17 November 2014

The Path to the Forbidden Gate

اَلسَّلَام عَلَيْكُم وَرَحْمَة اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ

The night was cold but not unpleasant. A glance to his bare wrist revealed that he had no way of knowing the time. But he knew it was getting late - tomorrow was going to be a big day. And what better time for a detour? So when he was nearly at his door, the boy went straight instead and followed the road until a bend took him left. 

A few paces later, uncertainty crept into his mind. "Should I be doing this?" The roundabout was deathly quiet. In his moments of reflection, two cars sped by from his left: one took a twelve and went on, while the other took the path straight from him - the path he so wanted to go into but dared not. The rear light of the vehicle soon vanished from sight and with it his fears. And so, he crossed the road and let the unlit road swallow him in its darkness.

Of course, it took a while to see afterwards but he kept on walking. The road ahead should be a straight one if memory serves. With one of his senses muted, he was walking blind. But the sounds never left him. Sounds of rubber on gravel constantly reminding him that he was still walking and needed to keep moving. Sounds of keys clinking against one another - his fears had returned now that light has deserted him, spurring his hands to fidget in his pockets. And loudest of all: the music of the night! Winds whistling scary tunes, branches swaying and dancing eerily, leaves rustling and rustling all to the beat of his heart. In all the madness, all he could think of was "There's no turning back". So he pressed on.


The field. The lack of stars. The birth of stars. Music ceased. Calmness ensued. Only thing missing: moon. To be replaced by a memory

"Are all your family members Muslim?"

"No, unfortunately it's just me"


"It's nearly a year now I reverted to Islam. I started reading a few books, met a Muslim friend and then I came here..."

A second pause, this time longer.

"You know, you're lucky. See, I was born into Islam. I never knew what it entails or what Islam meant. I was showed what to do and I've been doing it since without knowing why. You are lucky. You knew Islam before embracing it. In a way, brother, I too am new. On paper I was always a Muslim. But in reality, you and I are not that different..."


What is there to be scared of? We create our own demons. Making peace with the world and the Creator, he left - calmer than before. Still surrounded by darkness but a different kind. One that beckons to be discovered. Guided by two rabbits, trusting the animals' eyes more than his own to avoid hidden hazards. Past dark windows of abandoned halls. into the light of the world of the living. Grateful to be back. Even more to finally be friends with the night. The very night in the items of horror movies. The very night humankind tries to keep at bay. The exact same night chained by forbidden gates. Gates that we put in place to protect ourselves and our children when in truth the ones that needed to be chained most are within us.

-written approximately a year ago-

28 May 2014

The shadow of everyday life

اَلسَّلَام عَلَيْكُم وَرَحْمَة اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ

I am a living embodiment of contradictions. 
I treasure books but I don't read. 
I know time's precious but I often waste it.
I love flowers and greenery but I don't do my part to save it.
I expect trust but I do not give it freely.
I value freedom but I shove myself into a prison.
I hear but I do not listen.
I hear but I do not heed.
I see but I do not believe.
I believe but I lack faith.
I smile but only rarely.
I laugh but only on the outside.
Inside, I cry and weep.
I give with the notion of taking.
I build so that I can one day break.
I say but I rarely do.
I talk but I rarely speak.
I wonder but I do not think.
I yearn for the sun but stay in the shade.
I care but only for myself.
I am man.
And that is (some of) my shadow sides.



14 May 2014

Stars 2.0

اَلسَّلَام عَلَيْكُم وَرَحْمَة اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ

It has been nearly a year. Yes, one year. Just yesterday, we were newcomers in this land. Strangers then. Strangers still. But familiar strangers now. Is that a good thing? I'm not so sure it is...

So how's it been since that first landing, first face, first place? One thing's for sure, we are not who we used to be. I am not me. For I have learnt much from this alien land. "At least, I hope so." One can only wonder what travelling does to one's mind, one's outlook and one's self. As always, I wish I can document the changes that occur within and around me from day to day, sun to sun (not that we get much sun here) and moon to moon (God, I miss my night walks).

Speaking of those walks, I sort of wish there were more stars in the sky. For one reason or another, the stars have been disappearing bit by bit every night. Whether purely by chance or not, I can't be certain. But it does point out a major weakness of the human race: no matter how much progress we make, we still can't alter the grand designs of the world we live in. If He chose to put out all the stars in the heavens above, who can stop Him?

And if He chose to put out the dim lights on the Earth that represent our lives, who can intervene? 

(written: a few weeks ago)

05 May 2014


اَلسَّلَام عَلَيْكُم وَرَحْمَة اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ

Before we begin, may I ask you a question? Make that two. How do you imagine yourself to be?

Do you think of yourself as an outstandingly average person? Are you a writer? A musician? An amazingly good friend? A cruel person? A heartless? An introvert? Just another person to be forgotten by time's flow? A leader? A follower? A student? A gamer? A man? A woman? A nerd?

Sorry, but that looks to be more than two questions, I know... But seriously, "How do you see yourself?"

Often we define other people (sometimes effortlessly) as we go about our daily lives. "You know that Asian boy from D-block?" or "...that lazy guy in our Management Accounting lecture..." or even "the very quiet Malaysian who eats a lot" (Yes, all of that refer to myself).

It doesn't really matter what you call it: descriptions, prejudice, presumptions, labels. They all point to a single thing which is an image of a person/object/event. They all mould and shape our understanding of that person/object/event. For now, let us keep the object of our discussion limited to people, shall we?

Yes, it is too easy for us to describe others. But when it comes to defining and describing ourselves, we often place a very distorted picture of ourselves and present that instead of the truth. I can only wonder why... Is it because we say things that we wish for ourselves? Are we dangerously biased whenever we start to examine ourselves under a microscope? What explanations can there be to this baffling phenomenon?

These and many other questions visited me tonight. At first it seems easy to come up with an answer. After all, who would know me better than myself, right? Surprisingly, I can't even begin to answer the first and most fundamental question of "Who am I?"

I have a fairly vague idea of what I look like, how I carry myself. I know my preferences in certain matters. I have twenty years of experience living with myself (no breaks, no holidays!) to help me create a self-image that would closely resemble my entire being. I have laughed and cried, gone through highs and lows with myself. So naturally it should be a cakewalk.

Ironically, it is the very intimacy with myself that prevents me from having a solid grasp on my own image. It is those very information that I've gleaned to add clarity that clouds my vision of myself. I think I'm a good enough guy but then I've done certain bad things in life. So am I good or bad? I help people quite a lot. Then I remember the many times I saw a person in need and walked away blind, knowing that it was within my ability to help. And this process repeated itself for EVERY single aspect of my life.

Frustrated? You bet! :/ This then begs another question: if everyone knows what I know of myself, how would that change the way they think of me? Not so highly I would assume.

(Written: last year)

16 April 2014

A promise I plan to keep

اَلسَّلَام عَلَيْكُم وَرَحْمَة اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ

I have a confession to make: I have been writing many things but I have not shared them with anyone. Some lie on forgotten pages. Some locked in the web, unpublished. Even more dead before they got life.

All written. More honest than the last. Too honest to be liked. Too frank to be read.

So here's a deal:

I plan to let go. One at a time. Soon.

I promise.

22 February 2014


اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ

We go to bed every night leaving this world. Leaving it as if our coming back here is certain. With unfinished work strewn across our desk. "Tomorrow," we assure ourselves. As if our words carry much weight. As if we have control over anything. As if we control everything.

What would happen then if you did not return? Who would finish what you started yet never had the guts to finish? Who would pick up the pieces of your sorry life? Who in the world will carry you away? You and your duties, obligations, responsibilities.

Or would you rot in that bed. Forgotten. A missing piece no one misses, another stone in a sea of rubble. And I wonder...what would I find if I cleave that stone in two? A jewel? Probably not. Most likely this: a blackened core.

11 February 2014

Of Home, Flying Creatures and White Things I

اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ

Now, imagine a scene. A dreamy world where time is a myth and space is unlimited. In this universe, at the centre of it all: a boy. Not too young, nor too old. Judging by his long, messy hair and out of fashion clothes, you can almost tell at first glance that he's from a different world. Almost. Because somehow...he looks most at home in his outward contrast.

Enough about the boy.

