Saturday, August 15, 2009

Jealous Inspiration

Obscurely lying on a table marked “50% discount on all books on this table”, the sky blue painting-like cover reminds me somewhat of those oily gold-y paintings of women with very defined shapes and men with long hair and foreboding eyes riding horses and brandishing swords which hang on the walls of homes where people live to show off their Indian-ness mysterious and therefore cool. The title is in a bold yellow (such an oxymoron – how can it be bold and yellow?) and I immediately already see its love-potential because of the author’s name – Preeta. Sigh, another Indian girl has published a novel. Why can not I?

Price tag of $8.95 – even better because I have just a blue ten dollars in my purse. Wah, so cheap. I can become a writer by reading more and more is my procrastinating principle.

I turned it over and saw, an excerpt. Ha – an excerpt obviously means not enough commendations. One commendation from Tash Aw. Who is that? I must google her. The first phrase from the excerpt and I already know I will buy this book and read it no matter. It’s a perfect fit, it could be a coming home story, It could give me an i’m not the only one feeling – which does nothing for me. It could make me smile for its familiarities and laugh at truths. Am I enjoying it because it’s familiar or because it’s good literature? What’s the difference - nothing.

“Set in Malaysia...” That was enough for me.

I have completed “Evening is the Whole Day” by Preeta Samarasan. Enjoyed while reading and afraid of the last few pages – because its finishing and might be disappointing but I cherish the good and funny parts.

Visited Samarasan’s website and read over her profile many times. The ubiquitous Malaysian-born who left for the big outside world and made it big (obviously-she's been published) – she studied non-potential subjects like arts and literature. Unlike the rest of us at home who studied potential-filled practical subjects like the language of business, debits and credits and other such and such. The last sentence in her profile like all author profiles pierces me sharply. She lives in central France with her husband and dog. There’s a big ‘made it’ feeling if you live in central France. Not just the city of Paris where tourists can also go. But who goes to central France, unless you make it. How does “she lives in Sydney with her husband but no dog” sound.

I wonder now how is it that this book seems to have received so little recognition? No big awards, and no fanfare? Maybe I just was not aware. Maybe it does get its share of fanfare.

Some of Samarasan’s words are not usual speaking words for me. They must be words you learn and use when you study creative things. Many a mental note I made to look up some words on I never did that and now can’t recall any of them. But what I enjoyed most about the book is the italicised lingo of “orang Malaysia” without the “”. Like its part of language which does not require explaining. You just have to get it without thinking it’s something you need to get.

It also reminds me of the God of Small Things style – written in the thoughts of a little kid and some adults – who among us cannot relate to that. Verses of lyrics and poems in centralised and italics with their English translations I never knew. Sometimes we think that we were born big. I can’t remember any of my kid thoughts, let alone my kid feelings. I can only remember now what I have been trying to remember all these years, and my feelings and memories when I looked at old photographs. Not the real feelings but the remembered feelings only are remembered now.

So now there are two novels that write stories of where I am from – part Kerala and part Malaysia. Is there room for more? Yes there is, yes you can. All you need to do is start. What do I have to say? Lots of things I do.

Malaysian Indian family with all its unmentionable problems and extreme fakeness of appearances – a bit of a truism (not my word - picked from pressing Shift F7) for Indians who know what it’s all about. Indians who don’t need to understand – we just get it. But a great fascination for other people who can’t understand it, who are amazed and shake their heads in befuddled turns.

Enjoyed God of Small Things? Sure to enjoy this. Enjoy family situations? Enjoy Bold and Beautiful type complications and unspokenness with a bit more sophistication because of exotic cultural value-environment and your imagination from the language of literature (as opposed to visual impressions)? Sure to satisfy.

I would ask all Malaysians to read Evening is the Whole Day. We often need to be reminded of us. We think that our culture is no culture. Our accent is no accent. What accent? Just say la-la only what. Conveniently altered English is a good part of it. Just simply-simply say. Ha! I love it! And as young Malaysians who were born in the 80’s and after – its important to realise and know the events that shaped our history, short as it may be – we can either be appreciative or disappointed about where we are now. But I think it’s necessary to realise it, whichever way it is. Then only can we contour ideas for our future?

I am jealous of Indian girls who publish novels. I will be until I can do the same. But Evening is the Whole Day still inspires me. It’s a good book. I must have a story inside my head. Maybe a few. Fanfare or no fanfare – I want to see sky blue or bold red colours on a book cover with Mary Zachariah’s name on it lying obscurely on a book store table. Maybe even somewhere as far away as central France or close to home as Ipoh.

I must start it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Is it better in Sydney?

Just over 9 months has passed since I made what was probably the second biggest decision in life (the biggest being getting married to the Bee) - moving to a new country and a new life, almost.

When I told someone back in Malaysia that I was moving to Australia, very rarely did I get the response 'Why?' but more often the response was "Really, that's great, which part?". But interestingly, many Australians posed the question: Why? Why would you leave your home where you were born and raised and move here?? To which I can only say, for better opportunities, different exposures, thinking of the future for children i may have etc etc etc.

But when you bring it right down to the wire, and have to think back...was it a smart move?

I am still saying yes, but well, its only a measly 9 months. I'm sure i will ask myself this regularly.

Being in another country, having my hubby around is my saving grace and probably what keeps me sane.

We both are working and enjoy our jobs, challenges, colleagues, learning curves we face everyday, and the little differences in work culture that no one even thinks needs to be told to you because its such a norm, which I can't think of right now, but the little nuances are there.

