After 50 years of living, you will realize how helpless you were in life and who has helped you all along in this long path of life.I have learnt a lot for the past 50 years of my life; about life, being happy and sad. It is like climbing a hill and at 50 you are at the top of the hill; and when you turn around the whole life for the past 50 years is laid out before your eyes. You can look down and pin point where you were and what you had done. The history of you is wide open in front of you.
I have been looking back into my life; and one thing keeps popping up is the reality of God as prescribed by my faith. I was nobody then and nobody now but was able to taste a life of somebody. It dictated how a small wimpy boy walked a marginal thin line of life to reserve a small corner of a place in a boarding school (aka hell on earth) and lived there as an insignificant being for most of his teenage years. Born into a dirt poor family, I struggled to be somebody even in my own home among the twelve of my siblings. Learnt to live the day from my sisters and brothers as mom and dad went off to earn a living. I never regret my life then but amazed with the strong will to live and survive in such an unforgiving situation. I wondered why I heard the azan being called but never been to the mosque. You are too young to go there so just stay home. So I stayed home playing around the house with nobody. Until one time I followed my brother to the mosque and astonished with the marble floor and high ceiling. I sat in the corner because only adult can pray in the saf, so i was told. There was a mimbar in the front with stairs leading to the top….so that’s where God live, I thought, my mind went around trying to comprehend the meaning of this new place while waiting for the big people to finish. Go back yourself, ok my brother told me as he disappeared with his friends. It was dark and I was scared but managed to follow the big people home. I went back to that place later and found a group of children having a lesson of something. I looked on but afraid to join in; I wish I could join and be as happy as they are. Apparently, the ustaz read my mind and grabbed my hand and sat me in with the rest of the group. That was when I started to learn how to pray, make wudhu and behave around this place…the mosque. I found my port and was loving it ever since. I met many good people in the mosque and they sometime took me places; later on I knew they were from a dakwah group Tablighi. I had a lot more experience with these people; in fact, I owed them a lot for teaching me more about life. they taught me to be myself and have confidence in whatever I do. The wimpy and pussy part of me have somehow disappeared and I grew up being a stronger little boy.
Std 6 Sultan Ibrahim (2) Primary School, Pasir Mas (circa 1976). Standing extreme left (back row)
have little recollection of a happy and stable childhood. I lived with my auntie for a while but only remember her being so protective and possessive of me; she rambled all the time and got into arguments with my parent over me. I was so young that could not understand what the fuss was all about.At one point I was sent to live with my cousin. Adults were so inconsiderate sometime that I was never asked what I like. Grandma was my favorite person; she was nice to me and all of us all the time. When we visited her she has this big and warm welcome feel all the time. her smile and sharp voice called us inside as soon as she knew we were there. She came to greet us as if we had been away for a long time despite the fact that we were there only yesterday. And before she continued her Quranic teaching to a group of her loyal students, she would fix us something to eat. Something really nice.
when grandma came back from mecca (circa 1969) …what a beautiful lady she was!
Anyway all of them are not with us anymore so I pray they all rest in peace. My friends in the primary school are still there living in the neighborhood.Some have become big and respectable people now. I did not feel the school as a peace-loving place nurturing young people to learn about life;it was always a competitive place to struggle for something. We had to fight our way in the canteen to buy the food. and most of the time the food was bad and stale. I hate English the most because the teacher came in and scolded us all the time. I can even smell his perfume today and can still be scared and afraid.
Later this little boy went on to live in a boarding school. My parents set me up and said goodbye. that was the only time they had been there. I think neither of us knew what this place was and how it could influence the life of a little boy. We were poor so any place would do…. and I had no choice; for me, any place would do as well. My penis was still bleeding from the bad circumcision the previous week but it was like okay I will nurse it myself. I was never complaint or refused to do things as told;for me, I had no right to do so. I learnt to make choices much much later in life. Living in a boarding school has a big influence on my life. It was so enriching yet suppressing. It was hell.The sad thing is that I just could not erase the hard life I had there. It was at the most important part of my growing up years and shaped my physical and mental health. maybe it was a test and although I barely passed the test I was given the chance to celebrate it. I was free at last. And no better place to celebrate my freedom other than the place called …USA.Yep it was never in my wildest dream to fly across the world to America….just to be myself! I learnt to drive, to speak and write English, to love, be heartbroken and to find love again. I developed smoking because it was cool to smoke back then. and a real man must have a pack of Marlboro tucked up his sleeve even though he has skinny little ass.
Wichita, Kansas (circa 1984)
badass …Peoria,Illinois (circa 1987)
Life was so fulfilling that, sadly, I forgot about my family.For a while I was not a poor boy anymore. I was somebody now; as I made my own choices.As we had no telephone back then, calling home was impossible. I wrote letters occasionally and as expected no one replied. So for six years I forgot the hardship that my family was going through. The word is “selfish” but I am so afraid to use it because I honestly did not do it on purpose. But again at the back of my mind I knew they were all okay and protected.