Time To Reminisce…

Allahu Akbar… Allahu Akbar… Allahu Akbar…
La Ilaha Illallah Huwallahu Akbar…
Allahu Akbar Walilla Hil Hamd…

The power of the Tahmid never fails to bring a sense and feeling of calmness, sadness or contentment whenever we hear it being recited or when we recite it ourselves. For those who immerse themselves in its recital and its enchanting melody, you’ll find that your tears might just flow unknowingly, a sense of regret of past sins flashing across your minds, or the thought of those who have gone forever and the memories attached with them. Yes, the Tahmid is that powerful in its effect and meaning. We are blessed to be able to recite it twice a year during Aidilfitri and Aidiladha, to glorify God, appreciate the blessings and sustenance he has bestowed upon us and be contented with whatever good or bad that comes our way. Reciting the Tahmid today till the end of the days of Tasyrik on 13th Zulhijjah (3rd January 2007) is definitely encouraged amongst us.

Aidiladha for my sisters and I this year is different from years past. I just feel there’s nothing worth celebrating when you are worried for the safety and health of your parents who are away on Hajj. We can only pray hard that God will look after them as well as all the other pilgrims over there, bearing in mind the number of cases of stampede in the past. People might see us as quite relaxed with our parents over there, but they dunno that deep down, all three of us are quite worried sick for them especially when we heard that they got ill over in Madinah, which is currently in the midst of winter, only that there is no snow due to its geographical position. Speaking of Madinah and Makkah, the two holy cities, brought back a lot of fond memories of my time there as recently as this past June.

Not many people knew we went there for Umrah, as we did not want to publicise it for fear that people thought we wanted to show off. I was even hesitant to talk about my experiences in this blog as I felt that I did not want to come across as being pompous or a goody-two-shoes. In short, I could not find a valid reason nor angle to talk about it. Why I think I am ready to talk about it now is because of the current Hajj season which makes me reminisce of my time there and hope that with the sharing of my experiences, it would entice you to go there sooner if not later…

It was meant to be our honeymoon in the first place. We had planned to go in March but due to work commitments on both sides, we had to push it to June. With that apparent postponement, Aida‘s planned pregnancy had also taken a backseat as we did not want to have any complications when we were abroad or high up in the skies. But of course, accidents do happen and God certainly had ideas which HE knows best. And so it was, we were sceptical about going when we found out Aida was pregnant at the end of March. But we had to go as we did not have other time plus I had to serve my intentions of going (Nazar) as soon as possible. Alhamdulillah when Aida passed her 1st trimester stage, it was just nice for us to leave as the little one would have settled down in her womb by then. As an added precautionary measure, my in-laws joined us on the trip so my mother-in-law could take care of Aida especially at places where only females were allowed. Even though it looked like “a breach of privacy” as we had meant it to be our honeymoon, I did not look at it that way one bit. In fact I was extremely thankful they tagged along. It was also my opportunity to bond closer with them. We departed on 5th June 2006 at 5:30am.

We spent almost 24 hours just to get to the holy city of Madinah Al-Munawwarah from here. When I did my Umrah back in 1992 with my family, the time spent to get there was only about 18 and a half hours. The reason we took a longer time was because we took Gulf Air, which had to make a stopover in Bahrain for 4 hours and when we reached Jeddah, instead of taking a flight to Madinah, we went there by coach. The travelling time took about 6 hours. So we kinda wasted about 10 hours waiting and on the road. Luckily our meals in Bahrain were catered for, as I was quite appalled by their currency which is even higher than British Pounds. We ended up doing a lot of window shopping during our 4-hour transit.

Along the way to Madinah, we stopped halfway to perform our Maghrib and Isya’. It was at the stopover place that I first experienced what the desert temperature is like, about 43 degrees Celsius. The heat practically stings your face the moment the bus door opened and you stand on the steps with the wind blowing. It was like being in a sauna. It felt uncomfortable at first but I told myself if the people there can survive, then there’s no reason why I could not acclimatise myself. I spent the majority of the journey sleeping in the coach and psyching myself not to think too much about the travelling time even though deep down I was cursing the travelling agency for subjecting us to such an ordeal, the waiting and all. I treated it as a test on my patience as those who know me too well know my lack of it and the short fuse I have. I also remembered there were cases of people who received their come-uppance for complaining or being impatient when they were there. So I was quite determined to keep my thoughts to myself.

We entered the holy city at about 10:20pm (3:20am Singapore time). By then I was awake and I was looking out for Masjid An-Nabawi (The Prophet SAW‘s Mosque), the grand mosque in Madinah, which resembles a majestic palace especially when you see it at night with its towering minarets illuminated. I did not have to wait long, it soon appeared within sight, even though we were still about 10 kilometres away. Memories of my last visit in 1992 soon flooded my mind and even though it felt like I was there yesterday, I had yearned to return as soon as possible. I took 14 years to return but I felt it was 14 years too long.

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We checked in at the Madinah Hilton at around 11pm. I was too tired to venture out. Anyway, Subuh was around 4am so I had to catch some sleep to be fresh for the next day’s event. The hotel is about 5-minutes walk from the central rear gate of the mosque. I was amazed what the 14-year gap has done to the place. Tall hotels surround the mosque and the compound of the mosque are tiled. When I was there in 1992, the compound was still not developed and full of sand. On the way to the mosque to perform Subuh, as I was about to enter the compound of the mosque, tears welled up in my eyes as I was overcome by emotion that I had finally returned to the place I am not ashamed to call “home” and to the mosque I revered so much. From my last visit in 92, I felt at home more in Madinah as compared to Makkah. And this recent visit only emphasised that fact.

I won’t delve too much into my activities in Madinah, just that I was amazed by the rapid progress the city has undergone over the past 14 years. The Quba’ Mosque (the first mosque to be built in history), the Qiblatain mosque and a few other mosques we visited are now air-conditioned and on some places, carpeted. The Masjid An-Nabawi is one of the most intriguing masterpiece ever to be built in my opinion. Its marble tiles, pillars and ceilings are sights to behold. The chandeliers that grace the interiors and the carpets add another dimension to its glory. Workers work round the clock to maintain the gleam and shine on every nook and corner of the building. It is not surprising to see the place shining as though it has just been built.

