Wednesday, 23 May 2018

My celebrated Settee and Yuwrajh's pop-in

How Yuwrajh left his  room after his departure on 22 May 2018.

We  met him last about 5 (?) years ago in London.  Since then we have made several contacts via email as he was ambling and moving  between London, New York and Singapore.

A few days ago we received this email.

We replied and then received this reply.

Two days ago, Yuwrajh arrived.  He had walked all the way from the Railway Station (about 15 minutes walk) to get to No. 43, just too early by almost three-quarters of an hour.  With his usual wicked humour the spouse told Yuwrajh he was too early, so could he please leave and then return at the right time.  I just had to thump him (the spouse, not Yuwrajh) and he backed off in defeat.  Woman power yeah!!!

Through the door, there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name.
Oh my friend we're older but no wiser,
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same.

Yuwrajh stayed over for just one night but we had a lot to catch up on - on old and new - on ups and downs - on here and there.  We ended the day with a marathon chinwag from 9 pm to 2.30 in the morning and this continued the next day until his departure.

I walked him to the Railway Station at 2.30 pm on that sunny, lovely summer's day.  I waved him good-bye as he sets off on his life and dreams - to where ever it takes him.

We hope to meet again InsyaAllah, in December this year in Kuala Lumpur and this time he can re-visit the old settee ( a lot of our conversation revolved around that venerable piece of furniture) and sit and lounge on it like so many people have done for many many years.

Abah bought that settee, second hand,  from a Eurasion neighbour when we were living at Kampung Chantek in 1947.  It had travelled with the family from Kampung Chantek to Pasir Panjang Road, then to Jalan Mas Kuning, Jalan Giam (Johor Baru), Boon Lay, Batu Pahat and finally to Setiawangsa.  I have been the Settee's caretaker for a long time and I hope the grandson for whom it had been destined will cherish it when I am busy pushing up daisies.

The Saga of the Settee

  • Pasir Panjang (1947 - 1967)

Abdul Hamid's Family.
  • Jalan Mas Kuning (1967 - 1973)
Che'gu Maznoor at home.
  • Boon Lay (1975 - 1996)
Akim, Ben and Yuwrajh.

Hidayah, Ash, and Lely.

Yuwrajh, Rojiah and Din.

  • Kuala Lumpur (2008 .....)

Lely and Irene.

Iain, Ash and Jai.

Irene, Din and Lely.

Comot and Spouse.

Yuwrajh, thank you for your company, for finding the time to catch up on your ole Miss Hamid, the wicked witch from Jurong Secondary School.

You have given me two wonderful days to make up for all the harrowing daze (no, it's not a spelling mistake) from October 2017 to 20 May 2018.

Friday, 11 May 2018

The Day of the Lickspittles

Assalamualeikum Malaysia. Za-o-an, Vanakkam, Good morning Malaysia.   Hope I got all that correct.

                                             The UMNO circus has folded up and a new one is taking its place.

Like the Emperor in the nursery tale, Malaysia has got on new clothes.  A new Party, a new Government and administration but the same ruling class.  Only the makeup and costumes have changed.

So, move over Barisan or to be more precise UMNO.   The Party's over.

There has been a revolution, an incredible coup led by a nonagenarian, one who had once held that power before for 22 years under the aegis of the Party he defeated..  This is indeed a record in Malaysia and in the world!  Malaysia and the man himself - the new Prime Minister Dr Mahathir - can take pride in that.

The new administration shall commence with a big celebration and a public holiday on Thursday, Friday and the extension into the weekend is such a deserving reward.

Malaysians can now look forward to a promised lower cost of living, life with subsidies intact, life without the abominable GST. In 100 days, you can fill up your trolley with all the supermarket goodies (as can be seen in the video above) without making a big hole in your wallet.  Then you can jump into your car and drive home in peace because the subsidy for petrol is back again.  It will all be cheap, cheep, cheep, like life for Singaporeans shopping in JayBee.  Lucky lot these Malaysians.  No wonder the British Press are so disapproving of us.

