30 October 2010

Lest We Forget the History Part 1


istory has always facinated me. Whether it is political, science or religion in context, history provides an insight to the world before our life time. You will be surprised with how much you will learn and understand the world we live in today by merely acquiring factual information from history. A lot of the current social issues, such as racism, arose because the younger generation refuse to do their research on how things became what they are today.

History made reading a pleasure to me. I read historical stuff, apart from my usual Archers and Dan Browns. Just recently I purchased the English translation of Hikayat Hang Tuah (Epic of Hang Tuah) and Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Anals) with the vision to understand Malay history. In the past I have also read many historical books. Some are religion based and some are civilisation based. To name a few: Mein Kampf, The Lemon Tree, The Malay Dilemma, Nasionalis Humanis, Nota Kaki, The Malayan Trilogy, The Cairo Trilogy, A Drift on the Nile, etc. A profound reading would be the Holy Quran which contains historical values. Whilst some of these are actually fiction (eg. The Lemon Tree), they do have historical values in concept.

I would like to share those historical facts that I gathered in my mind to the extent allowable by my human memory. You can either take this as an entertainment value or translate it into your own interpretation of the world we live in. Here they are:

The shortest poem in the world was by Sitor Sitomurang entitled "Malam Lebaran" and it sounds like this: "Bulan di atas kuburan"

Malaysia was earlier known as Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (Federated States of Malaya).

The entire Borneo was actually known as Brunei in 1400's.

The first best film won in the first Academy Award in 1927 was a mute film, Wings, the first and last mute film to win that award.

Which country has the highest number of children? It's Kenya at 51% of its population.

Everest is a colonial name, that tallest mountain has an earlier native name, Chomolungma, which means God of Mother Earth.

Before Titanic was built, a novelist, Morgan Robertson, wrote a book on a ship of similar status in 1808. It was called Titan.

Philosophy comes from the Greek words “Feelo” that means Love and “Sufi” that means Knowledge. Hence, Love for Knowledge.

Gunung Jerai has been a world acknowledged landmark for sea navigation for Straits of Malacca since the early 1400's.

Negaraku was actually Perak's anthem, which was also an old Malay song, Terang Bulan, that stole melodies from a Hawaiian song.

The independence on 31 August 1957 was for Malaya, not Malaysia.

Tasmanian Aboriginals extinct back in 1800's'when the colonial masters hunted every single one of them.

The first man to extract the smooth element out of cocoa beans is Van Hauten. Safe to say he invented the modern day Chocolates.

Hang Tuah travelled as far as Setambol (Constantinople) in the west and Peking in the East.

Before Pahang took the name Darul Makmur, it was Pahang Indera Pura according to Hikayat Hang Tuah.

Before Brunei took the name Darussalam, it was Acheh's according to Hikayat Hang Tuah.

The first Malay newspaper was established in 1876 and named 'Jawi Peranakan', after the founders who were of mixed Malay-Indian or Malay-Arabs.

The main source of the Malay history as we know it comes from Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Hang Tuah whom the authors are unknown.

Bangladesh was initially known as East Pakistan and the current Pakistan was West Pakistan.

Christopher Columbus travelled west searching for India because the Ottomans were an obstacle for him to pass through the East.

Morphine came from the word Morpheus, the Greek God of Dreams.

Before 1993, the site where KLCC now stands was a horse racing track.

The original native eggplant of Malaysia is white instead of purple. The purple ones were imported and commercialised by the English.

A.M. Azhari, a Bruneian in exile in Kalimantan created the name UMNO.

Tunku Abdul Rahman wasn't the first president of UMNO, Dato' Onn Jaafar was.

The inventor of the modern toilet is John Crapper.

Penang was given to Francis Light by Sultan of Kedah for a duration that ends when there are no more sun, moon and stars.

The first and only king to protect Prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h. was a Christian King, the King of Abyssinia (a.k.a. Habshah, now Ethiopia).

The first man to ride a horse is Idris, a prophet.

The original symbol for Christianity wasn't a cross. It was a fish.

666 and Gog & Magog in the Bible is referred to as Dajjal and Yahjuj Makjuj in the Quran, the beast and his army at end of days.

Priest of Median in Bible is Prophet for people of Madyan in Quran aka Nabi Shuaib, father in-law of Moses (Nabi Musa).

Who the bible refers to as Kane & Abel are Habil & Qabil in Quran, the first twins on Earth.

Who Christians refer to as John the Baptist is who the Muslims call Nabi Yahya, cousin of Jesus (Nabi Isa). Peace be upon them.

Of course there are more but for the time being, this should suffice. I shall return with more in Part 2. (Note: Part 2 now available at Lest We Forget the History Part 2)

* kopihangtuah

| mcmlxxv:viii:xxix |

10 October 2010

The Penang Talk Part 1


enangite I am!, an islander that is!. To me, there are a host of things that facinates the world about Penang. The beach, culture, food! and its people, but the most unique character would be the dialect of the locals. No doubt vey much similar to the dialect spoken in Kedah, Perlis and north of Perak, the dialect in Penang is richer thanks to its exposure to imported words from land of Tamilnadu in India as well as the Chinese - a good example of culture assimilation. The base vocabulary and structure is actually Kedahan ("Cakap Utara", ie. the northern dialect) as supported by historical fact that Penang (and Perlis), was once, under the rule of Kedah sultanate until Francis Light leased it from Kedah with a tenure that says "as long as there is sun, moon and stars" - what a weird real-estate-legal con job. Anyways, back to dialect, my facination of the Penang dialect had led me to numerous discussions with friends and families, mostly of Penang origin, about the 'Penang Talk'.

There are words that are unique to Penangites (with significant portion across Kedah and Perlis) like "Ketegaq" (Stubborn) and there are also imports such as "Karapulay" (Curry Leaves) and "Taukua" (Fried Bean Curds) that originated from Indian and Chinese inhabitants of Penang. The base Malay originated words, whilst similar phonetically to the national language "Bahasa Malaysia", have a twist that makes it Penang rather than Malay. The obvious examples would be the conversion of the "r" sound to "q" and the "s" to "aih" as demonstrated in the Penang words "Ulaq" and "Empat Belaih" as converted from "Ular" (Snake) and "Empat Belas" (Forteen), respectively. My discussions with friends and families gave me the idea to collate all these words into almost a dictionary format. To have a proper dictionary would take considerable amount of time and effort - hence, a compilation of Twitter and Facebook statuses on the subject 'Penang Talk' sounded more achieavable; so I only came out with 55 words as below, for the time being:

1. Anak Menakan is either niece or nephew
2. Ayaq is Water
3. Bebai means grumpy
4. Belemoih means messy (of food or sweat)
5. Berlahak is burp
6. BooBoq is poridge
7. Celakoi is Celaka that means "Damn"
8. Che' refers to Mr, Me, Myself and I
9. Deghrian is Durian
10. Gerngau means scratch, not the gentle way, the painful way
11. Goruih Api are fire matches
12. Hari Minggu is Sunday
13. Ice Kachang is a local dessert made of ice, syrup, milk, nuts and jelly
14. Ikan Alu Alu is Barracuda
15. Ikan Rendang is fried fish simply marinated with salt and tumeric
16. Ikan Temenung is Mackerel
17. Jawi Pekan are Jawi Peranakans who live in the British straits settlement
18. Jawi Peranakan are descendants of Indian-Malay or Arab-Malay blood
19. Kanchingprak means snap buttons normally on a Pagoda singlets or t-shirts
20. Karapulay are curry leaves used for cooking curry dishes
21. Katup is to close or to switch off
22. Kerabat means climbing
23. Ketegaq means stubborn
24. Kore means fussy
25. Kupang is the currency Sen in the multiple of 10s. Example, 2 Kupang = 20 Sen
26. Lagu Mana? means ‘How?’
27. Lancha is Beca, ie trishaw
28. Lengkong is Cincau, the black grass jelly
29. Loklak means bad attitude
30. Mamu means uncle
31. Mamun means dizzy of sleep
32. Mapele is the groom
33. Marka means love companion
34. Muka Empat Belaih means u r showing a disgruntled expression on your face
35. Nala means "very" or "extensively"
36. Nana means older brother
37. Nyoq is coconut
38. Pak Tongko is Cakoi, a fried pastry eaten with chilli sauce
39. Panchoq means water tap or toilet in general
40. Peon is an Office Boy, a clerk, a multipurpose clerk
41. Ponu is the bride
42. Punkoq means Buttocks
43. Ralit is captivated
44. Renda are ribbons
45. Roti Perata is a special bread with loads of ghee, a.k.a Roti Canai
46. Sarbath is a red syrup drink with all sorts or herbs in it
47. Senayan is Monday
48. Seymia is a cereal made of wheat eaten with milk and sugar
49. Soq is Sahur, the early morning meal by the Muslims during fasting month
50. Tanjung is the city of Georgetown
51. Taukua is fried Tauhu or fried bean curds
52. Teh (Tea) is pronounced as Tear as how you would with Bear
53. Tokyu is soya sauce
54. Ubi Benggala are potatoes
55. Ulaq means snake

....continue at The Penang Talk Part 2

Ice Kachang!

* kopihangtuah

| mcmlxxv:viii:xxix |

02 October 2010

Muslim's Influence in English Literature


73-year old man once gave me an interesting conversation. A man of wisdom, full of life experience and abundance of knowledge accumulated, particularly in History and Religion. Our conversation revolved around the Muslim's contribution to the world. All sorts of refereshing stories were told ranging from scientific discoveries by the Arab's Ibn Sinar (Avacene) and Al-Khawarismi (Chemistry) to the Moorish architecture of domes and minarets. However, One segment of that range facinates me - Muslim's contribution to English literature. Who would have thought that that would happen. Of course there are bits and pieces of Arabic words in the English dictionary such as Sultan and Reserves (Rizab), but what I am referring to are English sayings that were created solely from the Western world's experience under the rule of Muslims during the Muawiyah, Abbasyds and Ottoman empires. They are:

Building a castle in Spain: What does this really mean? When one says this, it often means you are expressing that certain tasks are impossible to be done, which is true, in the case of building a castle in Spain. Can you build a castle in Spain? Why not? If you have the money to buy a land and contruct one. However, such saying was back in the era when Spain was under the Muslim empire as conquered by the Muslim warrior, Tariq, at the hill where the southern most part of Spain is (Gibraltar = Jabbal Tariq = Hill of Tariq). The Christians were forced to move North at where Catalunya is and could never recover South Spain for hundreds of years. Hence, for a Spanish to build a castle in Spain (South Spain), it would be almost impossible given that they had lost South Spain to the Muslims for hundreds of years. The English had adopted this as an expression to denote 'impossibility'. By the way, North Spain is not Spanish, they are Catalans.

The cat is out of the bag: Those days European cities under the rule of Muslims, particularly in Spain, Roman land, Greek and Cyprus, had great walls surrounding the city with a gigantic gate in the front. Travellers in and out of the city were required to pass through the front gate where Muslim warriors stand guard. These travellers were both Muslims and non-Muslims who lived alongside each other in a harmonious manner. Notwithstanding that, the non-Muslims had always quietly disgaree with the regulation on forbidden food imposed by the Muslim rulers onto them. The 'Haram' food they call it, which was predominantly pig products like ham, pork or even live pigs. The non-Muslims of those cities often smuggled pigs and piglets in sacks (bag) through those gates. When asked by the guards, their standard answer would be "It's just a cat". Of course, like any custom officers at the airport, they would reveal that what was referred to as 'cat' was actually a 'pig'. Hence the phrase "the cat is out of the bag" expressing that the secret has now made known to the public.

Safari in the desert: In English, this simply means travelling in the desert. But what makes travelling in the desert unique is that the Muslims travelled at a particular time of the day. They start moving their caravans at dusk when the sun sets to take advantage of the cool night as well as the directional guide by the stars up above. At dusk, the horizon turns amber, which is 'safar' in Arabic, also the origin of the word 'safron' given that the spice is yellowish-orangy in colour, like the colour of the sky at dusk. So, safar became safari.

There are a lot of Muslim's influence in the western culture. I am sure if proper research is done, we can uncover a lot more that can facinate the world. Simple European behaviours such as eating cheese and croissants are also from the Muslims. Before Europe even knew how to make cheese, the Arabs had already done it with their goats in the deserts - a creative way of preserving source of protein, fat, calcium and other nutrition. That method was introduced to the Europeans by the Muslims during their rule of the western land. Croissants, whilst French in sound, is in the shape of and means 'crescent', a semi circled shape of the moon. This is the symbol of Islam. It is not recorded anywhere that the Arabs may have invented the crescent shaped bread but it is known that the Arabs invented bread. Remember, when the westerners were in their dark ages, the Muslims were the scientists and philosophers for the world - no doubt that they may have learnt a trick or two from the Greeks, Romans and Macedonians prior to the arrival of Islam. Facinating huh?!

* kopihangtuah

| mcmlxxv:viii:xxix |