After 10 years – David R in person

It has taken me three long days to finally write about this memorable event in my life – of David R’s unexpected visit to Malaysia. I was puzzled as to why I was finding it so hard to write it when there is such an abundance of material here.

Last evening I realised what it was – I had not allowed things to just flow out. Instead, I had “planned” – of approaching it as if I’m writing a piece for a newspaper. It’s actually out of respect, from the high regards that I have for him; of wanting “to write a post that befits the person that he is”. And that’s a very tough call, for David is way up there in the “Super Category” when it comes to “People I Know”.

Far from being of help, the abundance of things in my mind concerning “David R” was actually a hindrance! Besides putting pressure on myself, I also didn’t know where to start and what to focus on. So, right now, I’m going to do what I’ve been doing with most of the posts  here – just write, without caring about how it will all come out.

I had also felt melancholic the past few days, from last Sunday – of feeling “the happy moments are now over” – after knowing that David was no longer in Kelantan. And I’ve been thinking back a lot; revisiting those moments involving his visit here, again and again.

It’s really remarkable: During some idle moments in the past, I had imagined him coming to Malaysia… plus wondered what it might be like should he come to Kelantan. In fact, I had even thought about possible hotels where he might be comfortable without having to overpay (The reason why I would not have offered to have him stay in this house is because I don’t want him to suffer).

And last Thursday, I saw that it was becoming a reality! (See David R is in Malaysia!!) By the way, the words in the email that I had blanked out to protect David’s privacy are these: 23 and 24 January at the Renaissance Hotel in Kota Bharu”.


CAPTION: THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF FYDOR DOSTOEVSKY ( This is one of the books that David had sent to me in a heavy parcel that also included magazines – all new – when I was at Pusat Serenti Gambang in 2006. He would continue to send magazines, including The Economist and computer-related ones like PC World, Macworld and PC Magazine. I had written to inform him that he was being too extravagant, and mentioned (no less than twice) that he should not send them anymore. However, I continued to receive these costly magazines right until my final week in Pusat. I brought back all of the books and magazines, and letters, that he had sent to me when I was there.

From 3.15PM onwards, I was in high anticipation mode, nervous, puzzled… Yes, the last one because he had not mentioned anything about coming here (I now know). That email was stamped 2.09PM but I was only aware of it an hour later – I was extremely busy with a piece of work that needed to be sent in at around 6PM (Thursdays are often very busy days for me the past couple of months).

Still, that didn’t stop me from writing an immediate post to this blog – I simply had to share this piece of good news. Of course as usual, the first person to know about it was… Well, it’s quite predictable, isn’t it?:-) Nowadays I’m lucky to have people whom I can share things with – the good and the bad. But it wasn’t like this previously – those times when I was all alone, with nobody to share anything good or bad, and feeling this world to be such a lonely and empty place…

But anyway; I had planned to be at the airport when he arrived. I assumed that it would be by flight to Pengkalan Chepa, although I had thought about the possibility of him coming by bus during the day – certainly not because of costs but because one would see a lot more things from there than in an airplane. There’s also the possibility of the Wau Express train – David had certainly read about my visit to KL, and he would know about this service (He had considered it, as I found out later).

That day passed without any more news from him. When there was still none at midday on Friday, I became puzzled. And a bit worried too. So was Sherry, and we simply could not figure out why David had not contacted me. That morning I had sent another email to him – I had thought about the possibility of my Celcom handphone service failing me at the critical moment when David might contact, so I came up with a plan. Besides the landline number of the house in front of mine, I had also stated Sherry’s number. And Nazmi’s. And Mohd Zawi’s too, plus mentioned that Zawi is actually in my district and knows where my house is.

I was getting nervous – Could it be a hoax?…of someone pretending to be David? Sherry was at her usual practical, proactive and helpful self. Instead of my lamenting and wondering, she offered to look up the number of the hotel and to ask whether David had checked in. I felt quite embarrassed that I had not thought about doing this myself…

Sherry called back – there was nobody by that name at the hotel. However, there was someone with a similar-sounding name who had booked a room for that day and the following. There was nothing else for me to do but to wait. In the meantime, I had set my Mozilla Thunderbird email program to check for new messages every 5 minutes.

A call came in at 5.57PM, and I was actually pleased to see the number wasn’t from anyone I knew – YES, it was David! He had just checked in after arriving from Sepang. We talked for a few minutes and I told him that I would be going to see him.

I knew it was going to require some luck. For one thing, public transportation is extremely difficult on Fridays, and even more so towards dusk. And there’s that matter of my coming back – I might not be able to if there’s no taxi. But I didn’t care – this was to see someone who had done so much for me in the past; plus had taken the trouble to also come to Kelantan specifically to meet with me. So, regardless of the problems, I was determined to give my best effort in meeting him that very night and not wait for the following day.

It was getting darker by the minute as dusk approached. I just need to get to the town – there would usually be a taxi that’s willing to go to Kota Bharu. I had a backup plan – worse comes to worse, I was planning to call a 27-year-old who was my junior at Gambang and ask him to come and send me to town. But a taxi did show up and stopped.

The driver, a very friendly guy (practically all the taxi drivers here are), was going back to Tumpat from Tanah Merah. He wasn’t quite willing to go to KB. However, he changed his mind as we approached the town and turned towards the state capital. There was no need for me to wait around for a car at the taxi-station, and I was relieved by that. It was only then that I confirmed with David that I would indeed be there in about 30 minutes.

Ren_hotelhead Renaissance Kota Bharu Hotel – It is in that complex called Kota Seri Mutiara on the road leading to Pasir Puteh which also houses the Billion shopping centre. People familiar with Kelantan and Kota Bharu might be surprised by this – I’ve never been inside this complex! Yes, despite it having opened for how-many-already years. And I had also not been to KB MALL all these years until just a few months ago, when I wanted to add a 1GB RAM module to this laptop.

