Friday, January 23, 2009




THROUGH OUT years of celebration, the oranges have been part and parcel. The stall above as at many strategic corners would would be selling crates of the same fruit. Chinese friends would offer them as token of friendship and a signal that the New Year is on the card again. Modern transportation has of course made export of the fruits from China especially easier and faster, enabling us to get the best of the season's fruit. A close look at the above picture would make any detective, investigator or seasoned traveller suspect when it was taken. Maybe it would not be that easy to say where it was taken. I could give a clue and say that it is south of the peninsular. The vehicle and at least its opened doors could give a clue.

Guessing from the previous posting one could say that it is somewhere in Singapore. True it was taken in 1963. Way back then we stopped in Singapore after a flight from Bandar Brunei via Labuan. It was the annual break and being Ramadan and AidilFitri schools had a long vacation and as teachers on secondment to the state we earned our annual leave. Flights from Brunei, North Borneo and Sarawak were limited to one or twice a day. No direct flight and we had to make a night stop in Singapore. This gave us the golden opportunity to visit and know Singapore besides indulging in some shopping. Being an entreport and free port Singapore offered good price and choicest items in its shops and complex. I know the ladies for sure would come to Singapore for quality batik imported from Indonesia and traded at Arab Street. Daily we recognized that people from across the causeway would would flocked to the island to buy their groceries. Never mind the custom check-point. Now it is the reverse.

THEN no visitor to Singapore would miss getting his way to 'Change Alley', a collection of shops and stalls close to the Singapore harbor offering all manner of goods from the pocket-size items to the largest of size. Bargaining was at its best and no right thinking person would buy any item at the first price quoted. No doubt much time was extended or wasted over arguing and practising the art of bargaining. Each would of course outdo the other hoping to get the best of price. The buyer wanting the best of price for the item while the seller hoped to reap the best profit. Of course all this has stopped. It's all fixed now.No wasting of time. It is easy for both the seller and buyer now. Time could be spent on more worthwhile task. No need to even carry foreign currency too. Your credit or debit card would solved all problems with regards to financial.

The two gentlemen were reporters from Utusan Melayu Press of Singapore. We had met earlier and I had the good chance to visit their office and the Utusan Melayu Press of Singapore. One guy with the camera would obviously make us guess he was a reporter. I supposed they had a good story from me regarding the 'Brunei Rebellion' which broke out on the very day I left the kingdom. Sadly I do not know if they are still in Singapore or have moved somewhere. Perhaps some angels could give an indication and I would be too happy to meet them again.

A Malayan Airways Fokker would travel from Singapore to Kota Bharu. Mind you the plane would call at Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Penang , Alor Star and Kota Bharu as its last stop. Passengers would endure the long flight while having the opportunity to see the landscape of the country. For one thing, no one was mindful of security checks etc. As this picture shows, it is an open approach to the apron.

The picture and the episode could certainly bring back memories of the time when I used to travel between Malaya/ Singapore and Brunei and stopping each time in Singapore for transit.

A closer look at the photo would show the price of items then. The price quoted oranges at 10 pieces for $1.00 Similarly grapes, apples were available at an outstanding price. Don't ever hope to get them at that price now. Of course an average take-home salary of a civil servant would hover around RM 350.00 to RM 600 per month sufficient for him and his family. Now your guess is as good as mine. The bustling atmosphere at Change Alley with people talking in all manner of languages made it a 'must visit' place in Singapore. Surrounded by modern arcades and complexes, Change Alley saw its last sometimes in 1989. Collier Quay saw its discontinuity too as a popular disembarkation center with the growth of Changi Airport and expansion of travelling by airlines.

This is Singapore in 1963 Morris Minor, Austin, Mercedes cars are on the road along the
the sea frontage close to Collier Quay. The stretch of sea frontage seen on the right has since disappeared
and the area reclaimed for beautification and development.

Other pictures of the time may help us to remember our experiences as much as the movements and our engaging episodes that saw us passed through the decades known as the glorious sixties.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Perhaps this is a far different episode from any of the previous story recorded and about time we look at such an angle. It is a recognition often forgotten.

I have known this chef for a long time. I can vouch that she is the best chef I have ever met and certainly my number “Wan”. You and I may most time have lunch or dinner outside the homes and what we get served even by the best of chefs from the ‘warong’ or the most established of restaurants can never compete with the dishes served at home; firstly by our mothers and secondly by our partners or wives. Strictly the qualification is in that order being that we knew our mothers earlier.

Our dear chef may not have the qualification or testimonials to show her prowess and distinctions in specific dishes. However she is the master of all, serving her delicacies to all in the family at all hours of the day irrespective of public holidays or break times.

I am not wrong if I say that generally we failed to honor the ladies at home for their untiring dedication and service to the families. We failed most time to even thank them for the daily chore and service that we received. We would politely say ‘thanks’ to the Mak Chik or Pak Chik at the ‘warong’ and even forgot to take the change at the restaurants such as ‘Victoria Station’ or those at most downtown hotels. But what do we compensate our own ladies for serving us the most delicious and life strengthening meals throughout the years? Yes that is the time frame; not a short duration but many years that stretches on.

You may like me frequent the market and bring home ‘ikan siakap’, ‘terubuk’ ‘jenahak’ or the popular ‘temenung’ plus ‘sotong’ and ‘ udang galah’ not to mention ‘asparagus’, ‘rebung’ and other odd vegetables especially on weekends. What does it mean with that basketful of fresh goodies? “ Abang hendak makan apa hari ini?’ No need to whisper the reasons for such purchases. Not necessary to reply to her question.

She would know what to do for the family. Being in the northern state, on Fridays especially you would be rewarded with great expectations upon returning after the noon Friday prayer. The whole family partook to home cooking at its best.

Hoping this article would help to make the males especially and also all concerned in every home take recognition of our dear mothers’ and wives’ services to the families specifically in laying the necessary dishes on the dining tables for us even to the point of extending their working hours after completing the compulsory at their work place. Whatever we can do to enlighten their chores would be much appreciated. Obviously there are plenty to do if we are conscious of helping.

My number ‘wan’ chef dressed as she is in the picture and like most other wives and mothers I know just love to enter the kitchen. They would love it more if it is clean and spacious. Many of course learned the recipes and picked up the inherent interest from their mothers and other lady folks. While some of course added their expertise by attending classes or reading secret recipes from books etc. My lady chef even attended cooking classes where possible. Her latest was to learn the art of cooking ‘sushi’ and other Japanese dishes organized by a known hotel chain at Kuala Lumpur; thus the attire. A few years back she had a taste of cooking ‘Thai green curry’ etc when in the Thai capital. Seriously there are already many schools expanding culinary delights spreading the dishes of the world. In cities, international delicacies and spreads are offered by many restaurants and hotels especially.

I am like most other person and you included have been fortunate and blessed to have been taken care of by our dear mothers and wives specifically for our gastronomical cravings. Let’s salute them. My number one chef is called ‘Wan’.

Having reached the concluding page of this note and turning around what do I see? A plate of 'kuih chara', 'tako' and 'serimuka bakar' is on the side table as if a 'terimakasih' for such consideration. Not to mention a cup of hot coffee. Actually their attention to us has been everlasting. Thaks to our ladies.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Talking about the quaint, the obsolete and the everlasting allow me to roll back the time. Back in the early sixty's those of us who were fortunate to be around then would recognize these photos.

The quaint would be anything which borders on the old-fashioned, strange or unusual but in a special pretty way; the obsolete would be out of date, out modded and non functional. The everlasting would continue existing, being there for eternity. These three adjectives help us to qualify things, events or whatever that have crossed our path. How we qualify them is certainly not global or dictated by any directions or norms. It is certainly a prerequisite for attractiveness, that make the old world charm a hit and a run for your dollar. The tourism industry builds itself in wanting to give these nostalgic world. Globe trotters and backpackers seek the extra-ordinary. They are familiar with modernity. Sadly the past has been wiped away and we are fortunate if any resemblance can take us back into time. Museums especially help towards that direction. Simply photos help to achieve that requirement. Those who either by planning or chance keep a storage of sorts will of course do service. I am helping out in my own way taking us just a few decades back with photos that otherwise would remain hidden in the pages of albums or stuck in old brown envelopes.

Those of us who crossed from Butterworth to Penang by ferry would remember seeing these barges or wooden tongkang . Their size and their numbers qualify their prerequisite as transporters between the large ships at anchor in the channel and the wharfs nearby. Modern containers and deep water wharfs have put them aside and you can hardly see even one either at Penang or any other ports in the country. Dwellers in the houses on stilts too have change their means of livelihood and it is not surprising to learn that their old homes have now become a source of attraction thronged by visitors daily. The obsolete may yet offer quaintness or nostalgia.

It is a spanking clean city now. You would hardly dare to flick your cigarette ashes anywhere less you are caught on camera or physically. This 1962 picture caught the sight of North Bridge Road in Singapore. I guess even if you move to all corners of Singapore now you will never find such norms where people do business in the most casual way with the bustling chaotic but friendly nature ever meet again.

