Friday, 29 March 2013

Oh Cheng Chan, Part 2

Last October, I managed to trace an old newspaper clipping from 16 July 1897 - that's 116 years ago - that reported the death of a man named Oh Cheng Chan who happened to be my great-great-grandfather. While trying to flee from a robbery at a house in Waterfall Road, he suffered some severe physical injuries.

Only a few days ago, I uncovered another old newspaper clipping from the same year (13 July 1897) which gave a little bit more insight on the robbery.

"On Saturday last, between the hours of 9 and 10 pm, the house of Mr. Cheah Chen Eok called "Villue", on the top of a little hillock in the Waterfall Road was entered by a party of gang robbers, numbering about 15 men and jewellery to the amount of about $8,000 removed. It appears that, although a considerable number of Mr. Cheah Chen Eok's friends were in the house, no resistance was offered, the inmates making themselves scarce. No clue has yet been found as to the robbers."
Cross-referencing this information with the calendar from 1897, I can safely determine that the robbery happened on 10 July 1897 (the Saturday mentioned) and my unfortunate great-great-grandfather passed away on 14 July 1897 (the following Wednesday).

And the only other conclusion that I can garner from the news report is that he and Cheah Chen Eok, the millionaire who built the 60-foot Queen Victoria memorial clock tower at the Esplanade in George Town, knew one another. I surmise that my old ancestor must have been a regular visitor to Cheah's mansion in Waterfall Road, Penang. The mansion must have been splendid but all that remains of it now are the entrance and the steps behind it, which people in Penang now refer to as Moon Gate. Today, this is a popular starting point for people to walk up Penang Hill.

As the house was built on a hillock, the window from which he jumped must have been of a considerable height from the ground. At the height of the robbery, I suppose the window must have appeared as a plausible escape route to him and others. Whether they reckoned with its height from the ground, especially if the ground was uneven and undulating, nobody knows. But what I suspect is that my old ancestor must have landed awkwardly on his feet while trying to break his fall, fractured the bones in his thigh and possibly suffered some other serious internal injuries. Suffering four days before dying, wow, the man must have been in great pain.

In the last few days too, ever since I learnt of this fresh information, I got to know that Cheah Chen Eok's wife was a daughter of another Penang millionaire, the very influential Foo Tye Sin. Obviously, she was a Foo, which is the Hakka version of the Oh surname which my great-great-grandfather possessed.

It bothers me some that I've reached a dead end presently as I've been unable to trace her full name or whether my old ancestor had any blood ties at all with Foo Tye Sin. All the authoritative books or old newspapers that I've read so far bore no further information about any of Foo Tye Sin's daughters.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Time to control our own destiny

I'm actually quite sick and tired. Sick and tired of what, you may ask. I'm sick and tired of hearing one particular question being asked ad nauseam wherever I turn. I go and meet with friends at the market, I'm asked the question. I go for meetings and functions, I'm asked the question. I go attend my friend's book launch, I hear the same question. And lately, people are also asking me the very same question on facebook as well.

I tell you, I am sick and tired. As if I'm Mr Know It All. As if I'm the Prime Minister of the country.

Well, I am not Mr Know It All. And I am not the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Therefore, I cannot tell you what you want to hear. Go and ask him, lah, don't ask me! Go and ask the "no balls" Prime Minister when he is daring enough to dissolve Parliament and call for a General Election. Might be tomorrow, maybe in April or ... perhaps never, if he has his way! Whatever, he is just making a mockery of the democratic and election processes...

I tell you what. We have got to unshackle ourselves from past convention. Now is no longer the time for the citizens to be completely beholden to the Prime Minister. Especially when we have one like Najib Abdul Razak. He thinks he can still hold the country to ransom by not dissolving Parliament. And because of that, we keep hearing that oft-repeated question ad nauseam (again and again and again), and we think we cannot do anything about it.

But there is really something we can do. Maybe not the whole country can do it, but certainly what we in Penang, Selangor, Kelantan and Kedah can do. Funny that suddenly I remember that we are living in the Pakatan Rakyat states.

We don't have to wait for the Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament before we dissolve our own respective State Assemblies, right? We hold our own destinies in our own hands, right? We can still force the issue in our own little ways, right? What if the respective Chief Ministers and Menteri Besars ask their Governors and Sultans for dissolution of their State Assemblies, right?

It may be unprecedented but I am sure it can be done. After all, the Selangor Menteri Besar had already threatened to dissolve his own State Assembly after the Chinese New Year but have not done so yet. So why don't the three other Pakatan-controlled states take the cue from this man and collectively dissolve their State Assemblies?

I'm sure if the four states were to do this together, it will put a lot of pressure on the Prime Minister to do what's right for the country and that is to dissolve Parliament - now, immediately, at once, instantly, promptly, right away, without further delay - and call for the General Elections. If he can do that, only then would I say that finally, he has recovered his own lost balls.

Forty-plus years of friendship

Really shouldn't miss occasions such as this. Old school pals getting together for a long jaw. This picture was taken on Saturday night. In case anyone's wondering, this was the CF hawker centre in Weld Quay, Penang. It's right opposite the Chew Jetty, at the corner of Weld Quay and Armenian Street Ghaut. Can't miss it; always full of people at all hours.

In the picture: Teik Wah, myself, Kah Theang, Andrew, Thuan Chye and his wife.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Get more of Thuan Chye's bullshit, won't you?

I received the invitation quite a while ago. Kee Thuan Chye, and old classmate from my secondary school days, had emailed to invite me to the official launch of his latest book, "Ask for no bullshit, get some more." I promised him that I would be there at the refurbished Loke Thye Kee at the corner of Penang Road and Burmah Road.

So when 6.30p.m. (the appointed time) came around yesterday, I duly made my way to the Loke Thye Kee, climbed the flight of stairs and ... squeezed into a hall already filled with people. I wasn't even the first few on the scene. Scores of people had already taken up the best seats in the house and I had to pick my way gingerly to the front where I could spy some still empty seats.

Looked around and noticed a few familiar faces. There, right in front of me were Kah Theang and Andrew, while further away were Teik Wah and his wife, Jo, and Oon Hup. Also mingling in the hall were Philip, Teck Chye and Esther, Swee Heng and his wife, Soo Hay, Ban Seang and Boo Yeang.

Boo Yeang was instrumental in getting the book's official launch going again after the embarrassing fiasco at the Penang Club. He saw the injustice and started looking for another venue for the launch. It helped that Ban Seang was the main man behind Food People and could offer the Loke Thye Kee as the alternative venue.

But what was this fiasco that I had just mentioned? Well, it was last month that we got to know that the Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, had agreed to launch Thuan Chye's book at the Penang Club premises on 28 Feb. The launch would be followed by a forum titled "After GE13, where to, Malaysia?"

All arrangements had been finalised but then, two days before the event, the Club's management developed cold feet and told Thuan Chye that he could no longer use their premises. According to Thuan Chye, the club would no longer allow the Chief Minister to officially launch the book at their premises.

This about-turn has many implications but the most serious among them was the disrespect that the Penang Club had shown to the office of the state's chief executive. Even the Chief Minister himself had said later that this was a serious error of judgment that can never been forgotten.

Anyway, the Penang Club's loss was now the Loke Thye Kee's gain. The place was quite filled with well-wishers that had come for the launch, as can be seen from the picture below, taken at about 6.45p.m.

Everybody was expecting the Chief Minister to arrive at 7p.m. but a call came to say that his arrival would be delayed by about 15 minutes because his car had broken down. He was somewhere along Perak Road then. Here's me with Thuan Chye soon afterwards.

By then, the crowd was getting a bit impatient and in order to fill in the time before the Chief Minister's arrival, Thuan Chye decided to do some readings from his book. His favourite fall guy was, of course, the former Prime Minister. Everytime he spoke of him, I could feel the sarcasm oozing out from every syllable he uttered. The crowd loved it, by the way, judging from the responses to his readings.

Ah, so finally, at 7.25p.m. the Chief Minister arrived. Strange, no stains on his clothes. No dirt on his fingers. I guess somebody else must have repaired the car for him. Ha ha...

With the CM now present, the programme finally got on its way. I was holding on to my breath when Thuan Chye gave his speech. Would he, or won't he? Those who were there at his last official book launch at Clove Hall in Penang last year would remember that he had let rip with an expletive aimed at Guan Eng's direction. All in good, clean fun, but still he managed to shock everyone, including his guest. But there was no repetition here. Thuan Chye kept his speech very tame, I must say, perhaps leaving it to the CM to provide the fireworks. And at last, Guan Eng spoke. I think he was less prepared to speak at this book launch as compared to last year. But he did speak well off-the-cuff and he made quite a lot of mention of the Penang Club fiasco. The crowd hung onto every word he said.

And as can be seen, the crowd had swelled until it was only standing room at the back of the Loke Thye Kee. My estimate: about a 200-strong presence. Oh, by the way, Ban Seang, the air-conditioning was not powerful enough. Maybe you should consider installing more powerful units if you plan to have more functions like this in the future.

And this was the moment of the launch. The unveiling of the red cloth by the book's publisher, and watched by Guan Eng, Thuan Chye's wife and the members of the forum. That's Liew Chin Tong in the picture. He confirmed the already known fact that he would be contesting in a Johor parliamentary seat in the coming General Elections.

Nothing much to say about this last picture, is there?

Friday, 22 March 2013

Some useful definitions to know

I've known Timothy Tye since 2008 or 2009. Can't remember where we first bumped into one another, though, although at that time I already knew that he sat on the committee of the Penang Heritage Trust (not anymore, though) and he had quite a useful website on moving around Penang's tourist spots. The website's still there and it is constantly being updated with fresh information.

Recently, he was voicing his opinion against the arguments of a group of people that had called themselves the Penang Forum. These Penang Forum people were much against the Penang government's mega-infrastructure project that would see three new bypass highways being built on the island and a tunnel constructed to connect Gurney Drive Tanjung Tokong to the northern part of Province Wellesley.

Tim himself was arguing why the projects should proceed but he was also frustrated that the Penang Forum was taking its own sweet time to even publish his opinion. While waiting, Tim wrote another piece which I found most informative - and entertaining. He said I could reproduce it here, so here it is. Thanks, Tim, for the thumbs up.

- Timothy Tye -

I need to explain this so you understand why it got on my nerves.

A FORUM is a gathering of people to discuss an issue of public interest. A group of concerned citizens may organise a forum in which the moderator introduces the ISSUE:
"The state government is planning to build an undersea tunnel and a few expressways. What is your opinion?" Members of the public may then rise up and give their opinion, whether or not they support or oppose the issue. The moderator, as its name clearly suggests, ensures the discussion remains completely impartial. At the end of the discussion, the points raised are collected and published for the benefit of those who did not attend.

If a group of concerned citizens invites a guest, such as the Chief Minister of Penang, to meet members of the public, and they pose questions related to an issue of public interest, that is not a forum, that's a DIALOGUE.

A forum requires concerned citizens who are the organisers to exercise complete impartiality over the issue of public interest. The invited public can be partial, the organisers cannot. If the media asks the organisers, the appropriate response would be: "I have a CONCERN, but I can't tell you whether I am for or against the issue." In short, no comment. Citizens and groups with concerns over issues of public interest can organise a forum to canvass public OPINION.

As can be observed, this is unlikely to happen. In the local context, concerned citizens usually have an opinion already bottled up and is simply looking for a venue to uncork it ("What, cannot take sides ah? Then where got fun neh?!"). They are not keen on accepting public opinion, they're keen on the public accepting their opinion. If they organise a gathering of the public where they state their opinion, it's not a forum, it's a STAND.

A group of concerned citizens who have opinions over issues of public interest should not call itself a forum, by right it should call itself a WATCHDOG.

When a watchdog organises a stand, and the only acceptable course of action for the invited public is to support the stand (and those who oppose it is belittled and ridiculed), that is not a forum, that's a RUBBER STAMPING.

What is unpalatable is that a rubber stamping is often masqueraded as a forum.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

How to arrest our slide in education?

It is not often that I reproduce something written by other people. This will be one of the few exceptions. This was an open letter that was published in Malaysiakini in December last year. What made it more remarkable was that it was written by someone who is a professed member of the Malaysian Chinese Association, one of the junior partner parties in the Barisan Nasional coalition. 

But politics aside, one should look hard at education from an objective point of view. Education should never be compromised to serve politicians' ulterior motives. If we do so, we are only fooling ourselves. 

