Palestine and Us

For at least the whole week or two, there were not much else I could see on my timeline except for news about Palestine. It is somehow the same period of time that there were news about Syria last year.

For many of us, there was, and still is, long term oppression towards the people of Palestine. Shunned to a small strip of land, high stone walls stood between them and the land some people call Israel, numerous “security” posts within their supposedly own land, posts manned by Israeli armies restricting the movement of Palestinians between villages, their land simply trespassed by Israelis claiming that it’s rightfully theirs, Palestinians labelled terrorists just because they fight for their OWN land (in which they grew up, live and farm), and now, bombed to no end in the name of self defense by Israel.

Children lost their parents. Parents lost their children. Because of so-called “accurate” missiles shot from Israel, with the excuse of “these civillians were used by Hamas as human shields”. While with the walls surrounding them and the Israeli army ships guarding the seas, they have nowhere to go. Even when IDF said, “Oh, we have given them warnings but they did not leave.”

Leave to where, exactly?

* * *

No, I’m not here to talk about war or politics.

I’m here to talk about what this means to me, about the lessons that we could gather from this monstrosity.

We Muslims believe that after death, we will all be raised again in the hereafter so that God’s fair judgment will send us either to paradise, to hell, or to hell first then paradise. His judgment is fair because no stones will be left unturned, and all evil deeds, all acts of oppression, all wrongdoings will be paid in hell. And all the good deeds, kindness, and acts of mercy that we have spread in this world, will be paid in paradise. Of course, on top of the specific act of worship that He has commanded us to do.

All children will go to heaven, and they will wait for their parents there. So while we believe that justice shall be served for all the murdered children, while we believe that they deserve a happy childhood, we do believe that they are living a better life there, even at this moment.

While we do believe that the parents are going through hell at the moment (in this life), while we do believe that they will follow their children in heaven, we believe that they deserve their freedom and their dignity.

They all, Palestinians and Israelis alike, should live in peace. Like the rest of us.

What do all this have to do with us Muslims?

Well, we all have seen the strength of the Palestinians, how their faith never withered even after all the suffering in their lives. We all know the children are now happy running around the gates of paradise.

What about us?

We know we are all far behind in faith, and so in strength, as compared to them, even to their youngsters and their kids. They have gone through such a difficult life (which, in some parts of the world or culture,would have asked to have their lives ended), but their faith remained.

They still stood up and pray. They still fast in Ramadhan, even when the bombs ket on dropping like rain. They kept on saying prayers upon prayers so that help will come some day, and they never gave up.

What about us?

Allah, Glory be to Him, says in the Quran: “Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, ‘We believe,’ and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false.” (Quran, 29: 2-3)

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.” (Quran, 2: 155)

Sure, those men, women and children were tested, and are still being tested, until the day they leave this world.

We are, too. But did we succeed?

We failed with even food. We fight over food, we buy too much, we eat too much, and then we get unwell, because of food. We lose our vision, our skin, our sensation, our kidneys, because of our weakness for food. All those gifts from Allah, we lose them because of our own issues. Being hungry is wrong. Therefore we eat. In excess.

We failed with women, with men, claiming love as a reason. We claim that love should not be barred, even when it’s done the wrong way. Then we get illnesses like hepatitis B, HIV. We lose our lungs, our brains, because we want to “live our lives to the fullest”.

We failed with money. We failed with land and property, when family ties are cut because of some undocumented property ownership and will. While one of the most important thing in this life that we need to maintain, according to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is family ties. Be good to your family, to your neighbours.

We failed even by means of our comfort. Our beds, our rooms are too comfortable. We don’t wake up for tahajjud anymore. We don’t even wake up for the obligatory fajar prayers anymore, let alone doing it in congregation.

How, in this whole wide world, are we going to fight out own evil? The devil inside us that says, don’t do your job properly, nobody will notice. The devil inside us that says, don’t bother about the poor. The devil inside us that says, just bribe that policeman, they are doing roadblocks just for the money.

How are we going to fight the devil within us that will cause up a rage when someone rammed into our car, accidentally? How are we going to fight that devil within us who swears at every single person who cuts the queue, or double park our cars?

I heard some people mentioned that the Israelis said, we will never be able to fight the Zionists unless our fajar prayer congregation is as large as our Friday prayer crowd. Or maybe it’s some frustrated Muslim who said that. Well, I don’t care who said it, but don’t you think it’s true?

