Saturday 31 July 2010

In the spirit of "Scotland the Brave"

From tomorrow - for a week - AsH will be "takin the high road" to Penang with her brave Scotsman of the Clan Buchanan.Tartan Clan Buchanan

The Motto "Clarior Hinc Honos" means "Henceforth forward the honour shall glow ever brighter"

Loch Lomond in Buchanan Country

Remember how he was terrified of being under the same roof with six young ladies from Singapore?

Well, this time he will be 'riding through' a Seminar titled "Resisting Hegemony", and with 'bold hearts and nodding plumes' he shall present his case. It will be quite a challenge because I reckon the other participants are not as pretty and as loopy as the girls in the Rainbow Band.

I wish I could find him a sarung that has the same colours as his tartan because I think he would find it a great comfort to hold - like Linus and his blanket.

But never mind, the 'spirit of Scotia' and nearly 25 years of eating petai and sambal blacan should see him through.

See you all in one week's time.

Friday 30 July 2010


Hell's Bells, they're here!
This was the stark look of fear when Lely, Ruqxana, Roy and Shyama turned up just before the witching hour on Friday 23 July.

After scrutinising their tent for bugs (organic and technical) and hidden cameras, they got to bed but not to sleep.

We all had tosay on Saturday morning except for our virus-ridden Ruq who could only partake of a lonely oats porridge breakfast.

Oi Bek and Irene arrived late morning with my foldable bicycle (thank you!) and two more hungry mouths to feed. As they didn't feel like going out to eat, I managed to scrounge in the freezer and found a 6 months old (ha ha) box of frozen pasta sauce. So that was lunch served from freezer to stove to table.

Ruq had to go to the clinic for antibiotics but her mates were there to give her moral support.

They then went on a hunting and gathering and shopping expedition to sort out dinner.
But they later realized only the watermelon was edible. All the rest of the greens had to be planted in our garden!

They are seen here prowling around our neighbourhood looking for firewood, leaves and edible fruits and branches to cook a green and uncorporatised dinner.Fortunately they kept away from the neighbours' papayas and mangos because these Singaporeans could not recognise such fruit trees. (ha ha! Stop it. Don't hit me.)

Because Roy had not eaten sayur paku (ferns) for the past 30 years (it's not part of the Aussies' tucker), I cooked them this platefuland they had it for tea time! They will eat anything at any odd time.

They had a whale of a time larking about in the garden.

But Uncle and Teech were about ready to climb the walls and even thought of lacing this mob's food with 500 grams of Valium!

Uncle was in dire need of male company and he got a reprieve when sunnysideup turned up.Oi Bek: How did he get in?
Sunnysideup: All these women? Is this heaven or hell?
Irene: I can give you Lucifer's room number - 0061!

More reinforcement came in the shape of Dinbut he was too absorbed looking for incriminating evidence of his dastardly past in the old JSS School Magazine.

We decided to take a raincheck on the girls' offer of cooking dinner. Thank goodness! Before stepping out for the nearby restaurant Mus offered to take the obligatory group photograph. Could not decide which one to choose because they all looked awful. So I am posting both.

It was such a glorious evening sky when we left for dinner. (Photo by courtesy of sunnysideup)

That was the Saturday, that was!

Wednesday 28 July 2010

The Sunshine of Their Smiles.

The 'kids' from Jurong Secondary School (1977) held their Reunion at our abode from July 23-25 - and this lovely photograph of them taken by my brother Mus aka sunnysideup says everything I want to say about those three days.

Amongst them are two Chinese, two Indians, one Peranakan and two Malays. It is vital that I state their racial background because their close friendship which they nurtured for over 30 years since they left school bears testimony to what Singaporeans and Malaysians should be and can be.

I have decided to keep this happy picture on my side-bar, to remind me that some thirty plus years ago I managed to do something right.

The complete gory details of that Reunion will come later.

Shyama, I hope you are now safely ensconced in Jakarta.

Roy (Raden Rohaya), have a safe journey back to Perth and your kids on Monday.

As for the Singapore lasses: Irene, Lely, Oi Bek and Ruqxana, keep on swinging.

Din will have to polish up his act before Ben comes along to challenge his thorny status amongst the roses.

Friday 23 July 2010

The Maverick's Moan

Two days ago, while drawing up a legal document with my niece Maria, we were informed of an orphanage for children suffering from AIDS. Maria also told us that, just like the metropolitan inhabitants, KL orphanages are better endowed than those on the fringe like in Rawang for instance.

