Monday, July 27, 2009

Teach children to stand on their own two feet

MY friend’s son had just got a taste of “hardship”.

Like many 18-year-olds who left school after getting their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia results early this year, he had wanted to continue his studies full-time.

But circumstances were such t h at he had to work and study part-time.

In an agreement with his employers, he had to work with them and in return, they would pay for his studies and provide him with an allowance.

He had to work on weekdays and study on weekends.

With the exception of semester breaks, his life would revolve around work and college, and what little thatwas left in the daywas divided between sleep and homewo r k .

On the other hand, most of his fr iends’ college expenses were taken care of either by their parents or scholar ships.

During weekends, they got to do fun things like going for movies, shopping or clubbing, instead of attending classes.

My friend’s son had asked if teenagers during my time had faced similar situation and how they had coped.

I told him that compared to the teenagers then, he was luckier.

And compared to his peers now, he is even more fortunate.

His employer had not only given him a job but had also invested in his future.

Not many employers can afford to do that in tough times.

They must have seen potential in him.

During my time, most teenagers were independent.

Many started earning their keep early in life, sometimes after school and even dur ing the school holidays.

Those who realised that they were we a k in their studies parted company with school early to learn a trade or two.

Some joined the school of hard knocks as early as 15, working as apprentices at tailoring shops, motor workshops, furniture factories, and anywhere else that would employ them.

To them, to be able to work was a privilege and they excelled at their trade.

Most of the time, choices were made out of necessity.

Rather than be at the mercy of charity, many teenagers back then chose to earn money for their own upkeep — e ve n if it meant toiling from sun up till sun down in grimy workplaces.

Some went on to achieve great things in life, others continued to earn a decent living without being a burden to their families or society.

While we seek to give the best to our children, we should also encourage them to work and learn to be independent.

At the very least, it keeps them away from mischief if they are busy earning a living.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Barking mad at litterbugs of different species

WHEN my friend read about how litterbugs were messing up our neighbourhoods, he told me that was nothing compared to what he was faced with in his area — dog poop.
Somehow, they have ways of turning up uninvited outside his gates or along his side of the road.
They would get stuck to his car tyres and get smeared all over the driveway.
Sometimes, he even accidentally steps on them.
By the time he discovers the mess, it would need more than a generous helping of industrial cleaners to get rid of the smell and smear.
At his wits’ end, my friend now silently curses the dog owners he sees walking their pets.
The sight of a stray dog coming in his direction would drive him into a frenzy and he would shoo the animal away before it could mark its territory with pee or poop.
It can be quite amusing if you catch him in the act.
You’d be forgiven for feeling that he should be named public enemy No 1 by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal.
However, the man is quite an animal lover and has a fair number of rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs in his backyard.
It’s only dogs and their poop that he can’t tolerate.
He wishes dog walkers would be more considerate than to let their pets pee or drop their poop anywhere they please.
“These people walk their dogs in public areas and they should pick up the poop and get rid of it prope r l y, ” he said.
I told him that what he was facing was actually a global phenomenon — except that in some developed nations such as Britain, it has become an offence to allow one’s dogs to relieve themselves in public areas such as roads, pavements and gardens.
Under the Dog (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 in England and Wales, the dog owner could be fined £40 (RM240) or up to £1,000 (RM6,000) if the matter goes to court.
Why it has been made an offence is because the authorities there have found that dog faeces carry the risk of toxocariasis, an infection of the round worm toxocara canis.
The larvae, if it gets into the human body and reaches the liver, can cause abdominal pains and fever.
If it reaches the eye, it can damage the retina and cause blindness.
According to research, a dog can pass out as many as 15,000 eggs of the worm per gramme of poop and each worm can lay up to 700 eggs a day.
Released when the dog defecates, the worm can survive up to three years in the soil.
Some countries have put up signboards to get dog lovers to clean up after their pets and even provide waste bins and free poop bags.
But not in our country.
So, I suggested a solution to my livid friend.
Instead of getting angry at the dogs, he could do what one chap in Britain did—take pictures of dog walkers and their pets in the act and paste them on a signboard on his lawn with the message: “Please clean up after your dogs” for all to see.
Perhaps then, the dog owners would be reminded that picking up poop is part of the responsibility of owning a dog.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cutting one's hankies to one's cloth

MY wife was curious when she saw me buying a “kain pelikat”.

“What are you going to do with t h at ? ” she asked, wondering if I was going to wear it.

“Don’t worry, I am not wearing it,” I assured her.

“I want to make handkerchiefs.

” You see, I realised that I had only five good handkerchiefs left—just enough for one working week.

Although it seemed more fashionable to use tissue paper, I don’t like to use them as I have always thought tissues were for ladies.

Besides, tissues are more expensive in the long run and bad for the environment.

