Friday, January 8, 2016

Humanity – Out Of The Corner Of My Eye

2015 had a lot to say about humanity and human rights.  The year of dreadful depressing, with economic implication, political turmoil, racial conflicts, flows of migrants who perished while simply attempting to improve their lives, and terrorist attacks on the most sacred symbols of civilization - for both Muslim and Western world.
We dwell in a world teetered between technology and human regress.  We progress forward through our institutions, but not through our empathetic of each other, feeding the world where thousands of children died of famine everyday, and providing proper education to millions of people.
We get ourselves involved in farce movements against the religions that we don’t understand.  We close our minds from reading and seeing more.  Hence, we stigmatize them for being different.  We waste too much time on too many senseless issues.  People can be totally ignorant of our laws and how it works.  The world gave us the right to be open and to learn from one another, not to tear us apart.
Then, as technology and democracy have given us the ability to move forward, it has also corrupted us.
We yield ourselves to be governed by those that supposedly hold the power to improve our lives, but they make it inconsequential, thinking they know the best and forgetting that the nation’s collective power would choose what is best. 
These days through one law or another, our freedom to articulate what we feel about anything is being curtailed. 
My deep stance on racial issues, corruptions and human rights in Malaysia at present was strongly argued by an Editor.  How can divulge the good thought about another race can be so intimidating?  How can upholding what’s crucial to be ironed out in the name of equality and democracy is being called a traitor?   
The fears seem to be overstated!
Considerably, some believe that the way to shun from trouble is to simply shut up.  But then, we let our freedom that is ensured by our constitution being curtailed.  But then again, nowadays, is our constitution unwavering?  It is, however, another affair.
Gradually, we are missing some of the matters that we have always enjoyed due to our own laxity for taking things for granted.  We don’t seem to ascertain how we are losing our freedom and rights.
Lamentably, our disagreements are generally not fought over values or ideas, but more exactly focus on differences.
More sadly, mass media and social media obviously are the instruments for mass deception and misguiding.  Gone are the days of credible news.
In my homeland and most places that I have been, people only believe that the human right is only the freedom of speech, and disregard the other very basic rights that every human being is entitled – dignity, religion, education, work, our attire, nationality, right to live, a way of life, including the choice and opportunity, for example.

That is why knowledge plays an extremely significant role in our lives, and never underestimate the power of human rights.
The suppression of ideas and thought is a major sin. In every faith, there is tolerance, principles, morality and openness.  In Islam, our Holy Quran stands for knowledge and thought.  These verses do not call for sitting idly, unthinking, or to go through life blindly.  It has never been, at any time, against seeking of knowledge. 
Let’s care for humanity by understanding the human rights that apply to everyone that has the rights of the fundamental equality of justice and judgment - everywhere.  They teach us what is substantial and what is the right thing to fight for in our lives. 
When there’s a bond between people and knowledge, we can tear down the barricades, some try to build in the name of moving forward. 

Because the horizon has no limits, a vision cannot have any boundaries.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Childhood Dream ...

Dear friends,

At the time of writing this, it has been more than 500 days I didn’t update this blog.

Truly, I have not abandoned this blog!
I am attending courses to enhance my writing skills, and at the same time completing my first book - InshaaAllah.
So, dear reader friends, stay tuned and please support – THANK YOU!

“Sometimes life takes unforeseen turns, and sometimes we hide our existence just because we fear the judgment of others.  We forgot that we write each chapter of our life as we go along, and people just cannot judge a book by only reading a single chapter.”   

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Batam, Indonesia – Menjejak ‘Tak Melayu Hilang Di Dunia’

“Batam?  Riau? Iskhhh Boring! What do they have there?!”

I said, “Frankly, I don’t know, but why not?  Haih! How alien can I be at a place like Batam huh.”

“Volcano eh?”

I said again, “Eh, come on, true! I have never been to Batam but mana ada volcano in Batam-lah!”

Some may find this place deserted, monotonous and laid back.  Ya. You may be right. But then again, let us just be curious rather than critical.  There must be something worthy of note coming out of this place.  No matter how insignificant there must be! 

Understanding our perseverance in our life is truly our obligation that calls for us to always seek to grow, to learn.  As usual, our complex life cannot be only compressed in a tiny bubble. Really, we have no choice but to nurture. Moreover, a life built on a human values platform is really one boundless discovery.

