23 April 2012

End of the Tunnel ( Pt 17 ) - I have lost one

Today, at three I was preparing for my afternoon class at Almanar. For want of time I had planned to do two classes concurrently, a kind of juggling from one class-room to another. Then my hand-phone rang.

“ Assalaamu Alaikum, Pakcik. Ini ayah Syaliza ( This is Syaliza’s father),” the voice began. Instantaneously I sensed what was coming. “Syaliza dah meninggal dunia ( Syaliza has passed away) …..” The rest was history.

The father himself chose to call knowing how close her daughter was to us. Syaliza Dhamira joined Almanar at the beginning of 2000, twelve years ago and was at Almanar for three years. A quiet and unassuming person Syaliza always wore a pleasant smile on her face and was in full control of herself. Quite appropriately she qualified to become a nurse at a university hospital.

As expected, three years ago she was happily married. Sadly, however, a year later Syaliza was diagnosed having a rare cancer. Just as well she worked for a university hospital which possesses cancer treatment facility. It could not cure her but that made it all easy for her. If only she had been given some more time she would have been sent for treatment outside the country. But that was not to be.

Over the last two years Syaliza never showed her illness. She was unbelievably composed when she first related to Pakcik of her illness. And three months ago she made sure that Makcik and Pakcik were invited to her brother’s wedding.

Her brother's wedding wedding

At the wedding of her brother, Aalim, intuitively I was more interested in recording her presence than the brother’s wedding. (Her brother, attending a better secondary school, was with Almanar too for a brief period.) I captured her presence without knowing that these pictures will be for us to look back at her with love and with prayers in our heart.

With her dear husband

Standing close to Makcik's right shoulder

Never in the eighteen years of Almanar’s history it ever crossed my mind that one day I would be sending one of its pupils to the grave, as I did this afternoon. May Allah shower her with mercy. Alfatihah.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

19 April 2012

Will I have a chance ( Pt 1 )?

Look at him sitting at the table on the ‘wakaf’(open-sided hut) of our house all by himself with books in front but eyes staring into space, perhaps wondering,
Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

Will I have a chance? And what will I be?

For reasons of our own Makcik and Pakcik call this Form Two boy Arif, after the name of one of our grandchildren. He joined Almanar at the beginning of his Form One. He was the only pupil from his school who wished to join Almanar tuition but later was joined by another dozen. Because he attends afternoon school he is free in the morning to be at Almanar. I have strong personal reasons for wanting to have him, even if it means I would attend to him alone.

Arif is not from a poor family. He is clever and performed reasonably well in his UPSR exam. I cannot help feeling that he is with Almanar largely due to his parents and his sisters’ influence. You see, eleven years ago his eldest sister joined Almanar, and that was followed by three other sisters.

So Arif is the FIFTH in the family to join Almanar, a record for us. His eldest has just graduated.

Sometimes Arif comes alone to our house to study. He is encouraged to do this because I wish to see him succeed. Will he have a chance? Indeed he will, insya Allah, if only he can reduce the time he spends on Face-book!

That we have Arif, number five in succession from a family, is a sort of encouraging vote of confidence in us.

10 April 2012

What Pakcik Received ( Pt 3) – Lady’s fingers

I mentioned before that this series (What Pakcik Received) will carry what I find it interesting/amusing among my incoming emails from friends. Here is one that came in very recently.

You can try for yourself to see whether it works..

Benefit of eating Okra, Bhindi, Lady’s fingers.

*A guy has been suffering from constipation for the past 20 years and recently from acid reflux. He did not realise that the treatment could be so simple -= OKRA! ( or Lady’s Fingers). He started eating okra within the last 2 months and since then has not taken any more medicine. All he did was to consume 6 pieces of OKRA every day.

He is normal now and his blood sugar has dropped from 135 to 98, with his cholesterol and acid reflux also under control. Here are some facts on okra ( from the research of Ms. Sylvia Zook, PhD nutrition). University of Illinois.*

*”Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients, nearly half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectin. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart diseases.

The other half is insoluble fiber which helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy, decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colo-rectal cancer.*

*Nearly 10% of the recommended level of vitamin B6 and Folic acid is also present in a half cup of cooked okra. Okra is a rich source of many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin B6 and folic acid.

He got the following numbers from the University of Illinois Extra. Please check there for more details.

