In my 'younger' years, I had a Malay friend who was very beautiful. On top of that she was also rich, had perfect composure, was very confident, friendly and to add salt to all the above, she was also nice and had some impressive grey matter in between her ears – she was very intelligent.
And so as the nature of human beings goes – the Malay boys (or should I say, the Malay ‘men’ although they hardly qualified or looked like men at that age) fawned over that beautiful face (for that was probably the only thing they could see - THAT, and a a few inches below), vied for her attention, tried to get her into long conversations and when they did manage to do that, tried hard to be charming and make her laugh. Not all of them were engaged in this activity though – just a few brave ones and some (over-)confident ones. The rest just looked from afar and pretended not to see her beautiful face when she passed them by, but if by some miracle she noticed them and said hi, equally miraculously they will suddenly become the paragon of friendliness.
And the girls – they could not help but detest and be critical of her. Many in fact, despised her. They bitched and talked disapprovingly of her behind her back and sneer at the things she did - branding her flirtatious and attention seeking. Most of them were courteous enough of course, to treat her in a civil manner whenever she is in attendance but a few just completely ignored her. I think these were the ones who felt threatened by her – because they saw her as a competitor for the attention of the boys, perhaps, or they were just jealous of her beautiful face and her generous curves and everything else that she had that was generous. To her credit, she didn’t give a rat’s arse about these people. She was confident enough (and not to mention rich and beautiful enough) to go her own way, not requiring anyone of the Malay girls as friends or companions even though we were all living abroad together, near each other.
To my credit, I myself didn’t give a rat’s arse about her beauty or riches or her other activities – all I knew was that she was a nice person – to me at least, she was nice. Although perhaps, that was because she needed my roughly scrawled notes from attending the lectures. But that's not being really fair, because I was the one who offered her my notes, I think, because I pitied her (she was always away you see, so when it was time for the exams, she was always a little clueless). And anyway, she sometimes let me use and take care of her car in return – a sporty Mercedes convertible, no less - when she’s off gallivanting with her beau. So, I think it was a fair trade, even if she WAS using me...
Such was the nature of the male and female of the species at that very young age – when we were neither girls nor boys anymore but have yet to really step into the world of men and women. We were simply ‘students’ at that point. For most of us, there was not much responsibility except to study, study and study. But let’s not get into that because I have a different point to make in this entry.
You see, even though I was young and still ‘fresh from the cradle’ so to speak - someone who spent 5 years in an all girls boarding school and prior to that lead quite a protected life in the bosom of my own family, I have always been interested in the human nature. I observe and like to make conclusions as to the reasons why - the cause and effect of human actions and nature. And in this I don’t go straight from A to B for somehow, I figured that an effect does not necessarily have one cause for it although if it did, it may also be the case that the cause may not be the most obvious one – thus, I refrain from making conclusions as to why a person is like so and so, because one thing that I am very sure of (and I am not sure of many things,) is that the human mind and emotions that control these actions are very complex things.
Oh, I'm not a saint - I do talk about other people even when I do understand that they may have their reasons for doing things. Only, (I would like to think) I do it because I want to discuss someone’s actions and understand the reasons why or because I am curious and very interested to hear other people’s understanding of a situation (at least, MOST of the time it is for these reasons). But because of these tendencies to observe and understand, I saw some interesting things.
I saw that that beautiful and intelligent girl always ‘survived’ and overcame the obstacles thrown at her door. I saw that the more people were condescending and bitching about her behind her back, the more she was able to scrape through tests and exams – even with her not going to most of the classes. No doubt of course, she was intelligent but I cannot really classify the other people who were bitching and then diligently going to lectures and sitting quietly in their rooms and studying and yet not passing as 'stupid'. But this is exactly what happened - other people who were not as much talked about as her - who appeared 'normal' and did not cause as much 'stir' as she did, were not fairing as well as her - even when she did not even try very hard to do well. (Obviously, I am not going to go through the series of 'ups' experienced by the girl and the 'downs' experienced by anyone else because one of them may be reading this so I think, for the safety of my own hide, I will not to go through the details.)
But to put it simply, her luck increased with each sneer laced with envy and each condescending statement sprouted by jealousy that was uttered behind her back. And furthermore, to my amazing realisation, one thing I noticed that was very interesting about her was that she NEVER bitched about anyone. Well, she did give comments here and there - perhaps a one liner type of thing about another person but she never actually bitched - never a prolonged discussion spewing with negativity about other people. And I mean NEVER.
And I respect her for that.
Somehow, I think she realised that many did not think too kindly of her but she didn’t care – she took everything in her stride and never looked back. And she was honest as to who she was and what she was – she was not a hypocrite. Not like some other people back then who were all soft and smiles and toothaching sweetness in your face but behind you…
I learnt from her. I learnt to stop myself from thinking of the negative things about other people because it never helps to do so - even when it makes you feel better about yourself for a while. And I also made some conclusions from what I saw. And these may seem a little stretched because can one actually deduce these from just the above, you may ask. Still, yours truly did, and this is basically it:
One must always accept one’s lot in life and that’s not saying one should acquire a defeatist attitude in life. One may not be as pretty or as good or as intelligent or as rich or as well endowed or even as happy as that other person and one can wallow about it in private if one wants (although I honestly do not recommend this either for it will only result in further sadness and depression) but one must never be bitter about it. NEVER. One must be happy for what one has or strive for something better but never ever be bitter and start wishing that that someone is in such a state as oneself. Don't do that.
Always Be Happy For The Success of Others – that, as I learned from my experience, is the secret for one’s own happiness and an invitation for better things to happen to oneself in the future. Learn to say ‘Good For Her!’ and ‘I’m Glad’ and ‘She Deserves It!’. Because from what I saw and understand, it is only when one starts to accept one’s ‘lot in life’ and be happy for others that one can feel happier and more contented with one’s life and somehow, from somewhere, as if by magic, better things will appear.
I suppose if you want to explain it – its purely psychological because when one starts to be happy for others and be content with what one has, then, one starts to see the many blessings that he/ she receives everyday and start to be thankful. There! Isn't that simple logic? Although, I really cannot explain why that beautiful girl became somehow prettier and luckier the more people talked about her. I suppose that’s just how the Almighty wanted to show the rest of us that we should be thankful and accept whatever, with an open heart.
In malay (or Arabic, is it?), the word is REDHA. But as I said, that doesn’t mean we must take the defeatist attitude and let things rest. If you want to achieve something, then by all (legal) means..
OK..did all this sound too far fetched a deduction from the initial story? But honestly, this was what I garnered from my observations at the time. It may be what people write in self-help-books and it certainly seems to be just plain good advice but I never did like to read those types of books and to me, seeing is believing. Therefore, I hope we can all take the things that are or has happened in our lives, whether it be good or bad in our stride and strive for the best. Envy and jealousy and spite and jaki and dengki and khianat (it's amazing that the malay language has so many words to describe it) will never do anything but harm, to that other person who's 'winning the lottery' but most importantly, to ourselves… and we don't want THAT, do we?
Ah well. Here’s hoping that I’ve done my bit of good deed for this day in Ramadan by sharing this.