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Archive for May, 2012

I was in lower secondary when I first came across “Sejarah Melayu” or “The Malay Annals.” It was also known as “Sulalatus Salatin” in Arabic and was written by Tun Seri Lanang during the 17th century. Chapter Four of this book chronicled how Singapore was attacked by shoals of swordfish as a result of a curse and how a brilliant boy saved the day. It was a popular story back then. I am not sure whether “Sejarah Melayu”  is still taught in schools. When I asked some students whether they have heard of the story “Singapura dilanggar todak” or “Singapore attacked by swordfish”, they were like, “Huh, what is that?” A lot of blank faces stared back at me!

This is how the story goes:-

Hundreds of years ago, a merchant cum missionary from Pasai (a district in Sumatera) by the name of Tun Jana Khatib, came to Singapore. He was a pious and charitable man and soon became popular among the locals.

One day, while walking past the palace of the ruler of Singapore, Paduka Sri Maharaja, Tun Jana Khatib saw a betel palm tree which was standing next to the palace. Being curious of a tree he had never seen before, he walked towards it and touched the trunk. Immediately, the tree split into two and tumbled to the ground.

Unknown to him, the queen was standing near the palace’s window and was looking out onto the street. When she saw what had happened to the betel palm tree, she was shocked. Tun Jana Khatib walked away from the spot and was soon on his way home. The queen quickly told her husband what she saw. Thinking that the holy man was trying to show off his magical powers to the queen, the ruler became very angry and ordered his guards to catch Tun Jana Khatib and have him executed at once.

The holy man was dragged to a place called Hujung Pasar (present day Kampung Gelam) and was killed there. Before he died, he cursed the ruler of Singapore. According to legend, this is what he said, “Hey, you! I am willing to die for this but remember, a cruel ruler will not escape from punishment. He will have to pay a price for his cruelty. And believe me; a calamity will soon befall on this land!” Having said this, he was stabbed several times by a keris (a short shield) before collapsing onto the ground.

But what happened next was almost unbelievable. His body immediately vanished but his blood on the ground remained. The people who came to watch the execution became worried and frightened. Minutes later, a huge storm brew and the sky became very dark. The people fled from the place when they saw the ground turned into a patch of red stones. Some said his body reappeared in the island of Langkawi!

Not long after this incident, shoals of swordfish began to attack the shores of Singapore. They came in with the tide. The fishermen who went to sea saw them. They got very frightened and ran back to the beach but some of them got pierced on the neck or waist and die. Soon, more and more swordfish came to attack and more people got killed by them. In the end, the sea off Singapore turned red and piles of dead bodies lined the shore.

The news of the attack soon reached the ears of Paduka Sri Maharaja. He quickly got on the back of his elephant and rode out to the shore to have a look at things with his own eyes. He was completely taken aback and ordered his men and those standing near the shore to form a human shield with their thighs. Needless to say, many more men died from his foolish order. Those who disobeyed him and ran away were caught, branded as traitors and cursed to death.

Just as mayhem reigned at the shore, a little boy of seven called Hang Nadim stood out and said, “Our land is full of banana trees. Why not we cut the stems and use them as shields instead? That way, the snouts of the swordfish will be trapped by the stems and nobody needs to die anymore!”

The boy’s idea appealed to the ruler and immediately he ordered his men to cut down as many banana trees as possible. The stems were used to line the shores of Singapore. Shoals and shoals of swordfish came in with the tide but this time their snouts were trapped by the barricade of banana stems. The people were overjoyed that they finally managed to trap the fish and kill them. Today, this place was called Tanjung Pagar or “Cape of Stakes.”

Instead of rejoicing, the ruler’s advisers became worried. Paduka Sri Maharaja was about to reward the boy when his men whispered this into his ears, “Look, Your Majesty, this boy, Hang Nadim, was only seven years old and already he was so brilliant! What will happen one day when he grew up? He will surely usurp Your Majesty’s throne!”

Alarmed, the tyrant ruler asked, “What shall we do with him then?”

“Just have him executed and our positions will be saved!” they replied.

“Do just that, have Hang Nadim executed at once!” the ruler commanded.

The little boy was lured to the palace on the pretext of rewarding him but instead, he was killed and his body was tossed to the sea.

If this story was removed from our school syllabus, I am sure by now, you can guess the reason why, can’t you?

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One day, Pak Pandir’s wife, Mak Andih, sent him to town to buy some salt for her. Off he went to town, bought a big bag of salt and then carried it home on his head. Along the way, he became tired and decided to have a short nap under a coconut tree.

Soon he found a coconut tree, sat down under it and put his bag of salt beside him. Suddenly it occurred to him that somebody might steal his bag of salt if he was to doze off. An idea came to his head.

He got up, put the bag of salt over his shoulder and walked to the river bank which was not far from the coconut tree. Without further ado, he threw the bag of salt into the river and soon, the heavy bag sank to the bottom of the river. “Ah, that’s better. Nobody could steal my salt while I sleep!” he laughed to himself.

Pak Pandir went to sleep under the cool shade of the coconut tree. Hours later, he got up and stretched his limbs lazily. Then he remembered his bag of salt at the bottom of the river. It was evening. Thinking it was time to go home, Pak Pandir went back to the river to retrieve his bag of salt.

But alas, what he saw was not the bulky bag of salt but an empty one instead. All the salt had melted into the water. When he got home and told Mak Andih about this, he got a beating from his wife.

Do you still remember this story or ever heard of a village bumpkin called Pak Pandir? Many of us grew up reading stories of Pak Pandir during our primary school days. These stories were written by two white men.

Sir R.O. Winstedt (1878-1966) was an English Orientalist and colonial administrator in British Malaya. In 1908, together with A.J. Sturrock, he compiled a book called “Cerita Jenaka Pak Kadok, Pak Pandir, Pak Belalang, Lebai Malang dan Si Luncai.” Translated into English, it means “The Jocular Tales of Pak Kadok, Pak Pandir, Pak Belalang, Lebai Malang and Si Luncai.” This book chronicled some silly pranks of five village idiots. Each story carries a moral and they made excellent reading materials for young children.

Here is another one of Pak Pandir’s silliness.

One day, Pak Pandir was walking along a small lane on the way home after running an errand for his wife. He came across a piece of feces which was still fresh and warm. Curious of what it was, he decided to scoop it up and have a closer look.

“Hmm, the shape is like feces!” he exclaimed, nodding his head.

“Soft like feces!” he uttered excitedly after fingering it.

“Smell like feces!” he said after putting it near his nose.

Then Pak Pandir put the thing onto his tongue and licked it.

“Definitely it is feces, luckily I didn’t step onto it, thank God!” he laughed happily before going home to his wife.

But Pak Pandir’s foolishness soon turned tragic.

One day, Mak Andih was invited to attend a wedding feast of her relative. She got dressed and before leaving the house, she told her husband to stay home as their infant son was still sleeping soundly in the sarung.

“I have boiled a pot of water on the stove,” she told him. “When the baby wakes up, give him a bath using the water I have just boiled,” she instructed him and left.

Soon the baby woke up. Pak Pandir quickly poured the hot water into a tub and put the baby inside. The water was still very hot and as a result, the baby kicked furiously and screamed loudly. Thinking his son loved the water so much and was squeaking from delights, Pak Pandir kept him inside the hot water even longer. Alas, the poor baby eventually died from scalding.

When Mak Andih came back from the feast, she asked her husband about their infant son.

“He enjoyed the bath very much and now he went to sleep again,” he told her. When she went to the sarung and tried to wake him up for feeding, she found that he was motionless. In a fury, Mak Andih chased her husband around the house and beat him for his stupidity.

Mak Andih was very sad to lose her baby. After evening prayers, both husband and wife wrapped the body with “mengkuang” leaves (a kind of screw pine used for mat-making) and Pak Pandir took the body to bury in the village cemetery. He put it over his shoulder but on the way, the body slipped out and fell onto the ground. Pak Pandir was not aware and walked on without looking back.

When he reached the burial ground, he took out a hoe, dug a hole and buried the empty case. Then he walked back home. On the way back, he saw a body on the ground. Thinking it was the dead child of another family because all babies looked the same to him, he ran happily home to tell his wife what he saw.

“Mak Andih, Mak Andih, we are not the only one to lose a baby! Another family also lost theirs! So, it was not something to be sad about!” he tried to comfort his wife.

Malaysia is a land of jokers. We saw a lot of them the past month in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, since the Bersih 3.0 rally. They ranged from petty traders to fat aunties to wild schoolboys, all paid to make us laugh.

I am in a laughing mode. Have a good laugh reading this. It is my weekend treat to you all!

Note : Feces (human waste or ‘shit’ ) also called Poop, Dookie, Poo Poo or Brownies.

.

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For some time, Ah Q was not seen in Weichuang village until he suddenly appeared again one autumn night in his favorite wine shop again. This time, he looked prosperous in a set of new attire and a big purse loaded with silver and copper. It seems Ah Q worked as a servant for an officer in the town. He began to brag to the villagers how life was more sophisticated in town compared to that in the village. Ah Q even described in detail how decapitation were carried out in town and this had the villagers in complete awe. They too, wanted to see it firsthand.

Ah Q also brought some silk materials and skirts from town to sell to the women in the village. The rich ladies all made a dash for these fashionable items but in the end when they demanded more, Ah Q had no choice but to spill the beans – he was actually a thief and those were stolen items!

One night after a few cups of wine, Ah Q began to hallucinate that he had joined the revolution although he has no idea what it was all about. He thought joining the revolution would enable him to do things he likes – like taking revenge on those villagers who had bullied him in the past, to loot the two rich families of their gold and furniture as well as to impress some women to marry him. The more he thought about this, the more convinced he became and before long, he fell into a deep sleep.

The next afternoon he learned that some revolutionaries from town had come to the village the previous night and the sons of the two rich families had joined them, hoping to get some powers or positions. They did not invite Ah Q who had overslept that morning. Of course he was angry for being left out of the fun but again he comforted himself by saying, “Maybe they still don’t know that I had joined the revolution!” Yes, he had joined the revolution, but only in his imagination!

Despite the revolution, nothing changed except more people have their pigtail tied up. Thinking this practice is good enough to be considered a revolutionary; Ah Q did the same too. He began to feel important with his pigtail tied up but too bad, nobody took any notice of his transformation. Worst of all, even the beggars had their pigtail tied up and this made Ah Q very mad because he thought they were below him and with this, they are now on par with him!

When the scholar son of the Zhien family got a medal from the revolutionaries, Ah Q realized that to simply say he is a revolutionary and has his pigtail tied up is not good enough. It won’t get him far. He really needs to join them in order to be considered one of them. He wanted to be in action.

One day, Ah Q went to the Zhien’s house with the intention to join the revolution but was chased out of the house. Feeling very dejected, he went to his favorite wine shop for a few cups until late at night. On his way back to the temple, he heard a commotion along the street and quickly went to hide near a corner. From where he was standing, he saw some revolutionaries robbing the Zhao family of their gold and furniture. Ah Q instantly recognized they were men from the Zhien’s house. Slowly it dawned on him that the Zhiens went to rob the Zhaos.

After the robbery of the Zhaos, the villagers were pleased because there was one less rich and powerful family to fear. Ah Q was pleased too for the same reason. However, four nights later, a group of soldiers and police with rifles came to the village. They stormed the temple and dragged Ah Q out. They brought him back to town.

Once there, Ah Q was brought to a court and later thrown into a small and dark prison which he shared with a few other criminals. For three days in a row, he was dragged to the court and made to confess to the robbery of the Zhaos. Ah Q was denied the chance to explain and in the end, he just remained quiet. When asked to sign his death warrant, he just drew a circle on it. Ignorant of what was written on the paper, he was more concerned with the circle – he wanted it to be a perfect circle because he was afraid people might laugh at him for not being able to draw well.

Even at the doorstep of death, ignorant Ah Q thought that everybody have to go through these procedures at some time of their lives –being dragged in and out of court and prison and being asked to draw circles on papers which he could not read.

After a brief debate between the judge and an officer, the judge decided to proceed with the execution. His reason was, “Punish one to frighten one hundred!” With this, a white vest with black characters was put on Ah Q and his hands were bound behind his back. He was dragged out of the court and put on a wooden cart along with a few criminals. They were paraded around town to a large crowd of curious onlookers.

Although a bit frightened at first, Ah Q thought that everybody has to go through an execution some time in their lives. He began to think of a song to sing but tried as he did, he could not decide on which one. In the end, all that he could manage to say was, “In another 20 years, I shall be another stout young fellow.” It was a phase often used by criminals before their executions, to show their scorns of death.

“Good, good,” the spectators roared back at him. By now he was already standing at the execution ground. Seconds later, hails of bullets blasted through the air and Ah Q’s lifeless body slumped onto the ground. The crowd dispersed. All the villagers agreed that Ah Q must be the culprit. Once a thief, always a thief, they reasoned.

Nobody feel sorry for him; on the other hand they were disappointed that he died from hails of bullets and not from a blade on his neck. They were eager to see how a decapitation was carried out. They also felt cheated for not hearing Ah Q sing some songs before he die. They felt they came to town for nothing!

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Have you heard of the name Lu Xun? He was a famous 20th century Chinese writer, majoring in short stories and essays. His works were and remained highly influential and popular even to this day. He was so famous that an asteroid and a crater on Mercury were named after him! 

Lu Xun (left) started out as a medical student in Japan in 1904. One day, his Japanese medical lecturer screened a slide showing the public decapitation of an alleged Chinese spy taken during the Russian – Japanese War (1904-1905). Lu Xun was appalled at the complete apathy of the Chinese onlookers. They were callous and numb. Those gathered around the victim had come to enjoy the gory spectacle very much.

Disgusted, Lu Xun left medical college and began to write about the outdated traditions and backward mentalities of his people, hoping his writings will wake them up. Among his most popular works was ‘The True Story of Ah Q’ which was written in satirical style to mock a village bumpkin and the rest of the villagers.

Here, I have summarized the story into two parts. It makes an enjoyable reading because we could easily relate to some of the characters in this story.

This story took place in 1911 in a village called Weichuang in China. The protagonist was Ah Q (right). The author painted him as a typical and conservative Chinaman of his time.

There were two rich men living in the same village as Ah Q – Mr. Zhao and Mr. Zhien. The former’s son had just passed the county examination. The good news was announced with beatings of gongs in the village as was the normal practice.

Ah Q, drunk at that time, pranced around with excitement even though this achievement has got nothing to do with him. In his intoxication, he declared that he shared the same surname with the successful scholar, hoping some of the glory will rub on him. Sure enough, the villagers stood in awe of Ah Q. But alas, this instant glory did not last long for him.

The next day, a bailiff dragged Ah Q to Mr. Zhao’s house. There, he got a good verbal bashing from the old man. For not being able to give a satisfactory explanation to someone who was wealthy and powerful, Ah Q got slapped hard on his left cheek by Mr. Zhao before being shown the door.

Once outside, he got another round of scolding from the bailiff himself. After that, he even had to thank the officer profusely and paid him two hundred cash before being let off. When the villagers learnt what had happened, they said what a great fool Ah Q was and all the admiration they had for him just evaporated into thin air.

The villagers only appreciated his manual service and treated him as a laughing-stock; nothing more. They don’t care about his background. Ah Q has no family and used to sleep in a dark room in the village’s temple. He has no education, no regular job or fixed income. He does odd jobs like cutting wheat or grinding rice for anyone that needs such services. When there is a task to be done, the villagers will suddenly remember him and once that task had been done, they will quickly forget all about him.

Despite this, Ah Q was an arrogant man and looked down on all the other villagers, especially those poorer or weaker than him. Even in front of people who are well-off, he would say things like, “I used to be much better off than you! Who do you think you are anyway?” When he heard about the successful sons from those two rich families, he would comfort himself by saying under his breath, “My sons may be much greater!”

Ah Q has some ugly ringworm scars on his scalp. When he became angry, these scars will turn reddish in color and this made him uneasy. To avoid facing this reality, he barred anyone from mentioning certain words such as ringworm, bright, light, lamp or candle in front of him. But the villagers enjoyed working him up into a bundle of fury by deliberately uttering such words in front of him. Quarrels and fights would ensue without fail for Ah Q was not one to control his temper beautifully.

In these fights, the villagers loved to pull his pigtail roughly or bang his head against the wall several times. After giving him a few punches, they would whisper into his ears, “A man beating a beast!” before walking away triumphantly. But Ah Q refused to be humiliated. He would quickly slap himself and say, “It is as if I was beaten by my own son!”

Deluding himself that he was beaten by his own blood and flesh instead of others made him feels better. In good spirits, he then took to the wine shop, downed a few cups before going back to the temple to have a good sleep and by morning, all were put behind him as Ah Q has a good ability to forget unpleasant things.

One day after a fight with a beggar over whose body has the most lice; Ah Q was in a foul mood because he has less. While walking away, he encountered the son of Mr. Zhien who was also a successful scholar. Ah Q was annoyed that this young scholar had disposed away his pigtail. Disgusted, he picked up a fight with the younger man but got whacked by the latter instead.

Dashing off to seek relief at his favorite wine shop, he saw a young nun on his way and thought she must be the source of his misfortune that day. Conveniently, he put the entire blame on her and tormented her cruelly by rubbing her shaved head. “If a monk can paw you, why can’t I?” he said, pinching her very hard on her cheeks.

Hurt and humiliated, the young nun fought back and cursed him by saying, “Ah Q, may you die sonless!” Ah Q laughed very hard for he felt his bad luck had been avenged. What made him even more pleased was that the spectators inside the wine shop cheered him on and this made him very pleased with himself for his feat was admired. He felt elated, as if floating on air.

Once back in his room at the temple, Ah Q could not sleep that night. He kept thinking how soft and smooth the young nun’s face was. Although he used to look at all women suspiciously and contemptuously and regarded them as social pests, Ah Q was attracted to the young nun and was even bewitched by her soft and smooth face. That night he suddenly thought it was time for him, at age thirty, to take a wife who could later bore him a son.

Henceforth, Ah Q began to watch out for any woman who would take a fancy on him but unfortunately, there was none. Some even distant themselves when they saw him. This only makes Ah Q even more desperate for a woman’s companionship.

One night when he was taking a rest after grinding rice for Mr. Zhao, he saw Amah Wu. She was Mr. Zhao’s servant and she too, was resting after washing some dishes. When she tried to strike up a conversation with him, he thought she was trying to seduce him. Grabbing her, he exclaimed excitedly, “Sleep with me!” When she recovered from her shock, she screamed loudly and ran away. Before he could do anything, Ah Q was beaten by Mr. Zhao’s son with a bamboo pole.

He managed to escape but found himself in trouble. Ah Q had to atone for his sin by presenting some red candles and incense sticks to the Zhao family. He could no longer set foot into the Zhao’s house again or demand his wages from them. He must pay for the service of a Taoist priest to exorcise evil spirits in the rich man’s house. Lastly, if any misfortune befalls the servant, he will be held accountable.

After this incident, more women avoided him. They rather stayed indoors when they saw him on the streets. His favorite wine shop refused to give him credit anymore. The temple’s care taker asked him to leave at once. To add salt to his injury, nobody give him odd jobs; they preferred to give them to some beggars instead. To contain his throbbing hunger, Ah Q stole some turnips from the convent of the young nun who has a soft and smooth face and was chased by a very fierce dog.

To be continued……..

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Do you still remember the 1971 movie “Melody Fair?” It featured child actors Jack Wild, Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde. I was still a young child when I watched it and I loved most of the songs in this movie. They were sung by the Bee Gees. I especially loved the song “To Love Somebody.” Such sweet memories. Those were the days growing up in the 1970s! Thank you for the music, Bee Gees and goodbye Robin!

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In Malaysia, if you do not have a brain, you can simply substitute it with a burger. Or even a butt.

Following Bersih 3.0’s success on 28th April, some dimwits calling themselves “Iklas” decided to rile Ambiga Sreenevesan by setting up a burger stall in front of her house in Bukit Damansara last Thursday. They made about 200 burgers and gave them away for free as a gesture of protest for their loss of income as a result of the biggest public rally which they claimed affected their business that day.

“Iklas” means sincere. One can’t help but wonder on whose instruction they acted upon. With the police looking on happily and no one lift his finger to stop these intruders, the answer is as easy as ABC. I can’t understand why they keep on hiring the most stupid people to do stupid jobs for them. They can’t find smart people to work for them, that is why, I think.

As if this is not childish enough, they sent the next batch of clowns to do an even sillier act. Yesterday, about 15 retired servicemen did butt exercises in front of her house. This time they accused her of giving a bad name for the country. Yes, for demanding a clean and fair election, she is giving the country a bad name! Can you believe that? I am still laughing as I am writing this.

Then going by this logic, the 250,000 rally goers including my husband and me, are also giving the country a bad name. And going by this logic again, these people can come to my doorstep to flip burgers or sway their butts, right? And of course, to the doorstep of any of the 250,000 Bersih 3.0 protesters! Wow, that means they have a lot of places to show off their butts! All over the country, infact, because people came from as far as Sabah and Sarawak just to show how much they wanted a clean and fair election.

According to Malaysiakini, organizing a “pasar malam” or night market will be the next tactic to be used on the poor lady. A few hundred stalls will occupy the entire stretch of road infront of her house. Eventhough Ambiga managed to remain unruffled, how will her neighbors take this madness? Remember, Bukit Damansara is not any ordinary shanty neighborhood. It is an upper class enclave and I believed most of her neighbors are educated and from the professional class. Just wait and see how they will react.

These dimwits do not know the true meaning of constitutional rights and the right to privacy. Sadly, this is how it is with our country right now. Isn’t it pathetic that some privileged people can gate-crashed and bull-dozed their way to your doorstep and yet, got away scot-free? The word “trespassing” is simply not in their dictionaries, I guess.

Compare this to what 250,000 people got a fortnight ago for trying to sit at Dataran Merdeka, a historical public square that belongs to all Malaysians. They got chased all over Kuala Lumpur city center for almost four hours and got beaten up brutally before being sprayed with tear gas and water cannons. Even journalists were not spared – some had their cameras snatched away, the memory cards removed and cameras destroyed before the owners were beaten up.

All I can say is this is simply a battle between the brains and the butts. Yeah, Malaysia butt-leh!

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Do you know who are the greatest enemies of Malaysia? They are the political illiterates – people who do not care if the sky fall down on their heads, people who are happy with the paltry RM500 handout by the government and people who still read mainstream media and watch news from national TV. Because of their stupidity, we are where we are today.

So when I saw a quote by Bertolt Brecht (a German poet and playwright) in Facebook yesterday, I thought it was so good that I wanted to share it out. I hope his words will help to wake up more political illiterates and ignorant people (pardon me, I don’t like to call people illiterate, stupid or ignorant) but since they acted that way, they deserved to be called as such.

These political illiterates are so Ah Q! Go to Wikipedia and type ‘The true story of Ah Q’ to find out who is this Ah Q. We have so many Ah Q’s in this country right now. And that is why we are sliding down day by day into an abyss.

Yes, I know I sounded rather cross and frustrated on a Monday morning. Maybe it is because of the way things are going for our country the last two weeks…….

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