Thursday, December 31, 2009


IT only dawned on me as I compose this essay, that I am imposing on myself quite a challenge i.e to start building a new house out of the old timber home. Seeing the happy, smiling faces of the children on the concrete staircase way back in early 1970's, it has to be accepted that this is a challenge not to be taken lightly. The old home has certainly seen better days and it would be a pity to discontinue its grand contribution to the family. So what more auspicious than to start the NEW YEAR with a resolute intention.

In happier and youngish days the children had fun posing for this picture on the staircase. I guessed they had come to the house for either the son or daughter's birthday. Observe the car in a natural garage under the house. I really regret for not keeping the antique vehicle. It was a Hillman Minx 1725 cc even with disc break and floor gear which I had in 1973. I remember driving it up Genting Highland once. Notice the two sector windows:the upper with special louvres too and the bottom can be wide opened too.

Since the last posting, the house that has stood for decades is no more. The carpenters or builders have removed the frames, pillars, doors, windows etc and carted them to a place designated for the reconstruction. I am told almost 80% of the wood works are intact meaning not attacked by white-ants, declaring the top quality timber used. I had to hunt high and low for the new piece of land realising that it has to be acquired fast as the timbers from the house have to be located where the building should be erected. Blessed that the piece of land came into sight and acquired.

The fruit trees are matured and as much as it would be regretful that one or two has to be cut down to make way for the site of the new building. Still I would have a small orchard ready when the house is completed. Better still there is a mini tar road adjacent to the river that flows close by

Two pictures showing the old home completely dismantled, piece by piece. I believed they did that in less than a fortnight. The lorry was there to take the timber to the new site 12 kilometres away.

The plot has been cleared to allow for the timber pieces from the old home to be stored here. Notice the wooden staircase which will see it welcoming guests again as they step up into the home later. The rambutan tree is seen while the mangosteen is by the right hand corner.

The river with the tree trunk bent over and the flock of ducks in the water.

I guess this is the first of many updates that will appear as the old home comes alive again.

May I take this opportunity to wish all my friends near and far a wonderful 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I AM BEGINNING TO BE AN OLD HAND AT ACQUIRING 'OLD TRADITIONAL HOME' Right now an old family wooden home measuring 40 ' x 40' is being dismantled piece by piece, transported to a new site and being rebuilt again. This old home , with decades of history of the good times when children played in its large opened spaces, where many young men and women were accommodated when they began their schooling in town and where of course traditional weddings of cousins and nephews took place ends its legend right in the city of Alor Setar when we decided to part with the piece of land where it once stood. Standing in the center of thriving business enclave it appears out of frame. It would find peace and rest in a more natural surrounding in between 'rambutan and mangosteen' trees , within a 'kampong' atmosphere and standing near a flowing river but still not far from people.

Wait! In the next few months after the grand lady has put on her cosmetic , the wooden home built by my father 70 years ago with top quality timber, hard wood and 'chengal or tembusu' for the pillars and 'meranti' for the floorings will reappear unrecognised and highly valued. I believe offered as a 'guest house' within a countryside setting and complete with furniture of the old traditions it will relive its old history and magic spell.

No doubt some hard work awaits.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Almost an an aerial view of the country sides the new school building sits on a commanding hilltop. Seen in the right hand corner the Maktab Mahmud of Baling

On Thursday 3 December 2009, we saw the completion of one project, the building of a secondary school at Bongor in the district of Baling Kedah. With the completion and official handing over to the Ministry of Education Malaysia, Anak Arshad Architect as the lead consultant is happy that it means the new year 2010 will see local students of the district and surrounding area making their way to their new school and not having to journey far as otherwise. The school commands a grand view of the area as it stands on a small hill. The captivating view of the Baling hills and forest will no doubt be an added value and character to the school. It is left to the school administrators to cultivate the area and landscaping, now that they have a complete school with amenities, teachers and pupils of the early 1960's would be jealous of or which they never dreamt of. How lucky the school administrator, teachers and pupils are to be handed a secondary school almost devoid of other wants but only the learning skill and the pedagogy expected.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Right now I see four family relatives on their respective beds at home. They are the elderly, down with lingering illness and indicating slowness or more exacting a no quick solution to recovery. This is a case close at hand. Others in the peripherals must be more adding to the current unseen or unconcerned situations among us. I am sure each one of us would have elderly relatives or neighbors convalescing at home by virtue of their age group over all sorts of illness. The huge question is "who take care of them or more clinically who 'nurse' them? Your answer will be as good as mine. Excepting for the wives or the husbands, if they are still strong and able, the patients would be hard pressed to find comforting 'nurse' maids.

I am no younger too having reached the age group that is accorded the elderly sector. A casual glance at yesterday's STAR newspaper entitled "Demand for Senior Housing on the Rise" prompted this article. It is noted that there is a change in the demographic area of the world's population. From the 'historical high birth rates and high death rates' there is now a corresponding new trend according to the UN Department of Economics and Social Affairs: One out of 10 people is now above 60 years old or older. Continuing trends would mean that by 2050 1 out of 5 will be above 60 or older. By 2150 the figure would read 1 out of 3. The eldest old would mean a rapid expanding segment of the elderly population.

Many of us would be in that sector even now. The question is "how could we cope with the situation?' or " Are we able to face the possibilities of 'ageing in place' without the full amenities such as proper meals, hospital, nursing homes and on site care? Could the 'elderly' survived in their current homes devoid of their grown up sons and daughter plus in-laws too who are no more neighbor friendly now but staying 100 kilometers or more from their former homes? Works or choice of jobs placed them away from their kampong. Not surprisingly, many are working even overseas, therefore several flight hours away. Therefore the comforts of filial piety, as traditionally expected by the elders have become a dream rather than expected norms. Close to it maybe the annual 'balik kampong'.

Is our government ready or realizing the current development? Is our "Yang Berhormat" in keeping with these needs that has seen other developed countries marching forward to address the pertinent issues?

Look carefully around you. Observe the sick and the elderly at the hospitals and the treatment they are receiving. There are many private hospitals too but how many can afford a RM300.00 bed a day plus medical expanse that easily multiply to thousand ringgit quite hurriedly? The needy, the elderly in most cases would not be able to meet such demand. It is sad that that the situation has been allowed to exist without check. Without medical attention unless you can afford to pay, where could the elderly ills go? No other, than their own homes and lingering as I have seen with only the sympathy of neighbors, friends and relatives.

Malaysia being a multiracial country has to look at the problem with full concerned of the community, religious bodies plus all the relevant ministries. Going for housing specific to realizing the needs of the elders of Malays, Chinese, Tamils etc need concerted efforts from developers as well. Elderly age homes or community living with the comforts for the elders have to be planned in accordance to each community needs.

Hoping this awareness strikes home. May we look forward to special housing for the elders.So too greater medical care and services greatly desired from a 'prehatin' or caring government.Another pressing question would be "Which one now 'child care' or 'elder care'? realizing the trend in population development.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Saturday, 14 November 2009/26 Zulkaedah 1430. It was dinner at Restoran Sari Ratu, Subang Parade on Friday night for the family including the expecting mother Djasriza. We were all there except Abu Bakar Sidqi who was late in returning home. Over a wide spread choice of Minang dishes which included 'kentang teri, ayam gulai, sayur kalian, gado-gado, ayam special, asam pedas ratu, bergedel, sambal merah dan sambal hijau' plus the ordered drinks, all six adults and two children savored the serving with relish. Not surprisingly all serving plates were left empty except the sambal. The restaurant was one of several in the city serving Minang cooking minus the normal Minang serving of all dishes laid on the table and charging you for those taken only. I suppose it would be fine when you have a large table to take in all the plates of dishes. Not when it comes with 3' X 3' only or smaller table size.

There was still time to spare before the doors of Subang Parade shut for the evening, for the group to head to the lower ground floor at Parkson's. They bought fruits and especially oranges being deemed necessary for those having sore throats and fever. Extra vitamin C would help. My wife and I were in the state of wanting that extra lift having down with fever and flu. Fruits of course were delights for all as well.

It was near to ten thirty at night when we filed into the Honda Odyssey and headed home for USJ. I guessed everyone must have retired before midnight including Abu Bakar Sidqi who missed the diner serving but got back from College soon after we arrived home. Reeling from the discomfort of a fever and flu that has taken me twice to see the doctor with subsequence doses of antibiotic etc, I must have dozed off early too only hearing the daughter excusing the mother to go off early as usual early in the morning. This was the usual every morning farewell exercise. Only I was mistaken to find out later that it happened about 4.00 am in the morning. Djasriza and Idzfan took leave to proceed to the nearest hospital. The 'stalk' was on its way. I guess we were too 'tired' to realize the urgency and did not follow them. More ever their two young children were at home too and someone has to care for them.

Only after breakfast, did I realize where both of them have gone. Not hearing further from them by 11.00 am, my wife and son decided to go to the hospital as well. Bless them for on checking with Abu Bakar Sidqi later we were assured that a baby boy has been delivered; both mother and baby reportedly well.

Now at 1.55 pm at the point of typing this note, glancing out I see my wife entering the front gate and soon the story will pour out. For sure we have added into the family another grandchild making a total of sweet sixteen of the younger group and how grander a 'dato' can you be?

Either by coincidence or Providence, we are in town as we were when Djasriza gave birth the last time to Idzlaila. Following this of course, we will see the normal observations of religious and traditional customs. He has not been named yet. Still his elder brother, six year old Danish has proclaimed him 'Adam' and promising in his boyish manner 'Abang sentiasa di- sisimu' (I will be with you all time). How brotherly can you get! Incidentally both the sister and the new born were delivered at the same SunWay Hospital Petaling Jaya.

Signing off 2.00 pm

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


THE GOVERNMENT, with all the good thoughts and intentions behind it, declared that ALL motor cars past (15) fifteen years age on the road will be subject to road worthiness testing and approval come the New Year. Even before circulars or directions could be distributed or the agencies responsible had an opportunity to sit down to plan strategies or approaches or for that matter think about the whole issue, a decision came like lightning to retract the whole procedure. Because hues and cries or PROTEST by some people directly or indirectly to be affected by the regulation the government pulled out the planned intention. Of course, the fallacy was that they would be slapped with extra expenditures, questioning the inability to get insurance for their aged vehicles and probably the time and incapacity of 'puspakom' to test the vehicles bearing in mind their current performances.

Seriously we missed out on the SAFETY factor and economics too. Aged cars, properly cared for, engine as well as body-wise would be in better standing than otherwise. A vehicle that goes through the yearly inspection with flying colors could be sold off anytime and with a better price. More so it will guarantee peace of mind to the owner and other road users. Malaysia would not be the first country in the world to have adopted the approach. Many have done so. Examples are there for us to learn from. Yet we decided too soon to accede to public disfavor.

I remember owning a vintage Worsley Mark 3 of more than 20 years old while studying in Canberra. I had to get it inspected by the relevant agency every year and there was no qualm about it. The engine was in good running order, the breaks were excellant and there was no oil leakage. That we had to make doubly sure. Any sign of rust had to be taken care of. No big problem as that could be attended to. The procedure never lasted half a day. Prompt as at time allocated and quick off the mark, the inspection was a jiffy. We found the scheduled check as time for us to care for our vehicle and ensuring its road worthiness. The car bought for AUS 300 dollars, was sold three years later without a loss. It would have been a collector's item now.

Our second-hand or vintage cars would have been better off if the inspection procedures were implemented. Of course the worrying factor by the motor owners could have been explained and arrangements made to justify that the inspection and issuance of third party insurance etc would be attended to without troubling motor vehicle owners. Of course the subject has been buried deep now. Still I believe we miss out on insuring road safety for isn't that our prior concerned?

Now, we sincerely hope that the purchase of cameras for positioning at roads and highways in the country will not get the same fate. It is urgent that motorists learn to respect highway codes and precisely the country's speed limits. Hopefully the spying eyes will deter ALL motorists from pressing their throttles or accelerators beyond the stipulated speed. Or do we require other forces to check the speed demons within us? How we look forward to sanity on our roads and breathe reliefs at each festival celebration! We will be too happy not to read the fatal accidents reported daily due to human and vehicles failures. We count for greater road safety in 2010.

Monday, October 26, 2009


A 'ryokan' named " KIKOKUSO" at Kyoto was our home for a night. Here we experienced Japanese traditional home stay on its tatami mat floor with sliding doors etc. Not to mention dressed in 'Yukata' before going to the family hot bath

At Nara forty minutes by train from Osaka, we caught this scene of family resting by the scenic landscaped pool with early autumn cool pleasant weather in the air.Thousand of visitors were here on Saturday as Nara is one historic city with legends of its own

Inside our room at Ryokan Kikokuso with the 'futon' laid out for the guests comfort. The beds are folded away and stored during day time. I guess we were used to this in James Bond film before and it becomes a reality now.

It was an appreciation indeed. I have longed instructed my children and grand children to arrange their shoes in order before entering the home. Here the emphasis is more. For shoes meant for use inside the home they are placed pointed in. For those used outside they are placed facing out. We should adopt this. Take a warning!

A toilet in a public garden designed alongside the landscaped compound

They care. Even the tree trunk deserved such treatment allowing it to grow on.

The train station at Kyoto. For JY 540 it takes you from here to Osaka within 50 minutes. It is a hive of activity and you have to learn how to buy tickets from the vending machine besides looking for the platform etc. All notices in Japanese though you hear announcement in English

Another great care for vegetation as well as the hard rock too

The picture taken in early morning. Ryokan charges per person for accommodation and not room and includes breakfast. Generally it's a little higher than hotel rate. This is truly home- stay, cared and entertained by the family. According to the owner there is heavy demand by foreigners making 70% of clients. A reverse of what it was before, This ryokan has been functioning as far back as 180 years ago. It is run by the son and his family members who took over from his father almost forty years ago.

At Nara the extensive park sees hundreds of deer roaming freely.

Need to explain? We are at fish- market of course.

'Jeruk berbagai jenis'. Pickled vegetables of all types for your choice.

Fresh vegetables for sale.

Crabs, giant size too plus all manner of fish you want to pick for the kitchen.

I thought of bringing a bicycle home especially to use as shown here

At the Osaka Castle, you will notice elderly ladies enjoying the pleasures of sketching and painting scenes of the castle, a much enjoyable past time. They have taken a shaded corner to labour their hobby.

Believe me this is the apartment that sheltered us for the days we were at Osaka. It had almost everything for comfort


Visiting another country outside yours is looked forward to by many. H1N1 situation and the current economic world standing are two valid reasons that may put off excursions of such nature for the present. Putting those aside we somehow managed to do so, specifically since we secured two free return seating from Malaysian Airline System sufficient to take us to India, China, Japan etc. We chose to head for the 'Land of the Rising Sun'. This of course came through the 'Enrich Program' by virtue of points accumulated. Not using them would mean they would be forfeited. Then again, we never like to travel on a conducted tour always preferable to be on our own with our programs and schedules. That mean as a start to make sure you have a valid passport and to obtain a visa from the Japanese Embassy or its Consulate at Penang. The Embassy secures your visa within two working days if you satisfy all requests including an indicator that you have sufficient fund. No doubt, Japan is also unduly worried over visitors who entered but remained in the country; failing to make their exits for reasons of their own. Other planning has to be executed before you depart. Only you have to become your own tourism planner.

Japan is the choice but then where to stay, what to see and visit? JAPAN, a publication by Lonely Planet became an introductory choice while information from the world-wide net added a wealth of information before we departed. Choice of accommodation is freely available from hotels, 'ryokan' of varied categories what more with advices or comments from guests who had stayed there before. Pictures and maps helped to make your choice easier and of course the price offered with the various services available. Of course a free Internet service would be a great factor. Availability and reservation is immediate too. Even directions and choice of transportation's are available. Indeed when you arrived, you are already prepared to expect convenience, hopefully.

Osaka and specifically Kansai Airport is six hours away eastward from KLIA. Departing at 11.45 pm meant that we arrived at 7.00 am Japan time: a pleasant and untiring journey that put you at ease to face a new experience.

We made a satisfactory choice by registering at Weekly Mansion Osaka at Otemae for the duration of our six day/5 night stay. It's a new concept stay in an apartment type home with all the facilities of your home: spacious living room, bedroom and all conveniences. Kitchen facilities, free internet, TV and video on hire plus bicycles for rent are all available. Above all at JY52, 600 for the stay, an average of RM 390.00 per night for two persons is a hard price to beat. English speaking desk personnel were of great help when you could only come forth with " ohayo gozaimas", "damo arigato gazaimas" and "konnichiwa" amongst the phrases. Still we found everyone we met helpful.

Our Mr. Ohta the volunteer guide whom we met gave us an excellent introduction to Osaka and especially its train networks. Paying for only JY 200 by train you would be paying JY750 instead by taxi. Still as an old departed friend once said "Your arithmetic is wrong, when you grapple over price etc when you choose to have the best". Indeed he said if you want to have a car then don't ruffle about the mileage and the liter price of petrol'.

Why Osaka? Why not Tokyo? Osaka in the Kansai Prefecture gives you two other cities worthy of visiting: Kyoto and Nara. In fact you have Kobe, Hiroshima and Nagasaki all nearby if your itinerary favors: all familiar names dating back to the Second World War period. Then again autumn would be finer here. Should you wish to see bustling Tokyo, it is only a sixty minutes trip by plane from Osaka Itami at JY22,600 or by the 'Shinkansen' the bullet train from Kyoto at JY13,200 and taking 2 hours 42 minutes. Rail passes available are helpful in many ways.

At the point of writing we have just returned from visiting Nara and Kyoto; two ancient cities with treasures of Japan and more interestingly with a new experience. We chose to spend a night at Kyoto after visiting Nara earlier and significantly stayed in an old Japanese Inn or 'Ryokan'. It's an experience not to be forgotten and more so unbelievably make you wonder or regret to say the least why we do not promote a proper stay in a Malay kampong house? Visiting foreign places are great assets as it opened a new avenue, clicking the mind of new ideas and helping to widen our world view.

View some of the photos taken at Nara, Kyoto and Osaka. You will agree with me the three cities on our eastward fringe are worthy of visiting. We have always looked at cities in the western region, a fallacy built over many decades. Good that convenience traveling allows us to see others, all helping to make our very own a better one if we so desire to do so and innovate for change where possible.

One exceptional mention would be a big 'take off my hat' to the taxi drivers of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto with whom we had the chance to meet and become passengers in their vehicles. They were polished, dedicated and helpful without any qualm of complaining or sounding disappointing. The taxi would halt, the side door opened by itself and we jumped in on white cloth covered seats into a spacious cabin space. The driver mostly senior person in his smart dress and white gloves greets you. You indicate where you would like to go and almost always not understood. You showed a paper or a map with the address. He would consult his map book or even switched on his GPS to find the where about of your intended address. No he would not stop at that, if unable to find the address. He would get on his hand phone with the number given by you to enquire. All inclusive of the service you would get with humility and kindness. Yes I have yet to experience such service even in a country where you could speak and explain quite clearly where you intended to go. Alas never the same. It was exceptional where we are today. "Sayonara" is another word that saying so also put you wanting to discover the beauty of this great island again while suggesting that many of our youth should face eastward and grasped the 'eastward policy' as practiced by the Malaysian Government.

I would like my children to do so. Fortunately one is coming this way next month as he is in the motor industry and hopefully gained from his visit as we did even for a very brief one.

26 October 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The welcome digital screen at Kansai Airport greets you on arrival

It seems to be an outing day for schools as elementary and secondary children
made their educational visits to Osaka Castle and its sites.

Not to miss the colorful crysthemum flowers on display at Osaka Castle we had this photo of my wife with Mr.Ohta our volunteer guide.

Autumn is late in arriving at Kansai but the leaves are already changing their hues.

A scene to savour

Mr.Ohta and me at one of the shopping arcades in the city. Bicycles and cycling are popular here as they were in Malaysia fifty years ago.

IT WAS MANY DECADES AGO, that I first saw a Japanese. Of course he and his colleagues were in Malaya during the Second World War. They were soldiers and certainly brought into the country to launch the Japanese Prosperity Plan of conquering Asia, which they did but lasted for a short span. Of course the child's view was clouded by many factors. Today at Osaka in the Kansai prefecture, I met another, several years older than me but in a more congenial atmosphere. No he is not one of the soldiers that cycled the route north from the Kedah – Thai border to the Island of Singapore, but is a Volunteer Tourist Guide who offered his service to visitors to the Japanese cities and in this case being Osaka.

Viewing the internet I came across an Osaka Tenma Yomiuri SGG Club at Osaka that offered guide service to visitors to Japan and especially Osaka in this case. Correspondence through email, guaranteed that we had the service of a guide. Especially in Japan where you hardly know a word of Japanese or able to converse in either Malay or English with the populace, it would be a great asset to meet someone who could help. In this case Mr. Hideaki Ohta had assured that he would meet us at the hotel where we stayed. This morning prompt at 9.30 am, the telephone in the room rang and he was already at the foyer to meet us and take us on a familiarization tour of Osaka City and taking us especially through myriad networks of the underground trains of the city. That by itself would be the last thing any tourist would like to confront with on the first day.

Mr. Ohta belonged to a group of volunteers in Japan who gave their time and service to serve the tourist industries. They are not money oriented but offered their services literally free of charge. I suppose they gain from the interactions with people from all over the world and proud that they have contributed to the community and to the tourism industry and Japan specifically. That they could converse in the language indicated by the visitors is a true virtue of their assistance; that they are as knowledgeable as the professional tourist guides go a long way. Mr. Ohta was with us for the whole day till we parted with good feelings and friendship late in the evening. I must say this is the first tourist volunteer guide I have come across and had the services offered gratis. Yes free of charge excepting that we pay for our tickets as well as his when we travelled on the train or 'undergrounds' . You have to pay for entries of visitation when required. He entered free being an established and recognized Club member. I would not hesitate to use their services whenever I return to Japan again. I would encourage others to contact them. It is a two way winner: the visitor as well as the volunteer guide. Perhaps Malaysia too has to look at this prospect in wanting to improve its tourism potentials.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Begitulah penghijrahan yang terus berlaku setiap bulan sepanjang tahun. Tanahnya kering kentang, berbukit gondol tanpa tumbuh-tumbuhan. Suhunya tinggi. Jauh sekali dari segala keindahan dan kemashyuran tempat yang digemari oleh pelancong. Tapi kita mahu berulang ke sana. Kawan yang baru balik bermimpi sepanjang hari, ingin terus ke sana lagi. Menikmati segalanya yang tak dimimpi ditempat lain. Mekkah dan Medinah menggamit kita. Tanah suci. Tanah haram. Mulai bulan depan ramai lagi akan menuju ke sana bukan dari negara kita saja tapi dari perusuk dunia. Musim haji tiba lagi dan ramai yang telah bersedia bertahun-tahun kini sudah terbayang kehadiran mereka di-sana.

Keistimewaannya banyak. Lautan rahmat menunggu.Sudah ke-sana masing-masing tahulah segala yang ada. Kepada jumaah haji kita mendoakan kesejahteraan. Antara persedian katanya hendaklah 'mengharuskan' hati. Khutbah Jumaat hari ini menjurus kepada tanah haram Mekkah dan Medinah. Agaknya bulan depan kita mula ke rumah kawan-kawan dan keluarga yang akan berangkat ke sana.


Monday, October 5, 2009


IN ANY LANGUAGE it is devastating and unbelievable. Yet it happened at Padang a seaside town on the western shores of Sumatra Indonesia. Four hundred persons: adults, men and women, children too from a village near the city were totally obliterated when the earth shook, split and pulled all those attending a wedding ceremony at the village into its abyss. Besides, the village mosque's minaret the highest point in the village too disappeared indicating a depth of no less than thirty meters. Not counting hundreds others all over the area and in the town itself.

I have not visited Padang but I have touched down at its airport while on a trip to Bukit Tinggi, a touristic center up on the highlands, famed for its Minangkabau inheritance and culture. Still Padang has its attractions and particularly for Malaysians families. A university at the town is home to many students from Malaysia undergoing medical studies. When the earthquake struck the area with a score of 7.6 on the Richter scale it was enough to wrought worries of their families at home. The immediate evacuation of three hundred or more Malaysian students from Andalas University by RMAF planes helped. In the wake of such disaster help poured in from all corners of the earth. How fast and how ready they are to dig into the rubbles to save those still buried amongst twisted iron and concrete are the hopes of all. Fresh food, water, medicines, clothing and roofing all become necessary at this juncture. Malaysia like other countries offered immediate aid sending in our rescue team ( SMART) and medical personnel.

The severity and intensity of the disaster at Padang did not end there. Other calamities wrecked cities and places in the Philippines with 'Parma' and 'Ketsana' devastating the islands and continuing into Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The Pacific island of Samoa was crippled by a tsunami that hit the island.

For us that devour the news with much tribulation, its sadness personified thankful that such calamities do not hover over our country. Still our hearts go out to the victims and whatever small contributions we can give will be much appreciated. Already NGO's and newspapers have started collections for assistance. Will you share in giving your contribtion?

An intention to halt the students from returning to their studies at Padang is certainly not a wise decision at this juncture. Don't add insults to injuries. The University has to rebuild itself fast and the loss of its students from withdrawal is the last thing it would like to hear.

Malaysian however has its own terminal disaster. The 'balik kampong' syndrome never failed to strike its ugly head and this year Hari Raya break topped the mark.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Toddlers and young children especially in all their innocence have a grand time during festive seasons. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is no exception. More so it must be the most celebrated occasion in the Muslim year. Even adults may look back and fondly remember the youthful exuberance of welcoming the evening of Shawal with the dins of crackers and bamboo-cannons, intermixing with verses of the 'takbir' from the mosque and the radio/TV schedules in the background. Mothers, sisters or the women folks in the family busied themselves in the kitchen racing to finish the varied dishes and savouries which would grace the dining tables early on the first day of Aidilfitri. Earlier the 'jemaah' at the mosque after the Isyak prayer had melancholy said good bye to Ramadan after devoting themselves throughout the holy month . Suddenly the evenings took a change from the previous month's nights of Ramadan. It was not a release from having to fast in the day time, because everyone adhered to the rule but it was obligatory that we celebrate the first of Shawal. The day after and the subsequent five days Muslims may fast as continuance and celebrating 'Raya' puasa enam' on the seventh day of Shawal.

Celebrations follow in many forms. The exodus of 'balik kampong' capped it all. Sons and daughters make a point to return home to the family roots. Those with wives and husbands naturally have to transport their retinues. Airline, railway and express bus tickets were grabbed month ahead. Extra leaves were requested beside the extensive four or five days closure of offices and establishments. It was returning home of a special kind: to enjoy the special atmosphere and exuberance that comes once a year, to be in contact with all relatives near and far, friends and classmates and admittedly to touch ground and taste home cooking. Wedding celebrations are held during the week with the expectation of a larger attendance especially of relatives. Attendance at functions during the festive week took a grandeur scenario when all came in their finer attires, typically in traditional dresses in hues of colors. The quiet home at all time, inhibited by two loving couples suddenly awoke to laughter, merriment and joyfulness as all shared the treasures it held all the while. All rooms and spaces were occupied: sleeping on the floor and hitting the hay stack hours after midnight chatting over old tales came naturally as that was how it began earlier. Pillows and mattresses suddenly came out of no where to cater to the needs. It was a sin and uncalled for should family members resorted to check into hotel rooms in town. In reference to the many foreign workers in the country, they too made the annual home visit in preference to this auspicious day. The Indonesian being closer made a beeline to their nearest ports of call.

The Aidilfitri prayer at the local mosques attended by all: men, women, boys, girls, parents and their siblings turned to be a large gathering after it was over. Everyone met each other offering greetings, affections and forgiveness. Many then walked beyond the gates of the mosque to visit and offer prayers at the graves of their love ones, rekindling loves and affections to the departed. Alfatihah.

Back at homes, sons and daughters kissed their parents, asking forgiveness and likewise parents too. Son and daughters- in- laws followed with grand-children each and every one in that brief moment realizing filial piety . Soon it became a never - ending queue as others visited the home and meeting in like manner too. Children received 'raya' envelopes containing 'ringgit' as token of goodwill on this occasion. The more adventurous of them made a beeline to the neighbors' homes collecting their dues and planning to purchase the best of gifts with their new found wealth. Some among them would intimate to proceed to the nearest cinema hall and of course to view the latest of the shows aptly put up for the day.

For this auspicious day, we had all our five siblings ( sons and daughters) at home on the first three days. With their spouses and children it grew to two dozen and expectancy grew with the arrival of three sisters and a brother along with spouses and their own productions. Not counting the home crowd and relatives, it was a feast to cater to all. Preparations had been made to provide for eventualities such as this and the self -service counter at the corner of the house helped greatly. No doubt 'ketupat', 'rendang', 'nasi Mansor' ( from a local restauranteur) with the inevitable 'dalca' and 'ayam masak rose' were pullers. Added to that a fresh addition of 'laksa siam' with its aromatic 'curry or 'kuah' kept all in good mood.

The festive atmosphere however had to bow down to reopening of work schedules and schooling. Slowly but definitely the visitors had to start packing, loading their unwashed clothing, piling one another into the Nissan, Proton, Isuzu, Honda vehicles that carted all of them here, contented and happy for a break that promised goodwill and family indulgences. Never mind the long queue of vehicles on the return journey. The children would for sure be quieter on the return leg, having frolicked all the days. Goodbyes with kisses and and deep embraces accompanied all that had come home to root. Next year's Aidilfitri would see them again. 'Balik Kampong ' will be a sure fire anecdotes to home grown family gathering solemnized by the ending of Ramadan and the resonance of 'takbir' that play on your deeper emotions.

Yes he is just as happy as the rest discovering new avenues and learning experiences. He will continue to appreciate the 'balik kampong' scenario and will insist for a return sooner than you think.

The lights of 'Shawal' , the characteristic homely atmosphere helped to pull the family home. The frolics of youth haunt many to feel the atmosphere again however distance they may be,

Shoes off. Left at the foot of the staircase. Their owners in the house sobering the early delights of Shawal and conscious that the children awaited for them for fireworks and crackers to din the nights at least

Casual and relax maybe after the day's meeting with members of the family. Now a time to sit down and give thoughts to family identity and future well being.

A family photo at the 'rumah kayu' / 'rumah seni Melayu' that welcome all and look forward to see many more occasions like this

Friday, September 25, 2009


FRIDAY 25 SEPTEMBER / 6 SYAWAL 1430 – ON THE SIXTH DAY OF SHAWAL, you are still numbed by the number of fatal victims on the road. Despite all attempts to halt where possible road accidents during festive seasons, there appear to be no go at saving the lives of Malaysians. Imagine - despite reminders, road and highway surveillance etc the death now totaled 192. Code named 'Ops Sikap 20' seemed to be heading to the previous year figure of 208 dead persons due to fatal road accidents. Maimed bodies of children, youth, adults, men and women were witnessed by relatives, parents and families as they laid their loved ones to rest yet the gruesome avoidable happenings continue on. Attitudes, road manners, speed, road worthiness of vehicles, dangerous corners and sections of the highway and federal roads are offered as reasons or excuses. In totality Malaysian road manners or adventurism need drastic changes. Strict and no excuse execution of checks and summons must take precedence for all road users. Camera as promised at strategic places to record road code breakers must be installed immediately. Too long we have heard of the planning but nothing come of it. Driving schools and acquiring driving licenses must be geared towards road safety as priority. Or do we wish to see multiplication of death tolls on our roads continuing due to careless and unconcerned attitudes?

2. At the United Nation New York, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya turned up at the august house to deliver a scanting rebuke at the World's body slamming the veto rights of United States, Russia, China, Britain and France and reacted by tearing the front cover of UN Charter. He spoke for 1 hour and 36 minutes although only 15 minutes are allowed for all speakers. Earlier President Obama crossed the fifteen minute line by being at the mike for 38 minutes.

3. At the annual gathering of former students of Sekolah Menengah Darulaman in Alor Star on the third day of Aidilfitri which I attended in my capacity as a former principal of the school and meeting again some of my former students and teachers there was the usual camaraderie. Stories and recollections of the students in their teen years, thirty to thirty-six years ago where they received their education under strict but friendly principal- ship and guidance of dedicated teachers echoed year after year. This year was no exception. A record number of former students (140) attended the gathering at the school hall smacking their love and adoration for their alma mater. They returned to their homes for the Aidilfitri during the holiday break to be with their families but never dismiss the invitation to be with their school buddies. Not surprisingly, all in varied fields of business and career have grown in girth and size. Noticeably students of the later years especially of the 1980's, seemed to be over-sized than their elder brothers. The photo attached concur this foresight.

Some of the later students of SMD who sat for their SPM in the early 1980's. Fast food as favorite may have been indulged and saw size a factor. True or false? Lan Pat Pat in baju Melayu a huge puller that night.

Yet more exciting is to learn an interesting tale from one of the students. Che Ani, a grade 1 student, a school prefect and a scholarship student of the school and today an officer in the maritime service having served in TLDM that one day more than three decades ago he delivered a packet at my home. On the assistance of his father he went to my home at Jalan Sekerat Alor Star to deliver a 'buah chempedak' as a token of appreciation. Timidity caught him off guard and he left the fruit at the gate never telling me till tonight. Still it is a great appreciation I accept with honor. Sadly too Che Ani's father has passed away. The tale also marked the close rapport I had with parents when holding the helm of the school making it one the exciting and competitive schools in Kedah during 1974 – 1980. The ex-students gathering also congratulated former students who have made their way in industries, corporations and public sectors; namely Dato Farizuan Darus who is Penang State Financial Officer, Dato Zaharudin Zainol Abidin of LX-Mode and AzamHais Sdn Bhd, En Ibrahim Manager of Regency Hotel Alor Star, Lan Pat Pat an up and coming film and television personality and many others who have distinguished themselves making SMD a continuing bye word. I promised I would attend their future gatherings as long as their invitation comes in the wake of AidilFitri celebration giving support to their alma mater. Echoing their thanks ' for making them men and women' is a reward that touched all the teachers' hearts. Those years at Darulaman capped my career years.

4. No sad or unworthy story can equal that of a young husband in his 30's to discover in stark reality that his equally young wife has been playing fiddle. Expecting to celebrate her birthday he had bought a cake as required and yet to catch her on the eve of the day in close proximity with another man in a hotel room when a religious party knocked on a hotel door early in the morning. Shouldn't she be at home?

5. Grateful that on the occasion of this Eid Celebration, all our children and their families made their way home as first priority. They would otherwise in consideration of their partners (those married) choose to visit first their in-laws. Added more sweetening was the visit and stay of my three sisters and their families too, coming from Kota Bharu, Klang and Kulim respectively. This homage home to meet the father/brother and mother/sister is a tradition to be cherished and exemplified.

The school air-conditioned hall saw SMD former classmates coming together and reliving their nostalgic moments in the classroom and the fields.

Surprises of the sweet things are most welcome making highlights of our days. Aidilfitri 1430 sets a precedence.

The patriarch with his family , brother, nephews and nieces, grand -sons and daughters

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The beautiful interior of Masjid Zahir Alor Setar with its ornate 'mimbar' will be thronged with the 'balik kampong' exodus early on Hari Raya Day when Aidilfitri prayer is performed here. His Highness the Sultan of Kedah has always attended the Eid prayer here and consented to 'berhari raya' or meet the jumaah after the prayer. InsyaAllah it will take place.

THE RAMADAN OF 1430/ 2009 IS COMING TO A CLOSE. IT then heralds the the 1st of Shawal , the first day of the month when Muslims celebrated with mixed feeling but with gestures of happiness, success, recollections and trepidations of the past, present and future. Every night during Ramadan as he joined the large congregation, standing in rows in the open hall of the mosque or surau with his fellowmen behind the Imam, completing the 'terawith' prayer he is encapsulated with the holy verses from the Koran and at times bringing tears streaming along his cheeks over many recollections and rewards bestowed upon his life while flashing too sadness , turmoils befallen others. He is grateful to be there, accomplishing the twenty plus 'rakaat' special prayer every evenings during the month after breaking fast upon 'iftar', more so on occasions when he breaks his fast with fellow community friends over simple dishes prepared by the mosque or surau committee, following with the 'maghrib' prayer. Truly Muslims in the country are blessed because during Ramadan 'bubur lambuk' are served at most mosques, surau, community halls and even at hotel's premises. They are so many givers; people who are open-hearted and recognizing the wants of their fellow beings willing to assist and donate. Ramadan is truly great. It is recorded that three months consecutively in the Muslim calendar have special distinctions. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. enjoined "Sesungguhnya bulan Rejab adalah bulan Allah s.w.t., bulan Syaaban adalah bulanku dan Ramadan adalah bulan umatku."

Over the years I have had occasions to witness and participate Ramadan at varied places. Wherever it maybe either far away from home or in the comfort of your own house alongside your families, Ramadan never failed to lent its distinguished characteristics while leaving also at its tail-end a saddening reminder 'Will you be around the next it comes around'.

We are most grateful that we have seen through Ramadan AL-Mubarak 1430. The family gatherings during the first week of Shawal approaching possibly this Sunday 21 September 2009 always grant a strong camaraderie of family unity and friendships while keeping the traditions and cultures alive.


This AidilFitri we will have an opportunity to welcome friends to the wooden home as seen in the picture, having salvaged one and restoring to its present condition.