29 Nov 2009


My prized catteleya orchids just bloomed!
I'm home today for a few hours - to check on the fish pond and the waterfall, my orchids and roses which seem okay in spite of the rain. There are more fish fry when I looked at the pond yesterday but by today most of them will be gone - eaten by the bigger fish. I didn't bother to separate them this time - there are just too many fish now. The previous batch are now at least 5in long and taking over the pond so Repin says let the law of nature play its role - survival of the fittest. At least that way we can control the population. But what I really want to do is give them away.My brothers did say they wanted some but nobody has come to collect the fish since.

Its been raining every day since November began. The skies are almost always covered by dark heavy cumulo-nimbus clouds. You can hardly see the sky actually - its all just a thick dark cloud cover. Kelantan and Terengganu as well as Kedah and Perlis have been flooded again. Year in and year out we hear the same stories - flood waters rising, people being evacuated, landslides at hill side developments. As for the monsoon, it will come and we should be prepared. But we never are. Our drains are still tiny, our rivers clogged (though they're not so bad nowadays) and most of the newer housing estates have poor drainage. I guess we'll never learn. What we need are monsoon drains to take away most of the water out to shore. At least that should contain some of the flooding.

26 Nov 2009

Big bad wolf sale

We arrived very early - about 10 am and yet the crowd was full! You can hardly negotiate your way along the aisles. But there were books and more books! I'm in book heaven!! And everything was below RM20. Most of the paperbacks were about RM8 only and the children's books were mostly below RM8 - about 3-5. Imagine that. But the crowd was too big - at one point I overheard a teenager comment: "Who says Malaysians don't read?" Yes we do, and we are also very kiasu. The moment we hear there's a sale, we all turn up, grabbing books whether some of us will read them or not.

I was mostly at the fiction corner - picking up as many books as I can shove into my pink book bag. I'll go through them later and decide whether I really want them. Those I don't think I'll read I'll put back. Can't see Shasha anywhere... she too must be going crazy because I saw the fantasy and science fiction section was full to overflowing with many of her favourite writers. I got a few Nora Roberts, two Georgette Heyer, one JUlia Quinn, a number of other writers I'm trying to read and numerous chick lit stuff I think Sara might like. They were just simply irresistable - haven't seen books costing below RM10 for a long,long, long time. I also managed to get two travelogues for Repin, and a few Jeffrey Archer although I knew he has probably read them already. I think I must have easily bought over 30 books - some for Sophia and some for the family day children's prizes. And all for only about RM200. Wow... I just can't believe it. Normally we'd fork out more than RM100 for 3 books at the most. Shasha is going again tomorrow and maybe Repin will go tonight! Talk of a flood of books!!

I managed to get a hard cover version of "Looking for Enid" by Duncan McLaren so can return Poh Lin's book which I had borrowed earlier. Enid Blyton was my favourite children's writer and my main companion throughout my growing up years. My very first books were all written by Enid Blyton and which Malaysian child growing up in the 60s doesn't know her? I found out only recently that most Americans never knew her and I was really surprised. Imagine not knowing who Enid Blyton was.Or never having read The Secret Seven stories, The Famous Five, The Chalet girls and all those other books by her. She had written easily more than 600 books by the time she passed away at the age of 71. To me the characters in her stories were as real as my friends. I knew Julian and Dick and George and Anne and even Timmy the dog. Every week I would go to the library near my house and borrow the books - all written by Enid Blyton. So to me, finding the book about her was so exciting. I had never really read anything about this woman who wrote all those wonderful books for children, never really knew much about her. This book details the author's search for the real Enid - where she lived, where she wrote her stories, the places she grew up in, the places she described in England. There are illustrations taken from the original books - mostly from the Famous Five series and they bring back memories of happy days cuddled up in bed in the attic at my grandma's, reading one of the Famous Five books. This is one book I'm really looking forward to reading!

24 Nov 2009

What I'm reading now

I'm reading the second book by Tahir Shah - In Arabian Nights. The first book -The Caliph's House was about Tahir Shah buying a house in Morocco, renovating it and his problems with the contractors and repairing the house. In this book he tells us about his search for Morocco's stories and the real Moroccan. A very interesting and sometimes humorous look at life in Morocco and its tales and beliefs.
Recently also I bought a number of books from Kinokuniya and BookXcess. Some I've finished reading, some I'm still going through and some I'm keeping for next time. These are:
  • Amanda Quick - Second Sight ( read - not too interesting)

  • Georgette Heyer - Cotillion ( always a good book- I am a fan of Heyer anyway!)

  • JD Robb - Strangers in Death ( I've now read 3 books under the JD Robb title and I find them too similar! Only the places, names are changed. All deal with murder and treated almost the same)

  • JD Robb - Naked in Death

  • Maryjanice Davidson - Undead and Unemployed (Kind of interesting - chick lit)

  • Marina Lewywcka - A sort history of Tractors in Ukrainian (borrowed)

I've finished Undead and Unemployed about a young woman who died but became a vampire and is busy looking for a job even though she already has a job as queen of the vampires!

18 Nov 2009

OUM convocation

Its that time of year again and the graduation ceremonies are on. This time around there are more than 7000 students graduating and the convocation ceremony will take  a number of days. The first day we had Tun Jeanne Abdullah in her capacity as Chancellor. The ceremony as usual was grand, with all its pomp and glory. Maybe our convocation ceremonies are quite over the top, but I think students love it that way. judging by the attendance and the parents and families that come to watch their children/ spouses graduate. And after all it is a once in a life time event, unless you happen to take a post degree. As a wife of one of the university's top brass, I had to be there each and every day. It can be a bit of a chore, but with Puan seri there  at least we get to talk. On the first day we had Puan Rohani as well as Wan and Norizan, Dr Mansor's wife but they all disappeared in the afternoon session giving all kinds of excuses. So Puan Seri and I were left on our own.
Anyway time flew because we were busy dissecting everybody and had a grand time of it too. Well, it wasn't all criticism anyway - there were plenty of praises too. I loved the flower arrangement and the decor for the stage - all done by our own interior designer Prof Dr Shaari. That man is a real genius with flowers - and every year he will prepare extravagant bouquets for the occasion. He does OUM proud. And he is so dedicated and committed he will drive all the way to the Cameron's just to get the flowers that he wanted fresh from the nursery. I heard that he stayed up until nearly 4 am to complete the stage decorations!

10 Nov 2009

Selling the Kia

Today I finally sold my Kia. However after sending it off into Mr Wong's hands I felt rather sad - its been with me for a long time and whatever they say about the Kia, my Spectra has always been loyal to me. For a long time while I was still in govt service, I drove it all over the Peninsula. I went to Kota Baru in it with Maziyan, to JB once, again with Maziyan. I also went to Penang, Perlis and Kedah in it - twice actually. Once with Maziyan before she got promoted to Head of Dept and once with Sharifah. That's a pretty long way and many kilometres of travel. So of course I feel sentimental about this black beauty of mine. We are selling mainly because I hardly use it anymore now that I'm not working and we also have the Livina for most of my travels around KL and Malacca.

Talking of cars - my fave is always the X Trail. It's elegant yet utilitarian and a great lady's 4WD. Better than all those huge hunkies such as the Mitsubishi and Toyota 4WD. I love driving it - it's smooth and quiet, fast when you want it to be and quite good at corners and such. But it does gobble up the gas which was one reason why Repin wanted to change it. The Livina is not as quiet but its a saver where petrol economy is concerned. And like the X Trail the Livina can also speed like nobody's business. The other day while driving back to Malacca I went at 140 without even realising it and could have gone further if not for the fact that I was scared of the speed traps. Hmm just like the X trail. Now my Kia and even the Protons that I used before were always a bit shaky after 130. Even when they were brand new.

There's another thing on my mind now - the Family day we're going to have on 26 December 2009. This is the very first time I'm joining the family day (my family's, not Repin's). They have it every year actually. It started off as a kind of holiday thing with Yah being the main sponsor but lately it has expanded into a real family day with games and stay overs at resorts etc. So this time, after being made to feel guilty by Yah and gang, I've decided I will join them. And they've put me in charge of the prizes!

6 Nov 2009

One Malaysia

Daily we are bombarded by the one Malaysia hype. I can't but be sceptical about where all this is going to take us. It's a noble aim, true, but when politicians do anything we can't help but wonder about the truth of anything they say. Is there any political will in it? Or is it only a gimmick to help garner the waning support from the community? If the PM really means what he says then I think he should also be brave enough to allow everything to be done by merit only. Scholarships, placings in universities, contracts for government work, promotions and so on. Nothing should be based on whom you know, or on the accident of birth. Whether a person is a bumiputra or not should not mean anything when being given a scholarship or a place at university or a promotion at work. There should not be any quotas for certain groups. Fair and square. Then only can we know that he means what he says. Its time too for everyone to wake up and realize that being given a scholarship is not his birthright. I am a Malay, but grew up during a time when merit is given precedence over race. I had to fight for any scholarship I received. When I received a prize for English, I knew it was because I earned it. I won the prize fairly over other girls who were good in English too but I was better. When I was offered a place at a university overseas, that too was based on merit and not just because I was a Bumiputra. This was because in those days the term bumiputra wasn't even coined yet and I had to tough it out with my peers.

Today's kids, especially those lucky enough to be chosen to go to boarding schools from young, can never really understand this concept of working hard for what you want. Everything is handed to them on a platter - pocket money, school books, uniforms are all more or less paid for by the government. To them it is their "right" to be given a scholarship when they get even 7 As. There is no such thing as 'right" to me. True many of these kids are bright enough, but there are others who deserve scholarships too, brighter than they are and often from poorer families. But because of an accident of birth, many of these kids cannot get into universities, because the "quota" is full.

So if the PM really wants Malaysians to think as one people, I think this has to go all the way. Not just where scholarships are concerned. But everywhere. At one point there was a lot of talk about why non Malays or non bumis refuse to work for the government. I think many people know this answer. They do not want to work in the government service because promotions are often mainly given to bumis. Let's just look at the top most post in the government - how many Indians or Chinese or other races are there holding the top post? Don't tell me that there aren't any suitable candidates for the post of DG from the other races? How many Directors of government agencies are there from other races? At one time, when I was a small girl, there were names like Tun Tan Siew Sin, Manickavasagam and so on heading very important portfolios.

I know whatever I say, may sound as if I'm being anarchic but I'm not. I only want what's best for my country. And if the best is not a Malay, so what? Maybe at one time we need to show that Malays too can be directors and director generals, but not anymore. Today everyone knows that we are all just as good as anybody else. We already have hundreds if not thousands of good Malay doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers. Ours is a beautiful country and we have a lot of wonderful people - just look at all those people who run away to Singapore and Australia to get better recognition, better pay, better appreciation - are we being fair to them? Are we being fair to our young Malays who never have to fight to get what they want? People say that if we are always given things freely, we never learn to appreciate them. I think many of these young people who were given scholarships to study in the US and UK, Australia and Canada don't really appreciate what the government has done for them. Many are in the opposition, biting back the hand that used to feed them. Look at the credentials of many of our young opposition members - I know that many if not most of them were from the boarding schools, given special priviledges from the word go. But do they appreciate what the government has done for them? I don't think so.

So, 1 Malaysia. Is it going to succeed? I hope so because we do need to unite, not just among the other races but also within our own. There are factions everywhere, in all the political parties. People who join politics today are merely doing so to gain something for themselves, not to help the nation. And where does all this leave us, the silent majority?

Many from my generation are united. We have friends of all races. Most of my best friends are actually non Malay. During Hari Raya you only have to visit my house to see the true one Malaysia concept. My in laws are Chinese. I have uncles, cousins and a myriad relatives who are either Chinese or mixed. On the first day, friends of my husband (his x classmates from the class of '66) are people from all walks of life and from all the various races. When my children were growing up I encouraged them to make friends with all races. Some have remained their friends till today.

When I was growing up I used to play with friends of all races. There was Visalatchi, Letchumi, Violet the Eurasian girl, Cheng the Chinese boy, Lai Lee, Ah Kim and so on. When it rained heavily sometimes my mum would ask either 16 year old Eddy or Cheng the Chinese neighbour to go over to my school with an umbrella for me. Often Cheng would cycle to my school and take me home on the carrier behind him. Can such a thing happen today? I remember the days after sports practice at school when I would go back with one of my Chinese friends and eat at their house - normally fried kway tiow with lots of cockles. They knew as Muslims we can't take pork and we trusted that there would be no pork in our food. Trust. Its a big word. Do we trust now? I think many adults today have done a big big wrong - we have taught our children NOT to trust. I once heard a child, a 3 year old, scream in mock fear whenever his mother drove pass a masjid.
"Ada hantu! Hantu!" And who taught him that? Not another child definitely.... but his own mother. Need I say more?

4 Nov 2009

New reads

I've just finished reading this fantastic book called "The Caliph's House", by Tahir Shah. Tahir Shah is British and a writer who has lived in London most of his life.But as a child he had visited his grandfather who was at that time living in Morocco. Since then he had always dreamed of living in Morocco too so when he got the chance of buying a house there he grabbed it with both hands and moved with his family to this country,when he could neither speak Arabic nor French. When I first started reading the book I thought that this is another of those travel books - in fact Tahir Shah did give it a second title - A year in Casablanca. But once you start reading, you just can't put it down. It grabs you and pulls you along; Tahir's reason for leaving England sounds familiar enough - small cramped apartment where you can hear your neighbours quarrelling or making love. When he uprooted his pregnant wife and little daughter I thought 'what an irresponsible man" but reading on I realise that this man is neither a dreamer nor irresponsible. It is because he loves his family that he takes them away to his dream house - albeit an old and ramshackle one that has seen better days. Tahir believes he can bring back the glory days of the house - Dar Khalifah - a huge rambling house that is full of jinns. Renovating a centuries old dilapidated house is no mean feat but he is adventurous enough, enterprising enough and maybe 'innocent' enough to carry it through. He meets with con men, liars, lazy ruffians who work as his contractors and deals with them with the classic aplomb of the innocent gullible man. This book is not funny 'funny' but Tahir Shah's sense of humour and style shines through. His view of life in Morocco is lively and original. I'm now reading his second book -In Arabian Nights, which promises to be as entertaining as the earlier one. I'm also looking forward to reading another book of his - In Search of King Solomon's Mines.