web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: June 2005
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Thank You Modbloggers!

Okay, okay it'll be really rude for me not to post about the wonderful gathering I went to last Saturday. I, mokciknab from blogspot, attended a modblog meet! And was tricked to cook nasi kerabu to boot!

No, seriously, I really enjoyed the little shindig, which I guess is half going away party for Miss Nutty Nadia, and half getting-to-know-you gathering for the Malaysian modbloggers. Fortunately, I either know some of them personally, or they know my sister Elisa personally, or they've visited my blog. (I always tell myself to reciprocate by visiting people who leave comments, but I never, ever get round to it, so sorry)

I was pleasantly surprised to see Primary Basic, because yes, she's a celebrity. She spoke softly and was really sweet. Lollies is even more boisterous in person than on haloscan, but because ondeonde, gartblue and zan were equally effervescent, she didn't seem out of place. They were the life of the party. Famygirl and Elisa, were of course, people I know even before I dipped my toes into blogdom. Nadia, Syira, Jo and Tasha were really, really polite, well-behaved girls despite coming off brutal on the web. They'll make good aunties -- they enjoyed carting off people's babies. The guys - I didn't really get to know, except bertique because he was prominently cooking.

It was a really classy affair -- we had a barbeque on a pretend island in Putrajaya, and you get sent there in a duffy boat, which is always good to get the children excited. At the end of the party, we took a group picture, like ten thousand times, mostly with Adam in front, making silly hand gestures, and obscuring people's faces. The trip back to the "mainland" was the best part, the setting sun made everything gold, and the water shimmered with light. Nice.

Can I tell you something really drippy and schmaltzy, which happened during the barbeque? After enjoying the scrumptious lamb prepared by a certain orange tropical fruit, I wanted to go for a walk, because to be honest, I was also suffering from an attack of dysmenorrhea and wasn't really good company.

So my husband and I went on this little path that went around the island, and the path went underneath a huge bridge. There was no one around, so we kissed, several times, because some kisses weren't done properly.

At the end of the last one, Saiffuddin smiled, and said, "Well, that'll give those makciks something to talk about." "What makciks?" I said, and then saw about three caretakers, walking towards us from behind some bush.

We quickly walked back to the BBQ, intent on showing those women we were actually married with children. But then it wasn't hard to figure out -- my husband was in his Pixar employee get-up : pineapple print hawaiian shirt, unflattering shorts, green trainers and socks. I was in my usual mokcik on a Saturday ensemble. We couldn't be anything but boringly, legally hitched. When I caught the eye of one of the caretakers later on, she did look at me kinda funny, but perhaps what she was thinking was I can't believe you kissed that man on the mouth.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Guilty Pleasures

We celebrated Father's Day on Saturday, because I had to work on Sunday night; and as far as family celebrations are concerned, nothing happens without me. It's not a boast; it is an exasperating fact. Someone else, please take over this Ms Organiser mantle. Mak dah penat.

We had a huge dinner at a tex-mex place, but due to the sheer impossibility of getting everyone to agree on a reasonable schedule, the dinner started at 6pm. Everyone wanted to leave by eight. Some, like my husband had a valid reason. The rest, were AFUNDI slaves.

It's shameful, we had our priorities all wrong and we do apologize to Pokku for losing perspective. But on that Saturday, (or on any Saturday from henceforth) all we could think about was getting our butts in front of the TV, before 8.30.

My brother, Mr Intellectual (it's sarcasm, Firhad) was non-plussed.

"You? Of all people? You're also on this Akademi Fantasia craze, thereby ratifying the commercial principles of the Yusoff Haslams and the Razak Mohaideens of the world?"

"Errr", I was sheepish, " it's fun, what."

What can I do? I am plebeian in parts. I watch Malaysian Idol, too -- I like the drama of all these reality shows, no matter how contrived.

I confess, when the Sunday papers arrive, I don't read the Forums or the Clever Interviews and Analysis first, I go straight for the Pancaindera gossip section.(Oooh, those drag queens know their dirt) Then I'll gawp at the bright and shiny woman on the cover, and speculate how much surgery and Vitamin C injections made this shoot possible. Bitchy lah, but fun,what.

