Monday, October 23, 2006

it’s R A Y A again

It’s raya again. It’s that happy feeling. It’s immersing in the ‘rioh-rendah’, bising bangor’, ‘kacau-gege’. The sweet sound of children screaming, laughing (or is somebody crying?). It’s time when the eight house street is jam-packed with cars; of my family and that of my neighbors. And evenings of smoke laden air courtesy of free mercun and bunga-api.

Two grands, 14 children, 9 menantus and 20 cucus.

Everyone is here. Almost. Only Dibah and Julian and their kids Nabil and Aishah; and Bada and Azmi with their kids Arif, Haikal, and Mariam both coming home on the first day of Raya. And Jo of course, in India, after two weeks of buka puasa at home but forced to return because school break’s over.

Today, the last of the ’buka’, ayah will set the buffet early. Saw that he started the table arrangement at 9 this morning. Everyone must have a seat, the ‘kuca ghia’ included. It will be a big buffet as usual. As it was for years. As it was like forever.

Selamat Hari Raya.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

of marketing art and puasa buffet

I have one bad habit. I don’t like doing business with difficult people. There is one famous chicken rice stall in Batu Burok I don’t go anymore because the owner scolded me, saying ‘rugilah saya’ when I ordered a drink from the next stall and not wanting one from her juice machine.

In business, money change hand when a good or service is delivered. A done deal, face to face some people said. In Islam, when the trade and ‘akad’ performed. In Terengganu and elsewhere in Malaysia too these days, I see the seller saying ‘saya jual’ and the buyer saying ‘saya beli’ on the exchange. In Terengganu, even the Chinese shopkeepers practice this akad thing perhaps out of social norm.

I was in Shanghai recently. Because it was an urgent trip I had made all the arrangement through the internet, even paying everything, hotel and air ticket in advance by credit card. On the confirmation slip, all by e-mail, was stated, ‘no refund if changes to the itinerary made in less than 48 hours’ clearly. I was to stay for five days. Maybe I should note that the agent introduced by a friend was a Singapore based agent, specializing in business trips to China, handling business tour from Europe and Middle East mostly. So mostly they deal with Mat Sallehs and Pak Arab. A nice touch was that a Shanghai based agent handled everything, all the e-mails with even her hand phone number just in case you need it. Also stated, ‘if you are busy but still want to see Shanghai, we can arrange a day tour at USD 46 per pax.’ I had no idea how the Baroni Wanyuan Hotel would look like but it turn out to be a nice, sleek new hotel and the junior suite cheaper than KL Hilton’s deluxe room.

There, I had an urgent call for a meeting in Kuala Terengganu and I had to cut short my trip by two days. It was less than 48 hours away. Because I was busy and not having my laptop I had to use the business center at the hotel second floor. In the evening I e-mailed my itinerary change and went back to my room at the ninth floor. Already there was a message on the phone. It was well pass working hour but this one Miss Zoe, had responded and in less than fifteen minutes. What efficiency.

So it was when I get back to Kuala Terengganu, opened my e-mails and found one from Miss Zoe. Enclosed was a refund slips for the unused stay. I was pleasantly surprised. I had changed the itinerary in less than the stipulated time and not expected a refund. After all it was a contract and payment transacted. The explanation was sweet. ‘We would like you to use our service again, Sir. Would you come to Shanghai for the Formula One? We can make the all the arrangement.’

That in a nutshell is a class service. Compare it to this one I had just had .

I had booked for a 7 plus one child pax for buka puasa buffet at Hotel UiTM. When we got there the dining hall was hardly filled, some tables empty and some tables reserved but without the patron. On my group only six adults and a child turned up. I guess it was normal in Klang Valley, getting stuck in the traffic jam and missing the fasting break altogether. It was an okay dinner. Nothing particularly interesting but for the child singer and the often off-key elder singer singing some classic keroncongs on the stage. The interesting part came at paying time.

‘Encik, you must pay for all the eight pax’ said the girl at the counter. ‘But only seven came’ I protested. ‘You should have informed us when you arrived’ she insisted. ‘You didn’t mention that when I made the reservation’ I continued, trying my luck. ‘Sorrylah encik, saya cuma ikut arahan je’ (I am only following orders). She said looking down trying to avoid any eye contact. ‘ ‘Okay I’ll pay,’ I said, ‘but I want you to know that it’s not good for your business.’ So I paid and walked out.

I told myself, I am not coming back.

She, the girl at the counter in this case I think was just a student, being trained on the ropes of serving, etiquette, customer handling etc. I hope that they were not there training only to ‘serve’, clearing dirty dishes or collecting tabs, but the impression I get in that short minute was that. The students training for the front line should be trained on customer handling with other objectives, like making a customer happy even if it means getting out of the norms sometimes, marketing or encouraging customer to return, by saying things like, ‘I’m sorry about this but I hope I’ll see you dining here again’ or an eye contact or at least a smile. Perhaps they had been in this situation often they were retreating as a reaction. Macang k’ura (like a tortoise – retreating its head into its shell), a Terengganuan would say. Situation out of incomplete procedural control and total blur on how to make future sales. What is losing a RM39 for a pax if it could be translated in future business? What about training them to smile and say sorry? It doesn’t cost a cent and it certainly wasn’t meant as an apology. I am certain all marketing books talk about this point now. But then again they don’t read. Do they? The lecturers, not the students I mean.

Perhaps coincidently, there was a story about a three year old girl that successfully bid for a ‘Barbie’ car on the the E-bay for something like USD64000. Imagine the parents panicking. On E-bay rules are rules. After all rules are the only thing that can ensure fairness in a borderless world. But what was touching was the response of the seller when he knew of the mistakes. He said okay and placed the car back on the bid. He may have lost the sale he could have very well enforced and legally too, but he simply take it with a shrug and maybe a smile. In exchange for the understanding was a worldwide free publicity. It’s worth millions.

As a person, I will be talking about these experiences to others. It would be free marketing for the former and a bad publicity to the later. I am making the comparison because I see in the business world, even the one conducted in internet, devoid of real contact (no eye contact, no smiles exchanged), money making rules are being set aside by another better rules, market, market and market. They are refunding money that was contractually their right in exchange for future business. They are also (if you look it from another angle) turning marketing into an art. Some money making rules are placed to be conveniently set aside to make one looks good, for customers to feel appreciated and their delight transformed into future business. Saying things like ‘we normally charge you for this but since this is your first time with us / you are our important customer / the boss not here and I’m in charge /you’re very nice, I’ll waive the charge’ will go a long way.

In Hotel UiTM, they are yet to teach this, but I hope they will do so soon.

Sincere apology to Hotel UiTM for mentioning name. I wouldn’t do so if it wasn’t my alma mater and I’d like it’s graduate to be better. Oh, and a good discount sometimes.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

wisdom of a cab driver

Allah bertanya, ‘ Berapa lamakah lamanya kamu tinggal di bumi?’ Mereka menjawab: ‘Kami tinggal (di bumi) sehari atau setengah hari, maka tanyakanlah kepada orang-orang yang menghitung.’ Allah berfirman: ‘Kamu tidak tinggal (di bumi) melainkan sebentar sahaja, kalau kamu mengetahui.’
[Al-Mu’minun 18:112-114]

Some gem of wisdom can be found in some unlikely place. This one from a cab driver on a ride from KL Sentral to Wisma Sejarah yesterday September 26.