I do wish David Cameron or Tony Blair would make a a U-turn, co-habit with and lead the Labour Party ( for Cameron) and Conservative Party (for Blair) and rescue us from VAT and and rising costs.

VAT (or GST)  at 10% was first introduced in 1973.  People squeal whenever the Government puts up the VAT.  But it is a handy and safe way (for political parties) of raising revenue, better than raising taxes, especially Income tax.

Paying VAT for your purchases in UK  has become like air mandi.  Paying the earth (literally and metaphorically) for energy, which includes petrol (for your vehicle) and gas (for your cooking and heating)  has become part and parcel of living and loving and laughing and loathing in UK.  Yesterday I had to stump out this  20% Vat for my Ink, and the same amount for shopping at a Charity Shop like British Heart Foundation.

In these hard times, I hope the the new government will make a more strenuous effort to retrieve the money owed by the recipients of the NEP who I reckon reside in the highly urbanised states of Johor, Negri Sembilan, Melaka, Selangor, Perak and Penang.

Three days ago we had to deal with a crisis.  Osman (just recently retired roadsweeper), our good friend and saudara angkat  contacted us (with the help of our good neighbour, Zarina and Kenny) with the news that his son Hafiz was in a critical state in the Ipoh Hospital with just a 50-50 chance of survival.  He had been to the smaller hospital at Teluk Intan, had a diagnosis and then told to go home and 'recover'.  The next morning he collapsed and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital at Ipoh.  They live in Kampung Ayer Kuning, near Kampar.

A distance of over 42 km taking over 44 minutes by car, to get to the Hospital at Ipoh and this does not include the journey from the Kampung to Kampar. 

Syukur Alhamdulillah, Hafiz is out of danger but still critical and in a coma in the ICU.  Why Man, I agonised.  His 16 year old daughter died of cancer that was not properly diagnosed which I reckoned has to do with being where they live.

Here in Britain they call it the post code lottery when it comes to proper health care. The quality of service you get from the NHS depends on where you live.

His wife Aisha passed away just a year ago.

In Malaysia we believe we are all equal.  There are some who believe they are not getting enough  'equality' and in  a country like Malaysia there is  space for them to make a lot of noise and clamour to demand more equality and freedom.  But as told in  Orwell's "Animal Farm" :

In Malaysia Farm:

An enlarged Insert from the above.

The homes of urban dwellers (with my little embellishment).  Yes, I am one of them.  My Abah, a founder of UMNO in 1951 at Pasir Panjang Singapore always reminded us of our roots - of not turning into Kacang lupakan kulit - of doing and giving what we can to those in need, to animals and humans of whatever shade and hue.

The road to Man's kampung from the main road was just a pot-holed laterite road which spewed dust and dirt whenever cars and motorbikes got on it.  There were of course no buses for that unprofitable  route, but even taxis refuse to drive into Kampung Ayer Kuning.  Man and Aisha would walk down that road whenever they balik kampung to see their children and family.  You see, they represent part of  that 4.1% poor Bumiputeras in the urban centre of Kuala Lumpur - migrating to the city to be wage-earners so as to build up a better life ( i.e having a cash income) for their two children and family in the kampung.  They lived for some time in Puchong and would leave their rented dwelling at 4.30-5 am so as to start work at Setiawangsa by 7 am.

Their kampung did not get a proper road until about 10-15 years ago, more than half a century after Merdeka inSemenanjung Tanah Melayu !

My Abah, a founder-member of UMNO in 1951 at Pasir Panjang Singapore always reminded us of our roots, of our Tong Pao, as the Chinese would describe it - of not turning into Kacang lupakan kulit - doing and giving what we can for those in need, to animals and humans of whatever shade and hue.

SHAME ON YOU UMNO for betraying the ideals and sacrifices of our forefathers, of those Malay gentlemen and women of long ago.  If UMNO does not learn anything from GE 14  and turn its house inside out and back to front, then they might as well make a U-turn and join the PH.  Sad to say, my people are extraordinarily adept at running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.

A bedtime fable from Ambrose Pierce.  Beware of Wampogs, fried jackass, burying alive a mole and reading incantations in a public park, rubbing oil of dog on columns of the capitol and of Aged Man with a Broom.

But Malaysia, you can stand proud today.  You had  a peaceful, well-fought election - something just as credible and maybe even more so than Trump's election.  Whatever The Guardian, The New York Times, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Washington Post and The Independent choose to write - the usual snide, derogatory, and self-righteous diatribe, borne of an inherent hostility towards this Muslim-Malay nation - we have shown dignity and style.  The Opposition won a clear majority and the outgoing Barisan demonstrated grace despite this momentous loss.  No tantrums after losing,  unlike the post GE 13 Elections.  No angry demonstrations like after Trump's triumph.  No tanks and army trucks roaming Putrajaya and the streets.

Well done Malaysia !!!!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Election Fever

Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.  Edmund Burke  1729-1797

What a sterling statement from one of Britain's foremost political philosophers!  What a perfect achievement for any Parliament.

We have to aim to achieve the very highest (and toughest) principles of life and living.  When we fail or fall, we shall not descend into the deplorable bottom of the pit, but maybe just halfway down so that we will be able to claw our way back and enable us to reach some sort of redemption. Perfection is an excellent objective but to assert that one's principles and practice are perfect is almost like claiming divinity.

Just as I prefer to be a pessoptomist - a pessimistic optimist - I stand by this vision of perfection by Shakespeare,

                                       I saw her once
Hop forty paces  through the public street;
And having lost her breath, she spoke, and panted
That she did make defect perfection,
And, breathless, power breathe forth.

We have to live with defects in our Parliament, in our leaders and especially in one very major frailty: that Malaysia as one nation and one interest is sadly and badly lacking "the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole".  Unlike the nations of Europe (including Britain), and even Japan and China to a certain extent, we were manipulated and  overpowered by the political, religious and economic ambitions of the Judaeo-Christian West.  Our history and geography, culture and economy were manufactured by others.  Southeast Asia and Nusantara became the proverbial Goose that laid the Golden Egg although in this case the Goose was not killed but allowed to keep on laying the golden eggs - thus maintaining the profitability of their enterprise.

The defects in our practice of Parliamentary Democracy are no different from any other country.  But Malaysia, unlike most other countries has a legacy and a structure that is not of our making.  Malaysia is made up of many dissimilar factions who, under the British, were allocated very differing and discordant parts to fit into the Empire's pocket.  Under such a condition, it is almost impossible to create an " assembly of one nation, with one interest".  It is like dealing with and living in an arranged and loveless marriage. You have to put up with it and hope for some kind of rapprochement and peaceful co-existence, provided no third party comes into the equation.

If oil is a curse on the Middle East, then the rich (now completely exhausted and depleted) deposits of tin in Perak and Selangor, together with the Peninsula's easy accessibility between East and West  have been the bane of the Malay Peninsula's existence.

The Malay Peninsula, a finger-like southeastern extension of the Asian Continent, caught in the grasp of the Occident and the Orient. 

Since 1957, the Federation of Malaya and later as Malaysia, has committed itself to the institution of rule by Parliament - of conducting General and Local Elections every few years. There have been many brickbats, thrown at Malaysia from both home-grown and foreign sources about the integrity of the election and the elected government.  GE14 like GE13 will demonstrate the same back-stabbing, dirty tactics, cheap racist innuendos and shifty debates to win over the hearts and minds of the electorate.  Our political parties are quite adept in pandering to the lowest common denominator in our political psyche - particularly on the issues of race and riches.

The run-up to GE 14 will promise a great deal of political theatrics and pageantry.  How shall a pessoptomistic septuagenarian cope?

I suppose I shall have to turn to Aesop and Sam.  We are all familiar with Aesop.

As for Sam .....
I reckon (when he was younger in the 1990s) he was not the sort of young man you would take home to meet your mater and pater who dwell in Kelburn, Wellington New Zealand, or Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, or Tanglin, Singapore or Hampstead Heath, London.

But as he is our Kiwi nephew we have taken him into our home in Leicester and Setiawangsa.  As you know, blood is thicker than water or even flat beer.

Sam (left) and his doppelganger, actually his twin brother Joe in the late 1980s.

In the picture above, Sam and Joe looked very bolshie and serious.  Sam had just returned from his anti-apartheid  occupations and demonstrations in Wellington. Joe is a skilful kayaker and used his hobby to harass the American warships that prowl the waters off New Zealand in the late 1980s.  In fact a few months after this picture was taken, Sam was badly beaten up by the police during an anti-apartheid demonstration in Wellington.  His right eye was permanently damaged but his commitment was left intact.

Sam spent his compensation backpacking in Pommie Land, Europe, the Middle East and continental Southeast Asia.

Sam's Journey 

When I was rummaging through the stuff I needed for this posting, I read once again after nearly 30 years Sam's postcard and I felt a lump in my throat.

Sam's Syria, thirty years ago.

Today, Syria has been bludgeoned back to the Stone Age because it was successfully and adamantly minding its own business - keeping the Americans and British and Israel and Saudi Arabia at bay.

When Sam Buchanan came home he decided to paddle his feet in the world of politics.  He became the candidate for McGillicuddy Serious Party for Kapiti.  Here's the write-up for  McG.S.P. in the local paper Kapiti Observer.

Exposing the Political Sham by Sam.

This is how this geriatric shall attempt to get through this GE 14 election fever with the aid of Aesop and Sam.

  • Aesop said :

Beware of joining forces with those who promise salvation and safety.

  • In the matter of making choices, Sam reminded voters that in "every election  .... the ordinary citizen has always lost".  Politicians always win.

  • Aesop also wrote :

  • Beware of the motives of politicians says Sam.

Aesop often used animals to refer to the self-serving nature of man, which I think is an insult to the innocent animals.  Take this fable.

Who can learn a lesson from this parable?

  1. Belacan Malays
  2. Mandi Malays
  3. Masala Malays
  4. Mayonnaise Malays
  5. The whole caboodle

Finally when this GE 14 is over I can imagine this scenario -  a panoply of  recriminations, complaints, squabbles and the 'only-in-Malaysia' tantrums!  This is how Aesop  would describe it.

To  sore losers and Travellers like these, me ole mum would say :

Hujan emas dinegeri orang, hujan batu dinegeri sendiri.

Dimana bumi dipijak, disitu langit  ku junjung.

And so, on 9 May 2018, vote wisely Malaysia.  Vote with this hope in mind -  "one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good ..."

And please do not denigrate the Plane Tree or take it for granted!!

To quote Rita Moreno, "Cool it".

Friday, 30 March 2018

Democracy delineated, re-delineated and reviewed.

Read this news three days ago.  Oh dear, I thought.  More hot flush from the Yellow T-shirts.

Where were these avengers, the voice of the people, by the people, for the people, when we needed them; to articulate and represent us at the dire and sorry state of our water supply in Selangor, when in early March we were deprived of water for 4 whole days plus plus?  How can the ordinary rakyat  remain bersih without our supply of water?  For the two geriatrics, we only found out about the water cutoff when we brought our two cats to our vet and Aida the receptionist inquired if we were affected by the closure of supply in our area
Got home, checked the letter box, there was no  letter informing us of the disruption. Checked with our neighbour - she was just as much in the dark.  Checked with my sister at Bukit Mulia, she was uncertain too as she had had no warning in the post.  So just two days before our departure, the two geriatrics rummaged for all the water containers they could find to store enough water for upstairs and downstairs - both for our use and for Osman our house and cat sitter who would be taking over when we leave. Was this due to a drought like a few years back?  At least then we had a respite when water was turned on at night. Has global warming affected Selangor more than any other part of the country? No, it's due to a typical Malaysian malady - just sheer mismanagement on the part of our corporate and political leaders.

Anyway AsH is just letting off steam about life in our sultry and torrid tropical Selangor.

I found out later what was involved in SPR (see the image above).  SPR is the Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya or Election Commission (EC) - who is responsible for constituency re-delineation, which has to be conducted every 8 years.  It was done in 2003 for Malaya and Sabah, and in 2005 for Sarawak.  Thus it was due for the coming General Election.

This review has everything to do with the theory and practice of  DEMOCRACY, a system of government we inherited from the British who in turn had taken its mantle and practice from the Greeks. 

However laudable democracy is, I applaud H.L. Mencken's view "Democracy is a form of worship.  It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses".

I must declare my ignorance of the practice of delineation and reviews of electoral boundaries in various democracies.  Sometimes it's described as gerrymandering.  At  times it is claimed to resolve electoral bias and to equalise electoral constituency sizes.  But in the light of the hi-tech collusion of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to target the voting and the voter during the Presidential election of the  planet's richest and strongest democracy, redelineation and re-jigging looks quite anaemic.

Nevertheless on 28 March, Malaysia's Election Commission's redelineation report was passed in the Dewan Rakyat - despite a great deal of  robust outcry from the Opposition and their Yellow Legionnaires.

Well, Singapura in 2015 also conducted a similar exercise.  It had a different appellation, it was called the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC).  Amongst the changes made; there were more Single Member Constituencies (SMC).  Two SMCs, Joo Chiat and Whampoa  and the Moulmein-Kallang GRC(Group Representative Constituency) vanished.  Naturally all incumbent governments will find sound, solid reasons for their manoeuvres.  The tamperings with the SMCs and GRC were regarded by the Opposition and their supporters as a move by the People's Action Party to "cut their losses".  But outpourings of anger and dissent in Singapura were muted unlike in Malaya. Perhaps this can be attributed to a shortage of supply and demand for Yellow T-shirts in Singapura !

As for the electoral system in USA, it was quite acceptable and legal for a Presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton) to win the popular vote by a 3 million vote margin, lose the Electoral College by 74 votes and yet she had to concede victory to Trump!  That's democracy?

The Electoral College is made up of all the states in the Union. Each state, large or small is granted three electoral votes - from the two Senators and one representative.  There was one delineation, the 23rd Amendment, whereby the capital Washington got at least three electoral votes.  The Census Bureau attempts to balance the number of representatives for a changing population (what Americans describe as 'census-based reapportionment' )  but despite this, Hispanics and Asians remain disadvantaged  in the size of their representation.  If this is democracy in the USA, why do we coloured practitioners have to be whiter than white?

In UK, the Conservatives have been complaining about the pro-Labour electoral bias. I shall not attempt to delve into the mechanics of the bias.  Factors like abstention (which is supposed to help Labour to get more MPs for its votes than the Conservatives)  and the effect of having a third party like the Lib-Dem seem to play a part in the 'mismanagement' of democracy in UK.

I find it interesting that  some members of the Opposition in Malaysia advise voters to abstain from voting in the coming General Election.  I reckon this is part of a voting strategy for victory in an election in a democracy.  I am certain all our political parties have their in-house  (or maybe external too?)  electoral mechanics to service and manipulate the pokery-jiggery necessary to win the next and all other elections.

While we poor sods, the rakyat are brought up on the milk of Abraham Lincoln's platitude of  "Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people" this cynic prefers  to include this caveat by Oscar Wilde.  His version is: "Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people".

And on the prospect of being further bludgeoned, also beware of these 'hurrah words' like Freedom, Equality, and  Human Rights.

In the next few months in Malaysia, expect more sightings of the likes of Snoopy and the Red Baron.  But despair not, lying in wait are several Great Pumpkins to help whoever with their old and new battle plans.

It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.  (Edmund Burke, 1729-1797)

Thursday, 15 March 2018

It has been an eyeful ......

There has been a long, long hiatus since my last posting. It's a silence due to a quandary of vision.  

Firstly there was the issue of a geriatric's eyesight.  An eye cataract is part of the baggage of old age.  The pre- and post operation frustration and discomfort stretched from over 6 months ago to March 2018.  But that's to be expected and AsH should not whinge too much - others from her peer group have it worse.  I was once asked, "Do you prefer to be deaf or blind?"   God's gift of vision is certainly uppermost in my decision. 

Secondly my ire with vision has more to do my weakness, with a failure to judge and discriminate about people who I regard as honourable friends.  One never stop learning, one cannot escape being (metaphorically) slapped in the face by "good friends" even at 74!!!  This time not by one, but by three mates. The scales have been removed from my eyes, so to speak. As my mother would put it: "seperti menelan hempedu".

Hempedu - a beautiful but bitter herb.

And now I am back home .....

Life with crumpets and tea.

 ........ in our other abode away from the sultry, torrid Tropics.  I can try and place my toe once again in the waters of my blog.

But every cloud has a silver lining,  My brother Mus and I were talking about cataracts and he remembered how it started with Mak's.  Too much reading and computer activity have not helped my eyes.  But with Mak, she only realized she had trouble with her vision when threading a needle became a sore problem.  We took her to hospital to remove the cataract in one eye in 1981 and the other one in 1989.  Following my mother's footsteps, I will have the other eye drained sometime. 

And during that conversation I realized what an avid and skilful seamstress she was.  She sewed ALL of our clothes including school uniforms.  She learned the art of tailoring men's outfit from Pakcik Rahim, a Minang tailor and a very good friend of my father.

Pakcik Rahim (right) with Mus circa 1947.  On the left was another family friend Pakcik Mat.

Wise words from Pakcik Rahim for my sister's autograph.

Too much reading and computer work did no favour for my eyes.  But as for Mak her eyes paid a price because she did too much sewing for her family.

I have stored very lovingly all the baju kurung she sewed for me.  They were all sewn by hand.  And most remarkable of all was her fine skills in embroidering the neck line with her tiny and delicate tulang belut.  No wonder she over strained her eyes.

About a month ago, I asked Mus to drop in at Setiawangsa to take these photographs.  Here are the results of that exciting rainy afternoon when Kamisah's son and daughter got to work and immortalised her loving craftsman(woman)ship.

She produced no dissertation, doctoral or otherwise.  But this was her contribution to Malay culture.  It is all the more poignant because I doubt if there are any of my generation or younger who can replicate what she has done.

Dear Mak, on that rainy afternoon Mus and I reminisced and celebrated your life.  We both acknowledged we took you for granted, we never really delved into the ways and purpose of our mother.  You were just and always there but we failed to appreciate your art, your loving gift - you are an artist in your own right.

Mak - always sewing away.

Mak and her brood.

Here are the results of your artistry,  stored in these pictures for posterity - for all of your surviving children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to treasure.

Every inch of my baju kurung was stitched by hand.

Note the very delicate tulang belut stitches on the neckline.

Mak only sewed Baju Kurung Teluk Belangah, which had a pocket on the left for tucking in a handkerchief, not tissue paper.

When we were in our early twenties Abah bought for his two daughters kain songket material, red for me and a gorgeous black for my sister Maznah for our baju kurung.  And of course Mak sewed it all!  We both have them in our keeping, 50 years hence!

I prefer this version by Rokiah Wanda because she kept to the lyrics "Kain songket buatan Malaya" and not turned into the politically correct "Kain songket pakaian budaya".

Here are more of my hand-sewn baju kurung.

The next is Mak's very own baju kurung which I often wear because it is very laboh  (spacious) and very comfortable for a geriatric who has developed a wider girth.

This 'silky' batik material was a present from my sister. It was not an easy material to sew because it is very floppy.  The stitches are not as fine because of her failing eyesight. It was the last baju kurung that Mak sewed for me.  I wore it for all the weddings of her grandchildren.

AsH in her baju kurung and Maria wearing her grandmother's baju kurung at Lincoln's Inn, 1994.

That's AsH (wearing the above baju kurung ) asking the cook for a plateful of his culinary delight during the double wedding for  Maria and Nadzim and her brother Mahzan and Sabrina at Jalan Jengkeng, Batu Pahat, 1996.

A year later Mak passed away peacefully.  Al Fatihah.

For the past six months, life could have been more peaceful.  But I was given the time to be philosophical and wistful and re-think about my incredible Mother.
Indeed it  had been an eyeful .........  and very, very heartfelt .