There's a certain liberty in being low-brow, that I sometimes find refreshing. Can I not be clever all the time? Mr Intellectual can enjoy his Jose Luis Borges (thank you for returning my copy, by the way), let me have my pedestrian pleasures. At least it means I can hold a decent conversation with the neighbourhood maids.


Monday, June 20, 2005
Tag! You're It

I feel kinda sorry for these people, because writing about your favourite books can take up a lot of time; but it's how the game goes. For the unitiated, this is how it works. If I mention your name here, see post below. Answer the same questions, or make up your own relevant questions, and write away in your own blog. All of us get to see what kind of literary buff you are. It is truly truly OK if you only like Dan Brown or Sophie Kinsella.

My Father : My father has such diverse tastes in books, that has manifested itself in the myriad literary interests of his children. Every one of us must admit that they started their love of books from reading one of my father's books, so it is interesting to see which are the ones he finds most meaningful.

Nina, my sister in-law : My brother has already been tagged, but I've always been interested to know what Nina is reading because hahahaha she's actually more fascinating than my brother. And funnier, too. Way funnier.

Suhaimi : Suhaimi reads voraciously, and is the kind of person you'd hate to borrow a newspaper from, because he would have cut out all the interesting bits. He has a mine (or minefield) of information. He doesn't read fiction, so it would be interesting to find out what would absorb a person with a different reading style.

Nik Nazmi : I've always been curious about Nik Nazmi ever since he was interviewed by Amir Muhammad back when he was still running Suara Anum. KJ lists Conrad's Heart of Darkness as his favourite read, so please, Nik Nazmi don't be as predictable. (Best of all, I discovered that he's already posted the "book thingy" meme so hey, instant answers)

Diana : Because she's highly strung at the moment (at any given moment, that is) ; and she needs the distraction. And because she's adorably crazy and I like her very much.


Friday, June 17, 2005
Nads, This is For you

My last two weeks went by in a flash : proposals (non wedding kind) and nuptials (non-proposal kind) took me away from my kids, family and friends. I had undertaken to throw a going away party for Ms Nadia Mode, errr today, but I guess That's Not Going To Happen. I'll bet Nadia would fire me, but then I'll bet no one else would be willing to supply her copious amounts nasi dagang for free, so unfortunately you are stuck with this mokcik, dear girl. Yes, we'd do it soon, Nadia. Really.

This morning, I have resolved to at least discharge a very important responsibility : answer a meme when you've been tagged. So here goes :

The Last Book I Bought
Song of the Flute by Jalaluddin Rumi. It's just 4 pages, privately printed, only 240 copies in circulation. The cover is marbelised paper, with the title glued on by hand. Best of all, my husband bought it for me, to cheer me up before he went away.

The Last Book I Read?
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. This book has been lying around my mother's house for ages, I remember starting to read it when I was a teenager, but lost interest because it's sparse and talks about being a dervish and losing the Self -- stuff that would just go over the head of a fourteen year old. Now older, I can identify with Siddharta's conflict and pursuits, although I may not totally agree with how he finally finds his Meaning. It's a short, simple book that is amazingly complex and attests to Hesse's genius -- more so when you realise that this was written in 1922. There is more joy here than in Steppenwolf; the denouement is genuine salvation, whereas in Steppenwolf, you're really not sure.

Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh. I usually read more than one book at one time, chiefly because I tend to misplace the book I'm currently reading, like leaving it at the office when I'm at home, and then consumed by a terrible need to continue the story; I start on another one. Brideshead Revisited is one of those novels I bought from the bargain bin in Giant; and I have to admit it was neither for the love of Evelyn Waugh nor English literature : Sting played a character in its TV series; and I also wanted to see if it was really about homosexuality. No such act was ever described in the book -- but yes, I think it is about being gay. What else would you expect from a man named Evelyn?

