Dear Abbu

Dear Abbu, I love you

By – Zakir Hossain Khokan and translated by Ranak Zaman

I was really very upset when I first arrived here in Singapore. I  missed my country, my family, but the person I missed most was my father. Many moments I used to hear his voice: Khokan, Khokan! I would stop and look for him, where are you, dad? Why are you calling me? And how are you? Some nights I woke up from my sleep thinking that he was calling me or he was standing near me. But he was not there! I cried out some nights like the child I used to be once, a long time ago. I can recall that morning when I heard his voice in my head and I wrote a poem after that about this.

“I can’t see the mornings anymore hearing the birds singing.

Like my father called me and we, then, used to go to mosque for morning prayers.

My dear Abba,

Oh my dear Abba,

A thousand years I have not seen you!”

The poem I wrote about my dad was published as a lyric in a music album named ‘ Exile life’. Singer Shoriful Islam from Bangladesh sang the song.

It was 2003, when I came to Singapore. It was not easy then, like now, to call long distance and talk an hour to my family. So I used to write letters one or two times a month and in those letters I mostly wrote about my father. I don’t know why, but those letters were never sent to him.

I thought I would give them all at once to him when I would visit him at home. I wanted to surprise him, or maybe just wanted to see his reaction when he would read them. But all those letters got lost when I changed dormitory once.  I could not go to work and couldn’t eat well two days after that. My boss scolded me for my absence, so did my foreman. They asked me the reason and when I told them why I was upset they were astonished and they said that I was a fool.

I never wrote any letters to my father after that.

If anybody asks me about my favorite personality, I answer without thinking twice—my father, of course. I have met many people in my life but never found a person like him. His personality, works, thoughts, philosophy and his humanity and his care to the family keep impressing me all the time.

In my school life, I had to write essay about ‘Your favorite person’. I read in books about the writers, scientists or prophets but it has always been my father who is my favorite personality. When I asked my teachers if I could write about my father, they replied no, ‘you have to write what have you read in the text book.’ But one day I wrote about him nonetheless when I was in high school. I can remember the day when my headmaster called me to his room and my father was there—standing, trembling fingers and a smile full of tears in his eyes.

In 2011, Zarif came to the earth and I became a father myself. But I was here, in Singapore, doing my jobs, with so much guilt. I promised myself that I would give him a better life, as my father did his best to give me. But my son is growing up without me. He use to say to his mother that he smells my scent in his pillow. He asked my clothes that I left behind, take me on your lap, dad!

He is growing up without his father. This is one of the saddest thing for a son—I can’t even express this in words. I tried in my poem, ‘Blade  of kisses’ which was published in a poetry anthology with eighteen Bengali migrant poets. The anthology was named ‘Migrant tales’ and edited by me and Monir Ahmod.

I submitted three poems to the first Migrant Worker’s Poetry Competition Singapore in 2014. Those are ‘pocket-1’, ‘pocket-2’ and ‘pocket-3’. In pocket-1, I wrote about my son Zarif and my country, Bangladesh. In pocket-2, I wrote about my lovely wife and in pocket-3,  about my father.

Pocket-2 won first prize. Ms  Raka Mitra’s company ‘Chowk’ performed two days dance event titled ‘From another land’, based on my these three poems and runner-up poet Rajibs ‘Shades of Light and Dark’ at the Esplanade. The performance touched the audience’s heart and made them cry. It was a great arrangement where audience were amused and mesmerised what was really great to me. I felt happy that day to see the Singapore was loving my poems.

Pocket 1

On holiday, back to my land, I see the country with my son.

We see the open sky, the white cloud, the flock of flying birds.

Water lily, green fields of crops and yellow mustard flowers in the flowering good.

We see the memorial monument, and the Shahid Minar, the love of the people.

Putting all of them aside, I need to come back here.

 

I find a piece of paper in my pocket

Seeing it with my teary eyes

A flag amateurishly drawn by my son

a flag—red and green

the Flag of Bangladesh

 

Written down

‘Dad, standing down the flag at school

When all my friends sing the national anthem: Oh my golden Bangla I love you

Then I sing –

Oh my dear Abbu, I love you.”

 

Pocket 3

Every morning in my childhood,

When dad was set to go to the office,

I jumped on his lap and put a hand in his pocket.

Took some coins and I said, I’ll buy some chocolate, dad,

And I laughed and he laughed.

 

He put his hand on my head and used to say,

This boy will be a great man one day.

 

With the rhythm of the sound of coins when I moved,

With that happiness I moved from here and there and

After a butterfly—I ran and ran and I’m here now

As a migrant.

 

Now, when I go to sleep with much loneliness

In my sleep, I hear—some footsteps and that butterfly’s wings sound

And a voice of my dad.

I wake up every time and notice the dawn in my door,

I realise, this is not  one like my childhood mornings were,

This is a colorless canvas, with so many watermarks of life—hard to see.”

Long live every child and father with so much love and passion.

Happy father’s day.

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Photo of Zakir Hossain Khokan..

Zakir Hossain Khokan is a writer, poet, journalist and photographer. Born in Dhaka and a graduate of the National University of Bangladesh, he moved to Singapore in 2003 to work here. Presently he is a quality control project coordinator in the construction sector. Zakir’s poems are extremely well- received, winning the first prize for two consecutive years at the Migrant Workers Poetry Competition in both 2014 and 2015.

An established Bengali writer, Zakir’s has published not only poems but also history books and song albums. He has published poetry anthologies, titled, “Lover heart” and “The river reaches in city”. Using his journalism skills, he has also published a non-fiction book entitled “Singapore riots and a love story”. He has also published a song album “Emigrant Life” in Bangladesh. Finally, he is editor of “Migrant Tales” an anthology of poems by migrant Bengali poets in Singapore.

Zakir is a prominent spokesperson for the migrant worker community in Singapore and has been invited to speak at many events. His poems, articles and interviews have appeared in journals and anthologies in Singapore, Bangladesh, and Taiwan and international media. He was rewarded for journalism and poetry in Bangladesh. He can be reached at zakir.journal@gmail.com

This article got written for the celebration of father’s day this June but got delayed due to the need to get it translated. Since fatherhood deserves to be celebrated every day, we publish it now for you to savour.

An amazing gift

Jofel has been staying at HOME shelter for some time, where she has volunteered to help out as our shelter leader, and discovered several new passions. One of these passions is writing, and this story by her won her a special award in the writing competition HOME hosted together with the National Museum of Singapore. She has written more since, so watch this space for more stories written by this very inspiring writer.

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An amazing gift 

By Jofel Dosano Villaruel

When I was young in the Philippines I never experienced to play in a real playground. With my friends I used to play at the beach, especially when there was low tide. I loved to play baseball, Chinese Garter, luksong tinik or leapfrog jumping with my friends.

My first experience at a playground in Singapore was with my employer’s son, who is a 2-year-old boy. Unlike many parents here in Singapore, my employer let me and her son free to play and experience creative games. Whenever I told him: “We are going to the playground” he would immediately run to take his shoes. Just seeing him happy, made me happy too.

At the playground, he loved sliding and climbing, but his real passion was the swing. As soon as we reached the playground he would run quickly towards the swing area and as soon he was on the swing I couldn’t take him off again. He always asked me to push him to swing higher and I was always scared for him; I felt that it wasn’t safe. I would have felt more relaxed if every swing had a sort of safety belt to prevent them from falling down and getting hurt. But when he saw my worried expression, he knew that I cared about him and he always tried to reassure me: “Don’t worry, I will hold on tight.”

And that make me laugh, so much! I admired him, he was so young but at the same time brave and strong.

My very best memory at the playground was when he was able to climb the rock wall for the first time. I was so happy and proud of him! I knew that climbing was a great exercise to strengthen both his body and his spirit. Spending his free time in the playground has helped him to grow active, smarter, creative and independent. Every time he climbed the rock wall he was very excited and after reaching the top he would be so happy he clapped his hands.

Sometime we need to let kids choose what they want so they can explore new ways and express themselves. What I personally observed about Singapore is that people here can be overprotective of their kids. Some parents or grandparents never allow their kids to play at the playground, they are worried because playgrounds are dirty and might have a lot of bacteria.

They don’t realize that a playground is a good starting place for young kids to make new friends, to learn how to communicate with other kids, to learn how to give and take, how to share – and most of all to experience the beauty of being a kid, an amazing gift that we won’t enjoy anymore, later in our whole life!

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He Played my Heart

We are proud to announce the winner in the poetry category of the ‘The More we get Together’ writing competion: Rolinda Onates Espanola

Her beautiful poem ‘He played my heart stole the hearts of judges and audience alike!

Above you see Rolinda (left) with  runner up in the poetry competition Jean Raquel (right)

 

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He Played My Heart

 

At 5:30pm everyday we go there

With bags full of goodies and water

You on your scooter

Me, you always tell to walk faster!

 

Playing is fun, full of laughter

You play cops and robber

Hide and seek makes you feel better

Racing and Virus let you ask to stay but longer

 

Sometimes you get bruises

Sometimes you cry endless

Sometimes you’re disappointed

Sometimes you’re a stubborn head

 

I watched you grow in here

I watched how you behave to others

I watched how time moves us together

I watched how this place brings us closer

I watched how I love

The child that I can never have.

 

#rolinda77

 

 

The Playground

HOME MyVoice proudly presents, the winner of the ‘The More We Get Together’ writing contest in the prose category: Saturnina De Los Santos Rotelo (better known to friends as Cute)

When we hear the word playground, we always think they are for children only. If you look at them closely, you will see they are places with different structures, shapes and colours. A children’s world. But the playground is a joy for everyone, it’s a place to meet people from different walks of life. Employers meet employers, domestic workers meet their friends, make new friends, just as children play with their friends and make new friends too. It is a place where you can look inside the lives of children, where happiness does not need an explanation as it can be seen on their faces. But don’t forget they get hurt and cry there also. But they will learn from that. A playground is like real life.

As a child, I never knew what a playground was as it does not exist in my village. I played in our backyard, outside my house. For me and the children in my village everywhere was a playground. I liked to pretend I was a teacher, and my pretend students would write on banana tree leaves that looked like paper because they had lines on them. For a pencil they would use a small stick. They’d sit on a stone.

Singapore playgrounds are awesome! They have beautiful structures and designs. I like to go to the playground in West Coast Park. I meet my fellow domestic workers there; we bring food and play with our charges the whole day. There are high and long slides. We go up those slides together, we play hide and seek, and we climb in the spider web-like structure. I enjoy playgrounds as much as the kids do. Because when I was small I never played in a playground as beautiful as this.

The playground is my resting place too. I can sit down there and relax my mind and tired body. It is a place where I can talk to my friends about my workday, my life, and even my love life. I can laugh to my heart’s content. We share what food we have, eating together. We dance or exercise. One time, I even celebrated my birthday in the playground.

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You can find nice employers in the playground, who are happy to be friends with domestic workers, they talk and laugh with us, help us when needed and listen to our sentiments. Employers with good hearts, that might even recommended certain domestic workers to her friends to hire, as they like what they see as they play with the children there.

As a domestic worker I have played many roles in playgrounds. I was a children’s playmate, an adviser to fellow domestic workers, or even a second mother to a child I take care of. I have to make sure of their safety. I wipe their sweat when they are sweaty, make sure they drink their water and give them snacks when they are hungry. The happiness and the safety of my employer’s child is my number one priority at the playground.

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I have been to many playgrounds, in different places, each one of them has left memories – of every child that I took care of, and every friend that I made there. Visiting playgrounds in Singapore was a journey that will remain in my mind and in my heart forever. I will cherish those moments, especially the sweet innocent smiles of the children I took care of.

The PLAYGROUND is one of my favourite places.

HOME Indonesian Helpdesk

By Novia Arluma

A group of volunteers from Indonesia, better known as HOME KARTINI, have been active with HOME for a long time already. In August 2015 the HOME INDONESIAN HELPDESK was formed. Several domestic worker volunteers were prepared to be a front line of case worker volunteers to do outreach, and get closer with the community of Indonesian domestic workers in Singapore.

The volunteers were given a basic training and became involved in forum discussions and other workshops in order to support their duty as they prepared to assist their fellow domestic workers in trouble. Then, in December 2015 the new office for the Indonesian Helpdesk was opened at Grandlink Square.

