Wednesday 30 September 2009

The Saga of Meena and MacTavish (CsH) - the next episode

This picture can be subjected to several Postmodernist interpretations, but it is historically too complex and elusive. M and M prefer the plebeian's take of Academe not as the fount of Knowledge but a gaol, a quod, the clink, the tronk, the cooler, a booby hatch, a cage, a coop and so on. Thank you Mr Roget for these Other versions.
Also the red colour does not signify violence or pain. It's an indication of a more colourful life ahead, not just in black and white. Is this a Binary Opposition? No, it's the hoipolloi's version of choice

Meena did want to dip her toes into the waters of Torremolinos where all the best Brits go - to savour sunny, sandy Spain and enjoy typical English breakfasts (sans bacon and sausage of course) in the best Spanish restaurants. But for our two intrepid travellers, Granada beckoned. It deconstructed their pictures of Islamic history (or herstory?) and they went back again and again to Granada, not herstory.

Please note the above picture may cause distress to feminists worldwide. However the Other that is Meena is merely optimizing her natural talents - of indicating her superiority in more ways than one. She's probably thinking that men are wimps - nothing negative at all! Surely all feminists can sympathize with that.
Actually I have been told by reliable sources that M and M do not believe in cumbersome luggage. MacTavish's is usually heavier because of his collection of pebbles, fossils and all sorts of sticks and stones that he picks up along the way. So there's no need for Postmodern Deconstruction here - just grave reconstruction of his Postacademic pursuits!

They are at their best here - scrambling for books.

I do try to make my postings a bit more cerebral - hence all these Derrida-en analysis ha ha! I shall stick to Meena and MacTavish's rules of keeping away from pretentious rhetoric.
The next episode will be less trying.


Thursday 24 September 2009

A Book at Bedtime (CsH) - The Saga of Meena and MacTavish

The Artist aka Whistler's Brother

As we are still celebrating Eid, I thought a restful bedtime story would be in order - to soothe shattered nerves and congealed guts.
It is all about the adventures of Meena and MacTavish at the turn of the 21st century. Of course the names have been changed to protect the innocent and deranged.
This is only the first instalment. Other exciting episodes shall follow depending on the whim of AsH and the fancy of the artist-cum-resident spouse.

This posting is specially for Bride and Graham at Paekakariki, NZ - the long suffering sister and brother-in-law.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

A Plea for Recognition

Jefridin Wannabes

During his sojourn in Malaysia and Singapore in the 1960s, the spouse took loads of black & white photographs. He wandered uphill and downhill, in rainforests and concrete jungles, in urban centres and rural seaside, took pictures of all sorts of people and places. Today he gave me one of them to use for this blog. I've been nagging him for some time for this lovable photograph - a picture of creative imagination, innocence and fun on the part of these little boys.
This photo was taken in a kampung off Changi Road in Singapore sometime in 1968. That drumset and guitar says a lot about the nature and mindset of children in those days before TV took over the imagination, before rampant materialism consumed their lives and home is where they are surrounded by trees and bushes, and sticks and stones are easily gotten for making sophisticated toys and where they know the grammatical difference between Boys and Boy's!!
I know I am guilty of romanticizing the past but why not? There's a lot in the past to be proud of including a drum set made of old tin cans. I do salute you marvellous members of The Tol Boys Band.

My one wish. If there are people out there who recognize themselves or these boys in the picture, please come forward.

I know you can't stand Jefrydin, Mus. But if you care for future mugs of Iain's teh tarik, you had better hide your opinion.
Long Live Pop Yeah Yeah!

Saturday 19 September 2009

The Long and Winding Road (CsH)

Mustakim bin Abdul Hamid
29.4.1949 - 21.9.1982

Since 1982, after Akim passed away, I could not bring myself to come home for Hari Raya. On Hari Raya eve - Akim, Mother and I would be getting the flat ready for when Nah and Mus and their families would turn up to celebrate Hari Raya - with our Mother. Putting up the curtains and changing the cushion covers were Akim's job and he did it pretty well - despite some harassment from our two cats Suzie and Kookie who refuse to budge from their cushion seats.

On the second day of Hari Raya this year - you left us 27 years ago without saying goodbye. Your departure "sudah ditakdirkan", but it's still unbearable.
So I came back for Hari Raya in 2007 but I could not do it for 2008. I'm here now in 2009 and the near coincidence of the anniversary of our loss and Hari Raya is an agony. It's not that I love my remaining family and their children and grandchildren less - but your sudden departure is like a task incomplete, like an unfinished symphony

Goodnight sweet Prince.
Ku berdoa agar dikau aman bertemu-Nya.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Hari Raya Cards (CsH) excavated from AsH's archaeological Cavern

Kini tiba masanya
Hati gembira di Hari Raya.
Bertemu sanak dan saudara
Bermaaf-maafan dengan keikhlasan

Selamat Hari Raya - Maaf Zahir dan Batin from AsH and Iain to :
Abu Kassim, Cat-in-Sydney, Din, Elviza, Ena, Hazalee, Helas, Jailani, Kama and Pak Abu, KakEzza, Kak Teh and Hulaimi, Lely, Ma'Andeh, Mamasita and SakmongolAK47, mekyam, Ms.B, Ms.Chaya, Naz, Pokku, Pootz in Boots, Raden Rohaya, Ruqxana, sapuan sidek, sicKo^, tireless mom and to all my other blogging mates whose names I may have inadvertently missed and the invisible others.

Also to my beloved family. This is beginning to sound like an Oscar Award Ceremony!

For Nah and 'Bang Long, Mus and Normah. To the 2nd generation (useless lot) of Sham, Mahzan and Sabrina, Maria and Nadzim, Hidayah and Faiz, Shah and Dila, Mariam and Hana. As for the 3rd generation, too many to name. Anyway your names are scattered all over my blog.
And here comes the Star!

I love this photograph not because of the excruciatingly gormless kid in the photo but for the love of Abah who constructed these Hari Raya Stars for his children.

And lastly, a special card to all the men in our life.

Terdengar suara Takbir
Muji nama Ilahi,
Rasa dalam kalbu
Tenteram dan aman selalu

Tuesday 15 September 2009

MSG and Moaning Minnie

I've been a good girl, I have. All Ramadan, we've kept to our own cooking. Pak Iain contributed his usual range of haute cuisine like Chili con Carne, Rice Porridge and Goat food as in Salad with his special dressing ( has to be made while garbed in sarung). As for his teh tarik - it's absolutely fab.

As for me I do my usual repertoire of fried kway teow, fried beehoon mamak style (must be wary in case India sues for pinching their cuisine), fish fried really, really crispy. I do go over the top with my special spiced roasted chicken, pacri nenas (pineapple chutney) and Tunisian carrot salad. I also make lots of soup using up all the leftovers in the fridge - it's either a one-off disaster or success. It's of course unrepeatable -burp...!

Then yesterday, we wanted to give ourselves a break and wandered to the Bazaar Ramadan. I fancied gulai sayur paku (ferns in coconut milk) and paid RM2 for about 6 spoonfuls. Pak Iain bought tempe with sambal petai. We enjoyed what we bought - but not for long. My throat got very, very dry and I feared getting a throat infection which acccording to neurotic sources could lead to H1N1 and perhaps finally requiring a brain transplant!!! Iain suffered palpitations that night (nothing to do with my snoring). The Culprit ? MSG!!

Why do our stallholders use that much MSG in our food? Our mothers and grandmothers never depended on that additive. Our youngsters I think are stuffed to the eyeballs with that poison. Nobody knows what are the long term effects of consuming this additive. However the short term repercussions are enough to tell us to get rid of that stuff. If we are health-conscious enough to be warned about too much salt and sugar, the same cautionary note should be applied to MSG. So, no more eating at the food stalls, the one joy of living in Malaysia - unless we know for certain there's no MSG. As old diddies, our list of fun is getting depleted day by day and now one more joy has to be sacrificed. I suppose I just have to resort to my own cooking.

