Sunday 25 September 2011

Rocking at Tung Shin Hospital

Tomorrow the spouse will be undergoing hip replacement surgery at Tung Shin and I promised him we shall go to a rock concert .....
.....  as soon as he recovers.  Read about the rocker on

This will be an opportunity to test the new titaniun-cobalt hip bone.

So, next week this blog will not be able to rock as AsH will be busy organising a gathering of the spouse's old friends and follies.

Firstly ,
These three are now running a very successful Tourist Agency at Temburong, Brunei

She met another 'ang mo' with a three-piece suit and is now the manager of a Chippy (Fish and Chips Shop) at Burton-on-Trent

Amanda is now a grandmother of 10 from a brood of 10, living at Tamu Darat, Sabah

Hyacinth put her money to greater spiritual use,  doing missionary work teaching English as a Second Language (after training at the Summer Institute of Linguistics, USA)  in the jungles of Cambodia.

Remember how pleased they were to see you, another 'Tuan'? Sir Malcolm MacDonald was the last one, but he only came to take photographs of their topless mums!

This was your one success on that Sabbatical trip but the University wanted you to recruit more foreign students to top up their coffers and you failed to do so!

So, be of brave heart and cheer for tomorrow.   Rock on me duck!!!

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Tasha's Day - 16 September 2011

Merdeka and Malaysia Day Celebration - Two Happy Participants,  Tasha (right) and friend.

My Dear Tasha,

Your mama asked me to look out for you on TV on Friday 16 September.  But there were so many happy looking Malaysian schoolkids hopping about, I just could not make you out.  It was ONE big mass of kids enjoying themselves that day, that Merdeka and Malaysia Day.

So I wrote to your mama asking  how you fared that day.  This was her answer.

My dear Mak Ngah,

Am glad that she is having fun during her school days.  Am not really sure that she understands the meaning of Merdeka in the sense that we want her to.  But I'm pretty sure she understands the meaning of hardship, sacrifice and teamwork  in preparing for that big day.  She now knows that nothing comes easy.  Their training started on the 3rd week of Ramadhan and most of the time she carried on with school in the afternoon.

One day, Tasha, you will understand  the significance of Merdeka and why you did what you did on 16 September 2011.

When tok ngah was just a little older than you ( that would be during the dinosaur period, in your eyes!), our school, Crescent Girls' School was selected to take part in a Mass Drill to celebrate Singapore's National Day in 1959.

We were taken by bus to  Jalan Besar Stadium for practice.  We all had to wear white shirts and white shorts.  I must say we girls had a lot of fun during practice and rehearsals.  But tok ngah also recalled  the many quarrels we had with the boys from Victoria School.  The booing and the yellings did not stop until we got back on the bus.

But these words I shall never forget.  EEK, ERR, SAN, SER, - OOK, LIU, CHIK, PARK,  meaning one, two, three, four - five, six, seven, eight.  The Mass Drill Instructor stood on a raised platform and taught us the various motions of the drill in Mandarin!!  We were stunned when we first heard this. Why Mandarin?  But ours is not to ask why.  And the rhythm of numbers 1 to 8 in Mandarin would echo in the school canteen and classroom whenever we felt like it.

On 3 June 1959 Singapore was given self-governing status,  Sir William Goode became the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara ( not  Governor as before) and Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the first Prime Minister.  During the  general election of 1959 to elect 51 Representatives for the first fully elected Legislative Assembly, Mr Lee's PAP  won 43 seats.  Mr Lee's PAP won the majority in a coalition with the Communists to get rid of the British colonialists  (tok Iain's people).

The last sentence in the above paragraph partly explained our query.  Chinese schools and Chinese schoolboys were very active in the Communist movement then and Mass performances like  Mass Drill were part of their  'extra-curricular' activities.

However this partnership was short-lived when Barisan Sosialis was formed in 1961.  It was also in this year (a coincidence?) when talks began about a merger of Singapore with the Federation of  Malaya,  as part of Malaysia.

On 16 September (recognise the date?) 1963,  Malaysia , made up of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, was formed.

Then on 9 August 1965, Singapore was separated from Malaysia and became an independent nation.

Not long after that, the PAP Singapore Government slowly but surely dismantled  the Chinese language schools, as well as the  Malay and Tamil language schools  to create a one-system multi-racial school based on English.  However, even the mighty PAP Government could not ignore the  voice (or demands?) of the 70+% Chinese majority.  It was not just EEK,  ERR, SAN, SER, OOK, LIU, CHIK, PARK.

In the 1980s ( I can't be precise here), we woke up to this.

What do you do?  If you're Malay or Indian or Eurasian ?

Then the Emperor put on another set of clothes - sometime about 5-6 years ago?

Above is the image of another new concept for Singapore :  EASTERN ROOTS,  WESTERN WINDS.

My dear Tasha, you must be wondering what on earth is tok ngah rabbitting about?

I shall quote what your mama wrote.  "Am not really sure she understands the meaning of Merdeka in the sense that we want her to."

When you grow up - really, really grow up - your world and well-being will depend on how you relate  Merdeka with responsibility and hard work for all Malaysians. The study of History, untainted and factual will be as essential as Accountancy and IT. To chart your future, you have to know the past.

The issues of race and language have always blighted Malaysia's polity and  will always be manipulated  by opportunists and troublemakers in this country - maybe, but hopefully not, until you reach my age!

 Tasha's Day on 16 September 2011 should be the way for every day in Malaysia and not just for Merdeka and Malaysia Day.

Salam and Loads of Love,
tok ngah.

Monday 19 September 2011

From the Magpie's Nest - Part 2

This is taken from one of the books under my staircase.

Rich Cargoes of Tropical Fruits on their way to the Malay Market
The more insignificant of the trading craft are employed for this purpose, and on market days a perfect fleet of small vessels may be seen plying up the river bound for some convenient centre where they may discharge their ripe cargoes.  The craft used are chiefly dug-outs, or light fishing boats - things so small and crazy that only an amphibious creature like the Malay would trust himself in them.

And this is from Look and Read which catered for schoolchildren in the urban areas during the colonial days.

Wouldn't it be nice if Look and Read had also included the information in the other book?  It would make a very pretty coloured picture.  Also the non-Malay and Malay  school kids in the towns would have a more balanced  conception of the role of the Malays in trade and in their ability and willingness to work hard!!!  It would also reinforce the history  of the Malays as a sea-faring people who brave the waters of South- east Asia to trade and settle in an Archipelago that sets no cultural and political boundaries.  I love the idea of having an amphibious heritage.  But it's well-nigh impossible to practise and cherish that when the islands are turned into oil refineries and the coast, as at Pasir Panjang, becomes wharves and container ports.

The art and act of sailing are now a rich man's game, played at opulent Marinas and Yacht Clubs located at selective sites.  The Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC) has a state-of-the -art marina with 168 wet berths including a 140 metre long mega yacht berth and 135 dry berths. Care to know more?

And where is it?  It's located at West Coast Ferry Road, on reclaimed land  directly opposite 6 1/2 milestone Pasir Panjang Road.  My kampung was at 5 1/2 milestone.

Not too long ago,  Singapore would celebrate this.

It's now classified as a lost 'maritime culture'. Read

Aaahh... but I  digress.  Good night.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Message from Miss Hamid to Din

Extract from 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame - Chapter 1 'The River Bank'

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river.  Never in his life had he seen a river before - this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again.  All was a-shake and a-shiver - glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl,chatter and bubble.  The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated.  By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.

Notice the little red sign -  from so long ago?

 Have a good, safe journey in your venture Mr Mole.

Always listen to the moving water - the water that moves physically and to move you emotionally.

............that your voice shall never falter.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

From the Magpie's Nest - Part 1

Look and Read  had always been one of my very favourite school text books - mainly because of the rich and lively illustrations. 

When I discovered it in one of the bookstalls at Chowrasta Market in Penang years ago, I could hardly believe my luck.  Then I found another copy ..... and now I would like to share this with all those fine-feathered friends of mine - albeit in my quirky way.

There are many issues to discuss with regard to the selection and content of this reader but right now I just want to indulge in pretty and nostalgic pictures.

As children, we never had much pocket money to spend on such luxuries.  Most of the time we made our own - like cloth dolls and doll furniture from match boxes.  We had the most fun with our own home-made chatek made up of 2-3 layers of round rubber cuts, about 2 inches in diameter topped with a couple of chicken feathers.  Small nails were put through from the bottom of the rubber bits to be attached to the feathers.  We vandalised the rubber parts from the tops of old clogs.  As for the feathers, our hens  and cockerels were constantly kept on their toes, or rather, their claws.

It was usually a tough competition - to keep the chatek 'afloat'  by kicking and balancing it on one foot.  I was just useless.  I preferred the paper ball, a cheap toy to purchase.

Another image here of an item we all disliked.  It is associated with bathing, and washing up dishes and clothes.  Yecchh!

My favourite is Sunlight Soap mainly because of the cheerful yellow colour.  I also recall the big chunky bars that we used for the laundry and washing the dishes.  I love the carbolic smell of that soap.

And here's a soapy song from the 60s. 

Must admit to feeling a bit tearful listening to this.  Must go whesh my face.

Sunday 11 September 2011

My Take on That 10th Anniversary

On September 11 2001, I was in my backyard bringing in the washing at Oxford Avenue, Leicester when my neighbour Ola, a British-born Pole, looking pale and frantic exclaimed to me , " Did you know what happened to the Twin Towers in New York?"

I had seen a snippet of that in the news.  So I replied, "What do the Yanks expect after what they did to Iraq and Palestine?"  She looked at me in disbelief and went straight back into her house.

A week or so later, we went to Asda Supermarket ( a subsidiary of the American retail giant Walmart) at Oadby.  At the entrance I noticed a big book of condolences for the victims of 9/11.  It was already half-full with jottings of sympathy and support - and a tirade at the perpetrators who by that time were already identified as Muslims.

I took a deep breath and wrote this in the book.  "What about the deaths of 1/2 million children in Iraq from American sanctions after the Gulf War?  Who are crying and feeling for them?"

Madeleine  Albright was Clinton's Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001.  The video above was done on December 5 1996 where she calmly asserts that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children as a result of American sanctions  was - 'we think the price is worth it'.

After our shopping was done, I went back to look at the book.  The page with my comment had been torn off and removed.  It seemed that in this case - 'sauce for the goose' is not sauce for the gander.

Then on September 11 2002 my place of work was planning a minute's silence on the first anniversary.    I took a walk to the toilet instead - at one minute before the minute's silence.  Selective demonstration of mourning is not my cup of tea!!

Today, ten years after - and while the world still reeks of the blood of the hundreds of thousands killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and Gaza, and Libya at the hands of the Judaeo-Christian Nato Forces and Israel ............

..... I prefer to look at the larger picture - to think outside the box of analyses and perceptions that we willy-nilly accept from the West - that America's grief and humiliation is also ours - that their culpability  for the deaths, torture, sufferings and humiliation of the non-whites remain white-washed.

Finally on this day, spare a thought or a tear for Palestinians.

Their day of grievious pain is everyday - not just on anniversaries.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Jailani Abu Bakar came to Kuala Lumpur for Hari Raya - by courtesy of Lely Koh

JUST  JAI  -  3 Sept 2011
(photo by sunnysideup) 

Jai  and not-so-old Friends (and Poppy) 1995  at Oxford Avenue, Leicester

Jai and old Friends  2011  (Kuala Lumpur)
(photo by sunnysideup)
Two days ago, Jailani made a weekend trip from Singapore for a Hari Raya visit to  'recharge and rejuvenate' himself, so he wrote.  But it had the same impact on Darby and Joan as well.

We took him for a spin around the kampung at Paya Jaras Hilir, Sungai Buloh and he had this to say.

On the whole, it was a short but meaningful trip. The visit to the Sungai Buloh kampong was a throw back to the days of living and growing up in 'Pasir Panjang batu enam tiga suku ' - the difference is I am now the on looker, the outsider looking at the kampong dwellers from the eyes of a Singapore Malay urbanite,  a far, far cry from the innocent child, who was clueless that one day his very own kampong life will eventually be taken away from him. So I too wonder how much longer can the kampong folks  at Sungai Buloh withstand the pressure of city life that is fast knocking on their doors.

Singapore Malays of my and Jai's generation still recall the poignant joy of  kampung life in PPS  (Pre-PAP  Singapore).   Chinatown is still standing and thriving.  Serangoon Road or Little India survives to tell many a tale.  Kampung Melayu and other Malay settlements on the East Coast and West Coast have  been obliterated  ( like Kampung Fatimah) or tarted into high-rise HDB flats and farcical 'theme parks'.  Although there's nothing new in this 'cleansing' - the British in the 1820s shunted the Malay settlers along the Singapore River to Telok Blangah - the PAP more or less knocked  the nails into the coffin.

But of course we still have the pretty  pictures to remind Singaporeans of 'the way we were'  in their Heritage Industry - like looking at extinct dodos and dinosaurs.  Here are some of these pictures.  They are taken from the Jurong Town Council Calendar and not from an expensive Heritage Coffee-Table Book.

The artist Mr Ho Kah Leong was the MP for Boon Lay in the 1970s/1980s.  Kampung Fatimah has been transmogrified into the ramparts of Fortress Singapore at Woodlands.  My dad used to take us fishing at Kampung Fatimah!

Jai used to live at Pasir Panjang 6 and 3/4 ms while we had our roots at the 5 and 1/4 ms.  Just think of this Jai, you were just a twinkle in your dad's eye when I was taking my School Certificate Examination. You have caught up with us in Boon Lay, Penang, Leicester and Kuala Lumpur.  And it has been a privilege to watch you grow and mature into the kind of person that any parent or teacher can be proud of.  (See posting 8 November 2010

Come back soon (to where ever we are) to share our thoughts about the possessed and dispossessed over mugs of Iain's teh tarik and my chocolate cake.