"Gallery of Rainbow" is a many splendored things. It is like a beautiful,
colorful and useful gift basket. Whatever is unique, in goes it!
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This calligraphy says "Bismillaahirrahmaanirrahiim" which means "In the Name of Allah, The Most
Gracious, Most Merciful." Muslims recite this everytime before they start doing everything good,
such as before eating, before starting their work in the day, before competing in a race, before
doing their exams, before carrying heavy things, when they are about to dress, before they comb
their hair, etc., etc.. It is an invocation to The Creator for assistance or blessings.
This is my son Ibrahim (second from right), 16 years old then, 12th grade student of
Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, Washington, DC, at his track meet, in December 2005.
Now he is a freshman at the Michigan Technological University studying business. As most
children to parents, he is much taller than I am. He is a keen sportsman. He plays football
for his school team, enjoys skiing, and is a fast runner. Sometimes, he would smilingly ask
me: "Mi, kenapa Ummi pendek sekali?" ("Mi, why are you so short?" in Indonesian. Ummi is
Arabic word, which means 'my mother'). Then I would reply to him assertively, also in
Indonesian, which means: "Don't you be so 'arrogant' to your mother now. You used to be
helpless and hapless, and I used to carry you around on my chest." I always remember and
cherish the day when Ibrahim was like 5 years old; he approached me when I was sitting
alone, apparently absorbed in my thinking. He asked innocently, very sweet with his smile,
offering me his companionship: "Mi, Ummi mau kawan?" (Mi, do you need a friend?). I was
very touched with his perceptive kindness. Raising him and his brothers have been full of
joys and challenges at the same time. I pray to Allah that I am continuously bestowed by
patience and wisdom. Well, time, indeed flies like a swift, and often, I am not able to keep up.
HOUSE OF CREATIVE WRITING
Gallery of Rainbow
This gigantic flower is called "Bunga Bangkai" in its native
habitat in Sumatera, Indonesia. Not a nice name compared to its
regal posture. In English it means the "Corpse Flower,"
reportedly because of its unpleasant odor, although when I
visited it in spring 2003 at the US Botanical Garden in
Washington, DC, I did not smell that odor (perhaps because it is
bred in captive). Its euphemistic name "Titan Arum", somehow,
sounds more acceptable, even sweet. "Arum" in Javanese
language means aroma. Although I originally come from
Indonesia, I saw "Bunga Bangkai" for the first time in here, and
I was awed. And so, I took a series of pictures of it, hungrily.
What fruit is this, could you guess? Mango? Certainly not the color! Papaya?
Definitely not the brown and white. Pear, perhaps? Not quite! This fruit is
called 'Buah Binjai' or 'Buah Kemang' in my island, Bangka. Depending on your
luck, you could find one very sweet or one very sour. When ripe, the flesh is
soft, and it gives a certain specific aroma. Most people eat it as fruit, but it can
also be made into a delicious condiment when crushed and mixed with red
chilli, onion, garlic and shrimp paste. The 'sambal binjai' or 'sambal kemang' is
to be eaten with baked fish and warm rice (hemm, . . . . yummy). In places that I
have traveled in Indonesia, I only saw "buah kemang" in Bali, not in Java. But
when I went to the market in Malaysia, surprisingly and delightfully, I found it.
Now living in America, I often miss 'buah binjai,' and when I occasionally return
to my island, often times it is not its season. I feel like hunting without the
target. How sad! (Photo courtesy Boestamam Rustam, a Bangkanese native,
who lives in Toronto, Canada).
You may be wondering, what kind of spaghetti or pasta is this? Well, this is
"Lakse" or "Laksa" one of Bangkanese most popular dishes. It is made of rice
flour, into noodle-like strands and boil it, then put on banana or 'simpur' leave
that is first cut in round pieces, as you can see. The yellow sauce is made from
fish meat and coconut milk with some spices, like tumeric and galanga. When
you want to eat it, you would put few rounds of 'lakse' or 'laksa' in a plate, and
pour the sauce onto it. You can add some fried onion and chilli sauce to make
it even more delicious. When I return to my hometown, my mother always
knows what to make or buy to feed me. One of them is 'lakse.' And then, it
would be a long time again for me to be able to taste it. Till my next return.
(Photo courtesy Boestamam Rustam, a Bangkanese native, who lives in