Friday, May 13, 2005

posts, titles and evolution of terms

I read with interest a recent article in Malaysiakini – ‘Bekas imam saman Masjid Darul Ehsan Subang Jaya’. I do not wish to touch on the litigation issue. I am far from qualified to do so. I only want to touch on a small part of the article.

‘….memperkenalkan pengurusan moden… …. jawatan imam kini dikenali sebagai pengurus masjid, bilal sebagai timbalan pengurus masjid dan siak sebagai penolong pengurus masjid’

I remember writing a blog titled ‘thinking of old suraus’. In it I touched on the old suraus independence and contributions of private individuals to the religious need of the society. That was in the yesteryears. Suraus and masjids these days became a prize in middle of a tug of war between people of different ideology. The irony was that both preach on the same Islam and for the love of the same Allah. Love yet fight over it! How appropriate it was when M.Nasir put it in a song ‘Kerana cinta duniamu berperang’ (over love your world’s at war).

I accept that most of our masjids were not best managed and new approach was needed. But must we change the title of imam to manager (pengurus masjid), bilal to deputy mosque manager (timbalan pengurus masjid) and siak to assistant mosque manager (penolong pengurus masjid)? I thought imam was the term for the one who lead the prayer, bilal the one who intone the call to prayer (after Bilal bin Rabah the first man appointed by Rasulullah to call out the azan) and the siak look after the keeping of the masjid. Is not siak more appropriately called manager? But then the siak is lower in rank to the imam so he can only be an assistant. Perhaps they are now to be paid as managers in the government salary scale. That would be good for them and it has my support.

It was thought provoking that we must start anew with a new name, a new term or a new title whenever we try to improve something. When the nation gained independence, we change all our road names. When a non Muslim embraced Islam, he’s expected to take a new name with ‘bin Abdullah (so much so that to convert to Islam was popularly termed ‘masuk Melayu). When a village lad went to town, Samad became Sam, Salmah became Sally and Fatimah became Fatty for overdose of McD and KFC.

So to improve mosques management, the thousand over years old term must be changed. Have we no love for history? Can’t we keep something sacred?

Interestingly, terms now used in our daily life may have had a different meaning previously. The term ‘entrepreneur’ was once meant a person who runs pleasure business – whore house, brothels et al. Then it was used for people who organize entertainments business – music, theatre, concerts etc. Now it was meant for what we all now understand – a person who own, starts and run a business or many businesses. The term ‘khalwat’ used to mean ‘going into seclusion to seek Allah’s company and pleasure alone.’ Now it was meant as ‘going into seclusion to seek pleasure with the other (or maybe the same) sex.’

If used often and repeatedly the new terms may be acceptable. Lies when told often and repeatedly would be accepted as truth. Mussolini and Hitler believed so and played that to the hilt. They almost own the world.

Maybe in the future, when two of us set out to do a solat berjemaah, one will say, ‘Please, I’ll be the ‘makmum’.

‘You be the ‘Pengurus Masjid’

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

a trip to jakarta (part 2)

Jakarta was a city of 20 million people – that almost equal the whole of Malaysia’s population. And in the twenty odd millions Malaysians were a few millions Indonesians, - Malaysianised, ‘resident’ised, legal, illegal or otherwise.

From the tinted windscreen of the supir-driven mobil, it was easy to see the economic gap between the rich and the poor. In the air-conditioned walkways of Sogo at Plaza Indonesia, the men were well dressed and every girl looks like a model. On the street a little farther from the Central Business District, at the junctions or at railroad crossings, little kids loiter among the waiting cars, selling something, begging. This I realized was the reality of life. The rich and the poor somehow coexist in balance. Only they don’t always appear together. I saw in Indonesia something very much like in Malaysia. There were the semblance of Petaling Street, Kampung Baru and Kampung Abdullah Hukum; but in Jakarta, they don’t put up a colourful billboard to hoard reality. To do so would mean a massive investment.

An Indonesian friend told me a joke about the rich of Jakarta.

When the poor met one another they asked ‘Hari ini kita makan apa?’ (What do we eat today?)

When the middle class met one another they asked ‘Hari ini kita makan di mana?’ (Where do we eat today?)

When the rich met one another they asked ‘Hari ini kita makan siapa?’ (Who do we eat today?)

It was (I think) a ‘politically’ bad, bad joke. For us Malaysian it was a ‘bisa’ – of the ‘poisonous’ kind. Make a joke like that on the internet and it might be debated in the parliament. My blog could be threatened with some Akta Multimedia. To the Jakartan it was also a ‘bisa’ – of the ‘normal/usual/acceptable’ kind. They could laugh easily at it and at themselves. It was in their world, something they dismissed as ‘gampang aja!’

Gampang? Watch it, don’t say it to anyone around here or you might just end up with a black-eye.

Monday, May 02, 2005

making cakes

Last night, our two girls were busy in the kitchen. Yati was teaching them how to make cake. Later Atin and Alia proudly offered their first cake to me. It’s a little too sweet for a cake but I kept my mouth shut. No adverse comments on their first effort. There were no comments from the normally sarcastic brothers too; they were already asleep in front of the TV.

The word cake brings two things to my mind. The cake making in the days when I was younger and the famed Mary Antoinette’s ‘Qu'ils mangent de la brioche’ / ‘Well, let them eat cake’ statement. I’d be dealing on the former but let’s touch on Mary’s first.

For those clueless on history, Mary Antoinette was the Austria born queen of King Louis XVI. She was married to the future king at the age of 14. Life in the palace since such tender age certainly had blinded her from the reality of the world and the turmoil of the French populace.

In 1789, French populace had begun a revolution against the King. They had little or nothing to eat while the royals and nobles were having a ball of their time. A ‘ball’ both literally and figuratively speaking. Watch movies like Three Musketeers or Tale of Two Cities and you’ll see the recreated opulence of the time. Then was also the high season for arts and architecture – just looking at the Palace of Versailles. Mary was the earliest of a woman’s (lib)erator. She was the source of French support for American Independence in 1776 to 1789 so much so that France was said to bankrupt for financing America’s war. Perhaps the lady of The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to America was Mary. That economic disaster led to longer queue for food. When told that the long queue was due to shortage of bread for the people, she remarked the famous ‘Well, let them eat cakes’ remark. That quote was plastered all over Paris the next day. It agitated the people so much they revolted and Mary Antoinette lost her head at the guillotine. At least that was how the history was written.

Now for the history of cake making as I know it.

For Alia and Atin, to make a cake, you pop open a box of ready-mix flour, pour into a basin, add water, stir a little and place in the oven. Check the temperature setting and after a while, ting!, and hey presto, a cake is done.

It wasn’t that simple then.

Che’, our grandmother baked ‘baulu’ (Malay cake) a few times in a year – mostly on the the two Hari Rayas and Chinese New Years. Chinese New Year baulu was meant for Ah Kuang, Aki’s bus conductor, Ah Juat, Mek Kiat or the other Chinese in the village as ‘balasan’ (return gift) for ‘kuih bakul’ (mooncake). The baulu making at any time was for us an event.

The process for baulu making began with collecting ‘sabut’ and ‘tempurung’ (coconut husk and shell) in addition to ‘arang’ (charcoal). These are for the cinder. The cake process in itself began with sieving the flour. Those days flour came in ‘guni gandum’ - big white cloth sacks with a lot of impurities. It starts with beating the eggs. Only egg-white was used. The yolk would be for some other delicacies especially ‘Tok Aji Serban’ or ‘serawa’. The beating was a favourite thing for us. It was a joy hearing the sound of the ‘kepok’ in the batter and watching it ‘naik’. Because the ‘kepok’ must be done in a single direction, Che’ kept a watchful eye over us lest the ‘kepok’ circle goes haywire. Then the flour was added to the egg to complete the dough. When the dough is done, Che’ will carefully pour them into the ‘sarang’ (mould) made of brass. It was time to bake the baulu. To ensure consistent golden crust to the baulu, the brass mould is placed on the ‘tungku’ and heated both from above and below. The cover of the mould was shaped in such a way that cinder could be placed on top. Baking was an important part of the process. Che’ just seem to know the exact time to place the cinder or to extinguish the fire. Anytime sooner would make the baulus uncooked and anytime later would make it ‘hangus’. We kids would pray that it was hangus because the baulus then would be for us. Waiting for ‘kuih hangus’ (burnt cakes) seems to be a universal phenomena. I saw that on some advertisement, on Hollywood movies and whenever Yati baked something. The love for ‘kuih hangus’ must be a universal human experience.

Of cakes and breads, I think it’s interesting to note the difference of terminology between a Terengganuan and Kedahan. We Terengganuan call bread, ‘roti’ and biscuits, ‘biskut’. Kedahan call both bread and biscuit - ‘roti’. My kids would always laugh at their Kedah grandmother whenever she serves them biscuits but call out to them to eat the ‘roti’.

Mary Antoinette must have meant something else when she told the French to eat ‘cakes’. French must then be extremely humorless. They could have laughed at her mistakes but then they had preferred her head.