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Violet the Colour

This is a special post. This is a special day. This is a special month. This is a special year. 

This is a special life.

I was born from special parents. I am blessed with very, very special children. I am lucky to have special siblings. I am abundant with special friends. I was destined to marry a man who is very special, because he too, has many special friends.

This post is a gift to my husband, Ahmad Cendana, on his birthday which falls today, the 12th of October. (Oh dear, I had accidentally pressed on the "Publish" button when I had wanted to press on the "Preview" button. So let it be, from the time I woke up this morning, I had felt that it would be such a beautiful day today, and indeed it is) I know, it makes a wonderful gift for him because it is a tribute to all the special people mentioned above, and he is one who is and will always be grateful to people, friends and family who have made a difference in his life, who have made his long and hard journey to recovery that much easier, people who accepted him as he is and saw only the good in him.

I am not much of a writer, but it is my hope that with this feeble attempt to put my feelings and thoughts into words, this post will reflect just how much my husband and I appreciate the things that have been bestowed upon us by God Almighty, through and because of special people, particularly in the past year or so. 

Very special, very rare and very exquisite Pastel shade roses by Anna Tihhomirova from
At the end of last September, I had gone to meet a friend at her office to discuss on a certain matter. Needless to say, this friend of mine, is a very special one. Not only as a friend to me but more so as a person; because she is gifted and able to, by God's will, enlighten others who are in some kind of trouble, pain or suffering, especially from the loss of someone they loved. I would love to mention her name here but somehow, I feel that she would be totally uncomfortable if I did, and so I won't.

I wasn't in any of those situations though, thankfully, but she, as usual, being naturally clairvoyant and overflowing with kindness and compassion, started revealing things that were meant to be made known to me. She had said something that I had never thoughtheard or read of before this, something which had moved me immensely, something so compelling, important and significant that I had to write this post. I thought, how appropriate it would be to present it today, on this very special occasion and in this very auspicious month. 

                                                                                                                                                                     "You are never alone." she had said to me in a whisper, although there wasn't anyone else with us. "Because you are so humbled and are always appreciative of others who have helped you, because you are not inhibited by a shameful  discomfort of your disposition, and have absolutely no qualms about expressing your gratitude, they, all those who have supported you, remain with you in spirit and have become your strength."

I was struck by a series of differing emotions that was hitting me in sub-seconds; disbelief, confusion, bewilderment, puzzlement. There was something in what she had just said, but I just couldn't nail it. My eyebrows moved upwards and downwards then inwards. My eyes squinted then opened wide in perfect synchronisation with my mouth. I gasped and whooped but no words came out from it while my hands gestured meaninglessly. Her colleague watching through the glass walls from the next room must have been thinking that I was getting an explicit update of the latest office gossip. 

And then the realisation came, and a second wave of emotions came over me, this time of a totally different kind. Suddenly I was uplifted and felt lightheaded, I was elated, no, that is understated, I was..euphoric. This extraordinary woman was talking about my husband, not me. 

The strength she had felt in me was his. She was describing Ahmad Cendana with acute precision; I had known and felt the inert strength in him, just as many other people did, from his writing, particularly in his blog Recovery from Drug Addiction. But I had never been able to identify this powerful, rising energy within him which radiates from his stories recounting his past, until this revelation. This could only be culminated by one so pure and sincere, and with such a keen sense of perception.

He often wrote, and after he had moved from Pasir Mas to Batang Kali where we had first met (we had discovered each other two months before the move but had never spoken :-)) had spoken to me constantly about people who had helped him in one way or another. Even the smallest gesture doesn't escape his memory. He does the same to me, often repeating what I had done for him. I had told him he needn't do that, because I, and I'm certain everyone else too, had done things without expecting any gratitude and acknowledgement  in return. 

But I was wrong. Further to what my special friend had said, I had incidentally read, a hadith, if I am not mistaken, which said "Those who truly appreciate people's deeds, are those who are truly grateful to God". As with so many other hadith, the words appear simple enough but the message and the effect from it go very deep. 

[Update - I finally found the actual hadith: Abu Hurairah t reported that the Messenger r said, "Whoever does not thank the people does not thank Allah." [Sunan abi Dawud (2/290), Saheeha (416)].

Feelings of deep gratitude is the manifestation of an unwavering faith in God, and herein lies a strength that can make things happen.   

