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Chapter 1 continued

I cannot leave Chapter 1 of UK life without mentioning the people who kept my life sane in the first two years. You see we embarked on tbe journey together as a group of 23 (or 21, it was some odd number!). Our scholarship programme named Skim Khas (Special Scheme) required us to do A levels in a UK boarding school and then enroll in a degree that enabled you to become either a doctor or teacher. I didnt envision myself to be a doctor. I wasnt quite the sciency type and instead took more interest in Geography and History. I was hoping to go into tourism industry!

What a big jump you might think. The thing was that I jumped at the opportunity to get out of the country. I came to visit England after end of Year 6 to visit my aunt and cousins, an all expense trip with my brother, cousin and uncle. The trip was so much fun and obviously the realm of opportunities and adventures beckoned me for years to come. I wanted to jump ship and explore the world, and here was my opportunity to do it.

I knew I didnt have the patience to be a teacher and so I chose medicine. We flew in two groups and spent the first 3 days in London having a crash course of how to live independently in a different country. I was 17, yet to know myself really and none the wiser about it.

We were then sent to our respective boarding schools, mostly in groups of 2-3. I remember being driven with the Bruneian welfare officer and two of the Bruneian girls joining me in Headington. I was shown to my room, the officer poked in the room and said some obligatory well wishes and made his way out. That was it.

Every half term, easter/winter/summer holidays or exeat weekends, we have to leave the boarding house. The local girls will traipse back to their houses, the international girls usually have a place their family have rented for such occasions. As for us Bruneian scholarship students, most of us would go to Brunei hall. I think it was free to stay there for students and the meal was dirt cheap (something like a ridiculous £2 for a home cooked rice/some protein meal).

I cannot fully describe how it was like during these holidays. Its kinda like summer camp. Large groups of students with little supervision (if any), spending ridiculous amount of time in the communal area chatting, socialising and someone playing guitar in the background. Binge watching downloaded shows in our rooms. Close to the exam periods, we would be a bit more studious and sit in the ‘library’ and dining hall books open, pretending to study. But really we spent a lot of time just traipsing around window shopping/actual shopping, drinking expensive coffee in cafes, and every now and then bowling and watching movies. I grew close to these set of friends and they were like family.

I had so much money from the allowance, as I really didnt have to pay any bills and only intermittently paying for extracurricular school activities. My brother advised me to save, save, save. I wish I listened to him more.

For a very long time, I’ve wondered whether it was a good idea to have 17 year olds decide on the fate of their life/career from that young of age. Of course you can change your degree if you really wanted to but there was also a sense of honour and fear of being labelled a failure for not making it through. At least thats how it felt like for me.

It doesnt matter I guess. After all, if I didnt enter medicine, would life still be how it is now? Would I be where I am now?

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Countdown part 1

Have been feeling emotional lately thinking of how soon we’ll be leaving the country. I’ve been living in UK for 19 years, since I was 17. The first place I called home was Headington school, an all girls boarding school in Oxford. So far away from what I know and grew up in. Learning how to live and survive boarding school for one thing. The culture of boarding life and public school (I so was not as posh as the girls around me but am also happy Headington isnt as ‘posh’ as more elite boarding schools. I would have felt way out of place – even more than I initially did in Headington).

*FYI Public school is private school and state school is govt school. I still get confused with the terminology*

MUST.WAKE.UP.ON.TIME for breakfast or have the dining kitchen closed – so sad when they see you coming through the windows but since you’re not there before 8 am, no hot breakfast for you!

I cant seem to find pictures of my time there, but the memories are etched on to me of these first two years.

I still remember vividly my rooms (moved three times in those two years and every half term, having to pack up your things into the storeroom). What we get up to in the evenings – “prep” time where we pretend to do schoolwork when house staff knocks on the door. Hiding the kettle where its sole purpose is to provide boiling water for my maggi kari/pot noodle.

Internet was only available in the IT room and remember staying there till late doing god knows and emailing friends. Crap phone signal at times and needing to open the window and wave my phone out to see if the long awaited message has arrived. Watching TV in the small TV room (the big TV room was dominated by the Nigerians who loved to jam and dance and I was intimidated with their curvy bodies – seriously. I felt so much like a wafer compared to them.) Having to watch whatever programme the person who arrived before you were watching because first dibs and all that – always Home and Away FYI.

Needing 20p coins for laundry machine, so everytime you go out, you have to strategically think on how to save your 20p coins. Taking the bus to Oxford during the weekend and once in a blue moon going out during the weekday. Curfew 9 pm on a weekday and we so badly wanted to watch a movie that just came out. Snuck a phonecall to the house to say the bus is late just so we can finish watching rest of the movie. Having to show your face EVERY SINGLE NIGHT to the house staff in their office (long walk away!) at 9 pm. If you went to sleep before that, someone will wake you up and make you walk to the office. If you remain asleep, the house staff will eventually knock on your door and ensure you’re not out gallivanting elsewhere. This was the most annoying thing for me – the registers. Morning register wasnt too bad (8 am) because you have to wake up early for breakfast anyway.

Speaking of food, it wasnt until the second year that they had halal options. The head cook asked what kind of food we’d like him to cook – the usual menu is tomato pasta, chicken kiev, fish and chips and on sundays, roast chicken with gravy. I wasnt too sure how Asian food savvy he was so suggested egg fried rice. He very proudly presented egg fried rice a few days later with sweet and sour something. I loved his efforts.

Also I realised pants is not trousers but underwear. Nought means zero (why dont you just say zero?) and it took me several maths classes to realise this. You text and not message. Always always say please, or else be deemed rude. Speaking up is good and I was confused why the teacher felt I was performing subpar even though I did all my assignments on time. I was too quiet she said, I need to speak up more. She wants to hear my thoughts and ideas. I was bit perplexed but ok I’ll speak up more I said.

And the friendships – thankful to have Bruneians who I became close to (and also glad Kiki and Ona were there, friends from home!). Also girls from my year – Sehr, Yelly and Sarah. We may not see each other much now but they made my life a happier one during those times. It was so lonely and sad the first year, feeling deeply homesick and without the friends I had, I wouldnt have had as much fun. xx

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Week 3 of lockdown in UK

I realise years to come I would want to read this (hopefully still alive – is that a morbid thought?). Life is indeed different and we’re getting to a new normal. We were in isolation for two weeks as kids had cough/fever. They were ok really but since the rules are clear, we followed it to the letter. Their swabs came back negative, Alhamdulillah. Then I got a cough and had to stay in for another few days to make up the total of 7 days isolation. I will tell you now that being cooped up inside with all 5 of us were no way easy and tested everyone’s patience (except Maya, Maya is happy as long as she has enough milk and sleep). It was also that time when everyone was panic buying – so no pasta, no eggs, no nappies. I didnt realise how much I love eggs and of course need it for my baking. Having no eggs was the second hardship of that time.

That said, I realise the stress of being stuck in the four walls of our house with a restless husband (he is an acute medic after all), two rambunctious boys and a baby who can be very vocal with her needs is no way near of what some people are going through. Alhamdulillah we have stable jobs, financially we can storm through this. We have a nice house, enough food to survive on and a garden to run around in. Not everybody has this luxury. And what a luxury I’ve taken for granted.

School closed during that time and the kids seemed to feel FOMO as they werent there on the last days. So I think they think we’re just making this all up – having stayed inside the house for 14 days before we could venture out the neighbourhood. “Mama School” started and the kids initially were petulant rebels and kept saying they want normal school. Maybe Tiger Mama did push them a bit more than at school. They have accepted this new normal now. I must say Brunei seems to be doing more school wise. The teachers in their school have uploaded worksheets with some answers for parents to mark (GREAT) but there is no online teaching or even daily communication with them (just once weekly letter). I’m not complaining and know having pause of formal education will not harm them in the long run. Just want to let other parents aware that those having online learning takes great planning and resource from the teachers, all kudos to them.

As for me, working has also changed. I’ve been redeployed to do full time Children’s Intensive Care (before this neurology in the day and CICU for out of hours). It is hard work wearing the full PPE for 8-12 hour shifts. I have to go out every 3-4 hours (or even less) because of how suffocating hi it is to wear the mask. Each time I take it off, its such a great feeling to breathe the not so fresh air again. We havent had many positive cases but we are taking older ‘children’, so things are a little different at work. I have to go now, maybe I’ll write about work on another post.

Much love,

Stay safe people!

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The time we had to stay at home

I guess it takes a pandemic to get me blogging again. Or more like being in isolation for the last 14 days.

After 14 days being at home, with my husband and kids as my only contacts, I am faring not too bad actually. I thought I would miss going out to restaurants and cafes and having outside contacts but since everything (or almost everything) is closed, I’m not feeling that FOMO. And I realise I enjoy having this time in – it has proved that I can be productive with my time. It also made me realise there are things that I’ve always wanted to do and I vow to do them now! Also unnecessary things in my life – can get rid of them. Its only when you dont have something that you treasure it – like time and freedom!

