Chasing Footprints


My parents brought me and my siblings up with books and books and books. Books were our companions and our guides. Books were everywhere in the house; be it in our playroom, our bedroom, the living room or the kitchen. We never had a room designated as a library, but you are bound to find a bookshelf or two in every room.  

My parents taught us to love and appreciate books since the moment we could crawl around and play. They flipped through picture books with us and pointed out colours, numbers and shapes even if we couldn’t understand much at that age. They instilled a curiosity to discover the wondrous worlds waiting to be explored in the rows and rows of books which line up the walls of our playroom.

My father would read and act out the many books which were too hard for me to read but wildly exciting as they tell of great adventures across the seas or a simple but thrilling tale of a gingerbread man being chased around town. Sometimes our toy bears and rabbits were little actors as they played out the tale he was telling.

When I was turning four, my mother sat me down and made me read Ladybird’s “Phonics” series as a past time activity until slowly but surely, I unlocked the door to the many lands and seas and realms only books can bring me to.  

Reading became a fun activity which wasn’t much different from playtime. Whenever we started to grow bored as we visited the grocery store, my parents would place us in their trolleys and give us a book to read. Even when we visited our grandparents in Terengganu, we will visit the bookstore ran by my family, “Alam Akademik” (or “Keda Buku Pok Loh Yunang” as it is fondly remembered by many), where my siblings and I will sit in the cozy reading corner at the store with a stack of books we have chosen to read.

My grandfather had a beautiful library in his house with books that my father will always encourage us to read. However, most of them talked about concepts my siblings and I found to be too difficult to understand. There was a day when my sister and I were ecstatic to find a few books which seemed simpler, but they were written in Arabic and thus we could only try to make sense of the story from the illustrations and with the few Arabic words we have learnt at school.

Despite my inability to understand the books, my grandfather’s library was my favourite room in his house as I found a sense of familiarity and comfort.  

In more recent years, one of my favourite past time activity was to read a book with my father early in the morning while we have our breakfast. We shared a similar interest in book genre and topic which made for interesting discussions. Whenever I found a concept to be confusing, I would often ask my father as he was always able to break down complex subjects into clear explanations. He would also give me sticky notepads to mark interesting pages or to leave some notes in the margins.

However, there were also certain books, such as fictions and retellings of real-life mysteries and unsolved cases, which I enjoyed reading but he didn’t read them as much. He said that he used to read some of them during his university days, but there were other books which fascinates him more as he grew older.

This is when he said there is a choice in reading—in choosing books. The wondrous worlds hidden in books are knowledge; discovering them is learning. And with the limited amount of time that we have in this world, and with the responsibility that we carry on our shoulders to better ourselves and those around us, we need to also learn to evaluate the importance of a book and which of them should be read first.

But there isn’t a fault in reading light materials from time to time, he had said, and thus I would read these books on my own in my room on days when I wish to wind down from a hard week. 

Three years back, my father had planned to rearrange some of the books in our living room. The books were arranged according to topic and there were some titles which were not kept in the right place; either in a rush or because we couldn’t quite decide which section it would fit in best. There were also some books—stacked in a corner, which were either taken out of the bookshelves to be read yet were never kept back in their places, or simply never found their way inside the bookshelves.

However, he passed away before he could see his plans through and I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it on my own. There were moments when I wanted to, and I was about to, yet I didn’t. For when I glanced at a book and read its title, or flipped through one which piqued my interest, I was harshly reminded of the loss that I feel without him. To this day, I would still automatically think of asking my father for an explanation whenever I stumble upon a new concept or theory or a confusing piece of information.

And it hurts when I couldn’t. 

What pains me the most is a sense of disappointment in myself. I would be reminded of when my father encouraged me to read my grandfather’s books which I thought were too difficult to understand, yet I never quite tried. I would be reminded of when my father recommended a certain book for me to read, yet I decided to put it off for a while as I was reading other books which I thought were more exciting. I would be reminded of his advice on understanding and evaluating the importance of a book in comparison to another.

And only now do I feel a sense of urgency to try and learn as much of the things he knew and tried to teach as I could. To hunt for as much books which he had read and left annotations in the margins. To chase after the footprints he left in the sand which are being blown away as the days pass by. 

But there is no use crying over spilt milk and wasted time and ruined chances.

Thus, dusting myself off and restraining myself from falling into the wallows of disappointment, frustration and feeling of incompetence, I finally decided to arrange the stack of books in the corner back inside the bookshelves and (albeit partially) rearrange some of the books my father had intended to.

And though I couldn’t quite keep out the voices in my head which refuse to not cry over spilt milk and are insisting that I am incompetent and a disappointment, I picked a few titles from my grandfather’s collection (which now resides in our home) and tell myself that even though I may have thrown away the opportunity to learn much more, I can still learn to unlock the door to the many lands and seas and realms of knowledge I so wish to discover—slowly but surely. 

This piece was written a year ago and I decided to keep it in it’s original state without changing the “three years back” to “four years back”.

I couldn’t quite bring myself to publish it when I wrote it and so it has been collecting dust in my drafts folder for a year. Publishing it now on a whim.

A Treasure Trove of Knowledge

Perpustakaan Tan Sri Omar Mohd Hashim 

Wisma Sejarah – Photo courtesy of Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia

As a life-long history enthusiast, one of my most desperate wishes is to visit all (or at least almost all) of the museums and historical galleries there are in Malaysia. One of these historical galleries is Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia’s (PSM) ‘Galeri Sejarah’ located at the ground floor of Wisma Sejarah—a proud landmark standing tall in one of Kuala Lumpur’s busiest roads, Jalan Tun Razak. The building also boasts a member-only library that houses more than 3,000 books! We have frequented Wisma Sejarah in the past since it is a popular wedding reception venue, but wedding receptions are generally only held on weekends in KL, and the gallery only opens on weekdays.  

Thus, when my elder sister said that she will be sitting for her A-Levels at Wisma Sejarah three years back, I was beyond thrilled. With some forward planning and internet research, I whole-heartedly volunteered to accompany my sister to Wisma Sejarah and prepared my day trip backpack filled with day trip necessities and a list of agendas for the trip. The plan for me was to first register as a member of the organisation, then visit the gallery, and then read the books in the library.  

Upon our arrival—and after wishing my sister good luck as she strode into the exam hall at about 08:45—I quickly went up to PSM’s office to sign up as a member of the organisation, then hurried back down and agonisingly eagerly stood in front of the Galeri Sejarah; waiting for it to open. The guard was steadfast in following the 09:30 opening hour. The moment the guard finally (FINALLY!) pulled the large wooden doors of the gallery open, I was overwhelmed by excitement and rushed in even though the guard had yet to flick the lights on.  

This trip happened during one of the bleakest times in my life. My father had just passed away a few months prior, and my family and I were not certain about anything concerning our future, including our education. I had also lost my writing and research job; a work I passionately loved. Thus, this opportunity to fulfil one of my longest dreams became even more meaningful to me. 

After touring once, twice, then one last time for good measure around the minuscule yet informative gallery, I thanked the guard for his kind hospitality and went for my third aim of the trip. The library, ‘Perpustakaan Tan Sri Omar Mohd Hashim’, was already opened by the time I reached it. And after signing in the guest book, I pulled out a notebook and a pen and engulfed myself in the overwhelming sight of the shelves of books. Some of the books were books I have only dreamed of seeing, much less holding and reading. I didn’t have much time to read that day since I spent a lot of time at the gallery. Therefore, I decided to only browse around and make a mental assessment of the titles offered and what’s where so that I can spend more time reading and less time browsing (or being awestruck and distracted by the many titles offered) during my next trip. 

And that was how I spent my next few trips to Wisma Sejarah—secluded in the many rows of books, being lost in tales of old and new and worlds no level of imagination can do justice, and learning lessons and words of advice I hope to remember until the day I die. It was a beautiful safe haven, a reprieve from the dreadful loop of thoughts I was stuck in during one of my bleakest moments. My trips were so frequent that the librarian and I have grown amicable to, and comfortable with, each other. The librarian would usually turn her radio on when no one is visiting the library to fill in the silence, but as a sign of respect, she would turn it off when someone visits. After my frequent drop-bys however, she asked if it was fine for her to switch the radio on at a low volume. I said yes since I could simply bring my headphones to drown the noise a little.   

Every morning while I waited for the library to open, I would reread the brief biodata of Tan Sri Omar Mohd. Hashim—the namesake of the library—which was written on a wall plaque hung beside the library’s doors. Back then, I had only briefly read about him—had only heard his name and story in passing. I knew that he was PSM’s chairman as well as the person who initiated the move to build Wisma Sejarah, and I knew that he was the person largely responsible for our Malaysian Examination Council’s (MEC) take-over in handling the SPM examinations from Cambridge, but not much else. I vaguely knew his story, but not his ideals, principles or his words. However, the trips to the library stirred my curiosity and I started to read a little bit more about him from his writings which were available in the library. 

