On Trengganuspeak and the Spirit of Trengganu

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hari Solstis, Jun 2009

Dandelions in Grass
Daun rumput menghiris angin
mengomel sayu, meratap siang
dalam cahaya bunga kuning
bunyi ciak mendodoi petang
panjang rupamu dilukis bayang

Setahun rasanya sehari
Bila panjang rumput bawah teduhan daun
Menangis dan dalam tangisannya berbunyi
Mentari condong, langit mendung
Dan suka dan darah tumpah ke tanah
Kerana ini saja harinya bukan esok
Kerana esok petang sepanjang jalan

Bila tahun datang dan daun gugur
Dan rumput pudar dan bunga padam
Semusim hanya sehari dalam ingatan
Sekejap pudar sekelip hilang
Dan tahun esok hanya tahun ini
Dalam kenangan...

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Friday, June 19, 2009

A Rumpled Note

Long before Trengganu became Terengganu and when the idea of a coastal city was just a mote in the eye of some aspiring bureaucrats, there was the old Majlis Bandaran (Bandarang to us) – the Town Council - in an old building somewhere near Kampung Hangus and the road that led to Pök Ku's Paya Tok Bèr and Pök Awang Hitam's famous fried kerepok lèkör dipped in his special home-brewed chilli.

Next door to the Bandarang was a bicycle repair shop run by a genial man named Mr Chua, and in the compound, on most days, ran his less than genial son Chua Chee Peng. I knew Chee Peng very well as he was my classmate, and even in his young primary school days he must have been a weight lifter, or a lifter of weights, as he had a muscle-rippling body that my father used to call 'sando', a word borrowed, I later discovered, from the Victorian muscleman, Eugen Sandow.

I left Trengganu when Father rose up the Telecoms ladder to Kuala Lumpur, in the blustering sixties (the monsoon winds were very strong then), but Chee Peng (we sometimes called him Chin Peng), disappeared from view when we became adults and bade farewell to Mr Wee Biau Leng and the Sultan Sulaiman Primary School. Well, we thought we were adults then until we saw Wang Ndok in his topi and dog-terrifying ways and Cik Kalèh in his smart clothes and dazzling watch and the transistor radio dangling from his handlebar, doing things that we kids couldn't do. We realised then that the journey to adulthood was a long, long road.

In the bustle of exams and the removal vans that took us to Kuala Lumpur, I had forgotten about my friend Chee Peng. He was, in primary school, a tough guy, but what drove most other kids away from him became a matter of curiosity to me. He was, actually, an amiable guy with a winsome smile, and I found out earlier than most other folk that what came across as his tough guy stance was just the projection of his persona. Whenever I cycled past his house and bicycle shop next door to our Bandarang I'd always shout across the road, “Chee Peng!”. Chua senior would look up and throw back a smile, or, the young Chee Peng would sometimes emerge from the shades to shout back, "Hulaimee!"

In class Chee Peng was a bag of mischief and tough guy promises and he wasn't averse to chasing a kid or two around the block as a bit of fun during the interval. Just over a year ago, when I went back to KT after more than fifteen years, some of my old classmates were kind enough to hold a gathering at the house of our classmate Jöh (who is now Tok Puan Khadijah), and as I sat there in absolute delight and marvelling at all the years that had passed since we carried our High School English Grammar (a hefty tome, I tell you, and it gave me instant nausea) to school, the lady Toh Swee Choo pulled me aside to ask, "Do you remember him?"

And of course it was Chua Chee Peng, that tough guy in the schoolyard; and he was still beaming that unmistakable smile. We shook hands and hugged, and all I could think to say to him was, "Ini dulu samseng ni!" ("This man was a ruffian!"), which wasn't a very nice thing to say to someone you'd not seen for years, and he could've hit me quite hard as his body was still rippling with sandow muscles. But Chee Peng held on to my hand and laughed and laughed.

I was looking through things that I brought back then from Trengganu (sorry, Terengganu) this morning, and a heavy thump hit me in the chest area. For there, in my bag, was this rumpled note:Note From Chee PengIt was the note stuck on an envelope that Chee Peng gave me as a farewell. And if I didn't thank you properly for the memento you handed me when we said goodbye, thank you once again dear friend, this is indeed a treasure!

So back to Terengganu, that self-proclaimed haven on the coast, how fares the City now? Well, the roof of a gleaming new stadium has just crashed to the ground, and a beautiful old mosque has just been flattened by the powers that be. And why am I haunted by the ghost of Annabel Lee whenever I think of this Kingdom by the Sea?
"But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

"For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea."
To read the whole of this beautiful poem by Edgar Allan Poe, go HERE. For Annabel Lee, read Terengganu.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

All Our Yesterdays

Long before we became Twittering Facebookers who Googled our way just about everywhere to look for things and stuff, long before Awang Goneng was born, there was MalaysiaNet.

MalaysiaNet was what used to be called a web site when Netscape was king in the red glow of dawn before the birth of Java or CSS and when we were all fairly decent people who occasionally read a book. In other words, when everything was simple and straight. I was sitting down one day feeling rather bored in front of my Viglen PC (my second; the first was an Apricot F1 if you don't count the even earlier Sinclair Spectrum), and then the idea came for me to gather some thoughts – my own, other people's – under one roof. And the roof came to be registered as MalaysiaNet (I remember the uploads being posited in a place called the MagicServer, in the States). I wasn't sure if I could fill the pages, but I had some very good friends, Rehman Rashid for one, and then a wonderful lady emerged from the States, and she became our resident poet, and another young lad became our cartoonist to whom I fed lines, and we became Hash & Hul and the Great Moments in Malaysian Cuisine was born, in which we introduced Maidin Ali Pitchay to the world, the inventor of our Malaysian fish head curry and stuff. And then there was Dr Kamal, a non-writing team member and a psychiatrist to boot, holding court in the Shah Motel somewhere in PJ, who gave us lots and lots of moral and immoral support.

Those were great days. MalaysiaNet prospered, and I learnt to design a web page by looking at how others made theirs work. I was ever looking up web design books in the bookshops, and Reh wrote some wicked column pieces, even as he was gadding about in the States. I didn't update the pages often, but when I did it gave me a bright glow of satisfaction, and it lasted all of three years.

And then we stopped, and MalaysiaNet went into desuetude until my ownership of the title lapsed, and – I believe – it was taken over by someone who sold Persian carpets.
Today, as I was looking up the Internet Archives, I decided to try their WayBack Machine, and entered the name MalaysiaNet. And voila, there were the pages, neatly, but not completely, archived. It was an emotional moment: I was reunited once again with my cherub. I remember sitting before the Viglen one afternoon, struggling with a very primitive illustration program to give him a songkok, and to put a mouse in his hand. And there once again, before me, the beloved masthead of our MalaysiaNet.

Unfortunately, Internet Archives has only kept our last few pages. Many, many more are now lost forever, gnarled up and shredded to bits by the teeth of time, and lost in that great void where web pages go to when they are frogotten or dead. Oh how I wish there was a repository of dead webs, like the one for dead books in Zafon's 'Shadow of the Wind'.

But it did bring those times back for me, days of innocence, the infant web, and all that. If you would like to see it for yourself, a sample of what we did, take a journey to THIS PLACE [the *asterisked pages contain updates] but do not go beyond Feb 1998. Between that and most of April the following year there is a void.

And the rest is just too sad.

MalaysiaNet, 25 May 1995 - April 1999

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Old Mosque Bites the Dust II

Another mosque bites the dust under orders from Terengganu's Heritage Demolition Department; a tree weeps in grief; and the wind sweeps away another piece of history...

Masjid Bukit Besar
The beautiful old Mosque of Bukit Besar

On Terengganu's earth another masjid falls,
Its bones broken and crunched in the claws
Of earth movers and metal diggers of the soil,
And men toiling on sweat and tears of the dead,
Who've been dead for many, many long years now.

Walls and window sills and the shades
That long sheltered your father and your father's father
And their father's father in their places of prayer,
Are planks now strewn and dead on this earth,
Taking dusts and rain and the passing roars of lorries,
And blinded by the gleaming tomorrow on the metal
of the Mercedes cars of those reps of the people.

We have been praying for you on the quiet,
In placid shades beneath the boughs,
O Kuala Terengganu in whose blanket earth we've lain,
Our names are forgotten and our woods are rotten,
But we we are the ghosts of your people.
Masjid Bukit Besar...Destroyed
The Mosque...Destroyed. Only the minaret still standing

Our bones are packed now to journey forth,
Our brothers and sisters dead to life anew,
To a sadder and already forgotten faraway place,
To a new grave in an unmourned corner,
'Neath the sodden earth of flattened hills.

We were blessed to hear the daily calls,
As we rested in the shades of blessed trees,
But that's all muted and dead for us now,
We are firewood, bones and craggy stones
The broken bricks of your ancient walls,
And nearby a tree inconsolably weeps,
For the bodies that you have trampled.

A Tree mourns the loss,
tears gushing down its trunk for it too shall soon fall.

We are ground and ground,
On which to build your grand ideas,
Lofty thought minarets of your masjids crystal,
For you to wipe your restless feet
On the doormats of our rubble.

We are in the dust and in the earth and wind,
In memories and in the cries of an infant child,
We are the future that was built into the past,
We are as we are now but then we are no more
We are now the dust in your unseeing eyes.
And dirt cheap beneath your fancy shoes.

Thank you Jabatan Tiada Hati Perut, Kuala Terengganu
Thank you Almasjid for the photos.

Old Mosque Bites the Dust I

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