Saturday 29 May 2010

Man Behaving Badly - Panglima Mangga

I had planned a posting about matches but the happenings on Friday, Vesak Day compelled me to write this instead.

Once upon a time, in this piece of Kuala Lumpur suburbia there was this beautiful mango tree.It was planted by a neighbour about 15 years ago and it is now such a healthy tree that almost one-third of its top overhangs our garden. This tree, for the past two years had been providing a bounty of fruits for many humans in this residential area but most crucial for us, it gave succour to the civets who had been driven out of their habitat by the growth of houses, condominiums, shopping centres and car parks in this neighbourhood.

Only last year, DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Council) came along with their lorry and crane to cut down the mango tree. The man-in-charge came to our gate and asked me to sign the letter of acknowledgement. I was perplexed and when it dawned on me that I was being framed, I was furious. There was quite a brouhaha when the 'owner' of the tree and several other indignant ladies told off those poor blokes from DBKL. They knew who was responsible: a certain Datin nearby, a newcomer. What a soap opera - right on our doorstep.

On Vesak Day, Osman and Aisha came to our house with a lorry from their kampung to take away or rather, to recycle their collection of discards from the nouveau riche residents who are obsessed with renovating their houses. O&A had accumulated solid window frames, bags of clothes, household goods and boxes stuffed full with plastic bags. According to Aisha, the people in her kampung, just outside of Kampar, would find these bags useful. Also, when she and her husband are finished with working as road sweepers in the BIG MANGO that is Kuala Lumpur, she hopes to set up a food stall in the kampung and her plastic bags would come in handy, so she says. Aisha is basically a magpie, just like me.
Now all these worldly collection of O&A were kept on our verandah.

About eight months ago, an unknown resident complained about the two of them storing their brooms and sacks on the grassy tracks adjoining the houses - even though these were well camouflaged behind some thick bushy plants. So we gave them a corner of our garden for their storage space. Most recently, again because of another complaint, they were told by their Supervisor that they cannot rest or eat on the same grassy verge. Although we offerred them our verandah, these two plucky souls refused to give up their cool and shady resting place.

How do all these reflect on the Malay arriviste , on Malay budi-bahasa (courtesy), or the spirit of the Ummah?

But I digress.

So, as Osman and Aisha and their nephews were busy with their move, the husband of the 'owner' of the mango tree came along and brought down with the aid of a long pole some clusters of mango from the part of the tree that were overhanging our garden. We have always allowed anyone - when they asked for permission (or even turn a blind eye) - to get at these mangoes because it is not our tree and even if it is, there's enough for sharing.

But our Pendekar Mangga (Mango Warrior) took the opportuniy of the wide open gate to bulldoze his way into our garden without as much as a Salam or an 'excuse me' to pick up his fallen fruits. He then boldly and haughtily walked out with his pickings. Iain and I looked on with utter disbelief!

Often, - during my nearly 20years of living in Leicester - I grumbled to the spouse about the uncivilized attitude and behaviour of the mat salleh (a slang and sometimes a derogatory word for the white man). We have been in this Malay middle-class enclave for hardly 3 years and we have observed and experienced some weird (at the least) and odious (at the worst) neanderthal behaviour.

AND our Panglima Mangga had carried out this 'raid' just after his Friday prayers, dressed in his Friday best of a crisp and clean baju Melayu, sarung and a kopiak.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

The Alternative Cameron Highlands

Because we are too old and weary or perhaps too kiamsiap / kedekut / parsimonious we avoided the recommended sights of this hill resort.

Instead we discovered almost similar scenes and more, without venturing too far.This is the mini strawberry 'farm' near Tanah Rata's bus station.

What a wee vegetable plot - cultivated by the roadside.

The other green view - before the tea plantation took over.

As for the Flower Gardens we found them scattered here and there. Most of them were undomesticated. Some have been planted with no pecuniary objectives in mind. Here they are in pink and white and red and yellow.

However, these tenacious plants deserve our respect!

These are also survivors of 'development and progress' - but their fates are sealed -The Beautiful Wild Orchid and the Senduduk. They will probably find themselves transported to the Plant Nurseries to be propagated and marketed for suburban gardens.

More and more the habitat of such plants and creatures of the wild will be over-run by these.This is the Three-in-One scenario

The Plastic Bag Garden

The Electric Culinary Interloper

We are supposed to be Allah's Khalifahs (Stewards), protecting and nurturing our Earth. But we have gone too far in our obsession with 'development' and self-gratification. We ravage earth's bounties and leave no room for other inhabitants of the forests or the oceans.

And I am also culpable because of my lifestyle, like seeking to escape to the cool highland forests - however much I try to leave a light footprint.

Monday 24 May 2010

Mr. Wong Kok Peng's Garden

Tourists go to Cameron Highlands for the tea plantation, the vegetable farms and the strawberries.
All we wanted was a cool break and on our last morning the temperature was just perfect, like any bracing Spring day.

But we found serindipity-joy in Mr. Wong and his garden. He is the manager of the apartment. He was efficient and helpful and looked after our needs, but he wasn't at all a hard nosed businessman. The love of gardening and plants were very much a part of his being. As he lived in an apartment, he utilised whatever scrap of land available around the block to indulge in this one love.This is the little patch in front of the apartment,

and this area is just outside the apartment compound.

Father and son lovingly care for their garden but at times it can become a painful experience for both of them especially for the little boy because holidaymakers and their brattage (this is Jack Marlowe's word for horrible obnoxious kids) would pick the flowers and the tiny tomatoes and then callously discard them. Mr Wong's little boy, in frustration, wrote this notice in three languages, but it was to no avail.

But both father and son persevere and here are a series of shots from Mr. and Master Wong's garden. Mr. Wong is well informed on medicinal herbs and generously gave us a couple of plants and cuttings.This plant is good for those who suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes but unfortunately Mr. Wong doesn't know its name. We took home a cutting.

The Karang Raja for problems with gallstones.

No,don't panic. This little thing was replanted. Mr. Wong just wanted us to smell the roots. Exactly the same scent as Tiger Balm!!

The Selasih which according to Mr. Wong is good for coughs. The leaves taste minty and refreshing.

But this is the piece de resistance ! The last time I saw this bush and its fruit was in my late mother-in-law's garden in New Zealand. Mr. Wong had 'dressed' it up to justify the label of the Stocking Bush.

The flower of this bush has such an intoxicating scent.

And here's the fruit.

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's Heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

Mrs. D.F. Gurney (1858-1932)

Thank you Mr. Wong for sharing your garden and its joy and knowledge with us.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Up in them there Hills

We're off tomorrow to Cameron Highlands for a week - to the cool, and the forests and the quiet - maybe??

No computers, no radio, (we hardly watch TV), and this is part of our luggage.

But the grey matter also needs some stimulation and so this reading material will suffice.

As I think I am going to have such a 'cool' time up there in the hills, I am inserting this song.

Aaaahhh! If only I were taller, I could fit the bill although I do have a black dress? See you in a week's time.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Vignettes of The Other Terrorism

Standing her ground: An Arab woman protesting about a boy's arrest faces up to a baton-wielding Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip. Photograph by Jez Coulson (Insight). -1989.

HEALTH WARNING: This posting may distress Zionists, crypto-Zionists and Friends of Israel.
I am also heedful of this cautionary line from the Guardian.

During the late 1980s, through to the 90s and the turn of the century - as I was settling down to married life in England - it was not to a routine of 'tea and crumpets', shopping at Marks and Spencers, collecting Queen Anne glass and silver plated ornaments, waiting for post Christmas sales or sorties to Paris and Rome.

I found myself tied up with taking cuttings from broadsheet papers like the Observer (a Sunday paper), The Guardian, The Times, the Financial Times and also picking up the tabloid Sun that people left behind on buses and trains. In those days the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 produced some wonderful, powerful documentaries and I would break out into indignant expostulations about some of their rubbishy and biased comments on Islam and other cultures. I would be taking notes on pieces of scrap paper whenever I came across little gems - like when Channel 4's Dispatches programme on 11 March 1988 revealed that US aid to Israel amounted to US$1,500 per head while US$3 per head is good enough for Ethiopians.

By 40 one should stop having to 'grow up'. It's a time to mellow into a cosy middle age. But thanks to this stint of my life in 'the belly of the whale' that is England, I 'blossomed' intellectually, had the scales removed from my eyes and gathered the kindlings for the 'fire in my belly'. My father had lit the fire and Keith (my late father-in-law) and his son fanned the flames.

A couple of days ago, I found this collection of my cuttings which had moved house twice in Leicester and finally crossing over 6000 miles of ocean to Kuala Lumpur.

You see, what is happening in Palestine, Gaza and the Middle East did not begin with September 11, 2001. Terrorism is not a Muslim invention. In fact the so-called War on Terror is just old wine (the Crusades) in a new bottle. Richard Ingram, from the Observer was brave enough to make this statement after September 11. I was in my backyard bringing in the washing when my neighbour Ola, looking upset said, "Did you hear what happened to the Twin Towers in New York?" I knew of it from the radio news. I simply commented, "What did the Americans expect?" and she looked aghast and walked back into her house. So I was quite happy when I found someone with more credibility than me expressing the same opinion.

A few days later at Asda Supermarket they had set up a Book of Condolences for the victims of September 11!! I looked at the book, read the usual notes of angst and pain for America's tragedy. Then I looked around, made sure no one was waiting behind me to make a contribution and I wrote in that book "What about remembering the victims in Palestine and the tens of thousands of children killed by American/Western sanctions against Iraq?". We did our shopping and on our way out, we noticed The Book had been removed! I felt I was on Cloud Number Nine.

Anyway here are my vignettes from the past. Wordsworth wrote 'The child is father of the man'. And the terrors of today are born of the past except there is no ending. Red is the colour of all the blood shed, but the bleeding and the tears and torment are suffered mainly by those in the Middle East.

LITTLE NOTES ON THE DEATHS OF LITTLE (literally and metaphorically) PEOPLE

OF ISRAELI JUSTICE from The Guardian 27.3.1988



"I once put it rather pungently, and I was flattered that the British Foreign Secretary repeated this, as follows .....namely in earlier times, it was easier to control a million people, than physically to kill a million people. Today it is infinitely easier to kill a million people than to control a million people. It is easier to kill than to control." - Zbigniew Brzezinski, a New World Order proponent and a founder of the Rockefeller-controlled Trilateral Commission in a speech to British elites at Chatham House on November 17th, 2008.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Pertama Kasih, Kedua Budi. (Firstly Love and then Kindness)

Wobbly knees (mine) and arthriticky hip joints (the spouse's) have crippled the dynamic duo somewhat. Hence the belated note of appreciation to kind people in Kuala Lumpur.

Twelve days ago the spouse and I were guests at a luncheon where we met up with Puteri Kama and Pak Abu who kindly graced the occasion despite their return home from the Umrah just two days before. There was another familiar friendly face in Pok Ku and meeting new friends in the shape of our host's old classmates. It was a mixed bunch of OAPs but what a bunch! The only economically-active person at the table was that youngster, my former student Din who will have to wait for some years before he can delight in the oldtimers' lifestyle!

The man, who made it all possible (psstt, who also footed the bill) was Mohd Som - and his lovely wife.

The food was great and the conversation was lively and stimulating, mainly concerns about 'Whither the Malays?' and 'Wither the Malays'.

Thank you all, especially to you Som, for the company and hospitality. And here's an amusing extract from our colonial education.

Another day the Mat Jeroks and Minah Gorengs shall meet again - including one Mat Salleh.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

The Pious, The Rich and The Ugly.

The Singapore Straits Times on 15 November 2008 ran an article which described an incredibly revealing facet of Made-in-Singapore Enterprise - to marry Mammon with the Angel of Charity.

How do you couple charity and profit? Well, here's the reasoning, straight from the horse's mouth.

A study by John Hopkins University revealed that "the non-profit sector of eight developed countries contributed an average of 5% of their GDP..... The non-profit sector grew at an average of 8.1%, twice the rate of their average GDP growth."

According to Dr Lester Salamon, the Director of John Hopkins University's Centre for Civil Society Studies, "the non-profit sector of 40 countries ...generated up to US$2 trillion worth of expenditure." In Singapore, "this sector generated at least $30 million in business spending and added about $60million of value to Singapore's output per year over the past three years." This is why Mr. Jonathan Kua, director of the Economic Development Board's New Business Group is happy to announce, "It would be good for us as a country .. to be a base for some of this good work that yields us economic spin-offs and allow us to get involved in reaching out to the region." I must say I'm a little concerned about Team Singapore's outreach to 'the region'. Remember the adage "Beware of the Greek bearing gifts".

Singapore's pecuniary foray reminds me of the Parable of the Talents from the New Testament, Matthew 25:14-30. Here, a talent refers to a monetary unit worth about 20 years' wages for a labourer.

It is about a master who gave 5 talents to one servant, two to the next servant and one talent to the third. The first two doubled their money and made the master happy. But the third was punished because he did not invest or speculate with the talent and buried it in the ground. He told his master [24]......'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, [25] .... and I went and hid your talent in the ground.'

The angry master then gave away this servant's one talent to the first servant saying [29] For to everyone who has will more will be given, .....But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.'

Read the full text of The Parable of The Talents here this

It's easy to locate the inspiration behind Tony Blair, Mr Richard Tan of SRI, the other proponents of that Gospel of Money-Spinners and the hopeful wannabe-wealthy who happily parted with some of their talents to learn from the likes of the Master, the first and the second servants.

But Team Singapore does not need the guidance of the above for they are overflowing with both secular and Biblical Talent. It's the others who [30]....will be weeping and gnashing ...teeth.

I feel compelled to post this image of this Charity, one of the hopeful ones who indicated a desire to 'invest' in Singapore in the future. PETA animal rights' activists with banderillas (decorated darts used in bullfighting) on their bodies, in Brussels last month to demonstrate against bullfights.

'All creatures great and small. The Lord God made them all.' The creatures in this picture are neither 'great' nor 'small'.