Miracles of the Quran: A Short Commentary of a Documentary

I was interested on what this man has to say about the Muslim scientists of the past.

I’d say that this is an interesting documentary. I stayed watching for the whole hour.

Of course, when secular thoughts try to study the Muslim scientists of the past, they often fail to grasp some things, things that they refuse to believe or even try to put themselves in those shoes. They only see things that are visible to the naked eyes but will never be able to feel the curiosity the Muslim scientists had, or comprehend the motivation behind it.

They thought that if they are motivated by money and power, that’s what the Muslim scientists were motivated with. They have never understood how the Quran and Prophet Muhammad SAW’s words encouraged knowledge and scientific discovery to no end.

Science is merely discovery of God’s creations and power. It is the discovery of truth. As scientists, knowledge and truth satisfy them and brought them closer to God, and THAT is the true motivation. I believe that even without the money and power bestowed by their leaders, these scientists would have continued pursuing knowledge.

Hence they seek knowledge from ALL corners of the world, no matter where they came from, because Allah has told us that His sustenance could come from ANYwhere in this whole wide world.

If you read the Quran and have it in your heart, you will never be satisfied with just a little bit of knowledge. You will always want to know more, learn more, and do more things, until the end of your life.

Now THAT is one of the miracles of the Quran.

Science and Islam – A Documentary from BBC

Of House Officers and Hard Work

Reading the grumblings of house officers and reply letters from medical officers, registrars, specialists and even the Director General of Health Ministry made me look back at my own experience during housemanship. It brought about some really great memories throughout those years.

I might write about it later but what I’m going to do now is to write about surviving this two rather difficult training years (which is the beginning of many many long and hard years). I know our colleague Dr Lutfi has written quite a good list of some survival skills:

Idiot’s Guide to Surviving Housemanship

My list is perhaps a little different. We’ll see.

1. The beginning will always be difficult
It is human nature to struggle when we start something. When a baby starts walking, he keeps on falling. But he doesn’t give up. At first he might cry when he falls, but you’d notice that after getting up and falling again, and getting up again, trying to walk, he’d not only start running very soon, but he might also laugh if he falls.
You cannot give up learning. Everyday as a doctor is a learning process – for a house officer, medical officer, registrar, specialist or even a consultant. To start learning is difficult but if you open your mind and heart, you will soon start running.

2. Not only doctors have it difficult. Everyone goes through the same thing too
If you think only junior doctors struggle, you should talk to other people. When my brother started working as an analyst, he worked day and night, with small pay. He had to work weekends and, unlike us, don’t get to claim much “overtime allowances” despite considered a professional.
My grandfather used to complain that my aunt, despite having studied overseas for her accounts degree, worked day and night for the first years in her working life, earning a few hundred ringgit per month!
Another brother of mine started his own business after graduation, working hard weekdays and weekends, and after two years just starting to see some improvements of his income, managed to pay a few workers, and even take university students as interns!
I’m sure you could find lots of other examples. Talk to your parents. Have they gone through difficulties in life? What did those experience teach them?

3. Hard work IS essential
I’m sure you’ve heard the when-I-was-a-houseman story many many times before. But let me tell you this, if you really want to be a successful doctor in the future, look at the consultants. Talk to them. Dato Razak once told me that “you could die standing” if you were a medical officer in his time. You see where he is now. He would never reach his current level of expertise without that much hard work.
Dear parents, please know that all those smart-looking, respectable and/or rich consultants and professors did not reach that level without spending long days and long nights in the hospital. The great quality of care that you feel you may have enjoyed after seeing those consultants in Sime Darby or Gleneagles or KPJ or Prince Court Medical Center could never have been achieved if they have cried to their parents or write a letter to the prime minister saying that work have been really hard on them.