This is one of the things that came about due to addiction. No, it wasn’t really “because of money” but more due to “a broken spirit, pessimism, lack of will to live, lack of desire to experience new things”…

But anyway; I reached Renaissance at 8.15PM. The driver had difficulty in stating the price; wanting me to “give whatever I thought was right”. I didn’t want to do that, because he might not have been happy but would still have accepted it smilingly. Seeing that I was adamant in wanting him to decide what “was right”, he finally said: “RM25… Or is that too high?” That was the same as I had paid for the trip from KB to this house at 11PM 18 Dec 2006 – the day I was discharged.

Ren_mosaic I did know that Renaissance is a 5-Star hotel, which also means “expensive”. The lobby sure looked like it, as I stood there waiting for David to come down.

In the meantime, I took advantage of the well-stocked information rack that had travel brochures of some states; taking those of Selangor, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur. There wasn’t one on Pahang, unfortunately, and that was the state I was most keen on. But at least I now finally know where exactly places like Setiawangsa and Wangsa Maju are in relation to Sentral, my main reference point nowadays.

I had felt that I would immediately recognise David – whose pictures I had seen in a couple of newspaper cuttings and in the jacket of a book. I was right. But then, it was most likely because he was the only Caucasian walking towards the reception area, and that he had smiled when he saw me. In late 2007, I had sent a passport-sized picture with a conventional letter (Occasionally, we would do this instead of by email).

This is David, in person!…someone who had never abandoned me even when the chips were down. At various times over the years, I would wonder what it was that I had done in the past to have deserved such a friend. The things that he had done for me…

By the way, his extravagant gifts didn’t stop when I was discharged from Pusat. On 7 Nov 2007, I was surprised when a parcel arrived. Inside were seven books: The Oxford Dictionary of World History; British Sea Power – How Britain Became Sovereign of the Seas; Agincourt – Henry V and the Battle That Made England; The Hundred Years War; Fighting Ships; and The Circumnavigators – The Pioneer Voyagers Who Set Off Around the Globe.

As with the ones he had sent when I was in Gambang, these books were received with a lot of joy and appreciation. It was almost one year after I was discharged, and I was doing absolutely nothing (didn’t have this laptop yet). In fact, I was on the verge of “doing something stupid” from the boredom. But those books were a life-saver – I spent days engrossed in reading them. They also started a burning desire in myself to write

There at the lobby of Renaissance Kota Bharu, he blended in well with the elegant surroundings in a gray suit. There’s something about David – “cultured, intellectual, pleasant”… Just five minutes with him are more than enough for anyone to have this impression.

There was something he was quite surprised with – of how thin I had become. It was noticeable I suppose – the photo I had sent to him was taken two days after I was discharged from a place where the government was charged to take care of us. Two years after that – and especially when I haven’t eaten regularly since the end of Ramadhan…

David asked whether I have had dinner (No). And I was thinking to myself and smiling inside – actually, I haven’t even had lunch yet on that day, at 8.30PM… I was thinking about finding a restaurant near the hotel. However, David insisted on going to one inside the hotel itself; and despite my misgivings about the prices at a place like that. Well, buffet dinner it was then, at the second floor.

I definitely felt out of place there, unlike David. There was a very good selection of food available – Western and Malaysian (thinking about it right now makes me feel so hungry. will have to go to town after this). I don’t remember everything I had put on my plate, but pasta was one of them – something I’ve not had since at least 12 years.

It was in that cosy atmosphere of soft lights, elegance and comfort, with that bounty of various foods, that I remembered the dreadful Quarantine section of the Pengkalan Chepa Prison – a place that was not too far away (maybe 15 minutes drive). And I marvelled at how Life goes. While at the Quarantine in 2005, I had remembered a luxurious resort I had been to at the end of 1996 – Tasik Kenyir in Terengganu – and wondering how it was that I could have ended in a horrible place like that. And now here I was again at a place that is at least of the same level when it comes to “surroundings”.

[BTW if anyone is wondering how bad the Quarantine was, let me put it this way: If you were to give me the choice of staying and sleeping at your porch where you park the car, I’d take that – happily and gratefully.]

David explained why he had not told me about his plans to come to Malaysia. The main factor was in him feeling jittery about the latest round of tensions between North and South Korea. So, to be on the safe side – and since he had also wanted “to see to a few matters” – he decided on Malaysia. By the way, the federal and Kelantan governments should honour me in some way, because it was also due to me that David had decided to come here – and helping to contribute to the economy with his spendings:-)

As to why he had not told me the exact time when he would leave for Kelantan, David said it was because he “wasn’t sure until the last minute”. Well, I had spoken with Sherry after that, and she agreed with me: David had felt it might be too much trouble for me to have gone to receive him at the airport. It’s too late now but I’ll have to say this: NO, it wouldn’t have.

There was a full day following that – Saturday. And I was pleased – and also nervous – that he mentioned about wanting to see where (and how) I live. He had read about Pasir Mas and Kelantan since early 1999, and it was something that he needed to see since he was already in Malaysia – his first visit here. I drew a rough map of where the house was, and wrote a few instructions in Malay (it was for the taxi driver’s benefit, for I presumed that not too many would understand the English version).

David paid the bill, and I quietly asked the girl how much it was. Despite expecting that it would certainly not be cheap, I was still shocked! Plus with that tip David had left on the table, of which I enquired. “Well, her service was very good…” It was something a factory worker here would earn in two days…

The two hotel workers at the entrance were very friendly and helpful. One of them offered to phone for a taxi, and would ensure that it would be for a trip direct to my house. That’s very convenient,for I had expected to be at the taxi-station first. It took about 15 minutes for the taxi to arrive so we had the chance to talk and take in the surroundings (there was a lion dance nearby).

I was amused that David – fearing the possibility of anti-US feelings among Malaysians – had said he was “French” to those who had asked, as a precaution. Well, he needn’t have worried – I mentioned his fears to the two hotel workers and they were quick to assure him… that it was “George Bush” that was loathed, not “an American who was a guest”.