We obviously miss our parents, our brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and extended families. We miss the love, support and interdependence. We miss the ability to walk out of our homes with a pair of shorts, slippers, T-shirt, your wallet and mobile phone to run an errand or meet a friend. Actually considering stepping out of the house here requires planning...what to wear, need to put on a jacket, scarf, shoes, where are we going, what time does it close, etc.etc. That's a pain though.

We miss the 'gang' of friends that are always insanely free (just as we are) to hang out at a mamak or chinese shop and chat on end about anything and everything from the reviewing the Wolverine flick to where to get the cheapest set of wheel rims, and of course sometimes actually talking about Malaysian politics.

We miss our moms' cookings...different as they are in each home (Kerala food in mine, and 'Indian-Malaysian' cooking at Ezra's place) I find myself constantly trying to recreate that here in Sydney, sometimes with success sometimes without.

So there, its been said...a major miss out here is the Malaysian cuisine, and yes- it is a cuisine indeed. Just as I discovered that Malaysians had an accent! (I never though of that back home - everyone else has the accent, not us!!). I find it delightful that my Aussie friend can't comprehend the 'English' conversations that Ezra and I have.

The things that make us laugh, reminisce of home and excite us are so unusually but predictably mundane. Discovering an Asian supermarket at a Sydney shopping centre that sells "Assam fish paste" which is made in Taman Klang Jaya makes me laugh. I found the famous Penang Tau Sah Piah there as well (visitors to Penang cannot leave without purchasing boxes of these)!! Thank goodness for importers and exporters who bring all these products over here. I found Lingham's extra hot chilli sauce!! How exciting! And I love the fact that if I like, I can have fresh hot char siew pau for breakfast from the 'dim sim' shop on Pitt Street on the way to work. But that's pretty rare, and ends up being Raisin Toast or Chocolate spread on bread. We are craving Malaysian humour and have seriously watched Comedy Court way too many times such that we have even memorised their facial expressions (since we have already memorised their lines). We watch all the Petronas advetisements on you tube and suddenly appreciate and embrace the culture that we have, even more than we ever would have back home. We are thrilled at discovering a Bah Kut Teh place just a stone's throw from our home.

So, how does it compare? Is life better here?

I would say yes because I am enjoying a new life with my hubby and can say that we are building it all by ourselves. I am thankful for the benefits we get now and will get in future from the government and our employers. I am thankful for the numerous activities there are to do here, be it watching a play at the gorgeous Opera House, to driving through gorgeous mountains to get to some of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen, or the Pacific Ocean view that I can see from my office desk (or near it). I am thankful for the church we were blessed to discover and become a part of, and the friends that we made from work and church which we are so blessed to have. I am thankful for the melting pot that Sydney is such that I can get absolutely any ingredient to make Malaysian food, Malayalee food, Chinese food or if I don't feel like making it, we can drive to Janani's to get a nice crispy thosai or to Flemington to buy Siew Yok, and stop by Pyramid Spice and Video to buy a Kamal Hassan or Mamooty movies DVD.

But I long to have all my family and friends here...ahh that would be perfect! Especially my parents - I selfishly believe that they will love it here (without consdering whether they may not) and long for the days when they will be here.

Until then - to my friends and family back in Malaysia, and in India and other parts of this great world, I hope you can someday come to Sydney for a visit. Homebush West is an interesting suburb that sometimes hardly feels like Australia. Sydney is famous for so many things, and we hope to be able to show you a little bit extra that we have so far discovered.

In the meantime, we will keep on discovering and learning about living and life in Australia. Learning the difference between AFL, NRL and Rugby Union is probably one of the more challenging tasks. I will still stick to 'football' a.k.a soccer for now. Oh, and of course, we also now must try to get over Thai food. There are seriously more Thai restaurants in Sydney than there are Thai people. No more green curry+rice please.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Many holiday destinations look so glossy and are really overhyped in a colourful tourist's brochure that when you see it in the flesh, you are somewhat disappointed or any exhilaration is rather shortlived.

For such holiday spot, thankfully more often than not, the journey makes up for lack of excitement at your destination.

This was our trip to Canberra, the capital city of Australia during the post-Christmas and pre-New Year days. Ez thought it would be a good destination as we figured it should be pretty quiet since everyone would be away from canberra (boy was that an understated thought).

The Forester was loaded with some healthy goodies and plenty of water. At the utmost insistence of his beloved wife, ezzybee didn't use the Hume Highway which would have gotten us to Canberra in 3 hours, and instead we took the Grand Pacific Drive (or at least part of it).

First up, we drove through the Royal National Park. You have to pay $16 to use the park facilities for a day but since we were only driving through it was free of charge of course. It was a pleasant drive and the air was crispy clean. Plenty of trees left and right - i felt almost as if i was in a fancy car advertisement (the ones where the BMW races through a perfectly tarred road and the sunlight gorgeously reflects the trees on the polished bonnet and the leaves flutter away in awe of the mechancal masterpiece). Of course, our car was not as fancy as a BMW.

At the end of the National Park, we arrive at a place called Stanwell Park where we stopped for some grub...there was a little cafe called Palms Cafe. I had an interesting meal of Bacon, Roma Tomatoes and Rocket Lettuce on a Sourdough bread. Western food always lacked the imagination of a "name" for a dish. If you wanted to describe a certain dish, you would just say something long winded and flowery like "a beautiful grilled side of crisp bacon on a bed of lusciouly vinaigretted rocket lettuce wedged between perfeclty plumped Roma tomatoes"....aka a Open Sandwich.

