In a neighbourhood playground, a tent has been set up, the canopy
overhead providing shelter from the blistering heat of the day. Under
this shade, a long table can be seen, laid out with an array of
strange-looking fruits. Each one is unique, and tellingly, most are
completely indiscernible to many of the people in attendance.
“Mak, what is this?” asks a young child, pointing at a gnarled brown husk. His mother looks on, equally perplexed. “Erm, I don’t know,” she finally admits.
“Most people have probably never seen more than half of the fruits
here,” confirms Dr Abdul Aziz Zakaria, 73, a retired Universiti
Pertanian Malaysia (now known as Universiti Putra Malaysia) lecturer and
avid collector of durians and other local fruits (he has grown more
than 50 local fruits on his three farms in Kelantan).
Aziz was instrumental in putting together the display
of about 60 local fruits at a neighbourhood gathering for residents of
Taman Tun Abdul Razak in Kuala Lumpur – his way of disseminating as much
information as possible to the younger generation before some of the
fruits become totally extinct and unattainable.
“What I am trying to do is introduce these fruits to younger parents
and their children, then they will remember it when they see it in
gardens and parks in the future,” he says.
AN INTRODUCTION TO LOCAL FRUITS
According to retired Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development
Institute research officer Rukayah Aman in her seminal book Buah-Buahan
Nadir Semenanjung Malaysia (2006), there are over 100 species of fruits
Some like soursop, pineapple and ciku were introduced from other
continents but have since acclimated and become part of the local fruit
Of these over 100 species, 16 are classified as fruits that have
commercial value like durian (but of course!), pineapple, banana, mango,
rambutan, watermelon, cempedak, ciku and mangosteen, among others.
are also over 70 species of fruits that are either planted or grow wild
in jungles, neighbourhood lawns or orchards without much cultivation or
These are local fruits that were once prevalent in Malaysian diets of
yore but have since either fallen out of favour or become obsolete.
Examples of these fruits include setar, salak, mentega, nam nam,
bacang, nona kapri, cermai, rambai, keranji, sentul, ceri Terengganu,
bidara, kasai, kuning telur and pala.
If you’re looking at this list wondering why you’ve never heard of –
much less eaten – any of these fruits, well, it’s an indication of how
rapidly things have changed.
Lifestyle changes, for example, have been a driving force in evolving fruit consumption patterns.
In the past, money was tighter in most local households which meant
many people simply opted for low-hanging fruit i.e. whatever was most
accessible in villages and neighbourhoods.
“When I was small, I crossed two villages to walk to school in
Melaka. And on the way back, my friends and I were often hungry, so we
would stop and ask the villagers if we could eat the fruits on their
trees – that’s how I learnt about local fruits,” says Rukayah.
“In reality, back then we had no choice because as children in the
village, we didn’t have much money to buy fruits in the shops so we ate
anything that grew in the village,” she adds.
These days, both Rukayah and Aziz agree that the appetite and
purchasing power for imported fruits like blueberries and cherries has
surged, in many instances to the detriment of long-standing local
are so many imported fruits from the West, so we’re used to eating
those kinds of fruits, which is not right. That is the main reason some
of these local fruits are nearly extinct,” reasons Rukayah.
She is certainly not wrong. Imported fruits from countries like
Australia are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, according to data
provided by Australian trade body Austrade, the export volume for
peaches, nectarines and apricots from Australia to Malaysia increased by
over 200 per cent between 2013 to 2018 while overall fresh fruit export
to Malaysia shot up by 35 per cent in the same period.
While the consumption of imported fruits has little impact on popular
local fruits like durians and bananas, the effect on a fruit like
binjai can be more far-reaching.
“Binjai is very rare and it takes 20 years to fruit. Who wants to
grow it? It has no commercial value and you have to wait for it, while
imported fruits are easily available in supermarkets,” says Aziz.
The widespread clearing of land for development throughout the
country is also another reason many of these fruits are being wiped out.
“Before in the kampung, you had a house and a lot of trees, so many
of the seeds were spread by birds and animals – nobody really went out
of their way to plant them,” says Aziz.
modern times, what was once an organic growing method doesn’t
necessarily translate anymore as many areas that were previously fecund
and surrounded by foliage have now given way to the trappings of
“In Melaka, for instance, there were about 15 binjai plants around
the city when I was working on the book over a decade ago. And now, I
think there are maybe four trees there. The rest have given way to
housing and other development,” laments Rukayah.
Then there is the taste factor. While many of these local fruits are
quite sweet – like rokam manis, buah mentega and kuning telur – others –
like nam nam and mundu – are decidedly sour and difficult to eat fresh.
“Some of these fruits need to be made into a pickle. And some of them
you have to eat with salt to counteract the sourness,” admits Aziz.
means that younger people used to sweet fruits like mangoes and bananas
don’t necessarily know how to appreciate these fruits or, more
importantly – simply don’t want to when other options are available.
“One thing about the younger generation – they are not exposed to
these fruits. So whether it is sweet or sour, they won’t easily try the
fruits or are not eager to, even if they can find them,” says Rukayah.
Given all these reasons and so many more (e.g. many of the fruits are
difficult to grow on a commercial scale), it isn’t a stretch to
discover that some local fruits are completely extinct with others in
danger of being wiped out very soon.
“There is one species that is completely lost – lanjut. You just
can’t find it in villages anymore – I would say it is gone forever. And I
think the next fruit that is close to being phased out is binjai, which
is becoming very rare,” says Rukayah.
Despite waning interest in these fruits, Aziz is determined to
continue collecting them and still travels around the country looking
for different local species.
“The difficulty is to locate the trees which are fruiting, because
you have to go during the fruiting season to collect the fruit.
then some trees are so high that you just cannot get the fruit; you
have to wait until it drops and by the time it drops, the wild boar has
eaten it already so it’s quite difficult,” says Aziz laughing.
Rukayah has also done her part to impart more information about these
fruits through her book as well as an arboretum that she was
instrumental in putting together when she was in Mardi.
Although the arboretum once contained between 70 to 80 local rare
fruit species, unfortunately, about 1/3 has been lost, as the fruit
trees had to make way for the Mass Rapid Transit project.
Still, given that she spent most of her career writing about and
researching rare local fruits, it isn’t surprising to learn that she has
planted many of these species – like rambai, jentik-jentik and nam nam –
at her own home.
Rukayah says that if people are able to find fresh versions of these
more unusual local fruits, they are actually very easy to grow.
“I use the seeds to plant the trees and it’s very easy. One thing
about our tropical seeds – they cannot be kept very long and tend to
lose moisture easily, so if you eat any fruit, you must sow the seed
immediately,” she advises.
Ultimately though, Aziz and Rukayah say it is up to them and people
of their generation familiar with these fruits to pass down this
knowledge about traditional fruits to younger audiences, otherwise both
the knowledge and the fruits themselves will eventually disappear
“I think it is up to the older generation to educate younger people and get them interested in whatever way possible to understand the uniqueness of local fruits,” says Aziz with conviction.
A new study has shed light on a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease in women: not having a job.
Epidemiology Assistant Professor Dr Elizabeth R. Mayeda conducted a study on later-life cognitive health in women and found that working women showed a slower decrease in memory than their non-working counterparts.
She and her team from the University of California, Los Angeles’ Fielding School of Public Health, presented their findings at the 2019 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles, United States.
The study was done in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Boston College.
Using data from the US National Institute on Aging’s Health and Retirement Study, Asst Prof Mayeda examined the memory function patterns of more than 6,000 women born between 1935 and 1956.
Women reported each year between the ages of 16 and 50, whether they were working for pay or had children, and were grouped by their work and family patterns to examine changes in memory for women over age 50.
Memory performance was measured using standardised tests about every two years, starting when the women were age 50 or older.
