22 July 2014

Pakcik Remimisces (Pt 18) – The three we have

Over thirty years ago we were blessed with three children That, apart from the very life that we are still breathing today, is His most meaningful and invaluable gift to us.



Mother & her 3 children with father's favourite Pallas  

It was a real test of courage for the mother when those three babies were destined to come into this world through caesarian operations, which by today’s standard was primitive in those days. To put it crudely, a doctor would cut up enough opening in the mother’s abdomen for the baby to be taken out and the gap stitched close with whatever thread used at that time. That harrowing and traumatic part was replayed a week later when the thread that bound the wound had to be removed; what fear and pain accompanying it. To go through that traumatic experience once was enough but having to go through that same process the second and third time was psychologically a torture. Nevertheless, this mother surrendered herself to Him simply for the strong desire to have more children. The prominent gynaecologist of that era, Dr McCoy recommended a permanent stop against any fancy idea of going beyond three, let alone to go for ‘cheaper 
by the dozen’ !
____________________  

Note on Dr Mc Coy

Dato’ Dr. Ronald Stephen McCoy was born on May 5, 1930

A past president of MMA (Malaysian Medical Association)
He was among the first group of students to be admitted to the University of Malaya in Singapore when it was founded in 1949.Dato' McCoy is currently a member of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a group of seventeen distinguished and eminent persons from 12 countries appointed by former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating to propose practical measures for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
From Straits Times on the occasion of 'Victorian of the Year 2004' - Victorian Indtituition, KL
_____________________________________


Today with improved technique, a mother can go through such operation practically unlimited. Our own daughter braved through four operations with a smile. The dreaded and painful experience of unstitching the wound was no longer necessary with self-dissolving thread. Some mothers, we are given to understand, opt for operations for personal reasons; such as a desired birthday for a baby and in some cases, I am given to understand, to avoid any body damage to the mother.

n/b: We have our way of marking birth dates for the three children, encoded in the car number plates - the inseparable three.


7917 ?
 
The encoded birthday dates and mother's old favourite

Today, as an expecting father, I recall those harrowing moments when I sat saying my prayers for the safety of my beloved life partner.

  
________________ 

Some years later when the three children reached their schooling age I was determined to start them learn the meaning of humility through the process of growing up. We had a comfortable life but the children had to learn that ours was not the norm. For that reason we decided on two schools in Brickfields, thirty years ago, a semi slum area where one would find homes of poor families and accommodations for general labourers of Malayan Railway and squatters as well.

One would not see a child being scheuffer-driven to those two schools. Makcik used to volunteer to prepare milk ( from milk powder donated by a company) and dispense it to poor children at the school. It was also not unusual for one of our children to tell us on his return from school that a friend borrowed five or ten cents to make up enough to buy something. Our advice was never to accept the money back, whatever was given was to be treated as a gift. In those days it was not uncommon for children to go to schools with 20 or 30 cents each. We wanted our children to realise how lucky they were in life. No one talked in those schools about having enjoyed holidays abroad.

Indeed, our three children survived well at those lowly-rated schools. But their father was a ‘tyrant’ at home making them work extra lessons. And today, that ‘tyrant’ has spent the last twenty years ‘terrorising’ the poor children at Almanar. And, hopefully, our children and grandchildren, continue to live with full realisation that there are others whose life is not as fortunate as theirs.


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13 July 2014

Happy Days Here Again ( Pt 2 ) - We are all orphans



My children

On Saturday 5th June a large coach which could accommodate 45 passengers stopped in front of the gate of Almanar which suddenly seemed diminutive and humbled by comparison. No such a large passenger vehicle ever stood there.


 A 45 seater from Perkaya Orphanage


 Form 1 children

A group of twenty children alighted and streamed through the gate. That was the first group of Form 1 children from PERKAYA Orphanage to begin their tuition class here.

Comfortably seated after their long ride ( return trip of about 110 km from Perkaya Orphanage to Almanar) they sat listening to the first few introductory words of welcome from Pakcik. Their surprise was noticeable when told that the man standing in front of them was, from then on, to be simply addressed as “Pakcik” or “Pakcik Hassan”. Such terms as teacher, sir, master etc were not acceptable.

