Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ramadhan And Fasting - A Festival?

We are now coming towards the end of the month of Sya’aban in the Hijri calendar. In less than a week will be the month of Ramadhan, a month of fasting during daylight hours and a month of submission to the Almighty in prayers and similar related activities like reading the Holy Book, silent chants, recitals and meditation in glorifying the Almighty and The Prophets. Other activities include taking care of the less fortunate, giving alms, charity and other good practices. There are many things that can be done to glorify the month and all shall be in submission to the Almighty. If we have funds to spare then spend it for and in charity but if we have not, then spare our physical efforts for charity. I learnt that even giving a smile is considered charity.

I have been taught, from small, that the month of Ramadhan is a month considered holy for the disciples and that we should do all that I mentioned earlier as much as we can and as best we can. I was also taught that we should not take pride in our efforts and any good we do must be sincere without need for recognition. It was said that if you give with the right hand make sure the left hand do not know about it, meaning give and give quietly, no fanfare. When praying or doing other deeds too, do them quietly and not with the intention of getting noticed by other people. That is considered ‘riyak’ or ‘show-off’ which is seriously frowned upon.

Ramadhan, to me, is time for renewing efforts towards submission to the Almighty. A time to do more than, what is normal, in the other months. A time to change, to be a better disciple. Therefore things worldly are secondary to the spiritual. Indeed over the years of my growing up and growing old, these have been practiced by all good followers of the religion. However, in recent years I have seen a slow and gradual change in perspective to the month. It has slowly become a month of food festivities. It is like a food carnival. From about three weeks ago I noticed buntings and banners stringed up in strategic places, and advertisements in the local newspapers, of food festivals during Ramadhan, of special buffets at hotels and restaurants. All hotels will have breaking of fast food promotions and all sorts of attractions for customers. Open areas in housing estates, towns and crowded places will have stalls selling all kinds of cooked food, cakes, sweets, drinks and what have you for the breaking of fast. Special permits will be issued by the authorities for small time retailers, food sellers, to operate stalls in these designated locations, allocated by the authorities. It is as though fasting is for eating in merriment at the end of the day!! No more glory in spiritual achievement but good food in anticipation. Most will purchase more than necessary, when hungry, only to end up throwing away excess food, which is contrary to the teaching of the religion. This is a fact. It is not my imagination as I have time and time again seen these excesses. The small time food sellers, the restaurant and hotel owners or operators will be laughing to the bank, the customers, all and including non followers of the religion, are happy that a wide variety of food is made available for them and in between…..? the very essence of Ramadhan is lost in food……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Over-exercise, is there such a thing?

I was working on this laptop when a talk programme came on TV. The topic for discussion was over-exercise or something to that effect. A medical doctor, a coach from somewhere and a fitness centre operator or owner was on the panel and a lady TV personality was the moderator. I thought this would be a good show to watch and decided to put the laptop on hibernate mode and sat infront of the TV to watch and listen to them. It was a half hour programme and the three speakers were prompted by the moderator to speak on the subject.

As the programme got underway the discussion got more and more intensive and at one stage all three were trying to speak at the same time. The doctor talked a lot on the medical aspect of exercise, its benefits and pitfalls and was very informative. The coach and fitness centre personaly were however off the mark at some points on over-exercise. Their views were clearly related to their line of work, one on how to exercise and the other on the application of exercise, although these do constitute proper exercise and how to avoid over or improper exercise. Proper exercise for pregnant women also got mention. The coach even demonstrated on the various so-called correct exercise positions. There were formulas thrown about amongst them and the optimum exercise times and frequencies were mentioned. Did I learn anything new at the end of the show? Nahhhh ……. nothing that I have not heard of before. No added value there…..

I have been exercising for years, although at certain times in my life frequencies of it dwindled but I return and regulated my exercise regimes each time. The internationally accepted practice is to do vigorous exercise at a minimum of 3x per week and for 20 minutes to half an hour each time. I do more than that, sometimes double the frequency and double the time too. By vigorous I think it means to work your heart rate to about 1.5x your resting heart rate, maybe a little bit more for those in late 30s or younger, but the heart rate should not exceed twice the resting heart rate. Another thing that I took note of was the need to warm up and warm down at each exercise session. For this I normally do some of the Tai-chi and until recently the Qui-Gong moves. It does help. I am also aware that the exercises I do do not end with me losing wait but were to maintain general health and well being. If it is to lose weight it has to be combined with controlled and balanced food intake. Take out more than put in so to speak. The erroneous perception by some when they exercise is that they notice a drop in their weight after exercising and assume that they are losing weight. But they should be aware that this drop is only temporary and cannot be accounted as a loss since what is loss is really water through perspiration and so on and will be put pack into the body in no time. What account really is the deficit in food intake against work out.

