Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A True Story?

Somebody left this in my in-box and I thought I would share it as I believe, it coming through the net, it is in public domain and would not require permission to reproduce. It is verbatim with minor presentation rearrangement. Happy reading....

A True Story.  

The details of the 11th March 2011 will forever be fondly cherished in my mind's memory book. It was to witness a most uplifting experience which can only be beaten i think by my first trip to see the Holy Ka'ba at 16 which was pretty awesome! And sorry to sound so boringly cliche but the day really did start off as a normal cold morning in North London with nothing to look forward to besides the Friday sermon, but it very quickly turned into a series of divinely orchestrated happenings that nobody could so perfectly arrange except the Lord of that day.   

Having only recently returned (much against my will mind you!) from Saudi Arabia, I found myself in North London at a sleepover at my Gran's house which has never lost it's enjoyability since chidhood! My Grandmother ever full of life and I often playfully race each other to see who will be the first one to wake the house up for fajr, although she beat me that day i do usually win of course, (yeah right!). I wake up and carefully make my way downstairs in the dark to turn on the hot water so my gran is spared the hardship of a cold fajr ablution, I hear her whispering from the top of the stairs, "Son, the hot water isn't working," much to our aggravation. The boiler man was supposed to have fixed it already! No point crying over spilled milk, we brave the cold water, pray Fajr and jumped back in our warm cosy beds rescued from the biting cold.

Now I usually leave my house straight after fajr to head to my university library, but that day the bed seemed to be so much more welcoming! I snuck up next to my gran in her room the way I've always done since 10 and im not ahsmed to admit it! Doesn't take a genius to work out it wasn't long before I knocked out!    Before I knew it it was 11.10am, oh my God i was late, this is the first time I had gone to sleep after Fajr in months, i was very upset and disappointed, yet trying to convince myself it was the cold's fault! Tut tut! Grumpy I was as I left the house with my whitest dressing and newly bought muslim hat.

I got on the 29 bendy bus which, as usual, was packed out like a tin of sardines!. However, I was fortunate enough to fight my way to a seat to open my Quran and read surah Kahf on my way to Jummah prayer as is recommended. A couple of stops further I noticed a very old and fragile woman get on the crowded bus with enough shopping and bags to cause a nuisance to many who mercilessly barged her side to side! My heart warmed to her and I called her over from the other side to sit down and offered her my seat and that's where it all started. She returned my gesture with such gratitude that I don't recall receiving from anybody before, she definitely left an impression on me as she struggled to mount herself on the seat.  

"Thank you very very much" she finally said whilst seeming out of breath from climbing the chair "That's very kind of you to get up for me," she added in a very soft just about audible Italian accent. 

"My pleasure, you are like a mother to me and your right is far greater than I have put forward," I politely replied.  A courteous gesture which in the Arabic language would have been quite standard?? Yet it seemed to resonate quite deeply with her, she stared at me while her smile grew wider and wider, complimenting the blush on her face!

Wow I thought, I mean apart from how cute this old woman looked, being away for some time I started to realise the chasm between how our senior citizens are treated in the Arab world and how they are treated or mistreated  should I say back home in our London streets? Definitely food for thought and a social responsibility that needs to be urgently flagged. It's quite a woeful state and offensively shocking I think that one in five pensioners in our country as rich as it is officially live below the poverty line.   

"What's that you are reading in your hand?" she asked me. "Is it the qur'an?" she said as she smiled beating me to the answer.

"Yes!" I jumped, overwhelmed, marveling over this woman. My sympathy quickly turned into admiration and awe. She had caught my attention. She just had something about her, I couldn't put my thumb on it?

"I have always wanted to read the qur'an" she added. The passenger next to her got up to leave the bus for her stop, I rushed to fill it and learn more about this woman.

"This book is from God to raise man's conscience and guide him towards that which will allow him to prosper," i said excitedly in a trained evangelical tone.

"Yes I have come across many Muslims in my life, they are very nice and courteous people to me," she said

"That's very kind of you to say that," I replied. A barrage of questions flooded into my mind, but she seemed to tell her own story quite well to my attentive ear so I preferred to listen more than speak for now.

"Did you see the news today," she said in shock... "what happened in Japan, the earthquakes and tsunami?! it's just terrible. God is fed up of us," she remarked,  "we have made a mess of everything," she added. 