There were stories of the good things people did for him in his earlier life and during the pre-Gambang period that made him rejoice. One of his earlier acquaintances and probably the most significant name in Ahmad Cendana's life directory is that of a writer/academician, among other important things he does. This American friend had gone out of his way on many occasions to help my husband. It  included sending a number of books and reading material from Korea where he lived knowing that Ahmad Cendana loved to read but didn't have very much on him then. 

Incidentally, this very special person is here in Malaysia right now, and this time, I had the honour of meeting him in person, making this already meaningful month even more memorable. More importantly, we were able to give him in return, though far short of equal to what he had done, the help and support that he had rendered to my husband in more ways than one. I consider my husband very lucky to be on the receiving end of altruism in the true sense of it's word. David, if you are reading this, we hope you would regard us as your family now.

I believe most of his other joyous moments of good things that had happened, or which started to happen, was when he was in Pusat Serenti Gambang where Ahmad Cendana got a complete makeover in character. Even his pseudonym, or rather his pen name, is after his hostel here. But most of the friends that gave him the motivation and support which he desperately needed to pick himself up and restart life were those he came to know after he was released from the rehabilitation centre. Many were those whom he had known through the internet and social media, and many of them still continue to cheer him on.

I now know that his reverence, the appreciation and  acknowledgement given so humbly, sincerely and wholeheartedly by Ahmad Cendana to all of them for the things they had written, said and done for him are actually the source of his incredible strength. 

As of today, I have had the pleasure to meet only four of Ahmad Cendana's friends in person: Sherry, Elviza, SatDee and most recently David. All four have been very significant in his uprise, namely Sherry whose role was monumental as most would probably already know. I am also delighted to have made friends on Facebook with Zendy Zee, NadyaS, Zack Zara, Sheri Din, Faten Rafei, Tam Dalyell and Puteri Kamaliah. With others, I only know by  name, but nevertheless I know they were no less important: Sherry's husband Nazmi, Sheila, Rocky, Tehsin, Shakirah, Risma, Mek Yam, ArahMan, Rahim, Has Hanie Bahari, Adriani Hana, Mamasita, Tisa Fahmy and her father, Pakmat Fahmy and Capt Shariff Abbas. There's also Singh is Kiing, Mia Ex Deejay, Tengku Putra Jumat, Syed Idrus Al-Haddad and Datuk Shamsuddin Nawawi who are always giving him good wishes. To all of them, and to all other friends of Ahmad Cendana whom I may have missed or I may not know of and are reading this, even if he has mentioned it a zillion times before, I want to say it too here and now:  

To everyone who has done and/or given something, no matter how small, that has contributed towards my husband's recovery and well-being,  I am very thankful. I  have benefited beyond expectations from your kindness and I am very grateful for this. What is important now is we, both Ahmad Cendana and I, know that we are able to pass on this benefit to others.

Until today, my husband too has yet to meet most of these friends in person, but I'm sure it was his honesty, earnest, sincerity and sensitivity towards the feelings of others that had touched their hearts, mainly through his writing in his blog. I came across this blogger who had used Teabag, the character in his favourite TV series Prison Break as his profile picture just over a year ago by chance while cruising through Rocky Bru's blog. His comments were witty and intelligent, and his English..needless to say, flawless. A click on his profile led me to his Recovery blog, and within the minute, he had my attention, and my heart, glued to his heart-rending, tear-jerking, outwardly courageous posts.

What really got my first attention was actually his name. Cendana or Sandalwood essential oil happens to be one of my favourites. I use it in most of my aromatherapy oils that I blend for therapeutic purposes. It provides the strength, character and stability to my oils and I had told him just that in a comment on his blog. Because of this, besides the name and it's therapeutic properties he was terribly keen to obtain a bottle. I don't know if it could also have been because of interest in the person behind the comments :-).

Initially, my oil was simply named "Minyak Cendana", (Sandalwood Oil) but just one month earlier, I had incidentally renamed it Minyak Cendana Cinta (Sandalwood Love Oil). I had created this blend for the purpose of restoring harmony, closeness and intimacy in relationships between spouses who had developed differences and had drifted apart. Never did I imagine that I had unknowingly "drawn" my own spouse-to-be to me!    

