Friday, 30 June 2006

Oh Raihan!!!

It was one of the most wonderful summer breaks that I can remember, when we as a family drove around Malaysia enjoying the sights of the homeland, cherishing every moment while we showed the children this and that and tirelessly answered the whys and whats. It was lovely – and sad too because it was probably the last holiday we had together as a family. But what is also memorable about this particlular holiday was that as a family, we all fell in love with the singing sensation of that time – Raihan.

Instead of the usual evergreens or the children’s Boyzone or rap music, we were all wrapped in silence as we enjoyed the soothing tunes of Raihan. The tape was played again and again and before we knew it, the children were reciting Sifat 20 and knew the names of the prophets by heart. And for this, I humbly thank Raihan for a wonderful way of making their way to my children’s hearts and minds in just a matter of days, instilling in them what would have taken me years to do. This ritual we continued in our drives around the UK during the weekends. And everytime we listened to Raihan, we also remembered our wonderful summer break together.

raihan in london Posted by Picasa

Raihan’s Sifat 20 transported me back to my childhood days, with memories of Mak reciting to us the 20 qualities of God as we drifted to the land of Nod. I never got to anywhere past fifteen. It was the same with all the names of the prophets. It would have helped had Mak sang to us, the way she did the syairs.

Cik Am & Cik Batman Posted by Picasa

When the world famous nasyid group made their first performance in London, I made sure that we were right there in the front row. And what a sensation, what a performance! I missed their second and third concert here, but nothing can keep me away from the Islam Expo at Alexander Palace this weekend, where Raihan is performing on the opening night - 6th July. Cik Am sms’ed and confirmed that Yes, Raihan will be performing in London before going to Toronto on the 8th and then to Trinidad and Tobago on 10th July. That’s the way to go....World!!! (or is that someone else?)

Am a little sad that Nazrey Johaney, the lead singer has left but a warm wlecome to Nordin Jaafar who will be joining the group during their tour.

Now, don’t say I didn’t give advance warning of Raihan’s performance in London!

Monday, 26 June 2006

Of Engelbert and the merisik party

So Engelbert has laryngitis! I know so because a very disappointed fan sms’ed AND ym’ed me all the way from Malaysia about the cancellation. What a pity! But all is not lost ‘cos the legend nursing the sore throat should be fulfiling his promise to his fans this Wednesday. So, my piece about him will have to wait.

That leaves me with very little to blog about. Well, we did got out for a meal – i.e. Jane Sunshine and hubby, me and hubby plus birthday girl, ewok, to celebrate her birthday. We were having steamboat tomyam when someone said, what’s the latest from Malaysia? This person also mentioned Erra and Yusri’s break-up and that brought a look of surprise from my husband – a look that says: are they someone we know?

Well, we did talk about all sorts of things, this and that and I brought up the subject of Dato’ K and our Cik Siti, and the six million dollar question: are they finally tying the knot?

The Malaysian newspapers were abuzzed with the story yesterday that Dato’ K and entourage had finally gone to meet her family. I was rather bemused by the description of the intention of the visit.

According to The Star:
"It was not immediately known what the purpose of the visit was but speculation was rife that Khalid was there to merisik, which is a customary visit by a groom aspirant to seek the parents' consent for an engagement with their daughter. "

And the NST reported:
"Khalid and his family members were believed to be there to merisik (enquire), a Malay custom leading to formal engagement for marriage."

See how problematic the word merisik is. What is merisik? And in the case of our Cik Siti what else is there to merisik? Everything that needs to know about the singing sensation is all there in the media archives. Just google, no?

A brief vox pop around our tomyam table brought all sorts of answers: snoop, spy, enquire, to ask discreetly.

This is a brief explanation from-
When it is time for a young man to get married his family will look around to identify a number of potential candidates. Having decided upon one particular young lady, then, the merisik of investigation process takes place. For this ceremony one or more representatives (wakil) of the young man’s family will pay a friendly visit to the family of the young woman whom they have in mind as his potential bride. The visit is purely for the purpose of further investigation. Its allows the visitors to see the young lady. A hint will be given to her parents regarding the purpose of the visit, and their reaction will be assessed. The girl’s parents may also give the visitors some idea as to whether or not their daughter will be interested in the match. The merisik does not constitute a formal proposal. Following the visit both sides can begin to think more seriously about the possibility or otherwise of the union. It is possible that no progress may take place, and the young man’s parents or representatives will then look for another possible candidate.

From today’s press, we were told that it was just a casual visit by Dato K’s entourage to Cik Siti’s. She wasn't even there. Sure. For someone like her, nothing can be casual and nothing can be discreet or quiet. With scores of paparazis and reporters on the look out, even perhaps renting rooms in houses nearby, any attempt to ‘enquire discreetly’ is almost a mission impossible.

Personally, I quite like the idea of merisik. It conjures a lot of fun and game playing in the mind. You get this image of two mak ciks visiting a house they have never visited before to carry out their task on behalf of the interested party. It is quite possible too that the interested male is in his car parked somewhere a few yards away. Usually they will enlist the help of an aunt of the subject – i.e. the girl or the 'flower' in the garden.

The mother, who is roped in, will then entertain the party, calling upon the unsuspecting daughter to serve tea and preferably some cakes that she herself made.

The conversation would go like this:

Mak cik 1: Yang ni yang mana?
Mother: Yang mana lagi. Saya ada yang ni saja laaa yang belum lepaih....
Mak Cik 2 : (eyeing girl from top to bottom) Dah ada kawan kaaaaaa?
Mother: Ish, budak-budak la ni. Kawan tu ramai laaaa. Tapi tak ada sapa spesial.
Mak Cik1: Isshhh (while munching kueh thatgirl made) sapa masak kueh ni, sedaaap!
Mother: Sapa lagi...anak saya laaa!

I can almost imagine the girl’s discomfort, shaking in her sarong while pouring out the tea
while being scrutinised by two elderly mak ciks and a nervous and anxious mum.

The conversation above is quite straight foreward, very straight to the point, unlike the story that my mother told me of a merisik party that went wrong.

A mother was in her garden when she was approached by two ladies who told her how much they liked the flower in her garden. Without further ado, out came her cutter and she snipped off some roses for the friendly but very astonished mak ciks.

But seriously, what is it that the merisiking party wants to know?

First and foremost of course, whether the girl is single and not ‘seeing’ anyone else. (Even 'chatting' online will be a minus point!)
Whether she can cook – thus, some girls are asked to prepare something. I would have failed miserably on this score. Most mothers are concerned that their sons are kept well fed. I suggest the take aways. I did that several years until we got tired of kebabs.
Can she sew? This day and age – perhaps not a very important requirement.
Is she working/prepared to leave her job/able to bear children?
Is she still unplucked and unvisited by any other bees?
Aha! Now, I was told that some mak ciks can tell even by the way a girl walks, an expert glance at her heels or her forehead.

Whatever the intention of the entourage to Cik Siti's mansion, be it for a cup of coffee to moist their throat after a long journey to the east coast, I wish them well. But, please, please make the announcement soon and end the miseries of the paparazis.

Sunday, 18 June 2006

I owe you one, Pak!

The answer to Kak Cik’s question that had been plaguing me since my return from the Holy City, came in a flash just as I was folding the mat after Subuh prayers. I knew then that I’ve got the right answer and I don’t have to feel so bad now.

During our conversation after my one week Umrah, Kak Cik asked whether anyone who looked like Pak appeared before me at all. I said no. And deep inside I was disappointed as Kak Cik continued her story that during her Haj, someone who looked remarkeably like Pak appeared before her almost every day. So, why was I denied this? I have heard that things like this do happen in Mekah, but no one who looked anything remotely like Pak appeared. In fact, when she was in the Masjidil Haram after finishing her Quran, she looked up to find someone who looked like Tok. I never had this experience and I was beginning to feel a tad denied. Didn't know there was any favouritism in the family. May be a week was too short for anyone to make any appearance.

But now I have my answer. The very reason Pak appeared before Kak Cik was that Kak Cik was the only one who was not present when Pak left us. We were all there, all around him. Kak was there, so was Abang, Lilah and of course Ajie, still so young and already losing Pak. I remember that day so well. I had been called home as Pak wasn’t getting any better, but when I arrived Pak could still talk. He asked, “Where’s Kak Cik?” and I replied, "Her plane will be landing at four". Pak adjusted his glasses, looked up at the old clock that he religiously wound every other day and simply said, “Tak sempat dah”. True enough, he went at two and Kak Cik arrived a little too late. The same explanation for Tok’s appearance. Kak Cik was in Mekah when Tok left us.

Pak himself never made it to Mekah. He had been ill all his life but Mak made sure that she performed the Haj on his behalf during one of her trips there. But I remembered him in my doa as I stood there before the Ka'abah and I prayed that his soul is placed amongst those blessed.

When I think about Pak I think about unresolved issues – there were things I wish Pak had done for me and there were things that I wish I had done for him. I never had the kind of Pak who would accompany his kids to tuition or take them to the park. And I remember how I ached for that but knew the impossibility of it all. Pak hardly left the house after his accident, and it was really not his fault. But I remember feeling pangs of jealousy whenever I see friends being driven by their fathers. But Pak made up for all these in other ways. He waited for us while we watched late night movies on telly and switched off the lights while we scrambled into bed and pulled the blankets over our heads. Once or twice in the middle of the night, Pak would come into the bedroom and cover us again with the blankets that had slipped on to the floor. Once, he came just in time to see the blanket nearly on fire after falling on to a burning mosquito coil.

He also rescued us from housework by helping Mak in the kitchen and even signed our report cards without his glasses on! He’d repeat his war time stories as we sat by his couch listening for the umpteenth time how he rescued a young British soldier from the advancing Japanese party. We got used to the smell of his Curve Cut tobbaco and took turns to put Tokohon plasters on his aching back.

Pak was a product of the colonial system and demanded that we spoke and wrote in English all the time. Our letters were corrected in red and returned and we read and read anything and everything that had writings on them. We fought over the newspaper to finish the crossword puzzles and he finished my badly turned out scones that I made in Domestic Science class. I remember that I was in tears when the scones turned out all hard. But Pak ate them all.

All these Pak did for me and I couldn’t even fulfil his one simple wish. Everytime we told him that we were going to town to buy the latest songs on record, he’d ask for Sri Mersing. “Get me Sri Mersing,” he’d holler as we cycled fast past the front gates. Of course we didn’t get him Sri Mersing. It was so.. so, uncool. We’d be searching for the Beatles or Engelbert Humperdink and heaven helped us if anyone heard us asking for Sri Mersing!

So, that is one regret. Hmmm, no wonder Pak didn’t want to see me.

Anyway, Pak would have been pleased to know I am where I am now. I left four years after he left us and I brought with me, in that one suitcase of memories, a small piece of his blanket, still smelling of Curve Cut Tobacco and Tokohon plasters.

Pak would have loved this rendition of Sri Mersing by Siti Nurhaliza. Thanks MA.

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Apologies and etc

I believe, I owe everyone an explanation, especially those who humoured my non entry below! Thank you. It all started when I was still in London, frantically trying to post pictures of events during Malaysia Week in Covent Garden. It was a futile attempt and I thought I had deleted the posting – but – hey presto! Thank you!

So, here I am back in hot and humid Kuala Lumpur trying to compete with headless chickens running around not knowing what to do. It has been my intention to visit my ailing Mak and MAS’s ridiculously cheap fare made that possible, leaving all my sayang mamas behind with packages of Brahim’s curry and asam pedas.

During this visit too, I have been offered the opportunity to perform my umrah, Insyaallah and that will be tomorrow. I have not spoken about it mainly because I needed to see the visa. Alhamdulillah, I have got it now and I need your doas to accompany me there.

It is true what people say about how we as human beings can only plan, but it is HE who decides what happens. Mak fell ill, seriously on the third day after my arrival and was hospitalized. Unlike my other siblings, I had never looked after her and I believe this was my pay back time. Let me recall my moments with her.

Moments with Mak
My flight from London was uneventful and I landed at 2.30 pm. By four I was at the front door and was delighted to see Mak walking slowly to the door to greet me. But she was coughing. She was very happy that I was going to perform my umrah and couldn’t stop recounting those journeys she herself made several times. I was on the phone with Mak Andeh, when she came over and started caressing my back. And she held my hand, slipping in a couple of RM50 notes. She said, it was for me to spend for my Umrah and from then on, I couldn’t speak for the lump that rose in my throat.

Moments with Mak can be summarized as one full of anxieties, guilt, sadness and spurts of joy and laughter. There were times when her coughing made her gasp for breathe and left her weak and quite frustrated. During times when I ventured out to Kuala Lumpur, I received calls from my siblings to come back as she was unwell. And went back, I did to find her smiling her sweet smile on the sofa and chiding me for escaping to the city. It was apparent that she wanted me around and not traipsing all over Kuala Lumpur like I used to. But there were things that needed to be done.

I attended a three hour crash course on Umrah at the Tabung Haji building last Sunday and felt a lot more confident. But after that I received a text message saying that Mak was admitted to Putra Jaya Hospital. Thank God for the ERL and I was there in no time.

I didn’t know it was possible for her to look even more frail than before. But there she was surrounded by my siblings and nephews and nieces. She was there more than for just her coughs. Her lungs were showing things we didn’t know exist and a condition we didn’t want to acknowledge.

So, It was my turn to stay over at the hospital to look after her. Shamlessly I pleaded with my sister to stay back with me and we persuaded the Head Nurse to allow both of us to stay. So, while one of us stayed by her bedside, one would be in the TV room. It was during one of my breaks that I watched My Team being demolished by Malaysia. Not impressed at all.

Mak coughed throughout the night and the needle they inserted for her blood transfusion was beginning to hurt her. She cried out in pain and shamelessly, I cried too not knowing how to take the pain away from her. The next day, I was left on my own to tend to Mak.
The cough mixture she was given helped and we had a wonderful chat about how wonderful her voyage on the Bunga Raya was in the late sixties.

She spoke about the excitement and the joy, even about forgetting all of us at home, when she embarked on her first pilgrimage. It was fun, by ship, she said.

“When we reached Aidan (for that was how she pronounced it) little boats with goodies approached the Bunga Raya and they would hoist long poles with basket to show their wares. We’d put our money in and lower down the basket,” she said, her memory of that afternoon at the port, as clear as it had happened yesterday.

She recalled how, at seven months pregnant, she persisted to perform the Haj, she told about her delivery in the small white tent in Arafah, aided by a midwife from Perak. She reminded me of doas and what to say and do where. I could listen to her forever, sitting there by her hospital bed, just the two of us. This pricesless moment with Mak was hundred times better that the three hour session I had with the Ustaz. This was my Mak telling me what to do and what to expect.

I spent another evening alone with her, watching her sleep as the medication they gave her took effect. There were times I could read the book on how to perform the Umrah, and there were times I could mark exam papers that I had brought back with me. But most of the time, I sat there looking at her, wondering where did the strong woman in that small frame go. She was quiet the whole day, not as chatty when I came to take over from my sisters. My immediate task: Help Mak put on the nappies. And with that they left.

With four children, I should be an expert at putting disposable nappies. But the next few minutes showed how wrong I was to assume. One look at the nappy, my face crumpled as I didn’t know which side should be at the bottom. And one look at my face, my Mak went into stitches laughing so hard that it could have been a scene from a sit com. We tried this way and that and still it didn’t look right. And it didn’t help that Mak was rolling with laughter, wiping tears from her face. Two wasted nappies and I decided to swallow my pride and called in the nurse. Phew! At least I made her laugh.

The next morning, the doctors made their rounds. And for the first time I asked them about the true nature of her illness. And Yes, we are talking about the BIG C, said one doctor, handing me a tissue as I burst into sobs. It then became official. And from that moment on, I am more determined to make my journey there and be there before the Kaabah and pray that my Mak be spared of any kind of pain. Please doa for me and with me.

Kak Teh meminta ampun dan maaf daripada semua kalau ada silap dan salah dan terkasar bahasa.