Saturday, December 20, 2014

Your money ain't yours until you spend it?

You know I left office early yesterday - just before Friday prayer.

Prayed at KLCC mosque and then had a quick meeting with my partner. His parting - pun was unintentional - remark was that the money is not mine until I spend it. I raised my eyebrows and paused for a few moments. I had to mull over that statement. It sounds like an oxymoron to me, but it struck a chord nonetheless. It went against every grain of my soul and philosophy, but somehow he sounded right.

It messed up my mind.

I am someone who would diligently  save money. I am not a spender - not even a small one, unlike the late Sudirman (The Big Spender - May Allah bless his soul). I am someone who loves to see money grows in my bank account. It is ok to be sleeping on the floor and not having a dining table, but it is not ok not to have money in the bank.

Those things were of course true in my earlier life - now, I sleep on a bed with a mattress and dine on a dining table. Which did not say much in any case.

And it is not like my bank accounts have swelled today, or that I have a Swiss bank account nor do I have offshore bank accounts.

But how would spending my money makes them mine?

Unthinkable philosophy to my mind. This is simply not me.

But since Haji Nazari is someone I looked up to, so I decided to head to the Ferrari showroom. If he says so, he must be correct. So I should be spending money to make them mine. And might as well I buy the prancing horse model. 

F12berlinetta may be? F458 Spider?

Browsing around at the models on display, I noticed that F458 Italia comes at a price of RM2.

RM 2? I am sorry, I missed out the M, which stands for millions.

I took out my wallet. Alamak, I did not have RM2 M. I do have RM2 for sure. I am may be a few ringgit off the asking price.

Tip-toeing out of the showroom, I headed to to another showroom.

So I decided to buy this instead.

How do you like my car?
I guess, if I don't have the money, then they are mine.

No wonder I am rich!

LOL

PS Haha, gotcha! This is a friend's car who was kind enough to let me drive yesterday afternoon. Thank you very much ;) I can't even afford this.

EPILOGUE

It reminds me of a saying that say that what we have are not ours. Only those that we have given away in alms and for His path are ours. I guess this is correct if we consider looking at it from the context of hereafter, and I could not agree more. Whatever money you have in the bank will go to our next of kins when we pass away. They will not be ours and we will not have any benefit of it.

Only those we have sadaqah will be considered as our deeds for the hereafter.

This is not a real entry to be honest. I made up the story to test friends and relatives and see their reactions to me driving expensive car.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Who lets the cat out of the bag?

I have had an unspectacular career generally. 

Nothing much to shout about. I have done my part, efficiently I presume (and hope). It had taken me to various countries to work - and the family had enjoyed those stints, but beyond that I don't have patents, nor have I published a significant number of papers.

No complaints though. No regrets. It is what it is; I am what I am. Could have done this; could have done that. Yeah, sure.

So when two publications came-a-calling, I was surprised. Why would anyone want to know my opinions on issues pertaining to the industry, or for that matter whether my opinion matters. I am too miniscule, or too unknown except to a close circle of companies and people. I don't indulge on high level issues.

Especially on policy matters.

I don't really care, and to be honest, I don't really have an opinion. Many are beyond me. I am struggling with bread-and-butter issues for the company that I have little time - or interest - to dabble on this high level stuff.

But the fact that two publications have been making appointments for interview puzzles me to say the least. 

Who lets the cat out of the bag?

I prefer to be anonymous. Not that I am complaining though. Thank you very much for nominating us; thank you for trusting me. Whoever you are.

Anyway, today Friday 11th, The Oil and Gas Year journal dropped by to have the session with me at the office. Their publication is out of Dubai and they do yearly analysis and market research and interview personalities for each major oil and gas country, including Malaysia.

I hope they are right; I hope I can start reaching out regionally.

The interviewing team from Dubai and they have been in the country since September

The interview covers the prospect for for 2015 for both the company's perspective, and the prospect of 2015 in general. Kuala Lumpur as hub for oil and gas in Asia Pacific is always a favourite question.

Fortunately they did not ask me whether oil price is going up in 2015 or why RON 95 and diesel  have little price disparity at the local pumps, or why until today we are still using Euro 2 diesel {sigh}, or any political questions!

But here are some of the questions that they posed. To be honest, this is soalan bocor and I have prepared myself the night before with some facts and figures.

I am sure many can answer some of these questions better than myself!

I do hope I have given them something quotable, and that I did not make a fool out of myself.
The Oil and Gas Year 2015 will be published in March 2015, and it would be interesting to get myself in here with other major players in Malaysia. I feel small though.

Earlier in  late October, The Oil and Gas Financial Journal dropped by for a session. Hey, I am an engineer. I don't do finance. They must have gotten the wrong person to interview. Huh!

The team from Oil and Gas Financial Jorunal
It would be interesting if all of the sudden, I got featured in two journals in the same year. It would be a coup. But really, I will be pleased with one. I'd take one anytime.

It would be an icing on cake for 2014.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Illness & The Joy of Simpler Things in Life


I thought I was in the pink of my health. 

Even at the half-decade mark.

And why not? I have just completed my ECG test at the behest of my insurance agent - she had wanted me to have a different set of insurance than the one I have. So one Saturday morning, last Ramadhan, I took on the treadmill at a specialist clinic in PJ and completed the five sets of strenuous exercises.

