Monday, December 22, 2008

of unconditional love & tribal legends

Twilight reminds me of my days spent at the Lakota Sioux Reservation and in small towns like Forks. My fondness to the Native Americans tribes enables me to identify with the Quileute tribe in the movie. And the Cullens: the brilliant surgeon and fatherly Dr Carlisle Cullen hints at my dreams. And Edward Cullen, oh how he reminds me of the wolf in my story. So mysterious, strong and silent, awkwardly private with that penetrating gaze...

Dr Carlisle Cullen: Bella is with Edward. She's a part of this family, and we protect our family.
Edward to Bella
: Before you, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars—points of light and reason… And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn’t see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason for anything.

*aww, Hidayah Cullen is experiencing her first vampire crush... blush...

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Eagle and the Wolf - Part 3

The eagle remembered how her heart skipped a beat when she first saw the wolf. The wolf stops in his track. He stares at the eagle which majestically rests on the rock with the reddish skyline behind her. The eagle vocalises and flaps her wings anxiously. The wolf remains cold and distant. The eagle turns away and glances disappointingly at the setting sun.
The canyon is quiet, only Demon Wind is whispering little stories to his Prairie Rose. Oh, how sad they seem, Demon Wind tells Prairie Rose. Both so intelligent, kind and in love, yet so unforgiving now.

The eagle looks in the distance and flies away. The elusive wolf howls, a haunting sound that makes Prairie Rose weep. Oh why can they not see beyond their differences? Are they not soulmates?

Prairie Rose tells Demon Wind to catch the eagle from flying off far away. And as for the wolf, perhaps he will soon realise how much the eagle means to him...

*the end... or to be continued(?)

A Gift from the Heart

It has been more than 5 months since Emak's death. I just couldn't bring myself to blog again. After all, this blog was started for Emak who wanted me to update her about my life. Life is empty without Emak. One night, I saw my brother Hadi standing outside my bedroom door hugging Emak's pillow. He said tearfully, "I miss Emak". Our sobbing broke the silence of the night. Emak's siblings too felt her lost tremendously. Sometimes, my aunts and uncles cried whenever they talked about her.

I recently received a card from Habitat for Humanity of Lehigh Valley, "A Gift from the Heart Builds a House".
"In loving memory of Asia Jofrie, a contribution has been made to Habitat for Humanity by Alpha Delta Kappa, International Honorary Organization for Women Educators to help a family in need build a decent, affordable home"

My sorority knew I had volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Louisiana and perhaps they wanted to immortalise a good deed by including Emak. Thank you ADK sisters. And thank you to those who remembered Emak in their prayers...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Emak's passing

Asia Jofrie (Cik Yah of Gedung Kuning), a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul.
Emak (Mum) passed away suddenly on 18 June 2008. When I kissed and hugged Emak that evening, she hugged me a little longer. I smiled and said, "Emak, it's not as if I'm not going to see you again, I'll visit you tomorrow..." Alas, she returned to our Creator about 15 minutes after I left her. Oh Emak!
Emak was truly the epitome of a good wife and mother. She was kind, patient, gentle and loving. She spoke softly, did not think badly of others and was religious. Many old neighbours, friends and relatives attended the funeral. How everyone cried.

I have many wonderful memories of Emak. Even while I was away in America, I talked to her almost every other day. She listened to my woes and comforted me. She advised me and was understanding and supportive of my ambitions. Yes, we had our differences and petty mother-daughter squabbles but how I love her!

"Cik Idah, your hair is long now..." Emak commented. As I continued to rub Vicks on her back a few days before her demise, she made 2 doa for me. Even in sickness, Emak thought of her only daughter's well-being.

My beloved Emak, I pray that you will be placed among the blessed and virtuous in Paradise, ameen.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

the silence

Why the silence, Hidayah?
Amidst skipping out on Hadi's 4-wheel drive adventure overseas, enduring chest pains, surviving the stifling system and sleepless nights, I managed to finish writing my book! Yes, the long-awaited Gedung Kuning, Memories of a Childhood Home is completed - all 29 short stories (32,943 words, 1/3 of a PhD dissertation). This is my labour of love which started 4 years ago.
I should then be jumping with joy, right? My silent composure causes some to worry and they wonder... Am I worried that NUS Press might not publish my book? Am I anxious about the expensive rewiring, retiling and plastering of my new dilapidated flat? Am I terrified that I might not pass the MCAT and make it to Harvard next year? Am I saddened by the not-fairy-tales endings of love stories?