Since my oils are actually created for women, I had a special one blended for this Ahmad Cendana who totally intrigued me. I had added Vanilla to the formula intended to stimulate the production of serotonin and melatonin, the "happy hormones". Lack of the former in a person is the cause of depression, addiction and a sense of worthlessness. Little did I know at that point in time, he was going through a particularly rough patch and was in an extremely depressive state over a personal matter, and was possibly at the brink of a relapse. I couldn't have possibly known what he was going through but I had let my heart reach out to him and wrote, "Take good care bro, and love Allah till it hurts, so that nothing and no one would ever hurt you ever again." Apparently, these words, and the unassuming "Minyak Cendana Cinta" had come to him at the most critical time. 

When he received the package, he immediately sent me a text message and continued to do so during the whole process of opening the parcel. He said that he could smell the oil wafting in the air even before fully opening it, and I was astounded when he said he had the sensation of "happiness". This man surprised me with his exceptionally strong spiritual inclination. By sheer ignorance, I never expected someone who had survived heavy addiction on savaging, merciless, evil substances and opiates and living in adverse, brutal and torturous physical, emotional and mental conditions to be so sensitive, receptive, responsive and conscious of the effects from a natural and holistic therapy in an instant. He really had me there.

Draw like a magnet it did and in less than a week, we both were aware, though somewhat nervous, that we had "something special" between us. I was certain then that my oil would be more appropriately known as  "Minyak Cendana *Bukan Cinta Biasa*", (literally translated as Sandalwood *Not The Ordinary Love* Oil) because that was how our love was, and still is. Magical, mystical, out of the ordinary but absolutely real.

Needless to say, our relationship developed very quickly but certainly not without drama and heartache. Having a relationship with a former addict much less being married to one had never crossed my mind. I had a lot to learn and understand about relating to one. I was thankful I had the opportunity of treating a couple of former addicts before and had thus gained some knowledge and experience dealing with them. But as it turned out, nothing had really prepared me for the reality of living with someone who was.. "different". Ahmad Cendana had been living alone for almost twenty years. I had to constantly remind myself that he would need time to adapt to married life again. It wasn't easy. It required mental and emotional stamina, and many times I faltered. I too had weaknesses and shortcomings of my own. What kept me going was the fact that he was "special".  And not unlike my friend who had made the profound observation , Ahmad Cendana was not only special to me but he was and is, someone special.

There was another stronghold that gave me the fortitude and reason to hold out. My two children - Ahmad Aiman and Marzia. To me, they are truly exceptional. From day one, they had given me their approval and full support of my relationship and marriage despite having knowledge of their stepfather-to-be's dark past. I'll never forget Aiman's words, "Mama, if you're happy, then I'm happy." I so admire their trust and confidence in their mother's decision to marry this man. They did not go by conventional, "logical" thinking that a former addict could only bring problems to the family. They were not in the least ashamed, or worried that they could have been scorned, belittled or laughed at by any ignorant and insensitive people. They just stood by me for whatever it took. I must say, they scored top marks in their emotional intelligence quotient! 

Abang and Adik, Mama is so very proud of the both of you, and thank you so much for standing by me. 

In this month too, Aiman celebrates his 23rd birthday. And to add to all these special events, Marzia graduates from her diploma course on the 25th! Happy Birthday Aiman, and Congratulations Adik! Mama loves the both of you more than you could ever know.

I'm not encouraging this but getting married in the presence of my children made the occasion so special and meaningful. Not forgetting too, the presence of Aiman's friends, Danieal, Shamir, Hariz, Saufi, Jowe, Izzat, Hafiz, Rudy, Khairuldin and Nadiah.......thank you all for attending our wedding and making it so memorable. 

I must also thank my stepchildren, Ahmad Cendana's four children from his previous marriage, for accepting me so willingly and graciously, and calling me Mama even before their father got married to me. Ever since I learnt that they were quite distant  from their father, it was my wish to see them all together, and Alhamdulillah  it was granted when all four of his children came to be with their father on one particular Saturday earlier this year. Since then two of his children visit him occasionally while the youngest is living with us now.

Ahmad Aiman & Marzia, my pride and joy.

Then there were my sisters. My three beloved sisters. The first among them to know about my relationship was my sister closest to me, Yan. We were in the car when I started telling her about Ahmad Cendana. Yan is and idealist and perfectionist, so I was expecting her to have some reservations about this man her "little" sister had  fallen in love with, and perhaps some objection too. Instead, her response was just the opposite and had caught me completely by surprise.

 "You've got what you wanted." she said in her usual cool way. "Remember you had said you wanted to treat a patient with a drug addiction problem?" she reminded me in her school principal like manner. I had almost forgotten about what I had told her almost ten years ago, but obviously she hadn't. "Well, now you have one! Ask him if he would like to stay in Batang Kali and tend to my crayfish." I was stunned. This wasn't the Yan I thought I knew, but I sure wasn't complaining. If this wasn't enough, she went on to say "If he can't make it on his own, we'll drive up to Pasir Mas and help him move here." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Not only Yan didn't object to my choice of a husband, she had offered to help make things easier for us. It turned out that it wasn't necessary to drive to Pasir Mas as Yan had suggested, but both my husband and I will never forget this splendid show of magnanimity. 

My second sister, Aimi, is known for her chronic friendliness and cheerfulness. Generosity is her middle name. When I broke the news to her about Ahmad Cendana, she was unperturbed. I was again surprised by another immediate acceptance. When I asked her why was she so receptive, her spontaneous reply was "Why not? You can treat him kan?". I could feel my heart bursting with love and gratification. 

Aimi had insisted, and had made sure that I had a "proper" wedding ceremony and reception. If it had been left to us, my husband and I would only have had our immediate family attending. She had arranged for the caterers and as it turned out, everyone said the food was simply marvelous. This is not in the least surprising, as it came from the heart of such a blessed woman. We also had homemade dessert made by Yan and a good friend of mine, Sharifah, which I heard was so good but didn't get the chance to taste because everything had vanished!  

My eldest sister Azni too, was so relenting and understanding. I believe, she had read Ahmad Cendana's character from his writing, as she had commented that it was similar to that of my late father's. She had invited him to her children's wedding on 10.10.10 (10 October 2010) not once but three times, knowing how socially ill-equipped he was at that time. And on my own wedding day which was held on a weekday, she had rushed to be with us despite her very heavy work schedule. She doesn't have much time for us but it doesn't matter at all, as she selflessly devotes most of it towards the betterment of tens of thousands students, in her capacity as Deputy Vice Chancellor at my alma mater, UITM. 

My only brother, like my sisters, did not object to my marriage but had laid down a condition on his future brother-in-law, apparently only to protect his youngest sister's interest. Azman who lives and works in Pakistan is one who can be very critical of people, and cynical too. Nevertheless, he was extremely (surprisingly) patient, helpful and cooperative in getting the crucial documents that would allow him to be represented as a wali during the solemnisation ceremony.  

Till today, I am just so humbled, and grateful of their willingness and openness to accept a former addict with a not so good record to be part of the family. I imagine the odds of this happening in other families could be one to a million. This could only mean something is very right, and definitely ordained by God, and that my siblings are four in a million. 


To all my siblings, THANK YOU for all your love, help, support and understanding. 

My lovely, lovely sisters, from left after me in blue, Yan Zain, Datin Aimi & Prof Azni

The both of us still talk about how wondrous things had been for us since we discovered each other. Many things seemed to just fit or happen so naturally. One of the things that I found so fascinating and am very thankful for, and which I had also taken as an indication that Ahmad Cendana was the right one for me, was the reaction of most, if not all of the people that I had told about my intention to remarry. Not a single person objected, questioned or tried to talk me out of my decision. In fact most of them had actually supported, encouraged and were very happy for me. My Mama's first reaction was "Alhamdulillah!" Abah, my father-in-law whom I have very high regards of, Mak, and my sisters-in-law  had  welcomed me with such warmth too.  Even my Ustaz, Haji Ibrahim Mokhsein, whom I regard as a father, had said that Ahmad Cendana will be an asset to me and to my healing practice. His words have been proven to be so true.

One of the first persons I had "consulted" with was Pete Nicoll , the founder of Reach Out. Pete had worked in the Police Force before and had vast knowledge and experience dealing with drug addicts and street people. When I told him about my intention to marry Ahmad Cendana, he replied with a short but very firm "Good." At that time, that was all the assurance I needed to go ahead with my plans. Thank you Pete, for giving me the courage. 

I really would want to mention the names of all my family and friends here to acknowledge them but the list would be too long. However I cannot end without mentioning these three: Sharifah Alawiyah Alhabshi, Nora Yahya and Asya Shuib. They have played a pivotal role in my life these last few years and I just cannot thank them enough with words or deeds. I am so blessed to have you as much more than friends. Thank you. 

Thank you all, and Happy, HAPPY Birthday, Ahmad Cendana.

Violet the colour, reverence for all life. Self sacrificing. Spiritual. Just and kind. Special. 
SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, Laaillaha'illAllah, Allahu akbar.


This is such a wondrous post by you: I was alerted to it by email when you accidentally published it yesterday morning. I was just a quarter through when tears streamed out... you have written from the depth of your heart.

I don't know what to say right now except "THANK YOU", inadequate that it is. It's not just for this beautiful post but for EVERYTHING that you have brought about for me and my children. As my father and sisters have said, you are indeed a Gift from Allah.

10 October, 2011 11:17  

Another thing that fascinates me is how my children have taken to you from very early on... even before we were married.

The three who had met you (Iman only knew you when he came here for the wedding in February) - they had actually talked among themselves about it; wishing that we would marry! It was around the end of last year - they didn't know there were already plans:-) that Mat Yin told me about it... that he, Yati and Hidayah really hoped we would get married.

10 October, 2011 13:49  


10 October, 2011 20:39  

At last I found the time to actually read your blog, Ja. On the academic side, it was the most beautiful essay that I have read for a long, long, long time...On the rational side....what you wrote signified a lot of things and perhaps you have finally found your niche in life. This episode of your life must have been the most difficult and challenging that you have ever gone through. On the emotional side...well....everyone of us in the family has that SPECIAL something which bonds us together...for better and not for worse..and I thank God for that.What I have learned from your posting is that each one of us has a a role to play in life and should play it to the best ! Thanks for appreciating and I wish you a better and meaningful life together. Happy Birthday AC!

11 October, 2011 01:10  

Oh oh "the" Prof Azni herself was here! And dissected my post and gave a review too! Lucky got no grade given:-DD. You're just like Papak lah Prof. Thanks anyway for taking the time to read my very long-winded post and Thank you for the very kind compliments.

I think Papak left something for us when he passed on; we all became much closer, and I felt that from the time at the hospital. You are right about finding myself; before being married to AC there was a vacuum in my life. He has filled that vacuum and given me the strength and confidence to do so many more things. And him being so much like Papak, I feel that everything I do now is right somehow. And as your wish for us, yes, we intend to make the rest of our lives meaningful for ourselves, our parents and children, everyone around us and more. InsyaAllah.

11 October, 2011 17:50  

Sherry, kenapa menangis? I thought this post will make everyone happy..Sherry, masa Bro MC dalam kesusahan, hanya Sherry yang tahu exactly macam mana keadaan dia. Kak Ja hanya boleh bayangkan saja. Jadi terima kasih Kak Ja ni tak mungkin setimpal dengan apa yang Sherry dah lakukan untuk Bro MC. And till today, you have not once disappointed him in any way. Deq, you will always have a place in our hearts.

11 October, 2011 17:58  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAYANG! Ni baru betul, this post was supposed to be published today but I guess it was not meant to be. I hope you have a wonderful day anyway, filled with love, joy and happiness. And this time may it last till the end for the both of us. Love you so much Ahmad Cendana...

12 October, 2011 00:02  

You must have remembered what my younger sister said to you after the wedding ceremony at the Kota Damansara Mosque. She was so touched, surprised and awed by it all: she had thought it was going to be a very small ceremony with the wajib Akad Nikah and nothing else.

That PLUS "other things"... Your family members, close relatives and friends were FANTASTIC. And that was among the things which so touched her... that there would be that kind of a reception and attendance for ME.

She had said: "What did he do to deserve all this!?...Masyaallah!"

And I had often wondered about that too, before and after the wedding. This isn't false modesty but I KNOW myself, my past, my shortcomings, my lack of everything.

But the Glory of God - He Blessed me with all these... YOU especially; someone who only sees the good in me. It's YOU who are such a wonderful, exceptional person; this I, my sisters, my parents and my children are very sure of.

And this is the way that I look at it: these are blessings given in advance from God for things that I had not done and achieved yet... that I must do my utmost with you not only for ourselves and those near to us but also to others. Our getting together: it's not "for us", and your treatment and healing practice is one avenue for us to do God's Work.

12 October, 2011 00:20  

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