That's why even as long ago as five years, I had already been advocating to my friends, and people who were willing to listen to me, that we must convert schools back to the English language medium of instruction, if not all schools, then at least a few select schools in every state. 

For the sake of the country, we must do it. And damn the politicians who argue otherwise. So here it is, Koon Yew Yin's letter in Malaysiakini.

Malaysia's education disaster - time for change
Koon Yew Yin
7:36PM Dec 20, 2012
As election day comes closer, we will be asked for reasons as to why we should want to change the BN.When the question is put to me, I tell people that there is no need to enumerate three, four or five reasons. One reason alone is sufficient for Malaysians to elect a new government.

The reason is that the BN has ruined our educational system and put us back at least one generation in our educational standards and standing.

When the country became independent in 1957 our educational system was acknowledged to be amongst the best in the region. Today, after the introduction of NEP policies in education, we are scraping the bottom of the barrel in our standards of educational achievement at all levels.

BN's record
Whether it is in primary, secondary or tertiary education, the rot is clear. Half literate primary school products that cannot write or speak properly in either English or Bahasa and drop out early; secondary students with abysmal standards in Mathematics, Science and other core subjects; tertiary students who are provided with university degrees but in fact are unemployable except in the civil service.

This is the disastrous outcome of BN rule. This is the result of the politicisation of the educational system and UMNO's cynical use of it as a political and racial football.

Whether it is with regard to mission schools or vernacular or SRJK schools; teaching of science and mathematics; teaching of English; appointment of administrators and heads of schools; the curriculum; examinations; vocational education; funding and allocations - Umno has inserted its racial and political agenda to debase and corrupt the system.

If readers think that I am overly critical of the BN, let me provide two pieces of evidence on the disaster in our education.

The first is from the government itself. According to the national education blueprint (Preliminary report, Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, pp, E4-E5), Malaysia was ranked in the bottom third of 74 participating countries of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009+.

60% of the 15-year-old Malaysian students who participated in Pisa failed to meet the minimum proficiency level in Mathematics, while 44% and 43% did not meet the minimum proficiency levels in Reading and Science respectively.

A comparison of scores shows that 15-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Shanghai are performing as though they have had three or more years of schooling than 15-year-olds in Malaysia.

Low achievement standards in TIMSS (Maths and Science): far behind first tier; now comparable to countries such as Indonesia.

By 2007 (last published cycle) 18% and 20% of our students failed to meet the minimum proficiency standards in Maths and Science.

The conclusion of the blueprint is shocking. Not only are the gaps between Malaysia and other countries in our region growing, international assessments also revealed that Malaysian student performance is declining in absolute terms.

This damning conclusion - that we are going backwards in our education standards and achievement - shows that the problem is not a new one.

It is a long-standing crisis which the BN has successfully concealed from Malaysians thanks to media manipulation and its diversionary focus on language and Chinese school issues.

But it is no longer easy to fool Malaysians thanks to the internet media and the availability of international assessment results.

Hence the latest educational scandal in which the Education Ministry is accused of lowering the Maths and Science standards for the PMR and SPM examinations to artificially increase the pass rate does not shock me in the least.

Such efforts have been taking place for the past thirty years, especially in the public universities. How else then to account for the hundreds of thousands of graduates who are unemployable?

My personal experience
The second piece of evidence is one derived from personal experience. For several years now, I have been providing scholarships to poor young Malaysians so that they will be able to go to the university to improve their life and career opportunities.

Below are examples of letters I have received from two applicants requesting for financial assistance (details of my scholarship program here).

What is important to note is that although these are written by pre-university students, the level of English language competency attained is lower than that of a primary student during my time.

Sadly, they are not isolated cases - in fact they are typical of students who have been through our educational system and whose decline in standards has been due to BN rule.

Letter 1

I am ____________,I already take my SPM result~I'm interest on account Can you sponsor me about the study fees at Utar?



This are my SPM result.

Letter 2
Mrs.Koon, i am October Intake UTAR new degree student , my name is ______ from kampar, i am facing financial problem after i successful register Utar degree course, now i am stay at Kampar and open school already.

As i know UTAR can let student to borrow PTPTN loan to complete Degree. But after i successful register Degree course, UTAR stuff just tell me UTAR are not offer student to apply PTPTN loan on this semester, and i need to pay course fee and register fee first.

Sure i come from poor family, my family income below RM 1600 per month. My family never and not able to pay my fee around RM4000 at my first semester, i need to pay the bill before 23 october, if not i forced to leaving school, i am very anxious now!

Before I am getting news from Mr.__________, may be i can getting financial aid from Mrs.Koon, so the purpose i send the gmail to Mrs.Koon is i requesting for financial aid to start and continue my degree course program in UTAR, i really want to start my study life and dream at UTAR.

At the election booth
In conclusion, private education has become a very profitable business as parents scramble to remedy the damage in the public system and use up their precious savings or mortgage their houses to enable their kids to get a decent education.

For this reason too, private universities and colleges are springing up like mushrooms.
All of them are lowering entry requirements to capture more students. As a result, students like the two above were accepted to study in Utar.

Many people have the wrong impression that MCA's Utar is a charitable organisation set up to help the Chinese.In fact if you examine MCA's annual report, you will see that Utar is one of the best profit-making ventures for MCA.

Remember, the power to change the rotting education system is in your hands when you go to vote.

This message is especially directed at all parents and students - Malays, Chinese, Indians and other Malaysians - who have suffered as a result of BN incompetence and bad governance.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Don't let prejudices cloud your action

Do you know what was the most sickening aspect of yesterday's car plunge into the big drain in Bukit Mertajam yesterday?

Just as I arrived at the scene, hoping to see how I could lend a hand if needed, there were already two or three people that had jumped down and trying to prise the car doors open.

Then there was one massive, loud oaf standing on the pavement right above these rescuers, not doing anything but asking loudly, "Orang China atau Melayu?"

What the dickens would you need to know that? Was it really important to know? He was quickly shouted down by the rest of the people at the accident scene. This was an accident, man, people may be hurt real bad inside. Just help if you want to. What has the race of accident victims got to do under such circumstances? If you are not prepared to help a fellow human being in trouble, please walk away. You have no right to be here. You are not needed.

I'm not saying that I'm adopting a "holier than thou" attitude here but I must mention as an aside that I was very surprised and terribly proud of my son's spontaneity several weeks ago. My family was out on the island for dinner. The time was about 7.30p.m.. The lights were failing. We were right behind a car and we were both waiting to turn right into a side road. An elderly Malay man was cycling slowly from the opposite direction.

