Archive for May, 2012


The cacophony of caged birds in a pet shop grate against my ears. The clip-clapping clatter of plastic plates and cutlery reverbrate throughout the wet market. The stallkeeper beside drives a cleaver down into a duck and hacks it into palatable slivers served on a plate of rice or noodles with a chilli paste dip.

The high corrugated roof in the market blends echoes of conversations and the surrounding noise into a meaningless drone. Flaky green paint hangs from the corrugated steel roof, torn from the metal as humidity and heat grazes the roof.

A group of Malay cargohands from a logistics enterprise in the warehouses nearby, Dressed in black corporate polo tees, are chatting loudly behind me with the occassional sqeal of laughter of one among them as they discuss anything but work. I turn around and see them tearing into their roti prata drenched in a spicy curry gravy with forks and spoons.

A pale, old bony Chinese retiree in a white undershirt, beige shorts and black canvas kung-fu shoes sits on an adjecent table and sips black coffee . His raised cheekbones cast a shadow over his sunken face. His eyes look weary and resigned as they scan the headlines of a Chinese newspaper. Beside him, a full table with men in ties and starch-white shirts and corporate-dressed women share a communal meal, punctuating their conversations about payments and processes with a bite on chopsticks.

The food stalls are partitioned by half-walls paved with white bathroom tiles. The floor is a dirty uniform green of tiny 70s mosaic tiles worn out and chipped in places from decades of use. Beige melamine topped tables and chairs are propped up by painted stems of steel pipes.

Large, old grey fans are perched on alternate pillars to cool the lunch crowd on a hot day in June, the peak of warm weather in Singapore. A breeze brings relief from the sunlight casting trees, benches and cemented ground in ark yellow heat except for the dark contrasting shadows it cannot not reach. A National Health Board poster features an ex-smoker father with his nine-year old son as it flaps an unhinged corner in the wind.

Landscaped palm trees along the periphery of the courtyard stand over bougainvillea and honeysuckle shrubs. They wave their long stems in the breeze and are greener for the sunshine.

The canopy of raintrees shade the pavement and cargo trucks lined along the road from the smelting heat of the sun. A distant roar of thunder rain teases the sun-soaked neighbourhood without a cloud in
sight. It will not rain today, or so I thought.


Jakarta City

Jakarta City, courtesy of Kevin Aurell and Wikipedia.

The first thing I think one should learn in any language are personal pronouns. They are probably the the easiest and most common Subjects and Objects one can string up in a sentence. Throw in at least a verb and you can get a sentence going, without referring to yourself in the third person.

Decorate it an adverb, preposition among other parts of speech and one gets a more telling sentence.

The shortest and common short sentences a tourist could learn are:

  • Terima kasih: “Thank you”. Literally, it means “Received your affection” (or something to that effect).
  • “Kembali.”: “You’re welcome.” (Literaly it means “Returned back to you. (Or thank you back!”)
  • “Sama sama”: You’re welcome. (Literally “same same” or “the same to you”).
  • “Saya tidur.” – “I sleep” (Taken to mean “I am going to sleep now”.)
  • “Saya Hulk Hogan” – “I am Hulk Hogan.”
  • “Ini mahal!” – “This is expensive!”
  • “Ini murah!” – “This is cheap!”.
  • “Saya capet!” – “I am tired”.
  • “Saya nak beli ini.” – “I want to buy this”.
  • “Gue cinta sama lo!” –  Jakarta coarse slang for “I love you”, just in case you fall in love along the way.
  • Dimana Senayan City?” – Where is Senayan City? (A shopping mall in the Senayan area in South Jakarta, where you’d find international designer brands, food and groceries. Get a decent hairdresser, cream bath, back massage at Johnny Andrean at a reasonable price. Women can shop while tired hubbies can refresh themselves at the BrewHouse below.)

