Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Toe the line

Apa aku buat selepas tahlil arwah atuk?

Aku menghilangkan diri dengan Coolpix abah. Merayau satu kampung dituruti Acha, Longot dan Omey. Aku dah serik dengan bisik-bisik pengajaran dan anjuran bersabar para hadirin. I know they meant well. But in the end, this will be just another day, another death, a part of life for them. For the sake of my grandpa, I refused to remember it that way.

Lalu selepas yasin dan doa aku meloloskan diri, mencari warna selain putih; bunyi selain ratap. Dan aku sapa atuk dalam mekar kembang dan siul petang kampung kesayangannya.

Kadang-kadang aku rasa lemas jadi dewasa.

Lebih dari memikul tanggungjawab, ada sejenis politik keluarga dan tradisi yang seperti harus aku anuti. Diluah mati emak, ditelan mati bapak. Kalau kulum dalam mulut saja, aku pula yang jadi mangsa.

Kita semua manusia.. arwah Makngah aku selalu cakap macam tu. Zaman aku tak faham, aku interpret ayat ni sepertimana orang lain: Kita adalah makhluk yang tak lari dari kesilapan. Jika kamu perhatikan, ayat cliche ini positif. Dalam diam kita terima orang lain seadanya; secara tak langsung kita memaafkan.

But, everything in life is a double-edged sword..

Melihat keadaan keluarga aku selepas pemergian arwah atuk, aku sedar mungkin Makngah cuba mengatakan sesuatu, dan ianya tak sepositif yang aku sangka. Keluarga yang dahulu aku sanjung kerana tali persaudaraan yang sangat kukuh, sudah mula mempamer cela. Di mana ada harta dan wang ringgit, di situ akan selalu ada dendam dan fitnahnya.

Aku mahu jadi anak-anak. Aku mahu diasingkan dari pertelingkahan dan sesi tuduh-menuduh. Malangnya, aku sudah matang. Sudah boleh diseret ke dalam lubuk. Lalu aku disajikan sifat kelam orang-orang yang aku sayangi. Duniaku jadi terbalik bila aku pula yang harus jadi antara suara-suara yang objektif. Tembok hormatku terhakis bukan sedikit.

Kita semua manusia. Zaman aku faham, ayat ini aku tafsirkan sepertimana yang aku alami.

We're not evil because we're only human.. We're only human because we're evil.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Staring Contest

I've been watching him for the past twenty minutes.

He's oblivious to my surveillance, acute senses tuned-in on the hyperactive cackling group of girls we happen to be sharing a lab with. He's probably more than a little bored. Sitting at the far end of the lab bench, stubborn chin leaned softly on the back of a right hand as he continued to stare languidly at the scene unfolding on my side of the room.

Me? you may call me a laissez faire spirit.. most of the time. But I'm also the type to take keen interest in my environment, and lately, that environment consisted of giggling females prone to breaking into wild cacophony whenever he was present. Under normal circumstances this wouldn't have bothered me in the least. But as it stands, the subject in question has managed to frazzle even my own usually level state of mind.

What on earth is this guy oozing to make the girls tick?

I had to wonder briefly if it was his attention that was causing such rapture from the girls. Really, if guys only knew what wondrously decieving species we females have evolved to be. We're utter mischief smothered in that innocently sweet, brown gooey stuff we all like to lick off our fingers from time to time..

And FYI, mischief is the fun part you guys get to have on the occasion you decide to pledge the rest of your lives to us. Before that, everything is a deception. A test of worthiness. Before that, we're just—

"—liquid nitrogen in mortar and pestle."


A few taps on the shoulder and my rapt attention shifted to a labmate materializing seemingly out of nowhere. She stood to my left, giving off such a strong vibe of I mean business in her off-white lab coat and powder-free gloves that I had the sudden urge to laugh and apologize at the same time.

We were a team. She would have spent the last fifteen minutes poring over the lab manual, highlighting the terms, making all the necessary calculations and gathering the equipments. Knowing her, she probably would have completed at least the first two steps of the excercise.

All while I was ignorantly ogling the most eligible bachelor this side of the Pusu river..

She proceeded to reiterate the Plant DNA Extraction excercise for me, ticking off the steps as she went along. I gave a brief nod to each one; asked a few relevant questions. She answered them with narrowed eyes, sure I was up to something. But once satisfied with my level of attention to the task at hand, she left, allowing me to spend more time on my subject of interest.

Last time I looked, he was still focused on the girls.

This time I looked, his focus has shifted.

Right onto me.

