With education and entrepreneurship at the core of everything I do, this blog serves to provide you with information from my perspective, based on my knowledge, skills and experience on various issues close to my heart namely, general education, peacebuilding, public speaking, civil society and theatre/ drama.
HAPPY NATIONAL DAY SINGAPORE!
Another eventful year for Singapore as we cross into 51 years of statehood independence and what a journey it has been for Singapore. Our forefathers have toiled this land to make this country a safe and prosperous one – a place where everyone can live, work and play (Pokemon GO) safely.
I am no doubt happy to be a Singaporean, as much as Singaporeans continue to remain in search for our unique identity. The debate between Singlish and English continues, and what do we make out of the strict ethnicity quota that hasn’t changed much as well as battling the evils of what globalisation has led us to (indiscriminate racism on social media and acts of terrorism through proxy funders).
But beyond the constant search for our Singaporean identity and mine (being of mixed ethnicity can get extremely confusing), the safety and security that this country has provided us all remains at the forefront of envy among others in the world. That is something that we cannot take for granted. We continue to be a place that is safe for our young and old to walk the streets at night compared to most countries regionally, our education system continues to be extremely rigorous in producing scholars and we continue to be a place where everyone can have freedom of worship.
True that there is a lot more that we could work on to become better than what we are today – a better pace of living, better work-life balance and to be a more affordable place to live in with better living wages to enjoy some of the best things in life when we choose to retire.
But as the National Day Parade yesterday has shown, we frequently still do travel back in time to revisit our historical past. We are a country of people that remains sentimental at heart, fillial to our ancestors and elders, and that helps to keep us grounded to who we really are.
Of course, while there were comments about the Badang narrative that was potrayed, I felt that what was more important is that there were those of us who knew the story and were trying to put things right to it. We believe in the right to potray what is truthful. There were contentions about Badang having tattoos, being a bit too muscular and flying at that but none of us were arguing about the legitimacy of his story because we know and we understand that Badang did exist.
So, I am proud and I am happy that Singaporeans were stepping up to defend Badang’s authenticity (looks, storyline, etc) and I wish that more people would step up to talk more about the other stories that we have in Singapore because the Singapore narrative is so much more beyond Sang Nila Utama and Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore holds stories to so much more history that if one decides to venture out in search for it, you will be amazed at how much history there is (if you’re really keen on venturing out to these places and learning about them, give this a try Lumba Bahasa & Budaya Gerek).
More than just stories about Singapore, the stories that one can discover will make you realize how connected we are to our closest neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, and how much we actually share our history with theirs. It’s a lot like the prequel begins in Indonesia, then the plot thickens in Singapore, with the sequels in Malaysia.
But moving beyond our history and shared history, we need to create new stories, we need to create new heroes or have people stepping forward, we need to create new figures or have figures that we can all stand together behind and support. And I’m not talking about politicians or figures of state, but it’s the story of the everyday Ali, Muthu, Ah Tan or John that we can all connect with – the story of how a young Singaporean saves his country like the story of Hang Nadim, or the story of an immigrant who roots himself in Singapore and puts Singapore on the map like Badang.
We need this to move forward and to do that, we need to stop arguing endlessly over the small things, agree to disagree and start looking at the big picture, of how we are positioned in relation to the world and work together hand in hand, locals and foreigners, putting aside our differences but align our commonalities for what is most important to us all – and if you ask me what that could be, I’m guessing it’s HAPPINESS.
True to the words of Pak Zubir Said when he composed our National Anthem,
‘Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura Sama-sama Menuju Bahagia’
Let us all, Singaporeans head towards happiness
because if we aren’t happy, then really, what do we want?
About a month or so ago, my dad shared with me why he didn’t want to pay for my university education nor supported my decision to accept a place in a university and instead, asked me to work.
It was a tough decision but it is one that I can accept, and I agree with, now that I’ve heard him explain.
It was simply due to fairness of treatment between his two children.
My sister had wanted to further her studies in Australia during her time but he didn’t support it either because if he did, he’d end up spending on her and should it came to my turn, and if I wanted to do the same, he wouldn’t have the means to send me instead.
It was either one or none at all. It was a very rational and balanced decision that he took.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want his kids to further their studies, but it was because if he couldn’t afford for one, he wouldn’t send the other or it would have been unfair.
He didn’t want to take the route that most would have done – send one child to university and hope that the Golden child returns a graduate and repays the kindness to the other sibling and the family. He didn’t believe in that. He believed in equal opportunities.
At that moment when he told me, I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry because I knew that he was looking after my interest as well when he denied my sister her opportunity because true enough, when it came to my turn, he said NO as well. (I still remember the University calling me to ask if I was going to accept my place)
Such was our financial situation back then and I am forever appreciative of the decision he made and grateful that he shared this with me.
To me, that decision, was a good parenting decision and is one that I can learn from.
It was to avoid conflict and jealousy between siblings or accusations of favoritism.
Simple as that
These are the two main reasons why a lot of companies and people fail. We all know this in our hearts but we just resist it at times. Here’s why.
When companies don’t innovate to change with the trends of time and continue to do what they’ve been doing because ‘you don’t change what works’, that’s when they will start to be obsolete.
When people don’t innovate/upgrade their skills and knowledge to change with the trends and needs, they will similarly be deemed obsolete and soon find themselves out of a job.
For companies that are extremely innovative and continuously develop and refine either new or current ideas without pushing the product out for market testing or launching it out, they will die out as well.
They die out because when another competitor enters the market with a similar product but dares to try to have their product tested by the market, they not only gain market share but they also learn and understand market needs better which helps them develop products relevant to the market.
Same goes for individuals who have great ideas but they continue to work to refine on their ideas because they are either not confident enough to have their ideas tested or they just believe that it’s not in their value system to have what they consider an unfinished or work-in-progress idea presented to be judged and criticized, then they will lose significant market share.
So, whatever you are doing today, keep innovating and keep pushing your ideas out to be tested.
That is how you and your company stay relevant with market needs, and those who stay relevant are the ones that end up being successful.
How do you or your company’s personality look like?
March was a really exciting month and seems like April is going to look like a very long one as well. Every Saturday in March, I saw at the judges table, on invitation from National University of Singapore’s Persatuan Bahasa Melayu Universiti Kebangsaan Singapura or better known as NUS PBMUKS, to judge quatrains for a Pesta Pantun competition.
This year was the competitions’ 20th anniversary and aside from the regular local teams/schools that took part to compete, this years’ competition was opened to teams from across the causeway, Malaysia, and what a competition it was.
Competition was tough and clearly, standards in language and delivery were different between the two countries.
Nevertheless, one thing remained in the world of quatrains, ENTERTAINMENT VALUE.
Quatrains, always had one thing that I enjoyed the most, was its’ ability to send out subtle messages in the most entertaining manner. Of course, some messages aren’t so subtle but take pot shots at the other.
These days, not many people speak in quatrains and well, while we may have lost a small part of our daily culture, I am also thankful that we no longer speak in quatrains except on certain occasions or otherwise, it’d be really tiring to get a message across and if you’re someone who is unable to read between the lines, quatrains will leave you lost.
Aside from Pesta Pantun, By Definition Pte Ltd was also busy judging for a Storytelling competition organised by Tiong Bahru Youth Executive Committee (YEC). So, that’s two events in March.
No, I couldn’t do it so got one of the #TeamByDef family members to do it instead!
And just yesterday, in support of a collaborative effort between Chong Pang CC MAEC, Woodlands CC MAEC, and Woodlands Galaxy CC MAEC together with Masjid Darul Makmur and Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, we took up two booths at Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, the last standing kampong mosque in Singapore for a ‘Jom Balik Kampong’ event, selling cold drinks and our traditional games.
Response from the crowd was very encouraging as we marketed and sold many of our traditional game items, games that we usually conduct in schools. So yes, we are now also plying our wares to ensure that our traditional games can continue to be played even at home.
So, if you’re looking for traditional games to play at home, look no further.
Of course, as these items are personally sourced out, we always keep a limited stock in supply. So, if you’re keen to get your hands on them, drop us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to order and once the games arrive, we’ll let you know!
And finally, I’m really excited for the end of the month.
From Pesta Pantun in Singapore to PISMA, a regional pantun competition in Melaka held over 4 days and yours truly has been invited as one of the judges. All praise to God really for the opportunity. Without Pesta Pantun, I don’t think I would have received the invite at all.
So, I’m really looking forward to the 5 teams from Singapore Polytechnic who will be representing Singapore! That’s happening from 29 April to 2nd May. And yes, I’ll be sourcing out for more traditional games in my travels.
Today, I woke up and as per usual, I was scrolling through my Facebook updates when I came across a Berita Harian link which a friend had posted, I thought long and hard and assessed all angles possible as to why the journalist had decided to use the word ‘HANFON’ instead of ‘Telefon Bimbit’ to describe, handphone.
So, I took out my mobile phone or handphone and checked on my Kamus Pro app as to whether or not Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) had decided to adopt and accept ‘Hanfon’ as an official Malay word.
I typed ‘handphone’ and I got nothing. I typed ‘mobile phone’ and I got nothing.
I typed ‘phone’ and I got 2:
- n (colloq) telefon: can I have your address and – number?, boleh beri saya alamat dan nombor telefon kamu?
- n (phonetics) bunyi, fon.
So, I saw the word ‘fon’ for the second one. MAYBE, I missed something out. I mean, I’m conducting Malay programmes in schools and it’s my personal responsibility to use the correct words and terms in the classroom. Perhaps, in the course of my busy schedule, I could have missed out on something.
So, I searched for ‘hanfon’ in the same Kamus Pro app, which is the official Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) Malay Dictionary application, the same organisation that researches, writes, prints and distributes Malay Dictionaries which Singapore students and teachers (and I hope those who use the Malay Language as part of their work) use.
The search was futile.
Okay, so maybe DBP isn’t updated so I google searched for ‘hanfon’ and the first hit I got was that it was a WELSH translation on mymemory.translated.net which meant, ‘SENT’.
So, at this juncture, is where I feel extremely angry because the reporter had not exercised personal and professional responsibility to ensure that they were using the right words to report in a national publication read by thousands and used by thousands of students and teachers in schools.
I cannot imagine the horror of Malay Language teachers trying to explain to students that ‘hanfon’ isn’t a Malay word and that it cannot be used in writing compositions but then again, how can the Malay Language teacher justify it when a professional writing for the official Malay newspaper in Singapore is using improper words.
For us, Malays and Malay Language Teachers to claim that Malay Language is not being used by students and the young properly, and have difficulty to teach it isn’t just the responsibility of Malay Language Teachers alone. It is and should be the responsibility of all who use the Malay Language, especially so if you are a working professional publishing the NATIONAL MALAY LANGUAGE DAILY.
To cut corners in view of space constraint and switch with using a word that does not even exist in the Malay dictionary is simply irresponsible, lacks integrity, lacks professionalism and clearly, shouldn’t even be allowed to in the first place.
If this improper and unjustified use of the Bahasa Melayu continues at Berita Harian, I cannot imagine how the future of Malay journalism will look like.
So, I’m appealing to all of you reading this, to not only share this post but also, to write in to BH to provide your feedback. That is about all we can do.
It’s been a few days since I returned and now that I’ve had time to rest and do my cleaning up, the experience has begun to settle in me. There’s so much to talk about so I’m going to try to arrange my reflections as best as I can in chronological order – Pre-Umrah, Umrah and Post-Umrah.
I mentioned this in my first post (MY UMRAH – The Beginnings) that I started talking about going for an umrah about 2 years ago. Some might consider this as being given ‘hidayah’ or guidance but really, I think this whole journey began much earlier than that, probably as young as when I started learning about Islam.
As a Muslim, we abide by the 5 pillars of Islam followed by the articles of faith.
So, if we look at the pillars of Islam and articles of Faith, I believe that ever since I began learning about Islam, I must have expressed my intention to go on a pilgrimage at an early age and perhaps, God must predestined me to visit his home. The question would have been, WHEN?
Fast forward to about several years ago, something happened to me in the mosque. I remember I was performing the ‘iktikaf’ early before Friday prayers and was all alone in the mosque. My eyes were closed when suddenly a loud deep voice called my name out asking me to repent before it was too late.
I was jolted out of my rest and searched around me but there was no one around. I knew I had heard a voice and it wasn’t my imagination because the voice left my heart beating profusely. I wasn’t sure what that was but I was sure that it had to be a sign from God.
So, to say that I perhaps only made plans to go on this umrah 2 years ago would perhaps have been unfair but 2 years ago, I made a resolve that I had to go would be more apt. I made my bookings quite late actually, on Deepavali (what a way right? Festival of Lights) and immediately after I made my bookings, I began to physically and mentally prepare myself which was why if you had been following me on Instagram, you’d have noticed me going on runs.
Not that it was necessary but I really wanted to prepare myself well. I knew that there was going to be a lot of walking involved with the circumambulating the Kaabah plus walking/jogging/running during the Sa’i. Hence, I really wanted to be physically ready and began my runs with my intention focused on God. I suppose in doing so, I was also mentally preparing myself for this journey.
Besides my own preparation, I also had to attend two classes to learn about performing the umrah organised by the travel agency. This was essential towards preparing all pilgrims for the DO’s and DONT’s especially when one is in ihraam.
Once classes are complete, all that’s left is to pack your bags.
The 5th rule not mentioned in the photo above is ‘Proper Procedures’ – One needs to perform all of the above in accordance to proper procedures which have all been listed out in the photo.
One of the most important things to take note of when you’re in ihraam, is that there are DO’s and DONT’s as well. If you break the rule, you have to pay ‘DAM’, which is a penalty. There is the small penalty and the big penalty depending on the seriousness of which rule was contravened.
It all sounds like a lot to do but really if you think about it, it’s really about exercising one’s self control at a higher level, above and beyond what Muslims usually do which is why I think God made performing the Hajj the last one on the pillar for Muslims.
I haven’t been on the Hajj yet but the Umrah is a smaller version of the Hajj. It is perhaps half of what Hajj pilgrims have to go through, which means that the challenge, is only half as well. When I have the opportunity and should I be invited, then of course, the next phase will be to perform the Hajj.
Having gone through the umrah, like all who have been there, I definitely want to go there again. I haven’t had the opportunity to do several things yet like praying in the Kaabah at Hijr Ismail and Multazam.
Do I feel different now that I’ve been on an umrah?
I certainly learnt a lot more about my religion and because of a higher appreciation for Islam, that’s probably why I feel different.
Have I changed?
That’s perhaps too soon to answer and is best not answered by me. I have to let others who interact with me be the judge. I’m not sure if change is a good word too, I’d rather use improvement.
What are my future plans?
I definitely want to go for my Hajj and perform another umrah again, where possible, once a year for my spiritual retreat. I don’t think there is a better way for a spiritual retreat than to go for an umrah. Only this time, I’d like to also visit Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, Israel which is another revered mosque in Islam. It being the mosque where Prophet Muhammad had ascended to the Heavens.
But besides that, I’m probably gonna take up Arabic classes and attend religious classes once again. I’m also considering pursuing a proper studies in Islam to fulfill a wish my dad once had of me. While I wasn’t prepared in the past because I was too young and rebellious, I think I’m a bit more open to the idea now.
How things will change or evolve over the coming year or the future, that is something for me to work on. But for now, I’ll need time to come out with my list of things to achieve by the end of 2016 and also to reflect on my 2015.
From Madinah, we travelled between 5-6 hours through the desert before we reached Makkah. Throughout the bus journey that I was awake, I thought about how arduous the journey must have been for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the small group of Muslims who had to leave their home, properties and for some, family members to make the migration through the desert where the days could be extremely hot and the nights, extremely cold either on foot or/and on camels.
As we approached to enter the city of Makkah, I was reminded of how excited I was to see buildings after a long drive from Los Angeles through the desert to Las Vegas. What an irony indeed, from Sin City in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2013 to the Holy City of Makkah, Saudi Arabia in 2015. Both located in the desert with contrasting differences.
Throughout the entire journey, we were all in ihraam and within the hour of our arrival in Makkah, we performed our first umrah close to 0100hrs, setting us up for a meeting with the Kaabah. This would be my first meeting with the Kaabah, also known as Baitullah or God’s house.
Walking towards the Kaabah, I had many things running through my mind – what might happen to me being one of the biggest question.
And then there it was, the Kaabah. Nothing happened. I didn’t get emotional as how I’ve heard others tell me before. I felt weird. And soon, I was circumambulating the Kaabah. This is WHEN IT HAPPENED.
I didn’t cry but I was told that the devil will whisper in your ears to distract you and it truly did. I swear that I have never been more distracted in my mind and heart at the same time about my faith. I was close enough to just stop circumambulating and leave by the second round because of thoughts that out of nowhere, entered my mind but I somehow managed to find myself back through continuous recitations of ‘Astaghfirullah’ which means I seek forgiveness from Allah and complete all 7 rounds.
This was then followed by the Sa’i or running/walking/jogging between two hills, Safa and Marwa, 7 times. This process of Sa’i was a different challenge from the circumambulation. This time, I found myself questioning about my abilities as a person because as history has it, pilgrims perform the Sa’i to remember and reflect on Hajar (Hagar), Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) wife, who was left near the Kaabah with young Prophet Ismail (Isaac) with one bag of water left by Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) as commanded by God.
Hajar then ran between the two hills 7 seven times in search of assistance before God sent down an angel to dig out ‘Zam Zam’ water from underground to provide sustenance for Hajar and Prophet Ismail (PBUH). Once this was done, cutting of at least 3 strands of hair is required before one has completed the umrah.
The whole entire process takes between 2-3 hours.
This is where I finally understood why plenty of adults have told me that it is better to perform one’s umrah or haj when younger. Why? Because you need to be physically and mentally healthy and strong.
Each time we need to perform our umrah, we need to leave Makkah to enter an area where the meeqat is located for us to make our intention. This area is also referred to as ‘Halal land’ whereas Makkah and Madinah is considered ‘Haram land’. In this particular trip, I performed a total of 4 umrah, the first and compulsory umrah is the arrival or welcome umrah. Subsequently, it was umrah Jiranah, umrah Tanaheim and finally, umrah Hudaibiya.
Besides performing umrahs, we were also brought sightseeing or in this case, visiting of historical places that have been mentioned in the Quran. Visiting places of importance to understand where the Prophets before us have been.
These places include:
– Location where Prophet Adam and Hawa (Eve) had met or were reunited on earth
– Location where Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) had gone to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismail (Isaac)
– Location where Prophet Muhammad had hid at when he was escaping from his Quraysh tribe
– Location where Prophet Muhammad had received his first revelation as God’s Messenger
These visits gave a lot of context and insight into how life was like, especially how the Prophets had climbed mountains in the middle of night, in complete darkness to seek solace or fulfill God’s requests. With a better understanding, then there is more appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges they made.
Being in Makkah though, is a totally different lifestyle from Madinah. I can’t speak for everyone but I found myself sleeping between 3-5 hours per night and really walking a lot more than I was in Madinah. Schedule seemed to be a bit more tight as well as between each call for prayer to the next with the exception of Subuh, is only about 1-2 hours each time.
But I suppose, it is okay to have a lack of sleep when you’re in Makkah because you never know when you’ll be ‘invited’ by God again and you want to maximise your time in prayer or in trying to gather as many good deeds as possible.
There is a believe that one prayer in Makkah is 100,000 times better than one prayer in any other mosque in the world. This benefit also applies to circumambulating the Kaabah, performing the umrah and even, just looking at the Kaabah. With such a carrot being dangled at you, why won’t anyone want to maximise that opportunity.
But that’s not all, there are special areas within Makkah and Kaabah itself that God has given his guarantee to fulfill anyone’s prayers. Those areas, like Raudah in Madinah, has people hustling over it day and night.
However, the most important benefit of Makkah is perhaps God’s word that when anti-Christ or Dajjal comes to earth, it will not be able to enter Makkah and Madinah. Therefore, all who remain within these two cities will be protected and safeguarded by an army of angels.