Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Visit to MATIC

Sunday,Nov. 1. With nothing on the agenda for today, I went out to the Malaysian Tourist Information Center for breakfast, especially since some kind of a show was going on there. The many stalls in the area were just getting ready for business and so I went to the Mamaks' stalls behind the Condorde hotel to give my tummy a job so that it'd stop grumbling. The roti canai, teh tarik and nasi lemak there looked fantastic from the way the clients attacked their food. The stalls were pretty crowded.

Well, at least now we have something for the people of KL to look forward to on Sunday beside going to the Zoo or the Shopping Malls. The under-the-tent stalls offer not only all sorts of food and goodies for visitors but also household items and everyday wears at very reasonable prices, certainly below the Shopping Mall price tag. Hey, there will also be karaoke entertainment and some dancing towards afternoon, I understand.

For now I'm stuck at this Information Centre where information booklets,phamplets and fliers abound. What's more we can have internet facilities for free with more than seven PCs available. I don't see all of them being utilized for I guess few people ( especially the computer buffs) know about these facilities. The place is very cozy and the ambiance is fantastic. Let me google for some pics of this place, if available.

No. I dont seem to be able to get any good shot of this place, inside Matic or outside it. I've scanned the various sources of info availabel and what seems most lacking are good pictures that visitors to the info site can copy and transfer into their files.
Google images on TDC, Malaysia don't give much to atract attention to the MATIC and the pic that I got from Malaysia Tourists Information Center webpage is an image of the original PM Seminar Center building. The small pics shown on the webpage don't appear to be attractive at all to me. Even a tourist with little knowledge of photograhy can take more exciting shots, I believe.Many information pieces are just too wordy. Who wants to spend hours just reading promo materials? As Confucius say, one picture tells more than a thousand words.

So, Matic. Get the wonderful photos that I see on posters, t-shirts and shopping bags into the Google website so that people can browse through them. The Malaysian TDC website also needs some serious reworking to keep up with the image of Malaysia as a hot tourists' center.

They leave more wonderful memories than mere words.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Negeri Sembilan: A Rebirth

As an 'anak Negeri' I've always taken pride in every new development that I see in the state. Yes, there were developments in many aspects of life, especially in Seremban, Senawang, and Port Dickson, particularly from the economic pov. But aside for the development of the Senawang Industrial estate and the new road to PD, nothing can be called spectacular for several years. Until these last few years.....

I think YAB Dato Seri Mohamad Hassan has accomplished a lot since taking over as the MB. Seremban has suddenly become more lively and colourful with Senawang rapidly growing into a satelite city. PD has shown some transformation into a major seaside resort area as it should be with all the new hotels and spruced up picknick areas. What is required is of course more entertainment events throughout the week and not just during weekends.The private sector should be allowed to organize those events on a commercial basis.

This week, in conjuction with the installation of the 11th Yang Dipertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan, the most spectacular event took place, ie. the opening of the new road through Bukit Putus. I think it's as historiacal and momentous as the installation of Tuanku Muhriz as the 11the Yang dipertuan Besar itself (see poster pic).

As long as I can remember the only route between Seremban and Kuala Pilah had been through the winding and torturous road called Bukit Putus ( Broken Hillchain), where it takes only a heavy truck to cause a long chain of slow moving vehicles to climb up or go down the hills. Erosion and landslide had all but bring down the hillside and the amount of patching up and plastering with cement and mortars had been tremendous. It can take anywhere from three quarters of an hour to a few hours to just pass through Bukit Putus.

Now it is a smooth glide up with ample room to overtake any slow moving vehicle or come down the hills with some scenic views to boot (see pic taken during a drizzle). I have no doubt that it's going to be a favourite elevated passageway while just down the hill from Seremban will be the Ulu Bendul Recreational area. For now when the road from Seremban to Seri Menanti is heavily decorated with posters and buntings to commemorate the Yang dipertuan Besar's installation, the travel down to Kuala Pilah feels like a procession.

Just before entering the road to Seri Menanti at Parit, Terachi ( another entrance to Seri Menanti is after Tanjung Ipoh town if you're coming from Seremban), located to the left in an open space that used to be an extensive ricefield, is the Restoren Warisan that serves some of the best Negeri Sembilan food. It's a must stop if you want to sample the best of 'masak tempoyak', 'daging salai', 'sambal petai' etc. The free 'janda pulang' drink ( the window who retuns), is succulent and most refreshing (see pic of wife sampling the food).

The lower pic shows the open space of green and fresh air which one can enjoy while sitting in the balcony with wood railings.

