Friday, February 18, 2011


Spot turfing, two 'cempa' trees planted in the compound, smoke from burnt dried leaves and the morning freshness conjure the kampong scenery . There were  evenings when smoke help to disperse the mosquitoes and lent a scent not to be forgotten.

 PERHAPS it is one of those refreshing morning, one dreams of. After a late breakfast of 'nasi lemak' wrapped in banana leaf, not one but two 'bungkus' together with hot cups of tea we found myself at our new kampong home waiting for the contractor and his men to  come and start work on the landscaping of the area around the house. You could possibly upgrade the house compound in your own time and pleasure but it would be a haphazard and unplanned sort of way not knowing really how it would look like in its finality.  But with people who know what they are doing, you would see their craftsmanship maturing in no time. Then again, many decades back we could possibly toil away throughout the day but exercise of such nature shy away for the moment.

A comment read recently said the you could take a Malay out of his kampong but not necessarily the 'KAMPONG' out of him. I would agree to such dictum knowing the sentimentality and nostalgia that the kampong atmosphere built within a person. Much as modernity, high rise buildings, furnished homes in the cities and all the sophistication geared towards making live better and happier, it could not take away the nostalgia and the old world charm of yester-years.  Those who have at one time or another lived there would begged to return to such natural splendor. Thus the 'balik-kampong' syndrome and the annual rush every year during the eve of Aidilfitri or long weekends.

The roominess and the richness of wood plus the unique structure of the Malay home, where ceremonies one after another have taken place, games we played as children inside and outside the home, memories of mum and dad, grand dad and grand ma in their  characteristic ways help to conjure times when we grew up in the old home. Alas many of us have lost that touch practically since many of the old homes have disappeared: replaced by modern brick buildings or the old place have been sold off or the family have moved away from their roots.   

           No fence, no gate. Its openness and the mature fruits trees plus the bushes and tall trees with bird chirping away guarantee that the kampong home rebuilt will usher many more years of happiness for the family and the community around

The games we used to play under the house! Never far from the caring eyes of the family. All kinds of games were indulged in. Bamboos  from nearby bushes became shooters with paper bullets to scare the hoots of the gang members: 'Fighting" fishes were scouted, kept in glass jars, observed for their beauty and color and even combated for.  It was healthy and safety as everyone was around the home. Alas it is not so now. Playing games would be away from home. 'Futsal' at special arena and never under the house with pillars as sentinels. Laughter , shrieks  and all that bring identity and recognition to the 'kampong' scene have faded albeit disappeared now. Revived even temporarily it would be God sent. 

How it brought back some semblance of the good years to see the grand children frolicking around the house and finding the heap of sand a hit with what they are discovering.

Here's hoping the brief conjures some flashbacks of times you were growing up in the kampong and hopefully the nostalgia can be retained where possible. It also sets on record that the old home that we set out to bring back to life is now completed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Madinah modern buildings with characteristic features of the old.

     An example of 'khat specially with the word "Muhammad" saw. Islamic calligraphy as an ornamental writing would be the decorative features in mosques, suraus and homes.

  The green dome of the Prophet's Mosque at Madinah is a familiar sight to those who have the privilege to visit the city and rewarded a thousand fold for having prayed there.

 Pilgrims on completion of their 'Haj' would be presented with a copy of the 'Koran' each as they depart for home from the airports. The holy book is printed at a large factory in Madinah. We had the opportunity to visit the centre and besides the huge sparklingly clean floor area as from the above photo you marvelled at the well kept garden with thriving greenery and flowering plants.

 MUHAMMAD RASUL or PROPHET his name emblazoned on one of the main doors of the mosque opened 24 hours of the day, seven days in the week and throughout the year.

Pilgrims and visitors find peace, solace and sanctity when at Madinah. Millions during the Haj season take shelter under the canopies that now surround the open courtyard outside the mosque. In the evening Koran classes are held and you will find children in groups with their teachers busy reading and reciting the verses from the Koran. Their readings vibrate in the huge hall alongside jumaah with their prayers.

