their minds. Well…. this scene certainly made me pause and think.)

Now, we come to another good scene that I absolutely adore. This is the scene between Scout and her Uncle Jack who was a retired doctor. This Uncle Jack sounded like a psychiatrist when he told Scout that the reason Scout was so angry at his father was because all these while, Scout had merged her personal conscience with that of Atticus. But now, over this black segregation issue, finally Scout had become her own person and able to separate her own conscience from her father’s conscience. (This scene sort of reminded me of Margaret Mahler’s Separation Individuation Theory, except that the theory was supposed to apply to an infant. Not to a 26 year old lady.)

Below are the quotes from Uncle Jack that I absolutely love because I think Harper Lee might have studied some psychiatry or dabbled in some psychology when she wrote this scene.

Uncle Jack said to Scout “…now you, Miss, born with your own conscience, somewhere along the line fastened it like a barnacle onto your father’s. As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart, and a man’s failings – I’ll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes them like all of us. You were an emotional cripple, leaning on him, getting the answers from him, assuming that your answers will always be his answer. When you happened along and saw him doing something that seemed to you to be the very antithesis of his conscience – your conscience – you literally could not stand it. It made you physically ill. Life became hell on earth for you. You had to kill yourself, or he had to kill you to get you functioning as a separate entity,”

Powerful, isn’t it? I love it!

There are many more psychiatry-esque quotes like the above towards the end of the novel and I drank them all like a desert traveler with an unquenchable thirst. I can see now why Harper Lee won the Pulitzer Prize. She was amazing!

I read To Kill A Mocking Bird when I was a teenager, with a teenager’s understanding and a teenager’s limitation. Even then, I had loved it. Loved Atticus. Loved Scout. Or maybe… love (as in, present tense).

I read Go Set A Watchman as a fullly grown adult, and I love Atticus and Scout even more. The only difference is that, my love for them are more realistic now.

I have mentioned before that the reason why I choose to specialise in psychiatry is because I love reading. Characters and characterization in novels that I read all my life give me the interest I have in psychiatry. Without a doubt, deep, meaningful novel like this is responsible for my career choice. My love of literature and my passion for beautiful words are the beacon that bids me to psychiatry. And I have been  following that beacon ever since.

So, now, whenever I am reading a novel, I will pretend that it is part of my psychiatry academic revision. After all, how else am I supposed to keep the beacon burning bright, if I stop reading, right?

Unintended by Muse : An Interpretation

I haven’t written poetries in a long time.

Nor have I had the time nor the inclincation to ponder on songs (and their lyrics interpretation). I have missed writing literature analysis (not the scientific journal kind). I haven’t had the mood to do book reviews in ages. (I am not that functional in the BookClub Whatsapp, I am afraid). I continue to read books without having the energy to write and rave about it as I used to during my teenage years, pre-med school.

I guess, it must be because I don’t get to hang out with the same crowd as I used to, growing up. My adult crowd consists of doctors, mostly. Some of them don’t read anything else other than scientific journals. They appreciate good songs too but I don’t think they are the sort who would like to discuss the song the way I liked to do with my then best friend/roommate in MRSM Langkawi. (I miss her whenever I came across good books and great songs.) My teenage crowd consists of dreamy, easy-going artsy type but who is also intense and serious about books (non-academic ones), history, philosophy and culture.

Those were the days….

But today, my writer’s block seems to vanish simply because I came across this particular song in my newly bought Asus Zenfone 2 smartphone (a worthy budget phone to buy when you are desperate and broke)

Some background story: I lost my Note 3 a few weeks ago. And when I bought the new phone, the guy at the counter had kindly transferred many stupid rock/hip-hop songs that I detested upon the first note. Most of the songs he gave me sounded more like noise than music. I could not differentiate one from the other. So, I was merrily going through all of them and deleting one by one of the songs he put in, all the while regretting my decision of allowing him to put those songs in the first place. Judging from his hip dressing and flirtatious overfamiliarity, I should have known that my taste in music and arts cannot possibly have the slightest resemblance to his.

I was about to delete the song ‘Unintended” by Muse when the melody of the song caused me to pause.

And I paused long. To the end of the song.

And my finger hit ‘repeat’.

Again and again. 

I see. So, this is how it feels to have stumbled upon a diamond among worthless rocks and rubbles. Now I know.