Enough about that...after all that driving through the park, we were in for a special surprise at the next spot..on the way to towns like Thirroul ..we had to pass through what is known as a Sea Cliff Drive. A recently constructed road, its predecessors were prone to rock falls from the high cliffs on the coast. The expanse and calm of the Pacific Ocean takes my breath away and we are forced to stop and attempt to capture these images. Of course, the brilliance of God's natural blue cannot be captured even by clever Japanese inventors of Nikkon cameras.

You can see the sea cliff drive from a distance here. Here is a close up shot on the drive.

From here on, the drive goes along the Coast...and we drove through Wollongong, which is a pretty big town with crowded beaches..and then we moved on to Shellharbour and Port Kembla. From a tourist vantage point, we caught these images. The Pelicans here were So huge and I have never seen such big birds flying in the sky...a highlight of the trip indeed.

After Port Kembla, the next point of interest was supossedly the blowhole point at Kiama. Only at this point did i discover what a blowhole is. It is basically a hole in coastal rock formations resultant from years of erosion. As water flows into these rocks, pressure is built up at the bottom and when the water has no where else to go, it shoots up through the hole at a great blowing force.. hence the name, blow hole i presume (i did not wikipeadia this i swear).

We sure saw the blow hole but were not blessed to see a water shot through the hole. It was low tide anyhow, and it is known that the winter months promise better times at this place. Here are some shots of the blow hole. Since it was low tide, we took the opportunity to scale some rocks...and get some pics.

From here on, the practical bee in ezzybee said enough scenic views (we had already been on the road since 11 am, and it was getting on to about 5pm) so we got off the pacific drive and headed inland towards our destinasi. We had planned to cut across Jamberoo and drive through Jamberoo Mountain Road, through to Goulburn and then to Canberra.

The mountain road was pleasant with plenty of near hairpin bends and hilly roads of course. It reminded me of the drive we take up to Cameron Highlands back home...during which I never fail to get car sick (unless I'm driving). Unfortunately, ezzybee is the only one with the Australian driving licence! :(

After Jamberoo, it was onto highways...and boy are the roads straight!!

Both sides had rolling hills with herds of cows and sheep...and i brought up my usual "herd-a-cows" joke from Mind Your Language. Giovanni the Italian class monitor tries to teach Spaniard Juan the collective noun for cows. He asks "What is a lot of cows?" and when he doesn't get an answer he says "a Herd-a-cows" in a think Sicillian accent (his "of" became "a"). To which Juan indignantly replies " Sure i heard of cows!". Giovanni relents and says "Santa Maria, a herd-a-cows is a lot of cows!" and Juan retorts "and You spik a lot of bull!!"

As Ezzybee chuckles at this repeated comedic act, we then come up to an unusual sight - on our map it says Lake George on our right, but all we see is a huge expanse of completely parched brown ground...with patches of green and yellow grass here and there. We figure this is lake George! How beautiful it would have been if it was filled with blue water. Unfortunately, Lake George has apparently dried up..since about 10 years ago and it is an indication of droughts faced by NSW. Well, at least sheep get to graze in it now!

And finally, after a day of absorbing hills, skies, trees, ocean views, and fresh air, we arrived at Canberra. The city originally named after the word "Kamberra" meaning "meeting place". What a drive it was....the best part of our trip, as I would soon discover. Canberra was just deader than a doornail if that is even possible! Perhaps it was the holiday season of course, but this capital city's sights and sounds deserve another post.

Friday, June 09, 2006

9-11 united a large part of the world in grief. The FIFA World Cup unites the world in nationalistic pride, idolisation of individuals, heavy betting, enormous sponsorships and advertising campaigns, and of course....the little fact about the football game itself.

Klinsmann's young German side has just made a perfect start to their world cup campaign with a 4-2 hard fought defeat over the small South American nation of Costa Rica. No matter which part of South America a boy hails from, the Costa Ricans showed that having a football at his feet, makes him dance with glee.

One might say that the new FIFA World Cup football is lighter than its predecessors which makes for a lot more goals (who doesn't love the goals in football). Indeed this was witnessed in the first eighteen minutes of the game by which time, there were three goals between the two sides. The beauty of football is in the way it is played, and the Germans and Costa Ricans displayed professionalism at its greatest height as perfect tackles and well taken passes were seen throughout the 93 minutes of play. "Super Porras" impressed in Costa Rica's goal making several excellent saves whilst my dear Arsenal's Jens Lehmann, well, did his usual...a few near misses always help along the way.

Although during the first half, possession was evenly taken by both teams, the Costa Ricans seemed to take a defensive role in the second half allowing the Germans to get the feel of the penalty area one too many times for their coach's liking. And what happens when a team attacks, more often than not, they end up getting the goals! The best goal of the game surely came from Torsten Frings whose bullet shot from what seemed to be about 25 metres was driven straight past Porras without much hesitation or help.

Although the Costa Ricans seemed to be the "sturdier" side and fell over fewer times than the Germans, fortunately or unfortunately, what is academic in football is not your flair and flamboyance but your record of balls in the net. An efficient German side has produced a efficient German scoreline to satisfy their equally efficient former German superstar coach Klinsmann, and to say the least, the entire nation.

The young team definitely has a potential to go far in this tournament with the support of its homeground. Yet its difficult to say as it appears that at this level, almost every match will be hard fought and no easy task. But for today, its a victory, so there is a party. Bring on the beers.

This football fan will be back with more opinionated commentaries. Poland v Ecuador. My bet's on the South Americans. Let's watch and see.

