At Fenton House

6 Jun


A stone throw away from Hampstead Heath is a 17th century merchant house named after James Fenton, a Balkan trader who once lived in the house between 1806-34. During their occupation, the house gained a reputation for hospitality.

The South Front of the House

It holds a stunning collection of musical instruments in almost every room; harpsicords, virginals and harps – all are over four-hundred years old.

A 17th century The Shudi and Broadwood harpsicord in the Dining Room

A harpsichord, circa 1612, in the Porcelain Room

A 17th century virginal

Two harps in a corner of a room: the big one is circa 1900 whilst the smaller one is an Irish harp, circa 1829.

A needlework, anonymous, inspired by a Biblical story from the Old Testament.

A portrait of William IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence on the wall next to a flight of stairs to the second floor. William IV gained a nickname “Silly Billy” for his unfitting image as a future king. In the portraiture, his transformation as a figure of power and authority is evident.

The Bedroom of the late Lady Binning, the last owner of the house with her extensive collection of porcellains.

Still in the room, a four-compartment tea container with ornaments on a table. Not until 19th century did women have a tea sitting in a small group but enjoy the tea, which was precious, in private in their bedroom


Alliums in blooms

The Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden

Free drawing classes for children and adults on the day

Drawing foxgloves?

Give a bee a life in your garden

And this still in London? Psst, only a few tourists know about the house.

When The Music Dies…

23 May

An unusual letter came yesterday.


On reading the lines, something touched me deep inside…..


But surely, it’s not what the world is interested in; not that the death of Hendon Music Society matters.


After fifty-one years, the music charity comes to an end. Putting a good spirit, its long-standing presence, according to the letter from its former President, is “a cause for celebration”.

I sighed.

I imagined how difficult for the Committee members to reach for the decision. Yet, there was a thought nagging at the back of my mind: could they have told me earlier?

I went to the concerts four times. Firstly, for Eleanor Turner’s harp recital. Then a piano recital. Thirdly, for the Chamber Ensemble of London . Lastly, with my then five-year-old son to its Sunday’s family concert in which he learnt a range of percussion instruments and played the drums for the first time.

And I must say that those performances were superb. Something you would’ve seen in either the Proms or Royal Festival Hall. Except that it had a smaller audience and the venue wasn’t grand; a local church nearby my children’s school. But all the same, each performance was awfully good.

I may not remember the name of the pieces played nor other brilliant musicians who were performing, but I do remember that most of the melodies lingered in my head. And the little boy I brought now is learning the drums at school. And he plays the piano, too taught by Renee Reznek.

When I saw the leaflet back in 2005, I was thrilled. I said to myself: goodbye Wigmore Hall, I’ll do it locally from now on.

£14 for the ticket might’ve seemed a lot for an enjoyment. Moreover, who would’ve wanted to spend a Saturday night sitting quietly for over two hours? Therefore I went alone, for my female acquaintances might’ve been dismissive to the idea. Besides, my husband had to babysit our children.

I was brought up in a country where a classical music performance is precious. In the first year I lived in London I fulfilled my penchant for finest compositions from the great composers, even though it meant having to queue for the standing tickets and poured over the papers skimming admission free lunch time concerts. Going to Barbican, a thirty minutes walk from my student hall, was considered as a treat.

Furthermore, I used to believe that the Western society would’ve had a better appreciation to music. More importantly, I was confident that the public wouldn’t have let the music die. Perhaps, fading, but vanished?

Little did I realise at the time that such an appreciation was partly due to education. Just like any other subject, it has to be introduced, nurtured, learnt and supported within communities. With hindsight, I was naive to think that a grandeur establishment such as Royal Albert Hall or the West End was evidence to “a great appreciation”.

So when I didn’t see the HMS’s leaflet last autumn at the church’s gate, it didn’t occur to me that its curtain had been drawn. In fact, I thought I had missed it. For I was looking forward to come again after “my absence” during 2010-2011 season due to the birth of my youngest in January 2011. As she was bigger, leaving her for a few hours at night would have been fine.

