Winstons Still Cost RM7.50

Even at 2:00 am, traffic coming in and out of the Subang Jaya toll plaza is still heavy enough, I should think, to keep the concession-holders happy. The street lights of Kelana Jaya are still ablaze with their orangey yellow lights, which I trust, will deter the bad guys from breaking into my beat-up old Proton parked illegally five storeys below. The mosquitoes are still intent, it would seem, on driving me insane by continuing their incessant strafing runs at my ear. And a packet of Winstons still cost RM7.50 at the local 7-Eleven when I went out to get some earlier on. In other words, things are pretty much the same as they were yesterday.

Come 7:45 am, while I am still dead asleep, the traffic police will come around merrily to slap another parking ticket on my windshield. When I turn on the news, the presenters will be waxing lyrical about several new Government initiatives that will (arguably) improve the lot of the rakyat (why can’t we just use the word ‘people’ when we are writing in English?) Should I hook-up to the internet later on, I will trip all over myself on bloggers who will be screaming ‘Foul!’ at some Government cock-up or other. Teresa Kok, RPK and the journalist (forgot the name) will still be detained (fairly or otherwise) under the ISA. And, I suspect, a packet of Winstons will still cost RM7.50 at the local 7-Eleven. In other words, things will still be the same tomorrow as they are today.

Though, through my simplistic, unschooled and irreverently apolitical (apathetic?) eyes, nothing has changed (or will likely change), I cannot ignore the undercurrent of fear, uncertainty and despair sweeping the country: a murmur so deafening in its quietude that it rings loud and clear even in the very air that I breathe. But when I shake my head to clear the cobwebs, I find that the sun is still shining, the world hasn’t gotten any smaller and Winstons still cost RM7.50 at the local 7-Eleven.

What’s more, I don’t think my Chinese neighbour, Chee Kiong, is going to ambush me at the lift lobby of my apartment and gore me with his twin dragon hook-swords or bludgeon me to death with his three-sectional staff. I, on the other hand, most certainly am not secretly sharpening my ‘keris’ in anticipation of bathing it in Chinese blood. Heck! I don’t even own a ‘keris’. Further, I am not even alarmed that the PM (allegedly) seems to enjoy his frequent naps (this, after all may be a good thing) and that his deputy likes beautiful, exotic women (who doesn’t?). Similarly, I am not even fazed by the fact that Anwar Ibrahim, from a certain angle, bears a striking resemblance to caricatures of the Devil – if you erase the horns (from the caricature, not Anwar).

At times like these, I am reminded of the phenomenon of ‘latah’; an affliction that historically, is supposed to be exclusive to the Malays. Could it be possible that the undercurrent I spoke of earlier is nothing but a case of ‘mass-latah’? I cannot totally discount this possibility. If it is, it is pretty evident that it is manifesting itself equally in the powers-that-be as well as in a healthy cross-section of the community (non-Malays included).

The trick is, if you just let the ‘latah’ episode die down, and be careful not aggravate the afflicted even more, the excitement will usually fizzle out; and we will be able to carry on with our lives. But sometimes, perhaps out of a morbid affinity for the sensational, we just can’t help ourselves but to prod the afflicted even more, thereby inducing an even more intense ‘latah’ episode. Haven’t we all done this before?

But more importantly, are we still doing it now?

My question is: Can we all stop this ‘melatah’ nonsense, and at the same time, stop ourselves from inducing it in others – even if we perceive them to be our moral enemies? Things aren’t that bad – yet. Of course there is room for improvement; there always is. But how are we going to improve things if a vast majority of the people (I still refuse to use the word ‘rakyat’ when I am writing in English) and the Government, is either preoccupied in their own ‘latah’ episodes, or are trying their best to induce it upon each other from breakfast to glory?

In a moment (before Imsak, hopefully) I will be off to the local 7-Eleven to get my RM7.50 packet of Winstons. Along the way, I will keep reminding myself of Atticus Finch’s immortal words: It is not time to worry yet.

But if we stand together, rational and strong, we may never need to.

25 thoughts on “Winstons Still Cost RM7.50

  1. ah we are getting mat bangkai to give his commentaries on social and political issues. with the touch ofa literary brilliance. so that we can enjoy the language master at work…thanks for sharing yr thoughts with us, bro.
    with kind regards/sakmongkol

    Ariff Sabri

    It is seldom that I make these incursions into the territory of ‘SOPO blogging’ as I feel this area is already quite saturated. However, sir, – for better or for worse – I have made an exception in this case.

    Though I feel that I am undeserving of the praise you have bestowed upon me, I will accept them as gracefully as in the manner in which they were given.

  2. What can I say after reading this brilliantly written piece? Nothing! Because I am experiencing some sort of mental after-glow. 🙂
    May I have a stick of Winston? 😀


    Shall I light the Winston for you , dear? And yes, you can keep the reading lights on your side of the bed on if you want… 🙂

    I’m glad you liked this piece, ma’am.

  3. WOW!
    If you persist this way, bangkai, I may just be induced to return to smoking. Bad, bad boy!

    Puteri Kamaliah

    Ok! I’m guilty as charged. Here… slap my wrists, ma’am 🙂

    But smoking is so good, isn’t, ma’am? I, too, intend to stop – just not today. After all, it is the only vice I am left with these days (I think)

  4. Dear Mat,

    I second Puteri’s “WOW!”.

    A lethal combination of politics, cigarettes (though not of Philip Morris) and literature – what could be sexier?

    Of course, you’ll question the use of ‘rakyat’ when one is writing in English. But Mat, in all fairness, just like ‘makkal sakthi”, the word ‘rakyat’ are used in contemporary languages of the nation.


    Thank you. It is always an honour to be acknowledged by one such as yourself; a respected, hard-hitting player of the blogging community.

    As you have observed, I am a purist, and I am afraid, I shall remain as one till the end of my days: Contemporary usage of words like ‘rakyat’ notwithstanding.

    It is hard to teach old an dog new tricks… but not impossible.

  5. Tu lah. If you read the sopol blogs, my God, like Msia dah pecah habis.
    Hey, took the family for raya shopping yesterday, and the mall is as crowded as ever. Even if ppl are not seriously shopping, at least enjoying the aircon.
    Must really give up reading those alarming socio-political blogs. Maybe not good for health. You tend to look at things in a skewed way. Read them and their commenters, you wonder at their appreciation of life. Wonder when they last got out to smell the roses. And the coffee.

    Enjoy everyone. Have a happy life.

    What a deathly nick you have, and yet you blog on that which is life-affirming. Whatever.
    Mockingbird is one of my fave books. Do you know there are websites that are dedicated to Maycomb, with street maps etc.?


    This is why I have been very,very selective of the so-called SOPO blogs that I read, sir. I daresay that 99.99% of these blogs aren’t really SOPO blogs at all: A third of this 99.99% are ‘me-too’ wannabes who are too lost in the bandwagon mentality to be worth reading at all; the other third is accounted for by very angry people who have taken to using blogs as a platform for venting their spleen; and the final third simply make open statements and then hyperlink them to postings in other so-called SOPO blogs.

    Thank you for stopping by and for your very kind words, sir. It was a pleasurw having you visit. And no, I am afraid I don’t know of any sites that has maps of Maycombe County.

  6. Send them to Isle of Dogs or French New Guinue as per block buster ”Pappilon’ by Henri Charrière,mamak!!!!!


    Who are we sending to the Isle of Dogs or French New Guinea? The PM and his deputy? Anwar Ibrahim? Me? Or allof the above? 🙂

  7. Dearest,

    I have with me a first edition of Siti Nurbaya.

    Care to review the book?


    If Siti Nurbaya is a piece of Malay literature (which I suspect it is) then, I am ashamed to admit that I shall be severely handicapped considering my woefully inadequate command of the language.

    Nonetheless, should I be able to get hold of a copy – and should you so wish it – I shall forthwith attempt a review at my own peril; hoping that it you will like it, despite the many shortcomings it is bound to contain.

    Good night…

  8. i’m one of those guilty of occasionally SOPO blogging. i wish i could return to my politically apathetic days – when i begun to lose interest and didn’t login to malaysiakini for years. my point is, i need to get laid 😦


    Don’t we all, bro (need to get laid, that is)? But as I have said before, you are one cool dude, SOPO blogging, or no SOPO blogging!

  9. I was outside Victoria Station on a cold winter morning when a Polish immigrant came by and ask for a ciggie. He asked me where I’m from and when I told him, he said ” Badawi good!” No, I said to him, he’s the worst of them all.

    The Last Gig

    Good to hear from you again! Hmmm, maybe he should fall asleep more often during meetings and functions. eh? This way, perhaps, he will inflict less damage, you think? 🙂

  10. Dear Sir,
    I wholeheartedly agree with Elviza. Your amazing ability to masterfully blend seemingly disparate issues like politics and the availability of your preferred brand of botanically derived inhaled addictive carcinogenic concoction at your local licensed liquor store masquerading as a 24 hour convenience outlet is absolutely …er amazing. Keep up the good work bro.

    Malay Boy

    Glad you like this piece. Er… what else can I say? Mai pekena rokok and teh tarik?

  11. Wah Bogart, didnt know u can talk / write serious matters.. :p


    Ini mana ada serious, abang. Sembang kedai kopi aje…

  12. RM7.50 for a pack of Winstons? Mengabih boreh jer ko ni.

    I switched to roll-ups a couple of years ago (once I saw they were selling Rizla ciggie papers at Giant supermarkets) – saved me a bundle since then.

    Monthly smoking bill less than RM50, Mat – tak jealous ke? 😀

    Sir Cipan

    Tentu lah jealous, abang. RM50 for a month’s worth of smokes! What are you on? I used to do Old Holborn or Three Castles.

    But rollies are a bit cumbersome when you need a quick-fix, rapidfire round of 3 or 4 cigarettes in succession (which is quite often for me). But the ritual of rolling your own is almost zen-like, won’t you say?

    Pre-rolling these babies is just not on – tak sedap. Betul, tak?

  13. Does the Blue Bench story comes in a trilogy? Just like the God Father and Lord of the Ring?

    If so, could I have the sequel instead of the dull political analysis?


    I shall, if it pleases you, start on the third instalment of ‘Blue Bench’ very soon. I only hope that it will not disappoint. In any case, I tire very easily of political analysis; be they dull or otherwise. I’ll simply leave that to the experts.

    Good night

  14. Evening Esq,

    Could someone pleased pass round the hat for for the Esq cigar stock?

    A carton of Winston and a box of 500ml of Evan Aqua via FedEx would do!

    Where shall we mail it sir?

    Well written Old boy!

    Concern Citizen

    Thank you. Er… but do I deserve all this?

    I’ll keep the Winstons, tho – whether I deserve them or not.

  15. Mat Bangkai,
    Blue Bench (aka Finding Sara) got part 3 meh? I’m a sucker for sad ending. Loves to see the main characters suffer like shit or something. Baru thrill! Hahaha! (Can u see my evil grin now?)

    BUT I give exception to Finding Sara… Hoping for good ending but knowing you, I’m sure you leave it hanging kan?

    … Somehow rather, I’m beginning to enjoy your cliffhanger / unresolved ending 🙂


    However it is going to turn out, I think you can safely discount the cliche ending whereby either Azhar or Sarah dies of leukemia (or something).

  16. My Marlboro Lights is now RM9 a pack! Nak go back to roll-ons, machine roll-on nak kena beli lain…. switch to cigar, berlubang poket, the cheapest would be the Philippine cigar (Tabacalera, 1881 Flor de la Isabella)….but it’ll be a good excuse to always go back to Manila hehe

    The Last Gig

    How right you are. Rollies are great – if you’ve got the patience. Cigars are marvelous – if you have the money (even Tabacaleras, sadly enough). Wouldn’t it be fun if they brought back fags like Rough Rider or Signal, at the price point of 35 sen a pack?

  17. Dear You,

    So, is it the “Blue Bench” or “Finding Sarah?”


    Embun so fair

    It is “Blue Bench… “. It will always be. Azhar has already found Sarah – the love of his life – and has to look no further.

  18. Selamat Malam …

    I am tired.


    I should like to read you these lines from ‘The Soul of Malaya’

    Padang perahu di lautan,
    Padang hati di fikiran…

    Selamat malam…

  19. But dearest, I thought the book is in French? Pardon my ignorance on literature.

    Good night (a real one this time).


    Indeed it was written in French. But it has since been translated to English by Eric Sutton. The best,and perhaps the most delicious part is the sprinkling of Malay ‘pantuns’ and poems. Thoroughly enchanting!

    Good night.

  20. I went back to Old Holborn at first but after a bad bout of flu early this year, shifted to the very much milder Mac Baren (a Danish tobacco).

    Taking time out to roll a spliff is actually a very good practice – forces you into a Zen-like focus by consciously making something with your fingers instead of just trying to solve something in your head.

    I always find that a refreshing break.

    Always remember Ol Bob, man …

    “Excuse me while I light my spliff,
    Oh Gawd I gotta take a lift (leaf?),
    From reality I just can’t drift,
    That’s why I’m staying with this riff.”

    Bob Marley (Easy Skanking)

    Sir Cipan

    I am sold! Off to hunt down Old Holborn (or equivalent) and some Rizlas.

  21. Why are you complaining about Winstons? Try smoking Salems, then you really get burnt. Brilliant entry though .. I like the off-the-cuff style.


    Not complaining about Winstons, per se, ma’am; just about them rising the prices of cigarettes (any cigarette) to just higher than the point where I can afford them 😦

    Off-the-cuff, eh? That sounds nice, ma’am. Thanks

  22. Bangkai,

    Standing idle infront of Dublin bus station, inhaling-exhaling the most poluted poisonous tar-based substance, the coldness of autumm began to torturing my newly operated spinal cord. Crap! how i missed malaysia. We dont have winstons here, no pasar ramadan, let alone highly charge game of poker with the future of a country as a bet. As i’m walking towards my apartment with river liffey by my side, i made a promise to myself ‘$%*& the swiss alps’ this winter i’m coming home………bangkai thanks for your ‘winstons’ piece.


    The pleasure was entirely mine!

    Hope you recover fully from your operation. And let me know when you come back: we can have a teh tarik,or something. I particularly your quip about the high-powered poker game. How apt!

  23. Old Holborn is brilliant. Got hooked on it since the day I got it from the off-license 2 1/2 decades ago. Never looked back since then.

    Pak Din

    Old Holborn is absolutely brilliant. How’s that for coincidence? I discovered Old Holborn at the off-licence, too, some two and a half decades ago. Nice to have you drop by, sir

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