Friday, 7 September 2007

Magical merdeka moments...

As I walked up the sweeping staircase of this magnificent mansion, I allowed my mind to run riot for a bit. Now, did our prince who was to become the father of the nation, skip two steps at a time in excitement anticipating the moment when he was to sign the treaty that proclaimed our independence or did he, as befitting his status and title, walk slowly but surely as he had done throughout the months leading up to the negotiation fifty one years ago? I believe, our beloved Tunku, being the fun guy that he was, judging from the interviews that I had with his friends and those who worked with him, would have skipped a bit, if no one was looking. He would be singing the dondang sayang silently, or do a jig of the ronggeng – his heart bursting with joy.

Last night, I retraced his footsteps as I entered Lancaster House as this early nineteenth century building, in the leafy and secluded corner of St. James’ almost next door to the Queen’s, once again hosted a historic occassion for our country. Lancaster House was the venue for the 50th Merdeka reception, hosted by the Malaysian High Commission in London. I was in awe of the surroundings, the ornate decorations, the opulence and the grandeur – everything that had been witness to the birth of so many new nations.

So, if this is the climax of my hectic schedule running up and down the country during the last few months, then I am happy. Deliriously so. I had just got off the Eurostar from Paris in time for the toastmaster to clear his throat and call out the names of dignitaries attending the reception. I was so exhausted after days of trainhopping from Manchester to Liverpool to Edinburgh to Paris, London and back to Paris. I am so tired of going back to an empty hotel room and living out of a suitcase and I am so tired of going to sleep in a big empty bed with only the TV set speaking to me as I doze off to lalaland. But Lancaster House and all its magnificience and all its history made it worth every single sleep that I had missed.

Earlier I had plans to blog about the the meeting with the Scottish ex-servicemen in Edinburgh who talked of Malaya as if it was their own country. I wanted to write about their passion for the country that they had so much respect and love for, about the people they said were so warm and friendly. I also wanted to write about the eve of the 50th anniversary that I spent with Datin Peggy Taylor, Frederick Lees and his wife Marie, and Jean and Barry Floyd in the beautiful picturesque town of Rye. Frederick and Marie and of course Datin Taylor were there on 31st August 1957 and they could talk about the times they were in Malaya till the Sussex cows come home. jean and Barry, having worked in Malaysia for a long time, know more about our country then we do. Peggy was in her batik baju kurung and Barry in his batik shirt.

Peggy was a close friend of Tunku and had been his confidante on a lot of things, not least his choice of the bunga raya as the national flower. Fred lees, was of course the Englishman who shouted Merdeka from the control room at the Merdeka Stadium. One can sit for hours and listen to Fred. He has a way of telling stories and and make you laugh. Fred, as a young MCS officer worked with the Tunku, Tun Razak and many others. But one very important task that he carried out was organising the programme for the big day. From the copy of his programme, you can see every minute detail was planned with military precision. But, according to Fred, no one anticipated the school bus that went into the monsoon drain nearby!

Fred talked about how Tunku would come up with ideas at the last minute. Walking with the Duke of Gloucester to their seats in the stadium, Tunku popped his head into the control room where Fred was sitting with Syed Jaafar Albar and said:

“Albar, when we are walking back after the ceremony, shout Merdeka into the microphone,” which of course Syed Jaafar Albar did until he lost his voice and the responsibility fell on to the young MCS officer that was Fred. In that joyous and happy atmosphere, no one knew any better whose voice it was that shouted Merdeka into the microphone 50 years ago. Fred will go down in history as the Englishman who shouted Merdeka!

Yes, I wanted to write all that – and now I have. We had a kind of mini celebration eating salmon and salad with fried rice that Marie made. I had brought with me nasi lemak and sambal ikan bilis that Peggy instantly demolished with vigour. We even had a mini Malaysian flag flying on the table. It was a beautiful day – one that I’d like to write about properly, some day.

Rushing back from Rye, both my husband and I fell silent – each with our own thoughts. We had our own agenda. And we scribbled them down. That evening, straight from Fred’s house in Rye, we went to the special doa selamat do at the surau in Malaysia Hall. For the first time, we enjoyed some sajaks that our bilal read, the one that my husband scribbled on the train and the syair that I hastily composed on the 1550 from Rye. Our young talented Ustaz did a nasyid – all of us remembering our beloved nation in our own way.

Then we prayed for the continued safety, peace and prosperity of our country.

The food after the event was like no other!

And of course I wanted also to blog about the celebration in Paris, chatting till late at night with Chef Wan, but I think it is best that I leave that with the celebration that I am about to enjoy in Oslo tomorrow.

Yes, it sounds a little hectic but there were moments when I let my hair down when I enjoyed an evening with Mawi, shared a song with Sharizan Borhan and enjoyed the beautiful Melayu asli songs with the Asika band who made Ala Canggung like I have never heard before!

Will be back after Oslo!

Read the story as appeared in Sunday Times here.


wonda said...

You are an incredible woman! In the midst of running here and there, you managed to share with us this moment of the past and the present. Thank you. There is nothing over here in my place. Just a congratulatory message on the 50th Merdeka Day in the local English newspaper by the Malaysian ambassador here.

jaflam said...

KT, Ehemmm you are having hectic but great time and full of patriotism. Sometimes it makes me wonder when you will come back to KL for good.

Asika can really make our Malay traditional music proud especially Kamarul the percussionist. I have never failed to invite them for my function in KL .... tanda sokongan pada muzik asli kita.

I am Ann said...

kak teh, bestnya travelling! thanks for making the time to share despite a hectic schedule.

Judy said...

What a busy woman you are. I am trying to help you catch a breath or two.

Amidst all your busyness, I see you are also enjoying yourself while working. What more could you ask for. Take care.

~ahni~ said...

Wow! Nanti kak teh boh la video kak teh menari canggung kat sini, mesti best!

Fauziah Ismail said...

Salam Kak Teh
Busy as a bee as usual. Do take care.
Selamat Berpuasa to you and family.

J.T. said...

Your description of magical merdeka moments put me right into those scenes. Oh! I just love the way you write. Everything comes alive. It felt like I was living your busy schedule and meeting interesting people (could even imagine the taste of your nasi lemak!). As I write this comment, I feel breathless but contented. :D

All the best in Oslo!

Nazrah said...


don't forget your vitamins!

Theta said...

Lovely account of Malaysia's golden jubilee celebration with those who appreciate what Independence means to a young nation such as ours.

Have a great one in Oslo, Kak Teh and please regale us further with your Merdeka-celeb stories. :)

D said...

oh dear... you've got a lot to update us with!!! All celebs, eh?

Kak Elle said...

KT bila agak nya you can rest eh?running every where and still full of mawi and chef wan lagi...jeles I....hehehe

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Teh,

I ditto JT.

Blabarella said...

Just goes to prove again what a superwoman you are, managing to sneak in a post for us faithful readers, even though your life is as hectic as the leaders attending the APEC summit! Much appreciated KT, and Salam Merdeka to you and AG.

Jane Sunshine said...

hectic city. call me when you're back!

abang malaya said...

Ah! merdeka adikku?
Merdekakah engkau dan aku?
Merdekakah ayah dan ibu?
Merdekakah anak dan cucu?

Abang Malaya tidak tahu lagi
Yang merdeka itu adakah bumi
Yang nama keramatnya Malaysia
Atau kami para penghuninya?

Abang ini sudah tua
Sudah rasa asam garamnya
Sudah merasa suka dan duka
Yang dilihat itu tidak semestinya nyata
Yang bersinar itu tidak semestinya cahaya
Sekadar imaginasi dan nostalgia
Takut-takut bumi ini semakin tua
Semakin uzur tidak bermaya
Nanti susah cucu-cucu kita
Bumi yang tinggal gersang belaka.

Mungkin adik lagi remaja
Maka mata masih berkaca
Marantau pula jauh di sana
Tidak terasa duka dan lara
Di bumi keramat namanya Malaysia.

Namun kukibar juga bendera
Kujeritkan juga merdeka
Untuk bumi keramatku Malaysia
Merdeka, merdeka, merdeka.

Buat adikku semua
Doaku sentiasa
Agar hidupmu bahagia
Dibuai angin senja
Diringi puisi cinta
Kekal selama-lama.........

Mior Azhar said...

Salam Kak Teh:
What a Merdeka celebration. Yours are much more fun than most of us here. Selamat Berpuasa

Kak Ainon, Besut said...

Asmk Kak Teh
What a grand, exciting and hectic assignment!
Actually I ada ‘tertengok’ part of your session with Frederick Lees on RTM1. Galeri Merdeka I think. Cant remember whether it was before or after Mardeka day. I was switching channel during TV3 News commercial break. Ya, it was hilarious listening to Fred talking about him helping Jaafar Albar with that mardeka shout. Must be so memorable for him. I got more excited when I saw you. Charming! I knew that you will be posting something on it soon on your blog.
I was in Manchester (20th Jul - 6th Aug) visiting my nephew/family. They just arrived there about 2 weeks earlier. My nephew’s wife is doing her post-grad study. Just a short trip with another nephew to see how they are settling down with their 13 months old twin-boys. Took short trips to Liverpool and Chester and spent our last day in London.
Should plan a longer trip next time. Maybe next summer, insyaallah

elisataufik said...

Wah kak Teh, merdeka sakan betul!
Penat, but sounds so seronok, especially talking to the people who were at the actual merdeka celebration 50 years ago. What I would pay to be the fly on the wall!

In case I don't get a chance to wish you again: Ramadhan Karim, ya?

p/sI'm at blogspot at the mo, tunggu efx2 baik semula.

Has said...

Dear Kak Teh,

Macam mana boleh mengekalkan tahap tenaga yang tinggi? Apa rahsia mu?

ruby ahmad said...

Hi Kak Teh,

Happy Merdeka.'ve been very busy indeed. Wonderful events. Boy! Quite a frenzy of activities but all lovely and fun as I can see. Ok have a good trip to Oslo sweetheart.

Selamat Berpuasa to you and loved ones.

OndeOnde said...

Kak Teh dear,
Ramadhan Mubarak to you and family..semoga mendapt rahmat Allah dibulan yang berkat ini.

cakapaje said...


Kak teh sekeluarga dan sahabat lain di sini,

Selamat Menyambut Ramadhan al-Mubaraq

Lisa said...

Assalamualaikum kak teh.. Nanti kalau citer pasal Oslo, jgn citer pasal org yg kata nak saman u tu tau... hehehe

Kak Teh said...

wa'alaikum salam lisa,..oooh yaaaaa! kalau kak teh nak cerita pasal orang tu, kenalah ada gambar dia sama - gambar yang menakutkan tu.

cakapaje, selamat berpuasa to you too.

Onde-onde, kak teh juga ucapkan selamat berpuasa kpd onde-onde sekeluarga.

Kak Teh said...

ruby, yes, i had been busy and now ready to just concentrate on ramadhan. Oslo is so beautiful.

has, tenaga? mana ada tenaga - i just let myself go. Then balik I pengsan! Selamat berpuasa to you.

elisataufik - yes, i have been lucky meeting so many interesting people. They have shared so many interesting stories with me.
Selamat berpuasa to you too.

Kak Teh said...

kak ainon of besut- you tengok programme tu?? aaaah! yes, he is such an interesting person. banyak lagi cerita dia yang menarik.

You ada di UK? adoi - tak cakap nak datang, kalau tidak boleh jumpa.

mior, yes, i think i had loads of fun - selamat berpuasa.

jane, am missing you already. Pls keep in touch. It'll never be the same again without you and M around.

Kak Teh said...

blabs, i think it was just as well that i stopped after oslo. I was beginning to feel not like superwoman anymore. i have been sleeping for days! selamat berpuasa.

hi&lo, thanks.

kak elle, i promise you - sekarang tengah rest laa ni! nothing can make me work anymore.

Kak Teh said...

wonda, yes, am lucky that I am able to enjoy these celebrations - and not only the ones in London. Well, try watching youtube. am sure there's some pix there.

jaflam, patriotism? hmm, well, i thinkyou do feel a surge of that on days like this, especially for the 50th!

ann, i see that you too have some kind of celebration. must be fun.

Kak Teh said...

judy, must enjoy laa if not its a waste of time. I try to enjoy whatever i do. Oslo is so so so wonderful. A must go place but also a must bring lots of money kind of place too.

ahni, kak teh menari canggung?? alahai! nanti lari semua orang.

fauziah - ya, what's new. You know la what its like. kalau sepi, terus menyepi. Selamat berpuasa. very likely we meet up in december?

Kak Teh said...

jt, i enjoyed most being with fred and company - such interesting conversations. and of course being at Lancaster House - I dont know when I will have that opportunity again.

nazrah, what vitamins?

theta, you must have witnessed some glorious moments too. Insyaallah i will write when my energy returns.

Kak Teh said...

d, mana ada celebs...oh yes, there's yasmin yusuf, chef wan and shahrizan - oh ya - mawi of course - but he wasnt here for the merdeka celebration. you shd have gone to his do in Manchester!

Kak Teh said...

Abang Malaya,

Dari london ke oslo bergema laungannya,
merdeka, merdeka hingga serak suaranya,
Lagu 31 Ogos indah didendangnya,
Terusik hati ini dibuatnya.

Kalau jauh di rantau begitulah rasa,
terkenangkan negara setiap masa,
pahit manis negara kita juga,
kukibarkan bendera tercetus rasa bangga.

namun di London, sedih sikit ku rasa,
tunku melaung merdeka dari peti berkaca,
namum di perayaan jazz inggeris yang mereka suka,
mana sudah pergi budaya bangsa?

kata pengelola, budaya melayu kita dah terlalu biasa,
orang nak dengar jazz inggeris pula,
tapi desakku ini lima puluh tahun kita raya,
apa kena mengena lagu jazz dengan merdeka?

entah laa abang malaya!

Lisa said...

Assalamualaikum kak teh.. hehe.. belum sempat lagi tengok kat laptop gambar 'mystery' tu.. but i think its payung laa.. hehe.. anyhow, selamat berpuasa to you too.. thanks for joining us the other day tu.. also, kat mana boleh i tengok gambar yg u citer ada "extra" org tu... tq.

Kak Teh said...

lisa, gambar tu nak kena tunggu tuan dia balik. dia masih dok enjoy kat sana tu.

just me said...

Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir batin!