Pakcik’s next point was on the normal practice at Almanar; for instance, the day here should begin with recitation of Al-Fatihah for the loved ones who have gone before us, including those who have donated to Almanar’s needs. On that note I proceeded to say, “ Sekarang (selain mereka yang tidak boleh sembahyang) marilah kitta hadiahkan AlFatihah kepada arwah yang kita kasihi dan…..”. The word ‘arwah’ brought a lump to my throat. Like being hit with a hard brick it dawned on me that those faces looking straight into my eyes belonged to twenty boys and girls who had, without exception, lost their fathers. One of the girls had lost her mother as well. I had to swallow hard the moment they began reciting the Al-Fatihah. I had never experienced addressing a group of children who have lost their fathers. They are now Pakcik’s children.



  First day at Almanar

Two days later I invited a friend for a drive down south of K Terengganu along the peaceful coastal road to Perkaya Orphanage where I had never been. It was a pleasant 55-km drive and under an hour we were at the administrative office to get the direction to the Principle’s room.  It was quite a long walk through passages between classrooms. At one point a group of children appeared from around a corned ahead. They were walking straight towards us. Then came the unexpected surprise.  They group caught sight of me and recognised me. In an excited loud chorus, they cried out, “Pakcik Hassan!” and ran towards us, the boys holding out their hands to kiss mine. That spontaneous warm welcome after just one meting at Almanar two days earlier truly touched me. Yes, they had accepted to be my children.

__________________________ 

The second trip of Perkaya coach to Almanar brought the same Form 1 children again and a group of ten Form 4 children, the members of the latter group had also lost their fathers.



Form 4 children and their temporary teacher, Kak Mira (the dentist-to-be) on the right 


It was fortunate that I had an ex-Almanar girl, Azmiera, to help me with the two groups that day. She is home on leave from her university and is free and ready to help. She has another month to help at Almanar before going back into her final phase to be a graduate dentist. It pleased me to notice the potential dentist, also one who has lost her father, handling a group of orphans and being addressed as Kak Mira by the children. Perhaps I should mention at this juncture, that Pakcik and Makcik have also lost our fathers and mothers – making us truly ‘yatim piatu !  Almanar is turning into an all -orphan institution !

______________________

Advertisement special:

Wanted:  Voluntary persons ( preferably orphans!) to teach English, Maths and Sciences. 



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03 July 2014

Happy Days Are Here Again ( Pt 1 )


  The skies above are clear again
( Ramadhan 1435 
Selamat berpuasa to my Muslim visitors)






The period of last twelve months has been unusually quiet at Almanar as the number of children attending classes has plummeted down. I will not elaborate on the reasons for this sad state of affair, because, doing so would force me to point my finger at the much-publicised and self-applauded success of the new ‘education blueprint’. If, a few years ago, children would stream out of schools around 12.30, they do so now as late as 3.30, exhausted and hungry. I am talking about children around my vicinity, where many poor children go to school without proper breakfast, and with a mere 2 to 3 ringgits in their pockets. I used to start my afternoon sessions as early as 2 o’clock. I can only do that today on selected days, but not earlier than 3.30 during school days, and at time on weekends, that is, if the schools decide not to have extra classes or other activities.

Alhamdulillah, this current Ramadhan month has brought to Almanar a very special parcel of joy, the very thought of which would not even cross my mind. The largest orphanage welfare organisation of Terengganu, popularly named PERKAYA, has approached Pakcik if I care to help some of their children. They are currently managing four orphanage centres in the state. Would I reject a gift from heaven, ‘orang mengantuk disorongkan bantal?’

Of the four centres, the largest, accommodating nearly 400 primary school children, is 55 kilometers from Almanar. That distance alone was reason enough to deter Pakcik from entertaining the idea of associating with that organisation, a rich body operating successfully one of the largest palm-oil estates in the state.

