Monday, April 30, 2007

Passion & poppadoms

Sakinah received this novel from her Mak Su Zizah last month. After much cajolling, she came up with this review :-)

The novel “Passion and Poppadoms” written by Nisha Minhas is a story about Marina, an Indian girl who lives in an Oxfordshire town in England. As we know, Indian rules and traditions are a bit strict when it comes to social life. No sex before marriage, no mingling freely, no kissing in public, etc. It’s totally opposite to western life.

However, in the case of Marina, being raised in Oxfordshie, her parents have allowed her to choose her own way, forge her own career and choose her own husband. But sometimes a life without Indian rules isn’t all it’s cracked to be. The first time she met Thomas, the owner of the Regency Hotel, and her future husband, she knew he is the one who will make her life happy.

However, as always, there will be obstacles in every competition.First, there was Emily, her flat mate, who had a big crush on Thomas. Then, there was Thomas’s fiancée, Nicole, the spoilt, blonde Nicole. And then of course there was Thomas himself. He is such so rich that, while reading this book, I wondered whether this hotel owner could ever fall in love with an average Indian girl???

Nevertheless, like all love stories, this tale had a happy ending.

The story is interesting. The writer uses simple, understandable words and reader-friendly languages. This novel contains wonderfully vibrant characters.

This novel also raises important issues about two very different cultures, East-West culture clash. By inserting aspects of Indian cultures in this novel, readers we can learn something new about Indian cultures and traditions. This novel is so fun and suitable for teenagers and adults to fulfill their leisure time.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

In the garden, on a public holiday

Today, 26 April 2007, is a public holiday. For, it is the day of the official installation of Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, the Sultan of Terengganu, as the 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong. So, my brother, Man, come over with his family to join us for breakfast.

And “in return” for the breakfast (nasi lemak, capati, kueh etc.) he gave me a small gadget (I have forgotten what it is called, now, some “reader” or something) which allows me to upload photos taken on his compact Konica Minolta to my computer.

So, after watching the installation of our new King on television, I excitedly scamper around our little garden to take some photos. Within minutes, they were uploaded into the computer (very convenient, as a newbie, I was totally impressed).
And since it is a holiday, to mark a joyous occasion, I thought I might as well share the photos with everyone.

Aah, the wonders of the digital age and the Internet.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kampong Kepayang Fair Park: A convenient intro

I have been wanting to write something about Kampong Kepayang Fair Park – my kampong (village), the place after which this blog takes its name.

Alas, I didn’t have the time, been too busy lately, not enough inspiration, mental block, no creative burst…etc. etc. (whatever, just to justify my procrastination!).

But, lady luck was certainly smiling on me a couple of nights ago.

Whilst surfing the Internet, I stumbled upon a page which had pictures of my mum’s house in Kampong Kepayang Fair Park.

When I first saw photos of the garden, I thought to myself, “Hang on a minute…these look kinda’ familiar”. And sure enough, they were pictures of Mak’s garden. There was also a short description of it, followed by a brief discussion.

The posting was on the web page for Ipoh Community Forum. It can be viewed here.

So, there you have it. A brief introduction to my kampong. How convenient, eh?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Of train stations and conservation

Last week I spent two days in Kuala Lumpur for a seminar at Jalan Langgak Tunku. This meant having to drive right across the city centre from my house in Cheras. Whilst traversing the city centre on one of the flyovers, I found myself to be on the same level and quite close to the minarets of the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station.

I couldn’t help admiring the beauty of this Moorish-style building, designed by architect A.B Hubbock almost 90 years ago.

I can just imagine how much more beautiful this building must have been during its early days, i.e. the days when the KL traffic were lighter, and the building not surrounded by wide roads, flyovers and elevated highways as it is now. Today, the building looks in decline and neglected, especially since it ceased to be used for inter-city train services since 2001.

That was when the train services were relocated to the spanking-new KL Sentral Station. This is fine except that the authorities should have continued the up-keeping of the old station, and put it to good use. Surely such a handsome building which has served the nation as a major transport hub over the years deserves better?

Apparently, it is not just this central station building which is at risk of being forgotten. The situation is much graver for the small town stations which dot the railway line all the way from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth in the north, and to Johor Bharu down south.

Built mostly of wooden structures, these smaller stations have their own unique beauty and rustic charm such as the one in Taiping shown in photos below.

My favourite small town station is of course the Tapah Road Station. This is where I used to get down when coming back from my secondary school in Kangar for holidays in the early 70s.

My journey then would start early in the morning on a bus charted by the school. Upon reaching Butterworth my friends and I would board the morning train leaving for Kuala Lumpur armed with a “concession ticket”.

During those days the trains was powered by diesel engines (I think). The coaches were non-air-conditioned, such that all the windows had to be opened wide to allow for ventilation. So, by the time I reached Tapah Toad Station, my all-white school uniform would turn almost “All Black”. Even my nostrils would be covered in soot!

But, no complaints. After some refreshments at the small station canteen I’d be on my way home.

But the fast disappearance of the small railway stations IS a cause for complaint.

Somehow, as a society, we just fail to respect our heritage, especially the built environments which provide the link to past history. IMHO, the preservation and conservation of heritage buildings and areas is an important facet in building our identity as a nation.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

What's the future of our environment?

Dr. Ahmad Mustaffa Babjee (Tan Sri Dato') is the former Director-General of the Department of Veterinary Services. The outdoors, the natural environment and conservation is his passion.

Thus, after a long and distinguished career, it is not surprising to see him dedicating his life to nature conservation.

In a recent interview to a newspaper (NST, 15 April 2007) Mustaffa was quoted as saying "We have no political leaders who are passionate about conservation. We also lack public officials who care for the environment.
Most of them equate conservation to anti-development".

That being the case, he goes on to warn that "by the time this country realised and recognised the economic and social values of conservation, there will be little left to conserve and a big bill for the future generation to foot for a livable environment".

Enough said...

Kirkby saw first announcement on Malaya's independence

I read with interest an article in the NST today, 15 April 2007, entitled "He was there when Tunku said it".

The article was about one Zainul Arshad Zainul Abidin who was there at the Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, England, when Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj first announced, on 7 February 1956, that the British government had agreed for Malaya to gain her independence on August 31, 1957.

Zainul Arshad Zainul Abidin, 19 years old then, was training to be a teacher at the Kirkby College.

He was quoted: "Tunku said that he wanted us to receive the news first because he felt that as teachers, we would be spearheading the development of education in the ‘new Malaya’."

The Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby was set up by the Malayan Government in 1952 to train young Malayans to become teachers. It produced about 1,500 graduates. I have written an article about the College on this blog earlier. That article can be viewed here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Missing the F1 Grand Prix, and feeling good

Last Sunday was F1 day in Malaysia. From what I heard, it saw the biggest turnout ever since SIC started hosting the race.

After a first-hand experience of the F1 in 2001, I got hooked.

So it would be normal for me and the boys (my sons, Syafiq and Anas) to "ambush" the living room on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and take control of the television set whenever there’s a race on (that’s when the ladies of the house would be banished upstairs, to use the old and tiny television in the bedroom…).

But last Sunday I didn’t catch the F1. Not even for a minute.

It is not for the lack of a ticket. Even the night before Pakchik Bakar had called offering me one.

The reason being is that I had committed myself to a gathering for “hujjaj” at the Suria KLCC Mosque.

“Hujjaj” is Arabic for “pilgrims”. In this case, it’s a gathering for those who had performed the pilgrimage to Makkah.

The year 2006 is a monumental one in my life. For it is when I undertook the greatest journey of my life. Or, as some would say, the ‘journey of a life-time’. How true.

I might have spent almost a decade of my life staying overseas. And as a town planner, I have been to see so many cities in my travels. But nothing quite compares with this spiritual journey. The journey in answer to the call of my Creator, Allah.

The gathering at Suria KLCC Mosque was aimed at strengthening sillaturrahim amongst fellow pilgrims who had gone to perform the hajj together.

It was a good program. It not only served to strengthen our friendship, but – for me at least, it managed to bring back memories of being in the Holy Land.

No. Its more than that, actually. It managed to stir up a certain kind of feeling in my heart, during, and after attending the program.

You see, performing the hajj tends to bring one closer to God. It is a totally purifying experience for the soul. It brings an indescribable experience which one does not have the luxury of going through very often. Thus, causing one to be left longing, hoping, and forever more searching for much of the same feelings and experience.

To be sure, being at Suria KLCC – and on an F1 day to boot – cannot bring those feelings back completely.

Nevertheless, listening to the talks, as well as the soothing rendering of nasyid and zikir, did enough to remind me of my pledges to Allah whilst being His guest in the Holy Land.

So, although I missed out on the F1, and despite getting a teaser-of-an-sms from my brother, Azman, from Sepang (right in the midst of the program!...sabar je la…), I can still live with that. After all, it’s only the second race of the season, with 15 more to go.

And if I had to choose again? I’m afraid F1 would have to take a back seat once more.

No hard feelings, Bernie Ecclestone. For I have made my choice, and its crystal clear in my heart.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Jangan main-main!

This is my daughter Sakinah's take on a book she'd been reading over the last couple of weeks. It is a new book by famous motivator Dr. H.M. Tuah Ismail entitled "Jangan Main-Main", published by Telaga Biru, Kuala Lumpur.

Read on...

Jangan Main-Main adalah salah satu siri buku motivasi dari Dr. HM Tuah Ismail, pakar motivasi yang terkenal di negara kita. Bahasa yang di gunakan ialah bahasa perbualan - bahasa santai. Penggunaan perkataan seperti ‘omputih’, ‘kecik’, ‘ambik’, ‘sabor’, ‘keluaq’, dan ‘kalo’ memudahkan pembacaan kita selain merasakan seolah-olah sedang berkaunseling terus dengan Dr. Tuah. Ilustrasi berbentuk komik juga di selitkan di setiap sketsa atau bab untuk membuang rasa bosan pembaca.

Matlamat utama buku ini adalah untuk memudahkan interaksi dengan pembaca seterusnya membantu pembaca menyelesaikan masalah yang mereka hadapi. Ini kerana bagi pakar motivasi ini, jarang ada manusia yang boleh menyelesaikan masalah, cabaran, dugaan dan segalanya tanpa bantuan dari orang lain.

Setiap bab dalam buku ini di sampaikan dalam bentuk penceritaan. Antara yang menarik di dalam buku ini adalah tentang semangat Awang. Awang adalah orang Melayu dan manusia pertama yang berlayar dari barat ke barat dan terus ke barat tanpa berpatah balik dan akhirnya sampai ke barat semula. Dia telah berjaya membuktikan bahawa bumi ini bulat.

Selain itu, pengarang juga banyak menceritakan pengalaman peribadinya sendiri untuk dijadikan pengajaran. Dan di akhir setiap bab akan diselitkan pengajaran dalam bentuk pantun atau ayat. Ia lebih kurang sebagai konklusi bagi bab tersebut.

Antara contoh nasihat pengarang di dalam buku ini ialah untuk memaksimumkan potensi pemikiran Emotional Quotient (EQ) berbanding IQ. Pemikiran EQ ini ialah cara kita mengawal emosi sendiri. Ini adalah penting terutama sekali bagi yang sudah melangkah ke alam pekerjaan supaya lebih bersikap profesional.

Buku ini amat menyeronokkan. Bahasa yang mesra pembaca dan cara penceritaan yang amat menarik. Ia adalah bahan bacaan yang ringan yang sesuai dibaca pada masa lapang.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Things Japanese (2): O-hanami

Spring is in the air!

In Japan, ‘tis the season for enjoying the cherry blossom. The cherry blossom, or sakura in Japanese, is the national flower of Japan. But more than that, it is a flower that has inspired countless poets to pen down praises, and painters to splash colours onto canvases, in this nation of art and nature lovers.

One activity which reflects their adoration of the sakura is none other than “hanami” which literally means "flower viewing". It refers to the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of cherry blossoms.

As spring approaches, the opening of the flowers is keenly monitored by the whole nation, and a national "cherry blossom front" is closely charted as it slowly moves up the Japanese archipelago from Okinawa to Hokkaido.

The blossom forecast is announced by the weather bureau, and it is watched carefully by those planning hanami as the blossoms only last for one week.

The poor weather bureau folks really have their work cut out for them, though. Trying to predict when exactly flowers will blossom is hard enough. But when predictions go wrong, behold the wrath of the Japanese public!

A big hue and cry in the media is not uncommon as people complain of wrecked party plans and businesses affected as purchases of food, beverage, picnic equipments, photographic equipments etc. do not go as planned for.

No wonder the Japanese weather bureau people are always on tenterhooks come spring time.

But for the rest of the nation...its party time!

Groups of friends, office co-workers, etc. would head for the nearest parks, lay down some mats, and start the merry-making by singing and dancing.

In Tokyo, the most popular spots for this would be the Ueno Park, as well as the Sumida Park along both sides of the Sumida River.

Tsukuba, where I used to study, has its fair share of fine spots too, such as the Matsumi Park, Ninomiya Park, as well as within and around the University campus.

As it is highly likely that my professor could be one of those howling away under the cherry trees, this would often be the perfect moment for me to take time off from college and bring the family to enjoy the blossoming cherry trees - not to mention, to sample the antics of Japanese at play...


More lovely photos of the current cherry blossom season in Japan (below) courtesy of my friend Fadjuri-san who is doing his Masters at the prestigous Tokyo University.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Land Reclamation: Do we really need them?

An interesting article in the NST entitled "What future in Land Reclamation?" by Prof. Salleh Buang caught my attention last Saturday morning (NST, 30 March 2007).

The article which appeared in the pull-out section, Property Times, discussed on the need, or otherwise, for land reclamation activities along our precious coasts.

I am pretty sure the article would make many people sit up and take notice. For it definitely goes against the grain of current-day believes and practice amongst developers and - if I may add - some politicians, too.

As a town planner, I strongly believe that land reclamation is absolutely unnecessary, not to mention a bane, to our natural coastal environment. It is not as if we are out of land area for urban expansion like the case may be in Singapore.

The shore - where the land meets the sea, has always fascinated the mankind. We have always been attracted to it like ants to sugar. It is, after all, a place of exceeding beauty and full of excitement.

Unfortunately, in our overzealous need to be close to the sea, we are inadvertently destroying the very assets and resources that make the shore so attractive to us in the first place. Yes, a case of 'killing the goose which lays the golden egg' !!

We have to start educating the developers as well as professionals on the need and means for protecting our coastal areas. I have written a short article on the role of planners before in this blog.

But perhaps more importantly, our political masters should lead by example and champion the cause for coastal environmental management and conservation.
Our coastal areas are not wastelands waiting to be 'rehabilitated', nor to be over-developed for short term financial gains at the expense of our future generations.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

My career in photography: at a crossroad

I consider myself a shutterbug (a rusty shutterbug, I must admit!).

My 'career' in photography started in 1980 when I bought my first SLR in Singapore. It was the classic Olympus OM10. I was back for a summer break from my A-Levels in Blackpool, England.

I still remember finishing my first role of film on photos of my friend Hasni and his family in Johor Bharu whom I had been visiting.

I had many happy moments with the delightful little OM10. Being in the UK partly contributed towards this, of course. For in the UK, they have so many photography magazines such that budding shutterbugs are spoilt for choice. Just take your pick and read on to increase your knowledge in photographic techniques or simply to check out the latest gadgets reviews.

Having added a Tamron zoom lens to my armoury of equipments, I would often find myself out-and-about on photographic trips with friends during holiday breaks. The north of Wales was especially a favourite destination. The Lake District in north-west England was another.

My second camera is the Nikon F70 with a Zuiko 35-70mm as a standard lens. This I bought in Shinagawa, Tokyo in 1995.

By the time the F70 arrived though, I was no more into photographic trips. Much of my photography now centred around my young family, recording our three-year stay in Japan.

Having a Nikon in your hands of course gives you that 'professional', can-do-no-wrong-look. Believe you me when I say that this is very important when being amongst the Japanese who are just crazy when it comes to owning the latest cameras and gadgets. And mind you, in Japan gadgets really do get out of date super-fast!!

But now, what with the advance of the digital age, it is I myself who is getting outdated! In my observation, all and sundry seem to own a digital camera nowadays. All except me, that is.

In the mid-90s people would say that "digital photography is not 'genuine' photography". To be sure, if you looked around then, you wouldn't see many professionals using one.

But today digital cameras technology have improved by leaps and bounds. All the big names in photography such as Nikon, Canon and Olympus have flooded the market with models for entry level, as well as, for the dead serious professionals.

I have noticed how easy it is to manage and store digital photos. There is also the savings afforded by doing away with processing and printing of rolls of film.

So now I keep hearing the age-old saying "If you can't beat them, join them" going on and on in my head. Yes, to the point that I am now very tempted to by a digital camera as a present for myself - although for whatever reason I'm not so sure...

But then economic sensibilities jolt me back into reality. I can't afford to buy one for now. Got to save up first. And if I were to buy a new camera, what will happen to the F70? Will it just languish in the cupboard collecting dust? That will be a waste, now, wouldn't it?

Oh, well...maybe much later then. For now at least I shall have to make do with the nice little Konica Minolta lended to me by my brother, Azman.

Meanwhile, I shall just dream on of having a digital SLR Nikon, or maybe an Olympus, or maybe....