Saturday, April 18, 2009

Oops, I Did It Again!


As I'm sitting here writing, a pot of 'ayam masak pedas - adibah's style' is boiling on the stove in the kitchen, and I'm still debating whether to slide into bed for a well-deserved (?) sleep or simply find bits and pieces of things that I can work on to make up for lost time. I've been practically pulling an all-nighter, but haven't been productive at all through that, so you can put the dilemma into context.

I don't know why is it that transportational or travel mishaps seem to favour me more than the average person that I knew. Perhaps it is my haphazard way of doing things, my frequency of travelling which makes me statistically more prone to accidents, maybe I am simply meant to be unique in this respect, and it could be that almost everyone else had similar share of misfortunes but me in my self-centredness thought that it was only me.

I slept through Kolej MARA Banting bus stop and woke up somewhere in Labohan Dagang while in college, slept through the Guchil stop and went straight to Kota Bharu during home-bound journeys to Kelantan (refer Pagi), chasing almost-missed buses, trains, and even FLIGHTS for God-knows-how-often (missed some of them anyway), and actually I barely managed to catch the flight that will take me to the UK for the first time in September 2006. For more than once, the bus I was in start emanating weird smoke stuff in the middle of the journey, rendering everyone victim to a quick get-out-in-the-midst-of-nowhere-and-find-a-new-transport ritual.
My luggage was left in Malaysia while I landed in Heathrow on August 2007.

I had spent chunks of night in airports and bus stations - usually alone - while clutching my bag for dear life (but falling dead asleep anyway, with no guarantee whatsoever to the integrity of the safety clutch). God knows how often I was saved by some kind souls who woke me up and telling me what time is it and how concerned they are that this lone 'young lady' might miss her transport.

And let's not start talking about me braving my own way in new, unknown (and even well-known) places and getting lost. Foolhardy? Adventurous? Naah, I think I'm just plain disorientated when it comes to mapping roads and ways, which is actually ironic considering how much I travel alone. It happened once more, just the day before yesterday, to be exact - trying to walk my way from Princess Street to Manchester Victoria, which I think any self-respecting Mancunian who had been around for circa 2 years and a half would have been able to do, but I finally had to give up and find the nearest bus stop. A shame, really.

Last night, I did it again. Or rather, it happened again to me. No, I wasn't lost. The last train lost me by departing without me. Hehe. For some reason, late yesterday afternoon, I rushed to a neighbouring city by train - only bothering to check the departure time from Manchester. When I finally got back to the train station in that particular city, at about eleven p.m., to my dismay I discovered that there were only four outgoing trains scheduled to depart on the electronic display board - for the rest of the night. None of them were going to Manchester. Not even passing Manchester. And I am utterly alone, armed only with a handbag containing a cardiovascular textbook, a poetry book, a compass, my wallet, phone and keys.

Now, that city is not like our vibrant Manchester which would be alive no matter at what hour. At eleven p.m., the only people around are several party-goers, drunkards, last-minute travelers, and shabby elderly men shambling around the train station. Understandably I'd feel less safe. Nevertheless, I feel it is too much to ask my friends to leave their houses after sending me off to the station, to pick me up - again. I decided on a second option - the nearby coach station. Unfortunately, no coach home that night, earliest coach at four a.m. with a really really long transit at another city and I'll reach Manchester Central by about eight a.m., probably three-quarters dead from exhaustion. Some checks revealed that there will be a train home at 3.45 a.m. Approximately four hours from then. I seriously considered sleeping in the station, but was quite doubtful if they'd let me - since unlike Manchester Piccadilly, this station actually closes at midnight.

Feeling awkward, apprehensive at what will be awaiting me, yet excited at the prospect of a new 'adventure', and too proud to ask my friends to pick me up, I looked around the almost-deserted station for someone who might be able to answer my query. A Pakistani-looking middle-aged man in a First jacket told me - in a very concerned and fatherly way - that the station will be closed, but the lights will be on and maintenance staffs would be around, and I would be safe inside. I can wait in the waiting room underneath the stairs, and if there is any problem, I can always go to the office beyond Platform 5. I found his gestures very helpful and indicated a genuine concern of my well-being. (Looking like a cute, vulnerable, lost, lonely 'young lady' might help - though I don't know if that was how he perceived me!)