Oh, busted!

On a normal day - where I play the sharpwitted superfox at the top of my game - the quickest response to this would have been a raised eyebrow and that sassy whatchu lookin' at, punk? look thrown his way.

But this wasn't normal. This was something more. A blatant challenge.

Historically, he and I never saw things eye to eye. I always thought it was because our egos were evenly matched; they were often inflated to high heavens. We never agreed to disagree either. That would imply willingness to incite goodwill. No, we disagreed. Period.

It also didn't help matters that we were both very deceptive beings. Impressive and affable though we may seem on the outside, we were two people painfully aware of our flaws and shortcomings, and strive hardest to keep them hidden from prying eyes. As a consequence, we consciously painted ourselves the very picture of fierce independence and reliability. We took on vast roles among classmates; we were leaders, mediators, and mentors.

The very definition of a consummate teacher's pet.

Subconsciously however, we've become each other's mirror. We disliked each other for reflecting that pretentious but necessary image the both of us have come to recognize only too well.

So there we were, eyes suddenly riveted on each other, neither one willing to back off. I didn't want to give in. I couldn't. I didn't want him to regard me as one of the girls he could subdue - heaven knows he had a reputation for that. I wanted to show him that I was equal adversary. More importantly, I wanted to be acknowledged as one.

But alas, my true nature was often the polar opposite of my actions, curse it all!

See, my formative years were spent immersed in a culture where women addressed men in quiet voices and from behind solid objects - preferably pillars, doors, or walls.. Really, there was a time in my life when catching a man's eye - even for a moment - mortified me to shame. Eyes are windows to the soul; they are not meant to be broached by mere acquaintances.

And yet here I was, playing tug of war with an unbearably male opponent.

His gaze became sharper, gaining advantage on my reluctance. He was determined to drive me to the floor, that was for sure. I was losing. But, if I had to go down, I was intent on taking him with me.

So I did the only thing I thought would disarm him enough for both of us to break even.

Looking straight into his eyes, I gave him the widest, toothiest grin I could afford. I aimed the corners of my mouth right into my ears, possibly shredding my cheek muscles in the process. I had to make it work. My effing dignity depended on it!

And he responded. Though, not quite the way I'd hoped...

He wasn't the least bit surprised, his stoic expression kept firmly in place. But his eyes.. how they narrowed perceptibly at me; a look of utter ridicule possibly meant to raise my hackles. I read the message clear as day.

You're an idiot for even trying.


Ah well, I lost the battle. Sour grapes, I know, but you can't win 'em all, can you? I don't know if I'll ever win the war with him; I wish there wasn't one. But I was relieved to have overcome this one obstacle..

It'll be easier for the both of us once he knows what a crazy bi**h I can be.


Author's note: It couldn't be more emphasized that this entry has been written according to how the author felt AT THE TIME. The author wishes to express that her relationship with the person in question has since then evolved into something much stronger.

He shall always be counted as one of her dearest friends.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Betterment: Part II

So, hati dah selesai menyelidik. Obviously something needs to change. Tapi, apa nak buat dengan 'keliatan' aku?

When in doubt, FORCE IT.

Aku dah tak punya banyak masa. Waktu tu, puasa dah masuk seminggu. Kalau nak tunggu diri aku sedar sendiri dan ambik mood bulan Ramadhan, tak berubah la aku sampai bila-bila. Jadi aku decide untuk letakkan penghayatan di takuk kedua, dan aku dahulukan soal ritual.

Tiap-tiap malam aku paksa diri solat tarawih 23 rakaat. Tiap-tiap awal pagi aku paksa diri bangun sahur dan pergi sembahyang Subuh berjemaah di masjid. Sebelum ke ofis aku paksa diri tadarus dulu dengan mama. Mp3 aku tolak tepi (most of the time); Ceramah Ustaz Zahazan dan Nasaruddin Hassim jadi ganti.

Atas semua paksaan ni, seksanya hanya Dia yang tahu..

23 rakaat tiap-tiap malam, kalau kamu tak biasa, boleh buat kamu menangis! Baru rakaat kedua aku dah mula rimas; bila nak habis? bila nak habis? First two days, kaki dan lengan aku lenguh tahap cipan dek berkali-kali rukuk dan sujud. Tak cukup tarawih, bila hari minggu mama mesti suruh solat fardhu berjemaah di rumah, kalau tak ke masjid. Aku rasa lemas, seperti tak ada masa untuk diri sendiri. Tapi aku turutkan juga.

Mengaji Qur'an lagi satu perkara. Sebab dah jarang buat, bila tadarus aku sangkut-sangkut. Sifat, makhraj dan harkat entah kemana. Malu betul aku baca depan mama. Nampak sangat la anak sulung dia malas mengaji. Nasib baik dia penyabar. Tatih aku ayat demi ayat. Ulang lagi, ulang lagi, tah berapa kali. Bila tak tadarus aku berlatih baca ayat juz amma supaya aku lebih lancar. More time spent doing something I don't usually do.. haih!

Aku berkongsi semua ni bukan untuk tunjukkan betapa padatnya aktiviti ibadah aku bulan Ramadhan ni. Jauh sekali. Yang aku nak buktikan ialah, bila kita dah terbiasa dengan sesuatu, penghayatan akan datang dengan sendirinya.

Sekarang ni hati aku dah berubah sikit dari 'tak mahu' kepada 'boleh terima.' Tarawih dah kurang menyeksakan. Hati aku masih lagi bertanya bila nak habis? - tapi di rakaat 16, sebab tahap tu kaki aku dah mula lenguh. Tadarus masih merangkak, tapi boleh tahan sebab mama suka selitkan sedikit pengajian harfiah yang dipelajarinya setiap malam jumaat di surau Kampung Melayu.

Dua perkara yang aku dah 'suka' ialah sembahyang jemaah dan dengar ceramah dari CD dan radio IKIM. Sembahyang jemaah means aku solat on-time. Tak perlu risau sembahyang di hujung waktu, seperti kebiasaannya.. (-_-) Aku suka slot Ustaz Zahazan dan Ustaz Nasaruddin Hassim di IKIM fm. Kupasan kitab-kitab dan surah-surah mereka sangat menarik. And plus, suara dua-dua pun sangat comel.. ;p

Mungkin tahun ni aku tak dapat menghayati Ramadhan dengan sepenuhnya, sebab aku masih lagi dalam proses kembali ke arus normal dan cuba mencukupkan apa yang patut. Dari segi ini aku sangat bertuah ada mama. Pada aku dia sudah berada di jalan yang terang; aku cuma perlu mengikut. It definitely would have been impossible if I had to take this journey on my own..

Tahun depan. Tahun depan kalau ada rezeki aku untuk bertemu Ramadhan lagi, Insyaallah aku akan cuba buat sebaik mungkin.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Betterment: Part I

"Saat ini, ramai umat Islam sedang memburu. Di dalam sepuluh malam terakhir ini ada satu malam yang hayatnya bak seribu bulan. Malam turunnya segala ketetapan bagi tahun akan datang. Malam rezeki yang membuak-buak.

Yang sukarnya, pintu Lailatul Qadr ini terkuak saat ramai yang tak sedarkan diri. Huluran salam sang Jibril sering saja disambut dengkuran dan mimpi.

Penulis ini tidak menyangkal hakikat bahawa pada tahun-tahun sebelumnya, dia juga tergolong diantara mereka-mereka yang ketiduran. Bahkan bila diteliti, terasa seperti pada setiap peluang diberikan Tuhan, dia sedang kelalaian; kuyup dengan limpahan duniawi.."

Salah satu pegangan aku yang kekal hingga ke dewasa ini ialah sentiasa mengambil jalan tengah dalam apa jua situasi. Dalam konteks ilmu dan pengalaman, ini bermaksud aku menerima apa saja yang datang. Sifatku porous, bisa menyerap setiap kemungkinan; buruk baik, betul salah, halal haram. Bukan semua untuk dipraktikkan, tapi semua dalam usaha memahami.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that, aku bumbukan jadi satu dan aku lumurkan ke hati. Pokoknya, sangat tak sesuai kalau kamu melabel aku kudus dan alim, atau mengira hanya kamu saja yang meniti hidup in shades of grey..

Kalau aku buka topeng, kamu pasti nangis.

Hari ni aku mula cari jalan tengah lagi. Sebab hanya dengan mencari baru kita sedar kalau kita sesat atau hilang. Ni yang dikatakan muhasabah diri. Cumanya, bila kita leka dengan sesuatu tu, muhasabah pun secara lembut, takat nak make sure kita tak betul-betul menyimpang. Contohnya:

Aku camni, tapi sembahyang belum tinggal lagi...

Pernah dengar dalam kepala? Minta simpang. Tapi kalau dah terdengar, know that something's wrong somewhere..

