Thursday, September 29, 2005

road to terengganu

This morning, I send off Yati and the kids plus another van-load of wedding paraphernalia and another car for Mak and Ayah to Kedah. It was to be a wedding for Yati’s niece this Friday.

Traveling, short and long distance for the kids has become quite a norm. They have after all been traveling since babies. The first two Alia and Amir were born in KL and transported to Kedah on the seventh day. Atin and Alan were born in Terengganu and enjoy the grandmother traveling from Kedah to look after them. When Yati was completing her degree in Penang, Alia stayed with Wan in Kemasek and traveled by bus to KL almost every fortnight. She was in a way growing on the road. Because of the nature of our work, we travel often. The kids took every opportunity to join us, ‘ponteng sekolah’ sometimes to be in their other ‘house’ in KL. I guess when they were younger, hotels were a house too. After all it’s better than the actual home, room service, swimming pools and dining at the coffee-house included.

My earliest memory of travel was by bus to Kelang, staying at a Singh-friend of my father. I was not even in school then and my recollection of the trip was the breakfast. They, the Singh family eat chapatti like tons of it.

Then there was the trip sending Aki and Che’ to Haj. We were packed in Ayah Su’s Volkswagen for a day long trip to KL, staying at the Asia Hotel (external shared toilet, thin striped towel and ‘orchid’ soap bar) in Chow Kit and early next morning departed to Port Kelang. The Kapal Haji, the crowd, the pilgrims and the well-wishers were a sight to behold. The flashback was of the sight of man walking up the gantry, bales on the shoulders, cargoes of wooden boxes winched up the hull, teary-eyed, sobbing people, people, people and people. And then suddenly in all the commotion there was the ship siren followed by azan from the ship-deck. The silence was stunning. The ship slowly departed and all around was sobbing. That was in 1968. Thirty years later for my umrah in 1998, the travel was by a Boeing 777 direct Saudia flight to Jeddah.

The road to Terengganu would soon be a full highway. A dream we had been kept waiting for over twenty years, two prime ministers and three ‘menteri-besar’s away. But then the opening of Karak – Kuantan section has improved the travel tremendously. It’s now 5-6 hour unlike previously ten for a slow-sleeping-often stopping driver like me. But it comes with additional cost of toll-charges and speed fine. Ah so-what!

The link to Terengganu was once a snake-beaten winding, nauseating excuse for a road. Somewhere along Karak-Bentong section was through the ‘communist-area’ the Polis Hutan’s roadblock were a familiar sight. I went through it like six-times a year every school holidays and only in my fifth-form year the engineering marvel of the day – the Karak-Bentong Highway was opened, courtesy of Malaysia-Thai Development, the construction company. Those on the old MCKK school-bus to the Piala Perdana Menteri in SMSAS in Kuantan in 1980 will recall how we chugged along the highway. We even cheered when the bus manage to overtake any poor soul for it was to be its last trip away. Pak Cik driver was given a treat by the other school bus drivers to a memorable farewell dinner and retired soon after. The bus was soon replaced by a new air-conditioned coach. And best of all that year we won the Piala Perdana Menteri.

On the long journey to KL and back, my children would normally sleep a peaceful slumber in the Carnival. When they wake-up hungry and bored there are all the R&R to stop and refresh. They would like never believe that it was once a long and a sluggisshly slow winding road to Terengganu.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

peperiksaan penilaian

Alia sat for her ‘peperiksaan penilaian’ for three days since two days ago. Today is her last and she was beaming with confidence. I hope as I told her that it was not ‘over-confidence’. I admire her independence and resolve and the effort she put in. Not only that she wanted so much to be in boarding school, like mak and ayah and almost all her uncles and unties. She had been in touch with friends who’s been there and loved the news of it. Living away from family, among friends, and growing up as an independent person. We pray and hope she make it.

In my days, that was way-way back in 74’, penilaian was held for the standard five students. Now the exam is for the standard six. For many of us then, that exam was just another day and luck played a great part in the result; at least for me. There were then, no special tuitions, no extra class, no motivational workshops, no past years question and no pressure. I guess those who made it, especially from the rural school were simply brilliant and smart. How I could be in the category I also wonder.

These days the number who obtain five A’s run in the thousands. Getting five is almost not a surprise thing anymore – not getting is the surprise. Then, the achievers were rare and celebrated and set to leave home for the best of the secondary schools in the country. Now the achievers are aplenty the boarding schools can’t take them all anymore. Some even refuse to go. After-all home is a much better place and environment to excel.

In my days going to the boarding school means leaving a water well for piped water, pail-type toilet for a flush toilet (though it hardly works), gasoline to electrical light, sleeping on floor to bed and ‘kelambu’ , and mother’s cooking for ‘nasi kawah’. It also means washing my own clothes or recycling them when apek dobi no longer accept my clothes over bad debts. It was a brave and better new world that put your mind fully on study; though I don’t really.

For Alia, I hope that she had given her best. The A’s doesn’t really matter. If ever she make her way to the boarding school then Yat and I would learn how our mothers once felt seeing us away. We may soon miss her.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

of title and differing culture

A friend came back from Kalimantan, Indonesia. His conglomerate was venturing big time there. With the kind of money they invested, they would be a lord of a kind. He now rubs shoulder with the Governor, Wali Kota and Bupati.

So we joke that he would be receiving titles soon. What would it be?

But Indonesia was not land of titles. There were no titles of Datuk, Datuk Seri, Tan Sri or Tun to give away.

On the subject, he related a banter with his Indonesian partner.

“Orang Malaysia memang beruntung, muda-muda lagi sudah digelar Datuk.”

“Orang Indonesia lagi untung sebenarnya, sudah tua pun masih dipanggil Bapak aja.”

You Malaysian are fortunate, you are titled Datuk (grandfather) while you are still young.”

You Indonesian are better, even when you are old, you remain only a Bapak (father).”

Saturday, September 03, 2005

israq mi’raj and the parable of a white ant journey

In the Name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful

Glory be to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a journey from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precinct We did bless, - in order that We might show him some of Our Signs for He is the One Who Heareth and Seeth (all things)

(Translation Al Isra 17:1)
Haji Shukri was a man full of good jokes and interesting anecdotes, despite his seemingly serious nature. But that is the way it is. A man is different to a different person. One of his good story, that kind of stick to me was the story of a journey of a white ant.

There was a white ant, perhaps the tiniest of the ants in the ant’s kingdom. This particular white ant live in the house of a corporate man, let’s say somewhere in Kuala Lumpur. One fine day, he went up alone into the man’s closet, climbed up the wall, crossed the hanger rail and found himself in the coat pocket of a Zegna. That particular day, the corporate man was to go on a business trip to Europe and America.

So the ant, in the two weeks that follows, went on a Gulfstream private jet, hopped across the vast Pacific, paid stops in London, Paris and New York, experienced the biting cold winter and soon after find himself back in the closet. In the fortnight, he had seen places, people and environment beyond his comprehension. He had been on journey across the globe, seen things no other ants, white, black, or red had ever seen. If he were to tell the story of his journey to other ants, few would believe him. They were too preoccupied with their world, that any other world they had not seen, for them never exist. The tale of the strange people, places and sights would be laughed at and the poor little red ant will be the butt of jokes. He would be called a joker, a story-teller, a liar and a mad-ant. But the white ant related his story all the same. There were few who believe. They were ants of greater faculty, for they could see the possibility of the vast world.

Israq Mi’raj was a journey of a man, across the sand from the al-Haram in Mekah to al-Aqsa in Jurusalem and ascending thereon to the seven heavens and beyond it to Sidratul-Muntaha. All in the span of a night. That man was Muhammad the Prophet of Islam. That journey was the Israq Mi’raj,

When the story of the journey was first told, Muhammad was ridiculed and called all sorts of names. He was called a joker, a story-teller, a liar and a mad-man. One of the few who believe was man like Abu Bakar. For his firm belief in Muhammad he was called As-Siddiq – The Truth; for he was able to see truth way beyond the faculty of ordinary man.

Today, it was time for Israq Mi’raj again, celebrated every 27th Rejab in every Islamic calendar. It was time the story of the night journey would be told and marveled for the umpteenth time. The believers will believe it and the skeptics will be forever skeptical about it.

Israq Mi’raj is to me a time for reflection, of looking beyond the boundary of the ordinary. Trained as architect, I could not but look at the journey in comparative measure – in scale and in parables. Like the journey of the tiny white ant, Muhammad ascension to heaven would be beyond comprehension if measured in the scale of man. Muhammad was just a man, tiny and insignificant in the scale of the universe, what more if measured in the scale of the Knowledge of Allah. But he was the Prophet of Allah. By design, that journey was for him to witness the vastness of universe and the timelessness of Allah’s plan for His creation. It too was most significant for in it he accepted the command of the five daily prayers, the microcosm of the ascension to all obedient servants.

Now that we easily traveled across the globe, the journey of the white ant in the coat pocket could be believable. It was all a matter of scale and relative experience – essence of a parable. Against that relative parable of the journey of white ant, the journey and the ascension of Muhammad and the whole of Israq Mi’raj would be easily believed and comprehended.

For telling the story Tuan Haji Shukri, thank you.