Monday, February 27, 2006

It used to be all about the music

If i'm sitting at home enjoying a somewhat silent saturday siesta, the soothing sounds of sixties and seventies music on the 'golden oldie' station is music to my ears, literally. And not just any kind of music...truly feel-good wholesome make-you-want-to-sing kind of music that cheers me up more than anything else could.

Sure, the very fact that i know at least seventy percent of the oldies played (now playing: It never rains in Southern California by Albert Hammond - the pan-flute during the interval is wonderful), and that i now know only songs played on pop stations (without bothering who sings it and what its called) frightens me a little, and makes me realise two things, how old i really am, and that i sometimes believe that maybe I was born into the wrong decade.

Several things have made me realise that life today (say, post mid-80s) has become monumentally more complicated than before. Life had to be easier in those days (that's why it was called the 'swinging sixties' and the 'rocking seventies'). If you watch old Wimbledon excerpts on cable sports channels which ends with the tag line "Another Golden Moment from Wimbledon", interestingly, the crowds sat much nearer to the court than they do today, and people were smoking in the crowds!! It makes you wonder that maybe people had more freedom than they do today. Today, i truly believe that we are prisoners. We are prisoners of our own fears. Our fears of everything around us being unhealthy, being unsafe, losing out and suffering. By this very fact, we have pulled out any true joy that life can offer and replaced it with careful decisions and secure movements (now playing "Knock on Wood" not sure by whom - the trumpet is soothing). Yet another interesting point is when you watch people's lives in those days, people were much more individualistic than they dare to be today. They wore their hair anyway they pleased (and no one reprimanded them to be 'neat' because 'neat' was not defined). Somehow, today's socially conscious people do their best to be as similar as the person next to them. Why? To avoid being noticed? To avoid being labelled as 'different' or 'weird'? To be 'in' and not 'out' (now playing "When a Man Loves a Woman" definitely not the new version).

Anyhow, if i was born in the 60's, i would have been a teenager in the 70s. I sometimes wonder about those things i could have done which are quite impossible today. I would never have to buy clean water. I could have walked down the street without worrying about the sound of a motorbike riding nearby. I could have had a small chance of watching Queen live in concert. I could have enjoyed music from the 60's without beng labelled as a geriatric. I could have survived my school days without wondering why God gave me a mop of frizzy curls instead of the beautiful straight hair that every other girl had (straight hair was in during the 90's and doesn't seem to be out of fashion even today). I could have worn all the bright colours i wanted without being looked at as a traffic light or a parrot (now playing "My Girl" by the Temptations - ahh..this is the life).

And you must agree with me when i say this. If we take a look at everything around us today - our books, our news, our music, our movies - they send a significant message of anger, hostility, fear and pain. Not only do we send this message out, we long to hear it from others. We don't get excited by good and true things, but we indulge in what is sensationally horrible for us and for others. True and good things are suspiciously considered with unbelievable doubt to their sincerity. (now playing "Take it Easy" by the Eagles - lovely voice of Mr Henley).

One of my friends (nickname 'Director') claims he does not listen to music made by people who were born before him. Oh my, dear friend, how much you miss!

This may sound like the ravings of a olden-music junkie, but the bands and singers of yesteryears (some of whom are still winning Grammies today and selling out million-people concerts) truly brought heart and soul and life to the music they made because somehow, the love of music was far greater than the thought of the money there was to be made. Today's Backstreet Boys, 98 degrees, Spice Girls, Black-eyed peas (what kind of song is My Hump????) and Jessica Simpsons will not be able to remain etched in the memories of the young ones today. Simply because they lacked the talent to excel in what they were seemingly all about - their music. Everything is about image and marketing today - and when you lost that, you are left with what you had at the beginning - a pretty face (without the lights and make up and the recording company to back you u up).

Contemporary pop music which sells out at the top of the charts today are limited in their themes of hate, guns, fights, anger, sex, various body parts of vivacious females, brokenness and pain. Are we all so injured mentally, emotinally and physically that we dare not express any other minute good feeling we have? Are we such a dejected group of people today? Are we so obssesed with the female person that it must be straddled on television without so much as a thought of a woman's dignity?

Hail the great singers of old who brought a smile to the faces of those who listened to them. Kudos to some of today's musicians who truly showed their talent through all the lights and fame - like Mr James Blunt, U2, Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, John Meyer, Kelly Clarkson, Train, Sarah McLachlan and Coldplay.

But give me the golden oldies any day, songs which only lasted 2 minutes and had a simple 4 beat with about 5 or 6 real instruments (no digitised sounds, no computerised mixes), just a pure natural mix of sounds by people who tried to play what they thought sounds the best and more importantly, loving every minute of everything that it was about - the music. And that was just enough for them. And it will do enough for me.
Mid Feb Blue

The middle of February is a trying time for some, a loving time for others, and a confusing time for many. He was prepared to sail through all of it with nothing more than a smile and a chirpy disposition (nothing unusual of course).

He was surprised pleasantly as the flowers were really beautiful and he cringed slightly. But he has grown up since the last time this happened and he was not prepared to give up on something so beautiful because someone decided to be honest. But he hopes that they will have the ability to not let honesty spoil what they have because it happens much too often in presumably platonic relationships.

Love is a wonderful thing (so said Michael Bolton). Love is patient and kind (so said St Paul). All you need is love (so said the other Paul and his insect friends). Love changes everything (so said Sarah Brightman). Love is a many splendid thing (so said Ewan McGregor). Love will keep us alive (so said the Eagles).

