Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Protect our parents from elder abuse

All's well that ends well. At least that was how Harian Metro, the number one Malay tabloid in Malaysia, portrayed it.

Amir Mohd Omar, who abandoned his paralysed mother to the care of strangers at a budget hotel at Jalan Raja Muda Musa, Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur, has accepted a job offer from an entrepreneur and Malaysians have high expectations regarding his filial duty.

Would he be able to hold it together this time and not crack under the strain of managing his day-to-day life which includes looking after his aging mother?

I would like to think that he would do the right thing now.

Anti-Amir sentiment ran high when the public read that he had walked away from his physically incapacitated mother, Faridah Maulud, 66,  after checking her into the hotel.

His distraught mother was discovered by hotel staff a few days later when they found out that he didn't pay the hotel bill. Her gut-wrenching photo on the front page of the tabloid touched many readers of the newspaper including this writer.

The reasons for his action are unclear but the then jobless 27 year-old reportedly said that it was an act of sheer desperation: he was worried about his health and financial difficulties.

He reunited with his mother -- thanks to Harian Metro which went to town on the story -- ten days after abdicating his responsibility. Congratulations Harian Metro!

"I knew he did not mean to desert me. I want to stay with him because he is the only family that I have. Thank you all for bringing him back to me," said Faridah at the reunion.

That is a good example of unconditional love. Amir! How could you? That was my initial reaction and I am certain that was how others felt too. There's no excuse for such behaviour.

Islam is strict about elder abuse and mandates that adult children take good care of their parents. The reality is that Amir's case represents only the tip of the iceberg, since headlines suggest that people discard their parents at hospitals, nursing homes and on the streets.

There are other cases which go unreported including the one involving an acquaintance who was kicked out of the family home several years ago when he objected to his youngest daughter's choice of marriage partner.

The fact that the young woman's suitor has a criminal record and was staying illegally in Malaysia at the time seemed irrelevant to his wife and two daughters who were adamant that the couple should get married. 

The situation overseas is just as tragic. As the New York Times (When the ties that bind unravel, Mar 3, 2010) puts it: "While there are no official tallies of parents whose adult children have cut them off, there is no shortage of headlines."

Here's one: Angelina Jolie mends her eight year rift with father Jon Voight after Brad Pitt plays peacemaker

The New York Times continues: "A number of Web sites and online chat rooms are devoted to the issue, with heartbreaking tales of children who refuse their parents' phone calls and e-mail and won't let them see grandchildren. Some parents seek grief counselling, while others fall into depression and even contemplate suicide."

A wide range of emotionally stressful events may trigger parental estrangement: "conflict over money, a boyfriend, or built-up resentments about a parent's divorce or remarriage".

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, an expert on parental estrangement and author of "When Parents Hurt", notes that "we live in a culture that assumes if there is an estrangement, the parents must have done something really terrible".

"But this is not a story of adult children cutting off parents who made egregious mistakes. It's about parents who were good parents, who made mistakes that were certainly within normal limits." According to Coleman, parental estrangement is a "silent epidemic" because many parents are ashamed to admit they've lost contact with their children.


My question to Amir is: what did your mother do to you to deserve abandonment? I imagine it's a terrible experience and I wouldn't wish something like that on my worst enemy.

Your mother needs lots of tender loving care to feel safe again. Please remember that, Amir.


Friday, March 09, 2012

Guest Post: When love and hate collide

Having just sunk a third of her monthly salary into a new mobile phone, guest blogger Jehan Mohd ponders its prominence in today's world.

People have a strange attachment to their mobile phones - it's a relationship of epic proportions.

Look around and you will notice more than a handful of people with their eyes stuck on a small screen as their fingers are busy tapping away on the flat surface or a mini keyboard.  

It is not unusual to see individuals interacting with their phones more than with the people they are actually out with, or for audience members to be more engrossed in whatever is on the small screen than on the big one in the cinema or in the live action happening on stage in a concert or play. 

But I digress. The whole point of the preceding paragraph was to show how close people can be to their handheld devices. 
  
I have to admit that I am too (but not to the point where I forget to enjoy real life as it happens in front of me). 
  
I've owned mobile phones since I was a Year 11 student in an Australian boarding school back in 1996 (when such a device was still a rarity, especially among young people).  
  
Aside from very brief periods when I had an Ericsson phone (before it became Sony Ericsson and recently became completely extinct when Sony bought out its shares to become Sony Mobile), an old Motorola model (which may have actually been my mom's phone) and a cute pink Samsung specimen, my mobile devices have all come from the Nokia family. 
  
