Saturday 29 October 2011

My Iran in pictures (1980-82)

Living in Iran in 1980-82, has enabled an appreciation of the country as a whole. Although there was no opportunity to explore the whole country, living in Mashhad and Kermanshah offered the experience of visiting their sights and landmarks and also their vicinities. Tehran, the capital was an oft-visited city.

Torqabeh, 22 km from Mashhad, is famous for canework handicrafts. teahouse restaurants and ice cream sundaes.

At Torqabeh with HA, wife & second son (MB 1980)

M at Torqabeh (CNB 1980)

Mashhad's most famous landmark is no doubt the Haram-e Razavi or Imam Reza Shrine Complex (IRSC). This complex contains the shrine of Imam Reza, a mosque, a museum, a library, 4 seminaries, a cemetry, the University of Islamic Sciences, a dining hall for pilgrims, prayer halls and 7 courtyards.

At the Haram-e Razavi (IRSC) with QJ, little B and Behzad (MB 1981)

An army of sweepers at the IRSC (CNB 1981)

With family at the IRSC (MB 1981)

Detail, Imam Reza Shrine complex/IRSC (CNB 1981)

Kermanshah (considered one of the cradles of prehistoric cultures) is located in Kermanshah Province, in the western part of Iran, some 500 km from Tehran. The majority of inhabitants here are Kurds.

At the Niloofar Sarab (Wetland), Kermanshah (1981)

Little B at Tagh-e Bostan, Kermanshah (CNB 1981)

Some boys sharing a swing with B, Tagh-e Bostan (CNB 1981)

Little B dancing, Kermanshah (1981)

 Little B and friends (CNB 1981)

The Valley, Kermanshah (1981)

Poppy flowers, Kermanshah province (1981)

Tehran, the capital city of Iran is the gateway to fly in and out of the country then. When we were in Tehran, we stay at friends' homes - it is the Iranian custom. Friends take offence if you choose to stay elsewhere other than their homes!

At Mehdi's house, Tehran. Mehdi is a good friend of M (MB 1982)

At Mehdi's house, Tehran (CNB 1982)


Books I love: Tuti dalam Labu

Tuti dalam Labu  (Tuti in a pumpkin) by Nooraihan Ali, is a children's book I love because I loved reading it to my two daughters when they were young. They loved this story as well because there is cute little chicken Tuti and adik (younger sibling), and Pak Musang, the scary big bad wolf, is also involved. Reading the story with a little bit of drama, like increasing the 'sound effects', never fails to give some excitement and anticipation of what is coming. This happens no matter how many times the book is read.

Malam itu, Tuti, adiknya dan ibunya tidur di dalam labu.
Tiba-tiba mereka dengar,
"Sru, srah, sru, srah," lalang berbunyi.
"Diam! Itu Pak Musang sudah datang," bisik ibu.

Tuti dalam Labu, published in 1979 by DBP, is beautifully illustrated by Mohamed Ali.
P.S. I know a pumpkin is involved, but this is definitely not a Halloween story.

The cover of  Tuti dalam Labu (CNB 2011)

Tuti and younger sibling go for a walk (CNB 2011)

Tuti, adik and their mother in a pumkin (CNB 2011)
Ex Libris CNB 0768

Friday 28 October 2011

A TKC Album

I have already written about my schoolgirl days in TKC (blog post: 18 August 2011). I could write a book about the seven years spent there, but then again, I would rather just post pictures for now. After all "a picture is worth a thousand words". So this posting has many thousand words indeed! I realise that black & white pictures of the 1960's preserve better than the later colour ones. These below that have survived the decades, have been 'rephoto-ed' (because my scanner has conked out), so please excuse the odd glare or blotch and also the original blur.

The Buildings: there was the main school block, the hall, the four residential blocks, the dining hall, and the sick bay.

The School block, where in the morning we go to school and
in the evening, we do our prep.

The Hall used for assemblies, exams, speech days, PE, concerts, flings, etc.

The sick bay through the Red House block railing. The matron
had to deal with sick students and the not so sick who had boils
 in odd places! Don't ask where.

The Class pictures

Form 1 with class teacher Mrs Kwok. 'Freshies' to TKC
wear all-white uniform the first year.

Form 2 with class teacher Miss Sobita Sinha (my favourite teacher
whose enthusiasm for literature was passed down to her pupils, including moi).

Form 3 with class teacher Che Arfah, a new graduate teacher.

The Societies: We were very active in various societies - Science & Maths, Malay Language & Debating, English Language & Debating, etc. But I enjoyed the less formal (more fun) ones like the Philharmonic Society and the Gardening Club.

Science & Maths Society Committee with Puan Hasnah & Miss Vaughan

... (?) Society  Committee with Miss Black, Puan Hasnah & Miss Ellis

The Houses: the four residential blocks or Houses were Mahsuri (Red), Tun Fatimah (Blue), Selendang Delima (Green) and Siti Zawiah (Yellow). Apart from the daily tidying and cleaning of our dorms/rooms, residents of each block had to do the weekend housekeeping of the whole block - spring cleaning the lounge, the ironing & laundry rooms, and the bathrooms.

The Mahsuri or Red House members 1964

The Concerts: there were concerts every annual speech day, and for special occasions like when the school received visiting dignitaries. We also attended concerts in town (Seremban).

A bouquet for Tun Farideh Diba from Iran 

Miss Black takes a bow for the School Band after our
 maiden performance. I play the trumpet.

A special concert for visiting laureate Usman Awang
L-R: Sharifah Muzarah, Rozita, Ain, me, Rody, & Noni.

The Phoenix Singers from the US performed at the Seremban Town Hall.  I distinctly
remember everyone in the audience (including moi) enjoying the show and
stomping tapping the floor of the town hall with great gusto! 

Spot moi, Su, Zaleha, Neon, & others in the audience. Note our funny looking glasses!

The Sports: We did a lot of sports in those days - athletics, netball, hockey, badminton, etc. But the biggest day was of course the annual Sports Day. We all practiced long and hard to win the march past!

Jumping the hurdles on Sports Day

The March Past (Mahsuri/Red House)

Red House posing with the trophies at the end of a Sports Day

The School Excursions and Outings: We had our monthly outings to Seremban town (where we enjoyed the movies and eating at our favourite places I remember the delicious ABC and the delectable mee hailam, yum yum ...) and occasional trips to Port Dickson (the nearest beach). Then there were the outstation excursions (read: educational trips) to Pahang (Cameron Highlands) and Perak (Ipoh, Taiping, Kuala Kangsar), etc.

At the Istana Iskandariah, Kuala Kangsar, after our school debate with MCKK.
Tengku Dotty, our junior, is the daughter of the Perak Sultan then. Here we
pose with her mother and two siblings. Misses Bergen & Vaughan were our
accompanying teachers.

At the Istana Kenangan which was our accomodation while in Perak.
The beautiful all wooden structure is traditional architecture at its best.
Here I am with Maheran, Siti Hawa, Narim and Zale.

With Siti Hawa, Zale, Lin & Narim at the Taiping Lake Gardens.
We also visited the Zoo where I remember grappling with a macaque
to get back Siti's camera it had snatched. (But I'm sure she remembers this
incident quite differently!)

At Port Dickson beach with Suriani, Siti Hawa & Mariah. PD was a treat always.

The year end parties 

After the Farewell party of the Class of '70, with Puan Hasnah & daughter

The Informal activities

The weekend flings. How we loved to dance in those days (and I suspect
we still do now). We did the polka, waltz, rhumba, cha cha .... plus joget, zapin, etc.
Note that most of us here wore batik sarong.

Sitting around in our dormitory, reading anything we could get our
hands on. The magazine/news vendor comes by weekly, I think.

Reading newspapers, etc. in the Red House lounge

Goofing around with Hendon and our junior, a 17th birthday
ice cream treat in hand. Must have been one of my many bad hair days!

Those were the days...

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Happy Deepavali

A Happy Deepavali to all who celebrate this occasion.

Kolum at Plaza Shah Alam (CNB 2011)

Biggest Book Sale

The top half of a Big Bad Wolf flyer advert (2011)

Did you go to the recent Big Bad Wolf Book Sale at MAEPS (Malaysia Agro Exposition Park, Serdang)? Touted as the biggest book sale in the world, I went with three family members on the second last day to check it out. I had gone to the one previously held at Amcorp Mall, but this was a much bigger venue, and so much more books on offer. But Saturday 15th proved to be a 'difficult' day to browse and find what you like because the crowd was quite a hassle, so we were hardly an hour there. Anyway, next time I would ensure that I go on a weekday, so I may have less of a crowd to contend with (I hope).

What did I buy in the hour there? Only three books. One Iraniana novel, Rosewater and Soda Bread by Marsha Mehran (RM8); one memoir, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (RM8); and Orang Asli and their Wood Art by Anthony Ratos (RM12). At these prices, it is worthwhile to spend some time browsing for the books you like.

Monday 24 October 2011

Books I love: Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach was written in 1970. It is the story of a seagull, Jonathan Livingstone (JL), who loved flying and freedom, and pushing for perfection. He leaves his flock because they merely see flying as a means to getting to their food source. He transcends to a  place where all the gulls there enjoy flying, like him. Then from a wise gull Chiang, he learns how to move to anywhere he wanted just by 'thinking' about it. And he then knows that 'with practised ease, he was not bone and feather but a perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all'. JL later returns to his flock to teach others who would learn, the power of perfect flight.

This novella has been placed in the spiritual and also self-help genre because it is about "love, (deserved) respect, and forgiveness".

I bought my book in 1974. I had inscribed 'Bought at W H Smith, Shopping Centre, Elephant & Castle, 18th October 1974 (Practical at Poly. of the South Bank).

"A Book is the only immortality" - Rufus Choate

My copy of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (CNB 2011)

Photography in JLS is by Russel Munson (CNB 2011)
Ex Libris CNB 0490 

Thursday 20 October 2011

My Arabia: An Umrah & Ziarah Travelogue

With my sister CY and two other friends, we joined the Umrah & Ziarah group tour of Ibtisam led by Ustadz Haji Hassan Mahmud Al Hafiz in July 2009. (The Umrah is the lesser pilgrimage or shortened version of the Haj).

Allow me some introductory notes about the Umrah. The 3 pillars of Umrah : Ihram (intention of starting umrah; "Actions are but by intentions", Tawaf  (7 circuits around the Ka'bah), Sa'y (7 times; start at As-Safa and end at Al-Marwah). The 2 obligatory duties of Umrah: Entering Ihram for it from outside the sanctuary (Haram) and shaving the head/cutting the hair to exit Ihram.

Day 1: We board a Saudi Arabian Airlines plane at KLIA in the afternoon and reach Jeddah around 6.00 pm local time there. We board a bus to Madinah, stopping at Wadi Toreiq (?) for isyak/maghrib prayers and dinner of lamb mandi.

Minaret of mosque at ... (CNB 2009)

My plateful of Lamb Mandi (CNB 2009)

Day 2: We reach Madinah in the very early morning and checked into the Hotel. Subuh prayers (at 4.05 am) was at the Masjid Nabawi or Prophet's Mosque. After our prayers we had breakfast at the hotel; Indonesian catered food. (There was noticeably, a large number of Indonesians from Kalimantan. I found out that they had had a good harvest and so many could afford to come for Umrah.)

My sister and I then went to the Raudhah (the Prophet's grave/tomb). It was pretty chaotic there, with the female guards raising their voices to keep order and persuading the large crowd to enter by 'region', (Asians last, after the Arabs and Persians). The Masjid Nabawi was just a stone's throw from our hotel, so all prayers were done there.

After the isyak prayers, we had dinner (Indonesian food would be our staple for the rest of our stay in Arabia) and then went next door to the Souq Al-Saha for a bit of shopping. The shops there offered books*, the Quran, prayer mats, tasbih (prayer beads) and clothes, especially the abaya. (You can also buy these from the street peddlars in front of the mosque, although they are constantly being asked to move by the police).

The Prophet's Mosque (CNB 2009)

Inside the Masjid Nabawi/Prophet's Mosque (CNB 2009)

Women in Masjid Nabawi (CNB 2009)

Day 3: We visited (and prayed in) the Quba Mosque, and also stopped by the Jabal Uhud (Mt Uhud). At a date farm/orchard, we bought fresh dates and I think I had the best chai (tea) there. We also visited and prayed at the Al-Qiblatain Mosque, the mosque with two Qiblah. Before going back to the Hotel, we stopped by a date souq; a whole souq dedicated to dates of all kinds.

The Quba Mosque (CNB 2009)

At Jabal Uhud (2009)

Colourful 'not so ripe' dates (CNB 2009)

CY, me and a friend pose with dates (2009)

The Al Qiblatain Mosque (CNB 2009)

Day 4: After subuh prayers and breakfast, we walked around the area. The buildings were mostly hotels, all quite recently built. We also revisited the Raudhah. (Meticulous search of bag, and body, by the female guards, meant that no handphones or cameras could be brought into the Masjid Nabawi. But some do get through).

In the afternoon, after a sunat ihram bath, we left Madinah for Makkah. We prayed asar at Bir Ali (miqat) where we went into ihram. On reaching Makkah, we checked into a hotel within walking distance to Al-Masjid Al-Haram (Haram Mosque). At 11.50 pm, we went to the Haram Mosque to do our Umrah under the guidance of Ustadz Mastor. Our tawaf and sa'y took us till 2.30 am. My first sight of the Ka'bah was indeed surreal (as in a dream). Allahuakbar!

Iranian theology students at Bir Ali (CNB 2009)

The Bir Ali Mosque (CNB 2009)

The Arabian sunset on our way to Makkah (CNB 2009)

The Ka'bah within the Haram Mosque (CNB 2009)

Day 5: All our prayers were done in Al-Masjid Al-Haram; we walked back to the hotel only for mealtimes and short rests in between. The Haram Mosque was always crowded and sometimes there were saf (prayer row) discomforts (like being squeezed in between very large Arab ladies). On our way from the hotel to the Haram Mosque and vice versa, we pass by lots of shops and a supermarket in a mall. I sometimes stop at the shops to buy Arabian confectionary and get the Saudi Gazette or Arab News. Once at the Bindawood Complex, we were perusing in a bookshop and as we paid for our purchase, we were given a Quran each. A gift from an Arab gentleman whom we only caught a glimpse of. "Shukran (thank you) for the kind gift and may Allah bless you".

On an access road to the Haram Mosque (CNB 2009)

One of the many entrances into the Haram Mosque (CY 2009)

Day 6: After subuh prayers, we went on a tour of the outskirts of Makkah. We visited Jabal Thawr (Mt Thawr) where in a cave here, the Prophet Muhammad sought refuge from his persecutors, the Quraish. We  also visited Muzdalifah, Mina, and 'Arafat. Mt Arafat, a granite hill, also known as Jabal Rahmah (Mount of Mercy), is where the Prophet delivered his farewell sermon. It is also believed to be where Adam and Eve met again after 200 years following their expulsion.

We stopped at the Masjid Al-Ji'ranah/Jurana (miqat) for prayers and enter into ihram for our second umrah. Enroute back to Makkah, we stopped to look at Jabal Nur or 'The Mountain of Light', where in the Hira Cave, the Prophet received his first revelation from Allah through the angel Gabriel.

At the Mt Thawr (2009)

Pilgrims on the Jabal Rahmah (CNB 2009)

On a decorated camel in Arafat (2009)

Jabal Nur (CNB 2009)

Day 7: In between prayers at the Al-Masjid Al-Haram, meals and rest at the hotel, we also did the occasional shopping in the vicinity, for yashmak, rosaries, attar (perfume), habbatussaudah (blackseed), dates, nuts, and dried fruits. I also tried the local ice cream, breads, and mixed fruit juice (this last item was not a good idea, because I had a massive stomach upset after that).

Day 8: In the morning we went to the Al-Masjid Taneem/Masjid At-Tan'im (the nearest miqat) to pray and enter into ihram for our third umrah (this is for Ba). Back at the Al-Masjid Al-Haram, at the end of our sa'y, we rested on Mt. Marwah after tahlul (cutting of hair). The Haram Mosque complex is big and a couple of times we forgot from which entrance we came in and where we had left our footwear!

In the late afternoon, our group visited a camel farm along the old Jeddah-Makkah road, where I had a taste of fresh camel milk. Eerr... it is an acquired taste. Ali, our Arab Bedouin van driver was a speed maniac and the more we told him to slow down, the more he would revv up the engine of his old van! After the camel farm we went on to Hudaibiyah Mosque for prayers and to enter ihram from this miqat. Nearby is the remains of the old mosque where the Prophet used to pray in. There was an old man there selling rosaries made from some unusual material - date seeds and camel bone. We also visited the Museum on the architecture of the two mosques (Al-Masjid Al-Haram & Masjid Nabawi) before going back to Makkah.

Al-Masjid Tan'eem (CNB 2009)

At the camel farm (2009)

Two Arabs and a few camels (CNB 2009)

Serving up fresh camel milk (CNB 2009)

Day 9: The day was spent in prayers at the Haram Mosque.

Day 10: As in day 8, we went to Al-Masjid Taneem to pray and enter into ihram for our fourth umrah (this is for QJ).

Day 11: We spent the whole day and night at the Haram Mosque, and in between prayers we made friends with our fellow pilgrims. There was a family from the UAE with an English speaking daughter who told us that they had visited Malaysia a few times. A lady from Syria said she comes to Makkah annually by bus with her husband. One young lady, from another Malaysian group, was complaining about the Arab ladies who squeezed into prayer safs and literally sat on her. In the holy land especially, patience is a virtue.

Day 12: We did our tawaf wida' (farewell) at 8.30 in the morning. Then in the afternoon we boarded the bus to Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport. At 8.45 pm we left by Saudi Airlines to Dammam, and thence home to KLIA. The umrah & ziarah has been an eye-opener, and I look forward to Haj in the near future, insyaallah.

Early dawn at the Haram Mosque (CNB 2009)

* I bought these two books: History of Al-Madinah Al Munawwarah and History of Makkah, prepared by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaikh Safiur-Rahman Mubarakpuri.