Monday, 9 May 2016

A Malay Malady - Episode 2

Caution:  There is a point to this long pictorial posting which you will discover towards the end.

1. What could be more  Malay than a rumah kampung?  This is a photograph from 1966.

Our  kampung house - 691 Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore

2. What could be more  meticulous than this drawing?

Carving on a tiang seri of a kampung house.

3. What could be more  joyous than remembering :

1.  a walk in the kampung ......

The old lady is how Iain Buchanan remembers his mother-in-law, AsH's mother

......  and this image was prompted by this 1948 (?) photo of her brother Mustapha taking a walk with Macik Ayik at Kampung Chantek, Dunearn Road.

2.  Here is a tikar  in the making, from Fatimah's Kampung .

AsH had such fond memories of the tikar on the floor - whch was much more flexible and portable than a sofa bed.  " It was as if all those years of use, all the sitting upon and the rolling up and the shaking out, had moulded it perfectly to Atok's comfort."

This mat has travelled from Singapore to Brunei (1978), then to Leicester (1984) and finally to Kuala Lumpur (2007).  I bought it in Port Dickson in 1970.

3.  AsH was a tomboy - with breaks in between  - like putting on the school uniform, or for Hari Raya or family outings.  Nevertheless she treasured the plywood doll house that Abah made for his two little girls.  The spouse drew this doll house for Fatimah, which looked more posh and traditional.


4. What could be more  unforgettable than Busu's wedding in the small town where I was born. Like  many Malays from the kampungs and small towns of Malaya in the 1950s, the opportunity for employment was not in the shops or industries in Kuala Lumpur or Penang or Ipoh or Seremban or Johor Baru.   Their best chance was to enrol in the Police or British Armed Forces. Here, they did not merely "square bash" on the Parade Square.  They learned a trade, depending on which unit they joined.  They acquired discipline and initiative and enterprise.  When I was teaching at Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak from the late 1960s, I could not help but notice how the children of these soldiers were far more hardworking and enthusiastic about learning..  Their turnout was always clean and smart, their homework was always submitted on time and they gave us teachers far less disciplinary problems.

Busu Kamaruddin bin Moin was one of these enterprising Malays from Selangor.  He enrolled in the RAF (Singapore) and with a steady and secure income he was able to give some financial help to his much-loved kakak, our Macik Munah and her family.  Her greatest joy was to see her  adik bongsu married.  Between them there was not much money to be had for Busu's big day.  Her cousins (all male, including my Abah) offered and gave some assistance but they were determined to make it on their own.  It was a simple and unforgettable wedding.  Busu was a quiet and sweet uncle.  Ma'Busu was a lively and loving aunt.  This photograph says it all for us and the extended family.

3 - Macik Munah

To commemorate this special event the spouse recreated the above photograph - by drawing it in  hundreds of thousands (perhaps around a million) black dots (to imitate pixels).  He was determined to be absolutely computer-free and this was the result.

"Atok used to joke about the plastic tablecloth and the tent for the wedding feast that leaked."


5. What could be more  yummy than the finger-licking taste of durian from the kampung?

Abah,  a Sanitary Inspector by profession was a civilian in the RAMC.

Abah's colleagues and students would come back from home trips to the kampung and we would be feted with our favourite durian, rambutan, mangosteen, ikan sepat from the sawah, tempoyak, kerdas and petai.  He would tell us stories about durian-hunting in the kampung and that inspired this drawing .....

Durian Watch


6. What could be  a greater tribute to Allah's creation than to imitate the beauty and glory of the forest in these images?


7. What could be more  devastating than to see this splendour  destroyed by man and his greed?


8. What could be more  graphic than this geographer's portrayal of the 'development' of his wife's tanah air through an LRT window?

The First Half - beginning with the forest ....

........ and the Second Half ending with the concrete jungle.

9. What could be more  loving than one man's love for his Malay wife and her tanah air to set out on an 8-year labour of love to write an illustrated story of Fatimah's Kampung ?

Note the vignette of the petai, the author's favourite ulam.

"Now, looking back, it is good to know that the two of us could eventually come together, and- by creating Fatimah and her Kampung - could say something we both needed to say."

