1) Assalamualaikum Mariati! You seem to be involved in a lot of activities. You teach art, you travel, you write. How do you manage your time?
Alhamdulillah, we are given the same 24 hrs per day. Different people manage their time differently. Being a retiree has its perks. I can manage my time more easily. I do not travel all the time, so most of my time are spent at home with my elderly mom. Things that I can do at home, besides housework, are my craft works, painting, writing and reading. These few things already occupy my whole day. Of course not forgetting my daily siestas. I am now involved in a group that encourages and teaches you how to start your business, help others and detox your soul.
2) What is your mantra? What motivates you every day?
No special mantra really but I feel good by doing good. The belief that everything comes from Allah motivates me to be, to do, to overcome and to be thankful. Give and you will get. I believe in it. I believe that you are created for a purpose.
3) Who inspires you the most?
Besides believing in The Creator, my mom is the most inspiring person I look up to. Now, she is 88 years old. She had single-handedly brought up 13 children. Her determination is what I hold on to.
4) Tell me more about your traveling adventures. How did they begin?
I grew up in the sixties. It was a time of world depression and scarcity. Not knowing when the next meal will be, I dared to dream. Every time there was an opportunity for my mother to go marketing, I’ll be the first to welcome her home. Not so much because I could help in cooking but for the soiled magazine pages that wrapped the vegetables or fishes. Most of the time, these pages were traveling pages. I would diligently clean them and hang them to dry. I was so fascinated with faraway places. From the pictures I collated, I promised myself that, one day, I will visit these places. To keep my dream alive, I renewed this resolution every year. Fast forward to now, my dream did come true! Now I know that the intention or resolution known as the Law of Attraction works if you put your heart and soul to it. With lots of hard work, of course! My travels started off with a youth exchange program to several states in Malaysia. I was active in the youth movement then. Over the years, I became the Secretary General of a youth group called Taman Bacaan.
When I started working, I came up with a plan to fuel my ambition. I opened up a second account which I called the ‘Travelling Account’. I made sure that a small portion of what I earned goes into this account. After many years of working, I managed to spend some of it to pay for my pilgrimage. Of course, one of my Dua (supplications) at the Kaaba was to see the world. I wanted to see Allah’s creations elsewhere and to visit the places mentioned in the Al-Quran. I call this travel mission Jejak Rasul. I started this long before the popular TV program of the same name came into being.
Here are some of the places I have visited: Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Syria, Baitul Maqdis, Andalusia (Spain), Morocco, Tunisia, Bosnia, Croatia,Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Istanbul, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Uzbekistan, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, England, Denmark, Portugal, Russia, Holland, Ukraine, Romania, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Australia and Nepal.
And I am still continuing my journey as long as Allah grants me abundance. InshaAllah.
My purpose is not only to see Allah’s creations but also for soul searching. Going to places mentioned in the Al-Quran really moved me, especially when visiting so many mausoleums of great people. My friends and I will not visit empty handed. We always do our homework and bring along what we can offer to the institutions that we visit. We also pack tidbits for the kids on the street.
5) I see that you teach experimental art to children. Why did you start? Tell me more.
I loved anything that has an artistic value. I am a person who does not conform to sets of rules. I love to experiment. All children have the God-given talent of creativity. I believe that Singapore stresses too much on educational excellence. Learning has become robotic. I believe in hands-on education, which is lacking here. If children do not use their early talent in creativity, the chances are that the talent will just disappear.
6) A lot of people dream of writing their own book. You’ve done it. Tell me more about your journey in writing So Far So Good.
I like to send sajak (Malay poetry) to Berita Harian and some short stories to online portals. During my retirement, I was approached by a friend to contribute stories to raise funds for a charity project. I was given one year to do it. I decided to write a book on retirement; it’s a light-hearted read. The committee agreed and I got a sponsor. So that was my contribution. I sold more that three hundred copies, mostly on my own but with some help here and there.
7) What are the things that you’ve done in your life that you are most proud of?
Starting a project among my siblings to contribute a certain amount of money to send our mother to perform the Hajj pilgrimage during the seventies and eighties. They had their own families and financially, it was not easy. But we did it.
Helping my single mother to put through my younger siblings through higher learning thus giving up my chances to seek further education.
Putting myself through higher learning while working. I am now pursuing a diploma in Islamic Studies and am in my sixth year of seven years.
8) Lastly, what words of wisdom do you have on living life to the fullest like you?
You are created for a purpose. So do good to feel good. Give and you will get.