Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Of the days I remembered…

That e-Techno thing with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (MOSTI) has occupied most of my time lately. I’ve been running up and down to Putrajaya every so often.

Back in the office, meetings with the managers seem to be endless. The tense is in the air. (Actually I am happy to see their commitments) Managers can loose tempers with the supervisors at a slightest mistake, in turn the supervisors just know how to infiltrate their grudges into team leaders. There is one team leader busy making preparations for his Christmas holidays in his home country; he’s loosing focus. I choose not to know too much on the finer details they are bickering about. All I know, I am catching my datelines with the ministry and the delivery of their final and polished documentations when it's due to my office is the only thing that I vouch for. I am worried.

Sometimes your mind simply stuck when you have too much unstructured inputs at one go into your head that makes you feel very dull – insulting your intelligence. That’s what I felt that made me start writing this, minutes ago. Thank God there is such thing as blog exists these days; it somehow helps me to be transiently in cyberspace – sojourn in a place of nowhere.

All of the sudden, I find solace in remembering things of my past.

I remembered the day when…
…dealing with one ministry’s office, I got tired with Encik-so-and-so-in-the-meeting cliché and he-is-in-overseas or he-is-on-holidays lines. Upon knowing his whereabouts from his cute secretary, I dashed my way to his door without decent appointment just to give a shot in one-minute stakeout. You know, the kind of look in the face when someone is trapped and get obliged, I just loved it.

I remembered the day when…
…I had to enjoy my good sleep in the couch until the evening at the ministry’s office for my 10 o’clock meet, after 10 cups of coffee and 25 times to the gents’ then just to be greeted with the news for me to fix other appointment weeks after.

I remembered the day when…
…I host a dinner at Shangri-La for the I-know-him-very-well guy and the clans just to learn that I had exhausted the company’s entertainment budget for nothing because he was actually the I-know-him-very-well-but-he-does-not-know-me guy.

I remembered the day when…
…I had to cramp for months without proper sleep to come up with the e-based prototype which along the way I had to do some firings to the tough-headed in the development unit. It drove me crazy coordinating works from the team, crouching at the table with reams and reams of papers, polished proposal as good as 6 inches thick, and guess what? The verdict from high-seats just left me in a sorry state.

I remembered the day when…
…I had to commute by foot and even the mini bus conductor had a cheek yelling at me, “Yg baju biru tu, belakang lagi...Buat 2 barisan…”, only to be grateful with the life I was having after seeing a fatigue looking woman that perhaps looks older than her age with 5 small kids in worn-out clothes walked cross Jalan Ampang.

I remembered the day when…
…I was in the Putra LRT. Got fired as a GM. Felt like the whole world was laughing at me. They confiscated the company car I was using and I had no means on my own. I spent hours entertaining my thoughts at the station before boarding my next connecting train and stopped-by for aiskrim potong at the back alley of Kg Baru.

Those were remembered, but…
… nothing compared to the time when I had a hand on my sons’ Game Boy last night. Sam and Edrin were over my shoulders while Fara was busy with her new Nokia’s mobile phone. Sam made me play a game of Lunar Ball. It is a game of snooker except it’s digitalized into a video game. I used to be good at the real one when I was a student, not snooker though but pool (an American version). I just know how to manipulate the angles albeit on the small screen.

At one point, I made a hit with full force, it went to the direction I did not intend to but it ended with 3 balls being pocketed.

Almost simultaneously, Sam & Edrin said, “Fuhhh… Dahsyat Bah!”.

Actually I was about to scream for the mistake done but… silently I took credit for the lucky shot I had.

I smiled.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rambling About Rain

It has been raining in Kuala Lumpur lately especially in the evening. I don’t know about others, but me, I love it when it rains because it’s cooling. I can enjoy my lunch at the Zenith without breaking a single sweat – but not when you have a good sambal belacan to go with. I don’t have to loosen up my tie during Friday prayer but in turn it makes me half asleep listening to the khutbah and I can always open up my green & white umbrella I got from EconSave for use. Apart from that, rain has always drifts away my mind into beautiful lines of songs like those in Sudirman’s, B.J Thomas’ Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head and Crying In The Rain by Whitesnake, just to name a few. But, the irony is, at the same time I would also associate myself with flood back in my mind. Not like those flash floods in Kuala Lumpur that would halt traffics and drown cars and cats and give good reasons for the husbands to be late home but the kind of flood that I found it so pleasing and interesting when I was a child.

