Thursday 28 May 2009

The video to complement the previous posting

Sandra Dee and Frankie Avalon of Pasir Panjang(CsH)

The Frankie Avalon of Pasir Panjang Road - my bruvva. Note the drain pipe trousers!

Well Mus, I hope you remembered how you abandoned me and Mak's 3-tiered aluminium steamer in Bangkok . This is the revenge of the wicked witch of Leicester.

In 1967, during the long school holiday, the Teachers' Union in Singapore organised a bus tour from Singapore to Thailand, as far as Chiengmai in the north. Looking back, we were quite adventurous, doing an overland trip via the Malay Peninsula, crossing the Isthmus of Kra and the 'wild' border between Malaysia and Thailand. In those days the buses had no air conditioning or soft comfy seats. They were called buses and not coaches.

In that group were my Yusof Ishak colleagues - Syed Ali, Riduan and Bakar. I think I was given permission to join the tour only because my kid brother was also in the group, to be a sort of 'minder'. But as I was to discover later, he wasn't of much use because he wasn't gallant enough to take over my mum's 3-tiered aluminium steamer.
It was a helluva body-wrecking journey, a 'shake, rattle and roll' experience. Most of the travelling was done at night, to save on hotels. They do the same today on some of those European excursions ; like a sort of fly (in this case, driven) by night operation. The 'comfort' stop was a torture with a long line of ladies queuing up and 'breaking their necks' to visit the dingy toilet in a coffee shop in some small town in Malaysia. We did not settle down in any hotel until we got to Haadyai ! Can you remember Mus, how our Thai driver and co-driver did a changeover WITHOUT stopping the bus ? It was a truly acrobatic feat. The takeover driver would manipulate his body in such a way so that his right foot would 'take over' the accelerator from the driver. Then the driver slowly inched himself out of the seat and the new driver skilfully manoevred his bum on to the seat. Voila! It took hardly 3 minutes. And we did not feel the slightest shudder or bump. But for one of them, his hair turned grey by the time we arrived in Bangkok - Guide's honour! I wonder if it was due to the strain of driving a bunch of rambunctious teachers. I don't think there was anyone over 35 and Mus at 21 was the youngest.

As for dear ole mum (heck! she was just 44 then), of course she wanted a souvenir from OUR holiday. At that time, it was the thing to possess items of aluminium kitchen ware from Thailand- like tiffin carriers, the bigger the better AND large 3-tier steamers. Mak's choice was the latter. It's not that she couldn't buy it in any shop in Singapore. She just wanted one hand-carried and 'fresh' from Thailand. Women!!!! Boy, was I mad! Maybe I could tell her it's out of stock. Or that the Malaysian and Singapore Customs disallow the import of such products without the proper papers. But I didn't have the heart. It was the very first item I bought when I started shopping in Bangkok. While my fellow travellers were shopping for classy items like precious stones, Thai silk and Thai silver ware, Cikgu Maznoor bought a THREE- TIER ALUMINIUM STEAMER wrapped in grubby, dusty plastic cover. SHUCKS!!!

As I was walking towards the bus with this monstrosity in my hand I caught sight of Mus. Aaah- came a wicked thought. I've done my part in buying it, now Mus can look after it. He must have seen me "going for him" and he did a graceful nonchalant withdrawal. "Ooooh, just you wait", I muttered under my breath. At last, sweet revenge today.

But I must be fair. He was a dashing 21 year old kid, who looked like Frankie Avalon and Fabian rolled into one, a bass player in his two-bit band and proud owner of a Lambretta scooter. But then, what about me? There I was , a 23 year old catchy little number in her bell-bottom home-made trousers. I used to sew my own clothes using superb paper patterns from Simplicity and Buttericks which could be bought only in some special shops like Robinsons. Any lass of 23 would be a sweet young thing (SYT) and I did fancy myself to be a fusion of Sandra Dee and Connie Francis. Plus, I did enjoy the attention of the young men on that trip, I must confess.

