Monday, December 26, 2005

In PD - Christmas Eve

Since Sita and Najla were with us for the long weekend and Fahrul had to go back to Kerteh alone as he has to work during the Christmas holidays, Ram and I decided to alter our plans a little. We have a series of weddings to attend in and around KL as well as in JB and had planned to attend the one in KL on the 25th after which drive to JB and attend the wedding of my cousin on the 26th afternoon and of another relative on the 27th evening. We changed the plan and went to Port Dickson on Saturday 24th. and spent Christmas eve in our condo apartment in PD. Today, Sunday, we returned to KL and attended the wedding and we plan to leave for JB in the early morning tomorrow, 26th.

It had been a long time since Sita had gone to PD and also a while that Ram and I had been there. We were sure that the condo apartment needs more than a little bit of cleaning. We left a little after 5pm on Saturday, and soon discovered that our timing was a little awry. The three lane highway south was jam packed with cars. And true to the Malaysian driving style and practice, the three lanes became four with many cars squeezing left and right, with some not even bothering to signal that they want to change lanes. Why they change lanes, I wonder as they would not go any faster whichever lane they take. We finally arrived in PD at close to 8pm, a very slow journey really compared to the normal one hour or so.

As its dinner time Ram suggested that we go for dinner first and then go to the apartment, a good idea really as Najla was already restless and quite ‘crappy’. She was sleeping the first two hours in the car but then woke up crappy. We had dinner at our regular eating spot, an open food court by the beach called ‘Coconut Grove’ not too far away from our condo. They always have a very wide selection of food, quite tasty, with good service too. The place was quite crowded when we arrived but there were still a few empty tables available. As it was Christmas Eve, they had all sorts of ‘specials’ on offer including a buffet spread which does not attract us at all. Ram and I settled for Japanese food while Sita had Western grilled dish. Dinner took quite a while too perhaps because of the unusually big crowd. No hassle though as we were in no hurry and Najla seems to enjoy the place. She had freedom of movement going around the place, in between tables and at the beach, attracting attention of the diners.

The main street of PD was also jammed with cars on our way to the condo apartment. Perhaps, it being the eve of Christmas, the crowd were going somewhere, although I could not imagine where as there are not much choice of places to go for entertainment in PD especially at night, other than the beach. Our condo complex was colourfully lighted up and very bright. Najla was excited seeing the lights.

We only stayed in PD overnight. Sita took Najla to the swimming pool in the morning and that gave Ram and I the opportunity to do a thorough cleaning of the apartment. We left at just after the afternoon prayers and headed straight for the wedding in KL. We were home in PJ by 5.00pm.

After dusk prayers we were out again and this time to the Mega Mall as Sita wanted to do some shopping. It’s Christmas and the mall was crowded with people. I spent most of the time looking after Najla, pushing her stroller either with her seated on it or with her pushing it. Most of the time she was on her feet going around and touching anything and everything that are close by!! I kept carrying her away and she kept wriggling to get down and go back to where she was playing when I carried her. There was this mannequin that she played with and she had twisted its arm. I took her away from the mannequin and I think she was annoyed with me for that because she pushed the stroller from the front while I was holding its handle at the back. I had to walk backwards out of the shop at the same time guiding the stroller as she was pushing it really hard. She kept pushing until we were really out of the shop. She stopped, turned around but turned back and pushed some more further away from the shop. Then she smiled, turned around and ran to the shop and played with the mannequin again. Phew! A 15 month old child trying to trick her grandfather. Later we had dinner at one of the restaurants in the mall and of course throughout the dinner we were either chasing Najla around or controlling her from throwing and pushing away stuff on the dinner table. Najla was asleep as soon as we got into the car and moving, even before we got out of the car park. As I am writing this blog she is fast asleep. Sita cleaned and changed her and she is fast asleep. She is usually a light sleeper, waking up when she is moved or when there are noises but tonight, she was as though sedated!! How nice if she is always like that when asleep. Ah well……. every child has different behaviours and characteristics.

Now it is time for us adults to sleep as we have to get up early tomorrow morning and travel again……. hmmmm ……. the thought of the long drive to JB…… We can’t take the bus this time as we have a lot of stuff to bring along to JB and not convenient to go by bus ……..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Shall I sit or stand

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Giving a Speech?

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Playing with Dinner!!

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Tsunami Remembered

It is now almost a year since the massive tsunami wreaked havoc in Sri Lanka, Aceh, North West coast of Malaysia and Southern Thailand. Sunday December 26th. 2004 and the following days, weeks and months, will be a period remembered by people in these areas for yet a long time to come. The pain, sadness, trauma and loss felt cannot be described in mere words. There is nothing in the vocabulary to describe the phenomenon. Even the word tsunami then draws blank bewilderment amongst people. They understand earthquakes but they do not understand tsunami. The days following December 26th. 2004 left many of us confused and bewildered. The magnitude of the catastrophe just could not ‘sink in’ in our minds. It was unbelievable.
Ram and I were in the Tun Hussein Onn Hospital when the tsunami happened. She was admitted on Friday 24th after having a bad infection of her newly grafted right cornea. She had to be given intensive and intrusive care with three different types of eyedrops to the eye every 15 minutes on Friday and Saturday. The frequency was reduced to hourly on Sunday and two hourly on Monday. So we were in hospital when the tsunami happened. We watched it all on TV.

It is now almost a year, two more days to the day. A few days ago Tessa brought home a book titled “A Time To Heal” a reflection of Mercy Malaysia’s response to the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It was recently launched by Mercy Malaysia. Vivid accounts of what happened, what the volunteers experienced, and page after page of pictures of the devastations brought back memories of what we repeatedly saw on tv during the 2004 year end week. Reading through the articles, interviews and records given in the book brought endless lumps in my throat. The volunteers do not have enough medical supplies to help the victims. There were just too many of them and there were just too few supplies available. One oxygen tank and one face mask had to be shared between a number of patients. “I did not try to remember their names. Perhaps it was my defence mechanism so that they did not become people I would remember forever”, said Dr Jelillah, President of Mercy Malaysia, who was in the thick of things, providing help and assistance to the victims in Aceh. “But it was difficult”, she continued. “How can I not remember Fitra Munandar, the plump 11 year old who was found after being buried in water and mud for four days.” “I watched him dying that night, his lungs filled with mud, all the time crying out for his mother and none of us could tell him that she had died before him, like the rest of the family except for an elder sister sobbing quietly by his side. His body burned with fever and there was nothing any of us could do. I was helpless and felt hopeless.” The same sentiments we echoed by others in the book and I remember reading similar helpless and hopelessness in the papers and articles written soon after the incident in other places like Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Many NGOs and voluntary organization, including the press organized collection of donations and aid poured in from all corners of the world. Various funds were set up to help the victims. Governments, voluntary organizations, the United Nations, and many others took the lead to campaign and call for assistance. The general public the world over responded instantaneously. Millions upon millions were collected. I would have thought that the funds collected would really help the victims to pick up the pieces and begin a new life with some ease. But it was not to be so. There is wonder in the minds of people in the streets of what happened to their donations, their contributions to the fund. There was no owning up to what had been done to the funds. There was no audit. I hear first accounts of people who have visited the devastated areas saying that nothing much had been done to help rebuild given the magnitude of funds and aids pouring in during the collection period. What they see does not add up to what was collected. My thoughts brought back memories of how funds were collected for victims, prepared for distribution by one private organization, only to be thwarted by bureaucracy, by demands of certain powers that be that aid must go through the proper authorities. In the end the victims continue to suffer, living in makeshift centers with the less than minimal facilities, denied of the aids due to them. Its humiliating and degrading to see them in that condition whiles those power that be continue in their luxuries. What gives them the authority to decide when and where to give aid, aid of which in fact were not from them but provided for by others and the general public?

I agree that there were humanitarian aids provided for the victims. There were various teams, like Mercy Malaysia, the Red Cross, aid organization of various individual countries of the North, West, South and East, all there complementing each other at the scene of the devastations, working and helping to provide some relieve to the victims, morally and physically. But what happened to all the money collected? It is a question many are asking but are also wondering whether there will be any answers. I wonder and I continue to ponder…….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

A Diva Testing The Limelight?

Last week there was a piece of news given prominence by the local newspapers, almost all of them on the front page, of a spat between a singing ‘diva’ and a newspaper reporter and feature writer. The reporter had questioned why the singer spat in front of her and the singer responded that she spat on the ground and not at her so what’s her problem, she asked. All these happened at the courthouse canteen where a case involving the ‘diva’ defending a case of forwarding ‘hate’ eMails of another popular singer, had just been postponed. The reporter is a prosecution witness and the case was postponed for some technical reason or clarification and hence pending. I found it quite intriguing.

The diva, who comes from my hometown, has been in and out of the limelight throughout her singing career not just on her singing popularity but also of various news and reviews, court proceedings involving magazine publishers, individuals and others including one of her very close relative. People have also accused her of being ungrateful. I guess being a popular artist, she just cannot get away from the scrutiny of the press and the public. Nevertheless the way the scrutiny on her was presented and the incidents that happened leading to the scrutiny showed what she was made of. She has had limelights in her heydays, both positive and negative, and that was many years ago, and now she appears to yearn for repeats of the limelight.

In our culture, spitting in a public place is frowned upon. I consider it bad practice. Most parents would reprimand their children if they are seen to do so. When a ‘public’ figure do so, in public, close to an eating place, tells upon the character. More so if spitting was seen to be directed to a certain person or party, indicating contempt.

This singer has received various awards, including from the state. I believe she still has a good following, albeit small now as there are more and more singing sensations that are popular amongst the younger generation. But to me this singer is a ‘has been’, and what she does in recent years only hurts her reputation. I used to praise her, listen to her singing, watched her programmes on TV and followed news about her, proud that she comes from my hometown, but ……. she had recently proved her personal integrity to be questioned, her reputation to be degraded and her public display of recognition a shame. She has failed to maintain dignity of the awards given to her. Even if she wins the case in court, her public display of contempt and her recent behaviour may not salvage nor redeem her downward slide in popularity. Apart from singing popular songs, she is also good in Quran reading, in religious hymns, and verses praising the Almighty and his Prophets. My humble opinion is that she should concentrate in these, spend her remaining days in the ways of the religion (I will not doubt it if she already does so), repent, and perhaps then she can regain her integrity and redeem her reputation…… I ponder and I continue to wonder……….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Friday, December 23, 2005

A New World Order - or - New World Odour?

Yesterday was a full day for Ram and I. There was a wedding of a daughter of a close relative, the solemnization ceremony and the reception was held at night and in the morning the bride performed the ‘Khatam Al-Quran’, or completion of Quran reading, in a ceremony followed by ‘Maulud’ and ‘Ratib’ or reading praises to the Almighty and his prophet. In the afternoon there was a talk on ‘The New World Order’ at the Islamic University, Malaysia. Sita, Fahrul with Najla came from Kerteh to attend the wedding.

I sent Ram in the morning for the Khatam ceremony and as it was mainly a ladies’ affair I left and did some errands, coming back to the wedding house just as the morning ceremony was about to end, conveniently and timely for lunch!!

After afternoon prayers we rushed to the Islamic University which is located somewhere in the Northeast of Kuala Lumpur, quite a ways form Petaling Jaya. We were a little late for the function and when we arrived the parking lot was already full and had to park along the roadside. Not sure if it was allowed but parked there nevertheless since there were many cars parked along this roadside. The function was just starting when we entered the hall and it was full with all seats taken up. Someone was kind enough to bring two chairs for us to sit. There were many standing at the back, mostly students, and I gestured at them but this kind man said no, these chairs are for the two of you. Very kind of him. Perhaps my full head of white hair gave us the advantage heh heh. There was, however one phenomenon that irks me throughout the session, that of ringing cellular phones!! These people are educated, I assume they are, since they sit in an institution of higher learning and amongst the learned. Maybe they are so learned that ringing phones do not distract them. Like ‘the nutty professor’. That means I am not nutty because I do get distracted by ringing phones, ahem!!

The talk, ‘The New World Order’ to be given by the Hon. George Galloway, a UK member of parliament, was jointly organized by the International Institute of Muslim Unity (IIMU), the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and Peace Malaysia. George Galloway, I understand, is a lone MP from a new opposition party in UK. He is an eloquent speaker and attracts the attention of his audience. The packed hall I believe were mostly students of the university and some outsiders like me. I notice that there were more foreigners than locals in the hall. I do not think the press and reporters were there as I do not see anyone looking like reporters around (if there were any they were good at hiding their identity) and no one was taking any pictures or photos. In fact, the speaker himself said that he has been in Malaysia, giving talks, for a few days already and not one reporter has approached him for an interview. I guess reporting on George Galloway would not increase sales of newspapers!!

The speaker started his speech by saying that the new world order will be nothing new and quoted an Irish singer who said that the new world order is like a ‘new world odour’, which smells the same as the old world odour!! He went on to describe how history has shaped the world and how the happenings of old would repeat itself. It is the might ruling over the weak. He says, “The great appear to be great for as long as others are on their knees”. That has allowed the strong empires to self appoint themselves to rule the world and they rule by dividing those on their knees into factions. He quoted Shakespeare who said that there is nothing new in this world. The might steals from the weak while dressed in different appearances. Imperialism flows from the system that we now call globalization, a world without borders, the system of exploitation in the guise of development, the exploitation by the rich of the poor. The rich imperialist use collaborators in the poor countries to do their bidding all for the exchange of a few favours. Imperialists or exploiters, different words but same objectives.

The rise of political Islam in the Muslim world is beginning to generate the possibility of changes in power. The change of power in Iran for example, with the masses standing up to overthrow the tyrant, the Iraq war, the Vietnam war where the Imperialist failed to dominate despite their slogan that losing the war has never been their option, and other examples of those on their knees standing up for their rights around the world, have made the Imperialist rethink their strategy to dominate. It is about time too that the Middle East countries and others similar get up from their knees and strike back, he says. Stand up and we can change the world, but there was no echo, he said. Donald Rumsfeld once said that it is not our fault that God put oil under the surface of other countries. But does that give him and the Imperialist the right to take them away. God gave wealth to the Muslims, why then give to America. Why must trade be in US dollars he asked. Why must reserves be kept in US banks, in US stock exchange and other US investment portfolios?

Today we see many do not want nations to become empires. We see organized resistance in many countries against power in US, Britain and so on. This resistance is growing, for example in Iraq, Iran and slowly around the world and these resistance cuts across cultural, religious, ethnic boundaries. It is about bringing justice around the world. It’s the duty of those on their knees to stand up and end the imperialist system, the double standards that they practice.

The talk ended with a question and answer session but as time was not on our side we had to leave and get home early as we had to get ready for the wedding solemnization ceremony scheduled for 8.00pm. We rushed home and arrived just as Sita and family arrived from Kerteh.

The wedding solemnization ceremony and the reception was an elaborate affair. Only close relatives were inside the house to witness the ceremony while the whole proceedings was transmitted by video onto two big screens put up under a huge tent outside the house for the invited guests, most of whom were already seated at their tables. Ram and I were inside the house. There were three video camera operators recording the proceedings each taking different scenes, one of them mostly concentrating on the bride and bridegroom. Later, I found out from Sita and Fahrul who were seated under the huge tent, that they did not miss any of the proceedings. It was very well coordinated and properly recorded. All these must have taken a lot of planning and preparations. I understand that there were committees and sub-committees set up to plan and manage the whole event, and that it was all within and amongst the immediate family members. I thought that it was a very properly planned and managed event, and with their experience here they can add ‘wedding plans and event management’ as an additional business venture.

We get to meet many of our relatives, some of them having traveled from distant parts of the country. There were also those from Indonesia, Japan and Australia. It was nice to meet up with them all. Najla was with us and she was awake, playing and moving around throughout the evening, and attracted attention as well since many of the relatives have not seen her yet. The long day ended past midnight and Najla fell asleep in the car long before we arrived home, and all of us soon after we got home. It was a memorable day indeed…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Friday, December 09, 2005

Class of '62 - A Gathering Of Classmates

Three weeks ago, I received an sms inviting me and my wife to a dinner gathering of class of 62 classmates in a restaurant operated by one of the classmates. I placed a reminder on my pda for the date of the gathering. This is one gathering that I always look forward to as it gives me the opportunity to fraternize with my former classmates while enjoying some good food. The day came and the reminder duly triggered by the pda by a series of beeps.

I was a little late in arriving at the location as it was dark and I took a wrong turn off. I had to make a long detour to get back on track. When I arrived at the restaurant there was already quite a crowd and I was quite surprised that there were strangers amongst the crowd and the ones I recognized were only a handful of my former classmates. The host welcomed us and I found out that for this night he was gathering all his classmates that he could call upon, from lower school to college. That was why there were strangers in our midst. We made some new friends that night. The host was my classmate in Technical College where we studied engineering.

Over dinner we were joking and sharing stories of old. There were a lot of laughter and light banters amongst the crowd. We mixed around and introduced ourselves to those that we do not know. One lady sat next to Ram at dinner and introduced herself by her full name and Ram also introduced herself by her full name. This lady used to live overseas, in Rome specifically, as her husband was working in the Malaysian Embassy there. Ram told her that we too used to live overseas, in Japan and Paris. So between the two of them they had volumessssss of information to share, heh heh. However, the interesting part of their conversation was not where they were or have been or what they have done. Its where they both come from!!

Amidst talking about where they have been to, where they used to work and so on, this lady asked Ram whether I came from Perlis, like her husband who was from Perlis. Ram said no. “But, how come he is a classmate to the host as the host came from Perlis” she asked. “Oh, they were classmates in college in KL, My husband and I come from Johore” Ram replied. “Oh really, I come from Johore Bahru and I was in SIGS (the secondary school) until 1962”, she said. I was listening to their conversation and was quite amused really. I thought I could see where this conversation would lead to. SIGS? Ram asked. “I was there too” she exclaimed “and I thought you look kind of familiar to me”. Ram asked for her nickname and she said “Nilam”. “Nilam? Oh my…. I am Melah” Ram replied. “Melah? And your mother is Mak Bi, and… Shidah…, Siti” They just hugged and patted each other while I continue to be amused, so also those that were around us at the time. Recognition came only after talking for a good half-an-hour!! They definitely do not recognize each other, do not recognize each others full name, and have not met for a very long time, since their school days. They remembered only each others nickname. For the rest of the night that we were there they remained together, talking of old times.

Meanwhile, I was with another classmate who introduced his new and young wife (his previous wife passed away quite some years ago) who also came from Johore Bahru. I found out that her elder brother lives next door to my mum and that her family lives close to Ram’s and Nilam’s former house. Her elder sister was classmate to Ram and Nilam. So the three of them had common things to talk about whilst the husbands watched and be amused over the whole discovery!!

There was plenty of good food that night and interesting company from all walks of life, and mostly retired like us or semi retired, if there is such a thing as semi retirement. We just mingled and mixed around, except the three ladies of course, who could not get enough of information sharing!! They exchanged contact numbers and promised to call up each other later. How long later? ……… hmmmmm …. I would like to check that out, how long later …….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Passing of A Very Close Relative

At 4.35am, Thursday December 1st. morning, our fixed line phone rang. Bleary eyed, groggy, having slept only for about two and a half hours, and feeling very anxious, I picked up the phone. Ram’s niece, the youngest one amongst her siblings, was on the other end of the line.

“Uncle!” she said, “Bah passed away already uncle, just a few minutes ago”. She was very calm when she said this and she was speaking word by word slowly and quite softly. I could also sense she was crying.

Bah is Ram’s brother in-law, the 82 year old husband of her elder sister, who herself had passed away on the 20th of Ramadan 2004. We had expected to receive this kind of call any time as the deceased had not been well for quite a while and had been in and out of hospital several times. I had written about his condition and what he had gone through in this ‘blog’ the past couple of weeks.

“Inna-lillah-Hiwainna-illahirraaji’unn” I replied.

“I was tending to him and went to sleep at about 4. 00 am.” she said. “I dreamt he passed away, and I woke up at 4.20 am. I checked on him and found him not breathing. Although his chest and upper body was still warm uncle, I felt his legs were cold. The fan was running and directed to the foot of his bed and I thought it could be the fan that made his legs cold but when I checked again he was still not breathing and his eyes closed. I called Pak Mat, the neighbour, and he confirmed it too. Please make some phone calls ok uncle”.

“Have you informed anybody yet?” I asked my niece.

“Yes” she replied. “All my brothers and sisters, and I am now calling all my uncles and aunties”.

“Ok”, I said, “I will inform the others”.

Ram was sitting up in bed looking at me. I told her the news and between us we made the necessary calls to inform other kinfolks, while at the same time getting ready to go over to the brother-in-law’s house, which is in the next town about 40 kilometers away from us. Expecting to spend a long while in his house, Ram packed some change of clothes and other essentials in a small bag and we headed to the house.

Neighbours and those from the neighbourhood mosque came to offer prayers for the deceased, after the dawn prayers. They were still there when we arrived. All his children and their families had arrived earlier except for his second son and family, living in Singapore but they were already on their way by road, and a doctor daughter who was away in East Malaysia, on a work assignment, still trying to make flight arrangements to return. The eldest son, a General in the army, was taking charge of all arrangements for the day. He seeks advice, made decisions and gave instructions in true army discipline, style and mannerism. We were there to lend him support. Tessa was also there. Shaffik came a little later. He happened to be in town for a meeting having arrived from Bintulu at about 10.30pm. the previous night. Ram and I had gone to meet him in his hotel and were there until way after midnight before going home. That was why we had only about two and a half hours sleep on receiving the inevitable early morning call from Ram’s niece.

People, family and friends, were already streaming in to pay their respect to the deceased. It was decided to hold the funeral services at about 11.00am and arrangements were made for that target time. Able nephews and grandnephews did most of the running around getting police and burial permits, purchasing essentials for the funeral services, arranging and preparing burial paraphernalia, preparing burial plot at the graveyard, etc. All completed by about 11.30 am ready for the obligatory prayer for the deceased. The son from Singapore and his family arrived at about the same time. He was finally placed to ‘rest’ not too far away from his wife’s grave at about just after noon and the army religious officer read the final rights and led prayers at the grave. All that was necessary for the funeral service were over just before the midday prayers.

When we came back to the house after the funeral service people were still streaming in to meet the family and offer their condolences. The doctor daughter also arrived after that. Although she missed the funeral, she had earlier told the elder brother not to wait for her return but to proceed with the funeral services as quickly as possible, indeed a correct decision in the eyes of our religion. We have been taught not to delay funerals of deceased.

The rest of the day was spent in solemn prayers for the deceased and a special prayer for him was performed in the neighbourhood mosque after the dusk prayers. There was a big turnout for this prayer session. After most of the guests have gone, the siblings held a discussion among themselves, led by the General naturally, to decide what to do with the assets and properties of the deceased, now that both parents have passed away. I was later informed that they will honour the wishes of the deceased as well as those of their mother as the deceased had at some point or other gave some instructions or information to one or more of his children of what to do with certain properties and belongings him and his wife had. I was delighted to hear this. I was very happy for them. The siblings had done the right thing. They even agreed to the parents request that their house be bequeathed “wakaf’ for religious purposes.

The Singapore nephew and family followed us home in their car to stay the night over in our house. We have enough rooms available for their use and we were happy to have them over. Over breakfast (we had prepared a simple breakfast) we talked about the old times, especially of the deceased and his late wife. We also talked about our guests’ grand and great grandparents. Basically informing them of their roots. I told them of the stories that my mother-in-law related to me about her life and how she grew up, her origin and so on. It dawned on me then that these facts need to be written down, recorded and perhaps catalogued for the benefit of our children, grandchildren and their future, younger generations. I can do this but …….. will I have the time to do it…… hmmmmm….. there seems to be so many things that I can write, want to write, and record…. but hmmmmm……. I just wonder…….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Family Affair

Ram and I had just returned from Kerteh when I received a call from mum in Johore Bahru. She asked me when I plan to come down to JB as she wanted to call a meeting of the family. (I am the Chairman of the family association, by default of course, being the eldest sibling!!). So it was, that Ram and I decided to go down to JB by bus. It is better than having to drive for 4 to 5 hours on the highway, more so after having just driven from Kerteh to Petaling Jaya, a journey that also took about 5 hours.

Meanwhile, I received an eMail from a distant cyber acquaintance, a family living halfway around the globe and whose night time is my daylight hours. This friend enquired if I know of a long lost friend of theirs who happened to come from the same hometown as mine, Johore Bahru. I know this family well, the mother especially, as she was a very active politician, an activist, an educationist, and a well known figure at that time. Everyone called her Ibu Zain. My mum sat with her in various committees, political as well as social organizations. That was how I came to know of Ibu Zain. I was a small boy then, barely into my teens and often followed my mum or dad to their political functions and dos. I used to wonder at how eloquent the activists of the time were, how fiery their speeches were, my mum and dad too, how hard they worked towards gaining independence for the country, from the ‘clutches’ of the foreign powers, from the British and their divide and rule supremacy specifically.

The coincidental eMail I received from my distant friend sets my memories racing back to the 50’s and 60’s. It has been a long time. But the memories linger on and I imagined the possibilities of my writing a part of history from my own perspective. My mum and dad were also activists, heavily involved in politics of the time, and perhaps had in some way influenced the way I look at life now. I mentioned this to mum when I was with her and she was delighted. She was happy to note that someone from the other side of the globe had shown much interest in our country. She was delighted that I have given thought to putting on paper the happenings of those difficult years, not that it has not been written already, but that it is going to be written from our family perspective. I hope and pray I can live up to her expectations. You can see her face brightening up when we talked of those bygone years, years that have left an indelible mark in her life, and certainly mine too.

The enthusiasm mum and I and some other siblings of mine, especially the older ones, have on our family association is borne out of the experiences we went through over the difficult years I mentioned above. Thus, it was not difficult to get our family members to agree on some of the things we propose to do for the association. The meeting that mum requested went as planned and most committee members showed high commitments to the activities of our association. That makes my job as chairman very much easier. Now it is to convince the general members of our association on the decisions that the committee had taken at the recent meeting and I do not envisage any problem in getting all round agreement. We propagate changes for the association and we look for ways to improve, as delegated by the general membership to the main committee, and it is the aim of the committee members to deliver. Some strategies have been worked out to achieve this and it is my fervent hope to bring our association to a higher level, in the way of the Almighty and also recognized by society. A lot of work needs to be done but I am sure they will lead to the association achieving its objectives and set targets. We seek, as always, guidance from the Almighty and the strength and perseverance to pursue these aims. For His blessing we pray………..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Asia's Best Kept Secret - At The Royal Albert Hall, London

I was on this laptop writing my previous post when Sita put on a VCD featuring Siti Nurhaliza in concert at the Royal Albert Hall London. I continued writing while at the same time listening to her songs but it got more and more interesting, attracting my attention, that I switched off the laptop and joined Ram in viewing the two and a half hour video show.

Sita bought the VCD for her mother. Siti Nurhaliza is one of Malaysia’s very popular songstress. I quite like her songs. She is versatile, able to adapt to any style, whether it is jazz, modern, classics, ethnic or foreign, she performs them very well. I think being accepted to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, London, says a lot on the capability of the singer. I like music, I listen, but nowadays I do not normally go out of my way to purchase music CDs or tapes. I used to buy them in my younger days but have stopped doing so since many years ago. So when Ram mentioned about Siti Nurhaliza’s Albert Hall CD, I was slow in purchasing one and finally Sita offered to buy one for her.

I have listened to her songs over the car radio and I very seldom watch TV thus I have not seen much of her on TV but I know of her popularity and have heard or read news about her in the papers. She is one commercially savvy personality, able to seize opportunities, and very focused in her music career. There have been attempts to ‘throw her to the dogs’ by those who are jealous but she has withstood all these, persevered and came out unscathed every time. She has her own production house now and I hear that it is doing very well. On April 1st. this year she brought pride to the nation. She glorified the country by performing at the Royal Albert Hall, London. This performance was jointly sponsored by leading corporations in the country. That’s how much confidence people have in her.

Watching her video I was attracted to how the performance was professionally executed. She was backed by professional musicians, back up singers, back up dancers, event managers, expert public relations supports and the Royal Albert Hall musicians. She had one of the best, if not the best, support to make the show something that the country can be proud of.

Just one singer, but a myriad of support groups and personalities are required to push that one singer to the pinnacle of her career. The overall event manager had, just before the start of the show, and after days of preparations, rehearsals and practices, called upon everyone together so as to psyche them up for the show by asking them to give their best, saying that they are there because they are the best, and that they should continue to give the best. Siti Nurhaliza herself talked to all of them by saying that they have been going through the routines and that they are a team and supports each other to make it a success. She acknowledged that she would be nowhere without the support they provide and that speaks volume of this petite lady. She is a motivator in her own right.

The show was indeed something that Malaysians can be proud of. They have put together a wonderful show. They have itemized the songs and arranged them in the order to build up audience support. The dances were very well choreographed and the songs, music, musicians and musical instruments very well selected and planned. The end result was something quite spectacular in its own rights. Proofs that local musicians and singers have the capability to be world class if they only stay focused and work hard at it. The announcer, a popular, multilingual local PR management man, announced at the start of the show, that Siti Nurhaliza was Asia’s best kept secret…… it is now secret no more …

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

The CD

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Exciting Weekend - With Family and Friends

The last weekend was an exciting weekend for Ram and I. Sita and baby Najla was home, so also Tessa, who had just returned from Aceh, Indonesia. As it is still the month of Syawal, the month of Eid’l Fitri celebrations, we had calls from my brothers/sisters, Ram’s nephews/nieces, other relatives, and their families checking whether we will be home during the weekend for them to visit. We were delighted. They are always welcomed to visit. We also had several functions to attend, a number of open houses to visit, a birthday party of a very close friend’s grandson, a wedding and also a newborn thanksgiving session.

We were juggling time and hopping out of the house to attend to the various functions or rushing home to welcome visitors to our house. We even managed to visit our neighbours. As always, there were food and more food. We just indulged. However, these gatherings, get together, visits and functions were not just about food. Food is only a part of it, not the main part though. It is more about meeting and fraternizing, sharing news and views, exchanging thoughts on issues, current and others. It is about respect for the elders and the younger ones alike, all in the spirit of Eid’l Fitri.

In preparation for the visits of relatives, Ram and I made some plans of what to cook and serve our guests. We woke up very early every day to clean up the house. We also cooked several different types of dishes, beef and chicken based, to be taken with either rice or buns and french loafs. There were also the cakes and cookies that Tessa and some that Sita obtained for us, including the colourful Sarawakian spiced cake that Mini and Shaffik brought for us when they came home recently. All these were served to our guests. Ram’s nephew and niece brought some food with them when they came. So there was more than enough food for everybody. At some point in time there were more people amongst our guests than there were chairs in the house to seat all of them. So children had to make do sitting on the floor. It was fun and we had a good time. The children especially, had fun, receiving ‘duit raya’ or money from their elders.

A few days later, baby Najla had her body temperature on the high side with running nose. Sita was also not well. Because of too much food? maybe…. Running around too much and stressed up? maybe that too. We brought both of them to the clinic and got medicine for their ailments. That’s the easy part. The difficult part was to make Najla take the medicine. It’s a ‘fight’ whenever it is medicine time!!

In the coming week or so we have more functions to attend, especially during the weekends. Many are holding their ‘open houses’ in these remaining days of Syawal. We look forward to catching up with more of our neighbours, friends and relatives. It is not often that we get to meet so many at one time and Eid’l Fitri and Syawal certainly fill the gap. There are also weddings to attend on all the weekends until January. The Christmas holiday weekend is especially full of weddings. We have four wedding invitations that weekend alone. Hmmmm …. I look forward to attend all the functions but aware that I must double up on my workouts being more aware that I can easily put on the bulges either in my thighs, paunch or waistline ……………

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Little Najla

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Haziq, A Cut at The Chin

Ram and I were attending a wedding reception last Sunday evening when son Shaffik called just to inform us that grandson Haziq had a fall while playing ball with his brother Hifzhan. He fell forward and hurt his chin. To break his fall he had used his fist to the floor but he fell on the fist hitting his chin with his thumb. He must have had his thumb pointing upwards when he fell. That ‘thumbs up’ had caused a small tear on the skin at his chin. He was taken to hospital and had a small stitch done on the tear in the chin. It’s not serious, said Shaffik but blood oozing out of the tear had the little kids screaming with fright!! Understandably so.

