Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Makan time and unity

I love it when the family get together for makan, or makang as we being Terengganuan now say it. Be it in Raya, kenduri, get together or simply having a meal at Mak’s house. With such a big close family every meal’s a feast.

The last one at Bora Asmara in Sungai Pencala was really great, with almost a full attendance of 15 out of 20 cucus. The noise and commotion was exceptional and the outlet proprietor must have had a foresight to give us the sound proof glass cabana or we could have shattered other diners longing for a romantic night.

Happy birthday Adlan and Atin.

Given free go at the menu, the cucus table went almost fully western, while elders tried out the balinese dancing fish and ‘bandrek’.

But as usual, some can’t take what others are having. I learnt this having in-law from Kedah and ‘biras’ from everywhere else. I still can’t accept mempelam with ‘menisang’ (otherwise known as gula melaka) and santan kelapa (like we Terengganuan take durian with) though I learnt to appreciate sepat pekasam and telor ikan masin and the Kedah side is being slowly but surely converted to the taste of budu. They even have it as kuah to our horror when we Terengganuan use it only as a dip. From my brother in-law Shah I learnt to accept gulai with its purest of the pure tempoyak though I cant take the sambal cili hijau. Yasmin is great with Malay kueh and cakes. She and Ajik is opening a new restaurant in Kota Damansara.and I think it would be great.

At home, when we were in numbers, pot luck was often the order of the day. The dishes can be overwhelmingly national. Those who are adventurous can try all and those who can’t take someone else food simply go for another hidang or another table.

That brings me to a related issue.

With the Merdeka day coming, everyone that writes, writes about merdeka, patriotism and unity. Someone saw Melayu eating with Melayu, Chinese eating with Chinese and Indian eating with Indian and cried ‘hey that’s a cause for social disunity.’

Makan either together or separately was to me a perfectly acceptable social behavior. I don’t want to eat with the same people or having the same food every time. I can’t be joining my Chinese friend when he wanted Bah Kut Teh and I would not invite my Indian friend for lunch when I was having beefsteak.

National unity is like family unity. It is about family members being allowed to do things they enjoy doing, whatever or with whoever. Likewise to makan anything or everything, whatever or with whoever Accepting, tolerating, forgiving and to some extent keeping your say to yourself.

Back to Bora Asmara, Es kelapa duda was a good pointer to A, I heard he introduced a new beau a week later.

Selamat menyambut Ulangtahun Kemerdekaan ke 50.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bali measurement

I was in Bali last week. My ten year due holiday Yati said. But it was not really a holiday, it could not be with all the visits to candi, art market, resorts and construction site of all the thing. At least now I can say I have visited Bali, its temples, beaches, Paparazzi, Ku De Ta, art market and lunched at Bebek Bengil in Ubud, dined at Four Seasons Jimbaran, and had a Bar-B-Q at the beach where the bomb went off. The last one complete with a serenading ‘pemuzik jalanan’ quartet singing Tom Jones, Eagles and Ebeit G Ade. We even had the tremor from Java earthquake to complete the experience. Alhamdulillah nothing untoward happened.

Bali is amazing. It was an abode of living culture. Here celebration and festivals was happening every day and for every reason. We saw the daily temple prayer, marriage celebration and even mass cremation. All and everything was celebrated.

With the growing demand for luxury holiday homes, lands especially those fronting beaches are being put up for sale. At Nusa Dua, the beaches appeared to be owned by the foreign hotels, at least there was a kind of security check at the beachfront.

Everywhere I noticed billboards advertising land for sale.

The measurement unit for land in Bali is ‘are’ (pronounced are-re). I thought it was short for acre, I was wrong.

My guide explained that one ‘are’ is one-hundredth of a hectare. Now I needed a calculator. So I asked how many ‘are’ needed to build a decent house. ‘Like four’ he said, ‘sesudah siap di’kavling’. Oh my …..

An ‘are’ is thus a hectare (2.47 acre x 43560 ft2) or 107593 ft2 divides by 100 which equals to 1075 ft2. Almost equivalent to 100 m2.

What then is kavling?

