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Kalau Padi…

I cook. But almost every time I say that I do cook, I get a funny look. A doubtful look. And it always comes down to my look. I don’t have the look of someone who cooks, or someone who even knows how to cook. So they say.

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And almost every time I get that funny, doubtful look from those who do not believe that I do cook or I do know how to cook… I feel the urge to prove that I don’t only cook, but I am a hardcore kampung cook. (People think I’m a city mouse.)

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I eat stinky things: petai, rebung, tempoyak, jeruk maman, you name it. I eat rotten preserved food as well: ikan pekasam, telur asin, kulat sisir, any moldy but edible food… I am bound to give it a try, and more often than not, will like it.

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What surprised me today, though, was not what I can eat or cook. It was my retained ability to use the kampung kitchen tool that I haven’t used for more than 30 years. I even have one at home — that I packed to Australia, Oman, Italy, Canada, Russia and back to Malaysia — for wall decor.

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There I was, at one corner of the anjung dapur, menampi beras pulut hitam destined to be bubur for our minum petang. And my mind was already busy thinking of the other traditional kitchen tool I have not used since I fled that fateful fire of Padang Masirat.

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I am on a quest for a good set of batu giling now.

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As soon as I got to the counter at Istana Budaya to pick up my LAT The Musical tickets this morning, I was not greeted by the lady behind the counter. She did not even look at me when I said my Selamat Pagi. I waited for her to say her Selamat Pagi back, but I would probably have had to wait until I heard a rooster crowing cock-a-doodle-doo the morning of April the first, or I might have to wait a year there – at the counter. So I decided not to bother.

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I asked her if my reservation was still kept since it was a day overdue. And when I showed her the reference number, she just glanced over it. No expression on her face. She still had not turned her face to look at mine. After about 20 seconds of silence and her tapping on her keyboard, she asked for the reference number again. L2C7WN it was. She could only recall the first three (L2C).

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“El dua si… apa tadi?”

So I gave her the full reference number, “El two see, seven double you enn.”

She repeated after me, “El dua si, tujuh… apa?”

I was just about to frown, but I didn’t. “Seven double you enn.”

She looked like she was ready to glance over my face, “Tujuh dabaliu en?”

“Ha’ah, tujuh double you enn. El dua see, tujuh double you en. Ada?”

“Enida Johnson ke?” Only then did she look at me and the bindi on my forehead and my cobalt blue punjabi suit..

“Ya, saya.”

“Enam ratus sembilan puluh sembilan ringgit. Nak bayar cash ke?”

“Ya, ya. Saya bayar tunai.”

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I said my “Thank You” twice. Once when I handed her the seven hundred ringgits, and once more when she handed over the one ringgit change. But today I just learned that at Istana Budaya there is no such thing as “Sama-Sama” or “You’re Welcome”. And oh, smiling is not allowed there too, if you work there.

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Sweetngapore

To Fitrizah, the immigration officer at the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, thank you for making it easy for us to exit Malaysia even though Bibik’s departure card was nowhere to be found. And ehem, hehe! I saw you main mata with my son in the back seat.

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To Mr. Tan Chye Chye, thank you for sharing the Tony Blair-and-his-scandalous-girlfriend story. Your taxi was probably the warmest one I have ridden in a long long time. And I am not talking about the air-conditioner. And yes, the hotel on Victoria Street right across from the Bras Basah Complex is formerly known as Allson Hotel. I love taxicab drivers who know their history.

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To Siva, the concierge at the Grand Pacific Hotel, who walked along my CRaVy through to the basement parking just to make sure I wouldn’t have to carry my own luggage… what can I say. I don’t only love your budi-bahasa. I love your bahasa as well.

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This Temasek Trip is too short!

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A-Bang La

He brought in the five filled bottles – each weighing 20kg – almost effortlessly, while The Driver just sat in the water truck writing the bill. Okay, it’s fair, I guess. But when I asked The Driver about the previous bill and he answered…

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“Oh the bill is with that BANGLA,” motioning with his mouth pointing at The Water Guy.

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… I looked at The Driver with disgust. And when I found the Bangla helpfully trying to turn my water dispenser on after replacing the water bottle, I knew who had the biggest heart among us all.

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Enida: Thank you for putting the bottle on, uh… what’s your name?

The Water Guy: Ammal, ma’am.

Enida: Thanks Ammal. That’s a big help for me.

Ammal: You’re welcome, ma’am.

Enida: What’s The Driver’s name?

Ammal: Eji, ma’am.

Enida: Eji? Like A and G?

Ammal: No ma’am, HAJI ma’am. Makkah pigi eji, ma’am.

Enida: Dia tak tau ke nama you Ammal? Kenapa panggil you Bangla, Bangla?

Ammal: Besa lah ma’am orang sini tada suka Bangla.

Enida: Don’t worry, Ammal. Orang tak suka it’s ok. You buat kerja baik, Tuhan suka. Cukup.

Ammal: Yes ma’am, batul ma’am. Thank you ma’am.

Enida: Suruh itu Eji pigi eji lagi. Tobat. Mulut tada baik. Hati kena cuci sana Makkah punya pasir. Haihhh!

Ammal: Wokey ma’am. *chuckles*

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Ammal left my Mesra home walking with his head held higher than when he first walked in.

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…in my books, 11 years old girls are just too young to own a handphone…even if you have enough duit raya to buy one yourself…wait till you’re 21 ok…public phone got what?????…

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Nina, my dear Facebook Friend, put up a status that got me thinking today.

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My initial response was: “I told my Monchies, until they have a steady job to pay the monthly bill, they have no rights to ‘luxury’.”

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And then I got thinking, that as parents we always try to compensate for the very thing we cannot give our kids. Time. We buy them cellphones, for instance, with the excuse that in emergency situations they can call us easily. Or even in non-emergency situations, it enables us to communicate with our kids worry-free.

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But in any situation, do we really communicate with our children? Do we listen to them? The phone enables us to hear them, yes. But can they really talk to us, heart to heart, on the phone and off the phone? Do we take time to communicate with them?

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Also, as parents, every time we buy our kids something ‘big’, we justify the purchase with, “Oh when I was your age, my parents could not afford this. But now at YOUR age, I can. So I get it. So you get it.”

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But then again, I got thinking…what would our kids say to their kids? And the thought scared me as I realized that luxury can do a lot of damage to character building. How are we going to teach them to be humble when they are so used to having everything? And not just everything, but everything NICE.

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As cliche as it may sound, “If it is too easy, it never lasts.” my mother was right. And so I am sticking to my principle that, unless you earn it, you don’t deserve it.

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And that is also MY reason for not believing in this Duit Raya custom. I apologize if it offends those who take it as a charity. But I see it as a way of teaching our children to have unrealistic expectations. We do not give money for nothing, nor do we get money for ‘free’. Being a good person is not something that you get paid for. Well, not in this life anyway.

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Me Monchies have been asking why they are given money on Hari Raya. Other than saying that it is the culture of and custom for Hari Raya, I do tell them that it is a ‘donation’. Kitreena is happy to receive Duit Raya, but she has been asking, “Mom, I am not an orphan and I am not poor. But why do I get donation?” So I told her, that people just feel like ‘giving’. And like usual, she always has the last why.

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Anyway, the way I raise my Monchies, I want them to see that money is earned. That’s the reality for us adults, and that’s the way reality should be for children. Otherwise, I should expect Duit Raya from my family, friends, foes, and those Dunkin Donuts‘ cashiers at Ikano.

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Do It Raya Melangpow

Kitreena saw the ‘Duit Raya’ (Ang Pow) envelopes I got from Dunkin Donuts the other day. Thinking that there was already money in them, she started this whole debate:

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Kitreena: Mom, the money in these envelopes… is it yours or Dunkin Donut’s?

Mom: There’s no money in there.

Kitreena: Ohh? I thought Dunkin Donut’s already put money in them.

Mom: Ishhh bertuah!

Kitreena: What do you mean ‘bertua’?

Mom: If they put money in those envelopes and gave it to us, why did we have to pay for the mini donuts? The donuts should’ve been free.

Kitreena: So you are going to put your money in the envelopes Mom?

Mom: Nope! I don’t believe in giving money to just anyone for no reason.

Kitreena: But it’s Hari Raya Mom?

Mom: So what? Money is money, Raya or not.

Kitreena: You can give people money because they come to our house on Hari Raya.

Mom: They don’t have to be paid to come. The only people I pay for coming to my house are the pizza guys, Monch. If I really want to give away money, I go to people who need help. I don’t just give it to people who come begging or hoping for money.

Kitreena: But the money can be like a ‘thank you’.

Mom: But I can just say it with a smile.

Kitreena: Yeah, but… they can take the money and save it.

Mom: Yeah, if they save it. If they use it to buy silly toys?

Kitreena: Oh yeaaaah.You never give me money on Raya either.

Mom: Because I save it for your schooling. And instead of giving money on Hari Raya to kids who have enough of everything, I can save the money to buy food for the orphans, you know.

Kitreena: So what are you going to put in the envelopes Mom?

Mom: Uh… donuts?

Kitreena: Mommmmm! *giggles and roles her eyes to her mommy’s silliness*

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Mereka Merdeka

Much has been said about and on this Merdeka Day. Almost way too much. It has, like any other celebrations, become too commercialized for me to comprehend at times. When moderately and modestly done, nonetheless, this whole Merdeka event does bring tears to some eyes. Mine included.

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This Merdeka…I have no flag flying for the first time in the last few years. My Jalur Gemilang is still in the shipment, finding its way to St. Petersburg Port. And I have no idea when it is going to make its gemilang sailing towards Port Klang. But I am here. Dengan gilang-gemilang. Dan dengan hati yang merdeka. Saya di sini. I am home. And that’s all that matters this Merdeka.

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So today, in the spirit of Independence… I am taking my precious Malaysian Canadian children to Banting in the hope to see a little bit of some real kampung that I have not seen before. Who knows, maybe this is a prelude to our next Kampung Adventure Gear comes Raya. (I know for sure we will be in Cha’ah for Deepavali.)

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And while I follow my Garmin GPS to pick up my rider buddy, Ida Biker in Cheeding – no kidding and no cheating here – I am going to have some serious thoughts on Merdeka. Maybe I can come up with quotes like:

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  • “To free a nation, free the people from dirty toilets.”
  • “An independent nation is a nation who uses the public toilet just like their own private toilet.”
  • “Bukti kemerdekaan terletak pada kebersihan minda dan tandas kita.”
  • “Merdekakanlah minda kita dengan memerdekakan tandas kita dari jajahan kekotoran.”
  • “Tandas anda mencerminkan kemerdekaan minda anda.”
  • “Negara telah mengambil masa 53 tahun untuk membersihkan minda kita. Tetapi tandas kita tidak turut serta. Serang!”

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Well, you see… I have my own Merdeka Mission for next year already! The clue is : Education, Education, Education!

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