Monday 27 December 2010


The above comment by Stirling Road moved me to do this posting, a detour from my train trip.

I am so pleased that the photo on my side bar touched him/her so deeply. It has done what I hoped it would do - to remind us of a "lonely world only the boy and the cat share".

In reply I would like to post  my encounters  with children  during  my travels in the 1980s and 1990s.

I remember our experience in Malaga (Spain)  sometime in the 1980s.  We were sitting and resting on a bench placed by the side of this big avenue watching a number of Gypsy children aged from 6-12 darting dangerously between and in front of cars  trying to sell some items to the drivers.  At times we flinched because these children were taking great risks in their attempts to sell their goods.

Then one of them, a little boy of about 7 came to us with a packet of tissues to sell.  We were sick and fed up of being bothered by touts on our holiday.  But  this was just a child and we had seen him dicing with death on the avenue.

We felt so sorry and sad.  Yes, Stirling Road we could not  hold back those sentiments.  But pity had no place in our thoughts because  it is patronising and condescending and arrogant.

We paid for the tissues and gave him much more than he expected.  We saw him run to his elder sister to give her the money.   Within a few minutes she approached us with more packets of tissues in her hands.  And we were aghast.  We're being taken for a soft touch - she's going to dump more of her stuff on us.  We should have realised these were Gypsy kids and they are canny and sharp.  Those were our thoughts.

There followed  a series of gestures between this English-speaking couple and the Spanish-speaking Gypsy girl.  We were saying 'no, no' and of course we could not decipher her retorts as these packets of tissue were being shoved between her and us.

Finally in exasperation she left the tissue-packs on our laps and ran off to join the others to carry on doing her 'job'.  It then dawned on us why she did what she did!  She was  giving us the tissues because earlier, we had paid more than we should.  She was not trying to sell us more.  She would only take money for what  had been  sold.  To her it was a straightforward business deal.  She did not want charity.  Or pity????

We felt ashamed of our doubts and our fears of these children .  They had more guts and honour than all the politicians in Spain or Britain or Malaysia  put together!

But  I must also confess to being insensitive and unkind to child-beggars.  I was waiting alone while the spouse had gone off to buy our train tickets  at Bombay's Victoria Railway Station. I soon  found myself encircled by a dozen or so small open hands begging for money.  They were moving their hands from patting their  stomachs  to pointing to their mouths and then to your face.  These were gestures of deprivation and poverty that I was confronted with, day after day after day,  during our trip in India.

I could not cope any more with these 'assaults' on my conscience, on  my sense of guilt and the  unremitting poverty of  the Indian sub-continent.  But more than anything else what angered me was the obscene  gap between the rich and the poor.   I put my hands to my head and yelled  " Go, go to Rajiv Gandhi!!".  He was the Prime Minister of India then.  And they all fled and I stood there in tears.

You see Stirling Road ,  I could not give them feelings of sadness or pity or encouragement.   I was enraged and furious at the INJUSTICE.  Why should these children suffer while others live in the lap of luxury? 

I felt the same for that child from  Pusat Tahfiz Amal.  I have given up on most cries for  "charity and love" for the poor and the oppressed.   Charity only gives the donor a feel-good  experience, like giving themselves a pat on the back.  Giving just love to the destitutes  is an insult to them and at times self-serving.

For as long as injustice prevails, when the rich and powerful amass wealth at the expense of the country and its people, everything else being done is marginal, like sticking a piece of  plaster on  an oozing gangrene.

Thank you  Stirling Road for your insight and compassion.  Your childhood is very much like that of  Jailani Abu Bakar (posting on 8 November)   and you both have turned out to be kinder and sensitive human beings.

Friday 24 December 2010

T O O T !!!!!!!

This is for me the most exciting sound in the world.  The train was just taking a deep slow breath before it puffed on  its way with a  fanfare of  "toot".  This little ditty I learned when I was a Girl Guide served to remind me of the glory of a moving train.

Coffee, coffee, coffee, ( say this slowly)
Cheese and biscuits, cheese and biscuits, cheese and biscuits(you say this bit a little faster)
Beef and carrots, beef and carrots, beef and carrots,   (and even faster like a train picking up speed)
Fish and chips, fish and chips, fish and chips,  (and with a huffing motion)
Soouupp!  ( and off she goes on the track into the horizon)

(And thank you Mr Bojangles for correcting my toot to soup)

I  taught this 'activity'  in my English Language classes and it  never failed to revive the sleepyheads.
My sister's grandchildren loved this too although the poor parents were driven cuckoo by the loud echoes of "soouupp"  in their cars.

And here is my ticket - the last one - of my journey from Singapura to Kuala Lumpur. 

The Glorious Engine  6561

The Beginning of the End

The man holding the job I yearned for

Lots more to tell - later.

Thursday 16 December 2010


How I love the scent of  steam from the engine of a coal-fired train.  The clickety clack of the train's wheels have always been a part of my psyche and fired the journeys of my life, both  real and imaginary. 

A long, long time ago  my only ambition was to be a train driver!   I  mentioned this to my Abah and he just nodded and said  "wait and see".

At 66 I still haven't got over my craze and love for trains  and - later when I could afford it - for train journeys.   My one big dream is to travel the train across the Rockies or the fabulous train across Peru.

The last time I departed from Tanjong Pagar
But the train journey closest to my heart is the Kretapi Tanah Melayu  (KTM) from Singapore to anywhere in the Malay Peninsula.  And the name of the station at the end of the line - Tanjong Pagar - always evoked such lovely memories  of the magic of departure and arrival. 

Next year this magnificient station will be cut off from KTM forever and ever.  Decades of train history will be  wiped off and now   the soul and spirit of train travel  will end at Woodlands, that fearful-looking fortress which welcomes your entry into  Singapore from the north .

What will Singapore do to this majestic monument of  Malaya's transport history?  Behind me is a giant-sized  wall painting of padi farming.  It is just one of several  depictions - at Tanjong Pagar Station - of  old Malaya's economic activities.  I shudder to think that these might be replaced or laced with huge, crass banners advertising MacDonalds, Gucci and Estee Lauder!

Tomorrow we will take this train trip from Kuala Lumpur  to Singapore.  We shall arrive at and depart ( on  Wednesday)  from Tanjong Pagar for the last time.

Kretapi Tanah Melayu and Kerajaan Malaysia - I hope you know what you have done.  I hope future generations will not regret what you have terminated.

It's such a shame.

Sunday 12 December 2010


My sister Maznah had two autograph books covering 1953 and 1954.  It was beholden on every red-blooded pupil of Pasir Panjang English School to tote up as many signatures as possible in that precious book - like collecting notches in your pistol.  Who else could she recruit as 'volunteers' but the family?  Abah was always willing to oblige, bless his cotton socks.

The other three siblings would not do it for love or money!  We tried to escape but it was to no avail because she was the eldest - the 'she-who-must-be-obeyed'.

My pathetic attempt was ignominously pasted over as  seen below.  You can just see the 'Dear Sister' at the top left hand corner,  'Maznor' at the bottom right hand corner and my creative hearts can be found
at the bottom left. (With age the glue dried up and and my dreadful deed was exposed)  Oh the shame!

As a result of this boo-boo she dared not recruit the other younger two.  It would be an invitation to disaster.  She would never live down the scorn of her schoolmates.  Yippee ! yelled the two boys.

We found ourselves in demand for her second book.  This was a big risk but she had aces up her sleeve.

My oh-so-clever quote .....
was selected from Abah's big fat  Book of Quotations.

I was given top billing, to be given the coveted page next to her introduction.

 I did a superb job for my sister.  I took the trouble to draw lines in pencil to keep my writing straight.  I even underlined little red curves under each sentence .

But I drew the line at schmucky words like 'dearest sister' and 'your loving sister'.  You see, I was 10 years old then and I was already a tough cookie.

I had picked a hard-hitting caution about erring.

 This was also because I knew I needed a lot of forgiving for my many misdeeds.  There was the time when I sewed holes into my sister's leaflet from Crescent Girls 'School regarding the pattern for her school uniform.  That left her in tears .  And so did I from the whacking my mother gave me.

As for that eight year old rascal Mus,  his pome was a scream!  It left me with tears ...... of laughter.

I reckoned he was told what to write, how to write and he even succumbed to the salutation of  "Your Loving Brother".  But  one can easily tell that this was a last-minute instruction because the writing went wonky.

Also he did not complete the last 'e' for coffee.  It must be because of the call from his mates to sneak away for a swim at Pasir Panjang seaside .  Oh yes!  He thought he could hide that from our mother.  But she discovered sand in the pockets of his trousers and he was left with nowhere to hide.

She threatened to tie him - naked - to the coconut tree  in front of  our house.  We were all subjected to the same intimidation.  But that coconut tree never had that joy!!

Our late Akim was just five in 1954.  When we were all away at school, he spent most of his lonely time carrying and cuddling  our  family cat.
Akim also loved inspecting the crevices in the walls and on the cement floor -  near our water tank- for creepy crawlies like ants, beetles and other tiny insects .  He did not touch or hurt them.  He simply followed their movement with his little fingers.

I remembered this because I was his 'baby' sitter and minder from that age till the day he passed away in 1982.

As for this contribution, did Akim actually write this mushy tosh?
Was there a phantom writer?  After all this snotty kid was just five.  How could his handwriting be better than Mus's and mine?  His command of the English language was limited to repeating the last word  in sentences that Mus read from his 'Old Lob ' book.  Whenever Mus read "This is Old Lob', you can hear the echo of 'Lob' from Akim.  Also words like Mr Grumps, Miss Tibs, Mr. Dan and Percy the Chick reverberated about our dining-study table whenever Mus was told to read  his book.

Akim's favourite song then was "Amapola"

I shall never forget his sweet rendition of the one-word lyric 'poppy' from the line  "Amapola, my pretty little poppy'.

HERE THEY ARE - looking  like butter won't melt in their mouths..........
From the left:  a cussed-looking Mus,  sweet shy Akim,  pretty Maznah and nerdy me.

Thank you and bless you 'Nah for looking after these two precious books all these years and for allowing me  to publicise the contents for my blog.

Sometimes we need to be prodded to remember with gratitude our happy childhood and our wonderful parents.  This is not just sentimental nostalgia.  This is all about what we are now - warts and all.


This was created for Maznah by Pa'cik Agus.  And the message can also be applied to all for all time.

This is our father's  colleague and good friend from Sumatra who's also a poet and artist.  Thank you Pa'cik Agus for the reflection of the light from your mirror.

Friday 10 December 2010


It is  the equivalent of a Facebook.  Near the end of each school term, especially during the final year of Primary School  we would be given a present of an Autograph Book for the purpose of collecting quips and quotes  from friends, relatives and especially our teachers. 

It became quite a challenge to fill up your book and I do feel for the teachers who were chased by 30 to 40 pupils for their wise thoughts and signatures.  The seeds of the paparazzi  scramble were sown then.  Secretly, I think the teachers felt quite honoured to be asked.  And they would feel quite insecure if no pupil went up to them for 'contributions'.

Oh how I envied my sister for her TWO autograph books from 1953 to 1954.  I've been leafing through those pages again and again .  I knew almost all of her friends in her books.  Her teachers were mine as well and of course we 'shared' the same relatives!

I am sure she would like to share her treasured collection with my readers.  It is almost a historical document of the social life and relationships,  of language and communication  from 60 years ago.  And mind you, children then could write complete sentences and spell exact words instead of  LOL,  gr8 and mwah mwah!!

There were messages of friendship like:


There's also a dose of good advice like

I especially love these cheeky recommendations.


And of course the ultimate dream and ambition for all young lasses!

And here's one of my favourite poems .  It seemed that our teacher Mr Thakurta also liked it a lot.
This very mature advice  came from the brightest girl in my sister's class.  She became a dentist and she had the 'privilege'  of tending to my teeth several times.

But these home-made  poems are the real gems.  Today it would be a difficult job to discover such innocent DIY pomes.

I shall end on my cousin Rohani's note.  More treasures later.



Friday 3 December 2010

Happy Birthday Mus

Missed your birthday by nearly an hour.  So here's a big , crazy  greeting - better late than never.

Hope you had a fabulous  MELEPAK  day. 

And may there be more days like this.  Thanks to Pickled Herring for this disgusting photograph.

Many happy returns for your 39th (?)  birthday from the Dynamic Duo (?).

THE 11th COMMANDMENT - Thou shalt not criticise Israel

From The Star - 25 November 2010.

"Revised definition of anti-Semitism could shield Israel from criticism and silence emerging Palestinian voices.

The second summit of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA)  concluded  in Ottawa, Canada, earlier this month.

The summit, which was attended by parliamentarians from some 50 countries, discussed ways to combat what was described as "a dramatic increase in recorded anti-Semitic hate crimes....."   (what about the increase in the savage state-sponsored   murders  committed by  Israel  in Palestine and Gaza, aided by their cronies in the West, especially the USA?  My comment) 

The key outcome of the summit, however, proved to be controversial - a widening of the definition of anti-Semitism to encompass criticism of the state of Israel.

By arguing that the state of Israel  is  "the collective Jew,"   (doesn't that make Israel a racist state,  that practices apartheid on the native Palestinians?  My comment.)  criticism of the state of Israel could become de facto, an anti-Semitic act punishable by law. "

So, before this demand becomes sanctified by the West and other Friends of Israel  I had better  publicise these gems tonight in my blog.

These I got from the Muslim Association of Britain's  (MAB)  pamphlet  "Zionism - The Truth".    It had been in my keeping since before the 2003  War on Iraq.You can locate MAB at

A few months ago,  we were attending a Seminar in Penang.  Among other things discussed, the panellists who were mainly from the Indian sub-continent  were waxing  lyrical about  non-violence and    the Gandhian  mode of opposing  aggression and assault  on the world stage.  I cannot see how  this 'turning of the other cheek'  mantra can  be applicable to  the Palestinians.  It smacks of crass ignorance and a blind disregard for the sufferings of the Palestinians for over 60 years at the hands of Israel and the USA.

I wished that these  'renowned'  academics  had also  considered  this statement by Malik El-Shabazz.

"Concerning nonviolence, it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks."

But then El-Shabazz is not as revered as Gandhi or the Dalai Lama.

You see, he is black,  an American who challenged  the WASP establishment and he's a Muslim to boot!

He was also known as Malcolm X.