Thursday, September 03, 2015


It's true, isn't it? Social media has the powerful ability to incite envy and make us feel inadequate. I think we can all relate to the above punch line: "I can't handle anymore fake displays of perfection!"

Of course the displays are fake as no one's life is perfect. We carefully curate our Facebook profiles, Instagram pictures and our presence on other social media platforms so that we only display ourselves in the most flattering light (literally & figuratively). We only share our happiest memories, most successful occasions and when we're having the time of our lives. We don't share the moments when we feel broken, sad, lonely and empty, though we all experience them.

I once read that the source of envy is when you can only see other people's blessings and not their trials, whereas you only focus on your trials and not your blessings. 

I also love this quote by Lillian Schneider that drives this message home:
"Single people want relationships, settled people wonder if they're missing out on something, traveling types miss stability, stable ones are restless, old friends want new friends, new friends miss old friends, and basically almost everyone my age has some dangling worry trailing around after them everywhere that they're somehow not doing everything, that what they're doing is not altogether the right thing, that they are missing out.
A million lessons can be taken from this. All I want to say is, don't for a second convince yourself that you are the only who knows this doubt. Do not be ashamed. The doubt is natural, and everyone you know -- yes, even that person -- carries it sometimes too. Allow yourself to be peaceful. Allow yourself satisfaction in what you have. If you really don't like it, allow yourself permission to make changes."
The truth is everyone struggles. And everyone has their dark moments. And all of us are on a quest for that elusive and ephemeral thing called happiness.

I think as one grows older, one realises that it's okay to be sad sometimes. That life will never be perfect and can never be devoid of pain, but that's okay too.

For me, faith plays an important part when dealing with life's trials and curveballs. One of my favourite hadiths is:
“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Narrated by Muslim)
Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim said something profound:
“Truly in the heart there is a void that can not be removed except with the company of Allah. And in it there is a sadness that can not be removed except with the happiness of knowing Allah and being true to Him. And in it there is an emptiness that can not be filled except with love for Him and by turning to Him and always remembering Him. And if a person were given all of the world and what is in it, it would not fill this emptiness.”
I think this post is getting quite incoherent now but what I'm trying to get at is this: Though everyone seems to lead a perfect existence on social media, the truth is, no one is. Everyone is familiar with that void in one's heart, that sadness, and that emptiness. As a Muslim, I believe that "verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest" and that sabr (patience) and shukr (thankfulness) should be an essential part of our character, so that we can weather life's ups and downs, with contentment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mount Rinjani, Part 2

Things that I couldn't squeeze in the last post:

1) How grateful I am to our guides and porters.

There were 8 porters who accompanied us. They carried our tents, sleeping mats, inflatable pillows, sleeping bags, our personal belongings, drinking water, cutlery, cooking utensils and ingredients to cook our meals. I think each porter carried around 15 kg and they navigated the arduous routes wearing only slippers!

I thought we would be eating simple meals like sandwiches and sardines but no - these men cooked for us fantastic meals. Some of the things we ate were: pisang goreng cheese, omelette, pancakes, maggi goreng, gado-gado and spaghetti. Not only were the meals delicious, they were also served in generous portions and artfully-presented! Their hard work made all of us try to finish everything on our plates. I even ate all my veggies for once!

A special shout-out to our extremely patient, kind and friendly guides: Pak Suni and Yannick (who speaks very good English and French). We wouldn't have made it without them. I am especially indebted to Pak Suni for helping me out on Day 1 when I was stricken with cramps. Meanwhile, Yannick was Nisha's saviour throughout the trip hehehe. Pak Suni can be reached at, while Yannick at

It's funny how us yuppies with our high-tech gear (from our watches that measure heart rate / calories burnt / distance and what-not, to our gaiters, hiking shoes, sunglasses, gloves, trekking poles, hydration bladders and Dri-FIT clothes) were of no match to these men who wear everyday clothes and slippers. If the weather's cold, they just use kain pelikat in lieu of a windbreaker. Even so, their strength and speed made us all trail in their dust.

2) Journeys are made by the people you travel with.

I've always loved that Malaysia Airlines slogan and in this trip I had the best travelling companions one could ask for. Thank you Nisha, Atiqah, Zulaikha, Sarah, Faizal, Umar & Hadi for making the trip so enjoyable by infusing it with your positivity, enthusiasm, sense of humour, generosity, kindness and adventurous spirit. Thank you for the laughter and for egging me to do things way beyond my comfort zone.

We've all been bitten by the adventure bug and now our next aim is to scale the Mulu Pinnacles. It's crazy what these trips do to your psyche. Hiking for 25 - 30 hours in the space of 4 days had resulted in some of us suffering from multiple blisters and blackened toes. All of us are now nursing sore muscles and everything aches from the waist down. Yet, our whatsapp group chat is now buzzing with plans for our next adventure. To borrow and edit Viper's slogan: Forget pain, worry about addiction. How true.

3) Ambil hanya foto, tinggalkan hanya jejak kaki

Sadly, some people do leave more than their footprints in Mount Rinjani National Park. It saddened me greatly to see the beautiful paths marred by candy wrappers, wet tissues and plastic bottles. Littering is already a despicable habit. But to do so at such a stunning location? It's almost criminal!

4) Some of life's lessons learnt.

To me, hiking offers some great lessons on life. First, you learn that its rewards are proportional to the effort you put in. As our guide said, "difficult routes lead to beautiful scenery". If we didn't hike for hours on end, we wouldn't have had the chance to see incredible views like this:

Second lesson: Life is not a race. You are not competing with anyone. Everyone wants to reach the final destination (i.e. the summit) and it doesn't matter how long one takes to get there. Don't compare yourself to others for your journey is unique. Further, though at times it can be exhausting, you have to be able to still smile and enjoy the journey.

Third lesson: لا حول ولاقوة إلا بالله
There is no might or power except from Allah. The strenuous hikes and getting lost in the woods have reaffirmed this lesson for me. I simply would not have made it if not for Allah's help.

Fourth lesson: We can have amazing conversations and make deeper connections in the absence of WiFi. Throughout the trip, we had a great time eating and socialising with one another but once we arrived at the hotel in Senggigi, we retreated into our own worlds, interacting more with our phones than the people around us. I was guilty of this too. I think we need to start putting away our phones when we have company because, in all likelihood,  whatever it is we are doing on our phones, it isn't more important than the person in front of us.


Selamat Menyambut Ramadan dear readers! May Allah help us to make the most out of this blessed month!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Mount Rinjani, Part 1

"Saya yakin semua orang boleh sampai puncak," Yannick, our guide said to me while we were trekking to the summit. Nisha and I were way behind our other group members. We had already walked for about 3 hours and we had yet to cover the toughest part so I replied, "Ye ke? Sebab saya tak yakin."

Yannick nodded and reassured me, "Ya, awak boleh. Nisha pun boleh". Until now, I still couldn't figure out how he could have known that all of us would make it. We had heard that most of the previous groups were unsuccessful. Though many reached the summit, some members of each group did not make it. However, miraculously, for unknown reasons, ours did.

Climbing Rinjani, so soon after scaling Mount Kinabalu was not on the cards for many of us. Somehow Umar and Nisha talked us into it. So we bought our flight tickets and booked the package with JomOutdoor (I highly recommend it!). We booked the 5D4N package (3 nights in the mountains) and anticipate Jun 2, 2015 with a mix of excitement and trepidation.

We approached and prepared for the trip differently. Zu did an extensive research on Mount Rinjani, Umar read up on a lot of blog entries, Atiqah bought a lot of hiking gear, Nisha organised a trip to Gunung Irau for some practice, while Faizal and Hadi were the fittest among us so they didn't need to do much. Me? I think I read one blog post and just drooled over the beautiful Mount Rinjani pictures on Instagram.

I had heard that Mount Rinjani is many times tougher than Kinabalu and though I was scared I did not get to prepare much for it because I was busy with work. Azmil, the co-founder of JomOutdoor told us not to worry and if we didn't reach the peak, "it's not the end of the world."

Bearing that in mind, we embarked on our journey. and below is my account of it:

Day 1 (Jun 3, 2015):

We started our journey at 9.30 a.m. after registering our names at the centre. Our group consisted 8 climbers, 2 guides and 8 porters. We were scheduled to hike for 8 hours or so that day (including lunch break). Everyone was in high spirits and the sun-kissed hills looked so lovely. The first half of the climb was very enjoyable. After lunch, the fog started to descend and the climb got harder and harder as we got more and more tired. Then tragedy struck: I pulled my calf muscle and my legs just buckled under my weight. Then cramps settled in. I just couldn't walk another step. I had to take off my shoes and massaged my legs and toes. This happened two more times. Each time it happened (at the aptly-named Bukit Penyesalan), I was convinced that I would never reach the campsite. But Pak Suni stayed by my side and led me up the hill for a good hour or so. He kept on saying "Nak dekat sampai dah" and I tried to squeeze every ounce of energy I had but after 7 hours of hiking, there wasn't much left. Finally I reached the campsite at 4.30 p.m., thinking nothing could be worse than today. Obviously, I was wrong.

Day 2 (Jun 4, 2015):

We started off for the summit at 2.30 a.m. It was a beautiful full-moon night. Again, the first half of the climb was manageable but the second half was "sheer madness" (as a Chicagoan we met put it). The last 300 metres was the toughest as the route was all sand and gravel. The shifting sand causes you to slide one step back for every one step forward you take. Thus, the journey seemed never-ending as you made very little progress. At this point, it was every man for himself. Our group got separated as each member had to ascend the torturous path at his/her own pace. I kept on thinking about the quote Zu shared with us "Berjalanlah, walau sambil menangis. Jangan sesekali berhenti". That kept me going though I could see many people resting (or giving up altogether) by the sideways. After 5.5 hours of battling strong winds and shifting sand, I actually made it to the top. I thought to myself yet again, nothing could be worse than this. And yes, you've guessed it! I was wrong again. But that story is for later.

Going down to our campsite after reaching the peak was a breeze as you only need to slide down the sandy path. After lunch, we headed to the lake for our next camping site. This was my favourite camping spot. Out tents directly faced Lake Segara Anak and the smoking volcano. The view was just unparalleled.

That evening, we went to a hot spring for a swim. Submerging my aching feet in its warm water helped to alleviate the pain. That night, the full moon was covered by some clouds so the stars came out in full force. It was a breathtaking sight that I wished I had marveled at for longer but I was too tired and slept early.

Day 3 (Jun 5, 2015):

It was a beautiful morning for another day of hiking. Breakfast was pancakes and banana fritters with pineapples at the sides. Someone commented that we might actually gain weight instead of shedding some because of the good food we had been having throughout the trip. We were scheduled to trek for another 8 hours that day. We left Lake Segara Anak with a heavy heart but the view along the way was spellbinding.

The tragedy I alluded to earlier happened later that evening. As usual, Nisha & I trailed behind the others. Pak Suni led the group in front while Yannick guarded the rear. I started to walk a bit faster, hoping to catch the others in front. But I never caught them. The forest got darker as the evening progressed. I was still feeling fine as I encountered other hikers and porters on my way but after awhile, I was hiking alone with no one in sight. Panic was starting to set in but I assured myself that I would stumble upon the campsite soon. I could see that the sun was about to set so I stopped and prayed Asar and Zohor. I was hoping that Yannick and Nisha would catch up with me after I had finished praying but they didn't.

After the sun had set, the forest got substantially darker. I checked the contents of my bag: I had very little water left, 2 energy bars and no headlamp (I had packed it in another bag that the porter carried). My phone had no signal and it was running low on battery. I contemplated whether to keep searching for a signal or to put the phone on flight mode to save on battery so that I could use its torchlight function. I decided on the latter.

