Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Happy Birthday My Dear Son

Celebrating Afzal's 1st birthday in Oregon, USA.

Happy Birthday my son.....Today, you would have turned 27. As always, we would celebrate it among family- Andi, Aiysha and me, because Atiqah and Papa are in K.K, maybe joined by a few other family members. But of course Papa would be the first to wish you at 12.01am, taking pains to wait up just so he could be the first to wish you. I would patiently wait for morning, giving you a birthday hug and wishing you before I go off to work, then sending sms to everyone to remind them oft your birthday.

Your favourite cake is chocolate cake, or chocolate cheese cake! That would have been your birthday cake. But then, when we last celebrated your birthday, you were already on a special diet and these normal cakes are out! Atiqah baked you special organic cupcakes, with onlyingredients that you could take....complete with its chocolate peanut butter frosting! You did not expect we could pull off a birthday cake and was delightfully surprisedwhen we came down the stairs bearing the cupcakes......It's a memory I will treasure always - your last birthday.

Happy Birthday my son, may Allah grant you the best place possible, among those deserving His love and rewards......Mama Afzal.

Afzal's 26th birthday celebration with the family in Seri Petaling.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Thank You, Afzal's Friends............

Afzal's friends
....there are so many of you, and I do not know most of your names. Some of your faces are familiar because you keep cropping up in Afzal's collection of photos or videos. One thing is common in these photos or videos -they all captured Afzal's smiling face. That tells me just one thing - Afzal is always happy among his FRIENDS!

When he was hospitalised in December, 2010, I did not plan to let any of his friends know. Simply because at first I did not think Afzal would stay long in the hospital and also because Afzal said there's no need to bother people. But somehow, news reached his friends and you all came from far and near, old friends, new ones and I witnessed an amazing outpouring of emotions, some more significant then others.

Before Eid-ul-Fitr comes to a close, I thought it is fitting to attach this video that Aiysha has done, which I dedicate to all of Afzal's FRIENDS out there. May Allah always guide you to the right path......Mama Afzal.



Saturday, 23 July 2011

Allah certainly has unique ways to show His Love, I hope I will not lose my chance....

I won't get to hug him like this again

This July, 2011, I turn 53.....pretty old, physically, but not necessarily wiser. Nevertheless, I feel it is high time I accord due recognition to all those responsible for the person I have become, because indirectly, they are also responsible towards how I have brought up Afzal. I relate here stories of my own humble upbringing, which I think have contributed as the basis of values I uphold, that I have passed down to Afzal and to which he has value added to form his own personality........

STORY NO. ONE - My Father (now 79 years old) taught me the meaning of Family Ties

My father, Hj. Mohamed Salleh, calls Afzal Tok Imam

He is not perfect, but he helped laid the foundation for my personality. He instilled in me the importance of doing things as a family unit. As a child, my siblings and I are taught to eat our meals together (the rationale then was because there would be enough food for everyone if meals were eaten together, but if everybody ate at their own freewill, the last to eatmight have to be satisfied with just rice and soy sauce!).

The girls in my family seldom have the pleasure of social outings with friends, especially out-of-town or overnight outings. If we really needed to go somewhere, the whole family will go together (the rationale was, we were still too young andnot ready to face the challenges oflife out there, unchaperoned!). It may not be as interesting going with the whole family, but we were not deprived of going, nonetheless.

STORY NO. TWO - My Mother (passed away 22.6.2007, at the age of 72, four years ago) taught me the meaning of Responsibility

Mom, Hajjah Zaharah Samad, when she visited us in the United States in 1986

She was a working mom (she worked as an assistant nurse). She taught me, at an early age, the meaning of responsibility.

I am the second daughter in a family of 8. I have an elder sister (by one year) and a younger sister (by one year). My fourth sister, diedat the age of 3 1/2, from Polio. My fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth siblings are all boys. My seventh brother died at the age of 13, fromThalasemia Major. My elder sister was also stricken with Thalasemia Major and died at the age of 22. While she was alive, there were times when she was too weak to shoulder much household chores, but spiritually she was strong. She passed her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exam, even though she missed many classes!

When I was in form 5 (1973), my mom gave birth to my eighth brother, Azmir. After 42 days of confinement and maternity leave, she had to resume work at the hospital and this create a lot of challenges because there were times when we did not have a maid inthe house! I remember when mom worked the morning shift, her working hours were from 7am to 2pm. My elder sister and I would usually come home from school at 1pm and my father (a teacher) would be back by 1.30pm. My younger sister attended afternoon school and would be the one babysitting little Azmir in the morning until my elder sister and I came home. But I also had to cook lunch! Fortunately, no family member ever complained about my cooking....either because I was a good cook or because everyone was too hungry to complain, since lunch was usually only served at 3pm!

It was even scarier when my mom had to work the night shift(her working hours were from 9pm to 7am the next day) or on weekends, because it meant I had to look after little Azmir throughout the night, feed him, change him, bathe him and put him to bed! Imagine me, 16 years old then, bathing a 43-day-old baby!

STORY NO THREE - My Siblings taught me the meaning of Sacrifice and Perseverence

Me, and my siblings : Azmir, Roslina, Ahmad Shukree and Ahmad Shahrir at his wedding

Being the "eldest" in the family, my brothers depended onme for many things while they were still studying, especially after I secured a job, got married, had a family of my own and was living in KL. Times were tough then but I am thankful that Allah gave me the strength to persevere. Whatever assistance I could give to my brothers may not have been much, but I was glad I helped them as much as I could at the time when they needed me most and I believe that formed the basis of our bonding that remained strong till today. I also believe that whatever little help I gave them back then, I am reaping the benefits now because while I lived and worked in Kota Kinabalu for 16 years and my children studied in Kuala Lumpur, I did not have to worry because my siblings were always at hand to assist them.

STORY NO. FOUR - My Husband taught me the meaning af Unconditional Love

Masarudin Mohd. Yusof - very proud father at Afzal's graduation in July, 2009

It does not matter if you are a Mother or a Father. Both play a vital part in the life of a child. There is also no need to compete for your child's affection because each parent has differentroles to perform, roles that are perfectly meant for one and not the other, complementing each other, just as Allah has decreed upon partners in a marriage.

I thank Allah for giving my children the privilege of enjoying the pleasure of both a Father and a Mother. And I thank Him too for giving me a husband who knows his responsibility and discharges them well, according to his own mould and capability. But then, I did not always feel this way............

I have had my share of frustrations and anger towards my better half. Frustrated because I feel that I have done so much, whereas he is always not at home (his job takes him out-station a lot). Angry because I felt that I have always been giving and sacrificing for the family, whereas he has not appreciated it....But how wrong was I!

Indeed, reading entries in Afzal's and Jeps's blogs has made my realize a lot of things about what kind of father my husband has been to our children. He is the very opposite of me. I am very vocal and express my feelings openly towards my children, whereas he is more reserved. I cry when I am sad, laugh loud when I am happy and nag when I am angry! He keeps his emotions in check most of the time. Throughout our marriage, I have only seen my husband cry twice...once when he got news of his father's death and another when sending Afzal off to the UK to study, in 2004....and I thought he was not a sensitive person! After Afzal left us, I have come to realize also that my husband loves his children and cherishes them more than his life! It does not matter to him if others realises that or not because he is not out to impress anyone. He is just loving his family unconditionally!

Reminiscing over all these stories make me also realise how true Afzal's words were in these Entries:

Title - "I know what you don't know (Part2)"

"...and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know." [2:216]

Titlt - "I know what you don't know (Part 1)"

".....even the Prophet couldn't initially comprehend the wisdom of Allah's planning, only to learn that his Creator is indeed the best disposer of all affairs..."

........Mama Afzal

Monday, 23 May 2011

The A List Girls in His Life...

Afzal was more into sports than girls. Not that he did not like them. He oggled pretty celebrities just like everbody else. But, he once told me, "Saya nak bercinta lepas kahwin.." (I want to fall in love after marriage.."). He was a big fan of Siti Nurhaliza's songs (I suppose Siti's clean image appealed to him). He knew all her songs and sang them well too (We sang them together all the time and I never failed to post him Siti's new albums). As far as I knew, he never had any special girlfriend. I guess between football, badminton, rugby, bowling and all the other games that he played, he did not have time for anything else!

However, he was very close with three girls... Siti Nor Aiysha and Siti Nor Atiqah - his little sisters and Ainul Mardhiah - his cousin-cum third little sister!

Afzal and Aiysha

Afzal was 5 when Aiysha was born on July 12th 1989. They both grew up in Kota Kinabalu, fighting and competing like any other siblings. Yet, when Afzal left to read medicine in Sheffield back in September 2004, Aiysha was the one who was still crying long after Afzal's plane left KLIA. She did not say why she felt so sad then and I did not press her for the reason, but I think it was because it suddenly dawned on her that she was not sure when would be the next time she could cuddle up to her big brother again. Unlike the times when Afzal was studying in KL, she could always count on meeting him during semester breaks or at least during festivities or even when she herself made the trip to KL. And that made her feel like she had "lost" him. Throughout those years that Afzal studied in the UK and came back occasionally for holidays, I noticed that Aiysha would be very excited in anticipation of his return.

Aiysha is my first-born daughter. After 3 boys, we welcomed her into our family with heaps of dresses, baju kurungs and dolls! She fitted in well with her brothers,and was always close to Afzal. Both of them share the same passion for football and are great fans of Manchester United.
Afzal would send her mementos from Old Trafford's Superstore - magazines, key chains, mini radio, mufflers, figurines etc. She kept them all in her bedside locker, together with the envelopes/wrappers that came with the postage! Each time Afzal came home and there was a match with MU playing, Aiysha would stay up with her brothers, shouting and screaming (I think she screamed louder than her brothers!). She knew all the footballers' names. But Afzal said she only memorized names of the cute players!

Being a student at UPM (doing mathematics), she lives in KL and was able to meet Afzal in KLIA when he arrived on February 1st, 2010. I am so grateful that she was around because that meant an extra helping hand to look after Afzal. Aiysha proved to be such a gem. She helped brew Afzal's medicinal tea and pestered him to drink them (all 4 - 6types per day, depending on his condition), apply moisturizing cream to help with Afzal's consistent itching and gave him massages upon request. She also kept Afzal company when I was away at work and accompany Afzal when he needed to shop for things. She took so many pictures with Afzal and uploaded
a few on Facebook that some friends thought they were a couple... he.. he.. he..

Afzal and Atiqah

Atiqah's the baby in the family, born August 15th, 1994. Aiysha was 5 when she came into our lives. She was born in Kota Kinabalu. I remember when my husband brought Afzal and the rest of the brood over to meet Atiqah for the first time, their first comment was, "Wow, banyaknye rambut dia!" (Wow, she has so much hair!". Her brothers used to tease her, "...nanti kan, bila kita nak kena pindah balik KL, awak tak boleh ikut tau, sebab awak orang Sabah.... pegawai imigresen tu takkan bagi awak ikut!" (".. you know, when it's time for us to move back to KL, you can't come with us because you were born in Sabah... they'll stop you at the immigration!"). Back when she was little, this teasing used to make her cry.

Afzal adored Atiqah (well, all her siblings do actually, especially because they were already grown up by the time Atiqah was born and as such were more appreciative of a new addition to the family). I remember when Atiqah was old enough to understand and respond (about 2/3 years old), she would always be the one I'd ask to coax Afzal whenever he was angry or sulking.

Eventhough she's the youngest in the family and got all the attention and could get nearly anything that she wanted, Atiqah is no spoil brat. She is a strong-willed and good girl. When I got transferred to KL in November 2007, she refused to follow saying she was not comfortable living in busy KL.
My husband and I didn't insist. So, she stayed behind with my husband and I visit them as often as I could (before Afzal came back, I used to travel to KK nearly every weekend, but I cut it down to every fortnightly or monthly because I could not bear leaving Afzal alone in KL). Every time it was school holidays, she would travel alone, by plane, from KK to KL and back to KK. She did it on her own for the first time when she was hardly 15 years old. I was skeptical at first but it turned out fine and she has been doing it so much, she's a pro now!

Atiqah did her part to help take care of Afzal, but what surprised me most was her willingness to apply moisturizing cream, scratch and massage Afzal, every time she was in KL. It really filled my heart with pride to see my little girl doing the grown-up thing of chipping in when it mattered most - taking care of our loved ones.

Afzal was passionate about supporting the fight for Palestinian rights. When he came home a few years back, he was armed with this tiny card that held a list of brands/food outlets that he would stay away from because sales from them would contribute to buying arms to slaughter Palestinians. And of course when Afzal was around we would avoid McD, Starbucks, Burger King and a list of other frequently visited places. What tickled me most was when Afzal was not around (gone back to UK) and any of us wanted to visit these "prohibited" eateries, Atiqah would be the one to stop us "...Afzal tak suka la!" ("...Afzal would not like it!") and somehow after a while, we got used to not frequenting these places. Actually, Afzal never stopped us from frequenting whichever eateries or buying whatever brands that we chose. His principles applied to him alone. Others were free to follow only if they chose to.

Afzal and Ainul

Ainul is my younger brother's 9 year-old daughter. back when Afzal was studying in KMYS/KMYUEM, he could not always come home to KK during his semester breaks. During those times, he opted to stay at his uncle's (whom we all refer to as Paktam) place in Putrajaya. Apart from the fact that Paktam treated him like his own son, Afzal loved to stay in Putrajaya because he could bond with Ainul who was about 2 years old then. I believe Ainul helped ease his longing for Atiqah too.

