Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dishes that bind generations

The exercise book is torn and tattered at the edges. I believe that it is as old as I am, if not older. In it are recipes my mother had jotted down over the years. 
These are recipes that have been passed down through the generations. My mother learned some of the family’s much loved dishes from our late paternal step-grandmother, an aunt or two and from cooking and baking classes that she attended when we were young. 
That book is her prized possession. When she moved to stay with my brother in Putrajaya, she accidentally left the book in my home. She nagged me endlessly until I had the book delivered to her. 
She refers to it from time to time, especially when there is heavy-duty cooking involved during the festive season. She wants to get the ingredients correct. Yes, there are no measurements in her cooking recipes, just the ingredients, unlike the recipes for baking cakes and cookies, where the ingredients have to be precise. Like all other elders, her cooking entails taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and throwing it all in the pot. 
During the recent Hari Raya Aidiladha, she decided that my sister-in-law and I do the cooking. Now, for the first time in our adult lives, my mother is handing over the cooking for the festive season to us. 
You see, the kitchen had always been my mother’s domain. She thinks we would be in her way as she moves around in the kitchen. 
But, this time around, she supervised us in the kitchen. She asked my sister-in-law to cook the lamb biryani while I was told to boil the rice. She also asked that I make the custard pudding, a typical Johor dessert eaten with custard sauce and fruit cocktail. I had never done this before and I was too embarrassed to ask my mother for the recipe. So, I looked up the recipe on the Internet. And, I found one that was just like the way my mother made it. 
As my sister-in-law stirred the lamb in the pot and I put the rice to boil in the electric rice cooker, I realised that my mother was passing the mantle to us to keep these family recipes alive. 
She was protective of her recipes before, but she was now willingly sharing them with us. Now, many precious family recipes are in danger of being lost as children have lost interest, especially in cooking and baking traditional dishes and treats (well, in my case and that of my cousins’, we are chased out of our family kitchens by our mothers). They prefer to engage catering services rather than cooking the dishes themselves.
 Family recipes, according to one article that I read, are a way of keeping our ancestry alive. The food we cook and eat can tell us of our heritage and culture. I have been asked if I can cook Laksa Johor (using spaghetti, no less) or make Harissa (oats is its main ingredient), and that I should at least know what Air Beyh is even if I don’t even know how to make it. 
Yes, as a Johorean, I know what these are and can tell you a little history about these foods, too. 
Until last year, 51 dishes had been declared a national heritage by the National Heritage Department. And, hopefully, these dishes will survive the test of time as more and more fusion cuisine is created and served in cafes and restaurants. 
Yes, there are many people sharing their family recipes on the Internet, but you have to try it out to see if it turns out the way your mother cooks it.
And, there is Puan Sri Habibah Salleh, who published two volumes of a recipe book entitled For My Children… What I Cooked for You. It is a record of dishes — from the simplest to the most elaborate — that she had cooked for her children and which they liked. 
She said she got married not knowing how to cook, especially Malay dishes. To make matters worse, her husband came from a household known for turning out the best in Malay dishes. He was very fond of Malay food and she was constantly aware of the reference point of “mother’s cooking”. 
She said her children asked her to leave some records for them. “I also feel an intense and urgent need to do so because I remember with sadness what happened to my mother-in-law’s book of carefully collected recipes written in her own handwriting — passed to the wife of her youngest son and, thereafter, to disappear forever. I remember the exercise book, thick and well-worn, packed to the hilt with additional pages of recipes gained from relatives,” she wrote in the preamble. 
I consider myself lucky for being given the two volumes by Habibah. I have referred to it when it was my time to be in the kitchen. 
In due time, we will have to do the same with my mother’s exercise book — maybe not in a book form but copying it again as hardcopy or storing it in a pen drive or hard disk — for the sake of our future generation. By the way, my mother’s recipes are written in Jawi. That, too, is a dying tradition.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Patriotic power of music

WE were having lunch at Alamanda, Putrajaya, the weekend before Merdeka when we heard singing coming from the concourse. 
Two old men calling themselves Patriot Buskers were performing evergreen Malay songs. The first song was an oldie, Datuk M. Nasir’s Ekspres Rakyat when he was with the group, Kembara. 
Their second song caught my attention as well as my brother’s. We actually sang along to it, much to the amusement of his children. It was Setia. No, it isn’t a pop song but a patriotic one and a classic. 
Setia was penned by the late Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat, who was then information minister. Some say it was Malaysia’s second “national anthem”.
 I can still remember national broadcaster Radio & Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) airing the song before transmission ends at midnight. The choir singers, dressed in their respective traditional costumes, singing “Demi Negara yang tercinta, Di curahkan bakti penuh setia…” 
Oh, how long ago was that? Another friend recalled the songwhen I mentioned it to him. Yes, at 60 years old, he can still remember the lyrics. 
There’s also Keranamu Malaysia (lyrics by Pak Ngah/Siso Kopratasa) which fronted a six-year campaign prior to the country’s 50th year of independence in 2007. “...Keranamu kami bebas merdeka, Keranamu nyawa dipertaruhkan, Keranamu rela kami berjuang, Demi bangsa kedaulatan negara...” 
Before these two songs, there was another famous song, one that promoted unity called Muhibbah, penned by Saiful Bahari. But it’s Setia and KeranaMu Malaysia that will play endlessly in your mind after you first hear it. Back then, RTM would air these songs ever so often that you learnt the lyrics just by listening to it over and over again. 
And if we look back in time, some of our patriotic songs — which unfortunately are no longer aired — date back to pre-Merdeka days when the country was referred to as “Malaya” in the lyrics. These songs were used to nurture patriotism in Malayans. 
A few years after the country gained independence, the first prime minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, had asked Radio Malaya to come up with a collection of national tunes. Celebrated musicians the likes of Jimmy Boyle, Alfonso Soliano and Tony Fonseka penned some songs. My personal favourite is Tanah Pusaka by Tan Sri Ahmad Merican, with the lyrics by his music assistant, Wan Ahmad Kamal. 
According to reports, the song was first documented in a Radio Malaya songbook from 1961 and recorded internationally by Indonesian-born Dutch singer, Sandra Reemer, in 1962. 
The song speaks of the country’s beauty, its multiracial citizens, unity and peace. 
Music does make a highly effective propaganda vehicle and can be used to raise the patriotic spirit and foster unity among the people. 
In fact, music was a prominent feature on the homefront and the battlefields throughout World War 1. 
“Governments often used it as an effective means for inspiring fervour, pride, patriotism and action in the citizens in order to gain manpower, homeland support and funds,” one report said. 
Some of the most obvious types of musical propaganda are found in patriotic songs, national anthems, and military music. The social necessity of having a national anthem began with England in the mid-1700s, followed by Spain and France later in the century. 
The report further said no country, as history proves, can afford to ignore the patriotic force capable of being brought into play through the power of music, either in song or in instrumental form, both of which performed their part in inciting to action.
 It is said some songs written by British composer, musician, dramatist, novelist and actor Charles Dibdin had such a potent influence in war that in 1803, the British government engaged him to write a series of them “to keep alive the national feelings against the French”. 
During World War 2, popular music served as American government propaganda by helping to support pre-existing cultural assumptions about the Japanese. 
Government officials understood the power of music and used it to mobilise the American people in support of the war against Japan. Here and now, we have a good example in how cheerleading squad Boys of Straits rally the JDT fans at the team’s home and away matches. 
Like other international football clubs that have their own songs and cheers, JDT, too, have their own. In fact, there are many songs that the Boys of Straits will sing to build up the spirit of togetherness among the fans of the football team. 
It is amazing to see how they form the camaraderie by singing these songs non-stop way before the match starts until the final whistle. Even little kids have memorised the lyrics to Luaskan Kuasamu Johor. 
I’m pretty sure the recording sof the old patriotic songs can be found in Arkib Negara, which our national broadcaster as well as theprivate television and radio stations can air, especially when the country celebrates National Day and Malaysia Day. 