According to Asst Prof Mayeda, prior to the age of 60, there were no noticeable differences in memory between working and non-working women.
However, after 60, women who participated in the paid labour force showed slower memory decline than those who didn’t.
She notes that previous studies on Alzheimer’s concentrated mainly on biological factors, such as the presence of sex hormones like oestrogen.
But she wanted to focus on social factors that could lead to Alzheimer’s, as well as late-life changes in memory function, which is considered a hallmark of developing this disease.
“When we thought about relevant social experiences that might shape risk of Alzheimer’s dementia for women, we thought about how women in the United States have experienced really drastic changes in patterns of employment and family circumstances over the past century or so,” she says in a recent phone interview.
According to the 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, two-thirds of people living with Alzheimer’s are women and 16% of women over the age of 71 have Alzheimer’s.
“The prevailing view has been that this discrepancy is due to the fact that women live longer than men on average, and older age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s,” says the report.
Asst Prof Mayeda’s findings show that the average memory performance for non-working women between the ages of 60 and 70 declined twice as fast as women who were working.
Compared with married mothers in the paid labour force, single mothers out of the workforce for long periods saw their memory faculties decline 83% faster, while married non-working mothers declined 61% faster.
Memory performance for working women remained higher, even if their work history was interrupted for family reasons.
“The really striking finding is that even though we looked at work and family patterns, what really stood out in our findings was that engagement in the paid labour force was the key factor that stood out as important.
“We really thought that aspects of family and engagement in the paid labour force could both be really relevant,” she says.
Psychiatry and behavioural sciences Asst Prof Dr Tamar Gefen says that the results of Asst Prof Mayeda’s study align with existing research on factors that lower the risk of late-life cognitive decline.
“There is evidence in the literature suggesting a limited number of factors that can perhaps lower the risk of developing cognitive impairment in later life.
“This includes aerobic exercise, healthy nutrition, mental activity and engagement,” says the assistant professor from Northwestern University in an email interview.
The study doesn’t identify why working may help cognitive health for older women, but Asst Prof Mayeda points to social network-building, cognitive stimulation and financial independence as reasons why employment might help protect women’s minds.
She says that the goal in her research is to help policymakers identify strategies to improve public health on a population level.
If her findings are supported by other studies, Asst Prof Mayeda says she looks forward to seeing policies that encourage women to join the workforce, such as equal pay, paid family leave and affordable childcare, as a way to encourage higher late-life cognitive function.
Though the research is currently unpublished, she says she’d like to examine other aspects of health in women born in later years.
“I think it would be really relevant to expand the findings, and to try to understand the explanations for these findings,” she says.
“Are there specific characteristics of work that are really important and relevant to women’s later-life cognitive health?”
A Malaysian singer came under fire for embarking on a challenge that caused unnecessary danger to her own health. Malay Mail wrote that local singer, Ara Johari, took on a challenge of eating spicy noodles with durian and it didn’t end well for her.
In a video that went viral, Ara was seen chowing down a bowl of spicy noodles and durian. After just a few bites, the singer started feeling unwell, and towards the end of the clip, an ambulance was seen arriving.
Apparently, the 22-year-old was quickly taken to the hospital after she started gagging and vomiting into a plastic bag. Obviously, this incident didn’t sit well with the netizens as they claimed she was promoting “potentially dangerous behaviour”.
Even famous actress Nabila Huda left a comment saying that the attempt was “stupid”. She wrote,
“Who are the morons who started the challenge of eating spicy noodles with durian? Stop doing stupid things like this. Durian is already a heaty food, suppose you died while eating this, then what?”
Netizens seemed to share the same sentiment as Nabila, as they disapproved of the challenge saying that it was stupid and dangerous.
Prior to this, in 2017, a Youtuber calledNikocado Avocado ate four packs of spicy Korean noodles and some durians. However, the Youtuber seemed to be unharmed because he didn’t suffer repercussions like Ara.
A further report on the case revealed that Ara actually has gastric, and the team who was filming the challenge didn’t know about her condition. They have formally apologised for pursuing this challenge and advised people not to follow suit. You heard them, guys! Don’t recreate this challenge for your own good.
On that note, we hope Ara will quickly recover and learn from her mistake that almost cost her life. Hopefully, she doesn’t take up other ill-advised challenges.
New American research has found that music may calm the nerves before the use of regional anaesthesia just as effectively as medication.
Carried out by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the new study looked at whether listening to calming music could be as effective for reducing anxiety as midazolam, the sedative drug commonly used before regional anaesthesia.
Regional anaesthesia, also known as a peripheral nerve block, is a type of anaesthetic procedure done under ultrasound guidance and used to numb a specific region of the body.
The study included 157 participants, 80 of whom who were randomly assigned to receive 1-2 milligrammes of midazolam, injected three minutes before the use of a peripheral nerve block.
The remaining 77 listened to Marconi Union’s Weightless series of music via noise-canceling headphones for three minutes, a track that is considered to be one of the most relaxing in the world.
The patients’ levels of anxiety were scored before and after the use of each anxiety-calming method.
The researchers also measured satisfaction among both patients and doctors using a 10-point scale, with 0 reflecting the lowest level of satisfaction.
The findings, published online in the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine, showed that listening to the music appeared to have a similar effect as midazolam in reducing anxiety before regional anaesthesia.
However, the patients who listened to music were less satisfied than those given midazolam, which the researchers say could be due to patients not being given a choice of music.
There was no difference in satisfaction levels among doctors, although both patients and doctors reported that it was harder to communicate when music was used as the calming method, possibly because of the noise-canceling headphones and the volume of the music.
Although previous studies have already shown that music medicine is effective in significantly decreasing preoperative anxiety, until now it has not been directly compared with intravenous (IV) midazolam.
Music medicine is an intervention that is also virtually harm-free and relatively inexpensive, whereas drugs such as midazolam can have side effects, including affecting breathing, disturbing blood flow and actually increasing levels of agitation and hostility.
Although comparing the two interventions for just three minutes may have been too short and more research is needed, the researchers still conclude that music could be an effective alternative to midazolam for calming anxiety before the use of regional anaesthesia.
“However,” they caution, “further studies are warranted to evaluate whether or not the type of music, as well as how it is delivered, offers advantages over midazolam that outweigh the increase in communication barriers.”
An artistic portrayal of human intricacies – that’s what the audience can expect when Kenny Shim & Collective and British-based Mobius Dance present their dance works this weekend at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) in Petaling Jaya.
The collaborative effort called Mix Bill, from Aug 2-4, will see four contemporary works being performed by nine dancers, four of whom are local.
Under the artistic direction of Gianluca Vincentini, Mobius Dance will present an energetic and highly physical performance featuring two robust works, bringing together two generations of choreographers Jamaal Burkmar and Douglas Thorpe.
“Lovers of both dance and music will be enthralled by Burkmar’s Time Moves Slow, an incredibly passionate, fast-paced and dynamic work, where relentless physicality pulls the dancers to their extremes,” says Vincentini in an interview.
Burkmar’s offering is seen through four different perspectives, inspired by four different songs and acknowledges four heroes tasked with climbing the same mountain and overcoming the same challenge – embracing the choice to do it together rather than alone.
“On the other hand, Thorpe creates a powerful, theatrical piece in Dramatis Personae, which plays with the peculiarities of four characters, whose awkward interactions result in a work with compelling and intertwined dynamics.
“The two pieces provide a thrilling contrast of movement and dance. It is a chance to see young dancers who are at the peak of their fitness, training and performance to tackle the rich, quality and diverse choreographic approaches of Burkmar and Thorpe,” he adds.
Originally from Italy, Vincentini founded the company in 2016 and believes that dance can reveal the complexity of our intimate connections to each other, without compromising entertainment.
“The commissioned choreographer’s work is accessible in nature and style while remaining a refreshing and entertaining evening of dance for those with a more accustomed dance palette,” he says, pointing out that each choreographer’s work represents his individual spirit while embracing the multicultural face of the world.
Slowly carving a name for himself in the local circuit is Shim, who will explore the human intricacies in a thought-provoking dance work entitled Shades OfShadow, based on Swiss-born British writer Alain de Botton’s book The Course Of Love. The book piqued his curiosity to dig deeper into understanding human empathy between relationships and how such empathy (or lack of) leads to the possibility of inequality in a relationship.
“There is a quote in the book that I resonated deeply with ‘The modern expectation is that there will be equality in all things. In a couple, which means, at heart, an equality of suffering. But calibrating grief to ensure an equal dosage is no easy task; misery is experiences subjectively, and there is always a temptation for each party to form a sincere yet competitive conviction that, in truth, his or her life is really more cursed,’” reveals Shim.
Watch how this quote unfolds in dance form.
It was literally love at first class when Shim started learning ballet at a late age of 17. Flowing with passion, he took a leap of faith, auditioned and was accepted at London’s Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance.
He eventually completed his masters at the London Contemporary Dance School, and after spending seven years abroad, Shim returned home in 2017 to contribute to the development of the Malaysian contemporary dance scene.
“I was very fortunate to have met Gianluca during my time in Edge Dance Company and we’ve kept in contact. He is interested in nurturing dance artistes to their fullest potential, which trickles down to the artistes he hires for his company.
“He curates work that is both accessible to new contemporary dance audiences as well as veterans of the practice. The pieces entertain and engage the audience through the world of highly ‘physicalised’ dancing,” he says.
The final dance piece Human is a collaborative work between dancers from both companies, co-choreographed by Vincentini and Shim.
It explores the entwined nature of movement and emotion, while looking at the current condition of humanity. The starting point of the work is a reflection Vincentini wrote, which goes like this: “Happy smile, Happy war, Happy living together, But perhaps not too close, Excitement yields calm, Calm turns melancholic, Melancholy induces panic, Our senses mute, Such hopeful desperation attempts harmony”.
“This work has been created with the performers, who have contributed by devising material based on movement tasks. Images and emotional states were introduced to the performers so that, together, we could find the appropriate form and aesthetic. Individuality was encouraged as much as the sharing of personal stories,” says Vincentini.
Shim concludes, “Unlike learning a repertoire, all the dancers are in the studio together. This encourages further exchange of dance practices and working culture. The exchange enhances the work with ‘flavour’ and diversity.”
Visitors to the two-day Proud International Cat Show at MesaMall which ended today could also adopt a rescue from any of the five shelters that were invited to join the event by organizer Khalid Rashid.
“They are looking for good homes for their cats while at the same time raising money through activities like cat cleaning to cover the cost of caring for the cats,“ he said.
Sayang-Sayang Kitten Garden proprietor and cat rescuer, Azizah Ibrahim, said that as a cat lover she must care about all cats and not just pedigree cats.
“Strays also need care and good food. They need to be helped no matter what their condition.
“However, to do this, we need the time and funds for food, medication and other necessities especially if the cats are in a bad state. This is the perfect platform, I feel, to raise funds,“ she told Bernama.
Azizah, who also participated in the cat show, has 89 cats and a shelter in Kepong, has been a rescuer since 2011.
“To rescue more cats, I have to give some of them up for adoption otherwise there’ll be hundreds and hundreds to look after,“ she said.
With respect to the cat show co-organised with MesaMall and cat food brand, Proud, Khalid said 100 cats took part in four categories according to their breed and were evaluated by two judges from Italy and Poland.
He said he hopes the cat show raises awareness about pet care, ethical concerns and breeding.
“If possible, we don’t want the cats to be cross-bred because we want to protect the purebred lineage,“ he said.