It was a pleasant trip to home. It had been a long time since I was out at night, which made the experience even better. The fare this time was RM35, which was quite expected due to the place I was at. And David – he had insisted that I take a RM100 note despite my assuring him that it was not necessary.

A report was sent in to Sherry, and it was mentioned about David coming to my house the following morning. Her order was: “Go to bed by midnight at the latest”. Since she had ended it with “please”, I did.

(TO BE CONTINUED – Thursday at the earliest)

David R is in Malaysia!!

This is the most heart-thumping email message that I’ve ever received! A very very dear friend – American David R – has arrived from Seoul, Korea  and is now in Malaysia!

I have to mention this: David was one of the people who didn’t abandon me when the chips were down – and it was he who had helped to make my stay at Pusat Serenti Gambang from Nov 2005 to 18 Dec 2006 such a pleasant and interesting experience. Here’s the email that I received a few minutes ago:

Dear Ahmad,
I’m in Malaysia and plan to spend the nights of [changed] 2x and 2x January at the [DELETED] Hotel in Kota Bharu. Do you think we might have an opportunity to meet, in Kota Bharu or Pasir Mas? I’ll hope to call you.
– David

I’m so excited! More about this later – I have `something’ to complete by 6PM, “or else”.

**UPDATE Friday 23/1 6:07PM – Received a call from David at 5.57PM – he’s in Kelantan!! It’s getting dark, and I don’t have my own transportation. And there will be a problem in getting back home later. BUT I’ll find a way to go tonight, and not wait tomorrow… Finally, of meeting someone I’ve known since 10 years ago!!

**UPDATE Saturday 24/1 6:28PM – Another memorable day! David came to my house at 11AM. So did Mohd Zawi! We talked about a lot of things. Then, we “went around”. Came back at 5.30PM. Will write a new post about all this.

Consequences of "The Chuck Norris Influence"

The first sign of trouble at the Syariah Lower Court last Monday came midway during the 15-min session – when I was giving my statement to questions asked by the judge. And it came about due to my own mistake during the session.

Have to admit and acknowledge this particular trait, which is both good and bad – I can be quite opinionated at times. Plus, I generally don’t have this “Respect of authority” attitude and mentality so common among village folk. It isn’t really “arrogance” – just a simple “I don’t really care who you are… My respect for you is dependent on how I think you respect me.”

Well, until that point – and also after – things had gone very well indeed for me (had killed off or at least severely blunted all the major charges levelled against me during the last session that I had attended).

I was on a roll; and that’s dangerous actually – somehow I had the temerity to unthinkingly complain “only knowing about this session being held today, quite late”. Stupid, stupid!… The judge glanced back at some previous note, noticed `something’ and asked that embarrassing question of: Why I did not attend the session on 31 Dec .

My answer was really lame (I’m not going to provide free laughs for the readers by repeating it here) – it was more of an acknowledgment of wrong-doing instead of a plausible `reason’. My “Lying Skills” have gone down the drain, and I’m blaming Pusat Serenti Gambang and Narcotics Anonymous for this – especially for the stress on “Honesty” .

Missing_in_action_2 CAPTION: The judge wasn’t pleased I had emulated the Chuck Norris film of  Missing in Action on 31 Dec. And twice too. He mentioned something about “This is an offence” and “have to face action”. Oh, oh…

So, depite the remaining minutes being almost entirely in my favour, I was also nervously waiting for this “action”, whatever it was. After fixing 11 Feb as the next hearing, the judge brought up that matter of an outstanding Warrant of Arrest against me. Apparently, it had been issued after I “became like Chuck Norris” the previous month.

The judge mentioned something about “to be held until the next hearing on 11 Feb” and “jaminan [xx] sebanyak RM1,000 dengan seorang penjamin”

Three weeks in remand!?… I had stayed out of such troubles when it comes to drugs, but now I was going to prison again regardless! I had the urge to “say something” to the judge – as I had on 31 Oct 2005 when I was ordered to be sent to Pusat Serenti Gambang. And the intended words weren’t very nice on both occasions.

One of the things I was worried about should I be sent to the Pengkalan Chepa Prison was in how I was dressed – I would have attracted attention at the prison’s registration area (black pants, white shirt, belt all spanking new, plus shiny Hush Puppies black shoes. Oh, plus a cheapo RM6 black songkok bought specifically for going to the court. would have bought a RM1 songkok had there been one).

Outside the courtroom, I thought fast: Who do I call? My father in Alor Star? He’d have helped, definitely, for this sole reason – it wasn’t because of drugs. But he’s elderly (although healthy), and I didn’t really want him (and my mother too) to be stressed.

Actually, the very first person who came to my mind was… Yes. And I do worry a bit at times about this one… Anyway, she sounded surprised, but was very quick to recover. My question of “Deq boleh dak jamin kita?” was met with an immediate and committed “Of course!”. But there was a problem – How could she send the money when I was detained? – “Bang Zawi”. Sherry said she’d call him.

A few minutes later at 9.43AM, this SMS came from her: “Dont worry. Pzawi akan datang. Dia br jer called deq… sabar. Deq tak rasa guilty pun asked u to go. Sooner or later kena gak face it.”

What a relief!…Sherry & Nazmi; always there in whatever, always having time, always positive-minded, cheerful and bubbly [BTW it hadn’t even crossed my mind to `blame’ her for recommending that I attend despite the very late notice] 

piala 008B NEWSFLASH Wed 21/1/09 12.30AM: Had just received very happy messages – Nazmi M. Azahar has emerged as Runners-up in a just-ended bowling tournament in Kuantan! From the 12 games, one was 278. The remarkable thing is that Mie had just returned from a day trip to KL! CONGRATULATIONS, MIE! There should be a post at Sherry’s blog about this excellent performance soon.   