Failing which, one can always search the Internet. I have found gems on YouTube, such as Malaysia Tanah Airku, Kemegahan Negaraku and Malaya Permai, in the original versions. These days, these songs have been given fresh makeovers and have evolved into numerous renditions.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Let's fly the flag every day

Astro Awani pix
Nine years ago, I took part in the National Day parade. It was the country’s 50th year of independence but Aug 31 was, to many of us, just another reason for a holiday. 
Growing up, celebrating National Day was about waking up early in the morning to sit in front of the television set to watch the parade. 
After the parade, we would go back to sleep; if we hadn’t fallen asleep in between the live telecast. 
A few years after I started work, I remembered going to Dataran Merdeka with my housemates and their friends on the eve of Merdeka Day. We did the countdown as the clock at the tower of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building struck 12 at midnight. After shouting Merdeka three times, we made our way to what was called Bangsar Boulevard (the open air stalls at one of the roads in Bangsar Baru) where we had supper until the wee hours of the morning. In later years, Merdeka eve was spent watching fireworks at KLCC. 
One year, I actually took a room at a hotel near the Twin Towers where from the balcony, I could clearly see the fireworks going off into the sky. It was deafening. I had thought then that if a war zone sounded like that, I was grateful that I was living in peaceful Malaysia. 
While I think that I would still enjoy watching the fireworks, I think I need to find something more than just watching the sponsors “burn” money (which could go to better causes) for a few minutes of joy. 
Well, I can tell you that I had no regrets whatsoever in signing up for the National Day parade in 2007 although we were subjected to the kawad (marching) exercises with the Army and followed by rehearsals in the heat of the afternoon. We got yelled at by the Army instructor and also when we went out of step in front of the VIP stage during rehearsals. 
Heck, we were part of the country’s 50th Independence celebration. Nothing, not even the harsh words from the instructors, could break us although some of us very nearly quit the team because we felt that civilians should not be subjected to the National Day parade. 
It should be left to the Armed Forces and the Police, whose personnel do it well as they have been trained to kawad during their own training. 
We proudly wore the flag, which was part of our team uniform. Well, actually we were initially embarrassed with our uniform but there were others worst off than us. The Jalur Gemilang actually covered half of our anatomy. I actually walked half the city in the uniform after the parade. 
This is of course nothing compared to my mother’s own experience at Padang Pahlawan in Malacca in 1956 when Tunku Abdul Rahman announced the country’s independence. She was 16 years old. She said she cried when she listened to the announcement. 
Our past leaders struggled hard to achieve Independence. Our current leaders worked doubly hard to maintain it. 
And we have to remember that they did not build the nation alone; it takes all of us to do it.
 I believe each and every one of us contributes in whatever way we know best. 
I have always thought that the Merdeka month would be a fitting time to raise patriotism by any means possible. 
We used to have a month-long Fly the Jalur Gemilang campaign. Was there any announcement of such a campaign this year? Was the campaign so effective that we no longer need to maintain that? It is pretty obvious that we are showing our patriotism and loyalty to the country only in August. 
After Merdeka month, we take the flag down and keep it in storage for next year’s celebration. What about the rest of the year? Why not make it a year-long campaign? 
Better still, why not make it an ongoing campaign? Let’s fly the flag every day. With the younger generation, how do you instil patriotism, loyalty and pride of the country in them? 
And we have to remember it’s a changed Malaysia from 59 years ago. Engaging Malaysians of today is different from the time of our forefathers. Our struggles are different, too. My fear is that soon we will lose sight of why our forefathers fought for independence because Independence Day has become just another public holiday or a day to party. 
For as long as I can remember, our Merdeka Day celebrations centred around parades. In Kuala Lumpur, it would be in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, taking advantage of Dataran Merdeka for the field display. Then, it moved to the other states. For the past few years, it returned to Kuala Lumpur. 
My wish is for us to do it differently. By different, I don’t mean changing the location but changing the format of the celebration. Doing it differently doesn’t mean we’ll lose the essence of our Independence.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Remember Farmville? Yeah, let's see how long Pokemon Go can last ...

I HAVE the Pokémon Go app on one of my mobile phones. Yes, 54-year-old me. Curiosity got the better of me. 
Baby boomers like me are not alien to video and computer games. We started our adulthood during the Space Invaders, Asteroids and Pac-Man era. I believe if we were to play Pac-Man again, we could beat the pants off some of the millennials. 
Pokémon Go is relatively easy to understand. I found out fast enough to know that you (called a trainer) can catch these Pokémons at public places while you refresh your supplies of the balls (used to catch these Pokémons) and collect other stuff at what is called a Poke Stop. 
Since I began on Saturday, I have collected 60 Pokemons and surpassed Level Five (now at Level Six) where you can join a team and fight battles against other trainers for fame, glory and loot. My niece, nephew and I have since joined Team Valour but we have not had any battles as yet. 
The Pokémon Go application for Android has registered some 100 million downloads so far. Some parents have had requests from their children to get their phones and data plans upgraded to enable them to play the game. 
But, even before the game reached our shores, there were attempts to get the authorities to ban it, even to the extent of involving the religious authorities. Muslims here are discouraged from playing the game due to its negative effects. 
The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) has in fact supported the decision by the Federal Territories Islamic Legal Consultative Committee in forbidding Muslims from engaging themselves in Pokémon Go. 
Apparently, the decision was said to be consistent with the views of other Muslim countries which found the game to be dangerous, resulting in fatal accidents. 
It is a different story across the Causeway. 
I was drawn to a Facebook posting by the Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore — Darul Arqam Singapore, whose building is one of the Poke Stops in the republic. They have not stopped anyone from entering the building. In fact, they encourage trainers to use their facilities. They welcome trainers "to step in to cool down your body after a whole day of outdoor activities. 
"For Muslim trainers, do perform your daily prayers before continuing your quests to catch ‘em all". They also encourage trainers to stay safe while on the move. 
When you start up the app, it actually warns you to heed your surroundings and not trespass but as long as we are human, we are bound to make mistakes. Trainers tend to ignore these warnings in the heat of chasing after these creatures of all shapes and sizes. Their concentration will be on the screen of their mobile phones. That is when accidents happen. We have read about injuries and even deaths because of Pokémon Go in other countries. 
One thing good about this game is that you will have to do a lot of walking. My nephew, who shunned outdoor activities before, is now spending more time outside the house, but we cautioned him to be careful like we always did even before the Pokémon Go craze. 
While there are many reports of the negative side effects of playing Pokemon Go and any other video or computer games, there are numerous articles that give the benefits of it. 
The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported this week on a study by associate professor Alberto Posso, an economist from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology of Australia, who said playing computer games could boost a student’s school performance and should be incorporated into classroom activities. 
Posso had used the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s test results and information on the amount of time Australian students spent in the digital world to measure the impact computer gaming and social media had on 15-year-olds’ performance in maths, science and reading. 
Social media was outed as a pastime with little return on investment. He said games like Minecraft let students apply and sharpen skills such as problem-solving and analytical thinking. 
"They have to solve puzzles, use their cognitive skills and even solve some maths when playing video games," he said in the (SMH) article. 
Posso said for a generation whose lives had become increasingly virtual — 97 per cent of Australian teenagers have access to the Internet, which is above the global average — incorporating gaming in education made sense. "We shouldn’t be dismissing these games," he said. "These are the tools that they are using... and the curriculum perhaps has to be a bit more flexible to reach this generation." 
Well, I would not worry too much about Pokémon Go. It is a craze and like all crazes, the novelty will run out. 
Take, for example, Facebook’s FarmVille. Launched in 2009, it became the most popular game on Facebook but by 2011, it experienced a considerable decline in popularity. By May 2012, it was ranked as the seventh most popular Facebook game. 
As at April 30, its rank had fallen to the 110th most popular Facebook game by Daily Active Users, while FarmVille 2 is at 42nd place. 
