Tuesday, December 27, 2011

5-Hour Existence


Raja died aged 5 hours old.

Raja had a fatal birth defect called anencephaly – which means he was born with much of his skull missing, and most of his brain exposed. His optical nerves failed to form normally, so he was totally blind. Anencephaly strikes 1 in 10000 babies. Raja happened to be that baby. He was not expected to live long –babies with anencephaly, after all, often die almost immediately after birth.

Raja’s mother knew about her baby’s condition 5 months into her pregnancy. Needless to say, it was devastating news. A typical expecting the birth of a child would spend the pregnancy preparing for the arrival of a brand new individual – their own flesh and blood. Raja’s family spent the pregnancy preparing for the death of the child. There would be no baby shower, only a funeral. Instead of preparing a crib, they prepared a coffin.

Raja’s 5-hour life was longer than anybody expected it to be. Some expected him to, quite literally, drop dead instantly after birth.  Yet he stayed around long enough to spend time with his extended family, who was all there. He spent his brief life close to his mother, a cap covering his vulnerable head.

The most touching part of the documentary was after Raja had died, and his diminutive body was being passed around the room, to be held by his family members. Watching the love in their eyes, love for a family member they would never watch grow up. Then he was lowered into his coffin, like any baby being put to sleep for his afternoon nap.

Watching this documentary on TV made hit me hard. I compared myself to Raja’s parents, his family. To Raja himself.

Am I as strong as Raja’s mother, who chose to carry her baby to term despite knowing about her child’s fatal birth defect?

Am I as supportive as Raja’s family, who dropped everything to travel from afar and comfort a loved one in need?

How many lives have I touched in my life…the way Raja has touched so many lives in 5 hours?

Do I value the gift of existence…a gift denied to Raja?

We always complain that 24 hours a day is not enough to do anything. Raja teaches us that you can do so much in just 5.

I admire Raja. He was blind, but he inspired others to see. He died young, but he inspired others to live. He did not leave any last words, but his message is priceless:

Thank God every day for the simple gift of existence.




Raja’s full story below:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pedas Giler? Challenge Accepted


The sign said ‘Nasi Goreng Kampung – Pedas Giler!!!’

A cheap, cheesy sales gimmick, admitedly– but I fell for it. The sign felt like a challenge to the very integrity of my tastebuds, and if I could answer the sign in two words or less, it would be this:

“Challenge accepted”

Order up; I called for “Nasi Goreng Kampung” with a voice which conveyed authority and confidence. My tongue never felt so ready to face the barrage of spiciness I was sure it would face (or rather, taste).

But I was careful not to let my confidence blind me to the trial I would face. In preparation for my showdown with NGK, I ordered a cup of laici susu (which turned out to contain more ice than laici susu) due to milk’s properties as an antidote to spiciness.


The chef played a good psychological game. For one thing, he took a really long time to prepare the meal. In the meantime I was subjected to air laden thick with cili padi particles from the kitchen. Sneezing uncontrollably, I soon realized that it was a cunning, sinister move by the chef to undermine my tastebuds through my nasal cavity. Well played, chef. I have to admit that I was slightly shaken. A sip of laici susu to calm my nerves.

My resolve stood strong – I was not to be defeated before the fried rice even arrives. For 30 minutes I waited; once again, a sneaky move by the chef to build the suspense. Several more sips of laici susu to calm my nerves.


Finally the much-awaited plate of nasi goreng kampong appeared before me. My laici susu reserves were already at half its full capacity. The plate of NGK looked innocent enough. It was not deeply-coloured, as I expected. For a while I mistook it for nasi goreng cina, until I looked closely and spotted the flecks of cili padi hiding malevolently among the rice. A tentative taste confirmed it – it was definitely nasi goreng kampong. And as promised, it was ‘pedas giler’.

How do I describe the taste? It wasn’t the type of spiciness which attacks the tongue alone. Rather, it carried out a carpet-bombing tactic; the spiciness travels slowly, inevitably down your throat. The only way to overcome this was to eat continuously. Occasionally I would slow down to savour its “oomph” (and because it was quite hot), but I was doing it at my own risk.

The entire meal was a strange chase between these two sensations – the “oomph” and the spiciness.


But I am proud to say that I won the overall battle while hardly breaking a sweat. Sure, my tongue was slightly numb in the end from the heat of the meal (temperature-wise and spiciness-wise), but I can safely that the plate has been safely neutralized. If there were any parting words I would say to NGK it would be to compliment it for a battle well fought. But it has met its match in me.

Credit to the cup of laici susu which helped me through this battle. Although the cup was more ice than laici susu, I couldn’t have done it without you.

Overall, NGK lived up to its tagline.

Still, ‘pedas giler’? Challenge accepted. Challenge overcome.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I am Me

“Are you proud to be Malay?”

Was the question posed to me during a recent course I attended. It was a straightforward question, for most of the course participants at least. But it was a bit tricky for me.

First of all, how Malay am I? My entire life, my Malay name and Chinese looks means that the two questions asked by a person I’ve just met are usually:

“Nama apa?”

And, at the mention of my Malay name, the next question asked with eyebrows raised in slight astonishment:

“Melayu ye?”

As a kid, I would duly nod my head to the second question. After all, my birth certificate, and later my IC, stated that I am “Melayu”. I didn’t really care, frankly. Rarely did I give my mixed heritage a second thought. I was indifferent to the fact that Mama is Chinese and Papa is Malay. I knew I was unique somehow, but so what? I rarely gave very much thought to it.

Later in life my answer to the second question would be “Melayu + Cina”, and a brief description of my parent’s ethnicity. I always saw myself as that. I was never asked to choose between the two. And I didn’t see any reason too.


Until my first real encounter with racism, which (perhaps ironically) happened during National Service. I remember taking my wudhuk outside the camp surau, and another camp participant telling me (jokingly for him): “Eh, ni bukan tokong la”.

Fortunately, I did not find myself the butt of racist jokes during the camp. Besides several references of “apek”, I found myself mostly accepted by all ethnicities at the camp. I count my blessings for that. But NS was the first time I noticed how bad racism really is. The ‘wiras’ and ‘wirawatis’ (as they called the participants) of the camp would, almost automatically, gravitate to those of the same racial background.

Melayu dengan Melayu. Cina dengan Cina. India dengan India. Yang lain-lain tu (which perhaps included me)…pandai-pandailah.

Unfortunately, I learned later that it was not a problem limited to the boundaries of the NS camp. Going to a college which was >90% Malay, I found that racism, though not extreme (yet), was well and alive even among students deemed the crème de la crème of the country.


It is at this point that I have to say this loud and clear: I am not ashamed of my Cina blood. In the same line, I am not ashamed of my Malay blood either. I just question why people have to be so damn proud of their own race to the point that it leads to hate towards others who look and/or act differently.

I used to be offended by jokes on my Cina-ness. The fact that my left eye is a lazy eye and is thus smaller than my right one (“Sebab separuh Cina la tu”) did not help matters. But I have grown past that. I now play along when Chinese jokes are thrown in my direction – why be ashamed? Besides, the eye infection currently going around my college means that I am no longer the only one with one eye smaller than the other (thank you to my roommate, Boiler, for starting off the infection) :p

I am no longer offended by jokes about my Cina-ness. I am, however, offended at jokes or statements aimed at harping on the flaws of the Chinese – to demonise them. I will always try to speak out against that. For that matter, I will also speak out against things said against the Malays if I get a chance to study overseas.


After all is said and done, my search for identity was, in the end, resolved in this college – and for that I will forever be grateful. I did not find my identity in my Melayu-ness, or my Cina-ness, as I always thought I would.

I found it in Islam. A religion I was born in, but perhaps never really lived before entering this college. I have found acceptance – brotherhood – among Muslims. Alhamdulillah.

Perhaps the question at the start of this post merely caught me off guard when I was asked. In retrospect, the question was good for me. It pushed me to decide between being Malay or not. And it made me realize that I have made that decision long ago.

Am I Melayu or Cina? I am neither and I am both. I am Malaysian. I am Muslim.

And most importantly, I am me.

Deal with it.


Fact: Mixed kids are cute :ppp

Saturday, September 3, 2011

51

I guess Papa at the ping pong table epitomizes the way he has lived his life: playful, constantly on the move and irritatingly cheerful (Mama would totally agree with me on that last one).

Let me paint you a typical situation at the ping pong table:



Sweat glistening on my brow (and other parts of my body not appropriate to be mentioned on a U-rated blog), I deftly stroke the ping pong ball across the table. It is beautifully hit, spinning through the air I am convinced that my 51-year-old Dad would be unable to reach it. I am wrong. Somehow he stretches forward and replies with a brilliant cross-court ball. Caught off guard, I cannot touch it even if my life depended on it. It is my Dad's 21st point of the game. Victory for him. Another spirit-crushing defeat for me.

The insidious smile on his lips grows, and a primordially evil sound arose from them:

"YEEEEEESSSSS!!!!"



I have so far won a not-so-grand grand total of ONE game against my Dad. My Dad, on the other hand, has won…let's just say more than one. I've lost count, to be honest.

And it is killing me! This is a man 3 decades older whose me beating me constantly…how can this be happening, you ask?

No, it's not skill. I'm just as good as Papa in that respect (seriously!). Fitness? Come on. Practice? My Dad has barely played ping pong in the last few decades. So how then?

This is how: Papa plays with a composure befitting his years. He plays with a smile on his face. And irritating as it is, I respect him for that. The smile gets wider (and more evil) the bigger his lead, and eventually erupts in evil celebratory laughter after 21 points. Never have I seen him without that evil smile. When my Dad plays, he does with the belief that he will win. A confidence that has come with age. Evil confidence…

But there is one area though where Papa's confidence is, I think, misplaced: his health. Mama constantly lectures Papa to not drink cold drinks, or oily food, but Papa goes on with it anyway. There's little anyone can do to stop him. Hell yeah, "Stubborn" is a prominent feature on Papa's CV.

Papa, when it comes to matters of health, you should LISTEN TO MAMA! And I'm sure you will eventually. Like a player who initiates a last minute comeback to win the set, I am sure you will make the right decision in the end. There are a few things that comes with age. Sometime in the last half-century (yeah, you're that old Pa), Papa has added "Wise" to his CV after "Playful", "Cheerful" and "Lame" :p

Pa, this is not an insult to you. When we call you an old man (and I speak on behalf of Mama and Adik too), it is in a lovably respectful way; as one would describe wine made flavorsome by age. (Not that I would know how wine tastes like).

In the end, this post is not (just) the rant of a son who has lost to his dad (unfailingly). It is a tribute to a Dad who is a credit to his 51 years.

A friend of mine (his name won't be mentioned to protect his identity) at the futsal court told me: "for his age, your Dad is a very fit guy". Of course, as most sons would do, I answered with a shrug and a "nyehh…!", but honestly, I agreed with him. I can only wish to have Papa's futsal skills when I'm 51.

As a son, I just hope he will keep it up. It would be a shame for all that skill to go to waste just because you can't run anymore. So, once again, LISTEN TO MAMA when it comes to eating habits! *high-five from my Mum* :p

I am a sore loser (I got it from Mama). But Papa, if there is anyone I am to constantly lose to, I am happy it is you. It is an honour, sir.

Stay healthy, Pa. We all want you around for another 51 years. I may need that amount of time to finally beat you at ping pong :D

Happy Birthday, Pa.



I just give chance for your birthday la...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quiet Strength

I guess some would call my nenek unlucky for having not one, but two strokes; I argue that she's lucky for surviving both without permanent damage. Regardless, she epitomizes this year's Raya Eve.

This year's Raya's Eve was markedly quieter than previous years. Frankly, it wasn't that fun either, due to the following reasons:

  1. No takbir (going house to house on Raya Eve) at my nenek's neighbourhood in Klang this year, the first time no takbir in many years.
  2. Only a few cousins stayed over at nenek's house this year.
  3. The only fireworks we played were Pop Pop, hardly an adrenaline-pumping edge-of-the-seat experience. Even then we were stopped by an "Oi, nak tido la!" from the neighbor.
  4. I lost a badminton match with my 9-year-old cousin. Whatever. I am more of a ping pong person :-/

Still, I have to give due credit to the few cousins who came (yes, even the 9-year-old Lin Dan wannabe) for the amount of noise and Raya mood they generated in brave defiance to the "Oi!" neighbor. Also, our lust for fire was eventually satisfied with an improvised bonfire fuelled mostly by cardboard Pop Pop boxes. Special mention has to go to Adik and Inayah (Penan) for doing ZILCH while Taufiq and I had to be the MATURE ones and sweep up the resulting smoking mess (terkejut ke…?) :p


Sorry Pak Yep :p

Anyway, there is a reason for this year's lack of atmosphere. My nenek, after all, was recovering from her second stroke. Being the tough lady that she is, she happily received her grandkids despite her obvious frailty. We couldn't be too noisy though because nenek still needed her sleep.

I wasn't too depressed, though. Recent events have taught me the true meaning of Eid. It is more than ketupat and lemang, or duit raya and mercun. It is about quiet strength. And my nenek is the perfect embodiment of that.

Her legs have been weakened, but still nenek insists on walking herself. Admittedly, she complains of her condition (my aunt bears the brunt of that), but they are complaints usual for a lady her age, and does not stop her from living life. If anything, I now respect her as a fighter. An unlikely one, but a fighter nonetheless.

I was right beside her the night nenek had her second stroke. My leg was supporting her head, actually. Seeing someone I've known my whole life face such physical distress right in front of me had a deep effect on me. I was scared, unsure if any moment could be the last one I would share with nenek. But despite falling into semi-consciousness, nenek steadily whispered the kalimah syahadah until the ambulance arrived.

Quiet strength.

We can all learn from nenek. Whether its Adik, who will be having her SPM trials after the hols, or me with the tonne of assignments I've been worrying about (but barely touched), we could all use some quiet strength now. To quote a good friend of mine (and I am quoting from an SMS here): "u know what, take this as a phase in life. Lifes surely wont get any easier, buts its us to choose to be stronger, wiser or not. Er am I getting this rite?"

Yea, you got it right, Sya. A little discreet determination is all we need :)

I am inspired by what I've seen today on the first day of Raya. My entire family was here, at least before 11a.m., and for the morning I was a kid again. Underneath all the troubles of the recent past, family bonds are as strong as ever. Stronger, in fact because of what has happened to nenek. Quiet strength.

It is also worth mentioning that I've finally beat my 9-year-old cousin (by unofficial count) today. Quiet strength, Aqashah :D

Coming to the end of this post, I have to get something out of the way: in the past year I have hurt many people, not least my mum (I made her cry). To all; family, friends and foes, I apologise. My pahala this Ramadhan would be insipid without your forgiveness, zahir and batin.


The last year has been fun and challenging in equal measures (or is the challenge the fun?) but personally, at least, I think I've come out a stronger man. Dang…still weird referring to myself as a man :-/

Salam Eid everyone.

Stay quietly strong J



The tough old lady drinking Milo after being discharged from ward
*the song "Fikirkan Boleh" playing in the background* :DD

Friday, August 26, 2011

Megatron: Maaf Zahir dan Batin

From the Decepticon ship, Astrotrain, somewhere in the dark reaches of space; a special broadcast from the Leader of the Decepticons:


-Start of Transmission-

Greetings.

My name is Megatron.

I am a strong character. I don't care if I have to step on some toes (robot or human) to get what I want. If that makes me a villain, then so be it.

You say I am evil. And you may be right. Thus it may surprise you that I am saying this:

Now that Ramadhan is over and Raya comes along, I would like to apologise to all the Transformers I have offended in my life. Yes, this is as a sudden transformation, but I guess I'm just doing what I do best.

First off, I would like to apologise to the Decepticons. With you, I have been pushy, and I have been intimidating. I have led you into battle after vicious battle, with little to show for it. My Leadership is Tyranny, plain and simple. There is no place for compassion under my watch.

I just hope you understand that I have to be that way. You Decepticons are, to put it mildly, a bunch of strong-minded individuals with high ambitions and over-zealous personalities to go with it. How do you expect me to lead you effectively without the iron grip which I have maintained for all these years?

Yes, I have not been the best of leaders; but let me get this clear, Decepticons: among you, I am the best leader you can have.

But there is one Decepticon I have to single out here - my less-than-loyal sidekick, Starscream. We have had issues in the past. I have screamed at you, threatened you with destruction and you've even had the guts to take over my leadership!

Starscream, let me be clear: you are not the best sidekick. Often times, I've been driven to violent irritation by your idiocy, treachery, and plain incompetency!

But as Ramadhan comes to a close, let us clear the bad blood between us. If not for anything, let it be for the good of the Decepticons. And that is an order!

Moving on, this apology would be insipid without an acknowledgement of the Autobots. I have made your lives hell through my life – and you have happily returned the favour. I have treated your lives with little worth, but let me remind you that you show little concern for the well-being of my Decepticons either.

Nevertheless this is not the place to mull over that. Here I honorably ask for your forgiveness. And if you choose to not give it, you will live to regret it.

If there is one Transformer who deserves my apology the most, it is the leader of the Autobots himself. Optimus Prime, I have called you weak in the past. But secretly I admire your strength. How you naively choose not to kill, to side with human beings who barely deserve your acknowledgement.

In my private thoughts, I have often wondered: why do we even fight in the first place? We both want the best for our home, Cybertron. But you operate on a different set of principles than I do. That is regrettable, but it is so. My actions speak otherwise, but let me say this: I do not hate you. And I am sorry.

If you see this as a sign of weakness on my part, whether you are a Decepticon or an Autobot, you have committed a grave error. The feud between us will not end until the final victory is in my deserving hands. I call for a brief peace in commemoration of this holy period of Aidilfitri. But be warned: this peace is as temporary as your pathetic existence.


This Raya, let my arm-mounted fusion cannon be used to prepare lemang instead of blowing your brains out. Let the Ketupat be our shared passion, instead of the Allspark.


I wish you "Selamat Hari Raya" and "maaf zahir dan batin".

If you know what is good for you, you will do the same.

-End of Transmission-


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Devil in Disguise

It is said that during the holy month of Ramadhan, all setans and iblises (devils) are tied to trees, allowing humans to live the month in total abdication to God. Unfortunately, one setan escaped it's bounds:


Yes, the ping pong table has caused much distraction to me in the last two weeks. Late nights have been spent in humble addiction to its unholy pull; its bewitching tempo…

There's nothing exceptional about the ping pong table at my dorm. If anything, it is an ugly wreck - its surface warped and twisted by rain and shine. Water damage has made the surface as pockmarked as my face after running out of face wash (yes, that bad)



Playing on the table once referred to as "the surface of the moon" by a friend of mine requires a whole lot of patience - and a whole lot of stamina too as the ball can easily fall into the drains located haphazardly beside the ping pong table.

But still I am smitten. And after playing 16 straight sets of ping pong with my roommate, Boboi (not his real name) - with Boboi winning 10 of those sets - it is absolutely necessary to question:

What do I love so much about ping pong?

I can't say for sure.

Is it the friends?



Or the mind-numbing pleasure of hitting an orange ball back and forth across a (non) flat surface?

The fact that your day's stress just drips away at the sound of the ball hitting the bat?

Or is it the trance-like feeling when the ball is heading towards you? When it seems like the whole world has stopped – and its just you, the bat and the ball?

Or is it the fact that I am FREAKING AWESOME at ping pong? ;D



I just don't know...

But whatever it is, if I don't do anything, I will be addicted to this sport until I resemble this:


eww
 

So, I shall now bring a stopwatch before I even step near the cursed table. And I shall be strong. Against the devil in disguise.


Monday, August 1, 2011

The Declaration of the Rights of the Announcer

Foreword:

This declaration is made in the wake of several complaints/requests to the Public Relations Bureau of the Students' Representative Council (SRC), along the lines of:

  1. "There are too many announcements…its becoming boring"
  2. "Can't the clubs use the notice board to announce stuff?"
  3. "Perlu ke announce dalam BM?"
  4. "Mike, are you OK?"


     

From these comments, several underlying tenets can be obtained. This declaration is based on those fundamental principles, which we take to be self-evident.

  1. The right of all KMB-ians to information, from whatever medium.
  2. The right of all KMB-ians to carry out activities, scheduled or unscheduled, without interruption.
  3. The right of the announcer as a KMB student.


 

With respect to the above principles, several flaws to the current use of the PA system can be condensed into three chief points:

  • Too many announcements
    • The announcement of every trivial detail through the PA system makes the PA system irrelevant and the notice board redundant.
       

  • Interruption of vital college activities (i.e. classes, kulsem) by announcements
    • This obstructs the right of teachers to teach.
       

  • Stress to the announcer
    • An effectively 16-hour "on-call" period daily for every little announcement causes the announcer unnecessary physical, mental and emotional stress.


 

The Declaration of the Rights of the Announcer:

As such, the Rights of the Announcer are thus Declared:

  1. The right of the announcer to announce only college activities, not club activities.
  2. The right of the announcer to refuse to announce trivial announcements.
  3. The right of the announcer to refuse to make announcements during class; but circumstances of the announcements will be taken into consideration.
  4. The right of the announcer to make special announcements, i.e. at the request of the college administration, teachers, or the Students' Representative Council (SRC)
  5. The right of the announcer to make announcements in Malay, English or both; but preference will be given to English due to the results of a Facebook survey.


 

A description of the implementation of this declaration, effective the 2nd of August 2011:

  1. Clubs will have to rely on the notice board to disseminate information.
  2. The PA system will only be used for official college activities, stated in the annual schedule (takwim). However, clubs carrying out activities for those college activities (i.e. the Interactive Peers during the college-sanctioned Banting Extended Experience program) may utilize the PA system, but only during the course of the college activity.

    

Afterword:

The principles of this declaration will be exercised by the Public Relations Bureau for as long as such a post exists in the SRC. It may seem to be a shirking of responsibility by the Bureau, but, as justified below, it is not.

KMB clubs will be the party feeling most hard done by this declaration, but in the long run it benefits the students, teachers, the announcer and even the clubs themselves by reducing the dependence on the PA system. KMB-ians can also benefit from a quieter KMB, with a drastically less active PA system.

Make use of the notice board, as KMB-ians of generations past have. In the words of a KMB-ian:

"If our seniors survived without the PA system, why can't we?"

In the spirit of independence and survivalism inherent in us KMB-ians, may the spectre of the PA system be put to rest. And may we always


 


 

"Strive for Global Excellence"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Keeping Up with the KMB-ians (Part 1)

Two days ago, I was honored (read: bored to death) with the opportunity to watch "Keeping up with the Kardashians" with my sister. I was "entertained" by the antics of Kim, Kourtney and Khloe and their Mom (who I only knew as "the Mom") and some other people whose names start with "K" - and after 30 minutes my mind was numb with both sleepiness and disgust…it was all so superficial - and so trivial! I mean, who cares if Kim had changed the curtains of her toilet to aquamarine from ultraviolet (yes, I know ultraviolet not a colour), or if Khloe was taking a 17-minute and 52-second nap, or if "the Mom" had decided to not cut her toenails for the week (like, oh my gaaawwwd…!).

I have no idea why Kim (or Kourtney or Khloe or "the Mom") had to talk to the camera (in full make-up) in an interview-like manner every time some little thing happens. E.g. "Kourtney: Like, why can't Khloe flush the toilet after she uses it, ya know? Like oh my gawwd…etc, etc.". WHO THE NERAKA CARES???

So, I have decided to come up with an alternative version of "Keeping up with the Kardashians", centered instead on the lives of KMB students. Nothing superficial, and with the International Baccalaureate in the equation, definitely not trivial! So, let the (imaginary) cameras roll, sit back, and enjoy: "Keeping up with the KMB-ians".

(Italic letters represent words said in front of the camera interview-style).


 

* * *

At 7.50 in the morning, the camera finds Mike in the TV room, putting the final touches on his Mathematics folio – due at 8 a.m. His hands were trembling slightly as he typed the values of OP and OP', names for the radii of intersecting circles. In 10 minutes, the folio was finally done: printed, stapled and glued. But the deed was not yet done; with hair yet to be combed, Mike rushes to put the cursed folio on his teacher's desk. The camera followed unsteadily as Mike rushes across the road and past the ko-op, up the stairs and into the staff room. The teacher not at her desk, Mike leaves it there. His face visibly relieved, he now rushes to class. The clock showed 8.05.

Mike: Like, oh my gawd…I've slept for only two hours last night, and I was still late. I mean, it was, like, hell, man… I was sleepy, and, like really really hungry, and totally pumped up with the deadline and all that, and I was totally trembling by the time I went to class, ya know…?

The camera in class records Mike entering the classroom cautiously. Realising that teacher is still not in, he sits with a satisfied sigh. He has done it! But sitting just next to him, K-own is still not out of the woods. He is still busy typing away on his tiny laptop. His folio was still uncompleted. Intersecting circles fill his screen, uninterpreted. And worse, the Mathematics teacher (an intimidating lady indeed) will enter the class soon. Will K-own survive??

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Meanwhile, a storm is brewing in the back of the same classroom. The camera will testify that Azizi had a face which betrayed no emotion, but his heart was a storm of uncertainty. He was the Project Manager for the Year 1 inter-class Debate Tournament which will take part later in the day…

Azizi: I was not too nervous…but yeah, I was…kinda. It was quite a big thing, you know, this tournament – I had to handle the judges, and the contestants, about…<makes mental calculations>…96 contestants…so yeah, quite a bit to think about…

All that is put on hold, though, as the Math teacher enters class. The camera captures K-own tensing up visibly. The thoughts in his mind must be intersecting almost as intricately as the circles on his laptop screen. Will he pay attention in class, or take the risk of finishing up his folio (due an hour ago) in front of the Math teacher – a lady as observant as she is intimidating?

K-own: Math class was totally scary…it was, like, totally hard to focus on those circles while, like, trying to avoid been caught, you know? Totally…

The class endures a 50-minute mental-bashing in the hands of the Math teacher. The teacher asked questions, many of them; and answers (complete ones) were demanded. After a night of little or no sleep, such mental-bashing was the last thing the students needed. The camera captures the mixture of drowsiness and fear on their faces…

And K-own continues on his covert mission

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It was now close to 2.20 in the afternoon, and class was about to end. In an occurrence nothing short of miraculous, K-own's secret attempts to finish his folio in class have escaped detection by any teacher. His predicament may be over, but Azizi's had just begun. During recess, Azizi disappeared without a trace, leaving even the efficient cameramen behind. Zul, a close friend of Azizi, speaks:

Zul: Azizi totally disappeared again during recess today…I mean, I have known him for, like, a year now, but I still don't know how he does it, ya know? He doesn't walk fast or anything…but he could be beside you one second and gone the next…ya know? And as far as the eye can see, he won't be there. He could be a machine. Like, oh my gawd, man…

It was later revealed that Azizi had met the Debate Club advisor during recess. Azizi still kept a cool façade in front of the camera, perfectly hiding the maelstrom of insecurity in his heart. But the question nonetheless remains: will the weeks of planning he has put into the tournament be worth it? Only time will tell…

Meanwhile, another camera records Mike and Zul in the Warden's Office, about to make yet another announcement. Today was a particularly announcement-packed day, with 6 announcements booked through SMS. Those announcements have taken a toll on Mike – the camera captures the look of tension on his face as he leaves the room. Two announcements down, four more to be done in specific times later in the day. The problem was that Mike is a judge in Azizi's Debate Tournament, and he has no idea how to juggle the two duties for today.

Zul: I've known Mike for a year now, and I am, like, totally good at reading people, ya know? Oh yes, I know how Mike is…things around him "psycho" [emotionally affect] him too easily, ya know?

Mike: Argh…! I'm, like, totally freaking out now!

Folio done, K-own has decided to go Facebooking. But the camera notices an unusual expression on K-own's face. Something is wrong. K-own is the president of the Bio-D club, a club tasked with the planting of pineapples in the college. But Bio-D members are now staging an online demonstration against K-own's presidency – a challenge stemming from a mix-up of fertilizers which occurred a week ago. They were supposed to use chicken crap, but used a different (excessively powerful) fertilizer instead. The pineapples were now dying in the fields. It was (quite literally), a crappy situation.

K-own: Crap…

Meanwhile, Azizi's drama also unfolds. The camera records Azizi's calm front gradually disintegrate as the latest problem crops up: the Lecture Theatre 1, which was meant to be used by the tournament organisers to brief the contestants, had been double-booked. The other party which had booked the LT1 being teachers, Azizi had no choice but to back down. The tournament was to start at 3; in only 20 minutes, and Azizi had just lost his base. Time was ticking.

Azizi: Crap…

Will Mike find a way to resolve conflicting responsibilities? Will K-own survive the crappy challenge to his leadership? Will Azizi find a place to brief the contestants, in an even briefer time? Find out next week, on the season finale of "Keeping up with the KMB-ians".


 

* * *

In the next episode:

  • The camera pans out to take in the mob of year 1 students outside the LT1 like flies around chicken crap. Azizi is nailed to the spot, but he knows exactly what to do.
  • The camera captures Mike nearly in tears as he says on the phone: "Thanks, bro…"
  • The camera witnesses Jet yelling at K-own: "Its your responsibility, you are not ready for this!!"


 

Stay tuned :D

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Empty Nest

In my old classroom, you will find a bird's nest tucked in a corner. It's not much to look at, being composed largely of mud and tattered feathers. Inside, you will find 3 or 4 chicks; and by God, they are ugly little things. They were noisy too, especially when they were hungry. When not hungry, they would be busy adding to a pile of bird faeces on the floor below the nest.The chicks' mother would enter and leave the classroom through a broken window, and once shat on my friend's table (beside the window) while flying out.

Despite all that, though, I find the nest to be a thing of beauty. I admired the way the mother bird would return ever so often to feed its ravenous chicks, despite the troubling presence of 20 students and an irritated teacher in the classroom on weekdays. I loved the way the mother bird sat in the nest, flighty but all the same firm. I had no doubt that she would defend her chicks with her life if the need arose. Something I am sure my parents would do for me too…

I am sorry, Mama and Papa…I didn't mean to hurt you.

I totally forgot to tell you about my change of plans on Sunday. I don't know why I forgot – maybe I was too busy. But one thing is for sure, I didn't purposely hide my plans from you just to hurt you. And despite your claims, it is untrue that I do not prioritise my family.

Adik sent me an sms yesterday. She told me how Mama cried, and how it seemed that I only I see you guys as my ATM or my chauffeur. I don't. I see you as my parents. I love you guys, and I am really sorry that I don't show it most of the time.

I was as down as you guys were that day. I hate letting you guys down. I am your first-born, and I shouldn't be doing things like that. But maybe the whole problem is because I am the first-born. Maybe it is difficult for you to let me go.

I do admit that we have grown apart. I don't know when and I don't know how. But we have. Once upon a time, I would to come back after school and excitedly tell Mama about my day. I used to climb all over Papa as a kid, when Papa was still as tall as a tree to me. I used to "manja" with Mama up to the age of 15. I don't know how things between us grew awkward. Maybe it's a phase of my growing up.

But it's not because I want to. I still love my family very much. In Adik's sms, I was told that I don't have emotions attached to my actions. It doesn't mean that I don't have emotions at all. It's just difficult for me to show it.

You guys have no idea how much I think of you. Ask my friends here. I once told my friend why my Mama is my hero, and I gave plenty of justification for it too. Just last week, I told my mentor group the story of how my Mama and Papa met and fell in love while working in Public Bank.

I won't forget you guys. I was not raised to do that.

Yet I am in the course of spreading my wings; I am leaving the nest. The process won't be easy, and as this incident shows, it will hurt. I still live half-an-hour away from you guys, but it already feels like another country. What will happen when I further my studies overseas, which, InsyaAllah, I plan to do next year?

It's hard for me to say all this to you through an sms or a phone call. Or even face to face. Like I said, I just find it too hard to do. That is why I am telling you this the best way I know how to convey a message; through my writing.

I have started leaving the nest quite a while ago now. It won't be long before I finally take off. Don't worry, though, Ma and Pa. The nest won't be empty – there are still 3 ravenous chicks left to feed after me. And Adik has grown up to be a very mature lady indeed. It was obvious in the sms she sent me.

The last time I checked, the nest in my classroom was silent. The mother nowhere to be seen. She had died. A friend told me that the mother bird had run into the ceiling fan one day and died. The chicks had starved to death by now.

I do agree with you, Ma, when you told me that our close-knit family is something to be valued; because we don't know how long it will last.

I'm sorry Ma and Pa, for not showing how I truly feel. I love you.



Saturday, July 2, 2011

What the Fog???

This was written on the evening of the 30th of July 2011. When I went to sleep that evening (something I rarely get to do nowadays) I had little idea that I would wake up from my dreams and into a nightmare…
 

30 minutes ago…

I was awoken by an otherworldly blaring sound and the smell of smoke in my nostrils.

My ears were then bombarded by Boiler's (my roommate; not his real name) complaints that "you can't see a damn thing!" and "Shit man, it's like a war zone out there!" [All Boiler quotations in the previous sentence were translated from Malay]. I opened my eyes to see a thin film of white smoke throughout the room. "Fogging", said Idris coolly, while sitting on Boiler's bed (why the hell was Idris in my room anyway??).

It seemed that someone had suddenly decided to fog the area for Aedes mosquitos without first notifying the non-mosquito residents (namely, me). The curtains were not closed, because it was our only source of fresh air – the door was shut, with smoke creeping in through the cracks around it. Boiler was right: you could barely see anything out there. But suddenly, he tied a hand towel around his nose and mouth and moved towards the door. In a thin white shirt and an improvised face-mask, he looked like a post-apocalypse freedom fighter wannabe. Before he left, Boiler uttered a line which will forever echo in the voluminous chambers of human history:

"I have to go to the toilet"


 

25 minutes ago…

That left me and Idris in the room. The golden question once again arose: why the hell was Idris in my room anyways?? But the question was fleeting, as I have come to realize that people popping up randomly in each other's' rooms are a typical dormitory phenomenon. Anyways, I have decided to go back to sleep…my brain drenched with sleep-inducing melatonin. The blaring noise of the fogging machine fluctuated – I could imagine the masked man operating the machine moving ominously towards my room, but still I was too exhausted to escape; or even move from my pillow. But abruptly, the noise filled my ears. The machine was right outside my window. Opening my eyes, I saw the fog just flowing into my room through the unclosed window. Idris, on Boiler's bed, was holding his shirt to his nose. "Draw the curtains together!" I said in an attempt to sound heroic; but laden with sleep, I probably sounded more drunk than valiant.

Regardless, Idris rushed to close the curtains. Perhaps a bit too late - the conditions in the room was almost as bad as the atmosphere outside. The door was still shut and the room was sullen with the curtains drawn. All we could do was sit down. And wait.

"Damn", I said groggily






 

20 minutes ago…

Boiler was still not back. It was close to 7, and I haven't done my Asar prayers. I had to take my wudhuk, although
the smoke still thick outside. But I decided to take the risk – if I'm going to die, I would want to do it with the blessings of God. I opened the door and closed it quickly behind me.

I was on the other side…



Putting on my slippers, I could barely see the trees near my dorm through the thick white anti-mosquito film. I headed towards the toilet, and saw the slow amble of a familiar figure moving towards me. It was Boiler, finally back. Moving past me, he told me that everybody in the block had left us. He was right.



The doors I passed were all open, lockers ajar and clothing strewn across the floor. People definitely left in a hurry. Suddenly, though, I spotted some people on the walkway in front of me. Through the smog, I struggled to recognize them. It was Shamer (or was it Ismael? I still can't tell them apart) and Arif (the M10E one), looking into the distance like war-weary veterans.

I saw what they were looking at, and it was beautiful almost as it was scary…



 


 

I hastily took my wudhuk and left for my room. After performing Asar prayers, I turned my laptop on to record the events of the past half-hour on my blog.


 

That was 15 minutes ago. I had planned to write a doom-and-gloom story of despair and betrayal (you guys left me behind!!!), but I have changed my mind. Over the last 15 minutes, the people of Block A have been returning from god-knows-where they've been hiding. The sounds of the dorm are back. Boiler and Idris are watching Anime on Boiler's laptop (so that's why Idris was in my room…). And even the ping pong table is back in business. I guess we need the abrupt occasional trauma to appreciate the wonder of normalcy. But please guys, wake me up next time T.T




Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Horizontal Meditator

Typing the first words of this blog after a half-year of deathly silence, I am quite sure this post will be the most morbid one yet. But then again, that may be a good thing. One of modern society's greatest problems, it was once said, is that we live away from death too much. And it makes perfect sense, if you think about it. If someone close to you personally dies – let's say a friend or a relative – of course you would feel the emotional impact of his/her demise. But would your neighbors or friends be impacted the same way you are? Not anymore, sadly.

Gone are the days when the village would kick into action when a person dies – to arrange the funeral, to bury the remains…and to comfort the bereaved family. Today, the process of Death is becoming more like an industry, where faceless undertakers and coffin-makers look at bodies as sources of dollars instead of former vessels of souls. The living, meanwhile, operate in a parallel world, separate from all this – working hard and partying hard. The only contact a "modern, civilized person" would have with Death is during the occasional funeral service, visit to the grave, and the time when he himself is six feet under.

Sigh. Told you this will be morbid…

Anyway, the reason for all this morbidity is that I have had quite a few brushes with death this week. No, not the "life-threatening-injury-caused by-horrific-accident" type of brush with death. Rather, one of those brushes with death was when I sat around a graveyard on Tuesday night with a group of friends. While sitting around the grave, the tombstone not more than a feet away from our faces and a dead body 6 feet (more or less) below us, we discussed about life in the grave...

At this point, I must make this clear: this was not a Satan worshipping ceremony or anything like that. It was actually a college activity, in which my college-mates and I visited a nearby graveyard. The visit was meant to raise our awareness of Death…but frankly, I had little need for such a reminder. Death was already on my mind all day.

This was because of my first brush with Death, which occurred the morning of that visit. I received news that a teacher of mine, a man whom I was quite well-acquainted to, has passed away. His name was Mr. G. Gunaseelan, but he was often referred to simply as Mr. G. He was an unusual character, in comparison with the other teachers of my college. For one thing, he was quite old…he would have retired this year. In all honesty, he was even quite frail due to a few accidents in the past.

Yet, his death, to me, came as a total shock. Yes, he was frail. But to have left us so suddenly…? It's still sinking in now.

Sadly, I wasn't very close to Mr. G. He was the "mentor" of half my class - in charge of us students' performance, academically and psychologically – in short, well, to mentor us. I still remember my group's first "mentor-mentee" session with Mr. G. It was quite memorable, as Mr. G struck us as an eccentric man. Lively despite his obvious frailty, he shared with us the rigors of life as a college student. In all honesty, we really wanted to end the session ASAP because, well, we were hungry (the meeting was before lunch). But if we had known he would pass away less than a year later, we would have paid more attention.

We rarely met him, although we were supposed to have a mentor-mentee session every week. Mr. G always seemed to be absent, sometimes off to a hospital. Other times, he would simply say that we should not meet because he "did not want to tell us things we already know" or something along those lines. Still, he always had a smile on him whenever I met him on the corridor, and would confide in me about a certain ache around his body or a recent accident he had faced.

Like I said, we didn't get to know him well enough.

The last time we met him was earlier this year, during the Teacher's Day celebrations of my college. He had just had his hand bitten by his pet dog, and it was bandaged. Knowing he would retire in a few months' time, we had prepared a yellow balloon for him to pop. The balloon represented his eventful career, and popping it was meant to show that he would go out with a bang. He was visibly touched, and generously shared with us tales of his teaching career. After the meal, I managed to give him a hug and a handshake.

We hadn't known him well enough…neither did we know that it would be the last time we would see him.

Mr. G, it saddens me that you did not get to enjoy your retirement before you left this world. But listening to your colorful stories, I find it fitting that you have died as a teacher (and a good one, too), as you had lived as one. We had known you all too briefly, but your passing has taught me to appreciate those still alive around me even more. Although you are now "horizontally meditating" in the hereafter, you will live on in our memory. Rest In Peace, sir.





P.s. Here is a blog post by someone who had known Mr. G better than I did: http://angchoonseong.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-have-many-good-teachers-in-my-life.html

Monday, January 3, 2011

"Ekor"

Raindrops splat on the windscreen of the car like so many bullets. My dad increases the speed of the wipers, but to no avail. We have been caught in a traffic jam outside SJK(C) Yak Chee for nearly an hour now, and I'm starting to doubt my decision to accompany my brother on his first day of school.

The night before, my brother and I took a haircut. My bro keeps (or rather, kept) an "ekor" or tail at the back of his head, as I did when I was his age. Sigh, maybe an illustration would clarify the image of an "ekor".



Anyway, he's going to school, and the "ekor" has got to go. As my bro took his haircut with the fanfare of a travelling circus (my dad recorded the whole haircut with his handheld camera), I felt like the spare tyre of a car as I got my haircut right beside him. Ignored. (Cue Korean drama music).

It was a momentous event, of course. You only experience your first day of school ONCE IN A LIFETIME, for God's sake. While I am writing this blog update, my bro is getting ready for school downstairs - but I still can't believe that he is already 7 years old. MY little bro, now a schoolkid..

Things weren't all positive on the trip to his school, though. For one thing, it was raining. The droves of cars carrying anxious schoolchildren and their even more anxious parents choke the neighbourhood streets leading to school. I was quite tired, since I have just returned from a Pushing Boundaries camp the day before.

Veering off topic for a while, I highly recommend everyone out there to go to that camp. To me, the biggest lesson among the many I learnt there was to always see the "big picture" - whether it is in your work , marriage...or life in general.

And I did learn that lesson well, if I can say so myself - because as we escaped the traffic jam, leaving my bro now in his classroom, the bigger picture slowly materialised in my head:

MY little bro had just reached a milestone in his life. A day that he would always remember and look back on, and tell his grandchildren about one day. And I was there when he passed that milestone.

My mum kept the part of my bro's hair that was cut off. Some may find that strange, but not me. For even though we must always have "the bigger picture of life" in mind, it is the small things that differentiate life from mere existence. It is the "ekors" we keep that put a child's first day at school into perspective.

I was trapped in a car for an hour in the middle of monsoon-force rain, but that cannot take away my feeling of joy. Joy at seeing the back of my bro's head as he stepped towards the gates of life.

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