Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Young Malay Executives

Nothing makes me prouder than to see the young Malay executives in their flashy, luxury cars( Merc. BMW or Lexis) or heavy 4-stroke machines that passed you by at 160-80 kph, usually on the left side of your car. These are the financial and maybe political leaders of tomorrow though some are already in the corridor of power. In the office their suits are impeccable and on the heavy machines their boots and leather jackets proclaim their superior socio-economic status.

As an old pensioner. I seldom had an opportunity anymore to talk to them. What with my old and baggy clothes, probably walking about in slippers. I can only watch and admire them from afar. If I approach them and ask how they feel to be a successful young Malay executive, they'd probably think I am a looney.  Only if a TV camera focusses on them with a sweetie pie holding a microphone seeking an interview, would they probably respond. Sometimes I see them stopping somewhere in a group for a smoke or having coffee at a classy bistro.

The other day I was filling up my tank at a gas station, stopping behind a glittering Mercedes S320. The tall. handsome, young man in black pants, shiny black shoes and dark wind-breaker type jacket, was gracefully pulling out the pump nozzle to fill up the luxurious car. His movement was almost poetic, very much in taste with the fabulous car he was pampering, pride and dignity showing on his face. I said to myself. " Aaah another successful, young executive, the pride of the nation, using an S320 Merc at a young age of maybe the late twenties or early thirties." I felt ashamed stopping behind him in my old jalopy, very mindful of my anachronistic existence in a brave, prosperous and wealthy new world, where the young are masters of their own destiny.

A beautiful young lady, dressed to kill as they say. passed by to get back to her MyV parked near the air pressure gauge. The young executive corked up his head to gaze at the stunningly beautiful dame, as i too feasted my eyes on her. The young executive was holding himself up in a full manly pose with a glint in his eyes, clearly to attract the dame's attention. But she wasn't responding. Here was a drama that i loved and I watched intently to see what the young executive would do next to make the dame look at him - the prosperous, young executive.

When the beauteous young lady dallied somewhat at the door of her car, slowly opening it and striking a pose that I was sure was meant for the young executive to savour, my heart fluttered with anxiety. Would the young executive drop all discretions and approach the lady, Had he the gut to do so? I would if I were him, for the lady was clearly game. The young executive was clearly mesmerized by her beauty, standing agape with the gas pump nozzle in his hand.

At that moment the back door of the Merc opened up and a short, well-rounded but well-dressed, balding gentleman, emerged from the back seat of the car. The darkened window pane and his lack of height made me fail to notice him. He stood at his full height, barely higher than the car. clearly making a show to the lady as to who was the boss. He was half eyeing the lady himself.

The young man quickly pulled the gas-pump nozzle out from the car, replaced it on the hook, closed the car's gas-tank cover, jumped into the driver's seat and gunned the engine. He waited for the boss to come into the car and after the door closed, slowly drove the car away.

I was grinning like a cheshire cat. My handsome. prosperous, young Malay executive, turned out to be just a chauffer aka a driver. His poise and flourish totally deceived me. Without the boss at the back of the car, I had no doubt that the young beautiful dame would have also been deceived. Only then did I remember that the real handsome, young and prosperous executives certainly did not act like a proud bourgeoisie, I did see a few walking around in T-shirt, fades jeans and slippers.
Yea....I'm proud of you guys!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

When other things are equal....

I am not a professional economist but I've seen enough facts of life to say that many economic laws don't seem to work no more.The economists are fond of saying "when everything else is equal" a higher market demand will stimulate production and investment in the production of those things in high demand. But nothing is equal. A country may not be able to produce the things in demand because of technological or other problems and so the country IMPORTS them. More money flows out and the trade balance is disturbed, leading to a negative balance of trade.

Isn't that true in many cases for Malaysia? We have often run short of building materials like steel and cement and we imported them. Why not produce more locally? Where's the capacity to do so? Even foodstuff like rice an sugar are imported because we do not find it economical to be self-sufficient in their production. It's cheaper to buy from neighboring countries than to produce them ourselves. We don't produce papers and fertilizers because of trade agreement with other ASEAN countries. Now the cost of newspapers and books keeps escalating. Some text books cost hundreds of ringgit while in India and the Phiippines one can find cheap newspaper edition costing less than RM10. Why are we surprised then that the average Malaysians don't do much reading, hardly a book a year?

Dr Mahathir has been writing a lot about the fallacy of Direct Foreign Investment being able to boost the economy of a nation. It only promotes foreign interests while the people as a whole gain very little. Then there is currency trading and manipulation of the share market that can cause a country to go bust. Remember what happened to the value of our ringgit. It's still below what it used to be in the 1960 and 70s. I still remember the pleasure of paying RM2+ for a USD and RM3+ for the British Pound. In that light we've gone backward. We're half of Singapore in currency value, you know. Don't fret. We're better in many ways but not money-wise.

Now we're gunning to become a high-income economy by 2020. How? Raise productivity, more added value, pay higher income, have a more creative and innovative industrial sector, create a higher level technological skill among the workers with more training, higher education etc etc.The economic theory which has become like a law is that higher productiviy will push up income level and propel a country into a high-income group. All very nice but a higher productivity can only be induced by a higher market demand. Can we create that demand at home and from abroad? Are we going to compete with foreign products which Malaysians are ready to pay for at exorbitant prices (for branded names that is). To pay higher wages, productivity increase must be substantial and sales must increase to absorb the increased products. There has to be more market promotion and retail costs will go up as a result. Will there be more sales at lowere prices? Otherwise prices will escalate leading to higher inflation.

I think some straight thinking based on the reality of the Malaysia market and our export potential needs to be done. Market research is the one thing that Malaysia had not given enough attention to, What is the maximum potentials of our domestic market capacity and that of export which could absorb an expanded level of production and what is the level of production which would remain viable without causing surplus and wastage?

I think a lot of market research needs to be done. Don't waste too much time, efforts and money on identifying National Key Results Area (NAKRA) and measuring performance since the feedback from the grassroots will be enough to indicate what has successfully been carried out by government and what has not. Just listen more to the hue and cry of the public, not to the technical reports of the so called experts with lots of figures but not reflecting public sentiments.

With regard to the concept of a free market where prices and competativeness determine who will lead in an industry, we all know that there's no such thing as a free market. All countries especially the rich countries protect their market by imposing
import restrictions and high import tax. While higher technology ensures that their products are superior in quality the restrictions and tax protection ensure that the prices of their products are more viable. How can the developing countries break through the trade barriers that they erected.

Well, the economic laws again need to be reviewed in order to see how the human factor makes things different and not equal as held by the economic formula. In Malaysia even the innovative ideas are hard to sell and industries don't want to cough up too much money for reasearch. Let others do the research and they will just use the findings. We forget that research itself is an industry which if we fail to develop will make us dependent on research dome by foreign countries. We have to pay through our nose to use their findings in technological advancement.

So, the simple economic rule is enlarge your market, create more demands and then step up production. Do the reverse and you'll end up with surplus production that cannot be sold.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Trials and Tribulations

This Ramadhan and Shawal had been most trying for me and I thank Allah for putting me through a mild test of patience. He could surely put me under a heavier strain if He so wishes. Subhanallah.

Ramadhan went on very well until a few days before Aidil Fitri. I caught a cold or flu and though I tried to go to the Madrasah for Tarawih prayers I could not perform the 20+3 raka'at. At times I felt so cold and at times I was perspiring, making me unable to go to the Madrasah at all, nor perform the Tarawih alone at home. I could only manage to perform the solat fardhu without the usual 'wirid'.

Two days before Aidil Fitri with the worst of the flu over, we ( my wife , Norazlin and me) balik kampung for the hariraya. With a great determination to meet the village community I went to the mosque for Isya and Tarawih, knowing that the Tarawih in the mosque consists of 8+3 raka'at only. That was quite manageable since my flu was on the way out though I was still coughing and sneezing. Even during prayers I had to pull a hanky and wipe the drips from my nose ( with 3 movements that are allowed during prayers). I was most happy and thankful to Allah since I could perform all the prayers including the solat Aidulfirti and the Friday prayers in the afternoon.

Then my ghout started to come back with a vengeance. It gripped my ankle such that I could hardly walk without the sharp and shooting pain typical of that nasty ailment. I still braved a few hariraya visits on the second and third day of Aidilfitri, including visits to my dad's and mom's final resting place. It's interesting to recall that when I was in a hurry to visit the tanah wakafs ( dad and mom were buried in different places since mom died first and dad had to be taken back to his original home by his relatives and buried in the community graveyard when he died), I forgot about my throbbing ankle. Though limping and putting my weight on only one leg, I managed to walk the distance from our car to the graves without being aware of the pain in my ankle.

Well it's more than a week after Aidilfitri now and I am still limping around. I could hardly walk to the Madrasah without causing my ankle to throb wildly with pain. I've gone to the clinic but the pain persists. It must be a continuation of the trials and tribulations that Ramadhan brought me and I'm resigned to live through it. It allows me to do a lot of reading and thinking though. And that is certainly a blessing.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back to City Life.....

Just as it was very interesting to watch carloads of people going back to their kampung for the Hariraya, it was most fascinating to see them rushing back to the city after the festive days. The eager, joyous, and beaming faces in the earlier event had changed to some frowns, yawns and irritable looks. Don't you dare to cross the path of their speeding cars or overtake them. A clenched fist might be shown to you!

Rushing back to the city and work, certainly put people in a different mood. I haven't kept up with the number of deaths and injuries on the road both before and after Hariraya, but many of those as reported on the radio and TV are just tragic and gruesome. Let's pause here to seek Allah's grace for them - Al-Fatihah. Thank God this time i didn't see any police roadblock to make the traffic jams even worse. I still long for the day to see a traffic policeman helping out the motorists in trouble instead of causing trouble with his book of summons. I didn't also see on my way to and returning from kampung, motorcyclists being herded to the roadside for close check-ups on any possible violation of the traffic ordinance. On normal days that maybe necessary, but during important festivals when the young people( who might not be able to afford a car yet) want to get home to see their parents and relatives, surely giving a sound advice is enough if there's any infraction of the law.

Be as it may it's already six days after the Hariraya and I thought everything is getting back to normal. It looks so in the community I'm staying in (that's Taman Melawati in Ulu Klang), judging from the turnout for prayers at the mosque or madrasah. Even our Bilal has returned from his holidays although none of the regular Imams seem to be around yet. But no, the Hariraya is not over yet. Today my wife and the family attended an open house at Dato Fuad and Datin Hasnah's house in Syah Alam where all close relatives had been invited. It was indeed a surprise for me but it was a most pleasant occasion to meet all those who managed to come.

Here's a few shots taken at the gathering which was quite small in size but very meaningful in getting the young members of the family to get to know each other better. The older ones of course concentrated on the food and delicacies as much as filling up on home-news.
As usual, it was always the unplanned gathering that drew the crowd- unplanned in the sense that there was no date or venue fixed some weeks or months ahead. It was just done by phone calls and words of mouth. As far as the host and hostess are concerned I'm sure they had to plan everything, especially the scrumptious lunch which laid out not only the usual Hariraya
fare but ones that were specially prepared. The ikan Goreng and Ikan Bakar were certainly a delicious change from the curry ayam and rendang daging. I have kept to a certain dietary constraint for the period before and after Hariraya, But at the gathering I totally forgot about it, especially since I've just regained my taste for food after having a bad flu just before Hariraya and which lasted until yesterday.

While the fathers. mothers and sisters had a very pleasant reunion, I think it's the younger ones and the kids who surprise us the most. They seldom had the opportunity to meet sicne the parents are always busy. But the moment they do, they got on to each other as if they had been playing together everyday for years. I was amazed to see how quick they can melt into each other like close relatives unlike the adults that I've seen both in the kampung and here in the city. The relationship can be so formal and deliberate, while some keep apart even at such a gathering. Yes, I think it's times the adult takes some lessons form the kids in terms of human relations.

This is a very a significant factor in family development nowadays, especially in the towns and cities. Cities are renowed for being crowded, but they are also full of lonely and lonesome people. People mix a lot at meetings in their places of work and social gatherings but back at home, families keep very much to themselves. Friends in schools need not be neighbors at home, and friendship in schools is pretty much like friendship in the offices and departments. Only rarely do you develop long term friendship for both schools and places of work may change quite frequently thus disabling a long-term friendship to be developed, unless the children had known each other even before they go to school.

As such the chance to meet their relatives both young and old is a very important factor in developing their human relations skill. Parents need to give them a lot of opportunities to meet their relatives, to play around with them and understand how they are related to each other. Especially when related parents live far away from each other unlike the extended families of old. Unless such opportunities are deliberately created, city children will know less and less about their relatives with school friends filling in the vacuum. And when they change school or their parents move to another vicinity, they can indeed become very lonely people until they find new friends.

It is in this light that the gathering of related parents and children in Dato Fuad's and Datin Hasnah's residence this afternoon,
( I have of course attended many other such gatherings before) gave me a sudden awareness of what the children had been missing. They need to get together with their kith and kin as often as possible to understand their common ancestry and strengthen the bonds of blood relationship, And from the way they do this at such gathering, parents who have been at odds with their own blood relations can learn much from their kids in term of forgetting the past and building up from the present.

Contrast the above to a gathering attended by more adults than kids and youngsters. The ladies in this pic represent relatives
who qorked in various parts of the country and seldom had the opportunity of meeting like this except on a festive day
These other shots were taken at a gathering in Tan Sri Dato' Hashim Meon's and Puan Sri Nor'ain's residence - a Hariraya-cum-Birthday party attended mostlly by adults from various walks of life. Though very lavish and generous with food and delicacies, the absence of little kids and children running around doing their things like brothers and sisters, sort of makes the gathering less boisterous and noisy.

To conclude, what's a gathering without the shouting, crying and cheering of kids and children running around and chasing each other, enjoying themselves. It will mostly be confined to adults talking, eating and laughing away.
Unless the gathering has an official or business overtone, I would strongly urge parents to bring their children along to meet their friends and relatives at such gatherings, especially when the gathering is held at a residential home. The children need more of the socialization than us adults who have attended enough of such gatherings.

Monday, September 13, 2010

After the Eid...

Eid ilFitr is four days gone and what surfaces in our minds? Probably the macabre case of Sosilawati's murder with three others while all other news is drowned into oblivion. What can cause human beings to be so brutal and inhuman as to murder four people in cold blood with a sickle of sort, burn them and throw their ashes (and other possessions perhaps beside the cash they carry with them) into Sungai Kanchong Laut, Kampung Endah, Banting? Do they think that the disappearance of the four will not be investigated into until the murderers are brought to justice? Do they, even in a blind fury, forget about God and retribution?

Killing a human being - a new-born baby, a child, a boy, a girl, a young man or woman, a grandma or granpa - seems to have
become as unthinking an act as swapping a fly or snuffing a candle. Be it with guns which involved a simple act of pulling a trigger, a hammer or bludgeon, a knife or parang, or even with the bare hands, the act of terminating a life for good does not seem to bother the conscience of the killer anymore. What has turned Malaysians, who generally are more religious than the secular people of the west, into such brutal creatures? Are most of the killers and murderers people without any religion or faith?

My worst fear is that people may have developed a very 'forgiving' attitude towards capital punishment or death sentence. Once condemned to death, you just wait for the D day as lawyers battle on for a reprieval, and if your luck runs out you face the gallows and die. So what if you had accomplished the act that satisfied your desire or your anger? The suicide bombers (often lauded as jihad fighters) even welcome death! The Red Indians of old welcomed death because they go to "the happy hunting ground". Only the desire for Heaven and a fear of Hell, will stop a Believer from committing the crime of killing another human being. What happens, therefore, if there's no such desire or such fear, or when there's no belief in life hereafter at all? The death penalty does not seem to matter at all to such people so long as they can achieve their objectives even if it requires taking away the lives of many other people.

Hence. when the killing and the murders get more frequent and gruesome, the meaning of capital punishment for the murderers by hanging, shooting, electrocuting or lethal injection carried out in the most humane way possible, must be reviewed. Is it enough to cause fear and, therefore, become an effective deterrent, or has it lost that effect? Maybe there are other ways that can cause more shame, fear and prolonged suffering that can become a more effective deterrent, short of being inhuman. Maybe by not allowing the murderer to rid himself or herself of this worldly life through a death sentence, might be a more effective way of stopping him or her from becoming a murderer? Being segregated from society and cast off on a lonely island for life, for example, maybe more fearsome and undesirable to some people than a quick death!

One way of making a cold hearted person realize the full meaning of the evil that he or she commits is to let him or her see the actual sufferings that he or she had caused. Every aspect of the suffering must be portrayed and shown to the perpetrator again and again and again until it becomes a torturous phobia. Let him or her cringe at the sight of the things he or she had done, feel a mental transference of pain and misery or go through the nightmare of the gruesome act. Question is : how can that be done? Let the psychologists work on it for the simple act of putting a person to death within a few seconds or minutes has certainly lost its deterrent effect on would-be-murderers.

Back to the post-Eid scenario, everything seems to be so quiet in KL, especially thie community in Taman Melawati. Ulu Klang.
It rained awhile in the morning and now the sun is shedding all of its robes to give the world a good shine. I'm beginning to feel the lost of Ramadhan's glory and edifying discipline. Maybe I should start the six-day fast as soon as possible.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Disability on Hariraya Aidilfitri

As far as I can remember in my adult life, this is the second time that I could not celebrate Aidilfitri in good health. The first time was some years ago when I came down with hypertension or high blood pressure. The doctor in a private hospital which treated me discharged me a few days before the festive day with an ample supply of medication. But the pills given were not effective on me and my blood pressure reached the ceiling forcing me to remain half conscious for a few days.
I went back to the hospital after the festival, was treated with a new pill and the pressure immediately came down. It seems that even doctors play a guessing game when it comes to prescribing the right pills for hypertension for there are so many types available in the market.

After a bypass operation my blood pressure is ok now although I have to consume some four or five types of pills everyday. The medication must be changed after sometimes when the effectiveness of the one given wears out, the good doctor tells me.

This time i was down with a bad cough and cold. Since it struck me towards the end of the fasting month (Ramadhan), i could not take my medicine during daytime.
I didn't go to see a doctor since it was a common c & c and I could get the known medication from the pharmacy. But come the final day of fasting I was still couging an sneezing. My participation in preparing for the festive day was minimal, in fact zilt. On the night before the last day of fasting I just managed to perform the tarawih
with lot of sneezing, coughing and sweating. With exceptional willpower and a total Fsubmission to Allah's willI I took the compulsory morning bath on Aidilfitri day and fulfilled both the special prayer followed the usual Friday prayers. But the exertion forced me to remain in bed under heavy sedation for most of today. Only for a few minutes could I join the visitors who visited us for most of the time I was snoring ( or is it snorting) away.

There's always a blessing behind every misfortune, says the al-Quran. While staying in bed both before and on the Aidilfitri day itself, I certainly learned a few things. You never get to think of what other people do towards the end of Ramadhan or on the festive day itself. This time around I had all the opportunity to do so. Looking around the village in the little time that I could manage to get out of bed, I could see how family members were returning home to their roots and cleaning the old houses in which they grew up. There was a lot of grass cutting and flower plant trimmings to be done and seeing all the urbanized family members getting the job done was a treat even for a sick old man.

Cutting the beef and chicken (all bought at the many stalls by the roadside) by the housewives,for a while reminded me of human carnivorousness. Surely the cows and the chickens, if they had any selfconsciuosness, would dread the coming of the festive days. But then Allah had allowed and in fact encouraged the sacrifice. There must pain during the sacrifice but certainly Allah had ensured that the animals don't
suffer so much. When human being killed each other is the ordeal of death suffered of the same order, I wondered.

Yesterday evening before the festive day and in the short while that I felt quite able to be on my feet in spite of the bad c & c, I helped to prepare the oil lamps to be posted along the road to our house. That's part of the old tradition rendered meaningless with the common use of electricity which becomes meaningful only if there's blackout. In the process of stepping over some fallen coconut trees I slipped and landed my bums on a tree with flailing arms. The back of one elbow was badly scraped by the rough bark of the tree and it hurt so until now. another bad luck. But what do you know? The pain took away my consciousness of the stuffy nose and sore throat which probably allowed me to perform the Magrib and Isyak at the mosque. Aha, another blessing in diguise. Yes, this c & c is probably brought upon me so that I can be more aware of the full meaning of Ramadhan, more than what I have gathered in previous years.

In that respect the hariraya this year is a blessing to me. I celebrated it with more thoughts about people, life, the world and Allah and less about having a good time for myself and family. The disability to move around and indulge in merry-making gave me an opportunitynto more soul-searching and self-analysis. Subhanallah walhamdulillah, walaillahaillallah, wallahu akbar, Allahu akbar.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Welcoming Aidilfitri

A few more days and the 1.82 billion Muslims of the world will celebrate Aidilfitri, the end of Ramadhan - but not of fasting! Many will fast for another six days after a few days break for the 'Hariraya'. With that addition a Muslim is considered to have fasted the whole year according to the Islamic faith.

Aidilfitri is celebrated like other 'holy' days in other religions ( Christmas, CNY. Thaipusam etc.) Unfortunately people nowadays take all 'holy' days as mere holidays - time to take leave from work and celebrate like a vacation, some with more festivities than others. The religious obligations and ceremonies implied are not strictly applied anymore. Merry-making and festivities take precedence over everything else.

The same it is with Aidilfitri. For one month the Muslims have been fasting in the day and 'feasting' from dusk to dawn. Now they can feast again in the daytime, beginning on the first of Shawal, the tenth month of the Muslim calender year. It's the day to put on their best attire (must be new), attend the aidilfitri prayer at the local mosques or madrasah after a good and lavish breakfast, then visit relatives and friends attacking the food and delicacies they serve and seeking forgiveness for all the 'sins' and 'sacrileges' committed against them. The young will, of course, expect some monetary gifts ( now widely known as 'ang pow') from those they visit. The adults will also visit the graves of their beloved who had passed away ( sometimes insisting that their children follow them) to offer prayers and some posthumous words of endearment. This may also be done on the second or third day of Hariraya, and often done at convenience or even forgotten over the love of merry-making.

What is often forgotten as well by some of the 'mpdern' Muslims is the payment of a special tithe for the poor ie. zakat fitrah, before the Aidilfirti celebration. They don't realize that their fasting and all the religious activities in the month of Ramadhan will or may not be accepted by Allah if they failed to pay the zakat - now fixed at RM7+ per person in the family for Selangor. The acceptance will remain 'suspended' until the zakat fitrah is paid, and paying it after the morning Aidilfitri prayer will not absolve the obligation.

Even the fasting is not all that is required of the Muslims as an obligations for the month of Ramadhan. In addition to the normal prayers carrried out five times in a day and night, there is the Tarawih, the Witir and the Qiamul Lail ( Tasbih )and other prayers that are 'sunnah' (preferred) but which had taken on an obligatory mantle. The two raka'at Tasbih prayer to be performed between 3 - 5 am takes about half an hour to complete since it requires a 750x recitation of the tasbih (subhanallah, walhamdulillah, walaillaha illallah wallahu akbar etc.). A Muslim must perform the Tasbih prayer at least once in a lifetime.

Every religious act performed during the Ramadhan month, of course. gets 70x more points cpmpared to its performance at other times. The reading of the al-Quran outside the month of Ramadhan for example, gives you 7 points per alphabet ( not words!) but done in the month of Ramadhan that is mulplied by 70. Above that you get points for all other activities related to fasting which include taking a short nap after the performance of normal work. Yes. the blessings of Allah re most bountiful in the month of Ramadhan encompassing all acts of worship (solat), god deeds (amal soleh) and giving away a part of our worldly gains ( rezki) to the needy (sedekah).

Hence the Adifitri celebration after fulfilling all the requirements of Ramadhan is a real Victory Reception. It should become a turning point for one who had before the Ramadhan of each year taken his or her religious obligations lightly, fulfilled only a minimum of the requirements or even neglect most of them. It should mark a new birth, a new awareness of oneself and one's obligations, a new preparedness for a meaningful living.

The question to ask ourselves is whether the Ramadhan of this year had done all those to us or is it just the end of the fasting month and after that we can eat again in the daytime, continue to do all the things we have done before, and celebrate with feasting and merry-making to our heart's content? When the call to the morning Aidilfitri prayer is heard on the day of celebration, we can ask ourself wether we're a changed person or just the same old bloke, ready to take on life again with all its pleasures and rewards, without a thought for who maketh it all possible. Only we ourselves and Allah know about it. Subhanallah.

Selamat Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin.