From My Heart


December 2009

My Sweet Life in Terengganu

This is another old blog of mine, written in September 2006.

* * *

“Ma, kan best kalau Penang Medical College tu sebenarnya Terengganu Medical College?”

“Terengganu is a very nice place. I didn’t want to come back to Penang. I wouldn’t have came back if it wasn’t for my parents.”

* * *


It has always have some kind of charm to me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the coconut trees. The cool night breeze. The language. The batik. The slow pace of life. The empty roads. The thousands of hectares of oil palm estates. The Ubudiah Mosque. The people.

I still can’t figure it out.

I’ve always came back to Terengganu. Usually following my father when he has some work to do there. Especially if it’s the school holidays. We’d come in a family or two, or three. Us with our aunts and uncles and their families. We’d stay in Awana Kijal. We’d play in the beach, trying to survive the huge waves of South China Sea. We’d build sand castles, dig holes in the sand with our own bare hands and then sit in it. So much fun.

I used to live there nearly 20 years ago. That’s the first place I remember vividly in my life. We moved to Mawar Estate in Kemaman, from living in Kuantan. No, I can’t remember the house in Kuantan.

We lived in the manager’s bungalow in the estate. When we moved there, my brother Adam wasn’t even born yet. Well…soon to be, at that time.

I remember going to school in a van with other kids. The driver was Pak Cik Nawi. I started kindergarden when I was five. It was a Felda wooden house turned to be one of Kemas’ tadika. The teacher was nice. I learnt reading, and, well, manners. Yes, I really did. I think I’m still practicing what was taught those days. Before breakfast I’d count the number of children who came, then my friend and I would prepare the bowls/plates and spoons. I can’t remember what we used to eat, though. The teacher even taught us how to bring our plates to the kitchen. The plate at the bottom, then bowl, then the cup on top, with spoon inside the bowl.

My brother Taufiq, then 2, would follow me in the van with me, carrying a schoolbag and water bottle, but he wouldn’t join me in school. He’d return home with the van.

My father told me that I’d come back and draw the pictures of my friends. Then sometimes if my father sends me to school, or when there’s a school function, he’d be able to recognise my friends through my sketches!

During weekends and school holidays I’d play (and most importantly, fight) with Tau all day long. We’d build houses from cushions, or play fight outside the house. I’d catch tadpoles and put them in what I remember as Adam’s milk bottle. Haha! But I can’t remember my mom scolding me. So I guess they’re Tau’s, or maybe my, old milk bottle. I remember once we were running out to play in the lawn when a snake sort of ‘stood’ in front of me. We ran back inside and called our parents. They never caught the snake. But nothing happened to any of us.

There’s a big drain at the main gate on the way out of the estate. During rainy seasons, it’d flood and guess what, I didn’t have to go to school!! Before it floods, we could see the water running high, dangerously below the small wooden bridge.

When I first started primary school, I went to the school (which was right opposite the kindergarden I went to the year before) all by myself, sent by Pak Cik Nawi in his van. Of course, the school was a familiar sight, and I know my friends were waiting there, so I wasn’t really scared. My parents came afterwards to register me and send me to my class.

I can’t recall much of learning (though I can remember getting high marks…heheh!!). I played so much then (just look at my sister now and you’ll have some idea). We had this reading corner at the back of the class. That’s where I spend my free time in class. We’d go around the school helping our teachers. If we get correct answers in maths, or when we’ve done our works, we can go out for recess early. Once we have started to play (police and thief) when other people were only beginning to line up for food in the canteen. Haha!

One day my maths teacher told me to pick some stones for counting lessons. So, the playful me ran out of the class to get the stones and BAM! I hit another girl I didn’t see coming out from the class next door. My lower lip bled and bled…I think it’s still one side bigger now!

In the afternoon, while waiting for the van to pick us up, we’d buy some ice cream and play under the trees. There was only one flavour, corn.

I remember speaking in Terengganu slang in school and when playing with friends in the estate, but I switch to normal Malay when I speak at home. Just like my sister did in Kuching. She spoke some Sarawak language at school. I guess I still can catch up on Terengganu if I’m given 2-3 weeks with only Terengganu people around me.

