Friday, February 29, 2008


Our earlier visit saw us viewing the sight of Masjid Zahir. Stepping out of the mosque compound we find ourselves in a wide open space interpose with characteristic buildings spread out within an area of no more than five acres in size.

Above is a wide angle view that takes in the 'Balai Nobat', 'Balai Jam' and the 'Zahir Mosque'. All the three buildings plus the 'Balai Besar' which is right in front of the mosque were constructed during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid ( 1882 - 1943)who is celebrated as the founder of modern Kedah.

These historical and architectural splendor of Alor Star situated at the 'Golden Square' in the city will certainly give visitors moments to savour the richness of the northern state of Malaysia which provide Islamic, Siamese and European flavor besides its ethnic past. Being a farming and effectively rice -planting granary of Malaysia, Kedah two characteristic dry and wet seasons will give the visitors an experience unlike in other parts of the country. The green padi fields in their total spread over the Kedah plain change to golden hue when the padi stalks ripen and it is occasions for farmers to be thankful for the bounty. Kites flying in the open sky, ushered by the cool north-eastern breeze added to the excitement. It was only a half century ago when the wide open spaces in front of 'Masjid Zahir' and between 'Balai Nobat' and the 'Balai Seni Negeri' were arenas which saw kite fights in the city too. while footballs or even Royal Police Band would perform on the fields affectionately known as 'Padang Court' recognizing that the High Court Building was at the southern end before it occupied the new building in the northern sector, next to the 'Balai Nobat'. It is still there right now though the building is undergoing restructuring for a Royal Gallery.

The Balai Nobat ( The Royal 'Nobat Tower') built in 1904

Balai Jam ( Clock Tower) built in 1912. It continues to strike the hour resonating the time to those lucky enough to live close by and the correct time for prayers at Zahir Mosque.

'Balai Besar' Front View . Once the main official hall for all state functions built in 1898 replacing the original building during Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Muadzam Shah's reign( 1710 -1778) . Sometimes overwhelmed by security aspect officials forget how decorative fencing as seen above disfavor true appreciation of the building's structure and more so reduce true photo shots of what would have been a marvelous image.

'The Balai Besar ' side view. Again visitors are restricted to a distant viewing unable to really appreciate the history, culture, construction and beauty within its frame. As more people are disallowed to realise its intrinsic characteristics, it would not be long before none knows of its previous splendor and contribution to Kedah state. Hopefully may those trusted with beautification and planning take heed of the need to be exacting and conscious of many alternatives.

Built in 1892 and now occupied by the Kedah Art Gallery, this renovated building at the southern fringe of the square was at earlier time the High Court Building and later an Administrative Office for various Departments.The path under the porch as seen in the photo reminded me of those times during the Japanese Occupation of Kedah when as school children we marched past, saluting the Japanese officers as they distributed packets of sugar etc after paying tribute to the 'raising sun'. The handout was of course much sought as sugar was scarce and we gleefully took home after school hours. It had two cannons positioned adjacent to one another in front facing the field but with most prized items and subjected to development they too have disappeared as several others built to commemorate the official opening of Zahir Mosque.

This picturesque and commemorative square in the city housing the above buildings can be liken to 'Dataran Merdeka' in Kuala Lumpur pulling visitors to their sites. With greater care, awareness and determination for preservation of historic sites, others nearby could be incorporated thus enlarging and positioning 'Dataran Emas' ( Golden Square) as a must visit site in Kedah and especially Alor Star.


I am not a leap year person who come into the world on the 29 of February but if I am I would be jumping with excitement for alas after an absence of four years I have come to see again my birth date. Whereas others celebrate theirs annually the leap year jumpers have to wait for that occurrence. Would that make them younger than others ? Still be aware that not every fourth year is a leap year.
Today we also celebrate an extra day of the year 2008. Really! How much do we know about this special occasion? A look up, reveal many interesting aspects about this peculiarity.
Why a leap year? Needed to keep our calendar in alignment with the earth's revolutions around the sun. As a start it is a year with an extra day. Commonly it is 365 days , now it is 366 days. It seems however the Gregorian Year defines three criteria:-
i. every year that is divisible by 4
ii. however those years, if it can be divided by 100 is not a leap year unless
iii. the year is divisible by 400. Then it is a leap year
By that calculation 1800,1900,2100,2200,2300 and 2500 are not leap years. Yet 2000 and 2400 are accorded leap years.
Leap Year traditions have it that back in Ireland ( 5th Century) and Scotland (1288) when rules of courtship were strict and proper, it was permitted for females to propose marriages during the leap year for having waited too long for the men to propose. For refusal the man had to pay compensation. Of course this rule does not apply now. It is opened either way.
In 2008 observe that February begins and ends with Friday. Therefore there are FIVE Fridays in the month. Between 1904 and 2096 , the leap years that share the same day of the week for each date repeat only every 28 years. The most recent time when February comprised FIVE Fridays was in 1980, the next occurrence would be in 2036.
Last but not least, we are made to know that the chances of being born in leap year is 1:1461 and only 0.0684% of the world's populace are leapers.
If you are ONE imagine the extra ordinariness and uniqueness that comes with it. My congratulation and many happy returns to all the leapers. Maybe it will come about when the leapers may demand for a public holiday on such a day.
One thing I am certain is that the General Election Day for voters to cast their votes is 8 days away.Come 8 March 2008 we will know who will form the government and thankfully all the banners and posters will disappear for a cleaner country side .
What will this leap year bring us the non leapers? It has brought us goodness.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Welcome to ALOR STAR situated in the district of KOTASTAR. Come visit its historical buildings. Our tour of this city begins with a quick visit to the main square of the city perhaps appropriately named as 'Dataran Emas' and a visit to the imposing Zahir Mosque. The huge door of the mosque is opened for anyone to enter the mosque. As this is quite early in the morning no visitors or 'jumaah' are seen around. Built and opened in 1914 it is one of the most beautiful mosque in the country. Not surprisingly its characteristic main dome has seen a replica atop the main building of the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya. Observe the various domes and minarets; their sizes and features.

Imagine having a door of this size in your home. The main door is temporarily blocked as workers were cleaning the floor inside the mosque at the time I was there. The side doors are however opened.

This is the front view of the mosque seen everyday by people who walk or drive passed the mosque along the main road right in front of it. Lighted at night it gives another grand view.

Seen at another angle with the small hall in front of it which is used by his royal Highness the Sultan and entourage for light refreshment or dinner served on occasions when religious functions are held at the mosque.

I particularly like this view, with the various curves, lines and color. The staircases with slots in between at the main entrance and the sides allow for shoes to be placed inside, thus not obstructing the path while allowing for neatness and order.

As you approach the northern entrance along Jalan Kampong Perak, you will see the main clock tower on the right and this decorative concrete main fence adorned with conical designed dome shaped alternates which truly added to the total beautiful structure of Zahir Mosque. Sadly as years passed and with road buildings taking their effects, the original height of the fence has been reduced. As you can see the pavement is at a higher level than it should be. Notice the main gate way on the right.

I grew up around this part of the city and the mosque was our playground when we were children as it was no less than five minutes from the home. Thursday evenings and the evenings of Ramadhan would see us at the mosque joining in the prayers and afterwards relishing the 'nasi beraini' served to the congregations in late evening. Well that was what it was like in the early 1950's.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Dateline: Sunday 24 February 2008

It is Nomination Day. Processions of supporters with flags wavering, excitement and jubilations high at the prospect of their candidates standing for the coming 12th General Election moved on to the respective centers to submit their papers. Most candidates arrived early and the expectations were high. Candidates for the respective political parties or the independent must have known their missions.

Congratulations to candidates who won even before the arena is opened for a fair duel. As at noon today at least two candidates have repeated their previous success at being elected on the closure of the nomination papers. No candidates were there to oppose them. They would or must be giants in the polling game. Otherwise why was no one willing to fight them? The champs from Johore and Sabah will now give their energies to other candidates of their own party.

Yet it must be 'idiotic and disasterous' for a candidate from a known political party to be ruled off as faulty and unacceptable for on checks he is found to be 'muflis'. Now with all the prior checks and balance to find the best available candidates to stand for the Parlimentary and State seats and even as reportedly a green flag from the Anti Corruption Agency, one cannot concieve the thought that such a mistake can be made. It happened. One would accept that a school candidate sitting for his public examination would make an unintentional mistake. Not a candidate from a political party with all the checks and balance at this crucial hour?

The game begins and in the next twelve days we will hear many stories; revelations, rumours and expositions. The expectation? Who will form the government at the Federal and State levels? The ballot box decides. The populace who can throw their votes will be wooed. Yet they are forgotten once the game is over. They need to demand their rights too. Winning candidates MUST accept their roles to the electorates and not be busy with governance only as though that is their only roles.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


To start the ball rolling, Malaysians have at last come to grasp that the 12th Federal and State Election is now round the corner with the desolution of Parliment today 13 February 2008. The date for nomination and polling would be forthcoming in the next few days. All machineries will be put to test and we will see the war of words along the campaign trail.

Indeed as the title says we are over the moon. Excited, elated. My being so was not because of today's announcement but a once in a blue moon affair that took place in the first week of February 2008. You must have read about 'conjunction' or 'isosceles' happenings much talked by the stargazers and the planetarium people. Sadly none of our local papers carry any mention of this occurance.

For the first five days of February, conjured by the inhibition to see happening in the night sky, I woke up earlier than dawn to gaze at the south-eastern part of the sky, either with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars. At time maybe puzzling some people who saw me starring insanely at the dark sky.

I strained to see Jupiter , Venus and the Moon coming close to one another or as reportedly creating a 'conjunction' or an 'isosceles' figure. Cloudy and overcast skies made viewing the first two days hopeless. The waiting and straining proved a sight for sour eyes and you would literally jump with joy when you observed the bright stars Jupiter and Venus glimmered in the dawn sky on the fourth morning of February attended by the waning crescent moon close by. Jupiter and Venus are supposedly the brightest stars after the sun and the moon. I must be moon struck because I have never awoke at the godly hour just to gaze at the sky. For sure madam was not distraught but fazed by the strange purpose or behavior.

I continued to be glued at the happening and was rewarded on the fifth day when the trio got 'near' to each other to form the 'isosceles' triangle. You could observe this with your naked eye and much better with binoculars or telescopes. Had I not learned to construct the triangle during the geometry lesson before, I would not have known of its qualities. Yes that was the greatest highlight of February. Yes I was over the moon. You can say that. Now the 'constellation' has been added as another source of attraction. No morning crawl however. Stargazing? Not in the city. Try the open sea. That's another story by itself.

Please share with me the sights at least as observed on 4th February 2008.

3 Feb 2008 before dawn. The moon and Jupiter at the bottom left hand corner. Venus is seen just above right of Jupiter.

Dawn is approaching.
The Moon is clearly seen with Jupiter down below on its left.
Venus is not captured on film

Dawn is here and both Jupiter and Venus made their appearances with
the Moon as if on the same stretch line.
It was the next day before dawn that the trio
stood in an isosceles triangle position the most awaited spectacle.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


This Chinese New Year has not been a quiet four-day break but neither has it been exhaustive. The weather has been good too though the early signs of the hot season is already discernible with some of the wayside trees flowering much too early. Those returning to the 'big smoke' may have to endure the crawl as thousands of cars will flow back either southwards or northwards depending where you are departing from.

Perhaps it also gave a momentary respite to look at some metaphors which we had to learn by heart and commit to memory alongside their meanings. Learning the language then meant getting into the nitty-gritty of knowing proverbs, metaphors, idioms and quotations of well-known personalities playwrights and authors especially. It gives a foundation which sadly is disregarded now making language learning a transient and expediant approach.

A little bird told me that I would be playing with a new toy this weekend. That I did when I got hold of a Nikon Zoom-Nokkor 70 - 300mm f/4 - f/5.6G lens that as the brochure says "will provide you with years of exciting picture-taking opportunities" So today in the early morning, before breakfast and after fixing it on its Nikon base I scouted around the home for the early birds. Never knowing who would catch the worms first. Coincidently, the area around the house being at the frienge of the Anak Bukit River and interspersed with clumps of bamboo and varied trees still provide a haven for birds and flying creatures. In one's own backyard, one would surely be able to look in every nook and cranny and put one's best foot forward and sure enough I had several exciting snap-shots.

As if implying 'a bird in hand is worth two in the bush' and recognizing oneself as a 'rare bird' I present two photos of the flying kind. This new toy is truly a goodly extension and a 'well-oiled piece of machinery'.

Speaking metaphorically, this is one way of giving one's blessing to something or someone. Grateful indeed for all that Allah has bestowed upon us.

Notice the lone bird cooing away as it sits comfortably and in safety amongst the dried branches that hung over the river behind the home.

Here a lone Bird is caught twitching on the soft branches but we are always caught by the saying that 'birds of a feather flock together'.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


It's amazing how in the euphoria of this Chinese New Year break and with the children and grand children at home after their tired journey from the capital KL , you suddenly realised that 'MIC' stands and represents not only 'Malaysian Indian Congress' but also 'Malay, Indian and Chinese' the three main component of the Malaysian society.

It came to mind that the three communities have religious and traditional celebrations, that are hallmarks and have earned 'public holiday' status. Religious observations may differ but the mode of celebration seems to take familiar notes.

Mandarin Orange

Observedly, the annual Chinese New Year celebration comes with a definitive animal name and this year the 'Rat' takes its place. The Chinese ushers in the New Year with the traditional family dinner. All attempts are made by the respective kins to return home and present themselves in the family home. In the good old days especially in ancient China it would have been a huge calamity if a family member found himself unable to reach home. I have not yet seen the sumptious food they served or consumed but being Malaysian you can be sure it cannot be just simple serving. One thing for sure, the Mandarin orange would certainly hit the market several weeks earlier than the festival day and would certainly be on the tables of all Chinese homes.

Ketupat and Rendang

The Malays also return home for the grand celebration. The annual rush sparks safety precaution as usual. They want to be back in the kampong and participate in the activities especially on the first day of Aidilfitri. They too want to sit down for the first breakfast after sunrise having abstained from eating food in the daytime for the whole of the previous month. Syawal sees a grandeur celebration extending for no less than three days with visitation and many house calls. Not to mention ketupat and home cookings served in the respective homes. One definite aspect with the Malays is that all men and women and children too gather at the mosque nearest their homes in the morning of the first of Syawal to pray. On this occasion even the largest mosque would not easily offer a vacant space for the worshipper. If he is late probably he has to bring his own prayer mat and find space outside the mosque building. After the prayer, Muslims visit the graves of their departed which ordinarily would be by the sides of the village or town mosques.

However I notice that the Chinese take a rather cool aspect of the celebration in the following days after the 'Makan Besar'. With business taking a good break; shops closed, the Chinese continue to take good respite. Some enjoy home comforts while others run off to chosen destinations. In the meantime the occassion sees the movement of 'lion dance' groups in the community, parading their skills, pounching on red packets with prancing and beating of drums. The Chinese also make grave-yard visits to appease the ancestors for restful eternity but this is done on 'all souls day'.

Putu Mayong or Masalodeh

Deepavali and Thaipusam see the Indian community out in their best finery. The former earns the national distinction of being a public holiday with the latter holding pride in Selangor and Penang especially. Thaipusam with the movements of chariots from one temple to another, the breaking of coconuts along its path and followed by devotees carrying 'kavadee' has been earmarked as a 'must visit' date for many including tourists to Malaysia. Deepavali known also as the 'festival of lights' usher in for the Indian community warmth and happiness for the family with the homes taking more radiant images.

Well it seems the three component racial composition of Malaysia seems to enjoy festival breaks peculiar to each ethnic and religious identities though all benefited by the holidays. It too looks like each is enjoying at least two main religious or cultural celebrations. Thaipusam now looks being declared a national holiday too though currently only Selangor, Penang and Wilayah Persekutuan enjoy the benefit. The Chinese have CNY and Wesak Day or Christmas Day.

We certainly enjoy all the breaks and off days and not forgetting delighting ourselves with all the glorious dishes, cakes and fruits served . 'Ketupat', 'masalodeh' and 'kuih bakul' are signature keepsakes enjoyed by each community and shared by the other. The children goes for the 'duit raya' and the 'ang pau'. None would forget the collection and the innocence of childhood. I am sure the Indian elders too would reward their youngs with similar goodies. We have yet to know what they call this special handouts.

For me give me anytime 'tapai',' pulut kacau' and ' jeruk maman' all mouth watering to say the least. This CNY we have 'ikan selumbu' for curry and 'ikan siakap' for hot steaming 'kukus kelubi' with the family. There are many species of fish in the market though many are getting on the list of 'rare' or 'extinct' ones. It was only yesterday that I was introduced to 'ikan angsa' said to be tasty and delicious. It was another sit down lunch with the whole family, Malay style. Syukur.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I found it in the most likely place, at an old abandon home on the island of Langkawi deep in the woods and away from the nearest kampong. Pak Wan a friend and a man of many skills and experience once lived here. That day he took us back to the old home, though reluctantly at first as he did not want to relish the memory of quiting the homes after so much sweat and toil. He wanted only to show us some of the works he had put in to make the place a deserving 'Shangrila'. It was indeed one and if we should get a good piece of land on the island we would certainly ask him to help us shape the piece to a similar if not better landscape or landmark.

Now what did I discover? It was an old charcoal iron piece, heavy and certainly in good service if we need to use it for the function it is meant for. Heavy with hot charcoal burning inside it, the user would definitely get good works done with the cloth pressed to satisfaction. Still it asks for patience and coolness, Because time is an essence and temperature and heat a challenging factor. It's surely a far cry from the electric iron and the iron board you are familiar with while being caressed by airconditioning or the electric fan blowing cool breeze away while you work away.

Still it can be a labor of love: appreciating and loving the grand old time our mothers endured before electricity found its way to Kedah or the peninsular. Like other old items the iron piece has become a collector's treasure piece.


Seeing that there are bloggers and blogs all over with characters and expressions of their own and yet attractive and captivating either by design or content, it is rIghtly a mean towards self expression. The individual is caught in wanting to pen down thoughts, memories, impressions , ideas and whatever that comes to mind through a media that sees the printed words on screen instantly not only for himself but it can be distributed worldwide in a matter of seconds for others to behold as well.

We note that blogs should be distinguishable while expecting return visits or clicks. While bloggers do attempt to make their sites interesting, they will also keep the sites active not letting them be dormant. There would always be a topic to write about. You write because you want to do so and not forced upon or obliged to do so because of directives etc.

Seeing and understanding the current shortfall in oral as well as written expressions either in schools or tertiary centres coupled by a greater use of computers and explosions of computer centres, blogs can become an effective and compelling media for students to develop their communicative skills. Knowing that their respective blogs will be read openly and commented there would be a whole hearted attempt by students to fabricate them properly taking care of all the nicecities: design, layout, grammar, spelling etc. All in all it would only improve and possibly we may discover a new media of making writing, reading and thinking a lively exercise once again.

It is interesting to know how the school computer programs are being implemented. They may be introducing all the elements of usage etc. In the end it is communication that holds the key to the multimedia explosion. So why don't we promote communication via blogs either inter-classmates, inter-schools or world wide web?

It would be interesting to see a competition developed on the strength of communicative skills via blog production.
A reaction from colleagues in schools especially would be appreciated