Sunday 30 March 2008

Let us pray for her

If the story here is true then let us pray that she is guided back to the right path. I have written about her before here. This appeared today.

Thursday 27 March 2008

A celebration of sorts

Birthdays tend not to become too important an event especially when the figures get too big and the candles too many on the cake, posing a fire hazard. I remember my first few birthday celebrations, and oh that was so long ago. I remember Mak and her agar-agar bunga batu which was always a hit with my friends. Then there’s the kek kukus and noodles galore. All these served in her latest collection of Pyrex and syrup in those Tupperware tumblers in various shapes and colours. My school friends would turn up in their best frocks, their mode of transport being mini bikes neatly parked outside our gates.

And how we enjoyed the games of musical chairs and passing the parcel. Such simple pleasures.

I remember too some birthday surprises, one in particular that nearly gave my husband a heart attack. It was the day we were supposed to go for an important parent teachers’ meeting and he suddenly refused to go. Clearly upset, I made a unilateral decision to go by myself when a close friend called me up for tea at Whiteleys. We had tea and a bit of a rant about the strange behaviour of my other half. My daughter then phoned to say that the meeting was cancelled. So we decided to go to this friend’s place instead and drown my sorrows in a game of scrabble. I was certainly in no mood to go home.

When the door to her apartment opened, there stood my husband slaving over several legs of lamb roasting in the oven. The children and some friends were also there for the birthday surprise which nearly turned into a disaster, and one friend even came with a birthday cake the shape of a pair of voluptuous boobs that still gives me nightmares and an inferiority complex.

One year it was a drive to the countryside for lunch at a friend’s country house hotel by the Thames. It was lunch in style with some close friends and after the afternoon walk in the vast 100 year old listed garden, we settled down for tea before the long drive back into London. It was then that the French Chef walked in with a birthday cake, my name correctly spelt on the icing. What a day it was.

Anyway, this year’s quiet celebration wasn’t too bad at all. The children decided that a tomyam steamboat at Holiday Villa would be a good idea as the day was cold and there were snow flurries too. They invited some friends and Hafiz called up Uncle Jimmy and family.

It was the night after Raihan performed at the Royal Albert Hall. I was there to see their performance for Islamic Relief and what a performance they gave. And because I couldn’t have enough of their acapella, I invited them over for a bit of Tom Yam too.

Dato J was in charge of the steamboat and that was only the starters. Then we had nasi goreng kampong and mee goreng mamak. You wouldn’t believe what was served for dessert! Raihan kindly performed Assolatuwassalam - a favourite of mine!
And the family presented me with this new laptop that I am typing on.

Thank you Raihan! And thank you my sayang mamas!

Sunday 23 March 2008

Snowflakes and P. Ramlee on Easter

It was snowing ever so slightly outside. The snowflakes drifted down gently and melted before touching the ground. Snowbell made a dash through the cat flap bringing in a gush of cold wind into the sitting room, momentarily taking our attention away from the idiot box.

This time it wasn’t American Idol or Master Chef that demanded our attention. It was just after dinner of chicken and cashew nut plus sambal tumis sea-bass and sayur su’un, that the children wanted to have dessert served by P. Ramlee.

They grew up over dosed with P Ramlee slapsticks in Aunty Samina’s front room, watching Pendekar Bujang Lapok, Doh-Ray-Me in between Sangam and Kabhi-Kabhi with Uncle. And lately, thanks to You Tube, they’ve been enjoying snippets from old P Ramlee movies and one that got them in stitches was Pendekar Bujang Lapok, the one where Aziz or was it Ajis corrected the Pak cik on his pronunciation of Bongo, “Bukan Bangau Pak Cik, Bonggo!!!” Taufiq has a knack of imitating that, sending Nona and Rehana (making the cashew nut chicken), in stitches. “Bongggo” he said drawing out the “ggo” deep from the throat and the kitchen was filled with laughter again. It had just started snowing outside.

After dinner, I found several P Ramlee classics but none with subtitles, but sharing a duvet, four of us huddled in front of the TV and watched Madu Tiga.

It has been a while since we last did this. When they were small, the king size duvet would swallow all of us, and there would be enough for everyone. There was a time when all of us were watching a film and at that time a triangle would appear warning us of an imminent ‘rude scene’ at which point my husband would say, “everyone under the duvet!!!” and we’d dive under the duvet giggling, and waited for the scene to be over. But once when all of us waited patiently under the duvet, we heard a voice saying “It’s over now!” Oh dear!

It was Hafiz. And how we miss him. He’d do a good imitation of Ajis and never failed to have us rolling on the floor with his jokes. But now he has his own pad, the other side of London. And even if he was around, there’d be no room anymore under the king size duvet. Still, I miss him. On a cold night like this, with the snow falling on the ground and the cats comfortably on the sofa, I want all my children around.

“What’s ‘Apa daaaa?’, why does he keep saying that?” would be the occasional interruption. “What’s ‘Tak sangka?’ In general they understood the language, except for the occasional P Ramlee lingo.

It is a long Easter weekend and we had spent the afternoon sorting out 20 years of old clothes to take to the recycling bin. There were many old kebayas, the ones that reminded me that I once had a waist, children’s clothes that they now cringe with realisation that they once wore those, sometimes under duress and one or two old jumpers and jeans that brought back memories of the Wan family, trooping up and down the streets of London, in what was then a big Renault estate meant for six. But they had to grow up and the MPV that we bought for seven eventually became too big and too lonely for just the two of us.

I felt quite sad leaving several big black plastic bags containing lots of memories by the bin outside Sainsbury. We have to move on. Children grew out of their clothes and inevitably grow out of the room they share with My Little Pony or Thomas the Tank Engine. They would want to move out. They want their own car and even the king size duvet is no longer big enough for all six of us.

Snowflakes and P Ramlee movies tend to make me feel like this.

Friday 14 March 2008

Goodbye my dear Peggy

I have lost a very dear friend, Datin Peggy Taylor. During the precious few months of our friendship, she had taught me a lot. She was 83. Like a history teacher, she narrated events leading up to Merdeka and beyond; the chitchats with the late Tunku, the contents of letters and communications with prominent politicians from both sides of the political arena, the social scene of the sixties and the seventies and many, many more that are now safely recorded in my tapes and notebooks.

And as I sat there by her feet, with the fire crackling in the background, I couldn't help but felt a sense of awe and admiration for this feisty lady who had witnessed the independence of three countries, hobnobbed with prominent leaders and celebrities and even made a mark in our country's political scene. Peggy, who was at the Padang to witness the raising of the Malayan flag on Independence Day fifty years ago and who later became a member of ADMO (Alliance Direct membership Organisation) for citizens who were not from the Malay, Indian or Chinese community, would be most amused by what is happening in post election Malaysia today. I can almost here her say her famous phrase: It is so kelam kabut! Like bangsawan!!

I remember the days spent with her, typing away as she dictated her memoir on her life in Malaysia. I remember her suitcase full of letters, pictures, documents: That's my history. That's my book, she had said to me.

Peggy left for South Africa last month to concentrate on writing this memoir. She phoned to say goodbye before leaving for the airport. But on 12th March, I received the sad news of her death.

And now I remember Morrie's beautiful quote from Tuesdays with Morrie: Death ends a life, not a relationship.

Rest in peace, my dearest Peggy. Your words, your laughter will live on with me forever.

An article in the NST about Peggy.
Over the past few months, I have written a lot about Peggy and how she had touched my life:

Shamelessly Plugging Peggy
History in a suitcase
Weekend of sorts
A Painting incomplete
Magical Merdeka Moments

An Update and Message from David Kirkness in Johannesburg

Dearest Kak Teh, and to all of Peggy's many friends, I've just returned home from her funeral service, St Charles' Church, Victory Park, Johannesburg, at which I was privileged to speak in her honour. Marilyn had some beautiful words to say, and sung one of her own compositions "We Never Say Goodbye". What a true Taylor she is. A moving moment in time for me. On her behalf, thanks to all for so many wonderful wishes in this past week.

Friday 7 March 2008

Syaer Pilihanraya

Assalamualaikum Kak Teh ucapkan,

kepada semua kawan dan rakan,

di kampong, bandar dan juga pekan,

esok undi mu penting jangan lupakan.

Mari seketika kita berseloka,

hilangkan penat, letih dan duka,

imbas kembali janji manis bercuka,

para pemimpin kita sejak merdeka.

Demam pilihanraya semakin rancak,

panas habanya semakin memuncak,

kami yang jauh pun rasanya jugak,

dari seberang laut pun kami berhak.

Esok harinya yang menentukan,

kalah dan menang akan diumumkan,

segala janji mesti ditunaikan,

bukan sekadar nak dijadikan umpan.

Seronok dengar cerita berkempen,

bertikam lidah semua pemimpin,

menunjukkan hebat zahir dan batin,

memancing undi semasa bertanding.

Kisah dakwat menjadi berita,

mahalnya harga tidak terkata,

sudah dibeli dari India sana,

sekarang katanya tak boleh diguna.

Kak Teh terfikir seorang diri,

termenung sejenak menggigit jari,

berjuta habis dalam beberapa hari,

duit yang hilang macam mana nak ganti?

Terbaca pula kisah Pn Maimun,

usianya lanjut semangatnya bertimbun,

dah masuk Facebook peminatnya berkerumun,

berbasikal berkempen serata kampung.

Pilihlah pemimpin yang dianggap wajar,

yang tidak sombong yang masih boleh diajar,

yang berpengalaman, berjwa rakyat dan sedar

tidak lupa janji kerana kemewahan dikejar.

Sekian dulu Kak Teh bermadah,

berpantun berseloka bukannya mudah,

ingat, pangkah yang salah membawa padah,

nanti bertahun menyesal tak sudah..

Kepada bakal pemimpin Kak Teh ingatkan,

negara kita yang kita sayangkan,

berbaktilah kepada negara dengan keikhlasan.

amanat rakyat jangan dialpakan.

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Some change , please.

So change is not a buzzword in Alor Setar. That’s what I read in the papers today. And sitting here 8,000 miles away, I am a tad worried. And we are just five days before the big day.
In the next few days, Mak is flying back to her beloved Alor Setar, the name forever on her lips during her waking hours and in her dreams during her restless nights. I can imagine her excitement as she boards the plane in her wheelchair, pushed by the ever so friendly MAS stewards. She is going home to the house that Pak built for her.
Yes, she is not likely to see much change around the area where Pak built the house for her. May be the traffic from Kepala Batas will get a bit busy by the time the car gets to Pekan Cina. She’d cast a glance over the bridge of Seberang Perak and scan for MAHA clinic, the clinic she used to frequent where a young doctor once held court before becoming the Prime Minister.
She’d smile at the sight of Ali nasi lemak for that is where her offsprings would rush to as soon as they drop off their luggage in the front room of the house that Pak built.
As the car swings into the small lane past the kilang ais, her tired eyes would take in the clogged drains, a sight that repeats itself right up to the front gate of our house and beyond. For as far as I can remember, as a child I used to squat by the side of the drain, usually swollen after a heavy rain, to try and catch those little catfish just for fun. The water, all muddy and filthy had no where to go with over grown grass and lalang from the neighbour’s neglected piece of land spilling into the already clogged up drain upstream. Just the right breeding place for mosquitos.
The house that Pak built would be just as she had left it. Nothing would have changed except there’s no more laughter and screams of children running up and down the house. It has been left empty for so long. The old iron swing would be just where it has been left some forty years ago.
The wooden stairs leading up to the upper front door, has been the setting for so many family photographs and as I looked at it again, I notice d that so many uncles and aunts have left us.
As Mak steps into the house, she’d be reminded of the newly raised floor that she had done from the monthly pension that she receives. Once the floor was raised and leveled, she could sleep soundly at night. Before that, she’d be woken up in the middle of the night by the heavy rain and with Tok and Tok Som and with some energy left in them, they would roll up the carpets and beddings before the front room got flooded with water from the clogged up drains seeping in through the door.
Mak never slept soundly during the rainy season. She wanted to display her beautiful carpet that she bought with her kutu money, yet, she knew that if she and Tok Som couldn't move fast enough the carpet would be ruined.
With the rapid housing developments in the surrounding area, where we are became like a valley with rainwater rushing in and no where to go. Every time we went back, we see new housing developments but we don't see any improvements to the drainage system. Mak can’t afford to keep raising her floor anymore.
And I do hope that the stench coming from the fish factory is no longer there. Mak used to remind us to open the doors and windows early in the morning for rezki to come in. But of late, it was the stench that kept our windows firmly shut. And another reason why those windows and doors remained shut, with grills firmly locked is the rise of crime rate in the area. Young thugs roam the place during the nights and once during our return we saw evidence that our backyard where abang used to grill ikan kembong and cut the ulams, had become a meeting place for drug addicts.
I have read several atrocious crime committed in that area but I was quite unprepared when I read about the Indian Muslim shopkeeper who was slashed to death in his little shop up the road – the shop where we as children used to go and play tikam, buy kacang tumbuk and gula-gula Hacks, the little shop that our children started going whenever we went back on holiday. Mamak Zakaria, fell victim to the increasing criminal activities in the area. Most probably he fell victim to the very customers who frequented his shop and befriended him.
No, I do want to see some change, please Datuk Chor.