Wednesday, October 24, 2007


In 1969, my parents decided enough was enough. I cannot be left alone in Singapore. I had been a handful for those responsible for taking care of me in Singapore. I was studying still in Balestier Mixed School - in Primary Four. My brother was also in Balestier and my sister in Swiss Cottage. Dad was in between jobs - the Malay Film studios in Jalan Ampas was going bust and there was an exodus of film workers to Kuala Lumpur - to the new (at that time) studio in Ulu Kelang (Merdeka Studios).
To date, we have been travelling to KL for a few times already. I guess Abah was testing the waters there. We actually stayed for awhile in Setapak Garden which was quite near to the Merdeka studio. In fact, my berkhatan ceremony was held in Setapak Garden. Amongst all childhood memories, this one was quiet vivid. It was a time when tok mudims were running amok - going around happy with their snip-snipping ways.
That morning, wearing kain sarong, I was led to a room surrounding by unfamiliar male faces. There in the center of the room was a banana tree trunk. It was laid down for me to sit astride on. The sarong was taken away and there I was naked in front of the tok mudim and everyone else (males). I was given a liquid to drink supposedly to calm me down (could be a placebo for all I know). Within seconds, the tok mudim's cold hands was preparing my little friend for its inevitable fate. I won't go into details, but just before the incisive moment, he told me to turn my head away and take a deep breath. Not knowing what will happen I obeyed and then it happened. Snip snip - a fore(skin)gone conclusion. In seconds, the tok mudim wrapped it in gauze strips and I can still remember the smell of blood. The pain? I guess it was sharp and quick, over in seconds. Once done, I wore my sarong and walked around holding the front of the sarong in front of me not letting the cloth come into contact with my very sensitive friend.
The best thing about 'berkhatan' is that the many gifts we get - and I got plenty - including a model warship from Uncle P. Ramlee.
Everything was fine until the next couple of days when we had to change the gauze - now - that was excruciating!!!
Well, enough of that incident. From Setapak, my Dad decided that his time with Merdeka Studios should come to an end, so in 1969, he accepted a post with the Filem Negara in Petaling Jaya.
And from a small terrace house in Setapak, we now stayed in a nice little single storey bungalow at 107, Jalan 12/14 in Petaling Jaya - mere walking distance from Filem Negara.
I was put into the La Salle Primary School in Jalan Gasing in Standard Six. My elder brother was sent back to Singapore to continue hi studies where he eventually entered Raffles.
Somehow, it seems, Singapore's education standards were higher and therefore, from Standard Four in Singapore I was promoted to Primary Six in PJ. I skipped Primary Five, and therefore from then on was always the youngest student in class.
My younger brother Asnadi has not yet started schooling but he would enter a couple of years later at the new Seri Petaling Primary school in Section 14.
Meawhile, Abah began his stint in Filem Negara directing documentaries.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Aidilfitri 2007

Have you ever tried to remember the earliest Hari Raya you ever ever had? I tried to. I can't remember much. Just vague images of fire works, merchun, visiting relatives. And of course receiving duit Raya - in those days I think it was 10 sen or 20 sen I guess - and we were so happy. Times have changed. Today we have green packets. Now when did this happen? I understand the Chinese red packet concept...culturally, for the Malays, is there a significance to the 'birth' of the green packet? I remember the times when we had a bowl full of 50 sen coins and one ringgit coins prepared in one corner to be given to kids who dropped by the house. They knew and saw what they would be getting. Nowadays, there's suspense involved. They receive a green packet which they tear the minute they step out of the house to look at what they have received. Usually homes that give kids less the RM1 are not too popular the next time around. As for me, nowadays, I put aside around RM1000 a year just for duit raya matters! I wonder how much my dad put aside for Raya during the 60s for his kids. I doubt it was more than 50 singapore dollars. And that was a lot I bet.
And Raya preparation and shopping. Wow! It's bloody expensive nowdays. Went to the new Pavilion Shopping complex in KL for Raya shopping with the family and compiled a huge bill.
I remember that when I was a kid, I bought shoes only twice in a year (if I was lucky). And both times would be at Bata - To buy a Hari Raya pair of shoes, and to get badminton master shoes for school (when times are hard, even a fungkeong pair would do) and that was all. Today? They would go to Quicksilver, or look for Vans sport shoes, Rockport or Obermain or Bally...jeans? Hey, I was glad as a teenager when I got my first Amco and Texwood OK..I think they cost around 30 to 50 ringgit in the 70s. Today? Branded jeans start at RM300!!! Now I know why people line up to go to Bandung to pay homage to the Factory Outlets there.

But what I missed most of all, are the fireworks. Really. I blame the ban on stupid parents who allowed their kids to experiment on Bom Buluh in the kampungs and causing the kids to loose their fingers when it accidentally blows up. Don't the kids know how to surf the internet to build better bom buluhs. In times like this, when bomb makers are frowned upon, I agree we cannot allow kids and teenagers the freedom of accessing gunpowder - They might grow up to become adults who want access to 70 virgins at a young age.

But now, even contraband fireworks are difficult to come by. Fire crackers? More difficult. I was in Thailand recently (Southern) and they sell fireworks like candy. Even with the insurgent problems they have.

Hey, we even changed the P. Ramlee Raya song so as not to promote the use of fireworks..really...the song used to have the words :"Bambam bom Bunyi mercun!"'s not there anymore. Funny,here we are not promoting fireworks and recently over Merdeka we held a multimillion ringgit International Fireworks Festival.

But heck, I know the rich Malay guys have access to fireworks. They even blatantly main bunga api during the Raya without being afraid of the police because of their connections. In fact, having a great Raya fireworks show at home is now very much a 'prestigious' or a status symbol thing: :"Hey guys! Look! My fireworks is bigger and better than yours and the police did not summon me!". Big time status lah.

My nenek (grandmother) passed away earlier this year. I think she was 100 years old. I will miss her. I miss the way she massaged my shoulders and legs after I came home from playing sepak takraw. i miss the way she tinkered around my garden. I miss her minang accent. Over Raya (the first Raya without her) I'll miss her insistence we make lemang the traditional way. She also kept reminding my mom that I prefer ketupat pulut to nasi, and that when the rendang is cooked but still wet, to take some out for me. )This is a kalio stage of rendang,which I like). But her final rendang minang, which is black and dry is also excellent. Luckily for us, my mom uses the same recipe as my late grandmother.

This year, once again, we will celebrate Raya in Janda Baik at my dad's little wooden mansion named Harmony. We will be there the night before raya to help in the ketupat making. (Wonder when my kids will learn the art). The next morning, we would go to the small Janda Baik mosque. My dad in his wheel chair, and accompanied by my elder brother Capt Arjunaidi.
My other brother is still in New Jersey and all of us miss him during Raya.

After prayers, we would gather for the family meal at home. And every year without fail, mom would serve ketupat and rendang with lontong. Dad would lead the takbir Raya before doa and we would feast. By end of the day, I don't want to see another ketupat and lontong. And we would usually be tapau-ing Mcdonalds.

On the second day, Mom would prepare soto the way we like it (singapore style) with pergedel and lots of chicken pieces. And of course, more rendang and ketupat again and lemang. In the evening it would be KFC the food of choice.

Meanwhile, I would be popping a dozen Zantacs - My reflux is gonna cause me some major pains.

My thoughts for the next few days also go to those whose Raya has been spoilt by tragic consequences - like Allahyarhamah Nurin and her family. The many people who lost the relatives through fatal bus and automobile accidents. The many people who lives are turned upside down by other incidenes. The Muslim bangladeshis who are conned by agents and with nowhere to go. All the anak-anak yatims around the world (except those adopted by Angelina Jolie). Raya sometimes is a day of sadness, a day of remembrances. But it is also a day to rejoice, a day of fortitude. A day to count blessings.

I am also concerned about my latest movie Budak Lapok which begins its run on the second day of Raya - going against The Bourne Ultimatum. Luckily and thankfully, the critics and reviews have been positive. Alhamdullilah. I know the story is good, and if only people would just go out buy tickets and watch it, I'm sure they'll enjoy it. So you guys, support local films. It's only ten bucks. Mat Damon is already a multimillionaire, so no need to watch his movie.

To all bloggers, to all my friends, to all those who hate my guts, to one and all, I wish them Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Maaf Zahir Batin.

Endnote: To rugger fans, I'm happy and elated All Blacks lost. Go Springboks!