Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Those Creatures Among The Trees

Whenever My Late Father passed by the big old tree at Paya Lebar on His way home at night during the 60s, He said, from his bicycle, He would looked up at the creepy gigantic tree searching and looking out for its resident.
Then He would looked down for any recent falling down leaves as it was said to be the indication that its resident was up on the tree.
Often He picked up the latest fallen leaves blown by wind for signs (?)
My Late father had never seen the real tenant of the tree, which underneath was an altar placed there by the Chinese staying nearby, but many men around my neighbourhood did meet the lady resident, said to be a female vampire or 'pontianak'.

The creature, with unkempt flowing black hair and draping a long white clothing would sit on one of the many outstretched winding branches with feet dangling in the air that would scare men away, often leaving their bicycles and ran for their life.
If they were to continue cycling, most likely 'the lady' would hitch a ride to the men's home.

But thinking back, 'pontianak', according to folklore is a woman who dies during childbirth.
They are said to be most likely associated with banana trees and we had many banana trees near the kitchen as banana trees are rhizome that multiply quickly.
Thank GOD, none of them like to stay at the banana trees not far from my kitchen door.
Maybe, what we had then, were not the ordinary banana trees which we normally eat the fruits, but My Father planted 'pisang batu' (not sure of the exact English name, but is translated to be stoned banana) more for the leaves to be used for making 'lontong' or rice cake for 'Aidilfitri.

My Mother preferred the leaves of 'pisang batu' as it is known to be thicker, stronger and very unlikely to be easily torn apart.
Unlike ordinary banana, the fruit of 'pisang batu' is with hard black seed.
When the seeds of an apple is easily crunched, the splattered seeds found in ripe 'pisang batu', which can be up to 4mm, just could not be broken into pieces with our teeth, hence its name, 'batu' or stone.
But the young 'pisang batu' with seeds still soft, is usually used for 'rojak', mixed local fruits and fried bean curds, mixed with grounded fried nuts, chillies, shrimp paste, thick tamarind juice and palm sugar.


I had blogged  here  that My Father had once asked one of the older generation of the unseen creature staying at Kaki Bukit to move out when he took revenge on My Nephew, who was a toddler then, for playing with sticks.
The unseen grandfather with his generations of families were once trees' dwellers living on the hill top, before Kaki Bukit was levelled and big trees were cleared, to make way for Singapore's public housing.
After their 'houses' were uprooted, some of them stayed behind, then stay with and among the residents of Housing and Development Board.


When My Mother was visiting the pleasant and cool mountainous Wonosobo regency, 150 km from Yogyakarta regency, located in Dieng, she 'saw' many teenagers, boys and girls, in white attires, busied themselves with their books and studies, in the thick forest.
The word Wonosobo or 'Wanasaba' in Javanese, is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Vanasabha' means 'forest gathering place'.
Interestingly, not everybody in her group saw the same scene as her.
To many of them, they were just on one of the Indonesian plateau, which is 2,000 metres above the sea.

Although I had never been there, but while on my way up to Temanggung, 40 km east of Wonosobo, from Temanggung, which is 340 metres higher than Wonosobo, Wonosobo is like a regency floating on thick cottony clouds.


Temanggung is said to be a place above the clouds, and is being sandwiched by two mountains,

Sindoro and Sumbing. Source: Ida 08's Weblog 
Sindoro at its south, and at the north is Sumbing.
Locals said both mountains putting on white caps all year round - as they were always covered with clouds.
The second highest mountain in central Java, the 3371 metres Mount Sumbing, was as if just within my reach.

Unlike other mountains, Sumbing nearing to the summit, is with no big and tall trees, just tall grasses,

and edelweiss plants.
The mountain has one of the most Indonesian landslides occurrences as its lower slopes, reaching 2 km uphill had been exploited of its natural vegetation.
Slopes are covered with some vegetable farms,
Tobacco Plantation. Source: Temanggung City
but mostly tobacco, as almost 80% of Indonesian tobacco comes from Temanggung, as tobacco is best planted at 1,000 metres above the ground.
Luckily all my way up to Temanggung,
the refreshing surrounding air was with the awakening aroma of fresh coffee.
The regency produce one of the best Indonesian coffee, as with its first grade tobacco leaves, both commodities brought to Temanggung in around 1630s by the Dutch, although tobacco smoking had been around in Java since 1613, during the Mataram Sultanate.

Hikers climbing Mount Sumbing were strongly warned of do's and don't while hiking.
They are to respect the culture of local folks and nature, always to stay friendly among friends, other hikers and those staying at the mountain, not to pluck, even a stalk of flower before prior written consent, not to ease themselves at the high altitude freely, and ... never to sigh!

As was told by the hiker himself, it was in the early 2000 that he climbed Sumbing with four others when he felt the urgency to answer nature call.
He told them to proceed with their hiking and he would catch them up.
When he had done among the bushes, he emerged, and saw that his four friends were still waiting for him.

True friends indeed.
They chatted and joke away until they reached an open space of only grass field, when his four friends suggested taking a break.
The five of them shared their food and supplement drinks.
When he was about to finish puffing his first cigarette, he heard his name being called again and again, from a great distant, until the voice came nearer and clearer.

He was shocked and surprised to hear the voice of two of his hiking friends.
Are not they with him then, at the open space of only green grass field?
Why were their voices seemed faraway?

He looked behind where his four friends were resting themselves...
It was empty!
Nobody was sitting or standing around except himself.
With raised hair, lost mind and soft limbs, slowly he left the haunted place and, despite stumbles, he followed the direction from where his name was being called.
He ran as fast as he could, despite hurdles, darkness, stones and ravine...

In a big open space at 2,437 feet above ground, known for its strong and dangerous wind, at Mount Sumbing is a place named 'Pasar Setan' - Satan's Market.

Locals, who are mostly farmers, ritually go up to Sumbing summit on the 20th Ramadhan after breaking their fast, spending their 'Malam Selikoran', the first night in the last ten days of Ramadhan, visiting the graveyard of Ki Ageng Makukuban at the summit.
He is said to be the first man to stop at Kedu Plain, between the two husband (Sumbing) and wife (Sundoro) mountains and the pioneer of the tobacco plantation.
Since the annual '20th Ramadhan' going uphill is performed by almost all of the local community since many generations ago, local youths used to hiking, Sumbing Hiking Club, Search And Rescue Team and police force oversee the folks orderliness and safety.

Some of the local folks and hikers would hear the Indonesian musical ensemble 'gamelan' being played at 'Pasar Setan' where the above hiker had taken his rest with 'four others', especially when the sun is about to end its day duty.
These local folks and hikers too, were advised to stay close with their group when hearing the 'gamelan', lest they were to be swayed by the musical beat and entered into 'another world'.
Hikers staying for their nights near and around 'Pasar Setan', as the open space is a good site for tents building, would often 'see busy and noisy market'.
If they smell the surrounding of strong fragrance, it was said these creatures were very near to them.


Those who went up the mountain at night and, if they were to be separated from their team, would most often find themselves being escorted by a person, who usually put on white attire, until he or she is being united with their team again.
Unfortunately, the 'person' never answer questions posed to him or her.
This 'person' always appear to be the same sex, and around the same age as the hiker and the said 'person' remain silent through out its good intention of bringing back the lost hiker to the team.

Meeting 'the good hearted soul' in white is said to be better while hiking up or down Mount Sumbing, rather than meeting what the local folks called 'Setan Belanda' - eerie looking, big sized 'Dutch's Satan', who is sometime found among pine trees not far from the villages.

There was a case when a first time hiker, who was climbing down the mountain, when about to reach the last village at the mountain, she insisted on taking a taxi ride home, calling out for the non-existed taxi to stop.
She was then carried down by her friends...

'Pasar Setan' is not only found at Mount Sumbing, it can be be found at any Indonesian mountains.
The known Mount Merapi with its famous 'Pasar Setan' named 'Pasar Bubrah', has its own story to tell. 


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yaumul 'Asyurah And Yum Kippur

Thank GOD who blessed us to see another year, 1432.
The first month, Muharram, is here, and today is the tenth of Muharram 1432 A.H.

The tenth day in the month of Muharram, Yaumul 'Asyurah, saw the victory of  Prophet Moses a.s.  and his people over the Egyptian Pharoah at around 1446 BC.  

"Recall that we saved you from Pharaoh's people who inflicted upon you the worst persecution, slaying your sons and sparing your daughters. That was an exacting test from your Lord.
Recall that we parted the sea for you; we saved you and drowned Pharaoh's people before your eyes." - AlQur'an 2:49 - 50

As Muharram is so called, the month's name is derived from the word haram (forbidden), and in this month, it is forbidden to wage hostility, instead, it was encouraged to reach a compromise.
This month is one of the four sacred months, beside Rejab, Dzulkaedah and Dzuhijjah.
The Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. had been fasting on the tenth of Muharram when in Mecca.


When The Prophet s.a.w. migrated to the city of Yathrib, which soon renamed Medinah, 320 kilometres north of Mecca, Muhammad s.a.w. found out the Jews in Medinah religiously went through their Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, marking the Kippur with a big dinner, and would follow it with 25 hours of fasting from sundown to sun-up, prayer, reflection and meditation, in order to seek repentance for their sins.

They said: "It is the day of great significance when God delivered Musa a.s. and his people and drowned Pharoah and his people, and Musa a.s. observed fast out of gratitude. And we also observe it." 

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is also remembering Prophet Moses a.s. on the tenth day of the month of Tishrei in the Jewish calender.

Yom Kippur is to be a solemn holiday.
It is also one of the holiest days of the year for the Jewish for atonement and repentance for according to the Jews, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year, which is ten days before Yom Kippur, and waits until Yom Kippur for the final verdict being sealed.

Unlike the regular three daily prayers by the Jews, Shacharit, the morning prayer, Mincha, the afternoon prayer and Ma'ariv, the evening prayer, Yom Kippur has five prayer - Shacharit, Mincha, Ma'ariv, Musaf and Ne'ilah, the concluding prayer.  
Ne'ila is a special Jewish prayer service, usually runs about an hour, held only on Yom Kippur, when final prayers of repentance are recited, beside the evening and day of Yom Kippur which is set aside for confessions of guilt, either in public or in private.
Repentance and forgiveness conclude the locking and closing of Yom Kippur.
There is a tone of desperation in Ne'ila prayers, as it is referred to the closing of the gates, the 'last chance' to get in a good word before Yom Kippur ends, after which the shofar, used for religious purpose, a horn, traditionally that of a ram, is blown at the end of Ne'ila.


The Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. responded to the fasting Jews: 
"We have more right, and we have closer connection with Prophet Musa a.s. than you have."  

‘Asyurah is a day of great historical significance.
- Whoever fasts on this day is like one who fasts all his life.
- Whoever provides generously for his family, ALLAH s.w.t. will be generous to him throughout the year.
- Whoever clothes a naked person ALLAH s.w.t. will release him from a painful punishment.
- He who feeds a hungry person or gives water to a thirsty man, ALLAH s.w.t. will feed him a feast from Paradise and will quench his thirst with Salsabil.
- He who visits the sick, ALLAH s.w.t. will reward him that will not decreased.
- Those who apply kohl to the eyes will never suffer from eye-sore again, GOD willing, and 
- Whoever takes a sunnah 'Asyurah bath on this day will enjoy excellent health and freedom from sickness and indolence. 
GOD, Bless us to perform good deeds. Ameen.


The Prophet s.a.w. observed fasting on Yaumul ‘Asyurah and gave us orders to observe it.  
The Prophet s.a.w. who had been fasting on 'Asyurah Day told His Companions about the 'Asyurah fast, and His sunnah for us to fast on 'Asyurah Day.

In Sahih Muslim, Abu Qatada r.a. relates that The Prophet s.a.w said that the fast on the 10th of Muharram atones for the sins of the preceding year and Abu Hurairah r.a. reports that The Prophet s.a.w. said that after Ramadhan, the fasts of Muharram have the greatest excellence.  

Mu`awiyyah ibn Abi Sufyan reported that he heard the Messenger of ALLAH s.w.t. say: 
"Concerning the day of `Asyura’, it is not obligatory upon you to fast on it as I do. 
Whoever wishes may fast and whoever does not wish to is not obliged to do so" - Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

But The Prophet s.a.w. recommended that we fast on this day, by His sunnah. 

Abu Hurairah r.a. reported: 
"I asked the Prophet: 'Which Prayer is the best after the obligatory Prayers?' 
He said: 'Prayer during the mid of the night.' 
I asked: 'Which fasting is the best after that of Ramadhan?' 
He said, 'The month of ALLAH that you call Muharram’" - Ahmad, Muslim, and Abu Daud.

Towards the end of His life, Muhammad s.a.w. told the believers to add the 9th day, thus, it is recommended to fast on both the 9th and 10th of Muharram. 
He also indicated how we should observe the fast of Yaumul ‘Asyurah.

In Sahih Muslim, Hakam ibn AlArat r.a. relates:
I went to Ibn Abbas r.a....
"I said to Him: Tell me about fasting on ‘Asyurah.
He said, "When you seen the new moon of Muharram count the (days) and (begin to) observe fast on the 9th."
I said to him: "Is it how the Holy Messenger of ALLAH s.w.t. observed the fast?"
He said, "Yes.".

The book of The Prophet s.a.w.'s sayings also stated that Ibn Abbas r.a. relates that when The Holy Nabi s.a.w said:
"If I survive till next year, I will definitely observe fast on the 9th of Muharram (as well)."

It is advisable that the 'Asyurah fast should either be preceded or followed by another fast.
One should fast two days - the 9th and 10th of Muharram or the 10th and 11th.


Yom Kippur is observed nationally, and is a national holiday in Israel where the country came to a virtual standstill as Israelis across the country began observing the holiest day of their calendar after the ten day period of soul searching that began with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

Most of them spend their holiday in the synagogue, in prayer.
It  is observed by many, even though most Israelis are not Orthodox, these seculars set aside the day to 'afflict the soul', to atone for the sins of the past year.
Their mass synagogue attendance caused synagogue attendance to soar as this day is essentially the day of the last appeal, the last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate the repentance and make amends.
On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed.
Divine judgment of Jews is sealed and their fate is thus decided for the coming year.

The country almost stood on a standstill during the holy day with deafening silence. 
This year, Jewish Year 5771, Yom Kippur began on sunset September 17, 2010 till the nightfall of September 18, 2010.


Although there is no legal prohibition on eating in public but in practice, such action is frowned upon, and is considered impolite to eat in public on Yom Kippur, although they do not fast.
For those who fast, it means undergoing the complete 25-hour fast, refraining from eating and drinking even plain water, beginning before sunset on the evening before, and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur.
For the strict Talmud followers, additional restrictions are imposed on them, being prohibited to wash, bath, using of cosmetics or deodorants, wearing leather shoes and engaging in maritasexual relations are all prohibited on Yom Kippur.
It is customary to wear white, symbolising purity, on Yom Kippur.
Some people wear a kittel, the white robe in which the dead are buried.


Airports are shut down, planes are grounded, none in the sky, and all public transportation is halted.
There is no public transportation nor driving a motor vehicle.
Cars disappeared from roads and highways become empty, used mainly by children on bicycles seizing the rare opportunity to ride in the middle of the street.

Over the last few decades, bicycle-riding and inline skating on the empty streets has become a new tradition.
Emergency driving of cars are likely to be pelted with stones.

Stores, shops, cafes, all businesses are closed.
Yum Kippur sees the day when all Israeli radio and TV broadcasts go off air - No radio or television broadcasts and most likely, the Jews will not go online too, all cooped up with their atonement and their repentance.

How will our Yaumul 'Asyurah today going to be?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Other World - Unseen Creatures And Maximising Positive Energy

Mr Lee of Canada commented,  
"... experiences with uncomfortable night visions, noises, whatever.
As well a relatives house with similar incidences.
Had to call the temple monks to say prayers etc to cleanse the house.
Incidentally it is now the law here when selling a house, you have to mention whether it's 'clean'....meaning no ghosts or whatever.
We had a friend's house here, and his basement would have very often some unearthly visions...
apparently we suspect its his hobby of collecting certain very old artifacts, as well wood carvings.
And it is believed certain spirits were disturbed being brought to Canada. "
Angklung Source: Bandung Visit

Scene One: 
My Mother was surprised that the angklung, a bamboo musical instrument which I bought at Tangkuban Perahu, some 30km away from Bandung, stay put at its place for many years.

She told me of people she knew that in their houses, the musical instrument would move from side to side by itself, thus causes repetition of notes being played.


Scene Two:
The cluster of bamboo trees behind my house when I was staying in Geylang, was the resident of 'a lady' who used to look into open windows of my house.

It was already night time when I thought it was My Mother waiting for me on a small bridge, some 50 metres away.
I hurried my pace to her, and she, with two hands on her back, walked ahead without looking back.

I was surprised when My Mother did not turn to the house, instead walked straight to the extreme corner of the house, leading to a small alley.
I followed my 'unusual-self mother', but stopped when reaching a small alley at the end of the house.

I saw her walked straight to the cluster of bamboo trees and entered her 'house'.

I was surprised at seeing her, although it was only her back.
But I was told that she showed herself only to men.


Scene Three:
A group of four year old nursery children crowded at the glass window to have a look at 'a group of Japanese soldiers' coming out of forested area nearby a mosque in the northern part of Singapore.
The children were talking among themselves of what they were seeing.

The teacher joined them, but could not see anything.
The next day, the same thing happened, and the teacher called a few teaching staff to confirm with their eyes, but they too, could not see anything.
It happened for a few days before parents were told of the few days 'rare' incidents happened for 'only children's viewing'
None reported of their children being 'disturbed' by what they saw.

Were those Japanese soldiers the same imaginary friends that children used to have?
Imaginary friends, GOD willing, will be an entry of itself.


Scene Four:
It was about the same time that My Husband would occasionally give a hand to His close friend delivering hampers and gifts, especially during year-end and festive seasons.
He would sometimes brought home the undelivered or to be delivered early morning the next day, goods and flower arrangements for opening ceremonies and occasions too.

My neighbours, upon seeing the many flowers' arrangement placed at the front porch, would relate stories of so and so, had their purchase of flowers decorated on tree trunks and stumps, being thrown away after sobbings and weepings were heard coming from the the flower decorations being decorated on real cuts of stumps and tree trunks.

Although no unfavourable happenings took place, but I've seen a number of such beautiful flower decorations 'staring' at me.


Scene Five:
I was in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, when, upon entering one of its antique shop selling furnitures, a strong negative energy enveloped the atmosphere, despite the shop being frequented by antique and furniture hunters.

I did not move further exploring the shop when what others saw, was one intricately crafted antique bed made of teak-wood, but I visualised a human being 'laid resting' on it.

So, the unearthy vision that Mr Lee experienced, related well with my experience in the antique shop.


The Prophet s.a.w. said:
"Wearing silk and gold is permitted for the women of my ummah and prohibited for the males." 
- Reported by Imam Ahmad.

Yes, gold jewellery is for women, for adornment, not for consumption and tableware.

Although gold is strictly forbidden for men, The Prophet s.a.w. however, permitted men to wear silver rings.

Al-Bukhari r.a. reported Ibn 'Umar r.a. saying,
"The Messenger of ALLAH s.w.t. wore a silver ring. 
After him, Abu Bakr and then `Umar and `Uthman wore it, 
until it fell off his finger into the well of Arees." 
- Reported by AlBukhari.

Gold is for women, and so is silk, for women too.
I've always encouraged women with heart disease, any kinds of heart disease, to put on silk clothing.
The worm, being nature gift to us human, in the clothing, is therapeutic.

Silk is not for healthy men.
But The Prophet s.a.w. made concessions in the wearing of silken garments on men for medical reasons.
He gave `Abdur Rahman bin `Awf and AzZubayr bin Al`Awwam, both of whom suffered from scabies, permission to wear silk, as reported by AlBukhari.

Gold, silver and silk, naming the above, and things we wear and things around us, believe me, are with its own unique energy.
It has effect on our daily chores.
All I could state here, what we see as merely motionless objects to our naked eyes, do play their specific role in conforming to the Law of Attraction by their energies in them, dispersed to us, human beings.

Didn't The Prophet s.a.w. said, as reported by AlBukari,
"It is better to sit alone than in the company with the bad; and it is better to sit with the good than alone."
It is better to speak to a seeker of knowledge than to remain silent; but silence is better than idle words."

Yes, our daily words usage, people we are with, and the environment we live in, all contributed to the fulfillment and rejection of our wish.

So old artifacts collected over time, had its unused negative energy accumulated, could transform into 'illusionary vision' that could give goose pimples to some.

But untapped positive energy once released, will impact some people of their mind, body, soul and health too.

Wood carvings mentioned by Mr Lee, GOD willing, will be in the next post, around next week, after returning from Batam.
Insufficient time to share it here what's in my mind!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dzulhijjah In Memory And The Drawn 1431 Curtain

Dzulhijjah, the twelfth and final month in the Islamic Lunar Calendar, marking the end of the year.

The CREATOR wants us all to end each of our living years with brotherhood forged and relationships rekindled, that is part of the reason why Haj to Mecca,

Qiblah (Qibla or Kiblah)
being at the centre of the earth, was set during the holy Dzulhijjah month.

Yes, it's one of the four holy months beside the holy Muharram, the first month of each year.
Both are holy months, and GOD strictly forbids fighting but building understanding and relationship for the betterment of all living creatures.

But, when one human's ego is bigger than his head, it is enough to stir anger in some of wicker and wicked hearts beings.
Then dissatisfaction and resentment went spiral, is going, and continues to...

Sacred or not the month of Dzulhijjah is, each heart's desire wins, despite GOD's blessing and warning that human's good (or evil?) deeds, are multiplied many times over.

Dzulhijjah is one of the month when one's heart will most likely be touched by HIS blessing or ...

"4- HE created mankind.
5- HE taught him the speech.
6- The sun and the moon are with calculations.
7- And the stars and the trees they both prostrate.
8- And the sky, HE Raised it and HE set up the Balance.
9- That do not exceed in the Balance.
10- And Establish the Weight with the Justice and do not reduce the Balance.
11- And the earth HE laid it down for the creatures.
12- In it and are date palms having fruit sheaths.
13- And the grains of fragrant having herbs flowers husk.
14-Then with which favours of RABB of you two, you two will?" - (Al-Qur'an 55: 4-14).


As Dzulhijjah 1431 drew its curtain on Sunday, clouds enveloped the sky the whole day.

"It is He Who created everything on the earth for you and then directed His attention up to heaven and arranged it into seven regular heavens. He has knowledge of all things." - (Qur'an, 2:29).

I had experienced of clouds like Sunday, with my phone roaming went dead the whole day.
Agitating to some, but ...
Those were days when our hearts and our whispers were heard...
To some who wants to believe ...

"The thunder glorifies HIS praise, as do the angels, out of fear of HIM.
HE discharges the thunderbolts, striking with them anyone HE wills. Yet still they argue about ALLAH when HE is inexorable in HIS Power!" - (Qur’an, 13:13) 

To some who wants to believe ...


It was the last days of Dzulhijjah 23 AH, or November 1st, 644 AD, that Saidina Umar r.a. while heading the morning prayer in Masjidin Nabawi, he was daggered with six blows over levy that he imposed on a foreign worker.
Thirteen others in the congregation were wounded, before the killer committed suicide by stabbing himself.

When he regained his conciousness, he reminded those surrounding him to stop praising his virtues and qualities.

He asked his son, Abdullah, to ask Aisyah r.a. for permission to be buried beside her Husband, The Prophet s.a.w., and her father, Saidina Abu Bakar r.a.
Umar was permitted to be buried, upon his death, close to to the two people that she was closed to, but with her weeping, she said,

"I had reserved the place for my own burial but I give Umar precedence over myself. Let him be buried there." 

Umar was indeed happy that having his greatest wish fulfilled, saying,

"GOD bless Aisyah. She has fulfilled my greatest wish. Now I can die in peace."

Nothing makes Umar happier than to be close with The Prophet s.a.w. and Saidina Abu Bakar r.a.

"... But I think Aisyah has given me permission out of respect for me. When I die, take me to her house and ask again for her permission..." 
"If she refused, bury me at Baqi'"

His son, Abdullah did as was instructed by his father when he passed away, and again, 'Aisyah gave her permission.


Before his death, Umar asked his son to estimate his unpaid debt - eighty six thousand dirhams*** inclusive of caliph salary that had been drawn from Baitul Mal.
His debt was to be paid from the money which his property will be put on sale.

About his funeral. he reminded his son to be moderate as should GOD Sees anything good in him, and should he is in GOD's favour, then GOD will change him a better shroud.
If otherwise, then he will be strip of all he has.

"... And be moderate in the grave that you dig for me, for verily if there be anything of good with GOD in my favour, HE will widen it for me, and if I have otherwise, HE will make it narrow for me to squeeze my body. "All Praise is to ALLAH. If all the treasures of this world were to be at my disposal, I would offer them as a ransom to be saved from the trial at the Day of Judgement." Umar continued.

These are words who succeeded Saidina Abu Bakar r.a., who, The Prophet s.a.w. had once remarked, "Abu Bakar's name shall be called out from all the gates of Paradise.

But the humble Saidina Abu Bakar r.a. used to say,
"I wish I were a tree that would be cut and done away with." 

"I wish I were a blade of grass, whose life ended with the razing by some beast." 

"I wish I were a hair on the body of a believer."

There was once when he was in a garden, seeing a singing bird, sighing deeply, he said,
"Oh bird, how lucky you are! You eat, you drink and fly under the shade of the trees, and you fear no reckoning of the Day of Judgement. I wish I were just like you."

Saidina Abu Bakar r.a. missed The Prophet s.a.w. so much that when he was ill, he was counting the days to eagerly waiting to 'see' The Prophet s.a.w.

He was always asking his companion,
"What day is it?" They said Saturday.

The next day he asked again
"What day is it?" They said Sunday.

Then he said, "I might die either today or tomorrow.
I wish to die on the same day as The Prophet."
But he did not.

He passed away (of food poisoning) on Tuesday Jumadil Akhir 21, 13 AH (August 23, 634 AD), befitting his ranking as the first caliph after the demise of The Prophet s.a.w., which was on Monday.


