Monday, July 23, 2007

A youngster's mind

As youngsters, we always feel that we are almost immortal. There's so much to do, and so little time to do it. If only we really put our hearts into it, we can climb the highest mountain or dive thousands of meters down the sea. We live our lives as if tomorrow never comes, with equipped with all our physical strength, brisk reflexes and quick thinking.

But experience during my medical training tells me otherwise. We have failed to see the opposite side of the coin. In almost everyday of my clinical training, I have seen sick, elderly people. There were once engineers, athletes, soldiers, teachers and etc, with lives promising them everything they ever dreamed off. I have seen their pictures when they were 20s, 30s or so, and they were such an immaculate handsome guys and pretty gals, confusing my mind with the vast contrast on what's in front of me. For in front of my eyes, I see sick people with trembling hands, legs that are so weak that can barely mobilise them and eyes which had lost its twinkles. What about their ability to fight 5 enemies in the warfield, to teach a class of 100 students and build machines that promise to work for 50 years without fail? They were all gone, gone as the years past by and as experience traded with strength. And I start to realise that one day, those trembling hands, those weak legs and those shortness of breath might some day, become mine. God knows when that day would come.

Thus, it really saddens me whenever I see people being disrespectful towards the elderly or when I observe how some people shouted at or speaked rudely to their parents. After all the sacrifices done and bitter pills swallowed to raise us up, is that what they deserve? Any sane mind will have a logical answer to this question. They have once served us, and now that they are no longer able to serve, it's our turn to serve them. Some friends teased me when I gave my seat away to an elderly passenger in a bus, saying that I was just trying to show my gentlemanship in front of the few pretty gals in the bus. But friends, that was not what I was trying to do. For deep inside my heart, I have this feeling of gratitude towards them, this sense of sympathy for them not being able to withstand the crowded environment of the 1 o' clock bus, this feeling of respect towards them. And don't ever forget my friends, our day will come fast enough before we start to realise it. Cherish what we have while we still have it.

For being young and innocent, we sometimes propel ourselves so fast that we fail to see what's around us and we lose our direction. For being youthful and strong, we are too obsessed with the thoughts of how high we can fly to the sky, often forgetting to see how deep we can fall.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cherish the moment

Many times in life, most of us will feel somewhat low. We ask questions like "why me?", "why now?", etc. We blame everyone and everything including ourselves for something bad that is happening in our lives. Yes, shit happens, but why does it have to happen to me all the time? But just before u start doing things that u might regret doing, read on.

Think of it this way... Sometime in the future from now, when our hair starts to gray and our face starts to wrinkle, we'll be sitting in a kopitiam or cafe and we'll be reminiscing "those days". "Those days" are now. Experience has taught us about this before, over and over again.
Remember talking about the days when u were in kindergarten? I could vaguely remember playing "cops and thieves" with my friends. I would always be the cop and Mum would always fold my little hankie into triangular shape that will be my "pistol". We would run around like those people in chinese dramas back then (my mum's influence). Those were the days...

How about primary school? I always hated primary school as the teachers were very strict in my school (well, they are in general). The long 1m ruler has kissed my butt and hands so many times for forgetting to do the homework or skipping a class. I fought with a prefect before for threatening to jot my name down in his record book. I wished I would not have to go to school. However, I quickly put off those thoughts. And before I knew it, I was already in secondary school. Looking back now, there were so many sweet memories that now i wish to relive it again. Like arriving early in the morning with some other friends and chatting nonsense and when i used my 30 cents pocket money to buy junk food without the knowledge of my parents. I even had a crush on my classmate when i was in the last two years of primary school. God knows where she is now. And still remember playing the bell lyre in my band and marched during the National Day parade. Those moments were not treasured back then, but they are now. Safe and sound in my box of sweet memories, somewhere deep in my heart and soul. Those were the days...

When I was in secondary school, i didn't like it much better than the times when I was in primary school. Learning geography was a struggle and i still have no idea why we learn civic education till now. History and literature were very good buddies, complementing each other so well when they were singing lullabies to me. They were just great in doing that. At that moment, I wished I was already over with that. But what I failed to see was that in a lapse of several years, I will be missing those moments so dearly. History was boring, but Pn. Afaf was a dedicated teacher, not to mention a few other teachers who were friendly and funny. I guess I didn't realise that I will be missing the times when we had a small league of "sepak bottlecap" behind the class, when we operated a mini casino after major examinations in the class when the teachers were not around and the arm-wrestling sessions that we had all year round. I still remember that there were times when i quietly pushed my motorcycle out of the school's compound when i noticed there were only flies in my class during the weeks before SPM (the rest were staying at home... maybe studying?). Those were the days...

In matriculation, i hoped that one-year period will end rapidly too. Tonnes of assignments, strict pak guard and mak guard in the hostel and the lack of delicious food were the culprits. But then again, the horrifying moments when one of my friends and I tried to climb over the gate to get into the hostel, the times when we stayed up all nite till the wee hours to "sahur" (Muslim meals before they start fasting for the day), those "soccer" sessions and camps were the things that make me feel like going back to the past and re-experience it all over again. Those were the days...

And now, i'm in my uni days and once again, i feel like there are so many obstacles in front of me. There are always things that need to be done, and there are so many road-blocks along the way. There are so many times that I feel like giving it all up, yet knowing the catastrophic implications if I really do. Like one of my friends' personal message in MSN messenger said "If I don't like it, can i run away? If i hate it, can i avoid it?". But no. I think this time I will choose to accept the challenges. I guess that everything in life is a matter of give and take. We just need to learn to accept all of them, the good ones, the not-so-good ones and the bad ones. For I know that these are the times that I will dearly miss sometime when I'm already old and my memory starts to fail me. For I know that the time machine is a fantastic machine that only exists in fantasy. For I know one day I will be sitting in a kopitiam with a bunch of old-time friends and we will be talking about "those were the days" stories.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Coz this is where my heart is

Being an international student, many times I have been asked by my peers, be it Malaysian or not, on whether I will be applying to become a PR or will I be going back to my country to serve. Without any hesitation, I always answered "I will definitely be back". This will almost certainly continue with a series of "why" questions, to which I have a whole list of answers that I could certainly win a prize in any essay-writing competition if it offers one.

My usual first answer, but not the best answer, is that I am a sponsored student and I am bonded with the government for the first ten years after I graduate. Otherwise, I am required to repay the government the whole sum of the grant, in one lump sum, which for me, will come to about RM 1 000 000. Wow, that's a 7-digit sum and for someone who came from an average family like me, that will spell BANKRUPTCY quite perfectly, and I am not ready for that at such a young age. But guys, this is not the main reason, for Malaysia has much more to offer to me other than bankruptcy.

For Malaysia is where I call home. This is the country which has done so much for me and built me to be a person I am today. And this is the place that I feel so comfortable of being myself. Whenever I came back to this gorgeous place during my long break, I feel as if I was reincarnated. For whenever I am back, I breathe Malaysian air, I eat Malaysian food and I speak Manglish. It is all these simple basic things in life that gives me a sense of belonging because I am every bit a Malaysian and being deprived of the chance to practice such Malaysian lifestyle is almost "torturous".

I will be back in Malaysia upon graduation because this is my country. I agree that there are so many other countries that can offer a great deal of opportunity and better life for me and for my future family as my friends always advised me. Well, my friends, if all of us think alike, then Malaysia will never be on par with those countries. For who else should fight for Malaysia if not us? Together, we can make Malaysia a better place and be one of the countries that other nations envy. But if we were to throw in the towel in, the future will certainly look bleak. Alone, I will only be a lost lone ranger, but together, side by side, hand in hand, we can make a great difference, slowly but surely.

Though there were times when people back at home questioned my origin, hurling words that shattered my heart into millions of pieces, they never succeeded in questioning my faith. However, it must be made clear that these people are just some bad apples and I find no problem at all in mingling with people from all races and religions. Maybe, those people were still unable to grasp the concept of "bangsa Malaysia", maybe they are just stubborn. And believe me, I hide no hatred towards them as I can see from their perspectives, albeit a sadder one.

Another reason for me to come back to Malaysia is because this is where my family is. They are my main source of inspiration and they are the ones who provide me with unconditional love. Living abroad has made me realised even more of their importance in my life. During one night when I was back home for my break, I couldn't call home because my mobile was running flat on battery, my dad waited for me to come home which I did at 2.30 in the morning. There were no scoldings or long lectures, he waited just to make sure that I was safe. On switching on my mobile, I received a SMS that said "You have 78 missed calls since 02:00", or something like that. Imagine that, 78 missed calls in half an hour time! I must had made them very worried. If I could, I would pronounce myself a death sentence. If I could, I would. But what I could do was just to apologise and promise myself never to do it again. Never ever again. However, I was glad that this incident took place because it told me that no matter how grown up I am, in my parents' eyes, I will always be the boy that they care for. And I am glad of it.

For all these reasons, I am certain that I will be back in Malaysia. For my love for her will always be the same, the past, the present and the future. Selamat Hari Kemerdekaan ke-50! Keranamu Malaysia...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hard to be non-judgmental

Ever asked yourself how many times have you judged someone just by their looks itself? Or the amount of times that you have judged someone just because they had done some mistakes in the past? If you had, you would have realised that the amount is somewhere near infinity. But, the blame is not entirely on you.

First and foremost, I agree that it's hard to be non-judgmental. People survive inthis fast-changing world thorugh assimilation to the culture surrounding them, and this process of assimilation requires a compelx series of mechanism. We know what is accepted and what is not by learning, be it formal or informal. We learned through past experiences when we socialise with other human beings as well as when we observe how others act and behave. We see and learn so much everyday that we keep on redefining the values in our lives. A successful assimilation will mean acceptance to the society and happiness in life, whereas failing to assimilate will result in isolation and scepticism.

Furthermore, being judgmental is one of the most essential survival skills. Survival instinct tells us to stay away from someone who had a record being agressive so that we are spared from the potential physical or verbal abuse. That's a valid point, but what if the one who is avoided is agressive because he has no one to talk to, no one to share his problems that it builds up everyday to a point where he himself can no longer suppress his feelings? All he needs is someone who is a listener and non-judgmental to look at things from his perspectives.

I understand the difficulties in being non-judgmental as sometime a few years ago, a middle-aged man came to me in Puduraya bus station, saying that he had just came out from the prison and needed some money to buy a ticket to go back to Penang. His hair was unkempt, and he was thin and shabby, but not trying to be judgmental, I gave him $10, leaving myself with only $2 for a journey from KL to Penang. I have heard a lot of cases of conmen's in Puduraya, but I chose to believe the guy because I kept on asking myself what if this guy is telling me the truth? What if he really needs the money? I took the benefit of the doubt. A few months after the incident, I was in Puduraya again. And there he was, the same man asking the same person money using the same line that he used months ago. I merely told him off by saying to him in Hokkien "you have asked me before". He turned around and walked away, but I doubted, abashed. I was left alone feeling angered. What happened to the trust that is cornerstone of human-human communication? It's not the $10 that I was crying for, but for the loss of human trustworthiness. So much for being non-judgmental. Maybe, maybe someday in the future I don't know when, we will be able to make then one big U-turn.

I wish I cound be non-judgmental in everything that I see and I do, so as to give everyone a fair chance to prove who they are. At his moment, I have not been that successful. And on the other hand, I hope people will not be judgmental towards me to prove myself. To decide whether one is wrong by being judgmental is to be unjust, but to not try being non-judgmental is to be cruel.