Looking around me I see the bigger pictures. And I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.


Saturday, July 29, 2006


When I look at the photo of an Orang Asli thatched roof house with tree bark walls in the blog I sent yesterday, I remember about one of their ceremony called 'bersiwai'.

'Bersiwai' is an Orang Asli gathering and merry making at night time, I have never been to. Probably then we the Malays never took part, it was not a part of our culture. But since it happened in Pahang (a Sultanate State in Malaysia)it probably can be considered as a Pahang culture. I am told that the Orang Asli in their settlements used to dress up in their best for the night occassion, wearing also decorative items made of 'lidi' and woven coconut leaves materials dancing to some sort of bamboo instrument beat music in the simmering light of the kerosene 'pelita' or even in the shadow of the moonlight. It was all shouts and grunts of men and women, where I suppose anything and everything went. That was probably why we Malays (except for a few taking advantage of the situation) never went or were never allowed to go.

I have a writeup of my experience with Orang Asli in my blog http://why360.motime.com/tag/orang_asli

Friday, July 28, 2006

Elephants & Deer

Deep in the green lush tropical jungle of Pahang, Malaysia, but only about less than 2 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, at Kuala Gandah, Lanchang, Temerloh, driving on the Kuala Lumpur -Kuantan Highway, exit at Lanchang Exit, there is an elephant sanctuary managed by the Malaysian Government. And a few km away is 'Deerland' where some Malaysia deer (and a few other animals) are reared. Its worth a visit, and all activities start at about 2.30 pm.

And on the way there you meet this beautiful, original, orthantic Orang Asli (Malaysian Abroginese) house.

And when you are in the elephant land you can ride real elephants.

And bathe the elephant as well as swim with the elephant.

And after the elephant show, visit Deerland

Friday, July 21, 2006

Happy Birthday Qadeem

It was my grandson's birthday last week. Happy Birtday Qadeem.

Monday, July 17, 2006

This changed my life

The Malay College Kuala Kangsar in Perak was "the Eaton of The East" then. This is a fully residential school for boys, a premier school at that time. I was one of the privileged few to go to the school then and the first from my kampong. Many went since then and including one of my nephews in 1986 and my son in 1993.

When I was successful at the entrance examination held in late 1952, I was sent a complete list what to buy and to bring to the school. I did not know who paid up to buy all the stuff, new white shirts, white shorts, underwear (I have never worn them before), leather shoes, rubber shoes, socks, tooth brush, tooth paste, blankets, bed sheets, pillow cases, mosquito nettings, sarong, songkok, comb, hair oil, blanco set, shoe polishing set, new luggage bags and a whole complete list of things I hardly knew existed or used before. Especially made leather shoes by a cobbler in town (2 pairs, one black and one brown were made for me, which I hardly wear in the school as they were so well made but quite tight that I did not really like to wear them) and my songkok ordered from a songkok maker in Temerloh. It must have cost somebody a fortune to equip me to go to that school. My grandmother was very reluctant to let me go as I was very small then, very small for a 12 year old lad. It took a lot of persuasions from my teacher and uncles and other relatives before she decided that I could go. And I was awarded the Pahang State Scholarship to go to the College. I found out later that there were 3 others who went with me to the College at the same who got the Scholarship.

On the appointed day of going I was made to dress in my new white shirts and shoes and socks and had my teeth brushed and hair oiled and combed properly, and tearful farewell with a lot of hugs and kisses from my grandmother, we boarded the boat early from my riverine kampong to go to Temerloh by the Pahang River. In all this situation my father took it very calmly, perhaps proud, perhaps perplexed, perhaps a sense of hopelessness, perhaps something else I could not understand. Anyway two of my uncles and a wife of one of them came along. In Temerloh my uncle hired a Morris Minor from an acquaintance complete with a driver to drive us all the way from Temerloh to Kuala Kangsar. It costed M$120.00 if I remember properly to hire the car and the driver, perhaps excluding the drivers meals and lodging. That was a lot of money in those days, January 1953.

I was excited and did not feel sad at leaving my grandmother and father behind. I was more looking forward to the journey, perhaps see Kuala Lumpur on the way. But we never went through Kuala Lumpur though I kept asking when would we be reaching Kuala Lumpur. We went straight, bypassing Kuala Lumpur, and only stopped once for meals. I could not remember where. We arrived in Kuala Kangsar at the King's Pavilion quite late in the evening, must be after 6.00 pm as all the boys had already had their showers and about to go for their dinner. I was shown my dormitory by a Prefect, had all my luggage and mattress (we brought our own pillows and mattresses then), carried into the dormitory (Dormitory C I think) upstairs. I was handed over to the Matron, Mrs de Silva (or was it De Souza?), by my uncles while they went into Kuala Kangsar town to look for lodgings and meals, with the promise that they would come to see me in the morning.

Kuala Kangsar was very small town and they should not find it difficult to get rooms in one of the Chinese shop lodging houses. It is the Royal Town of Perak state though. The Sultans Palace is in that town. The Kings Pavilion, a very historical building. (Sometime in the middle of 1950s the building was made into a Girls School). This was where the British Residents of Perak State, including the famous Sir Hugh Low used to reside. After they left, the building was turned over to the Perak Government who in turn gave it to the Malay College then to be used as a hostel and a school classrooms for new intakes then. It has a high flag tower and a grand view of the Perak River. It was a real grand mansion with beautiful wooden staircases, a very large verandah, a spacious dining hall, 3 complete suites with sitting type toilets and baths (I had never seen one of those before), a very large kitchen and a very well equipped large servant quarters and garages large enough for horse carriages. It was a very grand introduction to my life on grand ways of living.

When I was taken over by the Matron, an old lady about fifty over years old who always carried a whistle around, she showed me how to unroll my mattress and put on my bed sheet and pillow cases. Then she told me to undress for my shower. Who wanted to undress in front of a stranger and a women at that? I protested but she forced me to undress and virtually dragged me to the bathroom, had me scrubbed and told me to put on my Malay suit and songkok. Then she took me to the Dining Hall, introduced me to the Prefects, Ali and Bakri I think. I was made to sit at a vacant spot at a table, next to Imran Alias or was it Dzulkifli Alias, I cannot remember.

At the school they all used spoon and fork to take their food with. I had never used fork and spoon before in my life. I was taught by the Matron how to hold and use fork and spoon to eat my rice with. Nobody laughed though. After dinner I was made to go into one of the classrooms for prep. I was made to sit at a desk somewhere in front, a place reserved for me or was it that nobody wanted that place. I think it was about 9.00 pm (if I remember properly) we were made to go up to our dormitory, undress, put on our pajamas, brush our teeth, and the bell rung for going to bed and lights out. I must have been in bed for quite sometime not being able to go to sleep, strange ways , strange place, strange people. Then I remember hearing the clock tower in town strike, 10.00 o'clock I think (the clock at the clock tower strikes at the hour then), before I dozed off.

The next morning we were made to get up very early, at 6.00 am, to brush our teeth, have bath or shower, put our all white uniform on and made to line up outside the dining room in a Q and then went in to drink our hot morning milk. Now I knew why the Matron carried a whistle. She used it to hurry (or harry) us in our activities. She kept on blowing it if we were slow to react to her instructions and the schedules drawn (it was like a drill). My first day at the College. As I stood there in line a boy behind me started to laugh. I did know why then but later I found out that he was laughing at me for having hair cream at the back my ears. That was the first time I had to oil and comb my hair properly by myself and in a hurry as well. When I was in the kampong I did not have to. I used to have my hair shaved clean. Tradition of the kampong then. Anyway nobody said anything about the cream behind my ears earlier until later in the day one of the boys mentioned it to me. I cannot remember who the boy was, but the one who laughed at me was Imran Alias. Imran an I became good friends later.

After drinking the hot milk that morning we were made straight away to enter our classrooms, must have been about 6.30 0r 6.45 o'clock in the morning. I was asked to sit on the second row now where I permanently sat in that classroom until I left Kings Pavilion. At about 8.00 am my uncles and auntie came to say good-bye. They gave me some money and left. I felt a bit sad but I did not cry.

We were made to go into 2 classes, Class Junior A and Class Junior B. I was made to go into Class Junior A. They must selected this Classes by the age of the boys. I was then 12 years old, but the boys in Class Junior B were younger, some even 11 or 10 years old. They gave me a number, 517 it was. That was my school number. I had to remember it. It was put everywhere, on my text book, my exercise book, ,my clothings, my laundry and everything else I had at the College. It stuck with me the whole of my College life.

I remember in my class were Razak Hitam from Kampong Sokti Jerantut Pahang, Wahab Alwi from Kuantan Pahang (he was actually a Kelantanese whose father worked in Pahang), Dzulkifli Alias from Negeri Sembilan ( called Shortie, he was small and short but very good in his English and his English pronounciation was the model of the Class), Abdullah Omar from Kelantan (a good artist but quite old, he must have cheated his age, he used statutory declaration as he had no birth certificate, he already had hairs on his legs and even wrote letters to girls), Mat Che Man (he was old you can tell, also from Kelantan,, the same case of declaration as Abdullah), Mat Zain Sulaiman also from Kelantan (the same "old" case), Abd Kadir Hussein from Kelantan (same "old" case), Wan Mustaffa from Kelantan (he probably was of correct age), Wan Mohammad from Kelantan (probably of correct age), Abd Kadir Mohammad from Kelantan (of doubtful age), Nordin Hassan from Trangganu, Abu Samah Ahmad from Johore, Talib Ali from Johore, Mat Piah from Johore ( a failure from last years intake), Imran Alias from Negeri Sembilan, Nasahar from Selangor, Yusof Bakar from Trangganu, Daud Amin from Trangganu, Jimin Idris from Kelantan, Omar Hamzah from Butterworth, Hamid Johari from Trangganu, Abdullah Thani from Perak, Nik Mohammad Abdullah, Zain Hj. Idris and a few others whose names I cannot remember now, perhaps I can recollect them later. There was a total of 25 of us I think. In the Junior B class were Raja Nazzuddin from Negeri Sembilan, Mazlan Ahmad from Perlis, Yeop Adlan from Perak, Dahalan Ismail from Perlis, Hussein Shaari from Perak, Khairuddin Shaari from Perak, Nadzmi Nadzim from Kedah, Farid Abdulah from Kedah, Mat Zain Ramli from Selangor, Mat Nor Rashid from Negeri Sembilan, Wan Mat from Johore, Ismail Hamzah from Malacca, Ismail Mohd Nor from Kedah, Majid Adam from Perlis, Azmir Che Wan from Perak, Kamarul Baharin Othman from Pahang (actually he was from Negeri Sembilan but his father worked in Pahang), Aziz Mohammad from Trangganu, Mohyee Wardi from Selangor, Omar Hj Abu from Malacca, Syed Alias from Malacca, Zulkernain Sidin from Negeri Sembilan, Kamaruzaman from Selangor, the late Zainal Abidin Nordin from Perak, Fuad bin Jaafar and other names I cannot remember now, perhaps I can also recollect them later.

My class monitor then was Abdullah Omar. My Class Teacher was Mr. Gowthorne from Penang. He was a large Indian man, with protruding tummy and very fierce. To me he was a tyrant. He taught us English. Phonetics was his favourite subject, everyday we used to learn the 'sh' zh' 'ae' and the rest. For me it was a very difficult subject. He would then ask us to write these phonetic symbols and if we did not write them properly he would tear our exercise books. Very unfair. One day he tore Wahab Alwis exercise book and Wahab walked out of the class walking towards the Big School where the College Headmaster had his office. The Big School is the main building of the College and is situated about 2 miles away across the Kuala Kangsar town. That action got Mr Gowthorne into a panic. He ran after Wahab Alwi and managed to persuade him not to go to the Big School. After that incident he stopped tearing our exercise books even if we made many mistakes.

Our music teacher was Mrs Vivikenanda. She was sweet and could play the piano well. Before her was Encik Yusof Tajuddin, who was also our Cub Master. In the Junior B Class the class teacher was Mrs G R Luke, the wife of the Headmaster. I remember her as a friendly and beautiful lady (every European lady to us then was beautiful. They looked different, they dressed different, they walked different, they smelled different, they spoke different). She usually had her daughter with her to the class, Caroline her name was. Sometimes even her Chinese Amah used to come along. And the Junior B Class boys really enjoyed the classes especially when Caroline was around. And we suffered under Mr. Gowthorne.

The daily programme was very routine. Gets up at 6.00 o'clock in the morning, do the necessary, make your bed and arrange everything properly and tidily, have your hot glass of milk, go into the classrooms, have breakfast about 8.30 am (normally bread, butter, jam and tea), go to class again, lunch or tiffin at 12.30 pm, afternoon silent hour at 2.00pm to 4.00 pm (here you have to be in your dormitory, be very quiet, no walking about nor chit chatting, preferably asleep). Get up at 4.00 pm, have a cup of tea and biscuit and get ready for games. 6.00 pm games must be finished, have shower, and be ready for dinner at 7.00 pm. At dinner you are expected to wear Malay Baju and songkok, or you do not have dinner. After dinner at about 7.45 pm you are expected to go into your classroom for prep. At about 9.30 pm you prepare yourself to go to bed and the lights out was at 10.00 pm. At that time nobody was allowed to talk nor to walk about, you must be in bed, with your mosquito net properly down preferably tucked under the mattress. The Prefect will be going around checking all dormitories. We then only had Dormitory A, B, C, D so there was not much to check.

Every event you were required to do was preceded with the ringing of the bell. The routine goes on. The routine breaks at certain time. On Friday, there was the morning inspection by the College Duty Master when everyone was expected to change bed sheet and pillow cases (these and your clothing are expected to be sent to the laundry at a cheap and affordable rate), be dressed smartly and cleanly, school badge must be put on, shoes blancoed and polished, floor cleaned, (so on Thursday afternoon every one would be busy cleaning up, blancoing and polishing shoes). Normally the inspection would be quite early, about 7.30 am as the College Duty Master had to go to other buildings (Prep School and Big School) to do the same. After the inspection we were free to do what we liked, most of us just run down the hill to Kuala Kangsar Town, which is only a walking distance. Most of us just went into the town, walked about, probably buy sweet and comics. Most of us did not have much money. Those who had would go into restaurants to eat. Those who did not have, like I, just buy the necessary and walked back to our school building. Normally lunch was about 12.00 noon on Friday so we had to be sure that we were back in time for lunch or we went hungry. You are not allowed to enter the Dining Hall after grace is said. We were not made to go for Friday Prayer then. But I used to see the Prefects go to Friday Prayer on their bicycles. Tea was served at 3.00 pm but not other activities is forced on you as it is your holiday. Then at 7.00 pm was the dinner time and the routine started.

Saturday you had normal schooling and normal routine but no game in the evening, you probably be made to go to Big School sometimes to watch whatever school matches they had for the day, for example football or hockey matches against some other schools. You do not just go there, you are made to march like in a drill to and fro. On Friday if there were matches in the afternoon then you can go on your own. Then on Saturday night you had the film being shown at the Dining Hall in the Big School (when they had the Hargreaves Hall later they showed the film in the Hall). So after dinner we excitingly line up for the evening march to the Big School to the film shows. They were good films and quite the latest on the market then.

The Islamic Religion Teacher was Ustaz Ghazalli. He was a good Religious Teacher, knowledgeable and knew how to teach religion to us very young lads. He wrote a book based on the College Islamic syllabus and I still have a copy of it. His period in the class was normally about 3 hours a week with 1 hour per period. He used to drive the most antique car you can set your eyes to. Green in colour, with canvas square top, and starting by using a crank. Sometime we could never imagine how his car could climb the K P Hill but it did, with a lot of engine strain and effort I think. He was my Islamic Religious Teacher over the whole period of the 10 years of my stay at the Malay College. He is dead now.

My Koran Teacher was Ustaz Kassim and later Ustaz Nawawi. Ustaz Kassim was there until about late 1950s and Ustaz Nawawi took over after that.

The Master looking after us at the Kings Pavilion originally was Mr. Davidson, a Scotsman who on some occasions wear kilt and he had a small MGB sports car. He was quite young but balding. He stayed at in one section of the K P and Mrs De silva stayed at a room under at the back. One day on the way to Taiping Coronation Pool for an outing some of us went by his car. It was an experience, he had the canvas top down and he drove quite fast. We nearly had an accident at the Bukit Brapit winding section of the road. When Mr. Davidson left the College the job was given to Mrs Vivikenanda but she did not stay at K P, her husband was one of the Teachers at the College.

The hostel discipline was left to the Prefects and the Headmaster who popped in once in while.

Life at the Kings Pavilion was interesting. This was the first time I was really independent from the kampong life and adjusting to a very different way of life. No more Pahang River but now proper piped water showers, real toilet (though bucket type but that did not matter, and these were situated about 30 meters from the KP Building, painted black and we had to share them with the Houseboys and the Gardeners; they never allowed us to use the sit down toilets though we used them at times stealthily), food at tables eating with spoon and fork and not fingers, real cups and saucers, real bed sheet and pillow cases and not mengkuang mat or dirty bare mattresses or dirty pillows, real blanket and not just sarong, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, white shoes with blanco, socks, washed clean and pressed shorts and shirt. All those were things taken for granted by others but new to me. There were regulated time for everything and life was disciplined and orderly. I enjoyed it. That was the first time I played Cowboys and Indian, made bows and arrows, joined the Scout movement, played football with people of my own age group (though I was not too good at it), and do all the things that a "town boy" was supposed to do. I enjoyed buying comic (though money was never enough) and I enjoyed reading all the cartoons strips like those found in Beano , Dandy, and Topper in those days. Life was more natural in a way but not natural in other ways. It was like living in an orphanage without us being real orphans.

School terms were divided into three terms of about 3 months per term. The first term holiday fell on the fasting month of 1953. We all looked forward to going back to the kampung though quite sad to part with our new found friends. My uncle came to the school to pick me up on the appointed day of the start of the school term holiday. This he did for a couple of years until he was sure that I could make the journey alone with all my friends. Even then he had me looked after by some big lads from Temerloh whom he knew. He was not the only one who came, there many other parents. Most of them has got cars but some walked to the hostel to fetch their children and then went by trishaw to the railway station to catch the train to Kuala Lumpur.

We had to pack all our things as it was not the practise to leave them at the hostel except for the mattress and the pillows. The luggage was quite heavy but I was lucky as I had my uncle to carry them for me. We normally caught the night train to Kuala Lumpur. That was the first time I saw Kuala Lumpur when I arrived at the Railway Station. We arrived in the early morning, took a trishaw to Malacca Street where we caught the bus to Bentong, then change bus to Temerloh. It was a tedious journey I found out. The mountain road from Kuala Lumpur to Bentong then was very windy and torturous. That journey took about 2 hours. I got pretty sick in the bus when it negotiated the windy road. Then about one hour wait and another 2 hours of bus journey. By the time we reach Temerloh, normally the motor boat going upriver to my kampong had gone (They normally leave the jetty at about 1.00 pm). So we had to put up at the lodging house in Temerloh until the next morning catching the upriver boat at about 12.00 noon. Or sometimes we stopped at Mentakab, stay overnight there and take the train to Kerdau the next morning and walk about 3 miles to my kampong. However the Temerloh way was preferred. In my first journey home to the kampong we took the Temerloh route. It was great to be back to the kampong. On my arrival at the house my grandmother just grabbed me and gave me a strong hug and kisses on the cheek. I was quite shy about it as there was a lot of my relatives watching. My first time home and everybody was curious. Well I spent the 4 weeks at home, back to my routine of sleeping on mengkuang mat on unsheeted mattresses, no pillow cases, sarong as blanket and having to roll my bed in the morning. I enjoyed it though as I had my father and my brother with me during the period. After the 4 weeks I had to go back again to school. There followed the usual tears from my grandmother. My uncle took me to Temerloh as usual by motor boat and then to Kuala Lumpur by bus, stopping at Bentong to change bus. In Kuala Lumpur we took a trishaw to a distant relatives house at Jalan Sulaiman where we rested for the rest of the day (or sometimes the night, depending on whether we wish to take the night train or the day train.) and then taking the night train to arrive at Kuala Kangsar early next morning.

Life at the Malay College then was an experience. There were really more ups and less down for me personally especially with my kampong background. There were friends of various backgrounds from different states of Malaya then, (unfortunately the school was for the Malays only so I missed the opportunity of mixing with lads of other races. Also there were only boys so life was rather lopsided ). There were the rich and the poor, and the poor acting rich. I was on a Scholarship so I had money coming (though not very consistent and inadequate as I got older). There were times when I had to rely on friends for soap, tooth paste, shoe polish and blanco. Sometimes I had to borrow money from friends and pay it back when I got my scholarship money or when my uncle sent me money when I asked for it. I normally borrow about M$10.00 and try to pay them back as soon as possible, but sometimes the unforeseen happen so I could not pay them back. These unfortunates are like having to buy new underwear or shirt got torn. Maybe todate I have not paid some of my friends their money back..

I learned the rich good life. I learned about beefsteak, about green peas, about not bringing the knife you eat with into your mouth, about electric guitars, about battery operated portable record players, about going on real holidays during your school term break. Talking about the holidays, it created a lot of embarrassment to me personally. After every term break when we all got back to the College the class teacher used to ask us to write essays on how we spent our term break holidays. A lot of the students from a rich background used to write essays on how they enjoyed themselves in Cameron Highland, or Singapore or such places where I could not even dream of, what more spent holidays at. As I spent all my holidays in the kampong or even sometimes tap rubber with my brother to earn some extra pocket money, there was nothing much I could write on the subject. I wonder why sometimes teachers were not sensitive to people who were less fortunate.

Note: The names are real, some have long gone but I have not indicated AllahYarham (most regretfully). Some are now Dato'/Datuk and Tan Sri but I have not mentioned (respecfully)..

Md Lias Yusof
Kings Pavilion 1953
Ahmad House 1953-1962

Friday, July 07, 2006

Son engaged

My son officially got engaged to his fiancee' on Saturday 1st July 2006.

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