Monday 26 March 2012

The Second Try - The Beginning of Tanjong Kling

Yabada - badoo!!!!  Finally  this geriatric genius (?) managed to get it right.  In Kuala Lumpur I could rope in Faiz my nephew-in-law,  but here I'm on my own and bodged the job again and again.  That's why the video took days to see the light of day on AsH.

I must apologise for the poor quality.  It was done on my little hand-held camera and it gives the shakes because of unsteady hands  and not enough 'mee rebus' !  But it was worth it!  Terima Kasih Ma'cik.

I know it's a long video  (almost  10 minutes), longer than the normal 3- minute attention span.  But this little story by Ma'Cik Alimah is a historical gem: by an 86 year old bumiputra of Singapore recounting the life and times of a 'deleted' people.  No history book or academic exercise can match her account.

So please give her your attention right to the end of the video.  Thank you.

P.S.  There is nothing derogatory in the use of the word 'kling'' here.  It was never ever meant to be - it's just PC gone mad.  In fact the name 'Kling', given to Ma'cik's kampong is a tribute to someone who is not a Malay.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Alimah bt Awang - Anak Jati Singapura

Talking to Alimah bt Awang at her home in Boon Lay was an unforgettable experience.  At 86 she remains  one of  the very, very few remaining voices of the history and birthright of  Malays in Singapore, specifically the Orang Laut or what we Malays in Pasir Panjang describe as the Orang Pulau.

I call her Ma'cik and she has always referred to me as Che'gu because in Jai's family I am known as the teacher from Yusof Ishak Secondary School or Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak.  Mariam, her daughter, was one of my students and we became close friends with Ma'cik because of our close friendship with her son Jai.

Jai has been in and out of my blog in my postings :

We  went to Singapore to keep company with Lely  (one of my former students from Jurong Secondary School) when she had a stroke.  Glad to say she is now back home and undergoing more therapy.  She has been putting heart and soul into getting better and I know she will. She is one young plucky lady.

We caught up with another plucky lady of 86 and we got her talking about her childhood days growing up in Tanjong Kling.  She's a wonderful story teller and  a fount of information about her people, the Orang Pulau or Orang Laut.   The topographic map below shows the significance of Tanjong Kling as a landing post for connection to the Southern Islands.

Tanjong Kling is located near the number 68 on the map.  PS (just above the letters Tg) indicates a Police Station and Ma'cik Alimah's late husband was a policeman.  Ma'cik and her husband come from a line of the  "Orang Laut; the aboriginal seafaring people in the Malay Archipelago since an early time."    There was no  intermarriage with people from the Malay Peninsula, or the Bugis or the Javanese or the Boyanese or Chinese or Indians.

Tanjong Kling, Pasir Panjang and Pulau Samulun have been immortalised in this Lagu Melayu Asli - 'Nasib  Panjang' :

Pasir Panjang Pulau Samulun,
Nampak lah dari Tanjong Kling.
(Nasib lah Panjang)
Hilang sebulan rasa setahun,
Bagailah mana hati tak runsing.

Listening to Ma'cik makes me realise - too late - about the tragedy that fell upon  her people and her islands. I don't pretend to be a historian.  However, as I begin to read  about the pre-Raffles inhabitants of Temasek, people like the Orang Laut of the Rhio Archipelago, people like the Orang Galang (Geylang), Orang Seletar, Orang Selat and Orang Biduanda of Kallang, I soon realise just how their place and existence in Singapore's history have been marginalised and relegated into insignificance by both the British imperialists and the PAP machinery.

We care and battle for the rights of the aboriginal tribes on terra firma in  Malaysia.  But the seafaring people of the Archipelago, the maritime nomads of the Malay world have been ignored and denied their 'human rights'.  They were always a threat to the Imperialists' trade and profit.  They were conveniently labelled as pirates - as pests to be controlled and confined.

This map, however, might make us rethink our perception of the Orang Laut, of the aboriginal Malay seafarers and how they construct their world and their  'homeland'.  They, like the Malays, perceive their place of origin not as a homeland  ('tanah/rumah' ).  For them, home is 'Tanah Ayer' -  Land and Water.  How do you demarcate boundaries and allocate  deeds and titles of ownership over such a maritime topography?
The Malays'  'Middle Kingdom' - the Riau Archipelago. The Southern Islands of Singapore in the Northwest corner have been circled.
I shall write more about the demolition job done on Ma'cik Alimah's world.  But first do listen to her oral history of Tanjong Kling.  Jai and I are determined to draw out out as much story and history as possible from this lively lady's recollections - from this Anak Jati Singapura.

P.S.   I have spent all morning trying to upload a video of Ma'cik Alimah - but it has ended in tears.
I shall try, the next session, be it in print or video.

Monday 12 March 2012

'Oh come all ye faithful'

On Saturday 25 February, the spouse was walking to the local pharmacy at Setiawangsa for a pack of Panadol. We were flying back to Singapore on the 26th to look in on Lely at the Hospital before we departed for Leicester on 7 March and plane journeys always give the both of us headaches.

As he walked past the football field he heard a Malay young man, not a young boy,  yelling 'Kafir' at him!  I taught the spouse to use the word 'pengecut' (coward) the next time this happens.  But Iain just shrugged his shoulders and said, "What's the point?"

The day before, I was walking past Ali Maju Restaurant when this poster caught my eye.

This is certainly one way that Malay-Muslims should not score, so the youngsters have been warned.  But there's hope.  This other poster near Diva's restaurant at Jalan Bukit Setiawangsa is telling Malay-Muslims how - for both children and adults!!

They do say 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'.

Back in Leicester - Saturday 10 March.  Just after suboh on Saturday morning I heard  the distant sound of a reading from the Quran.  Could it be a radio - not in Leicester and in my neighbourhood?

I looked out of the window and there was this young man, an African, humming softly the holy words as he walked serenely along a road in this Kafir city.

Friday 9 March 2012

Back in Blighty

This we found on the kitchen table when we got back yesterday at 10.30 am.
It's a shrivelled, mouldy 7 weeks old lemon-half that we left behind when we departed for Singapore on 17 Jan.

And this is my pride and joy which got here intact.  I ask for your indulgence to show off how I did it!!

In the next day or so I shall make sambal kicap manis with finely diced onions, red chili and lemon (maybe I can still squeeze something out of that 7 week old lemon?) juice as a dip for   ikan bakar!

As we were going home to Leicester from Singapore, Oi Bek had got us an SIA ticket.  We were told in the departure lounge that there would be a slight delay as there was "a problem with the cooling system in the cabin".  Thirty minutes later we were herded in.  The  "aircon was still kaput" (using Singapore lingo and not corporate language) and the passengers used the safety instruction pamphlet to good use - as a fan.  About 45 minutes later we all cooled down.

About 2 years ago, we travelled back to KL by SIA, again by  kind courtesy of Oi Bek.  She of course ordered Muslim food for us. On the return flight to LHR  (London Heathrow Mahzan, not Lahore - you were always a silly boy!)  the Muslim food , to put it mildly, sucks!  If it was supposed to be Malay-Muslim (as it was from Singapore) food it smelled of Malay-style cuisine cooked by non-Malays as is now commonly found in Hawker Centres in the Republic.  As for the taste I leave it to the imagination.

On this journey, we had no complaints with the main meal of lamb in a sort of curry sauce, mashed potatoes and a couple of slices of vegetables.  Come breakfast the main meal was chicken curry!  No rice, no roti or chapati.  When Iain made an inquiry we were told we could have it with the bread roll! And we could have more bread roll if we wanted to!  Alamak, mana eh sai. Like dis cannot lah.  Singechiapore is in the middle of Malay Muslim world - you mean so susah to get proper Malay-Muslim food ah?  I not kiasu one, just find food on this stylo airline so teruk!

We arrived at 5.45 am.  The British Indian Immigration Officer gave me a harder time with my "Settled with Spouse" Visa than all the previous Caucasian officers.  It's a regular scenario at LHR (London Heathrow, not Lahore).

Now to the carousel.  My heart was in my mouth.  My kicap, my precious kicap, shall I see an unbroken bottle!!  Then came an announcement.  Luggage from Flight SQ322 will be delayed because they could not open the plane's door.  It was frozen, so they said.  Temperature at LHR was certainly above zero.

But I am certain there are worse stories regarding other airlines.  Except that SIA is one of the world's most highly regarded people carrier.  In the mid 1980s,  I was on an SIA flight to London when one of the engines caught fire as soon as it took off.  Somewhere over KL the plane made a U-Turn back to Changi (or Paya Lebar?).  They took over 3 hours - with us waiting in transit during the early hours of morning - before they decided to move us to a hotel at 6am.  One irate 'ang mo'  from First Class refused to board the bus to Meridien Hotel and demanded a taxi.  So there was the usual mantra of "yes, sir, we shall get you a taxi, sir".  Later I asked the family if there was any news about the engine fire on an SIA flight. What a stupid query to make.

Most important, my kicap is now safely back in one piece in Leicester.

And we left a Lely who is well on the road to recovery.  She is responding well and courageously to intensive physiotherapy.  She has got a lot of guts and determination to see her through this second chance that Allah has given her.

It's 3 am and it's time for breakfast.