Saturday, September 27, 2008

Selamat Hari Raya, Aunt Su.

You're gonna have to face this Raya alone, Aunt Su. I won't be home to help you put on a new baju kurung to look good first thing in the morning of Syawal when you can hear the takbir coming in strong from a masjid in front of the old folks' home where you are the only Malay among other occupants.
I'm not going to call you on the phone to wish you Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. You know I don't do that. Come to think of it I never did that to Grandma, Aunt or Cousin when they were alive. First thing in the morning of Syawal I usually asked Aunt for money to buy me a whole stack of firecrackers so I can burn them good while people were peforming their Solat Sunat Aidilfitri. I don't attend Solat Sunat Aidilfitri because the masjid will be so packed with people and I don't have a father so I could pray right next to him. You need a father if you are hardly seven years old to be at the masjid on a morning of Syawal. Otherwise people are going to say to you; gi belakang! gi belakang! And they chase you like a dog and you'd be so sad thinking why in the world I don't have a father on the morning when you need him most to help you stay in the Saf like your friends. You can't be praying in the women's section together with Grandma, Aunt and Cousin.
And so while Bilal Rosek is leading the takbir, and Imam Wang Long is leading the Solat Sunat Aidilfitri, I burn the firecrackers one stack after another, making such a racket on my own that Syawal is beginning to sound like Kong Hee Fat Choy. By the time Solat Sunat Aidilfitri is done, I'm left with only 2 more stacks of firecrackers to go. And so I ask Aunt for more money when she is home with Grandma and Cousin after they're done praying at the mosque behind our house.
That's how I spend my Raya. I burn firecrackers during Solat Sunat Aidilfitri. I go down to Panggung Happy to buy me one ice cream after another. And then to Kedai Leong Thye to buy one apple after another. By the time it's Zohor, I go back to change into a new set of clothes. And then go down to Panggung Happy again to look at the ticket hustlers fighting for a small space to squeeze their hand to buy tickets for young women waiting in a group like a set of banana trees in the wind. By the time it's Maghrib, I go home to sleep off the first day of Syawal.
I love Hari Raya. Which is why I make sure I don't cry for anyone on this special day. I only think of good times about Grandma, Aunt and Cousin on the day like Syawal. And so if I don't call you to wish you Selamat Hari Raya, you really have to understand where I came from, Aunt Su. But you be sure to have a nice Raya anyway, y'hear? I'll take you eat at your favorite restaurant at Section 14. The waiters there remember you. They remember what you like to eat. That'll be my Raya treat to you. So on the morning of Syawal, just make do with the normal breakfast they serve you at the home. You be good now, y'hear?

Monday, September 22, 2008

World Without Men - Baju Raya (My First Pair of Jeans)

Aunt has given me the money for baju raya and I know better not to ask her come with me to the kedai to help me argue with Mek Kemamang herself for a better price since I'm buying 3 sets of baju raya. Grandma will tell you right away that a widow like Aunt shouldn't go around shopping with a child my age when almost everyone in Dungun including the A.D.O himself is out shopping for baju raya at Kedai Mek Kemamang. And so it's better that I go get the baju raya myself since I am a child about to become an adult soon when I would be eligible to have my own Kad Pengenalan in two years. Grandma can't come along with me because she doesn't like it when the shop is jam packed with people rushing to buy baju raya now that raya is a couple of days away. You can't disturb Cousin. She's busy baking Ovaltine cookies.
I'm outside the shop looking in for a space to squeeze through. You can't see Mek Kemamang from here but you can see her sons and daughters going about the shop with a long stick that has a hook at the end which they use to bring down the baju raya from the overhead rack so people can look at it and start arguing for a better price knowing very well how Mek Kemamang put a price on everything which is triple times over so you can have a good time haggling for the best price. 
Next door is a shop run by a young enterprising China man whom everyone knows is the son of Bok Peng. People say he has just got back from overseas and you can tell that they are telling the truth about him because he dress different. He's got a pair of glasses bigger than anyone in Dungun and a pair of shoes taller than the tallest building in Dungun. I go into his shop to look at the nice posters of AMCO and TEXWOOD and LEE and Levi's. He asks where my father is. I say I don't have one. I only have a mom but she's not coming with me because she's busy making nekbat. And so he says; are you looking for something nice to wear for raya.? I say I sure am. And so he shows me a pair of jeans my size which I like very much on account it has a label on the pocket that says SADDLE KING.
I'm home to show Grandma and Aunt the pair of jeans I got which I like very much because I've seen cowboys wear them all time when they're having fun punching people in a barroom brawl. Grandma says I must have gone insane to wear something like that for raya. I say why not? She says what's wrong you? These pants are so rough that it'll bruise what you've got in between your legs. I say cowboys wear these all the time. Aunt doesn't say anything except she asks me where's the rest of the money? I say there's none because what she gave me is just enough to get me a pair of SADDLE KING.
That was my first raya without baju Jawi because I used up the money to buy me my first pair of jeans. Aunt says; padan muka.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Come With Me To The House Of A Rising Sun.

