Wednesday, November 26, 2014

happy anniversary, evil you!

I realized that I've 'stop' writing about my health condition for quite a while.
Perhaps I'm not sure how I really feel, whether I'm healthy or not.
Perhaps I'm not sure how I would react, whether to laugh or cry.
Perhaps I'm not sure how I should be, whether to endure or surrender.
Fact is - it's everything and anything.
It's been a year! Yup! At these time last year, I was nervous, cried buckets of tears, worried, in grievance and tried to put my daily happy face just to tell everybody I'll be fine.
Yup! It was these time, last year.

(Now I know why I can't write about my health updates! It's too much to take. I haven't started talking about it, yet I'm crying mentally!)

Truth is, I don't know how, where and what to start ranting about when people asked me "how are you doing?"
It was a genuine question. People do want to know how I'm doing.
I just didn't know if I should start blabbering telling about all the traumatizing experience  I went through or describing how tiring of me being weak most of the time, even after a year.
Usually, I would just answer them the truth "Alhamdulillah, I'm coping well. I beat the evil cancer!!"
Fact is - the treatment left a very significant mixed feeling whenever I think about it. Though I've beat cancer, I still couldn't get things out of my mind..

Cancer is evil. It was nothing when you didn't realized it. And suddenly, pop! Out of sudden, you were all weak. Friends, take it from me, find time for yourself and your loved one. Get a health screening package, check your body out. Yup, if it's faith, it is..but, even in the Quran do tell us "usaha".. work things out! Get it done - mammogram, pap smear - everything. Live a healthy life. Go organic, if you could. Eat good cleaned food. Reduced junk! Yup, it's not easy. I'm in a remission and still couldn't get these right.. but, we can just try, try! They don't simply prevention is better than cure for nothing. It's true, prevention is better than cure.

I've completed my whole treatment cycle in March, and here I am, after eight month, still on my road of recovery.

It is tiring.

Nope, I'm not complaining.
But allow me to explain.

The recovery is terrifying.
The tasteless buds is saddening.
The burning throat is unbearable.
The buzzing noise seems to consistently humming in the ears.
The runny nose is a never-ending issue.
The breakdown of the nerves system is a frequent dilemma.
The physical imbalanced judgement is frustrating...o my, it's endless

It was horrifying and still haunting.

The chemotherapy kills all the bad and good cells.
My blood cells reduced, and still counting. The red, white blood cells and everything.. it is still low for the body to cope.
I got sick easily. Like a baby.
In a week, I would have fever, coughs and everything under the sun.
I went to the GPs and got fed-up after a while.
Tiredness is a disease too. I could sleep for days.
If a 'normal' person could still survive after Wednesday, my week got shorten.
Should I have a full Monday, my body started to feel tired on Tuesday, and got weak on Wednesday and by Thursday I could collapsed. It took me three days to rejuvenate!
After a while, this routine is ruining me.
I became grumpy.
I felt useless.
Most of the house chores done by my husband, and I could hardly accompany him for a chat while him doing chores just because I prefer sleeping.
Things got tenses once a while.
I felt tired.
Everything is irritable to me, yet, I thought I was being rational though I doubt it.
There were one time that I went to the GP, complaining of headache and toothache and she referred me to the dentist. The dentist then checked and told me it was the sinus. My sinus vessel has been filled up with fluid.
Of sudden, instead of fluid flowing out from my nose, it came out from the ears! Yup, you read it right, from the EARS!
It was scary, but the onco, with his straight faced, told us "It's the normal effect for those who completed the head and neck radiotherapy. The issues with the ears and the nose will always be there for the next two or three or maybe even five years. The radiotherapy killed all the cells and hairs at the area, hence, everything is developing new. As for now, the nose and ears are 'unprotected'"
My emotions fluctuate highs and lows.
I could be angry and screaming on top of my lung.
I could get violent.
I could just stop talking and shut everything off.
I could cry non-stop just because it was raining.

As I would say it..
I'm tired of getting tired
I'm tired of getting sick
I'm sick of getting sick
I'm sick of getting tired
But it was all a blessing.
A great blessing.
As I read the Quran yesterday, tears flowing.
I have no idea what I was reading.
I don't bother reading the tafseer.
But I was crying.

Betapa cantik bahasa Allah.
Betapa merdu susun lagunya.
Betapa agung ayat-ayatnya.
Betapa mahal patah baitnya.
Betapa bertuah diri ini, dilahirkan dengan agama semulia ini, diberi nikmat dunia akhirat.

It's all up to oneself.

Kalau baik mintaknya, baiklah jadinya.
Kalau lalai melata, usah disalahkan Maha Pencipta.
It was a ride.
But as the days passed, I cried today for the blessing.

My auntie cooked the best assam pedas, sambal ayam, ikan bakar with the greatest air assam.
I was her number one fan when it comes to food.
I remembered how guilty she was when we had a makan-makan few months ago and she've prepared all the food in everyone's list and overlooked on my 'disability' at that time.
I was crying when all I had was a plain rice with fried egg.
It was unfair.
I couldn't take spicy food. Even the ikan kicap was spicy for me!

Last week, after nearly a year, on the day I was crying and made my colleagues teary, too (don't deny me girls, I knew you were!), throwing tantrums, pulling out dramas and stormed out from the office, Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim, Maha Pengasih Ya Allah gave me among the greatest gift.. the sensation to withstand the spicy air assam.. After a year!!! All the small things!!!!!!!!

Surah Hud, Ayat 9,10&11:

Dan demi sesungguhnya! Jika Kami rasakan manusai sesuatu pemberian rahmat dari Kami kemudaian Kami tarik balik pemberian itu daripadanya, mendapati dia amat berputus asa, lagi amat tidak bersyukur. 

Dan demi sesungguhnya! Kalau Kami memberinya pula kesenangan sesudah dia menderita kesusahan, tentulah dia akan berkata: Telah hilang lenyaplah dariku segala kesusahan yang menimpaku. Sesunggnya dia (dengan kesenangannya itu) riang gembira, lagi bermegah-megah (kepada orang ramai). 

Kecuali orang-orang yang sabar dan mengerjakan amal soleh maka mereka itu akan beroleh keampunan dan pahala yang besar.

Who am I kidding!
It has always been a blessing.
I got sick, but my kids were taking care of.
They got to one of the good school. They performed well. They even memorize few of the juz amma which I didn't managed to up till now.
The stubborn me learned and still learning to be a better muslimah, wife, mother and daughter.
The material world which seems never enough is actually suffice.
The nikmat are abandon..
Yes, I regret that I didn't realized how much Allah loves us before I was diagnosed with cancer.
Tapi syukur, sebab cancer, I wanted to change to a better life.
It feels great to know the purpose of living.
It time to achieve.
Jom semua, kita work towards Jannah, Insyaallah.


Monday, November 24, 2014

what courage is..

we had the whole clan sending my cousin sister to her college.
it was mixed feelings.
my extended family is really extended. and we are very close. we argued, we yelled, we screamed and we laughed at each other - the bonding we cherished..
when i was on my long summer holidays, i remembered having her sleeping on my chest, so that I could take a nap too.. it was  soothing to have that small warm tiny baby on your chest that was so fragile!

that was eighteen years ago. and this baby made us proud for being offered a place (finally) in uitm jengka to pursuit her (or maybe ours) ambition.

well, it's a normally sob stories of a girl coming from a poor family and made it through (insyaallah).
but, i felt like writing about it, just as a reminder to myself, herself or anyone who might have forgotten how blessed life is..allahuakbar
she's the little daughter of my aunt. her dad, who has three wives and dozens of abandoned children, was barely there in their life.

my aunt, the only one who never received any formal education out of eleven (twelve?) siblings, was so in love with this guy and got married without the parent's approval and became the second wife. i'd still say she got conned by this man, but, once a while, when she talked about him, despite all the mean words and hatred that came out from her mouth, deep inside, i could still figure out the love never dies, partly.

my aunt raised both of her daughters by herself, with the altruism from the family members. nope. not a single cash came in from that irresponsible father of my cousins. maybe there were, but if there were, i knew it was never suffice. in fact, i remember hearing him asking money  from my aunt. i never knew this guy. i just hate his gut that i never was interested to know his issues! they said, he was actually a nice person.. but any man who left his family behind, ignoring them and pretended as if they never exists never deserved to even be called a person!