Millions of mobile phone users, like some of my older friends, may have downloaded the Pokemon Go app just to see what everyone is talking about. They will likely uninstall it. 
And depending on how aggressive these players are, they will reach the end of the game in no time. 
Don Bluth, an American video game designer and once a Disney animator, was quoted as saying the shelf life of a regular video game is usually about three to five years. 
So, let’s see how long Pokemon Go will last.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Date With Selena Gomez

I WAS at the Selena Gomez The Revival Tour 2016 concert at Malawati Stadium in Shah Alam on Monday night. 
Yes, me. No, I’m not a fan, just an aunty who was there to chaperone my niece and her friend, who she invited to come along as my nephew decided not to go because he had to prepare for his examination. 
I believe I was not alone in doing that. I saw parents with their children and guardians with their wards at the concert. Some made it an all-girls’ night, as like my niece puts it, “not all boys like Selena Gomez’s songs”. But there are those who dragged their husbands and boyfriends. 
The national anthem was played before the start of the concert. 
The multiracial crowd sang the Negara Ku with such gusto. It was a night of screams. When the lights came on, the girls screamed. When it was off, there was another round of screams. The same thing happened when a band member took his position on stage. When Selena finally appeared on stage, the crowd went wild. 
Our seats were located behind the Pit Zone (standing room only), which was in front of the stage. So, when the concert started, there was no way we could see the stage if we remained seated behind the Pit Zone. We resorted to standing on the chairs instead, only I (and some of the other adults) did that for the first half of the show. I remembered that the last time I stood on a chair was in Standard Four when I couldn’t remember the lines in a poem in Mrs D’Cruz’s English class. It was a torture, not only having to stand the entire period of English class but having to stand on a chair. 
We sang and danced and when Selena sang a Eurythmics’ classic, Sweet Dreams, the adults were on their feet and singing along. That was probably the only song we could relate to that night. 
Selena was dressed in a black long-sleeved turtleneck and loose silk pants during the first few songs. She then changed into a gold sequin midi dress that was bared at the back and two songs later, she was in a sleeveless black top and pants and a cardigan of sorts until the end of the show. 
It was a wholesome fun night for the concert goers. 
And what was so wrong with that? Most importantly, Selena was dressed and conducted herself appropriately and not provocatively as per the Communications and Multimedia Ministry’s guidelines on application for filming and performance by foreign artistes. 
And, I believe the members of the Central Committee for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes attending the concert — under the guidelines, the concert organiser has to allocate 20 tickets and any number of passes to the committee for the purpose of monitoring — saw that the Revival Tour concert met the ministry’ requirements. 
Well, some 20-odd men — reported to be members of Pertubuhan Kebajikan Darul Islah Malaysia — didn’t think so, even before the concert took place. One of them, using the loudhailer, told the concert-goers, especially the Malay crowd, why they should not go to the concert. We also saw them while walking towards the car park after the concert ended. We read later that they held hajat prayers and recited the Yassin outside the stadium. 
And, I have a feeling that some quarters were disappointed that no untoward incident happened. I don’t know what they had achieved that night but I thought it was a cheap stunt at getting publicity. 
The ministry defines entertainment as, one, a happy, joyful, pleasant and peaceful feeling that a person experiences as a result of something; two, an art, ability and capability to entertain and provide satisfaction in any reasonable manner to delight anyone; and three, an artistic and cultural performance exhibited and performed before an audience. 
Now, why shouldn’t we support the entertainment/music industry as an extension of the tourism sector? 
Currently, its potential as a revenue earner to the country is generally ignored. Concert organisers, for example, have to make payment of the foreign artiste’s withholding tax (the rate of withholding tax is 15 per cent of the foreign artiste’s gross income) to the Inland Revenue Board. And there are other fees to be paid, too, to the authorities. 
