Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
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
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..."
Monday, 23 May 2011
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
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.
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 AND KK
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!).
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.
AFZAL AND MAYONNAISE
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 received the "Tokoh Pelajar" (Best Student) award of SM La Salle, KK in 2001-here with Andi and teacher Juliana.
.........to be continued
Sunday, 16 January 2011
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