Monday, October 26, 2009

Shopping for a girl

Today (26 October) is my eldest daughter's birthday. 16 years old..... the most confusing age. I'm talking about me as a parent. After work today, I exited the NKVE at Subang Jaya to go to my
favourite haunt, Subang Parade. I kind of like it there since it's not too crowded like Sunway Pyramid, and there's MPH and Rock Corner, my two favourite stores and there McD and Pizza Hut and Nando's and Secret Recipe and Sushi King and even KFC.

Anyway, I thought of getting my daughter a soft fuzzy toy, but Nur is really known for the soft fuzzy type. Besides, we already have two big teddy bears and one turtle soft toy which are pretty much abandoned.

She like those Jonas Brothers.... not all of them, just one of them, t
he cute one... I don't know, it's Nick or Joe or Jacob or Jeremiah or something. So I thought maybe just get her a CD. The poster at the entrance of the CD shop looks new... but when I asked the shop assistant, she said the album was at least half a year old, with a "where have you been, old man?" look on her face. I hate Jonas Brothers.

The only thing I am sure of about Nur is that she likes to read. She'd devour books, thick ones which I take a month to finish, she'd take it all in in three days. And, then she'd read it another round or two, depending how much she likes them. By that time I still would not have finished my book.
At MPH, I headed straight to the teen section and there was a whole shelf of books about vampires. It is halloween season, after all, but, vampires seems to be the in thing. Stephenie Meyer started it a few years ago, with her quadrilogy of "deeply romantic" novels about vampires and werewolves. But, I blame Bram Stoker and his classic novel Dracula for introducing this blood sucker to the world.

Anyway, it was getting late, and I was still undecided on my girl's birthday present. Earlier, at the office I googled "what to buy a 16 year old" and got "a gift card or certificate" as the most popular gift. Of course, all of those who answered were Americans. We don't have those here... So, why don't I just give her RM100 and she can buy whatever she wants.

Then, as I turn to go, there before me, stacked on a table, was "the perfect gift for Stephenie Meyer's fans", so it was written on the packaging. A tin gift box, in it notebooks with the cover of the four novel in the Twilight series. And since Nur is a fan of Stephenie Meyer, I picked one up and asked the cashier to wrap it for me....

Driving home. I had second thoughts. Maybe she won't like the gift. What would she want to do with a note book... I mean, we've got face book and twitter and myspace and what not to express ourselves these days, who writes in a diary? Even I am writing this in a blog....

Well, I'm not turning back to Subang Parade, I will have to hand the gift to her and say something apologetic like...sorry Nur, this is all I can think to get you.... or, something flattering like, sorry Nur, what do you give a girl who has everything? Corny or cheesy (I can't tell the difference) but, maybe, out of pity she'll pretend to like the gift....

After the dusk prayer, and dinner, Sapiah called everybody to our bedroom for a birthday gift presentation ceremony. Ija with the camera and I and Nur posed, with Afiq and Aiman in the back ground somewhere....
Well, she loved it and thanked me a few times.... and it sounded genuine to me.

Money well spent, I'd say....

Happy Birthday, Nur.... I'll always love you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Liverpool: Premier League Champs 2009/10

Reds 20 Year Wait Ends!!

I am sleepy... I got up at 3 am this morning to watch Liverpool vs Lyon, knowing very well that my favorite English Premier Club can easily lose. This is a tough season for Liverpool FC. Already we've lost 4 in 9 games. Last season, Liverpool only lost twice, but drawn 11 games, and ended up 2nd to Manchester United.

This Sunday, at 9:30 pm Malaysian time, I will be glued to the TV to watch Liverpool take on the league leaders Manchester United. My son, who is not a football fan, asked why I keep supporting Liverpool and keep getting frustrated. Support other teams, my son recommended. Maybe he's right.....Arsenal is not faring too badly, and I am an admirer of Arsene Wenger.

Last season, when Liverpool were going through their slump (as every team in the league will experience at various stages of the Premier League season), drawing games they should've won comfortably, I actually, supported Man U for a while, because I (as I told my Man U supporting friend) that the team I support seems to lose.... and they did. First a 1-4 defeat to Liverpool at Old Trafford (my favorite game of 2008/09 season) then to Fulham (2-1) at Craven Cottage.

No I can never abandon Liverpool. Even after all these years that they have the cursed Carlsberg emblazoned on their chests, which I hate, I still would not abandon them, only I will not buy the jersey.... Next year the shirt sponsor will be Standard Chartered, and I am putting aside some funds to buy (at least) one, in July 2010.

If (if?) we are to lose to Man U this Sunday, I hope it will be the rock bottom of Liverpool's slump. If we are to lose, then I say that I will have to wait another season to see Steven Gerrard lift the Premier League trophy.

But, I am still hopeful. In the beginning of the 2004/05 season, I made a mock newsletter using Microsoft Publisher and the headline was, "Liverpool: Champions of Europe Again!!". Later in the season, it came true, in the most spectacular way... in Istanbul.

Thus, the title for this post. I am hopeful that Liverpool will call upon the spirit that was the MIRACLE of ISTANBUL, and fight their way back to the top of the table....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

To Market, To Market, To Buy ..... Fish...

Today, I went to the market, by myself.... alone... without my dear wife. As she is incapacitated, and the food supplies were running low, it was up to me to ensure the survival of our family. I've done it before, I think, a long time ago, just after the birth of my youngest child, while my wife was in confinement... but, that was almost 10 years ago.

07:30 hours, after the debriefing by my wife, equipped with a list of things to buy, I embarked on a journey of uncertainty..... I was unsure what ikan senangin (threadfins) looks like. The night before, I googled an image of the fish, tried to commit the picture to memory.

07:48 hours. Arrived at destination. As usual there wasn't an empty parking space in sight around the Subang Jaya SS15 wet market. I stopped the car and wait for somebody to vacate a space. There were a few, but they were on the other side of the road and were quickly filled by others who were also lying in wait.

08:02 hours. went once around the block and found a space, a little further from the market than to my liking. But, I told myself the walk will do me good.

08:04. Zul the fishmonger's stall was crowded. I could hardly see the fish. I stood behind a barricade of women, all of whom were taking a life time choosing a fish...which, apart from the different shapes and sizes, looked the same to me.

08:14 hours... A gap appeared. A rather sizable woman, having instructed Zul the manner in which she liked her fish to be cut and cleaned, reversed from the edge of Zul's shelf of fish, pushing the others to her left and right away, and in a flash I squeezed myself into the gap she created.

08:18 hours. Put four fish that looked like senangin in a plastic basket thrown at me by Zul. That's all? Zul asked. Yes, I replied and told him to clean them and I come back later.

08:22 hours. Stood in front of the veggies stall, and looked down the list.... sawi (mustard greens), cabbage, chili, coriander and onions. Two chickens. I had to ask the sister behind the counter for coriander because I really don't know what that looked like, otherwise I took every one of the veggies myself. An amazing achievement, and a comfort to know that all those time I was dragged along by Sapiah to the market did yield some benefits after all.

08:47 hours. Approached the chicken stall, put up two fingers and the young man wielding a cleaver nodded. He chose two chickens and put them on his scale and quoted the price which I agreed to.... Seemed rather pointless. I would've agreed to any price he mentioned, not aware am I of prevailing price of chicken today.

08:51. Went back to Zul's stall to pick my fish.

09:15 hours. Finished my roti telor at Restoran Sri Melor Jaya, asked if the mee goreng, two maggi goreng and six roti canai take away order is ready. It was and off I go on my way home. A satisfying day, I'd say, with a warm sense of achievement.

09:43 hours..... I forgot the sawi.....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Smokeless Days

While waiting for my wife, as she was undergoing surgery, I regretted that I didn't bring to the hostpital the book I was reading, "Life of Pi" by Yan Martel. I had not finished reading it, in fact, I abandoned it for a while, because I can't stand the graphic descriptions of how (driven my hunger) Piscine Molitor Patel killed turtles and birds.

Bookless, I found myself walking to the mamak restaurant across the street from the hospital, with the intention of buying a pack of cigarettes. I approched the cashier counter, looking past the cashier, and scanned the showcase of a variety of (supposedly) repulsive pictures of various cancer ridden anatomy. I've always preferred the gangrened foot (and by consensus the least repulsive of all the pictures) but whatever the picture, they are easier to ignore than the nagging yen for nicotine.

Then, as I was just about to reach for my wallet in my back pocket, it occurred to me, that, at that particular moment, I did not really have a craving for a cigarette. For me, a cigarette craving only comes after a hearty meal. And that morning, at around 11 am, I was more hungry than full since the last meal I had was at 7:30, a breakfast of roti canai and teh tarik. So, there was no compulsion from within me for a smoke.

Which concludes, that the only reason I am standing at the cashier counter in a mamak restaurant, staring at the colourful array of attractively packaged cigarettes, is because I have nothing better to do. I wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes, not because I needed a nicotine fix, but because I forgot my book....

The cashier, I suspect not of local birth, asked a few times of my desire, and followed my line of sight, trying to guess which of the lovely packages I was staring at. After a few minutes of indecision, I raised my hand to the cashier and walked away.
I walked the length of the block of shop lots, the majority of which are eating places. There are two mamak restaurants and ironically both are named Taj. The smaller one is Taj cafe and the bigger one is Taj Curry House. To differentiate them, I refer the smaller one as Taj Murah while the bigger one......Taj Mahal... (I am sure you saw that coming a mile away).

The doctor said, just before the nurses took Sapiah away, that the surgery will be about one and a half hours long and then she'll be in a recovery room for another 2 hours. Since they took her at 10:45, by my calculation, Sapiah will be out of the operating theater by 2:15 pm. I, therefore have another 3 hours to kill. I stood in front of Taj Mahal for a while, thinking what should I do, and where should I go.... Or, what the hell, just buy a pack already... Dunhill Light 14s... said a small voice.

Taj Mahal only have packs of twenties, I observed from afar, of their almost bare cigarette showcase. Then I walked into the Seven Eleven, next to it. I took a Star newspaper and got into the queue to pay. When it's my turn, I flashed out my RM50 note and asked for a Dunhill Light 14s. "Sorry, bang takde duit kecik." said the boy behind the counter. I do have RM1 and I rummaged through my jean's pocket and found a 20 sen coin. Just enough to pay for the news paper.....

I did not go back to Taj Murah, where I first stood indecisively in front of the cashier, simply because I did not like the way the cashier was looking at me as I pass by his post. He looked apprehensive, as if I am an escapee from the psychiatric ward.
With the Star tucked under my armpit, I went back across the street, up to my wife's room, switched on the aircon, laid back on the artificial "lazyboy" chair, read the news and eventually fell asleep.....

Thus, by a twist of fate, began my smoke-free days. The last puff I had was just before Friday prayers on 9 October (my birthday, by the way). Which makes this day the 5th day in a row I haven't smoked. Who knows how long this will last.... my biggest challenge is when a cigarette is shoved in my direction in a social gathering.
But, then again, it's something I do to fill a void... to do something... I must keep in mind, that I do not need a nicotine fix, and therefore, do not need to unnecessarily damage any vital organs...
We'll see how it goes....

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Best Birthday Ever!!

It's 9:39 pm as per my bedroom wall clock. In approximately, 2 hours and 20 minutes I will have lived on this earth for exactly 45 years.

And today, strangely, I have been receiving more birthday wishes than I can ever remember. The first to wish is my wife of course, although, her actual words we.... 45 today huh? Perangai tak berubah... Then, my phone started to tinkle, and the wishes started to pour in.... ok, I got 5 text messages. One was from Maxis, the telephone company, one from an insurance company and another from the electrical goods store where I bought MP3 players for the girls. The other two were from my female friend (as opposed to girlfriend) and the other is from Edward, who sold me the insurance from the aforementioned insurance company.

Then, there are my facebook buddies... all 4 of them wrote a birthday wish on my wall....

A few years ago, I told myself that I will be retiring at 45. This milestone, just a couple of hours away, seems unlikely to be achieved. I realize this while I was inching towards the Duta toll plaza this morning, having to relent to an insistent woman who was intent on squeezing her BMW 3 series in front of me, when she looked ahead to see that she was not aligned to any of the four smart tag lanes.

Then, it dawned on me. Alas! I exclaimed, all is not lost. Did the government not increase the retirement age from 56 to 58. So, mathematically, I, too, should push my retirement age by two years. Yes, my new retirement age will, therefore be, 47, i.e. on 9 October, 2011. Thereafter, i felt much better about myself.

At the office, I pretended to not know, that my secretary and my assistant manager was planning a surprise birthday bash for me. We were having our annual departmental Hari Raya gathering, and the pink Secret Recipe box perched on one of my staff's table was a dead giveaway. After, my speech and doa makan, to my "surprise". the cake had my name on it.... who would've guessed.

Then, the thing that has never happened before in my adult life, happened. They lighted candles, 4 big ones and 5 small ones, and they started to sing.... the Haji Bakhil birthday song.. you know.."Allah selamatkan kamu....lalalala". It was really embarrassing, and I blushed and grinned through out the song. Finally, as they reached the end of the song, I took a deep breath and (thank God) blew out the candles with one puff, and there was applause. The last time I blew out a candle on my birthday cake (with my name on it) I was five years old (I think).

It's not that nobody ever care to celebrate my birthday. It's me who never wanted and prohibited people from celebrating my birthday, apart from a simple birthday wish and a birthday card, perhaps. But, I must admit, that this was probably the most fun birthday I ever had.

Thanks to my secretary and my staff....
To top off the day, I got home today and found a hand made birthday card from my children saying the one thing that will always melt my heart.... I LOVE YOU, DAD...

Thanks kids.... I love you guys, too.