Books I’d Carry to the Grave (5 of them at least)

I used to be so indecisive when it comes to choosing which books I love most, and I think I still kind of am actually. I have read many books in my lifetime – and in shaa Allah many more in the future – but for the time being I’d like to share with you guys my favorite ones right now, at this point in my life. Please bear in mind that this list is not set in stone; it may change and vary with time. However, these are my ultimate favorites, and perhaps in the future I’d come across a book that I’d love more, but these will always have a special place in my heart. P/S: I probably didn’t do any of these books justice since I’m so terrible at explaining.

  1. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

lovely_bones_cover

To be honest, this is the kind of book that you read and just go “wow this is so good how can any book be better than this??!!”. Or at least that was the case for me. The Lovely Bones is about a 14 year old girl named Susie who was raped and murdered on her way home from school. She went to heaven, and from above she saw how each of her family took the news of her death differently.  She watched how her mother dealt with losing her, how her sister met the love of her life and how her father lived with the fact that he wasn’t there when his daughter needed him most.She watched them grief, shatter, and try to mend the pieces back together. Susie also watched her murderer; how his life played out, and the memories of his past that played a role in making him the man he was.

The thing that I love most about this book is the way the author wrote; it was like poetry. She managed to describe everything so beautifully that I feel as if Susie herself is talking to me, or better yet, that I am Susie. By the time I finished the book I felt as though Susie has become a part of me; she felt as familiar to me as my own self.I know for a fact that there aren’t a lot of books out there that has the power to do this. I also love how the characters in it are flawed and so very…. human.

2. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare

romeoandjuliet

No, I’m not trying to sound sound smart or sophisticated by saying I read Shakespeare lol. In fact, how I came to read this book in the first place was by pure chance. I was 15 when I got casted to play Juliet (with a modern twist, of course). Right before the audition, I wanted to know who Juliet really was before playing her. I mean, I know the basic plot line of the story: boy meets girl, they fell in love, families didn’t approve and for some reason they both committed suicide in the end. I was also curios as to why Shakespeare is highly glorified in the literature world (I mean, if your work is talked about for centuries, you’d have to be really good, right?). So one of my friends (she was the director or the scriptwriter, I’m not sure lol) left her book at the reading corner of my class, and I decided to read it. I honestly didn’t expect I’d like it! It got to a point where I actually memorised most of the quotes by heart (yes, I am a HUGE nerd I know).

To be frank I didn’t understand most of the Old English used so I had rely on footnotes and in-text clarification, but the language of poetry in it is timeless. It was more of a tragedy than a love story for me (I mean, who marries a guy you’ve met for a few hours, and kill yourself for him a few days after?). For those of you who are reluctant to read classic novels because of the ancient language in it, don’t worry! Buy the ones that have footnotes explaining what they mean like the one I read. They’re sold in Popular or MPH or any other famous bookstores and since no one really reads them, they’re really cheap! A bonus since most books in Malaysia are so expensive 😦

3. The Woman He Loved Before – Dorothy Koomson

thewomanhelovedbefore

If you’re a fan of Koomson, you’ll notice these recurring themes in most of her novels: tragic romance, interracial marriage and beautiful, beautiful words. TWHB is a story about Libby, a woman recently married to the man of her dreams, Jack, whom she had only known for a short while. But this isn’t the first time Jack is married. And after Libby was in a car crash in which she was the only one injured, two detectives came knocking on her door to talk to her about it, and also about the “mysterious” death of Jack’s previous wife, Eve, of which, surprise surprise, Jack is the main suspect. After a while Libby found Eve’s old diary and with it unearthed dark family secrets that should’ve stayed hidden. I love how Koomson’s story-telling technique makes you feel like you are really experiencing it. As the plot unraveled, it kinda blew my mind because I was not expecting plot twists (take it from the girl who gets bored by more than half the movies/books she sees/reads cause she can figure out the ending halfway through it).

4. Wuthering Heights

518A0CQ6VVL

I have a confession: I’m obssesed with period dramas shows/books, and Wuthering Heights is one of my absolute favourite. It’s about a remote moorland farmhouse named Wuthering Heights, and the people who lived there, spanning two generations. Particularly it’s about a girl named Catherine, daughter to the owner of Wuthering Heights, and a boy named Heathcliff, a homeless gypsy orphan that Catherine’s father kindly brought home one day. They grew up together, became extremely close, and eventually fell in love. But Heathcliff was a gypsy, a servant, and Catherine dreamed of marrying some gentleman from a respectable family one day (apparently every girls’ dream back then).

