Monday, 27 December 2010

When He Was 64

My late father was born in 1922. He chose the date 4.4.44 to marry my mother. He was still only  a few months shy of 22. My mom was then only 17.

By the time he was 40, going on 41, they already had 9 children. Mom was just 35, 36. The gynae suggested that she had her tubes tied, to which she agreed. Otherwise there might have been 3 or 4 more of us.

The years passed, we finished our schooling. Dad made sure we all went through tertiary education, and got decent jobs and.... got married. By the time he was 64 and Mom 59 they've already had 15 or so grandchildren, and my youngest sister 23 years old.

Year: 1986

So I guess they could breathe easier with everyone grown up.

I am 57 now and if I get to see 64 my youngest would be 25 years old. No more school uniforms to be bought, even since last year for that matter.

It's just that I have a couple of 64, 65 year-old friends, albeit on Facebook, who still have teenagers running around them. And they are not the grandchildren.

These coots look youngish and spritely though. I'm just wondering whether they treat their young children as children, or grandchildren... because these daddies are old enough to be grandfathers anyhow.

I remember my own maternal grandfather had 3 little girls in his sixties when he re-married after my grandmother passed away. They were very much younger than me and I think he doted on them  as he did us, his grandchildren.

Usually grandchildren get away with things that would definitely be frowned upon by the parents.

Like peeing on grandpa

This is my nephew Rez
Or punching him in the eye

This is Amin

If my father were still alive, he would be 88 and probably enjoying his 31 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren like Mom is now. He passed away at the age of 71 with 9 additional grandchildren. May Allah bless his soul and place him among the righteous.


Friday, 17 December 2010

Just A Post

There is "NOT" and there is "DOG"

Put the two together and you get


There is "TON" and there is "GOD"

Put the two together and you get



pronounced as TOW-NGOD

So what is TONGOD?

A junior Medical Officer in Sabah might know.

Is it a disease? Or what?


AHA!!! It is a PLACE.

A very small town, if you can call it such.

Or just a post.

Population: seems like very few

The "pekan" consisting of a row of about 10 shops.

The MP must have done his job well - there is electricity - notice the street lamps.

And a Kelinik Kesihatan...

With staff quarters!

My son Amin the MO, just out of housemanship, says he is very happy to be posted here.

TONGOD, smack in the centre of  Sabah - 2 hours from Sandakan by proper road (not dirt track). 

Again, Good Job, MP!

Are those telephone lines? But whatever, MAXIS connection is ultra loud and clear.

Here is a map of Sabah. Tongod is not even shown but it is 50km away from the nearest civilisation which is Telupid.

 Go for it Amin. Serve the villagers here sincerely and professionally.

You won't regret it, Insya Allah...

Dr Amin

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Up Terengganu Way

This time last year when we drove home from a short holiday in Terengganu, we took the less popular jungle route that passes through the new township of Bandar Al Muktafi Billah Shah. I remember that this route was not very well maintained some stretches of which were clearly marked as dangerous. Our GPS very frequently warned us about school zones, hence to slow down. I lamented about the yet to be completed Terengganu section of the new East Coast Expressway (ECE).

Last weekend we had occasion to be in Kuala Terengganu (KT) again and this time we returned via the more scenic coastal road; the expressway still uncompleted. This route takes us through the more developed areas of Terengganu which naturally offer more pit-stop possibilities than the other one. However, as soon as we entered the district of Dungun, we had to contend with endless traffic light intersections from Bukit Baok all the way to Kemaman near the Pahang border. I counted altogether not less than 23 such junctions, which make for a very slow drive indeed. It took us 7 hours from KT inclusive of a Kopi O and Roti Kaya break at the famous Kedai Kopi Hai Peng in Kemaman, and a prayer break at Gambang R&R. The drive on the ECE portion from Gambang to Subang was a mere 2 hours only.

Next May school-holidays we'll be making the trip again. I wonder if the Terengganu section of the ECE will be completed by then. I hope so but then again I don't think so. It'll be yet another super long tiring drive but one which we will have to make. My no. 3, Adeen aka Amal the airline pilot, will be getting married then.

Last weekend he and his sweetheart, Cikgu Akma, were engaged.



Friday, 26 November 2010


Without realising it, I think we have struck oil - in my household that is.

We have oils in the kitchen, oils in the bathroom, oils in the bedroom.

In my kitchen pantry I have our regular cooking oil - Malaysian palm, almost always Seri Murni, sometimes Knife brand. There's  Beta-Carotina Oil which hubby sometimes mixes with his budu as a salad dressing. I use it occasionally to saute diced tempeh which I snack on. Mostly I use olive oil for this, I love the "lemak" flavour of tempeh after being sauted with extra virgin olive oil.

