Sunday, November 26, 2006

What are films for? (A survey)

francois truffaut
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
In his interviews with Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut, one of the earliest, if not the original founder of the auteur theory, maintained that the fundamental purpose of any work of art is to help us understand ourselves better.

Here in Malaysia, audiences' opinions generally fall into two categories:

1. The main function of film is to entertain.

2. A film must carry moral messages.

If the box office takings of local films are anything to go by, then a vast majority of Malaysian movie-goers really don't give a toss about anything other than to be entertained.

This is not to say that it's a bad thing. People spend 10 ringgit of their hard-earned cash to be entertained, they have a right to expect entertainment.

Personally, I find more disturbing those who fall under category 2. A handful of our most vocal film reviewers are in this category.

For them, a film must be a sort of propaganda, where the filmmaker is given the right to impose the strongest of opinions on the audience. People who populate the story of the film must do the "right" thing all the time, and the ones that don't, must atone before the end credits, or suffer dire consequences.

People are expected to walk away from a film thinking, "Yes, I know how to behave now, thanks to the messages behind that film I just saw."

There is to be no room for simply relating a feeling you had when you observed a particular occurrence in your day-to-day living. No room for just comparing notes with your audience, on life and love and fear and hopes and despair and joy that you may have experienced or witnessed.

I shan't tell you here what I personally feel the purpose of a film is, but I'd just like to hear what you folks feel and think about it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Notes on the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival

On the first day of Hari Raya, while most Muslims were busy celebrating, five people were frantically packing their clothes into suitcases. They were my editor Fendi, my young actors Mohd Syafie and Sharifah Aryana, my husband and I.

There was a slight hitch.

Even though Aryana’s family would have no problem sending her to the airport the next morning, Syafie comes from a family of meagre income. The taxi fare to the airport was far more than they could afford.

The best solution was for him to spend the night at our apartment, so we could all go in one car the next morning.

At 6pm that evening, I went to fetch him.

It was to be the first time Syafie was going abroad, and it was both funny and sad to see the tearful parting between his mother and him. "He’s only going for five days, yang," I said to his mum as I hugged her.

I turned to smile at Syafie and saw his nose getting redder, and his big, round eyes welling up with tears. That night, we made sure Syafie went to bed early.

After I had woken up and performed my dawn prayers, I stepped out of our bedroom and found Syafie sitting on his suitcase trying desperately to close it, being careful not to crush the brand new black pinstriped suit we had bought for him specially for the festival award ceremony.

By the time we had boarded the flight to Tokyo, all traces of sadness had left Syafie’s face.

We made sure the kids sat next to each other, and by the window. Syafie, true to character, sacrificed the window seat for his heroine.

They chatted and giggled excitedly almost throughout the seven-hour journey, except for a brief spell of fatigue when I caught them napping peacefully.

Aryana had fallen asleep with her head on Syafie’s shoulder, and Syafie was resting his head on hers. "Bless their sweet souls," I whispered to Fendi.

Those were the last moments of peace we enjoyed for the next five days.

Right from the word go on our first morning in Tokyo, while my husband went off on his own to explore the city, Fendi, the kids and I were ushered (actually, rushed!) from one question-and-answer session to another.

We had forgotten that they were playing all four of our films - "Rabun", "Sepet", "Gubra" and "Mukhsin" - in a "Yasmin Ahmad Retrospective" that spread across the five days.

The organisers told us that "Sepet", which won the Best Asian Film award there last year, was already holding the festival record for the most booked-up screenings in the 19 years of its history.

Each of our films was given about three screenings, and each screening required us to sit in front of the audience to answer their questions.

That’s 12 Q&A sessions altogether, not including the one for "Rain Dogs", which I attended with director Ho Yuhang, and another special Malaysian film symposium where Pete Teo, Yuhang, Lorna Tee of Focus Films, the kids, Fendi and I had to attend.

malaysians on parade (enhanced)
Throw in the incessant flow of Press and TV interviews in between, and you can imagine how hectic our schedule was.

I have to say the Japanese audience, which comprised regular film enthusiasts as well as film critics, was a clever lot.

They asked far bigger questions concerning aspects of humanity in our films; a sharp contrast to the petty, accusatory ones I often get bombarded with at forums in KL. Is it any wonder their film industry is light years ahead of ours?

