About the man with chivalry

As the deadlines to my work is no longer looming but haunting, I was in knots today, literally. I had tummy ache, headache and whatever aches one can think of. All of which, are of course– psychosomatic. I tried all means and ways to relief it ; ate chocolates, ate maggie with perhaps half a tonne of cili padi, slept, vent it out. But at long last, the one that soothed me the most when I gave up doing all those was when I picked up the YaSin booklet instead and read it. With salawat and other short verses. And what do you know, I am calm now. Dang! I should have done that first before all of the ( calorie inducing ) former. Like Forest Gump said, ” Stupis is as Stupid does.”–mine was sheer goblok-ness.

I think I give myself some time here before I start work again all the way till morning.

Over the Raya holidays, we were channel surfing on tv when we chanced upon the movie KingdomOfHeaven just about to start. That movie starring the hawt Orlando Bloom. The story of the Crusaders and the great Muslim warrior, Salahuddin Ayubi, who earned the respect of many, many western leaders and his enemies during his time.

Which brought me to some thoughts. Like the Crusades or holy wars by the Crusaders were tremendously glorified at that time and they were never ever called the “Christian Terrorists” although, historically they failed to upkeep the war ethics of protecting the rights of the civilians. But now, their descendants are quick to campaign ‘Muslim terrorists” ” Hindu Terrorists” and all other labels befitting of those past actions, in all holier than thou/double standard manners, no less.

That the true warrior has absolute chivalry. And warriors without it are just simply hooligans, actually. And that a ‘one on one’ fight in the battlefield has more honor than a group of men in uniforms sitting in an air-conditioned room pressing a button which wiped out two whole Japanese cities and a series of others, not leaving any women, children, the sick and the aged in mercy. That’s not war but cowardice, I feel. And also, a true warrior shows valiant in the face of danger but utmost compassion for the innocent civilians, which was depicted historically by Salahuddin Ayubi. And lastly, the European women of that time were in full hijabs just like the Muslims but now, they scream ‘Oppression!’ to the dressings which their own fore(mothers) wore. Like, how inconsistent can they be lah? Or they have principles likened to the lalang? Sway here and there and everywhere instead of standing upright and sturdy?

The last realization is that, Muslim kids these days I feel, are not exposed to the great personalities of Muslims in the past for them to emulate. Probably their own parents don’t even know about them, themselves. I feel it is a real pity. Because if they do know and use them as the role models in character and intellectual capabilities, we won’t have the social problems amongst the Muslims in dire state as it is now.

I did an acid test on that actually. I asked my students who knows Tariq Zyad? No hand up. Salahuddin Ayubi? No hand up. Khawarizmi? No hand up. Ibnu Sinna? One hand up. Mr Bean? All hands up. George Bush? All hands up. One boy even had BOTH his hands up in excitement to let me know that he ‘knows’ that loony ex-American President.

I think I should purchase the Kingdom of Heaven dvd, no? I hope it will bring about the same impact upon my students just like how I let them watch the movie Laskar Pelangi and watched them cry watching it.

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When actually, it turned out (surprisingly) well.

I have the panda eyes syndrome now because I have not been properly sleeping for days. And last night, I didn’t sleep at all, maybe a short half an hour nap and that was it. We went for takbir at the surau at the next neighbourhood and when I got home, caught up with some work, had ‘raya chat’ over MSN with a cousin in Toronto and come 2.30 am, I decided to hit the kitchen.

I didn’t have the heart to purely cheat on my raya cooking as planned in my previous post. That nagging ‘kesian nak jamu orang dengan barangan instant‘ feeling had me tweak the whole Brahim/Nona experience into something not just ‘from the box, add some things and served’. Since F’s son is big on chicken, I bought the Brahim’s Masak Merah paste. Instead of just throwing in some chicken pieces in after heating up the paste as instructed, I sautéed some onions in soya oil, after considerably browned, added the chicken pieces in and fried them lightly. I then made a well in the middle of the pot and added some more oil and poured the Brahim’s paste in. Once I saw that the paste is a bit done, I threw in toasted pounded almonds and let it fry over small fire. Once the smell has risen, I thoroughly mixed the chicken pieces with the almond spice paste, added a bit of water, covered the pot and left it there over heat for about 10 mins. Once the chicken pieces are cooked and tender, I added tomato wedges and green peas. When I transfered the contents of the pot into a serving dish, I garnished it with coriander, fried onions and fried cashew nuts thrown all over. Surprisingly, it looked good!

Next up was the sambal udang. I bought the premixed brand Aliff. Again I sautéed some onions with the paste, added lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, belacan powder and some ‘cili boh’ to thicken the sauce. After making sure that it’s all fragrant and doesn’t smell like something out of the packet, I added a kg of prawns in. Transfered it to the serving dish, garnished with coriander and fried onions.

I bought 2 premixed baking products, the Nona butter cake and brownie mix. I decided not to make a whole butter cake. I saw that we have a bunch of over-riped bananas which cannot last another day. I mashed those up. I melted 250g SCS butter, beat 4 kampung eggs lightly and in slow speed mixed those two with the butter cake premix. Once it was nicely mixed, I stirred the mashed banana in. I didn’t want a whole cake so I scooped a tablespoon each into 2 dozen cupcake casings. Dressed each cup with chopped white chocolate and finally sprinkled chocolate rice. Baked them. It came out looking real good and really, really tasty!

The brownies came next. I melted another 250g SCS butter, beat some eggs and got ready some water. Electrically mixed all of them together at medium speed with the brownie premix. Then I found a packet of orange peels in my baking larder and a packet of sunflower seeds. I mixed them all into the batter. Transfered the batter into baking tins and baked for about 45 min. It came out moist and nice, and because of the orange peels, the brownies ‘tak muak’.

I then realised I still had some time. And some vegetables perfect for a lodeh dish. So at the 11th hour, I decided to make a ‘short cut’ kuah lodeh. I chopped the vegetables– a turnip, long beans and a cabbage. I only had those but that’s enough, I guess. I blended a handful of cili padis I found in the fridge with a thumb sized ‘kunyit hidup’ and 3 large red onions. Heated up some oil, fried the blended paste with 2 cubes of KNORR ikan bilis paste. Once the smell is ‘up’, I added hot water and then the chopped vegetables and let it boil into a stew for about 20 minutes. I then added salt, sugar and some tempeh and tahu which I found in the fridge from the grocery trip 5 days ago. All that done, I added two packs of AyamBrand low fat coconut milk and let it simmer for ten minutes before turning the heat off.

At 6.00 am, I had a table full of garnished and decorated dishes of  kuah lodeh, sambal udang, ayam masak merah, two sticks of lemang we bought yesterday from the roadside, pretty banana-butter cupcakes and tangy-sunflower seeds brownie. All that done from 2.30 to 6.30 am on the morning of Idul Adha.

I was a zombie during the Eid prayers, saved by a can of overpriced chilled Nescafe latte from the mamak shop.

About the kitchen quandary

I stood there in the aisle of the hypermarket, trying to convince myself  ‘no I’m not cheating.. no I’m not cheating’. And then I grabbed a few packets and hurried away with the trolley with guilt painted all over my face. Then it happened again! In the next aisle, I stood in front of the shelves and timidly reached for 2 boxes, dropped them into the trolley and briskly walked away.

Of course I didn’t steal those things, if that was what you were thinking! I am only a compulsive thief when it comes to time and I steal from deadlines periodically. But no, I am not a hypermarket criminal.

We are celebrating Hari Raya Haji/Hari Raya Qurban/Idu Adha tomorrow with another family, a friend from back home whose husband is out stationed to New Zealand. And she just  gave birth 7 weeks ago and has another 10 year old. Since we’ve been friends for almost 2 decades, we are like family here. So with her and her newborn issues, the task of cooking falls naturally onto yours truly!

BUT, I am soooo tight with time!!! I have deadlines to meet this coming Monday for the book I’m translating and with over a hundred pages more to go, and also other daily documents to translate which range from press conferences to Minister’s speeches, how to sanely plan a Hari Raya menu ?! Hence, I decided to errmm..cheat. There I was, at the hypermarket, reaching out for packets of Brahims premixed spices ( just throw in fish or chicken or whatever you fancy kind ) and premixed butter cakes and brownies from the Nona brand ( just add butter and u are done kind ). So much for wanting to be the Nigella!!! But when the going gets tough, there is no reason to be purists, no?

So tomorrow, the guests will think I cooked for them, when actually, they are eating straight from the boxes. Nasib korang lahh… heh

But oh well, Sandra Lee, that blond celebrity chef of semi-homecooked meals made it so glamourous to cheat with your cooking with her tagline “”Everybody is going to be so impressed”, I really hope that’s what is going to happen tomorrow when I claim fame over work done by the good people of Brahim and Nona.

Synonymous

I got an sms today which made me laugh like a crazy hyena.

M.F ( which stands for MinahFairring) and my inconsequential sms conversation:

M.F : There’s a Tamil conversation going on beside me in the train. I can make out words like Sri Lankan Crab, Sambal Kangkung, Kerang, Birthday treat. U come to mind

Me: Hahahahaha! Ok now me equate to food. I like!

M.F : From the beginning of time you=food. Something 2blog about. Hehe. U know, their talk even suggest checking out some place in Tampines. We’re in Novena. Makcow!

____________________________________________

LOL. In anyways, it is always nice to be remembered, even if it was triggered by eavesdropping some Tamil conversation on the train. And yah, for that, so makcooowww sekali. 😛

“Please sir!”

I was enjoying a steaming bowl of MeeHoon Rebus at Chawan@BangsarVillage late Sunday night when a scrawny Indian boy approached our table with some wares he was selling. In his hands were multi-colored pens, strapped on his shoulders were attractive PVC bags and in his hands were  two big red plastic bags filled to the brim with craft sets for preschoolers.

It was around 10pm, I think because we went there quite late.  On a previous occasion, the husband did buy something from this boy, also on one of our trips to Chawan. But this time round, there was nothing we’d fancy from him so we had to tell him nicely sorry, not today. And I saw that look on his face which says ‘ haiizzz’.

According to UNICEF, the definition of a ‘street urchin’ :

  1. Children on the street are those engaged in some kind of economic activity ranging from begging to vending. Most go home at the end of the day and contribute their earnings to their family. They may be attending school and retain a sense of belonging to a family. Because of the economic fragility of the family, these children may eventually opt for a permanent life on the streets.
  2. Children of the street actually live on the street (or outside of a normal family environment). Family ties may exist but are tenuous and are maintained only casually or occasionally.
  3. Street children exist in many major cities, especially in developing countries, and may be subject to abuseneglectexploitation, or even in extreme cases murder by “cleanup squads” hired by local businesses or police.

The boy which approached us falls into the first category, I think. Because that was not the first time we saw him there, nor was it the 2nd time. He and his friend, also another street peddler seems to be a permanent feature around BangsarVillage area. Sometimes out of pity, we would try to make an effort to buy something from them. But deep down inside, we know that the money would not go to them, but their ‘agents’ whoever that might be.

I have been wanting to do something with these boys but never seems to have the guts to do so. Firstly, I do not know if people from the ‘syndicate’ they work for is lurking around, watching with eagle eyes on who these boys are talking to and I don’t really fancy the idea of messing around with the ‘underground’. Secondly, I am not sure if it would be right for me to do so.

What I really had wanted to do was, to get them to sit down with me at Chawan over a period of time and tell me their story. And then write about it. Maybe publish it. But like I said, I had no guts. ( yet? )

… and he said…

Be grateful for hardship & bad people. Obstacles are an essential part of training.-Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido

There are many times when hardship and ‘bad people’ are sent along our my way and more often than not, we I, wince, grumble, despair and whatever else negative reactions there are to be exuded, you name it, I’ve displayed it.

In martial arts, as I’ve grown to understand– is that when the villain comes to attack, that is when our strength and skills will be tested to its fullest. Without them, there won’t be a gauge of how competent we are in the path that we have pursued. And that goes in line with what my faith teaches me, that He won’t test us anymore than we can take and that after each hardship, there are two relieves. Hence hardship and difficult people are all part of our trainings to make us stronger. Just like the concept of villains in martial arts.

Blogs are usually filtered by its writers and on most occasions, only the good stuffs are put forward for others to read. Likewise in this space here, which has been an outlet of sorts for me to detox. As it is, our lives ( mine and my mister’s ) here are not perfect or all that rosy. We have been through some extreme challenges on personal, financial, domestic, studies and career levels. But because our faith forbids us to publicly talk about anything negative ( where the prophet said that if we have nothing good to say, it is better to keep quiet ), this blog here may seem at times, reflects all the nice, rosy and cosy aspects of life that we lead here.

The truth be known, we have met many of life’s ‘villains’ and ‘bad people’ and ‘obstacles’ along the way. Too many in fact. Initially it did get us down to the pits and we fell into the traps that so many people have fallen into i.e painting ourselves as the victims of circumstances. Of late, however through martial arts, we have learnt that is a very lame thing to do. Every opponent is supposed to make us rise to the occasion, not downcast us into meek lambs.

O-sensei Morihei Ueshiba used to train aikido in the forest at night and this was when he was already quite aged. The darkness of the forest at night made it extremely tough for him to see the oncoming opponents, especially if they come from all different directions. That mode of training was extremely tough and not for the faint hearted. But because it was that tough, it made him that good. Worthy of what his title was before he passed away– the O-sensei.

So now that my mister is done with his post grad course, I feel a bit sentimental. I looked back at the obstacles and the hardship we have gone through, the struggles we have had throughout the whole journey and survived it together, I can’t help but realized that it has definitely made our relationship stronger and firmer. By His grace, he  landed himself a cushy job here hence the plan to leave won’t be materialized. Our next chapter will still be here. And as O-sensei pointed out,  I am indeed grateful for all the hardships that we have gone through. Today it was reaffirmed into me that all those were essential parts of my life’s training, and through them, I can only become stronger.

Behind the faces

Over news yesterday, world leaders are encouraged to join facebook to see the flow of conversation on what the laymen/general public wants, what they are voicing out and think of them( the world leaders ) . And perhaps Najib would soon have facebook too as I read today in BH. On that note, I used to follow K/J on twitter but I stopped, because too many updates I get dizzy. Last week,  I had a good feeling of deactivating my facebook altogether, nothing more to it, just that it was becoming a tad too distracting.

When I first came to know about facebook, sure. I was excited like hell. Along with it were reconnections with friends whom I have not seen since primary school, or long lost buddies since secondary school and people I met  through different chapters of my life. Then there were also the old stories which are best forgotten, but somehow reappeared on the face of, yeah… you guess it, facebook. So then began the frenzy phase of adding and adding, people whom I knew and whom were once friends, whom appeared in my life in one way or another, who remembered me and wanted to reconnect.. whatever. It was fun initially. Exciting even to know about and to share with the people whom once upon a time crossed path with you or were once in your life.

Then, as all fad goes, the peak of excitement goes down. I realized that the initial reconnection were just temporarily fun and exciting. Then wham! It sank upon me that there were the downsides to it as well. It is the platform of the latest ‘news’ on who’s doing what and who’s up to what. The lines of privacy became dimmer and dimmer and in many cases, thanks to all these social networking sites, it may even disappear altogether.

While it is good that initiatives are taken for the world leaders to connect to the general public via these social networking sites, I question whether it would be of the best possible interest of the leaders in the long run. Not to support feudalism, but I am of the opinion that excessive ‘casualness’ between the leaders and followers would somehow or the other, destroy the  esteem given to our leaders when there no longer exist social demarcation between them and us. And when that happens, we begin to lose that respect that we once give to our leaders, elected or otherwise.

Like myself, who expresses freely on facebook only to realise that my students and ex students ceased taking me seriously anymore.They think it is ok to be treating me just like one of them, joke and make comments like one of their kind ( because via FB they see me joking with my friends and peers in the happy go lucky jovial manner ). And they do likewise, and it sometimes really reach the point of disrespect, forgetting I am/was their teacher. Would we reach that point with our leaders??? Since  now that we are going to have the same direct access to them? Where do we draw the line then? Can we still see them as leaders and speak to them in full decorum ?

On that record, I hardly have any of my students in my contact list anymore. It is more for personal friends whom have been with me throughout and family members. The world is getting a bit too huge  and in a nutshell ( that sounds oxymoronic ) it is making me a little uncomfortable.