Screenshot 2015-06-27 15.49.28

Oh dear readers, the song is beautiful. It reverberates in my soul deep within. I couldn’t get over how such simple words in the lyrics can have so many layers of meanings. And the singer’s falsetto voice at the chorus communicates the kind of poignant, eerie pain that can make you weep. The pain haunts the person. I could sense that the person is struggling with his past, wants to move on but he is stuck, wrapped in a long chain that is so powerful even as it is invisible.

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I feel terrible for him. I want him to break away from the chain. But I have a feeling that he will feel naked and vulnerable without the chain. The chain is bad for him. But it is also the comfort zone he has always known. It is also his armour against the world.

The saddest part is, I know by the end of the song that he will NEVER want to leave the chain. If I were to come and rescue him, and unwind the chain layer by layer from around his body, he will only gather the chain in his arms and lump the whole lot by his side and sleep with it throughout the night and never wants to wake up.

*heavy sigh*

But some people may have a different interpretation altogether. Some would probably interpret this song as a story about a guy who is asking his current lover to wait patiently until he sorts out how he feels about his dead girlfriend who he used to love deeply. They think he will succeed in throwing away the chain and move on. They think that when he says “I’ll be there as soon as I can” it really was a promise rather than a mere hopeful wish that will never come true. They think that when he says “she could never be as good as you”, he was praising her current lover sincerely rather than it was him being in a state of denial. He intellectually knows that the current lover is better in many ways than his previous past, but his feeling is stuck. Maybe forever. 

Oh well…

Talk about simple words with deep layers, huh?

Judging by the music, the tone, the falsetto voice at the chorus…he is not ready to give up his past. Not anytime soon. And the current girl should leave him and move on. That would be my advice as a therapist. Hahah.

But that’s what fun about arts/literature/songs, you see. It doesn’t matter whether your interpretation is right or wrong. The only way you can solve the mystery is by asking the writer himself.

But then if I were the writer, I will never tell.

Because I know that when you lose the mystery, you also lose what makes the whole piece beautiful and poignant in the first place.

Just be content that you are not the person in the song.

***

The song also tells me the same thing I have always known.

That it is kinder to everyone involved if you just win someone’s mind than someone’s heart. It is much easier to get over. It is fairer, less complicated, and more honourable in the long run that you engage someone’s mind than someone’s heart. 

The writer of the song knows intellectually what he should do. Who he could love and should love. But knowing something is not enough for him to act on it and to do what is best for him. He will choose his emotion over his intellect.

Knowing is just not enough.

That’s the dilemma of life.

That’s the dilemma in PSY too. That my patients knew what’s right to do. I knew they knew. But most of them will never do it. (and I become frustrated)

I like to think that if I were ever in the songwriter’s place, I will choose what I SHOULD and COULD do. However, judging by how I feel about the song, I am not 100% confident that I will succeed.

Readers, you should know that feelings are messy. They can make you get stuck. They can make you stupid. But at the same time, not stupid too, because you actually know, but you just can’t choose. You are not stupid, but your action is stupid.

So, you should protect your heart and guard it well.

Your heart should have several outer and inner layers and filters. Logic, reasoning, facts, truths, moral and ethical principles….These are all the filters that anyone or anything should pass through before you allow them the key into your heart. Examine a person, an idea, a principle, a worldview…examine them carefully through the filters, before deciding to let them into the sanctum sanctorum of your heart and soul.

Because once they get there, you will be stuck with them. For almost forever.  

***

I am not going to say whether it is better to choose the mind over the heart. I think it takes courage to choose either one. To ignore one and choose the other.

I think you can be happy just as well if you choose to go with your mind rather than your heart. But deep inside, you will always feel a certain unspeakable, indescribable lost, that only you will know. So you learn to suppress that lost and walk on, only occasionally looking back.

I had chosen my mind when I took medicine instead of law. I had chosen my mind when I decided to be formally educated in science rather than arts. And it still turned out not too bad. I like my life the way it is. It’s meant to be. But I have always wondered about the other option. My heart crave for something else all the time.

And you learn to live with your choice. And you can live happy choosing your mind.

That’s something the person in the song may not know yet. I hope, he will make the leap of faith soon.

***

I also searched for the cover version of the song and here’s are the two I love best.  Enjoy!

The Tone…

Do you know what makes up a huge part of someone’s personality as they stand before you, talking to you?

Let’s say you’ve never come across this person…like maybe you’ve just met her at a party or at your mom’s friend’s sibling’s house… and all of a sudden this person turns to you and then you guys start making small talk.

What would first strike you about the person once she/he opens her/his mouth?

There is beauty and… there is beauty.  

