mercredi, avril 14, 2010

Not quite a fairy tale ending

This week is like a movie filled with broken dreams.

Tiger Woods was welcomed with no holds-barred-cheering from the gallery of ardent fans eager to see him triumph over this major 'life changing chapter' in his life. It was all love and great vibes on the first day of the Augusta National Masters. Tiger was smiling, the icy demeanour was gone etc etc etc. He came to Augusta to win, one way or the other.

By the end of it all, the press, and fans, were eager to turn on him and label Tiger Woods as the Bad Boy of golf as opposed to human story Good Boy Mickelson. I think it's great that Mickelson finally achieved what he set out to do at Augusta, perhaps benefitting from the intense scrutiny Woods never enjoyed while on the golf course pre or post scandal. Great that in their moment of intense pain, the Mickelsons could savour a momentous moment. But let's not cheapen his victory and joy with Amy by spinning off a Bad Boy Good Boy pow wow.

The fairy tale ending did not happen. Don't deny we all secretly hoped for it so that this terrible black spot on one of golf's greatest will finally go away. Quit with the labels, the over simplication of people's lives.

I am glad the guy is reevaluating the whole scenario [I really wanted to say circus]

Another broken dream. I was looking forward to seeing Rooney as the toast of the season - with a Man-U victory. Now, even Ferguson was the first to admit its unlikelihood.

Ahhh, Berbatov. All you had to do was to take the lead, rise and shine.

I am still looking forward to the World Cup but the EPL ended for me two days ago.

vendredi, avril 09, 2010


In the last scene of Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland, a map of Malacca leaps to attention. Map on the table, Alice rambles on about going on to China etc etc etc but I couldn't think of anything else except that map and all that it represented.

The lure of 19th century Malaya once called upon the world and held it spellbound. Among many others, Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Anthony Burgess relied on Malaya for landscape and imaging of a forgotten era, the enchanted, and sometimes bizarre land in their best-sellers ...and French writer Henri Fauconnier's Prix Goncourt award winning book was a tribute to our country simply titled Malaisie. Chapter One begins;

Jikalau tidak karna bintang
masakaan bulan terbit tinggi
Jikalau tidak karna abang
masakan datang adek kemari

The French in particular, were fascinated by our pantun, with none other than Victor Hugo and his band of followers adopting pantoum for high fashion pastime. Francois Rene Daillie wrote in his book Alam Pantun Melayu with a tinge of patronising tone, "the pantun has never obtained the fame it deserves, in spite of its introduction into XIXth century poetry."

I, for one, long for the moment pantun is celebrated alongside Shakespere's sonnets and Japanese haiku for its ingenuity, form and sheer beauty. The pantun of old can be witty, passionate to the point of being downright erotic and hilariously funny. And always with a lesson to impart.

Well, the pantun evolves with the times. An sms competition is on-going at the moment up to the end of the month. The theme - 1Malaysia. I hope the beauty and wit does not suffer. At the very least, pantun is given a chance to return to the mainstream.

And I rejoice in that.

Note: I recommend this lovely book by Mak Ungku Azah Aziz for all Malaysian households.

mercredi, avril 07, 2010


In 1976, life in Chenor Temerloh Pahang was idyllic. TV was not allowed except for the daily evening news, Friday night P Ramlee treat and bi-weekly Peyton Place soap opera. Grandmother, who was one of the most feared teachers at Sekolah Kebangsaan Bt Bota by its 184 students, did not believe in co-curricular activities, platonic friendship between boys and girl and lady drivers. So she was shocked and I was flabbergasted when one evening, my very religious and strict Grandfather asked me to stop my study session to watch Nadia Comaneci on the news.

Nadia Comaneci was my first ever sports idol. Until that fateful broadcast news, I had no idea what gymnastics was all about. For the next six years, gymnastics became a way of life, a discipline, an aspiration to be all that Nadia was. When she scored 10s, I was inspired, when she tumbled from the uneven bars in 1978 WC, my world crashed. School, even at the inspiring Seri Puteri, was something I went through in between gymnastic training gymnastic competitions and gymnastic performances at school shows, exhibition shows and at the palace during the King's birthday - I was the only drummer turning up for band practice straight from gymnastics in leotard and tracksuit. Sundays meant training at Stadium Negara with the SAGA team, school holidays were a blur of mini-bus rides to Pusat Sukan Kampung Pandan with team-mate Uyun. Every night I did splits and chest rolls on my dormitory bed, training my compliant and flexible body to bend to my will. Excursions were with the Selangor team-mates - Haryati, Shireen, Poh Chin, Bee Wan, Uyun, Shazlin, Wing Kong, Kok Keong, Michael Ng and more.And my tower of strength - my teacher, mentor, coach - Mrs Khaw Choon Ean. We went to Penang and trained under the sun at the Botannical Gardens with monkeys as our audience. We met Mok - the fearless power packed gymnast from Thailand who tumbled and twirled in the air effortlessly. It is hardly surprising that a few years later, I took the Greycoach all alone to francophone city Montreal to watch the World Gymnastics Championships. Ekaterina Szabo was all the rage and I was in gymnastic heavan.

A deep passion for gymnastics taught me the rigours, sacrifice and inner satisfaction that can only be derived from sports and the code of ethics of sportsmanship. I began to follow sports news and was a huge admirer of Mohamad Ali, Misbun Sidek and Carl Lewis. In later years, Torvill and Dean, Katarina Witt and Brian Olsen were exciting to watch on ice. Wayne Gretzky, the Canadian ice-hockey star was a national icon.

On the Malaysian front, Mokhtar Dahari, Santokh Singh and Soh Chin Aun were our own national treasures. Rabuan Pit was Asia's fastest man. Marina Chin, Mumtaz Jaafar and Shalin carried the mantle. Nurul Huda was unbeatable. Razif and Jailani made front-page news when they won the All-England in 1980. Triumphs at the Thomas Cup would result in genuine tears of happiness.

One of the epic moments in modern-day sports was the live telecast of 17 year old Michael Chang battling the almost clinical efficiency of Ivan Lendl for 4 hours at the 1989 French Open - it was one of the most memorable moments for me and my late father to watch Chang struggle from two matches down, cramps and all to finally triumph over Lendl.

When life threw a curve-ball and took a temporary set-back, I turned to sports to recover from the modern day plague - divorce. I ran at the Lake Gardens, played badminton and volleyball everyday for six months and lost 10 kgs. I fell in love with an avid footballer and naturally, interest in all things football blossomed. So much so, I became a World Cup addict, an EPL expert and MU fan. Then, at the EURO CUP 2004, Wayne Rooney thrilled everyone from tennis superstars to premiers and sheiks in the Middle East.

He had a bumpy ride, and Christiano Ronaldo's superstar status did well to let Rooney mature as a player. It would seem that he is expected to stake his claim at the World Cup together with Messi and Ronaldo - but I am sure millions are waiting to see if he can help England end its streak of unfulfilled World Cup dreams.

Just as millions are waiting to see Tiger Woods rise like a phoenix after falling from grace at the Augusta national Masters this weekend.

Today, Malaysia has a field of giant slayers like trail blazer Azizulhasni Awang and our own giants in the footsteps of Nicol Davids, Chong Wei and more. More importantly, we need to realise that sports is an integral part of producing a society of meritocracy. The drive for excellence is inherent in sports, no wonder the ancient Olympics was given so much prominence by the Greeks.

Embrace sports - and live a life guided by the codes of sportsmanship.

A French Liaison

When I was a not-so-little girl, among my favorite reads, Agatha Christie remained supreme. This was long before I discovered Dune and just a couple of years before I was introduced to Wuthering Heights. My larger than life hero then was Hercule Poirot. The famous Belgian extraordinaire was extremely clever and devious. Most of all, his little explosive French when the ordinary English fails to deliver was a delightful discovery for me. I would faithfully copy all the French words I could find and list them alphabetically. There was of course no internet in those early days and I did not have a French dictionary - so I spent many marvellous hours trying to figure out the meaning of the mysterious phrases.

Ottawa, Canada was the perfect place for me to pick up this long forgotten interest. Quirky and lovable French Professor Vincent Basseville's classes at Carleton U were hilarious and most of all - it was a miniature global village - there were Malaysians, Singaporeans, Spanish, Vietnamese, German, Trinidans and of course Canadian students in the class. Yes we were introduced to all the seven X three different tenses, genders and accents this way and that. That was excrutiating.

But it certainly added value to my visits to the exhilarating Montreal and beautiful Quebec City later on.
In 1990, I stumbled upon L'alliance Francaise Kuala Lumpur and met another wonderful French teacher Michele Tu. Not only did I continue my french classes, I performed a variety of cultural performances at af that year. The rambling bungalow in the midst of a natural garden on lorong gurney was a charming hideaway...

After 20 years, I make my way back to af. Iman and Inas, my spritely intelligent daughters are taking lessons as well as hubby, Rudi. The little French cafe is a delight and has introduced me to Azizah who makes the most delightful French toast and salads. There is a comprehensive library today and a TV tucked in the corner screening TV MUNDO. Here, we all meet and chat and have lunch every Saturday afternoon before the girls head for their music lessons. An idyllic petit les vacances.

We are planning for the ultimate holiday in France - It might take us another five years or so to save for this. Meanwhile, we sing songs like Caresse Sur L'ocean - Ilena does the soprano so well, Ikesha sings Dans pays espagne and dance to Loin de froid des decembre and Irani sings Alouette to YouTube and we all fall in love with 'Pierre Morhange'.

It's a beautiful dream...and an even more beautiful life.
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