Monday 29 December 2008

Thirteen Years Ago - Almost to the Day

Last night, two good friends, Shakila and Mus came to visit us with their son Shazwan, who is now a hulking young lad of 19 (?) 20 (?) but never mind his age - he still laughs like he did 13 years ago, except in a deep baritone range.

While we were talking about acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, deep laughter interfered with our serious discussion. Shazwan was reading :

Hempa'ti Dempa'ti dudok di-pagar
Hempa'ti Dempa'ti jatoh ta'sadar:
Semua kuda raja dengan semua orang gaji
Ta'dapat angkat Hempa'ti dan taroh balek lagi.

followed by :

Suleman Piatu, beranak hari satu,
Beri nama hari dua, kawin hari tiga,
Kena sakit hari ampat, terok pada jema'at,
Mati hari anam, di-tanam hari minggu,
Itu lah penghabis Suleman Piatu.

He was reading Haji's Book of Malayan Nursery Rhymes by A.W. Hamilton, first published in Australia, 1947. The Preface states these Nursery Rhymes were first published in pamphlet form at the time of the Malaya-Borneo Exhibition in 1922. Would anyone out there be able to offer the original English rhyme? ( Mum's the word Shazwan.) No prizes offered but this
precious book has both versions.

For this I am eternally grateful to Ruth, my mother-in-law. She collects junk like me. (Oh dear, that sentence has a very ambiguous meaning). What I mean is : Like me, she also collects junk but hers is top notch stuff.

'Twas wonderful to catch up with Shakila and her two boys .

If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.
Samuel Johnson.

Maal Hijrah and Happy 2009 to All.

AND I WEEP FOR YOU, PALESTINE. May your sons and daughters keep the faith and the courage.

Saturday 27 December 2008

C. P. Lim's Lament

Thank you gosmusik for Gilbert O'Sullivan's Why Oh Why Oh Why.

One man's meat is another man's poison. One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist!!.. To the British, the IRA is a terrorist outfit but the Irish (at least the Catholics) have a different perspective on it. And by the way, the Irish troubles have always been dressed as sectarian violence, not religious, as between the Catholics and the Protestants. It's to do with the 'flexibility' of the English language.

Ong Boon Hwa, alias Lim Chin Peng, is a freedom fighter in the eyes of Western academics, old-fashioned Socialists, present day Liberals, chauvinists and self-loathing 'liberal' Malays. Let's chew on this a little:

The British Government, both Labour ( left-wing, so called) and Conservative (true blue right wing) were happy to bed with the Chinese Communists in Malaya when they were outclassed by the Japanese during the 2nd World War. It also became respectable for Winston Churchill, Roosevelt and de Gaulle to be holding hands with Stalin for the purpose of defeating Hitler. This is sleeping with the enemy under the 'selimut' (blanket) - cosying up before the knives are drawn once the alliance has outlived its usefulness. This was exactly what happened after the defeat of the Japanese in the Peninsula. The partners in this marriage of convenience parted and went on with their own agenda and guess who paid the price?
As early as 1943, MPAJA had drawn up a plan for a People's Republic of Malaya and it was endorsed by the international Communist setup. No Malay, be they the nobility or the rakyat, knew that their homeland had been given away without consultation or permission. And by the end of the war nearly 10,000 armed, trained and disciplined Chinese remained in the jungle.

Let's now look at LCP's credentials before we anoint him as the Malay Peninsula's liberation fighter. Born in 1924 in Perak, educated in Chinese and English, he joined AEBUS (Anti-Enemy Backing Up Society) to send aid to China in response to Japanese aggression in China. It's equivalent today to joining a Muslim Organisation to liberate Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Palestine from the Alliance of Judaeo-Christian Nations! The MCP is not a Malay Peninsula political and national force . The leaders are Chinese with Chinese names. Albeit there are Malays in it, like the precursor of the Ali Baba Syndrome. However one only has to look at the table above and judge the involvement of the Malays in the MCP.
LCP and his setup are nothing like Gandhi's in India, Sukarno's in Indonesia, Ho Chi-Minh's in Vietnam or Garibaldi's in Italy.
It had no support from the Malay peasants - the proportion of Malay guerrillas was 1 in 20 and this figure does not indicate whether this was pre- or post-Japanese defeat. But certainly the MCP was supported by half a million Chinese squatters - and Chinese 'farmers' squatting in agriculture, of course, was rare before the Economic Slump of the 1930s.

We need to ask this question. When did the Chinese (or the Indians for that matter) begin to see the Malay Peninsula as 'home' - in the sentimental, spiritual and traditional sense? Or has it just been the Goose that laid the Golden Egg, a temporary accommodation for enterprise and profit, which by the way also benefitted the British. Again a flocking of similar birds of passage.
In fact in the 1950s the Chinese were claiming the right to be loyal to Malaya and China. The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce petitioned the Colonial Government for status to give them full citizenship rights in Malaya while remaining citizens of China - good try but the Brits were not buying.
If there was a negligible number of Malays in the MCP, this was paralleled by the scanty existence of Chinese in the Security Forces.Up to 1952, 20 Chinese enlisted in the Federation Regiment. Between 1 April to October 1952 there were 505 Chinese in the Federation of Malaya Police Force which is 0.089% of male Chinese population of 19 years and over. Before the Emergency, one could describe the attitude of the Malays to the Chinese as derived from envy. But now there was the element of anger. They bore the brunt of defending their homeland and protecting the British and Chinese Corporations from the terrorists. They had to leave their kampungs and agriculture unattended and the economic boom of the 1950s brought no benefit to them.

We all know what transpired with LCP when the Emergency 'ended' in 1960. He travelled to China to get permission for ending the armed struggle but Deng Xiaoping told him that "South East Asia was ripe for Revolution" and so the CPM maintained the 'war' for decades after. Following the 1966 Cultural Revolution in China, a sort of "verification" programme for Mao to purge his rivals, LCP's CPM in 1968 split into 3 factions accompanied by similar purges, mass trials and executions. Even though he was by now living in Southern China, Communist insurgency did not end. When the Cold War ended, i.e when the free market and capitalism did not remain a dirty word in Russia and China, LCP returned to southern Thailand for the 1989 Agreement. He vowed he was still a Marxist-Leninist, a dying breed in the rest of the world. He could claim to be so because Malaysia does not force people to recant, and publicly apologise and purge themselves of their 'sins'. He also wanted to carry on with his party activities.

Why does he want to come back to Malaysia? Leon Comber who served with the Special Branch during the Emergency had this to say.

I met Chin Peng in 1999 at a conference at Canberra.....He was like a towkay...spoke English, Malay and Chinese ...seemed forthright but who knows what he held back. In retrospect he was probably gathering information for his history (Chin Peng's book, 'My side of the Story' was published in 2003)
The problem with him coming back is that he is still adamant that he is a Marxist and unapologetic over the Emergency. My own view is that he just wants a place in history.

In October 2oo4 LCP was invited for a 3-day conference at Singapore's Institute of South-east Asian Studies and in June 2008 he failed in his appeal to return to Malaysia.

In May of this year at the street near my home in Leicester, Lely and I were confronted by racist taunts from 12-13 year olds , yes they were that young. They were half-black, half-Asian and full Asian kids. They yelled from across the street very proudly that they were "born in England". I replied and yelled "so are monkeys". I felt no pride in saying that because I was old enough to be their grandmother. They start very young nowadays.

There is a marked difference between being a person of Malaysian origin and a Malaysian citizen. You may have all the documents at hand but those years of insurrection and treason against the Malay Peninsula together with the deaths of 12,000 (?) civilians should make you a pariah and a persona non grata in any self-respecting nation.

LCP should just keep to writing and making speeches like ex-Prime Ministers and ex-Presidents do. He has a greater cache among the New Liberals and a more exciting tale to tell. If some Malaysians and Malaysian film makers are desperate in finding A LOCAL HERO, come and talk to Osman and Aisha.

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Three of the Best



Mary has the warmest and kindest heart. In her 4 room flat she gives shelter and succour to 40 (41?) moggies. They are picked up from the market, the bus stop, from the drain, at the car park, and some were dumped at her front door. Most of them were sick, mangy and emaciated but Mary, bless her, took them in.
She can only do this because her son and her daughter are paying the bills - all generous and noble souls.
So, Mary, have a happy Christmas and may 2009 bring you much joy and peace.

Aisha and 'Man , husband and wife, keep the estate clean and tidy. They both work very hard, toiling under the hot sun, travelling from Puchong to Setiawangsa every day to earn their living. They are the other face of the 'favoured and dominant' Malays. They are not lazy, contented layabouts waiting for handouts from the authorities. As Aisha has been feeling very poorly for the last month or so, 'Man has been doing two jobs, his and hers so that their income will not suffer.