At times my father would bring us to Kuantan to have dinner with his friends and their families in Merlin Hotel. We’d stay in a hotel room after dinner while the men chat away through the night. Sometimes we’d play with other children in the playground outside the hotel. My father told me that once they started telling ghost stories to each other, became really scared, and they drove back in a convoy (because the ghosts they were talking about were supposed to be on the quiet and dark road heading to our houses).

Some other weekends are spent in Kuala Terengganu with my aunt who’d just married a guy from Terengganu. She was pregnant with, and gave birth to her first daughter, Sarah, when we were there.

We moved from Terengganu to Kulai, Johor in August 1988. I brought pleasant memories of childhood with me.

After reflecting on all that, I sort of able to see why I’m so fond of Terengganu. It has always have a special place in my heart because that’s where the sweet memories of my life begun. That’s where my life, as I remember, started.

This Rain

This rain

It brought upon

Both melancholy and hope

Heartbreak and love

Tap tap on the window pane

Dark clouds looming over

And the sun tried to peek

This rain

Brought both misery and anticipation

Of the past and the future

Because she knew

What was it like

To sink deep in the ocean

To chase the fishes

To track the coral reefs

Hand in hand

But she doesn’t know what it’s like

To cycle on the same sandy beach

To run from the rising tide

Or to just sit there together

Without anyone around

There’s always someone

Behind their back

There’s always someone

Watching and waiting

There always is someone

This rain

It brought together

Sorrow and laughter

Because she thinks

Sometimes it might be good

To just chill out

Or just strum our favourite songs

Or watch football

Or run around being happy

Just being happy

This rain

It brought upon

The deepest wishes

Tap tap on the window pane

Show me all the the heart would mean


Background music: Cun Saja by Sleeq

Lately I have been reminded of the city Manchester I visited in March 2001. My brother and I went there after our 10-day tour to London, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels.

We arrived by bus on a bright sunny day. The journey itself was beautiful. Rolls and rolls of green hills. Bright sunshine, sky so blue. Fields of potatoes and grazing fields for the sheep and cows. Then suburban areas with little cosy houses, cute little gardens with spring flowers blooming.

Into the city…the University of Manchester on both sides of the main road. Modern and less than modern buildings. Rows and rows of shops. Noted many halal take-aways – kebabs, pizzas, burgers, fried chicken. Wow, the students here could just order from one of these take-aways when they’re too tired to cook, or during exams..

We settled in our hotel, somewhere behind the main city area. Not too bad…large room with two beds, duvet for our warmth, nice bathroom. Worth the price we were paying, I guess.

After eight years I can’t remember what we had for dinner that night, or breakfast the next morning. But I do remember browsing through the TV channels, only to find that there are some boring BBC shows, and being quite late at night, things that at least I did not want to watch for the sake of my soul.

The next morning.

After breakfast we walked around the city, just wandering here and there, whilst looking for the train station that could bring us to the…emm….football stadium. Hey, as we were there we might as well visit the stadium, doesn’t matter if there’s no match on a weekday mid-morning.

We asked the man at the ticket counter, how do we get to Old Trafford football stadium? He said he doesn’t know. He told us to try another counter, another train. So we went to another counter. Does this train take us to Old Trafford? Eh? The football stadium? He was not sure. We did wonder whether we were in the right city.

Anyway, I referred to the map and directions I had in my hands, and we decided to try the train going to this small town called Old Trafford. The stadium should be there, at least that’s what we thought. The journey was not too long. It was again, a very bright day – perfect weather to travel around. Somehow within the five days we were in the UK at that time, it rained only ONCE! Once in five days in UK!! It’s like kemarau already….haha!!

The journey was not too long. We arrived at the small, old train station. Tau wondered how does it handle all the fans coming from all over to watch football during the league seasons. Hmm….it truly was a small train stop fit for a village.

We came out of the train station realising that we couldn’t see ANY stadium rising in the horizon. Right…let’s ask someone…while thinking about the answers we got back there in the city, will we be able to find the world-renowned stadium?

Finally….FINALLY….someone managed to figure out that what we were looking for was what their people call THE FOOTBALL GROUNDS. Right…..R.I.G.H.T…I thought when one says ‘football’ it should click to their minds? Our English pronunciation must not have been THAT bad, or was it?

We went around the stadium area, it was really really quiet at that time, only the souvenir shop was opened. I tried to imagine how it would’ve looked like when it’s full. Must be really exciting if I could come and watch the matches there….would’ve screamed and shouted and sang along…..sigh…

After all the hassle (not too much, actually), we bought lunch in a halal shop nearby, and headed back to the city.

The afternoon was quite wasted for us, as I had to go to the airport to settle some ticket issues. Luckily it didn’t take a long time. Furthermore there’s not much to do in the city, with our money almost running out – Manchester was the last stop after four big cities, before heading back to Dublin.

Late afternoon we watched the show Midsummer Night’s Dream in a local theatre. It was a modern interpretation of this Shakespeare’s fairytale. The play was done in a make-shift sort of facility – rows of seats arranged vertically in a gigantic metal frame, instead of the usual theatre arrangement. We had to climb up quite high to get to our second cheapest seats. Good thing too, as there was a seen where Puck ran around…emm….without a single thread on his body. I could see his tattoo from up there. Euw.

When we came out it was already dark. Our hotel was just behind the building that housed the theatre. Again, there’s never things to do after dark in a British city, apart from watching movies. So we just went to bed.

The visit was sort of short. We did see new things, but could have seen more. One thing we learnt though – they call it the football grounds

The Smile and the Subconscious Mind

I was really down at that time.

Half the night I was crying on my aunt’s shoulder.

The next day I saw this stranger with a toothy smile.

The smile was so familiar.

I thought it reminded me of him.

But actually, no.

It reminded me of simpler times. Of the time when we were students.

Those days when we all used to sit together in the cosy room, watching P Ramlee’s movies.

When we would laugh even before the jokes come.

When we’d dine in Sufi’s on weekends. Walking together in the cold night, on the streets.

Or when we’d walk to UGC to watch a movie. We’d buy some ice cream and nachos with melted cheese and salsa and popcorns, shared in between the nine of us. Then we’d walk back to our place half-hour away.

It reminded me of the time we ran around Europe.

Finding our way to the Blomengraght Hotel in Amsterdam. The cold weather. The attic room and Uno Stacko.

The dog in the train in the Belgian border.

And Paris and Brussels.

Of that December in 2004.

The surprise birthday celebration that my brother and his cheeky friend arranged.

Funny this subconscious mind.

When you thought you were reminded of one thing.

But actually you’re thinking of something else.

In Loving Memory of our Grandmother

This is an old blog of mine, written on the 16th of August 2005:

3 days ago it has been one year since my dear grandmother passed away…

I still remember the day vividly. The smell, the light, the feeling…

Thursday, 12th August 2004

My two brothers and I went to our parent’s house in Kuching from our home in Klang. At that time our parents were living in Kuching while the house in Klang is looked after mainly by Adam (the truth is by my mom’s perfect maid, Makcik Istiqamah – you don’t get that kind of maid anywhere!). That afternoon we drove to my aunt’s office in Klang town, so that she can drive the car back and we take a cab from there. Long story…

Anyway, my grandmother who lived next door came and bid us goodbye. I was supposed to go and stay with her a bit longer that morning, but I put off my packing the day before, serve me right..and the night before I planned to stay with her for a few hours, maybe until she sleeps, but my brother Adam came home and said he wanted dinner. So I had to go a bit earlier from her house in which I spent only 1/2 hour. She asked me, “going back already?” She never asked me that before, you know, I cringed but said yes. Shouldn’t have done so…

Well, to continue with that Thursday afternoon. We cried when we bade goodbye, I hugged and kissed her. She told me to pray for her health and long life when we’re in Mecca later (we’re going for umrah the week after that, and that’s supposed to be our last time seeing her before the umrah). When my brother drove off, he commented, “You know embah’s (grandma) goodbye wave always look so sad.” I said, “Of course it’s sad, it’s a wave good bye, you’re not seeing that person again.”

So we had a safe flight back to our parent’s place.

It was so nice, the six of us together. For only a few months back my brother Taufiq and I were in Dublin, there were only four of them at home, sounded lonely for my parents. We had a good night’s sleep, I thought of calling my grandmother the next morning, telling her we’re safe with our parents.

Friday 13th August 2004

I can’t remember when exactly did I wake up the next morning, but I can recall when I was walking out of my room, I heard my mother saying that her maid called Adam and told her grandma’s having pain in her leg, and need to call someone to get her to the hospital. My 16year old cousin Sarah was panicking, she called her mother at work but she didn’t pick up. So my mother called my uncles to see who can get her to the hospital. As it was Friday prayer time in the west coast (my father’s back from the mosque, we’re having our lunch), we had to wait a bit longer. Finally we got hold of my uncle Cik Jib and my aunt Cik Yam.

I was wondering, should I go back to Klang. I’ll be spending more of my father’s money if I do, I’ve just came to Kuching the day before. I called Sarah to see how things are going, but she doesn’t know. She was crying and told me to come back because she’s scared. I called Cik Yam but couldn’t get her.

I told my father about Sarah, and he asked me, “do you want to go home?” I said “I don’t know. Do you think I should?” “Up to you.” “You don’t mind? We’ve just arrived yesterday.” “No, I don’t. You can look after your grandmother. You’re the closest to her.” “I’ll go book my ticket.”

So I booked and got a flight at 7 something. My father flew to Sibu that afternoon for a conference. On the way to the airport we got a call from Cik Yam that the doctor suggested all of us to come home. We tried to call our father (he should’ve arrived at Sibu by then) but couldn’t get him.

We booked another 5 tickets, but the rest of my family got the next flight at 8pm or 10…I can’t remember. I waited for my call in the prayer room, after prayers I boarded the flight.

I tried to read in the flight, waiting to go. Then suddenly I noticed my father standing in the isle, he said our family got the seats from his good friend. Then I stood to ask him where he’s sitting. He told me, “Your grandma’s passed away.”

I hugged him and cried…I don’t care if people are staring at us. The flight crews didn’t say anything. These things happen. I cried and I cried…then my father took me to his seat. Then I noticed my mother, brothers and sister were seated behind us.

The whole journey…we cried, ate our dinner, tried to sleep…my father wrote something in a notebook. I sat trying to unblock my nose…can’t breathe. When he finished writing he gave the notebook to me. I read it and cried again…then I passed it to Tau.

I don’t think I need to say what happened next. We took 2 cabs; me with my two brothers. Adam read the notebook in the cab and started crying again. I texted a few friends about what happened.

The saddest moment that night was when my father called my aunt Cik Mah in New Zealand. It must’ve been 5am there. I heard her picking up the phone, then my father said, “Mah, ada berita buruk…mak dah meninggal…” My aunts, my mother and I started crying again..

I’ve always told my father before, that if someone calls in the middle of the night, just hope the person’s got the wrong number.

The funeral was done the next day. Hundreds of people came; I remember because there were at least 10 people in a line during the prayer, and at least 15 such lines, maybe more. That doesn’t include those in the living room, the kitchen, outside the house, in the rooms.. my grandfather’s funeral had similar number of people. Everyone was shocked because she was perfectly well the day before. It was really sudden.

I remember that when I looked at my brothers, they had never been this sad before. My 4-year-old cousin Adib told his elder sister, “Anis, embah meninggal. Semua orang nangis.”

I remember that my mother couldn’t get over her sadness for quite some time. I remember that my father is always quick to say that he’s motherless now..

And I remember when I was in Mecca, I always thought that we will all go home and sit with her during breakfast on Sunday and tell her all the things that happened during our stay there, presenting her gifts…but I realized we could not do that…ever…

Ghareeb 4: Of Enlightenment Rounds, Funny Feelings and Diamond Rings

Everybody knows I hate working on weekends. I would wake up wondering how long I would take to finish my rounds. However as soon as I reach the wards, I realised that as I’m here to work, I might as well do things properly as it should be done, hence I’d sit and listen to my patients more than I would have on weekdays.

It’s a job, yes. But it’s a job that could be done better when you do it with a pinch of passion and a dash of empathy. You don’t need that much to get you started, because once you’re in it, you’d already have the momentum, the push, the energy.

It’s really nice to just sit and listen to all these mak cik, aunties, uncles, talking about the sick loved ones. Somehow the only time I could really get to listen to them is when their loved ones are asleep, or unresponsive, to be exact. We would just sit next to the bed and they’d talk about their 20-over years together, their lives, their children, the challenges, their advices, their experience….my eyes would be glossy at one moment, I would try not to shed tears, as these carers often don’t.

A lot of time, my troubles would fade away. Life is seen in a different light. I would realise or understand some things in my life that were not clear before. All emotions – sad, happy, worried, relieved – will rush through me, one by one.

I attended a course a few months ago, on grief and bereavement. Instead of the formal powerpoint presentations, they thought us to search deep into ourselves, our joys, our sorrows and our fears, when we respond to certain issues. I have heard once, you do not see the world as it is, but you see the world as you are. How true…

It’s nice to see how families stick together during tough times.
It’s nice to see a wife, a son, a daughter, faithfuly take care of the ill father, when he could do nothing without the help of others.
It’s nice to know that there are happy families in this world – responsible fathers and mothers and children and in-laws…
Yes, even though the circumstances they are in are not nice at all.

* * *

Funny how life can be sometimes.

At one point you worry about all those around you. Your mom, your dad, your brothers, your sisters, your friends….you love everyone around you and you would want to spend a lot of time with all of them. You rush here and there just to be with them, to make them happy that you’re there. It leaves almost no time for self-care, no time to worry about yourself, your career, your future, your own social responsibilities and social life too…

And once all the worries are lifted away, you are left alone, suddenly you recognise someone that has not been in the limelight of your life – yourself.

As for myself…

Mom’s happy there in the holy land. Dad’s going around doing his own things. My brothers are all grown up and I’ve never worried about their survival skills. My sister’s happily tucked away in Sungai Petani. Cousins having exams. Best friends all working.

So I was left alone….with myself. I thought it would be as simple as it was five years ago. Here and there alone, careful about my own safety but otherwise content with my own being. I thought it would be as straight-forward as ‘turning in with a good book and a hot chocolate’. I hoped it would have been that easy.

Funnily, it wasn’t. Life for the past three years made me aware that there’s so much possibilities that I would never have seen all those years ago. There are so many people out there with so much stories in their lives that I started to accept that anything, just about everything, is possible. And yes, I’m facing all that.

Funnily, I started to feel what others feel. I looked into a man’s eyes, and I could feel the sorrow and misery of two men. Then I looked inside myself and I realised that the heartache was mine. What’s not supposed to have happened in their lives was what’s not supposed to happen in mine.

I listened to my cousin’s favourite songs and I would feel the joy of five girls, meeting up with their favourite superstars and going to their concert, screaming with all the excitement that only teenagers would feel. The palpitations, the light-headedness, the smiles, the laughters…

There’s a lot more but I guess it might be overwhelming just to read about them…
* * *

I guess I’m as materialistic as the girl next to me. Perhaps a bit more, but maybe a bit less. It scared me when one day I was looking through a newspaper article on what to give to your mother-in-law for Christmas, and there was a photo of an expensive diamond ring. I said to my cousin, “hey, if I have all the money to buy this expensive ring, I might as well be single all my life.”

Like, oops, there. I don’t know whether or not my dad could hear me. He didn’t say anything though.

True, money can’t buy happiness, but without money one will never be completely happy – all the worries about unpaid rent and no medical care and no transport to work and no education for children….really, are these what you call happiness?

I don’t look for a man to get all his money. I think many of us still get married for fulfilment, for true meaning of life, for spiritual completion – and I do, too. I guess it’s just a survival instinct – a man with no stable job may not be stable emotionally, they are insecure with their egos scratched with every failure (and your success will scratch it even more), hence emotional instability means marriage instability.

I didn’t mean to generalise and to be judgemental, though. I don’t even know whether what I want is actually what I need. The same way with love before marriage vs love after marriage. Someone apparently believes in love after marriage but ends up like the Ikea flower plant – nice to see, but you bring it back, not tending to it enough, it just dies in front of you. Someone else had a long and happy relationship before married life, and after that they seemed to be even stronger…

I don’t know. Indeed, nobody knows. I think I’ll just let it be.

I guess I had rambled on too much. I need to stop now.

Empathy of the Doctors: Confessions of a Palliative Care MO 2

A few months ago a colleague asked me, why do palliative care people need to counsel patients that much?

I said, “Yeah, we need to tell them what to expect. It’s not easy to prepare someone for the worst. Sometimes we need to talk to them several times.”

“Why can’t you just say ‘just accept it, your loved one is going to die’?”

“It’s not as easy as that, you see. You have to be sensitive and empathic.”

“Well, who wouldn’t understand that someone is dying?”


Guess what? It’s easier to tell patients that way. You’re in a hurry. You have so much other things to do than to sit down with someone and tell them that things are not looking good. You have resus case. Fine. But that doesn’t mean you should underestimate the value of a good counselling. And you’re telling me that palliative care people are jobless.

Let me tell you this. My personal experience is doctors are the LAST people to accept that their loved one is unwell, that they are dying, instead of being in sepsis/electrolyte imbalance/effects of morphine etc. And they are asking me what’s the point of counselling? They wonder why is it so difficult for patient’s relatives to accept that the patient is very ill..

Keyword is empathy.

Empathy and more empathy.

Yes, I found that doctors ask the most questions. Sometimes doctors don’t understand things as well as laymen. We don’t mind answering each and every question.

Do they think that we sit there and listen and talk because they are doctors?

Absolutely NOT!

Everyone is important. Everybody is special. They are ALL our responsibilities. We answer doctor’s questions the way we answer other people’s questions. If we spend 20 minutes with you during a review, do know that we have spent 20 minutes with other patients/relatives too, no matter whether they are lawyers, CEOs, artists, cooks, lorry drivers, housewives or doing odd jobs.

Everybody needs to be listened to. All worries need to be addressed. Yes, some problems we may not be able to solve completely, some not at all. There are things we could help out with, but there ARE things that just need to be faced with a strong heart and listening ears.

I know, we palliative care people don’t do heroic things. We don’t ‘save lives’ the way others do. We don’t resuscitate. We don’t even put IV drips most of the time. But what’s the point of resuscitation when you can’t even tell the family members WHY the patient needs resuscitation at that time, and WHY did the patient collapse at the first place? What’s the point of the heroic action if the next word you say to the anxious relatives causes your hospital to be sued (even though you do all the right things)?

So please…

I know, we listen, we talk. We talk a lot. Do you really need to ask again why, do you really need to ask again, is it necessary, when all you need to do is put yourselves in those people’s positions?
I present to you again, 21 Guns by Greenday:

Do you know what’s worth fighting for?
When it’s not worth dying for?
Does it take your breath away
And you feel yourself suffocating?

Does the pain weigh out the pride?
And you look for a place to hide?
Did someone break your heart inside?
You’re in ruins

One, 21 guns
Lay down your arms, give up the fight
One, 21 guns
Throw up your arms into the sky, you and I

When you’re at the end of the road
And you lost all sense of control
And your thoughts have taken their toll
When your mind breaks the spirit of your soul

Your faith walks on broken glass
And the hangover doesn’t pass
Nothing’s ever built to last
You’re in ruins

Did you try to live on your own
When you burned down the house and home?
Did you stand too close to the fire
Like a liar looking for forgiveness from a stone?

When it’s time to live and let die
And you can’t get another try
Something inside this heart has died
You’re in ruins

Penang Again

I woke up on Sunday morning having partly forgotten the foul mood I was in the day before. I actually had the spirit to pack my things quickly and get ready for my journey alone to Penang.

As I started the engine, my emotions changed. I was beginning to feel excited. Furthermore, the Top 30 chart from HotFM was on at that time, and they were having an interview with Edry! What a better companion to a journey which would have been quiet otherwise?

By 10am I was in Bukit Jelutong. Nice songs and jokes and more nice songs played in the air. Hey, it was nice to drive in the highway with my new, flashy….emm….BMW-at-heart-Saga-in-reality.It was clean and smells fresh, it sure was a comfortable drive up. The road was not too busy, slightly less than I expected. Luckily it did not rain too heavily along Perak. When it does, Melly Goeslow’s album Ada Apa Dengan Cinta was a great companion. Tragic. Dark. Cold. Romantic.

After three stops, I arrived in my favourite island at around 1345hrs.

As I drove into Jalan Masjid Negeri, this elated emotions overcame me…wow…with the background music of Glen’s When I Fall In Love, I drove happily, smiling to myself, looking around occasionally for changes or old places.

The street where Harris and Tasha played ‘Sinus and Bahgon’. Not to forget the bahgon that’s always parked in front of a shoplot.

The road we passed through every morning when we were attached in Bukit Mertajam or Seberang Perai Hospital.

Those days when I used to drive at 9pm, listening to Sheila on 7’s Dan, Sheila Majid’s Aku Cinta Padamu, fetching Rathi from the bus station. Or when she sent me to the airport, with the price of her having the car for the whole weekend.

McDonalds. And Shell next to it.

The huge trees lining the Greenlane, their shadows cooling the hot Penang air.

And the skies….wow….the blue skies…

So I checked in the hotel in Gurney Drive. I stepped into my hotel room, all by myself, but still excited, like a little girl who’s travelling the first time. The bathroom! The huge TV! The huge bed! Wahhh!!!

With three hours to go, I did not have anything to do. Should I jump into the swimming pool? Or just the bath tub? Or watch TV? Or sleep?

As if on cue, my stomach grumbled. Ok, decision made. A small lunch for me.

After a huge chicken sandwich, I closed the curtains and get into bed, hoping that I would wake up in time to get ready for the wedding.


Somehow my sister appeared. Somehow she was going to follow me to the wedding. Ok. We’ll go.

The wedding.

The hugs. The questions. The smiles. Catching up. The music. I looooove the music. I’ve always loved to go for Indian weddings for the music. Sitting next to Mel (Nunu) talking about this and that. Getting to know cheerful and friendly Bryan. Tasha and Jess’ smiley faces. Kuhan and Sonia’s quiet jokes. Mel Chin and Tim as lovely as ever.

Sylvia looked so pretty in her turqoise saree. I loooooove the saree. Sashi ever proud and happy. The yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamm seeeengggggggg from all of us!

Really had fun there. Yes, there’s only two tables of us. Yes, we may be more sober than we were four years ago. But it was nice to be there. I admit I was nervous, I didn’t know how I would feel. When I sat down at the table, I felt right at home. So familiar. Comfortable.

We finally left the hotel at almost 12midnight. We were among the last ones to leave. I was glad I came. I just wish there were more of us that night.

The next morning.

I woke up at 6.45am. Then I brought my sleepy little sister along to Rawther for a roti canai. We had to leave early to get a parking space. It’s horrendous in Penang GH! When we were searching around, we noticed that there was a new multi-storey car park where the mortuary was before. Right, we could park there later in the afternoon.

Uncle was not there, and I knew no one. We sat at the back of the small shop, a 70+ year-old uncle with high stepping gait and tremors served us. Poor uncle. I wondered what made him work at such age…

By 8.30am we were already back at the hotel.

The swimming pool. Wow…it was empty! It was blue! I stepped down and swam on my back, the clear water supporting me, enjoying the bright blue sky, and the morning breeze. It was peaceful. I was quiet. It was heavenly. It was sooo worth the few hundred ringgit that I spent for the journey.

We were there for an hour, me and my little sister. We played. We laughed. We had a chat. We sunbathed.

We then went up to get ready. I had to go to the bank, and the hospital again.

I managed to park at the multi-storey car park in the hospital, excited as I was when I arrived in Penang. Guess what? It’s FREE!!

The Chest Clinic appeared to be busy. I have finally forgotten which day is scope day, which is clinic day.

Dato’ was with some students. I came in after they left. As always, he showed his fatherly concerns about what has happened in my life, and my future too. He was concerned about me taking just MRCP. “Apply for masters lah,” he said. “If my boss and my seniors could do it, I could do it too,” I said. “Well then, get focused. Try not to go out too much.” Hey, that’s in contrary to the advice he’s always given me before – have as much fun as you can, before you get tied up to another person! Haha!

I guess it’s the nature of the professional exams. True, I do need to be more focused.

We did not manage to go out for a lunch as he was quite busy that day. He bought two small boxes of pizza, and gave me one. I finished those in the car.

Next stop – Sungai Petani. To fetch Anis. It was already 2pm and I was extremely sleepy. I stepped into the house, and without looking around, I said to Anis, “I’m going to sleep for a while. We’ll go after that.” Zzzzzzz….

The ride home was longer than the ride up. The traffic was much heavier, especially after Tapah, where those from Kelantan joined the crawl. It was raining cats and dogs, and we had to use the bathroom a few times.

That day Monday stretched so long that I felt like it was actually two days! I have yet to encounter such a day but that was the one…

I think the next trip out of the state would still be Penang, by the looks of it. Probably we’ll try staying in a hotel in Batu Feringghi

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