Monday, 30 November 2009

Tribute to Dubai, The Dreamer

My mother-in-law once said to me before I left my home country to work in Dubai. She said, "Hujan emas di negeri orang, tapi tak akan sama di negeri sendiri". I am not sure whether I quote her right but it sounds something like that. I was so pre-occupied with the prospect of leaving my home country for new opportunities, still, I understood her message. She tried to remind me of who I am and where I really belong. A wise and conservative woman, she is.

I am always uneasy with my father-in-law. That man is full of hot air and I have to limit my time around him so that I don't reach to the point that I get pissed off with his cowboy's mentality. In my numbered and very brief conversation that I had with him, I recalled him saying, "Di situ bumi dipijak, di situlah langit dijunjung". I did not really pay much attention of what he was babbling about back then. But I only realized months later when I was already working in Dubai that he was tipping me off something valueable about living abroad. It is about an expatriate's obligation to respect the host country, the people and their way of life.

It is so convenient to condemn and criticize the things one sees in Dubai which can be perceived as politically and ethically inappropriate compared to how things are in other places around the world. I have many expatriate friends who complained about this and that. Hearing too much of the complaining and bad-mouthing, it seems to me these people are so unhappy but I wonder why they are still here. I thought of what my father-in-law had said and decided that I should make the best of my stay here and channel my energy positively by being appreciative and focussing on opportunities so that I have limited time to complain.

At this writing, it is reported globally, that Dubai is crumbling down after it has sought for a standstill in paying the debts of its major players until May next year. There are people reacting in a clumsy way, pushing the unnecessary panic buttons. There are critical people criticizing the inappropriate and untimely manner of how the communication of such financial distress was done. Well, I say Dubai is no ordinary dreamer. Unlike its big brother, Abu Dhabi, which is richer and more conservative, Dubai has less natural resources but is very ambitious and adventurous. It has made big plans and pushed the limit to make them happen. For such a fast-pacer, trend-setter and risk taker, there is a price to pay. The fact that Dubai has stumbled and faced financial difficulty, does not mean that Dubai is sinking like the mythical Atlantis, though ironically, Dubai has built one at the tip of Palm Jumeira. These hardships are like any other life issues that one has to overcome. It is like hiccups that require some time to recover after gulping a glass of desalinated water. But to say that Dubai is collapsing or crumbling down is sensationally driven, pre-mature and unfair. I have lived almost 2 years here to tell that there are  many willful and extraordinary people in Dubai, who love and very much attached to this place, and who would do wonder to turn things around.

In the mean time, life is business as usual for many of us. We are having the double celebrations, the Eid al-Adha and 38th UAE National Day on the 2nd December. The cinemas are visited by the New Moon fanatics, the parks are packed with families, the beaches are littered with half-naked people and the mosques are patronized by believers.

Friday, 27 November 2009

November Rain

A few days back I was running in my neighbourhood. I looked up at the sky and saw patches of grey clouds. I told myself that the rain would come. True enough, it rained a few hours later. But the much anticipated rain turned out to be a short and stingy sprinkle. It drizzled not more than 15 minutes, just enough to leave messy dots of water mark on our cars. We talked about it at length, longer than the actual time of the rain. We were excited as it was our first winter rain in Dubai. Back home when it rains, it usually means natural car wash, free of charge. But here, the rain had made a busy day for the men who wash our cars at the parking lot. They had wiped clean all the dotty water marks, the evidence of our first November rain.

I called home. My wife was in Hong Kong for a week. My kids was counting days for their mother to return home. I asked why they were not counting days for me to return home. My son said 'susah, nanti salah kira', admitting that he would lose count and his numbering skill is still poor. They also complained that it rained everyday. The rain has made them deprived of their outdoor playtime in the evening at the playground nearby.

It was in the news today, the rain claimed 83 lives in Saudi Arabia, our giant and holy neighbour. It was an unusual heavy downpour. Jeddah was showered with 7cm of rain last Wednesday, which was more than it would normally get in an entire year. Rain or no rain, there is nothing going to stop the massive flow of those faithful pilgrims, determined to complete the fifth pillar of their faith.

As I watched AlJazeera Live to witness the sea of pilgrims climbing up the Mountain of Mercy at Arafat and praying for forgiveness, I couldn't help wondering, would I ever get the call to savour the spiritual high point of the pilgrimage before the rain or anything else claim the life of mine?

Eid Mubarak.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Siput And Serunding

I will have a long run tomorrow morning. I plan to have a 20km run around the neighbourhood and therefore I am really eating tonight to load the carb needed for the task. There was a plate of spaghetti and sardines on the kitchen counter, accompanied by special appearance from the far east, a bowl of siput and serunding.

This morning at 6AM, I met an old friend, my ex-course mate in our engineering school. She was in transit at  Terminal 3 Dubai Airport, and she had 10 hours to kill, before she got into her connecting flight to Dusseldorf. It was really a last minute arrangement. She dropped me an email a day earlier to check whether we would have a chance to meet after such a long time. It's Tuesday, a working day, a hump day in the Middle East, and I had a meeting scheduled at 9AM that I couldn't postpone or cancel. I did it last week, but not this time. Yet, I agreed to meet her early in the morning. She came with her boss and the boss's wife.

Years back in the campus, whenever I skipped or slept through the lecture, her notes had been a great help to fill in the blanks and holes in my head about enthropy, thermodynamics, the laws of kinetics and some other scary stuffs. I guess the blank and holes are still there but at least the notes had helped me  passed and graduated.  

