dimanche, septembre 03, 2006

Rekindling Passion

During my 41st birthday celebration with close friends, friends who knew me through my teen, tried and tested years, one asked me casually how do we rekindle passion. At the time, I thought…one of those questions we all ask but never answer and left it at that. But suddenly, in the middle of the night, the nagging curiosity got the better of the writer in me. I began to realize that all of us should be asking ourselves this question. No matter how happy, how troubled, how satisfied, how contented. Remember the saying - content breeds contempt.

There is nothing that is going to be X-rated here. Discussion of what goes on between a man and wife is, after all, haram. However, I felt the topic merited attention because, in the course of daily turmoil … some things like affairs of the heart and passion just get pushed back, ignored, put off. And suddenly, 3 months later, you wonder, what happened?

Okay, I have justified to myself why I should write this piece. Even thinking about passion brings guilt to mind. Liberated woman – hosh posh. Our culture and upbringing still continue to play its vital role of shaping my values after all that reading, traveling, living. As some of you put it, after five girls, Ninot. Five girls!

Let’s start with le boudoir. What is romance without a little French. Anyway, I am simply referring to the enclave, your romantic and naughty area - the bedroom. Is this where it all starts…or restarts?

Hell no…did you fall in love with your current beau in the bedroom? Of course you did not. Your first moment could have been at the movies, on a sailing boat, registering for that Economics 101 or Calculus 100 class, etcetera. For me, as some of you know, it was at the volleyball field. Why that moment changed your life forever? Who knows. But it did.

Love swept your raging hormones (this is how my number one puts it when she has a crush…blame it on the raging hormones).

Anyway, you can’t just walk into your bedroom after a hard day’s work…at home or at the office and expect to enjoy a night of torrential d’amour. We deserve better. But we have to work a bit at it. Build the mood. Do something different. Please don’t only use that expensive J’adore or Chanel No 5 to the office or special occasions. I remember how devastated I was when my certain favourite scent of the 1990s was discontinued, Shiseido’s Fragrance Du Bois, something like that…when I had it, I need not even be there for Rudi to think of me. All I had to do was leave a scent on a card, at the door, on the bed when I am working late, on his car keys…he’d be ringing all day.

I love to read. I pour over Frank Herbert, Tanith Lee, Dan Brown, Leo Tolstoy, Charlotte Bronte, Stephen Covey, the works. A current sample of my bedtime reading today would include John Grisham, Orhan Pamuk and Salman Rushdie. Yet, once a while, I would read something like, How to Make Love to Your Man (bought at MPH, mind you) and browse through the RM 200 EROS I ordered through The Good Book Guide from London or 22 Tales of Erotism and Mysteries. Just for fun.

Pamper yourself. It doesn’t take much. My grandmother’s recipe for the ultimate bath still works wonders for me. Mandi Serum – Boil leaves of serai wangi, pandan, lengkuas, jambu batu and squeeze 7 limau nipis into the concoction and have the most refreshing hot bath ever. I have all the above in my small garden, wherever I am.

Never let too much time go by. We ladies can get by without the physical attachment for sufficiently long periods. We can dream, fantasize etcetera. Not men. Passion, sex, making love, whatever it’s called, is a physical need that has to be relieved for them. If your doctor tells you your pregnancy is problem free, have fun til the very end. It also speeds up the baby’s arrival. Trust me on this.

And then, exercise. Not necessarily to get in shape. Just to feel good about yourself. To feel positive. There are hormones that comes with exercising that simply encourage you in this direction. Help you feel sexier.

What I love the most is giving each other a good rubdown or massage. Simple massages – the soles. The shoulders. The back of the neck. Seemingly so innocent.

Most of all, talk to your other half about everyday things. The bills, Mahathir’s tiff with Pak Lah, the budget, whatever. Then talk casually about what you’d like to do for each other, to each other two days before you actually do anything. Think about it. Dream about it. Make sure when you tell him you miss him, he is fully aware of what you miss. It takes a little bit of courage. Try it. Even SMS it.

By the way, most of the things I have suggested here are things we do for ourselves. Not for our partner. For when we love ourselves, treat ourselves right, feel good, that’s when we can make things happen.

Going back to culture and upbringing, I think we should not hide away from discussions on sex with our daughters. When mine were very, very young and asked me about where babies came from, I told the girls that a baby was one of the nicest wedding presents from Allah. Today, when they ask me about ‘what you do in the middle of the night’ or ‘what you do to get a baby’, I tell them Daddy and I enjoy one of the loveliest gift Allah bestowed a husband and wife. And they go...EEE! And pretend to close their ears. Then I tell them what my mother told me… be sure to be married first. So many wrong things can happen. The wrong guy…no matter how nice they are. He could be wrong for you. Aids. Unwanted babies you can’t take care of. Broken dreams. Missing out on college. Not to forget the burden of dosa. Marriage comes with all sorts of commitments.

