Thursday, June 1, 2017

RAMADHAN IN VIETNAM

congressional breaking of fast at Ho Chi Minh City mosque
This is my second Ramadhan in Vietnam. Over the years I had fasted in some foreign lands but most of the time only for a few days. For the last 2 years it has been the complete month.

For sure the atmosphere here is different. Sun rises at 4.15 a.m. So you stop eating as early as that. But the sun sets much earlier at slightly over 6.00 p.m. So you save about 1.5 hours compared to Malaysia. As you go through the day, before you know it its almost 6.00 pm.

Breaking fast here is a simple affair. None of that insane tour of the Pasar Ramadhan (the Ramadhan food market), loading yourselves up with all kinds of deserts and savouries, trusting your eyes over your common sense. Most of the time, half of the food bought in the bout of temporary insanity goes to waste, defeating one of the purposes of Ramadhan, i.e. to control the urges of temptation to excesses.

Here again I would like to share and remind ourselves of the meaning of Ramadhan. It is a yearly calibration exercise. A yearly exercise to bring back the balance in all things, i.e. nothing should be done in extreme. In fact, the Quran is clear on this, "you (the Muslims") are of the middle path", i.e. not inclined to either extreme. In that spirit too, the Quran declared, "there is no monasticism in Islam" for life is to be lived to the fullest, within the boundaries of what are universally accepted good values.

It is also the period of yearly overhaul. If we believe that our vehicles need periodic overhaul and in bigger assets, mid-life rebuild, what more ourselves. It is overhauling our minds, our hearts, blasting away the accumulation of dirt and grit which has accumulated over the last 11 months so that we emerged renewed and rejuvenated with proper thoughts, proper speech and proper actions towards a higher spiritual refinement. restoring our humanity, so to speak. Otherwise, all we get is just hunger and thirst, as the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. has warned before.

To be sure, fasting is not practiced by the Muslims alone. Various other religions also encouraged fasting from the earliest of times. The Prophet David May Peace be Upon Him, also known as King David, fasted all his life. Hang on, he fasted every alternate days. 

Apart from it being a divine decree, surely there must be some benefit to it, for God does not do or decree anything in vain. Some research on this subject, for example examined the effect of fasting on stem cell regeneration. See USC News "fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system" article at //news,usc.edu/63669/fasting.

Back to fasting of other religions and beliefs, this should not come as a surprise to anyone. When God despatched Adam and Eve down to earth, He told them not to despair, for from time to time He will send guidance (through His messengers). The Muslims believe there were over 100,000 of these messengers. Now, the number is not important, but the meaning or context is, that there has been continuous stream of messengers sent to guide mankind through the right path, for God would not leave His most prized creation in the dark.

Essentially the message has always been the same, how to relate to the Almighty and how to conduct ourselves with His other creations, be it man or otherwise. When it comes to the former, it has always been the basic tenet that there is only one creator and with the latter it has  always been on the principle of justice, equity, compassion, responsibility and accountability. Simple enough words, but understanding and fully living it are two different things. Volumes has been written on this subject and volumes more will be written, but the challenge will always be in putting it into practice.

So it should come as no surprise that there many similarities in practices among various beliefs. For if God is one, then His core message or values will always remain unchanged till the end of time.

And it is this core values, in the broad sense which is Islam. That is why the Muslims have always believed that Islam began from the time of Adam. Something which the adherents from other religions find confusing. The Quran is explicit in its pronouncement that Abraham, Solomon, David, Joseph, Jesus and all of the prophets in between, before and after them were Muslims. For they all submitted themselves to God. And submission is the criteria of being a Muslim.

Now the word submission itself can be a source of contention. Some quarters may say this word is derogatory, implying the forceful subjugation of the mighty over the weak. They prefer the word "choice" instead, as it restores the dignity of man by allowing to decide for himself and not be forced into submission against his will.

Fully agreed. Together with His guiding principles, God has given man his intellect, with which he can observe and understand the universe, figure things out and decide what is right and what is wrong and decide for himself to believe or not to believe. So you submit, or accept His Sovereignty upon full understanding and acceptance of the facts. Hence, no subjugation. It is simply our choice. Again, the Quran is very explicit; "the is no compulsion in religion". And we may decide not to belief, it is entirely our choice. Again the Quran pronounced; "If We had wanted to, we could have made all of them Muslims". But what would be point then of giving man his intellect.

Some would contend, there is no need for all the ritual of not eating and not drinking to refine oneself. For that matter, what is the need of all the ritualistic prayer, charity, pilgrimage, etc when we can change or refine ourselves if we want to without any of these actions. My simple minded response might be, try imagine being full without the act of eating.

