Here In My Home - Malaysian Artistes For Unity

Thursday, 23 August 2007

What Makes Us A Malaysian

This article that appeared in the Sun really makes me proud to be a Malaysian as something similar happened to my family and I am sure so many other. By remembering the human stories in what is supposed to be a sensitive issue in our past, I hope we can remember the glue that binds us together.

May 13 - The glue that binds us
Datuk Mahadev Shankar

May 13, 1969 is nearly four score and ten years behind us.
What day of
the week was it?
Alas I cannot now remember!
Perhaps it was a Friday.
Friday the 13th has always had such an ominous ring to it.
It was certainly
before Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (the former prime minister) set our clocks back
half an hour and thus took centre stage in our psyche. Of that I am sure.
sure as I am that in 1969 with our Bapa Merdeka, Tunku Abdul Rahman as prime
minister before he was deposed, we rose at sunrise and retired at sundown.
Friday the 13th 1969 marked a turning point in the history of our nation.
had finished with the Fitzpatrick case at Court Hill, and made an uneventful
return home a little earlier than I should. My wife and children were out
somewhere in town and got back just before sunset.
By twilight, all hell had
broken loose.
The shouting of a mob in full flow, seemed to be coming from
the junction of Princess Road (now Jalan Raja Muda) and Circular Road (later
Jalan Pekeliling and now Jalan Tun Abdul Razak) which was less than half a mile
from our house on the corner of Jalan Gurney Dua and Satu. We were well within
ear-shot of the commotion.
I was then out on our badminton court with my wife
and children when I saw a young Malay, face ravaged with shock as he ran past
us, intermittently stopping to catch his breath and then run on.
The panic he
radiated was very contagious.
A few moments later, my neighbour Tuan Haji
Ahmad shouted from across the road that a riot was in progress at the Princess
Road junction and that we should immediately get back indoors.
afterwards as the darkness set in, we saw red tongues of flame crowned with
black smoke go up from the direction of Dato Kramat. From town there was a red
glow in the sky of fires burning. The acrid smell of smoke was coming from
everywhere. More to the point, the very air around us seemed to be shivering
with terror.
Fearing the worst, we locked ourselves in and huddled around the
TV set.
Then I heard this high pitched wail. It was a female voice in
distress -"Tolong, buka pintu, tolong. buka pintu!" (Please open the door!)
diminutive woman, with a babe in arms, was desperately yelling for shelter,
obviously not having had much luck with the houses nearer the Gurney Road
Without a second thought, I ran out, unlocked the gate and let her
in. She was wide-eyed with terror and the baby was bawling away.
The sheer
relief seemed to have silenced her and she was not registering my questions. And
she was not talking.
Once inside, she slunk into a corner in our dining room
and just sat there huddled with her baby, not looking at us but facing the
It was now evident that she was Chinese, spoke no English, and was
quite unwilling to engage in any conversation except to plead in bazaar Malay
that she would give us no trouble and that she would leave the next day.
attention soon shifted from her to the TV set.
A very distraught Tunku Abdul
Rahman, came on to tell us that a curfew had to be declared because of racial
riots between the Malays and the Chinese, caused by the over-exuberance of some
elements celebrating their election victories, and gave brief details of
irresponsible provocations, skirmishes, and fatalities. He stressed the need for
calm whilst the security services restored law and order. Well do I remember his
parting words to us that night,
"Marilah kita hidup atau mati sekarang." (Let
us choose to live or die now.)
As my attention once again shifted to the tiny
woman and her tinier baby, let me confess to my shame, that the thought crossed
my mind that living in a predominantly Malay area, I had now put my whole family
in peril by harbouring this Chinese woman. It was manifestly evident from the TV
broadcasts that her race had become the target of blind racial hatred.
was an ignoble thought I immediately suppressed as unworthy of any human being.
She too had been watching the TV and perhaps even more intently was watching
me, and must have seen the dark clouds as they gathered around my visage.
None of us were in the mood to eat anything. We all just sat and waited and
waited and waited, not knowing quite what to expect.
Hours later there was a
loud banging at our gate accompanied by a male voice shouting.
I realised
then my moment of truth had finally arrived. I asked my cook Muthu, a true hero,
if ever there was one to accompany me to the gate.
In that half-light, I saw
the most enormous Malay man I ever set my eyes on.
With great trepidation I
asked him what he wanted.
"You have got my wife and child in your house and I
have come for them," he said in English.
Still suspicious I asked him,
"Before I say anything, can you describe your wife?"
"Yes, yes I know you ask
because I am a Malay. My wife is Chinese and she is very small and my baby is
only a few months old. Can I now please come in?"
I immediately unlocked the
gate. In he came and we witnessed the most touching family reunion.
thanked us profusely and without further ado they were on their way.
In the
excitement we did not ask his name or address.
What next?
I saw where my
duty lay and immediately called the Emergency telephone number to volunteer for
relief duty.
An armoured car appeared the next morning.
I was taken to
Federal House and assigned to assist the late Tun Khir Johari (as he
subsequently became) and the late Tan Sri Manikavasagam.
Our task initially
was to transport and re-settle the refugees into the Merdeka Stadium and thence
into the low cost municipal flats in Jalan Ipoh. We then tied-up with Dato Ruby
Lee of the Red Cross to locate missing persons and supply emergency food rations
to the displaced. Some semblance of law and order was restored and the town
slowly came back to life.
If that baby who sheltered in our house that
fateful night has survived life's vicissitudes, he would be 48 years old today.
All the ethnic races which compose our lucky nation were fully represented
in our house that evening when the Almighty brought us together for a short
With our 50th Merdeka anniversary fast approaching, and our hopes for
racial unity so much in the forefront of our minds, may I leave it to my readers
to ask themselves whether there is a pointer here for all of us.
Folded into
our experience of the night of May 13, 1969 was there not the glue that binds
all of us with the message that we must love each other or die?
Datuk Mahadev
Shankar retired as a Court of Appeal Judge in 1997. He was a lawyer in Shearne
Delamore & Co at the time of May 13, 1969. He would be happy to make contact
with the mother and child who sought refuge in his house on that day.

