Thursday, November 30, 2006

Malay Male Paranoia

A man came a few days ago to view my vacant room. He knocked on the door, I opened, and this conversation ensued:

‘Oh..dah sampai dah?’ (’ve arrived?)

‘Hah…suami dah balik ke?’ (Yes…has your husband returned?)

‘Belum, belum tapi dia dah nak sampai dah ni..masuk lah..’ (No, no…but he’s on his way…come on in.)

‘Takpe, takpe..saya tunggu kat luar je lah..’ (It’s ok…I’ll just wait outside.)

‘Takpe, takpe..masuklah..anak2 pun ada kat bawah ni..’ (It’s okay, it’s okay…come on children are playing downstairs.) (Plus it’s bloody freezing outside!)

‘Ok, ok….’

‘So..apa cerita…dalam email katanya your wife still ada kat Malaysia..?’ (So tell me, you said in the email that your wife is still in KL…?)

‘Ha'ah..tapi takpe lah tunggu suami you balik nanti lah I cerita (Yes…but I think I’ll wait for your husband to tell the story..)


I was stunned by that answer but I controlled myself saying, he’s right..maybe he wanted to just tell us the story once and save his air liur (saliva). I thought it was bordering on rude though, because I was being friendly and trying to be a good hostess by making some conversation with a guest, but instead, he just brushed me off.

And then when my husband did come home, about 5 minutes later, the man went on to tell his story to my husband without even looking at me – as if the hostess who was bringing the drinks and food did not even exist.

...and continued to ignore me for another 5 minutes when I finally got very annoyed and went upstairs with my children.

It seems that to this man, without one’s husband, a woman is a non-entity. This is the type of man who takes it for granted that the woman of the house will provide the drinks and food – it’s her job (not unlike a maid’s) - and therefore it is not necessary to acknowledge the woman and say ‘thank you’ or at least, the malays like to say ‘susah susah je..’ (you needn’t trouble yourself) ..and then, without even blinking an eye, the man goes on to consume the food served.

To this type of man, a woman has its uses but not of which that requires the brain functioning for some intelligent simulation because to them, a woman is just not capable of such a thing. Especially housewives like me - I suddenly remembered that I told him that I'm a housewife just before that, somewhere in our conversation…

OR, scrap all the above and we’ll just call him ‘pious’.

But since when has any religion dictated its male followers to be RUDE to women?

God help us women from all the over zealous men of the world.

After the man left, my husband had to listen to me rant and rave about the irritating behaviour of that man and at the end of my long speech, my husband's conclusion was this:

"OK je mamat tu pada I...dia segan tu..." (he's Ok, he's just shy)


My husband defended his conclusion by saying that, most Malay men, when confronted with a Malay woman will feel that way; they're not completely at ease, they just feel like they need to keep their distance a bit so as to not be 'over-doing it' because most Malay women will not 'welcome' any extra attention. Basically, they just don't feel 'free' enough to chat or speak to a Malay woman in fear of trampling on certain 'barriers'. On top of that, he says that most Malay men find it easier to speak with women of the other races because that 'barrier' is not there.

What the heck?!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The 'Very' Haram Sweets

I watched from outside the window as my son’s class teacher distributed a packet of sweets to each child in her class. Even from this far, I could see that it was the chewy type of sweets that are sold everywhere, even in Malaysia.

I saw the eager look in my son’s face as friends gathered around and compared what they got. But the moment he stepped out of class and showed me the packet, saying excitedly, ‘Look, look, mom!,’ I was certain that he could not eat those sweets because of the gelatine content. I told him gently that we have to see first if we can eat that, sayang. And he became quiet but then nodded. ‘Ok,’ he said, like the good boy that he is.

And as soon as I reached home, I studied the ingredients and sure enough, I saw the word gelatine and there was no ‘Suitable for Vegetarians’ anywhere in sight which made me conclude that the gelatine may not be Halal, and therefore my sons cannot eat them.

‘It’s not halal, sayang, we can’t eat this.’

‘Is it very haram mom?’ my eldest enquired in his usual way.

‘Yes’, I said simply. ‘We can’t eat them because we’re muslims and this is not halal.’ (I have explained to him already that there is no such thing as very haram or a little haram, but he keeps on saying very haram anyway, for emphasis, I suppose. For those of you who don't know, halal and haram is a digital concept of sorts: it's either halal or haram - there is no in between.)

‘I am special because I am a muslim, mom,’ he went on, repeating something he heard somewhere, I think from the ‘I Look and See’ cassette by Yusuf Islam (and friends) that we always play for the kids in the car.

‘Yes you are special.’ I said with a smile and off he went with his brother, those very haram sweets already forgotten. But as I am quite a soft hearted person and really senang kesian, I went to get some chocolates for them, to compensate for those sweets. I made a mental note to explain the best that I can about this matter to him. Later.

I couldn’t help thinking of all the other muslim boys and girls who opened the packets themselves and ate those sweets behind their parents back. Most of them kept the sweets in their bags after all and most working parents are too busy to notice these things. I remember walking in a mall the following weekend and saw some young boys (of middle eastern descent) walking with their hijab clad mum. They were eating exactly what I threw away in the bin a few days before that - those sweets with gelatine in them. Didn’t that woman with the hijab read the ingredients on the packet? Or was she just ‘lenient’ in that sense? Don’t they want their children to grow up to be good muslims? And if they do, shouldn’t they teach their children about these things from young? And I am very, very scared of this: can our children grow up to be anak-anak soleh and solehah when we let them consume all that gelatine and alcohol, perhaps not taken directly, but as an ingredient in their food, and in many cases, we are unaware of?

I am no pious woman but pondering upon THAT scares the hell out of me.

And then there was that birthday party my child attended at McDonald’s. The choices of food for our children were stated in the invitation card: hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken nuggets and fish fingers. Of course, the choice for my son was obvious: the fish fingers. But when we attended the party, I saw some muslim children eating the chicken nuggets with their mummies watching on from outside the party area.

And some strict muslims do not even allow their children to step into McDonalds’ due to the uncertainties about the handling, frying oil and utensils etc. Not to mention about the emails we get about their support for Israel or things like that.


But I was consoled by what happened a few days after that day when my son brought back that packet of sweets. He came out of his classroom and showed me a sweet. A different one.

‘Mom, the teacher said must show your mum first before you can eat it.’


Some good muslim parent must have pointed out to the teacher about the last packet of sweets. I was relieved. There is at least one other muslim parent who is concerned about what their child is eating and was concerned enough to inform the teacher about it.

Alhamdulillah. It's not easy to bring up one's children in a non Islamic environment when all you want is the best for your child, in every aspect.

I am not alone where this is concerned after all.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Black Bottom Cup Cakes

At 9.45am yesterday I decided that I wanted to give some cup cakes to some good friends who I intended to visit and we were running late because my eldest son had to go to a birthday party in the morning and we had to leave by 11 am. And therefore, I admit that I scrapped the cake part and used a cake mix instead which I had in my kitchen cabinet. It turned out very, very good, honestly. But next time I make this, I do really intend to try the real recipe below.

  • 224g (8oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Line muffin tins with paper cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What matters...

I read somewhere that currently there’s some discussion about the terms Bangsa Malaysia and Rakyat Malaysia.

To my rusty and under-utilised brain, there’s not much of a difference. I’m sure some people have a cause for concern about which term is best used in the country but I really do think it is not a big deal.

What matters is that we are Malaysians.

Do you know how lucky we are to be Malaysians? I am in a better place to realise this, I feel, because I am not currently staying in the country and therefore has better means to compare and really understand the matter. For my story below, I will try my best to write in our national language…

OK, itu saja je tipu kat atas tu…sebenarnya ni nak cerita sikit. Kali ni kena tulis dalam bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu or whatever our fickle government has decided for us to call this national language of ours.

Darn…terkeluar jugak... Okay, try again..

Masa bulan puasa hari tu, saya telah berkenalan (why does this sound so formal?) dengan seorang wanita yang berasal dari negara yang bermula dengan huruf P, yang terletak di sebelah negara yang bermula dengan huruf I (YE, saya telah TERberi dia alamat laman web ini (untuk tengok resipi saya) oleh itu saya terpaksa tulis ini dalam Bahasa Malaysia sebab takut dia baca…) Boleh teka kan negara mana?

Alah, yang ada ujian nuklear tu lah…

Okay, kakak ni baik jugak umur dia tiga puluh dua tahun, masa mula2 kenal, dia ingatkan saya lebih kurang umur 23 tahun (sukanya hatiku), terkejut dia apabila dapat tahu saya hanya 2 tahun lebih muda darinya. (God this sounds like those awful letters in Pancaindera which I always read with interest have always tried to avoid reading...)

Saya mula berkawan dengannya, tukar-tukar juadah berbuka puasa, dan semasa Hari Raya, saya telah menjemput dia dan keluarga datang ke rumah saya sebab saya kesian jugak kat dia – katanya dia tak ramai sangat kawan kat sini sebab orang2 P yang dah jadi warga British kat sini semua tak sama bahasa dengan dia (loghat lain katanya) dan lagi pun dia mengadu orang P kat sini kebanyakkannya tak pelajaran tinggi macam dia, oleh itu, otak ada sempit sikit…(saya rasa mungkin saya setuju jugak kot…) Dia memang hebat kot sebab dia ada masters – sama seperti kebanyakan orang negara P yang tinggal di ibu kota negara itu.

Bila dia dan keluarga datang pada Hari Raya kedua, kami sambut dengan cara biasa kami – dengan budaya Melayu kami. Buat air sirap, teh, hidang makanan (wantan mi, nasi himpit, rendang, kuah kacang dan kuih muih) dan jemput mereka makan. Tapi tiba-tiba saya kena 'tegur' dengan nada yang agak serius, katanya…(lebih kurang seperti ini:) Macam mana ni? Awak nak suruh kami minum air teh ke, nak suruh kami makan? Mana boleh minum air teh dengan makan makanan macam ni?

Saya terkedu sekejap, begitu juga suami saya…

Saya pun cakap, kat negara kami, takde masalah makan sambil minum air teh - air sirap limau pun saya ada buat dalam jug, kalau awak nak..Dia kata teh tak boleh ‘masuk’ dengan makanan savoury sebab teh tu kan manis….


Betapa ‘flexible’ nya orang Malaysia..saya rasa ini mungkin sebab kita ni berbagai bangsa dan berbagai adat, jadi apa saja boleh 'jalan' kat negara kita…

Selepas itu, pasal wantan mi pulak…saya terangkan, mi ni makan dengan wantan, dengan sayur dan sup dia…kalau adab orang melayu, kita sebagai tetamu mesti jamah sikit hidangan tuan rumah sebab telah terhidang dan lagipun hari raya (penat saya masak hanya untuk dia yang datang hari raya kedua). Tapi dia cakap dia taknak makan sebab dah kenyang…


Tapi nasib baik dia ambik sikit untuk anak dia yang hanya makan satu suap aje. Lepas tu, dia nak rasa sikit rendang, dia pun ambik lah sikit…dia rasa..pssss ‘Pedas!’ katanya, ‘tak tahan! Awak tak marah ye kalau saya tak habiskan ini?’

OK (sigh)……nak buat macam mana.

Selepas itu, suami dia yang dah habis minum tehnya nak rasa makanan kami, dia tanya kepada kawan saya, sama ada ok makanan saya untuk dimakan sebab dia batuk-batuk.

Saya dan suami cepat-cepat cakap, OK..sebab tak pedas wantan mi. Sup dia panas-panas ni, makanlah…

Tapi kawan saya tu cakap dengan suaminya…TAK, tak. Bukan sup…macam sos makan dengan mi…

Huh? Pandai-pandai pulak dia. Makanan kita, kita tahu lah apa bendanya..lagi pun tak nampak ke sup tu cair and banyak, takkan sos pulak namanya…


Lepas tu suami dia pun makan. Tapi dia tak usik pun mi dan wantan tu – hanya minum supnya saja!

Sabar je lah...

Now, look at us Malaysians, we are multiracial. Because of that, our palate is diverse. We are open to Malay, Indian, Chinese, Arab, Western, Japanese and Korean food. And we are more open in many other ways as well and can easily tolerate other people’s culture and beliefs too.

We are very liberated in that sense compared to many other people.

We are not always adamant that we are right (tengok kisah sup).

We can blend in almost anywhere because we are used to a variety of races, culture and languages.

Perempuan tu memang baik. Kami pun ada beraya ke rumahnya selepas itu dan kami dilayan dengan baik. Then again, we are very open minded people and our level of tolerance to anything different is pretty high, I think. Terer betul orang Malaysia. Memang terer. Doesn’t matter that we are a bangsa or rakyat. The most important thing is, I think, we are united in all that matters.

To me, as trivial as it sounds, food and culture matter very much.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Trip To the Hospital

On the second of Raya (Eid) I was already feeling the pains.

On the fourth Raya I was tossing and turning at night with a cold sweat and biting back tears while my husband rub some minyak kayu putih onto my stomach and my back.

After the ointment and a bowl of Special K, I felt some relief and my husband said: we should go to the hospital.

And so we did, after waking up Kuzco, my then housemate (sadly for us, Kuzco has gone back to Malaysia, leaving me at a lost next time I want to knead some dough) to give him the baby monitor so that he will be roused from his sleep if any of my sons start to wake up. We then left the house at 6 am to go to the nearest hospital.

Why the hospital, you may ask, and not a clinic? Over here, the NHS (National Health Service) system is a little different. To go to a ‘clinic’ like in Malaysia is somewhat similar to going to the ‘Health Centre’ here. Everyone is supposed to be registered to their own personal GP at their nearest Health Centre . In all honesty, the service they give here is of a high standard and it’s free, but do you know how difficult it is here to get to even see the doctor?

Every time I call the doctor to make an appointment for my children, my husband or myself, the doctor’s receptionist will tell me that the doctor can only see me next week, at the earliest because his appointment book is full for the week. Needless to say, by the time we reach our appointment date, we have either successfully self medicated ourselves with medicine from Malaysia or from the pharmacy (since coming to the UK as a 'mother' who is supposed to care for her family, I have learnt to self medicate, to learn the names of suitable medicine for my family and I have also brought lots of medicine from Malaysia because I knew of the 'situation' here from previous experiences) or the sickness has taken its full course and we have recovered with our own antibodies – and you know how horrible that can be.

That’s why we opted to go to the hospital and not bother to call the Health Centre for an appointment to see the doctor.

Back to my story. There was no one in the reception area of the hospital except for a woman who was whimpering on a wheelchair, obviously in some kind of pain. There were two men behind the counter, dressed in normal clothes and I went directly to them, to enquire about seeing a doctor.

The large bearded white Brit who interviewed me was not too kindly. He asked me a few standard questions about my condition and said without compassion, “You should really be seeing your own GP (at the Health Centre) for this.” I think he was probably assuming that I was having some menstrual cramps or something and so I replied;

“Don’t give me that shit! I’m here at the hospital to see the doctor and you’ve got no right to turn me away, you fat arsed wanker!”

Heh. I wish.

Instead, I said with a wince and an exaggerated moan to make sure he knows that I indeed have ‘a case’ to go to the hospital: “Well...I was in pain all through the night…”

Fortunately for me, he looked at me and just nodded and asked me to sit down. A few minutes later, my name appeared on the screen and I went directly to the examination room. The person sitting at the doctor’s table was none other than the man I saw entering the hospital main entrance just a few minutes before that, who I was sure was one of the hospital’s staff because he waved to the men at the counter and went straight inside, but I would never have guessed that he was one of the medical staff - because of his extremely casual dressing. He was wearing an old and worn denim jacket and a cap and carrying a bag pack over his shoulder. On top of that, he walked with a street swagger. So I had thought; he must be one of the hospital’s cleaners who was friendly with the the admin staff.. no doubt.

It turned out that looks can be deceiving indeed and he was a doctor, and a kind and polite one too at that. Sorry, doctor.

Dr Uduku was obviously not a Brit. As he asked me questions and checked my urine sample and blood pressure, I curiously thought, isn’t he supposed to be serving the people in his own country? I’m sure they need him more than the well nourished and over eating people here. But I wasn’t about to ask him that directly because, well, I really am a well behaved person.

The results were good, thank God. Nothing serious, just mild gastric pains, Dr Uduku announced. At that, I wondered what a full blown gastric pain would feel like and I thank God that mine was not so bad. In truth, I did not understand 50% of what the doctor said but fortunately, I managed to understand when the doctor advised that I eat regular but small meals, to stop eating 4 hours before I go to bed and to not forget to take the medicine he has prescribed.

The good doctor then proceeded to type something on his computer and printed out my prescription and minutes later, I left the hospital with my husband, feeling reasonably satisfied and happy that I have had some medicine prescribed for me by an actual GP – unlike the medicine I normally take.

We went to a pharmacy later and my husband had to pay £13+ (bloody expensive!) for a bottle of some white stuff and some capsules which I later realise has gelatin in the coating. One week later, I am still feeling a little pain now and then but there has been no more sleepless nights and I hope to completely recover soon, God willing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Beware Of The Face Reader

A friend is convinced that I can ‘read’ people faces and expressions better than other people can.

On two occasions (that we have thoroughly discussed, of course) I have actually successfully gauged that 2 separate couples are having problems in their marriages, even when I had no prior knowledge whatsoever of their relationships before meeting them. It turned out that my feelings were true.

My friend is convinced that I have this talent and that maybe that is the reason why I appear aloof and none too friendly when I meet ‘new’ people – because I can read and assess them from their facial expressions and air muka, so I tend to be careful. I hope that made sense. But I have to admit that I am a little impressed.

With myself, that is...if what she says is true.

‘So, it’s not because I’m a bit shy or because I’m not very good at making new friends?’, I asked her.

'No', she said, definite. 'I ‘m sure it’s because of your ability to read facial expressions easily, therefore your guard is always up and you just don’t want to be too friendly with just anybody, she said.'


That’s a nice way to explain what I have always thought to be my inability to mingle easily with strangers or what other people might mistake as just me being a little snobbish.

I think I’m going to believe her without a doubt because she makes me feel good about myself. friend is a good friend...

I guess I am actually very sensitive to the smallest frown and the less visible scowl. But only when I care to be. I suppose many people also have this ability but I was surprised that the 'friction' I saw between the couples I mentioned were not so visible to others.

So, I suppose all I can say is: if you're quarrelling with your spouse or partner, beware if you're meeting me...