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.