There’s usually – but not always – something memorable during each Hari Raya Aidilfitri. And sometimes these are nowhere near joyous, for I’ve had Rayas that were bleak and despondent. Interestingly, all these were during the years that I was addicted, which makes the correlation obvious to all but those who choose to be in denial.
Hari Raya – I’ve had so many depressing ones from the year 1996 onwards that I had grown to dislike the approach of this season. In my mind, there was the thought that something unpleasant would happen. And sure enough, it did… all sorts of incidents that brought about negative feelings would happen. For instance, the Raya of 2005: it was like the six preceding it when it comes to being forlorn and despairing… except that it was even worse. That was the raya which I had spent in the dank Cell 3 of the Pasir Mas police lockup, awaiting transportation for a two-year “Treatment & Rehabilitation” at Pusat Serenti Gambang. And that came after spending three months in the harsh confinement of the Pengkalan Chepa prison.
Anyway, that was what I had written about in a post here before this one. Unfortunately, something close to a `digital tragedy’ happened (which is why you don’t see the post here). I was moved to write that post on the first day of Raya after reading something that a good friend in Kajang, Risma Danial had written at her Facebook page: “sedihnya dengar takbir raya” (How mournful it is to hear the Raya takbir). It immediately brought about those memories inside that lockup – at a time when I know everyone outside was happy.
I was writing that post by using the online blog editor at WordPress.com, and I was probably “three-quarters completed”. If you know how long I’d often write here, then you’ll agree that it was “reasonably long”. Normally, I’d use a desktop/offline blog editor – either Windows Live Writer (which was introduced by the great Mat Salo of Borneo Blues; and which I’m using now), or Zoundry Raven (freeware, with enough frills but nowhere near the bells and whistles of Windows Live Writer of course). I had also wanted to try a Firefox addon – Zemanta, which some bloggers and reviewers had given enthusiastic comments about.
CAPTION: I had failed to notice that there is a special plug-in for Windows Live Writer until just a moment ago when I went to take a screenshot of Zemanta (see the link below the one for Firefox)! That means users don’t have to use the Web version-plus-Firefox to use Zemanta. Would have saved me the heartache had I known about this earlier! *30/9 POSTSCRIPT: Had downloaded this plugin for Windows Live Writer – it kept crashing WLW and I had to uninstall it.
Then the disaster struck – Firefox crashed. Now that’s not unusual because I’ve had this happen fairly regularly (but like the hardcore sucker that I am, I keep returning to it. It’s because of the addons and extensions – I just love them). Incidentally, ArahMan7 had mentioned it in his status update at Facebook just a couple of hours before that. Anyway, I had taken precautions by saving the draft once every so often when writing it. After I restarted Firefox, I went back for it. My throat went dry when only the first paragraph came out. A check of saved “Earlier Versions” returned the same results – my almost-finished post had essentially disappeared! “Rewrite it”, you say? Yes, I could. But I won’t, for I have other things to do. Let’s just consider it as what most Malays would say: Tak ada rezeki (Not fated to have it) [In case you’re wondering why I’d often include the English translation, it’s because of my very good friend, David].
“The time before dawn is the darkest”, goes a saying. It was true for me – after that Raya where I was almost in despair, the ones that followed were markedly positive. In fact, the one that immediately followed – Raya 2006 in Pusat Serenti Gambang/PKAADK Kuantan (very near the offices of Sherry Nor-Jannah and her husband Nazmi) – was, unexpectedly, among the best that I’ve ever had. God Bless the National Anti-Drugs Agency (AADK) officers, its policemen & women, and my fellow Gambang & PKAADK residents for this memory.
After that Raya of such magnificence, meaning and joy, I knew that realistically, it would be extremely difficult to equal with the ones to follow. As such, I wasn’t too disappointed with Raya 2007 at home here. At least there weren’t any negative moments or thoughts. It was also the first time in more than a decade that I was clean during Raya when `living outside’.
CAPTION: The following people surely deserve to be recognised and remembered as the title. If they don’t, then who does?
The following Raya 2008 was memorable and pleasant – through this blog, I had come to know the couple of Sharifah Nor-Jannah and Nazmi Azahar and their family. Now a few of you might roll your eyes and think, “Why are they, and especially Sherry, mentioned so often and so much here?” It’s only because of this: that they, and she especially, had covered for me so often and so much. To tell the truth, I haven’t mentioned even 10 percent of what they had done. As time goes by, I feel I could reveal a few of these as the opportunity and situation arises.
They had started as my link to society. One of the reasons why recovering addicts fail to rejoin society is this – distrust of people. Actually, over the following months, I did encounter people and incidents which might tend to justify this. However, at the same time, I had also known people who have contributed immensely to my life. This, I suppose, neutralises the negative episodes.
After 12 months, they have become crucial factors – people whom I’d trust with my life. And no, I’m not exaggerating with the last sentence. Sherry had helped to comfort and handle some moments of inner turmoil which might have provoked negative reactions from me. One specific example occurred early this year when I was emotionally hurt, disappointed and angered after seeing some deceitful manoeuvres against my interests where people had taken advantage of my previous record. In defiance, I had wanted to give the middle finger to society, religious figures and institutions and everyone else – I was going to do whatever they disliked, regardless of the effects to me.
Fortunately, an extremely timely call from her when she “had sensed” (which were often right) something wrong helped to pull me back from the verge of entering the morphine abyss again. How near was I then? Less than 200 metres… and walking in `the right direction’. Her voice – those who had spoken with her would know – the calm, comforting and bubbly voice that to me signifies all that is good with people… it was powerful enough to persuade me to turn the other way.
If there are people disappointed that their theory – which they had repeatedly expounded to all and sundry (but never daring to do so when “those who can and would contradict” were within earshot) – that “Mat will get addicted to morphine again soon due to his troubles”… well, blame Sherry Nor-Jannah for being the main obstacle. And Nazmi. And Shakirah Zain, Tehsin, Mekyam, Zara, Norfadzilah, Elviza…
Speaking of which… Raya 2009 recently – it was memorable because of Elviza Michele Kamal who runs the Write Away blog. In the minds of many, she’s associated with the “Sleepless in Setiawangsa” series (and continually annoying her readers with her delay in not writing a book from that). She’s also the person who has appeared the most times in the post title here for some reason or another. This is one of the glamorous bloggers with a sizeable and devoted following – see the number of Page Hits there plus the people who comment. This is a name that is synonymous with “elegant sentences”. To my mind at least.
She’s also the target of occasional anonymous sniping over errors which only a nitpicking faultfinder would ever highlight. And someone was enraged (no, it’s not to do with`outraged’ where the afflicted might have had some justification) when she was invited to write a column for the Malay Mail. From what I see, the overriding motive is jealousy. Now this anonymous person (this kind never dare to come out in the open) tried to spray her/his venom on Elviza. If you folks read the comments, the criticisms she hurled are way too harsh; with Elviza’s errors grossly magnified. But on at least one occasion, this anonymous whiner found herself on the other end of an industrial-grade, acidic reply from some indignant reader of Elviza’s column.
I hope Elviza won’t ever be discouraged by this kind. If anything, that’s another proof that one is “on the way up” – the increased visibility attracts more attention as compared to one near the bottom. But let’s come back to the main matter in this longish post…
CAPTION: `Jealousy’ is also an element in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo
I had known about Elviza coming back to Kelantan during the Raya holidays. And she did mention – not once but a few times – that she’ll visit me. It’s fortunate that I had met with her before last November in Kuala Lumpur – something that wasn’t planned. As some of you would know, I still have the shyness factor which many might say is on the extreme side. Well, that’s what years of addiction can do to you; by leaving scars in the form of inferiority complex, guilt, shame and worthlessness.
Fortunately, thanks to the happenings over the past year or so – and regardless of the divorce matter – this shyness isn’t too extreme anymore. I think. Knowing that Elviza would most probably come to my house with her husband Jafree and three-year-old Luqman made me just a little nervous. For this, I have to thank all of you who had helped in one way or another to build back my confidence and self-worth, and wanting to be a part of society. I have to mention Sheila especially, whose direct and indirect contribution had been enormous.
With Elviza, I had been in rather regular contact over the past 12 months; ever since she gave me a pleasant surpise by sending a Selamat Aidilfitri on the first day of Raya last year. I was elated actually (ah, only now does she know!) – I’m one of the readers who would patiently wait for her new posts after discovering her blog. There was something about her writings – apart from the elegance – that was attractive and engrossing.
Sherry Nor-Jannah loved Elviza’s blog too – except that she was an even bigger fan who adored Elviza to the extent of not daring to even send in a comment! (Heheh, I’m revealing things today). And one day I did something for her which was `little’, but certainly not inconsequential as I discovered later. I and Sherry had already been a Friend of Elviza in Facebook. Then, on a desire to do something nice to Sherry to express my gratitude for giving me faith and confidence to face life, I contacted Elviza by SMS. I mentioned about Sherry, gave her number and asked Elviza to send a short message. This she did – and had also called Sherry.
She was excited by this and sent me a couple of SMS to thank me. Sherry mentioned about “a dream come true” when she received that call from Elviza. I didn’t know it was that precious to her. It was one of those moments when I was truly touched – knowing that Sherry became this happy as a result of my action released tears down my cheeks.
CAPTION: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2006. I don’t usually read fiction but this is one which is giving me a lot of pleasure (am almost halfway through the 508 pages novel)
And last week, Elviza did it again by making me happy. She had planned to visit on Fri Sept 18 just a bit after Isyak. Unfortunately, she suffered food poisoning after breaking fast that day from eating etok (a type of mollusc). Knowing her busy schedule, I had thought that it would be another time in the future before she might be able to come. Apparently, she wasn’t content to give up that easily.
On the first night of Raya (Sun Sept 20), I received a SMS at 10.30PM from her enquiring whether I was already asleep and whether it was okay to come over. This is something that I appreciate – of her contacting first before dropping by. She was coming from Kota Bharu, and although it was night and that my house is in the rural area, I felt she would find it easily enough. I then waited by the roadside with a flashlight; and my youngest son, Iman, had his motorcycle’s light on to signal her. And pretty soon, an expensive-looking vehicle slowed down. I was surprised to see that she had driven alone (Luqman had slept and Jafree had stayed with his son).
CAPTION: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. This will take some reading (1,045 pages in small print). But I will definitely read it. Fortunately, I’m no longer intimidated by the 19th Century Russian writers for I had read a digital version of Crime and Punishment a few months before I was arrested in 2005. And David had sent a book comprising a collection of the author’s shorter stories that include Notes from the Underground when I was at Gambang in 2006.
Elviza must have been surprised to see so many people at my in-laws’ house (My sister-in-law’s big family were there; as is their tradition during each Raya holiday). And Elviza was a hit with them! She might have been surprised that my brothers-in-law and everyone else were quite okay with me (My ex-wife didn’t come out though). She was here for an hour and left for home at 12.30AM.
The 12 months from the last `Sherry Nor-Jannah Raya’ to this one: I thank Allah for all the joys and fortunes that have come my way. Like the one in 2006 when I was at Gambang, my life has turned into one that I now find purpose in living.