Sunday, 19 April 2015

Musings - Melayu tidak memegang janji

 These images below explain the long hiatus in my postings.

My constant friend

My constant ( for the last six weeks) enabler.

From my constant spouse - comestibles like nasi goreng kampung.

But just as constant is the black news about the shenanigans of  Malaysian politics and of Malay politicians at home which only serve to cripple the rakyat, especially the Malays.  Harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi.  

It was my abah who, - when I was growing up in Singapore, often reminded me - "Orang Melayu kuat dengki sesama sendiri.   Rela naikkan lain bangsa untuk menurunkan bangsa sendiri.  I have lived and worked long enough in three Malay countries - Singapore, Brunei and Penang - to experience this foible.    No, 'foible'  is not a strong enough word - it should be 'sickness', a canker that eats at the heart and spirit of a people known to be gentle, easy-going and tolerant.  Our previous imperial masters regarded the Malays as backward and unambitious.  Today, after 58 years of  Merdeka, they have discarded  unambitious for greedy and envious: backward for  "progressive liberalism" ........

..... and  alim-ummah.

Now a septuagenarian, I look back and I reckon the most sincere and steadfast friend I ever had was my Chinese girl friend, Sim L. L.  She recognised my frustration and dissatisfaction as a Malay Graduate teacher in Singapore and she advised me to leave for Malaysia where I will have a better future.  She would do the same if she had been a Malay.  ( But I left for Brunei instead.).

Malays today - be they belacan Malays or mayonnaise Malays or tahini Malays must take heed of the sincere and honest voices of people like Helen Ang and Ridhuan Tee who are concerned enough for their country to remind the Malays that they must keep together.

Can our 21st century Malays learn from this simple gesture of unity that the Chinese uphold for their bangsa?

The Chinese in China, like Indians in India, or the Brits in UK will not cut themselves up - despite their political and social differences - in the way that the Malays are doing to themselves in their Tanah-Air.  One country, one culture, one religion and what keeps them apart is the loss of their sense of Malayness - greed, envy, conceit and self-righteousness have taken over asohan budi.

Asohan budi .... once upon a time, that had such meaning for the Malays.      And once upon a time, it seems, Malay parents forgot that meaning .... and forgot to pass it on.


The following aspects of 'Budi' are from my collection of dictionaries that hark back to the 1960s.

1. From

1963 - 5th Edition



What is missing among present-day Malays is " bangsa Melayu yang budiman".


Terang bulan dan bintang pun berchahaya.
Duduk termenung memikirkan kita.
Pikirkan tuan yang jauh di mata.
Sampai hati meninggalkan saya.

Translate kita as negara ku: tuan as tanah air and meninggalkan saya as membelot bangsa!!!


Monday, 16 March 2015

From Longitude 101 East to Longitude 1 West

It took all of 13 hours flying time to complete the journey of 6572 miles ( 10,581 km) from East (Kuala Lumpur) to West (Leicester).   In bridging the gap between these two compass points Rudyard Kipling had this to say in 1889.

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgement Seat,
But there is neither East nor West, Border nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come from the ends of the earth!

Here is Kipling extolling the belief that Asian and European are equal.

This statement was put to the test on the 13 hour flight from KL to London on 10 March. We were seated behind a Malay family made up of the father, a well-built man sporting a goatee beard (which seems to be increasingly a trade mark of  Malay-Muslim men in Malaysia), a hijabed mother and two children - a little girl of about 5 and a boy of 7-8.  I reckon the parents were in their mid to late thirties.  Mother was sitting comfortably as the two children perused the Flight Safety document and happily chatted away about the parts of the plane - all in English.  Father was reading a newspaper.   It was a lovely picture of a normal family.

Soon the stewardess handed round the headphones and the Flight Entertainment System was switched on.     Suddenly, this sweet, normal family was transformed into something quite different.   From then on, we felt we'd been trapped in the living room of a gang of electronic barbarians, with mother and father engrossed in their "grown-up" movies (Hollywood soaps for wife, exploding bodies, spraying bullets, and car chases for hubby), while their two offspring went almost berserk playing electronic kiddy games - over and over and over again.

