Monday, October 29, 2007

Long Distance Drive

Friday evening. It was time to drive out of Tenby and off to Reading and then to London. It’s three and a half hours by road to Reading and we arrived at our hotel just before 10pm. The drive itself was pleasant, not much traffic on the road as there was more traffic in the opposite direction. It was Friday and apparently people were getting out of London for the weekend.

The following morning we went off to London by train from Reading. We were not confident to drive in London yet, especially trying to find parking space in the city. Hence the train decision.

Reading Station To London
Najla was excited when we told her that we will be taking the train. We were invited to an Eid’l Fitri gathering organized by the London office that Fahrul belonged to, held in the afternoon at one of the halls in London. So we had plenty of time to get there. Guests at the function were mostly Malaysians from various companies and organizations that have branch offices in London. There were also others from the oil and gas industry that have some sort of working relationship with the host. We also met the Malaysian Military Attaché who happened to be buddies with Ram’s nephew through their career in the army. Ram’s nephew is now his boss as the army’s ‘numoro uno’.

Food that was served at the hall was truly Malaysian and we had a lovely time. There was also ‘teh tarik’ a concoction very familiar with most Malaysians which is really tea with milk. (Milk is typically condensed sweetened milk. Other types of milk will not give it the unique teh tarik taste). But what makes it different is when it is prepared and while still piping hot the tea is ‘streched’ (that is the tarik part) by pouring it from one container to another at an arm’s length height. This action causes the tea to foam at the top. Drinking it now gives the tea that distinctive taste. I had one big cup while Ram could not resist the tasty concoction and had two cups.

Najla was kept entertained in a children’s playroom where there was a clown and a couple of artists doing face painting and keeping all the children entertained. The artist painted Najla’s face as a cat, which was nicely done. She was beaming when she look into the mirror and was very excited after that.
The Kitten????
She kept meowing away like a cat whenever we talked to her and sometimes pouted her lips. She was so cute acting her part. She refused to have the face wiped off and remained like that until we got back to Reading at night. Wherever we went after that people were acknowledging her and she continued her cute and cheeky ‘perkings’ (is there such a word?).

We later went to Malaysia Hall to perform our afternoon prayers (a small mosque is available in the building) and also to meet up with Ram’s grand-nephew, who is studying law in King’s College, London. There is also a restaurant in the building serving Malaysian food. The place was very crowded as, by coincidence, the students in UK were having their union’s general meeting and election of its officials. We found out later that Ram’s grand-nephew was standing for the post of Chairman. He did not tell us but we heard the announcement as the proceedings could be heard from the mosque. However we could not wait much longer there and left after prayers and after the short meeting with Ram’s grand-nephew.

From Malaysia Hall we took the double-decker bus to go around London. All of us went onto the upper deck, Ram and I had to struggle up the steps but it was worth the effort. We had a good view of the city from the bus. It was getting dark by then and the lights were a fascination for Najla. She was ‘meowing’ away through the journey, and her painted face was the attraction for other bus passengers. Soon enough it was time for us to go back to the hotel in Reading to rest and recharge for our trip to York…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Reading, UK

Friday, October 26, 2007

Around and About in Pembroke

We spent the day hours driving around and visiting the various towns in the Pembroke area, or is it County. There are towns like Pembroke Dock, Carmarthen, Milford Haven, Haverford west, Tenby of course and moving a little farther there are Swansea, Cardiff and Sita’s favourite now Bridgend, where the Designer Outlet is located. We enjoy driving through the countryside, up and down the country roads through the rolling hills, passing by farmlands and various industries. It was pleasant, invigorating and relaxing for us, a contrast to the busy cities we are so used to. Of course we would like to visit the cities as well, London, Reading and further afield, York and Lancaster where we have kinfolks to visit but for the moment, the countryside in Wales are indeed something we enjoy.
Longer day hours however was spent at the designer outlet where there are sales, sales and more sales with fantastic discounts…….. or so they say. The place was really crowded with people and while Sita and her Mummy were busy shopping I had to keep little Najla busy. There were plenty of kiddie rides and playthings to keep her occupied. Some time were also spent in the hypermarket buying groceries and kitchen necessities, especially when Fahrul and Sita are starting their new home here. Other times were spent getting the apartment organized and furniture assembled etc.etc. So we were quite busy for a few days.

Ram and Sita were also busy on one of the days when Sita and Fahrul had two of his colleagues and their families over for dinner. I had to distract Najla away from the house to allow Sita and her Mummy to prepare the dinner unhindered by Najla. These colleagues have been in Tenby/Milford Haven for a couple of years on another project and are due to return home soon.

So, we had quite some activities in Tenby and occupied somewhat. Our onward plans were to be in Reading and London in the weekend and then drive up to York and Lancaster, and …… we are really looking forward to it.

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Tenby, Pembroke,

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In The UK - Wales

Fahrul is now working in Wales, UK and Sita is making alternative arrangements at her workplace to follow him. As the arrangements may take a while she decided to take a short break from work and travel to the UK with Najla and joined Ram and I on the trip. We had planned for end October and early November to travel as that’s the free period window I have from my commitment to my former place of work. It was also convenient for us to travel as a group especially with Najla on a long haul. She is active and a long period of sitting in a plane would certainly bore her. True enough, half way through the flight she threw tantrums and was difficult to handle (she is sometime like that with her mum around, always demanding her attention!!). Once she was tired enough throwing tantrums she slept like a log until almost landing time!! Ha ha, some peace for the rest of the journey.

Formalities on entry into the UK was smooth but we were last exiting the plane having had to organize Najla waking up from her slumber only after we had landed!! We took the shuttle to our hotel, a cosy medium sized hotel, close to the airport. Fahrul joined us there later. It is about four hours drive to Tenby, where Fahrul lives now, and arriving Heathrow in the late evening made it necessary to put up in a hotel first and leave for Tenby fresh in the morning.

Although it is only four hours to Tenby we took much longer to arrive as we stopped at several places along the way. At Swansea, or Abertawe in Welsh, we stopped for a longer while, visiting the mosque, buying kitchen stock and groceries etc. etc. Finally arrived in the apartment in Tenby in the evening when it was already dark. Could not see much of the town that night.

The next day we went around town. The weather was good and sunny. It’s a Sunday and hence there were people all over the town especially at the esplanade and by the beach.
I spied many people walking their dogs, or was it the other way round, and I also spied some bad habits of people. There were signs everywhere that says ‘bag it and bin it’ and bins provided everywhere but dogs were allowed to do their jobs along the walkways and paths!! Wasn’t all that signs that says ‘bag it and bin it’ meant for them? There were also sweet and choco wrappers, empty drink cans and bottles, and other rubbish just dumped on the sides missing the bins that stood just a few yards away.

The town has a rustic atmosphere, picturesque and historical. It was crowded with people and most of the restaurants and food courts were full. We had fish and chips for lunch, my favourite, and will not miss it whenever I am in the UK. Apparently the restaurant we went to was the popular one in Tenby and hence it was crowded with people, but we were willing to wait. It was a pleasant wait, it turned out to be though, and we were very pleased with the food we ordered….. yummy.

We also visited the other towns not too far away, like Milford Haven where Fahrul’s office is, Pembroke Dock and others I can’t remember their names. In between the towns we went through the countryside with wide farms and rolling hills depicting clear agriculture activities. I noticed a few oil and gas installations, refineries and gas processing plants too. Hence, the area although appeared remote had high end industries in its midst. Commercial activities also appeared very active. Large shopping outlets, designer outlets can also be found. We already know what we need to do in the next few days, especially Sita, having to bring the apartment to higher comfort…… that’s shopping galore for her while Ram and I do not mind tagging along, and tag along we did with little Najla keeping us occupied as well……

Next? London in the weekend and York & Lancaster after that......

In Milford Haven - Fahrul's Office - see the flag on the left

Tenby As Seen From Fahrul's Apartment

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

25th Anniversary

Our family Association is 25years old. Started by my late Father and Mum, a family association was formed about 25 years ago for the purpose of getting all of us siblings in one big family for a common cause of getting everyone close together, do charity and be noticeable as a group in the community. Members contributed funds regularly so as to enable the above objectives be met and also any projects we had planned be executed. Funds were also invested to make it grow. We have gone through various phases of change in the last 25 years and have achieved some good things and met some disheartening things too along the way. We progressed and we learnt from the mistakes we made.

As the eldest amongst my siblings I was appointed Chairman of the group, (maybe by default I was re-elected every time), and Mum remained Patron of the association. There are ten of us and together with our spouses there are twenty and with our grown up children there are now 80 adults in the association. Many are professionals in their own fields. There are two confirmed Doctorates in the family, with one more in the final stage of getting her PhD. There are managers, engineers, accountants and finance disciplined members, teachers, businessmen and businesswomen, all with their own expertise to contribute to the association. Amongst them a secretary and a treasurer with assistants were elected to sit in a management committee with me and several others elected as committee members to head various portfolios in order to further progress the cause of the association.

The group met annually and celebrated as a big group traditionally on the third day of Syawal, ie. during the Eid celebrations when most or all siblings and their families meet in JB and spend time with Mum and other elders there. A big hall with full catering is required to accommodate all members and we usually hold the gathering in hotels or large restaurants that have a big hall for private functions.

This being the silver jubilee, a working committee was formed to look into the preparations for its celebration. The venue selected was a fairly new hotel and the menu for the night was mixed traditional and modern cuisines. The committee chose to make several surprises that night, and decided to launch a family book and a logo of the association. Mum as Patron was to launch the book and logo.

The function went well that night. We were a little delayed in starting but everything went as planned. Mum took centre stage in the launch of the book and the logo. Ram and I had a surprise for Mum when we presented her with a token gift, a woolen shawl, in honour of her contribution and dedication to guide us in our lives and for being instrumental in guiding the association to what it is today. As Chairman I was asked to give the opening speech and I opened by highlighting the background of the association, as many were still not born yet when it was formed, and specifically mentioned the sacrifices Mum made to make the association one that can be reckoned with. Sita was asked to do the honour of presenting the token gift we had brought along and placing it on Mum. I could see that she was really caught by surprise. There were other surprises that night. One was an award for me for leading the association throughout the 25 years, and a special award to Mum too. The citation for me mentioned the sacrifices I made and also for Ram who stood by me all throughout. I thought an award for Ram would have been more appropriate!!

One of my nieces, who is a very good singer having had proper training, and who was a finalist in the national singing competition, and her younger sister who attends a special school for artistic children, performed several songs between that night. They were really good and performed just like professional singers. Others too helped keep us entertained that night. Games for the children were played. Hifzhan and Haziq took part in some of the games and I could see that the kids all had a good time. Mum of course was the happiest that night. She was really enjoying herself too watching all her grandchildren and great grandchildren having a good time. The night ended almost at midnight.

The next morning we gathered again for a general meeting to decide on several policy issues and others about the association. This was held in Mum’s house which is considered the base address of our association. We had a good meeting and several good decisions were made that day.