During our younger days our concept of an orphan was a child whose parent or parents were dead. As children we were scared to death of losing our parents - of becoming anak yatim (orphans). We were often told not to lift and swing our legs up and down when we were lying on our stomachs because we will be invoking the demise of our parents!

Today an orphan can also be a child who has been abandoned or sent off to an orphanage because its parent/s are too poor, or because of a family breakdown like a divorce. It is crucial to state here that the divorce rate for Muslims/Malays is approximately three times that of non-Muslims!

Ramadan is just round the corner. We can expect to see a lot of programmes pleading for donations to various orphanages around the country. This is a good time to ask for donations because donors are assured of berganda pahala (lots of blessings and credit for the hereafter).

I've been in Malaysia for three Ramadans and what I watch on TV makes me depressed. These children need financial support every day of their lives - not only during Ramadan and Hari Raya. Food and shelter, clothing and schooling expenses do not reach a peak only during Ramadan.

I hope our wise Ulamas will take the time and make an effort to draw up some kind of edict to compel and/or persuade Muslims in Malaysia to dig into their pockets on a regular basis to sustain these unfortunate orphans , instead of searching for the devil's icons and Christian Crosses on T-shirts.

Sometimes this old teacher gets weary with the ways of the world and wishes for the days of yore when life and religious practices were gentler and simpler - yet just as meaningful and spiritual. There wouldn't be any electricity, no cars, no TV and no water at the turn of a tap, no ethnic tension and stress - perhaps a shorter life span. Call me escapist, idealist.... but I still reckon that life for a Malay, then, was not as toxic as it sometimes seems today.

Here are a couple of images from one of my precious books on Malaya, "Paddy Lands" (1947) by Grace Garnier and illustrated by Nora Hammerton.

Even the days of my lovely mother would do!! This photo was taken in 1949 at our first kampung house, Pasir Panjang.
She's standing happily - next to her radio.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo !

And so it had come to pass....... sometime in early July, Malaysia's Sharia Court appointed two women judges. Suraya Ramli was appointed for Putrajaya and Rafidah Abdul Razak was made a judge in the Kuala Lumpur Sharia Court. Both women are in their thirties.

But later came a proviso - these ladies could only hear civil cases, not criminal cases. Also, they cannot sit on Divorce cases except for issues related to child custody, common property and alimony. Call this One Step for Women ....??

Nowadays you often hear the term "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus". According to this notion, women complain about problems because they want an acknowledgement of their problems, while men complain in order to find solutions to their problems. The Malaysian Sharia Court situation seems to be a twist of this. While the men acknowledged the problems, the women really wanted solutions.

Well, even in the secular world of the West, the two sexes are at loggerheads. It was not too long ago that women in Britain were required to be seen and not heard - to be a soft and attractive comforter for their menfolk.

Do watch this video by my favourite comedian Harry Enfield which illustrates brilliantly the Martians and Venusians of Planet Earth.

And so, boys and girls, let me lead you on to a real story. We were attending the One-day Conference "In the Spirit of Rachel Corrie and Mavi Marmara" at PWTC on the 11th of July. During the lunch break we met a blogger who was keen to inform us of his publications. Most of the time he was conversing with the spouse.

But I broke The Rule.

I opened my mouth and offered my view - like the woman in the video clip. The said Blogger decided to ignore me and stared vacantly somewhere else like I was invisible. Mind you he was no irascible old codger like we over-60s are supposed to be. He must be at least 15-20 years younger.

What did I do to court the displeasure of Our Brown Sir?

I only made what I thought was a modestly intelligent and intelligible comment - for a woman!

When we got home I decided to beat up the spouse. Ouch! Ouch! The poor sod!

Saturday 17 July 2010


Most news of Ben has come from Din, his mate from JSS days.

Although he had, at times, communicated with the rest of the gang via their facebooks, text messages and in my blog they were only little 'peeps and winks' (his words), rather like the elusive leprechaun.

The Girls and his mate tried to get him to come for the Reunion next week-end but they now know Ben will not be able to grace and disgrace the get-together.

He had always been a cheeky sod from his schooldays. Very often he managed to make a quick getaway and fell on both feet. Call it the luck of the Baba leprechaun. But he is not as agile as he used to be. Life does that to you, Ben.

We shall miss the presence of this Baba Jendol.

This posting is to give you a message from Din, Irene, Lely, Oi Bek and Teech in three languages, that we shall make sure that one day soon, you will come back to KL, if only for a night.

That the Rainbow Band are standing by.

And regret nothing.

But not absolutely because like a ripple, our actions and inactions touch many other lives. And some of them are innocent.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

On Manufactured Seasoning Gunge aka MSG

This was the meal provided by Aerolines when we travelled to Singapore, recently.

Within half an hour of eating that seemingly attractive meal, we both developed a headache and nausea. We knew the reason why. The unnaturally 'nice' taste about that meal was because of MSG.

We asked the Steward if there was MSG in the food, but he looked puzzled. When we said 'aji-no-moto' he beamed a silly smile and responded with "But nice lor!" with an inflection on the word 'nice' as if to say , "What are you grumbling for?".

That disgraceful statement encapsulates what seem to be Malaysians' attitude to MSG, and their ignorance of its side effects - what some researchers describe as slow poisoning. Just trawl through the internet and you can get a vast range of information on the harm that MSG can inflict on your health, both short term and long term. Asthmatics and diabetics, in particular, have been advised to be extra-vigilant.

I'm no scare-monger, but I have seen enough of MSG's unpleasant - and at times alarming - aftermath. It is claimed that MSG in moderation is harmless. But how do you measure 'moderate" when this chemical is so widespread in our food chain - from processed and packaged food, including baby food, to the meals we consume at roadside food stalls, food courts, restaurants and hotels? Even our favourite pisang goreng (banana fritters) are not spared! Do read the ingredients on the snacks that our children devour - they look like a chemical formula for toilet cleansers!

If we think we can avoid MSG by keeping away from local food-stalls and turn instead to fast-food chains we are in for a surprise. I do not want to be sued by these Big Boys, but as I've said before, do your own reading and research.

Although it is mandatory for food manufacturers to label their products, the absence of the letters MSG does not give you the all-clear. MSG slips in - in words like 'natural flavour'. Other 'hidden names' for MSG include calcium caseinate, hydrolyzed plant protein, yeast extract, yeast food or nutrient, glutamic acid and sodium caseinate. There are innumerable websites that write about how food made with products like malt extract, modified food starch, rice syrup, natural beef and chicken seasonings, maltodextrin, soy sauce extract and loads more - also contain MSG.

In a country with such a rich culinary heritage as Malaysia's, food does not require a taste enhancer like MSG. I recalled how my mother got 'conned' into using what was then Ve-Tsin and Aji-no-Moto. We persuaded her that her cooking tasted just as delicious without that white powder. She went back to using prawns, dried or fresh to augment the flavour of her laksa and mee rebus. Rendang and sambal blacan and curry can stand on their own without such additives.

But today, many chefs from the electronic and print media happily drench their recipes with bahan perasa (seasoning), aka monosodium glutamate.

Perhaps I consider myself fortunate as my body sets off an alarm whenever I get an overdose of MSG. Just because one does not suffer a negative side-effect, it does not indicate that this food-enhancer is benign. Our food is saturated with this additive and too much of it, like excessive salt and sugar, are detrimental to our health.

All the more we have to scrutinize and be selective about what we feed our young as well as ourselves. I am not one for banning this and that. Malaysians are sufficiently mature (?!) to decide on what they consider good enough for their palate and their health. However, when we eat out, we should be given a choice on what is added to our food. I do not want MSG at all and I know I'm not alone in that request. For those who cannot enjoy their meals without MSG, place a container of the stuff on their table and they can then spray their food with as much as they like.

Right now, eating out at the food stalls and other eating places is not a pleasure any more. It has turned into a health hazard.

What was once described as "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" can now be suitably changed to "Malaysian Makan Syndrome" - all because of Manufactured Seasoning Gunge.

Friday 9 July 2010

The OAPS's Jalan-Jalan at Cameron Highlands (CsH)

It started with gazing in admiration at Mr Wong Kok Peng's compact and bountiful garden.

We may be over the hill (ha ha) but we still delight in the joy of good food. So used is my sister to feeding her brood of children and grandchildren that she did not forget to pack for us her nasi lemak, sambal ikan bilis, sliced cucumber and hard-boiled eggs for our dinner.Scrumptious!! I mean the food, not those two curmudgeons

Breakfast was made up of - Waiting for Tosay

And - Demolishing the Tosay

Other than that, the fantastic four spent their time chasing flowers and plants and .... more flowers and plants.

A visit to Taman Agroteknologi MARDI
is a must for all gardening enthusiasts. My sister's most persistent question was - "Can this grow below (i.e. in the lowlands) ?"

We came back to Kuala Lumpur with a carload of plants from Mr Wong's garden. He recognised another gardening aficionado in my sister and gave her free rein to dig up whatever seedlings she wanted. Thank you Mr Wong for not only giving us your plants but also for sharing your tips and expertise - you're a gem.