When asked whether she loved Heathcliff, Catherine answered:

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”

But still, she married the wrong guy. Catherine was selfish and arrogant while Heathcliff, after years of being humiliated by Catherine’s brother, was extremely vengeful. Like seriously, he was so obsessed with revenge that I hated him at one point lol. Anyway, if you’re expecting some fluffy 17th century romance then you won’t find it here. This is, in its foundation, a love story, but its also much more than that. How so? I’ll let you guys find that out  yourselves.

5. Eleanor and Park

41hB6RMAWdL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_

Now, this is a young adult love story that doesn’t make me throw up in my mouth or roll my eyes every few seconds. This book tells the story of a new girl named Eleanor, who came from an abusive family, and Park, a half-Korean 16 year-old she met on a school bus one day. Although they couldn’t be more different from each other, they eventually bonded over comic books and mix tapes.

Their neighbourhood was not very affluent, but while Park’s home is filled with warmth and love, Eleanor’s is filled with her stepfather’s physical and emotional abuse, mostly towards her mother. I love how the book is both cute and honest; there was no over-exaggeration of anything, which makes the story even more real to me. Eleanor and Park fell in love in a way that was both completely normal and relatable, given the circumstances, but their love story is something you spend your life wishing you have. By the way, the ending is sad. I probably should warn you about that. No, there was no tragedy, but it ripped my heart all the same.

 

Mini Adventure: Hiking at Bukit Gasing

Two days ago (this Friday) me and two of my friends (Hani and Zetty) went for a hike at Bukit Gasing. It’s located in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. To be honest, being the ultimate couch potato that I am, this is not something I thought I would do. But hey, that’s what adventures are all about, right? Trying new stuffs. Anyways, I’m going to divide this post into three points to make it more organised (and to prevent myself from rambling on and on lol.)

  1. The 1st Hike

The three of us was already having a sleepover at Hani’s house three days prior, so that Friday morning we got into a car together and drove to Bukit Gasing at around 7 am. We managed to find a parking spot near the entrance since it was still quite early (we arrived at 8 because of traffic jam) and not to mention it was a weekday. As soon as we got in, we were enclosed by greeneries. There was an old Chinese lady doing tai chi on her own and it was actually quite calming to watch.2016-09-25 10.58.15 1.jpg

 

We then realised that there was more than one route that leads to the peak, so we chose the one that looked less ventured. The air was cool, and the canopy above us shielded the harsh Malaysian sun from biting our skin. Somewhere among the trees, we could hear birds and crickets chirping. The hike itself was a breeze at first, but then as we got deeper into the woods, the route started to get steeper and the climb more difficult. After about 20 minutes, we arrived at a clearing with a wooden platform. There was a woman doing her exercises on it, and after taking some pictures of the scenery we asked her where the watch tower was.

IMG-20160925-WA0002.jpg

She said that the tower was destroyed years ago and this little clearing was all that was left of it. She said that back then lots of people used to climb the tower to watch the view from the top, and the view spanned from the green jungle of Bukit Gasing to the concrete jungle of Kuala Lumpur. We must’ve looked a bit disappointed, because she then gave us the direction to “someplace with a nice view that all tourists like”, as she put it. “You go down this road, then 10 minutes you turn right”, she said in a thick Chinese accent. We went down the road she pointed, but a minute later the road diverged and we got confused. I wanted to continue forward (“She said 10 minutes not 1”), but Hani and Zetty wanted to go right. “What if we get lost?” I asked. “Don’t worry, it won’t matter”, Zetty said. I guess in a way they were both right. What was the point of this whole trip but to get lost in nature?

We did get lost in the end. The route went downhill instead of up and it was steep. But 10 minutes after that we could hear the soothing sound of running water. We found a creek!

After taking some pictures there we continued walking. Somehow, we chose one route after the other, and it lead us uphill. It was exhausting then. The route seemed to go on and on and I and Hani had to take a few breaks along the way (not Zetty, since she’s already an athlete). But then finally, we could see the blue sky as the trees began to clear. We got out on the side of the road and just sat there. Hani was so tired she just lied down on the road lol. We rested for a bit, walked a bit uphill to see the view, and then continued downhill to get to our car.

We didn’t really walk long before a stranger stopped and offered us a ride. He was a middle-aged Indian man who had a kind face. Next to him was another Indian man who seemed to be his friend. “Do you need a ride? It seems a long way down on foot”, he said. We agreed, but I couldn’t help thinking how most serial killers offer their victims a ride before killing them. God, I watch too much Criminal Minds.

The kind uncle who picked us up turned out to not be a serial killer (thank God). He said his name was Balan and he used to be a manager at a hotel in Shah Alam, retired, served an additional 6 years, and finally retired for good. He said that he loves to hike too, and once he went on a climbing expedition at Mount Kinabalu for 3 weeks. And by the end of the expedition the team stayed at the Orang Asli’s houses near the mountain, and they got to enjoy their simple way of life for a few days. “So which one of you has hiked here before?” he asked. The three of us looked at each other awkwardly. “No one”, we replied. He looked shocked then, “You should always hike someone who’s familiar with the place”. He then told us about a route you can take that will lead you to a bridge, the same bridge that we were trying to find lol. The way is more treacherous and challenging than the one we previously took, but it would be worth it. He finally dropped us back at the main entrance (after finding out that we got out at the wrong side of the hill and walking on foot would’ve taken us around half an hour). To put it simply, we were extremely grateful we met Uncle Balan.

The 2nd Hike

We decided that we weren’t really tired and that going inside for the second time won’t be too bad. Besides, we really wanted to find that bridge.  A couple of my high school friends went hiking there a week before and they took a picture at the bridge; it was beautiful. This time though, we took the main route and followed other hikers. Like before, the hike was easy at first, so much that I actually thought Uncle Balan was wrong. LOL I THOUGHT. The route then started to get really steep, steeper than the previous route. I was fine for the first 5 minutes, but I actually felt like dying after almost half an hour of that. I remembered thinking: “No bridge is worth all this trouble”. The thought of quitting entered my mind more than once, but Zetty was already far ahead and clearly had no intention of quitting, and when I looked behind at the line of hikers, I felt compelled (or forced) to continue. After extreme exhaustion and countless pep talk from Zetty, we reached the top. For the second time. There were other hikers there who had just finished their hikes, and they were all cheerful and friendly. A woman and her husband even volunteered to take our picture.

We made small talk with the couple and told them we actually wanted to go to the bridge that everyone seemed to be talking about. They offered to take us there, since they were actually hiking with the man’s friend and brother-in-law, and they knew the way around pretty well. The woman introduced herself as Kak Zita (she laughed when she heard Zetty’s name, since it was quite similar to her own), her husband was Abang Nik, his brother Abang Yie and their friend Abang Hakim. Hani was actually reluctant to continue, she had that “Let’s just go home guys” look plastered on her face. But hey, majority vote wins. Our way down was faster and a lot less tiring than our climb, but God was it dangerous. I wasn’t kidding when I said how steep the hill was. I had to squat down to avoid from stumbling forward. I almost slipped more than a couple of times and had to grip the surrounding plants for support. I couldn’t help thinking that I climbed this hill to appreciate Mother Nature but ended killing a few on my way down. I also relentlessly wished that there was some sort of railings on either side of me, but I guess that would take away the thrill of almost dying. We finally found the bridge though, both the old and the new one. I’ll just let the pictures explain for themselves:

 

 

After all of that, Abang Nik wanted to take a route (Denai 4, if I’m not mistaken) that involves a lot more climbing and would eventually lead us to the peak (again). But Kak Zita just wanted to take the route that will lead us out of the forest and into the nearby housing area (it’s much shorter and less tiring). Abang Nik said, “OK, we’ll see”. But Kak Zita replied “No. We’re taking that route”, in a low, serious voice. I loved her for that.

Kak Zita invited us for lunch at this Nasi Kandar place in Kuala Lumpur. We talked along the way, (well mostly Zetty did, me and Hani were too busy trying to catch our breath). We learned that Abang Nik and Abang Yie were into a photography business, (they’re Tangkap Photography on Facebook, hit them up if you want a photographer for any event). Meanwhile, Kak Zita just started an insurance business, she said what she loved most about her job was that she could help people in need, and educate others on the importance of having an insurance, since most Malaysians turn a blind eye on it and rely solely on public hospitals and other forms of help from the government. We talked about other things too, and it was nice to hear about the world through the point of view of someone older than you.

The housing area near Bukit Gasing are really nice. Some are just regular houses that you see every day, but others could actually qualify as a mini mansion. There was even a house with bronze statues of dragons and roman soldiers. Kak Zita said some local celebrities lived there, but she wasn’t sure who. We got to our cars and had lunch together, and I remember thinking that my parents had always warned me of strangers ever since I was little, but the strangers I met that day were extremely nice.

  1. Tips and Advices
  • If you’re easily dehydrated (like me), bring 2 bottles of water
  • Don’t stop and take a break for too long if you don’t want mosquito bites all over you
  • Despite my dramatic description of the steepness of the hill, Bukit Gasing is actually a safe place for a hike
  • Hike with someone who is familiar with the place, and if you can’t find one that’s ok, just tag along with other groups
  • Bring a small backpack, but pack light
  • You don’t have to be an athlete to hike (take it from a renowned couch potato)
  • If you do get lost, don’t be shy to ask for directions
  • Wear sports attire (duh) and really comfy shoes
  • There’s no entrance fee whatsoever so it’s free (yeay!)
  • Mostly people just hike or do jungle trekking here, but there’s a camping site too, but I didn’t explore it so I don’t really know.

Kalopsia

Kalopsia: [origin: Greek] noun the delusion of things being more beautiful than they are.

Dr Bennet’s room looks cosy and welcoming, even I have to admit that. The room is spacious, the walls are painted light blue and sunlight streams through the open windows. The doctor sits on a single sofa in front of me; pen and notepad in hand.

“Hello, James. Nice seeing you again. How are you feeling?”, the doctor asks.

 Etude in C-Sharp Minor, Op.10, No. 4. Preferably, but not necessarily, played by Vladimir Horrowitz. But of course I can’t tell my psychiatrist that. So instead, I tell a little, harmless lie.

“I’m fine”

When I was younger my mother used to warn me to not tell lies. “They’ll catch up to you one day”, she had said. One of these days, I feel certain my lies will find me and strangle me alive.

The doctor writes something in his notepad. “What about your wrists?”, he asks. Absentmindedly, I trace my fingers on the vertical stitches on my left hand, where just a few weeks ago I had sliced open my veins until all I saw was red, red and red. I remember how Henry was the one who found me; pale and dying and covered with my own blood.

“They’re healing”, I reply curtly. I find it quite ironic that my doctor, a complete stranger, is the one who has actually talked about my failed suicide attempt head-on. My parents didn’t, my best friend is silent and the whole world basically shuts up about it. They would rather talk about simpler, happier things, like me getting accepted to Juilliard or how the local newspapers had called me “the young piano prodigy”.

“So, James, are you ready to talk about her?”, Doctor Bennet asks. Ah, looks like he’s going straight to the point this time. I nod my head, bracing myself for questions that I know will open old wounds I have tried desperately to close up. Somewhere in his notes, he must had written “communication issues” or “complications in expressing emotions verbally” or something because his next question is actually different.

“Tell me James, in your own way, how do you feel about her?”

How do I feel about her? Or in other words, what song reminds me of her? Well, there are many, too many to list down in one single therapy session. Miria was, is, the soundtrack of my life. She was complex, a collection of small wonders bind together in one body. But there is one song that suits every aspect of her, which I can, even now, still hear playing in every memory I have of her.

“Nocturne No.2 in E Flat Major, Op.9” I tell him. And suddenly I am drowning in the memory of her. She was sunlight in an empty room, with white curtains blown by gentle breeze. She was walking in front of me, close but always too far for me to reach out. Always. Her temper was a volcano, but she never failed to calm the raging storm inside of me. Miria was warm mint tea on a rainy day, and I loved how everything froze when she smiled.

I don’t tell the doctor any of that, just the piano piece. The depth of other people’s emotions is always deeper than what they show you, I’m sure he knows that. He nods and smiles.He has kind eyes; it’s a physical trait that I’ve always noticed but never really acknowledged till then. I tend to doubt stereotypes, but he looked like the type who knows the piece by heart like me. I can tell that he was glad that we were making progress. At least I am talking. He writes something in his notes. I hope he is writing about me and not Miria. I can’t stand if he is writing about her. It is one thing to act like he understands me because that is his job, but it’s a whole other thing if he pretends to know Miria.

“That piece is beautiful, James. Melancholic. Can you tell me why you chose it?”. I want to shrug, but then I stop myself. This is not going to be like the rest of my therapy sessions where the doctor tries to fill in the silence while I just sit there silently on the sofa, dodging his questions like bullets. I will try to get better this time.

“Miria liked to paint”, I began. “She was really good at it. She had won awards and all from every art competition she went to. She only ever paints one thing though: the sky. I mean, she had tried to paint other stuffs too at some point, but she always tore the painting to pieces right before it’s finished. She used to say that painting them felt wrong. I never really understood why. But I think I do now. She painted the sky because she wanted to be free. You should’ve seen them: summer sky, sunset sky, midnight sky. A hundred shades of colors on a canvas but there was no land in her paintings – just air and clouds and freedom. And I think that they’re beautiful but sad at the same time – just like her. Chopin’s piano piece reminds me of her, but I don’t think there’s anything that depicts Miria more than her artworks”. It is the most I have talked in a while, and I suddenly feel tired. Not the exhaustion of the body, but more of the soul.

The doctor turns to a new page on his notepad.”You told me she wanted to be free, but from what exactly?”

I take a deep breath and answer him. “Life. She wanted to be free from life”. The doctor motions for me to go on. “Have you ever heard of the word ‘kalopsia’, doctor? It’s ancient greek that stands for the illusion that things are better, more beautiful, than they really are. Miria used to say that it is a state of mind and almost everyone is born with it. It allows people to see life as something more beautiful than it actually is – sort of like a defense mechanism our mind created in order to keep going, to keep living.  But she wasn’t born with it, and she had always told me that she just wanted to be free from it all. She said that she didn’t want to be chained down, and that life is the biggest chain of all. She used to say all of this but I never thought she really meant it. I couldn’t understand how anyone could think like that. She gave me all this clues and I did nothing, I didn’t try to save her. I didn’t-“, I stop and put my hands on my head because suddenly my head felt like exploding. My heart ache, but it is a dull ache, the kind of ache you feel when all you’ve really known is heartbreak. The doctor keeps on scribbling in his notepad. I can’t see what he’s writing, but I’m pretty sure “nihilism” and “extreme pessimism” is in there.

“Is that why she killed herself?”, he asks. I nod my head. “Her paintings got really dark towards the end. They were still pictures of skies, but she used more black and red than before. In her last painting, there was even a picture of a girl floating in mid air. The girl’s head drooped down, like she was hanged by an invisible rope. In the end, that’s how Miria killed herself:, by hanging.” I press my fingers on the bridge of my nose as I try to stop the tears from coming out. ” Like I said doctor, there were all these signs, but I was too blind to see them”.

The doctor leans forward and say, “I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it’s true. Miria’s death is not your fault.Reading her mental health records from her doctor, I can tell you that she suffered from major depression. No one can save a person from themselves, James.  You can try, but ultimately you yourself has to be your own savior”. I can tell from his tone that he’s not only talking about Miria, but myself too.

I look down at my lap. “If you google the name of artists who suffer from mental illness, the list is endless. People say that the greatness of an artist’s artworks depends on the magnitude of the pain they feel. Like Van Gogh or Beethoven or Sylvia Plath.” I raise my head and look at Doctor Bennet in the eye. “Miria’s paintings were masterpieces. How much pain do you think she had to suffer to create art like that?”

The doctor reach out and brush his thumb on my stitched wrists. “Not more than you do”. He leans back on his chair. “But here you are: alive, and breathing, and trying to get better”.

Our session ends then, and I walk out of the doctor’s room to find Henry still waiting for me on a couch in the waiting room. I sit next to him as we wait for the nurse to give me my prescribed pills.

“Honestly though, I can’t see why you hate this place so much” he says. “Nice place, complimentary drinks, a 2 hour session with a man paid to listen to all of your problems. Plus the receptionist’s pretty cute” he winks in her direction. However she, to my utter relief, is too busy with some paperwork to notice.

I don’t bother myself to answer. I look down at my wrists and notice how the wounds are starting to close up. Not long now there will be a scar, and eventually it will fade and maybe everyone I love would forget the fact that I actually tried to kill myself. Maybe then they would stop treating me like a piece of porcelain; terrified that I would shatter at any given moment.

I look up at my friend and smile, “Thanks for doing this, you know”. Thanks for saving my life the other day. Thanks for staying with me until the ambulance arrived, frantically trying to stop the bleeding. Sorry I gave you the shock of your life. But I can’t say the rest, because some things are bigger than a mere ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ could suffice.

“You mean babysitting you? Sure. Can’t have you running away and avoiding your doctor’s appointment like the last time, can we?” he chuckles. “God, you sound like a 5 year old.” He continues reading the pamphlets, avoiding eye contact. I hope one day he can forgive me. I hope one day he can forgive himself for not being enough to make me want to stay alive. I wish one day I can find a way to tell him that none of this is his fault, that I’m the one who’s screwed up and not him.

I hear my name being called and I walk to the pharmacy counter. The nurse hand me a plastic bag and inside I can see blue pills, or Prozac, for my depression and two other pills for my anxiety and insomnia.

Later on, in the car, I look at my best friend in the driver’s seat and say, “I’ll try to get better this time, Henry. I promise. I won’t let you miss today’s soccer practice for nothing”. He is looking straight on the road ahead, but I can notice him smile. A real smile, not just something fake plastered on his face to cover up his sadness. And it turns out that something as simple as that – a genuine smile of a friend – can make something inside me come alive again.

 

 

Child Marriage (???)

“When they commit an indecent act they say, “We found our fathers doing it and Allah commanded us to do it too. Say, “Allah does not command indecency, or do you say things about Allah you do not know?”

-Quran, 7:28

I read something that made my blood boil earlier today.

I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about. It was written in TIME.com ( http://time.com/4438342/malaysia-rape-marry-victim/ ) and several internet meme popped up from all this. But for those who didn’t know, a 28 year old man escaped justice by marrying a 15 year old girl he raped (though she was 14 when the crime was committed). I mean, what is wrong with our society today that we seem to be promoting child marriage and condoning rape?! Like, it’s ok if you raped a little girl, as long as you put a ring on her finger and call her ‘wife’ afterwards (????). The worst part of it all is that this is not the first time something like this happened, and probably not the last. I recall reading something similar in the newspaper when I was 15, how angry I had been then too, and how various women’s organisations had been angrier than me. Reading about the protests these organisations made had calmed me a bit. I remember thinking that maybe now everyone would see how wrong child marriage is and that we should not take rape lightly. Fast forward 3 years and it seems that I was wrong (and also naive, to think that the world can change that easily).

For those of you who seem to wonder why I am so against this entire issue, let me break it down to you:

Marriage is supposed to be sacred. Marriage is supposed to be about love, not an act you perform when you’re desperate to avoid jail. And no matter what you think, marrying a girl off to her rapist is not islamic. That act is not decent or acceptable. You can’t sweep everything under a rug just because you take her as your wife. When I was 17 I learned about marriage during my Pendidikan Islam classes (since it was part of the syllabus) and I remembered how I had to stay up until late at night memorising the rights of husbands and wives, the process of marriage and all that just to find out a year later that a couple somewhere across the country, who’s twice as old as me and evidently more experienced in marriage decides to wed their daughter off to someone who abused her. Frankly, that goes against the very foundation of the things I learned. But this marriage is not about love or sanctity, is it? It’s about avoiding “shame” and saving the family’s name by sacrificing one of your own.

The whole idea of how a girl is “dishonoured” after losing her virginity and should quicly get married to avoid shame is absurd. Kaijah Sabbah put it so eloquently into words: “If you consider a woman less pure after you’ve touched her, maybe you should take a look at your hands.”Virginity itself is a social construct (for more info you can google it yourself because I’m just gonna touch a little bit on it). You’re probably thinking how that is a very feminist thing to say, and I know how when most people hear the word ‘feminist’ they would have an automatic gag reaction to it, but here me out: ever since I was young, I have been ingrained with the notion that the most important thing to a woman, the one thing that determines her value and worth to this world, is her virginity. I see it all the time in the Malay movies or dramas: girl is young and pretty, girl gets raped, girl’s life turns into a complete shitstorm, no one wants girl anymore, boy comes and marries her, girl is sO LuCKY tO HaVe soMeOne wHo sTiLl WaNts hEr (!!!). Hell, I once even thought it’s both poetic and beautiful that a woman’s fall from grace is more heavily scrutinized in our culture compared to a man’s (I was 12 guys I’m sorry for being so stupid). But then I grew up and realised how ridiculous it all is. We live in a patriarchal culture that firmly believes a woman’s value lies solely on whether or not she had had sex (or been raped). And although most religions ban pre-marital sex to both genders, there seems to be a double standard where it’s fine or encouraged or at the very least less shameful for boys to gain sexual experience before marriage. I am not saying that boys are not forbidden from having pre-marital sex, I’m saying that even if they do society wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. Why? Because to most people, boys have much more to offer than their virginity. Their entire self-value does not come down to their chastity like how girls’ do. And if you don’t think that’s not screwed up then I truly feel sorry for you. When a girl is no longer a virgin, even if it’s because she was raped, labels like “damaged goods”, “deflowered” and “dishonored” would be thrown at her, like she is a piece of used property that nobody wants anymore (psst, guess what? she is not). People should value you based on your kindness, your intelligence, your thoughtfulness, you capacity for love and a million other things that is more important than your virginity.

She is 15. I am 3 years older than her and just starting college, my little sister is 3 years younger than her and just starting to try out which facial wash suits her best. I have a brother the same age as her who would be taking PT3 this October, and if he comes home one of these days saying he wants to marry a girl I would probably smack him on the head. This girl has a whole life ahead of her and I cannot imagine her spending it with the person who had irrevocably hurt her. I can’t imagine her eating at the same table as this man, sharing the same bed and forced to call him ‘husband’. What about her education? What about her future? Should we forsake all of that because of something that is not even her fault to begin with? Some conservatives would say that our Prophet himself married Aisha when she was 6 and consummated the marriage when she was 9, therefore child marriage is legal in Islam. I would like to point out that the true age of Aisha has been debated by scholars for centuries, and currently still being debated. Some said she was 9 when she was married, some claimed she was 19 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aisha ). But even if it is true, she married our Prophet, our last and best Prophet, for political reasons and last time I checked this rapist is not a prophet, and the reason behind the marriage is much more inadmissible.

