Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kota Baru Revisited

Yours truly flanked by colleagues Yusof & Hisham (to the right) and batik makers Rashidah & Azizah (to the left). PESENI head honcho is Tn Hj Muhamad bin Jusoh (the one in batik) while noted painter Ismail Kadir, whose studio we visited, is the one in yellow.

Our gracious host, the soft-spoken and very obliging Deen - schoolteacher, post-graduate student into his last semester, artist, homestay owner, loving husband and doting father. Thank you for your hospitality, Deen!

KOTA BARU. "Newcastle" of the East, and just as provincial as its British namesake. Charmingly so I thought, as I watched the sunrays peeping through cottony clouds, its reflection glistening on the wing of the Firefly aircraft as it swooped low over the flatlands of Kota Baru, heading towards the airport in Pengkalan Chepa.

It was 8.30 Saturday morning. Aboard the Fokker, my colleagues Hisham and Yusof, and I, were shaking off the remnants of sleep in anticipation of a fruitful day in this well-known northeastern outpost where the populace is among the most parochial in Malaysia.

We were in town for a crucial meeting; our first face-to-face with PESENI, the umbrella for Kelantan artists and painters. Our mission - to present our plan for a major art exhibition involving members of PESENI and other Kelantan artists.

Despite sporadic visits (I was here last in 2001), Kelantan is a place I hold dear in my heart for it is 'kampung tok ayah', hometown of the grandfather I never knew (he died age 25 during the Japanese Occupation, leaving a young widow and 4 small children, the eldest of whom was my late mother).

Thus this trip, brief as it were, was almost like a homecoming of sort, even if there was no one waiting for me. There were relatives aplenty in KB for sure; aunts in Taman Guru, cousins in Jalan Sultanah Zainab and Lorong Tok Semian, an uncle in Jalan Bayam, other kin in Pasir Mas and Kuala Krai.

It's just that time did not permit social calls. Ours was a day trip and there were many things that needed to be accomplished within that short period of time. Much as I wanted to meet my relatives, such social calls had to wait. I have to come back, hopefully soon, to do the needful.

From my window seat, I could discern Kelantan River, with its thick yellow 'teh tarik' hue, snaking sluggishly towards South China Sea in the far distance. Dotting the scene were patches of water yet undrained, for the floods had just receded.

We were met at the airport by Cikgu Mazeri (Deen), he of my art piece "Buoh Seto TokMa" fame. He had gamely taken on the quadruple role of host, guide, chauffeur & chaperone for the day in the absence of Pok Zawi, who was indisposed.

He took us to a kedai makan just yards away from our meeting venue. There, Hisham and Yusof went adventurous with 'nasi pagi' and 'pulut manis' for breakfast, while I stuck to tried and tested 'nasi lemak'. Actually my eyes were eyeing the 'pulut inti', but I dared not overeat!

Then it was on to the main business of the day. The two-hour meeting, held at the State Tourism Office, was cordial. Many issues were raised and discussed. Generally speaking, PESENI was agreeable to our presentation and terms. Barring unforeseen circumstances, we would be back for the MoU signing in December.

Two smiling 'makciks' joined the meeting as we were about to begin. Pn Azizah and Pn Rashidah, both voluble and very charming, were on the PESENI committee and I learned they were noted batik makers in Kelantan.

As we fell into conversation later, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the duo, who were sisters, were first cousins of my late mother (their mom and my maternal grandfather were siblings). What a wonderful coincidence indeed!

I only knew their other sister whom I call Makcik Nora (mother to Johan Nawawi the well-known composer) and her late husband, Ayahcik Nawawi. Nora and Nawawi were first cousins too; as such I am related to them twice over. Now in her late 60s, Makcik Nora was a portrait painter of national repute in her younger days.

A hearty and hefty 'nasi ulam' lunch at a popular restaurant adjacent to the building concluded the discussion. There were ikan patin dishes and crispy sembilang and budu that just blew my dieting away. Oh, well...