He has resigned to dwell in his thoughts even more than he normally does. If that's even possible, he hopes not find himself guilty of all mind and no heart. He has resigned to the fact that he is truly an ice-king without much thought to the fears and hopes and dreams of others. It seems impossible does it not?

As he thought and thought and thought, he had an epiphany that he was not as grown up as he should be. He was not as beautiful as he should be. He was not as wonderful as he should be. He was more shallow than he wished he was not. He was more worldly than he should be in the ideal world.

One thing is definitely not worth losing, its friendship. A bold step is to take a leap of faith and see how it would work out. Albeit things will never be the same. But what's wrong with this picture now? Is something missing? Is it necessary? He is puzzled beyond help. He is undecided beyond reason. He is lost beyond words. He needs to grow up. He needs to be honest. He needs to be forthright. He needs to live a bit more. He needs to LIVE a lot more. He needs something to happen to give him the luxury of knowing what he wants. He waits longingly for something to trigger to give him the confidence of taking what he wants without looking back.

"You're my friend, you're my angel. You're my Gibraltar, you're my Dictionary of life. Why spoil it? What more do you want? Are you sure of what I can give you, you may be wrong after all " he asks now. He asks now.
Go Figure. Good Luck.

The drudgery that is life. The ugliness that is routine. The horror that results from unvaried days. How can my dynamic personality be expected to survive this monotonous journey of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It's a torture to start, a pain to endure and a pleasure to finish. What comes next is the blessing of Saturday mornings when even the sun wouldn't dare to shine bright enough to disturb blissful sleep but my mother, is an entirely different story. She has no qualms about starting on her list of errands which (albeit are fulfilling for my role as daughter) i have to run. Saturday runs away like a fleeting gazelle, and the beauty of Sunday re-energizes me for the unwillingness that time promises. And so the weekend is over before i could even say "The weekend is here".

I long for disruptions and live for disturbances. I yearn for changes and strive for impact. But there's only so many things which affect my life. But until such time, I can only trapse through the reality that is life with a superficial presence and dwell in the recesses of my mind where i find true reality and real truth. But it cannot be expressed for it will lose its value and nothing shall be cheapened with words. Not even for a blog

Weak Days Ahead

It is not often that we connect with another person on a completely personal level. A remarkable similarity in characteristics and getting pleasure from the same things are usually considered important factors for a good relationship. But a real connection can only be fortified when you can empathise with the other person's emotions and when you see beauty and truth in the same aspects of life, and when you can be honest without pain, and can be happy without regrets. Such connections are rare and we have to hold on to them closely.

And how difficult is it to say goodbye to this person who is connected to you? It is like asking someone to cut off their left arm! You are so used to their presence that you tend to take it for granted sometimes, but you draw such strength from them that you are afraid to face the weak days once they are gone.

I connected with someone during the past few years. This someone is literally my other half and while we are still growing in this relationship, we loved telling stories, regurgitating old memories and planning new ones. This someone came from a different world on a mission and absorbed me all in one breath and the dynamics of my existence in this city were altered loud and clear.

With the mission over, it is time to leave for the old world, which somehow seems dark and unfamiliar because it belongs to a time so far away and forgotten. Thoughts of bidding farewell eject heartful tears and time does not stop.

Ties must be severed to create new ones, memories can be kept but get dusty with the years of being locked away. But they will be kept. No consolation is enough to soothe this angst. Whilst no one is dying, distance can be murder, but all that is kept alive is love. Is it all we need? Does it not die in the distance? Does it not die with the absence? I can only cherish the memory and grow with it somehow.

Do you Remember When...? Promise to always Remember When...

You know who you are.

Christmas Tidings of Greater Joy

Apart from the fact that Christmas signifies the day that Christ was born to save us, His arrival was an expression of that ultimate emotion, love. Everyone is capable of love, and everyone is demanded to love. We are tolerant of other people, we are accepting of people, and we are open to relationships with people because we are inherently capable of love. We are capable of many more things (and less nice things) but first and foremost, we love.

Without saying “I Love you” to a friend or relative in exactly those three words (which may also alienate immature men), there are many other ways to express feelings. By the word “feelings” I mean that humans seek to create connections with those around us because we need connections to survive. We are definitely not the lone-ranger islander kinf of species and were never intended to be.

Giving is a major ingredient in this thing called love (I just can’t handle it!). What is a better time to give than the Christmas season? Is there is a greater joy than making others happy when you give to them? I had a blast this Christmas and gave many presents to those dear to me. I got my Christmas present when I saw their faces as they opened their presents. Faces like that are precious, and moments like that are worth carrying with you wherever you go. And giving without expecting anything in return is a selfless act which builds character even without our knowledge.

I wish that people would strive to be more giving for it really does wonders for your own happiness and the cheer that it creates is rather perfect. The more selfless people get, the more wonderful this world will be. Not exactly a newsflash, but more like a reminder notice. This Christmas season, I hope that everyone spent it with loved ones nearby, and with lots of merry making. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly.

I thank God for allowing me to enjoy days with my dear friends and family, and I trust you all share my sentiment when I confess that we are truly blessed to have each other. I hope we spend many more Christmases together.
An Unusual Resolution

Is it ever possible to be too friendly? Can you be an over-extrovert such that people find you intrusive? Can you reach a stage where people miss the point where you are genuinely sincere to where you are just being yourself? Can niceness become second nature to you that it is completely ignored in a friendship? Is that what a doormat is? No, a doormat is someone who is quietly walked all over. If you are by nature, an easygoing person who is not likely to refute or be rebellious in a situation for his or her own comfort does it not necessarily mean you are taken advantage of? Or can you be just too damn nice to even realize this? Naivety, thy name is mine. I realized something today. I would get into a lot less trouble if I talk less, be it in person or sms or email. My words have landed me in misunderstandings and misgivings and you wish you had thought twice or thrice before opening your mouth, how different things would have been. I’m not one for New Year Resolutions (how cliché and humbug-ed is that!), but as I discover more things about myself, and rub people the wrong way, in a quest to better myself as a person, this is my resolution – to watch my words, to never say anything unless its absolutely necessary and important. How can I survive without mindless gossip? I don’t know yet, but the idea is to try. To those of you who know me, I bet you’re looking smug in disbelief because talking is a past time for me. Saying things which are taken the wrong way are not worth the problems you run into, trust me. The worst part about is, there’s no way to make amends.
Hang a Shining Star up on the highest bough

Of all the wonderful parts of a Christmas season, the music it has to offer would definitely take the cake (oh no, food references again!). Whilst i only have memories of a Boney M Christmas CD being replayed over and over and over during our Christmas family gatherings, somehow we never got tired of it. Miraculous indeed. This year, I strived to compile a collection of classic Christmas carols in various genres of music and re-done by artists boasting varied styles. Beginning with numbers like, "Rockin' around the Christmas tree", it has jazzy versions of "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" and Ray Charles' versions of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". One of my favourites is the R&B African-American Gospel Soul-ish version of "Deck the Halls/Silent Night" by Whitney Houston. It also boasts a mushy and moving "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" and a hilarious Jose Carrerras version of "Jingle Bells". Think Jingle Bells can't be done in opera style? Check out this song man. A country version of "Jingle Bell Rock" which has a twang when you say the word "jingle". To top it off, "Twelve Days of Christmas" from the Christmas with the Muppets by the late and great John Denver. Especially cute is Miss Piggy (i think) who goes "Fiiiiiiive Gooooold Riiiiings, Padum pum pum!".

Apart from my own Christmas 2005 CD, our church groups faithfully bring the good news of Christ to all our members' homes for 5 days as we go a-carolling until wee hours of the morning. Carolling is looked forward to every year with great hype and this year was no different. There's a great sense of peace and good will when you visit the various homes and put smiles on the faces of sleepy children (and sleepy adults). Our Santa Claus had an innovative "Ho Ho Ho" this year that ends in a "Woooooh!!!" This year at carolling also, i no longer have any sensation in the my three fingers on my left hand..thanks to the brass strings of my hand-me down Suzuki guitar. I've had two nights of strumming my life away and my F chord still sounds retarded. More practice needed. It didn't help that my private guitar tutor was also carolling. Lots of pressure. I don't think he was very impressed.

Oh, and i have discovered which home i can get ironically, the most sinful and divine chocolate cake ever! Sam Paul, your mom bakes like an angel.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone. Remember to indulge in everything you wish to, and to always remember those less fortunate than us. Christmas is for everyone. I plan to get red hats and ribbons for the four legged creatures in this house.
Dogs and Cats

I had hoped that Oreo would get along better with Ehud and family. But it does not seem to be happening. In fact, it is fast becoming a distant glimmer in an ideal world. It must only be the world of Calender photographs that dogs and cats get along. So now, Oreo's territory is made up of the front yard and porch whilst the felines rule the side and back yard. Not that they move around much (they just lie around all day). The ideal life of the slug in all of us, eat, sleep, defecate and then start all over again. I don't expect any thing more from cats anyway. Even when they are hungry, cats can affordably give you that "who cares about you" look without much worry, knowing that they have their owners wrapped around their tiny paws. Ehud is hardly an "aristocat" (more like aristo-FAT - she's a huge mass of protoplasm, my friend susan says she looks like the feline version of a Jersey cow) Her orange and white kitten, Friday, is more affectionately known as "Veeran" for her adventurous and mischievious nature which lands her up in pain or trouble or worse yet, troubling pain. The name follows that of the famed robin hood bandit, Veerapan who ruled the jungles of Tamil Nadu until his long awaited capture and death last year. She is Mom's favourite and precious baby. I certainly believe that her unusual sentimental attachment to this kitten shows signs of a void of a grandchild. Oh Boy. Friday climbs and crawls all over the kitchen, dining table, bedroom and toilets and as far as she's concerned - she's ruler of all that she surveys.

Oreo is a bundle of joy given to us by his rescuers from the streets and monsoon drains of Segambut. The name Oreo is aptly chosen as he is an all-black puppy with a white spot on his chest and he's sweet as hell! The family that found him unfortunately live in a condo unit and were sad to give him away. As Oreo grows attached in his own special way to each member of this family, a few slippers have been ruined, a few hands bitten (a few times), a few neighbours have been disturbed and all cats have been angrily petrified.

Kazza (who we only just discovered was a Tom Cat when we took 'her' to the vet to be spayed) is a gentle giant. With a beautiful ash coat, he is bigger than his sisters and he's just like a man. It takes very little to please him and he is less bothered about his surroundings, less concerned about who's got the nicer sleeping spot and how much food the dog is getting. But also like a man, he can sleep anywhere in an instant...a true narcoleptic.

Crusoe is blessed with an ash coat too and is the prettiest and most demure of all. With a lean figure and big eyes, she's always found in an uncompromising dainty position. However, she's got the yellow-est streak of jealousy of poor Oreo. What to do, she's a real woman! Highly territorial and possessive of everything that's hers!

The names of the cats were chosen because they were all born on Good Friday. So Friday (due to the day), and since Man Friday was Robinson Crusoe's good friend (in the children's classic), Crusoe, and Kazza is the Latin root word for "cat". Yes, everything is deeply thought before christening.

Maybe one day i will come home to see Oreo lying around with one of the kittens atop him. But it will not be soon. I just hope i never see Oreo with some orange feathers around his mouth. I would soon get thrown out of this house, along with Oreo by Mom!

Suggestions of "yum cha" or "movie" or "going to 1U or MV (mid valley)" are always welcomed with positive responses be it work nights and on weekends. In stark comparison, its disheartening that suggestions for a visit to the National Zoo or the National Museum or the National History Musuem (yes we have one located close to the heart of Kuala Lumpur) will get reactions (if not laughter and smirks) such as "Why, haven't you been to the zoo?" and "Yeah, right, you've got to be joking". Is it such a ridiculous idea to do something which does not involve the gastronomical activity of consumption, consumption, consumption??

I have asked this question many times: while food and drinks are a crucial part of the human life, is it really everything? It seems such a bore to commemorate every birthday, anniversary, congratulatory event and even funerals with something to eat and something to drink. Years down the line, your most memorable occassions will be categorised by where and what you ate and who ate with you. Our entire lives revolve around the concepts of stuff, chew and swallow. Food is a celebration of life but life should not be a celebration of food!

I wish for us to transcend to greater (not necessarily more profound) but even more simple, yet interesting and innovative activities. Some interesting ideas include, jungle trekking, stream trotting, or visiting an old section of KL which hasn't altered in the new millennium, watching a comedy or play, starting a book club, or helping out at an animal shelter and even just sitting around in a friend's house playing trivial pursuit, pictionary, tabboo or monopoly on a rainy day with lots of warm chocolate, or even something that gets the lateral mind working like a motorized treasure hunt.

And if you take the extra effort, you will realise that you can get around to a lot of these activities without spending an immense amount of money. For example, a cinema ticket costs RM10, on average whilst its still only RM2 to enter the Museum (I kid you not!).
At the ripe age of 25, i can't even remember my perennial zoo/museum trip (you know, THE zoo trip and THE museum trip which bans you from ever going there again). So, i vote for a trip down to Muzium Negara or even Zoo Negara (for those who know that I plan to drag you along with me...i can imagine them cringing as they read this) and to the National History Museum as well. Since I never had the benefit of studing Malayan history (ah, that's a wonderful subject), its probably the only option left for me, save reading about it. There's so much joy and enrichment from soaking up historical culture. Now, at zoo negara, I'd just have a wonderful time looking at animals. After all, they're at the zoo so that we (the humans) can see them in their 'natural habitat'.

Today's NST has a write up on trekking in Bukit Gasing. That's only a stone's throw away from your favourite Indian shop, Raju's (we Malaysians must really stop associating everything (including locations) with food! It's amazing that a different world of jungle, animal and plant life is so close by. Urban life today is sadly left to only witness such wonders of nature through a 29 inch screen. The unfortunate thing about the 29 inch screen is that although you can see the lush forsts, the sandy beaches and the blue waters, you can't breathe the fresh air, you can't smell the smells, and you can't feel the atmosphere. Serenity on television is only virtual, so calmness is also virtual. For real serenity and de-stressing, there's nothing like the real thing. If you ask me, giving up a real experience for a virtual one is rather a sad, distant and dejected situation.

But anyhow, we all try to do the best we can. I spend valuable time with people of various qualities, likes, and lifestyles. Whilst i may do my very best to impose my wishes on how we spend our time, being an easygoing person, i do end up at the mamak, at the movies, or at the malls, on a pretty regular basis. So, i will be seeing the girls (Muhibbah) for 'yum cha' tonight in Klang, and will be going to Ikea with my mother tomorrow. But i wish for the special days, and the happening weekends when I get to do something new, when i get to soak up Malaysia's rich history, culture, flora and fauna, when i have the chance to laugh with friends over something other than sarky gossip (although this is highly enjoyable especially with Muhibbah girls over Milo O Ais) and i will definitely have no difficulty in taking out RM2 to visit the Museum. It'll win over a movie any day. Who's up for it?

Uncanny how on a Sunday night, I calmly contemplated the week ahead. As far as I recalled, the week promised to be an uneventful one. Suddenly, by Monday at noon, the entire week nights are filled with promises, hangouts, dates and events and all this means work!
Yes, organising and planning an outing is work!

You need to make reservations (or get tickets, whichever is applicable), send out the email invitations, track them and also chase after those who choose not to reply. Sometimes, not replying means, "I may or may not show up but I can't click on to a commitment right now so i'm under no obligation to do so". Sigh, a simple NO would suffice. Then, depending on the location of the event, you need to make sure everyone knows how to get there and has transportation to and fro. Finally, after enjoying the meal comes the nightmare of sorting out who pays what and how much. Thankfully, small issues like this go off sans much hitch.
Now dates on the other hand, are a lot more interesting (especially when you're invited out on one). Note that Date in this context does not mean a passionate one-on-one tongue wrestling match where nothing but romance and questions like "Is S/He The One" are on the minds of both Romeo and Juliet, but is rather an outing which involves only two persons, one male and the other female. What does happen is a lot of conversation, maybe some flirtatious under or overtones complemented with updates on each other's love lives (be it sad, non-existent or otherwise) and a promise to meet up again if an enjoyable time was on the cards.

Depending on the creativity of the other party, a date can be eventful like a movie at Mid Valley Megamall, a visit to the Zoo, a play at the Actors Studio or quiet, like a dinner at a restaurant where the Menu is indiscernible to the average Malaysian tongue (i.e. in Italian) where the words Bolognaise and Carbonara are warmly welcomed as familiar! Whether the date involves hard-to-pronounce food, or lots of caramel popcorn, all that matters is whether you were comfortable, if there were any odd moments of silence, whether he was gentlemanly, and if he made you laugh. Of course, what you do also matters! Else, its highly likely that he may not be calling again!

Birthday surprises are loads of fun (and a little stressful) on the person trying to hold in the surprise until the very last minute. Sometimes, small oversights and mistakes can get you into potential hot soup, such as locking the main door when the main surprisor is tyring to get in (with the birthday girl by his side) or if among all the Surprise Emails flying back and forth, one actually ends up in the birthday person's inbox! End of a hard day's (or week's work), the smile on the face of the surprisee is probably worth it. But, i'm beginning to wonder, if surprises are done on a regular basis, it is no longer a surprise per se, but is an expected surprise which results in the surprisee wondering "When is it going to happen?", and not "What is going to happen?". But a lot of personal touches can go a long way, such as playing the surprisee's favourite music or inviting that someone special who they have not seen in a long time.
Last but not least, I need to figure out a way to wake up early on Thursday morning after what promises to be a late Wednesday night. A guest in our country wishes to be shown the wonders and thrills of KL night life. So, as the warm people of this 'truly Asian" land, how can we deny the request of this enthusiastic Sydney-sider?

Since Monday's practically over, there goes my Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in a flash. Exhausting, indeed (just thinking about it). Next post will definitely be a discussion on the challenges of a busy and demanding social life (and how to not lose too much dollars and cents in the process).
Now I know what a frozen yogurt feels like
It must be at least 13 degrees inside this planet called "Workstation". Not only are you required to be here for almost twelve hours, you are subjected to temperatures in which even a penguin could not make an informed decision.
Its a drab Tuesday and my 5th floor windows are fogged. Not that there's much of a view (the 5th floor of the next building does not count as a view). The rain which promises to fall every afternoon, evening and night does so dutifully today. The weather outside does not help the weather inside. Brrr.
The only highlight of Tuesdays is usually Trivia Night at Backyard. An easy way to win a few jugs of Tiger or Carlsberg by showing off your general knowledge prowess over other minnows who flock tothe bar. But tonight is different. Tonight marks an important milestone at home. Thirty years of wedded bliss, thirty years of reflection, remembrance, regret...whatever. Yes, my parents have been married for thirty years. Damn. I'm old.
So celebratory dinner is at a new found Indian eatery suggested by Dad. I can foresee Dad complaining about sub-standard quality of Malaysian Indian food and Mom being on edge the entire time thinking of home, Oreo (black lab newest addition to family), and Kazza, Crueso, Friday and Ehud (a family of cats), and how hungry they are. Mom was always a 'feed others before self' kind of woman. A gem.
Well some things haven't changed in thirty years. And i guess some things won't. I hope that whatever was there for the last thirty years (i'm not sure what exactly) will be there for another thirty more...
The highlight of my week is the annual dinner to be held at a fancy down town hotel, its name begins with Sha and ends in La. Looking forward to it because since time immemorial, "Annual Dinner" has always been a politically correct version of "Annual Get Sloshed Cuz Your Company's Giving Free Booze". And of course, its an opportunity to dress up. And like any 'red-carpet' night, you will be witness to dress themes like "Don't ever leave your house without looking in the mirror" or "Please buy a mirror if you don't have one" or "We'll start up a fund for you if you can't afford a mirror" and the ever favourite nostalgic "What Were You Thinking?". Unfortunately, you can never be rid of all these wonderful highs and styles cuz of all the pictures that will be taken. So if you're already blinded by the flashes of all the digi cams and other lowly film cams (at this point you should already have a light head due to the excessive consumption of alcohol), don't worry, you won't miss a THING.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The office posse is flavoured with many characters, some accomodating, some not. Some, irritating, others more. Some sweet, but blur. Yet others, are pure genious. (no prize for guessing). But, the love is always there. A certain group of artistes named after lentils asked "where is the love?", i tell you dhall-people its right here! There's a small buzz of excitement around the office posse with the Penang trip drawing nearer each day... i bet you there's different agenda's on everyone's mind....but we'll have a great time none the less.

Trust that no one would complain of boredom, especially 7 months down the line. Moving away from the office, please don't think I have a lack of breathing life outside this 12-storey building. Yes, there's much life at home. My mother is addicted to half-hour tele dramas for which 'dancing masala packet' sponsors take up 15 minutes (when she's not involved in church activities of course). My brother, I think, is surviving at his new job in a little district called Pathumthani in the north of Bangkok.

Between haunted houses, plumbing systems that do not allow you flush down toilet paper (yes, this is true - why do they call it toilet paper then???) and elephants stopping for a chat while you dine pork noodles, pork pies, pork rice, pork soup, pork buns, pork pizza, pork pasta, pork ice cream (ok, that's stretching it) at a way side stall - Bangkok sounds like a great place to live. Not for pigs, apparently. Or for motorists apparently.

Speaking of traffic, tune into FM90.3 or 100.1 in the Klang Valley from 3 to 7 pm Mondays thru Fridays to laugh it off with Labour Pains (hosted by Double D and i can't remember the other guy's name) but they're really hilarious. And they don't repeatedly play Avril Lavigne (for those of you have a problem with that). Its September - fall, in certain parts of the world, in KL, you may say its Fall...but rather the fall of fresh air (or its disapperance) than dried leaves. this blog can't breathe..choke ! splurt !