These two did all sorts of things together, including watching the whole of Akademi Fantasia series. We found a CD filled with pictures of Ainul among Afzal's possessions. To Ainul, Afzal was her big brother. When Afzal left to study in the UK, he kept close contact with Paktam and Ainul through phone calls and emails and Putrajaya was a mandatory stopover each time he came back for holidays.

As fate would have it, Mak Tam got a scholarship to do her Masters in London for a year in 2009/2010. Paktam followed eventhough he had to lay off work and became a household husband for a whole year! I was thankful because it meant that family was close-by to look in on Afzal while he received his chemo. When Afzal was in hospital for his high-dose chemo treatment, even Ainul got to visit him at Royal Hallamshire Hospital. I remember when Afzal was warded at Ampang Hospital in December 2010, Ainul queried why she was not allowed to visit Afzal because she could do it in UK.

Afzal was a good influence over Ainul because he imparted all the good values on her. I remember in September 2009, when I visited Afzal, weboth went to London to help Paktam move into their new home in Mount Pleasure, Tottenham. We all went out household/grocery shopping and Afzal was in-charge of Ainul. Each time Ainul wanted to buy something, Afzal would grill her with twenty questions on why she needed the stuffs and more often than not, she would end up not buying them. I also remember one day when Afzal and me had to babysit Ainul while Paktam accompanied Mak Tam to settle matters at the university, we went out marketing. All the way back, Afzal taught Ainul to sing "How Do You Like Your Eggs in the Morning", a song for orange juice commercial that he saw everyday over TV while he was hospitalized. By the time we were nearing home, Ainul had memorised the song and just as we were about to enter the gate to the house Afzal said to Ainul, "okay, cuba baca surah Al-Fatihah pulak!" ("okay, now recite surah Al-Fatihah!"). Luckily she still remembered the whole surah.

Afzal was also close to his cousins but I believe he held these 3 girls very close to his heart. These are 3 girls that he would hug and hold hands with anytime he wished. All 3 of them are girls who are still missing him very much........

AND THEN.... a 4th girl entered Afzal's life.

Afzal and Afifah

Nur Afifah is Jep's wife, my daugher-in-law. Her father hails from Sandakan while her mother is a Terengganu lass. She was introduced into our lives back when our whole family was living in KK. She is such a lovable character that she fitted in easily when Jep married her in December 2009. Jep described her as someone "...with a very kind heart". And I agree totally.

Back when she was just Jep's girlfriend, Afzal would complain every time Jep spent more time with her then with us, his family.Afzal used to say, jokingly, "Itu la kau, melebihkan orang luar dari keluarga sendiri..." (How can you put an outsider before your own family..."). And Jep would answer, "Engkau belum bercinta bah... kau ndak faham..." ("You are not in love... that's why you don't understand..."). And as if understanding this, Fifah (as we fondly call her) was actually quite concerned about how Afzal would react to her joining the family. Of course her fears were actually unfounded. Afzal was just putting on an act to irk Jep and because to him they were not yet married, thus should abide by the restrictions between men and women as stipulated in Islam.

By the time Afzal came back in February 2010, Fifah was already a member of our household, living with me and my children because Jep was in Melbourne pursuing his PhD. She had to stay behind to finish her Master's degree. As it turned out, she was another blessing in my household because she took over taking care of Afzal while I was at work an Aiysha was in campus. Every morning, I would prepare Afzal's breakfast and medication, but she would be the one responsible to prepare Afzal's lunch and any other needs while waiting for me to come home in the evening. She is heaven sent into my life and I thank Allah for that. Afzal told me, "Saya memang selalu terfikir nak ada kakak. Saya anggap Fifah kakak saya. Tak sangka dia sanggup jaga saya macam ni..." ("I've always wanted a big sister and I now have one in Fifah. I never thought she would be willing to take care of me like this...").

So.... these are the A list girls in Afzal's life. When I reflect on all that they had done, I realised that being young is no obstacle for them to learn the meaning of sacrifice. They sacrificed their time, energy and emotion, to take care of someone they loved very much...Afzal. Sometimes as adults, we can be so full of ourselves and think that we know everything compared to our children, when in actual fact there are a lot we can learn from them too......Mama Afzal.

P/S : Thank you Eliyana Saliha Elias for giving me that much needed push to write this entry.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Afzal...Charting His Own Path In Life

Afzal sending me off at the Sheffield bus station in May 2009. He was too tired to send me off to London.

