15 February 2017

My mom’s birthday was 2 days ago on the 13th of February. It must have been nice for her to have a birthday just before Valentine’s Day for I am sure those days before the creeping Islamization of Malaysia, my parent must have celebrated it. So she should be getting one present for her birthday and another one for Valentine’s Day, how lovely. I don’t know, I never asked. And on the next day it is my Dad’s birthday. What a coincidence. Those were the days, the happy days.

So on my Dad’s birthday that is today, I gave him a customary call. You know just to find out how he’s doing. You see, my parent is divorced ever since I was 9 and he moved on to have a new family with a new wife. I got a step sister from that marriage, who I rarely meet, naturally. My Dad is quite old now, well in his 60s now. By right he should be resting and enjoying life after retirement right about now. Unfortunately he’s not relaxing at home occasionally looking after his grandchildren like he should be at the moment. Instead he’s working for this islamic charity organisation who seeks donation for wakafs (the dedication of a property by a person through a will or otherwise for religous purposes or for charitable purposes). You know how you sometimes see some old man setting up stalls in public places to collect alms or entice people to give to that purpose? Yeah my old man is doing that right now for a living.

Not that I am ashamed of him or anything. I am sad more than anything. I consider my Dad as something of a role model. A role model of what not to be or to do in life. My family’s history is long and complicated but let make it brief here. You see my Dad had a steady job as a plantation manager in a government-linked company right after he finishes college. He met Mom at the same college but ironically she didn’t finish her studies for some reason. After a while he asked her hand in marriage and then after 5 years there’s 4 of us siblings. We had everything that a well-to-do middle class family could ask for then. A steady job and income. We had a nice home in Cheras and I was about to go to school at S.K Jalan Peel nearby had things not changed (the school’s registration was still stamped on my birth certificate until now).

For some reason, my Dad felt adventurous and decided to leave his comfy and steady job and start a business. A laundry business some more. Now that isn’t necessarily a bad thing you know, starting a business, people do it all the time. Some might even do well and achieve many great things in their life. But my Dad, unfortunately is not cut out for the business world. After resigning from his job, investing all his savings and borrowing a substantial amount of money from the bank, his laundry business went bust. I recall Mom telling me we had to pay our single employee at that time in one ringgit denominations and coins towards the end. Eventually my Dad was declared bankrupt and we had to sell a lot of things to pay to the bank. Our decent car and most of all our nice home in Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras. To make things worse, my Mom’s brother was one of the guarantor for the bank loans so you can imagine the humiliation she felt when things went south.

As the months past, our financially situation didn’t really turn for the better. My Mom for once was fed up of living in hardship and the stigma of bankruptcy, decided to leave my Dad and return to her hometown in Pasir Mas to live with her mother. It’s almost like a classic malay drama story. I remember vividly like it was only yesterday how we walked from the Pasir Mas train station that fateful morning together with my siblings towards my grandma’s house with nothing much in tow. Lucky for us, it was only like 2 miles away. Little that I know, I would spend the rest of my childhood there until I finish high school. My Dad, he didn’t come along to join us though. I suspect my Mom would have liked him to stay away and fix the mess he created. As the years goes by, my Dad somewhat recovered from that dark episode in his life and managed to secure a steady job. In agriculture of course, what else. It’s what he does best. It’s not for lack of trying and he did tried a few times to get our little family back together again. I remember he came to visit us once or twice a year and tried to reconcile with Mom. Somehow Mom can’t seem to find a space to welcome that man into her life again. Much to our despair, she and my Dad formally divorced in some time in 1989 (I think). I remembered that year very well because I got third place in school for the final exam.

As I mentioned, Dad moved on a got himself a new little family of his own after that. Even my Mom secretly married another man, a senior teacher who already had a family of his own. You heard that right, my Mom actually became somebody’s second wife. The first wife was naturally not so thrilled with that arrangement. I don’t know what she did but my Mom’s second marriage didn’t last for more than I year a think. She became a single divorcee again from then on until I went to college.

As fate would have it, I went to the same college that my parent went to in Serdang, Selangor. In fact my two other siblings also went to the same college later on. Despite the absence of a father figure and not much financial support from Dad, my Mom did a remarkable job of raising all 4 of us siblings until we all graduated. Sure I graduated 10 years too late but the point is, Mom did it all on her own, with the meagre earning she earns as a teacher. I don’t know maybe she finally felt lonely without a man in his life but one day she came up with this surprising if not crazy plan of reuniting with my Dad again. My Dad by that time in the early 2000s managed to climb out of the financial ruin almost 2 decades earlier, went on to get a steady job and a respectable position (as a plantation manager, what else) and were living happily with his new family. When my Mom brought up the idea I was naturally excited and keen to see our family reunited again after all these years. Finally we can have a normal family and parent like everyone else. But life of course, had other plans for us.

Since pretty much everybody in my immediate family had no objection to Mom marrying Dad again, they were remarried some time in 2002. As Dad is still based in Johore at that time, he had to regularly commute from JB to Serdang every other week. And you know what? His other wife had no idea that his husband is now married again to his first wife. At least not at first. And when she finally found out, all hell break loose.

My stepmother is one of a kind. Once she found out Dad is married again to Mom, she did everything she could to ruin my Dad’s life, ruin our life there in Serdang and indirectly ruin her life as well as her daughter’s life. To say that she’s a stepmother from hell would be an understatement. Somehow she got hold of my Mom’s phone number, my siblings’ and I phone numbers, even my grandma’s back home number and started hurling abuses and profanities at us with every single call. She even shamelessly send poisonous letters with obscene drawings just to spite us. That went on for a few months. To be honest, as much as we hate her for doing that to us, you’ve got to see it from her perspective too. There she was living happily with my Dad and her daughter and suddenly one day she’s sharing his love (and wealth) with another woman and her children. That’s enough to drive some people crazy, no?

Not content with hurling abuse and profanities at us, my stepmother did something even crazier that ultimately led to my Dad’s downfall. Somehow she managed to convince his boss to fire my Dad. I don’t know whether she personally went berserk at the office or something to make him fire Dad but unemployed my Dad she did got. After that incident, Dad was understandably mad at her insane actions and decided to leave her altogether and come live with us in Serdang. That should be the beginning of something wonderful right? The family back together again and all. Alas it was not to be.

In spite of his wealth of experience, Dad struggled to get another job fitting his qualifications. Maybe it’s his age or other factors, possibly the economy but Dad failed to get another respectable or steady job within the plantation industry until this very day. It even come to the point that he had to sell nasi lemaks in the mornings in front of Central Market to make ends meet. That was possibly the lowest point in his life. Mom then had no choice but to became the sole breadwinner in the house, at least until Dad gets a decent job. And believe me he tried. As months goes by, we come to see history repeating itself. My parent’s second honeymoon period was well and truly over and with the pressure of being the single provider for the family, it didn’t take long for Mom and Dad to fight and argue again. Things gradually turn for the worse until one day Dad packed a few of his most prized possessions and go running back to his other family. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to him.

We rarely get to see him again after that except for once or twice a year, during Hari Raya especially. All that while Mom and Dad was still married but in reality they’re just as divorced and separated as they were a few decades earlier. I wish Dad would do the honorable thing and let my Mom go in a dignified and respectful manner but no, he didn’t lift a finger or show up once during the fasakh divorce proceeding. Yes Mom had to literally fight her way to divorce herself from Dad, again. It was a rather painful memory for all of us to see our family broken to pieces again. But one thing time does well is heal. Mom recovered from this second painful episode in her marriage with Dad and went on to achieve great things in her career. Right now she is retired and enjoying the fruits of her labour by jetsetting and holidaying around the world with her savings and pensions money. It could have been the two of them holidaying abroad together but it was not meant to be.

