Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Tribute To Our Nation

I met my old friend and former colleague Zainul Arifin recently. He told me that the New Straits Times was publishing a book on Malaysia's road to nationhood, charting the years from 1941 to 1966.

I told him to tell me when it was on sale so that I'd go get a copy.

"Road To Nationhood, Malaysia 1941-1966" is already on sale and I got a copy.
It is a 247-page hard cover book that unravels our country's past from 1941-1966 through photographs and news stories that made the front pages during those years.

I found myself going on an intriguing journey through Malaysia's past -- with every flip of the page tugging at my heartstrings.
Is it my fascination with old black-and-white photos and news articles that depict our history?

You literally see history unfolding and evolving before your eyes. In fact, I told Zainul that it was like watching a documentary, with a lot of drama thrown in. Priceless.

"Road to Nationhood, Malaysia 1941 -1966" is a history book that is not your regular boring history book.
A great way to learn history, I assure you. Let your kids read it.

Why 1941 to 1966?

"Well, these are the crucial formative years -- through the war, the British and Japanese occupation and the road towards achieving independence, the formation of Malaysia and the separation of Singapore from Malaysia," he told me.

In his foreward, "History As It Was Told", Zainul wrote:
"As a chronicler of events, the newspaper undoubtedly flawed. Then again, once in a while, all those published reports seem to come together -- and tell a single, engaging story. Such is the case with news on Malaysia in 1941-1966, which combined to offer a view of the period that is unfiltered and unadulterated. It was arguably the most significant quarter-century in the country's history. In publishing reports and images of the trials and tribulations of nationhood, this book attempts to give readers a sense of what it was like for the people then -- not least, the drama, emotions and atmosphere related to the birth of a nation".

The cover is a photo of a jubilant Tunku Abdul Rahman arriving at the Selangor Club padang in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 30, 1957.
We all know the significance of this event. It was here that the Union Jack was lowered at the stroke of midnight and Malayan flag raised to mark the birth of a sovereign independent nation.
Anybody and everybody who was there and witnessed the event will tell you just how touching and emotional that moment was.
I was not there but I could always feel the stirring in my heart everytime it was related to me.

The inside cover is a photo spread of the Tunku (taken on Oct 11, 1956) posing beside his new Imperial Chrsyler.
On the back jacket cover is a photo taken on Sept 16 1963, of pupils of the Perak Chinese secondary girls performing at the Malaysia Day celebrations at the Ipoh Padang in Perak.

The book is divided into six chapters, following the progressive sequence of events: Japanese Occupation; From British Military Administration To Federation of Malaya; The Emergency Years; Road To Merdeka; Formation of Malaysia; Epilogue.

There are 203 black and white photographs in the book with the reproductions of 86 front pages of Straits Times and The Malay Mail.

The book is available at MPH, Times and Borders at RM130. It is published by the NSTP Resource Centre and sponsored by Tenaga Nasional.
It was published in conjunction with the third "Road To Nationhood" exhibition that is currently being held at the lobby of the Bangsar Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

The exhibition, in celebration of Merdeka Day, is being organised by NSTP. It ends Sept 9.

Try not to miss it. It is an incredible feeling of nostalgia when I see faces and events of the past. The glory of Malaysia's past and history. The glory of this country!

Thank you, Zainul for bringing us the book and the exhibition. Syabas and Kudos to your faithful team. I know that you played a very very large part in making it happen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Being Bapak - August 28 2007

When I was younger, maybe in my early 20s, just after Bapak was released from detention, I told myself if I were to get married, I'd want a husband just like Bapak.
Of course, if it were possible - minus his talent to spew profanities.

We saw a lot of Bapak after his release in 1981 as he was home most times before he was recalled to the New Straits Times.
We saw him do a lot of domestic chores. One that struck me was seeing him get hot water ready every morning for Nina and Lalin who were still in school -- Lalin was in Form 2 and Nina, in standard 5.

Then, we did not have hot water in our bathrooms. I suppose it was not a necessity and hot water facilities did not come with old houses.
Strange, but I don' quite remember showers being very very cold.

Bapak was the first one up and about.
I remember Bapak carrying a pail of hot water up the stairs to our bathroom. He poured some cold water into the pail of hot water.

Oh...I just felt so touched.
He saw the look on my face. A grin, a smile and a remark -- "Kesian Lalin dengan Nina. Sejuk pagi-pagi."
He'd do that every morning until we installed hot water in the bathrooms.

I also caught Bapak do his laundry. Ok...just the washing.
He would put all his used clothings in a pail next to the washing machine. But he would usually soak them in soapy water and then wash them himself.

That day I watched Bapak bring his used clothings down to the laundry area and put them in a pail. He filled it with water and spinkle some washing detergent. He left it there and went to the kitchen to make a mug of coffee.
I followed him. When I saw that he was making coffee, I told him that I'd make a mug for him.

"That's ok. I'll make it myself," he remarked as he poured hot water into a mug of nescafe with sugar and "Ideal" milk.
Then he went to the dining room to read the papers. I joined him.

A little later, he returned to the laundry area and ......began to wash his soaked clothes.
I asked him why did he not just dump his clothes in the washing machine.

"Let me do it for you," I offered. How could I let my father wash his own clothes?

"That's ok. I'm used to this," he said as he bent over to scrub, soak, rinse and squeeze his clothes.

Something tugged inside me.

Bapak was so used to taking care of himself and his personal items for the past five years that it came so naturally to him.

I believe he enjoyed doing all these chores.
When he was washing his clothes, he was humming a tune. When he was carrying the pail of hot water, he was smiling and grinning.

We were talking about Bapak one day over tea and pisang goreng in the kitchen.
We said that if our (future) husbands were like Bapak....what a picnic we'd all have.
Mak intimated that Bapak was actually a very independent man.
He was not the sort of husband who expected coffeee on the table for him, meals to be cooked for him or the usual domestic demands.
Of course, Mak would have coffee ready for him and cooked his meals. But that was no big deal for Mak. Bapak loved Mak's cooking and Mak was a devoted wife and mother.
But, if it came to the crunch, Bapak could take care of himself and his children.

Although his parents were very protective of him when he was young and as he was growing up, he was thrown into the deepest end to learn about the ways of the world when he began work as a reporter while still a teenager.
His friends were much older than he was and they happily taught him, about...well, life in general.
Oh yes... he grew up very fast. And we were told that he was a very fast learner.

After his release from (ISA) detention, Bapak took to the kitchen with ease and, sometimes, abandon relish.

I was at the NST then.
Bapak's reputation as a cook preceded him. At least among my friends.

One day, my colleague and very dear friend, Fatimah Abu Bakar and another colleague, Harbant Kaur, came over for lunch.

"What's cooking?", Fati asked.
"Nothing spectacular... nasi ayam," I said.

"Your mum masak?" Fati asked.
" dad," I replied.

"Waah.... Pak Samad cooked!" Harbant remarked.
"Yah-lah.... but this is his first nasi ayam attempt. So brace yourselves," I said.

Bapak loved to go through recipes in magazines and newspapers.
If he were tech-savvy today, he'd be surfing the net for all sorts of recipes.

It was not surprising then that Bapak was so enthusiastic about cooking Ramadhan dishes for the family.

That first Ramadhan after his release, he prepared our buka puasa menu.
Mak didn't have a say. Somehow I got the feeling that Mak was very amused by it all.
She was very sporting. There were times she'd tell Bapak that a certain condiment was "kekurangan" in a certain dish.

"Yah kah?," was always Bapak's response.

I remember Bapak would cook all our favourite dishes during Ramadhan - one on each day.
First day was Bamia, the next day Soto Ayam, then Mee Siam, then Laksa Johor, then Mee Rebus, Macaroni Sup, Mee Mydin, Lontong and so on.

Of course, he could not permanently dominate Mak's kitchen. When Bapak returned to the NST, Mak got it back.

It was after Mak died in 1990 that Bapak did most of the cooking. He'd cook meals from old recipes and experimented new ones.
When Hari Raya came, dear dear Bapak would prepare the same dishes that arwah Mak cooked. And they were elaborate dishes.
He would tell the maid the ingredients to be prepared but did not allow the maid to cook.
"Biar aku saja yang masak. Lain hari kau boleh", he'd tell her.
But "lain hari" he'd still be doing the cooking.

So, for Hari Raya, Kak Piah, Kak Ton, Kak Olin and Kak Eda insisted on preparing one main dish so that Bapak would not have to do it alone.

Kak Piah was tasked with making Sayur Lodeh and Serunding Kelapa (to go with Lontong) and Kak Eda' Sambal Tumis Udang was to-die-for. Kak Ton would make Mak's Mee Rebus and Laksa Johor while Kak Olin makes a smashing Bamia and Sambal Goreng.
Azah was the one we'd go to to have the everyday fare of Mak's Assam Pedas, Lauk Pindang Serani, Sotong Masak Hitam (southern style) and Masak Kelo (vegetable soup comprising 'ketola", dried tauhu and glass noodles) and Sambal Tumis Ikan Bilis/Udang/Sotong.

As for me, I learnt to cook very late in life. I think I was the only daughter who enjoyed eating everybody else's cooking but never learnt to cook....until I was overseas.

You see, when we were young, we had our duties whenever our maid balik kampung.
Somehow, the kitchen evaded me. I was tasked with doing the laundry.
So I never had to cook. But when you are student away from home, you are left with no other option but to learn to cook if you do not want to be eating take-aways all the time.

So...I learnt to make Soto Ayam and Taucu Udang/Ikan Masak Lemak from my mum.

Bapak enjoyed cooking. In fact, later when he was ready to remarry, he impressed my (now) step mother with his culinary skills.
I think she was suitably impressed.

It has been quite sometime since Bapak stepped foot in the kitchen.

Age has caught up with Bapak. His diabetes took a toll on him some years ago, rendering him less mobile. Today, he is a little frail.

I stopped looking for a man like my dad a long time ago.
Washing his own clothes? Detention forced Bapak to take care of himself.
Cooking? That was how Bapak passed the time in detention besides his innate passion for cooking.

I got realistic. It was simply asking for too much.

But not so if he can make his own mug of coffee as well as mine the way I like it. Now that's a plus point going for him, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kita, Bangsa Malaysia.....

Three events took place yesterday (Saturday Aug 25) at 66 Lorong Setiabistari 1, Bukit Damansara -- a forum on Bangsa Malaysia initiated by lawyer-blogger Haris Ibrahim of "People's Parliament"; the official opening of Blog House, the headquarters of The National Alliance of Bloggers (All-Blogs); and a Merdeka get-together/dinner during which the Negaraku was sung and the Rukunegara was recited.

Speakers at the forum were former teacher blogger Zorro Unmasked (Bernard Khoo), lawyer-politician Zaid Ibrahim, Rocky, lawyer-blogger Malik Imtiaz and, university lecturer Azmi Sharom and Jayanath Appudurai.
At the event, Pelitar (Penyanyang Legasi dan Inspirasi Tunku Abdul Rahman), was formed.
Pelitar will carry the Bangsa Malaysia aspiration to other parts of the country.
Penang, Ipoh and Johor Bahru were named as the next venues for the Bangsa Malaysia awareness campaign. (Check out for the new blogsite on Pelitar.)

Some 100 people were at 66 Lorong Setiabistari 1 which, by the way, is the location of Blog House, the HQ of All-Blogs.
All-Blogs pro-tem president Ahirudin Attan (Rocky's Bru) officially opened it.
All-Blogs was formed in April to promote blogging and protect bloggers.

The forum started around 5pm. The evening event -- dinner and performances by bloggers, including pantun recital by blogger-turned-politician and All-Blogs pro-tem vice-president Jeff Ooi and Big Dog - ended past midnight.

All-blogs treasurer Tony Yew and exco members Li Tsin, Walski, Rajahram, Galadriel, Husna, and Jun-E Tan were also there.

Politician Tony Pua was there, as were bloggers Marina Mahathir, Nathaniel Tan, Shar101, Shanghai Stephen, What a Lulu, Rikey, A Voice, Pasquale, I am a Malaysian, Desiderata, the Stand-up Philosopher, Ancient Mariner, Sang Kelembai and SK Thew.
We were also in the company of two very young bloggers - Aishah, 11, and Aiman, 12.

Read Aishah's posting on the event here.
Read Rocky's Bru here and Big Dog's here.

What a day! What a night!
Some really great Malaysians there at the gathering. They may be saying very off-line things which really are things you and I are always talking about but which those up there do not want to hear.
One thing we all agree is that racial politics have always been an obstacle to achieving true racial unity where all Malaysians feel belonged in this beloved country of ours.

Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

All That and The Empire of Japan - Aug 21 2007

In 1994, Bapak received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.

There are parts, in a citation for him, that I would like to highlight. I am reminded of stories that he told us of the Japanese occupation.

"Meanwhile, the political balance of power in Asia was changing rapidly.
By July 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army had entered French Indochina (with the acquiescence of French colonial officials) and from there began its conquest of the rest of Southeast Asia.
Britain's colonies fell quickly, as Japan's forces advanced through the region after 7 December 1941. Singapore was thought to have been impregnable, but Britain surrendered it to Japan on 15 February 1942. Suddenly, Singapore had new masters.

As a cub reporter at Utusan Melayu, Samad still lived at home with his family in Kampung Melayu.
The neighborhood lay athwart the route of Japan's advance into the city and fighting raged in the vicinity for three days. Samad's family huddled in trenches during the fighting; their house was damaged.
Soon afterwards, a trusted messenger arrived from Utusan Melayu with an official letter from the Japanese Imperial Army summoning Samad to work.
He was given a white armband with an inscription in Japanese, so that he could walk safely to the office.

As he did so, he saw the dead bodies of British and Indian soldiers and common people strewn about the streets and thousands of British soldiers waiting aimlessly to be processed as prisoners of war.
He witnessed Chinese men, women, and children bound with barbed wire, being led away by Japanese soldiers.
He saw, mounted on Kallang Bridge, the severed heads of Malay youths said to have killed a Japanese soldier.
At the newspaper office, he helped locate the men who could operate the printing presses and assisted in publishing the first public announcements of the Japanese Occupation in Malay: "Be calm. Do not loot or steal. Give your full cooperation to the Empire of Japan."

Samad was prepared to cooperate. He had not suffered personally under the British, he says. He had not even experienced racial discrimination.
His father, as a school headmaster, was an employee of the colonial government and, moreover, Kesatuan Melayu, the organization with which he was affiliated, was not overtly anti-British.

Nevertheless, Samad and his family circle were acutely aware that the British were foreign occupiers-foreign masters.
When the British were driven out in 1942, he remembers thinking, "OK, they're gone and we have got new masters. We'll try our best to survive."

Singapore's prewar newspapers were now reorganized to meet Japanese needs.
In 1943, Utusan Melayu and Warta Melayu were amalgamated into Berita Malai (Malay News) and moved to share offices with the island's new English-language newspaper, Syonam Shimbun, which replaced the prewar Straits Times.

For Samad and the staff of Berita Malai, this meant using modern Linotype machines for the first time and converting from the Arabic to the Roman alphabet.
This dramatic shift brought Singapore's Malay-language press in line with the larger press of the Dutch East Indies, which had long since adopted Roman letters.

The Indies, soon to be Indonesia, was also part of Japan's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and Singapore was ruled as part of a unit that included both Malaya and Sumatra.
This fact drew many Indonesians to the island during the war and quite a few of them found work at Berita Malai-where young Samad found them very good company."

Just a little bit of history as we prepare to celebrate our 50 years of Merdeka. I'm getting all sentimental, reflective and melancholic...

I know I am early but here's to all blog sisters and brothers and peace-loving Malaysians, and oh, also to those cowards and monkeys who find pleasure in calling people cowards and monkeys -- Have a happy Merdeka Day.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bloggers are Cowards!

I suppose the hate campaign against bloggers is going to be relentless. It does not matter what is said about bloggers -- inane, unqualified, baseless or stupid statements -- it is going to be said so that people will be getting the same message. Over and over again.

It does not even matter if the people making the statement sound hopelessly idiotic.
Discredit bloggers any which way you can to bring them down -- that is the name of the game.

Bloggers are now cowards because they don't use local addresses.
Huh? Say what?

That's what Muhammad Muhd Taib said. I aint lying. Unless Bernama misquoted him.
Here's the story:

Umno information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Mohammad Taib has described writers of political blogs, whom he says looked brave in criticising government leaders, as cowards.
"Why I say they are coward? Because they are afraid of using (web) addresses in the country but use overseas addresses to slam our country leaders. Is this the character of a man? This is not a man, this is a 'pondan'.
"How dare they say no one can touch them, no one can drag them to court because no laws can be used to take action on them," he told reporters after a meeting of Umno's information chiefs from the divisions nationwide.
Muhammad was commenting on allegations that Umno leaders were afraid to speak up and face bloggers.

He said Umno leaders were not afraid to response to all allegations contained in the blogs but were sure that despite the replies, the bloggers would not take the side of the government.
Umno Youth vice chief Khairy Jamaluddin who attended the function, said he was not afraid to face and have dialogues with political blog writers if they were ready to face him.
"To most of the allegations, I have responded before this and last year. Most of them are recycled and re-written in different styles.
"I'm not afraid... I'd answered all the allegations but were not posted in the blogs. If their minds and attitude are closed, they cannot accept any of our replies," he said.
He said attacks on individuals were not serious and it was up to the victims to sue but more attention should be given to attacks on institutions especially the government and rulers as well as against religions and races because of the sensitivities involved.
Also present at the meeting, held behind closed doors at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur today (Aug 19), was Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.- Bernama

Oh brother! Whatever will they say next?

Raja Zarith Idris Speaks Out

"One question that has been on my mind for many years now is this: when the Mentri Besar (chief minister) offered my late father a piece of land as a “gift” from the state government, was that an act that could be construed as corrupt, or was he merely showing his respect for his Sultan? Did that “gift” make both the then Mentri Besar and my father corrupt men?" : Raja Zarith Idris in her column "Mind Matters" in the Sunday Star today.

In her column, Raja Zarith whose father was the late Sultan Idris Shah of Perak, was talking about corruption.
She admitted that she had always shied away from writing about corruption simply because she did not feel "qualified enough or clever enough to be able to differentiate between what is corrupt practice and what isn't".
She writes:

"I suppose my hesitance to address the “mine field” of corruption stems from my own ignorance about the subject, as well as my unwillingness to face the fact that my late father may be labelled as corrupt once he had accepted one “gift” too many. When does a gift remain as a gift and is not seen as bribery?

The English saying that “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones” is one that is always on my mind. My conscience silences me when I am part of a conversation where gossip about this or that corrupt government official or this or that politician abound with great details about how they procured their wealth. I confess I am a coward and my fear is that if I were to point fingers at someone and label him as corrupt, someone else could do the same to me and say, “And what about you?”

So, was that piece of land a gift that smacked of corruption?
I'll be direct here and say that no...that was not a corrupt practice. That was a gift. I shall not assume or impute motive in the Menteri Besar by saying that he had an ulterior motive in giving the land. Simply because he was the Menteri Besar, the most powerful elected member of the State executive. He did not need to resort to giving land to the Sultan to curry favour. And the Sultan did not need to get the Menteri Besar to present him with a piece of land. Wasn't he the Ruler of the land?

I must laud Raja Zarith for her forthrightness, candour and courage in raising this issue. It takes a lot to come forward and give a personal take and question one's own father first with regards to an issue as hot as corruption.
I find the princess a very down-to-earth unpretentious and caring person. She is also intelligent and smart.
So, don't believe her when she said she is "not clever". She was just being understated and modest.
Raja Zarith takes her role as the consort of the Tengku Mahkota Johor very seriously and makes frequent visits to the kampung to meet the rakyat.
During the big floods in Johor, well.... forget the publicity-crazy politicians. I know for a fact, that Raja Zarith got down and dirty to help the flood victims and nary a bother for publicity.
I am no royalist. Hardly. But I am not prejudiced or jaundiced in my view of people, royalty or non-royalty. I take them as they are.
Let's put it this way -- if Raja Zarith was an arrogant snooty royal, I wouldn't bother to even mention her.

I know that this princess speaks from her heart.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rapping The Blues

Frankly, I don't know why we're making such a big deal about that boy who's been rapping the NegaraKu.
He's been rapped good and hard. He made a mistake. He's apologised. What more do we want from him?
Oh. I get it. We want him to suffer and suffer.

The boy loves the country. He said so.
Whot? The A-G's looking at his case? Hasn't Gani Patail got more important cases to look at?
I hope he finds that there is no case to prosecute.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said yesterday that the Cabinet has accepted his apology but the law must take its course.

Wee Meng Chee, 24, is a student at a Taiwanese University. he isn't that young.
Let me see.... when I was 24, I was a graduate student at Boston University. I was also very angry with the government for having ISA'ed my father. He was still incarcerated when I was in the US.
Let me see... yeah... I wanted to do a lot of things that would have put me behind bars for the rest of my life but, naaah...
I was angry. Wee Meng is not. I was far more disillusioned with Malaysia than he could ever be. He's just rapping about our country, expressing his innermost feelings.
He may be in breach of some laws of the country. If we go by that, then, I think we cannot stop debating about some people having committed worse crimes, broken many laws in this country and getting away with impunity and immunity.

Sure, I know the authorities can deal Wee Meng the hardest, most cruel blow. Because they can. Because they can.

But, I hope they will not.
I hope common sense will prevail.
That. And a touch of humanity and compassion.

I believe that Wee Meng never knew what hit him. After this, I am sure he'd be more sensitive to some of his fellow Malaysians and know that you just cannot be too careful these days. You might just be breaking a law or two.

Honestly, I was not at all insulted by Wee Meng's antic. He did not show his butt in all its God-given glory with the Jalur Gemilang emblazoned. He did not show his middle finger as he was singing. He did not use any vulgar or obscene lyric.
Hmm, he did not replace the word "Raja" with any insulting "honorific".

Maybe I was just amused because I know this boy did not mean any harm. There was no mala fide. I knew he'd get round to seeing that there will be people who will not be amused. So, Wee Meng, either you don't give a damn or you do.
Obviously, you do.

Maybe I am thick-skinned. It's takes more than Wee Meng's antic to make me feel offended, angry and insulted.

Wee Meng is not a criminal. Nor a rabid militant who is out to topple a democratically-elected government.
So, let's have a closure to this.
We all have had enough,

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Remembering Ramadhan and Syawal of 1976 -- Aug 14 2007

Ramadhan is a huge affair at home with Bapak. Just like in most Muslim households.
It's a whole month of fasting and having meals together as a family when dusk falls and just before the break of dawn.

What I remember most about Ramadhan was "sahur" or the pre-dawn meals. I know some people prefer to skip "sahur' because their sleep is more precious.
But, to this day, I never skip "sahur", if I can help it which means if I don't, for some strange unexplained reason, oversleep.
I know some people cannot have a full meal that early in the morning. A biscuit, a slice of bread of something light would suffice.
Some people would just have a cup of tea, and would go back to bed.
Me? Like the rest of my siblings - though I know one or two of them later in life prefer to have midnight meals and then sleep through sahur until dawn -- I love having a real good meal, plus dessert and a cup of coffee thrown in. And oh yes, a bite of chocolate. Then, the last two things I down are a "kurma" and a glass of water.
Some of my friends think I'm nuts. They'd rather get it all over with and go back to bed.

Bapak has a , er, peculiar way, of waking us up for school in the morning when we were young.
He'd sprinkle water on our faces.
So we learnt to wake up before he did that.
Most times, the person who got sprinkled with water would get up and wake us all up.
The problem was it was usually not as effective as water on our faces so Bapak would be going from one child to another, a "gayung" in one hand, sprinkling each child's face with water.
I remember almost everytime he did that, I'd feel as though I was in the rain. Dreaming that I was in the rain.
Everybody would almost instantaneously wake up when Bapak sprinkled water on their faces.
I'd take a little bit more time and after about 10 seconds of sprinkled water on my face, I'd open my eyes, awakened from wet-in-the-rain dream, and whose face would I see, mischievously grinning at me? Yep, you've guessed it.

And that was how Bapak would wake us up for sahur.

In those early years, the only place we could get Ramadhan fare -- kuih muih and other dishes -- was in Kampung Baru.
Bapak would gather us all at about 4pm (sometime earlier depending on the buka puasa time) and drive to Kampung Baru.
It used to not be crowded but later, perhaps in the 70s, it got to be so congested that we'd be spending more time looking for a place to park our car than for those Ramadhan goodies.
Still, we enjoyed the whole experience of going to and from Kampung Baru. It was always worth the drive.

When I went to college, I missed breaking fast and sahur with my family.
At college, the dining hall did not open for sahur but served midnight meals.
So we'd pack the food and eat it later.
There were times, in the beginning at college, I'd sleep through sahur.
That was when I'd strangely be missing the water-sprinkling-on-the-face ritual.
In those days, during weekends, our house would be full of our cousins who were studying at UiTM as well as our out-of-town college friends. And during Ramadhan on weekends, it was really great.

The first Ramadhan without Bapak was poignant.
We were thinking about what Bapak would be having for buka puasa and sahur.
Who would he be having meals with?
Bapak was not in the detention camp in Kamunting. He was in solitary detention in an undisclosed location somewhere in the Klang Valley.

In a way, it helped that I was in campus and not having to feel the void that Bapak's absence had left.
During weekends, everyone tried to keep Mak and the kids company.
Abang Med would make a point of ensuring that there were the "kuih muih" that Bapak used to buy.
Kak Ton and Kak Piah too would bring some "kuih" or other dishes for "buka puasa".
Still, it was not the same without Bapak that first Ramadhan in 1976.

I love Hari Raya when I was a kid.
In those days, we could play fire crackers. In those days, I got "duit raya".
I love the shopping for clothes and shoes.
Until about 10 years old, we got our dresses at May May which was located along Batu Road (now Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.)
After that, the dresses seemed too kid-ish for us. But there were no decent stores selling clothes for 10 year-olds like me, pre-teens like Kak Eda or young teenagers like Kak Olin.
The only practical option was for our dressses to be sewn.
So we had to buy materials to be made into dresses. Kak Piah and Kak Ton were given the job of sewing our Raya clothes.
When we moved to Section 16 and Kak Piah had already left for Canberra, Australia to join her new husband and Kak Ton entered Universiti Malaya, we had to find a tailor.
We did. -- in nearby Section 17.
She was a very patient lady.

Our first Hari Raya without Bapak was in 1976.
Were we able to see Bapak, we wondered?
Since his detention, arrangements were made for us to visit him. But it had not yet been regularised, although our visits always fell on a Tuesday.

During Ramadhan, we got to see him twice. So we were not sure if we would be able to visit him on Hari Raya.

Would there be humanity and compassion in the powers-that-be to allow us to see Bapak on the first of Syawal?

The only way to find out was to write an appeal letter to the Prime Minister (Hussein Onn).
We did and we CCed to the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) and the Home Affairs Minister (Ghazali Shafie).
I think Mak sent the letter about three weeks before Syawal.

We waited for a response.
Two weeks passed and there was none.
But we never stopped praying and hoping for it.

Would we have to be resigned to the fact that we would not be seeing Bapak for Hari Raya?

Prayers helped to re-inforce our hope.

Nevertheless, the show must go on. Ramadhan would still be ramadhan as we remembered it to be. And Syawal would too, for the sake of the little ones, especially Lalin and Nina.

But truth be told, it was the older ones who felt the emptiness.

It was the eve of Syawal.
Kak Ton was at Mak's in Section16, helping with preparations for Hari Raya.
The eve of Syawal was always a busy day.

What was the plan for tomorrow?
We wondered who'd be visiting us this time.
There had been no reply to our letter appealing to visit Bapak on the first day of Raya.

We wondered where Bapak would be?
No lontong for him, that's for sure.

Just then, we saw a police outrider turn the corner into Lorong 16/7C.
What would a police outrider be doing around here?
A VVIP visiting our neighbours, perhaps?
Haha, we chuckled. Poor guy. Must have lost his way in Section 16!

Then he stopped in front of our house. Our house.

Kak Ton looked out.
"Probably he wants to get directions," she remarked.

The policeman stepped out of his mean machine and waited for someone to meet him at the gate.

Kak Ton, wearing a quizzical look, approached the man.

"Puan Hamidah?", he asked.

Kak Ton was taken aback. Momentarily silent. Then she regained her composure and replied that she was not Puan Hamidah and what was all this about. A little curious but a lot worried.

"Saya dari Pejabat Timbalan Perdana Menteri (Dr Mahathir). Ada surat untuk Puan Hamidah Hassan. Maaf, lambat," he replied, handing to Kak Ton an official-looking envelope.

Did Kak Ton hear him apologise for being "lambat"?

Kak Ton's heart beat faster than she could walk. She rushed in, called out for Mak and everyone, and opened the letter.

"...... dengan sukacita.......", and signed Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Timbalan Perdana Menteri.

It was a reply to our appeal letter. Not from the PM nor the Home Affairs Minister. But from the DPM.
We were allowed to visit Bapak, same place, same time on the first day of Syawal.

Mak, who was making preparations in the kitchen, came to the living room and listened to every word read by Kak Ton.
She raised her hands in supplication.
It was the last day of Ramadhan.

Her prayers were answered.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Usman Awang's Merdeka

"Kita sekarang - dalam cita-cita menuju Malaya merdeka - haruslah membuang semangat perkauman yang berlebih-lebihan. Kerana ini adalah menjadi satu batu penarung terhadap cita-cita Malaya merdeka.

Bagi diri saya tidak ada apa-apa yang dapat diberikan untuk perjuangan Malaya menuju kemerdekaan.
Tetapi jika rasa sanggup membuang semangat perkauman yang berlebih-lebihan bagi diri tiap-tiap orang dan tiap-tiap kaum itu dikatakan satu derma bakti kepada perjuangan ini, maka saya dapat kosongkan dada membuangkan perasaan itu untuk memenuhi isi kemerdekaan kita.

Sesungguhnya saya tidak mengetahui dengan betul apakah kita (orang-orang) yang memperjuangkan kemerdekaan itu akan sanggup pula - kelak - mempertahankan kedaulatan kemerdekaan itu?"
-- excerpt from Usman Awang's "Untuk Malaya Merdeka" - 1952.

I was with Ahirudin Attan. together with about 80 people, at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre yesterday to attend "A Memorable Read of Usman Awang's Untuk Malaya Merdeka".

Among the guests were Usman Awang's family, his close friends and students of UiTM and a secondary school in USJ, Subang Jaya.

Reading "Untuk Malaya Merdeka" were five young people including two of the late Usman Awang's granddaughters -- Katriana Abdul Rahim and Nur Alisa Mohd Yamin.

That was great to have young Malaysians reading the work of Usman Awang, inarguable the country's finest poet.
How fitting that it was about our struggle for independence.
And how relevant those words still are today, more than 50 years later.

The late Usman Awang or better known by his nomme de guerre, Tongkat Warrant, was one of the country's foremost literary figures who was known to be a humanist, a passionate lover of peace and humanity.
Decades ago, even before Merdeka, Usman was promoting his belief in a "bangsa Malaya".

His passion for what he believed in resonates in his works of literature.

Dr MK Rajakumar, a life-long friend was there to say a few words for his dear friend.
He said Usman Awang was deserving of the nobel prize. He was Malaysia's greatest poet whose works must not be forgotten.

"Young people must reclaim our rich heritage...don't leave it to the politicians to do that.
We must not forget these great is up to you to reawaken the spirit of the greatest poet we ever had," he said, in tribute of Usman who died on Nov 29, 2001.

His daughter and eldest child, Haslina, through their family company UA Enterprises Sdn Bhd, is printing some of his unpublished works and also reprinting his poems, short stories and novels.

At the function, a reprinted hard-cover "Tulang2 Berserakan" was on sale.
The event was sponsored by The Miss Malaysia-India Care Association.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

RPK's Wife To Dang Wangi

UPDATE: Wednesday Aug 8 2007
Marina had her "statement" taken down at 11.15am (at the Dang Wangi police station) and was out at 11.55am.
We were so relieved that it did not take that long.
We were relieved that she was not roughed up or mistreated. Not that we had expected that. But, you know, anything could happen.
Her husband, RPK, insisted on being with her while she was being questioned.
From what she told us, the police really did accept her response (not to answer their questions) without much ado. I suppose they had no choice as she cited the Syariah and her obligation as a Muslim wife to abide by her husband's wishes not to answer their questions.
She had also brought a Quran with her.

And yes, the police were only doing their job.
Personally, I do believe that the police wish that they don't have to do all this for the politicians.

Read Ahirudin Attan's (Rocky's Bru) take here.

My earlier post:
Let's hope it's just a chit-chat that the police want with Marina, Raja Petra's wife, when they meet her tomorrow.
She has been summoned to Dang Wangi for her statements to be recorded.
I walked (and still am walking) with Rocky and Jeff when they went to court after being sued by NST and gang. With Nathaniel Tan who was remanded for 4 days last month, with RPK when he was interrogated for about 8 hours, also last month, and certainly now with Marina.

Ahirudin Attan (Rocky's Bru) says it is intimidation. Read it here.
It's really alarming.

No Case Against Idayu

Remember Siti Noor Idayu Abd Moin, the 22-year-old singer who was going to be hauled to court by the Perak Religious Department after she was caught in a raid at a night club last month?
The department (Jaip) accused her of exposing her body and encouraging immoral activities. See my earlier post on her.
Well, Jaip has dropped the case against her.

Here 's the Star story.

IPOH : The Perak Religious Department (Jaip) has dropped the case against singer Siti Noor Idayu Abd Moin for allegedly dressing sexily and encouraging vice by performing at a nightclub.
The 22-year-old singer said the department reached the decision after a meeting on Saturday.
“They decided to close the case because they did not have enough evidence to press charges,” said Siti Noor Idayu.
During the meeting, she said, the department officers advised her to dress properly in future performances.
However, the performer said she would continue to dress the way she always had.
“I don’t think the clothes that I wear are revealing or sexy.
“It’s not like I was wearing a two-piece (bikini). I still know what I can and cannot do,” she said yesterday.
The department detained Siti Noor Idayu and several others during a raid at a nightclub in Tambun on July 3.
Efforts to reach the department for comment failed.

Tuesdays With Bapak

Father's Daughters -- August 7 2007

When you're 16 and beginning to know about boys and to get noticed by them, being your father's daughter is not always helpful.
Not that he was not understanding. On the contrary, he understood this whole dating thing too well that he seemed to know every little trick in the book.
Okay, I was not the only one who was "my father's daughter". Kak Olin and Kak Eda were as well.
There were Kak Piah and Kak Ton before us. But they were so tame compared to the combined forces of Olin, Eda and Ena.
By the time we were all too ready to make our debut in the dating world, Bapak was pretty much a "pro dad".
Only we didn't know. We thought we were smart.
Bapak had this very disarming way of getting us to say things we would not normally want to disclose. You know, to talk about life in general.
Now, why would teenaged daughters want to tell their dad things?
I have no idea but I remember, during those occasions we chatted about life in general, usually over dinner, or while watching TV on weekends, or in the car on the way to somewhere far, we did not feel inhibited to tell Bapak what was going on in our lives. Of course, there were details we would resist disclosing but sometimes they would just slip out.
Essentially, he'd generally know what was going on in our lives.
Oh, don't ask me how Bapak did it. I'm trying hard to remember so I can apply the same formula on my two kids.

Of the three of us, Kak Eda was the hardest nut to crack. She was fiercely resistant to any attempt to let her defences down.
But even Kak Eda would let her guard down, perhaps because talking about life in general was infectious, taking a life of its own.

I remember though that Bapak would never give us the shock, "slap-in-the-face" treatment when he discovered we had been up to no good.
I remember when Bapak was told by Kak Ton about our never-should-have-been-held-while-parents-were-in-Singapore party.
Mind you, we had never done such a thing. We had never ever dreamt of doing something as daring as throwing a party without Bapak's permission.
Heaven forbids! But we did it.

It must have been in 1971. We planned the party so carefully although we knew that throwing the party itself, was really throwing caution to the wind.
The young heart, the young mind work in reckless abandon.

Bapak and Mak were off to Singapore.
Yes! Invitations had already been sent out. We were really going to pull this one off.
But, never for a moment were we not worried about getting caught.
Needless to say, as the evening went by, we soon forgot about any potential clear and present danger.
Oh -- great happening party it was - lights out, latest hot and slow numbers, our girlfriends, boys, boys and boys (but no alcohol ..of course not! ).

Now who should drop by, of all people on of all nights?
Kak Ton.
Newly-marries, she had come from Kuala Kubu Bharu where Abang Ani was working as a Magistrate.
Kak Ton must have been told by Mak to just check on us. She had come over out of concern for her little sisters.
But, aah, it would have been nicer if she had called first!

Kak Ton and Abang Ani came by when the party was in full swing and the living room was, er, dark.
Okay, nothing spectacular there because that was how parties were like those days in the 70s.

Kak Ton, needless to say, was not amused.
She stormed into the living room and switched on all the lights.
And the party was over. We thought we were done for.
Abang Ani was calm and did not say a word. But we knew that he felt so sorry for us.

Can you imagine what and how she was going to complain about our party to Bapak?

When Bapak came home, she wasted no time in telling him and Mak the entire episode.
They were in the dining room. We were in the library and we eavesdropped and heard every word Kak Ton said. And with relish too, we thought!

But we did not hear Bapak say much except the occasional, "ya kah?".

After Kak Ton had said her piece, Bapak called us.

You'd expect Bapak to have freaked out, gone ballistic.
Music, boys, and (soft) drinks at his home while he was away. Dancing in the dark, to boot?

He looked at his three very repentant and remorseful (and did I say, scared?) daughters.
We glanced over at Kak Ton and we were sure she was giving us that "padan muka" look.

Aah.... for the love of a blissful life with his three gung-ho devil-may-care daughters who must have reminded him of his irreverent and reckless youth!

Bapak looked at us, told us that we should not have held the party without his permission because as a father he wanted his children to be safe and having that party would have exposed us to some level of unknown and unrecognised danger.
Anything could happen, he said, very gently but firmly.
Kak Ton, he pointed out, might seem angry but she was really very worried and concerned for us.
So, as punishment we were to spend the next weekend with Kak Ton and Abang Ani in Kuala Kubu Bharu.
I don't think Kak Ton expected such a "punishment" for us.
Bapak did not make a big deal about the whole episode as we had expected him to do.
Kak Ton must have gleefully expected Bapak to reprimand us and ground us for a month or something as severe.
Not a weekend with her.
But Bapak knew that that was a real punishment. Being with Kak Ton at her home over a weekend after we were caught (by her) having a ball of a party, was going to be torture.
The prospect was killing us.
But, Bapak also knew that while we would initially be sulking in KKB, we would know how to spend our time in that sleepy town.

It was like doing community service.

Strange, we felt so bad about the whole thing. What if something had happened?
That incident actually charted the way for Bapak and his three rebellious teenaged daughters in dealing with one another.
I think, it was then that Bapak set some ground rules for our social calendar.
We felt somehow that not abiding by the rules would really be very foolish.

While we were forthcoming with him about life in general, it was not always easy for us or for him because essentially he was strict with us.
And for heaven's sake, we were teenagers. We had angst and whatever teenagers were supposed to have.
But we knew that he was always trying to understand us.
Perhaps, that was why he wanted to meet all our friends -- male and female.
"Garang" as he seemed to his daughters, he was really cool and with-it with our friends.

It was like that at UiTM when he lectured part-time after helping to set up the School of Mass Communciations in 1972.
His students seemed to gravitate to him. Never mind the four letter words which must have been shocking to some of them.
They liked him.

Today, I find myself trying to apply some hand-me-down formula on my own teenaged children. I know not everything can be applied, some approaches need to be discarded.
After all, don't I know all the tricks in the book. Perhaps more than Bapak did?
One thing I know Bapak never did, and that I will always remember -- he never talked down to us. Nor to our friends whoever they were.
That's one thing I will surely never do. Thanks, Bapak, for a lesson learnt.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Are You A Stupid Blogger?

Only if you are a political blogger who tells loads of lies and spreads terrible rumours, according to Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin.
Now, will all you "goblok" (stupid in Javanese) bloggers please stand up, and, er, be counted.

So we now have, according to Zam, goblok bloggers and bloggers. Goblok bloggers are political bloggers and they are stupid. And if I read Zam correctly, he did not care to differentiate between political bloggers and those who tell lies.
Conveniently, he has tarred them with the same brush.

Really, I wanted to laugh. Then, for the love of my country, I wanted to cry.
But I think I'll go with MarinaM who thinks it is better to laugh.
Zam's very intelligent assessment was just too much that it threatened to tickle me, but, wait, I thought I was going to just cry. For the love of my country.
But , as Marina reminded me, why cry because of idiots like them. Ah, that made perfect sense.
"I think laughing is better," Marina said in her SMS. Okay, I am now laughing.

I feel so much better.

Here, folks. Here's what Zam said:

KUALA LUMPUR: Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin says not all bloggers are stupid as some of them are informative, knowledgeable and disseminate positive views on current issues.
The ones that were mostly
goblok (stupid, in Indonesian) were political bloggers who float rumours and create hatred among the people, he said yesterday.
He said political bloggers “blatantly abused the freedom of the Internet.”
“Readers of these blogs read them to pass time and for fun, akin to reading a ghost story.
The people must be able to distinguish between
goblok bloggers and bloggers,” he added. – Bernama

Are they getting better at sounding asinine?
For the love of our country, it may no longer be funny.

Read also Rocky's Bru on the Bengap Minister. After all this, Rocky is resigned to the fact that he does not know Zam anymore.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Ouster By The People

No, this isn't what I am promoting or propagating.
I was reading this article about George W. Bush's declining popularity. Interesting.

Polls showing President Bush's approval ratings in the 20s and 30s and a New York Times survey last month reporting that people across the country are eager for an end to the current administration suggest that this nation has a problem it's going to have to live with for the next 17 months -- a failed presidency that won't reestablish its credibility with a national majority. The political argument against Bush's continuing tenure is not frivolous. There are good reasons to see him as a failed president whose remaining time in office will be unproductive at best and destructive to the country's well-being at worst.
But given the constitutional rules by which the presidency operates, there is no serious prospect of removing him from office.
A fine solution would be a Nixon-style resignation, but anyone who thinks that Bush and Vice President Cheney would give in to such a demand is dreaming.
With no serious threat of impeachment looming, Bush and Cheney can afford to dismiss calls for their departure as the outcries of political extremists.
Instead, the president, determined to stay the course, declares that his strategy in
Iraq needs more time to work, that the many charges of abuse of power are unsubstantiated, and that, as with Harry Truman, who also lost his hold on the public in the last two years of his presidency, history will vindicate him.

For the rest of the story by Robert Dallek, a historian and the author most recently of "Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power," click here.

Have You Seen Salhi?

UPDATE: Tuesday Aug 7 2007 - Salhi has been found! No details yet.

This is SALHI KHAESSA AHMAD. He looks normal and healthy, doesn't he? But he is not. The 26 year-old has mental illness and his family has been desperately looking for him since he went missing on July 13 2007. A police report has been made, but because he is an adult, the case is not given priority.
His family is fearing the worst because Salhi is off his medication.
His sister Dr Najmiah Ahmad sent an email to Pi Bani who posted on Salhi's disappearance.

Here is part of Najmiah's email:
"My brother Salhi has been ill with a psychiatric illness.Schizophrenia to be precise. He is 26 and he started having mental disturbance at 17 when he was in MCKK lagi.
He was the genius of the family, the badut of the family and the best little brother anyone could ever wish for.
Past 10 years saw him deteriorating and my heart sgt sgt sebak when this time, I went to the hospital in KB to find him locked up in a cage, together with people I would not even look at, bcos they scare me.
He had extra muscular twitches and gaunt facial expression.
Memang tak nampak mcm my used to be little brother anymore.
In between bites of coney dog ( dia suka A&W) he managed to tell me 'Nak sekolah balik Kak Mie please '. Repeatedly.
I just held back tears.
We took him out, and he was stable during my wedding.
Masa reception I kept him occupied with a camera so people don't feel obliged to make a petty talk with a 'weird' looking man.
Everything was fine.
On Friday the 13th, he left home saying he wanted to go for a walk. RM 3.50 in his pocket. He never came back.
Duit tak ada, IC tak ada. We looked for him everywhere, satu Kelantan. No news.
He hasn't taken his medications for 2 weeks now, I tak tahulah how he is now. Mungkin kalau you all jalan2 kat KL nampak budak gila (i have to accept this now) talking to himself, kotor, kurus tak terurus, kejap cakap english kejap cakap kelantan, that's him. Let me know.
What i fear is that he got hit by a lorry ke, in a ditch somewhere waiting to be found. I am writing almost with tears all the time. Partly because I am frustrated there wasn't much time for me in Malaysia, to do anything. Police report has been filed and my other brother has written in the Star. Now this waiting game is making me very apprehensive.."

Early this morning, Ibu alerted me about Salhi's disappearance.
Please help Najmiah and her family find Salhi who needs urgent medical help. God knows if he is ok.
As Najmiah said, if you see a dishevelled, unkempt and very messy/messed up man who fits Salhi's description (including having the Kelantan dialect), please contact their father, Ahmad at 09-786 6040, 017-970 3227 or 012-296 2642.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Salute To Our Unsung Heroes

And who are they?
The ordinary Malaysians, of course. They are the ones who have shown us little things like respect, compassion, human decency.
I am posting this after reading MarinaM's "Musings" in the Star (Wednesday Aug 1).

I was discussing her piece with my sisters. Mariah and Nina at (our grandniece's) Ayna's first birthday party in Shah Alam.
We thought how apt Marina's sentiments were.

And here, we salute you, the ordinary Malaysians who are outstanding, in no small measure. The unsung heroes.
Read Marina's musing on Wednesday here.

Maid and Money......

My maid of four years, Ani, left for home (Medan) today to get married for the second time. Her first husband who was a much older man died in 2002, the year before she came to this country to be my domestic helper.
She got a call from her older sister one day that her family had a "candidate" for her.
She told them she was not interested but they persisted.
I suppose she got tired of refusing and did not want to disappoint her older siblings. Her parents have passed away.
Actually, there was little she could do. I told her to carefully think about it. So she did and decided that going home was the best for everyone.
I wished her well and told her that I hoped her (prospective) husband would be good to her and was not marrying her for money. Ani is a rich woman now.
In her four years with me, she had gone home to Medan once, in 2005 for Hari Raya, and was away for a month.
She had planned to work with me for another 10, 15 years maybe, but......marital bliss beckoned.
I thanked her for helping to keep an eye on my kids when I was at work, to do the laundry, to cook, to mop the floor and other little things that made my life that much easier.
She thanked me for this and that and asked if she could come back (to Malaysia) if her husband turned out to be bad.
I told her not to think of that but to go home and be with her loved ones, rest, relax, do whatever that she had always wanted to do, get married and, take it from there.

Ani was not your perfect maid. And I was not your perfect employer.
But she tried her best with whatever that was asked of her. And I never asked her to do things that I could not do, nor to make her cope with more than she could handle.
I think working women like me do have to rely on domestic help to care for our kids when we are at work.
How else could I have continued working without their help?
Where I live, I can't find anyone who's able to babysit. My neighbours themselves are working couples with kids, and who rely on domestic help.
I have my family living in the same town and they have helped me a lot but I think it was only fair that I got a maid. More than anything, it was the practical thing to do.
Ani and I had a joint bank account. I gave her RM20 a month to keep -- just in case. She did not want to keep any cash with her but I insisted so she settled for RM20. The rest of her pay was deposited into the bank account.
I have withdrawn all her savings and closed the account. She asked that I changed all her money to Rupiah, except for RM1,000.
I told her it was best not to carry all that cash with her, and advised her to have the bulk of her money transferred to a bank in Medan from where she could withdraw when she got home.
Ani was reluctant because she was not used to banking transactions in Medan or anywhere. I did not press further because she already looked so confused.

So at the airport, before we bade farewell, I asked her where she kept all her millions in Rupiah, worried that she had stuffed the money in her checked-in luggage. I had noticed, when she opened her handbag, that she did not seem to have the wads of Rupiah.

"Dalam celana..seluar dalam", she said, in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Huh? macam mana tu," I said, in disbelief. I was stumped. Really, I could not imagine. I could not visualise.
But before she could explain, I shook my head and told her : "Tak apa, tak apa....pandai-pandai Ani-lah." Maybe I did not want to know how.
We were already at the departure gate. There was little I could do then. If Ani felt that was the best place to hide her cash from God-knows-who, then that's fine by me. I could offer no other solution or alternative at that point.
Then I remembered that the other time she went home, I had asked her the same question. In reply, she did mumble something about keeping her money in her underwear. I thought I heard wrong so I did not ask further simply because it seemed too ridiculous.
Obviously it was not and I had heard it right the first time.

But hey, don't look at me. I don't know how it's done! My maid of four years never told me that that was possible.
I am still shaking my head...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Gwen to Malaysia: I'm No Bad Girl...

What a sweet and sensitive gal Gwen Stefani is.
So aware is she of the protest from a Muslim students' body, that she is willing to dress accordingly to placate them.
Gwen does not want Malaysia to think that she is a bad girl.
So, the pop star will not wear any revealing costumes when she takes the stage Aug. 21 at Putra Indoor Stadium.
According to the show's sponsor - mobile phone company Maxis Communications, - Gwen "will abide by the Malaysian authorities' guidelines to ensure that her show will not be offensive to local sensitivities."
Now, isn't that sweet and sensitive?
I already like the girl.

As you know, the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students objected to Gwen's upcoming concert because they find her image too sexy for their liking, calling the video clips promoting her concert "too obscene."
Its president, Mohamad Hilmi Ramli had threatened to ask the authorities to intervene if Maxis didn't cancel the show which is part of her ongoing Sweet Escape world tour.

Now, here's what I call a real "star". I think her response speaks so much of and for her.
Gwen's a class act, showing a lot of respect and regard to whatever that was told to her.
Hey, she could do the pop star diva thing and skip KL. She could tell the organisers to, you know, shove it.
But, the lady has respect and regard for Malaysia and Malaysians, despite the fact that the NUMMS does not represent Malaysia or Malaysians.

More than I can say for those kids who had already painted her smutty and, well, bad.
Read it on E!Online.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Women at Work

How many women do we know who had to quit their jobs because they could not reconcile the demands at work with those at home?
I had to almost quit my job after my eldest child was born 17 years ago because as a journalist, my hours were so irregular that I was not able to spend time with my son when I should.
The irony is that the very nature of my job offered some flexibility and so I was able to work around my work schedule. And therefore able to give my fullest to my work and still give time to home and family.
Still it was not easy and called for a tough balancing act.
Thankfully, I had great and understanding (male) bosses who were very helpful because they did not want me to quit.
I was lucky too. My parents and siblings live within a 10-mile radius of my home, so I could always rely on any of them in times of emergency. Also I was able to afford a maid which helped immensely.
The issue of women having to quit work because of commitments to their children and their home is a long-standing one.
I know there had been attempts to find solutions to this problem so that women need not leave the workforce because of family commitments.
The reality is that not many women can afford maids. Child care problem was and still is the main reason for women leaving their jobs.
One solution was providing creches at the work place to help women overcome this problem.
This worked for some but not all.
Today, we have still not made much progress. Women are still up against prejudices/discrimination - they are not given any option at work which is either you work like the rest, or quit. Many are forced to quit.
The truth is, working mothers find it really difficult to keep a balancing act. Most times, something has to give. Most opt to give up their jobs. We all wish they do not have to.
But, it is a decision they have to make. I admire these women because when you think about it, what choice do they have? Their family is priority as it should be.
But the up side is that women, being God's fantastic creatures, never say die. Many turn to successful stay-at-home ventures which have allowed them to put their talents and resourcefulness to good use while still able to care for their home and family.
But that is a story for another day.

Meanwhile, more and more women leave the workforce.
Here's what I think -- if you do not find ways to retain a valuable workforce, then you will lose it. And you should blame no one but yourself.

So, today, I heard our Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak say that something is going to be done to retain this valuable workforce.
He said that the Public Service Department (PSD) wll be asked to study a proposal to give women flexibility in employment so that "they can focus their attention on their families".

Here's a bit more from Bernama:

The deputy prime minister said the public and private sectors should look into providing flexibility for their women employees to stop working temporarily to fulfil their family responsibilities.
"Flexibility should be given for women employees to leave their service temporarily, for example, when they have just delivered their babies, and when the babies are older, they can re-join the service and continue with their careers.
"I find that many women want to quit their job temporarily to take care of their families but at the same time they don't want to totally leave their jobs either in the government or private sector," he told reporters after opening the Women's Summit 2007 in Kuala Lumpur.
Najib said that giving them such flexibility would prevent an exodus of female workers from the employment sector to fulfil their family obligations.
The proposal will then be submitted to the Cabinet.

I say, good on you, Sir.
It's about time too. Still not too late to offer working mothers that option.
But, I'm wondering. If it's good to do that now, why wasn't it thought to be good before.
Ok, ok.. that's the devious mind working.
Let's hope this is for real and not some pre-election candy to woo women voters.

Here's the story. Click here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

No To Gwen Stefani?

US pop star Gwen Stefani is scheduled to perform in Malaysia on Aug 21 as part of her "Sweet Escape" tour.
It is to be held at the Putra Indoor Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
However, it may not happen, if the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students has its way.
Oh, don't be a party pooper, killjoy, wet blanket...
The group, said to number 10,000, will not hear of it because they find her too sexy and too obscene for Malaysia and fear that she will only be promoting un-Asian and unIslamic values to young Malaysians.
Her performance goes against the grain of Asian culture.
Its president Mohamed Hilmi Ramli was quoted by Reuters to have said that her video clips promoting the event are "too obscene".
"We want the organisers to cancel the concert, failing which we will ask the authorities to intervene," he warned.

Well, what can I say but to allay Hilmi's fears. Gwen Stefani is not your regular hard-core sex act.
Really, fear her not. You won't find young Malaysians running out in the streets gyrating their hips in the buff, after watching her concert.
Heavens, you'd think that the heavy dogged dose from MTV would've already done the trick.
Have faith in our young Malaysians, I always say.

Firstly (and frankly), I don't find Gwen Stefani sexy (in the vulgar sense which is troubling these students) or obscene.
Secondly, which follows the first, -- therefore her one-night performance in Malaysia for which you have to get tickets, is not about to influence the minds of our young people to go the "obscene" western way.
You know, you can choose to buy the tickets to watch her performance. You do have a choice. And those who will be there will be her fans -- Muslims and non-Muslims.
You may not like her but that does not give you the right to deny others their right to choose to watch her performance.
Thirdly, I can understand Hilmi's concern but I think the concert should be the least of his worries.
There are bigger problems out there, saudara Hilmi, that you should be battling.
I suppose our "mahasiswi" and "mahasiswa" are constrained by the Universities and University Colleges Act so much so that an event such as Gwen Stefani's concert seems a good enough issue to push.
But it's good to know that some provisions in the UUCA may be amended to allow students to participate in political parties and youth organisations outside campus.
Perhaps then, organisations like the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students can really channel their energy and time on far more important and crucial issues such as corruption, abuse of power and the decline in academic education.
Not trivialities like Gwen Stefani's concert.
Besides, she's harmless. Trust me.

For stories on this intolerance to western pop music and artistes, read here, here, and here.

A Prince Called Raja Nazrin Shah

I'd say that the Raja Muda of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah is the man of the moment for me. Has been that for me for quite sometime since I heard him say in April that Malaysia belongs to all Malaysians equally, and all have an equal right and responsibility to take ownership of their country and its future.
He's been making statements that I thought were honest, direct and forthright since.
My kind of man, I mean, prince, I thought.
Well, those statements Raja Nazrin had been making ought to come from elected leaders.
Just yesterday, he said that people "with a chequered past or clear evidence of questionable morality should be prevented from taking office".
Hear! hear! How I ditto, second, support that statement.
Raja Nazrin was speaking at a lecture "Towards A Decent Social Order For All Malaysians" at the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur.
The lecture centred on the works of the late Prof Datuk Syed Husein Alatas.
Raja Nazrin further said that "figures in authority must be chosen for their integrity first and qualification second."
Here's part of the Bernama story.

Raja Nazrin said corruption was mankind's most deadly social disease, as it could undermine good governance, weaken institutional foundations, distort public policy, compromise the rule of law and constrain the economy.
He said corruption curbed competitiveness to the detriment of economic and social development, led to tremendous misallocation of resources, and made the cost of doing business become unacceptably high.
"Corruption exists because of man's enduring desire for personal gain.
"Once corruption becomes widespread, it will no longer seem immoral and unlawful - just business as usual," he said.
He said there must be concrete anti-corruption measures and management practices based on efficiency, transparency and accountability.
Unnecessary or complex regulations and licensing requirements should be discarded or simplified to discourage `under-the-table' deals, he said.

Well, I see some people having no right being in their current positions, if we practise what Raja Nazrin is preaching.
But...aah. I don't see that happening.

The prince said more. So click here and here to read.