Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Meet Affandi

Affandi is the man who came to marry me at my mother's house in Penang. My family was delighted when he arrived at the front gate that wedding night. I was in the bridal chamber when my sister came running to me and asked, "Is he the one with a powdered face as white as a monkey?!" LOL. Yes, I remember that. Affandi had no idea that his face was painted so white! I asked him many years after we got married why he painted his face white that night when he came to marry me. Affandi explained he had never won powder before and on that wedding night the people around him said he should apply some facial powder. And they applied the chalk white Chinese powder, which is sold as a hard cake. But the funny thing is they applied so much powder that he did look funny. We had to remove some of his thick white facial powder so that he looked proper for the wedding. Sometimes it tickles me that men also have to apply powder on their face on their wedding day. That's Malay style I think.

Affandi has been supporting me and my research on The Early Malay Doctors since its beginning up till now. Sometimes he did the interviewing and asking while I listened and tried to understand. He is bestowed with a good voice. He also has very good memory and I only need to ask him what somebody said and he will blurt and regurgitate what he heard or understood. So I have never used a digital tape recorder for my research on The Early Malay Doctors and I don't have any regrets. Affandi still has the video recording of the interview with Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid bin Ismail. We haven't converted it to MP3.  That will be the next phase in this research, insyaAllah - to document all evidence in some portable form electronically. It will take a lot of planning before I will do the necessary archiving and distribution to interested parties.

Haji Affandi bin Haji Hussien, speech-language pathologist & Head of Audiology and Speech Pathology Unit, Hospital USM, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan. Contact **affandi@kb.usm.my** and in Facebook.

Affandi has served USM since 1981. His 55th birthday is on 20 January 2013. InsyaAllah, we will have nasi briyani for his birthday lunch in my department. 

Affandi attended school in Pahang. He attended the St Thomas Primary School in Kuantan, Pahang. Affandi grew up in the hands of his step-mother since age 6. He helped his step-mother to sell nasi lemak since age 6. He woke up early in the morning to cook rice and prepare sambal ikan bilis, cut the cucumber and boiled the eggs. Then he packed the rice, and placed all in a basket, and went to sell them at the police barrack in Bukit Galing, Kuantan in Pahang. The money obtained from the sales of nasi lemak was given to his step-mother. With so much duties to do for his siblings and the food selling to do, Affandi left school at age 15 (Form 3). He never went back to school but went to work as a bilal at Masjid Pasir Mas, under the tutelage of an Arab-Malay Imam, Haji Othman, from whom he studied the Quran verbally. He had good memory and can recite the Quran very well. At that stage, he had never learnt the Jawi script in the Quran but he could recite any verse as taught by Haji Othman. Later Haji Othman died and Affandi was left alone without a Quran teacher to guide his recitations. He went to work for another Imam, this time under the tutelage of Haji Loh Lubok Tapah, within Pasir Mas. Since Affandi had no money to pay Haji Loh, he went about cleaning the living quarters of the pondok at Lubok Tapah instead so he could stay on and learn from Haji Loh and the other students at the pondok. Then he left to work as a janitor at the government office (MPKB) in Kota Bharu. There he learnt of the many government servants and the nature of their jobs. He made a few friends, some of whom have remained his friends till today. He then went to work as a piling assistant in the rural areas, planting telephone and electricity poles (tiang letrik) in the rural areas, so these areas could have electricity as well as telephone connection. Then he went to work as a clerk at a school in Batu Uban, within Pasir Mas. He helped the teachers to fill in forms for higher studies. Then he applied for a job at USM in Penang. He became a clerk at the USM main library in Penang in 1981. Then he met me in June 1982 and we got married on 25 June 1983. Affandi came to live in my mother's house in Penang after we married. Of course my mother pampered him and fed him all the lovely food of a continental menu. It was the first time that Affandi ever tasted toast, butter and jam at breakfast. He liked jam so we always buy a bottle of strawberry jam for him and make sure there is toast, butter and jam for him at breakfast. That's what I call over pampering. When Affandi married me, he decided to continue his studies to match my status (I had my MSc). He continued to do his MCE/SPM and HSC by postal studies. I also enrolled him for driving lessons in Penang so he could take over driving my car, and for good. I stopped driving since I got married to him. It should not mean that I don't know how to drive. But I don't drive like crazy as in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!! 

Affandi and I moved to Kubang Kerian in Kelantan, in September 1983, less than 3 months after we married. In Kelantan, I was able to meet Affandi's family for the first time. I never met the family before we married. It was then that I knew there was a lot I had to do for his siblings. We went to get some food, clothing and school items for the kids. Their food cupboard at home was always bare. In the early 1980s, the Malaysian economy was bad and salaries were small. Affandi earned $200 a month, and always sent his salaries home but it was not sufficient to make ends meet. The younger siblings were stark naked. The family was often without food. Rent was $50/month at the time. The living conditions were appalling - the roof leaked so badly that one night's shower was enough to awaken everyone except the little ones who just slept through, drenched! I held on to my prayers and helped out as much as I could to get his family back on their feet, fed and feel human. While some of the boys wanted to leave school, we managed to encourage all the siblings to continue school. Alhamdulillah, everyone completed school at Form 5. Affandi tended to the form-filling chore which he was good at, and some of the boys managed to obtain scholarships and got good jobs. Affandi and I can only thank Allah SWT for saving his family and pulling them out of abject poverty. Now I understand what poverty really means. Syukur, Alhamdulillah.