In case you are reading this years to come, today is March 28th 2020. The world has been put to a halt due to coronavirus pandemic. Schools in Uk were closed this week or specifically closed for non-key workers. We have been in isolation because my kids have had fever/cough and the government decree is that anyone with fever/cough means the household have to stay at home for 14 days. We have been pretty strict with it and not gone out at all except to the driveway or garden.

Zayan has been coping with it all relatively well (he did mention being nervous of the coronavirus) but Ayman do not quite get why we have to stay at home. Constantly asking when we can go to shops, school, out out.

After 2 weeks of ‘Mama School’, here are tips to share:

1. Having some sort of routine helped and made kids understand when its time to play/do school work/eat. The number of times I get asked when they can have a snack!

2. Our routine consisted of morning doing school work/learning and afternoon going out, playing and random activities like baking or painting.

3. My kids fared better doing learning stuff in morning only and then it was harder to get their attention in afternoon. Hence only half day of school. Made me more sane actually than trying to push them.

4. At start of the day, they write down 4 things they want to do eg maths, reading, phonics, science, art etc. From there, they’ll do the school work given to them according to what they’ve asked to do. I am rationing the sheets given by school to only 2-3 sheets a day. Dont want them to finish it too soon! Lockdown might be longer than just a few weeks!

5. Rest of learning consists of doing online learning games. We love Mysteryscience so much that we’ve been doing it on a daily basis. We choose a topic , play the video and the kids watch it and do the activities in it. Its supposed to be 20 minutes only but kids got involved in activities so much that the whole thing usually lasts almost an hour. And I dont even have to do much!! It has age recommendation so 5-6 yrs fits best for Ayman. If you want to be extra and #tigermum (like me), you can also print out the assessment sheets and kids can fill it out to test their knowledge from the videos.

6. Kids do get bored so we spend at least half hour outside. Gotta get them moving!

7. We’ve been calling their friends every now and then and that has boosted their spirits. They spoke to their friend for almost an hour!

Anyway thats it from me.

Write again soon…maybe.

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One within one

Wow, why do I even have the wordpress app if I havent blogged a single thing this year?

The truth is that I’m not ready to give up this blog yet! I’ve been writing since medical school, which makes it a gazillion years ago (maybe around 15 years to be exact).

I finally felt the inspiration to write plus feeling bored (day 11 of annual leave before mat leave starts). Yes, in case you dont personally know me or have seen my instagram, I am now 36 weeks pregnant and frankly hoping baby will come out sooner rather than later.

I feel like this whole year so far has been a haze of pregnancy symptoms. For the first few months up until 20th week or so, I was just feeling tired. Just ridiculously tired. And I slept all the time. I didnt even have the energy to feel guilty. Imagine waking up with 100% battery (assuming I had good sleep) and by mid day, it was down to 10%. And by 2-3 pm, I was reaching negative balance of energy. Everything that does not include surviving (sleeping, eating and clothing myself) had backseat. In the end, I adopted the mantra: “Doing the bare minimum” As long as I did the bare minimum in everything in my life, its ok.

I must confess that I had some meltdown at work, I was just slower and things took longer than I wished fo be. So disinhibited in my emotions that I just teared and teared and poured out to the one consultant that you would least expect to be of comfort (he walked in one late afternoon as I tried to catch up on work). In the end though, the mixture of his awkwardness and having it out relieved (and amused) me.

This pregnancy is harder than before. I was more nauseous – I mean, brushing my teeth made me nauseous. Rushing and walking fast made me nauseous. Coughing made me nauseous. I remembered on one night shift, that there was a crash call at level 6, two levels above where I was. I rushed up the stairs but found myself wanting to heave my stomach contents just as we entered the ward. I indicated to the nurse to go first whilst I collected myself. The feeling passed and I went to assess what happened (its ok, the child was breathing when I got there).

I also had this weird symptom that I didnt realise existed in pregnancy. I had this weird metallic taste every time I ate or drank something, especially after drinking tea or milk. It was so sad, I could not enjoy my cuppa tea anymore! I realise that if I ate sour stuff like vinegary things, it neutralized the taste. So began my love for salt and vinegar crisps – I used to hate them and avoided eating vinegary stuff.

Second trimester was like a dream. Or more like it was waking up from a dream and all my senses were awakened again. You know when you’ve recovered from a cold and your head is no longer filled with wool and your body is yours once again…. that’s how it felt.

As the weeks go by, I felt more and more relieved. My usual lassez-faire attitude towards pregnancy (paragliding at 12 weeks with first pregnancy, going down water slide and accidentally eating some dessert with raw eggs with second one) was no longer. I was more careful and paranoid and constantly worried. I feel like until baby’s out and is crying and healthy, I can finally relax!

That said, it has not stopped me from (trying to) enjoy life and achieve things before my life comes to a standstill again – my belief that for the first year, my life will be wrapped around baby and my fear the first few months is akin to the Dark Ages (so bleak and dark and depressing – though it didnt happen for Ayman but I felt like this with Zayan).

Rome at 16 weeks. I have never listed Rome in my travel go-to list but since we have not conquered Italy yet, we thought we’ll check it out (also Mumtathil vetoed my idea for Cyprus, saying we’ve gone to mediterranean countries recently). It was a lot of walking but the food and gelato – oh the gelato – was glorious. Just what baby needed!

Went to a paediatric conference, where I got a case report e-published, in Slovenia at 20 weeks. Only decided to go a week before when I felt better in myself and mentioned to this female consultant about it. She urged me to go especially as a reason to travel (she has such confidence and I’m secretly in awe).

Went to Spice Girls concert in London at 25 weeks.

Went to Brighton for a two day course by myself at 26 weeks. Going to Brighton, I did stop over Oxford and stayed the night (thanks for the hospitality Nurul!) but decided to do a straight three hour drive on the return journey. I loved Brighton, it seemed so chilled but happening with a lot of hipster cafes and restaurants. Wish I had more time there!

Beach day trip to King’s Lynn, Norfolk today at 36 weeks

Baby, I hope you too will embrace and enjoy life regardless of the challenges. When it does get tough, remember: do the bare minimum until you feel you can pick yourself up again. And you will.

Also if you take your iron supplements as prescribed if you’re anaemic, that will help loads too.

A few more weeks left, pray for me that all goes well!

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My top 10 books of 2018

My number one book – Educated by Tara Westover. I loved it so much that I dragged the family early on a sunday to Cambridge to the literary festival just to go to the author’s reading. Hence my baggy eyes look.

I also was so inspired by it that I wrote a book review in the paediatric drs newsletter.

I love this book so much, that I would declare it  being my favourite read  in a long while. It’s a memoir of a woman who grew up in a self preserving, isolated home environment and strict Mormon family in Idaho. Due to her father’s strict ideals, she and her siblings were cut off from the rest of the world for a large part of her childhood and they were homeschooled. The reality was that they were not taught much at all.

She decided to educate herself and her journey eventually led her to Cambridge university (in England) and later on to Harvard for her doctorate. I was reminded of the education I have had all my life that I have taken for granted.

That aside, she revealed the different shades of family life, the bad and the ugly and how despite it all, the love and care one has for a blood relative. She struggled with growing herself and her mind as her education grew and yet, felt immense loyalty and familial obligation, which I admit was a heart breaking read.

Her stories are riveting, philosophical at times and with such story telling, I could not put it down. I finished the whole book in two and a half days and wished there were more to read! If you would read only one book this year, I would strongly recommend this one.


And then in no particular order of my love for it or chronology of reading, here is the rest of my top 10. Chosen for the reason that it has either taught me plenty, inspired me or made my heart go warm or fuzzy. Or all of the above.

2. Born a crime by Trevor Noah

3. Letters to a young muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash

4. Pengabdian by Hajah Norsiah Haji Abd Gapar

5. The subtle art of not giving a f*ck by Mark Manson

6. Maximize your child’s bilingual ability by Adam Beck

7. Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg

8. A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman

9. It’s all in your head by Suzanne O’Sullivan

10. Becoming by Michelle Obama


Now it’s really hard to stop at no 10 because there are also a few books that I love and recommend.

11. Stay with me (this was a nice surprise)

12. Ps I still love you by Jenny Han

13. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

14 Little Fires everywhere by Celeste Ng

15. Laughing all the way to the mosque

For full list of books I’ve read, see previous post. Happy to say that I achieved my challenge of reading 50 books this year. From someone who love reading but has gotten lazy, reading at most 20 books a year in last few years, this is a major improvement for me.

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Books of 2018

Here is the full list of books I’ve read this year. The genres have certainly ranged and I seem to like crime thrillers more these days. Also, do not judge me on the ‘chick flick’ books – we all need it from time to time I feel for some mind-numbing read. Just like watching Keeping up with Kardashians or I’m a celebrity, get me out of here. No? Just me? There were a handful of let downs and even some more that I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.

1. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

  • My first Terry Pratchett book. It’s a bit too fantasy for me and hard to keep up with. Love the dark humor though.