‘Kavling’ is a term used for sub-divided lot. ‘Tanah kavling’ means a land readily sub-divided from a larger plot to smaller sizes for building houses or in local term ‘villas’.

If anything, here is where you can feel rich. With the current exchange of four hundred ringgit to a million rupiah, we were basically a living millionaire. But to own anything, even a piece of tanah kavling, being a millionaire was inadequate. You needed more. You must have money in the ‘miliyar’.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Global, Glokal redefined.

I remember well the launch of ‘Melayu Glokal’. I was at Primula then, working, and looks like all my friends were in nice baju melayu, celebrating in a kind of raya-like atmosphere. Poor me for not being in the circle. TPM was launching the concept and I thought, great, some concept it was. I remember reading Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat earlier and I thought the concept was already elaborated.

So much for originality.

I spoke to Nik and had the concept revisited from a satirical perspective.

We both were in a way working as consultants to both local and multinationals. Expatriate multinationals and local multinationals too. Maybe the multi in the local multinationals was not truly appropriate, more like Malaysian gone abroad. Multinationals are normally staffed and led by people of multi nationalities.

We both share the predicament of payment difficulty with some Malaysian companies – despite their size, listing status and global face. They tend to be more difficult the bigger they were. They may be appearing as multinational, international set-up but when in comes to paying consultants and contractors, there was the usual dilly-dally, questions and delays. Not to mention the squeezing of fee quantum. Unlike most truly multinationals where fees were agreed and honored to the last cent. Payments were fixed at say 45 days after invoice and the money directly credited into account. No real chasing necessary. The local companies tend to delight in withholding payments, keeping them in short term FD or investing in stocks – also short term. Never mind if the sub-contractors and suppliers were screaming for some cash-flow to keep them going.

In Nik’s experience, he says the local will never make it in the global challenge – as long as they kept to glocal mindset.

So what’s global and what’s glocal?

Global is when one is ready to honor the contract and pay as agreed. No ‘playing’ with other people’s money.

Glokal is when one is downright selfish, regards contract as mere academic exercise, play with other people’ money. Myopic perpetrator of short-term gain.

That was global and glokal redefined.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


It sometimes takes the misery of others for one to count his blessing, to be thankful and grateful, eternally.

I realize from what I went through today, the parallel in the stories foretold often in the Quran. Muhammmad (peace be upon him) was in many occasions, when lost and dejected by the treatment he received from his own people, be comforted in the stories of the miseries and tragedy of the earlier prophets, of Jesus, Moses, Aaron, Jobs and others.

Only in the light of another’s misery one feel the lightness of one’s own pain.

Today, I sat in the company of two old ladies. Distraught and poor. I held back my tears as I watched them eating a few pieces of biscuits and a cup of plain tea. I could see that they are hungry.

Maaf deh, mak cik dok malu nok mitok, sebab mak cik dok makang lagi.

I almost choke as I answered them. ‘Malu mende gok mak cik, orang kaya pung dok berhenti m’itok (meminta).’ And I silently add, ‘and had our fair share of rejection too.’

They could not understand it, I am sure. I said it not about others but myself.

To be here, they must have traveled a long way, and another long way awaits them before they could see the door of their home somewhere. Home – if one could call it such.

And as I watched them, I wash away the anger and frustration bottled within me earlier. The anguish of losing something once in a while, as I could now see, is nothing in the scale of true, almost perpetual misery.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

of kherling and kherlak

If there were to be a grouping, the cerelong would be grouped together with kherling and kherlak. Take note that in kherlak, the a is pronounced as a (as in bar) and not as o (as in lock). Some Terengganuan would prefer to spell as kherelak. The grouping of cerelong, kherling and kherlak was as they all refer to matter of using one’s eye.

To cerelong is to stare.

To kherling (jeling in standard Bahasa Melayu) is to ogle or as some say ‘tengok ikut ekor mata’ (to cast a sideway glance / to see from the corner of one’s eye).

To kherlak is to nod off, to momentarily fall asleep.

When Heliza the sweet Terengganu lass entered the final of Akademi Fantasia 5 recently, many commented on how beautiful her eyes are. ‘Kalu dia kherling ke kita, caaiiir bang.’ (If she should cast a sideway glance at us, our heart melts, brother).

But of the previous year winner from Terengganu ….

Faizal tu? Mende gok? Kalu dia nyanying, aku buleh kherlak.’ (That Faizal? What so? I could fall asleep when he sings.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Of ‘kherlok’ and ‘kherlong'

Kherlok’ describes a state when a person became obviously fearful or intimidated by another person or situation. The best description is of a tortoise withdrawing its head into the shell when in danger. Chicken too, tend to withdraw their head when afraid. Perhaps how the proverb ‘chicken out’ comes about. Kids especially (and elderly too) has a similar reaction to lower their head when afraid, usually when being screwed, gets a lashing or a dressing down. All figuratively.

Kherlong’ means greedy, voracious, gluttonous etc. A kherlong person usually will want to take all to him or herself and has little regards about sharing with others. It is however selectively used on someone who is well off but equally greedy.

Kherlong sungguh Semek, habih nye wak alik kue, padahal orang laing dok dang makang pong’ (That Semek was so greedy. She took away all the cakes when others have not eaten)

‘Mek Yah lagilah, kherlongnya, je’put atas pinggang aku pung dia ambik.’ (Mek Yah was worse, she’s so gluttonous, she even took the je’put from my plate.)

A closer illustration on the right type of a kherlong personality would be on someone who falsify income statement to qualify for free text book, food assistance program, tekun loan, baja subsidi or specifically in the case of Terengganu, the ‘wang ehsan’. ‘Herang sungguh aku. Hok gi ambik wang ehsang tu, ada hok paka kereta pong. Kherlong nye dia.’ (I’m surprised. Among those that take the ‘wang ehsan’ are those with cars. How voracious is he?’

‘Kherlong’ is sometimes confused with cerelong.’ To ‘cerelong’ is to stare, to eyeball or to look angrily at someone.

‘Maroh sungguh dia kat ku. Meroh mata-mata dia cerelong kat ku.’ (He was furious at me. His eye was blood shot when he stares at me.)

An inspirational illustration.

Mamat budak nakal. Dia cuma takut ayah dia je. Kalu ayah dia cerelong pun dia kherlok doh. Kalu ayah dia deheng, lagilah dia takut, kecik pala-pala dia lari masuk rumah.

Mamat is a naughty boy. He only fears his father. He quiets down just by his father’s stare. If the father snarl, he would be scared shit and quickly ran away into the house.

Je’put is the way we pronounce jemput-jemput or cokodok or cucur kodok.
Deheng is to make a noise in the throat, growling more or less.
Kecik pala-pala directly translated as shrinking head to mean being terrified or scared shit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A matter of smell.

Kuala Lumpur has shown its true self. The estuary of mud. Exactly. The June 10 flood had the city soiled. Again?

Lat’s cartoon had me laughing out loud. An amphibian plane flying over Selangor Padang, the pilot announcing ‘we’ll be landing shortly, in DBKL.’ The Datuk Bandar, DID Director, Works Minister, and the Smart Tunnel Engineers, could not even smile I’m sure. Who would? Not after a photo of dejected Pak Lah graced the front page, so soon after a happy one of him gracing the headline a few days earlier.

In one tabloid, a photo of a KL-ite walks pass the muddy road, holding his breath. It must be stinking. The smell of drying mud is normally just ‘hapak’ but with the content of the overflowing river, some carcass incuded, it could be ‘busuk kohong’.

A KL friend, when I called, said there is mud everywhere, it’s good for ‘samak’ he said. It is like somebody wants to samak the whole city. Cruel thought I said. But the flood must have raised their blood pressure level several notches. He must be forgiven for thinking that way.

We have a superfluous way of describing smell. ‘Busuk’ – stinks I think. ‘Busuk kohong’ – stinks to high heaven.

On the lesser degree, there is ‘ko-uh’ to describe the stale air of a damp space. Like the damp carpet in some cheap hotel room. It too of a sweaty body. Not very unlike ‘hapok’ of the Bob Marley hairdo, or the unwashed jeans or ‘spender’ some would say.

But we too love the stinky stuff, the acrid smell of tempoyak, the pungent smell of belacan, or the hapak of ikan pekasam or the durian that had earned the status of ‘taste like heaven but smells like hell’. And then there were budu and cencalok.

The flood would not have happen the engineers say, had the smart tunnel be completed. Or had it not rain that much, the weather man say. The Smart Tunnel would have ensured a flood free city, so they all say. But it floods all the same.

The main work man said, ‘kalau kita tidak mahu banjir berlaku, kita perlu belanja tujuh ke sembilan billion lagi.’

Seven to nine big B? Someone rushes to the drawing board.

Someone else had the proposal ready. Already.

It smells fishy.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Of nasi dagang bungkus and sambal belacan

One thing I noticed among my more successful friends is their keen observation, eye for learning and desire to teach. They may be successful in differing degrees or in different trade but the similarity is there. One that that I noticed most is their keen eye and sharp though witty comment while dining – be at the gerai or in ‘five-star’ restaurants.

I have not written for sometimes because I couldn’t find a subject interesting enough coupled with being busy ‘cari makan’ – moving most of the time. But I was forced now because of a paper I have to present to Part 3 candidates this coming weekend. As always, and as of my other bad habit, I can’t just do one thing at a time. I read like two or three book at one time, moving from one book to another in different places at home or the office. Likewise when writing I move from one subject to the other, in different window. Likewise designing. No wonder clients complain we are rather slow.

Back to the subject of learning.

I met Dato P and To’ Puan yesterday morning at one gerai nasi dagang in Kuala Ibai. The gerai he said he preferred over the more famous Mak Ngah in Cendering for a simple reason; it is much more efficient. ‘Look’ he said, ‘they have the take-away readily packed in ‘kelongsong daun pisang’ and they served you faster. Oh, I didn’t notice that. Well, the nasi dagang may differ but no two nasi dagang taste the same anyway.

Weeks earlier, we had lunch at the new restaurant in town, Restoran Penyu at Bulatan Batu Bersurat (used to be Bulatan Penyu). With us was Ayah Ku. The Chinese fare was good, especially the ‘ikan siakap masak nyonya.’ During the meal, Ayah Ku called one of the waitress, ‘Mek, sambal belacan tak dok ke?’ ‘Tak dok’ she said, we served Chinese food, sambal belacan is not in our menu.’ ‘Tapi kalau ada sambal sedap lagi,’ Ayah Ku added.

Yesterday, when we had lunch there, I recalled the last lunch and ask the waitress, ‘sambal belacan ada?’

She went in and bring out a plate.

This one certainly adapted fast to satisfy their customer. Keep it up and they would go a long way I am sure. I, at least had a good laugh. Similarly, one owner of a gerai tomyam in Cendering became a good friend after I scolded him for asking what we (like ten of us) have eaten after we had cleaned up a large meal. The next time I asked him to ‘kira’ he came with a written bill. Both will be on my list of restaurants / gerai worth going to again.

Another friend had a ‘tissue’ encounter at the old gerai famed for ‘ikan patin masak tempoyak’ in Temerluh. Washing his hand he looked for serviette. None to be seen around. So he went to the counter to enquire. ‘Tissue ada?’ he asked. ‘Ada. Encik ni makan kat mana?’ the girl asked. ‘Sinilah’ he said. So the girl opened her drawer, pull out a piece of serviette. Not exactly one but one already cut to two. ‘Kenapa tak letak tissue dekat sinki?’ he asked. She said, ‘kalau letak situ, semua orang pakai, rugilah saya.’ Clearly furious at the answer, he said, ‘berapa harga tissue sebungkus? Tak pe. Se bungkus ni saya bayar. Awak letak dekat sinki tu. Saya sedekah. Untuk semua orang pakai.’ Turning around he remarked ‘ patutlah awak meniaga tak kaya-kaya, takut sangat nak bersedekah.’

This few anecdotes serves well to show me that successful people are not ordinary people. They live their lives unlike normal people who let things happen and the world passes by.

Those on the way to make it are special people too. They show their willingness to change and adapt and quickly at it.

Me? I don’t know. Really.