I haven't performed my Isha' prayers - expecting to offer it at home - and I need to make wudhu'. The staffs are cleaning the toilets, and they don't really let people in - two party-going women who looked more than tipsy had a difficult time trying to get in, but fortunately for me, they allowed me to use the disabled toilet - which was a real blessing since one of the cleaners was a man, and the disabled toilet would provide enough privacy for me to make my ablution.

The waiting room was relatively warm compared to the platforms outside. However, I was not alone. An elderly man - perhaps in his seventies - was there, and I'm 75% sure he's not quite right in the head. When I arrived in the city earlier in the evening, I saw him talking to no one I can see, in a cafeteria. He looked perfectly sane and respectable - suit and tie - with trim white hair. He started a conversation with me about how the city was in the olden times, his travels with his son, and how he is waiting for his wife arriving at half past one from London. There was a strong accent to his speech - I'm not sure which, but most probably from some European country. It was not alarming or scary - I did question his sanity, I'm not sure if there'll be a wife arriving for him in two hours, I'm not sure the phone he showed me and later used (while talking in a foreign language) was actually functioning - but I didn't feel threatened by his presence. Smiles which he flashed to me from time to time were quite endearing although I can sense some unusual tinge to it.

I spent almost two hours talking over the phone to my friend, and later, my younger sister Afiqah, who is currently on holiday from his matriculation campus. She told me how my second younger brother - 10-year-old Amiruzzaman - has grown up into a stout and charming miniature of my father, and was actually performing silat during weddings in our village! He's an awful sentimental though. Right into my footsteps. 13-year-old Aiman had lost weight and must have looked more handsome than ever - he's tall, fair, with a finely chiseled, impish large-eyed face, and quite sturdy in built once he lost his childhood pot-belly. I missed them all so much! The kindly staff who had spoken to me earlier actually dropped in the waiting room to check on me - he looked around until he saw me and asked how I was doing. That's very sweet =)

Half past one, a train actually arrived from London. The mystery old-waiting-for-his-wife-man looked at his watch excitedly, gave me one last happy smile and left the waiting room. I never saw him afterwards - I hope he really found his wife. The room was starting to feel colder. I thought all the heat I brought with me in the room is dissipating. Wearing only a light shirt and a knitted cardigan suitable for Manchester early-evening weather did not help at all. Not even a muffler or gloves were with me. I performed my prayers in a corner of the waiting room - kneeling on the newly-mopped floor still smelling of bleach, and prostrating my face on my cardiovascular textbook as a makeshift 'prayer mat'.

In a contorted, splayed way, I fell asleep on one of the chairs - to wake up about an hour later, feeling absolutely frozen. God, I had forgotten that this kind of cold existed! Shivering, shaking, hugging myself, doing whatever I can to keep warm, and I was morbidly hungry. Two pieces of pizza and a handful of chips eaten at eight p.m., however full of calories, cannot sustain me this long! I shuffled out of the waiting room - to be greeted by the full-blown cold outside - and made my way, shivering, all muscles desperately contracting to generate some heat, finding a vending machine. How I fumbled in my wallet for pennies, inserting them one by one, barely able to move from the sheer cold. I felt almost dead by the time I got back to the room - searched desperately for any source of heat, in vain. Eating the Kellogg's SoftBake - the packet teared open with shaky stiff fingers - helped to warm me up a bit. Inspired by several fellow travelers who had recently entered the waiting room, I lifted my feet from the floor, and stretched on my side, the cushioned chairs serving as a makeshift bed.

"The train to Manchester Piccadilly will be departing in ten minutes... so I think..." the slightly nervous young man with a foreign accent, standing over the curled-up me on the chairs, was sent as my saviour, waking me up just on time to catch the train I had desperately waited for. I scrambled up as gracefully as possible, thanked him profusely, looked around and saw that the room was now empty, and wondered with a semi-bleary mind barely functioning within a physique half-frozen by cold, how on earth I am going to find the platform? Luckily my saviour-man was also going to the same destination, and I braved the cold on the platform again to get to the train. The warm blast of air which greeted me upon entering the train was short-lived pleasure - I was still shivering throughout the journey, though not as bad as while waiting in the station.