Anyway I chucked the blighted steamer at the back of the bus and there it stayed until we got home to Singapore. I am sure other cars who were driving behind our bus must be laughing at the sight of this souvenir in a bus filled with young travellers. I remembered those days when Malaysians would come by the busloads to shop in Singapore especially at the then C.K. Tangs and when you drove behind these rombongan (excursion) buses along Bukit Timah Road or Woodlands they looked like mobile kedai runcit (sundry shops). How things have changed.

That steamer had a most useful and long life. We all , including the second generation benefited from the endless joy of eating all the steamed cakes that mak used to make. I last saw that steamer, the bane of my youth, in my sister's house in Batu Pahat, before she moved to KL. Have you still got it, Nah? Mak used to make lepat ubi kayu, lepat pisang, kuih kasui, kuih putri salad, kuih pow, apam and my absolute favourite kuih naga sari. My dear mak made it all worthwhile. Nowadays very few mums would make these traditional kuih at home. They can after all, be easily bought at any stall. As to the present generation a three-tiered aluminium steamer is no more a must-have item. BUT here in England - steamers, the stainless steel type are a must for health conscious people. Also our humble batu lesong, they are on the market for £45. I saw it in an advertisement in the Times Sunday Supplement although they have been tarted up a little with glossy rims. So, cling on on your mums' three-tiered aluminium steamers, batu lesong and batu giling. I still have the last two items, cry your heart out!!

Back to you Mus. Your indifferent attitude to mak's steamer started this posting. Be warned, there's more expose to come. Cheers.

Monday 25 May 2009

Riding the Waves - Britannia Rules OK (CsH)

England, though part of the United Kingdom, is very proud of its own history - a history which we had to learn when we were schooling in the 1950s. It was basically a history taught for the glory of kings and queens, castles and monuments, great battles won against all odds like the First and Second World Wars and (naturally) the might of the Empire.

1. Of Kings and Queens : The most colourful of course was Henry the VIII, the man who set up the present Church of England so that he could get rid of his first wife and marry Ann Boleyn whose head he then chopped off so that he could marry the third. I'm summarising this in the same way western historians simplify our history. With this knowledge behind me I was able to understand that 60s song "I'm ' Enry the Eighth I am" ! When in my late 20s I discovered that delightful comic "Iznogoud" by Uderzo and Goscinny (who were also the creators of Asterix) I was happy to be able to connect lascivious Caliphs and their harems with ole 'Enry the Eighth. The history of kings and queens can be great fun!

2. Of Castles and Cathedrals and Other Monuments : It was de rigeur that tourists should visit Britain's great castles especially those of us who want to learn how the nobs lived - almost voyeuristic I think. Sometime in 1995 we took our niece Maria to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland as part of her 'educational tour' of Britain before she left for home. As the entry fee was quite exorbitant, the spouse had to wait in the car. Anyway we were looking out of this huge window in the elegantly extravagant Drawing Room to a magnificient view of stream and rolling hills and Maria wistfully said, "How can one man have so much?"
On another occasion we brought two of my former Singapore students to visit Cambridge University. It was awesome, one of them observed. The other gazed in wonder and remarked, "I think of the workers who constructed these magnificient structures - they must be so clever." Indeed they were very skilful craftsmen but who remembers their names and what remuneration were they given?

3. Of heroes and intrepid explorers: We had to study Robert Clive who went to India to make a fortune for himself and for his Queen and country. I cannot forget that picture of Clive as a boy, climbing up a building or something in his native land. It was we were told, the precursor of his overarching adventurous spirit that eventually made his Queen the Empress of India.
Then there was also Sir Francis Drake, a 'cool sort of guy' like the former PM Tony Blair. Drake managed to finish his game of bowls before he set out to thrash the dago Spanish Armada. Of course we were not taught that he and a host of other other English, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese sea dogs were also pirates, gun-runners and slave traders.
Then there was Sir Winston Churchill, an icon of the true Brit who led his country to victory against Hitler and his mob. You can even find his statue in Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei. (It was still there when I left in 1984). I have to do a special posting to venerate this great hero. But as an appetiser here's a line from Sir WC "How dreadful are the curses which Mohamedanism lays on its votaries."

4. The Mother of all Parliaments : The Speaker, Michael Martin was finally forced to announce his resignation on May 19 after an embarassing performance to keep his post in Parliament. Just like the economy, his plight, according to Jon Snow of Channel 4 is one of "trust or bust". I was watching history unfold before my very eyes - this was the first Speaker that had to resign in 300 years. I was a spectator to watching the British Parliament becoming a laughing stock at home and abroad.

4. A nation of shopkeepers : This year Sainsburys celebrates its 140th anniversary. Marks and
Spencers has reigned supreme as Britain's favourite shop for 125 years. Why shopkeepers you may ask? It was the great Adam Smith (1723-1790) who wrote " To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers, may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation that is governed by shopkeepers." (Wealth of Nations).
On this aspect, I would like to insert a reminder of M and S's pedigree - and to remember Gaza. Say no more.

And, for all of us who are ashamed, embarrassed and who despair at the shenanigans of our political leaders and government - and who look to Western institutions and ideology for inspiration and guidance - think again - except if you're an unrepentant WOG or you have another agenda.

Friday 22 May 2009

NADIA & NABILLA - Little Darlings (CsH)

Nadia, Adam and Nabilla 6(?) years ago

With thanks to missmusicUSA

Today, for a change - I want to write about something sweet and heartwarming.

I don't see much of Sabrina's and Mahzan's two girls because they are always the furthest away, either in Miri or Johor Bahru.

But when we do manage to get together it is always a memorable and touching occasion.

Nadia is quiet and gentle. She often has her nose in a book and tends to be serious like her late great uncle Akim. After all, if she had waited for an hour or so , her birth day would have been the same as Akim's. Shark's fin soup is her one weakness, her favourite food. On her birthday a few weeks ago, she was really looking forward to ...... what else?

A few months ago, I was chatting to her Tok Wan, my sister , about shark's fins 'fishing'. Because shark meat does not fetch a good price, only the fins are removed and the shark is dumped back into the sea where without its fins the shark loses the ability to swim and finally sinks and dies. (See www. and drink.)This delicacy comes at a heavy price. I'm afraid we have become more and more brutal about satisfying our carnivorous appetite. You only have to scour the internet for examples of our inhumane regard for animals whether for food or otherwise.

Her grandma conveyed this information to Nadia and upon hearing that she ordered something else for her birthday treat. She was not pressured in any shape or form. She just wanted to.

This is from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, "The Ancient Mariner" - a poem I had to study when I was in Form Four.

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell

To thee, thou Wedding Guest!

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.

Bless you Nadia.

As for Bella, cheeky, stubborn Bella with the marshmallow heart - how could I forget that day in the hotel in Serangoon Road about 3 years ago? We, Sabrina and I and the 3 kids had spent the day at Sentosa and had gone back to the hotel for a deserved rest.

Bella and I were lolling on the bed and being her usual curious self, she started asking me if I had any brothers and sisters. So I mentioned her Tok Wan my sister, my brother Mus and my late brother Akim . She wanted to know why my youngest brother died. I explained it to her. Then she asked for his name and I replied "Mustakim". By now she was her usual over - active self, jumping up and down on the bed. She paused for a second, looked at me, smiled and said, " I also know a Mustakim".
I was taken aback and asked her, "Where is he?" She kept on bouncing on the bed, her smile getting broader and wider all the while and she said, "Ih - dinas - siratul-mustaqim "
I looked and listened in disbelief, not knowing whether to laugh or to cry... Bella, you are an enigma - a beautiful and delightful enigma.

Sabrina and Mahzan, I don't know what you've done to deserve these two daughters. But thank you for bringing them into this world, our world.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Josef Marti - " a truthful man from this land of palm trees"

Josef Marti (1853 - 1895), a Cuban and a great Latin American intellectual was a symbol of Cuba's struggle for independence from Spain and a patriot who fought against the threat of U.S. expansion in his homeland.

This song 'Guantanamera' sung by the Sandpipers was and still is a lovely song. I first heard it in the mid-60s when I was an idealistic undergrad. I wish I could understand the Spanish lyrics but Marti's poignant lines in English still pulls at my heart and head.
I am a truthful man from the land of the palm trees
And before dying I want to share these poems of my soul.
My poems are soft green,
My poems are also flaming crimson.
My poems are like a wounded fawn seeking refuge in the forest.
With the poor people of this earth I want to share my fate.
To me this is a song of humility and compassion.
Guantanamera is a song of Guantanamo Province and a town at the eastern end of Cuba. On Feb. 23rd 1903 the United States claimed in perpetuity complete control over Guantanamo Bay for setting up naval stations.
After 2001 it became the notorious prison for "terrorists" - i.e. those - innocent or guilty, who threaten the hegemony of the Judaeo-Christian ethos and empire.
The Afro-White President of the United States planned to close Guantanamo Prison by 2010. There are now remaining 240 detainees from 30 countries.
Yesterday the Senate , including the Democrats moved to deny him the $80 million dollars required for his undertaking. No way will the Americans, of all shades and colours want to imprison, or to try these prisoners in their backyard.
A touching poem has been tainted and tarred. But Josef Marti's ideals will never die.

Saturday 16 May 2009

"Hungry For The Word"

The U.S. Military Central Command in Iraq and Afghanistan has a regulation known as General Order Number One which forbids U.S. soldiers from participating in activities that aim at the conversion of people (which in Iraq and Afghanistan means Muslims) to Christianity.

However, The Independent of May 4 2009, quoting Reuters, reports : "Qatar-based Al Jazeera television showed footage of a church service at Bagram, the main US base north of the Afghan capital Kabul, in which soldiers had a stack of bibles in the local languages, Pashtu and Dari.

A military chaplain was shown delivering a sermon to other soldiers, saying: "The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down."

The Independent added: "Trying to convert Muslims to any other faith is a crime in Afghanistan. An Afghan man who converted to Christianity was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2006 but was allowed to leave the country after an international uproar."

The above paragraph is conveniently placed at the end of the report as if to reinforce the dastardly intolerance of Muslims to Christianity and (to follow this argument to its logical end) to suggest that what the Muslims need is a good dose of western Christianity, besides democracy and anglo-saxon style of government. The issue here is not about Muslims' regulations as to conversion ; it is about the covert intention of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by the Western powers as well as the insidious and subversive modus operandi of Christian Evangelists in these two ravaged Muslim nations.

This revelation by Al Jazeera does not tell us anything new. Christian missionaries, from the good old days of gung-ho Imperialism, have always hung on to the coat tails of the Generals and soldiers, colonial administrators and traders. It's not that the heathens are 'hungry for the word'. It is actually the missionaries who are 'hungry for souls' to convert.

According to trainee military chaplain Sergeant Jon Watt, "you can't proselytize, but you can give gifts." This way you are not going against General Order Number One.
He added, "I bought a carpet and then I gave the guy a Bible after I conducted my business." So, beware of strangers bearing gifts, whether these be a bible, a tractor, a business contract, a free school, a free hospital, a doctor, a nurse, a teacher ... or democracy, liberty and equality!!

War or no War : This is the ethos of Christian Evangelists.

The War in Iraq and the Harvest of Muslim souls in the Evangelists' Baskets

This is a "job description" of People International in 1990!

Monday 11 May 2009

WAS : IS : & : WILL : BE

"It is a story that our readers, indeed the whole country need to be told. Now for the first time, it can be." Editorial, Daily Telegraph, Friday May 8, 2009.
What story is this? Another spectacular from Westminsterwood? Is it about a man or a bird? Like Superman.
No, it's all about the British Parliament's , you know- that Mother of Parliament's MP's Expenses - the misappropriation and abuse of public funds - of snouts in the trough, almost like a new strain of swine flu.
It's not summer yet, but we're seeing a lot of red faces from the PM and his Cabinet, from the Conservatives' Shadow Cabinet, and an assortment of MPs from all the political parties. The muck has been dripping over the weekend to today. It took a long time coming.
I think it is a saga and scandal worthy of a Banana Republic from the land of the 'nig-nogs' like they used to say.
It is corruption and greed usually attributed to authoritarian, autocratic, oligarchic, fundamentalist regimes of the brown, yellow and black varieties.
And from Percy Bysshe Shelley :
When the lamp is shattered,
The light in the dust lies dead-
When the cloud is scattered,
The rainbow's glory is shed.

Sunday 10 May 2009

Back to School (CsH) - Pasir Panjang Primary School - No. 1

When you reach the magic age of 60 and beyond your past begins to catch up on you. For me, it's the other way round. I start searching for my past. It's like an archaeological excavation searching through boxes and cases of flotsam and jetsam of my life. They consist of books, photographs, magazines, newspaper cuttings, lecture notes, school badges, school ties, letters, library cards, student cards and umpteen loads of junk.

Two days ago, I discovered our Pasir Panjang Primary School magazine named The Co-Ed. I spent the best part of 2 days turning through the pages and it was like travelling through a time tunnel. To me at least it was like a historical document of the school system in Singapore during the 1950s. I recall studying our Educational System during Teachers' Training and the examinations we had to pass. I can only remember how dreadfully boring it was, regurgitating all those Education Acts. I began to think about how fascinating it would be to compile an oral history of education from our (my sister's and brothers') school magazines. I'm not one for school or College or University Reunions but this compilation would be an interesting journey.

One must not live in the past. But I do regret not knowing much about my father's and mother's childhood and their youth. We were just not interested. My ole mum loved to talk about her younger days and I would in my head mutter , "Oh no, here we go again." I was a fool and it's too late now.

So this is for Hamid's grandchildren via your ma'ngah. You won't be given a test at the end, so sit back and enjoy and have a good laugh on us.

Above is the cover of our school magazine. Note the name on the cover. We were all very possessive then. " This is mine - so get your grubby fingers off my property." How did I manage to pilfer this one? "It's not my fault - it just got into my house ha ha" We used to write this on the inside front cover of our books. Black is the raven, black is the rook. But blacker the person, who steals this book. Today the Politically Correct Brigade would have had us on the rack for harbouring such colourful ideas.
I have a wee problem sorting out the location of picture and text. I can't 'paste' it to where I want it to be, next to the text. So it will be jumbled. Anyway I'm very proud to display my artwork above. It was good enough to be published in the Co-Ed but I did wonder why I got thrown out of Art Class during secondary school. Philistines!!

Friday 8 May 2009

Freedom of Information - as prescribed by the Sun of Britain

My previous posting referred to an article by Yasmin Alibhai Brown in the Independent. Here is another by Mark Steel from the same paper. You will enjoy his wit and sarcasm about the hypocrisy of the media in the Land of the Mother of Parliaments. Read this

This is one of the joys of living in this country.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Sugar and Spice - but Something's Not Nice

Yasmin Alibhai Brown of The Independent has been on my List of Favourites for a very long time. She has always been consistent in exposing the double standards of the West in their attitude towards Muslims and Islam. The fact that she writes for a mainline paper like The Independent ensures that there is a counterfoil to the nasty bigotry of the tabloid press. Muslims in Britain have a good friend in her.

However, her article on May 4 2009 left me a little concerned and a tad disappointed.

I cannot make the link but you can find this in The Independent : "Who'd be female under Islamic law" by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

YAB was obviously very upset at the plight of several Muslim women from Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iranian painter Delana Darabi, "accused of murdering an elderly relative" was hanged last week. She was only 22. Roxana Saberi,an American-Iranian journalist of mixed Iranian-Japanese parentage is in Teheran's Evin prison accused of spying for the U.S. A noteworthy (?) feature of this journalist is she's "intelligent, beautiful and defiant". Should these attributes make any difference to her cause?

I am no apologist for the misogyny of Muslim males who have subverted the teachings in Islam to suit their narrow political-cultural agenda. I mentioned this in my posting of Tuesday Oct 21, 2008. However this 'patriarchal oppression' of women also occurs in the domains of Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, secular and animist cultures. But the "Renaissance man" does exist in Muslim societies whether they reside in Britain, U.S.A , Malaysia or Indonesia. I like to think that my late father (born in 1910) was the first Muslim Malay male 'feminist'. He made sure my sister and I received the best education possible. I shall never forget what he said to me after I graduated from the University of Singapore : " I give my daughters the best education I can provide because I do not want them to be dependent on any man."

I feel YAB's distaste for the Saudi father who sold his child to be married to a 50 year old man. Then there's the Saudi TV anchor who was beaten up by her husband and several other examples of a 'dark age' looming in the Muslim world. A dark age is upon us indeed when we look at the environment, the economy, the widening gap between the rich and the poor in developed societies and between the western and non-western world. If we connect our concerns and ethos only to these murky examples from the Muslim world, we are neglecting the voices of the oppressed in the non-Muslim world. I deliberately prefer the word 'Muslim' and not 'Islam' when referring to these 'dark'societies. I recall visiting a Parsi homeopathic doctor in Bombay (Mumbai) many years ago. He quoted a well known western writer but I can't remember who. It went like this : "Islam is a good religion; shame about the Muslims". That little anecdote from this wise Parsi has given me succour and strength through all these years of having to endure vile Islamophobic rantings. The problem is with the practitioners not the Belief. The focus on demonising Muslims AND Islam especially has a long pedigree in western Christian/secular cultures. Their choice of demons and monsters is very selective and self-serving.

But back to YAB. What saddens me most is her analysis of the wife "burkaed on a sunny day", who is likened to a "dead, buried" ghost, a degraded piece of humanity because she has failed her fellow Muslim women in refusing to give up her burka and emulate her 'free' western sisters. How condescending; to assume that this burkaed woman is incapable of sharing and delighting in the pleasures of watching her husband and children laughing and playing on a sunny day in a park in England.

Esther Gordon, a British-Antiguan, is a very good friend of mine, much loved by both of us because she carries no bigoted baggage. She's very broad-minded and kind to all. She has a mind of her own and doesn't suffer fools. During one lunch break at our place of work at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, she told off our colleagues, mainly white and Asians including a Russian emigre, "Why can't you leave them alone, what harm have they done to you?" and she walked out of the room. These colleagues had been bitching about these women in black, in their 'bin bags' - a bit like the kind of smut you get at a BNP (the ultra right wing British National Party) gathering.
Esther, I will never forget your bravery and sense of justice. As a Muslim, I feel ashamed and humbled.

YAB seems very disheartened. "Progressive believers " she writes "tilt at windmills driven by ferocious winds of self-righteousness". But such Don Quixotes are not confined to self-righteous Muslims only. We, Muslims and non-Caucasians, who have lived long enough in this 'land of the free' have also had to suffer the onslaught of non-Muslim and Anglo-Saxon self righteousness.

Only the other morning on the pukka liberal BBC Radio 4, John Humphreys said this of China : "They are good at making cheap mass products. Can they make anything cleverer?" Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Aren't we witty?

P.S. I am not burkaed or hijabed. In England I am garbed in the best outfit that my favourite Charity Shop can provide AND I do get the best, like an M&S jacket for
£1.50. I do get taken for a Chinese takeaway lady, but that's fine with me. When I attend some political meetings, I let the bigots spout whatever prejudices about Islam they want to spout ..... and then I come down on them like a ton of bricks! This
middle-aged, white-haired Malay Muslim woman really has fun.