There is beauty that blinds you from the very moment you lay your eyes on the person…and you then claim yourself to be in love at the first sight. This person’s beauty is not a matter of opinion but is a fact. And to argue about it is ridiculous.

There is beauty that is not a fact…but a matter of opinion and personal tastes.  

There is beauty that  at first, does not blind you, does not move you… but binds you only with time and shared moments…and then you claim to the person “You are beautiful in my eyes.” This is the kind of beauty that would only manifest itself to exclusive family members and close friends. This kind of beauty is private, precious. Too personal.  [I always think that everybody is beautiful…you just need to look closely. And you will only bother to look closely enough (or have the opportunity to do so) if you are their friends. There will be moments when you realize, “oh, she is quite pretty!”]

But let’s get back to the person you met at your mom’s friend’s sibling’s house. And this person’s beauty is not something you notice right away because her sort of beauty is the personal kind, the kind only a small number of people would notice. What else would you notice about her? I mean, as she speaks. (let’s assume we’re talking about a female here)

It’s her tone of voice.

Its the way she speaks, the way she spaces her words and sentences, the way her face moves as she emphasizes her words, the way her eyes light up or dull depending on the subject under discussion.

That’s why sometimes, you can only notice some people’s beauty as they open their mouth and speak.

Tone In A Novel:

Style 1:

I don’t know what should I do now that matters have come to such an abrupt, unceremonious end. Should I call her? Should I go to her house and …do what? Or I could just do nothing. I am good at doing nothing.  Yes, I could do nothing, couldn’t I?

Style 2:

I don’t know what should I do.. now that matters have come to such an abrupt, unceremonious end. Should I call her? Should I go to her house and …do what?

Or I could just do nothing.

I am good at doing nothing. 

Yes, I could do nothing…

Couldn’t I?

The exact same words in both styles. But the tone is different…it’s in the way the words are italized/emphasized, and also in the way the sentences are paragraphed.

I could not say which style is superior than the other because both of them would serve different function depending on the writer’s intention.

Tone In A Person:

Some people are serious. When these people tell jokes, you only realize it as they arrive to their punch line. And when you FINALLY got the joke, you are first surprised, and then it finally occurs to you that “oh, she’s joking”, and then you realize that yes, the joke is so damn funny, but it’s just so unexpected because it comes from the serious people. You could not believe it, you were unprepared for it. Then it finally dawns on you… And ONLY THEN, you laugh. No, you don’t just laugh. You really, really laugh because it’s so DAMN funny! Funny AND unexpected…a potent combination.  In fact, you not only laugh but you guffaw and you just may roll on the floor at the sheer hilarity of it all.

But there are other people who are always cracking jokes. Whenever they open their mouth (even when they are not trying to make a joke) you will find yourselves smiling anyway. Because these people have such effect on you that you are just quite certain that whatever it is that spills out from these people’s mouth would be funny. You keep expecting … waiting… anticipating…  for the punch line. And three seconds before the punch line arrives, you are already smiling. And two seconds before the punch line arrives, you are grinning. And one second before the punch line arrives, you are still grinning, but this time, really broadly. Even when you are not yet sure what the joke is really about, you still smile. And when the punch line finally comes, you laugh out loud.

Both type of people are pleasant. It depends on your personal taste who you like to hang around with the most. I like both…but personally, I prefer the latter.

But there is also another type of people….whose tone is always subdued, always too restraint, and too serious. That even when they are talking about something funny, it turns out to be…less funny than it would have been. Oh, it’s still funny, but the merriment is stunted, the joy is minimal and the laughter lasts for mere seconds. You get the feeling that, this person is not lively enough to carry the joke off the way it is supposed to be.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

I am the sort of person who likes books that have a lively tone. I like to read a book that causes my heart to smile even as I read about the scenery…the scenery is not funny, it’s just that the whole tone is lively that I would just smile anyway. (that should explain the smiling lines on my face. I have been smiling too much)

I like a book that makes me anticipate happiness, even when I know that there will be (of course, there must be) conflicts, difficulties, hardships and trials. A book that, as it describes the pain, it gives me hope anyway.

You know, a cheerful tone.

Or, at least, like Khaled Hosseini’s natural way of description…not melancholy, not lively…it’s just one hell of a description. So that when you get to the funny part, you REALLY laugh and when you get to the sad part, your eyes tear up. And when you get to the moment in between (when it’s neither sad nor funny) you are just able to enjoy the description as it is. You are neither feeling melancholic nor happy at those moment in between.

