Monday, December 22, 2008

Sekolah Menengah Kampong Gajah: The school that my father built

The Roll of Principals in the Bilik Gerakan of Sekolah Menengah Kampung Gajah

Last Friday I went to Lumut for a working trip-cum-family vacation. After Teluk Intan, instead of taking the Bagan Datoh-Sitiawan route, we took the slightly longer but more memorable Kampung Gajah-Bota Kanan route.

Memorable, because during my pre-school days, we used to stay in Bota Kanan, and we frequently took the 20 km Bota Kanan-Kampung Gajah route on our occasional trips to Sekolah Menengah Kampung Gajah – my father’s school.

Apak was appointed as the first headmaster of Sekolah Menengah Kampung Gajah back in 1965 when I was a mere 4 year old toddler (oops, there goes my age!). It was his first big job after graduating from the Malayan Teachers Training College in Kirkby. For before that, he was a teacher in various schools in Ipoh, Parit, Bota Kanan and Telok Bakung.

It must have been a big challenge for him. For Kampung Gajah was a backwater of sorts. The area was more known for its Malay nationalism uprising against the British during the 1870s. It got into the history books when J.W.W. Birch, the first British Resident for Perak, was killed by Dato’ Maharaja Lela at place called Pasir Salak.

With the kampong folks more being more interested in tending their farms and padi fields, it was must have been an arduous task, I would imagine, even to persuade the parents to send their children to school!

But I think he must have done a decent job. The school prospered. And he gained the respect of the kampong folks. One crafty means of winning their hearts was by having the annual school "Pesta Durian".

Yes, what better way to do it? With Kampung Gajah being at the heart of Perak’s “durian belt” and Apak being a “hantu durian” himself I guess it must have just clicked together.

I remember going to one of those Pesta Durian. The school compound was literally filled up with so many “longgok” of durian and other fruits. It was a happy and joyous occasion for everyone – teachers, students and parents alike.

When we whizzed past Kampung Gajah last Friday, the mere sight of the school was enough to jolt me into stopping the car and turning around to enter into the school compound.

As soon as we entered the school compound, memories of my trips here with Apak more that forty years ago came flooding back.

And proudly, I exclaimed to my kids, and the Mem Besar, that this is the school that Atok built.

Apak was the headmaster of the school for five years until 1970. The school has, since then, been renamed Sekolah Menengah Dato’ Seri Maharajalela, taking after the name of the famous local Malay warrior.

(Above) Driveway to the school blocks. The old entranceway to the school compound used to be from the opposite side, that is, from the direction of the Sungai Perak

The two original school blocks
(Above) A closer view of the two original school blocks. Apak’s office used to be on the ground floor on the right hand side of this photo. It was a simple office modestly furnitured with wooden tables, chairs and racks. I remember a large calendar with the words “Rajan & Co.” used to hang on the wall. Crates of Kickapoo carbonated soft drinks could also be found “hoarded” in the room (much to my delight)

The ‘cute’ and unique stair case in between the two old blocks. Very simple, and doesn’t employ the boxed-up intermediate landing area found in most of today’s schools. The space under the stairs was where durians used to be gathered by the basket-loads during Pesta Durian

The Roll of Principals. Apak’s name is right there at the top of the list. I had to persuade the administration staff to open up their Bilik Gerakan to take this photo. Although initially reluctant, a quick phone call to the current principal did just the trick. With his kind permission, the staff were very obliging. Thank you Cikgu Nayan

The school hall, a new building addition to the school. It was not there when I was a kid

Monday, December 08, 2008

Aidil Adha

Just got back from Ipoh.

We spent the Hari Raya break with Emak. All my brothers and my sister were there too, together with their family. All came back home to be with Emak.

It was an opportune time to do a majlis tahlil for arwah Apak.

We remember him, everyday. The sadness lingers. The memory lives on.

There were sadness too, this Aidil Adha, for a section of our community struck by tragedy at Bukit Antarabangsa. Our heart goes out to them for their loved ones lost in the landslide.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Kirkby Alumni Reunion: what it means for me

My daughter Nadiah viewing the Kirkby Exhibiton at INTAN Bukit Kiara

Uncle Jef's (Jaafar Saidin) oil painting of the MTTC campus was on exhibition

Many old photos of Kirkby days. This collage has one photo with Apak in it taken on the morning of Hari Raya in 1956

The Kirkby College Alumni Grand Reunion was held over two days from 28 – 29 November 2008. It kicked off with the Kirkby Educational Exhibition at INTAN, followed by a Convention on Teachers Education officiated by the Minister for Education. The finale was the Kirkby Grand Reunion Dinner at PICC, Putrajaya graced by Her Royal Highness Raja Permaisuri Perak, Tuanku Bainun.

It was a momentous occasion for Kirkbyites. Half a century after returning home from Kirkby, and after contributing with their youthful zest and energy to the development of our young nation, the government has finally given them due recognition and their rightful standing in the education community which they fully deserve. We are, after all, talking about a pioneering group of educators, a group of people with immense impact and a lasting legacy on the development of education in Malaysia.

For me, it was an emotional experience.

This reunion came a month too late for Apak, my father. Apak had passed away exactly one month earlier. If only… if only Apak was still around, he would have savoured this moment too. That, I am very sure of.

Even if, for whatever reason, he had not been able to be at the functions himself, I would be there on his behalf. And the event would be duly reported to him - complete with photos and memorabilia attached. This is because Apak had known about this reunion. You see, he had received a personal invitation from the organizers. Alas, it was not to be.

I have told myself a long time ago that, when Apak passes on, I should take up the responsibility of continuing his friendship. So, here I am now, a full-fledge Associate Member of Persatuan Alumni Maktab Kirkby Malaysia.

I took my family to see the Kirkby exhibition at INTAN yesterday. Although it was just a small one, I'm sure it was enough to bring back the good old memories of Kirkby for all the Kirkbyites. If Apak was there, he too would have been able to relate to the many photos, maps, paintings and documents on exhibition.

For me, it gave me a sense of fulfillment just to be there. I felt so lucky to be able to experience a piece of something which my father had actually experienced for himself more than fifty years ago. I had always known that Kirkby was something special to Apak. Yesterday, at the exhibition, I came that little bit closer to understanding why it was so special.

The Mem Besar, Syafiq and Anas gawked at the exhibits. Even my youngest daughter, Nadiah, got excited when she managed to point out to me a group photo of her Atok.

Amongst the many items on display, I could certainly recognize two oil paintings of the MTTC campus. They were the paintings by one of Apak’s closest friends from his Kirkby days, Jaafar Saidin. I had seen the paintings many times before at Uncle Jef’s home in Alor Setar, and later in Kulim. Apparently, he had given the paintings away to the organizers of the exhibition as a token of his contribution to make the event a success.

Later in the night, I attended the Kirkby Grand Reunion Dinner at PICC, in Putrajaya.

Again, I felt blessed and lucky to be there.

For I was now amongst the Kirkbyites in full force. They came dressed in their best, donning jackets proudly displaying their Kirkby MTTC crest. The camaraderie, the respect for each other, and the dignified presence that they projected over-awed me.

Throughout the event, I couldn’t help thinking that these are the very people whom my father – my own Apak, had rubbed shoulders with. These are the people with whom my father must have studied, worked, and played with.

It must have been an honour for him. It was for me... just to be in their presence.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Creating world class cities: a prerequisite

Sydney: a world class city. But where is Malaysia's world class city?

A large proportion of the Malaysian population now resides within urban areas. As Malaysian cities grow bigger, issues relating to urban management become more complex and a host of new problems also start to set in. Traffic congestion, ineffective public transport, environmental degradation, and waste management are just some of the problems that the local authorities in Malaysia have to grapple with.

The local authorities are often made accountable for these matters that receive a great deal of public interest. Yet, the challenge has always been the overlapping roles of various government agencies, as well as, the lack of empowerment and limitation of authority vested upon them.

In more developed countries, local authorities are given more authority over matters that could be delivered more effectively at the local level by the local government themselves. It makes sense. After all, the local authorities being the “third-tier of government”, should have a clearer and fairer understanding of issues and problems within their areas of jurisdiction.

In the UK, Japan, and Australia for example, public transportation are within the jurisdiction of the local authorities to control and manage. Thus, services are able to be tailor-made to meet local needs more effectively.

In contrast, local authorities in Malaysia have no say what so ever in planning for public transportation. Instead they are controlled and decided elsewhere by some Federal ministry or agencies in Putarajaya or Kuala Lumpur. Why, even the routing of buses within their areas are decided for them by Federal agencies! And we are not even talking about approvals for rail-based transport like LRT or monorail yet here.

Ironically, whilst people all over the world are talking about “decentralization of power” and “empowerment of local governments” here we are bucking the trend. Because if recent developments are to be any indication, the Federal Government and its ministries are intent on usurping more powers from our local governments. Even traditional functions of local authorities like picking up of rubbish are being controlled from KL!

Hard to believe yes. But that’s Malaysia for you.

If this trend continues then we can just dream on about creating global and world class cities. Major, successful cities world over are given the trust and mandate to deal with local issues. In that way, they are able to discharge their duties effectively and meet the aspirations of the local population which they directly serve and are accountable to.

What we need in Malaysia right now is nothing short of a paradigm shift and a change in mindset. The management and organization of local authorities need to be enhanced. For that, the Federal Government and its battery of Ministries and agencies have just got to let go some of their functions. And local authorities have got to be given the necessary resources – jurisdiction, manpower and financial.

Only then can we talk about creating world class cities.

Monday, November 17, 2008

PC kaput

It's been very quite on this blog latety, yes. My PC has gone kaput. It just refuses to be switched on!

Steps have been taken to revive it. In the meantime this blog shall continue to hibernate. After all, it is winter (well almost)...

I'll be back soon, once the PC is OK.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Barack Obama: the time for change is here?

Barack Hussein Obama has done it. After two, long years of campaigning he has triumphed to be the 44th President of the United States
What in the world hit this first term senator in the first place to make him fancy his chances as the Democratic Party candidate beats me. After all he was up against Democrat heavyweight Hillary Clinton - and her hubby Bill, too, if I may add!

But against all odds, Hillary the undisputed favourite, was pushed aside.

And the campaign against McCain was no walk in the park either. Everything was thrown at him to derail his march to the White House.

But his sincerity and seemingly willingness to sit down and listen to all parties - "rogue nation" Iran included - has endeared him to many foreigners, and Americans alike, it seems.

After the promises of change, expectation will be running high that a new era of a fairer America shall emerge. We wait and see. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hj. Ahmad Termizi bin Mat Nor

My dear beloved Father – Apak, to all his children – passed away last Sunday.




Lahir 1.3.1936
Kembali ke rahmatullah 26.10.2008

Kembalilah ke sisi Penciptamu duhai Ayahandaku
Sesungguhnya kami akan mengikutimu
Engkau adalah orang yang terdahulu dari kami
Dan kami pasti akan menyusuli

Engkau sentiasa di dalam ingatan kami
Dalam ingatan anakanda, cucu serta semua keturunanmu

Diiringi do’a

Ya ALlah, Ya Tuhanku
Muliakanlah kedudukan Ayahanda kami
Gandakanlah pahala amalan-amalan beliau
Ampunilah segala dosa-dosa beliau

Ya ALlah, Ya Tuhanku
Cucuri rahmat ke atas roh beliau
Tempatkan beliau di kalangan orang-orang yang Engkau kasihi
Dan di kalangan orang-orang yang Soleh.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pesta Bola Merdeka: Lawak antarabangsa

The good old days

In case you hadn’t noticed yet, this year’s edition of Pesta Bola Merdeka kicked off last Wednesday, 15th of October.

And have you looked at the list of countries that the FAM has invited to participate? If you ask me, quite honestly, it’s a disgrace to the name and memory attached to this (formerly) grand dame of Asian football tournament which was mooted to commemorate the birth of our nation.

The countries that made it to the FAM list are nothing but minnows of footballing nations ranked below 100 in the official FIFA ranking. The highest ranked is Mozambique at 100. The rest are as follows: Sierra Leone (133), Myanmar (157), Vietnam (165), Nepal (175), Bangladesh (179) and Afghanistan (179).

Its a joke!

But with Malaysia being at number 160, I guess one could see where this list is coming from. The FAM is desperate for wins. After all aren’t we the defending champions?

FAM, did you know that Abraham Lincoln once said: You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time?

Malaysian football fans are more knowledgeable nowadays. If you want our support then be more professional in managing our football and bring it to a higher level. You cannot gain respect and support by us beating nations like war-torn Afghanistan in a football match.

Come on la FAM, get real will ya’.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Raya open house

Hari Raya open house, they say, is a Malaysian tradition. I guess its true. In Arab countries the celebration is decidedly very low key. Except for a small family feast, it more or less ends after the solat Aidil Fitri. My brother-in-law, Latif, who is working in Saudi Arabia told me over the phone that they only get one day official holiday there.

I held my open house yesterday. Just a small one, and nothing too fancy. For me, my priority for holding an open house is mainly friendship and silaturrahim.

Of course the food is there to be enjoyed too. Now, that's very important. After all, one wouldn't want a large group of guests with rumbling, empty stomach to congregate in one's house for too long. They might get riotous and take over the house !

But, most of all, the open house is a means for me to say thank you to my office colleagues for all their help and support at work, a chance meet up with old friends, as well as, an opportunity for me to have long chats with neighbours - a luxury for us (supposedly very busy) town people.

Alhamdulillah many turned up, and the event went without too much glitches. My only concern was that - at the peak of the event - I couldn't manage to speak for long with everybody. And secondly, at one point, my small house LOOKED just like it, i.e. a very small house which cannot hold that many people at one time.

But these are small matters which might be rectified with a little bit more planning.

Thank you to all those who attended and helped made it a memorable experience.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Of wet Raya and new biras

Alhamdulillah my family and I are safely back home from Raya celebration at the kampong.

My two sons, Syafiq and Anas, have also been sent back to their boarding schools today. But not after an arduous eight hour journey through heavy traffic jams and rain. They could have taken the public transport, or take a lift with some of their friend's parents. But, a man's got to do what a man's got to do. And their safe journey back to school is the most important thing to me. So I shall endure even worst challenges if necessary.

This year's Hari Raya celebration has been low-key, but a joyful and happy one nevertheless.

The first day of Raya we were in Sungai Petani, the Mem Besar's kampong. It rained and rained till water seeped through into my old car and wet the carpet inside - must be leaking somewhere!

But right after solat Aidil Fitri the rain stopped and out came the sunshine with all its glory. Subhanallah.

It has been quite sometime since we last celebrated first day of Raya in Sungai Petani. So it's a nice change. Plus, this year I got to celebrate it with two new "biras" (two of three that I shall have by end of this year).

One of them is a fan of English soccer, although not a Liverpool supporter I must say. Mamat told me that he supports Arsenal. Okay...I can live with that. As long as its not another one of those Man United guys, we'll get along fine :-)

On the second day of Raya I was in Ipoh with my parents and siblings.

We did not travel much because Apak is not doing too well. He can't walk that much due to his weakening legs and he also tires easily. So we stayed at home and received visitors instead, including one from a Pakistani friend of mine now teaching at the Universiti Teknologi Petronas in Tronoh.

But on the third day of Raya my siblings and I managed to make a convoy to six houses in and around Ipoh. These were visits to close relatives, some of whom we have not met for almost a decade.

To me, nowadays, this is what Aidil Fitri is all about. It is the occasion and opportunity to visit relatives and strengthen the bonds that exist between family and friends. Long gone are the days when Aidil Fitri is the time when I would don my new baju raya and make the rounds kutip duit Raya. That I leave it to my children now.

But I hope and pray that when their time come, my children too will hold up this tradition of visiting relatives - and friends of mine - in the name of establishing and strengthening silaturrahim.

Selamat Hari Raya and do not forget to start your Puasa Enam.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Selamat Hari Raya 1429

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri Minal Aidin Wal Faizin

Maaf Zahir & Batin

to my family, friends, colleagues and visitors to this blog
"Berhati-hati di jalan raya" for those joining the yearly exodus of "balik kampong".

And especially for my son Syafiq who has a big exam after Raya: "It's Raya!" so enjoy the celebration. Just don't throw the books away...not yet, anyway.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Kanji Kampong Kepayang

Masjid Al Khairiah, Kampong Kepayang Fair Park, where the kanji Kepayang is prepared

Just got back from Ipoh this afternoon after visiting my parents. I try to go back once a month to look after Apak and Emak’s necessities. But the mid-Ramadhan visit is an annual affair – almost a must for me.

I would not miss it for a couple of reasons.

First, it is simply to be with Apak and Emak for berbuka puasa.

According to one hadith, the iftar (berbuaka puasa) is one of two joyous occasions for Muslims who fast. It’s true. When we were small, I remember how happy my siblings and I would be when iftar was approaching.

We would be popping in and out of the kitchen spying on what food Emak was preparing for iftar. And the last ten minutes before iftar was a right riot around the dinner table. Well, almost. What with the sound of groaning (someone suffering from hunger), whooping of joy (over-excited at the sight of glorious spread on the table) and the noise of plates and spoons clanging and banging. It was just wonderful.

Apak and Emak must have enjoyed those moments too. But now that all their children are grownup and staying in faraway KL, I am sure that they will miss the fun and joys from such occassions. And if I dare say it, there could be a sense of loneliness, too.

So I say to myself: Emak and Apak have both given me so much in life. Therefore, hitting the highway once a year to have iftar with them, in order to make them happy and brighten up their Ramadhan a little, is such a small sacrifice to make. After all, what is it compared to all the sacrifices that they have done for me?

Now, the other reason is “kanji Kampong Kepayang”.

For as long as I can remember, Kampong Kepayang folks have been preparing the kanji (or bubur lambuk as it is commonly called elsewhere) for free distribution to Muslims in the neighbourhood. When I was small, during Ramadhan, I would join the other kids to queue up (surround the poor cook, actually) with a “sia tingkat” in hand to get our share of kanji.

Kanji Kampong Kepayang is very tasty. Its taste and texture is almost similar to the famous bubur lambuk Kampung Baru, in KL. So it would not be uncommon to see people from outside the Kampong also making a beeline for the mosque where the kanji is cooked daily during Ramadhan. This includes people from Meru, Sg Senam, Ipoh Garden, Canning Garden, Tasek and Greentown.

Apak told me that when he first came to Kampong Kepayang at the age of 12, kanji Ramadhan was already a tradition in the Kampong. That was in 1948. At that time, the chief cook was my Nyang Lias. He was followed by Hj Isa. The current cook is an old friend of mine, Ani, Hj Isa’s son-in-law. The cook has changed, but the porridge remains the same – delicious.

The kanji is prepared using donations from individuals, families and even some corporate entities, all eager to reap some rewards from the bountiful ‘pahala’ which Allah promises during this month of barakah.

Unlike in many other places, kanji Kepayang is cooked in a big kuali. Everyday two kuali-full of kanji is prepared using 30kg of rice. According to Ani’s helper, on some days that is still not enough as many would have to return home empty handed.

If that is not a testimony to kanji Kepayang’s greatness, then I don’t know what is.

So, next time, when you can’t get your bubur lambuk Kampung Baru, make a detour and head north to Kampong Kepayang Fair Park in Ipoh. You won't regret it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sorry la Man United fans (3)

Albert Riera did well on his debut

Hahaha. I’m having a good laugh right now. For Liverpool beat Manchester United 2 – 1 in the clash at Anfield.

Prior to the game, all and sundry were writing Liverpool off. The TV pundits, the sports writers in the major local newspapers, and of course the many Man United fans amongst my friends. Nobody gave us a chance, especially with Gerrard and Torres not expected to be fit.

But we did it! And it was achieved even without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres in the starting line-up.

Well done Liverpool FC.

Now, if we can get rid of those greedy American owners for good then we might be on to a really fantastic season.

The Appeal

Just bought the latest novel by John Grisham: The Appeal.

Have not started reading it in earnest because there are a few other books on the shelf screaming to be picked up and read.

So I just flipped through the pages, and it promises to be yet another riveting stuff from Grisham.

Liverpool to beat Man United

Tonight is the night of clash of the titans in English football. Yes, it’s the clash between the greatest English team ever, Liverpool, against the greatest team wannabe, Man United.

It’s always an overwhelming and emotional occasion when these two giants meet. And the rivalry is not restricted to the wet and windswept England northwest region only. It reverberates half way across the world.

As early as 9.00am this morning already the sms started streaming in to my hand phone from a few die-hard (ill-informed?) Man United fans taunting and teasing me for the game that (they say) we are sure to lose tonight.

Hah! I can only smile at their ignorance and foolhardiness.

Sure, Gerrard and Torres are not fit to play. Even if the are in the squad, they can’t be expected to be 100% because of their serious injuries.

But remember we also have Keane and Riera.

Tonight, witness these two to stand up and deliver.

So, when the fulltime is up, expect Man United (and their fans) to hit the highway which will take them home to Manchester scratching their heads and wondering “just what went wrong?”.

Liverpool (from): Reina, Arbeloa, Aurelio, Carragher, Skrtel, Hyypia, Agger, Dossena, Benayoun, Babel, Riera, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Plessis, Kuyt, Keane, Torres, Ngog, Cavalieri, El Zhar.

Man Utd (from): Van der Sar, Kuszczak, Foster, Neville, Brown, R Da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evans, Evra, F Da Silva, Fletcher, O'Shea, Hargreaves, Carrick, Anderson, Scholes, Nani, Possebon, Gibson, Giggs, Rooney, Tevez, Berbatov, Welbeck.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A. Samad Ismail

National Journalism Laureate, A. Samad Ismail, passed away at the age of 84, last Thursday.

Fondly known as Pak Samad in the writing and journalistic circles, he has been described as guru by many a journalist and writers alike. But he was more than that. He was a nationalist. He was one of the last few surviving national freedom fighters. He was a man who helped shape the history of our nation.

I have never really experienced Pak Samad’s writings. Yes, being a science stream student during my secondary education has its draw backs. One of which is the dearth of exposure to local literary works. I must confess that I have never completed reading any of his novels. Not even the much heard of “Patah Sayap Terbang Jua” (shame on you, Azizi).

But I know Pak Samad is a great man.

I have seen – somewhere – his photo with the late Tun Razak on a trip to London as part of the team which negotiated our independence from the British. I heard that he started writing against the colonial masters whilst still young. I also know that he has a soft spot for the poor and the down-trodden. A characteristic which once led to him being branded – totally unfairly – as a communist!

I have read Lat’s book “Lat 30 Years Later” in which he described his first meeting with Pak Samad at Balai Berita office in Jalan Riong. And of how Pak Samad told him off once because his writing was lousy (although his drawings had improved).

After I started this blog, I also started reading other blogs. And that's when I stumbled upon Nuraina Samad's blog and got to know the man closer. Nuraina blogged about her Bapak every Tuesday.

So, another towering figure of the nation is gone.

Looking at the current crop of journalists and writers, I can’t help feeling sorry for Malaysia. I just wonder when the next journalist extraordinaire in the mould of Pak Samad will come our way. If ever.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Ahlan wa sahlan ya Ramadhan

Ramadhan is here with us again.

It is the most awaited month for Muslims simply for the blessings and barakah that Allah SWT has promised onto Muslims who do their utmost to fill this one month with ibadah.

I am reminded of my posting last year (here) on getting the most out of the holy month of Ramadhan.

Ahlan wa sahlan, wa marhaban ya Ramadhan.

I seek Allah's grace and mercy so that this shall be a better Ramadhan than the last for my family and I. Amin.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rider's log No. 38: Gita Bayu

Date: 31st August 2008 (Sunday)

Set off/finish time: 6.40am - 8.10am

Total duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

Starting point: Home, Bandar Tun Hussein Onn

Route taken: Cheras Perdana, Silk Highway, Balakong Industrial Estate, Gita Bayu, Minlon (turning point).

Distance covered: 24.36 km

Max. speed: 41.5km/h

Trail condition: Road + bits of unpaved trail

General notes:

Its Merdeka day, and its a Sunday. The roads and highways are almost clear from traffic. That is why I was looking forward to this one.

Plus, its the last ride before Ramadhan. Come Ramadhan I shall do short rides only, just so that I won't get rusty and to keep my Merida company.

But I didn't have it all easy, though. On two occasions I was ambushed by dogs. In the second incident (after Minlon) I was literally surrounded by them, and they looked dead serious on getting their teeth into me.

Obviously nobody had told them its Merdeka Day today, and that they're supposed to take the day off. Phew! For a while there I thought I was going to be shredded to pieces.

It was an enjoyable ride, nevertheless. The traffic were forgiving and my Merida was in good form and game for anything today.

Merdeka! and Selamat Menyambut Ramadhan.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I cannot help but notice that this year's Merdeka celebration is a thoroughly subdued affair.

The number of cars flying the mini-Jalur Gemilang is noticeably much, much less than in previous years. Even government office buildings in Putrajaya - the Federal Government Administrative Centre - only put up a few token flags up.

The same goes for residential premises.

In my neighbourhood, flags only started to be noticeable immediately the day after the by-election in Permatang Pauh. It was as if, somehow, people had decided that suddenly now there is reason enough to be joyous and celebrate Merdeka.

The reason? Well, I leave it to you to interpret.

Malaysia is 51. So, Happy Merdeka Day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Reds sitting pretty at the top

Gerrard scoring the winning goal

I watched the Liverpool versus Middlesbrough match last night with my sons Syafiq (the hard core supporter ) and Anas (the newly-converted Liverpool fan).

A hard fought match it was, and Liverpool were not at their best. But what matters is that -despite under-performing - we won and secured the full three points.

This morning, after buying nasi lemak for breakfast, I stopped by at the local Petronas petrol station to get my usual supply of Sunday morning papers. What a nice read it was. And what a pleasant viewing it was to my eyes too, as there on the sports page was splashed the EPL table which clearly showed Liverpool right on top of the pile followed by Blackburn, Hull and Newcastle.

The usual top contenders were no where to be seen. Chelsea came in at fifth place and Arsenal thirteenth. And Man United? Oh! there they are at fifteenth spot. Forgive me for not noticing you down there.

Yes. I know its still early days. But its just too nice to let it pass by and not brag about it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I was in Ipoh to visit my parents over the weekend. But on Tuesday night, just before maghrib, I dashed back to Ipoh again.

Emak was admitted to hospital due to a serious condition of hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia, or commonly called low blood sugar, happens when blood sugar level drops too low to provide enough energy for one’s body's activities. This happens when the level of glucose drops to about 3.0mmol/l and below. When Emak was admitted, her reading was already around 2.0mmol/l and she was almost unconscious.

Hypoglycemia can occur in people with diabetes who take certain medications to keep their blood glucose levels in control, which is the case with Emak. She was on an overdose of her medication and, to compound matters further, she had not felt like eating since the day before.

As someone with a sweet tooth myself (yes, I am fond of sweet foods) I have to be careful too. Diabetes lurks.

And, unfortunately, it runs in the family.

Exercising regularly, reducing fat and calorie intake, and losing weight are the three main steps for preventing the onslaught of diabetes. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Easier said than done. But still.

Alhamdulillah my beloved Emak is now recovering. She is still weak. But otherwise she is alert and her appetite is back.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Our first gold medal beckons

Shuttler, Lee Chong Wei did us proud by beating his South Korean opponent in the singles quarterfinals match this evening. My family and I were glued to the TV screen watching the match.

In so doing, Chong Wei guarantees that we have, at the very least, a silver medal to bring home.

If his winning streak continues right into the finals match, then it's a gold in the bag for Malaysia. Our first ever.

But to do that he would have to go against the Great Wall of China - in the form of world number 1, Lin Dan.

Go ahead Chong Wei. Show 'em what you've got. We've got nothing to lose. All Malaysians will be rooting for you.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Beijing Olympics 2008

They call it the greatest show on Earth. Judging by the show put up by hosts China during the opening ceremony, one can see why.

But that was just for starters. Now that the ceremony is over, let the games begin.

Over the course of next two weeks sports lovers will be treated to an overdose of sporting events. I shall be particularly on the look the lookout for results in badminton, cycling and archery - events which I think Malaysia has a decent chance of performing well.

Will this be the Olympics that we get our first gold medal? Only time will tell.

The problem with our athletes is that we just can't get over the "jaguh kampung" curse. If that trend continues, then I guess we'd just have to wait for the time when we become the hosts ourselves.

Now, that could take a while yet.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The kite runner (2)

A beautiful Afghanisan landscape

I finished reading The Kite Runner four days after I started. The short time span taken reflects the great interest the book held on me.

It is a story about loyalty. It is also about self respect and being true to oneself.

After betraying his good friend, Hassan, during their childhood days, Amir was haunted by his act many years later into adulthood.

But in the end he had the chance to redeem himself – by rescuing Hassan’s son. And how he redeemed himself indeed. He had to pay much for his earlier betrayal by enduring lots of pain – emotionally and physically.

Okay. That much I would say about the story in the book.

The rest is for one to discover him or herself by reading it personally. Or, by catching the movie. The novel has been turned into a movie in 2007.

What’s more interesting to me now, is that The Kite Runner has piqued my interest in Afghanistan.

Like everyone else, of course I have seen and heard a lot about Afghanistan on the television. It has been in the news ever since 1979 when the Soviet invaded it.

But I never listened nor looked with real interest. I saw images of Afghanistan with my eyes. And listened with my ears. But never with my heart.

Not anymore, I hope. Now, I know Afghanistan is a great Muslim nation, with a long and proud history.

Sadly though, Afghanistan is also a nation which has been torn and ravaged by wars as invaders one after another continue to conquer her.

The current situation is not much different either.

A puppet leader is put in place by a foreign superpower merely to safeguard its regional security interests. This has seen Afghanistan turning into an impoverished country, one of the world's poorest and least developed.

Demographically, Afghanistan is ethnically mixed. This reflects its location astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South Asia and Southwest Asia.

The major ethnic group is Pashtun (Amir’s ethnic group). Other, smaller, groups include the Tajiks, the Hazara (Hassan’s ethnic group) and a few more.

The most common languages spoken in Afghanistan are Persian and Pashto. But Persian is the most widely used language. It is an Indo-European language from the Iranian languages sub-family.

This explains why the book was sprinkled with many familiar words, i.e. words which are found in the Malay language such as hadiah, shalwar (seluar), naan, quwat (kuat), watan (tanah air), and biryani.

Religiously, Afghans are over 99% Muslims. Islam plays a key role in the formation of Afghanistan's society. Despite the early thirteenth century Mongol invasion of the nation, even a brutal warrior in the form of Genghis Khan could not uproot Islamic civilization.

In fact, within two generations, his heirs had become Muslims themselves.

You know, actually, once a year a group of Afghan men would visit my neighbourhood in Bandar Tun Huseein Onn. They come in collection of alms to build schools and madrasahs in the remote parts of Afghanistan, they say.

They come well prepared with documentations and photos to prove their genuine cause. But still, when I hand out my small donation, questions would still hang on my mind, “is this truly for a worthy cause? Are they honest people? ”

Yes, I know. I should practice “husnuzon”, bersangka baik. But still…

But the next time they come around, it shall be different, insyaAllah. There is now a feeling of kinship with them. We are brothers, after all.

"Oh mankind, We created you from a single (pair)of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes,so that you may know (recognize) each other"

(Al-Quran, Al-Hujrat 49:13).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The kite runner

Courtesy of Iwan, I am reading a book entitled The Kite Runner at the moment. It is a novel by the Afghan author Khaled Hosseini.

I’d just started it yesterday when I was on medical leave (demam!) and suddenly found myself with loads of free time on hand.

Gripping stuff so far.

The Kite Runner is the story of Amir, a boy from a well-to-do family in Kabul, Afghanistan. It tells of how Amir is haunted by the guilt of having betrayed his childhood friend, Hassan, who is also the son of his father's servant.

The story is set against the backdrop of dramatic events in Afghanistan – the fall of the monarchy, the Soviet invasion, the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, as well as, and the rise of the Taliban.

Will update on this soon.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

All hail the king of fruits

It’s July, and it is the durian season in Perak.

Last week when I went back to Ipoh they were selling the “king of fruits” at RM3.00 per kg at the Stadium Perak. Today, after visiting Sakinah at her Polytechnic near Tanjung Malim, we stopped over at Behrang Station to check out the local durians. They were selling at RM4.00 per kg there.

Although I am not what Perak people would call a “hantu durian”, I do love durian. My love affair with the fruit goes back a long way to my pre-school days in Kampong Kepayang.

My Opah’s father, Nyang Sani, used to have a dusun at the far end of the village located in a valley by the Kinta River. Thus, we used to call the dusun simply, “Lembah”.

I remember our trips down to Lembah. It was a ten minutes walk along a trail well-established by Nyang Sani’s daily trek to Lembah to tend to his dusun. Towards the last part of the walk we would descend down a steep slope, and once at the bottom of it one would immediately see Nyang Sani’s well-attended dangau.

Lembah was a cool, well-shaded enclave. Tall durian trees surrounded the dangau. Other fruit trees included rambutan, nangka, cempedak and the odd pokok pisang, if my memory serves me correctly.

The dangau always had an open fire with smoke rising from it to help ward off hungry mosquitoes. During durian seasons we would lie down in wait for the durian fruits to fall from the trees around us.

When looking for the fruits under the trees we would have to wade through the long grass and thick undergrowths. But it was exciting. It was like a treasure hunt of sorts for us kids. The leeches would of course have a field day too, sucking on our blood. But kampong boys are not deterred by the odd pacat or two.

That was ages ago, now.

Now that I have a family of my own, I can’t help but compare how my kids experience their durian season. To them, durian season is marked by the few visits to the local durian stall. They cannot be relied to prise open a durian on their own, even if it was to feed themselves !

But they love durian nevertheless. Although my eldest, Sakinah, was not really into durian, her stay at the Polytechnic in an area where durian is cheap and in abundant has more or less converted her.

As for the Mem Besar, a Kedahan, getting hitched to a Perakian has forced her to acquire a taste for not only durian, but the wholesome fermented durian that is tempoyak.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rider's log No.27: Kampong Kepayang

Map of the route taken. Gunung Lang is the dark green patch in the middle of the map.

Date: 12 July 2008 (Saturday)

Set off/finish time: 4.35 pm to 5.55 pm

Total duration: 1 hour 20 minutes (+ 25 minutes stoppage to shelter from rain downpour)

Starting point: Rumah Mak, K.1, Kampong Kepayang Fair, Ipoh

Route taken: Mak’s house, railway line (crossed over), Gunung Lang, Tmn Rekreasi Gunung Lang, Jalan Kuala Kangsar, Anderson School, Fair Park, Arena Kepayang, and back home.

Distance covered: 13.11km

Max. speed: 35.3km/h

Trail condition: 25% rough surface (no established trail at all), the rest on road.

General notes:

I’d been thinking of doing this ride for sometime.

It’s no ordinary ride in more ways than one.

Firstly, it’s my first ride in Ipoh. And starting off from my Mak’s house, lagi.

Second, it’s a totally un-tried route. There was no visible trail for the first couple of kilometers. In fact I had to carry my bike over a large drain twice! No crossing aid available. Not even in the form of a simple, one-plank bridge.

And thirdly, after four generations of keluarga Opah Badariah staying in Kampong Kepayang, I think this was the first time one of us had gone all the way to Gunung Lang, and beyond, to reach Jalan Kuala Kangsar.

All this while, Jalan Kuala Kangsar was a long distance away from us in Kampong Kepayang. It would take a good 6 to 8 km detour around Gunung Lang, via Fair Park, passing by Taman D.R. Seenivasagam and Bandar Baru Ipoh Raya to reach it.

And as it also turned out, this was the first time I got caught in the rain while riding!

Actually, Mak had warned me not to wander too far off. But the little child in me – as always – would do just what Mak says not to.

So it was not surprising that I got “punished” like I always would be whenever I go against her advice. This time, I got soaked in the rain. My shirt (and even the helmet) got stained with mud.

Lesson of the day: always listen to your mum.

My Merida SUB40: ready to roll

Gunung Lang: It is like the Fobidden Valley for my brothers and I. We always looked at it from afar in wonder what lies beyond the railway line. Wierd stories abound

Dark clouds forming - the rain is coming

My bike ready to be carried over across the big drain

Kampong Kepayang as seen from Gunung Lang's direction. Somewhere beyond the durian trees is Mak's house

The railway line (southbound). Preliminary earthwork being carried out for double tracking. Machineries visible on left side of track

The goods train (keretapi barang) making its way north

New housing scheme near Gunung Lang

Buffalos roam freely in Gunung Lang country

My bike taking a break during the heavy downpour. Also seen is motorcycle rider who is also taking a shelter from the rain

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The passing of a good friend

Abriza Mohammed, a former colleague, succumbed to cancer last Monday.

She was barely 40.

I'd known Abi during my short stint at JPBD, Jalan Cenderasari. In fact, we were office mates for a while when I was roped in to help out in the review of the Town and Country Planning Act (Act A1129).

She was a kind person with a heart of gold.

She had a peculiar sense of humour which I thoroughly enjoyed. Every now and then, during meetings, we'd end up in a bantering, using wickedly chosen words.

Just for the memory of it, here is a description of herself, in her own words, as taken from her blog:

Abriza Mohammed: "make awesome asam pedas, congkak champion 1987, hate to use umberella when it rains, sangat malas mandi and sad movies always always always make me cry!! "

Good bye Abi.

Semoga ALlah mencucuri rahmat ke atas roh mu, dan ditempatkan bersama orang-orang yang solehah dan beriman.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Where are we heading politically?

Only in Malaysia.

Yes. Another accolade for Malaysia. Only this time, for the wrong reasons.

In which other country would you get a prominent political leader being accused of sodomising somebody? Heck, not once, but twice already now!

And if that is not enough. Another highly placed politician and his wife gets to be accused of being involved in the murder of a foreign woman. By blowing her to pieces, mind you.

So, who says Malaysia is a boring nation with no sensational news value?

Even in the land of gun-slinging cowboys you won't get anything as juicy and dramatic as this.

As a rakyat, what bothers me is that all these political posturings - with accusations and counter-accusations using statutory declarations - are a distraction to nation building and management of the economy.

The oil price is rising and rising. And from what I heard, the cost of electricity is to follow suit. The inflation rate will go up to an all-time high of 6 to 7% according to Tan Sri Zeti, the Governor of Bank Negara.

Enough is enough, politicians!

If you are not interested, nor fit enough to lead anymore, then let go.

Spare the rakyat of all this sandiwara.

And let's not turn Malaysia into a laughing-stock.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Fernando Torres: the making of a legend

Congratulations to Spain for winning the Euro 2008.

But what really interests me is the player who scored their winning goal, Fernando Torres, the Liverpool striker.

Spain striker Fernando Torres set a record for the highest league tally by a foreign player in his Premier League debut season for Liverpool, surpassing Ruud van Nistelrooy's mark of 23 league goals in the final game of the 2007-2008 campaign against Tottenham to reach the milestone of 24.

Then on Sunday the 24-year-old capped his incredible year by scoring the winner in his nation's 1-0 victory over Germany in the final of Euro 2008.

Read more about the making of this legend in this BBC news article.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

New masthead for Seri Kepayang blog

My blog has got this new masthead since last week (can't remember what day it was).

Now, I must say something about the new masthead.

It is courtesy of my brother Mie, who is the artist in the family - he has been drawing and doodling since as far as I can remember.

The photo shows my Opah's house as it was in the 1950s. My guess is it was taken sometime before Merdeka.

This is the place I was born, err... a long time after that photo was taken.

It used to be surrounded by thick under growths, especially to its west (that's at the back of the house as shown in the photo). That was where I saw a small tiger (okay, maybe it was a kucing hutan) when I was a kid!

Yup, I kid you not.

Kampong Kepayang is a real, authentic Malay kampong. Even to this day - minus the kucing hutan, of course.

Rider's log No. 23

Date: 28 June 2008 (Saturday)

Set off/finish time: 6.35am to 7.20 am

Total duration: 45 minutes only

Starting point: Home (Bandar Tun Hussein Onn, Cheras)

Route taken: From BTHO to Tmn Minang Ria, Bdr Damai Perdana, Balakong Industrial Estate, Jusco Cheras Selatan, Cheras Perdana and back home.

Distance covered: about 12 km (forgot to set the meter)

Max. speed: don't know (again, the meter)

Trail condition: mostly road, plus gravel surface

General notes:

This is the first time no dogs have tried to bite me on my early morning ride. Met a few but they just viewed me wearily from afar. Obviously they know who's the boss by now (learning fast). Oops, I hope the boasting won't lead to an all out ambush next weekend!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Life in the UK: 10 things Blackpool is famous for

From the kampongs of Malaysia transported to glitzy Blackpool. That’s what happened to my friends and I back in 1979.

To say that we experienced a culture shock to the ways of the English would have been an under-statement.

Take the beaches of Blackpool, for example.

During summer, a casual and innocent stroll on the beach was enough to create a stir of excitement amongst us young guys from the kampong. The English, apparently, have a different set of norms for summer clothing from us – especially when they are on the beach, if you know what I mean!

But looking back, we were fortunate to have been sent to Blackpool. For Blackpool is unique place and has a charming character of its own. Granted, it is a resort town. But even amongst seaside resorts, it stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Here are 10 things that Blackpool is famous for :

Blackpool Tower

The Tower is the undisputed icon of Blackpool, forming a dominant landmark on the Blackpool skyline since 1894. Inspired by the Eiffel Tower, it is 158m tall. Beneath it is a complex of leisure facilities, including the world famous Tower Ballroom and Tower Circus. I went all the way to the top once.

Donkey Rides

This is a typical sight on British seaside resorts. Very popular with children, and some adults too.

Saucy (naughty) postcards
Saucy Seaside Postcards are a peculiar tradition but are synonymous with holidays along the British coast. They typify the quirky humour of the British. Characters would mostly be “well endowed” young women, well built older women, hen pecked husbands or red nosed drunks.

Blackpool Rock

“Rock” here actually means candy. Sticks of rock – made simply from water, sugar, glucose syrup, flavouring and colour – are very much a part of the English seaside resorts. The candy sticks have lettering in it. Some are sold shaped as walking sticks. A “must-buy” souvenir for all visitors to Blackpool.

Blackpool Trams

Tram Stop at Gynn Square
The Blackpool Tram is the only surviving first-generation tramway in UK and dates back to 1885. It runs parallel to the beach promenade from Starr Gate in Blackpool to Fleetwood in the north. A cheap and convenient transport for us students to get to town.

Blackpool Illuminations

Described as “The Greatest Free Show on Earth” the Illuminations was started in September 1879. It consists of a series of lighted displays arranged along the entire length of the sea front (11 km). It starts in September and runs till October. It is Blackpool’s clever strategy to lengthen its holiday season. When other resorts pull down the shutters for the year, Blackpool continues to pulsate with activity attracting millions every year well into autumn.

The Pleasure Beach
Below: The "Loop". Tried it once. Never again!! Kecut perut dibuatnya
The Pleasure Beach is one of Britain’s most famous theme parks. It has over 145 rides including the tallest and fastest roller coasters in Europe. During summer I would take lots of friends from other parts of England to finish off their money here. Entrance to the park is free, though. You only pay for the rides. Pleasure Beach attracts about 6 million visitors a year. It ranks amongst the top 15 most popular theme park in the world.
The Piers
North Pier

Fish & Chips store on Central Pier

Deck and kiosks

The Pier is synonymous with English seaside holidays. They are entertainment havens on structures built of steel that extend 400 to 500m out to sea. Blackpool has three piers: the North Pier, Central Pier and Southern Pier. Many famous artistes and comedians would perform at the piers during the holiday seasons. If one is not much into shows, one could just stroll along the piers to enjoying the views or just sit down and relax on the deck chairs.

Bed & Breakfast

Bed and breakfast, or popularly called B&B refers to an accommodation facility that offers only bed accommodation plus breakfast. Very basic. No fancy meeting rooms nor swimming pool for you if you stay here. Typically, B&B are private homes with only one or two bedrooms available for commercial use. There a lot of B&Bs in Blackplool because most visitors don’t need an elaborate accommodation to stay in. They’d be spending most of their time outside by the beach or in one of the numerous entertainment centres.

The Promenade

Evening stroll on promenade against the sunset

A typical shelter on the promenade

The Promenade is the area fronting the beaches. It is a pedestrianized area. It stretches on for miles and is ideal for long, leisurely stroll taking in the fresh air and enjoying the great views of the beach and the sea. The Blackpool Promenade is divided into 3 distinct areas, i.e. the North Shore, Central, and South Shore. The North Shore is from the North Pier to Bispham along the cliffs past Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This is the most historic part of Blackpool's Promenade as it has changed little since its construction in Victorian times.