07:12PM Wed, 22 Aug 2007

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Refreshing Cameron Highlands

It hit me this morning how stressful life can be in Kuala Lumpur. This morning I got stuck in a traffic jam going to the office and once there I got the news that my immediate boss is being recalled to the home office in record one month’s time without successor. That does not leave much time for a proper hand-over, especially since he has someone who basically has been keeping his work to himself all the while he is working here.

What a come down after such a refreshing trip to the Highlands, although not as cool as before maybe since never been there earlier but still interesting to the family. Anyway after the bowling competition on Saturday and lunch at Tony Roma’s, we immediately sped north up the PLUS Highway before exiting at Tapah. I figured since I will drop by Ipoh before returning to Kuala Lumpur, it would be better to go up through Tapah and come down through the Simpang Pulai Highway, I must say the drive up was a pleasant exercise but it would be better if you are not driving a stick-shift, as I must say it was a cruise to drive on auto all the way. Never mind that the wife and the elder one had motion sickness but it was more because they did not have a proper breakfast that day as once we were up there, the curvy roads did not see them reliving the blue faces they had. My one regret was that I didn’t stop to buy the forest durians and petais that the orang asli was selling by the road side as I thought there would be some on the way down but I managed to buy some wild orchids or anggerik desa for my scented garden. The reason being was not only that we did not want to reach there before it was dark but because the family wanted to lie down fast. Luckily the little one slept through the whole drive or I may have had problem making her settle down. Anyhow we reached the hotel in good time but as was mentioned before it was tough getting good parking near the hotel. The basement was full already as it could accommodate only 15 cars but it was our first time so what can you say but to make the best of it, After resting awhile, we went to the Brinchang pasar malam as planned where the kids loved the strawberries dipped in chocolate and honey but there was nothing good to tapau for dinner so we ended up eating in a Malay stall after the visit. I must say that the prices for Malay food in the food Brincang and Tanah Rata is quite expensive as the cost is quite comparable to eating at a proper restaurant, a point to take note in the next visit.

The next day was a recce mission up the Brincang-Tringkap way as the hotel front desk said that the best tourist spots was located along the route. Since we were going to use that route to reach the Simpang Pulai Highway, it was a good chance for us to note where to drop by on the way back to Ipoh and where to stop on this journey. Basically those things that need to be bought late like strawberries to preserve their freshness will be bought then while sight seeing will be the purpose of this drive. As expected, all the tourist spots was jammed up when we drove by but we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of crowds in the tea spot at Cameron Bharat Sungai Palas . It was a great place for the kids to learn about tea trees and then we had a most sinful brownies with ice cream accompanied by strawberry flavoured tea. After buying some premium tea and strawberry flavored tea, we then turned back towards Brinchang but at the butterfly farms there was a horrific jam. We were lucky that a parking spot opened up and we stopped to visit one of the butterfly farms that also incorporated a flower garden. We then stopped at the cactus centre for a look around but then proceeded down to Tanah Rata for lunch. We were hoping to sample the delicacies at T-Café but unfortunately it was closed as it was a Sunday. After being scalped at a local Malay stall, we then proceeded down to Boh Tea Plantations. It was a hairy ride up as the road was a single car wide and at the blind corners we had to toot the car horns as instructed to let oncoming cars know we are there. Again it was bad luck for us as they has finished making tea at the factory although we reached there before three so our reward after such a scary ride was only some great views although we could make our own way through the factory on our own. Since I knew a bit about tea making through my readings, I was able to identify the process to my kids and show the end products but it was not so worthwhile I guess. The tea shop there was not as interesting as the Bharat tea shops and we did not stop to have another round of teas. On the way down we stopped at apiary farm or simply a bee farm where we bought some wild and apple cider honey that the wife loved before returning to the hotel for a rest. We then had a steamboat dinner at the hotel restaurant and then adjourned for a karaoke session. Sadly the kids did not enjoy this much because the songs selection was basically oldies but goodies, so they had nothing to sing to. Pity them.

The next day we decided to check out early and left the hotel at around ten. Firstly we decided to check out Bala’s Holiday Chalet but it seems their tea room only starts in the afternoon so we could not have their English delicacies. We initially stopped at two strawberry farms in Tanah Rata but they didn’t allow self-plucking due to their experiencing of the Ugly Malaysian syndrome so we then proceeded down to Simpang Pulai where we stopped at a off tourist traps site Soon Cheong strawberry farm that did allow self-plucking. We were the only ones there and the kids had a merry time plucking the strawberries. Quite a bargain because they only charged RM35 per kilo for the strawberries and these are the big, juicy and sweet American variety and not the small scrawny bittersweet ones that is common at the normal tourist trap farms. The next stop was at a watercress farm not far from there before proceeding down the Simpang Pulai Highway. I must say although not as stomach churning as the Tapah route, this was a long and winding road and sleepy to boot. We ended the day by having nasi ganja for lunch in Ipoh before surprising my mom as she had no idea we were coming home that day.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Thank You Cabinet For Making A Stand

Thank you to the Malaysian Cabinet for making a stand and deciding to let the law take its course on the deragotary case. Thank you for not cheapening our National Symbols at a time many has forgotten their significance! Thank you for remembering that many has given up their life and livelihood to defend their values. Thank you for remembering that it is Malaysia that counts!.

Friday August 17, 2007

Student must face the law, Cabinet, however, accepts his apology

PUTRAJAYA: The Cabinet has accepted the apology by student Wee Meng
Chee, who caused a furore with his Negaraku rap video clip on video-sharing web
portal YouTube, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

However, the Prime Minister said the law would still have to take its

Wee, 24, could be charged under the National Anthem Act 1968 with
disrespecting and lowering the prestige of the Negaraku, he said.

Abdullah said a Minister had brought up the matter during the Cabinet
meeting on Wednesday. “He (Wee) said he wants to apologise, we can accept.
But if it is an offence, how to let him go without him being punished? The law
has to take its course,” he said during a press conference on the Special Task
Force to Facilitate Business here yesterday.

Wee’s six-minute video of a Mandarin rap number using the Negaraku as
background created an uproar, with several quarters condemning him for mocking
the national anthem and making offensive statements.

The 24-year-old mass communications student at Ming Chuan University in
Taiwan had on Tuesday apologised for the parody In Kuala Lumpur, Minister in the
Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the Cabinet
was not in the position to forgive Wee, LOH FOON FONG reports.

Nazri said “the offence was not against the Prime Minister or Ministers
concerned but against the nation.”
”If he had committed an offence,
and I think it was an offence, then we must allow the Attorney-General to
investigate and decide whether to take him to court,” said Nazri.
not prosecute him is not ‘on’ at all because he has committed an offence against
the nation and no one, not the Cabinet or political parties, are in a position
to forgive him.”
Wee could be charged under the Sedition Act because
he had insulted the symbol of the nation, he said.
“We cannot be like
the West where you can have the underwear with the design of the Union Jack. In
Britain, you can insult the Queen or the flag, I don’t care, but in this country
we have laws and we cannot set a precedent whereby you commit an offence,
apologise and get away with it,” Nazri said, adding that Wee was not a boy but a
24-year-old man and he should be held responsible for the act.
“It is
not about ethnicity or being racial but it is against national interest,” he
When asked how Wee had insulted the national anthem, Nazri said
the song was supposed to be sung in a proper way, otherwise it would mean
insulting the song, especially when the lyrics were changed.
Negaraku ku. Ku ku can also mean ‘cuckoo’, so it was insulting. I don’t think
this was done out of ignorance. He was a university student and he meant to
insult the national anthem,” he said.
On whether Wee would be called
home to answer charges against him, Nazri said the A-G would have to investigate
and if he decides to prosecute him, then when Wee returns, he would have to face
the charges.
The Minister also said that he wanted action to be taken
against YouTube and other bloggers who allowed sensitive material which went
against the laws of Malaysia to be published.
Culture, Arts and
Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim concurred with Nazri, saying that the
country was governed by the rule of law and Wee had to abide by

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Marking MERDEKA! Mocking MERDEKA!

Those of my generation who has seen TV3’s Merdeka advertisement would have had a lump in their throat watching. Remembering our childhood games of Combat with friends, bickering who will be Sergeant Saunders as the squad leader in fighting them krauts, the typical squad made up of the neighbourhood kids that in my case are made up of Malays, Indians, Chinese and even Sikhs. Come to think of it, Sergeant Saunders’ squad was also a United Nations of Greek, WASPs, hillbillies and farm boys if my memory serves me right. I don’t know if it was intentional by RTM, but Combat the TV series managed to instil in us kids that you have to fight for your freedom far better than any propaganda could, in those dark days of insurgency where even in the urban areas you can still hear the army guns pounding away at the bandits in the bush. We faced a threat to the nation’s freedom and well-being, and we her citizens will stand hard to defend the nation in their own way. Thus those who joined the armed forces and entered the fight are saluted as the heroes they are, and not seen as deadbeats who cannot hack it in the real world as some are wont to do nowadays. And the rest would contribute in our own way, as nation building is grasped as the best weapon to defend the freedom that Merdeka brought. Thus the TV3 ad that illustrates how the kid that role-played as Sergeant Saunders who mocked the little girl who wanted to join the games feeling no shame when in adulthood both are saluting our Tugu Negara even though he is now only a sweeper while she has triumphly became a paratrooper sergeant. Both know they are heroes in their own right, both contributing to building their beloved nation.

But it makes you wonder how many of the new generation comprehends this subtle message. When I put forward the question in the military board that I frequent, sadly it seems only those of my generation seems to have caught and noticed this ad in all its subtleties. In an age where even home grown patriotic series are relegated to red eye or dead viewership slots by even the government channels, where commercially profitable sinetron drivel hogs the prime time, is it any wonder that these young ‘uns don’t give a cow’s shit of what nationhood and national pride is all about. We are all now in such a comfort zone that some even think having a military is a waste, an anachronism in this so called erudite age. Why me worry, if my country goes down the drain, with my passport will I go, wherever the money be, right? Begone then I say, the nation and we do not need the likes of rats such as you.

Thus is it such a surprise that some young punk under the guise of creative expression has made a mockery of our national anthem to mark our Merdeka. And some apologists, even those that are part of our nation’s government are saying that this great slur to our nation can be swept under the carpet with just a simple request for forgiveness, as we should not destroy someone’s future just because of this youthful indiscretion. NO I SAY! Punish not only this punk but his family also as they are the ones who have led him down this derogatory path. My dear Minister and your pandering lackeys, I don’t care if he was misinterpreted as derisive of the Malays or the Azan, the bottom line is he has made a travesty of our national anthem, you know the one where we have to stand at attention to when it is played as a sign of our reverence. Please resign if you cannot get that through that cash padded thick skull of yours! Your ilk talks of punishing bloggers who mock your kind as instruments of the government, yet you dare say forgive this punk who committed this treachery. You got your electoral priorities all wrong fool, and if you are contesting as my YB you surely will not get my vote. Think about it, the powers that be, as our Merdeka was not won to give such freedom as this.

Monday, 6 August 2007

My own food heaven

When you talk about food heavens within the Kuala Lumpur City Limits, one usually associates it with Bangsar, Sri Hartamas, Damansara and Bandar Utama. To me those are international food heavens, where the food is for so-called gourmets to show of their culinary pedigrees. To me food heavens are where food brings you comfort and you know these are the places you can still get the real thing, the way it is supposed to be prepared through the times. There are various spots associated with each ethnicity, like Jalan Alor and Jalan Pudu for the Chinese, Brickfields and Setapak for the Indians while Keramat and Kampung Bahru for the Malays. Most times these are amalgams, like the venerable Jalan Dooraisamy who is now having a renaissance of ultra-chic ethnic spots while still maintaining the old.

I shall however focus on my own spot, thus far still invisible to most but for those in the know a great place to stay, where one can have a different type of meal for each mealtime each day. The place is unfashionable Sungei Besi, and by this I include the town itself and Desa Tasik that fringes it. Where is Desa Tasik you may ask? This area may be better known as Bandar Tasik Selatan, the mysterious neighbourhood full of high-rises and army camps that you pass by on the MRR2 travelling to and from Ampang and Sri Petaling, that you don’t give two hoots as you speed along it. I stayed there at the turn of millennium, and it should speak volumes that while staying in Cheras now, literally over a peak away, we as a family still make trips there to have good food. Although various stalls has moved on, more because the proprietor has moved away rather than lack of customers because these are usually the camp and quarters habitants, they are usually replaced by equally good food sellers that bring their new touch to the scene.

One of the new outlets that have my family hooked is Apai chicken rice, where the chicken is not your roasted, steamed or fried variety but double roasted honey glaze barbecue chicken. The reason I say it is double roasted is that the chicken is firstly spit barbecued on a rositerie, before it is cut up and barbecue again to ensure that the meat is well cooked, but certainly not overdone. Served with a simple chilli sauce with the normal greens but missing the normal soya sauce that it does not need, the taste is smokey and utterly delicious. So well marinated that the taste seeps into the meat unlike certain BBQ chicken elsewhere, the best part is the skin naturally although even the white parts of the chicken is now as well flavoured as the usually tastier dark meat. The shop also does a mean daging panggang utara or northern style roast steak, served with a divine sour sauce that is nicely piquant and hot, without overpowering the steak that is served already filleted into bite sized bits for easy eating so you do not need to worry that you need a steak knife to cut through the meat. Biting into a morsel, the first thing you notice is that it has a melt in the mouth quality, chewing is neededonly to get a taste of the sauce squirting into your mouth before you swallow it with the same chicken rice that it is served with. Yup instead of chicken rice, you actually are eating beef steak rice. Yummy! The shop starts serving their good stuff from noon although they are open earlier in order to start barbecuing their meats. That’s right folks, all barbecuing are done on the spot using barrel barbecue pits, no reheated stuff here. Depending on the day, the latest time you can get some is around nine at night, as they stop serving once the last chicken is sold, thus no leftover stuff also. Try it before the secret breaks and queues starts to form during meal times.