4. However, you DO need a shoulder to cry on
While I believe in hard work, I do believe that we will feel stressed, sad, frustrated or burnt out. As much as we love our jobs, our body would feel it and send some signals. The problem with Asians is we expect too much from each other. We expect doctors to work like superman and judge them when they say “I’m tired.” I saw a snippet of a newspaper article saying that “healthcare workers should not feel tired as they should have been mentally prepared for a busy job.”
I don’t think it’s fair to expect someone to work long hours everyday for weeks without end. However in some situations, it might not be avoidable. It happened to me when I was a house officer in orthopaedics and general medicine.
I was lucky that my early years were not only bearable but enjoyable because I had someone on my side. Someone whom I looked up to and would always guide me whenever I have doubts. Someone who had gone through it all and even more. Someone who was protective enough but at the same time encouraged me to move on. Someone who encouraged me to work hard and was patient with me if I had to leave work late, which happened a lot during housemanship.
You NEED social support. You need it whether you’re sad, happy, stressed or feel like quitting the job altogether. Be it your own colleague, your life partner, or even your parents.
I do sincerely hope that parents, on top of being their shoulders to cry on, would encourage their doctor sons or daughters to stand up straight and carry on learning. I hope parents would motivate their children to become compassionate and responsible doctors, the way they expect their own doctors to be.

5. PLEASE be nice to the support staff
If there’s one thing that could help you survive and enjoy housemanship, that would be to be nice with the support staff. Mainly the nurses. A house officer and the nurses spend the most time in the ward with patients. Please don’t look down on the nurses. Many of them know better than you. There’s so much we could learn from them.
Talk to them with respect, say your please and thanks, be friendly, maybe buy them supper when you work nights with them, even take your short break with them (in turns, of course). Nothing else get Malaysians closer than having a meal together.
The ward attendants and even the cleaners are also great helps when you need them. Just look around, they are there for you.

6. Take a break
This is related to point number 4. It is not always possible, but try to plan some leave, some quality time with family, or just for yourself. Discuss with each other, take turns. If you could ALL learn to do work more efficiently, I think your seniors would not mind having less house officers to work with. The important motto is: “as long as the work is done.”

7. Remember your purpose
I’d say that this is the first principle. It’s the same with everything in life.
First you need to get your purpose right. Then you need to gain the knowledge to achieve your purpose, and you must use the knowledge you have for that matter. In the end, you must reflect on whether or not you’ve achieved your objectives, and are there any collateral damages of not reaching your targets.
Example (1): Your objective: manage atrial fibrillation with rate control, rhythm control and anticoagulation. Knowledge needed: medications, procedures, side effects. Apply knowledge. Reflect: review heart rate, rhythm, symptoms of failure, presence of side effects.
Example (2): You’re a doctor. Purpose: save lives and/or keep them comfortable, maximise quality of life. Knowledge and application: from years of long days and hard work. Not achievable by missing in action and spending energy complaining the whole time. Also not achievable by being calculative with friends and seniors. Reflect: the amount of confidence others have in you. So if you’re not off-tag after two weeks, or extended in the department, please think deeply of what you have not achieved. Your seniors mostly want you to be safe when you finish housemanship. Imagine, if your best friend said he trusts you for his mother’s life, would you be able to trust yourself?
Example (3): As Muslims, we believe that the purpose of this life is to serve Allah as His humble servants, in order to get His blessings for an eternal happiness. It can be achieved by fulfilling specific obligations that He has prescribed, and giving benefit to the mankind. One of those ways is by working hard, helping other people, being kind and friendly, and avoiding things that would distract us from remembering Allah. By being responsible doctors, we ARE fulfilling our purpose. Gain knowledge (ilmu) and apply them (amal). Reflect (muhasabah): Look back on how we treated our patients. Would Prophet Muhammad SAW be happy if he saw us like this? Do we need more knowledge? We will ALWAYS be in need of more knowledge.

Let’s strive to serve our purpose. We have people’s lives in our hands. There is no shortcut to perfection, there is no easy way to succeed. Not many will appreciate our hard work, and they will always complain no matter how hard we try to explain that we are humans. But first, do no harm. That could not be achieved unless you start and continue learning.

Good luck.

* * *
This article is in no way defending abusive attitude of some seniors. By abusive I meant those who shout and swear for no reason (nobody should swear), calling names, and even sexually harassing (directly or indirectly) junior colleagues. These bullies exist in ANY profession. You might run away from this job but others have it hard too.
This article does not defend those unreasonable seniors who extends house officers without valid reason. In the first place you should look into yourself and gain some insights on how you’ve performed so far.
Colleagues please try as much to be honest, even if that person is “somebody’s” son or daughter. It’s sad that such a culture still exist where you don’t “touch” certain doctors just because they are connected. But that’s another story altogether.


Early Morning Finds

Today is the first time I went to the Big Bad Wolf book sale. I have heard about it all this while, and almost all of the cheap books that I saw brought back were old books. However this year I decided to give it a try.