Then came an unassuming morning. It was just another day of me spending my time blissfully reading in the library—while my sister racked her brains trying to answer exam papers—when I heard someone walked in. There was a little bit of a stir (and by a stir I mean that the librarian stood up from her seat to greet the person). But since I was lost in my book, I didn’t think of paying much attention. Often the office staff would come to the library to have a chat with the librarian and thus—although it bothered me a little since I prefer to read in silence—I simply buried myself deeper into my book and continued reading.  

Minutes passed by and I realised that the library was the quietest it had been in a while. Apart from some keyboard and mouse clicking, and newspaper-page turning, I couldn’t hear anything else—not the radio and neither any chatter.  

I glanced up and furtively looked towards the neighbouring table, where the person who had just arrived was quietly reading a newspaper. He was an aged man I estimated to be around his late seventies or eighties. By chance, I glanced at one of the bookshelves in front of me where a book by Tan Sri Omar was placed. There was a picture of him from his younger days on the book cover; staring back at me with a kind smile.  

Then the realisation sank in. 

I—forgetting my attempts in being furtive—glanced back at the man with the newspaper, then back at the book, then back at the man, then—remembering my attempts in being furtive—quietly walked up to the librarian and asked with a slight tilt of my head, “Tan Sri Omar Hashim?” 

Ya,” was her excited reply to my excited query.  

By now, I have already read about Tan Sri Omar’s deep passion for history, Bahasa Melayu and education, and a much more in-depth piece of how he initiated the move to build Wisma Sejarah as a symbol of pride and strength for the field of history, its lovers and also for PSM. Meeting someone who had done so much for the country, had such a deep passion for history, and was responsible for the construction of the building and the library I have grown so fond of was an opportunity I didn’t imagine would happen. I asked the librarian if she thinks he would mind if I were to ask for his autograph. I didn’t want to bother him since he was reading—and I hate interrupting someone when they are reading—but I needed to tell him how much I respected his works. The librarian contemplated the question, then said that I can give it a try. 

Snatching my notebook, I timidly went up to him and (in the polite-most, respectable-most manner I could muster) excused myself and asked him if he can sign an autograph for me. His first reaction was a perplexed look; asking me what would I want his autograph for. I told him about how I respected and thought highly of his works and it would be such a great honour to have a token from the person I respect. He mulled over it, then nodded his head.  

When he returned my notebook to me, with his signature adorning a once-blank page, he asked me if that is all. Still bothered by the thought that I may be bothering his reading time, I refrained from asking a few questions I thought of asking him and nodded my head “yes”. 

To which he scolded me and said that it is not all. “Saya belum tulis tarikh,” he reprimanded. “Never get an autograph without the date.” 

After writing the date down, he opened up a conversation and asked me why I was there. We talked for a moment, though it wasn’t long-lived. He soon went back to his newspaper and I, both excited and still nervous about bothering him from his reading, went back to my book. 

I have briefly recounted this tale once in a previous blog article and will probably continue to remember it fondly. Although he didn’t know it, the conversation I shared with him instilled some hope and courage in me to trudge on through the difficult moment I was living through and inspired me to pursue a few of my seemingly too idealistic dreams. And although I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask him for his opinion on the matters I was curious about, I was more than honoured to have met and shared a short moment with him.  

He passed away not long after, which shocked and grieved me deeply when I heard the news. 

Menongkah Gelombang Pendidikan 

Menongkah Gelombang Pendidikan

Fast forward to earlier this week, I started reading his autobiography, ‘Menongkah Gelombang Pendidikan’. I have previously only read a few autobiographies since it isn’t my favourite genre. An autobiography would either allow you to listen to and watch an intimate retelling of a person’s life, giving you a peek into a person’s soul, or it simply presents an image the author wants you to believe in—an act, a political play and a biased perception. The latter is what usually puts me off and drives me away from reading autobiographies in general.  

However, I found a few of Tan Sri Omar’s books on sale and my mother wanted to gift one of his books of my choosing to me for my birthday. In the end, I decided to give his autobiography a go. It would be interesting, I thought, to know more about his life and times and struggle and how he accomplished the great feats which he did. And the book, it turns out, was not only the genuine kind of autobiography which I love reading, but is also perhaps one of the best books I have read.  

Tan Sri Omar’s story-telling was endearing and personal. When I read his writing, I can almost hear his voice narrating the lines—passionate when talking about the matters he was enthusiastic about, concerned when sharing an analysation of certain situations, movements or events which worried him, and nostalgic when recounting the stories of his parents. I can almost see his face lighting up in amusement when retelling the upbeat and cheeky incidences in his life, or excited when talking about the successes of his advocacy for the nation. When talking about his childhood days, Tan Sri Omar perfectly captured the innocence of a child who didn’t know or can foretell much further from what was present. Who had idealistic dreams and ambitions no one can hold them back from. Who, though naive, makes judgements and learns and remembers. 

