Thursday, December 8, 2016


WE grew up eating his father’s mee rebus, either biasa or “special”. 
Zainal has since taken over Haji Wahid’s restaurant at Taman Sri Tebrau in Johor Baru. He has since added variety to his late father’s original dish such as mee rebus tulang, mee rebus udang and mee rebus ayam. 
I took my boss for breakfast at Zainal’s place on Tuesday morning, Nothing has changed, I told him. Well, the taste of the mee rebus that is. But I cannot say the same for Johor. 
I find that every nook and cranny of the state is changing. 
Colleagues visiting Batu Pahat town enthused how the town is a happening place. 
Even my boss is amazed with the state’s transformation. A colleague had picked him up from the airport and drove him into the city. He remembered several places he had gone to before but these areas have changed tremendously. “What was here before?” he asked as we drove to Iskandar Puteri. 
Housing estates have replaced what used to be oil palm plantations. Who would have guessed that Iskandar Puteri-Gelang Patah was a black area back then. 
My mother had said it was notorious for being communist infested. She remembered an old photograph of her uncle and another policeman, who later became my late father’s brother-in-law, with a detained communist. 
In fact, that uncle resigned from the police force when he was told he was going to be transferred to Gelang Patah. “Aku dah hilang akal kalau aku pergi sana (I would have lost my mind if I agree to go there),” he had told his wife back then. 
The residential housing business is booming there. It is progressing from being a communist-infested village to a fully integrated city with a world-class environment for business, living and leisure. Oh, Gelang Patah used to be famous for its otak-otak. I wonder if it still is as we are finding more and more otak-otak kempas being sold at stalls and eateries. 
Kempas is another area that has benefited from Johor’s development as it is part of Iskandar Malaysia, an ambitious economic region mooted by former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi 10 years ago. 
Its progress is nothing short of phenomenal as described by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was on a two-working visit to Johor early this week. 
It was hardly surprising when Najib, at a press conference at the end of the visit, expressed his satisfaction with Johor’s progress under the stewardship of Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin. 
Iskandar Malaysia alone has received RM221 billion in committed investments to date. With that, the government can expect a 10-fold returns on investments. The government had pumped in RM20 billion into Iskandar Malaysia since its formation in 2006. Iskandar Malaysia is in the third and last phase of its development. 
Besides Iskandar Puteri, Najib was also in Pengerang on Monday to officiate the installation of the tallest and heaviest propylene fractionator process column for Petronas’s steam cracker facility at the national oil company’s US$27 billion Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC). 
Now, Pengerang was what we termed as tempat jin bertendang but developments there are progressing well. One of the largest industrial developments in the region as well as Petronas’s largest downstream investment to date, PIC is on track for overall start-up in the first quarter of 2019. The project is 48 per cent completed. Najib said he would make frequent visits to Pengerang. 
He also announced a RM5 million Federal Government allocation for the construction of a mosque there. 
He also launched four new stadium projects, of which three will be in Larkin and one in Mount Austin. Now, we were told by Khaled that the prime minister had never launched anything that has yet to be up and running but high confidence in the state government’s projects undertaken by Johor Corporation and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor could probably be the reason why he did it. 
He also visited Johor Baru’s hippiest place, Kilang Bateri. Impressed with what he saw there, especially since the traders there are operating without any government assistance, he announced a RM2 million grant by Khazanah Nasional for small traders. During the visit, Najib also had an audience with Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar and Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim. 
At the end of the working visit, a senior local politician noticed that the prime minister looked happy. “He seems to be in a good mood,” another said. 
He probably knows that he can bank on Johor to help the country achieve the status of a RM2 trillion economy in the next seven to eight years.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

What do you want to be?

Sometime ago, I posted on my Facebook status asking my friends whether they remembered what they listed as their ambition, the one they wrote in their school’s confidential files. I did this after an old friend asked if I had always wanted to be a journalist. Some of them did reply and I found their answers quite hilarious. 
Of course, we were kids and were easily influenced by the things around us when we were small. I think our class teachers must have had a good laugh reading what we listed out. 

I had wanted to be a police detective when I was in Form 1 to Form 4. I attributed this career choice to watching too many Hollywood police serials on television. 
In fact, a study was carried out by a team of students from Rutger University-New Brunswick on how television influences the way youth are socialised into potential careers. 
“These days if you talk to a teenager or even a college student, many will tell you they got interested in a career from a TV show they watched,” said Bernadette Gailliard, an assistant professor of communication at the School of Communication and Information, who led the recent study. 
The Rutgers team analysed 27 scripted and 29 reality shows from the 2012-2014 seasons. They picked the top-rated shows from those two seasons, but excluded competition shows such as Project Runway or Survivor, in which cast members are eliminated weekly. They dissected every scene’s dialogue for references to the character’s job. They found that the characters on top-rated scripted shows tend to be in one of three professions: law, medicine or the police force.
 “I think they are more represented because they are careers that are highly valued in American society and, in many ways, are particularly central to various parts of American life,” Gailliard observed. They also found that characters on scripted shows are more diverse and they tend to be more career-orientated than on reality TV. Scripted shows do well in depicting the day-to-day responsibilities of characters with jobs, but there is not much information on the character’s career history. 
“The career trajectory is missing on scripted TV,” Gailliard said. “If you’re interested in this career at 15 or 18, what does it take to get there? How much training do you need? How many years of school do you need? You won’t find out from TV.” 
Toni Moletteri, a communications major on Gailliard’s research team, said television is not a great source of information to learn about careers. “It’s unrealistic. It doesn’t show all the hard work that they have to do, especially doctors. You’re in school for 12 years. They hardly talk about that on TV shows.” 
But in Form Five, with a break from television as it was exam year, I changed my career choice to “wartawan”. I made this change after my language teachers made the Bahasa Malaysia and English classes interesting. I could have listed “auditor” (I was in a Commerce class in Form 4 but was “promoted” to a Science Class three months after the start of the school year) but I didn’t want to end up crunching numbers like my late father. 
Two friends on Facebook said they listed their ambition as archaeologist. One turned out to be a teacher and later a journalist, while the other trained as an astronomer but is now in the construction business. 
A good friend of my late brother, Johari, wanted to be the country’s first nuclear physicist. Well, someone had already beaten him to it. When I was told that Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Tajuddin Ali, who is now the chairman of UEM Group Bhd, is the country’s first nuclear physicist, I was reminded of Johari. I don’t know if he actually became a nuclear physicist. 
A colleague said he wrote “askar” as he was influenced by the Combat television series. He also wrote “nelayan” after his fisherman father. 
A former schoolmate wanted to be a flight stewardess and she got what she wanted. She told me she liked travelling, and back then, she also thought it was a glamorous job. But, when she joined the airline, she found out how “hard it was to be on a flight for hours on end meeting to passengers’ needs”. She’s now in human resource, which she describes as “not an easy job” as well, as she has to “suffer heartache and headache all in one”. 
Another journalist friend had a long list of ambitions: teacher, journalist, lawyer, archaeologist, soldier and finally a rock singer (influenced by the singers of Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band). He achieved the first two. 
One of my editors wanted to be a sailor while another friend, who now holds a PhD, wanted to be a newsreader. 
Now, I seriously wonder what our children are listing as their ambition. If indeed, television influences our career choices, are any of them listing pilot as a chosen career, following the successful airing of Malay drama series Suri Hati Mr Pilot on local direct broadcast satellite pay television service. 
Or would the girls harbour hopes of marrying a pilot instead?​

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Puddles on the roads

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.” It sounds romantic if what poet and playwright Rabindranath Tagore wrote is taken literally, but not so for the clouds over Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere in the past week, which were an indicator of rainstorms, that, more often than not, brought about heavy rain, floods and massive traffic jams.
Some of us, if not all, know of people who have had experienced being caught in such situations during a downpour. 
My first experience with floods was when I was schooling at Convent Johor Baru. Heavy rain and high tide had caused Jalan Yahya Awal to be flooded. Back then, my late father and I had this understanding that whenever Jalan Yahya Awal is flooded, I was to wait for him at the back gate of the school. 
The only other time I got trapped in a flash flood was in Kuala Lumpur in the late 1980s. I remember having to wade through knee-high, dirty water late one night at Jalan Pahang, enroute to Danau Kota where I was living back then. I had just left the office as it had rained heavily earlier but it didn’t cross my mind that water had risen in some parts of the city. 
The cab driver saw that the road ahead after the Courts Mammoth building in Setapak was already submerged, but he didn’t think the water was too high to pass through. 
As we hit the water, the car engine spluttered and eventually stalled. Water quickly seeped in. The cabbie asked me to get out of the car and wait for him on the curb. As I opened the door of the car, water rushed in. 
The driver joined me on the curb after he called over the radio for a replacement cab to take me home. 
I have been in Kuala Lumpur for the past 30-odd years, and I can personally tell you that the city has never overcome its flood problems despite the introduction of the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART Tunnel) in 2003. 
A civil engineering-trained friend said most of our roads are not “flood-friendly”, in that when it rains, the water does not flow into the drains. “That is why we’ll get puddles of water on the road,” he explained. 
Even our highways are flooded at times. Besides the so-called flaw in the construction of our roads, the blockages in the drains are also causing the floods. 
I just have to look at Jalan Liku in Bangsar where my office is. A heavy downpour for an hour or so will see water rising up to one metre high. After the water recedes, you'll see all kinds of rubbish on the road, such as twigs and branches of trees, plastic bottles, dead critters and other stuff. 
Although the public needs to be educated to keep the environment clean, the authorities concerned must also ensure that the drains are maintained for water to flow freely. The local authorities and the ministries concerned must make sure that this is done. 
I used to listen to my late father rant about this back when we got caught in the flood on the way home from school. He thought that local councillors and officers of agencies concerned should be out and about in the rain to see for themselves the clogged drains and the flood-prone areas. 
Only then would they know how serious the problem was, and is. This year, the Malaysian Meteorological Department has forecast rainfall from the second week of this month, with more heavy rain from next month to January. Massive floods are likely if there is continuous rainfall. 
The department categorised rain in three categories: yellow (where heavy rain is expected to occur within one to three days); orange (occasionally moderate rain of 0.5-4mm/hour for more than one day) and red (moderate rain turn to heavy downpour with accumulated rainfall expected to reach 100mm/day). 
Rain is also expected to be continuous for one day. It was reported that the government established the National Disaster Relief Committee under the National Security Council (NSC) in 1972 with the task of coordinating flood relief operations at national, state and district levels with a view to prevent loss of human lives and to reduce flood damage. 
The NSC confirmed that the December 2014-January 2015 floods were the worst in the history of the country, where 21 people were killed and more than 200,000 lost their homes with damages estimated at RM1 billion. 
Over the past few years, I had gone on flood relief missions in several states. My team had driven through waist-high flood waters to get to affected villages. We went to schools and community halls, which had been converted into temporary relief centres. Some victims sought refuge at mosques and surau. 
One temporary relief centre we visited was also flooded, where the water was knee-high. Wherever we went, we found food in abundance, but basic stuff like toiletries were scarce. These victims and their families fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs. 
The first time I volunteered on the mission, it was pretty hard for me. While I was ready for the hard work during the mission, I wasn't emotionally prepared for it. But, I cannot compare that to what the victims and their families had gone through, especially those who lost their loved ones. 
The psychological impact can be long-lasting. I am hopeful that we are ready to face the floods and are better prepared this time around to help the flood victims. Let us also pray for this year’s monsoon season to be kinder on all of us.​

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Excursions, anyone?

MY niece, who is studying at a university, lives in a residential college where she shares a room with four students from other states. She came home for the mid-term semester break recently and shared some observations with her parents about her college mates. 
One pertinent observation she made, besides their weak command of the English language, was that they were somewhat “isolated” from the outside world. It was quite shocking to her that some of her college mates had not been to Kuala Lumpur before. 
“I tell them of some of the known places in Kuala Lumpur and it drew a blank stares. I talk about some famous shops and they didn’t know about them,” she said. 
She, too, had a dose of culture shock as some of her college mates spoke in their own dialects with thick accents, which was difficult for her to understand. “I had to get someone else to tell me what she means although she was speaking in Malay,” she added. 
Upon hearing her story, I extended an offer of a staycation in the federal capital for her and her roommates at any time of their convenience. But, it had to be an education trip for them like those school excursions that I went on during my secondary school days. 
Some of us, if not all, must have gone on at least one school trip before. Of the many trips organised by my school, I remembered getting permission to go for only two. 
My parents weren’t that big on school trips. The first was when I was in Form Three, where the teachers took us to the Veterinary Institute in Kluang (with a stopover at a pottery centre in Air Hitam before returning to Johor Baru). 
The second was when I was in Form Five when we visited the Chemistry Department, where most of us nearly threw up after we were told that the foul smelling thing in a basin in a sink behind us was a dead drug addict’s stomach lining. Well yes, unexciting trips these were.
 There were other trips, but I knew better than to ask my parents for permission for trips like the one to the federal capital (“I can always take you there during the holidays,” my father would say) or for picnicking at the Gunung Ledang waterfalls (there was something about the mountain that he didn’t want to tell us). I know they would not allow me to go unless it was an educational one. 
And, I don’t believe schools have stopped organising excursions as I still see many groups of schoolchildren, even those in kindergartens, at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre, for example, especially during school holidays. 
I know of some government linked companies that would bring students from schools in other states they have adopted on trips to Kuala Lumpur. Petrosains and Aquaria, for example, are the two venues that these children will visit. 
In fact, there is one school in Putrajaya which has some kind of an exchange programme with a school in Bandung, Indonesia, where a handful of students will go on study trips there. 
And, I have seen foreign students, all wearing the same coloured T-shirts and pants, at our own airports waiting to board their flight home.
 I can understand that parents are apprehensive about letting their children go on these trips. Affordability and safety could be the two main concerns, but I believe the benefits of these school excursions sometimes outweigh the risks. 
Inge Hol, the director of Educational Programmes and School Trips at Spark Languages in Southern Spain, offered some reasons why a student should go on a trip on her LinkedIn account. 
She said an overseas trip, for example, was an amazing opportunity for them to practise their language skills, especially communicative skills of understanding and speaking. 
I agree with her. I took my teenage niece and nephew to the United Kingdom and France a year ago and they were forced to listen, understand what is being told to them in English and to respond accordingly. 
And they did quite well on their own despite being shy to speak in any other language than Malay when I left them to do grocery shopping on their own at a supermarket in London. 
It can also expose them first-hand to the local culture. “With the increasing globalisation and internationalisation happening everywhere, it is vital for students to expand their worldview, to be taken out of their comfort zone and get an opportunity to appreciate other cultures. Without this awareness, students will find it difficult to become worldly citizens of the 21st century,” Hol said. 
She also said a visit abroad became a new culinary experience: meals or even just ingredients students might have never tasted, seen and even heard of. My niece was frowned upon when she dipped the McDonald’s fries into the sundae instead of tomato or chilli sauce. 
“I tell them it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. My friends and I do it all the time,” she said, laughing. 
I hope that they will take up my offer for a stay and a tour of Kuala Lumpur. Before venturing abroad (which is possible, given that universities undertake exchange programmes with foreign universities and educational tours abroad), they should know their own country first, especially anything and everything about the federal capital.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Managing crises in the digital age

Social media platforms were a hive of activity on Tuesday, with Netizens posting photos and videos of the fire that ravaged the intensive care unit of Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) in Johor Baru. Six ICU patients perished in the fire and one hospital employee was reported to be badly injured. 
Within minutes, the country got wind of the incident when the posts went viral on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. My friends were sharing the same photos on Facebook and WhatsApp. Some, in fact, did not click the share button for other people’s postings, but instead copy and pasted the photos on their own social media accounts as if the photos were theirs. 
When I was told “... you got no idea how the ground zero look alike (sic)” on WhatsApp by a local youth leader, I didn’t want to burst his bubble. He was excitedly sharing on WhatsApp the same photos that I saw on Facebook. 
I should have told him that I didn’t need to be there to know what was happening. I was following the various live feeds on my friends’ Facebook accounts. Through these feeds, I am most certain that these friends were indeed at the location. 
Also, I should have told him that ground zero is a misused term. For those who don’t already know, ground zero is a term reserved for the central point of the destruction caused by the detonation of a nuclear weapon. 
The fire at HSA, in my opinion, does not merit being called that. 
But, most importantly, how is such a crisis, if it can be called one, to be handled in this digital age? 
A crisis can occur as a result of an unpredictable event. The hospital fire is a good example. Crisis management is the application of strategies designed to help organisations deal with such a sudden and significant negative event. It requires the management to make quick decisions. 
One of the first actions in crisis management planning is to identify an individual as a crisis manager and appoint a spokesman, who is the point person, for information during the crisis. 
The field of crisis management is generally considered to have originated with Johnson & Johnson’s handling of a situation in 1982, when cyanide-laced Tylenol killed seven people in Chicago. The company immediately recalled all Tylenol capsules in the United States and offered free products in tamper-proof packaging. 
As a result of the swift and effective response, the impact on shareholders was minimised and the brand recovered and flourished. 
I know of some multinational companies which have instituted crisis management as part of their operations. 
Many years ago, I was invited by the management of a multinational company to train their spokesmen on how to answer media queries in times of crisis. My task was to ask them a barrage of questions and they were assessed on their ability to answer the questions in ways that were not detrimental to the company. 
They were also asked to plan responses to as many potential crises as possible. But, crisis management in the digital era requires much more. Correct information needs to be disseminated fast on all social media networks. It would be beneficial for all organisations to have a presence on all social media platforms. 
Oh yes, there are those who don’t think that it is important. Some would say that it is a waste of resources to assign someone to manage Facebook or Twitter for the company, if indeed it has these social media accounts. 
But, nowadays, when we hear of a tragedy befalling any organisation or anyone, the first thing most of us would do is check social media. The responsible ones will refer to the organisation’s or person’s official Facebook or Twitter page. Any statements, information, photos and videos posted on these accounts are considered official and can be referred to and shared by Netizens. 
The continuous flow of updates allows Netizens to post verified information instead of posting and sharing unconfirmed ones. In the hospital fire tragedy, for example, we read rumours that the fire started when a mobile phone which was being charged exploded near an oxygen tank. 
Another rumour also involved a mobile phone, which was said to have exploded on a patient’s bed, and caused the fire. Media reports the next day told us that the fire started in one of the treatment rooms of the ICU instead and could have been caused by faulty wiring. 
Crisis management should also designate “security” areas during a crisis, where in the event of deaths, bodies can be placed away from prying eyes and mobile phone cameras.
abhor the act of sharing these photos without a care in the world for the feelings of the family and friends of the deceased. 
Granted, it is not easy to manage a crisis, especially when emotions are running high. But a system needs to be put in place, something that will enable Netizens to be more discerning when sharing information.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Jungle Train

The train used to be my main transport home to Johor Baru. 
I would take the night train from Kuala Lumpur on a Friday, reach Johor Baru in the wee hours of Saturday morning and return to Kuala Lumpur on the night train on Sunday to reach the city at dawn and go to work directly from the station. 
My parents preferred me to travel home by train although it would take a longer time than going home by bus. They think train travel is much safer than the bus. And with the planned high-speed train to Johor Baru, it would take a far shorter time to get home. 
But, I can’t say the same for the train service to the East Coast. I would rather drive or fly to Pahang, Terengganu or Kelantan. I took the train once to Kuala Lipis on a tourism assignment. I had to board the train in Kuala Lumpur and go south to Gemas before taking the connecting train to the East Coast. 
I remember having to wait for a few hours in Gemas before the sleeper train to Tumpat arrived. It takes nine and a half hours to cover the 526km from Gemas to Tumpat, with stops at some of the bigger stations. In comparison, it takes about seven hours by road from Gemas to Tumpat. 
And, if you’re travelling from Kuala Lumpur, it takes you about seven hours to get to Tumpat via Gua Musang (without having to go south to Gemas first). But, some tourists enjoy the train travel to the East Coast. They call it the “Jungle Train” or “Jungle Railway”. 
They recommend that anyone taking the train to the East Coast should start their journey from Kuala Lipis in Pahang instead of Gemas. A posting gave the scenic areas on the route. It describes the Gemas-Kuala Kerau sector as “miles after miles of oil palm and rubber estates, with the terrain being fairly flat”. From Kuala Kerau to Kuala Lipis, “the jungle closes in. 
We cross some large muddy brown rivers and it is more hilly”, the website said. It said the best scenery could be found on the Kuala Lipis-Kuala Krai sector and onwards to Wakaf Baru. 
“This is where the best scenery can be found. Huge rivers, the colour of strong English tea and spectacular limestone hills around the town of Gua Musang. Rice fields, scenic kampung and traditional rural life in Kelantan.” The writer of the website said the jungle itself was impressive, and when combined with the limestone hills of Gua Musang, river crossings and historic importance of the railway, “it is certainly a journey which should be on the list for all dedicated travellers to Malaysia”. 
It also suggested the train company consider a daytime service for the Kuala Lipis-Kuala Krai sector and “adding an observation carriage with panorama windows and an open air viewing deck for (mostly foreign) tourists, who I expect would be willing to pay more. 
With slick marketing from the Tourism and Culture Ministry, Malaysia could create another unique attraction to draw in visitors”, it read. 
I find the idea attractive. 
The Jungle Train, with an observation car, could be a poor man’s Eastern & Oriental Express, that five-star hotel on wheels, which takes travellers through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. 
An observation car will allow passengers to better enjoy the scenic view. I am hopeful that authorities in charge of the rail services and those responsible for tourism promotion will incorporate the idea as the government proposes to develop the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) as announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Monday. 
The ECRL should not only be aimed at spurring a new wave of development to realise the social-economic potential for the East Coast, but also to boost rail tourism in the country. The 600km ECRL project is expected to connect Kuala Lumpur and the East Coast Economic Region and allow for faster connectivity to the east coast states. 
Tourism authorities and industry players should identify tourism potential to be further developed in Bentong, Mentakab, Kuantan, Kemaman, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Baru and Tumpat. I can already envision tour packages via rail for shopping trips to Pasar Payang in Kuala Terengganu and Pasar Siti Khadijah in Kota Baru or even across to Golok in Thailand. 
It was Thomas Cook, a cabinet maker, who started the first rail excursion back in 1841. Cook, the man who established the travel firm Thomas Cook, had arranged for a train to take 500 people at a shilling a head on a 20-km trip from Leicester to Loughborough. 
And history showed that the first railway track in Malaysia was built from Taiping to then Port Weld (now Kuala Sepetang) and the steam locomotive service was introduced in 1913. 
But, we have yet to fully realise its potential here. The Malaysia Rail Explorer website, said to be the Tourism and Culture Ministry’s programme to promote rural tourism experience by rail, does not offer much information besides listing affordable homestays, especially in Kelantan.

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.