31 Jan 2011

Remembering Chi Chi

In the garden in Melaka
Its exactly two months since Chi Chi went over the Rainbow Bridge. I still miss her though. Here I'd like to share some photos of her. She was so cute. And the worst thing is until today, I still don't know the cause of death. Neither did the vet who treated her. Her fever had gone down, she looked tired, which I suppose was natural, after the fever.  I guess I will always ask  myself that question - it was rather sudden after all. She was okay in the morning then she suddenly looked tired and couldn't walk. By 1.45pm she had convulsed and died.
Deep sleep

Yawn.... I'm so sleepy

Wherever  you are Chichi I will always think of you.

29 Jan 2011

Going Home...

Just finished reading three books but two of them are  re reads - the university texts for my class - Lord of the Flies  and Frankenstein.  I also managed to finish reading this book I've been carrying around for what seems like ages - Coming Home by Melanie Rose. I bought it for 50% off at BookXcess and it's so worth it!

This is Melanie Rose's second book, the first being It's Magic! which was also very well-received.

In this book a young woman is caught in a freak snowstorm while on the way to visit her aunt and uncle. Her car falls into a raging icy river but she and her cat survives because they are both thrown out. Unconscious, she is found by a man, Vincent, who carries her into his house and looks after her. However she finds out that the accident has knocked off her memories and she cannot remember who she is or where she's from. What is strange about all this is that Vincent has a young daughter who has not talked for two years (because of her sister's death and her mother's disappearance ), but who started talking with the young woman as though nothing had ever happened. Meanwhile, Tara, Vincent's housekeeper is very suspicious of their new houseguest.

Later Tara's brother Colin, a psychoanalyst, tries to jerk the young woman's memory by using hypnosis but this has a surprising result! Instead of regaining her memory, she regresses into a previous life.

I think the part of the regression of “Kate” by Colin is really interesting. You can tell that  Melanie Rose has done her research for this book, and it comes across in the way she writes “Kate’s” regressions, and the detail of the Victorian time she regresses to is perfect. I was really interested to read about Kitty's story as well as "Kate's "story. It was a good addition to the novel, and I am so impressed by how well Rose has weaved all these different threads together to create such a fabulous read.

One brilliant thing about this novel was how multi-dimensional it was. As well as the mystery story of who our leading lady was (which actually seemed to take a back seat for a little while in the book), there were a few other stories in there too. One was to do with the family that “Kate” stays with – Jadie is very ill and hasn’t spoken for years, yet speaks to Kate like it’s nothing out of the ordinary. The story around this is actually quite heart-breaking and the way it slowly unfolds is so tenderly done that you are completely captivated by it. It is a tough area that is dealt with very delicately by the writer, and I think she has tackled them extremely well. She manages to make us see the heart break of the little girl and her father as well as the housekeeper and she does it so well too.

If you haven’t discovered this author yet, then I definitely recommend you seek out a copy of this book because it is an amazing read.

26 Jan 2011

Mulan goes fishing

Mulan our grey kitten never seems to tire of looking at the fish in my aquarium. Not a day passes by when she sits on the aquarium cover to watch the little fish swim, sometimes pawing the glass to try and catch the fish. I sometimes wonder what she is thinking when she tries to catch the fish!

One day I accidentally left the flip cover of the aquarium open. You can guess what she did when she saw that here's a chance for her. She decided to go fishing!

18 Jan 2011

Singapore, Books and Sophia

I was in Singapore last weekend - to babysit my grand daughter while Rizal and Poh ling went for a much needed break in Bali. I was too happy to oblige. Taking a bus gave me 5 hours of reading time and I managed to finish the book I had been trying to read last week - The Bookseller of Kabul. Written by Asne Sierstad, a Norwegian journalist, the book has become quite controversial. Sierstad herself was sued by the main character of her "novel" Sultan Khan or Shah Rais, the real bookseller in Kabul. Siertstad met Rais, a modern-seeming, urbane and cultured bookseller, while she was covering the Taliban war in Afghanistan. Charmed and impressed by his cultured mien, she got him to agree to let her stay with his family, while she writes about them. While with them however, she discovers another side to this seemingly modern man - he is a typical Afghan autocrat, who rules his family with an iron fist. Sierstad does not mince words when she describes the bookseller's character. Although proclaiming to be a modern man with open views about women and education, at home Sultan Khan (the character in the book) does not really practise what he preaches. His wife Sharifa is totally ignored once he marries a younger woman. His  nineteen year old sister Leila is treated like an unpaid servant and his sons are forced to work in his book shops, even  the 12 year old who only wanted to go to school and learn, like his friends.

It is an interesting book though some might say otherwise. Written as a novel, most of the incidents and even the characters are real however. I agree with Asne Sierstad and I believe that her depiction of this Afghan family and the society in which it moves is true. She may have broken some unwritten law of  hospitality by writing about a family she has stayed with but the colourful tale she has woven and its stark reality pitted against a background of a new Afghan nation just rising in the aftermath of the Taliban war is fresh and insightful. As a reader I feel sad and angry sometimes about the way women, and especially Leila, Sultan's nineteen year old sister is treated. But it is true that in many parts of the world, especially among the less educated, and where the culture is stronger than the religious knowledge, women are never treated fairly. However reading this, one should also understand that not all families  are like Sultan's and that Islam is a religion which reveres its women.

While in Singapore I had the chance to read a few books on fantasy - one by Jessica Day George entitled
Princess of Glass and another about a girl who could change into a dragon, Spitfire. Princess of Glass is a re-telling of  The Twelve Dancing Princesses and is a beautiful story of courage, romance and true love - pitted against witches and curses, with a heroine who is both beautiful and brave as well as intelligent. I'm going to find her other books to read - I enjoyed reading this one so much!

My stay in Singapore is of course not about reading at all but about Sophia.We had a wonderful visit with her and enjoyed ourselves going on the Singapore Flyer with her. Just watching her antics makes me laugh. She can be naughty at times but she is such a delight!

Having fun with Datok

Playing with her toys

12 Jan 2011


I haven't really much time these days to post on my blog - I've started teaching again this semester - the same course as I taught last year. This year though I've only got 10 students - some of them the ones I taught last year in the Literature Methodology class. This one is Simulated Teaching in Literature Education, that is I'll be teaching students how to teach Literature. Life is busier too because Wan my second boy is getting married! Preparations are already under way and luckily for me I have my sisters to help out. Lela my sister will be making the pelamin or dais which is so necessary for any Malay wedding, be it modern or traditional. We'll have two weddings too - one in Malacca where all my relatives are, and one in KL where all our friends are. When Rizal got married last time we had it at the old Semabok house in Malacca and only a few close friends turned up. So this time we decided to have two weddings -one in each place.

As for  my new little kitty, not so new and not so little now - she's getting bigger and naughtier by the day. We had to change her name back to Mulan, the name they called her back when she belonged to my sister Jasmine. She used to jump on me when I'm praying and cling on to the prayer clothes. My right hand is full of tiny scars - a legacy of hers. When I play with her, she will bite and kick fiercely, not knowing yet how to control her claws so I have to be very careful. I've learnt to pull away when she's too fierce.

 Look at her eyeing my aquarium! She's there every day, morning or night, watching the fish swim. Sometimes she tries to swipe at them with her paws! Sometimes she climbs on top and stares at the tiny fish inside the aquarium!!

"If only I can get those wriggly things... how do I get them?"

4 Jan 2011

Back to school

I was watching the news yesterday which showed pictures  of kids all over Malaysia going back to school.  Many were crying and clinging to their parents but a few were happily holding hands with other children and smiling. 

When I was a child I always looked forward to going to school. I loved school - as opposed to staying home and being bored out of my skull because there was nothing to read! The long December school holidays were always a trial to me - I used to count the days when I could go back to school! Was I weird or something? School was so much fun I think in those days. We still had singing lessons, days when we were brought to the hall to listen to the radio broadcast (no tv in those days mind you), story telling sessions with our teachers telling us wonderful stories from fables and other fairy tales. When we were in third year at Elementary school, we had this really wonderful teacher called Miss Ratnam. She taught us English, Science and Civics. She was also our class teacher and we loved her very much. I can still see her smiling face and 
spectacles, telling all of us about her sick mother. She told us to pray for her mother to get well and when one smart aleck said " How to pray because we all have different religions," her answer was the best answer and one I will always remember. " Just remember that all religions teach us to be good and that whoever you pray to, that god will want you to be good. Pray in your own language and to your own god ," she said.

The last lesson of the day was always hers - usually it would be English. After we had done our work she would remind us to hand in the exercise books and then we'd all sit quietly while she told us stories. My first stories from the Greek myths began from her story telling sessions. She told us about Medusa, The Golden Fleece, King Midas and many many more. Her classes were always very interesting mainly because she allowed us to be children - she didn't mind us walking around the class as long as we had a reason, talking and laughing was allowed as long as we didn't disrupt the class and best of all she loved singing, so quite often we'd have singing in the class.

Coming back to the question of school - why do many of today's children dread school so much? Ask any child if they love school and the sorry answer is more often than not, no. I think schools have become too serious, too exam-oriented and too large. It is no longer personal anymore. Classes are normally about 50 students. There were only about 30 children in my class in primary school. By the second week the teacher had memorised all the students' names and could more or less identify every child in her class. By the first term, she knew our personalities, our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes. There is a closeness and a caring, that perhaps is missing in today's impersonal school environment. We went to our teacher's house for Deepavalli and even for tea sometimes. I still remember the terrace house in which she lived because I was a fairly frequent visitor. Where are all the Miss Ratnams today? Do we still have such caring teachers? For the sake of the younger generation I hope so.

2 Jan 2011

The year that was and the year that will be

 Jim Reeves is one of my favourite singers. This song, with words taken from the bible always touches me and I think is just the message for the new year.Happy New Year everybody and this song is for you! Just listen to the words - Knock and the door will open, Seek and you will find.... Ask and you will be given...

1 Jan 2011

Happy New Year 2011