Friday, July 19, 2019

The Tamil Sisyphus

Mr. Hussein struggling up the steps on the corner here with his trays bound in the pristine white cloth. (Bicarb. soda & possibly bleach too, as Auntie Helen taught recently.) Before he climbs up with the aid of the rail near the Wadi fries stand Mr Hussein places each pair of trays on the upper level, hoisting himself up unencumbered after that. For some reason Mr Huss prefers that route rather than the few steps on the corner proper, it is unclear why (the number of people possibly creating a hindrance with his wide wings). From the ends of the bottom wrapping Mr H. improvises a handle either side for his trays: two pairs one on top of the other securely fastened. It was impossible for Mr Huss to carry that weight by hand, therefore the load is borne by the forearms instead. A strain, but Mr Hussain can. Mr. Hussein manages that, ploughing along the path here, head up and down like the beast of burden dragging the heavy harrow behind. The four trays might be delivered in the Haig carpark where Mr H. can be found mornings on one of the iron benches beside the access road. The sheltered walkway is the main route out from the Blocks on that side—Nos. 2, 6, 7, 10 and 11. The old women going around to the market and the bus pass there and stop for the locally famous kway. Perfectly halal of course, and light on the sugar. (Most of the kway’s sweetness comes from coconut milk.) By eleven o’clock Mr Hussein must away from that first station. Not only does the foot traffic dry out by then, but also Mr Huss cannot hang too long at the one possie. Couple of years ago it was much easier seated on the J. C. corner around from Wadi where the kitchen reno place provided some of their furniture and Mr Huss could perch on the window ledge. The kitchen people indulged Mr Hussein, an old man of those years hawking. In those days too officialdom turned a blind eye. It was of course impossible to erase Mu’s insider knowledge of the early days in the kampung, Mr H’s younger days at the same round when add-on services were provided for the young, randy youth. Twenty cent quick jobs for those Mr Huss accepted, and freebies otherwise for the sweeter needy. The secret of raging young male hormones was always air-brushed from conventional reportage. Mu rather startled when he suggested the incessant razzing of Mr Hussein’s that he had overheard might have in fact been because the man fancied the mat salleh, the White guy. Late 70s or early 80s, that could certainly not be discounted, especially when it came from an old, knowledgeable hand like Muttalib. Greatly missed the dear friend still of course, taken so unexpectedly.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Publication news - nano / poems 5

Zdravo / Health & greetings!

Five short-shorts (nano/poems) of mine have just been published by a UK online outfit called Public House.
Here is the link—

The pieces appeared on the Blog in slightly different form a few months ago.
Hope some of you like them.

Cheers & Zivili / Life! to all

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Mermaid

Traditionally clad young gal pacing by in simple linear patterning caught too late to see the face. Doubtful she had learnt anything of that gait from the moves on film or music video. Strictly, the dress was pulled in at the waist a trifle close, the movement not having been factored for the contours. Strict ulama judges observing would have their noses outta joint and upbraid the dear. Like the proverbial ghost in the machine, beneath the ever elusive, sinuous form was hinted: the surprisingly wide hips and broadly curved ridges of the bottom. Almost certainly still somewhere in her twenties, but one could never be sure. Old grannies well advanced in years could easily be mistakenly accosted and propositioned at the eateries here, at the bus stops and along the sheltered walkways. (Indeed, even without any error; such good cover and appeal did the garb deliver. Carried mermaid-swimmingly in that fashion….) How often was a figure like that rounded in front in order to peer over the edge of the scarf, only to find wrinkles and bleary, tired eyes? A little stabbing pain watching this sweet disappearing up at the Haig stalls never to be seen more. There she would buy the vegetables and fish, climb aboard her bus out front of the market and sit herself by the window, without anyone properly loving her the live-long day. Inevitably one thought of the village in the earlier generations, the men looking after the wrapped form of that kind climbing up the mountain sides. (The recent Chin technology might have difficulty positively ID-ing an individual with that particular gait that was shared by so many of the Malay women.) Ubi Boze! Slay (me) God! the lads uttered and muttered looking upon the like in the pre-war lull of the 30s above the bays of Boka Kotorska. F_ck me dead! in the vernacular Australian English—rather than Brit. or US—approximated in rather more rude form.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Plugs & Stripes

Scottie in SOCAL was continuing with his missives from the US on the political scene over there, the early run to the Democrat nomination that was already underway. Democratic Spectacular under the big top: late show gabfests, debates, press releases, endorsements and dis-. Positions and votes on past issues, controversies, whatnotgoing to war in Iraq, abortion, bussing in years past; taxes, health care & education. The old fakers in particular were getting Scottie’s goat bad, riling the man really, really bad. None was worse than the old dud Joe attempting to cobble together a persona for current purposes. Let’s twist again, like we did las summer; turning it one way an' another, ducking and swaying. One of the shows had Kamala—daughter of an old Marxist—winning big plaudits over lame, jabbering Joe; trouble was the gal herself was nothing more than puffery and put-on, a shameful legislative track-record that besmirched the ghost of her honourable dad. The villains on the Right were jumping aboard sensing a perfect straw-man who could be torched in no time once Donnie started in on her. The clips were torture even briefly sampled, featuring shiny chunder-inducing TV types behind desks, pundit and insider blab. Hard, super dooper hard to take for a highbrow non-user, woe unto us all and forever! Hair, lashes, face paint. Nails. Bangles. Rings and necklaces. The getup alone told the sorry story, no need more Scottie! Forget the hot gas. Grotesque. Gross. Gruesome. Sh_ts ya to tears bad, mighty bad. Scott began to understand. The costuming. Presentation. Lighting and pace. Top speed race to the bottom! The much touted Demos, greatest of man’s social inventions, guarantor of civilization! That Biden had recently got plugs for his scone surprised not a jot. (Scottie’s natty term; perhaps LA & San Fran.) Whitestrips though was new. Dental upkeep no longer needed regular visits to the chair in the surgery:Crest Whitestrips in the cabinet at home gave radiant gleam that was perfect for the screen. Quick and easy to apply, any blotches faded within the hour. Trumpet himself was the standout of course, far ahead of the field, Orange pumpkin Man. But it was bigger than Trumpet the strumpet. Here in the region stories of Rosmah’s botched surgeries were legion. More than one Minister in the Sing’ squadron, most notably the (former she might be now) lady for the Environment & Water Management whatnot, saving the planet one dyed highlight at a time. Skin care, lashes and threaded brows. Not that all the heinous villains needed the attention—there was Duterte, Bolsonaro, Orban & Vlad of course. Xi and Jokowi were models of everyman, with wives to match. (Barack might have owned only the single tuxe for the whole of his two terms, but the love of his life and his girls sure made up for that.) In conclusion, Go Bern! Sick ‘em good man. Cast ‘em into the dust face first! Better still dung! (You had to hope.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Call of the Wild

Helen when she first entered round 8 started up a cooing with one of her cats that took some time to positively ID as human. Was it a duet in the course of mad heat, even protracted like that? an unusual preamble to a fight perhaps? The second, longer call was certainly in response to the other, the clearly feline; a kind of strange antiphonal that prevented another snooze after early brekkie. Almost certainly the first, leading call had been the grey that lorded it in the main house, green-eyed like the other, though less fat. Helen had suggested size as the best means of distinguishing between the two. When the pair was found out by the front gate, especially belly-down on the concrete, the quandary remained irresolvable. Precisely the same colouration and striping, the same shade of green. Helen had kept a number of greys over the years, a favoured breed it seemed as one did not see that colouration around the estates. A couple of weeks ago Helen had sent a photograph of the handsome boy that had gone missing, she said. Oh! The house grey it appeared. Just when we had been getting on so well…. In fact turned out the cat in the picture had disappeared a year ago; still mourned by Helen. You remember? she asked…. This morning too about the same time as the duet the crows in the trees opposite the house had started up their cawing. Up until quite recently Helen had fed choice beef to these birds that had slowly won her over. Finally she had needed to desist after she had been “scolded” by a passerby who reminded her of the prohibition that extended to all birds, not just pigeons. FARK, FARK, FARK. Miaow, Yeeeoooow; Miaow, Yeeeoooow. Miaow, Yeeeooooow…. How in the heck was a man supposed to get some shut-eye! Soon enough this all brought back the stable down in front of the handsome old house at Zelalici that Granddad Pavle had bought more than a century ago, with the water stretching out past the greenery below. At the introduction to all that slowly lapsing past in the early 80s the stable had housed a pair of cows, a half dozen venturesome goats and the old donkey that Uncle Peter could still ride side-saddle like in the Greek postcards. In the generation immediately before up in the village the peasants had of course lived immediately beside their sheltering livestock, breathing the same air, hearing them stir through the night; the animals kept the house warm too. From the sala upstairs at Zelalici the bells of the beasts could be heard through the night and certainly the whinnying of Petar’s Mercedes, the donkey. In mother’s time at Savici winter nights the children had vied for snuggling up with the cat. At Savici they were a mark above the rest of the village with mules rather than donkeys, though their sly, unruly beast once gave mother a fierce kick that she would never forget. Helen had recently adopted another cat that came to her corner opposite the house, a pretty black and white which on closer acquaintance was discovered to have large lumps beneath its chin and front paws. AhYoy! More Vet bills just when Helen had been beginning to raise her head above water. Confusion over the sex of the cats surprised Helen. Wasn’t it perfectly obvious to the eye? Even the big-balled one Helen mentioned remained a mystery to a novice.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Two More Portraits (Ivanka & Zainuddin)

From his man cave in SOCAL Scottie had sent the mail with the attachment featuring Ivanka in a circle of global heavyweights mulling the great troubles that had gathered:

“Amazing video of Ivanka Trump trying to butt in to actual world leaders’ conversation
   Only May would look at the little bit__, not surprised. Did you know she converted to Judaism to marry Jared? A real thinker she is! Sickening to watch.”

Amazing? Yeah, OK. I’ll buy that Scottie. Can’t demure. Opened it immed after brekkie, but luckily the aircon had been blowing a good half hour.
Incredible even. Beyond belief were it not that we are right slapbang there in our current moment.
Like the guy rapidly quipped in passing the other morning, Life, or your stories?… 
Toothless and grinning it was hard to catch; chap had needed to be called back. (Yr a writer yr always fair game for every Joe and Mohammed around the place.)
Sheer fact she was there, butting in. And then the dress, the hair. Early-mid thirties is she?
Yeah, the conversion. Were cameras allowed into the synagogue for it? They’re s’pose be forbidden I think holy places, tabernacle. Bibby musta pulled some strings for his great friend giving away his daughter that he would date, grab by her p_ssy and f_ck if only he could know for certain she was not his own.
Really, you get the point on portrait level? Take a look at Don. Jared. Ivanka. Dressed up public facade when they’ve come down from the tower. Say no more; picture = 1,000 stories.
You thought Puttie wrestling bears & tigers barechested was difficult to GULP swallow? Remember the old dictators who would go on safari and then have pics of themselves with one foot up on the carcass? Celeb cult. with the election of the TV Pres. has spun it all in another direction far, far off the dial.

NB. The minute or two of the Twitter is worth a look merely to take the proper measure of affairs.

At the Saturday breakfast table Ahmad first and then Eric, before Zainuddin arrived in a wonderful camel tunic blouse with frog buttons. Marvelous cut. From a distance the signature limping/swinging gait and schoolboy head-lolling that real Sufis retained in latter years. I’m OK of course, when the man had pulled up a pew. Not a shadow of doubt the truth spoken for those of us who knew the man. It would always, always be this way for Zainuddin, no matter all the usual worries, narrow personal and then of the world
         Snowy white goatee grown out in front, shaved above the lip, strands of the brows poking like needles. It had been a great shock given his marching orders from the Rehab. Where in the heck would they ever find someone to replace Zainuddin? Not unlikely all the boys — a couple his senior and numbering over sixty altogether at last count — would all instantly flee the facility the same day never to return.
         A short sit in the morning. Wife Zaiton, Olive (who bought the shirt) needed to be “fetched” for a visit to Zainuddin’s ninety-seven year old mother, currently staying with a younger brother at Tampines. Later early eve we were to go off together to visit Mu’s daughter for condolences. At the daughter’s there would be a cousin in attendance, as required for a lone woman receiving unrelated male visitors. Surprisingly, Zainuddin had indicated he could not visit if the daughter had been unaccompanied. You would have expected that from a Wahhabi like Ahmad.

NB. A photograph taken a couple of months ago at Wadi while, as it happened, Zainuddin had been in conversation with Mu. (Much more fetching with the upper lip clean.)

Monday, July 1, 2019

Healing Nature

This was ripe. A real goodie. The Corp media was always worth a short flick.
       Pic of boaters on Lake Leman in Lausanne, Switzerland for the story of the healing power of nature.

       Doctor’s orders — spend two hours a week in nature

       The point had been made by a famous English lit. crit. of two or three generations ago whose name has been forgotten: Put Wordsworth in the Tropics, what kinda “fair seed-time” he get for his soul?
       Fast-forward now: rip out the forest and jungle, substitute concrete, iron, steel and aircon; monoculture of rubber and palm trees and chemical factories discharging into the waterways. (Hundreds of schoolchildren overcome by fumes the last number of weeks in Johor.) Add drought, huge disparities of income, political fixes, military regimes, blanket State-owned media and consumerism plus plus plus. You find yourself in a pretty pickle.

                                                                 Monday July 1 2019 Straits Times, life, p. D6