Monday, May 8, 2017

Japan: A Land Steep with Reminders - Part I

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers,

I went to Japan on March 10th to March 14th. For years I've been longing to travel to Japan so it was a do'a (prayer) came true. My brother and I visited Kobe, Tokyo, Hikone, Konan, and Kyoto in those five days.

However, I'm not narrating my journey in this post, at least not a physical one. This blog as you know, is not travel themed. But it was built to inspire others through my writing, and to that I stay true. This post is filled with advises and reminders. 

Day 1 - The Art of Alhamdulillah, Striving, and Patience
I was blown away on day 1, I couldn't quite believed that I'm in Japan! After acquiring our Japan Railway Pass at the airport, we find our way to Kobe Mosque, the oldest and most historic mosque in Japan. It had survived two major catastrophes; the World War II bombing and the 1995 earthquake, reportedly to be one of the worst earthquake in Japan.

Me in front of Kobe Mosque

I stepped out of Motomachi station confidently. With the pocket wifi, power bank, and my phone's GPS, we were confident that we won't get lost. It's only a 10 minute walk from Motomachi Station. What can possibly go wrong?

Well the GPS on my phone went wrong. It couldn't lock our location so it couldn't guide us to Kobe Mosque. We tried to find any nearby streets or buildings that were near to us and erected along the route to Kobe Mosque but to no avail. We then switched to my brother's brand new iPhone but he wasn't able to find the GPS function! It was really frustrating that our journey began in such a state of well, frustration!

We wandered aimlessly for half an hour. Our stomachs began to rumble and the cold was barely bearable. We haven't had lunch. We had planned to eat at Naan Inn before praying, a halal Indian restaurant just few steps away from the mosque. All in all we were stymied. I remembered that my head had played The Shallows, a movie full of frustration and suspense throughout where Blake Lively tries to reach for the beach just 183 meters away with a giant white shark in between.  

Despite all that, we had to remain calm and composed. I reminded myself of how much I wanted to be here. It's literally a dream come true to travel to Japan. So I kept thanking and praising ALLAH (the attitude of alhamdulillah) for giving me the chance to come here. Finally, after 45 minutes, my brother noticed a place that is near to Kobe Mosque. So we took the street and lo and behold, Naan Inn was at the right of us. Without further ado, we went inside and ate.

The interior of Kobe Mosque. Quite similar to the mosques in Turkey
since Islam came to Japan through the Ottoman Empire

After eating and praying, we walked back to Motomachi Station and head to Tokyo. In the shinkansen (Japan's bullet train), I wrote down my thoughts of this day. I had been reminded that despite any impediments in life, we must always be thankful to ALLAH, and remain patient and positive. This is because ALLAH will never let our effort go to waste. If not here, we will surely gain something in the akhirah (afterlife).   

Surah Hud (chapter 11) verse 115

Day 2 - The Mirage of Absolute Power
Although I live in one, I never quite like a bustling city life. Thus in my notebook, I didn't write down anything at the end of my day in Tokyo. I feel like there's nothing to write. There's only the typical stuff like eating and shopping. But as I walk down my memory lane of Tokyo, one stuck out: the Meiji shrine.

At the Meiji Shrine
The Meiji shrine was significant to me for one reason, the anime Samurai X. Any anime fans, excluding the hentai (basically porn) genre, would agree that Samurai X is one of a kind, definitely on par with Naruto. These two animes had long ignited the interest in Japanese culture and history within me. Samurai X tells the story of an assassin, Himura Kenshin, who had brought the Meiji era and ended the shogunate ruling system. After that, he abandoned his sword in exchange for a sakabato (a blunt sword), a symbol of his resolution to stop killing.

The shogunate ruling system was in place for more than six centuries before its downfall. For a ruling system that can last this long, no one could predict its demise. This piece of history reminds me that absolute power is unreal; it only exist with ALLAH. Humans are only granted limited power for a certain period. Hence we should not fear any corrupted person, whether (s)he is a leader, a bully, a criminal, a hypocrite, and similar others.

Surah Ar-Rum (chapter 30) verse 8

Day 3 - Diam - Diam Ubi Berisi
Diam-diam ubi berisi is a Malay proverb. It mostly refers to a quiet person or thing that hold something of substance inside. This proverb describes the village of Konan in Koka City beautifully. The streets were deserted and only a few people crossed our path. Although the village is a spitting image of a ghost town, in it lies a unique gem.

The street in Konan
Konan possesses the only remaining authentic ninja house in all of Japan, the Koka Ninja House. Once belonged to the Head of Koka ninja clan, the place was full of ninja traps, weapons, and scrolls containing ninja techniques. We even pretended to be ninjas and threw shurikens.

Inside the Koka Ninja House. Be weary that the tour is in Japanese.

On this day, I was reminded to not look down upon others and assume that I'm better than anybody. That person might have a "treasure" that I do not have. That person might be more wise than I am. Thus I should be more humbled, positive, and open minded.

Surah Qalam (chapter 68) verse 7

To be continued...

Saturday, January 28, 2017

My Free Upcoming Novelette: Progress Report

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers,

It has been quite a while since I update about my free upcoming novelette, Letters to God. I believe I owe my readers an apology too for not publishing it soon enough. Time is flying and I have to focus more on my PhD studies for the time being. I was an expert at juggling various tasks once but not anymore; at least not in these few months.

Photo credit: SerenaWong

But tonight, I feel compelled to write. I really want to share the current status of this novelette of mine.

Novelette edited but not yet send to beta reader
The editor is a good friend of mine and we lost contact for awhile. Thankfully, I managed to track her down and she finished the work. But the novelette transcript is raw; full of corrections that I haven't been able to address yet. This has caused a major delay for the next stage i.e. sending it to a beta reader to read. But I don't think it will be a long process because my cousin has already agreed to be the beta reader. For your information, the task of a beta reader(s) is to identify whether the story line ties in smoothly. Readers definitely hate haphazard stories.  

Method to attach novelette in subscription email
As is my intention, I would like Letters to God be attach to the confirmation email when a person subscribes to my blog. But as of today, I haven't yet find an application (am I using the right term?) that offers this service. I would appreciate it so much if you can comment some suggestions for me. It will make my task easier :) I thank you in advance!

Don't worry, the novelette is definitely free
There are two reasons for this: (1) recognition and, (2) marketing.

I want people to be able to read my writing and judge whether it is good or bad. If it is bad, at least people won't feel disheartened because they got the novelette for free. Hopefully too, readers will be more willing to give feed backs so that I can improve my writing. I aspire to be a writer of substance where my words can reach the heart of readers and hopefully change their lives for the better.

By making the Letters to God free, I can also gain more followers. When I have followers, there is a high possibility that they will buy the books I sell in the future. You see, I have a dream of retiring early and make an income from being a fiction writer whose words touch lives.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Freedom Fantasy

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers!

Excluding prisoners in jail and those poor souls trapped in modern slavery, everyone has freedom. But that my friend, is a foolhardy assumption. To prove this claim, let's begin with the most basic; the meaning of slave.

Oxford Dictionary defines slave as (especially in the past) a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them. This includes:
- A person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation.
- A person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something.
- A device, or part of one, directly controlled by another.   

Photo credit: Comfreak

Definition 1: A person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation.
All around the world, we find cases of employees being paid wages that are lower than the inflation rate. In the United States, one of the economic super powers, millions of full time workers still rely on the government to get by due to their low pay. You could say that they get low wages because not much skills are required for the job. The fact of the matter is different, however. According to Low Wage Work, "these jobs require knowledge, patience, care and communication".

Not more repulsive than child labour, though. Amnesty International claim that companies like Samsung, Sony, and Microsoft had workers as young as seven years old working in hazardous environment. This brings memories about the infamous Blood Diamond controversy.

Definition 2: A person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something.
I personally believe that this form of slavery is the most widespread but always ignored.

Have you ever noticed how the media uses certain words to manipulate you? I would like to give you an example that was pointed out by The Patriots from this article piece that they uploaded in their Facebook page:
A normal person would just read this piece and concur that it is beyond a shred of a doubt that Majapahit relics were there in the Malacca river. Not many would notice the word "possibly" and "believed" in the first paragraph which means Majapahit origin hasn't actually been confirmed. Also notice that it was "a group of professional divers" and not archeologists (persons having solid knowledge of history) who had found these relics.

However, one not need go far to see this kind of slavery in action; it can happen within our family circles too. Abused spouses almost always believe that it is their fault for being abused; a classic example of how one can control another. In fact, there are also cases where one just succumb to the abuse because they feel like they can't survive without their partner.

Then there's the case where an individual feels pressured to conform with society's view. A person over 40 can feel dejected when s(he) is still single, a person can feel depressed when s(he) only has a cheap car, a teenager can feel ashamed with his peers for still being a virgin, and multitudes of other examples.

This can result in people becoming a slave to their desires too. To get an expensive car, (s)he would be willing to take bribe and a teenager can resort to rape to satisfy his lust. 

Definition 3: A device, or part of one, directly controlled by another.
This definition doesn't concern humans.

Thus the truth is, we are slaves to something or someone. You can deny it all you want.

But remember, we are human beings endowed with freedom of choice; we can choose who our masters are. And it's high time for us to choose. 

In the name of Allah , the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
[All] praise is [due] to Allah , Lord of the worlds -
The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,
Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.
It is You we worship and You we ask for help.
Guide us to the straight path -
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.
(Quran - Chapter 1)