Thursday, September 28, 2006

One Iftar in Ramadhan

We were rushed for time. Iftar was just minutes away and we were at the traffic light round the corner. We saw the lady standing on the side with her young child. Two or three years of age perhaps.

"Do you have some small change?" he asked me.

I reached for my bag.

Oh but apparently the lady and her child were not begging as they crossed the road, walking past our car.

The child, a little girl wearing pink, was playful, hung back. The mum pushed her forward.

To our horror the little girl almost fell head first onto the road.

Oh no! I thought! I hope there isn't a car coming their way.

The mum held on to the back of her t shirt and pulled it up. The child was crying.

We saw them walk away.

Somehow the sight of the girl falling down because her mum pushed her forward stayed in my mind. Surely the mum didn't do it on purpose? Surely she loves her little girl? Perhaps she underestimated her own strength?

I hope that girl will always be protected by Allah and may he give her good health and happiness always.


The sight of the mother and child crossing the road was a huge contrast to the people who we had iftar with. Toting their latest Roberto Cavalli handbags and their glittery abayas, the ladies were out to impress their friends.

Just seeing the shoes outside the ladies prayer room was as good as strolling on the ladies' shoe department at Harrods. Pradas and shimmery mules. Just name the designer, the shoe would be there.

I don't have to worry about my shoes being stolen then. An old tired, battered and smelly Scholl, I just put it on the side such that no Jimmy Choos would trip over them.

And outside at the dining hall there was just a huge rush for food! Everyone was just so impatient! But all the money and the riches in the world can buy them manners. Designer accessorized plebians at best. While waiting for my ouzi, I watched in horror as a child used her hands to grab the lamb. The mum was too busy dishing food in her own plate that he hardly heed any attention to the child. The server patiently served them, cutting pieces of meat and putting them on her plate. And she used her hands to put them back on the tray.

Did she wash her hands? I wondered.


Ramadhan teaches us to be closer with those who have starve day after day. With hopes that we would bring ourselves closer to the Almighty. And that we try to live our lives simply.

But somehow my two experiences today has shown me that the great divide between the rich and the poor is often too big.

And my lesson for the day? To remember that there is life beyond Prada shoes, Roberto Cavalli handbags and thousand riyals abayas.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I smoke when I'm lonely

We pressed on his doorbell twice. There was no answer the first time round.

Perhaps he isn't at home?

Finally he answered the door.

"Oh hello," he greeted us. Surprised. We tried calling him earlier but there was no answer.

"Sorry I have turned off the aircon," he apologized sheepishly.

"I wasn't expecting company. Come on in."

"I didn't know you smoked?" said S.

"I only smoke when I get lonely."

That remarked he made, even though it was sponteneous and offhand, struck me like a knife on my chest.

I noticed he has been lying down on the couch in the living room. With a neat, white pillowcase, a laptop on the coffee table and a headphone. A yellow food container laid on the table, take away dinner perhaps.

I've been there, living on the sofa in my living room, at different times in my life. Once while at university when I was living alone. And once again while waiting to come here.

And so has S.

Just at that moment I felt so grateful, so thankful that I have S on my side.

Because that person living on the couch in front of the tv and the pc could just as easily be either one of us.

He left his beloved and his 2 children back home. Not everyone gets the luxury of coming here as a family. Many don't.

Perhaps I wished that we were elsewhere but for now I am grateful that we are together.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Melayu baru?

Jam 10 malam di kota Singa. Ke mana boleh kami pergi? Leceh sungguh rasanya tidak ada empat roda sendiri, tapi tak mengapa teksi banyak ada. Ke manakah kami? Yang lain semua sudah tutup, ke Mustafa center la akhirnya. Di buka 24 jam, boleh saya lepaskan geram hendak membeli belah di tengah malam dalam kota singa yang humid ini.

Di Mustafa saya perasan, ada ramai Melayu. Ada yang datang sekeluarga, ada yang datang bersama teman-teman. Ada yang melihat saya dengan tanda tanya di muka mereka. Ada pula yang setelah melihat and memalingkan muka ke tempat lain. Lantaklah.

"They think you are Malaysian." Bisik si dia. Betulkah? Sudah lama ku tinggalkan kota ini hingga aku dilihat seperti orang asing di tempat kelahiran ku?

Mungkin kerana saya bertudung hitam dan mendokong si cilik di dalam sling.

Tapi yang nyata bahasa yang dituturkan orang Melayu di k0ta Singa ini susah untuk saya fahami. Phrasa-phrasa yang amat janggal di dengar timbul semula.

"Kitaorang nak pegi makan lah!"

Pengalaman saya ini, saya ceritakan pada Crof. Adakah ini perkembangan baru?

Ya inilah dia Melayu ghetto. Mereka ada lingo mereka sendiri. Cara percakapan mereka berbeza.

Yang jelas bukan saya sahaja yang nampak/denagr kelainan dalam mereka.

Sedang saya membeli coklat di Millinea walk, saya di tanya,

"You all ni bukan orang sini ke?"


"We are, just that we've been living abroad for awhile."

Dia nampak tanduk alien kah di atas kepala saya?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Are you a strict Musl|m?

The question was posed to me by a friend last night.

My immediate reaction was, what does it mean being a strict Musl}m?

Am I considered one now because I wear a scarf?

Frankly I am a scarf wearer in training right now. I don't wear my scarf as neatly as others do. But I didn't know that a bit of fabric on my head would make so much difference in the way other people see and perceive me. I am still struggling with the fabric but I guess its more than just a fabric, its me holding a sign saying "I am a Musl|m woman."

As for being a "strict" Musl|m, I'm not even sure what that means. I'm just trying to be a grateful and humble slave, who is grateful to Allah for all that he has given me. I have been very lucky in this life so far and the least I could do is to be grateful with what He is giving me.

Another asked me if this was a splash back from living in S@udi Ar@bia. Perhaps in the beginning it was. But I would say my main impetus for change was our pilgrimage trip. For me it was a journey that opened my eyes. It made me see the beauty of the religion and the people who practise the religion.

This pilgrimage experience however should not be mixed up with my experience of living in R|yadh, because living in the city made me realize that the beauty of my religion has nothing to do with geography or a certain race of people. I have faced more racism here than I have ever experienced before in my life. And no secular law can make the people in the country more religious. It can limit temptation yes, but it will not make the people religious.

At the end of the day, its the intentions we have at heart that counts. I don't think I am a good enough Musl|m that I think I should be. I am trying though. I am trying my hardest to be a better person.

I only ask that Allah gives me strength and make it easier for me to do so.