From My Heart


November 2014

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.”


Another Train of Thoughts

On 8th of March (I think I was post call), I made a list of things I wanted to write about. Let’s see how many I have done, and how many topics am I adding on now.
* * *

1. The palm oil estate experience – written, but STILL not typed in

2. The strong ladies, are you worth it? After seeing Wan Azizah’s tears, I was reminded of so many strong ladies I know in my life. No,it’s not about Anwar Ibrahim, it’s about women and strength -> DONE!! Refer to The Baggage.

3. The first step. Women’s journey to partnership. A short one. -> I have forgotten entirely what I was supposed to write about. So I think I need to scrape this off. 😦

4. Imam Suhaib Webb’s lecture on education in KGPA -> Even this, I only have the short bullet points, still kept on my busy board.

5. How to focus in solat – lessons from Imam Suhaib Webb’s lecture in KGPA -> refer to number (4) up there. 😦

6. Surviving medicine -> Here and there, in Letter from Hell, and A Day in A Muslim Doctor’s life (eh, is that the title?)

7. Inspiring senior medical colleagues – the amazing government hospital specialists and consultants -> NOT YET!!!! I need to do this before it slips my mind!!

8. Learning from the dying – It’s too late -> Err….I think I wanted to write this in a different manner as compared to what I have in mind right now. But I guess the message would still be the same.

9. Learning from the dying – death with dignity. How people should spend the last days of their lives. No, we can’t really tell but there are so many things that people should know, including doctors -> This, will take some time. Coz it will need me to sit down and reflect.

I have added on a few more to my list of unfinished business, or rather, untold stories:

10. To parents: Never, EVER force your kids to become doctors. Or anything else in that matter.

11. Pantang selepas bersalin. Confinement period. Being superstitious or just plain clueless. Modern medicine may have shown what those elderly “angin” actually means, and how our health in old age is not singly determined by our health post partum. *slaps forehead*

12. About youth, being unconventional, success and dogs. I don’t know if I have the energy to even do this.

Wish me luck!!

Daughter by Jane Shemilt – A Book Review

A house officer in my ward has been limping for two days, and I did not even ask him why. My excuse: we had two very busy days and nights.

It somehow reminds me that I have yet to write a review of this book titled Daughter, written by Jane Shemilt, which I finished reading almost a week ago.

Although I found the starting pace of the novel a little slow, reading the description at the back of the book made me push through. After a while, I found that it was not easy to put this book down, despite not sleeping the night before as I was on call.

It is a story about a lady whose life was shattered. Her life was like a stained-glass box, which actually broke to reveal so many other broken pieces kept unseen inside that box. As she tried to find all the broken pieces, she found that there are more pieces that’s been missing.

It was discovering those pieces one by one that made it hard to stop reading.

As much as the mysteries binds us to the book, it leaves us with some room to reflect on our own lives. It makes us wonder whether we have done the right things in life, and wonder what lies beneath the calm facades of our loved ones. Are they truly happy? Or are they time bombs waiting to explode?

It made me cringe to see how lacking of insight the main character was, but although in the end she realised, after some unpleasant surprises, it was probably a little too late.

The end was somehow unexpected. The few chapters towards the end really made me hold on to the book even more. I ended up sleeping rather late that night, even though I was to be on call the next day.

Despite being grippingly mysterious, I would not read this book again, as almost all of the questions were answered, hence it would not be as exciting as reading it the first time.

Talk about mysteries, reading Harry Potter series gives us lots of questions, and later on, answers. However there are loads of memorable scenes (be it funny, sad or happy) that are worth to be read again and again and again, of which this novel lacks.

I would give 6/10 for this book.


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