To my great disbelief, a representative from that body rang up for a meeting with Pakcik. At eleven in the morning of the first day of this fasting month, three top ranking officials duly called at Nuri (Pakcik’s home) to clarify what assistance they would seek from Almanar.
Over the many years, the four centres have been providing homes for the orphans, who are then transported daily to various schools in the vicinity. Two years ago a major decision was made to open the body’s first private school at their largest centre, and that school was officiated just over two years ago; its first group of children are now in their Form 3. To run this private school fresh graduates have been recruited. Sadly, within this short period the school is now being managed by its third principle.

To my surprise the first concern mentioned was whether Almanar would assist in guiding a number of Form 4 children with the hope that the orphanage would, for the first time, realise a ‘record-breaking’ SPM results. Seeing one pupil obtaining all ‘A’ grades seems to be the most elusive target! Of course assistance is equally needed for the children in their new school. Of great concern to them is the standard of English and Mathematics – despite the famous and much acclaimed success of the ‘blue-print’ and PBS whatever!                        

_____________________ 

The main areas of concern were discusses and Pakcik assured them of cooperation from Almanar. I never expected that very first meeting to last about three whole hours – without as much as enjoying a drink. But the three representatives were all very enthusiastic. I could understand that when I learnt, later, that they had had a meeting with their Chairman and had been given the full mandate for a change.

Just a few days after the meeting I have now been told that I can now expect the first busload of PERKAYA orphans as early as this weekend ! It is now Pakcik’s turn to organise and make available whatever is needed.

Insya Allah, a new and successful chapter will begin for Almanar.

-_______________

Pakcik will follow this posting with another that gives some picture of what PERKAYA is.



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18 June 2014

All in the family ( Pt 12 ) – A Boy Scout and/or Imam Muda



 Just a short breather

The much awaited school holiday came but, all too soon, was gone. At its start we had two of our ten grandchildren, a girl of thirteen, and her younger brother, Adam, ten, the latter being the subject of my Nov 2013 posting, ‘Adam the boy scout’ ( click ).


 Yes, I am Adam, a boy scout





Do I look ten and my sister (Aisyah) thirteen?   

The presence of these two kids brought life to the quiet home of the old couple at Nuri. How these two children have grown from one holiday to another.

It was not very long ago I used to have these two kids walking on my back as I lay face down on a mat. We call it ‘pijak belakang’ (stepping on the back). For that they were rewarded ONE ringgit each for their piggy banks. Today they have grown too big/heavy for my back to take. The old 'pijak belakang' exercise has changed to ‘tumbuk belakang’ ( pummeling the back) with their fists clenched. Of course the cost to the grandfather has doubled to TWO ringgits each !

Have I been teaching my grandchildren to earn money?  No, it is part of multiple learning in line with what our Education Ministry has been doing (very satisfactorily according to recent media news ) to children in schools. Their parents tackle different aspects of learning and practices. To illustrate this I will relate what I was pleasantly surprised one afternoon on the second day of the two children’s recent holiday with us.

Not hearing any noise from the two in the room next door I crept to see. Lo and behold, the they were in the middle of their prayers with Adam playing the ‘Imam muda’, leading his elder sister, Aisyah.
 



Together we stand to worship You, oh, AlMighty



To You, we bow ourselves with humility




And only to You, the All High, we sink this low


I said nothing then, expecting to satisfy myself that it was not a one time off. No, indeed, I found them repeating the same on a few other occasions when they were together. Since then, whenever the four of us prayed Maghrib together, I appointed the Imam ‘Muda’ to be my ‘bilal’ to do the ‘iqamah’. He performed his new role well in his loud and clear voice.   


Nothing pleases me more than to see a good habit being put into regular practice. We want academic excellence but it should be supported by other good values, Islamic values for Muslims.The little surprise shown by the two young kids assures the septuagenarian couple of this house that the young members of their clan are being led on the right track. Alhamdulillah.    


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08 June 2014

With a Sigh ( Part 21 ) – Are we all very poor?