“…and to you the audience whose attendance made it all so worthwhile”.

That was the end of the letter.

I sighed again, speechless.

Something touched me deep inside
The day the music dies..

I folded the letter.

So bye-bye Hendon Music Society,

Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, “this’ll be the day that I die.
“this’ll be the day that I die.”**

 **lyrics from “American Pie” by Don Mc Lean

A Street Named “TAL(i)BAN” in England

16 May

Once upon a time

there’s a street named after a saint, opposite an old castle.

St. Alban's Street, Windsor

St. Alban’s Street, opposite Windsor Castle

It was there for a long long time until a boy came across the name and thought:

An alternative for “St. Alban’s Street”

“Could it have been?”

Then he was calling his sister and his mum.

His mum said, “What?” in response to his enquiry.

The boy said,”Ibu, look!”

“That’s my lipstick!” she said.

Fortunately, the family who lives in the castle wasn’t there when such a temporary change happened.

Nor did the boy press on to replace the capital “S” with the “I”.

So, once upon a time

there is a street named after a saint.

And it still has been….happily stay and will remain there forever.

(Except for the boy, his sister and his mum who know how to read it).

The End.

*in appreciation for the UK’s National Flash Fiction Day*

To the most gorgeous girl who is SIX today

9 May

I don’t know a girl like you, who were confident to ask for a present from her best friend. She then promised to bring it in on the day.

A girl who makes her parents smile while she hums in bed the chorus of Bruno Mars’s Just The Way You Are. Also, singing her heart out Eternal Flame in the car times.

“Am I still cute?” she asked. “Of course not!” her mother retorted. “Yes, I’m!” It’s difficult for her mother to realise that her daughter has grown so much she hardly keeps up. For her brother’s classmates, she still is; the “cute sister” who preferred to play with them in the playground rather than being in her line with her classmates before the bell rang.

She would’ve said “hi” to everyone she had met; be a stranger or an elderly person. She hugged her teachers whilst she was leaving. These days her warm embrace is sorely missed, for off she goes in her scooter racing with her brother.

She is a daughter who would put her mind into something completely, when she wants to. She walked at twenty months old in Egypt during a family’s holiday and ran around in a week’s time. Towards the end of the reception year, she wasn’t able to spell a single word. Why, her mother wondered; once she had copied a Peter Rabbit cover with her neat handwriting. Nonetheless, as soon as the English alphabets clicked into her brain, she assembled them and started to read. Now she’s an avid reader.

At school she’s been more into drawing and daydreaming. For her parents, it’s fine. But the classroom world at Year 1 seems not to side with her “creative slumber” period and imaginative thoughts. But her being her means that nothing would come in her way, which is against what her heart desires. Because it simply doesn’t make sense to her. Yes, to us adults who have succumbed to rules.     

Why, she might’ve asked herself, that a free mind had to be confined in a cage of golden letters and punctuation, showered with adjectives and sensible sentences?

At home her ugly toys- she dropped the “h” deliberately- takes a shrine. She retreats into different worlds of being a dolphin trainer, of  being a dog, of making a show with the “animals” as the spectators, or of a dinosaur who came for breakfast. In her bedroom the doll house inhabitants live in harmony with a T-rex, a tiger and a snowy toy. A lorry toy is parked next to the house.

Is there a girl like her who is the exact opposite of her siblings? She, the way her mother sees it, draws her older brother and toddler sister closer; the magnet that keep them together. For she ‘s caring yet firm,  generous but assertive. Well, a touch of stubbornness is on the menu, too.  Yet her parents hope that she will continuously strengthen the bonds among the three of them.

Above all, she’s taught her parents a lot about being a persona. In her unique ways, of course.    

If anything, there’s a wish her parents would have liked from her: please grow slower. Not too fast, so pretty and  smart.

Or are they too slow to catch up with her?

