Making little steps with the little ones

Today I have never been so proud of my students and colleague as they’ve taken some time off from their busy class schedules and spent with these under privileged kids. We invited about 20 kids in and around Shah Alam for a one-day problem solving workshop. there are maybe hundreds if not thousands of such kids around us that need a little coaching in their study but we never have the time to entertain. today albeit all the shortcomings we called up these kids and shared the little knowledge that we have so they might see their UPSR challenge a bit brighter. I asked them about UPSR earlier in the morning and they just did not  know what that really means to them. So that was the group we are dealing with today—-not to say slow but under privileged as some are bright and happening but not into studying  that much. Most of the parents cannot afford the many tuitions held every where during this school break—not even at their own school. the urban poor as you might put it.  Alhamdulaillah everything went very smoothly; thanks to everyone involved.
the kids were excited as well

it’s one-to-one coaching

blurr aje adik Aiman ni

some need extra help

Rahman trying to put some senses into it

okay let’s do it again
relax atmosphere as we want it to be

but very attentive

let’s do it together
I really don’t have the idea….so kakak la buat

When things move…..

The rain drizzled as the call for fajr  filled  the misty clouds. This is Shah Alam among a few places in this modern part of the world where “ noises from the surau” is acceptable. This is our life and we will make sure out great great grandchildren would never ever forget this thing that we value most  for our spritual well being. But most importantly Shah Alam is our home  now; the place to go to end the day. My place is simple with  old and used furnitures we brought home from  England more than ten years ago but always refreshing and rejuvenating nevertheless. No one complains and I don’t see any need to replace any of them in the near future. So they will be there for many more sittings and chattings from us. Anyway, Shah Alam is busy again with students coming back for the new semester.  Had my first class yesterday and it was very good, I think. A small group of post graduate students doing  master’s in computer science. In the near future we will host only pg students here in Shah Alam when the other undergraduate programs move elsewhere. The issue of moving out is haunting me the first time it was mentioned in a meeting. The hassle for moving will be phenomenal; not that I against the idea altogether, but the challenge will be so huge I just don’t want to ponder upon it. Our CS programs will move to Jasin; locks,stocks and barrels. The Math programs will go to Seremban 3. The move is inevitable come 2014 when the place is ready. The news broke out into the faculty’s email  today and expected to be turned and twisted into something. May Allah have mercy on us. As the issue of amanah tugas pensyarah still hot and burning with SPBA hanging below the nose , this moving issue will haunt us even deeper into unbelievable mess. Personally, I think moving is good for this faculty just like our prophet moved from Mecca to Madinah for better Islam. It shows the dynamic nature of the things around us moving, changing and evolving. We can’t go against nature, it will happen with or without us. The same goes for our context as well. UiTM has to move and change for its survival to say the least. So let it be, maybe something good will come at the end of it we really don’t know. The main thing is where WE put ourselves in this fast moving lane. World will not stop moving  because we don’t move; but we have to start moving and put ourselves  in a  proper place.I am still thinking of what to say in the next departmental meeting. People will act and react. I strongly believe many will go against the idea, so maybe I just keep quiet.
The school holiday is coming up next week so that means my daughters are coming home. Hoooray! The house has been quiet for quite a while now. So it’s time to roast a chicken for kabsah rice. It’s not really a kabsah rice but my version that uses some of the kabsah spices. But it’s the best in the world, really.
Be good people….OK, so where is Jasin?

