Surgery My Teeth, Nose, and Jaw

I was 11, at school recess assembly when I first discovered that my front tooth was forward than the other teeth. A lot of insecurity it caused me, conscious about laughing, about smiling. I already had a big birthmark on my face, I really didn’t need another flaw about myself! I told my friend about it and she said, in an insinuating tone, “It had been all these while.” When I told my parents they agreed too, that my one tooth had always been that way.

Me, aged 10

One of the thoughts that also occurred to me when my friend said that was “How come all these while I felt fine not knowing?” I was surprised myself that once I discovered about the state of my tooth that I became aware of it. That of course added to my insecurities. Soon it was forgotten. My confidence built up, I was doing okay in school, I had friends nonetheless, for the first time in my life a boy liked me “because she’s smart and pretty”, and I felt fine.Continue reading

Conspiring With The Universe

A rather popular quote has been stuck in my head for a couple of days now, and that is a sign I need to sit down to write about it. I gave it a thought and my mind had been contributing ideas to what I wanted to write, but right now as I sat on my laptop with these words, the mind kept quiet; which means I’m just going to write freestyle.

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

– The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

It was in between 2006-2009 when I read this book. My English teacher, Ms Ng Bak Hon, whom I had grown to love dearly, was a stern woman whose presence could send chills down your spine. For me, at least, I didn’t dare talk or do anything at assembly if she was on duty; it was like she had eyes all over the place. She knew what time we usually arrived at assembly, and she knew what each of us was reading, and if we had been reading something for too long. You see, when I was in school, reading was a culture introduced by Ms Ng. Everywhere we went we had to carry a book. There was no such thing as chit-chatting or just waiting. Our time had to be spent reading.

And Ms Ng would want to see what we’re reading and would scream at us if we had been ‘reading’ the same thing for more than two weeks. As a result, when I borrowed The Alchemist, I skimmed through it. Enough to give Ms Ng an oral summary should she ask later, enough to write a quick review about, and enough to complete it under two weeks.

The only things I remember from the book was the quote mentioned above, and a shepherd who found treasure in his original place. It is only now that I can link his messages to Sufism (true enough, he did say his books were Sufi-inspired). Back then I linked the quote to another book I had skimmed through: The Secret. Law of Attraction, Visual Boards, etc, of the kind. Continue reading

Telling The Truth

In my book A Nobody’s Observations I wrote about how Telling The Truth can set me free. So for a while, I’ve been trying to be as truthful as possible. I believe that truth can be delivered with compassion no matter how painful it seems.

But what happens when I’m not being told the truth? When someone was not being honest to me?

I understand that everybody has their own version of the truth, but to take the truth and to sugarcoat it, then dip it in honey, wrap it in shiny paper and wear it on your sleeves feels not quite right. Being only human, I felt betrayed because the person felt I was unworthy of the truth, and that his level of respect for me was close to nothing in the first place. When you respect someone, you strive to be as honest as you can. When you don’t respect, you try to find ways to make yourself look good, or you don’t want me to feel bad, when it would have been more compassionate to just tell me the truth.

So I took these feelingsContinue reading

Quick Update: An Email From An Acquaintance

I am moved, because this morning I was wondering if after reading A Nobody’s Observations, would people still want to buy my other books? It’s just me wondering. Not bashing myself or anything like that. Then I received this email from a classmate in secondary school. We haven’t even been talking or anything. The last time I saw her was in 2009 at graduation I think.

I edited the personal parts, but you know, these words mean a lot to me. Especially when she wrote about what I wrote to her in 2009. A reassurance. That it’s true: I HAVE been doing this for a while now.

Writers are crazy people who sit down to write anything without knowing who’d read, you know? I don’t even know who’d get my messages. Sometimes I wonder if this craziness is worth it; my time is better spent doing other things. “But I like writing! But it can’t feed me! Do people listen to you?” etc. When I received this email from an old acquaintance, I realised that maybe some of my messages do stick around.

That’s why I still write.

