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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This is a good read

Open Letter from India to Mahathir and UMNO

December 20, 2011

Open Letter from India to Mahathir and UMNO
By Siddharthya Roy (12-14-11)
14 December, 2011

Dear Mr Mahathir,

A couple of days back I woke up to Indian newspaper reports which quoted you as saying that India's democracy is a hindrance to its development and if we did away with the nuisance of democracy we will be become developed (1).

Well Sir, it is heartening to see your concern about India's future. Especially now that our own elected government has orphaned us, someone from the outside caring about our development sounds so very nice. But you see Sir, your (apparently) good intentions notwithstanding, your advice to Indians is, well how should I put it...ill-advised. I'm not really sure if you know much about the history of our nation. Don't get me wrong.

Know Your Facts

Going by facts like the general absence of news from Malaysia's newspapers; the absence of anything but song and dance in your electronic media; the absence of bookstores that sell knowledgeable books (for example, the ones from which you can learn about history and not how to get rich in six steps); the abundance of malls and the stark absence of libraries; the abundance of coaching centers that can make masseurs, air hostesses and a host of quick fix technicians and the relative absence of centres of higher learning especially in the social sciences; and above all the fact that this insanely consumerist and hedonist Malaysia was made under your tutelage, makes me doubt your knowledge of the history of India or any nation for that matter.

Understand the Story of Indian Independence

So allow me to apprise you of the story of our Independence. We won Independence from colonial rulers waging a long and torturous battle. A battle that sought to replace a discriminatory, unjust and violent regime that had enslaved huge populations with one which was based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity.

India was home then, as is now and as will always be, to an immense diversity of people who spoke different tongues, prayed to different Gods, wore different clothes and had different political beliefs. These diverse people said to each other that - we, despite our differences, will strive to live and flourish together and make a sovereign nation which will be democratic, socialist and secular. We did not anywhere say that we want to be Malaysia or for that matter China or the USA.

India treats all its citizen as equal

We want to become a nation with a system that treats all its citizens as equal unlike your country that officially accords special rights to Malay Muslims calling them first class citizens while relegating thousands of people of Tamil, Chinese and other ethnic origins. Despite the fact that they have known no other land other than Malaysia as their own, you denigrate them with the tag of being second class citizens.

We try to work towards having a system wherein a person will grow according to his merit and hard work earning what he has rightfully earned. You may be surprised to know that here in India making cartels based on identity, even if under the name of bumiputra or son-of-the-soil, is called cartelisation and is looked down upon by most of us. Here promoting the selective interests of one's self or that of his kin is called corruption and nepotism and not, as you call it, development. We are in fact fighting tooth and nail to arrest the scourge of corruption and (you'll be shocked to know) get the guilty punished.

In India No One is Above the Law

Here in India no one is above the law and many a times powerful public figures go to jail for being corrupt or subverting the law. Now that we are at it, Sir, I'm sure it would be interesting to know what the minorities of you countries have to say - especially the jailed and beaten ones - about the development-democracy debate.

In fact Sir, your idea of development is largely at odds with many of us here. What you did to the tropical forests and water-bodies of Malaysia (that is raze vast acres of them into oblivion making way for big bucks palm oil plantations and piggeries and so on) would cause huge outrage amongst many of us who are looking for sustainable development.

We are yet to be unanimously convinced that making cemented roads - however broad, lining them with buildings - even if glass covered and glossy, putting cars on them - however fast they are-- is a substitute for our valued bio-diversity. Many of us are very convinced that displacing huge populations of native people for useless things like racing tracks is a blot on the word 'development'.

There are many of us who find it a shameful and cruel hypocrisy that in your country can have abundant openly advertised sex tourism and still whip women for being licentious! Thanks to the culture of reading here, many of us know of your penchant for cruelty in your personal career. A career during which you enacted despotic and violent acts at times in the name of (your contorted version of Islam) and at times in the name of security and national interest.

Malaysia's Internal Security Act, 1960

We could recount how you rose to power annihilating huge numbers of your opponents and stayed there for over two decades continuing yourdevious rule using tactics and schemes which are far beyond Machiavelli. Many of us know about your vile Internal Security Act 1960, which you used to crush political opposition jailing and killing them with impunity and putting in place a frail and near sham democracy placing the entire nation under a one man rule of the UNMO for over two decades.

You will note that in the essay above I have used words like "most of us" "many of us" and have tried to stay away form absolute claims. Besides the age old Indian practice of accommodating different opinions, it is meant to recognise that there are people in this country too who think like you and will have applauded you for saying what you did.

They too think that roads are all that are important and not the humans which walk on them or the ones that sleep beside them. They have misconstrued the word development as development of personal wealth and that this 'development' is a holy cow and everything including the rights and lives of fellow humans is a lesser priority. Their money power helps them buy a lot of print space and electronic bandwidth so they may appear like the majority, but thankfully the truth is they aren't.