I had assumed she was Roman Catholic given her Italian background which she later revealed in our conversation.  The lady went on to quite a lengthy analysis of massive social and moral degradation. I was thoroughly enjoying our conversation, I felt like I was talking to a friend, she met my inquisitve questions with deep insight. It was clear she had seen a lot in her life.

"I am 81 years old," she smiled. I almost dropped my jaw. This woman was older than my Gran and had lived longer than most could even dream of living.  

"What do you do?" I asked.

"I own a book shop" she replied which explained quite a bit since she seemed quite well-read and with-it up there.  "The catholic church have lost it," she randomly added bringing the conversation back to religion, "only the Muslims have really held on to their teachings and values," she added.

My heart began audibly pounding now, could it be that Allah will save this woman hours before her appointment was the thought running through my head? Dawah Dawah Dawah I told myself! We continued to sing Islam's praises. One thing I can say in hindsight is that she definitely seemed impressed and almost moved throughout the conversation of the Muslims' general will to be convinced by God's law within an unforgiving culture of anti-God.   

"I am so happy that I've met you" she randomly said touching her chest as her eyes slowly welled up. Strange I thought, but i could see sincerity all over the face of this woman? A truly bizarre meeting and by this stage the whole bus was fixed on our story as it slowly seemed to be climaxing.

My bus stop was fast approaching, I quickly tried to turn the topic of conversation to what really mattered, Allah (praised and exalted be He), or at least regurgitate anything I could recall from my meager understanding of Aqeedah classes.

"Islam is a beautiful religion," I preached, "it hasn't left anything out for the guidance of man, the most important of them is His (God's) service and worship and to get to know Him. He created us and was too compassionate to leave us without a messenger to guide us to a straight path. Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him). Everything between the Heavens and Earth celebrate His praises and He has no partners."

I noticed her leaning more and more towards me. Her shoulders now pressed against mine as she struggled to hear. I continued.

"I am so happy I am so happy," she exclaimed in her very soft tone with highly emotional break ups in her voice. "In this world, the believer is travelling to his Lord until he reaches Him, those who do not know the path to their Lord and nor do they strive to know it are truly in loss."

By this time I was praying in my heart that Allah guides this woman, she certainly seemed sincere   The water in her eyes slowly amassed while I described Allah to her until one stream managed to escape and run down her cheek.

She interrupted me as she reached for my hand, "you know I was in a coma when I was 79, I am lucky to be alive the doctors tell me, I am so happy that I've met you, God has saved me for a moment like this, oh how I'd love to read the quran, can you get one for me please, I'll give you the money?!" She reached for her bag.

"No no of course not, I will not accept, it's honestly my pleasure, how many of your likes will I get to meet again in my life," I courteously said.

She smiled and was deeply touched, I quickly learnt that she was not used to being spoken to so politely. 

"Let me give you my address," she said as she wrote it down. "Here, please send it to this address,"

"Sure," I replied, "I will drop it off personally."

"Oh, but do get me a large print," she requested, "my eyesight isn't what it used to be you see." She put the pen back in her bag and smiled as though she had been reunited with a long lost friend.

I was sitting there rattling my brains about this woman, I mean she is very old, what happens if she dies before I get to her with the Quran? What if she dies before saying the shahaadah?!

She interrupts my thinking and enquires "so where is the nearest mosque son, I know there's a very big one in Regents Park, no?"

I'm still not sure what her exact intent was behind that question but this was my chance and I'd never forgive myself if I don't take it. My mind told me that she wants to take her shahadah, but thinks the conversion process is like christianity and you must be baptised and what not! I went for it.. 

"No ma'm," I replied. "You can meet God as a Muslim merely by an utterance of the tongue, a testimony that He is one." Her face lit up as she implicitly ushered me to keep going.. "Repeat after me," I said "Ash-hadu....", "Ash-hadu"..... all the way to the end.

Slowly we completed the testimony of faith in Arabic and began to pronounce it in English. She struggled but showed determination to even pronounce every letter. And given that she was from a catholic background, pertinent to add to the shahaadah was that 'Jesus is the prophet of God and that God is above having any offspring". 

Oh no, she didn't repeat after me, she paused and withdrew her closeness to me. I was heartbroken, I really wanted her to say it, it anti-climaxed, she paused, struggled to speak.

"What a beautiful thing to say," she said much to my relief! Her voice emotionally breaks up again. She gathered her strength, "yes, yes, Jesus is the prophet of God, you know I have felt like that my whole life and didn't know where to turn I'm so happy," she began wiping her eyes now.

I fought back my own tears as my hairs started to stand on end. I promised that I'd send her the Qur'an. 

"Please write that down for me," she said "that testimony we just said, it's so beautiful," she added.

I happily obliged.

"And also please, I have a son, he's not Muslim, please can you speak to him, he's 45 years old," she pleaded.

 I was speechless and in awe of this woman's story that I could only nod my head in silence and say "of course." 

She smiled an unforgettable smile. "My name is Filomena," she said.

I smiled at her, "and my name is Ismail"  

My stop had approached, I pressed the bell, heaved my heavy bag onto my back, gave a polite smile and briskly walked to pray Jummah prayer pinching my friends, I was to meet my friends and share with them the amazing story of this women who Allah had saved from the Hellfire moments before her appointment. I only hope that I get the Qur'an to her in time...


MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Mother 3 - The Old Malaya Days Cont'd

Sometime in 1957, we moved from the small government quarters to a bigger one not too far away from the old house. This new house has four bedrooms, two bath, kitchen and dining hall with a reasonably large lounge area. It was just as well as there were then six of us kids and the old house was a wee bit too small for all of us to mess up, ha ha. we had a lot of space in this new house, as it came with a large compound. We planted some fruit trees around the house and Mum, although busy in her political activists activities, could find time to plant vegetables at the back of the house. It was all of us, siblings, that had to look after the plants, watering them and tending to them. Later, four more siblings, two boys and two girls, came to join us in messing up the house. There were four of us boys and six girls altogether.

I was already in my lower secondary school, the English College, now known as Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, when we moved into this new house. I walked to school daily and it would take me more than half an hour to reach school. I attended the religious school, Sekolah Agama Ayer Molek, in the afternoon. Afternoon school session were from 3pm to 5pm. Sometimes I have to rush to English College for sports, games and extra-curricular activities in the evenings. I indulged in most of the outdoor field games and did a lot of jogging, while indoor I participated in the debating and literary society.

Mum and Dad were always busy with their own activities and away from home often. When at home they will also be busy with their paperwork while we kids have to be 'busy' with our school work. There was no TV at that time and the radio/gramophone set was where we got local news, at specific news times, and also local entertainment programmes. The 45rpm and 33.33 rpm extended play records were our additional source of music. I vaguely remember our first set of manual gramophone. One had to wind the player up before setting the needle on the turning record to get the music to come on. One wind up would be good for one song. For other entertainment we were left with our own devices. TV was introduced in late 1963 early 1964 and in black and white. I was already in college then and away in Kuala Lumpur.

Mum, apart from being the treasurer of the Women's wing of the ruling political party, was also involved with another body, the WI or Womens' Institute, and together with some friends formed a cooperative which she headed for many years. She stepped down from running the cooperative a couple of years before she turned 90. At the same time she and several other friends started a kindergarten, which is still operating until today. Some of the early students of the kindergarten are now parents! Mum stood for the local council general elections sometime in 1958 on her own political party ticket and was opposed by a candidate from the labour party. I remember following her on her campaign trail into the villages and even some remote areas that was part of the constituency
she was to represent. We went house to house, meeting the occupants with Mum introducing herself as the candidate and the promises of what she can deliver when elected, bla bla bla........ She won the election but she stayed for only one term.

Mum also tried her hands at food business. She bid and won a contract to run a school canteen and she operated it for a couple of years. I think she stopped when she could not get good helpers to run the operation and also that the canteen was taking her away from her political activities. Basically, she is a politician first, a community activist second and business woman last. Following her closely had taught me a lot of life-lessons. The first issue I realised then was that life can be tough when you have to juggle between your various levels of responsibilities but it is how you manage your time in carrying out your responsibilities is key to achieving a good balance. Then what was tough becomes easy. Time management therefore is one criteria for life skills. There are many more life skills that I learned from Mum and Dad. I will share them here as I go on in my coming postings. May Allah be pleased......

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mother 2 - Old Malaya Days

As I mentioned in my last posting, Malaya of the late forties and early fifties was under the British rule after the Japanese were defeated in the second world war. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war. All state and federal administrative functions were British and the Brits held the various Managerial positions, with each Sultan having a British Adviser, who not only advise but also mostly run and rule the state. The way things were handled then did not go well with the people and they formed factions to fight the British rule, the most militant of which was the Communists, who went underground. Then there were the clandestine Communist sympathizers providing them assistance as and when feasible, to counter any effort by the British to rehabilitate the country in the aftermath of the war. 

