Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Turning 55...


Age 6: The pre-schooler and her first official portrait.
(Bukit Besi, Terengganu 1960)

Age 16: The schoolgirl in her Girl Guide ensemble.
(Dungun, Terengganu 1970)

Age 20: The newspaper reporter on her wedding day.
(Kuala Lumpur, 1974)

Age 38: The PR consultant-cum-single mom with 4 kids in tow.
(Bangkok, Thailand 1992 - serving Thai Tourism Board)

Age 47: Another shot at matrimony, after 14 years...
(Ipoh, Perak 2001)

Age 54: blissfully happy: Kama & Pak Abu
(Medina, Saudi Arabia - Hajj of 2008).

(This entry is unashamedly self-indulgent, so please forgive me. Give it a miss if it doesn't quite agree with you; I am just so happy to be where I am today that I could burst from the sheer joy of it).

A wargamas - freshly minted, legally certified and absolutely thrilled - was born today. Signed, sealed, delivered; that's me, rushing headlong into 55. How wonderful, to be able to proudly claim senior citizenship!

I had waited for this day ever since I turned 40. Frankly, it has very little to do with the promised bounty, enticing as that may be. It's just that the 40s somehow never really fit into my scheme of things. I couldn't relate to the old standby "life begins at 40" because for me it didn't.

If I were to assign some recognition to it, I'd call my 40s "the age of wilderness and confusion." You see, when you hit 40, you are neither here nor there. While you are definitely not young (being young at heart doesn't count), you are not old either.

The age of youth ends with 39. But old age doesn't really hit you in the face until 50 and beyond, so where does that leave the 40s? Granted, it may be just numbers to some but those numbers troubled me enough to give my 40s a wide mental berth.

Time stood still from the time I bid 39 goodbye until I leapfrogged into 50. The missing decade was spent in "age hibernation', emerging only on the treshhold of 50 to take my rightful place amongst the half-centurians.

Alas, what I had conveniently seek to forget, my bones never ceased to remind. The creaks amplified with every move. Not that I minded much really, because being 50 was a prelude to better things to come - turning 55 and joining the illustrious "Senior Citizens Brigade".

So here I am, turning 55 today - still alive and kicking - creaking bones, protruding guts, wobbly knees, greying hair, the occasional memory lapses, impaired vision and 'audio trouble' notwithstanding. All the same, Thank You God, for all Your blessings....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Feast for the Eye

Guest-of-honour YB Senator Dato Maznah Mazlan, Deputy Minister of Human Resource, flanked by event organiser Datin Huda a.k.a Mamasita Mamamia (left) and Pn Farisha Pawanteh (right), COO of Media Prima's Primeworks. Standing behind are some of the Pahang artists participating in the exhibition.

An eerie rendition, featuring a big tree entwined with vines; look at it a moment too long and it gives you goosepimples.

The two paintings that had me bowled over. I assure you they truly seduce in real life; it's my amateurish photography that doesn't do them justice here.

A typical scene in the East Coast; elderly makciks hawking their meagre wares. They look so despondent... :(

Jantung Pisang & Ikan Emas, batik-style. There are a few truly exquisite batik drawings in the collection; a quirky rendition of a monkey pitcher plant is one..

Fishing boats moored at a river estuary. Melancholy sets in just by looking at this piece of realism.

Absolutely stunning; an undersea vision of a turtle swimming among bright corals. My hunch tells me this piece will appreciate in no time..

Ah, these two boys have just undergone circumcision. Gently does it, boys! Look at the folds meticulously drawn, and the batik patterns, bright and cheerful...

One can never go wrong with the humble heliconia, upright and strong in all its red glory.

This Ayam Serama series gave blogger Jaflam a sudden adrenalin rush; besides collecting art pieces, he also used to keep these highly-prized chicks.

Kampung house in the moonlight. According to the organiser, this traditional abode is located in Pekan.

Drenched in sweat, a fisherman and three friends prepare to push a boat out to sea.

Simply Captivating

These art pieces speak for themselves. That each and every single one of the paintings is special is without a doubt. Mamasita's ceaseless efforts have borne fruit. Congratulations Datin; you did fine with this commendable endeavour.

Those Pahang artists are definitely a talented lot. Just look at the fruits of their labour, now up for both public viewing and sale at TV3's Seri Pentas. I am not a connoisseur and I do not know much about art appreciation, but I know beauty when I see one.

And speaking of fruits, I am once again smitten. Fruit renditions make me go weak at the knees. Once upon a time it was Mazeri's mangosteens, now occupying a place of honour in my living room. Yesterday, it was the rambutans (pix above).

Those humble rambutans are slowly working their charm on me. And they are VERY affordable too (darn!) I really can't afford to fall in love at first sight too often.. but we'll see about this one :)

I am calling on fellow readers to spread the word around. If you happen to live in the Klang Valley, do come visit the exhibition. I understand it will be on for two weeks (until the end of the month). It's truly a feast for the eye....

PS: Another art show from the East Coast - from the talents of Kelantan this time - is in the works. We'll inform when all details are finalised.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When He Whispers....

It's a marvel how Evil works. Half the time you didn't even realise it was his doing - the sly whisperings and nudges, the gentle proddings, the promises - until much later when sensibility returned. By the time you did it was too late; you had been duped.

For years I was the unhappy recipient of numerous "gangguans"; those weird, sometimes unexplainable happenings that would prickle the hairs on your nape or send a chill up your spine. Being at the receiving end of such creepy experiences was emotionally taxing; I have never really understood this ability to sense and occasionally see 'things'.

I have, however, taken it in my stride over the years, even if I am still as anxious as always, worrying about all things natural and supernatural, humans and hantus (especially humans behaving like hantus!). I know all I need to do is fortify my faith in God, and keep close to Ayatul Qursi as an added measure.

Truth be told, I found peace and tranquility after the Hajj. God has been so kind and I am humbled in more ways than one. Syukur Alhamdulillah, ya Allah. My life used to be so messed up with such nonsensical things that I couldn't see the woods for the trees sometimes.

Now, there's this issue about Isya' prayers (for the uninitiated, it's the late evening prayer, the last of five for the day) that had been bugging me for a while. While one school of thought says one should never delay one's solat, the other says one should preferably do the Isya' just before turning in so that one goes to bed with one's ablution intact.

While I do not see the merit of praying just before bedtime (praying on the heels of azan is still the best, I think), I sometimes do it because it is convenient. Therein lies this problem.. the seductive whispers of Satan...

There had been occasions when I would do my Isya' just before bed. That would mean way past midnight because I learned a long time ago that ideas came easy at the closing of day, so I would write away until sleepiness overtook me.

Half of me always felt guilty for delaying solat, yet the other half would say soothingly... "Alaah, if you are sleepy, go to sleep first lah and then wake up in the middle of the night and pray. What's the issue?"

Now, that's the whisper of that damnable Satan for you. He's hoping you'll be knocked out till dawn, and so will miss your Isya' and hopefully, your Subuh too! I knew it, yet I still fell prey to it sometimes especially when the bed beckoned ever so invitingly.

Last night, however, I was punished for refusing to succumb to his words. As I stood my ground, I knew he went away disgruntled, planning his next move.

It was past midnight and I had just finished some work at the computer when sleepiness closed in. The Despicable One, somehow, had me tuned to "sleep first, pray later" mode. I was already contemplating slipping under the duvet in the cool comfort of my bedroom when I was 'physically' jolted that I nearly fell off my chair.

I fully believe a kind spirit had a hand in giving me this 'wake-up call', literally. Chastened, I quickly took my ablution, completed Isya' and went to bed. Pak Abu was still finishing some work on his computer at the dining table, and watching TV at the same time.

I was nodding off to sleep when I heard a tremendous roar on the yet-unoccupied side of the bed. The duvet seemed to move in a wavy motion, and a hazy outline of a hand seemed to appear from nowhere, hitting the duvet continuously while the roaring continued.

I found my body completely immobilised but I could move my pupils sideways, only to see the duvet moving on its own. I tried calling out to Pak Abu, but no voice came out. I searched my mind for Ayatul Qursi but couldn't find it. All I could utter was "A'uzubillahi minasyaitanirrajim".

I kept repeating the verse until I could feel my body relaxing ... and then all was quiet once again. Immediately I grabbed the Surah Yasin & Ayatul Qursi booklet on my bedside table and started reading. Moments later Pak Abu walked in.

I wasn't scared, just very annoyed that The Damned One tried to intimidate me for not sleeping first and praying later. I think that was it. He had expected me to just go to bed and hopefully 'terlepas' Isya' altogether. Such dugaan...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Not Again, Lillie!

The "abang-abang bomba" assessing the situation, while Pak Abu (left) and Zaid (right), our condo's technician, wait patiently.

The wet kitchen of the unoccupied unit where Lillie got herself trapped in.

Up goes bomba's retractable steps, to reach the 3rd floor.

A rescuer on the way up to retrieve the stuck feline.

... another caper came to an embarrassingly eventful end...

By any yardstick, this morning's event, a briefing by the Labuan IBFC (International Business and Financial Centre) for members of the Federation of Public Listed Companies, Malaysia (FPLC) for whom I consult, was a successful public relations outing.

Press attendance was decent, with both the print and electronic media well represented. That alone took care of fifty per cent of all my worries when organising this sort of function; a PR practitioner's nightmare has always been media coverage (the lack thereof, that is).

I had agonised over the possibility of a media no-show, firstly because there was no final confirmation and secondly because of the venue, the rather secluded Sime Darby Convention Centre in Bukit Kiara. PR-wise, I have always been in favour of high-traffic locations (hotels and such) due to accessibility.

Happy with the turnout, I left the function around noon with a jaunt in my step and headed straight for home. There I was, bubbling with excitement over yet another job done to client's satisfaction, when I saw Pak Abu's grim face as I stepped into the house.

"Lillie has disappeared. I don't know where she is and I didn't realise when she slipped past the door. I have paced the entire 16 floors but there is no sight of her."

My bubble burst. Oh Lillie, not again!

I never had a cat that gave me so much heart palpitations like Lillie; high-spirited and keenly adventurous but with a mean streak of possessiveness and jealousy, not to mention intensely territorial. Occasionally, she also gave me the creeps when her eyes brightened up and followed 'things' we didn't see.

The next hour or so were spent going up and down the lift, exploring every nook and cranny of the building trying to figure out where she could possibly be. About the only place I didn't poke my nose into was the swimming pool.

The security personnel said he saw Lillie batting the cleaner's broom as the latter swept the 3rd or 4th floor. He said he was positive the cat was still on either floor as all the firedoors of the exit staircase were kept closed.

Up to both floors trudged I once again, calling out her name, all the time thinking how ridiculous I must have looked to fellow condo dwellers; tudung askew, poking my head into other people's doorway softly cooing "Lillie, Lillie.."

Then I heard her! The meowing, although distant and weak, was unmistakably hers. The meowing led me to the wet kitchen area of an unoccupied unit. There, sitting next to a broken down washing machine was a terrified-looking Lillie.

She must have jumped one floor down and landed on the wet kitchen ledge. A foolhardy move if ever there was one, for she could have slipped and fall to her death.

Lillie has a weakness for birds (she paws the air each time she sees a bird wing past our balcony). She likes watching a bird in flight. One had apparently built its nest in the empty kitchen, and this could have prompted Lillie to go check it out.

There were only two ways to retrieve her; break open the door of the unoccupied unit in order to reach the wet kitchen, or call the fire brigade.

The management wasn't keen to pick the lock on the unit's door for fear of being sued for breaking and entering. On top of that, the unit, although unoccupied, was full of household stuff belonging to a tenant.

And so it came to be that the fire brigade was summoned to dislodge the rascal, who by now had managed to create a spectacle for herself by squeezing behind some boxes and bottles, leaving only a paw visible.

Each time her name was called, she would move her paw a twitch, providing comic relief to curious onlookers. I honestly didn't know where to put my face with all her antics, but those bomba guys were really cool. Part of the job, said they.

Apart from a dirty, dusty coat and blackened paws, Lillie was okay, if a bit shaken. Thanking the rescuers profusely, I beat a hasty retreat, whisking the scamp up to our unit and giving her ear a mighty twack along the way to show my displeasure, before proceeding to bathe her.

Thankfully, she didn't protest much but allowed herself to be scrubbed under a jet of warm water. She then perched herself contemplatively on the armrest of the sofa, still uncharacteristically quiet. Soon enough, she nodded off to sleep.

I think she could sense I was mighty annoyed with her. "Boy oboy, the old woman's mad, mad, mad as a hatter! I'd better be on my best behaviour for a day or two.." Then again, seems to me being grounded doesn't mean much to this recalcitrant....

Lillie oh Lillie.. what am I to do with you..!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bila Otak Turun Ke Lutut

Inilah jadinya bila berotakkan kepala lutut. Pemikiran jadi sempit, bercelaru dan tak keruan. Kebolehan membuat pertimbangan yang wajar lenyap, semata-mata kerana dendam kesumat. Kesudahannya, kebodohan sendiri terserlah.

Pagi tadi saya membaca dalam akhbar 'The Star' wawancara pemberita Philip Golingai dengan makhluk berbangsa Indonesia bernama Adian Napitupulu, 38 tahun, berasal dari suku kaum Batak, yang mengangkat dirinya sebagai ketua kumpulan 'vigilante' Bendera (Benteng Demokrasi Rakyat), yang mana matlamatnya ialah 'Ganyang Malaysia'.

Kumpulan inilah yang telah melakukan operasi 'sweeping' rakyat Malaysia di Menteng, Jakarta pada Sept 8 yang lalu. Dengan berbekalkan buluh runcing, mereka bermaharajalela buat seketika di kotaraya Jakarta, memeriksa kad pengenalan pengguna jalanraya untuk menahan rakyat Malaysia. Malang bagi mereka, tiada pulak orang Malaysia lalu di situ pada waktu tersebut.

Golingai bertemu Adian di Jakarta hasil usaha seorang wartawan Indonesia bernama Samiaji Bintang. Bukan main bersemangat lagi si Adian ini ketika ditemubual oleh Golingai. Ditanya oleh Golingai apa tujuan 'sweeping' itu, dia menjawab, "Kerana kerajaan Malaysia 'sweeping' rakyat Indonesia di Malaysia."

Begitu terserlah 'kepintaran' Adian dengan jawapan ini. Tahukah dia bahawa di Malaysia ada 2 juta pendatang haram Indonesia yang menyusup masuk ke negara ini, disamping 1.4 juta warga dari seluruh pelusuk Indonesia yang masuk secara sah dan berkerja membanting tulang empat kerat mencari rezeki demi menampung kehidupan keluarga mereka di kampung?

Operasi yang dijalankan oleh pihak berkuasa Malaysia ialah untuk menangkap pendatang haram ini dan menghantar mereka pulang. Kalau benar-benar mahu mencari rezeki yang halal di Malaysia, kenapa tidak dimulakan dengan perbuatan yang juga halal, iaitu masuk secara halal? Saya yakin polis dan imigresen Indonesia juga akan bertindak sama jika berhadapan keadaan yang serupa.

Mungkin kehadiran 2 juta pendatang haram ini isu kecil kepada Adian, memandangkan penduduk Indonesia seramai 237 juta. Tetapi dia lupa (atau mungkin jahil) bahawa penduduk Malaysia hanya 27 juta dan 2 juta itu merupakan 7.4 peratus daripada jumlah penduduk negara ini! Dan jika diambilkira 1.4 juta yang masuk secara sah, ini bermakna lebih 10 peratus daripada penduduk di Malaysia terdiri daripada warga Indonesia semata-mata.

Saya ingin bertanya:
"Senangkah kamu jika 23 juta daripada 237 juta penduduk di Indonesia terdiri daripada pendatang asing yang bukan warga sendiri tetapi menggunakan prasarana negara kamu dengan sepenuhnya? Mampukah kamu bertindak dengan prihatin seperti kami? Kalau diukur dengan apa yang saya lihat hari ini, kamu tidak mampu bertimbang rasa."

Kumpulan Bendera ini telah mengisytiharkan perang terhadap Malaysia dan telah mengumumkan akan menyerang Malaysia pada 8hb Oktober ini, iaitu hari Khamis akan datang. Di wawancara tersebut, Adian juga telah memberikan Golingai satu nota pengisytiharan perang bertajuk "Ganyang Malaysia!"

Pengisytiharan tersebut mengatakan bahawa rentcong Aceh, panah Papua, Pedang Pattimura, mandau Kalimantan, keris Jawa, kujang Sunda, golok Betawi, badik Palembang dan pedang Sisingamagaraja (kesemuanya senjata tradisi Indonesia) telah berikrar bermandi darah untuk menghapuskan Malaysia.[Perhatikan bagaimana setiap senjata diberi nama tempat yang khusus dalam nota tersebut, mungkin takut dimaling agaknya, walaupun kita juga ada golok, badik, keris, pedang, panah dsb].

Kemudian dia menunjukkan satu senarai 'kesalahan' Malaysia yang mendorong kepada pengisytiharan tersebut: tuntutan Malaysia terhadap kepulauan Sipadan, Ligitan dan Jemur, mencuri budaya Indonesia (makanan rendang, lagu Rasa Sayang dan tarian Pendet antaranya), menyiksa rakyat Indonesia (ada 34 nama dalam senarai).

Jemu jelak saya hendak memperkatakan persoalan ini sebenarnya. Tidak ada gunanya berdialog dengan manusia yang berdendam dan taksub, yang tidak mahu menerima kenyataan bahawa antara kita memang ada lintas budaya kerana kita serumpun.

Hanya 34 nama di antara 3.4 juta warga Indonesia (sah dan haram) di Malaysia? Bagaimana dengan penjenayah Indonesia yang berleluasa di Malaysia membunuh, merompak, mencuri, merogol dan sebagainya? Saya kira senarai mangsa mereka lebih panjang daripada 34 nama. Malah, tidak dapat dinafikan kadar jenayah di negara ini mencanak dengan kehadiran mereka. Ini bukan omong kosong; ia boleh dibuktikan.

Menurut Adian, enam minggu yang lalu, 10 pengintip Bendera telah meloloskan diri masuk ke Malaysia untuk menubuhkan satu 'network' pekerja Indonesia dalam usaha 'perang' ini. Katanya lagi mereka telah berjaya menghubungi 1.45 juta pekerja Indonesia - pembantu rumah, pekerja binaan dan pekerja ladang - yang akan membakar tempat kerja masing-masing apabila konfrantasi bermula. [PS: Sesiapa yang ada bibik sila ambil perhatian. Perlu tau demi keselamatan rumah].

Saya tidak pasti sama ada pekerja-pekerja yang dimaksudkan itu (rata-rata yang mencari rezeki halal di sini) akan sanggup mencurah pasir ke periuk nasi sendiri semata-mata kerana patriotisme terpesong ini. Sanggupkah mereka mematahkan punca rezeki mereka kerana ini?

Tambah 'pakar strategis perang' ini lagi, pada tarikh tersebut 300 orang Indonesia yang mempunyai ilmu kebal - tidak lut ditikam atau ditembak - akan menyerang Malaysia melalui Pontianak dan Nunukan di Borneo.

"Dari Pontianak kami akan menawan Kuching dan dari Nunukan kami akan menawan bandar Malaysia yang terdekat." Apabila ditanya apa nama bandar tersebut dia menjawab tidak tahu. (So much for a war strategist!) Note: Bandar Malaysia terdekat selepas Nunukan ialah Tawau. Dalam masa enam hingga lapan bulan, kata Adian, Bendera akan berjaya menakluki Kuala Lumpur.

Saya tidak tahu sama ada hendak ketawa atau menangis membaca temubual ini. Yang pasti, Adian dan para pengikutnya seolah-olah terlalu teruja untuk 'ganyang Malaysia' sehingga tenggelam punca.

Hanya satu saja nasihat ikhlas dari saya: Daripada menghabiskan masa dan tenaga untuk menyerang Malaysia, lebih baik kalian berangkat ke Padang. Dua gempa bumi dua hari berturut-turut telah mengakibatkan lebih seribu kematian dan tiga ribu lagi masih hilang. Ataupun, kalian menyusur Tasikmalaya di Pulau Jawa tempat kalian sendiri, dimana berlaku gempa bumi sebulan yang lalu.

Cuba kalian kerah tenaga membantu mangsa senegara kalian yang amat memerlukannya. Bawa senjata kalian ke Padang dan gunalah golok Betawi mu untuk mengorek timbunan bagi mengeluarkan mayat-mayat yang kian reput di bawah runtuhan.

Jangan sekali-kali kalian lupa bahawa mangsa gempa bumi negara kalian kini dibantui pasukan penyelamat dari seluruh dunia termasuk pasukan SMART, Tentera, Bulan Sabit Merah dan lain-lain dari Malaysia. Malah, berbagai tabung telah dimulakan oleh pihak swasta di Malaysia untuk membantu.

Salurkan tenaga kalian kepada tugas membantu anak bangsa sendiri. Itu lebih membawa manfaat.

PS: Buletin Utama TV3 sebentar tadi melaporkan dua lagi gempa bumi di Indonesia, satu di Papua dan satu lagi di Sulawesi.

PS: Terdapat mangsa gempa bumi dengan angkuh menolak bantuan daripada Malaysia, kononnya dari sumber haram, tapi menerima bantuan daripada negara-negara bukan Islam. Dalam keadaan nyawa-nyawa ikan pun masih bongkak.

PS: Para pelajar kita tidak dilayan ketika meminta bantuan makanan. Mereka diberitahu, keutamaan adalah kepada rakyat tempatan. Mereka lupa bahawa kehadiran para pelajar kita itu turut memberi sumber pendapatan kepada mereka.

Mendidih darahku bila memikirkan tindak tanduk segelintir manusia yang tidak mengenang budi ini.