Monday, September 28, 2009

Portrait of a Fortnight: The Art of Living in Milan

No, that’s not the latest creation by our Jimmy Choo, incorporating art mosaic into his shoe design. It is a bathtub on display in a SICIS showroom located along Via Fatebenefratelli. Benvenuta/o to the art of living in Milan. But it is not all hunky dory here in this city where design is a way of life. Cheap tacky impersonation of our lovely heritage is on display too. Like this one.
More text later. Meanwhile, let the pictures tell a thousand words.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Portrait of a Fortnight: I amsterdam

At the KLIA, before boarding the intercontinental flight, my parents purchased some essential items like the Euros, worldwide travel adaptor, rewriteable Sony DVD and soon-to-be elusive Malaysian food such as coconut juice and curry mee. Regrettably, they discovered much too late that the Euros and Sony DVDRW are much cheaper @ KL Sentral than @ KLIA.

Papa also made a quick call to Opah who just got back from her nightly tarawikh to seek her restu, as always. He got a taste of his own medicine, so to speak, when Opah sounded him “Din jangan tinggal sembahyang tau, dan jangan bawa balik H1N1. Kirim salam Wan kat Zura. Itu saja pesanan. Selamat jalan”. The rest of the I amsterdam story is narrated by Papa, for obvious reasons.

The 12-hour flight was pleasant, with no discernible turbulence. There was a host of in-flight entertainment to while away the time. The movies on offer were diverse, and I opted for never-seen-before romantic comedies; Tim Bevan’s Wimbledon and The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and an unfamiliar lead actor. Wimbledon is a huge disappointment unlike Tim Bevan’s previous work such as Four Weddings, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Atonement. Without exception, it is littered with obscenities fashionably spewed by the Sloane set; wankers, bollocks et al. The Proposal is so-so. For the final movie, I went for the tried and tested formula and clicked Atonement – an Ian McEwan’s adaptation, a movie I enjoyed with relish when viewed for the first time in Hong Kong, nearly two years ago. The central character, a man fitnahed by a fanciful 13 year old budding author on the cusp of the "complications of love", was played so delicately by James McAvoy, in sharp contrast to his peripheral role in Wimbledon.

We landed at Schiphol airport in the wee hour of the morning. After freshening up, surfing the internet and loitering around, we joined the 2 1/2 hours Amsterdam tour organized by Holland Tours Schiphol B.V. to get a glimpse of the Golden Age of Holland. There were six other transfer passengers from Russia, Canada and other countries in our group, plus Paul, the local driver-cum-tour guide. I had difficulty in understanding the baffling English spoken by Paul, as he sounded "knotted and guttural" at times.

Paul reminded us that in the 17th century, Holland was one of the world’s richest countries, and the tour took us to serene suburbs dotted with tantalizing summer houses with roofs made of straw, overlooking a picturesque tree-lined river. These mansions were once occupied by the wealthy merchants during the heyday of the Dutch East India Company. Paul made a few brief stops at the Rotterman wooden shoes and cheese factory which is a perfect one stop place to buy Dutch souvenirs and gifts at attractive prices, a private windmill, the Skinny Bridge and last but not least the Museumplein. Museumplein has a vast square dotted with brightly tattoed miniature elephants in various cheeky acrobatic positions. A clutch of Amsterdam’s grand museums can be found here: Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum and of course the Rijksmuseum with its enviable collections including the 17th century paintings by the Dutch Masters such as Vermeer’s The Milkmaid (1658), Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (1642) and Frans Hals’ The Wedding Portrait (1622). Alas, we didn’t have all the time in the world to ogle at these masterpieces.
At one point during the tour, Paul made a terse announcement “no photographs or video recording here please”. Immediately after he finished his sentence, the mini van veered into a magnificent district with attractive step/neck/bell/spout gabled shop houses along the canal displaying shapely ladies in luminous bikinis strutting their considerable stuff behind the large window. So savvy are the marketing gimmicks they unleashed to woo the predominantly non-Dutch customers, at barely 10 in the morning!. This is understandable as they have to cover the steep cost of renting the show rooms. From the window of the mini van, CREA CAFE in the vicinity of Amsterdam University looks inviting too as an extraordinarily perfect place to hang out and unwind.

To sum up, I amsterdam is an eccentrically beautiful city inhabited by generally tolerant and enlightened Amsterdammers with unorthodox mindsets who are always mindful to preserve their glorious past. Respect!
To be continued ...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Portrait of a Fortnight: Pre-Departure

Where do I begin? To tell the story of a fortnight, of many firsts. Mama’s first unforgettable sight of Venice, Papa’s first nerve wracking plenary presentation to a select audience comprising eminent management gurus from the leading business schools in the US and Europe, and me and my siblings being deprived of their intimate attention for a week. One whole week.

On Friday, a fortnight ago, i.e. two days before their departure to Italy, they invited a few friends to Suasana Permai for iftar. They ordered the masakan kampung from their favourite stall in Hutan Kampung. Understandably the weight freak guests did not eat like crazy and so there were lots of left-over food for them to tapau. To help with the cleaning up, Mama engaged the service of a super efficient Myanmar lady.

On Sunday the 6th of September, after work and school, they drove all of us first to Alor Setar to meet Mama’s friend who has generously offered to look after my brother during their sojourn. Her son also happens to be a classmate of my brother at SAHC. During the process of transferring my brother’s personal belongings at the emotional handover, my brother realized that he forgot to pack his white Bata shoes. Papa gave him an additional pocket money to buy a new pair of shoes and reminded him profusely “Jangan tinggal sembahyang OK” as we said our goodbyes.

From there, we drove to Mak Su’s place in Butterworth for iftar. After iftar my parents had their shower, and just before they made their way to the Butterworth railway station, they decidedly left behind their smelly office wear in the care of Mak Su. As I so enjoyed my sister’s company, they made a prior decision that it’s best that my sister stayed with me throughout our stay with Mak Su. Which means that she had to be absent from school for a few days, excluding the UPSR leave.

And so we had our farewell on the railway platform, right at the door step of the KTM train, which was a wise decision as I could see right before my very own eyes how my parents were whisked away slowly and tenderly by the romantic Senandung Malam train amidst the chugging lullaby sound of sweet “tuut, tuuut, tuuuut”. Just before they disappeared into the still night, they cuddled and smothered all over me with their kisses and kept telling me in quick succession
“Mama dan Papa pergi kerja OK."
"Nanti Papa bawa balik Percy dan Harold OK."
"Nak tak?”.
And I just nodded and nodded.

They arrived at the KL Sentral the next day, just before imsak. Mama called Mak Su Suria and Mak Teh, and arranged for an impromptu meeting at the Mid Valley. Later she called Makcik Chah who spontaneously invited them to an iftar function near KL Sentral. Much to his protest, Papa was asked to join the main table, and sans baju melayu and songkok, he was the odd man out. If they had told him it was an official function, he could have borrowed the Hang Tuah baju melayu designed by Mak Su Suria and perhaps added more lustre to an already commendable event.

After performing the maghrib prayer in jamaah, the driver kindly sent them to KL Sentral and they boarded the KLIA express to catch the KLM flight to Amsterdam en route to Milan.

(To be continued)

We would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Selamat Hari Raya with families and friends and Maaf Zahir Batin.