Monday, November 24, 2008



Selamat menyambut "Hari Raya Qurban"
dan
"Tahun Baru 2009".


Semoga bertemu lagi
Insyaallah.


Kamaliah & Tarmizi.




Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Amal in Being Kind

Each time I come across stories about abused maids, I get very worked up. I am outraged that some employers see it fit to ill-treat their househelpers, either physically or emotionally, sometimes both.

Just days ago, one beast of an employer (who runs his own business) was sentenced to 32 years of prison and some 18 strokes of the rotan for mercilessly raping his teenage maid over a period of many months, aided by his wife who held her down. Just what kind of animals are we dealing with?

While not to the extreme as mentioned, I do have personal experiences of people I know (highly-educated ones too) calling their maids bodoh (stupid), bangang (dumb) and lembab (dimwit) to their faces. I cringe at such rudeness. What has happened to our sense of propriety and decency?

If they were so rich, clever and well-educated, they wouldn't have left their country for a faraway land just to earn a pittance by washing the bottom of someone's else's child, would they?

I don't know the statistics relating to maid abuse in this country, but I would like to think that Malaysians are generally kind-hearted and treat their maids well. I believe those who abuse their househelp are in the minority.

There is another breed of employers - the modern-day Scrooge; they keep an eagle eye on what the maid eats. They even keep track on what's in the fridge. Heaven helps the maid if a particular food item - a fruit or a piece of cake, for example - goes missing.

What irks me so is that the maid is good enough to clean, cook, wash and manage the nitty-gritty of the household, not to mention catering to the whims and fancies of the little masters and misses, but not good enough to share the family meal.

True, there are abusive maids at the other end of the scale. Almost everyone with maids have horror stories to tell. However, I am the absolute optimist; I always think if employers treat their maids kindly and with respect, the likelihood of such maids screwing them up is minimal (unless you really have the misfortune of hiring a witch).

My late grandmother, bless her soul, raised me to value and respect househelp. To her, our maid was family and accordingly, was treated as such. We had the same daily help for almost two decades; I grew up under her wings, shadowed by her kindness.

She actually started as a washerwoman and eventually 'progressed' to doing general housework including cooking and cleaning. Her husband was a fisherman who did odd jobs during the monsoon season.

The maid had a daughter my age named Hamidah and when I entered secondary school, my grandparents adopted Midah so she could live with us to keep me company. She was my best friend; we were like sisters, even sharing the same bed.

We were joined at the hips like the proverbial Siamese twins until we both finished secondary school. Midah went on to a teacher's college while I joined NST. Today she is nearing retirement; happily married and lives and teaches in Perlis.

Her eldest child, a daughter, recently graduated in medicine and has begun working in Kota Baru Hospital. I saw my friend last at my mom's funeral in May this year. She looked good. Her own mom passed on some time back. We hugged and shed a few tears.

My (former) sister-in-law Sofwanah, an angel of a woman if ever there is one, too has been having the same Indonesian maid for the last 18 years. While 'bibik' does all the housework, her husband takes care of the garden, the pool and whatever else that needs to be done outside the house.

Their only child, a daughter named Sahanaya, was born in Malaysia. She attends Bukit Bandaraya school and excels in her studies. She's raised like Kak Nah's own and is treated just like a kid sister by Kak Nah's grown children.

A brainy girl, that Naya. Her English is flawless. She loves reading and tops her class consistently. Imagine, the daughter of a barely literate Indonesian maidservant besting the brains of the uppercrust's offsprings!

Three years ago Kak Nah and her husband Abang Kamal legally adopted Naya, then 12, to ensure all her needs are properly and adequately taken care of. We are all proud of her and are rooting for her to succeed.

I believe in giving people a chance. Kindness usually begets kindness. There is no greater 'amal' than flourishing our own ummah.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Labbaikallah...



In the wee hours of Tuesday next week, by the grace of Allah swt, Pak Abu and I would begin our journey of a lifetime; to the Holy Land, to perform the Haj.

No words can explain the joy that we felt upon receiving the news from Tabung Haji just three weeks ago that we had been given a berth for this Haj season.

We had waited patiently for a final say to our appeal to go for pilgrimage sooner than the year allocated to us earlier by Tabung Haji, that is 2018. Alhamdulillah, we are truly blessed, to have been given a chance to go ten years ahead of schedule.

To step foot in Makkah, to be able to pray in front of the Kaabah, to perform all the rituals and obligations - to become "Tetamu Allah" (Guests of God) - this is all so very daunting for first-timers like us who have never been to the Holy Land.

Apprehension aside, we look forward to fulfilling the fifth tenet of Islam the best we can. Kepada Allah swt kami berserah. We shall be away for 41 days and would be back, God willing, on 04/01/09.

Dear readers and friends, doakanlah semoga kami mendapat kenikmatan Allah swt sepenuhnya, semoga dikurniakan Haji Mabrur dan semoga kami selamat kembali ke pangkuan keluarga. Ampunilah saya sekiranya terkasar bahasa atau andainya kalian terguris hati dengan mana-mana posting saya selama ini.

Bismillahirahmanirrahim

Ya Allah Ya Tuhan ku
Akulah sekerdil dan sehina manusia didepan Mu
Begitu lama aku mengasing diri dari Mu
Begitu ingkar aku akan segala tuntutan Mu
Begitu leka aku dengan segala larangan Mu
Begitu jauh aku dari Mu Ya Allah
Betapa aku melupai Mu Ya Allah

Tetapi Engkau sentiasa mengingati aku Ya Allah
Kau buka pintu hati ku Ya Allah
Kau kikis segala kemungkaran ku Ya Allah
Kau terangkan segala kegelapan ku Ya Allah
Sesungguhnya Engkau mengasihani aku Ya Allah

Ya Allah Ya Tuhan ku
Ampunilah segala dosa ku
Terimalah segala penyesalan ku
Lindungilah aku dari kedajalan
Berkatilah aku dengan hidayah Mu
Kasihanilah aku Ya Allah
Sesungguhnya Engkau Maha Mengampuni..
Amin.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Sight To Remember

1975, Soho. I can lay claim to having watched a striptease show. Just once. A real, professional striptease show, in a real, legal striptease joint. I came, I saw, I almost retched (hang on, you'll know why in due course) and I have not seen one since.

[No dear, it's alright. You go ahead and take those Malaysian guests and colleagues of yours. I know all of you are itching to see those Caucasian mounds of Venus. If you don't mind, I'll stay home and mind the baby, and perhaps have a chat with good old Mrs Wilkner].

We had been in London all of three months and were staying in Golders Green, in a bedsit owned by an extremely stingy Pakistani couple, who would switch off the central heating at 8.00 every evening, causing us to shiver by the coin-fed, two-bar heater before sleep hit us. (It didn't take us long to find alternative accommodation).

With the benefit of hindsight, I think that visit to a striptease joint was also meant to be an initiation of some kind for me, then 20 years old and still pretty naive. Needless to say, the other half, at 27, was worldly enough (not sure about wise, but definitely worldly), having spent a good many years of his schooling life abroad.

['You are all grown and in good old London, girl! But you haven't 'arrived' until you have seen and learned the time-honoured way of undressing yourself. Treat this as one of life's lessons. You'll enjoy it'. Yeah, right!].

We were in the company of some guests from home, hot-blooded young men who had just arrived in the UK and raring to have a good time. The only female in the group, I wasn't feeling too comfortable - the hick in me was rearing its bucolic head - but as the wife of the host I had to oblige.

We trooped, self-consciously, into a decent-sized hall with a T-shaped catwalk smack in the middle. Tables and chairs were arranged alongside the elongated stage. We were booked at a premier spot, right at the head of the stage, "to capture the full essence of the show" said the host convincingly.

The lights dimmed, the music played and the show began. Out they came one by one - women with incredibly voluptuous bodies and even more incredible humongous breasts - sashaying down the catwalk in various states of undress.

The guys looked shell-shocked; eyes popping out of their sockets, mouths agape, tongues licking their lips, salivating, and these hotties had not even yanked off their panties yet!

I remember feeling thoughtful, cupping my chin, Rodin-like. Actually I was thinking of those boobs. God help me, they were enormous! They needed to be properly anchored so as not to topple their owners. And they could easily suffocate a man. Then again, any guy who perished due to breast suffocation would probably die happy.

As I sat there, mind racing, the girls came and went in quick succession. All seemed to be overdressed at the top but remained in teeny weeny patch masquerading as panties at the bottom. And of course they flung bits and pieces of clothing as they whirled and swayed to the music.