But with The Time Traveler’s Wife…it has a sad tone. Even when it is  describing some great, happy moments…I could feel a sort of despair, a moment of dread that this happiness would not last. You know, a melancholic tone.

Oh, there are funny parts, there are happy parts, just as there are sad parts. But the constant background tone is that of sadness.

So as I read The Time Traveler’s Wife, I was always preparing myself to be sad. That I became sad…but I just could not cry. And when the happy parts arrive, I knew I was happy, but I could not laugh because I was still prepared to cry. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about the author of this superbly done novel. In fact, I have nothing else but praises to heap on this novel. The plot was original, it was cleverly done. I mean, not many people can write a story about time-travel and not muddle up the whole process with unnecessary confusions. In terms of plot and clarity, this novel deserves an A plus plus.  In terms of language, it is moderately poetic, and greatly enjoyable.

It’s just the tone….

Just that.

But then, that tone is suitable for that theme…because it is supposed to be sad. I am just saying that it does not agree with my taste…but that does not mean it is a bad novel.

What I am saying is, in terms of plot, it is fantasstic (it’s a fact, and not a matter of opinion). But in terms of tone, it is suitable for the plot but it would be more enjoyable if it is done in a much happier tone (and this is just a matter of opinion).

But this book is still enjoyable. I would definitely keep it on my bookshelf. The fact that I bother to write a review at all (despite the fact that the tone does not agree with me) is testimonial enough of how good the plot is. 

And I also learn something from this book…which is always reason enough to like a book. 

Would I recommend this book? Oh yes! It’s a must read. 

I enjoyed it while I read it. And that is surely a lot more than we can say about heaps other novels.  

And to Kak Long…I was prepared to praise your good sense for recommending this book to me. But I guess, I have to praise Abg Faiz, instead. Hahahha. Next time, don’t try to cut your losses a little too soon. Because you might have gained, instead. (really clever parting words from me, n’est ce-pas?) 

Different Ways of Saying The Same Thing!

“It’s not what you say, Angah. It’s how you say it. You should be more diplomatic.”

Hahhaha. Sounds familiar, kak long? How about you, Alida? Izati? Don’t you guys just lourvveee those clever sentences?  

If I got a shilling for every time I got that sentence flung at me, I would be a millionaire by now (the writer exaggerates, of course. But the writer believes that exaggeration is allowed in a literary piece, so she should be forgiven. hihihi. Not that she thought this entry deserves to be labelled a literary piece. But then, it can’t be labelled trashy either since she is going to impart some sort of knowledge after all.)

And you guys would be happy to know that I totally agree with you guys. And that should perhaps account for MUCH of my (mild? less aggressive?) manners over the last few years. I have, of course, been tamed and mellowed by wisdom and can only apologize for my abhorrent manner growing up.

But, I don’t want to talk about me. (much as I like blowing my own trumpet as well as the next person)

In fact “different ways of saying the same thing” is going to be about literature. Again.

 Sorry, if some find this boring but I am in love with the world of creative writing and literature. And since uni would start in less than 2 weeks (after which I only have time for my medical books) I should be allowed to over-indulge in my lifetime passion for awhile, n’est-ce pas?

I talked with my Kak Long and we both came to the same conclusion that Khaled Hosseini’s two bestsellers were actually made up of quite an ordinary plot. But his command of the language is excellent. And that, made all the difference.  

It’s really quite logical. Think about it! How many different love stories would there be in this world? We all know that one love story cannot be so very different from another love story! In terms of plot, there aren’t going to be any great varieties.

1) Cinta terhalang:

-Romeo and Juliet, Laila and Majnun, Heer and Ranja,

2)Cinta selepas kahwin

-plot macam ni dah byk di pasaran. No examples needed.

3) cinta antara budaya

4) bercinta-berpisah-bertemu-bercinta lagi.

All right…basically, there aren’t many varieties. You know, pi mai pi mai tang tu!

But WHY do writers keep on writing love stories and WHY people still read them? Because….the difference is in the writer’s unique ability to elaborate and use certain style of language to enhance the story. Two persons would write the same plot differently and that’s why people never tire of love stories. Because we, human beings are not just intellectual creatures but also social creatures. Therefore,  LOVE forms a very integral part of our life. And we will never be tired of reading it!

Senang fikir macam ni lah. Time exam, semua orang dapat soalan esei yang sama. So isi2 karangan pun mesti lebih kurang jer. Tapi ada student yang dapat A dan ada student yang dapat B. So bezanya mestilah ‘style of writing’. Writing style is what makes the writer a great storyteller.

Maybe in the previous post, I seemed like a cynical person. But I am actually not that cynical. In fact, myheart is filled with hope. It might sound as though I had ridiculed romance writers, but trust me, if anyone tries to condemn them too much, you will find me backing them up.

Let’s be fair to romance writers. At least, in terms of plot, we have to admit that ALL genre have their own stereotypes. Not just the romance fiction.

 For example, think about crime fiction…their plots are stereotypical too. Dalam crime fiction, pasti akan ada protagonist yang tertindas, orang jahat pasti seorang yang berkuasa dan berpengaruh, orang baik akan struggle menentang orang jahat dengan pelbagai usaha yang kelihatan mustahil pada awalnya, namun akhirnya berjaya.

Still, I never tire of reading crime fiction! WHY? Again, it’s because of the style of writing!

So, back to the earlier quote; it’s how you say it. (and of course, also about how you elaborate the plot, but I am only going to focus on language command here)

1)Sadness

Jangan marah lah kalau aku cakap sesetengah writers macam tak pernah belajar buat karangan.

Waktu kita baru bertatih membuat karangan kat sekolah rendah, mungkin kita boleh dimaafkan kalau kita describe kesedihan sebegini:

-Aminah rasa sangat sedih sekali. (darjah satu)

-Aminah tidak pernah rasa sebegini terluka seumur hidupnya (darjah dua, and some novelist actually still employ this childish sentence)

-Kesedihannya yang telah cuba dibendung sekian lama tidak dapat ditahan lagi dan perlahan-lahan air mata Aminah jatuh membasahi lekuk pipinya yang pucat. (darjah enam)

But as you grow up, as you enter your secondary school and have had lots of experience with doing essays, melampaulah kalau nak describe kesedihan dengan cara yang bosan dan straighforward macam tu lagi.

Tapi, itulah yang masih ramai orang buat dalam novel. Tak der seni langsung! There are sooo many ways to describe the same thing. And they each gives different effects to the readers. So, as a professional novelist, they should think about that sort of thing. 

Maybe they can try:

-Walaupun hatinya bagai disiat-siat belati tajam, Aminah tidak sekali-kali akan menangis meratap kehibaan. Dia memandang mereka dengan sorotan matanya yang mencengkam. Bibirnya digetap kuat menahan getaran. Pada zahirnya, mungkin dia kelihatan tenang. Namun di sebalik sebaris senyuman, ada rasa duka yang tidak terucapkan. Lalu dia mengalih pandangan, biar air matanya berguguran tidak terlihat orang.

ALL of the styles above give the same message; Aminah is sad. Tapi, setiap style ada effect yang berbeza. It’s all in how you elaborate your point.

2) How to say “I love you for your kindness.” in many different ways.

– You are very kind and that’s why I love you. (darjah satu)

– Your kindness has beckoned my soul to surrender completely to the mercy of your love. (tingkatan tiga maybe)

-I care nothing for the poverty of your purse so long as your heart overflows with affluence, and that, my dear, is why I love you like no other. (university, sastera writers)  

But you see, sesetengah novelis masih menggunakan ayat darjah satu untuk buat description. Tu pasal orang semua pandang rendah pada novelis dan mengatakan “Aghh, aku pun boleh tulis cerita macam ni!” Kalau pun diorang tak mahu menggunakan ayat2 berbunga macam sastera, tapi sekurang-kurangnya elaborate dengan mantap.

3)Describing beauty.

-She was the most beautiful girl he had ever met in his entire 30 years of living. (ordinary, boring, should be improved)

-I took one look at her…and then I forgot to blink. What was it about her that I forgot to breathe? Was she pretty? When she smiled, she certainly captured the interests of many. Was she attractive? When she laughed, everybody could not help but sigh in the wonder of her beauty. But was she for me? Alas, I took one look at the twinkle in her eyes, and the niggling doubt overwhelmed me.

This second way of describing beauty is a much better elaboration. Because it describes the heroine’s beauty and also his feelings about her beauty. His feelings of wonder in one moment and inadequacy in the next. And tu bukan ayat sastera pun! Itu cuma a better elaboration.

Bukannya aku cakap: “Ah, my vision is blurred by the golden, shimmering beauty of her person. The twinkles of her eyes remind me of a diamond in the first water. One look at her, and my heart is lost forever in the maze of love.”  INI baru ayat sastera.

