Friday 24 August 2007

A reason to celebrate

He was too casual about it. Too casual and too calm for my tattered nerves. He pulled the hood over his head, gave me a peck on the cheek and promised to be back within an hour. The tight knot deep in my stomach grew tighter by the minute and when the promised hour came and went and still no sight of him, I decided to do some retail therapy. I went to the mall to do some shopping.

Mak would have handled it differently. She’d sit patiently on the old trusty iron swing, handbag on her lap. Only the intensity of the swings hinted on what she must be feeling inside, waiting for my return.

The mall wasn’t quite the place to be in. Not on a day like this. Everywhere I looked, there were teenagers screaming and laughing and clutching THAT white envelope that holds their future. They had just received their results and were celebrating in the mall, planning the next course of action. My calls to the house went unanswered. There was no point calling him as he said he wouldn’t bring his phone to the school. By then, my shopping trolley was almost full with things I didn’t need; condensed milk, ready cut pineapple, loads of detergents and chocolate biscuits for comfort eating. And still no news from him.

I had just finished a big baked potato with melted cheese and butter when the call came. His voice told it all. He made it and he made it with flying colours! And there and then at the shopping mall, I wanted to shout out to the world that my sayang mama had made this mama very happy and weepy and the tight knot in the stomach had miraculously disappeared. I wanted to tell the old lady pushing her shopping bag that my son had done me proud, I wanted to hug the old tramp feeding the pigeons with stale bread, I wanted to share the joy with the group of giggly girls celebrating at the next table. I wanted to phone up his father to share the good news but couldn’t locate him. I left a message at his workplace and sms’ed the good news to my siblings across the oceans. And I wanted to rush home and give him the biggest hug ever.


My concern, which has been proven unfounded, was that he had had too busy a year. During such an important year when he should be concentrating on his studies he was appointed imam of his small congregation at school; preparing the khutbah during Friday prayers, solving disputes amongst the congregation, he was then made deputy head boy and went off on a youth exchange programme. He embarked on silat so seriously that it started to worry me. He was attending silat classes twice a week right up to the time of his exams until the silat teacher told him not to return until his exams was over.

Last night, he was back at his silat class, but not before attending our weekly prayer session where we joined other happy parents for a special doa selamat and doa kesyukuran.


Tuesday 21 August 2007

To Paris with a Mission

Autumn was already painting Paris with dashes of its golden brown colours when we arrived last weekend. The air was crisp and it was a few degrees hotter than the normal autumn temperatures. Just the right atmosphere for the mission we had in mind.

The location was strategic, the company was priceless; one who could read maps, knows her left from right and more importantly could say merci beaucoup and au revoir without flinching a muscle.

The mission: to muster all my culinary skills with what available ingredients we could get from the Parisian Chinatown and produce a meal that would put the spring back in the steps of a friend on the road to recovery after a sudden illness.

We waved goodbye to our husbands at Waterloo station last Friday and arrived Gare du Nord all excited at the prospects of an all girls weekend. The Citadines Apart’Hotel Place D’Italie provided just the right venue and after checking in, we embarked on a marathon metro ride that took us first to Notre Dame in search of food. Chefs must eat first before they can produce anything worth producing. We settled for chicken kebab oozing with fats and with that made our way to Pont de l’Alma – the place where the late Princess Diana met her death. There are still messages, lovingly written by her fans all over the world and somewhere amongst the scribbles, or perhaps washed away by the rain or faded under the glare of the sun, was a message by Kak Teh, hastily scribbled on 31st August three years ago.

Dragging along five year old S, we made our way across the bridge to Eiffel Tower where people were queueing up to get their tickets for the ride up the famous tower. We settled for a bench to rest our tired feet while S had her ice cream. I watched amazed as tourists employed various technics trying to get a good shot of the tower. They squatted, they bent backwards, they rested on their sides training their cameras up what, at a close distance, looked just like a mass of cranes. Walking back across the bridge to take the metro back to Notre Dame, only could we appreciate one of the seven wonders of the world as it stood towering majestically over the Seine as the evening sun disappeared over the horizon.

Notre Dame at night is a totally different place. We found street performers commanding their audience with their impressive dance routine and roller blading. Across the street we found an empty bench in front of the Shakespeare and Company secondhand bookshop. We rested our feet again before venturing into the land of eateries, stepping over smashed plates in front of Greek restaurants. It was in one of such restaurant that I enjoyed a Greek dance with a Greek waiter some time ago. Tired and heavy lidded we made our way back to the hotel and immediately fell asleep.

The second day in Paris was the big day. Husband phoned to give directions to Chinatown, which turned out to be literally at our doorsteps. Chinatown is in fact Vietnamese Town; lots and lots of Vietnamese restaurants and delis – a sure reminder and legacy of the French presence in Vietnam. Avenue de Choisy is a beautiful tree lined street that reminded me of Penang.

The menu changed with every step that we took but after three supermarkets and a stop to quench our thirst with sugarcane juice, we settled for noodles, noodles and noodles with bubur pulut hitam as our dessert.

Mee hailam was the starter and our guest arrived on time and wiped her plate clean before demolishing the bubur pulut hitam. That seemd to be just what the doctor ordered, we noted.

While we chatted about this and that, I prepared the gravy for the mee bandung using prawns. We didn't relish going out searching for meat and decided to make do with prawns. And with some prawns left I made sambal tumis and used the remaining green leaves to cook with kicap. And we ate ourselves silly until it was time to walk our patient home to the bus stop. It was a wonderful seven hours that we had together and it was time well spent.

As the night was still young, we couldn't resist coffee and crepe with nuttela. What is a visit to Paris if we can't enjoy sipping coffee by the roadside? Mission accomplished, we decided to reward ourselves with coffee and crepe.

Luckily Sunday is a no shopping day in Paris or for that matter in any part of France or the continent. So, we checked out and walked along Boulevard Auguste Blanqui where there was an open marketplace and I parted with Eu35 for a shawl from a Pakistani who raved about Malaysia and his Malaysian sister-in-law.

L'Institut du Monde Arabe was our next stop and bearing in mind husband’s words, we went straight to the 9th floor to enjoy the view of Paris. Lunch was cous cous with chicken at the self service Moroccan restaurant, served by a Moroccan who raved about Malaysia and Malaysians. Just for being Malaysians we got to be served at a self service restaurant, and we were given some free baklava. Then its coffee at the Abou Nawas cafe. We were really packing it in.

The last stop in the rain was the
Mosquée de Paris - a beautiful mosque built in 1922 to thank the North African countries for helping the French in the first World War. We prayed with others from other parts of the world and we prayed for our friend to have a speedy recovery.

Sunday 12 August 2007

Congratulations Dato Dr Lat!!!


In the olden days, news that a certain dignitary or hero was passing through a village would bring people from all walks of life, in all shapes and sizes to line the streets and greet him. And this would prompt the local penglipur lara to weave lyricals like this:

yang buta datang berpimpin,

yang capek datang bertongkat

yang bulat datang bergolek,

yang tua datang berteman.

This is not unlike the scene that greeted our Kampong Boy celebrity Dato Lat, recently.

News that the famous cartoonist was coming to participate in an event to celebrate Malaysia’s 50th independence brought a lot of people from nooks and corners of London. Someone, ehem, ehem, not a million miles from this blog, even took a day off and came all the way from Kent.

(Yang jauh datang berkereta api (membawa dua biji kek!))

And need I say, most came with their precious Kampong Boy comic books and editions from yesteryears, well thumbed and all yellowing at the edges but lovingly kept for occasions such as this – moments when they will meet their idol in person.

Like the gentleman who brought the first edition of Lat’s comic when he came here 30 years ago to remind him of life in Malaysia. He still kept it in pristine condition. It was all worth it – and the long queue to get to the cartoonist himself who patiently answered every question while sketching his famous signature in every book.

Or the lady who grabbed this opportunity to tell the cartoonist himself that he had actually drawn buildings in Ipoh, such as the Jubilee Park and the cinemas that were actually designed by her late father.

And many, many came with memories and reminiscence of how they could relate to Lat’s cartoons and depictions of life in Malaysia. Many talked about how they laughed and cried looking at how the cartoonist looked at life.

Dato Lat gave a talk about his life as a cartoonist at Asia House to a very appreciative audience, growing up bathing in the river, playing on tree tops right up to the move to a bigger town, which made him briefly a Town Boy.

We felt that one day, in fact two hours, with him was certainly not enough and hastily arranged another gathering at Malaysia Hall two days later. Word spread fast and wide and on that Saturday afternoon, the hall was filled with about 60 people, young and old. Considering the Selfridges' sales and the Gay Parade, we were not doing too badly. And I was given the honour to introduce him. What an honour.

And Kampong Boy, Lots of Lat and Town Boy were snapped up like hot pisang goreng.

So, Dato Dr Lat – congratulations once again – a truly deserved honour by UKM and thank you for making our life all the more richer and funnier seeing it through your eyes.

And thank you too for THE FAVOUR.

More on LAT here.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Syaer sibuk sakan!

Aduhai kawan dan rakan-rakan,
maafkan Kak Teh yang sibuk sakan,
banyak kerja di bandar dan pekan,
memang rasa sungguh tertekan.

Minggu lepas pergi Manchester,
naik kereta api dan juga kereta,
tidur dua malam tiga hari di sana,
itulah tugas tak kira di mana!

Balik Manchester penat tak sangga,
tidur tak sempat nak nangis pun ada,
kerja bertimbun sebaknya dada,
rumah bersepah semaknya minda!

Sekarang bersiap nak pergi lagi,
Ke Liverpool pula kerja esok pagi,
malam naik kereta api lagi,
tiga jam lamanya menggigit jari!

Di sini ku pohon undur diri,
nak siap-siap biar berseri,
melenggang lengguk kanan dan kiri,
mengejar kereta api takut kena berdiri!

Kak Teh pergi bukannya lama,
akan kembali ke London semula,
kita berjumpa esok atau lusa,
Insyaallah bila dah habis kerja semua!