Now, imagine another scene. This time of a line a people whose age, colour,and appearance are blurred. Again we see the boy. How he got there, God knows. The scene just shifted and the boy came with it. These people were playing a game it seems. You probably can tell if you saw the laughters and heard their smiles. Yes, you heard me right. See. Laughter. Hear. Smiles.

A side story: this world is not normal. In fact, it is everything but normal. Here, you see sounds and you can hear what you see. Confused? Don't worry, I can tell you're not from around here. I won't tell *a wink and a smile*. But you have to do as the boy does - act natural. While we're trading secrets, why not I let you in on one? I'm not of this world too. You see, me and you, we're more similar than you think. Oh, and did you like the sound of my smile just now? Come let's join in their game!

Shall I explain the rules of this game? Do you hear that swishing sound coming and going past your ears? See, the idea is that you have to catch that thing as it flies past the line of people. That thing - that creature - will weave its way through all of us from that boy at the front, past all the blurry masses of people, to me and finally to you. If no one manages to capture it, the thing will make a gigantic loop over us all and start over. Whoever catches it first wins and gets to keep it. What's the point of this game? Well, that is for you to decide, child - no one knows what that creature is. Sometimes, it's just trash. Other times it's really valuable stuff. The fun is in not knowing what you'll get. Get ready, cause here it comes!

And so began the game. For us, at least. The rest of the line has been at it for ages. "Zoom and whoosh! Zoom and whoosh!" it went. Twice it slipped through my fingers. Want to know another secret? *Zoom and whoosh!* It swerved at the last minute to avoid my outstretched arms. When people tell you they've gotten used to.. *Zoom and whoosh!* Too slow..their sights and sounds reversed...never believe them. *Zoom and whoosh!* You'll never get used to it. They're lying. *Zoom and whoosh!* Another miss. That's why no one can win this game from learning the rules. *Zoom and whoosh!* You need luck. And I have none, kid. Let's hope you do eh? *Zoom and whip!*

Silence. Then despair as the line discover their loss. Well, what do you know? That boy is not bad at all. Not bad at all... Coming here and making it look like he's been here all his life. But I'm happy for him, aren't you? Come have a sit with me, kid. We'll just wait for the next game to start. Mind you, though, it could be a long wait. So better make yourself comfortable. Now, why don't you tell me how you got here? It's been a long time since I've met another person from my previous place. Do tell me what's happened to our world since I left it all these years? I'm itching for news... and home. Mostly home. But news of home won't hurt either...

Before you get started though, do you want to know the name of that tiny creature there? We call it Opportunity. Now, on with your story, kid!

20 January 2014

When a name is just another name

اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ


First came you, then came your name.
Letters pieced together to hold a meaning.
Syllables representing your entire being,
chosen with great love, care and hope;
hope of one day seeing:
the person, that name, one day becoming
a light, a gift, and joy unending.

But when tyrants walk this Earth unopposed,
killing, massacring, slaughtering
tainting this Land with blood, black and dried,
the light, the gift, the life once bright
turns ever so dim.
A mother becomes naught but faint.
A dad becomes naught but saint,
and humanity feels nothing except pain.

For when the lives we built become yet another game,
a name becomes just that - another name.

06 January 2014

Another year. Another start.

اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ

Yet another 12 months has passed. What have I done with it? Have I achieved anything in the past year? Maybe. That's hard to say, really. What I didn't get done, I'll do this time round, insyaAllah. What I did get done, I won't tell (much). 

What I would tell, though are either: 1) fragmented due to my tendency to forget important details; 2) a false memory implanted into my head by someone; or 3) both. How time really flies when you're having ____ (fill in the blank with whatever is appropriate), eh?

So to save myself from telling outwardly bloated lies of my otherwise uneventful - yes, I'll allow you to call it that - life and to spare you readers from thinking too much (we all know how hard it is for us to think, right?), I'll just put up some of the interesting/memorable/I-didn't-forget-to-take-a-photo-as-proof moments for the year 2013.

Here goes:

First of, it's coming to Warwick. (I'm pretty sure none of you expected that :P). Yes, for one reason or another, I find myself enjoying my first term here. Maybe it's the beautiful, big, all-in-one-city called Coventry. Maybe it's ridiculous amount of free time we get between classes. Maybe it's the all-so-comfortable lecture theatre seats that never fail to rock me to sleep. Maybe it's the people I meet here. Or maybe it's all of it. I don't know, but after going through 3 months of university life, I end up thinking "Hey, maybe I will make it out of this alive, after all!"  And that is reason enough to be happy.


Next up, meet my room and my (first) bike! Yes, I know how pitiful my life must seem now. "Who in the world list his dormitory-style room and his second-hand, used bike as his second most eventful thing of the year?" I would, of course.

Because, one, this list is not done in any particular order. (I just take whichever photo catches my eye & write something about it. If it doesn't pop up to me, it's not that important. Simple as that). And two, my room is pretty much the only place of privacy I have here. It's the one place that made my first term here bearable. You can call it my personal recuperation space because this is the second place I think of after a hard, long day; the first being that bed in that room :)

Why the bike, then? Because it has saved me a lot of time & money. Mostly money. What more do you ask of a yellow bicycle? Plus I just love zipping past the broken line of people going to and coming back from Tesco on this thing. "You still walking? Pity you..."

This one's just a picture of me in Birmingham. I don't even recall the name of the cathedral in the background. What's interesting/eventful about this picture, you may ask? Two things: the place itself and the rain that was pelting me when this picture was taken (FYI, it was raining outside too as I was writing this).

Yes, the second largest city in the UK (or so I was told. I never checked this statement). The place where you go when Coventry is not enough to sate your hunger for entertainment, food, or shops. The place where  £5 gets you a buffet and another pound gets you nowhere (if you don't get this, just ignore it).

Ah, yes... the ever-present drizzle. Love it or hate it, it's always there for you. I, for one, have grown to tolerate it. It's not that bad really, once you get used to it. It sort of helps you when you are all alone, feeling really tired and stuff, then that really sad song on your iTunes starts to play, and you look outside to see dark clouds and rain. Nothing beats making sad people cry then a good-ol' rain! I told you it helps. In a very unhelpful sort of way...

Next up, the people here in Warwick. From all corners of the world, from many walks of life but all weird in a good way. The way that makes you learn to be accepting. Sometimes in ways that makes you see that you yourself are weird too and it's perfectly fine to be yourself. The one upfront is Rahman, and that's not his normal face. This was on Eid al-Adha. Sorry, but this is the only picture I have plus I think this picture brings my message home :)

Then we have some of the activities we've done here. We've had picnics outdoors, a roti canai session (semua tunjuk skill menebar masing-masing. Ada yang born-to-tebar and some...better left unsaid), potlucks and loads of other stuff. While it may seem that all we do here is eat, that is not true. We also have sporting events, and weekly 'meetings', weekly classes that may or may not involve food. Hahaha~

Hmmm... this one's a bit hard to pen down. The picture may not be so clear. If any of you where there on that night, you would've seen so many stars in the night sky. Welcome all to my night life! Some people go on parties, others watch movies but for me nothing beats walking in pitch black darkness (I'm not pulling your legs here, there really is no lighting whatsoever on the path I usually take) under the starry skies. Usually, I don't bother snapping a photo because it's never going to look good anyhow (you wan't proof? Seriously..? -_-).

There's also the occasional daytime walk. These ones are fine, but seeing as how we rarely get clear skies, there's not much to see really on most days unless you like to see rain. Nonetheless, it is a very pleasurable experience, especially when the sky gets really clear like in the photo :) Notice how the clouds are below the sky and not the other way around. I never bothered finding out why that was the case on that particular day. It was just too beautiful a day to spoil by thinking :)

Now, onto more food! I never really understand why people take pictures of food before eating them. Coming here, where you're thousands of kilometres from home, I finally get it: people take pictures and post them online to tell others that they are still living and are actually eating something passable as food. The first photo is of what I usually eat for breakfast. The second is what I usually consume for dinner. They may not look like much, but they actually taste great and apparently, they're healthy too!

I lost track of how many items I've penned down. Next, three photos from one particular weekend. This was my first ever hiking trip. It was really taxing, but in the end, the view and experience I got was all well worth the effort (and monetary investment). Would you look at that marvellous sunset? :') The third picture was a dinner a very good friend cooked up for me just after I got back from the trip. Thank you very much! That was one of the best meals I had since coming here :) and just behind the plate is a really cool watch I got from my 'secret' Santa :P I even kept the wrapping paper it was in (that was too valuable to throw away).

This is a picture of Edinburgh. I really like how the sky was cut in two here - it's a perfect reflection of what a normal day in the UK is like: rain and clear skies in (somewhat) equal portions. This old city is beautiful. I wish I can go there more often just to walk its streets. Maybe one day I would. InsyaAllah~ so when did I go to Edinburgh?

When these guys came over! Yes, I had the pleasure of spending the winter holidays with my family :) This was at a fish & chips restaurant near Coventry. We usually cook on our travels so a proper dinner like this is a rare occasion for us. Talking of so many food is making me go hungry again :3

Here is a snapshot of one part of the terminal in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. I think I've passed by this place thrice in the last three months which is why I bothered taking this picture. It just feels like deja vu times three for me. This was taken en route to our next destination in our little family vacation.

Up next is Amsterdam! Yes, this is the place we stayed at. Nope, we didn't get the whole building to ourselves. And yes, those are (some of) our bags. We don't travel light, I know. Imagine carrying those bags up two flights of stairs that was steeper than anything I've ever seen. How steep, you ask? Two floors high over steps that were each only half my shoe size. I don't have a picture to show, but just imagine a staircase where you need to tiptoe going up. Put a few heavy loads in and you get the picture.

But after the initial pushing and pulling of luggages, we had a nice place to stay with this view to enjoy. Yes, that is a boat docked on the banks of one the many canals of Amsterdam. You can't really complain when you get a view as good as this, now can you?

This here is the national monument in Amsterdam located in Dam Square. This was a little early in the morning so there weren't that many people walking the streets. Come afternoon, this place will be packed with the most numerous object you can find in Amsterdam: bikes.


Nearly everyone cycles here. Forget about young athletes or casual bikers, Amsterdam is the place to go to see old people ride bicycles like they're still in their 20s; young kids riding when you're thinking "How'd that kid got on the bike in the first place?"; men cycling in suit and ties & ladies in their heels; even babies cycling to get milk from a local store. Okay, I may exaggerate there but you get what I'm saying, right? Bicycles are an important aspect of their life here. How important?

Important-enough-to-put-heating-in-our-bike-sheds important! Yes, this is an actual bike stand and on the sides are working, functioning heaters. Only in Amsterdam...

Another unique thing I found while travelling here were the gable stones. These stones were nicely made, painted, then set above doors of many old buildings in Amsterdam. They act as signs to tell people what a building's function was. Some of it makes perfect sense (like a bread implying a bakery, or an axe and a tree probably marking the woodcutter's shop), while others just seem like a big practical joke. 

What's more amusing is the fact that when the emperor Napoleon made it compulsory to have surnames in Holland, many people thought up of their own surnames (you can give anything you want, really). This led some people to believe that the origins of the really funny names you find in Holland to be the result of this particular period in history. When asked "What's your last name?", most of the Dutch replied with a name synonymous to their trade/job but a few 'funny' guys replied "Born-naked" or "From the d*ck". Their joke may have caused a great laugh then. Unfortunately for their bloodlines, the name stuck.

Now let's look at the buildings in this city. I noticed it from when I first entered our apartment: it was not level. Our tour guide explains this was due to the fact that Amsterdam and much of Holland's buildings was built on marsh lands meaning unstable foundations. So if you think your house is leaning sideways, rest assured your sense of balance is not off. Don't worry though, most of the houses are safe to stay in, because according to the locals, the dangerously unstable ones collapsed years ago. The remaining ones are unstable yes, but not unsafe. I hope.

You may notice by now how high the houses are. And yes, they don't use elevators here. So how do you carry stuff up into the upper floors? They use hooks. You may not notice it at first, but look closer and you'll see hooks dangling from pretty much every building in this city. So basically what they do is hoist up anything they need with ropes. I wonder why we didn't think of that before we broke our backs carrying our bags up our apartment?

And now we have the second smallest house in Amsterdam consisting of only that one windowed room on the second landing. I wonder which is bigger? My room or that room?

All this house-talk is getting boring. Let's talk food. In Amsterdam, sweet temptations are everywhere. This was the first shop we went into to get our taste of waffles. It was quite nice, though some may pass it as too sweet to eat.

This is the central station. While it may look like an old building on the outside, its interior is completely modern. I just love old buildings, it's a pity really they love to tear it down back from where I come from :(

What's a trip to Holland without seeing the famous windmills? The winds here are seriously out-of-this-world kinds of winds. No wonder they can use these huge mills to do everything - from grinding spices and wheat to pumping water. Speaking of water, if there's a place with more rain than England, it has got to be Holland.

Windmills are fine and all but the one thing I love most in Holland has got to be cheese. Look at those yellow stuff. Doesn't it just makes you want to stuff melted cheese down your throat till you can't take any more? Nope? It must be just me, then :) did you notice I kept this picture larger than the rest? Did I mention I love cheese?

And what would Holland be without wooden clogs and tulips? I didn't buy those clogs, they were all either too small or too big for me plus I don't think wood is my preferred material for shoes. But I did get some tulips :) I wanted real ones, but it's just too bothersome to care for it especially since my room is not a conducive place for it to grow. So I bought two wooden ones instead. Maybe not as nice as the real things, but it will suffice.

Oh, and did you know that one of the earliest stock market crashes were somehow related to the beautiful tulips? Here's a link for any interested souls out there: Tulip crash.

See how small it is?

We then drove to Brugge (actually my dad drove, I just slept at the back :P). If Amsterdam has beautiful old buildings, this place is a treasure trove of even more beautiful, even older buildings! I could walk these streets for days :3 

In Brugge (I'd put a pronunciation help here, but I don't even know how to pronounce it right), we had more waffles. This particular one was the best I'd eaten. Hot sugary waffles with whipped cream and pralines ice-cream. It was soooo good :3 (pralines is my favourite ice-cream flavour, so I may have liked it even if the waffles weren't that much better than the ones before). Soon after, we returned to Brussels...

...where the very next morning we woke up to this. Two bags worth of souvenirs were stolen. But hey, it could've been worse. This was the first major incident we've ever faced since travelling all these years. An eye-opener for sure. After a police report, while repairs were being made, we went on to do what tourists do best: see more sights!

But before that, take a look at this piece of art. This was taken from an escalator in one of the underground stations of Brussels. Each station the train stopped at has a different theme of art. Here was an idea that could really make the stations back home a little more lively because truth be told, most of our stations look so dead. One day...

Mini-Europe. The name says it all. I felt like a giant walking these 1:25 scale models of famous buildings in Europe. The kid in me wished I could jump into the scene and wreck chaos among the buildings' fake streets and inhabitants (just to get a taste of destruction. I used to build Lego models and break them up for fun) but I didn't do it. What would've happened if I did it?

The models were amazing! This one I liked most. The artists used real stones to replicate the building's original structure and texture. You probably can't see it from this picture but there are even moss covering the 'bricks' making the scene all the more real. And yes, this thing is no higher than my knees.

I can't help but marvel at the details they put on these replicas. Even the statues (each just the size of my fingers) have complete faces with earlobes, nostrils, eyes with irises and every finger carefully carved. I wonder how many people think of the artists and designers when they see these amazing replicas. Not many I'm guessing.


At some point hereafter, my phone's battery died out. So I wasn't able to take pictures of anything afterwards. 


That is all there is. This has been a terribly long post, I just realised. I'm not sure how many stuck out to read until the end but thanks if you did :) Scrolling up, I think this post is not a good representation of the year 2013. It's more like a log of my winter break or the past three months. Hahahaha, I guess it can't be helped that you lose what you don't use. I have to write more often, I guess...maybe I will.

Tomorrow will be the start of my second term in Warwick. Looking back over the past year, so much has changed. Yet so many things stay the same. Here's to a better year, a better life. For all of us. Amin. 

P/S: Sorry if I sound insulting or irritated in any part of this writing. This is what happens when you lose human contact for a few days straight. It could also happen when you have two essays due in two weeks.