There's also toasted sesame oil. I only use it in my recipe for Ginger Beef which is a family favourite. When my daughter cooks her fusion Spaghetti Bolognaise she drops a teeny bit of it in the sauce which she has also had sauteed some dried chillies.

And then there's a small bottle of virgin coconut oil which I used to swallow a teaspoon of every night before dinner, but I can't remember what for.

You can also find the untoasted sesame oil in my bathroom. I had read that sesame oil is effective as a medium for oil-pulling. That is you use it is as a kind of gargle to detoxify your mouth and teeth with. Some people swear by it. You can read about it here.

I see a small bottle of oil with a picture of an Indian lady on the label. I'm not sure how long it has been there but I don't think I have ever used it as it smells a little rancid. Will be chucking it out soon.

Let's see what else is there. AHA! My favourite massage oil - also that of my masseuse. Based on sunflower oil, it is transparent and has floral overtones, obviously. My masseuse used to smother himself with this every time he stepped into the sauna until someone else said that the oil can cook your skin in the heat of the sauna. Now he uses Vaseline instead and I don't think he can scratch a line on his arm with his nail any longer.

On my cluttered dressing-table in the bedroom, there is an unopened bottle of nutmeg oil, also unopened is a bottle of ginger oil. These are purportedly for joint aches and pains, which I am happy to report we have not had to use to date.

Did I say I have virgin coconut oil (VCO) in my pantry? Well I also have some on my dressing table. Lately I have taken to use this oil quite liberally. It is excellent as a facial moisturiser. After rubbing my face with it, I run my fingers through my crowning glory leaving the traces of oil there which makes it easier to brush. It leaves a shine too and black looks even blacker.. hehehe.

I apply VCO on my feet as well when they feel dry and ravaged, in fact you can use it on any dry patch that you might have and it's incredible how nice and soft the area feels after. It's a really marvelous oil but it has to be virgin pressed and you need to get a good quality brand.

So those are the oils I have around my house. What's absent is the aromatherapy ones. Perhaps I'll get one to make the bedroom smell nice after the nightly onslaught of Shieldtox spray. Maybe then I might go to bed earlier than my usual time.

Anyhow, if anyone's interested I've copied-pasted here the Earth Clinic page about VCO. It seems to be some kind of miracle oil and I guess that was why I took to drinking that nightly teaspoon.

"We found the following information from various sources over the internet:
You can take coconut oil both internally and externally. Those who are proponents of this cure do both. The typical amount to take internally per day is 3 TBSP. It is recommended that you take 1 TBSP with every meal. Coconut Oil apparently gives an instantaneous energy lift and may help you give up caffeine! Many sports nutrition bars and drinks include coconut oil for its energizing properties.
Warning: Coconut Oil is contraindicated for those with hypertension / high blood pressure! But if you suffer from low blood pressure, this is a great remedy for you.
Lots of research has been done on the subject of Fatty Acids and Monogycerides (found in coconut oil). Some of the reported cures from research are:
WEIGHT LOSS:Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate. Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats. Helps prevent obesity and overweight problems.
Applied topically, helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward off infection; Reduces symptoms associated with psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis; Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin; Softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking; Prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots; Promotes healthy looking hair and complexion; Provides protection from damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation form the sun.; Helps control dandruff.

Studies have found that coconut oil can kill viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other illnesses. It also kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, and other diseases; Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections; Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites;

Coconut oil may provide an effective defense against many parasites including giardia. Like bacteria and fungi, giardia can't stand up against MCFA found in coconut oil. Research has confirmed the effectiveness of MCFA in destroying giardia and possibly other protozoa. By using coconut oil every day, you may be able to destroy giardia. Another possible use for coconut is for the removal of intestinal worms. In India it has traditionally been used to get rid of tapeworms. In one study it was reported that treatment with dried coconut, followed by magnesium sulfate (a laxative), caused ninety percent parasite expulsion after twelve hours. In India coconut oil is also rubbed into the scalp as a treatment to remove head lice.
CHRONIC FATIGUEBy taking coconut oil daily, you may also be eliminating the possibility of developing food allergies, chronic fatigue, and other related symptoms. If you're currently troubled with these conditions, coconut oil used liberally with meals may provide a source of relief. Because MCFA are quickly absorbed by the tissues and converted into energy it seems logical that those suffering from chronic fatigue would gain a great deal of benefit.
DIGESTION:Coconut Oil provides a nutritional source of quick energy; Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance; Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids; Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose; Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body; Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis; Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes;
Coconut Oil reduces problems associated with malabsorption syndrome and cystic fibrosis; Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth; Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease; Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers; Improves digestion and bowel function; Relieves pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids; Reduces inflammation. Supports tissue healing and repair; Functions as a protective antioxidant; Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease; Helps relieve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome; Relieves symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement); Reduces epileptic seizures; Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections; Dissolves kidney stones; Helps prevent liver disease; Supports thyroid function;