By now, the forest was pitch black. To say that I was scared would be an understatement. I thought about turning back but Yannick had told me that there was only one path going down. How could I have missed a huge group of people? I must not have passed them yet. I must keep going. So I did. But for 20 minutes or so, I still didn't come across a soul and I couldn't see a single light in front of me nor behind me.

Could I have missed a turning? I remembered them saying our water supply was running low and that they might make a detour to a water spring. The possibility that I had gone too far caused me to turn back. Every sound and movement of the forest crept me out but I was still trying to keep calm. But after 20 minutes of retracing my steps, with still no one in sight, I just broke down.

I sat on a log and whispered Ya Allah, please, please, please help me. I let out a few stray tears. I had been making dua all this while but before, I was still feeling optimistic; I still thought I could find my way to the campsite or be found by someone. But by then, on that log, all traces of optimism and hope had left me. I was alone, I was scared and  I was feeling utterly helpless. When you're in that state, you make dua like you've never made dua before. And all your false dependencies vanish from you: You realised that your family can't help you nor your friends / wealth / possessions or any other thing or person that you normally put your trust in. The following verses encapsulate what I was feeling:

Surah Al-An'am, Verse 63:

قُلْ مَن يُنَجِّيكُم مِّن ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ تَدْعُونَهُ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً لَّئِنْ أَنجَانَا مِنْ هَٰذِهِ لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ

Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Who rescues you from the darkness of the land and the sea (dangers like storms), when you call upon Him in humility and in secret (saying): If He (Allah) only saves us from this (danger), we shall truly be grateful."

Surah Al-An'am, Verse 41:

بَلْ إِيَّاهُ تَدْعُونَ فَيَكْشِفُ مَا تَدْعُونَ إِلَيْهِ إِن شَاءَ وَتَنسَوْنَ مَا تُشْرِكُونَ

Nay! To Him Alone you call, and, if He will, He would remove that (distress) for which you call upon Him, and you forget at that time whatever partners you joined with Him (in worship)! 

And just as I wiped those tears away, I saw 2 flashlights in the distance. A HUGE sense of relief washed over me. I walked over to the source and met Yannick and Nisha who were alarmed to see me on my own. Yannick thought I had caught up with the rest while Pak Suni thought I was with Yannick. It was an honest mistake. I was also at fault for straying away from the group. Yannick called the people at camp and they sent two porters to help us get back. The porter carried my bag and I walked with him to camp. By the time I reached it, I had walked for 11 hours that day.

My friends were equally alarmed and wanted to know what had happened but I was just too physically- and emotionally-exhausted. I went into my tent, zipped it shut and had a good cry. Once Nisha arrived, we hugged each other and cried some more.

Day 4 (Jun 6, 2015):

Managed to recover from last night's event. I apologised to my friends for being uncommunicative the night before. They told me it was all right. That day, we were going to Tiu Kelep Waterfall. Once there, the others swam while I sat on the rocks, enjoying the view. But the water spray from the waterfall drenched me regardless.

On our way back, Zu casually mentioned that she had seen a video of people sliding down the irrigation channel like a water slide at a theme park. Faizal was intrigued. He volunteered to do it first. We watched in suspense. But his screams of delight managed to influence us. One by one, we all had out turn. It was super fun! Nisha and I even joked that today was such a happy day, it was worth getting lost and hiking for 11 hours for.


We changed our clothes at our guides' homes. They even treated us to some maggi-in-a-cup and coffee. We then said our goodbyes and left Senaru for Senggigi.

Some reflections on the trip coming up in Part 2! Photos from the trip can be viewed here.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Conquering Mount Kinabalu

When I had my first glimpse of Mount Kinabalu, I panicked: "Tingginya" I said stating the obvious. Nisha laughed, "Memang la tinggi! What did you expect?"

I didn't reply. The reality of what I had signed up for finally sunk in. I thought to myself: "There's no way I'm able to climb up that thing".

