30 Nov 2008

Ainal's wedding

On a bright Sunday morning, 30th November 2008 Ainal, my nephew got married to his love, Shikin, a sweet girl from Merlimau. As aunt, and the eldest one at that, I had to be there - as chief of reception awaiting the bride's entourage. Everything has been ready since the day before - the tents are up, the food is being cooked in the back yard by hired cooks and the bride's dais all ready. Suddenly I realise there are no flowers on the main table. What a disaster! How could we have forgotten that? So its rush rush rush after that. Twenty minutes to go before they arrive and we had to run over to the nearest flower shop to get flowers. And its a Sunday. Will they open? No, its not open so we had to go back to plastic, naturally. Hmm... is that an oxymoron?
So here we are finally and the bride is late. Its almost two when she arrived. The food was getting cold, most of the guests had left. BUt they came - the whole entourage of 40 people.
But things got better immediately after the bride came. All dressed in pink, she looked lovely and sweet. Despite the wait everybody smiled and came forward to get a closer look. Ainal too looked resplendent, dressed in pink baju melayu and samping. Amir was the best man, looking solemn enough to be the groom himself. Things went well considering the late start.

28 Nov 2008

What I'm reading now

I've just finished reading this very insightful novel - "Things I want my daughter to know" by Elizabeth Noble. Its about a woman, a mother of 4 daughters. She has cancer and knows that she is dying soon. So she writes letters to each of her four daughters - the eldest a 37 year old who is afraid of commitment, the second is married but not happy, the third runs away from her problems by travelling to far and distant lands and the youngest, a fifteen year old who is still at home and preparing to do her GCSE as well as look after a sick mother. The writer goes into the personal lives of these 4 women and see how their lives inter twine, how they each go through a period of black despair and how they all survive it by helping and depending on each other. This is by no means a deep book, if you're looking for something freudan or something classic. But I think most of us will find something for ourselves in this book. There is also the story of the father or the step father - Mark. He is Barbara, the cancer victim's husband and the ideal parent in a way. How he copes with his daughter (the 15 year year) and his step daughters' grief is something I can really admire, his own grief notwithstanding. A good read for a lazy weekend but very thought provoking too.
The other book I'm reading now is The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga- winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2008. A hilarious book; well written and full of irony about India's modern society and especially Bangalore.

Garden in Batu Berendam

A corner of the garden in Batu Berendam. The ginger plants are on the right, next to the Bird of paradise flowers.

My Ginger border

Last week I bought some dahlias - bright yellow ones and also a deep dark red. Both of these I planted in pots because there isn't that much space left. I don't want a cluttered garden and Repin prefers to keep the lawn as green and flower free as possible. So if I get any more new plants they'll be potted ones. The dahlias are growing well I think. At least they're blooming now. Hopefully they will still bloom in January.

I've designed a border - at least its a start. I'll have some primulas I think - maybe pink and white ones because of the colour and I'll mix them with the marigolds. Will the colours clash? I like marigolds because they're perennials and easy to maintain and so are primulas.

So far my lillies have not bloomed except for that one occasion when one of the white ones sprouted some blooms. Can't wait to see them actually because I really don't have any idea what they look like. They were given to me by Norlee and hers too have not bloomed.

27 Nov 2008


Sometimes I wonder at the stupidity of our Islamic Council. The latest thing is the Fatwa on Yoga. Can they really think that we faithful can be so easily lured to other religions that we have to be guarded against ourselves? Its so ludicrous as to be unbelievable. So now they are banning yoga for Muslims because we may go astray and start reciting mantras as we do our exercises. Sigh... sometimes I feel ashamed of our Islamic Council. Don't they have anything else to do? There are so many things they can try and do and here they are - banning Yoga for Muslims. Maybe we should suggest some activities for them to do for a change.

22 Nov 2008

projects at hand

I was reading through a friend's post and he mentioned having two projects - one keeping his kindergarten going strong (that is really adventurous of him) and another was improving his house and garden. Then I got to thinking - what projects do I have? I don't really have any projects going on have I? Oh... wait a minute - I do. In fact since I retired I have several on going projects. One is of course my garden - I'm trying to create an English- style garden in tropical Malaysia. Ambitious? Sure. Impossible? Hmmm we'll see.

My second project is myself. Yes, I'm trying to improve myself. Not physically (that is an impossibility),but spiritually. I have sadly lagged behind where reading the Quran is concerned. I'd love to really be able to read the Quran in that beautiful and musical way that I heard when I was in Mecca in 2006. I really envy the Hafeez who can read it like that. It's so gut wrenchingly beautiful it pulls you. Whenever I hear someone read it like that I feel so touched I want to cry. It's that beautiful. But then I do cry easily. When I see something, especially nature, that is so awesomely beautiful I get a little weepy and there is a little catch in my heart. Nature at its best does that to me.

I lived in the states (California) for 3 years a long time ago. There is no snow in Southern California where we used to live, and if we wanted to see the beautiful fall foliage we had to drive up north. But I loved the Autumn months and used to wish we had changing seasons here in Malaysia. Driving down to Malacca from Kuala Lumpur, I see the lush green forest as we pass by. The green of the trees are all different. There is a very dark, almost greyish hue to the trees in the deeper part of the forest and a very light, almost yellowish tinge to the tops of the trees for those which get plenty of sunlight. We may not have the gorgeous blazing colours of Autumn nor do we have the dazzling mix of delightful colours in Spring. Our forests look slightly subdued. Some people have even commented that it is kind of boring - to see sea after sea of lush greenery; but there is a mystery about it, a certain air that lends to itself a hint of dangers within. It beckons. The jungle is never bland. You may not realise it but it has a beauty too in its quiet way. But my heart does not ache with love and pride when I look at it as the mountains in Sabah does. Here where the highway winds itself uphill, to almost 5000m above sea level, where tree shrouded mountains loom above me and far below I can see parts of the highway winding here and there... this gives me an ache because it is awesome in its beauty - pristine and untouched. It's so beautiful it becomes poignant and I hope fervently that the greedy hands of man does not reach here and never will.

But I digress. I was talking about projects and my third is my koi pond. Oh yes... my koi died a few days ago. Due to my ignorance and impatience no doubt. BUt I'm learning. So I got a few more koi (my sister Mariana gave me 6 yesterday) and I bought some tilapia which are indigenous and more hardy than the foreigners. Anyway my third project is underway. The pond is clear now and the waterfall running smoothly. Nothing much to do except feed the fish now and then and clear the leaves from the pond. As to my English garden - well that too is underway. I've planted the roses. So far I've elimimated the many enemies it had - the snails, the fat little white grubs (eeuww) that suck out the juices from the stems - nasty little vampires that they are. I'm going to get some border flowers from the nursery later today, after I've had my quran reading tuition. So that's my project Ak, if you're reading this post.

I wish I'm a good photographer - so I can snap some pictures. Most of the ones I have were taken with my phone!

16 Nov 2008

Frustrations of koi rearing

I never seem to learn. This is the second time all my koi have died on me and this time its totally my fault because I was so stupid! Yesterday seeing that the pond has not been cleaned for a long time I decided to clean it. My maid was ever ready because she had wanted to do it for weeks but I was a bit worried. Well.. I should have stayed worried and not clean the pond because half an hour later - the koi started having problems. Two of them were gasping for breath and I quickly caught them and transferred them to another container. But they died anyway. I just cannot understand it - I did everything I was suppose dto. Drained out half of the water , topped up the water with tap water which I had de-chlorinated and still they died. Six koi and two jelawat, two long tailed gold fish and some baby koi. Sigh.... when will I ever learn? I think next time I shan't clean the pond. Just leave it like that. The water was still clear... it's just that I wanted to get rid of the algae.
The dahlias were beautiful of course. Especially the yellow dahlias - so bright and cheerful. And the hibiscus are simply gorgeous. I"m not talking about the roses. I think I'm done with roses for the time being.

10 Nov 2008

The times of your lives

I'm watching Oprah's show and she's got Paul Anka and Shelly Hack as her guests! He's still amazing and so is Shelly Hack who acted in Charlie's Angels. She also advertised the perfume Charlie - the woman every woman wanted to be in the the 70s!! I remember watching that advertisement decades ago, and admiring her confidence, vitality and easy charm and glamour. How I loved her and bought the perfume because I wanted to identify with that woman. She became the icon, no doubt American, but still an icon of the woman. She was always wearing pant suits, had these luscious slim long legs and that gorgeous shoulder length hair that shines as it swings. And imagine that - she is still that Charlie girl when she came on Oprah. I was so thrilled to see her walking into the studio with her long lanky good looks still intact.

As I watched Oprah's show on American classics - or American treasures, I realise how much of American culture we have absorbed. So much so that what they consider classics, I think many of us consider as our classics too. These are "hotdogs", Mickey mouse, the song "My Way" by Frank Sinatra, Coca-cola, The story of The Wizard of Oz, Pizza, McDonald's and so may more. Who of us have never identified a certain time of our life with any of these American icons? Many of us have read the Wizard of Oz and loved the characters of the Tinman, the Lion and the Scarecrow as well as Dorothy. Many of us, especially those of my generation have loved Elvis Presley's songs; we all wish we could go to Disneyland, many of us love coca-cola. My children remember Kermit the Frog and Big Bird of Sesame Street, I remember eating hotdogs for the first time, going to McD for the first time, wearing my first Nikes, belting out "My Way" with our friends and feeling that the song is really written for us? We don't think of them as belonging to the Americans only but also to the rest of the world and that is the real American success story. They have managed to sell their culture to the rest of the world. But what about us? What about our culture? Maybe many of us know more about America than our own culture.
We have our P. Ramlee, Sudirman, Sharifah Aini. WE have old movies - classics - like Seniman Bujang Lapok, Ali Baba Bujang Lapok, Bidadari and so on. These are much loved oldies, a classic for our children and their children one day.

7 Nov 2008

Meeting old friends

Time can't separate, us nor distance. We have been apart for more than two years but when finally my two close friends and I met for a belated celebration of our respective birthdays, time and distance had no meaning. Being the only one not working, I undertook to drive the distance to their workplace so that we could have lunch together. First there was a general exchange of gifts and loud expressions of oohs and aahs... I love this and ooh this is lovely. In fact so interested were we in our gifts that we ignored the waitress who was waiting for us to order our meal. PC gave me a really glamorous looking "diamond" bracelet. It was so beautiful I immediately fell in love with it. G bought me an Estee Lauder make up set. I gave them earrings and necklace sets from Tiffany which PC immediately put on. It matched nicely with her rather chic dress. I thought they both looked gorgeous. G looks so much better now, compared to two years ago. I think she's more healthy now and PC of course is always well dressed.
Friends, especially girlfriends are very important. Everyone should have a friend, or more. Someone you can talk to, tell your problems to, share a story with, a joke or two with. I know that my life when I was in the Exam Syndicate would have been a living hell if not for my close friends such as Mon, Hanin,Tim and Baiti. They made things more bearable and now when I think of my experience there, I remember only the good times - of laughing so much until my stomache hurt, of going shopping at the Mall, lunch at the Bangsar, going for pre-tests to all the rural places and getting lost in the jungle ( Felda Sg Paloh) and arriving in Raub!!

Friends are life's best kept secrets - they help you, they give you a lift when you need it and they scold you and advise you when you need it too! PC and Gurnam helped me a lot, especially when I was doing Statistics during our M. Ed years. I know that without their help and their push I would never have finished my thesis!! So here's a toast to all friends - may we all keep them and may we have friends always.

5 Nov 2008

US elections

Barrack Obama - the first black president.

Yeah! Obama won... he won ..he won... he won! Its the most exciting US elections I've watched. I wanted him to win and I'm so glad he did. Mc Cain was gracious in his loss and gave a lovely speech. Now Barrack Obama and the rest of the democrats have a lot to do to gain back the trust and the belief of the the rest of the world that Bush lost.What does Obama's win mean for the rest of the world? To me its a confirmation of the democracy that America has always touted. But I also think this win has given millions of under-priviledged peoples and minorities all over the world a hope, a light for the future. Here's to hoping he will keep his promises, that he will bring about a change for America and that he will re start the peace process in the Middle-east.

4 Nov 2008

Fairy tales and fables

I find that there is a dearth of stories from Malaysia in English, or if there are any written they are written by mainly foreign writers with either a jaundiced view of Malaysians in general or not a very accurate one. However what I really feel sad about is the lack of writing about our fables and fairy tales. Granted there are very few, compared to European and English tales, but we do have them. One of my favourites is the story of The False Princess, which is very similar to the story of The Goose Girl which is a German folk tale. In this story, a princess was journeying to India to meet her betrothed. However since her mother who was supposed to accompany her was ill, she was sent overseas with her maid. The princess however was given a beautifully carved mirror to take with her on the journey. The mirror we are told is magical and would be a proof to the Prince that his betrothed is the true one. However during the long journey, the maid found a way to break the mirror and thus the princess was left with no proof as the her identity. Today we hear of so much identity thefts but this in fact is no new. It happened even as long ago as the 16th century when this story took place! The maid pretended to be the princess and later when they arrived at the palace of the prince even told the prince to behead the princess so that she could at last be secure. However without the maid's knowledge, the princess had another magical item with her to identify herself and that was the betrothal ring which she had kept hidden. Of course the ending is a happy one, like all fairy tales and the evil maid was sentenced to death. This story was told me by my grand aunt. There are so many more stories but I've not seen any of these stories in print. Maybe they were a part of the old oral tradition. Certainly when I was young, it was fairly common for us to listen to these folk tales at my grand aunt's knee - so to say. We'd hear them normally at bedtime or at the end of a long day when pleasantly tired, we'd all lie down and wait for my grandmother's younger sister or "Nek Nyah" to start her stories. She'd always start with these words - "Pada masa dulu..." which translated would mean Long ago...
Other stories are " Bawang Putih bawang Merah" which was made into a film by Cathay Kris, Badang the first malay super hero, Tuan Putri Pucuk Kelompang which is a fairy tale about goddesses or a fairy from the sky and many more. maybe one day I'll try to remember them all and write them....

2 Nov 2008


Today I'm looking after Sophia for a while. Rizal and Poh ling have gone to see a musical. I was a bit apprehensive at first wondering if she would cry for her mummy but after a few tears in the beginning she settled down and we hyad a fairly fun time together playing games.

Here are some pictures of her at the playground downstairs.

1 Nov 2008

In Singapore

Rose mugs! What a find. And the cat mug, given to me by Elle, is gorgeous. The cat really looks like Chi Chi.
I've been in Singapore since last Thursday. Travelled as usual by Oddysey coach and arrived around 8pm. Brought my Jodi Piccoult with me and finally started reading it even though I've had it for almost 2 months. Its called Nineteen Minutes, about a 17 year old who had been bullied since he was 5 years old. Finally he could not take the bullying any longer and one day took some guns to school and started shooting the people who had been bullying him for so long. What made him break and did his mother take it? How would the judge rule it ? She had known him since he was born, had known his mother since before he was born and he had been her daughter's best friend in elementary school. These are the questions you want to know when you read the book. Is he guilty? Would you blame him? If you had been the one bullied day in and day out - would you be able to accept it ? Hmm... a lot of questions.
This is one of the things I liked about Jodi Piccoult. Her stories always have two sides - the perpetrator's and the victim's. In one of her previous books - Vanishing Acts we look at a very personal crime, in which a father kidnapped his daughter, to save her from a mother's neglect. So, in kidnapping his daughter, taking her to another state and bringing her up to believe that her mother had died, did he do a wrto correct another wrong? Should he had left her with her alcoholic mother and a potentially abusive step father? There is no black or white with Jodi Piccoult. Life has a lot of grey areas and there is no truly right or completely wrong when we deal with people and relationships. And that is how she shows it to us.

In Singapore I went to this wonderful craft shop while out with my daughter in law and Shasha. I just love the prints they had - roses! Especially the ones on something as practical as a shopping cart!