I am not arguing that you will still find a Malay home like this in some corners of Malaysia. But look closely. Notice the upright planks on the wall and windows. No this house is not under seal. Just that the owner or the carpenters have somehow decided to construct as it is. Or maybe it is an attempt to dry the planks completely before they are used in the best possible way. As it was all shut up, I had no opportunity to talk to the owner and get some explanation. Still it sits in a most beautiful part of the kampong.

( More to follow as the mood dictates )

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


IT is hard time. Harder and devastating in some. The sufferings continues with no end in sight. The whole world protest. You burn effigies. You tear national flags. You throw shoes. You shout and bang the tables at Parliaments, condemning all the atrocities. You are angry because one of the oldest mosques, sacred and holy, continue to be inaccessible to Muslims. It is profanity personified. Palestinians and Jews are at each others throats again and this time the assaults have been damaging to the Palestinians on their home ground. You are weary that phosphorus bombs are dropped on the homes in Gaza killing innocent people and children too. It is genocide at best.

The world's body i.e the United Nations remain adamant. Unable to exercise its might or authority if any. Still there is a strong clamoring for it to take action. Will we see some dim hope?

Be that as it may, there are also dark clouds on our home ground too. Recession which has taken the world by its strong force is creeping by. Yet we are being lullaby by leaders that Malaysia will weather the storm. Our currencies and our banking system can fortify all calamities. May be they can. But what about the people? What about the wage earners? What of the day to day survivors? When 'bailouts' has become the world's choice word for 2008 aren't we still in a position to be undisturbed and relaxed?

Can we remain as contented and slumberous as the herd of buffaloes in the above picture? Well the opening remarks are hard talks, especially when we are traumatised by news headlines. Concerned yes but our daily needs do count much more. We need to fortify ourselves. We need to guarantee our continued survival and of our future generations especially. Please no more qualms about the choice of Proton or Cambry! No more 'corridors' that don't appear to lead anywhere. Decide fast either Malay or English for mathematics and science. No more dubious languages for road signs. Go for the big one and no more mundane issues. Get on the governance of Malaysia for 2020 status at least. Do we need a 10% reduction after midnight? Go on. Guarantee our generation's future. Rubbing salt to the pain, what I heard on the news today typifies it all. Believe it or not the Kedah government now decides 'Alor Star' will reconvene to its earlier spelling i.e Alor Setar. "E" has surely been a luxurious entity. Now how simplistic can we get considering all other urgencies.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Dua anak muda yang turut pulang dengan Penerbangan KT 94
bergembira bersama anak kecil masing-masing.

Syukurlah kerana jemaah haji kita yang berangkat ke tanah suci Mekkah telah selamat pulang. Pagi ini Penerbangan KT 94 mendarat di lapangan terbang KLIA jam 7.30 pagi setengah jam lebih awal.Penerbangan Saudi Air ini berlepas terus dari lapangan terbang Medinah, memberikan satu kemudahan dan keselesaan kerana penumpang-penumpangnya tidak payah bersesak di Jeddah seperti biasa berlaku.

Kami di KLIA kerana anak-anak turut berangkat pulang dan bersama keluarga lain menyambut ketibaan mereka. Peluk cium mesra mendakapi sausana di balai ketibaan sebaik sahaja haji dan hajjah kita disambut oleh mereka yang menunggu. Ibubapa, anak-anak dan keluarga terdekat bersyukur kerana mereka yang disayangi telah pun kembali dan bersih pula seperti 'mereka yang baru dilahirkan'.

Banyaklah cerita yang hendak dihebahkan. Pula ada juga hendak ditanya oleh mereka. Dalam tempoh empat puluh hari banyak kemungkinan boleh berlaku. Percayalah jemaah kita tak akan jemu mengulangi pengalaman mereka. Kemesraan keluarga dan jiran berkumpul di rumah menziarahi mereka disamping menikmati seteguk air zam-zam serta buah kurma dan kacang menjadi satu nikmat dan kebiasaan.

Kita berkesempatan mendengar kisah yang mengembirakan dan peristiwa yang menakjubkan. Yang tak sedap didengar pun ada. Kisahnya ada pula jemaah yang bukan terdiri daripada muasasah Tabung Haji, merungut mengapa mereka turut bersama di maktab atau hotel yang sama. Adakah mereka merasakan kerana membayar sumbangan yang lebih jemaah lain tak seharus bersama dengan mereka? Tak sedarkah sebenarnya mereka yang tersalah kerana mengharapkan yang istimewa tetapi menerima layanan yang sama? Bayaran 'istimewa' tak menjanjikan layanan dan kelebihan. Mungkin dimasa depan mereka ingin memperlipat gandakan kos demi mencapai taraf enam bintang. Sebenarnya apakah yang dicari dan yang hendak dituntut?

Tabung Haji telah banyak memberi sumbangan dan perkhidmatan. Pakej-pakej swasta turut menumpang sahaja dengan menjanjikan kemudahan. Syukur tahun ini tidak ada sesuatu yang tidak diingini berlaku. Kita sama-sama berbangga dengan usaha yang telah diambil oleh semua yang berkaitan khusus Kerajaan Saudi Arabia.

Pergi dengan membawa dua beg dan bila balik dah beranak menjadi empat atau lebih. Keluarga sesak menunggu di KLIA

Satu- satu kenangan manis yang dibawa balik oleh ayah dan ibu mereka. Harapan besar agar bila dewasa nanti mereka juga akan teringat lantas menunaikan ibadah haji seperti yang telah dilakukan oleh kaum keluarga sebelumnya.

Monday, January 5, 2009


This is a rattan chair and it has been in the family for some years. It is one of the first set of chairs I purchased at a time when rattan made chairs were popular. It has stood the ravages of time and after more than forty years it is still in its pristine beauty. The strong, solid Manila cane is as good as it was originally. With new bindings at its strategic corners and a coat of shellac finish it appears brand new.

On many occasions I have seen several of such chairs though with different design casted aside at rubbish disposal dumps just because the owners felt that they were out of date or unbearable to see their sights anymore in their homes. Seriously they have thrown antiques and valuable pieces away without realizing that the pieces could be repaired and made good again.

I remember paying Ringgit sixty only back in 1959 for a rattan settee out of my first take-home salary as a beginning teacher. The rattan furniture craftsman, a Chinese had his workshop under a neighbor's stilt house and later he expanded his business. He moved to Butterworth in Penang and opened a rattan furniture shop near the Australian Air force base. Way back in the early sixty's rattan made furniture was sought after and the shop was able to supply all sorts of models and items from rattan. No wonder that large containers of rattan furniture found their way overseas and especially to Australia. I am certain they will remained as family heirlooms for generations to come.

Alas sadly we do not seem to recognise the masterpieces that we have in our homes. Let them be furniture or even the very homes that we lived in. There is a tendency to go for the new and supposed sophisticated branded items and caste aside the pain staking craftsmanship of yesteryear. It is a tragedy that we invented ourselves because in later years we will come crawling paying handsomely for such items which will be offered in the best of the antiques shops.

I am including a picture of the very derelict house that I posted earlier and now it is taking its stand again just a stone's throw from where we are. This is another example of the old being discarded simply because we do not appreciate or value its contributions. Perhaps we do not care to refurnish or rebuild thinking that it would be costly or there are no craftsmen to undertake the task. In short we do not care would be the simplest answer to all the excuses.

I would be too happy if friends would help to advise me of old Malay wooden homes left unkempt and abandoned. Perhaps we can help to reawaken its golden years.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


A pleasant and cheap way of creating a divider with the use of bamboo

Is this another attempt at recreating the bamboo curtain?

WITH the beginning of the school term, one would expect teachers and administrators to be busy with all sorts of problems on their hands. Least of course, at this time of the year disciplinary issues. It would be too early to expect truancy and breakages of school rules and regulations. Therefore the title of the subject matter does not actually favor for the rattan or cane to be brought out.
Rather I am thinking of the current issue of shortage of rattan or cane from our tropical forest. The rape of the forest resources by all manner of destruction has naturally depleted our forest of all its natural resources. Rattan which has provided the 'orang asli' with sizable income since it is particularly desired for the popular rattan furniture, has now been reported to be off supply.To supplement their daily needs, the 'orang asli' who are adapt at acquiring the forest resources are now turning to bamboo. This is in demand by the market gardeners of the highlands especially Cameron Highlands as containers for their products. Bamboo baskets supplied to the vegetable farmers are used as containers for the product to be moved by lorries to the cities and even as far as Singapore. The daily supply of baskets of vegetables therefore require as many bamboo baskets as possible. Bamboo now and in the past has been much required. Now it has become more intense. Of course you can think of many other usages of the bamboo. The two photographs will help to make us realise its potentials.
Still over supply and demand will make it receive the same fate as the rattan. When will we ever learn?