Friday, February 29, 2008

Bapak Part II - Election of 1969

The eighties, in hindsight, was not the easiest of time for me. It was in some way, the best of times; it was unfortunately, the worst of time too.

For three tragedies in my life all occurred in the 80s - in 1982, 1983 and 1984, all on a trot. 1984 though, was the rock bottom in my life. 1984 was the year bapak died.

And it was a miracle that I still passed my university's exams all those years! Mind the word 'PASS" ok.

My blogger brother asked me last Sunday when I would be continuing my series on Bapak. As I have always maintained, it is not easy to write about bapak, and hence I have slowed down in that department.

For
one, my memory of him is fading fast. Twenty four years has passed since he was taken away from all of us; leaving behind 13 kids - the oldest 22 and the youngest 8 months.


But I remember well the month of May in 1969. We lived in a kampung house in Kampung Sira in Lenggong. Working at the Land Office, he came across an opportunity to own a piece of land filled with rubber trees. Not having extra money to buy it for himself, he decided to go to Kuala Lumpur to convince one of his two elder brothers to buy the land.

He must have gone after the election that year - by chance that day was the 13th of May; the darkest day in our nation's history.

Of course we knew nothing of the happenings in Kuala Lumpur then. We had no television and no telephone. All of the sudden, we lost contact with him and the news splash the next day showed KL in turmoil with the curfew imposed.

There was no news of bapak.

I was 6 years old then. While we were worried, I guess we just too young to get really worried. I don't recall how mum was trying to contact bapak's siblings in KL, or if that was possible at all. I am sure she was worried. I guess for at least a week, we did not know of his fate.

Apparently, he had taken a cab to Kuala Lumpur and the driver was Chinese. It was a very volatile cocktail in the aftermath of the election of 1969. The big riot of 13th May was at its height, and the cab, with a Chinese driver and a Malay passenger, was fast approaching Kuala Lumpur, oblivious of the riot.

The passenger was wearing a songkok, as always.

As they approached Sentul, the cab was stopped by a road block, manned by Chinese rioters. Not knowing any better, the driver stopped his cab by the roadshow.

"Apa pasal lu bawak itu Melayu," the cab driver was asked, I guess the conversation could be in some Chinese's dialect. He was staring at bapak with angry eyes. Having no clue of the severity of the situation, the driver tried to play it down. But the Chinese mob at the roadblock were having none of them. The Malays were killing the Chinese and the Chinese were killing the Malays; here is one Chinese cab driver ferrying one Malay, and they didn't like it one bit.

The riot was at its height.

Suddenly he took out a parang and slashed the cab driver!

Blood came out spouting and soon even bapak's white shirt was all red.

But God is great; the cab driver, still conscious though in pain, hit the pedal and escaped. They then took refuge at the Sentul Police Station, where they were stranded there for at least a week.

I don't remember what became of the cab driver. But honestly I think highly of him and his courage. He was in shock, but his survival and that of his passenger were utmost in his mind.

Bapak came back, much to our relief, after the riot had died down. I remember the toys he brought back - I had to choose between a clock and a drawing tool from which you can make very nice flowery pattern. For some reasons, I took the clock which I regret later. I should have taken the drawing tool, as I thought it was kind of cool.

I am sure we had some kenduri doa selamat for his safe return.

There was another version then that the Chinese rioters didn't actually see bapak and hence bapak was not harmed at all. In other words, he was 'invinsible'. Otherwise how would one explain the reason why would the Chinese rioters harm their own kind, not this Malay with a songkok.

If one were to look at the pics of the riot of 1969, one would tend to believe that version.


This is taken from Tunku's book "Mei 13 - Sa-belum dan Sa-lepas". Looking at these pictures, it is a wonder that bapak was unharmed at all, though he came back with a shirt stained with blood.


Anyway, yes, he did get his brother's approval and bought the piece land in Lenggong. I believe the land is still Pak Lang's who has been residing in Sydney Australia since 1980.

EPILOGUE

This entry is not about the election, nor it is about the riot that took place immediately after. It is about bapak, and he happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time then. It is also about the Malay-Chinese relationship symbolised by the Chinese cab driver and his Malay passenger.


In some ways I do remember that election. I do remember seeing the 'kapal layar' pin somewhere in the house. He didn't use them - I guess it must have been given to him by someone. I remember mum saying he is not really inclined to Perikatan, but I have forgotten the other party that he was inclined to.
Things have changed a lot in 2008. The racial polarization is still there - getting worse, I must admit. And unless we are careful to swing it around, we may face similar problem in the future.
Enough of 1969 - let's bring a new Malaysia to the fore.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Streets of London

You know I have really enjoyed my time in little London.

London is so small that you can 'literally' walk from one end to another. Of course I had never done that - no Malaysian worth their citizenship would ever walk if it is over 100 steps away ;-) And no, don't get me wrong. We are not lazy people, you know. We thought it is just a waste to leave the car at home while its value is depreciating.

Sorry, I digress.

London is a place I spent over a year in the early 90s. It was in London we (Arif and I) experienced our first snow in November 1992. I am not sure who was more excited - the dad or his little son. What do you expect since the dad spent 4 years in cold Melbourne, a city that would give you four different seasons in one day but never the snow. This is the city where the weather forecasters would be telling the listeners that there will be "little if any rain today" and within half an hour we had hailstones coming down upon us!

But never the snow.

Sorry, I digress again!

The office in London was just across the street of the apartment where we were staying. This is the time you would be thankful that you live in front of the office, since mid-winter here can be harsh and unwelcoming. At the depth of winter, you would practically dash out from the apartment lobby into the ofice lobby in 10 seconds or less, crossing a four-lane road.

I am sure Ben Johnson would have been proud!

You have to actually - you have no choice. The snow outside was two-foot deep - the temperature was a freezing 20 degree below.

Of course you have to watch for the snow mower or you'll risk being mowed down by them!

Earlier, we had visited a small village where the people lead a life that is free of the trapping of modern living. No, they were not Amish, but must be some kind of Amish's siblings, I guess.

Driving back to London, suddenly London was all white and snowy.

While we were excited at our first snow experience, I was apprehensive. I had never driven in the snow in my whole life. I can see a couple of cars sliding side to side - much like 'ketam berjalan', at times hitting the other cars parked on the kerb. "Oh no," I thought, "there goes all the monies I had saved from all my travels."

It will now be used to pay for a stranger's car dent.

Luckily we survived without a scratch.

London is dead by 5 pm. You would not find a soul outside at night, especially in the winter. There was no Harrods, there was no Soho for you to throw away your money.

Unlike the London everybody else knew.

When my then boss Jaafar asked the vendor of their office location during a meeting at the Japanese contractor's office in Yokohama, and was told that their office was in London, he nodded in anticipation, while stroking his beard. Afterall, he was a graduate from a univeristy in England, and as the project manager, this could be his chance to return to the scene of the crime. ;-)

Little did he know that the vendor was talking about London, Ontario (Canada)!

This is my London. That's a very young Arif - all wrapped up and his mum in the Ontario town of London in cold November of 1992, after a Christmas parade. Yes a Christmas parade in November to entice the people to start shopping and boost the economy. Or at least that's what I was told by the London citizens. That, in the background, is the only tall building in London.
EPILOGUE

I had interesting chat with a SACDA engineer while in London. I told them why did they have to pick up world famous cities as the name for their towns. They have London, Delhi (as in New Delhi India), Melbourne (as in Melbourne Australia; my second home then), Sydney and a few others that escaped me at this moment.

He responded with a smile, "Our Melbourne is actually pronounced Mel-born, and not as Mel-burn (Australia), Delhi is pronounced as Del-high and not as New Delhi in India."

He has a point. What can I say?

This London I am talking about is about two hour drive from Toronto, about 2 hour drive from Detroit, Michigan, may be 5 hour drive from Niagara, and about 8 hour drive to New York, if I am not mistaken. That should give you an idea of its location.


Well, do enjoy the Streets of London song by McTell. I love this song, and to me this is about the real London. When I first knew of this song in the 70s, I was imagining myself walking down the streets of London, and it did materialize more than 15 years later, albeit in the wrong London!

"Let me take you by the hand,
and lead you through the streets of London,
I'll show you something,
to make you change your mind"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Carnivorous Periuk Kera

The pitcher plant reminds me of life near the tin mine of Aulong in the 70s.

While
browsing for some plants at a nursery near Cheras yesterday's afternoon, I came across the pitcher plant. I have been looking for it for quite sometimes; not realizing that they had always been there under my nose, and not even knowing. My problem obviously that I have always been looking downwards, and not enough looking upwards. The reason being that these pitchers plants are all hanging up from the ceiling!

My pitcher plant hanging from the roof. Eat, eat away all insects.

I remember my trip to KK many years ago. Not having much to do while waiting for my flight, I browsed one gift shop there and saw a pitcher plant on sale. It was a tiny one, and the asking price then was RM30. "Too expensive," I thought, passing up the chance of owning this plant I first saw when I was a small child in Taiping.

So when I was there in KK again last January, I went to the shop only to be told that they have ran out of them.

When the whole of the tin mines in Aulong was our playing field, I remember that the pitcher plants can be found in abundant. I was fascinated by the fact that the pitchers because of their carnivorous nature. In other words, they feed on insects!

Well, in the age on the non-existence of internet and computers, we spent a reasonable amount of time outdoor. Fortunately these sort of plants were available in their natural environment in abundant, and we don't have to resort to National Geographic or Discovery Channels to know them.

Just imagine - a plant eating insects, with its enzyme slowly digesting them. Stuff B grade movies are made of, but I guess this is much better than many B grade movies shown on Astro!
However, there was a price to pay for development, and many of these plants became extinct with time.

Apparently there are many benefits of these pitcher plants, beyond a good and natural method to get rid of insects! There are stories floating around that the water inside the pitcher plants is good for the eyes. If you don't believe them, go around visiting the orang asli settlement (and this is especially great at this time if you aspire to be a YB); count how many orang aslis would be using glasses!
I have also found out from the various sites on the net that it is also good for enhancing the growth of your hair, which is really good for yours truly; one would need to use the water in the pitcher on the scalp. Of course one can also boil the pitcher and the stem for one hour and drink the water; it is supposed to help those with hypertension.

Aah well, the question is whether I would have it in me to drink or use water in the pitcher.

I keep on thinking about the giant insects that were eaten alive in that pitcher and there is no way I would be drinking its water.

Would you?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who authorize SPR to move my wife's voting centre?

I am fuming and the whole family is so upset with SPR.

I have mentioned in earlier entry that the general election is basically a vacation time for the family. In fact I have made hotel booking for us to do our tour of duty and we should all arrive there on Friday, ample of time for the election. (Read: Terengganu, here we come again.)

The kids are looking forward for their day having 'kepok leko' at the Kemasik beach after playing with the waves there.

Late this afternoon, while I was reading about a 119-year old woman (or was it 19 year old girl - in which case she is not eligible to vote) from Rembau in someone's blog, I went to the SPR website to confirm my polling centre and polling stream which are critical for a fast and efficient voting process on Saturday as I prefer to do my voting as early and as quickly as possible and leave for KL soon after.

This is what I found out.


No surprises there I guess.

Then I decided to check for my wife's polling centre.

This is what I found.

She is now registered in Hussein Onn under DUN Balakong and Parlimen Serdang.

The
kids and I are left fuming at this sudden of change of her polling centre. There goes our plan for a family vacation in Terengganu on the 7th March 2008 and the tradition that has been set since 1999 is now broken, perhaps forever.

The question is who authorize the change? She didn't for sure; like me she had been a voter in the same area as me in Terengganu since 1999.

For sure her IC address would be our home in Hussein Onn, and hence the change. But my IC address is Taiping and they didn't move me back for voting in Taiping.

I believe the last time we checked with the SPR website is perhaps more than six months ago, so we didn't know when this Feb 5 gazetted electoral roll is used. I honestly believe that this is done on purpose as part of a grand scheme to give advantage to certain party(ies).

Tell me, anyone, what choice do I have to fight this blatant moving of voter?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Point to Ponder

I read it yesterday that 200 people staged a protest in front of the Denmark Embassy in Jakarta for re-publishing the cartoon purportedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad and Islam in that country's newspaper.

AP reported that one Shodiq Ramadhan as saying, "The publishing of the cartoon shows sheer arrogance and dis-respect to other people's belief."

I am in two minds here - should we just ignore it and not be overly sensitive about such insults, and risk being labelled indifferent to our beloved prophet and our religion; or should be start demonstrating, and call for boycott of all of Denmark's produce, to show the world the depth of our loves for the Prophet of Islam?

I would like for us to consider the former. To me, we should just ignore these insults and go on with our lives. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that we should not defend Islam and the prophet - if it is under attack, but may be - just may be - the others love to see us go berserk!

I remember reading Reader's Digest December 2001 edition and was taken by a story first published by the Boston Globe. The writer Alfie Kohn has this story to tell us.

If we come to view ourselves as working for an external reward, we will no longer find an activity worth doing in its own right. There is an old joke that illustrates this. An elderly man, harassed by the taunts of the neighbourhood children, devised a scheme. He offered to pay them a dollar each if they would return on Tuesday and yell their insults again. The children did so eagerly and received the money. Then he told them he would pay only 25 cents on Wednesday. When they returned, insulted him again and collected their money, he informed them that Thursday's rate would be just a penny. "Forget it," they said - and never taunted him again.

