Dagang Pak Malau

I was washing the dishes just now when the fireworks burst into the sky from across the main road from where we stay. Merdeka Day party was and is still going on as I am typing this. I called for the husband to hurry to the backyard to see the fireworks which was very close to us indeed. By the time we fumbled wth the back door key to the backyard, we could not see anything already.

Throughout the time I was washing the dishes, I thought about what I would like to write about tonight. About Malaysia. There are so many things I would like to write about Malaysia, currently my adopted country. Currently where I call home.

For the past two years, I have taken notice that whenever they ask, the people from my home country seem to have quite an incredulous look on their faces whenever I declared, without hesitation or even a split second of thinking about it that I love it here. You mean you like it? They asked. But it is so ……………… and they usually proceeded to blabber all about the bad politics, bad traffic, bad corruption, bad safety, non-cleanliness, non-efficient service and the list goes on.

Ok confession. For the first two months Malaysia became my home, even I was whining those as my daily, if not hourly mantra. Oh do forgive. I came from LEGO Land where Kens and Barbies reside. Everything has to be simply purrrfecccttt, must be this and that. Must be brainwashed too.. that if anything is substandard by our ‘I’SO’ standard, bitch about it very, very loudly, complain to your heart’s content and whine, whine, whine. Coming from that kind of high expectation environment, it was nothing surprising that my first few months as a resident and not a tourist here was honestly, hell.

She told me to give Malaysia a chance. It was a period where I was incessantly complaining to her on YM about every wrong thing about Malaysia. It was only later, that she proved to me that I was wrong. And I admit. I was indeed wrong. When I look beyond many things that were on the surface that bothered me due to the standard requirement I grew up in, I began to see that Malaysia offers life.

The Arts scene which I truly enjoy is very vibrant here, there are beautiful kampungs for my escapade, countless gorgeous waterfalls I have showered under, non artificial democracy which is not plastic unlike where I …( never mind ! ). It being a Boleh Land, it is a place where my mind felt free to dream my wildest dream and actually work to achieve those dreams without having the insecurities of stepping beyond the boundaries of what has been set for me and my people. Boleh hidup lahh ( and boleh mati too… but that is another story altogether ! ).

Once we took MAS and then my republic’s aircraft barely two months later. My home country’s airline has always bagged awards after awards for being top in service. But, guess which plane trip both myself and the husband enjoyed more??? The one which the cabin crew’s hospitality and mannerism and smile are genuinely warm and sincere. And not plastic, memorized or parroted through those bright red lipstick and blue eye-shadow. MAS, since then have always been our choice airline.

I am not here to curry-favour Malaysia for perhaps, a PR status. I am not dismissing there are things here that need alot of improvement. I am saying that, no place is perfect. And Malaysia, yes even with nonsensical politics, has its beauty and charm which I cannot find elsewhere.

And Malaysians, please don’t jump into the bandwagon of complaining and whining about your own country. Because I have travelled and seen worse. Because change and improvement begins from within oneself, so if you want a better Malaysia, be a better you, yourself and together create the ripple effect. Because look at my hometown. In their utter quest and manic focus on wanting to become too perfect, that has become their imperfection which have driven many of my country mates out as they have found the island unbearable to live in anymore. Because simply, your country is lovely, I love it and I am enjoying it. And oh… I find the politics hilarious too. Quite alarming, but funny. Ok that was a weird thing to say but who can come up with the right spot on words to describe Malaysian politics, really.

Selamat Hari Merdeka, Malaysia! Thank you for having me. Thank you for the lovely people and time. Thank you for the food. I can eat at Marche halal, you know ? πŸ˜›

And as for the title, I thought of starting this posting with the dialogue by Nordin Ahmad in the classic film Sri Mersing…Kajang Pak Malau kajang berlipat, Kajang hamba mengkuang layu, Dagang Pak Malau dagang bertempat, Dagang hamba terbuang lalu.

Then I decided… nahhh too drama. I know Malaysians are drama king and queen people but I am not a Malaysian ( yet ? ) :P.

Of green popiah and old friends

Trying quite hard to describe to me what he had at tea break after a discourse the other day, ‘ …so I had bee hoon and some green popiah

‘ Errr.. Green Popiah? ‘ I was curious. I mean innovation is the in thing in culinary industry now but green popiah sounds like a page in Dr Seuss books.

‘ Yes.. the green popiah. Soft skin and grated coconut inside.’

‘ Darling… actually, it’s called Kuih Dadar laaahhhh’ I guffawed.

Image taken from here.

I can never eat Kuih Dadar the same way again. Never.

Green Popiah, anyone ?


Off tangent a bit. After old friends J and M visited me on Tuesday, another old friend/ex-neighbour/mate/s-i-s , Maknenek and family bunked at our place. It was a nice reunion. Very nice in fact. Maknenek and I went back to the days of lepak at the gazebo below our apartments, of going to kedai runcit Alice/Econ minimart to buy ice-cream after a terawih session bawah block, of talking about our dreams and hopes for our future and of finding our paths. It has been a journey to remember, with her at least… and a ( very ) colourful one too! I was the first she called after she was proposed by her Egyptian husband outside the mosque one Thursday night and I screamed/laugh/cried at the same time utterly happy beyond words for her.

The last I met her was 2006 Christmas in Germany. She was staying there then. A complete family with two lovely kids. Now in Riyadh, I am happy she has found more of her bearings. After visiting her mum in Perak, she had graciously extended her stay in Malaysia for one more day and boy.. catch up we did! We talked late into the night and again, as though the years never passed.

And a pleasant surprised also came in the package when Maknenek, her two kids and I were walking at the hotel lobby across the road from my house, I met another old friend, N, who is here with her whole family including her lovely newborn. I’ve known N since we were 12 and though we still keep in contact online mostly, it was a nice surprise to see her on my territory now.

This week was lovely. Not many people can say they have long lasting endearing friendships. I am thankful that I may not be blessed with monetary riches, but with old time friends like them, life is rich indeed ! πŸ™‚

The Kelantanese Rhapsody

During our ‘masuk kampung’ moments, we usually try whatever kampung delicacies the state had to offer. For instance, in Pahang, we were hooked on Gulai Tempoyak Ikan Patin, in Terengganu, we never leave the state without buying bagfuls of sattar and keropok lekor, in Melaka — laksa Nyonya and cincalok, Kelantan– akok and Nasi Dage ikan Tongkol. And the list goes on.

This month the husband bought Flavours magazine Merdeka Day edition and it featured the different kinds of rice found in each state. Having indulged in gastronomical gluttony in Kelantan a few times before these, we thought we have tasted it all, especially after staying in their kampung hosted by pure bred Kelantanese. But no, we missed Nasi Tumpang. And since it was featured in this month’s FLAVOURS, we decided to give it a go.

Nasi Tumpang is basically a Kelantanese snack, more or less like the RM 1 Nasi Lemak throughout Malaysia or the cone shaped Nasi Uduk in Indonesia. Nasi Tumpang is rice pressed in a cone shaped banana leaf wrapping, white rice layered with Kelantanese serunding daging ( beef floss ) and gulai lemak ikan tenggiri.

We decided to make some for the husband’s night class just now and it was quite a hilarious yet productive experience. For rookies like us, NON Kelantanese at it too, I think we did pretty OK. As ikan tenggiri is very expensive here, I substituted it with Ikan Patin, my favourite fish since moving here– milky taste and soft-melt-in-the-mouth texture.

How to make the Nasi Tumpang ? The white rice is first pressed into the base of the cone, then place a layer of serunding daging, another layer of pressed rice, fish meat and then another layer of white rice. The gulai is then allowed to flow into the cone, flavouring it’s entire content with the gravy. Sounded pretty easy? It was not that easy for us. The cones kept tearing, the contents spilling or the gravy dripping. Being the typical engineer, the husband took one look at the mess and decided it needed an engineering approach to get us out of the ‘fishy’ situation. :p

Perseverance paid off, we managed to produce 10 cones of Nasi Tumpang which fed his classmates and made them happy this cold, rainy evening.

Our grand total of 10 Nasi Tumpang !!!

Not bad for the first attempt.. ahaks!

Nasi Tumpang unveiled…

It did cross my mind to eat it while listening to M.Nasir kecek Kelate in his song Langgar Pak Dogo. But… the irony of it all was that… I had Delifrance cheesy baked rice dinner, while the husband, after feeding his classmates with our virgin Nasi Tumpang, he had sushi dinner afterwards.

And many years later

Today, 2 of my really old time friends, as in waay back then friends are in town. And caught up with them I did. j/e/ha/n/rg/s and ma/s/tu/r/ah/ce/d/ar. That rounded them off from my batch who have made the much apprieciated efforts to meet up with me here, starting from Cake, then F.T and then Nymph.

J is here on a work trip and M is here on a solo backpacking after Vietnam. It was a night, where as though the years never passed. Of course we are no longer girls school dorky 12/13 year olds but more or less, it is really same old, same old. I have not met them in yonks and through the wonders of facebook, today became possible.

We had Japanese at the Pavilion.

Plates after plates and catching up in between mouthfuls. J announced she is getting married this November to an Italiano, Sicily mari man, after 5 years of courtship. I am very happy for her. M is leading a roaring single life, backpacking whenever it is semester break for her students. And we got out of the restaurant just to go into the Japanese dessert shop a few shops down to stuff our faces with Japanese ice-cream.

Good old friends are like a pair of comfortable old shoes. The one you have for years and still feel very comfortable the moment you slip your feet into them. It felt like that just now. Just nice I would say.

On another note, we have a new addition to our family. Meet Tito, Milo’s younger brother from the same mum and dad as him.

Milo was a bit jealous of his little brother. And for the past two days since we brought Tito home, he was extra clingy and wanting to be carried and cuddled all the time.

But Tito’s angelic face also melted Milo’s heart and since yesterday, he has taken the big brotherly duties upon himself of licking Tito clean each time after a feed or a poo or a pee. Tito is 2 months old while Milo is 8 months old. Tito, not quite realising Milo is his elder brother and not a sister, Tito persistently reaches out for Milo’s tummy looking for tits to suckle on. Much to Milo’s disdain…

The Return of The Mami

Two of my students, whose mother is from Seberang Prai, Penang mainland where Anwar is contesting tomorrow excitedly announced to all of us they are going back to Penang tonight. Their mother, grandmother and aunties are going back to vote, they said.

Out of curiosity, I asked them. So who are they voting for ?

” Anwar !!! ” they answered without hesitation. So I said, ” Wow… your family Anwar’s supporters ? ”

” Noooo teacher. We are not!!! ”

” Then why you did you say they are voting for Anwar if your family doesn’t support him ? ”

Then the elder one, with all the knowing look of whatever Malaysian politics the shoulder of a ten year old boy can bear, said wisely. ‘ Because my family wants to make all the claims he promised us if he wins ! My mother and grandmother even keep all their receipts of petrol and all the other things he said he will make better if he wins. Kalau dia tak buat…. Jaga dia !!! ‘

I had to laugh. I guess Anwar is literally in hot seats now. I imagine, if he fails to deliver, the ‘makcik squads’ will be hot on his heels then, nohhh ?

I will then perhaps produce a movie. ‘ The Return of the MAMIs’


The Cry

Raise me, elevate me with You
Make me pleasing to You
I can’t even provide for myself
Without You
Guide me
Take me by the Hand
Heal me from the calamities
Whom none other but me
Who imposed it upon myself
For You are my Focus
For You are my Direction
For You are my End
For Your Blessings and Love
Are the only things I seek
Amongst other things
In Your Oceans of Mercy

“`From The Tears of a Sufi

Book Tales

After much deliberation, I finally finished A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon.

Image taken from wikimedia

I didn’t enjoy it as much as his previous, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, about the autistic boy who wanted to sit for his A Levels Maths. A Spot of Bother is to me, a typical dysfunctional family which turned out fine in the end. Nothing quite insightful about that as in this day and age, dysfunctional families are aplenty, no?

Ramadan is coming. So I reckon I better finish up Shaykh Nazim‘s In The Mystic Footsteps of the Saints volume 1 and 2. Provided, I can have the time.

Some things just gotta go

Multi-tasking seems to be the mantra of many women, especially in household matters. I used to wonder upon wonder how my grandmother brought up 13 kids single handedly in a single income household, which means whatever my grandfather brought home was enough to feed the family– maids were unthinkable.

I used to think that I could be like her. Raise a brood of kids and be on top of it all with housework done at the snap of the fingers. But, I have to admit. I can’t.

We do not live in that big a house. A terrace with mezzanine floor. But we do have many children, none of whom is our own. Because most of my waking time is either teaching these children or cooking for them, by the time night comes, I am too exhausted so I let the mess be. And messy house gets on me. But then again, I am tired too. The husband helps around. But he too is busy. And we have aikido training 3 nights a week. So the house?

I am quite anal when it comes to doing housework my way. I have a certain system of washing the clothes, of putting my utensils, of arranging the bathroom etc. But I heck that all when I realised that it is better to pay others to do it for me while I rest a bit more. They may not be done the way I want it, but it did get done, the house is clean and tidy hence my nerves are not stretched. So far, having 2 cleaners coming in every week seems to work for me. I am less volatile ( I don’t nag, but I have short spurts of outbursts ) where the house is concern. So delegating, I figure, works for me. I can’t do everything. That, I have to remind myself. I am no Wonder Woman, no matter how much I found her big hair with the red star hair band, her scarlet red bustier and blue undies objects ofΒ  wonder ( forgive the pun ) when I was young.

Today I slept the whole day. I cancelled all my teaching today, actually to attend a book launching event, but instead, my head was spinning till now. I woke up for lunch. And then for dinner. And in between that, for prayers. My body is telling me to slow down. It has been telling me that many times already, but I am an Aries, I was meant to be stubborn. However, today I finally listened.


Before we got married, we told ourselves one day we would want to have a family business together. Books seems the natural choice for book geeks like us. We cannot afford to franchise MPH or BORDERS or TIMES or what have you, but baby steps have to be taken.

So on behalf of the husband, we present to you… our bookwell. πŸ™‚

So..err.. drop by?

Of Life and Aikido

We have been asked several times, out of curiosity perhaps on why we both chose to learn and practice Aikido, amongst all other things.

Aikido teaches the harmony of body and spirit, of the yin and yang and of non resistance but going with the flow… while being in one with those who oppose you, or things that oppose you in a harmonious relationship.

Islamic spirituality or tassawuf/sufism teaches all that in a tauhidic way. And as we are both learners of tassawuf and ( trying to ) practice sufism, we found that Aikido reinforces all that perfectly.

So that’s why.

And I am enjoying it really. My sensei has commented while I need more work on my other techniques, I am really good at the sword part ( using the ‘jo’ ). I am not sure whether it is because I still berangan/berfeeling Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, or of the fact that when I was young I loved watching the monkey god in the Journey to the West serial.