The majority of us recognise and are willing to admit - and even discuss at length - that there are problems in our nation - including bad roads. But they'll quickly add that we intend to solve those not by lessening democracy but by increasing it.

1. Speech on December 2 Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi

The author is a freelance writer and activist based in Maharashtra.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Classmates meet

Mokhtiar Singh was down from Gold Coast again. So Jalil, Imbaraj and I decided to meet up for dinner last night. It had been about a year since Singh last came back. Initially we were to meet up in Penang where a couple of our other classmates lived. But due to some pressing engagement, Mokh couldn’t afford the time. In fact Jalil had already booked the accommodation at Batu Feringgi for our rendezvous. Unfortunately, he had to cancel it due to change in plans.
So on Wednesday 14th Sept.2011, we ended up at the same restaurant beside Vistana Hotel in KL where we met the last time around. I parked my CRV in Brickfields and hopped into Imbaraj’s Camry. The rain was beating mercilessly as we made our way to Hokkaido. They sell good food here and the service level is also not too bad. Jalil and Mokh were already waiting for us when we reached for our 8.00 o/clock appointment at 7.45pm. While catching up with some old stories as usual, Jalil broke the news that Seck Hock, another one of our classmates would also be joining us tonight. Seck Hock is now a prominent lawyer in KL. I had spoken over the phone a couple of times but had not had the opportunity to meet all these years. Singh had met him when they were studying in UK during their prime. Jalil too had met up with him some years back over some legal issues. But Imbaraj and I had never met him since we left school in 1973. He was a rich kid even way back then. His family probably owned half of BM town and he lived in a huge mansion just beside the District Officer’s house. But what was of particular interest to us was the theatre that belonged to him……to his grand-dad actually, the famous Cheok Sah theatre. Imbaraj and I exploited the friendship to the maximum after school, going for every other movie that was played…even the Chinese movies. It was then that I became familiar with the famous Chinese actors then like Wang Yu, Ti Lung, Chen Kuan Tai and the likes. And much later, Bruce Lee who went on to revolutionize the Chinese film industry. I remember Seck Hock confidently guiding us past the Usherers until we were comfortably seated. Then he would take leave for us to enjoy the movie by ourselves. We were in our teens then. And free movies meant a lot. We felt ‘big’ at the thought of having influential ‘contacts’ at ‘key places’.
Seck Hock arrived after about half an hour or so. We didn’t have much difficulty in recognizing him. He looked the same, just aged a little but it didn’t show anyway. He was his usual bubbly self laughing out loudly at the slightest provocation. We reminisced about school life. He was good in English and we often competed with each other for top spot.
After spending some good 4 hours or so over some good food, we decided to call it a day. It was when we called for the bill that we realized Seck Hock had quietly settled it all.
In retrospect, judging from his demeanour and body language tonight, it appeared that Seck Hock didn’t realize that the relationship nurtured during school days can be continued. He probably believed that everything ends when school life ends.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ms. Adventurer's misadventure

Saturday 30th July 2011 started out like any other day. My wife had already left on her holidays to Australia and I was looking forward to joining her in a week or so. Without her, I had to make do with meals outside for a while as I didn’t cook. Don’t know how to actually. So on this day, I started out early by about 6am and proceeded to the only restaurant in Rawang selling decent Indian food for my breakfast. As I still had a lot of time in my hands, I flipped through the morning papers for a while before paying up and shooting off to work.
As I passed the railway station in Rawang, I noticed a fairly new but badly dented car along the left side of the road that was surely not there a while ago when I was heading towards town earlier. I noticed that the lamp-post that the car had ploughed into was so inconspicuously located at the very edge of the road that even if a seasoned driver were to aim to knock against it just for kicks, chances are that he would miss it! That was how far away the lamp-post was placed at the road shoulder that when placing it there, the authorities must have been convinced that there was no way any one could knock against it. In fact I was convinced that some drunken driver must have dozed off or in his inebriated state probably lost control of his vehicle before knocking against it and had come to an abrupt halt while doing about 50kmph……. I however simply brushed it aside and continued with my journey to office. Later that same afternoon, through a strange coincidence, I met up with the driver of the ill fated vehicle and was somehow relieved that the person had miraculously not sustained any serious injuries although I was told that the vehicle had to be written off.

This post is dedicated to my neighbor Bouncy Cat who complains that they don't teach multi-tasking at driving school….……like how to hold your hot coffee and move your phone to a safe distance from the coffee especially when negotiating a sharp bend, while steering with one hand...........!

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Zealand

When the idea of visiting New Zealand was first mooted by my wife sometime last year, my initial reaction was nonchalance. The main reason for my disinterest was that it was a long haul flight and I wouldn’t be able to smoke in the aircraft during the entire 10 or 11 hours journey. My recent trip to Nepal changed all that. I realized that abstaining from smoking for a while was no big deal and that I’d be able to endure it.
So off I went to NZ on 5th August. My wife had left a week earlier to Australia where she was to meet her elder brother Mano who lives there with his family. From there, she was due to meet me in NZ where her younger brother Rajah has made home, having emigrated about 10 years ago.
The flight itself was eventless. AirAsia flights are pre-booked months ahead; so there were a lot of no-shows. I got a row of 3 seats all for myself; so in that sense, it was comfortable. Decided in having light meals during the flight so I settled for sandwitches. Hem Raj had recorded some movies on my mobile phone to keep company. I managed to watch only one movie and realized that the battery was nearly drained! When I landed at Christchurch at about 11.30pm (NZ time), I was virtually dying for a fag. Walking out of the airport building, I stood at the designated smoking zone, delighted at the prospect of eventually being able to ‘quench’ the crave as chilly winds smothered me all over from all directions. It was a sensation that I had never felt in my life ………ever. Temperatures were below 7 degrees so you can imagine the ice-cold effect the winds caused on the body. I spent the next 5 hours or so in the warm main terminal before catching my connecting flight to Auckland where my wife and brother-in-law were waiting for me.
From Auckland, it was a one hour’s drive to Hamilton where Rajah lives. But I had one thing to do in Auckland and that was to meet up with my childhood buddy Lalitha who has settled down there. We had communicated prior to my trip so she was expecting us. Initially we were to meet for dinner but since I was on a lightning trip, she settled to play host over breakfast. This was the first time I was meeting her husband Navin who hails from Seremban. They live in an effluent part of Auckland in a well appointed neighbourhood with their daughter and 2 cats. We caught up with so many things past and present and spent about an hour and a half before bidding goodbye. In the excitement of the much anticipated reunion, I had totally forgotten to take any snaps with her. What a waste!
The next couple of days were spent at Rajah’s place in Hamilton who also took us to show the outskirts of North Island. The rolling hills and blue sky was picture perfect. The clarity of the scene made you feel as if you were not short-sighted anymore. Sheep, cows and horses grazing on the hills completed the magnificence of the picture. We made a quick stop at the mouth of the longest river in NZ at its source where the water flowed from a massive lake formed by the melting snow from the surrounding hills. It was a beautiful sight, with columns of fog and clouds shrouding the background like a backdrop. We made it up all the way to the snow-fields and saw people skiing down the slopes. My wife and I had to wear 2 winter jackets each to endure the cold. While my wife could afford to play snowball with her brother, I chose to return to the comfort of the car as I could not stand the cold any further. My hands were beginning to feel numb. But it was an experience that I had never imagined I would experience in my life. Given a chance I would probably have chosen to get a feel of winter in some theme park some place, just for the experience. Never in a real snow covered country. But it was all well worth it. The snow flakes steadily floating down to rest on your jacket was simply exhilarating. After spending a good hour or so at the snow-fields, we had difficulty maneuvering the car out of the snow covered road down the slippery slopes. But we managed to drive out slowly without incident.
The people in NZ are so approachable and friendly. It’s a completely different culture actually. It was so refreshing to see cars stop for you when they notice that you want to cross the road, people don’t honk at you on the roads, they adhere strictly to speed limits and road signs, they overtake only at designated areas on the highways, they don’t litter and they appear to have the greatest respect for the human race. This has been such a short vacation but I vowed to return next year to see the rest of the country. Rajah of course is hoping that we would seriously consider emigrating, a prospect that I have kept at the back of mind for now.
During my return flight, I couldn’t help reflecting on all the areas that we have had to compromise by choosing to live in Malaysia.
Thank you Rajah & family for the wonderful time that we had in NZ.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Charm of Nepal

It was my first trip to Nepal last week on 19th July. In fact it was my first trip to anywhere out of the country by flight. Until then I had only ventured out to Singapore and Thailand. Although I was excited about the journey, I was apprehensive at first about the prospect of not being able to smoke during the entire flight. Way back in the 70s as well as the early 80s, people were not so health conscious as yet. The awareness and their rights had not been cultivated yet. As soon as the ‘no smoking’ light went off after take-off, I would immediately light up a cigarette. And no one bothered about it. Back then it was an acceptable part of co-existence. But not anymore! So the fact that I would have to refrain from smoking gave me sleepless nights preceding the trip.
It was a transit flight on Thai Airways to Kathmandu via Bangkok. I have had much experience in flying, so the journey itself was sort of predictable. I sort of knew what to expect. All went well until we were nearing Kathmandu when all of a sudden, the aircraft went into free-fall for at least a good 4 seconds or so. It seemed so long though. And not once but twice. The Captain came on the air saying “we are facing air turbulence!” I thought then that he could have done a better job in pacifying the passengers, many of whom I noticed appeared to have gone into a state of shock, including my colleague seated next to me. My age didn’t afford me the luxury of displaying fright, at least not to my colleague. So I simply forged on a brave front, comforting him that it was just ‘airpockets’ that had created vacuum in the atmosphere. I still wonder if he saw through me to notice that my heart was by then somewhere between my navel and my lower belly!
We finally reached the airport in Nepal where my Nepali agent was waiting for us who took us straight to Annapurna Hotel that we called home for the next 4 days. I had not looked up the net for details on Kathmandu, so apart from the fact that Everest lurked somewhere near, I didn’t know much of the city. The temperature was like Camerons and therefore bearable but I was told that November to February are very cold as it snowed around the mountains. Couldn’t get a view of Everest though due to the heavy clouds.
What greeted me during our drive-around was a bit unsettling. This was a city without any form of traffic control. Cars, lorries, buses, taxis, vans, bicycles, motorbikes and every form of other vehicles that come in odd shape and sizes, fight for space on the narrow roads, probably originally intended only for 2 vehicles. I would not be far from wrong if I add that they very nearly ‘nudge’ each other as they pass, so to speak. I particularly found the deafening sound of horns blaring for the slightest of reasons, often for no reason at all, annoying and amusing at the same time. The only traffic light I came across near the former King’s palace was on permanent red mode. Traffic police standing on elevated platform at road inter-sections appeared more ‘ornamental’ than to serve any real purpose. I didn’t wait long enough to notice if motorists paid any attention to them.
The next morning I awoke at about 7am as I usually do back home in Rawang and noticed that it had already dawned. The 2 hours and 15 minutes time difference meant that it was only 4.45am in Nepal. After freshening up, I walked out to the main road outside the hotel hoping to see a tea stall like what they show in Indian movies. Not one soul was in sight……just an occasional lorry passing by. Returned to the hotel and was told that breakfast would be served in 2 hours time. It was then that I realized that although it had dawned, people don’t start work until it is about 8.00am in Nepal. And the shops would open only at 10.00am (12.15pm in Malaysia).
Later after completing some tasks at the agent’s office, I went out with Sumon (agent’s driver) to look for interesting things to buy. Looked around for some nice belts for myself but couldn’t find any with my waist size. It is interesting that Nepalese are generally not fat and most of them are just the correct weight and size. The people manning the shops along the road didn’t speak any language that I could understand but Sumon was there to help out. So that didn’t pose any problem. Through him, I managed to get some nice clothes for my family at reasonable rates.
Evening was interesting. The agent (Mr. Rudhra) told me that he wanted to take me to some watering hole to chill out. What greeted me was beyond my wildest expectation. Walking in, we were ‘namaste”d by extremely beautiful saree clad Nepalese damsels. They had a stage at one end of the hall where about 15 artistes were seated with their musical instruments. Each one then took turns to render a Nepalese number that was accompanied by lovely Nepali dancers performing their traditional dance. It looked like a slightly faster version of our own joget. But it was soothing and immensely relaxing. The pretty girls waited on you while you enjoyed your drink. The language they speak in Nepal is a corrupted version of Hindi…… that moment, I regretted not knowing Hindi.
Requested for a couple of Hindi songs that the singer obliged. He sang very well. I joined him during his rendition of Kabhie-Kabhie, a 70’s song, punctuating it with Amitabh Bachan’s dialogue that I had memorized during my younger days, being an ardent fan of the legendary actor. It was well received. This was live music at its best unlike in Malaysia where they use pre-recorded music from keyboard for the main instruments. I truly enjoyed the night and made sure that I went back the next day to continue with the fun and festivity. On my last day, a deep sense of melancholy seized me when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to see them anymore and worse, that I would not even be able to communicate with any one of the lasses over the phone because of the language barrier.
On the last day of our stay, we took a trip to the largest and most significant Sivan temple in the world that was constructed sometime around 400 a.d. It was a spectacular sight to behold, I must admit. Walking in, you get goose pimples just looking at the place. But of course I didn’t realize the significance of the river that meandered alongside the temple as I nonchalantly flicked my cigarette butt into it only to learn upon my return that this was the Bagmati River that eventually flowed into the Ganges! What a pity that I didn’t snap any photos of it.
After spending a couple of hours, we were chauffeured to the airport for our flight back. As I turned to say goodbye to my host Rudhra and his driver Sumon, I vowed that I will surely return for another visit of this only Hindu Kingdom (now Republic) in the world. My wife would love this place.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

54 long years...!

(Granddaughter is similar attire)

In retrospect, it has been a long and arduous journey this life, and I’ve just reached the 54th milestone today. There were more downs than ups so to speak but the joy in the ups sort of overshadowed the regrets in the downs. But it had been indeed a long, long journey. No one told me it would be this long……..though I hadn’t expected a bed of roses either. But nevertheless when I look back, I can’t help but wonder how I succeeded in managing it all along.
The happy moments I cherish and rejoice at the joy and fun that accompanied each of those moments. The friends I kept, many of whom are still with me….and time passed.
The not-so-good memories and the sadness and sorrow that I suffered with no one to care or console….and you realize you have to go it alone……but time still passed to heal those wounds though some scars do remain that don’t hurt as much anymore.
Priorities changed when situations changed. Things considered important then are not so anymore. And I still wonder why or how it is so. They tell you that you are wiser for the experience but continue in the very next breath that wisdom is relative. So I can’t tell what is real and what is not anymore.
I do not crave for a long life like some people do. I just want to be around during my healthy years to be able to enjoy it all in the company of those I love dearly who mean everything to me at this point in life. In that context, my family beats them all.
My darling Kalavitha takes the icing providing me with the much needed joy to go on for now, giving me new reasons to continue looking forward to each new day.
Its one more year to retirement………….and the counting starts now!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Good Bye Mum!

From left to right : Standing around Mum are daughter Priyanka, wife Prema, sister Susi, daughter Praveena carrying my grand-daughter Kalavitha)

I still remember when Mum was first diagnosed with having diabetes. It was in the year 1969 and I was about 12 then; being 12 didn’t afford me much information of what the disease was all about. I used to see Dad checking out her sugar level every other day with litmus paper dipped in Benedict’s solution (I think). But she took it all in good stead and survived intact for another 42 years. Of course, along the way about 18 years ago, she suffered her first stroke that left her partially paralyzed.
Ever since then, she had been dependant on Dad who would religiously attend to her every need. It would have been difficult for both of them especially since they were both past their prime. But somehow, they managed…….
Then when Dad passed away 1 ½ years ago, I suppose my Mum lost her will to go through life. She must have felt extremely lonely as she was living with my sister in Kulim while the rest of us were all scattered all around the country. She has become so frail that we didn’t even disclose to her of my brother’s death early this year, afraid that it might worsen her condition.
Two weeks ago, I visited her when she was admitted to the BM Hospital for some complications. The deadly disease had taken its toll. It was heart wrenching to realize that she had suffered total memory loss and could only stare blankly at me when I spoke to her at her bedside. I knew then that the worst was in store.
So as all good things must end someday, she breathed her last on the morning of Thursday 12th May 2011 at the ripe old age of 80.
Good bye Mum! May your soul rest in peace!

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Cutie-pie

My cutie-pie is 2 ½ now and dominates our lives in more ways than one, entertaining us with her antics, giving us new hope and joy in our twilight years.
Life has suddenly become worth living.....again!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Heaven & Hell

I reproduce below an excellent piece from one named Shanker that appeared in The Malaysian Insider that I found both amusing and thought provoking. Enjoy it.
Parable of the man who chose hell – by Shanker March 16, 2011
MARCH 16 – Once upon a time, a man died and was met at the Pearly Gates by an angel. The angel then explained that the man had arrived on a day of special offers: today, he gets to choose whether he wishes to spend eternity in heaven or hell.
“We’re going to let you have a day in hell and a day in heaven and then you can choose whichever one you want to spend eternity in.” The man then replied, “Why not? Ok, I’ll take the offer.”
And with that the angel put the man in an elevator and it went down straight to hell. The doors opened and the man found himself stepping out onto the putting green of a beautiful golf course.
In the distance was a country club and standing in front of him were all his friends – they were all dressed in splendid evening attire and cheering for him.
They ran up to him and they talked about old times. They played an excellent round of golf and at night went to the country club where they enjoyed an excellent steak and lobster dinner.
He also met the devil who was, surprisingly, a really nice guy and he had a great time telling jokes and dancing.
The man was extremely excited! He was having such a good time that before he knew it, it was time to leave. Everybody shook his hand and waved goodbye as he got on the elevator. It went up and opened back up at the Pearly Gates and he found the first angel waiting for him.
“Now it’s time to spend a day in heaven.” So the man spent the next 24 hours lounging around on clouds and playing the harp and singing. He had a great time and before he knew it, his 24 hours were up. The first angel came up to him.
“So, you’ve spent a day in hell and you’ve spent a day in heaven. Now you must choose your eternity.” The man paused for a second and then replied, “Well, I never thought I’d say this, I mean, heaven has been really great and all, but I think I had a better time in hell.”
So the angel escorted him to the elevator and the man went down back to hell. When the doors of the elevator opened, he found himself standing in a desolate and dark wasteland covered in garbage and filth. He saw his friends were dressed in rags and screaming in pain. There were hot flames all around and it felt slimy and the smell was awful.
The devil then came up to him and put his arm around him. “Wait a minute! I don’t understand,” stammered the man. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a country club and we ate lobster and we danced and had a great time. Now what I see instead is a dark wasteland and all my friends are in misery.”
The Devil looked at him and smiled, and then he explained: “That’s because yesterday, you met our marketing team.”
Moral of the story?
Well, I heard that the detained Bibles have been ordered for release.
Hmmm. Makes you wanna go “whoopee” and kiss a 1Malaysia logo.
Or the hand of the DPM.
So, now you can’t wait to rush in and deliver your votes to BN, right? (I can almost hear the SUPP President go, “phew!”)
But then again, for the past 30 over years, we have been hearing the BN marketing team give their pitch to us… No …?
They promised us “Bersih, Cekap Dan Amanah”; but what we get instead is a languid civil service mired in corruption and wastage.
They promised us “Bangsa Malaysia”; but what we get instead is Perkasa.
They inspired us to “work with me”; but what we got instead was someone who slept on the job.
They promised us an efficient system from privatization endeavors; but what we get instead are traffic jams, and a mess of a public transport system. Not to mention that our utility and toll bills keep going up.
They promised us that the new MACC will be modeled after the reputable ICAC of Hong Kong; but what we get instead is a dead body, an unsolved “mystery” involving the death of a fine young man, and an agency that attracts more ridicule than its predecessor.
They promised us that they would get to the bottom of the VK Lingam “correct, correct, correct” saga and take action if there is sufficient evidence; but what we get instead is a file which is rubber stamped, “No Further Action”.
So my dear friends, you decide whether you still want to buy what Barisan sells.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Farewell Ashok!

And so it was that in mid December 2010, my brother Ashok had a stroke while at home. He had called me to say that his hands were numb and I had asked him to rush to the hospital which he did. He was quickly attended to at the hospital in SP where he remained for the next 2 days until his discharge.
Back at home he was quietly recovering…or so I was told. Little did I realize that he had not cut down on his favourite food and continued reaching out for high cholesterol stuff….. he especially loved nasi kandar and they serve good nasi kandar at SP.
He had often asked to see me and I assured him that I will be coming over during CNY in early February to spend a few days with him. But it was never meant to happen…..
On 25th February 2011 I decided to rush down when his daughter called the night before to say that he had taken ill again. Just as I was passing Tapah, I received word that he had breathed his last! I had least expected it so it came as a shock to me. My sister from Klang, my wife and daughter Priyanka were also with me when the call came through!
Endured the rest of the journey before finally reaching his house at about 7.00pm by which time they had brought back his body from the hospital. It was sad to see his family grieving beside the coffin. A feeling of guilt and sorrow seized me when I approached him to pay my last respects. Had I only known that the end was so near, I would have made the trip much earlier. Afterall, 58 is too young an age to go. But it was so sudden that none of us had expected.
The funeral was held the next day on 26-2-11 and was attended by the rest of my remaining siblings as well as a host of other relatives. We have not disclosed anything to my mum who is old and frail, for fear that the news might have a tragic effect on her. She still does not know that my brother has left us all. With his demise, I remain as the only surviving son having lost my eldest brother much earlier. I have of course three sisters who are hale and hearty!
Till we meet again wherever you are, may your soul rest in peace Ashok!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

BM High School Reunion Dinner 2011

(From L to R : Teck Aun, Boon Kheng,Kalai, his wife, Zuriah, Imbaraj, Radzi, Aravind & Jalil)

I had never attended any reunion dinners of my alma-mater, the famous BM High School. I know that the BMHS Alumni Club has been having this annual do at some posh hotel in KL ever since I left school in 1973 but it never interested me previously although on some occasions, the guest of honour had been ex-PM Abdullah Badawi (an old boy himself). I remember my classmate Jalil inviting me about 6 or 7 years ago to attend one when it was held at Sunway but I turned it down politely although I knew my other classmate Farid (the ‘F’ from JACHFRINS fame and now demised) would also be attending and I had not met him in a long time. Somehow the idea of celebrating a school function away from the school didn’t quite appeal to me.
So when Jalil called to inform me that this year’s function was being held at the school grounds in BM itself for the very first time. I was elated! I quickly spread the word around my other classmates whom I was in touch with and managed to gather the numbers for a table of 10. Nazir declined the invitation saying he had some other engagement on the same day. I called up Boon Kheng (who was in China at the time) who quickly reserved 2 seats, the other for Teck Aun. Imbaraj wanted in but Seck Hock, a successful lawyer in KL turned down for some reason. Imbaraj managed to contact Radzi who also agreed to join in.
So on the day of the function, off we went, all excited about being able to meet some old friends and teachers who we had not met since we left school 38 years ago. Imbaraj picked me up at about 10 in the morning from the Rawang Rest Area that I can actually access via a back route from my house in Rawang without having to hit the highway. I packed enough beers in my bag for the 3 hours or so journey. Once we passed Tapah, we started on the beers that had been chilled in a cooler bag that Imbaraj had brought along. We recalled so many incidents from the past as we took a slow drive, finally reaching BM at about 2 in the afternoon. After checking into Summit Hotel, we decided to go for a walkabout around town to get a feel of the place that we had traversed in during our younger days. Most of the shops were still around but some new buildings have sprung up. And the roads have been made one-way to ease the congestion. Found a nice cozy corner in an old chinaman stall and continued having a couple of beers more before we advanced to Ali Nasi Kandar nearby that had been in existence since our school days and which Imbaraj vouches to sell THE best Nasi Kandar in the country! After a sumptuous meal of chicken, with a dash of karuvadu curry and sotong, we retired to our room for a much needed short nap. We couldn’t have slept for more than an hour when Boon Kheng called to inquire our whereabouts. It was about 5 then and he wanted us to join him for some beers nearby. We quickly washed up and went to meet up with him. I had been in touch with him often especially during my Kulim days since he too lived there but Imbaraj was meeting him after 38 years. We had some more beers with him and Teck Aun over much fun and laughter before finally adjourning to the school for the reunion. Met up with Jalil at the school hall where he was having some light snack with his wife Zuriah (an ex-student herself from High School). Abdullah Badawi came with Jeanne a while later as the band started to belt out some old numbers. Interestingly the band was made up of school teachers from nearby schools.
We reminisced of our bygone days as we walked through the school corridor, stopping by at the very classroom that we studied in, taking a snap inside it at the very spot where we had been seated. Nothing much had changed except that the chairs that were either made of metal or wooden then had been replaced with plastic ones now.
We looked out hoping to be able to meet up with some of our old teachers but were disappointed when none of them had turned up. They must have retired obviously but efforts must have been made to invite them for the function which naturally isn’t complete without them around. I have since pointed this out to the organizer who promised to address the issue in the next event that will be held on 20-1-2012 (as Abdullah Badawi had insisted in his speech that all future reunions must be held at the school grounds).
When it was close to about 11, we decided to leave as Boon Kheng had invited us to Kulim Club where we went on to continue with our session until the wee hours of the morning. Returning to the hotel at about 3, we slept through the morning, waking up in time for lunch at Ali’s again before embarking on the arduous journey back home.
Thank you guys…….for the wonderful memories.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The 4 from JACHFRINS

Sometime in early January this year, Imbaraj called me up and said that Mokhtiar Singh was down from Australia where he calls home these days. The last I met him was about 4 or 5 years ago when we had met up to visit an ailing Farid in Damansara Specialist (but that is another story and will be told another day). So this time around, we planned to meet up for dinner on 7th Jan. at Hokkaido Restaurant near Vistana Hotel. Jalil had recommended the place for its good food.
So on the day that we planned, Imbaraj and I met up at KTM Club in Brickfields where we were to wait for Singh to arrive. We had some drinks while waiting catching up on old stories. Jalil was to head straight to the restaurant as being muslim, he was naturally a teetotaler. After Singh arrived, we shot off in Imbaraj’s car. Not realizing that roads in Brickfields have been made one-way streets, we got caught up in a traffic snarl and had to make Jalil wait a while.
The food in Hokkaido was good. But the company of the 4 of us chatting away was even better. It was a wonderful session. We caught up on all the happenings since we last met… least the events that we could remember. It is heartening to note that the 4 of us from our secondary school JACHFRINS group fame are still in touch after 38 long years!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Evening In Dinty's

Seated from L to R: Meena, Thilaga, Agnes and Shyla (office staff)enjoying the songs after their lunch.

Rajini impersonator from India (perfect match if not for his size).

One day in the year 2002, I decided to organize a lunch function for my office staff who until then never had the pleasure of attending one as the Company didn’t believe in having annual dinners. Annual dinners create an avenue not only to be able to show our appreciation to the employees for a job well done, it also provides a platform for them to mix and mingle with the management staff in an informal backdrop. It is envisaged that such interaction will help foster relationship and comradeship. It helps build a positive work environment that would in turn improve productivity levels in the long run. This is something that most large conglomerates practice. But not this Company that I work in. My numerous attempts to enlighten them on the intangible rewards of having this kind of functions fell into deaf ears. It was then that I thought I will organize a small do for at least the office staff.
I used to patronize the Dinty’s Pub in Brickfields then that only opens at 6.00 in the evening. As the Manager was a good friend of mine, I proposed the idea of having a lunch function on one of the Saturdays. She was receptive to the idea and allowed me exclusive usage of the premises from 1.00pm onwards to 6.00pm. Food was catered from a nearby restaurant and beer was free flowing for the guys who paid RM50.00 each while the ladies paid just RM15.00. There was also a band in attendance to entertain us during the 3 hours or so of merry-making. To add to the festivity, the Pub owner had also negotiated with some impersonators from India to do a Rajini, Kamal & Chandrababu acts. We had some staffs rendering a number or two while I was the MC for the evening and also sang a couple of songs. Towards the tail end of the show, the crowd became so immersed and ecstatic that they took to the floor. It was revelry at its finest!
On the whole, it turned out to be a grand success with each staff thanking me for a really enjoyable evening. It was a fantastic event, well received by all of them.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cheng & I

It was the year 1973 and I was doing my Form 5. My Dad had arranged for me to take tuition for Mathematics as I was kind of weak in the subject. For a while, I was attending and all was ok. Then I got bored and on certain days, I played truant.

It was during one of those days when I had skipped tuition that I met Cheng at the Butterworth beach at about 7.30 in the evening. This was the beginning of my smoking days and I had gone by the beach area where it was dark and lonely with only courting couples in their cars for company. Cheng was there too. His father runs a sundry shop near my house and I had seen him quite often whenever I went over to buy something but we never got to strike a conversation as he was always busy in the shop. So when I met him tonight, he greeted me as I formally introduced myself. He was doing his Form 5 too but in Penang Island while I was on the mainland. I got to know him a fair bit more but what sealed the relationship was when I noticed that he smoked too. That made 2 of us. While I was just learning the ropes, so to speak, I noticed that he was seasoned. From then on, we met up often and went on to become close buddies. Every time he had some errands to run, he would always pick me up as my house was situated in his “drive path”. In fact during my sister’s wedding that year, he volunteered to drive and came with his family car and spent the entire time with us. The difference in ethnicity didn’t divide us. Far from it, in fact it was not a factor at all in the 70s. Together we joined the Bahai centre and used to attend prayer sessions. And those days, I would always claim that I was a Christian. I don’t know why but I never said that I was a Hindu. It was probably because I had so many Christian friends then…Raymond…. Andrew….. Victor ….. Ruban…..and many more. In fact, I had a Christian name too. I used to call myself John. That was until my sister pointed out one day that we had had a dog named ‘John’ in the house when I was a kid. Then I dropped it and changed my name to Steven for a while.

In this Bahai group, we would sometimes visit fellow Bahais in neighbouring towns. I remember those days when I mentioned that I was a Christian to anyone, their first reaction would be “ Ohhh…….so which church do you go to? And my standard answer had always been “There’s one near my school”. It was only much later that I learnt that the answer should have been either “Roman Catholic” or “Protestant” or one of those! Until today when I think of it, I feel stupid! Wonder what would have run through their minds!

Cheng featured prominently in my life then. He loved Hindi movies and Hindi songs. There had been many occasions when we went for movies together. In fact, I went for Bombay to Goa, my first Amitabh movie with him. His performance was impressive to say the least. Throughout the movie I was wondering who this new hero was as until then it had been Rajesh Khanna who was creating the waves. We now know how all that changed after Amitabh entered the movie scene.

Once he showed me a book titled ‘Hindi in 30 days’ that he was reading. I’m not sure if he made any gains by reading it but later in life after I had started working in KL, he went to Rajasthan in India to pursue a course in Agriculture.

I last met him in 1985 when he returned to Butterworth for a short break. He was working as a Planter in some plantation in Sabah then. We spent quite some time together to the extent that once when I went to visit him, I heard his mum telling him in Hokkien not to follow me out if I asked him to, while in the next breath, greeting me in Malay. I marveled at the level of hypocrisy that some people have but in retrospect, it was perhaps the family had wanted to spend more time with him and I happen to be depriving them of it. It was during this time that technology gradually advanced many fold……unnoticed (to me at least)! I realized one day a few months ago that the world has actually shrunk and distance was not a barrier anymore in communication. With that in mind, my wife and I made a trip to the old sundry shop in Butterworth where Cheng’s parents lived with the hope that I can revive the channels of communications with him. I was pleasantly surprised when his brother, mum and his dad could still recognize me as they welcomed me by my home name (Ravi). They were extremely delighted to see me. After a short tete-a-tete, I got Cheng’s phone number in Sabah and left, assuring them that I will drop in again.

I spoke to Cheng last night and he was indeed surprised to hear my voice. We spoke a lot of our present as well as our old times. I realize that a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since we last met but it is never too late to revive the relationship. He had been a part of my life at a certain point in time and it had been impactful. I could very nearly “sniff” his love and sincerity when he started enquiring of my family. He has promised to visit his parents during the next Chinese New Year. I am looking forward to catching up with this dear friend of mine whom I have not seen for 24 years!

(the above was written a month back to the present!)

And so it was on the 2nd day of CNY that I took a slow drive to his house in the kampong in Butterworth to meet up with him. I had learnt from his wife that morning that Cheng was indeed back home. He was pleasantly surprised to meet me and my wife. We spoke at length of events past and present. A strange sense of nostalgia crept by as we recalled some friends but had difficulty putting a face to those names. Time had taken a toll on our memory. He hadn’t changed a bit….being his usual congenial self and ever so courteous, factors that had played a crucial part in bringing us close during those early years. His parents were also pleased to see me and were in fact surprised that I had taken the trouble to keep in touch.

He said that he had turned down a promotion as it meant that he was to have been transferred to the interiors of Sabah. He has thus retired from the estates and was now running a food-stall in Sandakan where he has made base. His 3 bright kids are all government sponsored and 2 of them are pursuing medicine. His anxiety showed through when he spoke of Egypt where one of his daughters were and was due to be evacuated anytime even as we spoke. This time around, he had come alone, leaving his wife and kids back in Sabah but he assured however that we will meet again the next time when he comes sometime in June this year with his whole family.