"How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?"-Bob Dylan , 'Blowin in the wind'.

What defines a man? Is it due to his ever growing beard or the receding hairlines? Or is it because he reads newspaper and is enthralled by politics? Or because of his voice, when he talks and everyone else listens to him?

There are clear signs which signify the metamorphosis of a boy to a teenager. Voice becomes husky. Hair starts to bud out in barren places before. And you start to have a hobby; collecting stamps, reading, music, you know, the cliche stuff. The pimples. Hormones go haywire and you start peeking at the opposite sex. However, the jump from being a mere teenager to a man is a mystifying leap in a boy's life. Generations after generations, the baton is passed down from the grandfather to the father, and the father then passes it down to the son. Like a 4x100m relay.

'Hey son. Take this baton. You're a man now. Go, and change the world.'

The thing is, nobody really knows when they'll accept that baton of manhood. The borderline between a teenager and an adult or a man is obscured in the clouds.

But really, tell me, what defines a man? Car loans? Mortgages? Can you say that a man is a male who starts paying bills on his own? Or the one who ties the knot and commits himself to a girl? Or is a man the person who summons all of his wisdom to solve all the problems he faces? Or when he decides to have kids of his own?

Those questions were rather rhetorical. Nobody really knows when does he become a man. And Bob Dylan answers the question in the same song, 'the answer my friend is blowing in the wind.'

And as for me, there are certain things which still spark that youthful exuberance, that, of course, excludes my looks because i do look like a man in a midlife crisis; the receding hairline, untrimmed edges of my beard, the thick lens which adorn my glasses. I still support the same Liverpool side, i still listen to some music from my youth, i still waste a lot of my time, which i think a man should not be doing since he knows there are much better things to do, like saving the universe. Well, i still buy S-sized t-shirts thinking that my body is as sexy as it was 4 or 5 years ago. And i only realized that my dream of becoming a musician passed away 3 years ago, all the time i was already deep into studying medicine.

I am still stuck in that man-boy realm, that intermediate stage which neither defines me as a youth nor a man.

Of course, i am waiting for that signal too, the signal for me to take hold of the baton and become a man by heart and by soul. That's the real mysterious part, because the signal almost always never comes. It's just pure instincts, i guess, which make a man realize he has entered a new phase of his life, manhood. The Qur'an states that a man would fully attain the age of full strength at 40, an age where one could assume that he has enough experience to weigh and solve each problem as it arrives at his doorstep. The Prophet received the first revelation when he was forty himself, while meditating in a cave on Mount Hira'.

46:15 We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents: In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth. The carrying of the (child) to his weaning is (a period of) thirty months. At length, when he reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years, he says, "O my Lord! Grant me that I may be grateful for Thy favour which Thou has bestowed upon me, and upon both my parents, and that I may work righteousness such as Thou mayest approve; and be gracious to me in my issue. Truly have I turned to Thee and truly do I bow (to Thee) in Islam."

And as Russia celebrates its Men's day on the 23rd of February (actually it's a day to celebrate people involved with the army, but has evolved to become the men's day), i would like to wish all my male friends, may Allah make us more bold in our judgement, more wisdomful and hopefully more handsome for the years to come. Let us all become better people.

Happy men's day.
At long last, i've arrived to room 92 on Hiroshima Street 8 on a cold, frosty evening on the 5th of February, which was a Friday. My home, my shelter. I've got a good few months left to call it my home, and then i'm off for good. The icy cold air wafting through the scotch taped creases of the old wooden framed windows reminds of the Dublin nights i had in a friend's apartment a few days ago. The cold in Dublin was much more severe since there was no centralized heating system in that apartment, so we had to envelope ourselves in sleeping bags to warm ourselves for dreamland. I've always thought that sleeping bags were meant for outdoors ; jungles or forrests or expeditions, so my first experience of sleeping in those cosy cocoons is actually a contrast to my old presumption. After almost 6 years in Russia, i've finally realized there are better things here, and the centralized heating system is just an example of how some things are more efficient (there's an abundance of natural resources like gas and petroleum here).

After visiting Spain and Italy in 2006 and 2007 respectively, i've lost quite an appetite to travel European cities since all i saw were old historical buildings and i'm not that much into architecture. But it's my last winter, so i thought, 'Well, this might just be the last chance to travel Europe', and so i did go to a few cities in the space of 2 weeks with a few old friends of mine. Berlin, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, York, Dublin, The Burren, Belfast. By far this was the best since there's a blend of visiting a country (England) you know so well of, meeting a lot of old friends and seeing new ones, and we not only visited the cities to go shopping, but there's a slice of nature in our visits to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Plus, i really liked the walking tour of Berlin in which we almost froze to death in that cold Berlin winter. The Glasweigian tour guide explained a lot about the history of Berlin and the tour was interesting; both the Scottish accent and the information.

