Monday, October 15, 2012

I Am Who I Am

Today, I received the result of a personality test that I once did a few months back. Among the describing words of my personality are ‘influential, persuasive, confident, friendly, self-starter, decisive, mobile, active, alert, opinionated, persistent, and independent.’ The descriptions sound fair to me. With these kinds of traits, you might want to ask me why I am not yet an Associate Professor (AP). Believe me when I said that sometimes I do wonder about it myself. In a world that is so full of competitions, how can I not? But if you think deeper, you would find that the decision is really not mine to make. If Allah would have wanted it to happen, it would have, and not a second sooner, not a second later. Throughout the course of my life, Verse 82 in Surah Ya-Sin (Chapter 36) in which it was said - “Surely His Command, when He wills a thing, is only to say to it: Be! ("kun!" !كن), and it is! (fayakun فيكن)” - have given me a reason not to feel depressed when things do not go my way. So, when Husny died of a lung cancer before finishing his Ph.D., I take it as a sign that it is still not time yet for me to move up the ladder. The thing that we crave may not be the best thing for us. Doesn’t that phrase sound familiar to you? Oh, well, ever since I was young, success never comes to me easily. I always had to study or work twice as much just to stand equal with the others. Over time, I kind of get used to it. I hope my belief will continue to give me the strength I need to withstand all the challenges that I have to endure in this life. I would like to continue believing that not getting my AP does not make me a failure. Not getting a good number of ISI journals does not make me a failure. Not getting a huge research grant does not make me a failure. On the contrary, losing my focus in my teaching is going to make me a failure. And failing to contribute back to the industry or the society is going to make me a failure. People can judge me anyway they want. But if you are my friend, stand by me.
I don’t want them to change me….turn me into something I am not.’ Peeta Mellark – The Hunger Games.
Note: This piece is only my judgment on myself. It is not my right to judge others.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The One in My Mind

On 25 September 2012, my heart told me that I needed to reach my PhD student Husny urgently. He had come to see me before Ramadhan, but was very quiet after that. During the weekend, I had smsed him and got a notification of undelivered sms instead from Maxis. My intuition was urging me to get hold of him. Finally, on that Tuesday I had found my courage to look into the system and I discovered the number of his wife. By then I had managed to convince myself that perhaps he had gone somewhere and had forgotten to tell me. So, when the wife answered, I simply asked if he was alright and whether he had gone travelling. And true enough he had. He had died on 12 September due to a lung cancer. His phone was lost in the hospital along with all his contact numbers. I was so shocked that I actually behaved quite normal throughout my conversation with her. I was still feeling normal while making my way to my MBA class at 9am that morning. It was only when I was in front of my students that I was suddenly filled with all sorts of emotions. And memories of him suddenly popped in my mind. Us having the discussion in my office. Him, relieved after his Proposal Defense. Him, excited to start the data was like watching movies..only this time, it was real. I could not hold my tears…I had to run away….and ran and ran I did to GSM office to pour out my sorrow, and at the same time tell the staffs the sad news. Husny was a good student. At the age of 61, he was still taking an initiative to do his PhD. He was even excited about it. It was unfortunate that his Proposal Defense was delayed. He could not find a supervisor until he was told to see me. Perhaps, if he did manage to find one, he would have completed his PhD. Maybe it was fate that brought us together. It might seem weird to some that the supervisor was actually younger than the student. But Husny, being him, always acted professionally. He still called me Doc and respected me as his supervisor. I in turn, respected him for a person he was…determined, motivated and hard working. I admired him for the colourful life that he led. I admired him for his inner strength. It was strange that I could not find any photos of Husny anywhere. All I have will only be the one in my mind. My prayer for you Husny..Al-Fatihah.
"Life is no straight and easy corridor along which we travel free and unhampered , but a maze of passages , through which we must seek our way , lost and confused ,now and again checked in a blind alley. But always , if we have faith , a door will open for us , not perhaps one that we ourselves would ever have thought of , but one that will ultimately prove good for us."
A. J . Cronin

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My dearest Yasmin...

15 February 2012; 9:05pm

My dearest Yasmin;

I feel that it was just recently that I first hear your cries and hold your two small hands. I know you have sacrificed a lot for me. I was not around when you needed me the most. I missed the opportunity of being with you every steps of the way when you first started school. As much as it was difficult for me to be without you, I am sure it was more difficult for you to grow up without me. I am so sorry for being so selfish. If only I could turn back the time…

Min, I know I am not the best mom in the world. In the beginning I don’t even know how to be a mom. Instead I just follow my instincts on what I thought is best for my children. You have always been so reserved. A lot of the times, I don’t even know what is in your mind. And I guess that is the reason why sometimes it is very difficult for me to reach out to you. Yasmin, I want you to know that you will always have my unconditional love. Whatever I do for you, it is always done out of love. How can I not love you? You are my daughter. As simple as that. Yes, I have scolded you at times. You may wonder why now. In time you will discover that it is my way to protect you from the future that is not going to be so forgiving.

The decision to send you to a boarding school was not the done in a spur of moment. It is one of the hardest decisions that I had to make as a mom. I have given it a long, long thought. I have weighed the options in my head over and over again. When we discussed about it, your reactions were mixed. Sometimes I saw your excitement, but at times I saw your reluctance. Even today, when I actually sent you to the school, I didn’t know what to make out of your expressions.

Yasmin, as a teacher, I always want the best for you. I want you to get the best education; I want you to be exposed to the diversity that you are going to face in the future. I want you to have an inner strength so that you can withstand whatever challenges facing you when I am no longer around. Of course as a mother, I will always have the tendency to protect you from everything that’s hurting you. In truth, my heart bleeds when I said goodbye to you today. It took all my strength to prevent myself from crying in front of you. I pray to Allah so that you are always given a sense on how much I love you. ‘..Come what may, come what may, I will love you until my dying day..’ Whatever I do Min, you will always be in my prayer. And I know Allah will help me protect you in ways that I can never do.

With love;

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Leadership Requires Flexibility

Physically injured soldiers might still fight, but emotionally injured soldiers will lose the one reason to stay alive. I feel that such thing is true in organizations too. And to make sure that the employees will have the right emotions to accompany their skills, that is when the choice of a leader becomes extremely crucial. It is one thing to govern the system; it is another to govern the people. Which one is more important, one might ask. My answer is always both although I believe that the latter will prove to be more challenging to achieve and more damaging if not considered. A system is normally fixed once decided. But when it comes to people issue, it is often subjective and unpredictable. As I often said in class, emotions can kill. If we are not careful in managing our own emotion and the emotion of others, the consequences might be great. As such, I believe that a good leader will be those who are able to learn, re-learn and at times un-learn. Flexibility in this case is considered a must.

I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times -Everett Dirksen-

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Word of Advice.

Throughout my life, I have been given some good advices, intentionally or unintentionally, by the people I encounter. This particular post is meant to thank those who have cared enough to share their words of wisdom with me.

Words of Wisdom 1:
There was this one time that I was very angry at somebody or something. I could not remember what, but it definitely involved a person. I was having tea with my parents after the event and I had sort of suggested bad things that I would do to the person as reciprocation to what had been done to me. And my father immediately said in a very soft tone as if he just wanted me to hear it, ‘Jangan! Biar orang buat kat kita. Jangan kita buat kat orang.” (Roughly translated: People can do bad things to us, but we must never do the same to others.)

Words of Wisdom 2:
When I was having hard times in Reading trying to complete my PhD, one of my friends, Zai, always said this phrase to remind me of my inner strength that I didn’t seem to realize I had in me..“Allah tidak akan menduga kita dengan perkara yang kita tak boleh tanggung.” (Roughly translated: Allah will not test us with the things that we cannot bear.)

Words of Wisdom 3:
I used to be so ambitious at work. Constantly, I felt the need to try many things at the same time especially in the first few years that I was back in the university. In the end I became so stressed in balancing my work and life until the day a good friend of mine, Ann, told me this.. “Dahlia, in the end it is the family that counts. Even if you put so many hours at work, when you die, your employer will still need to search for a replacement. But your family will always miss and remember you. You are irreplaceable to them. So, you choose.”

Words of Wisdom 4:
Once, when we were having tea downstairs, my friend, Reeza, told me that she will always try to buy food sold by people at the petrol stations or restaurants, and so forth. She said, she will buy them and then give to others. That way, she will be able to receive and give at the same time. I think this is not a bad idea at all, don’t you think so?

Actually, in life, we will continuously be offered with advices. It can be good advices, bad advices, or irrelevant advices..depending on how you see them at that point of time. It is up to us whether we want to follow or reject them. Still, for me, I feel assured as long as there are people along the way that are willing to remind me when a reminder is needed. After all, I am a human, and humans tend to forget.

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't. ~Erica Jong, How to Save Your Own Life, 1977