With love – an endless one


 Ayah & Ibu

(Mum and Dad)


Ode to Surabaya

1 May

O to be in Surabaya
Feel the blast from its heat
without a breeze
Blisters, blotchy skin;
kisses of the invincible mosquitoes

Perspiring I don’t mind
It’s May and the rains are scarce
As long as the rambutans are there

But this cold!
Staying, irritating, draining
And this drought!
Only drowning me in
In a pool of thoughts

On the city of heroes
On the warmth of the sunset
Over the Red Bridge

Why, but a whiff of grilled satay
Drifting me into smiles

Of home,
Of love.

Hotel Oranje, Surabaya, circa 1950s

Formerly Hotel Oranje, it is a symbol of Indonesian resistance against the Dutch. While the architecture and details have been preserved, now it is known as Majapahit Hotel.

The Diary of A Bad Man: Yes? No?

21 Apr

Friday evening. I heard giggling sounds from upstairs and was drawn to them after some time. Two of my little darlings were gazing at the screen of the home server.

“What are you two watching?” They were so preoccupied that they did not realise that I had come from behind. A bearded man –the Snoop Dogg’s style- wearing a black beanie and a hooded purple top was talking funnily. Funny peculiar.

My eldest jumped at my Tiger Mum’s voice and paused the video he had seen at once. Over three million hits. Wicked, children these days say.

He looked at me anxiously.

I had read the description: “A badman with seriously good looks makes a video diary about his relationship with his mum. comedy sketches about a troubled young man with the mentality of a 7 year old, ….”

“Ok, play it again,” I sighed. The “badman” approached his ami in the kitchen, calling her “Dark Vader” in a jocular tone. For she was clad in black and her face was covered.

My children had been watching the second part of his diary half way when it was stopped. “Ok, pause it,” I said. My son gave me a quizzical look.

For on the right bar whilst watching him talking, I noticed a video which stood out from the rest: a warning against watching the “badman”. “Let me watch that first,” I said, having asked my son to scroll down and clicked on the warning thingy.

A bearded man – a goat-like style- appeared; he was wearing white and he did not smile. “It’s thirty-two minutes, Mum,” protested my son. I glared.

For the first thirty seconds I was listening to his introduction of the topic. On his mentioning the word “kufr” I stopped. A sinner, like.

I heaved a sigh and said nothing. Sinners? That made the three of us, I thought. We resumed watching the “badman”‘s lamenting about being mugged by girls in a park after his mate left him alone. They took his iphone 4S. Hence, he tried to ask his mother for a replacement but she did not understand a word he said. Then he asked his “blood brother” for helping him but the brother refused.

Furthermore, we another video on how London’s Muslims celebrated the Eid – “the BBC” logo on the top left.

It struck a chord with me.

For I was in Edgware Road on my first Eid in London over twelve years ago. I was looking forward to catch a glimpse of the spirit of the celebration. And where else than in “little Arab”? The road was flooded with Muslims from different races, as I strolled down with some friends, shivering a little as wintry winds beat on our faces. I remember turning round towards the blaring sounds of Bangra music from cars stereo. Moreover, I saw the same youths in the cars going around and around at times, their engines spluttering amidst the traffic.

They mirrored what the “badman” said.

In hindsight, there was no Eid about it. People went about their business; chatting to one another in restaurants and crowds of young people gathered in every corner.

“He’s so funny,” giggled my daughter, cutting off my recollections. On another video about the Eid, he opened the back door to see the snow-covered back garden. Promptly, he lumped a snow ball and threw it to his ami , to her dismay. Then she was wading through the snow and chasing him around. A sign of disrespect to a parent, inviting for a snowball fight? Or was it a harmless fun as to what he did to “his mother”?

The priest mentioned that there was no iota about Islam on the “badman”‘s videos. He also said that our children turned to Youtube for guidance. As a result, he has got over 95,000 hits: 466 likes, 1,135 dislikes. Conversely, the “badman” had 17,196 likes, 860 dislikes for his first video.