This ALWAYS happens to me. I will just happily sign up or register for things without really knowing what I'm getting myself into. Ignorance is bliss they say hahahaha. A perfect example is the upcoming Viper Challenge. I registered first (because my friends did) and then I watched the video below. Wrong move.


The night before the climb, the sore throat that I had had for some time, flared up. I lost my voice and experience a bout of violent vomiting. My weakened state convinced me further that I wasn't able to scale Mount Kinabalu.

I berated myself then, "Tu la. You should have practised more and been better prepared!". Prior to this climb, the only practice I did was scaling Gunung Datuk in Negeri Sembilan. That's it. No running up and down stairs, no climbing other mountains, no working out in the gym...

But alhamdulillah, I recovered my voice the next morning and after a hearty breakfast, I was feeling much better. The distance between Timpohon Gate and Laban Rata (our final pit stop for the day) is just 6 kilometres. Six kilometres sounds do-able right? I mean I've participated in 7-kilometre runs before. Six is lesser than seven. Thus, this should be a piece of cake manageable.

How wrong I was. It took me 6 hours to reach Laban Rata, thus I was only averaging a measly 1 kilometre per hour. Traipsing a kilometre on a flat surface is vastly different from ascending a kilometre of continuous incline. The last kilometre before reaching Laban Rata was the most torturous. I think I stopped every few steps and my guide, Arnold, had to gently pushed me forward, coaxing me to continue.

When we finally reached the resthouse in Laban Rata, I was so exhausted that I could barely push the door open. It took me awhile to realise that the door wouldn't budge because I needed to pull instead of push hahahaha.

But the view. Oh the view. To be having your dinner above the clouds. To witness the sunset from 3272.7 metres above sea level. I can't even begin to describe the feeling...

The next morning, we began our climb to the summit at 3 a.m. We all suited up (thermal wear + fleece + windbreaker), put on our headlamps and marched on. The path became steeper and steeper and it seemed never-ending. Whenever I stopped to take a breather, I would switch off my headlamp and gaze at the sky. The milky way looked so pretty. It just soothes the soul, much like a sunrise and a sunset does.

After what seemed like forever, my friends and I reached the summit. And we have a picture (with our banner) to prove it! Mission accomplished! Alhamdulillah :)

It was such an unforgettable experience and I've grown close to the people that I shared the experience with (they were friends of a friend). We were basically strangers before the trip but now we're planning further adventures together. Up next are whitewater rafting and the said Viper Challenge. Then, maybe Mulu Pinnacles and Mount Rinjani perhaps?

My close colleague is bewildered by my sudden interest in all these things. My sister as well. I don't know what has gotten into me; I blame my KK group for it. They're a bad influence on me hahahaha

For more pictures, click here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge

I came across the above poster on facebook and immediately shared it with my close friend and fellow bibliophile, Ainur.

At first, I didn't think I would actually attempt the challenge; I just shared it because some of the descriptions sound quite fun! But then Ainur and I started to brainstorm the books that we could read and I grew more and more excited.

Ainur remarked that discussing the book list was probably more fun than the actual reading part. She might be right. But we decided to do the challenge together nonetheless.

However, I'm going to cheat here as I don't think I can read 50 books in a year to fulfil the requirements (I'm a slow reader). So if a book manages to combine two or more descriptions, I'm going to kill two birds with one stone, and consider both descriptions fulfilled ;)

Ok, here are my book list so far:

1) A book that became a movie / A book by a female author:

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Rumour has it Reese Witherspoon might scoop an Oscar for her portrayal of Cheryl. The trailer does look promising. I choose this book because I'm a sucker for books with female protagonists on a journey of self-discovery.

2) A funny book:

Childhood Stories 2 & 3 by Boey

I love the first book in the series and I'm looking forward to read the rest.

3) A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet: 

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

I love 'The Interpreter of Maladies' and anything by Jhumpa Lahiri should be a winner.