"The Messenger Believes in what has been Revealed to him from His LORD, as do the people of Faith. 
Each one believes in GOD, HIS angels, HIS books, and HIS apostles. 
"We make no distinction they say between one and another of HIS Messengers" 
And they say, 
"We hear, and we obey. 
We seek THY forgiveness, our LORD, and to YOU is all journey's end."

On no soul does GOD place a burden greater than it is able to bear. 
It receives every good that it has earned, and it will suffer every ill that it has earned. 
"Our LORD! Do not condemn us if we forget or fall into error! 
Do not lay on us a burden greater than we have the strength to bear. 
Blot out our sins, and grant us YOUR Forgiveness. 
Have Mercy on us. YOU are our Protector. 
Help us against those who stand against Faith." - (Qur'an, 2:285, 86).

*** In Pre-Islamic Persia, a dirham retained a stable gold value of about 4 gram. 
In the Islamic period, Saidina Umar r.a. himself introduced silver coins which was small unit weight of about 3 gram.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Other World - Self-Bred Poltergeist

An unrelated article about current issue with the word poltergeist splashed here and there, sure has the word poltergeist embedded in my mind, and the evil creature, as if physically appeared in front of my eyes.

Poltergeist or ghost, although they are different to some of us ( as ghost's presence in the surrounding is known to be haunting, poltergeist's presence is with its obvious disturbance and nuisance ), they are to me, all the same evil creatures.

Recently, during 'Aidilfitri, a friend received a call from her tenant, wanting her to do 'really something workable' to the house which she rented out to the newly married couple - the bathroom was always wet, as though it had just been used, although the couple were out working the whole day.
Even when the couple were around the house, taps would turn on by itself, blasting out water.

My friend was really lost for idea, having called knowledgeable men to cleanse the house and its area.
For a while, these evil creatures would make peace with them, then when their minds were to be at peace, these evil creatures started their antique characters again.
My friend had stayed briefly in their newly made house which they bought, before her in-laws asked them to stay in another house of theirs, which is just a few doors away from them.

The family had nothing of unpleasant incident about their house which they briefly stayed in.
So, her husband called up the family who moved in not long after they vacated their house in Kota Masai for their experience and opinion.

The family had stayed in the house in Kota Masai since newly married until with few kids and now had stayed in the house that they finally bought.
To the first tenant, they felt the same disturbance intially, but with regular prayers and not showing their fright to the evil creature who wanted to show their authority, they managed to 'chase' them away with regular Qur'an recitations and try to keep indoor when nights fall.

How was my friend going to tell the couple to turn to faith?
Was it a real ghost or poltergeist or... demons in them?

Believe me, some people, with too many negative thoughts in their mind and their hearts, evil creatures or evil spirits are bound to be easily attracted to them.
A person with high anxiety, highly confused, easily angry, always living in great fear and having great doubts about others, all their negative form of mental energy contributes greatly to these evil energies combined together, triggered the character of its main role player, by the 'unseen creatures' living among us, and they always wanted to be part of us and having us following their says.
Our characters and lifestyle, at times, without we realise, had them, these 'unseen creatures' bred in us, that cause our health and led them to inflict diseases in us, too.

I had seen of a family's mental health case with two characters:
The mother, whenever she was severely stressed, ( always caused by the husband's infidelity with numerous flingings with girls across the island ), was pleased to see me around, without realising that she was pouring her heart out.
During her calm days, her husband's infidelity was secretly guarded.

But the couple's only son, a lecturer, whose mental health had caused his job and his marriage, despise me being around whenever he was down with his unreleased tension and frustration.
He would warn people around him of my existence although his usual self is a pleasant, soft-spoken and one knowledgeable man.

For the family, surrendering the mother and son to the mental institution is the only solution, as the mother would unknowingly shamed the father in front their five children, and the father had never deny what the mother said.
She knew what he did with all those girls from across the island, the socks were his favourite place of hiding his money, and how much had he stolen from her.
In reality, during her sober period, she did not even know where her husband was, at such period of time.

The son, with mounting unspoken and unreleased tension and frustrations, could transform such pent-up feelings to huge energy as not only could carry a motorcycle, but even a car, to throw them into rivers and seas.


A cousin, who is in charge of the then newly built teachers' quarters in Pahang, had to be the first tenant to move into the walk up flat.
Again and again, he would knock at his ceiling with long poles, whenever there were pulling, pushing or screeching sound made by these unseen creatures, as though they had just moved into the empty upper floor houses and were arranging furnitures.
He would command them to stop acting foolish, as he is not the person to be fooled around.
Obey they did, and now the flat were all occupied with no 'moving in' of the unseen creatures again.

Then, even engines of the cars of those new tenants who had just moved in, were purposely started by them.

My cousin, even in the wee hours, had to shout and command them to stop their prank, which they all did.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Of Sean, Sam And Petom's Soul

Sean Penn made me watching Sam Dawson in him, when I jolly well knew that myself is not any movie fan.
But few nights ago, over HBO, I saw Sam in Sean and I saw Petom in Sam.

'I Am Sam' is, to me, a good but narrative and insipid Hollywood movie that touches a mental condition that most people would usually not giving a second thought to it.
'I Am Sam' is about Sam Dawson whose normal daughter, Lucy Diamond (Dakota Fanning) is taken away by the court.
Sam, a mentally retarded man with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old, fights for custody of his 7 year old daughter, Lucy Diamond, named after one of the Beatles song, as he is obsessed with the group.

Lucy's mother is a homeless woman whom Sam had a fling with, who abandons him and their daughter as they leave the hospital.


Sam works at a Starbucks but as Lucy coming to the age of seven, she intentionally hold back to avoid looking smarter than her father as Sam's limitations start to become a problem at her school.

The court intervened as it do not advocate severely developmentally challenged folks becoming parents, as the situation can lead to child's unbecoming future.
The authorities take Lucy away.

They had Lucy's best interests in mind, without realising they are doing a despicable act on Sam.
Lucy, while being observed, said to Sam, "I want no other daddy but you."

Then, she turns to the glass and shouts, "Did you hear that? I said I didn't want any other daddy but him. Why don't you write that down?"

When the court asks her, she said, "All you need is love."

Along the custody process, Sam shames his selfish high-priced lawyer Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer), into taking his case pro bono.
Along the custody process too, Sam teaches cold-hearted lawyer Rita, about family value.
Lucy, amidst her father's disability, is a happy child but Rita, with all her success and wealth, brings up a miserable, lonely son.
Rita and her husband had both fail as a parent.

In the process, Rita learns a great deal about family love, and with the help of Rita, Sam finally gets Lucy back with an arrangement that Lucy's foster mother, Randy Carpenter (Laura Dern), who Lucy lived with, during the trial period, help to raise her.


'I Am Sam', a 2001 American drama film, written and directed by Jessie Nelson and Kristine Johnson, and Petom, stuck in her real-life drama, way back before 2001 and way back before I even knew her - her not reel-drama being written and directed by the society at large.

Sam, a man with a developmental disability, lived in Los Angeles, worked at Starbucks, and the sole guardian of his six-year-old intelligent daughter Lucy, after her mother abandoned them.
Cruel as it was, while in preparation for a custody case, Lucy was taken away from Sam by a social worker who turned up at her seventh birthday party, allowing Sam two supervised visits per week.

Petom, with the same mental of Sam, was at home all her life, had never work, so she can be easily lured and worked on by men, old men, very old men, who were always on the pretext of leaving early for the morning prayers.

Whenever Petom was seen holding or bringing back her favourite breakfast, a packet of 50sen nasi lemak in mid-morning, almost all the villagers will knew that very soon, the village midwife will be kept busy, will often visiting her house as Petom will be indoor at all time.

During these time, all the men, old men, very old men, as if by co-incidence, did not easily lure her with the 50sen breakfast, until she delivered one of their many children.

Petom delivered these men's children to the world, without ever holding and nurturing them.

Yes, Petom is the mother of many (?)  children.
These babies would soon be 'given away' by those who assumed she was always in oblivion state when in fact, she knew and could relate happily to me well, how it was having babies kicking inside her and what was it like when in labour.

While Petom had been a mother many (?) times over, her mental dysfunction robbed her of even a whirl parenthood.
As she said, she understood herself well, but even normal people, like her parents, do not bring up normal children.
Some normal parents just happen to have children, just like her.
She claimed, normal people can be bad parents too.

As she said, should there be parenting courses for people like her, she would be more than willing to attend classes, so as to be able to shower her eternal motherly love to her many (?) children.


I see her well reasoning in wanting, if possible, to raise her own kids, is not a passe statement.
It will be voiced again and again, by people like her, with some form of mental disability.
Her yearning heart was not voiced then, to her surroundings.
Even when she did, those people who assumed are having the best mind among the best, 'fit to think', will think, and will take action, on her behalf.

