Sunday, July 26, 2009

Suka Dalam Duka

BUOH SETO TOK MA (Grandma's Mangosteen)

My feelings have been on a rollercoaster ride since yesterday; the ups and the downs tumbling upon me with equal ferocity.

The good news is that husband-wife blogger combo of Kak Teh and Awang Goneng are in town, and God willing, I may get to meet these old acquaintances of mine again after 30 years.

Another cheery bit is that I finally made my acquaintance with bloggers Mamasita, the lovely and youthful-looking Datin from Kuantan, and busybee corporate lady, Kay_Leeda (albeit via the telephone). If all goes well, we are meeting soon. Looks like the blogging sisterhood is expanding its tentacles (not that I'm complaining!)

The downside is the sudden demise of well-known ad supremo and film-maker Yasmin Ahmad whom I first met in the mid '80s. Yasmin had gone on to become a force to reckon with in the local and international advertising industry. All too soon, she is taken away from us. Al-fatihah.

This morning, I accessed my blog, only to be confronted with yet another devastating bit of news, that blogger Bergen, an old chatter friend and fellow "orang kampung" (we both hail from Dungun), is stricken with high-grade sarcoma (bone cancer). This is so tragic, especially since his beloved aunt (who raised him) passed away hardly a year ago. Bergen, our prayers are with you.

On the tail of all these is Pak Zawi and company, offering a ray of hope for the schoolchildren in and around the village of Tok Sangkut in Pasir Mas, Kelantan, via the establishment of Tabung Kebajikan Tok Sangkut (please read

The picture above is that of a painting by talented Cikgu Mazeri Othman (Deen) of Pasir Mas being put up for auction to raise funds for the kids. This is the first of many more such paintings to be so offered for the cause. I can tell it's a lovely piece of work and I am not ashamed to admit that I am smitten.

While not a purebred Kelantanese, one half of me definitely is (courtesy of my maternal grandfather who hailed from Kuala Krai). Flimsy as that may be, I am very proud of this connection. As such, I feel duty-bound to promote this 'Tabung' that aims to assist the future generations of Kelantan in their studies.

Let us do any which way we can to get this Fund rolling. Every little bit helps. Semoga usaha kita diberkati Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Staple On The Cheap

The Ukhwah Restoran Rakyat 1Malaysia, located in Lorong Medan Tuanku Satu (next to Prescott Inn) Kuala Lumpur
(pix taken from Star Online)

Way back in 1974, a restaurant named for the man in the street opened its doors in Kuala Lumpur, at the site of what is today a public fountain in the shape of a monkey pitcher plant, in the vicinity of the traffic intersection near Dataran Merdeka.

I remember Restoran Rakyat well for I was amongst the thousands of common folks who thronged it on days when the heart was heavy and the pocket light, as light as the day was long.

I was then a rookie reporter just months into my first job at the Malay Mail and struggling to cope with life, on a shoestring budget in a big city. Despite putting up with a kind-hearted aunt and her family of six in a cramped DBKL flat, I was perpetually broke.

Entering the workforce sans paper qualifications had plunged me right to the bottom of the totem pole, with a take-home pay that was woefully inadequate even for a single working girl.

[I had started work by choice at 19, steadfastly refusing to finish my studies, much to Opah's chagrin. By the time I returned to the books aged 27 and a mother of three, she had passed on, never knowing that I had made good on my promise to graduate from college someday].

There were times when I took to walking from the Bandaraya flat in Cheras to my place of work in Jalan Pantai Baru, Bangsar, because I couldn't afford the bus fare and was too embarrassed to ask for a small loan from my aunt.

The morning walks would take slightly over two hours at a brisk pace, passing by the Railway Station and National Museum (my favourite stretch), and arriving Balai Berita drenched in sweat, face aglow from the 'forced' exercise.

It was Restoran Rakyat that kept the likes of us sorry souls nourished for a mere pittance, for it served a full meal of rice, curry and some vegetables, and a glass of iced water, all at one ringgit per plate. The menu, thankfully, varied from day to day.

I don't remember why the restaurant eventually closed its doors, and when; in all probability when I was living in the UK in the mid '70s, or in Kuantan, post-London. By then, my life was already on an even keel and memories of Restoran Rakyat eventually dimmed over time.

Yesterday, I flipped open Sunday Star and lo and behold! There's a new Restoran Rakyat in town! Best of all, it's keeping to the spirit and tradition of its erstwhile namesake by offering good food at very low prices.

One piece of roti canai and a glass of teh tarik for just one ringgit, right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur - that's what you get at Ukhwah Restoran Rakyat 1Malaysia.

Located in Lorong Medan Tuanku Satu (next to Prescott Inn), this non-profit oriented eatery, a week into its operation today, is owned and run by Koperasi Pendidikan Islam Malaysia Bhd, better known as Ukhwah.

What's heartening to note is that Ukhwah president Datuk Rahim Baba could be seen lending a helping hand, clearing and cleaning tables alongside his men, all members of the co-op, during peak hours. That's walking the talk for you.

On the downside, three days into operation the nearby mamak joints had 'sent a clear message' (to quote Datuk Rahim) asking the restaurant to "maintain the market price of food." I hope, for the sake of the needies, he won't buckle under pressure.

He says he won't budge because he believes food should be reasonably priced. He even gives an insight on pricing, noting that most restaurants make 200% - 300% profit from selling food.

Datuk Rahim stresses that even at 40 sen apiece for roti canai, the restaurant still makes 100% profit because the actual cost of making roti canai is only 20 sen. As for teh tarik, he says he makes a profit of 18 sen by selling it at 60 sen a glass.

The newspaper report says Ukhwah Restoran Rakyat 1Malaysia needs RM2,000 a day in sales to break even, to cover rental of RM7,000 per month and salary of its 16 (all local) staff.

Reading this bit of Malaysiana had me all choked up. Restoran Rakyat of the 1970s fed me when I was low on cash. In the current tough economic times, Ukhwah Restoran Rakyat 1Malaysia serves to fill the belly of many a man (or woman) in the same predicament.

I only have good wishes for Datuk Rahim Baba and his band of Ukhwah men. May God bless your good work!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ozlin & Amirah

Amirah Anuar (pix above)


1) Ozlin, a loving wife and devoted mother to two small children, turned 35 this year. Young and beautiful, this soft-spoken, graceful woman had a whole life ahead of her.

Tapi kita hanya merancang; Tuhan juga yang menentukan (we can only plan, for our fate is in the hands of God). Who would have thought her journey of life would end so abruptly, depriving two little kids of their doting mother, and their daddy a loving spouse.

A colleague of my son Joe, Ozlin succumbed to leukaemia yesterday morning. She was buried in Kuala Lumpur on the same day, after Zohor prayers. Ozlin was diagnosed with terminal-stage leukaemia only two months ago.

Pak Abu and I were on our way to Temerloh, Pahang, to attend the wedding of a niece when Joe called just before noon to inform us of the sad news.

We knew Ozlin because she had joined us on a couple of occasions at the KLGCC (Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club) for karaoke, together with Joe and a few of their co-workers from the advertising agency.

She quit the agency late last year to join her husband who was based in Singapore. Because of that, we didn't get to meet her before we left for the Hajj in November last year. But she did send us a message of good wishes through Facebook.

We shall miss you dear Ozlin. Semoga Allah swt mencucuri rahmat ke atas rohmu dan menempatkannya di kalangan roh-roh mereka yang beriman.

May you rest in peace and may Allah swt bless your soul and place it amongst the pious and the blessed. Al-Fatihah.


2) Amirah Anuar is a lovely young lady of 24. A smart girl, she completed college with a Second Class Upper in Finance just a couple of months ago, and harbours thoughts of doing her masters degree in the United Kingdom, just like her dad.

Four years ago, at the age of 20, Amirah lost her right leg to cancer. Ever an optimist, this plucky niece of mine, whose mother is my younger sister Ana, takes everything in her stride.

She faces challenges head-on. She makes light of her status as an OKU (physically-handicapped person), preferring instead to concentrate on other worthwhile issues like her studies and her family. Her sunny disposition had, in the past, helped us through during her hours of anguish.

