Sunday, May 25, 2008

Of bahang bahan-bahan

Material or goods in Bahasa Malaysia is bahan. Terengganuan pronounced it bahang with a g at the end.

Bahang in standard Bahasa Malaysia means heat, like the heat from a furnace.

Bahang bahan(g)-bahan(g) thus can means either to steal the goods or the heat of the materials.

To ‘merasa bahang’ (feel the heat) can mean to be affected; by events or something. It’s much like the proverb ‘siapa makan cili dia terasa pedas’ (he who eats chili shall feel the heat). But bahang in Terengganuspeak is strike. To ‘bahang’ someone is to hit him either by hand or by words like in scolding. Sometimes Terengganuan says ‘tibang’ to suggest the same.

‘Abis lebang-lebang belakang dia kene bahang denge tok laki die.’(Her back is blue-black being hit by her husband)

‘Pucak lesi Mamat parok kena bahang dengan boh die.’ (Mamat was pale after a scolding by his boss)

Bahang too can mean to steal or in a more politically correct term misappropriate.

‘Doh wang ehsang tu dok wi ke kerajaang negeri, nye pakak bahang sek-sek die je lah.’ (With the royalty money not channeled to the State Government, it was being misappropriated by the cronies)

‘Bahang rambang’ meaning to hit at random is a term Terengganuan used to describe blind accusation, similar to ‘serkap jarang.’ or Javanese ‘hentam keromo.’

‘Doh bakpe mung kate gitu ke Derih? Dok baik mung bahang rambang je kate kokrang.’ (Why do you say that about Derih? It’s not right to accuse people blindly.)

‘Aku pong dok tahu sape buak. Doh dia tanye angat, aku bahang rambang je lah.’ (I’ve no idea really. Since he asked, I just answered blindly)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Just by chance

"Oi...Get your filthy hands off my desert!"
"What 'e say?"
Brezhnev took Afghanistan.
Begin took Beirut.
Galtieri took the Union Jack.
And Maggie, over lunch one day,
Took a cruiser with all hands.

Apparently, to make him give it back.

(Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert. Pink Floyd / Roger Waters 1985)

In the movie, Forest Gump, the character played by Tom Hank by sheer stroke of luck appeared at the defining moments of history, influencing some important event in popular culture; among them, the origin of Elvis’s gyrating pelvis, the Nixon’s ping-pong diplomacy and Lennon’s Imagine.

Just by chance or pure coincidence though unlike Gump, it seems that all my overseas visit coincided with some important event or other.

My first Sydney visit in 98 was on the day Anwar Ibrahim was arrested, Australian diplomatic opposition almost led to a diplomatic scuffle with Malaysia. That event led to the infamous black-eye incidence. My Jakarta 2005 visit was during the Ambalat Incidence, with street protest against Malaysia on the street of Jakarta. Sometimes earlier, some few months after the visit to the Hadyai’s Kre Sek Mosque, came the bloodbath that marked the beginning of the end of peace in Southern Thai.

My visit to (actually my return from) Singapore 23.5.08 was on the day International Court Of Justice delivered the verdict. It was the day Pulau Batu Puteh legally became Singapore’s Pedra Branca. I was at the Changi departure lounge when all homecoming Malaysian eyes were fixed on the TV screen. I could not bother as I was exhausted. After all that piece of rock is to me nothing more than a piece of rock.

At KLIA’s arrival hall, someone concerned Malaysian broke the news. It was confirmed by some breaking news on the electronic media later.

The International Court of Justice has decided in favour of Singapore in a 28-year sovereignty dispute with Malaysia over Pulau Batu Puteh - a tiny but strategic uninhabited island the size of half a football field.

[Malaysiakini 23.5.08]

I don’t know Batu Puteh more than a picture of rock with some Singaporean’s helipad and communication tower on it. That’s all. People, the patriotic kind would nevertheless lecture me on matter of national pride and sovereignty. To them I would say ‘why wait a hundred over years to react? It would be a non-issue had we cleverly persisted and retain the southern island some decades ago. A read into Lee Kuan Yew’s memoir of the last decisive moments in the 1963 separation brokering doesn’t help quell the sense of betrayal at all. Never mind the apologetic later written ‘Duri Dalam Daging’.

For now, let’s just let the issue dies down. A lost is a lost and can never be a win, much less a win-win. (Sorry Dato’ Seri Rais, I don’t agree with you) A sense of winning however will satiate some quarters and no one I hope would be raising any keris, tombak or lembing.

Roger Waters wrote the Final Cut after the Falkland War, as a personal protest against Margaret Thatcher’s senseless war venture thousands of miles away in South America. But Falkland was (and is still claimed as) British land and the Union Jack must be defended by all means necessary.

Pedra Branca was lost in the court room. We certainly need not now raise arm and inadvertently go south the same Thatcher’s way.
I pray.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Doh kite seme ni nok makang ape?

Don’t read if you think this is seditious.

The crime of seditious libel was defined and established in England during the 1606 case "De Libellis Famosis". The case defined seditious libel as criticism of public persons, the government, or King. (Wikipedia)

But to criticise and hurt the feeling of the non public person, the ordinary man on the street, the rakyat jelata is seditious too, I think. In democracy, is not the rakyat the true government? Just that they don’t have some big time lawyer arguing for them one can go about hurting their feeling. They too can change a government.

Sedition, is a big, big word these few days. Whatever it means, I don’t want to be charged as seditious and hauled to court. So this blog is dedicated only to my children, and that of my siblings, and probably in the future, the children of their children. The rest, read on your own free will.

The price of rice, our only staple food is up. Among the cause, as the article implied; too much is being consumed. Terenganuan and Kelantanese eat up to four times of rice a day. ‘Please don’t eat rice that many times’ our good minister said, more or less.

Sometimes last year, when petrol price went up, another minister said, ‘change your life style.’ Of course he can keep the Cheyenne in the garage and drive a 325i instead. But what do the rakyat change their kapchai to?

I was at the nasi dagang stall that day. An old man reading a newspaper at a table in front of me remarked angrily, ‘Menteri bodo! Doh nok suruh kite seme ni makang apa?

So what are we supposed to eat?

I want my children to know their own history well. Our family was not always well off. There were times, when we were younger, when aki was jobless or in-between jobs, we suffered. Yes, we still manage to eat but it was all basic. We were lucky because Wan was always creative with food and it all tastes so good. Or was it because we were always so hungry the food was good always. She too works wonder with ubi kayu or ubi stele. When ubi is available, it was time for ubi rebus, goreng ubi or kueh keria. Otherwise, all we had was rice. So it was rice in the morning, afternoon and dinner and all that was in between. It was the cheapest and the only food affordable.

For breakfast it was the left-over from previous dinner (nasi dingin) turned to nasi goreng or nasi lemak, for lunch nasi, for tea maybe some dried rice turned to lok-lik and for dinner nasi again. And if ever we turn hungry in between we turn to the periok for what else but nasi. Chicken and beef rarely available if any will be considered a feast.

The minister must have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, ‘beranak dalam beras’ some Terengganuan says; to have a choice of bread and pudding for breakfast and tea. That s why he can by choice not to have nasi that many times a day. Unfortunately we didn’t as certainly many more, even now. Many that I know around me are still as poor, depending only on a single kind of food to live another day.

I am telling this to my children.

Even if you feel that you are rich, look around you, please look around you, at your friends in school, the friends in your neighborhood.


You don’t even have to look that hard, to see so many that are poor.

They eat rice four times a day because they don’t and could not have McD and Secret Recipe in between. They eat rice four times a day not because they are being excessive but because that is all they can have, that is all their mother left for them in the periok when the mother is out washing cloth at somebody’s house.

I know you could not feel their suffering because you just couldn’t. But even if you couldn’t, do not ever make fun of them. Never say anything that can be mistaken as making fun of them. Never ever tell them to eat less of the least that they are able to. Please do not do that. Not now. Not ever. Not even after you have become a minister. To say that hurt the poor. To say that is in a way seditious too.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


A gong is drum like brass musical instrument used in traditional music. A single strike will emit a ‘gonnngggg’ sound with a rippling echo. Berdengung I think is apt to describe the effect.

Beating of a gong is now extensively used to signify opening of events like the opening of an upacara or like starting of trading day on the Bursa (KLSE). In the old movies, a gong is sounded just prior to a proclamation; normally reading of a king’s order. Old Malay hikayat, (this one, Hikayat Awang Sulong Merah Muda) beautifully described the effect of gong once sounded on rakyat jelata .

Yang capek datang bertongkat
Yang buta meraba-raba
Yang tuli leka bertanya
Yang kecil terambin lintang
Yang jarak tolak tolakan
Yang pendek tinjau meninjau
Yang kurap mengekor angin

(I have no idea what the last phrase mean)

In Kemasek, there is a village called Gong Chengal and in Kuala Terengganu a Gong Tok Nasik. There are also Gong Pak Chang near Kedai Buluh and Gong Pak Jin in Gong Badak. If I may deduce, the former was founded by the father of Hassan and the later by the father of a genie. Whether there is anymore jin living there I would not know. That gong in a village name refer to a higher piece of land or an elevated plateau as against ‘mengabang’ meaning a water logged area. Gong Badak unknown to many is located next to Mengabang Badak.

Gong to Terengganuan refers to a person, proud, big headed, an egoist – one in English idiom described as proud as a peacock. Imagine the peacock dance, just like the cock, cocky.

Awang tu, padang muka dia kalah pilihang raye, Baru jadi wakil rakyat sepenggal pong, gong do’oh lalu doh.

A gong person, like the land (as in Gong Badak) is elevated above and sounds equally berdengung if he ever utter anything. Maybe it was his nose that is elevated because a gong can be as what the Malay proverb describe as ‘hidung tinggi’ (high nose or tall nose?)

When writing a gong, be careful to space the a from the gong else it means something significantly significant. Agong means great. A gong on that respect is not an agong no matter how he pretend to be.

My father loves to dismiss a person as ubi atas gong especially to the kind that is stubborn or those that refuse to listen to other’s opinion, one that thinks that only he is right. I have no idea if is a Terengganu proverb because I could not find any official writing on it.