Tuesday 27 September 2016

Unconquerable in Singapore

In English Universities we refer to our lecturers by their first names - that is what they prefer despite their academic titles of Dr or Professor.  Many, many years ago when Iain Buchanan was my tutor-lecturer, he preferred to be just Iain, and not Mr Buchanan. But being Asians we were not comfortable with the familiarity of the first name.  Respect for your teacher (and elders) was the norm.

In my experience as a teacher, despite 40 years of affectionate attachment between AsH and her former students from Jurong Secondary School; "Miss Hamid" is still their term of reference for me.  With an age gap of 17/18 years between us, they are not old enough to consider me as a "kakak" and not young enough to regard me as a "Mak Ngah".  (My youngest niece  is in her mid-twenties.)  But beneath it all, the bond of respect for their teacher is upheld by the nomenclature "Miss Hamid".

After all, I had a problem in changing the designation of Mr Buchanan to Iain when we got hitched up.  But now after years of matrimony, 'hey you' is good and sweet enough!

So "Miss Hamid" I shall be for the rest of my days. The spouse is an "Uncle" or just "Iain" to the girls while the boys simply call him "Iain".  Mr Buchanan is out of the question.

Last weekend (23-25 September), I left 'hey you' at home with a large pan of chicken curry for dinner/lunch and sultana and orange cake for snacks and tea, while I gallivanted down to Singapore.  Despite his wish, he could not accompany me to visit the "Kids"in Singapore for reasons known only to the  Singapore authorities.  Who are we to ask and to know why?

On Friday, from Changi Airport, Jai deposited me at a Malay "kedai makan"  at Kandahar Street...

From the "kedai makan".
 ... as he went on to Masjid Sultan nearby for Friday Prayers.

Masjid Sultan

The Congregation leaving the Masjid.

The old and new.

As I sat at the "kedai", observing the buildings ...

The wooden 'extension' at the top of the kedai,  a defiant two-fingers at progress and regulations!

......  and the people in this neighbourhood' , a poignant feeling welled up in me - this is the world of my childhood and teenage and adult years!

On each payday,  Abah  would buy us a treat  of nasi briani or roti murtabak  from Islamic Restaurant or Victory Restaurant at North Bridge Road.  NB. The man in the picture is guiding his friend who was reversing his car.  Nothing dastardly intended.

I will never be able to feel this way about Ampang Road, Leboh Masjid India, or Chow Kit.  Though the backlanes were not as spanking clean as today....

....  they are still the backlanes of my past when I visited my friends at Race Course Lane.  But I much prefer the muck and clutter of backlanes gone by.

The food may cost more today but the menu and aroma of the food remains the same; especially the omelette or telur dadar.  No eating establishment in KL can imitate or beat that rich juicy mixture of eggs, onions, chilis and daun sop (Chinese parsley).  So I asked myself   "How could I leave all this, the hallowed space of my growing-up years?  Or maybe to put it another way, "What happened to this space to make me leave?" - to move from my mother's tanah air to my father's?  Culturally, ethnographically, geographically, historically - they should be one.

Talking about food,  Jai excelled himself in not only giving us the hospitality of his abode for the get-together but he  also supplied the provisions, the facilities, the transport and manpower for a truly supercalifragilisticaspialidocious  meal, not just once, but for two nights running.

Pickle, Salad, Chapatti, Rice and Dhal - genuine Punjab cuisine.

As the matriarch at the gathering, AsH became the official food taster with Jai giving an indulgent smile on the left and Lely and Ummu pretending to ignore AsH's privilege.  

Clockwise: Kumar (chapatti chef), Malkit (dhal and chicken curry chef), Manjeet (unofficial chef) - all from Punjab. Thank you boys - we really appreciate your culinary skills.  More please!!???

A chapatti toast to the chef.  Lely (in red) and Irene in the foreground are now smiling because they had a tiny morsel of my victuals. 

The dinner (rojak mamak) before the  gourmet Punjabi meal. From L to R: Ash, Jai, Lely, Irene and Veera.

A smiling Veera - after picking up tips on the art of making chapati from Kumar.

Great food, great company, lively conversation with old and new friends - which went on until one in the morning.

But my greatest pleasure, which will last me to the end of my days was to see Irene laughing and enjoying the time we were sharing.  Next week she will begin her regime of chemotherapy, the first of sixteen.  All the joy we have had this weekend will have to suffice, to hold Irene - and the people who love her - together.  My whole being aches for her.  Her courage and her determined effort to keep on being brave and philosophical is heartrending and yet so inspiring.  I know she is doing this for the sake of her friends and less for herself.  She keeps her coming hell under wraps, keeping it for herself to confront.

I have known this sweet and gentle woman since she was fifteen and shared some of her ups and downs.  "What to do, Miss Hamid?" has always been her plaintive acknowledgement when life becomes a bit raw.  But this time dear girl, you have us all rooting for you, caring and looking out for you for as long as you need and want to.  You are not alone.

I do feel like taking a swipe at fate and the gods that that did this to you and Lely.


You are Invictus Irene, always remember that.

Friday 16 September 2016

For Irene

Enjoy your holiday .....  and the rest of your life.

This time - no words, just a song for days from .....

........  then,

... to today.

Tuesday 6 September 2016

Oh, wouldn't it be loverly ... !!

Three days ago we read about the grand finale in the career of a British Asian icon.     He is the Rt. Hon Nigel Keith Anthony Standish Vaz, the Labour MP for Leicester East since 1987 - who holds the record for being the longest serving British Asian MP.     I say he is a Leicester MP; he actually spends most of his time in London, where he owns properties worth around £3 million.

Sepandai-pandai tupai melumpat, akhirnya jatuh ke tanah jua.

For more details read  : http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/keith-vaz-who-is-keith-vaz-male-prostitute-claims-home-affairs-select-committee-chairman-stands-down-a7225296.html

He was exposed in a sting operation by the Sunday Mirror just a few days ago.  It was a beautifully organised operation - no need for a trial or the presence of mattresses.

I suppose he has a right to his private life ( he is a married man of 23 years and has sired 2 children) but as someone elected and trusted by the good people (mainly traditional Asians) of Leicester East to represent them, and as a member of the Privy Council (since 2006) and (since 2007) the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee  he is expected to be whiter than white in upholding the integrity of Parliament, his country and his community.

But who knows?     Time and tide, opportunity and opportunism might see the reconciliation of Vaz and the Sunday Mirror?     Politics and media have that kind of relationship.

They can always take a leaf from Malaysia's book and kiss and make up like ........

....... Malaysia's two Right Honourables.

Oh, wouldn't it be loverly -  " lots of chocolate for me to eat, lots of coal making lots of heat".

Who knows -  in the spirit of Malaysia's example as the Mother of all Reconciliations - we might witness a similar scenario: that of future President Hilary Clinton (she has a good chance) smiling and hugging Monica Lewinsky.   Who's Monica Lewinsky?    Well, her dress almost brought down the world's most powerful leader - husband Bill.

Read:  http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/clinton/lewinskydress.html

Before the Blue Dress

I could think of other mind-boggling rapprochements - like Hang Jebat and Hang Tuah. But no, they were battling for principles.      

Let's just remember, when we see old friends, turned old enemies, turned friends once again: there is not always a worthwhile principle at stake.   Especially when they're all politicians.

Three cheers for Malaysia - Land of Opportunity and Opportunists!