I have forgotten when I last bought handkerchiefs but when I checked out their prices last week during the start of the Mega Sale Carnival, I was shocked.

While the handkerchiefs fitted nicely into my pockets, their prices did not.

So, I figured why not make some myself? I was even more motivated when I saw how similar the patterns on some of the branded handkerchiefs were to that of the common “kain pel i k at ”.

As far as I can tell, the handkerchiefs that we pay so much for usually stays in the pocket until we need to wipe curry off our lips or sweat off our foreheads.

It is not a fashion statement, unlike your necktie, for instance.

And you don’t need to be embarrassed about your handkerchief unless it has got holes in it like some of mine.

You could get them cheaper if you buy in bulk from warehouse stores, of course.

But even a dozen will last you for decades.

Those made from “kain p e l i k at ”, I think, should last longer than your jeans.

A kain pelikat costs about RM12, out of which you could easily make 10 to 15 pieces of handkerchiefs.

Compare this with handkerchiefs which cost between RM3 and RM7 a piece and you will see why I am “sew”m o t i vat e d .

My wife was not amused, however.

I could be penny wise but pound foolish, she said, since the time spent in trying to thread the needle on the sewingmachine could be put to better use.

I assured her that I was not wasting my time.

Besides, it should be good for the children to learn how to use a sewing machine and they even be encouraged to make things for their own use.

When I was growing up, almost everything in the housewas self-made— from cooking utensils to wooden stools and curtains.

My maternal grandmother fashioned coconut shells and joined them to pieces of bamboo to make “senduk” (ladle).

Children collected fallen palm fronds and stripped the leaves off the spines to make “lidi” brooms.

I had even woven hammocks out of raffia strings when I was not helping the neighbours repair their “jala” (fishing nets).

In those days, everyone in the village I grew up in knew how to make something.

The men would make simple items like wooden stools and troughs for poultry feed from discarded planks collected from sawmill dumps.

The women would sew patches of leftover fabric collected from tailors and turn them into floor mats, quilt blankets and even bedsheets.

Kids also made their own toys.

Of course, being poor had fired the creative spark in many of the villagers.

Rather than pop into the local “kedai r uncit” (sundry shop) to buy what we wanted, we looked for stuff we could use to make what we needed unless we really had no choice.

And the good thing about this creative streak in most of us who grew up the hard way was that it taught us to be self-reliant in later years.

Saving money was the bonus.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Litterbugs and their ubiquitous handiwork

WHEN my friend found two garbage bags hung on his gate one morning, he thought little of them.

Could be pranks by some kids, he reasoned, and good-naturedly disposed of them in his trash bin.

But when the bags appeared day after day, he was less forgiving.

He woke up early one day and waited in the shadows of his porch for the litterbug.

However, when he heard the sound of a motorcycle approaching, it was too late —a bag of garbage had already been lobbed near his bin.

All he could do was shout at the biker who sped off.

Although the litterbug was not caught, no more garbage bags had appeared since then but my friend was sure that someone else’s garbage bin was now the target.

We have all been frustrated by the misdeeds of litterbugs.

Garbage bags left at lamp posts, hung on phone poles or someone else’s fence, thrown into the drains, or piled in front of shops.

You see it less in the city centre but if you live in residential areas, such scenarios have become a norm.

Even when communal bins were placed in low-cost housing areas or longhouses, garbage still ended up everywhere except in the bins.

And when the bins were re - moved, everyone complained.

But in some areas, the removal has taught people to be more responsible and dispose of their garbage properly.

Highways and moving traffic are also not spared from the irresponsible actions of litterbugs.

Someone I met at the Ayer Keroh lay-by recently was hopping mad when a trail of discards from another motorist came at him.

The victim said he wished he had been driving a faster car so that he could catch up with the litterbug and teach him a lesson in courtesy and c i v i c - m i n d e d n e s s.

Onewould think that people who live in high-rises would be spared.

But ask any condo owner and you will be surprised.

Garbage bags have mysteriously appeared in lifts, under staircases, along corridors, and other secluded spots.

A building manager of an apartment in Setapak had this story to share: Someone had been throwing bags of garbage from the upper floors onto the car park area and the culprit was never caught.

One day, already at his wits end, the building manager found another garbage bag in the car park.

He decided to check the content.

He found several envelopes with the address of one of the apartments.

With the proof he needed in hand, he confronted the apartment owner who found out that his teenage son, who was supposed to drop the garbage bags into the rubbish chute nightly, had instead chosen the easy way by throwing them out the window.

Since then, no more garbage had landed in the car park again.

Recreational litterbugs usually do it out of convenience.

Repeat offenders do it out of habit and probably because no one else was watching or cared enough to tell them off.

A word of advice or warning can sometimes work wonders.

But usually, most of us choose to mind our own business — until, the garbage ends up in our backyard.