Sunday, July 29, 2018

Kid with Class

I was having my Bakso Komplit, at one street  corner of Jakarta,  when she approached me at my table.

Looking at her unkempt self, I knew I have to buy whatever she was selling.

"Berapa?" I asked her. "Lima ribu," she replied.  From her size, I thought she is no older than 7. But may be she is 9, who knows. In any case,  she should not be out in the street at that hour of the night.

It won't cost me much, so I picked up a packet of Bika, and promptly gave her a 10k note (on purpose as I definitely have multiple notes of 5k in my wallet).

She said she did not have the change, and asked if I could give smaller note. I told her, the balance is hers.

You know what happened next; she put another packet of kue - a tepung talam look-alike, on my table. I tried my best to put it back, pleading with her that I am full, and that I could not eat them all.

And she quickly disappeared from the shop. I only managed to take this picture of her leaving.

Paying for my bakso, I told the cashier my story. She reiterated what I already knew.  That little girl would never accept alms or charity, and would refuse your money, if you won't take her kue.

She has dignity, unlike many other able bodied men of Jakarta looking for alms that I have met. I hate to be interrupted, while having my dinner, by bad guitar-playing guys singing out of tune looking for hand-outs, but this little girl is in a class of her own.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Makassar, here I come

Less than five days to go, and counting.
I am in trepidation, but I am looking forward for a trip to Makassar to visit a former teacher of mine, who used to teach Sains Paduan and Fizik in high school in 1977-79. I have always been on the lookout for my three bapaks from high school and two of them passed away before I could meet up with them.
In Bapak Maryoso's case, just the with knowledge that he hailed from Pekalongan, my brother went to Education Dept in Pekalongan to seek info on bapak and by chance, the person there knew of a Bapak Maryoso who went to Malaysia to teach in the 70s. He returned to Jawa in 1977 and according to that person, he went back to Malaysia and apparently his family now lives in Selayang.
No, he had passed away.
Just like Bapak Muljadi, though in Bapak Muljadi's case, he was so near too as he was living in Seremban.
So after knowing Bapak Mappa's whereabouts, I am not taking any chance and immediately arranged a ziarah trip to visit Bapak. Fortunately, my buddies from KB76, Zul Maon, and Rozhan are willing to join me to visit as part of entourage to visit Bapak.
Bapak is now 86, and is apparently healthy.
Bapak is part of the 3 science teachers who taught and prepared us for integrated science for the SRP exams and we did so well then. Part of the credit for science has to be given to Bapak (with Cikgu Ghazali and Shaari), if I remember correctly. They probably work harder than us for SRP 78 with daily tests, and quizzes.
He went on to teach us Physics for F4.
What makes this trip more interesting and more 'meriah' is that Cikgu Dr Fatanah will be joining us too. We have the KNAP story to tell Bapak, and I am sure from teachers' perspectives, there are many stories to be told.
Sunday 5 February. Makassar, and Bapak Mappa, here we come.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Haj 2015 - My Last Haj?

I was apprehensive before I started the journey, but once we got started, I think we never looked back.

We had our share of predicaments - especially in the beginning, but in the end, I thought it was a moving journey. That's how I would remember my haj.

I was never into it - all these years; too young, too busy, too many people etc, and hence I never offered to chaperon Mak. Even much later, I was nonchalant about it. Without my uncle and auntie pushing me to join them for haj, I would not have made it.

I am not proud to admit.
The Two Haji and Hajah  were all smiles and looking forward to return home after performing the haj

I was considering of canceling my journey due to the piles I was having. Should I have done that, I am sure it would take me a few more years to plan another journey.

After all the dusts have settled, and despite my criticisms of the management of haj, I would like to strongly encourage all muslims to do their haj if they have not done so. I have only mentioned the physical aspects of the journey and have not touched the spiritual aspects at all. I had read the book by Maulana Zakariyya, thanks to my in-law Hj Roslan, so I am not going to elaborate on them; I know I can't beat the eloquence of the Maulana. Know the physical aspect of the haj rituals, and then follow up by the spiritual aspects. You would not go wrong with it. I thought haj is a moving ritual of Islam that take you to another level.

A beautiful story on the haj was shared by my Auntie MC Kam just prior to my trip. It is about a story of a person who had never performed the haj, but apparently for that particular year, his "haj" was the only mabrur haj conferred.

All he said to Him, with his feet firmly planted at his hometown thousands of miles away from Makkah, "Oh Allah, my haj is here!"

I thought by going for this long and arduous jouney, I would be blessed by him. I thought by spending my saving for this has, I would be granted one. Instead someone who had never laid his foot on the Makkan soil was rewarded - the shoemaker from Damsyik. His name is Muwaffaq. I don't know how true the story is since it involved a dream, but I would take it at face value. After giving away 300 dirham he had saved for his journey for haj to the widow with 7 children who were cooking and eating carcass ("My food is halal for me, but haram for you, she told Muwaffiq."), he said, "Oh Allah, my haj is here (at his neighbour doorsteps and not in Makkah)" since he can no longer afford to travel to Makkah.

And yet his was the only one accepted by Him, and he did not even set his foot in Makkah.

Allahu Akbar.

As such, I thought 2015 would be my last haj. I am not planning to go again. I know it is a bit to definitive to say it here - if Allah wills it, then you go again, but somehow I felt so strong about it. You are supposed to go once in a lifetime, if you can afford it. Then you go only once. If I have the means to go for haj again, I thought I should give it to someone who deserve to go; someone with a better chance for a mabrur haj, instead of me. Not only due to monetary cost, but considering visa limitation.

I hope I would be blessed for assisting someone with his haj. If he gets mabrur haj, surely Allah will reward me too. InsyaAllah. We should all be looking for Muwaffaqs in our midst. I know insyaAllah I would be looking for mine.

I do hope that He will bless me with the mean to give someone else the opportunity to perform it. Or help others with the money you want to use for your second haj. Get them out of poverty. Sponsor a student. Build a mosque. Or orphanage. Whatever you fancy,

I kept on telling my staff and my boys since coming back and encourage them to plan their way. I am not sure if umrah is even necessary unless they have the mean do it before Haj. But it is not even compulsory.

Just do it. He will reward you more than you had spent on your haj.

I know I should not say that this was my last haj. You must wish to go again. We should all have ambitions to be His guests, but I am looking from the perspective of the law within our religion.

Once in a lifetime, if you can afford it. (Not " If you can't afford it, once in a life time! It gives totally different meaning.)

Arafah after Haj. At last I was able to stand here and du'a!

Haj 2015 - Part VII Stoning and the 8 km walk

We normally left Mina by about 2 am in the morning. Had a quick sleep in the comfort of our rooms before the dawn prayer, and then only rest during the day before repeating the cycle. 

So on the day of the 11th, we left Makkah to have our second stoning  ritual. This time around there was no Zaki driving us around. We had to take the cab this time around. We are told, it will be tougher to enter Mina during the day with many roads closed.

So I think the cab charged Riyal 100 for the 7-8 odd km trip to Mina for the five of us. I am not sure; Ustaz Jufri handled all the transactions for us.

The road leading to the Jamrah - one can only walk
It was nearly midday when we arrived on the 11th Zulhijjah. I can assure you the day was so bright, and it was hot.

It was quite a distance for us to walk from the Mina town centre to the Jamrah. But it was an easy walk. Every few hundred metres, some people would spray water on to you to ensure you are kept cool. Wonderful. There are many ways for you to earn deed for your hereafter. Only that I wonder why the government did not bother have the auto spray fan along the path to the Jamrah. May because it was only a once in a year affair, unlike at the Grand Mosque where there will be people all year round.
Paksu and Hj Halim at the back and this time around we have extra assistant handling our drinks for the walk

But still, you are talking about 2-3 million people plying the Jamrah yearly; surely it will be money well spent.

