Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kad Raya, oh kad Raya!

This is the picture used for our family kad Raya when we were staying in Japan. It was made out as a postcard complete with spaces for message, address and a little corner to stick the stamp at the back.

Hari Raya open house at our house at the University of  Tsukuba. Our open house was always a merry occasion as the place would be filled with hungry undergraduate "bujang" students who did not have their parents around to feed them on a Raya morning.

My youngest daughter, Nadiah,  has been pestering me to buy her kad Raya these past few days. Which is just as well, because Hari Raya is just slightly over a week away.

It is, perhaps, a sign of the times that we are not that bothered anymore with Hari Raya greeting cards.

I hold my hands up and admit, yes, I myself have not sent out any cards  yet. But it's not just me. To date, I've only received a meagre few cards, whereas a few years back, by this time, there would've been one whole box of them already.

We used to love them in the old days. During my days at the boarding school, the arrival of the postman during the whole month of Ramadhan would be waited with much anticipation and excitement by us students to see how many cards we would receive every time he visited us.

When I started working, I would follow how Apak did it. I would buy loads of cards, or sometime print personalized ones so that I could send out to loved ones and acquaintances as an endearment or a gesture of respect, and true friendship.

Supermarkets and even news paper shops would stock them in all various sizes, design and a riotous of colours.

But with the advent of the IT age, another tradition looks like flying out of the window for good. The rage would be to send e-greeting cards or  - for the computer illiterates amongst us - just plain sms.

How convenient. No need to buy cards. No need to buy stamps. And of course, no need to search for the post boxes.

Unfortunately, all these lack the personal touch and sincerity which goes hand in hand with the hassle one has to go through when sending out the traditional greeting cards.

So, okay Nadiah. You've got your wish. Petang ni kita pergi beli kad Raya. And I hope you would continue to hold on to this tradition.

At the very least, send it to Abah and Umi. It will light up our days.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Missing my lovable Tok Hussein

Tok Hussein (left) on the day I left for UK to do A-Levels in September of 1979

This very old Ten Ringgit note (notice the dollar sign) was a gift from Tok Hussein to me and my two brothers - each one of us got one. I can't recall exactly, but maybe it was a duit raya. Ten Ringgit was a lot of money for a small kid in the 1970s. This note is still in my possesion till today

Every once in a while, we tend to recall and remember our departed loved ones. This may grow into a deep sense of longing and a strong feeling of missing them.

The recent incident in Kampong Kepayang when my Emak was hurt by a burglar who broke into our kampong home brought me back memories of Tok Hussein who was the patriarch of the family, the "master of the house" so to speak.

In those days, when Tok Hussein was still around, our kampong home was always safe and secure. Small it might have been, but as far as I can remember it was a blissful and cheery place for us kids.

Tok Hussein is Hussein bin Yaacob, my maternal grandfather.

As I recall, he was a man of slight built, with a fair complexion. And he was a kind man with a very gentle disposition. One could not ask for a more loving grandpa.

When I started schooling, my father sent me away to stay with Tok Hussein and Opah Badariah in Kampong Kepayang, Ipoh so that I could enroll into an English-medium school. So it was Tok Hussein who ferried me to and from school everyday, using his trusted Honda Cub motorcycle.

When I pillion ride with him, I would wrap my arms around his body from behind, press my face into his back and hug him hard so that I would not fall off the bike. To this day, I can still remember the nice smell of his body.

Tok Hussein passed away on 6th September 1980 at the age of 62.

Al Fatihah buat Tok Hussein bin Yaacob. Semoga Allah menempatkan beliau bersama orang-orang yang soleh dan dikasihiNya.
This is how Tok Hussein's signature looks like. I remember his signature well as he used to sign many receipts for payment of Duit Khairat Kematian. He was the treasurer, I think, as he would go around the kampong collecting the money from kampong folks. This particular signature was found on the back of one of the old cupboards at our kampong home. It is dated 21 June 1958


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Life cycle: mid-life crisis?

It's been quite sometime since I went out riding. Okay, its been a long time, actually. But my desire and aspiration to continue riding burns on.

This morning,  I saw this interesting article in the BBC news which would nicely serve to motivate me to ride again. After Ramadhan is over, that is.

Read on.

Flashy sports cars are out, now no mid-life crisis is complete without a souped-up road bike. Why?
Every weekend, across the nation's rolling countryside, watch out for the Mamils: middle-aged men in lycra.  
And ladies, if you have a man at home taking an unusual interest in how you shave your legs, you may have a Mamil in the making too.
Research conducted by the retail analyst Mintel suggests there has been a surge in the number of middle-aged men choosing to get on two wheels.
Given the number of men aged 35-44 who are buying fancy-pants road racing machines, is this a 21st Century mid-life crisis? Has the silence of skinny tyres and carbon fibre framesets replaced the thunderous noise of motorbikes?
Back in the day, when some men with a bit of disposable income reached a certain age, they did some strange things. The grind of the office and home life convinced some that the answer to an expanding midriff lay in a pair of designer jeans and a flashy but cheap Japanese sports car. Teenage daughters ran away screaming. Sons were deprived of the role models seen in adverts for shaving products.
Gents, our womenfolk were right all along. It wasn't a good look. And did it do anything for the beer belly?
The middle-aged cyclist's role model, sprinting legend Mark Cavendish
But then came a confluence of coincidences that gave a man an option other than looking like a gigolo cruising Italy's glitzy Lake Como.
The past three years have seen the rise of the uber-techno, super-flashy, full-carbon fibre, bobby-dazzler road bike. The market for these bikes has expanded faster than a 45-year-old's waistline, partly thanks to the success of the British cycling stars at the Beijing Olympics. Marketing departments have produced smart advertising messages that encourage a bit of freedom, elite performance and memories of teenage derring-do.
And the result can be seen on Saturday and Sunday mornings as middle-aged blokes polish the rear derailleur, lower the mirrored shades and pedal into the hills. Every couple of weeks, you'll see a girth of Mamils gathering to race a "Sportive", a form of amateur competing that has taken the British cycling world by storm.
While the serious, younger riders are busy getting into the zone of elite competition, we're comparing the latest GPS route-finding cycle computer and pretending that we know how to stretch.
No Mamil's life is complete without the spiritual journey to the mountains”
We hit the first hill and suddenly we're a puffing, panting, heaving mass of sweaty humanity that is well past its sell-by-date. Sounds humiliating? I've never had so much fun in my life - and there are also some unintended benefits of being the older rider.
First, there's the no-questions-asked fan club. My kids, on the promise of an ice cream, will cheer me over the top of any climb. They're still young enough to think I'm Superman - and you don't get that kind of pick-me-up on the golf course.
Even better is the Mamil's solution to saddle sores. A teenage shop assistant in a too-posh-to-pedal London shop tried to sell me some balm for £30. What's the point of that, I asked. I've got loads of unused nappy rash cream at home. He thought I was terminally uncool. I know better son, learn from your elders.
But no Mamil's life is complete without the spiritual journey to the mountains.
Robbie McIntosh is 45 and has spent much of the past year clad in lycra after being talked into cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats with a group of fellow Mamils.
Robbie McIntosh on Mont Ventoux - one of the toughest climbs in the world
Ten days of pain, rain and groin strain later, he decided he was ready for Mont Ventoux. This mountain, the Giant of Provence, is one of the toughest climbs in the world - 23km straight up. British cycling legend Tom Simpson died on its slopes in 1967. Last month, with terror in his belly, Robbie began turning the wheels.
"I wanted so much to say I'd climbed the Ventoux. It's an amazing mountain and a serious challenge.
"I was surprised at my nerves but I had a sense that if I could do this on a bike I could do anything and that was a feeling I wanted so much."
And make it he did. He wasn't as balletic as the local, young French riders - but he stood alongside them at the 1,910m summit and surveyed the world.
"Cycling has given me an opportunity to feel sporting achievement of the very highest level," says Robbie. "It doesn't matter that the pros ride up Mont Ventoux at twice the speed or more. I can scale the same sporting heights as the best cyclists on the planet. I can walk with giants."
Flash road bikes definitely look like a midlife crisis”
So a man becomes fitter and happier. Where's the midlife crisis in that? Ah. The costs.
Ladies, look away now. Men who seriously cycle typically spend about £3,000 to live that dream. For a time, at least. That sum will cover the set-up and the first year, then about £1,000 a year, at least, on top of that.
The must-have bike of the summer is the Pinarello Dogma, the bike used by the British Team Sky in the Tour de France. Yours for about £7,000. Grown men stop and stare at this machine, like seven-year-old lads pressed against the toy shop window.
Thankfully, most Mamils don't have that kind of money to burn. But it hasn't stopped the rapid growth of a suburban money-laundering operation. It goes something like this. Man dribbles while looking at £100 bib shorts on cycling website - they're the kind that make you look like a wrestler. Partner says no, think about the starving children. Man continues to look at bib shorts and decides they will help conceal his 36-inch waist.
Ventoux brings some men close to collapse
He calculates that three weeks of hard pedalling will help on the belly front - which is coincidentally the same time it takes to receive a secret new credit card to pay for the shorts. Job done. Platinum status achieved with the online cycling retailer. Discounts on more kit, all of which is sent directly to the office rather than home.
When you run the slide rule over all of this, flash road bikes definitely look like a midlife crisis.
There's a look to strive for, expensive kit and excuses for weekends away.
I and my band of hill-climbing brothers disagree. It's about becoming a happier and healthier person rather than sliding towards mediocre oblivion at the bottom of a pint glass.
But I conclude with a message from my own Mrs Mamil to other cycling widows. She's discovered a precise form of retaliation. If your portly husband buys another stupid fluorescent jersey, buy yourself another pair of shoes.
That way, at least one of you can look good.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Khenduri in Batu Gajah

In June we went to Batu Gajah in Perak to attend the wedding of Abg Wazir's son. It was a good family reunion as it is seldom nowadays that I get to meet up with our relatives from my father's side.

The grand old dame that is Opah Chu was there, and so were a few other familiar faces.

Abg Wazir is related to me by "satu moyang" as we say here in Perak. It means that we have the same great-grandfather.

Besides meeting people it was of course time to savour traditional delicacies like the baulu, tepung pelita and tapai, mmmm.

Sorry about the photos, they were taken using my hand phone in low-light conditions.

Emak (left) with Opah Chu. Its been quite sometime since they last met
Mouth watering tepung pelita (left)
Lovely crispy kueh baulu, my favourite traditional kueh

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Photography trips

Seafront of Conway, North Wales

Student days are meant to be enjoyed. If you have the time, that is.

But you have to make the time. For these are the days when one is young and energetic. One has to go out and about, see new places, and learn new things. Enjoy life.

After all, you are only young once. Once you hit mid-twenties, its downhill all the way. One by one your senses and physical well-being will start to give way.
One of the things which I used to do during my A-Levels in England was to pick up photography. And oh, how glad I am that I did.

Photography has given me much pleasure and taken me to new places when I go on one of my photo trips with either my housemates or visiting friends from other cities. It has taught me to be more observant of my surroundings. And it has enabled me to look at the beauty of seemingly even the most mundane of things such as a puddle on wind-swept, very cold Blackpool beach on a winter evening.