At Jalan Mentigi, Mr K. Sinnannan's house, the spouse asked and was allowed to take cuttings from this resplendently red bougainvillea.

And my sister was over the moon with her cutting of this purple hibiscus.

But this is my favourite photograph, these happy chooks in the hen-house at Jalan Mentigi.

One last look at Mr Wong's garden, and the Fab Four set out for the journey back to KL. They arrived home, tired but happy - just like the ending in a school essay titled: "An Unforgettable Journey to Cameron Highlands".

Post Script : Dear Nah and 'Bang 'Long, here's a picture for your family album.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Getting Away From It All - Again! (CsH)

Abang 'Long, Maznah, Maznoor and Iain

We were already feeling decrepit 15 years ago.

10 grandchidren later, my sister and brother-in-law felt like recapturing those carefree days.

After the last wild week-end in Singapore, we also yearned to travel in the same direction.

So tomorrow, the four OAPs will be heading for the hills, for Cameron Highlands. To all and sundry we will be incommunicado until Thursday.

Especially for Maria and Hidayah you will be chasing your tails looking after your little horrors - while Tok Wan and Tok Bah will be charging their batteries.

Uncle and Auntie Teech hope to find the fountain of youth up in the hills before the Rainbow Band turn up at our wigwam for their Reunion in 3 weeks' time.

Try to be good, every one. See you all in a week's time.

Friday 2 July 2010

Report Card on Sunday's Shindig

Lely's Flat at Dover Road

Surprise, surprise, Lely can cook - and she's a good one too! As we approached her floor we could sniff the aroma of her asam pedas wafting through the door. All we had to do to locate her new flat was to follow our noses.

The proof of the cooking is in the eating. Clockwise from the bottom. Lely's plate was empty because she was kept busy topping up the food, Oi Bek - she caught the biggest, crispiest fish grrrr, Shyama - almost finishing her second? third? helping, Ruqxana - clutching her right hand to stop it moving too rapidly from hand to mouth, Irene the artist - arranging her food display before scoffing it down, AsH - spooning ladles of the asam pedas gravy to drown her rice, just the way she liked it, and finally, the girls' Uncle and the only rose among the thorns - doing a Derridean analysis of the piquancy, texture and composition of Lely's culinary Abstractions, while guzzling the sambal blacan by the spoonfuls.

Out of 10 :
Asam Pedas - 8 (room for improvement by making two pots of the stuff instead of one)
Dalcha - 8 (same problem as the above)
Fried keledek leaves - 7 (my first time in 66 years)
Fried selar kuning - 7 (not crispy enough because Oi Bek got the best piece)
Sambal blacan - 11 (must not invite Uncle the next time)
Ambience and Decor of the premises - 9 . The cool breeze was a bonus - so let's make it 10.

But Lely had one special asset that boosted her rating to ************************ - her lovely, lively and thoroughly sweet 91 year old granny, Jennifer.

The horde of greedy gourmandes then proceeded to Oi Bek's recently renovated flat at Bedok.

As you entered the flat - the sight made your heart skip a beat. No, three beats. Very sophisticated , urbane and elegant - in the design, decor and furnishing. Kudos to Oi Bek. It was worth all the headaches and heartaches.

Just one problem. Oi Bek could not locate the freezer in her super-duper, hi-tech refrigerator. The promise of HD ice-cream turned to a soggy tub of gooey cream. But never mind. The dear girl put on a spread of salmon, fresh cream, water biscuits, blue cheese, Japanese snacks and dark chocolate. We discovered later that we had eaten up the food supply meant for her boyfriend. He was going to visit her the next week.

After they had wiped the table clean, the girls abandoned Uncle to his own devices. But first they wrapped him up nice and warm - to keep him quiet.Eat your hearts out, Sean Connery and Ang Beng Hin.

The girls felt that the flat needed one dazzling modification. They recruited Irene, the only resident artist.

Irene obliged. All she had to do was to re-arrange the stickers on the glass door separating the kitchen from the dining room. That made a startling difference. Oi Bek's renovation is now complete.

What a week-end for two geriatrics! Three late nights in a row! Our waistlines and sanity were torn to shreds but who cares?

Finally, thank you to my Rainbow Band for a magical, marvellous week-end.

Thank you (in alphabetical order) Irene, Jai, Lely, Oi Bek, Ruqxana and Shyama.

P.S. When's the next invitation? This is just to keep you lot on your toes and to make sure that the high standards are maintained - especially the ahem asam pedas.