For my 70th birthday the spouse drew a series of pictures for his little tropical flower - my favourite, the bunga tahi ayam.   This one is the best.


Today's posting by AsH is quite unusual.  Made up mainly of a series of  illustrations from her spouse's book (published in 2008) AND smothered with 'copyright Iain Buchanan' on each one, readers may be forgiven if they think proprietorial AsH is touting her husband's book.  Well, if I am publicising and hawking Fatimah's Kampung I should have done that years ago!

I merely desire to explain the learning, the research, the skills, the patience, commitment and especially the love that went into Fatimah's Kampung by Iain Buchanan - Ash's soulmate!

In a quaint and depressing way, this posting is to illustrate another piece of Malay Malady.  I am angry, I am ashamed, and I am sad when I have to face the extent to which a member of my bangsa has such cheek to pilfer someone else's toil and labour to earn a living and to profit from such an act of cheating.

My good friend and neighbour, Zarina puts it so neatly, " Kak, to our Malays, only arak and babi are haram!"

10. What could be more   despicable than this?

The above was plagiarised and purloined and corrupted into this

 No wonder Information Technology is such a popular subject in Malaysia!

By the way, this business was given a leg-up in Utusan Malaysia February 2014.

And now a song of apology and comfort from a Malay wife to her  Scottish-English husband.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A Malay Malady - Episode 1

When the corporeal parts and trappings of  the Malay-Muslim's garments,  physical appearance, titles, education, talent and wealth are removed, we all look anatomically the same - in the eyes of God, and to the worms that consume and recycle our earthly flesh.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. so to speak.

My people - kings and ministers, tycoons, paupers, CEOs, and Directors, managers and supervisors, taxi drivers, road sweepers,  soldiers, policemen, farmers and fishermen, should take a  look at the image below and try to realise that is what they all look like inside when all the flesh and blood turn to mush.

"Alas, poor Yorick.  I knew him well" said Hamlet when he picked up Yorick's skull at the graveyard.

If only I could express that same sentiment when I encounter - in the flesh - some of my fellow-Malay men and women.

A Malay Skull - May 1839 Encyclopaedias and Dictionaries, Part II page 252.

After that brief euphoria in my last posting I find myself back in the pits of another Kafkaesque engagement with Malaiseian bureaucracy.

Just last week on Thursday in a certain government department, we had the bizarre privilege of encountering a government Pegawai  - a government servant - whose explanation of the convoluted workings of his department  was injected with repeats of  "Dengar!", "Dengar Sini!", "Dengar ya!" in a tone that you would use to a dog or a cretin; who very ostentatiously rolled his eyes and looked to Heaven when I started to explain myself; and who shared smirks with the female officer at the next counter - who broke out into giggles at our predicament.

The Malay-Muslim male seems to have a penchant for eye-rolling when talking to a Malay-Muslim female . I used to think this was just a peculiarity of the highly educated Malay-Muslim male who thinks he is the epitome of the cat's pyjamas.

From A little jaunt into escapism - 9 August 2015
 But from last week's experience it seems to happen across the board.  Is it because Malay-Muslim females are somehow an inferior species?

Anne - my stepmother-in-law -  gave me this advice when I lamented about the racist abuses thrown at me in Leicester.  "Just visualize these sick people sitting on their toilet with their trousers draped around their feet!"

So, what vision do I create?   I reckon this pegawai to be in his early 30s,   Let me picture him as a snotty toddler wrapped in his kain lampin.  Thirty years ago, throw-away nappies like Pampers were not in vogue except for very select parts of the urban elite.  And thirty years ago, I had just finished my Masters and was embarking on a new life as a married and retired ex-teacher in Leicester.

 And now, in a government office, he is being publicly rude to me in front of his female junior colleague.  I suppose I could be his grandmother's age and if he had been a Malay-Muslim Singaporean his emak and  bapak could have been one of my former students.

I guess I was so upset and too stunned to recite this bidalan to him.

Hidup di-dunia biar beradat             Let's live in this world by the rules of old,
Bahasa tidak berjual beli.                 For manners are not to be bought and sold.

(Extracted from Malay Proverbs,Bidal Melayu by A.W.Hamilton 1937)

But then what's the point?  Too many of our young(er) selfie-and-self-obsessed anak bangsa have lost the art, the sound and rhythm of their cultural background to modernisation, to arabisation, to occidentalisation and to nihilism.  The Lunchais are bobbing on their Labu-labu - long live the me-layu!

The Chinese maintain their tong pao ( of the same womb).  The Malays are divesting theirs into the tong sampah.

                                          Tiada Gentar Membela Diri dan Pusaka Asli


Friday, 22 April 2016

We are now certified .....

..... as a legally married couple in the eyes of the Akta Undang-Undang Keluarga Islam (Wilayah-Wilayah Persekutuan) 1984, Seksyen 31 (4).

What a relief!  It's like the rich and gooey icing on a Not-so-Secret Recipe Wedding Anniversary Cake.

We have been married for 30 years.  Our marriage was in 1986 at Masjid Assyakirin Jurong, Singapore.  We were issued a wedding certificate by MUIS Singapore.  It was all strictly above board and fully compliant with both the  secular and religious rulings.  We did not opt for some murky corner in Cambodia, Thailand or Indonesia - the various Malaysian versions of Gretna Green.

Before I took up Malaysian citizenship ( which was a heartfelt conscious desire to return to the land of my forefathers), the spouse and I would include our MUIS marriage certificate as a must-have item in our luggage.  It does look a tad travel-worn by now because it accompanied us on our family visits to Batu Pahat/Segamat/ Kuala Lumpur, to our jalan-jalan in Penang, Kedah, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak.  We were warned about Khalwat ; about being caught like a wetback in the US, i.e tangkap basah.

With my change of nationality, I discovered to my horror that we had to go through the nightmarish process of justifying the legality (religious) of our marriage despite our 30-year Marriage  Certificate  from  MUIS Singapore.  One day, perhaps one day, I'll write down the whole gory details of that re-certification drama and trauma which turned my brain bald and my spirit shapeless.

But right now I'm so thankful for that piece of paper which contains just a re-write of the details in our Singapore Marriage Certificate.  But  JAWI forgot to include an important item which MUIS Singapore had assiduously noted down - the name Donald Iain Buchanan @ Mohd Yassir Buchanan bin Abdullah - the genesis of which the religious authorities in Kuala Lumpur were very concerned about. 


A matter of language - Certify, Certifiable and Certification

Finally we must be very careful in our use of words :  To certify (as a verb), means to attest to as the truth or meeting a standard.  Certifiable - which is derived from the verb certify - can be used in two ways.  Firstly it can refer to documents which are certifiable - i.e they can or must be certified.  But throughout all of that period leading up to our Certification  we carried the albatross of the other meaning of certifiable.

That version of certifiable means 'a crazy person' - albeit it's an informal use - but most of the time we did feel like we were in a loony bin or a sin bin!!

You can read of my weary despair at

 At last I can hope and begin to pick up the pieces of AsH.  Thank you all for the patience and indulgence,

Monday, 7 March 2016

Selam (**) kan Malaysia

A fateful portent??

.... snipped from ...

......  a gathering of the saviours of Malaysia.

Got back home just 36 hours ago and it looks like I'll have to get into diving gear if I am to be saved by the above as they bring down the wretched vessel that is Malaysia.

It seems all is not well  and so we have this gathering of  chalk and cheese, a motley crew of men, coming and crawling from the  hallowed halls  and woodwork of politics, civil groups and the media.  How  can their Campaign benefit the Rakyat - except to " sapu chat di rumah yang burok".

We were often reminded ; when elephants get into battle, we - the hoi-polloi - have to get out of the way.

It's difficult for this septuagenarian to distance herself from this made-in-Malaysia soap opera.  It brings to mind the fable  about  "The Horse, Hunter and Stag".

A quarrel had arisen between the Horse and the Stag, so the Horse came to a Hunter to ask his help to take revenge on the Stag.  The Hunter agreed, but said: " If you desire to conquer the Stag, you must permit me to place this piece of iron between your jaws, so that I may guide you with these reins, and allow this saddle to be placed upon your back so that I may keep steady upon you as we  follow after our enemy."  The Horse agreed to the conditions, and the Hunter soon saddled and bridled him.  Then with the aid of the Hunter the Horse soon overcame the Stag, and said to the Hunter: " Now, get off, and remove those things from my mouth and back."

" Not so fast, friend," said the Hunter.  " I have now got you under bit and spur, and prefer to keep you as you are at present."

But I have to make a slight change to the above fable.  The Horse and the Stag actually inhabit the same territory and have a very similar diet.  Although they have four legs they are not as well constructed to outwit the two-legged Hunter's shewdness and tactics.

In this tale about the Horse, the Stag and the Hunter, what lesson can be learned?  Don't you get a feeling of deja vu?  It has happened before in  the history of the Malay domain : during the fall of the Malacca Sultanate, the acquisition of Singapore, the creation of the Straits Settlements, the Federated Malay States, the Unfederated Malay States, the Malayan Union and  even the terms of  Merdeka in 1957.

One last thought before  I  leave to catch up on my jet lag : Jong Pechah, Yu Kenyang.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Humpty Dumpty in Malaysia

AsH will be going home from home in a few days' time.  Here's my mental preparation for the return to a hothouse - weatherwise and political.

When the prospects for the future of my Tanah Air seem so gruesome, perhaps I need to look back - to what we were like - or rather, how we were portrayed - way back in 1839.  In fact, the Malays were never really in charge of their own fate and their future.  But certainly, looking back to my experience of 70 years, we are masters of shooting ourselves in the foot and stabbing each other in the back.

The Malay from ......
....... a May 1839 encyclopaedia, 20 years after Singapore was 'founded' by Stamford Raffles.

According to this encyclopaedia the 'mental powers (of the Malays ) are little developed'.  Look through the old books referring to the Malays and you'll find no end of negative comments about our mental and economic prowess.  In a way it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy that has landed the Malays in their present state of disunity and cretinous infighting.

However the element of bodoh-sombong cannot be discounted.  Also some of our prominent politicians have also shamelessly added another factor : that of 'shame' for which only the Malays are guilty of. I suppose, in this post I can be accused of the same malfeasance for exposing our 'pekong di dada'.

When Humpty Dumpty fell from the wall, "All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again".  Is there a lesson to be learned from this nursery rhyme?

Perhaps we can pick up more tips from the fables of Aesop - which we old-fashioned ex-teachers would resort to - in attempting to teach morality to our young ones.

Take this one.

Politicians anywhere in the world are adept at horse dealing - just observe what's going in the Presidential  Primary in the US, the Brexit campaign in UK and the shameless power struggle in Malaysia. 

2.  Politicians have a knack of making promises and trying to please all just to attain their place in the halls of power.  One who works without principles and manages to eat his cake and keep it, will end up like this.

This lesson is also applicable to Malay men who have a propensity for multiple wives!!

3.  What motivates the policies of those who are power-hungry?

Malaysia has an abundance of bald men and flies!!

4.  What is the price of disunity and greed?

Viva the Reformation??!!

Promises? Hope? Glory? Perfidy?

5.  As for the rakyat who inevitably become  cannon fodder in the battle of the Caesars, take heed of this tale.

Equality is what the elite -  made up of the articulate and powerful and rich - promise to the dispossessed!!

Finally let's take a leaf from one of  P. Ramlee's fables Labu Labi; in his song Yang Mana Satu Idaman Kalbu.

For all confused, jaded and outraged Malaysians - as we have to make choices (or should we?) - think of P. Ramlee's lines.

Hai tukang masak, aku tak sudi
Hai tukang cuci menyakitkan hati.

....even though we are persuaded by......

Inilah dia yang di carinya
Misai tebal, ular sawa

Ini orang nya idaman dara
Lawa tiada manis ada.

It usually ends up in deciding between ...

Biarlah setan atau pun hantu
Cukup bulan makan batu.

Biarlah hantu atau jembalang
Balik kampung, tanam kacang.

And in another room, in the background is the kingpin counting his money:

Tak habis habis dengan asmara chinta (politik)
Kan lagi bagus lagu nasihat ....... bagaimana dapat duit,
Macam mana nak jadi orang kaya !!!

Good Night and Good Luck  Malaysians.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Happy 80th Birthday to AsH's and Iain's Abang

Dear Bang Long,

When Haron bin Mohammed from Muar/Batu Pahat  married my sister Maznah in 1965, my Mak instructed us to refer to him as Abang Long, shortened to  Bang Long because my sister is the anak sulung, the first born.  He is the only "Abang" we have in our family.

As for Iain, he always refers to Haron, his brother-in-law, as "my abang from Batu Pahat" .  We were so at home in their Jalan Jengkeng house whenever we popped in from Leicester (from the mid Eighties to 2007) to spend time with my mother and the rest of the clan.
Iain enjoyed going over Hidayah's school books and Ash gets busy scoffing a packet of nasi lemak  which Bang Long bought every morning from the warong nearby.
And in those days Bang Long's wife makes super-duper teh tarik!

But what really united the two families was gardening.    Just 2 days ago, in the e-mail, we  received this:
Bang Long and his tin (fig) tree.  His right hand indicates the present height and his left hand shows what it was when he planted it four months ago. What a proud achievement ..... that it made his brother-in-law write...

The spouse's grandiose plans of getting rich (in our dotage) rest completely on his date tree in our garden - which came from a date seed from 4 Ramadans ago, which was then sent to Bukit Mulia for my sister to nurse and nurture until it grew to half its present height.  (It just might produce dates before we reach our eighties.)

It's the same old ploy from both the Scot and the Muar man - to get the two sisters working in the kitchen ..... and they will then devour by the plate full, the capital and the profit - a typical case of AliJohnny enterprise - or maybe Ali-McJohnny ...

Iain's fledgeling date palm

But back to Bang Long.   It's often said that a man (or woman) is made up of more than the sum of its parts.

I shall begin by annotating the parts of this recent octogenarian - this retired teacher, community worker, gardener, DIY plumber, curtain stitcher, world traveller (Scotland, Spain, China ... ), and above all husband, father, grandfather....and beloved abang.

I recall the first time I met this man -  who was to be my sister's husband - when he came to our kampung house at Pasir Panjang to meet his future father-in-law. I don't think I have ever seen such a nervous scaredy cat!  Even his voice trembled when he spoke to my Abah.

It all went fine and Haron bin Mohammed became a full-fledged member of Abdul Hamid's family.

L to R: Mustakim, Maznoor, Kamisah, Abdul Hamid & Sham, Maznah, Haron, Mustapha - 1967

From then on, most of the parts were made up of births and deaths and marriages and more births, sigh....

But that was not all.  For the two sisters and their lesser (?) better(?) halves there were several travels and adventures to share  - three times in England, in Scotland, in Wales and in Spain.

Adventure 1 - Tobermory, Mull  - 2000(?) -  This is a pictorial version.  The details are too gruesome to be recorded.

Oban and Isle of Mull in Scotland
The journey, by ferry from Oban to Tobermory.  Note the village of Dervaig to the east of Tobermory.
Haron's wife had to be pushed and shoved onto the ferry because she has an irrational fear of sea travel.  Nitwit!!!
Beautiful Tobermory.  Note the row of houses at the harbour.

Where we stayed at Tobermory.  Our room is within the green box.

What our room looked like.  On that chair  (within the square)  I watched the man from Muar looking out from the window,  savouring the beautiful peace of Tobermory harbour at night. 

On that trip, Iain took us for a drive to Dervaig.  On the way, the car broke down (the wishbone snapped). He hitched a ride back to Tobermory to get a mechanic.  The three of us waited by the car and soon we were surrounded by Isle of Mull natives, all very suspicious of these strange outsiders hanging around a deserted road in the middle of nowhere.

They were natives of the four-legged variety  -  a flock of sheep - who kept on booing and baaing at the Haji and Hajah and the female Malay maverick.      Well, the spouse got back with a very kind garage owner, who welded the "wishbone"together so we could drive back onto the ferry and back to Oban for a proper repair.      And while we were waiting there, my dear sister scrumped some apples off a tree by the bridge.      (Kids in this part of the world used to "scrump" apples a lot - much to the anger of the owners!)

Adventure 2 - Hadrian's Wall.