Dan aku faham penulis2 romance fiction selalu defend themselves by saying, “Kenapa? Tak boleh ke kami mendidik dengan ayat yang santai dan mudah dibaca?”

Yes, I understand that sastera memang ayatnya berbelit and not straight to the point. Bukannya aku nak suruh semua orang pakai ayat sastera tu. Sastera tu sasateralah. Fiction adalah kategori yg berbeza. But like I said, kita kena ada standard lah sikit. Tak payah guna ayat sastera pun tak apa, tapi takkanlah nak guna ayat buat karangan time sekolah rendah pula. Kalau macam tu, apa bezanya ‘a published novelist’ compared to budak2 sekolah?

That should be enough demonstration that I am not against love stories or romance. I am against the childish way people still construct their sentences. I am against the ‘ too simple’ way people elaborate their points….hinggakan langsung tak berbekas di hati.

Memang tak adil to romance novelist kalau orang cakap ‘semua cerita diorang sama saja. tak original langsung!’. Sedangkan dalam setiap genre pun, sangat jarang ada plot yang bombastic. In fact, many good writers settle with very ordinary plots. 

It’s the elaboration that counts! And that should be every writer’s aspiration.

Nilai bahasa dan ilmu dalam novel…

Kenapa sesetengah karya diangkat sebagai sastera (literature) manakala sesetengah karya dianggap picisan/pop/trashy atau hanya sekadar fiction? What are the criterias used to categorize whether one particular work could be categorized as literary or non-literary?

Yang lebih menyedihkan, penulis2 sastera seolah2 sudah sinonim dengan fenomena ‘karyanya tidak laku’…tapi yang menulis novel2 cinta picisan/pop/trashy, karyanya laris di pasaran hingga diulang-cetak berkali2.

This tells us about our society’s taste in their reading choice. 

Ini menyebabkan penulis2 tanahair kena fikir apakah priority masing-masing? Nak duit atau nak kualiti?

Namun begitu, dilema ‘duit vs kualiti’ ini hanya dihadapi oleh penulis2 MALAYSIA. Kerana karya2 fiction barat ada kedua2nya…nilai komersial pun ada (and therefore money values) dan kualiti pun ada. Di Barat, perbezaan antara fiction/pop/trashy dengan sastere/literature hanyalah dari segi gaya bahasa semata2. Malah kalau dilihat dari nilai ilmu, adakalanya karya fiction barat jauh lebih hebat daripada karya sastera mereka. Lebih hebat lagi, adakalanya gaya bahasa genre fiction mereka pun boleh menandingi gaya bahasa genre sastera.

Jadi di Barat, telah terdapat satu fenomena ‘blur’ ….di mana dari segi kualiti, pembaca2 ‘blur’ macam mana nak membezakan samada buku yang mereka sedang pegang ini adalah sastera atau tidak. Look at novels like “The Kite Runner” or “One thousand splendid suns”….sesetengah kedai buku cakap itu fiction. If you go to another bookshop, buku2 tersebut diletak di bawah ketegori modern literature. Bukan niat nak mengagungkan karya Barat, tapi betapa hebatnya industri penulisan mereka sehinggakan pekedai buku pun tak tahu nak letak novel tu kat bahagian mana.  

Tapi kalau di Malaysia, sudah macam ada ‘stigma’ bahawa penulis2 yang menulis kisah cinta, pasti ianya picisan (and most of the time the ‘stigma’ has its basis and sometimes even true). Manakala hanya Faisal Tehrani, A.Samad Said, Adibah Amin, Shahnon Ahmad etc etc yang menulis karya2 yang bermutu yang boleh diangkat sebagai sastera. However, in my humble opinion, sebagaimana penulis2 alaf 21 dicop sebagai penulis picisan, begitu juga penulis2 sastera Melayu dicop bahawa karyanya membosankan. 

Jadi, di Malaysia, tak payahlah penulis picisan dengan penulis sastera bergaduh siapa yang lebih bagus. Sebab masing2 boleh jadi juara dalam kategori yang berbeza. When it comes to fun and popularity, penulis picisan akan menang hands down! When it comes to gaya bahasa dan nilai ilmu (yang kadang2 taklah jauh berbeza sangat dengan novel picisan), maka penulis sastera akan menang, no doubt about it! 

