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This year the Hindu holy day of Thaipusam falls on 30 January which also happens to be my other half's birthday . Thaipusam is actually a holy festival which is uniquely celebrated by the Hindus in Malaysia It is celebrated on a grand scale at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Port Klang in Selangor and in Penang
Many would have seen devotees carrying wooden or metal 'kavadis' with spears in varying sizes pierced to their back. Some of the more awe inspiring ones pull chariots with their hooks also pierced to their back.. It's simply an out-of-this-world experience, just watching them go through the requirements and rituals which culminates and ends on Thaipusam Day.
By way of a brief explanation - those devotees who carry the various 'kavadis' are in actual fact doing their penance for the fulfilment of their vow by Lord Muruga, the presiding deity for Thaipusam. The vows taken could range anything from solving difficult problems, a childless couple wanting a child, overcoming a serious deathbed illness, praying for continued good health and prosperity or just starting a new venture or beginning. The devotee who undertakes the vow has to stick to a vegetarian diet for a minimum of 1 month. It doesn't mean license to eat 24 hours a day !. After their early morning sunrise bath and prayers, breakfast is a glass of milk, lunch is glass of milk and dinner at sunset is minimal and simple vegetarian meal of fruits and cooked dhall/lentils. Spiritual hymns and songs are sung to honour Lord Muruga. On the last day, which is Thaipusam itself, the devotee would go early in the morning to the temple, have a ritual cleansing , offer prayers and have their body pierced. This only applies to the males. Female devotees only carry simple pots of milk or charred pots of smoldering coal embers. All this is done at a fair distance from the main temple, after which the gruelling bare-foot walk in the hot sun begins. The uniqueness of the Batu Caves temple is that not only have they to walk bare foot for a distance of 3 - 5 kilometres with the weight of the heavy metal kavadis and spears, but also walk up the steep 272 steps to reach the temple.
I don't know how they accomplish this mind-boggling feat but the beauty is, they don't feel the pain, nor the heavy weight of the chariot and kavadis that they pull with their back, nor a single drop of blood drips despite the sharp hooks used to pierce the flesh. And the hands holding the pot of burning coal embers doesn't get scorched! It also goes without saying that whatever they had asked for is fulfilled . Thus the penance. This is, in fact, akin to the Muslims ' sembayang hajat' prayers.
Numerous westerners, from the Swedes, Germans, Americans, British, Chinese and others have taken part in the prayers to have their wishes fulfilled and if you go to Batu Caves on Saturday, you'd be sure to see them.
This painting was also done sometime ago but have simply forgotten to update it . I painted it for Ms Zaleha of D'Amor Cottage . I don't know whether it has been sold
Everyone of my customers preferences are for roses, roses and more roses. Don't get me wrong, I too love roses for they are indeed incomparable to any other . Even the great English bard Shakespeare had his say and I quote -
" What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet. "
But sometimes I do wonder the fate of other members of the floral family. They do not seem to shine as much as the rose seems to do. I suppose no other flower evokes so much passion, awe and wonderment as the rose does. Hmmm .... come to think of it, any decorative artist worth his/her brushes must be able to paint a rose, for otherwise they are just not considered to be one !!
Over here in Malaysia, it is de rigueur to be able to paint a rose if you want to be called a decorative artist. It's the benchmark really. Unfortunately, it really take a good measure of time and patience to be able to paint something even resembling it. Admittedly, it is one of the most difficult accomplishment and despite it , beauty still lies in the eyes of the beholder ! There's simply no pleasing everyone .......
And every beginner to decorative art wants to be able to paint this beauty by the 2nd lesson.... ha ha ha
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The recent decision by the authorities to pay alimony to embattled wives and mothers in the throes of divorce and custody battles is really a godsend. When relationships turn sour , everyone involved suffers but the worst ones affected are the innocent children who become pawns in the hurtful game of who gets what. It has become an endemic problem all over the world and sad to say, most of us have become quite blase about it, (sigh)
It starts off with the husband blaming the wife, then the wife blaming the husband and when they cannot get even with each other, they drag in the children to qualify and quantify their attacks to get the maximum mileage . And so it goes until it is brought to the attention of the authorities via the Courts to solve their personal problems. And let the whole world know of their inability and stupidity in the process - and they call themselves grown-ups!
That's only the tip of the iceberg. The real heartaches come when mothers are left to fend for their children without any support from the ex-husbands. More often than not, they would have had resigned from their earlier careers to take care of their homes and kids, thus foregoing their financial independence and when divorce looms in the picture, they are left far behind with little emotional and monetary support. This is an established general trend all over, not just in our backyard. Of course, there are the exceptions, where women have been emboldened enough to fight back and make a difference to their lives but these are far between.
To my knowledge, however limited you think it is, this happens to women in all strata of societies, in all cultures and background, irrespective of their religious faith . So it makes me wonder why in Malaysia, the country I call home, alimony is to be paid to only Muslim women and not to all women across the board in multi-racial Malaysia. Why are the authorities confining and addressing this problem to a particular community and not to all Malaysians who are/would be equally affected ?.What is their rationale ? That only our Muslim sisters suffer and the others do not? That only our Muslim sisters are legitimate wives and mothers and others are not? Are the non-muslim sisters any less a citizen than them? I have a whole lot of other questions to ask but that would only make the authorities look even more stupid than they already are.... Manglish ' stupider' sounds better I think..
It really doesn't and shouldn't matter who is affected. A decent human mind and by that extension, the authorities concerned should extend help to all those in need , not practice selective preferential treatment . Choosing whom you are going to help is not called help, its called injustice, discrimination, partisanship nepotism, favouritism and a whole host of other unsavoury words. Its simply unbelievable that the authorities, in one fell swoop, have divided women in Malaysia along religious lines - muslims and non-muslims . Are we not all God's children. Imagine the scene - a Chinese, an Indian and a Malay mother applies to the Court for alimony. The learned judge explains to the mothers that only the Muslim mother's request can be fulfilled and the other 2 denied because they are not muslim What would the Muslim mother say to the non-muslim mother ? . Would not the Muslim mother feel the pain of the non-muslim mother too? Are not all mothers tied to motherhood by the same bond ?. Simply put, would it be fair?
The way the authorities make knee jerk policies without an indepth study is truly mind boggling. It would do well to remember what Old Abe said - " it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt ". Obviously, the relevant Ministry officials have not passed their History in school to know about Abraham Lincoln , nor understood it and have no inkling of what they have done; but they have opened their mouth and proved beyond doubt........
Stupid is as stupid does. And I haven't even written about the other angles involved ......
Malaysia? 1 motherhood?
I painted this basket some time ago. The rich red colour of the roses against a stark white background sets it apart from the usual soft and pastel colours I normally use.
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The harvest festival of Ponggal is already over and I'm still behind times. I really want this to be short for I have so many other thoughts to write but I really can't promise as you would know by now, (
By way of a brief explanation, this is the day dedicated to young unmarried girls in the family. As many may be aware, the old Hindu custom ( which is also practised by some segments of Hindus today, really ) pertains to marriage arrangements. Arranged marriages have long been a strictly adhered custom and in those days, the parents did all the work and the poor bride and bridegroom didn't even know how the other looked like, can you believe it? Oh boy!, aren't I glad I was not born in those days! The gods must have had really favoured me........and with my mixed religious marriage background.... .. I don't even want to think about it! Anyway, the marrying couple only get to meet each other after the wedding ceremony is over, so there's no escape and no plan B la. The maxim, marriages are made in heaven or hell, depending on whom you got married to, holds true. If you are a follower of the tv series, ' Merlin' at Starworld and saw how King Uther married the troll, you'd know what I mean........ uurrgghhhh
I digress. So, it is on this 3rd day, the young eligible girls are noticed ( checked out, more likely I think ) by the elders at the temple celebrations or festival grounds and duly noted of their worthiness. Mind you, this is only the first round. The next and most important procedure is to check out the astrological birthcharts of the prospective couples and only if the stars tally, do they proceed further to the next step. If their astrological horoscopes become horrorscopes, the deal is off . Period. Now you know how Devdass/Annarkilli and Laila Majnun stories came about.! (For those who have no inkling of whom I have referred, their stories are akin to Romeo & Juliet) Die la!
So there you have it, the 3 days of Ponggal and the significance of the celebrations.
I'm now just reading back what I had written and a momentary thought of what could have happened to me passes my mind. My husband and I are of completely different religious faith, of different cultural background, different upbringing and totally diferent in our likes and dislikes- I'm into outdoors, he's indoors, I'm happy with veggies all year round, he must have meat everyday.....I faint at the sight of blood, he stitches the gaping wounds of patients.... I need to see the sky and he draws all the curtains in the house.... in short, we are like the sun and the moon....... and yet ........and yet ..........., we stood our grounds and told our shocked parents that we'd rather remain single if we couldn't get married to each other ! In retrospect, we must have had great guts to have done that. Imagine that..... and we have stuck together against all odds for 22 years......phew....
Hi handsome husband, dinner's ready anytime you want...............!!
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15 January was the 2nd day of the Ponggal celebrations and it is held to honour the humble bovines. The farmer or cowherds will give the animals a good scrubbing down, feed them with lots of special grass/ hay and let them have a well deserved rest for the whole day. A day off .
Think about it, which animal sacrifices itself like no other? It toils and tills the land for cultivation of crops, infants survive on the milk it gives, ( I remember my Form 5 MSE Science question - why is milk considered as a whole food by itself ) its meat is consumed by many, its hide is used in the tannery, its dung is used as a fertilizer., etc, etc, and for all that it gives us, its only food is the simple green grass. A self-sacrificing animal which Hindus view as a symbol of motherhood and, who, like the nature of the cow, sacrifices herself for her children This is also part of the rationale why Hindus don't eat beef, out of respect for its sacrificing nature to mankind. It is akin to mother nature herself and thus we can't kill the hand that rocks the cradle now, can we?
By the way , just a point of interest, have you come across shopping complexes which display intricate patterns using coloured rice as part of their decorative theme during Deepavali ?. These patterns and designs are usually displayed at the entrance and often times the elaborate designs depict the colourful peacock or other flower motifs.
The motive behind the designs ('kollam' as it is called in Tamil ) is rather simple. The obvious and superficial reason is that it is just a cultural exercise in designing and competitions are held to see who creates the best designs. The altruistic meaning behind it is that, the remnants and leftover broken grains of rice , after harvesting and milling is done, is used as fodder for the lowly and tiny ants, without whose help biodegrading becomes impossible. Thus the 'kollams' are drawn on the front ground of the house, as ants graze on the ground . Hindus are taught to respect all creations of God, from the highest to the lowest, thus the role of the tiny ants too are not forgotten. They too have a place under the sun and humans are to respect their functions in the great cycle of life.
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As usual, my photography sucks, so excuse me ya.
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Yesterday, 14 January, was the start of the 3 day Hindu Ponggal festival. It it basically a thanksgiving prayer cum celebration for a good harvest . The first day is dedicated in appreciation of the farmer and good harvest bestowed , the 2nd day is dedicated in appreciation of the cow ( will write about it later ) and the 3rd day is for young girls ( later write-up ) Since India was and is still a largely agrarian society , a good harvest is imperative for their continued livelihood. So when the harvest has been done, there is great joy and rejoicing throughout. A portion of the first harvested rice is set aside for making a kind of sweet rice pudding, sweetness being a symbolic meaning for sweet tidings all round . Fresh milk is boiled in a new earthenware pot( must be new, never old) and the rice is added in, until it is cooked. Then, sugar, ghee or clarified butter, raisins and cashew nuts are added. Thats it! The pudding is then offered as a blessing and when prayers are over, it is given to all the worshippers. It really tastes yummy and because it is rich and sweet , I usually go overboard... quite a bit...... .
Did I forget to mention that there's a specific time and direction to cook this rice pudding- it must be at the exact time of sunrise and the stove must face eastward Why? Haiyoo, the sun rises in the east la. The time - 6.45am yesterday! It goes without saying that prayers are offered to the Sun God, Surya, for a continued good harvest, before the cooking starts. This is then followed by cooking plain rice in another new pot and also making a dhall/lentil curry with 9 kinds of vegetables as its accompaniment.
There are 2 ways to doing this.. The first option, which most families follow strictly, is to conduct the prayer in their house and start the cooking process, after which they will go the temple to receive blessings ( for those who don't have their house stoves facing east in their kitchen, they will do it in the front open courtyard facing the rising sun and that means they have to improvise the stove from scratch - red bricks, charcoal/wood etc) Phew! The 2nd ( and invariably convenient ) option is to go straight to the temple and partake in the prayers and cooking rituals.
You don't have to guess very far at which option I took......... Hold on a minute there, I've a perfectly foolproof excuse - my son went to school, daughter to college , my husband is a Catholic and so he's out of the picture and I'm all alone !. Even better, if I did cook, I'll end up eating a major portion of it because my kids don't gobble it like I do. My last defence being, I can't take too much of it but will be 'forced ' to eat it since mothers have a built in 'garbage system ' of waste not and want not , and lastly, erhmm, my trump card of an
excuse - reason, I'm a diabetic and cannot trust myself to cook sweetmeats !. At this rate, I'd make a good 'loyar buruk' # , no ? I know, I know, I'm a bad example and lazy to boot. Hey, I'm in Malaysia, land of short cuts, not in India ( I would probably have been chased out from the village ) And why would I want to go to all that trouble to cook just 1 cup of rice ? I can't get earthenware pots in Shah Alam, have to go to Klang town's Little India to get it and all the other stuff , going to Klang is a terrible and horrible drivers' nightmare and Klang town itself would be in a complete chaotic state with shoppers jamming all the shops........ So you see, I have valid reasons, ya ? So there! , no one can find fault with me !!!!!
And so I cheated. I went to temple for prayers, which was late by itself - not the prayers, silly , my timing! I couldn't get there at 6.45am because - another perfect
excuse reason, - I had to drive the children to school /and bus station at 7.00am and ........God Almighty! ....I overslept. Unforgivable, isn't it ? Worse is yet to come.....most of the congregation had left when I entered the temple. The priest looked up and smiled at me from his conversation with another devotee. I gave him a sheepish smile and went about my prayers. Now there were only 2 devotees left , including me. I finished my prayers and went to take some of the sweet offerings. The pot had quite a substantial amount left. And that's when I had my ' AHA ' moment, Oprah style. I'll take some home but will modify it according to my taste and my children won't be any the wiser!! I did just that- reached home, switched on the stove and sort of ' re-cooked ' it with extra fresh milk , extra brown sugar and extra extra nuts. Very diabolical indeed, I must say....
It did taste better than before , I did end up eating a major portion of it and my children still think that I cooked it myself. So you see, I was able to fulfil my obligations after all.
Please God forgive me, for I have sinned..........
# loyar buruk- a Malay language colloquialism for an unqualified lawyer
who talks more than he can think
I read this beautiful poem written by the great writer, philosopher and poet, Sri Rabindranath Tagore ( hello, for those who don't know who he is, please check this Nobel Peace Prize winner at Wikipedia ). It's only part of the poem but the meaning is profound. I thought it too beautiful to ignore it and so I reproduce some of the lines here:
" Go not to the temple to put flowers upon the feet of God
First fill your own house with the fragrance of Love
Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God
First remove the darkness of sin from your heart
Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer
First learn to bow in humility before your fellowmen
Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees
First bend down to lift someone who is down trodden
Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness from your sins
First forgive from your heart those who have sinned against
What more is there to say?
The horrendous headlines of last week's media onslaught is fading and with it the memory of mistakes made intentionally and unintentionally. In the process, segments of Malaysians are discovering that despite the fear and ignorance of some, the sun doth shine brightly on the majority. It was thus, heart-warming to read Marina Mahathir's take on the issue and I was especially touched by the pictures of Muslim ladies handing out flowers at Bukit Bintang, followed by calls from our Muslim brothers and sisters to live and let live peacefully. This, I think, is the real meaning of 1 MALAYSIA.
I read this interesting epithet by a writer named Red Skelton. I've no idea who he is but this is what he wrote:
" I personally believe that each of us was put here for a purpose - to build,
not destroy. If I can make people smile, then, I have served my purpose
Oh, how true his words. I wish every human on this planet memorises this by heart. I have done already, have you?
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I simply have to comment on the recent happenings in our country which I normally wouldn't think of writing in this column. I simply have to get it off my chest or else I'll go bonkers....
What in the world is happening in Malaysia? I can't believe the news that I heard in Aljazeera about the arson attacks in churches right here at our doorsteps. These kinds of violent incidences only happens in other 3rd world countries, certainly not in our Malaysia. Or so I thought. Or, is it that I am too naive and living in a make believe world? Why do politicians mix religion and politics and create such terrible havoc in their way.
First, it was the Hindu temple destructions and cowhead incident in Shah Alam, my resident town of 19 years. I was very well ensconced in my surroundings and was very very happy with the landscaped greenery , the numerous parks throughout and its gentle inhabitants. I would proudly tell my other family members what a beautiful place Shah Alam was and how warm , welcoming and friendly my Muslim brethens were. Till the cow-head incident. That gave me a huge jolt. Did it really happen like it did? You tube doesn't lie and it happened just around the corner to my house. It was really frightening but ever the optimist, I thought it was the work of a few misguided souls who had no idea what true faith and religion is all about. My thoughts were - one robin doesn't make a spring and a despicable act by a few doesn't warrant tarnishing the entire society concerned.
Now it's the arson attacks on churches. Over a name of God, no less. I simply don't understand what the big fuss is all about. Why can't we call God in any name we feel easy to communicate with Him. Did God tell man that he must only call Him with a particular name and that too defined to a particular group ,otherwise He will be offended? Duhh?? So the Christians want to call God ' Allah ', so do the Muslims. Would that make them both become confused idiots? Not if you know whom you are referring to. Only if they have graduated from the School of Imbeciles. Period.
Lets say that the Joneses and the Alis' have each a son called Adam and they are trying to call out to them in a park. When Mrs Jones calls for Adam, she would naturally mean it to be her son, Adam . And how do we know that? By the inflection in her voice and the pronunciation , of course. Adam would be as in A for apple. Now, if Mrs Ali calls for her son, Adam would sound like Ahhdam, the A sounding like ' Ahh 'as in 'u' in 'umbrella'. Most importantly, their intention would be for calling their own son, not someone's else. Why would they anyway?
I'm a neutral party, being a Hindu and I know how the word 'Allah' is pronounced by the non-Muslims and Muslims. Non-Muslims pronounce it as it sounds - a flat Allah. On the other hand, all Muslims pronounce the word with a lilt in the l with a definite Arabic twang (like in a triple lll) and it sounds completely different. The issue in focus is that some bigot Muslims think that their lot will wither away at the slightest sniff of the sound of the same word' Allah' What makes them think that the Christians are trying to sabotage the Muslims by calling God as Allah and thus cause confusion? What confusion are we talking about? Unless they are confused by their own religion or lack of it. It's simply a case of making a mountain out of a molehill and the ugliness of it all makes me sick to the core. This issue has been further manipulated by a bloody bunch of banana politicians and the wounds are all exposed for the entire world to see. And laugh. And jeer.
I'm frightened of the future and where we stand. Are were regressing into the Dark Ages of fear and bigotry?. Would I have to look over my shoulder everytime? Would I have to take precautions when I go out with my family in a predominantly muslim neighbourhood? It's really sad that this is happening and allowed to happen. Situations such as these are recurring more often than it should . For the 2nd time this year, friends have advised me to be careful when I go out to town. 'Don't take any chances' they e-mailed. I'm feeling a bit lost and unsure now. This country is my home too for I have no other country to lay claim. I'd join the army if warranted to defend this country I call home despite being reminded in the mainstream media by obscene politicians that we are 'immigrants' and can always go back to our country.. Which country should I go to when I was born here in Malaysia ?
When I went to Australia, I was proud to tell the Aussies that I was a Malaysian. When I went to India, I was even prouder to tell them that I was Malaysian. When I went to Singapore, I was so proud to tell them I was a Malaysian when they mistook me for an Indian lady from India.
Not any more............
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This is one of my recent works for a customer. This design has been done countless times, I suppose but I find the design of this teapot preferable to any other. The original picture has many additions but I trimmed it down to fit the size of the cutlery box. I had painted the bottom sides of the box with a lovely lace design but unfortunately, my photography is not as good as my painting!
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I've just returned from a short holiday in Singapore. I think pre Christmas and post Christmas time is the best time to visit Singapore. The whole country is decked in lights, lights, lights and it was simply a beautiful sight to behold. Our stay at the Royal Plaza on the Scotts , right in the middle of Orchard Road made it possible for us to walk from one shopping mall to another. It was walk, walk, walk all the way everywhere. Of course, we went on the usual touristy river cruise, the Singapore Flyer, Sentosa island, and other places of interest.
The most unforgettable happening was when my kids went in the bungy like extreme entrapment in which they were fastened with safety belt and the lever hoisted them up of more than 20 meters from the ground. Then, bang! they come wooshing down, catapulted again in mid air with shrieks and screams that knocked down the parents dead! Gosh, it was the most frightening thing that I've ever encountered. Not being enough, they also clambered on another similar ridiculous crap called bungy para glide or something stupid like that , which reeled them even higher up in the air than the previous one and when the lever was pressed, they just swung straight down. Petrified and dumbstruck, I started praying to all the Gods of heaven in all denominations. My children's reaction? The two idiots just laughed it off and told me to 'chillex' , would you believe it?
The downside of this stupidity of a sport, if I may call it that, is that it certainly is not for the faint hearted nor for normal parents who are too afraid for their children. . The upside is it teaches kids/participants to be bold and fearless when put to the test, sort of...... Anyway, I was secretly glad that they went ahead and did it despite my initial misgivings and doubts. They've overcome fear and for that, I'm very very happy.
2009 ended with lots of feasting with glasses of champagne and wine at every meal. There was ample merrymaking and good cheer and I even managed to eat some slices of turkey with chestnut stuffing for the first time in my life, without throwing it up. Now, t h a t was a great ending .!
Anyway, here's wishing everyone a fabulous start to the New Year 2010. Cheers