Friday, 31 October 2008

Two Faces, the latest reprint

I was browsing at Popular Bookstore in City Square earlier today and spotted a book that I've been looking for since a few months ago. Dr. Syed Husin Ali's book, Two Faces - Detention Without Trial, has been reprinted by a new publisher and is now available at the bookstores.

The book is a translation of his original Malay work titled `Dua Wajah - Tahanan Tanpa Bicara', that was first published in 1996. It tells the story of Syed Husin's detention under the Internal Security Act for nearly six years. My earlier post relating to this book can be read here -> Punishing those who are threats to society?

To my blogger-friend Michelle Yoon, this latest book would be on its way to New Zealand shortly.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Lessons in life

Earlier today, I read this lovely post about Deepavali from blogger friend Hliza who remembers her schoolmate from younger days by the name of Sumathi. Hliza's story reminded me of my own experience of having a close friend who was not of the same race. I narrated that experience as a comment in Hliza's blog and thought that I could share the story here too.

My best friend when I was in Standard Three of primary school was an Indian boy named Suresh Kumar. One day, Suresh invited me to attend his birthday party at his house after school. When I got back home, I told my mother about it but she did not allow me to go. The reason given was that I need to bring something as a birthday present and we didn't have time to buy any. I told mom that my friend said it was okay if I didn't bring presents but mom wasn't budging.

You can imagine how disheartened I was... and I was sulking the whole afternoon. Later that day, Suresh came over to my house, bringing a small tupperware containing a piece of his birthday cake and some other goodies. He wanted to know why I didn't come. I simply mentioned that I didn't have permission to go. For this simple gesture alone, I will remember Suresh for the rest of my life.

When my father returned from work that evening, he found out about it. He sort of chided my mom for not allowing me to go. The very least, my father said, was that my mom could've bought a box of chocolates for me to bring as a birthday present. It was the first time I remember my father backing me on something.

I suspect the real reason my mother forbade me to go was something entirely different. But I do not blame her for it. It was a typical mother's concern at the time.

Nowadays, when my own sons get invited to the birthday parties of their non-Malay friends, I have no objections at all. A few years back, when we were staying at Taman Melawati in Kuala Lumpur, my youngest son got invited to a birthday party of his Chinese classmate named Nicholas. As we dropped off our son in front of the friend's house, my wife began to remind him about being careful about what to eat at the party. I gently cut her off by saying that she should not worry. I was confident that there wouldn't be any issue about food on two counts... firstly, my son is mature enough to know what he can or cannot eat. Secondly, I was sure that Nicholas' parents, having invited their son's Malay friends, would be wise enough not to serve food that Muslims could not eat.

Race relations is quite a complicated subject in this country of ours, especially in the light of recent events. Despite all the government campaigns and slogans, the oft-repeated buzzwords of `perpaduan' and `muhibbah' may end up being just that... slogans with no real meaning. Why is this so? I think it's because we have a sprinkling of bigots in power... on all sides. It's very difficult to change the opinions of such people and I wouldn't deny them their right to hold on to such opinions. The very least I can do is to make my own children understand and appreciate the diversity of all the various races in Malaysia. If other parents can also make this small but significant effort, then there is hope yet for all of us.

Finally, my thanks to Hliza for sharing her childhood memories that made me remember about mine.

To Suresh Kumar, hope you are keeping well my friend, wherever you are. You're one friend with the heart of gold.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Festival of Lights

Wishing a Happy Deepavali to my Hindu friends in Malaysia and elsewhere. May the future of our country be bright and all its citizens living in peace and harmony.

Pic of Kolam borrowed from

Friday, 24 October 2008

On a lighter note

Terlewat sebulan

Sepasang pengantin baru berkahwin 4 bulan. Pada suatu malam si isteri memeluk leher suami dengan nada manja seraya berkata, "Ayang, period i dah lewat sebulan, tapi i tak boleh nak pastikan lagi sebab kita kena gi check kat doktor."

Si suami yang teramat gembira tu pun berpakat dengan isterinya untuk tidak memberitahu sesiapa pun tentang perkhabaran gumbira ini sehingga ianya benar-benar pasti.

Pada suatu hari, pasangan ini di datangi oleh pegawai dari TNB kerana terdapat tunggakan dalam pembayaran bill elektrik rumah mereka. Pegawai TNB tu pun bertanya "Ini rumah En. Mahpus ker?" "Iya, saya ni isterinya. Ada apa Encik?"

Pegawai TNB tu pun berkata, "Puan, ni dah sebulan lewat, saya dah tak boleh tunggu ni, nanti boss saya marah."

Dengan nada terkejut, si isteri itu pun membalas balik cakap pegawai TNB tu."APA??? Macam mana pulak Encik tahu yang saya ni sebulan lewat???"

Pegawai TNB tu pun dengan selamba menjawab "Alaa puan, ni kan zaman IT, semua tu ada dalam komputer dan kita boleh check Online."

Kata-kata pegawai TNB tu membuatkan si isteri tu lagi terkejut.
"APAAA???? Saya lewat sebulan pun awak semua boleh tahuuu???"

Pegawai TNB tu pun mententeramkan keadaan. "Releks puan, puan ni baru lewat sebulan, ada yg lagi teruk, lewat 5-6 bulan."

Si isteri yang terperanjat beruk dengan kenyataan pegawai tu pun berkata, “Nanti saya bincang dengan suami saya..” Lalu pegawai TNB tu pun beredar dari situ..

Keesokkan harinya, selepas si Mahphus ini diberitahu oleh isterinya, dia pun naik berang dan terus amik cuti dan pergi ke kedai TNB yang berdekatan.

Dengan tanpa menghiraukan pegawai-pegawai TNB yang ramai di situ, dia pun memekik seraya berkata, "Apa korang ni, isteri saya sebulan lewat pun nak heboh-heboh ke dalam internet! Awak ni semua yang berkeluarga tak pernah lewat sebulan kerrrr????!! Bisness apa korang buat niii?? Nak kena saman kerr???”

Lalu pegawai yang datang ke rumah si Mahphus ni berdiri dan cuba mententeramkan keadaan. "Sabar encik, sabar encik. Apa susah, kalau cik nak settlekan perkara ni, bayar je..."

Kata-kata pegawai TNB tu membuatkan si Mahphus tambah naik berang.

"APAAA?? nak bayar korang? belahhhh lahh...."

Lalu pegawai TNB tu pun cakap, "Kalau macam tu, kita terpaksa potong encik punya..........."

Si Mahpus mencelah, "Apa??? Potong??? Abih tu isteri saya di rumah nak pakai apaaaaaa???”

Pegawai TNB tu pun cakap, "Nampak gayanye.. ISTERI ENCIK KENA PAKAI LILIN AJERRRLAAAAAAAA"

Note : Got this from my favourite online forum site. Original author unknown.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Fiction, continued...

Headnote : The opening part of this story can be read in the post of 30 September 2008, here -> Part 1.


A Bingo Straight To The Heart (Part 2)

Sheffield, England – Winter of 1990

During our student days, me and my three housemates were Scrabble freaks and we play the game for hours on end almost every Saturday. It was the winter break and I was in the final year of my Accountancy course. Aida is two years my junior, studying Civil Engineering, the only Malaysian girl taking up a technical course out of the twenty Malaysian girls studying in Sheffield at that time.

Aida stayed in a rented flat a few streets away from our house and she and her housemates often join us on our Scrabble sessions. On one particular Saturday afternoon just before Christmas holiday that year, Aida as usual, turned up at our door for a Scrabble session, but this time without her girl friends. Instead she had brought along her classmate, Johari.

“Hi guys!” chirped Aida in her ever-present jovial voice as soon as she stepped into our hallway from the cold outside. “This is my friend, Johari. I hope you all don’t mind me bringing him along. Dee and Ann are away at some friend’s place so I’ve invited Joe to join us.”

It was the first time we were having a male visitor in the house and Mei Lin, my housemate who had opened the door, looked at me for a sign of approval. Aida’s friend had already stepped into the hallway and it would have been very discourteous and awkward to turn him away.

“No problem. Please come on in,” I replied.

“All right!” Aida exclaimed, smiling widely as if she had struck the winning lottery or something. “Joe, this is Kak June, that’s Mei Lin and over there is Anita and Nooraini,” she continues to introduce us.

“Hello,” Joe said. “I hope this is not too much of a trouble. Aida thought that you guys may need an extra hand at the game and has asked me to come along.”

“No trouble!” I said, “You are most welcome to join us.”

I wasn’t sure if I was entirely truthful when I said that at the time.

... to be continued.

Monday, 20 October 2008

The abode of a princess

On Saturday, I attended the wedding of my colleague whose kampung is at Sungai Mati in the district of Muar, Johor. After the wedding, I traveled on the Bukit Gambir - Panchor road to access the North-South highway at Pagoh.

This particular road passes through the rice-planting region of Gersik where the spectacular scenery of Gunung Ledang fills the background. It was already almost dusk when I took the photograph shown below. With the very low level of light and without a tripod, it was difficult to avoid camera shake. I didn't have time to scout around for better angles either. How I wished to have a good dSLR camera in my possession.

Gunung Ledang, also known by the English name of Mount Ophir, is famous for the legend of a beautiful princess whose hand was sought in marriage by the Sultan of Melaka. The princess set seven practically-impossible conditions for the Sultan to fulfil before his marriage proposal can be accepted. One version of the fable has it that the first six conditions were met but the Sultan failed the final one... to provide a bowl of blood from the Sultan's own son.

When I was younger, listening to this story always filled me with awe. Nowadays, I've come to realise that it was meant to teach something... that men can become so stupid and senseless upon being enchanted by the beauty of a woman. The princess set all those impossible conditions because she didn't want to marry the Sultan in the first place. In other words, she was trying to politely decline... but the Melaka ruler just didn't get it. To paraphrase it in Malay, tak kan tak paham-paham lagi.

As I said, there are many versions of this folklore. A very good research piece done by Sabri Zain can be read here -> The Fairy Princess of Gunung Ledang.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

A good makan spot in Mersing, Johor

I mentioned earlier that we spent the second day of Aidilfitri at my wife's kampung. Having had enough of ketupat and rendang for two days, I decided to take the family out for dinner. As it was still the second day of raya, I didn't think that there would be many restaurants open for business yet, but we took a chance of exploring the small town of Mersing anyway.

Surprise, surprise! We found one that was open and what a find it was. The restaurant is called Sally's Place and the tagline on the signboard says that they serve Chinese Muslim food. Sally's Place is quite unique in that it is actually an old Malay kampung house. The original living room and bedrooms in the raised section of the house are now converted to dining areas. The kitchen is located in a front annex on the ground floor. Being still a small-time business, the interior decor is nothing to shout about... but the taste of the food was something else.

Our meal that night was made up of Siakap fish steamedTeochew-style, hot-plate ginger beef, black pepper prawns, mixed vegetable soup and egg foo-yung. The steamed fish was exquisite and the beef was delicious. The prawns were a tad small, both in size and portion but the black pepper taste was actually quite good. If they had served us large-sized prawns (for which I don't mind paying for), it would have been perfect. The soup and eggs were not bad too. We cleared all the dishes, no leftovers.

Steamed Siakap, Teochew-style

Black pepper prawns

The whole meal for four cost me RM67 only. How's that for value for money.

I was told that Sally's Place began operating only recently, about 3 or 4 months ago. I hope they can maintain their taste and I wish them continued success. The restaurant is located about two kilometres from the centre of Mersing town, north after the bridge on the road to Endau. They are open during dinner time only.

I went to the place again the next day to take a photo of the house from the outside. Opposite the house is a tranquil beach facing the North China Sea.

If you happen to be spending a night in Mersing, do drop by Sally's Place for a lovely dinner of Chinese Muslim cuisine.

Old Malay kampung house converted into a restaurant

Mersing Kanan beach with a view of Pulau Setindan

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Malaysians do not love their rivers

Earlier today, I did a survey of Sungai Tebrau, one of the main rivers in the district of Johor Bahru. Despite the numerous campaigns by the government for us to love our rivers, huge amount of rubbish is still dumped into them. The City Council launched a gotong-royong effort to clean up and beautify this river on 10 May this year. Five months down the road, we are back to our old habits.

Seems that many among us still have the so-called third world mentality.

Waterway full of garbage

Floating rubbish on its way to the sea

Downstream view at the fisherman's jetty near Kg. Bakar Batu

At the Jalan Tebrau (Route 3) Bridge

Upstream view next to Pasar Borong Pandan

KTM railway bridge at the upper reaches of the river

Under Permas Jaya Bridge near the river mouth

Majlis Bandaraya Johor Bahru Tebrau River Cleanup Programme. More pics and news of this event can be seen at MBJB's website.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

A rose by any other name

This morning, Capt. Yusof Ahmad posted an interesting story in his blog, The Ancient Mariner, about the Vietnamese refugee ship Hai Hong that arrived in Malaysia in 1978. I was in secondary school back then and remember this incident vaguely. I commented in the Captain's blog that his post reminded me of an old school friend because she had the nickname of Hai Hong.

But before I reveal who actually Hai Hong was, I would just like to recap a reply that I made some time back to Jabishah, a regular commenter in this blog. Jabishah remarked that she feels uncomfortable calling me Oldstock. I replied that she need not worry about calling me by that name because it was coined by friends a long time ago when I was at boarding school in MRSM Kuantan.

For those of you who have spent time in boarding school, I'm sure you have come across friends who have weird, interesting and amusing nicknames. Perhaps, like me, you have one yourself. To an outsider, some of these nicknames may appear demeaning but if you do not take offense or feel slighted, then such names are just part of a growing-up phase. No doubt, some people get stuck with their nicknames right up till adulthood.

There were so many interesting nicknames when I was in school, and this was not limited to boys only. Even the girls have nicknames that are known throughout the school. The reason for most nicknames are easily understood because they usually refer to physical appearance. Rosli Mamak, for instance, had a dark complexion. Norazharuddin Jepun could pass off as a Japanese without much problem. Bakar Buta is not really blind but he has eyes that are open as very thin slits. Raihan Buncit was slightly rounded around the waistline.

There were however, some guys whose nicknames really defy explanation. I have friends who are called Nyamuk, Konteng, Bull, Monggol, Batak and Mat Bunian. I had female schoolmates who were called Cone and Sergeant. There was this story about one of the Biology teachers who overheard the boys calling a friend by the name of Badang, a character in Malay folklore that gained superhuman strength after eating the vomit of a jinn. The teacher asked who the owner of this nickname was, and when Badang identified himself, she let out a gasp in disbelief. You see, Badang was actually a thin and spindly guy... not the tough chap that she first assumed. I was told the whole class had a good laugh and Badang did not feel the least offended.

Back then, one of the activity that the Freshie Week Committee conducted was a `know your seniors' game. The task involved all Form 1 newcomers to identify some seniors based on a list that had two columns of forty or so nicknames, one each for male and female. It's not enough for the freshies just to write the seniors real name, they had to get their signatures as well. Some seniors purposely made it difficult by not owning up or simply glaring back at the juniors when asked. Can you imagine a timid 13-year old boy braving himself to approach a senior student to ask, `Abang ni nama Buncit ye?'. Buncit could have glared back and the freshie would probably shed tears... luckily for them Buncit is a kind-hearted soul. Once the owner of a nickname is identified, you could see a crowd of the freshies gathering around the senior asking for his or her signature, not unlike a superstar signing autographs for his/her fans.

And now back to story of a former classmate who was called Hai Hong. I really don't know how she got that name and neither had I the opportunity to ask. I attach below, an extract of the note she wrote in my autograph book, the evening after we had sat for our Geography paper during the MCE exams of 1979. That was almost 30 years ago...

To the lovely Norhayati Shaharuddin from Gopeng Perak, may you and your family be in the best of health, wherever you are. Thanks Hai Hong, for being a friend.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Do we get to pick our Prime Minister?

Regular readers of this blog would have noticed by now that I very, very seldom post about socio-political issues. But the announcement by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday that he would not be defending his President's post in UMNO prompted me to share my views about the selection of the no.1 leader of our country.

Earlier in the week, I had commented in Nuraina A. Samad's blog under the post `UMNO's Amazing Race', that I hoped to see AAB actually defend his post and that he gets the requisite nominations to do so. Now that this is no longer happening, we are informed that Najib Tun Razak would be handed the PM's post come March next year. But this would be possible only if Najib wins the UMNO presidency...

And that brings us to the question that is the title of my post for today. Who actually decides who gets to become the Prime Minister of our country? Unlike the citizens of USA who can choose who they want as their President (Obama or McCain), the choice of PM of Malaysia is not that direct.

As it stands now, a politician in Malaysia can get to become the Prime Minister if he is (a) a Member of Parliament, and (b) if he is the leader of the dominant party in the ruling coalition i.e. UMNO. Well, the constitutional experts among you will say that this is not correct because the PM is appointed by the Yang Dipertuan Agong who shall select a member of the house who he thinks commands the confidence of the majority of the members. Yeah, right... but as long as UMNO MPs are the majority in Parliament, tradition dictates that the PM post will always belong to the President of UMNO. I very much doubt that Tuanku Mizan would rule otherwise, despite whatever aspiration Anwar Ibrahim might have in wooing some ruling MPs to cross-over.

The reality is that the choice of our PM will be decided by a handful of delegates in the next UMNO general assembly. Najib has already declared that he is offering himself as a candidate for the top post. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah had long ago announced that he will contest. As for Muhyiddin Yassin, we all wait to see if he's going for the no.1 spot or settle for no.2 (and with that, be seen as Najib's running mate).

To some of us, this is not the ideal situation... but like it or not, unless you are a member of UMNO, you have no say. If you do have friends or family who are members of UMNO, perhaps the best that you can do is to let them know who you think should be elected as president from amongst the aspiring candidates. But do that only if you feel strongly about it... because most UMNO members that I know from among my friends and relatives, have already made up their minds.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Some people really can't wait

If you were on the road during the last few days or so during the Aidilfitri holidays, it is most likely that you were caught in a traffic jam somehow, somewhere.

On the second day of hari raya, we traveled from Johor Bahru to Mersing, on the old Federal Route 3. We got stuck in a horrendous jam near Taman Saujana up to the junction of Kulai road, before Kota Tinggi town. It took us 45 minutes to move a distance of about 3.5 km. The design of the road junction at Taman Saujana also didn't help because two lanes from the secondary road merged with the single lane on the trunk road. Add to this, many drivers also used the road shoulder as an additional lane.... so you have four lanes of traffic squeezing into one. Classic bottleneck.

I simply can't understand why people overtake on the left using the road shoulder. Why can't these people have the patience to wait in line like the rest of us? There are even some drivers who `curi jalan' on the road shoulder of the other side and drive contra to the flow! Crazy jerks.

Whenever I see reckless people like these, I would remark to my kids, `Tengok tu. Dah tak tahan sangat nak buang air agaknya...' Except that the actual word I used for `buang air' is too crude to be printed.

After dishonest people, queue-jumpers are perhaps the type of people that I hate most.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Of seeking forgiveness and renewing ties

The beauty of Eid-ul Fitri celebrations is that it allows you to visit elder relatives during a specific period. Otherwise, for whatever reason, most of us would find it difficult or even awkward to visit our grandparents, aunts or uncles if we do not have any specific reason to do so.

Aidilfitri gives us the opportunity to meet up, catch up the latest stories and renew ties. The food, cookies and refreshments are just an aside to the main objective of the occasion. At the end of the visit, we salam and kiss the hands our elders while asking them to forgive us for any transgressions that we may have done. The seeking of forgiveness from your senior relatives can be very poignant moments, accompanied almost always by hugs and tears... especially when your elder says, `Entah jumpa lagi tak kita ni tahun depan, ya?'.

My Aidilfitri for this year was spent with my parents in Singapore but the celebrations were held my sister's house in Bukit Panjang. My sister had actually moved into her house some time back but she only managed to furnish it recently. She had asked our parents and my family to spend the Hari Raya at her home for the first time and we duly obliged. Sort of a house-warming and hari raya two-in-one deal.

The morning feast for Hari Raya consisted of our traditional lontong accompanied by sambal goreng, sambal kacang, ayam masak merah, daging goreng chili and serunding kelapa. We had to make do with the instant nasi himpit because my sister didn't have time to get the real coconut leaves to make ketupat.

The day was filled with visits by my cousins from both sides of the Causeway. Some of the cousins I have not met for a number of years. I got to meet some new nephews and nieces for the first time too.

Many of the visiting relatives complimented my sister and her husband on their beautiful home. They had spend a lot of time in getting their house nicely decorated so the compliments were very encouraging. It was a joyous day indeed.

The following days of hari raya were spent back at my wife's kampong in Mersing. I'll post about it next, I hope. Need to take some rest now and prepare to get back to work tomorrow.