 Nisa, my girl

A fortnight ago I received an sms message written in its normal lingo which took me a bit of time to decipher and understand. After some editing here goes the message:

Salaam Pakcik. Ini Nisa. Nisa hendak minta duit sedikit daripada Pakcik. Nisa kekurangan wang . Susah hendak beli buku. Nisa harap Pakcik boleh bantu Nisa. Keluarga Nisa pun susah. Sekarang hendak tanggung abang hendak masuk koleg. Adik sekolah SBP. Lagipun Nisa tidak dapat biasiswa. Tidak tahu siapa Nisa hendak minta tolong. Kalau boleh Nisa hendak minta pertolongan Pakcik. Bila Nisa berjaya dan dapat kerja Nisa akan bayar balik duit Pakcik. Nisa minta ampun maaf kalau ada buat salah dan silap dengan Pakcik. Maaf lah Nisa kerana buat muka tidak malu minta pinjam duit Pakcik. Maaf Nisa, Pakcik.” 

[ Salaam to Pakcik. This is Nisa. Nisa intend to ask for some money from Pakcik. Nisa am short of money; difficult to buy books. I hope Pakcik could assist Nisa. My family is poor. Now they have to support my elder brother who is joining a college. My younger sister is studying in an SBP ( full residential school).  Furthermore I do not have a scholarship. I do not know whom I can seek help from. If it is possible I would like to get Pakcik’s help. When Nisa succeed and have a job, Nisa will repay Pakcik’s money. Nusa seek forgiveness for whatever mistakes and wrongdoings towards Pakcik. Forgive Nisa, without shame, seek a loan from you. Forgive Nisa, Pakcik.]

________________________ 

That was a kind of SOS message from Nisa, a girl I began to know in early 2009 when she was one of 20 odd children in Std 6 of a primary school in a rural area about 20 km from my house. The school never had a good result in a UPSR examination, its standard 6 children failing to get satisfactory score in English and/or Mathematics. The school had just seen the arrival of a new deputy headmaster, a lady, who knew of Almanar tuition classes. One of her children was once a student there for three years. On her request Pakcik agreed to help the school. A concerted effort by class teachers resulted in a record-breaking UPSR examination results in which three children scored the elusive A grade in all subjects. 

As I expected, the three girls, coming from a rural school with average-to-poor background, were offered places in two MARA colleges. Unfortunately, Nisa was not one of them. She returned to live with her family about 70m km further away from me and joined a secondary school



Standard 6 - UPSR 2009

As a reflection of the general living standard of the parents in that area, I was greatly surprised when I came to learn that parents of the three successful children were about to turn down the offers. They were assured, no doubt, that their children’s needs would be funded by scholarship, but, initially, each child had to be adequately equipped and certain fees had to be paid on registration. Families of these children were not in the position to foot the initial expenditure. After all, a school nearer home was as good as a boarding school which they had no knowledge of. Fortunately, this was sadly related to me in good time, giving Almanar Trust the opportunity to come to their rescue.
 _________________________ 

As for Nisa, after completing her PMR examination she joined a vocational college where she is today. She stays in a hostel where she has to pay for food and lodging. The incentive for her and family is her likely opportunity to find employment immediately after completing her vocational course.

From the time Nisa left her primary school, she has not stopped being in touch with Pakcik, sending me occasional SMS to say hello.
          
Nisa has an elder brother who did well in his SPM (Form 5) examination, as a result of which he has been offered a scholarship to study at a new MARA college called KKTP ( Koleg Kemahiran Tinggi Mara – MARA higher vocational college ) in Kemaman. The four-year course at this college is designed to produce skilled candidates for the oil and gas industry around Kemaman/Kerteh. Like Nisa this brother has an eye on a fast track to study and get employed soonest possible. But life is not without problems for these people. Before joining the college in a couple of months’ time , his family have to find, by hook or by crook, a few hundred ringgits to enable him to buy all the necessities and to pay the registration fee on enrolment.

