As I grew older, it took me some time to adjust to society because I found out the hard way that, "Call you back soon" does not mean you should wait for that call, because "soon" can be a relative term, ranging from 1 month to 1 year or perhaps even never. Another famous quote that used to get me was, "I'll get back to you on that one". Trust me, don't loose sleep waiting for them to get back to you, with whatever it was they were supposed to get back with. Soon enough, I learned the language of the world, something totally different than the language of expletives, (which I find quite straightforward and easy to contemplate), whereby people create a set of soothing words to calm you down and make you wait while they procrastinate whatever it is they are suppose to do, leaving you out in the cold, waiting for that person to "get back to you".
Don't let me start on relationships. Sometimes a simple "date" can be a mind field. A friend of mine called me almost every other day, asking for my opinion on, "I'll see you later? It's been 3 weeks, you think he will call?". Gawd...how can one gently break the heart of a friend who doesn't seem to understand that "later" in the cold cruel dating world could mean "bye, see you sometime".
A simple question; if people say one thing, then turn around and do another, then what is the point of language as a mode of communication. We might as well do without the language, concentrate on how to read minds instead.
One of Obama's quote which gave me the goosebumps, that he gave when the world turned to him for the reaction of North Korea's nuclear missile launch a couple of months ago;
He said, "Words must mean something".
Children however, are the ultimate truth-teller. They will tell the truth and sometimes, the truth can be pretty embarrassing. I remember the agony of embarrassment I felt when my daughter, aged 4 then, upon opening the Ang Pow Raya envelope, given by one of her distant uncle, only to discover one ringgit notes in one pair, expressed her disappointment in a tone not that loud, but loud enough for the uncle to catch, "Biru je?". I learned the hard way to teach my kid how and when to omit the truth. Obviously the next lesson taught was "Gratitude". Sigh, try explaining a 4 year old kid about "gratitude".
When I first met my buddy from Uni years, Ronnie (for those who know Ronnie, you’ll understand this better..heh..heh..), he used to get it from me every time he either not tell the truth (he insisted that it was the art of omitting the truth, I just called it a simple lie. We seem to not agree on the definition of “the truth”), or when he broke his promises. Ronie have this habit of “Not being able to say ‘NO’”, because he thinks that it makes him a cruel person when he say “NO” to others who ask him for favours etc. Irritated one day, with yet the second broken promise, I told him that sometimes, saying “NO” is less cruel than making promises, raising other’s hope and then not keeping them.
“Next time, if you don’t want to go, even for selfish reasons like just don’t feel like going, just say so. I will appreciate the truth more than I do, the wild goose chase”, I lashed at him once. Having these two things, “telling the truth” and “keeping promises” out in the open and out of the way, we became the bestest of buddies since thereon.
Surah Naba verse 37 - 40 stresses the importance of telling the truth;
رَبِّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا الرحْمَنِ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْهُ خِطَابًا . يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الرُّوحُ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ صَفًّا لَّا يَتَكَلَّمُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرحْمَنُ وَقَالَ صَوَابًا
(37) [A reward] from the Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them; the most Gracious – there is no one who has the authority to speak on His behalf. (38) On the Day when Gabriel and the angels will stand arrayed [before Him]. [The Day] when only they will speak whom the most Gracious allows and who speak the truth"In Al Hujraat verse 6, God tells us to verify the truth in the information, before passing it on;
ا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَأٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَى مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ
" O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and after wards become full of repentance for what ye have done."
I reminisce the time back in Uni when the "Islamic" movement was ignited, a group of ladies, who were sponsored by tax payers in a form of scholarships, and were suppose to study instead of going around knocking door to door to "save the soul of the other sisters", came by to my room. They preached to me a religion I newly discovered to be "the real Islam", because all this while, I thought I was embracing Islam, you know, the progressive one. The "reform Islam" that they spread, contain a lot of "This haram, that cannot". Basically, Islam just came down to one word, "prohibited" instead of it's actual meaning, "peaceful". I remember my favourite quote was this surah; (actually this was taught to me by my cousin who's father was the Mufti. I asked her how to get rid of those door to door preachers and she gave me this Ayat) which I gladly used against them;
Surah An Nahl;
وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَـذَا حَلاَلٌ وَهَـذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُواْ عَلَى اللّهِ الْكَذِبَ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللّهِ الْكَذِبَ لاَ يُفْلِحُونَ
"But say not - for any false thing that your tongues may put forth,- "This is lawful, and this is forbidden," so as to ascribe false things to Allah. For those who ascribe false things to Allah, will never prosper."
Funny how simple Quranic verses kept them away for good. Well, it was either that, or because they were embarrassed with the way I dressed for them, I especially wore the shortest of my shorts and my t-shirt "se-teng" (that's half of the word 'setengah') and sleeveless, not to mention very transparent. In the "Islamic" standard, basically I looked as good as a whore.
As for keeping one's promise, the Quran, in the Surah Al Maidah verse 1 states:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَوْفُواْ بِالْعُقُودِ أُحِلَّتْ لَكُم بَهِيمَةُ الأَنْعَامِ إِلاَّ مَا يُتْلَى عَلَيْكُمْ غَيْرَ مُحِلِّي الصَّيْدِ وَأَنتُمْ حُرُمٌ إِنَّ اللّهَ يَحْكُمُ مَا يُرِي
"O you who believe! Fulfill the obligations. The cattle quadrupeds are allowed to you except that which is recited to you, not violating the prohibition against game when you are entering upon the performance of the pilgrimage; surely Allah orders what He desires."
And again,the importance of keeping one's promise can be found in Surah Maryam verse 54;
وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِسْمَاعِيلَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صَادِقَ الْوَعْدِ وَكَانَ رَسُولًا نَّبِيًّا
"Also mention in the Book (the story of) Isma'il: He was (strictly) true to what he promised, and he was a messenger (and) a prophet".
And again, in Surah Al Maidah verse 1; God said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَوْفُواْ بِالْعُقُودِ أُحِلَّتْ لَكُم بَهِيمَةُ الأَنْعَامِ إِلاَّ مَا يُتْلَى عَلَيْكُمْ غَيْرَ مُحِلِّي الصَّيْدِ وَأَنتُمْ حُرُمٌ إِنَّ اللّهَ يَحْكُمُ مَا يُرِيدُ
" O ye who believe! Fulfill (all) obligations. Lawful unto you (for food) are all four-footed animals, with the exceptions named: But animals of the chase are forbidden while ye are in the sacred precincts or in pilgrim garb: for Allah doth command according to His will and plan."
and also in Al Isra' verse 34;
وَلاَ تَقْرَبُواْ مَالَ الْيَتِيمِ إِلاَّ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ حَتَّى يَبْلُغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَأَوْفُواْ بِالْعَهْدِ إِنَّ الْعَهْدَ كَانَ مَسْؤُولا
"Come not near the wealth of the orphan save with that which is better till he come to strength; and keep the covenant. Lo! of the covenant it will be asked."
We’ve come a long way since then, Ronie and I. He would call me from a train, on the way back to KL from Perlis, panic stricken, asking me to attend to his wife who had her water bag just broken, and I'm not talking about the tebu water in the plastic bag by the way. (Ronie have rotten timing, but he is responsible in his own ways). Then, there were emergency moment, for example, when I had to call him at 2am in the morning as I had no one to accompany me to rescue my parents when their car broke down in the middle of the jungle in Pahang, and he would come along. A few narrow minded people used to ask me, even from during the student days “How come both of you did not end up together?”. Sigh…these people will not understand the word "platonic friendship” even if you explain to them. This happens when one fails to appreciate the opposite sex beyond the gender.
“Friendship is far more tragic than love, it lasts longer” -Oscar Wilde-
Those who decipher the word “friendship”, will find themselves never to be lonely, even when they are alone. Then again, in this age of communication technology, people who you don't want to hear from won’t leave you alone. That is why sometimes I do not bring my hand phone while going for nature walk. I may have a many acquaintances, (well, that’s to do with having aged, can’t help it), but I have very few die hard friends whom I cherish. Trust me, they’re priceless.
(More stories about friendship, truthfulness, sincerity when you click on the rabbit hole below)
Plunging back into memory lane, I remember the day when Dee and Fida came to borrow money from me. Actually, Dee approached Fida first, and when they found out both were broke, they came to me. They do not know, that I'm one of those people who'd even when I have 5cents in my pocket, and it won't show.
“Eh, you china woman also can become broke ah?” I teased Dee and she took the bait and answered, “not subsidized lor.. what to do…”.
When all three of us realized, for some reason, that we all had ran out of money, and bitching about the NEP on empty stomachs were not going to get us anywhere, we sat in the common room, scratching our heads. Then one came up with a brilliant idea. (when one is starving, even a rotten idea sounds brilliant).
“Let’s all go back to our rooms, and korek our jeans pockets, and hunt for all the loose change lying in our rooms and then we meet at Pano’s room”. (that’s me, the proper way to pronounce my name is 'Pano' and not 'Pah Nur'…and I hate people calling me “Pah” because it sounds like and exhausted diarrhea)
So, we all went back to our own rooms at the hostel. I stayed in Kamsis Rahim Kajai, due to my active involvement in sports (Kamsis F, is just by the huge Padang Sukan), Dee and Fida lodged in Kamsis B (an all ladies hostel whereby the Women Islamic movement was active in trying to wrap all the Muslim women up. They don’t stop until they are satisfied that everyone else came out looking like them – sack of potatoes). Korek punya korek, we managed to accumulate RM1.55.
So armed with RM1.55, and a high spirit of knowing there is still hope for not starving to death that afternoon, we headed on to the cafeteria. We managed to purchase a large loaf of bread, and Fida put a lot of gravy in the plastic bag to hide some small pieces of meat, which she did not declare at the payment counter letting the cashier assume that it was only the gravy.
I, known as the ‘religious’ one amongst the three, justified the act as, “We’re pinching the meat to avoid hunger. If God don’t forgive us now, never mind, we repent later”. We did not starve that afternoon, and Fida’s money came just after tea time to save us from committing another crime. We did went back to the cafeteria to pay for the meat, but the Mak Cik just smiled and told us,"Mak Cik halalkan. Lain kali, kalau sesak tak de duit, jumpa makcik. Mak cik tolong tolong". Mak Cik Hasnah, I can never forget her name and face.
Until today, I will look back to the times when we wade the storm together, through thick and thin. We all had our problems, but somehow rather, having sincere and trustworhty friends to share it with, you feel slightly relieved that you have the people who love you, stand by your side. Suddenly the huge problem don't seem that humongous anymore. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling every time I look back at those crazy moments.
In Surah Al Mumtahina; verse 7; God said:
عَسَى اللَّهُ أَن يَجْعَلَ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ عَادَيْتُم مِّنْهُم مَّوَدَّةً وَاللَّهُ قَدِيرٌ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
"It may be that Allah will grant love (and friendship) between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies. For Allah has power (over all things); And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."
Of course, the ultimate friendship would be that with God. This is mentioned in the Quran
وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُعْجِزِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا نَصِيرٍ
"Ye cannot escape in the earth, for beside Allah ye have no protecting friend nor any helper".
Well, I always believe that help comes from God, in a form of His subjects, approaching to help. There are always good decent people out there who sometimes may surprise you by offering a helping hand. And there will never be a moment in your life when people do not befriend you because they have ulterior motive set aside, and they'd be so nice and sweet in order to win your friendship. While some may approach you with sincerity, there are others, who have agendas of their own. Sigh...friends; some are genuine, some, not so genuine...
God warn His subjects on the lack of sincerity of some people, such in Surah Mumjadila verse 14 - 15
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ تَوَلَّوْا قَوْمًا غَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مَّا هُم مِّنكُمْ وَلَا مِنْهُمْ وَيَحْلِفُونَ عَلَى الْكَذِبِ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ
"Hast thou not seen those who take for friends a folk with whom Allah is wroth? They are neither of you nor of them, and they swear a false oath knowingly. Allah hath prepared for them a dreadful doom. Evil indeed is that which they are wont to do."
In the Surah Az Zumar, verse 3, God favors sincere devotion;
أَلَا لِلَّهِ الدِّينُ الْخَالِصُ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِهِ أَوْلِيَاء مَا نَعْبُدُهُمْ إِلَّا لِيُقَرِّبُونَا إِلَى اللَّهِ زُلْفَى إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ فِي مَا هُمْ فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ كَاذِبٌ كَفَّارٌ
"Is it not to Allah that sincere devotion is due? But those who take for protectors other than Allah (say): "We only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah." Truly Allah will judge between them in that wherein they differ. But Allah guides not such as are false and ungrateful."
and again, in the Surah Al Bayyina Verse 5;
وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ حُنَفَاء وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَذَلِكَ دِينُ الْقَيِّمَةِ
"And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight."
In surah Al Ankabut, verse 2-3; Allah tests His subjects to prove their sincerity.
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ
"Do men imagine that they will be left (at ease) because they say, We believe, and will not be tested with affliction? Lo! We tested those who were before you. Thus Allah knoweth those who are sincere, and knoweth those who feign."
I've been around long enough to know that true friends are hard to come by. Sometimes I think that the poor have more true friends that the rich. I've seen poverty and what it can do to people. I've seen how the poor, despite their own problems in poverty, had somehow managed the effort to help each other. It's something one cannot decipher just by reading this. It's something one has to experience.
There were times in my life when I was faced with heartbreak, and sorrow. I came out of it, stronger, and along the way, I managed to find true friends. So, to all my true friends out there, you know who you are.....Just in case I have failed to let you know, I love you with all my heart and I'm grateful that through twist of fate, that we fell into encounter. Thank you for being there for me, you know I will be there for you. And may God bless us all with the longevity of that beautiful relationship. Amin.
I leave you with my favorite song, "Honesty" by Billy Joel. He should have come up with many other virtues that can qualify as a "lonely word"...
( The rabbit hole ends here )
...Click here to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes.....