Monday, May 3, 2010

Sek Yuen. Jalan Pudu, KL. Remembrance of Things Past.



I have found out the cause of my complete lack of enthusiasm. The state of politics has left a bad taste in my mouth and gutter politicians have assailed my senses. Every morning I am assaulted by statements and press releases by politicians. In the effort to stifle the nausea, I have completely banged up my sense of taste. I have now taken up a new hobby to entertain myself. Looking up rarely used words and applying it to my daily life. And did I find a few that I would use on the rascals that are hogging the front page.

empleomaniac: An person who has an insatiable thirst for public office and it's opportunity for personal enrichment and gain. They are usually career politicians, starting off early in politics. And having no other gainful ways to make a living, they will often seek to enrich themselves at every opportunity by pilfering tax payer's money. They are usually self deluded and think so highly of themselves that they actually believe that the nation will simply collapse without them, or will be destroyed due to God's wrath if they are not there to police the Nation morally.

onomatopoeia: Words that sound exactly as the thing they are describing. Example: a tinkle, moo. And in particular, a
queef: which is a sound that emanates from the female genitalia after it is distended by air (aerocolpos) by whatever reason. The rapid expulsion of air makes the sound barely discernible from a fart.

excerebrose: Brainless, stupid, inane

Now, my daily rants are slightly different. While having my kaya toast and coffee and reading the newspaper, I say, "That excerebrose empleomaniac of a Politician shouldn't be given media coverage for his queefs." And I feel better. It is not due to catharsis, but due to the smugness of knowing what those words mean. I am much younger than him, and have taken the trouble to broaden my vocabulary and did not have to resort to Monosyllabic, four alphabet grunts when interviewed by international news agencies.



Sek Yuen. The venerable grand lady of Chinese Cuisine in Kuala Lumpur. Located along the busy thoroughfare known as Jalan Pudu, I am sure it had attracted the glitterati of KL's socialites during it's hey days. Ladies dressed to the nines in their finest, driven by men with side burns in their convertibles. Everytime I watch a P Ramlee movie, I get nostalgic and yearn for that time in the past when race relations were exemplary. The politics of hate and division has yet to be inseminated and allowed to spread it's evil clutches. Before the politicians started experimenting with Machiavellian racism, got the desired effects and refuse to give it up in favour of pragmatism and multiculturalism.

Naturally, I was excited when the two monkeys invited me out on a hot Saturday afternoon for lunch at Sek Yuen. I knew I was never going to go there alone. Eating alone in a Chinese restaurant with their over sized dishes just amplifies one's loneliness inside. The sheer intimidation of having to go through a solitary Pessoan journey and grappling with the introspectiveness of solitude is daunting. Moreover, the ruckus created by the patrons and staff of a Chinaman joint is not conducive for any attempts at reading. Sorry, a syok sendiri passage. But for those who are really interested to know what I mean, read "The Book of Disquiet" by Fernando Pessoa.

Nostalgic, self gratifying "down the memory lane" outings always end up badly for me. Take the pop candies, for example. The sour, fizzy candy that comes in powder form. I used to love it as a kid and popped it like a fiend. A few years ago, on a trip to Bahau, I saw the same candy again and popped it in. Did it bring forth a flood of childhood memories that gave me "The world is my oyster" high that I expected? It didn't. I was disgusted by the chemical laced confection. I spat the remainder out, and threw the vile packets away. My brief experimentation with mind altering chemicals continued with Green Spot orange fizz, Kickapoo Joy Juice, White Rabbit Milk Candies and queer coloured cotton candies. They all failed to give me the rush of emotions associated with childhood which Proust was describing in his seminal stream of consciousness master piece, "Remembrance of things Past". I only got a stream of expletives as I spat out my fix. I guess there is a time, place or dimension for everything and I just outgrew stuff that used to bring me joy and satisfaction.



I made my way through the traffic in the hot and sultry weather, my mind preoccupied with bad feelings about the Hulu Selangor which will be held the next day. I took a cab there because I did not want to deal with finding a parking space. Chopin's Etudes was playing in my iPod, the chromatic scales juxtaposed with pedantic chords of the lower tones sawed and hammered though my restless brain almost in time to the darting of pedestrians across the busy thoroughfare of Jalan Pudu. If I needed a dose of nostalgic reverie, music always does the job so much better than food does. I was a late bloomer when it came to music, having started piano lessons at the ripe old age of 13. But I had the benefit of 2 very passionate teachers, Evelyn and Mary. It was a bit of a shock for myself, playing Scarlatti's Sonatas at 14 and Debussy's whimsical Children's Corner Suite at 15, and Chopin's Etudes by 16. I was an unabashed geek in school where my classmates taunted my eccentricities and my teacher tolerated me like a bad case of flu. While my classmates were totally into ABBA, pen pals and football, my mind was filled with impressionism, Monet, Van Gough and how it influenced Debussy. When I attempted Chopin's 10th etude, I found out about the November uprising against the Russians in Warsaw, which was Chopin's birthplace. If there was a defining influence on what I am today, it was my music lessons during my early teens. It set off a cascading interest which included history, literature, history of art and music. My short lived reverie back to Miss Evelyn's studio as a pimply, awkward teenager was interrupted when the cab arrived at my destination.

The paint over the building was blight infested, which accentuated it's rustic charm. A blast of nauseating lardy aroma hit my nose the moment I entered it. Nostalgic pre-war Chinese songs were blasing from the radio and rows of arty black and white photographs adorned their walls. @agentcikay and @alilfatmoney was late, and @kennymah and friend was lost in transit. It afforded me some time to wander around the place and speak to some octogenarian aunties at the next table. The masochist in me opted for the non air-conditioned section of the restaurant. The air-conditioned section is in the adjacent shop lot.


Instead of the usual condiments, there was a plate of garlic, marinated in chicken fat and sesame oil and some sour plum sauce. And of course, chopped chilli and Soya Sauce. Be forewarned that if you are going to dine there, a lot of their specialities have to be pre-ordered. It would be wise to go there first and arrange for them to be served. I wouldn't classify this place as fine dining, but old school Cantonese Food. Hearty food, well prepared, but slightly oily and heavy.

The Pei Pa Duck had a wonderfully moist meat and crispy skin. And it has been ages since I had that with Sour Plum Sauce. The Steamed Chicken with Kai Lan was probably free range chicken. The Fried Eggs and Crab Meat was served with some lettuce was surprisingly light.

I am not a big fan of Pork and found the Pork with Yam horrendously heavy. And the Sing Kua Tau Fu and Kah Heong Chap Choi were nothing spectacular. As always, the thought of nostalgic dining is attractive, but sitting there, drenched with sweat amidst all the noise and depressingly old and dingy looking place filled with octogenarians took it's toll on my senses. Reality grappled with nostalgia and won.


During my formative years, dining outside was a rare experience. We were not very well off, but neither were we destitute. Mom and Dad sacrificed everything for our education. If there is one thing that we never lacked at home was books and love. It was so easy to wrangle a book from them. Easier than a point and shoot. Other luxuries were a different matter. Frivolous toys and footballs were out of the question. Not that we needed any of those. Candle ends and old needle spools and rubber bands was ingeniously turned into wind up cars by my mechanically inclined 5th uncle. Trees and streams were transformed into castles and moats by our over active imaginations.

We live in a nation that is obsessed with race. Everyday we are reminded about out race. We are blamed when race relationships goes sour. Has the education policy itself contributed to polarization? Do we care what race our taxi driver is? Do we care? Do we care if Mahathir or Zambry gets mistaken for an Indian when they visit India? Is the education system itself responsible for racial polarization?

My best friend since day one in school was Muzzafar. A Malay. I didn't care what race he was when I was seven. We got along together. And my second best friend was Krishna Kumar. I know, it sounds like a text book. There was one other Chinese boy in my class in school, a mousy little thing whom I forgot the name. After Standard Six, Muzzafar got offered a place in the Science School, and I proceeded to another secondary school.

My best friend in Secondary School was Isa. We got on pretty tightly. And at the end of SPM, ISA was offered a place in ITM. All my other Malay friends were offered places either in ITM or government sponsored American Degree Programmes. I got full A's and was the best student for the state, and the next best boy in my class, a Syed whose father was an engineer with TNB had 2As. As envious I was of my friends who were leaving for overseas and colleges, I honestly did not feel any bitterness or animosity. It just resolved my will to succeed and made me realise that there is no ticket for a free lunch, especially if you are from a different race.

Having lost my father when I was still in Form Four and happily attached to my piano at home, it did not matter much to me not to have been offered anything as I wanted to be near my family and friends and was enjoying my life in an idyllic small town. Life went on as usual, and by the time I as in Form Six, all my classmates were Chinese as we were in the science stream and the Malays who had preformed well were already taken out of the school system. Can we be blamed if race relations sucked?

My father died prematurely and a dead man had to pay a hefty estate tax. My mum was sickly and needed constant medical care and with the help of Auntie Meng, we trudged on. Did we ask for any help from the government? No. There were no by elections then and the opposition was barely suckling then. No house visits by politicians. Nothing. And we wanted that. Nothing. We would manage somehow, and we did.

I graduated, I worked. I lived, I loved, failed in love and I paid taxes. And in 2006, the inevitable happened. My Mum died. She had been sick and suffering for more than 20 years, I could not remember her being well. She was the only person in this world who could love me despite my imperfections and idiosyncrasies, a person as temperamental as as herself. Until today, not a day passes without me remembering her with fondness and love, and regretting not being a better son than I was capable of being.


Retrospectively, it was little wonder my excursions into nostalgic places do not offer me as much solace as I would love to. My childhood was filled with so many vivid memories and bitter sweet musings may not always make good dining companions. My story is not unique. Nor is it confined to one particular race. Everyday in this nation, some family is facing some form of trial or tribulation in dignified silence. And despite whatever trial or tribulation we are facing, each one of us would have contributed to the progress of the nation in our own way.

I was very happy that I had the opportunity to visit Sek Yuen, and very happy that I stay nearby and will not need to make much of an effort to revisit. It will offer me a brief respite from the current political situation. At least I can be taken back to a time where things were much simpler politically as compared to today. I would say that things are very volatile now. And the ability of politicians to politicize everything from assholes to electoral promises amazes me. Our country has not seen so much hate since the 13th of May riots.

If there is anything I have learned from life is that contrary to the laws of physics, the biggest assholes makes the loudest noise. Those who are loud and opinionated and think that they are right all the time are seldom right. Those who force their opinions on you with threats are just trying to justify their morally irreconcilable convictions. Unfortunately, the same right for me to excercise my freedom of speech here also accords the same rights for some other irresponsible individuals to make inflammatory statements elsewhere. The rhetoric of race and hate that leaves a bad taste in the mouth and messes up my appetite.

Sir, you may attempt to negate whatever contributions I have made to the country by a single irresponsible remark, but I would like to remind you that the taxes paid by my mother when she was ill and needed constant medical care was real, the feeling of dejection by being left out of opportunities to further my studies as a 17 year old was real. The sacrifices my parents made, without burdening the state or anybody else so that I have a good education was real. All the sacrifices were done in the name of nation building without any cause for complaint. The love for my country despite it's flaws is real. My friendship with fellow Malaysians that transcend racial barriers are real. There is no reason to belittle all that for political mileage.

Before you even dare to attempt to remind anybody to repent, let us get a few facts straight. Despite being a third generation Chinese in Malaysia, I am grateful to the Malays for being able to be a part of this country. I have always accepted that sacrifices need to be made for the greater good of the nation and have done it without a whimper. The last time I checked, being a patriot means loyalty to the country, not to a political party. This means I am morally obliged to choose whomever I think can lead the country well, be it BN or the opposition.

The RM3 million was offered to the Chinese as part of the campaign by BN. The Chinese did not beg for it. The fund was held in Stewardship by the current administration and taxes were collected form the citizens of Malaysia irregardless of their political affiliation, and therefore must be disbursed in the name of development, irregardless of their affiliation. Unless you are confusing that for vote buying, in which case you can demand for a stop to the disbursement due to failure of delivery, and render the whole election null and void.

RM3million can barely fund 15 scholars to USA for a degree under the same affirmative action policy you are fighting for. And the demographic of the opposition will be young, internet savvy and foreign educated. The direct beneficiaries of the affirmative action policy. Perhaps it would be more worthwhile for you to find out why this has happened.

The opposition are no Angels too. Stop that Morally Superior musical extravaganza. Stop playing Angels and Demons. It is distasteful and closes the door for mutual cooperation. Wouldn't it be better to offer constructive criticism? The nation is in turmoil. And this foodie is sick to the core. Sick of the jams, sick of worrying about the crime rate. Sick of all the politicking.

And sick of Politicians queefing in public.

Advertorial time..... *Chuckle* I can imagine @fatboybakes rolling his eyes


Beautifully translated by Helen Lane, this beautiful novel by Paraguayan Author Bastos it dense and beautiful as it is rich in symbolism. It details the last days of a South American dictator and dwells on a central theme of Power and Language, the power of language in particular. It is grotesque, humorous and beautifully hauntingly moving as it explores the deconstruction of language and communication together with the dream of absolute power. How I wished somebody would read this to General Than Shwe of Myanmar every night before he sleeps.

18 comments:

UnkaLeong said...

I shall re-read this post @ the comfort of my own home; without the printer beside me working overtime, churning out report after report. I have yet to dine at Sek Yuen and your post has me wondering...Shall I brave the traffic and humidity to pay this establishment a visit?

fatboybakes said...

GUFFFAW...that closing mention of me completely took me by surprise. but no, i was not rolling eyes at all, but on the contrary, awestruck by your awesome writing. a tad depressing and melancholic for monday morning, but yet bittersweet and really echoes a lot of my own sentiments.
i also go through life daily worrying about crime rate, plummeting standard of education, deteriorating race relations, ...how hor?
what would cheer me up now is a recital from the elusive paranoid android himself.
ps- when your dad passed away, you mean death duties still hadnt been abolished ah? that would have been painful, over and above the death.

Sean said...

it's really too bad that the politicians who would benefit the most from reading your eloquent words wouldn't be able to understand them.
thanks for giving us a glimpse into the forces that shaped you. i tend to avoid confronting the darkness in my past, so it's always inspiring to see someone who's willing to do so =)

minchow said...

Monday was looking fully morose enough and took an other-worldly dive after reading your post. Don't get me wrong, I loved it for encapsulating mortality, oppression, love and despair but I personally can't help this overwhelming feeling of puerile defeat. I believe I was blessed with a privileged upbringing, but one that didn't instill in me the tenacity to put up with blatant prejudice and inequality. My father was strict, stringent and distant, but he also had a lackaidaisical approach to fighting for things beyond fiscal necessities. I had a fleeting phase of rage against the slogans and race heroes du jour but today, I honestly cannot say I feel anything beyond heavy resignation.

thule a.k.a leo said...

Ah... you should have tried their 8 Treasure Duck which has to be ordered one day in advance

Thailand Club said...

welcome 'home' Paranoid

GobloKing said...

What a walk down memory lane! being KLite but never dined at sekyuen!

My sis got married in bbpark mak yee with 65 tables in 1965 & even then I remembered we had leftovers to give the world plus eat it for a week!!! ('member the good old days when we brought pots to contain leftovers? so i guess we are all striken with pylori worms & are hep immune!)

well android. this aunty better meet up with u soon over a nice meal so we can dish up in person. hows 'bout it?

we hv a lot in common like dad's estate taxes & disliking that thanswe pisshead!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

so well written my friend! i think probably one of the best written view of a chinese stuck in the a**hole called msia but yet this is also the country we are born in and embrace.

continue la..dont slow down..have some sage to cheer u up if old aunties, sweat and good old chinese food cant cheer u.

Daniel Y.S. Tan said...

Hi, I'm just a random blog-reader but I've decided to write something here. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for reminding me of why I keep living positively each day! Thank you again.

plee said...

Nice and Nostalgic! Besides, i share the memories and sentiments growing up as you did....Well done !Keep it it up PA.I'm not a Kl-lite but been to SekYuen..... seems a lifetimne ago now!

Cheers

CUMI & CIKI said...

who is @alilfatmoney ?? hahaha

J said...

I laughed, I cried*, I learnt some useful new words! - yay! :)
(*Well, teared anyway - didnt want to alarm my colleagues....)

Paranoid Android said...

@unka: The food is nostalgic, if you like to stomach that kind of thing...

@FBB: No wor. That was aeons ago, and death tax was still in force.

@Sean: Now you know why I turned out weird. Ha ha ha...

@TC: Thanks, friend.

@Gobloking: Hello! We must, we must. Will leave a comment on your blog with details, but no need to publish comment hor?

Paranoid Android said...

@joe: We will be sad that you will be leaving for greener pastures, but a man has got to do, what he has got to do...

@Daniel: Thanks for dropping by...

@plee: Thanks for commenting.

@Agentcikay: Aiyor, he is your BFF lor.

@J: He he... I should thank @wackybecky for telling me who you are. Hope there is a Glee flashmob 2.

in the sea said...

Hi Android, sorry for not dropping by for a long time but didn't forget about this blog. :)

Re this Sek Yuen, the duck looks pretty nice. I was once brought to this kind of restaurant in KL and that reminds me of those restaurants I was brought to in my childhood.

JL said...

I stumbled upon yr blog looking for food reviews, your writing left me craving for more, those eloquent notes slot between scrumptious review of food...Thank you for assaulting my mental senses with these well written thoughts...

mulutmata said...

i love sek yuen and will go there again soon. loved your piece. like the way you weave grief, politics and food altogether. good stuff!

Frat said...

I would imagine the typical reaction to such an amazing blog post is for your readers to queef (yes, thanks for the new word) their opinions and thoughts...

... but I have nothing to say. I am just so amazed and awestruck by your awesome writing.

... ooooh yeah and I think I'm intimidated also.

Brilliant blog post.

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