My hope is that the association will go on doing well and that Mum will still be around to guide it for many more years to come. She is 86 now but is still very alert and strong for her age. May the Almighty protect her and extend her life, bestowing upon her the best of this world and the hereafter. May He be pleased………

Sita Presenting Shawl to Mum

Mini and Tessa

Fahrul, Sita and Najla

Shaffik, Mini, Hifzhan, Haziq and Haadieya

The PeeJay Clan

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ramadan and Syawal

Ramadan has ended and Syawal has begun. The last few days of Ramadan saw us preparing for the coming of Syawal, shopping for various food essentials to be cooked for the guests expected on the first day, cleaning the house and the compound etc. etc. We lack sleep that couple of days. It was just Ram and I doing the chores with Tessa helping out the weekend earlier. Our children returned only on the eve of the big day. Fahrul and Sita with little Najla on the other hand had returned to Fahrul’s parent’s house for the celebration, so it was quite convenient for us to do our chores in the house without Najla tagging along with us all the time. But it was fun though. When Shaffik returned with his family there were more hands to help do the chores and having our three grandchildren with us was a pleasant relief even for the aches and pains due to the lack of sleep.

The Eid celebration started with the men from the neighbourhood gathering together, with children (about 30 of them) in tow, and went from house to house to recite the Eid ‘takbir’ glorifying the Almighty for the opportunity given to meet Ramadan and all the benefits that came with it and then meeting Syawal. Of course when we went house to house there was food galore…… different houses different types. We covered all the houses in our street in about four and a half hours and finished just before 1.00 am. The children were the happiest though as they not only get to enjoy the food, they also get to collect little packets containing money. We also prepared packets for them and we added sweets and chocolates too. Hifzhan and Haziq were very happy to receive many packets that night.

The Eid prayer was at 8.30am in the local mosque. The mosque was overflowing with people, usually it is on Eid Fitri and Eid Adha, most dressed in their finest and colourful traditional dressings. Hifzhan and Haziq followed their father, Ram and me to the mosque. After prayers we had breakfast of those foods we prepared for this occasion. We had prepared sweetmeats, curried chicken and beef to be taken with plain rice and also steamed rice packed and wrapped in coconut leaves.

My sister and her family, children and grandchildren, came later in the morning followed by Ram’s nephews and nieces and their families. The stream of family members continued until about 5.00pm. We left for JB just after the dusk prayers to continue the celebrations there and also visit our elders in JB. The celebration culminated in a gathering of all my siblings and their families in a hotel, for dinner, on the third day of Syawal. We have a family association called Tabung Cahaya Cita-Cita or TCC and have kept the tradition of gathering everyone on the third day of Syawal. This time it’s the 25th anniversary and special programmes were made for the occasion. Mum of course was the happiest. As chairman of TCC (by default, being the eldest sibling!!) I gave a speech at the opening and paid tribute to Mum and late Dad for their sacrifices and all that she has done for the family. One can see the glow in Mum’s face registering satisfaction of a job well done, and the token gift we prepared for her enlightened her further. Sita did the honour of presenting the special gift of my family to her. Mum was also called upon to present the TCC logo and also launch the TCC book which will be a compilation of TCC’s background and write ups on each of the siblings and their families. The highlight of the book, as planned, will be on Mum and late Dad. We have set ourselves one year to complete the book. I also received a special award for my role as Chairman having led TCC all these years.

There were singing and games for the children that night. Everyone had a good time, I think, and all night long, Mum was beaming and grinning at the antics of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Yes, there were four generations in the hall that night and our prayers amongst others were for Mum to continue in good health and be able to be present at many more of this annual gatherings. May the Almighty grant us our wish and may He be pleased……..

My Immediate Family

Four Generations Gap - Haadieya Presenting Flowers to the Patron

The Patron and Senior Members of TCC

Part Of The Crowd

Hifzhan and Haziq After the Balloon Game

Najla Playing By Herself

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Sunday, October 07, 2007

End of Ramadan

We are in the last week of Ramadan. This is the time most devotees, true to the demands of self submission to the Almighty, spend waking hour’s time, especially at night, in full devotion to Him. It is only at night that the call for submission is greatest. It is not easy, and only those used to the routine of waking up in the wee hours would be able to get into the routine. I struggle, every year I do, and I try my best to devote time to Him. I am neither pious nor religious but I do realize the need to connect with Him, if not for anything else, for my self esteem and inner peace. I think I have had good training and guidance in the religious aspect of life and I try to impart the same values to my children and possibly my children’s children. So, when the time comes to answer the call for submission I do my utmost, within my means and ability, to submit. I would expect my children to do the same too. May the Almighty be pleased……..