As I said, I look up to Dad as a role model of what not to be in life. I learned some very valuable lessons from him like not to quit your day job to pursue pipe dreams or learn how to control your crazy spouse better and not let her ruin your career and your life. Dad made some terrible, life-changing decisions in his life that let him to the state he’s in today and I’ll be damned to repeat those same mistakes as he did. Am I being harsh too him? Maybe. Should I’ve done more to help him now that he has no one else to turn to? Probably. But every time I thought of giving or helping him in one way or another, my evil stepmother came into the picture. Why should I help the person who single-handedly ruined our family and our lives. Every cent I give to Dad half will go to that woman. Yes I’m mature enough to be on speaking terms with her whenever we meet but deep down inside, I don’t think I could ever forgive her for everything that she’s done to us.

Post script:

It was not my intention to bore you with the story of my life here nor do I think I did justice for everyone involved with my storytelling. Sometimes letting it all out gives me that liberating feeling for something that I have kept pretty much to myself all these years. Hopefully the day will come when I could put this all behind me and do the right thing.


8 January 2017

As I drove away from Semashur last week, there was a pang of sadness leaving Adam Farihin behind. It will be the first time he will be away from home for a prolonged period of time. Away from his parent, siblings and friends. Friends that he’d known since a long time. The first evening, we came to back to an Adam-less home. Every time I looked into his room I’d half-expected him to be there in front of his computer playing games for hours while balancing on the two legs of his chair. He’s not there anymore tonight. Instead his youngest sibling has decided to occupy his room and slept there almost every night. I also wondered when he’s gonna call, at least to tell us he’s doing okay but I guess he’s busy with orientation week. He did called us the next day although only for a few seconds. He asked us to bring a few more clothes, hangers and also his mother’s home-made tom yam. I reckon you’ll learn to appreciate your mother’s cooking now huh?

I guess this is a normal reaction for every parent who is parting from their children. I’m sure it will get better with time. Today we went to visit Adam in his school. We just waved at the security while driving in. I presume they saw our school sticker hence the smooth entry. I can tell Adam was glad to see us. He waited impatiently at the surau as we were 5 minutes late. We had lunch together and he related his experience during the first 5 days there. He said the food was okay, not as bad as I’ve been telling from my experience. He had to wake up at 4:00 in the morning though to shower because else he had to wait behind all the seniors.

Rumour has it they will leave the first formers alone first and the bullying will only commence during the second year. That’s what his senior said anyway. Although I was rather alarmed at first to hear that, I’m sure any kind of bullying is nothing serious and not physically abusive or else the teachers and wardens will be hearing from me. It’s part and parcel of hostel living and it’s quite common everywhere. Ideally nobody likes this kind of culture in an educational institution but it’s a vicious cycle. The seniors did it to the juniors and on and on it goes through the years. I wish they would put a stop to that but unless there’s some serious paradigm and culture shift by all the students and teachers involved, I don’t see it going away anytime soon. My advice to you son, if the seniors ask you to do something (or help them), just swallow your pride and play along. As long as its nothing humiliating or abusive just do it. If you think they have crossed the line somehow, don’t be afraid to let me know. It will deal with them accordingly, I promise.

The good news is Adam get to come home every two weeks starting next Friday. We can go pick him up as early as midday every Friday. I doubt these kids even get to feel homesick at all except for those out of state. Just consider it as an extended summer camp Adam except that you have to go all year round. With the kind of negative influence these kids can give you in and outside of school these days, we worry for you if you attend regular day school. Yes it will be tough at first but just like your mom and dad before you, we are sure you will get along fine. Hang on there kid!


5 December 2016

Even before the UPSR result comes out, we have proactively filled up application to MRSM and SBP  schools for Adam Farihin. For the uninitiated, those are the top two types of elite public boarding schools in the country. His mother went to MRSM PDRM in Kulim, Kedah while I myself went to SM Sains Machang SBP in Machang, Kelantan. Therefore it is only natural that we would try to enroll all our children into a boarding school as well following our footsteps. We believe boarding schools would enormously help our children to be independent, excel in academics and also prepare them for the real world where they will meet all sort of people, face challenges and problems and learn to survive all by himself.

Now applying is the easy part. Getting enrolled is another matter. I heard they have already called up the first batch of SBP applicants for an interview a few weeks ago. That could mean that either Adam didn’t make it or maybe he just didn’t make it for the first call up. Anyway I know getting into a premier boarding school like the SBP schools is no easy feat and the competition for places are stiff. Even if you excel in academics and score 6As, there’s no guarantee you will get automatic placing there. There’s extra-curricular activities to consider not to mention those with cables and connection with the right people. While Adam Farihin did pretty well in his academics, I can’t say the same about his extracurricular achievement. Aside from a couple of chess competitions that he took part (and lost), there’s nothing much in his CV to boost his chances. And I hate to beg to strangers to get my kid into any school no matter how much we want them.

Fortunately for us, we get to go to an interview for the MRSM boarding school. After SBP, it’s the next best thing there is. We applied for the SPMRSM IGCSE course which is a combination of SPM examination and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education which leads to IB and A-levels qualifications. I think Adam had a pretty good grasp of the English language hence why we applied for that course instead of the others. After a short getaway in Port Dickson last weekend, we went to an MRSM school in Kuala Kelawang, Negri Sembilan for the interview/examination. The school was one of about a dozen of test centers around the country and not surprisingly, we met hundreds of hopeful applicants just like us. I don’t know what to say our chances are, I mean Adam said he managed to answer all the interview questions and much of the tests. Time will tell whether he makes it or not.

Either way, while we plan for the best education possible for our children, we won’t be disappointed or anything should Adam failed to make it to any of those boarding schools. Like I said, competition for place is stiff and you’ve got top students from all over the country vying for entries into these prestigious schools. If Adam was meant to go to a local high school near our home, so be it. I know Adam is smart and hardworking kid and it doesn’t matter which school he goes, he will ace it anyhow.


26 August 2016

After using birth control pills for so many years, my wife and I decided to try a new method of family planning. We’ve tried that implant under the skin thing and that didn’t work out well for my wife. Her period became unstable, on and off intermittently which also suck for me. This time we decided to try IUCD and I paid just RM130 ringgit for the procedure at Klinik Jameaton.

The first 2 months, this contraception method worked great for us. Linda continued her menstrual cycle normally and there were no apparent side effects from the device. However from the 3rd months onwards, she started to experience prolonged menstrual bleeding. First it was over 2 weeks long. Then lately in the past 40 to 60 days it didn’t stop at all which is worrying for us to say the least. We returned to Klinik Jameaton to seek advice and the doctor prescribed some medication to stop the bleeding. It worked for a week or so and the bleeding continues. That’s when we made an appointment at PPUM (University Malaya Medical Centre) to see a specialist. Yes we tried to get a guarantee letter for one of Linda’s panel specialist hospital but they rejected it because of the word IUCD because that wasn’t covered under the list of illness. So PPUM it is, a semi-government hospital in Petaling Jaya. At least being a semi-private institution it would be more efficient and less expensive than specialist hospitals, or so we thought.

During Linda’s first appointment, the doctor tried to remove the IUCD device from her ovary but somehow she failed. Actually we went to see Dr Jameaton first and she tried and failed to remove the device as well. Hence why we went to PPUM. After that, the doctor set another appointment for hysteroscopy removal of IUCD in which they will insert a tiny camera into her ovary to look for the device better. Naturally this procedure won’t be cheap and Linda had to go for another appointment with the anesthesiologist. Plus the actual date for the procedure is more than a month away and I don’t know how Linda will cope with the incessant bleeding. When Linda could not stop bleeding for more than 24 hours, we decided to pay the emergency department of the PPUM one Friday evening.

Fortunately for us my mom was around to look after the kids. We arrived around 6:00 PM after work. The trauma & emergency unit is still bustling with people, a few patients but the bulk is made up of of family members or friends. Being a first timer there we went straight to the registration counter where the staff rolled her eyes and directed us to the triage counter. Okay she didn’t exactly rolled her eyes but we could sense the annoyance in her eyes. At the triage counter we explained our predicament and shortly after that we went to the secondary screening area. After that only we went to the registration counter.

From the registration counter we went to the waiting hall and waited for 3 hours or so for our number to be called. Yes it is that long. To be fair there were a lot of patients that day, around 30 numbers before us to like 3 attending doctors maybe? When our number finally came up the doctor interviewed us for like 10 minutes before sending us off to do a blood test. The blood test we were told is going to take at least another 2 hours to get the result. We took that opportunity to get supper in the form of nasi lemak at our favorite old haunt at Warung Rindu in Pantai Dalam. That was already midnight and when we come back 2 hours later our blood test was still not ready. I managed to doze off at the bench for a while until our numbers were called an hour later. The result says her hemoglobin count was low at 9 but not that alarmingly low as requiring admittance to the hospital or something. The doctor prescribed her some medications to stop the bleeding which was exactly the same pills that she had earlier. However this time the pills actually worked in lessening the bleeding and a week later her period almost totally stopped.

We got home around 3 o’clock that morning having spent over 7 hours at the hospital. Although I must admit the doctor’s service was top notch and on par with other specialist hospitals, it’s the waiting that I can’t stand. Would we get shorter waiting time at a fully private hospital? Probably. But the consultation and medication fees would be 4 to 5 times more than the RM68.90 that we paid at PPUM. I suppose the painfully long waiting time is the price we have to pay for the affordable fees at the hospital. Should have we avoided this situation had we invested in a medical card or something similar? Probably. But since we have our very own respective health benefits from our companies, paying for extra insurance seems like a waste of money. I’d like to put the blame squarely on PM Care who refused to release the guarantee letter for us causing us quandary in the first place.


12 August 2016

Remember the time I went for an interview at Sasana Kijang but didn't get the job? No? Well that's because I didn't exactly shout it out to everybody. Looking for a job while still working at another company is usually a secretive and hushed affair so I didn't tell it to anybody save for my closest family and friends. Actually I stumbled upon this job opportunity from Twitter, of all places. A guy I am following announced that he has an opening at his company for an IT executive so I thought why not give it a try. It's a prestigious company, an organization affiliated to the central bank of Malaysia. The minimum requirement they wanted was a degree in IT or Computer Science but my friend said just try anyway sending my resume and application letter. Who knows they might still consider from my decade of experience in the IT industry.

So I brushed up my dusty old resume that haven't been updated in 3 years and sent it along with my application letter to the company. Later that afternoon, the HR personnel called me up an arranged for an interview 2 days later. It all happened so fast. So in between the call and the day of the interview I watched a crash course on ICT and computers in general from Eli The Computer guy. Of course I already know much of what he's talking about but you learn something new all the time, especially from an industry expert such as Eli.

Come interview day, I made my way to Sasana Kijang at 3:30PM. I was dressed in my regular interview attire - long sleeve shirt, a tie and everything. With my bulging waist, I positively looked like a muffin top that day. Was I nervous? Absolutely. But at my age and experience, going for an interview is not really that intimidating compared to say 15 years ago. I just wing it and get it over with. The Sasana Kijang building is huge and spacious. After registering with the auxiliary police I waited for a few minutes for my Twitter friend to escort me to his office. I had to fill up some forms and 10 minutes later my interview began.

My friend did most of the talking and questioning. His soon to be retired Manager didn't ask much question although they were tough ones like do I know CMS or MySQL (which I must admit I didn't know much). They asked mostly about my experience and my knowledge and after like 20 minutes, the interview ended. I thought the interview went well but I didn't exactly have high expectations about securing the job. I'm certain they have also called other prospective candidates with better experience and qualifications. My chances are I think 50-50. Either I get it or not LOL.

They say they will let me know next week. 10 days passed and when I didn't hear anything from any of them, I DMed my friend on Twitter and soon enough he broke me the bad news. I didn't make the final shortlist. Like I said, since I didn't have much expectation in the first place, I wasn't exactly crushed for not getting the job there. Sure my ego and self-esteem took a little beating but its nothing I can't handle. This is not my first work rejection anyway and I've had a few of those in my life. I wasn't really actively looking for another job in the first place. It's just so happens an opportunity presents itself to me and I decided to grab it. It would have been nice though to be working at Sasana Kijang as an IT Executive compared to say a lowly Technical Assistant. But what's in a name? Nothing and everything.

As always I'm keeping a positive outlook in life. Whenever I missed an opportunity, it just means something much better is waiting for me in the future.