Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Men of The House

The drizzle has just stopped as I write this post.

The fresh scent of rain wafts in through the window ahead of me. All is quiet. Not too far to my left Papa is on his laptop, working. Downstairs Baby Chu is up and watching the TV. And not too long soon Danny will be back from school, noisy as always.

Adik is at UITM as I write, as she has been for two weeks. Mama is in Bangkok for a conference. With the exception of Baby Chu, it is only the men of the family left at home. Yet it hasn’t been the macho bachelor’s experience of Maggi meals, futsal-til-late-at-night-followed-by-ping-pong-til-later-at-night which I have kinda expected.  

Because even though I know how noisy Danny is, I also know that even he won’t be able to truly break the silence which has enveloped us all day.

The quiet in the house is not a mere absence of sound – it is the absence of two loved ones. An absence as tangible as the raindrops drumming on the windowpane just a few moments ago.

It is said in Islam that Allah created the first woman, Hawa, from the rib of the first man, Adam.

But it doesn’t mean she is inferior to him.

It just means that, like a rib, a woman is always close to a man’s heart. And without her he is incomplete.

Miss you, Mama and Adik :-/

Men of the House

P.S. Papa and I are planning to play ping pong tonight :D

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Birthday Prank

KMB harbours a friendly, intelligent population of students – the “best of the best” of the country, or so I’ve been told.

Still, reflecting KMB’s isolated location in the middle of nowhere, these students – like the lost tribes of Congo – exhibit some peculiar customs. One of these is the ‘Birthday Prank’, a savage tradition which involves in most cases flour and eggs being dumped with force on the unlucky birthday boy/girl.

For decades this behaviour has been one of the greatest mysteries of anthropology. What, after all, can compel such pleasant students, the crème de la crème, to carry out such ferocious attacks on each other?

No one really knows.

But there no shortage of theories: behavioural scientists point out that the constant stress on IB students could be a chief factor – eventually the said students have to find an outlet for such pressure, and birthday boys/girls become easy targets.

Psychoanalysts propose that perhaps bright students are not as innocent as they seem:  that the outwardly nerdy façade hides the ferocious conduct of gangsters.

Economists, meanwhile, highlight the surplus (and thus, low prices) of flour and eggs in the local kooperasi as the main reason for the birthday attacks.

However, this post will not be a macro analysis (che-wahh..!) of this social phenomenon. Instead, I will tell you the story from the point of view of a victim of such a horrendous assault...me.

*dramatic music*

*                                             *                                             *

23rd of June 2011. 11.30pm.

It was my second year in KMB, the dreaded third semester. By now I have intimate knowledge of the ferocity of birthday pranks. My roommate has been soaked with soapy water during his birthday. A senior of mine was tied to a chair and tortured on his birthday, and pictures of the event posted on the bulletin board the day after. Even the usually mild-mannered girls of KMB happily fling flour (with deadly force) at birthday girls.

Half an hour to my birthday. I was not looking forward.

Yet I knew I could not escape. By now my friends know my mannerisms well enough to know where I would be at this time. My room, or (more commonly) the TV room. Thus, unless I was willing to hide among the oil palm trees, there isn’t much room to hide in KMB. Resigned, I sat alone in my room, turned my laptop on, and tried to get some work done before the terror begins. I sat facing the door – if I was to be dragged out I would at least like to see it coming.

11.45pm. A flicker of movement by the window beside my door catches my eye, but by the time I look up it was gone. Still, I knew who it was: my neighbour Salman. I knew what he was: the one-man recon party. I could imagine him reporting my position to the others… it won’t be too long before things start now…

24th June 2011. 12.15a.m.

Nothing has happened yet. Hesitantly, I went to bed with the realisation that I could very well be dragged out of it, screaming and kicking, in the middle of the night. I closed my weary eyes…23 hours and 45 minutes to survive.

A few hours later I woke up. The night had passed without incident…it seemed to be a miracle! But a frantic search around my bed revealed that something was wrong – my phone was missing. My heart fell as it dawned on me that the mind games have begun. And there was still most of the day to go through.

