Saturday 19 November 2022

Semangat 44 and a Grumpy Old Woman

For the record, I am a member of that transitional generation that could sing God Save The King/Queen, Majulah Singapura and Negara Ku with gusto and pleasure and several dashes of pride.

In 1951 I was seven years old and at Pasir Panjang English School in Singapore.    Here we were taught God Save The King (King George VI) - which, in 1953, became God Save The Queen (Queen Elizabeth II).    In 1959, when I was 15, Singapore attained self-government and Majulah Singapura took the place of the British anthem.   Came September 1963, Singapore merged with Malaysia and I added Negara Ku to my repertoire.   Then it was back to Majulah Singapura on 9 August 1965 when Singapore was expelled and became an independent Republic.

But Negara Ku was never an unfamiliar, foreign anthem in our family or in many other Malay families in Singapore.  The family of Abdul Hamid bin Jala/Jaleh never saw themselves as being Malay as defined by shifting politics - sometime Malayan, sometime Singaporean, sometime Malaysian!   No.  We were Malays defined by much more than that - by a shared history, a shared tradition and  culture, and a shared religion.  We were simply Malays, from an island and a peninsula in the one Malay world.    BUT THAT WAS THEN!

It is hard to wean myself away from all those past anthems in my head and my psyche.  In 1974 (when I was 30), my two native English companions had to pull me out of the cinema because God Save The Queen was playing at the end of the movie and I had automatically stood up to attention.  Everybody else in the theatre were scrambling out!!  How do you delete a song which which has been embedded into your head from the tender age of 7/8 years old!

In 2009, when I finally became a Rakyat Malaysia, as my Abah had wanted me to do since 1968, Negara Ku was not alien to me at all - it is like what my dear Emak would describe as familiar as "air mandi".  But when I hear Majulah Singapura, I respond to it with a respectful nostalgia - as a Malay from Singapore.  " Tempat jatuh lagi di kenang.  Ini kan lagi tempat bermain".

That is a long preamble to my posting today - Malaysia's 15th General Election.  I did my duty for GE 14.  It is a duty that I regard with great seriousness.  But I had to weigh my responsibility as a rakyat with my need to look after the health of 78-year-old AsH and her octogenarian spouse.  Four months ago both of us had a bad dose of Covid, and the ramifications of that on our health and well-being and our work were horrendous.  I looked to the spouse, to a good friend on our street, Fadzil and to Zaini a comrade-of-like-mind to help me to a decision.  So, I shall carry on with this posting knowing that I will be risk-free,  InsyaAllah, to carry on with our "vocation".

This morning, on our way to breakfast I took a few photographic souvenirs of GE 15.  I should have been snapping the election banners before today when they were all glowing and blowing in all their splendour on those bright sunny days.   There was an obvious coincidence of a predominance of blues -  UMNO/Barisan and Perikatan Nasional banners in less well-off areas and in Malay areas.   I noted more reds in the more upmarket residences.   A caveat though - this is only what I notice in and around where I live.

What would my father (1910-1974) have thought of this and all other elections and the plight of his Tanah Air today?

Abah and all his friends had such hopes for their Tanah Air .   I saw my father's tears when, on 31 August 1957,  we were all listening on the radio to Tunku Abdul Rahman calling out "Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!"    It was the declaration of independence for Persekutuan Tanah Melayu.  

Jual sayor jual keladi

Dedala api chambah di-batang

Biar-lah hanchor biar lah mati.

Ta'mahu lagi di-jajah orang.

"Why are you crying?"  I  asked my father.  "I am happy for my country but I also fear for her future."

Baju baharu kain bertekat.

Baju belah pakai kerosang;

Bersatu padu kuat sa-ikat'

Kalau berpechah di-makan orang.

Tanah merah tanah-nya liat'

Buat menimbun tambak negeri;

Antara pemerentah dengan ra'ayat,

Kebajikan umum hendak di-chari.

Looking at his Tanah Air today, Abah would once again be in tears - but now holding down his head in his hands in despair.

I have observed the political shenanigans going on in this nation for the past 13 years.  I reckoned our "Malay-led backdoor government" did a remarkable job in pulling us out of the pandemic.  We may not have been the best in the world, but we do have something to be proud of in the leadership and all the personnel that worked tirelessly for the country's salvation.  For these personnel there were no rewards of titles, high dividends, generous bonus and profits for their hard work and sacrifice - only their sense of duty to their Tanah Air.

And yet, looking at the brouhaha and the innuendoes and the sleights-of-hand during this 2022 political campaigning, it is certain we have learned nothing at all after the pandemic.

Buluh betung puchok-nya rapoh,

Kuching puteh tangkap tekukur;

Sa-puloh pun jong masok berlaboh,

Anjing maseh berchawat ekor.

Every five years, we put up our democracy for show.  We still believe in our rights and responsibilities as a rakyat of our Tanah Air.  We have to keep on believing, even though :

Turun ka-sawah memakai tudong,

Padi di-huma layu lengkesa;

Sa-ekor sawa, sa-ekor tedong,

Bersama2 mengadu bisa.

NB.  The photograph above was taken in 1952/1953.   All the pantun were taken from Kalong Bunga Buku 1, DBP 1964 - hence the old spelling.

Abah, I have not left my country.  I fear our country has left me.


Wednesday 9 November 2022

si Hamid or AnaksiHamid ?


The above comment came into my blog a week or so ago.  I shall oblige as much as I can.

As for the the "state of the UK government", I think I have nowt to add.  The UK's media, electronic and print, will be a better source than me.  I only know the cost of heating this winter will go through the roof.    But then, everything's gone up, hasn't it?

A dear Leicester friend signed off his recent email to us with  "kujdesuni" and the spouse replied "faleminderit".  Why?   With 40,000 Albanians arriving as refugees(?),  illegal immigrants(?), asylum seekers (?) in Britain this year from across the Channel in their dinghies, the Brits will have to start looking for Albanian-speaking interpreters.  Unlike the case of minorities in Malaya, they will not be provided Albanian-language  schools.  But certainly words like "take care" and "thank you"  (translation of the words above) will have to be part of the repertoire in schools, hospitals, job centres, social service providers etc. etc. in UK in the very near future.


Economically, Malaysia is perhaps faring better, despite the constant whingeing of the moaners and doom-mongers.    And we always have them, don't we?

With regards to Rishi Sunak (Rashi Sanuk/Sunuk, according to Joe Biden), well, he's brought a lot of joy and pride to the hearts of India's PM Modi and many of its people.  Even Indians in Malaysia (and  local "other" liberals) are toying with the sentiment, "why can't we achieve the same, here in Malaysia?"

May I recommend this article by Pankaj Mishra in the Guardian?

and by Mihir Bose 

Just for a little quirky peek at the nature of democracy in UK  (Malaysia, USA or anywhere else where "Democracy Rules OK")  this image below symbolises the great reality of democracy.

Okay, Zelda Supreme, that should answer your queries.    

Now to the nub of today's posting.

Years ago - as soon as I started blogging - Rockybru,  a former student of mine, coined the acronym AsH from my moniker "anaksihamid".  Since then,  commentators and readers of my Blog, and even friends, have referred to me as simply AsH.  At times - and I feel quite chuffed - I am 'Kakak' or Auntie.    Especially touching is when one of my readers, a professor, calls me "Cikgu".  All we have in common is Leicester, my place of abode and where she spent some time as a post-grad student - and I never had the pride or pleasure of being her teacher!     My former students from Singapore, including Rockybru, know me as "Miss Hamid."  It should be Miss Maznoor, but then that's Singapore.

Hamid, of course, is my father's name, and AnaksiHamid means the "Child of Hamid". 

Now Zelda Supreme addresses me with " Hi Si hamid " - the first time ever that moniker has been used.    Well....perhaps I should clarify a couple of issues to some of my non-Malay readers and perhaps some Malays who have lost touch with the nomenclature of their mother tongue.   

Firstly, this comment addressed to  "Si hamid" will certainly get nowhere, because it is directed to my beloved late father! 

Secondly, I think this will be an opportunity to narrate the reasons for my choice of this name for my Blog.

(A caveat:  This is not AsH making a mountain out of a molehill.  Most of my readers  for the last 6-7 years - just over 90%  -  are not from Malaysia..  So, for them, I hope the following might shed a little light on Malay names and titles in the Semenanjung.  Of course, a few Malaysians, too, might benefit!)

Why AnaksiHamid?

Why did I choose the name AnaksiHamid?  After all, 'Grumpy old Woman' (GOW), or 'Wicked Witch  of the East' (WWE) suits me to a T.  But I am the daughter of my mother Kamisah and Abdul Hamid my father.  My father has always been the example that I try to live up to and who imparted to me  the fortitude and the guts to be what I am today, what I have made of myself yesterday and what I might be tomorrow, InsyaAllah. 

However, in Malay culture 'si' is not a nice or kind word.  It can be very dismissive of the the person referred to - it's almost a form of denigration and a term often used by a superior to an inferior.  Basically, it means "that so and so", someone of little or no significance.  At its best, it might bring an air of familiarity and perhaps a teeny-weeny bit of affection.  But that is stretching its usage too far.

The impact of the word 'si' can be illustrated from a little story of two visits to my paternal grandfather's house at Sungai Buloh.  That first was in the late 1950s, maybe 1958.  We were in our teens when Abah (father) took us to Paya Jaras, Sungai Buloh to visit his late father's house.  It was a huge, sturdy kampung house, on such high stilts that our family car could be easily parked under the house.  We had a great time playing under the house and roaming about the sawah and the coconut holdings with our cousins.  And I remember a kitchen which had a unique built-in waist-level rack for drying plates and other kitchen utensils.  It was constructed in such a way that the run-off  water would trickle onto the ground outside.  I wished we'd had something like that in our Pasir Panjang (Singapore) kampung house - leaving no messy drips on the kitchen floor. 

But I recall something else very vividly.  In a group photograph on the wall of my Abah's father's house, I pointed to a man who looked very familiar to me. I asked, "Abah, is that you?  He replied, "No, that's your grandfather".  I gasped and said nothing.

We also met Macik S (Auntie S) and her family who were living in the house.  They were not well-off and her husband, if I recall correctly, had no waged full-time job.  They led a self-sufficient hand-to-mouth existence - a common condition of the Malays in the kampungs in the Semenanjung during the 1950s and even later in the 60s and perhaps to the seventies. Their condition was very unlike the sojourners in the urban areas who had the benefits of education, housing and health facilities, as well as opportunities for a stable, salaried employment.  All we knew about Macik S was this ; she was adopted as a child from a Chinese family by my grandfather.  Being his 'sister', she called my Abah 'Abang Hamid', a respected and affectionate term.

On our way back to Kuala Lumpur, Abah made a stopover at our grandfather's grave.  The graveyard, unlike our graveyards today, was overgrown and uncared for.  It was here that Abah instructed all four of his children not to make any claim on his father's house, land, padi and coconut fields; although he had also apportioned part of the land for "Tanah Wakaf" (land donated for religious use - for cemeteries, building of mosques, etc).

The second visit was made by my sister and her husband in the early 1990s, about 30 years later.  When the two of them retired from teaching, they decided to use the time available to re-connect with long-lost friends and relatives - to foster the spirit of tali siratul-rahim (bond of good-will). They managed, after a lot of queries and searching to locate the site of our grandfather's house.  

But the kampung house was no more.  It was now a typical rumah batu (brick house) with fencing around it.  Maznah and Haron stood at the gate  and called out Salaam Alaikum.  No response.  They called again because they could see there was someone in the house.  Another Salaam Alaikum  and finally an elderly lady came out, reluctantly, to the gate.  

My sister introduced herself  and asked "Boleh saya tumpang tanya?  Ini rumah Puan S?  Saya anak Abdul Hamid dan ingin berjumpa dengan adik angkat Abah saya, Macik S..(May I make a little query? Is this the house of Puan S?  I am Abdul Hamid's daughter and would like to meet my father's adopted sister, Macik S)."

Her brittle reply was " Kan si Hamid dah mati!  (Isn't that Hamid dead?)" 

It was now 'si Hamid' and not 'Abang Hamid'.

What did she fear to make her so contemptuous and  hostile?  We were not interested in the property and the land although we did wonder what happened to the land that Abah had set aside for Tanah Wakaf.  Today Sungai Buloh, a thriving adjunct of Kuala Lumpur, has become prime land.

So that's the story behind the name of my Blog; of why I chose AnaksiHamid.  This title is to reinstate the pedigree of a man who shunned his inheritance and decided to work, to struggle and to make his own way in life, for himself and his family.

His legacy to his two sons and two daughters was simple : "I cannot leave you land, money and property when I go.  I can only provide you with the best education you can get.  It will be completely yours and no one can take that away from you."

And Maznah, Maznoor, Mustapha and arwah Mustakim (in the baby buggy) are very fortunate and proud to be the children of  si hamid.

Kamisah and Hamid's Four - 691 Pasir Panjang Road 1949.

Finally,  to Zelda Supreme and others who may mis-name AsH, for whatever reasons;  I hope this little tale would serve as a reminder to be accurate.  


I reckon President's Biden's comrades and most American citizens must have been quite embarrased when he congratulated the PM of UK and mispronounced the name of the  PM as Rashi Sanuk/Sunuk!