 "Mummy how do you start this game?" "Press the Y," said Mummy.  "Daddy, teach me to play this".  And Daddy would lean over, click something. and go back to his blood and guts.  There were constant outbursts of jubilant screeching and jumping on the seat  from the boy-child (which spilled my drink as I was seated behind him) when he made a 'hit': "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!", "Gotcha!",  "Kill the bad guy! Kill the bad guy!"   These exclamations went on for six or seven hours - the kid's favourite game was set in a jungle clearing, and he must have wiped out all living creatures ten times over.

The little sister eventually got to sleep although her "High Five" programme (made in Singapore) was never switched off.     We had Aussie teenage-entertainers doing a half-hour bobbing-up-and-down routine for the kids repeated six or seven times during the flight.   After about six hours, the boy-brat gave us a breather of about an hour.    When he woke up, the fun and games started all over again and by the 10th hour of the flight, Iain had to ask the father (who was seated just in front of him) if he could please tell his son to stop shouting.  Daddy was quite taken aback because he was seemingly unaffected by his son's antics!  He was otherwise glued to his screen watching his endless series of movies.   It was also obvious that the word "sorry" was not part of his vocabulary even though the two parents spoke only English to their children.

Finally, three-quarters of the way into a 13 hour plus journey, there was peace and quiet.   Finally, we had escaped from the hell of being confined in the living room of this hi-tech-savvy English-speaking Malay middle class family.

Is this an example of the outcome of the meeting of East and West?  In this one Malay-Muslim (or Muslim-Malay?) family, the children spoke to each other and to Mummy ( not 'mak) and Daddy (not Abah or Ayah) only in English - although Mummy and Daddy did, now and then, speak to each other in Malay.    But it was not just the choice of language - it was the tone, the attitude, in how it was used.

The English spoken by the children did not include words like 'please' and 'thank you'. They were chiefly "Daddy, show me this".  "Mummy, I want ......".    If it is their desire to bring up their children in a language which is not their mother-tongue, they have to make sure that they are  also conversant with the language of courtesy, of discipline and  acceptable behaviour.     In choosing the English language for bringing up children, parents have to be competent with the whole gamut of the language in communicating social relationships between parent and child, child and child and with other adults  and institutions outside of the family.  Parents should be aware for example, that competency with techno-language for games and computers are  not good indicators for the social development of children.  What I saw and heard from these English-speaking Malay children consisted mainly of expressions and nuances that were demanding, aggressive, competitive,  and very 'me-me-me-istic' , very self-centred.

I suppose such children would do their parents proud.    Imagine the approving comments.  "Pandai betul budak- budak ni. Kecik- kecik lagi dah pandai cakap orang putih!!"    But when the stewardess asked the little boy "What drink would you like?".  The little boy merely said, "I want lemonade."   And he didn't even look at her because his eyes were glued to the screen.

Unlike my generation, post-Merdeka Malays are well educated, well taught in both  asohan ugama and bahasa ibunda .  Thousands were sent overseas  ( USA, UK, Ireland,  France, Germany, NZ, Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Japan, Indonesia) by the Government .   They came home to good jobs,  holding responsible posts - savouring the opportunities that their parents and grandparents were denied under British colonialism.  They became part of Malaysia's middle class and upper middle class.

Some decided to remain living abroad for reasons like  "I do not think I can settle down to working in Malaysia - no work ethics - you have to 'know people' to get anywhere."    Fair enough.    I made the same choice to leave  the Singapore Education Service because I was 'getting nowhere' - all because of my skin colour.  But there was one difference - I had served out my five year bond for the Bursary I received from the Government.  I also carried on working for another six years because I felt I owed it to my people - to the Malay, Chinese and Indian kids - especially those whose milieu was not middle class and privileged.  But never mind - all that is cerita lama.

Resting here in Leicester. nursing my gammy leg I reflect on my Nusantara maritime forefathers.
They would shunt around the Malay Archipelago in their prahus and sailing ships moving and trading (and fighting too!)  from island to island, from coast to coast and setting up riverine and coastal settlements, trading posts and sultanates. Their sense of belonging was drawn out in the embrace of land and water throughout the Malay Archipelago - in their Tanah-Air.   

