Words of Wisdom ...or so it seems...


Friday, 19 October 2007

"Reign Over Me"

For those of you who need to reminisce on how true friendship feels like, please, I urge you to go watch “Reign over me”. “ What is it about?”, you ask me. Well, before watching, allow me to offer you a gentle reminder. Keep a tissue box beside you, just in case. If you do not touch the tissue, then perhaps you need to see a shrink.

It is about two college roomies who bumped into each other after nearly 15years post graduation. Charlie Fineman, played by Adam Sandler (no, I did not narrate the synopsis from the back of the DVD I just purchased. What? DVD not in the market yet? OOPs got me there....syyyyyyyyy...), had lost a whole family to plane crash. His wife and four daughters died in a plane crash while he watched the news over the TV screen at the airport where he was suppose to have fetched them. Can you imagine loosing a whole entire family in a blink of an eye? No, I don’t really think you can. Only those who have actually experience such a lost can. I lost my husband to a car accident and I still am struggling to get my life and my mind back together. Imagine loosing a whole family.

It’s not a wonder that Charlie shut down completely and eluded himself from any conversation involving his family. Alan Johnson (played by Don Cheadle), who was a well to do dentist with the perfect family, stuck by Charlie even though he was insufferably temperamental, to the point of sudden outbursts of physical manisfestations of anger. Trying to get Charlie to a shrink was a process. And when the breakthrough came, when he actually started talking about his family, not to the shrink, but to his friend, Alan, he became suicidal and tried to kill himself.

I’ll stop here because I do not want to be a killer joy and blabber the whole story. What touched me most was how Alan, even when Charlie made it quite impossible for him to stay as friends, stuck to him nevertheless, without being judgmental nor prejudice. Perhaps that level of friendship is totally out of this world, ergo, it only exists in the big screen.

So you think Alan helped Charlie back on his feet again? In a way, yes he did. But you’d be surprised on how much Charlie, on the other hand, had unintentionally, through his process of going through the pain he experienced, changed Alan’s life.

“A friend in need is a pest indeed?” . Yes, they can be pests at times. But sometimes, pests may be good for you. You may learn a thing or two, about life and yourself, just handling pests. Besides being a pest myself, I have a few pests I keep as friends. And I love them with all my heart. It’s a kind of an unconditional love. It may not be perfect, but hey, what is?

As Oscar Wilde brilliantly put it,

“Friendship is far more tragic than love. It lasts longer."

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Be a Donor, not a Dunno

Reading about Hui Yi’s heart transplant story reminded me of why I chose to become a doctor. What attracts me to the matter is the fact that, in the attempt to save Hui Yi’s life, we had managed to cross the barrier of skin color,religion and culture. The first donor came from a Malay boy. It was unfortunate that she experienced organ rejection but I guess she is destined to live a longer life as she managed to get another donor, a Chinese boy who passed away in an accident. A miracle, actually.

There are people out there who are more willing to fight over where a person should be buried after they die, when religion conversion is involved. They would go all the way fighting for their deceased loved one, to be buried or cremated. Wouldn’t it be phenomenal if people would fight for their love ones to donate the much needed organs? When we pass on, what we’d leave behind would be the memories of what we were. The body is just a vessel for our souls, a carrier to sustain our gist for the preset drama we need to live called life.

I could have been on that team. Should I have stayed on in the government hospital, I would have been amongst one of the medical officers who’d make the transplant team. They were taking form just when I was about to bid farewell to my overwork-underpaid but satisfying job, to a greener grass. For the record, I did move on to a greener pasteur, but sometimes, eating stale grass is more satisfying, in an odd manner. I believe it is called “masuchism”?

The clinical director of the Heart and Lungs Transplant Unit of IJN, Dr Mohamed Ezani b. Taib, (they misspelled his name in the newspapers by the way), is this workaholic cardiothoracic surgeon. I loved referring my patients to him those days because I know I’d leave my patients in good hands when I send them over to Mr Ezani ( as in the surgeon “Mr”). That and the fact that he is super cute and funny too, but oh so married. (Damn!! It is true what they say about the good fellas are all taken!!)

Regrets? A little. No, I’m no longer talking about Mr Ezani. Please stay focus people. But in life, one needs to make a sacrifices especially when off springs are involved. The joy of seeing your child benefit from what ever sacrifice you make in life is tremendously gratifying, so much so you tend to forget what was the important thing to you, that you had given up in the first place. I made my choice. I see myself as a greatest mother, then, a great doctor. I never looked back really, but on days when my hormones get the better of me, perhaps just a few seconds, I’d surrender to self pity.

Organ donating is the perfect proof that beneath all this hype about racism, at the elemental level, we are all the same. It doesn’t really matter if you are a Malay carrying within your chest, a Chinese heart you obtained from organ transplant. We should all dismiss trivial matters and see the big picture. Organ donation saves lives. Racism is a waste of time. Let’s complain less about things that do not go our way, but do the things we can do to make a difference in this world. Start small by donating our organs to the people who may need them. ( and no, I do not work in the IJN advertisement unit...) .

"It is not so much about what the world has to offer, but what we bring into it."

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

The Waiting Game

I was sitting on one of the chairs in KL central, waiting for my daughter, letting my eyeballs roll about their sockets, just browsing through Life. Incidentally, I see more people sitting and waiting, rather than doing things. Waiting. Ever imagine how much time, if we were to accumulate, say in a week, that time was wasted just...waiting.

Let's all do the math. Wake up in the morning, wait for my daughter to get out of the shower. I kept telling her that she has the darker skin Punjabi blood running in her and all that color is not going to come off by sitting under the shower longer time than the average. Then wait in the traffic jam. Wait for the elevator to get to the clinic. Wait for patiets to come in, as it is a national habit for us Malaysians to turn up last minute near closing time and at almost everything else. Then wait for my daughter to finish classes. Wait again in the traffic jam home bound.

My daughter would probably add that she spent time waiting for yesterday's lasagne to cook, as it took me 3hours to prepare it and a grand total of 3 minutes for both of us to devour the oh so delicious dish ( No wonder Garfield would say,"I live for lasagne") . And I do all this waiting , while waiting for the bureaucratic agencies and the government to change their attitudes towards governance. The latter is like waiting for the first moon of Ramadhan or Syawal, waiting in anticipation for something that is there but unable to materialize to the naked eyes. Still, being human is about bearing hope.

As I was sitting there, I thought to myself. What if everything runs by the clock, with utmost punctuality? What if people realize that procrastination is a big time robber of time? Basically, here in Malaysia, we have our own time, we hardly abide to the Greenwich Meridien time like most developed countries. I'm very punctual by nature. But the reason no one realises my good virtue is because, no one would be there to greet me at the exact time of appointment, to know that I was punctual. Probably, if all of us learn to respect time, we would be by now, a developed country, rather than a wannabe developed country that is termed developing country.

I remember the time when my dad was in Tokyo back in the 90s. He was chauffered around by this very obliging and friendly Japanese man name Akiko ( I think..). They were at the MRT station, waiting for the train when an announcement blasted off in Japanese language. Turning around facing my dad, he bowed apologitically to my dad and said, "Ibrahimmm San, many apohlogies. The tshrain is going tooh beee rreyth." My dad, asked him, "How late?", wondering where they would go and wait for the late train. Akiko said, " The tshrain is going tooh beee tshree minutes lator." And his apologetic bowing resumed. My dad almost died of laughter.

Even in the Quran, the verse, "Demi masa, sesungguhnya manusia itu senantiasa di dalam kerugian". It's so true, as we are most of the time loosing out to time by having to wait. Wait, wait and more waiting. Although, there are some things that are worth waiting for, I dare say that we should start cultivating the culture of respecting TIME. Respect others' time. Many people say, "Oh! 24hours is not enough time for me!!" Well, if we were to cut down time in waiting, we'd still probably end up waiting, for bed time ( unless you're tired and desperately looking for excuses to not having sex at bed time, you won't mind the wait...)

In the meantime, I am still waiting for the first anak bulan Syawal to be spotted and I know that this year, like other years, I will be waiting in vain. But I so look forward to the Hari Raya Puasa, not because I enjoy it that much, but because it marks the end of the fasting month. Finally, I can get back to gaining the 3kgs I have lost during the fasting month. It'll take me one year to gain that lost 3kgs, just in time to loose it to the next fasting month. I know fasting is good for my health. But sometimes, I don't mind being slightly unhealthy, just as so I could fit into my kebaya and not look like it's hanging on a hanger!!

Eid Mubarrako everyone!!! Selamat Hari Raya and Maaf zahir batin to all, except to the government for the blunders they refuse to admit....

Friday, 5 October 2007

Yepp......Kids Say The Darnest Things

I was doing sprint cleaning jiggling to Nat King Cole's, "your story seemed so touchy but it sounds just like a lie" when my eyes were feasted upon a book on the dusty shelve. It was written by none other than Bill Cosby titled," Kids say the darnest thing". I read it years ago, during the days when I was still trying to get my head together, AND my body had not yet fallen apart (unlike the present moment whereby it is versa more than vice) . Gosh..those were the days..

