Sleepless in Setiawangsa VIII

It’s raining cats and dogs in Bukit Setiawangsa tonight. KLCC looks gloomy from a distance adding to the somber mood of the night. I glance at my laptop which stains of Ribena left by Luqman a moment ago. Luqman is in deep slumber after a day of running and jumping without a care in the world. My mind drifts away to one rainy afternoon in Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) Kuala Terengganu. I was in a boarding school, about to sit for my SPM, and going through growing-up pains. Ah, you remember those days…

It was a Thursday; which is the end of the week in East Coast states. Back then, everybody loved Thursday because they look forward to the weekend (Friday & Saturday) – a much-needed break to enjoy themselves. It was raining heavily that day. As usual, the month of November is the beginning of monsoon season on this side of the peninsula. With nothing much to do, I lazed around my room – Cempaka 54 – staring at Ninja Turtle poster on the brown make-shift wall. Other “inmates” of Cempaka Hostel were loitering around the building to while away their time.

From a distance, I heard hurried footsteps pounding on the wooden floor from the common area heading towards my room. My comrade-in-arm, Ms. Harita, was shouting at me, “Hoi! Hujan! Jom main bola selipar!” Without further ado, I jumped at her irresistible offer. We quickly roped in few more people and in no time we were down at the small field between our hostel and the dining hall playing the game in the torrential rain.

Bola Selipar is a game played by two opposing teams; let’s name them Team A and Team B. Team A will build a triangle tower using three selipar jepun (flip-flops/thongs). A Team A’s member will then stand few metres from the tower while other members from both teams are scattered around the small field.

At the word “get-go”, the Team A’s member who is standing few metres away from the tower will utilise three attempts to bring down the tower by throwing a tennis ball at it. If she fails to bring down the tower after the third attempt, the turn now shifts to Team B. However, once the tower collapses, members from Team B must “kill” the opposing team members by throwing the tennis ball around until it hits their bodies.

Meanwhile, Team A’s members must make sure that they can rebuild the tower before the “demise” of all their team members. In the event Team A fails to rebuild the tower, the turn now shifts to Team B. If they manage to rebuild it in time, they keep their turn and gain one point simultaneously. Now, let the game begins!

Our drenched clothes and the flowing-water blocked our views and prevented us from hitting the opposing team members on target. Our loud voices could be heard as far as the Cenderawasih hostel, where the boys were boarding. I remember my teammate, Aya, (whom I haven’t met since we left MRSM) shouting, “Tuh! Tuh! Kat belakang mung!” Aya repeatedly pointed her index finger to the elusive Salmah (the opposing team member) for me to strike down.

I hurriedly spun my heels around and threw the ball with all my might only to hit my own teammate! “Adooohhhhh!” Saket lah bodo!” If my memory serves me well, I think, I hit Rozila with the ball. So sorry friend…

I still remember, Aya, in her desperation to avoid being hit by the ball, climbed the tree next to the clothes’ line. Oh! she can climb like a monkey that Terengganu girl. Our laughter punctured the incessant sound of the rain. It was…FUN! We were not bothered about the thunder and the lightening. We just wanted to have fun in the rain!

The game was on full swing when we heard our warden, Cikgu Zuriati, shouting at us to from the adjacent corridor to stop whatever nonsense we were doing. Busted! With the infamous thin rotan in her right hand, her face grimaced, lips pursed and eyes almost popping out, she came towards us, her undisciplined 16-year-olds, who now stood frozen in the rain, too terrified to move. Cikgu Zuriati – I must say – sent the fear of God inside me throughout my stay in the boarding school.

Our joy was short-lived. Cikgu Zuriati instructed us to stand in line along the corridors which connect the five hostels – Mawar (where good girls reside), Kenanga, Cempaka (where the outlaws live), Melati and Anggerik. “Ah, there was no escaping this one,” I silently muttered to myself.

Swosh! Swosh! Swosh!” The rotan hit our then-tender hands. I grimaced in pain but I wasn’t repentant. The coldness went two folds up now that we were no longer under the rain. The only coherent sound that could be heard was the chattering of our teeth. We were sent back to our hostel after the public canning, a punishment we faced bravely and which left us feeling like defeated warriors. Seriously, we were just having fun and what’s wrong with that?

Here I am – 16 years down the road – reminiscing about my blissfully ignorant youth. Of all the things I remember most from this episode is that, I laughed so loudly without a single care in the world, just like Luqman did today. Apart from passing my SPM I didn’t have any real concern back then. Ah, the folly of youth…

Good night Sleepless in Setiawangsa.

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Sleepless in Setiawangsa – IV

Ah, another sleepless night here in Bukit Setiawangsa. I am awake and I don’t seem to be able to close my eyes and go to bed.

So I think I am going to write and ramble away. But right now I am having a mental block and have been staring at this empty screen before me the last one hour. Oh, I wish I could write efffortlessly like those journo-bloggers I secretly envy. But sad to say, that wish will remain just a dream – for now. So, please spare me your time and bear with my ramblings.

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At TWB (Tuesday with Bloggers ler…) last Tuesday, crime analyst Kamal Affendi, who is now a blogger, was among the new faces that turned up at Kak Ton’s house.

We had earlier (Kak Ton and Raden Galoh) watched him on TV3’s “Wanita Hari Ini” about the Nurin Alert. With him were Nuraina A. Samad and Jasni Abdul Jalil (the uncle of Nurin Jazlin), who was also a first-timer at the gathering.

The TWB was like a reunion of sort because it was the first gathering we had since the beginning of the fasting month. It was simply great to be among friends again.

While Kak Ton, Raden Galoh and I were at the dining table, we heard someone played the piano. Hmmm, good, I thought. Some music for the soul. Who could that be? I wondered. I turned around to have a look. What a surprise. He was none other than our crime analyst.

He entertained us with a number of songs including my all-time favourite “Love Story.” Ah, that song literally transported me to another place and another time.

I love the song so much because it brings me back to special moments in time. The first time I heard it played (live) was somewhere in a forgotten street of Machynlleth, Wales.

Have you heard this song on a violin? The melody is so magical that it evokes a sense of romance in anyone who claims to have a heart. And the lyrics are simply awesome too:

Where do I begin

To tell a story

Of how greatful love can be

The sweet love story

That is older than a sea…

Of course, the hopelessly romantic person that I am started to wonder what life would be without music and poetry.

Duke Orsino, in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (who is utterly besotted with Olivia) loudly proclaims:

If music is the food of love

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, 
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

That strain again;–it had a dying fall; 
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet south, 
That breathes upon a bank of violets, 
Stealing and giving odour.–Enough; no more; 
‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before. 
O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou! 
That, notwithstanding thy capacity 
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there, 
Of what validity and pitch soever, 
But falls into abatement and low price 
Even in a minute! so full of shapes is fancy, 
That it alone is high-fantastical. “

So friends, do you have a love story to tell me?

Sleepless in Setiawangsa – III

It’s raining in Bukit Setiawangsa tonight. There is something about the rain that inspires me to write endlessly. The wind is blowing melodiously and the air is so fresh; you wish you could  stay outside throughout the night. In this yet another sleepless night, here I am writing away again.

My past few postings have been serious and a tad emotional. How about something light & easy for a change? Laughter, after all – ah, this is so cliche – is the best medicine. This happened last week during iftar with clients of the firm at Mandarin Oriental. I was sipping my brewing coffee when the conversation took a swift turn from work to men. Well, that is to be expected when five ladies in their thirties flock together.

As one of the clients, Ms. Shirley, is on the edge of committing her soul to the sanctity of marriage, she peppered us with her previous encounters with men. Her close friend cum colleague, Ms. Farah, kept mum during Shirley’s walk down the memory lane.

I kept sipping my coffee in silence while trying my best to appear impartial and objective; both of them, after all, are clients. But, her story makes it impossible for me to maintain decorum at the table. This is the verbatim report of the conversation –

Shirley: “Oh! I was so heart broken, I can’t do anything but cry. But, Farah is so sweet, she and few friends took me to Beach Club to party.”

At this point, Farah was beaming from ear to ear after listening to Shirley’s compliment.

Shirley: “I could not enjoy the night. I was sobbing when Farah told me, its okay…he will die and go to heaven. I asked her why is he going to heaven? He broke my heart you know!”

Me: “Yeah, why are you so kind Farah? I thought you are Shirley’s friend?”

I objected to Farah’s kindness of sending the heart-breaker to heaven without further ado.

The wicked lady nonchalantly answered my question with –

Farah: “Well, he can’t help it, he’s a dog. All dogs die and go to heaven.

We laughed so hard; patrons seating at other tables stared at us in disbelief. Who the heck cares? I had a darn good laugh.

Good night folks.

*of course this post is written strictly without prejudice to all the men in my life – my son, my husband, my uncles, my counsins, my close friends, my blogger-brothers, etc*

Sleepless in Setiawangsa – 2

Bukit Setiawangsa is deep in sleep. Sahur will not be for the next few hours and I am still wide-eyed and could not go to sleep. What else could I do but to switch on my laptop…so, here I am writing away again.

Earlier, my uncle, Su Man in Kota Kinabalu, had called for confirmation whether I would be back in Kelantan for Raya Haji or Raya Puasa. I had made a promise to him that balik kampung this time around will be during Raya Haji not Raya Puasa. I told him the deal was on. After all I only see him once a year.

Su Man is a year older than I am. My early childhood was filled with happy memories spent with him – climbing rambutan trees, fishing at the nearby stream near grandma’s. We were very close…did everything together so much so I acted more like a boy than a girl. Back then, grandma’s house was haven for me. If they could talk, the trees at grandma’s old orchard would testify how I had sat on their branches almost daily. My comrade-in-arms was of course, Su Man. Apart from climbing trees; we would chase after butterflies and picked up pebbles along the stream. Oh those glorious childhood days in my kampong which I hope to tell my son, Luqman.

We used to climb almost all the trees at the orchard right behind grandma’s kepuk padi. Once, I fell down a few feet from a rambutan tree because the branch I was stepping on could not hold my weight. The fall was followed by a big thud which sent the birds and monitor lizards away. Boy that hurt! On seeing me on the ground grimacing with pain, Su Man, who was on a few branches above me, panicked and shouted, “Li ok dok? Saket dok?” I cried in pain, “saket ah ngok!” Su Man quickly climbed down and sat beside me saying “tak per…orang kuat tak nangis.” Hmmmm so typical of him offering comforting words whenever I was hurt even to this day.

Sometimes other kids  from the village would play hide and seek with us but not games like pangkah guli and catching fish down the river (catching fish will need a posting on its own!). These activities were confined to just the two of us, which means we play these games to the exclusions of other kids.

My favourite hiding spot was the Kepuk Padi because nobody dared venture into that spooky little hut except the mice. Su Man would hide his lithe body among piles of gunny sacks stacked behind the old kerek telaga and upon finding him, I would kick his butt, just for fun. Then we would fight like boys do – using our fists to hit at each other and ended up rolling on the grass in fits of laughter.

Sometimes, out of sheer boredom, Su Man and I would challenge each other to a bicycle race – starting from grandma’s house and all the way to Cabang Empat, passing by miles of rubber trees and padi fields. It did not matter what time…could even be in a hot afternoon. And we weren’t bothered about the heat from the scorching sun nor did we heed Mama’s warning not to go near the stream.

Oh, how I long for those carefree days again. Now, I don’t even own a bicycle! Lol!

When we were back at grandma’s recently, we caught sight of the abandoned kepuk padi while walking around the compound. The kepuk padi brought back old memories. Turning to Jefree and pointing the kepuk padi to him I asked “Papa, apa tuh?

Eiiii rumah hantu!” was the reply from my ignorant city-born other half.

At times I wonder if Luqman would be more interested in hearing tales of my childhood as compared to that of his father, who was born and brought up in the city and who surely missed out the “fun” of kampung life.

Good night folks.

*Kepuk Padi is a small hut built on stilts for purposes of storing sacks of padi during the harvesting season*

*Kerek telaga is a concentric ring made of cement used to build wells*

That’s What Leprechauns Do!

[Actors: Papa, Mommy & Baby Luqman. Scene: Home Sweet Home]

Papa: “What are you reading for the children this weekend?” He asked nonchalantly.

Thoughts in my head: “Okay, normally he couldn’t be bloody bothered, what’s gotten into him today?”

Me: “That’s What Leprechauns Do!” I hollered excitedly. Luqman stared at me with his two huge “guli” eyes. Perhaps he is thinking “what have I done to deserve a crazy mom like her?

Papa: “Apa dia? Ho ho ho! ha ha ha ha ha! he he he he! kik kik kik kik!” He laughed like an intoxicated cow and he subsequently shook his head in an attempt to humiliate me further.

Me: “Why you laugh? I am reading That’s What Leprechauns Do. You know leprechauns?” At this juncture, I have to shamefully admit to you that I pronounced leprechauns as “lep-re-chons.”

Papa: “Eiiii…. leprechauns lah! As in “laaap – riiii – kons!” He corrected me without mercy knowing that I’d be so humiliated about this. Luqman kept looking at the both of us in utter confusion. And he continued laughing at my stupidity.

Papa: “And you are reading to the children? You can’t even pronounce the words carefully!” He wasn’t quite done yet, was he?

Thoughts in my head: @#$%^&**&^%!cow@#$%^!

Now that I know how to pronounce Leprechauns without my tongue doing the acrobat, I’ ll  see you guys & your children at –

Venue: Borders, the Curve, Damansara.

Date & Time: Sunday 29th July 2007 at 3 p.m.

Book: That’s What Leprechauns Do. Written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully.

[Image from Amazon.com]

“Wareh”

Terengganuans and Kelantanese seek comfort in groups. Conversation with a complete stranger would go to a different level if both of you come from the same state, a slightly higher notch if from the same district, and of course in ascending order if the person were of the same kampong and knew a mutual friend. The next stratospheric level would be if she or he happens to be “WAREH.

Wareh” loosely defined by Kelantanese and Terengganuan as people who had their great great grandma or great great grandpa sharing same wombs making them a brother and sister to each other in that part of the history before the Japanese drop by or the day Raffles landed in Temasek. It is very important for the people of Kelantan and Terengganu to know both sides of the families and if you are married that would be at least four generation and four family lines that you need to get to know and identify them with their appropriate titles in the family.

Along this huge ‘cengal’ family tree, there would be branches that entwined (married) or untwined (fighting, divorced or just plain ‘can’t stand’ each other for no particular reason) and as part of one big tree, you (if you are a Kelantanese or Terengganuan) are supposed to ignore any negative vibes (esp. the divorced branch) and greet and pay salutation to them just like they are any family members.

The most important event is the ‘khenduris’ for the wedding which all would  gather from all nooks and corners and getting to know each other all over again. The ‘gotongroyong’ would be in full force and something funny does usually happen.

If you were born with big eyes and had been a point of ridicule by your playmates, it will become a sore point in your personality. Over time, you might start to like it and perhaps eventually you would truly believe that you were quite fortunate soul to be born with beautiful eyes.

Come ‘khenduri‘ times your deep believe in your uniqueness may be shattered as there would be invariably one or two similar set of eyes like yours… that would be funny. Then you may notice someone who walks like your sister or have a shrieking laugh similar to your aunt who teases you endlessly, then….it may not sound funny anymore. The worst would be if you were to see some obnoxious looking old lady who says you look like her when she was young. That freaks me out, for sure.

With that in mind, this conversation I had with my mother certainly brought me down to this plain earth. Her priority certainly is noble but then am I not another propagator of a gene in big kahuna scheme of thing called “wareh?”

Mama: “male sabtu nih, gi rumoh tok ayoh so and so deh? Dio buat semaye hajat, anok dio nok gi ITM.”

Mother instructed with confidence only mothers could possibly have.

Me: “dok leh kot, Kak Long ader plan rasonya weekend nih –” I said timidly in a desperate attempt for a swift way out.

Mama: “Hal gapo? Kalu setakat nok gi shopping & dudok keda buku berjam-jam tu, tok payoh lah. Perabih pitih, perabih maso, tak dok sebutir paedoh pon!”

Of course, Mama found my passion with books is a sheer waste of time and money.

Me: “dok eh…..mana ade…

As usual she overpowered me! Typical kelantanese woman! (I mean my mother, not I).

Mama: “Mesti gi, wareh kito tuh. Kirim salam mama, bui pitih ke anok dio sikit. Anok dio nok gi sekoloh ITM tuh.

At this point, I am rolling my eyes over and over again.

The Quiltmaker’s Gift

[Writer: Jeff Brumbeau, Ilustrator: Gail de Macken. Published by Ochard Books, New York in 2001]

Once upon a time, there was a Quiltmaker who lived in a small house on top of the blue misty mountain. She quilted the prettiest quilts in the world from all colours of the rainbow with her magical fingers.

Hordes of people from all walks of life would climb up the mountain with hope of buying those gorgeous quilts. Their hopes soon crashed upon finding out that the Quiltmaker would not sell her quilts to them. She only made it for the poor and homeless. At night, the Quiltmaker wandered around the cobblestone streets and wrapped her quilts around the poor and needy when they were deep in sleep.

The reigning King during this time was greedy and silly. He loved nothing else but presents. He passed a law that warrants him to celebrate his birthday twice a year. He received presents from all corners of his kingdom. Still, he was one unhappy king. Something was still amiss in his life. The Quiltmaker told the King in no uncertain terms that she would only make him a quilt if he gives away all of his priced possession. The King raged as his greed stopped him from doing so.

His anger knew no bounds. He first threw the Quiltmaker into the cage with a huge hairy bear. When the King learnt that the bear formed a friendship with the Quiltmaker instead of eating her for breakfast, his anger escalated. He ordered the Quiltmaker to stand on an island big enough only for her two tiny feet, hoping that she will soon drown. Instead, flock of sparrows flew the Quiltmaker safely to the shore.

The King gave up and after a long contemplation he started giving away his possession by letting go the item he least fond of. When a boy smiled hugely after receiving just a small marble from him, he felt a tingle of happiness in his heart. He soon traveled the world to give away all of his priced possessions. 

Meanwhile, the Quiltmaker kept her promise and began a quilt just for the King. Each day a sparrow messenger would drop a word to the Quiltmaker about the King and what did he give away for that day. The quilt for the King grew more beautiful each day. Finally, the King got his quilt from the Quiltmaker and in return, he presented the Quiltmaker a new house. The King ended up being a happy man.

The quilt was wrapped around the King’s shoulders and it was so beautiful, butterflies and hummingbirds flew around it.  

I narrated the above story for children at Borders Bookstore, the Curve on Sunday 8th of July 2007 at 3 p.m.

*The children story time at Borders is free and you are invited to bring your children along. My next reading session will be on Sunday 29th July 2007 at the same time. See ya there!*