Thursday 26 November 2009

For a Tired but Sweet, Lovely Lass

You, who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye.

Teach your children well
'Cause their father's hell did slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they fix, the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why
If they told you would cry
So you just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

And you, of tender years
(Can you hear me and do you care, can't you see)
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by
(You must be free to teach your children)
And so please help them with your youth
(What you believe in)
They seek the truth before they can die
(Make a world that we can live in)

Teach your parents well
'Cause their children's hell will slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they fix, the one you'll know by

Don't you ever ask them why
If they told you, you would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

Thursday 19 November 2009

The Swinger (CsH)

I am certain there are many out there like me - who love swings. You cannot tell any child to keep away from swings and slides. We were fortunate to have both at our Pasir Panjang English School.

The swings are under the tree to the left and the slides are on the right.

This is a photo of the same tree taken on the 6th of November.

Somehow it was usually the girls who preferred the swings and slides. Perhaps it was because the rambunctious boys chose to create their own wild games.

You are a master-swinger if you are daring enough to stand on the seat while you are still swinging. You begin by placing your bum on the seat and kick your feet on the ground to give you momentum. You keep on rocking forward and backward to increase the speed and 'length' of your motion. Then you carefully move your body upwards so as to enable you to stand up while slowly pushing your arms upwards on the 2 sides and from then on the sky's the limit. Off you flew and suddenly the world became a different place , the view grew more and more expansive from the increased height- and the air moving you or you moving the air filled your lungs and made you laugh and scream out loud at one and the same time. WHEE!!! I can still feel that exhilarating soaring of the spirit today. Oh decrepit old age! The landing and getting back to earth was easy except for one problem. The cheeky boys (and girls) would be screaming too with yellings of "I can see your knickers! No shame, no shame!"

And talking about knickers - mother warned us about playing on the slides because it seemed that some girls had fallen and were badly injured. But I ignored that warning - how could she ever have found out my disobedience? Well, she did because she found the evidence when she was washing my knickers which had turned discoloured and marked from the constant friction on the slides. So kena bantai (received a spanking) , but it was worth it.

This is a well-known Malay Nursery Rhyme about swings which I learned in my Malay Language lesson at PPES.

I love the last verse of this Rhyme - and here is the gawky translation.
Swing as fast as you can
Until the day's end
As many pass you by
You are left alone high and dry.

Some may consider the last two lines sad and lonely. But it's quite blissful to be a solitary swinger - when you can combine unalloyed joy and solitary thoughts.

And how we cried when we listened to this song of a beautiful girl singing and riding on her swing - from the movie Bawang Puteh, Bawang Merah.
Especially the last line Aku-lah anak yatim piatu ".I am a child without a mother or father" not just simply an orphan. Isn't that the one big fear of any child?

But then life is littered with swings and roundabouts.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

My Two Angels

Oi Bek and Lely made it all possible - and easy. These two former students of mine sponsored my trip down memory lane in Singapore with a car, chauffeur and yummy comestibles. My spouse and brother were also beneficiaries of their unstinting generosity and warmth.

We have known each other since way back when.

Oi Bek



With her favourite Uncle

With her favourite Auntie-Teech

Thank you girls. At 60 plus (for all three of us) time and tide has almost passed us by and unforgettable days and adventures are few and far between. But you gave us that day - one we shall never, ever forget.

Monday 16 November 2009

By Desperate Request of Pickled Herring and Helas

Tapestry of Sunnysideup's Past

Cisco Kid and Durango Kid (note the side-parting) in the Botanical Garden's desert.
Minus Side - Parting

Father and Daughter

To be fair- here's something else!

Pickled Herring and a well-known (notorious?) media man

Tuas Beach and my former Jurong Secondary School's inmates before modernisation and progress stepped in.
They are Ben, Yuwrajh, Rojiah (in the background) and Pickled Herring (in the foreground)

Sunday 15 November 2009

Bawa Bekal / Bringing provisions (CsH)

Picture by courtesy of Pickled Herring - see this
The Simpoh Air is a large evergreen shrub which normally grows in thickets and can grow up to 7m high. Normally found in secondary forests or belukar this plant has many medicinal and commercial uses. But for the kampung folks this plant is useful for its leaves for wrapping food. In fact it is mainly used for wrapping tempeh, which is now a well-known health food sold in western health food stores that are worth their salt. Hence the Malays , especially in Singapore call this the daun tempeh or tempeh leaf.
And yes, I have to clarify that tempeh is a Javanese food for I dare not incur the wrath of Mustar Bonaventura and his Benteng Alliance in Indonesia!

Our breakfast, before we left for school, was usually quite substantial. We, or rather our mother was lucky because we could depend on our neighbour, Makcik Mani who sold lontong and nasi lemak from the kitchen of her house which was located just across the river, the Sungai Nipah. I can still taste the flavour of her lontong today. Each time I go to Singapore I search for lontong - but nothing can match Makcik Mani's.
For this breakfast, my sister would be sent out early in the morning, about sixish to Makcik Mani's kitchen. She would already have had her bath and be ready in half of her school uniform- which consisted of a school blouse and petticoat. The pinafore was put on just before departure to school because we must not crumple our uniform, must we? We were such fusspots then.

Maznah - all dressed up for school.
My main task in the morning was to get our youngest brother Akim ready for school. I had to check that his shirt was properly tucked into his shorts , that he remembered to put on his school badge for that was a major offence if the school prefect caught you without it. Also I had to comb his hair which he found quite irritating. This was what he looked like after I was done with him. Poor kid!

My well-scrubbed little brother!
There were times when we were each given 10cts pocket money for recess time though that was not quite enough for a plate of mee-siam. However mother made sure we did not go hungry. She would pack us a meal of rice, long beans and a wedge of omelette - our bekal. First she placed the daun simpoh/daun tempe on a piece of paper. Then she spooned the food on the leaf and then wrapped it up tightly held together with a rubber band. Our drink was teh-O (tea without milk)decanted into a bottle which had a rolled up little piece of paper stuffed into the mouth of the bottle to serve as a bottle top.
Mus and I (this was before Akim started school) were too embarrassed to be seen unwrapping our newspaper/daun tempe bekal in the tuckshop. So we would search out another place and that would be a bench near the school's servants' quarters. We would very quickly demolish our tuck and then ran off to play. When I recently went to Singapore I just had to take this photograph - of our hidey-hole at Pasir Panjang English School. (Today the school is being used by a Christian Mission Group to rehabilitate drug addicts)

Our Private Canteen

This little episode explained why the daun simpoh held such poignant memories for me. Today I feel very ashamed of my attitude towards my mum's bekal which she so lovingly cooked for us - for fearing the embarassment in front of my 'richer' schoolmates who had money to spend.

And now when I observe the younger set whose diet has been directed to fries, burgers and pizzas - when a kitchen has been turned into a room for display instead of a working, living and lively room , I wonder if this change can be likened to my reluctance to eat mak's nutritious home cooking in what is a commercialized setting? I can see the day when nasi lemak, lontong and mee rebus will be served straight from the microwave or oven to the table. It's already been done with Indian cuisine sold in British supermarkets.
Our parents' and grandparents' recipes will be tucked away in colourful coffee- table Cook Books to be ooh-ed and aah-ed over and sometimes experimented on.
Our food - its ingredients, its preparations and consumption is an essential feature of our culture. We neglect it and ignore it at our peril for that will entail the loss of our heritage. One certain and indeed a very easy way to de-culturalise and de-racinate a people is to change their food. Our daun serai, daun kunyit, lengkuas, daun kesum and daun limau purut will be served only at gourmet tables here and in the west while our children and grandchildren stuff their faces with western junk and fast food.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Your Song Will Fill The Air (CsH)

We spent 5 days in Singapore over the weekend. It was such a memorable trip to my old hunting ground in Singapore - all made possible by the incredible generosity and warmth of Oi Bek and Lely, the graciousness of Rukhsana, and the hospitality of Jailani who made our stay so comfortable even though he was thousands of miles away in Mecca.

This trip to memory lane was made even more meaningful because I could share it with my brother Mus. Can you imagine the joy of the two of us wandering about our old Pasir Panjang English School?

But all these stories shall come later when I've gathered my notes and photographs.

Right now, before anything else this is for my gorgeous but mad ex-students.

Jailani in his flat. May Allah bless you on your journey to the Holy Land.

The lovely but wild lot and Teacher.
Oi Bek, Din, Rukh and Lely

See ya later.

Beautiful Baby Driving a Car

Marwa Sherbini 31, a pharmacist and a pregnant mother of a little boy was stabbed 16 times in a courtroom in Dresden in July this year by Alexander Weins, a Russian-born German when she was giving evidence against him. As usual,his religious affiliation is not mentioned, a privilege denied to a Muslim. "He had called her a 'terrorist' and 'Islamist' in a children's playground because she covered her hair."
Today her family had to be satisfied with Wiens life sentence, with no chance of an early release.
This news leads me on to something that happened to us today.
Driving from our house to Tung Shin Hospital, twice a week, via Ampang and Pudu Road is always fraught with stress. But today was especially traumatic. A MYVI, a taxi, a Mercedes, a small lorry and another taxi (in chronological order) blithely cut in front of our car to change to another lane without giving any signal. One of them had the gall to cross two lanes! There's more to come.
Since 1964, I have driven in Singapore, Malaysia, especially Penang,Brunei, England, Scotland and Wales. And now in KL for the past 2 years,

From my limited experience, I reckon KL takes the prize for having the worst drivers and the most lamentable standard of driving. It's not like there are too few good roads for too many cars as in many developing countries. Also the standard of education and the standard of living in this capital does not lag far behind any western city. It simply boils down to a contemptible attitude to others - defined by selfishness, arrogance and a me-first-and-to--hell-with-the-rest-of-you mentality. In my recent experience of driving in KL, I find it hard to believe that about 40% (or maybe more, not less) of these egotistic drivers are females and about 80% of them are Muslim women in their hijabs driving their bread-and-butter or rather 'nasi lemak'cars, their male-macho saloons, SUVs, 4WDs and huge People Carriers. And when you see them step out of their metal bijou, these scarfed SYTs (sweet young things) look quite beatific, like butter-won't-melt-in-their-mouths. I find this Jekyll and Hyde characteristic very difficult to come to terms with.
Years ago we met a UM academic, a member of the aristocracy - who- when we commented about the size of his vehicle, said, " I drive this Pajero so no one can overtake me." You may not be able to stomach his words but at least he was honest about his arrogance. That's a man speaking! Do not however give me the excuse that our demure female Muslim drivers are forced to drive like egotistic males so as to survive KL roads !! It just doesn't tally with their Muslim women virtues that are symbolized by their hijab.

Today, about 500 metres from Tung Shin Hospital a hijabed taxi driver shoved her vehicle in between our car and the road divider so she could get ahead of us. It was a miracle that despite her savage jostling we avoided what could have been a nasty accident on a very busy road.
I was shattered - and so would any one half my age.

Indeed a Muslim woman like Marwa Sherbini was murdered for wearing a scarf, for making a statement about her religious affiliation.
However, after today's trauma I feel that the religious statement made by our hijabed Malaysian women leaves me with a nasty taste in the mouth.
And by the way, we drive a 'sambal blacan' car, a Proton Saga. We may have to think about selling our house to buy a GMC Terrain or a Toyota Sequoia, a Lexus LX, or Land Rover LR2 or the Nissan Rogue to keep body and soul together on KL's roads.