Thursday, October 25, 2007

As Time Flies

Wow! Finally, after 18 months overdue, Singapore Airlines or SIA has made another first in history to fly the A380 superjumbo airplane this morning at 8:15am from Changi International Airport on a 7.5 hours journey to Sydney, Australia.

Another World's First...

Instead of packing it in with 800-odd passengers that the double decked plane can accommodate, SIA has configured it to be 399 seats for economy class, 60 for business and 12 for KrisFlyer first class suites.

This humongous flying object is like a block of flats with wings! Why? Simply because typically that is how many residents may reside in one block of flat or apartment of 13 storeys here.. about 800. Remarkable!

Fantastic, unquenchable human desire to build bigger and better creations, God willing. Kudos to SIA for making another history's first with this commercial flight.

Since its online bidding for tickets for its maiden flight started, the highest bidder was for a 1A seat on the airplane suite room for a whopping US$100,000.00, paid by a Brit.

The cheapest ticket price was at US$560.00 on an economy class. All for the win/win/win situation for the passenger to mark their names in history, SIA for scoring the world's first and the charities that benefit from the online biddings.

Airbus A380 test flight taxiing across the aerobridge at Changi Airport

How Big Can It Get?

I missed seeing the real A380 when it first came here for test flights to appreciate how gigantic it actually is. Now, all I can think about is to take the opportunity to get a flight on this engineering marvel on our next vacation.

Well, for now I have to comprise vacationing in Sydney, Australia, but by next year the options are open when London and Japan routes become available once SIA receives their other 6 A380 airplanes.

This airplane triggers my childhood memory when I was living in a kampung or village called Lorong Ternak, which ended-up being neighbors with the then Paya Lebar Airport when the operations moved from the old and smaller Kallang Airport.

Since our village was actually situated very near the landing strip, the airplanes that passed by to land was awesomely huge and noisy. We could see the extended wheels on each airplane as passed us by.

France and British Airways' Concorde fly-past our village

Those Things From The Sky...

The worst thing for the villagers, but actually the most exciting thing to the children was when Concorde first landed in Singapore... and when it took off.

The loud and piercing roaring sound would vibrate everyone's wooden homes... knick-knacks would rattle and sometimes fall-off the display cabinets and racks.

Adults would rush to cover their little babies' ears to avoid frightening them until they got used to the loud and chest-vibrating sounds of airplanes passing by. Yes, we got trained from when we were babies and finally had no trouble sleeping at night, amid the busy air traffic on top of everybody's roofs.

Thank goodness, there was never any bad incidents with the planes. The only thick, black smoke we saw emanating from the airport grounds from time to time were the live fire-drills. That was exhilarating on its own.

That was one sleek airplane!

It even got me making lots of mini Concorde models from paper drawing blocks.

We would admire the many designs of the airlines that flew by and would get so excited guessing what airline it was when we spot a new airplane.

SIA A380 in the making in Toulouse, France

And Time Really Flies...

I remember the airplanes got larger and larger as we, the children grew bigger and bigger. So were the roaring sounds that the villagers got used to, got louder as the planes that flew by got larger.

We would hear stories in envy from those in the village that had taken a plane flight, as back then, only the rich and privileged ones could afford such luxury to go to foreign lands by air.

We would get to hold in awe, the engraved cutleries and other "souvenirs" they swiped-off the airplane as mementos... while looking at pictures framed and hung on the walls and albums of places one could only see on TV. Wow!

The ever bigger airplanes that flew over our village, wowed me every time as a child, yet this A380 superjumbo wowed me even more... now that I get to understand what it takes to build such a plane to begin appreciating such technical feat.

This A380 most probably is able to take in our whole village population to fly in one plane with a spaces to spare to accommodate the next village population... Jalan Ubi!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Our Islandwide Storm

The Selamat Hari Raya "gila" cheers!

I guess this is the highlight of all visits for every Hari Raya we celebrate every year...

The families homes are scattered throughout the island, so to be able to visit everyone's homes all in one day is really quite a challenge.

To be able to keep the total time spent to about 12 hours for the whole day is important, considering the chartered bus fee of S$35.00 per hour shared by the number of family clusters is still quite significant, though very much cheaper than taking cab rides... if one can actually get a cab during this festive period.

For this year, Saturday 20th October was expectedly the best day for such a plan where everyone was available. Just an ideal timing.

The weather forecast was not that promising though... partly cloudy with chances of thunderous storms the whole day all over the island actually sucked. That however, did not intimidate this family spirit from enjoying the visit and get together.

Prediction to weather the weather storms

In fact, the weather was kind to us instead. It stayed cloudy with short intermittent drizzles now and then, which kept the whole day cool and comfortable for this large hot-on-our heels group... and God knows how many other clusters of Malay families going visiting today.

Happy to report, every year our family gets bigger with little new and cute additions joining the pack, storming the houses for thunderous merry-making and yes, lighting feasts!

This visit is the best time to treat each other's families when everyone makes time to be present at one place at the same time. It can get quite chaotic at times, but my sisters and brothers go into auto-mode to manage the situation.

The ladies would automatically go to the kitchen to help the hosts prepare the drinks and food cooked earlier to the table, while the men would watch-over the little children from "rioting" and breaking stuff as they can become hyperactive once the children band together into a large, no-holds-barred group.

Family homes across Singapore Island

This "gotong-royong" or helping one another ensured us to be efficient with our time at each of the houses we visit, limiting to about 40 minutes to an hour. Then off we went, attacking the next home and then the next one with equal Hari Raya zest!

This year, we have something new to include in our annual tradition!

The family photo above tells it all. Instead of just posing for the photos, we have added the "gila" pose or crazy photo for the Great Family Video our brother-in-law is making.

That was great fun, wonder why we did not do it earlier...

Last year's Raya video was hilarious! This year should be even more interesting with this added poses, but we will just have to wait for next year's Hari Raya to watch it. Something extra to look forward to.

I observed how bright the smiles of Mom and Dad whenever they entered each of our homes. I believe they both are happy that all their children are living well and happy. The family bond is very strong. They have done a terrific job on us.

Yes, family life has is quirks, but they should never be worried about us anymore. Instead, they should enjoy their golden years with us in this great happy family... their children, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren together.

Below are the homes we stormed in with thunderous clasps of enjoyment together... amid the showers of beautiful colors each family brightly brought together.

Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bloom: Landscape Moods

Flowers blooming at Sun Plaza Park Tampines, SG

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Second Day Celebrations

We received a call from Wifey's Sis that her eldest brother and his family from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia were coming over to our home for the Hari Raya visits.

We hosted them today. Wifey had been preparing to cook Mee Bakso for them upon my suggestion from so many dishes that she wanted to cook for them before she became so undecided.

Unfortunately, Wifey's little under-the-weather condition did not lightened-up. It left her quite weak and in no mood or strength to cook... we would want to infect our guests either.

So off I went in to buy Murtabak Ayam to serve our guests. It was a challenge though, because most Muslim food stall are closed for several days on end to celebrate this festive occasion.

Only the fourth Indian Muslim stall at Tampines Street 81 I went to was open that sold Murtabak. Phew!

While waiting for the food to be cooked, I could not help but sampled their Prata Kosong with thick beef curry and drown it with coffee for brunch.

Wifey's eldest brother & family from KL

Welcome to our home!

Our guests came at about 3:00pm... Wifey's elder sisters from West Coast and her eldest brother and his family from KL.

It was unfortunate that Wifey's Mom could not come to visit her daughters here in Singapore. She is celebrating with her other sons and daughters, and with her siblings at her home in KL.

It was great of them to make the 5 to 6 hour trip from KL, to cross the border and visit us after about a year of not seeing one another, but only spoken through phone calls from time to time.

While the children played PC and X-Box games in my Son's room, we adults watched Mr. & Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity movies on DVDs.

Towards late afternoon, after so much feasting, one by one the children began to dose off. Good food, good games and all energy spent. While they recharge, we adults continue with lots of conversation to catch-up with one another after being apart for a year.

Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar (front left) on-board ISS with Expedition 15 & 16 crew

Sharing One Proud Moment...

One topic that cropped-up that is currently hot amongst Malaysians, was the first Malay cosmonaut from Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar who is now on-board the ISS, conducting scientific experiments before coming back to earth after he spends 8 days there.

A great triumph for the Malay race indeed.

