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Monday, November 14, 2016

Shadow Princess (Taj Mahal Trilogy, #3)Shadow Princess by Indu Sundaresan

Although the book is third in the series of three, I have no problem in the reading.

It begins with the death of Mumtaz upon the birth of her 14th child in 19 years of marriage. Even opium could not alleviate the struggle she was under. Her husband, the Emperor of all Hindustan, mourned her passing culminating in a most splendid mausoleum for his beloved.

Not all the children survived. Not all the sons became the men they could have been ....... the bane of alcohol and opium. Shah Jahan found solace in his eldest daughter, Jahanara who found herself undertaking the running of her father's zenana (harem) and having to mature fast. Like most royal princesses of the realm, she and her sisters Roshanara and Gobarara were doomed to never marry, unless ofcourse ordered to by the emperor.

Yes, Sundaresan has a unique way of storytelling. Some of the pages picture like scenes from the Bollywood movies .........

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Of Peacock Throne And Peacock Angel

I had always thought the Peacock Throne was the seat of the Persian King, one that Reza Shah Pahlavi once pride over. I was in school then and I remembered that very well. Surprise, surprise, the Peacock Throne was originally the seat of the Mughal Emperors of India. It was first commissioned by Shah Jahan in early 17th century not only to display the royal gold and jewels accumulated since the time of Tamerlene, but also to underscore his position...floating above the ground closer to heaven. It took 7 years to build and cost twice as much as the Taj Mahal. At the top were two peacocks. Both the Taj Mahal and the Peacock Throne were designed by Austin de Bordeaux

The Peacock Throne

History tells that 7 Mughal Emperor hence, in 1739 during the rule of Muhammad Shah, the Peacock Throne  was captured by the Persian King Nader Shah as a war trophy. Other riches of the Mughals were looted of course. It is believed that Nader Shah captured several other thrones as well and upon his return to Persia, built other replicas with the looted jewels and gems. Unfortunately, 8 years later Nader Shah was assassinated by his officers and the Peacock Throne and others disappeared, probably dismantled and the encrusted jewels taken apart.

The Sun Throne, was built in the early 19th century for the Persian King Fath-Ali Shah of the Qajar Dynasty. His consort's name in English translates as Lady Peacock which is how this throne later gets to be referred to as The Peacock Throne.

The Sun (Peacock) Throne

Some claimed that parts from the original Peacock Throne have been used.

The Peacock exist in Greek mythology as the bird Hera made. The tail was made from the 100 eyes of Argus. During biblical times it is regarded as a treasure and King Solomon brought many back to his Kingdom. To the Romans, practical as they were, regarded it as a delicacy. In Babylon and Persia, it is the guardian to royalty. Early Christians regarded it as a religious symbol, an all-seeing eyes, while the Indians, sacred and associate it with the deity, Lakshmi. It is also India's national bird. Yet, in some culture and society it is regarded as evil. It's tail is equivalent to evil eyes and is therefore bad luck to be inside homes.

An Indian Peacock
So, what is with Peacock Angel? 

An ancient faith believes that the Peacock Angel (Tausi Melek) was created by the Supreme God on a Sunday and each of the other days six other Great Angels to help administer the universe. He was sent down to the young Earth then to calm the quakings ......this he did in the form of the peacock (hence it's name ?) and said to have  landed in Lalish in Iraq, sacredly regarded by the Yazidis.

Lalish, Iraq

Next when Adam was created each of the angels endowed him with a physical sense to experience life. It is said that Peacock Angel breath life into Adam.

Peacock Angel is manifested in various faiths,/religions and culture and regarded with respect. However, those who thought it's similarity to the story of Satan is uncanny, might have distant themselves.

Tausi Melek

Friday, May 24, 2013

This Flawless Place BetweenThis Flawless Place Between by Bruno Portier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading this book amongst a few others, I must say this has my vote as it is so readable....a quick read. I have no idea of it's plot and it is nothing like the Lobsang Pampa stuff as earlier envisaged. Deep in meaning  and yet so engaging.

Anne and Even were on a dream trip to the Himalayas when an accident occurred. The rest is another kind of journey through the "Flawless" place between death and rebirth.I do not know how much of it is real Buddhism and how much is fiction but it does make me think and reflect upon my own perceptions and understanding of the ethereal world.

The incantations of Psepel, the old Tebetian, assists in our understanding of the goings on. I thought the author's use of the "projections" as an effective playback on Anne's life is excellent. Again I wonder how much of it is the actual "projection" and how much the author's narratives.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013


If I were to write an epitaph for my late brother, it would be :

    ".......If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
            And treat those two imposters just the same......."

Aptly, the above lines from Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" appears in the tunnel leading to Wimbledon's Centre Court.

So Kind And Jovial........

On the evening of 20th January, 2013, I was reminded by my late brother's children that he would have been 64 on that day. Suddenly, I felt a sense of solitude. I was awaiting my turn to bless his daughter and husband as newly weds, this time at a "bertandang" reception on the groom's side.

Ham and I spent more time together during our childhood days before I left for boarding school in 1961. Apart from some years he'd stayed with the grandparents when dad got posted to Padang Besar (he was just a toddler then), I don't remember us not being together. Mum had told me that grandparents thought that it was no place to be bringing up little kids. It was also my mum's first move out of the family home and she was to have the two older kids to mind. At the family home in Alor Gajah, there were the uncles and aunties on hand. However, I am more inclined to believe that  the grandparents who may have not been ready to part company. For that reason too I believe Ham had indeed over time become grandpa's favourite. My aunties told me that grandpa was very strict with them. They would get it from grandpa whenever Ham let out  as much as a cry!

As a school kid he was amicable. He made friends easily and with whoever, whatsoever. He would lend his comic books to friends. Once he was reprimanded by dad for lending some volumes of the junior encyclopaedia to a friend. Dad remarked that he had bought the books for his own children to read! When we were all grown dad gave them away to his sister's family for her children to read. I am not too sure whether it was fully utilised. In those days, reading habit was generally a bit of a challenge for village children. 

Ham was very interested in sports and would make early preparations before every sports day. Once he even sleepwalked after an early bedtime. The rest of us were in the sitting room when he came anxiously asking why the taxi had left without him. We said "What taxi?" and he returned to bed. Of course he did not remember any of it! He grew up to become a school 400m runner and footballer as related by my parents.

When my granddaughter sleepwalk after an excitable evening, I  wonder if she is taking after her granduncle!

When we were growing up we played marbles, tops, other toys and even dolls I'd made from cloth remnants. We collected cigarette boxes and rubber bands and invented games where we can gain more collections from the losers. When we were older we played  cards and monopoly. Ham never liked losing. He would have an extra card up his sleeve if needed be! Once dad organised a monopoly challenge with prizes for the winners. Ham had then focussed on becoming the first prize winner. When he didn't win it, it made the situation a little difficult for the rest of us! For the record, I had won the challenge.

Dad had always been interested in sports too. There is the ever present badminton/tennis rackets, hockey sticks, cricket bats and other paraphernalia. We tried them all. Once we were short of a hockey stick and found the answer in a tapioca stem with an about 5 inches root! Some passengers in a bus that passed by must have been entertained by us as we could hear them!

During those days fathers were usually concerned about sons growing up to be boys. Dad had bought two sets of boxing gloves for the boys to slug one another. When I was nurturing my own son, the same thought came to mind. Bringing up kids in an urban environment is quite different. They do not get to climb trees like we did in the village nor play the traditional games outdoors. I have discussed this several times with the hubby. We fear that boys would grow up physically awkward in many ways. In the end we sent our son to  swimming and tennis classes. House chores were not spared . Other skills, he picked up on his own.

Ham's constant companions were his cat, radio transistor and a cousin who had come to stay a couple of years earlier before I left for boarding school . I think his cat(s) must have died a thousand deaths if he were not around. Ham would cry whenever any died. I only keep cats at an arm's length. Till today I have to explain that I am a little ticklish of it's fur and that I would not be able to take any death if I were very close with them.

He developed a very good knowledge of contemporary music and songs. Mum once told me he had won a competition organized by the Radio Station. I don't remember what he'd received though.

Ham went on to join the Royal Malaysian Navy. He received his early training at the Royal Military College, Sg Besi and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth twice. He had the privilege of meeting HRH Prince Charles there during his Midshipman training. As you know, the British royal family is traditionally very close with the Navy. Research tells me that HRH Prince Charles was in RNC for a 6-week course before moving on to serve on the guided missile destroyer HMS Norfolk.

Ham's second sojourn at Dartmouth was for a hydrography training. I was a student in London at the time. Although I was late for his passing out parade, I  managed to attend the ball later in the evening. The guys were real gentlemen. I understand the Malaysian Navy do not send their people there anymore.

The Royal Naval College, Dartmouth

He sailed many seas and was a very good story teller of his adventure in new places. A magnanimous man. I still keep in our PJ home the classical record album he had bought for me during his stay in Japan. I can't quite remember if it is Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. As we no longer have a functioning record player it is hardly touched now. That probably was more than sufficient payback for my stamp collection sale money (for Bridgnorth Stamp Club) that he had taken liberty on. I had been a member of the Club in the 50s and I understand the club still exists. 

At the auspicious event of the marriage of his two younger children I cannot help but remember him. When it was all over, he appeared in my dream seated at a dining table gesturing me to the seat next to him. I suppose he must be pleased ..........Sleep well, my dear brother. Al-fatiha.

Here We Are In Our Golden Years

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Coming of Age: The Updated Story of Britain's New Tennis PhenomenonComing of Age: The Updated Story of Britain's New Tennis Phenomenon by Andy   Murray

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Anyssa Turned 9 .......

"Happy Birthday To You!"......
My grand daughter turned 9 on 11.01.13. In the midst of a very busy weekend preparing for a niece's and nephew's wedding reception someone was so thoughtful enough to bring a lovely cake for the dear girl. Thank you and may God bless you too. Grandpa and grandma's surprise came two days later!!

Younger Brother Adly Wanting His Share Of Attention!
On the very next day Anyssa and a few other family members were on duty escorting the newly weds.

The Newly Weds With Their Maids Of Honour, Flower Girls
And Page Boy

Anyssa and Brother Amyr, The Page Boy

It felt like she was born only yesterday. How time flies .....

Anyssa In Her Favourite Pose Then

With Her Brothers On Hari Raya Day In Jitra

Kindergarten Days

At Her Kindergarten Concert Day 

Doing Her Bollywood Stuff At Concert


Now for the Primary School........

Her School Uniform Fitting

...And Another Uniform

With school comes homework .........

Anyssa and Bro Amyr Doing Their Homework

The Dividends

.........And  More Dividends

With  Papa


May you have wonderful years to come!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Parenthood Taking Another Leap

When our son began to take notice of girls, we told ourselves that he was growing up as any normal boy would. There was a time when I had to seek his understanding and good sense when it comes down to getting serious with any girl. Just a motherly advise.......

Now the stage is set once again. He had declared that he wants to take their friendship to another level and that he wants us, parents, to propose an engagement. Two rings were shown to me, a merisik  (enquiry) ring and an engagement ring. Most people would surmise that merisik is spying. I do not think spying reflects the seriousness and nobleness  of the matter. In the old days merisik would involve an investigation or enquiry into the other family and the availability of the lady the man has in  mind to propose to. It was usually done by the man's parents or representatives. Today, as society becomes more open and on account of geography, most things are prearranged between the couple. Families  have known one another for quite a while and therefore merisik has become more  symbolic in nature. Traditionally the mother's ring ( a simple gold band) is used for the merisik as a symbol of the intent. It is returned upon the engagement  (betrothal). However, it has become common practice now for the boy to get a new ring and ultimately give it away to the fiance as a gift.

So, our family had gotten together and a suitable date was picked. As the girl's place is in Kuantan, a three hours straight drive from Shah Alam, we shall do the merisik and the engagement  together. My brother-in-law had generously offered accommodation at his house in Kuantan if we need to stay overnight. It was then that we knew his family had finally stayed put in Kuantan while he moved on to stay at the plantation  where he is manager of.. He usually take a weekend drive back to Kuantan to be with his family.

Najib was immediately put in charge of information and logistics. The subject was raised during a berkampung (meeting of the family elders) for a nephew's coming wedding. Those who would possibly be with the engagement party were noted.

Berkampung is a meeting of family elders. In the Minangkabau  Perpatih tradition it is done before family ceremonies reflecting the kind of togetherness and cooperation between family members through thick and thin as per the following quatrain:

  Kalau  berat sama dipikul,
  Kalau ringan sama dijinjing.
  Ke bukit sama mendaki,
  Ke lurah sama menurun.

Literally it means : 
  If it's heavy we shall carry it together on our back,
  If it's light, we shall lift it together with our hands.
  Together we shall scale the mountain,
  Together we shall descend to the valley.

Traditionally, the meeting of family members of the same suku (matrilineal family) is headed by the Buapak who is an elected male member. He overseas all planning and execution of work done for the families he is head of. Today, as city dwellers, we still preserve similar concepts and values amongst  close family members. Instead of the Buapak, we do have a spontaneous understanding of the "leadership" amongst the elders. It does not necessarily be the oldest among us. A leader must also be willing to take the baton.

My daughter took charge of preparing the hantaran (gifts), five trays in all. They shall be headed by the traditional tepak sireh, a brassteel (some say brass and silver) receptacle set for the pinang (beetle nut of areca palm), gambir (of family Rubiaceae), mineral lime (for catalyst), cloves, and most importantly the sireh (piper betle leaf). We filled the extra container with jelly beans! 

The Tepak Sireh 
Chewing betle leaf is an age old habit inherent in Southern Asia and the Pacific region. While there is little scientific study done, many believe the concoction does have medicinal value. It is often used by traditional medicine men. Some chew it for enhancing facial aura.......The tepak sireh is also a highly symbolic item in the Malay customs and traditions. In daily life it becomes an opener and in a ceremonial events it indicates that the visitor has come with a very big wish or hope.

The other gifts consist of fairly customary items like material for the wedding dress, perfume & makeup set, sweets, a fondant cake and most importantly the rings.

All items were given a little decoration of ribbons and flowers and placed on our traditional dulang pahar  (brass trays). Some people would have these done up by professionals and rent the dulangs from them. We managed them ourselves. The embroidered dulang covers are from the ones I made for our daughter's wedding nine years ago. Many thanks to my daughter, Azreen and cousin Azie for  helping out.

The Hantaran

I was pretty sure that over the years, sometimes lending them to others, we have lost a couple of the dulangs  We used to have nine of them and now we have only six left! I will leave it to God to deal with that......

We had spent some time polishing the dulangs with Brasso which came fully recommended by the hubby who had grown up polishing his late dad's police brass studs. Quite a joy it was having the three of us working on them together. 

We drove to Kuantan on 081212 in such fine weather. However, we did notice a burning Merc and a stalled trailer along the highway. We stopped over at one or two R & R for streatching and refreshments.

Goodbye From A Caring Neighbour

A Rare Pic With All Four  Of Us
Resting At A R & R

We found my brother-in-law's place without much difficulty. That night we had dinner at one of the many seafood centres dotting Jalan Gambang. Food was good !

The morning of 091212 was a hive of activity. Early morning my brother-in-law had gone to buy the traditional breakfast of Kuantan - Nasi Dagang and of course the ever present roti canai (unliven bread taken with curry).

Later, the rest of the family members making a day's trip from Kuala Lumpur started arriving. 

Traditional Breakfast of Nasi Dagang 

Om Hermi And The Kids 

The Meminang  (Engagement) Party 

Some Of The Gift Bearers

Our party arrived at En Rasip's place at 12:15 pm and was quickly ushered into the house as it had started to drizzle. Immediately the salutations, introduction and discussion began.

 Three Very Important Members Of  Our Family 

Representatives Of Both Families 

Belting It Out

En Rasip's Answer Is..........
The merisik ring was the first to be  presented to En Rasip for his and his daughter's approval. It was then followed by the discussion on the engagement. Some clarifications regarding the wedding were also made and noted for purpose of subsequent preparation.

Guests Following The Discussion

The Other Guests

The  discussions were all over by 1 am. I then slipped the engagement ring on to the finger of En Rasip's daughter, Mazni Ezura. An enclosing doa prayers ensued. Then only Najib joined us in the photo session and the  reception.

Photographers The Photographed

Yes The Ring Fits Very Well

A Candid Moment
(Can't Remember What Happened)

With The Ladies Of The  Family

A Section of the Balasan (Reciprocal Gifts)

The girl's balasan is usually two more in number in keeping with the odd numbering. I am yet to understand why it is usually odd and not even in number!

A Section Of The Gifts

The Treats Corner. That Tiffin Carrier Sure looks Familiar!

Azreen & Mazni 

The Parents

For The Family Album

The So Cute Door Gifts - Fondant Cakes

 Alhamdulillah, by the grace of God all went well. Many thanks to En Rasip, Pn Zuriah  and family for being such lovely and gracious  hosts.

Thanks and hugs too to the relatives for your support and cooperation.

Till we meet again ..............