2. Born a crime by Trevor Noah

  • Reads like how he talks, its so funny. The end did make me tear up a bit. He wrote about growing up in apartheid and I’ve learnt a lot about it from the book. One of my favourites this year.

3. We are completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

  • Uneventful. I cant even remember what its about.

4. The Nakano Thrift shop by Hiromi Kawakami

  • Picked it up at heathrow just before our flight to Japan. Dragging, a bit of sad lonely story.

5. Maximize your child’s bilingual ability by Adam Beck

  • I love this book and love his website. My inspiration to push teaching malay to the kids and finding innovative ways to get them to talk and read the language. If you’re raising a kid in a country/environment where your language is a minority language, this is the book for you!

6. Raising a bilingual child

  • More like factual, research book on why being bilingual is great. Not recommended if you were like me, looking for practical tips.

7. Sofa So Good by Scarlett Moffatt

  • She is my guilty pleasure. Hilarious book.

8. It’s all in your head

  • Recommend this to health professionals. I came away having different perspective on those who have abdo pain/headache with no organic causes or those teenagers who have unexplainable pain or paralysis.

9. Pengabdian

  • I actually like this book despite it being written 24 years ago. Still a lot of relevance on the social issues the character faced, though the medical information is outdated. Love it even more because the story was set during Brunei’s independence. I can just inagine myself there at the stadium, shouting out our independence.

10. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

  • Enjoyed this one! Recommend it for a heartwarming read.

11.Sarong Party Girls

  • It was an interesting book that has certainly given me a different aspect of the culture in Singapore. Ah Beng, Ang Mohs, SPGs… easy and fun read. Slightly disconnecting in the sense I disagreed with Jazzy (SPG) attitude but that’s it – we all have different takes in how to live and survive in this world. It’s funny that I feel uncomfortable reading the racy moments just because it is set in Asia and involving Asian people. If these were white characters, I don’t think I’ll bat an eyelid. It’s like when Bollywood goes extra sexualized (when its nothing in Hollywood movies) and I get all uncomfortable.

12. Crazy Rich Asians

  • I do like the book for the craziness of what the rich can do and have and partly wishing I have that much wealth. Unable to decide whether I like the book or movie better.

13. Rich People Problems

  • Sequel of above- Enjoyed this. As above.

14. China Rich Girlfriend

  • The last of the trilogy. Cant remember plot but enjoyed first better.

15. Educated by Tara Westover

  • Best book ever – see next post

16. A book of Untruths by Miranda Doyle

  • Found it hard to get into and flicked through it a lot.

17. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

  • Recommend this!!! I dont want to detract or ignore that there are defects in society and the average work system that can put women at disadvantage. However she has written well on how we as individuals should also step up and take charge of what we want to do, our vision and ambitions. Its a short book and I felt inspired after reading this.

18. The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla

  • Love the short stories and quite relatable.

19. Every Little Fires by Celeste Ng

  • Love this book! Easy read and I love her writing.

20. Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng

  • Her first book is better but still love her writing.

21. A Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman

  • Heart warming – see next post on my newfound love and discovery for Fredrik Backman.

22. My grandmother sends her apologies and regards by Fredrik Backman

  • Difficult to follow but love the sentiments behind it.

23. A boy made of block by Keith Stuart

  •  Fictional book about a dad learning to understand his autistic boy through minecraft. Made me want to play minecraft. One scene at the end was touching but otherwise predictable storyline.

24. Love, hate & other filters by Samira Ahmer

  • Ok book from what I remember.

25. Behind closed doors by B A Paris

  • This was a quick read and a good thriller. Made my heart race for hours after reading the book.

26. How women rise: Break 12 bad habits

  • Alright book.

27. My Greek Summer holiday

  • This is one of the cheap books you’ll find in WHSmith and then find yourself not benefitted much at the end of it. I finished it for the sake of finishing it. Also bought to try to reminisce our Greek holiday.

28. To the boys I’ve loved before by Jenny Han

  • Ok so this is a YA (young adults) book but we just need this from time to time! Brought me back high school memories and smiled like a schoolgirl reading it.

28. PS I still love you by Jenny Han

  • Of course I had to read the sequel.

29. Always & Forever: Lara-Jean by Jenny Han

  • And finish off the trilogy. Sad to have it finished!

30. The 5 love languages of children by Gary Chapman and Ros Campbell

  • Recommend this to all parents! I’ve learnt a lot from this.

31. Better by Atul Gawande

  • Interesting and I always like reading his books. We can learn a few things from his observations.

32. Revive your heart by Nouman Ali Khan

  • I can hear his voice as I read it. So as a big fan, I am biased. Lots of great reminders and I love relating the ayat from quran to our everyday life (as we should).

33. The Rosie project by Graeme Simsion

  • Easy and fun read.

34. The Witches by Roald Dahl

  • Please can I put this in? I know it’s a kids book! This was our night time reading for a few months (we picked it up whenever we feel like it). I love Roald Dahl!

35. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

  • Love the first book better. Second one felt a bit same-y.

36. Normal People by Sally Rooney

  • This is supposed to be good but I found the storyline boring.

37. Tin Man

  • I can’t quite figure out how I feel about this book. The good things: there are some emotions and relationships in it that is captured beautifully. There are sensitive topics written well: AIDS, being lonely, death. The things that I don’t like: bit dragging, too sad.

38. The Subtle Art of not giving a f*ck by Mark Manson

  • As someone who has a strong inner critic, this was read at a good time. I was down with myself and the book taught me to ask the hard questions: why am I hard on myself, what am I really upset about. Because I had to confront what I perceived as my weaknesses, I soon learnt that it is just that: a perception. I learnt to not give a f*ck to things that do not matter and for things that do matter, to ask the difficult questions of why it does and how to ‘get over it’.

39. A river in darkness by Masaji Ishikawa

  • One man’s escape from North Korea. Mumtathil and I are somehow interested in North Korea, so I find these kind of books interesting. I really felt for this man though. For what he has been through and what he has to deal with even after escaping North Korea.

40. Histories

  • Read this on and off for awhile. Interesting take on having different takes of the different bodies milling through hospital at one time. I found it difficult to follow though, with too many different characters. Bit depressing as well.

41. A little life by Hanya Yanagihara

  • This book is way too long. I did enjoy reading the first half of the book and love the different perspectives. But then I couldn’t take the never-ending pain of one of the main characters. In the end, I felt like it’s better off maybe if he just ends his pain. Mixed reviews on this one.

42. Gantung

  • My second malay book for the year. Bought because I felt I had to read more malay books. But the storyline was not so plausible, though I enjoyed reading the Manglish (malay-english) language featuring in it, more so because it captures how today’s generations talks nowadays.

43. The Halfling King by Katrina Daud

  • Yes to a bruneian book! I love the illustrations and found myself thinking about it after. I read it in the literal sense first time and then realise (I’m so slow) what it was trying to talk about. And then after that, I wonder whether I’m interpreting it differently.

44. From Kianggeh to Weston by Rozan Yunos

  • Short articles on Brunei history and culture. Some interesting articles but some just consisted if boring facts. I am a fan of his blog though, not discrediting him and love on what he does in reviving Brunei’s history.

45. Stay with me by Ayobami Adebayo

  • I actually love this book. I read it in less than 2 days. Easy read and I like the different perspectives it was written in. A book about the societal and familial expectations of becoming a mother, and the impact it has when you cannot bear a child. It also explores the couple’s relationship. I thought it was gonna be heavy but it was a good read. Ayobami is definitely a good story teller, made me feel like it’s based on true story. That said, parts of the storyline can certainly resonate in our culture. Recommend this!

46. Gurkhas

  • If you’re into gurkhas, military or modern warfare, this is the book for you. I’ve always been intrigued with Gurkhas, so mysterious and inpenetrable. My childhood consisted of going to Gurkha shop from time to time because thats where Mama finds the really good kitchenware and food serving stuff. So random, I know. We’ll enter the heavily guarded Gurkha military compound and go to the small shop and I’m just intrigued with them and their presence in Brunei. This book was honest and heartfelt and describes the Gurkhas well. It also has detailed description of this Gurkha’s stint in Afghanistan. I feel like I’m there in their , shooting the enemy.

47. Laughing all the way to the mosque

  • Too funny and definitely recommendable. So many things were relatable and I highlighted a few things and laughed it again as I read it back.

48. Letters to a young muslim

  • Recommend this for both muslims and non muslims. Gently points to what we as the muslim youth should be asking ourselves and others. I wish my nephews, nieces and kids will read this one day because Omar has written things so eloquently and explained our religion beautifully. He also talks about difficult topics and venture into it when many of us just brushes over it.

49. Becoming by Michelle Obama

  • This is fun more because I get to learn how Michelle became an Obama. I realise as the book went on, that I wanted to read more on Barack. I felt like I did not need to know the details of the first chapters of her life but then as she wrote about being the first lady, I appreciated the reason why she wrote about her background. It made it more profound on the difference of her beginnings and her life now. Towards the end, I love her vision and reading on her life as First lady.

50. Dreams from a father by Barack Obama

  • What a book to end the year! I love it largely for the fact that I can read the thoughts of President Obama, well before he became president. It is not like a usual biography and I dont think it intends to but instead follows a man’s journey of identifying what makes him, his race, his identity. It tries to identify how the black society navigates its way in America and his identification as a black man, being mixed race and brought up in Hawaii and Indonesia. He has a gift of writing, though his lack of full stops makes me lose track of what he’s trying to say in the first place.

So that’s it people. If you made it to the end, you must be bored. Do comment if you’ve read any of the above. Tell me your fave reads as well! I love discovering a good book!

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Zayan turned 7

Zayan turned 7 whilst we were up in the air, flying from the homeland to grey cold England.

Seven just seems like a ‘big boy’ age. He is now quite independent, making his own breakfast most of the time (usually kaya, nutella or honey sandwich – dont shoot me on the sugar!) and helps a lot in looking after his little brother. He tidies up after himself a lot (because someone ahem nags him). Yet at other times, he can resort to sulking and crying on the littlest things.

What I love the most about him, and I hope it will always be in him, is how sensitive and empathetic he is to others. I mean he can ignore his little brother’s cry (biasa banar kali dah sampai he just doesnt hear it) but he’s pretty sensitive to others.

A few years ago, he was probably 5 yrs old then and I came back home feeling low. There was a heart breaking resuscitation overnight of a baby that was born at home and sadly the baby did not survive. After discussing with the consultant and doing all we could, I did what I haven’t done before: announced to stop the resuscitation. I tried not to cry then, not let my voice waver as I asked if anyone had any objections. I still remember looking at the NNU sister, paramedics,the other midwives and my SHO. Tears were running down plenty of faces not least the parents. Her mum has just begged us not to stop and I had to explain why we’re stopping, how long we’ve tried. I looked at the ward sister, she had decades of experience and I remember looking away quickly – if I see her cry, I’ll cry then too. But thankfully I, who cries easily at anything and everything, managed to steady my voice, do some last checks (second check that the ET tube was in place, looking for any abnormalities elsewhere), wrapped baby up and handed baby over to parents.

It was pretty busy in NNU with other sick babies and so we plodded on, only catching our breath for a few minutes after that event. So I was numb for the rest of the shift. It only hit me when I was at home…24 hours later.

The next day, I pottered around, still exhausted mentally and physically. I went to the kitchen, stopped as I couldnt remember why I went in there and then I just broke down. I sat on our kitchen stool and the flood gates opened and I couldnt stop sobbing. It’s difficult to explain the grief felt for a little being who I dont even know, whose family I dont know, someone who only just entered the world but still a life lost is a life lost.

So there I sobbed, big ugly fat tears, forgetting that my son was in the house. He crept beside me and stood next to me, patting on my shoulder. He continued standing there for a few minutes, just patting and probably thinking why his mama has lost it. I couldnt stop crying after holding on for the last 24 hours. He asked why I was crying and I said a baby was not well in the hospital yesterday. He asked if the baby is better now and I said no. And so he hugged me some more.

So Zayan, wise beyond your years, thank you for being the sweetest boy ever. Thank you for being the coolness in my eyes.


your mama

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Take my hand

I’ve been mulling on this for awhile whether I should write about this. Since it is National Suicide Awareness month (in the US but whatevs), I thought it’s time I talk about this.

Ok I’ve never been in a state where I want to take my life away but I can understand how doctors can come to that point in their lives. More and more nowadays we hear of doctors disappearing and those taking their lives away. At least three of them occured during or just after their shift. Many of them occured after having complaints being made on them.

Earlier part of this year, I had a situation where I misjudged a patient’s condition. He looked well enough and didnt have any signs of serious illness. I did decide to have the patient be observed as he wasnt completely right yet and his condition improved within hours. Another colleague saw him, agreed with my diagnosis and discharged him. He came back within 8 hours… delirious, confused, quickly becoming ill in front of my colleagues’ eyes. He was intubated and ventilated. He had meningitis. I was told about it the next day. I went to see him in ITU and bumped into Dad – His dad said he was fine when he was discharged. Even hopping out of the unit. He deteriorated a few hours after at home.

The whole situation shook me. I spoke to many consultants, trying to gauge if I did anything wrong, thinking how I could prevent something like this next time. All of them agreed that they wouldnt have done anything else. These things happen they say. Yes, I know it happens.. I just dont want it to happen to me.

I couldnt shake off the incident. I began doubting my judgement. I would make a decision and then mull over it a few hours later. Over time, my confidence was affected. As a person who can be fairly anxious, I became even more anxious. Going home from oncalls or a busy shift, I would worry about patients, constantly thinking I might have missed something, worried that one of those I discharged will deteriorate or worse, come back dead. I couldnt sleep properly. I was crying more (more than my usual). I can get to a point where I would overthink things and panic.

This was a gradual process by the way. The anxiety went to higher levels bit by bit, it snuck on me that I thought this was somewhat normal. It dawned on me eventually how not normal it is. I couldnt bring myself to be too happy. I thought whenever I ‘lose’ myself to a good laugh or be happy… watch it, dont be too happy now, something bad might happen. By bad I mean a patient of mine would deteriorate or die because of me, I would lose my license and go to jail. It sounds ridiculous right… even writing this now sounds ridiculous to me.

I confided in the counsellor who I spoke to years ago when I was failing my exams. I reconnected with her and she made me realise how my feelings were affecting my thought processes (or is it the other way round?). She gave me practical tips on how to overcome my anxiety. I also spoke to an extent with my supervisor and another consultant who was supportive and reassuring.

The thing is… I never really spoke about it much with my family, friends and colleagues. I didnt know how to say it. I really didnt know how to tell them the magnitude of my anxiety. “Uhh I dont want to laugh too much now because you know, something bad might happen…” It was also easier to not think about it. As my mood spikes and wanes, it was easier to forget about it when I was having a good day.

I also didnt want to be seen as weak or be the failing doctor. It was if that by being anxious, I thought people will think my ability to doctor (can I make it into a verb?) is reduced. I didnt want people to judge me (and trust me, often medics are the worst judges of their own colleagues). Let me judge me. And this, I think, is why doctors get driven to that point. We bottle it up, paint a picture of absolute normality, get on our lives… not only do we not want to be seen as being impaired to work but we are also in denial ourselves. You just plod on.

Take my hand

and hold it tight.

Please remember

that it will be alright.

Reach out for someone

when you feel alone,

the panic, the heaves,

you’re not made out of stone.

Just remember

it will get better,

somehow someway

(and it might be a long way)


the sun will shine

and you will find

that you’ll be just fine.

The clouds will part,

it will no longer rain,

and you realise

that you deserve to be happy once again.

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Finding joy

Lately I’ve been stuck in a rut. Unmotivated. Lethargic. Uninspired. I admit to feeling like this from time to time and my usual go-to pick up is to find a project to fulfill this void.

On the other hand, I have so many things that I have to do. Work stuff to complete – audit, case report, e-portfolio (big groan). Start preparing for my START assessment – kinda like an assessment to see how well prepped one is to be a consultant (even though I’m two years away but have been advised to start doing it now, so I can work on any weaknesses/recommendations). Extra curricular stuff that I wish I can just stop doing. Need to get more fit. Teach kids more malay. Be more active in islamic teaching. Sort my stuff in the back room. Finally finish up the Japan scrapbook. Oh and go to work and do a good job out of it (once many moons ago as a house officer, my registrar told me a good day is when you don’t kill anyone. I love and agree with her standards).

And then it gets overwhelming and I just don’t want to do anything anymore.

Do you ever get the feeling that your life is becoming out of control? Instead of taking charge of it though, it feels easier to just let things be and just do things when they are absolutely necessary or when I feel up for it, whichever comes first.

What I have realised is that when Marie Kondo said we should only have things that brings us joy, she doesn’t just mean things in a materialistic way and actually mean every aspect of our life.

All these things that I’m doing – is it bringing joy to me?

Of course, not everything in life can be joyful to us. Paying bills and finding the best car insurance deals does not exactly flutter happiness in one’s heart – unless you love the satisfaction of finding good deals? Those are essentials. But accepting they are essentials and getting on with it is crucial to finding that joy.

There are plenty of things in my life that is not essential and does not bring me joy. So I think it’s time for some decluttering of activities and ‘hobbies’ (does facebook stalking count as a hobby?). And insert more things that brings me joy.

On that same note, there are things that I feel I have to do, like teach my kids malay. It feels like hard work at times and no wonder the kids feel like its hard work if their teacher feel the same way. There are times though when it’s easier, like when I’m reading Malay books to them at bedtime – somehow they’re more receptive then. I get their attention and we can have conversations in malay (by that I mean, I speak in malay and the answer is in english. If I’m lucky, I might have the odd malay words repeated back. Small steps….).

Perhaps not everything will be joyful – some things will be hard but it’s finding the more joyful parts of it to keep one going.

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