Did I mention that the ECG was done in the month Ramadhan?

And I came out unscathed,  and if I can exaggerate a bit, with flying colours. The heart that is more than a decade old is healthy, despite all the food binge I had through out my life.

So I was  happy. Happy as a bee.

No, no, relief is perhaps a better adjective to describe my feeling. I have always had an issue when it comes to checking my health. I didn't want to know. I was afraid, if I am honest with myself. I had always told my bosses in previous lives that I didn't want to know and that I would prefer it that when my time comes, I would just drop dead.

Not that I would want that anytime soon, especially then, and not now.

So when I was feeling not well (had a bout of diarrhea for nearly a week, the week before), I dismissed it as something that would soon pass. It has been a week and it does not seem to go away. But I did not have fever or anything, so it was business as usual.

However, that Saturday 8th Nov it had taken a turn for the worst. I was supposed to attend Dr Zaharuddin's seminar with Arif - instead, I had to ask Akmal to attend on my behalf. As for me, I then slept on my sofa all day that Saturday, and of course on Sunday too. Twice on consecutive days that weekend, I went to the doc. The second time on Sunday, I was given antibiotic.

That's how I survived the weekend.

Monday 10th was the start of training for my biggest client. I had no choice but to drag myself out of bed, and drove to UNITEN, where the training was being held. "You looked and sound bad, Rahman," Steve Saunders (my instructor) acknowledging my remark that I felt bad that morning.

At 9 am, I officiated the opening of the training session with about 18 attendees, and by 0930 hours, I was beginning to shiver. I decided to leave the training room, but I paused to take a breather of the sunlight at the car park, and then I drove to Columbia Asia hospital near my home. Had my blood test and immediately went home for a rest.
Columbia. Shared room.
An hour later came the test.

"Can you come to the Hospital so that we can discuss the test results?"

"No, can you let me know over the phone?"

"We don't normally discuss results over the phone," came the reply.

"The results would determine how fast I would be there. If it is positive, I'll come immediately. If not, I'll take my time and come later in the afternoon. I am sick, you know," I tried arguing.

"It is positive."

I paused to ponder on the implication. The dreaded result is now known. I was going to be hospitalized; there was no two way about it. I then asked Arif to drive me to the hospital .

At the doc's office, I was pleading with the doc not to ward me. "Can I not be warded? I promise you that I'll take lots of fluid," I smiled wryly when I made the request.

"Why?" the doctor asked me.

"I hate the needle!"

"Don't worry, I'll do it for you," he reassures me.

I have seen Mak in pain over the blood samples. Most of Ampang Puteri nurses are novice over taking blood sample. Her arm had blue and black marks over it due to sampling issue. And how about the needle for the drip?
I can never imagine myself with this, but this is my right hand, taken my bro
Rasyi
.

They are big to me, and it looks painful.

And now I had to undergo it myself. Barely 2 years on. [sigh]

Actually the doctor was not that bad with the drip needle. I didn't feel a thing, to be honest. I was relief, and now I have a drip over me. For the first time. The dreaded needle is in me. For 52 years, I have not been admitted to a hospital; it is a proud record for me to showcase that I have been healthy.

And with His grace, I have not had anything to warrant me to be hospitalized. For over 50 years, no (big) health issue, no mishap. I am thankful to Him.

And no thanks to a single mosquito bite, I am now hospitalized. If He is going to take it away from you, at an instant, He can, if He wants it.

Have betek leave juice, Man. Fortunately someone has commercialized it. Pix given by Abu
At this stage  of admission, my blood platelet was still high at 190. I was not worried at all. I have fever for sure, and according to the doctor, other indicators (e.g. white blood cells) showed that I have dengue, so it is better to be warded. My kidney has been compromised too. I have no objection to being warded; only the needle that I am objecting to.

For two days (Monday and Tuesday), I continued to have fever. I was between awake and sleep. I was dozing off, I guess, most of the time. At least on two separate occasions, I had guests coming in when I was sleeping - my neighbour and bro-in law. I didn't see them. They must have came and left (after seeing me fully asleep). I could not help it. I was tired, I guess. But I noted later to my former classmates in Whatsapp message at 1900 hours on Monday that I felt better after sleeping all day.

On Tuesday, my platelet took turn for the worst. It dropped to 60 at 4 pm. I thought it was an abrupt drop. Where was the 150 mark or 100, since the last platelet count was 190 on Monday. Aren't they supposed to pass through these first? Surely it is not a good sign, I thought.  I still have high fever, and the platelets dropping like crazy. I continued to doze off in between visitations by relative and staff.

Wednesday's morning (12th Nov) sample brought worse results. 30, and counting down, I guess. It was too big a drop for my liking. I was puzzled even more. But by then I had no more fever, so physically I was ok. I didn't feel bad at all; it was as if I was normal. I thought based on that alone, I should be discharged. But the other indicators were not so good.

They took another sample at 3 pm, and platelets have dropped to 20.  Get prepared, the doctor warned me. We may have to do plasma transfusion tonight, but we'll wait for 8 pm test results. 

"If your platelet counts drops to below 10, we would have to do the transfusion. It is a directive from Health Ministry. We have the blood ready for you already," Dr Amir explains.

They decided to have another sample at 8 pm. That's a first time - 3 samples a day; normally it was two. and it dropped further to 14.

I  sighed. What else can I do? It is beyond me at this moment. Why the sudden drop, and why not a more gradual decrease? And it continued to stay at 14. I was getting exasperated. I am  not sure if I can continue to stay strong. It was a mental battle.

But the good news was, by this time, I didn't have fever at all - it has subsided. Physically I was feeling good. The platelet stayed at 14 for that day, but since it is above 10, no plasma transfusion was required much to my relief. Physically I felt strong; I was in no danger of falling off the cliff. (Later on during follow up check-up, the Dr Amir told me of a patient who just dropped dead the next day!)

Or at least that's I thought. Only that I was worried about my platelet count.

Platelets continue to hover above 10 on Thursday Nov 13, but the white blood cell counts have moved into the normal range of 4. Previously it was precariously at 1. "We know based on this trend, I would expect that your platelets would increase soon. Normally white blood cells will increase first," Dr Amir continues to re-assure me.

In my mind, OK, OK, sure, but why would my platelet still very low. I have no clue, I was worried, but Thursday I was physically and mentally refreshed, never mind my platelet was still low.

By this time, I was already simply tired of having water. I could not, even if my life depended on it, drink. I was getting sick of water; whatever the drip can do for me, that's it. I simply refused to drink anymore. May be a glass during meal, but nothing more.

Birin & I in the morning. I was cheerful with his visit. He was here when the Dr Amir told me of the good news of my white blood cell improving
Actually at around 8 am, a former classmate Sabirin suddenly appeared in my room. It was a nice surprise to get a visit from a friend. That cheered me quite a bit; we shared 5 years of our growing up lives in a boarding school in KB, and now is a big-time contractor. With him around, you tend to get at least one laugh a minute. He is a cheerful-kind of guy.

Thank Yin for dropping by. It is really appreciated. It made my morning, especially with the good news brought by the doc. People said I looked cheerful; yes, I was.

And it was the start of my friends visiting me. Each visit brought more cheers for me.
Suri came visiting mid afternoon
I swear Suri and I are from the same batch in school, though 35 years on, he looked much younger than yours truly. Then my classmate Jamil dropped by.

r
Jamil came visiting in the afternoon. He had dengue before and he was worst than mine - denggi berdarah, and he survived. So I was going to survive too, I thought.
I never thought I was important enough to have my former classmates visiting, especially many were busy with their work and lives, I guess. Dengue is a common bane of modern lives, nothing spectacular that would require visitation. Yes, I have friend who died from dengue in 1998, and many more have died from dengue. I was that close to having transfusion, so I guess I was not that far.

To cap the visitations, An and Liza dropped by at around 8 pm, when I was just too tired sitting in my room, hence I was at the lobby with my drip when they arrived. An was a batchmate from school while Liza was, of course my Pasteur classmate then.
My first attempt at selfie. Lousy job I guess.
Shema and Aya  - both classmates - dropped by just before I was discharged on Satuday 15 Nov. Of course with Shema just coming back from her pilgrimage, I got a bottle of air zam-zam and dates, which I believe is khurma Nabi. Unfortunately, I didn't take picture that day, so there is no pictorial record with them. The both of them were my classmate in school. And Aya is now officially a datin. From my estimate, her husband got the datukship that Saturday itself.

Thank you, guys. You guys made my day.

The platelet was still below, but I was recovering.

On Saturday, my platelet count was still 30, but the doctor thought I could be discharged since my other indicators have stabilized for sometimes already. I was not going to argue with him; I was getting tired of staying in bed for much of the day. By then I probably had lost 3-5 kg and I am sure I looked haggard. My sister says so; and I have no doubt about it. I have not shaved for a week now. So I was quietly pleased that he would do that.

And by 3 pm, I was back at home, driven by Akmal.

But to be honest, the battle was far from over. I may have been discharged on Saturday 15 Nov, but the worst days of my life was for the next three days.

I made my living room my bedroom. The sofa and the carpet were my bed; occasionally I would go up to clean up myself. But honestly, I was not on the way for quick recovery. My house was filled up to the brim with my wife's side visiting on Saturday, but I was in no position to receive any visitation. It stressed me out completely. I just need my rest, and I can't take bulk visitation.
Crab soup and fresh betek leave juice. I could not take it after the 1st bottle
I just sat on the sofa, did not talk much, not that I talk much in normal circumstances. I was between awake and sleep and I was forcing myself to be awake.

I have learned my lesson. When visiting, depending on illness, make it a short and sweet visitation. Don't overdo it with lengthy visitation, unless the patient can handle it. Dengue is one illness patient needs much rest and sleep.

Don't get me wrong. I know each visitor brought with him or her, rezeki and more importantly their prayers. I know that, and I am thankful. I am thankful for all those who visited me, and those who had prayed for me.

My sister and auntie MCKam visited me on Monday. Same thing. I did not talk much; I simply could not. I was lethargic; I was tired. I could not even open up my mouth to answer their questions. But their visitation was good in the sense that it was short and sweet. Later on she told me this, "You scared me twice - at the hospital and at your home. You looked so haggard and your eyes looked sunken. I told you that it made no sense to go out because of dengue."

May be I was that close to going out, if you know what I mean. Who knows? By blood platelet count, I was down to 14 on numerous occasions. I was giving up on my fluid intake - I could not just drink anything, and I was purely relying on my fluid drip. And one needs lots of fluid intake when one has dengue.

Technically, I was giving up. I also slept all day those three days post hospitalization, and at night obviously too. I ate very little, manly lived on bread and soups that my wife would buy.

But the worst part was the nightmare at night. I was practically having nightmare every time I go to sleep. I would be awake at 12 am, or at 3 am in the morning, wondering if I am still alive or would continue to be alive, and why I was feeling so depressed. When I close my eyes trying to go to sleep, I would feel as if my world was spinning. When I awoke, I would be staring at the ceiling and I would cry, "Why? What's going on? Why am I feeling so sad? I am going to recover, am I not?"

I was getting depressed. I really was.
Imagine this, but with thousands of these spiraling in your mind, and not in this nice pattern,
every time I close my eyes. They were more random. Taken from internet
I was like in zombie state, trying to figure out what's going on, and that I only have only dengue, and that I was not going to die. It sure felt that way then. I did not feel like I was getting any better. The nightmare was really bad. And only if I managed to convince myself that it was just a dream, and then only I would feel better. When I came to my senses.

But normally the feeling of relief would be short.

Most of the time getting back to sleep would be a chore. I had to convince myself that I am going to be ok, and that I am not dying. But it was futile. My mind was spinning - not physically - every time I close my eyes. I would wake up at least a couple of time in the course of the night. And it would be the same thing, over and over again.

My world was crumbling down. It felt like the whole world is resting on my shoulder. I was feeling really bad. I had thought about death. At times, I was convinced then I was not going to get through this. At times, I was convinced that death was imminent. That was the worst part of my dengue fever. I did not get this while at hospital. It was the home recovery that it was the worst part of them all.

If night was bad, day time is no better. I may be awake. But I was tired; I was lethargic. My zombie state mean that while I know where I was, I was not in the position to do anything. I was helpless. I can only sit or lie down on the sofa. I could not care less about anything, to be honest. It was like I was stoned, to be honest.

My bio-chemial compositions must be totally imbalance. They were causing havoc in mind.

It took me three days to get through this phase. Really long three days.

Only on Tuesday I believe I did not have the nightmare and I have a bit more zeal for life. Mostly because I know I was going back to the hospital for check up, and chances were I should be ok. I was worried of course more about the needle, but it was the least of my worry.

160 came the result. The doc gave me a clean bill of health.

I had driven to the hospital - on my own, for the first time in more than a week. It felt really good driving the car. The radio was set at top volume. I opened the window, I was letting all the polluted air of Kuala Lumpur filling up my car and lung. I thought the driving really rejuvenated me. I was - at last - free.

I then went on to Jusco and shopped for fruits and of course my beloved Marmalade.

To be honest, it took me more than just the second week to recover. I did not bother going to work. I did not bother checking my mails. I did not bother checking how my staff were doing. I was hoping that they were all on auto-pilot. The dengue has really drained the energy out of me. While I have no fever, I was lethargic. I was tired. I was weary, fatigue, if you must; it was as if I was burnt-out. All of those combined.

All in all, I reckon it took 3 full weeks to come to my senses and be myself again. Four weeks if I am honest.

But then again, up to this posting date, I am not myself yet. When I read the quran during solat, it would not be with the same passion and I was not stressing on the wordings and sentences, like I am used to. It was as if I had lost my zeal. It was as if I was just passing through when I read those passages. Something in me is still missing.

Dengue. It can kill you. In my case, it had drained me out of my energy. Completely.

I still hope I can fully recover God-knows when!

EPILOGUE

To be honest, I have rediscovered some simple things in previous life that I have forgotten in my present life. You can't beat being hospitalized to make you ponder on what you had left behind, and how good they were then. I mean, life is so good nowadays that our breakfast would be roti canai as a minimum, possibly nasik lemak, or mihun goreng and perhaps some would have half-boiled eggs.

If I were to have bread, it would be taken with freshly fried eggs, or half-boiled eggs. Or I would turn it into sandwiches, and it would be done over sandwich maker that Mak gave us many years ago.

And the bread would have to toasted - freshly toasted. I can't have cold bread unless they are fresh from the oven.

My kids would take the bread over say peanut butter, or peanut butter jelly or some fanciful names.

Yes, I can order my food over a menu at the hospital, but over breakfast, I was reintroduced to food of yesterday. I had never thought that while one was ill, this wonderful spread that I have forgotten would taste so wonderful than it became my daily staple. 

I am of course talking about marmalade.
I finished 'em all. Me alone, thank you very much!
The bread was soft and fresh, and the butter complement the marmalade. When I spread it on the bread (and butter) and tasted it, I was like, overwhelmed. What is thing? I thought. Marmalade, it says on the cover. Marmalade? Marmite, I remember. Marmalade? This taste like a orange jam. It tasted so good than I finished my whole ration.

And I had to ask for the same breakfast the next day.

And of course, when I returned to the hospital for their follow up check on Tuesday (18 Nov), I decided to drop by at Jusco next door, and bought one big bottle of marmalade jam. It was the smallest I can get, as I was sure I would get over it soon, and then no one else would want to eat them.

But until this post is published, the bottle is 3/4 empty now and I am still stuffing myself with marmalade jam on my bread. It is so good (even today) that I would not be bothered to have the bread toasted.

Funny how an illness could allow to relish simple stuff as marmalade. Something I have forgotten from an an earlier life.

I am looking back after all these. Life can take a sudden turn. One day you are healthy. The next day, you could be dead. Life is that simple and can be tragic. 

EPILOGUE II

I would have to thank to those visiting or at least sending get well wishes. My former classmates of Pasteur 80 of MRSM Kota Bharu top the list as I have mentioned above. Their WhatsApp messages had really cheered me up and kept me occupied through out my stay. And all their prayers.

Of course, on the very first day my bro Rasi visited me with Kiwi fruits and isotonic drink. Thank you for coming, bro. My sister Sham who visited me twice, and my Auntie MC Kam who visited me at home. Her visit left an indelible mark on me. I was thinking that who else do I have left in this world. I don't have that many anymore. I am talking about my elders - aunties and uncles. Not many are left, and may be my turn would come soon. Fortunately I have one who would visit me during my hours of trial.

My bro in law Dr Kamal who visited me twice, and the relatives from my wife's side also visited me, notably my mother-in-law and Roslan and Ina. My former partner Ir Mohd Nor also visited me at the hospital.

And those who sent their regards and prayers from afar.

Thank you. 

EPILOGUE III

It had been a trying month the last month (Nov). A one-week training that has been planned for months was cancelled just the week before (initially scheduled for 27 Oct week).

The instructor who had been away from the US had a less-than-six-month-before-expiry passport just when he was about to fly to Kuala Lumpur (from India) and hence was denied entry to board plane to KL. He could not extend the passport at the Embassy in India. It was Deepavali's week!

So he had to fly back to Houston!

I was frantically trying restore my dignity with my client and get training which was supposed to be on the 27 Oct to 1 Nov be replaced with a firm date (got 10-14 Nov).

And with that done and the instructor back in KL within 3 weeks, my health starts to deteriorate. I could feel it; but since it has been a hectic month, life went on, I supposed.
Steve with some of the attendees at the end of training session on Friday 14th. I was still in the hospital

And of course, to cap it off, I had dengue the week the instructor was doing the training for my esteemed clients! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kembara - The Legendary folk group

I have a confession to make.

Kembara is not really my kind of groups. I love ballad and sentimental songs, and they are certainly not Alleycats. They don't normally sing about love, falling in love, unrequited love - my kind of love songs. Their songs were normally soft-rock or folksy, and they sing about train rides, about blue collar workers, they celebrate hard-core labourers, about being in prison, about corruptions, and other social issues in the 80s.

Uh oh, and I am supposed to sing along?

Don't get me wrong. I am sure I have listened to enough Kembara's albums to call myself a fan. I thought each one of their albums is excellent, high quality recording and compositions, and are very different from any other group that existed in the 80s.

They have good melodies and good lyrics, and with the charismatic M Nasir at the helm, they are bound to be legendary. They could have taken all of M Nasir's songs (given to Alleycats) and become the Alleycats. But that they did not do. They did not take the easy way out. They took on social issues and ground them into soft- rock songs that bore no similarities with any other groups.

That's Kembara to me.

You know, I have been disappointed with last year's M Nasir concert at the philharmonic. Even with first class musicians, he did not sound like M Nasir, and his songs became detached. Listening to him at the MPO was a chore. I was straining my mind so much trying to figure out the songs that were played then, so much so I did not enjoy them at all.

You can read about my take here.

But this one is different. This Kembara concert is perhaps the best M Nasir concert that I have attended. M Nasir sounds exactly like, well, M Nasir, and Kembara sounds like Kembara in their albums. His voice is not a strain from trying to much and he sounded very natural, as if he had turned back the clock of time.
Taken by MStar

With apology to S Sahlan and A Ali, of course, since this is supposed to be a Kembara concert. Because I thought they were excellent themselves.

In fact, I thought it is because of A Ali and S Sahlan in their support roles, M Nasir is free from the burden of expectancy. This is the time he can become one with his friends, who understood his music.

Or perhaps in the absence of those Berkeley graduates, who messed up M Nasir's songs big time trying to westernize or philharmonizing them, M Nasir and Kembara were simply able to be themselves. Kidding, kidding hahaha, Dato. Love your Suatu Masa arrangement!

I would declare that this is the best concert in a long, long time at the Istana Budaya.

You know exactly what to expect from the trio, and it makes the concert more predictable.

You know the intro, you know the key, and you know exactly when they are going to sing, stop, or hit the high pitch.

And that's why I love this concert.

M Nasir is back at his best, to be honest. He was all over the place, and he made the stage his. It is so wonderful to see him so energetic and with a voice to match. I remember him saying many years ago how he could not get back the spirit when  many of his songs were written - after 30 years have passed. I can understand that - then he was young, naive perhaps, fresh, single and definitely looking for love. Life was full of idealism and energy. 30 years on, you may get a beaten-up-by-life guy, though I am sure that's far from the case for M Nasir. But he is back at his best. As far as I am concerned, he is the young M Nasir who could hit the high notes as per all the songs in Kembara's albums. And he did not have to try very hard at all.

