Thursday, October 26, 2006

dated 25th oct: Of Visiting Relatives and Gathering

it's a custom for us to visit our relatives at kampung. a visit to my late father's village in setiu is a must. we convoyed to setiu in 3 cars, and went to 3 houses, which we always visit every year. wat i like about visiting the relatives is we're bonding with them, and at the same time making sure that the next generation know their roots. kak sham was explaining to me about a relative that we visited yesterday and i was lost halfway through her explanation because it's too complicated. yes, difficult to comprehend abt who's who when you even have trouble remembering all your 33 nephews and nieces. on the way back, we stopped to eat deepfried fresh fish and squid, which all my siblings look forward to when they return to KT.

and we had our annual cousins gathering, with me as the only aunty. this has become a neo-tradition in our family, started in the year 1998 when we first raya here after a few years rayaing in KL. as usual, it's a boisterous affair, and it was fun bonding with everybody.

tomorrow they'll be going back. *sigh* party's over.

entry dated 24th oct: eid mubarrak

we celebrated raya with joy, as laughter could be heard everywhere . there were voices, and voices and more voices. early in the morning, we served our raya dishes and then went off to take shower and wore our brand new baju raya, and the women were bedecked with all the bling bling while the menfolk went to pray in their baju melayu and sampin songket. the aunties and the uncles gave out ang pows (including yours truly), and at the same time we salamed and asked for forgiveness. and then, after more serious eating of nasi dagang, nasi tomato, ketupat nasi and kuah kacang and lemang and rendang; we took family pics and this took quite some time, if you notice the number of pics i took in the photo album. only after the family pic session did we start to visit our relatives. by the time we returned home, we were already like ular sawa, well-fed and sleepy. ayi wasnt around this time to check our blood pressure. he did that when we rayaed in KL a few years ago.

my eldest sister arrived this afternoon, so the family is almost complete, with the exception to my late eldest bro's family, who are celebrating raya at their maternal grandparents house. in the evening, we visited my late father's grave. couldnt help it, but tears just rolled down my face.

anyway, we plan to visit our other relatives tomorrow in wat we've dubbed as "jejak kasih". in this, i respect my brother abg zaki because he goes at great lengths to find long lost relatives and to trace our roots.

selamat hari raya everyone. maaf zahir batin

entry dtaed 23rd oct: Family Affair

i was having a peaceful time in the morning when suddenly there were incessant knocks on my door. it happened to be my eldest nephew, who arrived at 8.30 after leaving KL at 3am. then, i waited impatiently for my fav bro to arrive, because i was supposed to bring my sis in law and the womenfolk jewellery lady to see bling bling. my bro was the only man there, and while we were dazzled by the diamonds, he sat behind, and later received a call from my other pilot bro who jokingly wished him good luck. after spending nearly 2 hours there, my bro had to part with his cash as my sis in law got her bling bling.

we came back, and it was a busy time as the rest were busy preparing nasi tomato for dinner and intan was teaching me how to prepare puff pastry and later made the scrumptious mille feuille, of puff with a filling of pastry cream and strawberry jam. cant understand how a chef can be so energetic. i was already zonked out after an hour.

by 6.30, we were all crowding the buffet table and took our nasi tomato and drinks, and began to find places. there were 20 adults and 10 children, and we were scattered - from the dining table to the living room to the hall, and also outside the house near the porch. the main thing was to wait for the cannon shot. and so it was heard, for the last time today, with the accompaniment of everybody's joyous shouts. of course, my work and intan's work hadnt finished. the mille feuille never quite made it to the plate, as everybody came to sample them as soon as we filled in the jam and the cream. and then i realised, how a work of art (it is a work of art, considering the laborious work involved of folding the pastry and putting pastry margarine and rolling it and resting it in the fridge for 20 mins for 4 times) can just vanish in a split second.

the boys were having a fun time with the fireworks... competing with the neighbours actually. i think they scared fluffy off, who was gallivanting.

tomorrow is raya. more food to eat *groan*

selamat hari raya maaf zahir batin

entry dated 22nd oct:Countdown to Raya

every year, the little town of KT is transformed into a mini KL -because there's massive traffic jam everywhere. why? the out of towners are back. of course that creates a lot of problems, because this is the time when people do their last minute shopping. we had to resort to KL style of driving i.e. to be kiasu drivers and i was one of them today (look what 2 years stint in KL did to my driving).

anyway, today, the agenda was to shop for shoes, which gina, asha and i did today, and when we got to park the car it was like a victory because the day before we were minutes late and there wasnt any available parking space to be seen. then i fetched intan because, now that we have a pastry chef in the family, it's only fair that we have an elegant and sophisticated centrepiece for the dining table on raya day : a mille fouille, an oreo cheesecake and a tiramisu. i was the one who's so excited because i got to make puff pastry myself (from scratch, not the frozen one sold in supermarkets). we had an assortment of food for berbuka - laksa terengganu kuah putih and mee hoon soup. seating arrangement is free, so everyone can sit and eat wherever they like. my regular space is in front of the tv. along with kak sham, gina and asha... mother's sitting at the table with her sons and apit who entertains her.

we're waiting for my fav bro, the other pilot, who's due to arrive at any moment now, and tomorrow all the womenfolk will visit the jewellery lady and stare at bling bling which will make the hubbies sigh and worry.

entry dated 21st oct:Malay Classical Prose with a Twist

arakian tersebutlah alkisah sebuah istana yang tersergam di negeri teratak iman yang didiami oleh seorang maharani Zainon dan seorang puteri bernama Galoh Cendera Nora Kirana. ada pun puteri ini mempunyai 6 kekanda yang menetap di ibu kota. kerna hari lebaran makin tiba, maka kekanda-kekanda tersebut pulang untuk bersama dengan maharani serta adinda mereka. maka giranglah hati maharani itu akan kepulangan anakanda-anakanda tercinta. akan tetapi, istana mereka tidak cukup untuk menampung mereka semua, maka kekanda-kekanda terpaksa mendiami di istana yang lebih besar yang dinamakan hotel. ketika berbuka puasa, suasana di istana amat gamat sekali, dengan tawa hilai sambil menjamah hidangan. di malam hari pula, pelita dipasang menghiasi taman istana bak berlian bergemerlapan di malam hari oleh anak saudara puteri tersebut.

maka gamat lah istana tersebut sehingga hari lebaran. dan bergumbiralah para puteri serta putera yang pulang beraya.

note: at least i still remember the malay classical prose i studied for SPM. had a lot of influence from Hikayat Panji Semirang, which i read when i was 12.

entry dated 20th oct:When Roosters Come Back to Roost

it is that time of the year when my house is officially crowded with people. when there is not one car, but 4 cars in the driveway, and by raya it will grow to 9 cars. travelling anywhere will be difficult then, especially when your car happens to be in the garage and 8 other cars are blocking.

it's also the time when the dining table has become the buffet table and everyone sits everywhere...but usually the older ones will sit at the table. and of course, my mother the matriarch of the family, rules the table.

it all started with the arrival of my nephew ayi and his wife rafi, whom i havent seen for a few months. despite their hectic schedule, they look well and healthy. then i was told that abg zaki was coming home yesterday. called him, and sure enough, right after his flight, he decided to return and was driving the way he always does because he wanted to beat the jam. my mother was already grumbling saying there wouldnt be enough food to feed a lot of people, since we're expecting kak sham's entourage for sahur. they arrived at 4.30, and it was a noisy affair at such an ungodly hour. i could tell my mother was happy though, happy to see her children at home. because kak sham couldnt "check in" to the vacant room yet, gina and asha slept in my room. the rest were sprawling outside at the living room. today, kak dah will be arriving in the afternoon, bringing with her a lot of kerepek and a lot of other goodies and probably we'll start sewing the beads on the baju raya together.

it'll be a blast!

p.s. to syazwani, wish that u're here. tuk made kerutup daging last night. intan's here too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The French Connection

i used to take french when i was in 1st year degree. at that time tesl students were required to learn a foreign language, and i decided to take up french. there were 24 of us. our lecturer was from itm main campus, she holds a masters degree in french literature.

anyway, french was fun, we had french names and mine was natasha (ok, it's not so french, but i didnt choose the name) and because we got to learn many interesting sounding words and to actually articulate it. our first words were "non" and "oui" and later we grew cheeky and started asking people "voulez vous couchez avec moi, ce soir?" long before mya, christina, pink and lil kim made it popular. we would ask the meaning of certain obscene words and the lecturer would look at us disapprovingly and said "that's not a good word". the classes were in the afternoon, and sometimes some of us decided to make a disappearing act. and our lecturer would ask "ou est natalie?" and because we didnt know much french, we just answered "elle est malade" (she's sick...when she's not!). but miraculously, during tests, it was a full house and we would sit so close together so that we could see our neighbours answers. and dear miss pillay would ask "why are you sitting so close to each other?" to which i replied "because we're good frens so we've to sit close together". we had to listen to french conversation on tapes and also french songs and i remember our fren duckie would come to me with a bored look on her face and say "please, nora i know u've some cassettes with you. lend me some" (it's well known at that time that i always carried R&B cassettes).

the part that we liked best was watching french movies. of course, we couldnt make out what they were saying, but there were subtitles. it was then that i watched the most romantic movie - of all time.

the title of the movie is Cyrano de Bergerac, starring the french legend gerard depardieu as cyrano himself. it's a movie set in the 17th century when musketeers were a legend. cyrano was a poet, an articulate speaker who always angered politicians and the rich with his quick tongue and was also the captain of the musketeers.he's in love with his beautiful cousin, roxanne, unfortunately, roxanne didnt notice his feelings for her - probably because he had a big portruding nose. then 1 day roxanne met a handsome man named christian, who was everything that a woman wanted, except that he was very inarticulate. christian, knowing that cyrano was her cousin, coaxed cyrano to write love letters to her. and so, the heartache began. cyrano loved roxanne but couldnt tell her. he wrote to her love letters under the instruction of christian, and the latter pretended that the letter was from him, but really, the words were cyrano's, and it was his declaration of love to his cousin. there was a romantic scene when cyrano stood under her window and declared his love for her (and yet the idiot thought it was christian). the 2 got married, and cyrano was broken hearted. at that time france was at war with a certain country (probably england) and roxanne made cyrano promise not to let christian out of his sight since christian was serving under cyrano's company of musketeers. during the war, cyrano missed roxanne and kept writing to her eventhough christian never told him to do so. and christian knew back then, that his wife wasnt in love with him, but was in love with the actual writer of the letter. so the poor man just let himself be killed by the enemy. for 14 years, roxanne mourned for his death, still keeping the last letter (which was found incidentally in christian's pocket). every saturday, cyrano would visit his beloved cousin at the monastery, always at 4pm. until that 1 particular day, when a certain politician decided to get rid of cyrano and dropped bricks frm above a building. they hit cyrano and he was bleeding. still, he kept on walking saying that roxanne would be mad if he was late. he arrived, and they had a conversation...roxanne didnt notice he was dying. then roxanne asked cyrano to read the then yellowed letter, the last letter. and when he started reading it, roxanne then thought "the voice...where have i heard it before?". she finally realised that it was cyrano who declared his love to her that night, and it was cyrano who wrote the letters. and wat was even tragic was that cyrano died in her lap.

yes, i cried buckets. it was really a good movie, and it caught the essence of love and sacrifice very well. so wat did i learn in french class? love.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Dream Place

Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sounds!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day,
Feel the gladness of the May!
(Ode:Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early
Childhood by William Wordsworth)

Come, I’ll take you to a place
Where love sings melodiously,
And smiles dance in the sun
While laughter decorates the trees, the clouds, the lake.

The steps are lighter,
The heart sings that happy tune
You and me,
Come, I’ll take you to a place.

Where sadness has no meaning.
But only epicurean delights
To be savoured.
Come, I’ll take you to a place.

Come, I’ll take you to a place
Where hopes live strong to become reality,
And faith is solid as the tree roots
And love as steadfast as a rock.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

When Raya Beckons

A long, long time ago, perhaps 20 years ago, when my siblings returned from KL for raya, everybody stayed under one roof. so there were families sleeping in the hall, at the living room....everywhere that they could find space. their children were still small then, so it didnt matter.

in the 90s, we spent raya in KL, and it was ok because we spent the 1st day alone visiting all the siblings' houses. i remember my filipino sis inlaw forgot to tell her mother not to eat a lot at each house, so her mother was really se'eh by the time we went to the 3rd house. but then, spending raya in KL wasnt that nice. it just wasnt right, somehow.

in 1998, after i was posted to KT, the whole family came back in high spirits, all 7 families, since this was was the 1st raya in KT after a few years in KL. but there was 1 teeny weeny problem - no space to accomodate all 7 families, since the children were either around my age or younger. so the most sensible thing to do was to stay in a hotel. i think that raya was the most fun raya, as all gathered here and was excited to go and visit all the relatives in kampung that we hadnt seen in years.

in the subsequent years, when my brother the director was transferred to KL, there was 1 vacant room, and this became the most sought after room every raya. however, my brother always returned early and claimed the room. last year, when my nephew Ayi was working in the hospital here, my sister and the family could stay in the room, as Ayi said it "i'm booking the room for my family" while the rest sighed and stayed in hotels. this year, hopefully, the room is reserved for them as i told my brother jokingly that he should make way for my sister, after all, he's a VIP now and can stay in hotels. the rest of the siblings already made bookings, and 2 days ago, my eldest nephew called to say he's planning to raya here and could i please book a room for him? *sigh*. my favourite brother called and called to tell me to order nasi dagang from our cousin who sells nasi dagang at Batu Buruk. and could i please go and buy keropok for him? and can i bring my sis in law to the jewellery shop before raya? *sigh again*.

yes, this happens only once a year. but it doesnt matter, because it's raya.

in raya mood now. can hear saloma's song in my head.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Fraternity of Literature Scholars

when i first enrolled to do my postgrad in 2001, i didnt know wat i got myself into. i understood that i took the road less travelled by, as Frost writes it, but i never knew the impact it was to have on my life.

unlike the other majors which attract a lot of students such as medicine, education, business admin, economics, law and computer science; english literature attracts only a small group of people probably because only bookworms can stand reading 4 novels a week, and those who are poets and writers at heart can understand the aesthetic values of the literary texts.

in the 1st semester, i met Kak Non and Kak Fazi, who, like me, received scholarship, but theirs was from BPG and mine was under federal scholarship. we bonded immediately, and had dinners and lunches together in bangsar with another coursemate, Jayasree, also a teacher who had to dash here and there as she's in a sports school. there was Elison, a very witty lawyer, (but then again, which lawyer isnt witty? i know a lot of lawyers...they always have something to say about something) who thought that literature would be a breeze, just like the paper she sat for STPM. hmm...she would always arrive late for our Friday afternoon classes, in her lawyer ensemble of black and white, and Assoc. Prof Dr Su would frown at her and remind her to not be tardy again. it was also Elison who was barred from entering the library for 2 weeks because she was caught talking to her client on the phone in the library *grin*. then there was the fresh Literature graduates - david, christine, emily and puphinder. the first few months were hard since we didnt understand wat the lecturers wanted, but they were the ones who eased the tension in the class. they were the ones in charge of photocopying handouts or novels or literary criticisms. then there was Kasi, a quiet man from Sg Petani. a thinker, but doesnt say much. and Tik Shaiza who like Jayasree, had to dash from her school to class and was always tired.

it was harder for us, because this was not a lecture style class. this was a seminar style class and each of us was responsible in covering a certain writer or, for literary theory, a certain theory or theorist or philosopher. and wat i meant by covering a certain writer was that we had to read at least 2 novels of that writer (for the paper presenter) and to discuss an issue, say, the impact of colonialism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness or the feminist perspective in Margaret Atwood's novels. the lecturer would be throwing questions, and then we would discuss. i remember that we were once told to stay put during our 20th century literature because we didnt finish reading Virginina Woolf. we would come early to class and sat down to finish reading th novels. nearby, the M.Ed. students were noisily discussing their assignment. we were quiet. those were the days.

the class that i enjoyed the most was The Rennaissance, simply because the one who taught it was Prof Lim, the most noted Literature lecturer in Malaysia. we would gawk at him when he started reciting Shakespeare or Donne or Milton out of nowhere in that deep resonant voice of his. he was later my internal examiner for the grading of my dissertation. the subject which was really mindboggling was Literary Theory, because we had to read up a lot of theories and who said wat that it was all a blur. the only theorists i can remember now is Genette (who wrote abt narratology), Barthes (the death of the author), Foucault (i hope to god he's the one who wrote abt deconstruction and abt knowledge being the power), Freud (yes, the perverted man who thinks everything is governed by desire, and that baby girls have sexual desire for the father and baby boys have sexual desire for the mother), Lacan (who wrote abt our alter ego), the feminists Simone de Beauvoir, Helene Cixous and postcolonial theorists such as Stuart Hall and Homi Bhabha. yes it was mindboggling...not to say the least, and the only one who excelled in this (in fact, excelled in every class) is my fren Nash. we told him not to ask us questions if we're presenting...and if it's not our turn, we told him to talk a lot so that the lecturer wouldnt ask us questions. nash impressed the lecturers, naturally... we would spend saturday lunches together, talking nothing else but literature. yes, to some of you it's boring, but it's actually mind stimulating. then there was iris madonna de cruz, but who is a muslim actually. a typical motherly type who was there to give me advice but was clueless about computers.

all of us are in this battle together, and wat my supervisor told wasnt nice to hear "not everyone who take this course can graduate". it's true wat she said though, because so many of our frens have given up. but it was during this time, when understanding, patience, perseverance were needed, that we would give our shoulders to cry on to each other. it wasnt easy to write a 7000 word essay for the final exam. it was difficult to write up a dissertation of about 30 000 words and then to meet the high standards that the English Dept has set. there were tears of frustration, and of dejection, of self-esteem going down the drain. Dr Carol was so sweet to enquire abt the progress of my dissertation and to give suggestions. i would say that Kak Non was there for me when i was frustrated. Nash was there to help me with the arguments, and David gave me pointers on the steps i had to take. some had left, like Elison, who is too busy with work that she doesnt have the time to sit n read (except for court cases). now that i've graduated it s my turn to help the others. i had a discussion with shaiza who is starting her dissertation, and sent her a book that i thought might help her. i pestered kak non to complete her edgar allen poe analysis. and nash... i told him to sit down and finish the dissertation..once and for all, instead of flying everywhere around the world presenting papers at lit conferences.
only through struggle do we triumph. going through this course, i realised that i'm a better writer, better thinker, able to present ideas critically and a better speaker. it also helps me to understand life better because literature is, after all, a slice of life. to the fraternity of literature scholars, hang on in there.

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Song of the Sea: Solitude

The sea is calm
The gentle rhythm of the waves
Serenades her
With the song of deep longing
That aches and echoes her heart.

The breeze blows strongly
As if to drown her anguish.
She sinks her feet into the sand
It tries to soothe her pain
With its welcoming embrace.
The palm leaves rustle in the wind
Making light of her subtle tears
Which are frozen in time
By the coldness of the memory.

Despite the outward smile
She bleeds in silence.