Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Muslim marriage ads. does it work?

I happen to read a marriage ad by this Muslim guy who is looking for a wife and then it dawned upon me the dilemma faced by these self-arranged marriages. No criticism towards that one guy cause this is a predominant issue faced by many men and women who want to find a husband or wife the 'right' way or in a Shariah compliant way.

The ad says 'looking for...a particular look height, race' etc...but the thing is don't you want to marry someone that you actually fall in love with? It is as though people have this image created in their minds about this "perfect" person who must look a certain way e.g. fair, tall, slim and then they have to be "practising" err...whatever that means and they have to fit into this particular race or perhaps even a particular family or from a particular village? (Bear with me I will explain what I mean by falling in love) Anyway, if one is lucky enough to find that person then what do you do? Do you just suddenly fall in love with them? Is it like they fit into all these criteria of check list and now, I am going to fall in love with this person. When do you get to know them, their likes, dislikes, personality, what makes them happy, what makes them sad, what makes them stress out, what do they do when they are stressed out? When do you know that you like them as a person? that you want to spend your entire life with them? that you can accept all of their weaknesses and flaws and all their bad habits? Accepting people's good points is not so much of a problem but accepting their bad points, is very important when you want to share a life with someone.

Sometimes I think people live in a fantasy world and think that Islam is suddenly going to give them the "perfect" marriage. First and foremost no one is perfect and marriage is never going to be perfect. If we look Prophet Muhammad and Khadijah, neither of them were looking for a life partner rather Khadijah was looking for someone to work for her business, a sales person whereas Muhammad (peace be upon him) was looking for a job. However, through their interaction and his ability to negotiate, trustworthiness in handling her business, she fell in love with him. She fell in love with his personality, his character and great qualities.

I wonder when should that happen in an arranged marriage? even if you arrange it yourself. How do you get to know someone? I know my colleagues for example, their strengths, their weakness. I have seen them under stress. I have seen them when they are in a good and bad mood. I know who I enjoy working with. I am sure many people out there maybe fortunate enough to find their soul mate from their arrange marriages; those who get to know one another after marriage and actually find that they get along and fell in love but it is a bit of "hit and miss"; some may not be so fortunate and they find that post marriage, they don't actually like one another. I mean, they both maybe very nice people and we are not even going into mental, emotional or physical abuse here. We are simply talking about two nice, normal people who happen not to get along. So, what do you do? The thing is it did happen to Zayd (the Prophet's adopted son) and Zainab, remember? They didn't get along and the marriage ended in divorce.

I was fortunate enough to experience both types of marriages. My first marriage was self-arranged and even though I hardly knew my ex but I saw certain qualities in him that made me recognized the goodness in him, first of all I felt that God showed him the path to convert (and it was from his own initiative) and nothing to do with wanting to get married. To me, that was a good quality and I saw that he had sincerity and honesty. Whatever disagreement and personality clashes we had during the marriage that ended in divorce, I always remember the good qualities he has and I never regretted any of the decisions made i.e. to marry and then to divorce. As far as I am concerned, both decisions were valid. I am glad that we both moved on and have our own family. As for the kids they are old enough to keep in touch with their dad without my interference.

My second marriage is to my old time best friend whom we met as teenagers. The thing was we never intended to be more than friends, we simply enjoyed each other's company and when fate took us away from one another; we remained special in each other's heart despite not being in contact. A few years after my divorce and he contacted me; he was also going through a divorce, meeting him again he asked how do feel seeing him again and my answer was honest I said, "Just like before."

The person's looks, race and all these tick boxes are not real; cause in reality, the person you fall in love with normally do not fit into tick boxes. I hardly thought about what my now husband looked like when we were hanging out as friends. I just liked him as a person. I enjoyed the things we talked about, he was knowledgeable, fun, intelligent and I loved the way his eyes just light up whenever he saw me. It didn't bother me what he looked like, what colour were his eyes or the scars he had. When we became friends, everything else became superficial.

We need to make our lives real. There is nothing wrong to get to know people around us. Why do we teach our kids to grow up together and then at puberty, they can't even look at one another. Fatima and Ali grew up together, lived under the same roof and they got married. Why do we stop our kids from contacting one another through WhatsApp or Instagram and yet, at University or work they will still have to mix and joke with colleagues; and if they happen to fall in love with someone at work who is 'not practising' or not wearing the hijab then we tell them they can't marry that person; but they have to look for this tick box list that is so theoretical.

I don't know the answer but perhaps if we want to make this arrange marriage thing works, we have to be more open minded. Throw away the current tick box, forget about race or looks or whatever and have a tick box that says what are the qualities that you look for and more importantly what crap are you willing to put up with? Are you willing to put up with a wife who is jealous, or gets super emotional when she is on her period or is very opinionated or happens to hate cooking? Women are you willing to put up with a husband who loves or perhaps does not love football (if you are a football fan) or does not know how to change a tyre or have no idea how to comfort you when you feel down? Let's look at all the negative things, the imperfection that you are willing to put up with. Then, maybe it would be easier to find the "perfect" partner.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

HOW TO SURVIVE WITHOUT A MAID FOR VERY LAZY PEOPLE...LIKE US

If you are one of those who have a good maid, who can cook, clean and be part of your family then this blog ranting is NOT FOR YOU. This is for all those not so lucky ones.

When I came back from the UK about 7 years ago, my youngest was only 3 years old. I had to find a maid and although she was okay, from a score of 0 - 10 she was about 5/6. She wasn't those headline grabbing lunatic but she wasn't the hard working, clean, good cook, part of the family either. Nevertheless she stayed with us for 4 years and when we were going to move from our apartment, I was adamant to let her go. It so happened that I remarried at the time so, both me and hubby agreed that we didn't want a maid and that we were going to organize our lives such that we would survive comfortably despite being very lazy people.
.
What do I mean lazy? I mean we do not want to spend our time coming home from work cleaning the house. The idea is if you do not have a maid, then you become a maid. Well, not if everyone who lives in the house cleans after themselves. Then no one becomes a maid. It is just practical.

No one wants to come home from a long day at work to clean. No one wants to spend their entire weekend cleaning, mopping, ironing clothes and sorting out the laundry. Everyone wants to come home and chill, spend quality time with the kids and have fun. So, here's the plan.

1. Plan the house for easy cleaning and maintenance

It is not rocket science, less things equate to less cleaning. When we moved into our new home, we designed the house so that it was easy to clean and maintain. Minimal furniture, minimal carpets and minimal ornaments. We divided the space into dining area and lounge. Eating is only at the dining table and therefore, daily sweeping only needs to be done where food is consumed.

2. The kitchen

We have the luxury to design my dream kitchen, small, compact but fully functional with minimal items on the table tops. Hence, easy to clean and maintain. I chose dark grey as the floor tiles and white 'marble' like surface for easy wiping. The kitchen is designed for only two people to be in at any one time therefore, a simple way to get the kids to take turns in helping me cook. The washing area is outside therefore, easy for one person to do all the washing up. With four kids, it works well.

3. Dividing the house into sections 

It is a three-storey house hence, we divided it into section. The ground floor is a public area, first floor is the kid's floor and they are responsible for it and the second floor is mom and dad's floor; and dad is responsible for it. The ground floor is under my management and every weekend we spend a maximum of one hour (not more but usually less) to sweep and clean the entire ground floor, the kitchen and the wash area. Mopping is only done once every two weeks. The kids are completely responsible for cleaning and tidying up their own rooms & bathroom and I will check once a month to make sure everything is in order.

4. We eat together, we play together, we clean together

This is our motto. After meals, everyone has a chore to do. One washes the plates, one sweeps the floor, one clears and wipes the table. No one should leave the ground floor and go upstairs until all the task are completed. If the person washing the plates is not done, one should assist or at least keep them company. Also, boys and girls must all do chores. There is no such thing as only girls do chores in our house. Boys are especially expected to sort out things outside the house such as throw the rubbish, trim the bushes, pick out the weeds. Often we do these things at the weekend and become like a bonding session. Have you ever watched Karate Kid? you can teach children a lot from picking out weeds.

It is the same as laundry. Every home has a laundry room so does ours. In our house, we do the laundry around 3 times a week, then at the weekend, we fold the clothes together and everyone irons their own clothes. The kids are responsible for their own school clothes. I guess that is normal for me since I was brought up to iron my own clothes from standard one. I hardly ever remember mom spending hours ironing clothes. Even though my dad was in the army but he washed and ironed his own army clothes. Me and mom used to fold the clothes together and it was fun, it was like a bonding session.

5. Cooking

I don't particularly enjoy cooking and whenever the kids are away I hardly ever cook if it is just for me and hubby. I started cooking properly only after I had my first child and I cook almost everyday for them. My objective for cooking is nutrition. Hence, it is important for me that the kids have good nutrition. However, my philosophy is that cooking should never take more than 40 minutes from preparation time to the time it is set on the table.

When I was in the UK, I learned to make meals that are quick and nutritious. Children often hate vegetables, so cutting them into small pieces and adding them into dishes is a good non confrontational way to get kids to eat vegetables. I started to make dishes such as lasagne, spaghetti bolognaise, fish pie, tuna bake, fried rice and all those meals that are easy to make and you can add all sorts of vegetables into them.

So, after getting home from a long day at work, one of the kids will help me in the kitchen and we make our meal. My eldest daughter used to cook when she was around but now that she is at University, I do most of the cooking. I make sure that my son can make a simple meal if I am feeling lazy. He can cook rice, fry eggs or sausages. It is important for boys to be independent and to at least survive without a woman.

I have friends who actually enjoy cooking and it is like a form of therapy. That is good for them but if you are lazy like me, then it is okay. You can still prepare a quick nutritious balance diet meal.

In conclusion...

With all these short cuts and quick maintenance plan, we get to spend more time reading, watching movies together, chatting and kids get more time to study or play. On top of that we do not need a maid who is disruptive and could potentially make our lives a misery. So, you can survive pretty well without a maid even for very lazy people.





Sunday, 20 August 2017

MUSIC FOR THE MASSES

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVME_l4IwII&spfreload=5

So, it is all true, when you keep telling your kids that today's music just ain't the same, in fact, it ain't 'music' to the ears at all. Music has influenced my life from a very tender age. My mom was a hard core fan of Elvis, P Ramlee and Saloma and my dad introduced me to classical music, the likes of Beethoven, Bach, Schubert and Tchaikovsky. My brother used to watch 'Top of the pops' and he introduced me to my most favourite genre, New Wave, the likes of Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, New Order, OMD, Thompson Twins, Yazoo and more.

As I grew older, friends introduced me to punk rock and heavy metal and so, I expanded my listening skills to include Faith No More, Metallica, Helloween, Iron Maiden and the ilk. Growing up, music inspired me in so many ways that I believe children today may not be so fortunate.

Listening to 'Love is a battlefield' at a tender age, it made me want to be tough, independent and to fight for my rights as a woman. My most favourite song to listen to when I felt down was 'Never surrender' written by Corey Heart. Music and lyrics that highlighted the flaws in the system and the inequality influenced me to think about the rights and wrongs of this world, such as 'People are people', 'Everything counts' and 'Ruined in a day'.

I even improved in my vocabulary through music and the bands, I really wanted to know what Manoeuvers meant in 'Orchestra Manoeuvers in the Dark', Most of these bands also liked to name themselves according to historical objects or events such as the 'Foo fighters' and Ú2'. Foo fighters was the term used by the Allied aircraft pilots to describe 'UFO' or mysterious aerial phenomenon as they flew above those European and Pacific areas. 'U2' is a name of a US spy plane. The song 'Enola Gay' refers to the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb ever, onto Hiroshima. Enola Gay was the name of the pilot's mother and the bomb was code-named 'little boy' hence, the lyrics of the song says, "Enola Gay, was momma proud of little boy today..."

Not to mention all the lyrics that actually talks about historical events such as the infamous 'Winds of change'. I just can't believe some kids nowadays have never heard of that song, and don't even understand the significance of the fall of the Soviet Union or the Berlin wall, how it has affected their lives and made the world even more of a mess today than it ever was during the cold war.

Listening to all these songs growing up made me interested to learn about the world, to understand why things were the way they were. Listening to the Rage against the machine, it felt in line with my inner self, that yearn for justice and equality, a fight against injustice and corrupt policies. That is why people like us can never be mainstream. Many of these bands draw inspiration from previous bands, that used to have an impact on society such as the Sex Pistols with their anti-government stance. Music and lyrics used to be a medium of expressing oneself, expressing dissatisfaction and disgruntlement towards policies and systems. Maybe for today's generation, it felt like rhetoric but for our generation, it was within our hearts and soul.

Growing up, apart from the mainstream Tommy page songs, I hardly listen to 'love songs' and love songs are often associated with love themes from the movies such as 'Take my breath away' from Top Gun or 'Almost paradise' from Footloose. Love songs are okay but in small doses...not the way it is just being churned out like some kind of M&Ms nowadays. We had those kind of teen pop monkey love songs from Kylie, Jason Donovan and 'We could be together...for a  while' Debbie Gibson. Okay, they were cute,  happy, cheerful songs but nobody ever took them seriously as 'music' or 'musicians'. I mean when people talk about musicians they spoke of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Sting and all those singer and song writers. Nowadays, the charts are just full of the same ole' thing and I just want to know, what are we doing to our kids?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Leadership: I will follow my faith and not the MALAYSIAN way.

You would think that Muslims would have a better idea about what leadership means and what kind of leader they want to have, after all we have a rich history of great leaders arising from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself, to the four righteous Khalifs, even Muawiyah was a great leader and so many others including Muhammad al Fatih, Tariq bin Ziad, Sallehuddin Al-Ayubi and yet, we find ourselves being lead by not so 'great leaders' of today.

I think the main reason is because Muslims have completely lost their way in terms of their capacity to think and make judgment. We see things in flat dimensions, focusing on individual actions and personalities e.g. with the idea that an Islamic leader has to look 'Islamic' and have to be soft spoken, kind and yet, we fail to identify the shrewdness and political awareness of our great leaders in the past including our Prophet himself.

On the other hand, when it comes to political leaders, we place them upon a pedestal and feel the need to 'please' and follow without question despite their lack of sense and better judgment. The main culprit I think are those who have this infatuation with leadership positions. They are too blinded by power and prestige that they fail to realize that leadership is nothing but a responsibility. You find that when these same people whom might be struck 'lucky' to obtain that leadership position they so crave, they suddenly expect others to treat them with awe and they demand to be put upon a pedestal they way they put others upon a pedestal. Honestly, I think it is about time we put an end to ass-kisses.

I was brought up differently and I admired leaders who were themselves, before, after and when they were leaders. My Dean when I was at Medical school was Professor Adrian Eddleston, the Dean of King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry and he became the Dean of Guys, St Thomas, King's Hospital, Medical school. He was the most humble, cheerful and friendly man I have ever met. He used to sit with students in the cafeteria, asked us how we were doing and when we sat in his clinic, he would take the time to get to know us. The thing was I don't think he was faking it or doing it to gain popularity but that was just how he was. He was that type of person and most importantly, he was a good problem solver. To me, that is what makes a great leader, someone who takes responsibility and solves problems to achieve a common objective.

I have met so many humble, down to earth, just really good leaders in my working life and I know what kind of person I want to be. I am me, whether I am a leader, a mother, a wife, a daughter. I do believe however that we should give respect and take respect. We should respect everyone irrespective of their position and when I first got back to Malaysia, people said to me that I can't treat everyone the same, that Malaysia is different and that if I were to treat everyone the same then people would step all over me. They said to me that in Malaysia, leadership is hierarchal and I should not 'give face' to those under my position.

However, I refuse to be that kind of person and it wasn't because I was naïve or that I didn't believe them but I had a principle and to me, principle is everything. I hold on to the principle of Islam when the Prophet Muhammad said in his last sermon, he said many things but one of it was "All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action." 

I believe in equality and justice. I believe that if you want to respect people, respect everyone and if you want to treat people like shit, then treat everyone like shit. We shouldn't discriminate. I believe that there is no superiority and I hate positions, titles, royalties and anything to do with seeing oneself more superior just because one is born into a particular family. (This doesn't mean that I hate the individuals who are in positions, have titles or royalties per se but I hate the concept and those who make such a big deal about it) I believe this because our Prophet Muhammad says so and he has the authority to say so. Therefore, I believe this with all of my heart and I hold on to it and I will not change my principle just because I am put in another environment. I will not change my belief just because now I am in Malaysia and it so happens that a FEW people in Malaysia choose to be idiots.

Yes, it is true that I had one or two individuals who did step over me but that is less than 1% out of all those who did not, who valued my principles and treated me with more respect because of my stand. As for that less than 1% who did not know how to reciprocate respect, in truth they choose to be idiots. I say they choose to be because it is a choice. You can be whatever type of person. God gave us all a mind to think and we can all elevate our own thinking but sometimes, people choose to entertain their psychological trauma, low self-esteem, perhaps jealousy or inadequate personality that betrays their better judgment.

In a way, I am disappointed because despite God presenting us with the best of example (uswatun hasanah) and yet, we choose not to follow the footstep of Prophet Muhammad  and instead to have a 'jakun' mentality when it comes to leadership.


Sunday, 30 July 2017

Dunkirk: at the cinema with the kids

Today we watched Dunkirk on the big screen. I got to know about the movie after reading an article on it in Time magazine. It was portrayed as one of the best movies in 2017. When I got home and told my kids about it, they too have heard about the movie from internet reviews. This time I wanted to get it right, after all this is no ordinary family Marvel movie where you go, watch and have a good time. This was a historical movie and one that is probably quite close to their hearts.

So, in preparation, the kids read up on World War 2 event at Dunkirk and the Time magazine article. It was exciting though because this was the first time we were going to watch a sort of 'war movie' in the big screen. There wasn't much dialogue but you still get that feeling of suspense and anticipation of what was going to happen next.

It was really a different sort of experience for the kids. Perhaps for a generation that is used to seeing a lot of visual effects, short sharp witty dialogues, battle scenes with lots of shootings and big explosions, you probably think this movie deserves a rating of PG 13 because it didn't really have those kind of gory scenes with blood spurting everywhere yet, it was scary for the little ones. I think It was the scene at the beach as the soldiers were lining up and waiting...just waiting for the ship to come and rescue them; Then suddenly, you hear this faint roaring sound that gets louder and louder until finally you see the silhouette of enemy jets coming towards the beach; and the sound of that engine roaring and knowing that they were going to drop bombs at any second. I think the fear of the imagination is more horrifying than graphics. My two under 14 kids were gripped with fear and perhaps it unleashed their imaginations unlike before.

It is definitely a good movie to watch. The star of the movie was not Harry Stiles but it was definitely those spitfires. I would go back and watch the movie in the big screen just to see those spitfires on air. The idea of them using real vintage spitfires for some of those shots was just incredible. Me and my younger son love planes and spitfire is just one of our favorites. I would give the movie a 5 star just for those spitfire scenes although we were hoping to see Messerschmitt but they used Heinkel instead, I supposed the German planes weren't the center of attraction for the movie.

The center of attraction was of course those civilian boats that came to the rescue for the trapped British soldiers at Dunkirk and that too captured the imagination and emotion of the audience. My two older kids definitely recognized the significance of that. In one scene when a soldier asked "Are you from Deal" we smiled because that was where we used to visit Grandpa and Jenny, and played at the stony beach. I guess it must have brought some connection to them, knowing that this event happened right on the other side of the Channel from where they would run around and throw pebbles into the sea water.

I think the movie did give an impression to the kids that war is messy, gruesome, it is not like seeing it from a F22 or B2 point of view. The reality of war is suffering and the British soldiers (and the French including those not represented in the movie like the Algerians etc...) suffered; and they were scared, frustrated and desperate to cross that bloody channel to get home.

It is a great movie. It was simple with expressions and gestures to convey emotions, not much dialogue and yet, intense and gripping. A bit of history on world war 2 and appreciation of those spitfires would make this your favorite movie of the year.