Aku mula terfikir keadaan 'sebenar' diri bila datang bulan puasa dan aku liat nak sembahyang tarawih di masjid walau 8 rakaat; apa lagi la 21 rakaat yang disarankan mak. Suara dalam kepala: Aku dah kerja sekarang. Bahagi masa antara ofis dan makmal. Deadline tak menang tangan. Aku keletihan!

Tapi Alhamdulillah, mata hati aku tak dibutakan lagi; masih dapat merasa kalau aku tak di jalan yang sepatutnya. Jadi hati buat research. Cari lagi keburukan yang menjadi petanda kondisi spiritual aku. Hati menjadi sensitif, menunggu masa aku melakukan perkara yang potentially mungkar..

Dan mula la aku perasan semua benda. Contohnya, kalau mama pasang CD ceramah atau radio IKIM dalam kereta, aku rasa semacam. Ada sikit rasa tak puas hati. Tak tahu kenapa. Bila mama tak ada, MP3 aku cepat-cepat jadi ganti. Bergemalah Myvi kesayangan mama dengan alunan muzik yang dia tak suka.

Lagi aku perasan, kesabaran aku. Asal disuruh sikit, aku menyinga. Asal ditegur, menyinga. Lagi dekat time nak buka, lagi dasyat. Dan kekadang tu perkataan yang keluar.. Seriously, I don't know where these ugly things are coming from! But they came spilling out of my mouth like I say them everyday.

Dan petanda yang penghabisan: aku dah mula tak objektif dalam menangani masalah.

Perkara ni sangat aku titikberatkan, sebab pada aku objectivity adalah konsep asas yang menentukan pemikiran dan tindakan seseorang terhadap diri sendiri dan orang lain. Bila kita tak objektif, kita cenderung berat sebelah, berpuak-puak, bersangka buruk dan mementing diri. Dan kalau dah pentingkan diri, takkan terfikir nak muhasabah..

Benda ni dah lama aku jadikan ukuran peribadi; personal trademark aku sebagai seorang sahabat, kakak dan anchor kepada keluarga. Kalau runtuh perkara yang satu ni, maka goyahlah peranan aku di sisi ketiga-tiganya.

Aku sama sekali tak boleh biarkan itu berlaku. Not if I can help it!

Postscript: Adik, akak pinjam title entry kamu ya! Besides, what better way to appreciate a muse than to plagiarize his work? ^^

Monday, 7 September 2009

Heads up!

I've always wanted to write fiction.

I loved creative writing and language arts classes I took back in highschool. These writing classes put you in an immensely gratifying position; it gives you the right to toggle your world - and sometimes other people's - without censorship or disgrace.

I really wish the Malaysian education system would adopt these courses as part of the syllabus. Heaven knows we've churned out enough textbook writers to last us multiple lifetimes! (not that I believe in reincarnation per se..)

Anyway, I've been looking for ways to ease into this creative writing phase again; I've left it for far too long in favor of factual reports so loved in this country of mine.. I realize I can't write full fiction; I don't have a knack for making up stories. But creative writing doesn't have to be fictitious, do they? I mean, they can also be glaring truths penned with artistic liscense.. ;p

So to start, I'll be writing on flashbacks. We have them half a dozen times a day. In a sense these memories are special, given the fact that we could recall them in particular. And special memories make for excellent canvas on which to draw out the stretches of our imagination, no? ^^

I was thinking of writing out these flashbacks in very short storyline or memoir mode, but this remains to be seen. The flashbacks (whenever I have them) will be previewed on my sidebar shortly before their actual entries come out, and they will be filed under "the view from here." So whenever you see this label, you'll know that the account you're reading actually happened at some point in my life, just not exactly the way I tell it.. ;p

I know.. I'm bored out of my mind and need some form of continuous online entertainment that didn't involve extreme graphics or keeping scores with players on the other side of the darn planet.. -___-

The first account is entitled "Staring contest." I chose this one because it gives a chance for guessing, in more ways than one.. Try to figure it out once I put it up ya! ^.~

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Jalan jalan cari daun!

One of the perks of working where I work is getting to do things that have nothing to do with me…

Minggu lepas, unit aku – Unit Ekologi Hutan – menganjurkan kursus pengenalan pokok. Sebagai seorang RA yang agak sibuk dengan tugasan makmal, aku sangka aku akan dikecualikan dari kewajipan menghadirinya. Lagipun, aku bukanlah seorang ahli ekologi, jauh sekali botani. Lantas dalam kepala aku congask bahawa kehadiran aku tak mungkin dilihat begitu penting.

Tapi ternyata anggaran aku kurang tepat bila Christine menelefon pada hari kursus. “Attendance is compulsory for all UEH staff.. We’ll wait for you, so come on!”

Aku terlupa. I’m a geneticist working for an ecologist..

Lalu dengan berbaju kurung aku mengikut jejak encik Abu Husin – pengendali kursus kami – ke dalam trel hutan simpan FRIM. Hari tu kami belajar mengenali pokok-pokok dari keluarga euphorbiaceae yang banyak terdapat di hutan tropika. Antara pokok popular dari family ni termasuklah pokok getah, pokok berbunga dan ubi keledek.

Sebelum bermula, En. Abu mengingatkan supaya kami memberi sepenuh perhatian. “Tree identification bukan senang. Kalau lalai nanti tak dapat. Saya tahu kita semua puasa, tapi puasa pun boleh belajar juga.”

Dalam hati aku kata: No hal! Belek daun jer pun. Cuba try DNA extraction..

Haish, sifat takabbur ni memang selalu menunggu untuk menjatuhkan hamba-hambaNya.

Masuk saja trel aku diberikan satu dahan yang dipenuhi daun. Menurut En. Abu, corak daun seperti itu dipanggil compound. Aku teliti sikit, aku angguk tanda faham. Kacang. Next example.

Dahan seterusnya mempunyai corak daun yang lebih kurang sama dengan yang sebelumnya, lalu tanpa berfikir aku menjawab, “Compound!”

“Salah tu.. corak daun seperti ini dipanggil simple.”

Serius aku cakap, tak ada bezanya contoh kedua tu dari contoh yang pertama. En. Abu minta kami kenali dahan dan ranting, yang dapat membezakan corak daun. Soalnya, yang mana satu dahan, dan yang mana pula ranting? Dua-dua pun banyak daun juga!

And that’s when all hell broke loose..

Makin jauh ke dalam trel, aku, Christine dan Joann makin keliru. Aku rasa kalau saat tu aku jadi renjer hutan, aku la yang paling hampeh. Mesti aku akan duduk depan satu pokok berjam-jam lamanya, semata-mata nak belek daun. Ceh, asal coraknya saja aku dah termangu. Tu belum masuk bab bentuk daun, jumlah urat dan stipules.

Corak daun nampak sama tapi owh so tak serupa!

Setengah jam berjalan tangan aku dah penuh dengan contoh daun dan dahan/ranting. Berkali-kali En. Abu menyoal, menilai kefahaman kami. Tapi aku main teka jawapannya. Kadang-kadang betul, selalunya salah. Lama-lama, kesabaran aku menipis.

“En. Abu, ni saja ke caranya nak ID pokok? Tengok daun saja?”

“Tak,” jawabnya spontan, sedikit defensif. Serta-merta aku rasa bersalah. “Oh.. boleh tunjukkan cara lain tak En. Abu? Mungkin cara yang lebih senang orang bebal cam saya ni nak faham,” aku sengih.

Dia tersenyum jahat. Apparently selain daun, spesis pokok juga boleh dikenalpasti dari segi buah, bunga, corak kulit, getah pokok, jenis akar, dahan, tanah, aras tinggi—

Ooookay... menyesal aku tanya!

I have to say though, despite the difficulties I was having a blast! Aku tak berapa faham tentang tree identification, but I will never look at a tree the same way again, that's for sure! Dan kalau tak dapat apa pun, sekurang-kurangnya aku dapat luangkan masa berjalan dalam hutan, sesuatu yang dah jarang aku lakukan sejak terpaksa berada di makmal. Forest and nature is what I enjoy most in life, and to be a part of it again even for just an hour did a lot to lift my mood.

Dan yang paling penting, aku belajar hargai kecekalan renjer-renjer FRIM yang banyak menghabiskan masa melakukan kerja-kerja renyah-tapi-perlu macam ni. Bayangkan, aku tuding jari ke mana-mana pokok, dan mereka akan ID bukan saja spesis, malah genus, family serta kegunaan komersil. Tahap kemahiran macam tu tak mungkin aku dapat dengan hanya sejam dua belajar..

Dalam perjalanan keluar trel aku mencuit Christine. Dia memandang aku, seperti sangat tahu yang aku tak puas hati dengan proses pembelajaran hari ni. “Can’t wait to get back to the lab, huh?” she guessed, waiting for the definite Yes.

I couldn't help it. I jump at every opportunity of proving this woman wrong..

“Actually, I was going to ask you when the next Jalan-Jalan Cari Daun will be.”