Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yellow and brown folders

I was somehow awaken from my sleep by an unrully and unexpected phonecall around 11 am. It was my mother at school, asking me to head straight to the school. It sounded urgent, but i was quite dubious of her summoning me early in the morning while she was at her workplace. Being my mom, i know far too well of her schemes. I took a short shower, and i was on my way to MRSM Kuantan.

My mom was waiting for me with that cheeky smile of her, signalling that i have a task waiting for me somewhere in the school. She brought me to a room where piles and piles of yellow and brown folder lie stacked on the floor. I know that what i was about ot do will involve me mendling with all those folders. They were folders of student's information, going back all the way to 2005. My mother's friend briefed me on the task in hand; i was to key in certain information of students into spreadsheets to be sent to MARA HQ. Being raised by MARA all my life, a little typing and keying in is the list i can do. Sounds easy, but the folders do not just contain names and personal details about them, but they hid a sorrow chorus of grimness which the families of these students had to endure in the secluded areas around Malaysia they call home.

One of the folder tells about a student who came from a family of 15 siblings. What shattered me was the fact that the only breadwinner in the family was a just a single mother, who worked as a Felda settler with a monthly income of just RM600. I just could not comprehend the idea of a single mother could feed such a huge family. My family spend at least RM 250 for groceries every fortnight, and my family is only 6 people big. Instead this is a woman who brought up 15 children with an RM 600 paycheck. My attempt to imagined the situation and the standard of living that they had to go through was beyond comprehend, emotionally and logically.

Another was about a student whose father was a pensioner who relies on RM 400 a month to raise a family of 7. One could not help to ponder what kind of life do they lead, what kind of shelter do they live in, what kind of food do they consume... questions that stabed and ached my heart.

These are a few of the many stories of families who had to endure such tribulations and hardships. After all this while, i though stories like theirs are only plots in soap dramas on the television. But these are true life accounts, real-life conditions which these families had to endure, but sadly go unnotice. I was fortunate enough to be born in a family which is able to provide more than my essentials. How would they have survived with that small amount of money in this very hard times.

How can i eat with ease when they are people out there who can't afford a decent meal and their staple food are just tubers and rice donated to them?

How can i wear the many clothes i have when there are people out there whose clothes are all torn and worn out by time and dirt?

How can i enjoy the comfort of my home when there are families who had to call a crammed one-room hut as their home?

It just kills me.......

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Scrumptous, spicy, negeri sembilan food served with sugary desserts have always greeted my family on my mother's side at least once every Ramadhan. It has been a tradition for us to have this family-get-togethe-cum-iftar where most of my family members will assemble at my Mak Teh's house to break fast and have Tarawikh together. It's kind the once-every-year thingy, like raya where the whole family will convene in a fiesta of gastronomical festicvities. It was supposed to be those normal gathering that we had every year, but somehow, it turned out to be one which has surely left a huge mark not just in my 20 years of life, but it would be my realization to a turning point which starts to unravel in the coming days of my life.
My family was somehow appointed to 'foresee' the planning and the invitation of the event, though it was held in Damansara. Pak Lang and Pak Ngah, with their pious exterior and interior, have always been asked to lead thefamily's tarawikh. Unfortunately, my Pak Lang was in Mecca performing his umrah. My mom thought it would be nice if the 3rd generation would take the lead as the imam. So, she chosed me. I don't have any problem with it all, though my Ayat Lazim and Baqarah needed some brushing up to do. No piggy for me at all.
That night, i took lead of the congregation, reciting what's left of the memorized Al-Baqarah inside my head. I've done it a couple of times, so it was something that send shiver down my spines. A few glitches here and there, but alhamdullillah, everything went well and we completed the 8 rakaat of tarawikh and 3 rakaats of witir. It's those normal solat jemaah, and nothing fancy bout it. However, as the male line dissolved, what i saw completely shocked me. One of my aunties was emotionally crying, and i could see pools of tears formed in the water-glistened eyes if my grandma and my aunties. Was i that bad? i thought. Somehow, grandma extended her hands, waving it at me, asking me to appraoch her. She opened her arms and i could feel the warmth of a grandmother's love towards her grandson as she hugged me thighly. I could feel warm-tears slowly flowed down my neck, and she said to me "Inilah hadiah terbaik yang wan boleh dapat". One of my aunty held my hand and she hoped that this must not stop here. A wavering surge of my family's hope and aspiration gushed into the the my very veins, and from there, it came to me.
I have always thought that the only way i could prove myself worthy of my family's love is through worldly, tangible achievements. This axiom has fueled my never-ending thirst for victories, accomplishments, and glory. A tradition of excellence has slowly and gradually established in the pressure of proving myself to my family. But after that night, after i felt the comforting warmth of my grandma's hugs, the family's hope and aspiration from my aunties, i realized that what i have achieved after all this while came second. From what i see, what matters the most to them is to see the generation under them, and the coming generations, could sustain themselves not just physically, but spiritually as well. They want us to be righteous in mind and heart, where actions and decisions are made based on values engraved in the pages of the Quran and Sunnah. They know, without a shadow of doubt, that we are capable of gathering wealth and richess of the world, but it won't mean a cent if we are poor in heart and love. And i believe the same idea is shared by other families as well.
I am no cleric, and i have made a few mistakes of my own, but life is all about growing and learning, and indeed i have learned something new today.