For those who wanna visit Al-Raudhah, the designated portion that will be part of Jannah (Paradise) in future, in Masjid An-Nabawi, be prepared to fight it out with other congregators. I tried to get a good place in there by entering the mosque as early as 3am when the mosque opens its gates, but I still ended up on the outskirts of the designated green pillars indicating where Al-Raudhah is. Perhaps the timing of my visit was not that good as there were many people who came from Pakistan and Iran, countries having school holidays in June. Nonetheless, the experience was one that I cherished and hoped that some day I would return.

The people there have also progressed in terms of linguistic skills. I thought I could practice the few Arabic phrases and sentences I learnt in my Arabic course but to my surprise, they answered back in fluent Malay. I left Madinah with an extremely heavy heart on the 4th day. Even though it was very hot and dry, it did not dampen nor lessen my love for the place. We left for Makkah by coach and the journey took about 6 hours. It was a testing time for us as the air-conditioner broke down halfway so we were perspiring with our Ihram already on. As usual, I was praying hard that we would reach Makkah as soon as possible and psyching myself not to curse our luck. We reached Makkah at 5:30pm and checked in at our hotel (forgot the name), which is separated from Masjidil Haram by Hilton Makkah and the massive Ben Dawood supermarket.

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This is the view walking from my hotel to the mosque. This street is full of peddlars and beggars from African countries especially after prayers.

We did our Umrah obligations right after Maghrib with the Tawaf and continued with Sa’ie after Isya’. The place was buzzing with people and the crowd was almost as many as what you get during the Hajj season on the ground level of the mosque. Looking at the Ka’bah and the number of people, I felt extremely humbled at the fact that we were all there for one purpose and that was to submit and worship to HIM. Seeing people clamouring to kiss the Hajar Aswad made me determined to kiss it again after 14 long years. But there were just too many people pushing, shoving and elbowing one another just to kiss it. Likewise, Hijir Ismail, where our prayers are said to be answered, people were making a beeline to get in to pray.

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The next morning, after Subuh, I decided to do Tawaf. Halfway through, I was enticed to join the crowd who were clamouring to kiss Hajar Aswad. Out of nowhere, appeared 5 Indonesian guys who offered to help ease my way to kissing the blessed stone. After a lot of pushing and shoving my way through, I finally got to kiss the stone but a surprise was in store for me. The Indonesian guys brought me to one side and asked to be paid for their services. I thought SG$10 was enough but they said they were normally paid US$50!!! So I fished out SG$50 only for one of them to remind me 5 of them had helped me. As I was alone and for fear of being mugged or sabotaged (since they were students and spoke Arabic fluently), it was just their luck I had SG$250 in my wallet. So I just gave them and they were gone.

I was in a daze and told my Ustaz about it when I got back to the hotel for breakfast. He could do nothing but shook his head in wonder at how I was apparently cornered. It was only then that I realise that I had been mugged by this syndicate which my colleague had told me about before I left. I totally forgot everything in my haste to kiss the stone. It was an extremely valuable lesson well learnt for me when it comes to having patience. I was greedy and God taught me a lesson by making me forget the warnings. From then on, I told myself never to succumb to that kind of greed and to exercise patience when I want something so badly. If it’s meant for us, then God will surely grant it through deed, hope and patience. Throughout my stay there, I was so tempted to kiss the stone again, in fact I tried again a few times but was unsuccessful due to all the pushing and wrestling with other pilgrims. Some ended up bloodied and even my Ihram was once stained with someone’s blood due to all the shoving. It was pandemonium out there. Even females were not spared and got punched by some of the overzealous pilgrims.

We spent about a week in Makkah. The World Cup season had just started. I was expecting the number of people at the mosque to be lessened since Saudi Arabia was playing in the tournament, but of course the people there are more pious than caring for their country’s chances. Even my fellow travelling group members made jokes about how easy it was to kiss Hajar Aswad since people would be staying in to watch the matches. The crowd was just massive and a sight to behold as you can from the pictures I took.

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This was right after Friday prayers. The pilgrims did not care about the searing heat as they only had one thing in their minds – to submit and pray to God…

Everytime I walked to or from the mosque, I would always have to pass by this particular street where peddlars and beggars throng the lines. These people are mostly from the African countries and places like Mongolia and Indonesia. Some come peddling their wares, while others make use of their infants or handicapped children to beg. If you happen to go there some day, please say a prayer for them for their well-being. It pained me to see them all in that state and I have to admit I cried when I first saw them. We have to really be contented with whatever riches or good life we are now leading here as others out there are struggling to make ends meet or even try to get a bite of food daily.

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We don’t have this in Singapore

Speaking of food, well they are found in abundance over there. I did not expect to find fast-food restaurants like KFC, Burger King or Pizza Hut over there. I did not get to see McDonald’s though. What amazed me was the size of the food. Can you imagine the size of a Mushroom Swiss Double burger is twice (or is it thrice???) as big as what we get over here??? The pictures don’t lie you know… Even the drink container is huge… What about the Zinger Supreme??? I rest my case… All I can say is that I did not even get to eat half of the Mushroom Swiss Double to feel full. I guess that’s why the people over there are quite big-sized.

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See what I mean???

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I took some time to finish off the drink…

Of all the places we went in Makkah, like the museum where they chartered the history of Masjidil Haram and Masjid An-Nabawi, to Jabal Rahmah in Arafah, my only regret was not being able to climb atop Jabal Nur, where the Cave of Hira (where Prophet SAW received his first revelation from Jibrail) is situated. My Ustaz said that if you were to take away all the hi-rise buildings surrounding the mosque, you can actually see the Ka’bah from the entrance of the cave. It is definitely a challenge to climb up and if there had been more sporting members in my travelling group, I would have gone up the mount just to see the cave.

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Someday I would love to conquer and reach the top of Jabal Nur

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This was where Adam and Eve met after being banished from Jannah (Paradise)…

Cameras and handphones with camera functions were of course not allowed into the mosques. But there is so much the security could do to check people’s bags before they enter the mosque. For males, I found they seldom check on us but females are subjected to frisking as well. Of course, I had to be mindful of the security people walking around the mosque before whipping out my handphone and snapping away. The photographs turned out well surprisingly as compared to other photographs I took before in the past. I guess it’s just the beauty of the place that makes it worth looking over and over again.

We were fortunate to have experienced rain, which is quite a rare thing over there. When I was there in 1992, there was also rain on one of the days. As it was the summer, rain was quite unthinkable of but of course we only know so much while God has other ideas. I still remember as I entered the mosque to perform Asar, I realised the sky was overcast. I had to rub my eyes to make sure I was seeing things right. When Asar was over, the rain still had not fallen. So I told my father-in-law I wanted to wait for awhile and told him to go ahead. I sat on the steps facing the Ka’bah, waiting for the rain to fall and I did not have to wait long. When it fell, it was not heavy but more to a drizzle, scores of people rushed to the front and stood facing the Ka’bah with their hands up in prayer. It was as though time stood still. It was definitely the best time to say our Du’a and ask God to grant us our wishes. I remembered there were auspicious moments to do so like after Asar, during rain fall or when you are facing the Ka’bah amongst others. I was blessed to experience all three and felt humbled by the experience. I pray that whoever who goes there would experience the same thing as me.

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Rain after Asar… Notice the overcast sky???

When I last went there in 1992, I had met Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam and Sultan Ismail Petra of Kelantan, who had famous 80s actor Datuk Tengku Shah Rezza as part of his entourage. There were no celebrity sightings this time but I nearly met Linda Onn, Radio ERA‘s famous DJ. I was staring at the Ka’bah whilst waiting for Isya‘ when an elderly man came over and struck a conversation with me. He told me he was Linda‘s father and that Linda had also accompanied him and the family there. As we had some time before Isya’ we chatted for awhile and he told me of his history working in Singapore and how he still has family members over here. Before we made our own ways, he invited me over to his chicken rice stall (the famous MMCR stall at Ampang Point) whenever I decide to go up to KL.

I learnt a quite a lot of valuable lessons over there. One of them was the right method of burial for the deceased. We were brought to a cemetery to learn how the people there went about burying the dead. As you can see from the photographs, their graves are just a piece of flat land and marked by a stone. By right, graves should be kept like that and not the extravagant ones you see at our cemeteries. And normally when we say a prayer for the dead, more often than not we recite Surah Al-Fatihah. Over there, we recite a simple Du’a, “Allahumaghfirlil mukminina wal mukminat, wal muslimina wal muslimat, al ahya iminhum wal amwat…” which translates to “Oh God, please forgive all the Mukmins and our fellow Muslims, those who are still alive or have returned to you…” Upon reflection, this simple Du’a actually carries more weight in that we’re asking for forgiveness for everyone, whether alive or dead, from the beginning till end of time. Oh, and unlike here, females are strictly prohibited from entering the graveyards and must wait at the waiting lounge at the cemetery’s entrance, since after all Islamic traditions have already forbade them. I sometimes wonder why things that are so simple and cost-cutting is often overlooked over here or not being followed by us.

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The cemetery… See how they are marked by just a stone???

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The prayer to recite for the dead…

It was interesting to hear how other pilgrims recite their prayers as they have different accents. Sometimes I couldn’t help but giggle as they sounded quite funny as compared to how we normally say it. I think they too would feel the same way if they were to listen to us. Another interesting thing I observed was how a marriage solemnisation was conducted. Where I prayed every Maghrib (near the King Abdul Aziz Gate), there will always be a marriage solemnsation ceremony right after prayers. Normally the event does not take more than 5 minutes and within minutes, they would disperse. Of course, we did not see the brides, neither did I see any sermons being read by the solemniser. How I wish such a thing was practised over here. It would cut down the groom’s feeling of nervousness and the minimising of unnecessary exchanging of gifts.

Another thing I learnt is that people there or even fellow pilgrims from other countries dunno that Singapore actually exists. Whenever they asked where are we from, their question will always be followed up by “Malaysia” and “Indonesia“. When we say “Singapore“, they will say, “Singapore very good / nice country…” but then they will ask again, “Where is Singapore???” For those who know, they might just jack up the prices, just like those Indonesian guys I was telling you about earlier. Speaking of them, I met them again on the last day before Subuh as I was doing my Tawaf. When they saw me, they gave a hopeful grin and asked me if I wanted to kiss the stone again. I wanted to say something spiteful but remembered I was a guest at God‘s greatest home so I bit my tongue, glared at them and waved my hand to indicate to them I did not need their help.

Alhamdulillah I managed to kiss it for one last time on my own after I had completed the Tawaf. How I did it, only God knew. Even if I knew I just feel it’s not right for me to say it. It was a miracle and I should say, divine intervention as there was no way I could get in just by observing the pushing crowd from a distance. Yes, God works wonders and the words “God will only help those who help themselves” rang in my ears. But I guess patience also played a big part as I had been disappointed a few times before that over the past week I tried to get my lips to kiss the stone. The Azan for Subuh was called a few minutes after that and it was the most soulful, and sad call for prayer I had heard throughout my stay there. It was as though they knew we were leaving later. I wished I had recorded it on my handphone to listen over and over again.

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The Red Sea… Simply beautiful…

Before we boarded our flight back to Bahrain for another transit, we stopped by a mosque facing the infamous Red Sea in biblical and Islamic scriptures. We had our lunch there and enjoyed the view of the sea as well as its pristine state. The water is crystal clear and you can definitely see the sea bed. The mind wondered off to the past on how the sea could have parted during the time of Prophet Musa (Moses). It was one of God‘s miracles and it was worth reflecting as I stood with arms outstretched replicating what I saw from The Ten Commandments movie, whereby Moses stretched his arms out and parted the sea. Yeah it was a poor impersonation on my part.

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Trying my darndest to impersonate Moses

And so I returned to Singapore with a heavy heart. 12 days away from here and my love for the two holy cities grew fonder as I was there. I had half the mind to give up on everything I have here just to stay there. Yes, the pull of the place is just so great, everything there is so humbling and everyone is seen as an equal. I’m sure those who have gone before would agree with me and I hope that for those who will go in future would feel the same way too. Thankfully Aida was healthy throughout with no complications and I was happy my daughter has had a good start to her life y visiting the place, albeit still in her mummy’s womb. I can’t wait to go there again, maybe if I were to do Umrah, I would do it right after the Hajj season as there are not many people and I won’t have to fight my way just to kiss Hajar Aswad or sit at Ar-Raudhah. I certainly miss the smell of the Minyak Atar Hajar Aswad whenever I stepped into the 2 grand mosques. In fact I miss everything associated to the place. Which is perhaps why I envy my parents for being able to serve their responsibilities in upholding the fifth pillar of Islam

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It’s been two years plus since I have blogged. As readers, be it old or new, I’m sure you have grown with me, read my ups and downs, shared my joy and felt my sadness. I hoped my entries have not been a bore for you, cos really, a guy seldom talks or writes a lot unless they have a lot of surpressed thoughts waiting to be unleashed like yours truly. It is heartwarming to know from one of my fellow bloggers that everytime she reads my entry, she has to make sure she has potato chips and cola ready. Complimentary yes I appreciate it a lot, but it’s also another meaning that others who are not attuned to my brand of yarn spinning think that I am too long-winded for my own good. But oh well, I’m not out to please people. All I can do is be more responsible with what I type and minimise personal criticisms which might be detrimental to my relationship with people.

Yes I feel a sense of duty to educate with what I type. My words can make or break someone. It is through this blog (and my comments on air) that have made me be known amongst people I do not expect to come in and read. It is extremely humbling to find someone coming up to me and say he or she has been reading my blog. If they enjoy it, it is a bonus for me. It increases my responsibility and to be very mindful of what I have to say. In the past, it was anything goes. 2 years on, I’ve more or less taken steps to build and maintain ties through what I say. Even criticisms, I try to give my subjects benefit of doubt and give more constructive ones. If people have been enjoying reading my entries all these while, then I thank them for it. It spurs me to greater heights with the dawn of the coming year. Some might wonder how free am I to type such long-winded entries. The trick is to break the time down and blog whenever I’m free. So in a way, most of my entries are pre-planned, sort of me having a storyboard on what to publish for the next one…

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You know, “Time flies when you least expect it“. It’s a cliche heard a thousand times over. Today marks my first wedding anniversary. I still remember at this time last year, how we were all busy preparing for the day, my kind aunties, uncles and cousins who had chipped in their assistance to make it a day to remember for us. I was still awake at 3am, not being able to sleep and just thinking about the day I was about to go through. Not to mention that wedding dinner I had and the mini concert I made it out to be. And now here I am, happily married with a daughter in tow. What a difference a year has made.

To my beloved wife Aida, one year has passed in the blink of an eye, but my love for you has never waned and it gets stronger and stronger by the day. Thank you for the priceless present you gave in the form of our darling princess Syahindah Adawiyah. Your pregnancy has made me love you even more for the pain and hardships you had to go through, not forgetting the love and care you showered me. Yes, I might be a pain in the arse at times when I complain about having to be your servant, but you know it’s only my way of joking, no matter how queer it sounds. May Allah prolong our union for decades to come… Amin!!!

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One year on, and another year added to my age. I celebrated my 27th year last year by being a husband. I celebrate my 28th year today as a father and leader of my family. More responsibilities added to my already growing list but I am enjoying and thriving every minute of it. Another year added and another year closer to returning to God. Which is why I don’t quite fancy the idea of celebrating birthdays unless people do it for me then I have no choice but to go with the flow. I always treat birthdays as a timely reminder that Death is near, to self-reflect whether I’ve been a good son, friend, subordinate, cousin, nephew, and now husband and father to the people that matter in my life. I hope I could be an even better person than people know me for in time to come…

Here’s wishing you a prosperous year 2007 ahead, full of happy moments and realising some of your dreams that you’ve yearned for so long. For my Muslim readers, “Salam Aidiladha“. May whatever deeds we have done all these while or if you happen to be making a sacrifice today, would enhance our ticket to Jannah, Insya-Allah… God bless…

Keris-Emas

I dunno what title I should give for this entry so “Keris-Emas” sounded like the logical choice. Yeah it sounds corny / catchy, depending on how you see it. I think my entry last year at this time had the same title anyway, but oh well, I guess some things are meant to be recycled…

I really have to thank the people who gave me encouragement and morale boosters after reading my last entry. I really really do appreciate them all. At least I know that I’m not doing anything wrong. But I guess after all the ponderings I did and explainations I got as to why my presence was quite unaccepted, I understand that it is difficult to receive a complete stranger who exudes a form of enthusiasm even more than the existing people themselves. So for sure, there will be a sense of curiosity and feeling of apprehension as to my actions and motives. Rest assured, I’m not gonna take anything away from them, neither am I gonna rock the foundations, but I’m here to lend a helping hand, to help realise a project bear fruit. If there are still voices of discontent at present or in future even after I had explained to them my rationale, then I have nothing more to say except to leave everything in the hands of God

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After I gave up on applying for the premium condo-style flats in Tampines (The Premiere), which I had reported a few entries ago, hopes of landing a home arose again when HDB opened up walk-in selection flats in Sengkang, Buangkok & Hougang last month. I’ve had my eyes cast on the flats by the Buangkok MRT Station for quite some time now. Besides the MRT station, which would ease people coming to my place, the soon-to-be-built mosque will also be about 5-minutes walk away. Alas when I came at about 3:30pm on the 1st day of the application, I was appalled to find that my balloting queue number was above 1600. With only about 1100 units available, it was highly unlikely I would be able to get the unit of my choice on a higher floor (at least 10 above). Coupled with the fact that my turn to choose my choice unit was on the 8th day, it was a case of no point queueing up but I still did, holding on to a glimmer of hope. But it was not to be.

Before that, when HDB introduced the Sri Geylang Serai area to be developed, my in-laws had suggested moving in. But I was against it, for the fact that the traffic is extremely bad. Not to mention the hygiene of the place. Granted it’s gonna be new but when the festive period comes, you’ll agree what I mean. Anyway, I feel uncomfortable living in a Malay enclave. Social factors aside, I guess it is a nice place to live in, what with the kampung spirit revived. But I actually like the idea of staying with other races around me as it promotes harmony and tolerance on a different scale. Ideas could be exchanged and we can learn a lot of things from them. As the saying goes, “A little bit of something is sweet but when there’s too much of it, it could bring harm eventually…” That’s how I see it, not that I have something against my race. I’m still a proud Malay. I guess that is why our Government set a race quota when applying for flats as they want us all to integrate and not become too homogeneous.

Even when HDB introduced a built-to-order scheme just across the road from my in-laws, I was not keen on it as I felt there was no point shifting. To me, it felt as good as not shifting at all. I’m kinda chilled about applying for a home now, knowing I still have my old apartment (which has turned into a warehouse) if things get too complicated or difficult to apply a dream place. I won’t even mind staying at my parents’ place, just that the three flights up the stairs is a nightmare to get to my room, especially now that the little one has arrived. It’s gonna be tiring chasing after her all around the house, since kids are almost always fascinated with the stairs. I don’t mind the exercise though.

