Monday, April 13, 2009

The bicycle story

Admittedly I’m quite into cycling these days. The only form of exercise doctor recommended for 40 plus people other than swimming. I can’t afford to build a private pool and swimming in public is quite an embarrassment – with ‘perut boroi’ and all. Mine is a Giant TCR bought 5 years ago, Yati got her TCR-3 RB [road bike] replacing the heavy MTB [mountain bike – for the uninitiated] only recently.

The first ever bike we had was Along’s in her standard six. It was a Raleigh I think. A ‘basikal puang’ (a lady bicycle) rewarding her Penilaian 5 As. When she went to STF it was handed down to me and later to Ajik and A. Before that all we had was the old ‘Norton’ a ‘basikal tua’ we used to learn cycling. That Norton was the family workhorse capable of loading ‘kayu api’ or several gunny load of ‘ubi setela’ from Tanah Belia. It could also take Ayah and three of us – usually two at the rear carrier and one perched on the bar. Unlike the present tricycles kids have these days, we learnt cycling the hard way with an oversized bicycles riding ‘celah batang’ until you learn the art of balancing and move to riding on the saddle. But because of the bicycle height and the foot hardly touching the pedals a sudden stop results in great knock to the groin.

The current bicycles are much more advanced than the bicycles Mr. Frank Bowden produced on Raleigh Street in Nottingham England in 1888. It now comes with advanced frame materials like carbon or lightweight aluminum alloy. If the old ‘basikal tua’ weigh a ton, the new bike weighs a mere 9kg. That, we are not talking about the state of the art competition road bikes yet.

Bicycles now are downright minimalist – basic engineering components meant for lightness and speed. They used to be well adorned with side mirror, mud guard, rear reflector, dynamo powered light, thumb-bell and fitted with a back carrier and a front basket. Those with babies even had a rattan child seat on the bar.

If bicycles now are recreational, they were once a symbol of effluence. Those who can afford bicycles are those well off, son of government officers or those in the employment of British companies. At the least, a clerk or a teacher. To own and flaunt a Raleigh is like flaunting a Honda if not a Beemer these days. Ayah then must have fitted the bills; son of the Government Forrester working for Bukit Besi Mining Company.

Ask Mak about this.

She once told us (after much persuasion of course) that she fell for Ayah when he and Ayah Da Hadi used to cycle around kampong. At that time Mak was recently moving from Kuala Terengganu and staying in the house near the Pondok Polis. The house later known as Rumah Che'gu Man Ayam. Aki Man had just taken a job as a bus driver with Thong Aik after resigning from the police force. Then Ayah had been widowed and the new kampung lass, a young beauty from Kuala Terengganu was quite a sensation. Those bicycle rides were not without reason. The rest was our history.

Funny Mak never learn to cycle to these very days.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The first candat of lifetime

Yesterday, starting at 2am we had every conceivable dish made from sotong. Sotong goring kunyit, mi goring sotong, sotong bakar and for the finale - ketupat sotong. All caught from the first ever candat trip for me.

Sounds good? Well I haven’t talk about the mabuk part yet.

We went out in three boats. In mine were me, Yati, Amir Kecik, Amir, Kak Ani, Sarah and her brother, [Khir decided not to join – takut mabuk], Saiful and his wife Yah and Pok Sang and the Juragan and his assistant.

We set out at about 530 from Jeti Pelancungan Marang and after an hour ride reached the candat zone. By then there I counted 31 boats. It was still early in the season and the real nest was not discovered yet. The number of boats could reach a hundred at the peak of season, I was told. From the mainland it looks like a row lights from a pasar malam. Trips a few nights earlier came back empty handed, but then again this was all about luck and rezeki.

Yati waited to go candat 19 years since moving to Terengganu but this for me is a trip 46 years in waiting. After a week of heavy rain, the weather was just perfect for this candat adventure. It was a night of full moon and calm but bubbly sea.

Those with fishing gears, mostly gleaming new gear – now that fishing has set as a new craze in the family; started fishing, Ma caught a few kerisi and suddenly the tekong started to land the sotongs. Soon everyone scrambled to candat. I too, until then uninterested in the fishing put aside my camera, asked for a line and began. Sara caught the first one. I got mine soon after. After two sotongs, the bubbly sea took its toll on me. I threw up – big time. Funnily I felt good after the vomit and continued. There were excitement all around when everybody started to bring in the sotongs.

At 900pm dinner was cooked – with lauk sotong of course. It smells terribly delicious but I can only entertain my nostril.

At 1030pm some has had enough and gone to slumber.

At 1230am Amir had her second serving of nasi and gulai sotong. Soon we all decided to ‘angkat sauh’ and head home. In Amir’s word, this was his best ever candat since he first started in 97 – this must be beginners luck for the likes of me.

Gosh this candat thing, mabuk laut included was fun. The mabuk and vomiting makes it tough. I wonder how it would be if the sea was rougher and I am grateful that for us this was not for living.

Next time at Pasar Tani, I won’t be complaining of expensive sotong anymore.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In defense of taxi drivers.

I took taxis often and I am generally happy with them. They are in a way your private chauffer that enable you to leave your car at home and sleep through the traffic jam or long boring journey to or from KLIA. Of course I never rode in a Brabus or a Rolls Royce, my standard can’t be much of a benchmark. Still the taxis are to me just fine.

I love to talk to them. What their previous work was, the kind of income they are making and the general chat about family, how many kids or wives and all those nonsense. I always believe that if we treat a person with kindness, talk to them as friends would, the response would be reciprocal. You would be surprised at the information and entertainment quality of these chats. I find it even fair and at times necessary to tip them a little. After all that’s what we do at the hotels and restaurants. After all, in our students days we used to work part times in restaurants and those tips were greatly valued. It was never the amount but the appreciation that matters.

This morning [31.3.09] on radio, three deejays were discussing newspaper report of Malaysian taxi-service. Utusan Malaysia even front-paged ‘Khidmat Teksi Teruk.’ So they exchanged opinion. The lady deejay excitedly related her bad experience over 2-ringgit extra than normal 6-ringgit meter charge, and the gentlemen deejay came with great idea of proposing a GPS based tracking and metering system. He even expounded on, ‘No GPS no taxi!’

The tone of their talk, insinuating that taxi drivers are rotten, manipulative, breed, pissed me off. Granted not all are angels but they deserve some humane respect at the least.

I wanted to call and give them a piece of my mind but I am just not into the talk show thing. So I write.

One. The extra 2-ringgit charge could be due to several factors. In cities, the distance back and forth from two points may not be the same due to actual distance traveled. The road going and back may not be exactly the same. At the current rate of RM2 for the first kilometer and RM1 for subsequent 1.5 kilometer, the variation of RM2 is only for an additional 3 kilometer. With KL road network, that is only the length of getting pass the traffic light and back. The time of the day when there are traffic jam or slow down due to heavy traffic may incur extra time charge. To accuse the cabby for overcharging without giving a full fact and to lash out at the poor soul is simply unfair.

Two. To propose a GPS based metering system is a brilliant idea that can only come from a company out to bring the proposal to the government to make into law. Like the flashing light on speeding buses law. Come on. We already had too much regulation that was ill-thought and benefited only certain well-related companies. Please don’t promote another one because the cost will eventually end up hurting the consumers pocket without improving the system. In Seoul, all the taxis use GPS navigation but from my personal experience, they hardly know how to use them and we still can’t get to where we want to go. I don’t see our cabbies a better lot from them either.

The deejays may be part of the society intellectuals with no time and tolerance for the less fortunate and the bit of chaos and imperfection in the society. But it helps if they could ponder.

Taxi drivers are ordinary Malaysians who largely came from the lower income bracket of the society, from Government pensioners, ex policemen and soldiers; people who lead a proverbial ‘kais pagi makan pagi’ kind of living. They had to work doubly or even three times harder than most of us 8-hours a day workers without any benefit of EPF or SOCSO to bridge them in time of difficulty. The exorbitant daily rentals they had to pay the taxi companies, fuel, services and maintenance takes most of their earning away leaving little for children and family at home. See any rich taxi drivers? My point exactly.

If we, or if the deejays wants so much to champion a cause, like to address the issue of taxi service, try looking into their plight. Try highlighting the few who own hundreds of taxi permits, see how they live and compare with the real taxi drivers life. Do some arithmetic. See how far a taxi driver has to travel daily to just meet the rental. Maybe some intellectual in universities can research their life. And maybe some politicians can start championing their cause.

I can bet the radio deejays will chicken from talking about such subject.