Batam, the largest of 329 islands in the Riau Archipelago (Kepulauan Riau) is located between the Straits of Malacca (Selat Melaka) and Straits of Singapore (Selat Singapura).  There is no mention how did Batam get its name. There is not much reference on Batam, as well.  Observably whatever stories unwritten had been passed on from generation to generation.  

The moment the aircraft touched the runway at Batam airport what caught my eyes was nah! – Hang Nadim Airport. 

It took us about 45 minutes from the airport to Harris Hotel.  And our trip discovering what Riau Archipelago can offer us started the next day

“Selamat Pagi, Bu!  Hari ini mahu shopping dimana ya?  Nagoya? Pasar Jodoh?” 
Eddie, (our airport taxi driver cum tourist guide) asked.

“Shopping?  Mungkin itu kemudian saja ya, Eddie.  Sekarang kita pergi minum ya.  Saya mahu tahu apa yang kamu bisa bantu.”  Yup! That’s me!  No story, no shopping!  He-he

Shopping.  Ha ah!  As part of the free trade zone and Sijori Growth Triangle, (economic agreement between Singapore, Johor and Riau Island) Batam is actually famous for its shopping paradise (surprisingly huh!).  After all, Johor and Singapore are only approximately 20 – 25km away.  Batam can be reached by ferry or by plane.

‘Nagoya’ is a town and got its name during the Japanese occupation (before it was ruled by Dutch, English and Malacca).

And yes ... this is the famous Nagoya Shopping Mall
'Pasar Jodoh' is actually an arcade or bazaar

This uncle said, "Hah! dipasar inilah ramai ketemuin
jodohnya dulu ha-ha"
At this 'Pasar Jodoh' many found their companion during its glory era once upon a time.

Trying to surmise, I asked Eddie, “Eddie, siapa itu Hang Nadim?”

Eddie said, "Oh! Itu Pahlawan 'Kepri' (KEPulauan RIau)
yang terbilang, Bu!  Banyak sekali berjasa.
Punya kaitannya sama Hang Jebat"
Jebat! Ceritalah!  Ada Jebat ada Tuah.  Ada Tuah ada sejarah!”  Yup! That’s me again.   

“Jaman persekolahan dulu, saya gagal semua subjek kecuali sejarah saya cemerlang, Bu.  Saya bisa ceritakan semuanya tentang sejarah Kepri.  Tapi skiranya ibu ingin tahu lebih detailnya, biar saya telefon teman saya ini dimana kita bisa buat rujukan.”

And, lucky me!  To have been acquainted to this place
... where history ...
... continues to be present
The acknowledgement of dignity
in Kepri
This brought me back to the last two years when my fellow compatriots pondered and debated who was actually Hang Tuah.  Did he really exist?  Is this a fiction?  Is the story of Hang Tuah and friends genuine?    Aihhh Why now question?  But, it’s okay.   Curiosity never chooses when is the best time to be curious, right?
There were stories to be written that would wrangle for social change and there were also stories that might confront the status quo.  Nevertheless, this is the story I truly relish.

Every Malaysian (well, at least my generation) should know this historical figure.  I would rather refer to as a historical character (humble, loyal, resplendent with love and the man who held all human nations as his one big family). 

Indeed, at least there are more than fifteen versions of stories of this distinguished Admiral (Laksamana) and I have read six of them and watched three movies (acted by M. Amin, Tan Sri P. Ramlee and Dato M. Nasir). For my part, after I have found what has been narrated by Tun Kasturi to Tun Sri Lanang, it has ‘altered’ my insight from something I used to know to one thing I comprehend and appreciate.

Hang Tuah was born in Bintan Island, Riau Archipelago (located east Batam Island), from ‘orang laut’ (sea people) tribe before his parents (Hang Mahmud and Dang Merdu Wati) migrated to Sungai Duyong, Melaka when he was a toddler. 
The indigenous of Batam inhabitants are Malay origin. 
Still to this very day, most of the people live in
Coastal village, where they fish for a living
Remarkably, tourists have come to Batam just for the fresh seafood.  Delightful and cheap!
Okay, back to history.  To me, almost all versions of how Tuah and his buddies entailed into the palace and how Tuah been accused of treachery were practically comparable.  The apparent diverse was how Jebat was killed by Tuah.  Some said they brawled for seven days, seven nights.  Some said Jebat was slain immediately.

And, Tun Kasturi narrated that it was after Friday prayer until the next afternoon when Tuah came rushing out, threw his Taming Sari and left the palace.  In between their fight Jebat allowed Tuah to pray, but Jebat did not pray as he told Tuah his sins were too enormous and countless to be pardoned by God.  (Oh! Jebat utterly, reading to this point my heart shrunk, my eyes blurred!).

When Kasturi, Lekir and Lekiu went inside the palace, the sight of Jebat was too much for them to bear. Jebat was a strong man. Jabot was still alive, but his stomach was awfully injured.  Shattered. Jebat still managed to walk to Tuah’s house where Tuah brought him into one room and they (five of them) broke into tears when Jebat managed to ask forgiveness from them.  And when he himself undone his wounded stomach wrapping, blood gushed that was the instant Jebat died in the arms of Tuah, at the age of thirty-seven, the oldest among those five famous brothers. 

Tun Kasturi continued, the death of Jebat really transformed Tuah.  The truth - Jebat was greatly needed by Tuah in his life.  Tuah could not bear such misery.  He travelled to Turkey to learn more about Islam.  He travelled to China and India to learn their culture.  (This is only quarter of the complete story narrated by Tun Kasturi that I can summarize here.  Reading every episode of the whole narration is truly inspiring, peeps!).

Now, exploring some of the Malay tradition and culture of the Riau Archipelago, in general and Batam in particular, there is not much different at all from what I have seen here and back home.  As much as I respect tradition, pardon me that I do not believe and do not appreciate some animism, polytheism or superstition obsessions that hold mythical elements.  Why?  It is not taught by my religion, Islam.

Riau Archipelago and Malaysia also virtually share the same tradition and culture, particularly in dress (baju kurung), dance (zapin, mak yong and ronggeng) and of course, language and music.  Have you ever come across the famous interesting story of ‘Putri Siput Gondang’? Ahh.. This one is not found in Malaysia’s folklore. Want to know? He-he… This article is too lengthy already!
On the last day of our trip to Batam, Indonesia I came across Hang Nadim Airport again (of course!).  We were quite early though, and at the departure hall, I had plenty of time on my own and this came across my mind
Ya ... this is Batam
Clearly, it is true Batam does not offer much fun.  Life is rustic and simple, far removed from the fast pace of modern life, but it offers truly the history of who we are and where we were from, possibly.  I do believe our legendary warriors existed and they were from Riau Archipelago. Maybe the way people hype Hang Tuah was way too much until he was portrayed as mystical, too transcendent and that eventually became deceptive or misleading.  Tricky, isn’t it?  Sadly, we lost the real quintessence of his character and accomplishments.   
And me, my Bugis ancestor (am proud!) derived from this archipelago, I believe. I am very certain in every lesson, from every single history.  More travelling.  More exploration. Discovering a gem that you will cherish, in your search for knowledge is truly (truly!) a wonderful feeling.
Jebat would have been a greater hero.  But rashness and angered brought him down.  And what was the most wretched part was affection killed him.  Look at what actually had happened to Tuah and Jebat.  Did Tuah live happily ever after?  Tuah may be disappearing at the end, but his pledge ‘Tak Melayu Hilang Di Dunia’ (Malay will never be wiped out from this world) never been gone.  But then again, do we value this pledge from our forefather these days? 
As this world continues to develop and we as we grow, our understanding of the world around us must continue to grow too.  And, I cannot help but find that there is this intertwined link between development and tragedy.  What a great message that would be for us and the generations to come. 

So, how do we ‘read’ history?  ‘Tepuk dada tanyalah selera’ (the choice is yours). 
Baik-baik mengail tenggiri
Takut terkena si ikan parang
Baik-baik merendah diri
Jangan menjadi hamba orang

I guess we have to determine who we are and make the world acknowledge us, not with what it ‘thinks’ of us.  I do hope that knowledge that I have gained will continue to remind and make me one compassionate humble being.  I want to do good and spread the love.  InshaaAllah (God willing).
So Batam? Riau? Boring heh?  Think again… Bless are those who appreciate the splendor in humble places where other people see nothing after all, life is all about existence, isn’t it?
"He who does not know his past cannot make the best of his present and future, for it is from the past that we learn" - His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President UAE (1918 - 2004).