Friday, December 30, 2011

On The Edge of Insanity

This is not a complain because I believe no one will be listening. This is neither a question because I know there are definitely answers for it ;nor this any quality improvement suggestion because I know things will be the same again next year. This is more of a frustration that I have experienced while going for Haj this year with Tabung haji Muassasah which I know could be done better; we deserved to be treated a lot better. I was placed in Maktab 94 along with other 400 or so jemaah haji (JH) Malaysia. When the journey started from Kelana Jaya, we were taken to the airport with a convoy of buses; whisking through the busy highways with motorists had to stop and gave us the way. We felt so proud and so mighty when everyone tried to take a glimpse of our buses and trying to figure out where we taken to. I guess that’s the only memorable thing about this trip. The charted Saudia plane took off around 1.30 in the morning. It was an old plane with no movies or games to kill the jitters away. When asked , the Indon stewardess harshly told us off with some excuses. She was rude for a cabin crew of an international airline. So there was nothing else to do for the rest of the long flight to Jeddah except sleeping and dreaming for a better day tomorrow.

The morning air in Jeddah was cool and refreshing. An Indon guy came around and offered a prepaid. Ah- he must know this business very well as there is good money in it. I bought one I think and my wife bought hers later on in Makkah. The phone is one thing you must have with you , working and all, all the time. Especially if you have other member of your family with you. Each one must have a working handset---for communication purposes. So that one I think cost me about 40 riyals. We called home and told them we have arrived in Jeddah and everything was Okay. Yes indeed so far things have been surprisingly good. We got on the bus and taken to Makkah to a place called Misfalah about 1.5 km form the Grand Mosque. The place that will be our home for the next month or so. The hotel was good; everything including the bed, the toilet and the airconditioner are in order.

...and the food........

Well,the food was good at first but then after a few days it had started to turn into a squirmish thing stuffed in an aluminium container. We complained but ,you know, when one complaint was replied with a thousand excuses, we knew it was not going anywhere. And Tabung Haji staff just could not do anything other than just giving excuses regarding the massive volume that they have to cater for. Then later the food just not fit for human consumption at all; we could see them all littered around the dustbin and along the alley.
In Arafah, the food was better and tastier. Unfortunately, one JH choked and died while eating the food. Can you imagine the status of medical aid that we had over there? Unbelievably minimal not as we were told during the course that medical help is a non-issue, they have plenty of doctors to go around. Not very true I’m afraid. During the flight back I had a medical emergency and came to know that there was no TH doctor on the flight.

Mina was a nightmare for Maktab 94. We had many senior citizens among us and many had to take medication and that means they have to have their meals on time. On the first day we saw our lunch pack at 7 in the evening and dinner pack at 1 a.m. in the morning. Then when we complained, the second day saw a normal meal time; but then the third day it was a mess again. Again TH staff just could not say much and told us off with some excuses. On the third day we were to leave for Makkah and waited for the bus to come and picked us up. The buses were supposed to come in the morning but not seen until late afternoon. No breakfast or lunch were provided so you can imagine how hungry we all were, running around to catch a bus that was already filled up. Many of us were so exhausted including our pakcik and makcik that never complained because they believed in TH and how TH would never make them suffer. I saw them with a shattered heart and flowing tears; swearing to my dear God that when I returned I would let everyone back home knows the real situation.That’s the motivation for writing this article. I would sent my old mom to haj under TH care because I believed they can take care of her but believe me if she could not run like the others she would be left there alone.The truth is --no one really cared. Usually the the travelling time from Mina to Makkah is about half an hour in a normal day but that day it took us 7-8 hours to reach Makkah. Some of the buses could not reach our hotel as they stucked in the traffic jam; so my pakcik and makcik had to walk for a good distance with the empty stomach and their bags to reach the hotel rooms. And during all these ordeals no one form TH were in sight. No ONE. One of our pakcik had a heart attack due to the stress and died. We offered prayers for him after Fajr the next morning. The thing that I don’t understand is that TH dealt with these circumstances as if they have done it for the first time. I think someone should go to TH headquarters and shake up the building for they have been sleeping for a long time now. It’s time to let them know that the honeymoon time in Makkah and Medina has long passed, they have to buck up and do some work for our pakcik and makcik. The living condition in Mina also was beyond anyone’s imagination. The worst scenario was at the toilets. What would you feel when your bladder was about to explode and you went rushing to the toilet just to see a queue with 5-6 persons infront of you.Terrible is not a good word for it; “^%$#!” is more like it. But JH had their own solution for it by peeing into the mineral bottles. It’s true and the phrase “desperate situations demand desperate measures” was proved in living colors. One makcik from Thailand (we shared the place with JH from Thailand) desperately needed to go but as the queue was long she just did it right there in front of us. I just could not believe my eyes and turned away; my toilet session had turned into something was the edge of insanity.

I passed by an old makcik once ,while in Mina,and wondering why she was runsacking the garbage bin. The bin was full of dirty gluey phlegm, spit and what not.”What are you doing makcik?” I asked in Malay. “Makcik had a gigi palsu on, then makcik coughed and vommited into this bin and lost the gigi palsu with it....I am looking for it now” she said desperately as she dipped into the bin further down. “ Oh My God!” I said to myself a few times. I did not know what to do and pity this makcik but I was not going to dip my hands into that dirty gluey garbage, NO!. That was too much for me. No one from TH was there to help her.I left and did not have a heart to turned and see whether that makcik was still there or not. 

Everytime when TH or any media in Malaysia talk about haj and jemaah haji Malaysia, we are flashed with the smiling faces of JH doing something in Arafah or Mina. The reality is far beyond that and the worst thing is that many of JH believe whatever happened to them is a predetermination and for them to endure such difficulties. I just could not let this whole terrible things to continue, that’s all, because from my experience TH can do a lot better and we, including my pakciks and makciks, deserve a lot better. TH has failed in many areas of this whole haj operations and they have to shake up a few bee hives to correct some of them. I hope no one will ever have to experience haj as I did last season.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Does money define your dignity?

All civil servants are now in dilemma yet again. To opt or not to opt the new salary scheme called SBPA. It offers new salary and reactivates the classic “ass-kissing” way of promotion. The increment ranges from 300 to a whopping 5K and as usual the higher end belongs to the higher ranking civil servants. In my term, the professors receive the biggest increment and I as usual will be at the other end. The deadline to opt is at end of the year but due to some loopholes in the scheme some people feel victimized and report a complaint not to the police but straight to the PM. And with ‘mesra rakyat’ slogan the PM office could not say NO but postpone the deadline for a review. The loophole seems to be at the middle-higher structure of the scheme. The transfer to the new scheme will put a 10-year senior at the same salary spot with a newly appointed junior. A 10-years associate professor, for example, will have the same salary with a newly appointed associate professor. Where is the fairness in this? ,someone asked. The government should recognize our seniority and reward accordingly. It’s not about money, but our dignity, they seem to justify. And how much money/salary range that we are talking here -7-8K basic salary per month. With all the allowances that will easily come up to at least 10K per month but people just never satisfy. We want more and more.

But we can’t blame anybody now as money seems to define our life. Students are given RM200 for the books, the BR1M gives RM500 to buy groceries and everyone gets a bigger fatter wallet at the back pocket. We have become so caught up counting money we never realized that we have turned capitalists; where money is everything. Every single drop of sweat has a dollar sign and things won’t move unless you pay for it to move. Day by day we can feel all these coming to our doorsteps and soon will get into our hearts and minds. We have become so much like the West, so modern and advanced. But are we not aware that the West is going bust in their economy----the capitalist. Are we going the same way ?

We seem to forget the strength that we have all along called Islam. some of us hate it because the West hate it. They have painted everything bad about Islam and we just follow. In Islam dignity is not about dollars and cents but one’s closeness to God .For some it’s hard to comprehend, as being good won’t buy you lunch or feed your children. Our modern society has isolated the thing called faith from our everyday life. The thing that we know will make our life easier---faith not the money. But it’s difficult to realize that until we change our perspective of life. The thing is not easy but can be done. Make doa and he will show the way, InsyaALlah.

So choose the right word to define your dignity and your life. And choose the right people to govern and define our society.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Among friendly strangers

It was wet and gloomy Saturday but I was feeling strangely funky. It was supposed to be a busy Saturday with an outstation appointment in Kuantan and my already-missing-many-hours-class in the afternoon. But my FB status read “ OK everything else can wait, I’m going to my WSU reunion”. It was two days away and had to make a few phone calls to ”divert” the task and free my Saturday. Well you know the little mouse has to move swiftly and discreetly so not to wake up the big bossy to speak.In the beginning I was not too keen to join the event although it’s just 10 minutes drive from my doorsteps; I have been to many reunions(read about WSU Reunion 2010 here) and everything about it is the same. The enthusiasms are highly charged, expectations sometime are heart-wobbling, nostalgia reigns supreme, old wounds would bleed again and some unfinished business would see a new beginning. I went with warmth nostalgic memories but often returned home feeling so empty and lonely. I can hardly manage those feelings due to reasons that I don’t know to explain myself; maybe the reconnection to the past times is not good to a man at my age. That’s only my guess. The thing is that I don’t need to feel empty and lonely again because I have a home and a family that I love very much. They wil never leave me; but friends do...they come and go. Sometime they come back again but some never do. Maybe this one is different ,I don’t know.

The afternoon sky continued to sprinkle but it did not dampen my spirit to be with my friends. My thoughts played and replayed the old faces that might be there. The things that we did in the many summers in Wichita or the many nights during the cold Midwerstern winters. Enduring the slippery icy roads to buy groceries at Foodbarn or Safeway. The long drives to visit friends for summer holidays or winter breaks. I long to enjoy reminiscent of those times with my good old friends; well only if they showed up .....The days in Wichita have always been special to me. It was really my home away from home; the place I grew up to know the world...and my own self. I never had a chance to go my own way before that; I lived the life of other people---my family, my school teachers etc always someone else charted the way how to live my life. But in Wichita I played my own songs and picked my own melodies. I drew the picture of my life the way I wanted it to be; sometime it took me to places and made me do things out of my ordinary mind frame. I fell and tumbled but always had the energy to get up and get going again. I had my friends with me that I could rely and get help. Maybe today I will have the chance to celebrate those moments again and be thankful for being “ the wind beneath my wings”...only if they showed up of course. The bad times in Wichita were not so bad at all; even when I failed so many classes I did not feel failed or stupid. But it took me to conquer the subject until I was so comfortable with it---the subject like English and Maths. I now know that classroom lessons like my academic classes did not help me too much to learn about life. They were boring and not fun at all. Especially the summer classes when you had to drag yourself to the class when everyone else was enjoying the summer sun shines. But I failed a lot in many relationships which I hope will not turn this reunion into an ugly Malay drama.Ahh..I’m sure she’s not coming and that ugly boyfriend is no longer her mate...maybe he’s dead for all I care. No I think I’m was not that serious..I was mainly “perasan syok sendiri” kind of thing. I was really bad in that category...with the lady and all.....never knew how to ”mengorat”; in the end---aah what the heck!...susah betul nak layan minah sorang ni....and that was the end of everything.

I know the place of the event very well; I came to smash the little white balls every now and then. But today I came without the set, the cap and the towel but with warm and happy feelings to meet the faces that have been disappeared for more than 25 years. Such a long time but ironically felt just like a few years ago. Time really flies when you are old. I went in and greeted everyone. The surprise faces and handshakes follow every greeting. At first, I felt so out of place..were they really my friends? Of course they were but I could not remember their names. Are they strangers to me now? I hope not; strangers don’t greet you like that. I did not eat that much because I was not hungry but took the food anyway just to be in the queue and made myself similar to everyone else. After the what?Who?Why?Where?and when? Questions I didn’t know how to continue, the conversations immediately died---usually happen when you talk to strangers. I moved on , snapped a few photos and greeted another person. Soon I met everyone but my buddies were not there. So I was right---only strangers come to a reunion.

The committee has done a good job, I must say. It’s not easy to put together an event like that---someone must be sacrificing a lot of money and effort to see this event materialized. I hope he or she will be happy as so many of us had turned up. And I also hope for me to have a chance to continue supporting them in whatever way I can. Maybe this one event didn’t turn to be as I expected but who knows what will happen in the future---things will come your way insyaALlah.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Night Before The Wukuf

Setting up  our own dinner for a little celebration before going to Arafat

Chicken mandy

Fruit salad made by Major Edi and family

we pooled together to buy some drinks and fruits as well

a bit of kambing also

Me, Ustaz and Abg Mat

Hj Zahar (in black) spent time buying all the stuff

Abg Ayob, Abg Suhaimi and wife

The ladies

Hjh Zainab(Major Edi's Mom) Hjh Arfah and Hjh Salwana

Major Edi (middle)

Our place in Mina

So What's for dinner?

Those with muasassah-TH will have this for dinner
I don't mind eating out of an aluminium container but can you give me a decent nasi and lauk. The only thing tht's good about it is the nice cover other than that it didn't taste like food. So don't judge it by its cover.

Daily Morning activities at Masjidil Haram

After Fajr prayers would be the most crowded time at the Kaabah courtyard. That 's the best time to do the tawaf--cool and refreshing. but when too many people trying to do it at the same time, the enjoyment turned into a big hassle.

Beautiful Dhuha sunshine at al Haram

Tawaf on the first floor

another view of tawaf crowd at the Kaabah

Hujjaj from India
The crowd got bigger and bigger
Doing Tawaf on the first would a bit easier but takes longer lime

Turkish ladies

Maqam Ibrahim

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Back To Work

Alhamdulillah, I am back. I guess I have missed a lot of things around here. That’s good because you know life did go on as usual with or without you. Now that I am here at the office everything has started to come back again ...the letters, the meetings, the orders etc. I should not complain too much, I know, this IS my job. Anyway, on the other side of the coin, I am proud to know our students have won that Multimedia competition and some have also won at Promed’11. Congratulations to all lecturers that have contributed their time and effort into these; directly or indirectly. I hope those involved have some kind of official appointment so you will get some merits out of these as well, of course, along with niat ikhlas and good deeds. A big congratulation goes to Dr Normaly as our latest “warrior” came back with full medal from his PhD battle. This success I hope can motivate others to endure all challenges and complete theirs as well. I know a lot more are in the pipeline and waiting to submit so I pray for their strength to proceed and finish it with a successful note. Lan Ismail and Su are back from the land down under; I wish them all good luck and hope their return will enlighten our department with new and a fresh zest of knowledge. Congratulations also go to the recipients of Anugerah Perkhidmatan Cemerlang (APC 2010) which this time includes truly yours. A small token of appreciation every now and then from UiTM is good; in my case, after 20 years of service. It’s good to know that your boss has finally recognised you...20 years later. But I just could not imagine that it took that long for people to acknowledge your contribution. I am not sure to be happy or sad. But with or without the award, I will be here doing what I know I can do---teaching and learning...hmmm maybe a bit of research. And also congratulations to those who have just come back from Haj ( including myself of course) which reserves separate physical as well as spiritual experience for the body and soul. Maybe many more success stories occurred in our department that deserve a celebration, let it be known so we can tumpang gembira. As the new Hijri year started to make its way and carves more histories, we ponder as to where our journey in life will take us next. Yesterday, as my dear friend and our colleague from Business Faculty (Adam Mat) passed away (dengue case); we know death is always close to us. As we celebrate our good times let’s not forget things that will eventually come to us.
Let’s take this semester to a good close and thank you for all the support and time spent for the department. God bless.