Monday, August 31, 2009

An RM 29.90 pants

17 boys from MaBIQ, the local tahfiz school, ranging from the age of 6 to 16, greeted us as we stepped into Kamdar. The awe and excitement was apparent on their faces. My dad’s company was generous enough to donate RM 150 each for them to buy new Baju Melayu and clothes for them to celebrate on Hari Raya with their family, and my mother add in another 1000 to make their shopping trip a day to remember. These boys are from impoverished areas around Kuantan, who are not able to get a decent education as they can’t afford to get one. Some of them came all the way from Perak, though the question of how they end up in Kuantan I am not sure of the answer. At the school, their curriculum is Islamic oriented, where they emphasized a lot on memorizing the Quran and the Syariah.

It really caught my attention to see how the hopped from one section of the place to another. From their action, it is quite clear that they are quite hesitant of spending a ‘huge’ amount of money on clothes which they deemed are very ‘fancy’ and ‘posh’. Bear in mind that this is Kamdar where the baju melayu over there just cost around RM 20 to 90.

I got to assist a 16 year-old boy named Suhaimi on his ‘shopping spree’. I observed him as he hovered from one pants to another, flipping them from side to side, but after an hour over there, he didn’t come to a conclusion of what pants to buy. I convinced him into choosing any pants that he likes, and insisted him of not looking at the price tags. He slowly approached a cream-coloured slack pants and he showed it to me. For someone who is much inclined to quality, I examined the pants, and it is not something that I would wear. I took a look at the price tag and it was just RM29.90. He noticed that I was looking at the price tag and he suddenly apologized. “Mahal sangat ke bang? Saya tak pernah beli seluar harga camni”. I was taken aback and drowned in sympathy. Here was a boy who was reluctant to buy a RM29.90 pants because he thinks it is too expensive, and I was wearing an RM150 jeans.

The time I spent with these boys made me realize that they are familiar and aware of the opportunities available beyond the four walls of their school. A boy asked me about the school I am currently studying. I told them about the uni I’ll be attending. Their response were quite alien to me , and it came in the form of question directed to me with neutrality and confusion. “mane dapat duit tuk belajar abang?” Money was the first thing that came into their mind. My secondary and higher education fees have always been paid by MARA. But in their world, education was one of many areas that they believe that they can’t afford to enjoy. I talked about scholarships to them, but word does not register in their heads because they never heard of “scholarship”. To them, education is limited to those who are wealthy and the world is not made for them. However as I share my experience in Kuala Klawang and Langkawi during my MRSM days, they seemed so eager and it shows how interested of them in the idea of education and the perks it has to offer.

There are a lot of things in life, especially the small ones, we often take for granted; from the fancy clothes we wear on our body, to the mouth-watering delicacies that we enjoy on the dining table at least 3 times a day, to the warmth and comfort in the place we call home. To most of us, we are born with a silver spoon in our mouth, and we can get whatever we want simply on demand. But to the families of these boys, everyday is a battle just to meet ends meet. They are just some out of countless families who share the same fate as theirs. A single mother who rely on RM 100 a month from the welfare department to feed her 5 hungry children, a father who work odd jobs to make sure the bills are paid and his children get books to study. Listen to their story.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Family is where my home is

It is another 1 month till I board the MH2 MAS flight to London, leaving Malaysia, and continuing the next 5 years of my life on British soil. My dreams of reading medicine in the UK and having a nice shiny stethoscope around my neck has come to a near. I have waited this moment since I was 5, but as it comes closer, I felt this kind of solitude and displeasure suddenly arise out of the excitement of a UK education in London. I soon realized that I am not 100% ready to embark on this journey yet. Physically, I am built for it, but emotionally, my heart is still with my family here in Malaysia.

I chose MRSM Langkawi as my upper-secondary school of choice so that I can be far away from my family as possible. I also voiced out my intention to my friends of going out on this once-in-a-lifetime journey, with time and distance separating us. How bold and naïve I was back then. But once I got into my college years, that is when I found the value of family.

Now, as I count the days where I have to depart from them, I feel this awful kind of sadness gripping me slowly but surely. Maybe it’s true when they say, distance makes the heart grows fonder. I’ll be celebrating Raya in London this year, away from the warmth and festivities of my home in Kuantan. Trully, in every man, there is a child, regardless of how far he traverse, his heart will find his way back home. For me, inshallah, I’ll be coming back into my family’s arms one day. Family is where my home is.