Friday, 23 December 2011

Musings of a Muruku Marauder

Knightsbridge was bathed in Christmas lights, courtesy of Harrods – the corner shop for the rich and famous. I was momentarily blinded by the glitters and mesmerised by the window display.

They certainly have style – Harrods. Christmas shoppers were leaving in droves clutching their famous green carrier bags, while others rushed in in search of last minute Christmas bargains. I was not the least tempted. I have better things in mind - a mission almost impossible. I braved the cold and the crowd, all the while the sound of jingle bells and Christmas carol drifting from the solo steel band drummer at the top of Knightsbridge station.

The night was still young but I felt old. I was a young bride when I first walked on the streets of London, shivering under my paper thin kebaya.
Now, I am much older and wiser – I wore my new coat bought at a 50 percent discount from Debenhams.

My mission didn’t take too long and soon I was also clutching that green Harrods carrier bag, boarding the C1 homeward bound. I was happy to get a window seat and oblivious to everyone around me, I started to dip my hand into the bag and tore open one packet. I was consumed with guilt but with every munch and crunch I felt good. The Harrods carrier bag was full of the scrumptious muruku courtesy of my buddies and accomplice back home.

I didn’t know when it happened, but I remember Kay bringing me a packet when I was back home. A packet wasn’t enough…and like an addict I went round looking for more but nothing was as good.

Some friends who came to London brought me more…but the crunching and munching was no music to some other ears…and with the best of intentions, my muruku supplies began disappearing. I coaxed and cajoled but to no avail. But yesterday, without even looking I found them.

Kak Nasirah Aris and Kay through PS Fadzillah brought me more supplies – thus my trip to Knightsbridge. As I walked to the front door, I perspired in the cold winter air and  wiping off crumbs from my mouth I walked in.

Dipping into the bag, I offered him the acar ikan masin. This is from Kak Nasirah to you, I said sweetly. And dipping further into the big bag, I said,” and Kak Nasirah bought me these books,” referring to Malaysian Tales etc.

“….and er…of course some muruku that I will share during the tazkeerah session!”

Phew! Suffice to say, I am still in one piece. After 32 years together, he knows how to deal with my obsession;  Alleycats, Ferrero Rocher, Cocoa Dusted Almond Chocolates and Chocolate Truffle Cake.These obsessions soon disappeared.

This will soon go too – but in the meantime, thank you comrades!!!
Kak Teh's other harmless obsessions:http:

As I was Munching Muruku

Thursday, 20 October 2011

A Learning Curve with two Odd Socks

Work was about start in fifteen minutes.  I was still in last night’s clothing.  Managed to find a decent top, grabbed an Ariani tudung and my reading glasses and was right in front of the laptop within five minutes flat.

That’s the beauty of online teaching – this new technology which once frightened me has proven to be quite exciting.  Within minutes of logging in, the student came online, hardly aware of the fact that I had a kain pelikat on with different coloured socks.  What mattered was from shoulders upwards I was professional looking, ready to do the job at hand.

The first lesson went smoothly as if I had worked with the tools for years; different from the confines of a classroom.  While student was doing exercises, I could let the cat out, start the drier and make endless cups of coffee!  As long as the camera stays in place, who was to know that there’s a pile of laundry on the sofa, or another pile in the laundry basket near the garden door.  All the student could see was an impressive stack of books behind me. Impression counts.  And he still couldn’t see my odd socks!

But during the three hour session, I learnt a few things that one must not do during online sessions; teaching or coaching.  Do not hover over the camera to reach out for something.  Tudung or no tudung, your breasts would be suffocating the person at the other end.  DO NOT look over the camera as the other person can see up your nostrils, and DO NOT munch muruku when you thought student is silently doing exercise.  If you need to do so, remove the headset…the munching and crunching of muruku can be annoying.

And when you need coffee, remember to remove the microphone or push it aside, as you risk dunking microphone in mug of coffee!

It has indeed been a learning experience!!
(Now excuse me, I need to have a bath!)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The power of social networking - the Asyraf Haziq Experience

THE video clip on YouTube showing Mohd Asyraf Haziq, 20, bleeding and in shock after an attack during one of London's worst riots, touched so many people.
There was an outpouring of sympathy which then turned into anger when his so-called saviours, apparently from the same gang who attacked him, ransacked his backpack and took away his PSP.

He cut a forlorn figure as he staggered home while the gang went off with their spoils of his STG60 (RM293) bicycle, a hand phone and his PSP.

They missed his wallet in his back pocket. The one who ransacked his backpack, disdainfully threw away an empty plastic container that Asyraf had brought to pack food for his sahur (pre-dawn meal).
Asyraf, a first-year Association of Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA) student and a Mara scholar studying at Kaplan Financial College in nearby Tower Hill, was cycling with a friend to break fast at a friend's house when they were attacked.

His friend managed to cycle away, thinking Asyraf would do the same.

Unknown to him and his attackers, the incident was filmed by someone from a nearby building and it was posted on YouTube and repeated many times on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Sky TV.

This one-minute-15-second video clip was ironically as powerful as the tweets and SMSes that the likes of his perpetrators had employed to plan their mindless attacks and carnage throughout London and cities across Britain.

So powerful was it that tweeters got together to collect money to replace the things that he had lost, and a search was launched for the person who recorded the dastardly act on a helpless student.
Asyraf Haziq in hospital after the attack

Someone on my Facebook had contacted me about his identity. And apparently, he, too, was making efforts to collect money to donate to the student, who is now nursing a broken jaw as he awaits surgery at the Royal London Hospital.

Asyraf, on his hospital bed, was still oblivious to the publicity and attention his misfortune had caused.

With his lower jaw wired and a swollen right cheek where he suffered another broken bone, Asyraf looked vulnerable but a far better picture than the one on YouTube.

Abdul Hamid, who filmed the attack, wrote a caption under his clip: "Footage I captured of some men using the riots as an excuse to just harm and humiliate an innocent person. I hope to get in touch with the victim and I am also trying to raise money for him."

In an interview with Hamid, he said he was very sorry he couldn't help Asyraf as he was too far away.

He only noticed Asyraf when he was lying on the pavement after the attack.

"When I saw him , I then realised I should get something for evidence," he said, adding that he would be collecting money to donate to Asyraf and hand over the recording to the police.

And that is not all. A group of facebookers-cum-tweeters are also busy generating interest among sympathisers and friends of Asyraf.

A friend, Zaila Idrus, a travel consultant with Iman Travel, started a GetwellsoonAsyrafHaziq campaign which has been gathering support among her Twitter friends.

Another tweeter, ShaunCFC1866, has started a campaign to buy back and replace everything that Asyraf had lost to the young criminals.

This article was first published in the NST here

Friday, 27 May 2011

Surrealistic Syria - Part 1 - Delightful Damascus

Ever since I came back from Syria, this charming and beautiful country had been preying constantly on my mind. The short and brief visit had been like a dream and could have been a dream had I not been literally touched by the beauty, charm and hospitality of this Middle Eastern country which enjoys the characteristics of the Mediterranean to the west, hemmed in by Lebanon on its western frontiers, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the East , Jordan to the south and Israel to the Southwest - all these close proximity making it such an attractive package but at the same time also by virtue of the close proximity, a whole region that's volatile politically.

It is difficult not to push away the images that we see in the media recently as a result of the wave of protests sweeping the Middle East, but it is difficult too to forget images of Syria that will forever be friendly and full of history and culture. That is something no one can ever take away from anyone that has ever stepped foot on Syrian soil.

My journey to Syria started with a lot of apprehensions. I didn't know the country and my initial skimpy knowledge of the country was coloured by whatever political reports dished out by the western media. Suffice to say, a week was not enough to take in the country so rich in culture and steeped in history. You will want to go back, because that's what Syria does to you. It beckons you to go back.

The journey started early on Boxing Day. The lack of hospitality on Syrian Air was very much compensated by the overwhelming reception throughout the visit - be it from the friendly vendors in the souks of Damascus, the beautiful girls dancing on the top of Aleppo Citadel, the farmer's wife making bread in a small Syrian village or the bedouins in the deserts of Palmyra. Their smiles just broadened when they recognised you as a Malaysian!

With a friend, Zaila Idrus from Iman Travels, and Ali and Nagi tour guides and driver Hassan from Mowiashe travels, the trip was more than I could ever ask for.

Day one in Damascus was planned by Mr Ali - a walking encyclopaedia on things Syrian -
he briefed us before we said goodnight and retired in our comfortable room in Semiramis Hotel. The next morning after a typical Syrian breakfast, we headed for the old city of Damascus , the sights and sounds that has the capacity to transport you to a totally different world, in a different era.

The Hamadiyeh souk of Damascus
The first thing that crossed my mind as I entered one of the many alleys in the souk is that I could easily get lost in the souk that dates back to the Ottoman rule under Sultan Hamid. And what wonderful adventure it would have been dodging mules bearing goods, motorbikes and people doing their shopping. It would have been a welcome respite away from the hustle bustle of modern living - to be sipping tea in one of the caravanserais listening to travellers' tales from the deserts of North Africa.

Alleyways lead to alleyways with merchandise to entice you such as beaded tablecloths, table runners, prayer mats and many, many more. It was simply amazing that you can browse around, pick up a thing or two without any pressure from the vendors. Instead, they offered tea, with no expectations in return.

Ummayad Mosque
We exited the souk into another world that left me in awe of its majestic presence - the Ummayad mosque - one of the oldest and holiest mosques in the world. From a temple built by the Armenians in 1000 BC, it went through several periods under the Romans, the Christians and finally the Muslims - making it the interfaith place of worship - where a shrine said to contain the head of John the Baptist or Nabi Yahya to the Muslims. The building was once shared by both Muslims and Christians as a place of worship.

Standing on the vast courtyard, I took in the three minarets, the Minaret of the Bride, the first to be built, the Minaret of Prophet Isa, believed to be the place where the prophet will descend from on the Day of Judgment and the Minaret of Qaitbay. I did my prayers in the vast opulence of the Ummayad before leaving for the tomb of Saladin which stands in a small garden nearby. There was already an orderly queue of Muslims and non-Muslims entering the shrine to pay respects to one of the greatest Muslim warriors. Standing there before the tomb was one of the most emotional moments during the visit - a prelude to things and places connected to the great Saladin, such as the Saladin Castle and Krac de Chevalier. But that will come later.

Tomb of the Bilal
Damascus is not a city to do in a day but I suspect that a month wont be enough as well. But we did as best as we could, taking in the enchanting Hamam and the hospitality it has to offer. My only regret is that the day we visited the Hamam it was not a day for women. After that we went on a long search of shrines and ended up in Bāb Saghīr Cemetery which houses among others the shrines of Umm Kulthum, daughter of Ali and Fatimah, granddaughter of the Prophet pbuh and that of the Bilal. Again, tears welled up in my eyes as I offered prayers to the Bilal. I couldn't believe that I was there. Shrines are popular places for Shiah tourists who come from far and wide on a pilgrimage of a lifetime. Young and old were carried and piggybacked to enter shrines and women and men wailed out loudly.

As the sun was about to set, Hassan sped towards Mount Qassion where you can feast your eyes on the whole of Damascus as the sun goes down. There are stalls with middle eastern music from transistor radios and hot teas are endlessly poured as the temperature dipped, making me yearn for my bed. According to legend the Prophet Mohammad pbuh stood there and was asked why he didn't go to the city. His reply was, he didn't want to go to paradise twice. Wallahualam. But indeed watching the colour changing over the Middle eastern skies. I was mesmerised.

Surrealistic Syria - Part 2
To Palmyra, Hom, Hama and Aleppo