We don’t like crowds, we hate traffic jams, we prefer not to queue, so we left home at 4.30am. True enough, there were many people but it was not crowded. It was quite comfortable to browse for books.

We have set in mind a certain genre to look for, because there will be too many books to browse through.

These were my findings, and I’m happy:

The Diabetes Companion
It was not my intention to buy something medical-related. There were so many books about diabetes, but this one attracted me because it was written by an Endocrinologist. Deviating from my usual inclination to British-written books, this is written by a Singaporean. It is written for laymen in simple language, which would be great for me to educate my patients.

Real Simple Solutions
This book has loads and loads of pictures (which I love!). It teaches you tricks, short cuts and alternatives in our daily tasks at home, in the kitchen or in the office. It also gives you ideas to simplify elaborate events like entertaining and celebrating. I could use some tips as I always end up not meeting my own deadline whenever I have guests (who, 99% of the time, are my family members).

Save With Jamie
A proper Jamie Oliver cookbook, complete with how to choose your steak and joint your chicken, and meals that take less than 30 minutes to prepare. Would have been perfect for Anis as she lives in the UK and most of the ingredients are easily obtained there, and cheaper too.
I love the way he writes his cookbooks because he often gives detailed instructions on how to prepare the food.

Flower Gardening
“When I was in Melbourne the other day, I saw some small white flowers, but I don’t know what they were. So I was reminded of you. I wanted to take a photo and send it to you, but I had no internet connection at that time,” he told me.
I told him, “Guess what. Even though I love to photograph flowers, and I do love flowers, but I do NOT know most of their names!!”
It so happened that about a week before that conversation, I had a thought to myself, that perhaps I should get a book on the names of flowers. I have loads of photos of flowers but, as I said, I couldn’t name them!
The latest Cecelia Ahern’s book spoke about gardening, and she described different flower characteristics. I could not picture any of them.
Hence this book.

Just One Pot
I sort of grabbed this book on my way out. I think it is suitable for someone like me, who’s always in a hurry to do a lot of things before I get too tired. I need to be more efficient, so I guess this is one of the ways to do it.
It includes soups, stews and even baked goodness!! :)

Everything You Need to Know About Everything You Need to Know About the Universe
Recently I got interested in astronomy after reading a post in buzzfeed about the size of the observable universe through the Hubble telescope. Couple that with verses in the Quran about the creation of the sun, moon, earth and the stars, as a sign of the existence of God, I totally fell in love.
I browsed through amazon.co.uk and found some books about astronomy. However some of them were a little biased, written by some close-minded people who, despite seeing all the greatness of this universe, failed to see anything BEYOND all that.
Oh, well..Allah has spoken about them in surah Yaasin, about how some people have walls in front of them, and walls behind them, hence they could not see. So I’d better keep calm and read, because these people do exist.
This particular book is more of a glossary, rather than a narrowed opinion about what the universe actually is.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 20
My sister and I happened to be in London when the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition was held in the Natural History Museum. We went to the museum as Syazwan suggested, and found that this exhibition was on. We decided to pay for it and it was worth every pound!!
The photos were breathtaking as much as enlightening, the photographers were as young as 10, and I even resolved to enter the competition as an amateur. Well, I have nothing to lose.
But I did not enter the competition. At least not this year. Heheh.
I was browsing through the photography section and saw this. I was glad I took this with me, because the pictures were as amazing as the ones we saw in the museum.

Complete Photography Manual
I went by this book a few times before deciding to buy it. I already have two, but somehow this guide has more graphics than the ones I had (or more of from what I remember).

Work – The World in Photographs
I might have said this so many times before: one of the reasons photography attracted me was National Geographic magazines. In the Big Bad Wolf book sale, there was a specific table just for their books, but sadly there were only a few. This is one of the few photography books that they had, and since I love their capturing of daily activities, I guess I would love this.

I’m rather pleased with my selections. I’m going to start on them very soon. :)




True Love

There are three things that I wanted most in this life.

Within 18 hours of this day, it has proven that none of them is getting nearer, and tonight, two of them seem to be getting further away from being a reality.
* * *

It was just yesterday evening that a thought came to my mind. I thought, perhaps I do not understand the meaning of hope and prayers with regards to making du’a to Allah SWT. Well, actually I do understand some things, but when I ponder upon it, I guess it was all too superficial.

