Batu Caves

31 January 2010

Yesterday, I went to Batu Caves to see the Thaipusam celebration. This is the second time in my life I joined the actual Thaipusam celebration. The first time was in 1997.

For those of you who have never seen it before, Thaipusam celebration is quite a sight: men and women shaving their heads completely and anointing their heads with yellow powder (turmeric? henna?), peacock feathers and coconut shells everywhere, scores of tourists from around the world (white people are naturally attracted to this type of exotic celebration), veggie food stalls (I just learned that Ramly Burger also produces veggie burgers), colorful dresses (with bright pastel-colored tops mismatched with bright pastel-colored trousers / long skirts; you have to give it to the Indians for the their daring “color coordination”, hehe), holy men in their saffron colored robes, and of course who can forget the kavadi.

It is one thing to see kavadis in TV or newspapers but to see it in real life is a fascinating experience indeed. Amid shouts of “vel vel” from the devout, really strong (and stoned?) guys carry meticulously decorated portable altars on their shoulders, supported by metal rods which are pierced through their chests and backs. Some of the most spectecular kavadis have bells and chimes, which would jingle as the kavadi carriers dance and whirl to the tune of music from the accompanying percussionists. The carriers would then carry the kavadi all the way up to the cave (about 300 steps) and then back down to the congregation. I don’t know how they managed to do that, but they have my respect.

I usually do not bother going to Batu Caves, let alone during Thaipusam, but yesterday two friends were visiting from overseas, and they insisted I bring them to see the Thaipusam celebration. We arrived after lunch, so the congregation were less crowded (most of the events took place during the eve and the morning). My friends wanted to go upstairs to the entrance of the cave. I told them go ahead, I’ll wait for you down here. Takde kerja aku nak naik, buat tercabut lutut aku je. Baik aku duduk bawah minum air kelapa, keh keh keh.

Although the number of people present were estimated at about half a million, the whole affair was quite civil and orderly. People on the ground treated me with respect, and would bend over backwards to make non-Hindus and tourists feel at home. The presence of police, ambulance, bomba, RELA, and PBSM kept untoward incidents to a minimum, although I saw one men got carted off by uniformed policemen, presumably for disturbing the peace. Some shopowners thought I am an Indonesian tourist. Rather than letting them rip me off (which ought to happen to tourists), I told them I am from Taman Greenwood which is just 5 minutes from Batu Caves, and I am a good friend of ADUN Batu Caves. Lama pulak tak contact si Amir nih, mentang-mentang dah sebok jadi wakil rakyat. We used to hang out until very late in the morning discussing politics and religious issues. Nanti lah aku call tanya khabar si YB ni.

What I learn from my trip to Batu Caves:

1. Malaysian Indians are a peaceful bunch, who, like other people, desire equal rights and rights to self-determination. I know many Malay and Chinese who do not like the “kelings”, but that should be kept as a private matter, and should not matter an iota when it comes to policy or governance.

The common stereotype is that Malaysian Indians are loud and uncouth, but that should be seen in context; Malaysian Indians by and large grow up in unfavorable economic conditions, with limited help from the government or institutions claiming to represent Indian interests, and were kept down due to racism and to a certain extent, their social structure (*cough* kasta *cough*). Many Indians excel in professional fields like medicine and law, but in general the Indian community are left far behind in economic and human development. I see my fellow Indians as loyal Malaysians — most of them won’t survive one month in India — but here they have it worse than the Malays (who are protected by government) and the Chinese (who are rich).

Many people have warned me about Indians (don’t do business with them, don’t go to their areas at night, don’t trust them with anything), I see these “warnings” as mere racism, pure and simple. Although nothing bad can come with being cautious. I almost learned this the hard way one day when I was alone in Sentul at about 2am. Suddenly a group of Indian youths walked passed me, swaggering like gangsters, and a couple of them gave me the stink eye, and made comments about me to each other in Tamil. Fortunately, they just walked passed me and nothing bad happened.

I am not a racist; I do not say all Indian youths or all Sentul residences are gangsters. There are dangerous Chinese neighborhoods (e.g. Jinjang @ Xinjiang), and dangerous Malay neighborhoods (e.g. parts of Kg. Baru) as well. Common sense dictates that you should not be at dangerous places, especially at night, and definitely not alone.

Racists stereotypes are demeaning, and when one race is automatically demonized as potential troublemakers, then something is not right.

2. Almost all the Indians I saw at Batu Caves are those with dark completions. Where are the fair-skinned Indians? Are most of them Muslims and Christians? The reason I asked this is mere curiosity — I am interested to know the social dynamics of the Indian community in Malaysia.

My friend Shahabudeen Jalil, whose family hailed from Tamil Nadu, has schooled me on different types of Indians: mamak, lebai, khan, rowther, Aryans, Dravidians, etc. What I’d like to know why most devout Hindus (i.e. people who actually showed up at Batu Caves), are among the darker-skinned types.

3. Indians are still throwing their lot with the ruling party. In Batu Caves, I saw giant posters of the Prime Minister wearing garlands, shaking hands with Indian leaders (although I did not see Samy Vellu’s pictures, I wonder why). The short-lived HINDRAF phenomenon has lost steam completely; the splinter groups are actually pro-government. The Indians were angry with MIC and Samy Vellu in 2008 and voted opposition, but after a few years, the tide seems to be reversing. The Indian community in Malaysia, due to limited numbers and limited economic pull, inevitably come crawling back to the ruling party. In history, the Malaysian Indian community were never successful in pursuing sustained opposition to the government of the day. Some Indians became respectable opposition leaders and commanded a big number of followers, but these are more likely the exception than the norm.

Why is this state of affairs? I have no idea, I am no political analyst. But if I may venture a guess, I’d say it is because no opposition party is truly connected to the grassroot Indian community. PAS have fielded an Indian candidate in the last election, but their relationship to the grassroot Indian community is not there yet. DAP have several high-ranking Indians and claims to fight for a socialist ideal, which SHOULD appeal to the underprivileged grassroot Indians. However, in reality, Indians view DAP as just another Chinese party (like MCA), and the Kg. Buah Pala imbroglio certainly doesn’t help matters. Anwar parlayed his rhetorical skills to attract Indians to PKR (“anak india anak saya, anak cina anak saya, anak melayu anak saya”) and made alliances with HINDRAF, but PKR is a political newbie (relatively speaking) and their track record in improving the lives of Indians is at best questionable, at worst nonexistent. Ask the residence and temple committee at Batu Caves, what good have their PKR ADUN did for the area? There were other fringe parties like the old PRM (yang logonya kepala lembu — bukan pijak kepala lembu) and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), who are/were fighting for the socialist ethos of power to the underprivileged classes. These parties by right should appeal to the poor Indians, but these small parties have limited funding, thus limited following. Also, calling for class warfare has never been popular in Malaysia.

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30 January 2010

Gyo

28 January 2010

Click here to read GYO by Junji Ito


Updates

28 January 2010

Hello all,

1. I’ve updated the IMO page with logos, test papers and report for the last training camp.

2. Added one bloglink — Robert Lindsay. I used to go to his blog to see gore videos. But he regularly writes on the issue of race and linguistics, two topics about which I enjoy reading.

3. Not much happening in my life lately, also my muse is on annual leave. So no inspiration for long pieces or stories. Thanks for hundreds of loyal readers who still visit daily despite no updates. Maybe I’ll put in some copypasta/creepypasta or two for your entertainment.

4. Guess which film this is from:


/sci/

25 January 2010

4chan has a new Science & Math board: http://boards.4chan.org/sci/


My Day Today

22 January 2010

1. In the morning, Iznan, Fazdlee and I went to PWTC to set up and man the ArdentEdu booth for the 1Malaysia Expo. Please come and visit our booth! I don’t remember the booth number, but the exhibition hall is not that big, so you won’t miss us. We have stacks of Ardent Edukit(TM) products on our desks. Our booth is situated at the very back.

Do come and visit us on Saturday and Sunday, if you have time. Fazdlee and Iznan will be there. I might join Sunday afternoon.

2. At about 12.30pm I went to Shah Alam to attend Friday prayer and then to Kolej Cemara UiTM to conduct the IMO 2010 Training Camp which takes place from today (Friday) until Monday.

3. During Friday prayer, my sister sent me a text message, informing me that my grandmother had just passed away. She died at around 1pm, in her house in Taman Greenwood, which is about 2km from my house in Taman Melewar.

4. I excused myself for the IMO camp today (thanks Dr Daud, Tham Ying Hong, and Aqil who agreed to sit in for me). I rushed to my house (it was an hour trip), but the body was already shrouded by the time I arrived so I couldn’t see my grandmother. I last saw her at the hospital a few days back. She was dismissed from Hospital Selayang yesterday. My family insisted that the body get proper burial ASAP. I only arrived home at about 5pm, when the body was on its way to Masjid Taman Koperasi Polis for the funeral prayer. At the masjid I saw familiar faces, among them ex-Senator / ex-Pesuruhjaya PAS Selangor Ustaz Hassan Shukri and famous political writer Subky Latif. Thanks to the community for staying back until about 5.30 to perform the funeral prayer. (It was not a long wait, since Asar congregation usually ends at 5.15 or so, but still, many thanks to everyone present).

5. Carried the body from masjid into the funeral van (kereta mayat — Hi Hamka!) and also from the van to the burial spot at Taman Desa, Gombak. It was a short drive away, and on the way I was worried that it will rain, making the burial much more unpleasant. Imam read the talqin, and we managed to finish everything before it rains (actually it did not rain; but the sky were dark and there were lightnings).

6. Body all aching from carrying the keranda (it looks easy in the masjid because the are like 20 people holding it at waist height, but try carrying a keranda at shoulder height with just three other people. My grandmother is quite thickset, and the fact that the keranda is made of solid steel doesn’t help at all). Job I needn’t bother applying for: pallbearer.

7. Spent the rest of the day calling family members, and also deleting all those takziah SMSes. Quite relieved when my father said no kenduri tonight. My back is already aching from lugging all those booth equipment at PWTC this morning, and from carrying the keranda. Went straight home to take a hot bath, and a short nap.

8. As of now at 9pm, I am writing this, and still waiting for dinner to be ready. Sorry can’t entertain all those guests downstairs, I’m too tired. Tonight I’m going back to Shah Alam for IMO Camp (probably arrive at midnight) because tomorrow session will start at 8am. It is not necessary for me to be present in the kenduri arwah, since my father has called a caterer to manage the foods and canopies. It’d be better for me to do my job at Shah Alam.

9. I admire my father who is extremely efficient in handling her mother’s death. He was at her deathbed (she died at about 1am), and then went to Sembahyang Jumaat, informed the AJK masjid, called the neighbors, called the caterer, oversaw the cleansing and shrouding, went to ATM, called the funeral vans, entertained the guests and neighbors and well-wishers, did all the reporting (hospital, police, burial permit, even her bank accounts and JPA pensions), called the orang-orang masjid, and managed to get my grandma buried by 6pm. He did all these without a single drop of tears or unnecessary sentimentalism. He even rebuked all those female relatives who are sobbing around my dead grandma, to please bemoan from afar, and don’t get in the way of him doing his job quickly. He didn’t even wait for me to see my grandmother for the last time (paying last respect is unnecessary — timely burial is more important). He got my grandma all shrouded up before I arrived. Here I have to mention that I am the only grandson of the deceased. And even I don’t get the “privilege” of paying my last respect. My father was adamant that burial is done as quickly as possible. This, for me, is truly respect for the dead.

10. I wish I’d be half as efficient as my father when his turn comes (assuming I don’t go first). Today I am thankful for being a Muslim. Our funeral is cheap, easy and simple. No elaborate wake and flowers and morticians and caskets and eulogies and wreaths and “paying last respects” and requiem and wearing black.

Died at 1pm, six feet under at 6pm. Habis cerita. Life goes on. And to my grandmother: take a rest, you suffered enough.


Peperiksaan Akhir Tahun: Pantun Klasik

21 January 2010

Nama: ________________________________

Tingkatan: _____

Sekolah: ________________________________

Masa: 45 minit.

Arahan: Sila tuliskan jawapan anda di atas kertas jawapan dengan menggunakan pensel 2B. Pastikan beg anda ditinggalkan di luar dewan peperiksaan. Penggunakan kalkulator tidak dibenarkan. Pastikan nama, tingkatan dan nama sekolah anda ditulis dengan lengkap. Selamat Berjaya.

============================================

1. Sila lengkapkan pantun ini:

Rama-rama terbang melayang,

Terbang melayang di waktu senja;

Kenapa orang bunuh orang,

Sungguh _________________________ .

2. Sila lengkapkan pantun ini:

Gunung Daik bercabang tiga,

Hancur badan dikandung tanah;

Budi yang baik dikenang jua,

___________________________ .

3. Sila lengkapkan pantun ini:

Anak kambing jalan seorang diri,

Membeli baju di rumah Noor Kumala;

Kalau tuan membeli padi,

Kenapa _______________________________ ?

4. Sila lengkapkan pantun ini:

Anak tenggiri di tengah kolam,

Anak kolam di tengah tenggiri;

Kalau ingin membeli ikan tenggiri,

________________________________ .

(pantun Lim Tat)

5. Sila lengkapkan pantun ini:

Dua tiga monyet terbang,

Mana nak sama tupai terbang;

Kalau kita orang yang baik,

Tentu _________________________ .

6. Sila lengkapkan pantun ini:

Kalau tuan membeli helikopter,

Membeli helikopter di Gunung Daik;

Persatuan negara memajukan negara,

Kemana ________________________ .

7. Sila lengkapkan pantun ini:

Menjual helikopter di tengah bandar,

Bandar indah maju membangun;

Negara Malaysia negara yang maju,

________________________________ ?

8. Sila lengkapkan pantun ini:

Sana burung sini pun burung,

Atas burung bawah burung;

Tepi burung kanan pun burung,

_____________________________ .

9. Dimanakah sayembara pantun-pantun di atas berlangsung? Jawapan: Dewan Sekolah ______________________ .

10. Namakan tiga orang peserta sayembara pantun tersebut:

a) _________________________________________

b) _________________________________________

c) _________________________________________

======= KERTAS SOALAN TAMAT =======


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