Sunday 30 September 2012

Books I Love: Tulang2 Berserakan

My 1st edition copy of Tulang2 Berserakan

Tulang2 Berserakan by Usman Awang (1929-2001), is his one and only novel, written in 1962 but first published in 1966 by Pustaka Melayu Baru, KL.

Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka also published it again in 1992 as Tulang Tulang Berserakan (with the new spelling as appropriate with the time) as part of our National Laureate's works. Usman Awang, also known as Tongkat Warrant, was conferred the title in 1983, and he was mainly a Poet and Dramatist (remember Uda & Dara?). In 2009 the English translation entitled 'Scattered Bones' was published by the Institut Terjemahan & Buku Malaysia.

About Tulang2 Berserakan; it is deemed  a semi autobiographical novel. The protagonist Leman (Usman?) joins the police force in Melaka during the Malayan Emergency; the war and conflict between the British colonists and the Malayan communists. The story is about the camaraderie and dilemma faced by Leman and his fellow policemen as they go about their lives at 'work', their dealings with the public as policemen (and then the 'Jungle Squad') and their own personal undertakings. Usman's dilemma is well reflected in this dedicated poem at the back of the book;

Buat teman-temanku yang dikasihi
gelakmu hangus di hutan malam
tinggallah sedu di bilik ibu
(lihat tugu 'indah'mu tegak terdiri
yang dipahat oleh tangan asing
seperti mengalirnya darahmu untuk orang lain).

Buat mereka yang tak pernah disapa
atas keberanian dan keyakinan
dengan sedar menerima segala derita

Kita dan mereka bersama-sama
menggali lalu menimbuni rangka
dari tulang-tulang berserakan ...

The first time I read the book was in 1967 in TKC, when I received it as a prize (Hadiah dari Persatuan Bahasa Melayu bagi Darjah Terbaik dalam Peraduan Tarian, Malam Irama). Interestingly, we got to perform our winning dance before Usman Awang himself when he visited TKC the same year. Of course I got him to sign my book, a first edition (chetakan pertama 1966), mind you!

Usman Awang's signature on the title page of my copy of
his book (CNB 2012) 

Ex Libris CNB 0461

It's Mooncake Time Again

CNB 2012

Enjoy your mooncakes during this Mid-Autumn Festival ...

Friday 28 September 2012

Family Ties: My Grandparents

Genealogy is the study of families and tracing of their lineages and history - a difficult feat indeed for anyone to undertake, unless one has descended from kings/queens or great heroes. I can only go back to my grandparents, just two generations earlier. Both sets of grandparents lived in Pulau Pinang.

Of my paternal grandparents, I never knew my grandfather Mohd Noor bin Sulayman, who passed away before I was born. There are no photographs of him, so I do not even know what he looked like. But it seems that he had roots in Pagaruyong, seat of the Minangkabau kings.

My Grandmother Maimunah (1950s)

My grandmother Maimunah, whom we called Tok Munah, I remember very well. She was a very fair and pretty woman, very kind and  soft spoken as well. When we visited her in Pulau Pinang in the 1950's (from Alor Star), I recall that I was most fascinated with a white teapot that she served us tea with. It was very small, but it seemed to fill so many cups! I have inherited that teapot which I treasure a lot, but have never used it because I prefer that the 'magic' it did then remain with me forever.

Tok Munah's magic teapot (CNB 2012)

Mohd Noor and Maimunah had only two children - my father Bahari and his younger brother S. S died while still a teenager in an unfortunate accident while helping out during a wedding kenduri.

My maternal grandparents Arshad bin Hj. Mohd Alam and Milah binti Dali (d. 2003 aged 93) had five children; my mother Puteh, Ashaari, Sopiah, Ismail and Yaakub. My grandfather whom we called Tok Wan Tok Chad, was a very tall man, over 6 ft. He was of fair complexion and his roots seem to be in Siam (Thailand), but my grandmother Milah was sawo matang (brown complexion) with roots in Java.