We fight about things like how long our beards should measure, whether the women should cover their face or not, whether we could wear nail polish during menses, whether picking our noses will break our fasts or not, we fight about how many raka’ahs should one perform during tarawih, 8 or 20, we fight about whether women should have separate section in the masjid with full partition or should we allow women to see through the partition. We fight about whether a man or a wife should cook in the house. We fight about how young people should look for life partners in this modern age. We fight about whether cadbury is halal or haram.

We fill our minds with all the (relatively) petty things but we forgot the most important thing: SOLAT. The five daily obligatory prayers, which is the pillar of our faith.

If all the time spent fighting was actually spent thinking, discussing and acting on how to increase mosque attendance, how to make everyone perform solat perfectly, how to keep us consistent in studying the Quran, I’m a hundred percent sure that our Muslim community will be better people.

Not only towards Allah, but towards human beings in general. Towards animals and everything else in the environment too.

We become very angry when we see them standing on top of our holy book, the Quran. Yes, I have just seen a photo of a woman, with her pedicured toenails, standing on an open Quran. I saw this photo of many Quran being thrown away to be burnt.

As much as these images would make us snap in anger, do we really honor the Quran? Do we honor His words? Do we take God’s words lightly? Do we make fun of the people who preach to us using His beautiful words? Do we read the Quran and give ourselves the excuse, “I’ll wait until I feel sincere, then only I’ll follow God’s words.” Do we, virtually, throw away the Quran just for it to be burnt, from our hearts?

Do we act kindly according to our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s teaching? Do we show our love towards children, kindness to our neighbours, mercy to the needy, and forgiveness to those who have wronged us? Do we only say good words, do we refrain ourselves from using swear and abusive words even when we are wronged?

* * *

Yes, the Palestinians had it difficult in this world, but they did not die in vain. They will have it easy in the hereafter.
But what about us? What about our children?

We had it relatively easy so far, but are we thankful enough?

* * *
No, I’m not perfect. I’m far from it.
But we all could do with some contemplation, to correct ourselves, to be better people, to be better Muslims, to be better human beings.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said this as a part of his last sermon: “Hurt no one so that no one will hurt you anymore.”

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A Blessed Life

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said, “Let him be humbled into dust, let him be humbled into dust.” It was said, “Allah’s Messenger, who is he?” He (PBUH) said: “He who sees either of his parents during their old age or he sees both of them, but he does not enter Paradise (by neglecting his/her duties towards them)” – Muslim 6189

Although many of us have lost one of our parents, most of us still have both.

It’s easy to live a blessed life while our parents are still around. Just a small deed to them will carry us far. Fulfilling our duties of being kind to them will ensure that our lives are lived easier.

Even by smiling at them, looking at their faces, Allah will grant us endless blessings.

What if we spend for them, helping them out with house chores? Feed them with the food that came from the work of our two hands? Even more blessings.

And if they became unwell, we shall care for them.

No, I’m not saying that we should be kind to them just so that our lives will become easier, or happier.

Allah told us to treat them well because of all the things that they have gone through for us all this while. We can never repay what our parents have done for us, the least we could do is make them happy, and be there for them when we need them.

Then, somehow, our lives will all be taken care of by Him the Almighty Himself. Things just fall into place. Or even if they don’t, we’ll have the wisdom to understand why, and move on with our lives.

Just by being kind to our parents.

* * *

I’ve worked with the dying and their families. I’ve seen those who cared for their parents until the last days, and those who ignored them.

All I can say is, the regret of not being there for one’s parents, the guilt of not spending enough time for one’s parents, the remorse felt by having a bad relationship with one’s parents, are not worth any amount of money, women or luxuries.

Apple Pies and I

First let me put down the recipe.

I made a few apple pies before and this one is unlike the ones I made. Apparently this recipe has won the cooks many awards, so. Decided to give it a try. I tweaked it according to the reviews, and my brother’s suggestions.

Ingredients:
Pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie (I bought them ready-made, my brother disapproved, so I rolled my eyes at him).
1/2 cup (120g) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons wheat flour with 1 tablespoon corn starch.
1/4 cup water – you may put in less if you want it thicker
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
3 cloves
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
8 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored and sliced

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, spices, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.
2. Mix the apples with 3/4 of the sauce.
2. Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the remaining sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.
3. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

Tips:
To avoid the apple mixture from soaking the bottom crust, glaze the bottom crust with egg whites and bake the crust for a few minutes before putting in your apples.
You could also cook the apples first before putting in the pie crust, so it will shorten the contact time between the apples and pie crust, and the apple sauce will be thicker. When in the oven, all you need to do is bake the crust until it’s nice and golden.
Put your apple pie on the lower rack in the oven so that the top crust wouldn’t brown up before the apples are cooked.
For directions on how to do a lattice work crust, refer to youtube.

Cook with love. :)

* * *

I have a history with apple pies.

He was the one who taught me to just search in the internet for whatever recipes I wanted, and that many are reliable. My friends told me about it when we were students but I didn’t check them out; I did not know that many people who really love food until I met him.

He used to bring his laptop to the kitchen and start cooking. We’d go to Jaya Grocer and shop for ingredients, then come back and cook up some nice things for the family. He introduced me to ready-made pie crust which is so useful as I’m not good with breads and crusts yet.

My family love good food too, and my dad introduced us to a variety of food, but our standards are probably a little high, and our appetites smaller, so we ended up loving the all-natural home made stuff rather than out eating.

I’d suggest a combination of banana cake and mango lassi. They are match made in the kitchen.

I did learn a considerable amount of cooking tricks while I stayed with them in PJ, I have to admit that. They loved food so they cooked a lot, everyday. I learnt how to spice up meals, and that there are so many things that I have yet to explore.

Nowadays I miss cooking with my (little) sister. It’s nice to have her chattering around and helping out with things, especially the artsy stuff. Yesterday evening I was pretty sure that she would have wanted to do the lattice work for the top crust.
She’s a good cook herself; she cooks from her heart.

Always Better

I entered Ramadhan with hopes and prayers. Hopes because I know that my prayers have been answered, in their own special way, when I least expect them to be. Praying desperately as there are things that have yet to happen, for their own good reasons.

Prayed for months, for years, but I kept on praying.

For I know, like my other wishes and prayers that have come true, these yet-to-happen things will one day happen in their own very special way.

Because I believe that even if I don’t get exactly what I asked for, Allah will give me something better.

ALWAYS something better than what I asked for.

All I need to do is ask.

* * *

As a human beings, we have our doubts.

There are days when our faith waver a little.

What we can do is look back at those times when we just had to wish in our hearts and He gave the answer right in front of our eyes.
Those times when we asked and He answered exactly how we wanted it to be.
Or those times when the answers come when we truly are in need of it, and it’s much better than what we ever asked for.

We all know it will happen again, when we honestly pray, we honestly ask from the depth of our hearts.

* * *
As The One who created this universe, The One who moved the sun and the moon and the earth on their own orbits, on their own perfects system, and the stars to guide us when we’re alone and lost, He could move hearts too.

All we need to do is believe.

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Post-call

1. You could sleep while standing.

2. You feel numb. Well, that means you can’t really feel. Just seeing things around but not responding appropriately, or sometimes not at all.

3. Euphoria. That initial nice feeling when you see the sun rising, shining on to the hospital corridors, and then seeing your colleagues come in one by one, saving you from the wrath of the call. Sipping that small cup of vending machine mocha (which is surprisingly nice) while watching a dear friend walk into the building.

4. Extreme cheerfulness. When everything sounds so funny, or when you can crack jokes at almost everything. When you go around asking “can you speak French?” to ALL the foreigners who can’t speak your own language, wondering how you’d respond if they said, “Oui.” You know you don’t speak that language.

5. Giddiness. The floor seemed to rock up and down.

6. Hungry, like you could eat a horse, or that’s what they say. You wake up from that short nap looking for the best roti telur and kari kambing hefore starting the morning rounds. Or spend the whole day thinking of that burger daging special (beef pâte wrapped with omelette slathered with chilli sauce and mayonnaise with cabbage and toasted fluffy buns), or lasagne from Delicious, or anything cheesy, in fact. Comfort food is the term for it.

7. Wanna get cosy, like having a huge piece of moist chocolate cake with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream with your loved one, talking about nothing and then fall asleep on his shoulder.

8. Like you could still do all sorts of things in this whole wide world: go shopping, gym, visit the sick, watch movie, go out for a late night drink. Especially if you’re young.

9. Headache. Pure headache.

10. As if you’re pregnant. With the headache and nausea and abdominal discomfort and bloatedness, good appetite but can’t eat much, giddy, irritable, sensitive. Oh, and body aches too.

11. Able to see and hear but unable to register. When you could see the car in front of you braking, the brake lights are shining, and your mind would just go “la la la” until it’s too near, or even asking itself, “why is that car slowing down…?”

