April 3rd, 2020 Day 17 of MCO. Friday comes again but with the lockdown we let this one go again. No Friday prayers today. We are not upset but a bit strange to put in a position to comply with a situation that’s okay not to convene for the prayers anymore. I thought this happened in a communist country only but now it’s here. And last week the government of Saudi Arabia announced that haj might be cancelled for this year. What the heck is happening? I don’t know maybe this virus thing is pretty bad already and if you put that in haj situation, it might spread like wildfire. A lot of people (maybe millions) will die. Not a good idea if we looked at it again. So no haj would be a safe conclusion. As a muslim, haj is extremely important. It completes the five pillars of Islam. The last time I was there for haj, I stayed at a place called Manar al-Shorouq …..
April 1st. Day 01 Phase 2 of MCO. So, we started again the second phase of this lockdown. I guess this thing will go on and on until we are tired of it. The curve looks flat already but the fact that new cases keep popping up proves that the tiny little piece of shit is still around. I don’t know but people are struggling to survive. The anger and desperation might one day boil over and turn ugly. Life is getting harder for some people. Well, the govt promised an awful lot of money for everyone. That will ease the burden a little bit, although I’m not sure where he gonna get that lot. The world economy is very weak right now and when that impact trickles down to our shores we hope to still have a cushion for a downfall. There was even a suggestion by an economist to keep some amount of cash at home in case the banks collapse due to this virus attack. I hope for the best.
At 54 years old, I feel “done” with life. I will keep living but still wondering what kind of life awaits me. I would like to leave the public service asap and put behind all sorts of bureaucratic innuendo at the office and free myself from the unnecessary stress. I would not put specific plan or tie myself with a commitment. Freedom sometimes is to let it flow as the time goes. Take it a day at a time and make the best out of it. I hope to be happy for the rest of the time I have left. I have no regret in my life (I think!); well maybe a couple of things but they are nothing. If I could turn the clock back; I wanted to play sports. I’m shit in sports. Maybe I’m the only living person that have survived all these years without knowing how to play soccer. Hahahaa….seriously? I’ve never known how to properly kick the ball or whatever they do with it. I’m still reluctant to go and watch a soccer match at the field just because afraid the ball might roll near me and I don’t know what to do with it. As a child playing soccer was the main event in the village. By late afternoon, everyone would converge at the soccer field and play. I went and anticipated to be in a good team and won the match. The boys, however, did not want you in the team as you could not kick the bloody ball well enough. So, I was out and left by the field all the time. Soon I abandoned the field and joined the girls playing hopscotch. I was shit at that too. In primary school, the intimidation went further as sports became the co-curriculum. I could not get into any of the sport teams; even the teachers made fun of me for being soft and girlie. After all these years I still remember the face and the words he uttered to me including the laugh from the other teachers and students. I ran home feeling useless and stupid. What kind of teacher would do such thing to a poor little kid when the kid looked up to him and adored him. I hope he would have a long life and live until his flesh dropped off rotten for him to feel the pain I endured all this time.
During my secondary school, I started to hate sports. We had physical education class once a week and I mostly skipped it by hiding in the changing room a.k.a toilets. The teacher did not teach us anything anyway; he just gave a ball and let the boys have a kick until the bell rang. I’d rather stayed in the toilet and stared at the walls. One time, I skipped a sport practice and hid in the locker at the hostel. The warden rounded up those who did not turn up; I was caught. He hurdled us (apparently there were a bunch like me!) into the middle of the field as the others are training and shamed us. The girls were there too to add salt to the bleeding wound. This time I didn’t hate the warden; I just hate sports. Later on, in my adult life, I tried a few sports like golf, bowling, lawn bowl and archery. Nah! I just could not keep up and being competitive.
Another thing that I might do differently is to help my mother with her little business. My late mother had a little space at the market selling clothes. I had no interest in business so kept myself away all the time from the stall. If I were given another lease of my old life, I would like to stay with mother and help her look after the business and learn the trade myself. None of us, the children, is into business, like mother; what a shame! I guess we grew up believing that “makan gaji” was the only way to make a living, a better way to make a living. None of us wanted to suffer like we used to, so we chose a path differently from mother’s. In the end, she sold the stall and that was the end of it. Life was harder after that and my parent just let me live my life away from their pain and suffering.
Tuesday, 31 March, 2020. Day 14 of MCO. We have faithfully complied to the lockdown (well, except yesterday I went out for a bit). I hope things will settle down. I sat down and pondered upon my uncertain future. I felt done so what is there left for me? That’s what the uncertain future meant for me. A while ago my health was an issue that was a bit scary.
On 19 of January 2020 I went for my third operation to remove the stent out of my ureter. It was placed after the last operation. It was Saturday and by late morning I was wheeled out to the OT. Everything was familiar as I’ve been through this before. People were buzzing around with little interest in me. I guess this is a common scene around here. I was transferred from one bed to another with some hand over notes between the nurses. Everything was in order and I was left at the waiting bay for a while. It was Saturday and most of the staff were leaving for the weekend as I heard goodbyes and see-yous. Someone pushed me again and said we were going in. The OT was bright and smelly of disinfectants. Oops! You should be our last, Sir! We have someone else in the schedule now. Hmmm as you are infected by some bacteria, we will have you in here last. I was pushed out and left in the corridor for the period they worked on that patient. It felt eternity being left in the alley like a pathetic homeless person. I closed my eyes and tried to calm myself down.
I woke up as my bed was pushed again into the room. About 5-6 people were there doing the preparation. This one guy flipped my gown over and I was exposed from the waist down. I felt cold and naked. There were people in here and my dick was a showcase. Ok! Whatever….. The doctor then nipped my dick head and blobbed it with some jelly. He poked something inside the dick and reminded me to breath in and out. Ouch! Oooouuuuu! I groaned painfully, omg the thing’s going in. At that time pain is an understatement. I gritted my teeth and hope for the world to end. So, everything, everyone including myself will be destroyed and the pain will stop. But then I felt it went through and some thing was trying to find its way out. A minute later the stent was out and shown to me as a proof. It’s supposed to give me some relief. How could I! my dick was still sore. Again, I closed my eyes and let them finish off. I finally felt relief and unstuffed. That wire was out of my system. They gave me a couple of shots to keep the bacteria away. The side effects, as they told me, would be pretty sniff. Just get it over with and let me deal with it later. It was pretty bad. I could not stand up straight and my lips felt numb all over. The skin dried up and itchiness spread to all part of the skin. The more you scratched the more you felt good until it bled. What a nightmare.
I stayed on for another 10 days to recover. The bacteria pseudomonas was finally out of my system. The urine culture gave a negative reading. I was allowed to leave.
Although the results were clear, you must remember one thing, the doctor warned me sternly, don’t get sick ! if you do come back immediately or your life will be at risk. I will take that chance because I didn’t want to stay at the hospital anymore. From that point on I knew my health is no longer as it used to be…strong and energetic. Now it is like a shield being lift off and I am exposed and vulnerable. The recovery was very slow and depressing;physically and mentally. You felt like half of a man because your dick could not function properly. And for a man his little prick is everything to him. I am hoping for a brighter future.
Monday, Day 13 of MCO. I went out today just to breach the lockdown. The streets were eerily quiet. That what the tiny little creatures could do to you and your world. I felt so vulnerable and afraid that we might not get out of this situation successfully.
Back when I was attacked by the tiny little thing before the procedures, I was stunned and hopeless. I went to the hospital to remove a stent and they could not proceed because my urine was not clean. The doctor came in and delivered the results and the follow-ups that they will do. I listened half-heartedly. The fact that I have tons of work to finish (it was final exam time) was so insignificant to be voiced out and plea for mercy. The procedure must be followed no matter what. I prayed to Allah for my strength and patience. All these ordeals proved how powerless modern medicine can be (no antibiotic to fight the bacteria) to overcome the complexity of human anatomy. A tiny micro-organism can be a threat of fatality and nothing can stop it. Make you feel small and weak again. The doctors left and silence filled the room. Soon, sorrow and frustration have started to overcome my emotions. I didn’t want to be a man sitting by the window all day waiting for the death angel to come.
But I was there, nevertheless, locked down in the room and all I could do was looking out the window into the sky as if to wait for its colour to change. Far in the horizon the sun has magnificently showed off its morning glory. It seemed a dull morning. I was restless to not being able to do anything useful to finish off the morning. Ironically, I felt to have gone through the same ordeal before. Yep! when I was doing my PhD in Essex the same thing happened. I was in the room similar to that hospital ward maybe a bit smaller and consistently attacked by restlessness and anxiety. Always wondered what to do with my research, my time and my life. Most of the time I had no clue. I kept going and stumbled a few times but was able to pick myself up and moved on. Maybe because I was young and ambitious it compromised the downfall. The great thing about life is it gives you some time between the falls so you could figure out what’s going on. Doing my PhD was a great experience although it was a long and tedious journey. The fun part was not the end of it but the little patches of time along the way. If you are having a second thought of doing your PhD…don’t! dive into it and start right away. The more you wait, the more you get the reasons not to do it.
Meanwhile in Shah Alam, the stores have run out of bread flour…aarrggh no baking today!
It’s Day 12,13,14….. I lost count. But it has been long since we were locked in. Supplies are depleting and we are running out of bread recipe to try out. And the house climate is changing…. a storm is brewing in the kitchen. I have no intention to butt in; just let it pass. So, everything is running low in the bunker; not sure how long we can hold on, but we all hope for the best. As long as daddy is okay, the house is okay. Things are quiet down a bit in the afternoon and as I flipped through my notes from the hospital, I just could not resist to share these thoughts ……
I was restless early in the morning. The bed was hard and lumpy. Made my back sore and painful. At about 5:30 am I was up and out of bed to end the misery. Outside, darkness was about to disperse. The air seemed thick and still, holding on to the mystery of last night. I breathed in the thick air in the room hoping to feel fresh and cool as the outside. Hopelessness lingered loosely at the end of the breath. But still the morning conveyed the message of positive anticipation… as always. The sunshine that has started to knock on my windows proved that the day will be okay as yesterday’s. I sat still to see the world around me started to move and picked up. I wish I would move around as well but not today. Today, I will be locked down and get better. A brief pause sometimes is needed to make you realise how vulnerable your life can be without proper care and attention. Within the boredom of my predicament, I hope there lies an excitement somewhere.
After I got better, I wanted to roam the world. But CONVID19 got here first and everything just went crazy. I sat myself down and for the first time felt tired and vulnerable. InsyAllah I will endure this pain like the other things in my life…. I survived. Looking back a few decades back, I was poor, soft and weak like a bird chick that could not fly but at the end of the day it pushed itself off the cliff and flew, eventually. I remember coming home from school one day and asked my parent if I could go into this express program at school. I could skip one year of schooling if I passed the test. Apparently, no one gave a shit about it as nobody understood the benefit of it all. I didn’t either but somehow wanted to be in that class. Ayah signed the consent paper in the morning with a half-smile… a smile of uncertainty but there you go anyway. Consequently, the program has put me one year ahead of everybody else of my age. Huge impact on my academic and working life. That initiative, apparently, one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have one year of time to spare in case I screwed up.
I did not do well in school just enough to keep up. I determined not to give up so easily and keep struggling no matter what. A teacher gave a homework one day during my primary school. He was known to be strict and whip your ass for no reason. I had to find the meaning of some Malay proverbs (peribahasa Melayu) They were not in the textbook and I did not know where to find them. Mak did not know either so I was sent to bed before completing my homework. I cried the whole time until Mak had to wake my brother up to see what the homework is all about. With tears in my eyes and sobbing endlessly I waited by my brother’s side as he went through the proverbs. He did most of them and threw the book back to me annoyingly. I wiped the tears away and hugged my homework dearly. It was good enough for me. The next day the teacher did not even look at the homework, but I was happy to know a lot of the proverbs. In my own little way, I love and appreciate knowledge more than anything else. I guess that’s how I survive all these years.
Day 10(27-03-2020) of MCO. The death toll keeps rising and the end of this pandemic is not in sight. People are literally struggling to survive and stay alive. This is not a movie but a reality that some us have yet to grasp. They went on jogging and strolling as if the lockdown has nothing to do with them. Well, people act shit sometimes. I woke up this morning feeling empty; today will be no fajr prayers at the surau and for the second time there will be no Friday prayers. For a moment I’ve lost the sense of purpose of me being alive. But I was up anyway because my daily routine has started and I would not miss a pre-dawn serenity that my body and mind need. I stared into the darkness and embrace the stillness of the morning; it rejuvenated me. Anyway, it was a perfect day for making bread. Because we are out of bread and the store may or may not have the stock this morning. I have no luck for making a perfect bread so far. Today I will start again and see if this beautiful morning will bring luck into my oven. The hard part of making bread is the yeast does not bubble up properly that will make the bread damp and not fluffy. Then you have to let it set for an hour blab la bla…..I don’t have time to wait for a long time…..and for that you wont get a fluffy white bread but a hard rock clump of flour that will ruin your breakfast. While waiting for the dough to rise, I fried some mee to make “mamak style mee” and fill myself up for the morning. Looking at the dough, I think, I won’t get my bread very soon.
And PM has announced a stimulus package for the people to manage this crisis. It costs billions. I don’t know where the money will come from…frankly, I don’t want to know.
My mind wandered to the beginning of this year when I was locked down at the hospital. The year 2020 greeted me in a very unhealthy way. A warning that my health is still an issue. I was hospitalised and stuck in the smelly ward; and there was no sign I’d be discharged very soon. The angry and aggressive bacteria are still in the system and I had to stay on to fight them. I was furious at first but as the reasonings went around my head, I surrendered to the inevitable. My priority was to get better and that would not happen if I had given up to my hothead and despise the doctor’s efforts. I was in the middle of busy schedule and staying put just seemed impossible. I was restless. but again I managed and pulled through eventually. Life was boring (pretty much like this home-based lock down) and it got worse when the phone died. Somehow that little thing has become my heart and soul now. When it dies, the world just stop and the time stands still.
I had plenty of time to ponder and I looked back into my past. Sometimes the past came in patches of time. A specific period of time that vividly came to mind. This time my childhood flashed across my mind as one of the best parts of my life. Just me, Mak, Ayah and my naughty siblings. A simple life that I happened to be part of. Those were beautiful moments that I safely kept at the corner of my memory box. I love them because I felt safe and secured although the “adult” world around me was not pretty. The fact that we were poor and lived in a house that leaked every time it rained, we had each other all the time and life just went on beautifully. Ironically, I never felt poor, feeling sad or disappointed for being poor.
Looking out through the window, I’ve never missed the beautiful sunrise. As it climbed behind those treetops, the morning rays revealed the story of yesterday. I could see how people hurriedly walked in the shadow to start their day at the hospital. They came to make a living. The job must be hard and tiring, but that is something we all must do to keep alive. I wished them well and good health. During this difficult time they are the frontliners that are fighting to keep us safe. May Allah help them all.