Every Ramadan our community mosque, just as all other mosques and prayer houses in the country, hold prayer congregations daily especially in the evenings following the breaking of fast, performing additional prayers to the regular obligatory ones. The additional prayers called for are twenty non-obligatory but highly called upon prayers and is usually performed immediately following the after dusk prayers. However there are some people who would only perform eight and not twenty, supposedly following the Prophet’s practice of doing eight in his time. The reality is, after the completion of eight prayers, more than half of the congregation will leave the mosque. There are a lot of sideline dialogues, some fanatically inclined even, on the whys and what fors of doing eight or twenty. To me eight or twenty is not the issue. It is how sincere you offer the prayers that matters. It is not the form but the substance that is called for. The obligatory prayers must be performed without fail. The twenty or eight are non obligatory, hence no detriment if it is not performed, so why argue? If it is performed and performed with full sincerity and in total submission to the Almighty then it meets the spiritual obligations demanded from us. No need to snigger upon those who do not do what we do. Be thankful that He has granted us the will to do it.

Another practice that I think is not according to the demands made upon us is the import of persons able to memorize the whole Holy Book (Hafeez) to lead in the non-obligatory prayers and reading verses from the Book during the prayers, end to end, over the thirty nights of Ramadan. It is traditionally done that way in the holy mosques in Mecca and Medina. But do we have to ‘ape’ what they do in the holy mosques? You are asked to read verses from the Holy Book in your prayers, yes, but for all within your capability. To import someone to do it for you when you cannot do it yourself is a bit much I think. I do not think that’s what is called for. I think there is no difference, to the Almighty, in reading short verses that you know of and memorize from reading the whole Book. Again I would like to go back to the basic principle of sincerity in what we do. Do we import Hafeez to show off? If we do then it is against the basic principle of total submission. May the Almighty guide us in the right path always, Amin………

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Double Birthdays

Some birthdays in my family are close to one another. Granddaughter Najla’s birthday is just one day after mine. My other granddaughter Haadieya and two grandsons Hifzhan and Haziq (all siblings) have birthdays in the same month but on different days. However, granddaughter Haadieya’s birthday falls on the same day as Ram’s. Tessa, Sita and Mini all have birthdays in the same month whilst Shaffik’s and Fahrul’s birthdays are ‘standalone’ days. Traditionally we will group together on certain selected days for dinner or lunch, home or away, and celebrate the birthdays with everyone trying to accommodate time for the gathering. This means that there will be three or four birthday gatherings in a year, and opportunity for the family to get together.

Najla’s birthday this year and mine fell in Ramadan and hence not much was done to celebrate other than the usual wishes and gifts. No fanfare. We have got into the
daily Ramadan routine and hence continued with it and did not feel like it was a birthday. Sita took Najla out shopping on her birthday and some of Sita’s friends and workmates who are very familiar with Najla joined them.

Sita’s live-in maid who takes care of Najla when Sita is at work ran away and left Sita stranded without help to look after Najla. We volunteered to take care of Najla, thus Najla stays with us in PJ and Sita returns home to PJ on her weekend off days. It is nice to have the sounds of the little girl and the patters of little feet running around the house. She would alternate playtime with her grandmother or with me and is not difficult to handle at all. But……… not so when her mother is back. She will demand a lot of attention from Sita and would not allow Sita to do anything else except tend to her. She screams, she cries and she throws tantrums when Sita is around, a complete opposite behaviour to when her mother is not around!!

On certain days of the week we would join the community in breaking fast in the mosque and on these occasions Najla would follow us. We have to bring her along or else Ram will miss out on these gatherings. She will insist on wearing a full dress complete with headgear to go to the mosque. So cute. And when in the mosque she will sit quietly beside Ram during prayers and gave no trouble at all. Other children would be running around and be boisterous and all but Najla will just sit quietly and watch the other children. It is nice to have her around, a little tiring for us having to ‘chase’ after her, but the house seems more lively now. I am wondering now how it will be once Sita gets a replacement maid. Ah well …….. lets see how it goes…..

No prize guessing who this was for!

All dressed up ready to join us to the mosque

This is when her mum is not around!!

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Month Of Ramadhan and A Funeral

We are already in the third week of Ramadan. The month where Muslims all over the world fast during the day hours and devote themselves to the Almighty much more than they do in other months of the Muslim calendar, and especially so in the last ten days of the month. In the evening, after dusk, most will spend time in the mosques and prayer houses praying in congregation and submitting to the Almighty, seeking His forgiveness and blessings. Other times various supplications are made to Him including glorifying Him and His Prophet, reading the Holy Book or doing deeds to the community, the poor, orphans and others, all done with sincerity in seeking His blessings. It is said that there is one night, within the last ten nights of the month, where the Almighty bless those who submits to Him with blessings equivalent to a thousand months.

Apart from doing the above I was busy throughout, running errands and doing chores that are never ending. However there is one chore both Ram and I enjoy doing now. It is looking after little Najla. It is not a chore really as it is something we really enjoy. Sita’s live-in maid who has been looking after Najla ran away (We found out later that she had gone home perhaps to spend Ramadan with her family). So we volunteered to look after Najla while Sita make some other arrangements for Najla. We told her not to rush into things. Najla should be ok with us. Sita comes back over the weekends and leaves Najla with us during the weekdays when she is at work. Najla is always like an angel during the weekdays when she is with us but when Sita is home in the weekends she quickly turns into a moaning, crying baby difficult for her mum to handle, and is very demanding of her mother. We understand that. Its normal for little kids to demand their mothers’ attention and time one way or another.

Last week we had a funeral to attend. My uncle, Mum’s younger brother, passed away in his house in KL just before the breaking of fast. He was 76 last May. Some years ago he had to be operated on to remove a tumor or growth in the brain. That tumor or growth had affected his vision and stability and at one stage had made his face swollen and badly distorted on one side. He was ok after the operation and was very cheerful, but only for a couple of years. There was a relapse and then whatever doctors did to him could not get him back to his normal self. His condition deteriorated and deteriorated fast. He was bedridden the last year and was completely oblivious to people around him the last six month. He was a uniformed army man who rose through the ranks and retired a Major. A much disciplined man who would do things around the house by himself and at specific schedules and intervals, of course certain chores were shared with his wife. Silverwares, brassware, copperwares and others in the house will be polished spick and span. When he dresses it will always be smart dressing, typical army style. I think his wife is also as disciplined as he is after all the years of being an army wife! So, it was heart rendering to see him so helpless at the very last stage of his life. He needed help for everything. The look of dismay and disappointment was always obvious when you look at him. May the Almighty protect him and place his soul amongst the chosen ones.

Mum came to see her younger brother and pay her last respects. My sister and husband brought mum from JB. His other surviving siblings, another sister older than him and several others younger were also there. Two of them are younger than me (one aunty and one uncle!!). We sat together to pay our respects and read the Holy Book as much as we can before the funeral rights were performed. There was a steady stream of people dropping by, neighbours, family and friends from near and far. Prayers were held in the mosque nearby immediately after the midday prayers followed by burial and the last rights. So ended the life of a man whom I admired for his strict disciplinarian attitude. It will only be cast in memory now. He has three children, all married with families of their own, two living in KL and one living in San Francisco, California. Any of them as disciplined as the father? I wonder………………….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya