Friday 24 June 2005

Lest We Forget Part 1

Years ago, I travelled hours on the train to Liverpool when I heard that there’s a community of old Malay sailors there.
Posted by Hello I was also told about the memorial that was built right at the bank of the Mersey River in memory of the war dead – among them sailors from the Malay world whose services were much sought after by ship captains to work in ships cruising the oceans in the early part of the last century.

As I have written earlier here and here, many died at sea in harsh stormy weather, in the relentless battle at sea and they are forever lost in that big graveyard at the bottom of the ocean. On my numerous trips to Liverpool, I’d list down the names – Malay names of sailors who must have come from Malaya, Singapore and Indonesia- and wondered what happened to them. I'd talk to many who are willing to share. My interest in them and their untold stories have never diminished.

Many who survived, were kind enough to share with me their stories.

Those who survived Posted by Hello
The few articles that I have written about them have had numorous interests, especially when it resulted in the reunion with families who thought that they must have perished at sea. One letter I received was from a daughter of an old sailor who never returned. The father left when she was still in her mother’s tummy. She wanted me to find the whereabouts of her father and went to the extent of blaming herself for her father not returning.

But one email from a Dr B has made me look at these stories more seriously. My articles had triggered some interest in him and since then, we have become friends. We met several times and we talked about nothing else but the Malay sailors.

Dr B came again to London last week. He is at the moment spending time with the Malay community in Liverpool, part of his research. I envy him the time he can afford to be with them, tapping in on their experience.

Anyway, we met up last week. And he said he was visiting the Commonwealth War Memorial in London. At that point, I pushed all my work aside and took the train to meet him in Tower Hill.

Just at the doorstep of Tower Hill Station, in front of the Tower of London, is this big memorial with 24,000 names of sailors who died at sea! And I didnt even know about it!

Posted by Hello
Both of us were gobsmacked. We didnt expect it to be that big- and names to be that many. So, Dr B and I, - a odd pair – if I must say so, left with aching neck, having to look up the cloumns and columns of names listing ships and names of those who perished. Many with just Hassan B, Ismail A, Omar....

There were signs of relatives who had located their loved ones – and this you see from the flowers and poppies stuck by their names. Posted by Hello
Others from our part of the world are just another name, another victim. Their relatives still did not know of their fate, or about this memorial.

We wondered, looking at other people there eating ice cream on the bench opposite and seeking shelter from the harsh sun that was out that day, we wondered whether we were the only ones interested.

Nursing our aching necks, we crossed over to a cafe in front of the Tower of London. Sipping our Avian and watching the tourists do their tourist bit, I thought out loud,” Isn’t this funny! How English this piece of history is right before our eyes, but both of us are interested in that big monument right opposite it!”

But needless to say, both have strong links to each the result of the big British Empire that brought many to their door steps from across the world.
My interest in the Malay sailors have led me to scour the book shops and libraries and I found this. An interesting read about the influx of foreigners to the British shores. Posted by Hello
Dr. B is English, but he lives out in the East. I am from the East and I live here in the west. He is more comfortable being out there as I am here. He is young while I am, er, well... but we have been brought together by this one interest – the Malay sailors.

We parted company that sunny evening, with many more things left unsaid. He has gone back to Liverpool to be among the Pak Ciks and will return to Singapore soon. How I wish I can attach a bluetooth to his head – and extract whatever he has stored in there!

But we will meet again, no doubt - we promised each other, this August- and the stories of the Pak Cik sailors will be given another airing.

Sunday 19 June 2005

Lat 41 years later!

Posted by Hello

If Lat is a blogger, I believe he'd be categorizedd as a Life Blogger but he'’d be documenting what we document in our blogs with those clever strokes of the pen bringing to life characters and events in every little detail that never escape his keen observation. And make it fun!! Oh, how I wish he'’d do that!

Meeting Dato Lat again, after all these years was indeed a wonderful experience. There'’s a lot of catching up to do. When he got married, the newly wed visited us in London. And that must have been in 1980. God, how time flies. Now, like us , they have four children. But he is instantly recognisable although he has lopped off those famous mop of hair, which brings the most maternal instincts out in you. You'’d want to rush over and pull out your brush and brush those curls with a neat middle parting. (He has since admitted that its quite impossible to run a comb through it!)

The first time I saw Lat was of course when I was doing my training at that big building in Jalan Riong. Part of the excitement of working there was to meet names that you read as bylines in the newspaper. Names like Adibah Amin and Lat were top of the list. And another one, a feature writer Wan A something. Loved reading his film reviews. (But this is another storylah , kan?). Being trainee reporters, we daren'’t approach him but would loiter outside his room and peep in to see what he was up to. And all we could see was this mop of hair over his papers.

And I always wondered why, on Saturdays, at the sight of two coach loads of schoolchildren, driving into the compound, Lat would make a beeline out of his room to somewhere no one could find him. I have always assumed Lat to be very shy. For indeed he was. But he has other reasons…!

Anyway, so, Lat and family are here in London after a trip to Paris - a once in a while family holiday together. I can almost see them, in comic strips of course, walking under the Eiffel Tower, camera hanging around their necks, walking in a line across the bridge to where the memorial in rememberance of Diana is, and lugging themselves up the six flight of stairs to the apartment they were renting. Lat, Mrs Lat and junior Lats – all in a row.

We met the whole Lat clan over dinner, with fellow blogger Atok and family.

Like all of you, I do find LatÂ's cartoon very funny, very nostalgic, but seriously, I had forgotten how funny Lat himself is. We spoke about old times in the newsroom and had visions of certain people there, like Pak Samad, who had the hired the then budding cartoonist after recognising his talents, the late Tan Sr Lee Siew Yee, our MD and the lovable Kak Adib. Its impossible not to instantly recognise the the hand on the hip, the one leg crossing the other, the expressions on the face that Lat expertly transfered on to paper. You just know who he was talking about!

We remembered dialogues from the Kampong Boy, from Scenes of Malaysian Life, Mat Som and many more. Posted by HelloBefore coming to London, apart from the images that you get from TV, you imagine London to be like the ones he caricatured during his stint with old Harry Miller in Fleet Street. Visiting Malaysia Hall for the first time, I really expected it to be as depicted in his cartoonÂ…and it was.

We talked about many things from his days as a crime reporter, his interest in books, his talent in music, his admiration of the late P Ramlee and then it was nearly 12 midnight.

Lat books are usually a must for anyone leaving the country for long periods of time. They are not only good for souveniers but also for those times when you get home sick. You laugh again and again and thought certain depictions of events couldn'’t have happened, but they did - and they would appear in Lat'’s cartoon - an unfailing source of delight, even to those people he cleverly caricatured. Lat's documentation of events in our everyday life is like no other we have seen in our life time.

I particularly love Mat Som. Lat has cleverly done it from a movie making perspective. Reading it is like watching it on screen. It is almost like Pak Samad Said'’s novel Salina, written in a similar way. But that is by the by.

ThereÂ’s a lot to be said of Lat and many have been said by those commenting in this blog. I believe, like others, he is tough act to follow.

Kak Adib wrote in a forward for one of his books, a postcard was simply sent to Lat, Malaysia. And he received it. He is that big.

Has it really been 41 years of Lat? How time flies when we are having fun. Forty one years of entertaining us with his unique sense of humour, yet, the title Dato notwithstanding, the fame and the adulation, he is still very much the lovable Kampong Boy!

Friday 17 June 2005

Superblur at work

It was a normal kind of day. In fact, it was too normal it was turning to be a kind of boring day. Nothing exciting was happening and Mak Cik Blur was making her way home on the number seven, reflecting on the week’s events. Aaaah, what a week! It had been fruitful and exciting and now things are quiet for a bit. After the surge of adrenalin, Mak Cik Blur was in a way looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the TV, watching her favourite Eastenders, when she suddenly thought of bringing some spice into her life. That’s it – Thai Sing Laksa Paste.

And with that she stopped at Chepstow Road, and being the dashing person she is, dashed over to Tawana Supermaket for her weekly supply of those paste which has somewhat become a supplement to her the way Primrose Evening oil is to others, and spinach to Popeye.

But things never went according to plan. Well, she did plan to switch on the computer and check her emails first but what zoomed and swished , swished , swished across her screen was something she couldn’t ignore. These were pleas of help from desperate people making desperate pleas in her YM box – “Pls pls pls Mak Cik Blur, we have the banner code from Maknenek, how do we put the banner up? Pls help! Such was the tone of exasperation that she could not ignore.

She threw the bag of Thai Sing and noodles aside, rushed into the toilet and did several twirls – ouch! – she forgot that she has a bad back and even badder (is there such a word?) left leg - before turning into Mak Cik SuperBlurrrrrrrrr – ready for her next assignment.

The last few days, as the business of Maknenekinc Banner Svs took off rather unexpectedly, Mak Cik Superblurrrr was given several assignments to fix and install banners. Cronyism is rife in Blogworld. Bad back and badder left leg notwithstanding, the jobs were executed, much to the satisfaction of clients blogwide and many a compliments were posted, many a praise sung. It soon became the talk in many a tag.

Anyway, one of the perks of doing this job is that she gets to see people’s usernames and passwords. As she sat in front of the computer, trying to help this poor soul, grappling with her html, she had to put a straight face as the blogger obliged her with her password and username. You must understand that she had to maintain some degree of professionalism..but I tell you – fuiyooooh!!! Some of the passwords!! Hahahahah! Ehem, excuse me.

Its kind of strange getting into people’s templates. Its somewhat like doing intrusive surgery with the blogger on somekind of epidural, no pain but could still talk to you via YM while you're doing the work.

Mak Cik Blurrr had to shut one up, while doing Ely's Place. This customer can really yak, driving Makcikblur to distraction.

So, in no time, the banner was up and another satisfied customer. And Mak Cik Blur could change out of the Superblur outfit to cook Thai Laksa and satisfy the angry crowd getting hungrier and angrier in the living room.

Just imagine, two weeks ago, Mak Cik Blur did not even know what HTML meant. In Kedahspeak – apa merga HTML ni? Hentamlaaaahhhh!

Errr, excuse me. There’s another buzzz. Dr Bubbles needs help to fix his banner. You see, Mak Cik Blur also offers maintainance work.

ps. Pls take note. Wiith business booming, Mak Cik Blur will move her business premises from bawah pokok cherry to bawah pokok ketapang.

Tuesday 14 June 2005


Ajie said that Abang left last week. He cried so much at the airport, as he waved goodbye to Mak and prayed that she will be there on his return. Insyaallah. I can just imagine Mak, at the departure terminal by the escalator, sitting in her wheelchair that we all pooled together to buy, clinging on to Abang, her lips quivering with emotions. Abang has left for a destination in the Middle East – the first time he left home since his wife left him two months ago.

Kak Cik said perhaps its best that Abang went. Since Kak Piah passed away, he’s just a shadow of himself. He goes from one sibling’s house to the another, sits down and cries – not the same Abang at all, not the Abang that we knew – the one who’d crack a joke a minute.

The trip and the job assignment overseas will hopefully take his mind off the loss. But I doubt it. Abang is family oriented. He cannot be without his family, his siblings, Mak and most of all sambal belacan, sayur keladi and kari kepala ikan. I wonder how he will survive. But I pray to God, on his return we will get our Abang back.

Abang had been a survivor but it’ll take a lot for him to survive this loss.

When we were young, Abang was the only brother in the family, before the arrival of Ajie. Thus perhaps he was spoilt. He didn’t want to go to school and Mak didn’t say anything. We learnt about his erring ways from the whispers of the elders. He didn’t make his Form Three exams and in our family, that was indeed something of a disappointment for Pak. But Mak never said anything.

We were then living in Yan, a beautiful little town by the sea, in the shadows of Gunung Jerai, where Pak was a government officer. One day, Mak woke up and found Abang gone. And Mak never stopped crying and prayed for her only son to come back. Of course he did, when his money ran out. Then, instead of continuing school, he mixed around with local fishermen. First, he would paint them as they pushed out their boats to sea. Then, he slept at the centre, waking up at the break of dawn to go out with them in their boats. When that happened, Mak would hastily put on her selendang and wait by the sea front for the boats to come in, all the while praying for his safe return. To lure him back, Mak would promise all kinds of dishes, his favourite, for him and his newfound friends.

He came back. And brought with him no less than five young fishermen, who frequented our house most days. One faithfully remained with us, looking after our father, our nieces and nephews and helped with housework, until he got married and later died of old age.

But Abang was not ready to go back to school. One day, the small quiet town of Yan came alive with people running out to the streets. Mak peered out of our government quarters’ window and saw Abang and company carrying a 10 ft python which they caught near the foot of Gunung Jerai. From what I heard, they made quite a tidy sum, when they sold the reptile to a Chinese businessman.

Mak never stopped her prayers and Abang finally succumbed to her plea to continue his studies. He made it to ITM on a very low grade, and did Arts and Design. Mak knew that from the mess of paints and brushes in his room, Arts was his calling. And it was the right decision. He then pursued his studies in Belfast. Mak cried again – this time with pride – her only son and the first in the family to leave for overseas. It was such a big deal in those days. The whole clan gathered at the airport. Abang wrote to us, pages and pages to tell us about the bombings in Belfast, about the riots and the troubles. Mak would eagerly wait for his news as we read and left out bits not meant for her ears.

“Abang kata apa?” Mak would ask.

“Dia sehat. Dia kirim salam kat Mak,”

“Ish, tujuh lai surat – dia kirim salam saja?” she’d say.

One day, we received a newspaper cutting. Abang had made it into the Irish newspaper – he had won an award for one of his art pieces and Pak said, Alhamdulillah. He has made me proud of him.

The newspaper had mentioned Abang as Mr Othman, Othman being Pak’s name and that pleased Pak enormously.
He made one phonecall a year and we would wait nervously at Pak Tam's house - our rich uncle in that big bungalow at the end of the road. Needless to say, Mak cried away those precious few minutes when she heard her son's voice from across the high seas.

Abang is known as Abang to family and friends, young and old. I’m not surprised that some people did not know his real name.

On his return, he headed several departments and several government bodies, earning him a recognition from the state government. A photograph of him and Kak Piah with the medal is still hanging proudly in the old family house, now unoccupied as Mak is too weak and frail to live on her own there.

Nothing changed Abang. He was fun, he was full of jokes and pranks. Our family gatherings in the house that Pak built was always filled with laughter. We’d book space for our families at night. And Abang would book right in front of the TV. And most times, it was the TV watching him.

And right into the night, from our own little kelambu’s, we’d chat away until Tok cleared her throat signalling her displeasure. There'd be silence for a while until Tok went back to sleep.

When we were young, Abang would be the one Mak assigned to wake us up for sahur. Being the creative one, he’d try different tricks. One would be, drips of belacan water and if that wasn’t enough, salt water, into our gaping mouth, till we woke up. Then, if that failed, he’d draw moustaches and beard on our faces with his charcoal sticks.

Abang loves to cook. On his return to Alor Star, he’d head for the garden and gather the keladi and made sayur keladi. After his early morning trips to the market, he’d sit himself outside in Mak’s wet kitchen and prepare the fish for the grill. Then came the sambal belacan. Our household is famed for this and uncles and aunties and cousins would come by the droves and fill Mak’s big kitchen.

Even when Abang came to visit us in London, he’d take over the kitchen. He cooked when Mak was ill, to feed the continuous flow of visitors. But funny enough, he never cooked in his own kitchen. With arwah Kak Piah, they would eat at the stalls or bring back take aways. And he must be missing this, missing her company now that she is gone.

Today, Abang will be spending his birthday away from his siblings and families, his sons and grandson and Mak. He will be missing the great food that Kak Cik would have cooked for him had he been around. But, he’d be spending this day with memories of his wife fresh in his mind. For the last words he said to her before she drifted away was, ‘Go first and wait for me.’

Happy Birthday Abang. We are waiting for you, too. Love you very much.

Monday 13 June 2005

Is this me??

You Are a Life Blogger!

Your blog is the story of your life - a living diary.
If it happens, you blog it. And make it as entertaining as possible.

Sunday 12 June 2005

Malaysia in Bracknell

Posted by Hello
A Malaysian festival is something I can never resist. Bracknell is a good one hour away towards Virginia Waters, Reading and Sunningdale and many other small towns that I have not heard of before. This is if you’re going from Waterloo. I am still nursing my bad back and what I suspect is a torn ligament in my left leg, but against hubby’s advise, I used emotional blackmail to get my Batman Taufiq to accompany me.

So, I ouched away, holding on to Taufiq’s arms like an old mama (which is what I am) and we reached Bracknell, at 2 just in time to hear Art Fazil’s rendition of Nur – Light. The mall near the shopping centre was already packed, the sun was out and the smell of grilled satay was in the air.

Mayor Bracknell with the staff of Mawar Restaurant stall
I have this thing about Malaysian cultural performances. I think it is to do with being away for too long. I want to capture every dance, every performance so that I can come back, sit in front of the TV and watch it again and again and feel that I am almost at home. The Malaysian Festival in Bracknell was jointly organised by Malaysian Tourism and Bracknell Council and a good day was had by all. I certainly enjoyed myself and am always looking forward to Art Fazil’s songs – especially his latest – Aku Melayu di Kota Inggeris. You must get it when he releases it.

The Bhangra was really …what's the word..infectious. The Bhangra by Angel Dancers had us tapping our feet. I had to remind myself to tap wth my right leg. The left really hurts. It didn't take much to persuade the Mayor of Bracknell to join in. And you can see that she has had much practise before this, or she must have been watching lots of Bollywood movies.
Posted by Hello
The Lion Dance had some children running for cover. I would too, but had to be brave.
After all, I had my Batman with me.

Posted by Hello
All the food at the stalls, which occupied two streets, from Mawar Restaurant, Holiday Villa and Nia Marie’s – went well before the end of the festival. I had a bite of satay and a little Kuayteow goreng. I was more engrossed with the dances.

Today, I am resting my legs.

Friday 10 June 2005

A Cover up Story

One of the very positive things that I find about blogging is that, it tends to be infectious. One blogger writes something and it triggers off certain memories in us and we want to blog about it too giving it our own touch, from our own perspectives. And we learn a lot from these different treatments. In a way, we bounce ideas off each other.

This week, for instance, anedra wrote a heartfelt plea to bloggers, most of them she has never met, yet she feels close enough to them to reveal her insecurities about a certain issue that has been on her mind lately. I read with interest the comments, very encouraging and very suportive. And this post spurred other bloggers like maknenek to write about her experience and blabs who wrote about her feelings and massylassy to contribute something. Such networking, such support.

Now, if I can tumpang sekaki, I would like to contribute a two cents worth of my experience on the same issue – to cover up or not to cover up.

I never thought that I would one day don the tudung. Whenever I went back to Malaysia, I’d be the one who would stand out in the crowd because I was tudungless while my siblings, cousins aunties and friends were all properly covered in their matching tudungs.

I would be the one that little five year old chatterbox would come up and say loud and clear for all to hear, “Eh ni pasal tak pakai tudung ni?”

But I was not upset or bothered by this as I knew that I needed to know more and understand the reasons for doing so. I wanted it to be from me and not from anyone else.

But as the saying goes, the light comes from many directions.

Throughout Ramadhan, I’d put on the tudung to go for prayers and each time I did that, there was this little voice that said, “You look nice, Mama!”

That was just a start. And then, it went on to “When are you going to wear the hijab, Mama?”

“I am sorry, Taufiq, I can’t wear it to please you. I have to be sure that when I wear it, I will never take it off again. I have to be sure that I am doing it because I want to and not because you want me to,” was my reply to my then 11 year old son.Posted by Hello
He was happy with the answer but once in a while he’d repeat the question. And the reply remained the same.
Quietly, I had been spending more time in the bathroom, in front of the mirror - trying to tie the tudung the way I see my friends do it. I had enough little pins, big pins, serkup and what nots. But it never turned out right. There’s always something wrong. I didn’t know it then, but when I started buying the scarves during my trips home, I was already preparing myself for that particular day.

Then, like anedra, I started talking to two friends (faceless online buddies I know from and they were so supportive and were not even critical of the fact that I wanted to wait.

And bless my other half. Even when he came back from Haj, he never once said to me, "cover up."

So, while walking along Queensway one night after terawikh, I said to him,” I am thinking of wearing the tudung.”

And all he said was and I remember every line: “Do it with sincerity. Do it with good intention from your heart.”

And with that we took the tube home.

Anyway, the anniversary of 911 was fast approaching, I have yet to muster the art of wearing the tudung without it falling all over my face. I had made a decision to start wearing it on 911. Why? To show that I am a Muslim and proud of it. I thought I’d walk into the office and show them I am a Muslim and suffer whatever consequences, if any at all.

But come 911, I didn’t do what I set to do, mainly because I felt it was for the wrong reasons if I had done that. People in the office know that I am a Muslim. I fast while others ate during Ramadan. I rush off to do my prayers when the time comes, and during office parties I don’t drink and stick to vegetarian food.

BUT something happened after that. I was assigned to cover the visit of our then PM to a mosque in East London. And I know that I need to cover up as Tun M was having his prayers as well as lunch there. And I did a piece to camera for the news item to be broadcast back in Malaysia.

The next day, I phoned up my sister who was then taking a break in Port Dickson. My mother was there in the hotel with her. I spoke to her. She was sitting on the bed when she heard the news about the PM’s visit to London. She sat up, knowing that there’s a likelihood that I would be on air. And first she heard my voice and then she saw me.

This was what she said, "Anak mak, anak mak…maneh nyaaa anak mak,”

I tried to joke although I was choking. “Berita yang Kak Teh baca tu pasai apa, mak?”

Mak tak dengark pun, Mak nampak anak mak manih pakai tudung….” And this from a mother who never forced me to do anything, but has a way of making me do it, in her own gentle way. Taufiq must have inherited this from her.

I couldn’t speak anymore and told her I’d call back.
So, that was it. Taufiq was smiling from ear to ear ever since.

Of course, there was the initial little bob of hair peering out of the hood, that Taufiq would come over and adjust my tudung while pushing back the hair.

Then, the endless search for the right tudung to wear. Then there's the constant"Where did I put the pin? Where is the serkup?" And endless, endless, “Is this okay?” In our household, I’d need to go through three check barriers – Taufiq, Hafiz and the Dad.

And nine out of ten times, no matter how many tudungs you have accumulated in your zest to be covered up, you will return to the one comfortable one – a safe shade of black or biege that will go with anything.

Have a nice weekend

Wednesday 8 June 2005

Somewhere in my youth or childhood.....

I woke up this morning with Julie Andrew's famous song, "Somewhere in my youth or childhood, ..........." (Sound of Music).
Thank you maknenek for this lovely, lovely box of chocolates that is going to be my header from now on. Eventho I can just salivate while looking at it each day and wet my keyboard in the process, I will always treasure this. Maknenek left this in my ym this morning and I have managed to turn over the template upside down (without even getting anyone's expert help!) to place the html!
For your info, maknenek is a long time cyber friend who made the journey from Forcheim in Germany to see me after we found each other in We have been online buddies for so long, and during our first meeting, to see Raihan performing in London, it was as if we had known each other for a long, long time. From Raihan, we went on to see Bombay Dreams and what fun we had. Since then, we have ventured in all sorts of things - maknenek being the talented and resourceful person she is. She picks up cues and bounces off ideas and translates them into something fantastic - I enjoy working with her on our expreimental online
I start a cerpen or a story, and I can be sure that fom her living room in Forcheim, she'd pick up the thread and continue it and develope the storylines along the same wavelengths that most of our rantauan buddies are blessed with. And with this I mean to include Dr Bubbles or Is Badut in Malaysia who used to crack us up from Vientiene where he was a tireless volunteer, klmuk, the bloglurker, in Aberdeen, Uja in Singapore and many many more, such as Kasarubia in Melbourne and Memento in Amsterdam and yes, Nina in Canada and Ely in San Francisco. Not forgetting our Penghulu (Iskandaria) in Los Angeles. Oh, what fun we have. You should read our "Bangsawan in Cyberia" and Perang Pantun!
And now as we expand our circle of online buddies, I meet so many talented and gifted ones. And you know who you are. And thank you so much for the many dedications in postings of some bloggers who I didn't even know visit me. And thank you for the presents in the post. I feel I do not deserve these, but thank you and in return I offer my friendship. (Advise to templates, links, html, photobucket etc comes with extra charge! :) )

Monday 6 June 2005

Kpd rakan kita NOUR - selamat menjalankan Umrah di Tanah Suci

Salam kepada semua,
Marilah kita sama-sama memberi doa selamat kepada rakan kita Nour yang akan pergi menunaikan Umrah esok. Alhamdulillah, Nour telah mendapat visa untuk ke tanah suci. Kak Teh dan kawan-kawan di dunia blog mendoakan semoga segala ibadah Nour diterima Allah dan juga kami mendoakan Nour selamat pergi dan selamat kembali. Sampaikanlah salam kami kepada Rasullahllah s.a.w. dan serulah nama kami semasa di sana.

Thank you for your messages and hope to see you back here, soon.

Friday 3 June 2005

Table Food Frangipanis and Flair

Malaysian author to launch cookery book in London - soon!

As I was getting ready to go to a BBQ do yesterday, I received a phone call that transported me right back to days at that big building in Jalan Riong. At the end of the line was Tripat – now Dr Tripat Narayanan – a former colleague at the NST. On my last visit to Malaysia last year, I read that she has written a book, published in Singapore. Image hosted by Photobucket.comAnd now that book – Table Food Frangipanis and Flair – is going to be launched at THE cookery book shop – Books for Cooks- at 4 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill Gate on 8th July.

It’ll be really great to see Tripat again. I remember the beautiful and always, always elegant lady in her colourful saris. Not a hair out of place even tho everything around her was like hell let loose. I had just been transfered back from the Penang bureau and was then replacing Nora Marzuki. We were the 'Times Women' working under THE Woman’s Page Editor Leung Thong Ping. Anyway, more about this later, as the very thought of Ms LTP, has been known to make many knees go a wobble, which explains the very bad state of my other half’s knees.

Tripat’s passion has always been food and its not surprising that she has come up with this book, which is already getting rave reviews from what I read at hosted by
Shilpa Ghatalia, YogaShakti
"Perfection in every way. Fantastic presentation and no compromise on taste."
Pat Liew, British India
"Really wonderful food. I have just returned from India and this is like the marvellous homecooked food my friends prepared..."
Sebastien Phillipe Le Francois, Tastevin
"An introduction in New Age Indian food. For me...the revelation was the vegetable kofta...I'm still savoring it."
and more here: review

From the brief conversation we had yesterday, I gather she has notched up quite a bit. With a PhD in Film Studies in Illinois University, she now lectures, still writes, gives talks and does film critics.

Hmmm, yes, those days in that little cubicle in the newspaper office! Tripat must have been the most sane and normal person around. With Foong Peto and Nora (when visiting) around, the place was always full of high pitched laughter and yackitty yack. Was at Nora’s salsa do last year and that one never seems to age either, but I have totally lost contact with Peto.

Yes, people have moved on. I left very shortly after that transfer from Penang. This news about Tripat and her book has once again touched a nerve. She is one of those who breezes through writing very quietly on her own and gets things done. I remember those days, when it was chaos around her, she was quietly writing her pieces in one corner. And I imagine it must have been the same with this book, - a book about Indian food, Malaysian food and takeaways. And I am sure, written with elegance and style, for that is what Tripat is all about.

And here I am still talking and still fussing about that one subject that I want to write about, as if one day, like magic I will wake up and find those words structured and constructed on pages of a book.

What is it with people who ‘breeze’ through writing? They write so effortlessly while I make dozens of visits to the kitchen to top up my caffeine and still come back to the same para? Dato Samad Said, who seems to be writing two or three books at the same time, has always encouraged me to write – and this has been going on for the past 20 years. Everytime we meet, he’d say, “So, when is your book coming out?” I still have not got the answer.

Well, I lied. I have a book out. Just too embarrassed to admit. It was published by Routledge in London – in 1993 or 94 – that long ago that I have even forgotten. From the report and royalties I get every year, I see that its not doing too badly in America and Australia and friends have even reported that they found it in a Harvard library. So,that will do! It is still available in some book shops in London and also through The royalties is enough to sustain the cat food supply for the year. There’s no book launch, no review. And I hide in embarrassment when people asked me whether that’s my book. But its not the kind of book that make tons of money. So, I am willing myself now, very hard indeed, to make myself write THAT kind of book, whose revenue I can depend on to feed more than the cats.

And there are of course some work in other people’s books. But that’s not enough, is it?

Thanks to writer Susan, I met Rani Manika, author of bestseller Rice Mother and Touching Earth. And she too breezes through her books. She said, “Woman, write!” and as we parted that afternoon after tea at Selfridges, we shook hands and I squeezed her hand tight trying to squeeze out some of those energies that produced such bestsellers. And according to the bookaholic, Tash Aw, who is back in Malaysia for the booksigning of his novel "The Harmony Silk Factory", is also doing very well.

And goodness knows how many Sasterawan Negaras have graced our lounge for a bit of Mee Bandung during their visits to London. And in exchange, they have given some words of wisdom on writing. But, here I am still sitting and procrastinating. Its not easy. Not for me, anyway. But my favourite quote "Why do today what you know you can do tomorrow" doesn't sound funny anymore.

Friends come and go – James Ritchie also from the same office has come up with several books, I hear, the late BC Battacharjee too with his book “The Immigrant”. At the moment I have a pact with another writer that we should give each other a regular kick in the you know where when things get a bit sluggish. But then again, she has discipline, writing one to two thousand words a day and from what I see, its coming along nicely. Discipline I have very little. Time I have even less. This blogging is therapeutic (not an excuse). It keeps me sane. But I have to juggle studies and work - I know, all excuses, excuses!

The final blow to me was when I took a friend to accompany me to a publishing house in Malaysia. I was already doing some work for them and have an open invite to write any novel, anytime. And guess what? A year later, a package arrived in the post. This friend had secured a writing contract and had published her first book. You see, some people just get on with it. Some people , like me, just fret.

When I meet Tripat next month at her book launch and book signing event, I am going to make sure that she leaves me some tips. I will be writing more about her book, nearer the date. The books are already available at the bookshop. Will certainly update.

Thursday 2 June 2005

God's special gift

Dr Tan beckoned me over. I hesitated but I knew I’d have to face the stark reality sooner or later. Was I to faint, I knew I’d be in safe hands and in safe surroundings – the Kings College Hospital no less. But I couldn’t faint because I was working and the woman on the operating table was the centre of attention, not me. I inched my way towards the table and from afar could see that they have cut her wide open. A sort of giant pincers held apart the two sides of her stomach waiting for the surgeon to remove her liver.

My camera man was right behind me but the sound man, a big hefty guy, remained in the background, turning whiter by the minute.

As I stood there, watching her insides, I wondered, what is it that made her special? What has she got inside her that gave her the steely determination, the courage and the strength to go through with the operation which had a 50/50 percent chance of success? Of course I knew the answer. I had been with her and the family for the past few weeks. I knew what she has. She has a child who was in need of a liver and she had decided to offer part of hers to save her daughter’s life.

She was wrought with guilt when both she and her husband discovered the condition of their second born. So, she decided that was the only course of action. She believed it was her fault that her daughter was born with such life threatening defect. There’s no persuading her to the contrary.

At that time, the only liver transplant was carried out with liver from a dead person. Dr Tan had just pioneered the sharing of liver and liver transplant from a live donor. I had reported his pioneering work and it was a coincidence that the mother, by then desperate, read about it. It was going to be done in London, she had decided, but it was going to be expensive. Very expensive. To the tune of £75,000. Many doors that she knocked on turned her away. “It’s expensive. She’s going to die,” they told her point blank.

The petite woman soldiered on and knocked on more doors until one finally opened – no questions asked, no blaze of publicity of kind donor holding up cheques or press conferences.

The few weeks I spent with the family before the operation taught me a lot. It taught me that a child, no matter how ill, no matter how handicapped, deserved a chance to live a normal life. It taught me that a mother with such a child, no matter how severe a condition, never gives up. But it was the weeks after the operation that taught me a lot more. I came to understand humility, I came to understand sacrifice and I came to appreciate what Allah has given me. Strong and healthy children.

Without going into the gory detail of the operation, suffice to say, the transplant on her 4 year old proceeded without a hitch. The child was wheeled out, a part of her mother’s in her, that will will her to live on.

The next day, I was at her bedside and as the morphine ceased to be effective, she squeezed my hand hard and for the first time I heard,”It’s painful, Kak Teh! But it must be worse for N. She must be in worse pain and I can’t be with her,” We both cried. Hospital regulations dictate that mother and child had to be separated because of obvious reasons. The child might wake up and want to be with mother, who could hardly move. Mother might want to cradle her baby and and take the pain away from her. They were put in two separate wings with the father rushing from wife to child, never a sulk and not a word of complain.

Years later, the child had more complications. She gave up work to take her to and from school. She still brings food cooked from home and makes sure N is free from any infections. Such dedication and such devotion.

Another mother I met was in Birmingham with her two year old suffering from a disorder whereby he was born without a rectum. As if that was not enough, the little toddler also had two holes in his heart. He needed operation very badly. The money that was promised was slow in coming but my story about his plight brought in £10,000 from a very generous donor to top up what they already had. And even then, I remember, they were short of £400.00. I wrote letters and made phone calls to various people and Alhamdulillah, a week before his operation, we were in my front room, counting coins from the Friday prayer collection at Malaysia Hall. That made up the £21,000 that was needed.

Throughout, the mother remained strong, optimistic and cheerful. She never gave up hope. Her boy was going to live. They were going to take the boy for umrah. But it was not to be. He died.

Another mother I met gave birth to a pair of Siamese twins – the most cheerful and clever pair of twins I have ever met. They were naughty times two and I say that with affection! They were brought here for an operation to give them a chance to live as separate individuals. Eventually, the twins were taken to Saudi Arabia where they were successfully operated on. The mother, A, never once complained about what Allah had given her. In fact, it never occured to her they were different. She and her husband were in fact prepared to raise the twins the way they were born - together, joined at the hips.

There are many mothers like these strong wonderful women that I had had the opportunity to meet in my line of duty. From their faces, I learnt to recognise the inner strength and the patience that shone through. They soldier on and fight for the survival of their children, to give them a quality of life that they deserve, like any other children.

So, if ever I complain and moan about my children, about their lack of this and that, I am reminded of these women, of their faces serene and full of acceptance of God's gifts. And now, I stand to salute these women, these mothers as I thank God Almighty for a precious gift delivered to me 24 years ago today.
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