Thursday, July 24, 2014

Suasana Riang diHari Raya - Akmal Hariri

Enjoy this piece from Akmal.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Turning a house into a home

My current house is old, especially for the fact that we have been living there for the past 12 years. This is home for the four of us. For better or worse - it is a done deal. I can't change that anymore.

Prior to this house, I used to move houses and office quite often. Either that, or we had to move to another town or country, due to one reason or another. Even within KL itself, we have moved houses many times. I like a change of environment, to be honest.

At the behest of my uncle Paksu, we decided to buy another house, this time in Sendayan. Sendayan is chosen due to its proximity to KLIA, and the fact that it is a major development in Negri Sembilan, so we thought property price should increase or at least be very stable there. I thought too that it would be convenient for Arif to travel to and fro KLIA for his work using the back road and in the future, a highway linking Sendayan and KLIA.

This is our journey in turning the house into a home. I am putting it down into paper for our own record - that's all. So just bear with us. It is not my intention to brag as there is nothing to brag about this house anyway. It is a house for an anak bujang; nothing more and nothing less.

So it is not fanciful.
The view at the back of the house. It is empty now
but it is the site for a school.
In order to make it into a home, we decided on the minimum requirements for comfort. The kitchen needs a cabinet and the full trappings of a modern kitchen. Well, not all. We decided to forego the need for a hood. All cooking will be done in the wet kitchen which has an airy environment due to its open nature. This family is not really a family of cook - all four of us are illiterate when it comes to cooking. Seriously.

But we are good eater; hence we need good kitchen!

We thought we need to have built in cabinet for the master bedroom. That's a must for us. I'd like to minimize loose furnitures - they tend to clutter. To save cost, we decided just to do it for the master bedroom where it will be reasonably well occupied. Other rooms will be occupied sporadically, so they will not be furnished.

And to complete it into a home, we decided that the living room has to have a cabinet.

Other than that, the house will be loosely furnished. This can't be helped. Sofa and a dining set. A king sized bed. Of course the lightings and the fans. No aircond (yet). No astro for sure - as usual. Well, hopefully the terrestrial broadcast is good here in Sendayan, though I am told otherwise.

We went through three contractors in Seremban and one in Kajang and in the end, we went with the vendor with the cheapest quote, but she came recommended by my cousin Afzal. In fact two of my uncle Paksu's sons were all done by them, and so far it has been a good journey.


It is a bit of a roller coaster. We want a modern looking kitchen (and house) with no wood features. For that we have our 12 year old house to contend with. So this one has to be different. But the kitchen, we decided to go out of the ordinary, if at least in term of colour and move to the realm of being bombastic.

At least to our standard. 

We decided to use the most striking colour. You will see later what we chose.

The work did not go as well in the beginning. The tile work that was done by the Indonesian fella did not live up to our standard, so the contractor agreed to tear them down and redo tiling for both wet dan dry kitchen. She did not hesitate at all when deciding to re-do it. That's what I like about Modern Solid Kitchen of Seremban. 
I decided to go for a concrete table as I believe this is
more suitable for us Asians and our weather, even though this is
supposed to be the dry kitchen
The workers doing preparing to install the cabinet
Aha, the heart of a modern kitchen - microwave, oven
and a hob. The former two are built-in. I somehow prefer built-in
as they are a feast for the eyes and tend to complement
the deco of the kitchen. I know one can buy a standalone microwave for
much cheaper than a built-in one.
The question is who will be the cooking here - other reheating the pizza that is, or will it be white elephant?

Are we bombastic enough? kitchen for the person working with a corporate colour of red -
the everyone can fly company! Hope the colour scheme works well. I am
praying hard LOL. We have no choice at this stage. It is done.
Love it or hate it!

Sneak look of the kitchen from the dining hall. OK ka?
The Air Asia kitchen?

Shall I buy 50"or 60"? Curve TV? Samsung or Japanese?
But we will still try to live without Astro as we had
for the last 12 years.
I want to enjoy high ceiling this time around, so no plaster ceiling this. No down-light either. I am tired of it. Minimalist, I must say. Simple living for a still-single pilot..


Hmmm..what is this? Your guess?

Well as I have said minimum renovation. Live with it first. Make it into a home and decide later if more work is required.

View from the porch into an empty house
So far with only a few people moving in, it is still serene.
But I hope the fact that it next to this park and hill, the surrounding will
be homely for us.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Genggam Bara Api

It has been too long.

Fourteen years in the making, to be precise. But at last, he made it.

He started learning the piano at the age of 6. A bit slow in the beginning, but he began showing his mettle and proficiency in the last 5 years. Beautiful rendition of many local and international songs have made him a favourite amongst many budding musicians with his own fanpage, legion of fans and a youtube channel.

In hindsight, may be it is not really necessary to go and complete Grade 8. He was doing fine as it is. He did not need more exam in my eyes; he needs more practices. That's all. And of course, he will need to expand and learn the finer things in music making not necessarily  found in the ABRSM or Trinity curricula.

But the final hurdle - academically - seem like a bridge too far.

Supposedly he completed hi grade 8 prior to taking  SPM three years ago, but SPM came and went. Then his matric year and nothing, and only in his first year at Monash, he managed to do it. Piano lessons and practice have to take a back seat over his academic pursuit. No choice I guess, In life, one needs to prioritize.

It is better late than never, obviously. Genggam bara api, biar sampai jadi arang.

That's the lesson I wish he had learned. Complete what you started; the destination is not that important. But the journey is. It is paramount.

I have listened to at least one Grade 8 pianist on FB. She completed it while she was in F5 - much earlier than Akmal. But her play and arrangements are nothing like Akmal's. I did not enjoy her playing at all. I thought that even though Akmal at that point was at Grade 6 (or was it 5?), Akmal is many years above in piano arrangement and performance.

Never mind that Akmal is my own flesh and blood. I know I am not biased ;) LOL

So those grades are only numbers, and at times they are meaningless.

It is what you had absorbed that is more important. The grades are only there so that you have targets to meet and that you can benchmark yourself in a more structured way.

Congrats Akmal for completing you Grade 8 piano.

Perfect score for the rendition of Blue Air (22 points out of 22). I love this song.
It has everything. Jazzy with a touch of mystery. In the end Akmal came short of scoring
a distinction. Three points short. Well, that's life too.


TO parents who are thinking or are sending their children to music or piano classes. Persevere. You and them. Yes, it takes a lot of effort both ways. Parents in having to drive their children to the class and most of the time, one had to wait for their class to finish. Children in having to practice, practice and practice.

But don't do it half way. View it as something one needs to complete, come what may. While I have said that it is the journey that is important, setting goals is critical so that we know where we are heading in this journey. Life is a marathon, not a 100-m dash. It does not matter who finished first.

Oh and how much money I had spent on him learning the piano? I am  not counting, to be honest and I did not keep the receipt. Probably started with a fee of RM100 a month in his early days, and his last months studying for Grade 8 cost me RM400 a month. If one were to take a median fee of RM300 a month over 14 years, plus minus break here and there (may be), it would have been a whopping RM50K!

It is a lot of money, and has it been worth it? Depending on your perspective too.

But too me, it is worth every single cent, and If I had to do it, I certainly would. Without hesitation.

If I did not spend it on him and his piano, I am sure I would have spent it on something else; something less tangible. Or perhaps something more tangible to my body and waist - like foods!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Suasana Riang dihari Raya (dibulan Ramadhan)?

I had never thought of hiring anyone for Akmal's music video, though I have to admit that I did think about it.

Akmal's music video is getting stale with only him playing and there seems to be no story line that we are used to seeing in music video. But then again, he is no professional in music and I have no budget for him since he does not generate enough income to sustain it.

So I thought why should not we find volunteers?

I mean I had made cameo appearance before in his music video in a cemetery scene, so may be there will be many who would not mind seeing themselves in a music video uploaded in Youtube. So I asked my brothers if they would volunteer taking video of their children celebrating Raya for me to use in a music video.

And I found an ally in my sister and his husband.

So she set us up with the kids who frequented their house daily to learn the Quran.

Here are the pictures taken during the shooting. Unfortunately we are in Ramdhan. Unfortunately it was noon, so the pity the kids for having to go through walking or riding the bikes at noon, and can't have their drinks.

And yes, they had to pretend that they were eating and drinking and practically having fun.
Kami datang nak beraya

Adegan makan while they were fasting
Learning the song first

Practising with Akmal on the piano

Rehearsal with me taking the video in the background

The adik-adrik comel beraya di buaian

Friday, July 4, 2014

Belasungkawa Pak Cik Ya - Zakaria Bab (1939 - 2014)

Zakaria Bab dalam kenangan (taken from Uncle AhWok's FB
It was only slightly over a month ago that I was told that my name and my sister's name were always on his lip - that he would pray for our well being after each solah. 

I was taken aback, to be honest. Praying for somebody else is nothing new for all of us, I would think. I would pray for my parents; specifically mentioned names of my deceased relatives - my grandparents Tok Bab and Tok Adam, Nenek Bulan and even the grandmother I had not met in life Opah Tam Rafeah, my bro Naza, my uncles Pak Cik Ajis, Pak Cik Man, and the lists go on and on. 

But my lists are only for those who are no longer with us. In other words, I did not specifically pray for his wellbeing. Not by mentioning his name anyway. [sigh]

As a rule of thumb, very seldom, if ever, I would specifically mention names of those who are still alive and pray for them.

But he would never fail to pray for me.

I have lost two most important persons who had never failed to pray me. I not sure where I would be without their prayers. Mak is one who would always pray for me, I know that, and now after knowing that fact, he is gone too. Two lost prayers, and I certainly hope I would not be lost without them and their prayers. I have to quickly find others who would pray for me too.

I am just his nephews, after all, and he is (only) my uncle, my father's younger brother. Only 3 years apart in term of age - bapak and him. But I was treated like a son, when he has two of his own!

The story was related to me again and again during his funeral by his wife. "Äman, memang dia tak pernah lupa doakan untuk Aman dan Sham. Ku Wan yang dengar sendiri setiap kali dia solat. Dia sayang sangat dengan anak-anak sedara dia," she told me (and my sisters) in between tears.

And told anybody who would listen.

Tubuh Pak Cik Ya membujur kaku di tengah rumah.

I can only nodded my head. No, I was not crying, to be honest. Well, may be little bit, but the tears did not flow that day. I guess in some way, there was no more tears after Mak passed away two years ago. No, I am not saying that I did not feel the lost. I do, and I do love and respect him as an uncle.

I am very sad, but in a sense, I have no regrets with him. Of course with each passing, there would always be a tinge of regret; for things that you did not do or should have done (more). But I have, a couple of years ago, asked for his forgiveness for things that I have said and done or not done to him, and he gallantly accepted an apology from his nephew.

So, I am more at peace at his funeral than anything else.

Of course there are many thing I would have like to have done with him. For one last time. Have a chat with him, hug him, should have been a bit more generous with him; you know all the what-iffs in the world. The list would never end of course.

I was the first amongst my siblings to arrive. Immediately after getting the news from my sister, I left the office to pick up Akmal and my wife. We sped out of KL, and quickly reached 180 km per hour or more on the highway. Soon, I decided to slow down to 100 as I knew we should have ample of time to reach Bidor. It is only an hours' drive, may be a little bit more. I just want to make sure that I would not miss his funeral, the way I missed for another uncle PC Ajis, also during a Ramadhan.

Yes, my sister and I were the recipients of his generosity when we were kids and he was a bachelor. Gifts - let's not talk about expensive gifts, shall we, were not a culture in my family obviously. We were lucky we have ample of good foods then. That's a luxury in life then when many were struggling with their lives.

So he became a favourite. A favourite uncle.

When I got married in 1987, his gift was the most expensive that I had received, that even today I could not replicate what he gave me to any of my nieces or nephews. It is a paid 3 days 2 nights honeymoon to Tioman, which included the airfare, during the days when there was no Air Asia. We took Berjaya Air from Subang and stayed at Berjaya Tioman Island Resort. It may not sound much for many nowadays, but back then  and especially to me then, it was a big deal.

And we were greeted by none other than Tun Siti Hasmah at the hotel lobby. Not recognizing her, I just smiled past her and did not say a word.

You can read about my exploits in Tioman here.

I have many far richer uncles, but I don't have one as big hearted and as loving as him. That Pak Cik Ya to me.

So there will not be any more Raya together this Raya.

I had asked my sister on the 18th of June where she would be having her Raya. Nowhere, she replied, since all her daughters would be having their exams this year. "But my heart says to raya with Pak Cik Ya" was her next statement.

That was the 18th of June 2014.

I did not bat an eyelid to be honest. I thought going up North for Raya would be a chore; a chore I do nt have to make after Mak's death. I dread thinking about having to drive up North for Raya, so I was not keen, to be honest.

No more raya with Pak Cik Ya. Ever again.

My real Raya with him was in 2010. Then I stopped by for Raya at his house on the way back on Raya day to Taiping. Read my Raya day entry here.

Let me capture what I wrote about him during that Raya.

Eventually we arrived in Bidor at 2.30 pm - a good one hour later than plan, and visited PC Ya and family. He was also having a quiet Raya as both his son and daughter in law were working on Raya day.

Pak Cik Ya. Three generations of the Babs. But his size is
only half of ours. He does resemble his dad, Tok Bab,
who is my grandfather. He was a favorite uncle when
we were kids (in Lenggong) as he was quite
generous with his nieces and nephews.
It has been quite sometimes since the Hariri last visited bapak's younger brother. In my case, this is my second visit in two months. I certainly would not want to have any regret later for not visiting my elders.

"Thanks for coming," he said, as a matter of factly, "this could be my last Raya." I stared hard at him and said, "No, we are going to celebrate more Rayas together."

I was not having this kind of talk during Raya time. 

There will be not be anymore Raya this year with him. Ever again. In a sense, I don't regret it. I have a big one with him on 2010, I am sure I did not visit him in 2012, the year Mak passed away, I am not sure about last year, most likely not.

When I was (nearly) down and out in 2001, I spent many days with him and his family in Bidor. I know I can find solace with him. He was always supportive of his nephews and nieces. In fact, I don't think I have seen him getting upset for anything. Soft spoken and humble, but I can tell you that he is very supportive of change in this country ours.
PC Ya during his heyday
Honestly, I think much of Akmal and Arif's musical talent in someway perhaps came from him and his side of the family. He told me many times; the last of which when he stayed over at my house may be a year ago how he beat Najib Hanif, a singer with a recording contract, at a band/singing competition. AhWok, his old buddies from his LLN Taiping days said that he has a beautiful voice. Someone else said he was the Malaysia's Sinatra.
Gone, but never forgotten. Malaysia's very own Frank Sinatra,
according his friend Irwan Shah. I am not sure, I have not heard him during his
heyday, but I believe him.

Bapak as a matter of fact gave melodious azan, perhaps the best azan I as a child remembers, so I am not surprise that PC Ya has an even better one. Unfortunately none of us, including my kids took possession of those vocal gift. He was extremely proud of Arif and Akmal's achievement as pianist, and he listened attentively to their songs and piano play when he was last at my house may be a year ago.

I am very glad that I got involved in him going to the Haram a couple of years ago. I am thankful for that opportunity, his wife kept on telling that to everybody during his funeral. It was not much, but in away, it was a payback for him paying my honeymoon in 1987.

I do have a tinge of regrets, but generally I can accept that he is gone. I was told by the mosque people that he was there at the dawn prayer a few hours before he passed away. He passed away suddenly, but from what I understand from his son Shirman he was doing gardening when he fell, and he passed away perhaps in the arms of his youngest son. 

Senangnya pemergian almarhum. I guess he has facilitated many during his own life time that Allah gave him an easy passage. I did not take the picture but I would like to remember him as in life his last hours with us. He looks serene and peaceful, and as if he was smiling.

I am not saying this as a nephew. If he looks any other way, I would perhaps not mentioned it here at all. But what I saw is perhaps a reflection of the life he led.

Moga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas ruh Almarhum dan dimasukkan kedalam golongan orang-orang yang beriman dan beramal soleh.


The funeral took place after asar and he was buried in Ladang Bikam Muslim Cemetery.

Death waits for no one.

All pix taken by Aboy
His widow, helped by her two sons, pouring scent water on his grave

His Eldest son Zanis. Heart broken and really taken by his father's
death. His younger brother Shirman was the rock pillar during the funeral
 and he told me that almarhum had an hour earlier
told him that he wanted to call his eldest son, but since he has no credit, he
had to wait for the top up that never came. He however was overwhelmed
by emotion when I approached him after the funeral.
The cousins after the funeral
My sis Shamsiah with others after the funeral