Today our Malays fly from city to city, from peninsula and island to continents, from tropical to temperate and desert climes. from East to West and South to where ever they reckon the grass is greener.  In a way it replicates the nomadic jalan-jalan and kembara of their ancestors but their choice of destination is a far far 'alien' world which requires the Malay to dilute and subdue their cultural identity to that of the host's.    Integrate or be damned!

When the Boyanese moved to Singapore and the Bugis to Selangor, they did not feel like they'd moved to an alien country.  Even Chinese from China and Indians from India were not subjected to strong conditioning into the host culture.

When the British FARELF ( Far East Land Forces) left in 1971, Abah was called to the CO's office.  The CO told him that Inche Hamid bin Jala would be given the right to migrate to Britain when ever he is ready.  My father did not take up the offer.  The reason?  He told my brother Mus that he did not want his children and grandchildren to turn into dysfunctional Malays in a foreign land.  Hujan mas negri orang.........  Of course there would be some 'enterprising and ambitious' gung ho young Malays  who would regard him as a scaredy cat,  a frog under a coconut shell,  Where ever he is, and if he can see how his cucu and cicit  are getting on today with their culture and identity intact as well, I am certain Abah knew he made the right decision.

And I am so glad he kept us where we belonged.

Below is a map to show where we belonged.  Abah 'migrated' to Singapore from Kuala Lumpur and he built us a home at Pasir Panjang. Being the Malay that he was, he chose a riverine location. Our kampung house in Kampung Abu Kassim was situated on a river bank, the banks of Sungai Nipah.. That river was un-named in our school geography textbooks and it was not until many years later when I was rummaging through some old books and maps that I discovered the name of this water feature that had been a part of our 'playground'.  I include Sungai Nipah  in my hand-drawn map - my tribute to a kampung life that has disappeared forever in Singapore.  That river made so many contributions to our  happy family life.

Tempat jatuh lagi di kenang, ini kan lagi tempat bermain.

Victoria Park, fish and chips, daffodils and roses, canals and steam trains, second hand bookshops and charity shops - I love them all.  But my heart and spirit and soul belongs to my Tanah Air.  Thank you dear Abah, for not transplanting us, for keeping us home.

Maznoor's Map

Speaking for myself, from a generation whose asohan ugama  and (written) bahasa ibunda is not as polished as the post-Merdeka generation, I could not ever bring myself  to dilute and emasculate my Malayness for the ways  and wherefores of the West and the Middle East.  Yes, today's young families may face many different and daunting pressures.  It's not for me to pontificate because the young have to face many more long years than I have left to sort out their Malayness - assuming they still have pride in it.  But it saddens me to observe the ways of that young Malay-Muslim family on that journey by plane from East to West.

Kipling expressed a laudable belief.  But he made one misjudgement,  Between East and West there will only be one 'strong man' - the one from the West.  We of the East, we Malays have to be brave and dignified. Do ponder on the poem "Belonging" by G. Adali-Mortty on my side-bar.

But it must be stressed that a Malay can be emasculated even when he remains on Malaysian soil.


On the second day of our return, my right leg gave up the ghost.

AsH's new Apps - a walking stick and a hot water bottle.

No walks in the park, no shopping at Leicester Animal Rescue, no bag of chips at the market.  But the spouse cooked me a yummy nasi goring kampung with ikan  bilis  for lunch yesterday.

We found this in our backyard when we got back a week ago - by courtesy of our dear friend Jack.

A Tub of Snowdrops.

It was the snowdrops that helped my nephew Shah to perk up after an attack of asthma in Hull, where his father was doing his degree in the 1980s.  These white beauties are doing the same for his ole ma'ngah and hopefully her leg will soon perk up too.

Finally a few lines for our sleepwalking Malays.

Who's gonna tell you when it's too late?
Who's gonna tell you things aren't so great?
You can't go on, thinking nothing's wrong.
Who's gonna drive you home  tonight?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Gentle on my mind

By today I should have got over the jet lag.    By today I should be wandering to my favourite shopping mall .....

Leicester Animal Rescue

... and I should be writing this posting from my den.

The snowdrops would have come and gone.  Jack as usual would have crocuses and daffodils planted in our little back garden.

Jack at his best - mucky gloves and jumper and little seedlings in his arms.
Spring has sprung!!

If only .......................

Four days before our flight to Leicester  last week we were both hit by a nasty stomach flu.   First I came down.   After a few days, we still thought we could just make the journey.  But then the spouse got the brunt of it for another few days, and so the journey was put on hold. And as if to justify the change in our travel plans - dear, lovable, soppy ole Rusty ......

....... had to be 'hospitalised' - again - at the Vet - for the same colon problem.  We were advised that his diet had to be strictly monitored.  A free range cat he may be - but his ranging days are over.  He usually stays out at night - but no more karaoke for him.  He has to be bound to quarters .

Our two cat-sitters and house sitters, Osman and Aisha looked at Rusty's pad and they suggested that he would need padding for the resting shelves.  So off I went to buy two cushions and sewed  on straps to keep them secure on the shelves.  I put my foot down at carpeting when Osman mentioned a little luxury for that little, fat  black blob.

So, InsyaAllah we'll take off in a few days' time for Leicester - leaving behind scenes like this at our LRT Station .....
A scenic view from Setiawangsa LRT Station
.. and our car battered by motorbikes and a neighbour who has not  mastered the art of reversing a car.
"Sikit saja"

Brushes with the ubiquitious motorbikes in KL.  Loads more on the other side.
But ... especially for this Malay Peninsula ....

It's knowing that your door is always open
And your path is free to walk.
That makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag
Rolled up and stashed behind your couch

And a big thank you to my nieces Maria and Hidayah for sorting out our tickets on the Internet and for arranging our departure for KLIA.  But like Uncle Iain said, " It's a small price to pay for getting rid of us."  Ha ha!!   See you all later .. InsyaAllah.

..... that you're waiting from the back roads by the rivers of my memory, ever smiling, ever gentle on my mind.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Stepping Out in Singapore

Exactly a week ago, we were in Singapore.  Our dear host Jailani took us for a tosay and teh tarik breakfast at Tek Kah - a must-stopover for us whenever we cross the Causeway to Temasek.  We were given a special treat - a Saturday morning car ride to MacRitchie Reservoir.

I've always remembered MacRitchie as a venue for P. Ramlee's movies.  This video was taken from the 1957  'Bujang Lapok'.

 It was also where we were taken by our Guide Captain to undergo the Trekking test -  to earn our Second Class Badge.
My very own Second Class badge.

 Miss Lam would lay out the trail of sticks and stones and leaves for us to translate into directions for our route through  the Reservoir's forest.

Here's a 1961 map of Singapore - the red arrow points to MacRitchie Reservoir.

This map was extracted from Collins-Longman's World Atlas for Malaya - part of my Secondary School's Geography Textbooks .

Jai had a surprise for us.  He took us for a walk around the northern periphery of the reservoir - something we could only dream about all those years when we went for hikes at this most popular 'water feature' .  I do take off my hat to the Singapore authorities.  They are certainly short of land space and natural greenery.  But they do so much with the little they've got.  Furthermore, with a population of 5.5 million within a land area of 718.3 sq km which means a population density of 7,615 per sq km - they have done a remarkable job in training their  citizens to be proud of their country, by keeping the environment clean and tidy.   All I can say is "Wake up Malaysia!!"

On that walk of nearly an hour - we have these to 'show and tell'.
A trefoil of three rubber seeds in a pod.
To think; when Ridley brought these seeds to Singapore for trial-planting, it marked - for the Malay Peninsula - the beginning of an industry and an economy that brought wealth and development (for some - mainly non-natives) and chaos and lopsidedness to the Malays who were left on the fringe.  It was a boom for some and bust for others.

As we were walking on the wooden platform along the edge of the reservoir, we heard this very slight movement of water.  We turned and this was what awaited us!

All in all. we observed 3-4 terrapins in the water and just at the edge there was a little notice informing members of the public not to release their unwanted terrapins in the Reservoir!

We have a similar problem up here.    Where we live in KL a number of  domesticated cats have been 'released' in our neighbourhood - leaving us and our neighbours who care for cats with more strays to look after.

Whenever we get to Singapore, Jai will always be available to help us  get to Pusara Abadi at Yio Chu Kang Road to  'menziarah'  the graves of my father and brother.  This time, we also visited the grave of Jai's mother - arwah  Macik Alimah who passed away 3 months ago.

Al -Fatihah to the three beloved.

You see, going back to Singapore is very much like visiting an abode where the furniture is being moved about ever so often.

Up to 2008, this was my father's grave .........

........ and my brother's at Pusara Aman.

As of 2009, this is what we ziarah....
My sister and family at Pusara Abadi.
....... downsizing of the previous plots at Pusara Aman.
Eight to a plot - if the families claim the remains.

I cannot resist saying this again - Wake up Malaysia and Malaysians!   Do you know how fortunate you are? You all have a choice in the size and location of a piece of Malaysia for your dear departed!

Dear Jai,   remember this at our Oxford Avenue house in Leicester 1995?

And you have now become our host at your house since 2005(?).
Irene and the two septuagenarians, 2015.

Finally here's a beautiful song for three beautiful people in Singapore - Jai, Irene and Lely.  This is my favourite concerto, it's so sweet and longing - just how I feel about the ones who have left me forever - in Batu Pahat and Singapore.

                                 Martin Frost playing Mozart's Clarinet Concerto Part 2

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Love or Respect ?

In the context of all the war and bloodshed and violence since the end of the Second World War, it is heartening that the United Nations undertook to adopt the 2010 proposal of King Abdullah II of Jordan to commemorate a World Interfaith Harmony Week for every first week of February.

The 'harmony'  desired is for  " Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue  based on two common fundamental religious Commandments :  Love of God, and Love of the Neighbour."  These two commandments they say, are also part of another monotheistic religion - Judaism.

TWIHW added two more commandments  " Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour", so as to include "those of other faiths and those with no faith".

Of course Malaysia is a participant in TWIHW and it was officially launched  on 5 February by Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, the Minister in charge of unity in the Prime Minister's Department.

However the celebration has been clouded by the photograph of an apparently Muslim woman ;  a representative of YIPCI  (Young Interfaith Peacemaker Community of Indonesia) carrying a placard " I'm Muslim, I love Hindus" at Batu Caves during  Thaipusam on 3 February.

ISMA (Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia) "took issue", questioning the source and the motives of YIPCI's 'campaign' at Batu Caves during Thaipusam.

The Minister however put a positive mark on this foreign-based  YIPCI's 'campaign' in Malaysian territory.  He regarded it as "proof of positive interfaith ties and how people of different religions can respect each other".


Call me stupid.  But I'm perplexed.  What made this  Muslim (?) from Indonesia decide to come to Malaysia, to make a special trip to Batu Caves during Thaipusam  to demonstrate and publicise her message - which on the surface seems positive and moderate - but which carries the imputation that Muslims in Malaysia are 'neglectful'  about 'loving' Hindus and so a Muslim(?) representing an interfaith NGO from overseas has to make amends on behalf of the  'uncaring' Muslims in Malaysia?  Was she called upon to push and enforce this unnecessary and unsolicited (?)  plea?

I understand that YIPCI was set up by two students, a Christian and a Muslim.   This being an Interfaith Peacemaker Community, was there also a Christian there with a placard " I'm  Christian.  I love Hindus."  Maybe not, because we all know that when Christians "love" you, they carry other connotations.

And if it is really "interfaith" was there a "I'm  Hindu.  I love Muslims." placard anywhere?


Somehow for a cynical person like me, the use or rather the over-use of the word "love" sounds phony, misplaced and worse of all,  smacks of condescension.   I remember seeing this  logo as from the 1980s ( at least from my wandering experience) on T-shirts and baseball caps.

The copycats came along with "I love pink", "I love Cappucino" etc. etc.  When this logo which began as an advertising campaign to promote tourism in New York  was used  for " I love Islam",  "I love Allah" , "I love the Prophet", - sometimes substituting the word "love" with the heart symbol,  my heart sank.   Over 1400 years of Islam !  Why should ANY Muslim - from over 1.6 billion of them - resort to this kind of pseudo-Christian pop culture icon to parade their devotion to their religion?

Let's get back to basics - away from the language of advertisement and pop social media.

From the Concise Oxford  Dictionary:  love means ....

  • warm affection, attachment, fondness
  • sexual affection, passion
  • beloved one, sweetheart
  • no score - as in games.

If someone comes up to me and and says "I'm a Christian (or Hindu, or atheist or sun worshipper).  I love Muslims."   I have to ask if they could please not 'love'  Muslims.  Could they  'respect' us Muslims instead?

From the Concise Oxford Dictionary : respect means .....

  • pay heed to
  • relate to, be concerned with
  • regard with deference, avoid degrading or insulting or injuring - to treat with consideration and honour
Of course 'respect' - as they say - has to be earned.  But even if you don't love someone or some belief system, you should still respect them.

Love without respect is dangerous.

In response  to Isma's opinion about  YIPCI, the Minister for Unity, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup  asserted that "moderation, toleration and unity is the key for the country to progress further."  Where's the place for "respect"?

I found this interesting quote by George Sheehan :

If there is a solution to racism, religious persecution, and the evils of nationalism, I think we can be assured that it is not love.  I recall some decades back when the churches were breaking the color barrier, a Southern priest wrote of the waves of nausea he felt when he gave communion to a black person.  Incredible, you might say.  But our antipathies towards others have deep and stubborn roots.  To ask that we love may well be an impossibility.  To ask that we show respect is not only attainable, it helps us attain our own happiness as well.

When (Edward) de Bono speaks of respect as the basis of happiness, he is not breaking new ground.  Respect is no less than justice.

I like de Bono's ideas.  Respect myself, respect others, respect society.  This is a manifesto I can live with.

But above and beyond our theory and practice of Love and Respect - the ultimate yardstick is our NIAT.  And only Allah Knows.

Abah taught us this song "It'a a sin to tell a lie" in the 50s and we used to belt it out with our Abah in the kampung house, much to my mother's amusement.

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Second " R "

Reading, 'Riting and  'Rithmetic  - they make up the basic three " Rs "  which form the foundation of modern education.  That was the makeup of my English language colonial education in the 1950s as well as the beginning of my training as a school teacher during the latter half of the 1960s.

Just the other day, the spouse and I were ruminating about the approaching demise of one signifier of our self as an individual :  writing - our handwriting!

This one .............

...... belongs to her.

This quaint handwriting  ........

.... was done by this quaint little nerd.

Oh dear, I am noticing signs of rebellion.


Nowadays we appreciate and take pride in all things that are hand made and we are willing to dig deep into our pockets for items made by human hands!

But more and more we are losing the one art that can be created only by us - our handwriting. Just think, there are millions of us (those who were lucky enough to go to school) able to scribble and identify themselves by their handwriting - each one distinct and unique, just like our fingerprints.
However, we now take to the keyboard and indicate ourselves less and less by our handwriting ( and signature) - but by passwords, codes and pin numbers.  Welcome to the digitised world!

We don't write letters anymore.  We do not keep envelopes in the house and neither do we buy stamps.  We only send e-mails!

Part of my primary school education included subjects like "Writing" and that was included as an examination subject.

A 'Writing' Examination - 1957, PPES.

'Letter Writing' was always part of the English Language Examination.

'Letter Writing' for a Primary Six examination, 1957, PPES

A few days ago, I received a comment - a very touching note - from Kalsom Taib -  from my cohort group, so to speak.

Kalsom, I hope the above images will bring a big smile to your face - and to remind you of our good (and at that time it seemed horrible), old days.

So, I thought I'd like to sit down and write you a letter - to overlay an electronic page with a letter written with a fountain pen  -  to thank you for the content and kindness in your message.

We, Kalsom and I,  are blessed to be able to observe and live the present life we have.  Materially and technically we have gained so much.  But the price we pay is too awful - at times - to bear.

Here's my 'Dictation' Examination - ideas still as valid - if not even more today - as  58 years ago.

The greatest honour is the honour which men give to you in their hearts. 

A song we heard on the radio in our kampung house in 1954/1955.