March Milestones

Andrew and Valene with baby Vivienne
at Chenderiang Falls, Perak
This March marks a few significant milestones.  Top of the list is that momentous day in history when HRH Sultan Ibrahim was crowned the fifth sultan of modern Johor, the very same day Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, passed on.  On the family front, it was also when my parents met their first great-grandchild, Vivienne, for the very first time.  On a road trip North this 3-month old infant went on to visit her 103-year old great-great grandmother.  This month also marks the fourth anniversary of this blog, My Johor Stories, which is poised to be re-launched as a boutique blog and the go-to news and info portal for Johor.

March was also an emotional month as we in Johor Baru – Singapore’s immediate neighbour – were lifted up with euphoria at our sultan’s coronation and plunged in grief at the passing of their leading statesman.  Watching the news coverage on Channel News Asia and reading poignant posts on social media, I’m reminded of 1997 when I arrived in London in early September right smack into the national grieving for the loss of their beloved Princess.  I can never forget the sight of the area in front of the gates of Kensington Palace that turned into a sea of flowers and tributes.  I was so moved that I went to the church in the village where my sister and family lives, to express my sympathies in the condolence book there.

Signing the condolence book at the Singapore Consul office
One of the fine examples of national unity that we can learn from our neighbouring nation is how people, regardless of race, beliefs, age or gender, turned up to pay respects to their departed statesman.   The non-stop long lines waiting in orderly queue for hours, round the clock over several days, simply says something about that person whom they needed to bid a final farewell to and how he has united these diverse groups of people.  Sharing their grief and loss, I did the little I could by going to sign the condolence book set up at the Singapore Consul office in JB.

Vivienne and her toothless grin!
Prior to this, I was immersed in writing what I call “sultan stories” to commemorate the sultan’s coronation and I’m particularly proud of our Johor Sultan who took time out to go to pay his respects just days after his coronation.  I deeply appreciate that he did not consider it a taboo to attend a funeral wake while he was in the midst of his own grand celebration.  His selfless act truly defined him as a man and Johor’s strong relationship with the island state. 

The quiet dignity in the send-off was seen via a live telecast on Astro Awani channel but the reactions from some viewers sadly proved that they are not only prejudiced and shallow but shamefully racist.  It’s doubly sad that these unhappy viewers did just not change the channel or turn off their TV sets if they didn’t want to watch.  I remember avidly watching live telecasts of the funerals for Princess Diana and Whitney Houston because it was of personal interest and purely news-worthy.

Vivienne and her teddy bear
As we share the grief of our neighbouring nation, my thoughts are on grandma, our Real Champion, who is kept clean and comfortable in the twilight of her life.  Her health has been deteriorating since late last year and as she refuses to eat or drink, she is losing weight quite rapidly.  At the ripe old age of 103, her mutterings are mostly incoherent but on good days, some of the names she calls out sound quite clear.  So I took the opportunity to visit her again – this time with her eldest son, Uncle Roland, and her eldest daughter, my mum – the two names grandma was often calling.  

Five generations of females in our family!
For me, it was a worthwhile trip even though it was a too tiring drive to USJ via Kota Tinggi where uncle lives.

The newest addition to our family, my grand-niece Vivienne, was born in Perth last Dec 22 and when she was strong enough to fly her parents brought her to meet us in JB.  Vivienne’s visit coincided with her aunt’s wedding held in Kampar and it was an opportunity for the visiting young family to revisit Penang and Cameron Highlands with a stopover at USJ, where her great-great grandma lives.  

It was particularly meaningful for five generations of females to be in the same room and even though I could not join them for the trip, I insisted that they must seize the opportunity to capture the moments with many photos!

The plaque under the school's iconic statue

I was, meanwhile, busy with events and travel assignments.  

At an event at the Johor Baru Convent, I took the opportunity to snap a few photos of the façade – this time repainted a ghastly shade of yellow – and saw the plaque put up at the foot of the school’s iconic statue of the Virgin Mary that reminded me that the previous Sultan Ibrahim presented it to the school.  Incidentally, this school will be celebrating its 90th anniversary in August.

Large jars are hindering pedestrians from
using the pavement!
In line with the royal mood this March, I made a trip to Muar – Bandar Maharani – the royal town, for a walkabout and stayed in a spanking new hotel creatively built with three stacks of containers.  More about this in a separate travel story but first, I must point out to the relevant authorities that: Pavements are for pedestrians

My walking tour was severely impeded by a series of large jars placed in a row on the pavement that borders a busy road.  The presence of these jars made it impossible for any pedestrian to walk along the pavement so I was forced to walk on the road that was full of vehicular traffic.  I hope the town council will remove the jars so that this and other similarly cluttered pavements can be cleared for the pedestrians’ use.

At the end of the month I visited Desaru again with a group tour and had the pleasure of meeting old friends at the Desaru Fruit Farm and Ostrich Show Farm at Teluk Ramunia.  Over the years I have been back to the fruit farm several times and each time I visit, I’m impressed with the progress they have made here. 

[Part of ] My story posted at the Ostrich Show Farm

But it was about five years since I was last at the ostrich farm for the second time.  So it was good to meet Colin Teh and his wife, Joyce, again and see how they were helping visitors to enjoy the experience with their big birds.  I saw the outer front wall of their souvenir shop decorated by a collage of laminated newspaper articles on the farm and it was hard not to miss my story (two pieces posted!), All about big bird, dated 1 Dec 2008!

I’m delighted with the privilege to share Johor stories in various publications and the time is now ripe for a revamped My Johor Stories in a blog that promises to be easy to navigate and easily accessible on a range of mobile devices.  So look out for an exciting change, happening very soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment