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Terengganu’s Big Hill

July 21, 2015

00d Terengganu's Big Hill

While most people were still sleeping at my in-laws’ place this morning, I sneaked out and decided to explore Bukit Besar, the landmark of Kuala Terengganu. So I climbed (with my sandals!) and made it to the top of this Big Hill located right in the middle of the city. I think I’m back in shape after the recent Raya Galore of Calories!

Aidilfitri 2015

July 17, 2015

00d Aidilfitri 2015

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Balik Kampung

July 15, 2015

00f Balik Kampung

Pasir Mas, here we come.

Selfie Philosophy

July 7, 2015

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Do your best and don’t worry.

UUM Academic Staff

July 1, 2015

00g UUM Academic Staff

Officially a UUM academic staff!

Farewell Musings

June 30, 2015

00g Farewell Musings

A NOTE FROM DR. HALIM, MY BEST FRIEND IN JOHOR BAHRU:

Aku ingin mengambil kesempatan,
Menitip sedikit coretan,
Mengucapkan selamat jalan,
Khas buat seorang teman,
Yang hampir lapan tahun berkenalan,
Berkongsi warna-warni kehidupan,
Tentang ahli akademik yang pelbagai pengalaman,
Tentang pengajaran, penyelidikan, penyeliaan, perundingan, penulisan, penerbitan,
Tidak kira masa dan keadaan,
Di rumah mahupun dalam kenderaan,
Ketika menonton televisyen ataupun sedang makan,
Kami bercerita tentang pekerjaan,
Berkongsi kisah duka dan kegembiraan.

Hari ini hari terakhir beliau di UTM,
Untuk bergelar pensyarah di UUM,
Untuk kembali ke pangkuan isteri dan anak tersayang,
Yang sudah lama dipisahkan oleh sempadan,
Seorang di utara dan seorang di selatan.

Terima kasih Dr. Hilmi Hamzah
Seorang insan yang bagiku amat komited dengan pekerjaan,
Yang bersungguh-sungguh mencapai impian,
Yang ku kenal seorang yang hidupnya penuh perancangan.

Semoga persahabatan yang terjalin kekal sampai bila-bila,
Didoakan agar terus berjaya,
Di dunia mahupun di akhirat yang kekal selamanya.

-Halim-

The Day When My Daughter Was Born

June 12, 2015

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“Yes, yes, yes … you can do it!” I heard a nurse scream her lung out in her thick local Malay dialect to a pregnant woman in labour. There were now five struggling patients in the fear-filled labour room. Gloomy blue curtains hung loosely around me so I was unable to take a peek at the unfolding drama. But I could hear clearly all the cries, yells, moans, groans, grunts, sobs and wails as if they were echoes from my worst nightmare. The loud nurses sounded like “cheerleaders”, encouraging and “coaching” those weeping ladies on how to face their deepest fears. I was more than terrified, trying my best to stay composed during this intensifying moment called Childbirth.

I had been nervously sitting in this hectic room since early morning, waiting patiently next to Nurul, my wife, to give birth to our first child. She had been admitted to this hospital for the past two days, surviving and living each minute with hope. Lying weakly in bed, she was now looking at me. Her fragile eyes strongly transmitted the pain I could never fully comprehend. The hollow look on her sunken face resonated the agony that defied my logic. There, I could vaguely sense the painstaking and laborious hours she had been through all night. She had some pregnancy complications and was instructed to deliver at a government hospital only. We were told that the government facilities were the best, so were only hoping for the best.

The last 48 hours had also witnessed one of the most eventful episodes in my life. I was still running my daily chores in Melbourne when Nurul informed me that she was already on her way to the Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital in Kuala Terengganu. She said that the contractions were painfully frequent and true labor was imminent, which came to me as a complete shock since it was two weeks earlier than the expected date of delivery.

“Sayang, our little princess can’t wait to see her Daddy anymore,” texted Nurul casually, upon which I rushed to the Melbourne Airport and flew back home with huge luggage full of worries and anxieties a first-time father would possibly carry. I landed in Malaysia a couple of hours later, only to find myself totally lost in the commotion of the hospital environment. Then, amidst the hullabaloos of the frenzied crowd, I saw Nurul lying in bed in a third-class hospital dorm filled with what looked like hundreds of pregnant ladies bracing through their final stage of pregnancy. It felt like the aftermath of tsunami.

It turned out the hospital room of a better class was full, so we had to wait in line with many other panic-stricken couples. And so, I willingly waited for the whole sleepless night at the poorly reserved “lounge” for accompanying family members, surrounded by mostly restless young men in their late twenties who were probably naïve, “maiden” fathers like me. Together, we were like a sad community of frightened husbands who had been severely punished for all the wrongdoings we had possibly inflicted upon our wives. It was the longest night ever in my whole life.

It was early in the following morning when Nurul was finally admitted to this labour room. It was now late in the afternoon and the seven hours of prolonged wait had culminated in frozen fear and fossilized terror. A grim-looking nurse slid through the draping curtains and approached Nurul in a suave way. Professionally, she inspected the dose level of epidural anesthesia that had numbed and eased Nurul’s pain for the past few hours. She then examined the rate of cervical dilation.

“The cervix is not fully dilated yet,” she said in monotonous, dull tone. “If this persists, we have to perform a caesarean section.”
“Can we wait?” I asked gently, knowing that Nurul would certainly anticipate for a natural and normal delivery.
“Yes, thirty more minutes.”

The nurse walked out immediately, leaving us in desperation and uncertainty. While I was waiting, I kept staring at Nurul and admiring her courage and persistence. When she joined me in Melbourne the year earlier, she was the best thing that ever happened in my life. I was in the final stage of my PhD and Nurul stuck by my side and provided me with much-needed support. We savoured the hot summer days that welcome her in February. We had the most romantic love affair when the autumnal leaves started to fall in April. When winter came in June, we celebrated the chilly weather with warm hugs and kisses. We lived in a small studio apartment, but the space in our hearts was big enough for happiness to reside.

Until she broke the news that she was pregnant.

I was confused and disoriented. Shaken. Shocked. Scared. I didn’t see that coming and it seemed like all hell broke loose. Instead of being ecstatic over the news, I was flabbergasted and distraught. I was in the middle of a critical period in completing my PhD thesis and I wasn’t prepared for this huge responsibility. I was too focused, too selfish. I suddenly became aloof, distant and withdrawn.

My sudden change of attitude must have affected Nurul, emotionally and physically. There were recurring bleedings during her early pregnancy and we had regular visits to the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne. After a number of ultrasound examinations, the doctor concluded that it was a miracle that they had survived the ordeal, my wife and the developing fetus. I felt terribly awful for my initial reactions. I didn’t know how it happened, but soon I started to develop a paternal bond for this tiny being squirming persistently inside my wife’s womb. I promised to myself not to let go of this gift of fatherhood anymore.

At the end of winter that year, we flew back to Malaysia and I retuned to Melbourne alone. We had decided that it’s best for Nurul to be around her family members in Malaysia while I was concentrating on my “godly” thesis in Melbourne. And so, except for her brief Spring visit in October, we had been away from each other for many lonely months.

It was now the 28th of February in 2013 and we were reunited here in the most unprecedented circumstance we could ever imagine. Now that I saw Nurul fighting intensely for our baby, I was again consumed with guilt and regret; I felt deeply ashamed for “abandoning” her during the early weeks of her pregnancy. I also felt truly sorry for not being with her during the final trimester of her pregnancy.

But I was here now, groping at my forlorn self-pity and hopeful redemptions while listening to the wails of labouring women inside the labour room. The same nurse now entered into our section, but she brought with her this time a new face of hope. She carefully checked Nurul’s condition and made a decision we had been waiting for – a normal head-first delivery. Later, two young doctors, who looked like fresh interns from a local university, joined the childbirth team. One of them said with all the firmness of a High Court Judge: “It’s time.”

I held Nurul’s cold hands and tried to say a number of encouraging phrases I didn’t even understand. I was petrified inside, like I was riding a super-fast car and about to smash against a big truck. But, for the next few minutes, things fell into place like magic. I saw the expulsion and “pushing” stage in disbelief. When the fetal head appeared and the “crowning” moment finally arrived, I was in awe and speechless. I could sense the intense burning and stinging sensation that Nurul was experiencing. When the placenta was expelled and the umbilical cord was cut, I thought I had been dreaming. Because it was the most incredible thing I had ever witnessed in my life. It was a miracle indeed.

I held the pinkish infant and recited the prayer.

Allah is Greatest
He is the Only One
I believe in His Messenger
Come to prayer
Come to success
Prayer has started
Allah is Greatest
He is the Only One

For a few rare moments, the phantoms of my mind appeared and I went into a wonderful trance. I saw Heavenly Angels surrounding me in their funny clown-like costumes, clapping their hands and cheering me up for the blessed gift and legacy. The buoyant camaraderie was too loud and silly that I laughed to myself and almost broke to tears. The Angel of Linguistics looked at me and asked, “Do you have a name for your sweet little princess who was ‘accidentally’ conceived in Melbourne?” I chuckled lightheartedly and said: “Hanna Airis.”

That day, the Angel of Harmony showered my newborn daughter with love, caressing her with kindness and compassion. That day, the Angel of Courage awarded my wife for her audacity, lifting her up to the greatest level of heroism. That day, the Angel of Dream took me to the place that I had never dreamed of, bringing me closer to life and its beautiful intricacies, taking me up to a whole new level of awakening, and turning me into a better man.

That was the day when my daughter was born.

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