We know Allah is the Owner of everything in this universe. He is so Rich, we could ask just about anything from Him. He is so Merciful, that He would grant everything that we ask for. Of course, in His own terms that He deemed best for us:

(1) Right away
(2) Later when we’re ready
(3) In exchange with something else better for us, which includes a place in heaven instead of hell, simply for believing in Him, having such a faith to have prayed towards Him. Yes.

While we pray to Allah for many things; wealth, safety, a great life partner, healthy children, a good job, nice boss, good business, to pass exams, for our parents’ health, it all seem so…..dunia. Worldly. Temporary.

I’m speaking about myself. I think I pray too much about what I wanted in a short term, rather than in the distant, more important future, which is the hereafter. Those three things I wanted not only consume my mind when I pray, they consume my energy throughout the day.

But somehow the largest issue, the reason for my existence, the end result of everything that I do in this life, gets side-tracked. It occupies a slightly smaller part of the du’a.

Yes, we know we can ask Allah SWT for anything at all. He could move mountains and stars and planets, why can’t He move hearts? Of course He could! Although, shouldn’t our main prayer, main wish, main NEED, be His blessings, so that we could get into His Jannah? Shouldn’t it be our aim, no matter what happens in this life?

We asked for this and that to make this life perfect, when the actual aim is, no matter what happens, the most important thing is that we get His Mercy and Blessings, so that we could enter His paradise, forever and ever.

No matter if we don’t pass our exams, no matter if we couldn’t get that person as our life partner, no matter if we weren’t millionaires in this life, no matter if we’re only blessed with two kids because we got married late and had too many pregnancy complications, no matter if our children do not win best student award every year.

As long as we become better people in His views, as long as we could overcome all the obstacles in life with patience, as long as we could survive all of life’s challenges with strength and grace, the way He taught us to, as long as He blesses us with His Mercy and Compassion, that should be good enough.

No, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to ask for all those worldly things. He could grant us anything, seriously.
But we need to remember our main purpose in this life, as that is the only sure way to eternal happiness.

* * *
You were right, my dear. I don’t care about it.

No, it’s not that I don’t care. I just care more about you than you ever knew.


Hearts of Gold

I’m not finished with M Nasir (and Kembara) yet.

* * *
Like I said, his music is a mixture of literature, philosophy and some spirituality. Although I grew up with Kembara’s music, especially during childhood, I am more familiar with songs like Andalusia, Apokalips, Bonda, Mentera Semerah Padi, Tanya Sama Itu Hud Hud, Phoenix Bangkit Dari Abu, Salam Dunia, Suatu Hari Di Hari Raya, or even love songs like Suatu Masa (my ultimate favourite) and Dua Insan.

Recently I was brought back to more than 25 years ago as I was “getting ready” to go for their recent concert, Hati Emas. When my aunt asked me about it, I just said yes, only to realize that the music I am more familiar with are the recent ones. So I opened Deezer and started listening.

You see, when you’re seven years old, it is more likely that you do not really understand the hardships of life, and you tend to take poetry literally. So I did not fully understand the meaning or significance of their songs, hence I did not appreciate them that much.

When I listened to them properly, after years, I realized that those songs are real gems, shining like the stars in the dark skies. Having gone through a lot more than I did all those years ago, I could finally comprehend the meanings of the songs.

My interpretation may not be similar to others, and may not be in line with composers’ message, as they often write in metaphors, or words that could have various meanings. But this is what I get from their songs:

Hati Emas

This song is about the difficult journey of a man looking for a heart of gold. He described the empty, dusty roads and the scorching sun on his search, while small voices telling him that his search is futile. He wandered around and wondered whether he has found that pure heart of gold, and “may I be your best friend until the end of time?”. In the end he pondered, perhaps he might not find it ever.

I thought he was searching for someone who has the heart of gold, so pure and kind, for him to be friends with, to learn from that person so that he could become a better man in his life. Perhaps he was just looking for a nice girl to be his life partner.

Or maybe he was looking for guidance to help him grow and mature, but his search has been difficult, and his questions about life unanswered.

But then I thought, from my experience in life, you should not look for hearts gold as you will always be frustrated by the search. Human nature, there will always be flaws and dents. Instead, we should all purify our hearts and become that person with a heart of gold that we have been looking for elsewhere. That is the only way to appreciate the struggles one faces everyday to become better people, hence we will start to see hearts of gold appearing everywhere, in different shades.

