Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Only once in a while, I crave for...cendol'

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

"Anyone who obeys the Messenger has obeyed God..." (Nisaa 4:80)

WHEN one listens to the radio, once in a while one would have the opportunity to hear the song 'Teringin' (Craving for) by one of our top local singers, Shima. The lyrics begin with: 'Sesekali kurasa teringin...(Once in a while I crave or have a desire for...).

Well, talking about the subject of craving or having a desire for...I have 'this little secret' to share with readers. It is about my wife's craving to have 'a bowl of nice cendol' once in a while.

I too share 'my wife's desire' and because of that, we have traveled far and near to taste cendol including the famous one such as Bakar'scendol in Kuala Selangor and Pak Dawi's cendol near Seremban.

Of the many cendol outlets, my wife and I give the highest mark to a simple 'warung cendol pulut (glutinous rice)' a few kilometers from the town of Bagan Serai on the main road from Kamunting, Taiping, Perak.

Readers might ask why I am writing about cendol in this blog.

Before that, let us refresh our minds about 'this traditional and delicious dessert. The basic ingredients for cendol are coconut milk, green starched jelly noodles (from rice flour) with pandan flavouring and palm sugar. Sometimes there are additional topping options such as grated or shredded ice, red beans, 'pulut', grass jelly and cream corn.

Oh, when added with ice cubes or shredded ice, it will give you a nice, fresh and cold pleasure (slurp) and when you are enjoying it, the Malays have this word to describe it: 'mak mentua lalu pun tak perasan' (you would not notice the presence of your mother-in-law even)!

Well, dear readers I brought this 'cendol story' to counter a suggestion by one of our ministers that traders should emulate the owner of'Cendol Bakar' in reducing the price of his cendol by 20 sen after the government raised the prices of petrol and diesel also by 20 sen a liter.

To our dear minister, please have sympathy on the people; please do understand their needs. For 'ages' people have known that human beings’ basic needs are food, clothing and shelter; and of course cendoldoes not fit in the list of foods that are taken every day.

Nobody takes cendol everyday; and in my wife's case, she only craves to have it once in a while - perhaps once in a month. Cendol is not a necessity and "we would not die if we do not have cendol!"

Thus by using the cendol as an example for other traders to reduce prices of their goods is really in bad taste and totally out of context. Dear minister, the 'rakyat' do not eat cendol everyday, but they need to have rice at least two times daily; they need fish, vegetables (they too do not eat 'kangkung everyday by the way), cooking oil, flour, sugar, onions, chilies and so on.

The prices of almost all necessities have soared to a very high level and has sent shivers upon the 'rakyat'; even the humble 'ikan cencaru' and 'kembong' which are labeled as the poor man's food are about RM12 per kilogram. The irony of it is when the people are suffering this 'barang naik' (price hikes) syndrome; some leaders keep on telling the people to spend on necessary items only and one minister even had the cheek to 'talk about cendol' which only some people 'sesekali teringin' (only on occasions crave for) it! And of course 'cendol is not a necessity'.

Please do not talk rubbish; everyone including those in power should make sacrifices during these hard times. Perhaps this true story from a book entitled 'Wahai Islamku' written by Ali Muhammad Baktsir in Arabic and translated into Malay and published by Pustaka Nasional in Singapore, can enlighten our leaders. I have had this book in my collection since my younger years and perhaps during these hard times, it is beneficial to browse through its contents.

'Wahai Islamku' is about an Egyptian Sultan, Malikul Muzafar Quthaz who in the 13th century managed to ward off the Mongol hordes from devastating Muslim lands. Before that Hulago Khan, the grandson of Genghiz Khan and his army in 1258 AD had captured and destroyed Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Empire.

Regarding the reign of Quthaz, Wikipedia, notes that Saif ad-Din Qutuz (Quthaz), also spelled Kutuz or Koetoez, (Arabic: سيف الدين قطز‎; epithet: al-Malik al-Muzaffar Saif ad-Din Qutuz (Arabic: الملك المظفر سيف الدين قطز) (November 2 (1254) - October 24, 1260) was the third of the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt in the Turkic line from 1259 until his death in 1260. It was under his leadership that the Mamluks achieved success against the Mongols in the key Battle of Ain Jalut. Qutuz was assassinated by a fellow Mamluk leader, Baibars, on the triumphant return journey to Cairo. Although Qutuz's reign was short, he is one of the most popular Mamluk sultans in the Islamic world and holds one of the highest positions in Islamic history.

After the invasion of Hulago and his armies, Baghdad, the magnificent city of knowledge and civilization was turned into barren land. The fall of Baghdad signaled that other Muslim kingdoms were about to succumb to the advancing Mongol hordes. After capturing more lands in the West, the Mongols then were waiting for the right moment to strike Egypt.

The people of Egypt and its Sultan, Quthaz, a former slave, were terrified when they heard the news. But the Sultan managed to call on his emirs, governors, ministers, judges and scholars for an emergency meeting.

During their discussion, the Sultan asked them whether it was proper for the government to collect monies and properties of the people to finance the war. Everyone was tight lipped.

Everyone was silent until a scholar by the name of Sheikh Abdus Salam said: "That action must begin with the king, emirs, governors, ministers and the rich."

The sheikh knew that 'his moment' had come. After all everyone would have to face death, only time would tell. He was ready to die for raising that suggestion but to his surprise the king accepted it and immediately the army was readied.

Not only that, the king and his beloved wife, Jalinar (Jihad) went to war. They were at the front lines and the saddest moment came when the queen was injured in the war and died in the arms of her husband. Before she closed her eyes forever, she asked the king to go on fighting to save Muslims and their lands from the Mongols.

The queen's sacrifice made the king and Muslim armies more determined to crush the invading armies. They succeeded in saving not only the Mamluk (Slave) Kingdom of Egypt but the rest of the Muslim world.

Regarding this, Wikipedia notes: "After the fall of Khawarezm, Baghdad and Syria, Egypt was the last citadel of Islam in the Middle East, and the existence of crusade beach-heads along the coast of the Levant were forming a serious menace to the Islamic World. Therefore the future of Islam and of the Christian west as well depended on the outcome of that battle which was fought between two of the most powerful fighters of the Middle Ages, the Mamluks and the Mongols accompanied by some Christian crusaders. Baibars, who was known to be a swift commander, led the vanguard and succeeded in his maneuver and lured the Mongol army to Ain Jalut where the Egyptian army led by Qutuz waited.

"The Egyptians at first failed to counter the Mongol attack and were scattered after the left flank of their army suffered severe damage but Qutuz stood firm, he threw his helmet to the air and shouted "O Islam" and advanced towards the damaged side followed by his own unit. The Mongols were pushed back and fled to a vicinity of Bisan followed by Qutuz's forces but they managed to gather and returned to the battlefield making a successful counterattack. Qutuz cried loudly three times "O Islam! O God grant your servant Qutuz victory against the Mongols." The Mongols with their Christian and Muslim allies were totally defeated by Qutuz' army and fled to Syria where they became prey for the local population."

So to our religious figures and ministers, please emulate Sheikh Abdus Salam, while our top guns, please follow the steps of Sultan Malikul Muzafar Quthaz, and to their wives please follow the example shown by Jalinar!

And please 'do not talk about cendol' during these hard times. My wife and I do not 'teringin' (wish for) to have it at this moment! 

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