But never turn passion into a shameful topic.

It is one of the most beautiful gifts. Enjoy it.

samedi, juillet 22, 2006


In the last ten years or so, more and more works by our fellow Malaysians like Rani Manicka, Azizi Ali, and Adibah Amin (‘cikgu’) , not to mention Club member and author, Lillian Too, who wins hands down in terms of number of book sales, have enjoyed tremendous success.

There is a growing and determined crop of writers, no matter how daunting the challenges of the publication world, who have prevailed to see their words of wisdom, wit and genius fly off the printing press. And into this growing intelligentsia, Tash Aw, Taipei born, Malaysian bred and today, citizen of the world, breaks into the scene with his Whitbread First Novel award winning The Harmony Silk Factory. I am proud to know he used to run around the Royal Lake Club in his swimming suit and spent many hours at one of my favourite places at the Royal Lake Club, the Children’s Library.

This surely is indicative of a growing community of Malaysian readers and writers, passionate and knowledgeable enough about their areas of expertise to share their views, despite the laments we hear and read on Malaysiakini.com on the lack of reading habits, a culture of learning and openness among Malaysians. Writing, and writing well can only be born of a love for reading and deep research unless your surname happened to be Bronte, and the love for writing came from hours of fantasy play, a streak of genius and a love for the moors of Yorkshire.

A few years back, a Club survey was conducted to see which activity or recreational facility was the most popular. It was certainly not surprising to note that the Library came out tops (a good reminder at this juncture when the ‘powers that be’ in the Club think about redevelopment – the Library really needs more space to accomodate its growing number of readers). It brings a measure of pride to see that there is a multitude of members who contribute to the reading materials as well, so much so that this August, the Club is able to organise the Anniversary Tea Session to honour many of these writers and to invite members to meet them in person for exchange of ideas.

But the fact is that the Club, while it reflects the society we live in, is really an enclave of the privileged. Which means, the children of the Club are privileged to be able to read by the time they received their pink membership card, and the adult members, either had an early love for reading, or now invest more and more time into reading, thus are privileged to enjoy all the plusses that reading brings about. The reading habit endows a reader with knowledge, confidence, communication skills and spurs the gift of creativity - all the qualities to portray the successful.

It however remains true that the rest of the country has had a tough time embracing the habit of reading. 2 years ago, the Minister of Education made a statement at one of the many ceremonies he attended and said, “...we must ensure that as we prepare our children for a very different world than the one in which we grew up, we do not neglect to equip them with the core human values which have not changed since the time the Prophet Muhammad - may peace be upon him, Aristotle and Confucius.” At the same occasion , he also urged Malaysians to rethink and re-appraise our core commitments as human beings, as parents spouses, employers, employees and citizen.

I can hardly remember the rest of the speech, but this particularly comment struck me because every muslim child knows that the first ever revelation to the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w started with the single command ‘Iqra’ or ‘Bacalah’. In that one little word, lies the essence of religion, a drive for knowledge to make us a better person, a better people. We know this and yet, we are not doing enough. Perhaps most significantly as parents, as individuals, as a workforce, as citizens.

The Reading Promotion Policy was initiated to implement the objective of the National Library of Malaysia under the National Library (Amendment) Act 1987 (Act A667) Part II Section 4(2)(m )which is 'to promote and facilitate the development of the reading habit'. This policy is in line with the strategy of the National Policy on Library and Information Services article 4.7.5: 'to instill and to develop a reading habit'.

Its objectives are many, among which are to:
· To raise an awareness of the importance of reading to the Malaysian society.
· To cultivate interest and develop the reading habit among Malaysians.
· To raise the reading standard of Malaysians.
· To promote a lifetime of learning and love for knowledge.

Almost 20 years on, we need to gauge our real progress. Otherwise, policies will be just that, policies - unless we ensure its implementation and results.

A Club member once said to me, ‘I do not want to tolerate my neighbours (referring to the often tooted calls for a tolerant society) I want to understand and appreciate them.’ Understanding can come easier with a sincere effort to learn about each others ways and tradition, and we can only do this in two ways - through experience or through reading. Perhaps reading, together with other core values, can help make a difference in our goals for a Muhibbah society.

If only we remember that our children can love that which they have been exposed to. Glenn Doman, author of How To Teach Your Baby To Read, maintains that since a child learns the most between the time he is born until he is about 5 years old, reading and any other quest for knowledge should be instilled within this period, long before most little toddlers even step into a Library. The most successful mothers in carrying out the Glenn Doman Method have been those who start their children early and display “an almost ‘dumb-blond-like’ enthusiasm” for every progress the child makes in reading. The child responds positively and yearns to do even better at reading. Whatever you do, whether reading to your child at bedtime, making trips to the library and the book store a weekly or monthly ‘special occasion’ or starting book projects - all this helps a child to love reading from an early stage, a beautiful gift which would stay with them for a lifetime, no matter how enjoyable that computer game or Barbie doll mansion are.

And that is the best gift a parent can give – the joy of reading, a burning quest for knowledge.

For life.

I would like to say a little thank you to Mr Eric Baxendale – he urged me one day while we were having tea at the Lobby Cake Counter, to start writing again before the toils of work drown me and whatever penchant I had for writing dissappears again...

mardi, juin 20, 2006

The Pioneers - Felda Lurah Bilut

Lurah Bilut. 1958.A small settlement on the fringe of the deep and dense jungle of Pahang.

This FELDA documentary caught my eye some years ago. The feature was on its first ever settlement in the country. Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Razak’s pet project on rural development. An economic experiment.No more, no less. Or did the future of rural development lie in this one settlement?

It is today, a showcase for the pioneering spirit of the times. The pride and joy of the FELDA project as many of its original settlers have turned millionaires. Who could have seen how far FELDA was to have ventured? Even in its inception, it was not clear where the project would land itself. This was not a project that would manifest itself within a specific number of years. It was not measured by physical scales...whether it was the tallest, highest or biggest there was.Its success was measured by the enduring spirit of pioneers, belief and sweat. Such was the visionary powers of these two leaders.

Why did this particular documentary catch my eye?

I remembered vaguely that my late grandfather used to teach in Lurah Bilut in the 1960s. We used to laugh over stories how the whole family including 8 children all of school going age had to ‘meredah hutan’ to reach the settlement. And how in love my grandmother must have been to have followed him into such wilderness.

I immediately asked my mother after watching the documentary about the story behind the move to Lurah Bilut. It turned out that grandfather was the first ever headmaster for the school which opened in 1961.She related stories of how he took on the Minister of Education at the time, demanding for chairs and tables before the school starts.

I then remembered other little things about grandfather, gently hinting at the nature of the man, rather ahead of the times, eccentric, yet staunchly committed to the appearance of the conservative scholar. Rather like Sherlock Holmes, the epitome of an Englishman, yet forgiven for his discretions like cocaine addiction and overbearing superior complex[Holme's I mean!}.

Unique, nevertheless.

To be continued...

lundi, juin 19, 2006

World Cup 2006

Mr Kofi Annan, I agree with you whole-heartedly.I loved your article, and felt the same yearning for worldwide fairplay on a level playing pitch...unlikely though it may be. A world where it doesn't matter whether you are poor or rich...where talent and teamwork make the difference. Perhaps the secret of the World Cup phenomenon lies in the fact that it is something you yearn for, it only comes once every four years. As if humanity needed to wash away all the bigotry and dirt with a dose of good old fashioned sportsmanship.

As I sit here admiring Spain's grit and determined attack on Tunisia...the game is still on, I marvel at the way the World Cup continues to be a sort of home coming for me.Though Rudi teases me relentlessly about the real reason I love the World Cup and the England team so much when I just scan through the English Premier League, the fact is I feel closest to my late Dad during this time. We used to stay up late night and debate on the outcome, him being such an ardent fan of Argentina and me of Brazil at the time made for heated father and daughter predictions. But then, we watched great tennis and badminton matches with almost the same passion.Today, Dad and I would have been formidable contenders for all trivia contest as he would be spot on on most of the difficult questions on football.

It is no wonder that Rudi and I share the same enthusiastic passion for this festival of sorts. Rudi was after all a footballer and a striker at that. Part of our family outings included picnics while cheering him on the field. Still he frowns when his six month pregnant wife stays up to the wee hours of the morning to watch a game or two. He hates the England side...and couldn't understand why I was so upset when Rooney was first injured. I argued that the World Cup this year needed the likes of Rooney, Torres and Critiano Ronaldo as the days of Ronaldo, Figo and Zidane come to a close...albeit to an illustrious career in football.

This year, Iman takes part in this cyclic tradition as she cheers on her favorite team, Italy. While Italy is not doing too well at this stage, Iman is a true fan of the Italian League and can rattle of teams and players in the way I rattled about Pahang players when I was twelve. The other day, we argued about how Uruguay was pronounced and I was so overwhelmed by the thoughts of Dad. How reminiscent. Dad and I had the same little discussion so many World Cups ago...and I stood corrected. And here I was, telling my daughter not to take this on with me...for her grandfather had put me in my place...there were still many lessons in this world that I could learn from him no matter how far I've journeyed. He was so right. 4 years gone, and I am still learning from him.

Perhaps this year, his Argentine side would thriumph.

As he has.
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