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Speaking of Geylang Serai, have you guys been watching “Geylang Si Paku Geylang“??? This 5-part (or is it 6 parts???) series is currently being shown on Suria every Saturdays at 8.30pm. Even though 4 episodes have come and gone, I feel that the timing of the show is not that good as most people are seldom at home on a Saturday night to appreciate it. I strongly recommend this drama series as it preserves the essence of what Geylang Serai was all about. Also in every episode, it highlights almost every negative nuance associated to the Malay community like gossiping, getting even with someone via the black arts, being jealous and bitter at others’ achievements, sabotaging people’s plans to do something good, I guess you name it, they have it. I wished they would make the episodes into a DVD colection and let students watch it. At least they will learn and not emulate the bad qualities. Watching the show only confirms my stand as to why I feel uncomfortable living in such an enclave. The show is basically made up of unknowns / actors who are more known as supporting casts in other drama serials. On a personal note, I also enjoy watching it for the fact that I know a few of the actors as they are either linked to me via blood ties, marriage ties, working ties, my wedding make-up artist or ex-BMT mates. No wonder my good friend, whose uncle happens to be one of the actors in the show, is extremely amazed at my extensive network. I call it coincidence and for the fact that Singapore is too small for living comfort but he said it’s actually down to me. Not that I thrive on mixing around with celebrities…

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It’s 3 weeks now since she was born. Alhamdulillah she hasn’t “troubled” us one bit, have not gotten sick or anything that would be of concern to new parents like us. I pray that long may it continue. The only times she cries are during feeding time or when she wants her diapers changed. She’s such a clean, proper and hygienic baby that even when she poos a bit, she wants us to clean her up right away. She’s not even afraid of water whenever we bathe her. The only downside is that she hates to breastfeed. Maybe it’s because she only started to breastfeed when she was 3 days old as Aida was too weak then to do so and my daughter had to feed through the bottle. Other than that, she’s been perfect. Nothing pleases me more than having a baby of my own, to see her grow up to be a fine young lady who, God willing, will be a great contribution to society and religion.

You know, sometimes when I look at her, I feel sad. Sad that life is indeed short, sad that soon she’ll get married and have kids of her own, sad that with her growing up, it means that we get older and Death is getting nearer and nearer. Which is why I guess I’ve been mellowing a lot after marriage. I’ve not been so cynical with my comments on radio and through this blog. It’s quite unheard of if you have been a regular RIA 89.7FM listener used to hearing my lambasting comments or regular reader of my blog. Marriage and now parenthood have thought me to be more patient, more forgiving and more tolerant of those around me. Not that I’ve gone through a complete transformation. At times, I still live, say or do things on the edge but knowing my style, I’ll always do it with common sense and rationale.

A lot of people have asked us to invite them in case we hold a Tahnik (Shave-the-baby’s-head) ceremony or expect us to have one when I first announced her arrival to the world. I understand that some of us are used to that tradition already. But I’m not actually keen on the idea of inviting people and getting gifts or cash in return, not to mention the preparations and cleaning up afterwards. To top it off, there is also the issue of not being able to entertain everyone at the same time. I’m actually very embarrassed at the idea of receiving stuff from people even if they are genuinely sincere. I think I got this trait from my mum who refused to hold a get-together for friends and family members before she departed for Hajj 3 Sundays ago as she felt too embarrassed to receive any gifts or donations from well-wishers.

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For me, just a simple prayer for the little one would more than suffice as nothing is more valuable than a saying a little prayer. Furthermore, it’s free!!! I’ve got no qualms on people who do these Tahnik ceremonies, it’s just that as an individual preference, I would prefer to send the little one to the mosque where the Imam would do it privately. And I did just that on Saturday (23 Dec) at Masjid Darul Ghufran in Tampines. So for those who want to see my daughter up close and personal, just give me a buzz on when you want to come and see her. Don’t have to wait for me to send out any invites. And please don’t trouble yourselves when you come…

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Lest I forget I would like to thank family members, colleagues and friends who have taken the trouble and time to visit us, be it at the hospital, or at home, with gifts and cash in tow. Plus the numerous well-wishes on air from my fellow RIA listeners on the day my daughter was born. Gotta thank my best buddy Nizam, his wife Iannie and his parents for the beautiful stroller, my colleagues for the hefty NTUC vouchers and everyone else who had given us gifts like baby clothes, bottles, flowers, milk formulas and everything else. We really really appreciate them a lot. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!!

For those of you reading this from my Blogspot blog, click here to see more photographs of my little princess…

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My family received another good news on 9th December 2006. My favourite cousin Ezaad (those of you who attended my wedding would remember he was my best man, and his wife Julie was the bridesmaid) joined me in the parenthood club, when his wife gave birth to a bouncing baby boy Mohd Eshaan. It was a belated 1st wedding anniversary for them but I guess it was well worth it. I had actually suggested Julie to induce herself on the 1st of December so the boy would share the same birthday as his cousin Syahindah Adawiyah but she did not want, preferring to give birth on the 12th instead. The boy obviously had other ideas so he came out 3 days earlier than scheduled. Good for Julie that she was blessed to go through a smooth and normal delivery as compared to Aida. The family is currently buzzing with the arrival of the two new-borns. Celebrating Hari Raya next year could not be more special for us all. I’m just waiting for Aida to recover before we can go visit them. Also in store is visiting another one of my best buds, Latif and wife Nora who I had reported earlier giving birth on the same day as Aida to their second daughter Badriyyah and one of my good friends (ironically sharing the same name but with different spelling) Latiff and wife Ridana who gave birth to Md Ammar Dhani on 27th November 2006.

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Welcome to the world Eshaan…!!!

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On another happy note, I am pleased that Imran Ajmain‘s album entitled “Dengan Secara Kebetulan” is finally out in stores. The guy had to go through 3 postponements before his album was finally released on 19th December 2006. I can understand the frustrations at having to postpone, heck even as one of his ardent supporters, it was nerve-wrecking having to wait so long. Thought of going down to buy his album but I’ve been extremely busy with work and the babe, that going down to the music store was not feasible. I’ll try to get it as soon as possible but if by next Saturday I can’t, then I’ll most definitely attend his showcase at the National Arts Museum in conjunction with the album launch.

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It’s been raining and raining of late. I can’t wash my car as it is useless to do so. It was just last Sunday I tried to wash it at my parents’ place. When I was halfway through wiping the car, the heavens opened its floodgates and I was left rueing the fact that my efforts were wasted. So now I’m just gonna spray it with water and wipe it dry in case it gets too dirty. No point shampooing it.

I took the following picture below on my way to work on Monday morning. As the expressways were jammed, I took a longer route and passed by Thomson Road. Imagine my shock when I passed by the plant nurseries along Olive Road and Joan Road near Caldecott Hill. As some of you would have known from the news, the place was flooded. As the roads were at a lower level, the height of the water level rose till it almost covered the cars. That was my first experience seeing a flood with my very own eyes, right smack in front of me. I really pity the owners of the nurseries as they had reportedly lost about a million dollars due to the damages incurred. What about the owners of the cars trapped on that road??? I can imagine the heartbreak. Oh not forgetting the owners of the massive bungalows in that area…

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Was driving home along Outram Road the other day when I saw a Lamborghini (can’t recall which model) zipped by my car. As I stopped behind it, I couldn’t resist taking its picture and singing Akon‘s massive current hit “Smack That” to myself. The chorus goes something like this: “I feel you creeping I can see from my shadow, wanna jump up in my Lamborghini Gallardo” Yeah wish I was driving one…

Sincerity Can Be A Bane…

I’m beginning to have doubts on myself. My self-belief, my confidence level and morale are at an all-time low. I’ve gone through these kind of periods before in my life and they always stick out in my memory like a sore thumb and I thought I will never have to face them again. Why is it whenever I go out of my way to help others, there will always be those sitting on the fence who would doubt my sincerity to help with no strings attached??? Is it my robust and hands-on approach which is a turn-off??? Is it because I get the job done with no frills and spills that people see me as a threat??? Or do they hate me for being me???

I work not to be given recognition. I help not to gain popularity. I assist not to be hailed as a Messiah. I’m doing it for the love of Islam, for the sake of Ummah, for the betterment of my fellow Muslim brethren. I might be a complete stranger who came in with a bang, but I certainly am not someone who wants to be empowered or be glorified. Neither do I want myself to be recognised for my efforts. A groupie??? That’s even way off target…

Yes, I had expected that things would turn out as they are right now. I had foreseen it right from the start but I had hoped that people would look through it with a wider perspective, which transcends all doubts and distrust about me. It is extremely painful when after what you’ve done to help, you get mud thrown back at your face as a way of saying “Thank you!!!” And when someone doesn’t like you, even a joke would make you look like a bad person in their eyes.

Due to my previous bad experiences, the wife has always warned me to be prudent whenever I go out of my way to help others. Even an old friend told me once never to help others to the point of slaving myself. But like a glutton for punishment, I always get up for more, always putting the needs of others before me. Because why??? Nothing pleasures me more than seeing others happy and seeing that what they set out to do becomes a reality and not mere fantasy.

I apologise if my approach in assisting was wrong as I only know how to do it by being as gentlemanly, direct and honest as I can be. I apologise too if my presence is not welcomed. I do not wish to rock the boat nor the foundations that have been laid. I was merely helping the captain man the oars and letting the ship set sail with a firmer direction. If the men in the galley are opposed to my presence, then I wouldn’t mind walking down the gankplank and jumping off the ship to restore the harmony, spirit and camaraderie of the crew. I would just like to express my gratitude to the captain for letting me have the opportunity to assist all these while. May the ship’s journey be smooth and lead to many new discoveries and adventures in the years to come…

I bear no ill-will towards those who doubt me, my presence, my approach and my gumption to see the plans succeed. As I walk into the sunset, I can only pray that some day they would see that I had helped with sincerity, integrity and honesty.

I’m Officially A Dad!!!

Ok I’m sorry if I have not been updating. Life’s been busy and I was feeling so lazy to blog whenever I was free. So you can expect my entry to be very long this time round as to what I’ve been doing since my last entry on 7th November 2006. So without further ado, here goes:

Hari Raya came and gone. Did not meet my initial visiting targets but I guess people understood the situation I was in, what with Aida and her constant contractions. This bundle of joy would certainly complete us. When I said the baby would complete us, an old friend teased me and told us not to stop at one. I said no, the baby would complete us, but her siblings would enhance us further. I think all parents share that sentiment. Exciting times lie ahead!!!

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Those of you who were born before the 90s would always look forward to children-related shows like Aksi Mat Yoyo, Hari Raya shows, Tok Selampit and what-nots back then and wished you were in the shows yourselves right??? Well yours truly also felt that way too. In fact I went to the Bengkel Kanak Kanak auditions back in 1983 but did not make the grade, probably since I was marked by the producers for running round the building. Yes I was very inquisitive to know what went on in the old Singapore Broadcasting Corporation building.

As a boy growing up and hormones raging, I have to admit that I had a few crushes on some of the Bengkel gals. Heck I even ended up marrying one (though I only knew my wife was in it when I went through her old albums…)!!! Talk of irony… But no, my wife was not as popular as some of the others as she only appeared on TV once. Since my primary school days, I’ve managed to make friends with a few of them who I am still in contact with.

Fast forward to the current time, I recently got to know one of the guys (Del Rasouli) who was in the 1988 batch as my wife. He and me are currently undergoing our IPPT Preparatory Training at Bedok Camp and he told me of an alumni being created for the ex-Bengkel Kanak-Kanak members. I wasted no time contacting those in my list of contacts who used to be a part of the “elite” group and sourcing out on my own the names of those who I could still remember back in those days on the Net and informed them of the alumni’s existence.

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Aida is standing on the left-hand most of the photo. Can you spot people like Izzat (Soldadu), Fidiyana (Dian) and Suhaini (Newscaster)???

For those of you reading this, I hope that you could assist me in informing any of your old friends and family members who used to be in Bengkel Kanak-Kanak, of this alumni. Their presence is very much appreciated and would help to foster old ties amongst friends who have lost contact of one another. The alumni has set up a Yahoo Group for members to communicate with one another. For more information, they can contact the alumni’s moderators for more details: Erna – erna_watty@yahoo.com & Raydza – wrydza@yahoo.com. The group is in the midst of planning a huge gathering for ex-members so it would be nice to have most of them back together again like the good ol’ days…

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On 19th November, I was quite a busy man attending two events, the first was Hafeez Glamour‘s “Biol-Biol Raya” gathering at Ma Sin Thai Restaurant (the old Eden restaurant opposite Darul Ma’wa Children’s Home at Still Road) and later on in the evening, “Konsert Rahimah Rahim Kembali“. I thought of skipping Hafeez‘s event cos of my weekly football in the evening but then I thought I had already skipped the previous one he did back in July and I had given my promise that I would attend this one if he were to do it, so I kept my word.