I waited for her at the meeting point. We met. She has not changed much. Thankfully, her buddies are friendly. I drove them around Dubai. It was exciting to exchange  each other's story while I was driving Lucky, along the Emirates Road, crossing the Sheikh Zayed Road near the Malls of the Emirates, waving at the Burj Al Arab, showing off the Atlantis and the Palm Jumeira and finally, entering Jebel Ali Free Zone. Since I had to attend the meeting at 9AM, I had made an arrangement with our company driver to take my visitors to the Gold Souk and Burj Dubai until lunch time. I told her that I wished I could spend more time with them. She was flattered with the hospitality I was able to extend, given such a short notice. I told her that I was happy and honoured having her though it was just for less than 3 hours. I gave her pouches of chocolates to add the weight of her luggage. She was tactful enough to remove packs of the siput and serunding from her backpack and passed them to me, in return.

Back to my carbo loading session, I really can't stop crunching the siput and chewing it with the serunding. They are really good. Good enough to make me miss home, already.

Siput is technically made of dough mixed with some spices and flavourings, rolled, cut and shaped like the  shell of a snail and fried to perfection. It may contained trans fats but it is one hell of great tasting titbits.
Serunding is shredded piece of meat, fried with spices. It gets very dried after a long process of heating, I think.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The United Germany and My Mollies

Today is a special day. If I were to rule the world, I would declare today as the world's most celebrated public holiday. It is the day to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall that took place 2 decades ago. But I don't rule the world, not even a chocolate factory. Hence, it's business as usual.
When I woke up this morning, I was struck with the the wisdom that I have recently embraced. It sounds something like this, 'You may not change the world but you can change yourself, your own life and emotion'. So I lingered on the bed and then dialled a number in the office to cancel the arranged meeting that I was supposed to have. It was a day nicely spent at home.

I don't remember this united Germany night of glory back on the November 9th, 1989. I was probably sleeping in the dormitory of my boarding school. Back then, I couldn't be bothered, there was too much pressure at school and too many pimples to pop. I couldn't really open up my young mind. But today, it is on our face that the human race is splitting in many ways. People are fighting for too many reasons. So such rare and real case of unification of a great country and its people is a joy worth sharing. In the near future, it is unlikely that there will be another great historical event in the name of unification, but we can learn from this special one and hope for another.

To commemorate this special day, I have united a pair of mollies, one black and the other white, in square jar filled with an exotic plant that I bought last weekend. They are such a lovely couple. I feel love radiated from the jar each time I look at it.

Home Of The Mollies

Lovely Mollies

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The New Running Shoes and Style

It took a great courage to let go off my old pair of running shoes. They have been my great buddies for more than 2 years and they have had signs of wearing out. I have about 2.5 months before the next marathon. It is time to get a new pair so that the new shoes could develop and match the contour with my feet.

The pair of antiques

It took a greater courage to let go off my old way of running. I have been running and believing in 'Just do it, just run'. I have had my inspiring moments by just running, feeling free and connecting with my inner self in the old way of running. Now I have turned to the new nano way of running in order to get better results. In this new way of running, I have to program the run, stay focussed on maintaining the consistent pace, keep track of the distance and review the performance.

The new wonder

My new running shoes are the white Nike Lunarglide with Nike iPod sensor receiver. I had my first run with them last Saturday. It was a 13km run. I could feel a better foot grip. The new shoes felt heavier but I guess after a couple of runs I will get used to them. There is a pocket under the insole of the left shoe where I have placed a sensor before I started the run. The run started and ended with a click on the iPod which I carried along in the run. Throughout the run, I was constantly checking on my pace on the iPod screen. There are also options to set the running music and voice feedback which I have yet tried during the last run. The details about the run were uploaded to in which I have opened an account to track my running progress on-line. It was a fun running experience and I am really looking forward for the next run......

The running report

The satellite view of the running track around my neighbourhood, Discovery Gardens-Ibn Battuta-The Gardens

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

It Has Been A While

It has been a while since I did my last posting in this blog. Since then I had gone home twice. It was great to see my wife receiving her scroll in her graduation day in August. The last time in Tasmania, she had no one waiting for her outside as she marched out of the convocation hall. This time around, she had bouquets of flowers, hugs and kisses from me, the kids, the parents, her brother and sisters. It was one of her happy days. She has now decided to further her neurology studies. She is considering to make another big decision whether to pursue that in France or Australia in a couple of years to come. At the same time, she knows that I am hoping that she would live with me and work in Dubai. Well, there will be a time we will have to talk about it, but not now.

I went home again in September to be with my family on the last few days of Ramadhan and also to celebrate the first week of Syawal. It was a great Syawal. Great food, great time. But the time was short. I just had enough time to spend with family members in Johor and Singapore. I wish I could have more time so that I could meet some great friends in this great Syawal.

"Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin - ingatan tulus ikhlas dari kami sekeluarga"

On the 6th Syawal, the day we returned from Johor Bahru, we discovered that a desperado had broken into our house in Klang and taken tit bits like Astro decoder, DVD player, digital camera, 14kg cooking gas cylinder (I'm not kidding!) and some other insignificant things. We are lucky that we carried all our cash money and jewelleries with us during the holidays. But we are not lucky that the burglar got hold of our house spare keys and my wife's bank account books. So I was busy making police report and fixing things up, before I got into the plane back to Dubai. I told my wife that in Dubai, I sometimes left my car unlocked in the parking lot, my balcony door is left ajar for fresh air and there is no need to have a great grilled door equipped with super-security locks and she can walk in Dubai streets with a sparkling bling-bling Gucci hand bag without worries of being victimized by the street snatcher..........

Now, I am back in my safe but lonely den in Dubai, looking forward for my family to come and visit me in December. Being alone now after being surrounded by the loved ones just a week before, is really depressive. I am hoping the transition can be geared up quickly so that I can move on. Thank God, summer has come to an end. We are now blessed with days of pleasant weather. We are seeing more and more blue sky. I am hoping to fill up the vacuum from now until December with some happy thoughts of things to do. I am hoping for the peaceful moment by the beach, reading some good books with the sound of the waves and the blue horizon to zoom out the tiring eyes. I am hoping to meet up with Malaysian friends over dinner and talk in Malay with coffee taste in the mouth that waters down the hot and spicy Asian meals. I am hoping to hit the gym to shred the excess accumulated from the raya treat. I am hoping to run, run and run to prepare my feet for the next marathon. I am hoping to do more at work to meet the year end with a style and satisfaction. Thank God, there are plenty of hopes to drag me out of the depression. So excuse me, I need to get myself out there......

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Best Of Their Kind

A group of Emiratis came to visit our factory. They are young officials and trainees. At the moment, there is no Emirati working as an associate in our company. Working in a factory is not a popular choice for these privileged nationals of the UAE. I don't have much contact with these people as much I have worked with the Egyptians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians and Palestinians. So when this group came to visit us, I took them for a plant tour. I had the opportunity to interact and understand them better.

These Emiratis are humble. Compared to the other kinds of Arab, they are less agitated and more liberal in their thinking yet they hold on dearly to their values and national identity. They are overly concerned about their look though they dress conservatively. They are peaceful and united. They respect their leaders and they are blessed with good visionary leaders to ensure their well-being and protected future. They are the lucky lots. Looking back, who would have thought that these once nomadic people who relied on camels for milk, falcon to find their meat and lungful of air to dive for pearl, could pin superlative achievements in today's map.

Monday, 27 July 2009


I don't get sad easily. In life I try hard to find the goodness and the greatness of things even for those that hurt. But sometimes when there are just too much sorrow displayed on the screen, I just have to let it be. Today I let myself be low and restless with sadness.

It started last night when I switched on the laptop to hook on the FB, I found myself muttering Al-Fathihah to the departure of two souls. First was the death of a storyteller whose work I really admire. It is such a big loss among Malaysian dwindling talents. Next, was the death of a university friend. He worked with primates and studied them in Sabah and he had earned a PhD for doing that. I just feel sad thinking that their deaths are sudden and untimely. There must have been many things left undone and unsaid. Anyway who am I to complain in the matter of life and death. I might be next on the list, one can never tell.

Also in the FB, today, an ex-colleague left a farewell message that is really touching. He was sacked for being himself, an abrasive Egyptian. There are other terminations before. But this one is sudden and untimely. He just got married. He has brought his wife weeks before, from Egypt to Dubai. Now he is jobless and in a month time they have to leave Dubai. Isn't it ironic? He might have his ego. He might be careless. He might struggle to fit into the template of associate profile the company prefers. But I think his termination is not justified. He can be warned and given feedback to improve. I am planning to talk this matter to my superior since it affects my sense of job security and peace of mind at work, apart from being sad and sympathetic for the dismissed friend. I'm sure they are prepared to give all the politically right reasons for the decision, but at least they will see the sign that many of us are not happy with the way it was handled and the inhumane outcome.

Of all the above, the one that really makes me sad the most is to see the photo of my little boy on my mobile phone screen, who is now down with fever. This is the boy who fell down from the bed just weeks before I came home in my last homecoming in April. Now when I only have less than 2 weeks before I return home, he's unwell. How I wish I could be there to hug him, kiss him and take away his heat and misery. And also the sad look of his lonely sister waiting for him to get well soon, to play with, just adds another pinch of salt into the already salty sadness........

Sunday, 19 July 2009

An Inspiring Death

There is a source of inspiration, even in death. My grandmother's uncle passed away recently at the age of 91. He succumbed to a complication in the intestines. There is no epic nor heroic tales that I could narrate about this old man. I hardly knew him. I didn't even know his name. We were kind of distant since I only met and exchanged very few words with him when I visited my mother's hometown in Serkam for weddings and funerals. I couldn't recall what he did for living when he was young. But I knew he worked in his farm. He was an ordinary man living a simple life, fulfilling his duties as a husband, a father, a grandfather and a member of the jemaah in the village mosque. The last duty is worth elaborated. The people in the village knew him as he had always been the man who walked to the mosque to perform the 5 prayers daily. Even on the days before his death with his deteriorating physical conditions, he was able to muster all his might and did not miss the jemaah. Old habit just dies hard. He stopped only on the day when he could not walk anymore and that was the day he died.

I came to know about his death when I last called my mother. This was what she said.
"Pagi tu bila dia tak boleh nak bangun, dia orang bawak dia pergi hospital. Tapi belum sempat sampai kat hospital, dia dah takde dah. Orang kampung pun buat pengumuman, orang yang paling tua kat kampung dah meninggal. Murah betul rezeki arwah Atuk Yang (Moyang) kau, penuh masjid orang datang sembahyang jenazah untuk dia..."

And my mother would not let me go without saying, "kau tu sembahyang jangan tinggal....."

We are all blessed with the seed of faith as newborns. As we grow and age, some of us are blessed with the strength to hold the faith above anything else. Some of us have just enough strength to juggle faith with everything else in life. Some of us have diminishing faith that can be fit in our pocket as we play and concentrate on other cards that seem to matter more in life. Faith may get greater or smaller; but it will not be lost, I think. Some of us may have misplaced the faith, as it may have been getting small and forgotten for a while.

It never occurs to me that the death of a simple old man who I hardly knew, as told by my nagging mother over the phone in a short long distance call, open my stubborn and dark heart to regain the faith.

Al Fathihah. Alhamdullillah.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Like Dates For Rambutans

Many years ago, I walked out of my boarding school, located in a sleepy place called Simpang Kerayong on Friday afternoons to go the mosque. Instead of making a bee line to the mosque dutifully and religiously, I found myself reaching for the bunch of rambutans and plucking them from the trees lined along the road between the school and the mosque. Damn it, those rambutans, freshly plucked and peeled in that sunny afternoon, were simply one of the juiciest things ever tasted in my younger years. It was the taste which was sweetened with the sins of stealing the fruits from their rightful owner and skipping the Friday sermon. Those days I reasoned that there was no point listening to the sermon delivered by somebody who just read the text and didn't understand what was delivered. One day we had a good laugh when the preacher mouthed the word Aedes, when it was supposed to be AIDS. So that was my excuse not to listen to him anymore and instead I took my time sucking the juice, nipping the sweet flesh of the rambutans and spitting off the seeds to the ground.

x x x x x x x x x x

Over a decade later, I was under the shade of cherry trees in Nagano. I had been better then. I paid to enter the cherry farm. I plucked the red cherries from the trees and feasted on them. They were fresh and juicy, but they were not as great as the stolen rambutans.

x x x x x x x x x x

Today is Friday, the off day for most working people in Dubai. I found myself at work on this Friday morning and thinking what to have for breakfast. An adventurous colleague of mine, who once worked in the tall oil rig in the middle of the Indian Ocean, climbed up a date tree in our factory compound and snatched down a bunch of ripe dates. The dates were washed and served on my desk. They were so sweet and soft that I had nothing else for breakfast. While feeding on the fleshy dates, I couldn't help thinking of the stolen rambutans. Some experiences are mentally framed forever.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Other

A friend that I met months back, asked about my wife. I said she is in Malaysia taking care of my kids and many others. I told him that she's a doctor. The friend that I met, then commented that doctors are not really up to date with the IT , gadgets and stuffs. Though I was reluctant to agree in general, I said, yes, my wife is not really into those IT stuffs. Well, she goes online in search for medical journals, occasionally she checks on my blog and others, but she doesn't trust online banking, she doesn't own a credit card and she doesn't give a damn about iPod, Blackberry, etc. She has been loyal to her Nokia hand phone, the basic model, until the day the phone failed her after years of service. She has bought a new Nokia now. I'm not sure what model, but it's definitely an upgrade from her old one since she can now send me photos. So now, though being miles apart, I am happy to see my kids blew the seven candles that signify the seven years of me being a father on the recent Father's Day, I can close up on Hadiff's medal on his Sport's Day and keep track of the growth of Aimi's front tooth which she had lost months back. My wife has also given me visual update on the renovation work of our house. Perhaps, she is not updating herself with the IT, up to the pace like some of us, but she's getting there when there's a need. It's just a matter of choice, definitely not an issue of capability. After all, an apple remains merely a fruit to at least half of the people on earth or even more.

Now that I have mentioned 'apple', I was having one for breakfast. I was thinking, if life in a year is like the red juicy apple, I have had the better half now and I'm looking at the other remaining half, which is turning brown so quickly. It's just a thought that crosses my mind, 'eat your apple quick or else it'll be badly brown, aged and wasted'. From now to year end, it's like a race against time to get things done and more things done. In between the bites of the half apple, I wish I will remember how sweet it is from the skin all the way to the core.

And by the way, I have booked my ticket home in the August. Indeed, I am busy pushing and being pushed at work during this high chocolate season, crunching my ab at the gym to shape out the 6-pack, running to get the engine started for the next marathon (how I wish I could be there running in the recent SC KL Marathon), yet I never miss counting the days to get home. Exactly, 32 days to go....

Saturday, 4 July 2009

An Ode of Shifting Space

As I packed my belongings
I tried hard to breathe in the memories
I left nothing but the dried roses
I hired a small pick-up to take away the little that I own
x x x x x x
x x x x x x
As I locked the door
I experienced the emotion
I made a promise to cherish the humble space
That was a home of mine since the last summer
x x x x x x

x x x x x x
I drove ahead
Heading to a new space
I was tired and sweaty on that humid summer day
Yet I felt fresh in my new found kingdom
Seeing the welcoming white weeds
x x x x x x

x x x x x x
In my new space
I felt the emptiness
I could hear the echo
I bought a TV, a washing machine and a fridge
So my new space is now vibrating
Then I bought a sofa set and a coffee table
So it is filled and stuffed
Later I will get a bed, an electric stove and a play station
So it will be a place to dream, dine and dodge
In my new space
I felt naked and exposed
The curtain man promised to come
But he missed his appointment
In the meantime, the bed cover keeps my privacy
x x x x x x

x x x x x x

In my new space

I waited for days

For the cable guy to come and get me connected

Now I have had the Internet and the cable TV

So the new drama begins.....

Sunday, 14 June 2009

A Little Talk To The Little One

Inspired by a book that I hooked up in my recent reading, I looked at an old photograph of a younger me. According to the book, in order to ignite the genius within, one needs to sharpen his sense of visualization by connecting the stimulus in front of him with his inner resources and experiences. So here, I have the stimulating object - the old photograph that one of my old friend had posted in the FB. It was taken in 1985, when we were twelve years old. The book instructed me to have a good look at the photograph, then close my eyes and visualize myself in the current state talking to that younger me. So I had this little talk....

The man : "Hi there! I'm YOU when you're old. How are you?"

The boy : "Good. But I'm expecting a better look of a man when I'm old. You're just too plain and ordinary."

The man : "Listen boy. Let me give you a few lessons in life. First, you're not going to be any supermodel, that's for sure. So let's just face it from now, physically you're going to be plain and ordinary. So start working out other ways to make the difference. It starts with the head. The head up here. At school, wake up and ask a lot of questions. That's the fast way to get smarter. Don't simply memorize what is written and regurgitate it in the exams. It's OK if you don't get all the right answers and you don't score an A, so long you understand the principles of the subject and able to think, to defend what you believe in and to challenge the doubt. And stay away from that plump boy who brings porn stuff to school. Porn is a hazard to intelligence. Get it?

The boy : "It's a little too late. He'd shown me stuff already..."

The man : "Never mind. A little porn won't kill. So what do you think you want to become when you're old?"

The boy : "A doctor"

The man : "Forget it, boy. You'll never become one and that's a good thing. Life as a doctor sucks, you get stuck with sick people for the rest of your hospitalized life. Someone special has told me that. You'd better believe her. Engineering is a better option to explore. But you need to pay more attention in your Physics and Chemistry classes later in your secondary school. Do your homework. You must be strong, fundamentally. Life is a journey, boy. Enjoy yourself and have fun every single day. Don't take yourself too seriously. For every single thing that makes you upset and frustrated, learn from it. Believe me, it happens for your own good. God has been very kind to you all the way long. Keep the faith and never keep Him out of your mind."

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Anchor

This morning I woke up and remained motionless on my bed. With my face pressed deep into my pillow, I was in my own world, manning a fishing boat in the middle of a calm bay, protected from the rolling waves of the open sea. It is the day to check my anchor.

It has been a year since I work here. There is no contract to review. I am an associate, employed as long as I want to and as long as they don't find a reason to terminate me. As I breathed through my pillow, I fished for 3 good reasons to stay after spending a year here.

I start my work with a fresh clean white uniform, nicely pressed and perfectly fit my form. The company treats the associate rightly as individual. A tailor came to our premise last year to take my measurement for the uniform. So I start my work everyday feeling special and unique. And it's not just about the uniform, it is about how the company treats the associates in just about everything else. I don't feel cheated, overused and underpaid.

I like what I deal with at work. I am here to make chocolate. I am able to taste the fruit of my labour. It is rich, smooth and sweet. It makes me happy. Well, I do curse some machines, shake some people, raise my voice a bit, get disturbed with some remarks and all, but the chocolate calms me down.

I just have to be myself. I don't have to be a hero. I don't have to put on a big wig to become a drama queen or a drag queen. I don't have to kiss any one's ass or lick any body's balls. It is made clear from the beginning, I am here to do the right thing for the consumers and for the business. The right things are based on the principles which are believed in and lived by. Of course, there are occasional Egyptian ego, Indian idiosyncrasies, French connection and other office politics that some people play, but these are the insignificant noises. I'm happy to work by the principles, along with many others tuning in the same frequency with the right magnitude.

Satisfied, I laid down the anchor for it to meet the ocean bed again. I'm settled in the right place. Well, I got up to face the day. It's time to undress the pillow and toss the pillow case with other smelly garments right into the washing machine for a good Friday wash.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Fish Sandwich and Onion Rings

It was an unprecedented experience in my 8 years of marriage that I have to celebrate my wedding anniversary alone on the first day of June. To begin with, I am so proud of myself that I didn't forget the date. On that day there was no fancy dinner and no red roses to offer to my significant other. For my own consolation, I hold on to the cliche, 'it's the thought that matters'.

I called home to wish my wife the 8th wedding anniversary wish. Believe it or not, she didn't even think of the anniversary until I called her. Her excuse was she had a busy day with a list of thing to do on a Monday morning and also she hadn't fully recovered from the weekend trip to Genting with my kids and my relatives from Singapore. I told her that I just woke up at noon and had cereals for lunch with lots of milk. She urged me to treat myself a fancy meal for dinner.

We talked again in the evening. She just had a juicy seafood platter at Manhattan Fish Market with my kids. Then they had a chocolate cake with 8 candles.

A few hours later, on the other side of the world, I walked into Burger King to pack my favourite fish sandwich and onion rings.

It was a tasteless anniversary, missing out the right ingredients. But looking at the big picture, a good marriage is not all about counting and celebrating the milestones. Though it is nice to do, the heart of the matter is about re-visiting the pledge, fulfilling it and maintaining the connection between the two souls. The soul doesn't recognise border and physical distance but it needs the on-going connection. Before the end of the day, I wish that I will be faithful to my marital pledge and my soul has a lifetime connection to my soul mate. With the will of God, as long as I am able to keep the flame, I don't mind the solitary anniversary dinner of fish sandwich and onion rings, this year, next year and the years to come.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Summer of 09 (This is not a new song)

May is ending for a new beginning.

