All About Good Parenting Part 1


Read these first:-

It is a slow start for 2016 when it comes to blogging but on the other side of the spectrum, I am making some positive changes this year when it comes to personal health. All weekends and on alternate week days when I am back from office early, I am spending at least an hour or so playing badminton to keep myself in shape. My badminton partners are the usual suspects – my kids (when means I get to pick the shuttlecock most of the time, be very patience and be gentle with my returns) and my wife (when I can practice my smashes, ha ha). It is just a start but I still sucks on other things like the food I eat and the amount of sleep I get on daily basis but as they say a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, it is a start for the moment.

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(Parents who let their kids on the motorbike for daily commute and without any license should be charged under the law for recklessness. It is one thing giving them to learn to ride a bike in a controlled & safe environment but it is another thing to allow them to use it for daily use without proper training & license and worse, riding without any helmets)

Young, Unlicensed Motorcyclists

Couple of weeks ago, I read this on the papers:-

“No mother would want her child to suffer like this. My heart is broken,” said Maimunah Md Razali, the mother of 13-year-old Siti Nuraisyah Sahrin, who lost her legs after being run over by a lorry.

“She is so brave. But as a mother, it is hard for me to be strong. It breaks my heart to see my daughter going through so much,” said the 48-year-old at the hospital where her daughter is being warded. On Monday, Siti Nuraisyah was on her way home from SMK Bagan Terap in Sabak Bernam on a motorcycle with her stepsister Shamim Amira Roslan, 14, when the incident happened at about 3.30pm.

A Perodua Kancil was believed to have overtaken them and brushed against their Honda EX5. Siti Nuraisyah was thrown onto the middle of the road when a lorry coming from the opposite direction ran over her legs. Shamim suffered a sprained ankle from the impact.

A composed Siti Nuraisyah, who underwent surgery earlier, said: “My wounds hurt,” adding that she wanted to walk again and was hopeful of recovering soon. Her left leg was amputated above the ankle while her right leg was amputated below the knee.

(Source)

At first I thought “Damn, it is a tragedy” and I seriously felt for the young girl who have to contend with such tragedy at a very young age. Imagine having your both legs amputated when you have so much things to see and do and at such a tender age? As a parent myself, I can understand the situation and I do get so emotional when it comes to young children – I hate to see bad things happening to them due to some idiots making the wrong decisions. And there is no exception with this one as well.

Then I was angry with the Kancil driver for being so reckless and caused the accident in the first place. To be fair, I don’t have all the details on this incident. The driver may have been innocent. But on average, some of these small sized car drivers think that they are driving high powered Formula 1 cars on the road and I have seen one or two zig-zagging between the heavy traffic when I drove back home. So, I was not surprised when I read that there has been another tragedy involving Kancil.

I then realised I missed an important fact in the news – the girls on the bike was aged 13 and 14 years old. It does not mention anyone else riding the ride. Then what the fuck a 13 & 14 years old kids were doing on a bike when in Malaysia, the minimum age to ride a bike is 16 years old? Are they trained to ride a bike in the first place? Now a tragedy had happened, there is no point of not doing this and that.

If you ask me, even at 16 years old, I have seen and encountered far too many young kids on bike who:-

  1. thinks that they are riding on their grandfather’s road and therefore all other traffic should make way for them (which is why they often ride on the wrong side of the road)
  2. their head is made from the hardest material on earth, thus nothing will happen if they fall down and thus there is no need for a helmet

I said this many times before – safety of the children must come above all other things and this includes inconvenience. Unfortunately even at my own residential area, I can still see young kids riding around the residential areas without wearing any helmet and obviously without any licence. It is another tragedy waiting to happen and due to parents who care less on the safety of their kids and other road users.

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(Mastering the national language is a must for every citizen but there is a limit to how much of the national language can be used to master certain skills and knowledge on a global level. Infographic source: http://www.english.com)

Reality of Mathematics & Science

In case you had missed, there was a good letter from PAGE over at theSun couple days ago:-

In this case, that medium is the language of STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) which is English. Therefore let us ponder a little on the role of the English language in this matter and pose a few questions.

What was the language used to present their research findings? If it was English, then it has to be English at a level that has to be well understood by the panel for that evaluated his application and research. In order to do that, applicants for such awards have to be proficient in the scientific language required.

What was the language of the main sources of reference – were they written in English? If they were, then the person sourcing for this reference will require a good command of the language in order to get the most accurate information from these sources.

(Source)

The point is you cannot simply dissect English away from the core subjects of Science and Mathematics. Even if you have Science & Mathematics books translated in Bahasa, without understanding English and it’s usage in these two subjects, you will not going to learn anything more. It is as simple as that. Science especially is on a constant move – new discoveries are made on daily basis and most of them are often documented in English. If you don’t understand English, you will not know about them and you will be left behind.

Early this year, I attended a briefing in my son’s school and at one point, the Headmaster got up and brought up the subject of Science and Mathematics and how the students had performed last year and the school’s expectations for this year. It was obvious that most students do best in Bahasa Malaysia subject (that is because most of them speak Bahasa on daily basis and at home), then followed by Religion and then very poorly in English and trailing far behind was Mathematics & Science. More than half of the students had failed these two key subjects and I can see the clear correlation between English, Science and Mathematics – all three was on a declining trend.

And it is not only due to the language that we use, we are also not following the standard trends. Take for example – the movement of the moon. We already have a Bahasa word for that – “peredaran bulan” or “fasa-fasa bulan” but instead of that, the good people at the Ministry decides to bring in an Arabic word instead – Takwim Qamari. Why the further confusion to students? No one at NASA will even going to be bothered with this Arabic word in the day to day space mission (fusing the subject of Science and the modern Arab is like trying to mix water and oil. They are hardly the trend-setters in the subject of Science). We should stop such nonsense and get back to reality.

The good thing is my son excelled in both subjects, partially because we enforce the urgency & importance of the two subjects which was not so difficult due to his ambition to a scientist one day and another thing was, we ensure that knowledge of Science and Mathematics does not come from school text books alone – real life experiments and plenty of magazines & books in English (as such as “All About Space” and BBC’s “Knowledge”) was another effort we had put in (and it paid off). We speak English to him all the time and whenever possible use the right terms (having a smartphone by side becomes very handy). And considering that he is very responsible for his actions, we have also had decided to allow a greater internet quota to be allocated for him to do his research and make the necessary cross references (in the past, he is barred from using the internet without close supervision and we often do the research on his behalf).

But that school briefing did highlight a general notion that there is a high decline of these two key subjects – no thanks to the Government’s flip-flop on the education policy for past few years and using Bahasa instead of English as the lingua franca of Science and Mathematics. The school is very concerned of this decay and have decided to take pro-active actions from the start. For start, they have organised the briefing for the parents so that the reality of things would be out in the open and they run through some of the trends in the past and what they have planned to address the issue in this year (weekend special classes, plenty of past year exam workshops, parents taking up active role at home, etc). It is a good thing that the school gets the parents deeply involved so that we get to know the facts, the latest changes in policy and exam rules and what part the school & parents need to play to ensure the students get their knowledge and pass the exams.

And I personally have taken up the challenge this year to spend more time with my children’s studies and indirectly “go back to school” learning some of the subjects that I dislike the most when I was in secondary school many moons ago – Additional Mathematics. Whilst I can cope with other “Science” subjects, Additional Mathematics somehow was something that was hard to crack and where I often go blank whenever I open the book for studies. It is my personal opinion that without the parents understanding the subjects, they are of no use to their children when it comes to assisting them on school works and preparing for the exams. Some of the structures may have changed but the fundamentals remains the same. And “going back to school” is not a bad thing for the parents – it improves knowledge which in turns improves the help that the parents can give their kids and it is also another avenue of leading by example.

And on a funnier note, going back to school also means that me and my wife have to go back to the basics – the very basic of speaking A, B, C and that is for the youngest one who have started to speak and write these basic items.

To be continued…

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Next Stop: The Red Planet?


Read these as well:-

Given the state of the country as at now, you can safely say that when we celebrate the year 2020, this country would not have achieved the status of a “developed country”. So Dr M’s Vision 2020 will remain a vision and will not become a reality, at least in 2020.

For one, religion had taken precedent in key areas of the country and have caused a mismatch of priorities. Instead of us busy with human resource development and preparing the country for a “developed” status, we are busy on which law to use and how holy or religious one must be. And I saw this in play when I went to a shopping complex one fine day and decided to drop by a bookstore as my son wanted to buy a science book. We walked around and realised that there was more books on religion than on science and mathematics. I was hardly surprised – there were more people at the religion book section than at the science & mathematics book section.

Vision 2020 is also doomed to be nothing but fancy slogan because we still place high importance on racial based policies (we still calling ourselves as Malay, Chinese, Indian, etc instead of Malaysian) and on cheap politics. But come year 2020, all is not all lost though. Year 2020 would mark the start of activities that would eventually place humans on the planet Mars by year 2026.

Imagine a human colony on another planet and we don’t have to look another 100 – 200 years for that. We will see that in the next 10 years and it is very exciting news indeed. The company that is taking the exploration one step ahead is Mars One – is a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands that has put forward plans to land the first humans on Mars and establish a permanent human colony there by 2027.

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(It may not look much now but imagine a lot more people on the surface and with high end technology which allows them to come back to the Earth and back to Mars again? Image source: Mars One)

It may sound far fetching at first and Mars One have been on the receiving end of many as nothing but a scam. Some even question the USD6 billion budget of sending humans to Mars but remember India sent its spacecraft to Mars for mere USD73 million. But think of the feasibility. Think of the possibility.

Mars One lists out the mission feasibility of a human colony in Mars in the following manner:-

Permanent settlement

The Mars One crews consist of people that want to settle on Mars. Absence of a return mission reduces the mission infrastructure radically. No return vehicle, return propellant or the systems to produce the propellant locally are required. Permanent settlement also reduces the required technology development; vehicles that can take off from Mars and return to Earth are currently unavailable and untested. Since the vehicle returning to Earth and the accompanying systems are mission critical for a return mission, they will also require backups adding to the infrastructure that needs to be delivered to Mars. More importantly, to attain a somewhat acceptable risk level, the return mission would need to be tested in a complete unmanned return trip before the first crew even departs the Earth. Even after a full test of the return system is successfully performed, the risk for a crew that will ride the first return rocket would be very high: 126 rockets launched from Earth since 1990 failed to deliver their payloads in the correct orbit.

Permanent settlement also solved the challenge of the astronauts entering into Earth’s atmosphere after having spent about two years in reduced or zero gravity environments.

Use of In-Situ resources

Mars has resources that can be used for a sustainable settlement. Water is present in the soil and can be made available to the settlement for hygiene, drinking, and farming. It is also the source of oxygen generated through electrolysis. Nitrogen and Argon in the Martian atmosphere can be mined to be the inert part of the atmosphere inside the habitat. Martian soil will cover the outpost to block cosmic radiation. Carbon dioxide can be taken from the atmosphere if the plants take in more than the humans expel.
The systems to mine water from the soil and to mine Nitrogen, Argon, and Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere have never been tested in space. Mars is however not space because there is gravity and a thin atmosphere. Additionally, the processes are all more than 100 years old. The water can be collected from the soil by breaking up the soil with a drill and harvesting the resulting debris. Argon and Nitrogen can be collected from the atmosphere by removing the Carbon dioxide through a phase change.

Solar panels

The Sun is a reliable, robust, and plentiful energy source. Using solar panels is the best choice for Mars One since it takes away the requirement to develop and launch a nuclear reactor, thereby saving time and money while avoiding the risks and concerns of the use of a nuclear power source.
Thin film solar (photovoltaic) panels will power the Mars One settlement. These are less efficient than those more commonly used in aerospace, but have the advantage of being extremely light, and are thus easily transportable. The first settlement will install approximately 3000 square meters of power generating surface area.

Existing technology

No new major developments or inventions are needed to make the mission plan a reality. Established suppliers can build each stage of Mars One mission plan. While most of the components required are not immediately available with the exact specifications, there is no need for radical modifications to the current component designs.

Every effort was made to design the mission with as little complexity as possible. The choice to send permanent settlers removes the need for a heavy lift launch vehicle, which does not currently exist. Permanent settlement makes the landing module small enough to land with current technology. A pressurized rover will not be sent to Mars until large enough rockets exists. No water recycling in the transit habitat will be present because the trip to Mars takes only 210 days. Instead, all required water is stored in tanks that also function as radiation shielding. Storage of waste that is not easily recycled is available in the settlement until more technology is available.

(Source)

And just look at the number of people who shown interest in the Mars One project:-

Mars One applicants come from over 140 countries; the largest numbers are from the United States (24%), India (10%), China (6%), Brazil (5%), Great Britain (4%), Canada (4%), Russia (4%), Mexico (4%), Philippines (2%), Spain (2%), Colombia (2%), Argentina (2%), Australia (1%), France (1%), Turkey (1%), Chile (1%), Ukraine (1%), Peru (1%), Germany (1%), Italy (1%) and Poland (1%).

(Source)

The first 3 nations are well known for their eagerness and competition in space exploration. Out of the three, US and India already have rovers and space crafts orbiting Mars. And I am pretty sure the Chinese will do so soon as well although these guys are busy exploring the moon (hmmm, they know something we don’t?). And Malaysia is involved in Mars One in 2 areas – our own Angkasawan, Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor is an ambassador for Mars One and three brave explorers from Malaysia including a woman.

SPACE: India Mars mission

(It’s only cost USD70 million to launch a space craft to the Red Planet. Trim down the money spent on wars, religion conflict and corruption and you can send hundreds of the space craft to many part of the solar system. Image source: engtechmag.wordpress.com)

Mars One is an one way trip as there is no way (presently) to bring the space explorer back. The environment is harsh and there is no guarantee, despite the mission feasibility, that the colony will succeed, especially when the next human civilization is million kilometers away (230,000,000 km to be exact) and in case of emergency, one cannot simply dial up 999 and ask for help. Rescue mission if it is to be done, will take months to prepare and execute and by then, any rescue mission would have been redundant.

Mars One itself can go bankrupt and may not be able to bring the next set of explorers to add to the colony. Anything can happen. After all, it took a lot of research, time, risk and money to send man to the moon, so what more another planet and that too for one way trip. But there are good reasons to make this trio to Mars, namely:-

To give our kids new Hope, careers and Dreams — beyond merely surviving in a world of growing terrorism, more “police state” responses, with increasing resource and energy scarcity ultimately leading to endless global wars

By finally opening up unlimited solar system resources — be it exotic fuels, new planetary minerals or endless solar energy – dramatically alter the “have not” competition between the First and Third Worlds here on Earth … the ultimate source of increasing global terrorism

By greatly accelerating these radical technologies — from “black” energy systems and propulsion to autonomous robotics, from desktop “super computers” to their ultra-broad band communications (essential to conducting “routine operations” on the Moon and Beyond) – dramatically accelerate overall national and global productivity, with startling increases in GNP and GWP

By federally subsidizing the creation of a whole new generation of consumer industries — through pioneering a literal “Second age of Space” — dramatically increase the historical “return on investment” from past NASA spending … from 23 to one to more than 100-to-one; thus, for every billion dollars invested in this New Space Program, over a hundred billion will return to the national and world economy

By finally providing accessible new sources of raw materials and energy “off planet,” processed in lunar and orbital industrial facilities, naturally reverse over a century of planetary degradation and pollution … including global warming

By accelerating fundamental solar system exploration with human beings, return equally fundamental, radical scientific information – ranging from comparative planetary data which will assist preservation of the Earth’s environment through new space installations, to answers to the origin of the human race itself

(Source)

Yes, money and human resource is important but aren’t we been busy wasting them on wars, corruption and wastage as well. Save up on those and you will plenty for the science exploration, I am sure.

Many of us, including myself are from the generation that grew with science fiction movies like Star Wars and Star Trek. Still remember ” to boldly go where no man has gone before”? It is in our nature to explore and find new worlds and the more we explore, the more we will push the boundaries of technology, science and human endeavor. And there is the prospect of rich natural resources that could be mined for humans (there was even plan to start a mining colony in the moon).

For those reasons alone, Mars One mission should succeed.

Rendezvous with a Comet


Here’s one reason why religion should never drive a country’s future.

Religions, yes it is important to ensure we have some sense of humanity & morality (if you must) but what should drive us to the future must be high grade technology, space exploration, open minded and a great sense of adventure.

Watch this and be amazed!

And the making of…

This post is for my son who’s ambition is to be a great scientist!

Big Boss’ Rules


Read these first:-

When my son was a baby (a very cute one too), he occupies one third of the bed with me and my wife taking one third each. But as he grew up, I find myself sleeping on the floor as my son takes up half of the bed (and moves around in his sleep) and my wife the other half. Of course, this does not happen all the time as he usually sleeps on the ground floor with his grandmother although if given the chance, he rather opt to sleep on my large comfortable bed and with the air conditioner running on high speed (I don’t mind either – anything for the Boss, eh).

So one day when my brother got married and decided to moved, we saw a golden opportunity to take “ownership” of my brother’s room and give it to my son instead. It was meant for him anyway, one day. We got for him a cabinet and drawers for his clothes, books and toys, a bed and more importantly a table & chair for him to use when he does his revision and homework. His room has a small fan and has an attached bathroom.

He is a big man now (so we told him) and thus we were sure that he needs his space and privacy. Of course, it took some coaxing and words of encouragement before he braved himself to sleep in his own room (it gets worse if he had watched some horror movie before going to bed). Sometimes we allow him to sleep on our bed and when he had fallen asleep, I would carry him to his bed (a feat I could no longer do these days).

D3

One day when I entered his room to clean up, I noticed a hand-written “rules of the room” pasted on his cabinet. The boss must have worked on it when he was alone in his room the night before and when we had told him to do his homework (now I know why he took hours to finish up his homework).

The rules (not sure for who) states this:-

  • Do not jump on the bed
  • Ask permission to play carrom
  • Do not read any private books
  • Make your bed after you sleep
  • Ask permission to play Saidina
  • Do not read any books on the bed
  • Sit on the chair if you are to do homework and read any books
  • Do not jump on the chair
  • Do not sit on the table
  • Do not mess any clothes in the drawer
  • Do not use the gel without permission
  • Do not play with the yo-yo without permission
  • Do not use the room watch to do any alarms
  • Do not play with the tissue paper
  • Do not play with the badminton racquet
  • Use the bookmark to mark the book page

I read the rules of the room a couple of times and to tell you the truth, I was immensely proud – he somehow had took charge of his room with his own “rules” (one of course does not necessarily applies to the Boss).

One thing that the Boss does not take ownership is the cleanliness of his room. Pieces of papers all over the place, books not arranged properly, bed not done up and often his school bag & school books thrown on the bed. Despite my wife constantly reminding him to keep his room clean and use the dust-bin in his room, it simply fallen on deaf ears. We had to tasked ourself to organise major housekeeping operation whenever we enter his room to clean up. It takes me almost the whole day to clean up and organise things in his room.

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And recently a strange graffiti had appeared on the wall just behind where he sits.

I asked him – who “drew” on the wall. My son who was busy with his homework, turned around, looked at the wall for a moment and casually and with a straight face said that he did not know who drew on the wall. I wanted to laugh for I recognised his “handy work” on the wall anywhere, anytime. No one else enters his room other than me and my wife. There was only one suspect and he was sitting in front of me, pretending not knowing what is happening.

I asked him again and I got the same innocent answer – “I don’t know who did it”. No point forcing him, I already know who did it. I replied “ok” and told him that I hope that whoever did this, must not do it again and should be more careful to take care of the wall.

Well, my son must have thought that I am referring to someone else because a few days later, new graffiti appeared on the wall. After a while, I decided not to bring this up to the Boss because in a way the room belongs to him and he is free to “decorate” it as he sees it fit. Besides I had planned to repaint the whole wall one day and hopefully by then he had grown up to be more responsible.

And the Boss do have big plans for his room and one day, he did talk to me on his “future plans” – he wanted the room to be painted bright orange (yes all 4 walls) and to add a huge air-conditioner to his room. He also wanted a flat screen TV (for his Play station – whenever he takes his 5 minutes break from doing school work) and a computer with broadband internet (he argues that he will use it for school work and nothing more. Ya right!).

Maybe by then, the Boss would draw up new rules. I know he would…

What We See in Others…


I seriously think that these 2 videos should be shown on national TV on a regular basis (with some minor editing of course). It is direct (ya, what else you expect from Namewee?), truthful and faces up on some of the misunderstanding on what one sees in other race & culture in this country:-

First – What Malay See in Chinese

Second – What Chinese See in Malay

Perhaps Namewee should do another with the Malaysian Indians. ah?

If you ask me, there is no real conflict between the fellow Malaysians from the various race and cultures other than the one that is stroke up by short sighted, manipulative politicians with hidden agendas to keep things tense and people disunited for silly reasons. Race based political party and race based policies will only entrench the disunity and the distrust among all Malaysians. The sooner we kick these outdated and harmful practices, the better the country would be.

After all, there is great men and women in every community – Malay, Chinese, Indian and others. And there are village idiots in every community as well – Malay, Chinese, Indian and others. Well, except for these people – they have caught another Nigerian drug kingpin (damn, when we are going to ever learn and ban these “students”?).

Kamal’s Ponmaanai Theduthey


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(The many faces of the great man in multiple roles all these years and he still making headlines even now. Image source: http://www.bollywoodlife.com)

In terms of acting, after the great Sivaji Ganesan, we were lucky to have Kamal Haasan taking up the lead when it comes to powerful acting. And over the years, he has not let us down with powerful storyline and acting (still remember this?).

Kamal Haasan is also a good singer when he wants to be and he takes the lead (again) with being the first actor (an “A” star actor that is) to sing for another actor (Mogan – another well name from the 1980s). This was back in the 1980s – after his hit “Sakalakalaa Vallavan” and for this, maestro Illayaraja gave Kamal one of the best compositions as well (rest assured it is in my collection). The fast & easy going tune has been in my mind for the past 2 weeks and it does not seem to be getting any boring even if I am humming the tune whilst I am doing up this post.

Enjoy…

Original Tune (I could not find the original movie song scene)

And there is a remix version too (it sounds good too)

P.s. there is no clear sign of the next generation of actors who can produce, write, act and sing (an all rounder) as well as Kamal Haasan but let me tell you this upfront, Vijay is not one of those in the lead. He is a good actor but not in the same class as Kamal Haasan.

Project “Then, Now & Forever”


Western classical music is perspective – look at the number of people involved in a symphony! Our traditional music is lonely – Ilaiyaraja

Ilayaraja-Wallpaper

(My collection cover image – the image of Maestro Ilaiyaraja. Image source: http://www.tamilkey.com)

As long I could remember, I have been listening to Ilaiyaraja music since I was still young and started to have an appreciation of his style of music – all the way from the 1970s (you are aware that Annakili was not his first movie and that he had to impress the producer Panchu Arunachalam by singing a song that his mother sang and using the table as an music instrument?) to his latest flick in “Neethane En Ponvasantham” – thanks to my Dad who was big fan of Ilaiyaraja (Ilaiyaraja means the “younger” Raja – that is because the Tamil music industry already had another music director named Raja – the famed A.M. Raja).

Back in the 1980s-1990s, I still remember following my Dad to the music store to get Ilaiyaraja latest songs (still remember Alai Osai brand back then?) and the number of cassettes at home started to pile up. Sometimes when he comes back home late and tired, he would ask us to check his pocket and we would find a cassette size package neatly wrapped and immediately we know it would be an Ilaiyaraja cassette. Me and my brother would be key testers – we would play the cassette as my Dad goes off to take his shower (he usually buys it without hearing the content of the soundtrack). After dinner, he would then sit down and listen to the songs without any disturbance and we would be hearing it again for the 2nd round. Now my son is picking up his interest on Ilaiyaraja music as well (as a baby, he often need his Ilaiyaraja music to go to sleep) and he can sing some of the songs really well.

And over the years, Ilaiyaraja has made a good impression on me with his music (especially when I had my Walk-man on and I was doing my revisions) and I have my personal favorites. But out of the many, I went rather crazy on the soundtrack of “Keladi Kanmani” and in particular on SP Bala’s “Mannil Intha”. And I was rather stuck to the same track over and over again for days when I went down with chicken pox and had to be confined to the bedroom. Somehow I felt my recovery was improved by the good music from the great Maestro. At the turn of the new millennium, Ilaiyaraja somehow took a back seat as most of us (including me) started to listen to the emerging new style music coming from South of India – in the form of AR Rahman (but not my Dad – he could not understand AR Rahman to this day). Ilaiyaraja’s style of putting a “break” before the chorus was somewhat tolerable until AR Rahman showed that the music was even better without the break in the middle. The use of CDs instead of cassettes and quality of music recording favored AR Rahman style of composing and thus it becomes the obvious choice when we are at the music store. But in the end Ilaiyaraja had the last laugh when he hit back with a bang in 2012 with Neethane En Ponvasantham and some people could not believe that it is from the same man.

But even with other new music directors (Deva, AR Rahman, Vidyasagar, Vijay Anthony, Harris Jayaraj, Ilaiyaraja’s Yuvan Shankar Raja, etc) dominating the Tamil music scene in the new millennium, we still had space for Ilaiyaraja music (he was humbled enough to join forces with the great MSV to compose for two movies) . Somehow there are situations in a day when an old school tabla sounds better than a loud modern drum. It sounds peaceful too. And of course, some of the older hits are gems – no matter when and where you hear then, it is still a good music to listen especially if you are on a long journey somewhere (it still do even now).

When I started to work after finishing school and had some money to spare, I often head to music store at Lebuh Ampang (which was on the way from work place to the bus station) on the weekends and my target would be old Ilaiyaraja collections – preferably his great works from the 1970s and 1980s. But unfortunately the music store has a dirty trick up their sleeve – they put a couple of good songs at the front but leaving the balance filled up with not-so-good songs (the cassette jacket lists the songs but unless you have heard of it and well aware of the quality, the list would not make any much difference). The idea was to sell more cassettes. As one would say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I will pick one and ask the shop assistant to “test” the cassette. In other words, I wanted him to play the cassette before I buy it, just to be sure. So when one is “testing” the cassette, you will only hear the good ones and you will think the rest would as good as the first song. You will know that it is not the case after you have paid for the cassette and listen to the complete cassette at home. What to do, I was young and easily trusted people. Number of cassettes mounted at home (some years later, I threw away 2 boxes of cassettes). There was a blessing in disguise though – I managed to consolidate a proper list (from all these cassettes) and got them recorded on a high quality TDK cassette (at the same music store).

(SP Bala in the movie Keladi Kanmani singing off lyrics “found on his food wrapper” without pausing to breath during the chorus – a feat he said he did not do in the actual recording at the studio but managed to do when singing the same song in front of a large crowd during one of Ilaiyaraja ’s concert. The man is simply great!)

At the advent of songs being played on MP3s (and I have a MP3 player in the car and I no longer use CDs), it was time to relook into my collections of songs and in particular one from Ilaiyaraja. I had several collections of Ilaiyaraja – some with overlapping songs and taking up valuable storage space in my HDD (some converted from audio CD into mp3 format for ease of storage). And sometimes I get to listen on the radio some of his better hits but one which is not in my collection. So, I started project “Ilaiyaraja” with 2 objectives.

One: To consolidate all the various collections in my HDD and my old dusty CDs into one proper collection titled “Ilaiyaraja – Then, Now & Forever” (inspired by MSV’s TV show title) with the complete movie name, the song title and the year of movie (couple that with a proper track cover image). For this, I used the mp3 tag editor, mp3tag (freeware) which does the trick rather beautifully. It took some time to do the “research” to get some of the movie names for some of the songs in my collection (some was previously titled as 00001.mp3 which does not give any clue on the details). Obviously there were plenty of duplicates – those had to be taken care, so it was time to delete those and keep only the better sounded ones in the main collection.

Two: To add new and missed songs into the collection. Ilaiyaraja composed almost 4,500 songs and I am sure that I have not heard whole of them especially from those movies that we have not heard of (one was this – Magudam where I found one of the best 1990s song – Chinna Kanna Punnagai Manna). Whenever I head to the music stores to check if they have come up with a proper Ilaiyaraja ‘evergreen’ collection, I was quite disappointed. Most “re-use” the usual famous songs (like Mouna Ragam’s Nilave Vaa). I already had them in my collections years ago. Some of the music store had the next best thing – CDs packed with hundreds MP3 files. This made searching more comprehensive without the need burn a big hole in the pocket. But at the end of the day, it was the Internet that made things easier to do “research” (especially at the various forums) on Ilaiyaraja ’s best songs and the background story behind the said song and then watch the songs on Youtube or listen & download the songs at the various Tamil entertainment websites. This would be an on-going process as I discover more songs that should be in everyone’s collection but one that does not get the right air-time on the radio or TV.

As I am updating my main collection and take the opportunity to listen all of the songs in my old collections (some I have not heard in years) and selecting them to be in the main collection, I realized one thing – Ilaiyaraja’s best songs did not come from the 1970s or 1980s. His best songs actually came in the 1990s and it was not because the older composition itself was bad. It was not – the problem was more on the quality of studio recording. 1970s & 1980s was the age of the analogs – cassettes and vinyl records and it was the same at the recording studios where it was done using magnetic tapes.

The sound quality degenerates even lower as the recording is done and then copied for the masses. One good example was the song Janani Janani from the movie Thai Mookaambigai in 1982. If you listen to the original track, it was bad (you can hardly hear the tabla & venna in the background) and you would discard it after a few seconds listening to them. But the same song was sung by the Maestro at the start of his comeback concerts in 2012, the song simply “melted” me away. It was a beautiful and with the clear sound of venna in the middle (I even thought it was an electric venna), it worth listening to it over and over again. His 2012 concert was also the event that made me to stop and take note that even his 1970s compositions once replayed with the latest instruments sounded better.

But fast forward to the 1990s when most things are done digitally – the quality of recording and to the masses did not see the same level of degeneration. Sounds of the tablas were clearer, vennas were crispier, the playback singers’ voice was soother and you can even hear the “silent” violins in the back. And that has been the focus of my collection of Ilaiyaraja’s songs – well composed songs and one that has been recorded digitally to be my permanent choice for my car on long journeys. His compositions on Neethane En Ponvasantham in 2012 (all done with help from a full orchestra from Budapest) were simply technically brilliant but here’s what I think the Maestro should do as his next big thing. Ilaiyaraja, whilst he still have the energy and the drive (he is 70 years now), should go back to the studio, pick a load-ful of his older 1970s and 1980s songs (all short-listed by his fans, of course) and re-record them in digital with special care given on the individual instruments (as how it was done on Neethane En Ponvasantham and perhaps roping in his famed music director son Yuvan Shankar Raja as his technical consultant). Once done, he should release them as his best works spanning over almost 4 decades. After all, there is no shortage of Ilaiyaraja die-hard fans out there.

Happy holidays and take some time off to enjoy the music during the long break…