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.