Friday, May 22, 2009


In standard four (1964) I was in Langkap, Perak. It was there that I was first introduced to the world of fighting spiders.
Fighting spiders, Thiania bhamoensis, are small, greenish arachnids (they are not insects for they have 4 pairs instead of three legs) commonly used by children to play with.
During my times my friends and I used to foray far from Langkap Police station to look for them.
They build their nest by binding two leaves (usually hibiscus, sugar cane, pandan and other plants) together with vertical strands of silk produced from special glands in their abdomen perpendicular to the leaf surface.
Normally I would gently separate the leaf-sandwich and peek nto them to see what was inside. I would look for two large white eyes of a fierce male. If it was a female, I would leave it be.
If it was a male, I would pluck the leaves and gently put them into a match box.
These fighting spiders were normally housed in regular empty match boxes that were lined with leaves of plant species from where they were caught.
Fighting arena was usually on the match box itself. Sometimes we used larger metal match box for more important matches.
The fight was usually very brief. The gladiators would normally test their strength by pushing each other using their first pair of legs.
The losers would autiomatically run away and the winner did not chase it that seriously.
So a fight rarely resulted in serious injuries to any of the fighters.
The opposite was true if different species of spiders were used. It happened to me once when my favourite spider went in to fight a neighbour's champion.
Only when I saw that it was a bigger species of spider I realized that it would be a doomsday for mine. It quickly jumped on it and gobbled my spider into its massive mouth parts.
Spiders collected from certain plants were said to be stronger than others. In my case I preferred spiders originating from sugar cane plants.
With the rampant use of insecticides and weedicides I wonder if there were still fighting spiders around our gardens.
I have not seen any as I search for them in my pandan leaves at the back of my house.
May be I will try to reintroduce this game to my nephews if they were not scared of them.


Have you ever wondered where are the girl or girls or even boy or boys that you had fallen head over heal (puppy love that was) with now?

Don't tell me that you did not have any! Even a shy boy like me did have a few girls that I especially liked over the years.

Standard one and two escaped me. I did not remember any of my classmates except Sheikh Raziff in standard one.

It was in standard three that girls came into my life. It was in Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampung Gajah, Perak. First it was Mardhiah (I am not sure about the right spelling). She and I always ended up in either the first or second place in the class.

It was in a game called 'police sentry' that I began to have a crush with her. The game involved boys and girls where one team chasing the other, and almost always it ended up with me chasing her.

Holding a girl by her waist was something else then! There was nothing sinister about the act then, but still the feeling was there.

The second girl was Hasnani bt Saad, the daughter of my father's colleague at Balai Polis Kampung Gajah. We two always walked together to school and back, sometimes sharing tapioca crackers with chilli sauce with the slow meandering Perak river as our witness.

My late brother, knowing of our close relationship, used to tease me by asking who was my special girlfriend, was it Hasnani or Mardhiah.

I never answered him for I was unsure whom to choose between them two!

Sadly we departed and never again meet one another till now.

I remember contacting friends in STF and TKC looking for them. They were not there.

If anyone of you out there who knows their whereabouts or knows someone who knows their whereabouts, please let me know. I just would like to meet them, not to rekindle our puppy love, but just to say hello and exchange childhood stories.


I wonder if any of our children could survive if left alone in our lush tropical jungle?

I don't think they have what it takes to survive under such situation. They have been raised (our faults too) in a very easy way. There is no necessity for them to do much to see that food is available on the dining table. All they know is that food is already served when they come home from school.

Once I even asked my son: "Can you survive alone on an uninhabited island? "

He was unsure of himself, even if there were coconut trees around. Why? They do not know how to get at the coconut water and flesh inside with a parang, let alone without any gadget around!

It is different during our times. We did provide a significant share to the family to make sure that there was food on the table.

We also knew where to look for food alternatives, what were edible from the wild and how to get it.

I still remember going fishing after coming back from school. With a simple line and hook and with bait of dried scad I could easily catch two or three garupas from the river over the bridge at Kg Bukit Kuang.

In the evenings, I was an expert in finding lokan from the mangrove swamp nearby. Using a simple tool (old rubber tapping knife) I could easilr find and scoop up lokan from their hiding place in the mud. I could easily collect a basket-full of them in no time.

At nights I used to go around the edges of the river hunting for crabs, shrimps and even rays that like to be there at the time. Using a self-made mini-harpoon and an obor made from dried-up coconut frond, I could catch a dozen or more crabs, shrimps and one or two rays in one session.

From the jungle include wild fruits like gucil, kelat, senduduk, kemunting, etc etc. I don't know whether our children know anything about these.

Wild mushrooms were also my favourites. I knew by memory where they normally grew after rain.

Cashew nuts were aplenty during its season. I went around the village collecting the seeds, dried them and later roasted them myself. They were for sure much delicious when you eat as you pound on the charred seed to get at the nuts inside!

Sweet young coconuts, fallen sentul were the other free food from the village.

Now you know why I said that we could survive in the jungle. My worry is whether our youngs could do so. It is up to us to teach them. Get them closer to nature. Don't just make them interested only with computers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


It was raining furiously that night. A sudden gust of wind brought down a few fronds from the tall coconut tree in front of the police barrack. The fronds together with other debris fell right smack in front of the door.

Suddenly I heard baby birds chirping. I immediately rushed outside and there they were, in the rubble, soaking wet and crying their hearts out.

"Baby mynahs!" I exclaimed as I stooped and collected them in my hands.

I brought them inside, dried them with a piece of an old towel and placed them in a box lined with old newspaper strips.

They were very hungry. For the night a few grains of soaked left-over rice would be sufficient. That was what my mother told me when she saw me restless looking at the gaping mouths.

Tomorrow was another story. She told me that mynahs normally thrived on insects, and grasshoppers would be the easiest to catch and the most abundant.

So began the story of me, a standard one student, busy running here and there looking for grasshoppers. They were plentiful in the nearby fruit orchard and coconut plantation.

With the abundant high-protein and high-energy meal of grasshoppers the baby mynahs grew fast. Soon they were ready for their first flight.

A neighbour's tom cat suddenly walked into my house and without warning pounced onto my baby birds. A baby bird was in its mouth. I gave chase but it was too late. It was already dead by the time I got hold of it.

It was a sad day for me. I buried it in a shallow grave beneath a mango tree and marked it with a few stones.

The other baby mynah grew faster for it had all my attention day in and day out. Soon it began to fly. Numerous falls did not deter him.

Soon it followed me wherever I went. It would join in with his wild friend whenever he is with me. But a little trick of mine would bring him flying back to my shoulder. I just had to play-act smacking a grasshopper with a lidi broom.

One morning I found his cage wide open. Johnny (I called him Johnny from a Western hero) was not there. Then began a frantic search for him every where.

I was late and missed the bus that morning. For that my father had to send me to school on his bicycle.

After school I continued searching for him. I found him. He was in a neighbour's kid's bird cage! Despite of my plea he insisted that it was his. Even his parents defended strongly that the bird was his son's.

I gave up. Johnny continued to be in my mind and even now the story of me, a standard one kid, raising a baby bird on my own is still passed on to my children, nephews and nieces.

Mini Reunion In Kota Bharu

"I am coming to KB from 16-19 May for a meeting. Kindly arrange for a 'teh-tarik' session with friends in KB" - a very simple sms to Ismail Ahmad.

"God willing it will be done" - equally simple answer from Ismail.

I arrived at Renaissance Hotel KB at around four. The lobby was thronged with DVS officers from all over Malaysia.

I went straight up to room 1911 and lay on the cosy bed - rest. Called my wife describing the special room. She regretted for not joining me.

Sabri aka Walang called. He was coming for a meeting with SEDC people. I told him that I would be free during the night, after bowling that was.

While enjoying my bowling at KB Mall lanes, the two of them came. I glanced at them and recognised immediately both of them - Sabri and Hamzah aka Mejoh Pok Badul. Both remained petite as before, but like me, grey hairs were prominent in the case of Mejoh.

They pulled me away for a midnight drink at a Mamak Spicy Restaurant nearby. We talked and talked and continued talking till it was already past 1.30 am and finishing three glasses of fruit juice each.

I had not met Hamzah since we departed after our LCE, that was in 1970 - 39 years ago. He did not make it, but struggled he did and finally he reached the Headmaster's post.

Mejoh then called Wan Yusuf Wan Yaakob to join in. He came late but came he did. When we called it a night, he brought me first to his house. It was already near two then.

He told me what had happened to him after leaving SDAR, right from his marriage and to his profession. Surprising me he told that Suhaimi Salleh aka Pok Yeh (my junior) married his sister.

I reached my room at 2.30 in the morning and dozed off soon after.

The following night, Abu Hassan, Ismail, Rasid and me went to see Dr Abdul Manaf. He was very happy to meet us, especially Abu and me. Maimun or just Moon, was like usual very friendly.

Please read my entry 'Patience beyond compare' for Dr Manaf's story.

On the way home, I dropped by at Hospital Besut, Jerteh to meet Ripin, my best friend in SDAR.

We have not met for quite some times, may be thirty years. He was still small as before. His spectacles seemed to me badly in need of upgrading. He was as talkative as ever, introducing me as the animal doctor to everyone he met on our way to the ward.

His father, Che Salleh was sick, very sick. He gave me a small smile as I introduced myself and shook his hand. Still remember how he went around Kampung Lampu searching for all the ingredients needed for my floral bath when I was at their house after returning from the hospital. Ripin's mother gave me an invigorating floral bath that morning!

I left Jerteh feeling happy for the mini reunion. I hope our comradeship will remain as strong in years to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


He is continuously being tested with illnesses, one after another. He takes it as his pre-destined fate without any qualms or feeling of regrets or 'why me?' attitude.

First it was his heart. He had to undergo a by-pass operation. I was there with him after the surgery.

Then he lost his sight due to bilateral retinal detachment. He is now blind.

Then he lost his hearing and could only barely hear what you say with the help of hearing aid.

Both of his kidneys have problems and now he is on peritoneal dialysis machine.

He still continue working as a lecturer in Medical faculty USM Kota Bharu.

Now his left leg has to be amputated because of it being gangrenous.

He was on his wheelchair when we visited him.

"Who's this?" He asked as he grabbed hold of my hand.


"Oh it's you Azahar..."He sounded jovial despite his physical handicap.

That is Dr Abdul Manaf Hamid, a man a very patient man. In fact he is the pinnacle, panacea of human patience and endurance towards tests of Allah.

During our meeting he never for once complain or talk about his sufferings.

Moon, his wife, told us that he still supervises post-graduate students.

He looked very frail and tired.

To Allah we pray that he continues to be positive towrds life.

Friday, May 15, 2009


My first encounter with animals was in Alor Akar, Kuantan way back in 1961. They were not as pets though. They were more as food for a small hunter or trapper like me.

The first were Yellow-vented bulbuls (merbah). Uncle Mat Saman (my father's colleague) brought me along during his trapping trips to birds' natural bathing area in the jungle nearby.

We used a special natural glue made of jack-fruit (nangka) sap among others, pasted onto long bamboo skewers which were then placed near the pond where bulbuls frequented.

The birds would get themselves stuck to the bamboo skewers as they landed on them.

It was very uncommon sight for us two bringing a pail full of birds at the end of such trips.

Most of the time it was my duty to process the birds. By processing I mean defeathering, degutting and getting them ready for deep frying.

I enjoyed what I did. The delicious finger-licking fried bulbuls were unforgettable.

Then there were the mousedeer (kancil or pelanduk). We caught them using traps. As bait we used the shoots of a jungle tree (red in colour). Passing mousedeer would never miss it for anything - thet was why our traps were never empty.

It was the skin of these mousedeer that was special to me. Properly prepared, they tasted very good, even better than the shark-fin!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Three Cousins

The three of them, Diyana, Shapawi and Nor were born just a week apart some twenty five years ago.

They are cousins, the three of them. Diyana, of course is ours; Shapawi is my wife's brother's second son and Nor my wife's another brother's third daughter (she was a TKCian)

Still remember how my late mother-in-law had to travel between our houses (ours in KT, Shapawi near Air Putih and Nor in Kg Gong Limau) to look after them and their mothers just after they were born.

Don't know just why,but only Diyana and Shapawi are close, even from when they were still toddlers.

Time travels fast. They were all adults now. Diyana has just graduated with a law degree from IIUM and is going for an interview with SC the end of this month, Shapawi is now working after getting his diploma and Nor is now a chemical engineer with PETRONAS.

Shapawi beat his two cousins in as far as getting married is concerned. He and Maimunah@Yati were just married 8 May 2009.

For the hantaran (wedding gifts) he specially begged my wife to prepare. He knew well his aunt's prowess in decorating wedding gifts.

Nor was the second among them. She was engaged to an aeronautical engineer from Malacca a week's earlier.

Well, ours is still single.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Cleanliness is a pre-requisite in Islam. In fact it is half of faith - everybody know this.

The question is: How many of us practise and make this their way of life?

I'm not going to give you the answer to this question, but instead will describe the sorry and disgusting state of most of our toilets. Ironically, most masjid's and surau's (the places that require cleanliness) toilets are the worst

Just pop into any Malaysian toilet, most often than not you will find it less than desirable. The odour - be it ammoniacal, that of petai, etc is chasing away would-be patron; the wet and mouldy floor and walls and the rubbish strewn all over make us wonder whether their users are aware of the state their toilets are.

I guess we should change the word toilet (tandas) to rest room (bilik rihat) as may be the word toilet conjures the meaning od some place that should be dirty and uncomfortable to be in.

During our stay in the States we witnessed how well they take care of their toilets. Well, I don't mean their private rest room, but also their public ones.

In my department, the rest room was really somewhere to rest. It was equipped with a sofa and the environment was so clean that a poor undergraduate made it his sleeping area.

In our adopted family's bungalow the situation was more extreme. The entire rest room floor and walls were fully carpetted, even the toilet seat! I wondered how then they did their things.

I was told that they read and searched for ideas while on the toilet seat!

The question is, is it that out toilet practice needs a revolution? Are we using too much water in cleaning ourselves and thus wetting the room too much too often? Or is it the food that we consume that makes our rest room stinks?

A friend told me that he was surprised seeing how friends from New Zealand used his rest room. They do not wet the floor at all even when they had their sower.

May be the practice of using floor towels to dry off toilet floor (as provided by many five star hotels) is the answer.

May be we should really look into the prescribed way of cleaning ourselves...using something coarse first before using the water.

I don't have the answer to this issue, but we all should do something drastic to change. We will never reach a developed nation status as long as our rest rooms are still uncomfortable to be in.

Though it sounds too trivia for a serious discussion to many, I think it should be the main agenda for our government to improve the outlook of our rest rooms. Just providing fee collectors and rest room cleaners are not sufficient.

Our rest room use culture should change. We all should change our practice of cleaning ourselves and keeping our rest room clean.

It is my dream to run over to any public rest room in Malaysia, be it in gas station, restaurants, bus station, etc. whenever I have to answer the call of nature and find it a pleasant place to be in doing our things.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Picture of School Chums

The first thing that caught my attention today was a rolled-up picture. It was a memento from Class 72 SDAR Reunion 55 in Perlis.

Sadly, like in PD, I missed it. In both cases it was my bleeding piles that prevented me from reuniting with sleeping-eating-and-playing-together school chums.

Most of them looked old (as if I am not!) physically - either greying hair, greying eyebrows, beard and moustaches. Ismail Shamsuddin (our iron-man) looked much older than the last time we met.

Razak, Ramli Musa and Zainul Harun all sported a prominent helipad (Hack forehead). Sheikh Raziff (my standard one classmate) looked old besides Hamidin who looked as young as forever.

The youngest (in appearance) was of course our Orang Bulan (Wan Shariff). His youth was understandble....

Me? Well I'm still as slim as those, beard, moustaches and even hairbrows and chest hair are all greying....


Mothers deserve more than just a Mother's day.

A day is grossly insufficient for ones who brought us into this world, nursed us all through our infancy, taught us, love/d and care/d for us as long as they live.

It would not be an exaggeration if we devote everyday of our lives as Mother's day.

So too are our fathers. They are rarely appreciated as mothers are.

They are normally the unsung heroes, remembered mostly when they were gone.

A story from our Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) time: A son met Prophet Muhammad and complain about his father who was fond of taking home things.

On hearing that Prophet Muhammad went to see the father and asked him why. He then explained his reason. Tears flowed down Prophet Muhammad's cheeks.

He then called the son and said: "You and all your properties are your father's".

It is true what our elders said that a mother and a father could take good care of nine children, but nine children most often fail to give the same to their mother and father!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Save our Rivers

Karam Singh Walia (KSW) , the mere mention of his name brings shivers to many, particularly government servants.

His latest attack is his report on the so-called 'the rape of Cameron Highland's rivers'.

For the past few days (both in the morning and prime time news), he was on air on TV3 highlighting the blatant discharge of human wastes direct into Cameron Highland rivers.

His clever use of food colouring (poured into toilets) proved beyond doubt that the malpractice of directing human wastes direct into river system is happening, right under our eyes.

It was nauseating, to say the least, seeing human faeces floating and rolling from toilets through pipes into rivers.

If only rivers could talk...for sure they would say " Look at human, they don't even know how to manage their own wastes!"

More nauseating was that all these happened up stream the water processing plants!

He also brought to light the fate of hills being wantonly bulldozed making way for modern commercial vegetable farming.

It was just sheer madness how far a few people, in their chase for money, would go to see that their goal was reached.

I don't know whether I agree fully with what he has been doing. May be he should be more diplomatic in his use of modus operandi. But again, may be he has exhausted all the possible avenues and he has again and again found out that his method is the best, in as far as getting the attention and action of the relevant authorities.

By the way, I was made to understand that he was once a member of my department - DVS.

Ripin called

Out of the blues and totally unexpected he called. His voice was still the same. His thick Besut accent was still there.

"Have you got a Besan already?"

"No, not eldest, she just graduated a few days back..."

That was Ripin bin Salleh, my long lost friend from the SDAR days.
He was my best pal then. Still vivid in my mind how he helped me a lot when I had to struggle going to the train station on our way home after I discharged myself from a long hospitaliztion.

I broke my left leg while trying to get over a 5-foot high jump bar. For that I had to miss almost three terms of my form four and spend most of my time in Tanjong Malim Hospital.

Reaching Kg Lampu, his hometown, I was treated like a prince by his family. I was bathed in floral water (mandi bunga) almost everyday by his mother. It was really invigorating, especially after having to lie down on the hospital bed for such a long time.

Ripin, once a temporary teacher and now a land-broker, was a genius in Geography. He knew almost every city in the world then, even Ulan Batur the capital of Mongolia!

His rather extensive forehead was just like that of the 'Hack' sweets. For that resemblance he was called Ripin Yek (Hack in a babyish tone).

There was this one episode that I could never forget. It occurred on our arts trip to Templer's Park. The two of us decided to scale the waterfall direct, that was from the front.

I was in front of him most of the way. Suddenly I heard him calling Allah, Allah. I froze and looked back. There he was sliding down on the slippy surface.

Looking down I saw jagged rocks and old logs waiting to receive him. Suddenly, as if answering his call, he grabbed a tiny tree growing out of a crevice in the moss-covered rock.

The tree stopped his fall. He slowly stood up and said his prayers. He was almost bloodless. We then went down and kept quiet about the incident.

I wrote a story about it and got an A for my LCE English paper!

Welcome back Ripin...hope our friendship remains forever.

Well, he just called me this morning.