Thursday, February 25, 2010

A quiet afternoon in Madinah

It was still scorching hot but the soft wind had made it bearable to walk the short distance to the mosque. People were streaming towards the mosque giving a sign of Asr prayer is about to begin. I stopped for a while amidst the chaos with sounds that I could hardly understand. But from the gestures I knew they were hasting to close the shop and hurry to meet the calling azan. For days I have been astonished to their daily life; how everything surrounds the prayers and the holy mosque. They seemed to be here forever but everyday I came across them, they were practically running towards the mosque. It’s not like they are leaving tomorrow and need to complete everything by today, I wondered. As if everyday is not enough for them spent time in the mosque. The streets are almost deserted by now; I was still there standing where I was, kinda shocked and at the same awed by the sights and the scenes very strange to me. The streets of Madinah were always empty except for a few cars and taxis ferrying people around. I guess that area where our hotel was located, was not that populated. I remember the last time I was there we stayed at an area where people were jam-packed the streets almost every hour of the day. But then I was thinking and feeling how it was back then more than 1400 years ago. Were the streets as empty as today? Oh my God I was standing on the soil of Madinah, the place where it was all started. The syariat of Islam,the revelations,the struggles of the prophet, the life and death of sahabah. I felt so warm and awed with the opportunity that day. This very spot could be where Abu Bakr rd, Umar rd, or Ali or uthman or any of the sahabah or even the prophet saw himself used to rush towards the call for prayers.

Underneath the shadow of the sky-reaching hotel buildings, once lied the mud houses of the people of Madinah-the ansar; lined along this very street where I was standing. Were there many merpati flying on-and-off the city square in those days? I saw myself surprised with the sudden feeling of belonging to the place where I was absolute foreign. I made my move towards the mosque, the steps became faster and faster, I knew why I came to this place and who was the one to meet….my beloved prophet.

O Rasulullah
I wish I could see you to show the proper of your sunnah
Or hear your voice to listen to the revelations
Or touch your heart to feel the purity of mankind
Or look at your smile for things heavenly

O sayyideel mursaleen
How awful was it to be alone in that cave
Contemplating the call to save humanity
For the brutality of life they created
Lost amidst the ignorance
That the words from you , ya Rasulullah
Could save from the fire of tomorrow

O habibullah
I was standing outside your place
Looking up the walls and the lights
Nothing compared to your time
When nights were long and dark
So save from the danger
To say a few prayers to Allah
People were pushing and shoving
To have some space
To say their love and longing
For the one they never met
But forever indebted

Friday, February 19, 2010

KL and I (1)

My arwah Ayah was struggling to make ends meet and feed us all every single day of the year. I remember that very well since Ayah  went away a few years ago. Besides working at the railway station Ayah was  always talking about doing business. He would mix herbs, ground them with that old milling machine and "gotel" (mould with your fingers) into small bits that look like goat shit(tahi kambing) and sold them to his friends. So he did that for a while. Then he went into chicken rearing business where he built the chicken scoops all around our house until everything smelled like chicken shit. One time I remember him busy talking about doing business selling house wares in a far away city called KL. Wow! that must be one big city as Ayah kept talking about it day and night. He started buying the house wares soon after that and filled our living room with the stuff. They were that shining silverish thing that people use to wash hands----the small kettle with a basin. He bought it from Sg Golok and soon will take it to that big city called KL. I dreamt KL must be one nice place where people were tall, beautiful and wearing nice clothes.

I was about 7 years old when father got into that overcrowded mail train to KL. That was the most convenient transport to KL during that time. I was not aware of anybody going to KL by bus or by car----the Karak highway was notorious for being dangerous and difficult road to follow. So off he went to the place where he knew of no one and doing stuff that was uncommon to him. I remember for being so worried whether Ayah could make it there or not. He brought all of the stuff he bought with him; so how he could manage them all, I was thinking of Ayah. but I could do nothing other just waiting at the stairs for him to come back. School was suck so I would rather wait for Ayah  than being scolded at school for being so slow. Besides no body bothered to ask me why I was always sitting by the front door. In a few days Ayah was back. I was glad to see him back safe and sound. I followed him around to hear his stories about KL but he never had time to tell me anything. I just overheard when they were talking about it after the meal; sneaked between the adults I listened about how long and difficult the journey was to KL. Father brought the stuff from one shop to another like a door-to-door salesman. When people asked, "where is your lorry?", he would say" over there at the corner.....". He walked all day selling the stuff. he never told us where he slept or rested as we did not have any relative staying in KL.....not that I knew of.

When I bumped into people selling keropok in Shah Alam I would remember Ayah and the days he went off to sell those housewares in KL. it must be very difficult but the poverty and family back home would push these people to the limits. Do you think they make millions? maybe just enough to pay the tickets back plus a few ringgit extra. bt the most interesting part is how KL opened up opportunity for Ayah and us to dream for a better life. Every single person coming to KL with a dream----to live a good life. When father came back from Kl we had a bit of celebration and that would be all nothing much had changed. He went back to his old job at the station and we were pretty much back to our routines. I wondered if the bussiness stinct in KL had done anything good at all; or maybe he failed and accumulated big debt. Knowing Ayah , he never talked about that to the family and I never heard about trip to KL anymore until he's gone.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

KL and I (2)

As a small kid from Pasir Mas, Kelantan, I always dreamt of KL as a city high above the clouds where people were rich , beautiful and elegant. I never had the opportunity to go there but wished someday would be able to walk down the famous street like Jalan TAR. KL , of course, was really a big-ass thing for me; well for anyone in Kelantan for that matter. If you were born in KL and came back for Hari Raya then everybody wanted to be friend with you; you would be regarded as clean, charming and highly intelligent. The KL accent would be highly prized and we the kampong boys listened to the way KL people talk like watching a live TV show; drooping and all without understanding a thing. So everbody wished to be from KL. In Kelantan , people from KL are regarded as “orang luar” (outside people); referring to those not accustom to our dialect and our way of life. That was some while ago as the term seems to be uncommon nowadays. But still when the Raya days came around ,the streets all over were clogged down and some foreign accents were in the air, we knew KL folks are back---“orang KL dah balik daa” ; we would somehow give ways and make ourselves invisible so that they can enjoy their balik kampong trip.
My first trip to KL was after the SPM exam when we were called for an English course in ITM (now UiTM). I remember for being so nervous as people said the trip was long and tiring. I bought a ticket on Mara Ekspres for the 8pm journey. During that time Mara just got a few new buses as the journey to KL had become more popular by bus. I looked at that new shining bus, elegantly parked in the station ready for the journey, and say to myself, “ I am finally free, I am going to KL”. The feeling was so big and enormous as if the world is mine. I don’t really remember why but that was the feeling. I guess as a student from a boarding school in Kelantan, I was so confined to the hostel and its little life and when the opportunity to go your own way like that trip; I was so relieved. The journey was not as bad as I was told; they got a TV on board showing a Hindi movie, so I was okay.That was also the time when Alleycat’s Sekuntum Mawar Merah started to become a hit. Those nostalgic moments will be back every time the song is on the air----aaaahhh feel so good ;I just want the song to stay on the air forever. We reached Puduraya by dawn and the hustle and bustle of city life had started to warm me up from the cold air on the bus. Now what? Where the heck is ITM? So I asked as the sun started to rise; revealing the true picture of KL.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

KL and I (3)

Some while ago ,I was in KL presenting a research finding to the big hot shots from a number of government agencies in Medan Mara. It was not going very well, you know, they did not agree with us and we just could not imagine that they were all too stupid to understand what we were talking about. You know stuff like which makes you feel like a big hammer is pounding inside your head. I was desperately seeking peace and quiet; just for myself. I sat myself down infront of the busy TAR street and kind of looking at people passing by. It’s kinda strange to be among so many people but still can find peace and quiet. Where do they all come from ? Each and everyone with his or her own unique appearance. Some were ultra modern while others were just plain shabby. An old Chinese man came by looking into the garbage can near where I was sitting. I mean after 52 years of independence there are still people rummaging through the garbage. It’s nothing wrong for doing that but there is a sign of desperation and hopelessness in there. I returned my focus to the street where more people are coming and going. Then there was a middle-aged Indian woman. A typical Indian woman with all kind of jewellery on her face, wearing a short-sleeved shirt with sarong and all. I found in her something interesting; somehow she fit into that picture naturally. They are the colors and faces of KL. So diversed and colorful. Have you ever wonder about their homes and family ? What will they have for dinner ? will they be pleased to go back to their family ? Do they have nice houses? Where exactly do they live ? I mean it’s nice to know somebody like that. Never mind I just sit here and look at people. A group of girls passed by… I mean boys … I was confused…..I took a look again.They were boys alright. They fooled me there for a minute. They dressed and walked like girls. Their faces were pretty and sweet and , you know what, they giggled as well. Oh dear ! apa la nak jadi dengan bebudak ni ? I reckon they must be around 14 or 15 years old. Aren’t they suppose to be at school ?

The time was about 4 in the afternoon. The streets around the area were getting busier. I went to meet up with my colleague and sat down to wait for others. A shabby looking man approached us. Mitok deghemo, cik (want to donate, sir). I shook my head and told him off. Quite arrogant, huh! But with a feeling having a big block pounding my head , I would not mind to punch anybody who got into my face. Wouldn’t you? My buddy on the other hand started a conversation with this man. He told us that he ‘s from Kelantan and came here to get some donations to fund his tahfiz(religious school) back home. Bit by bit the picture started to be clear. This man is genuine and his tahfiz school really needs the fund. I mean he ‘s here to get help and all he knew was to ask from people. A straight forward technique that needs neither strategy nor complicated plan of action . He didn’t know even to dress up for the task . All he’s got was guts and determination. I supposed when it comes to desperate measures everything goes. I flipped out RM2 for him….it’s good enough ,I was broke.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The War, The New Year's

I was in the middle of a war, a soldier of some kind. But could not figure out which war was it or which party I was with. All I knew was to run for my life; running low to duck the spraying bullets. It was crazy out there, the explosion was deafening….boom….boom…I stopped for a breather. War is a crazy thing that humans have created out of greed and selfishness. The Romans were narrated for their war in Europe, the army of Alexander the Great roamed half the world to prove his right to the throne, then the barbaric Mongols came all the way to Baghdad to revenge for their beheaded ambassador, Salahuddin had finally defeated the crusaders and entered Baitul Maqdis after a long and costly standoff,Hitler wiped out the entire Jewish people from Germany in WW2 and the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are some anecdotes of brutality that people have suffered now and then. But we never learnt from history, and with a little a motivation of security and a belief that your ass is in danger, a war is initiated. I guess it is a natural thing that people go to war. Some kind of hobby that empower the men to go and whack a stranger for some hypothetical reasons like a threat to our race or the entire nation. Looking back to all those grueling WW1 and WW2, the countries that got involved and sent all their young ass died for the country had somewhat evolved into a highly developed country like Japan, USA, UK or Germany. They all have suffered in the war, their people have suffered tremendously but then after the wounds have healed and the dust settled, they became the nations that command success in every aspect of their life. should we go to war for our success as well? Hold on to that thought because time has changed. Our forefathers have fought the British, Japanese, and Communists in so many bloody battles; and they have successfully defended the land that we can call our own. I guess we are going that path as well; the path that will make us learn what the war has taught the others.

A big boom exploded just above my head; and I thought how would I survive this war. The threats seemed to be everywhere the big one could even jolt me up from where I was. I opened my eyes and there I was lying on my bed looking up to the ceiling fan swinging lazily. It was just after midnight. Damn. It was people ushering the new year…and I thought I was in the middle of a war!

Happy Chinese New Year Everyone!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Trial

……that afternoon we met again, high above the city in a place so special to both of us; seems so far away from the rest of them, so secured to seal our love…and lust. Our eyes met, our hands shook, and my heart shuddered to the mighty fear that filled the room. He grinned with that eerie look on his face like the monster that keeps chasing me in my dreams. I tried to let go of my hands but they just got frozen in the painful squeeze of his big-ape palm. Ouch! I tried to be cute. The files, papers and some letters scrambled on the floor as I pushed myself away. I kinda expect what was coming but kept telling myself that I could handle this. Not to worry. The room was strangely dimmed for a business meeting or was it something else. “ are you ready, sir?” I asked as I pulled my pen opened. “O yes!” he pulled a seat beside me. We are always close with each other, like brothers I would say. I trust him with all my heart and soul. He put his arm around me and pulled me closer. I could feel his cheek and smell his breath. Very clean. manly. He whispered into my hair, can we play today? My heart pounding a thousand rhythms. Could this be true? I heard a desperate plea of loneliness. I looked into his eyes and saw a battered soul. I melted. This is just too much for me to bear. I am nobody. How could this happen to me? I looked up as if an angel is about to come and rescue me. Nothing. I was alone with tears running down my cheek. The mighty thrusts are coming on and I was not ready.”No you can’t do this to me, sir!” as I pushed him away. “Do what ?! I just wanna play, that’s all!, he assured me. I have seen that face before and heard that line too. He threw the towel and asked me to get myself ready….for the game. When I came back, he was ready. The lights, the bed, the curtains are all ready. I went to him . We hugged. The towels dropped and the game began ……

…the trial continues.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The racist in me

Racial remarks have put people into a lot of trouble nowadays. What you say is what you think, what you think is what you feel and what you feel is what you are! Playing with race is a dangerous game (like what I am doing right now) that could put you in a tricky situation. People might hear something and understand different thing. You said something and the other guy misquoted  you for whatever reason. And a lot of people will come at you and say something nasty. I guess time has changed in Malaysia; but, unfortunately, some people never change or refuse to change . They take the race cards and play the old games with the rules and colonial masters from the yesteryears. For so many years we frowned and felt so awkward if we come across such a gross remark, but people never walk out on you. When the situation demands such an action, we know it is just too much. We heard one thing about  a good policy called 1Malaysia but we keep getting different other things in the contrary from the same group of people. It shows inconsistency and right out insincerity. People have faith in good policy but once it is betrayed you will have to pay  so dearly. Your subjects are cleverer now compared to the last 50 years. How come you never learn? But it is a completely different story if people refuse to learn. Or maybe there is an unfinished business still warms inside you. Learn to let go then.

I am  a Malay from the generation of post-independence. We missed the struggles and hardly remember the big riot in 1969. I grew up in Kelantan where everyone speaks the same regardless who they are. I had teachers from other races and learnt well all the way through. They got drunk a lot but  I guess that the way they lived and got by. I grew up with my way and my life and their way with theirs. My family was poor alright but I never thought that was because I am Malay or anything. But some people like to make us think that was the work of the devil that don’t like me and anyone like me. I know now that’s wrong and just an excuse for not getting something. It’s natural to blame others for something  you could not do or could not get. It’s human nature. For a start it’s okay I guess but then after so many years ( 52!) that definitely has to change. You’ve got to change and realize the world is not ours only. We learn history to plan the future and not to ‘relive’ the history. Things of the past should mould our thinking into a dynamic and robust future. I am Malay and will be Malay until the day I die; nothing will change that. Should I kiss the kris and declare that Malay will live forever? I don’t think so because I don’t see the need of that. Just like telling everybody that the sky is high and the ocean is blue..who’s gonna give a damn!

Last night we had a couple of visitors to our surau. One was a new Muslim who needed some money to go for his study and another one needed money for her health care. I looked at them; one was dark and skinny….very different from the rest of us and another one said she is from Orang Asli tribe; also looked very different from us. But the spirit in the surau last night was unique almost magical. Everyone chipped in and sent them home with handful of cash and loads of clothes. I mean I did not see the darkness of his skin or the awkwardness of his clothing, I saw a human being in dire needs, struggling to live. It’s easy to send them off and say that this is nothing but a scam to get our money. But we did not do that last night, I did not do that. I looked into his eyes and saw sincere hope for better future. I tried to convince myself that I had done the right thing. Don’t be so judgmental, whatever he’ll do with the money is his takings, you have done your duty. Come back and see us after you finished your study, OK. I told him under that dimmed surau lightings. He nodded and smiled. The bike took him away and disappeared into the darkness as my eyes followed the broken tail light. He waved goodbye. I guess that’s good enough for me.