Nisa has a younger sister who did well at primary school, scoring A+ in all subjects. She was offered a scholarship to a an SBP (Sekolah Berasrama Penuh - full boarding school) not very far from their home. For reasons best known to the school, her bank account book(BSN a/c book)  is kept by the school. She would only get the book on certain dates when fees are due to be paid to the school, denying her from obtaining cash to spend on her personal needs, including her transport to and from her hostel. So she is not altogether one without being a burden to the family.
       
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 

As soon as I received Nisa’s distress message I called her. It was hard for this young girl to disclose her need for a couple of hundred ringgits to pay for the school fees and her expenses to last this year.  She could not see how her parents would get hold of so much cash when they are facing the immediate need for the brother to be enrolled at KKTM.

Tolong lah saya, Pakcik. Saya akan cuba bayar balik pda Pakcik satu hari!” ( Please help me. I will try to pay you back one day!). She was not asking me to help her siblings, but just herself alone. She could not speak for her brother’s bigger problem.

Do I have to look for more needy case to extend help? That friendly tie she has kept with Pakcik over the years is reason enough. Willingly I credited into her bank account what she needed plus a little more. No sooner had she seen her account than her mother’s soft voice came over the line, almost in tears. She found it hard to believe what Nisa had unashamedly done. She poured out her untold worry over the family’s current predicament. The family’s bread earner is a small village carpenter, doing odd repair work in the village, at times going with nothing. The mother, out of need, does rubber tapping. “Kadang kadang saya dapat 7 ringgit sehari menorah getah. Apa nak buat?  Terima kasih Pakcik” ( Sometimes I get seven ringgits a day tapping rubber. What can I do? Thank you, Pakcik.)

_____________________ 

Deep in my heart I wonder where the much publicised BR1M money been channeled to, and, above all, where are the highly honoured and respected YBs ? I can just heave a deep sigh, whilst these people are facing helplessness. Panda dihutan diberi susu kucing dirumah dicampak tepi pagar.



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23 May 2014

Miracles of A-Quran ( Pt 2 ) – Dr Rashad Khalifa.



 Code Nineteen


Almost five months ago I posted my first thought on a new series to be named The Miracles of Al Quran (click)




Then one new issue came after another, giving the impression that I have put aside what I started with. On the contrary, the subject is one of Pakcik’s favourites. I have to apologise to my visitors like Aziela who expressed interest in this subject. 

Way back to mid 1970’s, an Egyptian living in America, made an astounding discovery which amazed the Islamic and non-Islamic alike. The man, Rashad Khalifa, born in Egypt in 1935,migrated to America at the age of 24 after obtaining his first degree. He then earned a Master’s degree in biochemistry in Arizona and, later, a PhD in California. It was in 1974 when Rashad Khalifa, using computer, made a sensational discovery of number 19, later known as the Code Nineteen of the Quran. An article on this subject found its way into the famed Scientific American magazine. One should appreciate that the earliest laptop computers only came into the market by mid 1980’s, but Rashad had used a computer ten years earlier to analyse AlQuran.  



 Dr Rashad Khalifa's tafsir





Code nineteen by Dr Rashad Khalifa


I came to hear of Rashad’s discovery towards the middle of 1980’s. Like many Muslims and non-Muslims world over, I was very fascinated by Rashad’s discovery. It did nothing but to strengthen my belief in the endless miracles of Al Quran.  I will not attempt to describe in any detail of the discovery related to number nineteen, which most of us already know, I am sure. To me this is a miracle and I would like it to be the first example in this series.

Here are just a few of the many aspects of the so-called code nineteen of AlQuran.

     1)  The total number of Chapters of Quran is 114 ; that is   19 x 6 = 114

2)     The opening statement of Quran – Bismillah… consists of 19 letters.
             

 19 letters of Bismillah


3)     The first Quranic revelation – Al Alaq … consisted of 19 words. The total number of words in this Chapter is  285; that is 19 x 15 = 285
         

 285 ( 19 x 15 = 285 ) of Al Alaq


4)     Surah Al Baqarah begins with three letters Alif, Lam and Mim. The total occurrence of these three letters in this Surah is 9,899; that is 19 x 521 = 9899. This phenomena
occurs for all other Chapters (Surah) starting with letters , the likes of Sad;  Alif Lam Ra; Ya Sin etc.

      The number nineteen itself ( in Arabic: tis‘ata asyara ) is found in Surah AlMuddaththir (74)    
  



Al Muddaththir (74)


Rashad became a popular hero, commanding full-house audiences as he lectured at universities, mosques, organizations and even royal and presidential palaces.  Rashad was inspired It was most unfortunate that, at the height of his popularity he began to have ideas that he was a divine messenger, not a prophet. This overshadowed the seriousness of his previous achievement, and undermined all the good that he had done.

Rashyad became a threat to Islam. A fatwa issued on Feb 19, 1989, by the Islamic Legal Council of Saudi Arabia and 38 scholars decreed Rashad Khalifa a heretic. On January 31, 1990, he was stabbed to death at Masjid Tucson.
______________________________ 

Code Nineteen of AlQuran has become a controversial issue. Pakcik will not make a stand on this. Believing in numbers is against our basic faith in Allah.  To me it is not 19, as a number. But the Quran, apart from showing all the scientific marvels, shows that AlQuran is structured beyond the ability of any one but the God himself. The whole Book is bound by an uncanny structure and arrangement which, if a word is being altered, the change would show. It is like a kind of seal that one uses on an envelop to show that the document inside has not been tempered with. Likewise, Al Quran has been carefully sealed in a ‘nineteen ‘ manner to prove that after about 1400 years we now discover that the contents of the Book has never been tempered with, not even a letter, true to His assurance that He alone preserves it.

So I take code nineteen as a seal to assure ourselves of the sanctity of that Book, a miracle. It is not 19 as number to believe in. I regret that I am unable to post details of a number of very uncanny incidences in Mecca and Medinah during my Haj in mid 1980’s, involving the surah containing ( tis’ata asyara ). 


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13 May 2014

With a Sigh ( Pt 20 ) – Katak dibawah tempurung



Now we will mass-produce Ph D's for a song




 Good news - how to save billions!

That came out last Sunday in the Star. A high-powered government spokesman said that “research universities which produced PhD had saved almost RM2 bil so far.” So why should we spend money sending our candidates to universities overseas?  When referred to the absence of Malaysian public universities in the prestigious Times Higher Education 100 Under 50 2014, the answer was, “Rankings do not mean everything ……”. Of course all such spokesmen talk about our universities as nothing less than ‘taraf antara bangsa’ ! But, sad to say, industries in Malaysia find our graduates badly lacking, resulting in increasing number of jobless graduates. Now our politicians are mass-producing Ph D holders to sell kacang puteh.

Living in Terengganu and seeing the marvel of this kotaraya dipersisiran pantai, I wonder why we started and still continue with the great ‘Monsoon Cup’ event every year. What does the annual expenditure of that few days’ event mean to our local fishermen when the weather is often too rough to go to sea to earn the few ringgits for their families?  I also question why we spent billions on building miniature mosques of the world – but none, I understand, qualifies to have Friday prayers? How I wish those beautiful islands in the picturesque large estuary of Terengganu River were to be the home of some medical specialists, with five-start medical centres and accommodations to become a unique centre for medical tourism; the way our small neighbour down south ( lacking spokesmen!) has been flourishing over the years without songs and gongs (or should I say song and dance?). 

So we are now starting to produce locally Malaysian PhD ‘tab - taraf antara bangsa’ and save money. (But do we really need money? I understand 1Malaysia has plenty to hand out cash. ) I am not surprised a holder of our locally produced PhD, named Abu, will have the pride of writing on his business card :  Dr Abu bin Adam, PhD-tab.

Not having a PhD myself, I read what those clever spokesmen say, and I sit back heaving a long sigh, and tell myself I am not qualified to comment and am behind time. Only ‘katak dibawah tempurung’ does not need to see the outside world and get thrilled to hear whatever is sung is lauded without question.


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