From there our team officially started to run the Indonesian helpdesk. We meet every Sunday on our day off and we are dedicating our day off to run the HELPDESK. We started to spread our contact details via social media. We wanted everyone out there that needed help regarding working issues to know they could contact us. We give consultations and advice, solutions for their problems.

Our important mission is: To give simple sosialitation and to educate our fellow domestic workers to KNOW YOUR RIGHTS as domestic workers. And for that purpose, we are aware that, before we can give answers to any questions, we have to learn more. We have to gain more knowledge  about the rules & regulations for domestic workers in Singapore.

We have noticed that today, more domestic workers are aware about their rights. And they will contact us to tell about the working conditions in their employer’s house. If something is not right, they ask for advice on what to do before they take the next step.

I myself can receive three or four calls or messages every day. And that’s not including my team members! We have become aware that learning by doing is the best way to learn. We have to keep learning and be up-to-date with the regulations for domestic workers. And, as a specialised Indonesian team, we are not only focused on learning about Singapore law, we have to learn about Indonesian laws for migrant domestic workers as well. HOME gives us the freedom to explore our knowledge by joining discussions and become connected with Indonesian NGO’s around the country which are focused on migrant workers issues.

HOME is not only a HOME for migrant workers who needs help.
But ..
HOME is a place to grow our spirit ..
Spirit to learn ..
Spirit to help others ..
Spirit to fight for our rights ..
Spirit to treat everyone as our sisters & brothers ..
We are HOME
We are family …

The INDONESIAN HELPDESK team is a part off HOME KARTINI FAMILY, together with the HOME Academy 3, HOME KARTINI sport, and HOME KARTINI musical and dance. So, aside from our duties as the HOME helpdesk team, our team members also have to work together with HOME KARTINI FAMILY in some programs. And of course we work together with all HOME volunteer as we are HOME FAMILY!

The HOME Indonesian Helpdesk is open every Sunday from 10 to 6pm

It is located at :

Grandlink Square, 511 Guillemard Road #01-06, Singapore 399849

Domestic Worker hotline: +1800-797 7977 / +65 6341 5525

 

My first meals

My first meals

 

Javanese was my first language

Like a first breast milk, fed by mother 

Be my flesh and blood

Indonesian is my national language

School forced me to learn it well 

Then English?

It was horrible 

Because of work, I have to understand it well 

 

I squeeze my brain to remember them 

Javanese, Indonesian, English

Ora, tidak, no

Iyo, iya, yes

It surprised me as well 

When I’ve known, not only my languages around me 

 

As simple words

When I said “aku cinta padamu”

Philippines said “Mahal ko Mahal Kita “

Hindi said “Mee tumsai pyar karti hu”

Bangladesh said” Ami tomake bhalobasi”

Then Telugu slowly answered me ” ninuninu pramestunanu”

Chinese said “wo ai ni “

In my heart then I was mumbling “hallah wong arep muni aku tresno kuwe wae kok kangelan” 

The simple words I want to say

“My ice cream melted

While I was busy eating avocado”

Hi sweetheart

I love you

 

From all of those

I learnt something

Not only Javanese as my first meals

But I have to taste many meals

It makes me feel more amazing

To this beautiful Creator the difference

 

By Artika Honey 

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Forgive me, child

FORGIVE ME CHILD

(by: Jean Ragual)

 

The mother is the light of home

A mother, who has a big role in the family

A mother, who will do everything

As a mother I need to find a job

It is hard to me to leave you

But this is for you

 

My child forgive me, if I am far away from you

Forgive me, if I left you at your young age

Someday you will understand everything

Thank you for all your stories to make me happy

When I talk with you

You give me strength everyday

 

Forgive me, Child

If you wonder why

Our home is not already complete or

Why you never see your father already

 

You are my only strength, my inspiration to continue our dreams

You are my treasure that GOD gave to me

Not all I can give to you

But I do everything I can, to make you happy

My love for you is forever

 

And no one can replace in my heart

My child, you are my flesh and blood

You are the reason I am strong and brave

While I am far away from you

 

Forgive me, my child, I love you forever

 

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The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) is an anti-human trafficking organisation advocating empowerment and justice for all migrant workers in Singapore