I had acquainted Petom from a distance, always through a third party, who will think, will judge, and took action, on her behalf.
Myself then, had always wanted to be part of the 'sane society', too.


When Sam's high-powered lawyer Rita fought for his right, Petom had her right violated, with no understanding and motherly support from other mothers.

Unlike Lucy's mother who chose to abandon her and her father, Petom had never choose to abandon her children and her men, but all her heartless evil men were all not ashamed of the absent responsibilities they all share, towards her, her children, and their children.
It was the society that chose to determine Petom's children's welfare and future.

Petom, like Sam, with all their limitations, were well-adjusted, at times.
So, she knew by face and by name, who the men were with him, and their houses, and their families.
Who had her the most, and who were with her, the least.


Sam was blessed with his supportive group of friends with the same mental disabilities.
He was able to provide a conducive environment in caring for Lucy, who soon surpasses his mental ability, with the help of his kind neighbour too.

Petom had kind neighbours too, who often saw, amidst the early morning darkness, who the men, old men, very old men were, who often mentioned the 50sen nasi lemak near her room - but they chose to blame Petom solely for all the babies that she bore and gave birth to.
'Her kind neighbours' chose not to blame the men, old men, very old men out of not wanting to cause rift of neighbourly relationships.
Petom's parents were at their wits end for having bias neighbours.


For having bestowed with maternal instinct, come Mondays, Petom would stationed herself at the nearby government polyclinic as she knew come Mondays, mothers would bring their babies and toddlers for checkups and appointments.
She would stand by at the gate, befriending unsuspecting mothers with babies, and would eagerly volunteered to carry them into the clinic, just for the sake of getting close to 'her own babies which she never get the chance to even hold them'.

She was always already at the clinic whenever I had my appointments, all ready, preparing to hold babies, anybody's babies, for that matter, and I was once one of the unsuspecting mothers too.
Although reluctant, I gave in to her, as she gazed with pleading eyes.
At once, her maternal love radiates a warm glow that was never before seen and felt.

But it was short lived, as a nurse grabbed my baby from her as she was happily relating her experience of having babies.
The nurse scolded and shooed her away, warning her of never to come in close contact with babies again, fearing of her kidnapping them.

Petom left the clinic crying her heart out, just like Sam, whom at the trial, broke down after opposing counsel convinced him that he is not capable of being a father.


Lucy had her friends teasing her for having a 'retard' as a father, and she becomes too embarrassed to accept that she is more intellectually advanced than her father, Sam.
And Petom's parents were too embarrassed with the society, especially the villagers, even as how wrong the villagers might be.

Never in the parents' wildest dream that they have had a daughter like Petom, or a son like Seman, whom some of the men, old men, very old men, who befriended Seman's sister, taught and passed their 'skills' to Seman.

So, Seman could be found coming out from the house wearing baju kurung, very early before dawn, on the pretext of leaving early for morning prayers, but hid himself among bushes, 'exposing' himself to unsuspecting passers-by.

Petom and Seman's parents, did have a 'normal' married daughter, whom after their marriage, as it was known, the husband, and not the wife, who took the daily planning pills.


Unlike helping Sam's parental rights, had helped lawyer Rita herself, with her family problems and repairing her relationship with her son, but Petom's life revolved around the village, the villagers and the society, who, altogether, had prejudge her with their undisputed judgment - she is, until today, a village menace who needs no sympathy, and her presence is best ignored, by those neighbours who had used her,
by families of neighbours who had abused her,
and by neighbours who knew of neighbours who had exploited her mental develpoment disability.

Through 'I Am Sam', I am able to have a better understanding of Petom - she knew what she had wanted all along: Seeing her children.
But what she needed: Holding them, was not even met.

Such a wisdom taken by the 'sane society',
the wisdom that is still existing until today.  

'I Am Sam' offered me a unique twists of reel-life 'sane society' versus all the real-life mental disabilities saga.

Should I be able to turn back the clock...
If I could, I surely would be trying.

But I had just recently found out,
Petom had just recently passed away. 


Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Haj - There Is Always Leeway For HIS Special Guest

It was very unlikely that Sarah would hide from me about her husband's Haj pilgrimage.

Her sisters, whom we met at their mother's house, could not answer on her behalf, as Sarah is more open to me about almost everything of hers, than with them.

I had just knew that Mus, her husband, is now performing the final Islamic pillars when we went to her mother's house for Eidul Adha visit last Sunday. 


Sarah's mother was once minding my children when they were small, although she has seventeen children of her own. 
Now, after my children are all adult, our families' relationship is as good as ever. 
Until today, I tried to make a point to visit Sarah's mother, once in a month or two. 
The elderly lady never fails her yearly 'Aidilfitri visit to my house, as according to her children, I have always a very special place in their mother's heart. 

After I moved to town, not too faraway from Sarah's working place in Tropical Inn, Sarah became much closer to me as she would spent her Saturdays in my house, bringing her workmates along, always having her favourite dish, Chicken Rice. 
During the 90s, the dish was not served in many Malay foodstalls in JB, so I often cooked it as it's good for growing children too, having garlic and ginger in it. 
Now, I could not remember when was the last time since my last cooking of Chicken Rice, as it is now being sold at almost every stalls.  


When Sarah, in her early 20s, decided to marry Mus, she spent most of her decision moments at my house.

Mus, more than twenty years her senior, is very much older than Sarah's eldest sibling, and only a couple of years younger than her mother - they were married anyway, and stayed in Sarawak where Mus was stationed. 
She would drop by my place whenever she was in JB, to have her Chicken Rice. 
She came back to JB upon Mus's retirement from his high ranking government post. 

Unlike his former working colleagues who make the best of knowing the right contact, Mus, somehow, struggled with his post-retirement, for wanting to lead a clean living and earning an honest income for his five family members. 
To supplement his income, beside the monthly pension, Mus had experienced working as a pump attendant, and a gardener too. 

Today, when he is off-duty, he can usually be found in one of the mosque in his housing estate, where he volunteered his service since more than ten years ago.  


Mus had always wanted to perform his pilgrimage, possibly, with his wife too.
But with Malaysia's waiting list of 500,000 prospective pilgrims, their queue will only surface in 2024.
Sarah was worried as Mus will be in his 70s then, and she has doubt about her husband being fit to perform without difficulties.
Then, there's finance to look into.

We had to assure him, Haji Mabrur is more about our intentions and more about our hearts.
Just stay focus, set the year for our departure to visit HIS house, and the rest, soul searching...

Being one of HIS invited guest is not about quota allocated by Saudi or personal finance.
Mus very much doubted it, as much as I doubted that too - when Tabung Haji called me in 2005, to say the agency was sending my airplane ticket via Poslaju to be shown to Singapore's Islamic Council (MUIS), I was surprised too.


We talked about his much anticipated Haj during the recent 'Aidilfitri visit.
We assured him finance is not an issue, as we had assured others, who were raring to go, or whom we think duty is upon us to make their dreams come true, or to ask them, especially the elderlies with no means, to make their holy journeys.
It's not only Haj, but also when filial duty or responsibilities are severed because of living difficulties.

InsyaALLAH there is always ways for the insufficence to be met, but Mus was severely depressed when his application was being turned down by Tabung Haji again.


I called Sarah on Monday.
She is still in a state of shock and disbelieve as she related her story.

She is confused about informing others of her husband's Haj pilgrimage, lest, as she said, others would think she is bragging about it.
I had to assure her that informing others of our journey to visit HIS house is not about bragging, as I would usually go to her  mother's house informing the lady about my journey.

I had to tell her, upon Mus's return, it is now her husband's duty, to inform her sixteen siblings with their spouses, of their duty to complete their pillars.
Most of them should have been there many years ago, as it is only Sarah and her eldest sister who are with only a house and a car.
The rest, with at least two houses and at least two cars.


Towards the end of last month, as usual, Mus was in the mosque in which he is a volunteer. 

A man whom he had never met, not even once, approached him, asking him if he had done his pilgrimage. 
When he said he had never been there, the man offered to send him, convinced him that he did his pilgrimage, yearly.

It puzzled Mus as it has been years that he is waiting for his turn with bated breath, and here, the man in front of him, is there every year. 
Nevertheless, he went to Tabung Haji again, and again, his application was being turned down - most Malaysian pilgrims were already in The Holy Cities. 

The next day, Mus received a call from the man, telling him there were two available vacancies for 2010 Haj via a private agency in KL. 
Mus was hesitant initially, as part of the amount of RM13,000 by Tabung Haji is already too much for the man he did not even know his name, to bear. 
Now, the figure of RM19,000. 
But Mus was immediately asked to make a passport and to go for injection. 

Sarah was all along in a state of awe, could not think of what is next to be done. 
As she said, both husband and wife could not think straight.
Even the feast for well-wishers, few days before her husband's departure, was prepared by the wives of the mosque's committee members. 
Beside her husband's few friends who attended the kenduri, there were many more whom she had never met. 


Mus went to Tabung Haji again, this time, not to ask about quota, but to ask about the RM4,000 which the well wishers presented him. 
He had asked around, and there were too many contradicted versions of what to do with the money. 
Only when one of the Tabung Haji's officer assured him that the money is rightfully his, he did not have to spent it all in The Holy Places, he can  either use it for his family's need, or save it if he wished to, then his mind was at peace for, he had always wanted to lead a clean living and earning an honest income for his five family members. 
He decided to leave the RM4,000 with Sarah knowingly, she needed it more than he can spend it all.


A day before his departure, they were all at home, waiting for Sarah's sixteen siblings with their spouses to turn up, but none did.
Mus is an only child and his parents were no more around.
They went to visit Sarah's mother before night fall as Mus had to leave for Senai Airport early in the morning.

The next day after Subuh, the man who made possible of Mus's pilgrimage, turned up at their house early in the morning, before everyone else did.
He handed RM4,000 to Mus, this time, for his pocket money in The Holy Cities.
He left not long before Mus's friends and the mosque congregation turned up to see him off to Senai Airport early this month.

Until Sarah reached home from Senai Airport, there were still no sight of her sixteen siblings with their spouses.

*** Some changes made.

Profit From The Poor

Fifty-four suicides in Andra Pradesh  have blown the lid off the social posturing by microfinance companies. Before the news of the deaths sank in, the country feted Vikram Akula, head of SKS Micro-finance, as the new messiah of microcredit. A 273 per cent growth in loan disbursement and returns to investors made him a national hero. India’s micro-finance institutions claim they followed the fabled Grameen Bank model of Bangla­desh. In reality, they went against its principles. And the government did not do enough; regulations are fleeting and they don’t touch where it hurts most: the high interest rates.
Richard Mahapatra reports from Andhra Pradesh. Arnab Pratim Dutta charts the growth trajectory of India’s microfinance institutions
imageAn SHG in Warangal’s Jawahar Colony meets to discuss joint liability in October (Photo: Sayantan Bera)Ega Mounika was born into debt, lived in debt and died with debts. The college-going 20-year-old of Warangal’s Karimabad village immolated herself on September 25; three days later, she died. “My daughter wanted to release us from debt,” said her father Laxmi Narayan who sustained burn injuries trying to rescue her. He owns a paan shop and always had debts, which is why no bank found him worthy of a loan. So five years ago, when a microfinance institution (MFI) approached her mother, a beedi roller, offering a loan of Rs 10,000, Mounika was quick to say yes. She bought a sewing machine with the money, started a tailoring business, dividing her time between studies and the new machine. “Things were fine for two weeks,” said Narayan, “then we began to default.” Loan repayment is usually weekly in microfinance.
That was how the family entered a labyrinth of debts; nobody knew the way out. They borrowed afresh to pay off old debts and sank deeper. The only way they could avoid default was by taking yet another loan. “We took four loans worth Rs 80,000 from four different companies,” Narayan said. But that was hardly a solution. The family earned Rs 4,500 a month and had to repay loan installments of Rs 10,000 a month. With five loans on their head, Mounika’s family had a loan installment to repay almost every day. Then there were the three emergency loans of Rs 5,000 from moneylenders at 120 per cent interest in the past three years. Every day for five years, MFI collection agents would come to their house and get rough. “There was no peace any more, the family was ruined,” Narayan said.
On September 25, the collection agents told Mounika’s mother, sell your daughter to the flesh trade and repay. Mounika chose to die. Even before the family could come out of shock, the agents were back at their door. When Narayan asked for time, they refused saying the business model of microfinance companies does not allow that. Had the borrower committed suicide, in this case Mounika’s mother, the lending company could have claimed the sum from the insurance company as all loans are insured. No wonder, people have alleged MFI agents abet suicide (see ‘How the noose tightens’,).


If I am not creditworthy why did four MFIs give me loan? I need both credit as well as support to help me set up business that will be viable

MANJULA GIRABENI, MFI customer, Warangal, Andhra Pradesh

Some 20 km away, Mohammad Saif of Jawahar Colony feels lucky. His mother attempted suicide on October 20 but survived. She got loans worth Rs 2 lakh from four companies. But even after paying for over 400 weeks, the outstanding amount is around Rs 1.5 lakh. Saif said he sold his autorickshaw; the small hotel they ran is shut down.
In 2006, his mother along with 13 other women in the neighbourhood, had formed a self-help group (SHG). Under the state government’s Indira Kranthi Patham programme—linking SHGs to banks for loans based on group savings—they saved money every month for a year to get a bank loan. Only three women got a loan from the SHG as regulations stipulate revolving loans. A year of saving and ensuring that everybody complies took time.
“I withdrew. Then a microfinance company came to my doorstep and gave me Rs 14,000,” said Sarojini Rathipilli, a resident. She set up a sari shop but with a sale of one sari in three or four days, she had to take another loan to repay the first one. In four years she accumulated four loans and weekly repayment that was 10 times her earning.
“Repayment takes away everything, even the business set up with MFI loans,” said Matapalli Radhika, a borrower. No business started with loans from MFIs has survived in Jawahar Colony, where almost every family has taken a loan. Now as they try to revive the SHG, the past default doesn’t qualify them to access loan from a bank. The alternative: moneylenders.
Village after village in Warangal only confirms that the rural credit business has undergone a suicidal makeover. There is great need for credit that is in short supply from benign sources like public sector banks. It becomes clear that every borrower from a microfinance company has suffered acutely because of the failures of other public credit programmes.
Advantage MFIs
Bhagyalaxmi Mahila Multi-aided Cooperative Society in Enugallu village in Warangal’s Parbutagiri block has a public credit programme that has not failed its borrowers. It has several SHGs as members and gets loans from nationalised banks showing group savings. The repayment rate has been encouraging at 80 per cent. The cooperative society, unlike microfinance companies, distributes profits among members; this year it gave a dividend totalling Rs 3 lakh and set aside Rs 5 lakh as revolving fund to attract more bank loans. “The 15 per cent interest is heaven compared to 36 per cent of the MFIs,” said Turi Laxmi, president of the cooperative.
But things are changing. Banks have suddenly stopped loans to the cooperative; they lend directly to SHGs. Bhagyalaxmi is an innovation. It has been recommended by many high-level government panels on rural credit. “The average loan amount with an SHG is not adequate. But banks refuse to recognise us,” said T Yugandhar of Sanghatitha Mahila MACS Federation, Andhra Pradesh, the apex body of such cooperative societies with over 2,174 SHGs as members. The cooperative got its last bank loan in April 2008. “Without immediate loans we will not be able lend to the rural poor. This obviously leaves space for MFIs to capture,” he said.
Rural India’s subprime crisis
Warangal’s story repeats itself in And­hra’s 22 other districts; it is constricted by a rural credit crisis. Around 75 per cent of India’s MFIs are located here.
The current crisis in Andhra Pradesh is the rural Indian version of the subprime crisis in the US in 2006. It started at the same time and with a similar unsustainable model of credit that involved high risk and high profit. In subprime lending, organisations give loans to people with poor credit worthiness. In the US, subprime lured many to multiple loans. But these loans had mortgages like the house or the car borrowers bought with the loan. MFIs adopted the same model but without a collateral. In the US lending companies took the hit while in Andhra Pradesh borrowers were crushed.
imageThe news of recent suicide deaths provoked workers of a political party to vandalise the office of an MFI in WarangalAccording to information submitted by MFIs on October 29 to the state government, 50 per cent of rural poor households in the state have taken multiple loans. The interest rate ranges from 21.2 per cent to 60.5 per cent.
Down To Earth accessed these MFI submissions and found more than 80 per cent borrowers are from non-farm sectors. The majority of the rural poor sought loans to sell vegetables, run a dairy or do scrap and steel business. MFIs lend close to Rs 200 crore every week to non-farmers. According to a confidential report prepared by the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), state government body linking SHGs with banks for credits, of the 54 suicides in the state recently, allegedly due to harassment by MFI agents, 45 were by landless. “Most MFI borrowers are landless. And unlike the last spate of farmer suicides five years ago, mostly non-farmer and first time borrowers died in the current wave,” said Narasimha Reddy, journalist with Eenadu.
SHGs slow but steady
A survey found that only three per cent of rural borrowers were confident of getting a bank loan. Thus the SHG-bank linkage is a bonanza. Women first save—usually Rs 30-40 a month per member in a group of 14—for close to a year. The banks treat the savings as the collateral and lend an equal amount or more at 14-15 per cent interest. The SHG re-lends at around 16-24 per cent interest after assessing the borrower’s ability to pay back. Since 2006, under the Pavalla Wadi scheme SHG members pay an interest of three per cent while the state government bears the rest.


On one hand you are for profit so that you can attract capital from the market. On the other, you are under pressure from investors to grow fast. It is now all about making profit


The state has the country’s largest number of micro-credit groups—975,362 SHGs with 11 million members. The number of SHGs has increased 10 times in the past decade covering almost 90 per cent of the state’s rural women.
An impact assessment by the Centre for Economic and Social Studies in Hyderabad, published in May this year, shows that while the micro-credit did help many, the sum was grossly inadequate. It found SHG members sourced 71 per cent of their credit demand from informal sources (read, moneylenders and relatives with interest rates ranging from 60 to 120 per cent).
Around 100,000 SHGs are yet to be linked to banks and thus to credit. “This probably explains why nationalised banks are lending less to SHGs and doing bulk lending to MFIs. This has been the trend since 2005,” said Kurapati Venkatanarayana, professor of economics with Kakatiya University, Warangal.
Another problem is the 12 per cent subsidy on interest. People pay the 15 per cent interest to the bank; after it certifies the SHG has repaid all loans, the government directly reimburses the 12 per cent in the SHG account. But there is a catch. “Banks delay the certification and it takes one to two years for the subsidy money to come through,” said Rama Jyothi, an independent observer.
Time is another factor. It takes an SHG three to four months to get a bank loan and another month to disburse. “Many banks don’t allow SHGs to lend their savings. This brings down the credit available,” admitted B Rajsekhar, chief executive officer of SERP.


The poor can handle credit, but it must be provided at a moderate interest rate. The current microfinance institutions tilt towards extreme profitability

VIJAY MAHAJAN, president, Microfinance Institutions Network

Given this widening gap in supply people turn to MFIs for credit. “These companies tapped into an organised captive market,” said Vijay Mahajan, president of the Microfinance Institutions Network (MFIN), a self-regulatory body of for-profit MFIs. An MFI loan is with the borrower in three days. With no collaterals there are two ways to ensure repayment: form a joint liability group (JLG); if one member defaults the group is responsible. The other is coercion. An MFI collection agent gets around 55 per cent of his salary as incentive if collection meets the target.
Close to 80 per cent of SHG members have taken MFI loans. Andhra Pradesh is a pointer to the future. As MFIs scale up in the rest of India they will most likely deliver similar distress on a wider scale.

Read more:  Rise And Rise Of MFIs

Source:  Down To Earth

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Haj - Mina's Environment Issues And Ka'abah's Pulling Force

Haj pilgrims had all symbolically stoned iblis in Mina, the barren valley that is surrounded by rocky hills.
The five-level car-park like structure around the three Jamrah sites had allowed for a smooth flow for the symbolic act of self-purification.
This year, forecasted rain had swept Mina.
It thus disrupted pilgrims' retreat for Mecca, Madinah and home as the Haj season drew to a close.
The final rituals of the Haj, Tawaf Wida' performed, then these pilgrims will leave Makkatul Mukarramah.

It was reported the downpour had resulted in an ankle-deep water.
It has flooded all streets from Mina to Mecca.
Pilgrims, especially those who squatted on pavements and in public spaces in Mina, were caught off guard.
The rain was never in one's mind.
City of tents, Mina Click to view high resolution version

The Prophet s.a.w., stayed in Mina area during His Haj.
The stay had been ritually followed.
And staying arrangements had since been made throughout the centuries, nearly filling up the entire Mina area with tents to fit up to three million people. 

Mina is with two faces: 
Outside the Haj season, it's a haunting zero occupant white tent city. 
But come Dzulhijjah, it's abuzz with human activities - rituals and business - that makes it almost impossible to walk in the streets.

During the Haj season, Mina Tent City is injected with bodies and souls of Haj pilgrims.
What is there to say about Haj as being an eye opener in Mina?
Three to four million people from all walks of life, all over the woid, occupied the city for an average of only three days in a year, all at the same time.

Organising such a amssive event is no mean feat. The organisers deserve en-mass praises for the continuous effort in making one's Haj a safe journey. More praises for themif it is eternally etched in a memorable, significant moment of being close to GOD.


But after deeply engrossed in prayers for HIS acceptance, making up any shortcomings of the past, praying like there is no tomorrow in 'Arafah, praying for all the very best, and We ask everything that We wanted more than needed, these people, Myself too, contributed environment issues where they, and Myself too, left Our footprints behind. 

Authorities face the daunting task of cleaning up, after pilgrims turned the tents and streets into garbage dump, that pervaded every open space.

Rain or sunshine, the streets of Mina were bound to be with patches of coloured water on the road surface, and littered with all kinds of trash.

Pilgrims and traders create rubbish mould pretty fast - faster than the place can be cleared of all trash.
Should simple and sensible "no littering everywhere classes", be conducted and included in the pre-Haj courses too?

The unsightly amount of garbage all around, makes one wonder, where's the saying that cleanliness is part of the believe.
These old habit of littering and leaving litters meant nothing to irresponsible pilgrims.

Even when we picked them up and cleared them in front of their very eyes, they bat no eyelid, or at their very best, they pretended not to see anything.
Purification, being part of Islamic faith is yet being ignored.


The first thing needs to be done before each prayer is in a state of ablution.
Being clean is always the demarcation of being into the religion and GOD's acceptance.
But in Mina, where's the religious value being placed? 
Is it left at home when old habit of littering around is in tow?

Binmen could be seen toiling and pushing overflowing bins, sweeping the streets and loading large garbage containers onto lorries.
The number of  7,000 workers to clean The Holy Cities round-the-clock, I doubt is sufficient to help clean the cities.


Some people were adamant of 'answering ALLAH's call. 
Unable or unwilling to bear the cost, they would find their own spiritual journey ways to sneak into Mecca, 'Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina. 
They armed themselves with carpets, straw mats, or simply discarded cardboard boxes for them to take a rest by the roadside, or any vacant place for that matter. 
They did not mind the unclean tarmac, walked on by millions sandals and shoes.

These adamant pilgrims sleep on pavements and under the bridges too.

Colourful blankets and carpets were spread in open spaces and some camped in the street

Pilgrims with young children had their meals at the place surrounded with trash flowed out. 
It can be scattered around bin amidst growing litters around them.
Rubbish grew faster than they could be collected.

Some were used to the surroundings, they did not mind dirt and rubbish as their situation back home was of no difference.

Cleanliness, the basic hygiene tenet, is obviously ignored.
Pray in such environment?
GOD answers them, not us.

Police turned a blind eye on them, thus walking around could cause chaos. 
Pilgrims could be found sleeping on th streets. 
they could be seen fighting for space too. ace too.
They were all over the streets, that led to slowed down moving vehicles and pedestrians' movements. 

Photos: Muslimmatters.

Unofficial tents perched on rocky terraces and hills too. 
Some pitched their tents at steep inclines on the mountainsides and on top of the mountains too.


I was in Mina in 2001 for Haji Ifrad flying from Singapore to Jeddah and 2005 for Haji Tamattu', flying from JB straight to Madinah Airport.
On both occasions, thank GOD, I was lucky for being with the right agency.

For the Ifrad, we flew from Singapore to Jeddah, left our luggage in Hilton and did our Tawaf Qudum before leaving for 'Arafah.

In Mina, we were given two places - the tents, which were very near to the Jamrah sites, or an apartment in Shisha, within Aziziyah which is in between Makkah and Mina.
For the elderlies and those who had no issue with public toilets and sharing with tens of others, the tents was  the answer but the majority of us, we chose Shisha, less than half an hour's walk to the Jamrahs.
After all, Shisha itself ends where Jamrah starts.

The three Jamrah sites, before my 2005 Haj, were only tall pillars with low circular walls which some enthusiastic pilgrims would accidentally threw pebbles at others, on the opposite side. 
No distance or toilet issues arise when I was in Shisha as we would walk to the tents after 'Asr, had the night prayers in the tents and left at midhight for Jamrah sites.
Our tents which were left almost empty, with only a few number of the agency's own pilgrims during daytime,  were usually occupied by pilgrims from another Singapore tour agency who did not book another accommodation in Aziziyah.

Even then, an elderly lady in her late 60s, lost her direction on our way to Jamrah sites, when our group of around 130 was intercepted midway, by one of the big number of few hundred Indonesian group.
For two days, there was a frantic search for her, although she was known to be always independent, always on her feet, raring to explore new places.
Thanks a million to Malaysian Tabung Haji as she was finally sent back to Hilton by its staff, dirty clothings, crying and shivering, traumatised by the temporary disappearance incident.

Although an unlikely story, but for that two days, she was not provided with any food or drinks as, according to her, some of the Indonesian pilgrims claimed Singaporeans, like her, are loaded with money, so there was no need of them to provide her with compassionate free meals.
Only GOD knows why.
Days followed in Mecca, Madinah and Jeddah, transformation to a mellowed person in her, followed too...


When I did my Haj 2005, for safety reason and as not to allow pebbles flying across, the relevant authority had erected a 26 m (85') long walls around the three Jamrahs.
A single tiered Jamrah bridge, meant for pedestrians, was built around them too, so pilgrims could cast their pebbles from either the ground level or from the bridge, if it was daytime.

There was once when we had to wait in the tents, as the scheduled after Zohor Jamrah time was postponed to after Magrib because of sudden crowd.
Despite the stern warning, few men defied the order and went ahead to perform the ritual after the Zohor prayers, as it was said they had to make several turns as they had to perform on behalf of their parents.

When one of the men did not came back with the group he went with, the search team was not even allowed to go out doing their duty as there was great sandstorm blowing.
It was only after two hours can the search be resumed, and he was found lifeless because of fatigue.

The sudden overcrowded one of the Jamrah's place was caused by luggage fell from a bus, thus causing a bottleneck.
Some pilgrims tripped on them and those who were tripped were then crushed by the wave of people behind them that led to a stampede causing 345 deaths.

Because of the postponement, we made do with the pavement to wait after midnight, for the the next day's pebble casting to save the three and a half kilometre walking journey back to the tents.
To reach Jamrahs, we had to pass through the three and a half kilometre Muassim tunnel which in 1990, 1,426 lives were snapped away just because of movement flows of pre and post Jamrahs were not in proper queue. 
The Muassim stampede led to the regulation of all Haj pilgrims needed to wear bracelets with self and country's identity, and blood group too, for instant identification in emergency cases.

Just a week earlier, four Malaysians were among 76 people killed when Al Ghaza hotel collapsed in Mecca.


Unlike the Haj 2001, this time in 2005, we stayed at Mina Tent City for a few days.
The three days in the big but crowded tent-stay, made me realise why the previous Haj agency did not mind to spend extra for the Shisha stay to avoid physical discomfort for many.

Although courses for processes and procedures, dos and don'ts were organised years ahead and prospective pilgrims' attendance reminders after reminders were mailed home, one is hard to leave home the signatured old habits, cultural and personal beliefs and to attach with them only the stamped real religious practice.

It could be a taxing period for some, creeping up their nerves with ceaseless coughings from one end of the tent to another.
Getting sick is one's health but to spread germs to others, its cruel.

Leaving spitted tissue lying around is disgusting.
It will expose germs and spreading it around in the air.
Personal hygiene lost in thin air, sure is the most unkindest act to other Haj  pilgrims.
The sacred Haj spirit is lost too.

If everybody acknowledge of not contributing to make matters worst, then in no time, hearing coughings and  seeing spittings is but a once upon a time story of a long, long time ago Haj.
Action taken there and then will shorten the Mina's living discomfort, no denials about that.
Let the Mina stay be a clean, healthy and sick free stay.

Sad to note when some pilgrims found Zamzam not drinkable, not even meant for health when the water had miraculously flowing from its source, underneath the Ka'abah, amidst the barren desert of Mecca for over 4,000 years.

It's best I think, to firstly prepare our veryselves, with correcting our very own innerselves and our daily habits before to psychologically preparing for any unbecoming disgusting inborn attitude of others, and the unbecoming health act of theirs.
Prepare ouselves for the worst, InsyaALLLAH, our minds are all prepared for the next unpredictable scene.
The shock of the least expected of others' daily lives may not be too shocking as to affect our psychology that played in our minds that may place doubts in us and our beliefs. 
Listen and learn not only to accept the rewards of Haj, but also the trying, negative aspects of the masses process, lest, it will come as a big shock.


For a peaceful shower in Mina, one needs to head the toilet at 3.00a.m.
Showering in the day time is a no, as we will invite bangings on toilet doors.
For just relieving oneself, be prepared to spent at least half an hour in the queue alone.
Ablution in Mina is done best with handy bottled water.

It's good to always having tissue, wet wipes and bottled water within our reach, and possibly, bring them to the toilet too.
No one knows when to open the tap with no running water.

Some toilets may come as a shock:
Either we get used to it - some people entering and walking out of the toilets without seeing anything or pretending nothing unpleasant is around - or, we shun them all, for days ahead.
But for some who lives and places toilet cleanliness and hygiene at the topmost of this Haj pilgrimage, toilet issues can go a long way.
The pilgrimage can be dreaded for life.

Hundreds of people share the units of toilets within the same tent area in Mina, thousands in 'Arafah and Muzdalifah, and millions in areas of Masjidil Haram and Masjidin Nabawi.
Pilgrims from the world over, bringing along with them good and evil hearts and habits, congregate into the Holy Cities to perform their rites and rituals, thus allowing toilet users to use and abuse it, all behind close doors.

Honestly, I've been to toilets in areas of Masjidil Haram for just a couple of times, and found many women with children, sleep and I think, stay there too.

I've never been to toilets nearby Masjidin Nabawi but looking back, the minor detail of toilet issues did not occupy My mind.
All these health and toilet issues will fade into insignificance, as Haj by itself, is such an amazing experience.

Haj experience is one undescribable beautiful memories that is hard to be pen even by best writers too. Suffice to say, the memory always bring out the best in each individual.

I've been to places in other countries, that fared much worse than the batnrooms and toilets in Mina

- An open air toilet in running river, men's section at the lowest end, where one has just to perch on the bridge across it, above women's section, to have the full bird's eye view.

- Toilets in remote forested boarding school, in mountainous area, were just big holes dug deep into the ground.
Stench emitted will get stuck to us,felt like vomiting it out from us. It upset our stomach.

- Mountain top home toilet with just a foot high bamboo partition sans its door, and

- Toilets in exclusive restaurants with the traditional doorless - no doors at all.
All activities inside the cubicles are for all the toilet users and passers' by eyes.

Just to name a few which I can think of, as now.

The toilets in The Holy Cities itself had to deal with thousands of people all over the world.
It is impossible to have its own time to clean itself unless, the users themselves clean it after each use - as how they want it to be sparkling clean all the time, for their own use.


This year,  Arab News  reported that over 1,500 Pakistani pilgrims shouted slogans against the Pakistani mission outside their 2 tents, at the edge of Muzdalifah.

Quoting Zulqarnain Ahmad,
“As per our package and arrangement with the mutawwif we were promised breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dry fruits, but we did not get anything. Furthermore there are neither bedsheets nor pillows in our camps. And above all there is no water, which has made the situation worse, compelling us to come out and protest.”

A similar situation occurred for some 800 Qatar pilgrims, including 250 women.
Although they were provided good hotels in Madinah, their tour operator did not make arrangement for their stay in Mina.
Only two tents were provided - all 250 women were accommodated in one tent, and around 200 elderly pilgrims in another - the rest had to make do with the pavements.
The tents were temporary ones erected using pipes and tarpaulin with no air conditioners or toilets.
They were agitated about the lack of of basic amenities in their tents in Mina on their first day in the valley.

In 1997, fire took 340 lives and injuring some 1,500 others.
Since then, steps were taken ensuring all 40,000 durable fireproof tents and cooling systems being placed.


These news sobers me enough but the urge to always be there is as great as ever.

The mention of Haj is enough to brim one's eyes with tears, chocked us with emotion.masjid-nabawi

It gives us another perspective of how much The Prophet s.a.w. and His Companions r.a. went through, in order to get the message of Haj directly passed to us, fourteen centuries later, in its originality, although the twenty first century's Haj has been made easiest for us, in a more bearable universality of the Haj atmosphere.

Haj, the perfection of faith, with its most basic meaning translates to an act of continuous strive in reaching one’s goal.
The rigourous rituals which had just been tasked to all recent pilgrims of diverse nationalities, as according to The Prophet s.a.w., in his last Haj sermon, is to convey the meaning and message of the rituals they had just performed, to those in their homelands irrespective of faith, who were not present during the world's greatest spiritual assembly.

Haj pilgrimage is best summarised as spiritual journey to reach HIM, taken by humans who are just mere physical creatures possessed by THE ONE beyond the material world.

'Whoever performs Haj and does not commit any wrongdoing, they'll be in the state of pure', as it's best said.

Ka'abah is gravititional.
Kaaba in the Grand Mosque
Ka'abah is very inviting, to lay bare our hearts and souls all for HIM to see.

Pilgrims from distant land come to Mecca or Baca as in the  bible
(Psalm 84:
5.Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.
6.Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.
7.They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God),
to be part of the whirling scene, likened to orbiting planets, never strayed away from the designated path, until THE CREATOR call it the day.

The experiences and emotions to be put ito words???
The very inviting Ka'abah invites all sincere guests - Be truthful to ownself.
Its JUST OWNER selects HIS guests: So Be One Of Them.
People from all walks of life, bringing with them plentiful of requests and needs.
Bring more and more of ours, too.

The seeing is believing experiences had transformed many pilgrims, if not all, for the betterment in leading ones life.
It's all about amazement, from the niat to the tahallul, amazing and relieved for being able to complete the challenging journey of Haj.

Turning over a new leaf, a changed person, feeling physically, mentally and spiritually cleansed, it's all part of HIS acceptance.
A fresh, spotless new chapter in one's life journey continues...