Dear Mother

Losing you was the worst possible thing that could happen to me. Your absence in my life has left an enormous void that I compensated with guilt and self deprecation. 

Over 2 decades I’d convinced myself that I was your murderer. But I’m slowly accepting the fact that everything in life happen for a reason and there is no such thing as accident, although it may appear to be at first. God works in mysterious ways.

I miss everything about you. The way you smell. The way you laugh. The way you held me at night to sleep. What I would do to hear you scream at my face again – I even miss that. That is how much I miss you. 

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you.

Al-Fatihah.

Mohd Fikri.

Dear little brother,

I found our lost dusty photo album in mother’s drawer last night. Flipping through it brought back so much great memories. 

I hope all is well at your end. Living in a foreign country, pursuing your dream especially as an outsider can be rather, challenging. It’s been a year since you left the country with your beautiful wife and my endearing niece. Your girls make your eyes sparkle in an indescribable way. I am truly happy that you are happy, and I hope you don’t forget to come back for Raya. 

Do you remember how you were late for your own wedding that I almost had to take your place? Luckily we’re identical but thankfully you got there in time, saving me the embarrassment of having to kiss someone else’s wife, someone else’s in laws. 

Do you remember saving our meal money in our first year of college just so we can buy LinkinPark concert tickets? Do you remember escaping curfew and spending the night with some crackheads near Dataran Merdeka because we couldn’t afford a cab ride back?

Do you remember when I swallowed a dozen Panadol with Coke in boarding school and you panicked and pushed your middle finger down my throat so I can puke it out? Do you remember how I made you swear not to tell our parents or I would tell them you kissed a girl on the lips when we were 16? Do you remember how you thought kissing girls on the lips could make them pregnant?

Do you remember that senior who used to call me to the sick bay and forced me to do things I didn’t want to and how you would gallantly stood up for me and punched him in the face, although he was 4 years older and the head of the martial art squad? Do you remember getting beat up real bad and I had to lie to our parents that you fell off 50 steps of slippery stairs? 

Do you remember how competitive we were at everything in school? I was in the gymnast team and you were in taekwando. I was the head of choral speaking team and you were the head of marching band. I was in the school’s volleyball team and you represent the district in badminton. I scored 4 best subjects and you scored 5. Do you remember what they used to call us? We were the magnificent twin.

Do you remember how we used to cycle together to school, and everywhere else?

Do you remember how we used to climb trees and talk to monkeys?

Do you remember how we used to catch fireflies and put them in our sleeping net so we can stare at them in the dark, pretending we’re staring at the stars?

You don’t remember do you? Because… it never actually happen. You were never there. Because… you were taken earlier than you should. And I had to grow up alone, without a friend.

I wish you were there little brother – so I can share my laugh with you, and my tears too – so I know everything will be okay, because I have you.

I wish we can trade places. Because you would make a better son, a better brother, a better human than I ever would be. 

How can I miss someone I barely knew this much? 

RIP Mohd Fikri.

English Got Me Here.

The piercing sound of my alarm had awoken me. The radiant sunlight beaming through my tall window felt like invisible slaps to the face, reminding me to get off the bed. I wish I can continue my slumber but it’s rather an important day. 

I wore a suit made for RM100 from Phuket matched with white shirt, brown checkered tie and gold clip. I had my favorite brown oxford shoe on and every spring to my step felt golden.

The panel went wild for my presentation. I must have done something right. Grinning from ear to ear, I await the Q&A that comes after.

But it never came.

Instead, they only wanted to know how a kampung boy (local slang for kids from a rural village) mastered English as well as I did.

And this was my answer:

I was born in a family of 8 but my twin brother died when he was little. I was raised in a wooden house that my father had built with his bare hands. We were poor. He was a retired army whilst my mother was a housewife, raising 8 children, putting them through school and ensuring there is food on the table so we won’t starve. I am the youngest, so by the time I was 4, most of my siblings have gone to KL to find work so they can help to support our family. Being mostly alone in the house, I had only 2 hobbies. One, exploring the jungle in our backyard and Two, watching TV. My father enjoys watching the news and National Geography while my mother watches only 3 things: P Ramlee movies, Hindustan movies and English movies. My favorite show growing up was Sesame Street. I had an imaginary friend growing up. He was my bestfriend. His name was Fikri. And he was my twin brother. Whatever I hear from the TV I would practice with him. I didn’t care whether the pronunciation was wrong and whether I use the correct grammar; I practiced anyway – because I was someone who has always been curious about new things – and in this scenario, the English language. That curiosity developed into a love for the beautiful language. You see, I was raised in a place nobody would know if it wasn’t for M Daud Kilau and Zahid Hamidi (legendary singer and politician, respectively). I didn’t have anybody to practice English with. Everybody here speaks either Malay or Java so I had to improvise – half of my childhood was spent talking to myself as if I had erethism. But I didn’t care. I excelled through schools and here I am today being a proud kampung boy who can speak English. I hope to inspire people who come from (are in) the same situation as I was to believe that they can be better if they try. That’s my story and I hope it has somewhat welcomed you to understand me a bit more.

It was exactly a week after that I got the call. “You got the job.” To this day I believe it was that job that propelled my career in banking to where it was when I quit the industry last year after a challenging, yet enriching 13 years.

Everyone has to start somewhere. We live in a country where English is not our primary language. Most of us are still stuck with the idea that we can survive this world without having to learn new words or phrases but let’s be honest, have you been in a situation where you completely misinterpret the meaning of a sentence? It’s only going to get tougher as you move up(on) in life, so stop resting on your laurels and learn a new word. Pick up a book. Read a new article online. Upgrade yourself, because if you’re not going to do it, nobody’s going to do it for you.

An Eulogy.

The man I chose to remember today is a man with a big heart. 

I’m deeply sorry that I couldn’t carry myself to your funeral. The truth is, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

The truth is, I wasn’t strong enough to put another dead body down the hole – especially when that body is you. 

Do you remember the first day we met? You were eager to talk to me. I didn’t know it then but somehow, you find solace in my presence. Perhaps it was my non-judgmental nature that’d drawn you. And from that point, you tailed me like a puppy. You were there during my hardship like a good friend that you are; ensuring my laundry is done, ensuring the house didn’t become a dumping site, ensuring I laugh at your silly jokes, ensuring I eat, ensuring I don’t do anything stupid. 

You’ve shown me care and showered me with kindness at a time I had very less of either. 

Did you not break my heart? Yes you did. You made terrible mistakes. You made reckless decisions. You abandoned your friends. You abandoned your family. 

But I am not here to condemn the past. I am here to remind everyone that we too have made mistakes. And each of us have learnt from our missteps and grown from it. I believe, so did you my friend.

Do you remember what you asked me the first time you saw me by your hospital bed? 

“Why did you show up after what I’ve done to you?” My answer was simple.

“Do you remember that night we drove to Shah Alam and you made a promise to me? Do you remember what you promised? You promised that if I die, no matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, no matter who you’re with, you will come to me, to bathe me, to clothe me, to send me to my burial, and to pray for me, no matter how far we’ve grown apart. This is me returning that promise.

It was that precise moment, when you began sobbing uncontrollably that I knew you regretted everything that has happened. I held your face, and I said, “I forgave you a long time ago.” I meant it. I did. I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t.

I came to see you a couple of times after that. You were making progress and I was hopeful you’ll get back on your feet.

One day, you texted, “I miss you. Please come back.”

I forgot to reply your message because I was swarmed with work but I had planned to visit the hospital as soon as I can.

But I was too late. 

Before I could see you, I received the news of your passing. 

Know this: It broke my heart when your dying wish was to see me, and I failed to fulfill it.

I’m deeply sorry my friend. I’m deeply sorry. 

I know you are at a better place. I wish you had more time.

I will always remember you in my prayers.

I am ready to say my goodbye now.

RIP MH.

A Man named Hashim.

Before me, at a little distance, reclined a lanky man, with a chiseled, wrinkled face, and a stern expression. His head was very grey; and his whiskers, which he wore only around his face, like a frame, were grey also. He was a fan of printed shirts. He was my father. 

He hunched a little when he walks. He barely talks but when he does, he is warm and friendly. Father enjoyed teasing others, a trait I inherited and practices often. He was the kind of man who would drop pinches of salt if you sleep with your mouth open. He was the kind of man who would take your most feared animal and throw it on your lap.  

Father was a storyteller. He was in the army before he retired. He’d fought the Communist, the Japanese and lived to tell the tale. I love his ghost stories – never fail to send me to bed with nightmares. He was also fearless. I remember a tale of how a banshee was flying over his head and instead of running for his dear life, he would chase the banshee with his bicycle. And after the banshee has landed on a tree, he would shake that tree just to make himself laugh. Yeah, crazy, ballsy daddy.

Father doesn’t speak much. He would stare at me without saying a word. I used to think that there was something wrong with me as a child – as if I was an embarrassment. I used to think that he doesn’t want me. I don’t remember ever getting a hug from him. I don’t remember ever being kissed on the cheek. And I don’t remember ever being told, “I love you, son.” 

Maybe, that was the army in him. Maybe the war had damaged him in some way. But he was gentle, soft spoken. I don’t remember being beaten by him. Not even being screamed at. And although he has questionable ways of showing affection (he never fail to get me durian cracker – my favorite childhood snack – every time he comes back from town), he was always and forever will be, my father. The father who put roof over our heads, the father who put food on the table, the father who put all 7 children through school, the father who, despite having very little, has given so much for his family. 

And for those sacrifice dad, I salute you. You’ve been more of a father than anyone could ever hoped for. I love you too.

RIP HI.