Sunday, August 14, 2016

Majulah Singapura!

So proud of anak Singapura (Singapore son), Joseph Schooling, for winning Gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics! Singapura Boleh! Majulah Singapura! 

Joseph, you have showed, firstly, how one should always dream big and persevere to achieve that dream, and secondly, to never underestimate younglings or small 'dots'.

This reminds me of our Asian folktales about two 7-year old boys - Hang Nadim and Si Ma Guang. Hang Nadim's brilliant idea saved Singapore from garfish (not swordfish) attacks while Si Ma Guang quick-wittedness saved his friend from drowning. What happened to them? Instead of nurturing Hang Nadim, the Sultan immediately ordered his men to kill him as he feared that Hang Nadim would take over his position in the future. On the other hand, Si Ma Guang was groomed and he later became a high-ranking Song dynasty scholar-official and historian who authored 'Zizhi Tongjian', a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography.

have, unfortunately, came across quite a number of 'high-ranking' people who suffer from the Hang Nadim syndrome. Instead of believing in other's capabilities and nurturing them, they behaved almost like that Sultan of the Hang Nadim's era. What we need is more people like the officials of the Si Ma Guang's era. They believed in the young boy's ability and groomed him so that Si Ma Guang would live up to his fullest potential.

Joseph Schooling is a good example of the Si Ma Guang-type of guidance. Let's not be like the leaders of Hang Nadim's era. Are we guilty of the latter?

*'Si Ma Guang and the Giant Jar' has been chosen for inclusion in the 2017 IBBY Selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities. Our book will be premiered at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair from 3rd to 6th April 2017.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Winners of the 2016 Rio Olympics in my eyes

Ibtihaj Muhammad, Team USA for Fencing (Sabre). She stood her grounds, fought for her rights, and is allowed to represent USA in fencing, wearing a hijab en plus! And no, I didn't hear the same rhetoric about respecting the public space and being inclusive blah, blah, bleah... being thrown at her.

Saiyidah Aisyah, Team Singapore for Rowing. She didn't receive the initial support, and had to resort to funding her own training and crowdfunding effort (started in January this year, and has raised over S$13,000). Only after Aisyah has proven her 'worth', was she awarded Sports Excellence Scholarship. And we wonder why Singapore often laments that we lack Singapore-born athletes and had to resort to luring foreign athletes with lucrative deals?

I remember my fencing days at university. My coach said that sabre fencing for women had opened as a new category at the Olympics and would l like to train to make it to the Singapore team? He saw the potential in me but I guess I didn't possess the determination and discipline to endure the rigour that came with the honour. Did I regret not trying? YES.

Ibtihaj and Aisyah, my respect and prayers go to you! You are already a winner and inspiration to many women (including Muslims and Malays) around the world. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Kampung Tempe: Voices from a Malay Village

The book that Dr Yahaya and I had been working on since 2014 will be launched five days before my birthday! This is Dr Yahaya's contribution to his kampong and Singapore, as well as my contribution to Singapore Malay history and the publishing world. Thanks to the A-team who worked tireless on the book (yes, we had even worked until 5am)!

About the Book
In early 1905, a group of Javanese led by Alias bin Ali, started a settlement on a hillside in Singapore, not far from the present Sixth Avenue, off Bukit Timah Road. The swampy land then was infested with mosquitoes and quite uninhabitable. Despite the challenging circumstances, the Javanese settlers, most of whom were farmers and gardeners, successfully cultivated vegetables such as tapioca, chilli, and even tobacco.
A hundred years later, the village disappeared. The only visual testament to the prior existence of the village – sited on one of the most expensive residential areas in Singapore – is a small mosque named Masjid Al-Huda, located along Jalan Haji Alias.
This book conveys fragments of the village’s history and retells stories from the bygone days of the early settlement, such as the villagers’ fear of living in bunkers during the war, and their struggle sourcing for food that led them to produce tempe or fermented soya bean cakes, for which the village later came to be known.

ps. To a certain someone who bragged about her book being THE definitive book about Malay ethnic food (no, she is not the wonderful food consultant Aziza Ali, it is someone else whom Daria had ranted before): "Ooi, stop your irritating, delusional self-grandeur! We've published five books since you got the book grant in late 2013, and your book is still not out yet!"

Monday, April 25, 2016

Daria's Rantings - The MHF (Manusia Handal Fitnah)

*I am posting this fifteenth ranting as my alter-ego the misanthropic Daria Morgendorffer

Have you heard about the MHF or Manusia Handal Fitnah (People who Excelled in Backbiting and Slander)? You have not? Unfortunately for my family, we have been subjected to such horrific acts by the MHF since early 1900s. Argghhh…

If you've read the 'Hantu' story in the Gedung Kuning book, you would know how the MHF had spread lies about my great-grandfather having a hantu or ghost that helped him become a millionaire (during those days). To this day, those lies are still being perpetuated by the MHF. Why are they so nasty? Worse, they have included another target: Moi

Slander #1:
My family’s baiyat (oath of allegiance or agreement) with the Jinn (Genie/Devil)

Slander #2:
I slept around

Slander #3:
I prefer to lead a westernized living though I pretend to love Islam

Slander #4:
I am an upper-middle class brat who did not graduate from Cambridge University

Slander #5:
I am always in trouble with the authority so better not even intern or work with me.

If my family were to have a baiyat with the Jinn, wouldn’t we be asking for greater things like becoming billionaires with major businesses around the world? If I wanted to confirm my place in the hellfire, wouldn’t I ask the Devil to get me into Harvard Medical School even with my not-so-good MCAT marks? Why would we still be struggling and working hard to make an honest living, n’est pas

Ooi MHF who profess to be Muslims, having a baiyat with the Jinn equates to attributing partners to Allah or God - Polytheism is a Great Sin.
 “Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with him… and whoever associates anything with Allah, he devises indeed a great sin.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:48)

“Surely whoever associates (others) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the garden, and his abode is the fire; and there shall be no helpers for the unjust.” (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:72)

Slander #2 – #5:
Whatever dudes. You know those are not true. Even if they are true (do you have proof?), why does my life bother you? Insecure much?

Did you not know that all these gheebah (backbiting), buhtan (slander) and nameemah (malicious gossip) are haram (impermissible)?
“… do not spy nor let some of you backbite others. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?” (Surah Al-Hujraat 49:12)

It was narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever has wronged his brother with regard to his honour or anything else, let him seek his forgiveness today, before there will be no dinar and no dirham, and if he has any good deeds to his credit they will be taken from him in a manner commensurate with the wrong he did, and if he has no good deeds, then some of his counterpart’s bad deeds will be taken and added to his burden.” 

My dear MHF, as long as you continue to do what you do, then I guess my family and I will benefit in the Hereafter. How thrilling! And yes, may I remind you that some family members are in their 80s and might pass on soon. Then again, death knows no age or status.

Salaam. Peace.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Daria's Rantings - Magica de Spell

*I am posting this fourteenth ranting as my alter-ego the misanthropic Daria Morgendorffer

It’s International Women’s Day today. How ironic that I should be ranting about a particular woman similar to Felicity Huffman’s Headmaster character (Leslie Graham) in American Crime (AC) season 2 series.

Unlike Leslie Graham who was quite an eye candy, this woman looks more like Disney's foulest female fowl, Magica de Spell. It must be that A-line skirt, high heels (to boost her short height) and hair that came straight from the 1960s. I couldn't care less about physical appearances. To me, if you are ugly inside, even your physical beauty can’t mask that ugliness. But if you have a good character, that inner beauty shines through making you beautiful on the outside too.

Anyway, I was unfortunate to have worked with Magica de Spell. I was away from office for some time. Before I was scheduled to return, I heard we had a new female boss. Just like Leslie, she was once a headmaster. People at the office were excited saying that she had extensive experience blah, blah, blah. On my first day back at the office, one of my colleagues, cautioned me. Apparently, at one of the meetings, Magica lamented among other things, “Oh, that Scholar is coming back.” She told me to be weary of Magica as Magica was not what she seemed to portray on the outside.

Magica seemed nice, competent and outwardly caring. Similar to Leslie, all smiles, efficient, professional and by the book. Hmm… I thought, that colleague had misjudged Magica. Then, I noticed hints of favouritisms (sometimes discreetly, sometimes outright blatant). I felt that there was something about Magica but I couldn’t finger out. The religious and charitable Magica seemed to bring the company to greater heights, just like Leslie with the Leyland School. Magica seemed supportive when I voiced to her that I wanted to transfer to another agency. She said she wouldn’t stop me and wanted the best for me. Yet, she never made any efforts to make sure that I get the promotion I deserved. She told me before I left the company, “Oh, it would be hard for you to stay on as you don’t have a degree in film unlike ‘God’.” ‘God’ was the nickname for this arrogant colleague who could do no wrong – he even got away with his office scandals just because he gained some fame from one of his films. What the hell! I wanted to tell Magica that the legendary film-maker Quentin Tarantino is a high school dropout and doesn’t even have a degree in film. The bottom-line was Magica wanted to get rid of me. Again like Leslie, she did it in a way that seemed fair and legitimate.

My perception of Magica was proven correct. She refused to give me my employment testimonial (HR said it must be given within 3 months of my resignation) for more than a year! Of course, the persistent me hounded her every month (she wouldn't even reply to my emails). She finally (and grudgingly) gave me one after I complained to her boss. I remember, I had emailed her, “You couldn’t be that busy that you couldn’t write a testimonial for someone who had been with the company for nearly a decade!”. She curtly replied, “You don’t know what I am busy with.”

After watching AC season 2 (the story touches on issues such as social class, homophobia, cyber bullying and racism), I drew this comparison between Magica and Leslie: Both are highly manipulative characters, masked behind efficiency and perceived professionalism. The last episode of AC is yet to be broadcast so I don’t know the fate of Leslie (in the previous episode, she manipulated the Board of Directors to dissolve itself though it was her who they wanted to fire and whom the lawyer told to resign), though I hope she will get her just punishment. But what will become of Magica? Well, as long as her colleagues remain afraid or ‘in awe’ of her, she will triumph. Maybe I should do what Hidayah did – she took ‘revenge’ on the 2 educators who discriminated her by writing about them in her ‘Mina meets Cambridge’ book. Classy! 

Magica de Spell, don't forget, Karma has no deadline, bitch.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

A Journey of Giving: The LBKM Story

'A Journey of A Journey of Giving: The LBKM Story' book (written by yours truly) was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 22 January 2016 at the Mandarin Orchard. 

My team at Archipelago Consultancy was commissioned to publish this book for LBKM. It was a honour to write this book because LBKM has helped more than 25,000 students (including me) from 1965.

About the book: Lembaga Biasiswa Kenangan Maulud (Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday Memorial Scholarship Fund Board) or LBKM began its humble journey of giving bursaries to students in post-independence Singapore. Five decades on, LBKM has earned recognition as a reputable charity, disbursing the largest amount of bursaries to Singaporeans, regardless of their ethnicities and religious beliefs. The LBKM Story is one borne out of sheer passion and perseverance. It represents the collective effort of ordinary people who believe in the power of knowledge, and that learning and educational pursuits should be made accessible to one and all, independent of one’s financial background.

This is A Journey of Giving, but not without its share of trials and tribulations. LBKM has been steadily growing alongside a maturing Singapore. It has endured a long journey, successfully helping many along the way. Like Singapore, the LBKM Story continues with the hope that it will make a difference in the lives of many more beneficiaries to come, including their families. This book not only chronicles LBKM’s history, but also celebrates the triumph of the human spirit; one that believes in kindness and empowerment through helping others gain precious knowledge.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Becoming White

I really admire Ryan Murphy of Nip/Tuck, Glee and American Horror Story fame, and now American Crime Story (ACS). What a great storyteller and film-maker! Ryan, pls mentor me! 
Anyway, in episode 2 of ACS: 'The People vs O.J. Simpson', I was amused by the conversation between lawyer Chris Darden and his neighbours who were commenting about O.J. and the famous Bronco car chase:

"Look at O.J. go. That boy could still run… Nobody could catch the Juice."
"I don’t know what you guys are cheering for. Jim Brown was a much better player."
"O.J. is local. He went to Galileo High."
"So, what? O.J. never gave back. Did you see any parks around here named after him? Any children’s centre? Jim Brown cared about black people. He was an activist. He spoke up. Once O.J. made his money, he split and never came back. He became white."
"Well, he got the cops chasing him. He’s black now."

The 'becoming-white-syndrome' is synonymous with some Malay folks. Once they have reached a certain status, they shy away from the Malay community and pride themselves as being "not your average Malay". They are embarrassed to be associated with the Malays. They don't want to help the Malays at the workplace or elsewhere for fear of being branded racist (unlike the Pinoys, Indians and PRCs who help their own ethnicities get employment, in education and getting PR status etc).
Some claimed they are not pure Malay ("Ohh, I have Chinese blood" etc). There's this Machievellian guy I know who even contemplated changing the Malay race in his identity card to Chinese because 1) it's economically better and 2) "My grandma is biologically Chinese. She was given away by her Chinese parents to the Malays... still, we are Chinese by blood." Putain de merde! 
The worst kind are those Malays who insult their own race and believe that "Malays are lazy, stupid and drug addicts. All those institutional racism reasons are bullshit; Malays are in their low socio-economic state because of their own doing."
I have this to say to you with the 'becoming-white-syndrome': Look at what becomes of O.J. Simpson now.