A Birthday Celebration, and The Stranger

I was scanning my Facebook timeline earlier today when one particular post and image immediately caught my attention, and putting me in a reflective mood. It’s so strong that I feel compelled to write this post, and here – something that has become rare due to Facebook.

The image was an event held in Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya exactly six years to honour and celebrate the 80th birthday of the family’s matriach, Noorani Hamzah – a retired teacher who was previously from Jalan Telipot in Kota Bharu, Kelantan before settling down in Kuala Lumpur in the early 60s.


In the picture are her four daughters during that gathering: Prof. Azni (eldest), Datin Aimi (second), Azian and Aniza (youngest; middle in pix) of the Zain Ahmed family. The only son/brother, a senior engineer, was in Pakistan during the event. And this is the family, through the Grace of God, that I was to later marry into.

I was living alone in the rural area of Kangkong, Pasir Mas at that time. 432 km away, with no plan or intention to go anywhere. But invisible forces were already in motion, with various variables getting into alignment and bringing about a whole new life for me.

It was less than three weeks since we had known each other. But even during this very early stage, we knew there was something. And it was on that particular day six years ago that I was starting to feel part of somebody’s life…that a life-changing moment was coming together.

Earlier that day, Aniza had sent a SMS informing me of the event that was to take place later during the evening. “That’s interesting”, I thought, and I expected she was going to be rushed and very busy with the event. As such, I didn’t expect to receive any message from her that day.

But to my pleasant surprise, she later followed up with several other messages. And these came during the event itself, providing descriptions of who were there and what was going on. Have to admit that I was very pleased, flattered and honoured that she was taking the time to tell me – practically a stranger – about a very important family event. I may be of the blur and clueless type at times but one thing didn’t escape me – she didn’t see me as “a stranger”, “an outsider”…

One memorable message was this: she had innocently mentioned the various food at that birthday gathering. And that was one of the cultural, social and financial divides between us. These were dishes which I had read about, but had never tasted in my life. On that particular day, my dinner was the regular staple that was my main diet – Quacker Oats with milk and sugar. Incidentally, that also tend to be what I would have for brunch. How I wished I was at that birthday party!

When Aniza learnt what I had for dinner, she felt bad. And apologised, which to me was “Why??” For telling me about the great food they were having during a very special occasion? It was my turn to feel bad when she couldn’t continue to enjoy the good food.

A lot had happened since then, of course. A few were mentioned in previous posts but most weren’t. For better or for worse, I had rarely written any new posts at this blog. One of the reasons is that, like most bloggers (and readers), I too ‘had moved’ to Facebook. But occasionally there might be posts that I feel may be better suited to be placed here at this blog.

I’m going to admit that I don’t really know why I’m writing this post. I just felt that I had to. And this feeling came after looking at this image at Facebook; marvelling at and being grateful for all the things that I have been blessed with over the years.

And they all had come about, one by one, due to my being arrested in August 2005 and being sent to Pusat Serenti Gambang in early November that year. Plus in knowing all the wonderful people from then onwards, including AND ESPECIALLY some of the readers at this very blog. Including Aniza and her family, most certainly. For without them, without some of the readers here initially, my life would likely not have become what it is right now.

Maybe this is the energy that has pushed me to write this particular post today – to thank everyone who had been there for me, who had helped in their own special way. Thank you very much for helping me move towards a much better and more meaningful life.

*Footnote: My mother-in-law passed away during the month of Ramadan on 20th. September 2013, at 83. Her husband, Mohd. Zain Ahmed had gone before her, on 30th. May 2004 at the age of 74.