Saturday, October 30, 2010

What can you say? Merapi and Matawi Calamity

Once again our neighbor Indonesia is wrapped asunder with a volcano Merapi near Jogjakarta blowing its top and Matawai Islands  on the west coast of Sumatra swept by a 16 foot tsunami within 24 hours of each other. With a 7.7 magnitude earthquake the tsunami has claimed no less than 400 dead so far. Merapi claimed its toll too including an 83 year old man named Maridjan who was entrusted to watch over the 'spirits' of the volcano.

Associated Press has now apologised for wrongly reporting that Maridjan had thrown rice and chicken into the burning cauldron to appease the 'spirits'. Beliefs and traditions do not necessarily mean  people living near Merapi have not trusted  seismologist or the government officials but sensationalising such happening  and wrongly too has done its damage. Living for years along the fertile foothills of Merapi, farmers and dwellers would definitely harbor constraints to leave their homes and livelihood. Like Maridjan they too would stay to the last moment. Only they were too late this time. No doubt another Maridjan will surface, giving strength to the dwellers who will return to the slopes when the mountain stop spewing molten lava and ashes.  

Back at home a turn over bus accident with two dead passengers so far at the Karak Highway is claimed as the headline news.

Surely we are grateful to Allah for preventing great disasters from occurring in our country. Yes we need to realize the bounty and safety we acquire in relation to the neighboring nations.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010







A million of pilgrims have already made their way to the holy city. A million more will journey there before the expiring date. Over the last few months, embassies, consulates, travel agencies and pilgrimage boards have been working hard to accommodate visitors to Makkah. Chartered flights designated KT( flight number) have left KLIA and several other airports in the country for Jeddah and Madinah carrying their loads of Malaysian pilgrims. Malaysia's Pilgrim Board known as TABUNG HAJI has been at it for decades now, committed to make Muslim pilgrims from Malaysia get the full privilege to travel on their Haj journey with comfort and satisfaction. For sure from their initial registration, saving, request for the pilgrimage date, approval and full arrangement for departure to Makkah including medical checks, specific  courses for the Haj itself, passport and visa requirement, flight, ground transportation, accommodation, meals, luggage arrangement, home coming etc are arranged by Tabung Haji. The board sees to it that medical facilities are provided to its members while they are there. Medical personals and even chefs are transported to the holy city respectively to care for their health and their taste buds. It is with honor that Malaysia's Pilgrimage Board is recognized as one of the best in the world for its arrangement. 

It is to be expected there is a VERY LONG queue to get approval for the Haj journey. We are made to understand more than 500,000 from Malaysia alone are in the line to get their stamp of approval  to be invited there. Many have to wait several years before their turn. Meaning of course if you register earlier your chances are better, giving better space for your fund to accumulate at the Pilgrimage Board. For many it is a life time saving. Thirty years ago, it would have cost our Muslim pilgrims less than RM 5000.00 per person. Now it is almost double. Specific package trip with extras attached could see you contributing five to ten times the current price range. Added to all that, there are also many return visits to perform the Haj and the seniors do get preference  .

Islam's Holy Pilgrimage is one of its pillars. For millions all over the world it is one journey in their lifetime. For them it saw a saving throughout their working hours; to prepare in all respect for an obsession that have to be met. For sure not many Muslim countries have the satisfaction of the pilgrimage board as our Tabung Haji; for them it becomes more challenging if not hazardous.

The Haj Journey is no doubt one of the important ceremonies of life. You would be one happy soul to know at one time you have been selected to make the pilgrimage. Much happier too realizing that you are not alone but your partner in life or your parents could be also on that important journey. Most likely husband and wife have planned to make the journey together. The Haj is no holiday trip but a religious obligation built with rites that have to be performed demanding good health, strict observations , timing, frequency and in settings unfamiliar to oneself amidst almost three million people gathered at one point. Yet at its completion its satisfaction at its extreme. You achieved a grant for the continuing life time  as you are known as a Haji or Hajjah demanding upon you a stricter lifestyle in according to Islamic rules. Your visit to AlHaram would not probably be the first and last time. You request and pray that you may visit the two holy cities again. 

