16 Aug 2014

The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hiraide

Title: The Guest Cat
Writer: Takashi Hiaide
Published by New Directions Publishing Corporation
Translated by Eric Selland 2014

When a young Japanese couple, both writers, rented a house somewhere near the Shinjuku area in a quiet part of Tokyo, they are visited by a female cat, belonging to the small boy next door. Working at home the write and his young wife allow the cat easy access into their home and their lives.

Slowly, without realising it, the cat entwines itself into the very fabric of their lives and every day affairs and into their hearts. The day becomes brighter, the hours  more precious and their events more meaningful with the advent of Chibi, the cat. They even sometimes pretend the cat belongs to them, buying it special tidbits and enjoying its playful habits.

Without them realising it, a year had gone by and the young cat has now become an adult. Sometimes it would even sleep in their house and on their bed. However one day both husband and wife had to go to a dinner party in another part of town and did not come back for the night. The next day they realised the cat had not come to their house and through the next few days they didn't see it either. Both husband and wife became perturbed by the cat's disappearance. Finally the writer goes over to the neighbour's house to find out what had happened. They were told that it had died in an accident - apparently hit by a car. For a long time they mourned the cat's loss and even wanted to see where it had been buried but its owner, the neighbour, became aggressive and even angry when told the cat had visited them every day and even slept in their house sometimes.

Soon the couple moved away and bought their own house not far from the neighbourhood. But one day they were visited by a couple of kittens, a male and female which looked exactly like the guest cat which they had lost. Soon the kittens too visit the couple, now older and just like its predecessor settled in.

A beautifully written book by Japanese poet, takashi Hiraide, this book should be read by animal lovers everywhere, specially by cat lovers. It is about love and loss and love regained. The book reads like poetry, moving and subtly conveying deeply felt emotions of the writer and his wife concerning their guest. A lot of the writing is philosophical. I would definitely recommend this book  and will give it a 5 star rating. A book that will change you and how you look at relationships.

My favourite line from the book is this lines from the first chapter:
" I often remember the appearance of Chibi the cat and the scene in the guest house when she first came inside. It was in the late Autumn of 1988...
There was a narrow space with an earthen floor for the washing machine facing the courtyard, which was a mere partition off from the spacious garden off the big house. One shining, sunny afternoon, through a crack ion the open door,four bright white feet stepped inside the the room's insulated drain bard and with a well-honed curiosity rushing through her entire body, Chibi quietly surveyed the meagre interior." This was the introduction of the book.

11 Aug 2014

Idil Fiti

 After a month of fasting Eid is finally here. In fact it's now more than 10 days that Ramadan has ended. The siege on Gaza is given a respite - there is a 10 day ceasefire. More bodies have been identified from the plane crash. And when I really sit and think and feel... I just feel so hopeless and helpless. I can only pray and enjoy the day. What was that Latin phrase - seize the day! Can't remember the Latin words anymore. But sometimes I feel sick of the whole world - killing and maiming children and animals. You can't really run away from images of these on the internet. FB is full of them that I no longer read them. And yet it is Eid. Eid Mubarak world! 

At home it is as usual very busy. Traditional foods must be prepared and served for guests. This year we have a very small celebration, in respect for the downed plane MH17. But my house was full of guests even then, specially in the morning of the first day. My sisters and brothers and their family all came over for the usual morning feast. This time however it was a quieter than usual affair - no noisy children running, no shouts from my brothers and no jones from my sisters. My bother in law Rahman, the husband of my beloved sister Laila, had passed away just a week before raya. It was sad but not unexpected because he had been ill for more than a year, and towards the end had had to be given morphine to stop the pain. He was a heavy smoker in his younger days and it had destroyed his lungs. I think after he retired instead of cutting down he smoked even more, mainly out of boredom. So in the end you can say that his lungs gave up on him - he developed COPD. 

The best thing about raya or Eid is that all my children came home. Rizal stayed longer than his usual 2 days and even Wan came home a day before Eid. So all 4 of them and their spouses were here in Malacca for the celebrations. We even took a family photo in the garden. 
Family photo 2014
As usual we held an open house on the first day, albeit a small one. Most of my friends and Repin's friends turned up and also the whole family - the Tahir family as well as the Ibrahim family. Then we visited my brother in law in Semabok. His open house was of course very grand. Lots of food - with the typical rendang and ketupat and lemang as well as nasi Bukhari or BukhariRice, which iix a kind of pilau cooked with lamb.




Above photo - Rizal and daughter, Rania


Above photo - the guys in our family - from left to right  ( Neville, Rizal, Repin and Ridzuan) 


4 Aug 2014

Ramadan and the chaos in the Muslim world

I don't know whether all this is a test on our faith - the whole Muslim world all over is in a chaotic state. So many things are happening and so many people are dying. First it was in Myanmar where just before the beginning of Ramadan the Buddhists went on a rampage, burning and killing the Muslim ethnic minority in Mandalay. Emma, my daughter in law's relatives are mostly in Mandalay. It's her mother's hometown so her aunts, uncles and cousins are all there. In fact, her cousin had to go into hiding because he had inadvertently  strayed into Buddhist territory while visiting some school friends. Luckily his friends parents are open minded people and they helped to hide him from the Buddhists extremists. Why is it when it is another religion they are called extremists but if they are Muslims they are called terrorists? 

In Syria things are getting from bad to worse with  rebel groups trying yo take over the government. The same goes for Iraq, but the ones in Iraq I was told by a friend are extremely dangerous because they kill everybody in their way. This is the ISIS. 
And in Gaza, the Zionists are pounding and shelling the tiny enclave every day, in the name of self defence! Of course with the tacit approval of the great US of A! It's okay to kill women and children because they are only Muslims after all. Kill one Israeli soldier and the big bully Israel kills back 100 women and children, and the whole world looks back in pretended innocence. Who dares go against Israel, except perhaps one tiny country many miles away which cannot even defend itself, if the Israelis decide to wGe wAr against us. 

Every day we are bombarded with horrific images of suffering children. The Western media reports that Israel is only defending itself. Against what? Simple home made rockets and mortars that cannot even reach it's borders? Poor Israel, forever being bombarded by the big bad Palestinians with stones and rockets. After one week of heavy bombardment the Israeli casualty stands at zero and Palestinians had soared to more than 100. There is simply no where for them to go - the Zionists target schools, hospitals and even the UN compound. Babies, children and women are the main victims. Even boys playing at a beach are targeted. Why? Are the boys militants? 

This is a form of ethnic cleansing that the world is ignoring. Yes there are protests but no one listens. 

And finally our plane was shot down - and nobody would admit the shooting. 298 innocent lives gone in a poof . The pilot had no inkling it was going to happen, after all they were well above 33000 feet and the route was one well used by many airlines. Was it just bad luck or was it a planned attack. Are the Russians just a scapegoat? Two planes within a space of 4 months? Co incidence or what? A conspiracy? A Singapore Airlines plane was just 25 km behind our plane and an Air India plane was just ahead. Why us? Who would stand to gain ? So many questions unanswered.