Dear Fifi,
This is to acknowledge that I have received your book today and I have finished reading it. 🙂
The main reason why I decided to buy your book is because I was attracted to the title – Nobody’s Observations. I was really curious in finding out the story and I was interested because it was your story.
After reading your book, I felt enlighten and I realised that I have been doing some of those listed. The book is really meaningful, it really makes us reflect on ourselves. Deep down, I guess everyone knows the right way to think or do. But some got lost or got caught up being competitive with the world. I will read it again and again to serve as a gentle reminder to myself. 🙂
It’s been 8 years since we graduated from Secondary School, so the only updates we got were from Facebook or from friends of friends. I enjoy reading your posts that pops up in my feed now and then. You are still as cool as you were back then. *thumbs up*
I remembered telling you that I want to be like you. So you wrote to me: “The secret is just being yourself and dont try too hard to please.” (This was on the Vday card in 2009)
As I moved on to polytechnic, I gave myself another name. I wonder if you could remember, I had really bad skin in sec sch. During my orientation, I had horrifyingly red acnes all over my face. I thought I couldnt fit in in my class because everyone was so different. But fast forward, I had the most amazing and happiest 3 years in poly. I was being myself (even with that scary face) and I found really good friends who accepted me for who I am.
I feel really proud of you to be doing what you want to do. I really respect you, for being such a strong and independent lady! I am still searching for mine however, slowly but surely, I will find it!
Thank you Salamahafifi (I can still remember how to pronounce your name well), for sharing with us your story. It is really a well written book. I enjoyed reading it. Iam your fan now!! And I would really like to know more about your stories and the conversations with strangers. Cant wait for your next book!! 🙂

Thank you so much for your kind words.

I would appreciate reviews on my Goodreads page as well:

Two Cents on Maryam Lee

On my Facebook I said I wasn’t going to give any Islamic liberal/feminism thingy any attention. I’m not smart, and as long as I try to be “smart” I will always try to argue between who’s right from wrong, what’s correct and inaccurate,…when all I am is nothing. I really am trying to spread more love than hate.

Being only human, tho, of course there’s something that ticks me about the hijab society.

On the internet it’s ‘hot’ news right now where girl called Maryam Lee decided to remove her hijab and used one ulama’s view on hijab as her reason. Her name sounds familiar Continue reading

Dealing with Depression

I woke up thinking how much of a nobody I am. I have nothing to my name at all, and I stared at my reflection blinking, wondering if I’m going to change that at all. What do I want in this world? What do I want to do? Even at 24 with a book out, I still am clueless. Am I depressed? I don’t think so. It’s just that sometimes we have moments where we feel down, sometimes we feel up. I’m not a plateau. I am a vibrant, rhythamic wave of life (I hope). It’s okay.

The other day I randomly bought carpets to prepare for Ramadhan (terawih etc must be comfortable, you know), as our carpets have worn out, and then I went on restaurant hopping, pizza-delivery every other day, and even decided to just sit through a movie on my own (I don’t really watch movies). I think doing these made me wonder if there’s anything more I want to do with my life, I mean, apart from writing and writing. Do I want to ….settle?

Maybe it’s also because for the past few days I keep hearing about people about my age’s death. Oh well.

Here’s a random story:

I have a friend who’s divorced with a child. He’s been single for…four or five years? Maybe? I have no idea. His friend, who is much older, asked him how did he cope with divorce. He said he understood what his friend was feeling. That it really is a lonely process, where you come home, all those years expecting to find a wife in there, but you look around and find nobody. That was the side I’d never seen of him.

“Is it like the death of someone?” I asked.Continue reading

Miss Fifi in Jakarta

Taking a break from my random experimental writing in Malay (because seriously, kepala sakit) and I came across some pictures of me in Jakarta.

I don’t like to sugarcoat things because people seem to think that travel = fun = happiness, but to me it’s travel = work = tired. That’s why I rarely share about where I am; don’t want people to misunderstand anything. I also get messages telling me “You travel so much!” and “You probably spent thousands a year on plane tickets.” and I shake my head.

Let’s clear the misunderstandings, shall we?

1) I only go to Indonesia “a lot” but then again it’s never for a holiday. I long to wake up to an ocean view and room service a masseuse and bathe in flower water too. Also I’ve yet to discover Europe but I think the place I’d like to visit is Jordan.

2) No, my boss paid for my flight.

So, why do I go to Jakarta fairly often?

It’s because I lead a semi-secret life called the Continue reading