28 April 2011

Pakcik reminisces (Pt 17 – Sec 1/2)) – The road not taken

I do not remember when was the first time I came across Robert Frost’s poem ‘The road not taken’. It was certainly during my school days. I thought it was a beautiful, but at a young age I could not grasp the full implication of the poem. A few years back this short poem was included in the secondary school English text book. The short poem reads:

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back,

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverging in a wood, and I,
I took one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

( By Robert Frost )

And now so much water has flowed under the bridge. I have begun to see this poem in a new dimension. On a long journey through life one is bound to encounter ‘two roads diverging in the wood’. And more often than not we make our selection almost subconsciously. So whenever I stood to explain this poem to Almanar children I reflected on my own journey and could not help feeling tears well up in my eyes.

In my earlier posting I moaned over the five individuals in the picture below:

The 1952 school librarians

Today only one person still remains standing. The other four, all respected ‘ustaz’ in their own right, have left (Alfatihah to them). The last one to have left us was Ustaz Abdul Malek, who served as the Imam of Sydney mosque. He came from the well known ‘AlYunani’ family of Terengganu.

Looking at the above picture does not only bring me back to a distant, happy and care-free moment in time but also to a point in time which represented a corner stone, a very significant landmark in my life.

The picture was taken in 1952 ,our final year, the 7th year, at the Madrasah Sultan Zainal Abidin (MSZA). The five of us were appointed to be the first batch of librarians of the new school library. In age I was the youngest in that class because during the first four years at the school I was double-promoted twice. So by the time I reached Std 7 in 1952 I was two years younger than my classmates. All the same, many of us had something in common, A DREAM. We aspired to go for further studies at the celebrated Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Without exaggeration, many prominent Islamic scholars in the state, practically all the state ‘mufti’, ‘kadi’ etc, were the products of MSZA. This included the longest serving Menteri Besar of Terengganu, Tan Sri Hj Wan Mokhtar Ahmad.

About the time I was stepping into my final year at MSZA in 1952 my elder brother injected a fresh idea into my mind. At that point in time the idea was seen as a minor diversion from the original plan to go to Cairo immediately after MSZA. Having himself done a course in Islamic studies in Saudi Arabia, and regarded as the wiser one in our family, he felt that I should learn more English before going all out for the Arabic/Islamic education in Cairo – delaying the trip to Cairo somewhat.

Perhaps I should mention here that in 1953 there was only one Government English School in K Terenganu ( Sultan Sulaiman English School – SSES) to serve the whole state of Terengganu. There was a private English school which offered evening classes..

1952 & 1953 diary

1952 diary - ( Feb 2nd, the Federation Day - a public holiday)

My 1952 and 1953 diaries are in a pitiful state, faded and damaged by silver-fish. Nevertheless the 1952 diary had it recorded that in the evening of Friday, Jan 4th I joined the evening class at the private school. This date marked the starting point from where my English education was beginning to be taken more seriously.

Who was I to know that Friday Jan 4th 1952 was a fateful date. Unconsciously I had made a choice between the two diverging roads.
I repeat:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverging in a wood, and I,
I took one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference


To be continued …

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

22 April 2011

VISITORS’ CORNER ( P.1) – Opening page - ninotaziz


For quite a while I have been thinking of introducing space in this blog for a visitor to address other visitors on a subject which is not quite relevant to any particular entry. For instance one may wish to share certain information or announcement. It may be in the form of a short entry. This is Pakcik’s first thought which I would invite my dear visitors to comment on. The main idea is to make Almanar site more interactive.

It is coincidental that a request for information has come from one of our frequent visitors/contributors, ‘ninotaziz’. She has a request to make and I am at a loss to help.

“Dear Pakcik,

I hope you can forgive my begging for assistance here. I know it is not very suitable...but I am calling out to anyone who remembers or have access to the old legend Syair Dandan Setia. Not the movie. I am drawing a blank wall.

I have bits and pieces. Major questions are ...

WHo was his father - Raja Merembat? Mother? Permaisuri Lela Mengerna?

Was he from Negeri Dendam Berahi?

Who gave birth to Intan Terpilih after eating the pomergranate that fell from the heavens?

Who was Dandan Setia's first wife?

How did Intan Terpilih become fair again - she was reborn pitch black skinned?

When and how did Dandan Setia win Intan terpilih back?”