THAT WOULD BE THIS 15th of FEBRUARY 2011. Next year it will fall on 2 February and in 2013 the celebration falls on 24th January. The occasion is none other than the birth date of Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. Born  on 12 Rabiul Awal, the third month succeeding Muharam and Safar in the Muslim Hijrah year and that being on 23 April 571 . The Muslim Hijrah year being a lunar system has 354 days in a year instead of the 365 days of the Gregorian year. Thus the different dates of the occasion.

Muslim countries will celebrate the occasion and in Malaysia it is also a public holiday with ceremonies at federal and state levels. Processions and 'ceramah' will surely be part of the celebration to honour his birth with talks of his live and activities as the prophet of Islam. The celebrating nature pervades throughout the country, with district,mukim and kampong levels having their own programs. Not forgetting homes with their own celebrations too. Right through Rabiul Awal and Rabiul Akhir 'Mailadul Rasul' or 'Maulud Nabi' will feel the Muslim community's calender and assure a greater sense of knowledge, attitude, love and respect for Islam and Muhammad s.a.w the last prophet and of Islam too. 

The celebration will renew and strengthen the faith and kinship of the Muslims in their religion while fostering greater friendly (ukwah) with everyoneMany would be enthralled by the singing and recitation of religious songs, nasyid including the rhythmic and melodious 'marhaban','qasidah' and 'berzanji' that would naturally ring out from mosques, 'surau'and homes.

Naturally enough we will recapitulate the past remembering the time and moments when we were part of the celebrations. Unnatural if you have never been touched by such celebrated nature before. 

Right now we are transported back to Madinah al Munawarah or Madinat al Nabi with vivid memories of the city and especially with Masjid Nabi and the mausoleum of Prophet Muhammad itself. At this city too there is Masjid Quba the first mosque to be built in Islam. Fitting that we share some of the photos of this holy city with characteristics of its own which undoubtedly recall you to visit it again and again.

That the authorities have developed Madinah as it is now, turning a desert oasis into a beautiful city with  Muslim characteristics remained a hallmark and pride for Prophet Muhammad  s.a.w and in association with its name Madinat al Nabi. Anyone who has visited the city will notice its dominant softness and respectability oozing from the hearts and souls of its citizen. Then again it is the second holiest city of Islam.    


Peace and quiet. Clean and neat throughout the day. Everything placed where they should be for the convenience of the devout. Zam-Zam water in its container, carpets spread out on the marble floor; air conditioned oozed from the bottom of the pillars and the holy Koran ready for everyone who wished to read the verses. This is what you will forever remember of Madinah.

Look above and you will discover the decorative treatments to the insides of the domes

In earlier years this would be the only canopy you would see in the courtyard of the mosque. Now it has multiplied giving respite to pilgrims and visitors against the noon day sun while adding a touch of uniqueness to the city itself.

While of course 12 R'Awal 1432 or 15 February 2011 remained marked in the diary, the calendar or the hand- phone as a date not to be forgotten and your attendance at the function on the occasion of Mailadul Rasul is called upon. 


Wednesday, February 9, 2011


No doubt all of us got out of beds wishing for a fine day. It is indeed too. We have all rushed to do what we do likely the other day and yet have other chores charted out or ticked in the diary or whatever note form we used. Yet I cannot just skit off without feeling bad over things that continue to happen. You are peeved over the continuing road- accidents during festive seasons, senseless killing, robbery and drugs abuse etc.

Angry, furious, mad, hateful, ticked off, peeved, bad and call it whatever you want, it is ONE common basic emotions we have come to grasp. Go through a day without getting angry at someone or something? Probably not. Thankfully there are many levels of anger. " I am angry to have missed that visitation" rather than " I am angry that he has accosted off with my RM1000.00" are two levels of anger. Thankfully many of us have learn to depress our anger in many ways than one. Come to think of it "How do we effect it?"

It brings me to what I intended to say about in the first place; i.e to quote a few snippets for this fine day before it gets 'hot' if ever.

" Whenever books are burned, sooner or later men also are burned"  Heinrich Heine

" A thought often makes us hotter than a fire" Henry Wordsworth Longfellow.

"I am glad I don't have to explain to a man from Mars why each day I set fire to dozens of little pieces and then put them in my mouth" Mignon Mclaughlin

" The difference between a violin and a viola is that a viola burns longer" Victor Borge

" There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them" Ray Bradbury.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


                             An exciting find while on a drive at Jeneri Kedah

AS WE hit the Chinese Year of the Rabbit today and while the Chinese friends take their time off for several days with most shops and establishments closed, I find it a good time to search my photo archive and bring about a fitting account of Malay homes especially seeing that recently the blog had had a good following with hits on the 'kampong' home.  
                        A window which opens at both levels with ballastrades

The Malay houses in the  'kampong' may have unexpectedly nestled in such a surrounding. Notice several homes partly hidden by coconut or large trees interspersed by padi fields. Naturally cooling enough even in the noon time hours when the sun is overhead. Being in the rice-field of  Malaysia, these houses nestled amongst the peaceful greenery and at times changing to gold when the rice stalks ripen.There is space in between.Neighbors don't feel hemmed in.

In earlier times, when roads were the waterways , houses tend to be sited near rivers.Lucky for the owner of this home, he seems to have progressed satisfactorily. He has a road built in front of his home and it too has taken a new and modern feature. Yet he continues to enjoy space and greenery around him. The porch is large enough to accommodate two cars at least; allowing convenience for the larger family that comes home.       

No this is not a long house but it was once a police barrack for the policemen and their families. Noticing the staircases, at least four families resided here at one time. Still it is located around greenery and even with a field right in front of the barrack. Sadly this airy and cool home near the former Alor Setar Airport has been demolished to make way for better accommodations.The large and extensive veranda  plus the high roofs surely allow for excellent ventilation while the veranda offer closer relationship and rapport between families. Yes it is of a wooden entity excepting some necessary parts.   

The above picture and the one below is one section of the Malay home which sadly but surely is disappearing. The carpenters or house makers do not have the skill to produce them or they have excuses of their own. Current architectural designs do not include such artistic portions as part of the house and further good quality timber for such pieces are hard to come by too. Those that are found sadly are on vacant homes, left to the severity of nature and yet the owners refused to be parted by such antiquity. I could only take photos though I would rather dismantle the pieces or even offer to buy the old home. Still the question of the right ownership hugs the issue. Maybe another day may come when the owner decides to part with his old home.   

While driving in Trengganu, I stopped to see this house being  rebuilt and the quantity of wood used as good as your guess and mine. Surely there are many intricate pieces and designs that make up this Trengganu home and to get the right timber and quantity now for such a house would be a disaster. Even the roofs are made from pieces of timber interlocking one with the other.  

The following are recent attempts to build a pavilion, two  homes and  a decorative portion of a super market. Hopefully and gainfully these approaches will help towards reestablishing good timber construction skills and a definitive comeback of the Malay traditional homes though with modern characteristics. 

Alas, though books and periodicals may give us clues, secrets and details of traditional Malay houses, nothing supersedes visitation to those houses still standing. But of course it has to take you on long trails, into out of the tracks zone and by accident you may come across one.There are no guides to available Malay traditional homes except for those at museums etc. For instance the quint pictures of a Malay house at the beginning frame of this article came into the scene when I was at a small town called Jeneri in Kedah. The owner and 'tukang kayu' himself is still alive and I marvelled at the hardworks and skill especially he has put in to build his home in 1957. Believe it or not he even carved the year '1957' which remained a lasting reminder of his passionate work which remained on top of one of his doors. Proud especially to be associated with that auspicuous year.

Perhaps we need to set up a 'Kumpulan Pencita Rumah-Rumah Melayu Tradisional' and those who discover one reports of its existence. You andI would have to scout through out Malaysia if I were to find several. Impossible.But if we have a referance point would'nt that be a starting point?