August 6th, 2014

Tahniah Taib Ali - raja medan selera negara!

MOHD. Taib Ali hanyalah seorang Melayu yang biasa. Berkelulusan dalam bidang perakaunan ITM pengambilan 1973 - dia cukup versatil.

Sebagai alumni institusi itu, beliau tidak lokek ilmu. Di masa luangnya, Taib kerap bertemu dengan para pelajar dari masa ke masa bagi mencurahkan ilmu keusahawanan kepada anak bangsanya.

Kita kena asuh mereka, katanya yang kelihatan tidak makan usia pada umurnya 59 tahun.

"Jika setiap alumni yang berjaya, dapat pergi ke kampus dari semasa ke semasa bertemu dengan para pelajar, berkongsi pengalaman, berjabat tangan di hari graduasi mereka, saya yakin siswazah itu akan menjadi seperti kita."

Itu kata-katanya semasa saya bertemu dengannya tengah hari semalam.

Selaku aktivis alumni UiTM, saya cukup kagum dan hormat dengan cara Taib.

Saya dijemput beliau ke majlis doa selamat pembukaan food courtnya yang kelima di pusat beli-belah premium terbaharu ibu kota iaitu Nu Sentral @ KL Sentral.

Taib Ali bergambar dengan kakitangannya selepas majlis doa selamat pembukaan medan
selera Quizinn Foodcourt by Rasa di klia2 baru-baru ini. Medan selera itu berkeluasan 24,000 kaki persegi.

Sebelum Ramadan lalu saya juga dijemput ke majlis yang sama - pembukaan food courtnya seluas 24,000 kaki persegi di klia2.

Dalam masa kira-kira dua bulan, beliau membuka dua food court yang cukup besar di dua tempat yang hebat membabitkan pelaburan berjumlah RM13 juta.

Beliau juga menguruskan medan selera terkenal di tingkat 4 Suria KLCC.

Taib turut menguruskan medan selera di pusat beli-belah Alamanda, Putrajaya serta menguruskan sembilan medan selera di pusat beli-belah Mydin.

Projek Taib yang akan datang ialah menguruskan food court di pusat pembangunan ultra-moden milik UDA Holdings di tapak penjara Pudu serta di projek pembangunan Menara Warisan milik PNB di Stadium Merdeka.

Jenama food court beliau dikenali sebagai Quizinn Foodcourt by Rasa. Beliau juga memiliki pusat peranginan, Rumbia Resort Villa di Paka, Terengganu.

Taib berjaya dalam bisnes setelah diberi kepercayaan menguruskan ruang medan selera di aras 4, Suria KLCC Shopping Centre. Ekoran itu beliau terlibat dalam lebih 20 restoran dan projek medan selera berskala besar termasuk di pusat beli-belah The Curve dan Recezz Taylor's University College.

Oleh itu, tidak keterlaluan jika saya berani menggelar beliau sebagai 'King of food courts' atau 'Raja medan selera Malaysia'.

Medan selera yang beliau uruskan itu bukan medan selera ala majlis perbandaran, tetapi medan selera yang premium dan moden.

"Saya lari sana-sini untuk uruskan pembukaan ini. Semua harus diteliti. Pelaburannya bukan kecil. Setiap pembukaan membabitkan kos antara RM3 ke RM4 juta."

Beliau membawa saya meninjau ke setiap ruang niaga di medan selera itu.

Daripada mesin wang yang datanya boleh disambung terus ke telefon bimbit, sistem dapur, sistem kamera litar tertutup, sistem saluran gas memasak, bilik mencuci pinggan dan stor barangan berpusat yang semuanya diuruskan oleh syarikatnya Wesria Food Sdn. Bhd.

Wesria yang diasaskan oleh Taib selaku pengarah urusan sejak 1999 kini adalah syarikat pengurusan makanan dan minuman (F&B) terkemuka negara bagi medan selera premium. Perolehan tahunan syarikat berjumlah sekitar RM20 juta.

"Peniaga hanya uruskan masakan mereka sahaja, yang lain akan diuruskan oleh kira-kira 300 kakitangan saya."

Pemilihan penyewa ruang niaga makanan itu dipilih beliau dengan cukup teliti.

"Saya mahu pastikan pelanggan berpuas hati."

Menceritakan lagi; "Saya juga akan pergi ke warung-warung dan merasa makanan. Jika sedap saya akan pelawa mereka buka di tempat saya."

"Saya cukup suka soto pakcik di belakang Hotel Concorde KL. Banyak kali saya minta dia buka di tempat saya, tapi dia tak mahu dan nak jual di warung kaki lima juga. Macam-macam alasan dia bagi."

"Saya pernah minta orang kita buat makanan Indonesia seperti sup bakso dan lain-lain di food court saya. Malangnya mereka takut mahu mencuba. Memanglah sewanya mahal iaitu antara RM15,000 ke RM20,000 bagi satu ruang niaga, tapi untungnya boleh mencecah sehingga RM250,000 sebulan.

Sedih sekali, katanya; "Mereka takut ambil risiko."

"Akhirnya seorang pemuda Cina dari Kelantan mengambil cabaran itu dan kini dia mengendalikan sembilan ruang niaga makanan Indonesia di merata tempat yang saya uruskan," kata Taib, anak seorang askar dari Taiping.

Saya mahu usahawan bumiputera terbabit dalam bidang makanan ini. Malah Taib turut menguruskan program pembangunan usahawan untuk mereka melalui Perbadanan Usahawan Malaysia Berhad (PUNB).

Dengan pengalaman Taib yang cukup luas dalam pasaran modal, beliau cukup kreatif dalam mengembangkan perniagaannya. Beliau pernah menjadi Auditor Dalaman di Harpers Gilfillan Sdn. Bhd. serta beberapa institusi kewangan seperti di Malaysia Discount Berhad, Affin Discount Berhad dan Harlow's Ueeda Sasson.

Namun, Taib bukanlah seorang yang pentingkan diri sendiri. Beliau ialah contoh seorang usahawan yang mencipta usahawan-usahawan bumiputera lain.

Bayangkan jika ada usahawan besar Melayu sepertinya yang mampu mengasuh usahawan-usahawan lain untuk berjaya dalam perniagaan.

"Jika mereka berjaya, saya juga berjaya," katanya bersungguh-sungguh.

Akhir sekali pada ucapan ringkas di majlis doa selamatnya semalam, beliau yang kelihatan berpeluh mahu memastikan majlisnya berjalan lancar berkata;

"Moto saya ialah: Kalau makan sedap beritahu kawan-kawan, jika tak sedap beritahu saya."

Tahniah Encik Taib - Seorang lagi produk UiTM yang berjaya!   Zaini Hassan : Utusan/Rencana/20140806

Importance of class size

FOR many people interested in educational issues and seeking to find a touchstone moral position from which to engage these problems, John Dewey’s argument — which he penned in The School and Society — seems to capture an ethical bottom line.

Dewey’s famous position which captures our best moral sentiment in regard to the education of all children in our society is as follows: ‘What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

It is hard to think of a simpler or clearer moral proposition to drive public policy in education.

When we read educators suggesting that perhaps poor children or those from disadvantaged backgrounds do not really need or require what those who get the best receive, most of us feel a sense of deep unease.

This unease is natural and stems from our basic sense of decency. We sense that an evasion of Dewey’s basic proposition is an evasion of our duty to all the children in our community.

After all, our moral fibre is often seen in how we treat the poorest and most powerless members of society.

Those whose arguments in regard to educational provision rest on a negation of Dewey’s moral position have a high ethical bar to jump and this is as it should be.

One way to glean how we view disadvantaged children in society is by seeing what our attitude is to putting real resources to work in addressing disadvantage.

It is with this in mind that I will now discuss the issue of class sizes in schools.

Professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist at Northwestern University, has a strong interest in educational issues policy and child health.

She is also research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Schanzenbach has produced an important and timely paper for the National Education Policy Center titled Does Class Size Matter?.

In this paper, Schanzenbach argues a clear and engaging case for the importance of class size and our continued engagement with it.

The executive summary of her paper captures her basic argument where she makes several policy recommendations:

— Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and one that can be directly determined by policy. All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.

— The evidence suggests that increasing class size will harm not only children’s test scores in the short run, but also their long-run human capital formation. Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future.

— The pay-off from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children, while any increases in class size will likely be most harmful to these populations.

— Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.

Schanzenbach reminds us of the important analysis and critique by Professor Alan B. Krueger, former chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and currently, Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Krueger’s critique of the findings by Professor Eric A. Hanushek, who is the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, in regard to class size and its significance for achievement is a critical and incisive rejoinder to the argument made by Hanushek that “there appears to be little systemic gain from general reductions in class size (The Evidence on Class Size)”.

Krueger in his critique makes a point which I want to focus on. Krueger writes: “Further, economic considerations suggest that greater gains might be available if resources were targeted toward those groups — minority and disadvantaged students — who appear to benefit the most from smaller classes (Understanding the Magnitude and Effect of Class Size on Student Achievement)”. Krueger’s point which the wider literature also tends to support is that students from disadvantaged backgrounds and from minority groups may benefit more from smaller classes (Would Smaller Classes Help Close the Black-White Achievement Gap?).

In short, there is a clear social justice dimension to the debate about resourcing of schools and class size.

If we return to the words of Dewey, we are bound to take seriously the effects that issues such as school resourcing and class size can have on all students and especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Dewey’s core ethical commitment to social justice and doing the best for all of our children inspires how many of us as teachers, parents and fellow citizens see our obligation to education.

Resources matter, class size matters and our commitment to all of our children is diminished if we fail to recognise the needs and dignity of the most disadvantaged or imply that somehow they do not deserve what many of us take for granted for our kids.

Dewey was right when he wrote his words in another time, and he is still right in our time. NST Learning Curve 3 AUGUST 2014 @ 8:00 AM

The rise of ‘Putinism’

WHEN the Cold War ended, Hungary occupied a special place in the story of the revolutions of 1989. It was the first country in the Soviet orbit to abandon communism and embrace liberal democracy.

Today it is again a trendsetter, becoming the first European country to denounce and distance itself from liberal democracy. It is adopting a new system and set of values that are best exemplified by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but are finding echoes in other countries as well.

In a major speech last weekend, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban explained that his country is determined to build a new political model — illiberal democracy. This caught my eye because in 1997, I wrote an essay inForeign Affairs using that same phrase to describe a dangerous trend. Democratic governments, often popular, were using their mandates to erode individual rights, the separation of powers, and the rule of law. But even I never imagined that a national leader — from Europe no less — would use the term as a badge of honour.

“The most popular topic in thinking today is trying to understand how systems that are not Western, not liberal, not liberal democracies and perhaps not even democracies can nevertheless make their nations successful,” Orban said.

For him, the world changed fundamentally in 2008 with what he calls “the great Western financial collapse”. Since then, he argues, American power has been in decline and liberal values today embody “corruption, sex and violence”. Western Europe has become a land of “freeloaders on the backs of welfare systems”. The illiberal role models for the future, he explains, are Russia, Turkey, China, Singapore and India.

Leaving aside his odd list (India?), Orban’s actions over the past few years demonstrate that his own role model has been Russia under Putin. Orban has enacted and implemented in Hungary a version of what can best be described as “Putinism”. To understand it, we need to go back to its founder.

When he first came to power in 2000, Putin seemed a tough, smart, competent manager, someone who was determined to bring stability to Russia — which was reeling from internal chaos, economic stagnation and a default in 1998.

He sought to integrate Russia into the world and wanted good relations with the West, asking Washington for Russian membership in the World Trade Organisation and even Nato. His administration had technocrats who were Western liberals, well versed in free markets and open trade.

Over time, however, Putin established order in the country while presiding over a booming economy as oil prices quadrupled under his watch. He began creating a repressive system of political, economic and social control to maintain his power.

As he faced opposition, particularly in the parliamentary elections of 2011, Putin recognised that he needed more than just brute force to defeat his opponents. He needed an ideology of power and began articulating one in speeches, enacting legislation and using his office to convey adherence to a set of values.

The crucial elements of Putinism are nationalism, religion, social conservatism, state capitalism and government domination of the media. They are all, in some way or another, different from and hostile to, modern Western values of individual rights, tolerance, cosmopolitanism and internationalism. It would be a mistake to believe that they created his popularity — he was popular before — but they sustain his popularity.

Orban has followed in Putin’s footsteps, eroding judicial independence, limiting individual rights, speaking in nationalist terms about ethnic Hungarians and muzzling the press. The methods of control are often more sophisticated than traditional censorship. Hungary recently announced a 40 per cent tax on the revenues of the country’s only major independent television network, which could result in its bankruptcy.

If you look around the world, there are others who have embraced core elements of Putinism. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan has veered away from his reformist agenda toward one that is more socially conservative, Islamist and highly nationalistic.

He, too, has used clever tricks to cow the media into subservience. Many of Europe’s far-right leaders — France’s Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands and even Britain’s Nigel Farage — are openly admiring of Putin and what he stands for.

The success of Putinism will depend a great deal on the success of Putin and Russia under him. If he triumphs in Ukraine, turning it into a basket case that eventually comes begging to Moscow, he will look like a winner. If, on the other hand, Ukraine succeeds outside of Russia’s orbit, Putin might find himself presiding over a globally isolated Siberian petro-state. FAREED ZAKARIA - NST Columnist 4 AUGUST 2014 @ 1:17 PM

A horrific prophesy

ALBERT Einstein, in a 1948 letter to the New York Times, signed jointly by a list of no less influential Jewish luminaries, warned of Zionist fascism in Israel. They were then protesting against the visit to the United States of the terrorist leader and later to be prime minister of Israel, Menachem Begin. In the letter they cited examples to demonstrate that Begin headed a Nazi party in form and substance testified to by its inhumane actions against Palestinian villages in the early days of Israel. Today that prophesy has come to pass as Gaza is bombed to utter destruction and the genocide of its population fast becoming a horrendous reality. Now with over 1,700 deaths and 10,000 injured, most of them civilians and an unforgivable proportion of that, children, Israel shows no sign of remorse. Instead, Zionist Israel has revealed itself to be the fascist state that Einstein predicted: unapologetic, bloodthirsty, callous, and land grabbing.

Huge swathes of the world population are demonstrating against the current, already more than three-week old, inhumane assault on the Gaza Strip, urging governments to act against Israel so that the carnage might be stopped immediately. The feet dragging by leaders who support Israel as a matter of policy is so nauseatingly loud. The fascist state’s main backer, the United States, is mouthing platitudes while arming the aggressors. If anyone can stop this Washington can, but obviously they will not. Accused of being all paid for by the influential Jewish lobby, the US Congress, for all intents and purposes, is bending over backwards to legitimise the assault on Gaza by laying all blame at the feet of Hamas.

But not so the Malaysian leadership. The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has visited Palestine in an open show of Malaysian support. Average Malaysians, too, are appalled at the cruelty and have joined the world in protest. Some 15,000 turned up at Dataran Merdeka recently to demonstrate solidarity with the Gazans, especially, and the Palestinians, generally. Indeed, there would have been more if the organisers had been more aggressive in its publicity. More Malaysians would have probably turned up if more organisations had been involved. For example, the trades unions could have mobilised their membership and a nationwide show of solidarity would have been demonstrable. A strong show of anger against Israel’s reprehensible action, on the one hand, and support for Gaza, on the other, is urgently needed, more so in the West where the official pro-Israeli stance is allowing the massacre to proceed with impunity. Indeed, the blood of Palestinians is soaking the hands of American and European leaders, but peoples everywhere must stand together and hold all pro-Israel leaders accountable for what is happening in their name. NST Editorial 4 AUGUST 2014 @ 8:05 AM

Not Crazy: Keeping healthy minds in offices

AT a recent seminar on occupational safety and health, I was surprised to note that there are employers who are averse to the discussion of mental health in the workplace.

To me, this could be caused by a lack of understanding on the subject as there are employers who associate mental health with insanity.

Mental health is not about insane people. It is something we all need. It is the ability to cope with life’s challenges, to accept others and, most of all, to have a positive attitude.

According to the World Health Organisation, mental health is “the ability to maintain a harmonious relationship with others, take part in community’s activities and to contribute to the community”.

It is not exaggerating to state that the number of people at risk of developing mental health problems due to stress and pressure is increasing daily.

Ten per cent of Malaysians are set to suffer from mental illness by 2020, as revealed recently by the deputy director-general of health.

The impact of mental health on the family and society is enormous in terms of loss of wellbeing, productivity and economic costs.

In promoting mental health, the workplace is where attention should be focused. The government should consider introducing guidelines to assist employers in doing so.

Employers can formulate a programme that identifies problems at the workplace.

Steps should be taken to improve the work environment, provide counselling and take measures to protect workers’ privacy.

It is important to ensure the happiness and wellbeing of the workforce and their families as the basis of a sound human resource development objective. Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,  Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council member NST Letters 3 AUGUST 2014 @ 8:02 AM

Old Street Nostalgia: Going down these old famous roads


THE article on Jalan Masjid India in the New Sunday Times on July 20 brought back wonderful memories of the 1950s and the 1960s. I happen to live in Batu Road behind one of the shophouses opposite Coliseum Theatre. Our backdoor opened up to Batu Lane, or Belakang Mati, as it was known then.

There were no Selangor Mansions, or Malayan Mansions. After 7pm, the area was dim. In the mornings, there used to be a wet market where those residing in the street would do their marketing. I still remember that for five cents, one could buy vegetables. There was a coffeeshop with a juke box blaring away Hindi songs. One could slot in 10 cents to select a song.

Batu Road, or now known as Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, was a two-way street in the 1950s. Christmas was celebrated on a grand scale with the Mat Salleh, especially sailors, walking drunk and singing away.

At times, they may become rowdy and smash up the crockery and glassware in shops. Fights also took place but all these were taken in stride and did not escalate.

Batu Road or, now known as Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, was a happening place in the 1950s and 1960s.

There were about four cinemas in the area — Coliseum and Odeon (which exist till today), Hindustan theatre in Jalan Campbell and not forgetting BB Park, where the Rialto Cinema is located as well as the venue for the famous Rose Chan performances. One could see her shows for only RM5.

Being a teenager, I could not afford this amount. So, the best way was to sneak in under the tent from behind the stands for a free show!

BB Park was also the place for the famous Ronggeng dance where kebayagirls would sit on chairs and anyone wishing to dance could do so (without touching one another) for 50 cents. It was fun, especially as those on the floor were mostly oldies reliving their younger days.

The famous businesses in Batu Road were Globe Silk Store, P’Lal Store, M.K. Doshi’s, Sharafali’s, Motilal Store, P. Pasram’s, Jubilee Book Store & Azmi Restaurant, Crown Aluminium Mart, B’Deen’s, Jiwan Singh Juneja, Jaswant Singh & Sons, Kesarmal Ramlal’s, Makhanlal’s, T. Kaderbhoy’s and Oasis Bar.

Further up was the famous Style Mart, behind which were the Suleiman Court Flats. The China Insurance Building at the corner housed Kashmir Arts as the tenant. Along Mountbatten Road (now Jalan Tun Perak), was Robinson’s & Ubaidullah’s, which were household names.

Malay Street, which is now Jalan Melayu, housed the famous Pahang Khalsa Store, Harbhajan Singh’s, Jai Hind Restaurant, Ceylon Restaurant and a row of shops selling batik and kain pelikat. Opposite Malay Street, across Batu Road, was the lane leading to Gombak Lane, which housed the Lakshmi Narayan Temple as well as the Sikh Temple.

The Selangor Club padang, now known as Dataran Merdeka, hosted games where world-class cricketers, such as Rohan Kanhai, Welsey Hall and Kallicharan, thrilled the crowd by pitting themselves against our own greats like the Shepherdson Brothers, Alex Delikan and Gurucharan Singh. The club was then for the British until it was opened up to others later.

Those were the good old days when there was hardly any crime and no such thing as being identified as a Chinese, Malay or Indian.

Everyone accepted each other as his own with open hearts. Tarun Sheth,  Kuala Lumpur. NST Letters 3 August 2014

Life Story: How to make each day count

EACH day, we’re writing our life’s story, whether we know it or not.

Each day, we live out a part of our story and, most importantly, it is etched on the tablet of our life’s narrative for ever. It cannot be changed or rewritten.

Daily, we begin a new page in the story of our life. The secret is to be sure, in the words of Longfellow, that “each tomorrow finds us farther than today”. As we compile those pages, at each stage of our life, we should strive to make it the best chapter yet.

Whatever place and responsibility we have in life — at home, at school, in the family, community, workplace or nation — we should act with honour and dedication. And, equally, it is incumbent upon us to serve others, without bias, so that they can meet their needs and aspirations to better their lives.

Our life’s story should not be about how much we hoard for ourselves but how much we help others, not how we waste our efforts and energies on criticising and condemning others but the compassion we show them and not how popular we make ourselves to be but how much people can trust and depend on us.

Life is full of heroism. When we or others suffer setbacks, distress or disasters, we should rise to the occasion. The courage we show in overcoming our reversals and the care we extend to those in need should not be for extolling us but done with humility. These are what truly inspire others to act with fortitude.

True success in life is carving a specific, honest and challenging path for ourselves, endeavouring to expand our knowledge and hone our skills, seeking to learn something new — one’s never too old to learn — and, above all, being happy with the course we are treading.

Will we encounter difficulties, discouragement, even face despair? Of course, and we need to be prepared for the worst. But, let that not be due to our own frivolous lifestyle, hoping we’ll somehow overcome any adverse consequences — mostly, we don’t, often having to pay dearly for our reckless living.

But, when we sincerely endeavour to do our very best at all times, “with a heart for any fate… and God o’erhead”, suffering can be a valuable experience that lends sensitivity and insight to reinforce our resolve in pursuing our goals even harder and launch us on the road to success.

Finally, our life’s story must be one of appreciation. The smallest, simplest of what we have is something we own and must value. Even the modest occupation we might have is a real possession we must engage in with zeal. Those we love and who love us — few, perhaps even one, with unadulterated love — are worth our undivided affection.

We’ve, in fact, written our life’s story up to the present. More important chapters remain. We’ll never know how many. But, let’s not conclude it wastefully. Let’s make sure each moment and each day counts. Rueben Dudley, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. NST Letters 4 AUGUST 2014 @ 8:03 AM

Old Streets: Sights and sounds of Jalan Masjid India


IT was once known as belakang mati (dead end), but today it is anything but.

In just over two decades, Jalan Masjid India, which began life as a few shops and a mosque of the same name, has blossomed into a popular tourist destination.

It is a place where cultures intertwine, especially during two major festive seasons — Hari Raya Puasa and Deepavali. The iconic street is turned into a huge Malay bazaar during Ramadan and becomes Little India during Deepavali. But, even without festivals, Jalan Masjid India is a shopper’s paradise.




Shoppers flocking along Jalan Masjid India

M.L. Puneithavathy, whose family runs Madras Store Sdn Bhd, says Malaysians of all races and tourists flock to Jalan Masjid India year-round, as there is much to see and do there.

“Shopping is the biggest attraction in Jalan Masjid India. When my mother opened her small stationery business here 37 years ago, the whole place was isolated and quiet.

“Only a handful of stores were open and, in addition to Masjid India, was all that was present here.

“The road behind our shop was a dead-end, which was why it was calledbelakang mati, and there were many brothels in the neighbourhood,” says Puneithavathy.

Before venturing into the saree business, her mother supplied books, magazines and stationery to the nearby offices.

Jalan Masjid India was then a far cry from what it is today, as the place used to be quiet and dark after sunset. Many shopkeepers did not venture out of their premises at night.

It also had its own theatre, called the Hindustan Theatre, which was located down the road from the present Semua House.

In its earlier incarnation, the Masjid India mosque was a wooden and brick structure. The mosque was financed by Indian Muslim traders who lived and traded there and in Batu Road, now known as Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

Today, Jalan Masjid India, which runs parallel to Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, is surrounded by office buildings, condominiums, shopping complexes, hotels, bazaars and malls.

It is also the place everyone makes a beeline for to get their festive shopping done, especially for Hari Raya and Deepavali.

From clothes to cookies, tableware, silverware, glassware, home decorations and traditional delicacies, almost everything is available at the shopping haven. The goldsmith shops that line the road are also heavily patronised by locals and foreigners.

Puneithavathy says Hari Raya shopping starts as early as February, with many wholesalers buying six-metre sarees to make baju kurung, shawls and tudung.

During the “Festival of Lights”, the whole road becomes a vibrant little India, where one can shop to your heart’s content for sarees, silverware, home decor and traditional goodies.

Tourists have often said that to experience the real atmosphere of Deepavali, Jalan Masjid India, is the place to go.

Open almost all year-round, the street is where online entrepreneurs and siblings Yaya and Mymin Azahar, have been doing their shopping on a large scale, for the last two to three years.

Their shopping destination is usually the saree shops that sell ready-made baju kurung fashioned out of the saree fabric.

“What we do is buy the baju kurung at the saree shops and sell it online. The demand for baju kurung, especially those made from chiffon, georgette and silk materials, are very popular,” says Yaya.

Nurul Farhana Abdul Shukor, who sells dates and nuts from all over the world at the Ramadhan bazaar, says nothing beats shopping in Jalan Masjid India for Hari Raya.

“We usually open our shop at 9am and close about midnight.

“The closer we get to Hari Raya, the later we will close. We are here till the wee hours of the morning.”

When friends Ikhwan Mohd Amran and Jusoh Musa, started their small business selling cotton baju kurung during the fasting month in Jalan Masjid India, they never expected their business to take off in such a big way.

“We have our own clientele who come looking for cotton baju kurung. This year, we sourced for paisley prints and sales have been brisk.”

                                                                                                                     
Hari Raya would not be complete without cookies and serunding (meat floss), which is supplied by Rosnita Ahmad and Mohd Afiq Mohd Zain, who source their delicacies direct from Kelantan to city folk who have not the time or inclination to prepare these items.



Rosnita Ahmad











Belgian tourist Christine Buytaert, who hails from Antwerp, says Jalan Masjid India offers a whole new experience.

She “stumbled upon” its Ramadan bazaar while exploring Kuala Lumpur and was instantly fascinated.

“This place is definitely not what I had expected.

“It is absolutely wonderful, and we can’t wait to explore all that it has to offer,” says Christine, who is in Malaysia with her husband and two children.







NST Letters 20 JULY 2014 @ 8:10 AM

How to work smarter

Running a business has been the singular activity that has stretched my mental abilities and stamina and after going through tough circumstances and exhilarating achievements, here are five tips for working smarter and not harder.

Minimise checking email

Nearly everyone is addicted to email and most business people barely spend more than 30 minutes away from their mailbox. The challenge lies in what’s waiting for you when you read your emails, including trying to solve everyone’s difficulties. Your most pressing tasks are forced to take a back seat when you do this. I recommend looking through your task list in the morning and resolving to tackle one key task before looking into your emails.

Even if you do check your mailbox, limit it to two to three times a day to ensure that you spend most of your time executing instead of scanning through emails, Facebook and Twitter, which take up a chunk of your time.

Isolate yourself regularly

As an entrepreneur, you are constantly surrounded by people, be they your colleagues, your business partners or even clients, which means you barely have time to reflect and analyse situations.

Reflection time is extremely important because it can determine if you can bring the business to the next level or keep running in that hamster wheel and fighting fires every day.

Every two weeks, take time to be quiet and without any disturbance to focus on growing your business to the next level through reflection.

Surround yourself with smarter people

The reality is you will never have all the answers. Also, there is someone out there who has all the answers that you are seeking. Therefore, it is important to surround yourself with an assortment of people who are smarter and wiser than you to inspire and provide new perspectives on your current situations and challenges.

If you are the smartest person in that room, then it is time to change rooms.

Try new experiences

Creativity is a core element of success in business because every company is so similar in their deliverables and promises. Hence, every company should focus on differentiating itself from the rest by injecting one to two unique elements into its offerings.

How does one cultivate creativity in order to conceptualise this? By constantly putting oneself through new experiences that force the mind to learn different types of knowledge and form new connections that help us view reality a bit differently.

Embrace failure

Innovation and failure are often closely related because not all experiments will turn out to be successful and innovation only occurs with frequent trials. In Asia, failure is often discouraged, hence many business owners end up maintaining their current business for many years because they fear entering a new market, expanding a line or changing their current clientele.

However, big achievements are seldom attained with low risk, hence to move ahead faster, failure should be part of the equation to encourage multiple experiments into the unknown. However, the possible repercussion (or loss) should always allow the business owner to regain his footing if it does not take off. The risk should be manageable in the worst case scenario.

Every business owner should attempt to work smarter because everyone has the same hours in their day and the goal is to evolve faster than your competitors. With these five steps, you will be able to leapfrog your competitors by competing against them in unexpected ways.

Pam Siow is the founder of ThinkSpace. ThinkSpace specialises in helping companies launch their new products or services through an integrated marketing plan. Learn more at www.thinkspace.com.my. The STAR SME Business August 5, 2014

Sincerity vital for national unity

MALAYSIA’S plural society is a mixture of various races, religions, cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

Comprising the Malays, Chinese, Indians and the richer ethnic diversities of Sabah and Sarawak such as Kadazan, Iban, Bidayuh, Dayak, Melanau and Bajau, this form of pluralistic social structure poses a great challenge to the Government.

For a country like Malaysia, national unity is a prerequisite order that must be continuously preserved and strengthened for the betterment of the country’s future.

The call for national unity is not something new.

The chapters in the country’s historical pages have shown that unity has been on top of the national agenda since independence.

From then onwards, the Government has continuously tried to address the issues and problems arising from the complex nature of the nation’s multi-ethnic background.

The promotion of the muhibbah spirit, as well as other policies that embrace the ethnic and cultural diversities, and most importantly the creation of the Rukun Negara in 1970, are clear examples of the early initiatives by the Government towards building a solid foundation for unity in the country.

However, the questions today remain as to why we are still struggling in this effort and why as a nation, we are moving backwards instead of forward in this supposedly important endeavour for the country and its future generations.

No doubt many answers are accessible right in front of us but without one essential element, no initiative on national unity can meet its intended objectives.

The most important ingredient in national unity that I am referring to is sincerity.

Many will argue that this call is just rhetoric in nature, unfazed by the fact that internal reflections on what our intentions really are in achieving unity will determine the course of action that we take and our commitment towards it.

From the Islamic point of view, sincerity acts as a foundation for all of our actions in life.

It is about focusing on desiring the pleasure of Allah the Almighty in everything that we do and our intentions. Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran of those who are sincere:

They [are those who] fulfil [their] vows and fear a Day whose evil will be widespread. And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive, [saying], “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude”. (Chapter 76, Verses 7-9).

Sincerity of this kind will ensure that when actions are taken, it is done out of the realisation that God wants us to be good to other people.

Those who are sincere in their intentions are constantly observant of their actions and do not stray away from the remembrance of God. Genuine sincerity also does not demand any material benefits in return.

When we are truly sincere, our actions become our point of satisfaction and worldly appreciation and acknowledgements are immaterial.

In relation to the issue of national unity, people of all religious and cultural backgrounds must realise that threats and challenges to unity can come in many forms. It can also either be external or internal.

However, the momentum to keep moving forward in achieving the intended goals of national unity will not cease if it is based on sincerity.

Problems that arise can be overcome together because we know that when we are sincere towards one another, we can find true solutions to some of the challenges.

Living harmoniously in a multi-racial and multi-religious country like Malaysia must start with sincerity. It must exist in the hearts and the minds of all individuals who genuinely want the country to be peaceful and united.

Those who are entrusted with power need to understand the importance of achieving the objectives of the national unity agenda.

The social, political and economic well being of the people in this country, which includes national unity, should not be made pawns in the political game of sectarian politics or furthering one’s political ambitions.

It is not about which political party or political figure promises countless programmes on national unity.

It is very much about leaders from various political parties talking about unity in a uniform voice of seriousness and sincerity, which will then be translated into meaningful actions.

This also might sound like rhetoric to some but sometimes it reflects a genuine concern that has long existed and needs effective solutions.

Unity should not also only be presented in superficial images but must be existent in the everyday lives of all Malaysians.

Malaysia is a blessed nation; therefore, as citizens, we need to be proud of the accomplishments and the success that we have achieved together as a nation.

It is still a long journey for Malaysia, but with sincerity and trust towards one another, we can positively move forward in unity.

Now is an excellent time to contemplate the purpose of our existence and sincerity of our intentions.

Hopefully from this point onwards, we can play better and effective roles in making Malaysia a country united by a vision of togetherness and acceptance. Enizahura Abdul Aziz is Senior Research Officer with Ikim’s Centre For The Study of Shariah, Law And Politics. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Ikim Views Agust 5, 2014

We can still learn from history

Great books remind us that our lives and collective history is more meaningful than the petty ambitions and bickering of leaders.

COVERING politics and politicians isn’t good for the health. No one can live life as an endless series of nanosecond-like encounters.

Sometimes it seems as if my existence is coloured, even defined by blips of information from Iocal media outlets, images and sound bites.

Then there are the instant buzz issues, that change every few hours: What will be the impact of Prabowo Subianto’s petulant challenge to the Indonesian presidential election results?

How will President-elect Joko Widodo’s first cabinet look?

Closer to home, why is Pakatan Rakyat seemingly hell-bent on imploding itself via the fracas over the Selangor mentri besar post?

Will PKR and DAP get rid of Khalid Ibrahim? What will PAS do?

There are mornings where I’ve woken up with terrible headaches, having dreamt of news portals, Twitter, Facebook, WeChat and Instagram.

Sometimes it feels as if someone’s tap-dancing all night long on my head.

The news cycle has shrunk and then, finally, disappeared.

Information wilts and then fades away within minutes of being scanned and digested.

Indeed, the immediacy becomes so exhausting there are moments when sleep is the only escape.

Nowadays, however, deep sleep can only be achieved if you switch off your wretched smartphone.

Given the circumstances, is it any wonder that we all feel totally discombobulated?

Still, I’ve found the perfect companion for too much politics.

It’s a 1,160-page history of the 19th century, entitled The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century, by German academic Jurgen Oster­hammel.

After all, having been confronted by reams of staccato-like information, what could be better than a really solid and illuminating piece of scholarship?

Indeed, books are increasingly a refuge from both the real world and online version of the same.

Some years back, as my Blackberry threatened to turn me into a nervous wreck (yes, I checked it every 30 seconds), I discovered that Tolstoy’s War and Peace was the perfect antidote to the torrent of often useless information.

So what’s so special about Osterhammel’s magnum opus?

For a start, you could do considerable harm to a politician with it (if you dropped it from a sufficiently elevated position) and I can assure you there are times when the prospect of this extremely enticing.

But more seriously, Osterhammel rejects the straightforward narrative history of our schooldays.

Instead, he presents the grand sweep of history in terms of approaches, panoramas and themes, drawing parallels, analogies and connections where one would never have imagined.

In this way, he unites the storytelling and explains how the 19th century concept of time and space was altered so thoroughly by the discoveries of the era.

The standardisation of calendars, clocks and the Greenwich Mean Time injected a sense of order and concision in everyday life that was matched by improvements in cartography, census-taking and later even photography.

As a seasoned China expert, Osterhammel also brings an understanding of Asian culture and history that saves the work from being unduly Anglo-Saxon in its emphasis.

Indeed, the breadth of references is astonishing. Osterhammel leaps from Brazil’ssertao (or badlands) to the Ganges Plain and on to the eruption of Mount Tambora on Sumbawa Island in Indonesia before dwelling for a while, at least, on a fascinating comparison of slavery in the former Portuguese colony, the southern United States and the Cape.

The catholicity of sources and density of research is reminiscent of Braudel’s ground-breaking history of the Mediterranean.

Whilst there is a great deal of densely philosophical neo-Teutonic double-speak, I have rarely come across such a powerful and profound work of the imagination because the leaps the writer makes between continents and themes are often so bold they defy expectation.

This is probably why I’ve found the book so satisfying to read amidst the day-in, day-out craziness of South-East Asian politics.

Osterhammel’s broad and magnificent work has served to remind me that our lives and collective history is more meaningful than the petty ambitions and bickering of leaders.

Malaysian and Indonesian politicos should be asking themselves: how do they want to be remembered by history?

And with that, I’ll be returning to my weighty tome. Karim Raslan is a regional columnist and commentator. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own. His online documentaries can be viewed at:http://www.youtube.com/user/KRceritalah. The STAR Columnist August 5, 2014

It’s time to groom and field top-notch athletes

FOR too long, we have allowed our athletes to take part in international events when they do not really deserve to go.

For too long, we have been too forgiving of the athletes who fail to deliver, often finding reasons to rejoice in finishing second or even third when we should have been first.

No more free rides, declares National Sports Council director-general Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong after our dismal performance at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

We agree. And we hope this is not just a statement said for the moment, only to be ignored when the next major international event comes along.

How embarrassing it must be for our men’s hockey team to lose 4-2 to Trinidad and Tobago. Not to mention that we conceded 19 goals and only netted eight in the five matches played.

Of course, in rugby, the Malaysian Sevens have earned a record that will be hard to beat. We finished last, but just look at the scores: 52-0, 36-7, 54-0, 35-0, 15-10. And this was the third time in the last three games that we finished last. Talk about being a sucker for punishment.

Although we delight in our golden moments – six, which was one short of our target – we must not forget that our last outing in New Delhi was our best achievement, when we took home 12 gold medals.

That we have set our target so low this time around is indicative that we do not have the confidence that the various sports will deliver.

And we are only talking about the Commonwealth Games, which is not always the best arena for the most competitive sports.

The Asian Games in South Korea is up next and we should, in the words of Zolkples, send quality rather than quantity.

That should be the standard for every­thing. It is about time we send only potential winners to all games, from the SEA Games to the Olympics.

We must devote more time and resources to grooming top-notch athletes who genuinely deserve their tickets to international events, not just send representatives armed only with hope, only to come back empty-handed.

Germany won the World Cup in Brazil because the team was prepared years ahead.

Let us prepare our athletes quietly and effectively and then unleash them at international events.

Let it not be that most of them are sent to make up the numbers, like what happened at the Commonwealth Games, but that they are there to win, or at least, to make a difference. Nothing else matters. The STAR Columnist August 6, 2014