14 February 2010

A dream, really a sweet dream

Once in a zillion year while surrendering myself into a very deep slumber, I woke up and had this feeling of deja vu. It was not a similar feeling of helplessness having missed one of the very important exams because I had overslept the previous night over-indulging myself with heavy discussion mainly on rubbish, but a sense of confusion over time and space. This memory keep flashing and coming back lingering in my mind, if not in a clear 35mm picture but broken jigsaw puzzles when putting together will cause me to momentarily believe that life itself is a paradox to its existence.

Recently I had this dream of climbing a hill. In fact many dreams of similar experience but hill was the main backdrop in the storyline. Thus invokes back my memory of my hill experience in Penang last year - Bkt Bendera to be precise.

In my 42 years of existence in this beautiful planet, I am shamelessly admitting that was the first time I put my foot on that historical hill. Even though Penang has always been a stopover whenever I traveled up North, but never it crossed my mind to put this popular tourist spot into my travel itinerary. That was until a compulsory knowledge enrichment programme I enlisted in 'forcing' me to join with other foreign visitors, Oh-I-Seeing around in that Island as part of the agenda.

My first impression - Bkt Bendera is still a pristine natural ecosystem surrounded with lush greenery soothing to the eyes. The cooler temperature combined with the serene surrounding was really a rejuvenating experience. There are lots of awesome adventures for the visitors to embark into. Any effort to preserve this hill from any greedy bureaucrats molesting its natural modesty is most applauded.

From what I saw, Penangites still treasured their past and putting a lot of effort in preserving their history. This is really a shame to my fellow Ganukite, who think the opposite way and seemingly working very hard erasing the past from this earth (a demolition of a row of shop houses close to Pasar Kedai Payang recently is a strong evident). Now Ganukite can only dream to see their past.

I however, still could not figure out why hill was the main subject in my sleeping domain of late. Had I been thinking too much about climbing a higher pinnacle in life recently? Or my mind has subconsciously trying to remind me of something I kept brushing off whenever it appear? I supposed flashes of beautiful beaches with heavenly white sand in a secluded island with the loved one is most welcome. I am still having the dream though. Can we dictate and choreograph what we want for a dream each night? I think the answer will be found only in my dream - that is if my slumber snoring free!

I spotted this beautiful artificial grasshopper or some sort of insect made from coconut leaves on sale along the road on the hill.

There were many stalls that sells local produces and other exotic item along the way to the top of the hill.

From the last train station on the top of the hill, one can see George Town. Surprisingly there are many private residents on the hills, owned by some local tycoons.

This awesome red funicular Swiss train was a trademark to Penang Hill. Climbing the hill on this snail-powered train will take you into a slow 30 minutes journey on a double track. I was told, this attraction will be closed for one year starting February 2010 for a rail upgrading. Probably the local government is thinking of fitting a rocket engine to this train so that it can conquer the moon.

This small mosque on top of the hill sitting in between a Hindu temple and a church. A symbol of harmony and compromise I guess.

Actually the canopy walk was closed for maintenance. In fact the walk was not open for almost a year to the public. A bit of persuasive haggling with the guide though, he finally surrendered and let us explore half part of the hanging walkway as other part was considered not safe.

This gigantic canon poise an ominous threat to any invading ships to the island. The building with a blue roof in the background was a police station.

07 February 2010

Ladang, here I come with songkok

For quite sometime, I was not pretty sure how it all started. Whether it was a voice that descended down from an interstellar space commanding me to do it or was it because I was so deep drowsing in my class somehow got me to fill in the wrong application form for my secondary education endeavor. By some means, after millennium years of heavy indulgence with 'teh O beng' and copious amount of formaldehyde intoxication from eating too much keropok lekor mixed with polluted fish from our neighboring country, I realized later, it was actually my destiny. Well written long-long time ago and the ink had already dried in the luhmanfuz.

That year was 1981 and I remember how shivery cold it was those early mornings. Even it was no snow around but mind you the early dawn of monsoon season with heavy rain pouring down nonstop for days and days had really bitten deep into my bonemarrow and even my nerve too. Having to bath as early as five in the wee morning, from an open well outside the house exposed to the mercy of nature was one hair-raising experience.

Even while my exposed limbs were shivering and my goosebumps raised as tall as mount Kinabalu everytime I painfully struggled to shower with the ice-cold water, I saw from a distant flickering lights dancing in straight line along the paddy field. It was my other colleagues riding their bicycle from as far as Bkt Payong, raced patiently against time to reach our school in Ladang (Ladang is very close to the Ganu town or Kuale, unfortunately I dunno exactly how far to be frank, but it took me almost one hour to get there by bicycle from my kampung). That sight in away managed to inject some strength in me and with a hasty Suboh prayer, a quick and simple breakfast of freshly fried fish and hot sticky rice I jumped onto my bicycle and followed my other comrades of which by that time had already grown in number.

Riding a bicycle that time to the town of Ganukite was still an enjoyable activity and considerably very safe. There was hardly any racing maniac terrorizing the road or any mat rempit flaunting their antic with their underpowered kapcai around. It was heavenly serene. No pollution either except if somebody riding in front of you start to release their natural gas from the rear end. The only rival on the road was pakcik-pakcik beca riding their teksi (the local calls beca = teksi) at snail-pace speed pacing slowly and steadily to their destination.

It was funny though and shocking at the same time for me as I saw some girls registered at that school on the first day. Traditionally SMUSZA was an all boy school. I learned that was the first time the school broke the long tradition and I also later learned the reason was not because some lunatic wanted to start a new revolution for girls' power- but a nearby all girls school (Sekoloh Agama Khairiah) could not accommodate the number anymore and had to delegate some to the nearby neighboring schools. Funny thing was, after three blissful years sitting in the same classroom decoding a foreign language originating somewhere from the Arabian desert, I still could not recall any of their names. My songkok must be the reason why. You don't chat much with girls when you wear your songkok, except when you wanted to borrow their eraser. It's becoming almost like an urban legend.

The most interesting memory however, was during my journey back home. First and for no obvious reason I like our regular pit stop at one of the sugarcane stalls along the road near to Sekoloh TB (TB = Tengku Bariah). The cold and sweet sugarcane drink, probably boosted by ketum extract, during a hot day and sweaty riding trip can really uplifted our spirit. My other comrades like it too. I think we became so addicted to the extend we need have a dose on a daily basis. It was a maelstrom of lunacy after that high sugar consumption and occasionally we became a bunch of hyperactive harebrained who jumped into a nearby river (never told my parent about this) to cool ourselves off before continuing our journey back home.

The vegetation along the road of Pasir Panjang was still like a virgin jungle then and even now I can still see some greenery survived the rapid development. Whenever I passed along those small patches of bushes I couldn't help myself but smiling. Nature's call did not wait until I reach my home and the bushes is the best place to ease myself. My colleagues laughed at me every time this unstoppable urged hit me, but at the same time they felt very uncomfortable as they have to park their bikes suspiciously along the road and guarded me from unwary passerby. In some freak occasions, we fertilized the soil en masse. The local council should thank us for that. At least we saved them some budget in buying fertilizer.

That was one unforgettable experience I keep cherished even it was almost 30 years ago.

I write this story because my younger sister did ask me a question once why I went to Sekolah Arab in the first place. That one I had given the answer already. On the question of why I didn't become an Ustaz or even Ulamak after spending almost 3 + 2 years in religious school/college, that one was answered too.

This group pose reminded me of a popular drama series during the early eighties "The misadventure of Sheriff Lobo". I was the one sitting, just like the sheriff in the drama (hey...what happened to our songkok?). Notice my trusty bicycle on the far left - still shiny and looked brand new.The good thing is, I still keep in touch with some of my comrades in this photos, even way before somebody invented Facebook.

I learned the first time the meaning of inertia - a tendency of body to resist acceleration. Even though in this photo I was way in front of my colleague who was struggling to keep his balance, I bagged second in this competition as that was actually a 'basikal lambat' competition . In the background was the old hostel - now no more standing.Many sweet memories there.

01 February 2010

For a while, a circadian clock got me back on track

I read with interest and utmost fascination on a recent article sent personally through e-mail by my retired mentor. He authored and published that article (and many other beautifully written articles) after retiring from his research domain five years ago. He wrote on a very interesting subject I once indulged long long time ago and almost obliterated from my small but still actively functioning brain hippocampus. The article was on a very peculiar circadian rhythm, a natural biological phenomena that happens in all living kingdom.

I guess several and regular knocks on my head while taking a powerful nap after having a sumptuous calorie-laden brunch really did a marvelous job in erasing many my long term memories. Luckily the knocks didn't wipe out entirely my sweet memories of my heart-thumping relationship with my significant half. That could be explained by a high level testosterone activity that vigorously kick-in once in a while, which I also believed plays an important role in preserving well our intimate ventures.

What impressed me most was that, despite having no more exclusive access to any laboratory to carry out any of his psychic experiments, my mentor is still scientifically productive . He is still keeping his prolific writing prowess alive. This ability I have not seen emerging yet in the current research prodigies. Having not enough problem in brain-drain that plagued our organization, now the new pandemic of dead-brain disease has started to crept in. Even our well-stocked library has become so ghostly eerie. Nobody seems to be interested in doing the reading anymore, what more the writing. Thus scientific endeavor can be pronounced dead.

Motivated solely by that article and my mentor's unrelenting passion (actually more on the prospect of becoming one of the artifacts in a living museum) I started to tickle my dormant brain cells with incoherent questions. My search for answers has brought me back from my long and deep slumber into the uncharted territories I left for quite some times. With that in mind, one beautiful evening I strolled and ventured deep into the rubber forest pondering upon the questions and once again subjected myself to copious amount of mosquito bites. I believed the latter, a form of self mutilation could induce my synapses to become active again.

Rubber tree as many knows is an amazing tree. This one God-send gift that single-handedly transformed our nation from eating lempeng for their breakfast into a nation who can't missed their cappuccino with toasted bread before punching in their working clock. That is how big the impact this tree has made into our bouncy daily life. Nobody realized that I supposed.

So unique, this tree demands to be taken on its own term. This tree has fascinated me since the first time I smell the nice scent during its flowering season after it shed its leaves twice a year. Why this tree, it place of origin (the Amazon basin in Brazil) which shares similar humid weather as ours but behaves like their cousins in the temperate regions still puzzled me and many discerning scientist around the world. Does the tree needs to 'winter' before flowering and later bears the fruits? How does this tree never fail to set their brain to 'winter' twice a year exactly almost at the same period of time? As wintering affected tapping period, productivity thus also affected. This can be 3-4 months a year. These question has been confronting me ever since.

But what puzzled me most during my recent venture into the rubber plantation (actually just at the back of my office) was how ingenious and creative rubber tappers in this current millennium are (look at those photos). These tappers are contract workers whom actually come from our neighboring countries, as many locals don't want to dirty their hands with this sticky and smelly tree sap anymore. These creative exploits however, in the long run will harm the trees. Both the tappers and the trees will succumb economically to their natural death soon. Pity to both of them.

It is so comforting though to simply know that I still have that passion burnt deep inside me. Some kind of blood-lust hungry for answers. At the same time I always remember this saying by Sir Isaac Newton of which many have forgotten - "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulder of giants". Which reminded me of all my mentors.

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