It's a little too early to announce officially the arrival of summer for this year. But it's summer anyway. What else can it be when you're out there in the day, the temperature is as high as 49 degrees Celsius? A friend told me that it could be higher; but they would never highlight it as above 50 degrees or else they have to declare a holiday. Outdoor workers have started their siesta from 12:30 to 15:00 or else their employer will be fined up to Dh30,000 and banned from getting the permit to work. The sky is totally bare and blue. The clouds have gone away. Humidity is still bearable now but it is said that the monsoon in Mumbai will bring moisture that will push humidity to the uncomfortable zone in Dubai soon.

The AC runs the ultra-marathon daily. Thank God it's a centralised AC in my building. For summer's sake, it's not Haier.

Drinking water business should reach its peak as people are advised to drink more regularly. But it is the ice-cream that has been the popular craving.

Thin and skimpy clothes are popular summer wear. Some people really dress for it.

As the skirts get shorter, the days get longer. The sun is up as early as 05:30 and set as late as 19:00. Thank God, it's not a fasting month just yet.

Night time is a short retreat. Parks are merrier after sunset with families and friends having dinner picnic during weekend.

Runners like me, eat early dinner to have the night running, sometimes midnight running too.

And by the way, I have a pimple up there at the centre of my forehead. A pimple at the age of 36?? Strange. I thought of blame it on the weather. But on second thought, I like to believe that the summer makes me feel young again, like a beach boy of 17, carefree and footloose.

For all those staring at the sun at about the same angle from where I see it, have a happy summer....

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Many Happy Returns

Aimi is now seven. It is still clear in my mind that seven years back, I was sobbing shamelessly when I was alone at the hospital corridor. I lost all the ego and pride after going through an intense experience in one of the labour rooms in Putrajaya Hospital, after watching Aimi's head stuck on her way out and my wife kept pushing for hours. When my wife did the pushing, she squeezed my arms so I can imagine how painful it was. Aimi had somehow made a wrong turn just before her delivery. That had caused the complication. She was kind of hesitated to be with us. At one point in the labour room, I had thought of losing her. Eventually, with God's blessing she is now here with us in this world. Aimi's birthday is one of the most important event in my life. It is the day I have had the best gift from God which I have no words to express how thankful I am. So I travelled from the Middle East to Malaysia to be reunited with my girl. I was with my family, isolated and off lined to get the best out of the little time we had.

The simple celebration

She's not into any kind of dolls because they're not alive. Instead she loves animals.

She loves almost all sort of animals, including the slimy cold-blooded creature.

We're in our little hut seeing the rain

Indeed we had seen enough of the rain and when it stopped, we're thankful.

The girl and her father, messing with the sand.

At the floating edge feeling the wind and the waves

x x x x x x x x x

In one hot and humid afternoon, I dropped by at my son's school to see him in his Tae Kwando class. He was very happy to see me. He is a new kid in the arena. He just joined the class a couple of months back and has a white belt wrapped around his waist. In that class I can tell that in my presence, he has done his level best to show off all he's got. On our way home we had a little chat.

Me : Why is it so important that you must have the yellow belt, Dif Dif?
Hadiff : Neshan has a green belt. Kak Aimi has yellow. So I want to get the yellow and green belt too.
Me : I can see that you did great in there but did you do that because of your friend, your sister or me?
Hadiff : I told you that I want that yellow and green belt. My teacher says I 'm good.
Me : Of course you are. Then let's agree on something now. You want to get the yellow belt, then green and all the way to the black because you want to improve yourself, not because of your friend or Aimi or your teacher or me...
Hadiff : Papa, what's 'improve'?
Me : To do better la. And get better and better than who and what you're now. Your friend might go to a different school. Kak Aimi might find other interest. I might not be there to see all the great things you do. But if you do it because you want to improve yourself for the good reasons, then you'll always find yourself feeling good doing it. Got it?
Hadiff : Got it.

I am not sure how much of the idea of self-drive to self-improvement has really sunk in his head. I am not sure how much he has understood the depth of our little conversation. My point is that I will not be there to motivate him in all his future undertakings. I wish he is aware that within himself, there is a source of inspiration and motivation and this will make him mentally strong to survive even when he is alone in the barren desert. He did not say ' fifty, fifty ' this time. I'm sure one day he will get it.

x x x x x x x x x x

My wife has finally made her decision to sub-specialize in neurology, despite her initial intention to be a cardiologist. This has a lot to do with me being away and the kids' well being. Being a neurologist, she can spend more time with the kids since there will be less time in the hospital doing the on-calls and etcetera. I respect her decision which is purely a mother's sacrifice. She has put aside her own interest. Her decision has somehow disappointed her boss and the team in cardiology. Anyhow, she will be graduating with masters in internal medicine in August. Insyallah, I will be there to see her walk the stage to receive her masters. I still feel bad for not attending her graduation in Tasmania, years back.

It is going to be a while for me before my next home trip in August. This beautiful image of home is a magnetized milestone that keeps pulling me back.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Missed Calls of Misery

We have this machine, named ML1, in the chocolate factory. It has the lowest reliability performance in the last week report. And the week before. And weeks before. The reliability team for this machine has been under a lot of pressure to get the machine up and running, from the current 57% reliability to the target 80%. The expert for this machine from the reliability team was Gordon.

I was with Gordon in the office last night. We had a long trouble shooting and adjustment work at ML1. The cooling tunnel got stuck very frequently of late. There were mechanical misalignments at many critical points. Each time it happened, the chocolate got too cold due to the long storage and formed cracked lines. We had big time downtime to remove all the chocolate and to rework it. Gordon was our man to lead the corrective work. He has done all the precise alignments and new settings adjustment of the cooling tunnel. So we had this little talk in the office at 11PM last night.

