Monday, 4 November 2019

Mr Kempson Wong - The Reunion

On September the 9th, I was ridden with regret.

Then on the 10th I was over the moon.

But by October 29 my cup runneth over - because finally I met my former Primary School teacher, Mr Kempson Wong from Pasir Panjang English School, Singapore - face to face.  He was my class teacher from 64 years ago (1955) when I was just 11 years old.    It was not the last time I saw him - I met him briefly in 1968, by which time I was a young adult, a teacher, just like him.

He was a fantastic, unforgettable teacher, and in 2012 - having not seen him for 44 years - I wrote a posting for him.

Seven years later, the fates were kind to me.    I met up with Mr Kempson Wong once again - and this time I met his lovely wife Catherine too.

Catherine and Maznoor in their kitchen.

She not only gave me a bottle of her absolutely divine Almond Florentine biscuits.  I also took home with me the recipe and the special Florentine flour.    Iain and I are still squabbling over who has had more Florentines than the other.  Thank you so much Catherine.

My ex-teacher is so lucky (and so happy) to have Catherine as his soul mate - a finer couple would be very hard to find.  When I got back to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore I wrote him a message;
"When Iain and I grow up we want to be just like you!"

Because of "circumstances beyond his control" Iain was unable to enter Singapore to meet my former teacher.  In his place I passed on a gift of his book  "Fatimah's Kampung" to this exceptional teacher of mine.

Here's something I managed to cobble together to celebrate my reunion with Mr Kempson Wong - something for our family album.

Left: Maznoor and Iain Buchanan.    Right:  Catherine and Kempson Wong 
 At 85 years of age, Mr Kempson Wong still plays tennis twice a week.  His voice is just as strong as it was in 1955.  His walk is just as straight and sturdy.   And there is still that twinkle in his eye.

He was my teacher 64 long years ago - but I remember his classes like they were yesterday.    He is indeed hard to live up to.   They just don't make people like him any more.

But I discovered something new about him.  He plays the piano - and he does it so beautifully.  It was something he decided to learn when he retired from his profession.   I shall never forget my ex-teacher's serenade to celebrate our meeting.

I asked him to play for me "The Ash Grove" .  Then he followed it with this.

I wished I could have recorded his version but I guess the original song will have to do.

After he had ended the repertoire, he stood up, looked at me and smiled and sang :

"My memories of love will be of you."

What else could  I do but collapse in tears.  Thank you Sir.  I always knew you were special.  I shall treasure this morning  to the end of  my  days.

Long, long ago in 1955 :

Mr Kempson Wong (red square),  Maznoor (red circle).

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.  (Dan Rather)

Sunday, 27 October 2019

On the daun Kaduk

Last week, we were presented with a 'request' by the DAP MP Prabakaran for a Tamil University, just like UiTM for the Bumiputra:

Let's picture this scenario:

Under the auspices of, and underpinned, by British Imperialism, Malays make up 6.7 % of the population of Tamil Nadu (i.e., the same share as the Indians in Malaysia).    After nearly 100 years of working, residing and prospering, they suddenly demand  their own University - after decades of having their own Malay language school maintained by the Government  (just like Tamil Schools in Malaysia).     What would be the reaction of the majority Tamils?  And, for that matter, the reaction of the Adivasis - India's notoriously oppressed indigenous tribal groups?

Just for comparison, and if this may help to mollify the expectations of Mr Prabakaran and his comrades, Malays (the Bumiputera) in Singapore make up 13.6%  (twice that of Indians in Malaysia) of the population.  As yet we have not heard of any cry, much less a demand for a Malay University or even their own Malay language school!

So 13.6 % of the population in a neighbouring country have no choice but to suppress their socio-educational desires, while Malaysia's 6.7 % in Malaysia Baru are strutting their arrogations and pushing back the goalposts.

Our datuk-nenek from long ago would describe this as Kaduk Naik Junjung.   In Malaysia Baru we seem to find this propensity thriving and shoving from the nation's Mr 6.7% and Mr 22.6%!

Kaduk naik Junjung in my backyard

We may wake up one morning and discover  MALAYSIA BARU/BOLEH has turned into MALAYSIA BOLIAU (no more, finished) and MALAYSIA ILEK.

This country has troubles enough.  Too many people have forgotten where they came from and how they got to be where they are in Malaysia.  They take their well-being and safety for granted.  As for their wealth and material comfort, they never seem to have enough.

