Friday, 28 November 2008

Blasphemous Oxymorons

I’m a fairly recent convert to green tea courtesy of a fine sampling during a trip to Japan sometime ago.

Not really a connoisseur, I don’t brew my own tea leaves etc and depends mostly on generic offerings of the main tea producers.

naturalNormally, I would go for “plain” type but a last shopping trip saw me pick up a “jasmine” variation, and sure enough: it simply doesn’t work for my taste buds.

The best thing about green tea is that it would never taste bitter no matter how long you have it in the cup or mug, which was not – disappointingly - so with the jasmine green tea I bought.

As such I’ve had to time how long the tea sachets stays in my Friends’, “Rachel” sized cup.

Supposedly green tea helps to detoxify your system, but this I wouldn’t really know or care enough to look into, as I just like its natural scent and taste.

Detoxification refers to the process of removing toxins from the body, although I believe its more of a mind thing where you just believe in the need for an external element when the body has already in-built biological system to deal with it.

Perhaps its just a sign of times and the realisation of how much alien ingredient we are pumping into ourselves helping to popularise this concept.

We now want to know what these items are and where they are from. Ie. its very source.

In Islam, the question on "source" is very important, hence the existence of the Quran and hadiths in providing guidance even as cleric hold discourses on items – new and old – that concerns the Ummah at large.

As such, Halal (permissible) is a concept that applies not only to the food and drinks we consume but also the resources used to get these items in the first place.

It’s certainly a huge issue that confronts modern muslims and hence the somewhat vapid attention to ingredients in items consumed, for example, and the firm adherence to earning an honest living.

Rezeki yang halal, as the saying goes. Quantum hardly matters really.

(And since we couldn’t really be 100 percent sure, we seek forgiveness for any slipups in our prayers. But, of course, there must be ample effort on our part, too.)

Could this be all that is wrong and besetting the biggest party in the country; aka the so-called money politics?

Ever so discreetCould it be that the body (the party) is too pumped up with all that is not-so-halal there is simply no detoxifying it anymore?

All those years of handing out small and big tokens – mostly in the form of “duit kopi” or “beda isi minyak” - for support etc are now sedimentation no longer flushable.

Star columnist Azmi Sharom wrote: “It’s the kind of thinking that creates some horrible everyday blasphemies like people muttering “halal, ya?” after they accept a bribe.”

Azmi is probably writing from personal experience.

To ordinary Malay Muslims, the "halal, ya?” (or “mintak halal”) are often requests to set aside lack of small change in money, or uninformed consumption of a host’s food items.

Things like that.

“Halal, ya?” for bribes is just as oxymoronic as "Halal Pork".

You’d need a lot more than just green tea to detox such blasphemy.

Bribery - Lawson Wood (1878 - 1957)

Never do this

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Meaty Discourse: second take

The headlines were screaming loud today in the English dailies.

Star and Sun: “Yoga Fatwa on Hold” while NST went with “Fatwa on Yoga – Consult the Rulers first”.

The two main newspapers in Bahasa Malaysia are pretty subdued on the matter.

If you wish, read up Sun’s take on the subject in the main news as well as its columnist for the day .

Remember: with open mind. Don't go ballistic unless warranted.

Two things come to mind when you read through these news articles:

i. the National Fatwa Council is bound by Constitutional jurisdictions in the implementation of edicts, and

ii. the issue is only of concern to the so-called liberal, English speaking and using Muslim cross section;

The first point is the more interesting as it points to a two-tier syetems: an issuance of edict by the Federal National Fatwa Council, and then implementation by the State Fatwa Committee.

Implementation in the respective State is following the Royal Assent from their respective Rulers before it can be gazzetted.

What happens if the State doesn’t agree with the National Fatwa Council?

Secular me had this one nagging thought I didn’t highlight earlier as it might just be interpreted as going against Fatwa, and it is this:

Once a fatwa is made, it becomes a rule. Haram is haram, and there is no two ways about it and once gazzetted, action can be taken against those who break these rules.

The suddenness of the edict is a problem for some of the now-Haram Yoga Muslim instructors who would (should?) have known enough to not indulge in the mantras and chants which would have eroded their faith in the first place.

What would become of them? Perhaps, they should have a name change: Pilayoga, or Yolates, or something. Would they still run foul of the edict if the poses and practise are basically the same?

The view of the Perlis Mufti accords a way out for them and in the logical discourse-based thinking (not always the case when it comes to religious issues), this possibly should have also been the way the National Fatwa Council worded the edict.

Just like it is with the daily prayers: there will be room for differences in practice as long as the core faith and belief remains true.

Muslims should not envy those sitting in the Fatwa councils - Federal and State – as in their hands lie the huge, HUGE responsibility of guiding us and woe should there be missteps along the way putting the religion in dispute or ridicule.

There is no bigger responsibility for a Muslim than to lead the ummah.

That is why the Prophet Muhammad SAW is Junjungan Besar.

The solemnity in prayers

The starting point

Monday, 24 November 2008

Meaty Discourse

My wife and her secretary joined an after office hour Yoga class sessions sometime back.

They went for a whole stretch of days and were quite pleased with the progress made in terms of their fitness levels, and the ability to fit into blue jeans again.

And then it got to the stage of mind over matter. Or something. Oneness, and what not.

I wouldn’t know as I wasn’t there but both decided that it was not something they’d want to venture in.

Did I mention that my wife’s secretary is a devout Christian?

Being stuck in routine 8am to 6pm job, my wife found the idea of social exercise club heaven sent, and yoga – early on – seemed a good idea with an all-female membership, close vicinity to her workplace and a structured fitness system.

She didn’t fancy hitting the gym or swimming, and walks in the park are basically a weekend thing so Yoga was it.

The National Fatwa Council’s recent decree on Yoga just affirms what both she and her secretary felt at odd with.

(My wife is now eyeing Pilates as her fitness regime and learning the ropes via the idiot box and a VCD. Her secretary meanwhile practices "speed marketing" in Singapore.)

Couldn’t have the Council be a bit more proactive over such matters? Nip whatever “kesangsian” there is at the bud, so as to speak.

Yoga has been around for a long, long time and is not even a recent phenomenon in the country.

There are things that are more current and shimmering which the Council should look at in earnest; issues that have more meat for discourses such as the right to practice religions, the amalgamation of Civil and Syariah laws, or the controversial ISA, for a few examples.

What of the study by Suhakam for children attaining the age of majority to be given the right to choose their religions ?

These are some of the worthy issues the Council should discuss and reveal their thoughts on.

Things like chants and mantras accompanying Yoga moves or any other activities - Silat, for example - most Muslims know and accept as wrong anyway.

Hence the oft-quoted defense of only practicing the moves from their practitioners.

Being dismissive of an issue's seriousness would only lead ignorance to rule public discourse over such matters and half measured efforts are equally damaging.

During an assignment of covering a Malaysian Nature Society’s function in an Orang Asli’s village in Gopeng, I walked upon a group of women cooking curry in a huge pot, supposedly for lunch.

Their answer when I queried what dish it was: “Babi hutan. Boleh makan sebab dah sembelih. (Roughly translated: Wild boar. Can be eaten as it’s been slaughtered.)

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Ignore the practitioner and enjoy the scene.


Friday, 21 November 2008

Immoral Intentions

“Don’t look now but someone is checking you out.”

Being a typical nondescript male specimen, I hardly get second glances with the female crowd so my wife’s comment perked my ego up a bit until I managed a glance at the so-called “checker”.

I saw a thin, slightly effeminate bloke who was chatting away with another man – beefy, middle age perhaps - who had his arms wrapped around the former's shoulders.

Rev Homer J. SimpsonThere was no denying the highly visible intimacy the duo exuded.

Initially I thought it was the bigger man my wife had referred to, but it turned out that the one eyeing me out was the smaller guy.

I’m used to the cross dressing community in public, and while last night’s incidence was only the second such over the last few months, what concerns me was the totally pompous manner in which the couple exhibited their “relationship” to others.

A sort of “Up yours!” statement to those who disapprove of such behaviour.

In Spain, feathers are being ruffled with the conservative views of their Queen Sofia when it comes to homosexuality and gay marriages.

The book “The Queen Up Close” has Queen Sofia saying that she did understand why "they should feel proud to be gay."

"That they get up on floats and parade in the streets? If all of us who are not gay were to parade in the streets, we'd halt the traffic in every city”

Queen Sofia of SpainMy first encounter with the gay couple phenomenon here was decades ago during a Merdeka celebrations in the city when my friends and I chanced upon two men smooching away right in public’s eye in Jalan Bukit Bintang after the parade.

Being the hot-blooded young men that we were, we expressed our disgust – which the couple just laughed off - and went off to see if we could discovery some female coupling instead!

We went home disappointed in that respect.

I was once “propositioned” by a man who sat next to me in one of the now- no-longer around Bas Mini Wilayah.

He started out with small talks and then remarked that he likes boys in uniform and that I would look great in one.

Ouch! I left it at that and exited the bus as soon as I could.
The surge in liberalism of late in this country especially in this respect is at odds with its overall conservatism especially as Islam is the official religion, and all the other religions practiced freely.

Homosexuality is something that can be said to be man made with the basis for its acceptance stemming from the human rights domain where morality has no stand in its jurisprudence.

The gay community here is simmering just below the surface with everyone knowing of, and recognizing their very existence but ignoring the issue or closing one (both?) eyes to it.

It’s a phenomena that points to a breakdown in the institution of family that is the hallmark of society’s growth. Where do we get the next generation if every couple is of the same gender?

Cloning? Stem cells? More morality conundrum there, I’m afraid.

With the exception of religions, policing morality is really a tough call for any authority as they call for a most subjective judgment as to what should be and what is wrong where the laws are concern.

I wonder if we are now ready to accept public gay couples? Looking at the way things are, it would seem that the answer is yes.

Could it be that more of us no longer cares about morality?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Individual Solace

If I could fashion a personalized praying room, or hall, it would have to be based on Kuala Kangsar’s Masjid Ubudiah.

Not in its architectural design - despite the relatively medium sized mosque being one of the most beautiful constructions in the country – but the internal set-up, especially the carpeting.
Masjid Ubudiah, Kuala Kangsar
The carpet lining the floor of Masjid Ubudiah is not of the really deep plush variety, but it gives you the most exotic scents as you sujud so much so that you wouldn’t really mind reading the verses a whole lot slower that you normally would.

This is one mosque where the execution of the minimum five prayers a day is a pleasure not only to the soul, but also the senses.

Masjid Ubudiah, I sincerely believe, is just the right size and walking from the area where you take your wudhu to the praying hall is just a short distance, unlike, say, the Shah Alam mosque.

Another fine mosque I enjoy praying within is that of Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP, for short).

It is minimalist in design lacking the grandeur of it’s other more illustrious siblings and provides the most calming of experience especially if you opt to conduct your prayers in the open air section.

Sited next to a lake, the design is such that a cool breeze would envelop your body even during a hot afternoon, which the whole area of Sri Iskandar, Tronoh and the likes – being the ex-mining area that they were – are for most of the time.

The UTP mosqueOn occasion I would just stay on for a while after prayers to just enjoy the solace.

Being a Muslim in this country is almost heaven sent, with most areas having Mosques and Suraus, and missing the five main prayers a matter of personal choice especially for those on the roads.

Before the completion of the UTP’s mosque, a favorite stop was a mosque near (if I’m not mistaken) Titi Gantung my friends and I dubbed “Masjid Pas” for the predominant white-moon-on-green-background flags within its vicinity.

It’s old and rickety and, during the construction of the Ipoh – Lumut expressway, a hassle to drive in and out of, but there’s ample parking, clean water and clearly designated (and clean, too!) toilets for the male and the female ummah.

Best yet, it has the same warm wood scents I could associate with my grandparent’s home in Alor Star where I grew up all those years ago.

These mosques and suraus are iconic constructs in Islam being the recognized “agama rasmi” of the country.

Diverging a bit, what of arches built in the pretext of campaigning for Islam Hadhari ?

A lifting of the veil by the new Malay Mail team on Nov 20 revealed the project involving the construction of 14 arches “key, high traffic sites nationwide in exchange for an exclusive 15-year concession” deal by the Prime Minister’s Department with a media company.

The project’s brief: “Cadangan penajaan gerbang kempen kesedaran nilai - nilai murni menerusi Islam Hadhari.”

Further, the MM article said the campaign period for the government will be for three months a year, the rest of it being free advertising space for the media owner.

My, my. What sort of messages would be fronting the arches the other nine months?

The Jalan Syed Putra's construction – already causing some bad vibes amongst nearby residents for water supply disruption – is supposed to be the pilot project.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but “nilai – nilai murni” shouldn’t start on such wrong footing of raising people’s ire.

And just call it as it is.

The way it is elsewhere

Billboard promoting Islam

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

One Saturday

Work should be made unlawful on Saturdays.

It wasn’t (no edict, no provisions in the Penal Code, nothing in the Employment Act) so I was pretty much stuck without any mood to do anything one such Saturday.

Even if it was only freelance writing.

I did the next best thing when you’re gung ho about doing nothing: research, but it wasn’t something Ted (my freelance contractor) would probably have approved of: I went “YouTubing” for songs from my yesteryears.

It sure felt great (awesome? Ouch!) to still enjoy those “oldies” courtesy of fans who took time to upload the videos.

One of the many songs I looked up was Lisa Stansfield’s “This is the right time” from her 1989 debut Affection, and end up enjoying another single I had completely forgotten about: “All Woman” (1992, Real Love).

Lisa Stansfield
The song tugged my heartstring, but the music video was, in a word, crap.

And I'm sure the lyrics would loose much of its relevance these days of women’s liberation and working parents unless there is some deeper meaning which I did not catch.

Still, I went through the song over and over again as the melody was simply magical (is that violin in the background?) and the last bit did get me melodramatic vis a vis how things are with my better half.

Another song I enjoyed that came with a crappy video was Ronnie James Dio’s “Holy Diver” (Holy Diver, 1983).

Holy Diver!
My friend and I used to love doing that horned devil thingy. We were young, foolish and anti authority (mainly the much disliked dorm Ustaz - one from three, really; the others being cool dudes in my book for their psyche-the-student-instead-of-reprimand them approach).

Incidentally, I heard “Holy Diver” again sometime ago on the radio; probably KLFM’s retro segment. That made me look up the song again.

A much better, and braver, music video on something so touchy a subject – faith – would be R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion" (Out of time, 1991). says the video was based on one Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel titled "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings".

Losing My Religion
The novel apparently told of an angel whom people made money from by displaying as a freak show after he fell down from heaven.

If that’s not brave, I don’t know what is.

Don’t really know if the song was ever aired here, though.

There were others I managed to look up; far too many to really list here, but the one that got me singing along was Rick Astley’s “It would take a strong, strong man” (Whenever You Need Somebody, 1987).

I have a soft spot for guitar solos, and in “..strong, strong..” it was a good one. Not the best, but quite there all the same.

Some trivia:
Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona in 1942. Lisa Jane Stansfield and Richard Paul Astley are both 42 this year having been born in 1966.

All much older than me. Wonder what songs they listen to during their Saturdays?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Ten for a moment..

Terminal Tunnel Vision Patients

Jeffrey Archer’s A Quiver Full of Arrows has this short story entitled “Chunnel Vision” which tells of a man transfixed with HIS own fixations that he failed to see anything else.

If my recollections are correct, the tale has it that he had gone on and on about a possible book he would be writing to an author friend at a hotel whilst his (soon-to-be former) girlfriend indulges in some extravagant dining exercise.

At HIS expense, of course.

Hence the title, a cheeky attribute to the medical condition in the loss of peripheral vision. You can read the story here .

My mind drifted back to (Sir) Archer’s story upon reading this particular comment from NUTP secretary-general Lok Yim Pheng:

“When you are taught a subject in a certain language for six years, you should improve in the language. There should definitely be progress; otherwise it means the teachers are not doing their jobs. We need to analyse the different groups of children's achievements. For example, how many students got Es in the subjects?”
Examination Blues
This comment was made in the heels of a reported 4.4 per cent increase of A scorers in English and a 4.8 percent increase in overall competency (A,B and C), a 46.6 per cent of pupils (or 238,153 in figures) choosing to answer Mathematics in English and 31.1 per cent (159,234) for Science.

These figures are astounding especially compared to last year: 0.2 and 0.3 per cent respectively.

NUTP had sometime back voiced its opposition to continuing the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English in one of the mainstream newspaper, so the reaction was perhaps understandable.

Shouldn’t however the fact that more children are finding English to be something neither foreign nor incomprehensible rejoiced?

I find the NUTP’s wanting to still finding flaws in the face of such positives bewildering.

In any education system, there will be failures. Most of the time, it's the result of multiple diverse causes and not necessarily the education systems or the language used in its delivery.

Unless all those who tackled Maths and Science in English had actually scored badly, what would be a cogent reason for backtracking a policy that helped increased significantly our students’ confidence in the language?

Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was spot on when he was cited as saying:
“…it answered the emotional outbursts following the implementation of the policy, as if it will jeopardise the future of our children.”

There was nonetheless still a proviso:

"This does not mean that the policy was right. It also does not mean that we will not make changes.”

Can’t blame the Minister as he is, after all, a politician, and a good one always gives face.

I just hope the Minister and the Cabinet members would put in their minds the faces of these children with their newfound confidence before deciding on the issue.

(Perhaps I am the one afflicted by this ailment? After all there were some reductions in the number of A's in both subjects...)

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Where we stand statistically

Figures quoted to the Parliament by a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department on the Malaysians’ household monthly income:

Below RM1,000 (Total of 495,500 households)
Malays: 301,000 (60.8%), Chinese: 50,900 (10.3%), Indians: 29,000 (5.8%),
Kadazan: 29,300 (5.9%), Orang Asli: 7,500 (1.5%) and others: 78,800 (15.9%)

~ RM1,001 and RM2,000 (Total of 1,695,900)
Malays: 976,500 (57.6%), Chinese: 338,300 (20%), Indians: 125,300 (7.4%),
Kadazans: 38,800 (2.3%), Orang Asli: 9,800 (0.6%) and others: 207,200 (12.2%)

~ RM2,001 and RM3,000 (Total of 1,144,700)
Malays: 614,700 (53.7%), Chinese: 300,800 (26.3%), Indians: 121,500 (10.6%),
Kadazans: 15,300 (1.3%), Orang Asli: 2,500 (0.2%) and others: 89,900 (7.8%)

~ RM3,001 and RM4,000 (Total of 743,000)
Malays: 380,500 (51.2%), Chinese: 234,700 (31.6%), Indians: 73,300 (9.9%),
Kadazans: 8,900 (1.2%), Orang Asli: 1,000 (0.1%) and others: 44,600 (6%).

~ RM4,001 to RM5,000 (Total of 497,800)
Malays: 254,700 (51.2%), Chinese: 166,600 (31.6%), Indians: 44,800 (9%),
Kadazans: 6,900 (1.4%), Orang Asli: 200 (0.04%), and others: 24,600 (4.9%).

~ RM5,001 to RM10,000 (Total of 914,200 )
Malays: 419,200 (45.8), Chinese: 368,400 (40.3%), Indians: 76,800 (8.4%),
Kadazans: 13,400 (1.5%) and others: 36,500 (4%).

~ RM10,001 to RM20,000 (Total of 235,300)
Malays: 85,700 (36.4%), Chinese: 118,700 (50.4%), Indians: 23,400 (9.9%),
Kadazans: 800 (0.3%) and others: 6,700 (2.8%).

~ More than RM20,000 (Total of 49,500)
Malays: 16,500 (3.3%), Chinese: 27,900 (56.4%), Indians: 3,600 (7.3%) and others: 1,500 (3%).

Grand total in number of households is 5,775,400.

Do note that the percentage will not tally due to a rounding up exercise.

Isn’t statistic wonderful in that it tells you everything and yet nothing at the same time?

PS: Thought of coming up with a swanky chart, but the results are, as you can see below, utterly pathetic.
Money, money!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Latte Swirly

Subprime Goldmine?
Just how big a hole have the smart alecks of Wall Street dug for the world to refill?

Looking at the figures being asked as (ahem!) bailout from the US Treasury Department is really a surreal experience:

AIG: US$150 billion (supplementing an earlier USS$85 billion)

Nine US banks: US$125 billion

GM, Ford and Chrysler: US$50 billion (on top of US$25 billion earlier)

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae: (not stated, but both are sitting on US$5.3 trillion worth of mortgage which probably had lost much of their value)

Had Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (ahem) injected funds into investment bank Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch after they got into trouble, it would have been another US$395 billion and US$44 billion respectively.

Then there’s the so-called stimulus package that’s the highlight in this country and Japan and China at US$1.95 billion, US$51 billion and US$586 billion in recent times. The US stimulus bill is set at US$700 billion and some news analysts are saying that it won’t be enough .

Note: Ours was by far the cheapest stimulus package and whether or not that would help the country would be seen next year; the year EVERYONE is saying will be much worse than this year.

Exports are down, as the Americans and the Europeans are no longer buying items they do not really need that much.

A sure sign of how bad things are is that latte lovers are forgoing Starbuck’s for the cheaper brands, the French are having lunch at McDonald’s and Americans are throwing into the dustbin all offers for credit.

Just what is happening to the world's finance and how did we let it get THIS bad?

Back at home, though, everything seems handy dandy so much so that a 10 to 20 cents reduction at the Mamak restaurant makes front page !

Pop quiz (said in the deadpan manner ala Keanu Reeves): How many 20 cents coins do we need to fill the hole that seems to be sucking the world’s confidence in the economy?

Don’t bother answering, though.

If the bests minds in the world cannot fathom just how deep the shit we’re in, the rest of us might as well just sleep over it and carry on the best we can.

And, yeah, enjoy the 10 cents less for tomorrow’s roti canai and tea tarik, and 20 cents for Nasi Kandar.

Hopefully, the portion served’s still the same.

Just last night my wife and I shopped at Mydin and out flew RM360 from our wallet for groceries.

I did splurge a bit: bought smoked chicken breast slices when I really shouldn’t have, but, hey, what is life without all these little pleasures to make it more bearable.

Might as well become a hermit and go sit/chant/whatever in a cave somewhere.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Notions Within

Is it possible to feel truly alone and lost amidst more than 6.6 billion people?
Mar Kendrick's Pain receptor (2006)

Sadly, it is.

The most unfortunate loneliness must however be those moments when you are empty within.

It’s a feeling difficult to explain to those who have never experience it personally, but it is akin to having a space of nothingness inside your very soul.

This space is almost like a vacuum, and it would not hesitate to suck you in deeper into despair if nothing is done to arrest this desperate cry from the tedium that would normally afflict our lives every now and then.

God knows I’ve felt this a number of times in my life.

Perhaps it’s a feeling that afflicts those with a softer side to their personality.

Perhaps not. I wouldn’t know for sure but I’d love to have the late Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) analyse some recurring dreams during those dark days of loneliness.

In it, I was swimming in, or gazing into, a crystal clear ocean fill with all manners of ocean life, all of which would pay no attention to the stranger amongst them.

The dream would have no particular catalyst, or plot twist; unlike horror movies where all the calm and serenity are just a prelude to a gory fest of blood and gore.

There are no words, but you could literally feel the cool breeze (if I’m watching from above – a bridge, a quay, a cliff) and the cool touch of the sea (when I within).

Another dream of far less recurrence has me high up in the sky, watching or witnessing billowing clouds; coming together in bold strokes of a master painter with the bright blue sky his canvas.

All are beautiful sights I felt blessed to be lost within.

I was in heaven and hating the moment of my waking up to a destitute world; one fill with greed and selfish interests, pain and suffering.

Often I forget – then - that it is also a world of hope, of love and beauty, and that it’s not the world’s fault that it turned out the way it did after centuries of abuse.

I have but only recently found the strength and courage to accept this reality after rediscovering my faith.

This faith is the anchor that ties us down to earth.

Loneliness might be beautiful at times, but it is never real and always a fleeting pleasure.

Heaven (on earth, at least) is in finding the little things that makes everyday worth the seconds and minutes that passes us by.

George Seurat’s Bridge at Courbevoie (1886)

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Lest We Forget...

Gadis Kecil - Usman Awang (1929 – 2001)

Tubuh itu mengingatkan daku
sebatang pinang di desa sepi
kurus dan tinggi
ketika ribut besar
pohon sekitarnya rebah terkapar
dan pohon pinang tegak menanti
sinar mentari pagi

Demikianlah gadis kecil itu
kurus seperti sebatang pinang
bertahun berulang-alik melalui
penjara kawat duri menemui
ayahnya yang bertahun pula sendiri
menentang tiap penderitaan
tabah dan beriman.

Gadis kecil itu mengagumkan daku
tenang dan senyuman yang agung
dengan sopan menolak pemberianku
'saya tak perlu wang, pak cik,
cukuplah kertas dan buku.'

Usianya terlalu muda
Jiwanya didewasakan oleh pengalaman
tidak semua orang mencapai kekuatan demikian
ketabahan yang unik, mempesonakan.
Bila aku menyatakan simpati dan dukaku
rasa pilu terhadapnya

sekali lagi dia tersenyum dan berkata:
'jangan sedih, pak cik, tabahkan hati
banyak anak-anak seperti saya di dunia ini.'

Aku jadi terpaku
dia, si gadis kecil itu menenteramkan
mengawal ombak emosiku
jangan sedih melihat derita pahitnya.
Alangkah malunya hati seorang lelaki dewasa
yang mahu membela manusia derita terpenjara
menerima nasihat supaya tabah dan berani,
dari anak penghuni penjara sendiri?

Sepuluh anak seperti dia
akan menghapuskan erti seribu penjara.


One such Gadis Kecil will no longer visit her detained (Entah sampai bila) father…
natalie Portman aka Evey Hammond in V for Vendetta

Freedom most sweet..

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Bogeyman Boogies

Anyone who is a fan of oldies Filem Malaya will recognise this particular line:

“Kajang Pak Malau kajang berlipat, kajang saya mengkuang layu, dagang Pak Malau dagang bertempat, dagang saya musafir lalu."

I have never understood its exact meaning but it was a poetry in motion, voiced immaculately and with much gusto by the late Nordin Ahmad (1932 - 1971) in Salleh Ghani’s Seri Mersing (1961).

Nordin Ahmad played Damak, a migrant who espouses the core values of integrity, honesty and sincerity (quoting from

Classical Malay films are pretty much white and black in its moral and etchical discourse, and for most of the time, it is relatively easy to spot to bad and the crooked guys who should get what’s due to them.

One film which probably detracted from this cut and dried ruling might be P. Ramlee’s excellent Semerah Padi (1956) which incidentally, also star Nordin Ahmad as the other main character in the tale of tragic love triangle.

Back to Seri Mersing.

Damak in the undated tale of the Malay heartland of old was a bogeyman of sort for the relatively close knit, know everyone community as here he was; a migrant looking to settle down in a place he desperately wants to call his own.

His hardworking, honest (and heroic) demeanour wins the love of the local beauty (played by Rosnani?) and, of course, the local lads take offence of.

A concerted effort was then made to disparage this outsider, forcing Damak and his whole family to leave and only then was his innocence surfaced.

Thus the classic line was quipped by a man who must have felt a great dissappointment that positive virtues came to naught for the sole reason of him being outside of the clique.

Sounds familiar?

Another film which tackled issue of preserving the status quo is the 1992 classic “Strictly Ballroom” starring Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice.

The comedic Australian offering saw Mercurio taking on the role as Ballroom dancer Scott Hasting who was chastised by his ballroom peers when he dared to veer from the accepted dance steps.

He later found solace, love, companionship and redemption with the off beat Paso Doble (Spanish for double step) routine.

The movie mocked every known cliché there was to mock on the issue of status quo, but did it charmingly without, I believe, insulting anyone in particular.

Here the bogeyman (so as to speak) was change from the acceptable norm, a fear that these changes would render the conservative elders moot and redundant.

This country has had its fair share of bogeyman.

The latest seems to be Mahathirism, the sanctity of the social contract agreed by our Statesmen of old and the special rights of the indigenous Bumiputra.
Much have been said and written on these matters, but a recent most refreshing look must be that of Ikim’s “Overcoming Religious Sensitivity”.

It’s a good read but I wonder if the author would ever reach his intended audience.