Sometimes the silence kills you slowly, n'est pas?
Sabarlah Den Ayu...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ayat-ayat Cinta (Verses of Love)

I recently watched Ayat-ayat Cinta (Verses of Love), the Indonesian hit movie based on the best-selling novel by Habiburrahman El Shirazy -

The movie enlightens viewers on the Islamic perspective on love, polygamy, relationship between fellow Muslims and non-Muslims, status of women in Islam, brotherhood and family. It also attempts to clear certain misconceptions about Islam. A scene that tugged my heartstrings is when a 'seemingly insane' prisoner asked the distraught Al-Azhar graduate student Fahri who was wrongly accused of rape, if he only prayed to God when he was in trouble. The man then reminded Fahri of the story of Prophet Yusuf who was in a similar predicament like Fahri. He concluded, "Patience and Sincerity. That is Islam."

As I reflect on the man's statement in this wee hours of the morning, I cannot help but agree with him. The essence of Ayat-ayat Cinta is about the sincerity of the characters' actions and their patience in facing surmounting obstacles. I ask myself... Am I as sincere as Aisha who loved her husband Fahri so much that she put aside her own selfish needs? Am I able to recognise true love from only wanting to possess a desired need?

When Fahri told Aisha that she was his soulmate and that he loved no other, Aisha replied, "Jodoh rahsia Tuhan" (Soulmates are God's secrets). Tears rolled down my cheeks when I thought of my Eagle and Wolf Story. I described the Eagle and the Wolf as soulmates but who am I to determine that? I liken my Eagle to Aisha who is sincere in loving her Wolf. Somehow I believe that the Wolf too is as sincere as the Eagle. The continuation of the story is yet to be written... but I pray that their patience and sincerity will make their journey worth the while and that they are indeed soulmates. Ultimately, God knows what we know not.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dream Big

*David Cook, American Idol 2008

"Cos if we don’t Dream Big
What’s the use in dreaming
If you don’t have faith
there’s nothing worth believing
It takes one hope
To make the stars worth reaching for
So reach out for something more..."

How true!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Eagle and the Wolf - Part 2

The eagle remembered the first time they laid eyes on each other. The stars must have aligned themselves, dancing to the tune of excited pheromones.
The wolf walked beside the eagle which while soaring low, stole glances at the intelligent and handsome creature. O how she was captivated by his presence.

The wolf too was enthralled by the elegant eagle. Many evenings were spent in deep conversations (the vocalising and howling were but music of the night). They were soulmates.

The eagle’s piercing eyes searches for the wolf. Her heart beats as loudly as the village drums at dusk. The eagle wonders... Is the wolf hurting in his lair? Does he not want to walk beside her anymore? Does he not miss her? Does the wolf know that the eagle too is wounded?

The eagle hangs her head low as she sadly flies away. She now understands how much the wolf means to her…

*to be continued

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Kulo tresna marang panjenengan

Cerita, ceritalah!
Woman: What's the special occasion? Anyone's birthday?
Man: No special occasion. We just want to spend some time together since we love each other very much.
Woman: [Ahh, the lovebirds!]

The rest of the story is best told in its original Javanese, and since not many of us understand Javanese, the exchanges at St Gregory's can be summarised by Kumar's poem [from 'Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay' movie]:

I'm sure that I will always be 
A lonely number like root three
The three is all that's good and right,
Why must my three keep out of sight
Beneath the vicious square root sign,
I wish instead I were a nine
For nine could thwart this evil trick, 
with just some quick arithmetic 
I know I'll never see the sun, as 1.7321 
Such is my reality, a sad irrationality 
When hark! What is this I see, 
Another square root of a three 
As quietly co-waltzing by, 
Together now we multiply
To form a number we prefer, 
Rejoicing as an integer 
We break free from our mortal bonds 
With the wave of magic wands 
Our square root signs become unglued 
Your love for me has been renewed.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Wahidah got engaged!

My cousin Wahidah got engaged recently! Congratulations! We're so happy for you! Here's Patrick Friori singing "Plus, je pense a toi" for you and Shah.

Ahh, I can hear the distant whisperings of aunts, relatives and friends, "Cik Idah, when...?" 
All in good time, n'est pas? :)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Of Rock songs & Rockstars

Nani Reeves visits us from Hong Kong! She looks even prettier with her long flowy hair. Nani, how we've missed you! I also met Imad (whom I’ve not seen in 9 years) at dinner and durian session @ Geylang. But the highlight of the evening got to be listening to classic 80s Malay rock songs in Imad’s car (the sweet Masturah). Ahh, they don’t make rock songs like those anymore…

Which brings us to the topic of women's fascination for wild rockers. Be it American rockers or Malay rockers with their wild unkempt hair, unshaven armpits, tattoos and tight pants; they all make the ladies go wild. So it must be the talent right? Or is it the popularity or money? Hmm....

Even senior legal counsel Imad commented that he wants to learn to play a musical instrument in his next life and be a singer/rocker who gets all the ladies! As per Nickelback "I wanna be a Rockstar!"

I did have crushes on rock stars like Bon Jovi, Rahim Maarof but it never reached the groupie level and I never hung their posters on my walls. Yes, some of the rock songs are rather "soulful" like Awie's Sejati... But seriously, I can't imagine the proverbial "Mats takde CPF" making promises under that frangipani tree! What do the Minahs see in the likes of Awie? I just don't understand it... Then again, some highly educated Mats with lots of CPF do make promises as high as the Himalaya, only to leave their gullible ladies "masih menggenggam janji" so "tinggal kenangan, gagal segala impian"... Les pauvrents!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lehigh Family Reunion @ KL

What a whirlwind, exciting weekend I had in Kuala Lumpur (KL)!
Bonding with Lehigh friends (the guys made it back from Kertih & Trengganu), meeting up my creative designer pal Tadaffee & his lovely wife, Farah; Putrajaya, glorious food (Pavillion & Nasi Padang at Ampang), chilling, donut and The Loaf (huhu), F1 madness (courtesy of Maxis' updates on my iPhone), talking about Ika's famous politician neighbour, lugging my books back, driving in heavy rain in KL's jam and almost getting into an accident with one crazy taxi driver, surviving the LRT sardine squeeze and Nasi Ayam Itik (!).

I miss everyone already :( 
Steve, you should have flown to KL from USA. We can relive the good ole times... remember when we drove the Budget truck across Pennsylvania?

+More of the Nasi Ayam Itik story when I find time to breathe... argghhh...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Proud to be Javanese

I remember the Sioux Indian children asking me to speak my native language when I visited them in South Dakota in May 2007. They were so mesmerised by my spoken Malay. When I asked them to speak some Lakota to me, they shrugged their shoulders and said, "We don't know how to. Only the Elders know..."

The children's remarks made me reflect on my own culture. How often have we heard Malay speaking parents speak to their children in Malay, only to hear the children respond in English? Or hear how some Malay parents unbashfully exclaimed that their children are performing badly in the Malay language. They say, the first distillation of culture is the erosion of language. Are we guilty of this distillation?

Singapore Malays trace their roots to the Bugis, Javanese, Banjarese, Minangkabauese, Baweanese, Mandailings, Achehese and other sub-groups belonging to the Malayo-Austronesian group located in the area known as Hesperenesia (an area spanning the southern part of Taiwan through the Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and westwards to Madagascar). I trace my lineage to the Javanese (maternal side) and the Banjarese (paternal side). I recall how when I was growing up in Gedung Kuning, my mum and grandmother spoke some Javanese to me. Initially I thought they were Malay vocabulary and took the learning for granted. 

My interactions with the Sioux Indians made me realize that I should have taken my Javanese language informal lessons more seriously... 

*Mum in traditional Javanese dress worn at her wedding.

"Eloklah kita hentikan ngobrol buat seketika..."
"Sampai ketemu lagi. Jangan kangen sama den ayu..."

"Ah, so you speak Javanese too?" I shyly asked a fellow car enthusiast. The journey just took on a more interesting route...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wolverine & Jean Grey

My favourite 'couple' from the comics has always been Wolverine (Logan) & Jean Grey.

Jean Grey reminded me of this girl with striking features who was always teased for being intelligent, ambitious and idealistic. Misunderstood by some, my Jean Grey rises against all odds and is the epitome of understated beauty with a brilliant mind and a kind heart. It is she who put others before herself and sacrifices her own happiness for humanity.

Wolverine too reminded me of this boy whose cool, rugged outlook masks his deep affections for Jean Grey. Misunderstood by many as the wild spirit who is tormented by his past, my Wolverine is a caring and eloquent gentleman with a poetic soul.

Although in the X-men comics, Jean Grey married Cyclops, some believe it was Wolverine whom she truly loved. As for Wolverine, alas, no one, not even poets, knows how much a heart can hold...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Raisa Sidenova, PhD (Yale)

Congratulations to Raisa (Raya) my Russian Fulbrighter friend at Lehigh who got accepted into Yale to pursue her PhD! We're so happy for you!

As I type this blog entry, an old song by Survivor came on air:
"I was living for a dream, loving for a moment
Taking on the world, that was just my style..."

Hmm, as we leave to pursue our goals, will we lose our loved one? Will our loved one accompany us on our quest? Will our loved one understand and let us chase our dreams? Will the miles apart take a toll on our love? Will our loved one wait for us? Que sera sera...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Eagle and the Wolf

The wolf remembered the first time he laid eyes on the eagle. How elegant the eagle is, he thought. A creature so refined and revered for she is entrusted with the responsibility of carrying human wishes and prayers to the Creator. The wolf is in awe of the eagle that soars in the blue sky, stopping only to rest in her high nest.

The eagle catches the wolf staring at her. What an intelligent creature, she thought. So strong, dependable, though cunning. Yet she finds kindness in his eyes.

The wolf advances slowly towards her. Is she guarding her eggs? Or does she fly alone? The eagle gives the wolf a piercing stare. The wolf locks in her stare. The eagle vocalises. The wolf howls back. A conversation ensues.

The wolf walks to his lair in trepidation. The eagle looks away in the distance, a little confused yet rejuvenated...

*to be continued

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Walking beside Giants


Google Scholar’s ‘Stand on the shoulders of giants’ got me thinking. Why should I stand on the shoulders of giants? Would it not be better if I walk beside them?
I remember when I was at a Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in San Francisco last year. We were given an information flyer of 36 Nobel Prize winners. I thought, so little Nobel Laureates? Then I realised that they were also Fulbright Alumni! In fact, the Fulbright program has more Nobel Laureates than any other scholarship programme of its kind :)

As I aspire to walk beside giants like Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus (Grameen Bank) famous for his successful application of microcredit (the extension of small loans given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans), I must take small steps first. Setting up my Gedung Kuning Foundation and the Fatimah Jofrie Free Clinic will not happen so soon. So why not start with what I can afford now. Since I had given some sort of a grant to a friend for his masters in 2006, why not continue to do that with other students? Yes, the Hidayah Amin Scholarship is now 'unofficially’ launched. The scholarship is to help students pursue their studies and achieve their aspirations despite facing financial constraints. Although the fund is still small now but God willing, it will grow and benefit more students in the future.

For more information on the Hidayah Amin Scholarship, pls visit

*my "giants"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Post-USA blues

It has been almost 2 1/2 weeks I've been back home... but then again where is home when one is a global citizen?

I'm feeling blue... is this the end of my adventure or am I just re-grouping before the next wave? I feel a sense of abandonment. I watched Val Klimer in 'Thunderheart' and suddenly the rugged Black Hills in the Native American reservation of South Dakota seemed more real than my cosy abode in Punggol Gardens.

I yearn for the familiar but the familiar is but a stranger now...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Goodbye Uncle Sam

Rashidah, my cousin visited me from Singapura and we had been going on my 'goodbye tour' *lol...

Alas, it is almost time to bid farewell. My body grew weak with the raging winter storms, perhaps protesting against my impending departure. 

The snowflakes are but frozen tears of a heavy heart...