Friday, 27 February 2009

Dinner duty

The wife has been a bit under the weather for the past two days and so tonight, I took the opportunity to revive my cooking skills.

I had my son cook the rice and also make some scrambled eggs. I decided to try out the sambal ikan bilis belimbing buluh recipe that I included in the previous post. Our belimbing tree is still sprouting bunches of fruits and I picked some fresh ones to be used in this dish.

Since it was the first time of trying, I wasn't sure what to expect. As all good cooks know, the method mentioned in any recipe is generally just a guide. It takes a fair bit of judgement and personal experience to decide on just when and how much a particular ingredient is to be added. For example, the phrase `... goreng hingga kekuningan' can be quite ambiguous to a novice. To what degree of `kuning' shall the paste be fried to?

Anyway, I could not follow the recipe exactly because I did not have shallots (substituted with plain bawang besar) and bird's eye chillies (replaced with plain cili hijau). Although I used a bit of soy sauce, the sambal did not quite turn out totally black (is it supposed to be?). It was more of a deep dark brown colour. I suspect it would've turned darker if I continued to fry it until `garing', as spelt out in the recipe. But rather than risk it being overcooked, I stopped the frying just as when I thought it tasted about right.

So exactly how did my sambal hitam taste? Not as good as the ones my Pahang-based readers have mentioned, I'm sure, but boleh la... as a first attempt. According to my wife and sons, not too bad. The sambal has a nice tangy taste of the asam belimbing while maintaining the flavour of the ikan bilis.

With a bit more practice, I believe I can improve on the taste. I'm sure using shallots instead of large onions makes a big difference. The quality of the ikan bilis itself is quite important too. In the hands of a master cook, this dish is guaranteed mouth-watering. It goes down well with plain white rice. I reckon it would also go well with ubi rebus.

While I was at it, I also cooked another version of ikan bilis goreng asam... basically as a back-up, just in case the sambal hitam attempt resulted in failure. This recipe is a variation of the one I learnt from my mother. It involves frying the ikan bilis until crisp and then temporarily set aside. Fry some chopped onions, garlic and chopped green chillies until fragrant. Add a dash of oyster sauce and soy sauce plus salt to taste. The original version would then use a bit of air asam jawa (tamarind paste mix). I substituted this with fresh asam belimbing slices. After a few minutes of frying, the ikan bilis is added back into the pan and mixed well with the sauce.

Served with hot plain rice, this dish is simple but delicious. It was a life-saver during the years I struggled as a student overseas. Sorry about the plain-looking picture. Too hungry to wait.

The final dish I prepared was ayam goreng kunyit dengan kacang buncis. This choice was really based on what I could find in the fridge; two pieces of chicken fillet and some french beans. Quick, easy and tasty too.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Belimbing buluh

We have a medium-sized belimbing buluh tree (scientific name : averrhoa bilimbi) growing in the front yard of our house. The tree has been there all these years, presumably planted by the original owners.

At certain times of the year, the tree bears fruits that can be used in Malay cooking. This time round, the fruits seem to have sprouted in abundance... more than I can recall from previous times. Yesterday, I collected enough to fill a small basket and yet there are more than half the tree that was unplucked. A lot of the ripe fruits have already fallen to ground.

The green belimbing buluh fruits are too sour to be eaten directly but they make excellent additions to certain recipes such as any `masak lemak' type of dishes. While searching for the scientific name on the internet, I came across a simple recipe involving belimbing buluh and ikan bilis. I have not tried it yet but being the ikan bilis fan that I am, I'm sure it's going to taste delicious.

The recipe is reproduced below (credit to Nani Z @ :

Sambal Ikan Bilis Goreng Belimbing Buluh
Kiriman : Nani Z
Sumber : Resepi arwah moyang Limah turun temurun

Bahan-Bahan :
Segenggam Ikan bilis sederhana besar
5 ulas bawang merah
2 ulas bawang putih

7 biji cili padi (ikut suka)

Kicap secukupnya

2 sudu belimbing buluh (berwarna coklat / hitam)

Minyak masak untuk menumis

Garam secukup rasa

Cara :
Basuh ikan bilis dan toskan. Kemudian tumbuk sederhana lumat dan asingkan (Bahan A). Tumbuk cili padi, bawang merah, bawang putih dan belimbing buluh hingga lumat (Bahan B).

Panaskan minyak dan masukkan Bahan B serta goreng hingga kekuningan. Kemudian campurkan Bahan A, kicap serta garam. Goreng hingga garing. Angkat dan hidangkan.

Cadangan Hidangan :
Sambal ini dikenali juga sebagai sambal hitam (di tempat kami Kg Gua, Kuala Lipis). Ia boleh dimakan dengan nasi panas, roti canai dan lain-lain sebagai bahan pencecah.

Tambahan :
Buah belimbing buluh direbus dulu hingga hitam keperangan. Dikenali juga sebagai asam belimbing buluh.

Source :

Sunday, 22 February 2009

A grand old man

Earlier this month, I was conferred the title of `datuk'. Our niece, Melati Bt. Razak, safely delivered her second baby girl at the Kota Tinggi District Hospital. Melati and her husband, Hasnul Asyraf, now have two daughters.

Yesterday, my sister-in-law held a thanksgiving ceremony (kenduri doa selamat dan cukur jambul) at their home in Kota Tinggi. My new grand-niece has been named Nurul Aqilah.

16-day old Nurul Aqilah in the arms of her grand-uncle Oldstock

This latest addition to our extended family is actually our tenth grandnephew or grandniece. My wife and I have been called `Tok' for about 8 years now. So you guys need not feel uneasy to call me Oldstock, okay?

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Wrestling with a problem

On my regular road trips from Kuala Lumpur back to Johor Bahru, I would normally stop for a break at the Pagoh Rest & Service Area of the North-South Expressway because this spot is located about halfway. Last Thursday night however, I deviated slightly from the usual when I stopped at the Air Keroh RSA instead. I decided to take an earlier break because I was already feeling hungry.

As I walked from my car to the food stalls, I noticed a group of a dozen or so men, lorry drivers from the look of it, intently watching the overhead television. I couldn't yet see what was on the screen but from the wide-eyed excited looks on their faces, I could easily guess the programme they were watching. It was wrestling.

I have never been a fan of wrestling, at least not the American WWF version anyway. I consider it more of an entertainment show rather than a sport. I do have a friend however, who is a die-hard fan. As I watched the wrestling on TV, I am reminded of this friend who was also a housemate during my early bachelor days.

It was sometime in 1985. I was still in my first year of holding a job after graduating. I was sharing a house with three other friends in the Larkin area of Johor Bahru. When I first moved into the house, there were hardly any furnishings or appliances. We had no television or refridgerator. There wasn't even a gas stove.

Life without a TV was dead boring. As soon as I received my salary the following month, I bought a small 16" television set. The evenings became a bit bearable then. The programmes we watched would be decided on consensus. When there was a tie, I would cast the deciding vote, since I was the owner of the TV set.

The housemate who was a wrestling fan is named Saini. The other two housemates and myself do not like to watch wrestling, hence Saini is always outnumbered. We had fun arguing with him that all the actions in the wrestling match are bluffs or play-acting. He would defend the game in all seriousness. It's real, he would say. Not acting.

Sometimes, on nights that wrestling is on, Saini would rush to finish eating dinner so that he could park himself in front of the TV early, hoping that he would have control of the channels. No such luck. Once the three of us have seated ourselves in front of the telly, the channel would change to our liking. Saini would end up disappointed and frustrated. Although not serious, having an unhappy friend in the house was becoming a problem.

