Separation Sisters

Many months ago, Mak and Busu were involved in telling their personal story on how the separation between Singapore and Malaysia affected them. The footage is slated for an instalment in the new National Museum, due to be opened this December. The instalment, aptly called Separation Sisters, talks about how Mak and Busu grew up in 2 different countries, confronted by different opportunities and how they grow closer due to the distance. Of course, this being an NHB project, there is no question that issues on national identity was touched on too.

I conducted the interview. Right after the filming, I left for Canada. I never did see the footages, although I roughly remember what was being asked and how at some points, both Mak and Busu shed tears about their early orphan-hood in Melaka.

Two days ago, I had a meeting with the museum people to revisit that instalment and view it again. In between laughters and lame jokes thrown in on how the issue of national identity has been butchered by my migrating to Canada, and Mak now living in Malaysia as a result, I clicked on the clip on the director’s laptop and plugged in the earphones to hear what Mak actually said. What I saw, and heard was painful. It was not painful then during the interview, but it is now that Mak Ngah, Mak’s 2nd sister just passed on a month back.

I didnt realise that the tears she shed during the interview was on how she was separated from Mak Ngah when she was young, and how much she wanted to be reunited with that elder sister of hers. As a result of the 4 Melakan sisters losing their parents so early, they were all adopted by different foster parents. Mak Ngah, as mentioned in an earlier post, was adopted by rather strict parents. Mak recalled how she would pass by the house where Mak Ngah lived many times just so that she can get a glimpse of her elder sister. I couldn’t bear to hear more of the interview. I quickly shut it down.Suddenly, all those nights Mak was with Mak Ngah during her last days at the hospital, reading endlessly the Surah Yasin and talking to her in soft tones, bear a new meaning to me.Suddenly, I feel choked thinking how we sometimes take the availability of our family for granted.

Mak is in Mekah now, and so is Busu. Because Busu has already left for Mekah when Mak Ngah passed on, she was not able to be here for Mak Ngah’s funeral. Busu left for Mekah from Melaka, and thus staying at a different hotel from Mak.

We just heard that Mak and Busu finally met in Mekah. I imagine how much tears there would be between them, because it would be the first meeting for Busu with any of her sisters to share the grief of losing Mak Ngah.

I had initially planned to bring Busu over from Melaka for the museum’s opening in December, and make it a big family do for Mak and Busu to view their instalment. The idea of having their personal story immortalised, is a priviledge.

But now that I have just been reminded what the interview was about,I am not sure if it is going to be a happy occasion.

Ramadan Reflections

I usually feel most connected to myself in Ramadan. They say to know yourself is to know God, and Ramadan – being a month full of ibadah, is a time that facilitates just that and therefore the subsequent effect of being connected to yourself was consequential.

But I worry. There has not been that connection this year, so far. The terawih prayers that I get to do have been sparse. The qiyamulails have not started, as Singaporean mosques usually do it on last 10 days of Ramadan, but I have no subsconscious plans in my head to wake up at 2.30 am in the morning and make a 10 steps trip to the mosque for it. The Quran reading of at least 10 lines a day, if not a half chapter has not happened.

The opportunity cost for not being able to do all the things above is something I have identified long ago as not a good enough reason to be an excuse.They are all dunya reasons. I shudder thinking at how easy it is to slip into old comfortable shoes and just treat Ramadan as a month to fast and count the days to Raya, and nothing else is dfferent in terms of prayer, reflection and connecting to God and yourself. When I was young, I used to think spriritual upliftment is a progressive linear line. My 12 year old mind thought that once you get things right, you will automatically do it again and better even. I confirm to myself yet again, that every year is a jihad. Much much stronger than the life-sacrificing kinds that serves no purpose around the world except for bulldozing a misguided dogma of some self-serving mullah.

I have about 11 more days to go. At this stage in previous years, I am already strategising my wake-up calls for the 2.30 am alarm so that I can make the 3.30 am qiyam prayers. I would have SMSed some regular friends from Ghufran to ask if they wld be at the mosque too. I would have missed sorely the melodious recitation of Imam Irshad Mawar’s Quran recitation if I miss any terawih prayers. The 18-year old’s reading has a way of making you rush home and practice your own.

I once wrote a column on how Ramadan is a month where I have my own mirror of self-reflection and see how smooth is the spiritual form I see in front of me.
11 days is a very short time. I know its my rezk that I have this consciousness to reflect on my Ramadan journey. Its also a gift that I get to share this with a lot of you reading this. I am somewhat jaded reading about Raya preparations and Raya thoughts.

Measure your Ramadan journey. Are you jogging on-the-spot too?
Come run with me. We can still make a sprint for it.