Geylang Serai – as vibrant as 60 years ago

Geylang Serai – as vibrant as
60 years ago

 

A section of the Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS) building.

Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS) grandly celebrated its first anniversary for three days from 17-19 January 2020 with lots of activities, including a record-breaking Community Batik Painting attempt.   It was a community event and anyone could participate for any lemgth of time in the painting event which started at 4 pm on the first day of the celebration and ended at 4 pm on the last day.

Enthusiasts engrossed in their painting of the rolled batik cloth with judges keeping an eye on their effort.

Among the participants were my family friends Ms Syabanun (holding her handphone) and her mother, Mdm Salmah. 

Dr Mohd Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hailed the record-breaking achievement of the community in producing a batik painting of 550m long, smashing the previous record of 300m.

The community broke the previous record:  Dr Maliki (right, white shirt) holding the certificate that shows the painting effort stands at a record-breaking length of 550m. (Screenshot from WGS Facebook)

In launching the celebration on the first day, the Guest-of-Honour, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, in his concluding his speech, said: “While the Government can set aside the physical spaces, and build structures like Wisma Geylang Serai, it is you – the people and our community – who are Geylang Serai’s true heart.”

Indeed, we have come a long way from the days when Geylang Serai was a kampung where I lived when I was from 8 years old to 21 (from the late 1950s and in the 60s). My growing-up days in Geylang Serai is recorded in my book, “A kite in the evening sky”.

From left:  “A kite in the evening sky”, was published by EPB Publishers in 1989, republished by Federal Publications in 2000 as a school literature textbook, and republished again by Marshall Cavendish in 2018.

The blurb: Message about the story on the back cover of the book.

To but to get a glimpse of my kampung days from the late 1950s and the 1960s, do read the article, “Geylang Serai: The kampung memories that lasts a lifetime”, in The Straits Times of 22 July 2009, reproduced for easy-reading here, below this photo of the ST article.

The story of my kampung days in The Straits Times of 22 July 2009…

************************** 

Geylang Serai: The kampung memories that last a lifetime”

THE new Geylang Serai market opened earlier this month – on the very same site as the old one.

The event brought back many memories for me for I lived in Geylang Serai from the age of eight to 21. I had seen it grow from a kampung into a conglomeration of ultra-modern buildings. But it is the area’s kampung days that I cherish most for they are associated with the days of my childhood.

After my father died, my mother, my sister and I moved from Chinatown to Paya Lebar and then, in 1954 when I was eight years old, to Geylang Serai. We lived not far away from a kampung mosque, Masjid Aminah, now relocated to nearby Jalan Eunos and called Masjid Darul Aman. My mother rented a room in a row of attap houses for $14 a month.

My house had no tap, so I had to collect fresh water from the government standpipe a little distance away. I usually did this at night, carrying two pails. It took a few trips to the standpipe to fill the water-drum in our tiny kitchen area. On my last trip, I would bathe at the standpipe, enjoying the cold water, before returning to my room.

There was an entertainment centre in the area called the Eastern World Amusement Park. It had rides, games galleries and snack stalls. Though the entrance fee to the park was a nominal sum, we children would insist on sneaking into the park through secretly-made holes in the zinc fence.

Beside the park was the Taj cinema, where Tamil, Hindi and Malay movies were screened to packed houses during weekends. We boys found it more fun to watch cowboy and Tarzan films at the open-air cinema located at Jalan Alsagoff. It cost only 10 cents to watch movies there.

Once, as we watched a travelling wagon being set on fire in a cowboy movie, we suddenly realised that the screen was really burning – perhaps because vandals had set it on fire. The show was abandoned, much to our dismay.

Another popular cinema was The Garricks, which showed English movies. Located at the junction of Onan Road and Geylang Road, where The Galaxy is currently located, the cinema screened English and Hindi movies. Its front seats cost 50 cents, as at the Taj, and so we seldom patronised it, though we often went there to look at the photos of the movies being shown.

In front of the Taj, in the area where Northlight School is now located, there were many food and drinks stalls. Men would play sepak raga there, standing in a circle as they used their legs, shoulders and heads to toss a rattan ball to one another.

Nearby, in an open field, we boys would play with tops and marbles. In the kite season during windy April, we would watch young men fly kites and engage in ‘kite battles’. Boys carrying salvaging poles would run after the ‘losing’ kites, often stepping on food spread out to dry on the ground or on roaming chicks. With the curses of residents ringing in their ears, the boys would run away.

Beside the amusement park was a bus terminal fronting Changi Road. The diesel buses plied routes from the city to Jalan Eunos, Kaki Bukit and faraway Changi Point, while the trolley buses, which ran on electricity from overhead electric cables, plied routes from Geylang Serai to the city.

The terminal area was often crowded with people who had made purchases at the popular wet market on Changi Road, where the Joo Chiat Complex is now located. Trishaw riders waited in the vicinity to take housewives with their heavy purchases home to the kampungs nearby.

The terminal was littered with leaves from the many Madras thorn trees in the area – and also with used bus tickets. I would go round with a friend to collect clean used tickets and arrange them according to value, the lowest being 5 cents. We used the tickets to play number-guessing games.

One day, as we were collecting these tickets, my friend found a 10-cent coin. We rushed off to buy a packet of nasi lemak – coconut-flavoured rice with sambal, a piece of cucumber, a tamban fish and a bit of fried egg, all wrapped up in banana leaf, which in turn was wrapped in old newspaper. Between the two of us, the food was gone in no time.

Finding the 10-cent coin was a piece of good luck. But there was another time when I was even luckier. At the edge of the present Malay Village, there used to be four rows of shops. One afternoon, I went to a bookshop there to look at some Malay books. As I was leaving, an elderly man in the shop tapped my shoulder and gave me an old English book.

That book – Grimms’ Fairy Tales – stirred my interest in reading, and I went on to read most of the books in the library cabinet in my classroom. I was then a Primary 6 pupil at Telok Kurau Primary School.

Some time in the middle of that year, my principal, Mr Ratnam Sabapathy, a strict man who walked around with a cane in his hand, made an announcement during the morning assembly.

‘Singapore now has a Prime Minister,’ he said. ‘He is Mr Lee Kuan Yew – and he was a student at this school.’

The year was 1959, when Singapore became a self-governing state.

Shaik Kadir, a retired teacher, is a freelance writer.

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Three quotations from my book, “A kite in the evening sky”, are exhibited in the exhibition hall of WGS, the Geylang Serai Heritage Gallery.  The gallery, apart from showcasing the history of the precinct and tracing its growth from an outlying settler community in the 19th  century to the suburban business precinct as it is today, also features the memories and experiences of its past and present residents, and interweave these stories with thematic displays of images and objects.

I lived in a room of a “long house” with attap roof that leaked when it rained…

My “house” had no electricity and water tap.  We used kerosene lamps. For water, I had to use two pails to carry the water from the government roadside standpipe. The bucket-drawn toilet, too, was far away.

I walked to and from school every day, a distance of more than 3 km.

The blurb (back cover message) of the Federal Publications’ “A kite in the evening sky” says: “Besides depicting the the kampung activities, the book brings out vividly the cultural and religious practices of the kampung folk of Geylang Serai and their close-knit community life.”

Shaik Kadir
22 January 2020

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Part 2 “We are a family forever.”

Part 2

“We are a family forever.”

With 30 years of experience in hosting the Participating Youths (PYs) of the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Programme (SSEAYP) for its homestay stint, the author of the book, “The ship that spreads friendship”, wrote it with the aim of bringing the people of ASEAN and Japan together in the spirit of SSEAYP.

Recently, on 16 November, some 330 PYs from ASEAN and Japan arrived in Singapore for a 4-night stay in Singapore, spending two nights in the homes of Singapore families to gain local lifestyle experiences and building a friendship.

A 2-part article has been written on this year’s SSEAPY PYs’ visit to Singapore. The first part, titled “A memoir written in honour of SSEAYP homestay host families”, was published in this blog (the author’s blog) on 30 November 2019. Today, the blog carries the second part, “We are a family forever” a phrase mentioned by one of the four PYs who stayed with the author for the homestay.

During the 3-day homestay stint, the PYs mingled with the members of the homestay families learning about their way of life and taking the hosts as their foster parents and forging a strong relationship between them.

Open Ship

It was an exciting moment for the PYs to meet their foster families on board Nippon Maru.  They were happy to take them to the decks for photos before the ship separates them to take the PYs to the next destination.

Sending off our homestay PYs: On board Nippon Maru with homestay host families. The other photo below shows the author and his wife and their homestay PYs, from left, Anh from Vietnam; Mizah from Brunei Darussalam; Fairy from Vietnam and Tonee from Laos with Mr Yacob Hussain, President of SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS).

Tour of the Nippon Maru: Meeting some Singapore’s past PYs at the deck of the ship, and taking a photo with Shubaa who the author interviewed for “The ship that spreads friendship” (See pages 53 and 54). The last photo shows Mr Halim Kader who is one of the three Advisers of SIS, and his two granddaughters.

Goodbye hugs with our homestay PYs.

Homestay hosts at the wharf platform waiting for the farewell ceremony.

Farewell ceremony

Mr Darryl David, Member of Parliament of the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency, was the Guest-of-Honour at the Farewell Ceremony of SSEAYP 2019.

During the ceremony, the PYs appeared contingent by contingent on the connecting bridge in representing their country to bid goodbye to Singapore.  

Farewell Ceremony at the wharf: Mr Darryl David (second from left), Member of Parliament of the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency, is the Guest-of-Honour at the Farewell Ceremony of SSEAYP 2019. He and the other three ceremony officials are awaiting the appearance of the 10 ASEAN contingents and the Japanese contingent who will take turn to appear at the ship-wharf connecting bridge.

Each of the 11 PY contingents taking turns to appear at the connecting bridge to make their short but spirited farewell performance.

Farewell gesture

From the ship, the PYs threw rolls of farewell ribbon to their foster parents on the wharf to hold on to till the ribbons snap one by one as the ship moved away from the harbour’s edge heading for the next port of call.

Displaying their “goodbye emotion” with ribbons: The ribbons, being held at one hand by the PYs on board Nippon Maru and the other end held by their homestay families, snap one by one as the ship moves away slowly from the wharf with both sides waving at each other till the ship goes out of sight…

Yes, Mr Joey Koh, points to the ship that is on its way to the next port of call spreading its mission of friendship.

As homestay families leave the harbour

Keeping friendship after leaving the wharf: Host families at the connecting walkway to exit the Singapore Cruise Centre.

Some host families, spotting the author, decided to get the author’s autograph for “The ship that spreads friendship”

Spreading the SSEAYP story

“The ship that spreads friendship” has been given to every PY of the SSEAYP 2019, and this gesture would see the book further spreading the friendship in all the 10 ASEAN countries and Japan.

“The ship that spreads friendship” also spreads its friendship in Singapore: Photos, clockwise from left, show Mdm Fatimah Ibrahim, past SSEAYP homestay host, Mdm Nor Ain Saleha, SSEAYP PY 1981, Mdm SK Yap and Mr Sherwin Loo, and Mr CT Ong and Mdm SK Yap with the author.

Mdm Nor Ain Saleha, in her WhatsApp message to me, said: “I’ve finished reading your book, and enjoyed reading it. Congrats to you and Khairon for decades of contribution to the SSEAYP fraternity. Glad your book acknowledged arwah Ihsan.  I missed Allahyarham who was my colleague at the Singapore Sports Council. May his soul rest among the pious. Alfateha.” (Mr Mohamed Ihsan, who urged the author to be a homestay host in 1989 and who was mentioned in the book, passed away in 1999.)

Singaporean second-year university student in Melbourne, Miss Sabrina Jeffery Low, reading the book to get inspiration to join SSEAYP after her graduation.

“The ship that spreads friendship” goes to the Philippines: The middle photo shows Mr Yacob Hussain, President of SSEAYP International Singapore, presenting the book to Mr Bong Manlulu II, Chairman of SSEAYP International Philippines.

During reunion gathering in the Philippines: Members happy to receive “The ship that spreads friendship” from Mr Yacob Hussain who is in the Philippines attending the reunion of the 1992 SSEAYP batch PYs.

In the Philippines: Mr Yacob Hussain presenting the book to Ms Yulia Indahri, the author’s foster daughter, SSEAYP homestay PY of 1992. The attached photo, taken in 1992, shows the author and their foster children, Yulia from Indonesia and Nor Hairos Cik Mat from Malaysia, on board Nippon Maru on the day of Open Ship.

Till we meet again…

Next year Singapore is not a port of call and therefore there will be no homestay for SSEAYP PYs. This situation made a homestay host a bit sad. Mdm Hadijah, who took two PYs this year, said: “Hope to see all our homestay family members again.  And we await for our next PYs in 2021.”

Mdm Hadijah Osman and her husband, Mr Zakaria Mohd Shariff with their foster children, left, Sainati from Malaysia and Evee from Vietnam, PYs of SSEAYP 2019: “And we await for our next PYs in 2021.”

The relationship between the PYs and their homestay families is summed up by the author’s foster son from Vietnam in his postcard, thus: “We are a family forever.”

Postcard from my foster son, Nguyen Viet Anh (Anh), 2019 SSEAYP PY from Vietnam: “No word can express how grateful I have been for being your foster son. I wish health and happiness stayed with you forever. We are a family forever.”

Today (7 December 2019), Nippon Maru has ferried the PYs from Malaysia to Japan, the final port of call for this year’s SSEAYP.  After the homestay in Japan, the PYs, on 13 December, will fly to their respective countries in ASEAN, after gaining 52 days of SSEAYP experience.

Shaik Kadir
8 December 2019

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Part 1 A memoir written in honour of  SSEAYP homestay host families

Part 1

A memoir written in honour of  SSEAYP homestay host families

Recently the book, “The ship that spreads friendship”, was published by the SSEAYP International Singapore, and given away free to all Singapore homestay host families of the participating youths (PYs) of the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP).  All PYs from ASEAN and Japan too received a free copy each on board the ship, Nippon Maru, on the day they left Singapore.

The famous Nippon Maru: The ship that spreads friendship.

The Japanese-mooted programme, SSEAYP, began its friendship mission in 1974 by ferrying its participating youths (PYs) from ASEAN and Japan for self-development activities as well as homestays for about 52 days during each annual SSEAYP trip.

This year, a total of some 330 PYs of SSEAYP were in Singapore for five days from 16 November.

Welcome Ceremony

At the Resort World Sentosa on Saturday 16 November 2019, during the 46th SSEAYP 2019 Welcome Ceremony for this year’s PYs. all the contingents of the 10 member ASEAN countries and Japan were warmly welcomed by the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Transport.

After addressing the huge attendance, “The ship that spreads friendship” was launched by Mr Baey who unveiled a big poster of the book. A copy of the book was then presented to him by the author who is a SSEAYP homestay host for 30 years now, since 1989.

The following are some photos of the memorable occasion.

Awaiting the moment for the book to be unveiled.

The book is unveiled by the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Baey Yam Keng.

“The ship that spreads friendship” is launched and a copy is presented to Mr Baey.

The title of the book places emphasis on friendship. 

Some photos of the homestay families who wanted their copies to be autographed by the author.

Some of the homestay host families and the PYs from ASEAN and Japan having a nice time at the 46th SSEAYP Welcome Ceremony at the Resort World Sentosa.

Author’s homestay PYs

Since 1989, the author and his wife, Khairon, have been taking two PYs each year.  However, for the first time this year, due to general requests from the organisers, they took an additional two.  The four are, one PY from Brunei Darussalam, one from Laos and two from Vietnam.

After the launching of “The ship that spreads friendship” and the Welcome Ceremony in Sentosa, the four excited PYs headed to the home of the author for the 3-day homestay stint.

They are (from left) Bui Thuy Tien (Fairy) from Vietnam; Nur Hamizah Ziadi (Mizah) from Brunei Darussalam; Songvilay Phetsamone (Tonee) from Laos, and Nguyen Viet Anh (Anh) from Vietnam. The boys were wearing “I love Singapore” tee-shirts given to them by the author’s wife, Khairon, in yellow attire. In the other photo, Fairy is wearing a blue Indian attire lent to her by Khairon.

Deepavali Celebration

The Deepavali Celebration, organised by the SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS), was held at the Jurong Town Hall on Sunday 17 November for invited guests, not for the international PYs as they were enjoying their homestay stint on this day. However, the author, his wife and his four homestay PYs were invited. The Guest-of-Honour of the function was Singapore’s President, Madam Halimah Yacob.

The following are some memorable photos taken at the celebration.

Happy moments with friends at the Deepavali Ceremony.

Many Chinese and Malays attend the function wearing Indian attire in the spirit of “Truly Singapore” togetherness.

At the ceremony, Japanese officials as well some other officials each received a signed copy of “The ship that spreads friendship”.

Happy to receive a copy of “The ship that spreads friendship”.

When the Guest-of-Honour, the President of Singapore, Mdm Halimah Yacob, arrived, she was introduced to the author and given a copy of the book.

My PYs had a nice and enjoyable Singapore homestay experience. Other PYs would have experienced the same pleasure too with their respective host families.

One of my PYs, Nur Hamizah Mohd Ziadi (Mizah) from Brunei Darussalam, said she would come back to Singapore next year.

Mizah said: “I love my homestay family and because of that I was waiting eagerly to receive the book, and when I received it on the ship, I began reading it whenever I had the time.”

Mizah: “I was waiting eagerly to receive the book, and when I received it on the ship, I began reading it whenever I had the time.”

She continued: “The book truly captures the essence of SSYEAP as it shows the different experiences of the people involved – the ex-PYs, host families, the alumni association officials and many more. It made me even gladder and proud to be part of SSYEAP.

I’m sure the book would also be enjoyed by those who are not familiar with SSEAYP as it gives a wonderful insight for those interested to take the leap and be part of the ever-growing SSYEAP family.

I like this informative book and shall cherish and treasure it. However, I shall lend it to my friends for them to know more about SSEAYP and its activities in bonding friendships.”

Shaik Kadir
30 November 2019

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Part 2 A peek at the SSEAYP homestay book

Part 2

A peek at the SSEAYP homestay book

 

You would have read “Part 1:  Wah!  This year’s SSEAYP PYs will get a homestay book memento!” published in my blog on 8 September (2019).  Here’s part 2.

The SSEAYP homestay book is in the final proof-reading stage.  However, here are some glimpses of the book.

Some images of the book contents

The title on the front cover and a sample chapter, “Relationship with foster parents.

A sample of the front and back pages of a chapter divider.

Local flavour

During homestay: “It’s a nice experience to wear Malay dress,” they would usually say.

Photos of some PYs over the years

Who wrote or said these?

(1)  Thrill for a young teen

“I was 12 at that time. As I have always wanted an older sister, I was thrilled. We ate my mother’s home-cooked food together with my foster sisters. Then, we spent the next two days exploring Singapore with my parents…”

(2)  A friendship poem

“It’s not a common ocean liner but an extraordinary ship
It is not a ship that gives extra leisure but extra friendship
Nippon Maru is the ship with a package that builds leadership
Whilst sailing across cultures and beliefs enhancing relationship
Working together with SSEAYP and SIGA for better partnership
And stopping in Singapore to provide PYs with adventureship
As well as staying with Singaporeans to foster close kinship
With this I hope this book would attract a wide readership.”

(3)  He met the author 8 years ago

“I first met Shaik Kadir at the Singapore Memory Project’s “When Nations Remember II” conference on 29 November, 2011.  He shared his personal stories from his book “A kite in the evening sky” about growing up in Geylang Serai while I spoke about my memories of the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961 to a full-house attendance at the Singapore Civilisations Museum, Empress Place….(The book) would also help to promote goodwill, peace and harmony across Southeast Asia and indeed the world.”

The ship that spreads friendship is scheduled to be out in mid-November when the SSEAYP PYs arrive in Singapore.  PYs and others associated with SSEAYP will get a copy.

Shaik Kadir
7 October 2019

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Part 1 Wah!  This year’s SSEAYP PYs get a homestay book memento!

Part 1

Wah!  This year’s SSEAYP PYs will get a homestay book memento!

Yes. This year’s participating youths (PYs) of the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP) will each receive a SSEAYP homestay book to read and keep for remembrance.

The book, which carries international friendship as its theme, will be given to a total of about 330 PYs from ASEAN and Japan during the homestay matching ceremony at the Resorts World Sentosa on 16 November 2019.

Homestay host families and SSEAYP officials will also get a copy.

I am delighted and happy to have written this special book which is published by SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS).

The responsibility of writing this book fell on me for two main reasons:

(1) I have been a SSEAYP homestay host for over 25 years and therefore have lots of experiences with SSEAYP and its PYs.
(2) I am an experienced writer in English.

Now a social blogger of “Read-and-Reap”, I’ve written 14 books and over 350 articles and short stories in various local and overseas magazines, including in Singapore’s The Straits Times and Berita Harian. Varied samples of my writings are:

Books on Geylang Serai stories: “The girl with the mole”, published by EPB Publisher, 1992; and “A kite in the evening sky”, published by Marshall Cavendish (Asia), 2018.

Short stories in magazines: Photos show the first page of the short stories “The painting” in Malaysia’s CHECKMATE of February 1976, and “The orchid messenger” in Singapore’s HER WORLD of March 1977.

General articles in magazines: Photos show the first page of two general articles “The changing world of the Geisha” in Singapore’s FEMALE magazine of May 1978, and “Forming the internal landscape” in THE ASIA MAGAZINE of August 1979.

General articles “For THE STRAITS TIMES (in the “Review” column): “Clearing up confusion over Muslim names”, 26 May, 2007; and “Countdown to Deepa-Raya”, 31 October 2009.

General articles in “Pandangan” of BERITA HARIAN as “Invited writer” and “Guest writer”: “Tekad Ramadan dan jihad henti merokok”, 15 August 2009; and “Masjid sebagai ikon bersih dan sempurna”, 7 December 2009. (Translated, the two headings are: “Striving to stop smoking with Ramadan determination” and “Mosque as a clean and excellent icon”.) 

Books on Islam:  Poster of book launch and autograph-signing of “Islam Explained” (First edition, 2006) and “Inside Islam – 101 Questions & Answers” organised by the books’ publisher Marshall Cavendish (Asia).

Book on Islam – “Islam Explained” (Second edition, 2017) published by Marshall Cavendish (Asia) on sale at bookshops. Photos from left show Ms Farah Amirah Redzuan and Ms Nadia Saiful Rizal, both from Brunei Darussalam, at Kinokuniya Orchard bookshop; Mr Lee Samsudin; Ms Suriani Suhaimi at Popular Bookstore Johor; and Ms Yuri Abe from Japan at the Relay Bookshop at Changi Airport.

Well, the idea of producing a book about SSEAYP homestay came up a year ago but it was not until late April that I was told to proceed writing it.

I immediately sprang into action with great zeal. Why so fast? Well, because the book has to be completed in a short time of four months only – the entire narration needs to be submitted to the printing company on 30 August as the company would take two months to get the book printed and delivered by end of October.

I always took between two to three years to write a book as it is not easy to write a “solid” book of over 100 pages as lots of researches and confirmations need to be done. The SSEAYP homestay book is no different. What’s more, it carries lots of interview information that needs to be written and confirmed by the interviewees. (The book carries views, comments, fond memories and experiences of others involved with SSEAYP – all were heavily edited by me for brevity and homogeneity.)  I thank them all for their contributions, especially their photos.

Challenges

To write the book, I faced lots of challenges and encountered sleepless nights. At one point my 4-year old ASUS laptop gave trouble or rather it gave me trouble as it might be angry at me for not giving it enough rest.  The folder containing the half-completed narration of the SSEAYP homestay story suddenly disappeared and I almost fainted.  Nervously I searched for it everywhere.  But it has simply vanished from the computer! I collapsed.

My son came to my rescue.  He too frantically searched for the folder, and after a long struggle extracted a copy from somewhere deep in the stomach of the laptop!

He advised me to get a new laptop, and I immediately did. I bought another ASUS laptop. Still, I didn’t give it enough rest like the previous one but this one is young and strong, so no fear.

Eventually, I managed to complete writing the homestay story a couple of days before the end of August, and handed the manuscript to the printing company on 31 August.

A great relief descended upon me. Now, I’m awaiting to do two proof-readings before the book goes into its final stage of production.

SIS President Yacob Hussain did his part by calling for quotations for the printing job and negotiating with the printing companies for the delivery date. Together we applied for the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) from the National Library Board and discussed with the selected printing company on matters concerning the book.

The book will be ready for delivery at the end of October, about two weeks before the arrival of the PYs. Do doa (make supplication) for the successful production of the book.

Anything else you want to know?

Yes, what’s the title of the book?

The ship that spreads friendship.

Wow! That’s a nice title!

How many people gave comments and were interviewed for their experiences?

Eighteen.

Eighteen?  Wow!  So many!  Who are they?

Be patient lah!  Don’t be too excited lah!  Wait for Part Two of the article, okay?

Till Part Two appears in this blog in about two weeks, just keep wondering how the design of the front cover of the book would be – the one shown above is only a sample done by me, not professionally done. So, I’m wondering too. But the designer has been instructed to make the front page look friendly – with the ship merrily sailing from one port of call to another, spreading friendship.

Shaik Kadir
8 September 2019

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Qurban in Medan Hari Raya Haji celebration delight

Qurban in Medan
Hari Raya Haji celebration delight

A group of  friends, comprising 12 Singaporeans and one Indonesian working in Singapore, went to Medan for a 5-day trip from 8-12 August (2019), the objective being to celebrate Eid ul-Adha (or Hari Raya Haji in Malay), and to perform the qurban (slaughtering of sheep and cows) whose meat was distributed to the poor.

An Idul Adha or Eid ul-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) banner displayed on a building in Medan welcoming the celebration of sacrifice of  halal livestock for the meat to be distributed to the poor, an act of charity held over three days. (1440 H is the Islamic year, Hijrah, which means Islam was instituted 1440 years ago.)

In the group of 13 friends, three are non-Muslims – Rachel, Thana and Suguna.  We had an interesting time together.

Four people made some comments about our Medan trip.

Ms Suguna Ramasamy.

“Our Medan trip was simply awesome. It’s not just because my best buddies were with me but because I had the privilege of getting to know some new people who made the trip a memorable one.

Be it during the breezy boat ride, or stopping on an impulse for durians, or visiting the Batak execution chamber or taking the crayfish lunch, we broke jokes, shared anecdotes and had so much laughter, fun and joy.

It was one of those trips where it matters not where you go but who you go with!”  – Ms Suguna Ramasamy

We were lucky to have Ms Sri Zuraida Zainal Abidin in our group, whose father, (her mother has passed away) and siblings live in Medan. We visited their home early in the morning of Hari Raya Haji and together went for the Hari Raya prayer in a mosque near their home and later went for the qurban ceremony in a vacant area in a village.

During the trip, we often met up with the Medan family members of our Singaporean friend, Sri Zuraida who was in the group.

Ms Sri Zuraida Zainal Abidin.

“I feel very honored for the group to have visited Medan and met my family members.

I am thankful to the Muslims in the group to celebrate Aidil Adha and making the qurban in my family’s village.

Many poor people in the village got the opportunity to meet Singaporeans and they found them very friendly. 

From the qurban of the Singaporean Muslims in the group and that from some people in the village, those kampung people who are poor had more qurban meat to eat, and the kampung people are very thankful for that.  It is good charity.

Thank you.”  – Ms Sri Zuraida Zainal Abidin 

On Sunday, 11 August (2019), while the Muslims went to Sri’s sister’s home some distance away from the hotel to perform the qurban rites, Rachel, Thana and Suguna went shopping, accompanied by their Muslim friend, Juliana, from the group.

Shopping was a delightful activity.  Members of the group bought things from batik and baggage to fruits and foodstuff to be taken home.

Some of the interesting places we visited included cruising in the huge and scenic Lake Toba, Samosir Island where we visited Batak houses at the Ambarita Village and learned of the history of the Batak people, Barastagi province where we visited its Grand Mosque, and in the Medan city, we visited the Maimoon Palace.

Lake Toba cruise: The cruise in the extensive waters of Lake Toba was a slow boat-ride allowing us to enjoy the scenic beauty of the lake and mountains surrounding it. We were heading for Samosir Island in the far end of the lake.

At Samosir Island, we were given an in-depth explanation of the history of the Batak people, their culture and lifestyle. We were also taken into one of the Batak houses of olden days to see its interior and later to the criminal execution area where beheading for extreme crime was executed, an act now forbidden.

Travelling along the mountain roads was enjoyable as we frequently see Lake Toba, and we even stopped to enjoy the beauty of the lake spread below from the mountain edges.

Resting and enjoying the view of the lake and its surroundings, stopping along the road for rest and snacks as we carried on travelling along the mountain roads.

We even stopped over for a super multi-herb hot tea drink at a resthouse surrounded by flower plants.

And the ladies couldn’t resist touching the mountain flowers…

And then we came to a strawberry plantation where we could walk along its bunds to pluck the fruit ourselves to be weighed for purchase.

And then, as we rode on in our tourist mini-bus, we spotted a durian seller along the road and we could not resist our temptation to go near the king of fruits to smell them and finally relish them to our hearts’ content.

During our tour, we visited a Pagoda, temple of the Buddhists, and explored its interior, beholding the relics displayed in its hall.

In the afternoon, after completing our qurban rites, we had an audience with the Sultan Langkat, Tuanku Yang Mulia Azwar Aziz Abdul Djalil Rahmadsyah Alhaj, during which I proposed that we could have a student-exchange programme for our students to visit them and experience village life and observe the  mountains, fruit trees, plantations and farms and their students can come to Singapore to learn about our lifestyle, and enjoy our food and attractions.

And later in the day, we had audience with Sultan Langkat, Tuanku Yang Mulia Azwar Aziz Abdul Djalil Rahmadsyah Alhajj.

And, at the end of the meeting with the Sultan, we had the opportunity to take photos with him.

Mr Imhar Said.

“We were lucky to meet up with an important person for an audience. He was Tuanku Yang Mulia Azwar Aziz Abdul Djalil Rahmadsyah Alhajj.

A soft-spoken person, Tuanku told us his roots and his past extensively.  He also told us how the people in the villages lived, and the challenge taken to make the Malay language recognised internationally. 

He would like to see the young people of today with western influence coming back to their culture and be more open-minded.

We admire his vast knowledge of this region and of his people.”   – Mr Imhar Said

Of course, Muslims crowded the many mosques in Medan to perform the Eid ul-Adha solat (prayer) at around 7:30 in the morning.  Then, at about ten, the qurban activity began.

The Muslims in our group visited mosques where we performed voluntary prayers as well as our obligatory payers, and in one of them, middle photo, we performed the Eid ul-Adha prayer, beginning at around 7 am on 11 August (or 10 Zulhijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic year).

The slaughtering was done following Islamic rites and instructions to relax the animal and to be compassionate to them before and during the slaughtering them, and keeping some distance away from each other with the blood flowing into a pre-made hole in the ground.

A gathering to watch the qurban: After the Eid ul-Adha prayers in the morning, it was time for the qurban, the sacrificing of livestock like cows and sheep carried out by trained butchers, for charity – with the meat given away to the poor later when the meat has been cut up into chunks.

The slaughtering of the animals is done according to Islamic rites to minimise the suffering of the animals with some set rules, notably to relax the animal and show compassion to them during the qurban activity.

Cute children…and Mdm Khairon couldn’t resist carrying the tudung-clad child.

The Muslims in the group are happy to have accomplished our main objective of going to Medan – to celebrate Hari Raya Haji and offering our qurban to benefit the poor.

Regarding the qurban (or spelt in Malay as korban), God says in the Islamic Holy Book, the Quran: “Celebrate the name of God through the days appointed over the herds for sacrifice.  Then, eat and feed the unfortunate and the needy.” (22:28).

As for the qurban meat, God says: “It is not (the animal’s) flesh or blood that reaches Allah. It is your piety that reaches Him.”  (22:37)

The qurban ceremony, held during the Haj in Mecca, is conducted at a location far away from the crowd, and the meat is deep-frozen and donated to the poor in countries around the world.

Sri’s siblings, Adhe Ahmadsyah Ramadhan Zainal Abidin, Nur Asmanissa Zainal Abidin, Sri Rahayu Zainal Abidin and her brother-in-law Agung Kurniawan (husband of Sri Rahayu), were also happy to take us shopping. We are very thankful to them for their hospitality and generosity.

Mr Agung Kurniawan.

“Salam to everybody in the Singapore group.

Alhamdulillah! I am pleased to welcome the delegation from Singapore and I wish everyone all the best.

I hope, all of you had a nice and enjoyable time in Medan and also during your cruise in Lake Toba and the tour to Samosir Island and Brastagi.  

Thanks to those who visited my home and gave us the opportunity to do the Aidil Adha prayer together.

I hope, members of the Singapore group will stay healthy so that we can see each other again next time.

Ameen.”   – Mr Agung Kurniawan (Sri’s brother-in-law) 

Photos are a must for remembrance: The hotels we stayed during our Medan trip.

As for our three non-Muslim friends, they too enjoyed the Medan trip. Best of all, we all gained deep friendship and we shall keep it.

Shaik Kadir
16 August 2019

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Towards unity as one people of Singapore Understanding and appreciating religious practices via interfaith dialogues

Towards unity as one people of Singapore

Understanding and appreciating religious practices via interfaith dialogues

More than 50 Singaporeans of multi-racial, multi-religious composition attended a talk on marriage from the perspectives of the Sikh and Ba’hai religions at the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church on Sunday, 28 July 2019.

This is the fifth annual Interfaith Dialogue presentation organised by the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC).  The previous four assemblies, first organised in 2015, were also held in this church.

The speakers in this session were Ms Harjit Kaur who spoke on Sikh marriages and Ms Ang Ing Ing talked on Ba’hai marriages.

Though the approaches and rituals of marriages in each religion might be different, the objective and direction is the same – the marriage ought to last with love and happiness. Each married couple needs to be responsible in developing the family and seeing that understanding, love and compassion dominate the family unit.

Earlier in his introductory remark, the Guest-of-Honour Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman cited the importance of being aware of false posts which is rampant in modern time with the widespread use of social media. Fake news, misinformation, wild opinions and untruth and even rude and uncalled for rhetoric are flooding the social media, and these could create tension and hatred among the various races living in a country.

Unlike the print media, social media posts spread across the world in matters of seconds, and if the subject matter has taints of anti-racial issues or/and presented in vulgar and abusive language, it can generate mistrust, even discord, among the people in the communities.

At the Fifth Interfaith Dialogue: Dr Daniel Tan (left) opening the session with his welcome address, while Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman made his introductory remarks on the importance of maintaining peace and harmony in Singapore.

Praising Singapore and Singaporeans, Dr Maliki, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Mayor South East District and Advisor East Coast Group Representation Constituency (ECGRC), mentioned that although Singapore is a small island, and indeed a red dot, its multi-racial, multi-religious people have shown resilience in the onslaught of fake posts and remained peaceful and harmonious but this peace and harmony should not be taken for granted.

Hence, everyone has a very important role to play in making Singapore a unique nation where its multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious people live together as one united people of Singapore, and that such interfaith dialogues are held with the aim of uniting people together by understanding and appreciating each other’s cultures and religious practices.

Ms Harjit Kaur talking about the rituals in a Sikh marriage.

Ms Ang Ing Ing elaborating on marriage from the Ba’hai perspectives.

Two people agreed that such educational and social gathering is good for people to know and understand the various cultures and religions practised in Singapore and, at the same time, come close together in lasting friendship. Their comments are as follows:

Ms Suryani Nasiruddin.

“From this interfaith talk at the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church on 28 July, I now understand more about the practices of other faiths, especially, in this case, about marriages in the Sikh and Ba’hai communities.  Understanding about other religions is important to live together peacefully.  I shall definitely attend future interfaith dialogues to gain more knowledge about other religions in Singapore.”  – Ms Suryani Nasiruddin

Rev Song Choon Hock.

“Our ongoing interfaith talks and dialogues provide a useful platform for meaningful conversations, exchanges of information and clarifications. More significantly, they open us to perspectives outside of our own circles and help us gain a greater appreciation and understanding of each other’s beliefs. In this digital age, unfriendly rhetoric, offhand opinions and sometimes careless conclusions surface in the media, so this makes our interfaith dialogues extremely useful in countering provocative inferences and presumptions.” – Rev Song Choon Hock

 The interfaith dialogue session at the church ended with a fruit fiesta. The guests really enjoyed the local fruit treat and chatted away making new friends and renewing friendship.

Fruit fiesta: Food and fruit bring people closer together in friendship and that the King, Princes and Princesses of fruit give the multi-racial, multi-religious gathering an opportunity to come together to chat and enjoy the treat.

Ms Harjit Kaur is perhaps chatting about the smell of the King of Fruit – the durian, a fruit which you either love (Ooooh!) it or hate (Yek!) it because of its soft flesh and strong smell.

Ooooh, so shiok lah…and closing the eyes will give you an even better feeling of the taste of the region’s cherries, longans, mangosteens, durians, and rambutans, all available at the fiesta. Ooooh! Nice lah…one more durian, please.

Standing from left are Mr Yacob Hussain, Chairman of the Siglap Community Centre’s Malay Activity Executive Committee; Mr Shaik Kadir, retired teacher and writer of this article; Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Guest-of-Honour; Rev Song Choon Hock of the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church; and Dr Daniel Tan, Chairman of the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC). Seated are Ms Ang Ing Ing and Ms Harjit Kaur, speakers of the Interfaith Dialogue session.

In recent time, there have been cases of colour supremacy and racial slurs in some countries, causing tension and fear to the residents.  With globalisation, as people work and even live in other countries, racism and colour supremacy should no longer exist or tolerated. We need to forget race and colour and work together as one humankind.

More than 1400 years ago, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), in his famous long and last sermon, apart from reminding Muslims on their religious obligations and social responsibilities, advised all humanity to keep away from racism and colour supremacy.

The Prophet said: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white except by piety and good action…Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer your deeds. So, be aware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

Shaik Kadir
1 August 2019

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