When I went to do my PhD in Australia, I brought Affandi along so he could pick up on English, both written and spoken. It was his first time being overseas and seeing big white people with strange enough behaviours. He managed to enroll at TAFE College in New South Wales. He also managed to enroll for studies at Sturt College in Perth. He also enrolled for various studies at TAFE College in Perth. Altogether, he has certificates in medical records, hospital administration, etc. He also managed to enroll for Quran reading at Marion Mosque in Adelaide and at Perth Mosque when we lived in Perth. The Turkish Imam Salem at Marion Mosque taught him how to read Jawi script in the Quran. The Egyptian Imam Muhammad at Perth Mosque taught him Tajwid for Quran reading & recitation. So over the 4 years we lived in Australia, Affandi learned to read the Quran Jawi script and recitation. He also went to Makkah and there was an Imam there (could be a malaikat) in Masjidil Haram who listened to his Quran recitation and corrected him. Affandi managed to complete (khatam) his Quran reading/recitation each time he went to Makkah and Madinah. He has mastered Quran reading and recitation so well, that is it a blessing for him to be able to recite some long Surah in his night prayers (Qiamullail). He has never stopped reciting the Quran nor performing the Qiamullail. In his spare time, Affandi reads the Quran, fasts and prays. He has a large collection of Quran and Islamic books. He also inherited my father's Islamic books. He also returns to visit some pondoks and the orphanages in Kota Bharu, mainly to help out the poor kids since he understands them better than most people do. He will speak to the caretakers and I get second-hand information from him if there is anything we must do to help. 

When I went to do my first Sabbatical Leave at Royal Perth Hospital, I brought along my family. From Perth, Affandi applied for a place at UKM to do a degree in speech pathology. UKM accepted him and I cut short my Sabbatical Leave and we flew back to Kelantan, so that Affandi could go to study at UKM. Since Affandi was "over age" to obtain any scholarship for his studies at UKM, we decided to use our savings. Affandi was on "no pay leave" when he did his degree at UKM for 4 years. We were already living in our own house and both of us paid our dues to the government. But since Affandi had no pay during his time at UKM, I received an eviction order from the government. It was a big blow to me. I had to quickly decide what to do because Affandi was far away and I was on my own in Kelantan, and with 5 small kids in tow - one baby was on bottle milk, two toddlers were preschoolers and 2 kids were in primary school. I had no choice but to pay Affandi's half of the dues to the government. Altogether, I paid approximately $2,000 monthly till Affandi graduated and got back his pay. We were lucky as during that difficult period I was promoted and had a little bit extra money to pay for his education and our house. He was commuting monthly by bus between KL and KB. We decided to get a car (a Wira) so he could car pool and travel to clinics for his practical clinical sessions at the various places as assigned by his teachers at UKM. I had my last child when Affandi was in his final year. Affandi completed his degree in 2000. We then went on our first Hajj together via Tabung Haji. We made it! Alhamdulillah.

Affandi has a Chinese father and a Malay-Chinese mother. His Chinese surname is Wong. Nee how ma? How pu how? His mother's village is Kg Gajah Mati in Jalan Gajah Mati, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, near the Baptist Church. His father's village was a Chinese concentration camp made by the British to protect their Chinese citizens from the Japanese slayings during WWII. The camp was located in Kuala Balah, midway between Gua Musang and Jeli. The family then relocated to Jalan Hamzah in the post-war, becoming one of the wealthiest Chinese family in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. That's history. But fate has it and Affandi's father turned to Islam at age 21 while in the British police force based in Kota Bharu. Conversion to Islam was not allowed during that time. So his father kept it a secret. It was only made known at the time of his marriage. Then the family went to live in an old palace at Nilam Puri. The rest is history.

I asked Affandi a few times what he wanted to be when he was a little boy. Affandi said he had always wanted to become a doctor!! Even though he did not become a doctor, Affandi's work today draws him close to patients who need his service. Affandi is blessed with a soft spot in his heart when he attends to his patients. He reads the Quran and prays Solat Dhuha before he sees his patients. He is calm when he attends to them. He knows that Allah SWT sees and helps him in his work. He has to remind his patients to read the Quran and also pray. I am surprised to come to know that most patients do not pray. I am happy that Affandi is doing well today, coming from a difficult childhood. Subhanallah, Walhamdulillah, Walaa ila ha-ilallah, Wallahuakbar.

Affandi was born in a house by Sungai Kelantan.
View Rumah tepi sungai in a larger map.


Iskandar said...

Assalamualaikum Dr. Faridah,

Love this entry of yours. Hope to meet you and your husband one day. :-)

Prof Faridah said...

Dear Iskandar,

Thank you for loving this brief but true story of Affandi's difficult childhood and his miraculous breakthrough and wonderful career.

We keep this story to let all kids know that nothing is impossible if one had a dream and the courage. Opportunity is what sets us apart.

You can always come and meet us either at work or at home in Kubang Kerian, Kelantan.