samedi, octobre 30, 2010

An Ode to My Grandmother

Rahmah Nik, the only daughter of Nik bin Besah and Yang Chik. granddaughter of storyteller Bebunga from Endau. An avid reader, Syair Ken Tambuhan, Hikayat Tajul Muluk and Hikayat Abdullah enthralled her. It was the 1930s, life was charmed yet turbulent with her policeman father travelling around the country. He was honoured for saving Dato Hussein's life during the war.

My grandmother
Young reader
Lovely daughter
Cikgu Rahmah Nik, young teacher in her teens. She taught school children during the day and adult literacy classes at night in Pekan, Pahang. At a school fair, a visiting teacher - Jaafar Awang Pekan bought a blue muffler she knitted from her. Little did she know, Jaafar fell in love with the hazel eyed vivacious teacher in kebaya there and then.
My grandmother
Young teacher
Beguiling beauty

Puan Rahmah Nik, married at eighteen years of age. This was not an easy endeavour as Jaafar was engaged to another in Chenor. The break up caused a minor family riot which took years to settle. But both Jaafar and Rahmah were very much in love and remained so for the rest of their lives. Remembering the war, she spoke of tapioca days and thread made of pineapple leaves, saving matches to last the day. Hiding neighbours in the kitchen, masquerading as maids. Sisters masquerading as boys. Later they were involved in the National Teacher's Union, fighting for a better life, then for the country. There were conferences and rallies to attend. She gave up jewellery and time for the cause.

My grandmother
Good neighbour, quick witted
Passionate about Malaya

Tok Rahmah Nik, grandmother at age 41 when first granddaughter was born far away in Australia. Together with Tok Jaafar, they were pioneers, he as headmaster and she was a teacher at the first Felda school in Lurah Bilut. Life was hard at the Rumah Kongsi - she negotiated with the Orang Asli for supplies as they loved to barter for batik, and other household stuff.

My grandmother
Knew hardship first hand
She kept the family together

Mak Chu Rahmah Haji Nik, back in Chenor was mother of ten, and Wanita UMNO leader. The household doubled up with nieces and nephews coming to stay. It was not luxurious but everyone had enough to eat and most importantly, the discipline to study hard. Everyone of the children and adopted children earned a place in residential schools.

My grandmother
Generous as she knew how
Problems to be solved - now

Tok Rahmah Haji Nik took in her eldest grandchild, yours truly who needed to be schooled in AlQuran and religion. At age 10, I could not read the Al-Quran nor understood the need to pray. Grandfather, Grandma and Tok Lebai took charge and I finished reading Quran the year after. Long after I left Chenor, I was told how Tok Lebai Ismail praised my ease and determination to read the Al Quran until his dying days. He passed away when I was overseas in Canada.

My grandma cooked breakfast for the poor students in school and entered craft fairs. She held Tupperware and Arcopal parties for the ladies. At night, she would faithfully prepare her notes for lessons the next day and she wrote in the most meticulous and beautiful handwriting I have known.

We watched Peyton Place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, P Ramlee on Friday nights. School holidays started with Tok Jaafar going to the train-station in Mentakab to fetch my aunties and uncles who returned for the holidays from MCKK, STF, SDAR, SEMSAS, STAR and more. She took me to do my IC. When I was to be sent to boarding school, Sekolah Seri Puteri, Tok Jaafar and Tok Rahmah drove me to Kuala Lumpur. We stayed at Hotel Asia.

My grandmother
Showered me with attention
Told me stories - Ken Tambuhan
To think through problems
Always surmountable

Hajah Rahmah Haji Nik went to Mekah after Tok Jaafar recovered from a prolonged illness which left him bones and skin. Whenever he was ill, that old blue muffler faithfully kept him warm. He recovered and they went for pilgrimage the year after. This started a passion for travelling in Tok Rahmah. After Tok Jaafar passed on, Tok Rahmah travelled to Jordan, Turkey and Egypt. She bought a little camera and used it with sheer delight.

My grandmother
Late starter traveller
Stories from abroad

Hajah Rahmah Yang Chik, passed away after being cared for by my mother in Taman Melawati. She was in pain, we told her stories and she wanted to hear Ken Tambuhan for the last time. As always, the Classic Nasional on the radio was by her side. She had always wanted her final resting place to be in Pekan where her father and husband were laid to rest. So we gathered as family in Pekan, the sky was overcast, there was the gentlest of drizzle.

My grandmother
Is no longer with me
Her last quiet breathe
Softly exhaled
She left gently

A lifetime of purpose.


You will find more reflections on Grandma here.

mardi, octobre 26, 2010

Hajah Rahmah Haji Nik

My grandmother Hajah Rahmah Haji Nik just passed away.


vendredi, octobre 22, 2010

Romancing Rodin

Auguste Rodin of France must be the greatest sculptor of the modern era. Among his most famous sculptures are The Age of Bronze (L'age d'airain) 1877, The Walking Man (L'homme qui marche) 1877-78, The Burghers of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais) 1889, The Kiss 1889, The Thinker (Le Penseur) 1902.

Le Penseur

Inspiré par Dante
Existence tourmentée
Pièce de beau de l'art

Le génie de Rodin
Façonnés en bronze
En face de son musée

Au lieu de la Porte de l'Enfer

Mots par ninotaziz

However, it was not Rodin's sculptures that made me try to get to know him better. Seriously, Rodin's sculptures in particular The Thinker was generally more recognizable than the master himself. Incidentally, The Thinker was originally called The Poet and was fashioned after Dante in his journey through Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso in the 14th century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. The Kiss too was inspired by this literary work.

Coming back to my study of Rodin - a few years ago, I was enamoured with Camille Claudel and her work as a sculpture, breaking new grounds in a male dominated era. Claudel was an apprentice, muse and lover of Rodin. Rodin met Claudel when she was merely 18 years of age, already a fiercely determined young woman of the arts tutoring under Alfred Boucher. Rodin was 43 then. This artistic influence the pair had on each other resulted in a stormy relationship. Claudel inspired Rodin and sat for many of his figures, and she assisted him on commissions, only to break away from the master to develop her own style.

Camille Claudel was Rodin's soul mate but he was loath to part from his life partner and mother of his son- Rose Beuret whom he married in the final year of his life. In any case, their relationship ended, and Camille Claude eventually was placed in asylum by her family.

Rodin's work, mainly commissioned by various patrons were mostly inspired by great stories. Here is a story of sacrifice and compassion.

Calais, beautiful French Port
Fell during the War of 100 Years'
If not for Philippa of Hainault
The city had to greatly suffer

All were doomed, unless
Six nobles were willing to die
Accept the English conquest
The burghers heroic self-sacrifice

Queen Phillipa's intervention
She begged Edward III for mercy
For fear of bad omen
Towards her pregnancy

The Queen's tears for her unborn child
Saved the burghers of Calais

In this 1988 production, Gerard Depardieu plays Rodin and Isabelle Adjani is Camille Claudel.

Words by ninotaziz
Copyright 2010 © ninotaziz.
All rights reserved.

mardi, octobre 19, 2010

Madly In Love with Victor Hugo

Last night I fell madly in love with Victor Hugo.

I have never met him, or walked along
Avenues that bear his name.
I love the house where he lived in Paris
Where he touched all these beautiful things
I love his drawings that revealed a tumultous soul
who longed for a fortress home.
Stroke by stroke, a dash - the light
He kept his art from the world at large

So that his words take centrestage
Les Miserables - the greatest story of the nineteenth century
The Hunchback of Notre Dame gave Paris her sanctuary
But most of all I love Victor's words of wisdom, of love
Of a closeness not to religion, but God.
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
- Victor Hugo

Life's greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved - Victor Hugo
There is nothing like dream to create the future
- Victor Hugo

Love is like a tree
It grows on its own accord
It puts down deep roots
Into our whole being
- Victor Hugo
All the forces in the world is not as powerful as an idea whose time has come - Victor Hugo
I love Victor Hugo.
My new blog dedicated to my attempt at French poetry
is entitled La poesie de ninotaziz et Victor Hugo

A lovely letter from Alliance Francaise today!

Dear Ms Aziz,
Many thanks for your contribution to our newsletter and your beautiful poems! We will publish them in our next issue.

Best regards,

Marine Douchin
Cultural Events Coordinator
Alliance Française de Kuala Lumpur
15, Lorong Gurney 54100 Kuala Lumpur
+60 (0)3 26 94 78 80


vendredi, octobre 15, 2010

Poetry by Carrie Burtt

One Shot Poetry

Some things when they fall they shatter and seem beyond repair
while others seem to brace the fall but invisibly they are impaired
a heart can see another's fall and then itself break in two
but tears like glistening diamonds will fall and make it new
God bless the heart that is broken for another's pain it has truly felt and seen
but God help the heart that will not break for it is surely broken indeed.

What The Trees Know
The trees know a certain unity that we do not understand.
They face what the wind blows in, and together they shall stand.
When autumn's wind reaches out to them her subtle hand,
the leaves turn hue and fall and still together they do land.
The forest knows a certain hope that lingers in winter's cold.
It is the certainty of spring when new leaves will all unfold.
Yet, in the swelter of summer, at the hand of man alone,
a flicker becomes a flame and takes back what nature has bestowed.
Still, trees know a certain peace that man cannot recall.
For united they will stand, and still together they will fall.

Like A Forest

This life is like a forest and our world is but a tree
and humanity is a flow of many colors like an abundant growth of leaves
each spread out and grow reaching toward the sky
and when the time is right we break loose and start to fly
but like the changing seasons our flight is soon a fall
we reach out like a weary hand and embrace heaven's call.

Carrie Burtt is a fellow poet whose work I particularly connect with and admire. I think the main reason for this is that Carrie writes from the heart. Her blog Hope Whisper is amazingly uplifting with images to match. Carrie says, "I have been writing since I was a child, but I became a "mad scientist" with a pen and paper about 13 years ago,therefore this blog was born. Hope you find a glimmer of inspiration here." Incidently, both Carrie and I started writing when we turned 11. A lovely coincidence!

Like most of us in the poet blogsphere, we have a separate blog as a journal and Carrie recaps her special thoughts in her blog Dancing with Elephants. And I guess when Carrie turns philosophical, she escapes to her blog What A Seagull never Told You.

I love her all the more when I see that Carrie loves the movies The Curious Case of Bejamin Button, Under The Tuscan Sun, Forrest Gump, Ghost and most of all Willow! Carrie is one of the many special friends I have had the privilege to know over the blog. Here, we do not really know the lives behind the poet in great detail. Which is why Robert at Poets United is doing such a marvelous job introducing us to each other in his Life Of A Poet interview series. Nevertheless, the poetry is the first and foremost link that strikes a connection, a bond that grows stronger with time.

To Carrie, from half way around the world - keep on writing!

lundi, octobre 11, 2010

Classics Lost In Time

The Orient Express - a once in a life-time romance

Enjoying the sunset

Browsing through the inherited Encyclopedia

Dictionaries and thesaurus

Reading unabridged Charles Dickens at one sitting

Receiving a pen pal letter

Turntables - adjusting that needle onto your favourite single
A moment of bliss

Writing a heartfelt letter

dimanche, octobre 10, 2010

Memories from the garden

Memory woven garden
To you I come for solace
For - it is here I remember
I am born of gentle grace
- ninotaziz

Today, in my garden, I felt closest to my late grandmother. She was beautiful, a great cook and maybe above all, loved her garden.

An account of my reminiscence can be found here.

dimanche, octobre 03, 2010


For decades, Hindus and Muslims fought over the Ayodhya claim. Ayodhya is the ancient city, birthplace of Rama no less. Its beauty, by the banks of the Sarayu River, was made timeless in the poet Valmiki's Ramayana. My retelling of this story can be found here.

After decades of bloodshed, over sixty years, a court decision has decided on the matter. The decision is welcome - if only to end bitter and deadly clashes if not for its justice.

Let us have a quick look at the Ayodhya history and debate.

Said to be the most ancient of Hindu cities, Ayodhya was the capital of the legendary Kingdom of Kosala. My retelling based on Valmiki's Ramayana tells the story of King Dasaratha, King of Ayodhya who longed for a son. A son, Rama was born to Queen Kausalya followed by three other sons. After many trial, tribulations and terror fighting the evil Ravana, Rama returned to Ayodhya in triumph. This story and legend is regaled throughout Asia in many forms. Incidently, the wayang kulit tulen Kelantan is based on this epic as well with many improvisation.

Now, back to Ayodhya's real history.

After thousand of years practising Hindu, in the 16th century, there was a wave of Muslim conquerors and Mughal rule in Ayodhya. Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India built the Babri mosque in 1527. For over two hundred years, debate over its existance on an ancient Hindu temple site as discussed here was cause for fierce fighting. In the 1800s, the courts however generally gave in to the status quo that the mosque shall be respected and kept safe.

In 1992, the Babri Mosque was razed to the ground by Hindu extremist. A monument of India's history erased - but not its significance. If at all, it set aflame century old disputes and after the ashes settled, its ambers slowly fumed bigotry in its place.

Some might wonder why I am interested in this debacle and the resulting outcome. Well, I constantly read and research world legends. When a legendary epic like this, albeit a very religiously revered epic, becomes the basis of modern day news, I am piqued by how much it would influence the courts.

It is also a story of clashing beliefs and respect.

Hopefully, a story of reconciliation - if possible.

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