Sunday 30 November 2014

Petronas - Tabungkan lah duit kamu

When we got back to Leicester in August this year, we were so happy to discover that ......
.......... the price of our favourite frozen fast food had not gone up at all.

We took out a couple of packets to boil for our dinner.  The spouse also made mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.  We sat down, snipped the packet and what dropped out of it were indeed cod steaks in parsley sauce ... but much reduced in size - by nearly a quarter - compared to a few months ago.

Once back in Kuala Lumpur, we bought a fresh tank of gas - the price had gone up from MYR $25 to $29.  But who are we to grumble?  There are millions of others living under much more straitened circumstances, with children to feed, to clothe and to educate.

I cannot bear to think what our children from deprived families have to do without.  I can remember a time when we used to come home after school to a lunch of just rice, kicap and fried ikan bilis.  Our Abah was paying off a loan to our taukeh kedai because he had been diddled by his 'manager' and customers when he was running a a sundry shop - "Malay Trading" at 5 milestone Pasir Panjang Road.


And even when life got better, we had to limit our demands and desires for the fancy stuff of life. When I was in Secondary school, I insisted on getting a pair of  top of the range Bata Badminton Masters canvas shoes.  When the join between the rubber frontal end and the canvas fell apart, I dared not ask for a new pair.  So I sewed the two parts together - several times - as they kept on splitting apart.  I did not ask for a new pair until the soles got worn out as well.

A pair of  Bata Badminton Masters.  This image is taken from

When my Crescent Girls' School blouse became threadbare on the back - mainly because of heavy sweating - my mother sewed a light yellowish square patch on the inside to enable me to keep on wearing the blouse.  My sister and I were allowed only 2 blouses per year.  You see, that yellow cotton material could be bought from only one approved supplier - Heap Hin at Cecil Street I think. The material for both the peacock blue skirt and the yellow blouse were priced at $3.50 per yard - and that was a lot of money then!

The habit of savings was very much encouraged during our schooling days - by both our parents and our primary schools.

Report in the Co-Ed, Pasir Panjang English School 1956

Report in the Co-Ed, Pasir Panjang Primary School, 1955

At home, Abah would get us a cute little savings box, shaped like a house.

To retrieve your savings, simply twist and separate the house from the base!

The above image was not my original "National Savings Bank'.  I bought this from a car-boot sale at Saddington, Leicester about 15 years ago.  And it cost me all of 20p!  I was in ecstasy for days and days after that acquisition.  This phone-box savings tin was probably from the 1940s .  It was a treat for 10p.

My ten-pence box.

I wonder if  parents encourage and practise the art of savings for their children in this hi-tech 21st century.  Do the young ones physically place their coins in little savings boxes?  Maybe they do it online or perhaps their parents set up trusts in all kinds of funds and stocks and shares???

The fun in savings was to hear the rattle of the coins, to feel the growing weight and then to pour it all on a table, count them and take them to the Post Office Savings Counter to be transferred into your own account.  But of course there had to be the mandatory deduction for an ice cream - my favourite was an ice-cream tucked in a slice of bread!

"Tabungkan Duitmu " is taken from a 78 rpm record, probably during the 1940s/1950s. 

This song, like all the remembrances and values noted above, comes from a bygone age.   Of course, some may regard them as out-of-date and irrelevant.   In this age of excessive and almost obscene consumerism, I think people have to take a step back and re-evaluate the way they devour and squander the world's resources, and their own as well!  But I'm grumbling and I have to stop.


But now, let's come down to earth and ponder our present  and disquieting reality.

In today's NST
A few days ago Petronas warned about a 12% drop in net profit.  Malaysia has been riding on a wave of rising prices of gas and crude oil.   As a result,  Petronas  has been used and abused as  the 'goose that laid the golden eggs'  to subsidise and bail out  profligacy in Malaysia.


But the ways and purpose of the world's economy are never as straightforward as they are made out to be. You have to look beyond the  dollars and (non)sense.

Firstly the IMF regards this as good news.    Read ; about the view expressed  by Christine Lagarde , IMF's Managing Director at a conference of corporation chief executives sponsored by the Wall Street Journal.

Secondly I would suggest looking at another scenario.


Here's an exract.

USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia - strange bedfellows!

Also look at :

When the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.

Thursday 27 November 2014


Let me take you back as I'm going to ........

1.  1972/1973.  While going through my 'junk' in Leicester a few weeks ago, I found this poem in Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak's School Magazine.

As they say:  from the mouth of babes (well, from a 14/15 year old) -  you read an expression of such despair from over 40 years ago!

 "Puas di asoh dan di didek, Dengan tenaga yang tiada bersukat, Tapi tiada datang budi,  Dengan pimpinan yang dulu2 itu.
Begini-lah hidup,  Lantaran tak punya asohan budi. "

Dr Mahathir's despondency over the Malays as  'knowing no shame' -  ( Read : ) has more to do with the near collapse of the old Malay values of  Budi.  As 14/15 year old Norziah had concluded - the Malays  " tak punya asohan budi".

Asohan Ugama has jumped by leaps and bounds since Norziah's teenage years.  Pilgrimages for Haj and Umrah proliferate.  Levels (though not necessarily standards) of education are claimed to be (nearly) world-class.  Universities and number of academics and  PhDs have mushroomed. But in the mad rush for more and more manna on earth and a place in heaven after earth, the Malays - unlike the Japanese - have not been true to their forefathers' and foremothers' wisdom and prescience.

My unschooled ( both religious and secular) mother brought us up on sayings from pantun pantun Melayu.

At Kampung Chantek 1948, (from left to right), Maznoor, Mak, Mustapha and Maznah.  Mustakim was to arrive later in 1949

Pisang emas bawa belayar,
Masak sa-biji di-atas peti;
Hutang emas boleh di-bayar,
Hutang budi di-bawa mati.

Pulau Pandan jauh ke-tengah,
Gunong Daik berchabang tiga;
Hanchor badan di-kandong tanah,
Budi yang baik di-kenang juga.

Bunga melati bunga di-darat,
Bunga seroja di-tepi kali;
Hina besi kerana karat,
Hina manusia tidak berbudi.

While we live to offer budi, we have to accept that:

Puas aku bertanam padi, 
Beras maseh datang seberang;
Puas aku berbuat budi,
Emas juga di-pandang orang.

But this stricture was drummed into us from childhood to adulthood. Buat baik berpada-pada.  Buat jahat jangan sekali.  

Anyway, the absence of shame is not the monopoly of  Malays.  All other racial groups in Malaysia (or anyone one else in the world for that matter) are guilty of that - it all depends on how the nature of the 'shame' is displayed or disguised.

Furthermore these miscreants are located not only among the dregs of Malaysian society (like the Mat Rempit and petty thieves); they also thrive among the upper and middle echelons of the Civil Service, the educated professionals, the business tycoons and taukehs, the directors of multi-national companies, the politicians and political leaders and even among the religious bureaucracy.

And just look at the shenanigans going on in the land of the Mother of Parliament, in Britain.

2.  1961.  In 1961, at Crescent Girls' School, a group of Malay-medium students had to 'park' at our school because there weren't any Malay Secondary School in Singapore then.

And this was one of their contributions ......

...... to the School Magazine.

My take on all these?   Wither the Malays.  Whither the Malays?


Here are some other aspects of  Malay  'ways and purpose' as related to budi.  There have been studies and dissertations written on Budi in Malay culture. For instance ....

Abstract of  "Budi as the Malay Mind" by Lim Kin Hai 2003

The following aspects of 'Budi' are from my collection of dictionaries that hark back to the 1960s.

1. From

1963 - 5th Edition



What is missing among present-day Malays is " bangsa Melayu yang budiman".

Let me conclude with a personal touch.

Pisang nangka di-masak pengat, 
Kait2 banyak duri-nya;
Macham mana saya ta'ingat,
Orang baik dengan budi-nya.

When in September 1982 my youngest brother Akim, passed away,  this  'manusia baik budi'  from Leicester was doing his fieldwork in a remote Adivasi village near Kashele, India.  He walked one mile to get the bus for an hour-long trip to the small town of Karjat.  This was followed by a two-hour train journey from Karjat to Bombay and from here he flew to Singapore to comfort my mother.  (Even today, he is petrified of  plane travel.)  After a day or so, he took another plane journey to Bandar Seri Begawan where I was working.

His was a comforting shoulder to cry on.

The Dynamic Duo - many, many, years later - December 2013.

I taped this song "Serunai Malam" by the Sumatran singer Hasnah Tahar  (orkest Saiful Bahri) in 1983 from this album.

I treasured the cassette tape and in winter 2013 I sat down to load all of these songs from tape to cassette player and onto my own clumsy video.  In this way, I can keep on listening to them without causing wear and tear on the tapes and the Irama vinyl album.

These lines from "Serunai Malam'  sum up the relevance and significance of Budi for this Malay.

Dari mana datang rasa kasih sayang,
Dari mata ke hati lalu di kenang.
Kerana budi menjadi tunangan, sayang,
Sumpah setia disaksikan bintang.
Bercerai  mati  batas nya di dunia, sayang.
Di akhirat kita berjumpa pula.

NOTE:  All the pantun are taken from Kalong Bunga, Buku 1 - oleh Za'ba , 1964.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Lely - An Unconquerable Soul

On 4 March 2011 I wrote this posting for Lely's birthday - titled Lely - The Fish That Swims Upstream.
Lely, the intrepid camera girl.

Lely or Mak Nyonya is a Pisces.  There are two parts to the Pisces.  One takes the easier option and swims downstream.  The other like Lely - lives the life of the other fish that swims upstream, the one that had to negotiate the boulders, the strong currents and rapids just to keep body and soul together.

She was  abandoned by her father even before she was born.  Her mother worked as a washerwoman to provide for herself and Lely.  Lely recalled the time when she was about 6/7 years old when she and a couple of her kampung friends rummaged through the dustbins of British Army personnel living in terrace houses near her kampung to look for all kinds of  goodies like toys and books.

When her mother found her out, she received such a caning with her mother crying,  " Tak cukup kah, apa mummy kasi lu?  Mummy kerja sana-sini cuci baju jadi tak payah lu bongkar orang punya tong sampah!"    That day, Lely learned that one does not need to be rich to keep one's pride and dignity.

Like all young girls, she fell in love.  But it was not to be because he died too soon - while at work - in a diving accident.  I recalled standing in Irene's kitchen holding her as her tears fell like rain - actually like a rainstorm - on my shoulder.  I knew how she felt.  I was the same when my brother passed away, too soon.  But that is no comfort at all for each loss and each grief is a very singular pain that cannot be shared.

Despite these trials and tribulations she never lost hope and maintained an immense joy for life and all of Allah's blessings.
She found room in her heart for little, young people ..
.....and tall, older people ....
...... and even Miss Hamid,  a very strict schoolmarm.
Her greatest happiness, I do believe, is to lose herself in the world of nature and "all its creatures, great and small."  All she needs is her camera.
She's happy here in a forest in New Zealand with her camera.  Lely  is the little red blob

Then on 15 January 2012 she suffered a stroke, caused by a very rare congenital illness in the brain.  It is called AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation) - a tangled web of arteries and veins in the brain where a lot of blood is pushed through a concentrated area building up a pressure causing a stroke, aneurism and haemorrhage.  See :

As a result it paralysed her left side and left a hole in her skull about 4 inches x 5 inches in size.  She was and is still dependent on a wheelchair  but her indomitable stubbornness and patience with acupuncture and massage has enabled her to be a little more mobile.

But the major problem was the hole in her head.  We often joked about how she may lose her brain if that hole is not covered up.  "What brain?", she laughed.  She went for two scans to check on the state of the AVM, one in 2012, another in 2013.  But no, - there was no change and it left her in more tears of disappointment.  She went for another one last week.  When I spoke to her on the phone two days ago, she said,  "Miss Hamid, this time I shall not expect too much.  Whatever happens, I shall not get upset."

Today (Thursday), she called to give us the result.

In January 2015, she will go for another scan - to measure the size of the cover for  the hole in the skull!!!!   That will be followed by another operation to complete the closure of the AVM. Syukur Alhamdulillah.

(That hole had to remain until the Specialist was certain that the clot caused by the  AVM had been cleared).

She still has a battle to get back the mobility in her left arm and leg - she still needs her wheelchair - but she has climbed over a helluva mountain.

Lely had had a lot of help and support from her friends, especially Oi Bek and others (See paragraphs 4 and 5).

But for most of 2012 and 2013 and 2014, she made it mainly on her own.

I believe this poem INVICTUS by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) fits you like a glove.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years 
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Lely, as Uncle Iain said,  "We're very proud of you."

Here's the song you wanted to hear when you were in the ICU!!

Tuesday 18 November 2014

From Leicester with Love

Returned to home from home late on Sunday 16 November.  It took 3 hours from Leicester to Heathrow, 16 hours (with transit at Dubai) to KLIA  and another two hours to get home to Setiawangsa.  We made it - physically intact - not bad for two septuagenarians.

Here I am at 4 am Wednesday morning, still wide awake.  Might as well look up my Picture Folder to kill time.  I might get so tired and fall asleep, face flat on the laptop.

My passport indicates my homeland is Malaysia but my spirit and my soul still revolves around these images of my life in Singapore and  Semenanjung Tanah Melayu.

From my PPES School Magazine 1956

From my PPES School Magazine 1956

Remembering Bagan Datoh 1993

Remembering the budlear thriving  in  a rubble heap - Leicester October 2014

It's now 5 am - might as well give up trying and get to work on breakfast.

Saturday 15 November 2014

An Indulgence

Autumn's in full swing and winter will soon be upon us.

Early in September the leaves were beginning to turn brown and from this lime tree.....

Lime Tree - Victoria Park, 4 September
 ...... the leaves began to fall.  I kept my eye on one falling leaf and voila! I got my photo of a freshly fallen lime leaf.

The biggest leaf in the centre, the freshly fallen.  One lime leaf down but not out because next spring,  young green leaves will take its place.

Came October and November and the trees in the Park kept on giving up their leaves.  This year, instead of scrunching them under my shoes, I decided to pick the leaves and take them home instead.

An assortment of autumn leaves from Victoria Park

Maple leaves, at various stages of turning to autumn.

The oak seems to get "browned off" earlier than the maple.

My years of living in England  has made me more aware (with a lot of tutoring from the spouse) of the beauty of nature around me.  I learned to recognise the trees (well, some), the leaves, the flowers and the berries - but don't ask me their botanical names.  It's something that most afficionados of trees and flowers like the spouse and Jack, who can reel off these names off the top of their heads.

Jack - in - the - Garden , 21 September 2014
I wish I had learned to be more appreciative of trees and flowers when I was growing up in Singapore in the 1950s.  My mother loved gardening and she had not one, but two green thumbs - a talent which she passed on to my sister Maznah.

This was all I could manage when I was working in Brunei .  It was my pride and joy.

But it's never too late.  I can identify my favourite wild flower - the Bunga Tahi Ayam (Camara Lantana).  They flourish in our garden at Setiawangsa.

The spouse even made me a hand-drawn picture of my favourite bloom.

But I have discovered a new love - the Senduduk - not the garden centre variety, but the wild Senduduk.

Lely's (Pickled Herring) picture of the wild Senduduk in our garden.
Another 'wild' interest of mine was my hunt for my favourite fruit tree.  The tree and fruits belonged to no one.  It grows free and happy anywhere in the kampung and brings so much joy to all the children who would climb all over its branches, pick its fruits and know that you will be safe from irate neighbours or their dogs.

I was absolutely delirious when - after endless searchings - I found my beautiful  and bountiful tree at Paya Jaras, Sungai Buloh a few years ago.

Pokok Ceri

That one red juicy wild cherry - how my brothers and I would scramble over each other just for a bite and a gulp.

Those were the days.  I hope that Pokok Ceri will still be there when we get back.