Friday 28 October 2005

The list

If, like me, you are planning to travel, please go to Mr Hobo. The tips he gives, from things to pack to travelling companions and holiday romances are not just informative but also a wonderful read. So, these last few days I have been visiting Mr Hobo, before I do my own packing.

Well, I have sort of thrown all sorts of things into the bag and I know there will be packing and repacking to do. I have ironed most things and by most things I mean tudungs that I bought during the last few visits but never wore them because I stick to the old comfortable safe colours that I have, a few kebayas and baju johore that have never been worn, for the same reason, and I think rather than clutter my cupboard, someone out there can make good use of them.

But, seriously, there are several things that’s a must to bring home:

1. fridge magnets – these are so, so popular. There are new ones with paddington bear leaning on the london phone booth, the london eye, the front of the black cab – all quite nice and light to carry. And of course, everytime the recipients go to their fridge, they will be reminded of me, kan?
2. scarves from Tie Rack, must be careful to choose only those with flowers and simple patterns, and tak licin.
3. chocolates and more chocolates from Woolworth and some yummy ones from Marks & Sparks.
4. shortbread from the shop at Heathrow. Now this is seriously NOT a place to do last minute shopping. Things that you think you don’t need, you will always end up buying here – at double the cost! And I am always doing this.
5. And whatever I buy, I must be very,very careful that these are products with lables that says “Made in England”. Hmmmmmmmm!

There’s a big possibility that I might end up wearing my yesteryear’s baju kurung for raya as I have timed my homecoming a little bit too late, unless of course I make a beeline from KLIA to the nearest shopping centre on arrival. Otherwise, Mak’s baju Kedah will do just fine.

Sharing clothes with siblings is a culture in our household. The minute my luggage hits the floor, the rummaging starts. Everything will be booked in advance. I will have my opportunity times four as I go through their wardrobes and pick and choose what I want. It is not unusual for me to offload the contents of my handbag into a carrier bag at the airport as a barter trade for perhaps a favourite tudung, a new kebaya or anything at all.
It is almost a ritual.

Things I must NEVER forget
1. camera, video camera – I never travel without these and the filming or the snapping of pictures will begin at Heathrow – the goodbyes, the tears, the hugs and then again on arrival. Most of my trips home can be made into a home movie – if I have the time to edit lah! and then bore my visitors to death.
2. chargers!!!! very, very important – especially for my handphone. Aaaah, this reminds me. The last trip home, we were all at my mother's house in Alor Star. Every available point was used to recharge handphones in all manner of shapes and sizes! And when the phones rang – the house was like a music box with all manner of tunes and ringtones.
3. my own recharger – gyngko, vitamin C, evening primrose oil, and many more if AG has his ways.
4. recent pictures of the children- aaaaaah! I’d show everyone and anyone their pictures and look and look at them and this time is going to be especially sad – I wont get to see them dressed in their Hari raya finest!
5. books to read during the flight. I have yet to finish Small Island but I am sure that I will not be able to resist another book or magazine at WH Smith at Heathrow.
6. A bottle of Evian – a big bottle
7. sweets to chew especially while taking off and landing. I tend to get headsplitting headaches during these times.

What I want to include in the suitcase but I cant:
My AG – I will miss him, and we’ve had only a few days together since he came back. But such is life – we cant have everything – we choose to be the way we are – my absence means he is able to cover for me and in his absence I look after the shop.
The sayang mamas – its been a long time since we had a family holiday. One day, one day my sayang mama we will go back to Malaysia together.
The other sayang mamas – Jasper, Kissinger, Moaner, Snowbell, Gizmo and Tabby. Their presence in our lives has meant that we are quite reluctant to go away and leave them. They are so much a part of our life.

And you know what? When my tears are dry, I usually look forward to the meals served on board. I know I am strange – but different. And yes, those inflight entertainments too.

Well, during the last two flights home, I was given quite a pleasant surprise. I was woken up after the meal by a flight attendant who said : Puan, why didnt you tell us you are on board? The captain wants you upgraded.”

I rubbed my eyes and thought I was dreaming. What? Me, in business class? But they assured me that they have got the right name and that they’d be thrown off the plane if they couldnt get me up there. So, who was I to complain, eh?

Wednesday 26 October 2005

All things nice and wonderful

Been terribly, terribly busy, which is quite unusual for this time of the year. Usually things quietened down a bit and by Christmas and over the New year – its dead!

My first raya card

Anyway, I had several wonderful surprises, not least my first hari raya card! Its addressed simply to Kak Teh and it came all the way from Australia, through my letter box and on to the doormat! Thanks, fellow blogger! Its a wonderful surprise! And thank you too for those who also sent online cards to Kak Teh. This is surely a sign that I have been over doing it with blogging! Am getting more cards from fellow bloggers than my usual friends!

Also, my AG came back with a boxful of goodies! These survived the customs, but not sure whether they will see Hari Raya!
Jam tarts in all sorts of sizes and shapes – the one that crumbles in your hands and melts in the mouth – well, that one nearly gone. Kueh sugee, kueh bakar, even lempuk! The box was, surprise, surprise, opened when he got to it! The customs have been busy – well over the raya period, they must check in case anyone tries to smuggle any rendang.

The last time I came back from Malaysia with, among other things, four beautifully packed ikan bilis. When I heard the announcement on the plane that we are not allowed to bring food in, I panicked. Then I read that its only fish, meat, honey and cheese. Lega! So, I went to the ladies, and threw away the ikan bilissssssssssss!!! Sayannnnnnggnya!

Some friends of mine had been less fortunate. One had to sign a form saying that if he is ever caught again with rendangs and ikan bilis and ikan kering, he’ll be fined.

The children got their baju rayas! And this year, they will be quite happy not having to wear my old kebayas. And they are beautiful!! Taufiq has a brand new baju melayu – black – with a very beautiful sampin. He wore it and I almost cried because I wont get to see him wear it on raya morning.

Anyway, just a brief update – am off to cari sesuap nasi!

Thursday 20 October 2005

Al Fatehah kepada Kak Endon

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Datin Seri Paduka Endon Mahmood, beloved wife of our Prime Minister, or more popularly known as Kak Endon, left us this morning, at 7.55 Malaysian time in this holy month of Ramadan. Al Fatehah dan semoga Allah tempatkan rohnya di samping orang-orang yang beriman. And our thoughts are with you Pak Lah, during this very difficult time.

I have only met Kak Endon once during the launch of Jendela Batik fashion at the Dorchester in London last year. I felt very, very honoured when told that she had requested my presence there. The numerous times that I have covered our Prime Minister's visit to London, Kak Endon, for obvious reasons had not been able to be present. And for that reason, I have never had the chance to know her the way I did Tun Dr Siti Hasmah. Yet, I felt a bond with her, not only because she is our prime minister's wife, but also because of her passion for the kebaya nyonya. In my own small way, I too love the kebaya and hope that it will never be out of fashion. And when Kak Endon celebrated the kebaya, she revived a part of our cultural heritage. She will forever be remembered for this.

The Big C has taken her away. And I feel a loss. The country has lost its First Lady, our beloved Pak Lah has lost his wife.

Al Fatehah

Beautiful tributes to a beautiful lady/mother/wife/kakak can be found here:
Lydia Teh
Ordinary Superhero



This is one picture I will treasure forever.

Monday 17 October 2005

Tales from the Surau

There’s trouble brewing in Taufiq’s surau. The latest I heard is a conspiracy to topple the imam. Yes, it is that bad. ( I love this chit chat with Taufiq after sahur and while waiting for subuh. It reminds me of his constant whispers into his Dadddy’s ears, telling stories while Daddy drives. Always something interesting and always something funny.)

During Ramadan, his school has provided a room for prayers. That is all good and fine. But it transpires that a week into Ramadan, there were many different schools of thoughts with many different interpretations and beliefs that I fear will lead to a mutiny in the surau today. Taufiq, always, always in his quiet diplomatic way, is determined to nip the problem before anything happens. He found a compass and is hoping that that will solve the problem once and for all.

If not for the seriousness of the matter, I would have been rolling on the floor laughing. You see, for the past few days, two groups in the congregation of what must have been less than 10, were praying in two different directions, each claiming that theirs is the correct one facing Mecca.

While Taufiq stuck to one direction, it must have been quite disconcerting, to say the least, to see that others who came in later, started praying in another direction. And even the teachers were powerless to do anything about this dispute. Taufiq’s compass will hopefully show the right direction, Insyaallah!

Anyway, these tales from Taufiq’s surau has taken a new dimension, but by no means as political as those we read or hear about from home.

When Taufiq started fasting at the age of seven, I was approached by his headmaster who told me that he was too young to fast. I told him that he was merely practicing and it was up to him to break his fast when he felt hungry. The headmaster proceeded to tell me that some parents had told him that other Muslim children only started fasting at the age of 13. Well, I kept quiet because we were taught differently and well aware of the many different Muslim communities in the school, I thought it best to keep quiet. But I did impress upon the headmaster that hunger aside, it is a practice for self discipline, management of anger, and also appreciation of what God has given us. The following year, the same headmaster provided a classroom for Taufiq and friends who were fasting so that they could spend the break there doing school work or pray while other non Muslim school friends had their school dinners. I really appreciated that and told him so. In fact, he invited a parent a week to give a talk to the children or simply to read the Quran with them. That was wonderful.

But it was not always that a parent could find time to be with them and that was when trouble would start. Once, for instance, there was a dispute as to how many rakaats to do for zuhur. And mind you, these were children around seven and eight. But Taufiq was unhappy but he continued to do what he was taught by us at home. He merely came back and grumbled. “Aah, just because Adam (a boy of nine) is from ......., he thinks only he can be the imam!!" On another day, another younger boy wanted to be the imam and trouble would start – hmm! doesn't this sound so familiar about what is happening in the adult world!

Anyway, one day, the headmaster happened to be passing by the classroom when he saw them praying – imamless and each doing their own prayers.

With all the best intentions in the world, he cried “ Stop! Stop! Stop! You are all not doing it at the same time. Stop and pray again, together!”

He thought, like a PE drill, you can just stop in the middle of a prayer and start again, like synchronise dancing! But at least, I thank him for he tried to understand and I think by now, he is coping even better.

In my own surau at the uni, things are not much different either. Coming from Malaysia, when we are used to seeing everyone in white telekungs, doing everything exactly as we were taught since the age of six, it was quite a surprise for me to see the different kinds of practices in that one small surau. We accept the fact that there are people who pray a little bit differently from us...but not THIS different. And as I tell this story, I pray to Allah to accept my prayers. I was somewhat distracted when I saw the lady beside me praying with her long flowing hair exposed right to her hips. And like Delta Dawn, she even had flowers in her hair.

Anyway, we will hear the outcome of Taufiq’s surau dispute today. And hopefully it'll be bloodless.

Friday 14 October 2005

Baju raya revisited

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Aiyaaaaaah! dok diam-diamlah, said Ah Gek as I fidgeted in front of the mirror in her kitchen. I looked forlornly at the reflection in the mirror and back to the hourglass figure, Audrey Hepburn look alike in one of Ah Gek’s well thumbed fashion magazines. I had wanted THAT look but forgot that while Ah Gek could be magical with her creations, she stopped short of performing miracles. At the age of 12 or 13, my puppy fat, especially around the waist, meant that pencil lined skirts with slits at the back, and the famous Audrey Hepburn collar would not sit well on my chubby figure.

But year after year, it had been Ah Gek, our neighbour and seamstress who made our Hari Raya clothes. One year, it was a full flare skirt with those petticoats that
made you look like you had an umbrella fully opened underneath, then it was a simple cut polka – dotted number with a big ribbon either in front or at the back – anything, anything at all that was fashionable in Hollywood, and Ah Gek, in the small town of Yan, would humour us and kit us out in her creations for our Raya. If at all, she was amused by our choice of patterns, she was wise enough not to show it. She hid her smile, as she gritted the tacking pins in between her lips and adjusted pleats and darts on our choice of patterns on our ample bodies.

Yes, it must be about this time of Ramadan that the rush for making Hari Raya clothes starts. Why we do not make Hari Raya clothes before Ramadan, God knows....well, I supposed it wouldn’t be Hari raya clothes then, would it?

Sitting in my front room, watching the autumn leaves fall, leaving patterns on the pavement, memories flitted back and forth to how Ramadan used to be like for us children back in Malaysia. My own children now, don’t care much about Hari Raya clothes. Year after year, the girls wear my old kebayas. The boys will have their Baju Melayu from yesteryears if those still fit. If not, yes, we will get new ones from home. It is not such a big deal. Afterall, most of the time these clothes will be hidden under thick coats and jumpers. One wintry Raya, I saw young Malay girls, my children included, dressed in their best lacey kebayas, but all hidden underneath anoraks and woollen jackets, complete with trainers, shivering under the tents at the open house of the Malaysian High Commisisoner.

Once we took the children back for Hari Raya in Malaysia after 17 years here. And gosh, I had forgotten what it was like joining in the mad shopping rush two or three days before raya. But all they said was, “Oh, can I have those shorts and trainers?” Whaaat? whaaat? whaaat? Shorts and trainers for raya?

Anyway, when we were small, Pak would give us a treat, hire a car and take us all to Penang. Waaah, shopping in Penang for Hari Raya clothes was really something. By the time we reached Penang, we’d be half dead with exhaustion and hunger but for the promise of some new clothes, we’d soldier on going from one crowded shop to another, all with that familiar smell of moth balls. Once, and I supposed at that time Mak couldn’t fast or something, we went to Daud Restaurant. During Ramadan, these restaurants usually had curtains and sectioned off areas for Muslims who had “travelled more than 60 miles to do their shopping” in Penang.

We’d come back from Penang with bales and bales of materials, some for baju kurung that Mak would make herself and some for Ah Gek, who’d make us our western clothes, reserved for second of third hari raya. Baju kurung was for early in the morning to go to prayers and kubur. But even if Mak bought us these materials early, our baju kurung were the last to be ready because she made baju kurungs for raya for people in the neighbourhood. So, ours would be the ones without the tulang belut, or hastily hemmed up sarungs. But we stressed on mak that we did not want materials for the baju kurung from the same bale of material!!! Hmmm macam boria!

Sometimes, we’d just go to Alor Setar to get our materials, either from Pekan Rabu or Sin Sin or Lorong Sempit, thus called because it was so narrow you’d actually be doing dirty dancing to get from one place to another. This was where Mak would excercise her skills in haggling.

Mak: Berapa satu ela??? Alaaah, kedai Pak Mat tu lagi murah! (she’say as she pretended to walk away.)
Pekedai: Aaah, mak cik makcik,, tak pa.tak pa...wah rugi macam ni ..tapi tak paa...
Mak: ha..macam tu lah...tak boleh kurang lagi ka?

You see this all the time.

One year. Lipah and her sister from next door had this beautiful pleated skirt – one you didnt have to iron to keep the pleats in place. And I was so envious cos I wanted one too and then Kak came back from Johore, I think and had bought us one each. I tell you, we had a beautiful raya sashaying up and down Jalan Tunku Mahmood in the pleated skirts that didn't need ironing.

When we moved to Alor Setar, we found another seamstress that would make our catsuits, au dai (sp) (the Vietnamese outfit) and kebayas. Aaah, the day I could fit into a kebaya, I wore nothing else!

Yesterday, I had to sms my sister in law to get Taufiq and Hafiz some new baju Melayus. They grow up so fast. The girls might want some new kebayas as they have out grown mine. (I had outgrown mine a loooong time ago!) So, I will join the mad rush along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman when I go back. Oh, how I look forward to that!

Monday 10 October 2005

A Small Malay Kampung by the A40

Taufiq didn’t really buy my story when I told him that I didn’t eat much ketam sambal at Holiday Villa. So, yesterday, he decided to go out on a crab hunt. He enlisted the help of his friend Sufian, and targetted Oriental supermarkets nearby which might have frozen crabs. Ita, Sufian’s mum phoned to say, yes, Chris – Ipoh mali - and owner of a supermarket nearby, do sell crabs but a pound more expensive than others. She even offered to make me crab masak lemak with nenas, to which I immediately agreed.

You see, this little town of ours has a small community of Malays from Singapore and Malaysia and exchanging food and enlisting help from one another are not uncommon. It is like a little Malay community. It used to be bigger. Ita, who used to live down the road from us, just moved away last year when her husband changed jobs, but not too far away...just down the A40, cross the road and she’s tucked somewhere behind a leafy neighbourhood that reminds me of Petaling Jaya.

Ita used to be a few doors away, and just across the road from her was another Malaysian family, but they have gone back to Malaysia. A few streets away, just by the A40 is Swan – her parents came here in the 60’s and she has been here ever since. Across the road from her, is the family we have adopted – the one from Singapore, who used to look after our children – kakak and abang. They were the reason we moved here. Quite near the tube station, another family. They too sent their children there on our recommendation. There you go..a ready made Malay kampung!

It was good when Ita was around. It meant that when she made Laksa Kedah, there’d be a generous bowl for me. And of course, we deposit Taufiq at her place when we couldn’t come back in time and she’d do the same too. In fact, throughout her pregnancy, which was quite frequent, when she couldn’t cook, I’d do a take away service and leave them for her children. When we were short of belacan or asam keping, Ita’s was the place to go, cos she has loads of supply from home. She is never short of ikan kering and she’d gladly trade this for my mee goreng mamak.

Oh, just behind our place, is Man and Syikin and daughter Aliya from Singapore. They too moved here because they shared our kakak for a while and then had Ita to look after Aliya for a while too. It is really good having Man and Syikin nearby and now they are moving away because as Aliya is growing up, her educational needs become their priority. They will be moving to a place closer to a nursery which is quite cheap but good and nearer to their work place. Man helps me out with my editing once or twice.

So, yesterday, with the crabs that Taufiq and Sufian bought, I decided on a repeat performance of crab sambal and invited Man, Syikin and Aliya over. They came with some roti jala and kari ayam and we all sat on the floor Malay kampung style and ate with our fingers tanpa segan silu lagi!

It’ll be sad to see them leave the neighbourhood, but we know we’d still meet and visit each other. Their’s is one of a few houses that we visit. I will miss seeing Aliya outside my house playing with the cats. She always insisted that they stop by on their way home so that she could pat the cats. Its a nice small community - we don't live in each other's pockets - there'd be months of not seeing each other, but we know we'd be there for each other when the need arises.

The other family I used to visit is the one next to Ita’s. A loving closeknit family. I used to meet the husband on the number seven bus home late at night. He after his cake making classes and me, after my – whatever work I was doing. It was a few Ramadans ago, that I used to frequent their place – they wanted me to prepare their children for Malay language exams for when they return.

They were such a loving couple – not young, but it was always a pleasure watching them walking down the road to do their shopping, hand in hand, all the time. And just when they thought they were done with having children, the eldest being in his twenties, she got pregnant and they were so over the moon with the arrival of the little one. But, it wasn't long that she learnt she had the Big C...but still they walked hand in hand down the road to do their shopping together.

Two weeks ago, I received an SMS from a friend. She’s gone. The Big C had taken her away from her loving family and the little baby will grow up not having his loving mother by his side. I don’t know whether he will remember her. I hope he does for I can still see the glow on her face as she held her baby close to her.

Now, walking down the road, in my mind’s eyes I still see them walking hand in hand, pulling their shopping trolley up The Fairway. Al Fatihah.

Saturday 8 October 2005

The Great Crab Rush

WARNING: This entry contains materials which are detrimental to your state of mind especially when you are fasting. Read at your own risk and wipe keyboard soon after. I am not responsible for anyone breaking their fast.

They came from near and far
. They braved the evening rush and heavy traffic to get to west London. SMS’es were zooming in all directions. Word travelled fast that crab sambal was on the menu at Holiday Villa.

I was doing some work when I had a call from atok and I casually mentioned that we should meet up forberbuka . He was iffy about today and I suggested we meet up on a day Holiday Villa serves ketam sambal ketam, ketam kari masak lemak, anything as long as it has eight (or is it ten) legs. Atok has a direct line to the hotel’s kitchen and by the time he had the confirmation, I was doing some work in a studio in Soho. A very brief sms – “crab sambal today – meet at holiday villa”. Such was the urgency of the message that I had to act fast. I put on a very serious voice to phone the children to eat by themselves. I had cooked earlier and that somehow lessened the guilt. I even invited Taufiq, another ketam lover, over – but he declined. I even phoned ewok .

Urgent and important matters like this need fast and efficient execution. I too have a direct line to the manager and phoned him immediately. Apparently, more people got wind of the unfortunate delicious crabs still simmering in the sambal on the stove, but they had already made reservations...that sort of reduced my portion somewhat. So I booked a table for did atok – such was the enthusiasm.

By 6.30, the restaurant of Holiday Villa was already packed and the queue to the buffet bar was already long. The rush was about to begin. Luckily I had ordered my Nescafe tarek before going to do my asar. The restaurant was unusually full – there’s a table booked by staff from the High Commission, the Tourism director and deputy and families were there, an old, old friend, Millie Danker from those good old days at the NST was also there with some friends of hers.Posted by Picasa

It was quite an occasion – and everyone had heard about the crab sambal and everyone forgot their table manners and ate crabs as they should be eaten – with fingers and mess all over the table.

Atok and family were still no where to be seen – apparently they were stuck on the A40, “terrible jam”, came the sms, “an accident at Slough!” Hmmm and the crab was fast going leaving legs and claws under the precious sambal. Chef Syawal kept some crab claws for Atok. Millie begged Syawal for some – “claws pun jadilah...anak saya nak datang!” – she pleaded. And she got her claws and one happy daughter.

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When Atok and Hazel, kakak and adik arrived, all the way from Oxford, they were happy to see the claws, which kakak promptly demolished. I played nanny and extracted crab meat from every possible hidden parts of the crab for kakak.

Actually I wouldn’t do justice if I didnt mention the other dishes that Holiday Villa served last night. There was kepah goreng sambal, which was just as yummy. Nasi minyak bercolour-colour, beehoon goreng, ayam goreng berempah, kari terung dengan labu, brocolli goreng dengan bawang putih and all the kerabus and ulams. The starter was soup ekor tom yam style. All these to wash down with air serbat and then good old fashion Malay kuehs. Throughout Ramadan, Holiday Villa offers these and many more - a different menu everyday! There's mee mamak on Thursday - by the way!
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Well, I did phone the children a few times to see that they were all right. Such a responsible mum, I was and I told Taufiq – "You didn’t miss much – the crab wasn’t as good", I said. "Mama pun tak makan banyak". White lies are sometimes necessary!

Thursday 6 October 2005

Definitely Done!

There’s definitely a spring in my steps now and I feel a lot lighter, with less load to carry on my back. Yes, it's over. A Definite full stop. Pressed print, rushed to binders and then off to faculty office, elbowing freshers along the way and submitted the big D that has been Dominating, Derailing, Destabilising my life for the past two years.

But I have to be honest, it has Definitely been two very valuable years. Had I not made that firm decision to sign up and go back to university, two years would have passed me by without me having anything to show for it. At least now, I can attribute the greying hair to too much thinking and studying.
It wasn’t an easy decision. I did it when my friends were becoming mothers in law, grandmothers and some have even left us because of the big C. Time is so precious. But it wasn’t midlife crisis, I must admit, cos I have more than enough on my plates to worry about that. But I supposed it has something to do with being away for too long – I wanted to go back to my roots and learn more about Malay literature and to be exact, traditional Malay literature. It has to do with envy too. There’s a handful of people I know, non Malaysians who are experts in this area and I thought, even if I can't be at par with them, having started at such a late stage in my life, I would at least benefit from learning from them. And indeed I have.

So, now that is over, I need to thank a few people.

Thank you AG for being so enthusiastic and supportive throughout. Never, never have you questioned about the food or lack of food on the table. What mother/wife spends so much time away from home then at home, eh? But look at it this way, your culinary skills have improved – love those chicken kiev and nasi ayam! And really appreciate those exchanging of ideas. I remember the nerves going for the first exam in, er.. how many years? You said your prayers, and sent me off on my way. And just minutes before entering the hall, again, some encouraging words! When I couldn't start my dissertation, your sms really helped. You said: Treat is as your blog! ' Thanks, it worked!

And to all my sayang mamas!!! ...hey, surely you’re proud of your mum going back to school, eh? Carrying rucksack and mulling over essays, just like you! I must apologise, especially these last few months, with daddy away and all that, you’ve had to survive with just take aways, greasy yet yummy spicy chicken wings from chicken cottage or pizzas. And lately it has been fajitas for lunch, fajitas for tea and fajitas for dinner! Sorry, will make up for it. But I must say, Batman’s culinary skills have improved too...he can make nasi goreng and curry kambing now! Once I came back from uni to find a note – “Mama, fajitas in oven, salad in fridge. Am at the green, playing football.”

And R – really appreciate the massage and back rub, especially after days of carrying the rucksack back and forth during the last few frenzied days.

There are many people who gave me that push into the world of academia. Thank you Dr UK for being so supportive and helpful, Dr ATG – I know you are reading this, I can never thank you enough – you have my love, my friendship forever and thank you for introducing me to Dayang Dang Sarat who filled my nights and days. And Dr VB, what can I say? I will always be in awe of the knowledge that you possess and will always treasure those moments of discussions about the concept of beauty, about the theory of classical Malay literature and many more. And Dr RH – thank you for being a friend and for that opportunity to present my paper in Paris.
Thank you Winstedt, Wilkinson, Amin Sweeny, Muhammad Hj Salleh, Skeats .. aah, so many!

There’s always someone at the end of the line when I felt I was about to give up. Although so far away in Aberdeen, and also in the final throes of her thesis, she’d always give me her time and soothe me with her words of wisdom. Thanks Maz.

During the first year, I was easily the oldest in class – I looked around me and saw young, fresh faces and felt so intimidated. They were as old or as young as my children, but how they accepted me...we enjoyed discussions and outings and until now, we are still in touch. The second year, there were two older ones – but so so so experienced and so knowledgeable.

Then there’s the surau members. During the first year, there was a group of Malaysians – Dr Jat from USM, Raihana from UM, Aida, who was doing her studies in school of tropical hygiene, and Yan from Thailand and a few others from UCL or Kings or LSE who’d come and use our surau. It was nice having their friendship and support. And being the Mak Cik , I would always bring nasi lemak or mee goreng to share! So, you can imagine how popular I was with the young ones longing for some home cooked food!

Now, to number 7! Although you are irregular, your drivers are sometimes rude and some days, you’d just ignore this mak cik standing in the cold by the roadside, I must acknowledge your contribution in my endeavour to better myself. Apart from making me a better sprinter (chasing after your bus), I really treasure those quiet moments transliterating my syair as you can see here here . Thank you.

And to all my blogger friends, thank you for humouring me and thank you for the words of support! To all my other friends out there, sorry to be such a pain and such a kill joy for not wanting to join in BBQ, makan-makan, theatres, karaoke etc. But now with big D out of the way, ...he he - you know my number! Am all yours!
PS Anyone thinking of studying at this late stage in life - go for it! It is like a new lease of life! (Better than botox or Viagra!)

Tuesday 4 October 2005

What's for sahur?

Only a sip of coffee , that’s all that I had before the start of this Ramadan. There was no time to cook or heat up the chicken korma and kambing kicap that I brought home from Mawar last night. Taufiq had it cold, straight from the take away containers.

Usually every morning , without fail, Tabby would wake me up for subuh. (Tabby’s body alarm is set for 4.30 am!) but I think the sleepless nights in my attempt to complete the Big D finally took its toll last night or rather this morning and I slept right through Tabby’s gnawing and the phone alarm, waking up with a startle with only a few minutes for Isya.

My attempts to wake the others failed. Only Taufiq and the cats woke up. In the absence of hubby, I had to make the rounds – first to Nona’s room to see if there’s any sign of life under the duvet- heard a groan, and no – no sahur for her. Hafiz and Rehana never woke up for sahur.

Hubby is almost like my late father in his Ramadan routine – while Mak heated up the food for sahur, he’d make the rounds to wake us up. Pak had a simple technique. He’d call out our name non stop and even if you pulled the blankets around your ears, it still wouldn’t help, because the monotony of his voice would still get to you.

If Pak failed, then God help you if Abang came to the room cos he was from the school of Gestapo ‘Techniques of Waking People Up for Sahur' Division. He’d come to the room armed with several of his self concocted torture devices. If you’re one who slept with mouth wide open, his drip-drip-drip of belacan juice or salt water will have an instant effect – guaranteed to make you rush to the bathroom to have a gargle and return to the dinning table, wide eyed and alert. But, I was usually subjected to this slow but just as effective treatment which took quite a while to sip in. I’d be in lala land dreaming of whatever, when suddenly in my dreams, I could taste. I have observed him at work before. His victim would usually smack his/her lips at the first taste the belacan or salt water, smacked the lips a few more times, grimaced and went back to sleep. This meant, he'd have to increase the dosage, until the victim had enough salt water in him/her that he/she actually thoughthat he/she was drowing in the sea and taking gulps of salt water!

Anyway, if all the above failed, he had another harmless that you would only realise on waking up the next day, greeted with roars of laughter! I had woken up to face the world with a moustache not unlike the villains of Tamil movies, complete with tendrils and twirls at both ends. How I slept right through his artistic experiment, I don’t know.

This morning, I realised how much I missed my AG who at this moment had just finished his lunch (He sms to tell me so). He was usually the first to wake up and heat up the food and then make the rounds to wake the children up, pulling the duvets off them. He’d bring Nona’s bowl of cornflakes and a glass of milk to her room for Nona had room service, you see, unlike us. She usually placed her orders the night before. But with Mama, she’s not getting that kind of special treatment!

When I was younger and lighter, he’d carry me to the bathroom, prop me up against the door and splash cold water on my face. Alas, now the weight has more than doubled and he’d need a horse to drag me up.

It’s just one hour into fasting and methinks, bubur lambuk will be just great for buka puasa!