The longest relationship I had with a phone was with my trusty Nokia 3210, which survived being dropped, scratched and scraped several times over the four-odd years I had it.   

The trusty 3210 (also known as the brick) saw me through some memorable moments such as college, graduation and my first years as a working stiff. - Picture by Discostu (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Since then I change phones on average once in a year or two (one lasted a mere two days: it was irreparably damaged after I accidentally dropped it - luckily it was a cheap secondhand one).  

There has never been one that gave me the same satisfaction as the 3210 ... but I haven't stopped looking and hoping. And it is sometimes still difficult to let go of tried and tested phones that are in still decent shape.

The E5 (left) and 3120 classic are two relatively hardy phones that have survived being dropped, getting splashed with water and curious baby nieces and nephews. The 3120 is my back-up phone for travelling. - Picture by Jehan Mohd (taken with the Lumia 800 and auto-adjusted with included software)
Things have changed a lot in the mobile world.  

Where before the mobile phone was merely a tool to make and receive calls and to send texts through Short Message Service (or, simply, SMS), now it is practically a mini computer that helps us keep track of schedules; do work, play and communicate online; and takes photos and videos, among others. 

My most recent acquisition is something I had serious doubts about - from what I read the battery life was a huge letdown, the applications I could get for free were nothing compared to more the established smartphones, iPhone and Blackberry.  

But being a loyal Nokia user, I could not see myself getting anything else (times when I did did not end so well for the phone or for me).  

That is how I ended up getting the Lumia 800 - the first Nokia phone using the Windows operating system - about a week ago.  

My first major smartphone - the Nokia E5 I had before this is way simpler compared to this baby. - Picture by Jehan Mohd
   
Being a smartphone that is controlled by touching the screen and having an interface that is akin to a Windows computer, it is easy to think of it not as a phone but as a small computer that fits in your hand - with the battery life of a netbook computer (i.e. awfully short). 

The screen has a brilliant display, which makes decent pictures look great. - Picture by Jehan Mohd

It has been a love-hate relationship from day one.  

First, what I love about my phone: 
  - gorgeous good looks, both in terms of the body and the included software 
  - simple interface that is easy to learn 
  - zippy performance  
  - a decent autofocus camera (Nokia seems set to include awful fixed-focus cameras in its latest range of phones with the exception of certain smartphones - this was one of the main reasons I bought this model instead of others)  

Second, what I hate about my phone: 
  - being a touch phone, it can be a bit tricky typing, or even making a call      
  - it has a screen which attracts dust, smudges and fingerprints
  - a pitiful battery, which meant that I had to charge the phone every few hours during the first couple of days I owned it. It has not been as bad the past two days, though, so I reckon it could be a matter of adjusting to its quirks (I still bring the USB charger cable with me in case I need to charge it at work). 

Sometimes it's easy to forget the Lumia is a phone - making a call involves a few steps instead of just one when you're at the home screen. - Picture by Jehan Mohd
Despite the sucky (no pun intended) battery life - which makes me hate the phone - I don't regret the decision I made to buy the phone because I love it too. Only time will tell if this will last longer than the others I have had since the trusty 3210 (seeing how my last few phones have been, I somehow doubt it). 

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

It ain't over till the sleeping cat awakens


A stray kitty enjoying the one of life's best luxuries - a catnap! - Picture by Jehan Mohd
 
This cat was spotted just a few doors down from Hillside Corner, a lovely little eatery in Bukit Antarabangsa in Ampang, Selangor, Malaysia.

We were heading for a dinner party at the famous Hillside Corner when journalist Jehan Mohd noticed this stray cat sleeping soundly just a few doors away from the restaurant. Being a photography freak and having a new camera phone (more on this in another post) that she wanted to try out, she stopped to snap this picture.

She says: "It just looked so peaceful and cute that I couldn't help myself. I thought that it would make a good picture because of its surroundings."

This cat seems quite at home in the area - aside from a delicious menu that includes fantastic carrot cake and the most delicious nachos, Hillside Corner is also a haven for all sorts of cat-themed decorations from paintings and figurines to calendars and card holders. See pictures below to get an idea of what I mean:
 
Cats at the payment counter send happy and full customers on their way. - Picture by Jehan Mohd
One of a few cat pictures hanging on the walls of Hillside Corner. - Picture by Jehan Mohd

(Disclaimer: the colours did not originally come out this brilliant, Jehan Mohd says she tweaked the saturation and contrast levels to "make the pictures pop".)