I then discovered something about this particular jaminan (bond) when the court’s clerk asked about who was coming to bail me out. I mentioned there was someone on his way, but he’ll have to withdraw the cash first. To this, the clerk mentioned that “cash was not required” with this type – the person only needed to give his undertaking to ensure my presence on 11 Feb!

I immediately sent messages to Zawi and Sherry about it – in stressing to “Just come and sign something; no money required”. I had also sent a few messages to a 27-year-old who was my junior at Gambang; telling him about all this. And asking him to stand by, just in case…

But Zawi turned up a few minutes later, and what a relief. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to bring along his Identity Card! He wanted to go back and get it. However, the court’s staff probably decided it was better to just be rid of me soonest; so they accepted his driving licence as proof enough of identity. My signature on that bond, and after receiving my IC, it was “Bye Bye, nice (and pretty) Mahkamah Syariah clerks!”.

Oh, I was also given a slip – a notice and reminder of what I’m expected to do at 8.30AM on Wednesday 11 February 2009. It was still just past 10AM. There was something good about that drama – the state of lethargy I had been in since a few weeks ago (mostly due to work-related stress) was gone! Instead, I was quite pumped up from all the excitement… plus the good feelings of feeling appreciative of the concerns and efforts of friends – people who didn’t abandon me in that time of need.

[Stargazer] The dark side of the moon Part 3

Where is your star? Was it far…was it far!?

Look at my flesh and bone
Now look, look, look, look
Look at this tower of stone – I see a rainbow rising!
Look there on the horizon… And I’m coming home!
Coming home, I’m coming home!

RainbowRainbowRising These are parts of the lyrics to Stargazer by Rainbow from their 1976 album of “Rainbow Rising”. Yes, I know most people are wondering what this song has to do with the continuation of the previous part. And it does look like my typical digressing – and lengthening the account of whatever I’m talking about. But there’s a connection; and I only realise the significance of this song when I was doing some research “for the original Part 3” (which might now become “Part 4”).

It had happened exactly one week ago. As has been the case so often for the past few months, Sherry Nor-Jane had a ringside view to it… of knowing exactly how much I was affected by it all (I had SMS to her about the emotional turmoil that had gotten to me. Thankfully, it wasn’t long). And the reason why I’m writing this particular post is, I have to!… I had tried to ignore it – or maybe to write it `later on’. But NO, my self says, `This one first’. I had tried to write “another post” here, But it didn’t come out! So…

*Stargazer: 1. An astronomer. An astrologer. A physicist who studies astronomy. A daydreamer. Someone indifferent to the busy world. Heavy-bodied marine bottom-lurkers with eyes on flattened top of the head.

The lyrics above: They don’t leave much – or any – impact on you, most probably. And why should they indeed? In fact, they might even seem “crazy”. Plus many won’t be able to stand the `noise’ when they listen to the song. There’s an MP3 download from here at For those who have the time and inclination to “try understand deeper”, listening to it might help. “With what?” I don’t really know…

But it’s a VERY significant song for me because of the memories associated: 1) I had first listened to it in early 1977, while waiting for the MCE results – a time when I was steadily addicted to heroin for the first time – so very confused then and didn’t know what to do.

2) The last two lines of the quoted lyrics: They came to mind when I was on a Transnasional express bus from Kuantan to Kota Bharu from 3PM onwards on Monday 19 Dec 2006 as the bus moved out from the Kuantan Terminal… Going home/Coming home, almost 17 months after that fateful day when I was detained, spent time in a dank lockup, then prison, then dank lockup again where I spent Hari Raya Puasa 2005… And then to what unexpectedly became a sacred place; called Pusat Serenti Gambang. 17 months is quite a long time for anything – Only those who had gone through that would understand; of not seeing someone you love so much – in my case, my youngest child who was 14 when I had last seen him…

And Ronnie James Dio’s melodic wailings of those lines were in my mind on that bus… And I was later to discover over the months, “other things” in the song about this “coming home” – the (sometimes) disappointments of this much-vaunted `freedom’; and of wondering where I actually belong, of where is this “home” for me really is…

But it’s not home, but it’s not home
Take me back, take me back
Back to my home

It was this – and memories of how physical addiction had felt like the first time – that had created the turmoil last week. I could feel a bit of it again, and the body even felt hot – the same heat that one suffers when in withdrawal. That’s how powerful the mind is!

“How did I ever get addicted to heroin?” In the previous post, there was mention about “leaving the flock” – of a group comprising my classmates and those who had joined our discussion group that gathered at SAHC most nights (except Fridays). Not for the first time, and nor was it to be my last, I made a wrong choice when it comes to “deciding on friends”.

From the middle of 1976, night classes were held for the benefit of private candidates who would be re-sitting for the MCE and HSC. It was my knowing one of them that was to bring about frequent usage of heroin.

There was one particular night when someone in my pack somehow decided to `tong/collect’ – polling money to buy some heroin through one of the night-class students. Previously, this was done on on special occasions; like during the school’s Talentime Night. Or during the dinner after the annual Sports Day.

[There was one for the officials and students who had helped. Us, we’d gatecrash after the teachers were gone. And fellow students didn’t dare tangle with those from Form 5H. There was beer and a punch bowl too. Although some of us did consume it, I didn’t; for this very simple reason – it is haram. However, we didn’t see drugs as such then.]

Somehow the heroin I had consumed on those occasions previously didn’t result in much effect as it had “the first time” – there was too little of it. Or, “there were too many tempek (freeloaders)” who wanted a few puffs too. No complaints, for I was one of the tempeks. As such, there was no attraction or pull the following day “to want to repeat the previous experience”.

But this particular tong/collection was to be way different. Heroin was at RM4-5 per small sachet. For someone moderately addicted, that’s quite enough to see him through the day, even if he consumes it through the `wasteful’ cigarette-spiking method. Here, a hole is punch through the centre of the cigarette – Lucky Strike was the choice. Then the heroin, which was crushed into fine powder, was sucked in.

Of course, there would be more of the stuff near the tip; which was why people would argue `for the right’ to light it (the one who had forked out more usually wins. Or the guy who went to buy it). The spiked cigarette was made moist to slow down the burning rate.

That night, five people had pooled for the heroin that was enough for two spikes. And one of them was Azmi Che Pi, who was three years older than I was. He was invited because he knew someone else who could buy it from the top pusher in Alor Star – a woman called “Leng Kang” who lived beside the Mahawangsa Hotel (just after Cathay Cinema). Incidentally, the district police station was quite close to it, and Leng Kang’s longhouse actually shared a fence with the police barracks.  


CAPTION: William S. Burroughs (1914-1997). American novelist, graduate of Harvard University. Former heroin addict. Click on pix for details from

Ask anyone from SAHC during that period and he’d know “Mi Che Pi”. On quite a few occasions and for various offences (smoking in the school compound, sneaking out, not attending classes etc) he was given public caning during the assembly, and/or `live’ – during the public announcement at noon through the school’s PA system. Far from being shunned by others, those who were caned were actually looked upon with respect!

He was also a member of the school’s rugby team which was the Kedah champion – very prestigious, and players were accorded “hero status”. Mi Che Pi was going to sit for the MCE again after disastrous results in 1974 (he didn’t in `75).

Suffice to say that when `only’ six people shared that RM5 sachet, everyone was bombed. For just RM1 each…

When the effects wore off, one would feel jaded, tired… and yearned “to have that feeling again”. Yes, it will come again, of course – plus the tiredness, jaded effects and “unhappiness”. The addiction to heroin, morphine – it’s grip is so soft and subtle; and so deceiving where the user simply doesn’t realise he’s getting hooked!

My friends were not happy that I was taking it so frequently – always seeking out Mi Che Pi, who’d then ask another one of those at the night classes – Mahadi, or “Di Cina” (he looked a bit like a Chinese). If we couldn’t scrape the RM5, it’d take longer – have to find one or two others first.

My friends were concerned, for they had heard of addiction; and they knew that I was well on that road. Mokhtar Ibrahim of Batu 2, Jalan Langgar – the leader of our pack, and who was also the class monitor – had a talk with me… to advice, remind, warn and plead about what I was getting into. They were okay enough with taking heroin “on occasions”. However, my usage was no longer that.

When they saw that I had ignored their advice and pleas, they made one desperate effort. In wanting to shake me out of it, they issued an ultimatum – be friends with them OR with Mi Che Pi… either one, NOT both. And arrogant dumbass that I was, I chose the latter…

In essence, it wasn’t really me who had made that decision – the addiction did. How did it come about? Through regular consumption. With me then, it was at least once every other day.

The result would be the same thing for anyone in this wide world regardless of the nationality, race, religion, political leanings, sex, age, social status, education level or favourite colour – physical addiction.

And the misery of addiction to heroin is something that only those who have actually been in the situation would know about. I had read many accounts of it, but in ALL of them, “the descriptions are never complete” – you can’t fully describe it no matter how good your writing skills are!

Would anyone want to argue about the writing skills of author William S. Burroughs, who was a heroin addict too once? But I find even his descriptions “aren’t complete”. But he’s close enough with this one:

Junk is the ideal product… the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy.

Exaggeration? We’ll have to ask those who are heavily addicted about the veracity of Burroughs’  claim. I forgot – I was one too, once; so that means I’m qualified to give an opinion. He’s correct. Yes, including about the sewer part, although I never had to crawl through one… and you’d actually feel the seller is doing you a favour by selling! That’s how bad physical addiction to heroin is; its power and pull.

I wasn’t in the “heavy” or even “medium” class yet. But when it comes to “addiction”, any class or level is “bad” – especially when it’s something as devious as heroin. And there I was, addicted to heroin… and the MCE examinations arrived too. It was the Day of Reckoning for “the Form 5H superstar, and school’s English Language and Literature top student; plus the `History challenger'”…

[To be continued in Part 4…]

The dark side of the moon Part 2

I’m going back to the past; of things that had happened more than 30 years ago… of how the drug addiction had all began. This is the continuation to The dark side of the moon Part 1 of more than two months ago.

There was something that I had mentioned in that one – of the need to let go of the past. But to do that, one has to look at it first, and it’s something that is quite difficult for there is the risk of emotional pain. And that’s precisely the reason why I have had difficulty starting that Part 1.

But unless the bad memories are dealt with, they will always be there – and they will always be a burden on us. So, this journey is a necessity – have a look at it for what it was… and then leave it. Only then can we move  on.

There’s something good about that post for I had discovered this: Just write. No “writing plan”, “points” or any other “writing-aiding techniques and tools”, but to just write whatever comes to mind.

1976 – that was the year when my psychological addiction to drugs had started, especially to the “king of drugs” – heroin. Physical addiction came about soon enough. I was 16, in Form 5 (express class) and would face the MCE in November that year. If I remember correctly, my first introduced to heroin was around June. I was in Form 5H – it wasn’t “Hijau” (Green) or “Harimau” (Tiger) but the eighth letter of the alphabet and last class.

How did I get there? Remember that this was Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star (also Kak Teh’s former school; not to mention Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s), and it was an age where there was a `caste system’ when it comes to education. The students were selected based on examination results in primary school. During my first year, the cutoff mark was at “70%” (I was at 75%). The rest would go to one of the four other English-medium secondary schools in Alor Star – Sekolah Menengah Darulaman (nearest my house); Sekolah Tengku Abdul Rahman, Mergong or Sekolah Menengah St. Michael (near SAHC). Oh, it was also a “No-Girls-until-Form 6” school – the girls go to Sultanah Asma School (my elder sister’s) or St Nicholas Convent (my younger sister’s – also Kak Teh’s and Marina Mahathir’s school) until Form Five.

