Tuesday 27 September 2005

TO all Mak Cik Bloggers

and also dont forget to read Mak Andeh
I garantee you, lauk di dapur mesti hangit, anak akan kelaparan - and we are still auditioning for walk on parts!
....now please read on!
When I entered the world of blogging, I was apprehensive about it. In spite of the three easy steps it said on how to start a blog, I was making all sorts of silly mistakes. I was also apprehensive about the reaction....what if no one reads me, what if I syiok sendiri..hehe. Anyway, I had long been a silent reader and by then, I had acquired a list of bloggers whose nicks are so familiar – Pok Ku, Pak Adib, Mok Cik Nab, Atok – its like having a ready made family online. And once you are welcomed by Pok Ku...hey, that is like being introduced by Ed Sullivan of the Bloggers’ World lah..ya dok, Pok Ku?

Anyway, like I said, I am pleased that I can now put pictures without messing up the page, help maknenek to put up banners. Was touched that bloggers were giving me their passwords to put up banners and links for them...hahaha – (sorry, I just remembered some unmentionable usernames..hehehe, sorry, again!) And I suppose, the other biggest achievement was the Sentraal Station, thanks to another Mak Cik Blogger, AuntyN who came up with the idea!

Alhamdulillah, its been a really good and positive network and if not for the camaraderie here, I would have packed up my ladders and gone elsewhere! Its been, to say the least, the most humbling experience reading some blogs – to read that some people have gone through what you only have in your nightmares. And you give each other support – if there’s nothing nice to say – walk away.

And there are very informative ones too - ones you only get with age and experience (When you get to our age, this is how you start marketing yourself!)

Have learnt a lot from Mak Cik Sharon, laughed with Mak cik Lilian (5xMom) and really enjoy Mak Cik Lydia's friendship...Of course those I mentioned here are all sewaktu dengan Kak Teh lah! Or, I suspect, younger!

I am still in awe reading the achievements of young bloggers here. You go reading their meme'd account and your jaws dropped. But I have made friends with many young ones who have generously shared with me their knowledge. Thanks ijun, nana and many more.

Now back to Mak Cik Bloggers. Am sorry I caused a stir last Sunday morning. But its true. We Mak Cik Bloggers, blur and gomen and those who rawk and the one by the pantai, yang pencen, and those like me still carrying rucksacks back to school – we are all ageless in this cyber world and will remain so ( until we meet up and examine and compare wrinkles!)

We have learnt so much from each other, lent each other cyber shoulder pads to cry on and laughed at many a joke..that helped us make our day livelier! And we are into
PO - sitive blogging *wink*

Let me share you this story. Two weeks ago, on a Saturday morning, I was pulling my bag full of books to the library when I saw two Malaysian girls taking photographs in front of the university. I stopped to say salam and introduced myself as I am wont to do when meeting fellow Malaysians. The moment I mentioned my name, one of them screamed, “Kak Tehhhhh” and had my fifteen minutes of fame, while they took photographs of me bleary eyed and all, from all angles and in all manner of posing! Thanks, E and M, you made my day! Tersengeh sepanjang hari!

And not only that my dear Mak Ciks...they read you too and I believe I am bringing back a little something for you from your fans in Edinburgh!

Hmm, am not supposed to blog today..so I will end here and say :


Sunday 25 September 2005

Anak Melayu di Kota Inggeris

It was a funny kind of evening – not funny haha, but just funny strange. The gentleman who was my companion for the evening was polishing off his nasi lemak and downing his second glass of teh tarek, while I looked on in amazement at how Malay or much more Malay he is than me, in terms of the generous dollops of sambal that he had on his plate. He has not had nasi lemak for a long time, he said, in perfect Malay. The only Indonesian restaurant in Shizuoka, Japan, serves almost everything but nasi lemak.

We discussed my syair and I was very impressed with his input. He did Sejarah Melayu and there were some common grounds there.

In the background, Art Fazil was singing “Anak
Melayu di Kota Inggeris” and whenever he does this, I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else. Thus my plate of rice and mild korma was only half eaten. I must have listened to Art’s wonderful lyrics and composition hundreds of times but it never failed to encapsulate how I feel about being in this Kota Inggeris.