I had initial reservations about going too as attending it will result in me meeting some people I was having conflicts with. But in the spirit of Hari Raya and also thinking that life is too short to prolong bitterness, I went, hoping that they too would feel the same way as me, as it would only be so long that we can be at odds with one another. Not to mention, we were at odds over petty stuff I said on air and in some of my previous entries. So I told myself to just go with the flow. If people continued to hate my guts and honesty, then so be it. I cannot force others to like me for who I am.

Due to unforseen circumstances, the event which was supposed to start at 3pm was moved to 2pm instead. Prior to that, I had 2 places to go, one was an open house and another was a baby’s shaving head (“Cukur Rambut“) ceremony. So you could imagine the rush I was in, driving like a speedster along the expressways and singing “Fast & Furious” to myself to speed up.

I reached the venue just in time to see Hafeez coming in and starting the event. Datin Norish Karman who was supposed to attend did not turn up. No reasons were given and I only realised it when I am typing this entry. The event was slightly above average as the air-con was not working / or switched on to a higher temperature. I was practically perspiring and felt uneasy especially in my baju kurung that does not absorb perspiration.

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Karisma and the gal sang the haunting hit “My Heart“…

Entertainment-wise, I guess I’ve seen the same thing from the likes of Bibik Belacan and Mak Dara in the past but it was entertaining nonetheless. Khairil Yusof, Karisma and Iskandar Ismail (Eiss) did stellar jobs as well with their respective songs though Eiss could have done himself justice by wearing a more suitable outfit for the occasion. Only the Hip Hop group which performed a mish-mash of traditional and hip hop moves did not go down well with me as I felt they remixed too many songs and destroyed the essence of the Hari Raya mood by jumping from one genre to the other with no specific direction. It was a performance one would say “Ntah-apa-apa-ntah!!!“.

The atmosphere was livened up by the sporting nature of some of the famous listeners on RIA singing or cracking jokes on stage. Yours truly too wasn’t spared as I was dragged on stage to dance a variety of steps from Salsa to Cha Cha and even Dangdut!!! Honestly I only dance at the comfort of home so it was kinda embarrassing to be up there on stage and people looking at you do your thing. But I guess it was all in the name of fun…

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Hafeez interviewing Khairil Yusof

To top it off, by the end of the event, I’ve buried the hatchet with the people I’ve had conflicts with. It was a big load off my chest when we apologised to one another and rekindled a broken friendship. I guess God answered my prayers to one day be at peace again with them even if the closeness would not be the same again. I am a forgiving person by nature, sometimes I feel it is my weakness. Whenever I forgive someone, I use a story in Rasulullah SAW‘s time as my guide.

Hendon, who in an earlier battle along with her husband, had killed and chewed Sayidina Hamzah‘s (Rasulullah SAW‘s beloved uncle) heart. But when Rasulullah SAW managed to win over the people of Makkah, she converted to Islam and went to him to seek forgiveness. Rasulullah SAW being the noble man that he was, even though he still felt the hurt from losing his uncle and witnessing the killing himself, still managed to forgive her. If such a sin could be forgiven, then I guess we as normal subjects should learn to forgive and forget in the same manner even if the hurt that others do unto us is much greater. As they always say “To forgive is divine“…

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I’ve got to admit. I had planned to attend the “Konsert Rahimah Rahim Kembali” solely for the fact that Imran Ajmain was performing. Ever since I saw his performance at Sungguh Hot Finals in July 2004, I couldn’t get enough of the guy. 2005 was a bit of a lull period but since February 2006, I’ve been attending a few of his showcases namely the Hi-Tea With Hazami, the single launch for “Sudah Tu Sudah” and the Karnival Manja prior to Ramadhan just to name the high profile events. Fact remains, you can never get enough of the gentle giant’s soulful voice, which was why I was clamouring to attend the “Konsert Rahimah Rahim Kembali” just to see him sing at such a prestigious place as the Esplanade.

When I came out from the lift, I was surprised to see the back of someone I had met earlier in the day walking right in front of me – Hafeez Glamour!!! He was accompanied by Syed Omar, the brother of Syah Ibrahim. When I reached the ticketing booth by the entrance to the Recital Studio, I realised I had left something so I ran back to the Mezzanine floor to retrieve it. When I came back up the lift again, another two familiar figures were in front of me, none other than RIA 89.7FM‘s Fiza O and DJ KC. Fiza is sporting a shorter hairstyle now, in line with her spunky image. Speaking of her, I must admit I’m beginning to like her style of presenting now as compared to the past 3 years. The crazy antics have lessened, the playlist in her segment is great and through experience comes maturity in her style of presentation. So hopefully she keeps it up…

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Imran” poses…

The show kicked off at 8:05pm with “Kak Girl” (Rahimah‘s affectionate nickname) coming out in a black, shining costume and welcoming the audience with a medley of Hari Raya hits including her own cult favourite “Selamat Berhari Raya“. She then went into her element, speaking to different sections of the audience, exchanging banter and teasing them. She remarked that she had initially been stumped by the word “Kembali” in the title of her concert as the word could be construed in different ways, of which the one she feared most was returning to our Maker. But she made it sound so funny that everyone laughed.

When she sang “Cabaran Cinta“, she took the time to introduce the 5-piece band that accompanied her. Led by the musical director Amy on keyboards and piano, the band included Yus on guitar, Rizal (drums), Irwan (percussionist) and Hendra (bassist). The latter, who sported an extravagant Mohawk hairstyle, is the grandson of famous award-winning composer Kassim Masdor. When she sang an old catchy English number, she introduced her back-up singers “Adam“, whose real name is actually Hamdan and was an Anugerah 2005 finalist and Kak Girl‘s famous other sibling Rozie Rahim.