Why don't you buy them orphans washing machine, fridge, rice cookers, kitchen utensils and toasters. Better still, why don't you sponsor their grocery money for a year. But you won't do this because you won't get your face in page 3 on a national newspaper. Them photographers only know how to take pictures of you handing out money packet to orphans lining up to shake your hand. The nice lighting in the hotel makes you look good in a picture. You do what your PR people tell you to do. When they tell you to take them kids for a buka puasa treat at a hotel, you do it like a good client that you are. This way you get a dedicated page in the annual report under the title Good Governance and you'd smile to yourself thinking; I've done my part for the society. I give back what I take from the society.

Come with me, I need to show you something. Come with me to an orphanage in Cheras, Selayang, Gombak, and a few other places in the city. You see those doors, broken beyond repair? It's been like that for 5 years and no corporate bigwig like you ever cared about it. You see that kitchen over there? The fridge don't work too good, it frosts over every 5 hours, but people like you don't care. You see that range over there? The flame don't fire up too good to cook for 200 orphans. You've gotta spend 2 extra hours every meal time to prepare the food. You see those washing machines? Those are for show, none of them machine works. The kids gotta wash their clothes by hand. But you don't care. All you care is one day in a year in Ramadan where you take all these kids to a nice big hotel for buka puasa. These kids are so overwhelmed with foods that they usually don't know what to eat because they've never seen this much food in a year.

That makes you feel good? It makes me like puking to see you smiling like a dog thinking you've done good deeds and you deserve a place in heaven.

Come with me. You can carry my tool box. Come with me every other weekend to fix the doors, floors, lights, switches and stuff that don't work in a house where they keep those orphans. Come with me and I let you stir the soup for 2 hours because the fire don't burn too good. Come do this every weekend. You can bring those PR people along, and the photographers. But I doubt they'd come because the scenes won't make the pictures pretty enough to grace page 3 of the national newspaper.

Come with me. I'll show you what Public Relations is all about. Take those kids to a hotel for buka puasa all you want but I beg you to sponsor the grocery money because they gotta eat 3 square meals for 365 days in a year. You do the maths - one buka puasa treat and that makes you feel good? Eat your heart out.

Fauziah writes about this too here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Baju Jawi

There's no way you will ever look good in a kinda clothes the Arab are wearing. If you are a Malay, that is. You've gotta be an Arab to look good in that kinda clothes and you've gotta have the Arab kinda head to look good in that kinda headgear that they put on. Same thing with cowboy suit. You won't ever look good in it if you are not from Wyoming, Montana or Idaho, or Texas. Even Mexican don't look good in it. You've gotta be American to look good in a cowboy suit and there's no two way about it. And don't ask a guy from Vienna to put on a cowboy suit. This will only make him look very odd - like adding salted shredded chicken to a nice glass of sirap bandung soda.
This is why I don't put on the Afghan shirt and try to pass as one. Or the Arab kinda robe to look like one. No, I won't put on a cowboy suit, not even for a fancy dress dinner. I'd put on a checkered shirt and jeans. This would be as far as I'd go. No, I won't put on cowboy boots because like I've said, you've gotta be American to look good in them. I'm not sure if a Malay would look good in a Samurai suit. I reckon this is okay. You may wanna try it but don't ask me when would be the most appropriate time of the year to put it on. Maybe during Cherry Blossom. I don't know.
I've seen if often, male Caucasian putting on Baju Melayu when they marry a Jawi girl. I've not heard anyone say they don't look good in them. I guess being Jawi, we'd rather be polite and keep the opinion to ourselves and puji memuji the orang putih for willing to put on a funny clothes on an important day like a bersanding. 
Same thing with Ultraman suit. You won't ever look good in it if you are not Japanese. You can cover up the face but people would know. Just like Robocop suit. You can't possibly look good it if you are a Jawi guy. 
I've seen white folks put on a Silat suit in class. They look impressive, in Holland. But in Jakarta, they look funny. I don't know if it's the surroundings or the geography of a place that could have played a part in making you look good in an ethnic clothes that you put on.
Which is why it is always safe to put on a shirt, a nice belt, and a nice pair of pants, and a good pair of shoes. You can be Eskimo or Masai but I guarantee that you will look good in these. And for the women, you can be Norwegian, Swede, Chinese, Indian, American, African, Iranian or Australian. I guarantee that you'd look good in Baju Kurung. Which is why I don't get it when Jawi women go for Arab kinda clothes instead of Baju Kurung.  As for the men, you gotta be a Melayu to look good in a Baju Jawi. You can add the Kris on the side, but that would be overdoing it since 99% of Jawi men won't know how to use it properly. 
And the capal. The best guy who looks good in a Baju Jawi would be P.Ramlee. In Madu Tiga - when he asks 'Mana butang baju Melayu aku daa?'  This Raya, I'm putting on a Sponge Bob suit. Maybe I'll take pictures and post them here.
Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. Ma'af Zahir dan Batin.
(This sounds more like Jawi, and less pretentious than Eid Mubarak).

