Sunday, February 24, 2008

TAG: MUHIBBAH - Part 1

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?

14 comments:

Hi&Lo said...

Pak Zawi,

Very heartwarming and inspiring of community spirit among our brethren.

I die to join you and your buddies for breakfast if only I were in the neighbourhood.

When we reach out to others different from us, it makes us all richer. We can pick up the finer points of each culture and meld them into our own.

Zawi said...

hi&lo,
When we wee born we knew nothing about differences among us. When we grow up slowly we were taught things that made us realise we were different from others. The best thing to happen is the differences need not be enhanced but slowly reduced. The skin color and a few others features will definitely remain but someothers can be made similar such as opportunities and benefits thus we can grow up with least dissatisfaction and distrust.
Who knows our path may cross one day and we may have the chance to have breakfast, lunch or even dinner together? Fate is unpredictable.

Hussin said...

Sdra Zawi,

I think it all started with our education system. When we were small we do not know we are "not supposed" to mix with our other races. Children will make friends with other children even if they are from Mars.
So what went wrong? I reckon it is our schools. Now with more vernacular schools, it is going to get worse. There will be less chance for integration. Politicians always make "politically correct" decisions even at the expense of long term well being of the country.

We need more stories like yours.

Sallam

Zawi said...

hussin,
Bingo. Spot on! That is what I meant to say and thanks to you for saying it for me.
Politicians make 'politically correct' decisions. Correct, correct, correct. Academicians are too docile to speak up and prefer to be good in the eyes of their political masters.
Thanks again.

Akmal said...

Pak Zawi,
Told ya. I knew you are going nuke :)
Racing against each other, in the context of studying, is a very good type of competition. However, although not all, many Malay student were not participating in the race. Being in the 'safe zone' to start up with, put them not in the 'real necessity' to go full throttle against each other. I have never thought this kind of things during my primary school, being 'innocent' during that times, you know... But in my secondary, I was exposed to the prerogatives Malay student got in their pocket, this question stroke my mind; why only Malay student? Looking at the other side of situation, this put the other races to the 'real necessity', so they went full throttle from the start, and never stop.
When facing problems, others are more to empower themself to overcome it, but we tend to simplify the problems. I am referring to the reality that occur today. I don't know if vernacular school system is a mean of helping Malay student, but to me it did no good. Instead, like you and Uncle Hussin said, we have less chances to integrate with other races, get to know and understand their cultures and things. We also end up lacking the skills and knowledge to communicate better with others. I am one of the thousands victims. What will do good then? It is to make sure that all Malay student have the spirit to compete. Again, I am not generalizing here, but It is a fact that many Malay student is left waaay behind.
Sorry I wrote long, off the topic some more. But when you mention about changing the language of the medium of teaching, I can't help it. By the way, I simply don't understand why we fret so damn much amout Malay Language. No jatidiri, they said...and I was like..what the heck??? I am not sure if this is true, but my friend told me that Original Malay words, there are only THREE (3); paku, babi and besi (sorry for the second word)! Others are imported from other language, and changed a bit here and there to make it ours.
Just regard me a bit dissappointed with the system and 'dengki' with you. You had the chances of knowing so many friends from other races from your school days, and I can count the number of friend from other races by finger! ~sigh~* Yes I know I have so many chances ahead, but nothing like friends during the schooldays...

Fauziah Ismail said...

Salam Pak Zawi
I'm awestruck with this piece. Well done, again!
Yout breakfast with friends reminded me of going into a restaurant in Merang Kuala Terengganu and chatting up with a local who spoke in loghat Terengganu without realising that he wasn't a Malay! He looked like a Malay and spoke like a Terengganu Malay, only he was not a Malay!
I know for a fact I cannot find this anywhere else outside the east coast states.

p/s 50 years of independence, we still haven't got some of our basic needs right!

kbguy said...

Nice write up again, Zawi. Its good if all Malaysian feels the same.. with the spirit of Muhibah. I remember at one time, we even have radio n tv playing the song "Muhibah" over n over again. Talking about kelantanese food, u know la.. they are so sweet, n I have to cutout all these food bcos of health purposes. During the Ramadhan month, I prefer to go to the market at Kubang Keriang before I head home from work.
And what Wakaf baharu project u are planing ? haha... My kelantanese dialect is sooo poor. hehe..but it's ok.

Zawi said...

Akmal,
You represent the generation that were victimised by the folly of politicians. Since your mastery of the English language at least of the written kind is way above normal Malay youngmen your age. Coming from Falahiah School makes me wonder is that the better school in Kelantan? My own children studied in either Sekolah Menenggah Sains Machang or Sekolah Menenggah Ahmad Maher, I tell you they don't come anywhere near you in the command of Enlish. Fortunately my eldest daughter had the opportunity to study in USA and her English improved much more after that.
I will always say we erred when we changed the medium of Instructions. My Chinese and Indian teachers were against it but they dare not speak up for fear of being considered unpatriotic or going against nationalism.
For people like you, all you need to do now is improve your spoken English by mixing around with English speaking students at your Uni. In no time you will find immediate improvement and a richer life due to new cultures learned.
Thank you Akmal.

Zawi said...

Fauziah,
Is this good enough? I have to do Part 2 in order to show some impact cos the content of this one doesn't seem to be examplary enough.
The northern states (Kedah especially) where assimilation is superb. In the border districts like Pendang where I used to live, you cant tell who is of Malay, Chinese or Thai origin. They look the same, speak the Kedah slang, Thai and Chinese.

Zawi said...

KBGuy,
Muhibbah in Kelantan is still OK. There seems to be a widening gap among the younger generations. I blame that on the vernacular schools.
About our food here, we have to be selective in the choice of food. Eat whatever you can and never in excess.
Call me if you want to know what project. I want to do a write up on Wakaf baru and need your skill to take some night photography. It can be easily done by you and since the places you have to go to are Chinese places actually. Let us do it together and make your Wakaf Baru a wellknown place.

anasalwa said...

Zawi,
Lovely entry. Actually living in harnomy side by side with our Chinese and Indian neighbors have been practicing way before our oxymoron politicians learned to spell MENGUNDI.
I'm looking forward to read more about your breakfast buddies.

awang said...

Pak Zawi,
Correct me if I'm wrong.To older generation ,Muhibbah is something very special.Now..maybe Akmal or my daughter experience this..life in University campus.Myself on and off become my daughter personal driver..I can see that those U student are not practicing Muhibbah such as when Mr Mutu only go with Mr Gopal,Mr Ali jalan jalan with Miss Minah,Miss Kong looking for Mr Lee and Iban with Iban,Bidayuh with Bidayuh so and so....

Zawi said...

Ana,
As is with any neighbour, trusting,respecting and caring for one another, knowing that he will come to your aid in time of trouble are the prerequisites of good neighbourliness. It matters not what colour or religion one is.
The next part wont be about my breakfast buddies anymore but about another family who was once voted The Parents of The Year for 1999. What made them qualify for that prestigious title?

Zawi said...

awang,
Living in a small village makes it simple to meet. Depending onone another for business and friendship make it all the easier to mix.
In the universities language becomes a barrier. The Kelantanese tend to keep tothemselves because they feel easy speaking their own dialect. The same happens to other ethnicities. So how do you integrate? When I attended College in the early seventies, English brought us together. We mix and study side by side as if we have been friends all along.
My roomate for my first year was a sarawakian Chinese and he was given the nickname Rapist during orientation and that name stuck till the end of College. My third year roomate was another Chinese from Tangkak and he had the nickname of Viet Cong. That too stuck on him till end of College days. He answered to the call of Viet Cong as if it was his name. Ain't that camaraderie enough to be muhibbah?
Your observation of students at universities nowadays is definitely correct.