I think I am getting distracted. Back to the point, I would start off learning Bahasa with Personal Pronouns, which I present here, to the best of my knowledge. I am not using IPA as a pronunciation aid, but I think you’ll understand it fairly easily… unless you don’t… and in that situation refer to for some help.

English Indonesian-Formal Indonesian – Informal Indonesian – Jakarta Coarse
I, Me Saya: saa/yaa aku Gua, GueGuah / Gweh
You, your Anda: aan/daa Kamu kaa/moo Lo, Lu
He, his dia dia Dia
She, her dia: deeya dia Dia
It, Its ia= eeya  ia Ia
We, our kami: kaami kami kami, kita, keetaa
They, their Mereka: mur/ek/aa  mereka mereka

Etymological Nugget: Indonesia comes from two root words. Indo for ‘India’, and ‘nesos’, for ‘island’. It used to be called the ‘East Indies Islands’ or the ‘Indian Archipelago’ in the 1850s. (Ref: Online Etymology Dictionary)

More Etymology:

The Indonesian language has had many influences throughout its history. The early origins of the Indonesian languages come from its shared Malay and Australasian heritage with the Malayan Peninsula, Borneo, the Philippines among others.  Legend has it, true or otherwise, that the Malay people emerged from Pulau Lingga, or Lingga Island in the Kepulauan Riau, or Riau Islands.

Ancient Indian presence is registered through the ancient ruins such as Borobudur and Prambanan temple structures left behind before the arrival of Islam to the region. That explains the Balinese Hindu culture as well. As Islam moved forward, Hinduism retreated to a safer haven in Bali.

Chinese and Indian traders drifted in circa 16th Century. Later, the Portuguese arrived around the 16th Century, then the English for what I recall was a brief period followed by the Dutch. Self-note: I need to read up on this later and brush up on Southeast Asian history AGAIN.

In due course, these influences seeped into the diverse Javanese tongues. Malay, Portuguese, Dutch and the Javanese laguages became the lingua franca.

Below are just a sample of the myriads of words Bahase Indonesia has adopted into common use today:

Portuguese source words

sabun: (from sabão = soap)

meja: (from mesa = table)

boneka: (from boneca = doll)

jendela: (from janela = window)

gereja: (from igreja = church)

bola: (from bola = ball)

bendera: (from bandeira = flag)

roda: (from roda = wheel)

gagu: (from gago = stutterer)

sepatu: (from sapato = shoes)

kereta: (from carreta = wagon)

bangku: (from banco = chair)

keju: (from queijo = cheese)

garpu: (from garfo = fork)

terigu: (from trigo = flour)

mentega: (from manteiga = butter)

Minggu: (from domingo = Sunday). (Hari Minggu: Sunday).

Chinese source words (Hokkien, Teochew, too perhaps, and Mandarin)

pisau: bǐshǒu=knife

loteng: lóu/céng =[upper] floor/ level

mie (Hokkien mī = noodles)

lumpia: (Hokkien) = lūn-piá(n) = springroll

cawan:  cháwǎn = teacup

teko: cháhú (Mandarin), teh-ko (Hokkien) = teapot

kuli: khu (bitter)

li (energy)

gua/ goa/ gwe: (Hokkien, direct trans.) = I, me.

lu: (Hokkien, direct trans.) = you, your.

Sanskrit source words

bahasa: language

kaca: glass, mirror

raja: king

manusia:  humankind

bumi: earth/ world

agama: religion

Arabic source words

dunia: the world

Sabtu: Saturday

kabar: news

selamat/ salam ( greeting)

Senin: Monday

Selasa: Tuesday

Jumat: Friday

ijazah: diploma

hadiah: gift/present

mungkin: perhaps

maklum: understood

kitab: book

tertib: orderly

kamus: dictionary

Javanese source words

aku (I/ me (informal)

mengaku (to admit or confess) related to the above word.

