Monday 21 February 2011

Yuwrajh - The Return of the Bad Penny

'Twas a wet and wintry morning on Sunday 20 February.  At about 1100 hours the doorbell rang.

AsH had been full of trepidation for the last four days - awaiting the arrival of Yuwrajh and Hassan from London.

She had hoped that their SatNav would misdirect them into a tributary of the River Trent in the Midlands,   which would then land them in the North Sea.  What a lucky escape it would be for her and the spouse.

But they followed their noses - which led them straight to our front door.  The aroma of  nasi tomato, acar timun, spicy roast chicken with serai and cheesecake and mee rebus was too overpowering.

And here they are having their spot of lunch  .................................

.............................................but not before Yuwrajh had unloaded all the goodies and yum yums for Miss Hamid's birthday.  Thank you, terima kasih, kam sia, dhanyavadh!!

All the above will complement the spouse's tea-sy birthday present. It will be Tetley tea in bed in the morning,  Typhoo tea for elevenses, Yorkshire tea and 2 ginger biscuits at teatime.  (I had hoped for a diamond necklace ..... for the past 26 years.)  But he's got Scottish blood and woe is me.

Thank goodness Yuwrajh has the blood of the Maratha warrior - as well as successfully undergoing Singapore's National Service.  I know that next year he will scour the jungles, and Harrods and Holloway and Boon Lay Shopping Centre too, to get his ole Teech her heart's desire.

Finally,  thank you Hassan for driving the car that brought the bad penny to our house - AND for repairing the toilet cistern.   You did it in one minute - the spouse spent the last month staring at it every day and wringing his hands!   You are welcome any time to visit Leicester, with or without Yuwrajh.  But give us time to prepare our list of DIY jobs for you to do.

Above all, thank you Yuwrajh for remembering.  You are a joy to be with - lively and warm - just like the old days.  Here are a couple of Yesterday's Photographs to 'warm the cockles of your heart' and perhaps make you cry.

Take care and have a safe journey to New York.

Friday 11 February 2011

"Kail Berduri, Disalut Umpan"

Inikah dia lakunan hidup
Di pentas dunia insan berpura
Tipu dan daya pencapai maksud
Budi dan harta merangkum noda
                           Rosli  Hj.  Ahmad

My earlier  posting His Mentor's Voice , was a call for respect of  diversity.  It generated an interesting  mix of light and heat on my Comments page.  I try to give all-comers the oxygen of publicity but more and more it descended into a mire of trading (some) facts and (many) opinions and of self-indulgent nit-picking.  It also attracted some who are hooked on polemics - and  who love the sound of their own words.

It's time for a parable which people can deal with as they like.   But remember, please, it's just a fable.   If you don't like it, ignore it.

                        THE  LITTLE  GLASS   HOUSE

Once upon a time, in the middle of a big forest, there lived a gardener who believed he was an avatar. The forest did not please him: it was vast, unruly, impossible to manage.  Wanting something more to his liking, the gardener built a glass house, and fashioned his very own miniature garden.  It was the tidiest, brightest, and most colourful of gardens; there were no weeds and no pests, the grass never needed cutting, and year after year the flowers were beautiful and the fruit and vegetables grew big and in perfect shape.

The gardener, being a perfectionist, kept a tight watch on his product.  With great care, he calculated the formulae for success and made sure that the chemistry and the physics were right.  He gave his plants all they needed for growth - the right temperature and humidity, light and shade, water and minerals.  The discipline was complete, in a veritable factory of plants, row after row, tier after tier, weedless, bugless, properly fed.  His plants responded and thrived.

Every day, through the walls of his glass house, he would look out at the surrounding forest and he would shake his fist in fierce triumph: he had humbled the forest; he had created a little patch of paradise in his own image; he had proven his prowess and powers.

The gardener, being mortal , grew old.  More and more, he relied on his younger assistants to keep up the routine of cultivation, while he pottered about amongst his plants checking their specifications - making sure that the flowers, the fruit, and the vegetables were correct in their proportions and maintained in the proper manner.  And, now and then, he would shake his fist at the world outside.

But as he aged, the gardener grew edgy .  Things began to happen that were beyond his control.  First, it was the glass: an earthquake cracked some panes, and in the time it took to get them replaced the temperature changed and a few plants withered and died. Then it was the supply of chemicals: the company which the gardener had so long relied  on went bankrupt, and for weeks  the garden was put on short ration.  The result was disastrous: the plants had thrived on exact  proportions of chemical fertilizer, chemical herbicide, chemical fungicide and chemical pesticide. In the absence of these, half the plants died, and the rest became seriously sick.  The gardener was distraught.

And then the water supply was cut.  From the start, the gardener had piped in water from the forest.  Year after year, as he filled his glasshouse with more and bigger and better plants, he increased his demand and the forest obliged.  Suddenly, the supply fell to a trickle.  And the gardener, in an apoplexy of despair, could only shake his fist at the forest as his heaven shrivelled before his eyes.

The gardener, driven mad, faded quickly away.  His assistants, learning humility scaled down their ambition and their appetite, while some melted away into the surrounding forest.  The forest continued to survive, as it always had.  Its inhabitants, people of modest dreams and mild disposition, had managed themselves well.  And they had indulged the small  mad gardener on the edge of their consciousness.  Day after day, they had watched him stand in his little glass house and shake his fist at the rest of the world - at the world that made his wild dreams possible and his humbling end inevitable.  And they had shrugged their shoulders when he, or his acolytes (of which some were residing in the forest) had stood at the doorway of their tiny construction and shouted at whoever would listen :

                         "Be like us - or be doomed!" 

The Moral of the Story :  You can do a lot under laboratory conditions.  But most of us, thank God, don't live in laboratories.

Thursday 10 February 2011

Friends and Food and Flowers

It's time to get back to what really matters.

The little garden at the back needs some TLC.

As there's no warong nearby these will have to do for quick meals.  In fact since we got back this has been our main fare......

......although  I cannot do without these .

Then there's our dear friend Yasir who has been our house-sitter everytime we've been away.  Now that we're back we have to start feeding him his favourite pachri nenas, mixed lentils, fried chicken and lemon layer pudding.

But good news!  He married his lovely Rafiah in October last year and she can now take over.  We look forward to meeting her and Yasir says she's good at cooking Briani.  Wowee!!

Daffodils and snowdrops from Jack brighten up the winter days.

And here's a happy Jack after last week's dinner.  On certain days,  Jack's secret identity can be revealed.  Note the pipes above his head.  Pssst - he's actually an illegal immigrant from another planet.

I should say that all the above make our life complete.

 P.S.  Do spare a thought for   Setu Bolongking's dilemma.  We found this little bar of  soap  in a hotel in Kota Belud when the spouse was doing his field work in Sabah in the 1980s.

I hope by now, he has made his choice.


Sunday 6 February 2011

HMV (His Mentor's Voice)

Mind you, it's so tempting to throw contempt at Lee Kuan Yew's rantings on how Malays in  Singapore should be less 'Islamic'.   Read

If we set aside his Minister Mentor role, it's so easy to see him as a sad old widower hankering for attention in a world that's fast passing him by.

As someone who lived in Singapore for over 30 years , it heartens me to observe how Malays in Singapore have borne themselves with much dignity in their response to this self-righteous diatribe.  There was no Hindraf-style rampage on the streets - even if that's possible in this island Republic!

There is nothing as depressing as watching a man way past his use-by date trying to revive the old glory days, strutting his opinionated  versions of what should be.  It's like an addiction, having people sitting at your feet waiting for more drops of wisdom to emanate from your mouth.  Just like the Mandarin Scholar (Sifu) or the MahaGuru from days of yore.  His latest pearl of wisdom however, only revealed a suppressed and pathological contempt for the Malays - be it in Singapore , Malaysia or throughout the 'big Malay pond '.  It always works -  inculcate a 'siege mentality' to keep a fragile organization alive and kicking.

In the 1960s when LKY was flexing his political muscles, our Hokkien shopkeeper at Pasir Panjang Road confided  this opinion of  Singapore's future Prime Minister  to my father.   "Itu Lee Kuan Yew - dia Hakka - hati banyak busuk."  Really?  Still, as a Chinese he may not be too far off the mark.  But, we Malays also subscribe to generalisations about  orang Jawa, orang Melaka , orang Johor and so on..... and at times they do apply.

During those days LKY learned to speak in Malay, took up lessons in Mandarin, but despite this, many did not take him to their hearts,  This was an ambitious man, impatient for power, who believed his oyster should not be limited to this little island, this Pulau Ujong.

His lamentations about  Malay-Muslims are nothing new.  LKY's policies with regard to holding back the Malays for National Service and  recruitment into the Navy and Air Force are carefully co-ordinated with corralling the Malays into HDB housing estates where the Chinese keep their 75% majority and Malays are limited to no more than 15% of the community.  But that arrogance and prejudice did not begin and end with LKY.

The Chinese, with their 3,000 years of history as LKY is wont to remind us, have always looked down on the 'indolent and easy-going Malays".  Of course this perception was also part and parcel of British imperialism.  Although -  living in Britain for the past  30 years - I observe that laziness and indolence is also a British trait. Already the Brits are paranoid about the 10-15 % of immigrants on their island - and especially the Muslims.  The British would be ground to the earth if they inherited a 75% Chinese majority!  Tell me about the Chinese Diaspora!!   Tell me more about their fear of the Republic of China!

For over 200 years, and especially on the coat-tails of Portuguese, Dutch and British imperialism the immigrant Chinese  learned how to manipulate the Muslim-Malays.  In terms of trade and commerce they had the field to themselves (except for the parts 'belonging' to the Caucasians) while the Muslim-Malays  - due to their  ignorance and unsophisticated short-sightedness, were pushed to the periphery, waiting for crumbs.  However,  the Muslim-Malays also had their own turncoats and desperados who were happy to sell their people for a song, like the way Singapore was 'acquired'  from the Johor rulers.  And this Wayang is still going on today.

At the risk of being pedantic, I hesitate to use the term 'Singapore Malays'.  I prefer Malays in Singapore just like you do not describe the Caucasian natives of Britain as British English or British Welsh or British Scots. They are as a matter of course, the English or Welsh or Scots.  Just like the Malays in Singapore.  For both these people, these offshore islands are where they originate.

There have always been Malays in Temasek, or Pulau Ujong, or Singapura before their island abode was re-founded by Raffles.  As a maritime and riverine community they are often on the move.  Today, we acknowledge the needs and rights of  aboriginal tribes to a nomadic life - a culture with no man-made boundaries, no immigration checks and no passports.  The Malays were once thus - although their cultural and catchment area was circumscribed by the rivers and the seas of South East Asia, the Malay Archipelago - what they now describe as Nusantara.


It is very difficult for LKY and his culture to appreciate or recognise the waves and ways of the Malays.  His tactic is to enclose them into little pockets of natives surrounded by 75% Chinese.  You can see where his paranoia comes from because he has done to the Malays just what he fears they might one day do to him.  So the Malays are given their 'bread and circus ' in their cosy, modern high-rise abodes to  keep them sedated and quiet - but  more circus, perhaps, than bread!

Despite his attempts to re-sinify himself  (and the Chinese) , LKY is essentially  an Anglophile - in his education, politics and economics.  When he took on the Malays to be less Islamic because they get in the way of 'integration' he is singing from the same hymn book as David Cameron and the leaders of Europe to manipulate and master Muslims into their mould.  Yesterday in Munich, when Cameron ranted on  about how multi-culturalism (he meant the Muslims)  has failed to integrate Britain he sounds like an echo of the venerable LKY.  He did not envisage a respect of differences.   He did not want a "salad" of a variety of colours and taste.  He wanted a melting-pot of "soup" where the dominant culture will swallow up the minor ones.

This is also LKY's  ambition.  In their playground, the bully boys will set the agenda and  move the goalposts as they please.

However, what is more frightening is the fact that his opinions and diktat are not his alone -  they have, after all, long been whispered into the ears of this ageing autocrat.   So it will not end with LKY.   This chauvinism will be sustained for a long time to come.