CANCER:Helps protect the body from breast, colon, and other cancers;
HEART:Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease; Protects arteries from injury that causes atherosclerosis and thus protects against heart disease;
Helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay.

COCONUT OIL FOR POOR CIRCULATIONDo you feel cold much of the time? You might try coconut oil, which is said to increase body temperature (and blood pressure). This is due to increased metabolic rate as medium-chain fatty acids of the coconut oil are burned.
CURE FOR ATHLETE'S FEETThe 8% caprylic acid in coconut oil is said to be effective against fungus, and on skin conditions like planter's warts and athlete's foot.
Used externally and internally, we read one report on the internet of a 15-year bout of rosacea clearing up within 2 weeks with Coconut Oil!"


Friday, 12 November 2010

Homicide. Suicide or Misadventure?

Check out this story of a bizarre death from whose "macabre awards commemorate people who eliminate themselves from the gene pool by masterminding idiotic misadventures"



At the 1994 annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, AAFS, President Dr. Don Harper Mills astounded his audience with the legal complications of a bizarre death. Here is the story:

On March 23,1994 the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head. Mr. Opus had jumped from the top of a ten story building intending to commit suicide. He left a note to that effect, indicating his despondency. As he fell past the ninth floor his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing through a window which killed him instantly.

Neither the shooter nor the descender was aware that a safety net had been installed just below at the eighth floor level to protect some building workers and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide the way he had planned.

"Ordinarily," Dr. Mills continued, "a person who sets out to commit suicide and ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be what he intended, is still defined as committing suicide."

That Mr. Opus was shot on the way to certain death, but probably would not have been successful because of the safety net, caused the medical examiner to feel that he had a homicide on his hands. 

The room on the ninth floor, whence the shotgun blast emanated, was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing vigorously and he was threatening her with a shotgun. The man was so upset that when he pulled the trigger he completely missed his wife and the pellets went through the window, striking Mr. Opus.

When one intends to kill subject A but kills subject B in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject B. 

When confronted with the murder charge the old man and his wife were both adamant. They both said they thought the shotgun was unloaded. Thed old man said it was his long-standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her. Therefore the killing of Mr. Opus appeared to be an accident; that is, the gun had been accidentally loaded.

The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the shotgun about six weeks prior to the fatal accident. It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot his mother. 

The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

Now comes the exquisite twist. 

Further investigation revealed that the son was, in fact, Ronald Opus!

He had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump off the ten story building on March 23rd, only to be killed by a shotgun blast passing through the ninth story window. 

The son had actually murdered himself so the medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.


To think that the poor old man could have ended up actually killing his wife with the loaded gun, had this not happened

Thursday, 28 October 2010

This Is About Nothing

Zero means nothing, and nothing is no thing. You can't count nothing because there's no thing to count. Cavemen didn't need to count much so they got by by scratching a few short vertical lines on cave walls to do their additions and subtractions.  Later on men realised the enormity of having to count lines and so they devised numerals to denote quantities. I would guess that most ancient civilisations used groups of 10 as their counting base, as per the number of fingers on a man's hand.

The Mayans however used 20 as their grouping factor - perhaps they were nimble with their toes as well. Imagine if we had 20 different numerals in our numbering system, we would have learnt to sing "One little, two little...... TWENTY little Mayan boys" in our toddlerhood. And that might not be a bad thing, perhaps we would have started using a lot more of our brains early in life. Also, if grouped in twenties, number symbols won't be repeated as often as groups of ten, so if you are 50 plus of age as I am, in a base of twenty, 50 would be only 25.

It is said that the Mayans were the first to see the need for a symbol to denote zero. It is shaped like an eye. In fact it is interesting how the Mayans represented numbers, with dots and bars.


The Arabs however took the bars and placed them vertically, diagonally, horizontally and with a couple of round shapes, designed their numerals. I think their representation of zero is the most efficient. You see, if you need to symbolize nothingness, a void, you'd use something that takes up no space, wouldn't you? Why not a little dot? And that is exactly what the Arabs have used, and I think that's brilliant.


Unfortunately, although modern civilisation adopted the Arabic numbering system, the numerals themselves did not catch on. Westerners probably did not like the squiggly look of Arabic script including it's right-to-left orientation (but numbers are written from left to right). But they liked how the Indians symbolised zero. If you look at Hindi and Tamil scripts, you can see how curly-wurly the writing is. Yes, it seems that they have taken the Arabic dot and extended it into a little circurl which was subsequently adopted by the West.

The Chinese however have nothing round in their characters from my observations, they are mainly lines fashioned into mini pictures that fit into square boxes.


Although it sounds pretty cute - "ling", the character for zero looks complicated.

I would reckon doing maths with pictures can get tedious and I suspect that's why the Chinese too are now using the Arabic numbering system. Combined with their skills on the abacus it was hard to beat the Chinese at arithmetics in my day.

Sometimes I just wonder at how different races developed their scripts those long years ago. To a certain extent the styles seem to reflect the way they sound too - most obvious is the Indian roly-poly pronunciation that kind of corresponds with the curly-wurly letters. You'd probably be able to imagine Arabic guttural staccato emanating from their squigglies. And It's not too difficult to associate Chinese sing-song style with the swishy lines of their boxed-in characters - which perhaps also account for the difficulty with rolling their R's.

We Malays have no script to call our own, being accommodating by nature, we use what is plonked upon us by whoever had conquered us. It shows when we speak Malay to a non-native speaker, we tend to pick up the way they sound and speak in the same manner. For example using "lu" and "gua" with a Chinese, or saying "kaloo" instead of "kalau" with a Tamil, even with Indonesians we would go "bagimanaa ini Pak" instead of "macam maner ni" as is usual.

Interestingly though when I was shopping in Singapore one day in the ninety's, a Malay promoter named Yati told me about a "jeeloh" percent interest on something or other in thick Chinese accent. "Jeeloh"? I asked. "Yes, worr.." said she.

I must have looked very much like an Ah Soh.

Oh yes, about zeroes. We have taken them for granted after centuries of use but think how awkward it would be had the Roman empire not implode and we would have to calculate with  letters - and no zero. 10 is X. 50 is L. 100 is C. 1000 is M.

How would we ever write a cheque for Rm1.7 trillion?

How would we even show Zero percent?

Though Zero is nothing it's still a big deal.

Monday, 25 October 2010

It's a Puzzling Post

It begins with three of us, hubby, Munie and I going back to Taman Arboratum in the Kiara hills yesterday morning - after a 6-month hiatus.

Noticed that a few new signboards had been put up along the tarmac path.

The first says that the park is now under the purview of the National Department of Landscapes.

That was since 1st August 2010. Good news indeed and about time too.

This place was slated for a luxury hillside residential development and is nestled between the Taman Tun Dato' Ismail Recreational Park and the sprawling KLGCC Golf Course.

It would have been a very desirable address to live in and to coolly mention to the curious.

Although roads and drainage are  already in place,  nature lovers of TTDI and the surrounds have managed to stop the project.

Yesterday in full throng, exercisers descended on this place and then ascended the sometimes steep inclines for a vigorous workout.

Hubby did three and a half circuits, Munie two.

I cheated and went the opposite direction which is mainly downhill for one round.

Still  huffed and puffed in places and worked up a sweat.

They had erected a signboard where Sg. Pencala originates and also one  further downstream cautioning people about polluting the stream or introducing aquatic animals there.

Came across this flower in full bloom. Am hopeless where flora is concerned and have no inkling what it is.

Bumped into a friend... Suzy, and exchanged pleasantries.

I took the "strolling" theme further by finishing my single round and then buying the Sunday papers at the end of the trek.

I plonked on the seller's plastic stool to read while waiting for the other two to be done with their masochistic acts.

And there I undertook my own route for pleasurable pain - the CRYPTIC crossword puzzle!

Years ago, before marriage and baggage, I used to tackle the one in the New Straits Times.

It was taken from the Daily Telegraph and was of course British-oriented with clues that refer to very British icons like the Queen, their political parties, the British Rail, or the Tube, or even plain tea.

But the one in the Sunday Star is on general knowledge and you can almost always find the answers in the clues themselves.

That's what makes cryptic crosswords so enjoyable. rather than the straightforward ones for which you must possess a wide vocabulary or a Roget's Thesaurus at hand.

Take this cryptic clue:

Further chaos in Laos (4 letters)

I bet word pundits like those I have on Facebook will instantly spot the answer to be the word "ALSO".