Finally, Negeri Sembilan has something unique to offer to visitors. The travel from Seremban to Kuala Pilah or visa versa and going through Bukit Putus, no longer promises a headache to weakheaded drivers and passaengers but a pleasant glide through the top of lush green hills and wide valleys.

Yes, Negeri Sembilan has been reborn with the new elevated road connecting the state capital and Kuala Pilah, Bahau and on to Kuala Lipis or Kuantan in Pahang.

Monday, October 26, 2009

After the Festivities.....

Now that the big 'makans' are over, we must all check our weights again. Those who have added too many lbs or kgs must enter a vigorous weight-shedding program or face the need to change their wardrobe. A few cms or inches extra around the waste may require some pants to be put out of commission. Nothing looks worse on a lady than an undersized or overfilled blouse. (See pic
with thanks to Kimberlycun).

Some say that too many people are getting too fat in Malaysia. Obesity is on the rise in number and mass. I donno lah. If you go to the supermarket in US or UK and see the ladies piling up food in their shopping carts, you'll think that many Malaysian ladies are still underfed. I can't find any good shots of them at the supermart but original models are aplenty. See pics.

Hey, they're just not ladies only. Men too. Let's see them in contrast.

Oops, still a lady at work gorging a whole cake. Give me another chance to find the fat machos.

There we go. I've no shots of fat Malaysian men here. Maybe some readers interested in the subject can contribute. I myself do not qualify to be in the group although a little overweight according to the BMI scale.

Has my weight increased after puasa and hariraya. Hmm..not much plus or minus. I wonder what happened to some of our bloggers, especially the few that I know who follow my posts but would not make any comment. I take it that u agree with all that I say. Otherwise check me, babe, or I 'll continue to blabber in a shoksendiri fashion. Ooooh, I hate to think that another makan time will be around soon - hariraya aidil adha or hari raya haji. To our friends in Kelantan and Trengganu, this hariraya is even more important and therefore more hectic than hariraya puasa. Let's wait for it,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Living up to a Slogan Or Pulling together an Ideal

Everytime a new leader takes on the helm of the State or renewed his regime we hear new slogans. Thus we have had 'Muhibbah', ' Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah', 'Malaysia Boleh', ' Cemerlang, Gemilang dan Terbilang' and now it's '1 Malaysia', ' Rakyat didahulukan, Prestasi diutamakan.' Once the slogan is ushered in with all pomps and ceremony, the media and all government agencies clamored to interpret and fill in the slogan, so that we all live up to it, interpret everything we do in its term and forever extend its meaning. The government media - newspapers, radio and tv - will even change the usual form of greetings like 'assalamualaiakum' to 'salam muhibbah', 'salam Malaysia Boleh' and NOW...salam 1 Malaysia.

It seems that we are forever trying to fill in the slogans so created, giving them a meaning and a significance beyond what they originally covered. There will be reverberating enthusiasm at first, everyone marvelling and praising the genius of the originator. Then it becomes a cliche and given a kind of token respect. Soon enough people begin to turn it into a kind of joke..and later... given a cynical or even a derisive connotation. The diehard critics of govenment will, of course, find all sorts of ways to redicule the slogans, teasing them through songs and video clips as had happened even to Jalur Gemilang, the National Flag.

Is this a normal thing or is there something unsavory about slogans? I think people begin to tire about a slogan as soon as it's given a meaning and significance beyond what the concept it embodies can carry. The slogan may not even be that inspiring to begin with and is capable of being interpreted in several ways - a strength maybe but also a weakness! If so when the newness of the slogan wears off its strength disappears and the weaknesses begin to take roots. The slogan than becomes bandied about and splashed around like spoilt cream. ' Malaysia Boleh' for example had captured the imaginantion of the Malaysians for a long time( during Tun Dr Mahathir's time) but now, it's cynically applied even to corruptions and arrests under the ISA.1 Malaysia has begun to be used to highlight the stark contradictions as shown by the divisiveness between political parties, between leaders within each party itself, and among the multiracial groups in Malaysia.

What Malaysia seems to need is not more slogans to be filled in by aligning all our actions towards it achievement, but motivating ideas to appreciate and rope in all the assets that we have as an assurance to the achievement of the dreams that all Malaysians share - ie a peaceful and properous society where each individual can strive to realize his ambition in as far as his (or her ) capability permits. Yes, we do need rallying calls and national symbols to bring our efforts together but they must be more
intellectualand inspirational or even philosophical ( second only to religious injunctions), not cheap slogans which are the war-cries of political parties.

Consider fpr example J.F.Kennedy's soul-thumping words: ' Ask not what the nation can do for you but what you can do for the nation?' What about some conscience-pricking words for the rich in Malaysia such as " You acquired your wealth in this county; how about returning the favour by making this country wealthy." Or " You're already rich, can you help your poor neighbour or some poor family to get out of poverty?' Another thing: why don't we stop decorating those dignitaries who are already bedecked with honarary awards and give those awards to the ordinary man or woman who helped his/her neighbors to
overcome their problem. A Datukship means nothing to a Tan Sri or Tun but to a farmer who cleared several acres of forest and turned them into a productive fruit orchard, it would be a great honor.

On a similar vein, the award of honorary Ph.Ds has now become a laughing matter. At the current rate of awards made by various universtiies and colleges in the country, the country will soon be full of Ph.D holders ( no distinction made between the
real award for postgraduate work and the honorary without even a basic degree or a Master's). Plus Ph.Ds purchased at a price from overseas' institutions. With such cheap degrees, why should students slog through years of study to earn a Ph.D? Take up politics and provided you hang on to a powerful boss, you can become rich and learned (with a Ph.D) at the end of the day. Is that the philosophy that we want young Malysians to adopt for the future?

A final point. Those who know how to get rich and have made themselves filthy rich do not necessarily know how to make the country rich and prosperous. They are good at assets acquisition, NOT distribution. Their methods may not be socially acceptable and only good for themselves. I hope our national leaders can take note of this fact.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


The closure of the month of Ramadhan saw deepavali and hariraya festivities merging. There was bright colorful lights illuminating homes and lots of food and delicacies laid out on the tables. The crowd circulates around the laden tables then find a convenient seat among friends to tacle their gatherings.

What makes the difference is whether the crowd is just interested in the food and delicacies or the chance to meet new and old friends, cement broken ties and repair strained relationships. The common problem is that we get tied down to the table we first sat at from the beginning to the end of the visit, without adequate opportunities to move around and meet people with a drink in hand. Why not? Because the syrup drink or fruit juice that is served is taken together with the food in substantive gulps rather than sipped a little at a time like the prohibited type (alcohol).

Hence the preference for the buffet style 'makan' where we can walk around and choose our food. But still we have tables for the real strenuous work to deal with the wet messy stuff like curry, cassarole, masak asam pedas, lemak pedas etc.You can hardly deal with the Malaysian dishes without sitting down, especially when using your fingers to dig in ( see pics).

The way to get around this problem, therefore, is to have some participatory shows, where guests could move around and join the fun. But to get the guests to do so, as in joining unscheduled dancing or singing, is still a problem. We tried this at our open house gahering recently and had some success. For the singing we had to rely on Nasir Wahab and Karen to get the action going (see pics).

But still. it isn't easy to get the guests involved. Everyone suddenly gets so shy. Perhaps it would be necessary to dim the light but that would throw the gathering into a different kind of ballgame. And there were the more religious members of the community in attendance ( see pic).

As such it is necessary to get popular and friendly TV personality like Nasir Wahab to move around and mix with the crowd, take photographs and shake hands to make them feel at ease and ready to join the fun a frolics. Nasir belted out a few popular numbers to the cheering crowd makin the evening a memorable one. While the food served were the usuals at such fectivities we also had something different including 'satay tulang' ( it's more fun to eat than the usual satay) and some fresh durian although 'pengat durian', roti jala and pulut were already served.

Our Indian friends and neighbors also joined us later in the evening though they had their guests to attend to. Peter and Ivy represented our Chinese friends and neighbors to complete the multiracial mix while Dr Jagjit only managed to pop in a brief moment because of prior engagement. . Shariff the DJ, was wonderful and frequently made everyone chuckle and laugh with his ready wit and humorous presentation.

I do hope that everyone enjoyed the evening.To those who could not make it, let's wait for the next hariraya.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Know Somebody Anything Can.

It's the hundredth time I heard someone said, " You know someone in there, anything canlah. Otherwise wait until next election." This implies that to get anything done in the government, you must know someone inside dealing with the matter. Now I hear from scribes like Dato' Kadir Jasin himself that even the GLCs and Banks could be very tardy about entertaining application for loans ( Wed.Oct.14 post). Many responses suggest that he should arrange for a private discussion with someone inside. You knowlah what "private discussion" means.....

Before retiring I also applied for an Express Bus licence plying between certain points in KL. I applied as a private person with the letter addressed to the Secretary of the Licensing Board ( no one in particular). The letter was not even acknowledged, not even on a preprinted slip of acknowledgment or rejection. Since it was my own application and not from a member of the public, I just kept quiet about it. If a member of the public had complained to me then, I'd have traced the letter and the officer who chucked it to one side along with hundreds of others perhaps.

Something is certainly wrong with the attidue of some Malay officers who have reached the top of the pyramid. As a Malay I must admit that senior officers from other races, let alone the top bosses, are more responsive and concerned. Some senior Malay officers just couldn't be bothered to check on the performance of critical functions under their charge. They don't feel the urgency to get certain things done, unless it involves their own salary, allowance or promotion. Especially if they're the blue-eyed boys of the bosses. I think members of the public who're not happy with the attention ( or lack of attention) received from a govt officer should now demand to see the boss or send his or her complaint to the Bureau of Public Complaint. That has been done now. But to whom can you complain about the cold-shoulder treatment received from an executive or a functionary in the private sector? Especially in the GLCS or Autonomous Bodies.

I remember inquiring from PETRONAS if it was prepared to build a gas station on a piece of land that I owned. I've done a viability study of such a station and wanted the company to help with the construction and installation of the facilities. I wanted to operate the station myself. A reply came that I would need RM900,000 plus to build the small station that I planned.
But PETRONAS was ready to buy over the land. I didn't have the heart to continue the project. Is there a study to show who owns the green gas stations around the country. I believe most of them have relatives working in PETRONAS. They know somebody inside and that's why they succeeded in owning a station.

I'll very happy if my suspicion is proven wrong, You must either know somebody inside to get your application seriously considered or can arrange for a 'private discussion' outsied the office, with all the attractions thrown in. Well, that's business, I guess. No wonder Dato' Kadir Jasin said, "Sebenarnya saya tak suka berniaga..."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Politicians vs Statesmen

In his blog dated 29.9.09 Tun Dr Mahathir extolled the "open house" festivities as a Malaysian invention which could really bring the people together, irrespective or races. Seeing how Malaysians really mixed, exchanged greetings and well-wishes at such gatherings, he insinuated that it could be the politicians 'who stoke the fire of racialism' in this country and said (with a tongue in cheek surely), "It makes we wonder whether the country would not be better off if we don't have politicians." He went on to lament the "racial ghettoes" that Malaysians have created for themselves, suggesting that the different vernacular schools our children go to might have caused or exacerbated the process.

The reaction was fantastic. Everyone supports the view. But where does that take us? Have more open houses all the year through, perhaps financed or subsidized by the government? Let the open house festivities do what our education system has failed to do? Throw all the politicians into the sea? As it is they have the license to broach and exploit racial issues but an ordinary member of the public who does it will face the ISA.

Open houses can indeed show how Malaysians really live together and celebrate their religious festivities together. Except for the community leaders and the wealthy, invitees to the open houses are often limited to relatives, neighbors and friends The gatherings certainly cannot fulfill the functions that the education system should undertake. And it's only a one-day affair when satiating the taste buds becomes more important than discussing social or community affairs.

As for the politicians, at best they are the representatives of the people, articulating their interests, integrating them and presenting them to the government. We can't have every man (or woman)-in-the-street presenting his or her own interest to the government for there are too many people in the country. Hence the representational approach. What goes wrong is that politicians fight to become that representative wooing supporters to his (or her) camp or party and pitching their support against his (or her) enemies. In doing so he (or she) uses racial issues, communal issues, national issues or whatever, to raise the emotions of his (or her) supporters to a pitch.The politicians will do anything to get the commitment of his (or her) supporters, including paying them money or through other forms. That's when racial issues become a sure-fire bullet for catching the interest and gaining the support of the would-be voters.

I think it is such politicians who should be made to walk the planks or thrown into the sea. That include those who misuse their power of representation for personal benefits or gains or resort to buying votes. Where do they get all the money if not through some devious and surreptitious methods. Those who really represent the interest of their supporters, see how those interests can be integrated and coordinated with the interest of others in the nation, seek a harmonious and an equitable way of resolving conflicting interests, stop their supporters from mounting a "war" against the supporters of other would-be-representatives, and think of the interest of the nation more than just his (or her) supporters', are statesmen. We need them to represent our interests to the government.

The question now is how do we do away with the politicians and give our support to the statesmen ( or stateswomen, of course). The MCA seems to be approaching the problem in a very positive though aggressive way ie by doing away with leaders who create rather than solve problems. What about UMNO, MIC and other members of the BN? With all the talks about transformation, changing attitude and doing away with the corrupt and tinted characters, is it really being done? As for the PR, component members seem to be in the process of identifying their own statesmen versus the politicians. Let us see whether Malaysians are ready to make the distinction between politicians and statesmen , throw the latter out and usher in the leaders and representatives that have the statesmanship qualities and can give our country a new image.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hariraya Openhouse by the Sea

An invitation to a hariraya openhouse reception at Tanjung Agas, Port Dickson, was too much to resist. The name of the place,
Desa Balqis, was so romantic and it triggered in my mind several wishful dreams that I thought the old noggin was already incapable of conjuring. Legend has it that Puteri Balqis was a Princess who ruled over a prosperous kingdom but fearing that her country might be attacked by Nabi Sulaiman paid him a visit to ascertain how big the latter's kingdom and how powerful he was.
The Prophet amazed her by ordering a Jin ( a powerful spiritual being) to bring over the Princess' castle to his kingdom, made some modifications to enhance its beauty, and presented it to her. Did she marry him? The legend did not give an answer but I
believe she did since he knew what could please her the most!

My wife and I arrived at the resort hideout in the evening of 10 Okt., taking the Pedas-Linggi route to avoid going through Port Dickson and Bagan Pinang, where BN and PAS were preparing for a showdown. I heard the traffic jam was terrible down there and some trouble was brewing. By-election has become a war-zone these days. Desa Balqis turned out to be a 3-acre resort area located between the road and a beautiful sandy beach, artistically landscaped with three challets and a 'surau' built from unwanted traditional Malay houses. The beautiful wooden challets equipped with all the modern utilities showed how some of the many traiditonal Malay houses left to rot by the young people who inherited them, can be salvaged and turned into fitting accommodations for tourists and holiday-makers ( see pic). Encik Annuar, the CEO of Multilift Holdings who owns the place, must be congratulated for his novel ideas.

Without doubt the reception which was to begin at 8 pm, began much earlier with guests crowding by the steps leading to the seaside, enjoying the view while there was still a lot of sunlight. They were ships in the sea (see pic) queing for entry to the
PD port. Guests started attacking the food some allready spread out under the specially erected shed, while others were still
simmering in the pots or roasting by the fire, including a whole lamb. When we were invited to the table and begin the chomp-chomp megathon although it was not the official starting time yet, I did not resist. The drive from KL had indeed been
sharpening the appetite and so many guests were already plowing into the succulent spread.

When night fell and the lights were switched on, the place turned into a kind of fairyland. White and multicoloured lights glimmered and dazzled the eyes, highlighted further by the blue background lighting which surrounded us. Spiritted and lively hariraya songs compete with the cool breeze to thrill us, while the scrumptious food tickled out tastebuds. And look around. and tv personalities were around too, being entertained by the hosts and interviewed by the Press. VIPS keep coming as the night thickened and the crowd grew bigger and bigger. The DJ-MC while dishing out moody evergreens befitting the oaccasion kept wishing everyone welcome , complete with the roar of helicopter engine and the wailing of car sirens to announce the arrival of the VIPS. At one point there was even a salutation fanfare by trumpeters like in a real royal ceremony. At about 9.30 pm there was a burst of colourful fireworks to bring the reception to its climax, as some karaoke singing and live interviews were held. Oh, there was a brief blackout at the reception area although the lights in the challets were still on, suggesting that there must be a supplementary source of power supply around. The organizers have not left anything at all to chance.

What can I say to this hariraya openhouse reception! The food supply seemed endless, the facilities beyond expectation, the
entertainment casual and most amusing, and the hosts most gracious. We left unwillingly for to drive back to KL on a full stomoch was quite a challenge. Especially since my wife who chose to drive had her baby grandaughter clinging to her neck while driving. I didn't volunteeer to take over for a don't like a a backseat driver giving me orders.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Durian Anyone?

As a kampung kid before. I literally live under the shadows of durian trees and would not eat but the best of the fruits. On reaching adulthood I've had enough and could not be enticed by even the best variety - the best to me being the 'lemak manis' but a little bitterish type which just melts in the mouth. Now I take only one or two 'ulas' (seeds?) and no more. The smell can be a little too strong on the weakening oldfactory.

But as fate would have it, when you least want something it comes aplenty. (The opposite is when you really want something it starts eschewing you!). I bought a little green acre in the 80s to exercise my meek brawns and muscles on by doing battle with the undergrowth, elephant grass, clumps of touch-me-not and what have you. There were some old durian trees on the land which I couldn't care too much about and started planting mango trees, cikus, dukong and mangoesteen.

Today, some mango trees are as tall as the durian trees while others have been attacked by white ants. But all are totally sterile. No friuts as warned by the kampung people before but whose advice I refused to accept. The dukong trees are beginning to show some gratitude by sprouting a few stunted bunches of fuits as do the ciku and mangoesteen trees. But the durian trees, they are old and beginning to wobble but suddenly became very prolific. I'm still wondering why all of a sudden they produce more than I can handle - distributing them to family members, the neighbours and to the local madrasah.

My cars are now so smelly that even the dogs refuse to help clean up the tires. (See pic for the durians and the inset for what doggy used to like doing). Well, there're not enough durians to open up a stall and sell them at 10 sen apiece ( just to collect a fee for the efforts to collect them), but unless I can distribute them fast they are going to open up at the bottom and insult my appetite. Well must go now. to collect more durians for I love searching for them under the trees. It reminds me of the days I used to quarrel with my Auntie everytime a durian falls and we raced each other to fetch it. I always let her win when I see that the fruit which fell was just a small one. But sometimes it turned out to be a huge one and the shouting game began when my claim to the fruit was rejected. We always fought to see who could collect the most durian,to sell them to Ah Chong who bought them at 20 -40 sen apiece.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

'Working' Down Memory Lane

The HR mood is not quite over yet but I was ready for work. Not back to the office but driving down to Ulu Bendul (some 110km away) to continue work on rehabilitating an old Minangkabau-style house which my late parents left behind and my sisters are not too crazy about. It's the house I grew up in (see pic). The additional photo was taken during the last cleaning by the wife, my sister and her daughter.

Driving alone at 9.05 am, I enjoyed the crawl until past the Sungai Besi Toll Plaza listening to Klasik FM. For those interested in the Malay evergreen songs by P. Ramlee, Saloma, S, Jebeng, Ahmad Jais, Jeffry Din, A, Ramlee, L. Ramlee, R, Azmi, Farzidah Joned, etc, etc ( eh, what happened to Jamlludin Alias, ah? Never heard his baritone voice anymore!), do tune in to that station. It will whizz you to the best of yesteryears like a time machine. After Sg, Besi Toll Plaza, you may try FI if you dare and care not for your life (and probably others' too) or a police summon.

Even after the juction to Kajang, I began to think of old days. I used to go to Kajang.... for sate Kajang? Noooo, where got money!It's to listen to lectures on Sastera Melayu and Poetry with some teacher friends including the late Cikgu Sabtu and CIkgu Sudin ( May Allah bless their souls). Kajang used to be a meeting point for sasterawan ( other than KL) but no longer so.
The same friends used to support the formation of a kampung musical combo ( a four-piece band with a drum set) of which I was the leader although I knew nuts about musical scores and play the accordion and clarinet ad lib. Hey, we played at weddings even on the day before my HSC ( STPM) exam. If music be food for the soul, play on. My brother, Zainal Ariffin Abdul Ghani, got the bug and became a Music Instructor/Lecturer for school teachers.

The experience in conducting a 4-piece band consisting of kampung boys (including self) with no musical education or experience whatever, was fascinating. We play completely by ear with Zailan on the violin or guitar, Ibrahim Fiji or Zainal whacking at the drum set, Aziz blowing a few lines on the trumpet and me with the accordion or clarinet. Coordinating and harmonizing the cacophonous sound they make and cuing in a bathroom singer to start or stop crooning, is a crazy job. But hard work always pays off. At one wedding reception the musicians from the bridegroom's side consisting of trained music teachers met us at the bride's house and we played together. No one suspected that my musicians including self were totally note-blind. And the leader of the band, Cikgu Sulaiman from Kuala Pilah, thought that we were quite good. He didn't know that we trained until 4am sometimes. The gang considered me mad for insisting on all the repeats, not knowing that I've been branded as a perfectionist by the psychologists. ( Haaaa, lucky not a psycho!).The point here is that you can do almost anything if you set your mind to it....

Once at the old house I started to work on repairing the broken-down cement drains. As I mixed the cement and sand manually in a wheelburrow, my thoughts ran through the list of old friends who used to play cards with me in the house while it was being built. Ali Baba ( his real name), Zainal Naim, Nordin Jaalam, Aziz Gemuk. Ujang Bucit, Ujang Sayau and Pak Itam were some of the regulars, playing hard ( just as I practised playing on the accordion and clarinet) until 4 am. No electricity yet and we used an oil lamp (pelita). Hard to believe that three of them had passed away and only one of them do I meet sometimes at the Ulu Bendul mosque for Friday Prayers. The music friends, the school friends, the badminton gang members etc have all disappeared since I left the village to go to the University. I wonder where they are now. Even the few friends who made it to the University ( Tahir, Md Shah, Dr Ramly, Aziz Abdullah, Md Zain etc) seemed to be always eschewing a meet. Jalaludin, the best student in class (Form V), I heard was struck by the complete loss of memory (alzheimer's) disease. He can't even recognize his own house when taken a few yards away. May Allah have mercy on him.

As I took a respite from work to reminisce on the thrill of past adventures which include fishing in a deep-jungle pond and being scared away by a tiger, trapping birds but catching a hawk in a small cage, stealing durians at night just for the fun of it since we all had durian trees of our own with more than enough fruits to eat, scaring old ladies walking home from the village 'surau'at night and being chased away with a parang....I noticed some roadside clearance work being done right in front of the house. JKR people were clearing a clump of wild bamboos growing on a hillside and threatening to collapse onto the road if a landslide were to occur. They hacked away happily but dumped the bamboo poles with all their branches and leaves by the roadside opposite the house. I've cleared that area some months ago (see pic). Before I could give them a piece of my mind, they had vanished in a truck parked close by.

Ever tried mixing cement and sand and reconstructing or mending broken drains? It's a back-breaking job drenching you in a bucketful of sweat. Take a rest in the breeze with a cold drink in hand. God, it's heavenly ( Sorry no pic since I was all alone and only using the phonecam). With the sweet old memories replaying in my head and making me smile all alone, I didn't ralize when the memories became wilder and wilder as recollections took a ride on the wings of daydreaming. It was indeed a spiritual rendevous with old friends.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Enjoying Hariraya in the Traffic Jam...

We now have traffic jams in all the major cities and towns - an indication that urbanization/modernization is going on well, like it or not. If the jam in KL is maddening, small towns like Kuala Pilah and even Tanjung Ipoh ( on the way to Kuala Pilah from S'ban for those who're weak in geography, hehe), the crawl can be excrutiating. ( Yes, it screws you).

I was going to S'Ban yesterday ( Fri. 2 Oct.) leaving Taman Melawati at about 5.45pm for a relative's open house function starting at 8 pm. Right off at Jalan Ampang the crawl began.It went on and on and on, on both sides of the track ( the roads seem so narrow now). At the wheel my wife was fuming. Why must everybody be on the road at this hour? Why are we otr (on the road), I asked. We've a function to attend. What about them? Silence.

Since we moved so slowly and she was in no mood to talk I found some ways of keepimg myself amused. Admiring the cars that passed us on the other lanes or we passed them, was no fun. What about the driver and pax? I immediately noticed that there were so many ladies driving alone. Out of 10, I counted some seven or eight ladies. God, what happened to the population? Are they going home after work or 'balik kampung' for the weekend? Then my wife noticed a red MyV speeding behind her chasing all the cars in the innermost lane away. "Wow, what an aggressive driver!". Man or woman? I asked. Woman, of course. I asked my wife to give way and she did. A lady for sure - a young one.She just whizzed by. Than I saw how aggressive and fierce she really was. Big and small cars were swinging away to the left ( to the middle lane) like people stung by hornets. "Fast car," my wife commented. "Fast and brave driver!" I replied. "Scared the men away." Served them right, my wife replied. If you're slow why don't you go to the middle or left lane. Just ego. The smaller the car the bigger the ego. They don't want to move even when you needle them, horn or flash your light. (Me)Perhaps they hate to be overtaken by a lady. (She) So what?If you're a slow po don't drive on the right lane lah! The car in front flashed its redlight and my wife jammed on the brake. (Me) Why follow so close? (She) Why brake for no reason? Sure, the best way to answer a question is to fire a question in return. Stalemate. ( Which one is stale? hehe)

We arrived at the Senawang Toolgate at 7.10. Since the place was jampacked, I decided to take a leak, an ablution and do my Maghrib while my wife bought some dukong on sale at the roadside. What do you know. That toll station has no Surau, So we drove on quickly to search for a mosque and ultimately found the Bandar Baru Senawang Mosque, near the new Police Station.
I prayed alone ( the Jemaah was over)and even had time to take a photo with the Secretary of the Mosque's Committee Members, Hj. Jazmin, if I'm not mistaken.(See pic- sorry my wife took the pic with her cam and hasn't downloaded it). The jam was a blessing after all. We reached the relative's home in Levender Height in good time, that of Hj. Mohd Nor and family, Nubhan's ( the Akademi Fantasia star) brother-in-law.

What a Hariraya reception! I don't mean just the food and delicacies. There was a group of Nasyid ladies in attendance all dressed in purple baju kurung reciting praises to Allah and the Prophet and a group of orphans , all participating in the Reading of the Yassin and Tahlil ( see pic). I felt a little akward snapping away my phonecam at them during the reading (result - blurred shots). The feasting was hectic as usual, just too much and too many dishes to sample without feeling as full as a sack of rice.

While attacking the plate of everything in my hand with relish, just standing by the foodstall since all the seats were taken
away, the buzzling noise of people eating, drinking, talking, laughing and burping was shattered by a deafening and prolonged volley of explosion. Fire crackers certainly, lighted up at the gate of the unoccupied adjacent house. If course the police station was far away. But where did the boys get all the prohibited stuff. I've mentioned elsewhere that in my kampung even the full blown fireworks used for Merdeka celebration were lighted up the night after hariraya and two or three nights after. Where could people get all the illegal stuff? I wonder.

Just when everything was quiet again with only the sound of people eating and drinking away still audible. there was a big boom, a swishing noise and.....the night sky just behind the house burst into multicoloured flames, spouting out stars, glitters and trailing lights in all directions. It was a beautiful super firework as if mounted to beat the noise of the firecrackers. Since there was no more firecrackers lighted up, the big boom was not repeated. Perhaps its initiator knew that he had won the competition with a bigger blast.Huh....what a thrill. Like in my kampung, no police appeared. I wonder what would have happened if they did with all the guests crowding the place. They would be the only unwelcomed party.

We left the party with the feasting still going on. Was there a jam on the way back to KL? Don't know. I slept most of the way
for it's more tiring to be a passenger than a driver, on a full stomach.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

More HR Feasting and Bellyaching

Look at the amount of food left behind after our most vicious attack on the spread. And look at the satisfied look on everyone's face. That's hariraya feasting which continued last night at Zam's house. I thought i had enough of chicken already but Zam's special brew had me gorging for more. Thanks so much Zam and wife. Muga-muga murah rezki dan panjang umur.

The side talk at the gathering was most interesting, Other than the usual gibes and gruntles about today's political scene, there was some critical assesment of the civil service especially the elite PTD or MADS ( Malaysian Administrative and Diplomatic Service). It seems that the ujian Penilaian Kecekapan instituted by JPA had resulted in so many young officers getting rapid promotion such that some SUBs ( Setiausaha Bahagian or Divisonal Secretaries) and even TKSUs ( Deputy Secretary Generals) are
very inexperienced and ignorant of normal work procedures. Some couldn't even write a Cabinet Paper and had to depend on their more elderly and experienced subordinates. Generally they have more pride than substance, fussy about trites but fuzzy about major issues, more image conscious than getting a job done.

Hohoho.....what do you expect of wanabes who are more exam-oriented, computer addicted, and concerned with making a name on the golf course playing alongside bigshots, rather than getting their hands dirty with work. Worse than that the real slaves who get the work done never get any recognition, but mostly all the blames for delays and errors. Those who put their dobhi-mark on the final paperwork get the kudos. And also the bottom-fanners ( or ball carriers some say) and apple-shiners. What if the boss is a lady? Fan her ego la!

With all the talks on KPI, we certainly hope that the real 'slaves' in the service will get a fair assesment of their work. The KSN, the KSUs, the SUBs can come and go without affecting work output. But take the real slave workers away and the Ministries and Departments will be clogged with unattended files and unresolved issues. Do not take the old, experienced, hiddden-in- messy-offcice- corners and low-ranking officers who could not pass those sophisticated PhD graduate-devised exams, for granted. One of them could be worth more than ten paper-qualified KPSUs and SUBs. The Civil Service is indeed becoming more e-knowledge. Make sure it's not e-work ( 'e' for empty).

Turning to politics the flow is in the reverse. Old, tired, and allegation-plastered faces ( some allegations already acknowledged but accommodated) continue to dominate the scene. No exam to bother, no rules and regulations to be followed since polirtical exigencies beat everything else - if a law stands in the way, fuck the law and change or amend it-
just work hard to win the election and by-election. If you win you are great. You can do anything you want so long as you know how to get Cabinet's or the PM's nod. So what's social justice ( you give me what I want you are just), what's human rights ( if you can win a fight, a battle or a war, you are right), what's compassion , what's priorities ( what the boss wants comes first or you are out), what's rakyat didahulukan ( only those who vote for you are important), what's 1 Malaysia when everybody has his or her own idea of bersatu ( ask the schoolboys who are running after school girls or Dr Chua Soi Lek), what's a PhD when anybody can get an honorary one or buy it. There's only one rule for advancement in politics. Please the boss. Civil Servant can try this but when you get into trouble the boss will just drop you. You're inefficient when you get caught.

Hey, this is the month of Eid, a month of Forgiving and Well-wishing. Stop bellyaching! I guess you can't stop people talking even when you lavish them with the best food on the Malaysian menu. I walloped the food but also imbibed the verbal titbits for good measure. Check the pics. Selamat Hariraya.