Monday, 17 September 2018

Ruth - a matchless woman

RUTH - sometime in the early 1940s.
We have one thing in common, Ruth and I.  We are incorrigible magpies.  Amongst many,many other things, she collected match box labels.

Been feeling a bit down lately - people (well, some) tend to do that to me and to make it worse,  there have been much too much of Malaysia Baru and the strong odour of Malayan Union Mark 2 blowing in the air.

So I decided to indulge myself; ferreting through my own magpie nest - as a form of therapy.  We have been keeping this little basket box (woven by Ruth herself)  ........

Ruth's treasure of matchbox tops.
....... containing her collection of matchbox tops, acquired over a period of nearly 50 years.  It was passed on to us by Bride after Ruth passed away in 2009.  Once or twice I  rummaged through this collection and did not realise what a treasure they were until just a few days ago.  I was flabbergasted by the age and the variety of samples she had been storing.  They were all her personal collection covering the period of her life as a wife and mother from perhaps the 1950s onwards.   Her family life stretched from home in England to Wales ......

Iain, Ruth, Bride, Keith and Jane in Wales where Iain learned to pronounce LLANFAIRPWLLGWYNGYLLGOGERYCHWYRNDROBWLLLLANTYSYLIOGOGOGOCH  in one go.

...........  South Africa, West Africa, Northern Ireland, and finally in New Zealand where they eventually settled.  These match tops also covered her travels in Australia, Hong Kong, Fiji, Malaya and Singapore in the 1960s.

Ruth was only doing what that generation of children were encouraged to do.  Born in 1915, she was taught to observe, conserve and respect nature - all 'creatures great and small' which also included trees and grass and seashells.  That generation had hobbies and interests which were self-made and did not cost any money at all.  That was why she was such a skilled knitter and showed her love by spending hours on knitting projects for family and friends.  She lived according to a "waste not, want not" ethos, which was also expected of us by our mother.

A hand-knitted Cushion Cover - from Ruth to her daughter-in-law.

Iain's Cushion Cover.  Ruth had knitted a coconut tree next to Maznoor and an apple tree next to her son.  Her children call her Haggis - the reason for that is lost on me.

Winter slippers for Iain.  My pair is still up in the loft in Leicester -I'm too decrepit to retrieve it.
52, Tilley Road, Paekakariki, where she lived from 1953 to 2007 when she became too frail to manage by herself. This house was Ruth's humongous magpie's nest and where she did her gardening, knitting, basket weaving, textile collage and umpteen handicraft creations.

I can hear her voice saying, "Come on, Maznoor.  Stop this nattering.  I want to see what you've done with my match top labels!".

Here they are.  If I were still a school teacher, I would ask my geography pupils to note down   the various countries of origin and then indicate them on a world map - but only for schoolchildren of 40 years ago.  Today's kids who are merely computer-literate will not have the foggiest idea on where to begin!

But just three hours before I embarked on this soul-enhancing posting, I decided to look in the kitchen drawer for my matches.

Firstly as expected, I found this one from Giant which I matched with a brand I remembered from the 1960s.

 But this is the creme de la creme.  What an unbelievable coincidence!!

We have here - Safety Matches and Macis Keselamatan.  One costs 5 cents, the other 20 sen.  The one made in Petaling Jaya  has an inscription in Jawi.  The 'modern' match  came from Taiping.  This makes for a 'matching' historical comparison!

Ruth, we've hit the Jackpot!!!!!!  These are matches for our (different) times.

We managed to match 1986 with 2018.  Thank you for the lighting the matches along the way.

My mother-in-law always gave away gifts that are handcrafted and associated with her hobbies and came from her own magpie nest.

This gift of a new book on shells was very different and especially touching for the inscription she wrote.

Aaaahh I do feel much better after writing this posting though I still want to ......??.

Thank you Ruth.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Lest We Forget

Sixty-one years ago in 1957 - I remember this significant  occasion, not only for my Tanah Air but  for my family's  history as well.  It is all the more poignant because I recall the dreams, hopes and fears of my then 47 year old Abah.  I am now twenty seven years older than he was then. I have carried with me his very same dreams and hopes and fears.

I have underlined the most touching moment on 31st August 1957.

On Saturday, August 31st 1957 in our kampung house at 691, Pasir Panjang Road, between 8-9 am , we were all sitting, listening to the radio, waiting for the Proclamation of Independence.

When Malaya's flag was raised,  I saw my father's tears for the second time (and the last).  He cried he said, because he was happy that his Tanah Air was free.  But his tears were also tears of fears for his people - and for him, for that generation, that meant the Malays.  He lived through life under the British Tuan,  pitted all his energy for survival for his and the extended family in Kuala Kubu Baru during the Japanese Occupation, only to narrowly escape execution by a vengeful MPAJA-cum-Malayan Communist Party after the Second World War.

The Malayan Union of 1946 was  galling to him and he decided to set up UMNO in our kampung and others in Pasir Panjang because he realised the Malays have to organise if they want to keep their identity and their Motherland.

He was witness too, to his 'boys'  who were in the British Army, when they were injured and killed fighting the insurrection by the MCP.

He  grew up in Setapak, an old boy of Victoria Institution - and I reckoned he came face to face with the  plight of the Malays who came from various kampungs in the Malay Peninsula when he was in the British Army.  And he did not like what he saw.

He invested a lot in his children's education because he knew it was the only way the Malay could restore his rights and his dignity.  To his students in The School of Health, he tried to instil in them the importance of knowledge and learning for them and their family.

Sixty years after Merdeka, the Malays are better educated, both religious and  secular..  They are very much better off  in the rural areas, but especially those in the urban centres.  They can afford their own cars....

From New Malayan Reader 1 - also from the early 1950s

........ and live in rumah batu. 

From 'Look and Read' by  R. Duncan, Malayan Education Service circa early 1950s.

Travelling by plane for their Hajj and Umrah and overseas holidays is a common affair. 

They can be found running the Banks and big Corporations, joining the ranks of tycoons and compradores of business.

From  Look and Read by R. Duncan.

If  Abah was here today and looked at the way the Malays have torn themselves apart and conveniently forgotten the sacrifices and lessons from the past, he would not cry.

He will just turn his back in disgust.

Progress is a comfortable disease.  (E. E. Cummings, 1894-1962)

As for these men who proudly took part in the Review on that auspicious day of 31 August 1957, they have no reason to cry either.  They have done their duty for Nusa and Bangsa!


The above excerpts were taken from -

 - which we bought in 1989 from Ban Heng Store, 34 Jalan Abdullah, Muar.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

A DIGRESSION - Version 2

We do believe  " History repeats itself ".

Usman Awang, one of our most brilliant poets of the 20th century wrote this many years ago.  I often wonder if some or any of our Millennials and Generation X have read his works - especially this one -

"Berbuahlah pisang tiga kali.    Masih berdagang di rumah sendiri"

Read :

Perhaps the Malay is still caught in  "terlalu banyak mimpi"  (too many dreams).  Worse than that he/she  seems to have "no shame" .

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad lamented that he failed in his 22 years in power as the Malays did not feel ashamed when they failed, whether in examinations or in life.

" I spent 22 years trying to change the Malays, trying to alter the perception that they were lazy, I failed," Malaysia's serving Prime  Minister said today.

 ............... Another failing among the Malays, he said, was the lack of honesty and integrity, and their failure to handle money properly.

Lazy Malay circa 1960s.
Malay rubber smallholder, Johor - more lazy Malays.

Two tired Malay children and their stall of products from their kampung - does this reflect a "failure to handle money" ??

Two lovely smiles after the photographer had a little chat with them.  This was taken on the road to Seremban in 1966/67.
Fast forward to 2015 - still a lazy Malay. Arwah Aisha, a very diligent road sweeper in Kuala Lumpur.

Still 2015 - the lazy Malay under a tree fiddling with his mobile.  He had been sweeping  bags and bags  of rubbish and leaves as well as pushing his heavy rickety trolley since 7 am.  Compare this tidy scene with the mess in above image.

But all is not lost.  There are the middle class urban Malays - well educated, both secular and religious,  the movers and shakers of the professional bureaucracy, and the corporate and political system .   Aisha and Osman often complained about these well-heeled residents, chucking their rubbish anywhere they like.  One of them gave Aisha 2 obviously costly pillows - which were ridden with bed bugs.  Aisha did not notice them until she took them home. 

This is how they live  in gated communities with security guards and security barriers, and blocked-up roads.  

Long live the bourgeoisie!!!

He spoke of his experience running a bakery after his retirement from politics.

"I am operating a bakery and have given many opportunities to Malays to hold management positions.

"Unfortunately, time and time again, honesty and integrity appear to be lacking as there have been staff who keep stealing."

(From The Malaysian Insider - September 11, 2014)


As for cheating and stealing - there are cheats and cheats and thieves and thieves ....

Posted by grkumar - "Malaysian cheats at Foreign Universities", April 23 2016

Right: -  so the Malays are shameless, lazy, dishonest and lack integrity.


Let's look at another view written by a Singapore poet, Mohd Latiff Mohd, one of my favourite poets from my mother's tanah air, my ex-country.  Although in 1969, the then Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew regarded poetry as "a luxury we cannot afford" (Hyland, 1984, p 137), Mohd Latiff's contribution in 2004 is still priceless - the hopes and principles and determination; the woes and frailties of the Malays, the obstacles in their path, the legacy heaped upon them of a truncated economy, society and demography - it makes no difference if this exists in Singapore or the Semenanjung because their tapestry was sewn and painted by the same external forces.  The Malays are serumpun, from the same root and same origin, no matter what some of our WOGs and Arabists wish to deny.

I'm copying in full Mohd Latiff's MELAYU BARU published by MAJALAH SEKATA, April 2004.

Melayu baru ini mengkeramatkan maruah sejarah
tahu takrif iman dan mencintai sulaman akidah
menentang khurafat menjunjung syuhada                                                                                          meremukkan tahyul dan menentang tengkarah.                                                                                 

Melayu baru itu bukan hanya segak bertali leher                                                                                tapi akan gagap berbahasa ibunda                                                                                                        pelat Inggerisnya amat mempesona                                                                                                  pandai berdansa dan pandai bermukah                                                                                                pandai bermuka-muka dan penjilat maruah.

Melayu baru itu sebenarnya intelektual bangsa                                                                              berkeris  bertanjak tapi berijazah sempurna                                                                                      lembut budinya tapi tegas membela                                                                                                  apabila ibunda dicela atau ditindas takdirnya.

Melayu baru itu kenal derita bangsa
tidak sombong dan tidak serakah
rela berkorban darah dan airmata
demi bangsa dan anak manusia.

Melayu baru itu bukan hanya pada lagak dan rupa
rumah istana dan berkereta dari tujuh benua
tapi membuang jauh budaya bangsanya 
dan malu mengaku asal usulnya.

Melayu baru itu sebenarnya seorang peguam yang berani
seorang jurutera yang berbudi
seorang doktoryang tinggi pekerti
seorang wakil rakyat yang bistari.

Melayu baru itu seorang ulama penentang hipokrasi
seorang wira pejuang tulen nafas demokrasi
seorang mukmin yang bersih hati dan murani
mengenali erti wanginya takdir keramatnya mimpi
menggauli sosok sejarah dengan bertatihkan budi.

Melayu baru itu bukanlah hanya pada lagak dan gaya
sombong dan bangsat pada wajah leluhurnya
menghina mimpi dan duka para bonda
tidak berakar umbi, tidak bertiang seri 
tidak kenal airmata duka dan sejarah sendiri.

Melayu baru itu sebenarnya pendobrak budaya tua
merentangkan sutera silatul rahim buat anak manusia
menolak wangi cendana istana, darjat dan harta
menentang pemadat dan budaya durjana
menolak menyerah  pada takdir semata.

Melayu baru itu sebenarnya bukan pada nama
berlagak sombong penghina linangan airmata bangsa
Melayu baru itu wujud atas bulan purnama
atas ketangkasan roh dan kejantanan manusia
atas sinar keimanan syahadat di pelangi senja
atas hakikat hakikat kebenaran di sembilan purnama.

                                                                      Majalah Sekata
                                                                       April, 2004

Mohd Latiff Mohd


In Paragraph 2, he wrote "Melayu Baru ...... pandai bermuka-muka dan penjilat maruah."

In Paragraph 5, Mohd Latiff  added, "Melayu baru bukan hanya pada lagak dan rupa ..........tapi membuang jauh budaya dan malu mengaku asal usulnya." 

I have met face to face a Malay Muslim academic who preferred to be regarded as a Muslim - not a Malay.

Then there are the self-important Millennials and Generation X who proudly proclaim their liberal credentials and claim : "I am a Malaysian first and Malay next."  Their defensiveness is in fact, a form of inverted bigotry.

By courtesy of The Malaysian Insider : Si Melayu yang "tidak berakar umbi, tidak bertiang seri, tidak kenal airmata duka dan sejarah sendiri" paragraph 8).  


Perhaps if this ( as in Singapore) demolition of  house and home and kampung and community and way of life had been the fate of their parents and grandparents and great grandparents they might sing a different tune.  Only photographs and memories survive - and both are few and far between.

Kaki Bukit extension of Jalan Eunos.

Kaki Bukit extension of Jalan Eunos

Finally, a bit of humour and skulduggery.

Alas poor Yorick/Malay, I knew him ..........    do I or anybody????



