Monday, December 24, 2007


With the long weekend due to the Aidil Adha holiday and the Christmas Day public holiday, I had time to spend some brief moments in the home library and incidentally came across an old book bought on 25 March 1961. The 320 page hard cover book Odhams Motor Manual (How Your Car Works and How to Service It) published by Odhams Press Limited London in 1960 was bought in Singapore on one of our transit break in the city during travels between Kuala Lumpur and Bandar Brunei. The brief note on the front inside cover indicated it cost Malayan Ringgit nine only. My long practice in noting down the date, place, cost and reason or incident of the day on the front inside cover of books purchased helped to remind me re moments of purchase while now perhaps granting me to arrange the books purchased in chronological order. It would invariably indicate what year I missed adding a literary collection. One thing I know, I would not miss buying one on my birthday. Interestingly that would highlight where I was on each year’s birthday.

Service Manual

The Odham’s book in question reminded me of the reasons for its purchase. I must have searched high and low for the copy in the Singapore bookshop to find the edition. I needed to know about motor car and its workings after having passed the driving test and acquired a driving license earlier on. Added to that there was a second hand Ford Prefect and later replaced by a Ford Consul at home in Brunei where I was working. The author’s opening forward “The life of a motor car is not indefinite, but with proper and systematic service and maintenance it can be prolonged considerably. Also the risks and delays on the road due to breakdown are minimized” was conclusive to want us to care about the car, thus this requirement to know briefly if not concretely its workings. This could be also be a start at DIY.

Similar weekend interest and indulgence amongst friends in auto-mechanics made the pursuit challenging. More than anything else the antique and classic models of cars produced in the 1950’s or earlier were a far cry from current models of the millennium. They needed care otherwise you may be stranded for minor hiccups i.e. block carburetor, dirty plugs, overheating or weak battery. Most weekends besides cleaning and washing the cars, our hands would be blackened, tarnished by black oil or grease. It was good healthy practice while adding bits of know-how.

Of course modern cars do not give such shortcomings, at least not regularly. The owners and drivers need not fear for any breakdown. Even if there is there will be quick assistance. Automobile Association Malaysia or car insurance companies would be at hand to provide towing and other services to members and owners just upon receiving telephone calls. House calls are also available. A new car with regular servicing would not easily fail its owner even after five years or more on the road. The fear would be only when there is an accident which regretfully takes place far too often. Be as it may, car owners and licensed drivers of yesteryears are categorically I would vouch to say more knowledgeable regarding the motorcar and its workings than current owners. I have come across drivers and owners who are flabbergasted when faced with using the jacks or changing tires not to mention making a ‘jump-start’ or recognizing either a ‘front or rear wheel’ driven vehicles. It would be a disaster if the vehicle is towed away without recognizing the former or the latter and more so when it is moved when in reality it had to have all the four wheels on a long truck.

Less I transgressed it is my intention to look at current vehicle models and the strength of the advertisements in relation to their specifications to wow the purchasers and the motorists at large. If before we had only saloons and opened tourer, now there are many versions to tempt the buyers. The discerning motorists have a hard choice with MPV (multi purpose vehicle), SUV (sports utility vehicle), Coupe, SAV ( Sports Activity Vehicle), Hatchback, Station Wagon, Pickup, Four Wheeled Drive etc offered for whatever reasons they want besides all the new fangled accessories, luxuries and technologies.

Now what do contemporary cars offer that were sorely absent in the cars of the earlier periods? In general all models have an engine (for motive power), transmission system (to drive the wheels), chassis or framework (to carry the engine, body, transmission, road wheels etc) and the body to accommodate driver and passengers. Modern development in the industry goes for efficient and competitive design giving the best of the best. Of course at a steep price for those who can afford. If half a century ago Britain captured the motor trade, now its frilling industry has been overtaken by Japan, Korea, Germany, France and even Malaysia. Vehicles from these countries flood the market and the latest models presented with pomp and glamour at annual international motor shows.

Motor Car Models Through the Years

Besides the two old Ford models, I had the pleasure of owning and driving a Hillman Minx 1725cc, a Wolseley 1500cc Mk 1, a Datsun SSS, a Volkswagen 1200cc, and yet another Ford, a ‘Cortina’ 2000cc. They were the earlier models before I had the pleasure of driving a 240 Volvo and much later the automatic models of Citroen, Volvo S80 and LXMode MPV Estima. All the earlier models were bought secondhand, including the classic Wolseley which I drove while studying in Canberra Australia. It would be a grand car had I brought it back to Malaysia. Perhaps it was fitting that the earlier exposure at DIY auto- repair helped me in no small way to care and maintain the vehicles at the minimum cost and selling them off at no big loss and especially where yearly test and checks are necessary before the car can be allowed to be on the road.

The Best Keeps Getting Better

What do the new models offer? Safety, Speed, Economy, Luxury, Beauty, Comfort, Driving Pleasure and Entertainment make up the list.

Prestige for people who wants it come with high cost and branded names. Perhaps a limousine for a name replacing the ordinary car is another feature. Each and every of the above characteristics built into the car provided accessories, technologies, safety features and systems that make one model better or more efficient than the other. Thus we read of such details as ‘cruise control with brake function’ , ‘adaptive headlights’, climate comfort laminated glass’, ‘navigation system professional’, ‘front and side airbags’, ’xenon lights’ on board computer’ etc.

You have only to be present at any showroom when a new model is displayed to observe the motorists reaction and behavior. Almost all will stare into the cockpit, jump into the comfortable driver’s seat holding on to the steering wheel and observe the spread of meters on the dashboard and imagining themselves driving a Formula One version model. They test the comfort seats and peep at the large rear booth, sports rim and the spectacular paintwork. They look casually at the neat engine. Not many will bother about the brake and anti theft system or safety features provided. Most are comfortable and please with the semblance of being in the cockpit of an airplane. That is the main criteria. If taken for a test drive, no robust handling, no test braking or a ride to test the shock absorbers as though it is a family car meant for the tarmac road only.

Acceleration from 0 to 100 in 5 Seconds

No wonder that car owners and drivers care less about understanding their vehicles now. Personally I too don’t bother to open the bonnet and look inside whether the engine oil needs top-up, the radiator requires extra water or the battery needs water too. I don’t look at the fan belt or check the air conditioning system either. The car now requires regular service not every month but after an interval of 15,000 kilometers or more. The battery is absolutely good for a year or more without any bother. Every thing is self regulated. You only need to fill it up with either petrol or diesel. The better the fuel the faster and better for the engine. Turn on the key, switch on the climate control, blast the audio system, kick off the brake system and press on the accelerator and you are moving away at a speed and rpm very much higher than what the Volkswagen or the Ford Prefect would have shown on the audiometer. Acceleration from the block touching 100 could be reach as fast as 5 seconds if you are at the wheel of a BMW 24M Coupe for instance.

For that reason the Odhams book and other likeable booklets plus the motor manuals of the current car in use remain where they are on the racks. Refer to when absolutely necessary.

The final question. Do you still enjoy driving and owning a motor car?

Thirty seven years ago we were driving the VW and the Wolseley Mk 1. Hj Hashim Abd Rahman seen standing next to his VW with his wife Zaiton and daughter Harzita and me with the Wolseley were then at Canberra ACT Australia. We had to keep the cars in good condition as the annual yearly appraisal would determine the road worthiness. Both the cars had airconditioning as well as good heater system. The Wolseley after three years was sold at the same purchasing price. I regreted for not bringing it back to Malaysia as the model was hard to find here. It was manufactured under the same brand/company as Riley and Austin.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I have touched on varied topics in my previous writings but sadly I have missed out on things that have been close to me not recently but ever since I could remember when. These are items or collectible pieces which one can count them as antiques or treasure pieces. For one thing it is hard to find a duplicate of any one of them unless you go searching all over the country or outside. You may be lucky if you could find one through EBay, a popular market place now.

Firstly how do you define an object as antique? It is an item which is at least 100 years old and is collected or desirable for its rarity, condition, utility or some other unique features. Motor vehicles etc due to vigorous use may be designated antiques (in US) if older than 25 years. For purposes of distinctions items may be classified as antique, vintage and collectibles.

No doubt you can scout in the flea markets such as at Rope Walk in Penang or Am Corp Mall Petaling Jaya and come home happy with one two extraordinary pieces but nothing can beat the possessions that have been alongside you since ages. The few things that I have as my collection dates even from the time I was still unborn. These are items kept by the family and luckily continue to be around as family heirloom.

I can remember times during my early primary school days when the silver ware pieces especially one that looks like an Aladdin lamp captured my imagination and I would polish hard till shinning bright dreaming and hopefully expecting a genie to jump out. Frightening yes but who does not want a genie to be around and you can fly off on his magic carpet. Those were the innocent days when movies of course provided candid adventure into the never-never land. Then there was a smaller version of the 'keris' recognized as 'badek' which became my constant companion as I practised targeting it on the soft banana trunk hoping I would be an expert such as the knife thrower that made his appearance in the circus that came to town almost annually.

I always remember the time when my father reprimanded my cousins for breaking the back of one teak lounge chair which he had just imported from Thailand. That incident happened almost sixty years ago. Yet the evidence is there. The old teak chair is still around repaired and a vogue of the then current furniture design of Thailand. Coincidentally in many Bangkok homes and even hotels the same design and quality furniture remain as showcase till now.

Many of us would have old treasured items stocked behind cupboards or lying unknown somewhere in the house especially if you are living in a family home several decades old. They may not be large items like antique furniture but instead such pieces as dinner plates, copper trays, silver spoons, old books, lamp shades, door locks, clocks etc. Not to forget old photographs. Their discovery and acquisition will certainly enhance our knowledge of the family's interest and standing. Even the old house you are living in has a story of its own to tell. The wood, the pillars, doors, floors and windows with their quality and characteristic design plus craftsmanship would tell of the labor and cost to build such homes then. Alas we miss out such observation but instead look to modernity and the conventional design or whatever 'masterpieces' we designated as extraordinary and worth adopting as collection pieces.

The heirlooms given a good scrub, polish and attended to with tender care will be sights to behold when they are up on the shelves or beautifully framed in the living room for you and visitors to adore.

I am happy that many of the items I value and adore are still around kept safely for others to appreciate and realise their authenticity and richness in design. Yet remembering of course those who purchased or had them as practical and usable every day items had the family close to his or her hearts and wanted for them some small luxuries in life.

I can look back and admire with much pride those collectibles which hopefully my family will continue to treasure and some unknowingly may reach the table of Sotheby if they are perfect antiques. Through them I recognised that my grandparents, father and mother who have all departed ( Al Fatihah) had left behind valuable crafts and collectibles which must have also endured their likings and fondness and yet remembering that we would continue to appreciate their intrinsic values and beauty.

More items naturally have been added since.

It will become a process of elimination when the number becomes bigger or the addition of space to accommodate the increased collections. Nevertheless displays and procedures adopted by museums or historical sites may help us in no small way to keep our collections perpetual.

It is without doubt the early attraction and familiarity with old things that have cultivated within oneself the onus to see and admire all things around and appreciate their being and hence their creativity and the people who brought them around. I count myself fortunate having lived and brought up in a family home which until today stands sentinel devoid of the destructive elements of nature and flood. Thus the collectibles being where they were.

Antique shops have yet to emerge in greater numbers, especially in smaller towns and thereby the interest will explode. Currently Malacca and Kuala Lumpur provide the connoisseurs of things they desire to keep for prosperity while indulging in all the intricacies, skills and know how of a rewarding and not necessarily expansive hobby.

In Britain the BBC has been running an 'Antique Roadshow' for years with the appraisers visiting towns throughout the country to meet collectors who bring their pieces to be judged or appraised. This perpetuate greater interest while adding knowledge and value. If only such a program can be organised in Malaysia. It is transmitted in Australia too. Hopefully this interest catches on and we will preserve our richness while guarding its transmigration.

P.S View below some of my collections and hopefully those who have not been bitten by these exciting bugs will start looking in the crevices and corners of your grandfathers' homes and discover to your greatest delights some 'treasures'. Good luck.
(1) A handmade Thai offering bowl with design motifs very much duplicated in conventional bowls found in markets and shopping malls now. It is estimated that this has been in the family since the Thai period in Kedah much before the 2nd World War.

(2) A heavy iron ball with a hole in the centre. I was told that it is a cannon ball and very much used as a 'tungku' by the women folks. Now what is a 'tungku'? It's any moderately heavy iron piece, heated and wrapped with cloth used to massage especially after delivery. One with a cannon ball piece is understood to be more 'effective'. Will be glad to receive further info.

(3) This is an Iban 'Parang Panjang' with ornate carvings on its sheath and handle. Known also as parang ilang it is a much treasured piece by the Iban of longhouses fame. I was at Marudi, a small town up river along the Baram from Miri way back in 1961 to witnesse the famous Baram Regatta and fortunately came across this piece. The parang is sharp with several design pieces inlaid.

(4) " Ketam"a piece of tool which has disappeared. Carpentars now use electronic plane for all their works which previously require labor intensive attention. Other tools used by our carpentars during the last decades or so are now collective items because they reveal the intensity and mode of works.

(5) Last but not least of course the ever popular 'kopitiam'. As such as many coffee shops have sprouted out lately to cater for the taste of good coffee, nothing I believe can beat the quality of grinded coffee that came out from such machine as our mothers and grand-mothers labor to get the powder after the coffee beans have been roasted. Oh! the good home cooked food.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I would like to share these photos and accompanying briefs of things seen and captured on camera on our recent trip to the legendary island of Langkawi in early December 2007. Much as most people thronged the island for the sights of aeronautic and maritime splendor of LIMA show held biennially, we took the opportunity to scour the countryside and discover many happenings and new found knowledge. With that of course comes some uncertain factors.

We realise that there has been quite a number of foreigners who fell for the serene beauty of the island and perhaps mesmerised by its legendary tales and friendly people. Thus many yacht and boat owners have made their temporary haven here. Others set up business in the culinary, spa and other touristic trades. While many locals had made their riches in the early years of the island's growth still many more seems to enjoy the passing of years with blissful quiet and idleness. Sadly too many pieces of landed properties seemed to transfer hands. Even 'Malay Reserves' nonchalantly got to become foreign owners' properties. How it is done and accomplished is no great secret.

Present land owners may continue to reap good Ringgit from the sale but imagine even ten years or less from now, we may see Langkawi just as the nearest populated island south of it. I could still imagine the tranquil sandy and picturesque landscape of Batu Feringgi Malay kampong of Nineteen Fifties, yet shocked and dismayed when RasaSayang one of the earliest hotel chain started the rebuilding of the area. Pantai Canang in Langkawi is a replica of what happened then. Penang story did not of course halt at Batu Feringgi alone. It continues throughout. Tanjung Bunga, Tanjung ToKong, Air Hitam and the far flung Balik Pulau saw demographic changes. It is a worrying and saddening scene for Langkawi too. Incidentally both earned free port status.

Unlike Penang, Langkawi however strongly attracts buyers from overseas. Swiss, Germans,Dutch, French, British, Australians make up the conglomerate of investors and new settlers. Their homes now form the quite landscape of the island. No brick and mortar buildings but instead the rustic Malay wooden houses became their choice. Old homes, remodelled and refurbished now stand amongst the rural and verdant padi fields and rubber land. Their spacious allocation from one and the other is a spark contrast from current compacted Malay homes on the island. Not single but two or three homes on a two or three acre land seems to provide the owner with luxury of space while harboring 'home stay' or 'guests homes' for visitors to Langkawi. Our visit to Ubud in Bali a few years back reminisced similar circumstances.

Our long attempt to secure one piece of landscape for a 'Home in Langkawi' was rewarded when we chanced upon a land broker and the property itself. Alas it was a short-lived piece of contentment. Two days later we were told that the deal was off since the owner had received a down payment from a buyer you know who. This is the sad story. How we wish our own people from the mainland with their extra savings or allocated facilities would grasp upon these chances while attainable and build for themselves and their children or future generation landed property on this holiday island promoted with all the modern and international facilities sparing none. For us we will continue to harbor such dream and hope it materialises soon. We will think of the financial side when we cross the path.

Friends, we seek you to come to Langkawi and find a soft spot here if not for yourselves but for your later generations. The seven generations of 'curse' as we know has been wiped off. There could be only years of progress and development. Now with UNESCO recognition for the island as a GEO park and more things on its trail, would you want to miss a small stake of paradise or see another island in the sun lost again but to new settlers from afar just because they see the unsurpassed beauty it holds and we are blinded by uncertainty and unfocused.

If you feel even a little spark of discomfort for such a predicament, join me in searching and carving our own mark on the island less Mahsuri laments the demise of her own generations from the island from which she had stuck out her guts and ancestors. Hopefully those in authorities too will discover means for a small if not larger preservation while pushing for investment and built-up which eventually benefit others largely.

One typical property ownership of a none Malaysian who has ventured to make the island his retiring home. The government through tourism has encouraged ' your home in Malaysia' concept

Vast stretches of open padi field skirted with rubber trees and roads once patched with marble remained true right to the moment. The cleared patch will soon see another home on its site. Areas around Makam Mahsuri is now hot property.

A pair of horn bills came calling just outside the verandah of our apartment at Chogam Villa near Kuah . This fruit tree 'Pokok Sukon' has always been a halting place for the duo. Only in Langkawi can you be awarded by such spectacle and see eagles sweeping in for their baits. Added to that fishing buffs and sailors would love the sea.

The owner of another house on the island nestled amidst open padi field has built this 'wakaf' or pavilion aside the 'sawah' and enjoys cool breeze day and night.

A search and adaptation of Malay domestic and traditional architecture with all its intricate carvings plus choice of quality timber seems to form the hallmarks of the new homes in Langkawi. Interior decoration too is a departure from the modern and contemporary always hinging to choice of ' seni ukiran kayu tradisi' or Malay traditional wood carvings. It certainly helps to promote the love and continuity of Malay traditional homes.

This article articulates for a stronger and definite ownership of land in Langkawi by the Bumiputras and not too ready to succumb to the escalating price of per foot square. Much as others have the right to own properties on the island and build their homes and thankfully adhering to Malay traditions we must ascertain that we continue to reap the harvest of investment and development in Langkawi. Langkawi will accelerate, continue to leap and bound. We need to be around. Regretfully we do not wish to hear the often familiar announcement " Itu hak Tok aku dahulu.Kami biasa tinggal disana dahulu".

It will be delightful and energatic to hear instead "Ini pondok kami. Kami dibesar disini dahulu. Sila masuk. Terima kasih kerana sudi menjenguk. Kami cintakan Langkawi. Saudara tak mahukah bermaustatin disini?"

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Don't They Know How To Ask 'PLEASE'

They are many things that I see which as far as possible I refrain from complaining or speaking out realising that such incidences may disappear or correct themselves in due time. But this case seems to continue and not ebb as hoped. One thing it is the usage of hand phone. True it is useful and a communication item bringing people closer , guaranteeing security and lots of other advantages.Yet it has its limitation and restrictions. Sadly no one seems to understand these aspects or just doesn't care. So far maybe at hospitals, mosques, petrol stations and on board aeroplanes where restrictions are spelt out. Again no one seems to care. They went on dialing and speaking without any care for the world. Two recent separate incidents at two petrol stations may hopefully scare people from using their phones near such places. Generally people hardly shy or avoid from doing what are directed even at such security or religious places. Breaking the peace of worshippers at mosques or religious places with the ringing of the phones added with all manner of sound or music is sacrosanct and next to ill respect and inconsideration.
Nevertheless it is the practice of 'charging' the phone's battery that sicken me. No one stops you from charging your phone at the appropriate places. You need to do that since no one has come out with a hand phone that is 'nonchargeable' just like the modern car batteries, Do that at your own home, office etc i.e places that belong to you. Surely not at any odd places as soon as you notice a plug point, innocently and gladly plug in your connection or charger without a thought of who own the property. On one occasion we had almost a busload of tertiary education students at home. It was good to welcome them for a short stay or rest. The hordes found the plug points at home for their continuing chats. That was the first thing they do. As guests we believe there are many other firsts to be be done. Certainly we were dumb founded. When more than a dozen at a time began to do that it was annoying and surprising. Not that we suffered from loss of much Ringgit and Sen but the decency to politely request permission before usage was not there. Maybe it has become so rudiments as turning the water tap or switching on the electricity. They are free and necessary. Therefore no excuse for requesting permission. So now you see all manner of man doing that at airports, offices, hospitals and homes which surely are not their own properties. Is this 'stealing' or 'poaching' for a lighter term? Imagine the power being 'stolen' throughout the country when more and more people adopt such attitude.
What should we do or what can we do? As parents we can tell our children the folly of doing such things. Teachers too should inculcate the right training. Hopefully this trend will correct itself. Otherwise it may spread to other practices as well.