Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dream vs Reality

From left: Syaza, Mas, Gee, Mimah, Intan (hidden), Lina, Sarie & Tania

THESE lovely ladies and I were once classmates in (then) ITM, Shah Alam. I was the oldest of the lot, having returned to college aged 27 in 1981, already married and mother of three pre-schoolers to boot. (here)

I can still recall the youngest in our class, a brainy Ampang Jaya girl named Suraya Ahmad Termizi, 17, with whom I had developed some kind of "best friend-kid sister-mentor" relationship.

Sue went on to lead the pack academically; making it to the Dean's List almost every semester, winning the Gold Medal upon graduation in 1984, culminating with a masters degree in finance from an American university.

From left: Lina, Eton, Sarie, Kama (standing), Syaza, Mas, Gee & Mimah.

For all intent and purposes, I should have graduated in 1976 at the age of 22, and before hitting 25 should already have a post-graduate degree in TESL safely tucked under my belt.

Before the curtain had lifted on 1990, I should already have completed my doctorate, with a bona fide PhD affixed to my name. At 36, the spirit of 'Dr. Kama' would have soared in pursuit of professorship.

By then too, I should have been well into repaying my dues to this generous gomen by teaching English in a local university, in all probability my alma mater, UiTM.

I would have settled into a cosy if somewhat predictable academic existence. Heck, I could have been a real "academic somebody" by now and the world would have been my oyster a hundred times over.

Alas, Utopia it wasn't. Instead, amongst the significant sijils (certificates/documents) I had amassed over the years were two sijil nikah (marriage certs) and one sijil cerai (divorce cert), complemented by four sijil beranak (the kids' birth certs), the total sum of my lifelong achievements.

Not a bad collection, considering all the hassles that I had to go through without ever having to set up home in a library, read hefty tomes by the hundreds, and write thousands of pages of research notes, dissertations and theses.

Instead of worrying about grading student papers and presenting research ones, I ended up fixing both scraped knees and bleeding teenage hearts whilst chasing news and meeting deadlines, coping with cranky editors and even crankier clients, and later facing the perils of single-parenting whilst expertly dodging leery married men with filth on their mind.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when I kept asking God all the WHYs... why was my path in life so thorny, why was I not given the opportunity to achieve my dream, why did my marriage fail, why did my business go bust, why didn't He send me a good, honest, God-fearing man to hold my hand and guide me ...

Thankfully, I have since given up dwelling on the negative. Age has given me the maturity that I had sorely lacked in my youth. To me, all those WHYS of yesteryears have been answered.

And the answer is stunningly simple; because He knows best. Surah Al-Baqarah (2.286) says: "And God does not burden any soul with more than he can bear." Since my love for Him is absolute and unconditional, I accept everything with an open heart.

Isn't Facebook wonderful? There I was, sitting quietly twiddling my toes and minding my own business when the entire class of Tourism Administration, ITM, 1984 came knocking on my FB door!

Up popped faces I had not seen for 26 years; their youthfulness replaced with maturity, with the merest hint of yesterday's innocence.

Many of us had met only once since graduation; in 1994 when I took the lead in organising our 10th anniversary dinner dubbed Mamakteria Revisited at the Legend Hotel in downtown KL.

More than half the graduating class attended that maiden reunion, as did a few lecturers and tutors. Since then, there had been a couple of small get-togethers initiated by the few that remained in touch.

Through Facebook I learned that many of them have achieved considerable success, as academicians, professionals, corporate figures and business people. Alhamdulillah.

As everybody's 'Big Sister' in college (and I'd like to think I still am now), I hope they'll continue to succeed in all their undertakings and make our Alma Mater proud.

Late last year a pleasant surprise awaited in this blog; a reader named Hamimah introduced herself as an ex-ITM mate of mine. Thank God I could still recall this engaging woman despite the years. She looked as lovely as she did a quarter century ago!

And when Mimah linked me to her on Facebook, the memory dam broke; I experienced a sudden banjir of long-ago names, whose respective images on Facebook I no longer recognised.

Despite time constraint and the short notice, some of us did make it to an impromptu lunch that I had hosted at the Royal Lake Club just days before leaving for umrah last month. This posting is, in fact, long overdue.

To my fellow ex-college mates, how about a proper dinner function the next time around? I certainly don't mind organising it again; good food & good music, door gifts, entertainment, lucky draws, VIP guest, special invitees, karaoke (mana boleh tinggal ini) - the whole works babe - Amacam?

Saturday, May 29, 2010


With writing as mellow as fine wine and wit that occasionally bites, this scribe has garnered quite a loyal following in his delightful blog What? No Tea and Scones? (here) penned under that intriguing pseudonym, Bangkai.

Somehow, I could never bring myself to refer to him as 'the carcass'; he was instead Mat B. A few months ago, for reasons known only to himself, Mat B decided to shed the 'stinky' nom de plume and start anew with Sofian, his rightfully given name.

Among friends he's called Boe, so Boe he is to us fellow bloggers. Based in Melaka, Boe the corporate trainer & motivator surfaces in Kuala Lumpur from time to time when the occasion calls for it.

One such instance was early last week, during which I took the opportunity to invite him and a few friends to karaoke, after learning through Facebook that he's just as good at the microphone as he is with the pen.

A delightful evening it turned out to be. Boe and his buddy Najib proved they really have what it takes to keep us entertained. Boe, you indeed 'leh!'

Joining in the fun were my chat buddy Rahayu a.k.a. Kitty, a mean chanteuse herself, NanaDJ and her significant other Cik Det, and of course Pak Abu. Fellow bloggers Queen of The House and Kitchen Guardian, reputedly karaoke kakis, couldn't make it. Next time, ladies!

Thank you folks. We'll do this again soon, this time with even more friends. PS: Zendra, you missed big! We're counting on you to sex up the mic the next round, ok? He he he...


Pix 1 (From right): Rahayu (Yellowstripedkitty), Nonie (Ummiejaddid), Balu (MrBean), Aeshah (Shadinaha), Tarmizi/ Pak Abu (AhmadSangHarimau a.k.a ASH) and Omar (Purpman a.k.a Mat Kewl).

Pix 2 (From right): Syafid (MG), Datin Norsimah (DangAnum), Min, Kama (GildedCage), Kitty (hidden), Bean & Shad.

These folks with strange-sounding nicks were once chatters in now-defunct Internet Chatroom called 'MBSC'. It was in this riotous room that we met and became friends, progressing from virtual to real-life friendship.

With MBSC's demise five years ago, some chatters migrated to 'Buzzen' but things were never quite the same again. Buzzen is still functioning today, but its existence is best described as nyawa-nyawa ikan (barely alive).

Unlike MBSC in its heyday (more than 100 chatters crowding into the room at any one time, giving it a 'wholesale market' atmosphere), I don't think Buzzen attracts a single soul in a day. I don't know why it is still there.

In case you are wondering where the 'Abu' in Pak Abu's name came about, it all began here, in MBSC. His chat nickname was AhmadSangHarimau, shortened to ASH; hence Abu.

Two weeks back some of us got together for coffee at Kelana Mall in Kelana Jaya. The aim was to renew old ties and to reminisce about the 'good old chatting days."

To my fellow chatters, let's plan a little ahead in the future so we can include out-of-town chatters as well. It would be wonderful to meet up with the rest of the gang, especially the active ones from places like Penang, Perak, Kedah and Johore. Till next time, folks!

Next Instalment: College Reunion - ITM, Class of 1984.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kafir Harbi Nak Jadi Peguam Syarie?

Setakat termampu, saya enggan membuat komentar tentang politik, bukan kerana saya buta politik atau tidak peka dengan keadaan semasa, tetapi kerana politik masakini tidak sehaluan dengan naluri saya.

Membaca perihal political monkeys yang bergayutan di rimbunan politik di negara ini memualkan, terutama apabila agama yang suci ini dijaja sebegitu rupa demi political expediency.

Tapi saya terpanggil untuk melahirkan rasa kesal yang tiada batasnya apabila membaca nukilan ahli Parlimen Kulim, YB Zulkifli Nordin semalam. (Sila baca ulasan lengkapnya di sini).

Seorang peguam wanita bukan Islam telah memohon kepada Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur untuk memaksa Mahkamah Syariah Kuala Lumpur supaya menerimanya sebagai peguam syarie, dengan tujuan membolehkan beliau mengendalikan kes-kes syarie di Mahkamah Syariah Kuala Lumpur.

Saya bukan peguam, jauh sekali pakar perundangan. Pengetahuan saya tentang hal ehwal undang-undang terhad kepada sedikit sebanyak yang saya pelajari semasa menimba ilmu di ITM, itupun setakat skimming the surface.

Tapi sejahil mana sekalipun diri ini, saya tahu peguam sekular bukan Islam tidak berhak mencampuri ehwal syarie di Mahkamah Syariah.

Jadi saya ingin tahu apa motif Victoria Jayaseele a/p Martin Jayaraj berbuat demikian. She is obviously testing the waters.

Sudah tentu ada dalangnya dan saya tidak hairan kalau petualang itu datangnya dari kalangan orang Islam sendiri, the so-called Malay Liberals. Inilah yang amat memilukan saya.

Orang Islam masa kini nampaknya berlumba-lumba untuk mengkhianati agama (dan bangsa) sendiri demi kepentingan politik. Sesungguhnya dunia memang sudah tiba di penghujungnya.

Bak kata YB Zulkifli (quote unquote):

"Asas kepada hukum syara' adalah aqidah, tauhid; Keimanan dan keyakinan kepada hukum Allah. Bagaimana seseorang kafir yang sedikitpun tidak percaya dan beriman kepada Al-Quran dan Hadith mahu mengamalkannya di Mahkamah Syariah?

Victoria Jayaseele/ap Martin Jayaraj adalah seorang bukan Islam. Beliau tidak pernah mempunyai aqidah mempertuhankan Allah Yang Maha Esa, beliau tidak meyakini Nabi Muhammad saw sebagai Rasulullah, beliau tidak beriman dengan Al-Quran dan Hadith; Pendek kata beliau adalah seorang kafir dan bukan Islam!

Bagaimana kafir dan bukan Islam seperti ini boleh diterima dan dibenarkan menjadi peguam syarie dan menjalankan amalan guaman syariah di mana-mana Mahkamah Syariah yang undang-undangnya berteraskan Al-Quran dan Hadith yang beliau sendiri tidak beriman dengannya..?

Kita umat Islam di Malaysia sekarang berada di satu persimpangan yang menggetirkan. Keluhuran agama kian tergugat. Kemana halatuju kita? Renungkanlah...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Unprofessionally Yours

It's bile-spewing time and if the person for whom it is intended reads this, well and good. Let it be known that I am not angry, just peeved.

And perhaps a little disappointed too that he has neither courtesy nor grace to come clean with me. He shouldn't have kept silent and avoided my queries.

I am a freelance public relations (PR) practitioner. He knew that only too well because he had, on numerous occasions, hired me to do some PR work for his organisation.

He was also privy to the fact that I, the freelancer, was edged out to make way for a full-fledged PR agency. That's perfectly all right by me, for I believe God knows best where my rezeki lies.

He knew the scope of my work: I write, edit, translate, advise clients on their communication needs, plan proposals and execute them, liaise with the media, organise events ....

I may not be the most competent PR consultant in town but I have always given my all. And if my best is not good enough (some clients can be very critical and demanding), I usually withdraw my services rather than take the crap.

Likewise, if asked to compromise on my principles, I'd pack up and leave. Money I can find elsewhere, but if my professional reputation is sullied, I might as well quit the field and start breeding Boer goats.

Public relations consulting has been my bread and butter for over 20 years. Throughout the 1990s when I was a single mom coping alone, it was this skill that put food on the table and the kids through college.

I wasn't always a freelancer; for six years from 1998 I was on the other side of the septic tank, managing the PR needs of American food giant Pillsbury (Malaysian operations) and later, The Royal Mint of Malaysia (previously known as Kilang Wang Bank Negara).

I wasn't a new kid on the PR block. In not so many words, this old hag is an old hand in corporate communications.

So when he came to me in late 2009, asking me to write a speech for a Tan Sri corporate figure whose speeches I had penned countless times over the years, I obliged. All I needed was talking points.

The Tan Sri and I understood each other completely and he was very aware of this. He knew the Tan Sri hardly made changes to my writing, always reading them verbatim. It was always a pleasure to write for this gentleman.

It did cross my mind why he didn't ask the new agency to do the job; then I realised he had wanted the status quo maintained insofar as my work was concerned. He knew the Tan Sri would inevitably say "suruh Puteri tulis." End of story.

Everything was fine and dandy, until I sent him an invoice for my work. The silence from his side was deafening. He knew the sum was nominal, that I quoted well below market rate.

Still, my phone calls were avoided, my e-mails unanswered. My invoice had disappeared into thin air. For six months I was left wondering what in the world happened and why was this organisation giving me such a wide berth.

But God works in mysterious ways. Over the weekend Pak Abu played golf with the aforesaid Tan Sri and company, and took the opportunity to ask the organisation's lady executive about that 'missing' invoice.

Back came the answer: "Boss said we only asked her to HELP write the speech. She was not supposed to charge us. It was supposed to be for free."

Err... hello?? How come I was not told from the beginning that I was supposed to perform the job gratis? And if so, what the freaking hell do you think I am? A charity home? Writing speeches is what I do for a living, you dimwit!

You can spend tens of thousands of ringgit on door gifts and souvenir programmes and giveaways, and you expect me to spend hours crafting a speech for free?

Worse still, you avoided me like a plague when I asked about payment. You don't even have the balls to tell me to my face that I should not expect to be paid.

Anyway, I am putting this all behind me. You can keep the $$ and stuff it up your @#^*.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Procrastinate No More

It's been yonks since I paid a visit to the Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council (DBKL). I had no reason to (so I thought, a tad too smugly) until this morning.

The last time I did must have been during my sojourn as a reporter 20-odd years ago; covering an event, or interviewing someone, or getting feedbacks about issues I no longer remember.

Today's trip was a do-or-die mission. The price to pay? Having our condo unit sealed. And how in heavens did that come to be? Well, let me tell you something you already know; it doesn't pay to procrastinate.

I offer no excuses with regards this sorry affair; there is no point in denying the fact that moi had been disgustingly shoddy. Suffice to say if I could kick myself in the butts, I certainly would.

I can't rationalise why I had neglected to do the two most important things since buying this condo three years ago - pay quit rent and register the new ownership with the municipality.

The documents were all there in the pile of papers on my desk. Yet I sat on it, until the lawyer called a couple of days back, telling us that the municipality had issued a notice threatening to seal our unit for non-payment of quit rent.

That had Pak Abu flapping mad, although he was gracious enough not to put the blame squarely on my shoulder. He knew it should have been a mutual thing, one reminding the other of things to do. And doing them, of course.

And so this morning saw us trooping (shamefacedly, I must add) to the municipality office in downtown KL to do the needful.

In all, it took a mere 20 minutes, with the bulk of it spent filling in the forms and getting them xeroxed across the road (the xerox machine at the convenience store on the ground floor sudah kaput).

Now that the ownership has been legally changed and the overdue quit rent paid, I can breathe a lot easier.

Let's hope my little brush with the law serves as a reminder to anyone as scatterbrained as yours truly not to take things easy with such important matters.

By the way, today's DBKL seemed light years away from two decades ago in terms of performance and service. Efficiency and Courtesy were the order of day and I was a delighted beneficiary of both. Kudos to DBKL.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


terlalu susah hati dengan urusan dunia. Akhirat itu lebih utama dan hidup di sana lebih lama dan kekal selamanya.

sengaja lewatkan solat kerana perbuatan ini tidak disukai Allah swt.

tidur selepas solat subuh, nanti rezeki tersekat kerana di waktu pagi itulah pintu rezeki dibuka.

makan tanpa membaca Bismillah dan doa makan, nanti rezeki kita dikongsi syaitan.

keluar rumah tanpa niat untuk membuat kebaikan, takut kalau-kalau kita mati dalam perjalanan.

biarkan mata liar di perjalanan, nanti hati kita gelap diselaputi dosa.

menangguh taubat apabila membuat dosa kerana mati itu boleh datang pada bila-bila masa.

ego untuk meminta maaf daripada ibubapa dan sesama manusia kalau memang kita bersalah.

mengumpat sesama rakan taulan, nanti rosak persahabatan kita dan hilang kebahagiaan hidup kita.

lupa bergantung kepada Allah swt dalam setiap kerja yang kita lakukan, nanti kita sombong apabila berjaya dan kecewa kalau gagal.

bakhil untuk bersedekah kerana sedekah itu memanjangkan umur dan memurahkan rezeki kita.

terlalu banyak ketawa, nanti mati jiwa.

biasakan berbohong kerana ia adalah ciri-ciri munafik dan menghilangkan kasih orang kepada kita.

suka menganiaya manusia atau haiwan. Doa makhluk yang teraniaya cepat dimakbulkan Allah swt.

pertikaikan kenapa Islam itu berkata JANGAN, sebab ianya ada hikmah tersendiri. Allah swt lebih tahu apa yang terbaik untuk hamba ciptaanNya.

baca saja coretan ini. Sebarkan kepada saudara sesama Islam untuk kebaikan bersama.

(TQ Pak Abu for forwarding this from MACOBA-Mail)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Butterflies in My Mind

It is undoubtedly very disconcerting, this mental block that I have been experiencing since returning from Umrah three weeks ago.

The mind, usually keen and creative, has become listless and lethargic. The spontaneity has dissipated into nothingness. I'm a knife blunted, boring and dull.

I have no extraordinary tales to relate with regards the recent pilgrimage. Nothing untoward happened; the sailing was smooth, the experience mesmerising. It felt safe to be in the shadows of the Kaabah.

In retrospect, maybe I know the reason for my current predicament. After the highs of pilgrimage, it takes a while to wind down and get back into the groove. But three weeks? That's a tad too long, I must say.

The urge to write is there but the creative juices aren't flowing. Stalled and hopelessly stuck, that's me. I look at the screen and a million things come to fore, yet I can't get started with a decent opening.

Words are floating like butterflies in my mind but I can't seem to pin a single one down to create a yarn. All I'm getting is some wooly fuzz...

Bowersox II

Crystal Bowersox at 13 in 1999, performing her own composition at an annual music festival in Ohio.

Monday, May 17, 2010

When A Soccer Team Dropped For Lunch

The much-awaited Fifa World Cup will soon descend upon us once again, for one whole month from June 11.

This time around, I am no longer in the loop as I once was, which is just as well, considering my penchant for cheering 11 sweaty men chasing after one ball has diminished over time.

Things may seem to have changed but on the contrary, not quite, for I have been sufficiently trained to ensure a continuous flow of steaming nescafe tarik, chilled cordial, packets of peanuts, crisps, cookies, pastries and the odd kuih while the men in my life strive to bring the roof down with every goal.

And if the games are played between midnight and dawn, rest assured I won't be losing out on my sleep. Pak Abu and company can wake the dead with their cheering for whatever it is worth; I, for one, shall slumber on.

It's this approaching bola season that propels my thoughts down memory lane to that unforgettable, hard-to-live-down day in 1978 (or was it 1979, I can't quite recall exactly).

On that day in question, the entire Kedah state soccer team descended upon my humble abode in Kuantan for lunch, providing one of the most nerve-wrecking moments in my life.

There I was, a young wife of 24 with two toddlers age three and one, with neither maid nor helper, whose expertise in the kitchen then had not extended beyond recipes copied from my grandmother's recipe book.

To receive a phone call giving me a three-hour lead time before 15 hungry men turned up at my doorsteps for food was nothing short of frightening.

I still shudder each time I think about that eventful day; that it had to happen to me, a kitchen klutz if ever there was one, someone who disliked cooking so much that she would rather feed on buttered bread for all her meals.

That day started well enough; I woke up in tandem with the kids and attended to their needs whilst their father prepared for office, after which I got started with housework. Halfway through, the phone rang.

It was the other half, telling me that the Kedah soccer team was in town for a match and that his uncle, Pak Su Othman, an official with the team, had asked whether he could drop by for lunch. [Pak Su Seman has since passed away].

I liked diminutive Pak Su; he was a gregarious man who never failed to bring laughter whenever he was around. Pak Su was married to Chu Khatijah, the only sibling of my late father-in-law, Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim.

Since the family lived in Alor Star, we saw them only a couple of times in a year, thus I was only too glad to have Pak Su over.

And I knew Pak Su well enough not to worry about what to feed him. Like many regular kampung folks, he wasn't fussy and was easy to get along with. I knew there were foodstuff in the fridge that I could put together in a jiffy for him.

Just as I was getting comfortable with my thought, the ex added, ever so smoothly: "Oh, by the way, I have also extended the lunch invitation to the rest of the team."

That truly caught me off-guard. Flabbergasted, all I could muster was a shocked "Haaaaaa....???"

The idea of cooking for 15 football players and officials single-handedly within three hours was too much to comprehend that I did the only thing I could think of; I sat down on the sofa and bawled my eyes out.

Had it happened today, it wouldn't have been so unnerving. One could immediately make a beeline for a nearby restaurant and buy takeaway lauks. Just cook rice and all's done.

Or if there's enough fresh food in the fridge, just reach out for all those Brahim or Adabi ready-to-cook packets and no one would be any wiser.

But this was Kuantan in the late 1970s; Brahim's scope had not gone beyond producing army rations whilst Adabi was still a college, not a food manufacturer.

To be fair, the ex left his office in double-quick time to shop for additional grocery, and brought home enough fresh produce for me to get started.

On my part, the tears hardly dried when I turned the pages of my recipe book, looking for whatever that I could offer to the team without embarrassing the family.

I remember making fish curry, fried chicken, mixed vegetables, sambal belacan and ulam. And so they came, all 15 of them, cleaned my cooking good, made the appropriate appreciative noises, and went. They looked happy enough.

I thanked God that everything went well. The Good Lord, in His ultimate wisdom, knew the insufferable pain I was and how much I had bitched about not liking to cook. So He sent a football team for me to feed.

A real padan muka moment that was. Such divine retribution...!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Originally recorded by Los Machucambos, this delightful Spanish number is my karaoke staple. Love the upbeat tempo. By the way, Pepito is a popular Spanish name for boys; it means "God Will Increase." [Here's a bit more of the trivia: the Arabic equivalent of Pepito is Yusuf].

"Heartbreaker" by Dionne Warwick

Dionne Warwick, one of the best ever. This song, a collaboration with Barry Gibbs of the 'Bee Gees' and released in 1982, went on to become one of her biggest international hits, returning her to the Top Ten of Billboard's Hot 100 since 1979 when she scored with "I'll Never Walk This way Again."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Glamorous, not!

If at all there is one thing I am guilty of, it's the fact that I don't suffer fools gladly. While not proud of it, I do wish sometimes I had not come down too hard on such nitwits. After all, being a blockhead is bad enough, without someone telling you that you are.

Of course, the unkind ones would smirk and say I have a laser mouth. Lest it be misunderstood, even laser mouths come in different varieties. Most times, however, I don't shoot my mouth unnecessarily.

Once, I berated a cocky young man for jumping a supermarket queue, reserving another cutting dose for the cashier who served him despite that glaring fact.

The other shoppers were obviously annoyed with him but they chose to seethe silently. But I saw no reason to take such rudeness lying down. Why should I tolerate his insolence?

It is certainly not beyond me to reprimand people for whatever wrong they do publicly, from littering to intentionally driving the wrong way up a one-way street (that warrants 'the finger') to indulgent parents letting their boisterous kids loose in a restaurant, shrieking and squealing, running into patrons and furniture alike.

Whatever wrong people do in private is none of my concern, unless their actions publicly impinge upon and impact on the lives of others. This includes abusers of all shades and I have been alienated more often than I care to remember for standing up to a spousal abuser.

Last night I came face to face with yet another twit. Somehow, I held my acid tongue; maybe it was because I was on my way to solat (prayer). Otherwise he would have had it nice and proper from this old grouch.

We were at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (KLGCC) in Bukit Kiara for dinner when the azan (call for prayers) sounded from a nearby mosque. Deciding to do our Maghrib before eating, we proceeded to look for the surau (prayer room).

This club had undergone a massive, multi-million ringgit renovation over the last one year. Because of the on-going construction, I ceased going to KLGCC for almost a year. Only Pak Abu was a regular patron, because the golf course was open (sometimes partially) throughout.

As such, I wasn't sure where the new surau was located. In fact I was quite lost, not knowing where the restrooms, restaurants, gym, changing rooms and a host of other facilities were.

As Awwa and I wandered, we chanced upon a club worker (he was in uniform), so I asked him politely for the surau's location. His answer, after giving us both a once-over, was a brusque "Member or Guest?"

Now, THAT really got to me. Does it matter what our status in KLGCC was when all we were looking for was a surau to pray in? Was he implying that only members could pray in the surau? Was KLGCC that discriminatory? If not, why bother asking?

I almost lashed out "Kalau guests sembahyang kat mana? Bentang sejadah kat tepi swimming pool ker?" (Where do you allow your guests to pray, by the side of the swimming pool?). Almost. But better sense prevailed.

Instead, I gave a curt, monosyllabic answer which got him scurrying past us, leading the way. Thankfully, the wudhu (ablution) cooled me down somewhat and I managed to do Maghrib in peace (of mind, that is).

Over dinner we discussed the unpleasant encounter. Obviously the fellow was suffering from a case of stereotyping. With the benefit of hindsight I could see where he was coming from.

Perhaps it was our dressing; covered from head to toe, with long black tudung, and sans make-up. One look and he had concluded these two 'kampungan' looking Melayus (especially the rotund makcik) couldn't possibly be members of a club as prestigious as KLGCC.

We were on a different planet altogether compared to the usual stylishly dressed and appropriately accessorised upmarket crowd one could find in there. In fact, we saw quite a few of these 'beautiful people' while dining.

What a sobering reality check that was. So I remarked to Awwa, somewhat forlornly: "We look so dowdy huh. We don't have a shred of glamour between us."

Back came the answer: "That's okay Ma; it's better to be covered like this and look glamorous in the eyes of God than be exposed and look glamorous in the eyes of men."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Siti Goes Mandarin

Originally sung by Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng, this melodious tune, along with Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and Broery Marantika's "Widuri", is a staple in Karaokedom. It's one of the first Chinese songs in my repertoire and among the limited few that I had managed to memorise (with much difficulty too since I don't know Mandarin apart from wo ai ni). It's a beautiful love song; in English it means 'The Moon Represents My Heart."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day - An Unusual Redemption

The cool "jam session" setting at d'Cengkih, TTDI. The musicians (I bet there were grandpas among them) rocked bigtime!

I've had a most unusual Mother's Day - a skewed one bordering on the surreal - and I have fellow blogger Mamasita, the one with the widest grin this side of Suez, to thank for it.

It started innocently enough; the good Datin had asked me to join her for lunch at d'Cengkih, the restaurant specializing in Johore food, which opened its doors in Taman Tun Dr Ismail about a year ago.

Those of you longtime readers of Kata Kama would probably remember the unflattering review I gave this outlet subsequent to our unforgettable maiden visit some time in June last year.

Be that as it may, Mamasita read me well. She knew I wasn't the kind to harbour ill-feelings for long, so she waited for the right time to re-induct me into d'Cengkih.

She must have banked on my mellowness in the light of my Hajj and Umrah. Oh, the wiles of that woman knew no bounds!

I remember being very creative with excuses on the few occasions that she brought up the subject of having a meal with me there. Believe me, Mamasita, Cheshire Cat grin et al, wasn't to be denied.

Anyway, I finally agreed to meet her at d'Cengkih for lunch today. She was slightly late (having driven all the way from Kuantan) but her significant other, blogger Sakmongkol, was already there waiting, with fellow blogger Aspan Alias.

I was a tad apprehensive as I set foot inside, remembering how annoyed we were during that first visit almost a year ago. We left hungrier than when we arrived, and the kids too were late in returning to office after their lunch break due to the fruitless wait.

Guess what? Time heals. And with d'Cengkih it healed good. The old saying that everybody deserves a second chance holds true and I'm glad I did what I did, that I decided to return, even if it was originally only for Mamasita' sake.

Not only did the place look different, it WAS different from the 'old' d'Cengkih. Gone were the Thai menu; in its place was an array of authentic Johore delicacies and they were well-placed for patrons to select what they wanted.

In the old days it was a la carte and you had to wait eons for the food to materialise. Gone were the sullen waitresses; now they had pleasant-faced young fellas who seemed very efficient in doing about their work.

I was already warming up to the atmosphere when Mamasita sauntered in 10 minutes later. With three hours of non-stop driving behind her, the poor woman looked somewhat zonked, but recovered her vitality and zest after a while.

Since I was on a no-rice diet, it was steamed pulut (glutenous rice) with durian sauce and a couple of kuihs for me. The lauks (accompaniments to rice) looked very tempting but I had to resist, Mother's Day notwithstanding.

It was thumbs-up for the pulut dish, anyway. The kuah durian was decidedly rich and very yummy. The proprietor (Tipah, as Mamasita addressed her) later served us seri muka (on the house too!); the pandan-flavoured topping was thick and sinfully creamy.

When I walked into d'Cengkih today, the first thing I noticed was a seasoned musician (in both age and experience) on the keyboard and a younger chap on the guitar. The keyboardist (I later learned he was affectionately called Pak Wan) must be in his late 60s and his playing was simply superb.

Someone I recognised as Sam, Pak Abu's old College mate, was on the microphone, his voice mellowing beautifully as he crooned Widuri. My heart leapt. Ahah, a jam session! Nothing could be better than this!

Apparently, d'Cengkih had been having these sessions for quite a while now. As we talked, jammers arrived with their instruments, hooked them up and started playing. And patrons were welcome to the microphone. Sing your heart out; the audience was appreciative enough.

I was told the sessions were previously held only in the evenings. Over time however, they became very popular that now they are held on weekends (noontime Saturdays & Sundays).

True to form, Mamasita whispered to Aslini, the lady in charge of the jam session, that I would be made to sing for my supper. Over some (ahem..) lame protestations, I yielded.

Alahai, there I was, a karaoke kaki, having to sing with a 'live' band. I had not jammed since the 1970s (here and here), and that was 35 long years ago! Then again, if one is already familiar with the tempo, it isn't hard to get into the groove once the music begins.

And so it was; 'Sway' took off beautifully, after which seven (yes seven, I couldn't help it.. hehehe.. ) more songs followed, including a request for P. Ramlee's 'Ibu' in celebration of Mother's Day.

Bless you Mamasita for a most meaningful Mother's Day ever. The children had asked me days before what my Mother's Day plans were and I told them I just wanted to stay home and catch up with my blogging.

As God wills it, this is the blog entry that I had wanted to stay home and write. Only that I had to redeem myself by being in d'Cengkih to write it. Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Umrah - Memorable Medinah

Looking at this neverending range of rocky peaks and vast plains of rock-filled nothingness, we couldn't even begin to imagine the plight of Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his Companion Saiyyidina Abu Bakar from Makkah to Medinah, escaping the Quraisy by crossing the desert on their camels, with barely enough provisions.

Although we had learnt about the story in school, and had heard it retold time and again over the years, the Prophet's perilous journey as related by our ustaz guide that afternoon took a whole new meaning as we crossed the very same steaming desert in our air-conditioned comfort.

That we were looking at the same bleak landscape as the Prophet and his Companion did during their 10-day trek 1,400 years ago was without a doubt. It was the fact that they soldiered on in great difficulties whilst we were transported with such ease, that made us feel ever so guilty.

Medinah lies 447 kilometres to the north of Makkah, in the region of Hijaz. Our overland journey took about 5 hours with one pitstop for lunch and prayers. Apart from the occasional Bedouin encampments and the odd wadis, there was nothing much to see along the way.

An R&R in the middle of nowhere. This small convenience store sold drinks, tidbits and odds and ends but carried the grand name of Yaman Marketing Centre. They do think big in this part of the world.... :)

It's one of the three buildings at our halfway stop enroute to Medinah, the other two being a diner where we got down to eat our packed lunch, and a mosque where we performed our Zuhur prayers. The coach was parked next to this lorry (pix below) ferrying goats.


There is something to be said about Medinah, the second holiest city in Islam after Makkah. One could feel the underlying vibrance of this charming city known for its friendliness, this oasis of great historical significance where Prophet Muhammad (saw) spent the last decade of his life.

After chaotic, cramped Makkah with its narrow roads and winding alleyways and the accompanying din of construction, sedate Medinah, with its ample boulevards and wide open spaces, was a welcome relief.

More than 1,400 years ago Medinah (then known as Yathrib) opened its heart to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw), who was forced to leave Makkah with his meagre band of faithfuls to escape persecution from the Quraisy.

That historical migration in July 622 formed the basis of the Muslim calendar, the Hijrah. The Ansars and Muhajirins of Medinah not only provided refuge to Muhammad (saw) and his followers, but also embraced Islam and helped spread the word.

It goes without saying that I like Medinah. After the hustle and bustle of Makkah, the family was waiting to be seduced by marvellous Medinah. She didn't disappoint. There was a marked degree of calmness here. The serenity was profound.

We arrived in the late afternoon and immediately checked in at Al-Haram Hotel located about 70 metres from Masjid Nabawi, before trekking to the mosque for Maghrib.

I remember this hotel well because it was Tabung Haji's Medinah operation centre during our Hajj two years before. Back then, we were housed in Hotel Dar-As-Salam just 5 minutes walk down the road.

Our room, on the 10th floor, was spacious and comfortable. Best of all, the bathroom sparkled!

That was Joe, sprawled on his bed upon arrival. Poor Joe felt the fatigue of a five-hour road journey across a desert, albeit in an air-conditioned coach.

These umbrella-like structures, a recent addition to Masjid Nabawi, offer a respite from Medinah's afternoon heat. The shade had yet to be built two years ago. In the evening the umbrellas would be closed electronically so congregation could pray under the open sky. Medinah, even at its hottest, wasn't as stifling as Makkah.

A beautiful decorative ceiling and chandelier in Masjid Nabawi.

One of the passageways leading to Raudah, the 'Garden of Paradise', the very spot where Prophet Muhammad's (saw) house, pulpit and courtyard once stood and where his mausoleum is today, within the Nabawi Mosque.

Naj in a contemplative mood, while waiting for prayers to begin. The architecture of Masjid Nabawi is simply awesome. This mosque was built in September 622 AD using mud bricks and trunks of palm. Completed 8 months later, its original area was only 1,022 square metres.

It was extended and restored by subsequent rulers of Medinah over the centuries. The biggest renovation and expansion project in the mosque's history took place between 1984-1994 under the current Saudi dynasty. It brought the area to over 200,000 square metres covering two floors.

Yet another view of the mosque interior. Joe was fortunate enough to be able to bring his camera inside without a hassle. The male guards here made sporadic and cursory checks on male pilgrims; if you were lucky, you'd pass through with your camera (like Joe did).

The female guards (mutaween) however, were very thorough; they tried to frisk each and every female pilgrim for cameras and handphones, thus causing neverending congestion at the mosque's multiple entrances. I still don't understand the conflicting rule applied.

I was caught with a camera that very evening as I entered for Maghrib prayers. In my haste, I had forgotten to remove it from my prayer bag (usually I'd leave it at the hotel before going to the mosque).

The mutaween asked me to leave, so I did the next best thing - I removed the memory card before putting the camera inside my shoebag and placing the bag at the shoe rack outside.

It was either that or pray in the courtyard. There was nothing much else to do but keep faith in Allah swt that the camera would still be there when I was done.

Because our stay in Medinah was quite brief (only two nights), our time was fully occupied, with regular visits to Masjid Nabawi for prayers interspersed with pre-planned ziarah (visits) to places of interest, one of which was to the date plantation (pix below).

The Abus having sweet Arab tea during a visit to a date plantation. It must be said that dates sold at such plantations were dearer than what you could find at Pasar Kurma (something like a wholesale market for dates) located adjacent to Masjid Nabawi in the heart of town.

Still, we bought a token amount at the plantation (we were told the driver earned a bit of cash if we spent ours). But we saved our real shopping for dates at the market later in the day. Nawwar had a long list of date & preserved fig purchase to make anyway - all those pesanan & kiriman (requests) from so many people.

Mama's girls, dateless for now but happy enough nevertheless, at the date plantation.

Dates, dates and more dates; nougat-covered dates, dates dipped in chocolate, mixed nuts date bars, date candies, plain ordinary dates, super-expensive Ajwa dates (kurma Nabi) of various grades costing between SR40 and SR80 per kilo, Yemeni dates, Maryami dates.. you name it they have it; fresh, frozen, preserved.

Pak Abu and I have a thing for semi-frozen dates; they were so crispy. This pix was taken at Pasar Kurma and the candies above were sold by weight, although one could also find gift-packed ones. Whatever their presentation, in true pasar borong (wholesale market) tradition, these dates were a whole lot cheaper.

Boys will always be boys. Because the signboard clearly says "No Photograph", they must take a photograph there. This picture was taken at Masjid Quba', the oldest mosque in Islamic history. I have no clue why the sign was such; I don't remember seeing anything similar anywhere else in Medinah (or Makkah for that matter), not even in the vicinity of the two great mosques.

These two pictures (above and below) were taken at Masjid Quba', some kilometres outside Medinah. The original mosque was built on this very site by Prophet Muhammad (saw) himself not long after settling down in Medinah. The one that we have today has been rebuilt, extended and renovated time and again to meet the demands of an increasing number of pilgrims.
A marble monument outside Masjid Quba', I believe detailing its history and significance to Islam. (I'm only guessing because I don't read Arabic.)

One of the more profound visits was to the battlefield of Uhud, fought on March 19, 625 AD at this valley located in front of Jabal Uhud (the rocky range in the background).

This was the second military encounter between the Quraisy of Makkah and the Muslims of Medinah, the first being the Battle of Badr the year before.

The Battle of Uhud became infamous for one reason; the Muslims (who were smaller in numbers from the Quraisy attackers) were in the clutches of victory when their archers breached the Prophet's order and vacated their post up a hill to grab the spoils of war left by a fleeing Quraisy army.

This allowed a surprised attack by a Makkah cavalry; many Muslim warriors died including the Prophet's own uncle Sayyidina Hamzah. The Prophet himself was badly injured, causing a rumour to race through the Muslim camp that he had perished in the battle, thus demoralising the Muslims further, until it was proved otherwise.

Within this fenced area lies the grave of Prophet Muhammad's (saw) uncle, Sayyidina Hamzah and those of many other Syuhadahs who perished in the Battle of Uhud. When I first visited this site two years back, I couldn't hold back my tears. The impact of standing here, on this sacred grounds where the faithfuls died in jihad was too much to take. This time around, I had better control of my emotions, but the feeling of sadness and awe prevailed.

This is the hill abandoned by the archers, not to pursue a fleeing army but to collect the spoils of war, with disastrous consequences. The Quraisy claimed victory and returned two years later to engage the Prophet and his men in yet another battle, the Battle of the Trench (Peperangan Khandaq). They were soundly defeated by the Muslims through wit and ingenuity, and that was the last of the wars between them.

For our last dinner in Medinah we gave our hotel-prepared food a miss and took the kids to Sameer Restaurant down the road (beyond the traffic intersection) for lamb curry. We had a similar dinner with Pak Abu's golfer friend Nik Faizul and his wife two years ago during the Hajj.

Sameer's was not Arab per se; in fact it was a Pakistani restaurant but the food was a mixture of both, so was the clientele. Located in the basement (one had to walk a few steps down), the place may be cramped and dinghy but the lamb, delicious and tender and eaten with plate-sized pita bread, more than made up for it.

The six of us polished off three plates of lamb curry, three plates of chicken curry, 14 pieces of pita bread and two jumbo bottles of coke, and the bill came to SR66. It was worth every riyal.

Hours before our departure for the airport, we made one last visit to the food court near our hotel for some kebab. Here's the eldest and the youngest looking savvy in their jubbah and shades, carrying provisions.

Nawwar, as usual, still managed to squeeze in some last-minute shopping for jubbahs. Just as in Beijing earlier in the year, she successfully haggled her way to halving the prices offered. If she could wear those Chinese and Arab shopkeepers down, I dont' know what else she could do..

Approaching the Jeddah International Airport. This tent-like structure is the Hajj Pilgrims Receiving Centre. Upon arrival and after customs & immigration clearance, pilgrims congregate under these open-air 'tents' to wait for their respective transportation to Makkah. The wait usually lasts 3-4 hours.

Checking-in. Inside those "Safewrap" plastic bags were containers of zamzam water, given free to all pilgrims (20 litres/pax). Each container was rather heavy; thankfully they weren't considered baggage, thus needed no weighing in.

KLIA, here we come, it's home sweet home! They say home is where the heart is. Now, here's the tough part because somehow, we feel our hearts have been left behind.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Umrah - Makkah in Pictures

Nawwar making good her promise to visit her former boss, Bro. Farid (the pleasant-faced guy smiling in the background) at his flagship Dakwah Corner outlet in Makkah Al-Mukarramah.
Naj, perpetually hungry, lining up for kebab at one of the many hole-in-the-wall outlets located at a shopping complex in front of Masjidil Haram.
The oldsters taking a breather on one of the worn sofas in the lobby of Mawaddah Hotel. The hotel may be slightly crummy but its nearness to the Grand Mosque more than made up for it. Also, the daily meals prepared for us here were good and to our Malaysian taste - nasi lemak and fried meehoon for breakfast (apart from the breads and others), tomyam, masak lemak cili api, ayam masak merah, rendang and lain-lain lauk for lunch and dinner. Kudos to Triways for making sure we were well-fed.

Many absent-minded pilgrims have walked into this wall mirror, strategically placed to create an illusion of space in the cramped lobby. One old guy walked right smack into it, his forehead landing onto the mirror with an almighty thud, while Naj and Joe tried their level best to stifle their laughter.
Joe breathing a sigh of relief after the first umrah.
Naj posing maut ...
This notice board at the foot of Jabal Thur (the location of Thur Cave where Prophet Muhammad (saw) hid from the Quraisy seeking to kill him), tells pilgrims not to ruin the surroundings by removing stones, twigs etc as souvenirs.
That's Gua Thur in the background. Modernisation is close by, in the form of transmission towers. It takes about two hours of perilous climb up the rocky outcrop to reach the cave.
Hamming it up for the camera, bug-eyed shades and all, at the foot of Jabal Rahmah, the place where Adam and Eve were reunited. Because of its history, Jabal Rahmah is a popular spot for singles to make doas for jodoh (partners in life).
Shall I or shall I not? Kama contemplating buying an African long scarf. In the end, she bought two.. hehehe..
Awwa and Joe getting the feel of a camel ride. Note the camel's mouth cover. A camel's breath is exceptionally foul.
And here's Naj and Ann. Am not sure how much it costs per person per ride.. I think it's SR15.
Where would the Abus be without makan? It's Baskin Robbins time! Harga lebih kurang kat Malaysia (because the exchange rate is almost 1-1, but the scoops are bigger). Ice-cream taste doubly delicious in hot Makkah.
High tea with tiramisu, sandwiches, caesar's salad, cakes and long cool mochas at the Makkah Hilton, courtesy of Kama's blogger friend Pak Payne (Ariffin Mamat). Pak Payne, a Malaysian expat working in Jeddah, took the trouble to drive all the way to Makkah (with fellow Malaysian expat Kamil) just to meet up and belanja us tea and dinner.
That's En Kamil facing Pak Abu, with Pak Payne sitting next to Naj. En Kamil is Jeddah's municipality director. They took us to a restaurant on the outskirts of Makkah to sample Yemeni food, eaten four to a tray. It's a kind of biryani called lamb kabsah. Sedap!! I steered clear of the green chillies after Nawwar sampled one. It was a killer! Pak Payne, we can't thank you enough for your hospitality. Ada ubi ada batas.. balik Malaysia kita balas ekk!
The right exercise after such a heavy meal; we did our second umrah that same night. That was truly some effort.. doing the tawwaf and sae'i after being filled to the brim with lamb kabsah. I could hardly walk. Truth be told, I waddled like a duck throughout the sae'i...
Like I said, the Abus are good at seeking makan places. This is Felda's sole outlet in Makkah. Located in a shopping centre facing the Grand Mosque, D'Saji serves authentic Malaysian fare, and at decent prices too.
Murtabak, cucoq udang, kuih ketayap, all downed with teh/nescafe tarik ... aahhh, feels like home. In fact, D'Saji's menu was quite extensive, from laksas to noodles, rices and lauks, satay, even ais kacang. Lots of Arabs patronised this place (probably those who have visited Malaysia and liked our food)..
Pak Abu stretched out on the marbled flooring of Masjidil Haram's topmost floor, counting the stars in the heavens above. Women are not allowed up here during off-hajj season so we couldn't bring the girls up to enjoy the scenery. We prayed here often during our Hajj, especially Subuh, because both the marbled floor and the morning breeze provided such refreshing coolness to start the day.
This, my friend, is the best barbecue chicken I have eaten thus far. On our last night in Makkah, Nawwar's former boss Bro. Farid took us to dinner at Al-Tazaj, a well-known Arab fast-food joint famous for its barbecue chicken, eaten with both Arab bread and spiced rice. The chicken (local and free-range) were very tender.
All too soon, it was Tawaf Widaa' (Goodbye Tawaf) before moving on to Madinah where we would spend the last 2 nights of our Umrah trip sebelum balik Malaysia. Leaving Makkah was painfully hard. Sebak dada. Sedihnya tak terhingga. Ya Allah, let this not be the last that we visit Baitullah..