The Book I'm Currently Reading?
Genji Monogatari (Tales of Genji) by Lady Murasaki. It's in two volumes, wth extremely small print, on what I swear is merely good quality tracing paper. I bought these in Fukuoka, in 1998, for what I admit was just a spot of bookshelf snobbery. Well, almost. I had bought Heike Monogatari during an earlier trip and had enjoyed it thoroughly that I wanted to start on another ancient Japanese epic. Unfortunately, Genji was just too tedious to read, and it stayed as ornament, until recently, when my husband was away, and being bored and insomniac, I started reading whatever else that was still in my house that was not secreted away by my sisters. (hint!)

Murasaki describes Prince Genji as a "shimmering beauty", and in my head Genji looks like Yutaka Takenouchi. This book, perhaps one of the earliest recorded novels, was written in the 10th century and is a fascinating look into the highly stylised lives of people living in the realm of the Imperial Court during the time. Genji is something of a philanderer, but he does truly love all his women, and is always appreciative of each lady's unique qualities. There's scandal aplenty, plus a general theme of Oedipus complex (for example, Genji lost his mother at five, and transferred his affections to his father's (the Emperor) young consort, whom he eventually beds and of course gets pregnant) He loves men too, and yes, I do mean that in a physical way. I'm still halfway through the first volume, and it does seem that Genji matures as the book progresses. Heady stuff, if you don't mind the verbosity.

Five Books that Mean a Lot to Me?
Haiyah, this is a difficult one. Can I fudge the numbers and first offer a couple of authors who mean a lot to me?

Muhammad Asad
The Message of the Quran
This comprehensive translation and commentary of the Holy Quran is my most treasured Book, bought for only 60 ringgit at a book fair. The marvel of this Work, is of course the Quran itself, but to have Asad as a guide has been essential in my quest for a deeper understanding of my chosen Deen. Countless times, this Book has been my lifesaver. I have opened it to any random page when I am troubled, and I have never failed to find the exact answer : Words of comfort, encouragement, instructions, chide. If I could take just one book into exile, this would be it.

The Road to Mecca
I had just finished reading Jack Kerouac's On the Road, when I bought this, and could not help but compare the two. It would be a grave injustice to call this an On the Road With Dromedary, because for one, this book was written before Kerouac's coast to coast jaunt, and second, while both authors followed their hearts and travelled in quest of life's meaning, it was only Asad who attained answers most profound. This is a book about a man, born to a staunch Orthodox Jewish family, who found his homecoming, in another land, and in another culture, thousands of miles away. It's a wistful look at what the Muslims were and could still be, it's history, philosophy, self-realisation and adventure bound in a single volume. For a Muslim who takes her religion for granted, this is a homecoming, too.

Islam at the Crossroads
No other book has made me regret Muhammad Asad's passing as much as Islam at the Crossroads. Published in 1934, Asad saw the dilemma of the Muslims vis-a-vis the West, with such clarity that at the end of his life, he must have been dismayed to see his words coming true, or worse, misconstrued. This is a book any one claiming to be a Muslim leader should read : it draws the line between the desire to instill the true values of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and pedantically trying to live his life as he did in 7th century Saudi Arabia. If Asad was still alive, perhaps he could shake some sense into Muslims today, who are too busy being at each other's throat, instead of building strengths on Islam's glorious heritage. I could go on an on about this, but perhaps in another post -- I fear that when we did arrive at the crossroad, all of us took the wrong turn.

Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut could write a shopping list and have it published, and I would still buy it. I picked up Vonnegut from my father, who would leave his books lying about the house, and never once told me what not to read. (And so it was that I stumbled upon Victorian erotica at thirteen, but that's another story) The first Vonnegut book I read was Slapstick, and from then on was set on my path to devour anything Vonnegut that I could lay my hands on. As expected, my favourite is Slaughterhouse-Five, which unfortunately I do not own (I borrowed it from the library) . I love Vonnegut because his fiction are such weird, fantastic conjurings, while at the same time, sad, tender portraits of human beings. I love Vonnegut for the strong sense he has of what is morally right and wrong, and for the fact that he would preach these values through such quirky characters as Eliot Rosewater or Billy Pilgrim.

Oh God, I'm running out of time. Forget the authors already : I like Ondaatje, that's a given; and I like Chekov and Conrad, and PG Wodehouse. But I'm too malas to write about all of their books, so I guess let's just stick to the original premise : books that mean a lot to me. I shan't be too indulgent, and list just the requisite five :

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera. If Elisa quotes David Gray's Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus as the instructional tome in her marriage, then this bleak love story of sorts, is mine.

Red Sorghum, by Mo Yan. It was Adam, my first child. The labour, though not painful, was two days long. My husband, who had to sleep on the labour room's cold linoleum floor, staved off his anxiety by reading Red Sorghum in its entirety.

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Despite its perverse subject matter, I can't help but love this book for its witty turn of phrase and the fact that Nabokov wrote it like a delightful puzzle. If I could be bestowed the talent of any writer, I would want to write like Nabokov : he's crafty and funny and wicked to his readers. He made us cheer on a child-molester! How monstrous, how clever.

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Yes, I know my sister already has this book on her list, but look, I read it first. (Someone had to buy it, see) An enduring parable of prejudice and justice, the book is peopled by ordinary people you admire for their strength of character : Scout, Jem and Dill, Boo Radley, my favourite - Calpurnia, the maid, and of course Atticus Finch, who must surely be the standard by which all fathers and husbands were judged post Gregory Peck in 1962. I love the book for its message : Do the Right Thing, which should be simple enough, but in fact, is always the most difficult.

Oh, The Places You Will Go, by Dr Seuss. This is so inspirational, whether you're three or thirty-three. I bought it to remind my kids, and myself, to be fearless and be resilient, and that with the brains in your head, and the feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.

I have a second hand copy of this book, apparently a parting gift from a woman to her boyfriend, as encouragement that he could succeed anywhere. Unless the book was stolen from him, I assume he didn't value her as much, since he allowed it to be sold off.

Sorry, can't write anymore. I'll tell you who I want to tag in the next post. Now, go out there and buy at least one of the books I've told you about.


Thursday, June 09, 2005
Eloisa to Abelard*

I saw two movies this week, one starring Brad Pitt, the other with Jim Carrey. Guess which one kept me up, bawling?

Ere such a soul regains its peaceful state,
How often must it love, how often hate!
How often hope, despair, resent, regret,
Conceal, disdain--do all things but forget.
But let Heav'n seize it, all at once 'tis fir'd;
Not touch'd, but rapt; not waken'd, but inspir'd!
Oh come! oh teach me nature to subdue,
Renounce my love, my life, myself--and you.
Fill my fond heart with God alone, for he
Alone can rival, can succeed to thee.

How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd;
Labour and rest, that equal periods keep;
Obedient slumbers that can wake and weep

*Alexander Pope, excerpts. The story of Eloisa and Abelard itself is a particularly heart-wrenching one, you can read about it here.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005
"Just Smile, Boys, and Look Cuddly"

God help me, but I have to admit his : I hate this public relations business. I think journalists are ill-suited for a venture which requires one to throw all editorial considerations out of the window and champion a story that is as weak as watered down ocha.

Ten years of peer-recognized credibility culminate into an attempt at passing off house alarms as a "smart home system". No, no I can't do this anymore. It doesn't even pay that well to justify all the smileys that I am sure barely masks my annoyance at my clients.


Thursday, June 02, 2005
Dadda in Damascus

Dearest Sayang,

I figure you must have work coming out of your ears
right now, so that's why you're not signed in yet. No
worries, I can wait. Maybe if I have the time, I'll
get a phone card and call you later, maybe midnight
your time.

I didn't sleep at all last night because I was waiting
for you to come on Yahoo Messenger and I was worried
because I haven't heard a word from you for two days.
On hindsight it wasn't a good idea to go off schedule
because you wasted those two days just travelling,

Okay, actually I did go to sleep eventually, but it
was almost four, and I woke up again at about six, with
the phone still clutched in my hand, woke up in panic,
because what if you came on and you saw that it's a
little gray face sleeping beside my name on YM.
Checked what time it is in Riyadh (my phone didn't
have Damascus) and waited, waited, waited for the
gprs to kick in so that I could check Messenger. Of
course, you were never signed in, and I say this
without the slightest intention of creating guilt.
Really. You took the trouble to wake up at 5 am to
send me that lovely email; so that at least I know
you're not dead. No, I mean it. It was lovely.

I swear we have to fix the fixed line, replace the
lightning struck modem and get ourselves some web
again. Or else get me 3G. Only 150 mah.

The girls have mumps, they look like humpty dumpty
right now, and playing the part of invalids with
thespian perfection : lolling about on the sofabed,
moaning, refusing medicine, and insisting to have a
wet towel applied on their foreheads, perpetually. And
then, come five o'clock, they'll be out on the
streets, running about, infecting the neighbourhood.
I notice the drama gets worse during bathtimes.

The cat is sick,too, perhaps from eating bad coleslaw,
or left-over spinach spaghetti. He thinks his loo is
underneath the chinese cabinet. We're putting him in
his cage for the time being, despite Aliya's protest.

The past two days have been one big bureaucratic mess
for me, and I swear I will wring the neck of that
doctor who did the maid's medical check-up and
promptly absconded and uprooted her clinic. FOMEMA
people, though extremely polite and always reminding
me of the good time we had during their re-launch, did
nothing to correct this gross failure, apart from
giving me another slip so that the maid can do another
check up, which will take another ten days.
They had the cheek to tell me the new checkup is FOC.
They won't write a letter to support my plea for an
extension from the immigration, presumably because
then blame would be attributable.

At first they even refused to give me back the original slip,
the one that had the first doctor's signature on it, which
was my only proof that the maid had actually done the earlier
check-up. I said photocopy was fine, so long as you
certify on it, which of course was a big no-no. They
won't certify on anything. Eventually they relented,
even though they made it clear (very nicely, though)
that this was "against our policy".

This does little to counter the public's perception that
their raison d'etre is little more than money making.
I will write to the papers. I always say that, though I
know I never will. (No, I really will)

Immigration on the other hand, was surprisingly
efficient and helpful, even though they were the ones
I had worried about the most. I walked to their block
while chanting rabbi yasir walatu 'asir under my
breath, with every step.

The prayers must have worked.

The enquiries people thought it was a serious matter,
said it had never happened before and ushered me to
see the Timbalan Ketua Pengarah. Unfortunately, there
were already like ten people waiting to see him, and
more arrived, carrying dockets and consternation.
Fortunately, an officer saw me, thought I'm still a
journalist, enquired about my problem, and immediately
asked for the passport and supporting documents. He
gave me a one month provisionary visa. I have never
been more grateful to be a has-been newscaster.

Tell me some more about your 1930's hotel, send me
pictures. I'm glad the weather is much better this
time, so you won't need the pullover after all. I
slept with your shirt on Tuesday night, but I forgot
to tell Ti not to put in the laundry.

I hope you'll have some time to walkabout this time,
if you can manage to finish every thing before next
Wednesday. You should really see Tadmor and Krak des
Chevalier. Will you be praying at the Umayyad Mosque
tomorrow? I'm sure it's breathtaking -- I saw pictures
of it during the lecture at the Islamic Museum a few
weeks ago. I was paying attention, not like some

I may be going out with (deleted) later tonight, can?
He's going home tomorrow so he needs to buy perfume
for his mom. The mother is pleading for his return
because she says she misses him so, but (deleted)
found out from his brother that it's an arrangement so
that he can meet his future bride. I think the news made
him positively ill, for reasons you and I know too

It's six in the evening, I should really be getting on
home. It's terrible not to have you around, but I have
to admit knowing that I can get through red tape
trouble without you, is, well, kinda liberating. That
said, I still want you here. You're good for other

Eight more nights to go, dear God.

"And did you exchange a walk-on part in
the war
For a lead role in a cage?"