The first day was a shorter walk - around 5 km, and we had no problem getting a cab back to the Grand Mosque. It was one happy walk doing the stoning. Even at midday, it was an easy ritual; we could do the stoning right at the edge of each Jamrah. I would not say it was crowded - crowded is relative of us. I am sure they were many people, but we weren't threaten with any risk of an incident. 
Don't laugh; it was ustaz Jufri's idea that he purchased this mini head umbrella for our walk in the hot sun. IN the back ground is Mina town

It was barely 24 hours of the Mina stampede incident.

We were happy campers completing our stoning rituals. I did not take any pictures while we were stoning. It is not important to take picture. We were trying to concentrate doing the tasks at hand, and did not bother with the nitty gritty of selfie and picture taking. Furthermore, we thought we want to maintain certain dignity in performing the haj.

The second day was a tougher day. More road closure, and our journey took a different path and it involved the two tunnels leading to the Jamrah. 
12th Zulhujjah stoning. This time through the tunnels you can see in the background. Much longer walk. See the spray bottle I was holding in my left hand. That is the most important piece of Haj tool that I can ever imagine. I managed to keep myself cool with spray of water.
All in all, we walked about 8 km that day. I left my GPS running and have my S Health monitor my walking distance. Much more that I had ever done. But the heart and limbs were willing so there was no issues about walking. We also knew that that would be our last ritual. 

We would be done by the 12th of Zulhijjah.

But we were tested on the last day - not only on the distance that we walked, but we could not get a cab to come back to the Grand mosque.
Large crowd during the second day

Actually we did find a few cabs willing to take us, but they would want a few of Ry200 per person, making it Ry1000 for a 7 km trip to Makkah. It is too much to pay. We would think that these cab drivers would maintain certain dignity and not overcharge the Guests of Allah, but even in this holy land, everybody was working for themselves only.

Sad to say, isn't it?

I guess it is like working hard for a the haj month, or even for for days of Haj, and not having to work again for the remaining months of year. Wonderful, no?

View from inside the cab taking us back to al Haram. It was a reasonable jam going to the Grand Mosque, but you should see the jam of all the roads leading to Mina. It was really bad, but by this time, we were going the opposite way
Anyway, it took us about 2 hours waiting for our cab. We walked and walked, and stop somewhere to have chai - wonderful hot chai to rest our tired - really tired - limbs.

And after a while, it struck us that we may never get a cab, so we asked Ustaz Jufri on how far it would be for us to walk back to al-Haraam.

"About 7 km, through that tunnel. At the end of it would be the Grand Mosque. We can see the tunnels, but we have walked for 8 km already, we weren't ready to walk another 7 km.

But we knew we may not have a choice.

Redha. Just do it. 

We decided that since Allah has decided for us that we need to walk, about all the ease of performing the Haj, then we have to redha to His wishes. 

We will walk the extra miles, we told Ustaz Jufri. He has been all so stressed up since he could not get a cab for us. We can see in on his face. Since we had agreed to walk, we told him to bring with him more cold drinks for that journey.

But God is great, the moment you leave your fate to Him, and readied yourself to walk, a cab arrived and agreed to take us for Ry 200 per cab.

Alhamdulillah, we cried with joy.

I know the concept of redha, but I had never seen how quickly one was rewarded by being redha.

Allahu Akbar.

Haj is quite a physical ritual. You need to be strong. You need to be healthy. Young people should be the one going - not old folks. It will be tougher for them. It did strain my muscles. I am not sure how to handle the remaining 7 km  walk, if we had to walk that day.

It will be tough for sure. We might have to crawl.

After the ease of Haj on the first day, the last day was the most challenging. But still it was nothing like many had experienced. I thought my journey was so simple. And for me to be more thankful, I was also in the pink of our health throughout the Haj period. Not a tinge of sore throats or any of the common illness. My piles by this time had gone completely by Haj time.

Trust in Him. He will only test you what you can handle and surely he knew our limitations.

Haj 2015 - Part VI Mina - Beraduku tikarnya jalan, bumbungnya langit, lampunya bulan

We have decided while in Makkah that we were not going to go stay in the tents in Mina. It is not because of the experience of Arafah. It is just we felt that we would be more comfortable in our hotel in Makah and commute on a daily basis for Jamrah and due to some health issues of our members.

There are two elements of the the final ritual of Haj - the stoning ritual. I consider it the final since we have completed the Nafar Awal i.e. done our tawaf and Saei. The first element is that we need to stop for awhile at Mina - a stopover, if you must, before we do the stoning. In other words, the definition of s stop-over is that it has to exceed half a night.

In other words, we need to sleep over at Mina the night before, before we can do the stoning on the Tasyrik Days of 11, 12 and 13th of Zulhijjah. 

So after resting that Raya day of the 10th of Zulhijjah, while monitoring the tragedy of the stampede on-line, after Asr prayer, we made a move to go to Mina. As it is basically the peak of Haj, many roads leading to the Al-Haraam have been closed and hence Zaki would not be able to pick us up at the hotel and take us to Mina.

We would have to take the bus from the Haraam and go to main terminal of Makkah. All buses going in and out of Makkah daily and hence vehicles are allowed. IT is only a 5 minute bus ride and you can imagine the crowd.

Nothing much you can do about it.

It is not bad actually. It adds up to the Haj experience.

The terminal in Makkah. Ustaz in the foreground and the clock tower where we started in the background. At most it was a 10-min bus ride

It is the 11th night of Zulhijjah, so you can see the moon in the background high up, while we waited for Zaki to arrive. Traffic is an issue during Haj

Another view of the bus terminal. Dont ask about the name of the terminal, I would not remember
Once Zaki picks us up, normally he would go and buy foods for dinner that night before heading to Mina. Obviously he would ask us what we want to eat and we would tell ustaz Jaffri to bring his his (Indonesian) sambal as side dish.

We would probably enter Mina by 7.30 or so. It is still early. Most pilgrims were in the tents, so the road leading to Mina, or the side road were reasonably empty. Zaki knew exactly where to find the right spot for our Mabit in Mina.

By the side of a four-lane road that nobody use. It was only a 3-min walk to the tents of Mina, and yet we were in our own world.
MIna on the 11th of Zulhijjah night. We are ready for our Mabit
Getting ourselves comfortable for our mabit. Not quite berlantaikan asphalt, but you know what I mean ;) You see the ice box? Meaning we will have free flowing iced drink through out the night.
Zaki knew every each of Makkah and its surrounding and I don't recall how many times he has taken pilgrims performing haj. He knew exactly where to park the car and we should do our Mabit.

 We are just above the tunnel leading to the slaughter house for the Haj.
The tunnel near our site. It leads to the slaughter house for the Haj

I can assure you that this is very comfortable. I guess it was quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of the tent area, so we have some privacy to sleep in the open. But more important, the weather cooperate - night time in Mina is really comfortable.
Getting ourselves comfortable. We will be here for the next 5 hours or so

At the back of our spot is the two-storey restrooms

Our space in relation to the pilgrims' tents in Mina. As I have said, we are only 3 mins away from their tents.
Before anything else, we have to have our dinner. Oops, not true, we did our prayer first, before we filled out our carpet with food - mandey on first night, and chinese foods on the second night.
Yes, yes, it was a feast each night with hot dinner and very cold drinks. Wonderful. You want iced-water, we have iced water even until the end of the mabit each night.

I walked to the pilgrims' tents. The second night, I was supposed to have teh tarik and ice-cream with Haji Judane at his tent, but he was down with  fever. I went looking for him and even paged for him at the clinic. The tents were comfortable during the night, but I dreaded thinking about during the mid-day sun as they have no airconditioning.

Maktab 86 is where many Malaysian pilgrims would stay. I was supposed for have tehtarik session but in the end I walked away empty handed due to Judane illness.

I could not think how I can survive here. NOt only due to the number of people, but also due to the non-airconditioning of the tents. I believe that is due for an upgrade very soon. Many of the elderly collapse due to dehydration and the heat.

Maktab 86
My only other take about the tent conditions would be the mountain-high garbage pile and the rats manning those garbages. Yes, al-Haraam is very clean with the number of cleaners on duty each hour, and they should adopt same cleanliness standard here.

I have no doubt that many fell sick here due to the cleanliness issues.

I really would recommend any future haj goers to take this route and commute on a daily basis from Makkah. It is much more comfortable, if you are looking for comfort. But if you want to experience what the others experienced, yes, you can stay at Mina.

I am very happy and satisfied with this method. Staying for 5 to 6 hours each night on Tasyrik nights is a good alternative. Sleeping in the open is quite an experience not many would go through except those hardcore pilgrims who came without hotel arrangement. I did not take any picture of us sleeping, but I can assure you we slept like a log. We needed the forty wink each night. It was quite a strain on some of us physically. Haj is quite physical, so sleeping anywhere in the comfortable weather of Mina is indeed a wonderful experience.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Haj 2015 - The Mina Stampede

We were all resting in the room that morning of the incident. We had completed our Nafar Awal by Dawn prayer's time, and I guess after breakfast, we went back to have a rest, and may be atch much needed sleep. We had slept sporadically in the last 24 hours - a couple of hours at Mudzalifah, most likely and that was it.

In bed, we were perhaps surfing or on Facebook when we heard the news about the stampede and the 700 odd pilgrims who died at Mina. Obviously we were a bit overwhelmed by the news of the tragedy, but we were nowhere Mina when it happened. In fact, we were all resting in the comfort of our room. After all, we had completed our Aqabah at midnight.
Taken from BVI News

As the tragedy unfold, we were reminded how this year's Haj had become the worst in term of tragedy, in the past 25 years, and it was not a record we would like to associate our haj with. But fate had it that we were here - never mind we were 8 km away.

And of course we were soon be bombarded with wassap messages about our well being.

I don't really know what transpired at Road 6 at Mina, but there were stories about how certain roads at Mina were closed  at that time due to the presence of a Saudi prince. I was not surprised; we were ourselves stopped just after the tunnel due to the presence of a convoy purportedly of the royal families. Fortunately it took about a couple of minutes, so there was no untoward incident.

But should it lasted a few more minute, bigger crowds would have built up, and we can only guess the consequences of such build up.

I believe that the Saudi police or mosque security should learn more about crowd control. For all the years of managing pilgrims over the past hundreds of years, they are somehow incompetent in my eyes. I am sorry to have to say this, but they should know better how to handle the Guests of Allah, and not treat the pilgrims with disdain!

(They should learn how Disney staff handle visitors at their park - with a lot of smiles, and enthusiasm, but at the Grand Mosque, the staff and security think of us as a chore; that we are disturbing their leisure time with their handphones.)

I put the responsibility of the Mina tragedy solely in the hand of the Saudi government, and nobody else. The pilgrims were not to be blamed.

Many times at the Grand Mosque, the mosque security cordoned off, or closed certain gate, which I took as for no reasons. Let me explained. We were at least 1 hour away from Maghrib prayer, and the whole of the Dataran infront of the Clock Tower were filled up to the brim with pilgrims. Even the mall has started to fill up.

I guess many pilgrims simply were reluctant to go inside the mosque for reasons best known to them. Lazy, tired, too far - whatever the reasons, they simply took up the space available in the open space between clock tower and say King Abdul Aziz gate.

Sp after managing to squeeze past through the sea of people, the security closed the door with escalator leading to the roof the mosque. We knew that the roof was empty - we can see it from our room. Puzzled as to why the door was blocked, many pilgrims including us, simply wait at the door, hoping that they will open it in due time.

The crowd started to build up. They have no else to go; the open space had been filled up to the brim. The security officer was instructing us - the crowd, but not knowing Arabic, they might as well talked to the wall.

The wall might listened.

After about 10 mins, the crowd had swell to a large one. 

And then they opened the door.

The crowd simply push forward. And many were squeezed in as the door has a limited space and the crowd gathered were much bigger than the door width. Many scrambled to get it. No matter what you said about not pushing, many were simply doing that. They would push, they would shove you aside in order for them to get ahead (of you). People were competing with each other to get the best spot; to be neared to Kaabah, or whatever the reasons may be.
Can you see that even at the peak of Haj, we have ample of space to pray? You may remember the Saudi Third Expansion. The floor space is enormous. Why on earth would they closed the doors leading to this rooftop area for it to become a free for all?

I can tell you that many were nearly trampled. If they can jump over somebody, they would do it.

It was sad to see us pilgrims resorting to this.

But the irony was when we reached the roof section (open air), there were as empty as it can be. Crowds hundreds of time bigger can be accommodated there without any problem. Even until isya prayer, one can still came up and have a luxury of space upstair.

The question is why the escalator door was closed in the first place? Who gave that order? Did it come with knowledge ie was there a CCTV showing the space at the top? Why later it was open? Paksu and I were puzzled. We could not comprehend it at all.

It seems that they were all done at the whim and fancy of somebody and without proper understanding of crowd control and herd mentality.

It was sad.

Many could have been crushed that evening,  but lucky nothing untoward happened. Otherwise I may not be here to relive the tale.

And to change topic, we tried to stay away from the crane and tried to project the path it would fall and move away from that path ;)

The Grand MOsque security people or the police have to be smart. First and foremost, language is a barrier. Not everybody can speak Arabic, and most of them can barely speak English.  Never mind that Arabic is the official language of Islam, but they are serving the Guests of Allah. Be humble and learn other languages so that the Grand Mosque can serve the pilgrims better.

It is not too much to ask. MOst of the time they were only chatting amongst themselves.

They can expect the pilgrims to be on best behaviour.  We come from many countries with different cultures and education.

Due to many incidents like this - near misses, if we can use that term, I strongly believe that the road at certain part of Mina were cordoned off for somebody high up there.

My kids's piano school owner once asked of me about the incident I told him how the crowd were asked to leave their saf since the King of Malaysia was visiting. And our Yang DiPertuan Agong was only about 4 saf away from us.

"I thought everyone is equal there?" Commander James asked me. He was curious.

"Well, commander, yes everybody was equal there."

"But I guess some are more equal than others!"

Haj 2015 - Raya at the Tower Food Court

So we were done with our Nafar Awal by 4.45 am, 10 minutes before down/subuh. I did mine after subh prayer. We went to the barber at the basement and I asked for a 1 centi cut. I don't want it to be too short; I won't look good.
ZamZam Tower barbers - Taken from

But the barber did not even adjust it his haircut instrument. He just pick it up and give it a blast over my head. I should have known better. I was left with only 1 mm of hair!

It is ok. The more the merrier, I said to myself. All my sins will be washed away with the weight of my hair.

Soon we made our way to the hotel for a proper clean-up. We have been away for nearly a day.  But since we were early, Ustaz Jufri and I decided to have a quick breakfast at the Mall food court and not bother with the hotel restaurant. We were both dressed up - I in baju Melayu and Ustaz in his jubah. Both were immaculate since we even had the time to iron it at the room.

It is after all Hari Raya Aidil Adha morning and we are supposed to have our breakfast before the solat prayer. "So ustaz, what is the solat time here in Makkah," I asked him.

"I think it is 7 am. it is early."

So by 6 am, we were having breakfast, and chatting about what we went through the past 24 hours. I thought it was quite an achievement to complete the Nafar Awal without much hiccup. There was no rendang and ketupat, and we were not complaining. We weren't even thinking about it.

But all of the sudden, we heard a call for prayer. We looked at each other and then at our cellphone - none of us had a watch. It says 6,30 am.

"Allahu Akbar," 

The imam was starting the Eid Adha prayer, and we were still at the food court.

So we rushed down.

Nothing much we can do, except to pray at the Mall together with others. It was reasonably full. There was no way we could have reached the Haraam in time if we want to join the prayer in the first rakaah.

There was no Raya takbir to warn us, and to melt our hearts, if you know what I mean. The imam was a bit to quick for us.  We nearly missed it, but luckily we didn't. Of course the subsequent khutbah was done in Arabic, so we have no clue to what the sermon was all about.

I am sure not many pilgrims had the opportunity to solah Eid at the Haraam, especially when doing one's haj. I am told that there is no solat Eid at Mina; it was after all a sunaat prayer and not q requirement for haj.

But alhamdulillah, we were in Makkah and had a taste of solat Eid, albeit at the Tower Mall.