31 January 2011

Stamp Inspiration of Cikgu Tan Pulau Babi

If it was not because of Cikgu Tan Pulau Babi, I might not continue my childhood passion of stamp collecting until now. In a way Cikgu Tan deserves the credit. Cikgu Tan was my mathematic teacher when I was still searching for the purpose of life at SMUSZA, Ladang. I didn't get to know him very well or even to notice his full name. In fact I didn't know where he came from or his place of origin. But what I knew was his usual lepak place called Pulau Babi hence the reason my friends and I called him Cikgu Tan Pulau Babi. In my days and among my small circle of friends, Pulau Babi was normally associated with Muallaf (a convert). The place was a desolated place connected by a dusty road leading toward Hulu Trengganu. At least that was my impression of Pulau Babi.

The subject of pulau in Trengganu is very interesting and until today this subject has never ceased to intrigue me. When one talks or refers to a place named after a pulau in Trengganu we have to be real careful. Unlike the real or true pulau such as the petite Pulau Sekati, or other popular Trengganu archipelago (Redang, Perhentian, Bidong, Tenggol, kapas, Gemia etc.), some of the pulau namely Pulau Kambing, Pulau Rusa, Pulau Kerengga and another pulau that denotes some of the sweetest people in the world i.e Pulau Manis, they don't resemble any floating island that surrounded by water at all. They are all part of Trengganu mainland. Probably these pseudo-pulau share similar fate as Pulau Duyong, which I believed many many Geography years ago was a delta, later connected with the mainland by years of sedimentation.

But lets us not indulge too much about the pseudo-pulau as this entry is meant to bring back my personal account as stamp aficionado.

Actually it was more to do with vengeance. Cikgu Tan was a no hanky-panky type of person. Whenever he came to our classroom, a thick arm-length rattan became his best companion he never left behind. The rattan was just like his twin brother. He was very serious with his job and he didn't tolerate much with people who didn't take him seriously in his classroom. That was what I did that one particular fateful day. In between one of his lessons, while my other colleagues struggling to figure out what was the answer to some of the given mathematical questions, I on the other hand was so busy showing off my first ever stamp collection to my other kaki. It didn't take that long before my first ever stamp album was confiscated by Cikgu Tan and I got one stingy reminder on my face. Weird this may sound, but that particular event was the one that triggered my passion. I think I deserved that fiery-palm reminder on my face too.

Since that day and with full of retribution, I started to gather more stamps and stamp albums. My main source of stamp supply was from Kedai Pok Loh Yunang and Pasaraya Hock Kee Seng (both places are now a history) which became my regular pit-stop before I continued my journey back home after the school hours. But that didn't satisfy my curiosity as most of the stamps were normally imported stamps and didn't feel quite real, not like the one I could peel off from the envelopes. Somehow, those stamps on the envelopes seemed to have their own feeling and very personal.

I then started to join pen-pal club. Those days pen-pal club meant you really have to write on paper (or tissue paper) and sent them in stamped envelope as a mean of communication - no e-mail or face-bug whatsoever. Then there was another joy. Mr Postman came only once in a blue moon to our kampung and whenever I saw this ever smiling Mr Postman came by and delivered bundle of envelopes to my doorsteps I became so excited. This meant more new stamps. I could spend hours, not reading the letter but peeling off the stamps from the envelopes, soaked them in water, dried them off in between pages of a book and waiting patiently for them to dry before passionately arranged them in the albums.

This passion with stamps dragged on and at one time I almost became angau with stamps. It was not the same angau feeling whenever you met your awek of sweetheart but those feeling was really fulfilling. The history of those stamps or the story behind each stamps or who was the last person handled those stamps or to whom and what purposes those stamps were for become more and more fascinating than ever. Perhaps those stamps kept the secret for one of the most beautiful love story ever.

Until today, I don't know what happen to Cikgu Tan Pulau Babi or my first ever confiscated first ever stamp album. That has now become another sweet history of my life and by writing this entry I dedicate my everlasting enthusiasm to Cikgu Tan Pulau Babi...wherever you are.

28 January 2011

A strange concept to consume

One particular hot afternoon, while enjoying my bowl of cendol tapai and almost oblivious to my surrounding by the cendol's blissful charm I hardly paid any attention to a middle-aged man sitting beside me - doing the same sinful deed as me i.e gorging two bowls of laksa utara. Almost too consumed with the food we hardly uttered any word and carried on to mind our own business. Suddenly the man looked up and uttered a few indistinct words to me. At first I ignored him because naturally I don't talk to a stranger, unless if I wanted to sell some funny products from a direct selling company. But the stranger kept repeating saying the same thing as if to attract my attention.

The stranger: "Hari ni tak berapa bagus lah" (Today it seems, is not a good day). Yes, if you haven't realized yet, the mortal is so keen in labeling everything with adjectives. Just to describe the mood.

Me a.k.a cool guy : "...kenapa pula macam tu encik...langit nampak cerah aje..." (Why is that so sir, the sky looks just fine?) I blurted my first starter line which perhaps sounded a bit awkward.

The stranger : "Hari ni saya rugi...kalaulah semalam saya jual mesti dah untung." (I don't make any profit today...I would be better off if I were to sell them yesterday).

Me a.k.a cool guy : Apa cerita? (What is this all about?) I almost said "Apa kehe", but as cool as you might be, you don't throw a casual line like that to a stranger.

The stranger : "Semalam kalau saya jual boleh untung RM5000, saya tangguh hari ni tapi harga jatuh dan hanya untung RM3000 aje. Rugi betul...."(If I were to sell yesterday I would have gain the profit of RM5000, but today I am getting only RM3000...). My cendol suddenly and superficially tasted a bit cheapo.

A strange concept to me. But that is life and life can sometimes presents us with a number of her own version of paradoxes. It may sounds quite tasty though, but you may have to chew it all and consume it in one go if you want to live by that strange concept.

That conversation is still lingering in my ears until today and something to ponder upon, but I couldn't help myself though, who that guy might be?

24 January 2011

Jitra mai sabai sabai...

Parked beside a busy secondary street and covered from the scorching cosmic ray by the shade of perennial trees, this mobile nondescript eating establishment is a place to hang out during lunch time and after office hour. Unlike mat laptop and minah hand-phone that normally associate themselves with imported high street cafes and dominate glamorous restaurants, the people that frequent this place is all moving about in a no-nonsense objective and purpose. This place is for a really serious people who come just to eat. The subject of discussion are cendol pulut and laksa utara, two palatable combination that match each other nicely.

This quintessential eating establishment must be legendary and the owner must be very proud of his origin too. Otherwise he wouldn't come down all the way from the tranquility of Gunung Jerai to the fake world of big metropolitans, bringing along an orthodox way of eating and communal tradition while at the same time promoting a far away place as well.

Din Chot who operates that stall and with a slight Siamese accent told me there are 3 other similar stalls within a 4 km radius from where he is stationed. It seems the franchise is good. Whether this is the sign that our Bolehland is prosperous or a mere adventurous venture, I have no idea. Din Chot himself is probably a nom de guerre and he probably represents a class of Melayu baru motivated by the big city neon attraction and promises.

The laksa is very tasty but slightly spicy by my palate standard. But that doesn't stop me from having a second helping. The star of attraction however is the chendol. It is very difficult to get wrong with anything involving coconut milk. The endless suplly of tapai adds a sureal quality to it. I was told the tapai was supplied by a mysterious mak cik specializing in the art of making that fermented sticky rice. Din chot however is not willing to reveal the identity of this makcik when I asked him the question. Probably this makcik hold the secret recipe for this whole successful business entrepreneurship.

My shallow experience with food tells me that this whole eating experience can be improved especially if they make the portion bigger so that all I can remember after that near perfect afternoon desert is a delicious feeling and inner peace...serenity.


16 January 2011

Are we not one happy nation?

Let's get straight to the point. Happiness can be measured. That was what the researchers at the Gallup world poll did or at least what they thought recently. They actually managed to quantify one of our innermost intimate feelings based on some criteria of which they believed had a direct correlation on the way people feels.

So where are we on their happiness list? According to the Forbe's list (to prove I don't make and mess things up), our blissful Bolehland ranked 94th out of 155 countries surveyed. This is not surprising at all. The uncontrollable hair-raising cost of living, unnecessary-never-ending polemic and rhetoric by those who are supposed to look after the one who are paying their salary, no bonus for the second consecutive years for the government servants and even the never-ending cutting down of trees and land clearing of which became the catalyst to the global warming might be the reasons why we are considered a less happy nation.

But what surprised me most was our neighboring country, the close relative of tempe-eating nation ranked better than us. I am still struggling by the way how to figure out and digest this fact. The only simplistic explanation was the tempe itself. It is an easy and simple food to prepare but yet very rich in its nutritional value. Just like the tempe, they led a very easy and simple life but yet very contented. Or perhaps they are the one who coincidentally caused so much headache to us that led the nasi lemak eating nation falls below their happiness level. Maid problem is one of the culprits that caused constant headache, as far as the people who suffers maid-deficiency syndrome is concern.

How about the Banglas? They seem to be happier than us too. Their almost submerged country is relatively poor but yet they managed to siphon out millions of ringgit back to their country which at the end of the day manage to buy them their own-version of happiness. And don't forget their natural jolly good nature especially when it comes to flirting and courting our 'gedik' local anak and mak dara.

This list however is still debatable. If you notice, most of the nations which dominate the top list are from the temperate regions where people lives in refrigerator and enjoys their happy hours (HH) from dusk till dawn. Naturally they are cool people. I believe hot and humid tropical weather somehow made our hard-working and fun-loving nasi lemak eating nation sweat a lot. That doesn't help much as the sweat caused us to become slightly agitated and when we bump into each other, we are forced to smell the unpleasant body odor of which lead to the sudden changes in temperamental attitude. Worst still if the survey was done during these odd hours, of which I suspected in the first place. Another simplistic explanation.

The bottom line is, we can actually decide our own happiness. If we mind our own business and talk less about others, that will slowly and surely lead to happiness. This last paragraph however has nothing to do with this entry and that is exactly what I have been struggling to do and practice for the past few days.

Guys, let's us do this together... If you're happy and you know it clap your hands...

12 January 2011

trust me...I am a dokter

For the past few days, I had this rare opportunity and personal pleasure of spending copious hours looking back and trying very hard to figure out what I had gloriously achieved the previous year. The search, it turned out was getting harder because unlike others, I don't have the wish-list to begin with in the first place. After some times, I then realized the answer I was looking for could not be found anywhere else because in order to measure the success in life, which is very subjective, ones has to really bankrupt the mind and subjected themselves to be fooled by this superficial world and prosthetic life.

So naturally when I received a suspicious looking brown-stamped envelope from a really suspicious organization of which I'd never heard before, I though my lucky star was really shining and I hit the jackpot.

I was auspiciously being nominated as "a leading scientist of the world 2011"! That was one mouthful accolade. Still in an euphoric feeling, I was not sure if my colleagues in Kebun getah sekangkang kera would be impressed by this 'unsangkarable' news. But I was pretty sure my kampung folks will surely celebrate this outstanding world achievement with at least nasi kunyit ayam panggang for months - and wayang kulit thrown in as well.

In fact I'd almost called our local news and mainstream tabloids for an inaugural press statement. This great news will surely make a headline and beat any news about our local artists personal affairs.

But hey hey hey...wait da minute. After an elaborate but free consultation with uncle Goooogle, my 10 minute fame and the journey into stardom (and perhaps a Dato'ship) suddenly and momentarily short-lived and evaporated into thin air. No wonder the letter smelled like a fish. There was really something fishy about this whole affair to be honest. First, how could such a supposedly prestigious organization didn't even bother to at least write my name correctly. They can just simply consult uncle Goooogle and make some effort to write my name properly. Secondly, why should I send them a cheque with the amount similar to a year salary of a scientist in Bakino fraso - if there is one exist- just to get this pseudo-award. What a shame. That was really an insult and really put me off. Suddenly the glamorous life, self-glory, and fame become so cheap.

This is another clever scam among many other form of scams out there, lurking in disguise knocking on each door of unwary pseudo-scientists and others for that matter. Those who work only for glory will easily fall prey for this type of scam. No wonder this whole world become so congested with so much confusion lately. That doesn't include con-men disguises as clever connnnnsultants who do more damage than good with wrong advices and recommendations.

I then searched my soul again for any traces of triumphant feeling and any thought left just to make my good-self smile. None. Life is full of contradiction.

You know what...I should frame the letter and then write a will to my great-great-great grand children to auction it on eBay- 300 years from now. Who knows, somebody might be fooled enough to buy this piece of paper that who knows has already fooled thousand.

05 January 2011

Drive away, leaving a year behind

When I first got my official Bolehland driving license, I was just finished my compulsory Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination and the world around me had just started to spin slowly. People didn't talk much about the freaking global warming phenomenon or crazy Bolehland petrol price or the greedy inflation engulfing every working citizens or how to secure government tenders. Those were very alien. We were talking about how to nuke Mars and invade Pluto. All those nonsense things. Life was easy without the worry to buy Paracetamol every now and then.

It was December 1985. Unfortunately, I didn't get the license the first time though. It seemed the tester didn't impress with my elegant and well-polished driving skill. He thought I was showing off and perhaps drove the test car better than him. At one point, while driving for the second trial from Jalan Bkt Kechil downhilled toward a T-junction of Jalan Hiliran, I almost cruised all the way passed the road and jet-skied in Sg. Trengganu. I sweared I could see some wet spot on his pant later on and I could listen his swearing on his way to the toilet.

You see...I've never attended a driving school before. It was not compulsory that time to attend a driving school prior to a test. In fact attending a driving school (that time) was not a trendy thing to do, as almost all my peers received their driving license without being told how to shift a gear and steer the car safely into a parking lot. Of course...they got their license after numerous attempts and endless humiliation by the testers. I didn't blame them as it was a monsoon season and the paddy field were well flooded, ready for a second paddy season and they spent most of their time steering buffaloes in the fields.

I, on the other hand fine-tuned my driving skill in a more elegant way. My father used to have a beautiful Volkswagen Beetle (type 1). It was painted red. Whenever he came back from work, the whole kampung folk knew it was his car approaching as the unmistakable supersonic sound of the car could be heard for miles. Even though red is not my favorite color, I still asked my father for a spin in his car and the whole pokok nipah along the river trembled every time I negotiated every sharp corners all the way to Kedai Buloh. Kedai Buloh was my pit-stop for a refuel with a pint of ketum-powered sugar cane drink.

One fine day, after getting sure I was not lacking in any way to impress the tester one more time, I finally went to take the test. I was not sure whether it was the magical power of ketum a day earlier or the tester really really impressed with my antics, at the end of the day I came back home and sung "one way ticket...one way ticket to the blues..." with a temporary driving license (photo) and bragged about my test-driving adventure to my colleagues, whom at the time were still having difficulties navigating their buffaloes in the leeches-infested paddy field.

Even after I got the license, I still didn't have the courage to venture far away from my kampung. That was until I started my adolescent life at my first ivory tower and met my future wife-to-be and Kuala Lumpur was never quite the same again without seeing a green classic Peugeot 404 cruising its highway every weekend.

Oh...I've just realized I've been driving around without a valid driving license for a while as unbeknown to me, it had already expired... and melted in my wallet for sitting too long in my comfy office chair.

What a fantastic year!
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