Father Sez

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Archive for May, 2009

Drinking milk in a toddy shop…..

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

My late father was wise. He had his own simple rules on bringing up his children. Simple and graphic rules which have stuck in my mind despite my age having crossed the 5 decade barrier a few years ago. 

And one classic rule was the …….“Even if you drink milk in a toddy shop…..” 

Toddy is no more the commonly understood drink it once was. I suppose there would be plenty of youngsters today who have never seen a pot of toddy in their lives.  

Listed below is an extract of a scientific paper presented in 1952 on Toddy. 

“The partly fermented sap of the coconut palm (COCOnSu cifera), called toddy in Malaya, is a popular drink among certain sections of the population in south-east Asia and among the natives of the central Pacific Islands. The methods of obtaining toddy from various species of palm have been described in detail by Gibbs (1911) and by Browning & Symons (1916), so that only a brief account need be given here.  

The young inflorescence is tightly bound with twigs and beaten with a weighted wooden mallet, morning and evening, for a number of days. When the inflorescence begins to ooze its sap, the tip is cut and the sap allowed to trickle into an earthenware pot. Owing to the yeasts and other organisms already present in the used pots, alcoholic and other fermentations begin immediately. Each morning and evening a ‘tapper’ climbs the tree to collect the toddy, and at each visit he shaves off a fine transverse section of the inflorescence so as to leave a new oozing surface. The fermented toddy, which is milky in appearance, is brought to the Government toddy-shops for sale within a few hours of collection.”  

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A toddy tapper doing his thing. Note the collection pots that are still on the tree. Source: Flickr

Not far from where I grew up in Penang, there was a toddy shop. The fermented toddy, whilst looking like milk had a powerful foul odour. And it was a common sight to see many of the port workers and labourers staggering out drunk from this toddy shop most evenings. Being called a “toddy drinker” was a grave insult beaten only by being labelled a “toddy drunkard”.  

And my late father’s saying……”Even if we drink milk in a toddy shop…” meant crime by association.   

Even if we had the noblest of intentions and drank only milk in a toddy shop, we would still be labelled as a toddy drinker or worse a toddy drunkard. So we should just stay away from places like toddy shops. Of course this also extended to a number of other places, like where the young men of those days would gather to play cards or just talk shop. I should not even be seen there…period. 

Maybe sayings like this still have their usefulness.  

Many are the young of today who gather at shopping complexes and “happening places”. I am sure most of them start off with innocent intentions of having fun. Until the crime by association starts. Some of these kids end up trapped into the world of cigarettes and drinks and maybe even worse, drugs.

I don’t know how I would be able to bring up the issue of toddy with my children. They’ll probably look at me as if I had gone unhinged. At least I have been allowed to hammer home the dangers of smoking to them.    

You want to stop smoking?……. Just have a heart attack!

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

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Graphic images are now being printed on cigarette boxes. But it’s something less than what the Government can do. The Gomen can give a period of 15 years or so notice now and just ban smoking and its manufacture etc. Source: Google

This was the heading of an article I read in Readers Digest years and years ago. It was a true life story of a smoker who had suffered a heart attack. From what I can still remember about the article, he wrote about the physical effects of the nicotine being washed off from his cells whilst he was in the CCU. He then talked about his physiological battle against the dreaded addiction. 

Yes, even that many years ago, I was “keen” to stop smoking. Like so many other silly, adolescent and stupid boys, I started smoking because I wanted to feel like an adult. And like all the other stupid and silly starters before me, I had to struggle and fight the violent natural body reactions like coughing and gagging that tried to keep me from smoking.  

What can I say?  I persevered and it became a habit that has stayed with me for almost 35 years now. 

Of course, even then, I knew smoking was not good for me. I remember telling myself that I would not be like those fools who were trapped into smoking 20 – 25 sticks a day. I’ll maintain myself at 3 sticks a day…..what a joke this turned out to be. There were attempts to stop smoking. Each year whilst making goals and resolutions, this would be about the top of the list.  I have tried methods such as: 

-         keeping track of exactly how many sticks and at what time I smoked (I am now not sure why I did this),  

-         asking myself each time if I really did need that particular smoke,  

-         repeating affirmations such as that cigarettes spread nothing but poison to me and to all around me, 

-         stopping cold turkey, 

-         stopping during the fasting month…. all to no avail.   

During a trip to Mauritius, I found a copy of Allan Carr’s book, Easy Way to Stop Smoking and read it from cover to cover. I think this is a definitive text on how to stop smoking. I got a clearer understanding of the devious manner in which the nicotine and the tar works on screwing our body. 

Allen Carr’s Easy Way has been credited with weaning a number of celebrities including Sir Richard Branson and Sir Anthony Hopkins, off cigarettes.  Still I just kept on smoking and burning the money away.

The family started imposing a rule that I could only smoke outside the house. Even then I did not stop. Not even when my youngest girl started looking at me with what I now think was a look of pity. 

All that smoking has come to a stop since the last 9th of May following my heart attack. I thank God that not everything came to a dead stop that fateful night.  

Still I see an increasing number of youngsters starting to smoke. If those days it was to appear adult, these days it seems to be the cool thing to do. I feel so sorry for them. I know that these people are going to end up regretting the day they picked up the habit and I know that they’ll find it very tough to quit. Maybe stories like mine might keep someone away from this dangerous habit.

I know that I have not licked this habit yet and if I ever let my guard down, I’ll be back to exactly where I started.  Like the AA creed says, I’ll live just one day at a time, smoke free, Insya’Allah.

Surviving a heart attack!

Monday, May 18th, 2009

It’s been 9 days since the great event, my first and God Willing, the only ever heart attack.  

It started the night of Saturday, the 9th May at about 1.20 am. A warm sensation around my chest kept getting stronger. I tried drinking some water, thinking that it was heartburn and would soon go off. Well, it didn’t, rather the pain got worse. At about 4 am, it became unbearable and my wife and second daughter took me to a private hospital in Seremban, where the doctor told me to “trust him” as he knew what he was doing.

Nothing he did made any difference to the pain and all the while they kept telling me that my regular doctor was being kept informed and would be arriving in the next half and hour or so. That family doctor arrived only at 10.00 am, and told me that the indications were that I had suffered a heart attack! But it was my clear feeling that after about 4 – 5 hours in this hospital that they had done nothing to alleviate my pain or to help out in my healing.  

At 10.00 am, I gave up and asked my wife to call my brother in Subang Jaya. I had not wanted to bother him. After all, I was in a so called premier health institute in Seremban, or so I thought. My brother and sister in law arrived not long after with my second nephew and his wife, who are both doctors. That was when things got interesting. My niece in law looked at my files and asked a string of questions on why this and that were not done, to which she got unsatisfactory answers. She called her superiors in HUKM, told them about my case and they agreed to admit me.  

I was put into an ambulance and arrived in HUKM about 1 pm. My brother and sister in law had arrived a little earlier and gotten me registered, so by the time I arrived, I was whisked straight to the CCU. The rest of Sunday was a blur as the doctors frantically covered for the wasted time by the Seremban Hospital.

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The HUKM. I must have been somewhere in this building. I have to go back for physiotheraphy soon. I should have time to explore and get to know this Hospital better.

The angiogram was done on the Monday, the 11th. I was retained at the CCU for another 3 days and spent the last day, Friday at the Recovery Ward, before being discharged. My diagnosis from HUKM said it was a “missed anteroseptal MI complicated with VT, Post PCI LAD”.  I am not sure what all these fancy terms mean, but it sure seems to match my feeing that the Seremban Hospital screwed around with my health.   

I have nothing but praise and gratitude for the HUKM doctors and nurses. And even their cleaning team. I am very grateful for the sterling health services provided to me with a clear sense of service beyond expectations.  

Maybe the fact that my niece in law was a Doctor at this huge hospital might have helped.  But I agree completely with what my new friend at the recovery ward, En. Othman, has to say. He had been admitted for the same procedure about a few days earlier. He was 69 years old, and called me a kid! He told me that he still remembered the days of Japanese Occupation and the conditions of the country in the years of the past. If there was one example he would show that our country had developed to first world status, it would be HUKM! 

I am back at home now, resting, and slowly working to getting back to the normal grind of my life. I have a whole new and fresh canvas to be drawn regarding my life and future. The Life Contingency Manual has taken on an increasing sense of urgency. Many other seemingly unimportant things have taken a new hue of importance and vice versa.  

My family responded to this crisis in a manner I can only wonder at. My wife, two elder girls and the younger kids all pulled their weights and supported one another as I became a burden instead of the normal role of provider / supporter. Maybe this is final confirmation that my two elder girls are now adults and that I can let go. 

And to my unearned and purely God given gifts of brothers, sisters in law, nephews and nieces in law, I can only say thanks for your being pillars of support to me and my family in our time of need.    

In this, there are lessons for those who think…..

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Life is full of surprises, it is often said. But is this always true? Or are we given subtle warnings and guidance on what we should expect as we go on with our lives? 

Recently this phrase has been often playing in my mind.

It started when I was having tea with a friend, a retired senior official of one of our Banks. My friend’s children have all about finished school or are in University, except for the youngest, a girl who has just finished her UPSR. He is basically living a live of contented retirement and has increased his religious activities in place of the hours he put into his office work.  

I was talking to him about another friend of mine. An old friend, who is now fighting a valiant battle against one of the scrouges of our lives. A battle, God Willing, he will win. I mentioned that I had last met him about a couple of months ago and he was full of vitality, plans and hopes for his future. And since recently he has been in and out of hospitals.  

And my retired bank officer friend listened intently and said, “In this are lessons for those of us who think”. 

It was one of those statements, which though made in passing, has an extremely profound effect on us. I asked him what he meant, and his reply was that: 

“We should always have our affairs in order so as not to burden our loved ones in the event of anything untoward happening to us. As you can see, the future can be really surprising.”  

How many of us actually think about this possibility?  

The possibility of life as we know it no longer being there. About the so many things that we do and manage and keep the information to ourselves. About the so many things our loved ones would have to tackle and try to decipher and put the pieces together if anything untoward were to happen to us. 

I am not talking about just taking on adequate insurance and hoping that the loved ones we leave behind will sort themselves out somehow. I am talking about something a little deeper than that.

A life continuity contingency plan, so to speak.  

Yes, in this is a lesson for those of us who think. I have written earlier about writing my final letter and stuff like that. Now I feel that the letter would be woefully inadequate if I were to expect my family to continue living seamlessly if anything untoward were to happen.  

This may be a little morbid a subject to talk about, but it is about the same as that of going for regular medical checkups. 

A life continuity check should be in order, don’t you think? After all this is a standard practice in many companies.  

Will our children ever appreciate the stress they are to us parents?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

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The normal morning traffic outside my daughters’ schools. Our two youngest girls are in primary and secondary schools which, luckily or unluckily, are next to each other.

As many parents can testify, the traffic build up around schools in the mornings and when school finishes can be quite bad, and often nerve wracking.  

This morning I watched more closely the parents as they dropped off their kids, give some last minute instructions, etc. and the other cars patiently lining up waiting their turn. Drivers of cars of all shapes, colours and types, buses, MPV’s and an occasional commercial vehicle all doing their daily duty in the name of their children.  

I am luckier than most. I don’t have other pressing appointments after dropping off the kids. But not all parents are as lucky as I am. Some have to rush back for some other chore or other while others continue on to work. Some drivers are cool and relaxed, others try to cut in and speed off and yet others seem to have completely no idea that there are many other cars behind them. 

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Another hazard, though a rare one! A waste lorry getting caught in the traffic and giving us all an unwanted aroma!

All in all, I can safely say that dropping off the kids in the morning and picking them up after school can be pretty stressful.  I wonder if the children would ever appreciate the stress the parents go through on their behalf.  

Many months ago, I wrote a post about how the paying it forward concept relates to bringing up our children. 

I mentioned a quote in that article: 

“You don’t pay back your parents. You can’t. The debt you owe them gets collected by your children, who hand it down in turn. It’s a sort of entailment. Or if you don’t have children of the body, it’s left as a debt to your common humanity. Or to your God, if you possess or are possessed by one”      

So I understand and accept that my kids may not fully appreciate the tension that we have to go through. Though I am sure they are grateful that their Mama or Papa comes to pick them up, I am also sure they sort of assume that it’s the thing to do.  

A paradigm shift will take place when the time comes for them to send their kids to school. That is when, maybe, just maybe, they’ll be truly grateful for what their parents did for them.  

They may not be able to pay us back, but they’ll pay to their children!

Of Humans, Jinns and Humans with Jinns

Monday, May 4th, 2009

The Holy Quran mentions Jinns in several places, amongst which are: 

“I have only created Jinns and Men that they may serve me”                              

Surah As Zariyat, Ayat 56 

“And the Jinn race, we had created before, from the fire of a scorching wind”                                               

Surah Al Hijr, Ayat 27 

Hence all Muslims believe and accept the presence of Jinns.  I am not an expert in Islam. My understanding which seems to be confirmed by this IIU website is that Jinns have similarities with humans in that they have the power to reason, and to know what is right and wrong. However we cannot see them. And of course there are good Jinns and bad Jinns. The rewards and punishment promised to humans upon our death depending on how we lived our lives applies equally to Jinns.

The Holy Quran also makes the following statement: 

“Yet make Jinns equal with Allah, even though Allah did create the Jinns..”                                               

Surah Al An’am, Ayat 100 

This Ayat makes it clear that we should not worship Jinns, as they are just like us, another creation by the All Mighty. There are a lot of literature on people being possessed by Jinns, using Jinns to do extraordinary feats, using Jinns in their fortune telling etc. 

In addition, there are also stories about people using Jinns to protect themselves and even to do evil deeds.  Malaysian history is rich in stories of people who have either voluntarily or involuntarily been possessed by Jinns and used their powers for both good and evil.  

On the 30th March 09, The Star carried a story about Uztaz Trimizi, a 23 year old,  modern-day exorcist who would be conducting mobile clinics to rid victims, particularly the Malaysian community in Britain, of sihir (black magic) spells and disturbances by spiteful spirits.He is probably Malaysia’s youngest Islamic medical practitioner who specialises in undoing charms and witchcraft.

Trimizi, who hails from Kuala Lumpur, says he has screened more than 20,000 people in Malaysia, mostly in Sabah and Sarawak, over the past seven years. Of that, 800 were treated for djinn affliction and black magic.

Trimizi has come a long way since he learnt the art from his grandmother at the age of eight in Taiping, Perak. After her death, he continued to study Islamic medicine from renowned teachers in Malaysia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen S

So it seems that many can be afflicted and be completely unaware.  

Ustaz Trimizi says that Jinns can be “burnt with Quranic verses. You can hear them scream before they are weakened and leave the body.”  

This issue of Jinns and their ability to infuse themselves into our body and exert some form of control over our actions must have caused some confusion over the treatment of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia etc.  So in some cases, people who are just sick may instead be treated as being possessed or being witches. In India and Africa stories of witches being burnt and stoned to death abound.  See some of the news here and here.

In Malaysia, there are a number of religious columns written by scholars in the local papers. Often questions are asked in these columns about how to go about riding oneself of Jinns or other “benda halus, like saka”.  

In his website, Ustaz Suhaimi from Temerloh writes that “Saka are Jinns that have been in the body of a person for so long that they become almost one. This can happen with or without the person being aware, because it is inherited from his family.”

He also offers services and advice on people wanting to remove these saka, a form of exorcism so to speak. 

For a Malaysian family educated in the Western way, the whole issue of being possessed by evil spirits, Jinns etc is a huge poser. Where do they turn to for treatment? How do they even decide it is a matter of the supernatural and not some medical ailment?  

For us in Malaysia, though there is a huge number of the Western educated amongst the Muslims, the link with the “kampung” is still incredibly strong. So even though Western medical cures are sought, it is very often supplemented with “traditional treatment”. 

I suggest that we should never ignore the issue of these paranormal forces whenever some family member or friend seemingly goes off his or her rocker. Or when things aren’t too often, what they should be! 

Ayurvedic Medicine – creating a balance for a healthy body and mind

Friday, May 1st, 2009

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The Ayur Centre in Seremban 

Ayurveda is a type of traditional medicine practised since 1,300 BC or between 2,500 to 7,000 BC depending on which authority we are looking up. One thing is clear though, the science of Ayurveda is mighty ancient! Some claim that Ayurveda is the world’s oldest health care system. 

About.com has this to say about Ayurveda.

Ayurveda can be defined as a system, which uses the inherent principles of nature, to help maintain health in a person by keeping the individual’s body, mind and spirit in perfect equilibrium with nature.

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term, made up of the words “ayus” and “veda.” “Ayus” means life and “Veda” means knowledge or science. The term “ayurveda” thus means ‘the knowledge of life’ or ‘the science of life’. According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, “ayu” comprises the mind, body, senses and the soul.

Many people use Ayurveda to complement or supplement their conventional Western treatments. For example, some believe that Ayurvedic therapies minimize the side effects of chemotherapy. Others just want to “recharge” themselves during the course of a chronic illness. Still others employ Ayurveda, especially non-medical practices, to simply build and maintain greater overall physical and mental well being.

In Malaysia, the Ayur Center , was established in 2000 and today has 5 branches in Petaling Jaya, Seremban, Ipoh,Johor Bharu and Butterworth.  

My friend and I visited the Seremban Centre last Wednesday. The centre is located in a tasteful bungalow located in the Lake Gardens area, near the Sungei Ujong Club. There are plenty of trees providing shade and I felt a sense of tranquillity and peace.   

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The lush garden in the Ayur Center. The Lobby overlooks this and gives a caming feeling. 

I sat in with my friend in his discussions with the resident Doctor. I came out feeling that the doctor answered the concerns my friend had in a logical manner. He did not make any seemingly unrealistic promises or claims of miracles and such. His logic was that proper diet and exercise would promote the good cells whilst suppressing the bad cells. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it.  

The Doctor assured my friend that the herbal medicines prescribed are all from various herbs, roots, fruits and even barks. They get absorbed into the system quickly and should not interfere with any Western medicine being taken. He also mentioned that a 2 hour time gap should be good.  The Centre offers inpatient and outpatient facilities.

Whilst we were there, we did see some luxury cars. I don’t know if they brought patients or visitors of patients. 

My friend is undergoing chemotherapy and he has taken on a regime of daily visits for oil treatments at the Ayur Centre for a period of two weeks. He has told me that he feels good and relaxed after the first couple of treatments he took. However, I think he has decided not to take the herbal medication as he wants to have a clear mind that the efficacy of the Western medication that he is taking is not affected.  

I do have a host of ailments myself. All acquired through the normal modern process of ignoring sensible dietary and exercise habits in the name of “work and career”. It seems that diabetes (I am a Type 2 case) is one malady that many seek Ayurvedic treatment for.  

I intend to make an appointment and find out more about the Ayurvedic treatment for diabetes. The Internet does have tons of resources, like this one, but I feel comfortable with this doctor. 

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