So, things were very competitive there. I had also wasted the whole of Form 4 in 1975 (Kak Teh was in Upper Six then), when I was in a better class, by having a rip-roaring time. I still remember the “001 Card” where we filled in our ambitions; and which the teacher would read out loud one by one for all to hear: Mine were 1) Musician (was influenced by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep) 2) Journalist 3) Lawyer.LedZep77 

CAPTION: Led Zeppelin (1977). From left – Jimmy Page (Guitarist), John Bonham (Drums), Robert Plant (Singer) and John-Paul Jones (Bass). Bonham died tragically a few years later when, drunk and alone, he had choked on his own vomit.

Number One was also the choice ambition of my best buddies in that class; although mine was met with friendly mockings and derision for this sole reason – I didn’t know a single chord nor took the trouble to learn. Number Three had also met with some sniggers, but practically everyone respectfully nodded in agreement when the form teacher read out my Number Two ambition. They must have sensed something; especially when I was “the class’ taikoh” (big brother) in these three subjects – English Language, History and English Literature (yes, we had that one then).LedZep_IV

CAPTION: The Led Zeppelin IV album (circa 1974). This rustic cover is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and contains that classic rock anthem of Stairway to Heaven – a song that begins s-l-o-w-l-y before building up. The exhilarating part is Plant’s laser-sharp rendition around “When all are one and one is all; To be a rock and not to roll” that reached a crescendo with Bonham’s thumping drumming, Page’s hypnotising hurried guitar riffs and supported by Jones’  heart-kicking bass. Outstanding! (Click on the first pix for Wikipedia entry of Stairway to Heaven)

There were other great songs here; like Rock and Roll, Black Dog, Going to California and Battle of Evermore. They were my most favourite group from 1974, whose cassette was replayed over and over, until 1978 … when I first heard Pink Floyd; especially that haunting Time, and The Great Gig in the Sky, which had a woman screaming her guts out. Pink Floyd have remained my most favourite band until now – 31 years later. Part 3 should see where and how I was first introduced to Pink Floyd and Time… (Click on the Led Zeppelin IV album cover for a review of it at

But the main reason why I was in the last class was because of “demotion”: During Form 4, my History marks were made null and void (and got zero) because I had allowed a friend to copy my answers. I remember his nickname – it was “Pak Ngah”. What had irked me most was this: While five other friends had copied my answers too – unlike them – Pak Ngah got too greedy for “very high marks” and copied verbatim (the others had taken only the points).

The trouble was that the History teacher also taught English (a Chinese woman, Mrs-something, who looked a bit like Angie Dickinson of the then-popular “Policewoman” TV series); and she knew Pak Ngah’s style of English (never more than five words in a sentence). And knowledge of History (Didn’t know which country King Mongkut was from). `Interrogation’ of him went on like this:

Q- It isn’t yours, is it? Whose answer did you copy? (With the class looking and listening in suspense; especially me!)

Answer: “My one, teacher!…

(Threat from `Policewoman’): “No, I’m sure it isn’t yours. Can you write them again? No? Well, if you don’t admit that you had copied AND copied from who, I’ll have to take you to see Mr Sheshadri” (the very strict, zero-sense-of-humour Senior Assistant).

Pak Ngah: “Yes, I copy. Don’t know whose one… Err, from Che Mat.”

So, as punishment in that prim-and-proper school, this Che Mat was sent to the last class in Form 5. But don’t mistake it for a “stupid class” – people who were in that school were anything but that. It was a class where many “had an attitude problem”; with poor discipline and such… always pushing to see “where the limits and boundaries were”. On a few occasions, while waiting for a teacher to come in, we shared a cigarette and smoked it in the class!…with the `winners’ being those who dared to take at least two puffs (I was one).

It was also where one-third of the school’s football and rugby team – Kedah state champions – were from. 30 years later, I was to see that, in a way, Form 5H was something like… Asrama Cendana of Pusat Serenti Gambang! And I loved it; my best year at SAHC…

Given the choice, no teacher would have volunteered to teach that class. There was one incident where the Form teacher – a Chinese male with a Science degree, who also taught Mathematics – was in tears over how a few guys had responded, and stormed out. But being in that class was a blessing in disguise for me. Since primary school, when it comes to examination results, I was usually either in the middle or slighly lower in class – something like “Number 18-23 in a class of 40.

But in Form 5 – for the first time ever – with just a bit of extra effort, I managed to obtain Number 1 during the first examinations! I was amazed and so proud of that achievement… although it was `nothing’  compared to what my elder sister had just achieved: Grade One in the MCE, Science Stream, Second-best result in her whole school, Best Malay Student in the state, and had her name mentioned in the newspapers…

She was in Lower Six at my school for a month before receiving (expected all-round) news of being selected for higher education overseas – medical studies. No “Bumiputera quota” of any sort for her – she’d take on any obstacles and beat anyone, that’s my elder sister’s character. Her friends who remained at my school – they had a lot of respect for her; and I was filled with pride when they talked of me as “CS’s younger brother…”

These had all encouraged me to do my best in my studies too. It would have been embarrassing had it been “CS is a brilliant student…BUT her brother is sooo stupid!” I was also fortunate to have real good friends in that class – people who laid their hopes on me “to create upsets and bring academic honours to the LAST CLASS”. We heard from our seniors that “consistent studying and having discussions help”. So, a few of us obtained permission from the principal to use a classroom at night for us to gather and study.

My discipline was better than all of them (about 15, from different classes… the `lower end’). Somehow, the others had lower concentration spans and would often waste time chatting (and smoking cigarettes) along the corridors. Or, they’d take lengthy breaks at the coffeeshop in front (30 mins of study, 60 mins rest), But I was serious… Gradually, I became someone whom people – friends and teachers – assumed “would most likely get Grade One”. My 5H friends were genuinely proud and happy that I – “from the last class” – was one of the three representatives selected to represent the school in a district History competition. And becoming the champion (beating Marina Mahathir’s former school, St. Nicholas Convent in the final).

