Home Sweet Home & Raden Galoh

We are back, and I was almost sorry to leave Luqman at home to resume office. After almost two weeks of spending intense time together, the poor child thought his father and I are never going back to work again. 

Above is my favourite shot of the whole trip. Husband snapped that onboard river cruise from Fremantle Port back to Bell Tower Harbor in Perth. Indian Ocean spread menacingly in front of the deck; blue sky set azure on the horizon; traces of pregnant clouds hang low. Luqman snuggled near me every time the chilled winter breeze swept over. 

But life – as it is unavoidably so – has many tricks on our plate. Yesterday, fellow blogger (now turned close friend) texted me to inform that her doctor has found three lumps in the left lobe of her liver.

Dalilah – bearing a pen name of Raden Galoh –  needs no introduction in the blogsphere. She pencils down her courageous spirit in fighting cancer on her blog, One Breast Bouncing. She recently published a book, Kanser Payudaraku, detailing the face- off she had with breast cancer.

As we speak, she is waiting for her turn to see the surgeon at HKL. I pray to God for the damn lumps to be benign. You could do the same too. We walk with you, Dalilah. 

Who’s your Paediatrician?

Hi! I am back and healthy. 

A friend of mine asked on Facebook: Who is the best paed in town. She needs the information to get the best care for her young girl. Her question has triggered an avalanche of answers from the new age parents on Facebook. 

I am writing today to share my experience about the best paed in my book. Of course, I have met a fair share of arrogant-compassionless-I-am-always-busy kind of paediatrician but let’s just leave it at that. 

Here’s what I wrote on my friend’s Facebook and hope the experience would help us all in picking the right doctors for our children. 

Excuse me dear, 

Hi Tun Hisan. I know! The que at Musa’s so long right? But Musa, to me at least, embodies all criteria to be an excellent paed. 

He listens, he answers questions, he removes your doubt, he tells you off (nicely) when needed, he does not worry you unnecessarily. 

He is always certain of what is best for your child, and he is always right too. 

He fix the IV needle onto your child’s hand himself, he never lets the nurses do that. I saw him did a Subuh prayer at the hosp and only left around 11 p.m. when my son was under his care. He lives and breathes the paed department in DSH.

He takes the trouble to remember your child’s ailments and allergy. He won’t remember your name though. 

Most importantly, in moments of panic (you will when your child are prone to fits), he answers your call and sms. 

I know all these because I went through hell when my child was sick and Dr. Musa, besides bringing my child to this world, had saved his life too. God bless Dr. Musa.

Confessions of a Bookholic

I STEAL time from my family to read anything that comes between my hands. I creatively invent excuses (okay, even lie) to get out of doing household chores, giving myself time to curl up in a forgotten corner somewhere, to romance the words away.

Hello, my name is Elviza and I’m a bookaholic.

On salary day, I buy books first before thinking of helping my husband pay for the home mortgage, car loan or that financial evil called the credit card. In moments of weakness, selling off the jewellery my mother-in-law bequeath me comes to mind, for I so want to go again on a shopping spree at Borders and MPH. Holding some new purchases should cure this insatiable desire for books – for a little while till I need to devour more.

I read in the dark; I read in the car while waiting for the traffic light to turn green; I read in the courtroom. Once, the interpreter ticked me off because she’d had to shout my name thrice before I finally looked in her direction. In her stoney expression, coupled with hostile body language, arms almost akimbo she chided, “Kalau nak
baca buku, balik rumah, yer?”

As I am now bereft of cash (and no financial institution in its right frame of mind would dare flash a new credit card in front of me) — stealing books, while seeming to be an increasingly viable option, is not really viable at all. I can’t be a prisoner mother.

A new option recently dawned: Let’s do the library. A self-professed book junkie, I have never set foot in the National Library. Did I just hear you snort?

On Tuesday, I stood at the entrance  to the National Library, thinking, What a hideous building this is! A hideous building frequented by a bunch of nerds? A potentially disastrous combination. Nobody would want to be seen here if they had a life – but since I have almost none without books, this potential borrower braved it.
I strode ahead to the registration counter.

The entire process took less than 15 minutes, at a cost of 10 sen for the counter staff to photocopy my IC. So far so good for a person on the brink of bankruptcy.

I proceeded to level one, which houses the reference books for local school examinations together with a row of computer terminals with Internet connection.

Disoriented in a new environment and with no concrete plan for the day, I approached a cluster of boys at a computer, trying to get a peek at what they were peeping at on the screen. The boys stared at me, and body language blocked my view. As I was still standing behind them, one of them whined, Kami baru 15 minit pakai computer ni Kak!

What’s your problem, kiddo?

That was when I sighted the label on the monitor: Penggunaan internet adalah terhad kepada satu jam setiap pengguna. Out of spite (anyway I swear they were playing games instead of doing something constructive), I said I would be back in exactly 45 minutes to claim my rightful throne (all the while laughing inside, poor kids!).

After terrorising the juveniles on school holiday, I took the spiral staircase to level two which houses the Kesusasteraan Melayu books, between aisles 300 and 399. Since I had made the blunder of mentioning Usman Awang and Tongkat Warrant like they weren’t one and the same person in my third column, I had vowed to improve my rusty Kesusasteraan at all costs.

After a browsing of the shelves, I now feel able to give a more nuanced opinion about the place: the shelves are badly arranged; the genres are mixed up; and the
translated versions of timeless novels like Madam Bovary, The Great Gatsby and The Prince and the Pauper are on the same shelves with Malay literature pieces. I burst out laughing when I spotted a translated version of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick titled Ikan Paus Putih. How else would you translate ‘Moby Dick’? I think the
translated novels need their own shelves.

My adventure in this book heaven came to an abrupt halt when the librarian tapped on my shoulder and subsequently told me she was going home. The clock pointed at 7 and I had been reading, while sitting on the floor, Salah Asuhan by Abdul Moies for five hours. That’s hardly my fault since this is a nonborrowable book.

Don’t ask me why. All material on that level is meant for reference only.

And did I also mention that, since May 2009, you can recharge the battery of your laptop in the library for free?

That’s much better than certain mamak joints that charge you RM1 for plugging in.

● Elviza Michele Kamal (http://elviza.wordpress.com) wants to live in Skoob Books but she doesn’t think that ‘Say You Say Me’ guy would let her.

Update from Insurance Company from Hell

This morning (mind you I have yet to drink my first elixir of  life called caffeine) Ms Lau from the insurance company called me. She apologised for being rude and she agreed with me that an examplary customer service would bring her company a long way. Her apology was later followed by another detailed text message to my phone. 

I told Ms Lau I am not a cruel person, and I will duly withdraw my official complaint against her. However, I managed to tell her (nicely) what she did – especially her boorish demeanor in asnwering my query – was wrong. Her clients and/or the public should never be treated like a beggar when they are the ones paying for the policy. 

Since then, Ms Lau and I are now friends. 

However, my official complaints on her other two colleagues stand as it is until they do what Ms. Lau just did. 

I believe that to err is human but to forgive is a responsibility. I am feeling much better. Thanks for everything, folks.

The change that comes with every morning

plc

(Published in Malay Mail on 29 May 2009. Click here for the online version)

EVERY morning – when my mood is as grey as unpolished Royal Selangor Pewter merchandise – I tune in to Lite FM during the ho-hum journey to the office to tune-out the work that awaits.

Last Thursday, as usual, the wacky duo, PK and Sara, were entertaining the listeners with an intriguing point of contention: Should you, should you not (try to, at least) change for your partner.

What a topic. One rather indignantly aghast (and rather comical) listener, Ruth, called in to let off some “steam”. How could anyone, dare even think of “changing” even for someone we love. Banish such thoughts. Never. Her frustration was so palpable I could almost touch it at my end.

By and large, a woman is accused of turning into something else, other than the highly exciting person she once was, after fate is somewhat sealed with a relationship commitment or marriage. Men, too, have been accused of being guilty of the same offence. But human relationships are, at least to me, like a Product Life Cycle (PLC): introduction, growth, maturity and decline.

Basically, the PLC graph indicates a succession of strategies used by management as a product goes through its various stages. The environment in which a product is sold naturally changes over time, and knowing thy turf therefore can make or break its success. I think that’s enough (yawn) economics for today.

During the first two stages of “how do you do and wanna do stuff together”, the sizzling human chemistry
erects a façade over our idiosyncrasies.

Potentially fatal differences rarely surface. We are focused on learning our partner’s behaviour and disposition to the exclusion of others.

The dopamine and ocytoxin are kicking in. And like any other learning process, it’s naturally stimulating
because we are wading into uncharted water. Or so our hormones tell us. Into growth and the beginnings of maturity (insert the word marriage whenever appropriate), when the novelty of My Chemical Romance starts to simmer, reality begins to kick in. The real tests of making ends meet each month, and of raising children, and of enduring in-laws are thrown into the equation and… our partner’s conflicting views and habits seem to easily annoy us.

We try to fashion (a nicer word than “change”) our partner into thinking or acting the way we do. Well, isn’t my happiness yours, no?

Altercations do happen; words spoken in haste are stored as ammunition for the next round. But the tail end of maturity will very much determine the inclination of the decline in this life cycle.

Change, by whatever name, may be foreign to digest for many – be it in a relationship or a political party. The idea of change itself can be unnerving.

Funny this because, whether we like it or not and which oft is repeated, the only constant is change.

Everything changes… the computer I’m typing on, the table it sits on, why the fingers I type these words with… (my beautiful fingernails won’t be as stunning in 10 years time).

Yes, we are included in the everything that is changing by the ticking seconds, whether we like or not. We grow older. But with the physical change, will there be the mental change?

To me, whenever the prospect of (having to) change dawns, I wrestle to let go of any fear, and try to embrace
the ‘newness’ like a fawning optimist – and pray for the best.

I know I sound like a pseudo-psychologist but probably the key to successfully changing is acceptance.
I was once a little vexed when my husband told me to comb my hair (as if I was a little girl) when on my way out to do some grocery shopping.

I gave him a deadpan stare, and muttered under my breath: “Come on! You loved my hair when we were dating”. A quick glance at the mirror nudged me into making sure I wouldn’t look like a frizzy-haired loony in Tesco.

Now, I sometimes ask if I look okay… Change for the better? Hopefully, sooner than later, when I may not have hair on my head to unfrizz.

Now that I am not as grey anymore, let me grab that first cup of coffee and hit the mountain of files on my desk. I see no change in my routine so far.

● Elviza Michele Kamal is looking for spare change for the coffee machine. She blogs at http://elviza.wordpress.com