Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Since I would be going on a 'pertapaan', and not have access to the net, I would like to wish everybody a happy and safe Raya.

Enjoy this performance from the boys, The Brothers Two. It is a beautiful and meaningful Raya song, and I think Arif and Akmal, as usual, did a good job with the arrangement and performance.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Merdeka '11 - Pertemuan di Taiping Aerodrome (SGN-TPG)

Taiping Aerodrome in Tekah, Amelia Earhart and Sukarno Hatta. 

Five seemingly unrelated names, you might add, and what do they have in common?

Tekah is place where nenek and I used to go to, multiple of times, looking for pucuk paku. Yes, we did that in the early 70s. I would bring her to this place in Tekah at the back of my bicycle in the 70s. There were abundant of pucuk paku and it was so easy to pick. No need to go to the pasar to buy and it was the freshest pucuk paku one can get - in the wild!

God bless nenek (Bulan).

In the old days of the 70s, we would always be in awe of Tekah, for this is the place where Taiping Aerodrome is located. With train as our affordable, and romantic mode of transportation, it would never crossed our mind then to fly (for sure we could not afford it), and the Taiping Aerodrome was the nearest thing for us to gawk at the flying thing.

What many of us didn't realize is the importance of Taiping Aerodrome in the history of Malaya and Malaysia. It is the oldest airport in Federated Malay States, and was built by the British in 1929 (Wiki) for non-military purpose and can accommodate Fokker.

Mind you, it is an airfield - not an airport per se, hence to us Taipingites, it is called an aerodrome, eventhough if you were to google it, the name airport would be used. But as far as I can remember, on the roof of the aerodrome building, it is written as Taiping Aerodrome.

As we approach Merdeka day, and with many of us still too lethargic to fly the national flag, I would like to reminisce the importance of Taiping aerodrome in the nation's history.
Source Wiki
Do you know that Amelia Earhart, the famous American aviator stopped by in Taiping for refueling in 1937 enroute to Singapore (from Thailand) on her ill-fated round the world flight attempt?

I am sure the world would have heard of Taiping by then - may be in the footnote of history. It was 7 June 1937. Bapak would have been one year old, and Mak would not have been even born!

You can read all about Amelia here.

But the most important event in the life time of Taiping Aerodrome happened on Aug 12, 1945 - that is just over a week today 66 years ago. Obviously, this is not mainstream history, so it did not get space at all in our history books, and nothing to remind us in the newspapers or telly.

But it is history that needs to be told.

Sukarno and Hatta, the founding fathers of Indonesia had a stop-over in Taiping Aerodrome. They had just met the Japanese Army Commanding Officer Marshall Tereauchi in Saigon to discuss the independence of Indonesia, and they returned to Jakarta on 13 Aug 1945. 
Soekarno and Hatta in Taiping in Aug 1945 - source Wiki.
Mind you, Indonesia declared independence from the Dutch 4 days later. For them to stop over in Taiping just before declaring independence shows the importance of this meeting ("Indonesia pasti merdeka sebelum jagung berbunga.").

The meeting was arranged by non other than Ibrahim Hj Yaakub, the Malay nationalist and founding member of KMM (Kesatuan Melayu Muda). KMM, for the uninitiated, was formed in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur by Ibrahim Yaakub to protect the Malay's right and gain independence from the British.

So it was not UMNO who first 'fought' for independence of Malaya! Much earlier, and if not it were not banned by the British and Ibrahim himself was thrown in jail, we might not have UMNO.

In the meeting with Soekarno (with Dr Burhanuddin Helmy in attendance), Ibrahim told him that the people of Malaya are ready to join the Indonesia for independence under the banner of Indonesia Raya. Unfortunately, the Japanese lost the war within the next two days, and Soekarno was not ready to fight with two world powers then (the Dutch and British) and declared independence on their own - without Malaya, on 17th August 1945.

Please read here about the details of the meeting in Taiping.

I guess there are always two sides of a coin. In hindsight, some may say that we were lucky not to have joined the Indonesia for the Greater Indonesia nation. But who are we to say one way or the other. If only there is a parallel time track that we could observe as an independent observer, then we could say which one would have been better for us. Current political climate in this country is not better than that of our neighbour, and the nation's wealth have been plundered many times over since Independence anyway by our kulit sawo matang brethren.

If you can call them brethren!

Please read about Kesatuan Melayu Muda here. And about the Malay nationalist Ibrahim Hj Yaakub (born Temerloh Pahang, died in Jakarta in 1978) who was buried in Taman Makam Pahlawan in Kalibata.

Anyway, I do not wish to write about the politics of Malaya/Malaysia, as my blood pressure would boil.

Hahaha. That's my laugh to lower my BP! ;))

I took these pictures in 2007 - Raya 2007 to be precise, with my then Olympus bridge camera. It was not the best of pictures - it was a cloudy day in Taiping, and it looked like it was going to rain. But I post it here anyway as an addendum to this entry.

Tekah Airfield, looking West. There was no housing complexes
here in the old days, so it was more saujana mata memandang
than this.
This is my padang lalang as in M Nasir's song. Not because of the lyric, more so for the fact that it was a padang lalang. This place is unlike any other place in Taiping. Here, it is saujana mata memandang if you were to look West. It is flat, and from afar, it is full of lalang (wild grass).

Look at any other direction and you will know that Taiping is hilly.

Tekah Airfield, looking East and the Maxwell Hill mountain range
Another view of the airfield, with the building in the background.
Here is the aerodrome main building. It is made of wood and hence it is now in dilapidated.
It is now in dilapidated state, unfortunately. I think we are a nation
lost on her history. We would like to erase anything that
is not mainstream. The winner takes all.
The radar tower?
Where is the history society? Where is the Jabatan Muzium, the Kementerian Warisan? Where art thou? History could have changed its course on 12 Aug 1945.

I do wish time had split on that day, and that there are independent parallel time with loops and branches, so that we could observe the what-ifs  had an Aug 17, 1945 declaration took place, and how this country would be in 2011.
One track just the way we are experiencing it,
and another track is for what could have been. It is multiple lines running
in parallel, and with another branch ahead, the lines
might join sometime in the future.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Taiping Railway Station - the end is nigh? - Part II

There is not much to see in the old railway station of Taiping,
but my friend and fellow Taipingite Aya can see his dashing dad waiting
for her at this station. I can see bapak, mak and all us taking the train to Penang
in the 60s. I still remember the trip to KL in the 70s, and how I rode my bicycle
along the Taiping-Part Weld track to this station carrying with me MC Bumah's
wedding suitcase that was left behind by mistake. How relief and thankful she
was in seeing me with that suitcase!
This station got character and it is alive!
So there is a hive of activities at Taiping Railway Station nowadays. 

The old building is still intact, but it is in dilapidated state. The officer there told me that if it were up to KTM, in no time it will be torn down. But apparently, my fellow Taipingites, there is still hope.

Especially for sentimentalist like me, and you!

Apparently Jabatan Muzium wants to take over and preserve the building as it a historic building. I guess they could gazette the building to ensure that it will withstand not only the test of time, but to me, more of the greedy power of politicians and their cronies seeing a prime land for development and making millions of ringgit into their pockets.

As eloquently put forward by my friend Aya, in response to Part I entry, "It is an iconic building; being the first railway station in the country and should be preserved. It is heritage to me as Taipingite."

We all have too many memories stashed somewhere at Taiping Railway Station. I am seeing the ghosts of the family past at this railway station. 

I tried surfing to see if there is a plan and drawing rendition of what would be Taiping Railway Station which I presume will be competed in two years' time. But to no avail.

Why weren't we Taipingites consulted over the masterplan of the Railway station? Is there a masterplan in the first place?

NY Grand Central Station
Ipoh Train Station
Will it be as iconic and majestic as KL Railway Station or will it be as non-descript as KL Sentral? Will it have character like Ipoh Train Station or will it devoid of character as in KL Sentral? Will be have a grand dome like Flinder St Station in Melbourne, or will it be squarish as in KL Sentral?
Flinders St Station, Melbourne - the station I used
to frequent to everytime we went to downtown Melbourne
Tanjung Pagar Station

Nondescript Sentral Station - why can't we be
more imaginative in building our station and then
naming it correctly? This station is devoid of character
and it is a dead place.
I have no idea to be honest, if Taiping station will end up like her counterpart in Ipoh, Singapore or Melbourne. Or will be designed by someone who have not been to the grand station of cities well known for its history, and know only how to design matchbox building? To me, the architects of KL Sentral have no knowledge of train and its history or have no passion in his profession!

Taiping is an old colonial town; many of her buildings were built by the British. Many of them might not be Moorish in design, but I want a train station that would blend into other colonial building of Taiping. The characteristics of Taiping have to be preserved. As I have suggested before, Taiping should be declared a Heritage Town by the government!

I don't welcome the unimaginative KL Sentral Station as Taiping Grand Station.

But here is the construction taking place right now. 
I can't imagine.
I cannot imagine what kind of structure that will come up.
Hmmm, not very promising, I must say

View from the bridge. You can see the red-roof old railway station
next to the construction site

Looks squarish to me, no?
Personally, I think the location is unsuitable. It is right at the junction of the Aulong/Assam Kumbang flyover, so I can imagine the traffic it would generate. That flyover is an old flyover and it is an el-cheapo  flyover built by Lim Kheng Yaik (it is not compliment, ok!) and I think it would not survive the heavy pounding of the construction next to it and not the increase traffic.

I demand a stop work be issued to this project until Taipingites can review the master plans.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Taiping Railway Station - the end is nigh? - Part I


I decided at the very last minute (sahur Friday) that I will have my bukak puasa with Mak that eve (12th August). So I told Arif that we may leave office early that day so that we can make it by iftar time. But at the same time, I was planning to give away some iftar meals to be shared around at the office and was told that it will be ready by 3 pm.

But in the end it reaches the office by 4.15 pm.

So we rushed out of the office by 4.25 pm, reached the Bukit Lanjan queue - eh I mean, hiway, and drove like a F1 driver and had a pit stop at Changkat Jering to buy some cold drink, and reached Sri Kota by the azan KL time. Phew, fortunately my Ferrari Enzo was willing! ;))

So I had my iftar with mak on the night that bapak returned from KL via train and walked from train station to home, while his son and grandson 27 years later were comfortably driving. We had sahur early that Saturday morning on the very same time bapak had her hypertension attack and passed away.

At the very same place.

I didn't plan it that way, it was by chance to be honest.

The End is nigh? Part 1

So after visiting my cousin on Saturday morning and with nothing else to do between then and iftar time, I decided to visit the Taiping Railway station. I had thought that I want to take the train back home for Raya this time around - for old time sake. I was thinking of taking an early leave/break from work, and return to Taiping on my own earlier than the rest of the family.

Arif is going to be the main driver home, while I will enjoy my train ride. Yay!
My train ticket to Taiping this Raya - for old time sake!
Last train to Taiping, figuratively speaking, I hope.

The track (left) has been
barricaded to denote construction
So for one last time, we took picture of my hunting place for Beano and Dandy comics, a place would normally go to whenever we had the opportunity to go on vacation to my auntie's place in KL.

Nothing has changed since the 70s, but there is now a hive of activities on the railway station. Not of commercial activities, but of construction activities.

We are at a point of no return. Progress is coming to Taiping Station, albeit 40 years too late. In fact, I think it was forty years too soon.

So I thought I should be enjoying it while it lasts. I have tracked the Taiping station in previous entry. It is here.

I had a chat with the ticketing officer and was told in no uncertain term, if it were down to KTM, they would have the train station torn down in no time. The maintenance is not something they cherished doing.

I am not sure if I should be sentimental about it, to be honest. While I am all for conservation, the building is in dilapidated state and it is a bit non-descript, and I am not being brutal.

It is not something to be in awe.

Anyway, history is history, and there is little I could do, but to capture it in pictures. All pictures were taken by Arif.
The railway track of Taiping (looking North/East)

The inner side of the Taiping train station looking South/West
The outerside of Taiping railway station looking North/East
(towards Taiping station)

The toilet! It is the only concrete building
within the Taiping station
The 'gudang' in front of the station. It is a normal view
for us in the 70s while waiting for our train. How long
will it lasts?
All pictures were unedited, except for the watermark.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Puasa doloe-doloe - Mencari Kerja

1986 was the year I managed to - for the first time in a decade - fast at home. 

From the mid-70s onwards, it would always be in Kota Bharu. I would be coming home to Taiping only for the Raya, and in the early 80s, I would be fasting away from Malaysia. No chance even to come back for Raya.

In Perth and Melbourne in the 80s, fasting was easy I think for the simple reason that it was performed during the winter season. The hours were short and it was cold enough for you not to feel the agony of doing away with food for the less-than-12 hour odd duration.

But in 1986, my body systems got a shock of their lives by fasting in the mid-summer Malaysia.

Ideally since at that time I have not found a job yet, I could fast in the cool comfort of a ceiling fan room in my house. I could even sleep in the afternoon, and no one would bother me. Afterall, I think after 5 years of mugging at the tertiary level, surely I deserve to take some form of break, right? ;))

I believe it must be circa May or June in 1986.

But I had a big task at hand then. No one would pay me to lying idle and with the scholarship money cut off, I had no choice but to quickly start applying for job.

In hindsight, 1986 was the worst of time to graduate since we were at the height of the (worst) recession ever seen in Malaysia then.

But I saw an opening at the FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia) as a research officer, and they wanted chemical engineers. I knew nothing about wood, but I do know a bit about basic engineering processes, such as drying which would be used in wood process. So I thought it would be the break I needed.

May be I saw the ad a tad too late, but there was no way I could post the application through the snail mail and reached the proper hand in time, so I had no choice but to deliver it in person.

On the very last day!

From my auntie's house in Ampang, I took Bas Mini No 23 and headed to Lebuh Ampang.

It was nearly noon in the middle of the fasting month. 

May be I had to wait for 10 mins or so for the Bas Mini that would take me to Kepong. I don't recall anymore - mini busses were quite efficient during those days compared to RAPIDKL. Normally there would always be one around, ready to take you anywhere. I had never been to Kepong before and I guess I must have asked strangers on how to get there. There was no Prof Google then, so for sure I can't be asking him. There was no way I could afford to take cabs then as an unemployed.

Upon reaching Kepong, I think the bus stop right in front of the guard house of FRIM. I am not really sure to be honest, but most likely. But the office is another mile inside. It was a sprawling office complex that would still be intact today as it was in 1986.
I am sure I would have to walk from the guard house on the left,
to the cluster of the office blocks (red rectangles)
on the right to deliver my application. What I am not so
sure now is whether I have to walk from Kepong town to FRIM.
No doubt FRIM is quite shady with big trees, so the long walk to the main office was not as bad as I thought it would be. After passing my application to some stranger in the office, it was another long walk back to the main entrance to catch another mini buss back to KL and this was the journey that I would remember for the rest of my life.

It probably took me at one and half hour to reach Kepong and about the same time to reach back to Ampang. The walk at FRIM would probably be 10 mins each way at the very least.

Coupled with the fact that on a hot day, I was perhaps drenched in my own sweat and was definitely in need to replace my bodily fluid.

But it was in the middle of the fasting month and I can only watched all the stalls selling drinks along the way and especially at Leboh Ampang, and yet were not able to even sip a drop. I was beginning to seeing things that were not there.
"I wish I could drink something. I wish it was not fasting month. Keep your cool. You'd be rewarded in the hereafter; or on the short term hopefully you'll get the job and start earning a living."

Taken from internet
There was too much temptation in KL then. The roadside stalls were selling everything in the open, especially the cool drinks. The air tebu, the cincau, the soyas; all the drinks that would quench my thirst.

Anything your heart desires. Anything that would only increase your craving.

Everything that could tempt you were available.

I could only look and yearn for the forbidden drinks. I wish, I wish, was all I could mutter, and tried to lower my gaze.

I guess I survived that day. Probably melepak and melepek selepas tu in my Auntie's house while waiting for iftar. 

Nowadays it is not too bad. I seldom bother to walk or shop during Ramadhan. Even if I need to do that, I would be driving. The malls are now airconditioned - except for may be Jalan Masjid India, so the temptations are much less.
The drinks to me was the biggest temptation to fast in KL, due
to our hot weather. Taken from Internet

Just for the record, I did not get the job at FRIM. Heck, they did not even call me for an interview. May be I didn't have a strong cable. Actually, I didn't have any. May be, I don't know.

May be I was not qualified enough in their eyes.

But life is like that. I guess it was part of my destiny; perjalanan hidup yang telah ditetapkan - the qadha and qadar Illahi. I have no regret of my own professional life's journey which includes not getting a job with FRIM.

This is only a reflection of the very thirsty day I had to endure then during the fasting month of 1986 in order to secure what I thought would be my first job.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Let's have a Mecca Mean Time

First published on Dec 13, 2007 at the now defunct Yahoo 360 blog. I thought since we are in Ramadhan, I would renew my call again for us to have a Mecca Mean Time. Every year, we would fight amongst ourselves on the date of end of Ramadhan, and we would look pathetic to not being able to come to conclusion even the simplest of thing.
Mecca Mean Time
Things have been getting a bit hectic here in remote Toronto.
Toronto - the KL slang for Tronoh - is located in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the middle of Perak. For some reasons, someone decided to locate a branch campus of Universiti Sains Malaysia here in the early 90s, and later on Petronas took over this campus and made it their own. I have been stuck here getting my daily doses of the modern rendition of the Van der Waals equation of state.
Never mind; it is not my intention to be talking about classical thermodynamics. It is enough that I have to work with it; I don't want to be writing about it.
While waiting to drive to Tronoh yesterday, someone told us that the Eid-ul Adha had been changed to the 19th. I thought the Royal Keeper of the Seal had announced that the Eid will be held on the 20th; so I was a bit surprised and confused. Apparently the confusion arises due to the fact that the Saudis announced later that the Haj will be celebrated on the 19th in Mecca.
Can we not as a community decide properly a universal date for our religious festivals and activities?
Of course with Malaysia sitting on 101 East (+8 GMT) and Mecca in the +3 GMT means that Malaysia is 5 hours ahead of the holy city of the Moslem world. In other words, Malaysia would see the new day five hours ahead and based on this should be celebrating the Haj earlier than our moslem brethren in Mecca.

However this is not the case and it looks a bit odd that a country further east which should be seeing the dalylight earlier would be celebrating a new holy day a day later.
This is one of the many occasions we moslems had to endure oddity in our religious lives and we have no one to blame but ourselves. As the United Kingdom grew into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept at least one timepiece on GMT in order to calculate their longitude from the Greenwich meridian, which was by convention considered to have longitude zero degrees [Wikipedia]. The centre of the universe is now in London. If we moslems had the foresight to have MMT (Mecca Mean Time) instead, then Mecca would have become the centre of the universe and that all of our religious activities throughout the world would be dictated towards Mecca.
In this case, I am advocating that the MMT be the 180 degree longitude (unlike the GMT), and as far as the moslem world is concerned, Mecca would see the first dawn of daylight daily, all year round, in as far as our lunar calendar is concerned.
There would be no way that any other location would be celebrating the Eid earlier than the two holy cities of the moslem world. We would not be celebrating Eid on two different days in any part of the world; and would stop us from becoming the laughing stock of the world. As if we could not figure out how to determine the date of the holy days.
Eventhough the world revolves around GMT/UTC, I don't think there is anything wrong for us Moslems to have our own invinsible time convention of MMT. By moving the location of the longitude 180 degree to Mecca (and let's redefine it as the 0 degree longitude), we could revolve our religious activities based on this new time standard.
Map of Saudi Arabia
From what I know, the locations of the international dateline and the so-called GMT are arbitrary. While it has became the norm and accepted as the standard (and should not be changed), I see no reasons for us not to adopt MMT, just like we have a second (lunar) calendar for all our religious holy days. It is just an imaginary line.
In other words, since the time standards are arbitrary at best, we should have no qualm celebrating anything after the dust has settled in the capital of the moslem world, irrespective what international time and date said.
The MMT is to the moslems what GMT is to the universal date and time.
What say you?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ramadhan '11 - Selasihku Sayang

Aah, first day of Ramadhan. Typically the hardest, at least for me. By 8 am, I was already craving for food. By 11 am, I was sleepy and I was yawning excessively.

And hungry.

(Mind you, I was in the comfort of an air-conditioned office, and was practically using only a few brain cells. Other than that the only bodily movement would be my fingers excessively punching the keyboards.)

Alhamdulillah, so Ramadhan is here again.

What do I expect to achieve this Ramadhan? I hope to be maximized my ibadah in the month of Ramadhan. More solat including terawih, and more mengaji Qur'an.

And professionally I hope to accomplish more work i.e. get more work done during this month.

Well, work is also an ibadah, right? So even if I stay at work until bukak puasa time, I would be in ibadah, just as if I would be performing my solah and zikir.

I have told my boys and girls at work, the only reason the office would close early (an hour earlier at 4 pm) is that we don't have lunch hour. It is not because that we would be working less, or that in Ramadhan, things would slowly come to a halt, as everybody is hungry.

They can take break for their zohor, but nothing beyond that please.

Yes, I certainly would like them to reach home in time to break their fast, but that is not the reason we close early during Ramadhan. If we work hard in the non-Ramadhan, we should double the effort during Ramadhan!

It is certainly not the time for us to take afternoon naps!

Anyway, while food should be taking a backseat during Ramadhan, in reality the reverse is true. Stalls sprouting everywhere to cater for the whim and fancy of Malaysians breaking the fast. Yes, I do frequent these stalls during Ramadhan, I have to admit, but I still prefer home cook. Pasar Ramadhan are typically manned by the amateurs looking to make a quick buck or two - make that thousands buck or tens of thousands, so it is typically not worth it.

I look forward for some sweet tidbits during Ramadhan. For a family of four, with the boys typically not into conventional food, it is not worth it for us to cook all the food that we ear.

There are two simple things I would enjoy in this Ramadhan month eventhough one could still find them off Ramadhan I guess.

Buah kabung with syrup. Take it cold.

Aah, heavenly.

It is really cooling at the end of the fasting day. It has that effect on the body.

I have no idea where this buah kabung comes from. Surfing the net, I found this pic. Thanks to those who upload the picture.

Another drink I love to have during Ramadhan is selasih. Again you have it with syrup. Similarly like the kabung, it is also cooling to the body.

Aah heavenly. This selasih seed may look
like telur katak, but it is really lovely to drink with.