Si Merong

“Sampai masa tibanya waktu
Redup hati kamu berdua
Dua jasad mula bersatu
Hidup dan mati jadi bersama….”

I watched Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa 3 times within a span of 5 days. The first time it was by the spur of the moment when my buddies from Singapore came for a visit and we were at KLCC. And that first time impressed us to no ends, I decided to take the husband along for my second helping.

He was bought over, impressed with the scriptwriting and language used. He even said that he would actually watch the film for the second time just for the language alone.

My third time was a couple of days later, accompanying a friend who enjoyed it just as much. Just now, the husband took his mother to watch it as a sending off movie date as she is flying back home bound for Germany in a few hours. She likes it, although she depended largely on the subtitles. I didnt go with them as I was working. It would have been my 4th time had I gone. Not that I mind.

This is the first ever local production I watched more than once in the cinema. It is also the first ever local production I would actually give a standing ovation to.

If you have not watched it yet, go already!

Come Monday, I may be watching it again, bringing in another guest from home to experience a piece of local awesomeness.

Budak Kampung

The first book which I learnt to ‘read’ as a toddler, even before my very first story book (which was Chicken Licken) was actually ‘Lat the Kampung Boy’. My old man was a fan and he used to keep the book in the low drawer beside the stereo. Of course as the toddler then, I couldn’t resist ransacking the drawers, taking this coveted book out and leafing through it (and destroying it in the process). As a first time mother, mine couldn’t resist capturing it all on camera. That was how I knew that my first encounter with a cartoon character was that with a rotund, bushy haired village boy who later turned quite famous indeed.

On Saturday, we went to watch Lat the Kampung Boy musical which was directed by Hans Isaac and Harith Iskandar. When the promotions for the musical was advertised, I had anticipated it to be an awesome production in which I wouldn’t mind paying to watch again. I had even earlier wanted to take my old man to watch it, but he declined for some reason. On how we came to possess a set of tickets with good seating arrangements at a quarter of the price is another story altogether. And so we went, my husband, my friend and I.

I was initially amused that Awie was chosen to play Lat. Overall, the musical was not that bad, but good is not what I would personally describe it as. They have good talents in the cast, but I find that the talents didn’t gel. Awie’s chemistry with co-star Atillia was zilch, although as a saving grace, both of them were really talented singers. Atillia was impressive there and that surprised me, because when she first started, we heard her sing at the concourse of Cineleisure Curve while having bubble tea at the Taiwanese shop. And we were wondering WHO is this wannabe?

The first half of the musical was draggy. I dozed off for several moments, and I have never done that at any musicals before this. The opening number was nice and catchy though, but that was it. It crawled on till intermission time where we had that glimmer of reluctance to go back in for the second half. But we did and we were glad because the second half was way better than the first half. If their strategy was to save the best for last, it was indeed a risky move because I was quite sure some audience did leave during the intermission and didn’t come back. I enjoyed the second half, especially that of the Frankie character. He was hilarious. I would give the musical a 6 out of 10. Probably Awie, in my eyes failed to bring out the Lat character the way I had imagined it to be. The draggy first half didn’t help either.

However, despite everything, I would give 2 thumbs up to the set design. It was as though the book came alive and I was seeing it in 3D.

Who’s that Girl?

We were at Istana Budaya last night and towards the end I felt like I should run up the stage and give Erma Fatimah a big hug, for directing something so awesome.

And being mentally and emotionally stuck in the 80s, it felt as though I was given a lil treat of sorts with Susan Lancaster, Sofea Jane and Ziela Jalil on the same playing stage.

I like the cheekily creative way Erma explored with the musical numbers, with a pinch of influence from Slumdog Millionaire and Ip Man.

It was a splendid showmanship alright, with a tiny flaw of casting Aaron Aziz as Burhanuddin Helmi. The latter, in history was one heck of an influential youth leader who was supposedly charismatic and ‘bersemangat dalam menyemarakkan’ the emotions and sentiments which were instrumental in the protest during the tragedy. But Aaron, bless this Pasir Ris mat succeeded in mellowing it down by saying out his ‘influential’ speech like a pre-puberscent teenager running for the prefectorial board.

And I simply love the Maya Karin-Remy Ishak combination as Natrah and Mansor. They may not look anything like the real ones on the cover of this book we bought at the lobby of Istana Budaya, but they both got charm and chemistry and more importantly theatrical showmanship.


We went to visit Aunty Meena for Diwali. When we called her to say we were coming, again, she sounded excited. She didn’t allow us to come on the first day of Diwali. She gave the reason that so many people would be at her house on the first day. We knew. Her living room is smaller than my master bedroom and with her siblings and nephews and nieces, she didn’t want to cramp us in like how we experienced 3 Diwalis ago. Not that we minded, but she seems to want to give us the exclusive Diwali visit, in the most endearing way she knows how to.

Some of her Diwali goodies. She makes wicked Muruku, something I always look forward to.

She’s a very pious Hindu and there are many of these deities in her house, which she carefully cleans daily.

Her mean briyani… I love, love, love her briyani. To the point I told her to stop cleaning people’s houses and open a briyani stall.

Her mean chicken curry. Her curry is delicious and it takes her a lot to buy chicken as even chicken is way too expensive for her and her family. But she wanted to serve us something special and she bought the most special thing she could afford. ūüė•

Our aftermath…

Aunty Meena!!!

Training was right after the visit. The briyani made us sleepy like lazy dugongs but we dragged our full selves to Bangsar for training. After training, our gis were soaked with sweat and I never felt so good. My gi was literally soaked with (liquidified) ghee and now I have a headache as I am typing this down. I’m not sure if it’s from the ghee from the briyani or from the overdose of curry and muruku or that training today was tough. Either way, our Diwali was good!

And for once in a whole month, I regretted taking the pics with the BB. The house was dark and the flash function from the BB is not strong enough, hence the photos didn’t really bring out the true colours of Diwali as we experienced it.

Post Donnie Thoughts

This weekend we will rest from training as our teachers are in Jakarta to meet and have teacher’s training course with TheSensei. As such both of us decided to have our date night last night with a movie watching Donnie Yen in TheLegendOfTheFist:TheReturnOfChenZhen.

Image taken from here.

As much as I like DonnieYen, no… correction. I love Donnie Yen especially in the last two WingChun films he played as IpMan. Last night’s choice of movie was solely based on the fact that DonnieYen was in it. The husband loved the movie while to me, it is just another Sino-Japanese war film, Donnie’s presence in it notwithstanding. But the film was way too graphic, on the atrocities of the Japanese war. There were some hilarious moments ala Hindi movie as well, like Donnie fought and won the entire dojo of the Japanese martial artists and how, when at the very last moment when he was to fight the Japanese general, muscles suddenly bulged out of his whole body ala incredible hulk. I let out half a guffaw when I felt the husband’s humongous hand cupped my mouth in his attempt to shut me up.

During the film, my mind wandered a bit. My late grandfather lived through the Japanese war and in my primary school days I remember his rendition of ‘Jepun jahat!’ ‘Jepun zalim’, referring to the atrocities done by the Japanese soldiers to the locals, especially the Chinese.

Hence, I do wonder sometimes, had he still been alive today, what would he think of the very fact that I, his first and most coveted grandchild, is married to the first and most coveted grandchild of a former Nazi.soldier/Nazi.female.youth.winger who were part of the Axis forces together with the Japs, and both of us are devoting more than half of our time learning the ancient martial art of the very people whom he called ‘orang jahat’ ?

‘Social retardation’

In one of the years in the last decade, Hari Raya coincided with Chinese New Year and I remember having a conversation about our respective celebrations with a colleague by our cubicles at work. Then in her 30s and not yet married, on top of that being single and not dating anyone, I remembered her telling me that she was going to make use of that long holiday for a trip to somewhere nearby and just chill out.

For what? I asked her.. ‘if I were you, I stay to get my ang pows!’ of course, referring to the Chinese culture that singles still get ang pows or red packets containing money from visiting relatives and friends during the Chinese New Year celebrations. She smirked and rolled her eyes, saying that she’d rather¬†forgo all the red packets, than having to face ‘kaypoh’ relatives asking the viciously insensitive questions of ‘when are you getting married?’ ‘why till now no boyfriend?’ ‘you high maintainance is it?’¬†‘ eh not shy ah you left on the shelves?’ ‘ eh go get married lah, cialat lah you so old I must still give you angpow’

Of course, at that time I just laughed it all off with ‘ thank God my Hari Raya is not that drama’ comment. Firstly, I don’t remember any of my relatives being that orally brutal, secondly, I had the answers to the questions all ready in the mental suitcase. I was in my early 20s, just starting my career, had a boyfriend then (whom fortunately did NOT become my husband!) and hence I was in the comfort zone of ‘ask them silly question and thou shalt be answered!’. I was not as unlucky as my colleague then.

However, my ex-colleague was one of the probably thousands out there who are victims of what I term as ‘people with low SQ’. SQ, or ‘Social Quotient’ refers to the measure of social skills one has, not unlike IQ or the level of intelligence in a person or the much talked about EQ- emotional quotient these days.

I have been observing for many, many years, (and have also occasionally been a victim of some), on how people with low SQ prey during the festive seasons, when they know that everyone is listening. Festive seasons are times when families and extended families meet and be merry. Friends who have lost touch meet again, to renew ties and ask for forgiveness or for the good old times sake. On paper, festive seasons are joyous occasions indeed, time to look forward to and get excited about.

But on the contrary, festive seasons can be the leper or the pariah to be avoided by many individuals, for fear of their encounter with relatives with low SQ. In laymen’s term ‘foul mouth/insensitive/mulut longkang/askstupidquestions/purposely set out to embarress/etc’.

Examples of these, usually asked in the presence of the entire clan of relatives or other attendees of the festive events are:

” Oi Cik Kak.. kamu tu usia dah senja.. bila nak kawin ni? Kita tunggu makan nasi minyak dah lama dahhh’

“Aik.. kawin dah lama anak satu pon takde?! Kau sakit apa?!”

“Eh you got boyfriend or not?! He work as what? Got degree or not?!”

“You work so hard, takkan tak mampu beli kereta? Beli lah condo ke, landed property ke”

and it goes on and on. The above are collections from personal friends. If you have been a victim of these low SQ relatives, feel free to add on.

It has, however been pointed out to me that these relatives, most of which are in the makciks/pakciks¬†category¬†(although the pakciks during raya usually start any meetings of sorts by bitching about Malaysian politics, and I am not kidding!), they intended no harm. It is just their way of starting conversations and that’s the only way they know how to do it, by attracting attention to themselves, by picking up a scapegoat to be laughed at or by joking. Yes, they really think that they are joking, these low SQians, although no one else finds their remarks or jokes remotely funny. In my humble opinion, whether or not they intend any harm, it is rude. Period. No one should be made the scapegoat of entertaining others, especially about something that is so personal.

So. For those of you who have been¬†victimized by these low SQians or in my term ‘social retards’,¬†there are proactive measures you can take.

1. Smile and act stupid

2. Pretend that you have blocked ears because water from the shower went all the way in.

3. Entertain their FAQs. And for the suggestions to their FAQs, I have some, in case they are useful for you, please feel free to use them.

For the questions of ‘Bila nak kawin ni?’

– ” Saya tunggu laki makcik ceraikan makcik ye.. lepas tu kita kawin lah. Ticket feri nak pegi Batam pun saya dah sediakan…’

‘Bila kita boleh makan nasi minyak you?’

– ‘ Bila free? I ajak you gi Arab Street sekarang pun boleh. Pulun lah berapa pinggan nasi minyak you terdaya… sumpah I belanja!’

For the questions ‘Bila nak dapat anak ni? Dah lama kawin takde apa-apa lagi ke??’

– “Jap lagi saya balik saya tengok dalam tong sampah eh, entah ada yang orang buang ke, boleh saya pungut!”

– ” Makcik free tak besok? Boleh tolong buatkan?”

For the questions ” Rumah berapa bilik?/ada kereta apa?/Kerja apa-Gaji berapa?…’

– ‘Rumah saya takde bilik. Tidur dalam khemah kat East Coast? Makcik nak join? Boleh kita buat bbq’.

– ‘Kereta saya besar makcik. Brand KTM. Makcik sekaum sepuak nak tompang pon boleh’.