It has nothing to do with  Laos the country, except the letters.

"chaos"  indicates a jumbling up of the letters that make up the answer. If you re-arrange the letters L.A.O.S, you get "ALSO" which is a synonym of "further" which is the answer.

Here's another one:

He could be in Madrid and Paris at the same time (8 letters)

The answer is neither a super-hero nor a cartoon character. Since Madrid is in Spain, the clue may be referring to a Senor, but if you can spot that "and Paris" is an anagram of "Spaniard", then you can be 99% sure that that is the correct answer.

Fun isn't it?

Anyway, those were the only two clues I managed to solve while waiting for my super-heroes.

How about this one?

Is afraid of disturbing adders (6)

(I'm not giving the answer)

Actually none in my family have taken to crossword puzzles like I have.

I'm also the only one who enjoys diabolical Sudoku.

Am I nerdy or what?

Sudoku was very popular when it first came out.

Although it has nothing to do with calculating anything, some people are put off by the numbers in the puzzle.

Actually it's just about  pattern recognition - and putting symbols in their rightful places.

The reason the puzzle designer used numbers in the first place is probably because everyone knows them and thus will have universal appeal.

Speaking of numbers, when I first went to school, they taught me to say

Nought, One, Two, Three, Four, Five....

Then Nought became Oh as in "Agent Double Oh Seven" or "Peejot (Peugeot) Five Oh Five".

Was it in Form Four when Oh evolved into Zero with maths teacher droning "when dee y dee x tends to Zero... ba,bla,bla...".

Now they tell me zero is not a number... it is a concept, and you can go from zero to hero!

OK... I'm not sure what this posting is about. Hence the title.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


The paths of least resistance are fraught with toll plazas.

If you live where I do, tolls are a pain in the purse. You become adept at seeking routes that avoid them, often as the situation presents itself, unless of course you ride a motorbike, because you get free passage through these plazas, even if you are a rich Singaporean and ride one of those SUPER bikes..

And that's why sometimes, especially in the wedding season, you see convoys of kapchai bikes conquering the lanes of these tolled expressways, reducing them to paths of havoc and danger. When approaching these swarms, you carefully overtake them but still keep an eye on the mirrors in case someone decides to make a go at becoming the leader of the pack and overtakes everbody, including yourself, at top speed.

Once while driving on the fast lane I saw a rider speeding on the road shoulder simultaneously talking with his pal who was on another motorbike on the slow lane, both of then not noticing a car parked a few yards ahead. The inevitable happened; he was flung 10 feet into the air, his friend skidded on the road. We drove on, somewhat traumatised by the scene, me thinking about their mothers... and also that had we been a few minutes later we might have gotten stuck in the ensuing jam.

Yup, sometimes I'm nasty that way.

We would expect roads we pay to use to be relatively safe and the traffic smooth-flowing. But there had been  countless times in my experience where traffic basically came to a standstill - on the fast lane. Most often on the inter-city expressways these are due to accidents, be they major or minor.

However on those that criss-cross the Klang Valley, a crawl can be due to no reason at all - just  a humongous build-up of traffic - especially on Friday evenings. But some people still pay these dreadfully expensive toll charges because doing the "normal" roads is even more exasperating.

To get to my housing area in USJ Subang Jaya, if you come from the Ampang side you pay a total of RM4.40 at two toll plazes on the KESAS. If from Kampong Pandan or Bukit Bintang, you may want to get on the MEX and then join the KESAS at Bukit Jalil. You'll have to pay an extra RM1.50 though on top of the RM4.40.

From the Damasara/TTDI area you use the LDP and exit at Sunway without paying toll and then join the Kewajipan mandatory jam. Or you can proceed further, pay RM1.60 before joining the KESAS and paying a further RM2.20, for an earlier arrival.

If from KL Jalan TAR area, you can make your way to the NPE in Bangsar, pay RM1.60 each at two toll plazas, exit at the Sunway Pyramid and join the *Kewajipan mandatory jam. Or you could exit on the LDP and then join KESAS as above.

From Damansara Heights or Kiara, you can use the Kerinchi Link - pay RM1.50 - then proceed to the NPE via Jalan Gasing PJ and pay RM1.60 at the Subang Jaya toll plaza and then decide whether to join Kewajipan and its crawl or use LDP and KESAS.

From Shah Alam you pay RM1.00 on the Federal Highway or.. surprise, surprise... nothing on the KESAS. But from Klang and Banting, you'll have to pay a certain amount near the Jalan Kebun exit.

As you can see, the charges are exhorbitant. Many brave the jams each morning and evening sacrificing a few hours of time to save about RM200 every month.

But for me as a retiree and not having to commute on a daily basis, I figure spending some ringgit on tolls do not make me any less poorer than I am, or make me any richer... when I do not spend.

No resistance from me on using the paths of least resistance.

But I do have to submit to the **Summit choke-up each time I venture out of my haven.

* Kewajipan - is the road in Subang Jaya notorious for it's jams - they say "wajib jam" (jam is mandatory)
** Summit - the road opposite the Summit Hotel on Jalan Kewajipan where the jam for outgoing traffic is at it's summit, so to speak

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Culture Overload

I may be wrong but it seems to me that other than the occasional exchanges by Facebookers (where I live now), pantuns are used only at Malay wedding receptions. By that I mean they are not heard at Chinese or Indian or Punjabi or even Mamak/Mami weddings.  I mean, isn't that not a shame because even with this One-Malaysia and Bahasa Rasmi Kebangsaan jazzmatazz and all the public exams being in Malay, pantuns are never ever recited in speeches at non-Malay weddings.

I must admit I hadn't been invited to that many but on those occasions that I had and attended, I counted myself lucky to hear a cursory  "Salam Sejahtera"  and "Selamat Malam". How come that we can pepper English quotations and proverbs into everyday speak so seamlessly like pieces-a-cake, but not be able to use a little bit of  the official language at family functions and gatherings? 

Dari mana punai melayang
Dari sawah turun ke padi
Dari mana datangnya sayang
Dari mata turun ke hati

That's my pantun for this blog entry (in case I get accused of being the pot calling the kettle black).

As per the pantun above, it's saying that when the attraction has moved from the eyes to the heart, we get a situation called "love" (sayang). And if the stars and planets in the heavens above are aligned in the right constellation, the situation might end in a marriage between the love-struck pair, God-willing. In most cases  a marriage is preceded by an engagement ceremony where the wedding date is formally agreed upon, also the gifts and expenses.

Berapa tinggi pucuk pisang
Tinggi lagi asap api
Berapa tinggi Gunung Ledang
Tinggi lagi harap kami

The engagement period can be from a few months to as long as a year, but the shortest I have witnessed is ONE HOUR! This happened recently at a charming wedding ceremony I was invited to. The bride is still studying overseas and is on her summer break whilst the groom fresh out of university. Although it was just a formality prior to the actual wedding that took place a while later, it gave the MC of the day the opportunity to show off his amazing repertoire of engagement pantuns - which was why the engagement was one-hour long, come to think of it.

In fact both the engagement and the wedding ceremonies went flawlessly at the hands of this MC. A lawyer by profession, he undertook to represent both parties, the bride as well as the groom (at his job he probably is involved in  Property Sales and Purchase), reciting pantuns on behalf of one and then the other. Honestly neither party had to say anything at all save for the groom's spokesman stating their intention "niat kami dipertandakan dengan seutas cincin ini buat Cik Gegirl" for the engagement. As the cameras flashed while the groom's mother put the ring on Gegirl's finger, Mr MC went about his pantun recitations.

Daun selasih daun semulih
Pohon pinang jambatan mandi
Mari kita bertambat kasih
Kasih ku pinang mengikat janji

The Tok Kadi (religious officer) then arrived and proceeded with the Khutbah Nikah (Wedding Sermon) at the invitation of Mr MC. It wasn't a long one since the Kadi had another wedding to officiate, and to make matters go like clockwork, the groom got his lafaz nikah (verbal statement/pledge) right the first time. When the formalities were over and with bride and groom doing and re-doing their pengantin (newly-weds) rituals for the cameras, Mr MC recited more and more pantuns.

Ikan di laut asam di darat
Dalam kuali bertemu jua
Hati terpaut janji diikat
Atas pelamin bertemu jua
Orang jauh dikenang-kenang
Hanya terkenang pada yang satu
Mula berkenal kemudian bertunang
Diatas pelamin sama bersatu
Panas kering siapakan tahu
Hujan rintik di daun pandan
Berjalan seiring bersentuh bahu
Sama cantik sama padan
Tuan puteri tersenyum-senyum
Melihat laksamana bermain rodat
Senyum-senyum jangan tak senyum
Sudah sempurna segala adat
Pergi berzanji di pekan pagoh
Beli sekati ikan senohong
Sudah berjanji bersetia tegoh
Jangan dimungkiri bercakap bohong
Dengarlah ini ayah berpesan
Anak menantu, ayah ingatkan
Berkasih sayang sesama insan
Jangan cepat menjadi bosan
Di malam hari terang senegeri
Bulan purnama dihujung julai
Majlis gahari bertambah seri
Menyambut kedatangan kedua mempelai
Amat garang datuk bentara
Musuh melanggar habis dibenam
Dulu seorang kini berdua
Hidup bersama susah senang

Yes indeed it was a well-orchestrated ceremony, simple, no hitches, no long-winded speeches, no gaffes, no stammers, stutters, no jokes, just seemingly endless pantuns. To Boboy and Gegirl, yours is the wedding I will remember for a long time, semoga bahagia hingga ke anak cucu (may you be blessed with happiness even when you have grandchildren). As in the words of Saloma's evergreen:

Semoga berpanjangan
Semoga berkekalan
Semoga satu tujuan
Semoga aman

Hidup mestilah kukuh
Sabar paling perlu
Cinta setiap hari
Senyum mesti selalu

Malaysians of other races when considering using pantuns,  just two or three should do nicely. Otherwise it can be an overkill.... a culture overload.

Angin barat gelombang utara,
Tinggi petak dari ruang;
Jangan diharap semacam saya,
Budi tiada bahasa pun kurang

oooops.... I had meant to use only one pantun

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Let The Sun Shine In

Like all good Muslim households in Malaysia, be it in the towns, kampongs or in the sprawling surburbia of the Klang Valley, come end of Ramadhan we start sprucing up our homes for the Raya or Eid celebrations.

It's mainly because during Raya we would be receiving little guests and the not-so-little yet-to-be-employed guests who have come to collect their little gift-packets of money.

But more importantly we would be welcoming guests who have come to wish us peace and ask forgiveness for past incursions. It is a beautiful thing really, as this act of forgiving is almost always mutually rendered.

So we tidy up the house or even give it a paint job because at least if the house is clean and pretty, we will be actually preventing our guests from committing another wrong: that of their hearts whispering negatives about our house maintenance.

We want to lay out our best tablecloths and china for them and serve them good wholesome Raya dishes too, we honour them so their hearts whisper positives about our hospitality.

This mutual forgiving seems to be the practice at Hari Raya in this part of the world and which can be somewhat cleansing too... spiritually, depending on one's sincerity of course.

Like yesterday, when I was having all the drapes in the living-room laundered, that "heart" of the house (according to Feng Shui) looked so cheery with the sunshine flooding in and the gentle breezes wafting through, I didn't feel like having the curtains hung up again.

And I began to think, that's just how our own hearts are. We clothe our bodies as appropriate, but if we still veil our hearts, Ramadhan "cleansing" becomes superficial, just on the outside, the practices just rituals, maybe we had just chalked up "brownie points" for going through the motions only, for the quantity but not the quality.

Actually I meant "me", not you... because I know most of the time my heart needs to be aired, needs to be de-veiled, needs to be dusted and cleansed....  so that the light may shine through

That light that brightens our hearts, that make us reachable, and teachable, accepting, and forgiving, etc.

The light that cleanses...

But how?

That is the question.

Let the sun shine in. De-veil. Or be-deviled.

To all Muslims
Eid Mubarak, Selamat Hari Raya, Mohon Maaf Zahir dan Batin

Friday, 20 August 2010

Of Mutants and Agents

Remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Well, they were GOOD mutants, weren't they?

We all know that turtles become slow beings when they reach turtle-adulthood, and even when they are in their turtle-teens, they would have slowed down alot from when they were turtle-babies.

So how could they have become fast-moving ninjas fighting urban crime, alien invaders etc.?

Well, what happened was some part of the DNA in their cells mutated.

Changed in form, that is.

So what is DNA? Well, I haven't seen it for myself really but they say it's something in our cells that looks like a spiral staircase. Somehow this spiral entity stores all the information - the genes -  that defines each one of us as a creation of God.

I have straight hair because that's written in my DNA - I have the straight-hair gene.  I will have wavy hair only if the straight-hair gene mutates into a wavy-hair gene. Which can't be bad if I have the face to go with it but it doesn't really matter much either.

Mutation can be good however, in particular when it helps the mutant cope with his environments eg. colder winter temperatures, or thinner air or even life in the New York sewers, for the ninja turtles.

Sometimes though mutation can be bad. This happens when the body does not adapt well to the change and may then become susceptible to serious diseases, like cancer.

Remember the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And the Chernobyl nuclear fall-out? The radio-active material from these blasts caused mutations on a mega scale.

But please do not think that we are safe from such hazards.

Mutations can also take place without us knowing.

Sometimes substances present in what we consume can cause genetic mutation.

Like undercover agents, these substances work invisibly as agents of mutation. They are called mutagenic substances. They cause genes to mutate.

So if we consume substances that are mutagenic, they may cause mutation in certain genes that have already adapted well to our body chemistry.

Oh yes, CANCER. The big C.

We have heard of carcinogens, haven't we? Those substances that can cause cancer?

They are in fact agents of cancer. Nicotine in cigarette smoke is an example.

Interestingly there are hard-core smokers who live well into their nineties without getting cancer. I believe it's because they have genes that have adapted to the smoky, tarry environment within their lungs. And I believe that they are the exceptions to the norm.

And I believe for many smokers, this protective gene(s), in the course of time mutate, due to the actions of certain mutagens in the body which are present by way of exposure to or consumption of mutagenic substances...

...which results in the body becoming susceptible to the carcinogens in cigarette smoke which is when the smoker may contract cancer.

What should be good for such smokers then (and also for the unfortunate people exposed to secondary smoke) is to consume agents that can PREVENT the mutation of their protective genes, so-called  ANTI-mutagenic substances.

Apparently, anti-mutagens exist. Take Japan, it is a nation of heavy smokers but it has one of the lowest rate of cancer occurrence in the world. (And the most ninjas?)

Anyway that, is my over-simplistic layman understanding of mutagens, carcinogens and anti-mutagens.

And why do I find them interesting?

It's because in the course of my looking-up on sirih (betel-leaf in English) for my previous post, I came across a  blog run by a Malaysian herbalist, it's called Sembang-sembang Herba.  The herbalist had argued that both sirih and it's accompaniment pinang (areca-nut) DO NOT cause cancer as is widely believed, based on their anti-mutagenic and non-carcinogenic properties.

Do go there, have a read and you'll learn that sirih and pinang are in fact anti-ageing too - just short of being aphrodisiacs. You'll learn an age-old secret or two there as well.

Another thing I came across is that the Burmese word for sirih is kunya and isn't it surprising that that is also the Malay word for "chew", chewing being the only way to enjoy sirih!

As to the query whether there is anything for women that works also on men, below is an excerpt of an article, also by the same herbalist.

"Herbs Suitable for Women may be Disastrous for Men

For men only.

Use the following herbs with cautions:

Stop taking them if you notice sign of breast enlargement: Saw Palmetto (anti-androgen), Fennel , Aniseed , Kacip Fatimah, Fenugreek, Licorice, Yucca, Pomegranate, and Red Clover .

However, not all herbs, commonly taken as food which contain estrogenic phytochemicals bring about breast enlargement effects (in both sexes) including banana, tomato, pomegranate, fenugreek, parsley, carrot, dill, onion, garlic, alfalfa, mungbean, oregano, fennel, aniseed, grapefruit, tarragon, soy."

OK, you may read further here

It was my hubby Red Alfa who made the above query, as he had discovered to his detriment how painful it was to over-indulge on soy-based protein supplements.

Back in the days (circa 2003) when he had just started bench-pressing in our bedroom, drinking protein supplements was part of his regime. Most sold on the market were whey-based, which he couldn't handle due to lactose intolerance which comes with having javanese roots and  by virtue of which soy would be a natural choice, so we thought.

And so he bought soya protein  at the pharmacist's a carton at a time and consumed them with relish.

But it was only when he started getting headaches akin to PMS migraines which made him demand a head scan at the hospital which revealed nothing, that we came across some information on the internet about the pre-cursors of estrogen that are present in soya that had affected him. Estrogen are female hormones and a true man wouldn't want to mess up his system with them. Fortunately they had only given him headaches and a new respect for women who suffer them. I'm not sure though whether any genes had mutated.

But tauhu, tempeh, and taucho do not have the same effect because of the fermentation process that the soya beans have been subjected to produce them. So it was a lesson learnt the painful way for hubby, who still has this habit of experimenting much too whole-heartedly with foodstuffs until they become "poisonous" to his body. Like eating menglembu groundnuts (read protein) by the packets every night after dinner until his gout played up. Or drinking UHT milk by the jugs until a trainer at the gym commented on his belly saying "AHA! YOU HAVE BEEN DRINKING MILK!" And now experimenting with mixing vegetable and fruit juices into yogurt and milk - and he seems to be tolerating that so far.

Here and here is where you can read up on the unwanted effects of soya - the question of which is an on-going controversy in the West actually.

Thanks for making it till the end of this post, do have a good weekend and for Muslims, it's the next 10 days before the last 10 days of Ramadhan, may it be good for you, Insya Allah.