New Dean, Old Dilemma

Today, Friday the 6th of January, 2012, has seen the first meeting with our new Dean. Everyone seemed excited and was looking forward to this inaugural meeting…and no one was late. I was excited myself to see how our new Dean plan to bring new changes to the faculty. It’s typical I guess to have someone like me expecting something out of ordinary from our new boss…to bring some kind of miracles and change things. But isn’t that the last thing one should do in this circumstance…waiting and expecting. You cross your arms , bit your lips and  whisper to yourself….hmmmm…..let’s  see what she can do… as one of the staff members you would feel perfectly okay to do that . I mean nothing much will change if you think otherwise. But as a leader that will put you so isolated at the top and while sitting there alone you must have been hoping for God to grant you some kind of miracle as well. You want to get out of this misery. One miserable head and a bunch of  miserable staff will make a meeting very interesting. But that’s not what happened in my meeting this morning. It was alright I guess; jovial and refreshing. A bit of tensed moments here and there but that’s normal in decision-making. Nevertheless, I did feel the old dilemma still kept hitting my head over and over again. So what’s the dilemma? You know what, I don’t know myself how to spell it out; but there remained something unfinished and unfulfilled. The bright smiling face of our new Dean just could not convince me that there will be changes around here soon. I am tired of hearing that the fund has dried out and we could not do this and that. The same old excuses for the same old applications for student’s activities. The same old fear for the same old “new policy in the faculty”. I was not happy because I saw the same old stressful future ahead of me. It’s like  a dark and frightening road to my grandma’s. I always feared that and the 15-minute walk seemed like an eternity. I thought I would never have to go through that old road again; but here it is again right in front of me.
Meeting is always a stressful exercise, and if it is dealt with so seriously, it will be so deadly stressful. Deadly stress is not good for an old man like me. I was looking for something  cheerful and colorful for a Friday morning but sadly I hit a big white and blank concrete wall. I just did not know what to do with it. Maybe I am being too paranoid for some thing trivial. There must be a solution to this dilemma..and as someone said..if you can’t find a  solution then YOU must be the problem… you know what—I hate that expression. If you can’t work it out then blame yourself….this pitiful self-torture has to go; it is nothing but irreponsible authority keeping its hands clean. Would you say this to your child : if you fail than have yourself to blame not me or anybody else! Maybe you find it okay but I think it is a bit unfair—I found a sense of loneliness in there as if  I were sent to a solitary confinement—to rot and die.
There is a lot of work to do  in this faculty; things  to keep the faculty afloat againt the high tides of today’s demands ; publish or perish (an inherited shit from the US), globalisation, world class ranking, research university, and some other things that I don’t want  you to puke over it. The amount of work that will not make you see the end of the day….it’s just endlessly tiring. One semester after another, one year after another and soon you will find yourself lying helplessly at the end of your journey in life. Before that inevitability, I want to see myself as a small solution in the big problem. It does not matter how big the problem is; i jus wanna be  a small insignificant solution. So help me God.

The Surau

A very unique indeed to this year’s teambuilding. There was a dedicated surau for us to pray and hold kuliah. Congratulations to the AJK for putting this extra effort forward. I know there must be some cost involved to rent the room but the availability shows our concern to the better and bigger spirit of teambuilding. There would be a time when the surau is one of the venue for the activity. I hope this trend will continue in the future. Looking at the usage of this surau, the best term to describe it is the word pathetic. Just like in the kampong, surau is for the olds and retired persons only. If this old man can monkey-jump sideways,hug the smelly guy on the giant slipper and coconut bowl like you don’t have enough change to go to the bowling alley, then those young ones can sit down with us and read something like they have just lost a handphone to play with. 
Teambuilding is about understanding each other and that is to understand what the others are doing. We had a full schedule at the surau but everytime it seemed to be half-full (well half-empty is more like it). Maybe the program was not suitable for the young ones, maybe the program was as “old-fashioned” as those olf folks, or maybe people just find an excuse for not going. Whatever it was, I think it is a good start and we must remember the next time we plan the teambuilding program—never to overlook this spiritual event. If we could utilize a couple of hours in the early morning to set our common goal in life and connect everyone with the faculty in a religious context , we might find a key to our solidarity as one faculty. Religious sensitivity in the faculty can also be tolerated by having understanding on our practices. This is not only between Muslim and non-Muslim but also among Muslim ourselves. We have different views on Islam and practice differently according to our own understanding of Islam. The thing is that it is good to go back to Islam but we want everyone to understand what we do, for everyone to avoid overlooking Islamic practices when a particular program is designed. When we hold meetings at all levels, the agenda must include doa pembukaan ,doa penutup and observe the prayers time. The outdoor activities must observe proper dress codes, strict gender interactions, and prayers time. The understanding of all these requirements won’t be exercised if everyone is ignorant of the need and importance of the practices.
I would like very much to see spiritual empowerment being nurtured in the next teambuilding program. Program Qiam to be one of the activities in the agenda to train the hearts and the minds sensitive to iman and islam; which has a powerful binding medium between differing and contrasting souls. I hope someone will understand all these and put them into real events.

The Movie

Tn Hj and Abd Rahman were busy editing the montage

 In the evening, Tn Hj Shafie set up our teambuilding mood with a brilliant movie “Lashkar pelangi”. It’s about a kampong life in Belitung Indonesia and how this remote community struggled to save its dying sekolah agama rakyat. The story is about the realities of life and how each of us struggle to live and make a living; in the end some survived to live up to their dreams and some did not.The story is about the dreams we all have when we were kids like the rainbows in the horizon; so beautiful and colorful splashed across the sky. One character in the movie is the  anak pesisir (anak nelayan), a genius kid, registered himself at the school and struggled to keep up with the school as he had to tend his small siblings because his father went off to the sea. That’s similar to our humble beginning and how poor we all were living in the 60s and 70s, but with the dream we struggled and make a better life. True enough, as in the movie, life does not always turn out to be as expected, the genius one was forced to be with his family while his friend had a chance to be in the place he always wanted to be —Paris. They all seemed happy though no matter how bad life has treated them. 

The ladies and I

The lady teacher, in another scene, sent a more direct message to us—“aku bukan impi ingin kahwin saudagar, Pak…..aku ingin jadi guru, dan di sini aku boleh jadi guru”. The school was a run down kampong house with no floor, no electricity or fancy cabinet; and yet this beatiful lady teacher chose to be there with the kids. The whole story was very emotional and touched deep inside; the tears trickle  down my cheek as the movie went on. I saw this movie many times before but this time the atmosphere is different—there is a purpose behind the emotions. I guess this time the teambuilding event will be different from the one I used to attend before. I can start to smell the essence of academia and the connection that I need to mould between these strange faces. All of the sudden I felt a need to sort out my emotions and put them in proper places; I need to know some people. Looking around the hall, I was taken aback of how little I know these people…the names and faces look familiar but that do not seem to be enough. 

Ice-breaking session

getting to know each other

fitting in sometime makes you bored

There is a gap between the olds and the young ones; there has always been a gap but this time this gap-thing has to go one way or another. I was very skeptical about it but again , if not now, when would be the right time to abolish this gap. The very young ones speak a different language, they really do, and most of the words are not in my vocabs. My children teach me a lot of these words; their meanings and the proper context of use. They have developed a whole new culture that without much effort to know them , they will drift away from “our society” and set  their own world with separate values and norms. I consider myself “old” because it is easier  for myself to be old rather than young. I  “failed” my youth and have no plan to go back and reminiscence the “bad and dark” old days. We were young once and every one  of us know how it was in the old days…very hard and brutal. But that’s a different story. For me it’s a big deal because I am not good with people; everything involves other people will make me lose some sleep at night. A man cannot be an island, they said; but for me it could be the best thing that can happen to a man like me. Anyway, we were assigned an apartment with 3-4 other persons. I was with Mr Lau, Adzhar CTN and En. Juhari; we have never sit down together and talk so I guess this is a very good opportunity to get to know each other better. And we did. Things will be a lot different  later when we go back to the faculty.

My roomates : Azhar ,me and Juhari

The Trip

The trip to Lumut took about three hours;three long hours. Maybe less I did not really care because it was one of those trips that would take you to the world of misery. Is it me the problem here or someone else? I asked this question because the aim of every teambuilding event is to make everyone understand each other; so we can work together with each other instaed of making each other miserable. I don’t feel to have any problem with my colleague except I hate that guy, one bitch over there and the stupid loud mouth over there….hhmmm I guess I do have problems with people, OK then let’s go and do this quickly. My mind went overdrive during the long hours of the trip. I didn’t feel like to chit chat but instead put on my earphone like a miserable teenager, pulled my cap down, crossed my arms tight and flew with my thoughts. I digged deep into the issue of why should I do this ? you know going down to Lumut and be with people. I wanted to blast some little balls and embrace the flight that will take my worries away. I wanted to smell the grass and the trees and the anxieties that came with it. But instead I have to sit here like a dork waiting to reach a destination that I knew I would not like. Life is again punishing me, so I thought. I just could not bare it anymore; I wish I could scream so the time stop going and the world stop moving and this pain could go away. People say to be positive with your thought; OK then I will be positive….maybe there is a cure to this pain over there at the place they called Marina Cove……..
I guess this bus ride is the same as our “journey” at the faculty. A journey to fulfill our dreams and expectations in life. Some of us really believe this bus will take us somewhere to the better place; so they seem to enjoy the trip. There is also somebody that never believe in that nonsense; the ride for them seems long and boring. And there is also a group of us that not really going anywhere just to enjoy the bus ride ; they seem to enjoy themselves. I guess deep down I do believe this bus will take me somewhere, but I don’t really think about it because the place seems remotely far away. This bus ride is so bumpy; maybe because it is old or it’s just me thinking negatively again. I looked around and saw people…my colleague; we were together in this bus but strangely enough we were doing our own chores; reading, sleeping, eating, day dreaming, and there was someone just looking so bored. If this bus ride would take forever then someone will die a loner, I can tell you that.
The bus went through the coastal areas of Selangor and Perak. I have passed through this road before during my last trip to Lumut and everytime the whole stretch of kampongs and kebuns remind me the hard life of our regular folks in this land. How these folks are struggling to make the ends meet while their leaders are negotiating some billion dollars project with some foreigners ? my enquiring mind wants to know….

Despite the bumpy ride here and there we reached Marina Cove ahead of schedule. Alhamdulillah. So this is the place…hmmmm…I reserved my comments.

Fahrin Ahmad and The Academic Conference 2011 UiTM

It has been so long since my last entry. I’m very worried. That means I’m too busy to write; too busy to relax. I rest my mind by writing some crappy stuff. Sometime the more craps it has the more relax my mind would be afterwards. Writing can be therapeutic when you use it to let go everything from your mind. Just like hitting a golf ball; the sound of the impact says “ yes you are right this is shit, hit it hard and let it fly away into the horizon……” and when you see it goes up up and away; you feel warm and clean as if the problem within you has been stripped off and removed. But if it dropped dead in front of you then you are the SOB for trying too hard and not doing it by the rule.

For the last three days, I have been attending an Academic Conference—our internal conference talking about the future of UiTM. As you might have guessed, the speakers are from the top management of UiTM. We had Fahrin Ahmad moderating a forum on Friday morning, so that’s a surprise. He handled it quite well I must say and used his charm to make the ladies(and some of the men too) screaming and shrieking. But we are more excited to explore the new dewan actually (called Dewan Agong Tuanku Canselor) than the issues or the lectures during the session. It is built on a hill slope where the main entrance is on top of the hill overseeing a football field. The inside is huge and can comfortably seat 4000 people. Eight big screens hanging from the roof giving the stage view up close….and personal. The sound system was a bit off but not by much. I just don’t want to know how much they spent on it, for whatever amount…it’s worth it.

But the most disturbing news came on the big screen in the afternoon when HEA announced which faculties are considered “research faculties”. My faculty, the FSKM, was not on the list. I went through the screen again and again could not believe what I was watching . My FSKM was not there. Maybe it’s a mistake, I hope so but from the reality of it that list is correct. My hearts just went into pieces because it’s like coming at you and hitting you right on the face. I see myself failing and feeling so stupid. Ironically, Accounting was there among the engineering and medical faculties. I mean the term “accounting research” is so new and so recent ,it can be found nowhere other than UiTM. Bravo to them all for making accounting so dynamic. All I know that it is only about debit and credit… what is there to research. Apparently, I was wrong.

But I am more disappointed with the way my faculty FSKM handles the research issues. A couple of days before the conference I emailed my colleague about the lack of focus and directions regarding research. It has never been discussed, deliberated or strategically planned. But again who am I to criticize, just a grumpy old man who always wake up from the wrong the side of the bed. I left the conference dejected with no mood to stick around for the fashion show. Well they had these bunch of skinny-legged models doing the catwalk for the Art and Design Faculty. The stuff will be going to London, so they said, for whatever reason there might be.

“left shoulder up, right shoulder down, butts out, knees bent, back swing @9o’clock, finish @3o’clock, eyes on the ball, hip turns, arm pit closed”…..locked!…hope I don’t miss anything…then kaboom!…life will be beautiful again.