I find myself humming this chorus all the time (that is when I am not singing Alleycats, lah!)

“Pasu bunga berbaris-baris,

disusun oleh si anak manis,

Aku Melayu di Kota Inggeris,

rindukan petai dan sambal tumis!

Anyway, back to my gentleman friend from Japan, who shall remain a Dr T in this entry – is very interested in the Malay community in London – being an anthropologist and all that. And when he emailed me from Japan before his trip, I made arrangements for him to meet up with some people and finally, after his busy schedule, we met up at Mawar – a more Malay surrounding you will not find, I tell you. Its nasi goreng kampong is to die for and the teh tarek, as Dr T will testify is just out of this world and on Saturday nights when Art is singing, you will not want to be anywhere else.

Dr T wanted to know how we adapt to life in this Kota Inggeris, the kind of activities we do etc, etc. And who better than Art Fazil, who recently organised the first London Malay Festival, bringing together Malays from Cape Town, Sri Lanka, the Philipines, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Madagascar, Thailand. Dr T should have been around then cos, it was quite an event.

In spite of the fact that they had very little time to organise the festival, Art and co (Ishak and Mimah and daughters and others) did not do too badly. I did my bit by introducing Cik Mat Belanda and his puppets, which were a hit as Cik Mat is our modern day Penglipur Lara who told stories, using his puppets. Cik Mat came all the way from Rotterdam to entertain us on that day – he even demonstrated several ways to make ketupat nasi. I have known Cik Mat for a long time. My trips to Holland will not be complete without a visit to his house for his delicious asam pedas ikan semilang. I marvel at his dedication... he is a sort of cultural ambassador there – organising cultural shows and introducing Malaysia.

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Anyway, there was a fashion show with models from the Malay world, parading in Malay costumes, silat, dances and many more.

Truly enjoyed that. There was a talk on Malayness and the Malay world by Prof EU Kratz from SOAS. And food, needless to say from Mawar..the festival would not have seen light of day without the final push from Faizal Philip, Mawar's owner! Hat's off to him!

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Anyway, I digress...(but this is the beauty of blogging, I can digress whenever I like, its my blog. And i can even have typeos....see what I mean?)

Dr T’s interest made me think. People like us, who have been away for a long time, have now become objects of research. Hey, wasn’t I the one who used to do the research and now I am the subject of research? Art Fazil did mention that by 2012, he’d like to see a Malay museum set up in London. Suddenly, I see this horrible image of myself all crumpled up and wrinkled in one of the showrooms!

Friday 16 September 2005

Reckless moments, desperate measures

I read this tragic news in the Malaysian papers and felt quite ill and sad. It is the one about the teenage boy who was said to have stabbed his pregnant teenage girlfriend. Its a nightmare for every parent. And I thought long and hard before writing this one. Afterall , I am a parent too.

For the rest of my life I will never erase this image from my mind, even if I tried.

I had settled the week old baby in the baby seat, specially bought for the black cab, fastened the seatbelt and kissed him for one last time. Then I turned to the mum, barely a child herself. After much coaxing, I persuaded her to give her baby one last kiss, before he was taxied off with a nurse to his foster parents outside London. She did. And for the first time, I saw big fat tears rolling down her cheeks. For the first time, I saw the bonding but it was too late cos she had made the decision.

It was her decision and nothing would move her. She wanted to give the baby away. She had just emerged from the denial phase that she did not give birth and was not pregnant. She thought she was just fat and was eating so much jeruk and slimming pills to slim down. When I first saw her, her young face registered nothing. If there was such a thing as nothingness, that was it...on her face. The baby in the cot next to her could’ve been someone else’s cos when I asked her about the gender, she didn’t know.

For once, my job as a freelance whatever sucks! I hated it when I was called to interpret for this young Malay girl who had just given birth. I got too emotionally involved and knew so, as day after day, I went back to the hospital and fed and changed the nappies as his own mother wouldn’t do so.

Finally, I was asked to ask her what she wanted to do with the baby...and her reply was, to give him up for adoption. That posed the question of the rights of the father, whoever he was. After much coaxing, she gave a number and the hospital called the boy who was totally in the dark about the whole thing. Totally shocked that he was already a father. But no denial here.

