Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane - Day 1

Meeting an old friend again after 39 years. Ahmad Saffian and me having dinner at a food court in Alor Setar.

Thirty years ago I was the manager of a Felda settlement known as Felda Sungai Tiang located some 30 km from Pendang, Kedah. It was one of the early land schemes by Felda as it was opened in 1960 with about 520 settlers covering an area of approximately 4,000 acres planted with rubber. When I first set foot in the land scheme, I was just 30 years old while the majority of the settlers were already in their mid fifties and some of the settlers had already passed away.
I left the job for greener pasture in 1981 and relocated my family of three young children with my teacher wife to Besut, Treangganu where my family increase by another one member with the birth of another daughter. At the time of leaving Felda Sungai Tiang, the rubber trees belonging to the settlers had reached the end of it's economic life and there were not much bark left for the trees to be tapped. Some lots have lost their stand due to diseases or fire which is a normal hazard during the dry period and the dry leaves that gathered at the base of the trees were tinder dry and all it take was a careless act of throwing a lighted cigarette to start a fire and scorch the base of the trees. The fire may not kill the trees immediately but the weakened trees will be exposed to attack by other diseases that attack the roots or the branches and by pest such as termites.
Replanting is a time of hardship for the settlers as their source of income will be severely reduced. Those who have the foresight to plant their 2 acres of orchards with rubber had a buffer during the 6 years gestation period before the replanted trees could be tapped and provide a new income for the family.
Now 30 years on, I came back to Felda Sungai Tiang to witness another similar cycle of the need to replant since the replanted trees had come to the end of their economic life again. Another time of hardship awaits them. This time it was the turn of the second generation settlers as most of the original settlers had passed on.
We had left Pasir Mas around 9 AM in our more than 7 years old Toyota Vios to visit the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia. This is probably our last drive to the states of Kedah, Perlis and Penang as health wise driving such long distance may not be suitable for people like me whose birthday cakes will be lit with 6 large candles plus a few of the smaller ones. So I will have to make the most of this trip.
The trip from Pasir Mas was quite uneventful until when we passed Jeli and had begun the climb on the Titiwangsa Range. A car overtaking a long heavy leaden lorry both moving downhill at a dangerous corner had swerved into my path. Fortunately for me I was driving quite slowly and managed to swerve to the road shoulder to avoid a direct head on collision. Some drivers are just careless.
We stopped at Banding Island to break journey. The place I used to know as Banding Island Resort is no more there. Either a new management has taken over or they have renamed the place.

Looking up I saw this name below.

Could Emkay be the new owner?

The rest of the journey was uneventful. Our only problem was in identifying the routes to be taken to reach our destination. As is normal with Malaysian road system, road signages are very sparse. When you see a road sign at a junction, it could be the last sign and missing a junction can only mean a u turn is necessary.
Roads to the west coast have improved tremendously over the past thirty years. They are much more straighter, level, wider and better surfaced and thus driving was quite a pleasure.
We had a sumptous lunch of Kelantanese dish at an R n R after by passing Grik as the road to Alor Setar need not go through Grik. It was a Kelantanese fare replete with budu, ikan tawar and ulam which both of us took it with gusto. My wife had an extra dish of her favourite boiled cockles while mine was another plate of angled loofah with pumpkin cooked in coconut milk.
Our next destination was Jeniang. After Jeniang we took the Kalai junction to reach Felda Sungai Tiang.
Heavy rain accompanied us to Sungai Tiang all the way from Kalai. It was unabated and we reached our friend Cikgu Mahathir's house. It was easy to locate his house as we were told to look for the biggest bungalow next to a bridal saloon. After giving numerous unanswered 'salams', I was on the verge of giving up when I saw movement from within the unlit house. My lucky day as at least one of them is home since I can guess for sure Cikgu Mahathir was not in. Cikgu Umi Kalsom the wife of Cikgu Mahathir, came to the door and after telling her my wife's name who was her colleague when teaching together in Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Tiang, the door was opened wide for us to enter the spacious house.
True enough, Cikgu Mahathir was not in as he was in Alor Setar over a business. A quick call confirmed that he was on the way back and should reach the house in a while. Five mintes later, I was hugging Cikgu Mahathir, a man I had not seen since I last left Felda Sungai Tiang.

Cikgu Mahathir was the local youth movement leader when I was in Sungai Tiang and we had the same idealism to improve the lot of the people there with me on the authority's side and him on the people's side. Unfortunately my tenure with Felda was short lived and I left Sungai Tiang with just a minute but indelible impression.
There was so much to talk with Cikgu Mahathir as we updated each other and relived some of the old memories we had in Sungai Tiang. He is now as he was before, a very active person in politics and now contemplating standing up for election as a candidate for the state constituency in the coming General Election though his wife Umi was not really happy with the idea. I believe she was happy enough as they are but a man will do what a man wants to do and my guess is he will pursue his dream to be The Yang Berhormat as he will be leaving to Kuala Lumpur to meet up with a certain Federal leader.
The rain had abated and I left his home to visit a settler who was close to me when I was serving in Felda Sungai Tiang. His name was Haji Wan Ee and at 66 years Haji Wan Ee can be considered as very healthy. He attributed his health is maintained by constant activities working in his rubber plot and enjoyed his sea fishing which he did regularly.

I will forever be indebted to Haji Wan Ee as during my tenure at Felda Sungai Tiang, I had left my .38 Smith & Wesson Revolver in the restroom after doing an urgent call by nature at my office. Haji Wan Ee had entered the restroom and saw the revolver which he knew was mine and took it to me in my office. I just can't imagine how much trouble I would get if the gun had fallen into the wrong hand.
After some light snack and extremely delicious home brewed black coffee, we bid our good bye to his family and toured the village of Felda Sungai Tiang. Though many houses had been well renovated depending on how well the family of the settler is, some remain decrepit or left entirely unmaintained.
A typical Malay Kedah house on stilt after being renovate. Some had been renovated into a brick building.

A vacant house left to rot.

A rubber plot at the end of their economic life. The tree is being slaughter tapped to maximize income due to the high price of rubber. There is not much bark left to be tapped.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Tiang where my wife had taught before. Cikgu Mahathir had been promoted to the post of Headmaster before his posting to the State Education office and finally reached his retirement age.

We made a final stop at the mosque in Sungai Tiang. At the time that I left Felda Sungai Tiang in 1981, the fund to build this mosque was just started and many of the settlers had pledge a certain amount each for the fund and later I was told they had managed to collect more than RM200,000 from among themselves. The cost of the mosque was estimated at RM500,000 at the time.
Some settlers had just performed their Asar prayers at that time and I shook the hands of many of them.
After performing my prayers I left Felda Sungai Tiang for Alor Star with a heavy heart as this land scheme had been dear to me. I had fond memories of the place though I was there only for about two years.
The hotel in Alor Setar had been booked online for two nights while I was in Pasir Mas. The Sentosa Regency Hotel is comfortable enough for me to saty in. Above all it has wifi which is a necessity for me to be incontact with my family and friends and also to make postings in this blog.
That night an old classmate by the name of Ahmad Saffian Mohd Nor came to the hotel to take us to dinner. Ahmad Saffian was my group mate during my study at Kolej Pertanian Malaya and since we parted after graduation in 1972, this is the first time we are meeting up.
Ahmad Saffian had not changed much in look and I could recognize him anytime. Ahmad Saffian I am so happy to meet you again.

Monday, June 20, 2011

New Zeal And Enthusiasm For Painting

The Perahu Nelayan Traditional for Pak Pin.

2010 was a very lean year as far as my painting goes. For the whole of the year only one painting was done and it was upon the request of my wife Fatthiyah who wanted to give it to her school as a farewell gift upon retirement at the end of the year. Since it was done on a small canvass, the painting of a field of tulips did not have an impact and she had to buy another memento to replace it. Since it was her choice to do it on that size, I can't be blamed.
The above picture is my painting done for Tuan Haji Ariffin Mamat aka Pak Pin an avid collector of my paintings. So far ten of my paintings are among his collection in his home in Taman Melati, Kuala Lumpur. Pak Pin is a Malaysian Kelantanese residing in Jeddah. Pak Pin had asked me to paint another painting of the same boat that I did for Dato' Jaffar Lamri but from another angle. For this painting I had made another visit to the fish landing jetty in Pulau Gajah, Pantai Sabak, Kota Bharu. Lucky thing for me, the boat was still moored to the jetty. I had signed the painting in 2009 but did not deliver it till recently in June 2011.
Though he had asked me to deliver the painting to his sister's house in Kelantan, I did not do so as I was not satisfied with the painting. It was only in 2011 after further touch up that I felt it is good enough to be delivered. Together with other paintings for my children, I brought the painting to Kuala Lumpur and his son Aidil was kind enough to come and collect from me at Taman Amanputra while I was visiting my daughter. Sorry Aidil, uncle forgot to take a picture of you to be included in this blog. I promise that it will be included when I visit your home in KL.
Among my children, my youngest daughter was one of the earliest to have a painting done for her. The triptych was a slight deviation from the black and white that she had earlier requested which I failed to come up with something worthwhile. It was actually my first attempt at an abstract painting. It was named as Cantuman Kasih 1 as suggested by Pak Pin.
Cantuman Kasih 1 as see on the wall of my daughter's home in Kerteh, Terengganu.

Since the painting for my eldest daughter Azura was based on the same concept I as the one for Azini, I am naming it Cantuman Kasih 2. I even helped her to hang it on her wall. From the look on her face, she doesn't seem too happy with it especially after she had seen the one for my son Azrin and also the one for Pak Pin. I guess an abstract is not for her and I promise her to do another one or two.

Cantuman Kasih 2 on the wall of Azura's home in Taman Amanputra, Puchong.

For my son Azrin I did a painting of The Bird of Paradise flower and it was on a bigger canvass as he had a large wall to cover. In fact he had asked of a 3' x 5' which I was not willing to attempt. Anyway the 30" x 34" unframed canvass took up another bigger dimension after framing and had to be carried in the passenger section of my cousin's car when taking it to KL.

Azrin is seen here drilling the holes to hold the painting.

Space enough for some smaller frames to keep Bird of Paradise some company.

Azrin with his wife Yani and baby Ilham posing with the painting.

The whole clan including yours truly wanted to be in too.

Right now I am working with another three paintings. One is for Aleef Muhamad who had given me a picture of the paddy field near her home in Kelantan. Another is for a certain collector from Jeddah who maybe visiting my home in Pasir Mas. It will be a gift to him.
The third painting is a new request from a friend of my son Azuan by the name of Dominic Singh of Bank Negara KL. It is a painting of some Japanese kois and in its final stages of completion.

Hopefully 2011 will be a bumper year for me and my zeal and enthusiasm to paint will continue so that I will be able to cope with the few more paintings that was long overdue to some people.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mok Su Retires As A Teacher.

Mok Su with Ayah Su.
If you are a teacher in Kelantan and after about about 35 years of service, you will be feted to a grand send off upon retirement. The send off will be much grander if you are a headmaster and has taught in several schools around Kelantan. That was what happened to our Mok Su.
Yesterday Thursday 16th June 2011 was the last day for our auntie whom we call Mok Su as she is married to our uncle Ayah Su, the youngest surviving uncle on my wife's side.
She retired as a Headmaster of Sekolah Kebangsaan Mahligai in the district of Gua Musang. Before the posting to this school, she had been teaching in such schools as Sekolah Kebangsaan Banggol Chicha, Sekolah Kebangsaan Bunut Susu and Sekolah Kebangsaan Pangkal Kala all in the district of Pasir Mas, initially as an ordinary teacher and later as a Senior Assistant before her promotion to a Headmaster of Sekolah Kebangsaan Mahligai where her service finally ended.
It has become a sort of tradition among teachers in Kelantan that almost the whole school teachers and some pupils will escort the retiring teacher from the school to the teachers home. Since Sekolah kebangsaan Mahligai is more than 150 kms away not everyone was able to send her off but the majority of the teachers did.
The entourage was scheduled to leave Mahligai very early to reach Bunut Susu at about 1 PM which is the lunch hour but due to constant arrival of parents from around the school who came to say thank you and goodbye to this Mok Su of ours, the entourage was only able to leave at about 11.00 and on the way way had to detour via Pangkal Kala as the shool had linep up the pupils as well as the teachers who wanted to bid farewell too. After passing through, the teachers from this school joined the entourage moving to Mok Su's home in Bunut Susu.
At her home the entourage was greeted by teachers from other schools who had arrived earlier.
The following pictures tell it's own story of how great the reception was.

A silat performance upon the entourage's arrival

The msic ensemble accompanying the silat performance.

Mok Su giving a final thank you speech.

Guests going for the late lunch.

The male guests having their lunch.

Goody bags for all the guests.

Anak-anak sepupu Nur Qamarina and Nur Shafikak asked to be photographed and asked their pic to be uploaded to Facebook.

When my wife Fatthiyah retired on 18th December 2010 after 37 years of service as a teacher, she was accorded the same treatment but on a modest scale as we don't have the capacity to handle such a big entourage. Never the less it was a send off albeit from just one school.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I would have walked or even crawled from Pasir Mas, Kelantan to Kuala Lumpur if I had known that WA Hulaimi aka Awang Goneng of Growing Up In Trengganu (GUIT) fame would mention me in his latest book A Map of Terengganu (AMoT). The ocassion then was the book signing ceremony of AMoT by the author which I had to miss. In AMoT I was mentioned not just once but TWICE. The first mention was in his introduction as a word of thanks together with several other prominent people who had in some way or other contributed to AMoT, and later on page 56 under the topic of A Long Way From the Shore.
Awang Goneng had personally invited me to attend the first signing session at RA Galeri at Solaris Bangsar which was open to invited guests and his close relatives only. The occasion was scheduled on 30th April 2011. Oh dear, I just returned to Pasir Mas from KL after my Umrah and the next trip to KL was only scheduled for end of May together with my wife. There was no way for a poor pensioner like me to make an unscheduled trip to KL. So I had to pass the occasion as well as the next signing occasion at Borders on May 8.
Fortunately for me, my lamenting of helplessness on Facebook and blog post by Awang Goneng in his Kecek-Kecek to get a signed copy of AMoT caught the sight of another blogger friend Fathil who goes by the blog name of Oldstock in his blog Just Observations. Fathil not only volunteered to get me a copy but to get it signed by Awang Goneng at the next signing ceremony at Borders!
When Fathil approached Awang Goneng to get the book signed for me, the author was surprised as he thought I had my copy signed already. I guess in the frenzy of his book signings, he lost track of all who came to him.
With the AMoT signed, Fathil sent me an SMS inquiring how to deliver the book to me to which I told him to keep the book till I meet him in KL when I will be visiting my daughter at the end of May 2011. Unfortunately it was only in 6th June that I was able to go to KL as I had to bring along my paintings for delivery to my children as well as a long overdue painting for Pak Pin, the prolific Kelantanese blogger residing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
While establishing contact with Fathil to arrange for a meeting, he decided to come over to my daughters place at Taman Amanputra in Puchong as he consider it as not far from his place in Bukit Jalil. Well that was very convenient for me as I had no wheels to go out during the day time to meet him in KL. The only way out was to use the bus and meet up in KL somewhere near Central Market where the bus stop is. That will mean an inconvenience for Fathil since he will have to be away from work. So he decided to come to Amanputra after Isyak.

This is Fathil aka Oldstock though he isn't that old compared to Pak Zawi. The grandchildren didn't want to be left out whenever the camera is taken out.

Fathil came over at around 10 PM and it wasn't really difficult for him to find the house even without the help of a GPS which is really a necessity in a city like KL. Over a drink and some fried kerepok, Fathil took out the A Map of Terengganu from his small backpack. He surprised me by telling me that my name was mentioned twice in the book which almost took the wind out of me. I didn't know that, I told him.

The signed copy by the author Wan Ahmad Hulaimi.

Can you see the name Pak Zawi in there?

I had promised Awang Goneng that I would be writing about the games we played using the beluru seed which he called buah gomok or buah ipir in Terengganu. Unfortunately that promise was not kept by me as my thirst for writing anything had taken a nose dive during that time and any postings made during that period was half hearted at the most.
Anyway we played almost the same way as mentioned by Awang Goneng under the chapter of The Game of Gomok on page 57 to 61 by using the toe to project the beluru seed towards a target. The only difference was the target which in my case was another beluru seed stuck sideway with the broadside facing the player. This game can only be played on smooth earthen floor which was then available around most houses in Kampong Kangkong, Pasir Mas where I grew up with my maternal grand parents as a child.
The other game we played using the beluru seed was spinning the seed which is suspended on a loop of string inserted via three holes with two holes on one side and only one hole on the other side. The momentum created not quite unlike the yo-yo will allow the player to spin the seed perpetually. I guess the description of this game can only be done by an expert story teller the like of Awang Goneng with his mastery of the English language.
After an hour of getting to know each other more, Fathil took leave and refused to accept any payment for AMoT. For that I will owe him a painting as he had purchased a painting from me before. Fathil, I will personally deliver the painting to your home in Johor as another visit to my adopted state of Johor where I had worked for 7 years is long overdue. Fathil will be moving home to Johor soon as he has a job offer as a civil engineer back home closer to his family. The best of luck to you with your new job and please enjoy the company of your family.
Fathil made a post about meeting me at his site. Please read it here.
All these acts by these two dear friends as well as many others that I didn't mention, really humbled me. Such friendship will always be cherished.

Pak Zawi enjoying AMoT while the grand children enjoyed being photographed while the eldest Lis enjoyed making faces.