Sunday, December 31, 2006

... and goodbye to 2006

Saturday, December 30, 2006


This is where it all began.

I went back to my kampung in Linggi yesterday to visit and spruce up my late father's grave in view of tomorrow's Aidil Adha. It still looked much more presentable than the others around it in the vicinity of the old mosque.

I was also very much in awe, for here also lie buried most of my ancestors for the past several hundred years since they first arrived in their proud Bugis perahus from the Indonesian Rhio and Sulawesi islands to settle on this land.

Al Fatihah.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Long Wait

Newspapers report an earthquake of 7.1 on the Richter scale in Taiwan at 1234hrs GMT on Tuesday has severely damaged Internet links, causing a lot of disruptions all over the world wide webs. Repairs are expected to take up to three weeks.

When my PC appeared to 'hang' for long periods yesterday, I thought perhaps its time to consider an upgrading or maybe I am just getting too old for this sort of thing! A recent online survey by Microsoft showed that Asia's blogosphere is fueled by youth with almost half of all bloggers (56%) under 25, while 35% are 25 to 34 years old, and 9% are 35 years old and over. Also 55% of bloggers in Asia were found to be female and 45% male. This of course puts moi in a very small minority group. (OK, boys and girls, how many of your friends have uncles who have their own blogs ... haha)

I believe most of my blogging contemporaries (read: my age group) indulge in political commentaries. However, at this stage of my life or in the September of my years, to quote Sinatra, I no longer weigh the world's problems heavily on my shoulders nor do I share everyone's enthusiasm for a daily dreary fare of bellyaching and nit picking a la Naipaul* and his ilk. I honestly believe that we truly deserve the government that we have got. Period.

* (I have spent some years in the Indian sub-continent and must have met more than my fair share of these pukka sahib wannabes who somehow derive immense pleasure, perhaps somewhat akin to intense sexual orgasm, in fault finding amongst the powers that be. They sometimes go on to offer grand unsolicited solutions to the world's problems and incredibly quite oblivious to the fact that they were perhaps the primary contributors to the royal fu... er ... cock-up in the first place. And this certainly is not cricket, old bean.)

But I digress (also dah mula nak mencarut), so as they say, watch this space ...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Singapore Malays

My wife flew down to Singapore yesterday to spend the new year and Hari Raya Haji with family and friends.

Regarding the recent hoo-ha in the press about Lee Kuan Yew's statement on the so called marginalisation of the Chinese in this country and someone's retort that Singapore Malays are also in no worse fate, perhaps I can add something more about Singapore Malays (I think I can speak with some authority here since I spent some years there, my wife was a Singaporean and my eldest boy Imran was born there), I believe LKY's very subtle divide-and-rule policy has further marginalized the Malays in the tiny republic. Their contempt for our bumiputra or affirmative action policies have succeeded in creating a Malay bogey so much so that many young Malays there will now deny their Malay roots and instead claim that they are Arab, Javanese, Bawean or whatever.

Now I bet if one were to ask our Dato Syed Hamid Albar's young relatives in Singapore whether they are Malay or Arab, chances are they will claim they are Arabs instead. This is in direct contrast to the situation here in Malaysia, where even many our saudara baru or recent converts will unashamedly try to pass off as Malays or bumiputras. No prizes for correctly guessing why.

Sure they (the Singapore Malays) have made some great strides in education, business and the professions etc., but as my next-door neighbour (a Datuk and a retired senior civil servant from Rembau) once said, "... there are probably more Malay medical doctors and PhD's from the luak of Rembau than the entire island of Singapore." And I believe he may be right.

In other words, if the situation is indeed reversed here in Malaysia and Malays are the minority instead, we may just suffer the same fate as our Singapore brethren. So will our non-Malay friends who have been involved in the recent spate of Malay/Muslim bashing get off their bloody high horses ...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


When I first saw the 1969 movie Krakatoa, East of Java many years ago, it did not leave a long lasting impression on me although the 1883 eruption of the volcano on this Indonesian island in the Sunda Straits ejected more than 25 cubic kilometres of rock, ash and pumice and generated the loudest sound ever historically reported — the cataclysmic explosion was distinctly heard as far away as Perth in Australia (approx. 1930 miles or 3100 km), and the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius (approx. 3000 miles or 4800 km). Atmospheric shock waves reverberated around the world seven times and were detectable for five days. Near Krakatoa, according to official records, 165 villages and towns were destroyed and 132 seriously damaged, at least 36,417 (official toll) people died, and many thousands were injured by the eruption, mostly in the tsunamis which followed the explosion.

But nothing really prepared me for this day exactly two years ago to see the horrors on my own TV screen as recorded on personal web cams and digital cameras as the waves came crashing down on the poor unfortunates in Sumatra, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and in our own northern west coast. More than 200,000 people perished and billions of dollars worth of property were damaged or wiped out.

I read somewhere that another earthquake of a far greater magnitude is probably in the offing in about the same area during the next couple of decades and I shudder to think whether I will get to see it again during my life time.

(Movie poster from IMDb Photo Gallery)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

On Days Like These*

More rain. More reported deaths from the floods. Gloom and a sense of foreboding that the worst may yet to come?

Red alerts. Now whats with our penchant for American military terms like pre emptive strikes and collateral damages. I suppose red spells danger but tell that to the Chinese who for thousands of years have associated the colour with 'ong' or good fortune. Also what happens to the colour blind?

It is noteworthy that for the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has wisely chosen to 'number' the security levels instead, from Level 1 when everything is 'normal' to a heightened Level 3 when all hell is expected to break loose.

* This has always been one of my favourite Matt Monro songs, a haunting bossa nova tune written by Quincy Jones for the 1969 movie The Italian Job.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I must confess that I haven't been quite me old self these past few days with the cold and fever and yesterday morning I found out that I have lost 3 kg. So late last night, against my better judgment, I went bananas on a banana split which I haven't had ever since I was a teenager, while having coffee with my old friends Mustaffa and Bala at the Eastin.

Must now work towards my new year resolution again for the umpteenth time : to stop smoking ...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

View from the Top

With seasonal rains causing flood havoc in Johor and elsewhere, here's the rather bleak view from my bedroom window yesterday taken with my new Canon Ixus 60. The peaks of Genting Highlands can normally be seen in the foreground on a clear day where you can see forever. With the now regular Sumatran smoke haze and now this ... fat chance.

My first camera was a Japanese Skymaster my late father bought me when I was sixteen years old about to embark on my sea career. It was a simple SLR with manual shutter speed and lens aperture controls which served me faithfully during my growing up years in the black and white film era, the word 'auto' wasn't yet in fashion then. My second was an Asahi Pentax which I bought to record my children's births and growing up years. This camera became obsolete some years ago when the children grew up and able to afford their own.

I had to buy this camera after I found out that my cell phone camera was grossly inadequate for my occasional survey and consulting jobs and especially after seeing the excellent photos in Tampin Linggi's blogs ...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Actress Carol Channing once invited Sir John Gielgud to a sporting event at which she was slated to award the prizes. Gielgud, suffering from a viral infection, scribbled a note by way of apology: "Sorry, love, cannot attend," he wrote. "Gielgud doesn't fielgud."

Neither do I. Must go and see my doctor this morning...

Gielgud Caricatures by Clive Francis

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Warehouse Sale

I left the house early this morning after the weekly marketing with the memsahib for fish and veggies at the pasar tani in Kelana Jaya, hoping to be one of the early birds at a year-end warehouse sale of a leading Japanese brand name. Boy was I surprised indeed.

There were already hundreds of people ahead me in a long queue which stretched all the way to the main road in Subang. Parents with entire families, school children with cellphones, mothers pushing prams, retirees a.k.a. 'golden citizens' like moi, grandmothers and grandfathers with walking canes et al. Cars were parked haphazardly all over the quiet neighbourhood. Obviously some of them were already there at the crack of dawn.

What's with us Malaysians, always keeping an eye for good bargains and ever willing to endure the jostling and the grabbing in the hot morning sun? I could see that the schoolkids were mostly going for the electronic calculators selling for RM1 apiece and the teens for the digicams and mp3 players at give away prices. But the grannies and the grandads? Well, it sure beats me.

I made an about turn and headed for home, sans any purchase. I was rather looking forward to buy a cheap discounted digi camera. Some other time maybe.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sex and Mystery

My friend and fellow IKMAL council member Capt. Apandi had suggested some time ago that I write a book or an autobiography, pointing out the dearth of books in the Malaysian nautical scene. I was a bit sceptical and not sure I have enough material for one. Perhaps I may consider publishing a collection of some of my blogs later.

I am also mindful of the fact that for books to sell well these days you will need two very essential ingredients: sex and mystery. The sad truth is that there was nothing very sexy or mysterious about my life thus far, so I am not sure if this is a good idea. (I can almost hear my friend Dato K ... not that one lah ... guffawing over this).

This reminds me of the joke about the college student who won a contest for writing the shortest essay or short story ever to contain the four key ingredients: sex, mystery, religion and royalty. His winning entry was:

"My God," said the Queen. "I am pregnant! I wonder who did it."

This prompted my old friend Capt. Jimmy Shroff, then on the high seas, to suggest that in this day and age perhaps you will need a fifth ingredient: technology. Therefore a possible winning entry could be:

"My God," said the King. "I am pregnant! I wonder how I did it."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

This, That and the Other

Today is exactly a month since I started this blog and I am quite surprised myself that I can actually blog-a-day with relative ease. Perhaps its simply because all my little anecdotes, for example, are already in me and even most of the photos I choose to adorn my blogs are readily available on the Internet. Since I have not kept any diaries, I do have some difficulty remembering names, places, dates etc. so the day may just come very soon for me to get a mental block to blog ... or maybe I should just take it a bit easy.

But what really gives me a great deal of satisfaction, what makes it all worthwhile and what really matters is that I know for a fact that a good number of people who are reading my blogs regularly are also people who have known me for some time and therefore are people who really matters to me.

Now that makes a whole lot of difference.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I was in Port Klang yesterday and took a longer route via Pandamaran just to catch a glimpse of the controversial 4-storey 'palace' being built by a local politician which I wrote about recently. It wasn't that impressive.

I also passed by the nearby Workers Institute of Technology (WIT) now also known as Kolej WIT. The institute, a brainchild of my old friend the late Dr. V. David, former DAP strongman and general secretary of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and also the Transport Workers Union (TWU), was built more than 20 years ago mainly from generous donations from many international labour unions, mostly from the transport sector. To date, it has helped many a young school leaver acquire the necessary technical skills for gainful employment in the various industrial sectors in the Klang Valley.

While dining with Harold Lewis, the then general secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) in Kuala Lumpur some years ago, he confided in me that the late Dr. David had initially proposed that the institute be named Transport Workers Institute of Technology or TWIT, but he had gently 'vetoed' the idea. He said, "You will agree with me Capt, that the word twit must surely have the same meaning here in Malaysia as in UK and elsewhere!".

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Batu Seremban in Space

My niece Hani, now studying medicine in London and whom we all are very proud of, commented in my blog recently about the game of Batu Seremban to be played and teh tarik to be made in outer space by our future astronauts and whether these are things we should indeed boast about.

Although Seremban born and bred myself, I have only a vague idea of how this children's game is played. Something with a few pebbles thrown and caught in the hand and the winner being the child who caught the most ... or something.

I cannot recall which authority made this startling announcement but there is always a clear and present danger of light hearted statements made in jest being misquoted in the press. Having been in the trade union movement myself as president of the Klang Port Authority's Senior Officers' Association, I have had on a few occasions in the past been misquoted by the humourless press, much to my disgust and to the dismay of the Management.

But that's another story...

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Royal Sailor

Monday morning blues? Well, perhaps not for us here in Selangor. Today is a public holiday to celebrate the official 61st birthday of His Royal Highness Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, the Sultan of Selangor Darul Ehsan.

HRH has always been a sailor at heart, taking a keen interest in the sea and ships. In the years 1995-1996, while still the Raja Muda, he distinguished himself as an international yachtsman of repute by circumnavigating the globe with his yacht "Jugra" in 21 months for a total distance of 27,940 nautical miles. This made him the first Malay royal to achieve this feat and which was also a fitting tribute to the proud seafaring traditions of his Bugis ancestry.

On his return, HRH very kindly consented to receive the award of an Honorary Fellowship from our Institut Kelautan Malaysia (IKMAL) or the Malaysian Maritime Institute. In 2003 after becoming the Sultan, HRH again graciously consented to be IKMAL's patron, thereby making IKMAL one of the very few professional bodies in the country with a Royal Patron.

From a Bugis sailor to another: Happy Birthday, Tuanku.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Why I stopped reading the NST...

I stopped reading the NST (not the New Shit Times as claimed by some) the day I opted for early retirement about seven years ago (gee, how time flies when you are having fun). There was a gratis copy daily for me at the office.

I must admit that I was really put off my teh tarik kurang manis after having had to endure, on separate occasions, a couple of agonising luncheons with one Abdul “Cardiac” Jasin and later with one DollahKok Lanas”. These two were very prominent scribes with the NST… Well, I’d better not elaborate here, since I don’t have the millions to pay for libel suits!

The former was simply full of himself. The latter, a fellow MCKK old boy, had alleged that he was persuaded by the Establishment to confess to being a communist some years ago while being detained under the Internal Security Act. He also told me that he was the least bothered by NST’s dwindling readership and that he was not concerned about quantity but more on enhancing the quality of the paper to something more akin to the Times of London and New York. Oh yeah? Well, bully for him.

But no, my reasons are not really personal or political. Now that I am semi retired, it is simply a matter of economics. I now subscribe only to The Star, mainly because the paper carries a maritime and shipping supplement on Mondays which is of interest to me, and also because the tabloid page then fitted the kandang for my pet Persian purrfectly...

On Sundays, I also subscribe to the Mingguan Malaysia as a special treat for my wife who enjoys reading the entertainment pages.

I now get other news and information from the Internet. Thank God for IT.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Staying on Course

This is the front-page headline in today's Star newspaper. The headlines do seem to be getting more nautical these days.

Staying on course for a ship involve keeping to the planned tracks as laid out by the navigating officer on the ship's navigational charts. With the advent of satellite global positioning systems (GPS), this is now quite academic. Gone are the days when the navigating officer will lead his congregation of cadets for the daily 'noon prayer' ritual of determining ship's position by shooting the midday sun with sextants and the use of nautical almanacs. Nowadays he will just press a few buttons and voila, he gets the ship's latitude and longitude accurate to the nearest few metres.

'Noon prayer'? Well, this is what we used to call it back then. This will also answer the oft asked question: Why do Muslims need to pray 5 times a day?

Perhaps it is no strange coincidence that our prayer times coincide roughly with the times i.e., noon, morning and evening twilights, when the ship's navigator will shoot the sun and the stars to periodically determine position so as to ensure that the ship remains on the charted courses and have not deviated.

Muslims pray 5 times a day precisely for the same reason, among others: To remain on life's charted courses i.e., jalan jalan yang di redhai Allah s.w.t. or God's given paths ... and not deviate.


This and That

It has been almost a month since I started this blog and I am not sure how long I can keep this up. I also thought that I'd better change the template and layout. Someone had commented that the fonts were a bit small even for 'young' eyes and it did seem a bit cramped and hard on my eyes especially in the wee hours of the morning when I can blog away without any interruption.

I rather liked the film noir look and ambiance of the old and the print looking like what it would appear on my old portable typewriter.

But as they say, out with the old and in with new, so here goes...

Friday, December 08, 2006

My Home Town


Oldtimers may remember this Paul Anka hit song of the early 60's:

I took a little trip to my home town
I only stopped just to look around
And as I walked along the thorough-fare
There was music playing ev'rywhere

Well, I went back to my home town Seremban to see my 80-year old mother yesterday, but alas, there was no music playing everywhere. As the eldest amongst my siblings, I was in fact feeling a little guilty since I haven't seen her since Idilfitri, more than a month ago.

My mother now lives alone in a single-storey bungalow my late father had built more than 30 years ago in the outskirts of Seremban, next to the golf course in Ampangan. My youngest sister Rashadah also lives nearby and pops in daily to check on her.

Although she does appear healthy physically, my mother has been suffering from bouts of depression ever since my father passed away more than six years ago. She also now have lapses of memory and her itemised telephone bill showed that she hasn't been making any phone calls lately, perhaps she has simply forgotten how to. She also has trouble remembering the name of her young Indon maid and I dread the day pretty soon when she will have trouble remembering mine...

Now thats bloody depressing, if you ask me.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On Dress Codes for Women etc.

Well, the newspapers are full of reports of the sense of outrage by some women's groups on the recent ruling on sexy dressing for women in Kelantan.

When I was studying in Bombay many years ago, I played host at the hostel I was staying during the term break to a couple of lads from Kelantan. They were en route to Pakistan to study Syariah law in some madrassah there. They both seemed pretty ordinary fellows, very humble and quite open minded then that it didn't strike me that one day they will be part of a band of simpletons who will rule their state, become very obsessed with SEX and blame their primal urges entirely on the way their women dress.

I have been to all the states in this country except Kelantan, having travelled only as far north on the east coast as Kertih, in Terengganu. I do not think I will ever have the time nor the inclination to go there and from what I can now see, I will not miss anything much.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Women at Sea

Yesterday's maritime supplement in the Star newspaper carried above story about Akademi Laut Malaysia (ALAM) or the Malaysian Maritime Academy finally opening its doors to female cadets. These days when we already have women mountaineers, Arctic explorers and jet fighter pilots, I dare say it is about time.

Pretty soon the 'great debate' will start on whether it is right and proper to allow these young women to spend long periods of time aboard ships at sea without their mahrams, or male blood kins. At a time when self-righteous mobs are now breaking down doors at resort hotels to nab foreign tourists for khalwat, or 'close proximity', I do sometimes wonder whether these people do not have anything better to do than be very preoccupied with SEX. Perhaps all these pseudo mullahs need to have their brains examined.

I do believe that whether illicit sex acts can only take place aboard ships, planes, bullock carts, in resort hotels, space crafts or wherever is indeed very subjective and open to debate. An English judge once ruled that the only place where one cannot possibly commit adultery is on the ceiling! (Unless one is Spiderman, of course). In other words, it can also happen anywhere and at anytime too, so what the fish...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Of Halal Foods and Closed Minds etc.

Before I left home at age 16 to embark on a sea career, one of the things I did was to seek advice from my late grandfather, who was a very revered imam (to this day) in my hometown. Since there was a strong possibility that I may not get to eat halal food aboard ships then, he told me to eat anything as long as I do not “knowingly” eat pork, ham, lard etc. This has really endeared him to me forever.

This issue really became quite academic much later since it was just awkward and hypocritical for me to insist that my steak is halal when I am washing down the damn thing with scotch. I was, after all, a sailor man…

But certainly not as moronic as a former colleague, who sat defiantly munching on his own homemade sandwiches while we were flying MAS business class to an overseas assignment some years ago. This was in spite of the captain saying Assalamualaikum and Insya Allah on the intercom that we will get to our destination safely according to schedule and the pretty cabin crew repeatedly assuring him that the airline’s food was indeed guaranteed halal etc.,

Anyway, you shoulda seen his face when I ordered a petit rouge to complement my filet mignon

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Gandhi and the Maharani of Jaipur

Aboard my training ship Dufferin in Bombay (now Mumbai) many years ago, there was a tall and handsome Punjabi senior cadet by the name of Gandhi*, a not altogether a common surname in India then. One day, I saw him trying to chat up a very pretty girl at some shore function. He must have told her his name and she obviously did not believe him, so on seeing me, he called me over and the conversation went on something like this:

Gandhi: " Yusof, can you please tell this pretty lady what my name is?"

Me (to Pretty Girl): "His name is Gandhi. Honest!"

Pretty Girl: "Are you sure?"

Gandhi (becoming agitated): "Look, why would he lie to you? He's not even an Indian, he's Malaysian!"

Pretty Girl (looking at me suspiciously):"You don't look like a Malaysian to me."

(Like she was an expert on what we Malaysians look like).

Her Mama musta done tole her not to trust dem sailors...

Anyway, when he told her his name earlier, I bet she must have told him off so:

"Oh yeah? Ach..cha. If you are Gandhi, then I must be the Maharani of Jaipur!"

*I met Gandhi again some years later in Yokohama when he was a chief officer on one of the early MISC vessels. He is now retired and lives in Melbourne, Australia but now calls himself Dick Gandy. I wonder why.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


I had dinner last night with my wife at the Malaysian Shipowners' Association (MASA) 30th Anniversary dinner at Istana Hotel, Kuala Lumpur together with a few other IKMAL council members and their wives.

There were many guests at the function, but the food was really nothing to shout about and my wife would not have come along if not for the star attraction of the dinner show: Anita Sarawak.

What more can one say about Anita?

I remember her make her first appearance on Singapore TV when she was about sixteen and I was a young bachelor doing my second mate's 'ticket' in Singapore. Even on the black and white television screen then she was absolutely electrifying and the famous family name notwithstanding, I could tell that she was going to go very far indeed.

The same way I also could tell when I saw the late great Sudirman Arshad perform for the first time on RTM some years later.

Well, it was indeed a great show and a splendid evening. Thank you, Anita Sarawak.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Elites

Perhaps apologies are in order if I have sounded a trite 'boastful' with the constant name-dropping in my blogs. The late British actor David Niven in his delightful autobiography The Moon's a Balloon, wrote: "People in my profession ... well, it makes little sense to write about the butler if Chairman Mao is sitting down to dinner!".

In early January 1960, a group of 30 eager-eyed and very impressionable 12-year old Malay boys, moi included, sauntered out of Prep School, at the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar to assemble in class Form 1A in the Main School building. We were a truly mixed bunch indeed: the sons of farmers, teachers, clerks, senior civil servants and even royalty from all over the peninsula. In the following years we were to grow up studying and playing hard, sharing the same nasi kawah and bathe half-naked together in the open shower stalls. We even had some of the best teachers in the country, a few of whom often were the authors of the textbooks themselves.

The Big School, MCKK

Almost half a century later, I believe most of us from the original 30 have made it to the Malaysian Who's Who list. A very prominent class-mate, who subsequently became the college's head boy and later a Tan Sri, died a few years ago in a tragic helicopter crash after building a huge business empire. Another became a deputy prime minister (I recall he wasn't that 'smart' in class, I was smarter ... haha). Others include a CPA who became head of Price Waterhouse, a university dean who founded MIMOS, a few corporate leaders, doctors, senior civil servants, politicians, a couple of professors, an ambassador and even an air force colonel.

Obviously, it was due to the success of this elitist learning environment, perhaps part of an early affirmative action plan ironically initiated by the British here themselves, that encouraged the establishment of other residential schools and the MARA science colleges many years later.