my aunt took care tens and tens of stranger kids and babies (some have been all grown up and still came and paid her visits), cooked food  (nice food) to sell every morning before the sun even rise. just so to feed herself and her daughters and survive in this while as much as possible. she barely bought things for herself. she took care of us, too. when we were small, when our parents were away for work, she babysit us, provided us food, bathed us, and washed our laundries. and now, she still did her routines for our kids. it was cheap hard labour, but the least she can do. as much as she might think she was lucky to have us, i wanted her to know we were the lucky one to have her throughout our lives.. she has not only two daughters, she raised so many of us, the cousins and our babies too (that would be for my case)!

i remembered when i was in my primary and the mailman came to deliver a courier. she never knew how to write, and she was supposed to sign the received consignment. she wrote a crooked 'z' representing her name, zaiton.. at that time, i found it cute.. but thinking back, i sympathized! i knew she was struggling, in front of her growing niece and that mailman.. she could hardly hold a pen!

i remembered when i was a teenager and saw her hand-washed my dirty underpants. it was nothing back then, 'ala, mamiton memang basuh baju semua orang'.. and thinking back, allahuakbar, what have i done! i knew she wouldn't mind, but what was i thinking? what was everybody thinking?

i remembered when i wanted to further up my studies oversea, and all she did day and nights were cleaning the anchovies for the sambal she would cooked for me to bring it to the UK,,, she could have just asked my mom to bought the cleaned anchovies to make her life easier, but she said "tak sedap sambal bilis pakai ikan bilis yang dah siap kopek'. as she was the expert in food, we never complained, after all, we never helped! .. and thinking back, how could i do what i did, ignoring small things and noticing how much she cared.

i remembered when i just called her "miton, boleh jaga aidan aimar tak, ain nak gi tengok wayang ngan acap?" and her respond will never fails me..up until today.

i remembered how excited she has been to learn the quran from my boy just because she never knew how to read.

my aunt, seems like non-existing insignificant no-body type of a person, but she's everything.
she is (still) my mom's and my babysitter
she  is the best "washing machine" (never broke unless she was attacked by fever) we could have, and she made the white shirt whiter than you first bought.
she is definitely the best chief we ever had..when others' were telling how much they missed their mum's cook when we were in boarding school, i missed mamiton's food (sorry mama, you still cooked the best nasik tomato, though)
she is our mom.. and she just do hard labour for us..
my aunt, she's everything..

and as we sent her daughter away, as much as we were so proud of her for making it to the university, all the credit must go to my aunt. she has no knowledge how school was, she has no idea how reading was, she learned her basic english words 'jump, run, no, yes' from my children, she has no educational achievement that her daughter can be proud of.. but all of us knew, she will do what it takes to make sure her daughters get what she never get!! if courage is a person, courage is her!

nana, ni akak nak pesan.
orang tengok korang orang susah, orang tak bijak pandai..
orang tau tengok je
orang tak rasa susah mak, dah takkan paham susah mak.
alhamdullillah, ada rezeki sepupu2, kite semua tolong sesama kite.
mak berjasa bukan kat nana and tasha jer.. mak banyak jasa kat kitorang.
nana, mak mungkin ada buat silap dalam buat keputusan hidup die dulu.
tapi, akak tau, die bersyukur dapat nana tasha sebagai anak dia.
nana, kite semua tau, takde orang yang boleh tolong kite, selain diri kite sendiri.,
walau mak tak lafaz dekat nana setulusnya, akak tau, dia nak nak belajar betul2, score habis2an..die nak goreng sambal bilis bekalkan nana pergi belajar oversea nanti, insyallah.
nana, belajar betul2.
belajar supaya nasib terbela.
belajar sampai berjaya.
biarlah kawan2 kolej boleh pakai iphone6, kete myvi pergi kuliah, handbag coach latest design, baju sutera yang cantik2, nana belajar je lah. belanja sekadar mampu, tapi pulun habis2an kat university tu.
ari tu 3 kerete hantar nana, though ramai lagi yang nak ikut...nanti, satu bas kita sewa bile nana grad with deans' list, insyaallah.. berkat doa kitorang semua.. berkat doa harapan mak!

akak nak kasik ingat
1. jangan tinggal sembahyang
2. jangan lupa usaha, belajar molek2
3. jangan putus berdoa
4. jangan lara, leka dengan benda2 yang melalaikan
5. set your target high, aim for it and work for it..

belajar tu, part of fisabillillah..
jihad untuk diri, mak, agama, bangsa.

good luck dik
nice shot of miton, nana & tasha
..gosh - u people so young and this was only five years ago!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

the awards

I am too ecstatic to sleep, to the extend that I need to complete this post before I go to bed, tonite! now!
I wanted to resolve for a long FB post, but, it has been a long day for a long  status update in the FB would suffice. Well, the day was not as long as it may sound. It was the school's Ihtifal day.. Kids, thirty years ago, we called it "Hari Penyampaian Hadiah" or "Award Ceremony Day".. apparently, it evolved in times.
Truth was I stopped looking forward for the day when my eldest was not invited to his school's award ceremony day two years ago. Yup, as much as he scored and was first in his call during the 1st term exam, he was not concluded as a Band 5 or Band 6 student at the end of the year. Well, well.. don't let me start with this band 1,2,3,4,5,6 thingy.. I have mountain-list of how bad to horrible damaging it could be!!
During my school years, my name would always be printed in the school's magazine as the award recipients and I would be hella-of-a-time practicing my acts, dances, songs, performance on the very special day, every year. I was an active student, blessed with good brain, alhamdullillah. I was flabbergasted when Aidan was not even asked to attend the event when he was in his first grade. Horrible school! I wasn't expecting any award, but, depriving the kids from joining the fun when they deserved it after a whole schooling year and to spark some inspiration in their mind that they might want to think " year, it would be me on the stage.." is not the way it should be! it's all back to the own effort of the school and the people who made the school!
Somehow, this year, we were all invited... and here's the story..
After two years in the public school, I couldn't agree much in the education system. I comforted myself, it might not be the system, but the school itself. I came from not a reputable primary school, but the system was fine and shape me the way I am today. Aidan's school was ran by an unmotivated principal who oblivious enough to warn the parents during the PTA meeting with statement such as "if you don't like my way, you could make a formal report to the ministry..not that I care much.. I'll be retiring in few months time".. and that concludes everything!
I've been patience with the school for two years. My expectation was not high. I understand it was a public school and the fees was minimal. But then again, I believe if we can't agree more with the system, leave. I managed to persuade my husband to give a try to the local private school. Both the boys secured a place, though Aimar was on a waiting list. Aimar got thru at the eleventh hour and I could never thank Allah. Itu satu rahmat. At times I was diagnosed with NPC stage III, Allah bukak jalan, kasik Aidan & Aimar dapat masuk the Khalifah Model School. Truth is, after today, I still can't believe what a blessing has it been.
Sekolah tu bagus. I can't complaint much. I'm not complaining at all.. Dari SRK St John 2, Aidan changed a lot.. and not only academically. Cikgu2 semua bagus2... sampai kadang2, rasa kesian pun ada dengan telatah first-time parents yang cikgu2 kena handle. But, the teachers were superb. The were true educators. They educate, penuh tulus ikhlas. The school arranged so much activities, get their students involved, and even the parents too.
Mama yang merangkak2 nak hafal suruh Al-Asr, kene sama2 hafal surah Al-Qariah sebab anak bujang yang excited nak wakil kelas masuk pertandingan hafazan dekat school.. the add to the thrill, Aimar even 'forced' me to memorize with him the tafsir in English - shakespear English, not my blog English!
Mama yang memang nak lukis satu garis lurus pun menggeletar2, kene study youtube "How to create a 3D object" sebab Aidan nak submit his science project die on-time and can't wait for aboh. Struggle la hai...
Bukan sebab Aboh takmo tolong.. Cuma I was 'unlucky' when those 'difficult' assignments came when Aboh was working offshore.  
Nope, I'm not complaining.
I enjoyed the time well-spent.
And, during the assessment and exams, my blood pressure skyrocketed. I got anxious quite fast. I was sick during the final exam week, and was crying when I couldn't do revision with the boys and their dad was away for work. I cried when I couldn't help them with their Arabic revision as I could hardly got it right with the numbers for a start.
But today, during the prayer, my eyes were filled with tears. Tears of joy. I was grateful. Alhamdullillah. Allah nak bagi rezeki lebih dekat kitorang anak-beranak.
After their final exam, all I can talked about was "how was school, dapat exam result?".. and the answer always negative. Kekadang nak marah pun ada.. teacher ni suke nak buat orang nervous. The boys didn't care about the results. They were having fun practising their performance for the day. Even during the dry run, when I asked them "so, you knew who will get the award".. they sweet genuine answer was "mama, teacher tak bagitau, teacher cakap surprise and just be alert on the day itself".. adoi teacher, my boys can be anything but alert! Last week, I stopped asking. I knew my boys have done their best. That's what I've told the boys "no matter what the result be, I knew you boys have done your very best, and let us just pray moga Allah bagi rezeki kat kite"..
This morning, as we woke up, got ourselves ready for the day, we were just fine.. we were not the first to arrived, but we were okay. And as the boys made their way to the hall, I was telling myself, I missed award ceremony day.. not really on getting the award, but to perform on stage after tonnes and tonnes of practices. yup, I missed those days. Walking to the registration booth,  our concerns were more to looking for a place to sit and eat for quick bite. I hardly acknowledge to browse through the agenda book that the teacher-in-charge passed to me.
We sat in the cafeteria, and I started browsing.. Allahuakbar.. the greatest joy was when you expected the least, always! There were typo here and there on the boys name.. and I was still doubtful though half of me has already jumping for joy.
Alhamdullillah... our boys did it!! They made us proud!!!!!!
Aidan got the best in art & craft in his class. I'm sure that was not from my gene! That is surely aboh's dna! He was proud of that. I remembered he came back from school and told me he drew badly during the exam. But he managed to colour the whole page, as he realized how ugly his drawing was.  
Aimar was awarded the best in Arabic, Maths & Computers. Top class for Arabic? How the hell he did it right? I remember asking him to teach me what he learned in Arabic and he told me "ala, you won't know if I was telling you the truth or not"... and of course I defended myself with "mama boleh google". Aimar always great with Computers and gadgets. The gift he got from aboh's genetic, I believe.. not me! And math was easy peasy for this boy!
And when I thought that was enough to queue once, and my boys queued again..
Aidan was called for the Ulul-Albab award - the best performance in academic for Year 3 Fayruz. Well, he wasn't a scorer to any other subject than art, but he was the 1st student in his class!!! Of course we were happy! He obviously played his cards well, he was jack of all trades, and no worry darling dear, mama is sooo looking forward to bring the master in you! Aidan also got the award for best student in for punctuality, which was evaluated based on timely submission of works and schedule... Aidan and time.. Of all the person I knew, I can't think of anybody else than him to be given such title! He is always punctual!!!!I know, I can always rely on him with time!
Yesterday, my husband told me "Aimar would be the best candidate for all-rounder student award".. I kept silent. I didn't want to put hope, especially when I knew the result was there and fixed.
Yet, Aimar made us proud too. His name was flashed for the best in co-curriculum award.. based on his sport's involvements, martial arts and activities he joined. And he also got the best student in dinniyah as he has memorized a long list of surah from the juz amma (which mama is still struggling to memorize).
My boys did us well. We were so proud of them. And my hubby said I should take the credits too :)
quick note
1. find a good school, with good teachers - don't forget to keep reminding yourself, the school and teachers are the system.. they are not your kids' parents. throw away the mindset that 'I've paid for the school, the teachers have to do their work'.. educating is still we, parents, responsibilities.
2. get involved - so what if you are working? it should never be the reason of you couldn't find time for the kids. they need colour paper for art, get them colour papers. they require a fish for science, go to the pet shop. they want to know how to fold an origami, google it with them and learn! if your weekdays are full, you only have weekends.. it will only take an hour or two. just keep a reminder on things you need to prepare for the kids school, and do it during weekend.
3. practice makes perfect- who likes extra work when they already bogged down with homework? but, they need to practice. let them learn how to tackle different ways of questions for the same answer. it's check and balance. assigned 'mama's work', checked their work and do correction with them, together. as much as they would know how it works, we can tell how they think and it's important so that we understand their understanding.
4. discipline - yup, you can't banned their obsession with games, ipad, PCs, TVs etc.. set time. if its way too much, ask them to stop. but, I sometimes used the gadgets as the baits. If you do good, you'll have extra half an hour. If you don't behave, you'll lost one week of gadget times, and if you were caught red-handed for not obeying the penalty, the extended penalty will make you suffer:)
5.doa - okay, this shouldn't be the last. this should be concurrent to all the steps we are taking. but, do doa! doa ibu, doa bapa.. use the right words when you are angry. betul, kata2 itu doa! baik kata kite, baiklah jadinya.. and vice versa.. ajar anak2 berdoa too. during the exam week, i requested my boys to solat hajat.. it was their first time. but with their result, i told them, allah dengar doa aidan aimar, and allah suke bile aidan aimar mintak doa kat dia.
my list could go on..but,, that would be it for the time being.
thank you allah
thank you abang - trust me, i won't be able to do it alone.. take some credit, will ya!
thank you sume adik beradik sedara mara kawan baik yang sama2 doa
thank you boys
tahun depan, kpi mama kene up lagi.
but at least, i knew, my performance this year is "meet expectation" (ke "exceed" dah?)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Beauty Queen - an extract from NST 50 yrs Merdeka Edition

Shannon Teoh
New Straits Times
Beauty queen
Byline: Shannon Teoh
Edition: Main/Lifestyle
Section: Supplement
Memo: Celebrating the Malaysian spirit

VERY much the archetypal makcik, Latifah Tak found her niche in life - and with it financial freedom and opportunities to globe- trot too! - by being an Avon lady. SHANNON TEOH finds out that when all else fails, a cliched life may be a good thing.

The life and times of Latifah Tak are in fact, littered with cliche. But when you put each degree of cultural and historical truth in her life story together, you get an unflinchingly quaint story of a Malaysian who's been there all through our 50 years - meaning the sum of the cliches is a cliche.
She was there when we first became a nation, she grew up in a kampung, she sought her fortunes in the city, she sent her children overseas to study and now recalls fondly the days when things were simpler and less evil.

She is very much the archetypical makcik, and so, is in fact, a sculptured result of Malaysia-hood.

Even more than that, she was and is part of a legion of women who have been empowered by the global phenomenon known as Avon and there is no overestimating the effect that the world's most-recognisable direct-selling cosmetics company has had on thousands, if not millions, of Malaysians.

The Avon lady is yet another cliche, but when you find someone who has found success through it, it is a joyous one.

Kak Pah, as she seems to be referred to by everyone other than family, has gained more than her share of fortune from signing up as a dealer one fateful day in 1977, although it was a case of necessity rather than initiative.

"I had just given birth to my first child and my salary was tiny. I was earning RM600 but the house loan was RM400. I needed a form of side income.

"I have always been interested in business, but I had no capital. Then I saw one of Avon's first advertisements saying `We need dealers!' So I called the hotline and a sales manager, a Chinese lady, I remember, brought over a huge catalogue. And suddenly, I was selling RM200 of products a campaign. Nowadays, I can sell RM8,000 a campaign," Kak Pah told us at the Avon Beauty Boutique (ABB) in Ampang Jaya.

The ABB is part of the direct-selling system Avon employs nowadays, allowing dealers to place orders and collect products instantaneously at a store close by.

In its humbler beginnings in August 1977, Avon had only six staff in a little office to service its 400 dealers, who included Latifah Tak.

The system for which Avon is famous for might have undergone some tweaking as the years passed - for example, a campaign, which involves tactical discounts and promotions, lasts only two weeks as opposed to three when they first started - but the basic elements remain the same.

You sell the goods on micro-credit based on orders from your customers and Avon only collects on this. It's risk-free and the more you sell, the larger your "discount", which is in essence, your cut of the takings.

This has led to a phenomenal 370,000 dealers finding themselves on Avon Malaysia's database, selling RM280 million worth of Avon's expanded range of products per year, from the original line of cosmetics to undergarments and even household items.

Kak Pah was, in fact, once Malaysia's number one dealer, according her legendary status amongst her peers when she breached RM60,000 back in 1982. But as the brand gained a foothold, even sales of RM250,000 didn't win her the award again.

She hovers at about half of that nowadays but this still means that her own coffers were enlarged by over RM45,000 last year.

Now aged 60, she might have slowed down a bit and enjoys the pensioner's life, but she's still quite the prolific salesgirl, claiming that in half-an-hour's walkabout in her "turf", she can hit sales of RM1,000.

"When I was still a phone operator in Mara, I used to only have the two breaks to take orders. But if there's even a few minutes when there are no customers, I get itchy. It's like a phobia. I'll immediately get up and start looking for orders.

"I won't even stop to chat. I'll say, `You want to order or not? Don't want, don't waste my time.'"

Despite her caustic manner, she is admired far and wide. Even her superiors at Mara hail her as a success story and use her as an example at seminars.

"A lot of Malays come in asking for loans to start businesses. My director used me as an example to other entrepreneurs - that one does not even need to borrow a single sen."

Nowadays, she's enjoying the fruit of her labours. When visiting her happy hunting ground near the Mara building on Jalan Raja Laut - which includes several government offices and both Sogo and Pertama Complex - she'll even stop by at the old cafeteria and sit down for a chat.

"It's basically a ladies' club. No guys allowed. Just for us to sembang-sembang."

It mirrors Avon's nearly jaundiced commitment to women.

As Kak Pah says, from "top to bottom", Avon covers a spectrum of women's products. Its corporate social responsibility revolves around breast cancer, with a programme called KEBAL, an acronym for Kesan Barah Awal (Detect Cancer Early).

Kak Pah is unflinching and nearly militant about what Avon has done for women around the country.

"When I needed help to support my new family, nobody helped me. Only Avon was there," she claimed emphatically.

Yet, at the same time, it is her own canny business sense that has seen her prosper. Unlike the typical Avon lady, she has never gone door-to-door.

"If you go around the neighbourhood to housewives, their money is all derived from their husband, so they need permission. But if you work the office-going circuit, then these are empowered women with disposable income. They are the ones who will buy whatever they want."

And the young female executive in KL, above all else, apparently wants to smell nice.

Kak Pah sells hundred-ringgit bottles of perfume by the dozen each campaign and fondly recalls a time when this trend saw her bag an incentive trip to Paris.

"They were asking us to push some perfume back in the mid-90s. It was RM79 per bottle of perfume and we had to sell 300 of it in a year. Senang aje, in one month habis. After that, Avon never challenged us again. I wish they would," she snickered cheekily.

For someone who grew up in the kampungs of Kampung Baru and Jeram (near Kuala Selangor), visiting places like Paris was quite a thrill even if by then, she had been to cities such as Cairo, Istanbul and London.

She remembers her first overseas trip though, and despite the immaculate makeup she had on, there was a slight blush when she related the tale.

"Avon took the top 20 dealers in the country to Bangkok in the early 80s. I wanted to buy some cloth and mistakenly thought 2,300 baht per metre came up to about RM20 when in fact, it was more than RM200. When he was cutting it, I realised to my horror my mistake. I told him I had to look for friend. I went into the bus, sweating profusely, refusing to come out. I was afraid I'd get walloped by those Siamese! I was as pale as a ghost!"

But all her success was not driven by greed or ambitions to see the world - although she often ironically refers to how glamorous her life is - but by a deeply rooted sense of maternal instinct.

The same way Avon affords her credit, she also extends the same privilege to her customers, many of whom are young `uns still making their way in life.

"They like to joke about how shopping at Kak Pah's is the best in the world because you don't have to bring any money," she told us.

There's always a good helping of beauty advice and recommendations on bras, girdles and corsets. One of fondest memories are girls as young as five coming up to her and asking to buy lip gloss. Then there's the 38-year-old woman who called her `cik', only to learn that she was pushing 60.

"Her skin was so bad, her face so wrinkled, so I took her under my wing for a few months to show her how to turn back the clock.

"It's hard to imagine Malaysia without Avon. Malaysian women are so beauty conscious, and Avon has made it affordable," she said with a somewhat ridiculously philosophical tone.

But it isn't really that ridiculous. She's seen her fortunes shoot through the roof because of Avon, so why not any number of these women?

Certainly, she attributes the funding of her two daughters' education in the United Kingdom - four years apart with a brother aged 28 between them - to Avon. In that indirect sense, Avon has affected these women's lives who are now both successful executives in their own right.

The elder of the two did obtain help from Mara and the younger worked part-time to ease the burden but Kak Pah insists that the steady flow of income from Avon was a big help.

"I remember my youngest worrying that she might not attain her dream of following in her sister's footsteps because her mum was "just an Avon dealer". So one day I told her, "Open my handbag and look". When she did, she found it stuffed with cold hard cash from my sales. That was the end of any money worries."

(Both Mara and JPJ had also rejected her daughter's applications for financial aid, claiming that their orders were to look into "critical" fields such as medicine and engineering.)

"When she graduated, the Malaysian embassy in UK wanted her to work for them. My daughter was keen but I insisted she come home. Tell the Government to hire their `critical' graduates," she pointed out sarcastically.

"Avon kept me too busy to raise more children. I didn't really have much leisure time when I was working either. I'd go with my husband to watch a movie or a live band at a hotel but mainly I kept myself occupied with Bakat."

Officially the Armed Forces' Family Welfare Organisation, it is also known as the Wives Assocation Movement and Kak Pah was chairperson of her particular branch. Even here, she showed her matriarchal side.

"I really didn't like the protocol involved with the officers' wives. I preferred mixing with the lower-ranking girls, playing badminton or berjoget."

Her service in Bakat eventually earned her a Pingat Pangkuan Negara from the then Agong, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin, the Raja of Perlis.

But more than a businesswoman, more than a kampung girl done good, Kak Pah is first and foremost, a mother. And she is a mother to her country - you can see her brow furrow when waxing philosophical about our current state of affairs.

She is unreserved in both her enthusiasm of living in Malaysia but also wistful in wishing it didn't come with so many side effects.

Like any proud mother, she sees this nation as successful and affluent although she believes that the moral landscape of today has taken a turn for the worse.

"Actually, I've never felt the economic downturns. Working for Avon, I've always hit my targets. You look around and people have more disposable income than ever. Now we even consider things like cosmetics and beauty products to be necessities. How many KL women go around without their compacts and moisturiser?

"We used to take taxis from Kampung Baru to the shopping centres, paying just 40 sen. Now, we sit in a Mercedes and our younger generation drives Japanese cars. Maybe our roads are a bit sesak, but it doesn't bother me.

"What bothers me is this fear. I just pray May 13 never happens again. I mean, I was living in Kampung Baru itself. We were afraid of everything and everyone. We couldn't even go to work!"

Kak Pah's other fear is how jahat people have become, in particular, sexual fiends.

"Nowadays, we even have fathers raping daughters. I wonder if the problem is due to the television and the Internet. Since the 90s, people have access to all sorts of sexual content.

Back in those days, boys climb trees and spy on you but they won't touch you."

"We used to walk 5km to school and we'd be safe. Now, people get killed by snatch thieves outside their house. I used to hitch lifts on bicycles to go for my Quran classes. Does anyone dare to take a lift nowadays?"

She recognises all this is somehow inexorably linked to the progress we've had and will readily admit that she's enjoyed as much modernity as the next person. But when push comes to shove, she'd rather things the way they were.

"My hope for the future is that Malaysia becomes a safer place. We want our development and people want bigger pay cheques. But the smiles you see when they get their bonuses can so easily be wiped out by the evil things that could happen to them."

But as Kak Pah settles to life as a matriarchal grandmother, she can look back at a life that was lived to the full with experiences and wisdoms that will be passed on to her children and grandchildren - as cliched as that might seem.

(Copyright 2007)