Reference: (Wikipedia)


Indonesia (Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

One of the benchmarks I set myself to determine my reading fluency in a foreign language is firstly, being able to read the national newspaper with relative ease and write using the same language, and secondly, using the local colloquial language well enough to communicate with ease. Only then, do I dare claim that I am fluent in the particular language. Additionally, there are current idiomatic expressions to consider, as well, that I would have to master.

I am trying to improve my Bahasa Indonesia; it is the language of the fourth largest country in the world in terms of population, and it is not as difficult as picking up Chinese (which I am learning – very slowly- as well).  I also speak Malay fairly well, short of being fluent though having received a commendable grade in a national exam some 28 years ago.

Where pronunciation in Bahasa Indonesia is concerned, it is a fairly phonetic language, with perhaps a few exceptions, for example (with the pronunciation of ‘e’). Besides that there is intonation and stresses, which differ from Malay.

Indonesians speak really quickly relative to Malaysians. I think in order to do this I would have to be familiar with both formal informal Indonesian vocabulary, and get the intonation right.

The Indonesian language as I perceive it today has Malay as its foundation, which is in turn connected to Indian languages or Sanskrit and Arabic. One peculiarity here is that Indonesians have a way of abbreviating words and phrases. Three words would collapse into each other to form a single word.

Additionally, Bahasa Indonesia has also appropriated Dutch words (a colonial heritage) and English vocabulary, something which is expedient as language itself evolves and succumbs to the pressures of globalisation. The language is also impacted by Javanese, with its variants in different parts of Java, the main Indonesian island.

I am trying to beef up my vocabulary in Bahasa Indonesia. I find linking a new language to the ones I already know or have some inkling of (like Hindi, French, Latin words, prefixes and suffixes) definitely help. Understanding the etymology helps me to internalise what I learn.

So every day, I am going to pick up a few words each day by reading Kompas, a leading newspaper in Bahasa Indonesia. While I pick up new words, I am also educating myself in the politics and culture of this country.

My tools include the following dictionaries, for now:

  • Kompas (A leading Indonesian newspaper.)
  • Google Translate (One way I use it is to contrast English and Indonesian grammar, identify slang, and some approximation of translation of an entire webpage).
  •  (An online Indonesian dictionary. Kamus = dictionary.)
  • (English-Indonesian Translator.)
  • Indonesian Etymology (Pick up some Javanese words along the way.)
  • Seasite Learn Indonesia on the Internet (A great website to learn grammar, vocabulary and about Indonesia. For example, the ter-, ber-, prefixes you see below; suffixes such as -an are explained on the website.)
 Indonesian  English Etymology
 kecup  smack
 tersinggung  offended
 seteru  rival From Sanskrit “ShaTru”:”enemy”
 berseteru (dengan) clash (with) Sanskrit: enemy
 tanggapan  response
 ide, gagasan idea
 beberkan  layout

Being in Jakarta and sorely missing Indian food, I attempted my hand at a pretty simple dish, Balti Chicken. Nothing over the top crazy spicy about this version of chicken masala, but the magic of melting of tomatoes mashed in with browned onion with a little garlic and ginger is perhaps responsible for the most traditional of flavours when it comes to homestyle Indian cooking.

What you’ll need

  • 1 kg chicken thighs, drumstick, or any chicken pieces scored, that is cut slits into the chicken pieces.  (I prefer chicken with their bones on them. Flavour, flavour, flavour.)
  • 2 brown onions / 1 brown onion and a handful of shallots chopped. (I prefer some shallots or go all the way with them because they brown quickly and easily and I find them full of flavour.)
  • 3 tomatoes quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves (I use a mortar and pestle to grind the garlic and ginger together. There’s something very earthy about using them and I prefer them to a grinding gizmo).
  • an inch and half ginger (or equal to the amount of garlic)
  • 1/2 tsp of whole cummin
  • 4-5 black peppercorns
  • 3 black cardamom (if you cannot find this at your grocer’s, you could try adding 4 green cardamoms, ground, or whole).
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder (Not nearly as explosive enough, to me!)
  • 1 tsp of garam masala
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbs plain unsweetened yoghurt whipped
  • 1-3 large green chillies sliced (Optional, though one is for garnishing)
  • coriander leaves chopped
  • 2-3 tbs olive oil
  • water 1-2 cups (add more water for more gravy).
  • 1 tbs of squeezed lime juice
  1. Firstly, heat a little oil in a pan and sautee the onion until brown. I find that adding a little salt helps to draw out the moisture in the onions and allows it to brown faster. I also pour in just a little bit of water when the onions begin to fry as it helps the onions to soften quickly.
  2. Add the tomatoes and sautee until soft and mash it in together with the onions.
  3. Add the cummin, pepper, cardamom pods, garam masala, garlic and ginger paste, and salt and sautee. I love hot stuff so I added 3 green chillies to mine. I ran out of chilli powder, but I usually add a little more.
  4. Add the chicken, a couple of pieces at a time stirring well to make sure the chicken pieces are well covered with the mixture. I prefer to let the chicken face the full force of the heat at the bottom of the pan so that it gets a little scalded on the outside. Just a personal preference for overdone chicken.
  5. Add the yoghurt and stir and leave to simmer.
  6.  Add 1 cup of water and leave to simmer for about 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked and the ‘oil separates’ (the oil surfaces to the top of the pot/pan/wok. I used a non-stick wok).
  7. Taste for salt.
  8. Plate it, spread the lime juice over it and garnish with chopped cilantro and one chopped chilli.

This dish would go well with white rice, pilaf, bread, or on its own. I added two medium potatoes to mine – after adding the chicken to the wok – so there’s carb already there if I choose to eat it on its own. Note that with stunts like the above, remember that the potatoes will absorb some of the salt, You would also need to adjust your time to allow the potatoes to cook.

If you don’t have plain yoghurt, cream could do, I suppose, but you’d lose the slight tinge of sour, but there are already tomatoes and the dash of squeezed lime to give it a lttle zing. I sometimes skip the yoghurt for a simpler taste.

A good condiment would be a simple onion and or cucumber raita. I just used the balance of the lime and added it to sliced onion which served as my version of pickled onion.

In my eager haste and hunger, I forgot to whip out my DSLR. The next time, I will definitely keep the camera near. 🙂

I hope you enjoy it with the same relish as we did ours at home.

Balinese Beach Dog

Posted: May 15, 2012 in Photography
Tags: , , ,

Balinese Beach Dog

Balinese Beach Dog

Collaboration is a contemporary catchphrase in an increasingly connected and innovation-seeking environment. The concept itself, however, is as dated as the history of humankind. From the earliest of times, communities have collaborated in their hunt and food gathering, and in their search for resources. Many great battles and victories would have failed without the collaborative efforts of team members across rank and file. Great paradigms of thought emerged beyond the walls of Athens as philosophers exchanged their ideas and arguments which later became the bedrock of Western thought and civilisation. The Enlightenment period could not have thrived without the interchanges between scientists, technologists, philosophers and politicians of the time.

Collaboration is important in the animal world, in the hunt of a pride of lionesses stalking a herd. Ants and bees collaborate, instinctively, to ensure the regeneration, growth and protection of their species. Management thinking today has learnt much from the lessons that these tiny yet sentient teachers of nature.

Today, in a hyper-connected world, collaboraton occurs formally and informally; consciously and unconsciously. Collaboration is no longer an option, and particularly for the workplace. It is possible to say that the most successful organisations covet workplace collaboration in a very competitive environment to develop strategies for survival, growth and innovation. To hinder it, is to limit the organisation’s potential to adapt in an uncertain and ever-changing marketplace.

Collaboration is not cooperation. In the past, with highly centralised leadership and decision-making authority, workers were expected to cooperate and comply with decisions made at the top of an organisational hierarchy. In today’s environment, organisations that fail to consider collaboration find themselves failing in a race with with other innovative, competitive organisations that tap their employees’ diverse ideas, opinions, talents and skills. They fail to compete, and increasingly so, in attracting and retaining top talent.Collaboration involves setting aside one’s position of power in the organisational hierarchy and instead establish partnership with team members driven towards a shared vision, goals and values.

Collaboration is to enfranchise the individual worker with a sense of empowerment and voice in how work can be managed in the workplace. Assertiveness is achieved through a focus on goals and values that an organisation espouses and effective positive communication, as opposed to a leader’s position in the management hierarchy. Likewise, peers need to recognise their equal position in collaboration, and that their peers’ opinions are to be valued as much their own. It is also worth noting that not all staff may be sold on the concept of collaboration.

Some employees may hold out on ideas that they may use to seek merit for themselves. Introverted employees may feel intimidated and remain passive, yet eager to learn and adopt. Yet others may remain cynical; due credit is not given, or shared. It is important for the organisation to recognise and reward collaborative efforts.

Learning organisations must be willing to be transparent and share information that lead to effective collaboration, discussions and decision-making. The organisation has to create a culture of openness and trust to foster a conducive environment and corporate culture for collaboration. Conflict is resolved through effective negotiation to achieve a positive compromise and commitment, one that values organisation’s goals and values while affirming collaborators’ perspectives. There is more for the organisation to gain when an employee feels validated, valued and consulted.

When exercised well, collaboration enhances employee satisfaction, retention, productivity and effectiveness. Employees feel their ideas and in turn, their presence in the organisation valued and validated. Great collaborative workplaces are able to harness the best potential of their staff and develop them further, and encourage leadership, ownership and a shared sense of belonging in the organisation.

Great collaborators are great communicators. They do not wield ‘hard power’ but instead use ‘soft skills’ and their emotional intelligence in employing collaboration in the workplace. Employees with great collaborative skills are valuable assets, and are highly attractive in the labour market. Great workplace collaborators are great communicators and leaders, and they nurture the leadership potential of their team.

We all love comfort food, especially if we live away from home. We yearn for comfort food that evokes the aroma of younger years. The delectable alchemy of our mothers’ loving culinary creations simmer on the stove and conjure savoury messengers that lure us into the kitchen, and embed the moment into the secret chambers of our psyche. We travel back in time – as Anton Ego did in the animation movie, Ratatouille – seduced into the memories of  our childhood and the loving sustenance in the care of our mothers.

I sometimes cook a traditional Sindhi dish, Macchi Sayal and Sava Chawar (Fish in Cilantro and Coriander  Rice). My mother always makes it better (don’t mothers always do!) and it is best served with dhal (lentil stew), in my opinion, as the flavours go really well together.  The recipe is fairly simple, and I will add the recipe for dhal in another blog.


  1. Marinate thin slices of any white fish (1kg  of snapper or mackerel, thin slices) with turmeric and fairly generous amount of salt for a few hours or overnight (wash off  the salt and turmeric before cooking).
  2. Grind a decent bunch of cilantro with five to seven cloves of garlic , an equal portion of ginger, 3-4 green chillies, one or two red chillies into a rough paste. You could add a pinch of chilli powder to the fish as it cooks, like I do. Some like it hotter and they may add more chilli.
  3. Sautee until fragrant.
  4. Add a cup of water, and add a decent pinch of salt to taste and a quarter teaspoonful of turmeric and add a similar amount of coriander powder.
  5. Place the fish in the pan, and let the fish cook. Indians are famous for overcooking. The fish slices should be crumbly soft, and it is okay to separate the segments from the bony centres.
  6. Turn the slices over.
  7. Check for salt.
  8. If you prefer more gravy add a little more water.
  9. As for the rice, sautee the 2-3 tbps paste and a little salt and stir it into uncooked polished rice right before cooking it in a rice cooker.


Additionally, one could squeeze a lime over it. I simply slice onions with a lime squeeze and it’s a simple Indian condiment that goes with the dish (or simply use pickled onions, but that usually has preservatives).