*Okra Nutrition (half –cup cooked okra)
• Calories = 25
• Dietary Fiber = 2 grams
• Protein = 1.5 grams
• Carbohydrates = 5.8 grams
• Vitamin A = 460 IU
• Vitamin C = 13 mg
• Folic acid = 36.5 micrograms
• Calcium = 50 mg
• Iron = 0.4 mg
• Potassium = 256 mg
• Magnesium = 46 mg*

*These numbers should be used as a guideline only, and if you are on a medically-restricted diet please consult your physician and/or dietician.

Ms Sylvia W Zook, PhD (nutritionist) had very kindly provided the following thought-provoking comments on the many benefits of this versatile vegetable.

They are well worth reading.

1. The superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilise blood sugar as it curbs the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.

2. Okra’s mucilage not only binds cholesterol but bile acid carrying toxins dumped into it by the filtering liver. But it doesn’t stop there .. *

3. Many alternative health practitioners believe all diseases begin in the colon. The okra fiber, absorbing water and ensuring bulk in stools, helps prevent constipation. Fiber in general is helpful for this but okra is one of the best, along with ground flax seed and psyllium. Unlike harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra’s mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic many people abhor.

In other words, this incredibly valuable vegetable not only binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids) which cause numerous health problems, if not evacuated, but also assures their easy passage from the body. The veggie is completely non-toxic, non-habit forming (except for the many who greatly enjoy eating it), has no adverse side effects, is full of nutrients, and is economically within reach of most.

4. Further contributing to the health of the intestinal tract, okra fiber ( as well as flax and psyllium) has no equal among fibers for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics).

5. To retain most of okra’s nutrients and self-digesting enzymes, it should be cooked as little as possible, e.g. with low heat or lightly steamed. Some eat it raw.

Some important benefits of consuming okra:

*Stabilises blood sugar level.
Lowers serum cholesterol level.
Prevents constipation.

Keeps intestinal tract healthy.
Feeds good bacteria residing in us all. *


I made no pretense whatsoever that I know those gms and mms mentioned. But lady’s finger is common and I like it and see no reason to dispute anyone who says it is good. Now Makcik is thinking of growing this easy-to-grow plant in a big way, on commercial scale, perhaps! Then we will invite everyone to Almanar to be treated of ..... whatever. (I wonder if anyone knows such plant known as gentleman’s finger to keep the effect of lady's finger imbalance.)

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

02 April 2012

End of the tunnel ( Pt 16 ) – Some distance ahead

Six years ago a new secondary school was declared open about ten kilometers away. As the school needed initial bulks of students at various forms, the principals of two existing secondary schools closest to it saw the rare opportunity to improve the performance of their respective schools. Drastic steps were taken to rid of their problematic pupils, especially those in the bottom classes. I was horrified and saddened to notice how a number of pupils, who were living within walking distance from these schools, were being mercilessly forced to move to the new school, causing unnecessary transport problems to them and their poor parents. No body cared for their plight. None of the victims’ parents, simple kampong folks, dared to raise their legitimate grouses. Thus transfers were made with signs of objections arrogantly ignored. It was all done in the name of improving school performance!

It was no secret that the new school was at times referred to as 'sekolah buangan'! ( school for the rejects ).

No skin off my nose’ was my attitude then. But I was saddened enough to approach the principal of the new school a few months later. Would the principal consider help from Almanar? Unfortunately, no, the principal had his plans. Three years later I heard the principal had been transferred and, as expected, thus far the initial performance of the school had been far from satisfactory. I made another approach and to my surprise the new principal was more amiable to external help. So three years ago Almanar sponsored the cost of transporting a group of students of poor families to and back from Almanar, whilst a few parents helped to transport others in their cars in turn.

Somehow, unavoidable reasons put a stop to that after about two years, though a few children from that school still maintain their presence at Almanar today.

Until a week ago I thought that was the end of the episode which had a glimmer of initial promise. But, most unexpectedly, I received an invitation by card and words of mouth to attend a prize-giving ceremony at the above school. It was a pleasant surprise indeed and I made a point to attend.

The school had achieved its best PMR results. Five ( repeat f i v e ) pupils out of 90 had all 8 As, a result worthy of being scoffed at when schools elsewhere in the country had all As literally by hundreds. Nevertheless, in this particular instance the result was significant enough achievement to be celebrated. And I shared their joy because those children were part of the group that came to Almanar. The chorus of “Pakcik, Pakcik …” I heard on my arrival was an invaluable present to me, something they could never understand. And they were all too eager to pose for their Pakcik. Today, they are proud pupils of once a 'sekolah buangan'.

These are my children and for them I pray that, in the distance, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.