Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Horror Story

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers,

From my observation, there are two types of movies that Malaysians like to watch: horror and romantic. I myself loved to watch horror films when I was young. I dared myself to watch the most scary films and trained myself to be calm (I looked calm but inside I was terrified!) during the gripping suspense before the devil shows its face. I also love the ghost stories that my aunt used to tell me when I was small and to read the Malay magazine "Mastika" that had its fair share of people succumbed by black magic.

That was me when I was in primary and a few years into secondary school. But as I get a bit older, I realize that horror movies turned me into someone I was horrified of.

Credit to Comfreak
1. I feared and focused on the wrong things
For one, I became afraid to sleep at my grandparents' house when I was little just because the house looks quite shabby inside. It's pathetic of me not to spend more time with my grandmother (although I was always at her house after school, gobbling down my grandmother's delicious cookings). Now that the house has been renovated into a common city home, I really miss the historic-Malay-village-house facade; especially during Eid ul Fitri. It's true, "you only know a good thing till it's gone" (Kris Allen).

The worst part of it is, I learned and memorized certain chapters and verses of the Quran for the sole purpose of guarding myself from evil spirits. Why? Because I see religious people in movies recite the Quran to get rid of evil spirits! God, I am so sorry for being so shallow and narrow minded before!

Thanks to ALLAH, I come to embrace and understand that the Quran is more than that; it's a book that provokes human to think, it's a book that calms the heart, it's a book that brings glad tidings, and much much more. Bringing the point home, the Quran's purpose is much larger than getting rid of evil spirits.

2. I feared the evil supernatural entity more than I feared God
When I was in secondary school, I really love to go camping in the woods. I was a girl scout, you see. Whenever we set up tents, we were told (I won't give names) that we should ask permission from the spirits that live in the woods. We were told to behave.

I obeyed. Besides, that's what people in the movies do too. But wait, didn't ALLAH say in the Quran:

"HIS is the dominion of the heavens and earth. HE gives life and causes death, and HE is over all things competent". (Surah Al-Hadid: 2)

Yes, the woods belong to God so we should have asked permission from God. I should fear God, not the spirits! Plus do you know what kind of mentality that these movies taught me? That I need to behave only in the woods while elsewhere I can do whatever I want even if it's wrong. Stupid movies. Such a silly girl, I was.

3. I didn't gave much attention to good supernatural entity 
As a Muslim, it is mandatory to believe in the Six Pillars of Iman and the second pillar is to believe in the angels. I didn't realise that angels were also supernatural entities. I mean, I did believe in the angels when I was small (still do), but I didn't acquire more knowledge about them which I was supposed to! Why? Because I was too embroiled with the knowledge of the djinns (why don't you google that yourself) and how to avoid from being the victim of withcraft ! I still can't fathom why I want to know about the dark rather than the light. Oh I know's because of the horror movies (And to be honest, because Malaysian children were made scared of evil spirits so we would behave)!

For him (each person), there are angels in succession, before and behind him. They guard him by the command of Allah...” (Surah Ar-Ra'd: 11) 

It is liberating to get personal with the above verse. It makes you feel privileged to have angels near you. I couldn't believe that I was terrified of the devil's slaves. I am so sorry, my Lord.

4. I was unable to appreciate the beauty of nature
In the Malay lore, there's this evil spirit called pontianak which is sort of like a woman vampire (of course there is no such thing as a pontianak, it is a major sin to believe in the existence of this creature). This creature likes to perch on tree branches to scan its victim; wearing all white, red eyes and long eerie black hair. Because of this, I didn't like to see huge trees at night for fear of meeting eyes with it. Again, this was a major defect I had. Let's read this beautiful verse from the Quran:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason. (Surah Al-Baqarah: 164)

It's a shame that I had averted my eyes from the signs of ALLAH. It was a total waste of my time for not using the intellect that ALLAH had bestowed to us.

Were (Are) you a horror movie fan? Have (had) you experience the above horrors?


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Let's Talk About Porn

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers,

Of recent, my Facebook news feed was flooded with a rape case that had happened in Indonesia. I'm sorry that I couldn't find a link that's in proper English. One website (not in English) related this with a case that had happened around three decades ago; the rape, torture, and murder of Junko Furuta. I read this case haphazardly because her experience was too disturbing. Another story was shared by my friend. She shared the Facebook status of a sexual harassment victim. Harassed in multiple occasions, the victim was later diagnosed with depression and had even tried to take her own life aplenty of times.

Photo credit: Alexas_Fotos

I was deeply affected reading these stories, still am. Especially the rape cases. The pain, the helplessness, and the constant dread and fear inside...they must had felt these all at once. It must be excruciating. They must have prayed for death countless times. The public at large often question how can these men be so repugnant. But not me. Because I know the answer to that; the answer is porn.

Firstly, I'm sure there are other reasons behind these heinous crime. But porn has become a norm that men starts to think it's okay to watch because that's their natural inclination. I don't think many men realise the grave consequences of porn. More on this later. Secondly, nope. This post does not contain the cliche of "watching porn is a sin". It goes waaaaay beyond that.

A few months back, I found Fight the New Drug and learned a LOT from the website. I found out that porn is actually a dangerous addiction like heroin, alcohols, or cigarettes. It makes you feel happy only when you get the chance to watch one. Meaning that making love to your wife, playing basketball with your children, and that cooking hobby of yours won't make you as happy anymore. It's like you need your imagination rather than your already blissful reality. That is just so sad and pathetic.

But there's more. Tonnes and significantly more. Porn disables you from loving for you will not know how to love. Most of the porn contains act of violence which makes those who watch identify violence with pleasure. Porn shows the woman smiling after being subjected to physical and verbal torture making viewers feel that it is okay for them to do the same in real life. And this is precisely why the rape cases that I mentioned earlier (including others) happened.

And you know what? Most of the women that are involve in pornography are drugged, raped, trafficked, and/or abused. In other words, they are forced to smile, forced to enjoy, and forced to participate. Knowing this, would you still demand pornography? If yes, then allow me to say this statement: you are to blame too.

To make matters worse, porn is easily accessible now, even for kids. It is terrifying how warped their ideas on woman and love are going to be. It is disturbing into what kind of men, sons, fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, friends, and boyfriends that they might turn into.  

I'll end this post with this video. And the essence of it is: men are qawwam (caretakers) of women.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lessons on Writing: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (Spoiler Alert!)

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers,

It has been long since I post about a novel for one simple reason; I rarely have the time to read for leisure. But I needed to rest my mind so I skeptically bought Leaving Time. When I finish reading it however, I felt glad that I bought it. Not only that I felt refreshed, I also learned a few writing pointers.

But before I delve into those pointers, you need to know the story. Do read the synopsis here and let me fill in the ending later. Read the link, already? Alright then.

Jenna Metcalf and Virgil Stanhope are actually dead and living in the spirit world; of which they did not realise. Hence it's not that Alice didn't want to come back for Jenna but because she can't; she's alive and Jenna is not. Serenity Jones on the other hand, did not know that she was helping two spirits at first.

1. Introducing a riveting element of surprise

Photo credit: Christopher Michel

I find this to be extremely difficult to craft while Jodi Picoult exceeded expectations. Her trick was to make the life of Jenna and Virgil as mundane as possible by narrating the spirit world like our world, like the world of the living just so we do not suspect anything. For example, Jenna riding a bicycle, Jenna browsing the internet, Jenna living with her grandma, Virgil pretending to flirt with a lab attendant, and many others. To not make it look dull, the author added the element of mystery to the story. What I mean by mystery is, readers can't help but want to know why Alice left her daughter. From what Jenna describes her, surely Alice is in some kind of trouble. Maybe she's dead. Maybe she's in captive. So readers would just keep on reading and cling to their curiosity because they NEED to find out why. When the author dropped in casual (and some not so casual) hints throughout the story, the readers just read through them without giving much thought. Combining these three aspects: mundane, mystery, and casual hints will in the end have the awe effect on readers.    

2. Different ways to create awareness in story 

Photo credit: kikatani

More often than not, we write a story because we want to teach certain message(s), make the readers aware of certain issue(s), or provoke readers to think. As a result, we make these the main focus of our story. Take for instance the Hunger Games trilogy. We can easily see that the main message of the story is about political injustice (okay I didn't read the books but I watched the movie which is based on the books). We start to notice that this is happening in the real world.

Focusing back to Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult raised awareness on elephant exploitation and how we need to protect this majestic creature without making it the center stage. She does this by fashioning Alice as a scientist who studies elephant grief of which intertwines with Alice's own grief from losing her own daughter (of course the readers didn't realise it at first). Therefore, Jodi Picoult indirectly speaks to the readers' heart and conscience about the elephants, without making elephants the main focus.

3. The power of story that can reach minds and change hearts

Photo credit: ecooper99
I am an animal lover but now I have a special spot for elephants in my heart. All of this is because I read Leaving Time. So the fact that a book can do this to me becomes my motivation to work harder for my novelette and later writing projects. It made me realise more that writing is a gift from God and it should be used to impact the lives of HIS creatures on earth. Otherwise, we are just being ungrateful to HIM.

I also believe that bearing this in mind can help authors and bloggers to rise up to the grueling task of writing. The same can be said to those who dreams to be a writer. The possibility to change hearts can crush the wall of fear and lack of confidence that often surrounds a future writer.

I sincerely hope that you gain something from this week's post. I also hope that this post has touch or at least brush your lives. Until the next take care!