Eclipsing Dreams


I was about seven years old when I made my first travel plan. I was looking at a map of total solar eclipses from 1998 to 2019 from the book, ‘Eclipse of The Sun’, in our little ‘play-room’. I saw that the path of the 9th of March, 2016 eclipse would traverse a few Indonesian islands and seeing that it was the one closest to Malaysia, I started calculating my age and my possible state of life then. I figured that at the age of 21, I should have completed school and my seven year old brain assumed that at that age, I would have all the money and freedom in the world to bring my siblings to Indonesia so we could watch the eclipse together. And every now and then in the next fourteen years, the thought would occasionally cross my mind and I would dream about it.

I was correct about one fact. I did watch the eclipse with my brother – and the others occasionally peeping in – but we only witnessed the partial eclipse on our balcony, equipped with my shoebox camera obscura (pinhole camera) that I had made specifically for eclipse viewing. I had one hand on a laptop which was showing the live coverage from Sumatera and virtually experienced totality with the excited observer crew across the straits.

My parents watched the eclipse downstairs in the garden with our kitten friend, Tris, who was just thrilled by all the excitement we’re all expressing. As we were approaching maximum obscurity, a team of roadworkers stopped in front of our house and asked my parents if we wanted our driveway resurfaced. Noticing their curiosity (how could they not when we’re all staring up into the sky), my father told him about the eclipse. For the next few minutes, they were all climbing up onto their lorry, exclaiming with delight and tried to convince other passer-by to witness this amazing phenomenon.

Had my map also gave a list of annular solar eclipse, I might have noticed that one would be making its way through the southern-most tip of my own country on the coming 26th of December. I might have also made plans to drive to Tanjung Piai and experience the eclipse on the jetty of the Tanjung Piai Resort. But I only found out about it when I looked up the list of solar eclipses of 2019 earlier this year and I’ve long abandoned conscious dreaming as nothing but a call for possible disappointment.

The way my father explained solar eclipse to me and my sister was by bringing two balls and a flashlight into our ‘play-room’ and had one of us to hold the ‘Earth’ ball, while he held the moon between the Earth and the Sun (the flashlight). He explained to us that the eclipse happened because the sun is behind the moon for a brief amount of time. The Sun was still there, you just couldn’t see it because it was hidden. Nevertheless, it had been revered, feared and even celebrated through many events across our history.

As I grew older, I think about how intertwined are my thoughts on eclipses and dreams. To witness an eclipse was one of my most long-held serious dreams; I was in my late teens when I began to admit that it was probably out of the realms of possibilities. And as much as I insist on not wishing to dream, for fear of being robbed of the belief in a deceitful imagined future, I still have unconscious and unsolicited dreams because it’s impossible to remove the Sun by hiding it behind a moon.

I am trying hard not to place even the slightest bit of excitement in my mind for this coming eclipse but I’ll be a fool to think that no part of me still dream of somehow finding a way of getting to Tanjung Piai’s jetty to watch the eclipse with the man who taught me all about the it. I can try to cast out all the dreams in my heart in the same way I’ve contemplated destroying past pains and yearning by burning old letters and diaries but just because I’ve made it impossible to physically see something does not mean that it no longer exists -it is only hidden like the eclipsed Sun.

Preparing Ttupak Pulok (Ketupat Daun Palas)


Throughout the last day of Ramadhan, our small kitchen was cramped with food and all of us were suddenly upgraded into ‘chefs of the day’. My little sister Aeshah baked trays of lovely cupcakes. At the other end of the kitchen, while singing at the top of her voice, Anisah helped my mother who was cooking rendang and kuah kacang, driving my mom quite mad. Even little Ali sat cross-legged on his chair, weaving kelongsong ketupat nasi for me to fill in with rice later. Usually, I would be preparing the ketupat nasi and weave most of the kelongsongs; but this Eid was special. For the first time, I made the true Terengganu ‘ttupak pulok’ instead!

Ketupat

Ttupak pulok‘, which is also known as  ‘ketupat daun palas’ in standard Malay, is a type of glutinous rice delicacy, steamed with coconut milk and wrapped in a special leaf named ‘daun palas’ before it is fried to perfection. Since it is so easy to get them in Kuala Terengganu where my parents came from, neither my mother nor my grandmothers know how to prepare them. To quote what my great grandmother told my mom when asked for the recipe, “Bakpe nok belajor sangak. Buak nyussoh je. Ppasor blambok, beli je senang.” “Why bother? You can buy loads of them from the market.”

However, living in Kuala Lumpur, we do not have the luxury of having those authentic Terengganu’s ‘ttupak pulok’ sold in markets or farmer’s markets around our place. It is not that nobody sells ketupat palas here, but the tasty, rich and firm textured Terengganu’s ‘ttupak pulok’ is none to be seen. And since we are unable to return to Terengganu for Eid due to my father’s tight schedule, my mother announced that she’ll be making her own ‘ttupak pulok’, which happens to be one of her favourite foods.

And imagine my mother’s delight a few weeks before Eid, when she caught the sight of daun palas being sold at the Pasar Tani (or the farmer’s market)!

Daun Palas

Daun Palas

“But mama, you said that you have never weaved a ‘ttupak pulok’ before,” I reminded her.

“No problem. We can always surf the internet for instructions later!” she exclaimed, her eyes sparkling with excitement.

So we spent the afternoon in front of our computer, our oily hands fragrant with coconut milk and sticky with glutinous rice as we tried again and again for a decent wrap. We had a great time and good laughs, mom squeezed most of her rice out of the wrap while I tore almost all of my leaves into half! It seems that while weaving a ketupat nasi looks harder than it actually is, it is the total opposite for ‘ttupak pulok” at least until one masters the technique. It took us a while to get to the hang of it but it was definitely worth it. In the end, we managed to come up with a batch of handsomely wrapped ‘ttupak puloks’. To speed up the process, while my mother was busy in the kitchen, I made a few ‘monster-sized’ ‘ttupak pulok’, which earned a stern warning from my mom, “That is a monster, not a ttupak, never, ever do that again”.

My mom took the ketupat to the kitchen and fried them to perfection. And the taste? They were so delicious, they tasted exactly like the good ol’ Terengganu’s ‘ttupak pulok’ which my mother missed so much. In fact, they tasted even better than some of those that we bought in Kuala Terengganu. Even my father was so impressed with the result that he suggested that we make should make ‘ttupak pulok’ to share with our close relatives and friends who happens to miss the delicious delicacy as much as we do for the Eid.

Ttupak pulok

It’s funny and ironic when you think of how modern technology is able to preserve the traditional cooking methods and recipes despite it also influences a lot of people to leave their traditional and healthier way of cooking and eating. With the invention of instant ‘plastic ketupat’, almost all of my parent’s friends prepare their ketupats the easier way, despite the hazard it poses to their health. However without the help of the world wide web, neither my mom nor I would be able to enjoy the true Terengganu ‘ttupak pulok’ made from scratch in our own kitchen in Kuala Lumpur!

Happy New Year


Happy New Year to all and may this year be a prosperous one, Insya Allah. I’d like to thank my loyal readers for their support despite the fact that the blog had not been updated on a regular basis (twice a month on average). I usually have a lot to write but sometimes I feel that they aren’t decent enough for a blog post. The idea of a blog post in my head is something WordPress would say ‘super-awesome’ that you should write with utmost care but as my mother had told me a million times, nobody likes a dormant blog. I intend to be more active this year and I hope that, Insya Allah, I will be more eager to write and share my views or experience.

And of course, a big thank you to my mother, the best teacher I’ve ever had, for helping me with my writing. I’ve seen my writing improve significantly throughout my blogging years and I am more independent in brainstorming for ideas which would help me a lot in college later and in life as well. She had also miraculously managed to improve my critical thinking and my interest in politics and world events; important things which I once thought boring and impossible to enjoy.

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And thank you to my father who had been the one to create this blog for me as a way to improve my English and for me to gain confidence in writing for the public. I can never forget that morning in Penang when you sat me by your laptop, introduced me to my freshly registered blog and made me write a post. I had pestered my mother for hours, asking her in a fit of panic, “What should I do? What should I write? I don’t have anything to write about.” And despite all of the distress, I managed to write 3 very short posts on the first things that came to my mind.

And to my dearest sisters, Aeshah and Anisah as well as my famous brother, Ahmad Ali, who seems to have fans everywhere (as it is quite often that when my father met one of his friends, they would as for ‘the blogger, Ahmad Ali’) thank you for your links, comments and support. Since one of the drawbacks of being the eldest is that you cannot bear to be beaten by a younger sibling, the intense competition you had given me urge me to write better.

Click on the link below to see the review WordPress prepared for my blog.

Click here to see the complete report.

Bubur Lambuk from Kampung Baru


Ramadhan Mubarak to all Muslims worldwide. Alhamdulillah, the holy month of Ramadhan is back and once again, we would have our much awaited trips to Kampung Baru for the tastiest and the most delicious iftar food you could ever find in Malaysia, Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru! Bubur Lambuk is available throughout KL of course and most parts of Malaysia but yet, years after years, people from all over Selangor and Kuala Lumpur would stop by at the Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru or also known as Masjid Kampung Baru for the original version of the bubur lambuk Kampung Baru which is extremely hard to find elsewhere.

Ali and Aeshah watches as Aunty Sham prepared the bubur lambuk for her to sell.

I remember when I was younger and once my mother was admitted to the Kampung Baru Medical Center, which stands just across the road from the mosque, during Ramadhan, I stood by the window watching the queue grew and grew until there were probably fifty people lining up at one time for the bubur lambuk from the mosque. The place wasn’t packed with vendors at it is now. If you live nearby or regularly visit the area during Ramadhan, you would know how crowded the area is; sometimes it feels like you’re driving through a marketplace.

Of course, simply anyone could set up a stall and sell their own version of bubur lambuk Kampung Baru, so if you do not wish to wait in the mosque’s long queue, you have to be very selective in choosing which vendor to buy your bubur lambuk from. The taste can differ drastically, so it’s wise to ask advice from a person who regularly buys their bubur lambuk from the area. And I have to say, the best bubur lambuk Kampung Baru I could find would be Aunty Sham’s. The secret is, Aunty Sham cooks her bubur lambuk using the original recipe as those from the famous Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru’s. So now you can have your original Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru without waiting in the long queue! And at RM2 per pack (a very generous pack, I may add) it’s more than worth the long trip… after all, bubur lambuk isn’t available throughout the year.

Rows of bubur lambuk packed and ready to be sold

Oh, and there are a few things to keep in mind when buying bubur lambuk. One thing is that you’ll have to come and buy yours early. Once, my father arrived at the stall at around 2:30pm but came back empty-handed as Aunty Sham had sold out her bubur lambuk although the other vendors were still selling their wares. So it’s important to be there early if you do not want to be disappointed. Also, we have heard that some of the vendors would claim to be anyone, including Kak Sham so you’ll have to be careful. Use the picture below as a guide to Aunty Sham’s stall and look for the banner, ‘Bubur Lambuk Warisan Kampung Baru Kak Sham’.

Bubur Lambuk Warisan Kampung Baru Kak Sham. Her stall is on the second from right from the Jalan Raja Alang – Jalan Raja Abdullah crossroad. It’s right in front of the carpark of Al-Islam Hospital and is on the opposite side of the road from the Kampung Baru Mosque. Please click for a bigger and better image.

Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru


Ramdhan Mubarak to all Muslims! Alhamdulillah, the holy month of Ramadhan is back with us and once again, vendors flock the streets around the Kampung Baru Mosque to sell the much loved and awaited iftar delicacy, Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru. Since this special porridge is only available during the month of Ramadhan, hundreds of people from all parts of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur could be seen lining up to get their share of this delicious dish. Of course, bubur lambuk is given out by many (usually mosques) all over Malaysia but up till now, no other bubur lambuk that I know taste as good as the  Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru from the well-known Masjid Jamek.

Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru

Due to the fact that the Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru is so famous for its ‘bubur lambuk’, the queue at the mosque would be very, very long and some may even have to wait for over an hour for a pack of free bubur lambuk. Those who would rather skip queuing may buy the dish from the many vendors who set up their stalls around the area for about RM2.00 per pack. Unfortunately many were disappointed since the bubur lambuk sold by the vendors taste far different than those given out by the mosque. However, there is one stall that sells the authentic Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru and taste just as good the ones given out by the mosque, ‘Bubur Lambuk Kak Sham’.

Aunty Sham stirring a pot of bubur lambuk

If you have not tried the authentic bubur lambuk Kampung Baru, you should try to get some before Ramadhan ends. Believe me, it is worth the trip especially for those who love bubur lambuk. We stay in Ampang and there are lots of places around our area that give away free bubur lambuk (without us having to queue) but we would still be making our journeys to Kampung Baru for our bubur lambuk; and it has to be Aunty Sham’s, of course. And it is always nice to see the delighted faces of our friends when we send them the delicious bubur lambuk.  If you are a bubur lambuk lover like I am or have never tasted the famous Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru before, try to queue at the Masjid Jamek for a pack or just drop by at Aunty Sham’s stall which is opposite the mosque and you would surely be back for more. Aunty Sham’s stall is located in front of the Al-Islam Specialist Hospital.

Birthdays in March – mum’s and mine


Both mum and I not only have our birthdays in March but also in the same week. I am 16 this year, Alhamdulillah, and my family members had given me wonderful presents.

Mum gave me a lot of her Australian, American, Canadian and New Zealand stamps wrapped in a lovely silver coloured box. My dad bought me stamps at the stamp fair and an A3 sized document file which I now use to keep my stamps in. My sister Aeshah gave me some Vietnamese stamps featuring dolphins that are missing from my collection and lots of odds and ends that I could use for my craftworks. Anisah gave me a number of her drawings and Ali gave me a hairdryer, a ‘Snoopy’ clock and a watch.

My parents gave me a beautiful birthday card with a picture of a flower drawn by mum (the artist), using soft pastels. Ahmad Ali gave me three birthday cards for he enjoyed card making so much that he couldn’t stop making them… Abang Muhammad sent me a birthday card too, all the way from Chicago together with lots of gorgeous U.S.S.R. stamps.

My mother had a marvellous birthday too. Again, most of her presents were stamps from all of us. I secretly looked through her stamp albums and picked out stamps that I own but is missing from her collection. I’m delighted that she was thrilled to receive the stamps that I gave her. I also gave her some Machin stamps (the British definitive stamps with a picture of Queen Elizabeth’s head – mum simply love them, she has a few pages of those lovely stamps in her stamp album and wishes to own as much as she could). Aeshah gave her stamps too. Anisah gave her an envelope with a picture of a cat that she ‘bought’ for 6 stars (our play-money currency) from my little brother.  And Ahmad Ali gave mum a beautiful egg cup and a special Machin stamp(the 1840 Anniversary Machins) with pictures of both Queen Elizabeth as in other Machin stamps and Queen Victoria as in Penny Black.

That night,we had pizzas from Domino’s Pizza for our dinner. Everyone love Domino’s Pizza and we celebrated most of our birthdays with them. It was only last month when we had pizza for my little brother’s birthday!

Ahmad Ali’s Best Birthday


A stamp booklet!

Many wonderful things happened on our birthdays and my brother, Ahmad Ali, told me that his 8th birthday was his best. Ahmad turned 8 only six days ago and many wonderful things happened on his special day.

Coincidentally, he also started his silat (Malay martial art) class on his birthday. He had been waiting for years for the day when he could join my sisters and I to our silat class. He amazed our instructor by being able to do a lot of the simple moves (since Ahmad had been ‘practicing’ with his sisters at home).

Back at home, dad brought him an envelope addressed to him from Abang Muhammad (the letter actually arrived the day before but our mail-girl, Anisah, had forgotten to pick up the Saturday’s mail). When he read the sender’s name and address, Ahmad didn’t believe that it was from Abang Muhammad. He insisted that my dad was teasing him until he opened the birthday card and saw Abang Muhammad’s signature. He was speechless with pleasure and surprise at the thought of Abang Muhammad sending him a birthday gift all the way from Chicago. Ahmad was also delighted with the mint stamps that Abang Muhammad sent him.

A stamp album from mum

Unwrapping gifts had always been the main part of our birthday celebrations. It was fun to look at him shaking his presents and peeking into the openings of the wrappers as he tried to guess what was inside and whom it was from. It is also very rewarding to look at his facial expression when he opened his gifts. His joy and delight was painted all over his face. Amazingly, his best birthday present was a pack of menthol flavoured sunflower seeds from mum, followed up by a DIY model airplane (from me) and a ‘Maisto‘ Assembly Line Enzo Ferrari from my dad which tied in 2nd place. A stamp album from my mum with 132 stamps inside for him to start his stamp collection was chosen as Ahmad’s 3rd best birthday present followed by the mint stamps from Abang Muhammad. However, Abang Muhammad was very lucky because Ahmad chose Abang Muhammad’s card as his best.

He had a beautiful birthday e-card with a cute teddy bear from Aunty Selina who lives in Maryland, USA. That night, we had pizza from Domino’s Pizza for his birthday dinner. And Ahmad (who had been a fussy eater) finished 3 enormous slices of the extra large sized pizza!

Note: For more photos, click here.