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Syed Azmir looking tired…

One thing I learnt being someone from the younger generation who did not watch that many Malay movies from the 80s-90s, is that one of Kak Girl‘s hits “Hati Yang Rapuh” was the theme song for the movie “Hati Bukan Kristal” which was produced in 1990 and starred Ridzuan Hashim, Erma Fatimah, Julia Rais and Shah Rezza. Later on in the show after she had taken a short break to allow Imran Ajmain and Syed Azmir their turns to shine, she also sang one of her songs which became the theme song for the hit drama series Adam & Hawa, “Masihkah Ada Cinta?“.

Before taking a break, she invited out Imran Ajmain and they did a duet found in her latest album entitled “Sejak Ku Bertemu“. She managed to joke that due to budget constraints, she couldn’t bring in the original duet partner, Nassier Wahab. But honestly the Pesta Raya series was to expose as many local acts as possible. Prior to the show, Imran had told me how nervous he was at having to sing the song, firstly cos he was singing with someone who is already a veteran in the scene and secondly he was not confident he could sing it as well. When he sang the first few lines, I could sensed where he was coming from as the song was quite low-pitched as compared to his renowned high-pitched vocals. But I think he pulled it off brilliantly. The initial nervousness slowly faded away as the song progressed. As I met him after the show, I told him his initial fears were unfounded. He didn’t say anything except to grin away.

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Being interviewed by Suria

Once they got that song out of the way and “Kak Girl” made her way backstage, Imran took centrestage and mesmerised the audience with his massive current hit “Seribu Tahun“. Honestly for me, this song takes the cake as compared to his previous single releases “Sudah Tu Sudah“, “Ghaibmu” and the cover remake of “Apa Salah Beta?“. It is a beautiful love song, so simple, so pure, so pristine that when you listen to it, you can’t help but think of your loved ones. “Ghaibmu“, which Imran admitted was a difficult song to sing as he has to go into falsetto mode most of the time, followed and I’m sure he had captured the audience’s attention and hearts with his captivating voice by then. He rounded off his act by inviting Syed Azmir out and they did a duet on Sheila Majid‘s old Hari Raya hit “Hari Mulia“.

I was expecting Syed Azmir to sing his singles “Tak Daya Menafi” or “Ku Sedari” but he ended up singing Samsons‘ haunting hit “Kenangan Terindah” and Khairil Johari Johar‘s “Sepasang Kurung Biru” instead. For the first song, I must say his performance was flawless. It sounded as though I was listening to the original singer. However his interpretation of “Sepasang Kurung Biru” didn’t leave much of an impression in me. I thought it sounded draggy and off-key at times. But to be fair, he was just giving it an R&B touch to the song, which did not turn out as good as I expected as it lacked feel and the sadness associated to it.

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The “Diva” Herself…

Kak Girl” then came back on stage and did a short interview with Syed Azmir, in which he said he would be releasing in December. Seems like there’s an avalanche of R&B princes’ album launchings lately – Taufik Batisah, Hady Mirza, Imran Ajmain sometime this week or next week, and followed by Syed Azmir next month. It’s a healthy competition but I hope the competition doesn’t get too saturated as there’s only so much R&B the listening audience can take in. But honestly if you ask me who amongst the four gets my vote, then I’m putting my head on the block for Imran.

I hear sounds of “Why Imran???” The answer is simple. If you can sing a traditional song in its pure form, you can sing any song thrown at you. Also, with every performance, Imran always improvises his songs and does not make it sound as though you are listening directly from his tracks. He reminds me of Siti Nurhaliza in that sense. If you guys listen to Siti‘s albums and watch her concerts, you will know that she loves to improvise her rhythms and vocals. I see all of that in Imran. Granted he might be a bit on the heavy side but I guess if you are a lover of music more than the whole package, it is the voice that stands out amongst the lot. And he most definitely has my vote.

Kak Girl” began her second set with another Hari Raya song entitled “Bersua Di Hari Raya“. It sounded alien to me as it was the first time I heard it but it was a nice song nonetheless. After the song she gave credit to the lyricist – Hafeez Glamour. No wonder when I heard the lyrics it sounded sad, about being away from loved ones. Hafeez‘s parents are residing in Negeri Sembilan so the mood of the song somehow captured his emotions. After singing “Masih Ada Cinta“, and “Doa“, “Kak Girl” rounded off her night with a medley of hits “Jika Begini“, “Cintamu“, “Gadis & Bunga” & “Ku Ingin Bebas“.

My thoughts on the show: Even though it’s been ages since she had a solo concert, Rahimah Rahim still packs a punch and those rich vocals of hers are still as fresh as ever. I was surprised that I had forgotten her songs not to mention the number of hits, and listening to them brought back memories of my childhood days. Her banter with the audience also proved she still is a fantastic entertainer since her Kasbah days (she used to performed at this night club at the old Mandarin Hotel, now known as Meritus Mandarin). A concert worth watching definitely and something to savour and reminisce in future…

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And finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… Aida has finally given birth this morning at 9:15am to our firstborn, our daughter who goes by the name of Syahindah Adawiyah (Pious & Healer). Both mother and daughter are doing well, the mother feeling weak as she went through the C-section due to the aforementioned cord round the baby’s neck and for the fact that the baby’s head was big. Alhamdulillah all went well, save for the fact that my mum wasn’t able to share the joy of seeing her first grandchild as she fell ill all of a sudden. I just hope she would get well as soon as possible as she is due to go for Hajj this Sunday.

As you can see from the picture, my daughter does not have any resemblance of me nor my wife, maybe not yet. Even when I first saw her, I had to ask the nurse if she was my daughter since she looks like a Japanese kid and I had to make sure I was giving the call for prayer to the right baby. When the nurse carried her and put her in my arms, she started to cry but when I started the call for prayer, she kept quiet and listened intently. It helps that she’s had practice by going umrah and fasting for 29 days (yes her mother almost got to fast in full, save for the last day when she fell ill) in her mother’s womb. Throughout the day, whenever I carried her and sang to her solawat and tasbih, she kept quiet in my arms. I pray that she grows up to live up to her name. I can’t wait to bring her up!!!

Ironically one of my best friend’s (Latif) wife (Nora) gave birth about 12 hours later than Aida and his 2nd daughter thus shares the same birthday as my daughter. But the irony of ironies came in the form of my support for RIA 89.7FM for 16 years now. Such is my loyalty that even my daughter shares the same birthday as the radio station. Not to mention another good friend’s daughter (Liza Hanim‘s Marsha Qistina) who turned 3 today. And of course Hafeez Glamour and sis Hasliza. Wishing many happy returns to one and all…

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