Also, if the concert is held only in Malaysia, there is a likelihood that those in neighbouring countries would travel here to catch the show, like what some of us do when there are international stars performing either in Jakarta or Singapore. That would definitely translate into tourism ringgit as the foreigners would be spending on food and accommodation and maybe a spot of shopping while they are here. 
It was reported that an estimated 10 million people travel internationally each year for the main purpose of watching or participating in a music or cultural festival. In the UK, for example, music tourism alone contributed £3 billion to the British economy in 2014. 
As such, we should facilitate the concert organisers, not make it difficult, for them to bring in the foreign artistes for their own solo concerts or to be part of a music event. 
Furthermore, music is also a powerful way of connecting people if we know how to utilise it.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

SAKIT TUA?

My mother celebrated her 75th birthday in late December last year. Other than diabetes, which is under control for the past few months with her blood sugar reading hovering between five and 6mmol/L (milimole per litre), she is in good health. My brother and his daughter accompany her whenever she goes for her medical check-ups at the government hospital. 
But, of late, she has been complaining of aches and pains. She cannot be on her feet for too long or else her ankles would be bloated. We gave her a cane to aid her walking. When she had trouble adjusting to the cane, we gave her a walker. Whenever we are out with her, we try to get her to use a wheelchair for ease of movements. But, she is more comfortable being left at home instead. 
Now staying at home has it disadvantages. You see, she watches television and reads newspapers. And, more often than not, she would zero in on the advertisements and commercials for the so-called local health supplements. 
I have asked her to seek the doctor’s advice on these local supplements. “Nenek did ask the doctor. The doctor told nenek not to waste her money on them,” Mysara, the granddaughter, reported. 
The doctor’s advice has turned on deaf ears. My mother is taken in by the users’ testimonials. She would give Mysara money to buy these supplements. “Others have tried them and they work. I want to try them to see if them work,” she would say. So, Mysara would buy these local health supplements to humour the grandmother. 
And, these products are not exactly cheap. A bottle of what I believe is just a fruit concentrate but hyped up as a health supplement costs about RM200. My mother’s biggest “investment” thus far is a RM1,500 blanket which is said to be good for the joints. She stopped using it after hardly a week, claiming that it has not worked its said miracle. I have asked my relatives and friends not to pitch any supplements or products to my mother. While it may work for them, it may not work for her. 
Why do you think our elders are easily suckered into buying these products? Probably because of the promises these local health supplement producers are giving to potential buyers. 
A promise of being able to perform the prayers the normal way after taking the supplement, for example, would go down well with those who had to resort to sitting on a chair to do this. I can understand how my mother feels being helpless. I have twice being in that position; once in 1989 after a knee operation and the other two years ago when I fell and chipped the humerus bone on my right hand. 
Because she cannot walk without being aided by a cane or walker, she could no longer potter around the house like she used to. She can no longer cook because cooking would mean having to be on her feet. She cannot help hang the laundry at the balcony. She cannot help to water the plants as the watering can is too heavy for her. 
This Raya, I can feel her frustration of not being able to cook. I took over the kitchen duties and cooked the rendang, kuah kacang and harissa. She has even told her brother and sister not to visit because she would not be able to entertain large number of guests on the first day of Syawal. 
That is why I believe she and many others like here are ever willing to be a guinea pig for these products if they are made to think that they can be well after consuming or using them. 
My mother has actually stopped asking us to buy her any of these supplements after I told her that a colleague's mother was admitted to the hospital for kidney failure after consuming a certain health product. 
Yes, some friends are facing the same problem with their mothers. And, somehow, it is only the mothers, not the fathers, who are attracted to these health supplements. A friend remarked, “Fathers have embraced ageing. Mothers have not.” 
Whatever that ails our parents now are actually age-related. We can see the physical, psychological and social changes in them. In fact, the doctor has referred my mother to an eye specialist for what he had termed as “macular degeneration of the eyes”. 
Ageing is among the greatest known risk factors for most human diseases. It has been reported that of the 150,000 people who die each day across the globe, about two-thirds die from age-related causes. 
The Malays has a term for it. It is called sakit tua, only tua or old is not a penyakit or illness; it is simply old age.​

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A quieter Raya this year?

I have a confession to make. 
Some years ago, I brought home RM600 worth of sparklers and fireworks. My mother didn’t ask me where I got them from and I didn’t tell her. She repeatedly said I was “burning money” for buying and lighting up the fireworks. That money could have put to good use elsewhere. 
That was the year we beat the other houses in the area in an unofficial fireworks competition. It started close to midnight on the eve of Syawal and was based on who could shoot the highest or the loudest. We kept our “secret weapon” for last. We let our neighbours have all the fun — they had teased and taunted us with their fireworks. 
At the stroke of midnight, our fireworks lit the skies. We gave our neighbours, and a passing patrol car, some two minutes of spectacular fireworks display. No, we didn’t get into trouble with the authorities. They didn’t even alight from their car. They probably saw that the fireworks were lit under adult supervision. We didn’t think they were going to drag all of us to the police station that night. It was already past midnight; in fact, it was Syawal morning. 
A year before that, I brought home firecrackers, the ones the Chinese would burn at the stroke of midnight on Chinese New Year. I remember Mak scolding us twice; the first was because we lit it close to midnight and that the racket disturbed our neighbours and then the morning after when she saw the front lawn blanketed by a sea of red paper. We had to clean the lawn before she allowed us to sit at the dining table for breakfast on the first day of Raya. 
But, I must tell you that we were good kids. We still have our fingers intact. There was little or no MacGyver in us. We never attempted to make our own bamboo or pipe cannons. In fact, we had never seen one in our lives. We would stick to the original thing, with no intentions of modifying it. 
Whenever Mak is on her reminiscing mode, she would regale my niece and nephew with stories of her playing with “meriam buloh” during her growing up years in Batu Pahat. Yes, they made their own cannons and bombs. She would describe in detail the hissing sound when calcium carbide is added to water and the sound it made when it was lit. “Boleh dengar kampong sebelah. Tak ada pulak yang putus jari atau mati (even the neighbouring village can hear it. And, no one lost their fingers or their lives),” she would say. 
I asked around, but no one really knows when fireworks became a tradition in Malay households. I remember playing with sparklers when I was small. And, Mak never failed to use the mishap that left a scar on my body while playing with sparklers as an example of how dangerous it was to play with them. 
I read that fireworks were invented during the Tang Dynasty in 7th century China and were used in many festivities. The Chinese originally believed that the fireworks could expel evil spirits and bring about luck and happiness. 
It eventually spread to other cultures and societies. But, it is during Ramadan and Hari Raya — not Chinese New Year where fireworks are part of the tradition — that we read about incidents relating to fireworks. 
So, Mak was relieved when she read in the newspapers last week of Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar’s warning to parents who buy or allow their children to play with firecrackers. 
She no longer has to worry about the grandchildren playing with fireworks. 
Khalid had said there is “a strong, solid law” and that police “will enforce it to the fullest”. Under Section 8 of the Explosives Act 1957, anyone convicted can be imprisoned for up to seven years, fined RM10,000 or both. The law also empowers the police “to enter or board and search any house, premises or other buildings or place, or any vehicle, vessel or aircraft specified in the warrant and to search all persons found therein and thereon”. 
Even parents who were found buying their children these firecrackers would be arrested, Khalid said. The police authorised only the POP-POP firecrackers and a specific type of sparklers for the Malaysian market. 
Many other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Switzerland, France and Chile, have enforced fireworks laws. In fact, fireworks are illegal in Ireland and Chile, and only certain types can be sold to the public in Australia. For the other countries, for the most part, citizens need to be 18 to buy fireworks. In some countries, the fireworks are for sale only on certain days. 
Even China has banned fireworks in some of its cities, not for safety reason like but more due to the dire smog problem they are facing there. 
We will have to wait and see if this Raya will be a little quieter or less jubilant. Despite Khalid’s warning, I could still hear the deafening Thunderclaps outside the balcony of my brother’s apartment in Putrajaya over the weekend.