Aiyaah, you so lucky one - CHIAK BUAY LIAO (eat until cannot finish).

To compound this, many people (and especially our urban elites) seem to be increasingly infected by a virus from the West - a virus called Victimitis and MeTooism.       It's become a global phenomenon amongst the already comfortable: everybody is now a victim.  Nobody wants to talk about their blessings or their responsibilities - only their self-entitlement and the ethos of "beggar thy neighbour". 

Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Jackie and Julia. Episode 2 : The Magnificent Seven coasting along on the East Coast of Semenanjung Malaysia.

Do you remember the movie "The Magnificent  Seven"?    Well, it was recreated in the adventures of the characters below.

The Magnificent Seven in Terengganu.

I know,I know, I can count only up to six on my ten fingers.  There's a good explanation for the miscount.

On the far left is Iain, the aircon engineer who fiddled around with the car's cooling system and left us ladies at the rear fuming with perspiration.  (Ladies perspire, only horses sweat!).  But he is a fantastic beverage manager.  During his stint he must have made loads of mugs of tea - maybe 24 mugs a day.

Next to him is his batty wife (somewhat like Nora Batty in "The Last of the Summer Wine" series).  She  runs a tight ship.  She takes charge of the comestibles while they're on the move and also manages to keep a tight leash on her man - ever watchful whenever his hand touches the aircon controls.

Sitting all by himself in the middle, is Nulan.  He is the youngest in the group.  As he is just a sprightly forty-niner you can guess that the others are all way over the hill, but not so with Jackie and Julia.  Some of my former students are much older than them.

Nulan is the epitome of Magnificent - he holds the rank of two (plus) characters and thus turns this motley crowd of six into seven.   He is the pilot, the window engineer (his pieces of tape were always very handy), the travel guide, the gourmet and food chaperone - and he also works part- time as a tutor in the art of unconstrained mental and physical exercise. Here is his recommended gymnastic approach to relaxing after driving around in a car full of an elderly bunch of 1 Mat Salleh, 2 Minah Sallehs and one MOG (Malay/Miserable ole git).

The Two-in-One Magnificent Leader of the Pack repairing his nerves in a hammock.

Jackie is to the left of Nulan.  She is our Resident Polyanna, ever so positive and lively and has a wonderful habit of clearing up the untidy mess that the others leave behind, all done with a lot of smile and good cheer.  On her first sight of a beach on the East Coast (somewhere near Kuantan), and on dipping her feet into the water; .....

Two pairs of very happy Leicester feet soaking in the stimulating, salty waters of a Malaysian sea.

...... she exclaimed  "The water's warm, it's lovely and warm"!  Well, this almost turned that sunny disposition to sultry hot.

Som is the sixth member of this Magnificent mob.  He is our good friend and our frequent lunch-companion in Kuala Lumpur.  He is also the Squire of this beautiful beach house, Che Beach House (CBH), located at Marang, just south of Kuala Terengganu.  Jackie and Julia were impressed by the images of CBH on the website and they were not disappointed with what they got on the ground.

Clockwise: CBH, The Wakaf, Morning Glory basking on the sand and Sunrise on the East Coast!

Magnificent belle number seven is Julia.  She has taken on the task of being the lookout lass for cows (an animal she's very familiar with because of her farming background), monkeys, monitor lizards, creepy crawlies and sharks/whales.  Also because she's very handy with tractors on the farm she's very interested in Nulan's mechanical and DIY skills.

Julia and Jackie were very, very happy that they could get so close to the monkeys at Teluk Chempedak.  The chicken taking a morning stroll at CBH reminded Julia of her feathered friends on her farm.  But when the kampung goats wandered on to the beach of CBH they, ( the two Leicester ladies, not the goats) went almost berserk.  Goats on the beach!  But Som muttered, " They also eat up my shrubs and the plants in my herbal garden". 

But this I could not resist.

Indeed we should, Julia!  But these two colourful homo sapien cousins of the primate simians are actually quite civilized and friendly. 

But Julia did not give up on her search for the local non-homo sapiens.

Top Right - With her plucky camera woman, they are seen scouting for creepy crawlies on the beach on a lovely sunny morning at CBH.

Bottom Right - Then at Teluk Chempedak we saw this blob (circled in the picture) that seemed to be moving.  We gasped!  Could it be .....?  Shall we call on Nulan to give us his expert opinion.   But he was too deeply engrossed  chin-wagging  with his air-con engineer .......

The new generation Brit and Malay discussing ways of redressing the effects of the 1874 Pangkor Treaty ?!?  Or trying to compare  the delicate flavour of teh tarik served in a mug or English tea in cup-and-saucer.

Lucky for us he was otherwise occupied.  What we observed was just a small rock sitting in the sea with the waves lapping around it. Ooooh we must have turned red in the face - actually only Jackie and Julia.  AsH's brown face cannot turn red - just darker brown.

Bottom Left - What 's this?  A little Malaysian panther?  No, you ninnies - that's Jackie's and Julia's Minx, their beloved cat left behind in a Leicester cattery.

Top Left - At last!!  Julia the farmer's daughter and ex-farmer got to see her cows - in Terengganu. They were grazing at the front gate of CBH.  According to Julia, one looked almost Friesian.  Jackie had to dash across the road just to capture this snap - she's a really dashing photographer.  In fact most of the photos in this posting came from her collection.  After this jubilant experience there were no more laments of  "Where are the cows"?

Well, that's a pretty informative introduction to The Magnificent Seven in Terengganu.  The sequel will follow in Episode 3.

Episode 3 will explain and elaborate on the background of these next two pictures.

These photos were taken by AsH - who has an eye for  really good scoops.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Jackie and Julia. Episode 1 - Forays into Setiawangsa and Melaka

Jacqueline Newman and Julia Thistlethwaite are two of our best friends in Leicester. We had nagged and cajoled them to come to our abode in Kuala Lumpur and enjoy our company (yeh?) and our world here before we became too old and decrepit.   Much younger than us, they are both nurses, one retired and the other still working it out with the famed and 'de-famed' National Health Service in Leicester.

Intrepid travellers; they have (like most Brits) travelled all over Europe.  They toured Sri Lanka, Bangkok and Australia.  We do admire their stamina and guts when they travel. They (mainly Jackie because Julia's shoulder gave up the ghost) drove in Arizona to see the Grand Canyon etc, and spent an autumn in New England and a winter in New York

We witnessed that same stamina - and an enormous enthusiasm for the environment, the people and the culture they met - when they arrived here on September the 22nd.

We two septuagenarians have not been in the best of health since we came back in June.  I brought home with me a nasty infection after a visit to Singapore in mid-August.  And we so looked forward to J & J's arrival.  They were like a breath of fresh air and a ray of healing sunlight- just what the nurses ordered!

Hardly ten hours into their arrival, they were up and about 'exploring' our little slice of  "kampung Setiawangsa"

A photo to kill for - AsH snapped the shot that almost lopped off their heads - taken at the end of our side road.
Jackie (left) and Julia and a dried up coconut frond.

Clockwise :  bananas, coconut, turmeric leaf, serai all of which can be found in Leicester shops;  growing by the wayside near our street.   (Photos taken by Jackie - Ash cannot be trusted with the job after that first debacle!)
J & J are very, very keen gardeners  and between them they have a full time job looking after their high maintenance garden in Leicester - with its lawn, its vegetable garden, its fruit trees, its shrubbery, its nursery, and its many floral borders.  Of course we had to show off our wild senduduk bush (mainly for feeding the birds), our date palm from 6 Ramadans ago, out skinny lanky (like the spouse) frangipani, our serai wangi (citronella) that suffered a lot of pummelling from a stray, randy tom cat and pots of infected chili plants that need a high dose of plant antibiotics.   Hardly a grand garden, and hardly high-maintenance - but we love it first thing in the morning!

They took quite a nice picture of our garden.  Taken from the right angle, our wee garden does look quite presentable.  But I must be fair - they too have a lovely garden.  They must be as proud of their gardening skills as we are of ours(?).  See below and compare.

East and West -the twain shall meet.

On the very next day they left for Melaka - on their own, by Express bus.  The outward journey was fine, but the return trip was a harrowing experience - of a driver speeding on the highway, weaving in and out of the hard shoulder while talking on his mobile phone.  Sometimes he drove hands free while his attention was taken up by someting else more important than the rules of the highway code and the safety of his passengers!!  Julia had to be on the alert all the time as a kind of self-defence tactic on a Malaysian road.  I had to assure them that what they experienced is quite normal for Malaysian drivers and driving.

Melaka at least did not fail to capture their attention and interest.  We got them a nice hotel at Jonker Street, a good base for capturing the sights and sounds and food of Melaka.  They spent about one hour and a half  in the vicinity of an an empty restaurant, sheltering from a heavy downpour but it was all taken in good humour as another experience to be chalked up.  Nothing like a torrential tropical rain to energize the spirit of two dauntless Brits from Leicester. EYUP me duck!

Here are some photos of their walkabout in Melaka.

Something I've never seen before :  Melaka, a World Heritage City.

Symbols of Melaka's heritage.  The X is something Malay (other than the Istana of the Melaka Sultanate) I have to find out by visiting Melaka Baru (post-1960s) one day, InsyaAllah.  

For our two dear ladies from Leicester, Melaka was a new and wonderful experience - as we hoped it would be.    And they made the most of their short time there, taking a river trip, tasting the food, walking for hours, and enjoying the kindness of Melaka taxi drivers, coffee shops, and a nice little hotel.

Of course, Jackie and Julia would have no way of knowing this.... but as I belong to the dinosaur generation of "locals" (and proudly so!), I much prefer the Melaka of the 1960s.  As I've mentioned many times before, the present does not impress me at all.    Those were the days - just look at those empty streets!

Melaka - 1966.  Photos by courtesy of Iain Buchanan.

Episode 2 of Jackie and Julia's venture to the East Coast will be next.  It is full of thrills and spills and food and sun and sand and snorkelling.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

I'm over the moon!

The kindness of Mr Chan Peng Kin, also a former pupil of Mr Kempson Wong, enabled me to savour one of the most joyful experience from being a blogger.

When I wrote my post in 2012 remembering a great teacher, I never envisaged the slightest chance of Mr KW reading my article at all.  And when I spoke to him yesterday - he's now 85 - but still "hale n hearty" ( as Mr Chan put it),  it took me back to over 64 years ago when I was a scruffy 11 year-old, tagging behind him during House Practice.

Call it serindipity, fate, Kismet but who cares, it's a septuagenarian's dream come true.

Pasir Panjang English School (1955 or 1956).  All my special teachers are there, Mr Chia Wai Chee and Mrs Tan Choon Lan (seated).  Then there's Mr Chong Khim Siong and  Mr Kempson Wong (boxed in red) , standing.

We had a lovely chat, we shared a lot of laughter and happy memories.

A few weeks ago, sometime in mid-August I made what I reckoned to be my last trip to Singapore.  But I just have to go back again, for a day-trip to visit my dear ex-teacher Mr Kempson Wong and make my dream come true.

See you soon, Sir!!

Monday, 9 September 2019

I'm so sorry.

Three weeks ago at Tung Shin Hospital, the spouse and I were waiting to see our Acupuncturist Prof Moon Jae Sung.  Then this petite Malay lady in her (traditional style) Baju Kurung and scarf came towards me and asked "Excuse me, are you AnaksiHamid?"  I nodded a "Yes I am."  Then she added, "I am Semenyih."

You could have knocked me down with a feather!!!!!  The face was that of a stranger, but the name was a familiar, friendly and intelligent commentator on my blog.  She said she had made several comments on my blog and there had been no response.  I replied that I had not noticed any new indications of comments made into Ash since 2015.

But it was such a wonderful serindipitious contact with Siti aka Semenyih and her husband Chris.  We could not get over the coincidence.  We four had a lot to talk about - what a breath of fresh air!

We promised to meet again but as we're all too tied up with commitments we had to make it another day, here in Kuala Lumpur or in England.  When we parted at Tung Shin, to go to our separate cars I commented "Some one up there planned this meeting" and Siti said "Allah works in mysterious ways!"

Indeed He does.

Yesterday I received a lovely e-mail from Siti in England and she mentioned once again about her making a recent comment.  I felt I had to do something about this.  So I opened up the Blog's desktop  and discovered that Comments were now on a separate column and not on the top of the list of posts.  I clicked on it and found three headings; Published, Awaiting Moderation and Spam.  This was all new to me.  So there they were, all this time.  There were the usual rants and rubbish from bigots, losers and no-hopers, plus loads of  advertisements camouflaged as Comments. 

But in the process I also missed out on my genuine commentators.  I am especially cut up because the son (Francis Wong) and friend ( Mr Chan Peng Kin) of my former teacher Mr Kempson Wong had tried to make contact with me,

to arrange a get-together with my dear former teacher.  I spent all morning trying to contact Francis Wong, but I could not get through.  I'm trying other channels too but should I fail to do so, I have to take comfort that one of my favourite teachers when I was 11 years old did get to read about how much I appreciated him and how he made my school days so meaningful and happy.  Here's to you Sir.

If I could see you once again in front of my eyes, your septuagenarian ex-pupil would give you a big hug and rejoice once again in all those happy, innocent years at Pasir Panjang English School.

To Francis and Chan Peng Kin,  I am so sorry.

And I ask the same of my brother Mus, good friends like Din, Irene, Awang Goneng, Baiti, Mamasita, Charlie, Puyi, and Catharsis.  To all the Anons and new visitors and well-wishers, thank you for taking the trouble to add to the writings of AsH.

Finally to Semenyih - If not for you??????  Thank you being so steadfast and persisting.  I shall repeat what you said :  ALLAH WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Lest We Forget - Merdeka 2019

Let us learn from that reminder.

In the Beginning : REMEMBER THIS.


The Ceremony



The Installation of the Yang di Pertuan Agong



1.  Malays originate from the ooze and slime of the Semenanjung.  They did not arrive as missionaries, traders, foreign workers, soldiers of fortune, carpet-baggers, economic migrants, refugees from war and poverty, convicts discarded from other regimes, adventurer-capitalists, colonisers and colonialists.     When Ptolemy described the land of the Golden Chersonese (Avrea Chersonesvs), around 150 A.D., our ancestors were certainly well established within it!

2.  The Semenanjung (once) had a beautiful landscape before it was exploited and ravaged by 'economic development'.

Figure 1: A coastal village.

Figure 2 :  Padi fields where Malays had to work hard, surprise! surprise!

Figure 3 : Malays lived amongst coconut palms.  Coconut (and fish and rice) were essential to their simple diet.  Despite this seemingly easy life they also kept their kampung compounds clean and they were never short of space for their settlements.

Figure 4 :  But they were not simply kampung yokels dependent only on the bounties from land and sea.  Above is a Malay Eating House - the beginning of the Malay warong - a venture into food-capitalism?  Maybe KFC and McDonalds, Nasi Kandar and the Kopitiams  began this way! 

They lived surrounded by a naturally beautiful landscape.

Figure 5 : Gunung Bubu from Krian.

Figure 6 :The Larut Plain and Estuary from the Hills

Figure 7 : Morning Mists - Gunung Tahan

Figure 8 : A river landscape tarnished by tin workings, a common blight affecting Perak, Selangor and Negri Sembilan.

The images from Figures 1, and 3 to 8 were taken from  Illustrated Guide to the Federated Malay States edited by Cuthbert Woodville Harrison,  Malayan Civil Service.  It was published by The Malay States Information Agency , London, 1923.  The Colour Illustrations were done  by Mrs H. C. Barnard.

The spouse bought this book in Auckland, New Zealand for NZ$15 in the late 1980s.  It was (relatively) cheap because it was missing a map.

Figure 2 is the cover of .....

If anyone, anywhere wishes to 'make  use' of these illustrations, PLEASE acknowledge and give credit to the author and publisher of both books. Thank you.

It's a matter of Copyright and BUDI.

Mana kemudi patah di kerat
Berapa luas biduk kelana.
Binasa budi padah melarat
Kerana emas sanggup di hina.

Finally,  for hundreds of years, the Malays have been threatened, attacked, invaded, persuaded, cajoled and 'administrated' into parting with their sovereignty, independence and their land to serve the commercial ambitions of others.

After 1957, the Malays especially those of my father's generation and older, believed they now have the freedom and choice to repair the imbalances and losses.

But  their peers, their children and grandchildren have become the proverbial pagar makan padi.

Corruption, cronyism, nepotism have taken over and in the process the Malays are scratching each other's eyes out for bigger and bigger slices of booty.   They pledged, hocked, pawned, peddled, marketed, mortgaged  and auctioned the Tanah Pusaka  to the highest bidder and their middle men and agents - though all too often we still get shortchanged.

My Abah used to say this of the British ; "they will cut the ground from under your feet and make you thank them for it."  Nowadays, the Malays are collaborating with the ground cutters (today, they are more multi-cultural) in the name of Merdeka, Liberte, Egalite  and Fraternite.  

Si Kacang Melayu dah lupakan Kulit.