A visit to the house-cum-studio of well-established Kelantanese artist Ismail Kadir followed. We were told his works had fetched good prices, in the realm of tens of thousands of ringgit. Whilst the bachelor lived in such artistic disarray, the walls of his two-storey bungalow were covered with some of the most captivating paintings I had ever seen.

We moved on to Deen's spanking new abode in Pasir Mas 30 minutes away to freshen up and rest awhile. Stepping into Deen's house was like entering a new art gallery. His paintings, bright and cheerful (except for one in sombre black and green), were everywhere, and one particular creation actually would look more at home in the concourse of a corporate office building.

Deen's wife Haslina, a trained counsellor, had graciously prepared some desserts for us. After having our fill, I excused myself for solat and a brief shut-eye in the guest bedroom. I was too full, to the point of lethargy, to do anything else!

Around 3.30pm we bid Deen's family adieu and took off to visit Pok Zawi at his house some five-minute drive away. Pok Zawi was temporarily house-bound due to gout, all because he just couldn't resist food that was forbidden to him during a kenduri the night before (tsk tsk tsk!).

The last lap before going to the airport was a stopover at Pasar Siti Khadijah and Plaza Buluh Kubu, the two 'must-go' shopping stops in KB. The former is a market for fresh produce and foodstuff while the latter offers mostly traditional items like batik, songket, handicrafts and such.

I ended up with serunding, dodol, lempuk durian, brooches, batiks and shawls. What actually stopped me from buying more was the non-availability of ATM machines in the vicinity; you have to walk quite a distance to the nearest bank.

The flight home was rough. I think we were riding turbulence for a better part of the one-hour journey. I still managed a snooze, though. All those walking had really pooped me out. We disembarked into a slight drizzle and got home safely by 9pm, exhausted but happy nonetheless, that all went well as planned.

PS: Thank you too, Deen, for your gift of a 'wayang kulit' puppet. A good conversation piece, that one...

17 comments:

MY HOMESTAY said...

Salam..quite shy to see myself in your blog..ehe..especially in your interesting blog. Anyway..thanks to spend your time @ Heritage Villa and tries some desert which is our main desert at Heritage Villa. Its make people crazy when they come to Kota Bharu..lot of thing to do and buy..ehhe..Kak Puteri, after you mentioned about one of my painting...the orchid..semangat semakin berkobar2 nak melukis..the latest painting will complete in one month with the size 7' x 4'..the largest painting that I have done!

Ok..see ya..opp...please send my regards to your bodyguard..ehhe..the bachelors..

Deen!

Kama said...

Deen - itu nak dengar tu.. semangat berkobar2 nak melukis! Oh, saya amat sayang pada bodyguards saya dua orang tu.. macam anak sendiri! hehehe

mamasita said...

Hai Puteri..wah..habis you hencang all the Klantanese dishes..sedaapnya.

Wow..betul2 high powered meeting you must have had..MOU coming and you kekenyangan sampai kena lelap kejap!

We all ramai sedara in Kelantan because our late grandfather datang dari situ..trace punya trace I have this gut feeling we may be related jugak..that'll be nice kan..

Pak Zawi said...

Kama,
Of all the days to have an attack of gout. I tell you it was a crippling one otherwise I would have waited for you at the airport as was earlier planned. Luckily Deen was available to replace me at the last minute and he did it so well and I must thank him.
Anyway I have done my part to get the meeting room, thanks to my friend Tuan Haji Sulaiman Ismail The DG of Majlis Tindakan Pelancongan Kelantan who had given his permission for PESENI to use their meeting room. Must remind Peseni Sec to thank him officially.
I am glad you like the food at Restoren Kampung Cikgu Hamid. Datin Mamasita and Dato' Sak love the food there too.
PESENI is on the way to better things. Thanks to you for initiating this project. I can't imagine it from the earlier invitation to Pak Zawi to hold a solo show at Balai Berita Jalan Riong, it has developed into such a mammoth and prestigious project. Now let us work on getting the much needed sponsors. Let us rope in NanaDJ for this. Don't forget to rope in Pak Zawi to be on Mediabiz Creative team too hehehehehe. Could do with some allowance in case Pak Zawi's own paintings don't get sold at the exhibition hahahahaha.

NanaDJ said...

Puteri,
I thought with all the rain and floods you would have postponed your visit to Kelantan. Mamasita was worried too. But we did not take into account the determination of our 'iron' lady... 'neither rain nor storm or sleet of snow' would deter you.
I do miss all the food that you mentioned, was living in KB for four years eons ago. Yes will assist you if you need me...thank you Pak Zawi for your kind thoughts.Deen, forgot to kirim salam to you thro Puteri. So salam everyone, looking forward to the exhibition.

Pak Zawi said...

Kama,
Allow me to respond to NanaDJ.
Kama wanted to postpone the trip due to the flood. I told her not to listen to rumours such as the prime medias but to listen to me. Otherwise all the arrangements I have made would come to nought. The flood was in Rantau Panjang and not in Kota Bharu so why bother? My only scare was Firefly on which they were to fly may take off from Subang and land in Subang again because of the weather. I would worry less if they were to fly MAS or AirAsia as the Boeings and Airbusses could land in inclement weather but not the Fokker.

MY HOMESTAY said...

terima kasih kerana sudi menerima denderahati yg tak seberapa..lukisan terbaru sedang dlm proses..saiz 7 kakai x 4 kaki...Insya Allah akan siapa dlm masa sebulan

deen

MY HOMESTAY said...

saiz 7 kaki x 4 kaki..Insya Allah akan disiapkan dlm masa sebulan dr sekarang..gambar2 tu nanti Mediabiz akan datang snap ker? let me know that.

Deen

kay_leeda said...

Kak Puteri,

Very productive trip, yes? Art diselitkan agenda makan-makan, Alhamdulillah. Can't wait to see the outcome of this meet with PESENI. Keep us posted yah :)

tireless mom said...

Hi Kak Puteri

You sure had a jolly good time in Newcastle ye. This is the place where I get my supply of ragi for my tapai. But have not been there since 12 years ago.

MY HOMESTAY said...

To NanaDJ..salam from Deen. How are you there? Its great to meet Kak Puteri and the team. They're very prefessional and talented in this field. Amazing. Hope to see you in KL.

Deen

Kama said...

nanadj - pak zawi was very persuasive too. i was told "boh kecik jah" and only in certain places.

pak zawi - long time tak naik Fokker. I think MAS is still using them to fly to pedalaman in East Malaysia. We toopk Firefly because the hub was nearer, Subang instead of Sepang.

deen - keep on painting. you hv the talent.

kay & TM - ijn all, a good trip. If I had my way, I would like to stay a night or two, but mana boleh tinggal Pak Abu sorang2, nati berabuk pulak dia..lol

Kama said...

mamasita - one day I think we shall work together re this art exhibition thing. I dah boleh rasa dah in my bones.. :)

Iron Butterfly said...

err.. auntie, they have ceased using fokker end of 2008, the new fleet are bigger than fokkers and look a bit sturdier, i think it is called ATR 72-500 - a twin turboprop.

dulu masa fokker kitorang mmg takut duduk dekat wing because we could see the propellers (and the cabin smell not so nice). haha.

Kama said...

IB - baguslah kalau they hv upgraded the airctrafts flying into the Sabah & Sarawak interior. I like MAS yesteryear punya ads re EM, siap bawak ayam naik plane..:)

MY HOMESTAY said...

First of all, thanks Kak Puteri fro your support. I have an experienced flies with the small plane when the Aircraft Exhibition in KB. It looks great but when we're on board..it mekes me very afraid..ahha..so regret! the plane flies around KB for 15 minutes but I feel like a few hours...eheh..the exhibition for the east coast states in overseas very interesting..Insya Allah, where there is a will, there is a way.

Deen

Anonymous said...

Salam Kak Puteri n the teams..its hard to me explain to PESENI about the exhibitions. I really hope if you have any problems, please let us know and I'll inform to PESENI. I am very afraid for that..some of artist spent few months to complete the paintings since we had a deal in November 2009. Now all the paintings are completed and PESENI hope we still have a deal with that. At least let us know if anything happen there.

Deen

Deen