From Scotland the intrepid four continued their journey to visit Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland.  As our driver and guide was a typical Scot, he made sure we boarded at places where we could get our money's worth and that meant Youth Hostels.  We never grumbled about that - it's very sensible.  Sometimes we got to stay in grand old houses (the Loch Lomond youth hostel was a huge stately home that belonged to a Scottish tobacco baron) and in the most picturesque locations.  We did our own cooking and dined in lovely oldie-worldie rooms.  Remember the dining room at Oban Youth Hostel?  There was a table for 4, with a lovely view overlooking the sea.  We made the lads chope  (reserve) the table while the lasses got on with the cooking.  Very kiasu but it didn't work all of the time.  Some German tourists got there before we could.

But the piece de resistance of this trip (especially for Bang Long)    ....

.......B6318, Northumberland .....

..... was the search for our Hostel next to Hadrian's Wall .......

............  at the Once Brewed Youth Hostel.

We drove back and forth along this B road looking for the Hostel.  We kept on discovering the sign for the village Twice Brewed but no Once Brewed!  Tempers were getting frayed in the car - we were all trying to be the driver (except my diplomatic sister), while the driver himself was getting more and more agitated.

Well, while doing this posting, I discovered the reason - it all boils down to a peculiar English idiosyncrasy - the desire to keep foreigners confused.

You see,"Once Brewed is also known as Twice Brewed.  If you drive the B6138 from the east you will see the village name  "Once Brewed" "... while those coming from the west will see the name "Twice Brewed"   So naturally, when the driver misses the Twice Brewed roadsign and turns back, he will only see the sign for Once Brewed.    And he will be terribly confused.

So we can't blame the driver's sense of direction.

Adventure 3: Allotment digging

Back in Leicester, we got you working for your supper at Iain's allotment.  

As you both were such keen gardeners, that morning gave you much more joy than shopping at the City Centre.  You both did plenty of digging: Maznah had the joy of lifting the freshest potatoes she's ever seen (the potatoes are just behind the broccoli in the picture).  But she had to contain Bang Long's desire to repair Iain's shed - he's a DIY fanatic.

Adventure 4 - Two pensioners behaving badly on Sept 28 2002.

I almost forgot : when the two of you participated in the 400,000 strong Anti-War Protest in London.  Remember when you both were resting with your placards at Piccadilly Circus?  You were surrounded by cameramen snapping your photographs - they were quite taken by this elderly Muslim couple who took the time and the effort to demonstrate their stand against the War on Iraq.  I guess there must be many pictures of you two somewhere in the ether. Aaah, two celebrities from Malaysia!!!


We had loads more adventures, like the salt in the tea instead of sugar and how we had to have the leftover nasi lemak from breakfast  for  dinner because someone forgot to pack the tin opener!!

But I shall leave all those other memories for you to share with your children and grandchildren.


Bang Long, at the beginning of  your eighth decade we want to jot down  how much you have achieved  in your time - to capture the total sum of this Muar man - not just the isolated parts.  You (and Maznah) were great parents.  A humble couple from humble beginnings, you were adamant that your children should not turn into kacang lupakan kulit.  Before Maria left for university in Liverpool, she was told  "Ingat, kau 'tu hanya anak cikgu", and she has kept true to your reminder.  When Mahzan, who was then ( late 1980s) a medical undergraduate at UM, went to the NUS Hospital to see to his Tok Mok, he noticed an old lady in pain and looking worried.  He went over to her bedside to console her and it helped her no end.

You brought them up to give of their best - for both this world and the hereafter.

Photo by Iain - before he became a fully paid-up member of the family.

They were always made aware that it was duit  rakyat that got them to where they are.

If there's any one image of you that we can recall with fondness, it is this.

Haji Harun on his trusty motorbike - on  his way to the surau.

And so, when Iain did his book Fatimah's Kampung - he included you on page 72-73.

Haron gazing at the destruction of our world - both physically and metaphorically.

I guess that's all I can say.  Many Happy Returns Bang Long from your two weird in-laws.

Thank you for sharing your time with us and for understanding and accepting our foibles and inadequacies.

I remember how you like Effendy.  This song was recorded many, many years ago from vinyl to cassette.  Three years ago I decided to transfer it to a video and here's my crummy handy work for you to enjoy and cry over.