The driver of the car in front of me might have missed seeing this cyclist because as he turned into the road, he bumped the old man. Luckily he was driving very slow and it was just a soft touch. Nevertheless, the man fell down, bicycle and all. All I heard from my son was a brief "Can I?" and I responded immediately, "Yes." And the next moment, my son had jumped out from our car and ran to help up the cyclist. Luckily, the man wasn't hurt badly. Just some slight bruising. We drove off soon afterwards.

So you see, lending a helping hand to a fellow man should be a universal trait. It must transcend all artificial barriers like making distinctions based on a person's race, colour of skin, religion, belief, sexual orientation or disability.

Shaken, stirred, shocked

Yesterday began just like any other ordinary morning. I had just gone to the Kampung Baru market and was heading home. Then suddenly in the distance, I saw two men running across the road with a lot of urgency.

As I slowed down, I thought to myself, "What the heck, why the recklessness?" Then I saw the reason. To my horror, a car had plunged into the big open drain beside the main road. I didn't see it happen but from the reaction of the two men, the car must have gone over just a few seconds earlier.

This was a nasty accident. Besides the driver, were there any other occupants inside this white Chevrolet? I stopped my car some distance away and ran towards the accident site. I wanted to see how I could help but by the time I reached the vehicle, other people were already on the job. Someone was already trying to pry the door open. Took some force to do so eventually. There was a kid inside, most probably around three years old. He was lifted to safety and into the arms of some ladies nearby.

The car was perched precariously in the drain. It rocked a bit. Could it still crash down entirely into the drain? Nobody wanted to know. The rescuer shouted to the driver to get out fast, which he did. He clambered out quickly.

All this happened very quickly. No presence of mind to take photographs. The focus was on the rescue mission. Luckily, the child and his father were only shaken, stirred and shocked. No external injuries. They retired across the road to a coffee shop while the driver called his family. What I heard from him was that he was trying to avoid an obstruction in the middle of the road, swerved to the left, lost control of the car and plunged into the drain. Methinks he might have driven rather quickly with only one hand on the steering wheel or else he wouldn't have lost so much control of the car.

Here's the driver, still feeling shocked over the whole matter. The boy seemed all right now, in the arms of his grandfather. Later, when I passed along the road again, I saw that the car had been wrenched out from the drain and placed on a truck. Presumably it will be on its way to the police station first before going to any workshop. Personally, I think the car is a write-off. Every part of its body would have suffered a lot of twists and stresses. I doubt any amount of work can restore it to its pre-accident condition.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Speed bump on the Penang Bridge

It is a given fact that facebook reaches out to people more quickly than blogs. As a result, I've been finding myself preferring to write short items on facebook rather than longer items on this blog. For example, on 26 Feb 2013 at the height of the last traffic snarl on the Penang Bridge, I had uploaded these four pictures to facebook. None of them had appeared here until now.

And the reason why I'm suddenly writing about an event that's past is because yesterday, while on my way to the island to meet up with friends at the USM team chess competition, I drove right across a small hump that had been erected at exactly the same spot that the Penang Bridge was working on three weeks ago. I could have sworn that previous to Sunday, there were no such obstacle at all.

It's my habit to drive in the middle lane of the bridge at about 70kph and this is by no means a fast speed. It's well within the speed limit. But all the same, it was a shock coming across this hump in the middle of the road. Appearing with little warning. I considered myself lucky on Sunday. A car that's travelling faster could jolly well lose control and cause an accident.   

 The Penang Bridge authorities need to explain why they have constructed this hump on the bridge. Have they not been able to repair the road successfully three weeks ago? We need to know what's the matter.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Pungat, round two

Sweet tooth's been acting up strange lately, and since I noticed for the first time this year that all the ingredients were available - including a comb of pisang rajah on sale at the local market about a week ago and also the purple variety of sweet potatoes - today would be an appropriate time to indulge myself in another pot of pungat (or pengat, according to your taste). A small pot this time as it's meant for, ahem, family's consumption only.

So to market, to market we went this morning to round up the other ingredients, including the yam and most importantly, fresh coconut milk. Whilst cooking, I decided to dump in some leftover slices of tnee koay from the past Chinese New Year. Tadahh, our latest nyonya masterpiece: 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Nandaka Vihara after dark

I had a unique experience at the Nandaka Vihara last evening. 

This Buddhist meditation centre is located at the foothills of the Bukit Mertajam hill at Ceruk Tokun. Just before the entrance into the forest park, there is a narrow road that branches off on the right. It goes past a small Chinese temple and about 200 metres further in, the Nandaka Vihara looms ahead. I've gone there often enough during the daytime and enjoyed myself tremendously walking around the vast premises. Very close to nature, and one doesn't have to worry about wild monkeys.  There doesn't seem to be any. The only wild animal that I've come across are the water monitors.

But never have I spent time there at night and I know that on Friday evenings, the Nandaka Vihara organises an hour of meditation and another hour of Buddhist teachings to visitors. My wife is the only one in the family who goes to the Nandaka Vihara quite regularly on Fridays.

Several days ago, we were talking about this place again. Come, lah, she urged me, if you can't meditate, just go there to enjoy the sounds of nature. Somehow, for once, her persuasion clicked. I agreed to follow her there yesterday.

So at slightly past eight o'clock, we set off from home and arrived at the meditation centre in the dark. There were people there already. She hurried into the main hall to join the others while I tread quietly to the back of the hall and pulled up a chair to sit facing the statue of a serene Buddha. I find it difficult to sit cross-legged on the floor.

As my intention wasn't to meditate but to enjoy the silence and nature around me, I quickly closed my eyes and got myself comfortable. True enough, within minutes I had immersed myself into the surroundings. All around me, I could hear the gushing of water and the chirping of insects. The more I concentrated, the more I could discern the various types of rhythmic sounds coming at me from all directions, some loud and some quite soft, but all at their own rhythm and pace.

Once when I opened my eyes in the dark, I even saw flashes of light in the distance. Initially I thought that my eyes were playing tricks on me but eventually I came to realise that there was a firefly flitting around the hall. At another time, I saw the flickering light moved down one side of the hall and turned towards my direction. The light came nearer and went over the top of my head as the firefly disappeared quietly down the passageway.

The Nandaka Vihara is set for expansion. In the future, there will be more buildings erected on the vast tracts of land to house the male and female devotees who come to attend the various Buddhist functions. Will these developments eventually chase away the insects that presently make their homes here? I hope not. But I never can tell. Therefore, if I still want to enjoy listening to nature, I had better do so now, while the insects are still around.

Hope you will join me there soon.

Friday, 15 March 2013

When the grille came down

Several weeks ago, I was accused by a friend of a student at the Universiti Sains Malaysia of being a hypocrite because I had no qualms about receiving handouts from the federal government - now in caretaker mode since their mandate has expired and they are still too scared to call for a fresh mandate at the General Elections - although I look at their policies with a cynical mind.

I replied that if this was a definition of "hypocrite", then I was proud to be one. I will take whatever money that the federal government will give out to me and my relatives because after all, these handouts are being paid from taxpayers' money. As a taxpayer myself, I have a right to take back whatever had been taken from me previously.

Anyway, the above is just a comment which ties in with the BR1M handouts that are being given to senior citizens and others. Armed with a letter from the Income Tax Department, I went to the Kim Sen School in Bukit Mertajam to collect a voucher on behalf of my aunt (she's eligible, I'm not) who was still recovering from her recent bout of recurring back pain. A chronic condition.

A few days later, I went with her to the CIMB Bank in Kampung Baru, here in Bukit Mertajam. We arrived just before 9.15a.m. The doors were still shut and locked but we could see the staff inside readying themselves to attend to the customers.

The doors opened almost on the dot. We went in, one of the staff attended to my aunt, asked her to sign here and there, and then I placed her voucher and identity card on the tray at the counter. A few minutes later, her name was called and the money given to her. Very simple procedure if the claimant were to go personally to the bank.

To be sure, that brief wait outside the bank brought back some memories of my time at the Ban Hin Lee Bank or BHL Bank as it was known later. I was based at the bank's head office in Beach Street, George Town. You know, that imposing cuboid-shaped building at the corner of Beach Street and China Street Ghaut.

At that time, banking hours were from 10a.m. till 3p.m. (Mondays to Fridays) and from 9.30a.m. to 11.30a.m. (Saturdays). Yes, we were still working on Saturdays then. Five-and-a-half days week.

Ordinarily in the morning, the main door would remain unlocked until about 9.20a.m. or so, which theoretically should be more than enough time for the staff to arrive and report for work. Once the chief cashier was ready to open the bank vault, security measures would be activated, meaning the door would be locked and an iron grille lowered from the top. The grille won't be lifted again until the vault door was closed and properly secured. And even then, the main door would remain locked.

Woe betide any staff that arrived at the bank once the grille was down. The person would have to wait outside until the grille was up again. Sometimes, it could be a half-an-hour wait. There was no exception to this rule and even the bank's directors and senior management staff had to abide by this regulation.

Of course, once you were caught outside, you would know who your fellow latecomers were. A few were quite consistently late but surprisingly the bank was rather forgiving. As far as I knew, their tardiness would often be overlooked.

I have to admit that once or twice, I did join the queue outside the bank but my explanation was simple: no matter how early you tried to be, the ferry's operations could occasionally be thrown out of schedule. There were so many times when there was either no ferry coming in to berth or upon berthing and discharging the passengers, the ferry went off without picking up new fares. Those were the frustrating wait for the ferries.

(The other occasion when the door grille would come down was at the end of the day, normally just before five o'clock. That was when the vault door would be reopened to allow the chief cashier to store the cash back into the bank's vault.) 

So the brief wait outside the bank in Kampung Baru a few days ago did bring back some interesting memories of my time at the Ban Hin Lee Bank in George Town, Penang.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Close call in Malaysian Chess Federation elections

Although I have been out of the circulation among the local chess fraternity for quite some time now, it doesn't mean that I am completely out of touch with the chess developments in the country. On the contrary, I still have a passionate interest in whatever that's going on at the national level. There are friends that keep me up-to-date whenever I want to know something.

For instance, I do know that after a lapse of countless years, the Malaysian Chess Federation has finally decided to call for an annual general meeting together with an election of new office bearers. The first call for an AGM was supposed to be in January but it was postponed two months, ostensibly to buy more time to get their three-year Statements of Accounts ready.

Definitely, it raised several eyebrows, including mine, because the first thought that came to me was why the MCF couldn't get their one-year, two-years, three-years  accounts right. I would have thought that as a society, it was imperative to account for all public moneys received. Wouldn't the authorities have come down hard on societies that fail to submit their annual Statements of Accounts or even their Annual Reports?

But never mind their inefficiency in this matter. The important point was, the MCF was going to have their annual general meeting last Sunday, on 10 March 2013. Finally. And there would be an election for new office bearers.

In all my years of association with chess in this country, I can hardly remember a time when there was ever a serious contest or even a half-hearted attempt for the president's position. Not for the post of President of the Malaysian Chess Federation (and by the way, certainly not for the post in the Penang Chess Association either.)

So it raised my eyebrows again when I learnt that for the first time, there would be a contest between the incumbent president, Ramli Ngah Talib, and a challenger named Zuhri. Over the past two years, there had been a growing groundswell of discontent over Ramli's management team and people were telling me that it was possible that unless one of the contestants stepped aside, it would be exciting come the AGM day.

Like I mentioned earlier, I can't remember a time when we had contests for the president's post. In 1974, Tan Chin Nam was the unanimous choice as the founding president. Then in the 80s, a person named Lajim took over briefly when Tan decided to call it a day. Lajim was replaced by a cabinet minister, Sabbaruddin Chik, who held the post well into the 90s. I recall that Sabbaruddin always said if anyone wanted to take over, he would give way willingly. Anyway, no one wanted to sit on that chair.

Through time, the politician also decided to call time on the MCF and his deputy, Rosli, took over briefly. When Rosli relinquished the post soon afterwards and nobody new could be found, Tan came back as a caretaker president until Ramli was persuaded to take over as the president in 2005, 2006 or thereabouts.

So through this long period from 1974 until 2013, we haven't had a decent contest for the president's post. Not until this year. Beneath the ground, I heard there were some considerable campaigning going on with both parties successfully convincing the delegates - comprising the various state chess associations - to align themselves with either of the candidates. But don't ask me who they supported because I don't know.

All I know is that on Sunday, both sides came well prepared for the annual general meeting. However, there was a long and heated discussion on the eligibility of the sitting council members to vote. Turned out that this was still allowed for in the new laws of the Malaysian Chess Federation. Nobody had deemed it fit to review this privilege when the MCF had to re-register itself under the Commissioner of Sports, no longer under the Registrar of Societies.

So it became a most delicate annual general meeting on Sunday. With the sitting council members allowed to vote as individuals too, there were a total of 40 eligible votes.

Voting was done by secret ballot. When the results were announced, everyone in the room was surprised that both Ramli and Zuhri had each amassed 20 votes. A tie. I was informed that there was consternation all around. Nobody had expected this to happen. Both sides had gone into the secret balloting with lots of confidence. And now this had to happen. Deadlock.

Another round of discussion arose on the next course of action. Come back another day? Not a good decision because most of the delegates were from outstation. Eventually, the delegates decided on a re-vote. However by then, one or more groups of delegates must have left because there were 37 people left when the second round of voting was called.

At the end of this second round, matters clarified quickly when Ramli was returned as the MCF president with 21 votes compared with 16 for Zuhri. For the people at the AGM, this had been a momentous occasion for them. For all of us who had been following the drama from afar, this has also been an historical moment for chess in the country. Now that everything's been settled, I can only hope that the factions in the Malaysian Chess Federation will close ranks and move forward. In spite of whatever flaws, chess must still be one family. Gens Una Sumus.

Monday, 11 March 2013

To build or not to build?

Much has been said about the multi-billion ringgit tunnel/highway projects announced several days ago by the Penang government. I was at a committee meeting of The Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society on Sunday and so, had to miss out on attending a dialogue session between the government and the Penang Forum members about the state's master plan on solving Penang's traffic woes.

I read somewhere that it was a very frank exchange of views for both sides. The Penang Forum and the public presented their views and the chief minister, Lim Guan Eng, also clarified matters on behalf of the government.

Whether this dialogue session has actually resolved any issue remains to be seen but at least, the willingness of the state government to engage with the stakeholders of Penang has set it apart from the style of the old state government, the one prior to March 2008.

Personally, I would like to wish for a proprietary rail link connecting both sides of the Channel. The link could be built to run beside the present Penang bridge with the terminal stations at both ends providing human traffic dispersal through an efficient public transport system to other strategic points on the island and the mainland. Wishful thinking? Maybe. I don't expect it to be considered or fulfilled any time soon.

Anyhow, back to the dialogue session, I really couldn't remember who told me this, but I did hear that the Perkasa simpletons were conspicuously absent from disrupting the event. I suppose this dialogue session would be beyond their simple comprehension. Violent morons that they are, they wouldn't have understood what went on.

A brush with a red postbox again

My travelling companion and I whizzed by an old colonial building in Alor Star last week. Impressive two-storey structure that used to house the town's original general post office. Reputedly the oldest post office building in Kedah.

Automatically, I looked out for any sign of a letter box outside the building - this has become rather habitual - and was rather disappointed to notice only a rather modern rectangular postbox that was now commonly used throughout the country.

Soon later, we whizzed along the Stadium Road in the town. As we passed by a garrishly light pink building that now houses the town's General Post Office, I was startled to see a familiar upright red object in the compound.

"Hey, turn back, please, I asked my driving companion, "I need to go to the post office." So he turned the car around and stopped by the roadside while I walked into the premises and snapped this picture. Could this be the last remaining heritage cylindrical postbox in Alor Star from the old British colonial days?

Of course, I do not have an answer and I doubt that anyone I know in Kedah can provide me with one.

Anyhow, I noticed that the postbox was made by the Carron Company in Stirlingshire, Scotland. Their mark could still be seen clearly at the base of the postbox's carcass.

But same as the ones positioned outside the post office in Ayer Itam, Penang and the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur, this postbox is bereft of any royal cypher on the door. Whether or not it had been filed off in the past to remove all traces of the old colonial influences in Malaya is anybody's guess.

One thing is for sure, though, the postbox still stands proud outside a post office building.


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Wu Lien-Teh's birthday

He would be 134 years old today, if he were still alive. But of course, he is not. He was born in China Street, George Town, Penang on 10 March 1879 and he died in Chor Sin Kheng Road, Ayer Itam, Penang on 21 January 1960.

The 81 years of his life were momentous. He is hardly recognised in the land of his birth but Dr Wu Lien-Teh was possibly the greatest Malayan in the history of this country. Having saved the world from the bubonic plague that had threatened to spread outwards from northern China, he went very close to winning the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1935.

To mark this special day, The Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society, Penang held a committee meeting at the Penang Medical College to map out various strategies that will culminate with next year's Penang Conference on Global Health, inspired by the life and work of the good doctor himself.

My other posts on Dr Wu Lien-Teh appears here.

(Picture courtesy of PC Chin)

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Cowardice and desperation know no bounds

So five years have whizzed by our country and we are not any closer towards knowing when the next General Elections will be called.

During this time, we have had two primes ministers of this country. The first one resigned about a year after the General Elections in 2008, pressured out by the warlords in his own political party, after a less-than-successful campaign. The second one simply inherited the position after some hefty political manouevrings within his own party.

But this second prime minister, Najib Razak, had no mandate of his own. In fact, he had also only squeezed through in his own parliamentary seat. He hasn't been exactly impressive in his management style.

Mesti ada gaya, that's what we used to say about some of those society misfits in the past who had no substance but relied on external appearance to succeed in life. Well, I guess the same expression describes Najib Razak pretty well too. He may look suave and confident because of his image consultants but I tell you, he is no better than any privileged kid that does is ignorant or chose to ignore the hardship of the common people, especially the poorer members of our society. Imagine him saying that it was quite enough for people to spend about RM41 a month on essential foodstuff. Come on, that comment is so typical of his sheer detachment from the real world. While people are caught in a spiral of ever-increasing costs, he had the temerity to come out with such a statement.

So while he looks suave and confident outside, it is all a sham business inside his shell. He has simply no confidence or otherwise he would have called for his own political mandate during the past four years since he deposed Ahmad Abdullah Badawi.

In this regard, he is a coward, a gentleman, no. If he keeps saying that he is ready and his party is ready, then why won't he ask for Parliament to dissolve? Why won't he go back to the people if his party is so confident? Why has the eighth of March come round without him calling for a fresh mandate? Why only allow Parliament to be dissolved automatically on 28 April 2013, which many people are suspecting?

Because he is not prepared to lose. Even right now, the opinion in many circles is that his government is now in caretaker mode although the Election Commission was quick to play this down.  I wouldn't be surprised if the election commission itself then plays its part to extend this caretaker regime's hold on power for the full 60 days before elections.

With such desperation, it is no wonder that we see a ruling regime that is in desperation to cling onto power at all costs, including using scare tactics and violence. This will surely be a very dirty phase we are entering in this country.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Fifth anniversary of 308

Today is the eighth of March, 2013. In popular parlance, 308. It's the fifth anniversary of a momentous occasion for three political parties that called themselves collectively the Pakatan Rakyat. What were you doing five years ago? How did I feel on the night of the elections? What did I do to remember the political tsunami? Why, I wrote about it on this blog, of course! I had a two-part story logging some of my personal thoughts, and I called it a new dawn over Penang. Read the first part here. And then read the second part here.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Getting checked at Puspakom

I was at Puspakom yesterday. You know, they are the ones that the federal government had sub-contracted out decades ago to inspect vehicles for their road-worthiness whenever you want to transfer or sell your vehicle's title to another party. One thing is for sure, most of the staff there thinks they are working in a government department from the way they interact with their customers. Slow. And as if we owe them a living. But the problem is, we cannot avoid them. Theirs is a monopoly. The people have no choice.

Anyhow, this is my trip to Puspakom. I needed to transfer the title of my old Proton car to my son but according to the Automobile Association of Malaysia, I would need Puspakom to inspect the car first before the Road Transport Department would process the application.

So why would I need to transfer the car to my son's name? Well, it's because the car is no longer covered by a comprehensive first party insurance; only third party insurance which is much cheaper. So I might as well transfer it into my son's name so that his NCB (no claim bonus) can start. It is a planning for the future when he is able to buy his own car.

It was a lucky thing that I went to the Puspakom in the morning because I hadn't realised that there were so many procedures to follow. For example, I couldn't even drive into the compound but had to park the car by the roadside and ask for a pass from the security post at the gate.

And the signboards weren't helpful at all. For a person who goes to this place in maybe once every 10 years, searching for the right office or staff can be very daunting. Difficult and daunting. Only solution: open your mouth and ask around.

Learnt that I would need to make a booking first but the lady at the booking desk said that all slots for the day and the next day were full. However, without skipping a breath, he said that I could seek her superior's approval if I wanted a booking at four o'clock in the afternoon. The very same afternoon.

I was puzzled. Unusual procedure. Why tell me that all inspection slots for the day were all filled already but I could still get a special dispensation from her superior? I didn't want to enquire further so I did just that. And her superior said okay, four o'clock in the afternoon. Thinking back, maybe the chap just wanted to see the genuineness of my request.

I returned to Puspakom slightly after three 'clock. Went to a back gate to wait. Again, poor directional signboards or procedures. I drove the car right into the compound and parked, whereas I should be waiting in a queue. Then at the guard house, the security staff refused to entertain us - myself and a few other people with the 4p.m. appointment - until it was really four o'clock. Even with 10 minutes to go, he was pretty adamant. But eventually, he must have realised, what the heck was five minutes on the clock.

So now I had to move my car to the right place in the queue. And I waited. And waited. Looked down at the sheet of paper before me. Needed to fill in some information. Name, address, identification number, vehicle number, even a mobile number. All duly done, and payment of RM30 made. Waited in line. And watched the queue getting shorter and shorter until it was time to drive my car into the inspection bays.

What did they check? Firstly, to confirm the engine number and the chassis number. Then they ripped off the door insulators to determine whether there were any welded parts. Casually, I asked what they were doing. Checking for kereta potong, they replied. Part of the inspection was to determine the extent of the tinted glass. No problem for my car. The tint was so unbelievably thin that it would be laughable if the car failed this test. And finally, they checked the undercarriage for welding again. Some cars had to undergo an exhaust fume test as well as a speedometer test but I was exempted. So after collecting back my documents, I finally left Puspakom at 5.30p.m. Another day gone, just like that.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Penang Shan Children’s Home

This will be my last story on a Corporate Social Responsibility programme that was undertaken by several businesses in Penang recently. The businesses that participate were Crowdpot Sdn Bhd (the event organiser), Ninetology Malaysia, the SUBWAY® branches at Suntech, iAvenue and Leith Street, Chatime Malaysia, Langkawi Saga Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd and Alextan Artworks. There were also several bloggers and the general public that tagged along on the visits to three orphanages in Penang.

I had already written previously about the visits to The Ramakrishna Ashrama and the Children's Protection Society, helping a friend publicise about these noble events. Today's entry is on their visit to the Penang Shan Children’s Home (PSCH) in Mt Erskine Road, Tanjung Tokong, Penang, to distribute food, beverages and gadgets. Now, this Home is located a bit off the beaten track. In order to go there, one needs to turn into the lane that takes people to the Cheah Cemetery. Go beyond the vast tract of cemetery land and head towards the Bodhi Heart Buddhist Sanctuary. The Penang Shan Children's home is right next to the Sanctuary.

The PSCH began as a dream and initiative of Dr S Balakrishnan in 2005. This is a non-religious and a non-profit, non-governmental organisation catering to the needs of orphans, neglected children, dysfunctional families and single parents. The home was built and officially launched in December 2008 by Madam Chan Siew Har. The PSCH’s mission is to maximise the attractive opportunities that are stored inherently in children: to make something happen to them, to change the ways that things are, to create something that no one else has ever created before for the children, to explore for opportunities, to provide guidance and course correction, maintaining focus on being consistent and persistent.

The objectives are both short and on a long term basis. The short term objective is to provide all the children with a safe and supportive environment. The focus is on the development of physical, mental, emotional, educational, social and recreational skills that create awareness to structure and mould the children’s future. The longer term development includes the options that are available for the child’s future such as supporting them to complete their tertiary education preferably to University level. For those who are unable to complete the basic education, they would be trained in developing their skills by educating them in skill training centres. Through home visits and working with parents, the PSCH would like to ensure that eventually the children reunited with their families and thus become the backbone of the family.

Is it possible for you to help Penang Shan Children’s Home Association. Yes, through their Adopt-A-Child programme. The average monthly expenditure per child amounts to RM400 which includes lodging, education, meals, transportation and pocket money. Interested members of the public can contact the home. And yes, through your kind donations too. The Home depends solely on donations to meet the relatively high running costs. They would be very grateful to members of the public or private companies that can contribute a one-off or monthly fixed donation. Interested entities can contact the PSCH directly at 679-D Mt Erskine Road, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang (tel: 04-2292186, fax: 04-2292186 or at

Monday, 4 March 2013

Children's Protection Society, Penang

A few days ago, I wrote about businesses discharging their Corporate Social Responsibility through visiting some orphanages in Penang. Apart from The Ramakrishna Ashrama, these businesses and their representatives visited two other organisations, the Children's Protection Society (CPS) and the Penang Shan Children's Home Association.

Today, I would like to say something about the Children's Protection Society. Now, the CPS began as an initiative of Nazir Ariff when he was the president of the Penang Rotary Club in 1991. The CPS, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that caters to the needs of neglected and/or abandoned children in Penang, was officially launched in April 1992.

The objectives of the CPS were both immediate and longer-term. The immediate objective was to provide children at risk with a safe, supportive and conducive shelter. Their concerned and focused areas included the emotional and physical development, education, social and recreational skills. At the same time, the CPS aimed to work with parents and other family members so that the children could eventually be reunited with their families. In the longer term, the CPS hoped to support projects to enhance community-based facilities for childcare and development in areas where such facilities were lacking. They also tried to promote a more general awareness of the issues relating to children at risk by being involved in training and discussions. Hence they worked together with various government and non-government organisations to help develop longer-term strategies and goals.

The businesses that participated in this CSR project were Crowdpot Sdn Bhd (event organiser), Ninetology Malaysia, the SUBWAY® branches at Suntech, iAvenue and Leith Street, Chatime Malaysia, Langkawi Saga Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd and Alextan Artworks. Together with several bloggers and members of the public, they visited the Children’s Protection Society last month to distribute food, beverages and gadgets.

How can you help Children’s Protection Society? Firstly, you can help by becoming a volunteer. Learning and tuition is always needed, and as many of the children have missed a substantial amount of school due to their backgrounds, they often find it difficult to catch up with school work. If you are prepared for the extra challenges which many of our children face and are prepared to commit a regular time a week (can be anything from an hour up), you should consider volunteering your services.

Secondly, you can also take part in their Sponsor-A-Child programme. You can start by talking to any of the CPS staff if you are interested in this matter. Thirdly, donations are always welcomed.If you want to make a financial donation, please send your cheques - make them payable to Children's Protection Society Pulau Pinang - to the CPS at 118-A Scotland Road, 10450 Penang. As the CPS is a registered charity home with the Welfare Department, all donations will be tax-exempted. And fourthly, you can help sponsor an Activity or Outing for the children. The CPS organises many such activities for the children, staff and volunteers.

If you need more information, please contact the society at 04-8294046 (telephone), 04-8294046 (fax) or email them at

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Mom, I miss you so very much!

I picked up this interesting write-up from someone's facebook posting. It brought a lump to my throat. Of course, it was copied from somewhere else too. Everything seems lost when the original post is copied and recopied along the way. Without contributing to its viral effect on social media, let me reproduce the write-up here and dedicate it to both mothers and children everywhere. Most of all, I'd like to dedicate it to my own dear Mom who passed away in 1985. My children never got to know their grandmother.

"Your Mother carried you inside of her womb for nine whole months. She felt sick for months with nausea, then she watched her feet swell and her skin stretch and tear. She struggled to climb stairs, she got breathless quickly and even a simple task like putting on her shoes was a huge struggle for her. 

"She suffered many sleepless nights while you kicked and squirmed inside of her and while you demanded that she scoffed junk at three o'clock in the morning. 

"She then went through EXCRUCIATING PAIN to bring you into this world. She became your nurse, your chef, your maid, your chauffeur, your biggest fan, your teacher, your agony aunt and your best friend. 

"She's struggled for you, cried over you, fought for you, put herself second for you, hoped the best for you and has driven herself insane with worry for you but never has she asked for anything in return because she loves you and did it all on love alone! 

"Most of us take our Mums for granted but there are people who have lost or have never even seen theirs. If you have a loving Mother who did all of this for you, you are very lucky! Never devalue her worth because one day, you'll wish you hadn't!"

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Ramakrishna Ashrama, Penang

Every responsible business should do something about their Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR. It doesn't matter how much you do, their contributions may be grand or they can be at modest levels. The most important aspect about CSR is that companies should give something back to the society which contributes to their success.

As such, I was heartened to learn that last month, several business entities here in Penang did engage in discharging their CSR by visiting a few orphanages and bringing cheer to their children. There were about 40 of them, including bloggers and the general public.

The event was made possible by Crowdpot Sdn Bhd (Event Organiser), Ninetology Malaysia, SUBWAY® Suntech, iAvenue and Leith Street branches, Chatime Malaysia, Langkawi Saga Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd and Alextan Artworks.

One of the orphanages visited was The Ramakrishna Ashrama in Scotland Road. The other two places were the Children's Protection Society and the Penang Shan Children's Home.

The Ashrama is a charitable organisation founded in 1938 under the inspiration and guidance of His Holiness Swami Bhaswarananda Maharaj who was then stationed at The Ramakrishna Mission, Singapore. Apart from spiritual activities, the Ashrama runs an orphanage, catering for both boys and girls with ages ranging from six to 20 years old. The orphanage admits poor orphaned children or abused children or children whose parents are unable of supporting the child.

These children would require help from society to assist the orphanage with fulfilling their basic needs and education. The children in the home are given proper education and are well cared for so that they grow up as useful citizens. Besides education, the girls learn traditional dancing, cooking and housekeeping. Children excelling well academically are encouraged to pursue higher education.

There are various ways that anyone can help The Ramakrishna Ashrama, such as by participating in their Sponsor a Child programme. The yearly cost to support a child at The Ramakrishna Ashrama is about RM1,500 which goes into the child's education (RM500), food (RM600), maintenance (RM300) with the remainder for miscellaneous expenses. You can also donate directly through their CIMB bank account.

If you need more information, please contact The Ramakrishna Ashrama at 37 Scotland Road, 10450 Penang (tel: 04-2270869, fax: 04-2278921, email