A few months ago, they lost their 16 year old only daughter to cancer and they were given only a day's leave. Despite all this, these two courageous creations of Allah can find the room and the heart to feed the stray cats in the estate and also support several more which they rescued from the streets near their home.

I want to tell their story because we should all be ashamed of our grumblings about the rising costs of transport, of houses, of cars , of weddings, holidays and every other conceivable selfish moaning of our fate.

For Aisha and 'Man, may you have an easier and kinder 2009. We wish we could do more for you. But you have your dignity and you do not ask for any favours from anyone. You are the ultimate Malay Lady and Gentleman.

Monday 22 December 2008

The Ramblings of a Malay Malcontent (retired and retiring) - Part 1

This was scanned from my Pasir Panjang Primary School textbook titled Kitab Beneh Akal, published 1956 ( First Edition 1928 ) for The Department of Education, Federation of Malaya by Macmillan And Co. Limited, St Martin's Street , London. That should place me somewhere in the Mesozoic Era together with the dinosaurs! The kereta lereng is a bicycle - what do the Brits know in those days?

Thank you Kamikazepilze for this lovely song. Look out for the lady standing by the roadside with a baby in her arms at the part of "Badan pipis macam keropok...". That lady is Jai's grandmother (see my posting 28 November) and this whole scene was done in Kampong Tanjong Keling, Singapore. Thanks to P. Ramlee, the lost landscapes of Singapore are preserved in his movies. That's all that's left to us.

But we must be grateful because under Pax Britannica Malay society was preserved under the protectorate system. In fact in my Singapore Identity Card of 1956, I was registered as a BPP (British Protected Person) because I was born in Selangor. I still have that document. Also the feudal society was perpetuated. We , the noble savage needed to be preserved in our kampung, growing rice, vegetables, weaving baskets and mats and denied the education that the nobility and the immigrants in the urban areas were privileged to. Although now and then we have this strange desire to go amok, wielding parangs and sticks and threatening the the right of everybody else to make loadsa money. I suppose the Gulf Wars must be the Mother of all Amoks though the motives are a tat different - they are denying the poor Iraqis the
right to their own money.

But all was not lost for our great grandparents, or our great great grandparents because the nice 'orang putih' improved the irrigation and .. wait for this ... they even introduced cheap Japanese bicycles (hence the kereta lereng). But such high tech can have dire repercussions because the Japanese used precisely that vehicle to take over the Malay Peninsula.

Today the Malays have their SUVs, air-conditioned houses, English wallpaper lining their rooms, Queen Anne and crystal crockery, Portmeirion plates that cost RM 130 each, I am told. But this is just bread and circus - because the Malays are still bonded to the liturgy of the past : The Malay is not industrious... they are an indolent, contented, thriftless unambitious.... The Chinese who are the mainstay of the commerce of the country are the most numerous of the foreigners. They are engaged in every kind of trade and business, and monopolise the tin mining industry. This is an extract from " A School Geography of the Malay Peninsula" by G.W. Hepponstall, late Assistant Master, Victoria Institution, printed at The Methodist Publishing House, 1911.

Victor Purcell wrote this for a self governing Malaya.

...........Yet time serves wherein you may redeem
Your banished honours, and restore yourselves,

but this also serves as a cautionary statement for the Malays and their future generations.

Jangan Naik Basikal semacam Beruk.

To my young commentator, Putrajaya-afath, I hope you approve of this posting.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Nothing Rhymed (CsH)

Got back about 4 hours ago after nearly a week in Singapore. Throughout the 6 hour journey my mind ranged over what I've been doing and am putting these thoughts down before I lose them in a much needed sleep.

Firstly , I had to undergo a medical test at a Government Polyclinic for the 'renewal' of my driving licence - which in itself is a good thing, before I celebrate the venerable age of 65 next year. Basically it's to certify that I am physically and mentally (?) fit. Come to think of it, the doctor was very chatty and engaging. She talked about her elderly patients who are short of money and short of care from their children. She believed that children nowadays have been spoiled and regard their parents' sacrifice as a right rather than a privilege. I couldn't help but agree and I did enjoy that little natter with her. And so , I guess I must have shown her that all my marbles are intact. There was also an amusing test where I had to walk by placing one foot in front of the other without looking down. And this had to be done forward and backward! And yippee I passed. There will be another test when I touch 68. I hope to do just as well, that is unless I get certified for something else.

Tuesday the 16th was the date given for the verification of my brother's and father's graves at Pusara Aman, Choa Chu Kang before the exhumation sometime in February. I acknowledge why this had to be done, but it doesn't make the procedure less painful.

The officers who were handling the procedure were efficient and sensitive. After the registration I was given a numbered badge to pin on my blouse and to await another officer who will accompany me to the said graves. At each grave an orange label was attached to the headstone with my name and the names of these two much loved and much missed men. And that was that!!!

I realised when I got back to Jai's flat that I had failed to carry out what I normally do when I visit the graves. That episode on Tuesday had left me with numbness and disbelief, in fact it was quite surreal, like I was having an out of the body experience. I went back to Pusara Aman the next day and said my prayers for both of them. I scattered a mixture of yellow and white and purple petals and a packet of bunga rampai which was a free gift from the flower lady. She had been selling flowers at Pusara Aman for as long as I can remember. I noticed how she had aged and in her I see a reflection of how time has taken its toll on me as well.

I told my abah not to worry for I will be there when they move him and I also said to Akim that all will be well because he will be at abah's side. It all sounds soppy because as a Muslim I should realise that the soul takes precedence over the corporeal. But since 1974, visiting these two little plots of earth keeps a physical link between them and us. You could touch them when you visit and when you say goodbye until the next time that is.

As a last act of defiance, I plucked 2 red leaves of the Daun Jenjuang (Cordyline Terminalis) from Akim's grave . It was planted by my late mother on her son's grave. I also picked from the side of my dad's grave 2 wildflowers - the Ketumbit Jantan (Cupid's Shaving Brush) and the Malu-malu (Mimosa Pudica). I took them back , lay them flat between layers of newspaper to dry and to store in my pirate's chest at home.

For the plaque, you were given 16 characters only including spaces. I had to abbreviate Abdul Hamid bin Jala to Abdul (space) Hamid (space) Jala, sum total 16. Wonderful!
Mustakim bin Abd Hamid was reduced to Mustakim (space) A. (space) Hamid, again a perfect 16.

Years ago we heard stories that Johor will find land for the burial of Singapore Muslims when the Republic runs out of space. It remains just a tale and anyway Malaysia has to take care of her own, allocating large tracts of land for the resting place of some of her multi-racial citizens. Maybe in a hundred years the same fate may fall upon my dad's motherland . I hope not because it's not nice. As for me and my family, the head has to accept but the heart rankles and grieves. Nothing's right, nothing makes sense, nothing rhymes.

Nothing physically, recklessly, hopelessly blind
Nothing I couldn't say
Nothing why 'cos today,
Nothing rhymed.

by Gilbert O' Sullivan

Thanks to hanselgretelhg for the video

Thank you Jai, Lely, Mary (Lely's mum) and Oi Bek for being steadfast and true.

Sunday 14 December 2008

Malay Gentlemen (CsH)

Maznah's Wedding Eve at 691, Pasir Panjang Road.

Front Row - left to right. Ma'Long Mahanum, Fauziah (Pa'Busu's daughter), 'Mak.
Middle Row - left to right . Sumijah (my school mate who makes lovely kuih lapis ), me,
Macik Soya (Mamak's wife), Zakiah (Mamak's daughter),
Macik Munah, the bride, my sister.
Back Row - left to right. Ayah Long Mahmud, Mustakim (my late brother, at 16)
Mamak Kassim, Mustapha ( me bro at 19 - keen member of a
pop band), Abah.

Also in the photograph, to the left is Mus's Lambretta, his magnificent fire-horse.If only that scooter could talk.

Mamak Kassim passed away on Sunday 28 May 2006 at the age of 93. He was the last one of my father's generation - the last for me, of the great Malay gentlemen. Pa'Tua Majid, Ayah Long Mahmud, Pa'Busu Kamarudin. Pa'Uda Shariff and of course my dad (he was called Pa'Anjang because of his height, although they were all tall men) were a breed of Malay men brought up with a unique mixture of Malay dignity and grace, flavoured with upright colonial style.

Born at the turn of the 20th century, they were western educated, schooled at Victoria Institution, although they had a sound Malay education at primary school. Ayah Long and Pa'Tua succeeded in getting their Cambridge Senior School Certificate - must have been quite an achievement for two boys from Setapak brought up by grandparents who came from Sumatra in the latter part of the 19th century. Their grandparents would be in the category of working class folks. My great-grandfather used to accompany the British map surveyors who were drawing up topographical maps of the Malay Peninsula. In fact Mamak followed his footsteps because he ended up drafting maps in the Land Survey Department.

As for my dad, all he got was a Junior School Certificate before he became a qualified Sanitary Health Inspector. Years later when I was chatting with Mamak (he was 90 then), he volunteered the information that "Hamid was very bright, the brightest among all of us. But he was too playful. He used to spend a lot of time with his favourite teacher, Mr. Lim who tried to guide him into pushing himself to do his best." This sounds too familiar to my ears. In all my teaching years, especially while teaching in Malay Secondary Schools and English Secondary Schools in Singapore, I encountered quite a number of pupils who in themselves were intelligent but could not realise their full potential. It's possibly due to the shortcomings of an educational system that gives no space for bright imaginative minds or because of family circumstances. For Abah, it was a combination of both.

Abah's mother died when he was about 6 months old, when she was still breastfeeding him. Naturally he was taken away from his dad who lived in Kuala Selangor and moved in with his maternal grandparents. At that time, his aunt was also breastfeeding a baby and so he had a share. The other baby was Ma'cik Munah, who became his 'saudara se-susu' (literally of one-milk relative ). She remained my dad's very loyal and kind sister right to the end of his life.

She could always turn to Abang Hamid (big brother Hamid) when she needed to and she was also close to my mother who she called Kakak (big sister) even though my mum was almost 12 years younger. Ma'cik Munah said to my mum. "Kalau ipar baik semua boleh baik". (If the in-law is good then all relationships will be well ), Other than my mother's eldest sister Wak Deng, Ma'cik Munah was the gentlest, kindest soul I know. She had a very difficult and troubled life but she remained patient and kind, almost saintly. I last saw her when we both went to Abah's grave just a day after his burial. We read the Fatihah and Surah Yassin together for her Abang Hamid. I'm tearful now, thinking of her, and regret so very much that I did not keep in touch with her. My siblings and I did try during the last 10 years or so but we met several dead ends. She passed away about 3 years ago.

Back to the Malay gentlemen. Though they had an English education ( my dad talked about their schoolmaster, not schoolteacher, who wore his robe and mortarboard in class ), their Malayness was never adulterated or diluted. They were never westernized or deracinated like the present younger generation Malays who ironically grew up in a Merdeka country, were given Malay education throughout primary and secondary school together with a strong Islamic ethos, but instead turned into moonlight Westerners or moonlight Arabs!

Malays in Malaysia have their acknowledged heroes, like the sasterawan, journalists, editors, politicians, novelists and artists and so on. There were however, the unmentioned heroes, men who were not rich enough, gifted enough, men with little influence and connections and power to design the rules and structure for the construction of a free Malaya. But these were the foot soldiers, who provided the backbone and infrastructure and kept the system and the transition running smooth, from being a land of British possession to a free nation.

These English/Malay educated Malays, in their quiet steadfast way guided their homeland through a difficult period for any newly independent and developing country. They worked in the Government departments, keeping the wheels of bureaucracy moving. Pa'Tua was in the Education Department, Ayah Long was the Chief Clerk in the District Office in Klang and Mamak was in the Land Survey Department in Kuala Lumpur while Pa'Busu joined the RAF and then transferred to TUDM.

What epitaph shall we give to men like these - and there must be thousands of them?

As their family, we keep their memory alive, we pass on their stories to the future generation. Isn't that so, Mahzan? No one wants to dramatise these plodders but their contribution speaks for itself.

Saturday 13 December 2008

The Language Ding-Dong (CsH)

I've just read Rockybru's blog 13 December. His article in mypaper gives a succinct review of the power, potential and actual, of the Chinese educationist movement Dongjiaozong which has threatened a mammoth protest concerning the state of Chinese schools in Malaysia.

I hated history when I was doing my A levels at Raffles Girls' School. Firstly my teacher, Miss Then, was the most uninterested and unprofessional teacher I have ever encountered. During her history class she remained seated and read out in the most deadpan voice her lesson for the day as we frantically copied our notes because she carried on like an express train. Secondly, Miss Then was also trying to convert me by passing on Christian books and tracts for me to read. I felt under pressure when this normally cold fish smiled at me and asked if I liked her 'literature'. And I had to lie - instead of snarling at her to leave me alone for I do have my own religion. Thanks,but no thanks.

Living in England as I did in my 40s I became more and more concerned about what's going on around me. Palestine, the Salman Rushdie affair, the Gulf Wars, visions of dead and dying children on the TV screen, racist taunts from whites, black/white teenagers and Indian bank officers all made me think. I realised how the hypocrisy, double standards, grief and injustice in this world require a comprehension of and an insight into History. I also learned that the History I was given in school was History written by the victors and the powerful, by Western academics and Orientalists , and pseudo and half-baked intellectuals whose only qualification is the Dr in front of their names or other letters after their names.

For most countries, the education system is a powerful agent for nation building and national unity. But not for Malaya/Malaysia. Why? Look at her history.

In her colonial march for profit, Perfidious Albion 'developed' and changed the face of the Malay Peninsula - creating "a political problem of the first order through the rivalry of numerically equal communities, the Malays and the Chinese" (Victor Purcell).

The immigrants from China came in droves to partake of this lucrative opportunity. I can see this in the Asians in Leicester and now the East Europeans from the EC. They slog hard because as one Polish lass told me, what she earns in the factory in a week , is what her teacher-mother gets in a month. And so according to western capitalists, "by their labours" the Chinese added to the prosperity of the Peninsula. Hence the myth of the lazy Malay who prefers to live in his kampong and tend to a self sufficient life style. Why isn't there the myth of the lazy Brit - who, after all, living in the Motherland, understandably doesn't want to do overtime because, for him, money and its accumulation is not the be-all and end-all. He does not think he should leave a legacy of pots of money for his offspring. They will have to earn it like he did! That is what Kim, Mark, Rob and Stewart my white work mates, believe in.

Enterprising economic migrants need not show any generosity or loyalty to the 'goose', only the golden eggs. Basically the attitude ranges from pragmatism to opportunism. There are of course exceptions like the Peranakan but today they are being re-sinified.

Growing up in Singapore, we had to bear the scorn and barbs of the Chinese superiority complex and it irritates me when C. L. Sharma in her/his article "Ethnicity, Communal Relations and Education in Malaysia" (1979) described post-independence Malays as being "imbued with the 'we are the masters now' attitude which encourages them to display arrogance in their behaviour". This academic should be more objective and realise that Malays do not have a monopoly on arrogance.

Peter A. Busch's "Legitimacy and Ethnicity" - A Case Study of Singapore (1974) notes in his research that "increasing tenure in the Chinese stream classes produces the strongest tendency to believe that Malays are inferior." He adds that Mandarin in Singapore (and Malaysia ? ) is more symbolic than communicative. It's "a sign of being a cultured Chinese". Outside of the institution, most Chinese speak to each other in their dialects, especially in Malaysia. This may not be applicable to Singapore today. Although the Singapore Government has successfully de-emphasised Chinese schools, the status of Mandarin has been elevated and the dialects have been marginalised and have almost vanished. Only recently Lee Kuan Yew in 2004 commented "To ride on China's growth, Singapore needs a core group with a deep understanding of contemporary China. This means a bilingual as well as bicultural group of key players. Bilingualism gets us through the front door, but it is only through biculturalism that we can reach deep inside China and work with them." A few months later the Ministry of Education set up 3 Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools. These schools have a strong Chinese tradition and are the only schools that offer the highest education stream.

In Malaysia, of course, bilingualism is a must. Biculturalism is a minefield.

Bausch added "having a proper Mandarin accent is a sign of prestige and good calligraphy is an art form and not just a matter of penmanship. Perhaps then it is not surprising that the ability to speak Mandarin well inclines the Chinese students to see their people as superior to the Malays." Well, that's 1974, you may say. But today, even if Singaporean Malays , the Malai-kwai (Malay devil) can speak Mandarin and there's a growing number of them : they are still third in line after the Indians , the Kaling-kwai.I think nuff's said. Hand on my heart, I know I'm colour blind. But the hypocrisy and selfish double standards I was subjected to brings out my bile and I do not want to re-trace that track.

I'll close this blog with this extract from Sterling Seagrave's Lords of the Rim (1996). "......the social atmosphere of Malaysia is more relaxed and wholesome, and its residents - regardless of ethnic ties - go to bed at night without dread. Mahathir's period in power has established Malay prestige without the stengun or the jackboot, in an atmosphere of civility that is remarkable for Asia and rare anywhere in the world."

Twice I saw my father's tears. The second time was on 31 August 1957. When I asked him why? He said, "I'm happy the British have gone but I have fears for my country." He went through the emergence of Malaysia, and the mantra for "Malaysian Malaysia" worried him for he knew what it implied. When the May 13 riots came , he was one of those in the kampung who rallied the various races to look after one another. It was centred at Seng Teow's kedai runcit. I'm glad he's spared from seeing what's taking place in his tanah air today.

P.S. "Get Back" refers to me only.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Who Will You Weep For?

Am glad I'm not back in Leicester when the Mumbai "massacre" occurred. The agony and the handwringing and may I say the whingeing(?) that you get on the electronic and print media at another 'terrorist' attack on innocents leave me to say, "Oh no, not again". I'm not thinking of the incident but of the way the media circus replays the same self-righteous and hypocritical diatribe against terrorists aka jihadists aka muslims aka Islam.

What follows next is the same scenario. Muslims and Muslim organisations in USA, Europe and in other Western countries have to repeat the same mantra of condemnation and extension of sympathies, in other words apologising for the actions taken by 'jihadists' who number about 50,000 and make up less than one-thousandth of 1% of 1.4 billion Muslims in the world! In fact , it is reckoned that there are as many as 3 times more gang members in Los Angeles alone than there are jihadists and the Muslim population is 350 times larger than that of Los Angeles.

For my fellow Muslims who are facing the indignant wrath of the civilized West, let me quote this by William Blum, a very respectable freelance journalist and writer of numerous books , in the same league as John Pilger and Robert Fisk and Noam Chomsky.

The next time you encounter a defender of American foreign policy, someone insisting that Mumbai justifies Washington's rhetorical and military attacks against Islam, you might want to point out that the United States does the same thing on a regular basis. For seven years in Afghanistan, almost six in Iraq, to give only the two most obvious examples ...breaking down doors and machine-gunning strangers, infidels, traumatizing children for life, firing missiles into occupied houses, exploding bombs all over the place, pausing to torture ... every few days dropping bombs in Pakistan or Afghanistan, and still Iraq, claiming they've killed members of al-Qaeda, just as bad as Zionists, bombing wedding parties, one after another, 20 or 30 or 70 killed, all terrorists of course, often including top al-Qaeda leaders, the number one or number two man, so we're told; so not completely mindless, not totally random; the survivors say it was a wedding party, their brother or their nephew or their friend, mostly women and children dead; ....... Does any of that depress you like Mumbai? Sometimes they bomb Syria instead, or kill people in Iran or Somalia, all bad guys.

So at Mumbai, at least 172 were killed and about 300 were wounded on November 26 2008. What about these numbers?

Muslims are by far the most numerous victims. Since 1991 the total civilian death in Iraq from the Anglo-American invasion numbers 3 million . Post 2003 at least another million paid the price with their lives. The sanctions against Iraq in 1990 killed half a million infants.
In Afghanistan, the Americans make use of a thermobaric bomb designed to suck the air out of human beings (Pilger). The dead remain as just statistics.
Terrorists/jihadists/insurgents have killed about 5,000 western civilians over the last 20 years, mostly on 9/11.

who are the rogue states, the evil-doers, the bad guys?

Who shall you weep for?

Wednesday 3 December 2008

My Lovely Island Kids (CsH)

My Lovely Island Kids; Shame about the Teacher

So happy I found this photograph. There are 4 Chinese kids in the picture. One lass is standing just behind me. Her elder brother is at the right end of the same row. The third one is in the back row , just under the letter 'p'. The lad to his left with the head bent became a professional diver, working in Australia with his elder brother and the 4th Chinese pupil is to the left of the afore-mentioned. I often wonder about what they are doing now - has life been difficult for them? I hope not for they deserve more than the well-heeled and obnoxious middle class snobs I used to teach at Anglo-Chinese Junior College.

I disliked having my photograph taken because I always end up looking like a nerd! But I remembered one lecturer in Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Teachers' Training College in Brunei who insisted that only her left profile be photographed because that is her best side. For me , the back of my head will do!!

P.S. That settee in the earlier photograph was bought by my abah, second hand, from his Eurasian neighbor sometime in 1946. It had moved seven times, including journeys to Johor Baru, Batu Pahat and now happily ensconced in Kuala Lumpur. Three generations of kids have jumped up and down on it or fell asleep on it, including umpteen numbers of cats. Even Rocky had rested on it.

My spouse and I, we are indefatigable magpies. Watch this space to view our collection of junk.

Sunday 30 November 2008

Clever Ole Me ! (CsH)

My kampung house

Hip! Hip! Hurray! My very first scan!!

This is the sitting room of 691, Pasir Panjang Road. On the right is my sister and brother-in-law with their first born. My mak has her back to the camera and my abah is to the left.

In the background can be seen (from left to right) the humungous Philips taperecorder, the Garrard record player and the Erres transitor radio. Absolute State of the Art.

And in the old days, during the 60s, we used to serve drinks in cups and saucers. Not just sloppy mugs.

As for the calendar, it's what we get for free from Kedai Hoe Huat, our kedai runcit (grocery shop).

As for that settee (on the right), I still have it right here , where I have my afternoon kip, as pensioners need to do so that they can learn to do more scams, ooops, scans.

To make Caroline Smile

For Caroline Boulay in Granville, Normandy, France.

Bonjour ma petite, (you know my French is almost zilch, just a few kind words. Monsieur can do a better job).

Caroline and I used to work in the same factory in Leicester and this young girl and this elderly lady have shared many happy hours and many not-so -happy times. But we became good friends and have been so for the last 3-4 years even after I stopped working and Caroline moved on to several other jobs.
She came many times to our house for lunch (and you do love my tomato soup and sardine pastry don't you?) Every time she comes over , Caroline asks for permission to smoke and we will open the kitchen door and she will have her rolled up cig in the backyard. Each time we also nag her to quit smoking and we do know she tries tres, tres hard.

Caroline has become our 'anak angkat' (adopted child). And she's a bright young woman who had to stop her baccalaureate because of illness. But she's a brave and beautiful child!!!

Caroline, in your e-mail you sound hurt by life's experience and you "wonder what love is." I worry that you may give up on love - please don't -because you have so much in you that's sweet and wonderful.

So, I thought I'd send you this song on my blog. Sorry it's in Engleesh, knowing how you feel about them. But it's a lovely OLD song (1934) like Maizie and Monsieur. So, I have included the lyrics.

Love is the sweetest thing
What else on earth could ever bring?
Such happiness to everything
As Love's old story.

Love is the strangest thing
No song of birds upon the wing
Shall in our hearts more sweetly sing
Than Love's old story.

Whatever hearts may desire
Whatever life may send
This is the tale that never will tire
This is the song without end.

Love is the strongest thing
The oldest, yet the latest thing.
I only hope that fate may bring.
Love's story to you.

A tout a l'heure

Friday 28 November 2008

How We Laughed Away The Hours (CsH)

I spent the last 6 days in Singapore with my nieces, Mariam and Hannah and stayed as usual with Jai, a friend of my former student and who has been for the last 20 or so years a warm and dear companion to me and my spouse. Jai and his family are what I would describe as the indigenous Malays of Singapore. They were from the Southern Islands , a mini archipelago of small islands located to the south-east of Singapore. They consist of Pulau Merlimau, Pulau Seraya, Pulau Ayer Merbau, Pulau Bakau, Pulau Sakra, Pulau Ayer Chawan and Pulau Pesek. Don't even try to look for them on the map because they have been "integrated' into Jurong Island after being used for target practice by the SAF for years.

When I started teaching in 1967, I was made the form teacher and teacher of the lower forms in Yusof Ishak Secondary School even though as a graduate teacher I should be teaching the upper forms. The senior (in age ) teachers decided for their own reasons to keep me in the lower rungs .If I had been a 'bin' instead of a 'binte'it would have been a different scenario.

But I was grateful that I had the chance to teach and take pastoral care of these youngsters who came from the Southern Islands. They would leave their island kampung as early as 5 in the morning to take the sampan to Jardine Steps and then an almost an hour's journey by bus to get to school. It took me some time to realise why they sometimes turned up late for school, or why after about an hour of lessons, they looked sleepy and found it difficult to concentrate. One day, I ticked off one of the boys for failing to submit his Mathematics exercise book. Being the usual tyrant teacher (you can ask Rocky) I came down hard on him and had the poor soul in tears. Then one of his friends intervened and said "Cikgu, buku dia jatoh dalam laut - angin kuat , sampan dekat-dekat tebalek" (Teacher, his books fell into the sea because the sea was rough and the sampan almost capsized ). On hearing that, I wished the earth would open and swallow me up. From that day on I learned to listen and learn from them. I became their bouncer to protect them from the Teacher in charge of the Prefects because they were constantly harassed for arriving late to school, for not tucking in their shirts/blouses, for skirts/shorts that were not of the same hue as the standard school colours. I made a number of enemies for 'looking' out for them. With another sympathetic teacher, Che'gu Ayesha Bevee ,we did out darndest to get them to survive the system, but they were too poor, too unmotivated and too tired however much they tried. Some teachers get apples from their students but I take pride in being given a leafy -looking orange coral by one of my boys. They are all natural divers!. When I tire of teaching such tired minds and bodies; I visualise them moving gracefully in the blue waters surrounding their islands, free and beautiful spirits. They don't deserve to be trapped in the classroom. Of all the minds I have taught, my island kids have a special place in my heart.

That brings me back to Jai, the kampung boy from Tanjung Keling who used to study under the street lights of his housing estate . Today he teaches media studies at various colleges in Singapore after a self-financed Masters Degree from Glasgow University. Mariam said "If Uncle Jai had been a Malaysian, he would be a Professor by now." Never mind Jai, what you are doing in your home patch is just as honourable as a title in a University. You do not need the window dressing to be appreciated.

Going back to Singapore is like visiting a house that is bereft of its garden, it's furniture, curtains, and clutter - all the paraphernalia that makes up a home. This time I also learned about the death of Mansor Sukaimi, just a year older than me. We were all kids from Pasir Panjang Road, we all knew one another even though we were in different schools. Mansor was a high flyer, good-looking, a sportsman and brainy too. I think half of all the girls at Pasir Panjang - Malays, Chinese and Indians and Eurasians were in love with him. But at that time my heart was set on the Eurasian boy who took the same bus as me from Telok Blangah Road. Alas it was love from afar, and we could not find the courage to speak to each other. But he always made sure he sat in the seat just behind me or if the bus is crowded, he would stand next to my seat . Young love sighh !!

Mansor paid a price for being outspoken as an MP but he made good despite his problems. People from Pasir Panjang are tough and as youngsters would say today, cool and brill. My condolences to Zaiton and his family. The Pasir Panjang we grew up in doesn't exist anymore. It has become a road for container godowns, the sea has disappeared, the hills are occupied.

But the dreams we had are still the same.

And Mary Hopkins' "Those were the days, my friend" begins to sound like an epitaph.


Sunday 9 November 2008

I am ... I said -Part 2

Just thought I'd post this song ; mainly to make people green with envy, because I have a similar record player that plays 78s, 45s and 33s. I also have a collection of Malay, English and Hindi records or vinyls. And my family thinks we're both a couple of fruit cakes that live in the past.

Neil Diamond was one of Akim's Sunday morning wake -up-the-world calls.

I am, I said. (with thanks to Neil Diamond) (CsH)

It's been a long hiatus. Am now back in KL leaving behind a beautiful, golden autumn - leaves drifting to the ground in Victoria Park but not enough as yet for leaves-scrunching walks. I do miss the seasons even though it's not as cold as it used to be. The cycle of spring, summer, autumn and winter not only gives a regularity to your life pattern but it allows you to move from expectations to hopes. In the depth of a cold winter when your nose, albeit a flat one, freezes; when the bed is cold for the first half hour and your frozen feet make your spouse yell when you accidentally or sometimes wickedly kick his legs ; you cannot wait for spring. When spring comes, your heart sings with the freshness and the colours and the cheery light. The first flower you look for is the snowdrop. My late neighbour Eva had them in her front garden and I wait in eagerness for it to bloom each year. I think of the 'baby' snowdrop in the frozen ground and how it knows just when to rear its head upwards to tell the world there's hope, for spring is just round the corner. When Shah, my brother's boy, was just a little toddler living in Hull where his dad was studying, it was the sight of the snowdrop that helped him to recover from his asthma. When he started kindergarten, he would get home late because he had been picking wild spring flowers for his mum, like the daisies and buttercups. Years later, when he was 17/18 ??, he came to stay with us for his Easter break from University and he could still remember the crocus, daffodils, pansies, violets and many others. Childhood memories and knowledge; you never lose them.

But here in KL, the achingly-beautiful call of the azan brings a similar sense of hope and peace. We have been having so much rain lately, lovely and loud and brave !!. The lightning especially, cuts a line across the sky and we just love to sit and and stare, but sometimes we feel guilty when we think of the motorcyclists and pedestrians who have to travel in that heavy downpour.

Our stay this time is also for undertaking disconcerting family duties. The graves of my father and brother in Singapore are now going through the process of exhumation. They will be reburied with several others in a smaller plot. It has to be done because there isn't enough space for burial gardens in Singapore. But we will so miss the visits to each plot where the little shrubs that my late mother planted have kept going for all these years. How fortunate are the people of Malaysia, where graves , including the larger plots for non-Muslims are left untouched.

It's good to be back in my neck of the woods, but I do miss my other home . And I do feel lost "between two shores".

Tuesday 21 October 2008

For Kak Teh

You very kindly asked me to talk about my father. Thank you for the interest - it's very heartwarming.

This blog is in a way dedicated to him and his memory.

Despite the passing of 34 years, I still miss him - like any child would miss their parents.

I shall, one day, write, not so much a eulogy, but the simple story of the man my father was. I have to do this for his grandchildren, especially my nephew Mahzan who has been nagging me to write the family story, for he wants his own children to know their history. It was Wordsworth who wrote ; "The child is the father of the man".

For the moment the above video will have to do for all of us who love and miss our father, our papa, our dad, our bapak and our Abah.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Two girls have occupied my mind this week.

On the 20th of October, Ms Gayle Williams, 34, became another statistic in the bloody war waged by the West on a sovereign Muslim country.
The electronic and print media in this country were up in arms about the murder of 'our Gayle', not Gayle Williams, because that phrase makes her death even more poignant, like losing a dear friend, a good neighbour. The Mail said she was shot dead for'being a Christian' , another claimed she died for her belief, the Telegraph wrote that 'the Taliban shot dead a British aid worker because she was trying to spread Christianity', the Guardian described it as the 'death of a good Samaritan' and so on and so forth. Again the headlines screamed the image of Islam as the bad guys, and Christians/westerners as the nice guys. Who were the nasties when Americans killed innocent children and women attending a wedding in Afghanistan a year ago? There were no images of the victims, though there were 3 or 4 nice pictures of 'Gayle'. There were no eulogies in this country for any of the innocents killed, murdered, slaughtered, by Western war machines and policies.

Ms Gayle Williams was described as an aid worker with SERVE Afghanistan (Servicing Emergency Relief and Vocational Enterprise) and her boss who mourned her loss is Carlisle-based Mike Lyth. On TV he claimed that she was not a missionary.

Who is Mike Lyth?

Mike Lyth is also Director of Corporate Services for the International Coordinating Team of Operation Mobilization. This is O.M.'s mission statement.

"OM's role in the body of Christ is to motivate, develop, and equip people for world evangelization and to strengthen and help plant churches, especially among the unreached in the Middle East, Europe, and South and Central Asia."

To this end, OM arranges for tent-making missions (often run by partner agencies like Serve Afghanistan) to go to target countries in the guise of 'relief and development agencies', which specialize in outreach to women and young people. For South Central Asia (the Afghanistan region) OM has vacancies for a Community Health Project Director, a Community Health Worker, and a Physiotherapist among other posts.

Mike Lyth is also advisor to Firm Foundation Trust, which is dedicated to promoting Christian literature in Turkey.
Following this 'tragedy', Matt Wilson, the head of another 'charity' called War Child said 'we are monitoring the situation. If it became worse, then we would look at pulling back to somewhere like Turkmenistan' (from CNN). Why Turkmenistan, why not cater to the tribulations of the victims of Hurricane Katrina? They are still in need of care.
But Turkmenistan is now a source of recently discovered natural gas and the Muslims there need to be 'saved'. A good harvest is waiting. Hallelujah!!

The violent death of any being should be mourned. But in these times, the life of the Occidentals have more cache than the rest of us. Ms Gayle knew what she was doing when she chose to work in Afghanistan. But the innocent children and women and men who died in their homeland had no choice and no voice and no mourners.

Secondly, on the 17th of October, the BBC and the Independent among others were quite ecstatic when Professor Amina Wadud, visiting scholar at the Starr School of the Ministry, Berkeley, California made 'Islamic history' when she led the Friday prayers to a mixed congregation and delivered the khutba at Oxford's Banbury Road. She gave the sermon at the start of the conference on Islam and feminism at the University's Wolfson College.

Islam and Muslims are being pilloried from pillar to post, murdered as collateral damage, mocked and insulted in every possible form. Muslim societies are in tatters, innocent men, women and children are maimed, decapitated, crippled and killed like flies. I am no expert on Islam. I'm just a plain ordinary believer. But I do have 2 questions to ask.
How crucial is the need for women to lead the prayers for men at this juncture of our history? I say 'men' because women do lead women in prayers. And how did we get trapped into this Judaeo-Christian 'feminist' agenda?
I despair at the misogyny of Muslim men. I despair at the obsession with ' halal ' and 'haram',
'dosa' (sins) and 'pahala' (blessing) . It's as if our Allah has nothing better to do than to keep a debit and credit book on us.

What are we here for?????

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Jaques's Seven Ages of Man - My Fifth

Today I received a comment from Raden Rohaya, my former student who I last met in 1978. It's lovely to be remembered and so I feel a need to put down my remembrances before they get lost in the mist of time.

I came back from London University in Sept 1975 after completing my Academic Diploma in Education. I had planned another year to continue to do my M.Ed. but it was not to be because Abah passed away in Dec. 1974 and I had to get back home.
There is not much love lost between me and the Ministry of Education. In the education service, after 6 years of teaching you are eligible for 6 months sabbatical leave on half-pay. However, the bureaucrats made it very, very difficult for me to get my entitlement although I knew of many others who had an easy ride. I had to rope in the support of my MP, I was grilled by the legal dept of the Ministry and when they threatened(??) me that I must not expect any promotion after my studies I flatly told them I did not expect any! - and I was prepared to resign if I did not get this leave. So they played a nasty waiting game to see who would blink first. I got a phone call from the Ministry telling me that my leave had been approved 2-3 days before my flight. As to why my employers deemed it necessary to make my career and my life difficult - heaven only knows. I could delve into the realm of conspiracy theories but it's a futile exercise. In fact I should be grateful because if my employment in Singapore had been smooth and predictable, my life would not have been so enriched and meaningful. If and when life throws obstacles and disappointments in your path, I believe there's always a good reason behind them - you will know why, sooner or later. Just as I believe if you're mean and spiteful to your fellow beings, you will get punished, sooner or later.

And so, my good friend and colleague Sim Loo Lee and I began our journey - for our big walkabout and jalan-jalan - to broaden our minds and our spirits. We had sent off letters to umpteen universities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada , UK but strangely enough not the US. We wanted to be in the same city, if not in the same university and when we both got a place in London University we were over the moon. Loo went to SOAS to do her Masters in Geography. I landed at the School of Education; but despite an Honours degree from the University of Singapore and a Certificate-in-Education from the Singapore Teachers' Training College, I had to undergo a year of the Diploma before I could begin my Masters.

Years later, in the 80s when I finally managed to save enough money to do my Masters, I discovered that the entry requirements for post graduate studies in the UK was not as rigorous as in the 70s. But times have changed. Both the red brick universities and the new polytechnics-turned-universities had to make ends meet. Every and any foreign student they can rope in means a lifeline. In fact, every 'successful' foreign applicant had the "£" sign stamped on their form!

And where did I find myself after my studies? The Ministry had placed me right in the centre of US (Ulu Singapore), to Jurong Secondary School.
Jurong Secondary School is a sink school - no red bloooded middle class Singaporean parents would want to enrol their offsprings in the unhallowed halls of JSS. Located in the wilds of Jurong Industrial Estate, most if not all of its pupils come from the catchment area of factory workers, daily rated workers, the hoi polloi - what the English would describe as the 'great unwashed'. Mind you , that only refers to their own people, not the folks living in Jurong Town, Boon Lay Gardens and the surrounding areas. These kids are always well turned out and don't smell of greasy chips and fried sausages and bacon. AND these kids are the loveliest and the most imaginative students to teach.

But of course I did not fancy teaching in such a school. Some of my peers had been allocated salubrious schools to teach in. Hell !! I have spent a year studying in pukka London University, mostly at my own expense and my parents' sacrifice. They had to rent their bungalow in Johor Baru and rent a smaller accommodation at Alexandra Park, Singapore so that I could study abroad. My lovely father passed away in that tiny rented block on 21 December 1974. My mum and dad kept to their principles; that a good education is worth the sacrifice , even for their daughter of 30 !

When I reported for duty in September 1975, my mind and heart was still yearning for autumn in England, the cool wind on your face, the golden russet colours of the leaves and nostrils and hair impregnated with black dust from jumping in and out of the London Underground!
I was a disgusting snob, the kind that had just returned from the UK. It was raining on that first day and I had my mac from abroad draped on my arm. Oh, what an excruciatingly, stuck-up snooty prat I was. Today and many, many days since, I look back in shame on that Maznoor. Then my mother decided to wash that mac (without consulting me first, as mothers are wont to do), which cost me nearly 1 week's wages working at the London University Refectory; and turned it into mush because the waterproof coating had been eroded from all the soaking it received in her favourite Fab detergent. At that time, I almost cried when I saw the result of my mum's good deed. But I have to say I deserved it : for being the haughty cow I had become. Today, all that remains of it is a photograph. I hope to put it on the blog once I learn how to use a scanner, perhaps never at the rate I'm going.
Also today, I would not dream of wasting so much money on a mac like that. I now do my shopping at my favourite charity shop; Leicester Animal Rescue where I can pick up a similar garment for a quid or two. Call it wisdom with age or because the habits of my Scottish spouse have rubbed off on me. Tight, kedekut, stingy, tangkai jering !!!!!!! I'm proud to be one.

BUT, for all my 'snootiness' and follies I have never, never ever put on that patronising English accent. It was not me, it's almost like a betrayal of my people's dignity. Some people have asked me why despite living in Britain for 23 years, I had no English accent and could still 'remember' my Malay. I told them, "I am still a 'muka belacan' and I'm very happy to be so".

Have to stop now to go to Leicester Animal Rescue for ...........

Thursday 2 October 2008

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Living in the belly of the whale is truly a mind-opener because you become privy to what is best described as the 'pekong di dada' (scabs/boils on the chest) of the Anglo-Saxon and Western world.

They are, or maybe were, the masters of the universe - the people who have bullied and brutalized the non-Caucasian world into accepting the superiority of their world. This was done with the complicity of the colonial administrators, the traders, the missionaries and after 'independence' with the media, and the food industry. We have been co-opted and locked into their religion ,their 'democracy',their economy, their version of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite and their consumerism. However we cannot absolve ourselves of our own culpability in pursuing their brand of dream.

It was in the month of Ramadan that we observe this 'superior' culture down on its knees, buckling to the ravages of their greed. Their casino economy is in meltdown, close to ground zero, succumbing to what is aptly described as Financial AIDS. And they will take the rest of the world down with them !

This is best described by George Harrison when he writes:

"Everywhere there's lots of piggies, living piggy lives.
You can see them out for dinner with their piggy wives;
Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon ! "

I get much delight in watching the President of the United States with begging bowl in hand, asking his taxpayers to bail out (oops sorry - to rescue) his cronies and the elite to the tune of $700,000,000,000 - a sort of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.

Remember when Messrs Bush and Blair were stoking up the fire for the 'War on Terror'? It's " you're either with us or against us". "The terrorists want to destroy our way of life". I should think their very own Wall Street has done a pretty good job of it without help from anyone. Blair proudly said that " we will stand shoulder to shoulder" with the US. I see instead the image of the world's economy stuck in quicksand up to the shoulder.

What American taxpayers call 'cash for trash' is best seen in terms of the fact that this $700 billion could be used to repair in the US, 77,000 deteriorating bridges and leave $519 billion to spend, or rebuild 33,000 deteriorating schools and still have $664 billion to spare. And of the income tax for 2007, 40% is spent on military spending and 4% on education.

Mike Whitney of Washington State said :

"The bill was just Paulson's way of carving a silver canoe for him and his brandy-drooling investor buddies so they can paddle away to some offshore haven while the rest of us drown in a bottomless ocean of debt."

And by the way, fronting New York's Stock Exchange, the Stars and Stripes is still flying proudly, right way up. A lesson for disgruntled and protesting Malaysians?

And my heartfelt apologies to all the chickens and pigs of the world for likening them to Homo Sapiens.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

A Little Trouble

Selamat Hari Raya , Eid Mubarak to all.

Each year ,when we're in Leicester, on Hari Raya morning we will get a call from my former student in Singapore (we call her Trouble or Pest) to wish us 'Selamat Hari Raya' and 'maaf zahir batin'.

This year, when she called us, she had just come back from the Animal Shelter where she had taken 2 or 3 of 'her' dogs for a walk. Dogs need the exercise and she volunteers each weekend to do her bit for these abandoned animals. In fact her mother takes care of 42 abandoned cats, picking them from the market, near the bus stop, on the staircase - some were even dumped at her front door because they know she's a soft touch .

Trouble's family is unique. Her mother, stepfather and brother are Anglicans. She has her own flat where she lives and looks after her great-aunt, a Catholic. On her weekends, after 'working out' at the Animal Shelter, she visits her mum where she enjoys the best nyonya cooking east of the Suez and we too have been priveleged to enjoy such cuisine. Her Anglican mother cooks halal food for her daughter and us. In fact her cooking is halal every day of the year !!

Trouble, to us at least, is a unique Muslim. She converted when she was in her late teens. She lapsed for a while but she has found her way back. Life has not been kind to her. Abandoned by her father when she was still in her mother's womb, her childhood was difficult and tough. Her mother had to work hard at menial jobs to sustain the two of them. Other changes came into her life which were no less traumatic. Just when life was getting better, she lost her beloved in an accident at work.

But she kept her strength and her faith and never stopped loving and caring for those who need her, especially cats, dogs, birds, flowers, and abandoned plants !

I always smile when I recall what she said to her brother. In a light jovial way she said to him "Hey, J... bila gua mati , jangan bakar gua. I'm a Muslim" (When I die, don't cremate me). This brother and sister always joke about her funeral arrangements. He's a special Anglican and she's an exceptional woman and Muslim.

People like our Trouble and her family help to keep my faith in human beings.


Monday 29 September 2008

Professor Tuholsky's Facts

This morning I was clearing my old files, as part of my resolution to clear some , if not all of the flotsam and jetsam of my years. In my 60s I am very conscious of my mortality and am adamant that when I kick the bucket, friends and family will not be burdened by the awful task of sorting out my junk. But mind you, 2 days' ago I found, tucked in an old wallet, a Straits Settlements One Dollar Note, dated 1st January 1935, a gift from my spouse during our courting days. Some male birds bring their future brides twigs and straw to build a nest. I get this One Dollar Note and a collection of Hindi records from the 60s featuring Lata Mangeshkar, Talat Mahmud, Hemant Kumar. No greater love has man ....... Bless his cotton socks!!!!

Anyway, from 1978 to 1984 I was teaching at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Teachers' Training College, Brunei and I had loads of time to read, not much from the local papers, but I did rummage through some of the books I discovered in the College's Library. And I found this. I typed it (on the typewriter) and have kept it all these years. The paper is yellow and brittle so I decided to transfer this on to this computer thingamajig - a gadget I learned to use only 3 years ago. You can tell what a novice I am from the layout of this blog, very spare and spacious. I'm still trying to put in a sitemeter and that gave me a headache. I've been hounded by Din to insert this. I've been hounded by Mahzan to start a blog. In fact, in my autumn years, the youngsters enjoy pushing me around - it's revenge I think for all the bullying and nagging they received from me long, long ago.

So, here is Professor Tuholsky's Facts by Christopher Logue

Once upon a little planet,
A nice provincial planet set
Deep in the galactic sticks,
There lived an interesting thing
Called Man.

Man had two legs and two
Convictions: one he called Luck,
Which he believed in when things went right;
The other he used
when things went wrong.
This was called Religion.

Each man had a liver,
A heart, a brain, and a flag.
These were his vital organs.
On these his life depended.
Doubtless there were men alive
with only half a liver,
Some had no heart,
But a man without a flag?
Impossible !

Many admired human character,
But it was split. One half was
known as Male -
And did not want to think;

The other was called Female -
In whom thinking was discouraged.

Yet both had this in common:
They were full of fear.
They were afraid of
cancer, debt,
Old age, loneliness, and
But most of all they
feared their fellow
Thus justifying the name

Man was political.
He lived in groups.
Each group detested the
next group.
O, there were many detestations !
And the chief of these
was called Patriotism.

Although he had two
Man rarely listened, and,
if he did,
He only liked to hear
new promises,
estimates of his own
value, congratulations,
Above all, expressions of

Of course, some men
were different...........
revolutionaries, saints,
But these were few,
And they were quickly
Shot, or poisoned.

Next week we study

Saturday 27 September 2008

Disqualified Disquiet : Revisiting Malik Imtiaz Sarwar's "Is there a Statesman in the House?" 5 August 2008

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (MIS) sounded quite euphoric about Tony Blair and his lecture at the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Law Lecture. I was there and I felt no sense of 'chagrin' at the title of the lecture; "The Rule of Law", only amusement and disbelief.

MIS's obsequious review consisted of statements like how the subject was presented "winningly.... and poignantly" (sniff, sniff, pass me my handkerchief dear). It was dribbling with purple words like crisp, articulate, erudite, intelligent, maturity. Hold on, are we reading about a prophet of peace?. Of course MIS is not placing Blair on a pedestal because when you do that you end up smelling his feet.
MIS is depressed because his country has not spawned anyone of Mr Blair's calibre, a statesman: as in a political leader who is respected because he is wise, honourable and fair minded. Let's see if The Right Honourable Mr Tony Blair fits this bill.

During his premiership, he presided over the dismantling of civil liberties mainly in the name of the War on Terror. The Police for instance have been given new powers to raid any home. Under SOCPA (Serious Organized Crime and Police Act), people are not allowed to demonstrate within 1 km of Parliament Square, where the Mother of all Parliaments is located. Under SOCPA anyone can be arrested for any offence - even for spitting on the pavement. He will be fingerprinted, photographed and required to give a sample of his DNA to be stored indefinitely for police records. So, what happens to the sacrosanct rule of innocent before proven guilty?

Under Blair the Executive takes precedence over the Legislature. Parliament is often sidelined as policies and policy initiatives are announced on TV or radio or press releases. It has been described as a 'sofa government' where no minutes of meetings are made. Information Officers in the Civil Service were replaced by Labour stalwarts who made sure only the good news is published. Bad news is spun for the Government's good. Presentation takes precedence over content (and truth). MIS wrote , "It was not so much what he was saying that struck me but rather how he was saying it" I rest my case; for the moment.

MIS's Hotspur was the 'statesman' who waged 5 wars in the first 6 years of office. He is the 'liberator' of the Balkans, then Iraq - taking his country to war under false pretences. He is also Africa's saviour, whose debt cancellation is less than what his government spends in a week savaging Iraq. MIS and his entourage are incensed about injustice and inequality in their homeland. What is his take on the tens of thousands slaughtered by the Anglo-American invaders? Where is the justice and equality?

But to MIS, Blair is an articulate, erudite, intelligent, matured speaker (and man). So was Hitler, Mussolini and a host of other tyrants. This is the statesman who left office with the stench of the cash-for-honours affair and who holds the record for being the first PM to be questioned by the Police over the issue.

So enamoured is MIS with this guitar-toting 'pretty straight kind of guy' that he cannot accept Dr Mahathir to be in the same league as his Blair. Dr M it seems 'left Malaysia deeply divided, distrustful and greatly crippled' . I would say DITTO, DITTO and more DITTOs for the United Kingdom! You can repeat that for USA and the rest of the West with the Great Economic Tsunami of 2008 . MIS's choice of Blair as a hero and statesman speaks volumes about the integrity of the human rights industry in Malaysia..

To those cretins who invited Blair to the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Law Lecture, may I suggest an invitation to Frances Webber who wrote an article on "The Blair Legacy" in the website of the Institute of Race Relations ( - just to set the record straight. There's a little gem in that article: "Since 2005, immigrants needed permission to marry (unless they marry in an Anglican Church)." The Court of Appeal in 2007 overturned that ruling and hence no non-Anglican immigrant will have to live in sin.


I would have to say that one of the most brilliant prime ministerships of modern times was brought a cropper by the Iraq War. He'll never recover in my opinion. It's been ruined for all time. That is tragic. Kendal Myers, US State Dept (Daily Telegraph)

He did change the country. Unfortunately, because of Iraq, he transformed it into a more dangerous, paranoid, despised and ridiculed country. Blair's reign will be remembered for one disaster of epic proportions, one appalling legacy. Piers Morgan (Daily Mail)

It is de rigueur and fashionable to slag off your country, its governance and if you're really macho, its religion as well. Who has the right to anoint any leader as a statesman and condemn other leaders to the bin of iniquity? A statesman is one who is respected because he/she is wise, honourable and fair-minded. Name me one and pigs can fly.

Monday 22 September 2008

What Manner of Life do we live? (CsH)

We hired a car for the weekend to travel up north to Spennymoor (near Bishop Auckland, which is near to Durham) to visit Iain's 90 year old Aunt Peggy who is very, very ill and not supposed to last for very long.  It was painful to see her stricken on her bed, just skin and bones, unable to move because of very serious bed sores.  She had been diagnosed with MRSA.  She could barely whisper a few words and each word required so much effort and pain but she did want to communicate with us.

She asked for a drink several times, she expressed her agony over her bed sores (because the nurse had changed her position), but most of all, Peggy never forgot her manners.  Despite her pain, she never forgot her concern for her visitors. She asked us, "How are you for food?"  And another time she said  "You don't have to stay if you have something else to do."  English manners (?), courtesy (?),  politeness (?) - whatever else the English are, they have manners. They may not be religious, they may be rough and tough or slick and hypocritical but they have a way of lubricating relationships within their society to make life pleasant for all.

The one heartening aspect of living in this country is: as a woman, as another being walking this earth, English people and MEN have been courteous to me. For instance, when they bump into you, they look at you and apologise, both men and women, both young and old.

They give way to you when they pass you walking down the street, they hold doors open for you AND when you do the same thing for them, they  'thank you'.  In Leicester they usually say "thanks , me duck" and the youngsters normally say "Cheers".

Before I go any further, let me state I am no Anglophile, I don't look at them through rose-coloured glasses, most of the time there is not much love lost between the English and this Malay, but I'll give credit where credit is due.

Years ago, in 1974, when I came to London for the first time as a student, I encountered the English courtesy.  I add the 'the' because it is particular to the English.  I had just arrived at Heathrow,  had got as far as Piccadilly Tube Station and was lugging my large suitcase (full of rempah, blacan,ikan bilis which my mak had packed for me) to get to Victoria Station.  As usual, the station was packed and suddenly I touched this hand that was taking over the handle of my suitcase and I heard a voice asking me,  "Where are you going?"  I looked shocked, panic - stricken and just mumbled and pointed in the direction I was heading for!  He was a well-dressed man, in suit and tie and oh my word! he was gorgeous looking (behave yourself, woman!!). So he carried my case and when he put it down at where I wanted it to be, he looked at me with his blue eyes and asked "Is this fine?"  And he walked away and I stood there speechless and I didn't even thank him. He's somewhere out there, perhaps still in London and I want to give him a very,very belated thank you.  That was my first introduction to a stranger and a gentleman in England.

Another time, again because of my oversized suitcase, a thuggish looking huge English bloke asked if he could help me. I dare not say no because he looked SO huge AND thuggish! I was terrified he might steal my suitcase, again full of blacan, rempah and ikan bilis!! (silly cow). He carried that tartan case up the stairs from Seven Sisters Tube station, crossed the road and deposited it right at the front door of my flat at Page Green Terrace.  I thanked him profusely, he just nodded his head and smiled and walked home - perhaps to his wife and kids, perhaps to a lonely room. I felt like such a fool - an ingrate - because I harboured such suspicious thoughts of him and his motive.  I knew I felt that way because he was not well-dressed, he looked working class and I behaved like a typical snobbish prat.  I still feel horrible even as I am writing this.  But to that Joe Blogg, I apologise most deeply and I have learned my lesson not to judge a book by its cover (something Malaysians do a lot of).

Another occasion: the doorbell of my flat at Maida Vale rang. I opened the door to this tiny looking English man, a pensioner, and he smiled sweetly and said "I think this is yours and I know you would miss it a lot" as he handed me my monthly season pass for the London Underground.  It was just the first week of that month and replacing it would make a big hole in this poor student's pocket.  I felt like giving him a big hug, but we Malays don't do hugs do we?  We don't even shake hands with members of the opposite sex !!!  But that's another story. I asked him to come in for a cup of tea.  In England a cup of tea can do wonders, from easing your thirst to helping you through a grievous patch in your life.  But he nicely declined because he had to take the Tube to Hammersmith which is south of the river (Thames) and I was to the north - and besides, it was getting to rush hour.  It's like the distance from Setiawangsa to Puchong, or maybe even more. When I meet my Maker, I would ask if I could meet this lovely old man and share a pot of tea with him.

Why do I reminisce like this?  In all the times I have been on visits home to Malaysia and Singapore, I observed how the Malays have become more religious, from their attire to the endless ceramahs on radio, TV, Masjids and Universities. The Malays are always going on about 'berbudi bahasa'.  And yet Malay men AND  'hijab-ed' women as well, both young and old have left me ( a warga mas) standing with my bags on the LRT while they remained seated, sometimes pretending to sleep.  They have cut the queue and pushed in front of me at cashier's counters without blinking an eyelid, they have knocked into me without saying a word of apology and they sullenly take our food orders without any  'thank you'  even though we show our appreciation by thanking them!  Islam Hadhari?

They first have to remember  to be Malays - polite Malays like their grandfathers  (grandmothers) and great-grandfathers (great-grandmothers)  who were untainted by the desire to be Orang Putih celop or Arab-celup.

Thank you Peggy, for reminding me about good manners, and practising good manners. When it's time for you to go, may your journey be peaceful and know that all your beloved pet dogs who have gone before will be waiting for you.  Take care, pet.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Back in Leicester

The flight from KLIA to Heathrow took 12 hours. The journey from Heathrow (including waiting time of 2 1/2 hours for the 230 National Express) to Leicester took 6 hours, and the distance between the two places is only 100 miles!
Arriving at Heathrow is always depressing. Some years ago, a Polish-British colleague of mine told me that arriving at Heathrow is like arriving at a skip. ( A skip is a builder's large metal container for carrying heavy materials like old bricks, wood etc; to be taken away.) Despite the "refurbishment" and Terminal 5, it still remains a big skip. The trolleys are still squeaky and have a mind of their own - they wander all over the place dragging you and your luggage with them on a merry path. The toilets might be fairly clean but some of the doors cannot be locked and some are bereft of loo paper. Speaking of toilet doors, years ago, at Dubai Airport; a huge German woman tried to 'share' the toilet with me. Luckily Dubai's toilet doors had strong firm locks. Women who travel alone need protection not only from men but also from the predatory fairer sex!
Exhausted, hungry and fed up I tried to kill time by reading the papers. It seems that at W.H. Smiths they give away the Times when you buy 2 bottles of mineral water.
As for the mineral water, it's buy one, get one free. Aaah, now I know I'm back in BOGOF land. Welcome to Britain!! As for the papers, I flicked through a couple of pages - mainly the same hypocrisy and parochialism . So I used it to pad the cold metal seats in the National Express waiting room , which they described on the Arrival Notice Board as the 'lounge'. We then got up to go to the bus stand for No 230 to Mansfield via Leicester. It was 7.20pm and though we were both almost on our last legs we could not help but notice that the bus stand which was barely lit looked like the back of a factory on a seedy street. This is Cool Britannia. Land of Hope and Glory! So for Malaysians who enjoy slagging off their country - come to Britain (which includes Wales).

More later. And I miss you folks back in KL and the two in Singapore; and Poppy(aka Kuntum), Comot (aka Coreng), Hitam, Rusty and Socks (aka Kelabu). As for Mahzan and Sabrina, you should stash your money under the mattress like Tok Mok used to do - no hi-tech thingamajig can detect it.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Tide and Time and Music

Fascination by Jane Morgan linked a daughter-in-law and a father-in-law in a strange and poignant way. In the 80s when Keith was still relatively strong and hearty, he talked about wishing he could listen to Jane Morgan singing Fascination once again.

I was stunned because I have been looking for this particular song too. I first heard it on the radio, when we were living at 691,Kampong Abu Kassim, Pasir Panjang Road.I must have been about 11 or 12. We had a fabulous ERRES radiogram then, powered by battery, a car battery mind you. But that's another story.

We (his son and I) hunted in every nook and cranny of many charity shops and second hand shops in England but no such luck. Keith passed away in 1997 and the fascination also went with him.

With the help of my brother Mus in KL, we trawled the internet, but again dismal failure. Then about 2 months ago, I plunged into the world of YouTube and voila!!!, there it was, posted by maynard cat on September 2007.
So Keith, where ever you are, here's our song and I hope it brings back that mischievous twinkle in your eyes.