I had bought a day ticket the day before - and since technically it was 18th April, not 17th April anymore at 3.45 in the morning, I need to buy a new ticket costing about GBP10. However, the conductor simply waived it off when he saw the unused ticket and I told him that I missed the train - thank you Allah for the kindness of fellow human beings!

Walking from Manchester Piccadilly at 4.35 in the cold, cold, cold morning to Piccadilly Garden was another challenge, and waiting for the 5 a.m. bus home after the 15-minute walk was the next challenge. Main challenging factor : COLD!! Though I must say nothing beats the cold in the train station just now ... it's a wonder I made it alive. I couldn't say how relieved I was when I finally entered my warm abode of Thorncliffe House, got into my beautiful, beautiful, beautiful bedroom and switched on the heater.

The thing about dealing with cold is that I can't even control it the way I deal with pain or stress. With pain and stress, relaxing the muscles, focusing the mind and controlling the breathing help a lot. With cold, you are practically shivering and shaking and contracting all over the place to keep warm - how on earth are you supposed to relax? Yeah, it's mind over matter, technically you can still focus and relax the mind despite the partially convulsing body - but I haven't mastered that degree of meditation yet. =D

Anyway, it was one whole new experience for me - learnt a whole lot of morals as well. Mainly,
1) don't ever underestimate cold - people do die from cold temperatures!
2) check timetables of outgoing and return journeys and remember the times
3) always keep faith in the goodness of human soul - there are a lot of kind, concerned people out there
4) always have faith that Allah will take care of you no matter where you are! (but not make it an excuse to be extra-careless)
5) wear the proper attire for the weather of your destination, not your point of origin i.e. home
6) when meeting old respectable men (and women) who looked strangely 'out of it', be kind and behave normally - they are people who deserve love and respect as well
7) any amount sacrifice would usually feel worth it if juxtaposed with love, friendship, trust and that common aim we all strive for ;-)
8) careful what you wish for - just hours before departing yesterday afternoon, I was complaining that there is not enough physical challenge during programs in the UK to push me to my limits, there were only mental, philosophical stuff, talks, discussions, seminars, whose effects kinda wear off sometimes - and hey presto, Allah gave me the physical challenge. ambik ko.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll go get some sleep. The 'ayam masak pedas - adibah's style' is done, tasted, eaten with some cold leftover rice, and declared a success.

I'm still contemplating whether or not to attend Malaysia Night's play tonight - I had never been to one since my first year.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bukan Sekadar Sepanduk - I


Hampir tepat sebulan yang lepas, saya telah diumumkan memenangi pilihanraya Student Union di universiti, dan merupakan calon yang sah terpilih untuk menduduki kerusi Medical and Human Science Faculty Officer pada tahun akademik akan datang. Barisan calon dari pakatan kami - Islamic Society and Action Palestine/Leftist/Socialist memenangi agak banyak kerusi, signifikan untuk memberi kami suara yang lantang dan gagah dalam barisan pimpinan dalam Union nanti. Alhamdulillah. Kejayaan milik bersama.

Rentetan ke arah terjunnya saya ke dalam kancah politik mahasiswa di kampus ini bermula beransur-ansur. Ah, terlalu banyak yang sudah berlaku dan tidak tertuliskan. Benarlah kata guru saya dulu, "Adibah, you underwent a lot of interesting experiences. You should keep a diary!" True indeed, I wish I had, and I wish I could!

Pilihanraya NUS

Kalau dicari satu titik yang benar-benar menjadi pencetus semerta kepada semua yang telah berlaku, maka mungkin saya akan meletakkannya ke Pilihanraya NUS. NUS adalah akronim untuk National Union of Students, organisasi yang mempertemukan wakil-wakil pelajar dari setiap universiti di United Kingdom yang menjadi anggotanya, mewakili sekitar 7 juta pelajar seluruh negara. Delegasi ke Persidangan Tahunan NUS dipilih secara undian merentas kampus. Para wakil inilah yang akan membahaskan dan memutuskan polisi-polisi serta tindakan NUS seputar kehidupan dan kebajikan pelajar, juga menyentuh isu-isu pentadbiran dalam negara dan permasalahan antarabangsa. Sidang juga akan melantik barisan pimpinan baru yang bakal menerajui NUS dalam penggal hadapan.