Every Sunday we make it a point to go to Sungei Besi Market. You can buy provisions for the whole week that is fresh, reasonably priced and with enough variety to boggle your mind. The fish that we get from my regular fishmonger are direct from the fisherman, so much so I always say that he is slaughtering the fish when he cleans it as blood spurts out like when you are slaughtering livestock. It is that fresh so no need for me to go all the way to Kuala Selangor to get my fresh fish supply. But I digress, the real reason we go there is to get a really good breakfast at least once a week. Much as I see Taman Connaught is becoming a breakfast hot spot for the Chinese community on weekends, the Desa Tasik Sungei Besi area has been a favourite breakfast hot spot for the surrounding folks. From any of the MRR2 turn off heading towards Bandar Tasik Selatan up the main road to Sungei Besi, you will find various food stalls lining the road sides, serving traditional nasi lemak and kuihs, roti canai, various states breakfast specialties and even mee soup with your choice of meats early in the morning. There are two stalls that is famous here, one near the above mentioned Apai Nasi Ayam beside Bandar Tasik Selatan commercial centre, and the other beside the original apartment complex housing the moved squatters opposite the mosque. For lunch I would prefer the other, but for breakfast I prefer the Desa Tasik stall as they also serve the best 1 ringgit banana wrapped nasi lemak this side of the city. This nasi lemak naturally has the necessary fluffy santan flavoured rice with nicely sweetly hot sambal, but the kick comes from the salted fish bit that comes with it. I argue with the wife on whether it is catfish or eel, but no reasonable conclusion can be had to date. I can usually finish three packs in one seating, while the family either has one or more in combi with the noodle soup. As for the soup that comes with your choice of meat or noodles, the broth is subtly spiced that a small kid can appreciate it, with the flavour of the meats and bones that has simmered in it coming through nicely. Who says you need more spice to get good flavour as you actually only need a good blend and that would be good enough. You need more heat you say, just add the chilli soy saucelah. Mind you this is really blitzed bird chillies mixed well with soy sauce so its consistency is actually quite thick.

The stalls that are in the market itself offers a variety of choices, with the soto noodles here comparable with the soup stalls mentioned before except their MSG level do not permit me to indulge as I will get a headache, but the kids love it though. I prefer to eat the bakso mee or Indonesian meatballs noodle soup at the next stall, occasionally varying my breakfast with their mee rebus or fried rice or noodles. Otherwise I may eat puri from the Indian stall next door or roti canai from the recently arrived roti canai specialist at the back of the stall if they have not sold out, which is usually around eleven. But a good choice would be the nasi lemak with a choice of lauk or side dishes that goes with it, with their freshly fried flour coated chicken with a spice mix that beats the Colonel’s hands down a usual favourite. Cannot say their beef rendang or sotong sambal or liver does not come in as a close second though but to have all four in one meal is a bit over indulgent methinks. A disappointment in the market though is the mee jawa, as it seems that the original old man proprietor is no longer around the quality and taste has gone down the drain.

However the real reason we make this area our weekend breakfast haunt is the mee rebus power stall at the main road and market road junction, under a tree which is a sure sign great food available here right. The mee rebus has a great taste of its own unlike no other, generous with the boiled beef bits that is a great treat to bite into. On par with the mee rebus but grossly unpromoted is the Penang asam laksa, where there is no way people will say they use tissue to thicken the gravy. You can find real kembung fish bits in it, and they are not stingy with the petis as they have a bottle on the table for you to flavour your laksa as you like it. My kids like their sizzling noodles and northern style vermicelli noodle soup and you can have Pak Hassan cendol just next door served with your meal, a malay style cendol that is as rare as the phoenix made using real gula melaka and thick santan. Heaven I tell you. After finishing your marketing, do not forget to buy the malay kuih from the stalls in front, where you can also get the best apam balik in town where I usually buy the special with extra crushed peanuts, creamed corn and sugar. The proof is this apam balik will not get all rubbery when you chew it hours after the purchase, and that just shows how good the batter mix is. And if you still have a hole in your stomach, you can always tapau the best sample of northern style roti canai from the mamak stall along the same row.

All these are just a little sampler of what is available from this little food heaven of mine. I must confess that there are still many stalls that I have not tried, but these that I have are good enough to satisfy our needs. Who knows if any of them close down in the future, a food hunting we will go surely to find a new favourite spot. Until that culinary journey begins, we will stick with the safe harbours that we have identified.