One night, before we took control of the TV channel, Saini pleaded to us to let him watch the wrestling show. He said that his only request was to watch wrestling once a week. For the other nights of the week, he would gladly agree to watch whatever we decide to watch. Hearing him appeal so passionately, we decided to give in. And so from then on, one hour of Tuesday evenings would be reserved for a friend who wants to watch burly men grappling with themselves in a square ring. If that's what it takes to keep my friend happy for the rest of the week, then so be it.

I learned a valuable lesson from that episode. Sometimes, enforcing majority rule or exercising veto power is not necessarily a good decision to make. Making a small concession could sometimes yield long term gain.

Footnote : In this year's Oscars, Mickey Rourke is a Best Actor nominee for his role in The Wrestler.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The heart of the matter

The human heart is an amazing yet mysterious organ. It is about the size of a clenched fist and weighs less than half a kilogram. Yet it beats continuously without rest and can create enough pressure to squirt blood to a distance of up to 10 metres. In one year it beats about 35 million times. But what makes it start ticking at the embryonic stage is still a mystery.

On Sunday, the nation was informed of the news that the father of singer Siti Nurhaliza has passed away after undergoing heart surgery. Tarudin Ismail had collapsed at his home in Kuala Lipis and was brought to Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital where bypass surgery was performed. My condolonces to Siti Nurhaliza and her family on this tragic loss.

I first caught hold of the news on TV that night. The images of Siti and her family at the hospital reminded me of another traumatic event I experienced at that very same hospital four years ago. It involved a very close friend who also suffered a heart attack.

When I was based in KL a few years ago, I was part of our company's Tender & Contracts Department. Our task was to prepare tender and bid proposals for various projects. It was quite a tough job and working late into the night was a norm. We were a small team, only three of us : myself and two colleagues named Hasnul and Shaifudin. Although the job was tedious, we enjoyed what we do because each of us specializes in a certain area and we complement each other very well. Hasnul is the longest serving employee, having been there when the boss first started the firm. His dedication to his work is second to none and that is why I enjoy working with him.

We often work late together, going home well after midnight. On days before tender submission, it is not unusual for us to spend the night at the office.

On one particular evening we were having our dinner at the mamak restaurant at the ground floor of our office. I told Hasnul that I was tired and would be going home a bit earlier than usual. Hasnul told me that he would be staying back for a while longer to work on a tender proposal for a land reclamation project. After dinner, we returned back to our office. I went to my room to tidy up my desk and before leaving, I popped over to Hasnul's room to say goodnight. He was already concentrating hard in front of his laptop and probably smoking his third or fourth cigarette since the dinner break. Hasnul is the heaviest smoker among all my friends. Two packs of Dunhill a day is standard. I asked him how much longer will he be. Another couple of hours, he said.

As I wished him goodnight, it was already past 10pm.

Although I was very tired, I didn't sleep very well that night. When I woke up at daybreak, there was already a message on my mobile. It was from another colleague named Wan Lutfi. The message was brief but serious : Hasnul di ICU Ampang Puteri. Heart attack.

I quickly got dressed and sped off to Ampang Puteri. I reached the hospital in 15 minutes to find Lutfi standing just outside the hospital compound, enjoying a morning puff. He told me that Hasnul called him at home at around 2.30 am, complaining of chest pains. Lutfi, who stays at Gombak, rushed to the office at Setiawangsa and found our friend still conscious. He drove Hasnul to Ampang Puteri's emergency ward at breakneck speed.

After being briefed with a few more details I requested Lutfi to go home, shower up and then arrange to bring Hasnul's family to the hospital. Hasnul was already in intensive care and unconscious. I proceeded to the hospital's admissions office to take care of the administrative details. Around 11 am, I managed to speak to Dr. Ahmad, the consultant cardiologist. He told me that Hasnul's heart had stopped just as Lutfi managed to bring him into the emergency ward. They had to use the defibrillator to zap his heart a few times and get it pumping again. If Lutfi had been a few minutes late, my goodnight wish to Hasnul the previous night would have been the last words I spoke to him.

Dr. Ahmad informed me that he has put Hasnul on medication and hope that my friend's condition would stabilize before advising on the next step. I then returned to our office to update management on the situation and planned to come back later in the evening. At around 5pm, I received news that Hasnul's condition had taken a turn for the worse and the doctor advised for bypass surgery.

I rushed back to Ampang Puteri just in time to see my friend being wheeled into the operation theatre. Hasnul's wife, although visibly sad, kept her emotions in check but her children can be seen sobbing quitely. There was nothing much I could do except to console them of their anxiety.

The operation was carried out to bypass four blocked coronary arteries. The replacement blood vessels were taken from the patient's lower leg.

The next day, I visited my friend again but he was still under heavy sedation. It was only on the following day that he has recovered sufficiently for me to sit at his bedside. The sight of all those tubes and wires attached to him was a bit depressing. He was conscious of me sitting by his bed and made the effort to say a few words. I told him to take it easy and not to speak if it was causing him pain. I then relayed back to him the story that he had joked with me a few weeks earlier.

Actually, I had been a bit unwell myself a few weeks before. I was absent from the office for a number of days and only left a message with my secretary that I was resting at home. I did not return any phone calls or messages and this gave the impression that my illness was quite serious. I was away for an unusually long time, causing some colleagues to speculate that I was hospitalised. When I finally turned back up for work, my friends were relieved to see me. At that point, Hasnul mentioned that he had wanted to visit me but didn't know which hospital I was in. He was afraid that he might be too late and joked that the visit he would be making was to my house to recite the Surah Yassin (verses from the Holy Quran), meaning at my funeral. We all had a good laugh at that time, not knowing that the remark made in jest can turn out to be dead serious.

As I related the event back to Hasnul, I couldn't hold back my tears. I held his left hand firmly with both of mine as I cried. If Hasnul had collapsed all alone that night at the office or if he had failed to make that phone call to Lutfi or if Lutfi had delayed in rushing him to the hospital, then my friend would have been gone forever. And it would have been me who would be at his house to recite the Surah Yassin.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Unsolicited text messages

Over the past few months, I have been receiving unsolicited text messages on my mobile phone. These messages invite you to subscribe to the latest updates in phone-based services such as ringtones, wallpapers and mms videos. They are becoming a bloody nuisance.

What really pisses me off are those messages that tempt you to access vulgar content. The following is one such sms I received yesterday :

Jikalau anda boleh tahan nikmat video aksi hebatku, sila tulis ON Gal dan htr ke 32xxx. Lebih 100 koleksi video clip hebat menunggu anda! Pdftrn FREE.

The message came from a 013 mobile number. I placed a call to that number but there was a continuous ringing tone until the voice mailbox was reached. Nobody picked up. I placed a terse message of my own in the mailbox. Damn you creeps.

What sort of people do this kind of work, I wonder? How did they get my mobile number? Are these the same sort of people in those get-rich-quick schemes that use mass mailing systems?

I called my telco to complain but they could only offer advice on how to block the incoming mobile numbers. But these creeps use different numbers for different messages, I cannot be doing the blocking procedure everytime.

For those readers out there who have received similar unsolicited text messages, do NOT be fooled by the free registration blurb. The moment you subscribe, they will charge you a weekly fee which would be automatically charged to your phone bill or automatically deducted from your prepaid credit, whether you actually download their services or not. In my mind, that's a real sleazy trick.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Motorcyclists who value their life so cheaply

Last Sunday I read a news report in Berita Harian about a fatal accident involving a motorcycle and a lorry at Felda Bukit Aping Timur in Kota Tinggi, Johor. The motorcyclist, a 14-year old boy named Muhamad Azhari Hazrin was killed on his way to badminton practice at school.

Part of the newspaper report is reproduced below :

Pelajar maut nahas jalan raya

KOTA TINGGI: Kegembiraan seorang pelajar kerana terpilih mengikuti latihan sukan badminton bagi mewakili sekolahnya, berakhir dengan tragedi apabila terbabit dalam kemalangan di Kilometer 36, Jalan Lok Heng - Mawai, dekat sini, pagi semalam.

Muhamad Azhari Hazrin, 14, dari Blok 10, Felda Bukit Aping Timur, dikatakan dalam perjalanan ke sekolah dengan menunggang motosikal bagi mengikuti latihan sukan badminton di sekolahnya di Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Sri Aman, Felda Bukit Aping Barat, di sini.

Bagaimanapun, dalam kejadian kira-kira jam 8 pagi itu, mangsa yang menunggang motosikal sendirian dilanggar sebuah lori yang datang dari arah Mawai sebaik keluar simpang berhampiran Felda Bukit Aping Timur menyebabkan mangsa yang cedera parah meninggal dunia sebaik tiba di Hospital Kota Tinggi (HKT), di sini.

Ibunya, Aviah Mustafa, 37, berkata beliau tidak menyangka kegembiraan yang jelas terpancar di wajah anaknya sejak kelmarin berakhir dengan kemalangan.

The full article can be read at Berita Harian Online -> here.

The report included some comments from the victim's mother. But what it failed to question was how a 14-year old kid can be riding a motorbike on public roads when the legal age of owning a motorbike license is 16-years old. It would have been advantageous if the newspaper had highlighted this fact so that some parents can realise the risk that they take in allowing their underaged children to ride motocycles.

As it is, the mother has lost her only child needlessly. No amount of crying or regret is going to bring the child back. The parent is to blame as much as the son.

There are many such irresponsible parents up and down the country. They do not think twice in letting their young children ride motorcycles without license, insurance cover and even without wearing crash helmets.

My house is within a kampung area of Johor Bahru city and everyday I see so many kids riding bikes without wearing helmets. A few months back, I witnessed two teenage girls whose motorbike crashed into a car. They were not wearing helmets and I dare to presume that the rider does not have a license too. They flout the law simply because the act is seemed to be acceptable. They believe that since so many people are doing it, so why can't they. Such attitude is part of what's holding back Malaysia in the so-called `Third World' mentality.

I have many other gripes against motorcyclists. I know it is not appropriate to generalise but I have seen too many of such lax attitude to conclude that many motorcyclists value their life so cheaply. The following are some examples of such risky behaviour :

1. Crossing the red traffic lights just because there are no vehicles coming from the other side.
2. Using the edge of the road or sometimes the pedestrian footpath to ride against traffic flow.
3. Mothers riding pillion while carrying babies in their arms. In some cases, you can see one toddler squeezed between two adults. In extreme cases, there is an additional child riding in the front basket! More often than not, the adults wear crash helmets but the kids are helmetless.
4. Riding at night without tailights. Worse still, some ride on without headlights as well!

Tell me you have not seen some, if not all, of the examples I have mentioned above. And we all also know of this unique Malaysian phenomenon called `Mat Rempit'.

Our government has spent so much on Road Safety campaigns but fatal accident statistics continue to rise. Today's The Star Online reported on one such campaign -> here. Maybe it is time for the authorities to change their approach. The soft coaxing style does not seem to be working. Strict enforcement is probably the way to do it. Otherwise, the `tidak apa' attitude will continue to adopted till eternity.

One day, there will be a newspaper headline which tells of a gruesome motorcycle accident that killed two adults, a toddler and a baby. Perhaps then, our society will take this matter seriously.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

No silver lining in the dark clouds over Perak

For a state that is named after `silver', there is certainly no silver lining in the dark clouds hovering over the political landscape in Perak. Well... not for the Pakatan Rakyat anyway. The PR state government in Perak has not managed to reach its first anniversary before being done in by their own people.

The whole turmoil is not over yet but perhaps, for a start, the lesson that the PR government can learn from this sordid episode is : `What you can do to me, I can do onto to you, three times over!'. In their excitement of getting a BN assemblyman to (temporarily) switch camps, they forgot to watch over their own backyard and let three of their own frogs to escape.

To me, these types of politicians are the worst. They are spineless, without principles and betray the trust of the citizens who voted them into office. If you want to switch parties or go independent, then you should resign, stand for re-election and let your constituents decide whether you are worth your spit.

Ok.... enough on policitics. The recent happenings in Perak has got me into a recall mode for any interesting stories that I have experienced relating to the state. Unfortunately, I don't think I can remember any. I have a few friends from Ipoh and some distant relatives living in other districts of Perak but I have not spent any significant time in the state to recall any event worth writing about.

I do however, remember the first time I traveled to Perak. It was around the late 1980's and I was accompanying a friend who was getting married to a girl from Pantai Remis. At that time, I've never even heard of Pantai Remis, apparently a small town in the district of Lumut. The groom, whose name is Mohd Tahir, was a very close colleague working in the same department at my first place of employment. I was into the second year of my job, still a bachelor and was already driving a car. Hence, I was much relied upon to be part of the `rombongan pengantin lelaki', the bridegroom's entourage, so to speak. It was my first participation in a friend's wedding and later on over the years, I continued to accompany many other friends who got married to their sweethearts from all over Johor and other states as well.

Tahir hails from a kampung in Parit Sulong, somewhere in the district of Batu Pahat in Johor. The day before the wedding, I drove up from Johor Bahru to his house with three other colleagues in tow. The plan was for us to gather in Parit Sulong and set-off for Perak after maghrib prayers. We would travel throughout the night and hopefully arrive at the bride's home by daybreak. The nikah ceremony was scheduled in the afternoon, after zohor prayers.

When I first heard of the plan, I thought we were cutting it a bit close. We were traveling in a large group that included senior citizens and children, over a very long distance. The only completed section of the North-South Expressway at that time was the Air Keroh-Kuala Lumpur stretch. From KL onwards, we had to rely on the old roads. Add to this, only the groom knew the way to Pantai Remis. The furthest I had traveled out of Johor at that time was up to Kuala Lumpur. If anything were to happen along the way, it would've caused a delay to the wedding ceremony.

It would have been more comfortable if the groom's entourage could arrive one day earlier but you must remember that the situation was a bit different those days. We were not that well-to-do. The groom had to hire a van to transport his family. The few cars that came along were courtesy of relatives and close friends. An extra day would have meant additional hotel expenses or, at the very least, another day imposed on the bride's family for temporary accomodation. And so it was that night... a convoy of cars and van departed from Parit Sulong in Johor heading towards Pantai Remis in Perak.

I cannot actually recall how many cars were in the convoy that night. Exact details of the route has also now escaped my memory. What I do remember was that I was assigned the tail position. Being the youngest (and presumably the fittest) driver and driving the newest car, it was thought that I should be the last vehicle so that if anything were to happen to those other cars in-between, I would be able to spot them. The groom was in the lead car driven by his brother.

Driving at night is never easy. It did not help that the other three guys in my car couldn't drive. Two of them only had motorbike licenses while the third friend was still taking his driving lessons. While the other cars could switch drivers when we took rest stops, I was the sole driver at the tail of the convoy for the whole of the journey. I'm shaking my head now... thinking of how I actually managed to do it.

It was tough. I particularly remember the struggle I went through trying to keep my eyes open while driving the Tanjung Malim to Slim River stretch of the old Federal Route 1. This stretch had been upgraded and was one of the earlier tolled sections that was handed over to PLUS as part of the highway concession. The road surface was good and the route was fairly straight at most parts. This meant that the driving became monotonous and therefore did not help in keeping a lonely driver awake. My three passengers were already far away in dreamland. I actually dozed off at the wheel a few times... those micro-seconds of shut-eye before being jolted awake when the car crept onto the road shoulder. Scary...

I contemplated on stopping on the roadside for a quick snooze but being the last car, I was afraid of falling too far behind and then losing the trail altogether. Then, I'd be lost in the unknowns of Perak, for sure. No mobile phones those days to call and check where you are.

By the grace of Allah, I managed to somehow reach our next scheduled rest stop somewhere in Ipoh. A glass of Nescafe and a cold headwash brought me back to life. The whole convoy proceeded to Pantai Remis and we safely reached the bride's home at around daybreak. The whole journey, inclusive of rest stops, took about 10 hours.

The groom's entourage was provided with a house, presumably belonging to a relative of the bride, as a place to rest; what we call `rumah bersanggah' in Malay. While the groom's family were busy preparing themselves for the nikah ceremony to come, I managed to steal a few hours of much-needed sleep.

The nikah ceremony went smoothly and my friend Tahir left bachelor life for good. A few years later, Tahir repaid the deed by being there for my own wedding ceremony. As years passed, I left my original place of employment to work elsewhere. Tahir remained loyal to the organisation to this day. At one point, we lost touch of each other while I traveled the many places throughout my career path. But our friendship was renewed two years ago when I was posted back to my hometown of Johor Bahru. And by a twist of fate, Tahir's eldest daughter has enrolled into the same Middle East university as my eldest son.

From that very first night journey to Perak all those years ago, I continue to make many more drives all over Peninsular Malaysia. Most of these are after dark. I am and have been most comfortable driving long distances at night.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Distant but close relatives

The title of today's post seems a bit like a paradox, but that's exactly how I can describe some relatives of mine who live in Sabak Bernam, Selangor.

Last Saturday, I attended the wedding reception of my third cousin at Kampung Sungai Air Tawar in Sabak Bernam. Since I was already in KL to help my brother-in-law move house (see earlier post), it was just a couple hours drive to get to the wedding. It was an extreme of sorts from my BIL's place to the groom's house. From the swanky condo at Bukit Jalil to a simple wooden kampung house whose planks show obvious signs of age. Although they are not well-to-do, the groom's family received us with their customary warmth and kindness.

I consider the relationship between the groom and myself as distant because we are third cousins (in Malay we call it tiga pupu). My father and the groom's mother are second cousins because my father's birth mother is a cousin of the groom's mother's father. I hope I have not confused my readers by that description. Anyway, apart from the distant family ties, the physical distance between our homes also meant that we seldom get to meet. This however, does not mean that we are not close. Whenever there is a reason such as this (a wedding invitation), I make the effort to travel up to meet them.

Our arrival was greeted with warm hugs all around. Throughout the reception I can hear fair-skinned ladies talking excitedly in thick but familiar Banjar accent. The Banjarese are a minority Malay sub-ethnic group who originally hail from the Kalimantan region of Indonesia. In Malaysia, large groups of Banjar people can be found residing in Sungai Besar, Sabak Bernam and in the southern districts of Perak. In Johor state, the Banjarese are concentrated in Batu Pahat and Mersing.

My grandparents, both on my mother's and father's side are pure Banjar. Unfortunately, I cannot speak the language although I can understand it well enough. My childhood friends are from a mixed bag of races... Malay (mostly from Javanese and Bawean descent), Chinese (from the Hokkien and Teochew dialects), Tamils and even Eurasians. We converse in Malay and English. While growing up, my mother sometimes speaks to me in the Banjar language but I only reply to her in Malay. Those days, I didn't know anybody else who are from the Banjar sub-ethnic group.

In Sabak Bernam, I can hear the language spoken in its almost pure form. Some of the newly-introduced relatives started to talk to me in Banjar but I could only politely reply in Malay. Luckily, I knew enough of the language to understand what they were saying.

My wife always reminds me that it is a pity I'm losing part of my heritage by not being able to speak my grandparent's language. Well... what to do? I can try to re-learn the language but I don't think it will help much. It is more important for me to strengthen family ties with my distant relatives, no matter how far they may be.

The above pic is the new Ma'muniah Mosque at Simpang 5, Sungai Besar, Selangor. We stopped at this mosque on our way back from Sabak Bernam to Johor Bahru.