Milah and Arshad; rephoto-ed  from my uncle's collection
Now I know where I got my elfin ears!

I remember my Tok Chad had been a fierce School Head Teacher, and a very strict Guru Mengaji (Quran Teacher) as well. He was semi-paralysed in his last years, and my Tok Milah had a difficult time looking after his needs. But Tok Milah lived a long life till her 97th year.

A platter I inherited from Tok Milah (CNB 2012)

I have to record that my mother had foster parents as well - her uncle-in-law (?) we knew as Tok Wan Tok Jaya and her aunty Hudoh (though she was most beautiful but her parents named her 'Ugly' to ward off the evil eye!) My mother was given to her to care for the first few years. I never knew Tok Hudoh, but Tok Jaya was a very kind man who roamed Georgetown to pray in its mosques. Sometimes my siblings and I go to town after school to eat or shop, and we would often times meet Tok Jaya there. I remember we had to cease eating our favourite asam laksa at a certain shop in Penang Road when he forbade us because he knew something that we were not aware of.

(In progress)

Monday 24 September 2012

Why Do We Collect Things?

Homo sapiens, I mean we, have been collecting since forever (since we were hunters-gatherers during our evolution, say the psychologists). Some of us have evolved into 'hoarders' (there seems to be a problem there), some into sophisticated 'collectors' (whose valuable hoards/collections may be wealth generating or may even be the basis of new museums/institutions), and then there is the rest of us who may have sentiments and/or temporary obsessions over certain things.

Anyway from the myriads of reasons why we collect as we do, here are some by the experts:
1. To learn and acquire knowledge because of interest in the topic (thing?)
2. For fun and pleasure; to satisfy a sense of personal aesthetics and please personal tastes
3. To recollect memories of childhood, travel or history; to relive the past
4. For control and achievement; to show individualism and to be complete (something to do with wish fulfillment which eases deep-rooted uncertainties and other psychological mumbo jumbo ...)
5. For no rhyme or reason; just for some unexplainable 'magic' in our lives.

I do not have any valuable collections that I could bequeath a library or museum but the children can inherit some things from my temporary obsessions with crystal bracelets, charm bracelets, dragonfly brooches, and shawls. (I can almost hear them say, "Mama, thank you, but may we sell them off to Cash Converters?"). These I collected for reason no. 2, I think, except dragonflies fall under no. 5 - Magic!

My book, music and movie collections are too eclectic (and too few?) to be of importance. Again no. 2 and no.1 seems to be the reasons why they were collected. My family photo collection calls for reason no. 3 mostly. And then there are the tacky/kitschy souvenir collections of fridge magnets, snow globes, china plates, photo frames, etc., etc. ("Can we please have a garage sale, Mama?"). Reason no. 3 again, although snow globes are 'magic'.

Hmm... Reason no. 4 does not seem to appear as to why I collect, I wonder why? Do I not want to control and achieve, to show individualism and to be complete? Now, what can I collect to fulfill all of reason no. 4? What wish fulfillment do I have to ease deep-rooted uncertainties and other psychological mumbo jumbo? But then again, I guess no. 4 may be the underlying reason why we all need to collect/hoard in the first place.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Mesmerising Melaka

I cannot remember Melaka the first time I visited in the 1960's. Maybe because it was just a fleeting visit  with my father, an uncle and two siblings, on a road trip from Gemas.
In Melaka town with Bro MN, Uncle IA
& Sis CY (Ba 1962)

Nearly 30 years later, I revisited Melaka, this time with my Bro AW, wife & child, and B & A. It was the school holidays, so from Pulau Pinang, AW drove us down to KL where we stayed a few days for some sightseeing. From KL, our friend FD joined us and we went to Seremban and on to Port Dickson, to enjoy a few days of sun, sand and sea.

Then it was on to Melaka; where it all began ... more than 600 years ago and the Melaka sultanate became the basis for our country today.

Everywhere in Melaka oozes history. It was an important and strategic port city, founded by Parameswara on the banks of a river flowing into the Straits, famous later for the spice trade route. The Admiral Zheng He, the great Chinese Muslim envoy of the Chinese emperor visited Melaka which had come under Chinese protection (from old enemies of the Majapahit and Ayutthaya Kingdoms). Parameswara was said to have converted to Islam then with the name Sultan Iskandar Shah. The golden age of Melaka was under Sultan Ahmad Shah, successor to Sultan Iskandar Shah.

And then there is the story/legend (?) of Princess Hang Li Po who arrived in Melaka to marry Sultan Mansur Shah (1456 - 1477). She'd come with 500 retainers, and they were said to have married locals and settled in what is now Bukit China.

But Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekiu and Hang Lekir are real legendary warriors who served Sultan Mansur Shah. Although Hang Tuah supposedly vanished after an unsuccessful mission to court the Puteri Gunung Ledang for the Sultan, yet there is his grave in Tanjung Keling which is said to be growing ever longer.

At the grave of legendary warrior Hang Tuah (FD 1990)

A & B at the grave of Hang Jebat (CNB 1990)

The first Europeans, the Portuguese came in 1511, and destroyed Melaka's position as the Asian trade centre (said to be through inept administration) and the trade was scattered to other parts of the area. The Portuguese left behind the ruins of a Fort A Famosa, and a people with partial Portuguese ancestry, the Kristang.

The ruins of A Famosa (FD 1990)

A and Malay & Kristang ladies in Portuguese Square, within
the Portuguese Settlement (CNB 1990)

The Dutch conquest was in 1641 but then they were really more interested in Batavia, Java. The distinctive Dutch Red Building or Stadthuys (pronounced Stat-house?) that was the residence of the Governor and his deputy now houses the Museum of History & Ethnography. Many other buildings remain from the Dutch era - St John's Fort, St Peter's Church, St Paul's Church (originally Portuguese), and Christ Church.

We front the Dutch Square, Stadthuys on the right (FD 1990)

Near the Christ Church of Dutch architecture
(FD 1990)

Melaka was ceded to the British in 1824, was part of the Malayan Union in 1946 and then the Federation of Malaya in 1948 (and Malaysia 1963). Today Melaka is a Unesco World Heritage site, since 7th July 2008. With so much history, of course it deserves to be listed.

B at Masjid Tengkera/Tranquerah Mosque,
oldest in Melaka (CNB 1990)

Stopping by a Belacan and Cincaluk stall on the road to
Tanjung Keling (CNB 1990)

May 1990

Sunday 16 September 2012

I Ran the Penang Bridge

Okay, I did not run the Penang Bridge, 3rd (now 4th?) longest bridge in Southeast Asia. That's the job of the concessionaire PBSB (Penang Bridge Sdn Bhd). I ran on the bridge five years after it was officially opened in 1985.

The Penang Bridge Run is always a event that Penangites especially look forward to. The Bridge Run in 1990 was held on the 13th May. That was my one and only attempt! Read on and you will find out why.

And the runners are off... (CNB 1990)

For one thing, the participants have to be there quite early - before the break of dawn. The event usually starts in front of the Universiti Sains Malaysia padang. And there are thousands (?) of people milling around. When the runners were flagged off, you can bet I was a straggler, right at the end! I and a friend from Teluk Kumbar actually. My Bro AE was with the front group of runners.

I knew I had to 'freeze the moments' on the bridge because the annual run is about the only time one can run/walk on this 13.5 km structure. So I brought my handy small camera and had some photos taken. Sempat lagi nak berposing! 'Kodak moments'!

Sunrise on the Penang Bridge (1990)

Sunrise on the Penang Bridge that day was something I would certainly remember forever. It was a vision that took your breath away. I mean, my breath was taken away. So I got my photos, then ran on towards the mainland end of the bridge. My friend being more fit, had scooted off way in front. She did finish the run and so did Bro AE who qualified for the 'time certificate'. What happened to this piece of paper in the end is too embarrassing to tell! (Don't worry Bro, your secret is safe with me.)

With my TK friend (1990)

What about me? Did I finish the run? Well, when I got to the mainland end of the bridge, there was a bus offering to take stragglers back to the other side, to the finishing line. Did I take up the offer? Are you insane? Of course I did!


A thousand flags aflutter - Selamat Hari Malaysia!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

The Penang Librarians' Group

Once upon a time in the early 1990's, there was a number of librarians in Pulau Pinang who came together to form an informal group, the Penang Librarians Group. It was decided that an informal group would not be too tied down to any association rules/regulations/constitutions. So it was that this group was made up of members from the various libraries of the University (Sains Malaysia), the public libraries, the special libraries, the college & school libraries, etc (end of thinking capacity!)

It was an interesting group - we met to welcome new librarians to PP, to bid farewell to anyone leaving, to celebrate occasions as and when we could.

A Farewell do for Penelope before she left for Sabah

Best of all we arranged visits to each other's libraries and also to other libraries out of PP.
The visit to the Maktab Rendah Sains MARA in Balik Pulau was also combined with a visit to a nutmeg factory in the area. How cool was that? In turn we visited a few other libraries in the island and Seberang (Mainland PP).

Fresh nutmegs (below) & mace (above)
at a Balik Pulau factory (CNB 199..)

Then we spread our wings (or rather we spent some money on a chartered bus) and ventured further to the North - to Kedah and Perlis, to visit libraries ++ (i.e. plus sites of interest and plus sites of history). So it was that in Sintok, Kedah, we visited the very newly built Universiti Utara Malaysia Library.

The PLG at UUM, Sintok (1991)

With the UUM Serials Librarian in front of the Library (1991)

A Librarian's nightmare - books on the floor. The shelves were
unfortunately delayed in coming to the new Library (CNB 1991)

In Alor Star it was the Kedah Public Library, and later the very historic Bujang Valley. Did we go to Bukit Kayu Hitam? I do not have any photos but we probably did, because it sure is a 'place of interest'. Shopping is an interest, right? And people have been shopping since waaay back, so there is also a bit of history there!

Posing with the State Librarian at the Kedah Public Library

"The Bujang Valley or Lembah Bujang is a sprawling historical complex and has an area of approx. 224 sq km. Situated near Merbok, Kedah, between Gunung Jerai in the North and Muda River in the south, it is the richest archaelogical site in Malaysia."

A Bujang Valley candi complex

With HAR at the same site

In Perlis, it was the Public Library in Kangar. Oh dear, if this sounds like a boring library report, sorry.... But I did warn you about writing of events past as I glean through my old diaries before throwing them out. (I'm dejunking, remember?)

With Perlis Public Librarian & Foyziah, USM

The Children's section of the Perlis Public Library

Tuesday 11 September 2012

A Favourite Eatery: Salero Negori

Whenever I find myself in Amcorp Mall, PJ, lunch would inevitably be at this 'old-style' Malay restaurant. Since it is Salero Negori, the 'taste of Negeri' (Sembilan), so the food is Minang/Padang. Some of the dishes are on the pedas side for me, but their masak lemak cili padi and gulai of a variety of ingredients are quite delicious.

Pick your dishes at the counter (CNB 2012)

Masak lemak ikan, Tempe goreng, Bergedel, etc. (CNB 2012)

Gulai perut & rebung, masak lemak pucuk ubi (CNB 2012)

Sotong masak pedas & gulai as above (CNB 2012)

Monday 10 September 2012

Happy Birthday, B!

A very happy birthday and many more to come! From all in the family...
Remember this? When birthday cakes were BIG and the number of candles exact?

B @ 3, Tadika Minden, PP (CNB)

And this? When friends looked with adoration at the birthday girl?

B @ 5, with A; same Tadika (CNB)

Friday 7 September 2012

Nine Blue Boxes & the Need for Dejunking

When we moved from Pulau Pinang to Shah Alam, we shifted tonnes of stuff. Today, four years later, we still have nine big blue boxes that need sorting out. Dejunking a lifetime of memorabilia (or 'rubbish' as the Chemistry Professor is wont to say) is tough work I tell you. Dejunking means getting rid of the junk, so he may have something there!

Anyway a cursory inspection, again, into the boxes reveal;
Box 1. Photos, photos, photos. Okay, these documentation of a family are valuable 'archival' material and will need to be organised into loads of albums. Or should they be somehow uploaded into a photo library in the clouds? Decisions, decisions...

Box 2. Files, files, files. These need weeding out and reduced, because really, do you ever find the particular document you are looking for? Oh, wait, I found the 1992 electric bill! Were you looking for it? But really, with so many files around, I am always too lazy to start. Urrggh!

Box 3 & 4. Newspaper cuttings, brochures. Two big boxes of yellowed newspaper cuttings? (Well, I was always hoarding 'interesting' articles from the papers and magazines, like all good/wannabe writers do.) But seriously, these should go, pronto! There's the reference library in the sky, for heaven's sake!

Box 5. Diaries, Journals. Ahh... This is the box I am now rummaging through and will provide me fodder for my blog entries. Nostalgia all the wayyyy...

Box 6. A's memorabilia & Box 7 & 8. B's memorabilia. Well, they have to do something about these. I know, I know, they are always too busy...

Box 9. Miscellaneous stuff that defy classification. What can I say? This will be the most difficult to sort and dejunk! Sometimes I feel that if this box and Box 3 & 4 disappeared in the night, nothing would be missed and no one would be the wiser. (Except me, of course!)

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Home-cooked Persian Food

Once in a while, we cook Persian at home. My first lessons in cooking this middle-eastern cuisine was in London in 1977, when I was a young bride then. My Persian friend Sharife was a great teacher who taught me hands-on in her own kitchen in Highgate. She taught me the rudiments of getting the classic recipes right.

Then later while living in Iran, my mother-in-law continued Sharife's lessons. Our lunches were always the most delicious combinations of Chelow (rice) & Khoresh (stews) or Chelow & Kabab with side dishes of salads, yogurt and pickles. She showed me how to make the perfect Chelow with the best Tah dig of eggs and yogurt at the bottom of the pot. (Potatoes also make good Tah dig). Khoreshs were of lamb (e.g. Gusht-e bademjan/meat & aubergine, Qormeh sabzi/Vegetable, beans & meat, Khoresh-e Karafs/celery) or chicken (e.g. Qeymeh/chicken with chick peas, Fesenjan/pomegranate & walnut).

There was also the Polow or single-dish meals of Baqala polow (fava/broad bean & lamb rice), Adas polow (lentil & lamb rice), Zereshk polow (barberry & chicken rice), Kalam polow (Green cabbage & meat rice), and my favourite Estamboli or Lubia polow, a rice, meat & green/french bean combination. Dinners were much lighter - usually nan (breads) with Kababs and Kuku (omelettes of every kind - potato, tomato, vegetable, etc.). Our Now Ruz (New year) treat was Sabzi polow ba Mahi (a fresh herb rice dish with fried/smoked fish - fish being a rare item in Persian cuisine).

My food article in the Wanita magazine (CNB)

Back in Malaysia, I once wrote an article on Persian food, retitled by the Magazine Editor, "Orang Iran Pakar Menghidang Nasi Pelbagai Rasa" (Wanita, August 1986. ). I also tried to keep up my Persian 'culinary skill' (ahem, ahem! Who's coughing there?). I cooked Estamboli as our special Hari Raya treat. My father and siblings have especially enjoyed this. (P.S. Sorry, Bro AE, I could not do it during the recent Hari Raya. Insyaallah next time.)  Khoresh-e Gusht bademjan is another regular, also the Kababs and Kuku-s.

These days the Chemistry Professor (aka Dr M aka M) sometimes (note the operative word here!) cooks a fantastic Persian meal at home. As he always says, "Cooking is like Chemistry!" Okay, we get the drift; Professor of Chemistry, so Culinary Professor as well? Oh alright, we admit you do serve up some very yummy dishes. Please, conduct more chemistry, I mean culinary sessions in the kitchen ... I would be much obliged!

The Chemistry Professor's Chelow, potato Tah dig & Lamb
Kabab (CNB 2012)

... Khoresh-e Gusht bademjan (CNB 2012)

No Persian meal is complete without a Salad ... (CNB 2012)

... and Mast-o-khiar: diced cucumber in yogurt (CNB 2012)

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Movies I Like: Starring P Ramlee

P Ramlee in the 1948 movie "Chinta"

It would be unusual for anyone to not like our Malaysian silver screen legend P. Ramlee's movies, at least some if not all. Especially his comedies/drama-comedies. This very talented and versatile artiste not only acted, but also directed, and wrote/composed/arranged the music for most of his films. He may have left us but his film and music legacy lives on.

I think I have seen most of his comedies/drama-comedies on our oft-repeated movie slots on our television stations; Musang Berjanggut (1959), Nujum Pak Belalang (1959), Pendekar Bujang Lapok (1959), Ali Baba Bujang Lapok (1961), Seniman Bujang Lapok (1961), Labu dan Labi (1962), Nasib Si Labu Labi (1963), Tiga Abdul (1964), Madu Tiga (1964), Masam Masam Manis (1965), Do Re Mi (1966), Keluarga 69 (1967), Anak Bapak (1968), and his last movie, Laksamana Do Re Mi (1972).

Somehow, I like his serious dramas even better; there is the very patriotic Sarjan Hassan (1955), tear-jerkers Penarek Becha (1955), Anak-ku Sazali (1956), Antara Dua Darjat (1960), and  Ibu Mertuaku (1962). Don't you just despise the mother-in-law from hell, Nyonya Mansor? Other dramas include Semerah Padi (1956), Hang Tuah (1956), Pancha Delima (1957), Sumpah Orang Minyak (1958), Sesudah Suboh (1967).

I have yet to watch (or re-watch) other titles in P. Ramlee's filmography of more than 60 which also include Chinta (1948), Aloha (1950), Rachun Dunia (1950), Takdir Ilahi (1950), Juwita (1951), Sejoli (1951), Anjuran Nasib (1952), Antara Senyum dan Tangis (1952), Sedarah (1952), Hujan Panas (1953), Ibu (1953), Siapa Salah (1953), Bakti (1955), Abu Hassan Penchuri (1955), Kanchan Tirana (1955), Melanchong ke Tokyo (1964), Sitora Harimau Jadian (1964), Dajal Suchi (1965), Ahmad Albab (1968), Gerimis (1968), Bukan Salah Ibu Mengandung (1969), Di Belakang Tabir (1969), Enam Jahanam (1969), Doktor Rushdi (1970), Gelora (1970), Jangan Tinggal Daku (1971), Putus Sudah Kaseh Sayang (1971) ...

If this entry looks more like a filmography than anything else, I guess it is.

Pantun Melayu: Dulu ...

Dulu dah dok kampong,
     La ni dok bandaq;
Dulu dok bawah tempughong,
     La ni dok dalam sangkaq.

Dulu oghang lain,
     La ni oghang luaq;
Dulu oghang pakai kain,
     La ni oghang pakai seluaq.

Dipetik dari Tunggu Padi Jemoq; Serangkaian Pantun Kedah
Dikumpulkan oleh Ramli M.I., Editor Umum Muhammad Haji Salleh
Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia (2006). Ex Libris CNB 1541