Young girls of this generation have so much to offer the world, and it would be cruel to take away their opportunities because of a crime done onto them. Sorry if I end this quite abruptly, but it’s near 12 and I haven’t even finished my assignment yet lol.

P.S.:if you have any objections/agreement towards this matter and would like to talk about it (even if you don’t agree with me) feel free to email me at nurulfarhanazulkafli@yahoo.com . I won’t judge your opinions; I love to know how other people think, especially if your pattern of thoughts are so different than mine.

Love,

Ana

Fate

Fate: fāt [noun] the development of events beyond a person’s control,
regarded as determined by a supernatural power.

 

Growing up I’ve always wondered why things happen the way they do. And growing up I’ve always been met with the same answer: everything happens for a reason, this is all in God’s will, bla bla bla the whole package. I’m sure you know what I’m taking about. I’m sure you’ve experienced this too. All my life I have been ingrained with this notion and believed it. But something happened to me recently, that had me thinking about all of this again. And trust me, believing in something and experiencing it firsthand are totally different things. I’m not going to go into details about what the experience was, but let’s just say that I was devastated by the outcome. And as usual I asked myself: why? I got the answer the very next day but again, I’m not going to go into details. Let’s just say the events have strengthen my belief on fate all over again.

I have always been a fan of history. And a few days ago I’ve read something that resonates deep within me. Let me tell you a story:

I’m not really sure how to begin, but I think I should start with the war. On 1455–1487, there was a series of wars called the Wars of the Roses that plagued England. The wars were fought for control of the throne of England between two royal houses: the House of York (White Rose) and the House of Lancaster (Red Rose). I’m not going to dive into details, but let’s just say that Edward of York claimed the throne from a Lancastarian King and became King Edward IV. His predecessor, King Henry VI,  and his son, Edward of Westminster, died a few years later, making Henry of Tudor, who was like, a distant relative in exile, the new Lancastarian heir. So anyway King Edward IV and Margaret Beaufort (Henry Tudor’s mother) planned to reunite the two feuding houses by marrying his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, to Henry. Seems like a good plan, right? So in 1475, Henry was put on board a ship at St Maolo to return him back to England. But at the last minute, he escaped.

Later that same year, the princess was betrothed to Prince Charles, the heir to France. Growing up, her parents called her la dauphine: the future Queen of France. However, the engagement didn’t last very long. So in 1482 (7 years later) again there was discussion drawn up to betroth the White Princess to Henry because the King of France had broken the engagement between the dauphin and the princess. Again, Henry refused.

A year later King Edward IV died and his eldest son (Elizabeth’s brother), a 12 year old boy, ascended the throne. But it wasn’t long before his uncle, Richard, usurped him and became King Richard III. There were rumors that he later planned to marry Elizabeth himself, stating that his own wife was sickly and could not bear him children (incest is gross, I know). I should add that during this time, Elizabeth’s two little brothers, Edward and Richard, had disappeared from the Tower of London (google The Princes in the Tower) – presumably murdered – making Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, the rightful heir to the throne to most of England (because in those times, when all of the sons in the family have died, the eldest daughter become the heir).

At the same time, Henry of Tudor was sailing for England with an army to claim the throne from Richard. Margaret of Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville (Elizabeth’s mother, they have the same name so it’s very confusing, I know) agreed to marry their children  to reunite the houses. AGAIN. To make his claim stronger and gain more allies, Henry eventually agreed. In December 1483, he swore an oath publicly to marry Elizabeth in a cathedral in Rennes, France. Henry’s army prevailed and he became King Henry VII and their marriage ended the war. King Henry VII created the Tudor Rose, a combination of the white rose of York and red rose of Lancaster, thus uniting the houses.

They had 7 children, but only 3 survived into adulthood, and later in life they became parents to a king and 2 queens. They didn’t marry because they loved each other. Their union was mainly to save a kingdom from collapsing due to war, but in the end they fell in love anyway. So much that when Queen Elizabeth died in 1503 during chidbirth, his husband mourned her so deeply that he became extremely ill and would often spend time in solitary, only letting his mother near him. 6 years later he eventually died of heartbreak.

I guess my point is, sometimes you try so hard to achieve something, but in the end you fail anyway. You could have a detailed plan in your mind for so long about how your life is going to be but when it comes down to it, nothing goes as planned. And it feels like your life is spiraling out of control. You feel  confused and powerless and heartbroken. And I’m talking about the kind of heartbreak that leaves you crying to God at 4 in the morning on your praying mat when the rest of the world is asleep. But that’s ok. It’s the oldest cliche in the world, but it is true. Everything does happen for a reason. There are things in life that are not in your control, you can try so hard to avoid or achieve something but at the end of the day, if it’s not written for you, then the answer is no. But that doesn’t mean your choices doesn’t count and you have to surrender it all to fate or destiny. Someone once asked Victoria Beckham whether she believes in choices or destiny. She answered, “I believe your choices will lead you to your destiny”. And I think that that is both beautiful and true. So the main thing that I’ve learnt from all this is that I should never stop working hard to get what I want, but if things do not go my way, I wouldn’t be too hard on myself. Chances are, better things are on the way.

Love,

Ana

 

18

“For almost 18 years you’re taught to sit down, shut up and raise your hand. Then you have to decide what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.”

– Lavon Curtis

Some people don’t have the privilege of deciding or choosing something. Sometimes I fear that I am one of those people who takes it for granted. Other times I feel like I want the choice to decide to be stripped away from me. Most times I can’t remember the last BIG DECISION that I have made.

And by big decisions I mean decisions that could literally affect your future, not what ice cream flavor to choose at Baskin Robbins or which pajamas to bring to a sleepover. I suppose the first big decision I had to make would be whether or not to enroll in a boarding school. But to be honest I couldn’t really say that I made the decision because the choice was well ….. made for me. I was 12 when my parents first started talking to me about boarding schools at the dinner table. They told me what it was, the privileges of going there, etc etc. They asked me if I wanted to go there and I said yeah,that sounds like fun. My thoughts mattered to them, I know. If I had adamantly said ‘no’ they would’ve dropped the topic  (super glad I didn’t, btw). 5 days later I was starting to have second thoughts. But when my teacher passed me the boarding school application form I brought it home and didn’t think too much of it. My teachers were always talking about how hard it is to get accepted often enough for me to think that the students who do get accepted couldn’t possibly be mere mortals. Until a few months later when I actually got the acceptance letter. When my mother read it she smiled and cried. And I smiled back because I managed to make her happy, not because I was super-hyped to go or anything. Long story short, I went anyway because my parents wanted me to, because I trust them to know what’s best for me and for a myriad of other reasons that has got nothing to do with my decision making skills or personal opinion. If it were up to me I would’ve tore the letter in pieces. Look, the bottom line is, I was glad that it wasn’t up to me. I’m glad that I just rolled with it because otherwise I would’ve missed out on one of the best experience in my life (and also my worst, but hey, no pain, no gain).

The second time would be when I had to choose what course to take for my upper form. Again, saying that I chose a course would be a bit of a stretch. My school only had one course: the Pure Science stream. You basically have only 2 choices: Pure Science or Pure Science with additional Accounting subject. So I chose the latter, not because I genuinely like accounts but because the prospect of 10As is more appealing than 9AS.

So when it came the time for me to make the 3rd Big Decision in my life, what to pursue in my tertiary education: I was at a loss. It wasn’t because I don’t know what I really want to do. I do know. And that’s part of the problem. I started Googling which university is the best for the courses that I like. I started with Behavioral Science. Lol ada gell. Then philosophy. Nope. To make it short, I finally settled on accounting. I wanted a degree that you could branch out later in life (think Vivy Yusof r Lisa Surihani), and accounting is perfect for that. Besides, launching a business is one of my dreams in life, so it makes perfect sense for me to choose something that is vital in any business, right? But the ugly truth is that I am scared that this would turn out into one of those times when you think you know something, but you turn out to be completely and utterly wrong. I’ve had my fair share of that and it never turns out pretty.

People would often come up to me and ask “Are you sure that this is really what you want to do?” and I always felt like screaming “NO! I am not sure. I am used to people making decisions and calling the shots for me my whole life. I am used to people telling me that what I really want and think doesn’t really matter, that I would be glad of their decisions in 10 years time. And sometimes that’s true. And sometimes I’m glad of it. But now suddenly one of the biggest decisions in my life comes: the career of my choice – what I would be doing everyday for the rest of my life. And I am scared of making the wrong choice. I am scared of waking up one day 10 years from now and hate myself for choosing wrong.” But of course I can’t tell my aunts and uncles this. People want to hear that you’re okay, that you know what you’re doing. People want to hear the impossible, which is why I always nod in answer.

Being 18 means a lot of things, and making life-altering decisions is one of them. Up until now, I have always had the “I’m still a kid” excuse to get other people to make the decisions for me (sounds petty, I know). So imagine my surprise when I wake up one day and realize that all the choices are being hurled at me at full force. I am now held fully responsible for my choices, and the magnitude of those choices is greater than ever before. It is time for me to learn to grow up, to know the true meaning of it and mostly to know how. And if when I screw up, I would just remember that no matter what it is, I can get through it. I’ve been doing it for almost 18 years.

Love,

Ana