So here is an example of one use of our new VISITORS’ CORNER
Please someone, come to ninotaziz's rescue, giving her the information or a lead somewhere for her to get it. Thank you.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

21 April 2011

Pakcik reminisces ( Pt 16 ) - Durian semusim gugur semusim

One afternoon early this month, having no Almanar class to conduct, Pakcik decided to sit and go through a small box of treasured ‘junks’. Among some old letters I stumbled on one handwritten letter in jawi script dated 4th Sept 2003 – more than SEVENTEEN years ago. It came all the way from Sydney and was signed by Abdul Malek Yusuf.

The letter began with: Azizil akhil ustaz Hj Hassan Abdul Karim ………….”

( My dear friend ustaz Hj Hassan Abdul Karim
…..” ( Click on the letter below to enlarge.)

Enclosed inside the same envelope was a photograph, obviously taken in a photo studio, showing five young boys dressed in all-white school uniform. The accompanying letter said that the photo was taken way back in 1952 – more than SIXTY years ago.

Seeing the photograph my memory flashed way, way back to the distant past. I could see a school library which had just been officially opened with the five boys appointed to be the first group of school librarians.

Then I had an idea that this could be a subject of my next posting. With that thought in mind I had the letter and photograph placed temporarily on one table.


On April 9th Pakcik had my second posting on durian tree and what it symbolised to me. Among the first few visitors was an anonymous who left a message saying, “ I just heard the news that your friend Ustaz Absul Malek (in Sydney) telah kembali ke rahmatullah. Al Fatihah

That brief message truly shocked me, coming so soon after I had just read his letter and seen the very old picture which he chose to me, for safe keeping perhaps. From my responses in the following days visitors might have sensed my mood.

I am ever so grateful to Ninotaziz who, in her typically unique style, chose to leave the following short poem, to which I immediately responded in my amateurish way.

Ninotaziz wrote:

Pomegranates lie in wait
From the precarious moment
Its seed germinates
Such is life’s momentum

From birth to blossoms
Bearing fruits in service
Until the earth welcomes
Newly scattered seeds

Seeds of awareness.


Pakcik's response:

Hamba berdoa
Hamba memohon
Harapnya berbunga
Sebatang pohon

Biarpun tak berbau
Tak berwarna bunganya
Yang hamba rayu
Buahnya berguna

Harimau dan Manusia
Belang dan nama
Apalah guna

Kepada Mu Tuhan ku
Aku memohon
Dosa nya dosa ku
Semoga diampun


I was then looking again at the old photograph. Ustaz Abdul Malek sat on the left and Pakcik stood on the right.

What made me especially sad then?

Of the five in the picture, Pakcik ALONE remains the only durian of that season, hanging on precariously from a branch.

Now I say Alfatihah to the fallen ones – will be joining them in due course, for sure. Durian seasons come and go ….. and the ‘good word’ (of my earlier posting) is Lailaha illallah.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhn untuk kemanusiaan

1) I hope, in my next posting, I will be able to write more of my reminiscence related to the picture of the five young boys; and why Pakcik was strangely addressed as ‘ustaz’. Did I habitually have a white cap on my head?

2) Coincidentally, yesterday I made another 500 km drive to this kampong because of an unexpected death in the family. So I am Here again waiting for the last few durians of the season to fall.

13 April 2011

A Map of Trengganu

A Map of Trengganu – watch the spelling

This is a new book by Wan Hulaimi a.k.a. Awang Goneng, a book which should be owned and read by many who enjoy his weekly column in NST every Sunday, and his blog, Kecek-kecek

I admire a person for his ability which is beyond my reach. For instance, I would look with awe at a person who is head and shoulder towering above me. Wan Hulaimi has a way with words. In Terengganuspeak I say ‘ macang maing buwoh guling’ (like playing with marbles). And I would also say he is a ‘loyar burok’ (a lawyer good in spinning). You see, by his own admission, he picked up his Law degree scroll from the office of the Registrar of the famed London School of Economics ( mind you, just a ‘school’, not quite the taraf antara bangsa ‘universiti’ we have many in Malaysia). That happened one night when the door of the Registrar’s office was left open!

I have a close friend who reads Wan Hulaimi’s weekly column. At times this friend moaned over his difficulty trying to make sense what Wan Hulaimi wrote when the latter casually dropped a name or an event. In response I would question my friend with an air of superiority – just for him- what did he think he was when I myself – ha ha - would need nothing less than the whole set of Britannica to check the famous name or event referred to by this columnist.