One morning two weeks ago my sister Izah called with the devastating news that after four relatively quiet years, Amirah's dreaded cancer had returned with a vengeance, this time lodging itself in her lungs. All I could do was cry by the phone.

Three new lesions were detected, two in one lung and one in the other. Doctors at Kuala Lumpur Hospital, where she was admitted, had determined that the cancer was at stage four and immediate surgery was recommended.

Due to the location of the lesions, she was referred to Institut Jantung Negara (National Heart Institute) for the operation.

Pak Abu and I went to IJN to visit her last Tuesday, a day before the operation. She was understandably nervous and very subdued.

She confided that she was afraid of what lie ahead, and that she didn't relish the idea of undergoing chemoteraphy all over again.

While the four-hour surgery went well, doctors were unable to remove one of the lesions due to its close proximity to the heart. Thus she would have to avail herself to full chemo soon.

Amirah is pragmatic about her chances; medically-speaking, her life expectancy is three years. She is aware of this and has accepted it, as we have, painful and heart-breaking as it may be.

Redha is the word. At our end, we have tried and will continue to try to help Amirah overcome this scourge any which ikhtiar we could. In the final analysis, Allah swt knows what's best, so in Him we put our absolute trust.

We love you Amirah!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Crappy Crappy!

1) NOW I have a bone to pick with the restaurant that gave my family and I such a lousy service the other day. This is one fight I did not pick; it was shoved under my nose.

As you know, I don't suffer fools gladly; so Anon, thanks for the opportunity to pull you folks down a notch or two from your perch. All I can say is that you have brought this unto yourself.

Always remember, in the restaurant business, you are as good as your food AND your service. Good food count for nuts if your service isn't up to par.

Staff who pull a long muncung (snout) at customers are absolute no-nos. We don't pay good money to be served by an irritable pout (we can get that at home for free).

I don't know who this Anon responding sourly to my negative comments is, but my best bet is that Anon is someone associated either with the shop (owner/friend/staff/whoever) or with the food critic site (which did an excellent write-up of the place, by the way). Anon sounds like a her; not that I care for the gender.

Instead of picking a fight with me, they should concentrate their efforts in improving their service. Unfortunately, they lacked the grace to admit their service wasn't so chummy.

Wake up lah, please. I am not your competitor; I don't own a makan joint neither do I know anyone who does. I'm just someone who, once upon a time, had wanted to become your regular patron/customer and spread the word around that you had a good thing going. It was you who deprived me of the privilege.

The one thing that I can be certain of is this; d'Cengkih of Taman Tun Dr Ismail has earned a black mark in my list of restaurants of disrepute and I shall avoid it at all cost, no matter how good they proclaim their menu to be.

You may ask why am I so harsh in my judgement. I have a ready answer for this. It is neatly packaged under the words "Attitude" and "Humility".

A restaurant that simply cannot bear criticisms (even if they are true) and comes out with guns blazing at anyone criticising it (even if the criticisms are constructive), is not worth the hassle. This is one restaurant with a massive attitude problem.

Worse, they lack the humility to admit their own shortcomings. Instead they keep hitting back at the critique (and that's me). Let it be known that my family wasn't the only dissatisfied patrons the other day. A few others also walked out.

I have nothing to fear as I spoke the truth and as can be seen, truth hurts. I had the grace of not naming the shop in my article then. Now I'm throwing caution to the winds; I don't really care anymore.

Neither do I care if their spread is the best in this whole wide world (anyway, I can't vouch for it for I didn't get my order), because their attitude still stinks.

You would have earned merit points in my book had you responded with: "Yes we were shorthanded the other day, but we shall buck up. We are sorry to have let you and your family down, but we welcome you to visit us again."

And you know what? I would have given the restaurant both a second chance and a second mention, which may even be highly favourable to you. It's a bit too late now.

2) Years ago, there was a Chinese-Muslim lady selling one of the best chicken rice (if not the best) I had ever tasted in Subang Jaya. In fact, if you mentioned Subang Jaya and Nasi Ayam in the same breath, it was her name that came to mind. Unfortunately enough, whilst her chicken rice was superb, her mouth wasn't. You winced at her choice of words for her workers.

Her off-putting, public maki hamun and carut marut for her hapless staff were so commonplace and well-known to Subang Jaya residents that many patrons simply stopped going, my family included. We would rather buy 'run-of-the-mill' chicken rice from other traders, who treated their workers with dignity.

I heard she has since passed away. May Allah swt be kind to her soul.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Let's Play

Konda kondi (flip), getah (rubber band), teng-teng (hopscotch), bottle-cap shooting, batu seremban, congkak (pix left); these are but some of the many traditional games I grew up with, back in the boondocks called Bukit Besi in (then) backwaters Terengganu.

Nothing beats being out in the garden or on the pangkin* in the front yard with family and friends, all high-spirited and determined to outdo each other for the glory of gloating. (Pangkin = a raised wooden platform usually placed in front of the house, for the purpose of resting one's weary feet).

Rainy days, however, would be a real damper, for it would keep us confined indoors, thus limiting our play options; never mind the fact that sometimes we blatantly ignored parental orders to happily drench ourselves in Bukit Besi's notorious downpour, the kind that could swell the hill station's placid river fivefold in mere minutes.

Today, technology is able to keep children occupied even when it's all wet and gloomy outside. Yet, I still feel sorry for them, for these kids are deprived of the thrill of playing ingenious games under the hot sun, games that do not require anything more than flipping and balancing tiny bags of seeds, or skipping on a 'rope' made of entwined rubber bands.

These days, 'fun' comes in the form of a hand-held contraption with a screen and tiny buttons on it (what's it called, PSP?), or the "mother of all funs", PlayStation. Of course, not all kids are blessed with such luxuries. Having said that, there is one luxury which has since become a basic household necessity and is currently available to 16 million of us in Malaysia - the Internet.

Now folks, check this out; yesterday I Googled "online games" and the result shook my knees. There are 264 million related searches! This is downright scary!

Let's do some maths here. Even if as little as 1% of the results are links to game sites, that's 2.6 million game sites on the Internet! If a child spends his life visiting just one site per day, he would have reached out to only 29,200 sites by the time he returns to his childhood once again at the ripe old age of 80!

I asked my own kids, nieces and nephews which sites they frequent. Names that popped up with clockword regularity were,, and In fact, they know these web addresses like the back of their hands!

Out of curiosity, I paid a visit to just to see what the fuss was all about. Goodness gracious... there were so many games to choose from! Bearing in mind this old lady isn't exactly a fan, I did try my hand at a couple of games, and before I knew it, two hours had passed.

Frankly, it was so easy to get hooked. In fact I was thinking I could get used to this...... it was kind of fun. All I need now is a grandchild to play these games with!

I may not be so enamoured with online games but I must admit there are many positive aspects in favour of this digital phenomenon, one of which is physical safety. The world outside is becoming more dangerous to children - rising crime rates et al - that even letting the kids out to a playground hardly 500 feet away from one's doorsteps seem unwise.

I am all for keeping them indoors under proper supervision if their safety out in the big bad world cannot be assured. Playing online games is a small price to pay for their physical safety and their parents' mental well-being.

Secondly, letting kids loose outside is exposing them to undue influence, more often of the undesirable kind. To my eternal regret, one of my sons, now 32, picked up smoking at 15, the price of too much lepak freedom. Lepaking exposed him to peer pressure and without Mom within sight or sound to counter temptations, the inevitable happened.

In today's scheme of things, it's convenience over nostalgia when it comes to certain aspects of parenting. From a nostalgic prospective, I was fortunate enough to have had my children at a time when the Internet was not available commercially.

Hence they too had had the opportunity of experiencing the sheer joy of playing in the sun as much as I did, albeit in a concrete jungle as opposed to my kampung childhood.

One thing I didn't do enough, however, was to spend time with them in playing these games. I was too busy eking out a living and managing the household. Of couse, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have made time for them. After all, memories are made of such moments.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a specific website that facilitates playtime between parent and child? I may never have the opportunity to relate to this oncept nor apply it to bond with my own kids since they are already in their 20 and 30s (although I do play online Scrabble with one son and beat him most times!).

I am calling upon all young moms out there to try this 'new age' bonding; play games with your young ones when time permits. If it's online games they fancy, pick it up and join in; who knows you may just find genuine enjoyment in the games even more than they do!

And while you are at it, teach them a thing or two about the traditional games that you know. Let the child long buried in you emerge again and indulge in playing with the pure joy of carefree yesteryears. How's that for a plan?

I'm all for family bonding and instilling moments of togetherness between parents and their children by whatever means necessary. The keyword here is 'togetherness', so it doesn't really matter whether you are indulging in online games or on-ground fun, as long as both parties derive pleasure from them.

In the meantime, my son had just slapped me with a triple-word-score in Facebook's Lexulous. The nerve he has...! Please excuse me for I have to go now, to show him never to trifle with Da Boss....

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lethal Embrace & Lunchtime Special

Folks, I honestly don't know whether to laugh or to cry after reading about a 78 year-old man who died (in ecstasy, I presume) while indulging in foreplay with a 31 year-old transvestite, in Kuantan a few days ago.

This bit of news, widely reported in the local media, reminded me of another similarly disconcerting report a few years ago where a man and his mistress, deep in the throes of sex, died when tsunami hit them.

It happened in Acheh; the man was a local bigwig and businessman (a Haji too it was reported) while the woman was a divorcee.

A true case of coitus interruptus this, with disastrous result unfortunately, for not only did they drown in passion but in the onrushing waters as well.

Their bodies, found locked together 'down there' by rescue workers, could not be parted despite several attempts and had to be carted off in that undignified position to the mortuary. [What a sorry spectacle it must have been...].

I am highlighting these two stories not to embarrass anyone, or to make light of these events, but as a reminder of God's absolute will.

I think we need to be constantly reminded of the need to stay true i.e. on the right path, because the Devil will never slacken his efforts to lead us astray, Pak Haji/Mak Haji notwithstanding.

Human beings are so weak, and so easily influenced and induced. For men, the temptation of all things sexual is the hardest to deal with. Not many men can overcome sexual seduction with ease; that's where Satan is at his creative best and man at his defensive worst.

For the 78 year-old Malay man who perished "dalam dakapan mak nyah' in Kuantan three days ago, I feel for his family. Imagine their discomfort and embarrassment, having to face kith and kin, and society at large.

He is dead and gone now; he has to deal with it wherever he is, may Allah swt have mercy on him. But what in heaven's name was he thinking, frolicking, at 78, with a bapok? Words fail me completely.

Just yesterday Pak Abu and I gloomily mulled over the social ills plaguing our society today, especially the influx of prostitutes and hookers of every colour and creed, who seem to think Malaysia is their proverbial Land of Milk and Honey.

I am inclined to think they are the Honeys doing the milking and for a few hard-earned bucks, the men gladly allow themselves to be milked (in more ways than one).

I had recently read about the reported abundance of whorehouses, including a new phenomenon called "rumah syahwat" (literally, House of Lust), now sprouting like taugeh in Kuala Lumpur.

These 'rumahs' operate only at lunchtime and cater to a select clientele. Membership is by word-of-mouth; you need to be referred by a regular. And there is only one dish on the menu - sex.

Servings come in the form of scantily-dressed young women, bearing condoms. A poke, lasting a few brief minutes, costs in the region of RM120 - RM150, so I read.

Apparently, these sessions are not even conducted in private, away from prying eyes. In Rumah Syahwat, the 'all in the family' atmosphere prevails; sofas are strategically placed in darkened corners in a big room.

Just pick a girl and a spot, drop your pants and get going. When "lunch" is over, the patrons presumably wash their "hands", belt up and adjourn to a nearby mamak for teh tarik.

These 'rumah syahwat' will make it even easier for an erring husband to cheat on his wife. No need to be creative with excuses about going out at night anymore.

Just skip the real lunch and go for this 'makanan segera' instead; our local version of fast food, no less ...... Malaysia Boleh!