Friday, August 31, 2007

Putrajaya Floria

After finished watching the Merdeka Parade on the telly today, we rushed over to Putrajaya to visit the Putrajaya Floria 2007.
A must-visit for flower-lovers and those into gardening. Just look at the riot of colours on display at the event above.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Merdeka !

Pics above: The Jalur Gemilang and the Perak flag put up by my Father at our kampung house in Kepayang Fair Park, Ipoh

Right: Mat Kilau, a true freedom fighter

Above: Celebrating Merdeka; it's no monkey bussiness, it should come from the heart (pic courtesy of TV Smith)

Hello again everyone.

In about two hour's time, when the clock strikes 12.00 midnight, thousands of Malaysians will be screaming their heads off shouting "Merdeka".

Yes, tomorrow will be Malaysia's independence day. For many, it is an occassion (excuse?) to be joyous and soak in the festive atmosphere. I just heard over the radio that all roads leading to Putrajaya are choked with traffic. That's just to show you how Malaysians simply enjoy festivals, carnivals and merry-making.

How will you be celebrating Merdeka?

To be sure, each Malaysian has his own individual way of showing his sense of patriotism and appreciation of Merdeka. We cannot be forced into it. This kind of thing comes from the heart.

Granted, some wouldn't give a hoot about Merdeka. Others might be highly passionate and feel full of pride just thinking about it. Notwithstanding his lack of sensitivity for the religious believes of others, the later group would include, I believe, the now famous (or infamous, if you like) Namewee, the Negarakuku rap singer.

If you ask me, we owe it to the TRUE FREEDOM FIGHTERS to make sure that Merdeka is properly celebrated. And by that I mean PROPERLY celebrated. Remembered and put in the correct context of struggle. Highlighting the blood, sweat and tears shed, as well as, lives sacrificed for the future sake of this nation.

These struggles did not start only fifty-odd years ago. It had its beginnings much earlier. Datuk Maharaja Lela, Datuk Sagor, Datuk Bahaman, Tok Janggut and Mat Kilau are just some of the many names that come to mind here.

In my book, understanding and appreciating the struggles of these heroes beats merely flying the flags, giving salutes at march passes, and indulging in boisterous festivities, any time.

For the sake of my children, sure, I will fly the flag every year in front of our house. But I would also make sure that they understand the true significance of the word 'Merdeka'.

I am not sure if my ramblings make complete sense to them. But, I will never tire of doing this.

As much as it is an act of gratitude to our fallen heroes, it is also about our responsibilities in shaping the future leaders of this nation.

Happy Merdeka! And may ALlah bless us all and our nation, Malaysia.

Left: the image most often associated with Merdeka

Below: The Jalur Gemilang in front of our house put up by my son, Syafiq

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Oh, Turkiye

So, after a roller coaster of a ride, Turkey has finally elected its Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as the country's new president.

Abdullah Gul is said to be the first politician with an Islamist background to become head of state since the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. His candidacy had split Turkey for months, leading to street protests by the secularists and even forcing an early general election.

You see, under the guidance of its founding father, Mustafa Kamal Atartuk, Turkey changed totally from being the seat of the Islamic-based Othmaniyya Caliphate (1299-1922) to being an out-and-out secular state.

Mustafa Kamal Atartuk’s impact was total and wide-ranging. All symbols of Islam suddenly became a big no, no. For example, even the simple act of wearing the Islamic headscarf by women is banned from state institutions including in schools and universities.

Interestingly, Mr Gul's wife wears the headscarf. She will be the first First Lady to wear it. The big question is: how can this be done inside the presidential palace, the ultimate of state institution?

It will be fascinating to see how this historic nation – especially the secularists (strongly backed by the army) – handles this.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Things Change vs Change Things

Have you seen the re-print of the historical pre-Merdeka Straits Times newspaper?

Thats right. In the run-up to Merdeka Day, the NST is re-printing its pre-Merdeka editions (beginning 25th August to 31 August, 1957). They are given free of charge to readers of the NST.

I think it's a novel idea.

It provides for an interesting read, allowing for present-day Malaysians to catch a glimpse of the times gone by. In this particular case, the times when we were preparing to announce to the world that - after a long struggle - we are at last a fee nation.

My daughter, Sakinah, noted that the advertisements are interesting. But it was "kinda' weired", she observed.
The reason for her remark was because currently un-heard of products like Walpamur paint, Fraser & Neave drinks, and Doug's Clotted Cream were featured quite prominently. And so were Campbell's Frozen Soup and Vitacup chocolate drink (but for me, the pictures and illustrations that go with ads are so interesting and classics to my eyes).

No doubt, fifty years ago these products must have been the 'in-thing' and the 'must-haves'. Today, they are almost alien to the current generation like my daughter.

After fifty-odd years, things have changed in Malaysia too; socio-economically, culturally, and politically.

But the question is: what influence have we exerted to change things for the better?

As time passes by, whether we are ready for it or not, things WILL change. Sometimes - if we were lucky - for the better. But sometimes, far from it.

Those who are winners and the leaders amongst us change things. They take charge. And they make things happen. They are not ones to just sit back and let things pass by aimlessly, and left to luck alone.


Friday, August 24, 2007

My rides, my beauties (2)

After deciding to 'drop' Bus No. 81 as my daily ride to the university campus, I went scouting around looking for a second-hand car which suits my, err, budget - if that's what you could call it.

My monthly government scholarship allowance was not that much. I cannot remember exactly how much it was now. What I do know is that it was way, way lower than those received by our Brunei (and even Jordanian) fellow students.

Luckily, I was quite good at saving up.

So, armed with a few hundred quids in my pocket, and with the help of a few 'seniors', I went to view a car 'advertised' by word of mouth among students.

As soon as I set my eyes on her, I was simply bowled over. For there she stood by the road side, smiling and cheekily enticing me to step up and take a closer look at her.

Ford Escort Mk1, Plate no. VVS766L, aka Shirley

She was definitely one of my taste. Yes, certainly in terms of looks, style, and personality. But most of all (I suspect you've guessed this by now) she was just the right type for my wallet. I decided there and then that she would be mine.

She was a British-built Ford Escort Mark1. Built in the early years of 1970s, my Escort was the two-door saloon version - very sporty indeed. She came in a yellow body paintwork, and with a matt black roof top. Her plate number was: VVS 766L. But I called 'Shirley', after the name of the street we were staying.

The Ford Escort MK1 was truly a continental car. It was designed and built in Europe, and for the European market. Although its popularity meant that it did make it to the shores of Asian countries, the Americans never had this type of Ford back home in the US. But in Europe, it was a popular car with the public, and even more so within the motor sports communities.

And, oh how I enjoyed being with my Escort.

During university breaks, I would take her on inter-city trips as we attended students' conferences as far south as Birmingham. During other times we would find ourselves hitting the highway (or the motorway, as they would call it in the UK) to attend my friends' weddings or just dropping by for a visit, as far north as Newcastle in north east England.

Otherwise, it would just be the daily ritual for us - the return trips from my house in Cheetham Hill to the University of Manchester. At the campus I would usually park her at a spacious open air car park close by to the Planning and Architecture Building.

All those while, my Shirley never once complained - let alone protested - about my requests for farther and much more frequent trips. And that, despite she being more than twenty years of age.

She did have a slight 'cough' once (battery failure) resulting in an engine shut-down. It happened at a traffic light in down-town Birmingham city. It was winter, the roads were covered in snow, and it was well past 10.00 o'clock at night. The workshops had all closed.

A recipe for disaster? That was what I thought.

But my Escort was one cool lady - never one to panic easily. After a short work on a push-start, we were happily on our way again. You could almost hear her humming softly to herself.

I was with my Escort for three years. When I completed my studies and had to return to Malaysia, it was one long farewell. And an emotional one indeed.

I advertised for her sale in a local motor advertising magazine. After two weeks, and following a number of enquiries, I found one suitable suitor for my Shirley.

So I drove her ever so slowly to meet this potential buyer, mindful of the fact that this could be our last time together. The suitor was from Whalley Range, in the south of Manchester. One quick look and he was smitten.

And so it was with a heavy heart that I handed over the keys of my Ford Escort to the English gentleman.

As I was leaving, I took one final glance at Shirley and bade her farewell. She was my first own ride. My good and faithful escort.

Next up: Italian muscles

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wedding season is here

The school holidays are here again. 'Tis the season to get married.

Beginning tomorrow, there'll weddings everywhere across the land. Although I won't get to be the groom for any of those weddings (now that's a nice thought, isn't it?), I will still be very busy during this time - attending other peoples' weddings, that is.

The season begins in earnest - for me - starting tomorrow with the Mem Besar's cousin's wedding in Klang.

Following that, there will be some 'must-attend' invitations. These are invitations from VIPs who happen to be my 'big', 'medium-big', and 'super-big' bosses. Datuks and Datuk Bandar marrying-off their daughters and sons.

Weddings are a happy and joyful occasion. It is an eventful day not just for the newly-weds, but also the family members.

So, that's why I wouldn't mind a second wedding myself. I mean a man should....

Err..oooppss, here comes the Mem Besar lurking behind me!

Got to sign off. Adoi !!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Under-rate Liverpool at your own peril

After a 90 days break, the new English Premier League season starts today when Sunderland and Spurs kick off the new campaign at 1245 BST.

This shall be an important season for Liverpool.

After a 17 years hiatus on the league front, Liverpool have finally assembled a squad that can be considered the best in recent memories. Manchester United aside, Liverpool is one of the top spenders this summer in the transfer market. The most expensive transfer of the summer involved one Fernando Torres, from Athletico Madrid to Liverpool. That, is the measure of Liverpool’s’ resolve to capture the league title this season.

Alas, the pundits tend to think otherwise. All and sundry seem to be of the opinion that, come May next year, the jostle for top spot shall still be between Chelsea and Man United. Sir Bobby Robson thinks so. Even former Liverpool greats Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson do not dare to stick their necks out in favour of Liverpool.

So be it. To each his own. I have deep trust in Benitez to do something good for Liverpool FC this season. The previous seasons saw him giving priority to European Champions League. However, this season, it is the domestic league. He has said so himself, several times over.

No doubt, Man United and Chelsea have improved with the purchase of new players over the summer. However, so have Liverpool. If Benitez could take Liverpool to two Champions League finals over the last three years with the old set of players, just imagine, for a bit, what he might do with the current crop.

Call it blind loyalty if you like, but I say Liverpool shall pip Chelsea and Man United to the finishing line this season.

Our time has come!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

My rides, my beauties (1)

My daughter, Sakinah, passed her driving test just a few days before starting her diploma in accountancy. Yesterday, her driving license and “P” plate was delivered to our house.

Looking back, I only got my driver’s license at the age of 21, in Manchester, well into the first year of my course in town planning. I had saved some of my scholarship money to take the driving lessons. Twice a week I would take the short walk from Cornbrook House, my hall of residence then, to a driving centre office located on the Oxford Road, close to the Manchester Polytechnic.

Since then, I have had the opportunity get acquainted with a bevy of beauties (I mean cars, here) who have faithfully served me through thick and thin.

I am not one of those crazy car lovers who would splash thousands of ringgits (or pounds, in UK) to have the latest, fancy, ride. To me, it has always been based on need and practicality (okay, it’s also got to do with money – my lack of it, that is).

Allow me to reminisce a bit, and take you through my list of beauties.

First, before I got my driver’s license, there was the double-decker No. 81 Bus in Manchester. I didn’t own the bus, of course, but it was my first, regular and very reliable ride.

It was operated by the Greater Manchester Transport (GMT), and came in orange liveries and colour similar to the one shown above. I used to board it in Cheetham Hill, north west of the city centre, and got off at the University of Manchester in front of the Cornbrook House. This was after a thirty minutes to forty-five minutes ride. The time taken depends on the traffic in down-town Manchester because No. 81 passes right through the city centre.

The bus was well-built (British engineering) and the ride was always smooth. The fact that the British bus drivers are always courteous and highly professional helps here, of course. There was no bus conductor on board to hand out tickets. The driver does everything. You will pay your fare to the driver as you board the bus, upon which, a ticket is handed to you on the spot.

Reliable and efficient as it was, No. 81 came with one problem – for me at least. I just couldn’t stand the smoke from cigarette smokers. Although smoking is only allowed on the upper deck, there’s no stopping the smoke from flowing downstairs.

I would often reach the university drowsy and sick, especially during the winter months when all the window openings are shut tight. What’s the use of a student coming to campus, if he is too sick and cannot concentrate on the lectures?

So that’s when I decided to look for a second hand car as my first, personally owned ride.

Coming soon…the beauty who was my personal escort (it was love at first sight).