At the very first world premiere screening of "Mukhsin", an elderly film historian who sat right at the back of the huge auditorium made what was probably the most vindicating statement for me.

"Miss Ahmad, these days in Japan, child abuse, child rape, and cases of teenagers murdering their own parents are sharply on the rise. There is a palpable strain in the relationship between fathers, mothers and their children here. Your film showed us a world where family love and unity are not just possible, but alive and well.

"If I had to describe your film in one word, I think the word I would choose would be ‘healthy’."

I was gob-smacked.

Syafie and Aryana, of course, received more than their fair share of attention. We left them to themselves for 15 minutes at the cineplex foyer one afternoon, and before long, they were swarmed by Japanese fans screaming "Kawaiiiiiii!", taking pictures and signing autographs.

As the day of the award ceremony drew closer, some of us got around to reading the festival programme and discovered that Patrick Tam’s film was in competition with ours.

(For those not yet familiar with the name, Patrick Tam Kar Ming is a 58-year-old genius who has been making films in Hong Kong for the last 26 years. Apart from directing his own films, he also edited Wong Karwai’s "Days of Being Wild" and "Ashes of Time", and also Johnnie To’s "Election").

Not expecting to win anything in the presence of such a giant talent in cinema, many filmmakers decided to attend Pete Teo’s concert instead, somewhere in Tokyo, that same afternoon the award ceremony was held.

I, on the other hand, was keen to let the children enjoy their first taste of pomp and circumstance.

Syafie was over the moon about his first-ever suit, and Aryana couldn’t wait to wear her stunning new red kebaya. And neither of them could get over the fact that their very first film "Mukhsin" had been nominated for the Best Asian Film award.

As it turned out, we had made the right decision. Yoji Yamada was on stage to present the Akira Kurosawa Award to two recipients, both of whom were my heroes.

They were Kon Ichikawa, who made the amazing "The Burmese Harp", and Milos Forman, who made a whole host of cinematic gems like "One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest" and "Amadeus".

Forman’s acceptance speech alone made our decision to attend the ceremony worthwhile.

"When I was a young student at college, someone brought in a Japanese film for our viewing. I knew next to nothing about Japan, let alone Japanese films. For us Czechs back then, Japan was so distant and so mysterious. The film our friend had brought in was Akira Kurosawa’s 'Ikiru'. There were 12 of us in that cinema hall.

"The story of 'Ikiru' was about a civil servant who was informed at the beginning of the film that he was dying of cancer.

"There was no fighting, no explosions in the film, but at the end of it, the 12 of us did not move from our seats, long after the end credits were over. Some of us were crying.

"That’s when it dawned on me. We were moved from the bottom of our hearts, because Mr Kurosawa had made the film from the bottom of his heart.

"Kurosawa's 'Ikiru' made me realise that although the world was made up of many peoples with many languages, cultures and traditions, at the bottom of our hearts, we were the same."

And with that, he accepted his award, expressing his life-long admiration for Japanese cinema, and his profound respect for the Tokyo International Film Festival.

Much to our surprise, when Milos Forman came down from the stage, he walked down the aisle and planted himself on the seat right in front of ours.

(Later, I shook his hand, told him that his "Loves Of A Blonde" was the best first film of any director that I had ever seen, and took a photo with him.)

milos forman and i
As was to be expected, Patrick Tam won the Best Asian Film award this year for his "After This Our Exile".

And as further testimony to the director’s cinematic prowess, the film went on to win yet another award for the Best Artistic Contribution.

Later that night, just before hitting the sack, I got a call from the hotel lobby. Yuhang was hanging out with the Indonesian filmmakers — Christine Hakim, Garin Nugroho, Nia Dinata and Agung Sentausa — and they had all asked if I would join them.

Needless to say, I, a fan of their work, rushed downstairs to indulge in a bit of fawning.

Garin, three-time Cannes award nominee, was teasing the other Indonesians that Malaysian independent cinema had surreptitiously taken over from them.

Yuhang and I dismissed it as being Garin’s characteristically wicked way of telling his compatriots to try even harder.

As we sat around joking and laughing, I remember quietly observing them and thinking, "Wouldn’t it be nice if the Malaysian film fraternity were as close and as affectionate as the Indonesians were, instead of the unnecessarily hostile rift that exists between the mainstream and the indies back home?"

my indon film idols and me
Early next morning, Yuhang, the kids, Fendi, my husband and I headed for the airport. Everyone, except for my husband and I, were going home.

We, on the other hand, were Hong Kong bound. (I had been selected to judge an advertising award show for Hong Kong and China.)

Before waving goodbye to each other at Narita airport, I gave Syafie and Aryana each a big bear hug. They really did me proud.

Holding Syafie’s face in my hands, I recalled one "Mukhsin" screening at the festival where one Japanese lady sitting next to him was sobbing convulsively.

Kissing Aryana’s cheek brought to mind an interview I had with a journalist from Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo’s biggest newspaper, where the much-feared film critic Junko Fukatsu remarked that she particularly loved the women in my films as they were always strong characters you wouldn’t mess with.

And feisty Sharifah Aryana, whom my husband once described as "a 25-year-old woman trapped in an 11-year-old girl’s body", will almost certainly grow up to be a force to be reckoned with.

It took a while for the adrenaline to simmer down.

I missed the kids terribly, and for days in Hong Kong, you would catch me staring listlessly ahead, thinking about all that happened at the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival.

But something happened one evening that had my heart pumping again. We were having dinner with Stanley Wong, a Hong Kong commercials director who was friends with Wong Karwai.

"Did your film win again?" he asked me.

"Heck no!" I replied. "The award went to your compatriot Patrick Tam. He’s Wong Karwai’s editor, isn’t he?"

"Not just editor," replied Stanley casually, "Patrick Tam is widely acknowledged by Hong Kong film critics as Wong Karwai’s guru."

I have a long way to go.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hafiz e Shirazi's "The Gift" - a book review

“On a branch

floating downriver

a cricket, singing.”

- Kobayashi Issa

How does one regard a Sufi poet who conjures up images of himself “wrestling” God to the ground?

How is a Muslim like me supposed to react to his frequent mention of wines, on his heady path to enlightenment?

How? With great trepidation, that’s how.

Hafiz of Shiraz, the poet in question, born in the early 1300’s, both delighted and outraged Muslim Persia of his time, and doubtlessly will continue to draw some extreme reaction today.

Given the task to write about “The Gift”, Hafiz’s collection of ecstatic love poems, I was instantly shaken by the discovery that, as a teenager, he had memorised the Holy Quran in fourteen different ways, just through repeated listening to his father’s recitations at home.

Even more daunting was this unapologetically pluralist poem that appears defiantly early in “The Gift”:

"I have learned

So much from God

That I can no longer



A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,

A Buddhist, a Jew.

The Truth has shared so much of itself

With me

That I can no longer call myself

A man, a woman, an angel,

Or even pure


Love has

Befriended Hafiz so completely

It has turned to ash

And freed


Of every concept and image

My mind has ever known."

My instant reaction to this was to throw the book down and flee from it in haste. I had developed a sort of aversion, nay allergy, for the word “pluralist” ever since a scene from my own film “Gubra” was mistaken for a pluralist statement, simply because it showed people of different religious backgrounds praying for forgiveness and salvation, at their respective places of worship.

My true intention of course was to show that our spiritual needs were not so different from each other’s, but certain blinkered quarters had misinterpreted it to mean that we were all praying to the same God.

You draw four points on a piece of paper, and some people will draw a square, while others will draw a cross.

But I digress.

Once I had decided to approach Hafiz’s doors with some degree of caution (lest some demented folks should think it fit to issue a fatwa on my head, hoping to make advanced reservations for their penthouse suite in slayers’ paradise), windows were flung open for me to have a generous glimpse of Hafiz’s genius.

I discovered, for instance, that Charles Darwin and his promoters were telling bare-faced lies when they heralded him as the father of the theory of evolution in 1859, when in actual fact, good old swirling Hafiz had already written a poem about it 500 years earlier.

Consider the evidence below:

"We live on the Sun’s playground


Everyone gets what he or she wants.

Sometimes the body of a beautiful woman,

Sometimes the body of a beautiful man,

Sometimes the body of both

In one.

We used to play that kind of tag

In the animal world too.

Now a mouse,

Now a tiger,

Look! I am a whale – I got tired of the land,

Went back to the ocean for a while.

What power is it in our sinew and mind

That will not die,

That keeps us shopping for the perfect dress?"

Trust the West to stand on the shoulder of an Easterner, giving no credit whatsoever to the source of their knowledge and inspiration.

But knowledge, foresight, and sacrilege aren’t all that you’ll find in “the Gift”. There are extraordinarily sharp observations of God’s infinite compassion and unconditional love, such that made this reviewer shudder with awe.



All this time

The sun never says to the earth,

'You owe



What happens

With a love like that,

It lights the


Sky. "

Sigh. Mozart was reported to have been a vulgar man who delighted in writing rhyme about faeces and flatulence. And yet his music was once described as “not of this world, but from above”.

In “The Gift”, Hafiz e-Shirazi wrote dizzyingly beautiful verses exalting God, and a few pages later, a long poem about a fat woman who picked her nose and passed wind in the presence of others.

In the end, it is not for me or you or anyone to say if Hafiz was heading skyward to Heaven, or downriver to Hell. But like the cricket in Issa’s haiku, he sang and he sang and he sang, in a staggering total of 5,000 poems. Sometimes outrageously, often perilously close to blasphemy, but always with sincerity, beauty, and without an ounce of arrogance.

And for this reason alone, after finishing my copy of “The Gift”, I gladly picked up “I heard God Laughing” and leafed through page upon delirious page, filled with Hafiz’s poems of Love, Hope, and Joy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Alhamdulillah, and thank you, Andy Lau!

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
(Shortly before we went to the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival, Lorna Tee, a producer from Andy Lau's company Focus Films, came to the print test screening of "Mukhsin" at GayaLab in Shah Alam.

Watery-eyed and sniffing at the end of the film, Ms Tee turned to us and said she wanted to do two things: She wanted to take our film under their wing, and she wanted to pay for the kids to go to the festival.

I will write about the festival later, inshaallah, but for now, here's a list of questions she sent to me from Hong Kong. It was a brief interview, the contents of which were to be included in the press kit of "Mukhsin".

They were good probing questions, I think, and worth putting up here, as a means of explaining to you, my friends, why I make certain decisions when making my films.)

Focus Films (FF):
The female protagonist Orked has appeared in three of your films (Rabun, Sepet and Gubra) and now Mukhsin, at different stages of her life in all the films. Orked is truly a fully developed character who has grown and yet consistent in her strength, her ability to love, her vivaciousness. Did you base Orked on someone you know or did you develop her and then her stories to produce four complete narratives for your films?

Yasmin Ahmad (YA):
Orked is mainly based on my own life experiences, and myself obviously. But her personality includes traits and quirkiness in my mother, and also my sister, whose name is Orked.

The ideal young Malay girl is hardly what Orked represents in the larger community in Malaysia. And, even in the film, the character finds it difficult to engage with other Malay children her age. Is Orked the ideal Malay girl you see for the community or does she exist in Malaysian society?

Of course there are many Orkeds in Malaysian society. You just have to go to the right places to meet them. I think many strong Malay women in today’s society are Orkeds, grown up – Dr Jemilah of Mercy Malaysia, Rafidah Aziz, Zeti Ungku Aziz, Datuk Sharizad, Faridah Merican etc.

The same goes for Orked’s parents who do not represent or stand for the ideal Malay parents in the eyes of the larger Malaysian community. The notion of open physical affection, relating to children in a convivial manner without the archaic feudalistic parental behaviour over children is almost unheard of in Malaysia. Did you base Orked’s parents on your own parents or an imagined ideal one?

Orked’s parents are totally based on my own parents. In fact, as my siblings and I often remark, our parents are even crazier than Orked’s.

Will we see ever more of Orked and her family and friends in future films?

I don’t think any screenwriter of film director can ever run away from their personal wells of experience, no matter how hard they try. So even if I start making stories other than the Orked series, I’m sure a little bit of her and her family will find their way into some of my characters and plots.

Is there any intension to move away from the Orked odyssey of films in the near future?

Yes. I have a few stories I want to turn into films, and none of them is about Orked and her family. Well, except one called “Inom”, a story based on a heart breaking experience my mother had when she was 13.

What other themes and issues would you like to explore? What are the universal values that you hold on to as a filmmaker when you set about preparing a story/plotline for a film?

Only people interest me. Everyday people and the way they cope with the emotional upheavals in their lives. I try really hard to view people through compassionate eyes. You have to, or you’ll pass harsh judgment on the characters in your films, and that is not something I’m interested in.

You tackled head on Malaysian issues in your previous films i.e. the rural vs. urban Malaysia in Rabun, intercultural love in Sepet and religious tolerance in Gubra. Mukhsin tells of a beautiful innocent story on first love. What prompted you to make a film on this subject?

What prompted me was a poem by Wislawa Szymborska entitled “First Love”. In it, she wrote how the first love may not be as tempestuous or as passionate as later ones, but for some reason it’s the one that stays with you until the very end. It made me think of Mukhsin, a 12-year old boy I knew when I was 10.

On the other hand, Mukhsin does touch on what makes a Malay person Malay. Like in the scene when Orked and her mother danced in the rain, their Malay neighbour commented that the both of them were “forgetting to behave like Malays”. Was there an intention to touch on how certain people view the respect and practice of culture in its most narrow and inhibiting way?

Of course. No one knows what being Malay really means, but so many people want to champion some woolly cause about preserving “Malay-ness”.

In your blog, you made a comprehensive list of the (multiple) ethnic origins of your Mukhsin cast and crew in response to a comment on “not to mess” with your Malay culture. I like this response that you seem to be saying what is REALLY Malaysian anyway.

I like it too, but… what was the question again?

You have also taken a lot of criticism for your other films i.e. Sepet and Gubra where you tread on religious, culturally and racially sensitive issues. How do you see yourself as a contemporary filmmaker in multi-racial Malaysia?

I just see myself as someone who holds up a mirror to Mankind. I’m not so socio-centric; I just want to examine the human condition and nothing pleases me more than to hear that some people from another part of the world laughed and cried when they saw my film. I don’t care about national and political borders so much, but only insofar as they create interesting differences in culture and tradition. The fact that Malaysia is multi-racial is really not such a big deal to me. The world is multi-racial. That is a great blessing from God, and I don’t understand why some people treat it like a curse.

What does it mean to be Malaysian for you?

Being Malaysian means nothing to me other than that I was born in Malaysia. Having said that, I love this country. The weather, the food, the greenery, the languages… well, everyone says that about their home country, don’t they?

There is always a sense of an imagined Utopian Malaysia in all your films. You have very strong views on the ‘perfect’ Malaysia. How different is it from the real Malaysia of today?

I don’t really get it when people say my films are Utopian. In “Rabun” a loving old couple get cheated by their own relatives whom they trusted, in “Sepet” the love of my heroine’s life gets into a terrible accident, in “Gubra” nice people get beaten to death, and in “Mukhsin” a beautiful friendship is shattered by innocent love. I think my stories are actually quite dark. However they are always peppered with humour and moments of levity. Jack Lemmon once said, “It is hard enough to write a good drama, it’s harder still to write a good comedy, and it’s hardest of all to write a good drama with comedy. Which is what life is.”

You have been employing a regular creative team i.e. your cinematographer, editor and also actors for many of your films. Is it important that you work with familiar actors or continue a working relationship with one particular cinematographer? As a new director, does working with familiar faces makes life easier on the set?

My cinematographer, editor, producers, art directors and I are like a family now. They even call my parents Mak and Abah (Malay for mom and dad). This is the only way I’ve ever worked, so I have no idea if this is the best way or if there are better ways out there. I only know that when you’re close to a bunch of craftsmen whose talents you admire and respect, the work can have a lot of truth and heart in it. While making “Mukhsin”, Fendi (editor), Keong (cinematographer) and I (scriptwriter and director) even shared a small flat for the entire duration of the shoot. We ate, talked and slept together.

Music plays a huge part in "Mukhsin" right from the start where we hear the folk Malay keroncong-style song to classical pieces used in later scenes. How do you select such diverse musical styles for one film?