As a young boy, pre-school and primary school years, I grew up in the above era. There were curfew hours, when all have to stay indoors; there were restricted movements with inter-town travels only allowed with police escorts; and there were food rationing. If Mum and Dad wants to return to Muar from Johor Bahru, of course with me and my sisters in tow, we have to schedule our trips according to the police escort hours. If one dares to travel on their own without the escort, one runs the risk of being ambushed by the Communists or worse still, one may be marked as a Sympathizer!

We lived in a government house located very close to the main entrance to the British Advisers residence in Johor Bahru. This residence is in a fenced up, sprawling area of perhaps 50 acres in size, with a very large double story bungalow, with several servant quarters attached to it at the back. Its guarded around the clock but as a child I was free to roam the grounds and used to play there often. It has four tennis courts, a lawn bowling pitch and garages for several cars. I used to watch the Mat Sallehs (that's how we called the Brits) playing tennis and/or bowling; men in their white shirt and shorts and ladies in white skirts or gowns. I became friendly with the servants working in the house. In fact, they were all friendly with us and with Mum and Dad. (Mum and Dad are by nature friendly with everybody, irrespective of colour, creed and social standings. They were as friendly to the servants of the BA Residence as they were to the Adviser himself and this nature of theirs hold true with other members of the society we live in). The servants would often drop by our house for chats, tea and biscuits (some they bring from the 'big house') but I suspect they were 'informers' to Dad and maybe Mum as well on the BA's activities etc. Mum and Dad were with the activist movement then and any inside information of the British would be useful. Me, I enjoyed the scones, the branded British biscuits, chocolates, etc. that they bring along. I get these whenever I go into the residence as well. I even had meals there sometimes. The BA then was a bachelor, so no lady of the house to fuss over things and no children of his running around.

Mum and Dad meanwhile were active with the newly formed political party then which was fighting for the peoples' rights to self rule. They had the British to contend with on one hand and the Communists on the other. History had it that we gained independence and D day was 31st August 1957. However, all these gains were not without problems. The insurgents created a lot of havoc around the country. They continued to thwart attempts made to peaceful transitions from the British to local self rule, with the Sultans as Head of state.  The Communists would continue to attack government installations, police stations, housing communities, and even ambushed fleet of cars travelling along lonely interstate and inter town roads. The activists, Mum and Dad included, continued their fight to gain freedom from the British meanwhile. The first legislative elections were held in 1954 with a resounding victory by the ruling party that remained in power until today, winning elections after elections every four to five years. Mum stood in one of the elections and won. I remember having to assist the campaign helpers when Mum stood for elections and learnt a lot of the struggles the elders went through.

After gaining independence, there was the initiative to form Malaysia, which was to include Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and Singapore with Peninsular Malaya. However history showed that Brunei declined to join in and Singapore pulled out after a short while. Sarawak and Sabah were indecisive. A fact finding mission was held to gauge the peoples' response to the proposal and it was headed by one Lord Cobbolt from the British East Asia London Office. Mum was one of those engaged in the mission, which was called the Cobbolt Commission. The result of the mission was a very positive yes and so Malaysia was formed with Sarawak and Sabah. I remember Mum, after returning from the mission, was treated somewhat a celebrity in the eyes of the local.  She remained as popular from then until her last days. The elders remember her very well.

Mum and Dad continued sacrificing their time and energy to the political party, with both of them holding positions in the governing body, and leading committees and sub-committees. Mum had been the Treasurer of the Women's wing for many years and Dad was the Head of the youth movement from his younger days until he no more can call himself 'youth' and that was at an age of 45, I think. At the same time he was the permanent Chairman of the movement for many many years. Both of them got voted in, year in and year out repeatedly. Not that there were no other contenders for the positions during election of office bearers, but I guess their popularity and performance when in office speaks volumes of their having been voted in again and again. This involvement by them took them away from home very very often. Many times I followed them to the politicl party headquarters and in the process learnt quite a few things about life, rights and freedoms. I was in my formative growing up years, and I think it was destined right timing for me. May the Almighty be pleased with Mum's and Dad's efforts and I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to experience what I had gone through. I am what I am today as a result of growing up in those difficult years.