Gaya Bahasa

Kadang2 aku rasa frust sgt dengan gaya bahasa novelis Melayu. Sebagai pembeli buku, aku patut tahu apa yang aku akan dapat apabila aku membeli buku2 fiction. Kenapa aku patut frust? Dah tahu begitu, kenapa masih nak beli? Seorang yang sinis akan mengatakan “you should know what you are getting when you choose to buy books from that publisher.” (perkataan ‘that’ diberi penekanan bernada sinis sesuai untuk golongan yang merasakan diri mereka intelektual).

Tapi, aku rasa bahawa sebabnya ada rasa frust tu adalah sebab “I care too damn much!” Aku sentiasa mengharapkan agar apabila aku beli satu2 buku aku dapat cakap, “Wow! Hebatnya penulis MELAYU. Kalah Khaled Hosseini.” Jadi setiap kali aku pick up Malay books, di sebalik rasa sinis tu, aku sebenarnya menaruh harapan. Maybe I could be proven wrong this time,that maybe this time it would be worth the time.

Sebenarnya samada kita nak tahu bahawa kita akan enjoy satu2 novel atau tak, ada di bahagian permulaan lagi. Tengok sahaja gaya bahasa di awal paragraph bab satu. Kadang2 seseorang novelis itu ada byk sgt idea, plotnya hebat, tapi cara olahan dan gaya bahasa menjadikan segala-galanya hancur dan tak menarik minat sampaikan kadang2 aku rasa mcm, “Ko ni tak belajar buat karangan ke time sekolah menengah dulu?”

Di bawah, aku bagi contoh2 perbezaan paragraph pertama bab satu di antara fiction dan sastera:

Fiction :

Assyida leka dengan jarum dan benang kaitnya sejak lewat tengah hari tadi. Cuaca petang yang agak tenang dan kurang berbahang membuatkan dia berasa selesa duduk di tepi tingkap itu sejak tadi tanpa mempedulikan sesiapa pun.

My ulasan: Come on, man! Ni paragraph pertama bab satu! This is your chance to capture your readers, to interest them to keep on reading. You should be able to do better than talking about benang kait and the weather!! Even dalam society kita pun, kita cuma cakap pasal cuaca bila kita memang dah tak der benda sgt nak cakap. So, tolong jgn describe pasal susasana dan cuaca di awal buku…pls give ur reader the feeling that you would have something MORE to offer. Jgn biar awal2 lagi pembaca anggap ko ni tak der idea!

Sastera:

Tatkala aku masih muda dan mudah digoda, bapaku pernah memberi sepatah dua nasihat yang sejak itu sentiasa sahaja bermain-main di dalam hati sanubariku.

“Anakku” Bapaku berkata, “setiap kali kau nak mengutuk orang, ingatlah bahawa mereka tidak bergitu bernasib baik seperti kau.”

My ulasan: This is MUCH better than the previous one. Awal2 lagi penulis ni dah berjaya buat aku tertanya2, apakah kaitan antara kata2 ayah dia tu dengan keseluruhan cerita? Awal2 lagi penulis tersebut dah berjaya ‘capture my interest’. Awal2 lagi, penulis ni dah bagi satu ‘word of wisdom’ in the form of the protagonist’s father. Awal2 lagi, kita dah dapat satu nilai ilmu. Hati pembaca akan melonjak suka. Hati pembaca akan berkata ” wah, hebatnya penulis ni! Ini baru paragraph pertama, dah ada satu benda yang menarik, dah ada satu benda yang aku belajar.” Dan pembaca tu akan meneruskan pembacaan tanpa rasa terpaksa untuk mengabiskan buku tersebut hanya semata2 dia sudah pakai duit membeli buku ini.

Itulah maksud aku dengan frust! Aku rasa macam geraaammmm! Kadang2 tu, tak ada beza sangat nilai ilmu antara karya picisan dan karya sastera. Ambil saja contoh novel ‘Badai Semalam’. Aku tak rasa novel tu ‘berilmu’ sangat pun! Tapi bagaimana boleh jadi sastera? Dahlah boring, plotnya ordinary, gaya bahasa jer kot yang boleh diharap. Tu pun, taklah sehebat mana.

Haih, kalau di Barat pembaca2 blur samada satu2 buku fiction patut diangkat sebagai sastera moden. Tapi di Malaysia, pembaca blur samada satu2 karya sastera patut dilabel sebagai karya picisan sahaja.

Sedih!

Nilai Ilmu

Aku yakin ramai yang pernah mendengar tentang novel “Ayat-ayat cinta”. Aku sendiri tak pernah baca novel tu (sebab aku serik nak beli novel melayu!).