When I write a script and make a film, I think about human emotions a lot more than culture or tradition. As such, the music I choose for my films are based on the feelings they impart, rather than the language they’re in, or their country of origin. That’s why you’ll find Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Schumann and Dvorak, alongside Malay, Indian and Indonesian music, as well as Hong Kong and Thai pop songs from the 70’s. The fact that many people around the world have noticed the eclectic nature of my soundtracks, but no one has complained, encourages me to continue with this style of choosing music.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

“Purification of the Heart” by Hamza Yusuf

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
Let me try and help you understand why I feel this is one of the most important books I’ve read all year.

In this, basically a simple book about what makes human beings unhappy and how they might find a way out, I found many of my hunches confirmed.

For example, about five years ago, I was in India to teach physically challenged children at the Association of People with Disabilities (APD) in Bangalore.

While there, I found these students to be surprisingly happy and affectionate, even the ones with extremely twisted limbs and faces.

I was very sorry to leave when I had to. In fact, I was more sorry for me than I was for them, because it was there I discovered that the best way to fill an empty heart is by giving love.

Yes, giving more than taking. For it is a curious thing, love. The more you give, the more you have.

As I boarded the airplane to leave India, I picked up a Malaysian newspaper, to keep abreast of what’s current at home. But the bit of news that struck deep for me was that of a Malaysian teenager who had committed suicide for no apparent reason.

There was a photograph of him, a beautiful 15-year old lad, an excellent student, an accomplished sportsman, and a pretty girlfriend who got along just fine with his reasonably well-to-do parents.

It was a mystery. No one, neither friend nor family, could figure out why, someone so well loved by all, would want to take his own life like that.

Comparing this Malaysian boy with my students at APD Bangalore, I couldn’t help but conclude. If the body is able, the mind agile, and the stomach full, but the heart is empty, your whole world can crumble.

But if the heart is full from giving love, but everything else is wanting, there is a chance of survival.

Now back to the book. “Purification of the Heart” by Hamza Yusuf more or less sealed my personal hunches about the human heart. But it does it one better because it leads you to heartwarming quotes from the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

“On the Day of Judgment, no one is safe, save the one who returns to God with a pure heart.” – Holy Quran

“Surely in the breasts of humanity is a lump of flesh, if sound then the whole body is sound, and if corrupt then the whole body is corrupt. Is it not the heart? – Prophet Muhammad

How then should we go about cleansing our hearts of corruption? In his book, Hamza Yusuf quotes Imam Mawlud in saying that it is impossible to rid oneself of these diseases completely, implying that purification is a life-long process, not something to be applied once and then forgotten.

And so we are taken on a simple, comprehensive journey through this book. Each chapter begins with the ‘disease’, followed by a suggested treatment for that disease.

For example, on page 22, Miserliness is identified as a disease. And to define it further, two quotes from the Quran:

“O you who believe, spend from the good things you have earned and from what We brought out for you from the earth. And do not seek what is inferior in order to spend from it, though you yourselves would not take it unless your eyes were closed to it.” – 2:267

“You will not attain to righteousness until you spend of what you love.” – 3:92

And at the end of the chapter on Miserliness, lies a suggestion of treatment.

“The treatment for miserliness is realizing that those who achieve wealth usually do so only after exhausting themselves over long periods of time, working day and night. Meanwhile, life passes on and time runs out. The culture of wanting more simply for more’s sake can occupy a person for an entire lifetime. And in the end, life is over. It terminates for the beggar and the affluent just the same…”

In this manner, we are introduced to one disease after another - Miserliness, Wantonness, Hatred, Iniquity, Love of The World, Envy, Fear of Poverty, Ostentation, Relying on Other Than God, Displeasure with the Divine Decree, Vanity, Anger, Obliviousness, the list goes on – with treatment happily at hand.

The chapter on Hatred was particularly poignant for this reader. For in it, lies this quote:

The Prophet once said to his companions, “Do you want to see a man of Paradise?” A man then passed by and the Prophet said, “That man is one of the people of Paradise.” So a companion of the Prophet decided to learn what it was about this man that earned him such a commendation from the Messenger of God. He spent time with this man and observed him closely. He noticed that he did not perform the Night Prayer vigil (Tahajjud) or anything extraordinary. He appeared to be an average man of Madinah. The companion finally told the man what the Prophet had said about him and asked if he did anything special. And the man replied, “The only thing I can think of, other than what everybody else does is that I make sure that I never sleep with any rancour in my heart towards another.” That was his secret.

I was inspired. Inshaallah, you will be too.