It was also in Form Five that I discovered something – I could do real well in English. And that was cause for some prestige for my class and also self, of course. I couldn’t figure out how it all came about exactly – it just did. Previously, I was just in the “Above Average” category. But now I was “a contender”… And I always remember my English language teacher then – a young Indian, Mr Raj Kumar – who gave me the confidence. He had once told me – in front of the class after reading an essay – “You can be a journalist one day – at least”; and explained that was “like a newspaper reporter”. How proud I was!

There was another thing that I remember; of being the top student in English AND Malay Literature in the school during one important examination – one of the proudest moments in my schooling life. And how proud my classmates were too – of “the underdogs” beating the cocky and pompous “good students”. It was something to see the announcement and list on the school’s notice-board. For all the other subjects, it was the Form 5A class that monopolised; with two subjects going to 5B and 5F (Art).

But for English Language (which was second below Bahasa Malaysia), it was: Ahmad Cendana287 – 5HMalay Literature: Ahmad Cendana287 – 5H. And I had received prizes for these during the school’s Speech Day that year – from the Sultanah of Kedah, Al-Marhum Sultanah Bahiyah. What a proud moment for me, my friends and my parents.

By the way, I hope the readers don’t see this post as self-indulgent. There’s a reason for all these details – these were the last moments before I dropped into the abyss… times when I was not psychologically or physically addicted to drugs, even if I had already had an experience of them.

After that exposure with “Ahmad Zaki”, quite a few weeks had passed before I had another dose. So, there was no physical addiction. Mentally, I’d remember how good it was, but the pull wasn’t strong. And my friends: despite them (including the class monitor) having taken drugs too in heroin and ganja/dam (cannabis/marijuana) – these were only “on special occasions”. Like during the school’s “Talentime” night. A few friends from other classes were already addicted (including Zaki and Hisham). But none in Form 5H. There was an unwritten rule for us: Don’t ever get addicted.

So how did I get addicted – and just a few months before the all-important MCE (GCE-Levels)? Because “I left the flock for new friends”…

(To Be Continued in Part 3)

Kota Bharu: Arep, Gossip Lounge & Mekyam

Extreme shyness and fear of meeting people: This is one of my major problems; in the unlikely event that you folks aren’t aware of it yet. However, with Arep here, something inside pushed me – I had to meet him. No “ifs” or “buts”, and regardless of time constraints as mentioned in the Kota Bharu: Odyssey of the `Holy Grail’ Package post earlier.

By the way, I realise that quite a few people are annoyed with my tendency to not end a post, and instead have continuations. And taking my sweet time to do so:-) I’m sorry; although there are valid explanations for both. With the first one, it’s NOT planned as such when I started to write. I don’t have a list of points that guide me – I just write…Then I’d realise that a post has gotten too long and should be continued with another one.

As for “my sweet time”; not really – sometimes I’m just so tired and would put it off. Like right now, when I really feel like lying down after working since early morning… to read a book for 10 minutes and immediately fall to sleep.

However, the last two comments have pushed me into writing this now – the one by Mekyam and also KijangMas before that. Then there was Sherry Nor-Jane, who had SMS her displeasure immediately after discovering the “To be Continued”. And just a few minutes ago, Jarod Kok of Paradise Storm mentioned it at Facebook. So…

arep_PrtSc What about Arep then? There’s something unique about him – the fact that was one of the earliest readers here when this blog was started 4½ months ago. A little kindness on his part had gone a long way – he had taken the trouble to send me a “Welcome to the blog world” comment. Now that’s certainly appreciated, especially at a time when blogging was very new to me, and I was worried about exposing myself to hit-and-run insults by the anonymous…

Arep and “Ted Baker” of The Gossip Lounge had encouraged me to continue writing here. I also discovered that besides Ted Baker, Arep was also from Kelantan. We visited each other’s blogs and left comments. And then came the post at Rocky Bru early in the fasting month…

After Hari Raya Aidilfitri in October, I might have met with Arep when he was back in Kelantan. However, the timing was very bad. He had obtained my handphone number from Sherry and called me one day towards noon, informing that he was in Kota Bharu. Unfortunately, it was a day when I did not sleep the previous night and was just about to have a nap. Then there’s the matter of having taken some medication which sometimes resulted in deep sleep…

But my biggest regret was the time when he had come back for a while before going to Belfast, United Kingdom. It was a busy period for him and it wasn”t possible to meet. There was sadness in me for some time, every time I visit his blog and read of him being there… regretting that day when he was in KB but I was “too sleepy”, and both missed the chance. It troubled my mind when I think about that. And now he’s so far away…

So, when he called that day, my thought was, “Whatever else, I MUST meet with him, even if just for a few seconds to shake hands”. Fortunately, Arep was obliging. I mentioned that I would be going around the Bersatu Shopping Centre near the bus-station to buy an electric kettle. It was 5.15PM, and I had worries about whether he could make it from Tesco to the town centre in time, for I remembered the road coming in from the bridge was chocked earlier.

CAPTION: I’ve included a map of Kota Bharu that is almost 196 KB. Clicking should expand the map. The courier’s office is near to Merdeka Square and Hotel Indah/Hotel Aman.   map_Kota_Bharu

A quick walk to Bersatu/The Store in the heavy rain, and straight to the electrical equipment section. Earlier, I had SMS Sherry – who had just arrived back in Indera Mahkota, Kuantan from KL – to inform her about Arep, and she had “Kirim Salam” (Sent Greetings). I remember at the Pusat Khidmat AADK in Jalan Gambut, Kuantan at the end of 2006, the electric kettle we used was a National Panasonic. So, for sentimental reasons, that was my first choice, if it wasn’t “too expensive” (not more than 20% above a`Cipalang-class’ Made-in-China equivalent). I had guessed the Panasonic to be “around RM70”.

Unfortunately, there were only three brands – all unknowns. Now I’m quite okay with things made in China if they are “US, European or Japanese” brands (The Huawei HSDPA USB mobile broadband modem I’m using now is okay though). And they weren’t really `cheap’, with a 4-litre size at RM70. It wasn’t the time to be choosy and look elsewhere due to my wanting to meet with Arep. I had SMS Sherry (my main advisor) on whether to take the China brand, look elsewhere or come back another time. Her reply was “Beli ajer” (“Just buy it”). She was probably considering the possibility of me going back empty-handed…

But that was one of the rare moments when I overruled her. I feel justified because she did not what the salesgirl had honestly said: There was no guarantee and “not many people had bought China-made kettles…reliability issues”. She even helpfully mentioned an electrical shop further down where there would be branded kettles! Hmm, when even an employee had snubbed the products, what business did I have to take the risk? It was 5.30PM – a quick walk and a “just buy it” should still be possible…

At Ban Huat, there was a new problem, albeit a welcomed one – there were choices! There was no National Panasonic kettle. But there was a Kenwood at RM98, which the salesman claimed “was better”. I liked that brand too. But there was another category: “Automatic Jug Kettles”, where there were a few  brands. Now they were almost half the capacity of the 2-litre Kenwood, and half the price too.

I was thinking of Arep, so it had to be a rushed decision: Sederhana in Islam and `The Middle Path’ of Buddhism came to mind and they converged – the Kenwood looked “too luxurious”. Have to consider that I’ll be improving from “Zero/Don’t have anything at all” to “Able to boil water”. That is already very good. The Kenwood is more “sederhana/middle” if it’s for a whole family. And definitely for a hostel… Asrama Cendana.

I remember that in July 2006, our electric kettle went kaput and we had to make do with a self-made heater – a Chinese guy with experience in a few pusat and with several prison terms previously had assembled it. Actually, it’s against pusat regulations to use these kettles or other heaters – you can get hot water at the kitchen. However, lazy that many of us were to walk the distance PLUS up a slope, practically every hostel had a kettle or heater of some sort. Our kettle was `borrowed’ by a previous Pengawas (Prefect) from somewhere in the pusat… probably one of the officers’ rooms;-) Well, that’s how things were over there.

The Cendana Philosophy was: “If you have the chance to contribute to Cendana and to our fellow brothers, DO IT!It’s okay to steal; erm `borrow’ things belonging to the pusat for our common interests and usage. Ah, I love the fellowship, the loyalty of Pusat and Cendana!

But anyway, Water Jug it was. But which one, for there were a few brands and models? Pure sentiment was the main decider, with only a bit of `scientific evaluation’: Wasn’t Sharp the main sponsors of Manchester United once? Well, that’s scientific reasoning enough, and the salesman agreed to `reduce’ from RM65 to RM50.

The salesman was Chinese but it was a very Kelantanese “Wano gapo demo nok?…puteh, kuning, pun ado” (What colour would you like?…white, yellow, grey..there’s also pink) Huh?! Any dumb colour would do with me – Okay, “white”. Or “whatever that’s here in front and not in the store” (Thinking of Arep).

It was 5.40PM. I didn’t know whether Arep could manage to brave the traffic. I went towards the bus-station for I also wanted to use the toilet. I also wasn’t aware he had sent a SMS informing he he would be behind Bersatu/The Store. The phone rang when I was inside the toilet. We decide to meet near Azam Hotel/Azam Money Changer – I knew we’d recognise each other, and we did. BTW he doesn’t look like the old picture in the previous post – you’ll have to keep an image of him wearing spectacles, as in the later pictures of him at his blog or at Ted Baker’s.

I was glad he wasn’t holding a camera or handphone with one – I’m loathe to have anyone take a pix right now in this “not healthy-looking” state of being so thin and frail. Okay, Sherry: I’ll try start that “Riadah” at 5PM; I will. Arep was certainly “the finance/banking/auditing type of guy” in his appearance and speech. It was a chat for only 10 minutes, as we stood outside Suria Hotel at the end of Jalan Doktor that faces the bus-station. At 6PM, he expressed concern that I might miss the 6.15PM last bus, which was on the other side of the building. Well, we parted ways, with my feeling so fulfilled – of both of us succeeding in the effort.

Apparently, the Kota Bharu-Pasir Mas-Tanah Merah bus was already there. And it seemed to be full. I later learnt it was supposed to be the 5.30PM bus, but was cancelled due to disruption in the schedule. There wouldn’t be a 6:15PM too, but 6:30PM. I certainly wasn’t going to stand up so I went to sit with a young guy on the steps in the middle. Fine enough with me. And guess what? There was a young guy – mute, and wearing the bus company’s uniform – tapped me on the shoulders and gestured to “an empty seat” nearby. Was it his, or had I really not been aware it was empty? I don’t know. But that’s yet another gift by God on that day.

6.30PM – The horrendous jam of Kota Bharu! It took 30 minutes just to reach KB Mall from there! `Usually’, you could reach my house 17 miles away in that time! Or at least Pasir Mas. I took it as an opportunity to read the book. Earlier, I had bought a 20 sen sharp razor specifically to carefully slit the cellophane tape and save the beautiful Kikokuniya wrapper. I had heard of this bookstore – I’ll go there someday. Bookstores and libraries are among places I like to be at.Four Agreements_CoverBig164

THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel Ruiz – A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – A Toltec Wisdom Book

Dear Mat,

I hope this book will help you understand how perfect we are – you just need to find yourself inside


A reading of the jacket showed that this isn’t an ordinary book. I’m still in the early stages yet since I was bogged down with so many things. But I take this one very seriously; because the sender had taken so much trouble to buy it (and a CD titled The Secret), to write the notes, to send it, to follow up… and again. Thank You for your kind thoughts.

Well, I finally reached home at 8.10PM. The first thing to do … Yes, to test the “Automatic Water Jug”. The salesman had said it’d take only 3 minutes for the 1.7-litre water to boil. It took 4 actually. The automatic worked. Three boiling sessions that night – one for drinks, and two for… A hot water bath. What a nice luxury, and the end to “Odyssey of the Holy Grail Package”