Monday, September 26, 2011

Keep up the enforcement and make PJ litter-free

KUDOS to the Petaling Jaya City Council for taking action against litterbugs last week where it fined 11 offenders on the spot for indiscriminately disposing of rubbish.

The council's operation in Section 8 and 52 has not only earned praises from the public but also from offenders themselves - most of whom were smokers caught red-handed discarding cigarette butts.

Even littering tourists were not spared in the campaign which started on Aug 16. One chap from India, who was caught for throwing away a cigarette butt not only paid the fine on the spot but also apologised for his action.

Under the local bylaw, the maximum fine for littering small items such as cigarette butts and tissue paper is RM50 while that of larger items such as boxes and construction waste RM100. Business operators who failed to place a rubbish bin in front of their premises will be fined RM100.

Prior to the campaign, the council had reportedly given out close to 100,000 flyers to inform the public about it. For those who have been caught in the act of dirtying Petaling Jaya's streets, they cannot claim that they were unaware of the campaign although one litterbug who had been nabbed said the enforcement officers should have given him a warning instead of issuing a summons.

Personally, I think the council has been fair in informing the public to discard their dirtying habit.

Litterbugs who are caught red-handed cannot plead ignorance.

Cleanliness is a way of life. Litterbugs should first ask if they throw rubbish indiscriminately in their own homes. If they do not, what makes it all right for them to throw garbage everywhere, not just in PJ alone but all around the country?

I recall a signboard I saw at a junction while approaching Kuantan town a few months ago. It stated something in Malay: "Tak segankah anda membuang sampah keluar dari kereta anda? (Are you not ashamed to have thrown rubbish out of your car?)

The area must have been littered with small items motorists fling out of their vehicles. Otherwise the local authorities would not have put up the board as reminder. Maybe we should have some in Klang Valley junctions but I doubt it will help.

The challenge now is for the Petaling Jaya City Council to keep up its enforcement and make Petaling Jaya litter-free zone.

Put up signboards to warn would-be litterbugs of the consequences of their bad habit. This may not change mindsets overnight, especially if littering has become set in their minds.

But if the enforcement is kept up, I think one day the council can look back with pride at the day the anti-litter campaign was launched.

I am wondering when Kuala Lumpur City Hall will do the same and make the nation's capital litter-free as well.

Haul up litterbugs and make them pay on the spot, too.

Teach those who throw rubbish indiscriminately that even insects do not dirty their surroundings.

And to call them litterbugs is an insult to the bugs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Robbing regulars of 24-hour eating convenience

REGULARS at mamak restaurants will be pleased to know that some of their favourite haunts will soon have armed security guards to protect the proprietors and customers from robbers.

If you have been watching the news or are active in social media, you will have seen the video of a robbery at a mamak restaurant on Youtube.

The incident is believed to have taken place at a mamak restaurant in Section 15, Shah Alam, during the early hours of the morning late last month.

The video showed parang-wielding men wearing crash helmets bursting into a sparsely occupied restaurant and relieving customers of their laptops and other belongings.

Following the incident, Indian Muslim Congress Malaysia (Kimma) president senator Datuk Syed Ibrahim Kader proposed that mamak restaurant operators engage armed security guards to protect the premises from robbers.

He also proposed shortening the operating hours for mamak restaurants located in areas where the outlets have become easy targets of robbers.

It was also reported that the association would meet the police soon to discuss safety issues.

Although city folk are familiar with the sight of security guards at high-risk premises like banks, jewellers and pawnshops, as well as at entrances to gated communities, a security man seated at a 24-hour mamak restaurant will take some getting used to.

It will be a sight for sore eyes, especially those made sore by 24-hour Internet surfing daily.

With security beefed up, they can surf with peace of mind as they would not have to worry about losing their laptops and iPads.

Having the operating hours cut short, however, may not go well with these regulars. The move, if implemented, would deprive these Internet users of free Wi-Fi.

Even those who frequent mamak restaurants not to surf the net, but for the food, would not agree to the shortening of the operating hours, especially when the mamak restaurant has become an icon of eating convenience.

Where will nightshift workers find their meals? Tourists, too, who have been repeatedly told in travel brochures that they can find food in the city throughout the day would feel shortchanged if there were no 24-hour nasi kandar joints around.

Looking at the big picture, shortening the opening hours of the restaurants may have a negative impact on social life, not to mention the economy. Those who will welcome the proposal, I think, will be the wives of hard-core mamak restaurant regulars.

These women can now free themselves of the "janda kedai mamak" label -- a term to be spoken in the same breath as janda joran or angler's widow in Malay. Like golf widow, janda joran refers to a wife whose her husband spends most of his free time fishing rather than with her.

I suppose if mamak restaurants are made to reduce their operating hours, these long-suffering women can hope to see more of their men in bed than having them at the eateries till the wee hours of the morning.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Winged termites herald the coming of wild mushrooms

BACK in the 1970s when Hulu Kelang was less developed, rubber trees lined both sides of the road between the Wardieburn Camp and the area now known as Taman Melawati. One often came across village folk selling cendawan busut at makeshift stalls by the road.

Cendawan busut, loosely translated, means termite-mound mushroom in Malay.

They are not the regular mushrooms you could buy off the supermarket shelves.

They cannot be farmed, and can only be found in the wild.

My Malay friends once told me that the cendawan busut came from the heavens - the mushrooms only grew on ground that have just been struck by lightning.

There is a Hokkien belief that they come from unhatched termite eggs and can only be found in termite-infested ground such as rubber estates and bamboo groves. The Hokkiens call it tang koh (or bronze mushroom).

The mushrooms often appear preceding the presence of winged termite swarms known as kalkatu in Malay. These insects predictably emerge after a shower following a dry spell.

My first introduction to the tang koh was in the 1970s when my family settled in Gombak.

It was a hot evening after the rain when a swarm of winged termites was spotted in the village. An elderly neighbour told me that it was time to go looking for mushrooms.

True enough, the following morning, a group of womenfolk had beaten us to the wild mushrooms which had sprouted from the soft ground at a bamboo grove.

The mushroom patch was about half the size of a badminton court and the largest mushroom collected that day was no less than a foot (30cm) long, from cap to root.

In those days, the villagers still used the dacing (a hand-held scale) for weighing and the units of measurement were kati and tahil. The womenfolk harvested several katis (a kati is equivalent to 600g) of tang koh.

The lifespan of the mushroom is about a day. Once the caps are fully opened and the gills exposed, the mushrooms start to rot. This is one way to know if the mushrooms are fresh. Those who know their cendawan busut would never harvest those with their caps fully opened because it is believed that eating them would cause a stomach upset.

In the olden days, the Chinese prized the mushrooms for their nutritional value - as they did the termite queen and larvae.

However, it is the texture of the fungi which has been described as resembling chicken meat that kept it a sought-after gastronomic item throughout the generations.

Unfortunately, these mushrooms are a rare sight in the city. I have not heard of it being farmed like the oyster and the shiitake mushrooms and sold in supermarkets.

Friends who love the wild mushrooms say the mushrooms can still be bought just outside the city. A colleague will visit Ijok every time he has a craving for cendawan busut. My friend, Tham, says they are plentiful in Maran, Pahang.

I have seen village boys selling the mushrooms along the old road to Kajang and Semenyih.

But I have not come across any at the pasar tani in the city.

With so much development and pollution, they are now as rare as termite mounds in the city.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Spare the rod and suffer the consequences

I WAS having dinner with my family at a restaurant last week when a young couple in their 30s walked in with their son and daughter.
The boy looked about 10 years old, and his sister still a toddler.
As the waiter took their orders, the girl was throwing a tantrum.
From her action, she appeared to have wanted her mother to buy a toy she had seen at a shop earlier.
First, she was tugging at her mother's blouse, and when she was ignored, she started punching her mother.
Then the girl cried and stomped over to her father and "attacked" him instead.
The man tried to pacify his daughter but she continued to punch him.
The more he tried to reason with her, the louder she wailed.
She wanted her toy and that was it.
Finally, the man tried shaming her by telling her that everyone was watching her.
The girl stopped crying briefly, looked around to see if it was true, and then bawled even louder then before.
This time she exploded into a flailing routine on the floor.
But instead of the girl being embarrassed, it was the parents who went beet-red when the commotion caught the attention of the diners.
Finally, the father gave in to her demand.
The minute he told her he would buy her the toy, she stopped crying and got up from the floor.
Next, she wanted her mother to come along.
The man motioned his wife to follow.
She did so under protest because the food was on the table and she was about to eat.
The trio hurried out of the restaurant and left their son to eat alone.
What surprised me was that the boy did not appear to be affected by the drama.
Perhaps he had seen too many such episodes and was jaded.
When the couple returned 15 minutes later, the little girl had cheered up considerably, with her new toy.
As her parents sat down to eat their cold dinner, it was obvious that the girl had learned to use her temper tantrums most effectively.
In the old days, you rarely saw toddlers use emotional blackmail on their parents. A
ll it took was a frown or stern stare to tame even the most disobedient child.
Otherwise, a cane would soon follow to bring the young recalcitrant to his or her senses.
Those days, children who were allowed to get their own way would be scolded and labelled "kurang ajar" or Malay for lack of proper upbringing.
Today, modern social norms frown on such traditional parenting practices.
Spanking a disobedient child or loudly reprimanding one who is behaving wildly in public will draw disapproving looks.
Some parents even allow their children to get away with murder rather than wield the cane for fear of traumatising the child.
And when the child grows up spoilt rotten and becomes a manipulative adult, or worse, a bully in later years, one wonders who will be traumatised then.