Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pieces of a Young Woman’s Tale: For a Father

The Photo

“My little girl, Daddy has to go,” said the man to his three-year old daughter. “I’ll be back in a few months, don’t worry.”

The little girl stared longingly at her father’s back as he walked away. She clutched her mother’s hand tightly, feeling a higher need for protection. Her father would be away for a long time. He was their hero, their protector.

A few hours later, her mother rushed her outside after hearing the sound of an airplane passing through the sky. They watched the bird-like structure disappearing into the clouds. “That’s probably daddy’s plane,” said her mother.


The handsome man, in his early twenties, walked wearily to his flat. It had been a long day at the university. Meanwhile, there was nobody there to greet his place. His wife and his daughter lived thousands of miles away. He stopped by the mailbox before he entered the building. He saw one brown envelope situated awkwardly inside the compartment. He took it out and checked the address. It was from home.

He rushed inside the building, sped up the stairs, and bolted into his small bedroom. Carefully, trying not to tear the contents, he opened the envelope. He took out the letter and read it. He smiled in spite of himself, reading the sweet encouraging words from his loving wife. Something else slipped out of the envelope. It was a photo of his little girl.

16 005-1

She wore a cute pink dress and her hair was decorated with a red hairband. Her face was as innocent as a toddler’s could get. Her eyes were like her mother’s, but her gaze was exactly like her father’s. Behind the photo were a few simple words:

To our darling father

Love Naya.

A drop of water fell from the corner of his kind eyes.

“I’ll be home soon,” he whispered. “Wait for me.”


New Shoes

“Look at these new shoes, Dear!” The man brought a pair of leather shoes to the little girl’s feet. She stared at the brown bulky shoes. There was a simple floral pattern on each shoe. They were Mary Jane shoes, but they looked really old fashioned. She knew they were old. They were bought at the Salvations Army store near their house. Despite that, they were in pretty good condition.

But they weren’t her style at all.

She tried them on anyway. Despite her very young age, she was already aware of their economic condition. They weren’t exactly millionaires. Compromises had to be made. Being extra thrifty and meticulous were the only options.

The shoes were tight. She immediately despised her long feet. She wanted to please her father, so she said nothing and walked around casually when he asked her to. “Do they feel good?” he asked. She smiled and nodded. She figured lying was acceptable in this situation.

The next day, she went to school in her new-but-old shoes. Most of the other kids wore pumps – the newest style on the shelves. She hadn’t made friends with much of them yet. She was the new kid – the short little Asian girl who was strange and talked funny. She tried not to think of their glances at her feet as she walked by. Meanwhile, her feet started to bug her. Each step was uncomfortable.

Then it got painful.

After a while it got unbearable.

After that, she made up so many reasons to avoid wearing those shoes. She told her parents she wanted to wear her other shoes every other day. “But look at the state of those other shoes,” said her mother. “They’re worse for wear.” She just smiled at her and said it was fine. The next day, she said she had sports day at school so she couldn’t wear those Mary Jane shoes. Then she had to make more excuses. Inevitably, her parents became suspicious.

“Why won’t you wear your new shoes?” her father asked. She hesitated, thinking of yet another excuse. “Is there something wrong?” asked her mother. She looked at the ground uncomfortably.

They pressed on. She had to answer. “They hurt,” she muttered. “You said they were fine,” said her father. “You should have told the truth.”

She felt her face getting red with shame at being caught lying.

“Don’t be so hard on her,” her mother replied.

And now they are arguing because of me, she thought. She should’ve kept her mouth shut.

They argued on. She knew she probably had hurt her father and disappointed him when he uncovered the truth. He was so proud of those shoes. She knew buying them wasn’t easy. However, her lies had caused much trouble and arguments as well. Lying itself was tiring.

After a while, her parents stopped arguing. They bought her new shoes that fit her better. She knew it must have cost a lot. If she had just told the truth earlier, her parents could’ve exchanged those shoes for another. But she lied too long.

She realized her personal trait and rather troubling habit that day. Pleasing the people she loved just made her so happy. It became addictive and progressively destructive.

I’m sorry, Daddy…


Caught in the Act

I am totally gonna fail this test.

The young teenager stared at her history textbook sadly. She was the new kid again. Her lessons were difficult to grasp, especially history.

These words look like gibberish. I’m gonna fail and my parents are gonna be so embarrassed, especially Dad.

Her father was a lecturer. He had already got his Ph.D. Very few achieved that degree at his age in her country. He was awfully smart. So was her mother.

And I am going to fail and be a total embarrassment.

At this point, she had no liking for logic and reason, for they had betrayed her. She needed other measures. She remembered how one of her friends had slipped a piece of paper scribbled with history notes under her skirt.

I couldn’t do that. She couldn’t bear being caught lifting her skirt ad exposing her legs.

“How about your arm?” asked a small voice in her head.


It was easily hidden if she wore a jacket. It was also easy to steal a few peeks this way.

She started hastily copying facts from her history book onto her arm. She would have to go to school in about 10 minutes. This might just work…


“Hurry, Dear. We have to go now.” Her father walked past her to start the motorbike. “In a second!” she replied.

Suddenly, she felt a shadow hovering above her. “What’s that?” her father asked. “Just a scribble,” she replied. “It was an accident.”

“I know what that is. Those are notes.”

She froze. He is gonna go ballistic. She waited for the torrent of words as color deepened on her cheeks. She was gravely mortified.

A chuckle broke the silence. She looked up in surprise. “Now, don’t cheat. You know it isn’t right.” With a goofy grin, he casually walked to his motorbike and started the engine. She smiled sheepishly and joined him on the motorbike.

On the way to her school, she rubbed the back of her arms vigorously. She knew it was wrong to even think of cheating. Her father could’ve scolded her, and she would’ve deserved it.

But he didn’t.

I will never do this again, she thought. Thank you, Daddy.


Mathematics Mania

It was a hard Math problem. He didn’t have to be so mean.

The teenager slouched on her desk, reading the question for the hundredth time. She had been at it for hours. What did she miss? Why is this so unconceivable?

Her father’s words rung in her head. Didn’t they teach you this at school? As annoying as those words were, he did make a point. The teacher must have said something about it. She should remember. She mustn’t let her mind be lazy. She shouldn’t give up so easily.

She closed her eyes and tried to picture the question in her head using simple analogies. She used commonplace variables. Then she forced her logic upon the story. Then something clicked.

Of course. It was so simple.

She realized that her father needed to be hard on her sometimes. It stirred up her ambition.

A wide smiled spread across her face as she realized another thing. I do like math. I would have given up by now if I didn’t like it. And I am stubborn as hell.

I am my daddy’s daughter.


Curiosity and Discussions

The young woman always loved talking to her father. He was so informed about practically everything. He listened well. He was open-minded. He used exceptional logic. He was witty. He was ethical.

Meanwhile, she was always a curious child. She asked questions and sought answers hungrily. Her parents fostered this characteristic by giving her all kinds of puzzles as her toys in the early years of her childhood. They bought her many books, including giant encyclopedias and atlases. Her father, who majored in computer science and mathematics, taught her quite well. She learnt how to use the computer when she was just a toddler. She came to love working with numbers. And it was never enough. She wanted to know everything.

“Daddy, do you believe in aliens? We can’t be the only life existing in this wide universe.”

“Do you think ghosts are real?”

“Why do you think God does the things he does?”

“Tell me about your childhood.”

“Why did you choose math and computer science?”

“What do you wanna do when you retire?”

“Wouldn’t it be cool to build a garden in the middle of a house?” 

“What’s your testimony on the statement that most government institutions are corrupted?”

“Let’s talk about classical-crossover music.”

“No, Daddy. You cannot make a series of aptitude tests for my fiancĂ© later.”

“The crisis in Egypt? Problematic. Tell me about it.”

“Let’s talk about proper eating habits.”

“Tell me about Einstein’s theory of relativity again…”

He always gave good answers. There were almost no limits.

He continued to foster her curiosity. She asked more questions. The discussions went on. 

Undoubtedly, she would expect more to come.




All the above are based on stories of my life, since I was a toddler – those that I can remember at least. They’re not 100% true but my purpose is to convey the meaningful lessons I’ve learnt from them. I dedicate them to my father.


Thank you for being such an inspiring father. You have taught me so much in my life. You are a role model for me. I aspire to be as smart, kind, responsible, and strong as you.

I am still learning to be a good daughter. I have stumbled many times, but you, together with Mom, have always embraced me and the rest of your children with your patience and love.

May Allah be forever in your heart and may He grant you much happiness in your life. Continue to be the greatest father, and teacher, in the world for me.

Happy Birthday, Daddy! You’re never too old for us, for age brings you wisdom and your cheerfulness sustains your youth.




Your loving daughter and devoted student,


NayaWinking smile

Thursday, August 15, 2013

To the Strait of Malacca

Yesterday afternoon, we had a family outing on the shores of the Strait of Malacca. I had never been there before. There isn’t exactly a jaw-dropping view there, but I found the atmosphere very pleasant. I have always loved the smell of the sand and the sea and yesterday was no exception. The air was cool and fresh. We could see the sun slowly setting on the horizon.

We passed some fancy hotels and visited a very beautiful mosque called “Masjid Selat Melaka”. My dad also called it “Masjid Terapung” or “the floating mosque”. It is situated on the edge of the land in such a way that it seems to float on top of the water. Cool huh?

However, since we had other plans, we didn’t stay until prayer time. We took a lot of pictures on the seashore then went to have dinner at Johnny’s, our favorite restaurant in our town. We always order the steamboat. I love looking at the green vegetables and bright colored prawns and other seafood boiling inside the pot. It’s delicious and fresh and makes your body feel good. Totally recommended.

Anyway, here are some photo’s we took on the outing. Who knows. It might make you tempted to visit Malacca. Smile

*on the grounds of the mosque

*my two brothers playing on the seashore

*my mom and dad

I tried making a collage from the candid photos my brother took of me. I used the “page” feature on PhotoScape. It’s wonderfully easy to use. I had a lot of fun rearranging the pictures. What do you think of the result? Could it be page from a fashion magazine? (laughs)

*I call this ensemble “bright sunset”.

Blouse by Xiu Xiu
Jeans by Log Jeans
Shoes by Gosh
My mothers gipsy scarf bought at Mataram (no visible brand, I’m sorry)
Bag by Enola
Accessories: 1. my sister’s brown bangle 2. beaded bracelet – handicraft bought at Kute Beach, Lombok 3. watch by Mirage

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Happy Eid! It’s Always the Time for Improvement

Honestly, I have no urge to write or do pretty much anything that requires a bit more thinking or elbow grease. On the contrary, I can actually think of many topics I want to write about and I have dozens of tasks pending. I’m just too lazy. The only statement to justify this disposition is: “I’m on holiday, dude. Sue me.”

However, I have mustered just enough willpower and energy to write this post. I have two things to write about. Initially, I wanted to make two posts – one topic per post, obviously. But, again, it just seems too herculean a task right now. Plus, if I did one topic now, the other would end up in the “pending” pile for an immeasurable amount of time. Then my guilt would build more and it would be oh so pleasant, wouldn’t it?

Do I sound sarcastic? I might’ve slept on the wrong side of the bed, but I think I slept well last night. I don’t know why I woke up with an ounce of sarcasm. Or maybe I’m just sarcastic to begin with.

This is getting me nowhere.

Okay, firstly, I want to greet everyone with a huge EID MUBARAK!


Taqaballahu minaa wa minkum shiyamana wa shiyamakum.
Ja’alanallahu minal a’idin wal faidzin.

May Allah accept it (good deeds) from you and us, the fasting from you and us.
May Allah place us among the returnees (to the state of fitrah) and the winners (of the inner struggle against the nafs or base desires).
Please forgive me for my mistakes and wrongdoings. Winking smile

I had a great Eid, Alhamdulillah. I spent it in Malaysia with my family. I praise Allah that we could spend it here together, all of us complete.

As usual, we had the Eid prayer in the morning. Here, we had it at 9.00 am. Well, everyone went to the big mosque except for me. It was that time of the month again so I couldn’t pray. I just stayed at home and cleaned the house.When everyone came back from the mosque all fresh and pretty, I was still a mess. At least the house was more welcoming (laughs).

In the afternoon, we went to some of our neighbors’ houses for silaturahim. I don’t know about everyone else, but I ate a lot that day. I had chicken curry, rendang, ketupat, sayur nangka, asinan, cookies, cake, and many colorful drinks. Afterwards, we took some pictures (we mostly means my sister, my mother, and I) as our personal memorabilia of the day, like we do every year.


*One of the pics we took after visiting a neighbor. As you can see, we love purple.

Secondly, I want to share a thought that has been stuck in my mind. It is actually something commonplace but I would like to utter it in the following words:

You could spare just a few seconds to make someone happier. Use those few seconds well and you could make such a difference.

No, this is not implying the typical I-want-world-peace wishes of a beauty pageant contestant (although it is perfectly relevant and okay to do so). It is just something I have witnessed at home and I think everyone can relate to it.

Being kids, we must have tormented our parents with our disobedience a few times. Do you remember refusing to do the dishes? Do you recall making up reasons to avoid doing chores? When was the last time you pended a task your parents asked you to do with a classic “later” or “in a minute” remark?

Whether we are aware of it or not, we were royal pains and we might still be so. I don’t have to lecture you about how being a parent or guardian is hard and how much work they have to do and how much time they sacrifice to make our homes worth living and so on, right? We all know. If you aren’t aware of all this, give yourself a dose of corporal punishment (read: smack on your ungrateful backside).

Now, most chores don’t take up a lot of time to do. Taking out the trash, for example, is a task we could do in five minutes, including the decontamination process later (read: thoroughly washing your hands *my OCD alert*). Washing an average amount of dishes takes ten minutes. Sweeping the floor takes about fifteen minutes.

Observe the other seemingly tiny things we frequently overlook:

  1. Tidying up your own toys after playing: 5-10 minutes (unless you have like 100,000 Lego pieces and you used it to make a life-sized dinosaur or something, it might take more minutes)
  2. Ironing your own shirt before school (or work): 5-10 minutes
  3. Making your own bed: 2-5 minutes
  4. Washing your own plate after a meal: 1-2 minutes
  5. Picking out your clothes carefully, assuming they’re folded neatly in your wardrobe (instead of yanking them out in a hurry, as we do so often, creating an avalanche in the process): 20-15 seconds
  6. Throwing your dirty clothes into the laundry basket instead of leaving them to decompose on your bedroom floor until your mother finds it: 5-10 seconds
  7. Putting your coat on a hanger after using it: 5-10 seconds
  8. Switching off the light in a room you’re not using anymore: 1-2 seconds
  9. Putting the toilet seat down after use: 1-2 seconds
  10. Saying thank you: 1 second

Of course, you could add so many things to the list above. Most of them don’t take very long to do. Compare them to the other things we do in our free time or in place of the chores we are supposed to do. A conversation with your boyfriend/girlfriend on the phone could take an hour or more. Browsing the internet could take hours (I’m guilty). Checking your social media profiles could make hours breeze by and you would be the least aware of it.

Another thing we tend to forget is how much difference we could make if we spared our time to do those things we frequently overlook. You could save your parents, guardian, roommate, or anyone who has to put up with you every day from muttering words of aggravation under their breath. You could give their patience a huge break. You could reduce their workload quite significantly. You could actually determine how they’d start their day.

Best of all, you would make them exceptionally happier.

Is that so hard?

The tricky part is mastering the willpower to do everything. Most of our faults come from bad habits and habits are hard to change. However, if we don’t change it we’d definitely regret it in the future.

So, how about it? Could we gather the determination to change our habits? It will only cost us a few seconds, but the reward is priceless.

Besides, it’s never too late for improvement. Ramadhan and Eid has already provided us the great momentum for betterment. Carry on.

Have a happy year ahead!