The Cities

Of all the cities, Manchester was a bit dull and gloomy. We arrived at around 3 in the morning and a friend of a friend took us to their house for the night by bus. I still remember a half sober guy entering the double deckered bus with Chuck Palahniuk's majestic 'Choke' cramped in between his arm and body, and along the way, the city looked zombified in one way or the other, on the verge of apocalypse. 'It's 3 in the morning, too early to judge', my curious mind whispered. But after a day in Manchester, i realized that the city was not really buzzing, and the only thing appearing in my head was Joy Division's (a Mancunian band) classic song, 'Love will tear us apart', a dark, gothic tune which exemplifies the atmosphere in Manchester. But besides Joy Division, Manchester have spawned other more 'joyful' bands like the Smiths and Bee Gees. Nevertheless, i enjoyed the company of one of my friends currently studying in Manchester and the stretch of road with halal restaurants decorating the streets on your right as well as on your left. The halal food heaven in the UK. We ate a plate of pilau rice plus half a chicken for dinner, but that plate of rice is actually an amount to serve 2 males or 3 females. I even went to Old Trafford on the eve of the Manchester derby and met a friend who was attending the game. 'I've shopped 3 times in 2 days at this Megastore'. he proudly mentioned. That was how fanatic he was. The other cities were typical of other European cities i've been to; old buildings and a lot of history which don't really interest me. All the cities were beautiful, of course and i loved all of them.

Special mention goes to the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant's causeway in Northern Ireland and the Irish countryside (since we travelled by car and were able to enjoy the green fields and sheeps of Ireland!). They were all really beautiful. Nature never fails to amaze me. The marvellous natural architecture, of cliffs and weirdly shaped stones, of the green grass which could be mistaken for an artificial Persian rug, the azure skies with fluffy clouds which were lower than any other clouds i've seen. God's creativity, God's artistry.


There are 2 religions in the UK. The first is divine faith and second, football. I was lucky enough to be in Manchester on the night of the Manchester derby, and there were loads of people parking their cars miles away and others who live in that 1-2 km radius from Old trafford who would walk all their way to the stadium. 'That's passion for you,' retorted my friend after i asked him on why they would do such things as we passed by the stadium on our way back to his house. It's like a communion, a congregation of sorts. It was like a divine event of significant proportions. Instead of singing of saints and prophets, they would chorus about their idols; Ryan Giggs the legendary winger, Paul Scholes who is bad at tackling, so on and so forth. Regarding the divine faith, i was perplexed to find a multi faith prayer room in one of the shopping centres in the UK. It was an empty room with wooden floors and the direction to the Qibla stamped on the ceiling (the direction Muslims pray to, which points to the Kaabah in Mekah), a large cross, a statue of Jesus and an ablution room all inside the prayer room. Obviously, Muslims would use it more frequently since we are obliged to pray 5 times a day. And the room itself was enough to convince me of the level of religious tolerance there in the UK. However, i proceeded to ask my friend whether there's any religious persecution there to confirm my theory and he answered,'There's no such thing as that.' I have to say at this point i could be best described as 'dinosaur masuk pekan' or 'peghak' in my native language. That was really something new to me.

The People

The English people are a really nice bunch. They say 'sorry','hello' and 'thank you' freely and are super polite. Smiles are always on their faces. Well, maybe you've had sour experiences but i never had any with any of them. There were voices in the past that told me that Malaysians are the most polite, but I still have this vivid memory of a bunch of punks in Alor Setar swarming around a tall white man, jumping around him like some crazy chimpanzees and screaming 'White trash' all the while and some other experiences that show that Malaysians are not that friendly and not that polite. It was embarrassing to see such things and i do wonder why Malaysians (including me) could not be that polite like the British are. Well of course it would be easier to appreciate their kindness since there was no language barrier, but i still think they are a very nice bunch. An Italian or a Spaniard might have been much more kind and polite, but i might have been unable to appreciate them. It was also nice to see the parents teaching their kids about animals at the Natural History Museum. 'Marsupials are animals that have pockets in the front.' I would love to tag along with them, but that would qualify me as a stalker.

And oh, i really do like the British accent. It still sounds polite even when you try to sound rude. Special mention goes to the Anfield stadium tour guide in Liverpool. I thought he spoke a different language all together. Scouse accent was gibberish and very hard to comprehend, and so is the Irish accent. I've watched interviews with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher but that was just too hard to understand. I just gave up. I've always preferred stadium tours without tour guides like i had in Madrid and Barcelona.


It was actually a tribal tour of the UK. My tribe was the 'MRSM Langkawi SPM '03'. My travelling mates were all from the same school and we went on to meet our old friends in the UK and Ireland. Something you might label as 'asobiyah' in Arabic. Hilarious, i have to say. But yeah, it was really fun to meet old friends and share our experiences. And while i was about to leave the UK, a friend texted me of his visit to the UK in early February. 'Jom lepak'. But of course, i didn't have time for that. He eventually called me from London today, and had the guts to label my voice as lembut ('hang buat suara lembut apa ni dalam fon', he asked me), in other words, he thought i sounded like a girl or a sissy. To Rashdan Saad, thanks for the tour of Manchester, pilaf rice and faluda, and the knowledge you shared; to Kodiang, thanks for the fish and chips and teaching me that weird pose; to Bett and her friend, thanks for finding a place to stay in Leeds and all the foods-spaghetti and black pepper chicken, popiah, burgers and everything else; to Durar Aqilah thanks for all the foods too-hash brownies and chicken massala helped us along the way; to Aimie for taking us around the cool RCSI campus; and last but not least, to Moke for the sleeping bags and the chicken tandoori. And to Raihan and Nabilah for the foods on our journey (me and Yat) back home to Volgograd. I mentioned food most of the time, but your presence meant much more than all the food put together for a kenduri kahwin (what the heck). Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it. May Allah bless you all. And to the others i met along the way, thanks a lot. I truly appreciate it.

To Raihan, Yat, Nas and Acap, you guys were wonderful travelmates.

And as the cloudless blue skies and the radiant waves of cold air welcome me to Volgograd, i realized that i have only a few months left here. There's a lot of work need to be done.