Another milestone chalked up in son Joe's life. He reached 32 recently and we had a family 'makan' at TGIF One Utama to celebrate the occasion.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Another milestone chalked up in son Joe's life. He reached 32 recently and we had a family 'makan' at TGIF One Utama to celebrate the occasion.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Now, now, before you naughty folks start getting ideas, here's the deal. Pak Abu and I spent the weekend yesterday in the best possible way; getting rejuvenated while taking in the sights and sounds of rustic rural Selangor.
I kept a lookout for Batang Berjuntai, that small town famous for its deliciously unconventional name, but couldn't find it on any signboard, until Pak Abu pointed out the small print in brackets below an unfamiliar name.
They have renamed Batang Berjuntai. It is now Bestari Jaya. But why? What is wrong with Batang Berjuntai? I would rather leave it hanging the way it is because the name makes a good conversation opener.
Why can't they just let sleeping dogs lie, or dangling dongs be, for that matter? I don't think Batang Berjuntai is indecent. On the contrary, I think it is a hoot.
Sure as hell the name alone can be a tourist attraction, if Selangor Tourism can get their act together, that is.
There are three more rather rougish place names that I know of, all in East Malaysia - Batang Ai, Mukah and Menggatal. Are they going to rename these too? These are classic names; let them be!
I think the 'Ai' in Batang Ai refers to water; Batang Ai simply means The River and not 'My Precious Peter the Prick'. I'm not sure, though.
Mukah, in standard Malay, is a wee bit mischievous. Bermukah means shagging, so Mukah can be translated as fornication.
Menggatal, as everyone knows, is having an itch, a 'miangness' that begs scratching. I'd translate it as that uniquely Malaysian term - "itchified'.
For unexplained reasons, some years ago a local university established a campus in Menggatal. Why laa, of all places!
Do you know that there is a well-known singer in Thailand of Thai-Australian extraction, quite pretty too, named Prisana Praisang but better known as Pookie?
I don't think she would ever perform in Malaysia, though. Ooooh the horror of hearing the crowd in Genting Arena screaming her name: "Pookie! Pookie! We want Pookie!" Arrrgghhh...!
PS: I now know Batang Ai means Big River (Batang = river, Ai = big. *sigh* There goes the prick)
Friday, April 24, 2009
Being a mother of two grown daughters and stepmother to another, I understand only too well the kind of pressure they face daily, at work or socially, and they have my unreserved sympathy.
When they come home fused, highly agitated or just plain angry with someone or something (usually it's someone, and most times it's a sleazeball), they know they have me to unload their woes on.
But the world was different when I was young. Back then, it wasn't a done deal to confide in your parents or elders about issues of the heart. You just coped the best you could because you didn't want them to worry about you.
Many a times I had to depend on my wit, creativity, large doses of good luck, and endless prayers to God Almighty, to get out of really icky situations, almost all of which were due to my own naivete.
One episode I could not erase from my mind happened just months after I started work as a reporter with the Malay Mail.
I was confronted with an issue too big for me, at 19, to handle, yet handle it I did, and came out physically unscathed but emotionally shaken.
Not so long ago Mat Bangkai of "What, No Tea and Scones?" mentioned in passing, in his blog, a name that still sends "what if" chills down my spine 36 years later.
The ertswhile devil (let's call him Mr A) would be in his late 60s today, and I hope to God he has repented.
I became acquainted with this well-known radio entity when I was put on the RTM beat four months into my job as a reporter.
Being young and innocent, I accepted his friendship at face value. What I never knew was he had a hidden agenda.
All things considered, those folks up in Angkasapuri were a very nice, friendly bunch. They were not skint with their knowledge and went out of their way to show this greenhorn the ropes.
Outwardly, Mr A was no exception, so when he invited me out to dinner one day, I accepted. I vaguely remember him telling me his wife was back in her hometown and he needed someone to talk to.
I had gone out to dinners with TV and radio personalities before - it was part of my job as an entertainment writer - so there was no reason to refuse his invitation.
By all accounts it was a good outing and when he offered to send me home after coffee, I was thankful for the generosity. Little did I know I was about to be taken on a ride of terror, literally.
Befuddled as I was (I was still unsure about KL routes), I realised we weren't exactly heading for Cheras where I lived with my aunt and her family. But fear kept my mouth shut, although I was shivering inside.
As we drove on, I saw road signs saying "Ipoh". It was almost midnight; darkness prevailed and the stretch was lonely. (We were on the KL-Ipoh trunk road; this was during the pre-PLUS Highway days).
I instinctively knew I was in for an ordeal. I had to think and act fast. So I asked him quietly where we were going.
His reply rings clear even today. This married man (and probably father of a few kids, I don't know) said: "We are driving to Ipoh. We are going to spend the night in Ipoh."
I was so shocked with the answer I could have fainted. But God was great. I found strength I never knew I had. Steadying myself, I told him to turn the car around and return to KL.
He refused. Instead he stopped the car in the middle of nowhere and tried to paw me. I remember raising my voice, almost shrieking: "If you harm me in any way, I shall ruin you - your name, your career, your marriage, your future - everything!"
That, somehow seemed to sink in. He backed off, shook himself, started the car and drove back to KL in complete silence.
Instead of dropping me home, I asked him to leave me on the NSTP doorstep in Jalan Bangsar. I no longer wanted to share the air I breathed in with this scumbag.
I tried to steer clear of him whenever I was in Angkasapuri, but our paths crossed many times in the canteen. As always, he greeted me cordially, pretending as though nothing had happened.
On my part, I usually tried to sneak away when he came into view. I abhorred his very being. He made me feel unclean. It took me a long while to come to terms with the situation.
I spoke to no one and told no one about it. I felt ashamed it happened as though it was my fault it did, so it never crossed my mind to confide in anybody.
Today, 36 years on, I have forgiven him but I have not forgotten how terrifying it felt to be trapped in that car in the middle of nowhere, like a caged animal desperate to break free...
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Before I swing my bat at this 'brilliant' stroke of an idea, and preferably at Councillor Lim as well, here's some background details of the 'istana' for the uninitiated.
The Zakaria building has 21 bathrooms, 16 bedrooms (11 of which were occupied by each of his children), a VIP room, 3 living rooms, a dining hall, a prayer room, a swimming pool, a bowling room, several gazebos, an orchard, a two-hole golf lawn, an office, a storeroom, two servant rooms as well as a wet kitchen and a dry kitchen.
This palatial mansion was built by the late UMNO division chief Datuk Zakaria Md Derus. It gained infamy in 2006 when he had a run-in with the law for not submitting building plans for his mansion, dubbed as 'istana' (palace) by his detractors.
He was also found not to have paid the assessment for the land for 12 years. Datuk Zakaria died of a heart attack on March 11, 2008, age 62.
While there certainly is no love lost between yours truly, Allahyarham Datuk Zakaria and his showy rumah agam (mansion), I can't help feeling there is more to the councillor's idea than meets the eye.
Kalau tiada angin, masakan pohon bergoyang; but I think I see a couple of monkeys shaking the branches, in the absence of angin sepoi-sepoi bahasa from the Straits of Malacca.
If Councillor Lim still hasn't a clue to what I am saying, perhaps he needs to vacate his seat and make way for a brighter spark, as well as get a lesson in the meaning of the word "respect."
Sir, it means I am not likely to be abusive to the memory of the dead, be it the late Zakaria (no matter how wayward he was while still breathing), or the erstwhile UMNO building (which your goodself had described as "the ugliest building").
Fancy desperately wanting the whole nation to know your beautiful royal town has the ugliest building. What gives? The shrimpy stench is spreading, Mr Councillor.
Granted, some of his fellow councillors were against the idea, saying it would give a wrong image of the MPK, but Councillor Lim had apparently snubbed them all by already organising a tour tagged "Eat & See Trip".
On May 3, some 43 local tourists, at RM88 per person, would be taken to enjoy local delicacies and visit eight places which included the infamous mansion (gawk from outside lah) and the purportedly hideous-looking building.
That means you go stuff yourselves silly first, then drive around making disparaging remarks about Klang buildings, right?
As a tourism graduate (Class of 1984, ITM), I can already imagine the tourist guide gravely intoning: "Istana ini kepunyaan Allahyarham Datuk Zakaria Md Derus, bekas Ketua Bahagian Umno Klang. Beliau bena istana ni tanpa submit building plans dan beliau juga tak bayar assessment tanah selama 12 tahun." Clap! Clap!
"Dan ini pula bekas bangunan Umno Kelang, yang tersohor sebagai antara bangunan paling buruk rupanya di Lembah Kelang. Bangunan ini hasil ciptaan anak tempatan; pereka bangunan ialah Syarikat ABC manakala kontraktornya ialah Syarikat DEF." Clap! Clap!
Promoting local talent, eh, Councillor? He had said this was a genuine tourism project and not a political game. Arrrk! Arrrk! Quick! Pass me some water! I'm choking!
Get on the tour bus, folks!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I came to know Dalilah Tamrin through cybersphere, via Kak Teh's Choc-A-Bloc-Blog. It was the title of her blog that perked my interest; OneBreastBouncing sounds deliciously provocative, naughty even.
Little did I realise when I wandered into her 'abode' that I was destined to meet a tenacious fighter, a woman whose inner strength belies her cheerful disposition, and to explore a realm so dreadful and harrowing, but one that every woman should familiarise herself with - breast cancer.
I had never met anyone with breast cancer before. What little I knew of this scourge I learned, fleetingly, from newspapers and magazines. Much to my discredit, of course, I never paid much attention to any of them.
Yet, I was drawn to Dalilah's delicate jottings like moth to light. In the comfort of my study, I cried shamelessly each time she described her suffering and the pain she endured.
Tears fell readily when she spoke of the heartfelt love she had from her family, and the loving support from the man she affectionately called "Mambang Hijau" - her wonderful husband.
Responses, comments and words of comfort from friends and well-wishers in her blog elicited even more tears. I was surprised at the depth of my own feeling towards this stranger.
I couldn't help but feel for her absolutely. Every lament of hers tore into me. I felt so helpless; I wanted to hold her and hug her close and console her with every fibre of my being. Yet I didn't know her. I had not met her. Apart from an image or two on her blog, I would not have recognised her if I were to bump into her.
I had no idea who this woman was, this bespectacled smiling face whose suffering had affected me so.
When Pak Abu and I went for the Hajj in December last year, I made a promise to myself that I would pray for her well-being, in the Holy Land.
With tears coursing down my cheeks, in front of the Kaabah, during the brief sojourn at barren Arafah, and in the cool comfort of Masjid Nabawi, Madinah, I beseeched Allah swt to ease her pain and make her well again.
I thought of her and her pain often, in Makkah and back home. I knew one day we would meet face to face and I would get the chance to hug and kiss her in person. And yesterday I did, Syukur Alhamdulillah.
I could feel the onset of migraine as noon approached, but I wasn't going to miss the launch of Dalilah's maiden book "Kanser Payudara Ku - Perjuangan & Kesedaran" at the International Book Fair in PWTC yesterday, for anything.
Pak Abu, bless his heart, decided to accompany me as a show of support for the new author. I was glad I didn't pander to my headache, although I did pay a heavy price for it.
[A full-blown migraine started as soon as we got into the car to go home, with me emptying my guts in a plastic bag in the car while still at PWTC parking lot!]
Dalilah was every bit I had imagined her to be - a face so sweet and kind. And what a bubbly disposition! This, from a woman who had endured years of suffering, from breast cancer and its subsequent treatments.
I met a few fellow bloggers for the first time at the launch; Marina Mahathir of MusingsbyMM (well, our paths had crossed many years ago when she was attached to Berita Publishing and I was with the Malay Mail), Jeflam of Jaffpoint, Elviza of Write Away, Ariffin of Bakpo and Husna of Husna-Amusing. I was told Mak Andeh & Brood was there too but I didn't get to meet her.
The presence of Ariffin (Pp/Pak Payne) all the way from Dubai was so heartwarming. There must be something about Guchil (Kuala Krai) folks that made us the way we are, eh!
[Pak Payne and Elviza hold Guchil 'citizenship' while my maternal grandpa hailed from Guchil too and was buried in Guchil Lima].
We adjourned to tea at Pan Pacific Hotel adjoining PWTC after the book signing, before calling it a day at around 5pm.
I came home with the mother of all migraines (and didn't recover fully until this morning), but meeting Dalilah Tamrin and my fellow bloggers was worth every damn throb!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Clad in worn work clothes, he proceeded to announce to no one in particular: "Saya potong oledi ( I have already cut it off). Shouldn't be ploblem now."
Apart from N and I, others in the office at the time were a fellow resident, the management's accounts assistant, and Z, the condo's soft-spoken technician-cum-electrican.
"Oh, good lah. Hopefully no more complaint after this," N responded with a smile. "Do you know that Datin J saw it last week and she nearly fainted? That was why I asked you to lop it off fast."
Think what you will, but if you were a bystander listening to that kind of cryptic exchange, you too would be left wondering what actually was going on.
My interest by now sufficiently piqued by the 'potong' insinuation, I shamelessly eavesdropped while pretending to flip through a property magazine.
By the way, I know sprightly Datin J; this pleasant elderly lady headed the surau committee last year and was among the first to welcome us and to make us feel at home when we moved into our unit last July.
Since she was one woman not to be trifled with, and certainly not a lily-livered one who would faint at the slightest provocation, I wondered what was it that surprised her so.
I was still mulling over the mystery when the Chinese fellow bid goodbye and left. As soon as the dust settled, I cornered N, my real mission to the office dismissed for a time being.
Me: "What was that 'potong' thing all about, N?"
N: "Oh, it's that big tree by the side of the walked-up block at the other end; you know, the block that faces the pool."
Me: "What about it?"
N: "Do you know there was 'something' living high up there among the branches? We have been getting complaints and reports from the condo's residents. Quite a number of them had seen 'it' and had been scared out of their wits by 'it.'
"They had asked us to lop off the branches and leave the tree bare, so that it doesn't offer any shade whatsoever to whomever."
Me: "What was the thing?"
N: "A flash of white darting about up there some nights. I don't really like to say this, let alone tell others about it, but those who caught sight of it said 'it' was definitely a pontianak (banshee)."
Me: "Aiiiiiii.... !
N: "At first we dismissed it too. It could be some people's overactive imagination. But when Datin J nearly passed out of fright upon seeing 'it', we just felt there could be some truth in it.
I concurred with N. After all, that God-fearing Datin J, with her kelas mengaji (Quran recital classes), ceramah agama (religious talks), and voluntary work at the orphanage and the hafiz school nearby, isn't your garden-variety timorous old lady. So I am inclined to believe her.
Now, all this is very interesting. I have always thought those scary-looking, long matted-haired spooks with shiny red eyes belong to kapok trees in dimly lit kampungs.
The presence of one in the heart of Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, comfortably nestling in a verdant shade by the side of a condo development, and yards away from a swimming pool, really takes the cake.
It does seem even banshees have gone upmarket these days. After centuries of deriving pleasure in scaring the sarongs off kampung folks, they have moved into the realm of the urbanites.
Honestly, I don't know what to think. With so many people chancing upon it, they can't possibly be wrong, can they?
I told Pak Abu when he got back from work that evening. Later, on the drive back home from dinner, my ever-cynical spouse suddenly said: "Let's make a detour to see if 'it' is still there..."
"Not on your life!" came the swift answer!
[PS: I wrote this piece in the comfort of my bedroom, on my bed. 'Takut' to stay in the study alone because Pak Abu and Awwa have gone to bed. That 'thing' flies, doesn't it? You never know, it may just decide to park itself on my window sill!! Oh my, mintak simpang malaikat 44!]
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I was 15, and it proved to be six tumultuous months of incredible yearnings my young heart could ever hold, for I had fallen head over heels with a picture from a newspaper!
I am sure you too must have had experiences of similar fantasies at some point in your youth, falling for someone who never even knew you existed. That someone could very well be a picture in a magazine, or a voice on the radio.
Out of curiosity, I asked my youngest daughter Nawwar why she wasn't in the least excited about Archuletta's concert, and back came her indignant reply: "Maa! I am almost 24! My days of swooning over boy singers are over!"
Sometimes I forgot my 'little girl' is already of marriageable age, with a candidate and wedding plans in the works. ...*sigh*
Yet, I remember only too well how super-duper excited she was when Westlife came to town, how she painstakingly prepared a placard to greet Brian McFadden, a band member, at their performance in Genting and how she screamed herself hoarse upon seeing him.
"Yeah," she admitted laughingly, "Kind of silly, thinking about the things I did just to get near to Westlife." Whatever the case, she got herself a signed photograph of the group and was in seventh heaven for weeks afterwards.
As for me, I no longer remember how it started. All I could recall was I caught sight of a handsome pilot named Suhaili, whose story was highlighted in a local newspaper, and I was smitten.
I remember keeping the news cutting between the pages of a textbook, and taking a peek at this incredible vision every now and then. And sighing. That Suhaili truly was a looker and I fell, line hook and sinker.
I went through a period of mild depression because of this 'unrequited love'. I couldn't concentrate on school and as such my results plummeted. I also became weepy for no reason, locking myself in my room and crying over his picture.
Of course, talking about it now makes me feel how incredibly inane I was. Fortunately, the yearning didn't last very long. It must have been six months or thereabouts before I finally snapped out of it.
But the 'torture' was exquisite while it lasted...!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
B has breached the bounds of decency with her ultra-tight, sheer outfits - most times with two/three buttons off at the top - that leave nothing to imagination. But A says these are nothing compared to the real issue.
It's B's penchant for showing off her deep cleavage that has got everyone on edge. Apparently, B has huge knockers and is not averse to putting them on display.
A says not only does B dress with half her boobs hanging out, B also has a habit of lowering herself by resting her arms on the desks of others (particularly the guys), inevitably giving those sitting down an eyeful of her assets.
A feels embarrassed each time that happens but B doesn't seem to care. A thinks B is proud to do what she does. A also thinks B doesn't see anything wrong in showing off her cleavage and half her boobs to all and sundry.
A's colleagues are mostly Muslims and they had expressed their discomfort to each other, but not to B herself. None wants to be 'the' one to tell B.
If I were in A's shoes, I would have tackled the issue head-on, possibly earning B's wrath in the process. But that's me, a straight talker who doesn' suffer fools gladly.
I honestly have no advice to give to A. Perhaps someone out there has a different approach. Please help A.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
A wordsmith almost all her life, the unprecedented boycott was extremely disturbing. There was nothing left to do but struggled through it, listless and dull, the mind near-catatonic.
Over the weekend, clad in a faded and frayed caftan long past its shelf-life and awaiting the inevitable one-way trip to the rag heap, she tried once again to put pen to paper, but the mind remained stubbornly obtuse.
Waddling like an overfed duck back and forth between the kitchen and the study, she mulled over the events of the week. Nothing remotely exciting happened (the opening of that new supermarket down the road doesn't count).
A couple of jobs awaited completion - the clients would soon be baying for her blood - but inside her head was one voluminous blank canvas. The artistry in her had waned into nothingness.
Not a word bubbled to the surface. The stillness of her mind defied convention. In desperation, she reached out for one of her favourite reading materials, a dictionary of foreign words and phrases.
I have a thing for languages and pick up foreign tongues quite easily. As a student in (then) ITM, I took up German for three full years, enjoying every minute of the lessons taught by that irrepressible Cik Rokiah.
I had studied tourism management and had harboured thoughts of joining Lufthansa upon graduation, thus the Deutsch choice. But that Lufthansa dream didn't materialise, so I went back to my first love - journalism.
Over time, my German became terribly rusty. I had to give it a much needed brush-up when I was in the service of Opel AG as its regional PR consultant, and had to lead a group of local motoring journalists to attend the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Today, my Deutsch hasn't died on me yet; I can still muster a few stock phrases but the bulk of the vocabulary, achtung notwithstanding, has disappeared into nothingness.
Then again, as always, all I need is a severe jolt (like being hired by a German firm with no English-speaking superiors) to re-tune my mind to recall this skill.
In the 1990s when my PR consultancy was appointed by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to handle its media activities for Malaysia, I took up Thai.
That was a necessity because unlike the Germans, many of whom spoke English fluently, the Thais I had come in contact with then, were ill at ease with English. Whilst they understood what was said, they had difficulties reciprocating coherently.
Like German, I found Thai easy to learn as the words were pronounced as they were spelt. This exposure to Thailand had, over time, heightened my interest in all things Thai - the food, the music, the arts and culture.
Learning a foreign language is always exciting and I think I would like to give Arabic a go next. I came to this conclusion because of what happened the week before at the Royal Lake Club.
There I was, sitting quietly all by myself in the Buttery (one of the restaurant outlets at the club) waiting for my order, when I happened to catch the eye of one elderly Malay lady sitting across not far from my table.
Immaculately dressed and very articulate, she was hailed by all and sundry who entered the Buttery. She was definitely a 'somebody'. Who she was exactly, I knew not, although she looked very familiar.
She gave me a broad smile and invited me to join her table. I reciprocated warmly, but regretfully declined the invitation because I was waiting for Pak Abu to join me.
Halfway through my food, the dear lady stood up and came over to my table. She asked me what was I doing (as in vocation), so I told her I was doing nothing much in terms of work, perhaps a little bit of writing here and there to fill my time.
She said reproachfully: "My dear, you should pick up a foreign language. It is very satisfying, you know. I am 81 and have just completed a two-year course in French."
Then she launched into a whole babble of singsong French which sounded so sweet and melodious. Of course, I didn't understand a single word beyond oui! Not that it mattered, for I enjoyed watching her having a good time.
She then added: "I have just registered for Spanish. The next session starts in June. Come join me. Don't waste your time!"
I half expected her to launch into Spanish with as much aplomb as her French. Then I remembered she hadn't learned it yet! But she was such a gregarious one, you couldn't help but take to her.
She then moved on to join some friends at another table while I finished up my food. Minutes later, JA, a dear friend who's an LC member and also a frequent commenter on this blog dropped by.
Excitedly pointing in the grand dame's direction, JA said: "Puteri! That's the person I have been telling you about, the one who could very well be related to you. Come let me introduce you to her! "
Thus Mak Engku and I got properly acquainted. She asked for my family history and I willingly obliged, waiting to see where this would lead (I just knew there would be a surprise or two in store).
Upon hearing the name of my grandfather, Dr Megat Khas, she boomed: "Do you know that if I were a man, I could not marry you?" Woweee, this was getting interesting!
It turned out that we were related in more ways than one. Apart from the fact that my late grandpa and her father were saudara sesusu (breastfed by the same nursemaid), we are also related by both blood and marriage.
Now, please tell me how to wriggle myself out of this foreign language 'thingy", because with Mak Engku at the helm I dare not..!