Friday 30 August 2013

When in Singapore ..........

There was no mouse to catch in Temasek but many of the meeces  ( a word borrowed from Mr Jinks)  were unrecognisable.

Jai indulged us with a fabulous tosay breakfast at Tek Kah.  We then went for a walk in the backlanes off Serangoon Road.

There was this Church .....

........  and this was the frontage.

The Church of True Light at Perak Road was publicising a Festival of Healing which attempts /promises (?)  Blind Eyes See!  Finance Restored!  Barren Conceived! Marriage Restored!  

In the late 1950s, when I used to visit my school friend Lim Ah Moi at Tiong Bahru,  I noticed the poster in front of a Church which said "Jesus Saves".  I thought at that time it was all about saving money in the Post Office Savings Bank.  Of course I now know better and last week I learned the meaning of that term in Malay when I saw this banner at The Church of True Light.  Note the use of the term "Tuhan Jesus".  The Malays of oh, so long ago, very often used the word  "Tuhan" to refer to God - the word often used in the old sandiwara and movies.  Remember the heart-rending scenes when the mother of the hero would plead  "Ya Allah, Ya Tuhan ku"?   Nowadays the latter term is hardly used, just like the word "sembahyang" which has been replaced with "solat".   Also the language of service, in this church at least,  is "Bahasa Indonesia" and not "Bahasa Melayu".  

The Mandarin Service is at 11.00 am
The Service in English is at 9 am.

This church, located on a little street off Serangoon Road, also conducts services in Tamil/English at 5.30pm, Singhalese at 3.30pm, Hindi at 3pm and Malayalam at 8pm.  Truly a multilingual church, not like in the old days!

Masjid Abdul Gaffoor  at Dunlop Street was constructed in 1907 by South Indian Muslim merchants.  Jailani, our dear friend and host goes to this mosque for Friday prayers whenever he finds himself in the vicinity.  Jai says the khutbah is in Tamil but he has no problem with that at all.  It is still the house of God.

Now this picture is unique!  There's this beautiful , huge banyan tree.  To the right and left is a Chinese shrine.  But a number of Hindu effigies can be found near the shrine on the left.  That's harmony for you!

However, two instances made me realise this is not the Little India I knew.  The spouse talked to an Indian gentleman to ask about the shrines at the Clive Street banyan tree.  But he had little to say as he had come to Singapore from Tamil Nadu just 6 years ago.
I wandered about looking for a shop where I could get myself a blangah.  I went into one and made an inquiry in Malay - which is quite normal whether you're Malay or Chinese, whenever you go to an Indian shop - but the man I spoke to looked nonplussed.  He uttered a few words in Tamil and I picked on one word Malai. 
Okay, I got it, he does not speak Malay! Foreign workers in Kuala Lumpur, whether they're Indian, Bangla Deshi, Burmese, Cambodian or Vietnamese are usually able to speak and understand Malay, especially something simple like " Di sini ada jual blangah tak?"   I suppose the house of  Mammon (like a shop) has very different observances.   Some Singaporeans are not the Singaporeans I grew up with.

Singapore celebrated her National Day on the second day of Hari Raya.  In this poster by the Holland Bukit Timah GRC I found a degree of difficulty in locating a Malay face.
But the Singapore Malay is easily recognisable as a Young Denizen in the above. 

This shows Zhenghua CC advertising a Ramadhan Shopping Tour.

The itinerary for the above Ramadhan Shopping Tour included (1) Pontian to visit a costume jewellery factory, (2) Simpang Rengam for Malay Kueh (traditional cookies) e.g Pineapple Tarts, (3) Angsana Shopping Mall in JB and (4) Break - Fast buffet provided.  All in all a very "Traditional Singaporean Inclusive"  Outing.

Item 4 is a little confusing. Did the 'Break' consist of a fast buffet?  Or did it mean 'Break fast - Buffet provided'?  Or may I put on my teacher's hat and suggest that it might refer to "Breaking of Fast - buffet provided".  {Shut up AsH - stop being finicky!}

But this, thank goodness,  remained the same.  This corner stall at Boon Lay Food Centre (no more a Hawker Centre) sells  Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak (which won a special award - and which explains the queue) , Nasi Campur and the best Lontong north and south of Selat Tebrau!!

Haji Marsah Berkat Chahya Food has been here ever since I moved to Boon Lay in 1975.

This block of flats where my brother Mus and family used to live is still up and standing.  The same trees are still there and so is the Car Park. 

Ching, Ching, kuching, mana engkau pergi.

Let me have those old familiar, friendly feelings of past times and spaces.

Monday 19 August 2013

What more do the (Singapore) Malays want ?

I read this "Survey on plight of S'pore Malays" in today's New Straits Times  ......


........  and just four days ago  in

I was having a jolly good time dramatising the conversation of Ah Beng, Ah Nand and Ah Mad about how Sinchiaporeans relate to one another.  That posting in no way  re-hashes the antics of that wonderful Singapore comedy "Phoa Chu Kang".   The main thrust was to highlight what the authorities expect of the Singapore Malay - to prove his/her loyalty and integration.

The survey by the Suara Musyawarah could be regarded by non-Malays in Singapore and elsewhere as just another whinge -  which deserves the exasperated retort   "What more do the Malays want?".

All this is just old hat - issues like participation in the Singapore Armed Forces, lagging behind in education and income, ownership of property  and  job opportunities.  It's so tragic because these grievances are tantamount to asking(?), complaining(?)  for crumbs from the Master's Table!  During the Roman Empire the Roman masters kept their conquered people quiet by giving them bread and circuses.  Singapore Malays are wont to boast to Malaysian Malays about the strength of their dollar against the Ringgit, the re-sale value of their flat etc - in other words, their bread.  They are also given the circus of  shopping malls, Wisma Geylang Serai,  Universal Studios Theme Park and Pulau Blakang Mati (ooops! Sentosa) Resort and more Shopping Malls.  On a good day they can drive in their costly Sing-cars or cheaper weekend cars to do their marketing - cheap at JB .  A few can take their little sprouts to Disneyland in USA, or vacations in New Zealand and Australia like many other non-Malay Singaporeans.   But there's always Langkawi, Cameron Highlands, Malacca ( not Melaka) and all the Beach Resorts in Peninsular Malaysia - all very cheep!  A plate of chicken rice in a Malaysian Hotel only costs SGD 6 !

But a people cannot live on bread alone.  A people need a sense of dignity, a feeling of pride in themselves and their culture - even if they have little to spare in their pocket.  What is the Singapore Malays' take on this?

Someone who looks or dresses like a Singapore Malay is missing in the image on the left and in the top right-hand corner.   This image is from  a Singapore Tourist Board brochure - it invites tourists to visit Little India and Chinatown.  What about Little Malayworld or Little Malaytown?  Where got such place in Sinchiapore!  

The most tragic and depressing part of the NST's article is this.

Suara Musyawarah vice-chairman Alwi Abdul Hafiz said the community had moved away from their loyalty towards the Malay archipelago, which was apparent more than two decades ago.

"Now there is a strong sense of nationhood, of belonging to Singapore, especially among the younger generation.  The issue is, we feel that our loyalty is being questioned and that we cannot be completely trusted."

Singaporean and other Nanyang Chinese will never forsake their cultural roots.  Look at Hua Song (meaning
"in praise of the Chinese")  -" a museum which offers students the chance to appreciate the spirit of adventure and enterprise of the early Chinese migrants".

Musyawarah's vice-chairman has chosen the wrong word to apply to the "Malay Archipelago".  It is not a question of loyalty but of upholding their cultural and geographical bond - just like the Chinese and Indians do in Singapore.  How about remembering and celebrating the Malays'  spirit and origin?  Firstly, -

  The note beneath the picture reads "The island of Singapore situated off the southern extremity of the Malay Peninsula is separated from the mainland of Johor by a strait......  It is about 27miles long, 14miles wide and covers an area of 217sq. miles.  The town of Singapore, capital of the Straits Settlements, lies in the South-easten coast of the island.  Many of the inhabitants live on and about the coast, the native Malays being frequently fishermen and boatmen, and some of the houses are built on poles over the water while at the neighbouring islet of Pulau Brani a whole village sits on the sea".

Where are these villages?  Check:

The original caption reads: " Water-colour painting by Suri bin Mohyani of Kampong Kuchan (Lorong 3, Geylang) the present home of the descendants of the Kallang River Orang Laut."

This is Geylang today.

Geylang :  The New Chinatown

And what about the Singapore Malays' cultural hub in Geylang?

I said this in my last paragraph of the above posting.  Singapore Malays have to write their own script of their place in modern Singapore.  They have seven years  ( in 2019, Singapore will be celebrating its 200th Anniversary) to get it going and get it right.  A people who do not acknowledge and respect their own language, history, culture and background - no matter how humble - will always be scorned and looked down upon.    Singapore Malays have to work and stand up for their dignity and rights as the 'natives' of Singapore because there is no round table like King Arthur's where everyone is accorded an equal placement.  Learn from the Chinese in Malaysia.  Unite - for you are all children of the Malay Archipelago.

The Chinese Singaporean is proud of being this.  (From the Hua Song Museum))

Malay Shop, Singapore.  The Singaporean Malay should uphold this tenacity of their forefathers.

While the Chinese maintain their Nanyang (Overseas)  credentials Singapore Malays discard their maritime ancestry as people of the Malay Archipelago so as to be more Sinchiaporeans than Singaporeans.

The Malays' Middle Kingdom  ( The Middle Kingdom is the traditional name for China)

Enough's said.     I'd like to say more but I have to get on with the packing for our Hari Raya visit to Singapore to see Lely, Irene, Jai and his mum.

And to ziarah  Abah's and Akim's grave at Pusara Abadi.

Thursday 15 August 2013


A conversation between three Sinchiaporeans - Ah Beng  (AB),  Ah Nand  (AN)  and Ah Mad  (AM).

AB and AN:  Hey Ah Mad, Selamat Hari Raya - when you want to call us for makan?

AM: Come next week lah, bring your family okay?

AB:  You know or not? Our PM fudder got new  book on the market - good timing lah - just few days before Hari Raya.

AN:  Ya lah, this Ramadan very hot - got all sort of story like that Bak Kut Teh Ah Moi and Ah Kow.  Orso United States so worried about their people kena hantam by Taliban - they all told not to travel.

AM:  You know, sometime in 2002 or 2003 my cousin who study in UK say during Hari Raya Haji, the British garmen send their army, tanks and big guns to Heathrow Airport - they afraid Muslim attack, but actually nothing happened.  Only make people scared every time Muslim want to celebrate and have good time.

AN:  Hey Ah Mad, true or not, our PM fudder say in his book Malaysia now only say Yam Seng with syrup water?  No fire water ha ha allowed eh?

AB:  Why you so bodoh?  Where Malay got say Yam Seng and Cheers like Cina and Ang Moh?

AM:  You mean to give toast ah?  I actually donno lah.  Malay people drink teh tarik, kopi O and air bandung at celebration like wedding.  But where got  give toast?

AB:  You so stoopid lah.  Our PM fudder talk about high class, orang atas big makan - the garmen and big business dinner.  I think a lot of Cina and Indian and Mat Saleh must frust like hell man - cannot drink whisky, Courvoiser, Dom Benedictine  and Cointreau at big party in Malaysia and cannot shout Yam Seng!

AN:  Hey, you Muslim-Malay must have hard time when you campur with other people because you cannot drink - even beer also cannot.  But I orso know of some Malays who drink.

AM:  That is their business lah, but at least in public they show respect for their religion.  They can always togok in private when they want!

AB:  But that is hypocrite!

AM:  Hey Ah Beng, everywhere, every religion got hypocrite.  Those Christian priests who pray pray with little boys and girls and then pretend to be good.  They also hypocrite mah!

AN:  You know ah, you think in next book Papa Lee will scold Arab country orso - because cannot sit at same table and drink beer and do business?

AM:  Where can?  Arab got a lot of lui - all moneybag lah!  Our country want to trade with them - damn good market in Arab country.  They got so much money from oil, not like us.  We can sell them all kind of luxury product, make for them big high rise buildings, big bridges and who knows we can also make for them big mosques?  Maybe can sell them tanks and guns, but susah lah, that market now cornered by American, British and French. But we Sinchiaporeans make the best middle-man, like in Southeast Asia.  We can put customer A and B together and we can make big bucks!
Anudder thing, if the Arab come here as tourists, they will spend in one day ten times more than Indonesian and Malaysian tourist!  Who cares if they want to put on headdress, and bodydress and kakidress?  If Arab or Muslim woman don't want to shake your hand, boh chap lah!!

AN:  Hey Ah Mad, you quite clever lah - not bad, even though you got only one O level.  But in his new book, our PM fudder, he sukak the first PM of Malaysia, the Tengku because the Tengku happy to drink and say Cheers and Yam Seng.  Papa Lee so upset because Malaysian Muslims don't want to share liquor table with other people.

AB:  But you remember or not?  Singapore got kicked out of Malaysia by the Tengku, right?  So what for - all that brandy and whisky?

AM:  Ala!  All that in the past orleady.  But good lah for us Sinchiaporeans to remember that time when our PM cry on TV - so sad one.

Singapore Straits Times 2 August 1990

 But never mind, remember that year we had big celebration for the PM's birthday?

Last minute rush to sign PM's book , 16.9.90

AN:  That pome by CHIJ Primary very sweet ah?  So who care - we kena tendang eh?

AB:  Very true man!  Very true!.  Our one dollar can buy nearly 3 Malaysia ringgit mah!..No wonder so many from Malaysia come to our country to work.  They all very clever.  They work here but these Malaysians live in Johor - can buy house with land, we can only live in flats in the sky.  They can buy car, more than one.    They pay low tax, cheap petrol, no ERP, no CEO - the rice, sugar, cooking oil and petrol got subsidy by garmen.  They also say in Malaysia if your water bill below 20 ringgit, you don't have to pay one!  Here, everything we Pay And Pay!

But you know, nearly all Malaysians who work here are Chinese, Indian got some but ...........

AN:  Hey Ah Beng, why you so kayu?  COE lah!  CEO is Chief Executive Officer, the people who like to say Yam Seng.  We have COE - Certificate of Entitlement.  To buy car is like tikam, man!  You bid for COE and then .... aiyah! you look in the Wikipedia lah!

AB:  Okay, okay.  Let me finish, lah!   .... but why so little Malay come to work in Sinchiapore?

AM:  Of course lah. even Sinchiapore Malay not easy to get job - they give to Cina from Malaysia and China, and mamak from India.  Orso, got many Sinchiapore Malay run to Australia, and Malaysia.  Many are very educated one, not like me, dropout from Sinchiapore Normal Stream.  But one thing different. Sinchiapore Malay man must finish National Service and must get proper permission to stay elsewhere. Malaysian men can leave any time, any where - got no headache like National Service!!

AN:  That I agree Ah Mad.  You know that famous singer and composer  in Malaysia -M. Nasir- he was from Singapore but his talent really do well in Malaysia.  In Sinchiapore - no chance!

AM:  Hey Ah Nand, be careful what you say.  Singapore Malay talent can also succeed in Sinchiapore.  You ever hear of Khairuddin Hori?   He ... one hell of a Bigshot in Singapore Culture scene.  He got Diploma in Fine Art from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, orso Master degree from Open University.  His title is Multi-disciplinary Artist and Curator.  Now he is Senior Curator at Singapore Art Museum.  People like he and Wong Ming make Singapore very proud - we show people we we not only interested in making money, we orso very so-fistikated mah - like cultured western country in France, Venice, Tokyo, New York and Engerland.  This people really stand up for Singapore - like in our National Day song.

AB:  Ah, now I remember that Khairuddin Hori!  He make that video in Australia where he took off his trousers and seluar dalam in the launderette.  Wow, he very daring and got style mah!  He got more guts than in that drama .

That Khairuddin video you can get on YouTube, but don't tell your mudder and little sister - not nice lah!  Aiyoh!  If PM fudder see that, he sure to shout  'Yellow Culture' but he might be happy because he can see how this Singapore Malay not so kampung, not so traditional Muslim, not so - what word did you tell me Ah Mad - oh yes, kolot - like so many Malay-Muslims.  He is very true integrated Singapore Malay.

AM:  True lah!  I remember how in 2011 Mr. Lee Kuan Yew fed up with Malays in Singapore because they very bad at integration  because of their religion.  But for me, no way I want to take off my trousers for people to see!

AN:  Never mind all that.  In his book One Man's View of the World, Papa Lee got quite marah when he had to answer whether Malaysia could become "progressive Muslim country" ?  I read what he say, okay?

Lee, who turns 90 next month, was also asked if Malaysia could become a "progressive Muslim country", to which he replied:  "You believe that?  What do you mean by a progressive Muslim country?

"That they will not wear their headdress, that they will shake hands, men and women, and sit down, that non-Muslim can be drinking beer and have a Muslim sit down and drink coffee with him?"

AB:  Aiyah!  This man very susah lah.  If he can wear Kung Fu Sifu Mandarin coat over red long-sleeve T-shirt, why Muslim women cannot wear what they want?

US Vice President Joe Biden meets Lee Kuan Yew at the Istana Presidential Palace in Singapore July 26, 2013 

And why that Joe Biden can only get Chinese tea?  What if he want bourbon on the rocks?  Life so short lah.  Why must kaypoh other people business?

AM:  Hey Ah Beng, you got no red blood in your veins ah?  You so opiang!  People don't like to see woman all covered up.  You like or not if you can see cleavage, big boobs, big bums on women - free show man!  This is why I like woman's Lib!   But we all agree, if our wife and daughter dress like that, we give them hell!

AN:  Yah lah!   Last week  I pick up this advert at Tampines MRT Station.  Wah, I really shocked man!

Modern progressive women must spend a lot of money not only on make-up but on waxing orso so that they can show off their body like the celebrity.

AB:  Stoopid people!!  My grand mudder very beautiful - look nice in samfoo and her make-up very simple, like this face powder.

ALL THREE:  Sudah lah!  All this talk is wasting time!

AB:  Yah lah!  Time is money, we Sinchiaporeans must know that.  I can see passenger from Malaysia who want to take my taxi sapu to JB.  Good lah!  I can do my wife shopping at JB market.  She say everything there cheaper than in Singapore.  Cheep! Cheep! Make Sinchiaporean happy like bird.

You know, we Sinchiaporean not only spend big bucks in Johor, but also own many land, and shop and property and business and also people in Johor!!  Kena kick out many years ago but we still can be taukeh  in Malaysia.

Yam Seng !!!!!!

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Vestiges - of Hari Raya and Kampung

One more day to Hari Raya - thousands have gone back home to the kampung.  This has always been part and parcel of celebrating Hari  Raya and I hope that in years to come the home of the Malays in the kampungs will always be there and will not have been sold, mortgaged, auctioned and requisitioned by greed, penury, development  and the authorities.

Old Singaporeans like me remember what Malays in the Semenanjung are enjoying today.

We used to have kampungs to live in  ............

The Family's Third Kampung House - Pasir Panjang

In that house Mak would cook ketupat in big cauldrons.  Every year without fail she would make dodol - till today I have not found any dodol that could match hers, for taste and texture and longevity!  We would help in the easy jobs like squeezing  coconut milk from 10 coconuts or so and stirring the brew during the early stages.  The latter part, when the dodol became thick and heavy were left to Mak and Abah.  We would of course be dipping into the kwali when it was all done to get to the kerak which was the most delicious part of this all-mighty Malay treacle-cake!

But we, or rather I, had  more poignant memories of Hari Raya in the kampung simply because Abah had taken photographs of the celebration. This was when when we were living in a rented kampung house just across the river from the house Abah was building - and which we would soon move into.  Because my sister and I were just slightly older than toddlers, Abah would make a special star and banners for his two little girls and later, his little boy Mus.

The three-year-old AsH  posing demurely  with her Abah's Hari Raya stars attached to a blanket.

More stars and a banner.  
Air Oren in bottles were a big Hari Raya treat!

But those halcyon Singapore days are gone because the Malay kampungs have been expunged.  Only memories and photographs in coffee-table books remained - it's almost similar to the way we preserve and observe the life of the dinosaurs.

As for this kampung at Pulau Semakau where most of  my 1967  Menengah Satu kids at Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak came from :

Pulau Semakau today has the proud record of being the first landfill and now the only remaining landfill in Singapore, according to Wikipedia.

But,  my nostalgia for those days have been encapsulated by the spouse in this illustration.  It combines the Blogger and the person and he has lovingly included my two favourite flowers - Bunga Tahi Ayam (Lantana) and the Senduduk  and cats as well!   What more could a geriatric kampung girl ask for?

And finally to all my followers and readers and friends and family, here's an old fashioned Hari Raya card.  No Eid Mubarak and other modern/alien terminologies - just a simple SELAMAT  HARI RAYA AIDIL FITRI,  MAAF ZAHIR dan BATHIN.