A degree, marriage and one kid later, I find that I now truly decipher what the story was all about. They do. Kids say the darnest things. I recall when my daughter was about 5 years old, she drew this huge snake on the wall from the beginning of a staircase, right up to the the end , in permanent marker mind you. Pissed, but always believe in asking politely why kid perform their pranks, just out of my curiousity, I asked her, " Sayang, why did you draw that snake on the wall. I bought you lots of drawing papers so that you can draw on them. You should not have done what you did. Now the wall is a dirty."
She looked at me and in all honesty answered, " Sorry Ummi. I thought you'd like my beautiful drawing of this snake. I wanted to draw the longest snake for you, but the paper is too small and the snake won't fit in it ."
I was, speechless before bursting in a fit of laughter. But of course I had to explain to her why a small snake will make mommy happier.

Her grandfather tripped over the toys she left on the floor one day and before he could turn around and scold her for leaving her toys recklessly around, hurriedly with widened pupils she instead scolded my father in law, "Dadu jaaan. You should really watch where you are going. See, now you fall down and wreck my toys !!". My father in law found it totally amusing and was awed by the speed of which my daughter could come up with self defence at age of 5..

Then there was this time when my sister narrated an incident whereby she had an argument with my daughter. I find it funny that a then 20ish year old lady would get into a squable with a 5 year old kid. My sister nagged, "You have manage to wreck every single thing you put your hands on. What else have you not wrecked so far, tell me!!!".
My daughter gave an odd expression, as though she was in deep thought and answered back,
"The TV?". My sister just found it difficult to stay angry for long.

Still, at the age of 5, I remember her conversation with the father, who happen to be a doctor who smoked. (No, he did not die of lung cancer, instead, of a car crash. And we are all terrified of dying from cancer when the probability of dying on the road is much higher)
Mira: "Abah. Do you know that smoking is harzardous to your health?"
Abah: "Yeees", the father dragged the affirmation while puffing off what looked like smoke that came out from a guilty mouth.
Mira: "Then why are you still smoking?"
Abah: "I will stop someday"
Mira: "Promise?"
Abah: " Promise. You know I never break my promise"
Mira: "Abah, 'never' is a strong word"
My hubby and I looked at each other wondering where at age 5 a kid gets all this bombastic phylosophy.

My nephew who was 3years old back then, use to play "enjit enjit semut siapa sakit naik atas" with the maid, but with a twist. The maid would say, "enjit enjit semut, siapa sakit....." and my nephew would resume, "siapa sakit pergi hospital"..and we would always laugh at this.

Then there was this time when she was awfully naughty and I just got real mad and told her, "I swear by God you can be insufferable at times. I can't take it lar!!!". She was then 9years old, a precocious puberty I'd call her then. She just snorted and said, "If you can't take it now ummi, I'm telling you, life is not going to be easy for you in the near future."

Even at 10, I refuse to allow her to go off with friends to shopping malls etc, or go to the nearest shop, no matter how much she begged me. I'm just a paranoid when it comes to safety, a trait passed down for generations to ensure longevity of life. My excuse for not letting her go would be, "you are not street smart. It's dangerous.". She'd answer back defiantly, "Ummi, how can I be street smart when you won't even let me go on the streets?", to which I kept silent as I was face with a deja vous of the story of "which comes first? The chicken or the eggs?"...I guess, that is why the word,"because I told you so" was invented by not so genius moms like me. The phrase is obsolete in usefulness currently.

And at the age of 10, she kept insisting that she was a "pre-teen" and was in a phase whereby she was beginning to be aware of her physical growth. She would get into trouble at school for contesting her Uztazah's (female religious teacher) statement "Pakai Quitex adalah haraaaaam" by asking the Ustazah,
"Cikgu, mana dia orang tau Quitex tu haram cikgu, sebab masa zaman nabi dulu, Quitex belum dicipta lagi cikgu?" ( Translation: "Teacher, how do you know that Quitex is banned ? It was not even invented during our prophet's time?)..I am sure she wasn't trying to be funny because she is the inquisitive type , but the Uztazah was not at all amused.

She would stay at her grandparents' place over the weekend sometimes. My mother is fond of keeping the curry or certain dishes overnight or a few days, because apparently these dishes taste better after some time. I remember buying some food from the stall one day and it looked quite foul. My daughter had one look at it and ask me,"how sure are you that this dish has gone bad?". Holding a responsibility of a mom means you sometimes have to come up with a brilliant answer at all times, unless dumbfounded, I told her, "well, when in doubt, don't eat".
Hitherto, I still cannot comprehend how fast her mind network works when she answered, "Greaaaat...that means I have to starve at Tok's place lah..."

Really. Kids can be more receptive at times. I remember travelling in an LRT with her and as we passed by Station Dang Wangi, she commented, "Malaysians can be really confused people sometimes ummi." Bewildered, I asked,"what do you mean?".
"Well," she answered half smirking,"How can you call "dung" wangi?". We just giggled away.

I enjoy having conversations with my daughter. She's 13 now but never fail to keep me entertained with her wittiness. We'd have a battle of wittiness when the mood is right and I can tell you one thing, I enjoy every minute of it. Really. Kids do say the darnest thing.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

My Way or The Highway.....

Here's how I drive. My driving policies are simple:

1. No signal no way.
You can drive the most posh car for all I care, but if your brain matter does not keep up with the glamorous car status, boleh blah, I won't give way. I'd rather give way to an old beaten car, but only if it complies to policy #3.

2. If you want to shift lane, you have to develope an impeccable timing of when to give the signal.
Giving the signal too early will give ample time for the car on the lane you are about to go into, to speed up to ensure you are not able to shift lane. It's a kind of National Sadism, Malaysian favorite past time, to inflict as much heartburn as possible to as many drivers as you can. Giving signal too late will earn you a middle finger thrown at your face and sometimes a jolly good honk.

3. If you want to give way to another car, make sure they are not rude, and not too polite either. The too polite drivers can sometimes be incompetent drivers too. Especially those bearing the sticker at the back of the car that reads,"Love all, be patient" or " To receive, one has to give".

They are not too polite actually, as you perceive, rather, too lembab and have no Malaysian driving skills. Oh yes, in KL, you don't need speed, you need driving skill and the ultimate knowlege of the cilok cilok alternative roads. ( The ones that sometimes cut through lanes with rumah urut berlesen and tanpa lesen around etc ). Next thing you need would be having the car you gave way to, drive slow in front of you and is a nervous "braker". He jams the brakes for no apparent reason, you'll begin to think he was giving way to the living dead that no other people except him can see.

4. Yellow light means, "Step on it, damn it!!"

5. Red light means,"Stop unless there is no car. Don't waste your time waiting for invisible man in his invisible car to pass by. Don't waste your brake pad oil". It's not like the oil price will ever come down. The only thing that could stay down in this present moment in our beloved country would be a man's you-know-what, when he can no longer afford the newly priced viagra.

This is not applicable however, when there are other cars around just so no one gets the same idea and we meet in the middle with a bang bigger than when the universe was created. Oh that and when there is no camera. You are a criminal only when you get caught. So when Bart Simpsons say it in one breath,"I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it, can't prove anything", he is brilliant.....
This however, is not applicable to some cronies in Malaysia. I mean, if a political analyst have got the power to order policemen to blast a soul, and make immigration records dissappear, imagine what the people he analyze can actually do.

6. Green means, "Go, but with caution, as you'll never know which numb head may be color blind and has a 'kopi O licence', then drive in front of you regardless."

7. Give way. Treat the jerks on the road as if they are little kids with little brains or a handicap, which is half truth because most likely they are mentally challenged anyway.

My theory about malaysian drivers? Everyone is insane unless proven otherwise.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Bangkok 2007

Thailand trip log
Day 1: arrival Radison hotel
Huge airport (Suvarnabumi) with familiar architecture, Mr Kisho’s handiwork. I think.
Far busier than KLIA but that can be deceptive because I have seen KLIA as busy although only at speciic times.
Gorgeous hotel hostesses greeted our arrival at Radison hotel. Walking tourist information offices. I think its because they spoke English, other staff did not.
Large mosque by the expressway.
Signs of their reverance for their kind was everywhere. I wondered if this had anything to do with there being only one kind for the whole country. In Malaysia, we have several kings taking turns being the Agong.
Day 2: Assumption University, Bangkok.
The conference hall was held in what was basically a church although it was called a conference center.
It became obvious that the Thais were preocupied by the philosophy of self-sustainability.
I was astounded by the reverence and devotion the Thais have for their monarch. The last time I visited Bangkok I saw this too but this time it seems almost overpowering. Later this day I learnt that there are celebrating the King’s 80th birthday and his 50th year on the throne thus making him the longest reinging monarch in the world. the Thais were very proud of this. A uidebook told me that the Thais regard their King like a god but that description does not do justice to the practice we see here. It does not feel like religious devotion, more like nationalism but more extreme.
I also learnt that Bangkok or Krung thep as it is known by the local has the longest place namein the world – acknowledge by the Guinness book of world records. The full name of Bangkok is “Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit”. And if we translate this into English, we get, “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated God, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn”. They have a song that they use to teach the name. Very grand, I think, especially when you consider Kuala Lumpur simply means ‘muddy estuary’.
At the conference, I learnt that the sustainability idea that kept cropping up in the Thai participants’ papers is actually the philosophy of sufficiency economy which was introduce by the monarch 30 years ago and has been used as a central idea for development since.
8 August 2007: Holiday Inn, Bangkok.
Moved to Holiday Inn, Bangkok today to get nearer to the city.
Tonight, I was ast the Patpong night market. It’s a night market much like any makeshift market you’ll find all over Asia but this one is lined by girlie bars where young ladies, and ladies made-up to look younger, dance around poles on stages and bar tops in skimpy bikinis. Their bored sway and blank faces are such a turn off. I wondered what these Mat Sallehs (Westerners) are so turned on about. A legacy of the Vietnam war’s GI rest and recreation break, this place still thrives.
I saw some of the se Mat Sallehs and non-Mat Sallehs with their rented ladies making their way back to their hotel rooms and wondered why anyone would pay to have sex with some of these women they were bringing back. More importantly, I am certain that alcohol had something to do with their ability to get an erection. Perhaps alcohol would also be necessary when morning comes and they wake up to find these women next to them in bed. Perhaps, I am being too pessimistic.
Then again, there were also some very comely ones, but not that many. I saw one gorgeous young lady in neon green bikini and high heels, I think she came out of the bar to buy a pack of cigarettes.
The whole bar and whore scene was really most beneficial to the alcohol industry, I guess. The real victims being the women who get fucked for a miniscular amount of money, but that too is relative perhaps.
At the Patpong market I bought some souvenirs for various people. At one stall I took a liking for a copy of a Montblanc ballpoint pen. The lady wanted 800 bath for it. I didn’t like the price so I offered 500 bath. After a few minutes of haggling, I decided to walk away. She stopped me and said, “ok, ok 300 bath”. I was surprised because it was 200 bath cheaper than I was offering, so I bought the pen without any arguments.
9 August 2007.
Took a boat ride on the Chao Phraya and visited Wat Arun – a temple. When I woke up this morning I thought of last night’s trip to Pat Pong and I remembered an 80s song by Alphaville, it goes “One night in Bangkok makes the hard man humble, notmuch between despair and ecstasy, I can feel the devil walking next to me”. The devils in this case were the touts harassing me with plastic files with pictures and posters trying to entice me to shows where they had tiger shows and god knows what else.
My group went to Jatucak: place with a market, a couple of malls and a bazaar area cramped closely together. Our tour guide told us that hisplace was huge and cautioned us to careful not to get lost. When I saw the place, I guessed that he had never been to Midvalley KL. Mr Ahmad, the tour guide, however, did accurately descibe the palce as selling cheap goods or unpredictable quality.
I noticed that here too they had an elaborate shrine outside the shopping complex. These are not devoted to Buddha however, instead this the one in Jatucak, as were many others I saw, was devoted to different dieties including a many limbed one. I was reminded of a Sufi story about King Solomon meeting a scorpion. The Prophet – King asked the scorpion what God was like and the scorpion said, “We have one sting; God has two”.
I bought some souvenirs. I noticed that there were Muslim traders almost everywhere in Bangkok as long as you looked for them. As I walked among the food hawkers in front of the Jatucak Mall, I saw a Muslim trader’s stall selling noodles in soup. For a moment, I was tempted to try but across the path, a few feew away from the Muslim trader was a stall selling pork sausages. I thought, I’d wait for a while longer because I was told that we were going to for Arabic food later.
We had dinner at the Nana district in the Sukhimvit area. It’s a place where Arabic, Indian and Muslim from all over live, trade and congregate. Admittedly the food was nice but not so nice. I would certainly look fo this place again if I come to Bangkok again.
11 August 2007.
My Montblanc pen ran out of ink, expectedly, today. After a few attempts at looking for a montblanc refill, I discovered that it takes a standard parker pen refill.
The last day was relaxing. I walked around centrral Bangkok taking pictures of shrines and people. Ronald MacDonald was ‘wai’ing (traditional Thai greeting pose) instead of waving.
Our flight was at around 8 pm. As we were walking around the sprawling Suvarnabumi airport, I thought I saw Tengku Nazrin of Perak with a few official looking people but I could not be certain because when I got to where he was, he was gone. I think he had just exited the prayer room.
It rained quite heavily but the rain died nown a little when we took off. God, how I hate flying in the rain.
Thankfully, I got back in one piece.
I took some photos when I was there. If you are interested in seeing the photos, please visit my photobucket page. I'll add the URL later.