17 September 2011

The Remains of the Day

Afternoon all.

So here I am, doing something more substantial with my free time after someone told me very blatantly to 'Get a life'. I can't say that certain someone is mistaken though. I have been playing the Smurfs Village way too much after I discovered how to cheat (very effectively, I might add, and very un-Hufflepuff like) for my brother. It's just so much easier to plant your crops, wait a few seconds for it to grow and watch those smurf berries add up rather than waste precious hours fretting and making sure you don't forget to harvest those darned potatoes.

So anyway, here I am. Getting a life.

I finished Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day a few days ago and it really deserved the 1989 Booker Prize. It's so nicely written and Kazuo Ishiguro's knowledge about the English world is so extensive that you won't believe he's not a native. Although I guess he pretty much is, growing up there and all. Still...
The book is about an English butler, relating to you his past experience and the 'remains of his day' (he's pretty old). It gives a LOT to think about, not one of those speedy light books that you can skim through and get the gist of, so it's fortunate that the book is only about a hundred pages long or it would have taken me longer to finish. I've realised this relation between they type of content and the duration of reading only this year. Late, I know. Stop sniggering and hear me out. I always thought it was a matter of how fast you can read in general that determines how long it takes to finish a book, a very pompous misinterpretation on my part, but the 'weight' of content really adds up to things. This I discovered very painfully after comparing Solar by Ian McEwan with Garth Nix's Lord Sunday. Solar was a PAIN. More on that later.

The essence on The Remains of the Day, from what I personally gathered and could relate most with, is tradition. And dignity, to some extent.

“It is sometimes said that butlers only truly exist in England. Other countries, whatever title is actually used, have only manservants. I tend to believe this is true. Continentals are unable to be butlers because they are as a breed incapable of the emotional restraint which only the English race are capable of. Continentals - and by and large the Celts, as you will no doubt agree - are as a rule unable to control themselves in moments of a strong emotion, and are thus unable to maintain a professional demeanour other than in the least challenging of situations. If I may return to my earlier metaphor - you will excuse my putting it so coarsely - they are like a man who will, at the slightest provocation, tear off his suit and his shirt and run about screaming. IN a word, "dignity" is beyond such persons. We English have an important advantage over foreigners in this respect and it is for this reason that when you think of a great butler, he is bound, almost by definition, to be an Englishman.”

Pretty nice and thoughtful, eh?
But what I most related to was this:
"Now naturally, like many of us, I have a reluctance to change too much of my old ways. But there is no virtue at all clinging as some do to tradition merely for its own sake."

Being orang Terengganu, born and raised and a girl no less, I understand how it feels to have to 'cling to tradition for its own sake'. I don't know much about the traditions in other Malaysian states, call me ignorant, maybe I am, but I just haven't met anyone from any other states who have had to follow their tradition as badly as what Terengganu mothers and grandmothers have imposed on their daughters. Maybe we do have the same traditions, but since we're the younger generation, we rarely practise them on each other. I personally love it that we have so much tradition but at some point, it does get rather daunting.

Tradition number one: when you have a boyfriend, NEVER go to his house, NEVER interact too much with his parents ESPECIALLY his mother and NEVER buat macam nok sangak ke dia. The logic? If the parents get to know you too much and for too long, they might begin to find fault *gasp*. This would still naturally happen of course, once you're married, but once you are, you're pretty much safe from being rejected seeing as no parent would want his son divorced! *gasp*.
I like this tradition :)

Tradition number two: When going to a person's house, always bring 'buah tangan'. And when a person brings buah tangan, always 'balas' when you go their house. IF they happen to visit your house TWICE before you visit them, the next time that you do visit them, you have to bring DOUBLE the buah tangan next time you go to their house. Whew~
This tradition, I've observed, is more practised when going to an elderly person's house, an aunt or uncle for example, and much forgotten in the younger generation.

Tradition number three: When you're the hostess and you're serving your guests a heavy meal, DO NOT join them but get yourself something light instead, like cakes and Raya cookies. The logic: you're the hostess. You're supposed to flutter about, busy entertaining guests and responding to their every whim, YOU SHOULDN'T be tied down eating with them! What an awful thing to do! Have you no manners? (I'm writing this in a very sarcastic way of course)
But I do agree with this bit of tradition. It seems very logical and polite. Unless you have a butler or something. Having a maid doesn't count, by the way. You're still expected to flutter about pleasantly with them in the kitchen, invisible.

Tradition number four: A Terengganu girl must always wear gold jewellery, at least ONE, and bring with her kain batik wherever she goes. I don't mean like the mall. I mean when you leave to study and live an independent life. These items are what you call, semangat tubuh. The logic: kain batik is IMMENSELY useful, I cannot stress this more. It can serve as anything! Sejadah when you need one, alas for practically anything when the surface is too dirty, and the obvious of course; you can wear it. And gold? It just means you'll always have cash on you. Literally.

Tradition number five: When you're married and your mother in law asks you to do something, always ask her how she wants it done. For example, when she asks you to help out with the potatoes, ask her how she wants it, diced or simply cut in half? These things matter you know... The logic: people are different. What you prefer might not be something your mother in law wants in her household.

Tradition number six: Always tukor cebek bila visitors datang. This is totally wrong of course, and is on the verge, if not entirely immersed in, arrogance. Cebek is chair backs, by the way, those lacy things people put on sofas of old. It's not trendy any more so don't do it.
I was discussing this bit of tradition with my mother yesterday and she claims that we have pretty much abandoned the old state of mind where one's household d├ęcor and choice of utensils is the essence of one's rank in society. This is pretty much true but we have actually evolved into an even more nasty way of thinking where one's children's education level and choice of university has taken over the role of whimsical cebeks. Now isn't that sad? Who cares where you managed to get your children into or what grades they got?! Ingat, harta dan anak-anak itu cubaan di dunia. (Sorry banyok updates, Faidhi. Aku rasa semangat pulok. Lama doh aku nok tulih pasal ni)
Sahih International
Your wealth and your children are but a trial, and Allah has with Him a great reward. [64:15]

Tradition number seven: Don't serve boiling hot drinks and add cold water to make them drinkable. NEVER do this. They're rendered even more undrinkable from what you've just done! *gasp* This is perfectly alright of course if it's your own personal cup of coffee but never when entertaining guests. Never.
I don't see any logic in this, though. It escapes me.

Tradition number eight: Never serve food in the periuk straight onto the dining table. Shame on you. Unless you're using a Pyrex periuk or something on par with that. Again, arrogance.

Tradition number nine: Don't serve mugs without coasters, cups without saucers. Don't drink with the teaspoon still immersed in your coffee. Put it aside nicely on the saucer and drink. Don't take the mug out of the kitchen, you might forget to bring it to the sink later and have hell to pay when your mother in law finds out.
These traditions, I have sadly, pretty much ignored :)

Tradition number ten: ALWAYS HAVE RICE in the house. Try to serve rice to visitors as often as you can for rice is considered the best harta you can offer to share. Melayan tetamu itu wajib :)

Tradition number eleven: When older people are conversing with each other, sit quietly, back straight and smile politely. NEVER forget to smile. Muka masam is a crime!

Well, I feel I've more than gotten a life now. So I will continue brewing potions on Pottermore now if you don't mind. I still don't feel like a Hufflepuff :(

“The evening's the best part of the day. You've done your day's work. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy it.”