Monday, August 30, 2010

Selamat Hari Merdeka

This merdeka day, I am reminded of those who died in Bukit Kepong (1950), those who died elsewhere during the emergency and those who fight for the independence. Moga Allah merahmati mereka dan dimasukkan kedalam golongan orang-orang yang syahid.

This is taken from website You can even download and read about Bukit Kepong at your leisure.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

The beautiful sounds of Hari Raya

I do have many favourite Raya songs, typically songs from the 60s and 70s as they are timeless. Dendang Perantau, the PRamlee's classic is one; who would forget this song when we were away for the first time at the tender age of 13, with Fadhil (now Haji) strumming his guitar and humming this song. Memang mengalir airmata masa tu. I guess, at that time, it was Raya Haji, and we were down with chicken pox at Block G sickbay. Not sure if Haji Dhil was there too due to chicken pox. – most likely he was too. May be his parents dropped by on the Raya day, did they not, Haji? And didn't they give me some duit raya too? Oh boy, I can't remember much now. Only vaguely.

Mak had wanted to fly to KB to visit me that Raya, but I am sure she would not have the money to buy the plane ticket. Flying in the 70s is not in our vocab then.

But I survived that raya with Dendang Perantau.

But I remember abang Harry (now Datuk Dr Azhari, chief cardiologist IJN) had offered to sell back my bus ticket (to KL), upon knowing that I would not be able to travel due to chickenpox. He had been the one arranging the tickets for those who wished to return home (being the Block Captain with abg Zuflida??). Of course the journey would be up to KL only. I would have to figure out how to get back to Taiping, which I thought would not be a problem. But it was not meant to be. Now he saves lives; previously he had saved me money for a trip I can't – and did not, take.

MRSM then would not arrange for her students to return home for the raya. We had to make our own arrangement.

Being a perantau at the age of 13, we tried to console ourselves with Dendang Perantau. Nevermind that some of us would not have known what’s a tepian mandi.

Doa di Hari Mulia by Uji is another. I would go for the sentimental Raya song anytime; being a sentimental person myself. All those yearning and she sounds so fragile in this song. Aah, Uji, the angelic voice.

You can find the actual footage of Uji Rashid singing this song here. Unforunately they did not allow embedding.

Of course the MNasir's song Satu Hari dihari Raya is very different from other Raya song. It is a song about the spiritual aspect of Raya. I remember some people were calling for us to abandon those melancholic songs in favour of the spiritual ones. May be they are right. I am sure we need to move on as a society than looking back and yearn and long for the years gone by.

But with me being me, I can't help but feel nostalgic every time we are close to Hari Raya with those sad songs. Somehow I need that feeling of sadness so that I drown myself in happiness, huh? It is no fun with those happy songs, ironic isn't it? With the sad songs, come the reflection I guess, and we need to reflect on ourselves every now and then.

Oh, and I would be really sentimental about this song – any time, every time, all the time. Sanisah Huri sounds so sad, so melancholic in this song! I don't know why I was so much into this song every Hari Raya. May be because I heard this song in a shopping complex in the 70s in KB, while doing our fortnightly trip to KB and browsing buying cards, may be in Taiping; who knows. It doesn't matter now.

And I can't, for the life of me, figure out what this song is all about. What is that tuduh-menuduh thingy?
But in any case, here they are. New raya song; would they ever make to my list? I believe it is difficult, but it is not impossible. When I first heard the new Ahmad Nawab raya songs in the 70s, they were new obviously. But the many songs by Sharifah Aini, Uji, Hail Amir, DJ Dave would get constant airtime as melodically they are quality songs. If the lyrics were not of raya origin, they would have made it to the chart. For example the raya song by Sudirman  -  Dari Jauh ku pohon Maaf, was perhaps released in 1981 and yes, we love it then as we would today.

Aljawaher’s KuPohon Restu Ayah Bonda is another song from the 80s that made it to my list. I consider this as a new song, in the same category as Sudir's and I remember listening to these two songs over the airwaves in Perth Australia during my matric days. We of course had to listen through the shortwaves (SW - do you guys know what this is? ;-) and only during late night and in the wee hours of the morning it would be clear enough to listen to Malaysian radio.
But new song of the 90s and of the new millennium pale in comparison, and hence I would not be bothered to listen to them at all. It is now a crowded place, with many songs competing for our attention within a very short space of time. Only the best will be remembered; the rests are best consigned to the bin of history.

What's your favourite Raya song?

Don't get me wrong. There are many nice jovial songs for Raya. "Minta mak kuih sepotong" is one (Selamat Hari Raya - Saloma). "Marilah adikku, marilah bersama ku, kutukar baju mu yang baru" is another (Suasana Rinang dihari Raya - Junainah M Amin). I do enjoy them for sure.

Another remake of the song Dendang Perantau by one 70s singer is also excellent. It sounds so different from the PRamlee's version, but it was done tastefully. This is the version by A Razak. But I can't find it over the net - only once I hard it over Klasik Nasional. One of the rare occasion when a remake is a good as the original version. Typically they are thrash and should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

But this version by A Razak is a treasure. It was beautifully done.

Tuesday October 9, 2007 - 07:04pm (SGT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 0 Comments

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Remembering Pakcik Ajis

"Aman, assalamualaikum. Apa khabar? Bila nak datang Lumut? Lama tak jumpa Aman, Pakcik Ajis rindu. Kalau ada masa, datang lah rumah."

That's the text he sent to me in March 2009. I was having my dinner at a small restaurant in Jakarta then and as I had just arrived a couple of hours earlier, I was tired and not in the mood to chat over sms.

So I sent him a quickie reply, telling him that I was in Jakarta, and would call him when I return at the end of the week.

But I did not do what I promised him. I did not call him when I returned to KL. Things were just too hectic for me to begin texting each like we used to. Or at least that's my excuse. An excuse that I'll regret till the end of my life.

Definitely it took him to the end of his, for he passed away today last year - the 15th day of Ramadhan.

We have a reasonably close relationship as we would normally text each other every now and then. I had visited him a couple of times at his home in Manjung, and stayed for a couple of nights there. So I was not too sure why I did not visit him again, after the text message he had sent.

Or for that matter, to call him or even message him in between.

Death is an event that you can never prepare for, irrespective of the circumstance. Especially in his case, it was totally unexpected. I was told, after the burial by his neighbour, that he collapsed while he was mowing the lawn at a school, if my memory serves me right. In an instant, he was gone, taken from his loved ones. There was no sign that he was sick or ill, or that the time for goodbye was so near.

Only for the fact that he told his neighbour that he wanted to jalan jauh only two days earlier. But at that time, no one had batted an eye lid with his remark.

I did not get to wish him goodbye in person, as I was late for the funeral. I knew of his demise reasonably early - Mak called at around 11 am, but I only left KL for Manjung at around 1 pm.

But the funeral started immediately after asar, within a space of 6 hours after his demise, and at that time I was still driving like a mad man playing catch up. Most of the time I was doing 140-150 km per hour on the hiway and on the state road I decided to throw caution to the wind in overtaking trucks and cars to try and make sure we would be able to see him one last time. But alas, all I got to see was a freshly filled bun of earth. Hence in some sense, it is hard to accept the fact that he is no longer with us, as I did not get to see him at all. Normally I would be writing about event like this one in my blog, but a year has now passed and I have not written about him at all. For nearly a year, I can't write about him. And I didn't.

May be I was hoping that it was not him, and that he is still alive in Manjung. I was waiting for him to sms me; to ask me how I was doing and ask me to come over his house. But a year has passed, and the sms that I have been waiting from him tak kunjung tiba.

He is one uncle (from Mak's side) who was very close to us. First and foremost, he was very close with mak. By extension of that, we would feel very attach to him. And by nature, he is a loving person and humble too. He would typically visit Mak and us and definitely on Hari Raya day, though he had not done so the last Raya (2008) prior to his death. So I called him to wish him for Raya and if he was planning to come.

But he was celebrating Raya in Jeram that year and hence could not make it to our house in 2008. I did not ask further - to me it was a break from the norm that year. Obviously I was not too pleased. I am used to having him come around at noon and have the nasik tomato meal that Mak used to make on Raya day. But I can't dictate and demand that he comes for the Raya.
Caption: The three siblings - PC Ajis, MC Maznah and Mak in Paroi, Seremban attending a wedding in 2004. You can read about this wedding here.

As I understand from stories Mak told us when we were kids though I can barely remember the details, he did not live with the family when he was young. This story has been told many times when I was a kid, and that this tale was like urban legend to us. But I have forgotten the finer details, when I wanted to write this tribute to him, so I had to call mak again to reminisce about.

After nenek gave birth to him in Port Dickson, Tok Adam's brother - Pak Andak to mak, came and asked Tok Adam to give the baby to him. Tok Adam was reluctant, eventhough he has many kids already, but his bro told him in a not-so-subtle way that he would severe the ties if he was not given the baby. So in the end, in order to maintain family ties, nenek and Tok Adam relented, and gave away PC Ajis when he was 4 days old.

Against their wish. Reluctantly.

I am sure it was hard on nenek. They were not planning to give the baby in any case. They had not done that with their earlier children and had never done it again since.

So began his hard life in a kampung in Jeram. Pak Andak did not have a proper job; proper here means modern, governmental and pensionable job like his brother. He would do all kind of kampung jobs, including as fisherman, and I believe PC Ajis' love for the sea probably stemmed from him and the life he had when he was a kid.

When he was 10 years old, Tok Adam and nenek came to take him back so that they could school him in an English school. PC Ajis wanted to follow, but of course he was not allowed to. Apparently the nenek on the Jeram side side had sweet talked PC Ajis to ensure he would not follow his parent back. In essence, he missed quite a bit of opportunity he would have had, had he returned to the family. This was of course told later by PC Ajis himself.

In many ways, he led a harder life than his siblings would have endured in Taiping.

Only when he was 17 or 18, he would come back and look for his family in Taiping. Mak told me that he rode the sampan from Jeram to Pantai Remis, and probably took the bus to Taiping and went to Assam Kumbang. I am not sure what's the motivation. May be he was old enough to go on and live his own life by then so that he decided to be looking for his own parents.

He found nenek in the compound of the house (read Beautiful houses of my souls to know more about this house). Approaching nenek, he said, "Mak kenal saya tak?"

Nenek looked up to him, and not recognizing the young man before her, asked, "Ni sapa?"

He looked at her and with tears in his eyes, replied, "Aziz." (I have not checked with Mak under which name he was known to nenek then). It was a straight forward answer. There was no you-guess-my-name-first game at that encounter. The prevailing mood on that occasion would not have allowed such premise.

I am sure nenek did not recognize PC Aziz because she was not expecting him at all. Travel in those days is not like today's travel. He had taken the sampan and the bus to reach home - how many of us would have to endure that to go home?

Upon coming to her sense, and the reality in front of her, she was overwhelmed by the presence of her long lost son. With tears in her eyes, the two of hugged each other. Berderai airmata. I presume they had not seen each other at all for at least 8 years, since nenek and Tok Adam were not allowed to take him back when they went to Jeram to pick him up. May be more. May be nenek did not follow Tok Adam to Jeram, I don't know. The last time she saw him, he was just a kid. Or may be even just a baby. Now he was practically a grown up man.

It was a touching moment for a young man who managed to track his own mother. It was drama in real life. There was no FB then to help you trace your roots, families and friends.

So began his second life with his real family. Tok Adam would get him job and he would move from one job to another, as he tried to improved his life. It would also took him to Lenggong, and he stayed there for quite sometimes before he got himself a job as a Polis Hutan.

He did drift back to Jeram after awhile, and prior to his Polis Hutan days, one day he contacted Mak telling her that he wanted to return, but did not have enough money with him. So Mak, through bapak posted him RM30 and it was for this reason, Mak believes, that he was very close to Mak as his elder sister. His gratitude to Mak for the RM30 would last him a lifetime. I guess it was his passport then to get out again and get back to with his other life.

But then again, I guess PC Ajis too is not of generation Y, and hence his lifetime of debt and gratitude to Mak for helping him out when he was in need. Unlike the current generation, I guess you may spend hundreds, if not thousands of ringgit, on your siblings and you would not even get a thank you. In fact, sometimes they would question you for not giving them more. Aah, well, kids of the newer generations.

Caption: PC Ajis at the back with Mak and the Hariri family on a train in the 60s. My sis KSham was having her forty winks.

I guess by this time he would not return to Jeram and would spend time with his real family in Taiping. By then, he was an independent person capable of deciding of his own destiny in life.

Even in the early days of him returning, he would often visited us in Lenggong at the house on the opposite side of the Balai Polis. I remember very well what he brought that day; an EP containing the song The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. So it was he who introduced us the wonderful song of Ennio Morricone.
Then we would be listening to this song over and over again. Mind you, we had no television then. With him around, we were introduced the wonderful sound of contemporary English music.

Obviously he was fond of Mak and of course her children. I guess by then Mak would only have the first two. I was told by Mak that how he would one day carry Kak Sham from our Jalan Maxwell home to the Tekah Airfield because a heli is supposed to be landing there. It was quite walk - at least a couple of km, more if you were carrying someone with you, and I know Mak's children are not kecil molek.

Mak said he adored the two of us, and it shows with the text message he sent me. The only thing is that his nephew did not know how to reciprocate or have the courtesy to show his respect.

PC Ajis and his sister MC Nolly in Assam Kumbang. I am not sure about the date and when this was taken in relation to his homecoming, but I am sure this was the 60s.

His transition to living with his actually family and getting to know his many sibling was not without hiccup and problems. He was practically the only kid at Pak Andak's home in Jeram. His daughter - Kak Esah to PC Ajis, has practically grown up, so he has the whole home to himself. In Taiping with Tok Adam's family, foods were ample too but had to be rationed to ensure everybody would get their share.

He was not quite used to this and time would tell Mak of his frustration at home. But there's nothing untypical about this.

In the end, he would settle down in the field force (PPH) until his retirement.

Aruah PC Ajis when he got married in Teluk Anson, I guess, in the early 70s - has to be 1972 or earlier. There are so many aruahs in this picture. One can see aruah nenek Bulan, aruah Tok Adam, aruah PC Man (Cikgu Othman Mansor, squatting), aruah bapak and a few from Lenggong - aruah Mak Anjang and MC Sabi. I guess since he had worked before in Lenggong that there was an entourage from Lenggong for his wedding. (Updated 26/8 Is it possible that the old man at the back behind the pengantin is aruah Tok Bab? it surely looks like him.)

I remember chatting with him about the old days. He did lament about the non-existence of opportunity for him to make it good in his life, unlike my generation. May be his life would have changed had he been able to return home and finished his education in an English school as Tok Adam had wanted him to do. Instead he was stuck in a kampung, and I believe he may not have even finished his Malay school education.

Opportunities in his lifetime were rare, and life I guess was difficult for his generation.

But he has a big heart. Compared to Mak's other younger siblings, I guess, we are closer to him than everyone else. We would not hesitate dropping by at his house in Ipoh, and many times we would, either on our way back to Taiping or the reverse journey back to KL. My family and I, in December 2004, spent 3 nights at his house in Manjung, and returned to Taiping on the 24th December.

Two days later, at noon, he texted me, "Aman kat mana?"

He knew of my plan - I was supposed to go to Penang, and Langkawi, after holidaying in Lumut. So I was a bit surprised by his questioning of my whereabout.

"Taiping," I replied. "Demam, tak jadi pegi Penang. Kenapa?"

He did not reply.

Only in the evening, we got the news of the tsunami, and that Penang and Langkawi were all hit by the waves. So that was the reason why he sms-ed me that day. He was concerned about our wellbeing.

That's him; that PC Ajis as we know him. We were almost always in his mind, unlike us. I have blogged about this incident here.

He may be 63 when he passed away, but he was in good health, so I thought he would be with us for many more years.

Tapi ajal maut, jodoh pertemuan, tiada siapa yang dapat menentukan, atau menduga. Kita hanya merancang, Tuhan yang menentukan.

I can only pray for his well being in the afterlife - that's all I can do nowadays. Akmal did perform an umrah on his behalf in February 2010, but I was told by Ende that she had paid someone to perform the Haj last year.  He did not have the opportunity nor the privilege to have performed it himself, so I do hope that that would pay for the visit that I did not do for him in Manjung when he texted me earlier that year. This umrah was done by his flesh and blood and done without expectation of monetary gains, so it I believe it is better for the ruh.

Moga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas ruhnya dan dimasukkan dia kedalam golongan orang-orang yg solleh.


Alfatihah for PC Ajis.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A classical guitarist on song

"A very accomplished recital today and some promising playing. Congratulations on a distinction mark at this level."

"An enjoyable account."
(The song - unknown)

"An assured performance."
(The Song - unknown)

"This was a confident and secure account."
(The song - Cycles in the Avenue)

The first was the remark of the Associated Board of Royal School of Music (UK) (ABRSM) examiner on Akmal's overall performance during his Grade 6 practical guitar exam at Istana Hotel In July 15, 2010. The next 3 remarks were specifically meant for the 3 songs he had performed in front of the examiner from London.

And no, there was no bumiputra quota for him to comply with in the first place, and under that circumstances, the remarks are indeed very sweet to our ears (and eyes). The graded sheet is only temporary and the proper cert will be mailed later. But it is a priceless record for a job well done by Akmal.

ABRSM has 8 levels or grades, and one would progress one level at a time. The first few grades are considered as primary school and as you progress up the ladder, you would find the difficulty to increase exponentially, and at grade 8 you would be at a university level, sort of. They set the benchmark in music assessment, and ABRSM is considered as an authority in this field.

For him to get a distinction at Grade 6 is quite an accomplishment.

I posted recently a picture of Akmal in here and I thought with the exam results out, I should re-post the picture again.

Anyway, here is the picture of Akmal while he was studiously practicing. It was an anxious glance when I called up for him in this picture, since I disturbed his concentration.
Now he can relax a bit since he has gotten that out of his system.

But he still has Grade 6 Piano practical exam next year to contend with, so there is no rest for him yet. Beyond getting ready for the exam, his dad would always ask him to play some pop and retro songs for his own enjoyment, and of course for him to get ready for a wedding gig in December.

I am looking forward to his (and his brother's) interpretation of the love songs Ayat-ayat Cinta, Dealova, My Heart and many other wonderful Indonesian and English composition to supplement their P Ramlee's numbers at the wedding. Of course we would love to add on some spiritual songs like Pada Mu ku bersujud (Afgan) and Opick's Bila Waktu Telah berakhir in the repertoire. These two songs have some wonderful piano and violin accompaniment and making it very suitable for the duet.

It will be a combination of piano, violin and guitar duet by the two brothers.

But we are looking for a singer to complement them. Unfortunately I don't have a third son or daughter ready made for the role. Even if I do have a 3rd one, I am pretty sure he or she would not have any talent in singing! ;-)

Anybody volunteering?


Practical Musicianship

WoodwindIn a Practical Musicianship exam candidates demonstrate their understanding of melody, harmony, rhythm and form by responding to questions about music and by singing or playing an instrument of their choice in a series of tests.

What happens in a Practical Musicianship exam?

The exam consists of five or six sections depending on the grade and assesses understanding of rhythm, melody, key and notation together with the ability to sing and play from memory, sight-sing and improvise and to recognise changes to and answer questions about a score.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Ketupat & Dodol for Raya Story


I wanted to post this during the second half of the Ramadhan, but after second thought, I decided that I should do it earlier to get into the spirit of Raya. I have not heard lagu Raya as yet, even though we have been fasting for 11 days already. I think it is about time the lagu raya to start berkumandang on the air. We need to get the people to start shopping and boost up the economy! ;-)

So I thought I would do my part, no matter how small, to get everybody into the spirit of Hari Raya. This entry was originally posted on Oct 7, 2007 at my now defunct Yahoo360 blog.

Menjelang Syawal ’07 – The Ketupat & Dodol Story

Hey you, just in case you have not noticed, or that you have not been keeping count, or that may be you have just came back from a hiatus at Gunung Ledang or some deserted island in the middle of the Pacific, we are on the last leg of Ramadhan - less than a week away from the most celebrated day in Malaysia - Hari Raya Aidilfitri or the end of Ramadhan celebration. I guess that gives us the permission to start thinking about the auspicious day just ahead of us. Yay!!

To me, Hari Raya would almost always be associated with ketupat, never mind that in KL you could find it all year round. It is the symbol of Hari Raya. You will see it everywhere, especially in decorating the streets of Kuala Lumpur. To me, it is the main dish for Hari Raya. I would hit the ketupat (nasi) and kuah kacang right after solat raya - like man possessed, and all day long for sure. Kuah kacang raya to me is one that contains some mince meat, just to differentiate it from the the kuah kacang we can normally get with our satay kajang, all year round.

For what is Hari Raya without the ketupat (and lemang)!

(Pic taken by zali, I think)

I love the ketupat, but to be honest, I don't know how to weave the palm leaves to make the pouch and I am too old to learn now...hahahaha. So I would only buy ready-made ones. Of course someone in the family would be able to do it, so I would leave it to them to do the needful.

I would not mind not having anything else for Raya, but I have to have my ketupat! And it is easy to make after someone had woven the palm leaves of course lah - just boil them for few hours. You would not even be there. But be careful not to overfill the ketupat pouch - it will be 'hard' when it is cooked. Tak sedap. Too little, and it will be too soft. But put the right amount of rice (3/4th or was it 2/3rd?) and it will be just nice! As the rice cooks, the grains begin to expand to fill the pouch and the rice becomes compressed. This gives the ketupat its characteristics and texture. Tender but firm; that's how I like my ketupat.

But don't give me ketupat daun palas and the likes lah. I don’t fancy them at all. That is the northern states of Kedah and Perlis’ version. I guess they are steamed instead, and use glutinous rice. I tell you bro, palas is no fun to eat one. Since this is made of pulut, it is more like lemang and too glutinous for my liking. But this to me is a poor man's lemang or rather lazy people's lemang! Jangan mare, Kedahan. Betui per. How else would you describe it?

I would like to story mory about lemang, but nantilah dulu - next one kut.

Give me ketupat (nasi) anytime, or give me no ketupat at all. Ntah la, tak penah minat that triangular-shaped ketupat daun palas. May be the slightly odd shaped ketupat (nasi) is more appealing to my eyes and hence my palate.

Anyway, here is a pantun ketupat.

Nyiur gading puncak mahligai
Sayang ketupat berisi inti
Hancur daging tulang berkecai
Belum dapat belum berhenti

I have not seen nor eaten ketupat with an inti, have you?

Dodol is another Raya dish though it is peculiar to the southern side of the peninsular. The Minangs, Malaccans and Johoreans (Jawa la kut) would go with this dish for Raya. Not for the people in Kelantan & Terengganu, or so I am told. They don't cook dodol for Raya.

Caption: The house where nenek would cook dodol. There is some space on this side of the house, under a rambutan tree, for her to have the open fire for the cooking.

I remember when I was kid in Aulong in the early 70s, nenek would have to have dodol for Raya without fail, even if she had to cook it herself. I would guess that as a Minang, dodol is quite significant to her - much as I consider that it is not Raya without ketupat! And since we live on the other side of Aulong – all within cycling distance, we would help her whenever we can.

Now if you know my nenek - she was a very petite lady and quite thin to be honest, but frail she was not, and if you know how difficult it is to cook dodol, you would think it is close to impossible for this Minang lady from Kampung Haraban in Bukittinggi in Sumatra Barat to do it on her own.

But I guess even with many of her grandchildren around, and some reasonably big enough to play rugby in primary school (ehem ehem), towards the end of the cooking process, when the dodol had become so sticky and viscous that it is no longer Newtonian fluid, she would be the one ‘stirring’ the dodol. In other words, she would be the last 'man' standing! So much for the hype that men are supposed to be stronger, physically.

Overview of the making of dodol at my cousin Baharum's house in Kemunting on Nov 1, 2005. That's mum supervising the whole operation. The kawah was kepunyaan turun temurun. Not many inlaws, or even real sibling would want to handle the work requirement of dodol making.

A couple of years ago (Nov 2005 to be exact), the Hariris decided to cook our own dodol. The kawah besar that nenek used to use for cooking is now Mak’s, and she knew the recipe and the trick and tips well enough for us to have a go.

So we went to a cousin’s house in Kemunting, since his house is more suitable than ours for a day's worth of cooking. It has a compound and a shed; which is very important should it rain, and Taiping is of course known for its rain. Furthermore he has access to matured coconuts easily.

So with the proper ingredients (something like 5 coconuts for each kg of rice flour, may be, you need tons of coconut milk), gula kabong etc, we light up the fire at around 11 am in the morning. It was easy in the beginning. Even Arif who is not known to be masculine chipped in in the beginning.

The idea is to stir it (kacau) continuously over small fire to ensure that the mixture will not get burned in the kawah. If it did, you can practically throw away the whole thing - it is not nice to eat dodol with a hint of even a slight charred dodol.

.....and the mixture thickens. It is from here you need all the muscles you can muster. You can see mum trying the control the fire, as we need to slow cook dodol mixture, or it will burn and you have dodol with a stinging burning smell.

Tak sedap.

Caption: Demo on how to kacau dodol using one hand only.

However, after more than 2 hours, the mixture started to thicken, changing its characteristic from Newtonian fluid to non-Newtonian fluid (read this only if you are a chemical or mechanical engineer). Then the energy and strength required to stir the mixture would be exponential. At this stage, the dodol fluid exhibited quite a character with big bubbles trying to push through from the bottom of the kawah. It looks like you have a volcano crater. Interesting behaviour - I guess the Minangs of the old days were trying to imitate the volcanic activities within the environment in Sumatra Barat to their kitchens! By 3 pm, it has thickened considerably and by then you wish you had not been so stupid to embark on the dodol project.

People started leaving the kawah as the mixture thickens. The energy and effort required would be exponential at this stage and it is best that you don't stick around! Find a reason for you to have to leave like having to take pictures, and then slowly move away from the fire and disappear! ;-) My sis Farah, and my nieces are in the background, and starting to disappear, I guess. Eh, Azhar, kome pun nak cabut ke tu? hahahaha..I am glad this bro in law of mine was around.

“Why did we bother?” I asked mum, “Wouldn’t it be much easier to just purchase dodol at tyhe shop?” Mak did not answer – to her, that question need not be answered at all. Remember the response from Sir Edmund Hillary when people asked him why he had to climb Everest? Because it is there!

Dad and son at the helm, having fun in the shade. You can see the bubble forming in the right pic. Eh Mai, asyik dok tengok je, when are you going to help with the chore? Oh and Azhar did come back to help. I told you I can rely on him. This dodol was cooked with lots of love, and lots of sweat! Tu yang sedap giler tu. Haha, puji sendiri!

By the time we finished (when the dodol was in semi-solid form), it was about 5 pm. We had been cooking by the fire for a grueling 6 hours. We were totally exhausted.

For the next 15 minutes after the completion, I was the horizontal man. I could not even move. I don’t quite feel I have a limb anymore.

When I looked back at what we did that year, it reminds me so much of nenek, who looked so frail but has the strength of two men, easily. I would not do it yearly for sure. I don’t have her strength and her will power. Inilah anak lepas merdeka .

In hindsight though, it was a fun family affair, especially when everybody chipped in. It brought the family together for the occasion.

But I am sure I did not feel that way that day.

In conclusion, should you have a craving for a good dodol in the future, but baulk at the idea of paying top ringgit for it, trust me, it is not, and it is worth every single sen of your hard-earned ringgit. It is not like making teh tarik or cooking rice. A whole team’s effort is required to make top notch chewable and sticky, but tasty dodol. And it is hard work.

So what about you? What are you favourite Hari Raya dishes?

PS A good dodol should not be sticky to your finger, or the plate actually. If it does, then it means that it has not been cooked properly. It should not be too sweet and you would also taste the creamy side of sweetness.


Chemical Engineering 101

A Newtonian fluid (named for Isaac Newton) is a fluid that flows like water—its stress versus rate ofstrain curve is linear and passes through the origin. The constant of proportionality is known as the viscosity.

A non-Newtonian fluid is a fluid in which the viscosity changes with the applied strain rate. As a result, non-Newtonian fluids may not have a well-defined viscosity. An inexpensive, non-toxic sample of a non-Newtonian fluid sometimes known as oobleck can be made very easily by adding corn starch(cornflour) to a cup of water.

NI termasuk dodol lah ni....

There you go - our tok nenek dedulu were competent chemical engineers. They produced fanciful edible solids that were converted from newtoniann fluid to non-newtonian ones, which to my mind is one of the more difficult branch chemical engineering - fluid dynamics. As noted by a friend at Petronas, sure die one sebab nama pun 'die'namics! Funny guy. Honestly I can't still comprehend many of its behaviours.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Puasa doloe doloe

Originally posted Oct 6, 2007 at my now defunct Yahoo360 blog written in the Perak slang, and translated to English, with minor changes, for the 2010.

While we are heading towards the last week of fasting in 2007, with everybody getting ready for Lailatul Qadr and Malam Tujuh Likur, my mind was busy trying to juggle between my hectic schedules and my desires to blog.

So I asked a friend to provide me the anecdotes and happenings from the past. Ladies, they are good at remembering details. Thanks Shema, for your time and brain power; helping this blogger reminiscing, even though you have been busy yourself.

Puasa doloe doloe - Ramadhan '79 @ MRSM KB

I don't remember all the details. Thirty years had since passed - so much water had flown under the bridge, so to speak. At that time, our time is perhaps 30 mins earlier than they are now, so I presume waktu imsak is at around 5 pm. If I am not mistaken, at around 3 pm, the dewan makan folks would come to the hostel to wake us up.

With a bell!

"Sahur, sahur," they would call out aloud, of course while ringing the bell. Kleng kleng, kleng kleng. "Bising ler," many would be cursing back, especially those sleeping near the windows facing the corridor, "oghe nok tido pun tak sene."

Obviously many of would be just too lazy to go to the dewan makan. You cannot just jump out of bed and head to the hall. At the very least, you would have to wash you face and comb your hair properly. If you have proper etiquette, you would be brushing your teeth first. With your hair in a mess, I would not go. The gals would be even worse. At 3 am, you would want to still look 'come'. It's not so bad on the boys - many would be stone-faced, irrespective of their appearance, I guess.

But what can you do? Many a times, there would not be water running down the tap. You want to wash your face dengan tayammum?

The dishes at the dewan makan was nothing to shout about, obviously. Nasik kawah, after all, what do you expect? Hence, many of us were not too bothered to have sahur. Funnily, lauk gulai kawah is now back in popularity. I guess many of us, having reached the pinnacle of our lives, are longing for the good old days, which unfortunately included the bad foods.

We have short memories, so we were told by none other than our former PM himself.

But the kawah in the kitchen is bigger than those at the restaurant, and of course they do not use woods anymore.

In order to ensure many would come and eat the lousy food they cook, the dewan makan folks would come up with a new marketing strategy. They were quite good actually; I am sure many would have passed their MBA, if they were to take classes. They would go to the gals' dorms, with the bells in their hands - kleng kleng, kleng kleng.

"Sahur, sahur," the makcik dewan makan would shout, "ayam goreng, aye goreng." They were announcing to the gals that the dish that morning would be fried chicken.

Upon hearing that, the gals would leap out of their beds. It was not every day we would able to have fried chicken. The dewan makan folks would rotate the menu obviously, and unlike today, sea food, especially fish, would normally be the order of the day. Ayam goreng would be for special days. Ikan jeket besi would be typical.

Many would not be edible, at least not to our taste.

But fried chicken is fried chicken, even though the dewan makan's version is no KFC. Hence it was easy to please kids who have no recollection of the taste of KFC then. And that morning, we were going to get fried chicken, and for that, it was worth going for sahur.

So we would all wake up, while the gals would put talcum on their face, and some makeups - to make themselves presentable, and with a glint in their eyes, headed to dewan makan, everybody with a mug in their hands.

Ayam goreng, aku nak makan ayam goreng - that would be in their minds as they walked passed each other like zombies. They may walk like zombies, but at 3 am, many would make pretty zombies, ;-) if you know what I mean.

Alas, we would all be disappointed. We were all tricked by the marketing gimmick of the dewan makan folks. Instead of ayam goreng, it would just be ikan Uji Rashid or ikan jeket besi. Obviously I was a fan of her, but definitely not a fan of the fish version. But since you are there already - you had taken the effort to wake up and do the needful to be at the dewan makan, you had no choice but to eat them.


I think the dewan makan folks have their own KPIs then. And their KPI would be to get us to finish those lousy foods.

But that's not my story. I would not have remembered such detail. That came from Shema, circa 2003 that I still remember. I thought it was funny. In fact it was funnier in words, and in first person, than in cold, static written words, as they were written here. Pity them nonetheless, tricked by the dewan makan folks. I don't think that was an issue for me. Syed Aboo would be waking us up reasonably late - no chance for a lengthy sleep and most likely, we would leave it quite late too. Like 4.30 am or something, so that we would not go back to sleep.

That's not it, as far as her story goes. According to her, those too lazy to wake up and go to dewan makan, would - before they go to sleep - immerse/soak their instant noodle in hot water, so that at sahur time, they would be able to just eat it without having to wait.

And then would hit the bed again.

Like a sleeping beauty. Amboi.

Some would even just eat crackers for sahur, by soaking them in the maggie mee. I have no idea about this. I guess the gals' recipe did not make it to the boys dorm. Yalah, there was no hp or sms then. They would do anything to lengthen their sleeping hours.

Janji puasa.

But the best of times would be during the breaking of fast. We were allowed to go out to buy food and kuih to supplement our buka foods. Most likely we would head to the warung near the PPH (pasukan polis hutan) Pengkalan Chepa in front of our school. We are obviously talking about Kelantan here and Kelantan is known for her sweet tidbits, not unlike the Kelantan gals of course.

Unlike at the pasar ramadhan in KL, all you can get there is murtabak, murtabak and more murtabak. Or otherwise it would be ayam percik, as if that there were no other foods and dishes. The murtabak would be paper thin, thinner than your 60g photostat paper. If it is as thick as the The Star newspaper, it would not be as bad, at least it would be worth it to buy and eat them as it would be filling, even if it were tasteless.

But in Kelantan, you would get all fancy foods - foods you would not get in KL. Jala Mas is a favourite of mine. I simply could not find it here in KL. Taik itek, akok, laksam etc etc. Of course some of these can be found in Pasar ramadhan, but they paled in comparison with the real thing in Kelantan (or Terengganu).

Akok has to be made from telur itek, so I was told.

The warungs of PPH Pengkalan Chepa would have better foods than you would ever find in the pasar ramadhan of KL, anywhere, or combined.

But the breaking of fast may pose a problem to some. During the non-fasting months, you can probably have your dinner from 6-8 pm or even later, and as it was staggered, the Dewan Makan can accommodate all of us. But to do that within a space of 30 mins, it surely cannot seat 600 or more hungry students at the same time. As such, they decided that breaking of fast will be done according to class. When your turn to eat at the Dewan, all of us would be there with our own tray and mug, complete with all the rice, dishes and dates, waiting for the call for prayer.

Like these Pasteur 4 (1979 boys), they were waiting for someone to shout "dah masuk dah" and the hive of activities would begun. More of chaos, rather than gluttony, I guess. In the 70s, there is no such thing as gluttony!
All the other boys were looking at the direction of the camera, but this blogger was concentrating on the foods on his tray, ready to dig in. I can see dates, watermelon, veggie, eggs and may be a fish dish in the tray.

We were allocated 2 tables and as the boys outnumbered the gals by 4 (14 to 10 for a total of 24 of us), sometimes someone may have to share the second table with the gals.

One can see Zai, Azli, the blogger, Budi, but I am not sure the far end person on the right. On the left I can see Abu, Jamil and Toi on the furthest end. I am not sure who was on this end of the pic, unfortunately the photographer took the picture vertically, when it should have been landscape. But he surely has lot of dates.
The Pasteur 4 gals - Minee, Jaghah, Sally, June and Liza. The others were hidden; they must have been shy gals. Not! At least 6 more of them in this picture, but it is not their fault; it is their photographer's. I wonder who was the gal on the left - just a portion of the hair can be seen. Sally should know I think. All them of them are in this pic, if you count the tray.

Hehe funny mugs; I am sure nowadays they would want to be seen with those anymore!

Arif told me that during his time at MRSM, he would be breaking his fast at the dewan with his homeroom mates. It sounds so boring to me, if at least I was not as familiar with my homeroom mates as I would be with my classmates. But time has changed I guess, he told me, that it was great that way.

A friend of mine - not mentioned above, told me of this story a couple of years ago. One day during Ramadhan that year, he went to buy a favourite sweets of his - Nekbat (I can't find this in Cheras). It is bigger than the marble you used to play with and it would be soaked in sugary solution.

Coming back from the PPH and getting ready for buka puasa, I guess since he was a bit late and the boys' table was full, he would have to sit with the gals, so it became a mixed table. To many, it would be a dream comes true to be able to sit with the gals, for one chances are they would share some of their cookies with you.

Of course the best part would be the cuci mata part! ;-)

In the tray would be the mouth's candy, and left, right and in front of you - the eyes' candies!

But that proved to be a bane for him, for he had to sit with some he had been admiring (from afar) and she was quite a popular gal in class and in school, and I guess he knew he was not in her league. Not only he had to sit at the same table, but she was directly in front of her.

Lidah kelu, tak boleh berbicara.

Tak tentu arah dibuat nya. Nak makan pun tak selesa. You were trying your best to be cool and impress the other party, or at least not make a fool of oneself in front of her. Penangan cinta zaman sekolah.

So in the end, he did not touch his Nekbat and I guess he would remember this incident for the rest of his life. He was looking forward to enjoy his Nekbat, and in the end, he did not get to taste it at all as he was too embarrassed at the dining table.

Bro, you should have given away the Nekbat to me then!

I guess this was the year that we had to rotate eating at the Dewan and at the dorm. She seems to be able to remember them all - this informer of mine, for I seems to have forgotten the juicy details.

She said, "Which year yang the boys and gals kena rotate buka puasa kat dewan makan and dorm. Seingat I all the time macam tu kan, boring sungguh kalau kena angkut kuih2 tu buka kat dorm."

My brain is telling me that it is reaching an overloaded situation. Beep, beep, does not compute. Memory overflow. I am shutting down...

Sorry Ma'am, I don't remember no more. I only seems to remember eating next to the gals tables. If there were no gals in the dewan, it would not be that much fun, and would not be a filling dinner. Your story on having to dine at the dorm would have blanked out from my memory ;-) It would not just be not fun having to carry the foods back to the dorms to have meals with the boys; in fact, it would be boring as we cannot 'cuci mata' while 'cuci mulut!"

Originally posted Oct 6, 2007 at 0725 hours at 360 blog.