Gordon : I'm leaving after 11PM. Since 7PM we don't have any carriage jam.
Myself : Tell me what you've done today.

My tone was a little sarcastic since I have heard the same assurance since few weeks but the problem kept coming back. He sensed that I was not convinced. So he took the trouble to take a piece of fresh paper and illustrate all his work today. In order not to discourage him, I was patiently listening to his explanation. It seemed endless, then I cut him.

Myself : Hey Gordon, we bought KFCs for the contractors working extra hours today. There are a few packs extra. Grab one before you go home, will you?

Gordon smiled at my thoughtfulness. He ended his explanation and headed to the cafeteria.
I was minding my own affair in the office. The server has been down. My work has been slowed. After about half an hour, Gordon came back with a happy full stomach. I signed off his late night transport arrangement.

Myself : Thank you for tonight. But stay tuned. I might call you up if we face a problem again.
Gordon : Ok.

He left the factory close to midnight. I left hours later. The next morning I woke up late. When I woke up my phone battery was low. So I charged it by my bedside. I left my apartment to pay some bills and did a little shopping at the Mall of Emirates. I'm flying home this Friday and I haven't bought anything to pack along. I spent hours there without carrying my mobile phone. When I got home, I had 7 missed calls. I noticed one of the numbers was my wife's. So I dialled.

My son Hadiff fell down from bed this morning. He has bruises on his cheek. He is in paediatric ward for further monitoring after he vomitted twice. My wife said there is nothing to worry. It's just a formality in paediatric practice just to be certain. It is a huge relief but the thought of my little boy sleeping in the hospital gives me some kind of uneasiness. Next, I dialled the other missed call. It was my counterpart, Harry's. Harry answered my call.

Harry : Man, we called you many many times. Have you heard?
Myself : What's wrong?
Harry : Gordon passed away.

It was hard for me to swallow. The man was with me last night. He was very much alive - no sign of dying, not at all.

Gordon has been with the company for a good 10 years. He died today of heart failure at the age close to 40. Life is short. Death seizes us without warning. I was one of those who occasionally pushed him to get results. He tried hard to prove himself. It might as well be that damn f***ing old machine and it's stupid design that stressed him up and killed him. It is a depressive thought that I was also playing a part when I was thinking of the possibilities of factors that push him to his early exit, leaving his wife alone in this world to raise his three young daughters. What a misery.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


I was lost in the real world for a while and had difficulty to find my way back to the blog sphere. Thankfully, I'm not dead and gone. Indeed, I have friends who held the torch high. They have guided and encouraged me to come back into this virtual space. So here I am. During the stint of my disappearance, I have been busy with a couple of things.....

The Home Search
My tenancy contract is expiring this June. It's the time of the year to check various sites in the net in search for a spot to live in from hundreds of options available. It makes no sense for me to continue renting in my current apartment when there are better and cheaper options available in abundance now. It's kind of nomadic when I really come to think about it. There is no permanence and no sense of belonging. I found myself checking out from one apartment to another, to see if I can fit in. One day I found this nice place in Dubai Marina, affordable (since the rental rate has gone down now and my accommodation allowance has been increased by 40%) but relatively pricey and deadly tempting. It's got a view to die for, from the balcony on the 9th floor. It was really a boastful view of the chic Marina Walk with the nicely moored yachts and the tamed green waterways which narrowly open to the Arabian Sea. A yearly rent for this apartment is equivalent to the full ownership of a single storey terrace house in Malaysia. Luckily, I'm 36, old enough to resist the temptations that are so rife in Dubai.

The view from an apartment that I almost signed an annual deal

My search has been quite extensive that my final decision has gone beyond my expectation. I have linked up with this desperate banker who offers me to own an apartment. It's a mutuality business deal given the current situation in Dubai where supply is exceeding the demand, people are losing their jobs and leaving Dubai and properties values have touched the bottom. The bank need buyers and cash. I need an affordable home. After a tedious scrutiny of my financial statements, my application has been approved. So now I can skip the annual home search and I have a place I own. I'm buying at almost the lowest price. If the property value bounces back and the rental rates goes high again in years to come, I am unaffected. The unit that I own is an apartment, not as breathtaking as the one in Dubai Marina, but it has a peaceful view from the balcony on the fourth floor. Looking down there is a courtyard, a square garden and close to a small swimming pool. I will have my hands dirty cleaning the apartment and probably I will be doing wall painting too. There will be furnishing work to be done next. By the way, the apartment is numbered 408. I really hope it's not going to be a freaky lost chamber in a wild and out-of-track time as shown in the movie 1408.

The view from the apartment that I finally signed an ownership deal

The bedroom window which I plan to fix a built-in settee for the daylight reading

The empty living room of my new apartment.

Joining the Club

My running has caused me to loose a lot of essential muscles. It freaks me out thinking that my mother, my mother-in-law, my grandma, my aunties and all, would nag me the next time they meet me. They would say repeatedly either " kau tak makan ke apa? " or " kau sakit ke? ". So I join this fitness club. They have assigned me a personal trainer to look into my needs, make a plan and assist me in the execution. My trainer is called Ren. He has trained many marathoners in Dubai. In our first session, Ren asked me, "So what do you want to achieve?". Really, I like this question as I am a dreamer and it has led me to endless happy dreams. But I only remembered telling Ren, "I want to clock in below 4 hours 30 minutes in my next marathon. In doing so, I want to maintain my ideal weight. I want overall good muscle tone with good flexibility. Mind you, I am 36 now. And I want that six packs too on my ab". Ren said, "Well, considered done". After that happy scoping session, life has been really tough for me. I am working out with Ren 3 times a week and he has really worked me out. It's regimental and dreadful. There are days when I wake up and can't have my limbs straightened. But it makes me feel good. No pain, no gain.

Back to the Desert
Amer, an extreme sport enthusiast and my other office mates had organized a marvellous desert trip for our team building and bonding last weekend. This has been my second outing in the desert. The desert setting was somewhat different from what I remembered in my first trip. We were there after series of rain that hit Dubai lately. The sand was moist and hard as our 4x4 traversed through it. It was not as barren as before. The rain has brought about patches of vegetation in the desert landscape. We had fun. The weirdest thing we did was taking turn to drive on the 4x4 blind-folded, while others gave direction. But kids, don't try it on your own.

The lost people in the desert and the green patches that grow after the frequent rain

The sightless lady boss driving in the desert - she's a natural cool driver

Coco Cola tastes better in the desert

Back Home
I have booked my ticket home on the 24th April to spend time with my daughter on her birthday. She is a Taurean, a really hard type to figure out. I am pondering on ways to reach her core in the nick of time. Another tough task that I'm also strategizing at the back of my mind. Lately my wife has informed that my daughter has displayed an early sign of unpleasant negativity, which worries me. In order to leave the chocolate factory for 11 days, I found myself soaked in my work trying to get things done well in advance.

So there you have them. My excuses for not blogging for the past 2 weeks.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Press Cutting

The Earth Hour is over now. What is left now is the conscience at the back of the minds for those who support this initiation and also the commitment to do our bits. As for me, I have my words heard and printed in today's Gulf News.

The reporter decided to put on the print the photograph in which I was backing the camera. I was chatting with a friend, Ahmed who came with his gorgeous girlfriend to join the crowd. So I was not on the spotlight. Ahmed's girlfriend (the girl standing between the A and R) and my Karrimor grey backpack are the ones shine in the limelight.

Reading on, I saw my details and words being printed. It is kind of weird feeling. I was a little shy, a little honoured and a little disbelief. Overall, I consider Kevin, the reporter, came out with about 80% accuracy in his story telling. It's a good job considering hardly any story is 100% accurate. If I were given a chance to amend a bit, I would remove the word 'extremely' since I have no recollection at all of using that word that night and also to replace the sentence 'my wife and children attended the similar event in Kuala Lumpur' with 'my wife and children switched off the lights and watched a movie in Klang'. That's the truth though it's a lot less favourable. Anyway, the man has to do with what he has to do in that nick of time, in the darkness, with the crowd and all the noises.

The full report can be read by clicking here.
Lastly, Kevin made a small error in his report. They were not candles that spelled EARTH HOUR. They were battery-operated miniature lights. Luckily, they didn't use candles, otherwise when it rained, the aliens would laugh at our snuffed candles.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Earth Hour

I called home at about 4:30PM (Dubai time) to check on my wife and kids. I was imagining that they would in the dark in our home in Klang and I thought it would be good for story telling in their dark hour. Well, the story telling in the dark is a thing in the past, I guess. Not for my wife and kids as they were waiting outside the cinema for a movie show. They participated the Earth Hour by simply not being at home. Nevertheless, I did get a story from my son, Hadiff. This is how the story goes.

" Once upon a time, there was a cowboy. That's me! The cowboy lives with the king, that's papa and the queen, that's mama. The cowboy found a chicken (not hen, mind you) that lays egg. The egg becomes golden egg. So the king and the queen live happily ever after, thanks to the cowboy. The end. "

We asked him why his sister Aimi did not play any part of the story. He said cheekily, " Oh, she's just a cow ".

* * * * * * * * * *

A friend of mine thinks Earth Hour is nothing more than a cheap, feel good gimmick. He speaks his mind clearly in the FB. I guess he has seen enough to see another coming.

* * * * * * * * * *

Another friend of mine was too eager to get the Earth Hour started that she got herself ahead of time by 24 hours and thought she had missed it. Luckily, she expressed herself in FB and someone else pointed out to save her Earth Hour.

* * * * * * * * * *

We all have our different take over this matter. I was there at The Walk watching the event. A reporter from Gulf News asked me what I think about the event. I said, "it's for a good cause. It may be a gimmick, but it's a world wide gimmick that unites all those who are concerned in conserving the Earth. There are many children coming here tonight and this gives the parents something positive to talk about to their children". I am not sure what may come out if they ever decide to put my quote and photo on the paper tomorrow. We'll see.

So, Earth, if you're reading this, I hope you enjoy your happy hour as much as the people who love you.
By the way it rained in Dubai during the Earth Hour, at around 9PM.

Preparation before the Earth Hour - The big words 'EARTH HOUR' being laid on the beach

The sitting arrangement for some important earthlings during the Earth Hour

The sitting arrangement for the little earthlings who would be doing the colouring work

Voila! The big words 'EARTH HOUR' glow in the dark for aliens to see

Moments before the Earth Hour at The Walk

During the Earth Hour at The Walk - can you see the aliens living above us? Ha ha ha

Before the Earth Hour at Dubai Marina

During the Earth Hour at Dubai Marina - Any difference? You tell me...

The Emaratis sing in the dark

Others eat with and without the lights

It's better to be hopeful rather than be hopelessly ignorant, I think.

They don't give free things in Dubai that often but tonight I get free T-shirt and refreshments too.