It was clear that all of these experiences from his childhood and teenage days have shaped his thinking and character, building him to be the man who strived and struggled simply to see his people and the future generation standing tall atop their motherland and proudly owning their culture and heritage after years of struggle and discrimination. A line from the book, which was quoted from Tan Sri Omar’s father, echoed his wish to watch the future generation grow and become their best, “Kalau seorang bapa itu diibaratkan sebagai pokok pinang, anak mestilah jadi pokok nibung dan cucunya mestilah jadi sebagai pokok kelapa.” His love for the future generation was expressed through his love for teaching, which was his dream job growing up. And although he only had the chance to teach for a few years in his life, it was evident from the way he recounted these years that he treasured them deeply. Reading about his love for teaching, I was reminded of the way he purposely left out the date when he signed me an autograph to test me and consecutively teach me about the importance of having the date written in an autograph. As the saying goes, once a teacher, always a teacher. 

Another line which he quoted in the book were the words of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and a big inspiration for Tan Sri Omar during his school and university days. “Failure is a word unknown to me,” were the words on a poster of a picture of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his university dorm. And throughout his career in the education industry and his struggle to improve and uplift the education level of our nation, he held true to these words. Never did he back down from a difficult task or an obstacle, or bow down when his ideas were rejected. He kept true to his principles and marched on and into the unknown to open new doors of possibility for the country. In his pursuit to take over the handling of SPM from Cambridge, he was willing to travel the whole world and study the way each examination syndicate around the world handled their exams and run their organisations to craft the best system for our country. The process was a methodical one. One in which Tan Sri Omar and the other people working for the MEC spent years in shaping and modelling with careful and thorough steps taken. 

One of my favourite parts of the book is when he would share his thoughts and analysations on the many events which happened then, and also related events which are happening in the present. Amongst the matters he stressed out in his book was the importance of a strong, stable and supportive familial connection. He pressed on how a strong, supportive and proactive family is a key to building the best minds and talents, and most importantly, in building character, principles and identity. This idea mirrors his upbringing where his father, a teacher, had proactively taught and nurtured him since he was a child despite his father’s busy schedule working for his family and the people, and how his mother sacrificed herself and worked day and night, walking around town by foot for long hours to sell goods in order to secure a great education for her children when his father passed away while Tan Sri Omar was still in his secondary school. 

Speaking on the importance of studying history, he mentioned, “Sejarah laksana cermin yang makin digilap, making cerah imejnya untuk mengenal diri, masyarakat dan bangsa.” These words ring so true to me as we as individuals build our identity and principles based on what we remember and learn from our life. Similarly, a society or a civilisation becomes what it is from its collective history. Thus, the more defined our history is, the more defined our identity will be. And if our history is twisted and bent around the edges, we as a society will build an identity based on false ‘memories’ or false history. This is a sentiment that I have always felt but never found the right words to so precisely express. Perhaps this may be another reason why I found the book to be so captivating and remarkable. Reading how he articulated ideas in such a precise manner with some of these ideas or sentiments being ones I have also felt—although most definitely not as strongly or as well-fleshed out—was assuring, motivating and inspiring. 

His sharing on his deep and fascinatingly beautiful worldview coming from his decades of analytical observations were as engaging as the entertaining retelling of his younger days. These short but in-depth analyses were reflective of the deep wisdom he had gained from the many experiences he had gathered throughout the years. His insights account for opposing views with structured arguments to support each case while also adding in many suggestions on ways to handle problems or issues which we are currently facing and those which we might face in the future; mostly relating to education. There are many words of advice that he left in the book for the future generation—for our generation. Reminders for those he cared so much about and worked hard to ensure that we will flourish. It would be a pity if we waste this opportunity to read the last piece of writing he left for all of us before he passed away. 

A Treasure Trove of Knowledge 

Secara peribadi selepas persaraan pada tahun 1990, banyak sekali soal dan isu pendidikan yang saya lalui berlegar di kepala. Seolah-olah meminta dibicarakan. Saya rasa alangkah ruginya buah fikiran dan renungan ini tidak diabdikan lebih-lebih lagi seperti kata pepatah Inggeris ‘while memory serves’ atau selagi ingatan masih kuat dan terang. Seberapa boleh segalanya patut direkodkan dan dicatat kerana ia akan berguna untuk generasi akan datang supaya mereka mendapat iktibar. Jika tidak pun inspirasi selain membuat perhitungan dan perbandingan dengan jejak perjalanan hidup mereka meniti sistem-sistem pada zaman mereka.

