February 6th, 2008 was the day Fauziah Ismail tagged me. It took me this long to come up with this piece which maybe nothing worth reading compared to what I have read in another friend's blog going by the name of Mat Salo in his blogsite Borneo Blues.
There is no need for me to further bore you with the definition of Muhibbah. Read here, here, and here to get some ideas of what it means.
Today I had breakfast with my friends Ah Tee, Wan Zain and Azmi at warong Mok Doh near my house. Abe Pa, Ah Tong and Ah Kong the other breakfast mates were not there. Ah Tong always has his breakfast late. Ah Kong couldn't come because he had a minor accident which cost him RM200 to repair his motor bike after a car driven by a stupid driver (the same kind as mentioned in Mat Salo's blog on his muhibbah tag) simply drove into his path from a junction in the compound of Hospital Kota Bharu. Can you guess who was this stupid driver? Ah Kong suffered bruises while the wife who was riding pillion suffered a hard knock.
Abe Pa must have gone somewhere to replenish his stock of second hand bicycles which he is selling to make a living.
This breakfast together among us has been almost a daily routine for us. I have ceased to be a regular since my 7 months old Bilqiss came home to be minded by me while her mother attends college in Keningau, Sabah for a while. I had to bring Balqiss along in her pram to be able to be there. That is why I am unable to be with them for breakfast as often as I used to.
This breakfast together was a daily routine with at least one or two or sometimes with all of them. They are my biking buddies. We ride bikes together. Thats all that brought us together and binds us till this day.
Ah Tee, Ah Kong, and Ah Tong are panel beaters. Abe Pa has a small business selling reconditioned bicycles, the second hands one from Japan. Azmi is an ex army guy and now is doing the simplest of all job for a retiree, a school 'jaga'. I say it's a simple job as this is the only job which allows you to sleep on the job.
From left: Ramli, Ah Kong, Ah Boon, Abe Pa and Ah Boon. Ramli and Ah Boon rarely join is for breafast.
Why do we have breakfast together you may ask. Its friendship. Its the feeling of liking each other's company where we just chat about anything that takes our fancy that brings us together. Most times it will be about bicycles. Never about politics.
Abe Pa refurbishing his new acquisition for sale.
Others like the elderly Pok Ku and a few others may join our table. We talk the same language, the Kelantanese dialect. Ah Tee, Ah Kong or Ah Tong may lapse into Hokkien sometimes when speaking among themselves but more often they will use Kelantan dialect when we are around. It is OK because I too understand a smattering of Hokkien and Mandarin. The Hokkien I learn when I was growing up in my village where a quite a number of Chinese families live.
Eh Tong (Chia Chu San) and his brother Che Ta (now deceased) grew up with us in Kampong Chekok, Chetok, Pasir Mas. Together with a few other friends we did many mischievous things typical of kampong kids. Eh Tong taught me the survival techniques when we go into the bushes to hunt for birds which we never manage to get using our catapults. More often untended unripe mangoes became the tagets of our catapult as they are not mobile and much bigger than birds. Unripe mangoes can be eaten there and then. Eh Tong taught us how to survive by eating root of tubers called sweet potatoes. Ahemm.. they are not the wild kind but planted by others. Off course taking a few tubers won't be noticed by the owner. Freshly dug young sweet potatoes are nice to eat even when eaten raw. Remove the skin first as freshly dug ones exudes whitish latex that maybe harmful.
When I grew older and was in form five, Ah Hoon (Quek Leng Hoon) whose family comes from Bukit Panau came to set up a bicycle repair shop in my Kampong Chekok in the mukim of Chetok. I must include the mukim as the name Chekok can be taken to be the Chekok in many other districts like Machang and Tumpat.
There was another family which Ah Hoon was close with. Due to my closeness with Ah Hoon, I became close with this family of the Kohs too. They asked me to give tuition to their children which I did almost everynight for whatever token sum they wanted to give me and I get to learn the Hokkien dialect and some Mandarin from them. Since whenever I go to their house, I haven't had dinner, they will invite me to have dinner with them so that it won't be too late for me to begin my tuition. My mum won't ne cooking dinner until after the isyak prayer. By the time dinner was ready, I would be so hungry that I couldn't concentrate on amything. I have no qualms about having dinner at the Koh's place knowing full well they won't serve me non halal food. So dinner at the Koh's house was a regular thing for me.
Tuition was actually helping the children with their homework. So Koh Soh Tuan and her brother Koh Poh Seng was once tutored by me. Koh Soh Tuan became a teacher whose expertise is well sought by some schools to improve the standard of English among their pupils. Koh Poh Seng set up a motor workshop at home and is well sought too due to his ability to use new technologies in his work.
Recently my old classmate Lee Kew Pee feted his staff to a Chinese New year get together. He invited me and my spouse for the function.
The gracious hosts.
Lee Kew Pee with some of the early guests.
Closer to home, on their own initiatives a group of Chinese and some Malays they were making 'bubur asyura'. This is something only done by the Malay moslems in the moslem calendar month of Safar.
Making asyura at Ah Thiek's house in Kampong Kasa.
Hey whats the big deal? What is the necessity of me telling you all of these old tales? I just want to tell you that muhibbah has been with us all the while. We never even realize it is muhibbah in the making. Nobody ever thought anything about being muhibbah. We just did it. Now after 50 years of independence why must there be any need to emphasize on muhibbah? Why didn't it happen naturally like it did happen the way I experienced it since small till now? What is wrong with us now that muhibbah must be forced upon us? Why must it be reminded all the time? Why must the government be spending so much money to spread muhibbah which doesn't seem to have any effect at all?
I tell you what is wrong. The change to Bahasa Melayu as the medium of instruction split us all. The days I went to school it was an English school where everybody goes to. Everyone of us even the rural folks feel the need of an English education to improve our lot. What more the Ah Chongs or the Muthus, they know better. So back then we went to the same primary, secondary schools and later to colleges or universities. English was the common language that allow us to mix freely. Nowadays segregation is so evident. Right from the pre school classes, right up to end of primary school where different ethnicities will go to different schools of their choice. This is the root cause because when they go to school at the secondary level, it will be very hard to integrate. There will be bound to be segregation due to instinct to be with your buddies, difference in spoken language and eating habit.
Then there is the race based politics that we have to contend with. Not many parties have really multiracial membership. The pesent policy is definitely wrong. Even after 50 years at the helm, nothing has been done to address this lack of muhibbah among the races. The New Economic Policy is the main bone of contention with it being extended and abused by certain people to enrich themselves.
In my second part of This Muhibbah tag, I will relate to you how the family Tan Soon Guan and his wife Chua Sek Khim of Machang Kelantan brought about the spirit of muhibbah in his family and community in a village called Kampong Chekok Tok Chuba. Thanks to Koh Soh Tuan, I managed to trace some of their children Tan Chu Gek in Sepang and Tan Chu Pang in Malacca to get some leads on the story. Tan Chu Pang nominated her mother as the mother of the year in 1999 and was featured extensively in the New Straits Times and I am going to see the framed copy of the NST at their parents home in Machang. The Tans are defintely the epitome of muhibbah. Can you bear to wait while I will go and do some research?