“He stopped going to school after Primary 6. For now, we’re just waiting until he’s old enough to work.”
Surprised, Team Ceritalah asks 53-year old Dina if she’s truly alright with her 14-year old son just sitting – or in the case of our visit, sleeping – around the house. After all, some parents start planning their offspring’s route to university the moment they are conceived.
“Yes, it’s better this way. Not everyone is good at school, and he gets to grow up around me. Family is important.”
Dina is originally from South Sumatera, and has fond memories of being a carefree child frolicking through green fields.
“I grew up surrounded by farmland, but I suppose if you want to earn money you don’t have a choice but to move to the city.”
For over 2 decades she has called Malaysia home, settling first in Hulu Langat, and then in Subang.
In Hulu Langat, Dina met her husband of 16 years. Together, they spent several years working as pump attendants at a Petronas petrol station. After the station closed, her husband found work as a labourer, maintaining and building roads over an hour away in Kajang. He leaves before sunrise and returns after sunset on a motorcycle.
Dina meanwhile dabbled with running a stall at a food market, but didn’t find enough success to warrant continuing. It also didn’t help that her bones no longer felt strong enough.
Nowadays, she’s the unofficial neighbourhood carer, looking after and playing with her neighbours’ children.
On the subject of children, Dina doesn’t seem the slightest bit worried about her son’s future prospects without even a high school certificate. She claims that there’ll always be jobs for orang biasa (normal people) like them.
We return to her point about family. Does she think the importance of family is still held in high esteem by younger generations?
Dina is unequivocal in her analysis of another social issue however.
“When you turn 50, you become aware of your mortality very quickly. Not a day goes by where I don’t forget Allah. Can you say that about most young people nowadays? I don’t think so.”
When asked why, Dina responds as follows:
“Phones. Youngsters are always glued to them.”
That seems like all too simple an answer, but Dina doesn’t budge. She personally hasn’t noticed increased materialism, saying that people have always needed and prioritised making wages. Instead, she doubles-down on her criticism of the phone as a distraction device.
“When I was a child you either played with your friends or sat home and read the Quran. Now it’s just non-stop phone.”
Perhaps she has a point. Modern-day smartphones are like digital swiss-army knives: a single device for communication, information, and entertainment. With all that, why would you ever raise your head from the screen?
“It’s not my place to judge, but I hope that more young people can find the time to find their faith. Ultimately, it is Allah who lays judgment on us all.”