‘Menongkah Gelombang Pendidikan’, Allahyarham Tan Sri Omar Mohd Hashim

A line near the end of his book which struck me so strongly was when he wrote, “Tanda bangsa itu suatu bangsa yang besar ialah apabila ia pandai mengenang jasa tokoh-tokoh besarnya. Malangnya, kita di negara ini tidak pandai menghargai jasa orang yang baik sehinggalah hamba Allah itu tiada lagi.” It made me incredibly upset and disappointed with myself for not have read more about him sooner. For not have asked him the questions I wanted to ask and for his opinions and ideas on matters I was curious about when I met him. For not have put more effort in trying to perhaps meet him again and listen to the fruits of his wisdom. I am still honoured and beyond thankful that I, at the very least, was blessed with the opportunity to meet him just about six months before he passed away. But I still regret the fact that back then I was not able to appreciate him and his work as much as I do now. 

Many times have I heard people say that throughout time, knowledge will slowly leave us, and it leaves us when a wise and knowledgeable person dies. I have always understood this saying, but now, I feel it profoundly. Tan Sri Omar’s passing is such a sore loss for our nation. He was a world of inspiration and a treasure trove of knowledge. He was a trailblazer and a bright star on a dark night. Now, the least that we can do is to learn from what we still have; to learn from the pieces of writing the wise of the past has left for us and to learn as much as we can from those who are still with us. 

Kuah Nasi Dagang: An Introspection

It was on a Thursday morning when my mother decided that she and I should attempt to cook a traditional kuah Nasi Dagang Terengganu– which is not the simplest of tasks. It is so hard to get the dish right that most of the kuah Nasi Dagang sold at roadside stalls or even at high-end restaurants terribly miss their marks. Just ask any ‘Orang Tranung’ on how hard it is to find a kuah Nasi Dagang which tastes like the traditional, fondly remembered and possessively loved kuah Nasi Dagang. My mother was excited because the last time (and the first time) we attempted to cook the dish, it was very close to being right. I agreed to partake in the adventure, partly because I am fond of cooking, but mostly because I have always been obsessed with preventing old ancestral recipes from vanishing.

However, sometimes in my passionate crusade to preserve cultural heritage and thwart off revolutionisation, I run into a formidable foe; self-doubt. “What is the point of all this?” it asks, as I blended a few pre-soaked dried chillies to make ‘cili giling’ for the kuah. What is the point of preserving recipes someone found and proclaimed to be the staple food of your culture? What is the point of dedicating your life to protect and preserve yesterday? Why can’t the modern kuah Nasi Dagang, which can be tasty in its own rights– just very unconventional, be accepted as the new kuah Nasi Dagang? Is it blasphemy to revolutionise traditional cooking?

In fact, many ‘Orang Tranung’ who migrated out of Terengganu have already gotten confused about how a kuah Nasi Dagang should taste like. So why must we go the extra mile to find the right amount of jintan manis and the right amount of kerisik and wait for the long hours it takes to ‘mati air ikan’ (a process where you boil your fish with seasoning and other stuff for hours until the bones of the fish turn soft), simply to find the right recipe to recreate a dish and pass it down to the future generation? Is preserving an old recipe, a cultural heritage, that important? What even is the importance and significance of our cultural heritage?

“Our heritage is our identity,” my mind will chasten, trying to stifle my self-doubt. It is what sets us apart from others. It is the source of our integrity and principles. To thwart it, to replace it, to adopt something new and not ourselves will be to shed our sense of being and dress up in costumes; pretending to be someone we are not. To modernise the sacred recipes we inherited from our ancestors is to leave our heritage in dusty, dingy basements in favour of replacing it by purchasing something new, something different and exciting, but not us. In doing so, we forget ourselves. We forget how special our culture is. We forget to champion our culture and our country to make it a formidable presence on the international stage.

We abandon our Nasi Dagang and Ikan Singgang and Baju Kurung Pesak because we are bewitched by Kombuchas and Kimchis and pastas and oversized hoodies. Not to say that it is wrong for us to appreciate international food (I love pasta and croissants and British tea). But if we were to leave and forget our own heritage, our own identity, allowing it to quietly disappear and be extinct in favour of adopting someone else’s rule of life (a.k.a. lifestyle), then who do we become?