We share the proud moments from across the causeway too.

Wifey & her nieces from KL

Like all good things...

Well, as the saying goes... all good things must come to an end.

Our beloved guests left us for yet another year. As always we wish to go to KL one of these days to spend time with them.

Wifey misses her Mom and her siblings have already planned to bring us around KL when we visit them later this year, hopefully.

As Hari Raya is only into its second day, there will be more visitors and visits from us in turn to reconnect long, lost ties with family and long-time friends for this whole month of Syawal.

Looking forward to everyday.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

First Day Celebrations

Syawal Family Portrait 2007. Our family tradition

Preparations in Ramadan for Hari Raya Eidulfitri this year was not that hectic when spread and started spring cleaning, house-keeping and little maintenances around the house early, in fact well before the fasting month.

So there was not really anything last-minute to do on the eve... except our priced carpets gave us the surprise when both appeared yellowish with ugly brown spot left Wifey totally shocked.

Carpets & more carpets at Geylang Raya Bazaar

Last day, last minute, last time.

We had to drop by Geylang Serai Raya Bazaar right after our last break of fasting for the month to hunt and get replacements... well, it was time enough to retire the old carpets anyway.

Phew! What a relief we got the two 6x9 ft "wormy-woven" carpets that we contemplated to buy for S$190.00 each down from S$250.00 from the weeks before.

Knowingly, the last day of Ramadan is when most stocks are to be cleared at low-low prices at the bazaar. The stall owners have no shop or storerooms too keep them, so they have to let go to clear before Hari Raya.

Syawal morning dew. Heading for Eidulfitri prayer

And the morning after...

In the morning, a faint sound from the nearby Darul Gufran Mosque praising The Almighty in the morning of Eidulfitri never fails to warm my heart with thankfulness.

The start of a wonderful month-long celebrations of visits to family and friends home is an exciting thought to me. We seek forgiveness from one another for all the wrong-doings we may done and ill-thoughts we may have harbored throughout the year before.

Syawal mornings look especially beautiful without a doubt...

This morning was no exception. Cool, clean air and dewy... dreamy even after a heavy shower the night before, as my Son and I walked down to the mosque for our 8:00 o'clock morning Eidulfitri prayers.

Wifey stayed home to prepare breakfast of Lontong and Kuah Lodeh with a touch of spicy Sambal Udang and Serunding Lembu topping. Heaven!

This morning would be our first breakfast after a month-long of fasting in the day.

Eidulfitri morning prayers at Darul Gufran Mosque

Dads, sons, brothers, fellow Muslims...

Everyone was "decked" in colorful clothes. Cheery-faced little sons with their tired-looking dads; most probably because of the lack of sleep the few nights before, busy with tons of last minute cleaning-up and the overnight ketupat-cooking.

The mosque was expectedly crowded so tents were erected outside the open field in front of the mosque, but there were just too many people this morning that extra canvases were spread almost over the entire field to accommodate rows and rows of people ready for the morning prayers.

It was evident to see trails and trails of cars and pickups and trucks lined both sides of the roads leading to the mosque.

On normal days the traffic police would have a field day issuing tickets for illegal parking on double yellow lines and near traffic junctions, but not on this auspicious day and every Fridays for that matter, when mosques are usually packed.

We were so fortunate, when a man called-out to us as we just happened to pass by the row that had exactly two empty spaces for us. It would take several rounds around the parameter to look for "cracks" in the prayer lines to "slot" ourselves in.

Eidulfitri prayers are always reminders that we should continue our restraints and good habits as how we observed ourselves in Ramadan.

Family clusters photo-taking sessions at parents' place

Smile, snaps and more smiles all day!

Wifey was feeling a little under the weather this morning, so we stayed at home watching holiday movies and Hari Raya variety shows until it was time for us to go to our parents' place for visiting.

As a family tradition, it will not be right until we have taken our Hari Raya Family Portrait like we do every year since we were all "decked-up" so vibrantly in our colorful traditional Malay Baju Kurung.

Notice this year is a little different. The only lady in the house is now in the centre. Since our Son had turned 12 last June, he is practically a teenager, befitting to protect his mother like I am to her.

It drizzled a little on and off today, but it was just nice and cool weather nonetheless. A downpour will not deter families from visiting... just a little late arriving only.

So off we went to join my siblings at my parents' house in Woodlands. Wifey's Mom is in KL, Malaysia, so we could only called to wish her and seek her forgiveness over the phone.

Else like a few before, we would spend half a day at each home, which meant fully stuffed stomachs by the end of the day!

They do not call it a day of feating after fasting for nothing!

Mom & Dad: The Happy Couple

Great fun, great food, great family!

I just could not believe that my two old folks had incredible energy to shop and cook for hours in the kitchen the 5 dishes that traditionally to Eidulfitri... Sambal Goreng Udang, Kuah Satay Tetil, Kari Daging, Kuah Lodeh and Udang Masak Merah.

Interestingly enough, each of the 5 dishes was cooked in mind of their various children's favourite dish. My is definitely Sambal Goreng Udang which Mom makes the best!

Mom also received lots of Raya Cookies and dishes from her Malay neighbours very early in the morning too. It was totally great family get-together... a small home that could accommodate easily more than 30 people.

Several of Dad's relatives came by too with their families that could have filled my parents' house with about 45 people. It would have been termed an illegal gathering if it were not for this festive celebration.

Stayed there until after 9:00pm.

Son and two of his 20 odd cousins

And we will meet again...

We will be meeting each other again this Saturday for the house-to-house visiting, by a chartered a coach for the whole day. This would be the highlight of our Raya celebrations when we get to go to our relatives' houses.

This is indeed a wonderful time of the year!

Selamat Hari Raya!

Time For Great Celebrations!

Here's wishing all Muslims the world over
A blessed Ramadan to the soul
A joyful Syawal with family and friends
Forging new ties & keeping old ones closer
Leaving past mistakes behind with forgiveness

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ramadan Ends Tonight

After a month of fasting
Abstaining from earthly desires
While cleansing ourselves with prayers and charities
May the Almighty bless your efforts
For tonight is the last night of Ramadan

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Zakat And Fitrah

I feel so relieved that I have fulfilled my obligation as a Muslim to pay my dues during this holy month of Ramadan for this year.

In the morning, Wifey and I gave out our Zakat Harta, or savings taxes to the unfortunate someone we know that is close to us... some money to get her by to celebrate Hari Raya Eidulfitri with her son and daughter.

Tonight, via telepoll, I have paid my Zakat Fitrah for the whole of my family of three. My heart feels so happy, partly because Hari Raya is a day away but mostly because my Islamic Taxes have been paid to help other Muslim families that are unfortunate.

I include below a good and concise description of what Ramadan and Zakat are all about from a Zakat booklet distributed to all Muslim households from Singapore's head of Muslim Affairs:

"The arrival of every Ramadan opens wide the doors of Allah's bounty for all Muslims. Fasting is a religious obligation that nurtures the body and soul; an exercise for the restraint of lust so that we do not transgress bounds. Fasting is also a character-shaping experience that aims to elevate the status of human beings. In a Hadith Qudsi, Allah has described fasting as a servant's act of worship dedicated to his God: "Each deed by the son of Adam is for himself except fasting. Verily fasting is Mine and it is I who will give reward for it."

Fasting is not just about abstaining from food and drink in the day. We need to observe the spirit of Ramadan by respecting its sanctity. It is not a month to be lazy or reduce productivity, be it at work or at home, neither is it a month of neglecting our children's studies or to waste on unnecessary things. We need to increase our daily deeds and to stop bad habits. Each and every one of us should abstain from whatever is forbidden in Islam.

Ramadan trains us to better ourselves so that we would become true Muslims. Everything that we do must be done with sincerity and patience in order to achieve good results. Allah has promised boundless rewards and benefits to each faithful person who increases his good deeds during the month of Ramadan.

Apart from fasting, Muslims in Singapore pay their zakat during this month. It is important for each Muslim to fulfill his zakat responsibilities in the correct manner, as required in Islam. Allah has made zakat compulsory as a social justice system for the good of the ummah. If it is not performed as specified by Him, then the outcome will not be as favourable... With transparency and integrity, your zakat will be managed effectively and for the benefit of the ummah.

Let us perfect this Ramadan with a heightened sense of God-consciousness by radiating blessings and compassion to all. Let's make this Ramadan a month full of the beauty of our good deeds, which will bring cheer to our families, neighbours and friends, regardless of race or religion.

Have a blessed Ramadan. May Allah bless our deeds. Amin."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Steps In Time...

Wifey & Son on Christmas Day 2004.
Huber Heights, Dayton Ohio, USA.

This is an interesting widget to plot and percentile the places you've been around the world. Thanks to Tanie from Pink Icing for introducing it in her blog.

I started late and got into traveling only when I got married... a honeymoon to Padang Indonesia. Lake Meninjau was especially a spectacular and magical place to be.

Then we had our second honeymoon to Bali Indonesia. A truly tranquil paradise. The place where we conceived our Son. The Bali bombing did not do any justice to anyone at all.

We were fortunate to be traveling to the US because of my work.

I brought both Wifey and Son together in all the business trips I had to go and made the best with each and every opportunity when we were there, taking weekend trips to places farther than where our hotels were.

The photo above is especially memorable simply because the day we were to fly home, our flight was canceled twice. That year was a record snowfall for Dayton, Ohio.

I guess we wanted to experience snow so much that we wished for it too hard and got snowed-in... marooned in our hotel room. I learned a lesson then that we should be careful for what we wish for.

So we were stuck for three more days, spending Christmas day in Ohio.

The news reported that no driving was allowed except for emergency vehicles only. I realized then that the semis were actually the heart of everything... sending food and stuff all over the country.

We hardly see any semis for those three days, so the fast food joints and restaurants were all closed. It was strange to see Burger King, Mac Donalds' and Long John Silver closed.

The only place open was Target, where we had to buy food to stock in our hotel room and where I had my first taste of pecan-pie. Yummy! Kind of miss it though.

That triggered the travel-bug in us to go to Europe and African islands.

We travel to experience stunning natural landscapes and unique cultures each place has to offer. The beautiful white sandy beaches are our first option for an ideal vacation destination. An eye-opener for all three of us indeed.

Like Tanie said, so many countries, so little money... sigh.

Monday, October 08, 2007

That Goes Bump...

"OK, you tell me when to turn" was the cab driver's jovial response when I told him my destination once I got into his cab this morning.

My cab driver for this morning was a small-build, most probably caffeinated uncle who was bursting with energy.

Driving fast and furious, he was so efficiently scarifying me with his driving skills as he maneuvered past between cars and switching lanes. At one point barely beat the red light along Tampines Avenue 10.

He started-up a chat with me, but I was too distracted with the driving that it took me several seconds lag before I could answer him. I eventually stopped responding to his questions by acting busy tapping my PDA away... to let him just concentrate of his "race."

It is not uncommon for cab drivers to scamper around fast just to be able to squeeze time to get as many trips as possible. The morning peak hours surcharge of S$2.00 per trip excluding the metered fare is lucrative draw in itself... but this ride takes the cake for teleportating passengers from point A to point B.

Just when it was about 60 metres away from my workplace, this cab driver finally succumbed to the lure of bumper to bumper kiss for tailgating a white van too closely as we approached the traffic light.

A screech and then a loud thud was felt, though it did not jerk me forward that hard, it was a good enough kiss on the backside of the van that made its driver quickly jumped out of his vehicle to inspect the damage.

My feisty cab driver got out from his cab too and the two started talking in their native Hokkien language.

"Great! Will I be late for work now..." I thought to myself, "should I be a witness if this dispute gets out of hand." I wondered. I should be thanking The Almighty for keeping me safe instead.

Fortunately, there was no dent at all to the van nor to the cab itself. I guess with the little cab driver's apologetic gestures and big innocent smiles, the driver of the white van went on his way without the situation turning ugly.

"Nothing... lah!" he assured me as he got back into the cab, "just a little bump. That's all." Or was he soothing himself?

I alighted and while giving him the exact fare, I gave him a gentle reminder as well... to take care of himself and others while driving on the road. "You gave me a scare with your driving."

You got off easy this time... was actually what my mind was saying. I got off unscathed.

"OK, thank you! Thank you!" as he nodded and smiled at me as I closed the cab door.

Wonder if the 4D numbers will strike... will be my colleagues' spontaneous thought of my story if I had told them... cab number 6420, van number 6555. Pick your number guys!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Smoke Them Out?

This is something funny yet true.

A friend walked up to my cubicle today to talk about work and then started to talk about smokers' predicament as the company is trying to curb smoking anywhere within the office building... not even along the open-air corridors.

It is being suggested that all smokers will have to go outside the building where a large Mango tree is to be the designated smoking area.

If implemented, anyone from the 5-storey building will have to go to the ground floor open space to have a break... a huff before the puff. Rain or shine. Well, they have to hold an umbrella while smoking in the rain if the need kicks in too hard to pass.

Fortunately, I do not smoke and actually hate second-hand smoking... not the smokers though, just their habits. Fortunately too that none in my family of 10 smoke.

Personally, I think smokers are slowly killing themselves and endangering their families and bystanders from inhaling their exhausted "breath of death" at the same time.

I think they are taking the nation's cost of medical pie to support their habit's end result after they invited and finally develop some form of smoking-related diseases especially cancer.

Smoking is even lethal while in bed... that recreational puff can poof the whole house if it caught fire.

Anyway, back to the smoking-in-the-building-ban policy... it triggered my friend to talk about the bigger picture of the smokers' predicament in Singapore.

The authorities continually try to make smokers kick their destructive habit by curbing smoking in air-conditioned or enclosed areas, and areas where there are a concentration of people to avoid second-hand smoking.

That is all good and I applaud the move.

On the economic side of it, the authorities had increased the price of this legal drug per pack and had about a year and a half, restricted the cigarette pack from the various choices of 7, 10, 12... 20 sticks per pack to only just packs of 20 sticks available island-wide.

The intention is to deter teenagers from being able to afford using their pocket money to buy the cheapest pack of 7 sticks for themselves.

Now that the pack of 20 sticks has become even more expensive with increased taxation, the teenagers work around it by pooling money with their smoker-friends to buy the pack and share amongst themselves!

Formerly there were a few teenagers in groups of close friends hanging-out and smoking together, now the same groups have become even larger... and even more "tightly-knitted" than before, simply by banding together in this habit in the rush for "adulthood."

That is not all. Nowadays, teenagers can opt to work part-time to get extra pocket money. So with that buying power, a pack of 20 sticks each is a charm... however expensive it can get.

That would have probably resulted in each teenager smoking even more sticks a day, simply because the taste will be a little off after the 3rd day onwards. That is what the adult smokers are doing anyway... trying to finish the pack within a two-day period.

This is precisely what my friend was doing.

He was a 5 to 6-sticks-a-day smoker when his regular pack was a 10 stick. Since the ban of smaller packs to only 20 stick a pack, he started to increase his daily smoke breaks to 10.

The cigarette simply did not taste well after the 3rd day, hence the rush to finish the whole pack before it was "spoiled."

I guess, with the stubbornness of hardcore smokers and the lure of budding newbies make the efforts quite useless. At least one thing is for sure... the economics of taxing cigarettes to the all time high, benefits at least some "body."

Wonder what will happen if this island bans cigarettes altogether?

Will the hardcores retaliate with hostile abandonment? Will the smokers fight-for-smog be secretly syndicated and sponsored by the tobacco companies?

Internally, will there be a temporary yet lucrative market to benefit economically from setting up of cold-turkey centres?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ramadan Week 4

Wishing All Muslims
An enlightened spirit
With praises to The Almighty
As we journey into the fourth week of
The holy month of Ramadan

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My Yesteryear Raya

Around this time of the year, during the Ramadan month, the most anticipated day will always be 1st Syawal... Hari Raya Eidulfitri.

It is the celebration of faith after a month of abstaining from food and drink, and leaving the bad habits like smoking and trivial-yet-destructive habits like idle gossiping from sunrise till sunset.

Passing by the office cafeteria that is being renovated, the smell of fresh paint reminded me of the coming Raya excitement that always felt intensely while I was a child.

Those Wonderful Kampung Days...

It never ceased to make me smile to myself whenever I recall the wonderful times I had while I was a child back in the kampung days during Ramadan.

As a child of seven to ten years old, the toughest thing to do was to not break my fast. I was really hungry at about lunch time and the worst stomach-groaning hunger pains at about 3 to 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

From then onwards, I would survive the rest of the hours until break fast at about 7:oo pm.

The most challenging was to skip playing... running around across the village, climbing trees and other physically demanding activities a hyperactive child that I was, would play with my friends until we were flat out.

After the fun came the thirst. Tough luck! None of us would give up and break our fasting by quenching our thirsts with a gulp of water. We were that competitive then, I guess.

Instead, I think we dozed off once we were back in our homes... all energy spent.

One funny thing that happens to many children and some adults... I guess I am included, would accidentally reach for a drink and some times actually gulped down before we realized that we have started fasting early into Ramadan.

Fortunately, rule for the day's fast will still be valid as long as it was not intentional. Phew!

I was totally skinny child mainly because I spent more calories than I took in. On top of that, I was too choosy with food. I chose not to eat and suffered the hunger pains than being forced to eat something... yucky.

Yet, during Ramadan, all was reversed. All the food Mom or Sis cooked looked and smelt delicious. I would eat anything that was served at break fast... it tasted heavenly at sunset.

Hari Raya Is Coming Soon...

All that fasting was telling me that Hari Raya was coming soon. Simply because the many wonderful things my senses told me...

The smell of fresh paint in the air when Dad and my elder Brothers started to pain our wooden house with new colors for the year.

The smell of Mom's and elder Sisters' baked Raya cookies and cakes a couple of weeks before Syawal. The whole village would smell heavenly. My friends and I would go around the village homes, went very near to the kitchen windows to smell and guess what cookie our neighbours were baking.

Fasting then became even more challenging to not break it when the aunties would give us a piece or two cookies. We would save it for break fast. I can still remember Bik Aton who gave me Kuih Bantal Peluk or pineapple roll cookie that looked like a miniature bolster.

At home, I would always loiter around my Mom and elder Sisters who were baking cookies hoping that they would break or burn a few pieces that had to be discarded instead of going into the air-tight container for the visiting guests.

I would get a few to save and eat them after the break fast. Though on occasions, I failed and eat it there and then and regretted it later when I was not able to join the family at the same table during break fast... for I had broken mine halfway.

I would watch my Mom sow the Raya drapes with the manual leg-powered sowing machine... seeing all the mechanical parts moving in sync. She made beautiful curtains every year that would be hung the night before Syawal.

And the most interactive and actually meant something to me was when I finally get to contribute in the preparations of Hari Raya - weaving the Ketupat cases, a traditional Malay rice dumpling cooked in a weaved coconut shoots.

I think it is an ingenious Malay creation easily hundreds of year ago, when Malay merchants had to bring food while traveling long distances for weeks. The cooked rice cases could last for weeks.

They would weave and cook new ones when there was opportunity to stay in one place long enough. It may very well have been an early version of eco-friendly packed meal-on-the-go.

Ketupat Equals Hari Raya...

Today, the ketupat is a traditional symbol of Malays celebration Eidulfitri... though not many Malays actually know how to weave it.

It is somewhat a dying tradition as the new generations fore-go the hassle to weave and cook it. Some have a ribbon version of it for decoration purposes only.

I remember learning the weaving techniques from Dad and Mom through repeated practices after numerous wrong turns and torn leaves.

Once we weaved about a hundred cases, Mom would prepare the rice after cleaning it with water, ready to be placed into each case before sealing it with a last slide-in-lock of the leave.

The cooking took 8 hours or more. The longer the hours the longer the ketupat will last. My job was to keep a lookout and top-up the residing water level in the big steel pot while keeping the fire going.

Dad makes the most tightly woven and consistent size ketupats. It was always too beautiful to eat and he knew it... and proud of it. My eldest Brother had since succeeded Dad for the title.

These cases were hung to dry and cut down each case whenever anyone wanted to eat it.

The rice dumpling was eaten with almost any Raya dish... Rendang, Kuah Satay, Sambal Goreng and many more than I care to elaborate, now that I start to feel hungry talking about food.

The Express Generation...

Nowadays, many young families choose to buy either the woven cases or the cooked ketupat from Geylang Serai market out of convenience since both parents work and have little time to toil in the kitchen.

Hope the art of weaving ketupat will not die with my generation.

I would certainly like to impart it down to my son.