Sunday 26 February 2006

A big nothing ..( I really can't think of a title)

Sometimes we waste alot of precious time, way too much time, thinking and pondering and wrestling with problems or what we thought must be problems that will consume us if we ever close our eyes and sleep. So, we don’t sleep and think and magnify the problems to such a magnitude that the world around us doesn’t matter anymore. Well, I have bags under the eyes to prove it and the problems still never go away – and seeing the bags under the eyes, allow self pity to set in. Well done!

Why am I ranting so? Well I just felt like putting it down on paper (or on screen) and see how it looked like and shame myself enough to move on and be more positive. And be more decisive!

So, that’s it!

While I was wallowing in self pity and certainly on a self destruct mode, I had forgotten the sufferings and misfortune of others. Someone rang and said, “Have you visited so and so? Didn’t you know her child was born with some life threatening disease?” Another call, “Did you know that the baby with the hole in the heart and the damaged left lung just died?” No I haven’t” No, I didn’t know!!!

And I also just heard that a friend just succumbed to cancer, so soon after she became a grandmother.

Compared to all these, my missing a deadline, my trivial mistakes in life – intentional or not, are just a big nothing. And I had allowed myself to wallow and drown in a big pool of nothingness. How clever!

Yesterday, I visited the two ladies I blogged about earlier. And Alhamdulillah, they are well – both are up and about after being given a new lease of life. And one can’t wait to go home. Her son is missing her so much that he has fallen ill and is in hospital. And I am taking this opportunity to thank this blogger and this blogger for making it possible for her to go home with something for her son and family. I really cannot repeat the number of Terima Kasih Bu, Terima kasih Bu and Terima kasih Bu that were uttered. But those are the expressions of gratitude to you. And my thank you to you too.

I really don’t have much more to add for I just want to crawl under the duvet and hide again until it is time for Eastenders and American Idol. Byeee.......

(Get a life, Kak Teh!)

Monday 20 February 2006

The week that was...

It has been one hell of a week that I don’t know whether I am coming or going. Now I know how a headless chicken feels. There were times when I could sit down and twiddle my thumbs and watch Eastenders and other favorites which now includes American Idol, but I didn’t have time for all that lately and had been ringing up friends asking whether Pauline turned up at the wedding. Weddings in Eastenders tend to have cliffhangers so predictable – either the bride or the groom didn’t turn up or someone does turn up, causing a twist in the plot!
Anyway, in my very own plotless soap opera, it started with a trip somewhere up north to a place I didn’t know exist. It is so far away that I was dreading it but as luck would have it, I was assigned a cameraman that had everyone drooling all over him. It was a three hour drive there and a three hour drive back and by the end of the assignment, we got to know each other quite well. He was also my editor, which helped ‘cos he shot all the visuals and even gave me a lift home.
It was quite an interesting assignment because the place we visited, Corby, has one of the country’s most successful centres for childcare, one which emerged out of the slums. From a town that suffered unemployment from the closure of steelworks there 23 years ago, the community has done very well. The centre not only provides daycare centre and nursery – free of charge – it also provides employment and study opportunities for the parents! It is like having your cake and eating it. Parents leave their children there, then walk down the corridor for their classes on IT or Childcare. With their qualifications, they then become paid workers at the centre. Some had been there since their children were small.
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I hope this centre will be a model for one such centre still in the pipeline in Malaysia and I hope it will become a reality, one that can provide free and quality care for small children to give them a good start in life.
It was during this week that I got to know several Malaysian ladies who are into childcare. They came with Datin Seri Rosmah. During one of the meetings, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah came too and we had lunch of laksa Kedah and keropok lekor. When networking with such ladies, it helps if you have your sunglasses on to deflect the glare from the bling-blings. And also, it could be bad for your waists as most meetings were follwed by delicious and generous helpings of food.

In between other mundane work I joined in the protest marches during the weekends. They were mainly peaceful ones and I am glad for this. The row over the cartoon insults doesn't seem to want to go away. Yes, these are sad and trying times for us. Being at the gathering the first Saturday, I felt the sadness even more. There were speeches, rousing speeches, and there were nasyids, moving ones for the Prophet we love. Last Saturday, I went again. This I did so reluctantly because I felt I had already gone to show my support. But my son wanted to go again and join the march from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park. My husband was too ill to go with him and I felt I had to accompany him just in case something happened. Marches every else had ended in violence and this is deplorable.

Trafalgar Square last Saturday was packed but very well organised. There were stewards to guide the women to one side, the men to another and those with families and children in the middle. There must have been about 20,000 people but reports just mentioned 10,000. Once again, the streets of London echoed with Allahuakhbar. From behind me, voices of children mingled with those of adults in their rousing and emotional cries. To show that it was meant to be peaceful, the old came in wheelchairs and walking sticks, mothers piggybacked their children, fathers carried them on their shoulders. But police lined the streets and the helicopters hovered above. It was a warm day and by the time we got to Hyde Park, it was asar and after prayers in the park, everyone dispersed. There must have been a hundred coaches outside waiting to bring back people from as far as Scotland.
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I sincerely hope the whole thing will stop. We have voiced our anger but at the same time we have to be careful that we don’t bite the bait.
Aah, and then, there’s the London Fashion Week!! Since last year, I stopped sending in applications to attend any fashion shows. But a young up and coming designer from Singapore is now making headlines in the fashion world. He is Ashley Isham and I didn't regret going to his show at all – he has such a flair that does not insult women. I can understand why he is being toasted as the new kid on the block who will go very far. I spoke to Hilary Alexander – the top fashion writer, who was very impressed. It is every designer’s dream to have Hilary at their shows. And she helpfully told me that Ashley has skillfully celebrated 30 years of punk in his
very slick designs! Now, that I didnt know!

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But I do know I am losing my touch. Went to the show quite early to secure a good place to take photographs. Was at first disappointed that the seats in one of the tents at the British Natural History Museum were not filled. No familiar faces of celebs there when the music started. I brought my daughter with me as my photograher and prodded her to take pictures as soon as the models came jeans! T Shirts! I was disappointed!! And then of course realised that it was just a rehearsal..and I have wasted the battery!
Anyway, you know when celebrities have arrived when the photographers started flashing their bulbs. I joined in with my small Ixus not knowing who I was snapping – turned out to be Amanda Holden and Lisa B and someone from Eastenders. Other A list celebs went to other shows, I think.

As the show was held on Valentine’s Day, the grand finale had petals of roses falling from the ceiling on to the models, to the tune of Love Is In The Air.
Next stop – Bernard Chandran. It was Bernard’s debut at the LFW and his lovely wife was with him. His collection, needless to say was very impressive – only for those who are tall with thin waists and it helps if you have lots of money as well.
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In the fashion circuit, if you want to be spotted, and you’ve not entered Britain’s Next Top Model, you’ve got to be brave enough and make yourself visible. There’s the usual Kate Moss lookalikes swanning and sashaying around to get attention. This time, I noticed one wearing a hat so big tilting to one side of her face that I wonder how she enjoyed the shows that she went to. She was there at Ashley's and was stopped a few times by photographers. Then, she turned up at Bernard’s as well – and there was a chorus of groan from those who had spotted her elsewhere too. Her hat, this time was so high that everyone was praying that she wouldn't seat in the front row.
All these happened while I was hoping to recover from the bout of flu that I caught from someone and had conveniently passed on to my husband. So, yesterday, Sunday, I had intended to go to Bluewater and watch my daughter’s performance of traditional Malay dance with the Sri Bulan dance troupe. But I was so dead tired, and Taufiq wanted to play football with a group of Malaysian students and I had no one to go with me. So, I gave it a missed and had a good sleep on the sofa after catching up on American Idol and Eastenders. I’ll post a picture of her perfomance once I get it.
So, that was the week that was. Oh yes, Pauline did turn up at the wedding after going missing for a bit. And yes, there is a cliffhanger. I hope nothing happens this week as I must see what surprise Joe has in store for Pauline. Did I mention that Pat had an affair with Patrick?A lot happened in Eastenders too!

Tuesday 14 February 2006

Not a Valentine piece, konon

Different situations and different things tend to trigger off different lyrics in my head. Being able to vocalise them is another question of course. Thus, I need my own space, like the kitchen or preferably the bathroom. The bathroom is certainly the best place, with the perfect ambience and acoustics, shower head in hand, I am always transformed into Tony Braxton with Unbreak My Heart. And such lovely lyrics too.