Having said the above, it really does matter to account the amount of exercise one does against the amount of food intake. There are many websites on the internet that advertise on weight loss programme, most claiming and even guaranteeing certain success rates. I refuse to be taken in by these advertisements. I stick to the principle that to retain and remain healthy and fit an exercise regime has to be followed and food to be balanced. Of course the food you take has to be proper. Minimise on the processed ones and try to go to the natural ones as best as possible, although I can pick some flaws in the natural foods in this age and with modern agricultural technology but that is something that can be discussed separately. For the time being make a start. Start or continue to exercise and watch your food intake, which is a good, if not the only, beginning to leading a healthy life and then refine the process as we go along……

Over-exercise, is there such a thing? Not in my book. Wrong and improper exercise maybe. Your body sends messages, take note of these messages............

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Monday, September 26, 2005

Emergency Building Evacuation And Drill

I had a meeting scheduled for 10.00 am, a few days ago, to discuss various issues on the Retirees Fraternity, of which I am the Protem Secretary, with the Human Resource Management Division (HRM) of my former employer. Attendees for this meeting were to be the Protem Chairman and another committee member (the three of us had been working on the constitution) and also representatives of the HRM.

I left home quite early, parked my car at the parking lot of the light rail station near my house and took the train into the city. (I prefer to take the train to the city rather than drive into the city traffic for obvious reasons). I arrived at the building half an hour early but found the main door connecting the public area, consisting of a major shopping mall and various other public facilities and amenities, and the office block closed. There were many others in office attire mingling around, obviously having appointments to keep with people in the office. A guard stationed at the gate advised us that we are not allowed to enter because of an emergency and the emergency may take about two hours. If it is an emergency why was this door closed? I wonder. It will take two hours to sort the emergency? I knew then that this was not a real emergency but a drill and that all 84 floors of the office are being evacuated.

I walked out of the mall and went around the building to the front of the office block and noticed all the office staff leisurely walking in a ‘procession’ manner towards an open area some distance away from the building. I also noticed a few staff wearing jackets that state they are the floor safety officers on the front and back and holding up placards indicating the floor numbers. The numbers I saw then was the 20’s and 30’s which meant that those of the upper floors are yet to come down. I also noted that it took quite some while for those in the higher levels to reach the ground level. I waited on the side and many of the staff who recognized me stopped for a quick chat before they proceed along, afterall they have to stay with their group by floors in the assembly area and I am sure some sort of a roll-call will be made to account for everyone in the group of each floor. Ambulances ferried a few people, some pregnant ladies, presumably to attend to them in another designated area with medical facilities. Fire engines and the police were at hand and there was also a bomb unit standing by.

Quite a few of those I met were grumbling and lamenting that they have meetings to attend and schedules to meet!! Huh! What meeting? What schedule? This was an emergency was it not? Lives have to be saved and the emergency attended to. What is more important than life? A very senior position staff was seen standing at the door and did not join the group at the allocated assembly area. I know him and met up with him for a while. He said that he was in the midst of a meeting and cannot wait to ‘get the job done’. What was he trying to prove? That his job was very important, that he was very important, that this emergency exercise was a waste of his time? He was not showing the right kind of leadership was he? Where was his commitment to safety? Where was his commitment to the well being of his staff? Lead by example, the Management Gurus say, what example was he leading then?.......

Watching the going-ons in this emergency exercise I noted a number of shortcomings and things that can be ‘done better’ or ‘improved’. Afterall when I was working with them I was directly involved in these sort of exercises. I had gone through the proper training and indeed was part of a team responsible in drawing up the emergency response plan set up for eventualities requiring evacuation of buildings. Would my proposal, if I make any now, be accepted, or would the powers that be be satisfied with only their way of doing things. I wonder…..

I could not get in touch with my fellow retirees as I had inadvertently left my cellular phone at home. I thought I would be able to meet up with them if I go to the regular food outlet in the mall that we frequent and true enough they were there. I joined them and quite a while later a few staff also joined us for refreshments. Tessa also walked by and complained of weak knees! She had to walk down from her office on the 78th floor, I think. That’s a long way down. Meanwhile we tried to contact the HRM staff we were supposed to have met but failed. We thought if they were available we could at least have an 'informal' discussion on the issues. We left messages in their voice box and sent sms but got no response. We had to wait a long time for this meeting date and it had now to be postponed ….. to a later date…. and we know that that new date will be quite a while later as our issues may appear to be of very low priority to them ..….. we retirees are ‘has been’, perhaps seen as a liability than asset? Or am I being overly critical……. hmmmmm grumpy old man…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Serious Discussion Amongst Friends

Two days ago Ram and I visited very close friends of ours, a couple, who live in the next town about 40 kilometers away from ours. They are slightly older than us, and being close, we regard them as our elder. We do refer to them at times when reference are required for second opinions as such. Their children, like ours, are all on their own, and they too look forward to time spent with their grandchildren. They are lucky though, unlike ours, their grandchildren are all close by and they get to see them once or twice in a month if not more often.

As usual we started with small talks about family, children and grand children. Then the discussion got more and more serious into general topics and such things as politics, religion, ethics and so on.

Current issues at home always attract attention of the masses especially those that affect their daily life. Our discussion touched on these subjects as well. One hot issue at the moment is the world price of oil and how it is affecting fuel price and subsequently prices of all goods and everything else. We discussed this. We wondered why, our country being a net exporter of oil, is not able to absorb part of the increase and had to withdraw and continue to withdraw more and more of the subsidy for diesel oil, which is the basic fuel for commerce and industry in the country. This causes a multiplying effect, a resultant increase in prices of goods and basic consumer supplies. At the same time cost of funds are increasing while returns in savings of any kind decrease. Inflation is creeping up and is worrying us more and more. Pensioners and retirees like us depend heavily on our savings for our daily needs and at the rate things are, it is depleting fast. We have to drastically cut back on our expenditures in order to preserve and survive.

Another issue we talked about is the current status of oil availability and distribution around the world. It is a major reason for war to be declared by one country against another. In spite of the oil producing countries having a common body to control and regulate, the effect is negated by rich countries, who are net importers of oil, trying to control the end distribution and overrule any set distribution processes by the oil producing countries. Other rich countries, either in alliance with this one rich country or in support of it does not help situations and does not augur well with the normal and commercial distribution of the oil. The net effect is the poorer countries and those developing countries having to struggle to survive. The balance of trade are affected, inflation increases and all that is bad for the country, as a result of it, happens.

Religion is another subject that is close to our hearts. We notice that religion is being politicized. It is being used to create dissention, and to create hate. We have seen that war can also result because of religion. It is also being used to advance ones ambitions, going against the basic principles of the religion itself. Verses from the holy book are interpreted to suit ones objectives, not the intended guidance that the verses were originally issued for. Hence there are a lot of misrepresentation. One of the resulting effect of this misrepresentation is in the followers breaking into or forming groups of their own such that there are groups being called the ‘deviant group’, the new thinkers, the simplifiers or those who simplify the religion further, refusing to follow the basic tenets and principles. This particular discussion brought me and my friend to discuss the need of bringing the followers back to the basic principles and thus call for the learned in religion to propagate it in intensive public missionary activities. We, the not so learned, on the other hand can perhaps do the same in our small groups of family and friends. The example of the visitors from Darul Mustafa of Tarim, Yemen, which I described in my previous write up, and who stick to the basic principles is one to take note of. This is called for by the religion on all its followers, and it is incumbent upon us to take up that call lest we fail as a disciple of the religion and miss out on all the goodness in the herein and in the hereafter. I am not a very religious man, not learned in religion and I am maybe just being religious and learning still. I try to practice religion the best I can with what little knowledge I gathered over the years in the process of life and living itself. I discuss, I argue and I refuse to deviate from the basic principles I learned and refuse to follow the new thinking in the religion.……..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Friday, September 23, 2005

Gatherings and Functions

The last few weeks had been busy weeks for me. I had to attend to many voluntary functions and gatherings, weddings, the retirees club functions, and also religious gatherings. In between the running around attending to those that required my attention, Sita came back with little Najla for a couple of days, while Fahrul had to be away for work in Taiwan.

Najla is able to stand up and letting go her hands working at balancing herself. She has fallen a few times and had been reluctant to take the few steps to walk. I guess it is only a matter of time that she will learn to walk and then climb and by then I guess she will be all over the house, furniture and so on…. Najla’s baby sitter had to be away for about a week and during that period Najla was left in the care of a neighbour to the regular baby sitter when Sita has to go to work. However, Najla being overly attached to the regular sitter could not adapt herself with the temporary sitter so much so that she was, since then, noticeably paranoid at being left alone away from Sita. Perhaps she was afraid that she will be left behind by Sita to strangers yet again!! Its been about three weeks since and Najla is still throwing tantrums whenever Sita leaves her. She is ok with the regular sitter , and also with us though.

Apart from attending to personal commitments, we were invited to eleven weddings in the last three weeks, some of relatives, some neighbours and some others of our friends. We attended all of them and on one occasion we had to rush to four functions in one day, three weddings and a ‘tazkirah’ or ‘religious talk and exchange of thoughts’ function organized for the retirees fraternity of which I am the secretary. I do not mind running around attending to these functions. I get to meet people, friends and relatives and fraternize with my fellow retirees. The setback though is the eating at these functions. Invariably at all these functions food will be served and I am one who just cannot turn away food. Oh food, glorious food……. I do not usually eat much but it is a habit that I want to try and taste all the food. Invariably I will end up over eating. I still walk and slow jog the five to eight kilometers daily and I guess this helped in working out the extra calories that I consume but I feel the balance of foodstuff I take at these functions are way out for me. They are usually the high protein and cholesterol laden food, with high content coconut milk, curry and spices ingredients. I am trying to limit the intake of fatty stuff but then, when the food is spread all in front of me, my determination melts away and I succumb….

The other set of functions that I attended was the religious gatherings over about four days. An international conference on the propagation of Islam titled “Hadramis in SE Asia; Identity Maintenance or Assimilation” was organized by the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). Amongst the speakers was one well known speaker from Yemen, AlHabib Sheikh Ali AlJeffri, Deputy Rector of Darul Mustaffa, Yemen and one who travels around the world on Islamic missionary work. The Chairman of the Petronas Retirees Fraternity, and of which I am the secretary, have met AlHabib Sheikh Ali previously and obtained permission from him and also the proper Authorities in Malaysia, to organize Tazkirah sessions, religious talks and gatherings for AlHabib to lead during the four days that he was in Malaysia. Hence I was indirectly involved in the various functions. The gatherings were held at various times and venues, some in the mornings, after the dawn prayers, some during the day, and some after the dusk prayers. He also delivered a Friday sermon at the IIUM mosque. The sessions were full of religious and intellectual activities. All these gatherings were well attended. It was satisfying to see the big crowd wherever the functions were held. We were tired and yet were very satisfied. Again these functions were almost always followed by food, glorious food. On two occasions food were sponsored by people who served Middle Eastern styled briani rice with lamb and lamb happens to be my favourite…….. I continue to succumb…… and I lament a lame excuse that I cannot help it, ‘its my favourite’...... just so I can indulge….…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

I want to try and climb the stairs .... is it up or down. hmmmm! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ooops, no no no.... I cannot let go my hands!! Posted by Picasa

No! I better not climb ... up or down... I think I will just sit..... heh heh. Posted by Picasa

AlHabib Ali AlJeffri delivering his talk. Standing on the left is the translator. Posted by Picasa

The crowd at the KLCC Twin Tower Mosque. Muslimah at the upper deck. Posted by Picasa

AlHabib Ali delivering his lecture with the translator on his left Posted by Picasa

The crowd at the mosque of 'AlJenderami Foundation' Posted by Picasa

Reciting the 'Ratib' and glorifying The Almighty and His Messenger. Posted by Picasa

The Muslimah Attendees at AlJenderami Mosque Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Moving Around In Bali

The easiest mode of transport in Bali is the taxi. There are plenty of them in the city and the most popular is the Bluebird Taxi, light blue in colour, whose services are professional and very satisfactory. I use them quite a lot this trip and never had any unhappy incident. The drivers will switch on their meters and the air-cond if it is not already on, as soon as you board, without being asked and will give exact change when you pay the fare, although it was much easier for me to round off to the nearest thousand rupiahs plus one or two more. (One thousand rupiah is about US10cents!! Small to tourists but big to the drivers!!). There are also two other taxi companies (that I know of, one with their fleet of taxis coloured dark blue and the other grey) operating and all are metered, air-conditioned and with radio communications to their base or control centre. Apart from these three companies there are the individual and small fleet of taxis operating on ad-hoc basis. I would not recommend them as they operate like freelance taxis and am not sure whether there is insurance coverage and whether they are licensed to operate as taxis. But if it is inevitable that their services are needed it is recommended that the rate is bargained and agreed upon prior to using them.

On arrival at the Ngurah Rai airport, and on exiting the concourse after customs, there is a taxi counter where cupons are sold according to set prices to specific areas in Bali. The price list is clearly displayed. The taxi drivers will also be at the counter and will assist with baggage. No hassle. My taxi driver was so helpful and friendly, giving me tips on what to do and see, and answered my questions positively, that I gladly gave him a tip when we reached the hotel, although it was unnecessary as the fare, as charged, was good enough for the journey.

To get a metered taxi in the tourist areas, downtown, in and around the hotels is no big hassle. There will be one, from one of the three fleets of taxi companies I mentioned earlier, cruising by within minutes. Everytime I walk out of the hotel where I stayed or when I pass some of the major attractions, shopping complexes and the likes, there will be someone attracting my attention shouting ‘transport’ with hands driving an imaginary steering wheel. I just waved my hands and said no while waiting for the metered taxi to come by and it will only be within one or two minutes that one will come by.

Other than the taxis there are the self drive hired cars. However, the roads in Bali are very narrow, congested, and chaotic, and that is saying it mildly!! It will be tough but fun nevertheless, if no mishaps takes place. It would be adviseable to hire a car with driver for the day or a specific period of time, and if there happen to be a mishap its the driver who will handle it.

Unmarked public transport or vans ply the major routes and these are very cheap and mostly patronized by the locals. I did not try any of them. Looking at the condition of the vehicles, the number of people they pack into it reduces my confidence level, and further more I am sure Ram will not forgive me for taking her in that kind of transport, even if it is with an excuse of feeling the experience that the locals go through in moving around!!

There are also motorcycles and bicycles for rent all over town and I see quite a number of tourists using them to get around. I would use this mode of transport if I had been alone as it is a good and simple way of moving around the town, and I know I would enjoy it but ........ with Ram along ……….. ahh well .........!

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Places To Visit In Bali (continued)

There are other dance shows in other parts of Bali apart from that I mentioned in my earlier posting. They are performed either in the mornings or in the evenings. A popular show is at the Uluwatu Temple, where there is a high vertical cliff overlooking the open sea with a view that’s breathtaking. Never mind the dance. The view in itself is mesmerizing. However, a visit to the Uluwatu grounds has its own pitfall. I am referring to the monkeys that populate the area. They are very mischievous and daring. If you bring food with you, they will be after the food and if you are not careful they may even snatch your camera, or spectacles etc. I have been warned and have always kept a lookout for them, not only at Uluwatu, but also all other spots I visited that has monkeys as the side-show!!

For the arts, there are many places to see craftsmen at work. We visited a batik factory and saw the production line from the weaving of threads into cloth, the design and transferring of patterns onto the cloth, painting the colours and so on. Some are hand painted while others are block painted. The hand painted ones will of course attract higher premium. Ram was ‘lost’ here picking up piece after piece meant for our daughters and daughter –in-law, our grandchildren and others in the family. I was very worried when she started picking up piece after piece and I began to add on the prices and calculated in my head how much all these will come to. (It was quite mind boggling to convert as one USD is equivalent to about 10,000 IndRuppiah). Finally, as she had bought more than ‘quite a few’ pieces, they gave additional discounts to the standard discounts they normally give, and also deducted the commission they normally give to guides since we came without a guide plus a further reduction on bargaining. Phewww! that was a relief.

Another crafts outlet we visited was the gold and silversmith workshop. They had quite a wide display of the finished product, fine artwork not only for adornment but also for static display in homes. We saw the artisans at work, mostly young girls working on the precious metals, fascinating.

We also stopped at a wood work display outlet and saw the wood craftsmen at work. There was this elderly man, in his seventies I guess, busy working on a piece of wood with a chisel and mallet. It was a long piece of wood and by the looks of it he was converting it into some sort of interlocking patterned lamp stand. He had no template to work with, no pre-markings on the wood to guide him and no design anywhere to refer to. I guess it was coming straight out from the head!! Another much younger craftsman was also busy at work, on a stool leg I was told, and he had markings on the wood to guide him. That’s the difference in working style between the experienced and the one trying to gather experience! We viewed the display they had for sale and were captivated with the intricate designs and carvings, some with minute and detailed carvings, majority of which has Hindu depiction. There were also quite a few display of objects that were quite indiscreet and vulgarized, like a phallus designed door handle, bottle opener or a man and a woman in compromising, copulating position in a garden. We did not buy any of the wood stuff as they were bulky to carry and we do not need more display items for our house. We were just interested to see the artwork. Before we left for Bali Tessa reminded us that things are cheap in Bali but not to get so engrossed and bring container loads of wood-stuff and furniture home!! Tempted, yes we were, especially when they were so cheap, practical we had to be……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Batik design and hand painting Posted by Picasa

Monkeys, playful but please keep the distance Posted by Picasa

The cliff in Uluwatu Posted by Picasa