Towards the end of the year, people in the East Coast of the peninsular would anticipate the monsoon season to come. Nothing new; even when my late great grand father was a child he had heard great stories about the annual flood from his forefathers. They were all well-prepared long before the first drop of rain comes. I was even puzzled to see boats were made stand-by at the houses in the lowland area of Peringat when I was a kid for our area we did not need until such preparation. We might see big waters like an ocean spreading throughout the village but I had never heard doing much harm except for a few goats got stuck – hell of a concern by the owners. You’d love to see those chickens with wet feathers huddle together warming up their bodies, making the kind of pleasant shivering tweet-tweet noise; nothing close as you see those skimpily-clad “chickens” in Chow Kit flock together hunting for preys, betcha. And those ducks; swimming and diving, wagging their tails besieged with their quacks as if it was a wet T-Shirt competition in a party to them.

It had been 3 days non-stop heavy rain. We couldn’t go anywhere especially when water level was on the rise. I heard folks telling water start to cross the main road. All I know I was slouching on the mat looking up at the spiders spinning their webs. I used to boast to my kids seeing it before my eyes about spiders unlike them just get to know it through the Discovery Channel. And the water dropped from the leak in the roof. We had no ceiling, just roof and water just came straight down. Sometimes I had fun looking up waiting for the water to drop on my face, at times, hard hit straight in the eyes. We had the metal container to hold the water, wait for it to chirk with waters splattered all over before I’d empty it. It made nice “ting-tong” sound when it’s empty.

Granny just had my favourite ubi kayu with grated-young-coconut ready, together with fried salted ikan gelama, very timely for my hungry stomach. We had other choices like ubi keling, ubi itik and ubi badak (what sorta animals are they?) as well but on the menu today was happened to be ubi kayu. Loved it. I could not resist the steamy ubi kayu straight from the pot. Quickly I put into my mouth because it was too hot on my fingers. Just when I thought it was alright, with some slurping sound, start chewing it, but then hot ubi kayu stucked on the ceiling of my mouth that would rather automatically pushed my chin up, looking at the roof – begging for help from the spiders.

Back then I did not understand why the youngsters were so eager to wait for the rain to stop and go play with the water until I was big enough to understand the thrill of peek-a-boo of ladies’ legs in their attempts not to wet their sarung when they are at the flood shoreline. I heard there were always love in the air due to this fiesta. The only thing I knew, I had a whale of time seeing many people out to play with water but nothing more entertaining than playing paper boats with Arif and Fadhil.

I was not done with my ubi kayu just yet. The cold weather induces your bladder to pee more frequently than you ever wanted. My old folks said I was mischievous but I said I was adventurous. My idea of adventurous was while enjoying my ubikayu, I had my kain sarung covered that made me look like doing nothing but inside there, I pee through the gap between the planks in the floor of the house.

It was nice to hear the sound when it hits the water especially when the water level was just a few inches below.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Numero Uno!

“UNO, game!” Edrin shouted with full of excitement. He went frantic; giggling and gasping to find words to express. I could see his eyes shimmers even when he said ‘UNO” in the previous turn let alone when ‘UNO game’ was now meant to crown him as a round winner. It was not that Sam had got no chance to “UNO” but more cards piled up on him the time he expected to say “UNO, game”. Hey, I know nuts about the skills and techniques of it but I had once said “UNO”, thought I was about to be a winner, and I did say out “UNO, game” but it broke into laughter by the children when I was actually confused between No 6 and No 9 – ends up me piling up more cards. Fara would just then be happy if she could reduce a bit of those cards in her hands.

Edrin rolled on the rug, once, twice until he was on his back looking up on the ceiling, hands spread wide, smiling, ahhhh! – his way to end the celebration. No one likes loosing; Sam was a little scowl while Fara was just slightly contracted the brows in a sullen and yet no specific reaction registered and I was in my own realms watching all three of them react, smiling, just contented to pass a remark like ‘you are very good, Edrin’. There we were right on the middle of a rug in our living room and their mom in her usual self just sat there on the sofa grinning not having slightest idea on how the game goes. She was just happy to see a girl, two small boys and one big boy forming a circle playing UNO game. May be she was even happier to just replenish their drinks.

The triad of rivalry was established among the three of them in a game perhaps the father came in just to add cheer to it if not make up the number. In fact they should have considered me as their contender as well as fundamentally they know the game better albeit luck that confined to each flip of the cards.

They got engrossed into the game that in the turn of time, winning would mean a lot to them. Being the youngest among the three, I know Edrin would have had withdrawn earlier when he had to succumb to loosing streak for he needs to learn more handling the emotions when loosing – which usually happened when I wasn’t in the game. But today, the winning was heavily on Edrin’s favour. The drums and trumpets staged by Edrin when he marched to celebrate his winning in one round after another had slowly becoming exasperating & infuriating to Fara and Sam. I myself always ended up shuffling the cards after each round ended, looser that was.

And, finally... I saw the last card tossed in by Fara. It was 2-Red, and it was now my turn… A little set back... there was a green card in my hand... and almost simultaneously I then realized it was 2-Green that I was holding. I knew it. This was the chance for me capitalize…. 2 and 2 makes it matched… “UNO, Game!” I shouted loud. Very loud. Fortunately I didn’t wake up the neighbours’ babies. “Numero Unooo...” I added. I had an idea… I hadn’t just copied the way Edrin celebrate his winning but added sillier things like whistling, howling, rolling, squatting and jumping. Fara, Sam and Edrin were laughing like crazy not believing what they see when their father acting foolishly like a mad duck celebrating his first winning round ever; just enough to ease the tense in Edrin to stay as a round winner and to expunge the agony of defeat in Fara and Sam.

Their mom was still in her usual self; still on the sofa… did what she knows best doing …just grinning!!! What a wonderful display of a good mother and wife she has been.

GAB: Mind games are good to stimulate children’s minds and any games can be instrumental to mould & cast children’s characters.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

You have done your best!

Standing on the left is SAM with his friends moments before the results were out, not knowing he'd cry later. (Picture: Courtesy of JHM)

I can see a lot of me in him. His hair, his facial features, his body figure… Just like me, his skin tone is a bit dark unlike his big sister and the kid brother, contrasts heavily to his mom’s very fair complexion. Kids are always kids but generally speaking, he is the type of kid that considerably very well-mannered, well-disciplined, charming and easy to handle. Errr… as of me when I was a kid, those traits… in a scale of 1 – 10; I’d give myself 7.5. Yeahhh righhht… may be 5 out of 10. Nope… it can’t be lower than that! He would take any advice from either his teachers or parents literally.

When the mother said he could only lie down at least one-half hour after a meal, he’d time his stopwatch to exactly 30 minutes then he’d lounge around if he had to and had it observed religiously. An Ustazah told him one has to answer to parents’ call even while in-prayer, and he did, then he’d start it all over again. I felt sorry for him and told him to go by with it. I said watching TV is allowed until 8:00 pm only; right on the dot he’d either have it switched off or he’d be doing his school works. 10:00 pm in bed? Precisely on the minute! That is Sam! Sure he is a kind of kid that parents would love to have. In fact Fara and Edrin are no exceptions either; it’s just that I want to focus on Sam in this entry for an obvious reason.

Slightly more than an hour ago, UPSR results were out. Sam sent me text message telling me he’s got 4A 1B, some 10 minutes before I start writing this. I called him up right away and he said he was sorry for not getting straight A’s and he was so depressed with the results. Obvious blemishes in my eyes while talking to him – he talked with that kind of tone of voice apparently not happy with the results, I know he had cried, and very quick I consoled him up telling that was very good already, nothing to be sorry and I was equally happy as him getting all A’s.

Regardless of the results he’s got, I am actually very happy considering his promising performance months before the actual exams took place. Rather unfortunate he didn’t make it all A’s. I’ve never made a pass to him letting out my expectation as not to pressure him up and in the first place, straight A’s isn’t the scale I measure things up anyway. I regularly went through checking all the topics on the syllabus for each subject months before the exams making sure he knows what he had learned whilst the bigger contributions had been by his mother, to patiently be by his side as he finishes his home works every night and to reward him with a cup (read: mug) of milo moments before going to bed. We both parents knew he didn’t need tuitions when he was coping well with it. The existing loads at school are already too much for him to bear apart from having to attend religious school in the afternoon. I tried my best giving him maximum time to play, especially riding his bike, those video games and cartoons that he loves – I don’t want him to miss his precious time as a child for something he’d treasure later in life.

Days prior to the exams, I loosened him up, free to play games, watch TV, laze around… whatever he liked doing… but NOT to touch on books. To me, it was all done as far as preparations were concerned. And…right after the exams, I went through checking his papers (I didn’t want to but Sam pushed me to) and I was pleasantly surprise, for instance, in mathematics, he got only 3 questions answered wrongly and they were only due to his carelessness, not that beyond his comprehensions. The standard of learning for kids today is so high as compared to some donkey years ago when I took up similar exams. (During my time, similar exams were held in Standard 5, called Penilaian Darjah 5). Even I myself who used to take up mathematics up to 400-level at the university didn’t actually find it that easy, or perhaps the lapse of time has been far too long since I started my working life. And…other subjects are equally of a higher standard as well.

As-a-matter-of-factly speaking, it is not getting 5A that matters to me but when he comprehends well on what had been taught in school, matters, and that is even more compelling to me. Straight A’s is just a bonus. I’ve made a strong statement instilling my homespun philosophy to my kids; learning is not just for the sake of making grades, not about positioning yourself in the group of “elite” students, not about being what number you are at amongst the peers but to understand & appreciate what knowledge is all about, what it really means in practical life and thus makes you see the apparent relation & compatibility in ‘you reap what you sow’. Some kids or adults if you like, due to their lower aptitude level by birth, they may not score in the first sitting, perhaps they would only excel in the second or third attempt or in any number of attempts for that matter. So, what difference does it makes in the true connotation of what learning & knowledge is all about? Fast or slow, now or later. Scoring grades does not necessarily grant you as knowledgeable as to-be-looked-smart would. Sufficed to say, the institutionalized formal learning in schools and colleges is only a small fraction of the whole universe of knowledge.

Sam's big sister, Fara, she had got 3A’s and 2B’s in her UPSR some two years back, I was just as happy. I consoled her frustration, praised her, celebrated & rewarded her for what she had got, knowing the fact that she was essentially at the standard of 5A’s in my eyes.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Just When Their Mom Was Not Around

Nov 5th, 2006. It was last Sunday. I sent my wife to KLIA for her to catch a flight to Trengganu at 8:40 in the morning. She was going there for a few days to access her students on the clinical settings at Trengganu General Hospital. At this time of the year she would be busy traveling to all the places as her 3rd year students are sent to the major hospitals in all the states in Malaysia including in Borneo Island, Sabah & Sawarak. With handful of lecturers in their team, they have to rotate over on the places to be at – whom to be where and when.

The night before, we put up at my sister’s (Kak Zah’s) house at Desa Vista over in Salak Tinggi (I jokingly call the place as Barking Heights), some 10 km, minutes away from the airport. Late in the afternoon on Saturday, I did text Kak Zah telling her not to prepare anything for us but it was too late, she had it all prepared, expecting us to come in the evening but too bad, I had to bring over the family for my company’s Deepa Raya dinner.

We had a good one at a restaurant in UK, we were ballooned after the dinner and I felt bad, we couldn’t eat anymore of those mouth-watering nasi kerabu, among other things Kak Zah had prepared for us. After all it was very late when we reached her place. Anyway, first thing in the morning, I had those nasi kerabu together with my wife for the breakfast before sending her to the airport, though.

Not having their mom at home is such a big deal to my children, unlike the time when I had to be away. A few years ago I had lived out of briefcase for most days in a month and they were used to not having me around. Thank God these days I seldom travel and my idea of paying back the lost time, I would try my best to have quality time with them; make a point to be at the dinner table (almost) every day.

We do no have maid at home. When my wife is not around, I would be the chief commander in the kitchen. That’s right. I cook for my kids. Who me, can’t cook? Of course I can. I used to live on my own when I was a student and am used to cooking my own food but you had better not ask whether I am very good at it or not. At least my kids wouldn’t go hungry. True… I can always make do without sweating out in the kitchen while we are only minutes away from Syida Tom Yam, Restoran DeNenek’s (It must’ve been someone with a good sense of humor who coined up the name), Kedai Bakar in SU1 or Maju Ahmad mamak restaurant but it’d be no fun.

I can be a good cook if I want to but I am afraid I’d be stripping off the title from my wife hence, she is a good cook and it runs in her family. Apart from that I am afraid that I would then start to give special interests in skincare, experiment with the brassiere or find comfort in lingerie. Nah… kidding, that doesn’t constitute the meaning as cooking is lopsided on female gender alone.

When I was in the kitchen and have my apron on, my kids swarmed around me that made me feel like a chef at a 5-star hotel or something. Move aside Chef Wan, and you too, Chef Ismail! It’s not an everyday thing for them to see me have a showdown behind the stoves; they get to see it only in certain seasons of the year and occasionally when their mom is out-of-town or going overseas for short courses, seminars or conferences, which is why their curiosity never fades.

Sam, my 12-year-old boy asked,

“What are you cooking, Bah?

“Well… I think we’ll have… errr… Fried Fish ala Turkey for our dinner tonight. Right… Fried Fish ala Turkey!”

“Uhhh…it sounds delicious! But how is it look like… and how is it tastes like?”

“Hehehe, sure it’s one of a kind. Very good…Yeah, yeah… I’m sure you’ll love it”

Fried Fish ala Turkey or Fried Fish ala TONGKEK, Bah?”

Then he laughed. Fara and Edrin also found it amusing with Sam’s twisted name suggested. It sounds hilarious to me too. We laughed.

I had no idea what “tongkek” was, as much as I was not clear on my answer to him what Fried Fish ala Turkey was. I gave the name to him in impromptu to make it sounds fancy as I would usually do, like Barbados Chicken, Ethiopian Chicken Soup, Kratengdaeng Beef Stew, Sydney Sweet Shrimp, Chickamauga Fried Egg, Chin Peng Tofu, Inggeleke Nalladek Assorted Veges and all sorts of names I never pre-planned in my head, just plucked from the air, the ones came across my mind while saying it would then be exclusive if not conclusive.

So exclusive the dishes are and somewhat capricious I am, sometimes I cannot even recall the recipes for the dishes I came up with – I can bet a million if you can find them in the menu anywhere on this planet. There was once when I cooked squids for them, I tried to be fancy with the gravy, I put corn starch in it but it was too much until it became balls of gooey stuff wrapped around the squids – too slimy to eat, much worst than broiled okra. I chunked them off into a bin. Until this day Fara still chuckle over it. At another time I made flour mix to dip the chicken in before deep frying it. May be this was how Colonel Sanders started his business. Everthing was alright but not until I overdone with the salt & spices, thus, I had it covered up with extra MSG, fried it and… voila! I managed to have the taste, but my kids complained of nausea after eating – too much MSG, I supposed… may be too much of everything!

Finally, we were then ready at the table for our dinner. “Yummy! We are having Fried Fish ala Turkey tonight…” I emphasized on the name given. As always, I pre-empted their perceptions over my cooking. I just knew how to play up their minds, leading their thoughts for some psychosomatic effects out of it, I used words like:

“Fara will sure love this because she personally had a hand in it to have it prepared” Of course she was proud of it. She actually did but just stirring it when I requested for help. She is particular over the types of food taken and tries not to eat too much but I saw her eat more than she needed.

“Sam always like Abah’s cooking, he said just like Mama’s” He actually did say that complimentarily and I just repeated his words for him that left him to prove his own words. He finished up a mountain of rice, proven to be the fish was a kicker.

“I wonder why Edrin always eat a lot when Abah cooks..?!” Reverse psychology… He is a poor eater but with these words, he had to demonstrate his agreement over my statement whilst he didn’t object to it primarily, it gave a boost for him to clean up his plate.

This time around, the angels were very kind to me, the exotic dish of Fried Fish ala Turkey turned out to be good, the children loved it, they had a sumptuous dinner that night and even asked me to cook similar dish again next time.

…and I wonder whether next time I can live up to the standard or not.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Too Cruel... Too Young To Die

It bothers me with the news yesterday. I just want to write in here to exhibit my discontent over what had happened.

Murder cases is not uncommon to happen in our country lately, one can read it in the daily papers every now and then if not everyday. But the incident that happened to that Mongolian lady, Altantuya @ Aminah Abdullah, to me is too outrageous. Being shot dead is one thing, when it’s done cold blooded is another and to dissipate the body with the grenade? Thwart! Even when with only one grenade being used is shocking already, let alone when it is said more than two. And the body is shattered & shredded down to pieces? Even the best person at jigsaw puzzle will call it quit to have them pieced back together. I cannot comprehend this part.

On top of it, it took place in Puncak Alam, close the place where I am staying at, Saujana Utama, of which separated by a hill, I can say that on the straight line it could be less than 5, 6 km… less than 10 km away?! Well may be the place where it happened is another issue altogether but the brutality, the cruelty of the murder that annoys me. I read many books on criminals such as serial killers like Ted Bundy, Kray Twins and a few others but at the end of it I can conclude that they were having some kind of defects in the wiring in their brain circuits and it ensued in an unforgiving state of living in the other part of the hemisphere. ...But not in my country!?

What more when it is said that the policemen are involved in it? And even a lady police was in the line as a suspect? Yeah, may be it is still under investigation, inconclusive still, but the idea of having them narrowed down as suspects, it’s not a healthy one. Police are supposed to safeguard the public, to protect, to enforce the law and the bottom line is to make us citizens safe. It seems startling the person behind the scene of the whole thing is even known to be someone with brain, in a category of VIP. (I wonder the word VIP really carries the meaning of someone being respected due to their social contributions and running ethical living or just when you merely hit the right button while mingling among the top echelon of the country, then you are one?) – I need someone to give me satisfactory definition over the term.

It is too young for the beautiful model with a small baby like Altantuya to die at the age of 28 and too cruel for her to die in such a manner. I bet she’s here, some thousands of miles away from her home country to claim for her right after having legally and biologically mothered a baby that half of it belongs to the person that used to enjoy the fun and laughter together with her.

Perhaps for that person, it was just an idea of having fun and enjoying his life but in turn, it was at the expense of Altantuya’s future… and now her life!

The location where pieces of Altantuya's body was found at Empangan Tasik Subang, Puncak Alam, Shah Alam, Selangor

Monday, November 06, 2006


Little knowledge I know about gold. What I know, gold is a highly sought-after precious metal that for many centuries has been used as money, a store of value and in jewelry. The metal occurs as nuggets or grains in rocks and in alluvial deposits and is one of the coinage metals. It is a soft, shiny, yellow, dense, malleable, and ductile (trivalent and univalent) transition metal. (Wikipedia)

Until now I cannot comprehend one’s urge to have gold to brace the body in a form of necklace, bracelet, and so forth. May be it is due to the excessive testosteron in my body that despises any forms that suggests the femininity. I should have gone for an injection or two of estrogen to see better view in having gold on my body.

I came to light to write about this when I touched a little bit on the enterprising ladies in the market in Kota Bharu in my previous entry. A single thing one may notice, almost all the traders in market are ladies and most of them if not all are wearing heavy jewelries with strands and strands of gold necklaces hanging from their necks, covered some 6 inches from the wrist up with bracelets on both arms - one may develop muscles for having the weights on; and they are big & bold. It could be some 1 kg of gold to add to their plump body weights.

It is to me not for the purpose of beauty anymore when wearing it more than one is needed but it is more on the symbol of wealth kind of thing. And, it is true, traditionally the successful ones in the trade would signify their successes in that manner, or at least to have them looked successful.

Very lucky for them to live in that part of the country where snatch thieves are not that rampant as compared to the big cities like Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur. Yeah, true! Bad people can be anywhere, there may be are some incidents that happened or may happen but it can still be considered as the isolated cases, it's not that alarming. They can still roam freely with all the glitteries of gold on the body around the city and still feel very safe. I’ll bet, if they were to do the same in Kuala Lumpur, in no time they will either get robbed or loosing their arms.

GAB: Ladies are to me more elegant to go with minimum jewelries on the body, or don’t they?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Wedding Reception: Gulai Kawah

If you were to attend kenduri kahwin in Kelantan, you will notice some similarity in their food served for the guests. The type of beef stew they have rather called gulai kawah is a must. Without it, it won’t be apt to be called kenduri kahwin. You don't have the opportunity to eat gulai kawah everyday because it is mainly meant for kenduri. I, for one like the taste of it. Of course, I have my palate benchmarked the taste because I grew up there. Hence, I have lived my life for years with the western food but that taste still haunting me, though.

For those of you who have never tried it before I would suggest you to try it. They are now being commercialized and you don't have to wait for a wedding invitation from Kelantan to taste it. You can find it in Kelantanese restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. I can suggest one in Greenwood, right behind the bus stand, at the street parallel to the main road and the other one in Pantai Dalam (this one belongs to my childhood friend, not far from KTM Commuter station). If you are not sure of the restaurants while you are at those places, go closer and open up your ears, there you will hear the thick accent of Kelantanese dialect of the owners. And a few other places I saw the banner or signboard written “Gulai Kawah” on it but I cannot recall where those places are.

May be some of you, even the Kelantanese do not know, there are two types of gulai kawah can be prepared, one is the ordinary way of preparing it, just like preparing your chicken curry to go with the onions, rempah and what not being fried before the coconut milk comes in. The other type, which I like it better for its less-greasy finish is called gulai darat. Gulai darat is cooked without using the cooking oil. This way of cooking does not kill your appetite; your mouth keeps on watery for more, you can eat a lot until your stomach begging for not to be dumped some more. This is not good for people who are on diet.

What they do is they plunge the cubed meat into the kawah together with all the onion and rempah, followed by coconut milk in later stage. As simple as it sounds, but of course it will only bring about the taste with the specially formulated rempah that only known to the Kelantan people, called rempah gulai darat. Next time if you visit Kelantan, I would suggest you to go to Pasar Khadijah in Kota Bharu, go to the first floor and you can see those businesswomen behind sacks and sacks of rempah, ask for rempah gulai darat. The rempah itself does not come in a prepared mix. She would mix it up in front of you, she would take it from different sacks of rempah and only trained hand with specific knowledge of it know the proportions needed each time to scoop different rempah from different sack. Awhh, did I tell you that those ladies behind the sacks are good at customer relations? They always make sure you feel good with their small talks while buying it. I would suggest those entrepreneurs to get the elementary courses from them before engaging in bigger businesses.

The other secret of gulai darat is, here goes, budu. Yes, budu is the essential ingredient for the gulai darat. Without budu, there won’t be those special taste of it and again, only trained people with specific central control of the palate with tens of years of experience consuming it can tell the special taste of it. I got to know that for one kawah of gulai darat (One kawah can serve up to 250 people), 4 to 5 bottles of budu is needed. If my maths is right – cooking for a family of five, try to put 5 litres of budu – then you’ll be drunk with budu.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Personal Visit

When I go off from this world, I do not wish my loved ones to carry a ritual to visit my grave every so often. As far as I understand, the dead lives in a totally different world beyond our comprehension of which it may be separated by thousands of millions of light years apart and yet it is inexplicably as close as a heartbeat away.

Be as it may, even if my grave goes unmarked, I would still be just as close without the symbolism comes into the picture. Need not for my loved ones to dirty their feet with the cemetery soils; I would only then yearning for the Al-Fatihah to be articulated sparked by their sincere hearts, anytime, anywhere. That’s all matters!

Though my understanding is as such, I personally take it differently to honor my old folks apart from having recited a verse or two of surah at my disposal every now and then. I will sure make a point to visit their graves every time I set foot in kampung. I was at the cemetary on that Sunday evening, two days before Hari Raya, after battling through heavy traffics back to my hometown for 12 long hours, and my back was killing me. To make it personal, I went to the cemetery without anyone’s knowledge. My wife will only know after reading this.

The cemetery was kind of isolated, over at the corner of the kampung. So quiet, while walking; you could hear clearly your feet brushed with the grass, every snap of the stick stepped onto and the crispy sound of the dead leaves plundered into. It was rather strange but nice when you could hardly hear anything except the ever pleasant wheezing cadence of the wind blow and the chirping of birds coupled with minute rattling & clattering sounds of bugs and insects.

I felt like my grandpa & grandma was waiting for my arrival and I felt like an obvious bulge if not lump in my throat upon seeing their burial grounds positioned next to each other. The gust of feeling in me was so personal. At the very instance, my eyes watered. Mind you, they were to me just like father & mother to most people because they took care of me ever since I was still a baby of merely a year old. I was in the state of denial for so long when I was a kid before I could accept the fact that they were not my parents but my grandparents. The irony is, deep down in my heart, until this day, they were parents to me and still are.

I settled myself in the grass, presented them with Al-Fatihah & Qul-Huallah before I proceed with Ratib, Yassin & Do’a. You know what? Throughout the rendezvous (as I may call), at times I choked when I felt like they were so close to me as if they were thanking me for the visit and I felt like some kind of two-way communications, telling them what’s hidden in my heart, thanking them for their struggle to raise me up and even apologizing for the shortcomings on my side where they were still alive and so forth. Never mind on the shortfalls over me when I was a small boy because God just want me to see the hikmah hidden behind it.

I couldn’t help it but cried. I sat there and I really cried. Since I was all alone, I let go the whole feelings & emotions. It took me long minutes clearing up my tears in the car before headed back home for buka puasa.

GAB: There was another round of visit on Hari Raya when I brought the whole family to the graveyard.


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