Monday 29 January 2007

When Hang Tuah came to dinner...

Yeen, a new reader of my blog commented that my Taufiq reminded her of Hang Tuah, “ala that Stephen (PGL) guy”. I laughed and told Taufiq about it and then braved the cold to meet another blogger friend, Atok and his daughter, Kakak, at Holiday Villa for what we hoped would be an evening of crab sambal and more importantly, his promise of keropok lekor. ( In the process of a career change – from being an architect of buildings and such likes to an architect of keropok lekor, he made us a vital part in his quality control team.)
Anyway, Lagenda of Holiday Villa was beginning to fill up. Our strong cable to the kitchen meant that we did have dinner of masak lomak ketam.  Kakak who had had an exhausting day in her acting class was feeling quite famished. I was ready to demolish another helpless crab when I noticed a familiar was Hang Tuah himself, well, without his normal regalia. With him was his mother, whom I had met about ten years back and looking twenty years younger!
Well, what do you know! Hang Tuah aka Stephen Rahman-Hughes was there with family and friends to celebrate his 37th birthday. Atok immediately turned paparazzi – how can we miss this wonderful opportunity!
Stephen Rahman and Kakak and her minder.

I didn’t watch Puteri Gunung Ledang the musical but I have heard a lot about it. Stephen Rahman was of course a familiar name well before he morphed into Hang Tuah because he had played Akaash in Bombay Dreams. I watched Bombay Dreams three times but it was always not Stephen Rahman in the lead role. Oh well! I spoke to him on the phone about a possible interview but never got round to meet up with him, until that evening on his 37th birthday!

After the huge success of PGL, Stephen Rahman hung his Taming Sari and is now back in London playing Detective Inspector Vikesh Dasan in the TV series Emmerdale Farm!
But I was more interested in catching up with his lovely mother who came to the UK in the late sixties. It was time for a mother to mother talk. Apart from dying to know how she still looks good, I was also anxious to know how she felt when she saw her son , born and bred in Wales, on stage as the legendary Hang Tuah.
“I cried, I cried!” she said when Stephen appeared in his full Laksamana Hang Tuah costume and spoke his lines in Malay.

“I know, I know,” I empathised, remembering the time I saw my daughter Rehana, as puteri ke lima in her pari-pari costume, dancing the Ulit Mayang.
Stephen Rahman’s Malay was then as good as my daughter’s first few steps of the Lenggang Mak Limah. Born and brought up in these foreign shores, they were more at ease with perhaps Shakespeare plays and as for Rehana, the belly dance! Anyway, they took the plunge and went into the deep end to have a feel of their own culture. And we as parents wept with pride. Needless to say, PGL the musical sold to packed auditoriums both in Malaysia and across the causeway!
“When he told me about the offer to play the lead role, I told him that it was an honour and a real challenge, especially when he didn’t speak Malay at all,” said the proud mum. And Stephen Rahman proved that with his training, his discipline and determination, he could do it. And he did it.
Readers of Atok’s blogs must have known about Kakak’s acting career. She has been on stage plays playing Cinderella, Aladdin and many more. And she has just finished filming “The Golden Compass” with Nicole Kidman in the lead role. I have seen her in the King and I and looking at her now, with her obvious talent, beauty and the same determination and discipline as acquired by Stephen Rahman from acting schools here, I won’t be surprised if in ten years time, Kakak walks the stage at Istana Budaya in the lead role as Puteri Gunung Ledang. My Taufiq, in the meantime, so impressed with everything Hang Tuah during his recent visit to Melaka, had his first silat lesson yesterday. I don’t know whether he’ll make it as Hang Tuah, but by then, I’d be suitably ready and in character as Nenek Kebayan.

Friday 26 January 2007

Ramblings from Rembau

Salam to all,

Last night , my husband kindly transfered my blog to the new version of blogger, and this morning I was informed by Alice that some commenters whose names appeared before in older entries, now appeared as anonymous. I really don't know what happened, but I do know my commenters and I do appreciate them. Now please read on:

Ramblings from Rembau

Had my son written me a letter after his stint in Rembau, it would have sounded like this:

My dearest mama,

My fingers are tired after replying to your numerous sms’es which came every other hour and so I have decided to sit down and type out this mail to you.

As you know my trip back to get to know my roots ended yesterday but it still baffles me to this day, why my roots strayed as far as Rembau when I know that Daddy hails from the seaside town of Kuala Terengganu and you are from Kedah. Nevertheless, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself though my knees still wobble after the ‘crawl’ to greet the Undang. This must be the nearest experience to meeting a royalty, I must say. And I am truly honoured.

Rembau is a wonderful place with friendly people. But they kept calling me Jang. In fact, it turned out that they called everyone of us Jang. One ‘Jang’ and all heads turned. Anyway, that’s the least of my problems. I was the youngest Jang amongst other Jangs from Saudi and Coco Island. I wish they had briefed us on the language and dialect on day one but they didn’t and that created a lot of confusion on my part.

I remember you telling me that in Malaysia, Manglish is spoken. So, I was hardly surprised when every time someone spoke to me, they began with, “Then,......” But no mama, I came to realise quite late that it is not ‘then’ but Den as in I as in “Den nak makan.”

There were many new things that we learnt everyday and it was really thoughtful of them to brief us on nasi goreng and masak lomak. Perhaps they thought my diet had consisted only of fish and chips and shepherd’s pie.

It is impossible to pick one particular moment as a highlight of my stint there. Like I said in my sms to you, I had to learn to crawl on my knees, inching my way up to greet the Undang who was sitting on a big throne like chair. I practised this a few times until my knees hurt and once I did a real no no by turning to walk back. I had to walk backwards all the time. So, during the opening ceremony, representing the other Malay youths from around the world I did my crawl and walk backwards, without any problems. I was dressed like those Malay warriors in old Malay movies that you sometimes watch when it was too cold to go out. They must have been suitably impressed by the way I looked, ‘cos I was then invited to sit in the front row with the Undang and other officials during the group photograph, which I must add, and proudly too, appeared in a newspaper!! I am chuffed, mama, to say the least! and need I say too, that this was the first of many other photographs that appeared in the local media.

There was one particular mug shot of me that appeared in the newspaper, which prompted my cousins to sms me and called me the Mawi of Rembau. Who is Mawi, mama? Please tell.

A brush with the media is not something that I’d want to experience again in a hurry Mama, and this I say without intending to offend you and Daddy. When the TV crew turned up, the camera was everywhere, when we were sitting down chatting, even when we badly needed a rest and especially when we were making the lomang and ketupat. There was this big photograph of our group stirring the dodol with big oars. I reckon I’m an expert in making ketupat now although I looked quite ridiculous stirring the dodol while dressed in my baju melayu and songkok.

We had some silat sessions which I really enjoyed and I am making a mental note to take silat lessons in London, if that is alright with you.

Coming back to the media exposure and my fifteen minutes of fame, I admit I was quite upset when a story about me appeared with the headline,”Mahu Jadi Melayu”. What kind of a headline is that, Mama? I am already a Malay and even though I must have spoken Rembau Malay with a funny accent, that does not make me less of a Malay. I am a Malay. And I do resent being called, 'that budak Mat Salleh'. I understood everything that was said about me but I remember you telling me to be polite all the time and I bit my tongue. I wanted to say, I am a Malay, and a proud one too, especially when I wore the Malay costume with the tengkolok. Yes, I felt like a proper Malay though I’d look funny walking the streets of London. AND I don’t mean that as an insult. Me, funny...NOT the Malay costumes funny, okay?

The Hari Raya Haji in Rembau is one hari raya that I am not likely to forget. The night before, we did the takbir from house to house. Luckily I had enough practice doing the takbir with Daddy and also before the Raya prayers at Mawar. So, I was quite confident this time. The next morning after prayers, we witnessed the slaughter of the cows and believe me, I can still hear the sound that came from the creatures. After that, we helped to cut the meat and distributed them. I remember we used to do this at the old Malaysia Hall.

During one function, suddenly I heard my name being called. I was asked to go to the podium to give a speech. I was so not prepared for this, but I managed, just a short speech. It was not unlike the speeches that I had given at school during assemblies. I attach here a photograph and I am sure you’ll be proud of me.

The hike up Gunung Datuk was indeed tiring. It took us almost five hours to get to the top and several times I slipped. Although some went right up to the peak, I preferred to stay just a few feet below. I am no hero, mama. The walk down was much faster and easier.

The youth exchange programme ended all too soon and I made some very good friends and we promised to have a reunion soon. I enjoyed being with the Malays from Saudi Arabia. Their Malay was as Arabic as mine was English. But we had no problems communicating. And had lots of fun and laughter, especially during our journey to Melaka and back. And the foster family was also wonderful. Bapek den bagi den kain sarong.

Needless to say, I am now quite tanned after being out in the sun. When I came back to Mak Ngah’s house, Tok greeted me and said, “Bila balik dari India?” Tok’s memory is really gone, Mama!

This will be all for now till we meet again.

Can I stay a bit longer?

Thursday 25 January 2007

Today is the day...

...that history is made as the uncharted path of cyberworld and everything that goes with it, is tested. And the person to tread this uncharted path, on his way to the High Court this very moment is Ahiruddin Attan, or better known as Rocky the blogger of Rocky Bru. The legal suit brought against him by his former employer, the NST and four individuals in the newspaper group, is clearly a case of alternative media vs mainstream media.

In the next few days, blogger Jeff Ooi will walk the same path as Rocky.

A lot has been written about this here , here and here and everywhere else. So at this moment, I just want to reflect back on the Rocky that I know.

It was in the nineties that I first met Rocky, a giant of a man who came to be the London correspondent of the NST. As usual, the London group of correspondents from Utusan, Berita Harian, the Star, Bernama and TV3 would get together for a welcoming party to this new member of our group and say goodbye to one going back.

As someone who remain in London, I welcome these young breed of journalists and embrace them as my brothers and sisters. Throughout the late eighties and nineties, there was a stream of correspondents: Zamzam, Azizi, Azman, Rahim, Hj Shahrum, Ali Mansur, Fauzi Omar, Baidura, Karim, Selvi, Danial, Padma, Tony Emmanuel and Saiful to name a few from the NSTP group and others like the late Tan Kah Peng and Ho Bang Kee from the Star, Baharom, Abdullah Hassan and Hamzah of Utusan.

We worked together and we had fun together. We shared stories and scooped each other, but then that is the name of the game.

Rocky is a tough, hard core journalist who enjoyed his work and certainly his stint in London.

We covered stories together in the continent, the All England Badminton and many more. And when we were not working, we played scrabble till the early hours of the morning. The NST apartment, where we once lived, became a meeting place for the others as well.

On days that Rocky bought Haagen Daz ice cream, I’d receive a phone call that it was time for a session of scrabble. And, of course, he’d add, “It would be really nice if there’s bubur pulut hitam.”. That was the cue for me. For some strange reason, he enjoys Haagen Daz, chocolate flavour with bubur pulut hitam.

For all the tough looking guy that he is, Rocky is a gentle giant who dotes on my children, who carried little Taufiq on his shoulders as we wandered around the streets of Birmingham in between games of badminton, while covering the All England. He bought Taufiq his first Barcelona strip and won over Taufiq as his ally for ever.

All too soon, Rocky went back. And the rest is history.

This case is pulling me in all directions. This case of NST vs Rocky. My former workplace which I still have a lot of love for vs a friend, a brother, for whom I have a lot of affection.

Readers of this little blog will have noticed that whenever I wrote about Jalan Riong, it is with great affection and fond memories that I had done so. It is after all the place that had given me the best training in journalism, and we were proud to announce at any event, that we represented it. It is after all the place where I met my soul mate and fell in love and the place where I met many wonderful and talented people who I admire and love to this day.

At this moment, at 0231 in the morning, while the temperature outside dips to minus zero and there’s snow flurries falling on the ground for the second day, my heart is heavy with sadness as I write this.

Yesterday, I was at the press conference when the Prime Minister was asked to comment about this first test case. As a blogger myself, I am very interested and very concerned. Datuk Seri Abdullah said, ”the government is not going to censor what is on the internet.”

I have transcribed the reply below:

"We do not censor what is on the internet. But you must understand that there are laws, undang-undang on defamation, on sedition. There are laws enforceable.... so they must bear in mind they cannot hide, they cannot take advantage of doing something that is against the law and it is in that context that perhaps the newspaper is taking action against them. Undang-undang...ada undang-undang. They must know. They cannot hope to be protected from some kind of cover whatever they think they have.

Duty and responsibility go together and if you want freedom, what is freedom without responsibility. Freedom without responsibility is anarchy. Actually it becomes irresponsible."

Bearing in mind that the case is still going on, please be very careful with your comments. Thank you.