I thought I was unfortunate, I had wanted a quiet ride after a long slow bus ride from LCT, but was greeted by an angry man instead. Angry as in talking out loud, venting his frustration at almost everything under the sun, like why the election ballot must be marked with an x (which to him means wrong or no) and not with right or yes, his frustration at Hishamuddin (maybe he thought I was a teacher or some education officer because I asked to be sent to the National Library), his funny belief that oscar and horse-car (kereta kuda) was the same English word, at JKR originally meaning Jagaan Kuda Raja before the British changing it to Jabatan Kerja Raya, at money (at a one ringgit note he was waving) for having value just because it has a dead king’s picture on it, etc.

But this conversation was a gem.

‘Kita ni masa lahir, orang azan kat telinga kita. Betul?’ (When we were born, an azan is proclaimed at our ear. Right?)


‘Bila kita mati orang sembahyangkan. Betul?’ (When we die, people pray on us. Right?)

‘Uh…. Uuhhh.’

‘Nampak tak pendeknya umur kita?. Nampak? Dari masa azan sampai sembahyang je umur kita ni.’ (See how short this life is? See? Our life is no longer than the time between azan and prayer.)

Then the above verse of the Quran I came across this morning, kind of put it in a just perspective.

Monday, September 25, 2006

a 'leaking' fast (puasa yang bocor)

The problem with anak bungsu is that they seems to be overly manja and they nag a lot. Sometime, with teary eye, its hard not to be pitiful. So disciplining them is quite a chore. Add their aunts and grandma as places they turn to when even Mak kept a straight face.

Today was the second day of Ramadan. Maybe because Ayah was around, Alan seems to behave at sahur, finished a plate of nasi goring with a tambah. Yesterday, he was teary eyed at sahur, trying to excuse himself from puasa and going to school. He couldn’t. When I got home though, he was happily playing with Imran and Mira, the two cousins. He seems so okay I asked if he fast. His answer, ‘Alan puasa. Tapi bocor.’ (I fast. But it leaks) Boy, it’s a new vocab I’m learning.

Apparently he held on until almost six. Not more than an hour before the break. That he said was ‘bagus lah tu’; considering the school kept them for a 2 hours assembly under the sun. I wonder what are the teachers doing these days. I knew they don’t learn anything the last two weeks. The exam over and school term has more than a month to end. No wonder the boys just refused to be in school. ‘Wak menda? Bukang belajo pong.’

We may seem like inhumane to deprive our children from the early age of six or seven to go without food, in training them to fast. Waking them up early for sahur and subuh prayer and sometimes going through the ‘sembahyang banyok’ (Alan’s description of solat terawih). That was the way we were brought up and hopefully they on their children too in the future. That way the basic discipline of ibadat can be cemented in their heart. ‘There is no compulsion in religion’ but there may be no religion if there is no compulsion in its adherence.

As for the young, we will continue to ask them, encourage them and force them. Even if we know there would a lot of ‘bocor’ in-between. After all, once we were young too.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

one bedo'oh campaign

TV doesn’t always make you laugh. But when it does, it is certainly hilarious.

I had a good laugh at the latest reading campaign, the ‘Bangsa Membaca Bangsa Berjaya’ advertisement. But don’t get me wrong, I was not at any time laughing at the concept or the urge to us all to be part of a nation of bookworms. I was only laughing at the lack of common sense or if I am to call spade a spade, the stupidity of it.

People reading on the park bench? Okay. Never mind if it is thirty over degrees out there.

People reading while walking in the mall? Still okay. Maybe they are going through the sales catalogues.

People reading in the LRT? Hardly seen but still plausibly okay. I hardly get a seat on LRT these days unless I want to do an 'Adlin' (of the other politeness campaign advert).

But people reading on the escalator? My goodness. It is exactly what Terengganuans would say as ‘bedo’oh!’.

[Bedo’oh, is Terengganu adaptation of Arabic ‘bidaah’, which literally means overdoing a good thing to the point it is becoming excessive and thus from Islamic perspective, forbidden]

I bet whomever did the advert don’t him or herself read. If he does, he would know that the ride on the escalator takes not much more than a minute, and you have to watch your steps, Watch as you step on to it, watch as the tread levels to the upper floor and carefully steps out. A misstep could cause you to fall and if you happen to fall backwards, cause others to go tumbling with you. That leaves you with just a fraction of a minute. So what can you read in that several seconds? Somebody has to tell the good doctor that reading on escalator is DANGEROUS.

Want another laugh? Check out the titles of the books they were reading.

This is the kind of thing that I think censorship board should do well to also look into. I said ‘also’ because this is the kind of bad influence that people should be protected from. Of course this ‘national agenda’ advertisement needed no censorship approval, but somebody approving it must have at least the basic decency to take a look at it.

Ah! Maybe they didn’t even look at it.

Maybe also they had a good look at it but didn’t realize that it was for a ‘reading’ campaign. Ha ha ….

Friday, September 01, 2006

The biography of Che and Nyang

For sometimes, Alia has been asking me to write about the family lineage on both my and Yati’s side. In would not be an easy assignment because I have a tendency not to bother much about the so called ‘susur-galur’ (family-tree). To top it, I have a problem remembering the many names of the many ‘sedara-mara’ or as someone put it ‘sedara-broya’ (family of crocs ?).

Alia’s Aki, my ayah that is, (I have to note this because up till now Adlan still need a convincing about how an ayah can be aki vice-versa) came from Pekan, Pahang though he grew up in Kemasek. Wan, Alia’s grandma, my Mak, came from Losong, Terengganu. Nyang Man, Wan’s father (Alia’s great grandfather) left Losong to work as a driver first for Polis and later before the end of Emergency for Thong Aik Omnibus Company. It was in Kemasik that Aki and Wan met and married.

Further up the family tree, both sides of Wan and Aki claimed an interesting lineage history. Legend was the line from Wan’s side was from Hadralmaut (now Yemen), shipwrecked, saved by ‘ikan k’acang’ and miraculously delivered to the beach of Terengganu. The family claimed that it is a curse that any of the descendents is forbidden from eating that kind of fish as a gesture of gratefulness. Those that tried or inadvertently eaten one suffers a bad rash. The slight Middle-East blood was apparent that our nose ‘doklah kepek sangat’. On Aki’s side, the claim was that the family originated from Pagar Ruyung in Sumatera, a royal bloodline (albeit royal refugee) traced to Sang Sapurba of Bukit Siguntang. Aki Wel (Nyang Wel to Alia) would talk about this excitedly every time we nudge him into tale-telling perhaps trying to convince his skeptical ‘cucu’ of the history.

Let me keep only to the history to that I heard first hand.

Che and Nyang Man
Hajjah Wan Mandak binti Long (d. 1991) and Haji Abdul Rahman bin Awang (1913 – 1994)

Nyang Man, though born in Terengganu used to grow up in a palace in Pekan. The late Bonda Tuanku he claimed was his ‘bonda angkat’ and the effect of his stay in the vicinity of the palace, were quite visible in his manner. He ‘must’ be properly served at every meal. His plates must be neatly arranged in a ‘talam’ and I can still picture Che sitting ‘bertimpuh’ beside him, not eating together but ever ready to serve him, pouring the water to wash his hand, passing the cup and all that. And meal time must be a quiet time. We the ‘noisy’ cucus better be quiet or else. Nyang was also famed for his temper. ‘Bekeng’, we would say of him. But despite it all, he was a dotting grandfather, he would visit us every day without fail and there would always be some ‘roti bata’ or fruits and the occasional apples, grapes or oranges. Then, those were a luxury and expensive. So the apples must be sliced for everyone to share. His temper were sometimes downright scary that we chose to run away. I recall one day he lost his temper because we were making noise while he was eating. We were so scared that we sneaked away when he started praying. So sacred we didn’t even tell Che’ we were running home. Our house was like 2 kilometers away through a ‘jalan kampong’. Not long after we get home, we could hear his motorbikes and we hide. ‘Pah kuane budok-budok?’ he asked. Apparently when his temper subsided, he was worried of the missing cucus’. Being the only cucus, we had his full love. He would be mad at us one moment we must not be around, and the next moment he would miss us and took us home. Even with his meager bus driver salary, he would ensure that we would always have some pocket money. Even if it was just five sen. There would always be a ten ringgit gift, every time we went back to boarding school and later to universities. He would also ensure that there will always be a ‘duit raya seringgit’ for us all, even after we were working, because that is his ‘duit raya’ and that gift must be accepted even when we were already in his word ‘biar mung kaya doh pong’.

In his younger days, Nyang was a trader plying on ‘Perahu Besar’ between Terengganu and Patani to barter trade in rice. This trade he kept until the early days of Japanese occupation. When war ended, he joined the Police Force as a driver and moved to Dungun where he continued through part of the Emergency. He used to relate the many experience driving the Mat Salleh Tuans and Mems through communist infested Bukit Bauk, all the way to Fraser’s Hill in convoys guarded by the Ferret Scout car. The killing of Sir Henry Gurney in Fraser’s Hill (7th October 1951) he said, happened no long after one of his trip there. Fearful of the constant ambushes in the area of Bentung Pahang, Bukit Bauk Dungun and everywhere else then, he decided to leave the Police Force to be a civilian. His driving experience landed him the job as a bus driver with Thong Aik Omnibus, a job he kept till his retirement in 1971.

I have to make a research as to when Nyang and Che were married. But it would be interesting to note that it was an arranged marriage between ‘dua-tiga pupu’ - distant cousins. Wan was born at the end of war. Despite the seven children, Wan was the eventual ‘anak tunggal’ as others passed away at a very young age. Perhaps it was destined that we the 14 grandchildren would somewhat replaced his six early departed children, at least in making up the number of the cucus he might otherwise had.

When we were staying in Kampung Padang Polis, Nyang was working as a bus driver and Che was next door to our house running a little sundry shop. Perhaps it was that business exposure, ‘helping to count money’ (ha ha…) that put me a business now. That shop I recall, was most memorable for being the stop for the traveling Clorox entourage. Tens of small cars (was it Austins), a blaring van with speaker horn and ladies in white uniform. There were also the Dumex tour where my mother would exchange coupons with plates and dishes and the ‘Minyak Afiat’ sales van with a very catchy jingle. Almost daily also the lorry from the sundry supplier or the ‘bottlers’ (air lamnet and later F&N) would stop by to deliver supply and I got to help choose the ‘goods’ – biskut cotek, biskut lapis, biskut kapek. One incident I would never forget was when my brother, Ajik, then about the age of five, ran to the very middle of the road, stood up and raised his hand to the incoming traffic. It was pure commotion. Che, and everyone else was screaming. And a lorry, the bottlers lorry, screeched to stop. The lorry was thankfully slowing down to stop at the shop. Otherwise it would have been a tragedy. The next day, a timber fence went up around the house.

Che’ used to tell stories about the era of her childhood. One was about the first plane she ever saw. Once, an amphibious plane landed in the Sungai Terengganu near Losong. The whole village was thrilled with such amazing bird. Many including her father took a boat and rowed near to the plane. Excited, she hopped on board. ‘Tapi Che dok tengok menda satu pong, che’ n’usuk dalang perahu, t’takuttang.’ she said laughing, The next time, planes appeared, she related, it was the Japanese Imperial Army bombing the fuel depot in Pulau Kambing. For that she became fearful of planes right up to her old age.

Of Che. I recalled her as a quiet and graceful lady. An exact opposite to Nyang but nevertheless a perfect companion. In her, I see pure strength. How else could she accept losing six children and carried on with life full of gratitude. I remembered once she told me of her dream she had after the lost of her last child, a boy at the age of six. She was so depressed and lost. Until one day she had a beautiful dream. In her dream, she saw a chariot in the sky. On the chariot waving to her was the Prophet. It was I think the greatest gift she ever had and she always said to me that she believed that in the day of judgement, all her children will be waiting for her at the gate of Paradise.

May they both be blessed by Allah and remembered forever in the prayer of us grand and great grandchildren of them. Al-Fatihah.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

mail, e-mail and sms

Oh, I love the way we now communicate. If we refuse to see someone face to face, send sms. And it doesn’t matter if you were an MP, Director of Custom or a diva. The use of sms seems infinite. You can use it to make Mawi a millionaire, send a ‘brand new City vs second-hand Tiara’ jokes, offer ‘massage’ service or threaten somebody. When someone had used the sms to ‘talak’ his wife, I wonder if he can use it also to say ‘aku terima nikahnya’ so and so. And if you were better equipped, like having a ‘communicator’, O2 or a ‘blackberry’ (or the old-fashioned’ lap-tops) send an e-mail. I say lap-tops are old-fashioned because only salesmen (ha ha ha….) lug them around these days. The convenience of the IT technology allows people like me to work something at home or wherever, post it on the internet and when I get to the office, download and continue. But old habits (laziness) is something hard to change. Kalu malah tu malah gok. Even if the government pays for your latest Nokia. I used to keep up with the technology, used to use an O2 but when one day the battery goes jeng and caused a memory wipe-out, I decided to ditch it and went back to a primitive 6230. My staff in particular are happy because my sms instructions are now shorter.

Used to be we send messages by postmen at the post office. Only then, we call them letters. If the messages need to be delivered urgently there was the telegram. (Well Alia, I know you have never seen one but when I was in boarding school like you now, there was a thing call telegram money order and it was a real life-saver.) Posmen rides a red bicycle and goes around delivering letters or the occasional parcel. That image was immortalized in the textbooks of that era.

