Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kota Toea aka Oud Batavia

In my years of (business) traveling, I was never able to be a tourist.

Most of the time it is work, and work and never-ending work. Early in the morning, we would travel to the client's office, and coupled with dinner appointments, most of the time, by the time I reach the hotel, it is bed time, so I would hit the sack, and the day would end there and then.

It begins all over again early the next morning.

And by Friday night (or late Friday afternoon), I would be queueing at the check-in counter, getting ready to go home.

It does not matter if the meeting is in Bangkok, or Jakarta, Hanoi or Saigon - and just to make it appear a bit more glamourous, I would add Rayong (Thailand), Bataan (the Philippines), Medan, Palembang, Lhokseumawe (Aceh), Balikpapan, Balongan/Cirebon or Dumai for that matter to the list of places I would frequent too. 

They are all the same to me.

Or at least they would appear that way since I would not have seen their cities or town as tourist,  or inhabitant. Neither as I would only be passing through, and I would certainly not able to get to know them. To be honest, I was not really interested too to get to know the towns too well. I was only doing my job. We tried to maximise our working hours while we are on duty, and not use it for personal gratifications.

This is what you do when you love your job and the company you were working for. There was no question that we would do anything for the company, or at least in hindsight, that is what I would like to think.

So in 2011, I was able to get half day off due cancelled meeting, and I decided to reward myself and visited Kota Toea Betawi. I had only seen this part of Jakarta over the years from the cab's windows, but never had the opportunity to visit them.

And these are what I saw that day in September 2011.
Jakarta as reflected in the heavily polluted stream.
Love the picture nonetheless
kota Toea and surrounding from the window of Jakarta History Museum.
If I am not mistaken,this is Fatahillah Square

Decaying Kota Toea. It is in need of restoration for sure

Still intact, complete with blooming Kemboja.

One of the alleyway at Kota Toea
Must be an old ""
This used to the the Batavia City Hall,
now Jakarta History Museum
And no, this was not the job of the WWII Atomic Bomb,
this is part of Kota Toea. It adds character. I am pretty sure
if this was Malaysia, it would have been torn many times over,
and a non-descript building would come up in its place!

Bicycle for hire in front of Jakarta History Museum
I guess these are for the ladies
How much is it? Cheap enough for you
to hire one and enjoy Kota Toea

Open windows outside a cafe in Kota Toea.
Another dilapidated old building
in the old section of what once was Jewel of the Asia.
Beautiful building, only to be marred by the tangled cables 
Another alleyway at Kota Toea
View from the room. This is
taken from the History Museum
Green window panes against the white wall
of Jakarta History Museum
The Garden inside of Jakarta History Museum
A budding  Yuna in the making
Inside Stasiun Kota


If you wish to use the pictures, please ask my permission first. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Untukmu (1982)

I really do miss this song. I have not heard it for ages; I can only imagine. I tried to remember the melody - I thought I was too good not to remember. After all I thought I remember every single of his songs.

I tried, but I could not. Only the first para make sense to me.

[sigh] Do I have to buy a new vinyl to listen to this song? Where can I find the song in cyberspace?

This song is a great song, written by Syed Haron, the song writer who wrote 'Hujan'. But it was never good enough for any compilation of Sudirman's songs. It was just one too many, I guess for someone with his stature.

C'mon, EMI, can you just release all his albums on CD? No need to compile, no need to select. Just take all, and I am sure it will be sold out in no time.

Lagu Syed Haron
Lirik Syed Haron

Ku rindukan kedinginan hujan
Dalam kesejukan salju
Yang membekukan tubuh ini
Yang membekukan kalbu ini
Di masa begini ketika sendiri
Semuanya terbayang kembali

Untukmu aku rakamkan
Sebuah kisah rindu
Yang kini mencengkam
Untukmu aku dendangkan
Sebuah lagu kembara
Di rantauan

Kesunyian kekosongan rasa
Dalam penitian masa
Yang menyesakkan tubuh ini
Yang menyesakkan kalbu ini
Fajar yang menyinsing
Di tempat yang asing
Embun pun tak terasa hening

Untukmu aku rakamkan
Sebuah kisah rindu
Yang kini mencengkam
Untukmu aku dendangkan
Sebuah lagu kembara untukmu

Before you start thinking that this is a typical love song; think again. According to Sudirman, "UNTUKMU merakamkan rindu mereka yang jauh tehadap tanah air dan yang dicintai."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Aku di Sebuah Pulau & the state of Malay literature

After attending another (never-ending) meeting one Monday last month, I decided to reward myself with a trip to the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka bookstore. My auntie MakCak (Maznah Bab) was one in the first batch of staff in DBP (formerly known at Balai Pustaka with its first office in JB in 1956), which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006.
I went in hoping I can find some books that I used to read when we were kids. I didn’t put too much hope, for we are not known to appreciate our literary treasures, unlike in the west. I remember when Anwar Ibrahim was the DPM, he made a remark about the state of literature in Malaysia; I remember this well because it struck a chord with me then (now, very seldom Malaysian politicians would be able to strike a chord with me. In most instances I would vehemently disagree with them. We practically have nothing in common!) One can easily go to MPH or Kinokuniya and one would be able to get the many editions of say Shakespeare, and Tom Sawyers, and the many classics of English literature, from the abridge to the actual manuscript. But one would have to hunt down high and low for Malay classics.
I went to the info counter and asked if she knew where I can find books from the 70s. The answer was negative. I gave a few titles and she punches in her computer; again the result was negative. Hey, I am talking about the DBP HQ here ok, not some small bookstore in in rural Dungun! These people are not giving it their best shot at all, as if their potential customers like me are disturbing their leisure hour.
However, I found a 1988 manuscript of Malays traditional song notes for the piano; Akmal has given it a try and I think it was beautifully arranged by Ooi Eow Jin, Alfonso Soliano and the likes. This is rare. We have all kinds of classical books and piano notes from Symphony No.5 to Concierto de Aranjuez, but no, we can’t find the notes for Mak Inang, or Sri Mersing until today. Especially for the piano.
That was not the only joyous moment for me. As I went browsing, I saw this book that sounds familiar “Benda Ajaib di Bilik Tertutup”. I was elated. The book is a sci-fi short story for children, which was first published in 1969. I think I read this book while I was in Std 5 given by MakCak. It was a nostalgic moment for me, for I love that book and the stories in it quite a bit then, and it nurtured my love for science. The ‘benda ajaib’ is actually a rocket that the narrator’s brother was building in secret much to the chagrin and curiosity of the narrator, and other stories included a machine that one can drive up and down a coconut tree for picking coconut. Yes, simple stories for a simple kid from a much simpler time then.
More were to come. Ahad was another novel we all used to read; Ahad being the acronym for Amin, Hassan and Dahlan who were all born on Sunday. Its story was set in the 50s. How Yusof has three sons all born on the same day is for me to know and for you to find out. The three brothers were sent to different schools - English, Malay and religious schools. Aku di Sebuah Pulau is another short story book that was published in the 70s that I bought that day.
I lamented to the chashier on some books I could not find. She turned to a lady standing near me by indicating that I should be asking her. “Surely,” I told her, “DBP should have SUBOH, but I don’t remember the author anymore.” “Atan Long,” came the reply. It was quite immediate. Yes, Atan Long, I remember him now, while grinning from ear to ear. Now I have found someone in the know about Malaysia’s literary scene. She promised to look for it. Suboh was probably set in the difficult 50s (me think), and told the story of a teacher who was posted to the interior, and had a room at the ketua kampung’s house, courtesy of him of course. It was the story of his trial and tribulation and he later on fell in love and eventually marry his daughter. What else? But it was well written I must admit and this was one novel that kept me occupied during the years of no TV!
I remember that there is another cover, an abstract  painting of the new
 day dawning. It is a perfect cover for the book.

How about Hikayat Seri Rama?” I asked her, “It was after all published by DBP and edited by one Onn someone.” HSR is the Malay version of the Ramayana, complete with the prophet Adam included in the story (when Maharaja Rawana was given kingdoms in the sea, earth, heaven (tujuh petala langit), and on land for him to rule); I guess to make it more palatable to the (muslim) Malays. It is an epic of a story which included the love story of Sri Rama and Sita Dewi. Rawana obviously was head-over-heels over Sita Dewi and wanted to make her his Queen, and hence he abducted her. One should read about all the battles between Rawana and Sri Rama, with the help of his brother Laksamana and monkey king Hanuman, and his monkey soldiers. Gegak gempita! The battles, I must say, made Star Wars movies look like childplay!
Instead of answering me, she looked at me and asked me, “Encik mengajar di mana?” Mengajar? I smiled back and told her I am not a teacher or a lecturer. I just love those books that I have read when I was a kid. And one need not be professionally associated with the literary world to read and love those books. I was taught to love books – Bapak and Mak had made it a culture in our family.
(She also invited me to attend the poem recitals to be attended by Dr Koh Tsu Koon on some Ma Hua literature. Ah well, she is over-estimating my interest and capability in literature!)
I also remember the many books I read as a kid, at my nenek house in Aulong. Si Pitak was one. I tried surfing; Si Pitak is out of stock at Amazon. I can barely remember his story though, but to me, Si Pitak was our Tom Sawyer. One can really be amazed by his many adventures (or he could be our Tin Tin actually – Didn’t I tell you, one could find Tin Tin and Asterix easier in KL than Si Pitak?). If anyone out there knows where I can get hold of Si PitakSuboh and Hikayat Seri Rama, please let me know.
Friday May 4, 2007 - 10:09pm (SGT) Permanent Link | 0 Comments

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hot tea in a glass, anyone?

So I have a confession to make - I am an addict, and I am at wit's end trying to rid it.
On teh tarik, that is.
I can’t live without teh tarik. Even at this age where I should be reducing my sugar intake, I can't say no to it. I have to have teh tarik for breakfast, teh tarik for lunch, teh tarik for tea and of course teh tarik for dinner. Crazy, am I not?
Of course I have tried (to reduce my sugar intake, that is). "Teh tarik kurang manis satu," I told the mamak. It makes no different though. They would serve you with the same teh tarik that has the exact sugar content. You are just trying to make yourself feel good by asking for the kurang manis version.
Even if the mamak uses less sugar, it makes no different to your body after the two helping of roti canai. You know what would happen to the carbo and fat in your roti canai, when your body process it, so it is useless to be asking for teh tarik kurang manis!
What makes the tarik special? It is after all only tea, sugar and 'condensed milk'. I have tried it with fresh milk or powder creamer. Nah, it is simply not teh tarik. It has to be prepared using 'condensed milk'.
Does the chemistry change in the process of ‘tarik-ing’? I would like to think so, but I have no evidence to support my claim. I think the process of aeration would dissolve more oxygent which enhances the taste. Couple with all those wonderful particulates suspended in the air, especially if it is done in KL, it tastes better.
Tarik lagi panjang lagi sedap. Kalau boleh tarik tepi highway or tepi jalan, my goodness, tasty brother.
Exhaust kete and especially exhaust bas dan lori, semua masuk dalam teh tarik!
I am being sarcastic here just in case you didn’t notice.
Of course I think it is the cooling effect (during the tarik-ing process) that makes teh tarik so drinkable compared to other piping hot hot-drinks.
Indonesians don’t know teh tarik. They all live and die on teh botol (Sosro) or teh O. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't have the ummph of teh tarik (AKU MUSNAHKAn KAU! Teringat arwah Mahmud Jun from the Boh tea advert fame in the 70s). There used to be one restaurant near Sarinah in Jakarta serving teh tarik – Restaurant Pak Dollah, but had never tried them.
Image Preview
Teh botol for the Indonesians - they don't know what they are missing in life!

In 2005, I spent 3 weeks in in Lake Charles in Louisiana. I dropped by at the regional office of Farris Engineering at Baton Rouge and was introduced to the secretary there as someone from Malaysia. And you know what her response was?
She said, “Is that the country where people drink (hot) tea in a glass?”
What more can I say about teh tarik?
This article was written in 2007 when I was hot on teh tarik. After a friend mentioned that I am practically  drinking palm oil every time I have my teh tarik, Well there is no such thing as condensed milk anymore - it is mostly creamer made from palm oil. So I decided to switch to teh o, like the Indonesians, and if I have my craving, I will have teh tarik with real condensed milk rather than creamer!

tehtarik | 
Tuesday October 2, 2007 - 06:41pm (SGT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 0 Comments

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I am simply exhausted!

Twenty one days into the new year and I am already wishing that we are at the end of the year again.

Instead of having the full year to get through, like we are right now.

Don't get me wrong; I have reasons to rejoice. REasons I would not reveal for now. And they are real reasons for rejoicing for anybody.

Especially me!

But at this moment, I am too tired to be rejoicing to be honest. I feel like a zombie. I have been working non-stop since 10 December 2012, and it has been six straight weeks. It is not like it is a five-day week that we are talking here; it is practically seven-day week - straight, 12-14 hour day and inclusive of traveling up and down the East Coast Highway on a weekly basis.

No christmas holidays, no new year holidays and obviously no CNY either.

Come the weekend, I would be staring down two computers - as if one is not enough. Most of the time it would be lying down on the carpet in my living room; many a times it would be up in the office. Deadlines came and went; and the work is still not done. It keeps on piling on the table. The delivery seems to be like a blackhole - it will eat anything you deliver and wants more.

It probably want your souls too.

I am not really complaining though. For an employer like me, having jobs are God-sent gifts. Keeping everybody busy with work is heavenly as a boss. I don't have to worry about anybody busying themselves on FB and not on some productive work that would generate income.

1110 NASA Road 1 Houston TX. From the small window in my (then)
office, I can see the NASA HQ with the Saturn V rocket (of course they don't
have the shuttle in Houston). This office was only10 mins from home which is located
in front of the lake. Hence I did not mind then working for 12-16 hour day.
But somehow I thought I should keep on reminding myself that I do not wish to have 1999 all over again. Then working from an office in front of NASA HQ at NASA Road 1 in Houston, we worked 7-day week, 12-hour day for three straight months. In the beginning it was fun; but as we approached the deadlines, the pressure was on, and it was taking the toll on me.

There was so much the body can take, and mind you, that body was 13 years younger then.

I am certainly tired - no, make that exhausted, but I also do know that the work is not yet done [sigh]. There are more to come, so the pressure is still on. The job is certainly giving my brain a good workout, but it is the body that could not take it anymore. I certainly do not want to live through 1999 all over again, but at this stage of my life I certainly do not have too many choices. 

I certainly hope it would not end though, not for the staff anyway. They can keep on working; they are still young anyway. 

It is just the boss who needs the time off!


And I thought once upon a time I would like to be a boss with people working for me (instead of me working)! What went wrong with that vision? [sigh]

And I am so tired that it has taken the toll on this blog. I have not been updating it. Two entries in 3 months are what what I envisage when I took up blogging years ago.