Some have taken the fruit as an allegory. The actions are likened to the skin of the mango, or if you may the apple. The belief or the essence of the fruit is in the flesh of the mango. Together the skin (actions) and the flesh (belief) forms the fruit. One does not exist without the other. The skin (actions) also protects the inner flesh, without which it would spoil in no time.

But perhaps the words of a man of wisdom of long ago are more eloquent;"Action without believe is wishful thinking, belief without action is delusional".  

So have a blessed Ramadhan to my family, my children wherever you are, my friends, and my brothers and sisters all over the world, for the doors of forgiveness are open wide in this month (now that is another subject)

Salam

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

BIRTHDAY PARTY AT THE FARM - NUREEN'S BIRTHDAY




It was last minute. Su, our eldest daughter and mother of the bride, oops, birthday girl called out of the blues and asked if they could celebrate Nureen's third birthday at the farm. Luckily we have good service providers who were  more than ready to obliged our impromptu request, in particular the food. For this occasion they requested for roast lamp on the spit.



It was planned for about 20 adults and 20 children, but I think the final attendance exceeded that. The food was nevertheless sufficient.



It rain for a bit but did not dampen their spirits. The children (small and big) did not mind the rain and for children raised in the city, playing in the rain was a treat, a  luxury not be be missed. So too, rolling on the ground. Afterall, how far can you roll in your bungalow lot compared to  3 acres. Its amazing how they could stand up straight after that. I would have vomited out my meals for the last 3 days.

TOLD YOU, IT WAS AN ADULT PARTY
Children today have much more in terms of quality of life but I guess the word quality is relative. I remembered their mothers playing in mud-filled ponds as a past-time in the village. And they were not children, but full grown teenagers. See how they turned out. Must be the mud.

THE LAMB WAITING PATIENTLY 

It was supposed to be a children's party but I think it was just an excuse for the mothers and fathers to unwind. With today's lifestyle its good to get silly every now and to restore the balance to sanity.



Rave reviews for the lamp. Went very well with barbequed pineapples



"AND WE PROMISE TO BE FRIENDS FOR LIFE, IN SICKNESS OR IN HEALTH"

MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME

BIRTHDAY GIRL

MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME AGAIN
FAMILY AND FRIENDS

THIS THING ABOUT CHILDREN AND SAND I CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND
Good fun. Nice to have the family and friends together, though not all the children was there. One was on the way up Mount Kinabalu and the other who just began work was busy impressing his boss. And another was biting her finger in frustration in Japan.

Ahh, the simple things in life. 

Have a blessed Ramathan everyone, family and friends

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

GRADUATION - NORM DID IT



Every now and then the Almighty, ever gracious and loving as He is, gives you a blessing which leaves you soft and all mushy inside for weeks, eternally grateful that things turned out the way it did, settling down years of anxious wait and expectations, leaving you peaceful inside.



I suppose its nothing new as millions of parents all over the world go through the same thing several times of the year, but for me its a big deal. Like many parents prior to that big day, you wonder whether it will come at all, what with all that divergent teenage inclinations, leading to subsequently divergent views and expectations, not to mention disagreements on both sides.



Suddenly, there he is before your very eyes, strutting around in his brand new suit, looking good and so matured, ready to take on the world. His friends said he looked like James Bond, but he said James Bond actually looked like him. His mother said his strut and cockiness comes from me, but I beg to differ. His great grandfather most likely.



Your heart ache as you see that little boy in crumpled and dirty shorts, and equally dirty T-shirt, disappeared forever, except in your dimming memory and photographs, and in his place stands an adult seemingly ready for the world. Your ache mingle with pride at the transformation. Suddenly you are seized by panic, for you know what the world has in store for him. Very soon the reality of the world will come crashing on him with all its greed and competitiveness, business and me first mantra which has left many of us badly shakened and sometimes broken. Gone are the sheltered world of schools and parents, your fall back option for everything from school bullies to pocket money.



For a while we can stand by and provide advice and moral support as they navigate the treacherous waters of the corporate and the business world, but soon enough we will be out of touch with the ways of the ever changing world and we will fall into a sad and confused silence.



In the early difficult years of my career, I used to talk to my late father and I valued his advice and encouragement. In the latter years, his advise became lesser for as he told me, he no longer understood how the world functioned. He could only look at me sadly as I run through my litany of problems and grouses. Strangely enough however, just having him there to listen was comforting enough. I invariably felt better afterwards, and would go back well resolved to make things work.Perhaps too that resolve was due to my guilt at putting him through such pain.



Well, I shall try to be there for him as I had for his other siblings. God, you wouldn't believe what I had to listen to as they all unload all their office problems and politics, as if I have the answer for everything.  And one can get really long-winded.



Our children, all born after 1980 are all millennials, That in itself will be a great challenge as they struggle to fit into the business and corporate world still very much run by the earlier generation. Now some people may debunk this issue outright, but I believe there are pertinent points to be recognized and addressed.

Being born and raised at a time of greater prosperity, affording them better quality of life, through their parents of course, and witnessing and experiencing the explosion of new technologies, plus being highly connected to the world, the expectations of this generation are far more complicated than that of the older generation.

For a start do not expect them to stay around and take all the nonsense the company has to give in the name of building a career. Given their connectivity and network, they have great access to other opportunities. Do not just give them instructions and expect dutiful execution. Often times they require rationale for what they are doing, a sense of awareness and belonging in the entire scheme of things. One of our girls having got into her much coveted position in one of the Big 4 accounting firm, asked after a while "what is the meaning of all that?". So she promptly got herself a mortgage, to provide some meaning, I guess.



The issues with millennials have been address in volumes but I guess, the key thing here is not to see their trends as disruptive, but rather opportunities to expand our horizon and maximize on their special skills, tendencies and outlook to bring organizations to greater heights. The sooner this is realized the better, for very soon the working world will be full of them, and those who can extract the best from them are the winners.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

IRONMAN 70.3 - DANANG, VIETNAM 2017



I was in Danang, Vietnam last week for the Ironman 70.3. No, I was not a participant. The company I worked for in Vietnam, was one of the event sponsors and I was part of the team in support of the sponsorship.

It was a typically grueling medley of event for the participants involving 21 km of running, 1.9 km swim of the shores of Danang and 80 km of cycling. Close to 1000 participants took part. There was also Ironkids meant for children.

Of the ASEAN contingent Singapore was the highest at 104, followed by Malaysia at 86 and the Philippines at slightly lower.

Anyway  there are many Ironman events around the world and all year round. So enough said on the subject. What I would like to share was my encounter with some very interesting personalities at the meet.

The first candidate was a Malaysian. At 80 years old Mr. Yee Sze Mun is the oldest participant. He started training and participating in Ironman events at the age of 58. Fourteen years later at the age of 72 he clocked his fastest time. Todate he has done 37 half Ironman and 20 full Ironman. He has completed the Hawaiian Ironman 6 times, the Hawaiian Ironman being considered one of the toughest challenge. Worldwide there are estimated only about 20 Ironman atheletes above 80 years old and he is one of them.

Mr. Yee Sze Mun honored me with his presence
The second participant was another Malaysian, Mr. Wong Hock Yim. At 68 years old he is rather youthful compared to Mr Yee above and in a political party, he would be in the Youth Wing. So being still youthful, Mr. Wong has completed only 13 Ironman events. But no worries, he still has many years to catch up. In his spare time at home in Ipoh, Malaysia he runs YN Therapy, a therapy center based on traditional Chinese medicine.

In both Mr. Yee and Mr. Wong, the spirit of Malaysia Boleh was well articulated.

Mr Yee Sze Mun , the Elder, on the left and Mr Wong Hock Yim , Youth Leader, on the right


The third interesting participant was Mr. Tony Ledinh. At 79 years he was all raring to go for the event the next day. Having a long illustrious history, he served as Deputy Minister under President Nguyen Cao Ky in the 1960's and was a very close friend of Malaysia's first Prime Minister, the late Tungku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, being his regular golfing kaki (partner) and confidante.

Mr Tony Ledinh and wife


Whilts I admire the hundreds of athletes who steeled themselves for the pain and exhaustion of the event under the burning sun, I reserve my greatest admiration to these gentlemen above. They have decided that life should be lived and savored to the fullest and the last drop. The way life should be lived.

I guess there are various motives as to why men and women do this thing. For many I guess it is to compete against themselves. For some to compete against the others. For a few maybe, just to be part of the scene and to be able to say, "I was there and did that".

But for these honorable gentlemen, I think their hidden motive was to put us couch potatoes to shame. Well, for me they have succeeded. Starting training soon.

Monday, May 8, 2017

FAMILY CAMP - LABOUR DAY 2017



Taking advantage of the extended Labour Day holidays, three young families decided to introduce their young ones to another world of fun, apart from the shopping mall routine. Arriving on 29 April they brought their own tents and everything else they could possibly need for three days 2 nights in the "wild".



Well the "wild" is overstated. The 2.8 acres grounds is well maintained and cleaned. No bushes and vines to hide and swing from, or for strange animals to hide and pounce on them. At night lights hung from strategic locations on the trees provide adequate lighting, But most important, was the availability of clean toilets and bathrooms which you may not find on many camping sites. There was even a big multi-purpose hall which they could have used to have their meals complete with tables and chairs. They did not take up the offer, I guess, the children might get the wrong idea about what camping in the wild is all about.




As for wild animals, our chickens, dogs, cats and horses put up their "ferocious" best, but I don't think they fooled anyone. I mean, how ferocious can Mary, our children's pony get? True enough all the 8 children overcome their initial trepidation and got along well with Mary.



Despite heavy rains the days before, the weather held beautifully during their stay. The Almighty must have wanted the children to really have a great time. And that they did, running around to their hearts content and soaking themselves in the pool until they looked like oversized dried prunes.



I think they had a good time, especially the children, sleeping under the sky, long talks into the night by the parents, chilly misty nights and waking up to the crowing of cockerells and chirping of birds.

Thank you Joyce and friends. Tell your other friends about us.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

THE GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN



Two of them came all the way from Johore whilst the other 2 are KL ladies, determined to have their fun time on Sunday 23 April 2017. Amongst them was an Aikido instructor, a financial executive with an international insurance company and the other was a lecturer at a local university.



Notwithstanding the rainy season they were determined to do two things that day. One was trekking through the primary forest of the Congkak Reserve and the other was to bamboo raft down Sungai Langat.



Arriving at slightly after 8.30 we proceeded to the forest reserve for the jungle trek. Our arrival was greeted by a bunch of soldiers who were just packing up after after a few days of jungle exercise.



The trek took about 40 minutes during which they were feted on the beauty of the natural jungle, certainly a far cry from the manicured paths of FRIM. It being the raining season we were also greeted by the local hosts, leeches. Most of us got a bite or two but they were particularly fond of one team member, who could not help commiserating on her unfortunate attraction to the blood suckers.



Actually it was no fault or special attraction of hers. As we walk single file through the trek, the highly sensitive heat sensors of the leeches would alert them of our arrival and they would start coming in our direction. In fact experienced eyes would be able to see them coming towards you. The first few members of the trekking team in front, if they walk fast enough would be able to avoid them. By the time the second half of the trekking team passes through the same spot the leeches would be more than ready to latch on to the shoes and thereafter up the body.

Jungle millipede - at least 20 times bigger than their urban cousins


Hence it would appear that only some members are prone to bites. The trick is to walk rather rapidly, yet keep a sharp eye for obstacles and dangers, so that they have no time to latch on. And if you get bitten unless, you are totally oblivious, you could sense the slight biting sensation as they start their feed.



Main targets areas are the soft tissues where are there are lots of capillaries. So underarms, in between fingers and toes are favorite spots. Generally not harmful unless one has certain highly susceptible conditions or where they attack you en-masse. This happen to me many years ago in the Ulu Kelang jungles.



As I stood in the middle of the jungle I thought it was starting to rain as i heard what sounded like rain drops falling on the canopy. Looking around and up we realize it was not water coming down but leeches coming down from the top of the canopy to greet us, and the sound was their foot steps, or body steps, as they landed on the leaves. Within seconds we had tens of leeches climbing all over us. Plucking them individually was no longer efficient. So we resorted to our Parangs (machetes) to scrap them off. Needless to say, our choice of a base camp that night was changed immediately.



Anyway by 11.00 am we were down again and they proceeded to their bamboo rafting. It being the raining season the water level was perfect, meaning low water level would expose  rocks which makes navigation of the rafts a bit problematic.



By noon they arrived at the finishing point and after a refreshing shower at Uluhati, headed back to town with lunch topmost on their minds.

Thank you girls, tell your friends about us.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A WEDDING IN THE COUNTRY


Another couple decided to celebrate their union in a traditional country way, framed in the lush greenery of Uluhati. A rather closed family affair the celebration saw guests from far away Singapore and the Phillippines. For the occasion, Uluhati was transformed into a fairy tale land of sorts complete with fireworks as the grand finale. Though held in the midst of November, the weather generally held itself, albeit a slight occasional shower. 





The Serambi transformed for the Henna Ceremony (Berinai)
The Balai readied for dinner



 
Transformed into a fairyland




Fireworks in the paddock