Above is a photo of my handiwork except for the steamed broccoli in the saucepan which is Iain's speciality. According to him, it tastes better served in the saucepan. Still want to come and visit us, Kak Teh and AG? - or any other brave visitors?

I have this sign in my kitchen. THIS KITCHEN IS CLOSED DUE TO SICKNESS. THE COOK IS SICK OF COOKING. I guess there's no rest for the wicked. Bon Appetit to all - sans MSG.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Nusantara Natives - But It's So Hard Loving You

Have you heard of the dispute over stolen cultural icons and such, between thin-skinned ultra nationalists and thick-skinned pilferers? I'm thinking of Britain and Greece over the Elgin Marbles. There's also Britain and France with a record of various petty frets and tiffs like how the English Language and Americanisms are threatening the purity of the French language. France has gone to the extent of banning words like ipod for Diffusion pour Baladeur, le weekend for Le Fin deSemaine and corner (as in football) for coup de pied. But then the French have a penchant for banning things - like the Hijab! The English mock the French for eating frogs' legs, hence the nickname Frogs for the French. As for the French, they see the Brits as the perfidious Albion - as uncultured beer swillers.

Now we have our own almost similar brouhaha. We have been seeing a lot of sulks and piques and the brandishing of bamboo spears in Jakarta against what they regard as the perfidious Malaysians.
Whenever I hear the word Ganyang ( to destroy) used by Indonesians to sort out the Malaysians, I remember the Indonesian Confrontation of the
1960s. I somehow think when Indonesians talk of pulverising Malaysia, they are thinking mainly of the Malays in West Malaysia, not the other 40 plus percent of non-Malays in the Peninsula. Do correct me if my instinct is wrong.
Being the plebeian that I am, I recall the word ganyang being used during my growing up years in the kampong for spats between angry housewives over perceived insults and threats of husband-stealing. "Aku ganyang muka dia habis-habis" (I'll smash her face to bits), - really saucy sandiwara (soap opera) stuff.

Grow up, orang Nusantara. Stop behaving like pre-pubescent aggressive boys (it's always the boys,isn't it?) in the schoolyard. Still, it took the Europeans several centuries, through many civil and religious wars and the Mothers of all Tribal Wars - the First and Second World War before the blood lust was satiated. That lust has now been diverted to the oil producing countries under the banner of defeating terrorism.

Haven't you, Nusantara natives, learned anything from history? You have been colonised and invaded by outsiders like the Hindu Kingdoms of India, the Christian imperialists and carpet baggers from Portugal, Spain, Holland,France and Britain. As for the Emperor of China, he was a bit more circumspect. China only sent their Admirals and trading ships-cum-warships to get the Bunga Emas (Golden Flower) as a tribute of loyalty and the acknowledgement of the Big Taukeh's potential clout. It better served their purpose to allow their citizens to settle and prosper in this archipelago and who wouldn't take that chance? What with all the civil wars in China involving the Warlords, the oppression of the land owners, and the uncertainties of the Dynastic struggles, the land of the Malaikwai (Malay Devils) seems a good bet.

Seriously, even the names Indonesia and Malaysia were manufactured by our former masters. As for its political setup, it ensured their stakes, political and especially economic in this part of the world. Does it matter whether independence was achieved by negotiation or the spilling of blood? In the long run, we never really escaped their clutches.
Pre-Imperial Nusantara was made up of Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Malaya. Much of Borneo was part of the kingdom of the Brunei Sultanate. Sabah was part of the Sulu Sultan's Empire like the Phillipines and just to ensure their ownership the Spanish named this group of islands after their King Philip. Luckily we were not named Victoriana! I was told by my students in Brunei that the name Sarawak came from 'Serah pada awak' (submitted to you) - that is from the Brunei Sultanate to Brooke. It may not be historically accurate but it seems plausible as we don't really know Brooke's command of the Malay language. Still, it makes a good story.
Even Sumatra and Malaya were not a homogenous entity. There were the fiercely independent people from Acheh in Sumatra and the equally dominant subjects of the Johor Sultanate which included Tumasek, their province.

Our part-time helper Rodiah informed me recently that she was going home for a month during the Hari Raya holidays. So I asked, "Where is your kampung in Java?". She looked quite offended and told me very firmly that she is a Sumatran from Padang. She's not Javanese. Oooops! I can't really blame her. If we confuse the Scotsman or Welshman with the English, the former will probably 'ganyang' you. I made that mistake once and my spouse threatened me with having to cook the dinner for the next six months. You see we run a rota of alternate days.

With Hari Raya just round the corner, I hope Indonesia and Malaysia will show a bit more maturity. This strife will only play into the hands of the mischief makers. It will benefit those (both local and foreign) who can make political and economic capital out of this spat and also those not of our faith who will relish seeing us going for each other's jugulars when we should be focusing on building a just and equitable society. This is the old tactic of Divide and Rule at work.
Can we, on both sides of Selat Melaka imbibe the good spirit of Eid, of Hari Lebaran, its message of happiness and quiescence to fostering this relationship?

Thursday 3 September 2009

Up, Up, UPSR and away!!!! (CsH)

Thank you s1eve for this video. It was filmed in New Zealand.
To dream the impossible dream. To fight the unbeatable foe.
To bear with unbearable sorrow. To run where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong. To love pure and chaste from afar.
To try when your arms are too weary. To reach the unreachable star.
This is my quest to follow that star, no matter how hopeless and no matter how far.
To fight for the right without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause.
And I know if I'll only be true to this glorious quest, that my heart will be peaceful and calm,
When I'm laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this. That one man scorned and covered with scars.
Still strove with his last ounce of courage. To reach the unreachable stars.

Dear Nadia and Ariff,

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Nadia who?
Nadia head if you want to come in

Knock, knock,
Who's there?
Ariff who?
Ariff-verdeci UPSR.
(Arriverdeci is 'good-bye' in Italian)

We overheard this conversation 2 days ago when we were waiting at Tung Shin Hospital. This father was talking on the phone about his daughter who will be sitting for her UPSR ( Primary School Assessment Examination - like the 11 plus).
"She's got 6As in her school Examination and usually the school's Examination is harder than the UPSR. I think she can get 7As."

We do not want you to worry about how many As you score. Just do your very, very best. Remember, after each paper is over, forget about it. Do not discuss your answers with anyone. Just take a nap and then prepare for your next paper.
Of course our doa goes with you both but you also know God only helps those who help themselves.
Loads of love and luck from Tok Iain and Tok Ngah.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

For Jagdish

A few weeks ago, three of my ex-students came to stay for the weekend. We were driving to Bukit Antarabangsa - the equivalent of Nassim Road in Singapore - to observe the habitat of the top crust, both man-made and natural.
At the back of the car a discussion was going on about the world's economic crisis, its possible origins and effects. Oi Bek mentioned Bernard Madoff, and how she felt sorry for his victims which included several Israeli and American based charities. Bernard Madoff, as we know, is the 21st century's biggest fraudster, who swindled $150 billion from his clients. Unfortunately, Madoff is also Jewish, and many Jewish organisations voiced their concern about mention of his race for fear of reinforcing the stereotyping of Jews.

Now Oi Bek is a caring and overwhelmingly generous soul who would happily part with her money to help others less fortunate than her. Together with Lely and Ruqxana - my, or rather our (they have adopted Iain as their favourite loopy uncle) three girls pooled together a generous Hari Raya 'ang pow' for our husband-and-wife street cleaners before they went home to Singapore. They were aghast to learn that it costs Osman and Aisha nearly a day's wages each just to go home to their kampung.
These three girls weren't high-flying big earners living an ostentatious life with fancy cars and houses. They have family responsibilities too but they had room in their hearts and pockets to be kind and generous.

Back to Oi Bek and Madoff. Poor girl- she got an earful because I sort of blew my top and said, " Who cares a damn about Madoff's victims- big media people like Jeffrey Katzenberger, Mort Zuckerman, Steven Spielberg, Kevin Bacon and his wife and John Malkovitch? Right now my thoughts are with my special young friend, Jagdish, in Leicester. He is registered as partially sighted and the last time I went back I was told he had just been made redundant. He has a wife and mother to support and with his disability and in the current economic mess, he hasn't got a hope in hell of finding another job. He is a dignified young man who is not willing to take the easy way out and live on Disability Benefit which he is entitled to. To today I don't know how to approach him because he won't want me to know of his dire condition - and I don't want to ask, knowing what the answer is.
So who cares about those 50 billionaire victims of Madoff?"

Sorry Oi Bek for sounding like I did when you were in Sec 3F, and I told you all off after Miss Khor's tearful complaints about you horrors!

Now to the crux of this posting.

Jagdish and his family are devout Hindus just like Jayshree my other workmate in Leicester, just like Mr Chauhan our former newsagent, and Mr Mahesh Patel our Chemist. To them and my Hindu friends in Malaysia like Vicky and family in Puchong, my ex-students from Universiti Sains Malaysia like Malini and Shamla, to our Ayurvedic Dr. Raja in Penang and to all Hindus - I extend my deepest and most abject apologies for the despicable antics of my fellow Malay-Muslims over the last weekend in Shah Alam.
I still cannot fathom what was going on in the heads of these Made-in-Malaysia Barbarians?

1.What they've done to the cow's head is comparable to someone ripping off pages of the Quran and stepping on them. As Muslims they have experienced the anger and torment at the desecration of their own religious icons, so how could they do this to the Hindus - whatever the reasons? There is absolutely no justification. Pleading ignorance is just a cowardly cop-out.
2.Where were the Government authorities and the various religious bodies when this was being discussed and organized? Especially for the latter group. They seem to have quite a set-up for nabbing and punishing khalwat offenders, Ramadan delinquents and beer-drinking women.
3.Up to now, Malay-Muslims from Malaysia have had a fairly good record for being upright and tolerant in the eyes of the world. I cannot recall them resorting to such despicable tactics to make their voices heard. That picture above will forever remain firmly etched in the minds of the Muslim and non-Muslim world whenever Malaysia is mentioned.
Muslims in Malaysia and the rest of the world are at the receiving end of a lot of flak and odium. The Shah Alam incident has played into the hands of the adversaries -
as the old saying goes, "Meruncing tanduk kerbau" (Sharpening a buffalo's horns)
4.Do they realise the repercussions on the ummah - those of us who are soaked in poverty, maligned and despised like the victims of war and aggresssion in Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza? Malaysian Muslims enjoy such a cosy, almost indulgent life and most of them have no or very little global concept of being Muslims. They seem to pursue a very individualistic agenda of ensuring their own personal salvation. They arch themselves backwards and forwards, scrutinising the fine distinctions between 'halal' and 'haram', 'dosa' and 'pahala' (permissible and forbidden, sins and reward), almost like analyzing how many angels can be found on a pinhead.

If that is all they can offer as Muslims - so be it.
But what they have done in Shah Alam is to make use and smear the faith of over 1.2 billion Muslims for the sake of their backyard politics.

5.Last but not least, what has that poor animal done to deserve this abuse?

"And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) worship besides Allah, lest they insult Allah wrongfully without knowledge. Thus We have made fairseeming to each people its own doings, then to their Lord is their return and He shall inform them of all that they used to do."
Surah Al-An'am, The Cattle, Surah No.6, verse 108.