Apa yang aku nak katakan kat sini, novel2 berunsur cinta Islamik ni makin banyak di pasaran sejak wujudnya novel ‘Ayat-ayat cinta’. Hari ni dalam akhbar UTUSAN, ada satu artikel mengulas tentang fenomena ini (selepas membaca arttikel itulah maka aku terpanggil untuk menulis kat sini. Artikel tu sgt bagus dan aku sgt bersetuju dengan penulis artikel tersebut).

Pada awal2 kemunculan novel pop Islamik ini, memang novel2 tersebut boleh dikatakan berkualiti. Aku tak pernah baca sendiri, tapi aku bayangkan mestilah apabila dikatakan novel pop Islamik, maka  ada diselitkan unsur pengajaran, maybe ada disebut dalil2 sikit.

Namun makin lama, makin byk pula novel2 yang dilabel Islamik hanya kerana hero dan heroin namanya mcm arab sikit, dan heroin dia pakai tudung, dan mungkin hero dan heroin dulu bersekolah agama untuk jadi ustaz dan ustazah. And that’s it!

Kalau nak tunggu heroin pakai tudung baru nak label karya tu Islamik, dah byk sgt dah heroin2 pakai tudung sekrang ni! Apa yang nak heran sgt!

Sehinggakan dah tak ada beza pun samada novel ini dikatakan novel pop Islamik atau non-Islamic. Perbezaan hanya dari segi benda2 kecil seperti nama watak dan penampilan dan mungkin dialog2 yang lebih tersusun. Namun ‘the core’ of the novel, tak ada bezanya dengan novel2 lain. Malah, untuk membuat satu sub-kategori ‘novel pop Islamik’ macam tak payah pun tak per. Buat redundant sahaja!

Macam yang aku pernah cakap dulu. Kadang2 tu tak ada bezanya dia buat hero tu jadi lawyer ke, doctor ke, petani ke or whatever kerana tempat kerja lelaki tu hanyalah setting untuk dia berjumpa dengan heroin. Pekerjaan lelaki itu tidak memberi apa2 makna kepada perjalanan cerita. Perkerjaan lelaki itu hanya sekadar ‘nama’. Namun empty! Seperti mana karya2 pop Islamik hanya berbeza sekadar nama….

Mungkin golongan yang membaca kisah cinta Islamik ini akan rasa konon dia baiklah sikit. Sekurang2nya dia tak baca novel cinta yang lagha! yeah, rite! Hakikatnya, pembaca mcm tu hanya menipu diri sendiri.

Pada pendapat aku, daripada baca kisah cinta yang konon Islamik tu, tak ada bezanya kalau dia baca kisah cinta English fiction. 

Ini contoh permulaan bab satu kisah cinta English fiction:

There were four principles governing Gareth St. Clair’s relationship with his father that he relied upon to maintain his good humor and general sanity:
One: They did not converse unless absolutely necessary.
Two: All absolutely necessary conversations were to be kept as brief as possible.
Three: In the event that more than the salutations was to be spoken, it was always best to have a third party present.
And finally, four: For the purpose of achieving points one, two and three, Gareth was to conduct himself in a manner so as to garner as many invitations as possible to spend school holidays with friends. 
In other words, not at home.
In more precise words, away from his father. 

Bagi aku, ini antara permulaan novel cinta yang hebat. Baru paragraph pertama, aku dah wonder, apa kena dia dengan ayah dia? Apa kaitan dengan keseluruhan cerita. And if you truly read the whole paragraph, you have a sense that ‘penulis ni mesti seorang yang kelakar’. 

Apa yang aku nampak kebanyakan novelis Melayu buat adalah diorang memang ada idea. Tapi sewaktu menulis tu….diorang tak fikir ‘how I could have presented it better.’ Ayat apa yang aku patut guna untuk ganti agar kedengaran lebih sedap dan exciting.

I am not a good writer. But I am an avid reader. I am a good reader. I have read too much literary and non-literary fiction. I actually sit down and reflect ‘kenapa aku tak suka novel Melayu? Apa yang kurang?’. I have compared and read again and again. And here’s the answer…

Aku rasa kebanyakan novelis sendiri kurang membaca. And if we don’t read, we will never know how do we compare. And don’t just read novel Melayu, and don’t just read fiction. You have to read literature…and keep on improving sampai pembaca sendiri tak boleh beza adakah fiction Melayu patut dijadikan sastera. When that happens, I will salute the Malay novelists and would fill up all my bookshleves with Malay novels.

Until that happens, I am not wasting my money.