Again, when I asked his views about adoption, this child said – whatever the girl wanted, he would respect her views. Would he come and see the baby? No, he was at school.

It must have been desperation that drove her to ‘hide’ away from her family and come to London as a student. It must have been desperation too that she was taking slimming pills knowing that they could induce miscarriage...which in her case, thankfully, did not work! But it is still a question mark whether she shared her secret with the boyfriend.

Whatever it was, it must have been a great shock that called for desperate measures. And if the newspapers reports about yesterday’s news are correct, the action was certainly a desperate one. And a tragic one.

At the end of this whole sorry saga, which lasted just a week, I was left an emotional wreck. I had become attached to the baby and watching it being ferried away to the home of a stranger, just broke my heart. I stood a long time by the road side, after the taxi drove away with the baby and just cried.

Then, there was tension at home. My husband thought we should have adopted and I said, there was no way we could afford to and with me being involved like this, there was no way, I’d be qualified. "

Imagine, brief moments of reckless pleasure that could end up so, so tragically!

Wednesday 14 September 2005

Whaaaaaaaat??? Only 100 camels?

That was my response to R’s story about her trip to Cairo recently. Apparently, she was visiting the pyramids when someone offered the people she was with, 100 camels fo her!

Hisssh, 100 camels! What were they thinking! 200 and no less!

The father’s reactions: Huh! 100 camels? Where do we put them? Our garden is too small!


I’ve been itching to write about this since reading anedra's entry about price of dowry in Malaysia these days and the comments are so interesting.

In those day, (and here we go again), when an anak dara could command, RM1000, its the talk of the kampung! I remember the negotiations that went on behind closed doors when Kak was getting married. She had had a long queue of very interested mums and even more interested suiters, but Pak was not willing to let go of his first child that easily. There were royalties, politicians and they pursued her relentlessly even after she was married and with child. Well, you could class her as a beauty, tall and willowy, fair and Miss Kebaya to boot! (And then of course Mak and Pak broke the mould and had us!)

But Pak was possessive not to mention protective. After rumours had it that she was being followed to work, he hired her a trishaw, with an uncle as an escort!

And finally, when a young dashing police officer in uniform came to nip the first bud in our garden, it seemed the right choice and we thank God for that because Abang is like no other and we love him tremendously . He still spoils us rotten.
Anyway, not before he had to cough up RM1000 for the dowry – a lot, mind you in those days!
There must have been a lot of talk...Waaah, Anak Pak Awang belanja seribu!!!
And behind our backs it must have been..."Ish, nak juai anak kaaaaaaa!"

I cant remember what happened to Kak Cik, but when it came to my turn, I recall having this reluctant feeling to go home during the term breaks. The minute the Mak Ciks know that you’re back, there would be strangers at the door. And you’d think they can be more subtle than that as they had been doing it as a profession – these mak cik merisik!

Mak would call out to me to make tea and I was supposed to make tea and walk all lemah gemalai and act all coy and sweet, which I was not at all. Then they’d look you up and down, not unlike the way they would do to a chicken or a goat before the big kill.

Yang ni dah ada kawan dah kaaaaa?”

From a very young age I used to shiver when people talked about matchmaking. I think it started with a neighbour who used to put a dash of kapur on my forehead everytime we visited her! That was supposed to be a tag – a reserve tag for her son!

Anyway, nothing could beat this one – I was at my sister’s house when the phone was passed on to me – very businesslike this woman at the other end of the line. She proceeded to tell me that her son was very qualified and earning so much which left me quite speechless, not knowing head or tail as to how you respond to things like that.

Anyway, why did I digress so?

Oh yes...when the right wan, oh, sorry, the right one came, nothing mattered. Even if he had placed an IOU letter on the talam hantaran, it would be fine. I remember the rombongan that came to Abang’s house in Bangsar. I was not to be seen or heard, but I was told about the pantun memantun that went on downstairs! The next day, when I was driving around with my intended, he casually asked me the asking price. I mentioned the number and I swear to you...the car skidded to the middle of the road! He was perspiring! But then, that has always been his style of reacting to anything and I got the asking price in a small album - that took care of the bonus that he received from the NST at that time.