Don't you think by ignoring them, these bashers would not have the satisfaction they so crave?

The Day the Music Died II

In our 25 millions citizens, why can't we find another Sudirman?

Well, that was not the exact question posed by Arif actually yesterday's afternoon, while this writer was pondering what to write as my tribute to be posted on the 16th anniversary of the day the "Music" died. He was asking in the context of Mozart, as he is a classical fan - why can't we, in the 6 billion population that we have today, find another Mozart?

I told him I don't know the answer (but I also told him that I don't mind him being another Mozart!); but instead posed him with another question: Why can't we have another Sudirman?

Actually I know the answer. To be honest, I don't want another Sudirman; and there can never be another. Another Sudirman, if ever there could be one, would never be able to replicate what I (or we) have gone through at that stage of our lives. Freudian, eh?

It was the best of times and I had the time of my life then.

Thank you sir, for you will always be in our hearts.

Moga Allah mencucuri rahmatNya keatas ruh Sudirman.

Alfatihah [..sambil mengesat airmata.]

Epilogue

I remember that day very well. Then Dayabumi was my office and waiting for my bus at Leboh Ampang on that Saturday afternoon, the Malay Mail broke the news of his death.

For the next three days and three nights, I remember reciting the yaasin for him. I felt the affinity with him in death - very strongly, I must admit; I thought I owe him as much. I had never met him, and he would not know of my existence, but I knew then that he meant a lot to me.

Just in case you missed my first installment of The Day the Music Died - this was the title that appeared in the The Star the day after (Feb 23, 1992) at this writer's suggestion as a tribute to the genius that was Sudirman.

This writer said this, quoted in the The Star the day after (23 Feb 1992), "This is the day the Music died."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Milik Siapakah Gadis Ini


Actually what makes Sudir so special is the fact that he had touched the lives of millions of Malaysians in no small way; and like no other, if I may add. I am sure that many of us can find one or two or more songs of Sudirman we can relate to, or for a fan(atic) like me, all of his songs and albums!

When his first LP was released in 1978, the songs that got most of the air play were "Kasih" and "Aku Penghiburmu"; but my attention was centred on "Maya". Even if it was a copyrighted song (Read: ciplak, but a beautiful one at that, I must admit), it was very popular those days.

Not that I know of anyone of that name anyway.

In the late 80s, there was one album that produced at least 2 great songs - "Merisik Khabar", a song written by Manan Ngah, and "Milik Siapakah Gadis Ini", written by sifu - who else? - M. Nasir. While Merisik Khabar won him third place in Muzik Muzik, and Best Performer, Milik Siapakah Gadis Ini generated rave reviews from fans through-out the country minus the official recognition.

Then TV3 would not allow foreigner albeit one by the name of M Nasir to compete on its program, which was a shame really as it would have definitely been a top 3 song of that year. It even spawned a TV mini-series then, starring one Eman Manan.

I remember this song well as it was last song Sudirman released just before I got married.

A friend of mine recently confessed that he held this song close to his heart. He went on to explain the reason why. I was touched by his story, not because I am an incurable romantic - jauh panggang dari api, but more so due the fact that here is another example of how Sudirman had touched the lives of Malaysians from all walk of life; young and old. In my case, I was 13 when he first appeared on the scene; was 17 when he made it really big in 1980 with his two LP releases; and was in early twenties when this song was released, so basically I grew up with Sudirman, and his songs.

He however was 10 then, but old enough I guess to have a crush on someone (Errr, bro, am I saying the right thing here?). This song made it more memorable. He said, "I was in Std 4 at that time, didn’t really listen to English songs (I was a bookworm back then), and one of the distinct Malay song that still haunted me goes like…”Milik siapakah gadis ini…wajah lembut bagaikan sutera….” by Sudirman…..had a crush on a girl a year younger, but back then I was so bashful, so we just traded glances."

I guess it still makes his heart flutter, everytime he hears this song!

This one for you, Hasnor.

Or if you prefer the recorded version, here is one (Mekar Sejambak 1988).

http://

EPILOGUE

Just in case you are wondering, I do have Hasnor's permission to use his story. And just to make sure he won't sue me for this, this is not any Hasnor you know!

Thanks bro.

Monday, February 18, 2008

My first election ceramah of 2008



And no, I am not the one giving the ceramah.


If not for my neighbour informing me of the occasion, I would have missed my first election ceramah at Bukit Anggerek in Cheras last night.

I have to admit that while I had made up my mind on which party(ies) I would be voting in the upcoming GE, I could not totally justify my decision, intellectually that is. I don't really know if they have solid program if they were to take over the country after March 8.

But I am now convinced that they indeed have a program and a plan on managing the country out of the current doldrums.

I first saw him in a kuliah subuh somewhere in Kota Bharu in 1976 - Nilam Puri, perhaps. I must say I was impressed with his oratory skills. I guess as a teen then, I would rather go to sleep after subuh, but he kept me awake that morning.


Last night, I was similarly impressed by another orator whom I could consider as the youngish person I saw in 1976, then as the president of ABIM. His style and language - verbal and body-wise - reminds me of him. His was fiery and full of facts - facts that would be useful in the upcoming GE.

I must also say that I have never been impressed by anyone speaking or presenting anything in 100% Malay
languange, but I must admit I was very impressed with the delivery.


I am convinced it is time for a change (though I have to say I have known that for a long time, but now I am more resolved for it to happen).

He hold the fort while waiting for the main man to come from another ceramah in Kerinchi.

And I must say that the crowd were eating out of his hand when he started his speech at 11 pm. While the facts are a repeat of the earlier orator, but the delivery could not have been much different. He had the crowd in stitches, but he quickly reminded that the message was more important than all the jokes.


The kids were there till the end - around 12.15 am, even though it would be a schooling day tomorrow (today). That was their first introduction to the democracy system of Malaysia. We had to sit underneath the stars, luckily on a dry padang at Bukit Anggerek, barely 5 mins from our home. No cosy chair in a airconditioned dewan for us, and the kids didn't complain at all.

I must record it here too that while I am impressed with the crowd turnout, I am equally impressed with the racial makeup of the attendees. While I know the padang is filled with people, I can't for the life of me estimate the numbers. I can say I have not seen the crowd on this side of Cheras for a long long time.

It bodes well for the future of the nation.

The carnival atmosphere at the ceramah last night.

And what good is it without the traffic?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Di Manakah Nilai Cintamu

I returned home in early 1986 to this melancholic song of Sudirman.

You know Sudir released the "Orang Kampung" album in that year which turned out to be an excellent album, as always. Really. While I may be biased since I am a fan(atic) - to quote a friend and a staff, there are many songs that are not only listenable, but a few from this album could also be considered as classic. In fact, this album is considered a prophecy of what was to come, albeit six years later with the song many considered to be his farewell song, "Salam Terakhir."

This song can be considered in the same mould as another melancholic song of PRamlee - "Di manakan ku cari ganti" - a song many consider to be the ultimate tribute to death.

Sorry, I digress.

However, as a celebration of his life and work, I thought I want to highlight this particular song that is very close to my heart and chances are you would not find this song in many of his compilation. For the life of me, I don't understand why this is the case. After all, to my ears, it is such a beautiful song worth its place in any compilation.

But I guess there are limited spaces in a CD, and he has tons of pieces to be included, which say a lot of his achivement.

Hence, I would always prefer to listen to the original albums than any compilation. But I can't find Orang Kampung album anywhere anymore. Is there someone out listening? EMI, can you you re-release Orang Kampung please?

Anyway, a prequel to this song, "Nilai Cintamu" was written by the man himself, and I had paid tribute to this song in my entry "The Day the Music Died" posted last year.

A song that would always stop me on my track.

The sequel in the Orang Kampung album, "Di Manakah Nilai Cintamu" was also written by Sudirman himself. He was such a talented song-writer and not many knew that. He wrote great songs for himself and he had given a couple of good songs to his then side-kick Noorkumalasari.

Well, not many could emulate the talent of this man.

After years of listening to the golden era of English music of the 80s signified by the romantic era, I was mesmerized by the sad melody and depresssed lyric - and that made it so beautiful to my ears!

[my eyes are all red now]

Here's part of the lyric:

Hancur hampa terima berita
Kini kau diijabkabulkan
Berbahagia dan sejahtera
Dengan dia itu
Hatiku terharu

Berlinang airmata ini
Keranamu oh kasih
Tak pernah terduga hatiku
Begitu murahnya cintamu padaku

[How could she? I, I...]

Coming home to this song, it was heartbreaking to say the least.

[Give me some tissue please..]

I can feel his pain in singing this song and to pay tribute to Sudir, let's listen to this song as televised on RTM that year (and it was re-ran last year). In fact this song was chosen as the theme song of a popular Filipino TV series shown on our telly during those years.

[No, the whole box, thank you]

Anyway, enjoy this piece.

[Let me wipe way these tears. Will be back when you are done listening.]

isk...isk

Epilogue

So, great song or what? But I must say it was the lousiest introduction that I had ever seen on any show on the local telly.

I thought the musical arrangement could have been better. I didn't enjoy the guitar play that much. But it was music then in the 80s.

Errr, this entry has nothing to do with anyone hidup atau mati.

Purely as a tribute to the genius of Sudirman.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Terengganu here we come (again)

So it is election time once again.

For me, election time is holiday time. This is the tradition for the Rahmans. Actually I am not really sure if you could call it a tradition, since the tradition is only two election old. I first started voting in 1999 in the aftermath of the worst political crisis in the country, which basically opened up my eyes on the country's going-ons. The election of 2004 was our second vacation.

What we saw on the way to Terengganu - this one along the old road of Pahang. The East Coast Expressway was non-existent then. It should be a breeze now.

I remember the trip we had in 1999. It was a great trip. We had a combined flags of the parties we supported and the kids would enthusiastically waved it everytime a car passed us by.

Many would wave back, smile or honk in approval. I don't remember us getting long, angry honk.

Immediately after voting, we would head to back to KL and wait for the results.

I registered as a voter just before the general election in 1990. I didn't do it purposely, out of my political conscience actually. I was sitting on my verandah at my kampung house at Jalan Bunga Raya in Dungun, Terengganu, when a bunch of the kampung kids approached me.

"Bang, bang dah daftar ngundi?" they asked. I am sure it was asked in the pure Ganu dialect, which I could understand then but not now.

"Belum, naper?" I replied.

"Bagi IC, kami daftarkan untuk abang; kakak pun."

I gave them my and my wife's IC.

So that's how we became voters in this rural town of Terengganu. And yes, while we no longer lived in that house, I guess we are still registered at that address.

And I am sure that there a few other families are registered there. And I am sure many would say that we are pengundi hantu.

But we are not.

I am proud to be a voter in Terengganu, and so far I had twice voted there (1999 and 2004). We normally took the opportunity to go for a holiday there while doing our duty for the nation. It is like killing two birds with one stone.


Then we saw only the green flag of PAS. It is not like we didn't want to take flags of others, but we didn't see it when the camera was ready! ;-)

It is like going home for me and the family.


This one at Bukit Besi. I wonder who would be climbing this chimney of the old iron ore smelting facility to plant the flags there.

So here we are again, after 4 years. I will be doing the right thing, and hope the results will be in my favour, and more importantly in the favour of the country.


The kids enjoying themselves in the crystal clear water of pantai Teluk Bidara, one of the best beaches in Malaysia, a pantai we once used to call home the day prior to the election in 2004.

So Terengganu, here we come again.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hilang (tak) Berganti

Sudir could not have been so wrong in chosing the title to this song.

It says "Hilang Berganti." Unfortunately for many of us, his is a Hilang Tak Berganti.

A beautiful song nonetheless; written by A Murad Hamid, to kick-start the yearly tribute (or until I run out of idea of what to write of him)! It is taken from Puspawarna (1984) which was re-broadcasted by RTM on 7-Mac-2007 dalam in the program "SEPANJANG JALAN KENANGAN.. LEGENDA SUDIRMAN."

Sepanjang Jalan Kenangan -that's time in a bottle in Malay lah!

Enjoy.




HILANG BERGANTI (Sudirman)

Bila kukenangkan
Masa yang berlalu
Tidak kukesalkan'
Pedih pilu

Tidak ku menduga
Tidak kupercaya
Perpisahan ini
Jadi nyata

Usahlah kau rayu
Usahlah kau pinta
Kepada hatiku yang luka
Kini aku puas
Kini aku bebas
Dari seksa pedihnya cintamu

Pergilah kau pergi
Ku takkan menanti
Yang patah kan tumbuh
Yang hilang kan berganti

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Cab Driver with a Golden Heart

Aah, there are many cab drivers from hell and then there are as many angelic cab drivers too.

Just when I thought there is no end to this dark tunnel that spotlights - pun intended -everything-that-is-bad-about-our-cab-drivers, all of the sudden I saw a ray of light at the end of it, and it is not a choo-choo train coming at me!

You know, beyond my usual cab driver, David - a Peranakan from Melaka, and his counterpart Sham from Kajang, the two who would share the burden of driving me to KLIA everytime I need to travel, I don't actually trust any one else.

David and Sham, on the other hand, are someone you can depend your life on!

You see, I prefer to take the bus, which would stop at every bus stop; or I would walk, so that I would never be cheated by a cab driver, who would want either a fixed rate, or would take me on a convoluted way to reach my destination, both of which would cause a big hole in my pocket.

While I do think I know most of my way to my destination within KL, sometimes I do not know the path of least resistance or jalan tikus - that's how they would describe it in Jakarta; which may change with time of the day.

So in the end, I am always at their mercy and I would always be on the losing end.

Last November, a friend of mine went to the office and he accidently left his brand new Lenovo computer. He didn't realize it, until he was in the elevator. Upon noticing that he didn't have his computer bag, he immediately went down to the lobby, hoping that the cab driver would have noticed the bag at the back of his cab and was still be around.


An anxious looking Pete, caught on the CCTV looking for the cab. No, he was not with the gal on his right!

But luck was not with him that day. The cab and the cab driver were nowhere to be seen.

Back in the office, Pete was cursing on his luck. It was after all a brand new notebook. But more importantly the computer is his life - well, almost! There was little we could do. There was no info on the cab or the driver's identity, or the company he is with.

The best avenue would be for him to head back to Bandar Tun Razak LRT station where he took the cab. Again, luck was not with him.

Back in the office, someone suggested that he head to office building's maintenance office where they maintain a host of security cameras located at strategic location throughout the building complex.

Scrutinizing the photo of incoming and outgoing cab and the times as denoted on the photo, the maintenance staff shortlisted a couple of photo of a cab which could be the cab Peter might have taken.

Using the time stamp on the security photo, it was concluded, by the building maintenance staff that these are the cab and the cab driver that he left his notebook in, despite Pete's insistence that it was not. Anyway, no one could decipher the registration number of the cab. Mind you, these pics were taken in broad daylight. We managed to decipher the name of the driver as printed on his cab though. We were thinking of getting the FBI's help though!

But Peter had doubt on the shortlisted driver. Apparently he remembers him as being a lot thinner than this driver in the picture above - the above driver is a bit chubbier than he remembers him. And he was sure of this fact as he did have a good conversation with the driver.

Alas, the maintenance staff ignored his view and insisted that based on his analysis of the time, that was the cab Peter had came in.

So Peter was heading nowhere with his (private) investigation. I guess, while engineers are logical thinkers, we need cool mind and resources to crack the codes.

And cool minds we were lacking then.

And someone who is willing to listen to all the evidence and not make up conclusion without hearing all.

After nearly two hours, Peter had practically given up. It was not to be his day. He is beginning to resign to his fate.

Unless a miracle was to happen.

And it did. Suddenly we heard a knock on the door and in came the building security officer with with a man with a skull cap, carrying a black case containing the computer. He was the driver, the one that we had been waiting for.

He looked like an angel walking down the office with the black case; and he had restored my faith in humanity.

I had never seen anyone so relieved in his life - that's Peter of course; and I don't know whether he is going to cry or laugh.

He refused to be photographed; typical of a humble man, but untypical of people in this time and era. I however insisted on his picture, telling him it was only for my blog. While I would be the firstone to complain about bad service, very seldom I am as quick to give credit when one is due.

I want to rectify that.

Thank you sir, for you are an example of a towering Malaysian.



EPILOGUE

In hindsight, after digesting all the facts, I have serious doubt about the use of technology to solve crimes vis-a-vis the above incident. While the high tech stuff provide you with the comfort knowing that something will be captured on camera, it is by no mean, an end to itself.

1. The camera, while it looks like a high resolution, with a low light technology, was not able to identify the cab's registration number. We might need the FBI, or Hollywood to clarify the images! Remember Nurin's tragedy?

2. All the high tech equipment is only as good as the guy who handles them. In this case, the person insisted that the picture he printed out was the cab driver, even if Peter had doubted him based on the size of the person. To me, he's an idiot who thought he knew it all since he handled the camera, despite the 'victim's' insistence that the actual cab driver was a lot thinner.

This is very true too with the authority handling crime cases.


I wonder how competent are our policemen in handling all crime cases. Nurin's case still unsolved; neither is Nini's
.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Heliconia of My Eyes



I have always loved the heliconia.

Beyond the plumeria (or kemboja), which I had paid tribute to, more than a year ago, in my blog (..dan bunga-bunga berguguran.. and Kemboja of My Eyes), I love the heliconia. If I love the plumeria because of its gravity-defying branches, I love the heliconia because of its exotic flowers. Unlike the Bougainvillea, which you can practically find anywhere in Malaysia, one don't find heliconia just about anywhere.

As explained earlier, we have always associated the plumeria/kemboja with the graveyard. Actually, it is such a wonderful tree to be planted in the yard with its sweet smelling flowers. Heliconia, on the other hand, would complement our tropical garden in such a way that these two plants have become almost always associated with the Balinese Garden.

For some reasons, the heliconia are not native to Malaysia, though they native to the tropical Americas and the Pacific island west to Indonesia. I guess that explained with they are essential to the Balinese in decorating their garden.

Their flowers are produced on long, erect or drooping panicles, and consist of brightly colored waxy bracts, with small true flowers peeping out from the bracts [Wikipedia]


I have at least 3 specie of the heliconia; the pleasant looking drooping-heliconia rostratta, the more common heliconia latispatha and the exotic looking, if I identify it correctly, heliconia wagneriana.


Top left - the latispatha, and (right) the rostratta


Rostratta is easy to grow and it will produce flower regularly. Rostratta flower has a hairy texture; more like hair stubs actually, so it will take sometimes to get used to it. The problem with the heliconias is that they are generally a bit 'naughty' - nakal was the word used by one landscape artist and will spread itself throughout the garden if you don't maintain them well and soon the whole garden will be taken over and overwhelmed by them.

However, top of my list is the wagneriana. I don't have that many; and their flowering has been few and far in between. But I would like to celebrate the day when four of them produced flowers at about the same time.



They are the flowers of my eyes and mind.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ultraman - A childhood Hero

Prologue

I was at Crowne Plaza yesterday enroute to KLIA. Peter and I always have this ritual dinner at Pan Pacific KLIA for our last meeting before he leaves for home in Chicago and yesterday was no exception. While waiting at the executive lounge, I had the opportunity to browse through the previous day's paper (Thursday) and came across an article that caught my interest

The news had it that this Thai lost a court case - he was suing the Ultraman's inventor, claiming that he had a hand in the creative creating of this very popular Japanese superhero. Instead of him hitting the jackpot, he had to pay RM1 M to the Japanese inventor.

Ultraman is definitely not Thai!

Ultraman Hayata
Aaah, Ultraman. It sure brings a lot of fond memories of the years gone by.

Sesungguhnyer teman dah luper ler the full detail, tapi awal tahun 70an, Ultraman was perhaps on every kid's telly diet in Malaysia. Teman ingat sangat kat Aulong in 1973 tengok Ultraman kat rumah jiran. Yalar, kami dulu tak der TV pun - bapak kurang percaya tengok2 tv and nak anak2 dier concentrate blaja. Tapi tak ler sampai dier tak bagi kami tengok TV langsung. Kalau nak tengok citer PRamlee malam sabtu, kami kayuh ler basikal pegi rumah nenek; tuh pun kalau tak kena pegi masjid Hanafi dengar ceramah tabligh.

ULtraman ni selalu ditayangkan belah2 petang ler, habih sebelum magrib, just in time to kena jerit oleh Mak suruh kami mandi siap magrib! :-) Hahaha, besa lah tu..

As I have said earlier, I don't remember it that well anymore - the full story line and the actors. Teman ingat sangat nama Hayata. Hayata ni a member of the Science Patrol and Ultraman nih dok dalam badan Hayata ler. Masa tu alien and monster ni asyik dok kacau tamaddun dunia dan Hayata would transform himself into a superpower giant from outerspace - Ultraman.

Tapi tak ler ultraman asyik menang jer. Power dier limited jugak. From Wikipedia: "At the beginning of each transformation from Hayata-to-Ultraman, the warning light on the giant's chest begins as a steady blue color. Yet as Ultraman exerts himself, the ColorTimer changes to red, then blinks - slowly at first, then with increasing rapidity - as his energy reserves get closer to exhaustion. As the voice-over narration reminds the viewer - beginning with episode 2 and for each episode thereafter - if Ultraman ever reaches the point of total energy depletion, he "will never rise again"."

Tuler tak nak pakai bateri everready!

Masa tuh, memang saspen giler. The red light dok blinking, monster tak mati-mati lagi. Ultraman knew he has to be quick. We all knew that - we can't afford to have our superhero dead. Risau jugak next week dah tak der dah episod ultraman.

Tapi kan, bro, zaman2 tuh maner ler tau lampu merah ker lampu biru. TV hitam putih jer. Yang kami nampak, lampu tuh blinking
slow ker blinking cepat. Tu lagi menambah ke-saspen-an.

Tapi bila "Ultraman crouches slightly forward and crosses his wrists together, with his right forearm vertical and left forearm horizontal in front of it, and the thumb edge of his hands facing his body, to shoot from the outer edge of his right hand a particle/light-ray that kills most opponents. The effect is either an explosion or a fatal burn."

Monster
pun gone with the wind ler!



Mesti bebudak tiru punyalah zaman-zaman tuh.

Teman ingat sesangat antara episod terakhir. Not sure if Ultraman mati, or balik outer space. Tapi sampai ngalir airmater ler jawabnya masa tu. Sedih woo..

Memang sedih ler. We all have a soft spot for Ultraman and Hayata.

Tapi kalau tak silap teman, Ultraman ni ada tujuh beradik. Tapi teman tak ingat dah. Daun terup ultraman memang popular masa tu, memang jadi kegilaan bebudak.

Honestly from those innocent days, Ultraman was our superhero. We live and cry by it. Yalar teman masa tuh jah empat. Nak wat camner, dah zaman bebudak pun....

EPILOGUE

Ultraman File Facts: From Wikipedia
Ultraman's statistics
Height: 40 m (130 ft)
Weight: 35,000 tons
Age: 20,000 Earth years old
Flight Speed: Mach 5
Jump Ceiling: 800 m (2,600 ft)
Running Speed: 450 km/h (280 mph)
Swimming Speed: 200 knots (230 mph)
Physical Strength: can lift a 100,000-ton
tanker (Skydon was twice as heavy)
Occupations: Teacher at Space University (Uchū Daigaku, Space University); Chief of Space Garrison Milky Way Office (宇宙警備隊銀河系局, Uchū Keibitai Gingakei Kyoku)
Family Structure:
Father: Director of Space Security Board (Uchū Hoan Chō, Space Security Board)
Mother: Teacher at Ultra School (Urutora Gakkō, Ultra School)
Human Form: Shin Hayata (host)
Transformation Item: Beta Capsule (Bētā Kapuseru, Beta Capsule)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Wow, a post dedicated to me?



I am deeply honoured, Bro Zawi (from Life as I See It), though I am not sure if I am worthy of such a dedication.

I have followed Life as I See it for quite sometimes now. Most of the time I was a lurker, reading the entries, but not saying much, if at all. I do enjoy the stories, many of which are something I can relate to. In many ways, I thought our blogs have many similarities.

What makes his blog more interesting is the stories about Kelantan, a state I spent five years growing up in, and I am quite fond of the five years I was there.

It was only recently that I started to leave comments at his blog. Like the saying goes, a smile would aways elicit a similar response.

And here I am staring in disbelief that I now have an entry dedicated to me (even if the honour was shared with another).

If I may paste an excerpt from that entry, just for the record.

"First and foremost I would like to dedicate this post to Shahrir of Cakapaje who had lived in Pengkalan Chepa with his family and Rahman Hariri of Time In A Bottle for their being a former student of Maktab Sains Mara Kota Bharu (MRSM) putting him in the same league as Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of the former Prime Minister of Malaysia. Datuk Mukhriz is the man responsible for the setting up of ANSARA an association of ex students of MRSM Malaysia."

Thank you Bro Zawi for the wonderful entry, the wonderful pictures for me to jog down memory lane and the wonderful blog - it goes without saying.

But I would have to say it anyway and I have said it!

The Munich Air Disaster - A tribute



That, to me, was the beginning of the Manchester United legend and her world-wide appeal.

Even as early as 1974, I was fascinated by the Munich Air Disaster.

For some reasons, if my memory serves me right, there seems to be a lot of stories in the New Straits Times in the 70s about everything Manchester United and how Manchester United practically lost the whole team when the plane carrying their players crashed upon take off at Munich killing 23 people in February 1958.

Of course I knew nothing of the incident - I was not even born then, beyond what I have read from the news, but for Manchester United to rise from the ashes of the Municah tragedy, literally, to win the 1968 European Cup was nothing short of a miracle.

Phoenix bangkit, kata M.Nasir.

The legend of Duncan Edwards, and the Busby Babes fascinated me so much that I grew up following Manchester United.

Later on George Best, the fifth beatle, was the name of the game in the 60s for United.

In the late 90s, manning the Hyprotech booth at the Jakarta Convention Centre for an oil and gas exhibition, I had a chat with a Scot who was a United follower. Knowing that I also follow United, he thought that I was a glory hunter since the 90s were United's glorious decade.

I don't blame them, but although I believe it is none of their business how and why we follow certain team. I guess it is like no one can tell us who we can fall in love with, or get married to. One would not need to justify it!

But he admitted later that he was wrong with his assumption.

My saving grace was that I could list down all the players in the not-so-glory years of the 70s (and I don't have to search Wikipedia to confirm them). Alex Stepney, the goalkeper; Martin Buchan (captain and defender), Lou Macari (Midfielder); Sammy McIllroy, Stuart Pearson (striker); Jimmy and Brian Greenhoff, Joe Jordan, Gordon MacQueen, and later on the 80s, Norman Whiteside who scored in the 1985 final with a curling ball in the game against Everton, Paul McGrath and the likes.

Bryan Robson (Robbo aka Captain Fantastic) is too easy a name for me to quote. Everyone knows him.

Life at Manchester United then were like a roller coaster. I mean it is like a roller coaster sitting here on the ground, with no engine. It was demoted to the second division in 1974, went back straight up in 1975, went on to the FA Cup final in 1976, only to lose to a second division team, Southampton.

Life as a Manchester United fan then; it was a heartache (to quote Bonnie Tyler).

Of course the 1977 brought the joy of winning the FA Cup final - against the 'Pool. That win is more satisfying now than it was in the 70s due to the fact that the 1999 team would not have been the first team to win the treble had the MU team in 1977 not been able to overcome the 'Pool. Liverpool of course went on to win the European Cup (against Borussia Mochengladbach 3-1) to register a double having won the league a few weeks earlier.

I remember watching them at Bukit Jalil with the kids and I remember in the 1983 to have gone to the famous MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) to watch MU played the Australian Team. Of course the Malaysian selection was no match and lost 5-0; the Australian team did a bit better, losing 2-0 only.

But today is about the 1958 team. Unfortunately I have not seen many of them played, but the Busby Babes played a big role for me in making me an MU fan ( and not another club). I am told that Duncan Edwards would have been England's best player ever, and more.

Nonetheless, in the era gone by, there was little footage available of him.

In many ways, Manchester United owe it to him and the other who perished in the Munich air disaster for the fans like me to flock and support United.

To accuse us of being glory hunters would be blasphemous to their memories.

EPILOGUE

For a more comprehensive tribute, read Soccernet's The Busby Babes: Munich Remembered.

Monday, February 4, 2008

You'd better be as good as Vanessa Mae, Arif



From being a guitar-student drop-out 30 years ago, I now have the privilege to choose a violin for Arif that should last him to his diploma (in violin) level and perhaps will take him through performing!

Of course there is a price to pay to have that privilege - one need to have a fat wallet!

And I definitely don't have one, beyond the fact that my wallet is fat due to my habit of sticking receipts into my wallet - grocery bills, petrol receipts; you name it, they are all there!

To my untrained ears, they all look and sound alike; be it a RM2000 violin or the whopping RM10,000 (or more) violin.

Much like a Matsalleh who would say that, to his eyes, all Malays look alike, or even to the extent that he can't tell the difference between say a Malaysian and an Indonesian.

Arif has been playing his RM300 violin that he got upon starting his lesson a couple of years ago and now has progressed so much to a grade high enough that he needed a 'handmade' violin to perform for his Associated Board of Royal School of Music (ABRSM). He needed something reasonably good; something that would not impede his progress when the examiner from London tests his playing skills.


But how does one choose a violin?


In my world, it is easy. I can decide on the brand (say HP), and if I were to take it to say their service centre, they would be able to tell the exact specification of the notebook or if they were genuine at all and the year of manufacture. I can ask for 2 GB RAM, 160 GB HDD. I can tell them I want a Samsung DVD player with certain reading speed etc. I know too, that when it says my notebook is made in Japan, I can rest assured that it is made in Japan.

But not 'intagible' instrument like violin.

A German violin may be made in China. A handmade one may actually be made in the factory. Anyone can just put a sticker that says it is a Stradivari violin and people like me would not be able to tell the difference.

Actually there are guidelines vailable on how to choose a violin. The maker (the Stradivari, the Vuillaume, the Gagliano or the Scarampella), the country of origin (Italy or Germany of China), the age (the older the better), the condition etc would be a guiding criteria. But again, they are all ambiguous.

But nothing is as ambiguous as the tone!

There are hundreds of adjectives that describe the tone of a violin: "warm, lyrical, rich, clear, deep, smooth, brilliant, and on and on. How do you define warm? Or for that matter lyrical?

I have no idea, to be honest.


I am also told power is such an important criteria for violin; there is a reason why an orchestra would have 35 violins and only 3 flutes!

So this afternoon, after taking James and Peter for a satay Kajang treat, Arif's violin teacher brought 3 violins with price range from RM4300 to RM7800. Two of them are Chinese-made violin, while the most expensive one is of course the German one (Klauss Heffler). The Chinese made violins were marketed under the name of a Singapore-based company (Synwin).


(This is a cheapest of the two Synwin)

Honestly, if you were to ask me, I can't tell the difference.



(This is the second Synwin)


I can't tell which one is more lyrical, or warmth and apparently neither could Arif!


(This is German-made. It is expensive)

So I asked his teacher for her opinion.

"Actually what I brought you today are all in the same range in term of sound quality. The German violin is more expensive since it is made in Germany, and that it is more of an investment, as you can sell it easily compared to the China-made one. Then again, it is a matter of prestige if anyone were to get a German one!"


She was upfront with me.


I have not decided on which one to get him. I don't just, for the sake of buying him one, take out a cheque and sign away RM7800 for anything. It is a lot of money for me to give to a 17-year old kid, even if I had hope that he would have the traits of Hassan (as in Hassan, pemain biola or penggesek biola in the PRamlee's classic Anakku Sazali).


But I am also hoping, if he can be as good as Vanessa Mae, I would close my eyes and sign my life away!

EPILOGUE

I guess that's the end of my dream of getting some new toys for myself ;-) Aaah, man, I am a typical dad. The kids would be wearing branded goods while the dad would wear singlet and slipper! Hahaha....

Now I am wondering when Akmal would be asking for his hand-made Spanish guitar.


I guess I would have to sign my life away to the devil! Not!

Then again how did Hamzah Dolmat or Idris Sardi (the famed Indonesian violin player) came into being in this industry, if it is that expensive? Or may be they make do with a cheap violin and pour their heart out and became great players before they opt for say an expensive violins?

Point to ponder, Arif.

Sleepless in Chicago

Prologue

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the news on TV3 that Chicago and the mid-West were blanketed with snow. Having a close friend and a partner there in Chicago and having visited him a couple of years ago, I remember my encounter with a foot-thick snow and getting trapped outside in the freezing temperature when I decided to venture outside early one morning and I locked myself outside by mistake.

In today’s newspaper, is the story that China was hit by winter storm.

 
And I have been told today that 13 inches of snow had dropped on Chicago yesterday. Wow, wish I was there!
The view from my room at Madi's house very early morning the next day

So I had to write this piece.

Sleepless in Chicago

It was very early morning mid-December 06. Having just arrived the night before and still jet lagged, I was wide awake by 4 am, and being a restless by 6 am, I decided to enjoy my encounter with the white stuff outside. It has been years since I had more than a foot of snow in the yard. So I went out and feast my eyes with the fluffy stuff. The roofs and the lawn were all white. It looked so like watching a Christmas movie to me, or even watching the Home Alone movie. Some still have their Christmas light on and decoration hanging on the balcony and in the yard. But after 5 mins enjoying the snow that looked like a white carpet in his compound, I decided that I had enough.
The view of the suburb of Hinsdale as Madi took me around
upon arrival that evening in Chicago


It was a tad too cold for me to enjoy the ambience.

I tried to go in, but the door would not budge. It was locked.

I had basically locked myself out. By mistake.

It was still very early, and it was the weekend. The host, tired from the night outing showing this writer Chicago, was still fast asleep. I didn't want to disturbed him. So I continued on enjoying the freezing temperature while hoping that the host would wake up and rescue him soon. I tried keeping myself warm by rubbing my two hands together.

It didn’t last that long. I could not hold fort anymore and I need to get in quickly; or else the next day headline would be “Malaysian frozen to death”. So I had to ring the bell.

Hah, Madi can’t do much except offer a wry smile at me for locking myself out. He probably wished I had not done that so that he could have a few more precious minutes of sleeping time. But he didn’t complain.

When I was there, the weather was calm. No snow was falling unfortunately. It was practically a pleasant week there. But while I would like to see fresh snow, I was not keen to be trapped by snowstorm. It was close to Christmas and if I don’t get back to KL in time, I could be trapped there due to the holiday traffic.
The hosts in front of the house in the posh suburb of Chicago
 

The wonderful hosts in front of the house in Chicago. His house has this basement that we can just sit there and relax while we listened to old song. I love his basement - wish my house has the same thing.


Chicago is fun to me. The downtown is nothing that I had seen before, except for New York may be. Chicago makes Houston looked like a small kampong. It does. Huge and tall skyscrapers are the norm there. It is so ultra-modern and chic. What do you expect for a city that boasts seven of the 10 tallest towers in the world for the longest time and was only surpassed by our twin towers; even then due to technical reason. Their argument was that the highest floor at Sears (110th) would be looking 10-floor down to see the 88th floor of the Petronas Twin towers.

The only reason why we were listed as the tallest buiding was that our twin towers have a pinnacle to make it architecturally taller. The Sears tower management argued that their building has a radio antenna that would surpass the top of the Petronas tower pinnacle.

The tall building authority at Lehigh University had to arbitrate.

Well, I guess many would know the verdict by now. The antenna is not considered as the part of the architecture of Sears towers while the pinnacles of the Petronas towers are.
The ultra-modern and chic Chicago downtown.

 
Well, I guess, it does not matter now. None are the tallest building in the world. It was surpassed by Taipei 101 (which by floor count is 9 floors below Sears Tower). Again it does not matter - it will be surpassed yet by another building under construction in the Middle East.

And the race continues.

EPILOGUE

Years ago when I was practically living in Ontario, I had thought of driving to Chicago. But then the response from my Canadian counterparts was "Why do you want to go to Chicago? They've got guns there, you know. Afterall, Al Capone used to live in Chicago!" So instead of heading West, I head East to New York and Boston.

Then of course I had no clue that my former classmate from MRSM was living and working in Chicago.

Friday, February 1, 2008

You don't remember me, do you?


How do you remember faces and names of all the people you have met throughout your life?

I do face this predicament and dilemma all the time and I am at my wit's end trying to rectify it. You see while I consider myself as a practising engineer, I do teach, or perhaps a better word for it would be 'instruct'. My students, if I can call them as such, range from university professors, and graduate students to practising engineers especially in the oil and gas industry throughout South East Asia, I guess.

Typically my classes would have 10-12 attendees, and if I had conducted say 5 courses yearly on average, I would have crossed path with at least 500 engineers during my 11 years working life with this Canadian company. This is not to mention the engineers I have met during business meetings. So how do one remember their their names and faces?

It is used to be easy. During the training, I typically would be hoping that they would have their name tags (this is a norm here in Malaysia) and I would be doing my level best to take a peek at the tag everytime I forget their name. I would also be hoping that they would not change seat, I would have put name to each table in my mind. Of course, secretly I would hand-draw a map of the seating arrangement with everybody's name in it.

So during the 3-5 day training, I would look like the professor of remembering everybody's name!

I have read a couple of articles on remembering names and faces. Look for their distinct features, I am told, or the clothes they wear, their hair etc etc. Note the long nose, or the big ears or a peculiar eyes, or funny flowery shirt (here we call them batik!). For names, try and make 'fun' of the names. Yeah, like my former English teacher Mr Subra who used to call me Harakiri for obvious reason.


But don't make that publicly please. Thinking out loud is not allowed at this stage. Some of them are definitely offensive. Do it only in your mind.

Somehow even with these techniques, my memory seems to fail me more often than not. Pretty face or otherwise!

I was at an oil company training centre this week and during lunch, or Zohor prayer at the surau, I knew I was bound to meet old friends/clients. For sure, it had to happened. He was of the same batch with me when we joined the company way back 21 years ago. I remember the face, but not the name. Another was a client who had an office about 7 floors above us at Empire Tower. I remember their faces - I knew I had met them somewhere.


He saw me, acknowledged it, and said, "You remember me, right?"
I smiled, and said, "Of course I know you," but at that point I was studying his face intently and using all my memory bank to put a name to the familiar face. He looks familiar but I can put the location and occasion that I might have met up with him.

Much as I tried, putting names to their faces, but I simply could not.

In the end, I must say he looked a bit disheartened by my failing eventhough he did say he understood my predicament by saying as an instructor, I would have come across too many faces and names to remember.

Yes agree, but I would not take that as an excuse.

I had gone through that myself. Meeting old primary schoolmates, at least one person did not remember my existence at all. He kept on saying he could not remember, much as the others were trying to jog his memory.

But alas...

Anne, the wife of my business partner Peter, simply had this to say to her husband when he was in the same predicament as this writer. "You just don't care, do you?" she said, "that's the reason why you can't remember their names or faces!"

She is definitely right. I am guilty as charged!

There is no two way about it. How else would you describe a teacher who had been teaching all her life (say for 35 years) but could remember everything we did 20-30 years ago? She would have crossed path with thousands and thousands of students, many of us non-descript, and yet she can tell me better about thing that happened during all those years.


Well, I guess she is a teacher through and through, and like Anne says, she cares.


EPILOGUE


This song is in some sense related to the above topic. In fact, I stole the title from the lyric of this classic from Hot Chocolate. I love it when he sings "You don't remember me, do you?"

It was a painful moment for him.Here is part of the lyric.

Walking down the streets again,
The star of my love story
And my heart began to beat so fast,
So clear was my memory
I heard my voice cry out her name
As she looked, and looked away
I felt so hurt, I felt so small,
It was all that I could say


You don't remember me, do you?
You don't remember me, do you?

You don't remember me, do you?
You don't remember me, do you?