4) A trilogy / A book a friend recommended:

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Ainur recommended this one. For her sake, I'll read it :)

5) A book with a colour in the title / A book set in a different country:

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I love Purple Hibiscus by Adichie. I've been meaning to read her other books even before this challenge. That her book has a colour in the title is a bonus.

6) A book by an author you've never read before / A book based on a true story:

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Heard great things about this book. Loved the movie.

7) A book that takes place in your hometown / A book of short stories:

I choose KL Noir: Yellow instead of the other three colours (White, Red, Blue) because a student of mine, Alyssa, proofread this anthology! Her name is listed under consultant. To say that I'm very proud would be an understatement.

8) A memoir:

Why I Still Carry a Guitar by Yusuf Islam

Another type of book that I like is one's journey to becoming a better Muslim. Everyone's spiritual journey is different and I find the stories inspiring. Rumi said something beautiful: "There are as many paths to God as there are souls on earth."

9) A book you started but never finished / A non-fiction book:

Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky

I've had this book for years. It's highly time to finish it and gain the bragging rights to have read Chomsky hahahaha.


As for the other descriptions, I have yet to decide on suitable titles. But it's going to be great fun searching for:
-A book with antonyms in the title
-A book that came out the year you were born
-A book with a love triangle
-A book written by an author with the same initials as yours
-A banned book
-A book with bad reviews

Any suggestions? Let's do this challenge together!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Last Ramadan, I saw this amazing mini-series produced by Lokalab: Always a Traveller.

 In it, Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed explains the famous hadith: "Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveller along a path." (Sahih Bukhari)

Another relevant hadith is: "What relationship do I have with this world? My worldly life is no more than the halting of a traveller, taking rest under the shade of a tree for a moment and then moving on." (Ahmad, Tirmidhi)

Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed said this:
"There is a mindset that comes along with being a traveller; It's an automatic state of mind. This is the mindset that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is trying to instil in us. In this entire world, in this entire journey through dunya, a person who sees this life as their permanent abode becomes like the one who is starting to complain a lot, or who now wants more things, demand more things and then gets more attached."


Travelling teaches you to detach from the familiar and from the comforts of home. This detachment is very important, especially in the materialistic world that we live in now. I love the above hadiths because of this lesson and  many others.

Travelling is a lot like Life in the following ways:

1) You have to have a purpose and a plan

Just like travelling, you need to figure out your purpose and have plans to achieve it. I guess you can go through life without any plans nor purpose but you'll just end up getting lost.

2) You expect difficulties

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” (John Steinbeck)

Travelling is never smooth sailing. You experience air turbulence, motion sickness, lost luggage, theft, food poisoning, accidents, delayed flights, etc. But, again, you have that traveller mindset; you know that difficulties are inevitable. So you are less likely to whine and complain a lot.

Funnily, we don't have the same mindset with regards to our everyday life. In our day-to-day affair, we want everything to be in order. No troubles, no heartaches, no sadness. We want things to be perfect, which is both unrealistic and naive.

3) You just have to have Faith

Whenever you encounter the travel-related problems listed above, or other more dire situations, you automatically turn to Allah for help. Especially when you're travelling alone and you're somewhat cut off from your support system. When you're stranded at an airport, in the middle of the night, in a foreign land, how do you suppose your family and friends can help you?

Fear of the unknown, of potential pitfalls, will likely prevent many people from venturing out on their own. But Faith/Tawakkul is a powerful thing. If you put your trust in Allah, He enables you to do wonderful, miraculous things.

4) You need a trusted companion

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” (Mark Twain)

Travelling with someone, being with them for almost 24/7,  is an eye-opening experience. You discover sides to your friend / sister / colleague that you were unaware of before. They will drive you crazy with their untidy habits and likewise, you'll annoy them with your extremely long showers. People's warts and all will be revealed and your patience will be greatly tested.

Thus, to make your journey enjoyable, it is paramount that you have a trusted companion by your side, someone whose idiosyncrasies you can live with :)

5) You learn to do away with stuff

Packing for trips is tricky. Packing too little will not do since you'll be doing away with essential items. But packing too much will hamper your journey. Lugging heavy bags around is never any fun. You'll get tired easily and move much more slowly. So you learn to only bring enough; No more than you can carry. You learn to redefine the word 'essentials' and realise you can do away with a lot of stuff.

6) You become reflective

On the road, you encounter so many new things that you cannot help but reflect on all of them to make sense of your experiences. Travelling is so much more than photo opportunities. Mark Jenkins said:

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”

7) You celebrate diversity

Maya Angelou puts it beautifully:

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”


Can you think of any other ways in which travelling is akin to Life? Do comment below! :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I touched a dog

There, I've said it.

Does that make me a bad person? Did attending the now infamous 'I want to touch a dog event' make me a bad Muslim? Does it indicate that I "menghina Islam" (as claimed on the front page of a daily)?

I haven't logged into my facebook account for a few days, so I was blissfully ignorant of the strong backlash against the event in social media. But I somehow sensed that things were not quite right when a family member whatsapp-ed a screenshot of the event and asked "apa perlu kempen ni?", not knowing that I had attended the event myself.

So I explained to her why I attended. And now, after reading the facebook posts of several close friends who also disapprove of the event, I think it's incumbent on me to explain myself again.

So readers, if you consider me your friend, please, hear me out. Put your preconceptions aside and weigh in my side of the story:

I first got to know of the event via fb (where else?) when somebody posted this link ( I then watched the video mentioned and was left feeling ashamed and outraged as well. How could we treat the most vulnerable people in our society with such disregard? That runs contrary to the teachings of Islam; We are supposed to be compassionate towards one another, especially those most in need of assistance in our society. However, our actions, as depicted in the video showed otherwise.

Though I was upset by what was shown in the video (see from 7:30 onwards), I wondered: What would I have done if I were in their place? I'm scared of dogs too, due to life-long conditioning. Most likely, I would have reacted in the same way: I would have jumped aside and avoided the blind man and his guide dog like a plague, instead of helping him. That scenario got me upset and ashamed of myself.

Thus I clicked 'Going' on the event page. The event was conceived to help people who are fearful of dogs, overcome their fear so that perhaps, in the future, they can do the right thing when they encounter situations similar to the ones in the video.

To me, that was the whole purpose of attending.
It WASN'T to showcase how "liberal-minded" I am.
It WASN'T an act of provocation.
I WASN'T willfully menajiskan myself.
I WASN'T about to keep dogs as pets, and most importantly,
I DIDN'T go with the intention of "menghina Islam".

God knows that I'm not a good Muslim, but I do try to be.

For those who disapprove of the event and have made their feelings known, please don't be too quick in passing judgments. Don't jump to conclusions by the sensationalised headlines that you read. Do not immediately assume that the organiser and the attendees have bad intentions and hidden agendas. You don't know what are in people's hearts so don't. Just don't.

One of the things that I read on my newsfeed was this: "Lepas ni kempen pegang babi pula?". I don't know whether to laugh or cry at reading that. Seriously?

Dear readers, even after reading this explanation, and watching the video that started it all, you still disagree with the event, fine. Let's agree to disagree. Just don't label and accuse people indiscriminately with hurtful words. That's not a very Muslim-thing to do.

The whole episode reminded me of this beautiful quote from the movie Chocolate:
"Listen, here's what I think. I think that we can't go around measuring our goodness by what we don't do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ramadan 1435

Only a few hours left before Eid-ul-Fitr but the mood is sombre. No one (except for kids) feel like celebrating when there are so many recent and ongoing tragedies around the world. The front page of today's Utusan Malaysia sums it up for me. Its headline reads: Tiada Aidilfitri di Gaza.

This year's Ramadan has gone by so fast and what a challenging month it has been. Abstaining from food and drink has been the easiest part. The hardest is grappling with the rising Palestinian death toll every single day. Truly, we're being severely tested as an ummah.

And while it is heartwarming to see the worldwide rallies in solidarity with the Palestinians, the slaughter continues. Israel seems to be immune to the international community's outrage. It still claims to have the moral high ground and tries so desperately to silence criticism.

But Israel has discovered that it's no longer possible to get away with murder in the age of social media. This article highlights the fact that "Israelis had and have nothing with which to balance those images of bloodied, mangled little corpses in Gaza".

At first, it was hard for me to cope with the news. The sense of helplessness and despair was overwhelming to the point of being paralysing. But the social-media posts below have helped me to somehow make sense of things and get my act together.


So, final words: Eid Mubarak! Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum (May Allah accept it from you and us). May Allah accept our prayers, du'as, charity, fasting, Quran recitation, qiyam, etc.
Let's celebrate Eid in moderation and constantly remember our suffering brothers and sisters in our prayers.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan Trip, Part 1

Kyrgyzstan blew me away. The snow-capped mountains framing Issy-kul Lake are just so beautiful & picturesque. I thank Allah for allowing me to be here & behold the magnificent sights on this journey, despite the many unfortunate things that have happened.

When I had the surgery, many doubt that I would recover in time to make the trip. I had doubts myself. Further, Kakak & I agreed to forgo Kyrgyzstan, fearing that the journey from Almaty to Bishkek would be too strenous for me. But somehow, her colleague persuaded her not to cancel Kyrgyzstan out. Otherwise, we would be missing out on "the most beautiful place in the region". Since the colleague is a Kyrgyzstan native, we thought he was just naturally biased. I don't think so now :)

On the eve of the trip, I began to get increasingly unwell. A runny nose and a sore throat preceded a mild fever. Then the violent sneezing. Then the horrible coughing. If I hadn't already paid a small fortune for the flight tickets, I wouldn't have gone on the trip at all. All I wanted to do was lie in bed and get better. I didn't think I was up for an 8-hour flight to Central Asia and other hardships that travelling inevitably brings.

But alhamdulillah, I got on that flight. Difficult roads lead to beautiful places. And difficult journeys are so rewarding in the end.

This is my second day in Kyrgyzstan, after spending 4 days touring Almaty, Kazakhstan. And so far, I've seen a wooden cathedral, canyons, steppes, alpine mountains, a lake that's turqoise in colour, beautiful unpolluted rivers & of course the majestic snow-capped mountains.

Further, my sisters & I are (continuously) fed delicious, traditional food from the region by our gracious hosts. Our hosts have been most kind & generous. We don't know how we will ever repay their kindness.

So that's all my updates for now. Will try to write more later.

Btw, I'm feeling better now but unfortunately, Kakak is now sick. Sigh. 

InshaAllah, we'll be fine. As Paul Theroux once said, Travel is glamorous only in retrospect! Do pray for our safe travels.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Teachers' Day 2014

Writing a Teachers' Day post has been a yearly ritual for me. I just have to write one in order to reflect on how another year of teaching has changed me.

This year's post will be short (I think). Out of all the facebook posts on Teachers' Day last week, my favourite was this, written by a friend, on her timeline:

"May we never lose the flame"

Those simple words meant a lot to me. Some people become jaded after several years of teaching. And it's not hard to see why. Teachers are overworked and under-appreciated and criticisms are constantly hurled our way. But as the saying (attributed to Mother Teresa) goes:

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Last year, Ainur shared with me this link: 'Without teachers, the classroom is just a room'. The excerpt that I really like (because it mirrors my own belief) is this:

"[A young teacher from Houston, Texas] said that when he reflected about what it meant to be a good teacher, he realized that he had to live the values he was trying to instill in the students. Then he said that once he reflected on what it meant to live good values, he stopped thinking just about being a better teacher and started thinking about being a better human being."

That's my core teaching philosophy as well. For me, being a better teacher equals being a better human being. Thus, it's a continuous, never-ending process of improving oneself.

Though I fall short of the ideal many, many times, I hope that I'll never stop trying and that the flame will never stop burning.

Happy Teachers' Day to all educators!