Nowadays, I read the figures can go to six digits, especially when the bride concerned is a celebrity!

Aaaah, I will have to seriously think about this again.. our children are at that age. Am not going into the business of haggling for dowries. The eldest will certainly have to work more before settling down – not for anything but for their future security. I am not materialistic, but I will not settle for camels for my girls.

"Siapa itu Kassim Selamat? Majistret? Loyar???" hands on hips, sumore!

As for my Batman, can I have more time with him, pleaseeeeeee!!!!

Monday 12 September 2005

Interview With The 'Pontianak'

The house in Yan was in such an idyllic setting, with the imposing Gunung Jerai in the background. In the mornings when we accompanied Mak to the mosque, the fragrance from the cempaka flowers drifted in the air, giving that added chill. I shiver just thinking about it. Especially when we hurried past that big tree – according to murmurs, it housed a certain ‘being’. You know – the one that sits high in the trees and flies in the night. Pontianak. I never failed to look up whenever we walked past.

I think that was where we learnt about Pontianak. Well, apart from the black and white movie on telly, and of course stories we heard from older cousins when they spent the nights with us and we’d huddle in a corner and listened eyes wide open.

Of course now, we are wiser and realised that those stories were meant to keep us indoors at night.

A year ago, Shuhaimi Baba revived the Pontianak on screen with her Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam. Thirty years after it was banished by the censorship board! And her Pontianak – the lovely Maya Karin is far from the Pontianak that remained in the deep recesses of my young mind. I first met her when they were doing a reshoot of some scenes and Maya was wiping off her grotesque make-up when she was introduced to me.

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Not two hours before writing this, I met Maya again. Three hectic days at the Estepona Fantasy and Terror Film Festival in Spain and she still looked ravishing.

And she has every reason to look glowing and happy - once again she bagged the Best Performer award, her second for her role as Pontianak in PHSM 2. The first – you will recall – was at the 49th Asia Pacific Film Festival in Japan.

I myself became interested in horror movies last year just as Shuhaimi reinstated our own monstrous feminine back on to the screen. I just wanted to know why in South East Asia there are more female monsters – compared to the west. Take Nang Nak - love it though I cried buckets everytime I watched it. It was an interesting term I had when I just devoted part of module to a study of horror movies and ended up presenting a paper on The Monstrous Feminine in SEA Horror movies in Sorbonne last summer. It was fun.

So when Shuhaimi hinted that she was doing a sequel I was really excited and I toyed with her suggestion that I should try script writing – of course that didn’t materialise. My mum was ill and there were other pressing matters – if not I’d be there as well – getting the awards, no?

But today I was back interviewing the ‘Pontianak’. And what a lovely lass! Once in a while she’d give me that look that sent the shivers up my spine. The same feeling I got walking under that big tree near our house in Yan.
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Tuesday 6 September 2005

I've been MEMED!

I’ve been memed left, right and centre and thanks to you all, and you know who you are, for dragging me screaming and kicking, away from my big D! So, here I had better get it done and over with. Took out my calculator and old diaries to calculate dates and see where I was and when.

Here we go:

20 years ago (1985)
At my age, (and we shall not dwell on that) its very difficult to think that far back and I have misplaced that year’s diary.
Anyway, my short term contract at the BBC was extended and I was learning the ropes, broadcasting to the world, so to speak. I made some wonderful friends, and one remains so close to my heart to this day, an inspiration and a great motivator, indeed. She started reading my blog yesterday and if you are reading this now, please know how much yesterday’s phone conversation means to me.

Just as I was enjoying having a boy and a girl, I was back throwing up into the toilet bowl again and the test kit showed positive (again!) I remember crying my eyes out in the bathroom but hubby as usual was ecstatic. But I knew that he was always there when I throw up at the sink or needed any midnight snacks. Am pampered throughout all my pregnancies, so no problem there.

But the problem was the house. The two bedroom we bought two years before was becoming too small for a family with two boisterous children, and another one on the way. Sold that and made a tidy profit, enough for a bigger house up the road. Three bedrooms and a hugeeeeeee eighty foot garden, with an obliging neighbour who tended to it until he was too old and too frail to do it. Now, its back to nature.

Ten years ago (1995)
Funny eh? After receiving my extended contract, I was made permanent at the BBC only to be told that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had decided to axe a few services – ours included. But by 1995, I was well into the world of freelancers – a day a week at the British Library, two days at Linguaphone, several big voice jobs AND got my first book published by none other than Routledge. Its nice seeing the books lining the shelves at Books etc, and Selfridges. I’d go and check to see whether anyone had bought. And of course they did cos I keep receiving the royalties!
Did a massive project with Linguaphone and Dorling Kindersley.
Rezki anak. Oh, by now, we’ve got 4, and I wanted ten.

Five years ago (2000)
After years of writing pieces here and there, finally got my first column – London Buzz! Enjoyed that tremendously, especially when they were really nice positive feedbacks from readers.
Sorry, I lied. I had several columns before with Her World and Jelita, but was just not ready for a commitment. So those were shortlived but columns, nevertheless.

Did more television work and more teaching work. This television work took me places and enjoyed. And started doing voice work for a wonderful American company which to this day pays a lot of my bills.

Three years ago (2002)
The world opened up. I was told about Rantauan.com and since then I was hooked. Never surfed before and didnt know the meaning of chatting or ym’ing even. Was really into Rantauan.com and all the actvities it had to offer to bring Malays around the world together. We had fun with pantun wars, cerpen bersambung and most of all the wonderful friendship that I never thought could be forged even without a meeting face to face.
This year, I became bini Pak Haji, and mother not only to four teenagers but six cats! We had seventeen, but the nasty RSPCA came and took the little ones away and we cried for days.

A year ago (2004)
Quite a traumatic year. My friends were getting daughters in laws, sons in law, grandchildren and I went back to university, sitting uncomfortably in a classroom of kids young enough to be my children. My husband was all excited. Cos he thought we could relive our youth by having dates at the canteen, he’d carry my bags for me and wait outside the uni gate when the bell rang.

Did my first exam after what...thirty years? and survived. Went to Holland for my first conference as a student and then proceeded to Paris, where I presented a paper at University of Sorbonne! Not bad and was even quoted in a Thai paper! haha!

Again, with Allah's blessings, came a contract that ensures my fees for the MA is paid for. Alhamdulllah

Launched Rantauan.tv – we were holding hands – cyberspeak – with friends around the world – was in a shabby internet cafe in Rotterdam when the button was pressed in Melbourne! And there was our Prime Minister’s welcoming speech for rantauan members. I asked Pak Lah for this favour and he obliged – filmed partly by blogger Atok.

Mak was seriously ill and before I could book my ticket, it was already delivered to my house by a very, very kind friend who knew what it felt not seeing his mother before she died. Until now he made me promise to go home to see my mum at least, twice a year. Am going home again this October, Insyaallah to spend a hari raya with Mak.

And while recovering from jet lag from that trip, I started this blog and thus this addictive habit that connects me to so many out there who have again become so precious in my life (now that I have lost all my real friends because I have been a student/recluse) and who infuriatingly made me do this memed thingy.

This year (2005)
Am no longer the oldest student in class. There are two others.
Worked on a very old syair that has consumed a large part of my life.
Attended another conference in Exeter – an eye opener.
Lost more friends because I refused to go anywhere because of my studies and dissertation.
My Batman is sounding more like his father. Yesterday he brought back good news that he scored the highest ever grade for English and Science! Helped my eldest through his heartache. And right now am missing my soulmate who just logged off after a short, too short a chat.

Next year
I do so want to do my PhD – if my eyesight permits. Its not for anything – I just want to go back to the library and spend time with the books. And, AG, will you take me to do the Haj? I so badly need your guidance.

Am signing up fo Creative Writing classes and will write THAT book. Insyaallah.

Ten years from now? – Who knows? At my age, I count a year at a time.

Now, over to you Lydia and Jane and AuntyN and Pak Ajie!

Saturday 3 September 2005

A much needed break

I really need this and please don’t even start telling me that I shouldn’t be blogging at these crucial moments. I left the house at 0730 this morning and now it is already 1803 to be exact. And Kak Teh these days is not like the normal Mak Cik Kak Teh, dragging her feet. Now, she struts around with a heavy rucksack on her back, with all manner of literature books and journals weighing almost a ton. Yet, there’s a certain spring in her steps as she jumps on the number Seven and enjoys a quiet bus ride to the uni before the crazy crowd gets in.

Yes, I was here at the uni at eight am and I had to shout out and tell someone. So I sms’ed Jane Sunshine to boast about it. She, the poor dear, was still tucked comfortably under her duvet for she replied a few hours later, after I had booked my computer in the lab and walked around Russel Square looking for a decent breakfast. I had tuna sandwich and coffee at an Italian, while listening to Radio Two in the background.

The computer lab was dark and deserted when I got here. There was evidence that someone must have slept the night there and left early. I felt like the morning shift cleaner. Anyway, I couldn’t take any chances as the adrenalin was fast flowing and so were the words, ten thousand of them all waiting to rush out through my two fingers on to the screen - in which order I don’t know yet, but they are all there, believe me!

(I simply cant work at home. Jasper likes to jump on to the computer table and totally block the screen. Tabby sits on the books and Snowbell pulls my hand away to stroke her.)

The concourse of the university is looking nice with trees in full bloom and there were two Bhuddist monks – a tad early for the conference that they are attending here. It’s a shame I couldn’t enjoy the sunshine outside but there’s a more pressing task I need to attend to. So, I switched on the computer and ignoring the stern warning from my buddy in Aberdeen, I came straight here. My blog. Its just bad habit and I am a creature of bad habit. Too old to change.

Yeah, today I managed something ( a lot really) in spite of numerous frantic sms’es from Blabs who wanted to postpone her flight back to Malaysia and phonecalls from children. Then there’s a surprise call from hubby, who was somewhere in Jalan Mesjid India in search of a barber. He called because he thought I might want to listen to a song by a group of blind singers performing there. And I obliged and listened for a while, imagining him holding up his handphone in the air for me to get a good reception. Thanks AG, that really inspired me. He duly reported on the state of his hair and badly needed a haircut. I told him I badly needed to get on with my work.

I made several trips to the library – which is only a floor away and carried more books and suitably impressed the people around me with the number of reference books on my table. They, needless to say, are no longer at that stage of referring to books. They have drafted their dissertation and are mostly on to revising and editing. Oh well! These young eager students…what do they know, eh?

Oh, what would we do without programmes that offer footnotes, grammar and spell check and word counts? I love it. After every other paragraph I’d do a word count. Very encouraging! But the damn spell check – every time I typed out a sample of my syair that contained sayang or datang, the smart aleck changed it to saying or dating. And then had the audacity to tell me that the computer is not equipped to cope with that much Finnish vocab!

Then, when I hit a certain number of words, I sms’ed hubby : “Hooray eight thousand to go!” (By the way, the phone dictionary does not do Hooray – u’ll have to type it manually)

I visited several blogs – Lydia posted a new one, about her winning tickets to a concert. And at one point I caught her testing photobucket and there was this gigantic picture of Lydia Teh staring at me from the screen. In fact she later told me there were two big ones!

Okay, everyone is leaving and the guard has come to tell us we have only 15 minutes left. I am feeling quite, quite drained. And this only means one thing. I need my supplements. The number Seven goes past Tawana and I badly need an overdose of Thai Laksa.

Several *&^%$£!! hours later.....
Have you ever felt like kicking yourself? The euphoric feeling of having accomplished something yesterday was replaced by exactly that kind of feeling. Apparently, what I had been saving, was not saved on to the computer. So, when I attached the file to send to myself ( to continue the work at home) I noticed that it had only several paragraphs. Uwueeeeeek!
Luckily, luckily, I had the presense of mind to print. If not my prof will never believe that I had done something. I know, cos I have had that kind of excuses from my students before..."Sorry Miss, I did it but something wrong with the computer!"

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So, came back last night and drowned my sorrows in four bowls (yes!) of Thai Sing Laksa!