In due time, down the catwalk sashayed a dancer in "Arabian Night" outfit (you know the belly-dancing kind, with billowing pants and fitting top and that harem-like face cover). Discarding each piece of clothing as she swayed down the catwalk, she slipped off her panties as soon as she reached our group. Suddenly, she put her leg up on my shoulder and there it rested for a good one minute!

I had a good lesson in anatomy that day. That spring day in London I learned two things; one - an anatomical part so coveted by the male specie could look hideous and unsightly (from any angle!) and two - some things are better left hidden from public view to increase their mystique. It was terribly hard to live down the experience. What else can you say when you have looked at 'it' in the 'eye'? The mind boggles. No word is ever adequate enough to describe both the sight and the experience.....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

PESAT Get-together


My sister Zaridah with En Mohamad Shamsuddin (Abang Din) whom we shared a table with.

Uncle Som (in orange batik) and Pok Ku (in white, extreme right), the one peeking through the palm plant like a Bollywood actor!

Amidst greetings of "guane wey?" (how are you?) "lamer dok napok" (long time no see) "sehak nyer mung ler ni!" (you have gained some weight!) and other pleasantries all expressed in that unmistakable Terengganu twang, my sister Zaridah and I stepped into Rasta Food Court in Taman Tun Dr Ismail Sunday noon to attend a get-together organised by Persatuan Anak2 Terengganu (PESAT), Selangor dan Federal Territory chapter.

All the signature dishes of Terengganu were there - nasik dagang, nasik minyok, pulok lepa, nasik kapik, krepok lekor, akok - even an obscure (to me) kuih called bronok I never heard of.

My sister and I were so hungry that we sapu a fair bit of everything; it has been a long time since I ate such delicious nasik dagang by the way. The organisers weren't stingy with the beverages either - there was a complete array of hot and cold drinks, from Kopi Terengganu to the ubiquitous teh tarik and sirap.

Idah and I got to meet with our late father's Bukit Besi colleague, Uncle Mohd Som, and also that favourite gentleman blogger of mine, Pok Ku of Dibawah Rang Ikang Kering fame.

[Uncle Som's uncanny resemblance to arwah bapak still startles me each time I come face to face with him. It's like staring into the past!]

The lunch get-together, tagged "Majlis Ramah Mesra" was graced by Menteri Besar Terengganu, Datuk Ahmad Said and his wife as guests-of-honour. I spied many familiar faces in the 200-strong crowd, retired senior civil servants among them, many of whom I remembered from my reporting days.

Unfortunately, my memory bank did a number on me; I couldn't recall a single name so I steered clear of everyone to save myself the embarrassment of not knowing who I spoke to.

And then there was Adnang Osmang, the well-known Terengganu-born singer of the Pop Yeh Yeh era; must be in his late 50s now but still as handsome as ever (sigh!). I used to moon over his photograph those teenage days..... hehehe.

One surprise meeting was with new blogger Awang of @Dungun blogspot who took the trouble to look for me just to get acquainted with this Makcik Blogger. He was brought to my table by a PESAT secretariat member who happened to man the registration table and thus knew of my arrival.

Awang weh! I am so glad to have met you and your cute little daughter. By the way, I am old enough to be Awang's mother; my eldest son is older than him! Awang is budok Tranu through and through who now makes his home in Nilai.

In all, it was a pleasant outing for my sister and I. I hope to be able to play a more significant role in PESAT than just attending gatherings like this one; perhaps in so far as PR is concerned.

I would love to see PESAT prosper in more ways than one, becoming an effective conduit between the State Government and us, the sons and daughters of Terengganu now seeking our rezeki outside the State.

NA NA NA NA NA TRANU KITER!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Child's Prayer


Lifted this from here - http://greenrubberband.blogspot.com/ - the image tugs at my heartstrings; the child's look of innocence and her piety got to me somehow and I just thought I would like to share it with you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cakap Tak Serupa Bikin

Once upon a time I was a pressman. So was my friend Zaharah Othman, also known as blogger Kak Teh, who now teaches in London. Blogger Fauziah whose Latte@Chinoz greets me daily, is still very much in the thick of things. Blogger Nuraina has left news reporting but is still in publishing.

God knows there are so many of us from the media currently blogging; Akhirudin Atan (Rocky's Bru), Aziz Hassan (Mana Mana), Datuk Kadir Jasin (The Scribe), Datuk Ahmad Talib (Pahit Manis), Ashraf Abdullah (Jejak Pujangga), to name but a few.

I had just checked out Rocky's site where the level of media-bashing seems to be reaching new heights that I have lost, for now, my zest for writing. I think this new barrage comes about because Rocky had the audacity to defend the Press.

All those talk about championing Press freedom by the Pakatan Government is just a load of crap. "Cakap tak serupa bikin". Why victimise a lowly reporter or a photographer? These people are just doing their job. Which part of "cari makan' don't you understand?

Reporters and pixmen don't make rules. They don't decide on policies. Most times, they don't even determine their own assignments. They go to office, get assigned to whatever it is that they are supposed to do that day, and get going. Then they return to office, get their stories or photos done, and go home.

If you are angry with any publication, just boycott it. Just hit it where it hurts the most - the bottom line. Don't vent your anger and frustration on the helpless and hapless journalists. Or is it Orde Baru to be crass, crude and arrogant? I thought that's Orde Lama, the one they are desperately trying to replace.

To the writer who commented that the pixman deserved the treatment because he was from Utusan, I say "Shame on you." I am not defending Utusan. Far from it. I am defending one of my own.

It doesn't really matter which side of the political divide we are on, as long as we can disagree sensibly. Use that something between the ears. If I am not mistaken, it's called BRAIN. You want to lead? Then show some class, Pakatan. Please.



Monday, November 10, 2008

Cringe Moments

Kak Teh has tagged me for "Cringe Moments" so I have no choice but to oblige. After all, I do have the tendency to embarrass myself at the most unlikely moments.

On a couple of occasions the bottom half of my baju kurung developed a mind of its own and slid down to my knees; once as I stepped out of a car and the second time while walking. Luckily I managed to grab the sarong both times, halfway before it settled into a neat pile at my feet.

One time too many, I had risen from sujud (prayer prostration) only to find myself underneath the voluminous telekung (prayer garb) of another woman praying in front of me, almost kissing her arse, literally!

And then there were all those "accidental farts" in public places, sudden gusts of loud, explosive wind where you had expected a dainty, barely audible 'peet' safely concealed within your butt crack...

Here are six more that I can comfortably recall. Quite a few I can't write for the sheer embarrassment of it all .......

Cringe Moment One

Press Ball 1973 saw me, age 19, on the stage singing my heart out to the media crowd, accompanied by the NST band. I was togged in a brand new dress - a black, hand painted kaftan with a beautiful bold floral motif, purchased that very same morning.

[NB: Those days kaftan was an acceptable attire for formal functions, unlike today when it is relegated to house coat status and renamed 'baju kelawar']

There were hoots of catcalls, not to mention howls of laughter as well as audible gasps from the floor. I felt so proud as I strutted my stuff on the stage thinking "Wah! I must be damn good, man! They like my singing so much!"

It was only after I finished singing and went backstage that someone pointed out the root of the all the hoots. Apparently, my black kaftan was so sheer that nothing was left to imagination.

I was told, my only saving grace as I stood up there on the stage in full glare of the spotlight was that I had my undies on...(GASP!)

Cringe Moment Two

I was newly divorced and was sharing a house with a fellow lady journalist in Bangsar. The single storey terrace house was conveniently within walking distance from the NST office.

I was so late for work one morning that after getting dressed, I hurriedly grabbed my jacket hanging behind the door, draped it on my arms and walked to the office.

I arrived at my workstation in Balai Berita and was about to toss the jacket onto the back of my chair when a colleague took one look and asked: "Why are you carrying your pants to work?".

I had accidentally grabbed my trousers instead of a jacket. Small wonder people were giving me strange looks as I walked by!

Cringe Moment Three

Those reporting days, my standard dressing was a blouse and a knee-length skirt. I had a preference for flouncy floral skirts teamed with plain-coloured tops.

I went into a hotel washroom during an assignment once, after which I walked down to the main road to take a minibus back to the office. There were a lot of interested stares so I added an extra wriggle to my walk. You know, just to make their day.

As I stepped onto a minibus, a woman closed in on me and said: "Dik, skirt you terangkat, tersangkut kat panties. Nanti saya tolong tarik." (Sis, your skirt is hitched to your panties. Let me help you adjust it).

Thank God my skirt was of decent length, so my modesty was covered (slightly). Still, the thought of purposely wriggling my half exposed butts to all the mamats at the bus stop, for its entertainment value, suddenly made me feel so darn cheap.

Cringe Moment Four

To my utter frustration, I have never been able to drive manual cars despite many tries. I get confused easily with gear-change. My mind simply refuses to register anything to do with those gear slots. In the end my driving is limited only to cars with automatic gear.

Once, during one of the sporadic lessons given by my son Joe on how to use the manual gear, I accidentally stepped on the gas, sending the car careening off-course.

I was so startled that I screeched hysterically:"Fear the gree! Fear the gree!" to Joe who was seated beside me. His response was a confused "Huh??" I calmed down enough to ask him to free the gear.

Cringe Moment Five

Pak Abu and I went on a lunch date, at a well-known food stall called Wak Daeng in Subang Jaya, a month before we got married. I was at my most demure self - dressed to the hilt in pink baju kurung and heels, walking primly beside him trying to impress the man.

After lunch I bought a packet of bubur kacang to take home. As I melenggang away on the kerb, I missed the edge of the pavement, causing the heel of my shoe to suddenly give way.

I tumbled ungraciously face down onto the road, legs askew, spilling bubur kacang all over. Pak Abu, supressing his mirth, helped me up and pretended as though it was 'nothing'. I think he was exploding inside.

Cringe Moment Six

1967, Remove Class, Dungun English Secondary School. I had just made friends with some Chinese classmates who, upon knowing my interest in Teresa Teng's songs, started teaching me the lyrics. Along the way they also taught me bits of Mandarin.

One day one of the girls told me to practise my Mandarin phrase by saying it out loud to the most 'apia' fellow in class. I was to say "Hello, how are you?" and he would answer accordingly.

So armed with the phrase they had taught me, I approached the chap and said hopefully; "Wo ter ai ren?". The startled fellow looked at me blankly, and then said thoughtfully,"Leally aaaa..!"

wo ter ai ren - you are my sweetheart








Saturday, November 8, 2008

Holy Cow!



Wooo, aren't you a sexy one, giving me the eye...!


WHEN is an insult a compliment?

I love all things bovine, cows twice as much as bulls. I adore them, dote on them, take delight in them, have a soft spot for them. I would have made a good cowherd's wife or a cowboy's delightful companion.

Now, if for some reason someone swears at me by saying "you mean stupid old cow!", I'll consider it a compliment (taking offence only at the word 'mean' because I am not) and shall thank the person profusely for calling me old (I love my age). Old cow? Oh.. thank you once again, you are soo kind!

I'll even let pass the word 'stupid' because 'cow' is mentioned in the same breath and these lumbering bovines, as we all know, definitely aren't the brightest creatures on earth.

If you live in the East Coast, you will know exactly what I mean. Lembu Pantai Timur have the tendency to park themselves in the middle of the road, with nary a care about on-going traffic.

They won't budge even if you honk. Instead, they will look at you balefully while chewing their cud, making you feel like a halfwit for honking.

While cows are beautiful to look at, cowdung are not, although they (the dung, not the cows) are useful as manure and cooking fuel. To my mind, a cow is like a beautiful but brainless woman; nice to look at, but don't expect too much out of both.

I am mesmerised by cows. They have the most gorgeous eyes and when they flutter their lashes, I am transported to Cow Heaven. Their moo, low and seductive, is moosic to my ears.

And the rump of a cow is simply provocative. There is no other word to describe it - just sexy. When a cow ambles (cows don't walk, they amble sensuously), their rump sway this way and that, leaving me spellbound.

If ever I have a cow, I shall name it Daisy. Daisy is the perfect cow name. Once upon a time,I did consider keeping a cow instead of buying a lawn-mover. Then I thought about the dung...

Anyway, my youngest daughter Nawwar, is known within the family as Mak's Moo. That is the highest compliment ever bestowed upon any woman by Ma Cow. She's a lucky one, that Moo!

PS : We have a bull in the house (that's because we don't own a china shop!) We call him Pak Abu (Ma Cow thinks, all things considered, Abu The Bull is sexy too. I am fishing for compliment, Bu(ll). ("Ma, dicowlah ratu hati ku" would definitely make my day)

Here are some cow jokes to brighten up your day:-

1. Why does a milking stool have only three legs?
Because the cow has the udder.

2. A lady from the city and her traveling companion were riding the train through Vermont when she noticed some cows.
"What a cute bunch of cows!" she remarked.
"Not a bunch, herd", her friend replied.
"Heard of what?"
"Herd of cows."
"Of course I've heard of cows."
"No, a cow herd."
"What do I care what a cow heard. I have no secrets to keep from a cow!"

3. What kind of milk comes from a forgetful cow?
Milk of Amnesia

4. Where do cows go when they want a night out?
To the moo-vies!

5. What was the bull doing in the pasture with his eyes closed?
Bull-dozin'

6. What did the bored cow say when she got up in the morning?
"It's just an udder day"

7. How does a farmer count a herd of cows?
With a Cowculator

8. Why don't cows have any money?
Because farmers milk them dry

9. Where do Russians get their milk?
From Mos-cows

10. What's a cow's favorite moosical note?
Beef-flat

11. What do cows wear in Hawaii?
Moo- moos

12. What do call a cow that has just had a calf?
Decalfenated

13. Did you hear that NASA recently launched a bunch of Holsteins into low Earth orbit? They called it the Herd Shot 'Round The World!


Have a 'Cow'abunga Day!

Karaoke, Spook?

After regaling my dear readers with eerie experiences of yore for the last one week, the table was turned on me yesterday at, of all places, the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (KLGCC) in Bukit Kiara.

Pak Abu had golf at the club yesterday afternoon so we decided to meet up at the club's karaoke lounge for dinner and a couple of hours of 'keriau' session.

In any case, there was nothing much for me to do. A meeting I was supposed to attend was deferred to next week, rendering my morning free. So I took the opportunity to 'jalan-jalan' at One Utama, breakfasting at the food court, before going home at noon.

After seeing Pak Abu off at two, I settled into doing my work. The cleaner, who comes in twice weekly, went off around 5pm, leaving the house spotless. Thankfully, I wasn't in the mood to move the furniture around; somehow it didn't feel right to mess up bibik's effort.

I left home after Maghrib and headed towards KLGCC using a convenient shortcut, a private road connecting the club to Taman Tun Dr Ismail area. Guarded at both ends by KLGCC security force, the road is bereft of streetlight, thus rather spooky.

I am still unnerved each time I use that road at night. I would switch on the radio loudly and flip the backview mirror up so I am denied view from the back, just in case 'someone' is taking a free ride. So far so good, Alhamdulillah.

After parking the car next to the West Course entrance, I walked a few paces to the steps leading up to the karaoke lounge. Then I noticed Sal, the lounge's longtime waitress, sitting nervously on a wicker chair at the veranda just outside the lounge.

As soon as she saw me, she stood up and blurted, "Thank God you are here, Kak. I was so scared to go in there," pointing to the karaoke lounge. Eh, I thought, what was the matter with the lounge? I had been there countless times over the years. Takda apa pun?

She said she was alone behind the bar in the darkened lounge at 5pm when 'something' flitted by. She knew what it was, by the way, because both entry and exit to the lounge was closed and the air was quite still.

She wasn't too concerned until a nebulous shape appeared out of nowhere and whizzed past the bar counter again. Sal decided enough was enough. She fled.

"It wasn't the first time, Kak. So many of us club staff have felt or seen this thing, whatever it is, especially now that the West Course is under renovations and completely dark. But we couldn't care less when we were in a group. I just don't like being scared out of my wits when I am alone, that's all."

Well, I am as lily-livered as the next woman but like they say, there's 'berani' in numbers, so we both stepped into the darkened lounge. I parked myself at the counter, told Sal to switch on the karaoke system, and said jestingly: "Anyone for a duet?" I could have sworn I saw a swish of 'something' out of the corner of my eye.

It gives me the heebie jeebies just to think of it now and reminds me once again not to trifle with 'things' I don't know..


PS: This is my sixth and last spooky tale for now (I promise you, this time it's for real). No more cerita seram until 2009!



Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ma's Moving Mode

I'm afflicted with a severe case of susunitis; it's a terrible ailment for which there is no known cure, unless the family can consider making some big sacrifices in their daily lives for my sake. I know they won't and I don't blame them because if I were them, I won't either!

Susunitis is an appalling disease; its victims doomed to live out their days with an acute, irritating need to arrange and rearrange household things, especially furniture.

One of the ways to curb this distressing affliction is for the victim's family to opt for a furnitureless existence, perhaps like a Bedouin in a desert tent, with carpets and rugs and throw cushions spread all over.

But if you are looking for sympathy, or for some kind of understanding, or if you as much as think they will willingly cater to your abnormal urges, perish the thought.

I can bet my bottom dollar that they couldn't care less about Arabian-style living, because they know darn too well there is no guarantee you aren't going to shift the carpets and rugs around to satisfy that bizzare craving of yours.

In reality, your spouse and kids would probably look squarely into your eyes and say; "Not on your life"! (my sentiment exactly if I were in their shoes), which of course is no help at all.

The most frequently moved pieces of furniture in my household used to be the living room sofa and the armchairs. I note with sorrow that I have not been able to shift the three-seater 'creatively' since moving into this bandanna-sized condo unit. Sigh....

In another lifetime, my ex told his mother once that each time he got home he would have to check the living room's seating arrangement first, to avoid sitting on a sofa that was no longer where it was when he left for work earlier in the day.

This comment, by the way, came about following an incident where the poor man arrived home and tossed his jacket onto the nearest sofa, only to have the jacket settling into a pile on the floor. Needless to say, the sofa had found another nook to rest.

Because the living room size doesn't meet the full cravings of a susunitis sufferer, the next target is the bedroom. The bed frame, heavy as it were sans mattress and beddings, would be dragged around and repositioned at the opposite end of the room.

Whatever other pieces of furniture in the room would then be rearranged accordingly (before the next urge to shift them all over again, in all likelihood to the very same position prior to the oh-so-satisfying move!)

Once the bedroom is taken care of, it would be time to rearrange the contents of the kitchen cabinet. The susunitis victim experiences total fulfilment in doing this, the joy doubling for two reasons;

(1) when every item is successfully transported to and rearranged inside another cabinet, and (2) when the kids reach up onto a familiar shelf to pick up something, only to find it is no longer there, and have to hunt for it all over, yanking open one door after another.

Even the pantry isn't spared. Since pantries are for storing non-perishable food, one would assume there isn't much that could be done apart from moving the containers around.

But to a susunitis sufferer, rearranging the contents of a pantry is a challenge unto itself. The possibilities are endless - one can go with type of containers (plastic, glass, tin), shape (square, round, oblong, rectangular, angular), packaging colours etc.

In the worst-case scenario, the susunitis sufferer finds simple pleasure in just being able to move bottles of ketchup and soy sauce and cans of evaporated milk from the middle to the top shelf, and shifting the position of the rice bucket from left to right.

Other peculiarities would be aligning everything that could be aligned so that they face only one direction, for example, all the remote control panels should be laid side by side on the coffee table, and pointing towards the TV.

The laptop you are working on should have a half-inch margin from the worktable's edge and should never ever 'spill' over, all house slippers should bear the proud look of soldiers in formation, all towels should hang evenly on the racks, darker colours at the back and lighter ones to the front, books should be arranged according to height...

Someone please tell me I still have it altogether...


PS:
I seem to have found a kindred spirit in Kak Teh, who is down with kemasitis, an affliction involving drapes, drawings (especially those in 'senget' frames) and drawers (no, not the ones you wriggle into to snugly cover your ample bottom, but the kind you keep your undies in). I wonder if we share another same-vintage disease - leteritis - for this usually goes hand-in-hand with two mentioned above. Hmm.......


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Midnight Visitor

The postpartum Malay woman is fraught with pantang larang (taboos). Modernisation notwithstanding, many new Malay mothers still adhere to age-old beliefs, resonating with their own mothers and generations of mothers before them.

Thus we find TLC-deprived husbands heroically putting up with the 44-day abstinence, among others, for Malay culture dictates that a new mother needs ample time to recover after the imperilment of childbirth.

When I delivered my eldest child Naj in London, halfway through the winter of 1975, I wasn't too concerned with some of the pantangs. I couldn't afford to, actually.

I certainly couldn't remain housebound for 44 days at a stretch because I had a job to go back to and my leave didn't cover that long.

Furthermore, I needed to fill the larder regularly as well as buy baby things; his father was all over Britain and the Continent most times to care about the nitty gritty.

Being far away from home, my sphere of worry was very basic and mundane - how to cope with this helpless bundle of joy swathed in layers of blankets to ward off the cold.

The darker, evil side of things didn't even cross my mind. Thankfully enough, they didn't cross my path either at that point in time.

In reality, however, the new mother, in her exhausted state of body and mind, offers a window of opportunity to evil manifestations to try and take advantage of her vulnerability.

The role of the traditional bidan (midwife) is of prime importance in this aspect for, not only is she required to help with the physical healing of the weakened woman, but also to act as a pengadang (barrier) in warding off such malevolent spirits.

The late Mak Cik Besah, the family's resident midwife, masseur and traditional healer, was a no-nonsense woman with manly strength in massaging and pummelling one's aches and pains away.

When I had my second child, Joe, in Kuantan in 1977, my mother-in-law decided to dispatch rotund Mak Cik Besah as my live-in midwife for the entire 44-day confinement period.

Her main function was to look after the well-being of both mother and child. If I may add, she also took it unto herself to lord it over the maid as well!

Mak Cik Besah arrived a couple of days after I returned home from the clinic. Along with her came batu tungku (heating stone), daun gelenggang (a kind of leaves to rest the heated stones on), herbal pastes and that extremely bitter medicinal paste, maajun, and numerous other tools of her trade.

She immediately swung into action, putting me through the usual postpartum paces of bertungku (placement of heated stone on the belly, purportedly to help shrink the uterus), bertangas (standing with legs apart over medicinal leaves left to sizzle underneath batu tungku), berbegkung (wearing of the traditional girdle) et al.

I looked like a pagan priest, with some yellowish potion streaked across my forehead. I also smelled like an advertisement for minyak urut (special massage oil), the fragrance spreading all over the house and beyond.

And all I was allowed to eat was soft rice with grounded black pepper. Eggs, vegetables, dairy products were absolute no-nos. After the indulgences of London, I meekly surrendered to my fate.

A few days after settling in, she muttered darkly: "Ada benda dok hurung rumah ni nak cuba masuk." (There's something circling this house waiting for an opportunity to enter).

Her words chilled me to the bone. I was afraid more for the well-being of the child than for myself. Not one to take chances, Mak Cik Besah warned me to remain indoors and never to answer any call to my name.

One evening as azan Maghrib (muezzin's call to dusk prayer) filled the air, I heard a woman's voice at the front door gently calling; "Kama! Ooooo Kama!" Without thinking I answered: "Yaa!"

Almost immediately baby Joe started crying. As his wail increased, Mak Cik Besah emerged from her room and admonished me roughly for responding. I apologised profusely, telling her it was reflex action on my part.

That night she made us both (baby and I) sleep in the living room. She 'fenced' off our sleeping parameter with Quranic verses to keep evil spirits at bay. She also placed a small pair of scissors underneath baby Joe's mattress.

If it was a terrible night for me, it was an absolutely horrendous one for Mak Cik Besah for, in the wee hours of the morning, she received a 'visitor' at her bedroom window.

I was blinking away in the dim living room light, sleepless and restless, and reciting Quranic verses to calm my nerves, when I heard Mak Cik Besah's raised voice. It was loud.

Because her bedroom door was closed, I couldn't make out her words. But she sounded angry. Eventually the quarrelsome voice abated and all was quiet again. I managed to find sleep soon after.

In the morning she told us that something knocked on her window pane and demanded to be let in. She said she berated 'it' and tried to shoo 'it' away before 'it' finally left. She added that the being told her 'it' came invited by me; I had responded to its greeting!

She had earlier refused to divulge who or what 'it' was, but after much persistence on our part, she conceded that the midnight visitor was in the form of an old woman, purportedly seeking to feed on the uri (afterbirth).

This was one of the creepiest, spookiest episodes of my life. Thank be to God, nothing untoward happened in the days and months after Mak Cik Besah's scary exchange.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

When Things Go 'Swoosh' Past Midnight

THE Medang Serai enclave in Bangsar, just off the main road within walking distance from Bangsar Shopping Centre, is home to several prestigious housing development, the kind favoured by the expatriate crowd, retirees with deep pockets and corporate kids still wet behind the ears yet already earning indecently fat pay cheques.

Within that napkin-sized, frighteningly pricey parcel of land are several condominium blocks and a few rows of townhouses, the latter being three-storeyed, overpriced rabbit hutches much sought after by yuppies for their cosiness and upscale address.

When I started my public relations consultancy in 1991, despite being a new kid on the PR block, I was fortunate enough to have been given a chance by McCann-Erickson, one of the country's largest multinational advertising agencies, to provide PR services to a number of their top clients.

Public relations being what it is, image is an all-important thing. It followed that I needed a 'good' address to ply my trade. Because I had both a small outfit and a preference for SoHo (home-based office) kind of set-up, a Medang Serai townhouse fitted the bill just nice.

I turned the two upper floors into family quarters and the main floor into a workplace, complete with all the trappings of an office, including a pantry. Clients, agency people, suppliers and the media gang all knew that I also lived there and that I worked long hours, way past midnight every day.

Because of that, my office became a favourite 'lepak' (lounging) joint for everyone. Sometimes they would drop by for coffee, occasionally just to chat and lounge about watching TV. Most times, however, I would be working alone at the PC, with only Mimi the cat for company.

Mimi, despite its female name, was anything but. The black and white feline came to me as a stray; the kids found him somewhere and took him home. He was the very first cat I had since the big D four years before. Needless to say, Mimi and I were so much in love that he even shared my bed.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened in the first few months of my stay, although I did get the occasional unsettling sensation of being watched. Nothing tangible, just an uncomfortable feel. I put it down to my unfamiliarity with a new place. Nothing to worry about, I consoled myself.

It was not long before I realised Mimi was reluctant to stay with me when I worked late. I also began to notice there were moments when he would either growl or whine without rhyme or reason, followed by a mad dash upstairs.

Soon enough weird things started happening. For a few consecutive nights that I was working on the PC I felt a series of swooshes behind me. It was as though something was flying past. The nights were still, so it couldn't be the evening breeze. But I saw nothing.

I rely on my inner self a lot when confronted with the unexplained. It all has to do with "feel"; good or bad. if the "feel" is ok, then I usually do not give it a second thought, but if an element of fear somehow creeps in, then my senses become acute.

The swooshes, however, didn't trigger my internal alarm. I didn't feel spooked. All the same I was intrigued. I knew there must be something to these invisible fliers.

Frankly, I didn't ask to be shown who or what they were - I certainly wasn't foolish enough to scare myself silly should they make an appearance and look nothing like Richard Gere or Harrison Ford!

But there is a lot to be said about "kata hati", the unspoken words within. Deep inside I guess I must have asked that very question that the mouth refused to utter, because from that day onwards, I started seeing flashes of white swooshing by, from the corner of my eye.

They seemed to 'travel' in groups, these 'things', and they came in waves. While I wasn't exactly peeing in my sarong, it wasn't long before the 'trespassers' started to affect my mood and concentration.

A friend well-versed in the ways of the supernatural stepped in to help, only to discover that the entire span of my townhouse living room and kitchen was in fact the PLUS Highway of the other world!

The developers had inadvertently built the unit directly in the path of their 'road well-travelled', so to speak (it does provide a surreal twist to Robert Frost's famous offering, doesn't it?)

Apparently, the path ran the entire length from my humble kitchen exit door to the sliding doors of the balcony, both of which in direct alignment to each other. Can't blame the developers for not knowing; otherwise they would surely have considered repositioning the doors.

After knowing the whys and wherefores of things, I decided to stay put. They didn't set out to do any harm, so there was really nothing to be afraid of. Furthermore, they shouldn't be faulted for 'disturbing' my peace. In fact, it was us who should apologise for messing around their lebuhraya (expressway).

I hope none of them had the misfortune of running smack into my balcony glass doors. I am inclined to think none did, otherwise they would have haunted me till kingdom comes!

Note 1:
I think this is going to be my last eerie tale for now. I am beginning to feel rather spooked myself recalling all these episodes!

Note 2:
I was once told by someone knowledgeable about the realm of the supernatural that, if you have that 'something extra', rest assured you will be tested time and again. It seems that these beings from the other dimensions are also pranksters of the first degree - much like their garden variety kind from this tired old world of ours.



Saturday, November 1, 2008

Datin Z's Greatest Role

BELIEVE it or not, once upon a time I was a silat exponent. Even though I cannot recall many details of this chapter in my life - it was 34 long years ago - there are certain aspects of the period that remain crystal clear in my mind until today.

It was in the early months of 1974 and I was a rookie reporter with the Malay Mail when I was introduced to Silat Kalimah, a gentle yet lethal art of self defence.

Unlike many other forms of silat which stress on speed and agility, Silat Kalimah is slow and deliberate, its actions based on the movements of the Muslim daily prayers.

Silat Kalimah comprises five key movements -Takbir, Qiam, Rukuq, Doa and Tahyat - with each movement having several buah (components). There are 27 buah altogether - 2 in Takbir, 8 in Qiam, 4 in Rukuq, 12 in Doa and 1 in Tahyat.

I was brought into this art of self-defence by a friend and colleague, Maarof Mohd Noh, an intense, deeply-religious fellow then writing for Berita Harian.

Maarof himself was drawn into the movement after covering the first ever Malay martial arts convention held in Kuala Lumpur in July 1973, and eventually became an active member of the organisation.

Silat Kalimah has its beginnings in the royal household of Kedah many centuries ago, well before the establishment of the Melaka Sultanate.

According to history (Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa as well as oral tradition), the art was brought to Kedah by Arab traders from Persia and taught to Kedah ruler Phra Ong Mahawangsa (1136 -1179) when he embraced Islam, taking the name Sultan Muzaffar Shah.

It remained the exclusive domain of Kedah royalty and taught only to descendants of Kedah rulers until the 19th century, when a revolt threatened the reign of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah (1804-1843).

To quell this revolt, the Sultan decreed that Kedah warriors led by one Panglima Tok Ismail be taught Silat Kalimah. Thus the art finally breached the royal confines to reach the common man.

At the time when I joined Silat Kalimah, I was dating N (the journalist I would eventually wed), and he offered our silat group the vast grounds of his father’s official residence as our weekly training arena.

Thus it came to be that we trained on the immaculate lawn of one of those spacious colonial bungalows in Jalan Kia Peng, Kuala Lumpur, under the watchful eyes of a police sentry and several men in blue.

N’s father, the nation's top cop and a true blue gentleman well-known for his grace and humility, would occasionally spend time watching us train.

Sometimes he would be joined by his wife the Puan Seri, and together they would sit by the porch, quietly observing as we executed our steps and movements.

We were of course honoured, not to mention a little nervous too, to have the Tan Sri showing a keen interest in what we were doing.

I guess it came naturally to him because, as the head of the country's police force, he was well aware of the importance of knowing how to defend oneself.

[It is ironic that the Tan Sri was tragically defenceless some months later, in June 1974, when he died in a hail of bullets in broad daylight, in midtown Kuala Lumpur, assassinated by two communist agents, on his way to work. He was only 51]* (read here)

Because all members of the silat group were working people, we trained after work, usually from 8pm to 10pm. We would assemble on the lawn and say our collective prayers before the initial buka langkah (opening movement).

One evening as we were deep in training, one of Puan Sri's friends, Datin Z, whose husband was a senior officer in the Force, arrived for a visit.

The impeccably dressed, dignified-looking Datin Z alighted from her car and nodded lightly in our direction as she walked towards the entrance of the bungalow.

As she came abreast with our group, this pleasant-faced, middle-aged mother of four teenagers suddenly halted her pace, inhaled deeply and broke into a series of silat movements!

Astounded, we stopped our practice to watch. Eyes closed, Datin Z slowly but surely began executing some of the most exquisite silat steps we had ever seen!

Her agility was astounding; dressed in loose-fitting Baju Kedah, she managed to move with ultimate grace while all the time preserving her dignity. As I write this, I can almost see her doing the silat in my mind. It was simply amazing!

Of course there was near-pandemonium in the house as everyone rushed out to see the incredible sight. Datin Z continued with her extraordinary performance for a good five minutes before our silat guru approached her apprehensively to ask who she was.

Eyes still closed she answered in a low voice, strange and distant; Tun Fatimah. The moment the name escaped her lips, Datin Z collapsed in a heap and passed out.

To this day, my nape still pricks when I recall the incident. Thirty-four years on, I am no closer to any explanation and still trying to understand the whole mystifying scenario. It was truly surreal.

Unfortunately for us, the untimely death of Tan Sri inadvertently broke our Silat Kalimah training. His son, N, emotionally burdened by his father's senseless murder, lost interest in silat. We finally quit after completing 16 of of the 27 buah required.


Note 1: Tun Fatimah was a notable Malay heroine, daughter of a royal courtier and one of the consorts of Sultan Mahmud Shah in 15th century Melaka Sultanate, whose governing skills resulted in Melaka's alliances with Acheh, Minangkabau and Borneo.

Note 2: The full account of Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim's assassination can be found under this posting - "Death of A Patriot" - Friday, June 20, 2008. Apologies, I have yet to learn how to do the link.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The 'Thing' At The Window

IT was the third term school holidays and I was waiting for my LCE (Lower Certificate of Education) results when Pah and Ayah (Grandma and Grandpa) decided to pack me off to Ipoh, to spend the school break with paternal grandparents I hardly knew - Megat Khas and Puteri Hawa.

The late Dato Seri Dr Haji Megat Khas was a giant of a man in both stature and reputation. Born in Istana Talang, Kuala Kangsar, in 1908 and a direct descendant of Megat Tarawis, the first Bendahara of Perak, Tok Megat Khas was also the first Malay to be accepted as a member of the prestigious Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh.

He retired as Perak State Physician, after which he started his own private practice. Tok Megat Khas died of a heart attack at the age of 71 in 1979. Datin Seri Hajah Puteri Hawa, my dad’s mother, was his first cousin and the first of his four wives. She was a chain-smoking, fair-skinned, reed-thin gem of a woman whom I adored from the moment I got to know her.

In reality, both the paternal and maternal sides of my family aren’t that far removed despite the differing locale. The common factor was my grandma Puteri Habibah (the one who raised me); herself from the same Megat clan and first cousin to both Tok Megat Khas and Pah Hawa.

She however broke ranks to marry not only a commoner but also a non-Perakian, a double whammy in every sense of the word. Her marrying an ‘outsider’ (a Kelantanese civil servant from Kuala Krai), was considered a serious breach of social and clan etiquette those days, the kind that would earn one a cold shoulder and a snub twice over.

But Grandma had a mind of her own and made her own choices in life. She married for love, even if it meant leaving the realms of title, wealth and comfort, for the unknown. If you are wondering where the stubborn streak in me came from, look no further.

Being raised by the maternal side of the family in faraway Bukit Besi, sans communication with the clan in Perak, I was naturally filled with trepidation at the idea of spending weeks with total strangers. I didn’t know any of these folks. Would they readily accept me, this gauche kampong girl with owlish glasses, who spoke with that funny East Coast twang?

Despite being 17 and English-educated, I was very much a small-town girl at heart. I had never been anywhere by myself, save for school trips within Dungun, school sports meets in Kuala Terengganu, and the occasional family trips to Kota Baru to visit relatives.

All my life till then, I had met the illustrious Tok Megat Khas only twice; the first time age six, taken to Ipoh on the first ‘proper’ train ride of my life (discounting trips to Dungun on the iron ore-carrying wagon train, of course) and the second time age 12, when he visited Dungun on his nationwide tour as the Commissioner of the St John Ambulance Brigade.

The second meeting, in 1966, was incredibly formal and lasted mere minutes. Grandma took me by the hand, led me up the stage and presented me to him soon after he had inspected the St John Ambulance Brigade's guard-of-honour at Dungun’s Padang Astaka. He gave me a peck on the cheek and enveloped me into a bear hug. And that was it!

Happily enough, I found acceptance in Ipoh that school holiday and enjoyed my stay enormously. Aunts and uncles of my own age group took the bright-eyed schoolgirl under their wings. I was taken to parties and social dos. I wore my first strapless dress (Pah would have whacked me had she known!), went to my first dance, and saw my first Hindi movie (Hethi Mere Sathi).

It was a Thursday evening when Pah Hawa suddenly cautioned, after we had just finished dinner, that I should sleep facing the wall instead of the window that night. Asked why, she nonchalantly said something about not wanting me to see things that might scare the sarong off me.

Put that way, of course her incorrigible granddaughter slept facing the window that night, and as predicted, received her dues. I awoke in the middle of the night to see a gigantic black form filling almost the entire span of the glass window. No features were discernible, only a humongous black shape that looked somewhat human.

My heart almost stopped, yet I had the strangest feeling - scared but not quite. It was more a feeling of wonder and fear rolled into one. Nonetheless, I pulled the blanket over my head and recited some Quranic verses. Mercifully, I fell asleep soon after.

I mentioned this to Pah Hawa over breakfast, with Tok Megat Khas listening intently. He didn't say a word but Pah offered some explanation, saying I had just witnessed the manifestation of the family "guardian", (Jin Islam as it were), who had been with the family for centuries, handed over from one generation to the next.

As I understand it, you can't accept or inherit such "guardian' willy-nilly. You must be a strict Muslim who adheres to all the religious practices and demands, things like daily prayers and such. Failure to do so may bring unpleasant consequences to your family, or the "guardian" may just leave.

I have no further explanation to offer on this matter, though. I am not sure where "it" is now; both my grandpa and my dad are gone and I don't believe the present generation inherits it. I did hear something about it when Mum was still alive, but let it remain untold, for now.

A Spooky Tale - The Murdered Man's Blood

SOME people have this ability to 'feel' things. Supernatural things. On one hand it is a blight because it evokes a sense of alarm and anxiety. On the other hand, it can be viewed as a blessing in disguise simply because it puts oneself on constant alert.

This instinctive inclination towards the unseen is something I have come to accept and live with. It is not something that can be breezily explained in simple terms. It's more like a hunch, an inkling, a sensation.

The earliest I could recall was in the early 1960s when I was in primary school in that iron mining station of Bukit Besi, some 22 miles inland from Dungun. I was probably eight or nine at the time.

There was a wooden bridge spanning a placid river right in the heart of Bukit Besi. Located about 1,000 metres away from my house in Kampung Baru, the bridge was the scene of a 'fight-to-the-death' between two Malay men. I no longer remember who and why.

All I could recall was it happened in the late afternoon, and that my grandfather, who had just returned home from work, hurried to the scene, joining the throng of horrified spectators already gathering there.

No one dared go near to pull apart the combating duo, for both were armed. They grappled and fought like men possessed, and eventually one perished on the spot from multiple stab wounds as Maghrib neared.

I can't remember what happened to the other. He must have been arrested by the police; Bukit Besi then had a minuscule police presence, maybe a two-man team.

As the shocked onlookers cleared the erstwhile battleground, for some strange reason, Grandpa joined some brave (maybe foolish?) souls to scoop up the bloodied earth to take home.

To this day I don't know why. He wasn't a bomoh (shaman) or anything; in fact, he was a very warak (pious), God-fearing man, to whom the nearby surau (mini-mosque) was a second home.

The blood-caked earth was then lodged high up on a shelf in the bathroom, and it was in the wee hours of the morning when I was awakened by an almighty din, crushing the stillness of the night to smithereens.

From the bathroom emitted a series of chilling howls and shrieks and screeches in terrifying crescendo, shaking the house to its foundation. The sounds were guttural and piercing, unearthly shrills enough to wake the dead.

And I was the sole beneficiary of this unwelcome racket, while others slumbered on peacefully. Quaking with fear, hardly able to stand and to contain myself (literally too!), I wobbled over, bawling, to my grandparents' bedroom.

Suffice to say Grandpa had enough sense (and courage) to pluck the packet from its perch and place it outside the house that very same morning.

I don't recall what he did with it eventually. He must have buried it high up in the lush hills somewhere, as they were wont to do with such 'unsavoury' baggage those days.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Suffer No More, Little Children

THE fresh mound of red earth, at the far corner of the cemetery to the right, just beside the retaining wall dividing the gravesite and the kampong lane beyond it, has been there since Friday.

I can’t help but notice it every dawn since, not only because it is in my direct line of vision the moment I slide open my balcony doors to invite the new day in, but also because of the seeming neglect of it all.

No flower petals strewn upon it, no pudding bush planted onto it. No stone marker, however modest. Nothing but bare earth, red and upturned, now slowly settling into evenness.

When they started digging the grave on Friday morning, I intuitively knew who it was for, and I hazarded a guess that the burial would be made after Friday prayers. I was spot on.

Barely was prayer over when a meagre procession of men carrying a coffin snaked though the entire length of the cemetery to the far end of this quiet little corner of God’s acre on earth.

From my perch ten floors up I watched with sorrow, for nestling in the simple wooden case were the pitiful remains of two little children, charred beyond recognition.

The little boys perished trying to escape a blazing fire that gutted a two-storey makeshift wooden structure, housing some 50 orphans and destitute children in Kampung Sungai Pencala last Thursday evening.

Why oh why, I asked myself, must they be interred right against the dividing wall on the far right, markedly removed from the cluster of existing graves on the left side of the cemetery?

Is it because one was an orphan and the other a destitute child that even in death they didn’t ‘belong’? Please tell me it is not so.

My heart bled for the innocent souls of the departed, who lived and died as eternal friends, buried in a diminutive single grave dug for two.

But I didn't grieve for long, for they are at peace now. They have gone Home. They are with God; they belong to Heaven. Al-Fatihah.



Monday, October 27, 2008

Ann's Deevali Debut

Ann (in glasses) with her futsal gang, at a friend's wedding

The photojournalist in Krabi last year on assignment


WHAT can I say about Deepavali? Only that each time it comes around, I think of my elder daughter Najiah (whom we call N or Ann), simply because she was born on the morning of Deepavali many years ago.

That she chose to arrive amidst the 'muruku' and 'vadeh' and 'idli' amused us all no end, providing fodder for good-natured ribbing over the years. But she sportingly took it all in her stride, although there were times in her childhood when she lamented: "Apasal la mak beranak kat Ann on Deepavali? Kalau Christmas kan best, dapat present!"

Ann is a go-getter who loves adventure; the most appropriate Malay word to describe her would be 'lasak'. She scuba-dives and keeps the goal in futsal. It's a game she picked up while studying in the US, where she kept goal for her university team as well. Last year she won a couple of awards in a local futsal tournament, namely 'The Best Player' and 'The Find of The Tournament'.

Never one to do things by half, I would like to think that Ann has inherited some of my 'ketegaq' traits. For one, she is fiercely independent, doesn't suffer fools gladly, and very loyal to friends and family alike. Unlike her mother, however, Ann is taking the tried and tested path of laying a solid foundation for her career first before settling down, and I am glad.

To Ann, who recently left news-reporting to become a travel writer for an in-flight magazine, and currently somewhere in southern Thailand on assignment, happy 'Deevali' birthday sweetheart! But no 'puri' for you this Deepavali, Ann. We shall wait until you are home and celebrate your birthday according to the Gregorian calendar, which is the 1st of November.

And to all my Hindu friends, Happy Deepavali.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bread Pudding's Birthday Surprise






Eastern delights here

The well-polished plates

(Sigh..) the golf wheelings & dealings never end..

The oddball couple....may they be wacky forever..





FOR years, the bread pudding served at the Royal Lake Club in Taman Tasik Perdana had no peers. It was so heavenly that each mouthful was a delight, to be savoured ever so slowly to heighten the pleasure.

Pak Abu and I, being consummate lovers of this delectable English teatime treat - bread pudding aficionados if you will - would go the extra mile to sample this mouth-watering treat anywhere, only to return time and again to the one served at the Royal Lake Club, anointing it as THE one to beat.

Then some time back the Club changed caterers, and the bread pudding standard plummeted. Its fall from grace was total, nose-diving from its prime perch to somewhere at the bottom of the heap. It was that bad.

This new caterer's offering of leathery exterior gave an indication of what to expect and it didn't disappoint. The pudding was consistently hard, its smooth creaminess gone, its custard sauce sickly yellow and lumpy to boot.

I sang a sorrowful dirge and penned my requiem in the memory of the Royal Lake Club bread pudding, lamenting its untimely demise.

This afternoon I was the recipient of a special treat by dear Pak Abu - it being my 54th birthday today - a scrumptious lunch for two at the Sri Angkasa revolving restaurant atop Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower).

I have to add here that I had never step foot inside KL Tower before, despite it having been around for more than a decade (it was officially opened by the then Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir, in 1996).

I had been making the right proper noises at Pak Abu, though, about wanting to visit KL Tower just to find out what the fuss was all about, and of course, to capture an overview of the city.

Well, he decided to give me a lunch treat at KL Tower for my birthday and I must say the experience was well worth the jam; we got stuck for a while at the Bank Negara roundabout.

It totally escaped us that, it being Saturday, city folks would come out in droves for pre-Deepavali shopping at the nearby Jalan Mesjid India.

We arrived 30 minutes after booking time and was fortunate to still have our reservations. There were quite a number of tourists, Caucasians mostly, having their lunch.

Pak Abu and I were intrigued to see some Mat Salleh young men in kain pelikat walking about nonchalantly to and from the food stations, until we were told that bermudas were not allowed in the restaurant and those clad in one would be issued kain pelikat to cover up. What a lovely gesture!

Lunch was buffet, spread over three stations - eastern and western cuisine, and desserts. It was simply delicious. The music (piped-in and 'live') too was commendable, the staff courteous, and to top it all, the bird's eye view of Kuala Lumpur was stunning.

But it was something else that made today's occasion truly a memorable one. We had just discovered a bread pudding to rival even the Royal Lake Club's previously unbeatable offering.

The first mouthful blew me away. It was THAT good. The consistency was just right. The taste, yummylicious! The silky smooth, sunshine-hued sauce draped the raisin-studded pudding like a golden coat.

Now, if bread pudding is your scene, the KL Tower revolving restaurant is the place to be. As the proverb goes; the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Nothing could be more literal that that!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Rantings of Janda Baik

THERE is a world of difference between janda (divorcee) and balu (widow). A janda gets to be one when she is divorced; a balu earns the title when her man is dead.

The irony is that only when a man is dead and gone does society accord his wife some respect. If he is still alive but chooses to discard the wife for whatever reason, more often than not, the erstwhile spouse, now a janda, is the unwitting recipient of flax from that very same society.

When you are a janda and some horny bast*** harass you sexually, expect no sympathy. No one takes you seriously. People you turn to – family and friends included - are reluctant to believe you. Many think you got it coming.

The image of the pleasant, housewifely you that they have known all those years somehow goes down the drain the moment you turn janda. You have been conveniently transformed into a man-eater in the blink of an eye.

If you get sexually harassed, it's your fault. You must have initiated it. You must have given the SOB the eye. In other words, you asked for it. You are a janda after all; so it must be your own doing. The fault lies squarely at your doorstep. No two ways about it.

By anyone’s reckoning, a janda belongs to that vile specie of sexually starved vixens with tentacles out to trap any unsuspecting male (especially someone else’s husband) and milk him dry, in more ways than one. To all and sundry, a janda has nothing but sex on her mind and that all she wants in life is to get laid.

Well, I’ve got news for you. And I speak with the highest authority on Jandahood because once upon a time I too inhabited Jandaland; not a pretty place to be for sure, but to the likes of some of us, it was home (even if for a while).

Although I eventually took the late train out, I faced enough to make me want to kick the groin of every man I met. Read on and you’ll understand why I held men (in general) in poor regard.

Bear with me please, for I am not out to diss men. There are some good ones out there, I know (and I married one too, bless his heart), and I salute them all. My diatribe is targeted at the scumbags and they should know who they are.

Being a janda was no fun. Married women kept you at arm’s length; they had husbands to worry about. Single women didn’t want to be your friend either; they saw you as competitor, even though you couldn’t care less about a prick (you left one, remember?)

Men – married, single, available, whatever – saw you as easy meat. To their sick mind, you had been deprived of the pleasures of the flesh that you must be dying for a poke. And they thought they were such pokers extraordinaire that you simply must sample their ware.

They failed to see that you were sick to death of anything that spelt P; prick, poker, pecker, to name but a few. In fact, you would rather immerse yourself in ice than go anywhere near one.

In 1988, age 34 and a year into my jandahood, I received a phone call from someone pretty high up in a key government establishment, asking me to present myself at his 6th floor office in downtown Kuala Lumpur “for a story.”

Because I don’t want to get my knickers into a twist (I didn’t then and certainly don’t want now!), I shall abstain from revealing too much details, to protect the innocent family of the SOB (who, by the way, is still alive and kicking, and living in relative comfort). I hope he reads my blog because I want to say “up yours!”

Sensing a scoop (ever the reporter that I was), I hastened to his office. I had never met this man before but knew of him, of course. He was a familiar figure to the press corp.

I was ushered into his office by an assistant and made myself comfortable on a sofa while he attended to some stuff at his desk, after which he came around and sat next to me.

Lo and behold! He held my hands – this cretin who was a total stranger – and boldly said: “I have a good proposition to make to you. All you have to do is say yes and we shall both be very happy. Think about it and let me know of your decision.”

By then I realised it was no scoop I was getting. To get to the gist of it – he offered to install me in an apartment somewhere, pay for all my expenses, provide me with a car and “whatever you need”, all for the price of regular ‘service’. Simply put, I had just been asked to whore myself.

Suffice to say the blood drained from my face. Thoughts raced in my mind. I resolved not to upset him with harsh words because I was on foreign territory – his – and I didn’t know how he would react. Instead I played dumb. That probably saved me that day.

I told him to let me mull over it. He said he would send me back to my office in his official car. So he escorted me down, got into the back seat and held my hands all the way from his office to mine in Jalan Riong, Bangsar. I decided the best way to handle the situation was to be as calm as possible in his presence.

Firstly I asked him how he got to know about me. He said someone from MY office (his regular contact and my own colleague as it turned out to be, that despicable scrap of humanity!) alerted him that there was a recently divorced lady reporter worth trying his luck on.

Sadly enough, a lot of men out there think women journalists are easy pickings, just because they run around so much, meeting people and chasing after stories. Well, listen to me and listen hard. They aren’t. So keep your pecker where it belongs. We have no use for it.

Anyway, the moment I reached Balai Berita, I rushed into the office of K. C. Boey, my editor, plonked myself in front of him and cried. He was pretty pissed too and asked whether I wanted to make a case out of it.

Since it was very much a "her-word-against-his" situation, with nary a witness, we decided not to. We were sure the SOB's assistant and chauffeur would not upset the status quo, given the circumstances.

Boey said he would devise a way to protect me from this man, and he did. The plan involved my fellow colleagues in the Malay Mail who took turns screening all my calls.

The SOB tried to get through to me a couple of times but was intercepted by my colleagues. In the end he wised up to the game and gave up.

It was a painful episode in my life, to be thought of in such a humiliating way. To be so brazenly approached, with a proposal to become someone's perempuan simpanan (kept woman), was the ultimate insult to my janda dignity. That harrowing incident, in no small way, contributed to my decision to lay off men and marriage.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

TSM Charity Golf (TSMCG) Raya Do



TSMCG founder members Dato' Mustapha Buang (right) and Tn Hj Hashim Harun (middle), taking a breather

TSMCG Founder & Patron, Tan Sri Muhyiddin with TSMCG advisor Tan Sri Shamsuddin of Sapura (left) and other guests

Guests enjoying the raya spread


TSMCG member, Tn Hj Sulaiman (in baju melayu) with firm supporter En Azizul Kallahan (standing) and guest En Zainal


Kama taking Qs from the Press, with TSMCG executive Eida (left, in blue) looking on


Entertaining orphans from Rumah Anak-anak Yatim dan Ibu Tunggal Kg Medan


It's duit raya time! Puan Sri Noraini doing the honours, flanked by Tan Sri (right) and TSMCG GM, Tn Syed Muhd Zahid.


A queue worth joining.... orphans getting in line for bersalam & duit raya from the Founder.


TSMCG member Tn Hj Jamil (right) with guests





Tan Sri Muhyiddin Charity Golf (TSMCG), a non-profit NGO that raises funds for charity by way of corporate & individual sponsorship of golf and related events, held its first Hari Raya open house this evening (Wednesday 22nd October 2008) at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, Bukit Kiara.

Some 300 guests attended the function. They included political figures, donors and supporters of TSMCG's various charitable undertakings, as well as orphans and single mothers from Rumah Anak Yatim dan Ibu Tunggal Kampung Medan. Petaling Jaya.

TSMCG was founded by Cabinet Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin five years ago, mainly to assist financially strapped tertiary students studying abroad. It has since progressed to providing help and assistance to the underprivileged and the needy, especially children, single mothers and the ederly, as well as to disaster victims here and abroad.

TSMCG has a select membership of 22, comprising industry leaders, corporate figures, professionals and politicians, all of whom share a passion for golf, who use golf as a platform to raise money for the organisation's various charity projects.

TSNCG recently embarked on a new project - to set up a dialysis centre offering free or minimal fee treatment for needy kidney patients in Klang Valley. It is now in the process of raising funds to turn this dream into reality.

[We organise charity games abroad twice yearly as part of our fund-raising programmes. Last year we went to Auckland and Surabaya, the year before to Gold Coast and Jakarta. This year it was to have been Sydney and Bandung but Sydney had to be cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control (read PRU and its messy aftermath). The Bandung trip is still on, in December 2008].



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Sweet Smell of Heaven

The Rehal (Quran Stand)

Over the weekend, we were invited by our adopted son to dinner at his girlfriend's pad in Pantai Hillpark, where I spied two obviously well-fed cats sprawled contentedly on the wooden floor of her plant-filled, kerchief-sized balcony.

The duo, one a local breed with orange and white markings and the other greyish white peculiar to Siamese stock, eyed me with interest as I advanced to give them a pat each. As soon as I reached them however, both bolted. But not for long.

The orange cat proved friendlier than the two, for she later waddled over to the well-scratched, cream-coloured sofa where I sat, and rubbed her body against my leg. The Siamese at first kept his distance but later cautiously approached and started sniffing at my handbag on the floor by the sofa side.

That was when the girlfriend said "Uh oh!". I looked up enquiringly, and she explained that the cat had bad breath. No, make that awfully, incredibly foul breath. "Habislah your handbag!" She added for good measure.

Obviously she didn't know me well. My love for these furry felines is such that I could, and would, endure anything just so I could have them near, for a touch or a cuddle. Also, I have had numerous cats with unbelieveably rancid breath before, so it was no issue.

She said she had taken the cat to the vet, who had told her that the poor thing had gum problems. At nine years of age (63 in human years) there was nothing much that could be done except to put him on prescription. And he has been taking medication regularly ever since.

The cat's rotten breath somehow rekindled bittersweet memories long dormant when I got home that night, and I resolved to write about it when the time was right. Well, here it is. By the way, it is not just another story. It is a lesson well-learned.

Unlike many children, I started learning the Quran later than most. I finished the Muqadam (a collection of must-learn verses, the minor Quran as they call it) at the age of 10 and started on the Holy Book proper only at 13.

At that time my grandfather had just retired from his clerical job at the Bukit Besi iron mine. He bought a piece of land in Dungun, 22 miles southwards by the sea. It was a prime acre by the main road not far from Dungun General Hospital.

There he built a two-storey building, turned the ground floor into a sundry shop and the top floor into our living quarters. He also built a single-storey shoplot next to the building, and two units of kampung houses behind the main building. All three were then rented out.

The single-storey shoplot saw many tenants over the years during my childhood but none as memorable as imperious Mok Ku Teh, the blue-blooded baulu maker.

For the uninitiated, baulu is a a traditional kueh (sweetmeat), a kind of spongy cake made of lots and lots of eggs and sugar, and good as a teatime treat. Kampung people usually eat it dunked in black coffee.

Fair-skinned Mok Ku must have been a real beauty in her youth; she was still comely in her 50s. I am not privy to how Mok Ku and Grandma came to know each other, but they were the best of friends. Now, Mok Ku Teh's baulu was famous throughout Dungun and that I can vouch for.

My best friend Hamidah (daughter of the family maid/helper, Mok Cik Selema), whom my grandparents adopted to keep me company, and I sometimes would go over to Mok Ku Teh's little shop next door and watch her at work. She wouldn't allow us to help, though.

At around 3pm on certain schooldays and most weekends, Hamidah and I, dressed in baju kurung, with a selendang covering our hair and a copy of the Quran under our arms, would trudge along the criss-crossing kampung path, walking past tall, swaying coconut trees, clumps of kemunting (purple berry) bushes, and attap-thatched huts, to a wooden house on stilts belonging to Tok Ku, our Quran teacher.

Upon arrival, our first task would be to draw water from a nearby well and fill the two humongous tempayan (water jars) flanking the wooden stairs leading up to her house. Then we would wash our feet using a gayung (a kind of ladle) made of coconut shell, before entering the house for our daily lessons.

We would sit in a complete circle around her, our Quran in place on a carved wooden rehal (special Quran stand, pix above) and begin reciting. The number of students at any one time varied, usually 10 to 15, boys as well as girls.

The birdlike old lady was Mok Ku Teh's mother. While not imperious as the daughter, Tok Ku was nonetheless one fierce teacher who taught with a cane in hand. She would make us recite the verses over and over again until she was satisfied with our pronunciation.

Now, Tok Ku had one major problem. Her breath was a real stinker. Even now, I feel like a snitch telling this story, but you have to hear me out. For a good reason.

Of course, now that I am almost as old as Tok Ku then, I know she was probably suffering from halitosis. Whatever the case, Hamidah and I almost always nearly gagged when she peered into our faces to correct our recitation.

It wasn't long before Tok Ku's predicament came to my grandmother's knowledge, no thanks to my blabbering. I didn't realise Grandma overheard my bellyaching, and asked me about it. My woes came pouring out - how we couldn't stand the foul smell and didn't feel like continuing our lessons with her.

When I finished griping, Grandma took a deep breath, looked me in the eye and said evenly: "What you smell is not stench, it is the sweet smell of heaven, from the mouth of an old woman who teaches the verses of the Holy Quran to an ignoramus like you."

I was speechless. And properly chastised. Truth be told, in the months to come, her bad breath became tolerable to the point where it ceased to be a problem because, somehow, we were no longer aware of it. Thanks to that blessed woman, Hamidah and I completed the entire Quran almost two years later...