Impian Seorang Nelayan

This is one of those songs that has more direct words. It is about a fisherman who went out to the sea for the day’s catch. However, it became cloudy and thunderstorms began, so he never returned to the land. He left behind his wife and baby. The song went on to describe the young mother, whom, while feeding her son, wondered about what her future would be like without her husband. She looked at the crying son and said, “you might not understand this now, but when you grow up to be a fine man, please remember your father’s sacrifice for you.”

Dalam pondok kecil beratap rumbia, seorang ibu memandang hari muka, sambil ia menyusukan bayi yang kehausan..

Wahai anak yang sedang menangis, mungking kini kau tak mengerti. Bila kau dewasa dan pandai nanti, pengorbanan ayahmu, sayang, jangan kau lupakan.

For many of us, work is not as hazardous as it is for those who brave the unpredictable nature for a day’s wage, but we still struggle to get the most of our days and face many different dangers along the way. Some of us still do not return from work for various causes: motor vehicle accidents, the rare landslides, major heart attacks or strokes, or even snatch theft that turned very nasty. We do what we’re doing for many reasons, be it our own passion, interest, pushed by some parents, or simply out of desperation to survive in this capitalist world. But when it comes to supporting our own families, work becomes more important, and we’d go through anything so that our children will grow up fine.

So the mother in this song hopes that her son will grow up to be a fine man, despite the absence of his father. She wishes that he would remember his father’s sacrifice for him, as that reminder should prevent him from going astray.

Lagu Untuk Seorang Ibu

Ibuku, mengapa engkau menangis? Apakah yang kurang? Walaupun ayah telah tiada, itu tak bermakna akhirnya hidup kita. Ibuku, tenangkanlah hatimu kerna suria kan pasti menjelma..

This song is not related to, but somehow sounds connected to the above song. It is a heartbreaking song from a son to his mother. They have just lost the father in a battlefield, and the son is convincing his mother that life needs to go on, that there will be light at the end of the tunnel, and that he will take care of her, no matter what happens. He promised himself that he will be the leader of his people so that he could fight for all of them.

Dari itu hentikan tangisan, pandanglah masa depan. Betapa ku cinta padamu, perlukanmu menguatkan semangatku..

People come into our lives, and leave, for many reasons. Some leave this world forever, some leave for what looks like greener pastures, some has forgotten the sacrifices that their loved ones did for themall this while. Nothing lasts forever in this life, happiness will turn to sadness one day, but even darker days aren’t eternal. The rain will subside and the sun will shine brightly again, this time even more glorious. Those left behind should stay together and be there for each other, as that is the whole point of human relationship.

Kepadamu Kekasih

This song is about a man who is giving all that he has; his heart, his soul, his everything; for his love, wondering if all that he has given is enough, or shall he render himself worthless of a lover.

My young primary school self asked, why would a person want to give everything for someone he loves? She’s not even his mother. It did not make sense to me to live your whole life for the love of another person. That person might not even appreciate our precious tokens of love and sacrifice.

So this song was not one of my favourites.

Until one day, the song is sang by M Nasir as a duet with Jamal Abdillah. I was at least a teenager, or in my early twenties. Then only I understood this song.

That love he was talking about was God. He was giving all that he had for the love of God, so that God will love him back. He wondered whether the deeds that he had was sufficient, or was he a worthless lover who should not even exist in this world, but where could he go? The entire universe is His! He hoped that his gifts were accepted, and that when his time has come, he will live with God forever. At the same time, he knew that only God would understand his struggles and his efforts, and to answer his questions and ponderings about the meaning of this life from the signs that God showed.

Kepadamu, Kekasih, aku bertanya, apakah Kau akan menerimaku kembali? Atau harus menghitung lagi segala jasa dan bakti? Atau harus mencampakku ke sisi tanpa harga diri?

Apakah Kau akan menerima penyerahan ini? Apakah kau akan menerimaku dalam keadaan begini?

“Tanpa harga diri.” Without any worth. Like dust.

Which made me think, if we were to live in this world just to end up as pieces of dust, what is the whole point? What would life mean, when all you’re going to become is shrivelled and shrunken, or swollen and puffy, and then end up dead, becoming just particles of protein, fat, calcium and iron. Why all the struggle in life, why all the hardship, why the sacrifice, why the love, the loss? Just to end up as dust? What does it all mean, then? This temporary world, where nothing is fair and just, the kind living poor and oppressed, the crooks rich and continue oppressing.

When it’s all going to decay, then it does not seem to worth living this hard life. Might as well leave before it gets too hard, right?

Then I realized, you will never comprehend the meaning of life, if you do not understand the meaning of death.

And many of us are still struggling to grip on the purpose of life.

* * *
After finishing two articles about M Nasir’s (and Kembara’s) songs, it dawned on me that when it comes to poetry and literature, it is best to appreciate it in its original language.

I suppose my translation is good enough, but reading through these two articles again and again, I did not do justice to the beautiful poetry inspired in the great minds of these men, who have struggled through their journey trying to achieve their dreams while aspiring to comprehend the purpose of this life.

I wish them a blessed life here and in the hereafter.


Kembara with M Nasir

Kembara’s (and M Nasir’s) music happens when you mix music with literature, philosophy and some spirituality.

Nobody makes music like that anymore.
* * *

I had the opportunity to attend Kembara’s Hati Emas concert last night. It’s a band that was set up the year I was born, yet I knew most of the songs played, as I grew up with them. We used to travel around a lot, and my father always played their songs in the car, along with other names like Ramli Sarip, Alleycats and Search.

Their music is one of those few that you can listen to time and time again without fearing that it might corrupt your soul – as it is deep and makes you reflect on the purpose of this life and its journey.

Well, “kembara” means journey in Malay. The general theme of their music is journey through life’s ups and downs; while trying to reach your destination of eternal happiness, there are many obstacles that would try to distract you, obstacles that are more of a mirage than true happiness. Deep inside, understanding that these are just distractions, you soldier along, knowing that eternal freedom is the most important thing for you.

From the song Kupu-kupu (which he sang in almost a trance):

Yang benar tetap benar
Walau dipertikaikan
Yang salah tetap salah
Walau diselindungkan
Dari itu jangan kau tangkap aku
Aku di sini hanya sementara waktu

It says,”Truth prevails, even when denied. Whatever is wrong would still be wrong, even when it’s hidden. So don’t catch me, I’m here just for a moment.”

They started with Ekspress Rakyat, a song about the train they took between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur when they first started out. The rest of the earlier songs were about the places they stop or pass by, like Di Perhentian Puduraya, Bas Nombor 13, and Sesat di Kuala Lumpur.

Then the were a few songs that I barely recognise, but the words, I could relate and reflect. Somehow it reminded me of the things that I have done, or I have not done, those people I have met, patients I have seen…and all the way to the oil price hike which will make the poor get poorer. We’ll be seeing more and more of desperate faces trying to make ends meet while making sure that their already ill health do not deteriorate further.

I have always felt that M Nasir’s music could be seen and painted, that the music could be felt and that we could visualise the things that he experienced – the green and endless paddy fields, the hustle and bustle of bus and train stations, the tall buildings and the dusts of Kuala Lumpur, the still of the night that he had inspiration upon inspiration from.

This is taken from the song Malam (The Night):


Bila rinduku bertambah dalam

Kau datang lagi dengan kenangan

Oh betapa dinginnya malam ini


It says, “At night, when the loneliness deepens, you came again in my memories, oh such a chilly night.”

The use of metaphors made us wonder, contemplate and reflect on our own lives and the things that we see around us, the people that we meet everyday. The words indirectly shows us the way our lives has turned out, and encourage us to gather strength to go on with this challenging life.

Gelora jiwa ku
Dalam perjuangan
Bagai musafir yang sedang kehausan
Inilah masanya aku mempertahankan
Apa yang selama ini milikku

It meant, “The struggle of my soul in its fight, like a traveller in need, this is the time for me to fight for what’s mine all this while.”

The use of flowers in their songs would usually signify love, or loneliness. Last night they sang Bunga Bakawali (the flower Moon Cactus/Queen of the Night), Kiambang (in English this flower is called floating fern), and Sekuntum Bunga Plastik (A single fake flower).


Kau mekar di pinggir kali,

Ungu warnamu berseri.

Walaupun baumu tak seharum mawar,

Namun kau masih tetap menawan.

* * *

None of their songs sounds the same. They could be keroncong, country, pop and ballad, or Malay traditional like joget. Their creativity rendered their songs timeless.

Watching M Nasir perform on stage with the band was amusing. He is not as good a dancer as a singer, and he’s not as good a singer as he is a songwriter. Nevertheless he seemed to have enjoyed himself, dancing haphazardly to the tunes. He did not only communicate with the audience, but he also turned his back on us and faced the musicians – I assumed he made eye contact to all of them as he appreciated the fine music they produced. He felt deeply into each song, and at times he appeared as if in a trance.

They tried to close the concert with the songs Hati Emas (Hearts of Gold), and the hall lights were switched on after that. However, the audience refused to budge, so they shut the lights off again and the band sang their final song, Gerhana.


Do No Harm by Henry Marsh – From My Perception

“Doctors are human, just like the rest of us. Much of what happens in hospitals is a matter of luck, both good and bad; success and failure are often out of the doctor’s control. Knowing when not to operate is just as important as knowing how to operate, and is a more difficult skill to acquire.”

It is difficult for those outside health care to understand what a doctor’s life is like, how much apprehension a doctor faces day in and day out, how much training and experience a doctor needs to be a better one, what a doctor feels when faced with gravely ill person.

Many of us do write about our experience, in our own way, but I doubt many would understand or even believe what we say. The only thing that could make them at least slightly understand is to have a few lives in their hands and having to attend to them urgently at the same time, wishing to be able to do more for them.

Henry Marsh is a British neurosurgeon, working with the NHS. He was involved with two BBC documentaries, and was rewarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2010.

This book was written to help people understand the difficulties that doctors face. In his book, he did not only tell us about the patients that he operated along his career, he went deeper on the challenges of making his decisions, the heavy heart felt when he had to break bad news, and what happens when things go wrong in a surgery.

It is written in chapters; although the stories are not exactly continuous, at times we could tell what he’s going to talk about in the next chapter.

My favourite chapter is Angor Animi, where he spoke about his journey of becoming a doctor. There were snippets of his experience as a junior doctor, and how he came about to be a neurosurgeon. One of the most unforgettable moments was his encounter with a man very close to his death.

“Angor animi – the sense of being in the act of dying, differing from the fear of death or the desire for death.”

His accounts on working in Kiev, Ukraine with a mentee, Igor Kurilets, was quite interesting. I made a few gasps while reading through those stories which may have turned heads if I were to read the book in a train.

The book brought me back to those days when I was a student in Ireland, back to the time I was doing my exams just recently, as well as those long days (and nights) as a house officer, spent in the operating theatres assisting the surgeons and their trainees. Speaking about neurosurgery, I was also reminded of a neurosurgeon in the hospital I work in whom I highly respect; it was a great opportunity to have worked with him during my endocrine rotation.

As much as I love the book, I did not agree with everything that he said. He did write about the human nature of doctors, how we can’t control everything in front of us, no matter how much we tried. However that humility did not extend further.

Yes, we have discovered so much with the technology that we have now. However, any neurologists or neurosurgeons could tell you that there are so much more things that we have yet to know about the human brain, about the human body. There are mysteries that keeps on appearing and there are always new things that we realise we do not know, despite our discoveries.

Somehow, not many scientists these days are humble enough to say, maybe Someone else Knows better. Not many have the humility anymore, to say that although we could not see something at this very moment, it does not mean that thing does not exist.

This kind of thinking and attitude would limit science and creativity, and possibly limits further discoveries. There are so many things in life that we know about now, could not be seen with our eyes 2000 years ago, but that does not mean they did not exist 2000 years ago.

If a good, well organised, scientific conference could not happen by chance, if an efficient public transport system could never happen by chance, how could our complex human brain with its neurones, neurotransmitters, synapses, that carry movements, sensations, thoughts, reasons, emotions, motivations, love and joy, happen by chance? How could our complex human body have happened by mere chance?

I would read this book again and again, perhaps some chapters more than the others, for it reminds me that we are all the same. We have the same deep concerns for our patients and should carry on doing an honest job for the sake of the others, as we were given this privilege, and hence responsibilities, to do it right.

I shall close this review with one of my favourite quotes from the book:

“The idea that my sucker is moving through thought itself, through emotion and reason, that memories, dreams and reflections should consist of jelly, is simply too strange to understand.”