The period before your departure to Makkah for the pilgrimage is full of appointments and planning. More satisfactorily relatives, neighbors and friends rejoice at your fortunate calling, wishing theirs would be the same too. They call at your home to wish all the best and both honor each other with forgive and forget for any ill feelings or misdeeds if any created. Probably not to be missed is an invitation to friends and neighbors to your home to read Surah Yassin, requesting for a safe return journey and the fulfilling of duties for Haji Mabrur. The journey to Makkah has in fact begun at home. 

You may have notice scenes of joy and sadness at the airports when the pilgrims depart . Embraces, kisses,'bersalaman' are the order of the day. Everyone wishes good health, safe journey and a fulfilling mission to their love ones who are departing. Some may have lingering doubts that they may not see their relatives  again. That would be quite probable a half century ago. Facilities and arrangements at Makkah , Madinah and Jeddah are at their best now and pilgrims are made welcome by the authorities. However with a huge invasion of people confined at one particular spot on a special occasion you may expect some shortcomings. So it is best to keep a weather eye out for something.     

The wonderful scene does not stop at that. Wait till the pilgrims return home. Satisfaction, happiness, gratefulness, blissfulness embrace them. Happier still when they embrace their love ones as soon as they come out of the gates at the airports. The full meanings of the Haj is known only to the returned pilgrim as he or she steps into a new life.

For all the goodness and directives in preparing for the Haj, we are always reminded of its true objectives i.e to be sincere, truthful and focus. All for Allah and only HIM. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w has reminded of time when people go to Makkah for Haj with other objectives in mind Quote below refers. We pray that does not happen in our lifetime or later. InsyaAllah.

Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!

(dalam rangka persiapan mental, bakal haji hendaklah berniat ikhlas, keberangkatannya ke Tanah Suci adalah semata-mata kerana Allah, bukan untuk tujuan lain. Rasullullah s.a.w pernah memperingatkan menurut hadis riwayat AlKhatib Al_Baghdadi daripada Anas:

" Akan datang suatu masa bagi umat manusia di mana orang-orang kayanya mengerjakan haji untuk melancong, kalangan menengahnya untuk berdagang, orang-orang besarnya untuk riak dan ingin dipuji dan orang-orang fakirnya mengerjakan haji untuk meminta-minta"  

Friday, October 15, 2010


A ring being placed on the finger of the young lady. She must be thankful and grateful for this special day in her life.

         The delegation brought five gifts with them. In return it's  seven pieces for them to take home.


But through out our live ceremonies hemmed in too never sparing their calling and demand. Yet many a time we forget about them because they are not official yet they contribute to be part of our well being, development and maturity dictating our culture and beliefs. You may have just celebrated a birthday, maybe your own or your darling's wife or your daughter's.It is a simple case of reminding that they have added another notches in their life's and a fervent wish for many happier occasions to come. No elaborate planning at all.

When you help to orchestrate such celebration then you may realize their significance and their enduring attachments to our live circles. Last Sunday I was asked to help in a ceremony that saw the enjoining of two souls that simply marked their new adventure in live. "Majlis Perjodohan dan Pertunangan" you may call it. It's an engagement do yet rich in its ways, simple and can be complicated if handled amiss. No it is not simply the giving of a ring to the girl of his choice but the attendance of representatives from the lad's family to the girl's house or in this case at our home. At a prearranged time they arrived. The space between 'Zohor' and 'Asar' would be a good choice. All were welcomed and invited in. Pak Cik, Mak Cik, Abang and Kakak 'bersalaman' greeting each other in our best traditions. 

The living room is spacious enough to allow the guests and the hosts to sit down on the carpeted floor. The living room furniture has been put aside otherwise hindrances to such occasions or when congregations met for prayer and 'doa' at home. The room now gave a voluminous feel void of the decorative furniture. Being the host  and representative I greeted all in the customary tradition thanking all for their attendance and visitation.

The delegation too had brought with them several trays with 'gifts' for the occasion including the indomitable 'bekas sirih' ( betel leaves container). These were placed in the middle of the room. Tact and humour thrown in I mentioned that not often that we had visitors like this at home. "It is pleasant and great of course but why the trays and their contents? " Pak Hj Ayob a man of experience and equally my age too took the mike that was handed to him, recited some 'surah' and graciously thanked us for the friendly welcome. He conveyed 'salam' from the families at Padang Serai Pokok Sena where they came from and expressed their true intentions. The mike helped to define what were said and helped to focus the attendees attentions. A stage known as "meresik" or seeking to know if the flower in the garden has been plucked yet has not become necessary as the visitors have been consented to approach. And so they did today in respect of an engagement for the 'dara' and 'teruna', the former being my niece and subsequent arrangements if there is agreement or consent. The gifts they brought along included a ring symbolic of acceptance. Simplicity reigned as the issue has no doubt been acknowledged earlier. Only the verbal consent by me as spoke person would seal the agreement. Only then we moved further to the next stages.

"Syukur" and "Alhamdullilah" expressed. That done, now come to declaring the "mas kahwin", "belanja kahwin" and other "hantaran" or gifts on the part of the would be bridegroom on the wedding day. The first two items are necessary while the the gifts are left to discretion. Necessarily a piece of ring, gold and diamond is an added request. As spokes person I mentioned the request as earlier conveyed to me by the parents of the would be bride. The request was accepted. Imagine if the demand is high and the representation could not decide promptly. Anyway when it comes to such issue I suppose discretion takes its direction. Face value is at the forefront. Negotiation at its simplest order could be said to be the procedure then. All went smoothly. Yet I have seen proceedings that lasted longer than it should just because too many questions were asked and no answers given. 

This is one ceremony. A very important one at that. It marks an extraordinary stage in the life of a young man and a young woman. It meant that two persons have found love and blessed with their parents acceptance and commitment they would soon embark on a life of their own. They would leave their families, away from the confine and control of their parents to start a life and family of their own. Maturity and independence meet them soon. In the meantime officially engaged both the 'teruna' and 'dara' have to prepare for their up-coming marriage day with compulsory attendance at a marriage course plus other necessary duties. For sure they are reminded to uphold religious obligations and traditional decorum at all time.  

The gathering is not over yet. "Majlis menyarong cincin akan menyusuli". It was time for the young woman, the subject of this story to be sited amongst the gathering and the engagement ring to be placed on her finger. The honor is given to the mother of the bridegroom to be. She approached the young woman and lovingly placed a ring on the 'jari manis' of the left hand of Wan Nursyazwani bt Megat Nasir, her would be daughter-in-law.

Thus she and her family together with Megat Mohd Nasir and wiife would meet again to decide on the dates for the marriage ceremonies. Dates? It has to be at least two separate timing; one for the bride's side and another for the bridegroom.

The delegation left after a light refreshment. All were pleased with the outcome. Significantly it assures friendship and cordiality between people who were strangers only an hour or two ago. Personally I feel happy too to have helped and gained an experience not often offered to many persons.   

Looking back, there are many treasured moments that we experienced yet many escaped our attentions either because we were too young or since they were organised on our favour less our own involvement or commitments. The very day we were born is exemplary. Photos and videos now help to reminisce. Next perhaps our first day in school. Had our parents to stay back till the school break off at noon? How were we dressed and what of our first visitation to the school canteen? Majlis Berkhatan or circumcision is another with the added naughtiness and old traditions. Our acquirement of the first job, our marriage ceremonies etc all saw the involvement of our parents. They have been all along behind us assisting in no small way till we leave their homes to be on our own. Still the linkages continue with some unknowingly getting assistance even though their parents have aged. Yes ceremonies will continue till the last one. All along it has been with assistance of others: families, neighbors and friends.

I am reminded that many have helped me in seeing through the ceremonies of my life. Thank you. The least you could do in the seniority of age is to assist where and when it is due. Our definitions and commitments would help in circumstances where traditions seems unconcerning and forgotten. One last ceremony however, will not see you there helping out. Trusting only  others come forward.             

"Selamat Datang" Now don't we have a duty to perform this afternoon?Pak Hj Ayob now I leave it to you to say your pieces. We don't have scripts to read but it is intereting how things develop.


Tuan Hj Ayob representing the male side explaining his side of the story and the occasion can be pleasant as well as characteristic of our  tradition. Notice the five pieces of gifts that came together with the visitors.The betel leaf container takes the main position.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010


          photos that would tempt many to take the train in India and see the country side in no hurried manner

The Commonwealth Game at New Delhi now on has all the implications for India. Like the Olympic and the World Cup in China and South Africa such international sporting activities help to gear the organizers to new heights no doubt with much trepidations and anxieties. It now seems to fall on Indonesia when the SEA Game will see Palembang Sumatra as host in November 2011. 

As athletes compete in the various sporting activities, the medal winners especially those with the golden accolades will receive various incentives. Malaysian athletes can be bestowed with federal or state awards and stipends in the form of cash is no exception either. I am curious to know that athletes from India are promised rewards of a different kind when they struck gold, silver or bronze. They would get train odysseys, opportunities to tour their country by train. 

Fortunately we were on the Keretapi Tanah Melayu coaches recently either traveling on the Express Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur Central or the ETS from Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur Central.For a short journey even if it meant touring the whole length of the country, such a reward for our Malaysian athletes would not be strong incentives. Even its cash equivalent would seems a minor award. You can just expect the cries and dissatisfaction if such rewards were to be uphold in Malaysia. 

Now what does the train odyssey for the Indian winners refer to? Never been to India though the calls are there, we seek to find out and maybe embark ourselves on such a journey if promising. Surely it must be extraordinary and at best equivalent to the E&O Bangkok - Singapore Express. Was I to be flabbergasted ? 

Searching farther we come to know of a treasure piece in India's tourism. Long train journeys due to distances in luxurious coaches complete with tours and sight seeing adventures and the luxury of immaculate cabins plus services you get in five star hotels surely make India's train journey a luxury. 'Royal Rajasthan on Wheels', 'Golden Chariots', 'Deccan Odyssey' and 'Maharaja's Express' are some of the luxury train services that are known to offer new adventures in sight- seeing. It is no wonder that such offers are promised to India's medal winners and their companions. Checking out you will realize that these trains are epitome of luxury travels taking visitors across various tourist destinations. Now how much would you pay to ride and enjoy the privileges?  On checking out a 7 day /6 nights Royal India by train taking you to visit the sights of Delhi, Taj Mahal, Jaipur and Udaipur and Mumbai would cost INR 252,745 or RM17,689.00  Now wouldn't that make India's athletes  drive  themselves for a restful holiday after a competitive game?

It is interesting how offers are made in situations that are geared towards performances for the greater needs of the nation.There are alternatives in rewarding achievements. Only if we start to view out of the box.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day Break Over The Bay at Teluk Chempedak

            There are many ways of declaring the name of a town. At IPOH you would see the name standing on a top of a hill as you approach the city from the south. At Trengganu the word ALLAH welcomes you into the city.It too stands on a hill so it is seen even before you arrive in the city. Now at Kuantan, you need to come close to the river to see its name engraved on large alphabets standing out of the river. Yes we were at Kuantan last week.

         It was a moonlight night and we had this photo of the bay as the moon glides by the sole coconut tree standing by the beach while simmering its rays over the  water

As dawn creeps by and you awake to welcome the morning, what a sight to behold as the sun makes its early appearance with hues of changing colors as seen from the three sequence photographs. It must be almost four decades ago that I last visited this corner of Teluk Chempedak. It has remained almost as prestine  as before. 

'Footprints in the sand' is an often repeated phrase. Surely there cannot be so many people thrashing by on the beach yet there are patterns all over. The breeze and the waves help to leave their designs on the sandy beach  

Now what do you see? This is by far the first time ever that we have seen such approach at a restaurant. Malaysian culture and handicraft take a new direction. By the way we had a taste of 'puding sultan' a speciality known only here at Kuantan. Give a try whenever you visit this part of the east coast. A day visit to the town left much to be discovered. Some of the facades of buildings in town seems to equal those in UNESCO Penang.