Thoughtful Treasure

A bunch of 16 year-olds got together after school yesterday, rolled up their sleeves and spent a few of their precious teen-hours to bake a cake.

It was the sweetest birthday cake I have ever got. Thanks to my niece Insyirah, and her gang of lovely sweet friends, whose verve and energy reminds me so much of my own teen years. It is the biggest compliment when teenagers who are so busy with their own happening lives remember your big day and bake a cake, no less!

Thanks girls. I wish you all well for this coming ‘O’s. You will all make fine, successful ladies I know!

Because I had some curious people *wink* asking me about the food and deco by Cooking Swatch during last Saturday’s party, here is a peek.

Thank you girls!

So let us make an effort to keep it as a rule,

That each one needs the other within the Katong school.

The night that was.

I cannot stop thinking what I do to deserve such a resounding farewell, from some of the women in my life whom I admire most for their beauty, gusto, intelligence, adventure, verve and friendship that have stood decades.

It was a wild night, to say the least – from the beautiful dinner all-white party set-up, to the spring colours that I so loved for the drapes, to the gorgeous looking food, the lovely flower centrepiece, the awesome toast albeit on sparkling juice, to the retro non-stop dancing of 80’s music, to the limbo games and musical chairs and the squeals and screams and squeals and screams that must have driven DA’s neighbours mad! The best..was of course the time when I merely sat on the rocking chair and listened to the female bonding chatter that we all did late into the night..what a way to celebrate friendship indeed.I am so thankful for this bunch of gal pals.

Thank you ladies, you are the best. I know I can’t post pictures here due to the very revealing dress code (ooppss…), but here’s a glimpse.

And that is, ladies and gentlemen…a wrap.

Few things in life will repeat itself. You either make it better, experience it worst, or notice remnants of deja vu in another setting that will, in some obscure way, put a sweet smile on your face. I experienced that somewhere between 1.20 am and 2.45 am in ZB’s patio, sitting on a cushioned wooden chair underneath a bevery shade, inhaling the nicotine-laced air that was fighting furiously with the fresh smell of curry leaves in her garden, and twirling the green beads that was hanging from my neck.Around me was the company of four men and four women with whom I have spent endless hours arguing, laughing, eating, criticising and encouraging. Their sheer passion and dedication amazes me.Their confidence is contagious. Their energy encapsulates my every dream of what a team should be.

I love this team. Making JALAN was somewhat a rite of passage for not only me, I discover, but also a few others I know in the team. I am glad that JALAN made superman Naz to feel so proud of his Malay roots, Intan to get to have a story to tell her kids, Raudha to know intimatelt the endless energy of Singapore’s streets, Fad to show me and Zai what bravery in the name of adversity means,Halim to feel the surety that there is still an info-ed in him, Wan to have the world discover his talents, Sanif to impart his fierce focus style of work, Yem to raise the bar in intelligent tv hosting, Jo to show that there is indeed room for drama in documentaries, Norfa to demonstrate calmness in the midst of a trigger-happy crew, Haider to make me hold on to the belief that 50% of a good program comes from audio, and confidence for In, Muni and Liyana in their growing years.

JALAN had its whoppingly fun and introspective wrap party yesterday. We had 4 hours of wild laughter complete with spoof awards and food, and another 4 hours late into the wee hours of the morning talking about our lives and hopes. The day ended with an activity we all so loved – cam whoring, at 3 am, no less.

But JALAN to me was a lot more. It smoothens this difficult transitional moments when I am about to move and leave all that I know and love behind to start a new life and chapter with DH,my true North.

Thank you Allah for this team. And thank you for making JALAN happen the way it is. You showed me once more what the power of doa is.

Travel woes

No, that is not a crop circle. It is, an aerial view of Mashad, a city in western Iran that is home to the burial grounds of Imam Reza. The makam is located right in the centre of the city, and all roads literally, well, lead to it.

Mashad and happy boys carrying Iranian breads on their heads have been keeping my mind busy. It took over my swirling headaches about the parties, the boxes that are screaming to be filled up, the letters that I have not opened and so many other mundane worries and have-to-do’s. All because Leila and Kazem are coming.

There are many countries where I was blessed with the warmest, unexpected hospitalities. The Balabanis in Melbourne, where Mrs Balabani will hug , kiss and say ve-u-ti-fool! ve-u-ti-fool! every 15 minutes and insisted her husband took me fishing in the middle of the sea, the Chengs in Spain where Auntie Cheng will cook up mean bowls of ginseng before we girls head out to town painting Madrid walls red, the Davies in Dubai who literally handed the keys of their villa for me to live in for 2 whole months while they are away, the Michaels in New Zealand who took care of me and my friend when we had a tragic accident and I lost a favourite cousin, the Roslans in Colorado who calmly took us through a fierce snowstorm on the way to Aspen only to be forced to turn back, and many more that I am forever, forever thankful for. I have always realised that I have been very blessed to have travelled to so many places at so young an age, but none of these countries showered as much magic as Iran did to me. A lot of it has to do with Leila and Kazem.

I met Leila in 1997 while I was sitting quietly in Nabawi Mosque in Medina, in my own world talking to God, in a way I knew how. She approached me and said an unsure hello, and we set off chatting about her newly married status and the Internet. That chat was merely 15 minutes, and we parted afterwards. What followed was a courtesy one email per year, just to keep in touch. Then, Leila dissapeared from the radar screen.

Six years later, on a hot afternoon in the Dubai office, I had an urge to Google for Leila’s name and saw a forum where someone whose name is similar to that of her husband’s, posting a thread. I sent a Yahoo message asking if he is THE Kazem that I knew, knowing full well that it was a long shot. Well, he was. And the weekend after had me flying to Iran, after numerous emails to MFA to ensure that I am allowed to travel there, and them documenting the addresses I would be in, just in case I had to be evacuated. Yes, I was nervous.

It was only 4 days. But Leila and Kazem showed me what hospitality means. They took me into their home, where I slept on the same bed with Leila on the first day. Kazem turned his plans around just so that we can take a 3-hour drive to Northern Iran to visit his uncle in an Iranian village just because I mentioned that I love long drives and don’t favour swanky places when I travel. They bought airplane tickets to Mashad just so that I can see the power of reverence that imposes itself in the structural map of a city, and rushed me to Tehran where I felt lucky I was allowed into the home of the late Ayatollah Khomeini rolling with a DV cam, thanks to Kazem cajoling the guards.

I have a big guffaw when I laugh. With a hijab on head, that is hardly the image of a demure, Muslim woman that I thought Iranians would be expecting me to be. I foresaw that I have to giggle instead, and help Leila serve tea to Kazem and his uncles so that I do not disrupt dynamics. I read in the media that Iranian women wanted more rights, and Iranian youths wanted more liberation – so I was prepared to be the accidental traveller and observe. So when Kazem offered to wash and iron my abaya, and his uncle in the village ran excitedly out of the house just so he could catch some chickens to feed me – I was stumped.

I was so touched by their efforts to make me sample the real Iran, that I vowed that when I am ever loaded, I will fly them to Asia and let them sample our own Melayu warmth.

So when they told me today that they are coming, I was heartbroken.I will not be here when they arrive, because by then I would have left for Canada. Chances of them being able to change their dates are slim. And worst, I do not know when I will be able to travel to Iran again. I remembered wanting to go to Iraq while I was in Dubai then, only regretting now I never did.

I am still hoping that my Iranian moments can be relived, because Leila and Kazem showed me a world that I never expected to stumble into. When it is meant to be,it will happen. I have learnt that.

And I am hoping to relearn that lesson again.

The turtle called Katong

They say time is a great magic. It heal wounds, reunite losses and often, so very often, provides closure to questions left unaswered for years.

This one is a question that was unsolved for 21 years. No one (in my batch at least) knew why there is a turtle in our school crest.

Now I do. Thanks to JALAN.

Alas, my life is complete and I can move on.