One blogger was puzzled as to how Afzal's writing mirrored someone who received his education in Islamic Religious(IR) Schools and how he was able to quote verses from the Qur'an and Hadith in his writings. I will try to enlighten everyone as to how he turned out the way he did despite not going to IR schools. The last school he attended was La Salle Secondary School, Kota Kinabalu.

Afzal grew up in a very close-knit family. I am close with my parents and 4 siblings and I made sure my children are close to their grand-parents, uncles and aunts and cousins (on both sides – mine and my husband's). We visit each other often, not just during Eid celebrations. We get together for birthdays, to celebrate someone getting straight As in their exams, a new baby in the family, someone getting a new car and for any small excuse we can cook up. We even get together just because it's been two weeks since we last saw each other!

I am also very lucky because my father (a retired teacher), reads the Qur'an well. When he was young, living in Ulu Gali, Raub, Pahang, in a remote village, he liked to boast as the one who read the Qur'an the best and loudest. He used this ability to teach all his grandchildren (well, at least when we visit him or he visits us, that is). Even when we were already living in Kota Kinabalu, I would “import” my parents, especially during school holidays, so that my children could benefit from his prowess in Qur'an reading. He was always willing to teach my children to read the Qur'an. And Afzal, turned out to be his best student because he was always eager to learn.

Actually my father is a very strict teacher, even to his children (that's why my sisters and I were taught to read the Qur'an by an ustazah – a beautiful ustazah, both physically and in her mannerisms), but somehow, he's gentle with his grandchildren.

My father would also always insist that we perform our obligatory solat together, especially for Maghrib, Isya' and Subuh. At the end of these prayers, he would recite the same dua's and zikirs ( I learned Ayat Qursi from listening to him reciting it!) Learning from my father was interesting for my children because, he is also a great Scout. He would come to KK armed with tents and fishing rods. He would pitch tents in our front yard and convinced my children to sleep in them at night, pretending they are having a Scout's Camp out! (but many times my boys would escape in the middle of the night and jumped into their own comfy beds!). He would take them fishing in the Padas river (where years later, we found out, had crocodiles in it!). He would build tree houses behind our house, where the children hung out on hot Sunday afternoons and impressive little“bungalows” for their pet the end of these activities, he would coerce them into performing the obligatory solat and then read the Quran. Inevitably, during each prayer session, my three boys would be asked to recite the azan and Afzal never declined and did it many times. That was how Afzal was introduced to the teachings of Islam and the Quran.

But I think, he learned the most when he studied in Kolej Matrikulasi Yayasan Saad (KMYS, which then changed its name to KYUEM) in 2002. While in KMYS, he attended many talks, seminars, classes related to Islam and met many people who were preaching the words of Allah through the Qur'an and Hadith. Afzal also loved to visit book stores, especially Minerva in Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, which sold many books on Islam. He has quite an impressive collection that now graces my book shelves in Seri Petaling. Afzal also loved going to the mosque especially for Maghrib/Isya' and Subuh prayers. Whenever he came home during holidays, he would always be asked to lead prayers in our home. Even my father would ask him to be imam....simply because he has a beautiful voice and he is also able to recite long verses from the Qur'an during the prayer. I remember my father saying “Abah pun tak pernah baca ayat-ayat panjang ni, tapi Afzal boleh hafal” (“Even I am not able to read these long Quranic versus, but Afzal recites them by heart”).

Whilst studying at KYUEM, since my family was in KK, Afzal sometimes spent his holidays in KL and stayed in my brother's house in Putrajaya. He would frequent most if not all the mosques and suraus in Putrajaya. Since he did not have a car, he rode on my brother's bicycle to get to these mosques and suraus! Afzal learnt the most about Islam and the Qur'an while studying in Sheffield. That was the time when he was greatly invloved in giving back to other fellow students, whatever knowledge and experience he had acquired, through the various talks and sharing sessions he attended.

I remember during one of those talks we had together with regards to his high dose chemo and the time when he had to stay in hospital the longest, he said “masa kat hospital kali ni, saya paling banyak tengok bende2 tak berfaedah kat TV Ma, sebab tak ada bende lain nak buat” (“this time around, while in hospital, I saw the most unbeneficial shows on TV Ma, because there was not much else to do”). He was very concerned about using his time. He would make sure he spent his free time watching or reading or doing something useful (to him, bonding with family and friends is something useful!). When he came home in February 2010, I used to pester him to update his blog and he would answer back “penat Ma nak update blog ni sebab saya kena buat research, tak boleh tulis sembarangan, kena ada bahan yang akan bagi faedah pada pembaca..” (“updating blogs is tiring Ma because I need to do research to make sure what I write will benefit my readers..”). That is why his blogs are full of verses from the Qur'an and Hadith...he looked them up and thanks to the wonders of internet, he did not have to rely only on hard copies!