Walking to class, I remembered the times when I myself have taken a sadistic joy in pranking others. Take Jet (bukan nama sebenar) for example. During his birthday back in Sem 1, I collaborated with a bunch of friends to prank him during JPAM practice. It was a totally public prank, witnessed by half the batch. Good times :’)

That prank made Jet and I friends – “brothers” even, in his words – but whenever that particular incident is brought up, I always notice a vengeful glint in his eye. “Nanti ko, Mike”, Jet would say with a crafty smile…he would make sure I will be pranked publicly too one day.

I shuddered, remembering that today is that day.

None of my classmates mentioned my birthday that morning. I was fine with that. Eyeing the horizon worriedly for a Jet-initiated birthday prank aimed specifically at me, I didn’t want to worry about one from my classmates too.

Soon it was 12am. Class was almost over! With any luck, I could run off to my room after classes and lock myself in…maybe I would even give the hide-among-the-oil-palm-trees plan a try. Who knows – I could survive my birthday unpranked!

Then WHAM! This happened:

It was well played by my classmates. They recruited the help of my roommate to lure me into a garden where flour spilled would not be noticed. Truthfully, guys, I noticed that something fishy was going on as my roommate persuaded me quite energetically to go to the garden (he doesn’t invite me to gardens energetically often). But equally truthfully, I didn’t expect the flouring which I received – and who planned the whole thing if not Kirin, the unassuming ‘good girl’ of the class. (She is evil, I tell you!) :p

And so, covered in flour (which mixed with my sweat was becoming a crust on my skin) I headed off for lunch in the canteen. I should mention that Jet looked quite happy, with me looking like a yet-to-be-fried KFC drumstick. But the glint in his eyes was still there – and I knew my ordeal was not over…

The day went on normally…many wished me happy birthday; without, thankfully, flour. Eventually it was 11pm, and I thought that was that. The flouring at the hands of my class was all that I would go through – considering all the things I’ve done to others on my friends’ birthdays, I thought I survived quite well thank you very much. So I went to sleep in the TV room.

And a few minutes after midnight, it happened.

I was awoken from my sleep by rough shaking. After that, I walked out groggily into the block courtyard. Then I was led to a chair. Or maybe I was dragged. I don’t remember, to be honest. My memory at this point is a bit fuzzy – as expected from someone who has been through a traumatic experience.

Eventually I found myself crudely tied to a plastic chair by raffia strings. I don’t have any pictures of it but if you really want to see it imagine me strapped in one of these:

Haha…ok, fine, it wasn’t as bad as an electric chair. But tied down I felt doomed anyhow. And by the way, I was blindfolded as well.

A voice addressed me, saying something along the lines of:

“Buahahaha…now it’s your turn, Mike!”

Hmm…on second thought maybe the evil laugh wasn’t there…but whatever, it wouldn’t have been out of place anyway. There was, after all, no mistaking the morbid triumph dripping in that voice. And there was no doubt of his identity – Jet.

I remind you that it was the day after my birthday, and still I was being pranked! It was totally unfair! But try telling that to Jet.

Gleefully, he told me to finish a drink that he had concocted. If I did not finish it within a minute, I would be soaked with a bucketful of soapy water mixed with only-God-knows-what. Not exactly being in a position to negotiate, I did as I was told. And I have to say, the drink wasn’t quite that bad. Later I would learn that it was a mixture of drinks bought at the koop (we KMB-ians really like mixing things, if you haven’t noticed by now) :D

I nearly finished the drink, but unfortunately not under 60 seconds. So, as promised, the bucket of soapy solution was tipped over me. What joy =.=

The block courtyard being something of a public square (there is even a ping pong viewing area nearby), the whole thing was quite a public event. Jet had definitely wanted it to be so…biding his time for this opportunity to avenge his own public humiliation in Sem 1. I have to say…well done, Jet. *grudging handshake*

The night ended with me hugging Jet – while I was still soaking wet. At the very least I could console myself with the fact that Jet, too, had to take another shower that night. Buahaha!

And oh yea, I got my phone back from Salman too.

Happy ending for everyone. ^.^v

*                                             *                                             *

That all happened exactly one year, one week and three days ago – but, clichéd as it sounds, I still remember it like it was yesterday.

In the end the Birthday Prank, savage as it seems, is the way we show the love which had developed through the time in KMB. In that sense I am honoured to have been at the receiving end of two Birthday Pranks. 

Thank you guys for taking the trouble.

And I love you too :’)