12. Sitting in the car at the end of the day, praying that the 40-minute drive home would be safe and smooth.

* * *
I have felt all of the above. At different times and place. Depending on how hectic was the call, the total uninterrupted sleep I had, the condition I was in before the call, how much fluid I managed to drink the whole day (the more fluids, the better the outcome is, sometimes only feeling slightly tired), my health or even time of the month.

One thing for sure, the older one gets, the more tiring it becomes.

* * *
On call system is not shift system. When a doctor is on call, he’d be working from 8am the day he’s on call, up to 5pm the day after, or even longer. That means 33 hours of working, with no or very little sleep in between. Some departments allow the doctors to go home after 24 hours working, some may need to stay up to lunch time the next day, and the rest, up to 5pm.

I don’t have kids so I can’t imagine how ladies with kids do it, when they have to wake up every few hours at night even when they were on call the night before.

* * *
For all the doctors out there, let’s keep up the hard work and make it all worth it! :)

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Why Am I Still Alive

Two months back I was unwell, unwell for longer than I ever have been. I recovered after almost two weeks, but it took me almost one month to be back to my usual self.

I came back to work after almost two weeks of a planned holiday (which coincided with the illness), taking care of patients who had similar illness.

I was taken aback at the amount of worry we had for them. Well, I always knew that most people recover well even though they had problems during the illness, and I always knew that we always worry about this group of patients, because anything bad could happen anytime.

But the fact that I let myself take care of my own health, with nobody actually monitoring, just judging from what I felt, when we worried about others so much more, stunned me for a while.

I could have died.

Something could have happened quickly somewhere far from the hospital and I could have deteriorated rapidly.

But I did not.

My energy came back, and my appetite much later.
I could smile and laugh and play with the kids, big or small.
I could wake up at wee hours of the morning to travel.

I could go to work just to realise how lucky I was to be alive.

How it’s not meant for me to leave this world yet.

Why? Why am I still alive?
* * *

We were taught to see the good behind everything that happened to us, and I work in a field where this question keeps on being asked. Asked again and again and again.

We still have people we could serve, or should.

Or there are people waiting to help us, if we end up surviving in a worse state than we were before.

We still have to pay back some people, not just some money, but gratitude for the things they have done for us all this while.

People still love us and we have to love them back, even more than we ever did before.

It shows that there is still so much that we need to contribute in this life. Make others happy, help the needy, give more warm hugs and smile.

It makes us think where should we spend our robust energy, to the good of others, or just to have more fun in the name of “living life to the fullest”?

There are people we need to seek forgiveness from, and it’s not too late for the moment.

There are people we really need to care for.

It makes us realise, who is it around us that truly care for us, worried about us when we’re unwell, do anything they could even when they themselves have limited resources.

Those people who gave us warm hugs when we really need it.

I’m still alive because there are so many of those wonderful people who made it possible for me to go through this life, and I need to give them back what they deserve, every single day.

I survived so that I could understand.
* * *

Obviously, I would not have survived without His Grace and Mercy.
Or the outcome would have been worse. But even if the outcome have been worse, I’d still have the above reasons to go on with.

What is this purpose of life?
To worship Allah in our entirety.

How do we do that?
By submitting to His orders, and to be kind to people around us, as much as possible.
For worship has two components – self, and social.

Bullying? What Bullying?

Recently someone wrote in Malaysiakini, asking us to stop bullying junior doctors.

Wait a minute. Bullying? What bullying?

A quick look at dictionary.com tells us that a bully is a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

I’m going to ask house officers, their parents, partners or big shots who claim to be their relatives/ family friends: which part of a junior doctor’s job could be defined as “being bullied”?

Reality check here, people.

(1) ALL of us came from that place called being a junior. A beginner. ALL the top consultants were once house officers, who barely know how to clerk a patient, assess how ill the patient is, put in an IV line (which can be quite a challenge and delay your other work), let alone make a diagnosis and properly lay out a plan of treatment. Don’t even talk about prognosticating, which means predicting the outcome for each patient, days, weeks, months or years down the line.
All this needs practice. A LOT of practice. Seeing patients upon patients day in and out. Talking to them, looking at them with your eyes, brains and heart.
You can’t achieve higher levels of competency and knowledge by just seeing two patients per day, spending hours on that particular patient only while your friends (or seniors) do all the work for you.
Trust me, all those top consultants in top private hospitals, earning millions per year, had it much worse than the generation joining the medical fraternity now. Trust me, they have gone through all that and more, and they still work hard. Because they understand its importance.

(2) One may ask, did these doctors not come from five to six years of training in medical school? Surely they were taught something?
As with everything with life, learning and applying are two different things altogether. Simple example, you can read a chocolate cake recipe, but trying it out will give different results with different people, or at different times. How many tries does one need to bake a consistently delicious perfect chocolate cake?

(3) If the junior doctors complain that they come home late everyday, and need to come earlier than the rest of the team in the morning, and they think it’s unfair, well, think about it again.
When the whole team does rounds, the senior ones would want to assess the condition of the patient to be able to decide on the treatment plans. As with point number one, a junior doctor will need to learn themselves on how to make this assessment, and report their findings to the seniors, so that the seniors may correct them and guide them if they are wrong.
If the house officer does not make this effort to assess the patients before his seniors come for ward rounds, then he would miss the chance to recognise his shortcomings, to discover the many things that he does not know, hence poorer performance, ending up being an incompetent and negligent doctor.
That is why they need to come early.

(4) Dear parents and the society, what kind of doctor would you want to have treating you? One who works hard to be a better doctor? One who has experience seeing more patients? Or the one who whine about the workload they had to face without doing anything to handle the situation?
Would you rather be treated by someone who was poorly trained just because he thinks all sorts of training equal to bullying?
Would you want to be treated by someone who does not run to save your life, because hard work is too much to handle?
Would you want a doctor who has so many “big shot” contacts that he reports any attempts to properly train him as “bullying”?
Would you want a doctor who has been too arrogant to admit his mistakes, and learn from it?

The training is gruelling and the workload is huge. But it’s for one sole purpose, for them to be competent doctors who are responsible, who can be released to the society without much supervision, who know what they don’t know and when to seek help.

(5) So nowadays the news reported that there are too many doctors around, and they work shift system so they wouldn’t be so busy. But have they told you how much our healthcare burden is, and how people are getting sicker earlier?
When the glut of house officers started, they were so jobless that they only take care of three to four patients each. Just imagine, how are they going to be adequately trained if this is the case?
So the shift system was supposed to give them a better quality of life on top of making them see more patients per day.

(6) Ask junior chefs or junior accountants all over the world. How do they work? As busy, or maybe even more. Much much more.

(7) I have to say, there ARE true bullies out there. There are bullies among senior house officers, medical officers, registrars, specialists and consultants. They bully their juniors, and they bully each other. Yes, EVEN among the consultants!!
It’s not right. Personally, bullying in medicine simply means asking a junior to do what is not within the scope of their duty, example buying drinks (when they could have bought it themselves), making coffee for department meetings (on top of the thousands of things the house officer needs to do), filling up on call claim forms, or other personal things that’s supposed to be done on their own. Some call people rude names, which is uncalled for in any situation.
There are those who are gender biased, racists, or simply angry all the time, scolding everyone without reason, being totally unreasonable with their treatment plans.
These people exist in ANY profession.

(8) To tell you the truth, none of us in our right minds will scold a houseman eager to learn, competent ( or increasing their competency by the day), humble and caring. Bearing in mind, “the right mind” may mean differently according to their upbringing, as doctors are all human beings.
But having said that, don’t brand all your seniors who scolded you as being “not in their right minds” because a lot of time they were correct, or maybe they are scared because the mistakes you have made could have killed the patient, or worse, already killed him.
You really have to look into yourselves, why are you treated this way? Is there anything to make things better? Were the patients lives affected by your actions, or lack of it? Did you cause more pain to the patient? Or simply delay their discharge for another day which in turn exposes the patient to hospital acquired infection that is much much more difficult to treat?

(9) Reality check, EVERYTHING in life needs hardwork.

(10) To those house officers who drive daddies’ expensive cars and expect to be treated like a queen, who expect to have less work compared to Kancil-driving colleagues, who expect to cry and run to daddy saying “my specialist scolded me” and daddy will scold the specialist back, let me tell you something:
MONEY CAN’T BUY LIVES.
Money can’t even buy experience and competence.
Money can’t bring that poor man’s wife back to life when she’s dead because of your negligence.
Money can’t do all that.

(11) Dear parents, don’t force your children to be doctors if they are not interested. Anyone interested with something will work hard with all his heart and passion, does not mind spending days and nights to learn and perfect their skills. Those who are truly interested in what they are doing will continue to greatly contribute to that field.
If they do well in their exams, they don’t need to do medicine or engineering. They can do fine arts if that’s what they love.

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