I suppose, who he turned out to be in the end, was more from his own doing. At the height of his growing up (ie. from the year 2002, at the age of 17, when he left home to study in KYUEM and then proceeded to UK), he charted his own path in life. Even without the close guidance of his parents, he was wise enough to choose the right path. For that I am eternally grateful to all his friends and teachers, who became his close companions and whom Allah had fated to be the ones to help “take care“ of him....Al-Fatihah....mama Afzal.

Afzal is good with children. He was contemplating specializing in paediatrics. Here he is holding cousin, Mohamad Adam Mikhail.

Saturday, 12 March 2011



1990 was a significant year in my family’s history. 26th June 1990 marked the day my husband and I moved our family to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. My husband got a job in Kota Kinabalu that we felt would promise us better future. Though I was skeptical at first, fearing the worst since there were a lot of unknowns in the world of Borneo and the fact that it was only accessible via air travel, I decided to do the right thing and support my husband.

We uprooted our family - Andi, then 8 , Jaffri 7, Afzal 6 and Aiysha 11 months (Atiqah was born in KK, in 1994) and moved to Kota Kinabalu, which became our home until today. Looking back, I felt that was the best decision we made for the family. Sabah, generally and Kota Kinabalu specifically lacked the hustle, developments and varieties offered by our previous home, KL (in 1990 that is – come to KK now and it’s so alive!). But nevertheless, it provided something more important- peace and the ideal surroundings to bring up a young family like ours.

The original 4 that got uprooted to KK-Andi, Jaffri, Afzal & Aiysha.

We got to send all our children to school ourselves and pick them up later. We knew who their teachers, friends and friends’ families were. KK boasted of only 2 big shopping complexes then, and one of them only opened in July 1990. Thus, we knew where and with whom our children hung out. If we did not find out on our own, our friends or neighbours would inevitably relay the news to us.....These are familiar conversations we heard all the time “I saw Andi in Centre Point yesterday, with so and so”.... “what was Jaffri doing in Karamunsing last week at 8pm?”....”Afzal went bowling with my son last weekend”. And of course many times our children hang out with us (some children would be embarrassed to be found going around with their parents – not cool!).

Bringing up children is a challenge to be reckoned with. Doing it away from the hustle and bustle of the city is indeed very helpful.

I admit it was not easy trying to juggle between attending to my work and having to manage my children’s school time-table. It was especially challenging because my husband’s work involved a lot of out-station stints. But indeed Allah’s plans are beautiful and only He knows what is best. Those trying times of having to ferry my children to and from school or other places gave me the opportunity to lecture them on values and challenges in life. After listening to my lectures for the whole of their “school-going-days”, I’m sure some must have stuck in their head and remained till today. In a way, they grew up with my words guiding them.

There were times when my husband and I wondered if the decision to bring our children to Sabah was right, because by doing so we have deprived them of so many opportunities and choices that were easily available in KL. Every year we only got to bring back our family for Eid celebration (those days airfare per person was about RM800, so to bring everyone back would cost me - RM800 x 7 = RM5,600). But luckily, the Government pays for one trip every 2 years and since my husband was also a Government servant, we both enjoyed that privilege, so we all get to go back every year.

Each time we were in KL, my children would go wild with excitement over the simplest of development. They would marvel at ordinary things like sky-scrapers, double-decker buses, fast food outlets and chain stores. That made me felt so guilty and sad. To make up for the deprivation, each time I go to KL for work, I often brought home stuffs considered weird by some....McDonald burgers (before McD opened in KK) A & W waffles (things my children loves to eat), longan (longan in KK cost RM8 –RM12 a kg!), pajamas bought from Reject shop (they used to be dirt cheap but nice!) and the list goes on....

The close age-gap made them the best of friends.


Afzal loved food. From small, he had a sweet tooth too. He refused to bring plain water to school, so I had to make sure I’m well stocked with cordials. His favourite is orange juice (well, cordial juice). Papa would never fail to bring home Sunkist orange cordial every time he had work in KL (It’s only RM9.90 in KL, but cost RM14 in KK). He would put them in his brief case (5 bottles fits nicely in the brief case!) and hand carry it. When I ran out of cordials, I would make “air sirap”(home made, red-coloured cordial). I remember, when we came back from the U.S back in 1987, and Afzal was about 2 years old then, he did not like this red coloured cordial drink. He called it “yucky water”. He was so used to milk and orange juice in the U.S, so he could not accept a red coloured juice! I used to have a lot of problem when I brought him to weddings where they served nothing but “air sirap”. But surprisingly, he loved nasi minyak and curry or “rendang” eventhough they were spicy. Since he did not like “air sirap”, he would only drink water when we reached home.

Just as he loved food, he also loved reading. He reads all the time (well, when he was not playing football that is! That’s another great love of his). He liked to read while having his food even – a habit I tried to stop, but failed. Everytime he ate, he would grab whatever reading material available, be it books, newspapers, magazines, even flyers or cereal boxes!

Because I had 3 growing, school-going boys, I get very concerned if they did not get enough to eat at school. The solution – packed food everyday for school for everyone. When my children were in primary school, I pack them heavy food like nasi lemak, fried noodles and nuggets. But as they grew up and while in secondary school, they preferred lighter and less messy food, so I opted for sandwiches or other finger food like curry puffs and "pau". They all brought packed food to school from home everyday until they were in form five (I must say I’m so proud of them because they did not feel embarrassed eating packed food even in high school!).

I remember one day Afzal came back from school (he was in standard 4 or 5, I think), and complained that he only got to eat about 2 spoonfuls of his nasi lemak because his friends ate the rest. He then asked if i could pack him a few extra nasi lemak the next time I made them so he could give to his friends (actually I suggested he ate away from the crowd in the canteen so no one would bother him, but he said it was no use because his friends knew he always brought interesting food to school, so they stalked him!). I did just that and he came home bringing a list of orders from his friends, for more nasi lemak, instead!

Well, since I had to wake up early to prepare the nasi lemak anyway, so, why not prepare more.

Partners in crime, and always looking out for each other.


As a working mother, I was always on the lookout for quick ways to prepare good tasting and if possible, healthy foods for my children. As a precaution, I made sure that there was always bread, mayonnaise and sandwich fillings like cheese, tuna, eggs and sardines in the house. With these ingredients I could easily whip up sandwiches which were a hit with my children....or so I thought. Little did I know that Afzal did not like mayonnaise and I put them in all my tuna and egg sandwiches! He never let on about it because he did not have the heart to do so. He just took the sandwiches to school everytime I prepared them. His two brothers knew but never spilled the beans either. I only found out about it during out family chats years later, when he was already studying in Sheffield. When I asked him why he did not tell me, he said “..kesian mama dah susah2 prepare”("I pity mama already took the trouble to prepare them"). And when I asked him what he ate in school then? His answer was “..saya makan keropok je!”("I just ate some chips").

Being busy working mothers are no excuse to not attend to our children’s needs be it at school or at home. If there’s a will, there’s always a way.

Two pairs of brothers winning a bowling tournament in 2000 - Mas Jaffri/Mas Afzal Masarudin & Shahreen/Shahfie Tahir.

Afzal and Jaffri at the Inter-School Parliamentary Debate with teachers cum trainers Cikgu Wan Suriyani and Cikgu Lily Kua in 2000.

Afzal received the "Tokoh Pelajar" (Best Student) award of SM La Salle, KK in 2001-here with Andi and teacher Juliana. be continued

Sunday, 16 January 2011

My baby Afzal

Assalamualaikum wbth,

Afzal is laid to rest at the foot of his grandma's grave in Sungai Marong, Bentong. Pahang.

It has been 30 days since Afzal's passing, at 2.24am, 18th December, 2010. Memories of those 16 days I spent with him in Hospital Ampang kept playing in my head, over and over again and I thank Allah for giving me the opportunity to look after Afzal. I cannot help missing him but remembers his entry in January, 2010 titled "Time To Say Goodbye.."

The eyes tear
The heart is in pain
But (with my tongue)
I will only say that which is pleasing to Allah

Day 2 at Ampang Hospital : Afzal Performing Maghrib prayers

He only slept one night alone in hospital, since he was admitted that was on the 2nd December, 2010. After that, I was with him for 10 nights and Andi (my eldest) was with him for 6 nights. They were nights that gave me an insight into part of what he must have had to endure alone, whilst being hospitalised in Royal Hallamshire, Sheffield, U.K.

Aiysha's spa sessions : It's a routine that Afzal loves because it helps him sleep. The only problem is, he wakes up when Aiysha stops massaging him. Notice the different oxygen mask from the one he had on day 2. This is after one week when his breathing was better and he graduated to a less heavy-duty oxygen mask.

I would like for "Not the primrose path" to not fade away, but alas, it is not going to be possible for me or any member of my family to write the way Afzal writes. Allah bestows me with only one Mas Afzal. But, as I've received a few requests to pen down my experiences in bringing up my children, I thought, that would make a good start towards maintaining this blog.

I am amazed at the number of hearts that Afzal has touched during his short lifetime, something I have not succeeded in doing after more than half a decade scouring this earth. My husband and I often ask each other just what it is that he has done to warrant massive efforts by several old friends and new acquaintances to deliver kind comments and condolences via blogs, emails and fb, since his passing on December 18th, 2010. Basically, our conclusion is that he must have gone to great lengths giving people a helping hand in their times of need, be it in the form of physical/monetary assistance or advice/suggestions, sincerely. This knowledge has made me feel at peace coping with this loss.

Afzal, 4-months old in Eugene, Oregon USA.

I felt like I carried Afzal for about 10 months before he was born on October 12th, 1984. When I was about 8 months pregnant, my husband had to leave for the United States to pursue his Masters. Since at that time, I also have 2 other young sons ( Mas Affendi/Andi – 2 1/2years, Mas Jaffri – 1 1/2 years ), we decided that I should move to Bentong and stay with my parents . I was then attached to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, with its office in Wisma Keramat, Jalan Gurney, Kuala Lumpur.

Every morning, I would take the 6 am bus from Bentong, to the Pekeliling Bus Station (its an hours journey), then walk to the Chow Kit area to get a taxi that would take me to my office. In the evening, I would usually try to catch the 5.30pm bus back home to Bentong. Every evening, my father and my two young sons would wait for me by the main road (my house is about 1 km from the main road) and each time I am not on the 6.30pm bus (either because I missed it or because it was full), my late mother would think that it's because I have given birth in Kuala Lumpur. But as fate would have it, Afzal was born in the wee hours of the morning in Bentong District Hospital, on October 12th, 1984.

To all working mothers out there, do not use pregnancy as an excuse to slack in your work. Pregnancy is not a disease. The more active you are, the easier it is to deliver.

Never far away from his mother.

When he finally came, Afzal was a whopping 8lbs 12 ounces baby with a big voice, but I delivered him normally, without much hassle.I remember the midwives in the ward where I was staying were fighting for turns to bottle feed him because he's big, so he was so cuddly to carry. Since papa was not around when he was born, I got the priviledge of naming him (the only one among my 3 boys that I get to name exclusively).

I chose the name Afzal, after an impressive Islamic Scholar Afzal Iqbal, whom I met during an Islamic Civilisation Seminar organised by my Ministry then (but Afzal Iqbal sounded too Pakistani, so I opted only for Afzal and added the signature “Mas” to it).

When Afzal was about 3 months old, we left for Eugene, Oregon, United States and stayed there for 1 year 10 months. Taking care of Afzal was such fun. Whenever we travel in the U.S, he would sit in his car seat n “sing” himself to sleep. He loves his milk and orange juice, and he loves to follow whatever his two brothers did.

Afzal, 2-years old, back in Malaysia.

I took unpaid leave to follow my husband because I was not “qualified”(I was not confirmed in service yet then) to be given a scholarship to pursue my own Masters. When my leave expired, I decided to go home to Malaysia, eventhough my husband still had a further 3 months of studying. Since by then MAS was operating a direct flight from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, via Tokyo, I felt I could cope with the long haul, while taking care of 3 young sons( Andi- 4 1/2years, Jaffri 3 ½ years, Afzal coming to 2 years).

My husband drove us to Los Angeles and I took the flight via LAX Airport. While on transit in Tokyo, we were the last passengers to leave the plane and we were also the last passengers to board the plane when it was ready to depart for Kuala Lumpur, because I had a hard time pulling my 3 mischievious boys away from the attractive toy stores at the airport. I must have been the loudest mother in the airport back then, always shouting at my sons to not stray. Being boys, it was not an easy thing for them to do. I was very lucky because my boys are very good mannered eventhough they are very, very inquisitive (always curious and eager to poke around and explore . Jaffri, the most inquisitive would lead, Andi, the ever macho brother would be the guardian and little Afzal, the ever so willing follower!). To help me make it through the flight, I brought along toys that could attract my children's attention so that they would not get bored.

So, to all young mothers out there, never use the excuse of having many young children as a hindrance to doing things or going out and living life. It's all a matter of planning and believing.

To be continued.

- Mama Afzal