Friday, October 28, 2011

The Friday Sermon

To be honest, I didn't follow thoroughly the Friday sermon this afternoon. This time the khatib was talking about the roles of the Islamic scholars, and that their seemingly esteemed position in the society  is fast spiraling down in society's eyes. 

I have no excuse actually for not following the sermon. It was after all a multimedia sermon, so it was complete with power point presentation of the sermon, supposedly it was easy to follow. 


But I was, this time around, seated closer to the back of the main hall, so I had a tough time reading the points shown on the projector. May be I need new glasses! Honestly I think very highly of a multimedia sermon - I think all mosques should be doing it every time, all the time and at Masjid Saidina Osman, I seldom, if ever, fall asleep, never mind the topics.

Practically the first point of the sermon talked about how at this moment, the society at large is belittling the ulamaks, and that set me thinking hard as to the reasons why, and hence I was drowned in my self-thought (and self-indulgence), rather than listening intently to the sermon itself.

I remember the 80s when I was a student at Monash. I was (reasonably) active as a member of MUIS (Monash Uni Islamic Society) and every year we would invite some prominent personality or organization from Malaysia during the term break.
Religious Centre, Monash University.
A hang-out area for us students in those days,
other than the library and the student union of course!
And during one year we had invited someone from al-Arqam - I have forgotten the name of ustaz and all the sermons he had given to us then, except for one conversation we had with him during one lull period. 

He was lamenting about the situation in Malaysia, about how the society mistreated the scholarly pursuit of the religion. "Ustaz," he was many times asked, "anak saya SPM dapat grade 3. Nak masuk universiti tak boleh. Boleh ustaz ngajar dia supaya dia dapat jadi ustaz?"

"Kurang-kurang jadi orang berguna."

I am sure the youth of today would not have any idea of third grade in SPM.

Or in another situation, the parents would be thinking if his sons aren't good enough to be engineers or lawyers, he would be grateful if they would be religious teachers!

"Allah, dah tak pass universiti baru nak belajar jadi ustaz. So," according to this good ustaz, "how can Islam progress as a society if the religious teachers are those of third graders and drop-outs?"

An ustaz who would know well how to read the quran, but knew little else outside their trade.

I am not trying to belittle the ulamaks, the scholars or the religious teachers. They are doing their parts in this worldly world; the parts that I am lacking as a person, so don't misconstrue with this piece of article. I am only reminiscing the conversation we had in the mid-80s, and thought it is one of the reasons of the predicament that we are facing today.

The good ustaz, then to me, had a very good point. We need straight As students to take up religious studies, but at the same time not limiting to purely religious knowledge only. We need engineers, economist and bankers to be student of religion.  We need professionals in the scholarly pursuit of Islam. Islam is a way of life, hence we need religious scholars who know economics, engineering, medicine, philosophy, finance and other so-called worldly pursuit. We owe it to ourselves to do that, and not only admit weak students into our religious institutions, someone who eventually could not handle a scholarly debate with the society at large.

And the same goes with our tertiary institutions too. We need high quality students to take up teaching posts at our university. We need the best of our students to move on to PhD level and teach the next generation of engineers, doctors and professionals. Only then our universities can prosper, and move to the next level - and we would too as a country.

What say you?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Somebody amongst nobody or nobody amongst somebody?

Which one do you prefer?

After working for nearly two years at Perak Hanjoong Simen, I got an offer to work for a local black gold company.

Yes, that was the break I was hoping for. All my student life I was hoping that some big black gold companies would come a-knocking and hire me. But instead for nearly two years, I was bathing in cement dusts!
Not much different between the two pictures, if
at least in term of uniforms and helmet!

But I was comfortable there. They made me Head of Packing House with view that I will take over the clinker plant once I am ready. For a novice engineer, I was not keen as I knew I was not ready. But there was only five of us local process engineers then and there were three Korean section heads and one Korean Manager. It was too early for me to eye their positions obviously, but I guess we were kinda important in the hierarchy of things in the organization.

Every time we passed by the security, they would salute us as if we were big-shots, never mind that we were only small fries in the ocean. It does not matter to them either that most of the time, I would actually walk pass them since I would take the Taiping-Kuala Kangsar bus to work.

They would salute me nonetheless.

Some other times I would take my father's old Opel to work. 

They would still salute as if I was driving a brand new three-pointed star.

At the office, I can even drive the locomotive if I wanted to, for the locomotive was under my charge.

But in late 1987, I got an offer to work at a much bigger organization, and while I did not hesitate to accept it, I was apprehensive about it. I told me my sis that at PHS I was somebody and now I will be nobody again.

Her remark then would be that currently I was somebody amongst the nobodies, and soon I will be nobody amongst somebody!

She was right of course and then again there was the money factor involved too obviously.

So I went from the cowboy town of Padang Rengas with two rows of shop houses on the both sides of the road to a non-existent town a.k.a. fishing village of Kerteh within two weeks of October twenty five years ago.

What have I gotten myself into?

At least Padang Rengas people made proper curry, while in Kerteh they even put sugar in their curries! 

Oh dear!

Coming to the office, we would normally be checked for stuff we brought in (or out). The securities would not salute you anymore; you would have to salute them if you want them to let you in.

Not quite, but close enough I think.

Once I was caught taking pictures in the office compound - the camera was confiscated and we had to plead to the security to return our camera - we didn't get a permit to take photo in the first place. I thought we only need permit to take photo in the plant, so I didn't realize the office is considered an extended part of the plant.

That show how my importance in the new job.
LIfe as an engineer in late 80's Kerteh. We were not engineers who
sat around in the office writing file memoranda, at least not
while taking pictures! I even had scrapers with me to take
samples of deposits during the turnaround and inspection.
Hard working me! Hahaha.

But I realized the examples above are only artificial way to see thing and it is not the most utmost importance in my life as an engineer. They are only true in a remote and individual office complex as noted above, and is not applicable in a public office towers in a typical setting in Kuala Lumpur. Here in Kuala Lumpur, we are more anonymous, and as long as one has the parking card, you would be let in.

At Dayabumi, no one would know what car I drive, or if I drive one at all!

You can really be anonymous which is why, in many ways, I prefer life in the big city.

Even till today.

But that was more than 25 years ago. In any case, the title is no longer true. It has not withstood the tests of time.

For me now, I am nobody amongst nobody! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Belasungkawa: Ahmad Jais (1936-2011)

I once asked Ahmad Jais, "From the hundreds of songs that you have recorded, which one is very close to your heart?"

Suddenly he lowered his gaze, and paused. He didn't answer me immediately, unlike the question before. There was silence in the air - a queasy silence. In fact the pause was an extended one, such that I felt uncomfortable about it. May I had asked a wrong question. He had been so chatty up to this point.

He had recorded over a 100 songs in 15 albums. Most of his songs are a hit, and if you were to buy his EP in the 70s, you would not regret it. All four songs for each release are halwa telinga, every time, all the time.

Then he looked up at me  - I was waiting with bated breath, and he said, "It would have to be Sejak Kita Berpisah."

I knew most of his songs as I grew up with many of them, and I am talking about the late 60s and the early 70s, even though I was practically a child then. But I didn't know this song. I was expecting him to say Diambang Sore and the likes. I looked at him with a blank face and suddenly it occurred to me and I blurted out, "Isn't that the Kartina Dahari's song?"

Yes, Sejak Kita Berpisah is a favourite keroncong song of mine, and I thought it was Kartina's and no one else's.

He looked at me in bewilderment. "No, no, it is a copyright control song," he explained. "It means the composer is unknown."

I didn't have the heart to ask him why he picked that one up, over the hundreds of other songs. But my imagination were running wild with speculation, and I left it at that.

Apparently he recorded the song in 1966, while Kartina Dahari recorded the keroncong version in 1969.

We went on to talk about how much royalty he picked up during his heyday. "It was a miserable two cents per song!" he exclaimed. How ciput it can be, and I guess I can imagine (real) life as a singer, glossing over the glamourous pictures as shown on telly and magazines.

Yes, and I thought too that I could be multi-millionaire by running my own company! ;))

That Dato Ahmad Jais for you, ever willing to share his stories to this busy body. We were chatting over at the changing room for artist at Dewan Perdana FELDA in 2006. I managed to get into that room by virtue of Arif performing on the same stage with him.

I told him of the many EPs in my collection. Unfortunately I didn't bring it with me for him to sign. I think it was Mak who bought many of his EPs, so we would listen to them whenever she played it. Most of his song are really lovely. Until today, I can relate to them. Nak Dara Rindu - beautiful, Gelisah - well, dark, very dark. I love Budi Setahun Segunung Intan, a duet with Kartina Dahari too.

Moga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas ruhnya. Amin and Alfatihah.

Dato Ahmad Jais posing with Datin Orchid Abdullah
at the rehearsal at Dewan Perdana Felda in 2006 for
the retirement party of the FELDA DG.
Alfatihah to both Dato and Datin.
Two generations apart, and two-size apart! The kids with the master singer
and composer. He had written many songs. Once on stage, while practicing
with the ghazal band, he wasn't pleased with the key chosen, so he called
for Arif, "Tukang piano, tolong bagi A." So Arif rushed to the piano
and hit the key for him. Tukang piano - sounds so much
like a PRamlee's movie!

The kids outside Dewan perdana at the end of the party with Dato seen
on the right in his white pants and shoes!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fadjar Menjinsing - Glorifying the beauty of the new day dawning

A song long before Cat Steven's glorification of the new day's breaking - he must have heard this song/lyric before he wrote Morning has Broken. ;))

And who said beautiful songs have to be about 'love'?

When we were kids, bapak (or Mak) would always play this song at night. I guess coming from a family with no television in the 70s, listening to songs would be our form of entertainment then. Then it was the vinyl and this song is one of his favourite.

We were kids; we listened to whatever he or she was playing!

But this is one song so smooth and soothing and I found it so very relaxing when listening to it. It is best to listen to this and other songs in this album late at night or very early in the morning. In other words, dikala dinihari.

It is like calm before the storm, I guess.

You would not find this anywhere else. I tried looking for it at Jalan Surabaya, and while I do find similar cover, I could not find the vinyl again.

So I am really treasuring this song and album.

Siapa tak Kenal - Fadjar Menjinsing

Emmy menjanjikan Fadjar Menjinsing, sebuah lagu pudjaan kepada alam indah, dikala matahari terbit dan langit diudjung dahan.

Lagu ini berasal dari tahun 1943, tapi berkat warna suara dan pembawaan Emmy jang halus kembali memperoleh kelembutan dan kesegaran yang wadjar. Satu lagu pudjaan jang baik tidak boleh tidak harus memiliki sifat2 demikian.

Fadjar Menjinsing (Jahja) - Emmy dengan Orkes Lima Serama

- Kata2 dari album "Siapa tak kenal - Fadjar Menjinsing"
The Indonesian Music Company Ltd

Fadjar menjinsing, kemerah-merahan
Ayam pun ramai berkokok, menyambut alam nan elok

Burung berkicau, berlompat-lompatan
Embun menghias berkilau, di-pohon dan dahan

Alam ria dan gembira, menjambut sang suria,
Alangkah indah sanga suri, di Timur bercahya

Hatiku riang, menantikan siang
hari yang gemilang datang, membawa harapan

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Janjimu, kini jadi kenangan saja

Aah, Janjimu. What a song! Sad, and melancholic; just the way I'd like my songs to be.

I once wrote in my blog pleading that (Datuk) Khatijah Ibrahim sing this song (for me) in her concert. I was pleading to no one, actually - I was more like talking to myself, as it was only published in my blog, and no one - as far as I am concerned, reads it.

A couple of days later, one of her brother commented and told me that she (Datuk Kathy) has actually read it and thank me for my support. That was in July 2008. You can read about it here.

And sure enough, in November she sang the song in a medley. I blogged it here.

You don't ask someone her stature and they'd be willingly respond and comply, but she did just that. Thanks again, Datuk.

Mind you, had I asked for her to sing say Ku pendam sebuah duka, or Tangisan Hati, it would be no request at all. For sure she would be singing her signature songs.

But Janjimu is something else. Not many, unless you grew up in the 70s would know this song, and yet this was the class anthem for many.

Kini jadi kenangan saja
Kau berdusta
Hidup ku kini jadi sengsara

Remuk luka
terguris hati nan suci
cintaku setia
kini kau mungkiri janji

Berlinangan airmata
mengenangkan kembali
segala kisah asmara
suka duka ku harungi

Kini ku sendiri
Tiada lagi kau bersama
kurasa sepi
membawa hati duka lara

Ku mengerti
Kita tidak bersua lagi
kini kau pergi
meninggalkan ku sendiri

I have not heard this song for years, beyond the fact that the song has been playing in my mind for years. The last time I heard this song, albeit in half, was in the November 2008's Kathy's concert. 

Not many knew this song; it was not one of her most popular song.

But for some reason - and I remember it vividly, this song song seems to the class anthem for Pasteur 5 '80. I mean, (Datuk) Kathy has so many great songs by 1980 - Ku sangka siang kiranya malam, Tangisan hati yang derita; all those sad and melancholic songs that were our cultural standard in the late 70s and 80s, but nothing beat Janjimu to many of my classmates then.

Especially this blogger.

I remember it well, as I had the lyric of this song on the cover of my file; written in beautifully crafted hand-written font (even if I said so myself!), that a few of my classmates asked me to write the lyric for them which I did on a Pejabat Tanah Taiping's letter head that I took from bapak's possession.

Then of course we had no internet and there was no way we could search for lyric unless we wrote it ourselves or from magazines.

It puzzles me to this day on the reason why song were not popular on the airwaves but left an indelible mark on many of us in that class high up in the then new building of MRSM in Pengkalan Chepa then.

One thing for sure, it is a beautiful sad, melancholic song.

I guess I was the only one taken back to 1980.

But one can't find the songs in her compilation albums, and no one has posted it in Youtube until recently.