Awang Goneng dropped by our house one day when he was in Terengganu launching his Growing Up In Trengganu. Before he left he kindly offered to give my Almanar pupils a session on creative writing. My goodness, I nearly told him I needed that for myself more than for those children.

That is a glimpse of the writer I know. He is skilled in an area which I am lacking, hence my awe and admiration. To have a preview of the book before you go rushing to spend your last ringgit and curse Pakcik at the end of it, have a look at the following few pages of that book.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

09 April 2011

Moment to Reflect (Pt 4) - What’s in a durian tree, after all?

Look at the height of one older than Rayyan's granpa.

Rayyan dwarfed against the giant tree

Looking at the picture of the durian tree in Pakcik’s last posting, we cannot but wonder in awe at its size, its height, its total strength and age. The presence of that little boy, Rayyan, standing at the foot of the tree should help our imagination of its immensity. And casually I remarked that the tree was ‘older than Rayyan’s grandpa’. The grandfather of my other half, who planted the tree, probably lived long enough to taste the fruit of his work. But I cannot help feeling that his real reason was to leave something for the benefit of his younger generations, more than for himself. To-date four generations have benefited and this may not yet be the end. As I reflect on nature, the like of the surf, the sea, the coconut trees and so on which I have posted, I cannot help thinking of a beautiful parable in the Quran. Verse 24 of Surah Ibrahim says:

Surah Ibrahim - ayat 24

Sayyid Abdul A’la Mawdudi gave the following understanding: “ Do you not see how Allah given the example of a good word? It is like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and whose branches reach the sky.” This is followed by the following verse (25):

Surah Ibrahim - ayat 25

Mawdudi’s understanding: “ Ever yielding its fruit in every season with the leave of its Lord. Allah gives examples for mankind that they may take heed.”

In his explanatory note, Prof Dr Hamka explained that the ‘good word’ is ISLAM itself which is built on the tree, the fundamental ‘LA ILAHI ILLALLAH.’

Mawdudi went a long way to explain verse 25 by saying: " 'The good word' is so highly productive that, were individuals or groups of people to base their lives on it, they will continually benefit from the good results ensuing from it. For it brings about clarity in thought, stability in attitude ………justice and compassion in economy, honesty in politics, magnanimity in war, sincerity in peace, and faithfulness in covenant. Like Midas, everything that it touches turns into gold.”


A large durian tree, that bears fruit season after season, is not known in the Arab world. Yet its likeness is described in Quran – as a parable which ought to be better understood by us than the Arabs, and be put into practice as well. Let us reflect for a moment. Suhanallah.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

05 April 2011

Midnight bombing?

This true story happened a week ago when I was 500 km away from my home in Terengganu, having driven that day all alone and non-stop. I was to be with my other half who was in her kampong helping to nurse her aged mother of nearly ninety. Not feeling that tired I sat watching Ajazeera. The time was midnight. They were showing bombing ecenes in Algeria. It was then the sound of a heavy thud coming from outside myhouse interrupted me – a bomb! Almost at the same time Makcik’s voice rang clear, “ Ada jatuh, babah!” – meant for me of course, happened to be the only able-bodied male in the house at that moment. I picked up the torch-light, put on a pair of Wellington boots and out I went out of the house into the darkness. A short search and there it was a big durian half stuck in the soft ground. The wind was blowing slightly, slowly shaking the branches of huge, tall durian trees around the house, each old tree about the height of four-storey building. Within a period of about two hours I picked up EIGHT huge fruit. It did occur to me what if one of these ‘bombs’ chose to land on one’s head? But I have not yet heard of one such incident.

Grand-son, Rayyan has found one - too heavy to lift

Rayyan dwarfed against the giant tree

Look at the height of one older than Rayyan's granpa.

The eight I gathered that midnight

So that mid-night I struggled to open freshly fallen durians for the the mid-night feast.

Just from one fruit. Can you finish this or open another?

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

02 April 2011

Water project in Algeria

In my posting ‘With a sigh (pt 6)” I mentioned about the water project in Algeria. This point was picked up by Awang Goneng, who left the following comment that has led me to a blog which offers very interesting read on current affairs not likely found in normal western media:

“Dear Abang Ngah, Funny you mentioned the water project in Algeria. Go to the link below and be surprised: http://poorrichards-blog.blogspot.com/2011/03/virtually-unknown-in-west-libyas-water.html#comments

But they've probably bombed it all now.”

I am very pleased to have the ‘poorrichards’ blog in my ‘favourites'. I recommend my visitors a visit to poorrichards.

Thank you Mi.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.