Everyone were excited when news came that the late Tungku Abdul Rahman Putra, the first Prime Minister and his loyalist team members, managed to convince the British to give independence and allow self rule to Malaya. They landed in Malacca, now Melaka, on their return from the mission and were duly accorded the grand welcome they deserved. Everyone then waited for the proclamation of independence at midnight of 31st August 1957. The shouts of 'Merdeka' reverberated through the nation called by the late First Prime Minister, while the British flag was lowered and the new Malaysian flag raised in all glory. Thus began our self rule and independence. The country has prospered, ups and downs notwithstanding, ever since, and may the country continue to prosper.......

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mother 1 - The Early Days

This is an attempt to relate what I can recall of the early days and the happenings in the lives of my parents, Hj Ismail bin Md Yassin and Hjh Kalthum binti Ali. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the facts I put through but from memory recall its the best I can do. I stand corrected if any of my readers would care to straighten the facts. These thoughts will be posted here in installments, and as and when feasible.

Hjh Kalthum binti Ali was the eldest child of my maternal grandparents Ali bin Hj Budin and Dara binti Yaakob.  She has thirteen siblings one of whom, the third child, passed away in infancy and another, the fourth child, while studying at University Malaya, located in Singapore at that time. I met all, although memories of some of them are just vague, except the one who died in infancy. Eight of my Mother's younger brothers and sisters are still alive now.

Mother grew up in Muar and attended a religious school that was close to the house she stayed in. She, and a few of her younger siblings (I think there were three of them then) were looked after by her paternal Uncle, Hj Abdul Rahim bin Budin, the eldest brother of Ali bin Hj Budin. Grandpa Ali, the seventh of eight siblings, was then working in Pagoh and only came back to Muar occassionally.  When Grandpa got himself transferred to Muar, he built a house on a piece of land that he bought within the Muar township. Mother stayed in this house and continued her schooling in the religious school and then went on to become a religious teacher. I do not know whether she had any teaching training but a teacher she became.

Father, meanwhile attended Muar High School, an English school, and also the same religious school that Mother attended. That was where they knew each other. He went to work in the police depot in Johore Bahru in the early years of 1940s, possibily in 1940 itself, as a non-uniformed staff and later, presumably after he had saved enough money, married Mother. Mother, to be close to Father after they got married, got herself transferred to another religious school in Johore Bahru, continuing as a teacher and later went on to become the headmistress of the school.

1940's was when Malaya (it was not Malaysia yet then) was under Japanese occupation, in the midst of the 2nd world war. I was told that times were hard then. There were not enough food, freedom of movements were curtailed, and the Japanese were tyranical slave masters. One of my uncles, Father's younger brother, Abdul Jalil, died at the hands of the Japanese when he was in his late teens. I came along in the midst of the Japanese occupation. I was initially left in the care of my grandparents in Muar until I was about two years old when Mother brought me along with her to Johore Bahru. When she goes to teach in school I was left with a neighbour who babysits me and a little later my sister as well. A couple of years later Father was given a Government staff quarters to live in and by then Mother managed to arrange for a live-in maid to look after us little kids! Several years later we moved into another quarters which was much bigger and just as well, since the family had grown bigger. All my ten siblings were born between these two Government quarters.

As a result of the war, and the running of the country, first by the Japanese and later the British, coupled with insurgency of the communists and anti-British movements, times continued to be hard. You all would have read these in history books in school, and if not books on them are available in the library. Food were rationed, especially rice and each family had to keep food ration cards, There were curfew hours and there were restricted residents areas. All these had incited the locals to fight for their rights of freedom. They moved towards obtaining self rule and independence from the British which was obtained after much effort from all locals irrespective of race and religion. I grew up in this era. The era of activists, strong political inclinations, to the right or to the left, and my parents were deep into the thick of things. They fought, together with other activists of the time, the formation of the Malayan Union, a British attempt at further dividing the people and ruling them!!, They continued to be active through the years after that in politics.

As a small boy, from pre-school and through primary school, I often followed my Father and Mother or one of them at a time, to their political meetings and gatherings. I used to listen to the speeches, some fiery, some hard-hitting the British (and I think the pro-British locals as well!!) and some thought provoking on the future of the nation. I used to bring along my school work and home work with me when I followed them. I knew almost all the political leaders of the time and listened to their speeches, their ideas, ideals and what they fought for. Coupled with what I saw in terms of various developments, the happenings around us, the transformation of the country into an independent state, formed the basis of my own political thinking and ideals. My Father and Mother were my role models then. They showed me the way, I may not agree totally with them then, but they showed me the way, and I took it all to be what I am today, physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. May Allah bless them for all their sacrifices, and for giving their hands guiding us, their children, to be who we are today. May Allah be pleased.....

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Quintessential Dad - Republished

Hj Ismail bin Md Yassin bin Abdul Jani bin Moepati
22 Nov 1921 - 8 Aug 1986

Dad, Several Years Before His Retirement From Government Service

That’s my dad. A quintessential dad, an inspiration to me especially and I believe to my siblings too. He held no secrets nor grudges on anyone and was friendly to all irrespective of colour, creed and social status. He was as comfortable mixing with the cleaners, grass-cutters and the like as he was with family, friends, neighbours and dignitaries. He was ever ready to help those in need and would share what he had with others. He was a good planner and had very clear vision and mission in life. I was often reminded to treat another person as a human being, not according to position. I was taught to respect elders always and to seek knowledge from them, to learn from their experience. I was told at a young age to always keep a note book and a pencil/pen in my pocket and use them. He told me you will forget what you see, what you hear unless you write those that you want to remember. Indeed, motivational gurus taught that you will remember only 20% of what you hear, 40% of what you see and hear, and 70 – 80% of what you see, hear and do. He once asked me to write in my notebook, “There is never any glory in never failing but a lot in arising after every fall”. I have held this close to my heart all my life. Never give up but to strive to do better always.

As I mentioned in my previous posting on my ancestors, dad was the eldest amongst his siblings. Being the eldest he learnt quickly that it was his responsibility to take care of the siblings just as it was his responsibility to take care of his immediate family. He was the eldest son (his six siblings, dad was fourth, of the same father and mother died when they were very young, and nine other younger siblings from a step-mother). Granddad was very sickly towards the end of his life and passed away at an age of sixtyish when dad was about 35. At that age he suddenly found that he had a big family to look after. Six of the younger siblings were at various stages of schooling age with the youngest just starting at year one or was it year two? (my memory is playing tricks with me, ha ha ha!). The two youngest were younger than me and one above that a couple of years older. So, my uncles and aunties became my playmates.

In his younger days, dad went to an English school in the mornings and attended religious school in the afternoon. It was in the afternoon religious school that he had eyes for this beautiful girl in the same class with him. She was brought to school daily by a fully covered trishaw (society was very strict then, a young woman and a young man were not to be seen together at all, let alone chit chat, while dating was taboo!). She had a younger brother whom dad befriended and they became close to each other. Obviously dad had ulterior motives, ha ha!

Mum, Active in Politics, Women's Movement, Community and Public Service

This beautiful girl ultimately became his wife and is my dear mum. They got married on 3rd January 1943 and I came along to start messing with their lives in September 1944. Malaya (became Malaysia in September 1963) was at that time under Japanese occupation and I was told that life was very hard then. Rice was scarce while tapioca became the staple food for a while. Milk was difficult to come by, and as an infant I was fed boiled tapioca water instead. Luckily there was breast milk and that was a luxury since mum was then a teacher and had to be away from home. I was taken care of by my grandma for a while until Mum found a baby- sister for me. That was how I had to survive with tapioca water, since breast milk supply was away from home ha ha!! Things improved a lot after the Japanese left (they lost the war, remember) and the British took over administering the country. Substitute baby milk was subsequently made available then and it was of the ‘Lactogen’ brand. Other brands were introduced much, much later. After me, nine other siblings followed to maintain messing up mum’s and dad’s lives, and together with a few of my uncles and aunties it was a crowd in the house, ha ha!

Three Days After Their Wedding on 3rd January 1943

Dad started work in the Government service initially at the Police Depot as a civilian staff and stayed in that office for several years. Many of his colleagues then, both uniformed and civilian, became his close friends and they came to the house to learn English and English conversation under dad’s tutelage. Apparently dad was privileged to have gone through an English school, learnt and studied English, and true to his character his tutelage was voluntary without expecting anything in return. I used to sit in in his English class and he was very patient and helpful to the point of being overly accommodating to the errors and omissions made when tutoring his colleagues. I picked up English here and perhaps picked up some of his character traits as well.
From the Police Department he was transferred to the Government Audit department, then to the Medical Bureau and finally to the Marine department where he retired as a Deputy Port officer. At the same time he was involved with the scout movement and also heavily involved with a political party that came into power to rule the country. I remember that he was repeatedly voted in as the Youth Chief for many years. Mum was equally involved and stayed on as the Women’s division treasurer being voted in year after year by members.
With Dad and Mum heavily involved in the current politics then and away from home so often we, the children, were left at home on our own and I, being the eldest but still in school, was tasked to look after my siblings. I learnt to do the marketing, cooking and other chores very early. Apart from that I was also exposed to many life challenges at a very young age just as dad was when he was young but his was out of circumstances while mine was out of design!! (More of this in my upcoming postings). I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to grow up and grow fast!! May the Almighty be pleased…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Passing Away of A Legendary Community Leader - That Was My Mum.

Hajjah Kalthum Binti Ali, my mother, passed away peacefully at 0154hrs on Tuesday 4th September 2012. Her recorded birth date was 22 August 1922, which made her officially recorded age as 90 years. However I remember seeing notes that she and my late dad had written in their 'scrap' books, and indeed she had told me when I was younger that her actual birth date was 3 years prior to the official registration of her birth date. So that made her 93 years old when she passed away. The reason for this delay in registration was because of the practice at that time when parents did not give much thought to registering their newborns and when they do register they just pluck a date to record, some to their advantage, for example in starting school, or much later in starting work or when getting married. It would be so long later that they forget the actual dates. Only the individual would remember their own birth date. The same was with my dad's birth date. He was one year older than Mum.

Mum led a full and active life. She had ten children, yours sincerely being the eldest, and brought all of us up in an exemplary manner. She balanced worldly commitment on a same platform with obligations to spiritual demands. She taught us to be humble, to respect others and to fear Allah the Almighty. She was our pillar of strength, our base reference, always there for us and to many of us our savior in times of need. She divides her time for her husband, children and the needs of the community well. Yes, she had a good life and I will try to write more of how exemplary she was in the days or weeks to come. For this post let me just concentrate briefly on the last two years or so of her life.

She had been active, albeit in her slow mannerism, as she was going on in age and tire herself easily, until the late evening of 29 April 2010, a Thursday or eve of Friday 30 April, when she had a fall in her room, after losing her balance when she got up to go to the toilet. The maid was at hand to help her up. She did not go to the hospital but instead went the next morning with one of my sisters, who had for the past 23 years stayed with Mum, to consult a lady masseuse whom people in the neighbourhood considered an expert on bone fractures and such!! The masseuse opined that there was no fracture but indicated that Mum's back bone was out of alignment and would need traditional treatment to realign the back bone. All the other children only knew of the fall two nights later when Mum's condition got worse and in great pain!! She was brought to hospital by ambulance and promptly attended to. An x-ray image taken of her back bone showed a compressed 4th vertebrae, a result of the fall. She had a good rest that night in hospital, and stayed on for a few nights more.

 Mum's condition after that fall slowly deteriorated. After her discharge from hospital she was given intensive care by her children and grandchildren. She needed to take it easy. The doctor who attended to her suggested we allow her compressed bone to heal naturally and prescribed medicines for her. She continued with medication and doctors' follow-up treatment but one day, about three weeks later she had again to be hospitalised when she lost a lot of blood due to an internal bleeding. The hospital again promptly attended to her and she recovered, but not fully apparently.

Mum was going on to 91 then. She could walk, albeit very slowly initially, but later it became a great effort to even take a few steps from her room to the sitting hall just outside of the room. She needed full attention and had to be assisted in all her daily routines. She could not manage personal grooming on her own anymore. She sat with us at meal times but that too became an effort for her. Her hands were shaking and could not hold the spoon steady for long. It pained us to see her in that condition, and we know that she was fighting hard to do 'things' on her own. We were patient with her. Meals took longer than normal but that was okay with us.
As time goes on and as her condition deteriorated she had to be wheeled around even in the house. All of us took turns to spend time with her. Mum agreed that she had to let go of her administrative routines (she had, until the moment, still held certain and several positions in voluntary work within the community) and one sister looked into divesting these including taking over her banking needs. Banking had become another great effort for her. The bank officer, the kind soul, had to go to her in the car, see to all the administrative banking needs there personally. To take her to the bank was another effort in itself. Initially it was quite okay to take her out in the car once in a while, away from the confines of the house but later even these outings became difficult for her. She would be very tired. She would fall asleep in the car, sometimes on the way out of the house. She was no longer interested to go out.

Mum's condition deteriorated further when she could no longer sit in the wheel chair for too long. She would fall asleep. She would not be able to get out of bed to sit on the wheel chair on her own and had to be assisted. Then later she was lying in bed and had difficulty to sit up on her own. She had to be assisted. The wheel chair was left aside unused and she does not leave the room. All attention to her was done in bed. 

Throughout all the above, Mum was constantly reading the Quran, reciting zikir, and would chat cheerfully with us whenever we are around to visit. Sometimes we would read the Quran together, sometimes we read and she listened. Her lips were always moving, perhaps reciting zikir softly. About four months ago, she was no longer interested in sitting up in bed and preferred to lie down all the time. She acknowledged all those who came to visit, sometimes remembering who they were and sometimes she just stared at them. She did not talk and would smile a lot.

This last month was the month of Syawal in the Muslim Calendar. A month of rejoicing after fasting the whole month of Ramadhan prior to it. My wife and I, our children and grandchildren drove to JB on the second day of Syawal to be with Mum. We had a gathering of the big family on the third day of Syawal (most of my siblings and their children and grandchildren were there), starting with the reading of verses from the Quran and reciting zikir and doa. Top activity was a barbecue, managed by the third generation in the family. There was a good turnout as always and Mum's house 'Teratak Kasih' was a hive of activities for three days straight. Mum however remained in her room, aware of what's going on but in her condition did not (or could not) join in the merriment. Then came time for us to leave and Teratak Kasih became quiet again. The daily routine there continued until the second week of Syawal.

We were at an uncle's house one evening for a Syawal gathering after dusk. It was Saturday 1st of September 2012. I received a call from my sister in JB that Mum's condition was bad. Her blood pressure had dropped to 70/40, which was very low. The family doctor advised for everyone to be alerted but said not to panic and instead to monitor her blood pressure. I hitched a ride from my brother-in-law who happened to be in KL and returning to JB that night. We arrived in JB at about 2.00am on 2nd September.

Mum's condition remained the same for most of the time. She was breathing heavily but was calm. We read the Quran by her bedside and took turns reciting the zikir close to her through the night and onto the whole of Sunday. Her blood pressure fluctuated between 70/40 and 90/60 most of the time and she continued to breathe heavily.

On Monday 3rd September Mum's blood pressure rose to 110/70 and remained stable. She was then breathing normally and managed a smile now and then. She continued to be calm. I decided to follow another brother-in-law who was driving back to KL alone, arriving home at about 6.00pm. However, soon after the Isya' prayer I received a call that Mum's condition had gotten bad again and this time her blood pressure could not be read. We decided to go back to JB then. Sita said she will drive first and let me rest and to take over the driving only if she got sleepy. It was about 11.00pm 3rd September then. I could not sleep. I silently said my prayers in the car. At 2.00 am my sister called to say that Mum had passed away at 1.54am. I made several phone calls to inform kinfolks of the news while Sita continued to drive all the way. My siblings said it was up to me to decide how and when to perform the funeral and burial services.

We arrived in Teratak Kasih at close to 3.00am. I considered Mum's siblings, (Mum was the eldest) there were five of them living in KL, having to drive all the way to JB and would only start their journeys early in the morning. I then decided that preparatory services be started at about 9.00 am, prayers in the house at 12.00 and then in the mosque after the Zohor prayers. All went like clockwork. A police report of the death was made, burial grounds arranged and funeral services arranged accordingly. Mum's younger brothers and sisters, and other family members and friends, arrived in time for the last rights. Even son Shaffik arrived from Sarawak just in time for the funeral services, having arrived by air at Senai airport at noon and Amir fetching him to Teratak Kasih.

Mum was finally laid to rest in a grave close to my late dad, my grandad, step grandma, my uncles and other relatives. It was not a family burial plot but it so happened that the space could accommodate family members together. Services were over by about 3.00pm and all of us went back to Teratak Kasih. We held prayers for late Mum for three nights in succession attended by congregation of the mosque and family members. So ends the life of a loving wife and mother, a Legendary Community Leader, an Activist, a Politician, a teacher, a religious motivator, a 'Sri Kandi' in the eyes of the community. That was my Mother...... May Allah bless her and place her in the gardens of Jannah together with those whom He pleases..... Amin ya Rabbul AlAmin.

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya