Thursday, 26 February 2009

Radio Revisited

Radio was my first love. But let’s just say when I first flirted with radio, I didn’t have the right assets for it. I was far too shy, my voice was too, too timid and soft, even after several sessions of voice production. But I remember my first Drama Minggu Ini with Shuhaimi Baba gosh, didn’t she just drill me into talking out loud and clear.

Anyway, inspite of all the limitations, I joined the radio newsroom of RTM when I was still a student; taking down weather reports (hujan di sana sini) and typing down stories from stringers carrying loads of equipments during assignments.

I met the likes of Yahya Long Chik, Patrick Teoh, Constance Haslam, people whose voices I grew up with. I was then able to put voices to faces, so to speak. And I really admired them.

It wasn’t until London that I went into radio wholeheartedly. And for this, I must thank my friend Aziz Ibrahim who was at the BBC Malay Service in the late 70’s when we arrived. He introduced me to the big man honcho, Mr Colin Wild, a kind genial man who spoke good Indonesian Malay and trained me in the art of broadcasting. To cut the story short, BBC, I think provided the best training for radio broadcasters and for that I am most thankful. Thus my forays into the world of journalism began, speaking to the world, everyday at 1.30 London time from that big building straddling Kingsway and The Strand.

The expected announcement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to close down the Malay section came in 1990. Someone had leaked the story to the Financial Times, and I rushed to the office to be met by seven men in grey suits. They apologised about the leak to the press, expressed concern and more apologies because they couldn’t do more to save the Malay Service which had been around from before the war, if I am not mistaken. Broadcasters then had included people like Tun Suffian.

But BBC had prepared me for life ahead, I picked up the pieces and started life a new, but I still had lingering feelings, wonderful memories of life in radio.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to be a special guest for Sounds of Malaysia, ( a community radio service, where one hour every Sunday was given to broadcast for the Malaysian community.

I had butterflies in my stomach through, ……..

(I don’t know how to explain this. My writing was interrupted by a phonecall, that brought me back to those BBC days, a phone call from someone in the Indonesian service, someone I have not heard from since he retired. It was Pak Brahim, who was appointed Senior Producer of the Indonesian Service at the same time I was appointed Senior Producer of the Malay Service. He wanted to know the phone number of Ishak Nengah and Aziz Ibrahim. There must be some thing here at work, I don’t know, and it is quite eerie!)

Yes, back to the interview at the studio in Forest Gate. Like I said, I had butterflies in my stomach but Miriam, who is the DJ, promised that it was going to be very casual. And once we were in the studio, headset in place, I was transported back in time.

We were then joined by DJs from Traxx FM DJ Par and DJ Fad Da Dilly’ O and from then on we were in our own world.

We talked about the Pak Cik sailors and my life as a freelance journalist and before I knew it, Miriam said why not present the programme on 1st March (Sunday 3pm – 4pm London time , Malaysia 11pm – 2 pm ) as she is going to be away.

So, the butterflies are back flying in my stomach. I have lined up a few items, and hey, if you want to request any songs (and if we can find them), please do! You can email me here – or leave your requests in my blog.

Please do so before Saturday – we need to see if we can find the songs. And as we have very limited time, one hour – I think we can only play a few songs. The first seven minutes are taken up by news and advertisements.

So, do tune in to or 92FM this Sunday.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

On Air? Insyaallah, Tune in to

This week, life is going to be choc-a-bloc. Excitingly so because the Malaysian community in London is expecting some very, very important and distinguished guests. I am already practicing my curtsey, (Does one curtsey?) Anyway, my special dress for the occassion is right this minute, being flown all the way from Malaysia, and all I have to do is find my pair of JC shoes fit for the occassion and learn how to walk properly without tripping over.

So, watch this space.

But in the meantime, if things go according to plan, today (22nd February 09) I will be somewhere in a studio in East London, this time, with me sitting on the other side of the table, so to speak, being interviewed by Miriam Watt of Sounds of Malaysia on . Then click on Click here to listen Live. This will be at 3 - 4pm London time and I think that is 11pm in Malaysia. So, if you are still awake, and have nothing better to do, listen to Kak Teh being interviewed on this new community radio in London. That will either keep you awake right through the night or send you off to sleep within five minutes.

At a certain point during the programme, nusound will have a live link up with Traxx FM in Malaysia.

So, what will I be talking about? Well, what else, my favourite subject - The Pak Cik Sailors AND...Blogging!!

And guess what, if you want to request songs and send messages to friends and families, you can do so by emailing .

This is so exciting. I just love radio.


Sorry, I have not been able to put the interview here yet. Perhaps will do so tomorrow.

Thanks to those who listened - I thoroughly enjoyed myself. and it sort of brought back memories of those broadcasting days.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Ibu Melayu Mengelilingi Dunia - A Journey in Search of Her First Love


It was done on impulse, a visit long overdue. As soon as I stepped foot on the third floor of the building, I felt a strange but familiar feeling, a familiarity that guided me to the place where I used to treasure the feeling of solitude while being at one with the surroundings. It was a feeling akin to visiting the place you used to haunt with a loved one.

I walked along the rows and rows of books, running my hand across the neatly stacked books between lane 92 and 94. There were loads of books from our literary greats, but my eyes were scanning and searching for one particular book.

And then I found it. I first set eyes on this book while doing some work at the British Library in the early nineties and I must say I was blown away by the courage of the writer, by her sentiments and vision.

A poem that she wrote in the book, and I reproduce a few stanzas here, will be etched in my memory forever.

Sekarang tibalah saat-nya kita berpisah,
Ku tinggalkan di-kau dengan penoh air mata,

Jiwaku dan jiwamu akan menangis meratap sendu,
Hanyut dalam kenangan yang tiada bertepi.

Tahukah kau, oh, sayang,
Sebelom kau dan aku berkenalan,
Aku telah menchintai sesuatu,
Kuanggap ia sebagai kekasehku pula
Tapi keadaan tak meizinkan kami bertemu,
Kerana kekurangan sharat pada diriku.
Izinkan aku pergi menemui kekasihku,
Dan aku akan kembali kepadamu,
Setelah kami puas berchumbu, berchengkerama,
Di-pantai chita-chita.”

It was in aisle 92I that I found this book again “Ibu Melayu Mengelilingi Dunia 1 – Dari Rumah ke London by Aishah Aziz, a second edition published in 1956 – the journey of a wife, a mother of three young children then, the youngest only 20 months, in pursuit of her first love. Thus the heart-wrenching poem above, which she wrote before she left her loved ones.

The poem and her vivid description of the moment the ship Canton, pulled away from the Tanjong Pagar harbour, tugged at my heart strings and brought tears to my eyes. After a tearful goodbye and kisses for her children and husband, she watched them disappear from her sight. All she remembered and what became the strength that saw her through their years of separation, she wrote, was the loving look of the husband she left behind to look after their young children.

That was 10th April 1955. Such was the resolute and strong conviction of a young woman, in search of education, to further her studies and widen her knowledge. That was her first love.

Reading through the thin, fragile pages of the 83-page book, I couldn’t help but feel in awe of this woman who must have wrestled with her conscience and struggled with her sense of responsibilities, to give priorities to an ambition she had nurtured even before her marriage. Along the way, I suspected that, her determination would take her a long way and I wasn’t far wrong.

Aishah wrote about her voyage on Canton, which started on 10th April 1955 from Tanjong Pagar, Singapore, a voyage sometimes on rough open seas that ended at the Tilbury Docks, London on 9th May of the same year. She chronicles life on the ship, in her cabin for four, her friendship with people from different backgrounds, the dancing, activities and entertainment on board as well as the meals served, which left her Malay palate yearning for home cooked food.

It was her account of the various stops in Colombo, Bombay, Aden, and the cruise along the Nile, Port Said, the turbulent waters and her reflections on events that made it compulsive reading. It is a travelogue that takes a reader on a journey of her mind and body.

What is profound about Aishah’s writing is her nationalistic feeling, her yearning for the country to be independent and progressive. She had visions and great ambitions for her country and the people she left behind. Her accounts of her stint in London, her visits to other places like Liverpool and Kirkby, resonate with reflections and comments on current affairs and social developments during that time. While she enthuses on the women’s rights and the British love for arts, she laments on moral decadence, on infidelity and free sex. And that was in the fifties. I wonder what her take would be on the latest story of a 13-year old father, with at least two other boys claiming to be sexual partners of the 15-year old mother.

What heightened my interest in this very thin book, written in old Malay, are several episodes of her life here which touched based, so to speak with some events in my life. She visited the colony of Malay sailors in Liverpool, a subject after my own heart. I visited them 40 years after her. She met Pak Cik Sailors who had been there for thirty or forty years before. And then her visits to Kirkby and Brinsford where Malaya then had Teacher training colleges. She has given us peeks and glimpses into the past. I had met some of the teachers who were trained in those colleges and heard their interesting stories. I had visited Brinsford and saw what remained of the college, and stood at the spot where my brother-in-law said he had his ballroom dancing lessons. I spoke to a local cycling past, who remembered the Malays who played football in the snow.

Another area of interest was her role as an extra in a movie “A Town Like Alice”. I know for a fact that many Pak Cik Sailors, like Pak Cik Ngah Musa and Pak Man Tokyo who made a lot of money in between sailing, working as extras. Aishah was an extra in A Town Like Alice. When I interviewed Pak Man in late 80’s just before he died, Pak Man told me he too acted in that movie, as a Japanese soldier. In 1990’s I was to take on the role of Fatimah in a BBC radio production of A Town Like Alice.

Since reading the book, I harboured a secret wish to meet Aishah. And I did some years ago at a wedding in Malaysia. She promised to give me the second part of the book.

I knew she’d climb to great heights. She, Tan Sri Aishah Ghani, was Malaysia’s Minister of Welfare Services in the 70’s and one of the pioneers of Wanita Umno.

Picture from Wikipedia Bahasa Melayu.

Terima kasih reader Lanangkota for this information and link.
A copy of this book is available here:
Perpustakaan Peringatan Zaaba, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Mak, oh Mak!

The scene is clear in my mind. Mak is sitting on the sofa, folding the clothes. It gives her quite a satisfaction to be doing something like that. She feels useful. It is the safest task to give to Mak these days as it is no longer safe to allow her to hang clothes or wash the dishes. Once in a while she looksup to watch the programme that Kak Cik is watching in between her sewing. And then suddenly, she drops the bombshell.

“Dia tu dok belakang rumah Zaharah, ” Mak said.

“Sapa, Mak?” asked Kak Cik puzzled.

“Dia tu laa, yang dalam TV tu. Masa Mak pi London, dia dok di belakang rumah Zaharah,” she told Kak Cik.

Kak Cik almost dropped a few stitches upon hearing this. The “dia” in question was none other than America’s queen of chatshows, Oprah Winfrey. And how she came to be my neighbour behind the house, was Kak Cik’s mission to find out. Thus the text message that she sent me.

These days, text messages from my siblings about Mak would throw me into a gamut of emotions. This one had me almost rolling on the floor laughing before sadness set in with the realisation that Mak’s memory is getting from bad to worse. What goes on in that mind that used to be so sharp, no one knows.

Over the years Mak visited me three times and she certainly enjoyed her stay, not once complaining about the cold. Abang used to tease her; "Mak pi London berapa kali dah, tak pass, pass pun!"

Before her first trip, Abang had prepared her with a few important English words. He told Mak, “Kalau immigration tanya apa-apa, Mak kata; Yes, No, Alright!”. And she’d just laugh because Abang was forever teasing her. She had missed Abang a lot when Abang was in Belfast but it was impossible to visit him, not when bombs were exploding everywhere. And again it was impossible to visit Kak Cik when she was in Kansas. With me in London, and Tok Su and Mak Cik also in London and Kak Niyah in Kent, she felt it was time to visit.

Mak came in the summer of 1980, bringing with her, her crisp cotton kebayas and kain batiks and high heeled shoes. She was quite stylish. No amount of coaxing would make her wear trainers or walking shoes when we went walking in Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park. She loved the parks as she loved the roses and the summer blooms.

The second time Mak came was after Nona was born. Again it was in summer. I remember how my friends would look forward to dinner at home because it was truly home cooked food. But what I don’t remember is anyone with any remote resemblance to the chat show host and now close friend and supporter of Obama.

But we do have a close friend from Kenya who visited us often when Mak was around. Perhaps it is Jane then that she had mistakenly thought was the great Oprah. But if Mak wants to believe that Oprah was my neighbour, then let it be.

I hear Mak is now chirpy and happy. And without her teeth. She had misplaced her set of teeth that had sent everyone looking under the bed, under the pillow and even in the bin. But it is gone. The last time she misplaced it, it was found in the drawers. This time it is gone forever. But Mak will be flashing her happy smile soon, because a new set is waiting for her at the dentist!

More on Mak:

Mothering Mak

Raya with Mak

The Lie Must Go On

The Crying Has stopped ..For now.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Fishing my way to his heart

Street corner florists
were selling their red roses like hot cakes. Business relating to the heart was extra brisk, especially as the day drew to a close. People were extra loving holding hands extra tight. Those saying goodbye by the roadside, by the station, anywhere, took extra lingering moments before the final farewell. Those walking back alone too were clutching tight their red or yellow roses. And I, well, I held on tight to my new book Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters that I just bought at Borders, as I made my way to Selfridges to meet my date.

It was as if the street was painted red – red hearts on balloons, red hearts on lingeries, on bedsheets displayed on beds in shop windows everywhere. And Selfridges is certainly the place you’d want to be if you were searching something for that special someone.

But I wasn’t searching for anything of that kind. I was searching for my date and while waiting by the escalator, I just watched people to see how love that was in the air was affecting them.

The young ones did it everywhere; gazing into each other’s eyes as they sipped their latte, holding hands across the table, over their half eaten muffins. Old couples, with matching silver hair walked contentedly, arms linking, fingers touching. Then my eyes were drawn to one elderly Malay gentleman; a well known face with that unmistakeable mop of grey hair that is somewhat thinning. Two steps ahead of him was a young leggy beauty with long chestnut hair. No, it couldn’t be, I dismissed the thought.

When my date arrived, we sat at the table for two and ordered our lattes and Earl Grey. It was the second day in a row that I sat there in the same café by the escalator at Selfridges sipping Earl Grey, but with a different date. The waiter gave me a smile of recognition as he offered me the menu. And as I had my last sip, the elderly Malay gentleman walked past our café again, but this time with the leggy beauty striding by his side, clutching something in that well known Selfridges’ carrier bag. Just let us say, she must be a niece or a distant relative.

My head was full of these encounters as I made my way past the chocolate bars packed with people buying presents for their sweet tooth lovers. I have lost count the number of times that I spotted familiar faces walking hand in hand with another who is not the one that I am more familiar with. How many times have I had to duck into a corner or cross the road to avoid embarrassing situations and awkward, hesitant introductions.

So why London when London is crawling with people who are bound to know you? And why not some other cities like Milan, New York or even Timbuktoo where no one would know you from Adam. Oh well, I was by then debating with myself and was already attracting curious glances from other shoppers.

It was choc-a-bloc at the florist in Selfridges. People were just grabbing what’s left rather than leave empty handed. The last bunch of red roses that I received was some months ago in Paris, and it is safe for you to assume that it wasn’t from my other half who believes you can’t eat roses. But, yes, Paris is the place to be now – the city where love is forever in the air.

It was there that I was swept off my feet by a Frenchman, in full glare of other tourists and witnessed by the towering Eiffel Tower. And before you let your mind roam, let me explain. I was doing my piece to camera, when my camerawoman said something to my soundman in French. He then came over on the pretext of adjusting my microphone and then, voila, swept me off my feet and the moment was forever captured on tape as evidence of my ‘tryst’ in Paris!

Oh well, I remedied that situation a year later by spending 14th February, with my other half, up the Eiffel Tower, shivering in the cold air. It wasn’t a romantic moment, just a trip up the tower for the sake of taking photographs and telling people yes, we were up there.

So, with such thoughts in my mind, I picked my way to the other side of Selfridges where business was less brisk at that hour. I suddenly knew what I wanted for my other half that would permanently embed me in his heart; two fat mackerels, one fated to be grilled and to be accompanied by air asam, made to his liking.

As if on cue, the song " I know him so well" by Elaine Paige played in my mind.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Run Nona Run

When Nona has a bee in her bonnet, there’s no talking her out of it. I have yet to recover from the whole month of sleepless nights when she backpacked crisscrossing India with her cousin. And now, she is determined to do something else which will bring back that knot in my stomach.

When she was younger, when she wanted something, she’d put her mind to it and do it. Take for instance when she wanted that scooter, which cost something like £100.00. She offered her services at the Malaysia Hall canteen (in Bryanston Square), to wash dishes and mop the floor and serve customers. Once she got the money, off she went to get that scooter.

The same happened when she wanted a guitar. Back she went to the canteen and the mop and the dirty dishes in the sink. And she got her guitar.

Now she takes herself in the mornings to run around the park and parts of London to train for the Paris Marathon on 5th April. During one of these runs, she was lucky enough to find a painting, scattered by street artist Adam Neat. Anyway, now that the weather is somewhat colder, the treadmill in the front room is where she prepares for the marathon. I do the Wii steps to keep her company.

But why, one might ask? Well, I think the heartbreaking pictures and fate of the children of Gaza got to her. She was glued to the TV watching the developments and then she went to the demonstrations in London. Then, she decided she must do something. She is going to run for the children of Gaza. And how can I stop her? I cant. I will just sit in the front room and hope she makes the 26 mile run safely.

And if you want to give Nona a prod on her run and at the same time help the Children of Gaza – please visit Nona’s site HERE.

Nona's other adventures:

Travails of a Cyber Backpacker

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Sibling Rivalry

The din from downstairs
woke me up and instantly I knew they were at it again. It was already midnight and I was worried that the yelling and screeching would wake the neighbours up. It wasn’t the first time and sadly it will not be the last.

I flew downstairs only to see the back of the older brother disappearing into the cold night air. I called out his name but to no avail. He’s gone and will not be back until he gathers enough courage to come back again.

He left home some months ago, after what I believe, was one of the most heated of sibling altercations. Jealousy has a lot to do with this. Taking sides. Camps. Whenever there was a quarrel, the sister just sat and watched. The youngest brother pretended not to see.

This problem of sibling rivalry saddens me a great deal for they used to be so close, almost inseparable since birth. Then they began to show their claws and true colours. They all seemed to gang up against him. The fights became more frequent. And one day, he left. The few times that he came back, he was more like a stranger. He’d walk in, look around and walk out again, as if the place, which saw them playfully rolling on the sofa, on the carpet, didn’t mean a thing to him. The others would watch him scornfully; ignoring him completely. Or if they felt generous, they’d give him a contemptuous scowl.

There were times when he’d lurk outside the gate, mustering enough courage to walk in. But the front door was as far as he’d get.

So, the homecoming became less frequent. That is, until recently.

We’ve never shown any favouritism. But they fought for attention and affection.

I sense that he really wants to come home. His wandering days are over and he’d want to make amends with his siblings. But the return of the prodigal son recently was such a sorrowful event.

As soon as he made a cautious entrance through the flap, Tabby who was sprawled on the floor, sprang to his feet with such a meow that caused his brother to make a hasty retreat. The jealous streak in Tabby was so unbecoming but of late he has been so territorial and possessive, especially of his master. Only he has the place on his chest, purring away contentedly. Only he can sit on his lap while he types away at the computer. Only he can laze on the prayer mat while waiting for his master to finish his prayers. His brother’s return would certainly be seen as a threat.

When they were small, we called them the Kray Brothers, after the infamous East end duo. Then when the older one left home, we called the younger one Tabby. Then one day, Mary, our next door neighbour mistook Tabby for Stanley. That was how we knew Tabby’s brother had taken refuge in a neighbour’s house. That’s how we knew he was called Stanley.

Stanley knows that the flap of our backdoor is always open to him. There will always be a bowl of milk and a tray of Whiskers whenever he feels like coming back. We still love you, Stanley Wan.

Other rivalries:
Pillow Talk and Impossible Dreams in A House Divided

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Winter nostalgia: When the snow melts...

You can make a hobby watching the snow melt. Snowbell does this, sitting for hours on the table looking out to the garden still covered with ice. When darkness fell, I didn't have the heart to draw the curtains as the fascination, demonstrated by Snowbell was obvious. She cocked her cute little face to the left and to the right, twitching her ears, and wagging her tail once in awhile.

Everything was still outside, almost lifeless. During the night, there had been visitors to the garden; the footsteps they left behind were those of the usual suspects; hungry foxes and stray cats. Snowbell sat there as if it was her mission to look and stare.

The scenery from the front room window is not one you'd want to write home about. As the sun made a feeble effort to peek through yesterday, the once smooth, white icing like topping over rooftops and cars began to melt leaving patches of ice and slush. Awang Goneng the snowman became the first casualty, losing his head leaving the tie hanging forlornly from where the neck was. By the third day, the sarong came off unceremoniously in a puddle of slush.

I ventured out to work yesterday and saw the aftermath of what has been recorded as the heaviest snow in 18 years. I picked my way very carefully along the icy road to the station, mindful of the incident 18 years ago, when I fell flat on my back after sliding on some ice patch. A fall on my front would have been disastrous as I was then a few months pregnant.

I remember that day well as I had just returned from the personnel office, making an eleventh hour negotiation over redundancy payments, after the much-publicised closure of our department. It was a double fall, if you like, one that I thought I'd never recover. I thought the world had collapsed. Sudah jatuh ditimpa salji.

But as it turned out, I suffered nothing more than a sprained neck, the baby turned out fine and it took one closure, Alhamdulillah, to open more doors. That door that closed on me 18 years ago, opened up more than I could bargain for.

That was what was playing on my mind yesterday, as I walked, skipping icy patches and admiring hedges with ice tops looking like unfinished cupcakes. I shouldn't have despaired as I am wont to, for it is his HE who provides, regardless of who it is who takes away from you. But I did, as I am only human.

Turning around the corner, dodging children playing with whatever snow left on the pavement, I said a silent prayer for I had more than I had bargained for in this adopted country of mine. I had left the comforts of home, with an assured salary and an exciting and fulfilling job, to share my life with my husband in a foreign land. There was no promise of work although I knew I wanted to work. I knew that sooner or later, after the excitement of playing bride and wife had somewhat subsided, I'd want to work again. But what as, I didn't know. I wasn't ambitious; a clerical job would have been fine, but my typing skills, according to Brook Street, the job agency in Queensway, wasn't something to shout about, I typed using two fingers, like all journalists I know. So,with that two finger, I left the small job agency to look elsewhere.

But as luck would have it, I didn't have long to look. In that magnificient building straddling Kingsway and The Strand, there was a Malay section of the BBC, in need of a female voice. And there, I met the kindest man, ever, who trained me in the art of broadcasting to the world. From a small timid voice, I learned to sit up and announced, "Inilah BBC London" in a confident and strong voice that made my mother and grandmother, my most avid fans in those days, tears streaming in their eyes, listening to me delivering to them world developments of the day.

But that was not to realise so soon, as I was initially packed off to Queens House, sorting out letters from Indonesian listeners. There I learned that Indonesians are truly wonderful letter writers. To ask for a programme guide, they could spin a yarn and likened a listener without a programme guide to a boat without a navigator.

Anyway, once I had one foot in that majestic building, I never looked back. Thirteen years I was there working with Chamil Wariya, Ishak Nengah and many more, who came to join us much later.

But all good things had to end; and I found out that spring 18 years ago, I was to say "Selamat Tinggal" to my listeners for the last time, after which I took myself to the toilet and had a good cry. The world had indeed collapsed.

But did it? It could have, if I had allowed it. A book was commissioned soon after that. A few publications I edited in the name of a freelance, working with publishers known in children's publication. I have had a few documentaries to my name and had enjoyed nostalgic and historic moments such as watching Malik Mydin dive into the dark waters of the English Channel, the time when Tun Mahathir announced the end of buy British last, sharing wonderful moments with Malaysia's Siamese twins Ahmad and Muhammad before they went off for their operations, and many, many more. And along the way, I have met many, many people who have added colour to my life.

I was lost in this train of thought and found myself already reaching my destination; the place where I continued my studies and rejoice in my newfound love for Malay Hikayats and syairs. Hey, it has not been so bad. Next week, I am meeting my editor for another edition of that book. So, I must not complain.

To my blogreader who called to ask about job opportunities in this foreign land, do not despair. Insyaallah, the opportunity is there. Just persevere and you'll get it.
When the snow melts and the fog lifts, you will see things more clearly.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Wintry February

Awang Goneng the Snowman

Last night,
walking along Queensway, after a takeaway from Khan’s Restaurant, snow, big flakes of snow, cascaded from the darkened evening sky, transforming the area into a winter wonderland. This had been expected and I should have known better than to wear my long Cheongsam like dress to the MCA Chinese New Year do in Malaysia Hall, graced by our Minister of Information.

The cab taking us back skidded a few times and certain roads were already blanketed with snow. Cars drove past with icing tops, at slow speed taking heed of the warning by AA.

Children were already throwing snowballs and making snowmen by the roadside.

At home, the cats had already made themselves comfortable in front of the heaters and on carefully laid out duvets.

This morning, there was an air of excitement as we peered outside to see the neighbourhood under a blanket of snow, not seen before since God knows when. At 6 am, I received a text message about the closure of all campuses – so, no work today because of the snow. Children going to work and school checked transport online only to be informed that all bus services are suspended. Only three train lines are running. No minicab service whatsoever as the icy condition is dangerous for diriving.

So, everything stops when the snow drops.

I remember my first experience of snow in the winter of 1981. My sister and niece who were visiting were so excited that they took themselves to Kensington Gardens to take photographs. Coming back to the apartment, they got stuck in the lift and had to be rescued by five hefty men from the fire station.

While waiting for the arrival of the Minister yesterday, someone mentioned that it could have been a white Chinese New Year. It was really freezing the last few days. But of course, it never happened. During all of my 29 years here, I have never once seen a white Christmas, BUT a white hari raya, yes! It was the Hari raya of 1995, if I remember correctly. Malaysian students in their fine Hari Raya clothes, underneath heavy jackets and jumpers, queued up outside Malaysian restaurants offering free food, as heavy snowfall complete the picture of a Hari Raya experience abroad. It was such a wonderful sight, and the cold long wait outside was worth it for the piping hot soto and lodeh in places like Nahar cafeteria in Paddington.

It is certainly not a day to venture out. So, I am crawling back to the warmth and comfort of the duvet. May be later, just may be, we'll go out and throw snowballs at each other, and try to recapture those moments the way we used too. That is, if the old knees permit. We'll see.