Tuesday 16 January 2007

A compromised situation

It was that time of the month when Ah Seng would pedal his trusty old bike, his over sized khaki shorts flapping around his knees, and park it right outside our iron gates. Yes, it was the end of the month and he had come with his big A4 book that had half the population of the housing estate’s accounts in it, under one arm and his old abacus under the other. Our copy would be the A5 size 555 note book. The ‘buku tiga lima’.

Pak would sit in his favourite chair waiting to compare the transactions and pay him off before we ‘open’ a new book. Every once in a while, not often though, there’d be some mismatch in the accounting. Some mysterious transactions to the amount of perhaps RM5.00, or RM3.00 , nothing much, would appear in Ah Seng’s copy. And it was very rarely too that Pak would investigate, especially when he had misplaced his glasses. But once, he pointed out, in the manner of the Chief Clerk that he once was, that certain transactions could not have been possible.

Not only were they missing from our ‘buku 555’ but some transactions were made when we were perhaps holidaying in Kak’s house in Kuala Lumpur. So, how could that have been possible, said Pak pushing his glasses, that had been sitting precariously on his nose, with his pen.

“Aiyaaa, bukan lu punya ka?” said Ah Seng equally baffled. Well, admittedly, there were times, when we would just run along and buy the odd packet of salt or Pak’s cigarettes without the book as we couldn’t find it. And Ah Seng would be kind enough to just take our word for it. And it was then too, we would take advantage to try our luck with ‘tikam’, or buy jeruk and stuff. But we would always tell Pak. Usually, things would be worked out amicably between us. After all, Ah Seng would not want to lose a precious customer; someone with lots of children who would spend a lot of money during one outing to his corner shop. But someone somewhere must have been using our account.

I was reminded of Ah Seng’s book of accounts when I received my bank statements recently. I had a shock of my life when I saw several transactions made in several stores of a well known supermarket chain all over the UK; two as far as Edinburugh and Derbyshire. There were several transactions at an entertainment centre amounting to almost £300. All these using my debit card, when all the while it had been in my possession. All in all, the total amount I was said to have spent came up to £992.00.

Hands trembling, I made a desperate call to my bank to report the fraudulent transactions and have my card cancelled. I was standing in the cold, along Edgware road, talking to someone in a call centre in hot sunny India, who later told me that my card could have been ‘compromised’. I was passed on from one person to another taking down the same information until I became quite, quite hysterical at the thought that someone was still buying goods using MY card.

Apparently, this is quite common, I was told. But how could this happen when I had the card with me all the time? I walked into Mawar looking quite forlorn and told anyone who cared to listen, of my misfortune. Well, apparently, there were several other victims. Many said it took months before they got their money back. Yes, the banks would pay back, BUT only after a thorough investigation.

I went home and looked through my diary, and checked dates I was said to have made the transactions.

I am not one to keep receipts or proof of purchase, but I keep a diary. On 14th December, when I was supposed to have a bash at this store in Watford (five spending sprees here on five different days) I was surrounded by a hundred and sixty ex-officers and gentlemen of the British army, filming and interviewing them on their experience serving in Malaysia during the independence and the emergency. They could testify to that. And besides, the only time I went to Watford was straight to the Muslim burial grounds in North Watford for the burial of my friend that foggy day.

And, wait for this...The day I was supposed to have gone crazy shopping for food and stuff at a store in Edinburgh, I was in fact saying a tearful goodbye to my sayang mama at Terminal 3, Heathrow airport. Surely I couldn’t have made a dash, even on my broomstick in this cold weather, to shop for groceries in Edinburgh!

Apart from that, my pattern of shopping during that period of time, was so strange to say the least. I must have been having a feast everyday! And most of the time, I shop in Sommersfield or Iceland. My shopping list usually consists of catfood, catfood and more catfood.

Apparently what had happened was, and needless to say my card was cloned, those culprits had purchased only goods worth £10 and had asked for cash back to the amount of £50. This was repeated at other stores.

A banker friend of mine said, it is a sad reality in our modern day life, but it is common. The thieves are always one step ahead. They must have attached a gadget in our cash machines to read and copy our details. Always be very wary when you see something suspicious or unusual at your ATM machine and NEVER let your card out of your sight!

I must consider myself to be very lucky. Like Ah Seng, my bank doesn’t want to lose a precious customer. I have been with them for 27 years and so within five days, I got my £992.00 back.

Wednesday 10 January 2007

Let's go to 3540 Jalan Sudin

With Dr Bukhori’s “Apa itu berita?” still echoing in their ears, three young girls walked nervously into the newsroom at Jalan Riong to report for duty to Pak Cik Dahari, the news editor. They were very aware of the stares, of the wolf whistles, especially coming from the sports desk, right at the back of the newsroom. But they wanted to be journalists and so stares and wolf whistles not withstanding, they put into practice the five W’s and one H that were drummed into them during the first two semesters of newsreporting. They persisted even when the first few assignments were nothing more than running across the city to fetch press releases for senior journalists or writing fillers, or simply watching the subs chop and mutilate their masterpieces with their red editing pencils.

That was nearly thirty years ago.

Two of them really excelled and went on to become editors in their own fields; one in politics and the other in features. One rubbing shoulders inthe corridors of power, the other rubbing shoulderpads with celebs and such likes. The latter even continued with her passion in acting. However the third one embarked on a career as, .blogger.

One of the two editors had a headstart in the world of journalism for her father is none other than the esteemed writer, editor and novelist, Tan Sri Samad Ismail. Her late mother was agony aunt Sri Siantan and her sister a journalist. So, writing for her is just a piece of cake. In fact, she could close one eye and still produce a front page material. During the three year course, she had perfected this closing of one or two eyes behind what had become her fashion accessory, the big dark glasses. She would doze off while maintaining a look that said she was paying attention. This proved to be quite useful in later years when covering summits and boring conferences.

Apart from learning how to write intros, wannabe journos were also taught public speaking and drama. Well, we now know what the drama class has done for the editor cum actress cum mentor. No one can fault the three for taking their drama lessons seriously. They held toyol sessions complete with Thai speaking Tok Moh in selected rooms when most people were either studying hard or sleeping. They even commanded a big audience on the 13th floor of the multi storey building, with the toyol session culminating in a chase along the corridor by two not so amused pak cik guards.

Tan Sri Samad’s daughter was always a squatter in the room of the other two wannabe journos, where, needless to say, not much studying was done. However, there was a lot of barn dancing and what must have been the prototype version of Akademi Fantasia, with last minute banging on the old typewriters that kept their neighbours awake all night. But they graduated nevertheless and became the journalists they had always wanted to be.

And now, one of them has joined the other in blogosphere. We are still waiting for the third one to make an appearance. While we are at it, let's twist Aishah's arms.

But for now, let me invite you, readers, to 3540 Jalan Sudin to meet none other than Nuraina A Samad..

Friday 5 January 2007


I suppose it is not too late to look back and see how 2006 had treated me as this will also give me a chance to look at lost opportunities and unfulfilled dreams. Looking back, I see moments that I want to treasure and freeze frame in my own archives of youtube to be played and replayed in the winter moments of my life.

There were several moments, beautiful and unforgettable ones and humbling ones too. Like the moment I set eyes on the kaa’bah. It was after zuhur prayers, just minutes after we entered the Holy City. The walk to the middle section of the Masjidil Haram could be likened to a slow magnetic pull and all the while my eyes were transfixed on the ka'abah. There were pilgrims doing their tawaf just like the images we see on TV and stories we hear from people who had been there. I reached the railings and was oblivious to the hundreds of people there – a sea of white robes circling the ka’abah. I struggled to read my doas as I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing, I couldn’t thank God enough for making me His guest here. Even as I walked back, I kept looking back as if I was looking at it for the last time. The feeling was indescribable.

If someone had told me three or four months before that I would be making this journey of my life time, I wouldn’t have believed it. But there I was walking in Covent Garden when I received an sms from a very dear friend of mine. We exchanged jokes and banters as we usually do and suddenly one message stopped me in my tracks. It simply said, “Jom pi umrah dengan I. I belanja you.” I had to read the message several times in case it was only an invitation to the theatre or to have coffee. But she was serious.

As I would be going without my husband, I needed his letter to get a visa. Even his simple letter was worthy of a sweet moment in itself to be treasured. It simply said, “Saya sebagai suami memberi izin kepada isteri saya untuk menunaikan umrah bersama....” It didn’t seem to matter that we were not going together. What was important was he gave me his blessings.

I flew back to Kuala Lumpur to get my mother’s blessings for this important journey. But Mak was frail. In fact she was hospitalised and I spent days with her at the hospital. But again, these are treasured moments. I sat by her bedside as she recounted her own journey by sea. How clear her recollections were, how lively she suddenly became especially when she remembered giving birth at Arafah. How we laughed and cried at the same time at my futile attempts to put her pampers on. But this was also a moment of truth when the doctor told me she has cancer. As her child, I felt helpless but I remember the urge to plunge into her insides and rip it out – take out whatever it is that is hurting Mak.

But I went ahead, even with Mak in such a state, bringing with me prayers for her well being and more importantly that she’d be there when I return. And she was. Alhamdulillah.

There were several moments during my umrah that I want to document. Like the time we were leaving Madinah, or the first sip of the zam zam water in Masjidil Haram or the feeling of being very close to God and feeling very, very small indeed. I would like to go back, this time with my husband and the family. Insyaallah. And to my friend, I can never repay you your kindness. All I have are my prayers.

One other moment that remained etched in my mind is the walk on the stage to receive that piece of scroll. It was as if it was played on slo mo. I remember trying not to trip on my robe with the high heels that Dt JC had made as a gift just for the occasion, with his signature at the bottom. And I remember thinking that my father would have been so proud because I was announced as his daughter, not as someone’s wife. It was the same feeling Pak had when abang received some awards in Belfast years ago, and abang said – they had called out Mr Othman. Pak was so proud he recounted the story to anyone who was willing to hear. During that two minute walk, the rows and rows of men and women in funny berets before me were just a blur as the long hours of slogging on my syair, transliterating on the number 7, nail biting moments outside the examination hall, presenting my first academic paper in Paris, came flooding back, just in time to stretch out my hand to get hold of that scroll. The VC must have noted that striding right before her was no spring chicken, unlike all the other fresh faces before that, and she had to adjust her small talk to me accordingly. “Must be quite a juggle,” she noted. Aaaah, if only she knew!

My heart burst with happiness as I was greeted with hubby and all the sayang mamas with a bouquet of flowers. And we took photographs on the steps of the uni, the very same steps I sat on two years before, contemplating my academic future, my feelings not unlike a new pupil on the first day of school. It wasn’t butterflies in my tummy, but more like elephants making a stampede – it was after all my first day at school after...30 years?
So, what is next, a PhD?

There was also this priceless moment I spent sharing a Krispy Cream doughnut with another very dear friend at Paddington Station. His familiar famous name and face not withstanding, this friend has accepted me for what I am - a Mak Cik blur to boot - and yet , there we were, sharing a doughnut at Krispy Cream Paddington Station, talking about our children, our life and our future. He has been a kind, far too kind a friend, who has shared many wonderful moments of his celebrated life with me last year. And for that I am thankful.

And gosh, this last year has seen the children all grown up and making poor mama and daddy feel so old. Seeing R & N wearing my old kebayas at a wedding last year, watching them coming to terms with grief a the loss of someone so close to them; they have all matured. And one moment that was captured on my digital – of my R in my graduation kebaya, sitting demurely at my feet, sewing up my hem. And one that I captured on tape, of my sayang mama T doing his first takbir raya. Awwwww!

And then there was the moment junior H presented us with a weekend away, just for the two of us as mama and daddy hardly ever spend quality time together. I remember waiting anxiously at Paddington Station and then I looked up and saw him with his suit bag carelessly slung over his shoulders striding towards me. That moment in time saw us young again with a spring in our footsteps and not a care in the world.

Just the two of us.

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Tuesday 2 January 2007

A choc-a-bloc start to 2007

It was a quiet beginning to 2007. I had not been well and didn’t feel like going anywhere. So I let my fingers do the walking and looked at my archives. Gosh, I had actually forgotten the second anniversary of choc-a-blog! It was on 24th December 2004 that I gingerly and nervously tested the waters of blogosphere and Dec 24th 2006 zoomed past just like that. Well, actually I was busy on 24th Dec as I was at the airport sending off my sayang mama to, as the media put it “.... Learn More about being a Malay’

Anyway, from my archives I realised that I have acquired some wonderful cyberfriends, many of whom I have met only to strengthen the friendship further. I am touched when I read comments from nicks I have yet to put faces to, I am moved when I receive emails from readers from all over the world who say I touch them with my entries, and I am speechless when I receive gifts and presents from people I have never met. And, I still do not know how to react when I am approached with, “Are you Kak Teh?”

This cyberworld is a wonderful thing when you make it wonderful.

Like I said, I have met many wonderful people. And allow me to share some with you. And there’s a reason why I choose to write about them,

It was while I was reading Dr Ve Thru that I found the wonderful Wonda, a Malaysian living in Japan. She is married to a wonderful Japanese man and she teaches English and Malay. But what made me hooked on Wonda is that, with only one eye, Wonda keeps giving us, her readers, glimpses of life of a Malaysian living in Japan. Wonda lost the central vision of one eye due to
Wet Macular Degeneration disease but she persevered and even if it takes her ages to type out an entry, she never fails to delight us with her narratives. Both her husband and son have been supportive in editing and proofreading her entries. I am so thankful to Wonda who has allowed us gimpses into her life even when vision for her is impaired. Wonda has won writing competitions and had articles published in the Japanese newspapers. There was a time when Wonda wanted to slow down blogging, but for selfish reasons, I told her not to, for only through her I could enjoy these snippets of life in the land of samurais, sushis and geishas.

Wonda’s perseverance reminds me of another friend, who shall remain nameless for now. But suffice to say, it is someone I look up to with admiration. He has been in London with his family for as long as I can remember. When he was registered blind, his determination overode all other feelings such as self pity or helplessness and he decided to write and until now, he has produced three books, and is currently working on another one. He told me, he was determined to write down his family history so that his children and grandchildren could read. Like Wonda, each sentence would take a while for him to produce on the screen. And like Wonda he is blessed with a wonderful support system that is his wife and his children who help to look through his writings. Recently, he won a children’s short story competition and I am still amazed and in awe of his determination.

I have my fullest respects for the likes of Wonda and this friend of mine.

Years ago, when I was just a cub reporter renting a room in Aunty Lucy’s semi in Penang, I used to read to a blind boy, Jason, I think his name was, who used to frequent her place. I remember him wanting to go to the toilet and I jumped up to switch on the lights. Then I realised that people like him although denied of their sights, are blessed with other gifts. They make the best out of something that we take for granted. They see what we choose not to see.

That brings me to another person who opened up a whole new world for me. I have known DrBubbles and his tireless efforts for sick children for some time now. Recently, we have been involved in collecting money for 3 year old Syazwan who is suffering from retina blastoma. He has already lost one eye. And we wanted to make sure that the cancer didn’t spread to the other eye. The internet afforded us the networking that would have been impossible to do say, ten years ago. Through this networking, kind friends in the USA where syazwan was supposed to have his operation initially, collected nearly US8000. Rantauan members pooled together and sent money directly to the mother and those in London met up for a kind of charity lunch. One even offered to pay the cost of the operation first for fear that the cancer might spread if the treatment is delayed. Strangers offered money and even sponsor of food. The cost of operation in the USA proved to be too high and London was to be the best place. The money is now enough, thanks mostly to the generous community in Philadelphia. But while waiting for the doctors’ decision, the tumour in Syazwan's good eye had grown larger. There was no point coming to London. When I received this news from DrBubbles, I just cried and at first I didnt know who to direct my anger to. Should I have gone straight to the press and write aboutthe urgency of the matter? Should I have knocked on doors of people with more influence who could collect money at a drop of a hat? I have told friends who donated and they too were in tears at the feeling of helplessness. A lot of people have done so much but we couldn't beat the speed of cancer.

Yesterday, I received an email from someone in America. We don’t even know each other but through Syazwan, we connected. She was asking me for my address because she was going to send a winter jacket for Syazwan as it is going to be cold for him here. Such is the generosity of everyone. Now he doesnt need the jacket anymore.

Wonda and my writer friend lost their eyesight when they were quite old and had already seen the world and its beauty to be able to describe them in their writings. Syazwan is just three and all these while had only been able to see his parents, his surroundings through one eye and he is very likely to lose another one, even with treatment. But I believe, what Syazwan is not able to see, he can feel. He can feel the love and support and the compassion that people like DrBubbles have given him.

So, I begin this new year with emotions that is choc-a-bloc; grateful for the wonderful and generous friends that God had shown to my door and thankful for the humbling experience after reading and getting to know some people. I am sad that I have not been able to do enough but happy that they is hope that Syazwan too can one day offer us an insight the way Wonda and that writer friend had done to enrich our lives.

God bless.