The next day I called the kids. Hifzhan picked up the phone and as usual he was very excited talking to me. He rambled on about, amongst other things, his drawings. He had drawn power rangers he said and he is still colouring it. He also said that he watches his favourite tv programme and played with his younger brother and sister, but not once did he mention about Haziq’s fall. Only when I prompted him did he say that his brother had a fall and he went on to explain in detail what happened to the brother and how he was treated and so on. He was a bit longwinded, and sounded like his grandfather rambling on and on. So, the brother having had a cut on his chin was insignificant to him. His power rangers have the upper place in his thoughts. I had to cut his ramblings short to speak to Haziq.

As soon as Haziq came on the phone he straightaway gave a description of what happened. Tok Bah, Dedek play ball with Babang. Dedek fall. Dedek had a cut on Dedek’s chin, bleeding and bleeding and bleeding. Dedek very scared. Dedek cried and cried and cried. Daddy took Dedek to hospital. That uncle at the hospital put medicine and stitch Dedek. Now no more bleeding. He said all these in almost one breath. He sounded cheerful. He must have got over the initial trauma of the bleed. I asked whether he will play ball again and he said yes. So, that little accident was none the worse for him. All in the process of growing up……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Hifzhan & Haziq

The two brothers. One is serious, showing off his drawings of power rangers, the other happy to show his new patch on the chin! Posted by Picasa

Haziq and His Chin Patch

Haziq insisted that his father send this picture of his patched up chin!! Posted by Picasa

Hifzhan and Power Rangers Drawing

Hifzhan insisted that his father send a picture of his Power Rangers drawing!! Posted by Picasa

The Cheeky Fellow

Showing off his chin-patch in another view!! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

On The Roads - Festive Holiday Deaths

The first few days of Syawal were spent mostly with family. Either the younger ones come and visit us or we go out and seek our elders. The main purpose is of course to seek forgiveness while at the same time to exchange news, views or just to keep in-touch. Shaffik, Mini and their children were with us, so also Tessa. We drove down south in two cars and stayed in Ram’s sister’s house in Johor Bahru. Sita, Fahrul and Najla had gone up north to Fahrul’s parent’s house for the Eidl’Fitri celebrations. On the second day of Syawal they came down to be with us in the south. It has been the tradition, as I mentioned in my previous post that my siblings and their families gather together on the third Syawal every year. Hence, if the children had to be away from us on the first day of Syawal, usually to be with the other parents, then all will make it a point to join in the gathering on the third day. This day has always been the day the young ones look forward to every year. Some would prepare for it and practice their acts well in advance to be ready for presentation to all on this day. (Read my previous post on the Annual Family Gathering).

In the three days we were in the south, we managed to spend time with mum, visited quite a few of our close elders, visited our ancestral graves to offer prayers there, and had a wonderful time at the family gathering. After that it was time to go home. Sita had to go back to Terengganu as Fahrul had to go back to work on Monday. Siti and Shidah followed us back to PJ as they wanted to visit their brother-in-law who had been in ICU of the hospital since the first day of Syawal. We left Shidah’s house just after the after dusk prayers and reached home at about midnight. It was quite an easy drive as the traffic was moderate. We had expected the traffic to be heavy as it was a Sunday. Perhaps it is already late in the evening and most travelers have already reached their destinations.

It is common to have the roads and highways clogged with traffic on festive holidays or any holiday that follows a weekend. With it will be the usual reports of accidents and crashes, some of which causing loss of lives. This happens every festive holidays, involving motocycles, cars and public transport as well. The highway authorities, the police, the emergency services are always vigilant during festive periods or when there are extended weekend holidays. These are the times when the accident rate and road death statistic increases. Campaigns upon campaigns on road safety, road courtesy, manners and so on have been held but the statistics remain the same and in some instance increased. Why? If one were to ask anyone on this subject, all will agree that the individuals should drive carefully, observe the rules and regulations, think safety, think of the loved ones and so on and so on. None will say it is ok to drive recklessly, to disregard the traffic rules, to throw cautions to the wind, and yet when on the road, I see many driving recklessly, zig-zagging in traffic, tail-gating, driving on the emergency lane, overtaking dangerously.

Just this holiday season alone more than 160 deaths on the roads were reported. There are four major festive holidays in a year and the total deaths on the road would be quite a few hundreds. Isn’t this senseless? When would people wake up and heed the rules and regulations? The attitude of individuals always wanting to beat others to their destination, always wanting to be in front, always wanting to be the first, some call it ‘kiasu’ or not wanting to be beaten or lose out, is I think, the major reasons of these senseless death. Then there was the discovery that many drivers and motorcyclists were found without proper driving license, their proper driving skills in doubt, and some others found high on drugs. Why does this happen? The high number of accidents and deaths only goes to prove these facts are true. So, who is to blame? Is it the authorities, the parents and elders, the individuals or who? I just wonder. I wonder whether these senseless deaths will continue in the future as it had over the past many years, despite all the campaigns, reviews of the rules and regulations and their penalties, improvements on the conditions of the roads, of vehicles, stricter enforcements and so on. I wonder ……………..

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

An Annual Family Gathering

I am the eldest in a family of ten siblings comprising of four boys and six girls. My mum, as have appeared in my previous postings, is still active at 85 years old. My sister, the second sibling, and her family live with mum in the south. So she has company while having freedom to do her own thing. In addition most of my other siblings live in the south too except for three of us who live in Petaling Jaya, Kuala Terengganu and Malacca. Whatever it is, we are not too far away from her, as it is only a few hours drive for us to meet up with her. Other than that, wherever we may be we are only a phone call away from her. I, on my part keep regular contact with her, especially when I am unable to personally meet up with her.

It has been the tradition, started by my late father, for all ten siblings, their children and grandchildren to gather together on the 3rd. day of Syawal during the Eid’l Fitri celebrations. We would allocate some funds for the function and have the gathering in a hall somewhere, sometime in a hotel, and some others in a large restaurant with a large enough private hall, depending on which location is available with the most appropriate cost effectiveness. The number of attendees has grown over the years to more than a hundred. A gathering of four generations really.

24 years ago, my late father and my mother called upon all of us to form an association, a grouping where we collect funds and save for the benefit of the family. All of us responded positively to this call then. Mum suggested a small figure that everyone contributes monthly to the kitty or pool but all of us spontaneously agreed to contribute double the amount monthly. The fund is to be invested and we were to institute some sort of thrift and loan procedure. We were to have proper accounting, organized and formalized committees. We were to meet regularly and once a year holds a gathering of all, to be organized by the children with supervision of one of the elder siblings in rotation. Each family were to present something at the gathering, a play, or a song, or a pantomime or whatever, to encourage the children on staged performances. All these plans made by my father went well over the years. It has brought the family close, very close, and the cousins, second cousins get along with each other very well, all aware and proud that they belong to a big family group.

When we started the kitty, only six of us were married and there were only a number of children. Now, all of the siblings are married, and the tenth sibling, my youngest sister, has eleven children of her own. Many of us siblings have grandchildren of our own too. It was decided recently that the monthly contribution be reviewed downwards as many of us siblings are either retired or retiring very soon and that the children are also going on in age and the grandchildren are growing big enough to take over soon. Hence the contribution structure was reviewed to accommodate this change in time and situation, but the main constitution with its preconditions remain unchanged with a view to keep the grouping intact.

Each annual gathering was a scene of fun and laughter, with the antiques of the young ones on stage. They play games, they sing, do short acting stints, read poem, and so on. The gathering this year was no different than the others. We gathered at 8pm on the third day of Eid’l Fitri, starting with a group photograph session and individual family photo session. Then came the speech by the patron, that’s mum of course, giving her advice and encouragement, followed by study excellence award to the children who passed exams meritoriously. Dinner started then while family presentations and performances were held. Games for the little ones, the young ones and others were also held. Somewhere in between a speech by the group chairman was called upon. That’s me. I am the chairman ‘by default’ being the eldest!! My speech of course centered on the activities throughout the year, the collection and disbursement of funds and what is planned in the coming year. Although the committee meets, and a general meeting is held, it is imperative that the message of maintaining the association active be made to all, and this is the occasion when all are present. The gathering ended at just about midnight with one of the young ones reading the closing do’a or prayers .

I am satisfied that these gatherings have in a way taught the children to support each other, help each other, work in a group for a common goal, give and take, planning and organization, stage presentation, public speaking, finance control and many other organizational benefits. There are hiccups and minor issues to be dealt with but these are not obstructive to the progress of the grouping and can be addressed positively. My late father had a very far sighted view indeed. If only he is alive now to see how his plans have materialized, he would be beaming with pride just as mum is now.……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

The young one rendering a song for the crowd

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My Brother and His Family

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This Rambler's Family

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My Immediate Family with Mum

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In serious discussion - the AGM

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Thorn amongst the roses - the main committee

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Waiting for Meeting to start

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Two younger brothers and other family members. One (in yellow) has found it boring already?

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Tea and snacks after the serious discussions!! Oh Oh! Still in deep discussion??

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Intensive Care

Ram’s brother-in-law, the husband of her late elder sister, who is now 81 years old, is in hospital. He has been in hospital since October 25th, initially admitted with complaints of being too tired, exhausted, and unable to get out of bed unaided. He was brought to the hospital by ambulance. He was reluctant in going. This was two days after he held a prayer session in his house for his late wife who passed away just about a year ago, on the 20th day of Ramadan to be exact. Most close relatives came for the prayer session. He already appeared very weak then and had difficulties moving about, meeting the family members, welcoming his neighbours and other guests. On hearing that he was taken into hospital, most went to visit him in the hospital too. All agreed that he was too weak, pale and frail.

Ram and I visited him too. He was his usual talkative self. We noticed that, in spite of being weak and frail, he was always moving, fidgeting, and appeared easily agitated. He does not seem to be happy where he was. He seemed to want to be taken home. He even said so. They keep taking samples but never found anything, so I might as well go home, he said. The hospital was thorough in the tests, they have to be, in order to have a proper diagnosis. They administered medications and treatment to him but his condition got worse. It was noticed that he was not accepting the health administration but was instead fighting it. He even removed by himself one of that stuff that they stick in his arm to administer treatment.

He was moved from the normal ward to a close observation ward but a few days later had to be taken into the Intensive Care Unit as his condition got worse and worse. He had problems breathing, with poor lung condition and pneumonia. Oral administration of medications failed as he kept vomiting them out. He had to put on a breathing mask and that too he kept trying to take off. He appeared to be fighting the treatments given to him, weak and frail as he was. He did not, and could not talk, but gave signs that he wants out. One of his daughters gave him a pen and he wrote that he wants to go home. He gave the nurses a rough time, but they persevere. They carried out their duties, nursing him, with dedication. We were all praying for him to get better, the nurses and the doctors helped to make it better for him, and all of us submitted to the Almighty to ease it for him whichever way it was but he was, all the time, persistently avoided treatment.

He was taken into the ICU the last day of Ramadan. His condition had gone from bad to worse. He needed help to sustain. Various gadgets were hooked up on him. He appeared lost, disoriented and I assume extremely stressed out. He had used all the energy he had to fight against whatever treatment administered, and that probably was one of the reasons his condition deteriorated. It was decided that he be allowed to have complete rest while treatment is given to his lung condition and it was agreed that the procedure be initiated the day after he was taken into the ICU, that was the first day of Eid’l Fitri.

After the Eid’l Fitri morning prayers, Ram and I went straight to the hospital. His children were all there too. It was explained to us that he will be put under sedation, a breathing apparatus will be hooked up and he will be aided to breathe and that treatment of his lungs and the pneumonia be administered. He will not be aware of the treatment, and under the relaxed condition it was hoped that treatment will proceed positively. It has been five days now and it was reported that his lung condition had improved much and that he can be taken off the breathing aid. All his children played a role in his recovery I think. Their Eid’l Fitri celebrations were very subdued, spent mostly in the hospital, keeping vigil on their father. One of his daughters, a doctor, played a major deciding role in all the medical processes. His eldest son, a General in the army, shuffled time between his duties to the nation and duties to his father, coming to the hospital two or three times in a day, and he did well. Another son, living in a neighbouring country came twice and both times spending most of it with his father. His other children too paid similar attention to their father. Ram’s two other sisters, Siti and Shidah, living in the south, came up to visit as well. All, in a way, contributed to his recovery, as it would have reassured him knowing that they all stood by him.

They have stopped administering the sedatives since this morning allowing him to recover naturally. Indeed when we saw him today he was responding to our call, but he was, as before the administration of the sedation procedure, moving his hands, legs, body and so on, perhaps slowly feeling conscious and feeling all those intrusive gadgets on his body. The breathing aid will be taken out as soon as he is fully conscious. We are yet to see how his response will be when fully conscious but we have high hopes. We would like to see him continue with life as normal, to be self sufficient, able to move about and attending to personal needs unaided. We continue to pray for guidance from the Almighty as we believe in putting our whole trust in HIM. We try, we do our best possible but in the end it is HE who decides one way or another and to HIM we submit………..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Ram's Brother in law taken in April at baby Haadieya's birth function.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Eid'l Fitri

Ramadan has ended. We have entered Syawal in the Hijri calendar, which means the end of Ramadan fasting, of abstaining from personal pleasures during the daytime, of restraining oneself from daylight personal delights in food, drinks and those that one usually take pleasure in. It is not the end of fasting however, because it is espoused in the religion that one should continue Ramadan month with 6 days of fasting in Syawal to derive benefits of fasting equivalent to one year. The 6 days can be performed any day in Syawal except day 1, which is the day of rejoicing, of victory from one’s fight against temptations, succumbing to the daily pleasures in life. Why one month of Ramadan and six days in Syawal is equivalent to one year? I look at it this way. It has been said that the benefits provided for our deeds are usually given in multiples of ten. Taking the ten multiplying factor, one month of Ramadan is equivalent to 10 months and 6 days in Syawal is 60 days, or two months making it a total of twelve months.

It is the practice in our community that on the last day of Ramadan, and eve of Syawal, immediately after the post dusk prayers, we go house to house within the community and recite the ‘takbir’, glorifying the almighty and offering short prayers. We divide ourselves into streets and in my street there are about 15 households to visit. Children will usually follow the adults and take part in the takbir and then partake on the food that each house lay out for the guests, neighbours really. However that’s not all that the children look forward to. It’s the ‘duit raya’ or money in colourful envelopes, that is top in their list. Babang and Dedek followed us around but halfway through Dedek could not continue as he was sleepy. The house to house visits ended at just after midnight and Babang followed us all the way to the end.

In the morning, at about 8.30 there will be a congregation at the mosque offering Eid prayers, afterwhich the family will get together in the house and the young ones seek forgiveness from the elders and there will be exchanges of those little, colourful envelopes again, usually to the children and to the elders. So for those who are still working, it will be give only while we retirees give and receive!! The family will sit together over breakfast, a heavy one indeed, the spread usually of rice, meat chicken and various other food, cooked extensively beyond the normal daily food. Then the younger ones in the family will start moving about seeking their elders to seek forgiveness. So Ram’s and my nephews and nieces would come and visit us. Ram and I had prepared for this morning breakfast days in advance. We prepared sweet meat, spiced chicken, rice cubes, and rice cooked in coconut leave packs, and also macaroni. Some of these were offered at the evening takbir. Son Shaffik prepared our traditional family drink, a concoction that is prepared using 12 various herbs and spices, good for cleansing the body system. The recipe of this drink was handed down from my great grandmother, and five generations now.

The whole month of Syawal will be a month of visiting the elders, neighbours, friends and colleagues. There will also be a lot of eating. Many will hold open-houses and invite people over. Food caterers will be making roaring business catering to the open-houses. Royalties, Ministers and Dignitaries will usually hold their open houses on day 1 or 2 of Syawal and open to the public. This is one occasion that the public can get very close to the King and Royalties, the Prime Minister and other Ministers and their family members and shake their hands, and partake in the food spread offered. So it will be a month of eating and be merry. One whole month of food, glorious food. One month of fasting followed by one month of eating….. in the end back to square one, and you wonder why you are overweight?.........

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Dedek Exhausted Already?

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The Neighbours in Our House for the Takbir

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

More on Happiness

A happiness story I received from a friend in another forum:

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably coiffed and after-shaved perfectly applied, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.

"I love it," he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

"Sir, you haven't seen the room; just wait."

"That doesn't have anything to do with it," he replied ."Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged ... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do”.

Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away. Just for this time in my life.

Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you've put in.

So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories. Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Meaning of Happiness and Life

Happiness. What is that? The dictionary says contentment, pleasure, joy, glee and so on. Do you live the day happy? Or do you look forward to something in the close distance to be happy? A friend in one forum sent something on this recently and I quote some of it here:

We convince ourselves that life will be much better after we are married, have a baby and perhaps another, then we get frustrated that our baby or babies are not big enough, and that things will get better when they are older…..

Then we get frustrated because they grow into adolescence and we have to deal with them. Surely we will be happier when they grow out of their teen years…..

We tell ourselves that life will get better when our spouse get his/her act together, when we have a new car, when we can take a vacation, when we finally retire…….

The truth is…. there is no better time to be happier than right now. If not now then when? Your life will be full of challenges. It is better to admit as much and decide to be happy in spite of it all….

For the longest time, it seems that life is about to start, real life. But then there were obstacles along the way, hindrances, some time to be given, some work to be finished, a bill to be paid, then life would start. But I finally came to understand that those obstacles were life, real life……

That point of view helped me see that there are no roads to happiness. Happiness IS the road….

So, enjoy the moment. Stop waiting for that moment, for school to end, for school to begin, to gain ten pounds, to lose ten pounds, for work to start, for Friday evening, for Sunday morning, waiting for that new car, for that new house, for mortgage(s) to be paid, for spring, for summer, for autumn, for winter, for the first or the fifteenth of the month, for your song to be played on the radio, to die, to be reborn ……. Before deciding to be happy…..

Happiness is a voyage not the destination. There is no better time to be happy than now, so live the life, enjoy the moment ………

Can you answer these five questions without reference:
Name five richest men in the world,
Name last five Miss Universe
Name the last ten best actor awards recipients
Name ten Nobel Prize winners

Cannot answer them? Rather difficult are they not?
Applause dies away, trophies gather dust, awards are soon forgotten…….

Now, try answering these:

Name three teachers who contributed to your education
Name three friends who helped you in your hour of need
Name three people who make you feel special
Name five people you like to spend time with

More manageable? A lot easier are they not?

The people who mean something in your life are not rated “the best”, do not have the most money, and have not won the greatest prizes. They are the ones who care about you, take care of you, those who, no matter what, stay close by……

Think about it for a moment……. Life is very short
And you……. In which list are you in?

You are not amongst the most ‘famous’ but one who remembers me and read this…..

Some time ago, nine young athletes, all mentally or physically challenged, were standing on the start line for a 100 meter race.

The gun fired and the race began. Not everyone was running but everyone wanted to participate and win.

They ran in threes, one tripped and fell, did a few somersaults and started crying….. all the other participants slowed down, looked behind them. They stopped and came back…. all of them…..

A girl with Down’s syndrome sat down next to him, hugged him for a while and asked, “Feeling better now?” Then all of them walked shoulder to shoulder to the finish line……

The whole crowd stood up and applauded…. loudly. And the applause lasted a very long time……

…… hmmmmm a teardrop in the eye there now eh!!…..

People who witnessed this still talk about it. Why? Because deep down inside us, we all know that the most important thing in life is much more than winning for ourselves. The most important thing in life is to help others to win as well, even if that means slowing down or changing our race.

“A candle loses nothing if it is used to light another”

My simplistic view in life and happiness……… I wonder and I continue to ponder……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday Congregation and Prayers

It is Friday, the day when we gather in a congregation for the weekly prayers. We were reminded that Ramadan is coming to an end, only five days left to be exact. We were asked whether we have truly observed the requirements of Ramadan. There is still time to recoup and recover, to seek repentance on past mistakes and sins, to devote full attention and supplication to HIM, the Almighty, who is ever forgiving and ever merciful. There is still time to intensify efforts and offer ones devotion to him in these remaining days of Ramadan and continue performing all obligatory prayers and other practices to HIM, lest one go hungry and thirsty in vain. There are many reminders. No need for the weekly Friday sermon to be reminded. The mass media runs many daily programmes related to Ramadan and even the cell phone service providers send daily reminders and short messages to individual cell phones (I receive it daily) on the virtues of the various prayers during Ramadan. We stand reminded!!

We spend the daylight hours fasting, going without food and drinks, and abstain from most other worldly pleasures, but we are free to indulge in them at night. However the night time is also the time where we are obligated to devote more prayers, to read the Quran and do other religious deeds. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, the last ten days of Ramadan are very important days and nights for those who know and who seek that one night that is equivalent to a thousand Ramadan. As the remaining days in Ramadan get less and less, the worries that one is not or has not done enough gets more and more. I seek guidance and solace from the Almighty, that my deeds had been fruitful and that I have been steered in the right path.

Soon, all will be rejoicing in the celebration of Eid’lFitri. It is something that all are looking forward to, especially the children, my grandchildren included. The two bigger boys are looking forward to their trip back to PJ, to Tok Bah’s house for hari raya they say. The joys of Eid’lFitri will be all the more meaningful if one had consciously spent the one month in the true spirit of Ramadan. May HE, the Almighty, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful, guide us and show us the right path always………..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Passing Of A First Lady

The whole nation has been in mourning since yesterday with the passing away of the First Lady, the wife of the Prime Minister, early yesterday morning. She was 64 and had been fighting breast cancer since a few years ago. Her twin sister also had the same ailment and had passed away in 2003.

The final rights and funeral were performed yesterday with her being finally put to rest in the evening just before the break of fast. Throughout the day the official residence of the Prime Minister were packed with people, from Royalties, dignitaries and officials to the ordinary man on the street, who came to pay their last respect to the ‘stoic’ lady (to quote a reference made of her by her husband). Foreign dignitaries including Presidents and Prime Ministers, as well as representatives of foreign governments also came to pay their last respects. The roads leading to the residence were packed with cars, and the passageways leading to the main hall were fully packed with people. I see all these on TV as there was full media coverage of the proceedings. The Prime Minister himself was all the time a picture of composure, and was up and about receiving the dignitaries and visitors himself. Some of them breakdown when shaking his hand and he remained composed and consoled the visitors instead. I guess, being a very religious man and of high conviction towards the religion, he accepted this trial. Although looking pale and weary with grief he remained composed all the time.

It is a known fact that the Prime Minister and his wife was a very loving couple. I have seen them walking hand in hand to functions, not her hand on his arm but hand in hand. I have also seen him giving his wife a hug and a peck on the cheek when each was welcoming the other. It seems that they do this when they parted each day and meet again at the end of the day, how romantic. I know the First Lady’s younger brother, who was Ram’s classmate in college. He was a soft-spoken man, of even temperament and mannerism and pleasant to be with. I guess the same is of the elder sister. I read somewhere that she does not talk much but is always systematic and would pursue her passions with convictions, while the Prime Minister, being a politician talks a lot and is always full of ideas. The opposites attract, I suppose. I also read somewhere that their first date, before they were married some four decades ago, was to attend a recital of the Holy Book, the Quran, and he, being religiously trained and in upbringing, translated the Arabic verses for her. I also think that the Prime Minister is a very passionate man. He once read a poem, not too long after he became the Prime Minister, which demonstrated his passion and love as a religious man. This poem was reproduced in a local newspaper and I reproduce it here (I assume having been printed in the newspapers, it is now in public domain) as I find it very inspiring:

I seek the peace within
I seek not riches untold
To live a life of luxury;
I seek not millions
To live a life of plenty;
I seek not friends so many
To live a life of profligacy;
I seek he who is Al-Ghazali
I seek he who is Al-Shafie
To unravel the secrets in the Holy Book
Seeking Inspiration
To unravel the secrets in the ways of the Prophet
Seeking guidance
I live only for HIM, my Lord
He is my Companion
He is my Guardian
He suffices
I live a life full of meaning
Immersed in the peace within

May peace be with this man, who is a fine example of a loving husband, a caring father and an upright man, a popular politician and statesman, and for his dearly departed, may the blessings of the Almighty be with her and may her soul be placed amongst the esteemed. I continue to seek the guidance of the Almighty and may HE be pleased…….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Devote and Commit

I happened to ‘bump’ into an old friend while waiting for prayer time at the City Centre Mosque. I have not met this friend for a very very long time. We were in the same class for two years in primary school, that was when we were about 10 or 11 years old. I think he moved away from that school after that two years and we did not meet since. I recognized him straightaway, as he is quite a popular figure being a writer and a political critic, most of the time swaying to the opposition side and a pain in the ???? to the ruling party!! I have read some of his books and in a way followed his career, hence I knew and recognized him. What surprised me was that he recognized me too in spite of not having met each other for about half a century!! He remembered my nickname too but took quite sometime before he could recall my full name.

We had many questions for each other and squeezed some pertinent ones for the time being, as prayer time was near, and reserved the others with a promise to meet up again sometime soon. He lives in an area far outside of the city, mountainous and heavily wooded, and where many rich and famous locals have resorts and holiday bungalows. For him though, that is his permanent residence. A very nice place for a writer to be living in, nevertheless. He has not gone back to his childhood home or village as there are no family members there now. When I told him that I do go back quite regularly, almost monthly, and that my mum is still living and active, he was surprised. He said how lucky I was and that I should take the opportunity to ‘devote and commit’. He does not have that same opportunity I have anymore he said. Just then the call for prayers was made and we got ready for prayers. After prayers I tried to look for him but he was gone. Ah well, I thought, I can try to meet up with him again some opportune days later.

Devote and Commit, he said. That saying played in my mind for the rest of the day and the days following. It was said in relation to my mum being still alive. My mum is now 85 years old, 86 come November. She lives in the south, and my sister and her family lives with her. She is still active, although slow in movements but very much active. She still keeps account as treasurer of a cooperative, active in Women Institute, a local gathering of women, and also in the local committee of the women’s wing of the ruling political party. She keeps herself busy while maintaining increased devotion to the Almighty. She is a real wonder for us who are much younger than her, who lament and complain over the slightest pain in our body parts, and the lack of time to do anything and everything. I said these things to my friend and that was when he said that I should devote and commit.

Pondering over the devote and commit comment I took it as a reminder that I should devote more of my time to my mum and that I should commit myself to her wellbeing. In deed it was a sincere advice and comment from a good friend. I begin to recall some of the sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) on the virtues of service to one’s own mother, from whose bosom one obtained nourishment as a baby, and from whom one learnt those simple and complex things in life while growing up, like the learning to turnover, surge, crawl, stand up and walk to the everyday problems at home, at school, with relationships, friends, the opposite sex, and so on. Mother provided all the protection and the comfort you needed when you were growing up as a child, as adolescent and beyond. These provisions were immense and unquantifiable. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was once asked by a companion to which living person shall one pay the highest devotion and he replied your mother. He was asked again and he again replied your mother, three times before he said your father. So, I understood the comment of my friend. Heaven, they say is at the feet of your mother. Never say unkind words to your mother, not even the slightest reproach, lest you are considered a traitor betraying her. On the contrary, mother has to be held in high esteem always. Another companion of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), who collects goats’ milk daily from his herd, will not drink the milk, nor gives it to his family, before his mother drinks. Once when he reached his mother’s house on the way home bringing the milk, he waited for his mother to wake up from sleep, and then gave her the milk. He did not wake her, neither did he just left the milk for her. He waited until she woke up on her own and made sure that his mother has had the drink before going home. There are many sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and similar mother stories showing examples of devotion and commitment to ones mother. I began to realize then the value of that simple comment from my friend and was indeed thankful to him.

I do not think I have devoted enough nor committed enough to my mother. Yes, I do visit her once in a while, I do call her on the phone now and then, when I have to travel somewhere I will tell her, when I return I will also tell her. But I do not think they are enough. I have to do more. Call more often, find out her needs and attend to them as best I can. She will wake up each morning wondering how her children, her grandchildren and great grandchildren are doing, just as I wonder how my children and grandchildren are doing. She will worry when she hears that one of us is sick just as I worry when I hear any of my children or grandchildren is sick. I may live far away from her but, as they say, no matter how far away one is, one is only a phone call away. If only my mum can operate a laptop or computer…….. hmmmmm…. wishful thinking ……..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Mum - 86 this November Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ramadan - The Second Half

Ramadan is now almost half way through. The daily activities has now become routine and automatic in a way, that is wake up at specific times for the pre-fasting meal, dawn prayers, the daily chores or career obligations, or errands and/or whatever you do on normal daylight hours, noon prayers and after noon prayers, prepare for the breaking of fast, the dusk prayers, after dusk prayers and the special Ramadan prayers either at home or in a congregation in a mosque. Eating time is at night and fasting during daylight hours, the reverse of the other months.

The special Ramadan prayers that is done in a congregation in a mosque, called the Terawikh, is usually performed twenty times each night but many performed only eight. Over the years and as far back as I can remember, people have been debating on this twenty or eight issue. To me, eight or twenty does not matter. The sincerity in performing it, in the way of the Almighty governs. If it is performed in order to show your rights over the issue then to me it is as good as not performing it at all. After all the call of this prayer is as an obligation not a compulsion. Performing them, eight or twenty, in a congregation, or in a mosque is also not a compulsion. But it is called for nevertheless. So, just do it with sincerity and in full submission to HIM, either at home or better still in the mosque and even better still in a congregation. It is as simple as that……

Take stalk of the last two weeks. What have we, as good disciple (if we strive to be good disciples) contributed and achieved in the last two weeks? It was said that the Almighty does not recognise the fast of a man if he only fast to be just hungry and thirsty. HE does not accept the fast of a man if he goes hungry and thirsty and yet his tongue does not refrain from saying bad things (bad in all manner of speeches and intentions), refrain from unsavoury behaviours, refrain from wasting time, efforts, money on things not in HIS way. It is also said that if others attempt to persuade you astray, or fight you, or attempt to anger you, say “I am fasting” twice. It does not mean you are weak. It also means you are more afraid of HIM than mere mortals. The unpleasant breath of a fasting man is to HIM sweeter than the smell of musk or perfume. Indeed HIS bounty will be limitless for those who strive to gain more than just being hungry and thirsty, for the spending of his waking hours in full obligation to HIM, seeking HIS rewards and compassion. Have we adhered to HIS commandments in the last two weeks? If not will we change in the next two weeks? It is said that Ramadan is the month for HIS disciples, for them to devote all energies and supplications to HIM. We only have two more weeks of it and we may not live long enough to meet the next Ramadan. So what is the decision now?.........

As I was growing up I was told that one should strive to spend one’s waking hours in the way of the Almighty, seek HIS forgiveness before going to sleep and be thankful on waking up that one had survived and be allowed another day. And in the month of Ramadan, one should amplify one’s effort as His bounty is also amplified. The doors to Hell are kept closed while the doors to Heaven are kept wide open in this month. All praises be for the Almighty that by HIS grace alone I could endure and fulfill my obligations. That what I had planned and set out to do, I did, and with ease that only HIS guidance could have made it possible.

The next two weeks calls for even greater sacrifices and with it greater dependence on HIS protection against worldly temptations and daily demands of life, in this so-called modern living. The last ten nights of Ramadan is especially important in that we are encouraged to enliven the nights with full submission and devotion to him in prayers and supplications, in glorifying and offering praises to HIM and HIS prophets, in meditation and contemplation, in recitation of the Holy Book, the Book of guidance for all mankind and in repentance for all past misdeeds. Of these ten nights there is one night that is most special but which night of the ten is not known to us mortals. The bounty promised is said to be equivalent to a thousand Ramadan. Therefore it is safe enough to concentrate on all the nights, ten nights for a thousand months. I submit to HIM most humbly for HIS continued blessings, to confer onto me good health, strength, the right frame of mind, to make full use of the opportunities available in the next two weeks and also able to enliven the last ten nights with ease. I pray for HIS continued guidance therefore and I willingly submit to HIM….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya