Tuesday 28 April 2009

With Spring in my steps (CsH)

With thanks to tauberfanlehar

"We'll gather lilacs in the Spring again" written by Ivor Novello is special to me for two reasons. For years, this tune which I once heard somewhere in my childhood had been floating in the back of my memory box. Perhaps I had heard it on the radio. Or maybe from a vinyl which my father played on our radiogram in our house at Pasir Panjang Road. As luck would have it, years later in the early 80s when I was having dinner with my neighbours, Pat and Harold Isaac in Brunei, they played this song from a collection of Ivor Novello's best hits. I was over the moon, it was like discovering a childhood friend. I managed to buy the same album during my wanderings in England and I play the record now and then for old time's sake.

Secondly, about 21 years ago when the other half and I were backpacking in India we heard this song again while travelling on the steam train to Ootacamund or Ooty. We had been travelling for weeks and almost on our last legs partly because of the heat and the travails of coping with the Indian Transport System. But also we were beginning to feel depressed at the inhumanity of man to his fellow-men and at the grim and unrelenting and widespread poverty in India. But more than this is the gap between the rich and the poor - which to me is quite obscene in the then 20th century. That I will talk about later.

This train to Ooty was an escape for us. We were sitting comfortably in the train, after a bit of scrambling for seats mind you, when we heard this very same song wafting through the train's steam clouds. Someone in the train must have picked it up from some radio station somewhere. We looked at each other in disbelief and tears were falling from Iain's eyes!!. The spouse has no great attachment to any particular flag or country because his childhood was very, very, nomadic. These were tears of relief and respite from the intolerable strain of travelling in India. For we were in our 40s and we chose to keep away from the upmarket mode of touring India. Physically we could handle the journey, but our spirits were quite demoralised at what we observed and experienced in this country - the world's largest democracy.

Hence the beauty of this song. On the coach from Heathrow to Leicester, we could feast our eyes on the yellow gorse along the motorway, the yellow carpet of fields of rapeseed. I was too late for the daffodils. But when we got home, Jack, our dear friend gave me a bunch of white and yellow jonquils and daffodils, bluebells, and purplish red tulips from his garden . As for the lilacs, we'll have to take a little walk to enjoy their fragrance.

After 6 months absence, it's so good to be back in my little terrace house set amidst Leicester's multi-cultural, working class district. The workers at the local Co-Op, the butcher, the greengrocer are all from different parts of the Indian sub-continent like Gujarat, Punjab, Bangla Desh. But the volunteers working in my favourite shop, Leicester Animal Rescue are all English.

Only 2 days ago, the doorbell rang, the spouse opened the door to 2 young Caucasian Mormon evangelists. Before they could utter a word, the spouse told them in a friendly way, "I better warn you lads, you won't get far with me. I'm a Muslim." I wish I could have seen their faces. They then asked, "Where are you from?" The answer given was "Hereford .... England." Next question, "How long have you been a Muslim?" Answer : "Longer than you have been a Christian." Several other questions followed, they were really trying hard these kids. You have to give them credit for that. In the end they gave up and they left with best wishes of "Good-bye, God go with you" from the spouse. This very non-white area has become good hunting ground for evangelists from various shades of Christianity partly because they have given up on the indigenous population of England - who are seen as beyond redemption. It's more rewarding for them to harvest souls from Hindu and Muslim believers.

But for all the joy of being back in England - this is where I really belong - this call always pulls at my heart and soul.

With thanks to Truly Unforgettable

Monday 20 April 2009

And in the Beginning (CsH) - East and West, The Twain Shall Meet

And they shall keep on the journey from west to east and east to west and back again and again, and again.

Does the road wind up-hill all the way? Yes, to the very end. Will the day's journey take the whole long day? From morn to night , my friend.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

These two kids, from the west and the east were lucky.

They have homes and families spanning the globe from Britain to Malaysia to New Zealand.

But always they want to remind others about those who have had their families killed and their homes stolen or bombed out of existence.

For these two it's a never-ending journey to give voice to the weak and dispossessed.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost : Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

For Emir (CsH) - A lullabye so we can all have some peace

Daddy Faiz trying to keep Emir occupied

Well Emir, I hope one day when tok ngah and tok iain are gone you will look at this posting , read this poem and learn what we are here for. I have 'borrowed' "Anakku Sayang" by Dharmawijaya for Hidayah's and Faiz's son and Maznah's and Harun's grand-son.
lahirlah lahir, anakku sorang, luhurlah mengalir, darah pejuang.
timanglah timang, anakku sayang, besarmu jangan, berbudi telanjang.
dengarlah dengar, anakku sayang, sumpah nanar, usah ditatang.
cekallah cekal, hatimu sayang, usah disesal, derita mendatang.
setialah setia, citamu sayang, melerai sengketa, di keadilan timbang.
relalah rela, kudrat mu sayang, mententeram dunia, bergolak bimbang.
Our generation have not really left you with a harmonious legacy for your country and your fellow beings. Hopefully yours will do a better job. So keep on climbing the doors, windows, tables and chairs. Enjoy playing with your DIY toys like your tok wan's kwali and saucepan lids. Keep your parents awake especially on their weekends when they so need their rest. And be happy and loving - 2 ingredients needed for any child to grow up into a caring human being.

Sunday 19 April 2009

691,Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore 5 (CsH)

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic tonight. We'll be off to Leicester, our other home in two days' time and such a journey always leaves me uneasy. Will things remain the same when we come back? This has been the longest stay in Malaysia and I long for the cool weather where I can walk and walk without feeling drained. And I can sit and sew and write in my room overlooking Evington Road and watch the buses and traffic and children and unfriendly East Europeans passing by. There used to be a couple of these female teenagers, dressed to the nines, but scantily clad even in October parading themselves to the young men on the streets. I wonder if they have grown out of it .

And so as usual I return to the comforting pictures of my happy childhood - to remind me of where I come from.

The House That Abdul Hamid Built (1949)

Mus sitting on the edge of the rain water butt (before the Plastic Age) which was built by our DIY Dad for collecting and storing rainwater. We had no piped water. So we paid a sister of Akim's friend Tu Kia to carry water from the kampung well to be stored in the tempayan or water jar as seen in the top left of the photo. (1952? 1953?)
A year or two later, our Abah, the original Makeover Expert 'deconstructed' the water butt and made us a spanking new bathroom using flattened biscuit tins for walls . We enjoyed reading the writing on the walls so to speak, ha ha. He also made another concrete water container/tub in the bathroom which had to be cleaned ever so often because of the green slime. Of course we had to climb into the tub to do a good job and mak made sure we did so or else there'll be hell to pay. But Abah brilliantly made a hole at the base of the container for easy drainage and it was plugged by a piece of cloth wrapped around a tiny cylinder. Best of all, we had a bathroom door, a bit wonky but it served the purpose. We had privacy at last in the bathroom!! Our Dad was The King of Recycling before the word became fashionable.

Knee high in water! For as long as we can remember we were always plagued by floods, sometimes several times a year. When heavy rain coincided with the high tide, the river behind our house would be choked and the excess water would flow into the house, sometimes in the middle of the night. Such a combination of heavy rain and tide would leave a layer of mud when the water receded and the penyapu lidi , a broom made from the stems of the fronds of the coconut leaf is the most effective tool for removing the mud. By the way we made our own penyapu which would leave striations on our index fingers and thumbs. We used a little sharp knife to do this and the process is called to raut or to smoothen. My sister and I DETESTED this job and when our skinflint mother decided to buy this broom from the local sundry shop, we both heaved a sigh of relief . During one of these floods my sewing project, a pair of pyjamas, was left soaked in mud and my teacher refused to accept my explanation. I had to sew another one and this time I enrolled my mum for help without any compunction because she did not believe my story. So there!

Good Night to all and to my Dear ones in Singapore and Malaysia and Insyallah I'll be 'seeing' you from Leicester. Ta raa me duck.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Boys Own Guide on How to Thwart the Terrorist

Good Morning boys. Will you settle down to this morning's lesson?

This is our way of life that we are protecting. Keep our mothers and children safe.

Check your neighbours' wheelie bins for material that can be used to make bombs to destroy our way of life.

Remember to be always alert to the nefarious intentions of the terrorists who live in our midst. Britain expects every citizen to do their duty.

Sir, is that why Gaza looks like this? Have they got many terrorists in their country? Is it because the citizens did not do their duty?
Will you keep quiet and sit down!
Our next lesson is about The Holocaust and the Second World War.

Cheer up China (CsH) - The Ramblings of a Malay Malcontent - Part 4

I overheard "Itu dia yang aku nampak" (That's the one I saw) as I went past 3 Malaysian students one evening - at an Arcade on Karangahape Road in Auckland. So I retorted "Kenapa?" - (Why?) Their faces almost dropped to the floor because they did not expect me to be a Malay!

Earlier, I had been waiting on the other side of the road, too tired to carry on walking while the spouse scouted for a place to eat at the Arcade. ( It was already past 5 o'clock and in New Zealand in 1988, most eating places were shut except for the upmarket restaurants. ) Then this beat-up car stopped in front of me and a young Malay couple stepped out, gave me a longer than ordinary glance and then crossed over to the Arcade. Hence their remark when we went past them on our way to the eating place. I wondered what they were thinking and saying in between those 2 events. By coincidence we all went to the same Mexican restaurant. Years ago when I was a struggling student in London, I couldn't even get near such a restaurant, much less pay for a meal! But then I was financing my own education and these youngsters were supported and subsidised by the Rakyat (the public) ! Was this the reason why the likes of my Abah's and Uncles' generation have disappeared?

This was my second visit to NZ, the first one was in 1986. In those intervening years, much had changed. I used to enjoy going into the sandwich bars where you were given a wide choice of fillings for toasted sandwich. NZ is very good for a variety of vegetarian options and my favourite was cheese and pineapple filling (are you reading this Lely?). These snack shops were usually run by pakehas ( a Maori word for the caucasian) like the Greeks and Italians.

But by 1988, you could go to a snack bar adorned with floral cafe curtains with names like 'Sarah's Cafe' and find yourself served by an Indian lady who was also obviously the owner/boss. In this particular cafe the owner was too absorbed vacuuming the premises and took her time in taking our order. It must be because the spouse was not dressed like a Wellington yuppie and as for me - well I must have looked like something that the cat dragged in - at least in her eyes. So, she was pretty gruff when she finally got to serving us tea. I try to think where she is now - she must have hated her menial job. She might have been some high-powered executive in her home country before she migrated to NZ. I hope she has by now found a more suitable vocation.

In a charity shop in Newtown, the Vietnamese-Chinese woman serving at the counter got very uppity and narked when I checked on a price tag as she was adding up my purchases. But she was ever so helpful and sweet to a pakeha lady who did exactly what I was doing earlier. Same sort of experience in a snack bar in Petone.

I recalled two other experiences I had with a fellow Asian ( Indian) in Leicester albeit about 15 years ago. I had gone to the spouse's bank, the Midlands, to cash a cheque. The Asian lady took the cheque, gave me a look ranging between quizzical and suspicious. Then she went to the Manager's Office and a few minutes later they both emerged and looked at me. The Manager nodded his head to her and lo and behold I was deemed respectable.

Then in 2003, again in Leicester - when the issue of racial relations and racism had been well discussed and understood; I encountered another display of 'Asian Solidarity'. After buying some stamps at the Evington Road Post Office, the Indian (they now describe themselves as British Asians) counter-clerk-cum-owner chucked my change across to me, like I've seen Indians in Indian railway stations throwing paisas at the beggars. I was aghast. I stepped out of the shop full of anger and then I decided to get back in and not let her get away with it! In my most pukka accent, I told her off for her rudeness. Her mouth dropped because she had imagined me to be one of those Chinese women who run the Chinese takeaways and she did not expect me to 'bite' at her. It is a fact that Chinese residents in Britain, especially the older generation tend to ignore such rudeness and taunts and tend to be more philosophical about the hazards of living in a country not their own. I sometimes wished I had that attitude. But I must say I enjoyed this game of fooling people about what I am and overturning their bigoted stereotyping. More interesting is when I speak up as a Muslim woman and that knocks them for six - but that's another story.

The above experiences and many others I've encountered never fail to infuriate me. What is the matter with these non-white immigrants in the western world? Why this hostility to other non-whites? Is it due to a strange misguided desire to be 'whiter than white' and that treating their fellow non-whites with contempt makes them a member of a superior class? If this is the baggage they carry, no wonder they had to leave their motherland! But if the shoe is on the other foot, they will be the first ones to shout 'Racist'!

So the next time I meet with hostility from caucasians, I must remember these incidences to remind me that there are also brown, black and yellow racists to be reckoned with.

To be fair, these experiences in NZ happened some time ago and perhaps hopefully the new immigrants feel better about themselves and their fellow non-whites. However, the last time I entered NZ, about 3/4 years ago as we were going through NZ Customs , the pakeha Customs Officer looked at my spouse while pointing his finger at me and asked "Does she speak English?" I should have said "Me no speakee Engleesh but me got money to spend in your country." But I was exhausted after a long flight and I have often been told not to tangle with men/women in uniform at the Airport. But I must do something drastic like perhaps have a physical makeover, to sharpen my flat nose, unslit my eyes, whiten my skin and blondify my hair! I understand that all these "beautification a la caucasian" are possible for unhappy and self loathing asians.

However I have to describe this experience I had in Opotiki some years ago. It 's a small town inhabited by Maoris mainly. I had wandered off on my own and to get back to the car I had to walk past a group of Maori young men - all tall and huge, like Kiwi rugby players. Shall I cross the road and walk on the other side because I was quite scared and stupid? But I plucked my courage, walked towards them and they opened up a path for me, just like Moses crossing the Red Sea. And all of them gave me such beaming smiles that I felt like Moses on Cloud Number Nine. And on that visit to NZ I also found out that the language of the Maoris have many similarities with the Malay language. For instance the words 'tua' for old and 'ika' for fish and many other examples. I'm an incurable romantic and I like to think of the Maoris as our cousins except that they were more enterprising and brave and they are fantastic rugby players. Oh Hoani where are you now??? Hoani is my spouse's friend from his young and foolish days and Hoani is absolutely gorgeous- even better than Brad Pitt and P.Ramlee put together. (Stop grinning, Lely)

Lastly, in 2005 as I was walking home from work at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, I walked past 4-5 English workmen, looking as rough and tough as you can find near any building site.
I was feeling and looking knackered after nearly 8 hours on my feet and as I walked by I heard "Cheer up China" and I saw all these faces smiling at me. I beamed the biggest smile I could muster and waved my hand at them. Thank you boys - you really made my day.

That corner of the world smiles for me more than anywhere else.
Milton vi.13

Tuesday 7 April 2009

The Bad, The Good and the Ugly

I find the squealing from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish rights group, denouncing Pat Oliphant's cartoon as "anti-Semitic, comparing it to Nazi imagery of the 1930s" quite amusing.

According to the Zionists this is BAD

Compared to the demonisation of Islam and the Prophet, Pat Oliphant's jibe is to be expected when you consider Israel's (a country armed to the teeth by the United States) aggression in December 2008 towards the tiny strip of Gaza - killing more than 1,400 Palestinians which includes 900 civilians.

A writer from the London Guardian ( quoted in The Opinionater Blog in the NY Times 22.2.2006) supported the sentencing of David Irving for being a Holocaust-denier and he added " it's not ....hypocritical to simultaneously defend anti- Islam cartoons and European laws and against Holocaust denial". He further added " that the Holocaust laws were intended to prevent the legitimation of mass murder".

How do you designate the killing in Gaza? Is the murder and slaughter of innocent women, children and men justified for as long as the numbers killed do not approximate those who died in Hitler's concentration camps? How many have to die before it can be called "mass murder"?

Or does it depend on the ways you are put to death? For instance, a death sentence is still a death sentence whether it's by hanging or by the electric chair or by lethal injection or by chopping off the head with a sword. Does not the slow strangulation of the Gazans by sanctions, deprivations, economic blockades and daily harassment - what Mark Twain refers to as a Terror "wrought in heartless cold blood", with "death from hunger, cold insult, cruelty and heartbreak" count as modes of deliberate mass murder?

And heaven forbid !! Was the brutal war inflicted on the Gazans legitimate?

We've been told about the BAD. So what is GOOD? Perhaps this?

This photo shows Palestinian kids looking at a substance identified by Human Rights Watch as a wedge of burning white phosphorus . Phosphorus is classified as a chemical weapon which burns up to 816 degrees Celcius and causes horrific burns and severe injuries when in contact with human skin.

Next, here is an item which we must all agree is UGLY .
Peres says Israel kills for 'democracy'
President Shimon Peres insists Israel is a "democracy" fighting a noble war against "terroristic" Palestinians.

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Fri, 30 Jan 2009 16:41:58 GMT
Israeli President Shimon Peres says the war on Gaza was not "an ugly story", insisting that the global condemnation of Tel Aviv is unjust.

"They try to make the Israeli policy an ugly story," a frustrated Peres was quoted by the Associated Press at a session of the World Economic Forum on Thursday night.

Woe unto you, scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

From the New Testament, St. Matthew, 23