I Got Hit By A Runaway Train.

1. How was I supposed to know they rigged the projected cash flow to make it look good enough for me to give them the money so I could own a piece of a high profile business venture I had heard so much about that I thought it would be a good thing to get involved in it since every one in it had been making money as if money was a gush of water coming out of a hole in the ground.
2. I was impressed with the studio - a lot of Macs and a team of creative people working and having fun in a studio that looked expensive, music blasting out in the background. 
3. They've got pretty young things in short skirts moving about refilling my cup with coffee. They told me those pretty young things are called Account Executives who report to Account Manager who reports to the Account Director now talking and laughing in front me looking every bit a knowledgeable person in expensive clothes.
5. They've got a Creative Director who speaks with an accent and who seems to know every one in town including the mayor himself. 
6. Every one's kinda friendly and I felt kinda comfortable with these folks that I thought, what the heck, why not get into advertising business and see how far I could go.
7.  They introduced me to a circle of advertising people who wore nice expensive clothes and talk of nothing but awards that I really had it figured that we were in California where every one is somehow connected with the film industry.
8. They talked in millions this and millions that. 
9. Air time this and media schedule that.
10. Branding this and positioning that.
11. In the end, I say you guys do the thing you do and I just watch.
12. In the end I got poorer and they never answered my phone calls.
13. One day I'll meet them up and it won't be a nice thing because I don't take it too kindly to those who got away with my money.
14. Maybe they've never been in a brawl or spend a week in jail for brawling.
15. I have.
16. I know the score; RM50.00 compound. You pay to the desk sergeant. He'd give you the receipt. That's how much you pay for beating up someone in a fight.
17.  I can't wait.
18. I'm gonna find you folks if this is the last thing I do.
19. He he.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lemme Do It.

Call me anytime of day and night to wash up the dead and I'll come running to help you free of charge. I like to do this thing just as I like to slaughter a cow, and help cook a meal for 400 hungry men and women. I like to do these things so lemme do it if you don't have enough volunteers to help you out.
I like to wash the dead because it reminds me that one day I'm gonna be as dead as the next guy too. And I often wonder who'd wash me. And wrap me up and who'd lead the Solat Jenazah for me. And where would I be buried? Would it be at sea where they've gotta attach a weight so the body can go down to bottom of the sea to lie there like a shipwreck. I've lost count how many dead I've helped wash. My first was Pok Mud Nyior who died alone in his hut behind our house in Dungun. He had lived alone, making a living picking coconuts. He died one night, probably in his sleep. I didn't discover him, a friend did. He went about shouting like a mad dog as if Pok Mud would come alive as a ghost. No one volunteered to help and so I did and that's how I learnt a thing or two about washing the dead from Arwah Pok We Janggut. After that it was easy until I had to wash the body of a colleague who died in a petroleum fire. That got me sleepless for a week. You can't wash much because the flesh kept falling off and the bones showed up. And the eyeballs.
And I like to slaughter cows. I consider this my most favorite thing. I like the sound of the knife slicing through the hide until the blade knocks the neck bone to make a 'tuk' sound. My first was a goat, a billy. Aunt asked me to do it because the men in the village, all of a sudden, refused to help slaughter our goat, and our chicken. I got interested in Meat Science this way but then Catherine came along and it changed everything. I slaughter on average, 6 cows per year during Aidil Adha.
And I like to cook. I like cooking for a lot of people, 300 or more. I like the idea of working out the ingredients in kilos. And I like the idea of strong flame firing up the dish. And I like to see men and women enjoying the dish, asking if there's some left for them to take home. Don't worry, ma'am, I usually cook extra.
The thing I like to do. Next time, lemme do it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Take Him Home.

Take him home to his mommy and daddy. Ship him home to his brothers and sisters and cousins and relatives and friends. He's all packed and ready to go. He's all packed and frozen. Stiff as a piece of wood, not laughing anymore like he used to. He's as dead as a dead man can be, and there's nothing I can do about it. I got nothing to do with him so don't ask me no questions about what else to do now that I've washed him up, and have performed Solat Jenazah for him with four other Muslims from Jordan and Iran.

Take him home to his final resting place in Sekinchan, Selangor. Maybe I go visit you one day. I hear Sekinchan is a nice place with big paddy fields for you to run free as a goat until the end of the horizon. According to schedule, you should be home Tuesday in time for your folks to buka puasa before they bury you.

Take him home to his mommy and daddy. Ship him out of here. He doesn't belong here anymore. If I had my way, I'd bury him here. If I had my way, I call up his mommy or daddy to say; your son is happy to die here, he's not coming home because it's no fun to fly home in a casket instead of as a breathing passenger dozing off on the business-class seat to enjoy the airline meals and to chat up pretty airlines hostesses who look even prettier this high up from the ground. If I had my way I'd bury him here so he can make friends with all the permanent residents of this cemetery comprising mostly Arabs who can teach him all the Arabic he can learn in a day since he's got all the time in the world to learn all the Arabic he wants.

Death is not a big deal. You live and you die. It's not a big deal where you are buried either. It's the same whether they dump you in the sea, or bury you up on top of a mountain, or in a quiet corner of Tanah Perkuburan Haji Yahya, Dungun. The Malaikat Maut has the same question for everyone. Death is good for you. So it's doesn't matter where you decide to do the dying.

Take him home to his mommy and daddy. As far as I'm concerned it doesn't make any difference. He's dead as a dead man can be. He's the same here or in Sekinchan. But he's got a mommy and a daddy who may want to do the crying for him for one last time. If you ask me, it's a waste of time.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Too Much Feta Cheese Can Make You Miss Budu.

By time I'm done with this job my bank account will have been a pretty thing to look at which has got me thinking the last few days what to do with all that much money. I don't have me a nice calculator to figure out the numbers and so I work out with a short pencil and a piece of paper in this here restaurant while watching the evening crowd go by walking about and around, now that they've had their iftar like a good people that they are.

This is what I've figured, which is not much by your standard on account I don't have an accounting degree to work out the financial cobweb of what I'm gonna do with all this much money. I reckon with all this much money, I'd be able to buy me a sea-front budu manufacturing plant somewhere in the East Coast. With a bit more money I could even afford me a plant with a river by the side so I can go boating in the evening if the complications of budu making process is too much for me to handle in a day. I can even rent out the boat to tourists who may be interested to see how budu is made which I reckon not much different from the kinda tour gentle folks take to cheese factories when they've got a bit of money to spend now that they've paid all their bills and there is no one in town they owe money to except the mayor. I haven't been making phone calls to figure out how much exactly does a sea-front-with-the-river-by-the-side budu manufacturing plant would cost me but I reckon it won't cost me arms and legs to own one under my name, and my logo. In fact I've figured that out too in this here restaurant. I mean the logo. It will have the picture of me smiling as if posing for a toothpaste commercial. I reckon I look good this way now that I've spent quite a bit of money on dental care so as to look good smiling and it would be such a waste not to flash a nice, honest smile so people can buy the budu from me to make me even richer by my standard. Maybe even richer than the guy who owns the feta cheese factory on the outskirt of town where you need to travel quite a bit to get there.

Which is the reason why I'm here in this here restaurant thinking about a new business venture other than gaskets and valves for the oil and gas industry.

Maybe age is catching up. Food doesn't really figure in my routine but this Ramadan, I kinda miss Malay food that I thought of taking the next plane out first light tomorrow. Used to be able to live on goat cheese, feta cheese, olives, kebab, bread for months on end. But yesterday, I craved for IKANG SINGGANG AND BUDU. Where in the world am I supposed to find this in this here country where everything is made of olive? I can cook IKANG SINGGANG but what am I to do with Budu? Which is why I gotta buy me a sea-front budu manufacturing plant.

I miss home.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What I Miss Most About Ramadan At USJ.

Haji Rahman has a problem with Wasyai, but you'd want to follow every ayat he reads and wish that he'd go on and on the whole night long until the sun comes up. In our Tadarus group he has the kinda voice that'd keep you glued to the Qur'an on end, feeling smaller than an ant that it kinda make you think of all the bad things you've done in your life and wish you could undo them and not do the things you did. Right now all you want is to be with the Tadarus group for the rest of your life because they've become your real friends in your heart even though you hardly know them in real life outside the Tadarus session.

I miss home. I miss my Tadarus group. I miss Haji Zainur. I miss Haji Shuib. I miss Haji Kamarruddin. I miss Haji Shukri. I miss Haji Saha. I miss you like crazy that I cry a little when I read the Qur'an. These days I cry a little all the time. I wish I didn't, but I do. I wish I'm home.