Wednesday, 1 August 2018

I can't resist this !

Just today, I read of another piece of  black and blank news from the brains in Pakatan Harapan's Ministry of Education.

I'll put it this way, with thanks and apologies to  Martin Niemoller's "First they came for the Socialists ................"

First they went for the white shoes, and the political pundits had little to say.

Because it's just a small matter, isn't it - swapping black for white?

Then they went for UTUSAN MALAYSIA,  no reasons given.

Maybe they're the wrong colour like the shoes - and they write in Malay!!

Then who or what next?  Remove nasi lemak and pisang goring from the school canteens?

Gosh, this Ministry in the new government has been such a swarm of busy little bees, drafting and instituting all kinds of revolutionary policies for the improvement of education (and more) in this Malaysia Baru.

Maybe they can learn a thing or two from P Ramlee, the Eminent Person we never had!!

Just read this (8pm today) on Utusan Malaysia.  Black or white?  Yes or no?  Old or New?  Mea Culpa?  Then who????   Aaaah  this must be the fault of the previous government. I donno one eh!


Friday, 6 July 2018

On Ogy and the AG.

Especially in Malaysia where race- based politics are the norm ......

The most honest and true statement from a Malaysian about Malaysians!

 ....... outbursts from celebrities such as the lady below only tend to generate more heat than light in the present political climate in this toxic nation.

Image 1

There's no business like show business!  But there is a pepatah Melayu  which cautions Malays (and Others) that "Kerana pulut, santan binasa, kerana mulut ........"  especially when referring to bangsa, and bahasa; to apportioning such derisions as "buat malu", "a lot of uncivilised people", "purely disgusting" to a particular community.

There is no doubt that their expression of frustration and anger is no different from this .... of Bersih 5 and all the other Bersih Campaigns  .....

 Image 2  - "Please step to prove that we are Malaysians hate #MO1  (Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak)"......  although I must admit they have softened the "purely disgusting" act by using "Please ".... aaahh!  .. that's sweet, not so "uncivilised".  (Taken from

....... or this ...

Image 3 - Taken from Lim Sian See's Blog 

Perhaps it will be fitting to apply this window from our Celebrity's eruption to the second and third images albeit with a few adjustments.

Pepatah Inggeris  has this to say:  "Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander".

We can manufacture and use all sorts of excuses and rationales to justify our anger and disgust (apologies for using that word again).

Here are several reasons  why those biadap and 'uncivilised' Melayu did what they did yesterday.

Ash will spare you the lecture. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

1.   History of Bahasa Melayu as Bahasa Kebangsaan'

2.  A celebration of Bahasa Kebangsaan by Malaysians in Kedah.

3.  From the very early days of Imperialism and the arrival of the Immigrants, Malay was the lingua franca - it was put to use in communicating vested interests - so that business and profit can be expedited.  Even the Mat Salleh had to resort to Bahasa  Melayu and in Jawi too!

4.  When the new principal legal adviser to the Government, to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and to the Cabinet - chosen by the PM of Malaysia Baru - decided to speak in English during yesterday's Press Conference, is it any surprise  that 'patriotic' orang Melayu would take umbrage and tell him to do a proper job - in the National Language.  He cannot describe their reaction as 'uncivilised'.  Any other red-blooded non-Malay (and also some Malay) Malaysian, who regard themselves as Anak/Bangsa Malaysia should feel the same about their Bahasa Kebangsaan.

If a top ranking legal officer in India for instance prefers to speak in English he would be hauled over the coals.  In India the use of English for official purpose ceased 15 years after Independence in 1947.  'Tommy' (how The Star affectionately refers to him) , as an "anak Malaysia"  has had nearly 60 years to maintain his fluency in his Bahasa Kebangsaan.  And when he was interviewed about his appointment, he commented :

" We are planning to reform 60 years of laws.... "  ?????? which or what laws?  Is that a promise or a threat from the Alliance of Hope?

5.  Still, he admits he has to brush up his Bahasa Kebangsaan.  Isn't it time he shows his commitment to his job requirement (in using the National Language) just as he is convinced that prayers and God elevated him to the rank of Malaysia's Peguam Negara.

I suppose BN hit the dust because they did not pray hard enough and their God abandoned them!!    Then, which religion and which God fostered the victory of the Alliance of Hope.  Dear God, what a burden we place upon you. Was it really you or the Politically Omnipotent Men with their Grand Design of Resurrection?

Finally, back to Darshan Singh:

Terima Kasih!

And a big thank you to P.Ramlee - the Eminent Person we never had!