In Kemasek, there wasn’t even a post office until the late 70’s. We had a wakil pos at a Kedai Haji Salleh. There was a red post box in front of the shop and in the shop was a post counter. You can get your stamps there. Then, stamps wasn’t meant for posting letters only. We kids had a saving program called kad simpanan setem pejabat pos or something like that. Every five cents you saved gets you a stamp that you paste on a card. Once you collected 20 stamps or a ringgit, bring the card to post office and have your deposit recorded in Buku Simpanan Pejabat Pos. Because there was no post office in Kemasek, a full card gets me a trip to Kerteh for the deposit. There were cards for ten cents and twenty cents stamps but with a ten cents a day pocket money, five cents stamp was all we could afford. I have lost the Buku Simpanan but I believe like the thousands of my generations, there were still some balance in them stuck in the unclaimed money fund. But at least those remaining few ringgits now helps finance the nation.

When I was small, I was amazed at how letters were delivered. I had for a long time believed that letters dropped in the post box would find its way through an underground pipe line or something and wallah find its way to the postmen at the other end. Funny eh? Yes, funny, because I believed that until I was seven or eight.

My seven year old son? He can already figure out the wireless network to play his internet game.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

menda gok standad standad ning?

Once again, somebody are making noise. Malaysian universities failed to make it in the top 500 universities in the world. That is by the Shanghai Jiao Tong Top 500 World Universities Ranking. Who is the Shanghai Jiao Tong? I have no idea but I know for sure that name will surface again same time next year. We are so desperate for ‘world’ recognition, don’t we? Solution? Surely we can repeat a resemblance to Malaysian Book Of Record. Move over, Guinness! Get it?

Not that many days ago too, the press had a field day attacking the poor ‘sweetheart’ Syarifah Amani. Some ‘Persatuan Melayu’ from north even calls for her to be stripped of her award. Pity her. Pity Faizal too. Soon the ‘persatuan’ will ask Astro to strip the AF Juara from him because he can only speak Melayu with plenty of ‘g’. ‘Saya tuju kang kemenangang saya ini kepada peminak-peminak saya……’ He said something like that on the podium that night. Did he not?

All the ruckus we make, especially in the national papers, are really not worth the print space. It seems that we dwell on the issue like to ‘lepah gerang’ (lepas geram – standard Melayu). Or do we ‘lepah gerang’ because of the pent-up frustration we have been harboring within? Phew! Some ‘frustration’ we do have inside, it seems.

I remember the earliest time of standard or ‘piawaian’ when crash helmet law was introduced some ages ago. It soon set the people talking about standards, standard this and standard that. ‘Hok ni standad, hok ni dok’ they would argue. ‘Aku tahulah hok ni dok standad, tak dok cok siring’. Oh’ its SIRIM for the uninitiated.

Then we had another ‘standard’ invasion. Malaysia adopted the SI (System Internationale) system of measurement. Kain se ela is now sold se meter. Gula sekati became gula se kilo. No more kaki, inci or ‘hung’, its now millimeter, centimeter and meter. Batu (miles) became kilometer. And batu jalan (milestone) became ….?

Then came the standard Sistem Ejaan Bahasa Melayu. No more ‘2’ to represent plurals as in buah2. It was to be buah-buah. No more ‘e-tanda’ and no more apostrophe at the end of a Dato’. Don’t they linguists know how difficult it is to differentiate between perak (silver) and perak (stupid) when you couldn’t pronounce the e and e-tanda correctly?

For us professionals, we were told that to be world class, we have to be accredited with ISO and for that we have to pay a bundle. Standardizing creativity and artistic sensitivity? Come on! We know it’s about making money. For somebody else at least.

If only we came to our senses and know that we can’t bring everything to uniformity we could know that we need not live by other people’s standards. More importantly we could learn to accept mistakes and the imperfection of others. We could laugh at the ‘stupid(ity)’ of Amani, ‘senyung sokmo’ a la Faizal, and preserved the beauty of our (old fashioned) language. If we can live not by the standards of others, not even the Shanghai Jiao Tong, or some standard of ‘malay-ness’ as proclaimed by any ‘persatuan’ or the ISO, we would be much open and tolerant. And we could save a lot of money, or print space in the newspaper.

After all, in our way of saying it we can always quip, ‘Menda gok standad standad ning?’

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

games we used to play

My children, especially Amir and Adlan, and Atin too, have been pestering me without success for years now to get them the PS 2. Or is it now PS 3? But even without it, they have been playing online. When they met their friends, the subject now was ‘Runescapes’ and the treasures, magic potions, weapons or extra lives they had. Apparently they have been playing and chatting on the free channel for sometimes now. And, they have their own ‘skype’ accounts too.

In our days, computer games were unheard of. Even the computer was unheard of. The closest to it, the calculator, I only get to own in the university in 1981. The idea of computer, my earliest memory of it was from a Disney movie, ‘Computer Wear Tennis Shoe’ they used to screen in Hargraeves Hall. The closest real computer I get to see was at my first job (Mas Othman Associates 1984) but the first I got to play with was the Siemen Nixdorf in ITM Computer Lab (1986). Then you even have to take off your shoes before entering the lab. Such a valuable piece of equipment. In UTM earlier (1981) computer lesson was about the punch card. Stacks of them – for just a simple calculation.

In the younger days, games means something that you must first make before you can play with. It also means having to go out to the bush or to the rubber plantation or the river or the beach to get the right materials. Some you gather from wastes before the term ‘recycling’ was even coined. All the games I knew must be played with others. None I can recall that you can enjoy alone. And playing with others could also means it ended with a fight, g’ocoh, g’omo and the likes.

Believe me, the games we played were rather technically difficult to make. Now, I’m not sure I can make them again. Only recently I tried making the ‘sunai daun nyor’ (coconut leave whistle) but couldn’t make a sound out of it. Now, I don’t think I can make a ‘bedil buluh cina’ that can explode, or ‘kipas buah getah’ that can spin or ‘senapang kayu’ that can shoot the ‘peluru pelepah nyor’. The kites, that’s impossibly difficult.
Maybe somebody who still has the skill can organize a workshop and I’d be happy to join.

To be continued.
[salam to chech-mak and ck for dropping the notes. just noticed them. thanks]

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

gege, g’ego and g’ogeh

Now is the time of the world cup. It’s simply out of synch not to write anything about it. But that is the problem. When you talk you can’t write. The finger can’t type when you mouth’s gege.

Gege is to describe when one is making noise, usually loudly at something non-issue. ‘Ho nye gege bak Ronaldo dok leh sko go. Die tu reti bile maing bola?’ (What’s he so noisy about Ronaldo not scoring goals. When was he any good at football?)

To gege is to make the headlines? Close.

G’ego is Terengganu for ‘gegar’, meaning shake, shaken, vibrate, pulsate etc. Also literally describe commotion or turmoil. Something that kicks a fuss. ‘Bak pe nye lok Tun M wak kenyataang gitu. G’ego Pok Loh. Habih seme gege kene royak sokong sape.’ (Why let Tun M make that kind of statement. Pak Lah is shaken. Everyone has to loudly now show whose side they now support.) Oops. The statement may has something to do with the current scenario and years from now when my children ask me about that statement, I’ll say, ‘Go google the history.’ If you now google the headlines you will notice that when the world cup started, all the gege of the APs, Proton, Augusta and the scenically (or ‘cynically’ - depending on which side of the causeway you were) crooked bridge seems to quieten considerably. Guess it takes one gege to silence another.