A Ali was a bit more subdue; but he played his part with his low pitch voice. I really love di Perhentian Puduraya. So sad to remember the iconic bus station of Kuala Lumpur is still very much around after all these years. Or shall I say, so happy that it is still around, which is uncommon in Malaysia?

I thought the banter between A Ali and M Nasir was hilarious.
Taken by Arif
And S Sahlan? What can I say of this unassuming man. He was the perfect foil for M Nasir; a real anti-thesis of M Nasir; everything that M Nasir is not, and he filled up those remaining slots on stage.

Perfect.

The moment they stepped out with the sunken stage, I knew I was in for a treat. Even for sentimentalist like me. The music starts filling up the small concert hall; I knew most of the songs, though not necessarily all the lyrics. And with the background montage, we were all set.

Ekspress Rakyat was filling up the concert hall. 

The party is on.

Their music is normally for you to start swinging your body. You are not supposed to sit passively on one's seat, and wallow in one's grief or agony over that unrequited love. There was no such song. We are supposed to be celebrating about everything. You need to move. You need to sing along. And you got just that with Bas no 13, according to M Nasir is the bus he would need to take to go to Geylang Serai, never mind that it would be the second bus (no 12) to be taken from his home. 

It is a catchy song.

(I did take Bas no 13 (and No 14). But is from Ampang Jaya. And it was bas mini No 13, of course.)


I guess this is what is wonderful about Kembara's songs. They told a story and the story is not necessarily the boy-meets-girl love story. It is not even a significant story  to be told; but nevertheless, it is a social story for M Nasir. It is his story and the history of Singapore and Malaysia.

I wonder who is Wan  Chu and whether she is still alive today?

So they wrote song about a bus, and a bus station. And about labourers? And anything about insignificant daily events, and we paid them tonnes of money to watch them perform in 2014?

Wonderful!

Akmal, let's write songs about our trip to Tapah, about starting up a company, about facebook page, about Air Asia, about Monash and Sunway, about mee goreng and roti canai. I am not sure if anyone would want to hear us at all.

Hahaha!

Anyway, let's get sentimental a bit, shall we? Malam to me is perhaps the best ballad that night. I would cry listening to M Nasir crooning about the darkness of the night. I really would. He sounds exactly like in the original song, and it is full of longing and sadness.

What else can I say about this song? [sigh]


And what about Keroncong untuk Ana, and Kiambang? Wonderful ballad from a soft rock group.

But I thought the best song would be Kupu-Kupu. I barely remember this song to be honest, but once I hit play at Youtube, the night before, I know I am going to love this song live by M Nasir. This song, to me, is ahead of its time.

The composition, the arrangement and the lyric - awesome.


Having said that, of course the highlight of the night would be the theme song Hati Emas. M Nasir really milk the audience into singing along with him. And the audience was willingly being milked by him. (Yes, milk us, milk us, says my sister who was there the next day.) We were all eating out of the palm of his hands. The song was played like for eternity.

I thought if it went on for another couple of minutes, the panggung sari would collapse from the sheer sound of a full house audience singing at the top of their lungs, feeling very sure that they all sounded like M Nasir himself.

I thought too I was that good, to be honest. I thought at that moment that night, I sound like M Nasir. I am sure Arif and Akmal sitting beside their dad had noticed how their dad had transformed into M Nasir!



To be honest, I would have watched them twice. Ot thrice, if someone was to sponsor me. They are that good, and remembering the good, simple time of 1980s is too much for me to handle on a single night. I want to experience it again, and if possible, re-live the 80s all over again.

If I could, I really would.

Taiping, and Kuala Kangsar.

Mak, and bapak.

Melbourne and Perth.

Kuala Lumpur, Ampang Jaya, Ampang Park, Pertama Complex and minibuses.

Monash Uni and Chemical Engineering.

Being single. Err.

No, I did not have a car for most of the 80s. I travel by bus, or even cycle to most places. I must admit I have little money then. Well, may be not exactly true. I have lotsa money from scholarship that I receive as a student. Relatively

I was not flushed with money. It is hard to come by. But I have little commitment, if any.

Certainly we had enough. Life then was simple, and cheap. 50 cents will get by going anywhere in Kuala Lumpur by taking the mini buses. You struggled with the crowds, and the sudden twist and turn and stop. And the smell of the sweating passengers, including yourself.

That was life then.

I didn't dine at 5-star restaurant or at hotel. I ate at warung tepi jalan. I didn't pay top notch money to watch a concert in a glittering concert hall, unlike on Friday night. i only listen to cassette or radio.

But that's life then.

We were happy. Much happier. Or at least, I thought I was.

Welcome back, Kembara. Let's turn back the clock. As I have said, I would have watched them all 3 nights. I really would, if I did not realize that I am over 50s and have just recovered from near death experience. So I did not. I thought at this age, I should at least heed to Kembara's song about being sesat di Kuala Lumpur, about poverty, about corruption.

And being big hearted - being Hati Emas.

And not spend money on my own personal enjoyment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Serenading Juria

Prologue

In the 70s, specifically from 1974 onwards, we lived in a government bungalow located within the compound of the police barrack of Aulong, Taiping. I guess the bungalow was built for senior government officer, so for security reason, it is placed within the compound of the police barrack. One can't be at a safer place. Most of the time, the police officer on duty would be opening the main gate for us; at times, we would open it ourselves to show respect.

As I have mentioned in a-much-earlier entry (2010) - Beautiful homes of my souls, the barrack boys are of different materials than us. They were much more hardy and resilient. Tougher, if you must. Unlike us, I must admit.

I wrote about them being thick-skin having serenading a particular girl that caught their attention. Yes, they would, much to my amusement. I would never do such thing. Of course especially not today and certainly not during those years.
But the song in particular was not really a big hit song, so I can't find it over at Youtube and posted in together with my entry.

Until I uploaded it myself last night.

This is a lesser known song of Hail Amir, but in 1978, I would think, this girl Ju (or Juria) was The girl at the Aulong Barrack. Perfect. I was really amused with the boys' antics to remember it until today.



Serenading Juria

And I certainly would not forget during one of the rare occasions I was at home - circa 77/78, a group of the Berek kids would sing Juria, a song popularised by Hail Amir. And they would sing it out loud; loud enough for me to hear them and remember it.

Juriah, engkau cantik, engkau manis...so goes the lyric. I don't remember the whole thing now. It was not the most popular of Hail Amir's songs during those years, but there is a reason why the kids loved to sing this song in the 70's Aulong Police Station.

For obvious reasons, there was this (pretty) girl called Ju - I am not sure if her actual name is Juriah or the Ju is just an initial of a slightly different name, I think, living in the police quarters, and she was the object of their attentions and affections.

As for me during those years, there were already many pretty gals in Kota Bharu, so I had never been bothered with the Berek gals! Obviously, I am trying to justify that I have nothing to do with this episode.

And I would like to make full denial that I have anything to do with this! ;-)

I remember this incident because I thought they were funny, and downright brave - if not foolish, to be doing what they did. Actually I found it amusing. It reminds of movies where the boy would serenade the girl at their home - and sometimes they got kicked at their ass by the gal's dad. PRamlee also has similar scene with S Samsudin trying to woo the maid in one of his movie - was it Antara Dua Darjat? But of course Wak Karto would come to the 'rescue' much to his chagrin.

Brave indeed - these Berek kids. And they must have thick skin.

EPILOGUE

This is Juria, but not the Juria of the 70s. Of course I would not have a picture of the Barrack police Aulong's Juria.

This is the Japanese version Juria and a fashion icon in Japan.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Live-in Maid: Is it necessary?

I have never been a fan of the maid concept, especially live-in maid.

Why would anybody agree to work in another household, and to sleep and live there, and work day, and night, when there is no specific time to start working, and no ending time? It is like an open-ended thing, and with  no privacy of one's own.

And no dignity.

Yes, I do hire people to work in my office. But they have very specific terms of employment and it normally runs from 9-6 pm daily and for five days in a week.

Yes, there are many reasons for having maid or helper. To assist in the day to day running of the household. But I am not sure what the parents are doing then?

Oh I am sorry. They are both working people

But hang on a second, why are they both working? To get more money so that the family can live well, or perhaps just to making end's meet? Which one are they? Yalah, minyak dah naik harga dua puluh sen, teh tarik pun sama. There is not enough income earner in a family. I guess many have similar reasons for having maid. I don't have maid, had never had maids throughout my life and throughout my kids' lives, so I don't understand.

OK, I guess, everybody have their own reasons. I don't walk in your shoes, so we do what we need to do. Bik, buat air teh ya. While you are at it, why don't you goreng cekodok di dapur ya? Oh and clean up table. Basuh sekali pinggan di sinki. La, kenapa dibiar anak bermain sendiri? Tolong tengok2kan ya. Oh jangan lupa sapu daun2 dilaman, dan keluarkan sampah ya.

Jangan lupa cuci baju.

Eh hari dah hujan. Bik, jangan lupa jemuran!

Aah well.

It is one thing we work on whatever in our home. It is our home so if I wish to mow the lawn, it is my prerogative. I don't get paid for it. But I can choose to sleep all day in my living room, and no one will argue with me for doing that. So it is a big difference between voluntary and doing it as part and parcel of earning a living.

For the past year, I have been going to office very early. I normally leave home by 0530 hours and I would normally be in office by 0630 hours. No, it did not take me too long to reach office, especially at that hour. I normally spend at least 30 mins at the local mosque near my office for my early dawn prayer, before clocking in at my office.

No, I am not an exemplary boss, nor have I been an exemplary worker. I would vehemently deny that. ;) I just hate traffic, specifically traffic jam, so I would rather leave home in the wee hours of the morning than battling traffic at 7 am.

It is normally a blissful ride and the air is so fresh.

The maid washing the car at 5.30 in the morning. It is not that clear, but it is not my
 intention to have problems with my neighbours, so it is better it is not
clear so as not to identifythe location.. You could see the black figure
on the left side of the circle.
But I saw this scene last week. A maid cleaning up his boss' car at 0530 hours. Is it really necessary? I wonder what time she slept the night before, but normally it would be after everybody has gone to sleep, I am sure. 

Can one not clean up one's own car? Or if you are like me, well, I have a very fine looking dirty car, perhaps the finest looking  dirty car in KL. Hahaha.

It is one thing if she is preparing breakfast or making coffee. I would not mind having my cuppa at 0530 hours. I am sure that would wake up all my sleepy limbs. But washing cars?

Unless one's car is Lamborghini or a Ferrari!

Come on lah, have a maid if you must. But restrict the hours, and have specific tasks that she needs to undertake. Nothing more, it can be less. She should not be cleaning cars at 5 am in the morning.

If possible, do not have live-in maid; otherwise it will be difficult to have specific working hours, similar to office work. But I am sure if we try enough, we can do it. We now live in the 21st century. There is no need for slavery anymore. People have dignity too. Just because we have money, it does not mean we can hire people and work them for 20 hours.

And pay them pittance.

Help!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Arif Fauzan Othman: Remember his name!

Eclipse 1
I can't - for the life of me - explain about psychodynamic figurative that Arif Fauzan Othman is renowned for. In the world of arts, I am illiterate, uneducated and uncultured. We may be cousins, but we are world apart in artistic sense.

"Ojan," I texted him a couple of days earlier. "AbangMan will be at the gallery on Wednesday." 

Fortunately I was the only one that time, so I have a monopoly of his mind, and so he explained to me every single details of the paintings hanging at Arti Fine Art Gallery in Melawati.

"Man and mother nature," Arif Fauzan Othman said of the theme of his solo exhibition. The man in all his painting represents – well - Man. Men. Mankind. 

Shadow Beyond A Catastrophe.You can see the smoke billowing out on the foreground
And the destruction that follows him.

Look at Shadow Beyond A Catastrophe above. A man standing over what I perceive as the body of another man. Murder case? May be. You interpretation is as good as mine. But for sure it is a destruction by men on men.

The ladies in his painting do not (necessarily) represent – well – the womenfolk. As usual, they are bigger than that. They represent Mother Nature; Mother Earth if you must. No wonder the colour he chose are earth colours and grim. No wonder I can’t find smiles on their faces. They are not - unlike the man - gruesome; they are beautiful as usually they are, but they certainly look sad. The paintings are beauties in sadness.

A friend, one Soraya M remarked: "She's so pretty, in a sad and haunting way. Makes a good subject."

It does.  

Who is she? I did not ask in detail from the artist. Perhaps I never will. Sometimes there are things best left alone. And unknown. It will be more mysterious that way. I have seen a few pictures of her as shown by the artist, but I do understand that the two are sisters. She made pretty good muse for the artist.

We shall leave it at that.

Eclipse 2
Arif Fauzan admitted that it is easier to sell painting of the girls and a bit more difficult to sell man's painting. I have no doubt of that. The paintings of the girls are more pleasant to the eyes, even to a neutral like me - especially to neutrals like me! I could easily consider them adorning my walls, but would be hesitant to - errrr - consider the gal's counterparts..

I am not sure I can look at him on a daily basis. Another man - a stranger at that in my house? Definitely not! (Hahaha)

It can also be reflected in the sale of Arif's masterpieces. Only a couple of the Mother Nature series have not been sold from an entry of, say, 10. I would consider them sold out. But if I am not mistaken the paintings with the male character have not takers at that time of visiting.

In any case, I would think it is a good solo exhibition by Arif Fauzan. According to the Arti Fine Art gallery owner, one En Yusri, in the old days (read:70s or 80s), it is difficult to sell even a single painting. Things however have changed over the years. The fact that more than half have been sold speaks volume for Arif Fauzan's talent.

Things have certainly changed. People are more affluent nowadays, and more appreciative of work of art, and are now willing to spend over a masterpiece.

Even I would be willing to spend money on this piece - she has certainly caught my eyes. If only this piece is available, I'd pay the asking price. But then again, may be I am willing to say that since I can't have it regardless.
Ambergris
And to be honest, I would need to buy a new house just to hang Ambergris. It is that big. You would need an empty wall in a big living room. Make that a living hall and your hall would look elegant, I can promise you that. Ambergris is a lively piece; very unlike other pieces. May be because of the colour scheme. It is cheerful.

And I love the pose - the form, if you must. The setting has been carefully choreographed by the artist in his imagination. The girl is at peace; the setting is solitude.
The artist with the blogger with Ambergris. This is how big the painting is
Since that is unavailable, I would have to consider other alternative. I'd like to keep one of his painting at home. I already have one. So I decided on this piece. It is called Northern Light.
Northern Light
Northern Light may sound English - western to be precise but she represent the Malay demeanour with her attire and posing. It would suit my house decor, I believe. This would be coming to my home after 31 Oct, at the end of the exhibition. It is an investment. I'd pray that Arif Fauzan would become very big in the near future. And his work would appreciate in value!

But I am not buying to sell later. I am buying so that I have something I can pass down the generations!

Going back to his paintings, this is what the artist has to say; in Arif Fauzan's own words:

We live in the world of constant battle
Between Man and Mother Nature
The ones that should be living together
Not challenging one another
Intelligence morphed for more destruction
The faith is gone and so is humanity
For control and monopoly
In the name of freedom
freedom from our land'
freedom from our privacy
freedom from our will

Here are what I saw at the gallery that day.

Tree Hugger 1 series
Tree Hugger 2 series
Stain on Your Fingernails
Out of Devious Boxes
EPILOGUE

If you remember, in December 2013, I posted an entry called Old Painting by Othmansor. His real name is obviously Othman bin Mansor and of course he is related to Arif Fauzan Othman. He is the father.

You can read about the entry here.