Apabila ada sistem pengundian untuk memutuskan isu-isu penting dan melantik figura-figura kepimpinan, maka lumrahnya para pengundi akan berkelompok dalam blok-blok tertentu mengikut kepentingan dan pendirian masing-masing. Wakil-wakil Muslim umumnya akan berkumpul di bawah naungan Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS). FOSIS akan memberi bimbingan dan nasihat kepada para delegasi ini untuk menghadapi persidangan, terutamanya kepada wakil-wakil yang belum berpengalaman, first time delegates. Keputusan-keputusan penting yang mempengaruhi kedudukan pelajar Islam di United Kingdom juga akan dibincangkan untuk memastikan pilihan yang bakal dibuat oleh setiap wakil berlandaskan pengetahuan serta pertimbangan paling wajar. Blok-blok lain yang ada termasuklah Union of Jewish Students (UJS), Student Respect, National Organization of Labour Students, Education Not For Sale, Green Party, dan lain-lain.

Cukup pengenalan tentang apa itu NUS. Di mana pula saya terlibat dalam organisasi ini? Sekitar bulan Oktober 2008 barangkali, FOSIS datang mengadakan bengkel tentang aktivisme pelajar di Manchester. Saya yang baru berjinak-jinak mau kenal tentang aktivisme pelajar ketika itu - setakat menghadiri satu dua demonstrasi, mengerapi General Meeting saban minggu, menghadiri dokumentari Open Media hari Isnin malam dan ceramah-debat-seminar sesekali, takat itulah saja penglibatan saya - diheret teman untuk mendatangi bengkel tersebut. Saya hadir antara rajin dan malas. H teman saya itu adalah pelajar Malaysia, rakan senegeri, tetapi menjawat jawatan Head Sister untuk University of Manchester Islamic Society. Gigih benar dia berusaha mengajak kawan-kawan rapat dan pelajar Malaysia lain melibatkan diri dengan ISoc serta aktivisme pelajar.

Pengisian menarik dan membuka mata tentang struktur dan sistem aktivisme pelajar di bawah FOSIS, walaupun saya kurang nampak apakah kaitannya secara langsung dengan saya, melainkan sekadar mendapat pengetahuan yang mungkin boleh diaplikasikan dalam apa-apa kegiatan yang bakal saya ikuti atau laksanakan. Saya pulang awal sebelum program tamat kerana terburu-buru mau membeli mesin pencetak di bandar, namun sempat meluangkan waktu beberapa minit berbincang tentang NUS dengan Alaa' al-Samarrai, wakil Student Affairs Committee FOSIS dan kalau tidak salah saya bertanggungjawab memantau perjalanan FOSIS Northwest.

Timbul cadangan oleh H dan Alaa' untuk saya bertanding dalam pilihanraya memilih wakil University of Manchester ke Persidangan Tahunan NUS 2009 nanti. Saya bertanya tentang komitmen yang diperlukan dan menunjukkan minat sekadar berbasa-basi - ketika itu saya tidak mengambil serius cadangan tersebut. Tidak logik, saya hanyalah pelajar antarabangsa dari Malaysia yang kurang dipedulikan pun oleh orang-orang tempatan lain, dengan pelajar Malaysia pun saya jarang-jarang bersosial, apatah lagi pelajar-pelajar tempatan, ada hati hendak bertanding merebut tempat sebagai wakil universiti?

Saya pergi ke bandar, membeli mesin pencetak yang sesungguhnya berat, bersusah payah mengangkutnya mendaki tangga sampai ke bilik di kediaman universiti, mengeluh kerana lengan yang lenguh-lenguh dan lebam akibat terlampau berlasak, dan barangkali langsung lupa tentang FOSIS, tentang NUS.

Namun H tidak membiarkan hal itu senyap begitu sahaja. Dengan serius sahabat saya ini menimbulkan semula perkara tersebut, membincangkannya bersama seorang lagi teman saya, SN. Hujah demi hujah dibentangkan H untuk meyakinkan kami yang waswas dan kurang entusiastik. Yang paling terkesan sehingga menyebabkan saya bersetuju mengambil borang pencalonan dan mengarang manifesto adalah dua perkara yang menjadi pembakar semangat saya hingga hari ini,

1) Perlunya figura yang lantang, berkeyakinan, berketrampilan dan berpengetahuan untuk ke hadapan memperjuangkan isu-isu tentang pelajar Islam khasnya dan masyarakat Islam amnya. Pemikiran dan pengalaman pelajar Islam Malaysia adalah unik dan sangat berguna untuk disumbangkan bagi memperkasakan lagi gerakan di United Kingdom. Kemampuan yang ada diberi oleh Allah bukanlah untuk disimpan saja-saja, dibiarkan berhabuk tidak digunakan atau diabaikan hingga tumpul tidak berasah. Kemampuan adalah tanggungjawab.

2) Belajar di luar negara tidak ada gunanya jika tanpa merebut 'nilai tambah' yang tidak dapat diperoleh jika menuntut di Malaysia. Nilai tambah yang boleh dikaut dengan melibatkan diri dengan gerak kerja pelajar-pelajar tempatan, terjun ke dalam aktivisme pelajar, di samping bergiat secara optimum dengan bidang pengajian yang diceburi. Dengan kata lain, potensi diri mesti dimaksimumkan - baik dalam akademik mahupun aktivisme. Hanya dengan mencabar kemampuan dan limitasi, diri yang batu akan menjadi berlian.

Saya bertatih-tatih menulis manifesto, mengisi borang pencalonan, dan 'berserah diri' kepada pasukan Student Affairs ISoc untuk membimbing dan menguruskan usaha berkempen saya. Yelah, tak tahu apa-apa! SN turut bertanding bersama-sama - dan bersama-samalah kami merekacipta poster dan flyer, membuat flyer packs, menampal poster, mengedar flyer, menghadiri hustings (yang hanya dihadiri oleh sekitar 20 daripada 40 calon yang bertanding dan beberapa orang pelajar - sangat tidak mendapat sambutan, tetapi saya dapat merasai pengalaman pertama membentangkan manifesto dan menjawab soalan-soalan yang dikemukakan), dan akhirnya membuang undi secara online. Tuhan, inilah kali pertama saya mencicipi 'rasa' arena politik mahasiswa di UK! Satu 'tanda' yang baru hilang, 'buah tangan' daripada episod berkempen yang lepas adalah parut kesan luka torehan pada kuku ibu jari tangan kiri saya. Puncanya, tertikam mata paku tekan sewaktu menampal poster di North Campus Student Union.

Sistem pengundian berdasarkan Single Transferable Vote - dan alhamdulillah, saya dan SN diumumkan menang. Malah saya mendapat undian pilihan pertama yang kedua tertinggi, dan setelah kiraan akhir selesai, saya adalah salah seorang daripada empat calon yang mendapat grand total tertinggi. Alhamdulillah. Teori saya - yang dipersetujui banyak orang - adalah, tuahnya terletak pada nama saya! Adibah Abdullah, nama yang akan berada paling atas dalam senarai pencalonan. Pengundi yang malas menyemak semua calon tetapi mahu mengundi akan mengambil mudah dengan mengundi nama saya, terutamanya pengundi Muslim yang dinasihati supaya mengundi calon Muslim yang dicadangkan oleh ISoc. Mungkin begitu!

Cerita baru bermula.

-akan disambung insyaAllah-


Monday, April 13, 2009

Ayat Cinta I dan II

Ayat Cinta I

Telah tertulis sepuluh patah kata
mungkin tentang cinta.
Entah kata siapa
entah dari mana
tapi tanganku yang menulisnya.
Entah untuk siapa
entah dikirim ke mana
tapi kepadamu diutuskannya.

Sepuluh patah kata
belumpun dibaca
telah kautamatkan ayatnya
dan kaugantikan huruf-hurufnya
dengan setitik noktah.

Ayat Cinta II

Surat-surat cinta bertimbun di penjuru kamar,
berhentilah membeleknya.
Debu-debu gugur menyaluti, lama-lama akan menimbusi
cinta lepas terkubur tanpa tanda.

Ayat-ayat cinta bertaburan di lantai hati,
berhentilah menulisnya.
Aksara-aksara terbiar, lama-lama akan berkecai
cinta hadir merangkak ke pinggir untuk dilupakan
seperti puisi yang tergantung tanpa penghabisan.

Ketika hari Mahsyar terbentang,
tidak akan ditanya
berapa banyakkah cinta yang kaukarang.

-Th17F, 1.09 a.m.