Back to the world cup.

Surely you notice that when players walk in to the pitch, they touch the grass? Notice the goalkeeper running to the end field and shake the woodworks? Ritual or asking the goalpost to be on their side? Seen how many time the woodworks g’egor when hit by the ball? Even Kaka would swear the woodwork was on the Australian's side. See the agony on their face? My point exactly.
To shake is ‘ogeh’. Maybe the goalie just wants to be certain the post sturdy. Dok g’ogeh.

As far as Pak Lah, the papers today headlines MTs’ undivided loyalty. Then he has nothing to worry. He is already politically rock steady it seems. In Terengganu slang, ‘tolok dok d’egih’

Saturday, June 17, 2006

budu, caviar and sepat pekasam

I admit, I watch Akademi Fantasia too. I can’t be sure why. Maybe I just love seeing the misery of the students kicked-out. Never mind their off-key vocal, after all they are just students. I didn’t catch the recent one but was quite disappointed when Atin told me Karen, the ‘amoi’ from Kota Baru was dismissed. That ‘mek’ has quite a good voice (I watched the first concert rerun). They say the boyfriend giving her budu on stage sealed her fate. Was it the ‘boyfriend’ or the ‘budu’?

Budu is the special treat of the East Coast – both Kelantan and Terengganu and wherever their diaspora can be found. Those from the west coast that jokes about it are simply those that have not tasted it. Once you do, you could end up a ‘convert’. When teased, a lady at Pasar Siti Khadijah in Kota Baru had this to say, ‘Abe-abe jange gura bak budu ning, kene sekali ke, nikoh mek Kelate.’ (You guys don’t joke about this budu , once hooked you’ll be courting Kelantan girl to marry). But that, that hooks the guys - was it the budu or ‘mek Kelate’?

For us Terengganuan, budu is taken sparingly as a ‘cicah’ for ‘ikang panggang’ or ‘daging bakar’ – sometimes with a dash of tempoyak and ‘lada jarum’ (cili padi for you orang luar). The convert (my other half - Yati, included) use it as ‘kuah’ (gravy). A friend of mine, a chef-lecturer in UiTM had it in sandwich, mind you, while in England.

Budu is simply preserved anchovies in salt. My father use to make it for our own consumption. In the good ‘bilis’ season, he would buy a basketful of bilis, clean it thoroughly, mix it with salt, place in jar and store. After about a month, the anchovies meat break down to liquid and budu is made. The ‘hampas’ – heads, bones etc settles at bottom of jar. We Terengganuan don’t eat the hampas but the converts do, even as sandwich spread like my good friend. The secret to better budu is the modification; add some ‘menisang’, and ‘asam gelugor’. Can’t reveal too much though.

I believe with proper marketing, say like product placing in James Bond movies, the budu can rub shoulder with caviar one day. After all, you see the caviar factory in Bond’s 1999 The World Is Not Enough and still you yearn for its ‘class’ness. Alan wanted to try caviar so much (pengaruh wayang le tu) he belched at it the first time at the sushi bar.

My father makes ‘ikan jeruk’ too, in the good season preparing for the ‘musing hujang’ or the monsoon when nobody goes out to fish. In the seventies, the only lauk you can get during monsoon was ikan masin, ikan jeruk or the rare ikan sardin. Making it is much simpler , just plenty of salt and a ‘tempayan’ required. Place 3 inches thick salt at the bottom of the tempayan, place the fish, top up another 3 inches of salt. Repeat until the tempayan is full.

The better of the preserved fish must be the sepat pekasam. My mother in law, made them from sepat caught in the ‘bendang’ when it dries up. Unlike ikan jeruk that is preserved in salt, sepat pekasam is preserved in fermented rice. I don’t know the technicality but the sepat pekasam fried with sliced onion and bawang surely up your ‘selera’ several notches. ‘Mak T’tua lalu depang pun dok sedor weh…’

Of Kelantanese market girls - I’ll pen it next time.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

the last great blackout

‘Gelak-guguk’ a Terengganuan would say. Pitch black darkness. It tells not only of having no light whatsoever but of the state of mind, total darkness, clueless, bewildered and lost, not even a glint of hope. And so in that state we rejoice at the flicker of light. For light is freedom. In light we would be ‘terang-derang’ – basked in light. Gelak-guguk is felt when one's black-out, when one fainted due to stress or heat or extreme exhaustion, the same felt when news was censured and prevented from being even told. In the matter of the power black-out happening some 10 years ago, we were now told that we were not told everything or anything at all. There was the (news) blackout and we were for long kept in the dark, gelak guguk.

This is an interesting time for those of us that enjoy the freedom to say things we want to say. We blog in the cyberspace not wanting or even intending to hurt anyone. We did that (the hurting) much too much already in the real world. I say this is an interesting time because the battle of words is taking place among the greatest man of modern Malaysia, ex-PM Tun Mahathir against all that he was against, and it seems to bring to life all his once quiet nemesis. Within a space of mere days we had people like former TNB Chairman, Tan Sri Ani Arope talking about the 1996 IPP agreements, former high court judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid Syed Abdullah, talking about his 1996 ‘resignation’ and a couple more smaller voices, from the past - cabinet ministers included. The fact that they were now talking seems to suggest the undoing of a gag that had lasted a decade. And we quietly wish that it would also lift from us the shroud that has for long veiled us from the happenings in this beloved country. We hope that the revelation will bring the light that will end the blackout.

It seems now that the blackout on 29th September 1992, was an event that leads to many things; another blackout in June 1995, and the blackout we now must impose on ourselves now the TNB tariff had gone up. Many things had been up recently, petrol, interest rates, construction materials, car prices (the luxury ones) and my own blood and cholesterol levels, but that because I am older.

Of course we can all listen to our DPM and change our lifestyle. I’ll settle for the 5 series, not the 7. The new Harrier looks good too. Ha….ha.

This is not a political blog and it would never be. It is only a record of what happened then in my ‘parallel universe’.

In all the great blackouts, I was by chance spared the agony of being trapped in jam or in the unconditioned office.

I remember 29th September 1992 well because it was the day I had to move house and had to handle everything myself, depending only on my car and no help from any of my office mates who had promised to help. I was staying at 31 Jalan Bangau Shah Alam and moving to a bungalow at No 6 Jalan Petalawati, both in Section 6. It was a bewildering moments because phones can’t be used, and nobody knew what was happening. There was none to ask either because it was a working day. It was only later at night when electricity was reconnected we learnt of the great blackout. And what a blackout it was. That kind of helplessness of not knowing what was happening was not unlike the days of ‘Chow Kit’s Adam’ and I was wildly wondering if there was another tragedy. Well, 1992 wasn’t that far from the year of uncertainty.

The next blackout in June 1995, I was already in Terengganu. And Terengganu was spared the blackout because of Kenyir Power Station.

So we all hope that there’ll be more news, good news I mean. Let there be light. So from the ‘gelak-guguk’ we would be in ‘terang-derang’. And the last great blackout would be the last.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

train ride

Only 'orang Teranung' have the honour of coming from the only state in Malaysia without train service. It wasn’t really true because once upon a time there used to be one train plying between Bukit Besi and Sura in Dungun. More about it later.

Now when I’m in KL, I hardly drive. Eleven years of jam-free driving in Kuala Terengganu kind of make me paranoia of the long un-moving queues. Of course I don’t mind being driven around even in a jam. It’s a glee (geli?) watching them in the cars around you putting on make-ups, eating sandwich, reading newspaper, talking, smiling, arguing to themselves (oh… on the cellphone maybe) or snoring away. I mean the drivers.

So when in KL, I parked my car, walked across to Setiawangsa LRT station and took a ride everywhere the line can possibly take me. With LRT, I made Sentral’s Strudel as my favourite meeting place. It seems that most clients and consultants don’t mind the train ride there. And meeting with a good sandwich and coffee as company surely beat the cramped meeting rooms and the hours wasted looking for parking bays. And there’s always a choice of mamak fare or the yuppy-ish Hilton/Meridian upstairs.

Train ride changes the way I attend to business. I now would rather don short sleeve shirt, jeans and sneakers. Rucksack replaced the briefcase. I guess at this late age, you don’t care about making a good (or should I say goody-goody) first impression anymore. After all we architects have the ‘artistic license’ to dress differently. And with higher electricity bills, it's time to wardrobe the suits away.

Train rides now include the ERL to KLIA. Its 28 minutes travel time permits me to push my meeting to end just in time. No more have I to make the excuse of leaving the meeting at four to catch the flight at seven-thirty. Okay, I still do that to get away when the meeting was boring and dragging. You know, those young project managers talk too much and spent too much time in meeting room rather than be on site in the mud or climbing the scaffoldings like we do. In Terengganu, we call these meeting room managers, ‘teng kosong’ (empty cans). Put a stone in a tin can, shake it and the noise is loud. Fill it to the brim, shake it, it make no noise at all.

And in KL, there’s also the monorail and the KTM Komuter.

For ‘budak koleq’, those train rides on the Ekspres Sinaran Pagi would hold a thousand memories.

Keretapi Bukit Besi was a far cry from the clean, sleek electronic trains of today. I’m not sure if it was run on diesel or charcoal, but we had fun chasing it to board as it moves out from Sura Gate. And your white shirt ended black when you get to Bukit Besi.

someone noticed this blog. really?

This is a good moment. It’s 1.43am June 3, 2006. I’m home alone. Yati and the kids gone for their Kedah holiday. I can’t sleep so I switched on my laptop and surf the blog. On Mcoba website, under ‘koleq’s blog’ was a link to this weblog. At the end of it was a figure 83 hits. I wasn’t sure if the hits were through mcoba site or on my blog which could mean the accesses I made to update the blogs which mean nobody else reading it.

But at least I can now tell Alia, ‘See. Someone’s now reading my blog too you know…..’

Sunday, May 28, 2006

soh, dok soh and soh doh

I am one of those (ok, maybe the only one) who uses the mosque especially between the time of maghrib and isya to sit in such a quiet place and in the company of such quiet people. Sometimes when I didn’t fall asleep, I listened to the tok gurus or learn to read the Quran. I admit that I slept a lot while waiting for prayer and listened to maybe some bits and pieces of the teachings, but I guess those bits and pieces if I could properly put to practice is better than having a huge amount of knowledge that I don’t bother to practice. After all my old ustaz told me that if I entered the mosque with niat iktikaf, I get some pahala even if I were sleeping. And I tell you those short sleep are really deep and refreshing sleep. For those who have stress and insomnia, may I suggest the mosque as a remedy? You only need to see the amount of blissful sleep the congregations get during Friday sermon to agree with me. The same remedy is good for some mental block or writer’s block too.

My lepak time in the mosque helped to educate a jahil person like me considerably. At least during those fiqh (spelt fekah in Bahasa) lecture I get to learn something that is soh or dok soh especially in the matter of rituals – prayer, fasting etc.

I remember a soh dok soh joke from my younger days.

Once there were four Chinese mualaf. They stopped by a mosque to pray. The prayer time had passed so they had to pray by themselves. One was appointed the imam. These four were recent convert and not really versed in the aspects of rituals but they tried their very best to fulfill the obligations. Mualaf 1 became the imam. Soon after the takbir a mosquito bit Mualaf 2 on the arm. He gave a slap. Pang. Mosquito’s dead. Soon the bite became itchy and he started to scratch. Scratch, scratch, scratch. Mualaf 3 remembered his feqah lesson. He whispered to Mualaf 2. ‘Jangan garu, dok soh sembahyang.’ (don’t scratch. Your prayer’s nullified) Mualaf 3 remembered that one cannot talk in prayer so he too whispered, ‘ Shhh…. jangan cakap. Dok soh sembahyang.’ (Shhh…. Don’t talk. Your prayer’s nullified) Mualaf 1, the imam heard the whispering at the back. Thankful at Mualaf 3 reminder, he whispered, ‘Mujur aku dok cakap.’ (lucky I didn’t say a word).

Friday, April 28, 2006

tahi minyak gaul nyor

I had quite a late supper a few days ago. With me was Yati, Abang Hadi, Medal and his side-kick from our Kota Baru office. Talks went from the RM 45 ‘nasi dagang’ to the best ‘nasi himpit’. For many of us, nasi himpit is taken with satay, either in the form of ketupat or the actual compressed rice or rice cake. The gravy would be the grounded groundnut in spicy curry.

Then Abang Hadi began to relate about the exclusive nasi himpit served at his home during raya. This nasi himpit comes not with gravy but with ‘sambal nyor’ or finely grated coconut lightly fried with a right mix of shredded fish. For that kind of nasi himpit, I too have something to add. In my days Che’ my grandmother used to make nasi himpit with ‘sambal tahi minyak’ or ‘sambal nyor’ mixed with a little of the tahi minyak. Even alone tahi minyak mixed with a little sugar can be a good sambal not only for nasi himpit but normal rice too.

For the uninitiated, tahi minyak is a by-product of making cooking oil from santan or coconut milk.

Before palm oil was introduced, we had depended on coconut as a source of cooking oil. That simple home-grown technology ensure that all the coconuts are used and not wasted under tree when it’s old and fallen off. Coconut cooking oil was then sold in big cans and sold measured in a small laddle with a long thin handle. Honestly, I have not seen the instrument again for over like thirty years and I do not know if I could describe it well enough.

Well, producing coconut oil is not really technology. A know how maybe. To make the cooking oil, santan is kept overnight before being placed in a cauldron and boiled over a wood stove. The boiling goes for hours for the santan to change from milk to oil. After a certain temperature or time the change took place and such was described as ‘pecah minyak’ (breaking off oil). This you can observe when cooking ‘gulai’ or curry. I had a nasty experience not to mention embarrassing to my guest when an 8 ringgit a bowl cendol tasted like coconut oil at a premier hotel in Kenyir. The cook must have cooked the not so fresh santan for the cendol to the point the santan was boiled it ‘pecah minyak’.

The separation of oil left behind residues we call tahi minyak. Its oily and a little ‘hangit’ but taste quite distinctively. Mix it with grated coconut and it makes an unbelievably fine ‘sambal’ dish.

Tahi minyak was also a term to describe someone whose word is rather believable and entertaining but can’t be relied on. So when he’s superfluously described as tahi minyak gaul nyor, (tahi minyak mixed with grated coconut) he goes up one higher level. He‘s one smooth operator.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Nasi disaji pula digaduhkan, padi di ladang dilanyak gajah tidak disusahkan

Nasi disaji pula digaduhkan, padi di ladang dilanyak gajah tidak disusahkan

( a rare Malay proverb – literally translated as ‘rice served questioned, rice (paddy) field trampled by elephant ignored)

In a rare instant, one frail lady caught the attention of national press to the extend of gracing the front page for days and an editorial. She was a makcik I fondly nick-named ‘makcik bersila’ – the Che Ngah Nasi Dagang of Chendering Terengganu. I called her so because she served Nasi Dagang sitting ‘bersila’ on a stainless steel platform. And bersila for her is kind of distinctive because in Terengganu women were supposed to be bersimpuh. I also knew her personally because I frequented her stall often, and her architect grandson used to work for me. For that I get VIP treatment at her stall – like getting free ‘kerapah’ - the extra that the fish head was supposed to be after the meat all ‘cobek’-ed away.

In Kemasek when I was small, there was the famous nasi dagang Che Ngah Dayang. I frequented her stall almost every morning to collect the nasi dagang bungkus for sale at my father’s canteen. When we were in the university and later working in KL, the holiday home would not be complete without a breakfast of her nasi dagang even if it meant queuing at her ‘lambor’ in the early morning. Che Ngah Dayang had a similar style with Che Ngah Cendering. They both served their nasi dagang ‘bersila’. You need to ‘kecek’ her for the extra ‘kerapah’ and she would fondly joke ‘Che Ngah tahu doh mung nok kerapah, Che Ngah wi lah. Tapi jangang makang banyok sangat ‘pala ikang, kang bodo.’ (I know you want the head and bones, I’ll give to you. But don’t eat too much fish head, it can make you dumb.)

I love nasi dagang. Yes, my mother make the best one but it’s by invitation only. Next (not in any particular order) would be Che Ngah in Cendering, Kak Pah in Batu Burok, Haji Yeng in Kuala Ibai or Nasi Dagang Batu Enam. I like it so much that even if I heard of a good nasi dagang in KL or elsewhere I would make it a point to try.

I don’t want to talk about the issue of her RM45.00 fish head because it was already so much debated. But if my opinion is worth anything, I don’t think that the RM 1000.00 compound was fair. For a petty trader like her, a thousand ringgit was h-u-g-e

And if this so called price control is allowed to go, soon we’ll hear the enforcement officer imposing fines on the ‘kopi Hai-Peng’ in Cukai, ‘cendol’ trader at Taman Tun, the 'popia' seller at Lucky Garden or the ‘sup torpedo’ at Jalan Doraisamy. Because they all have something in common, their’s were more expensive than others. Perhaps the enforcement officer should include Coffee-Bean and Starbucks too.

And if the enforcement goes on, we would one day be forced to have only a standard priced ‘mi-segera Mawi’ – at all our favorite stalls.

I do not know what our great friend from Putrajaya has achieved by reporting Che Ngah, make her a subject of national debate, but the proverb I use as the title above I guess fits his action.

Monday, April 03, 2006

lok, lok lek and lok lik

Lok, in Terengganu slang means to let, not to bother, couldn’t care less or anything similar.

‘Bakpe mung lok adik mung makang beluah tu?’

(Why let your brother messing up with the food?).

‘Loh gi lah, doh mung bijok sangak aku lok je lah.’

(Up to you, since you are so smart, I don’t want to bother.’)

To ‘lok’ could also meant to let the world passes you by. Or to some extend a reflection of apathy.

‘Ho. Nye lok belake. Minyok naik ke, berah naik ke, lok je. Tak dok nok ca’ra pong.’

(‘Huh. They just let it be. The oil price is up, rice price is up, no one bother. No one even care.’).

If ‘lok’ is apathy, ‘lok lek’ describe a state of indecision or fickle mindedness.

‘Nok gerok guane? Bos lok lek, lok lek nok buak putusang. Kita nok buak putusang kang dia dok setuju pulok.’

(‘How to move on? The boss is still undecided. If we decide for him, he might not agree with it.’)


That has nothing in common with lok and lok lek.

Lok-lik is a delicacy. A rare one made of dried rice. The older generation must have perfected the art of recycling. Rice, the cooked not the uncooked one, from the balance of our meal were dried in the sun for several days rather than thrown to the waste bin. In fact nothing goes to the waste bin. The balance of rice is kept as ‘nasik dinging’ (overnight rice) that makes a good late night supper or morning breakfast. And any ‘nasi goreng’ connosieour will swear that the best ‘nasi goreng’ must use the ‘nasi dingin’. The waste rice goes to the chicken. The sun-dried rice is later pounded in ‘lesung’, mixed with ‘menisang’ or 'gula melaka' and then stir-fried. Something else (I don’t know what) is added to make it a bit sticky. That cake is called ‘lok-lik’ - a sticky sweet and crunchy delicacy.

Ever heard someone saying ‘mek tu lok lik’ sikit (that lady’s a little ‘lok lik’)?

Oh, he meant she‘s deliciously sweet but a little errr… sticky.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

watching tv

In a small village like Kemasek, television came late, only sometimes in the 70’s. The first television was bought by Tokeh Ah Sa, the village big fishing man, the ‘taiko’ of fishing industry, with his own fleet of fishing boats, ice making facility and lorries. Stories told that the tv was bought when he strikes big on the ‘nombor-ekor’. In his ‘bangsal’ fresh fish were packed with ice in wooden boxes and the waste of the fishing industry, ‘anak ikan’ (small size fishes) as we call it were boiled and later dried under the sun together with the dried salted types. The smell of the ‘bangsal’ was nauseating. When television made its way to this village to Tokeh Ah Sa, the ‘bangsal’ became a cinema of sort. The smell of dried fish became oblivious. In Kampung Baru, where Aki and Che lived, the first television was owned by an enterprising Malay businessman (Pak Cik Jakpo I think) who operated a transport business. He was truly enterprising, that he placed the television at the window, built rows of benches on the ground among the coconut tree and had a ‘mi-goreng’ and ‘keropok’ stall set up.

Until the television, movies came to our village like three times a year, sometimes by ‘van jabatan penerangan’ (information department’s van), or by the traveling Nestle or tobacco company motorcade. Of Jabatan Penerangan, I recall the drama ‘Atap Genting Atap Rembia’ and the propaganda interlude in-between, of the cigarette company, some cheap spaghetti-western cowboy kill red indian flick. Those were the era of Rough-riders and ‘tiga-lima’ cigarettes. Camel and Marlboro were unheard of till a decade later.

There were few then who could afford a set. Those who do found their house as unofficial cinema especially on Thursday evening when Malay movies particularly of P.Ramlee or Mat Sentul were aired. How we laugh at their antics.

For us, there was no television at home. So TV viewing became a reward of sorts. Behave and you get to go to Che’gu Zaid’s house and watch TV – once a week at the most. But we have our favorite like Ultraman. Yes we had that on Saturday at 7pm. To watch that we had to sneak away making excuse of going to the grocery (Pak Li had a TV at his shop then) or delaying our bath at the well till Maghrib and risk the cane or the belt.

Then came ‘SINGER’ with its motto ‘menawan keluarga bahagia’ (capturing the happy family). In later years I joked that SINGER kept the happy family captive with its never-ending installment payment. It was they who until then were selling sewing machines that revolutionize TV ownerships. The sales promotion were good, salesmen make house calls and once you signed the agreement have the TV delivered. Then come the installment collection. Many a time hearts were broken when the sets were carted away for non-payment. Then also was the time when the TV license man came calling, like once or twice a year to find the whole village scrambling to hide their sets away.

Those were the years of TV1 and TV2 and in black and white too.

Color TV came at the time of Hussein Onn as the Prime Minister. It was at Cikgu Zaid’s house that I remember waiting eagerly for the TV to change from black and white to colour as the PM officiate the transition. Well Cikgu Zaid had a colour TV way before others.

Today, there are many-many channels to click at the remote. Soon there’ll be many more. The favorites of the yesteryears are now a part of a classic channel. But something remains the same. Our children love the new Ultraman, and best of it all, we are still laughing at Mat Sentul and P. Ramlee.

Monday, February 20, 2006

kemasek (part 1)

Kemasek was the little village I was born in and enjoyed for some twelve years before I got shipped to MCKK. It was once an important little town, with a courthouse of its own, a forestry station and a local council. It was the capital of the once Majlis Tempatan Kemaman Utara.

Now, Kemasek was a village lost somewhere between Kijal, famed for its ‘lemang’and Kerteh the oil town. It is a little village on the seaside road one can’t really recall passing. Soon, there will be a highway to Terengganu, cutting through the hinterland. Few will use the seaside road and pass by its decaying village. And it will be all forgotten.

Despite its insignificance, it was a beautiful village with a beautiful beach. The very beach that was once immortalized in the movie ‘Fenomena’ starring M.Nasir and Ramona Rahman. The scene of the foaming waves breaking on the rock outcrops beautifully captured on the screen was the scene I held dear in my heart. How every school holidays, I climbed up Bukit Taping just to be if lucky at eye level with the eagles and to see the white waves below.

Kemasek, to me, lies between two rocky seaside hills. On the south, Bukit Kuala Kemasek and in the north, Bukit Taping. In between along the beach was all there was to the village. Coming along the road from south one passes Kuala Kemasek, Masjid, Sungai Kemasek, Simpang Empat, Balairaya, Pondok Polis (and Pak Long Polis – the village lone ‘mata-mata’), Rumah Tok Penghulu Wan Hamid and then to me nothing more. Next to Rumah Tok Penghulu was Rumah Mak Wan Gayah (oh her unforgettable ‘kueh tak’- jackfruit tart to be exact) with its plentiful ‘jambu air’ where I was born. Across the road from Rumah Tok Penghulu Wan Hamid was Che’ and Aki’s little sundry shop. Our first house next to it. Maybe I should add Rumah Aki Wel, my grandfather on my father’s side at the foot of Bukit Taping with its ‘pokok pauh’ (mango trees)

Am I nostalgic I am writing this?

Kemasek was about ‘nasi dagang’ CheNgah Dayang, sate Pok Daling, ‘paung’ Che Jah and the Chinese New Year ‘kuih bakul’ of Mek Kiat. It was about Tok Bilal Embong, Tok Imam Haji Mat, the mosque officials, the two copra trader Pok Heng Nyor and Pok Mang Nyor, Pok Mat Nyadat the ‘menisang’-man, Tokeh Ah Sa who got the first television in the village, Awang Hitam and Pak Harun the ‘juragan’. Mak Su Che Sek, Mak Su Bunga, all the colourful Man – Mang Porong, Man Ayam, Man Itik, Man Bas (my grandfather), Ah Kuang the bus conductor, Pak De Kapal Selam, Pak De Pistol and maybe I should add Pok Said Setoking.

Those names - I recall them all from my memory, as I note a colourful and memorable past. But this is only a short note. Maybe in freer time I’ll make a longer note of what I recall of the event and individuals. Till then ……

Saturday, February 18, 2006

isa masuk doh

This is one old tale that Aki (my grandfather) used to tell us. I wrote this sometimes back but held myself from posting it. I could not tell it then as it was not a politically appropriate time to do so. On the national news, the headlines were about a politician ‘Isa’ suspended for money politics. To say ‘Isa masuk doh’ was like saying that Isa was to be arrested or punished. But ‘Isa masuk doh’ was a quip we in Terengganu say to mention the Isya prayer time and being the last prayer of the day to configuratively described the end of one’s life. This Isa; the one in the story was not a politician, only a thief – a small timer at that.

The story.

Once upon a time, there was a man named Isa. He was a thief. Not a fancy thief but a small timer. He has no ambition to be a big time crook, or even a village ‘samseng’ but just happy to steal a chicken or two.

Those days in the villages, houses were on stilts. Underneath the house were normally the chicken coop. Some even kept cows and goats below. That was the way at my grandfather’s house. To keep the cows warm, a small bonfire is kept alight. Rather the wood, the bonfire uses coconut husk. It was slow burning and smoky no doubt but the smoke kept mosquito away. How we could sleep in the smoke was a wonder but those were the days.

Because there were no electricity, nobody lighted the ground and anyone like Isa can sneak in and stay there unnoticed waiting for people to sleep and the opportunity to grab the chicken away. Some village kids uses the same method to ‘skodeng’ or to peep especially at the newly-weds or the ‘orang bujang’ – the good looking ‘janda’ or divorcee. It’s not advisable though because some were known to be showered with hot water or worse ‘cuka getah’. Some men had the scar to remind them of the misadventure for the rest of their live.

Without the electricity, there were no loudspeaker for azan. Prayer time depended on the sound of ‘geduk’ or ‘bedok’. Without electricity, nights were early. Village folks normally retire soon after isya’ prayer. That the family were normally large, was not at all a wonder.

One night Isa the thief went under Pak Mat’s house. He had targeted the chicken coop for sometimes and knew there were chicken and eggs for taking. Upstairs, Pak Mat was reciting the Quran waiting for Isya’ prayer. His wife and kids were gathered at the kitchen. Then in the distance the ‘geduk’ was heard.

‘Mari belaka. Isa masuk doh.’ (Come all. Isa is inside) Pak Mat called out to his wife and kids to get ready for prayer. The kids were up quickly. Footsteps heard.

Downstairs, Isa heard his name mentioned. He panicked and dashed out. In Aki’s word ‘Isa pun lari kecik pala – pala.’ (So Isa run away, his head felt small – sorry I can’t find the right word to translate this)