Monday, June 28, 2010

Of Buah Nona and Tok Yek...

This is my story. The happening was in the midforties. It is a story of my childhood living in a Kampong [village] in Kuantan. Then the Kampong was known as Tanah Putih. Behind this kampong is Kampong Tengah where most of the Malay lives at that time. We live in a traditional Malay house with a Chinese neighbor who built a typical Chinese house that is on the ground. At that time there was hardly any house built on the ground. All houses especially the Malay house are built aboveground. Near our house is about two acres of Rubber plantation. Between the trees are bushes which became our playground. It is also a place where we went collecting dried wood for the fuel, for at that time all cooking was done by burning firewood. So it was sort of a ritual to go collecting firewood and stack it under the house to be used when needed. Electricity and running water has yet to come to this rural community in Kuantan.

Across our house on the other side of the road there was a rather dilapidated Malay house and this is where Tok Yek and his family live. I was then about five years old and to me Tok Yek is an old man who in his spare time acts as a sage or medicine man to folks in this small community which includes our family. In Malay he is often referred to as the Dukun or Pawang or Bomoh. But to me he is just a Dukun whom we often call to the house to cure or healed the sick. To make a living he works at the Sanitation Board which we Malay at that time just call it as Stribot. It was later when I went to school that I realized that Stribot is actually Sanitation Board. It is an institution during the colonial era that takes care of the sanitation of the district. When he is not working especially in the afternoon onward he would sit under the Nona tree and do his daily ritual of sharpening his tools of parang, knife and cangkul using a Sharpening Block of rock. The rock has slightly turned on the upside into a semicircular shape for the many years of using it as a Sharpening Block. I would often go and watch him sharpening his tools and never during all the years spoke to him unless spoken to which is rather rare. I just watch and actually fascinated with the way he patiently sharpening his tools. Behind him is the Nona tree which at times has fruits hanging from the branches. Funny though that up till now I still could picture the tree and the fruits as vividly as ever with that Tok Yek bending down doing his work careless of his surrounding. He too never spoke much; it was just me watching him and him working with his tool in silence. In my little mind I began to adore him as a grand sage of sort and wanted to know more about his ritual of healing folks but never got the courage to ask. Anyway he was part of the story of my life. That is the reason I had titled this posting as such. That old man is Tok Yek to me for I do not really know what his real name is. He is Tok Yek to all in the community and he remains so to me. And I like this old man.

In the forties there are not that many doctors around and most are at the Government Hospital which is some three kilometers away from our Kampong. Other than that there were two private practitioners in the Kuantan town and most folks could not afford to go to see the private doctors when they get sick. Either goes to the Government Hospital where one had to wait for hours to get attention or go and see the local Dukun or in the western world is know as the medicine man. Tok Yek is the Dukun that I would call when someone get sick in the house. He would always say that he would come over in a moment and he never failed to be there when needed. His service was of a civic nature and never once did I hear him asking for payment or something like that. He would give advice and then leaves with a prayer that the patience recovered.

I have always loved the Buah Nona or the Custard Apple and would buy it when it appears in the market. And then I thought that why not I grow this plant and see whether it would bear fruits like that plant at Tok Yek's house. Buah Nona have many seeds so I decided to try to grown this plant from the seeds. And I just did that by planting the seeds in a flowerpot. After a few months the seeds in the pot germinate and that really excite me. As it grows I move it to a bigger pot to see whether it would really grow into a tree. As it grows I move it to a patch of enclosure on the ground and plant it there. After months of waiting it did grow into a full-blown tree like the one I saw in my childhood days in the Kampong. And soon I began to see flowers, not many, only one or two here and there. Unlike the ordinary flower this one does not have any color; it just look like a small buds light green in color. I kept nurturing it with the help of my spouse and eventually it bears it first fruits. I was delighted to see that first fruits and soon learn that one must not allow this fruits to ripen on the tree. It must be pick up at the right time and let it ripen in the house. If it is left to ripen on the tree it would get soft and fell to the ground and wasted. If it is pluck when soft it does not taste as good, it is less sweet then the one that has been picked just in time for it to ripen on your table. Now it is the favorite tree of my spouse who nurtured it with love. Thus it continues to bear fruits all the year around.

The mystic of Tok Yek's Pokok Nona now live on in our backyard garden. Providing us with a regular supply of that exotic fruits Buah Nona. The fruits has many seeds that are hard and one must have the patience to enjoy the fruits. The flesh around the seeds is just like custard; thus I believe the reason it is call Custard Apple in English. The trees now stand majestically in my little garden, except that there is no longer anyone under that tree sharpening his knife and other working tools. But my childhood memory of that image of Tok Yek working under the Pokok Nona [Custard Apple tree] is still as vivid as ever. Nostalgic indeed!

Have a nice day folks. [Please click the image to enlarge]

Saturday, June 19, 2010

This T shirt say it all....

The whole family went for a holiday in Brisbane, Australia and Christchurch, NZ. and are now back home. I did not join them as I was not really feeling well. Moreover I have live in Brisbane before. The image above is one of the T shirt that they brought back for me. I like it and am sharing the message with all to enjoy. Its all true folks. I believe most of us including me who are in the golden age are just like what are written on that T Shirt. Life is like that folks, so enjoy it and be happy. Have a nice day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Of Ah Kow.. a Malaysian story...

Folks, I got this in my email. Since it is a good story with so much truth in it, I am sharing it here for all to read:-

The Story of Ah Kau, the Newspaper Vendor.

Ah Kau is a guy who sells newspapers every morning next to your apartment, and you are one of his daily regular customers. Before dashing off to your office every day, you will go to his small stall and buy The Star newspaper. Wearing a newly pressed shirt, a tie, and a pair of Clarks shoes, you grab a copy of The Star, pay RM1.20 and exchange smiles with Ah Kau and greet him.

"Apa macam Ah Kau ini hari? Bisnes ada baik*?" The normal greeting like you do every day. Yes, Ah Kau doesn't speak English. He speaks Chinese and knows a little bit of Malay. He speaks a little bit of Malay but with a very thick Chinese accent.

"Biasa saja... ini bisnes aa, kadang kadang baik, kadang kadang tada untung oo**...."

"Biasalah hidup. Kadang kadang ok, kadang kadang tak ok***." You give Ah Kau a pat on the back. You smile and walk away and get into your car. You start the engine and start driving to your office, a multinational semiconductor company located in a premier industrial area. You are a young and promising finance executive and the future looks bright for you.

A year goes by and things look pretty good on the track. You decide to marry your fiance and have your new wife moves in to your place. Both of you feel happy because you can save more money as the two of you will be sharing one apartment and can live as one.

Ah Kau is still selling the newspaper as usual. Sometimes in the morning your wife gets the newspaper from Ah Kau instead of you.

A year later a child comes along, and you decide to buy and move into a newly developed condominium just across the street. This place is bigger so it will be perfectly fit for the 3 of you. But since both of you are working, you decide to get a maid to take of the household and your kid.

By this time you're offered a managerial job from another multinational; the remuneration package offered is much better in terms of the pay, contractual bonus, medical benefits, ESOS scheme and a few others which make it impossible for you to decline. So you join this company happily.

You get busier. You realize that you spend less and less time with your family. When your department is busy preparing for the next audit, your working hours become more and more ridiculous. Any internal issues arising in the office means you'll be stuck in the office until 8 or 9 pm. Sometimes, during the weekend, you'll spend your time in your office, buried under paper works and documentations, instead of taking your family for a walk in the park.

One morning, on your way to get your copy of The Star, you realized that Ah Kau is no longer in his stall. So is his rundown motorbike. Instead, there's another young Chinese guy at the stall. "What happen to Ah Kau?" You ask out of curiosity.

"Oh, he is still around, but he is no longer taking care of this stall as he has opened up a new grocery shop down town. I am running this newspaper stall for him."

"Ok," you smile. You feel happy for Ah Kau. "At last he manages to improve his life."

Your normal life continues. A year passes by and at the end of your company's fiscal year, you're rewarded for your effort with a 5 months bonus pay-out by your employer. Wow. Now that is a very handsome reward. You feel your effort has been equally compensated. To celebrate, you decide that it's time to trade your 5-year old Proton Wira to the latest Honda Civic model. It won't be much a problem to you to get a loan scheme from the bank as your pay slip will provide you an easy gateway to access financial help from any bank.

One day, the hardest reality of life hits you right on the face. The company that you've been working for years announces that they're moving their business to China for cost and competitive reason and has asked you to find a job somewhere else. "What?" You scream out cold. "I got a lot of liabilities on the card! Who's gonna pay for my mortgage? My car? My credit card? My gym fees? My bills?" You yell like there's no way out.

This is the first time you feel let down by your own employer. All your hard work seem to go up on the smoke. You feel sick. You now hate your company. On the way home, you stopped by at a mamak restaurant for a cup of teh tarik while pondering about your future. Alone.

Suddenly you saw this new, shiny BMW 3 series being parked nearby. And to your surprise, it was Ah Kau. Yes, Ah Kau who used to sell newspapers nearby your old apartment. "What happened to old Ah Kau?" You whisper to your self.

Ah Kau still recognizes you, and sit next to you, and shared his story. To make it short, Ah Kau had accumulated his money from selling newspapers to open more stalls, one after another. Every new stall is run by his workers so that he focused on opening more and more stalls, which in turn give him more and more money. Over the years, he had accumulated enough cash to open up new grocery store while at the same time buying more assets to grow his wealth. And his current wealth and success is achieved without any loan or financial help from banks and other financial institutions.

There you go. That's the story. While Ah Kau is set to become financially free, you're back to where you're started before. Ground zero .

Before leaving, Ah Kau gives you a familiar quote, "Biasalah hidup. Kadang kadang ok, kadang kadang tak ok." He gives you a pat on the back and walks away.

In reality, if you're observant enough, there are a lot of Ah Kaus out there, that you will see every day and every where you go. The names are different, but inside them is every character of Ah Kau. They might be Uncle Dorai, Ah Chong, Pak Abu, Makcik Gemuk, Pak Man nasi lemak or others.

They look to be struggling on the surface, but if you look carefully and compare with you life, many of them are living with little or no liabilities. They ride an old 'kapcai' bike. They live in an old rundown house. They don't have credit card to swipe. They wear a 10-year old shirt and short. No new, shiny Toyota Harrier. In short, their living means are far below than yours. But what you don't realize is that many of them can save more money than yours, and over the years generate enough money to expand their business, or invest in properties. Their asset columns are much thicker than that of yours.


Note: Translation:
* How are you today, Business Good?
** Business is like that, sometimes you make money sometimes not.
*** Life is like that, Sometime it is OK and Sometime it is not.

[Sometimes it is spell Ah Kow and sometimes it is Ah Kau]

Have a nice day.

Friday, June 11, 2010

With Kim Il-sung - a page from my archive...

The happening was in 1981. After that visit to Beijing we proceed to North Korea, a country officially known as the Democratic People Republic of Korea [DPRK] to pay a courtesy call to the Great Leader. [ Kim_Il-sung is officially known as the Great Leader in the DPRK].

It was a diplomatic mission from Malaysia. At that time we did not have an Embassy in the DPRK and all diplomatic services was covered by our Embassy in Beijing. It was not easy to get to Pyongyang, the Capital of the DPRK since there was no commercial flight from anywhere in the world and that includes to and fro Beijing Pyongyang. Because of that the DPRK decided to provide a plane to take us from Beijing for our visit there and with that arrangement we eventually got to Pyongyang. We were greeted officially by the government official and pretty little girls on arrival at the airport. I was happy to meet a familiar North Korean face there greeting us. I had known the diplomat when they came on a visit to Malaysia some years before that.

We were then taken to an official VIP resident where we stayed during the duration of our visit to Pyongyang. The next day we made a courtesy call on the Great leader Kim ll Sung at the palace. For us it was indeed a historic meeting; for not always one gets to meet such an important figure in the history of the world.

Above is the official photograph taken by the North Korean and given to each of us. Indeed a memorable event in my life. Have a nice day.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The mystic of roses...

Rose is a flower that I believe everyone loves. It came in many sizes and colors and its fragrant is soothing. It always brings happiness to all whenever it is presence. Above is the scene of the roses in my little garden and it is growing very well indeed. Our neighbor the Chan family went for a holiday to the Cameron Highland and brought back a pot as a gift to us. How thoughtful they are, who have been our neighbor since 1974. Well folks that is live, great neighbor, great surrounding and that made a great life for all.

Have a nice Sunday folks.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Wedding in May...

I want to write about the colourful wedding reception that took place in Subang Jaya recently. I have written about wedding before and I thought that this time I am doing it differently. It is also a story of how the GPS got me there and meeting so many relatives in one go. So folks here it goes.

We received a wedding invitation from one of my many cousins. He is hosting a reception for his eldest daughter wedding at his house in Subang Jaya. It is on the other side of the city. Now that I am no longer that good in driving to those places, I have to think seriously whether to go or not. In some case I would not go to attend to such function but for this wedding reception I am making an exception. I would be attending it. Not only the invitation is from a cousin [Saifuddin] but his spouse [Rogayah] were at one time an office mate of my spouse when both of them were serving Telecoms Malaysia. So we decided that we must make a point of attending this Wedding Reception. [In the image on the left; the host is the couple on the right lovely holding hands]

One that day March 15, 2010 just before noon guided by the GPS in my car I drove the Honda taking the route as suggested by the GPS guide in the form of a woman voice synthesizer. I follow the direction indicated by the GPS and with ease arrived at the destination in Subang Jaya. What a relief that I arrived at the distinction without a hitch. Had it not been for the GPS I do not believe I could have reach the destination that fast and easy. I found a parking spot nearby and parked my car; then we walk to the reception area.

Out-front of the house a grand white canopy was especially erected to house the many guests. One reason that we decided to attend this function is that we are sure to get to meet many of our relatives, most of whom I have not met for a very long times. After meeting the host we went around to look for the other relatives. Sure enough there are many of them who had arrived earlier and already sited enjoying their meals. I look around the table and met all the relatives of my age group who had gathered there. Like me they all are in the golden age now. Some I had not met for years, so it really takes times before I could recognize them. At the same time I got to meet the younger relatives as well; the many nephews and nieces that are too many to remember their names or recognize their faces. Anyway it was indeed great to get to meet so many relatives from near and afar there that day. It is not always that one gets such an opportunity. So the reception became sort of a meeting of friends and relatives other then of course to attend this special reception for the wedding of the cousin's daughter.

As for this happening it was a Wedding Reception for Fatihah and Najib whom I believe are both in their early twenties. It does remind me of our wedding in the sixties, we too got married in our early twenties. Like all wedding reception this one was colorful too with the pomp and splendour that made such occasion a joyous gathering. Malay wedding reception at home is a rather informal gathering; where folks would come dress as they like but true to the tradition they all came in their best of dresses. The women folks especially are dressed in a multitude of colours, turning the atmosphere into a sort of a fairyland. From the look of it everyone was enjoying the sumptuous foods, as well meeting and chatting with relatives and friends. A joyous event indeed.

Have a nice day.

[Note: some images here are stolen from the Facebook Wall of relatives- Azreen Azahar, Mutalib, Abdul Al Waled[Nora Zaini's Ixus]