Challenge of being positive in these trying times

Challenge of being positive in these trying times
By Zan Azlee

Have you ever had the feeling that everything around you just isn’t going well and that there is nothing you can do about it? Have you ever had the feeling that you just don’t want to partake in any decision-making when things are so bad?

That describes the feeling I have right now with everything that is going on in Malaysia. So much so that I, being a news junkie who loves consuming news on an hourly basis, feel reluctant every morning to check the news.

These days, when I reach for my phone the moment I wake up, it is no longer to visit news sites or look for news on my social media feeds. Instead, I check out mindless prank videos on YouTube or on Facebook. It seems to put me in a much better mood to start the day.

I’m just tired and fatigued reading about the state of our country. News about the pandemic has been going on for almost two years now and it is just depressing to see how other countries are opening up and Malaysia is still in full lockdown.

Reading news about the huge number of daily infections, the number of senseless deaths occurring, and the effects Covid-19 had on the economy doesn’t really bring cheer to the mood. It is even worse when the deaths that occur start getting too close to home.

Let’s not even talk about political news. Starting from the Sheraton Move in March 2020, it’s just been one political crisis after another. And now, we are in yet another political crisis where we aren’t even sure if the prime minister actually has the majority to be the prime minister.

With all of these things happening, the least that we could be afforded is the ability to express our feelings in order to cope. But even that is taken away from us with so many journalists, social commentators, and even members of the public being persecuted for their expressions.

There have been times when I have so many thoughts in my mind about our current situation but when it comes down to expressing them, especially in this weekly column that I am privileged to have been granted, I get uninspired and unmotivated to type.

I’m guessing that my mental health could be heading on a downward spiral. Hence, the search for random prank videos on YouTube. Let me tell you, it really heals the soul when you see a guy spraying whipped cream into his sleeping wife’s mouth.

Then, I stumbled on a video that isn’t exactly a prank video. It is a profile video of veterinarian Dr Salehatul Khuzaimah. She is a Malay Muslim who regularly treats dogs. The video profiles her work and her belief that all animals need to be cared for and loved, including dogs.

She breaks down the stigma that dogs have in the Malay Muslim world, that holding, touching, and caring for dogs is not haram. There is just a need to cleanse oneself a specific way before praying if you have touched the saliva of a dog (it’s called sertu).

Salehatul has an Instagram account that is surprisingly popular with about 17,000 followers and in it, she talks about these issues as well, along with other animal-care-related issues as well. I would recommend everyone to follow her.

She is also very vocal on the issue of caring for dogs. She preaches that all animals are created equal and no matter what, they are all god’s creations. She stresses that as human beings, we are responsible for caring for everything and we should not be quick to judge.

As a veterinarian, she is serious about her responsibility of treating and caring for all animals that come her way equally. It is an inspiration to me. Watching the video (and all her other Instagram postings) makes me feel hopeful there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.

In a time when everything in the world (or at least in Malaysia) seems so negative, watching and listening to Salehatul is definitely very therapeutic. It makes me feel there are still people who are filled with positivity, selflessness, responsibility, and civil sensibilities amidst all those who are selfish, greedy, senseless, and irresponsible.

I am almost disillusioned with everything that is happening in the country. I still don’t check the news first thing in the morning, or even throughout the day, like I used to. It doesn’t mean I’m totally blacked out. I’ll still skim through the headlines for about an hour in the evenings.

It’s not to say that I’m giving up, but I honestly feel that at the moment, the people of Malaysia have no say in anything that happens to them at all. The governance of the country is out of our hands. The pandemic is out of our hands. The economic situation is out of our hands.

And even if we wanted to do anything, the powers that be aren’t listening. They seem to have a different agenda and are living in a different universe. We’re on our own here, fellow Malaysians. We can only sit quietly and see how things turn out.

I think it could be safe to say that many Malaysians are also in the same boat as me in this feeling. I hope that things will change for the better eventually. Like they always say, this too shall pass. And I think that we will snap out of this too. Well, I am working on it anyway.

I look to people like Salehatul as a guiding light. The Malay stigma surrounding dogs in Malaysia has been an issue for decades and no matter what the rationale used to try and break the stigma, somehow, it still exists. She still perseveres in doing what she feels is her responsibility and advocating for it.

Malaysia needs more people like Salehatul. People who persevere no matter what they are faced with. People who are responsible and who do not shirk their duties for selfish reasons. People who are genuine, sincere, and selfless. Then maybe we can get out of the mess we’re in now, or not have gotten into it in the first place.

[This article was originally written for and published at]

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