Nonetheless, the priest had a point. My son knew about the “badman” from his classmates and they were all a Youtube generation. But, if the “badman” poisoned the young minds, why was he much more popular?

Arguably, the vast majority of young Muslims in the UK these days prefer of being educated by an interactive medium than their parents. Clearly, my children enjoyed the “badman” although the priest had stressed the fact that “the man cannot talk properly, squeaking like a mouse”.

But why? Are we us parents being muted by our children that our words are considered red herring? Is it only me or something wrong has been missing in our effort to make them learn Islamic values?

More importantly, I was intrigued as to what the “badman” remarked that he “wanted to challenge people’s perceptions on Islam”. In what way? If you read this, Humza Arshad, would you mind enlightening me?

Admittedly, I grinned at some scenes on the “badman”‘s videos whilst my face was contorted having heard the priest’s saying.

Enough from me. Watch both their disparate view points and decide yours. Yes? No?

In the meantime, we had to stop watching to say our prayers – Maghrib’s time was due. And bed time, too.

After praying, I heard different giggling sounds: my husband’s. Apparently my son showed him some of the videos.

Well, we need to talk about it with our children. Discuss it, get their impression about it-: like and dislike. Is it: the language? His brazen approach in searching his identity? His being bolshie as a youth? Or the way his addressing some provocative issues in his culture?

Now, really. There is still an Arabic school to attend to tomorrow.

What Hajj Made Me

15 Apr In the Nabawi Mosque, Madinah

In the Nabawi Mosque, Madinah

The Hajj Exhibition at British Museum finished today. It exceeds the expectation in terms of the number of visitors, as over 119,000 visitors reportedly attended it. This is a few days before its closing. According to the Guardian, 60,000 visitors were Muslims from all over the UK and the rest were non-Muslims.

Amazing. Such illustrates a great interest in catching a glimpse of the fifth pillar in Islam and its climax on the day of Arafah. Annually, on 9th Dzulhijjah, over two millions pilgrims gather in Arafah field near Mina and stay there for the next two days to perform jumrah, the ritual of stoning the evils.

To my mind, the sheer number of pilgrims on the day may be the most impressive gathering on Earth. All men are clad in unsown white two piece clothes whilst the women are covered modestly, except for their faces and hands.

I did not go to see the exhibition. I really wanted to, having heard a wealth of positive vibes from a number of friends and acquaintances who went. I had goose bumps just to hear their description.

In 1996 my parents took me for Hajj. I was twenty-two, overzealous and extremely excited about the prospect to take photographs of Ka’bah and the Haram Mosque. I gripped my SLR firmly, hidden under my torso-length headscarf as I joined the crowd of pilgrims who were walking to the mosque. Taking photographs around the Haram area were strictly not allowed, if not frowned upon.

No sooner had I stood up in front of the Haram Mosque for the first time, my knees were shaking. I felt extremely humble. Words failed me.

After completing our umrah, my father and I climbed up a hill in the outskirt of Mecca. We aimed to see the cave where prophet Muhammad received his first aayah of the Koran. There was neither steps nor designated path on its way to the top. At times I had to crawl and wished I could have been a goat. For I saw many of them climbed up the rocks quickly and bleated, as if they were gloating over their victory. Finally we reached the top after three hours.

The view of the sprawling city of Mecca in the simmering sun was worth the effort. The six towers of the Haram Mosque stood out and pilgrims circling the Ka’bah like a water current.

When I noticed the cave, it surprised me how small it was. It was barely to fit a person, small and narrow. I watched them from a distance as many pilgrims jostled to get into it. At the same time, I was thinking about prophet Muhammad. He went there before he became a prophet almost every night. How uncomfortable it must have been for him; tall and a bloke-type man of all. For his body must have been squeezed to fit into the cave. Furthermore, as the temperature dropped and desert winds beating on his face, what was it like?

Suddenly, I felt small. I was exhausted already just for climbing once. How about the prophet who did it times? What made him stay put when there was no palpable rewards, but his quest for the truth?

The Guardian columnist Sarfraz Manzoor conveyed his anxiety for going for Hajj. His were the mutual feelings I could relate to when my parents ruled that I must go with them. For I had no voice in the matter. Above all, I felt I was not ready at all.

But the daycation to the cave changed everything. The experience was real, for I had traced the path of the God’s last messenger. I went down the hill and slept soundly that night with a new mindset. Personally, it was moving that during Muhammad’s quest of seeking God, he was determined to get the answer. And he thrived. Compared with his, my faith might have been the size of a grain of sand.

Furthermore, my parents insisted on my going because I was a female. In Islam, to perform Hajj and Umrah, a woman has to be accompanied by her mahram , ie. father,brother. “In case your future husband might not be able to take you,” remarked my father.

Last November my husband went alone for Hajj and I stayed at home with our three young children. Had the five of us had gone, it would have been a tough thing for my older children and was not suitable for the baby. So my father was right.

Manzoor mentioned that he came to the exhibition with his mother. For he had promised to take her for Hajj but it does not come to fruition. He admitted his procrastination to the point that his mother’s health has made it impossible for her to go. He seemed to be genuinely sorry about it. I understand. It takes a leap of one’s faith to believe in the virtue of Hajj.

With memories of my Hajj hovered in my mind, I decided not to see the exhibition. On the one hand, I supposed details of the journey would have come back to me. Looking back, having to perform jumrah was my scariest experience. For I was separated from my parents in the midst of it and almost being trampled by a surge of people who were pushing me from the back. But magic happened. As I was about to fall, a strong hand yanked and lifted up my body. Then it pushed me away to the safety of stout sisters who protected me.

(Rest assured, Mr. Manzoor, such accident will not happen any more. My husband had an easy ride for his jumrah. The Saudis have done much better to ensure the comfort of most pilgrims while conducting the stoning ritual).

On the other, it would have made me sheepish had I been in the exhibition. Admittedly, I could not help for not seizing the opportunity of taking stupenduous photographs of Ka’bah from the highest floor at Hilton suite. My cousin happened to work in the hotel, which was just opposite the mosque and had the key to the suite. Also, in the morning and at some nights, I frequented the markets in Mecca with him; browsing items, looking at bargains or just being part of the vibrant atmosphere. Well, I should have dedicated more time to dzikr and reciting the Koran, rather than treated the journey as an ordinary travelling.

Thus, the least I could do was sending my Hajj experience, which has been uploaded on Hajj stories. Having read others’, I come to conclude one thing: that we felt humbled and are equal in front of God.

The exhibition must end, but surely, for the vast majority the experience of being there would linger at the back of their minds.

Over fifteen years ago was for me and I still can recall the extraordinary moments.

Lastly, I beg to differ with the notion on “Saudi involvement” in the matter. I sincerely hope Sarfraz Manzoor and the likes of him will gain an understanding to realise that Hajj is purely educating people, ie. Muslims, about themselves, politics aside.

To sum up, through Hajj I feel grateful to be a Muslimah.

*Photographs are courtesy of my husband’s*

Dispelling A Myth

13 Apr

Today my father turns seventy years old. Big SEVEN. On Friday 13th. Go figure.

I phoned him this afternoon when he was about to climb into bed at GMT+6. “They tricked me today,” he said in Indonesian, “they told me someone from GE wanted to see me after Jum’ah prayer”. I smiled to myself on the other end, over thirteen thousands kilometres away.

“They” were his staff at work. A surprise party for him. I imagined the sheepish look in his face when he found out about it. Moreover, he was given a present. I wondered if there was a ribbon on the wrapping paper.

At seventy my father still keeps going. He took the work over a year ago; a few days before boarding his flight for London. He was visiting us with my mother last January 2011, having insisted to come before his granddaughter was born. He just wanted to make sure that the delivery went well and both of us -my newborn daughter and I-were healthy. Nearly six weeks later he went back to Surabaya to start his new job.

At that time, he braced for the cold weather and was practically sitting near the electric heater in his room on a regular basis. Which was like a sauna to me. He shivered when I suggested him take a walk.

During conversations with Ibu, my mother, I gathered how busy he has been. Much as tiredness hit him hard on a daily basis, he did not complain much. If anything, his hectic schedule has somehow made him happy. For his mind has been kept active, having had to solve the tangled mess at the company and the fact that he had to learn how to market MRI to the public.

“Next year there shouldn’t be a party like this for me,” he said at the staff after the celebration . I grinned when I heard his remark; I knew he did not like birthday parties. Furthermore, I understood that he did not feel easy that the party was on the company expense.

Yet I was pleased that his staff did it. For I wished I could have flown over to my childhood home and spent the precious time with him in person. The least my children and I could do was….to phone him (and blog about it). :(-

On Friday 13th someone who is dear to me celebrated his entering the seventh decade, healthy and active. He walks upright and still drives (in Indonesia, it is more common to have a driver after someone turns sixty years old).

And as it occured on Friday, the day where blessings are aplenty according to Islam, may God give him rizqi (provision), strengthen his faith and keep his courage.

Happy Birthday, Bapak.

Seventeen Years On….

13 Apr

Yes, everyone is excited about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics in London. Also, the centennary commemoration of Titanic. Personally, the remake of Titanic in 3D is fantastic.

Then the April edition of Emel arrived a few weeks ago. “Bosnia, Twenty Years On” is the theme. Flicking through the pages, I was drawn to the story of Hasan Nunadovic. I remember reading his victory to hold the Dutch soldiers responsible to the murder of his family in Sebrenica Massacre in 1995.

Then it led to my reading the following letter, a letter written from the heart. Not an easy one to read – you have been warned.

In spite of all, it is thought provoking and moving.



Today I identified my brother by his tennis shoes.

In the fall they got in touch with me about my mother. They found her, or what was left of her, in a creek, in the village of Jarovlje, two kilometers from Vlasenica. My home town. The Serbs who live there threw garbage on her for fourteen years. She wasn’t alone. They killed another six in the same place. Burned. I hope they were burned after they died.

Last fall, also, I went to court to see Predrag “Czar” Bastah. A Serb in Vlasenica told me — I gave him a hundred marks — that Czar had poured gas on them and lit them on fire. When I saw him in the courtroom, they were trying him for slaughtering people in ’92, there was nothing for me to see. Just some stunted piece of trash. Probably he waited all his life for his chance to be “somebody” for five minutes. And he got his chance in ’92. After that there were no more Muslims around to slaughter until Srebrenica fell. He waited more than two more years and then my mother and a few others fell into his hands. His commander, who ordered the killings, now works here in Sarajevo. That’s what another Serb told me — I gave him three hundred marks.

I’m preparing to bury them this year next to my father. They identified my father four years ago, eleven years after his execution. They found a little more than half his bones, they say. His skull smashed from behind. The doctor couldn’t tell me whether that happened after he died. They found him in a secondary mass grave, Cancari. Kamenica near Zvornik. There are thirteen mass grave sites there. The Chetniks dug them up with bulldozers from the primary grave at Pilica, the Branjevo farm, a little before the time ofDayton, piled them on trucks and took them there, forty kilometers away, to dump them and bury them again.

There were around 1500 of them killed there. That’s what they say at the Tribunal. I read the statement of one of the murderers who says, “I couldn’t shoot anymore, my index finger was starting to get numb from so much killing. I was killing them for hours.” Someone, he says, had promised them five marks for each Muslim that they kill that day. And he says that they made the bus drivers get out and kill at least a few of the Muslims so that they wouldn’t talk about this to anyone later.

Oh yes, poor drivers. Poor Drazen Erdemovic, who says that he had to kill or he would be killed. They all had to do it, you see, and only Mladic is guilty because, they say, he ordered it all. And when they catch Mladic, some day, he’ll say, like a real Serb hero, “I am taking the responsibility for all Serbs and for the whole Serb nation. Only I am guilty, judge me and let everyone else go.” And then all of us, we and the Serbs and the rest of them, we’ll be satisfied and happy. We’ll rip off our clothes and jump into bed together. We will no longer need the foreigners for anything.

Last year they put up headstones for everyone, nice ones, white in color, all the same, lined up in rows. Two empty spaces by my father. He’s waiting three years for my mother and his son, Muhamed, for them to be laid next to him.

Then they told me about my mother. I was preparing to bury her by my father this July 11th, 2010.

And then the other day they called me on the phone — they said they had a DNA identification for my brother, but they weren’t a hundred percent sure. They said to come to Tuzla, and I went today.


In the spring of ’95, I bought my brother new tennis shoes, Adidas, from some foreigner. He brought them from Belgrade on his way back to Srebrenica from vacation. My brother hadn’t been wearing them more than a month or two, when that all happened. And I bought him Levi 501s, he was wearing those. I know exactly what T-shirt he was wearing and what overshirt.

And today the doctor showed me a photograph — the clothes. He said, there isn’t much, very little, but there are tennis shoes. When he put the picture on the table in front of me, I looked at the sneakers, my brother’s Adidas, as if he had just taken them off the other day. They weren’t even untied.

The doctor brings in a bag and shakes out everything that they found on his remains into a box in front of me. And after waiting for fifteen years I take my brother’s sneakers in my hands. And besides that a belt, with a big metal buckle, and what’s left of his Levis. And his socks, both of them.

I looked for that well-known slogan on the Levis, that would also confirm my brother’s identity. I took the remains of my brother’s jeans into my hands, after fifteen years. Metal buttons. Part of the inside of the pockets. Everything that was made of cotton had fallen apart. Only the synthetic material was left.

Some other tag hangs untouched, just a little dirty, stuck in those threads, in the strands, the fragments.

I read it, looking for the Levis trade mark. It says, “Made in Portugal.”

All day I see that “Made in Portugal” before my eyes. And for my whole life, I think, I will see that. I’m going to hate everything that was “Made in Portugal,” just like I hated Heineken beer that the Dutch UN soldiers had guzzled in Potocari, on the base, less than an hour after they drove all the Muslims off it – handing them over, right into the Serbs’ hands. Or maybe I will love everything that has “Made in Portugal” written on it, everything that will remind me, until the end of my life, of my murdered brother.


A Dutch soldier, then, a little younger, came up to me and offered me a beer and a Marlboro. I shook my head. He just shrugged and walked away.

And for fifteen years I, like all the rest, prayed to God that when we finally find out what happened, it will be that they didn’t suffer long, that they didn’t die in torment.

They have been dead for fifteen years. In that year some new children were born. And now those children are fifteen years old. This July 11th will be someone’s fifteenth birthday.

I will never do anything, in any way, that would endanger those children’s future. I would not even think of that. May God grant that this will never happen to anyone again.

But, there is no amnesty, my friend. For the guilty there is no amnesty.


The reporters ask me all the time, and again the other day: what is my message for future generations. I tell them about how after Dayton I drove through eastern Bosnia in a car, looking for the traces of the disappeared, the murdered. I knew that near Konjevic Polje, Nova Kasaba, Glogova, on any of the routes towards Srebrenica, there are mass graves, that the meadows are full of them. And when I drove that way when everything was blooming, when it was all green, I did not see that beauty. I only saw the mass graves that those meadows hid. Under the flowers our fathers and brothers were lying, our sons. Their bones.

I drove by the places where Serbs live — I look at them through the window and think, which of them is a murderer? Which of them is a murderer?

It was like that for years. For years. And then, one day, by the road on a meadow where I had heard that a mass grave was concealed, a little girl was playing. She was five or six. Just like my daughter. I knew those were Serb houses.

The little girl ran across the meadow. And everything mixed together in me — sorrow, and pain, and hate.

And then I think, that poor little girl, what is she guilty of? She doesn’t even know what lies under that meadow, under the flowers. I’m sorry for that girl who looked just like my daughter. They could be playing together on that meadow.

And I wish that that little girl and my daughter will never experience what we lived through. Never. They deserve a nicer future. That’s what I said to those journalists. Those last ones were from in Belgrade.

And so, Dr. Kesetovic confirms — the mortal remains of my brother will be prepared for the funeral on July 11th. It is just as if my brother had managed to check in at the last minute, in time to be buried together with my mother, beside my father who lies waiting for them in Potocari.

And so my father, murdered in Pilica and exhumed in Kamenica, my brother, murdered in Pilica and exhumed in Kamenica, and my mother, murdered in Vlasenica and exhumed from under the garbage the creek at Jarovlje, will finally rest beside each other in Potocari.

Hated by the Daily Mail

15 May


This morning my son handed me a copy of a Saturday’s paper. “Who wants the Daily Mail?” I burst out, having seen a glimpse of a pretty face on the front page. “I thought you asked newspaper,” he answered, looking aghast. Still on his bike, he had just been back from cycling to our local’s shop with his father. Furthermore, he had been aware of his mother’s peculiar tone for a mistake. “I don’t like this paper, dear,” I sighed in an apologetic tone, having realised that I should not have snapped at him in the first place.

“Why don’t you like it?” he asked inquisitively. “Because they don’t like Muslims and they’ve made fun of immigrants”. He was baffled to my being curt at him. Oh, dear, did I have to tell him that? “Why do they do that?” he continued. Here was the thing when I tried to be honest to my children: I had to be completely honest. I skimmed his guilty face. “Next time just buy me the Guardian”. He nodded in understanding, “Ok, Mum”. He turned around and rode his bike to the back of the house.

Later I was scanning the paper in the kitchen having my breakfast. In page 19, Amanda Platell’s column had a circle-shaped small photograph of new Chairman of the Conservative Party in her pink salwar khameez. More importantly, Ms. Warsi posing after the first cabinet meeting -notably the very important event- made her the instant notice being featured in yesterday’s the Times, the Daily Telegraph and of course, the Daily Mail. As a matter of fact, Platell’s remark on Sayeeda Warsi wearing a traditional Muslim garb to get herself noticed made me gulp my hot tea.

A Muslim garb? Well, Ms. Warsi happened to be a British Muslim who took a great pride on her Pakistani root. Moreover, the country is the second most populous Muslim in the world. Clearly it was easy to perceive that salwar khameez was a Muslim woman’s dress given that its modesty cut says it all. I nonetheless have noticed that Afghani, Indian and Bangladeshi women wear the same thing: were they all Muslims? As a result, this kind of inaccuracy, which had occurred in a number of occasions on this paper aroused the apparent dislike towards Muslims. Otherwise why would Ms. Platell further wrote”…Only when race, religion, and sex are second place to excellence and endeavour will women like Warsi have achieved any sort of equality”. This really irked me.

Should the sad story of an attempted suicide by the pretty face I mentioned earlier saddened me, Ms. Platell’s taunt on Ms. Warsi’s choice of outfit and how she had represented her constituents had made me loose my appetite. Strangely as it seemed to be, I remembered a pin with the imprint Hated by the Daily Mail bought from a bookshop at Old Street. Perhaps I should have worn it having been wearing a hijab (but not salwar khameez since I am Javanese). What if Ms. Warsi had put on thedupatta on her head?

Above all, I was wondering why my son grabbed the paper; did he recall that I sometimes got it (because of its Femail Magazine on Thursdays and whenever I only had £0.50 in my pocket)? Besides, I had forgotten to thank him for the paper and him having remembered to buy one.

Dear Son, thank you very much. And I will remember for not buying the paper again.