Thus, as I stir my kuah Nasi Dagang, waiting for it to ‘pecah minyak’, I ponder about how proud the French are about their croissants. And how devastating it is that neither my mother nor I have been able to cook Rendang Hati the way my late Nenek (my maternal grandmother) cooked it when I was younger. And how we never asked my late Jiddah (my paternal grandmother) for her Kuih Pa recipe. And how disheartening it is to watch a large fraction of Malay young adults obsessing about wearing their costumes right first and covering their aurat second (wear short socks that expose your ankles and short trousers that expose your knees) and how some of them simply do not understand the fault in it (“netizens are too negative” and “tak suka jangan tengok”). And how lucky I am to have grown up in the right environment under my parents’ care and to have chosen the right role model (my Atuk who was always trying to improvise and modernise things but still protected cultural heritage and taught me about the importance of it as he reads his daily Utusan Malaysia). And yes, I will dedicate my life to this cultural heritage and history preservation crusade that I have been fighting for since I was a child. And I will continue to proudly wear my hand-me-down Baju Kurung Pesak on Hari Raya– knowing that people of my age make faces at the sight of them because the Baju Kurungs were too out of date and not resembling Western or Korean dresses enough.

And so as we sat down for lunch, with the steaming hot pot of kuah Nasi Dagang placed at the centre of the dining table, I was relieved and overjoyed because everyone thought that the kuah Nasi Dagang turned out fantastic, authentic and finally right.

A Tribute to Abah.

He was a man who spoke not of his worries or the pain and anguish which torments his heart. He would, at times, act upon his anger when he felt upset. Alas, he was only a human.

He was a man who spoke wise words, leaving cryptic messages and short-sentenced advices. When I asked for the reason behind the words he said, most of the time he wouldn’t explain them, only saying; figure it out.

After he left, I started to see the things which had been tormenting him—the things which he had been trying to keep away from us so as to keep us away from the pain he felt. After he left, I started to see the reasons behind some of the words he said—the reasons as to why he told us to stay away from certain acts and to not trust certain hearts. Or the reason as to why he always reminded us to hold onto our faith in Allah for Iman is not something a father is able to pass down to his children.

The past eleven months have been a wild ride for me. With the mast of my ship, which was the reason as to why I could sail for so far, gone and the compass, which guided me through turbulent waves, lost; it is often that I find myself pulled into ferocious storms.

And it had been maddening.

But with every tragedy which one braces through come lessons which one can learn from. Such as the art to tell apart between glitter and gold, or the art to recognize wolves in white fleece, or to understand why you must always treasure and stand together with the ones who are not going to jump out of a sinking ship without you. And these lessons learned are the seeds which grow into valuable experiences, experiences which will build your own map of the world so you can stand up for yourself and also help others sail through the seas which are uncharted for them—like how others have helped you.

To Abah, thank you for all of the sacrifices you’ve made for us which we’ve never known and perhaps will never know. Thank you for all of the wise words you’ve spoken, for always reminding us to read and learn and hold onto our Iman. Thank you for the quiet mornings we’ve spent over books and breakfast—this will always be something which I will miss.

To Abah, happy birthday and may Allah bless you always.

رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَابُ

He was a man who knew of many things on so many fields from science to technology to social behaviour. There were times, though, when he didn’t know the answer to our questions. And he would admit it—never feigning intelligence.

Pesanan Terakhir daripada Abah…

Suatu hari, ayah saya mendapat satu panggilan telefon dari gurunya, Ustaz Uthman El-Muhammady.

“Karim, Al-Buti sudah tiada”, ujar Ustaz Uthman. “Tetapi kita jangan takut kerana perjuangan mesti diteruskan.”

Kira-kira lima hari kemudian, sedang ayah memasuki sebuah masjid untuk memberi pencerahan tentang ancaman kepada Agama dan Bangsa di Tanah Air kita, telefon di dalam poketnya berdering. Nama anak kepada Ustaz Uthman tertera di skrin telefon.

“Pak Cik Karim… ayah sudah tiada.”




Lima tahun kemudian, pesanan terakhir Ustaz Uthman inilah antara pesanan terakhir yang ayah saya sampaikan kepada saya dengan aliran air mata yang tidak dapat ditahan.

Harimau mati meninggalkan belang, manusia mati meninggalkan nama. Moga-moga nama pejuang Agama, Bangsa dan Tanah Air ini dapat memberikan inspirasi kepada kita semua untuk meneruskan perjuangan sehingga ke akhir hayat seperti yang telah dilakukan oleh Allahyarham A. Karim Omar.


NaPoWriMo: Poem #8, A Little More About Us

I wrote this poem as a comment to my sister’s poem, NaPoWriMo Poem #7: Siblings.

While Ali have a nick in living up stories,
Anisah sends us to the world of fantasies,
Poems are things Kaman sure can handle,
I prefer to spend my time solving puzzles.

Kaman prefers a good country beat,
Fah likes it when she can goes strumming to the beat,
While Ali would like a catchy song to sing,
Jazz and country rock sure is my thing.

My First Live Performance in a Radio Show

Yesterday, 6th March 2014, my family and I went on air on eWana.FM Kuala Lumpur through their night show, ‘Bila Larut Malam’ or ‘When The Night Falls’ with DJ Nizal Mohamad or Uncle Nizal as we call him.

When Uncle Nizal informed my father that he wanted to interview my little brother, Ahmad Ali, Ali was very, very excited. He could not wait to make a live appearance on a radio show. Later, Uncle Nizal re-informed my father that all of us would appear on the radio show! It was kind of exciting for me as I had never appeared on a radio show before. But I was also very nervous as I was not sure what should I say in the show. What if I get nervous and my tongue gets tangled upon answering a question.

We were also going to sing a song by Dawud Wharnsby Ali titled, ‘Alhamdulillah’ with only one and a half day to practice! I was seriously nervous and afraid that I might not be able to sing it well. As we practiced the song, I didn’t manage to fulfill my mother’s expectations. My voice was too soft and I can’t hit the right note. I practiced again and again that night. It was very hard but at last, I manage to improve my singing and almost got a sore throat. My mother noted my improvement the next day and I felt so proud.

I was really excited as we drove closer to the studio. I wasn’t nervous at all. However, when we entered the radio conti, my heart climbed up to my throat, butterflies flew into my stomach, I grew nervous all of a sudden. I seriously thought that I did so bad and awful during the show. However, after the show, my mother told me that I did great even though I was quite nervous.

Uncle Nizal told us that they will air a repeat of the show at 6PM Malaysian time (+8:00 GMT) today and so I am really looking forward to hearing it because I want to hear how did I do yesterday by myself. To any of my dear readers who wants to hear the repeat, please visit today at 6PM Malaysian time (+8:00 GMT).

When the Night Falls – Ahmad Ali Karim & His Family of Bloggers

From Ahmad Ali’s Weblog:

I’ll be on-air together with my parents and siblings at 11p.m. with DJ Nizal Mohammad in ‘When Night Falls-Bila Larut Malam’ on Thursday, March 6, 2014.

This is the first time I’ll be on-air in a radio show!

For international listeners, please note that time stated is 11pm on March 6, 2014 (Malaysian time) which is +8:00 GMT.


Announcement! My Little Brother is 10

After reading the comments on my favourite blogger, Helen Ang’s post titled, ‘Announcement‘, I felt the need to write this post.

First, I would like to thank Aunty Helen for being very responsible by telling her reader that every body need to mind their language now since my 10 years old little brother is reading her blog.

User-generated-content (i.e. your comments) must endeavour to comply to a Universal rating, particularly those Dapsters who like to curse and swear. And the same standard applies to me too.

My family and I really appreciate and respect Aunty Helen’s concern that adults should not curse and swear in front of children. Since children look up to adults; it is just fair that adults show good examples to the children. Moreover, I believe that cultured adults do watch their language, even when they are angry.

However, I can’t stop laughing when I read various comments posted by her readers about my little brother. It seems that people find it so unbelievable that a 10 years old boy reads and writes about politics and is an active blogger.

So, I dedicate this article to my little brother, Ahmad Ali Karim and share with you some cute pictures of him 😀


Aunty Helen said that Ahmad Ali Karim is not the ‘nasty Ali Karim’. Ahmad Ali Karim is a young boy who had been brought up by a cultured and well-mannered pair of parents, who hate bad and harsh words.

By the way, I am very familiar with Ali Karim’s style of comments since he (or she?) tried to ‘harass’ me with his rude words. My little brother could not be ‘creative’ enough to write those comments because he do not understand those words.

Read the full thread of his comments by clicking the picture. He is quite a coward actually. He can't even answer to me the question I asked him which is simply, Siapa Ekstremis? and why?.
You can read his comments by clicking the picture. He is a coward, actually. He was not happy with my opinion of who is actually the extremist but dare not answer my question of “Siapa Ekstremis? and why?” Instead of answering, he again condemned JAIS and others.

Read Ali Karim’s comments and compare them with the articles written by Ahmad Ali Karim at his blog.

When my elder sister, Aiman and I went to school, we were stunned to hear our friends using the words ‘aku’ and ‘engkau’ or ‘kau’ on regular basis. Our parents told us not to use those words and only use ‘saya’ and ‘awak’ as ‘aku’ and ‘engkau’ are rude words and not to be spoken by well-mannered people.

Then we started to learn more and more harsh and rude phrases like, “kepala otak kau”, “padam muka” and so on. As naive and innocent children, all those words and phrases absorbed into our minds. Our concerned mother told us that it is really rude to use those words and phrases. Even if our friends use them, we must not follow them. Allah loves those who speaks politely and so as Muslims, we have to show good behaviour to others.

To those who doubt the fact that my little brother writes his own articles in his blog, please read his blog from the beginning and see how he improves over the years. Writing needs a lot of practice and keeping an active blog like my little brother’s is not easy. He need to work real hard and be very disciplined. There are times when we need to give him a push to motivate him.

Well, Ahmad Ali and my elder sister, Aiman Amani are both great writers. One advantage that Ahmad Ali has is that he had been trained by our mother since he was very young to brush up this talent.

My mother taught us to read at a very, very young age and yes, we have lots and lots of books at home. My little brother wrote his first short story titled, ‘The Pink Elephant’ when he was 3 years old because he saw his big sisters were writing stories. He begged my parents to let him start his own blog when he was 5 years old; because our eldest sister Aiman who was 13 years old at the time, has started her blog.

So his writing gears had always been running and have not gone rusty because everyday, those gears are polished by new tips and information which makes his writing becomes better and better.

My elder sister on the other hand has not been trained to write as early as Ahmad Ali. Anyway, once she started, she can write very professionally and is way better than mine. You can read her blog here: Aiman Amani’s Weblog

This is Ahmad using the Microsoft Power Point at 5 years old.
This is Ahmad using the Microsoft Power Point at 5 years old.

I’m sad and sorry to see how some adults think about children and have no respect for their intelligence. Why can’t children be taken seriously and be taught to think intellectually since they are young?

Helen Ang's Blog Comments- Announcement

We always have intellectual discussions at home. We discuss politics and current issues. My father also took us to lots of seminars, book launches, talks and we met and had the chance to speak to great writers, journalist, lawyers, politicians, ulama’s and wonderful people who helped us grow wiser.

We do not watch much TV; in fact when we were younger, all that we watched were videos that our dad bought for us or taped such as ‘Adam’s World’, Barney, ‘Magic English’, ‘Sesame Street’ and some others. And I’m at lost when my friends talk about Siti Nurhaliza or Justin Bieber. And my little brother does not watch Ben 10, Upin dan Ipin, and BoBoiBoy; and would not wear a Ben 10 or any superhero T-shirts.

He reads a lot since he was small. And he reads good books.

I’ve always found it weird when my friends could not think of anything interesting to talk about other than ‘hot, juicy gossips’. That could be one of the reasons why I do not have much friends of my age. I had always been considered as weird for not knowing the names of popular singers and their songs.

Ahmad Ali and Uncle Nasha.

Just because my little brother is a blogger, reads some political blogs and writes about politics, it doesn’t means that our parents do not keep an eye on us. I dare say, that the contents of what ‘normal’ teens read about are more worrisome. We are under our parents surveillance for 24 hours and our parents are very strict on what we read and they approve Aunty Helen’s blog.

My cute little brother at a FedEx office in Palo Alto, California when he was three years old. For some unexplainable reasons, my little brother really loves FedEx when he was younger.

Our parents train us (force us to be exact) to think intellectually and talk mostly of useful things. Our brains are stuffed with important issues everyday. And apart from learning Mathematic, English and the usual stuff, we, including Ahmad Ali were taught the basic of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia; such as Article 3(1), Article 11, Article 153, Article 160 and so on. That is why Ahmad Ali always uses those articles in his writing. And he is even familiar with certain important cases like the ‘Che Omar Che Soh’ case that is usually wrongly interpreted by the Pakatan.

We are lucky because we are also able to get the advises from Uncle Naser Disa, who is an expert in Constitutional Law of Malaysia and Uncle Azril Mohd. Amin, who is an expert in the Human Rights issues.

Ali and two of his many lawyer friends.
Ahmad Ali with two of his many lawyer friends.

Life is not only about having fun, money and fame. As Muslims, we carry three responsibilities in life which are, to make ourselves good, help others become good and make the world good, clean and beautiful, pleasing to Allah. And so we must use each and every second that we have to do good things.

We also learn to choose friends. Make friends with the people who can help to make us a better person and not those who will just waste our time and turn us into bad and useless people.

My father’s friends always take my little brother seriously. Ahmad Ali is in deep discussion with Ustaz Ismail Mina after a meeting.

To the commentators on Aunty Helen’s blog who are wondering how the 10 years old Ahmad Ali Karim is able to write those articles on his blog, my answer is talent, lots of reading, hard works, great parent and with Allah’s help.

dsc_0033 ai21

And that is 1272 words (minus captions and quotes) Aunty Helen!

Please Read:

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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