The Magical Day of April 15

Where do I begin? Sounds like the song by Andy Williams… I’m trying to start a post here but I don’t know what to write about – there are just so many things that I want to say. By the way, the last post is rather sharply worded and is not mean for general consumption; which is why I had set a password.

I had suffered from a rather severe bout of asthma and fever since Friday morning, and the medication made me a bit delirious. I’m fit enough to sit at the desk and catch up with work plus email over the past three days. A message from here caught my eyes straight away – and reading the comment at the Stargazer post on May 24 left me stunned and depressed. Like the writer “bed”, I hope someone will tell us that it’s not true.

And while writing this, I received an SMS from Elviza about someone being hospitalised – nothing too serious. Well, I’ll have to start somewhere so, for the time being, I’ll just continue from the last post – this one being the sanitised version. By the way, if I “sound odd”, it might be because of the medication – I have to down a clutch of pills, plus take in the asthma inhaler.

A divorce after 25 years and with four children in the picture: How many people do you know have a similar record? And how about this: Would you believe that there are people who actually want me to slide back down the road of drug addiction?… that there are people who are silently incensed that I “seem to have it easy, with things going my way”? No, this isn’t paranoia – I have the evidence to show. But I’ll just stick to the Syariah court thing first, and then connect it with the second. Maybe… because I don’t know what this post will lead to.

A divorce – I kept wondering (note that I’m consciously using the past tense) about the timing: it could have very easily happened when I was in prison from August 2005, and at Pusat Serenti Gambang from November 2005 until mid-December 2006. But it didn’t – it only happened now. Why now??…coming at a time when I was/am actually in the best position for at least 15 years! There’s a lesson in this somewhere.

At Gambang, I know of two fellow inmates who went through this ordeal. The first was a retired army officer the same age as me from Maran (and, like me, his children were doing well in their studies too, thanks to the mothers). There was another – 302/05 “Syed”, a labourer from Bunut Susu, Pasir Mas. He was in his early 40’s/late 30’s and was in the same Room 8 of the dreadful Pengkalan Chepa prison. About a month at Gambang, “the letter” came for him – his wife had filed for a divorce under “Fasakh” (“Abandonment”? Or does anyone know the accurate term; for the benefit of non-Muslims). It was precisely the same thing that had weighed heavily on my mind.

On the day before the hearing, he was taken to Pasir Mas and spent the night at the police lockup. The escort was a Pusat Ustaz (both Ustaz Zulfifli and Ustaz Jumaidy are excellent people, I should add). Well, he didn’t contest it – unlike me – and the matter was settled on that day. Anyway, I kept thinking about it during my 13 months at Gambang (and the three months in prison); wondering “when my turn will be”. It never came – at least not then.

raya2008 Mine came just a couple of months before I started this blog last year. And when it did, I had resolved to fight it all the way, every inch. It was during the time after the first hearing that I came to know of these two magnificent people – Sharifah Nor Jannah and Nazmi – who were privy to all the details, and were with me until the last.

And then came a few precious others – from this blog and also from Facebook. God knows how I might have handled the whole thing had I been alone! This thought came to my mind during the darkest moments – perhaps this is why it had happened now, and not before… God knew I might have handled it differently had it happened when I was at Gambang(?)

About that inmate “Syed” – He said he’s “okay”, but he never was. He gradually gave up regular prayers after that. And ever since the transfer to the permanent hostel (his was “Jati” – Teak), he was often among the undisciplined – samsu (moonshine) and inhaling thinner. I kept thinking that I could have easily gone down that road too…

Anyway, I’m not going to say anything bad about my former wife. After all, she is the mother of my four children; and I have learned quite a few things from the people here – Sherry, Shakirah, Zura, Tehsin, Zara, Elviza, Datin Mamasita, Sheila and someone from Facebook who shall remain anonymous: I owe it to them that I’m not spiteful right now.

there_will_be_blood_01 However, I don’t owe any obligations to others though… To make a long story short, I saw what deceit was during a session on March 25. A case that was largely in my favour was in jeopardy because of the connivance of a few monkeys – and I have written, spoken and anecdotal proof of this [guess what my wife told me later on]. And thanks to a lawyer who had helped with the technical aspects, the next hearing was going to be something like the movie title, There Will Be Blood

CAPTION: No, that’s not Daniel Day-Lewis. Or Cendana287. It was Mat Cendana thinking about how to make the court session a fiery affair.

Wednesday April 15: This was supposed to be the day when I made an appeal against a decision by the court on March 25. It would also have been a day of retribution. BTW this is one of my negative aspects – the `do at all costs even if it hurts me’. I knew that I might be held for contempt of court, but I was going ahead regardless. I’ve been in prison twice, so what’s a third time?…

But something from Shakirah around April 6; and a new friend, Zura a few days before the session. made me change my mind. Not only that, I decided to go all the way and also do “what’s right”.

And for every decision, Sherry was always in the know. I have to mention this – she’s a lot like David in that they’d never dump unsolicited advice… although Sherry would not hesitate to do so when she sensed “she must”. Paradoxically, the less one advices, the more powerful and influential s/he is! And it’s often the other way too – at least with me. But that’s how influential these three were; reversing what I had intended to do and guided me towards things that I would never have done had I been alone. And I’m so glad “for losing”!

There were the others too (Apologies if I fail to mention you – I might remember later): Quite close to the hearing, Elviza sent some messages that perked me up. So did Tehsin. And satD. And at 4AM Wed, April 15, an email message arrived all the way from New York – Mekyam added to the encouragement. I had earlier told her what I was going to do; and how the others had influenced and guided me. And she had this to say, among other things (I hope Mekyam won’t mind my pasting this without asking her permission first):

the best retaliation to anyone/anything in society that makes us feel less than we should is to succeed in spite of and to think the best of yourself all the time.

And guess what happened on that day? I was there first – only to be told that it was postponed to April 26. While waiting outside and sending a few SMSes, my wife arrived. I told her, nicely, that the hearing has been postponed. She didn’t reply. When she came outside, I mentioned something that must have jolted her: “I’m going to make it easy for you – there won’t be an appeal against the last decision. In fact, I’m going to just grant whatever you ask.”

It took her a few seconds to respond. It was something she didn’t expect. But this, being a proud woman, just wouldn’t show her real emotions. However, there was an immediate change – she could now unburden her troubles to me without feeling `weak’. It must have been a relief for her – she told me that our youngest son was accepted to a MARA PolyTech for a diploma course! “You’ll have to help him for the three years… it requires a lot of money.”

Now that was a nice surprise. Our youngest – this is the same sweet, kind-hearted boy I had sent the RM50 to in Nov 2006 from Kuantan. He’s also a slow learner, unlike his sisters. But I knew something from very early on – if he’s interested in something, he’ll do very well… and his interest was/is the computer. This is someone who could install programs and understood the concept of folders when he was in Standard One. And showed me that you can import Excel tables to Word when in Std Two (he’d just click around until something happened). Despite his rather poor SPM results, he had obtained a good-enough grade for the subject of Multimedia – and that’s what he has been chosen for at PolyTech. I was so happy but, like my wife, pretended to be emotionless… There is justice in this world after all – Of course I’ll do my best for him!

My wife decided to push her luck – she knew enough about me, I suppose. She mentioned our eldest daughter in teachers’ training college, who’s doing a degree: “Now that you’re working, can you allocate RMxxx a month for her?… until the end of 2010”.

That was a magical moment – 10 years of tension melted away just like that! We walked side by side from the court to the town centre, talking and discussing as if there were no problems between us; the common thread being “What can we do to help our children?” I even thought about asking her to have breakfast with me. But she remembered something – she had asked for the date to be set for May 6 instead, and it had to be confirmed. So she went back, insisting that I go on ahead.

I had SMS to Sherry, Shakirah and Zura about it while having breakfast. When I went to see my youngest son, my wife was already at home. I even got a durian and a few sweet mangoes – it was given by my youngest, of course, who mumbled something about “his grandmother” giving it to me. Well, whatever – but I did hear my wife calling him to the kitchen prior to that.

Beginning from that day, I was obsessed with one thing – how to help ensure that my son would be able to go to college. A divorce? Okay – I discovered that I didn’t “lose” as I had previously feared.

NEXT POST: A Happy Divorce to You?