– ‘Saya kerja dengan orang bunian makcik. Gajinya sebesar istana kayangan’

But of course, if you were to use any of the above, do it tongue in cheek, not in rudeness. Do not stoop to their level by having no manners yourselves. Treat it as a big joke and then laugh it all off afterwards. And then, one can really see that it is really silly to be affected by these low SQians come every festive season or weddings or any events in which relatives and friends gather.

May I also suggest Radio Warna/Ria do a segment on these? With more awareness of social quotient, together we can make the supposedly beautiful festive season a less stressful period for many individuals, whom I know are dreading it year after year.

Of thread and flour

I bowed out halfway through training just now because although my mind told me to persevere, my body had other ideas. I have not been sleeping well for many nights, being chased by deadlines yet again, accompanied via mixpod by Nuno notwithstanding– all night long, Lionel Richie would be proud of me.

While the rest were being thrown and pushed on the dojo mats, I was slumbering at the corner, slumped against the water-cooler in a sleep so deep, I could have missed Katrina hurricane had it happened. But I woke up just in time for the end of the class, where the senpais or senior students shared with us their experiences as they proceeded higher into the grades. And one of which I found intriguing.

One of the lessons sensei would make them do is to pull a long piece of string or hair from a tray of flour, to test for their ‘centre’. To pass the test, the hair would have to be pulled out straight without messing up the flour for even a teeny weeny bit.

The imaginary¬†light bulb¬†above my head suddenly blinked. It reminded me of the peribahasa we learnt when we were in school which goes something like, ‘Ibarat menarik rambut dari tepung, rambut jangan putus, tepung jangan berserak’

The proverb refers to the act of handling a delicate situation with so much care as such, no parties involved are negatively affected. Sticky situation.

So I have to be prepared for this test and I can only pass it with a fully developed centre. By the look of it, I will end up with a strand of broken hair and flour all over my face like the Malay kueh, tepung gomak.

It’s ok. The Chinese say ‘ Man man lai’. Slowly, slowly come. In aikido, 11 years is still considered a baby in this art. My 3 plus years in it is nothing, but womb period.

The Balancing Act of The Busybody

I wish I had read this book earlier.

Because now that I am reading it, I can’t put it down. I will write more about my feelings of ‘connections’ with the book later on in another post, but in this one, I just want to simply reflect upon the art of balancing and managing our busy selves, as addressed in many parts of the book.

For me, it all started with a twit from Is, which I have been following:

i realise pple like to be busy for e sake of bein so n boasting abt being busy.

Which I found to be true, especially in the rat-race back in my hometown. My gainfully employed mates, boast with great pride almost daily about how ‘busy‘ they are– doing this and that (craftily doing it on the pretext of whining and fretting.¬†Nevertheless, the tinge of pride is not invisible, even to my oblivious self) . ¬†And Is went on to say in another twit

work life balance is a myth.if u want 2 be very good at something,there is no such thing as balance.else we just be good enuff/mediocre

To that, well–maybe.

And which she followed with a very eloquent entry on balance.

In the book above, the writer– Liz quoted from my favourite Sufi poet-Jalaluddin Rumi in which he asked his students to list 3 things they want most in life. If any item on the list clashes with another, then you are destined for unhappiness.

So really, can we serve our time on this earth being in total balance, having it all and yet excel in it, while not being too busy to have time for ourselves? Is that state of optimum equilibrium remotely possible?

I can’t say that I am an example because I am mediocre in everything (except eating. that one, I win hands down. Champion to say the least).

Just like Is, in the beginning part of my career, I struggled really, really hard as in worked really, really hard and many times, I didn’t know what it was for. I mean, teachers can’t claim overtime pay so it was not for the money. And I was not the Mother Theresa of the teaching industry to do it all for the holistic ‘i-sell-my-soul-for-education‘ kind of teacher. Heck, it was not even my first choice of career to begin with.

But I worked too hard, had too little time for myself and my family/friends. Once, for some reason, I only had to report to school later in the afternoon. So I came out of my room early enough to catch breakfast with my father before he left for work. He took one look at me at the dining table, turned to my mother and sheepishly asked ‘ Is this our new tenant?’

That was how hard I worked.

Now looking back, I realised that it was not for the money, it was not for the passion of it, it was just because everyone else was doing it and it was expected of me to do so. It was imperative for me to jump into the bandwagon because everyone else was busy. It would be weird if I idle, ain’t it?

So at that time–yes, I had to agree with Is that work/life balance is a myth.

But now, as I am typing this down, I no longer think so. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I would like to quote, from the teacher of someone whom I had a crush on a very, very long time ago ( Karate Kid), and I think many remember him as Sensei Miyagi. Heh ūüėõ

Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Daniel: Yeah.
Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?

I had my own taste of this with my own sensei.Last Sunday, during training, I was sparring with my sensei as he was teaching the ki extension in the shihonage technique. I was¬†chided, in the midst of it and had him knocking down my hands a few times with ‘You are too busy!‘ and ‘Stop being busy! Be here!’ But I am here!!– I thought. I’m right in front of you, sweaty, tired and exasperated and trying to do the shihonage right in front of you because I am here!– I felt like telling him but he’s my sensei so I just kept my mouth shut.

He then scolded me by saying I was too busy thinking about what to do for the following step in the technique, without concentrating on the present step I was doing. I was multi-tasking, my mind- thinking and planning on the next step (future) without paying attention to what I was doing in the present (step). And because of that, my center was not balanced, it was easy for him to topple me down and I was down and out before I knew it.

Call it a bizarre flashback but I actually had the twit from Is about balancing being a myth crossing my mind in a cartoon text bubble ( I did say I have a hyperactive imagination,no?). ¬† And at that moment, I knew that I am on side of the camp that says that life can be balanced, if we want it to be. And the key, as I learnt in martial arts– is about being focused in one’s¬†center.

The concept of center in martial arts is not easily explainable in one paragraph of a martial rookie’s blog. But my understanding of it is that in life, our centre is our inner spirit which wills what we do and how we do things.

If we say that achieving balance in life is all impossible, then Prophet Muhammad is a myth. He was a political leader, a warrior fighting side by side his army, a teacher, a spiritual leader, a husband who did housework, a father, a grandfather who had time to play with his grandchildren Hasan and Husin and a father-in-law who churned out advices for marital problems. And he had time to also look after stray cats?! Oh my, what a busy body he was! Were all those possible?

Well, he was as human as us in flesh and blood. A man like any other. Ok granted,he was a messenger chosen by the One up there, but then again, he was not a wizard or an angel. A person. A person whose life was so balanced he became an example to us. And he excelled in all his roles, so much so that even ancient and contemporary academicians/scholars from the world over, wrote volumes of academic papers on his ability to do everything excellently, based on facts and historical records. Not myths or old wive’s tales.

So in relating my lesson on balancing our center in martial arts and applying it to our lives like some figures history had showed us, I do think life balance is not unattainable. It has already been depicted by successful personalities in history. I learnt that we can actually get that balance which we need when we focus on what we are doing at that present moment. Plan for the future but leave the future to the future when focusing on the present. Learn from the past but leave the past in their places while concentrating on what we are doing now. Leave out distractions and do one thing at a time in accordance to our priorities. The myth in question here is not balance, but the habitual multi-tasking.

When I was doing that technique with my sensei, I was busy thinking of the next step and the next step, while looking if anyone else was attacking me. I failed to focus on the fact that he was attacking me because I was not 100% there with him and he off set my balance too easily. Not only my techniques came out mediocre, I was easily brought down. Just like the Malay proverb which says¬†‘ Apa yang dikejar tak dapat, yang digendong, keciciran’.

As cool as a gurka

Gurka, as I know it– is that breed of stoned looking huge tall guards from Nepal who guard the most important houses and offices back in Singapore. Who don’t fear death and are as cool as cucumbers in the face of emergencies and riots. Coincidently, now I learnt that ‘gurka’ in Swedish is ‘cucumber’.

Hmm. They do have things in common these two definitions of gurkas. One is tall and fearless and cool. The other is long (vegetable version of tall, I suppose), fearless ( vegetables can’t feel fear, I suppose) and cool.

But then again, this still does not answer my question from the husband, of ‘ Why are you learning Swedish, again?’


(err… “Maybe because I gave in to my fetish and impulsively bought a Swedish eurolingua cd instead of a new dress?)

Anyway, I have a vocabulary of 40 Swedish words now, all of it, as you may already have guessed– are all food.

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.