Lyrics for love songs are not supposed to be logical. How do you unbreak a heart, or uncry the tears? But aaaah, so so beautiful. Can you imagine if someone uncry the tears for you? I'd die and undie several times over!

I do marvel at people who come up with such beautiful words and string them together to make songs that play on our lips and remain in the deep recesses of our minds until something; a smell, a gesture, a word, triggers it off into a full blown tune or out of tune, it doesn’t really matter.

Anyway, there are times in our life, during our vulnerable moments that we think certain songs, certain lyrics must have been penned just for us only, or for us and our loved ones, be it sad or soppy.

The song Devoted to You by Olivia Newton John never fails to transport me back to Cafe De Paris or commonly known as Ho Peng cafe in Light Street. See here. Sitting there. reading my love letters for the umpteenth ttime under the big tree while sipping my coffee. Danny, the office boy would stand by for the next command to put another penny in the juke box – Play It again, Danny. Ah, isnt love a many splendoured thing? hmmm, I feel another song coming up.

Malay songs have beautiful and unforgettable lyrics too. R Azmi is certainly long gone but his songs, ahhh the lyrics!!! Can you imagine someone singing to you...”Lemah terasa seluruh tubuhku, Mleihat tanda di jari manis mu....” (This translation is for Beautiful Stranger) My whole body feels weak, Looking at the symbol on your finger.)
I can almost feel the hurt in that voice, feel the crush of his heart as it went into pieces on the flloor, just at the sight of an engagement ring on his lover’s finger?

P Ramlee, needless to say, was a genius at provoking all kinds of emotions. His Istana Cinta which he wrote with S Sudarmaji is just mindblowing.

Dengan cinta ku bina istana
Kau sentuh runtuh jadi pusara
Cahaya hidup ku jadi gerhana
Bisa jiwa menanggung derita
Ku semai benih kasih sejati
Ku pupuk dengan baja nan asli
Ngapa kau siram racun yang pedih
Ku tuai kini hanya rasa yang sedih
Ku impikan istana janji mu
Ku hias cantik dalam angan-angan
Sebab bencana datang mengganggu
Kini hancur musnah istana impian

But somehow, in some of his songs, P Ramlee could not be serious. Not a hundred percent. Just when you are up in cloud eight and berjiwang habis, he became his comical self again. Look at this :

Diingatan ku terbayang wajah
Abang ku yang gagah,
Baik budi serta ramah tamah,
Handsome macam gajah...

Ish ish ish...ada ke pulak macam gajah? Spoil saja!

And yes..before I forget. How do you reconcile the lyrics of this song? Benci Tapi Rindu? I guess it is possible to hate someone and yest miss him or her. But what a wicked song for a karaoke session! Never mind if you can’t hit the note!

Anyway, am writing this in a rush and many more songs and beautiful lyrics come to mind, such as Masquerade – how on earth did anyone come up with...

Thoughts of leaving disappear, each time I see your eyes
And no matter how hard, I try
To undertand the reason, why we carry on this way,
we’re lost in this masquarade.

Was rushing off to this fashion show and did not have enough time to check typos. Sorry! Will blog abt the Fashion Week later.

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PS -

Sunday 12 February 2006

Be happy and take care of each other!

The last time I saw Pak Teh he had this silly grin on his smile, acting like a teenager in love. I even felt a tinge of envy and a lot of other unexplained emotions, but yes, I was happy for him. Since Mak Teh left after a long illness, he looked totally lost. And now, there was hope of a new lease of life.

He approached Mak, his eldest sister to tell her of his intentions.

‘Kak, saya nak kawin,” he announced and explained that the person to take the place of our beloved Mak Teh by his side, was someone he met at the surau. Looking at the state of him, in shirt all crumpled and looking very much neglected, Mak gave her smile of approval. After all, with children all married with their own families and in their own homes, who is to keep Pak Teh company in his twilight years. Yes, he was the same jovial self, clowning around and a joke a minute whenever he was with us, but at the end of the day, he cut a very lonely figure, driving his small Kancil home to an empty house.

It wasn’t a very easy first meeting for me with the new Mak Teh. I had always been jealously possessive of my aunts and uncles. When Tok Su took a second one when the first was still alive, it took me along time to bring myself to accept her. It was made especially difficult because they both have the same it became Tok Su A and Tok Su B.

But this was a totally different situation. I told myself that Mak Teh was gone and never to return. Pak Teh needed looking after. And most important of all he needed companionship. Someone to ‘bergurau senda, berjeling manjalah!” Someone to rub his back and massage the old joints and someone to sit by his side in the Kancil to and from the surau.

And we shouldn’t deny him this. Yes, a replacement need not erase the memories of the old Mak Teh. She is still in our hearts and minds. Some children do jealously guard their fathers, especially from taking the place of their mothers. To a certain extent it must be hard to accept that another woman is taking the place of your mother. But I think this is just pure selfishness, without a care or consideration to the father’s needs.

When I received news that Abang is ready to accept someone in his life, I felt the same mixed emotions. But all for selfish reasons. We are not there all the time for Abang since Kak Piah left. And as Mak wisely puts it, “ Yang pi tu dah tentu pi, yang dok ada ni, sapa nak jaga?’

And from what I heard from the excited clan back home, Abang has the same silly smile on his face, acting like a teenager in love, all over again. And why not?

So, from thousands of miles away, across the oceans and divided by the deep blue seas, I send my sincerest wish and prayers for the couple who is to tie the knot soon. To Abang, be happy, and to the new Kak, welcome to chaotic and most of the time crazy family! And most of all...Take care of our Abang.

Tuesday 7 February 2006

Haunting memories

I have decided that nothing scares me more than just an ordinary stare – just a long intense stare, with a hint of a smile. Nothing more. That would be enough to make me shiver in my sarung. No need for any grotesque features with blood, clot eyes or fangs or intestines spilling all over the place. One such stare that haunts me to this day is the look that Mona Fendi gave as she stepped down from the police van in front of the court house. She calmly looked straight into the camera and...smiled!

These are images that were running riot in my mind as I contemplated my trip to a castle last week. At the very last minute, I cancelled the 8pm train on the Sunday, which would have taken me to its doorstep at exactly 9 pm. I would have been met by the caretaker, who would have shown me to my room along the dark narrow corridors, lined with big enormous portraits of previous occupants – portraits that have eyes following your every move. I know this because I have stayed there before – once with the family, which wasn’t too bad but one summer I was there all alone for a whole week. Other guests were placed in different parts of the huge castle in different wings.

This time, I didn’t fancy arriving so late at night, so I took the early morning train from Waterloo and slept all the way. Which as just as well ‘cos all the other participants had the same thing in mind.

My uneasiness and fear were not totally unfounded. Castles do have their resident ghosts after all and taxi drivers would gleefully tell you all the gory detail during the 15 minute trip from the station. I bet they were paid by the local tourist board! Anyway, I was there the second time one summer two years ago. It was a lovely summer and the castle was beautiful with greeneries and flowers of all colours and scents. I was then given a room at the upper most level, up creaky staircases and along narrow corridors. I imagine, it must have been a room for the look out for advancing enemies. They have very thick walls with small windows, from where they could shoot arrows and stop any unwanted guests.

It was after lunch in the big dining room which was once a kitchen, where the maids and butlers and cooks used to eat, that I decided to go up to my room. Walking up the winding staircase, I overheard someone telling a visitor, “This is where the Bishop was found. He spent his last few years in a coffin in the small room underneath the staircase, as a penance for his misdeeds.” How my legs carried me to the fourth floor, I don’t know. But I think I must have flown straight up every night after dinner and lock myself up in the room, with the duvet right over my head. Every night!

This bishop’s portrait is among the many decorating the walls of the castle, his beady eyes following my every move and I’d sit transfixed byhis stare, on the sofa by the big fireplace in the grand hall, sipping my coffee before saying goodnight to the other guests and making my hundered metre dash to my room. By some cruel turn of fate, for the stay last week, I was alloted a room, with the Bishop’s name! How I counted the hours before I could go home.
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It is a funny thing about fear – you don't want to see, but you will still do so with your hands half covering your eyes. You don't want to know, yet, you are curious. So, during this trip, I wanted to know more. Apparently, the Bishop isn’t the only one still reluctant to leave his home. There’s also talk of other apparitions – one of them a young dancing girl, who was rumoured to have collapsed after being forced to dance non stop. Suffice to say, I planned a quick retreat from the place soon after.

Once we were invited by friends, owner of a castle like hotel overlooking the Thames up the A40, to spend a weekend there. It is a beautiful place with its 100 year old garden, a maze and yes, you guessed it...a resident ghost. This one is friendly, according to the brochure and goes about her business at the break of dawn by the Thames. The Dutchess who used to own the place, is said to make an appearance at that time. Suffice to say again, I found myself awake just at that time and looking at the spot by the river where the grand Dutches was supposed to appear. Oh well, she must have overslept that morning.

Oh yes, the other thing that will make me pee in my pants would be an alien voice coming from what you think is an ordinary face....Linda Blair in The Exorcist suddenly comes to mind!

Saturday 4 February 2006

Ibu, pray for me...

It is the third day, and there’s already colour in her face. And she is sitting up, scanning her new surrounding, looking at other patients who have visitors. Her eyes light up when she found us. How young and vulnerable she looks. Six months ago, she was with her husband and son thousands of miles from where she is sitting now but a desperate call for help from a cousin brought her to a foreign land whose language she barely understands, whose culture so very alien. And now she is surrounded by mostly strangers. The only person who she could speak to in her own mother tongue is a few beds away, like her, still recovering from an operation - the operation which was only made possible because she came to offer one of her kidneys. How noble – a word I struggled to find because there’s not many selfless acts that we encounter these days.

I had met these two amazing cousins by chance. One was working as a maid but what a wonderful employer she has – one who tended to her during her illness and didn’t allow her to do any heavy work. And one who paid for her private hospital care and treatment. Again, such act of kindness restored my faith in mankind.

How awful it must be to be ill, seriously ill in a foreign land, when all you want is to be surrounded by your loved ones and be pampered. But how wonderful it is that in times like these you find kindness and compassion in strangers.

I remember a Malaysian family who wrote a letter to another Malaysian she didn’t even know – saying they were coming here for a transplant. She was giving part of her liver to her daughter to save her life. They didn’t know anyone here – but when they left, the whole Malaysian community became their friends. We not only visited them, but we cooked for them, we cried with them in their darkest hours and we rejoiced when things looked brighter.

Recently too, a family came for a holiday and suddenly found themselves spending more time in the hospital than sightseeing. The husband fell ill almost immediately on arrival. But these people are fortunate in a sense that they could even fly family and friends to visit. Not many, especially my newfound friends from our neighbouring country, could afford that. Thus, we find ourselves alternating between the two beds, wiping a tear, spooning a drink, massaging an arm and most of the time – just to talk in a language that they can understand and not make them feel totally lost, even in a very friendly environment.

I was away on the day before the transplant, but I received a call, “Ibu, doakan saya, Ibu.” Given the distance, that was all I could do but visited as soon as I could.

I remember the few hours after the transplant, I didn’t really know what to do, how to cope. They were groggy and looked so vulnerable. I could only hold their hands – and even then, one at a time as their beds were so far apart. When one of them woke up, I felt the squeeze in my hand, and saw the grimace of pain in her face. I remember the same tight squeeze of hand when the mother in the liver transplant I mentioned above came to after her operation to save her daughter’s life. The squeeze that signalled the pain as the pain killer ceased to be effective.

Yesterday, one of them was transfered to a ward below. And they worried about each other. So, you can trust Kak Teh to take pictures on her digital, changed into her superwoman outfit and then flew back upstairs to show the picture. That brought a smile to her face.

Today, I am told they can eat something and they yearn for something Malay. Am sure I can manage that! And if you are reading this, please say a prayer for them too.


I am glad to report that the two ladies are doing very well - sitting up and eating. They are encouraged to walk around a bit. Makanan pun banyak..Alhamdulillah - banyak yang melawat dan bawa makanan - jadi macam pasar malam pulak! Kak Teh dah sampaikan salam dan doa semua di sini dan mereka juga mengucapkan terima kasih. Their beds are now side by side! Alhamdulillah - they are well on the way to recovery.