Daily Bread

•January 29, 2013 • 1 Comment

This was illustrated essay was first published for ISSUE #6: Addiction on ISSUE Magazine (http://www.issuemagazine.wordpress.com), a great platform for writers (or aspiring writers!).

Some asked, “Is this fiction or for real?” No work is truly fiction, because somewhere, somehow there is an piece of the author’s reality.

(This is supposed to be a profound picture (haha). My aunt saw this on my magnetic board and exclaimed, “What’s that?! So ugly?” AIM ACHIEVED.)

The Addict

We had several rounds of drinks that night. The non-alcoholic kind. But we were drunk on heavy speech and chatter.

Our conversation took a turn. I was put under the spot light. I felt like a dissected frog on a metal tray, with my four limbs spread eagle and pinned down, and my abdomen wide open for all and sundry to scrutinise. How exposed, how vulnerable.

They called me an addict. I laughed and scoffed at their simplistic conclusion. Don’t judge a book by its cover, I said. I may have weaknesses; we all do because we are not God, but I am a good person, a filial child, a hard worker. Don’t judge! I laughed. Saint Peter has the Pearly Gates ajar, ready for me although that day hasn’t seen the break of dawn.

I must admit, however, that I was seized with fear when I picked up my medical report from the hospital last week. The possibility of being the preachy textbook example of ‘an addict’ was at the front of my mind. I did not dare confide in anyone. I didn’t want them to think I was cowering like a pathetic domestic dog from thunder. But the report proved every fear unfounded. There, look! I’m a clean slate; in the pink of health! This, I proudly told everyone. They taught me once: There’s a general rule, but there are always exceptions. I must be the exception.

But the word kept tugging at my mind. Addict. My synaptic molecular machinery could not process its meaning in a deeper sense. I am not a junkie. I am unlike the beggar on the street in a perpetual drunken stupor, so unwashed that his hair, albeit unintentionally, seems like he intended them dread-locked.

I reached for the dictionary as soon as I found one. It spewed darkness in defining addiction. It is a compulsion. It is a physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance, they say.

Definitely not me. I control my urges perfectly and I can stop anytime. It’s just when I want to.

I am not an addict.

The Conscience

You’re not sure of your faith. But regardless, all faith encourages physical wellness.

I know, I know. You’ve heard this plenty from me. You know, I don’t want to nag but… I just mean well for you. I really do.

What I’m saying is: health is wealth. Now, don’t start rolling your eyes at me. The stats show that you’re bringing about a premature meeting with your Maker. You’re smart enough to know this.

What good does it bring you? If you’re rejoicing at your present state of health, wait another few years and see. You’d starve yourself to feed your cravings. Shame on you! The hadith says “Your body has a right over you.” Yet you reject sustenance and embrace detriment.

You claim to be broke constantly. And you lament about your financial status. Of course you are broke! You aren’t a liar. Financial management is just something you need to work on. And you can!

But you lie to yourself. Try quitting! Prove to the cynics you’re not an addict. Show them you can live without it.

Are you really sure you can do it?

Pull yourself out of this addiction. It’s for your own good. You can do it.

The Concerned

You don’t like talking about it. I never confront you directly. Whenever anyone asks you, you shrug and appear aloof. But today, I had to drop a snide comment on your state of, well, addiction. Just like a drunk man would always deny that he is drunk when it is obvious to the rest of the world, you too are addicted but in denial.

Every time, I see you itching to get a fix, agony etched on your face. You’d go out at fixed intervals to satisfy your urge. Then, relief would sweep over your face as though your lungs breathed in air greedily after huge monstrous claws wrapped around your neck loosened its grip. You say it’s escapism from stress. It’s liberating. You’re just caught in another form of bondage – a tighter one. It’s an excuse. Why de-stress destructively? Come with me; I’ll show you!

That day at dinner, you watched me eat. You said you were broke; only a ringgit in your pocket. You spent your second last ringgit on a quick fix. I offered to pay for dinner. You refused. Was it pride or were you just not hungry? I cannot tell.

The Concerned

You asked me to help you go on a moratorium, restrain you – give in only when you looked like death. I tried. In your desperation, you screamed and said you hated me. I didn’t mind. But it pained me to see you so dependent, something you refuse to admit.

Then, you gave up trying. How can I force you? Ultimately, it’s your effort. It’s your health, not mine.

Please stop for your sake. You say people are judgmental externalists. I’m not. I love you, but not your addiction.

The Addiction

There’s a song I remember. Here, let me sing it for you.

‘I know where temptation lies
Inside of your heart
I know where the evil lies
Inside of your heart
If you try to make it right
You’re surely gonna end up wrong.’*

Why try when you’re destined to fail? It’s good. It feeds your soul, doesn’t it? Calms your nerves, tranquilises your mind. That’s good. Mark Renton couldn’t have said it better: “People think it’s all about misery and desperation and death and all that shit which is not to be ignored, but what they forget is the pleasure of it. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it.” **

Who said sustenance is all about your ‘daily bread’ only? You know how some religious nuts say, “Your body is the temple of God, so you must care for it”? Aren’t you caring for it too? Don’t I satisfy your bodily desires? You’re constantly in a deep funk without me. I am good for you.

Just a little more; it won’t harm. You can quit tomorrow or the day after tomorrow or next month. You’re still young. Why contest the results in the medical report?

Who cares what they say? ‘Addiction’ that you read is ‘addiction’ defined by the self-righteous. They are hypocrites! Are there degrees of sin? No! All sin is as bad as the other. They, too, lie, squander, cheat and curse. What makes them better judges of what is right and wrong? If they say you’re destined to burn in the lakes of sulphur of hell, so are they!

Money you can earn. What fun is there in life if you don’t try everything life has to offer? That concerned buddy of yours has got to be the dullest, most uninteresting creature on this planet. Oh, for the devil, loosen up, mate.

They don’t understand you. I do. I satisfy you. You’re good. You’re good with me.

‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both’
– The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

The Fortunate

I outlived my friend. A health freak, that one, but defeated by a jolt to the heart. What a life. What a joke. I lived on what they called ‘junk’ my whole life. But I’m still here. The addict.

The Non-Dependent

I lived a full and healthy life. That one medical report years ago was so deceiving. My friend was a great person but Death came a-knocking too soon. I failed to proselytise the mind. But the addict didn’t kill my friend. What did? The addiction.

* Temptation Inside of Your Heart, Velvet Underground

**Heroin addict, Scottish, anti-hero of the film Trainspotting

Yi Wen Lim is not an addiction or a conscience. She’s constantly concerned, but is an addict herself in the varied meanings of the word. She hopes all addicts (including herself) will dump the addiction, but if they don’t, that they’ll be fortunate, even if it means her reaching the Pearly Gates first.

Listen! Two and Two Make Five

•January 23, 2013 • 1 Comment

Indoctrination: Truth & Trash

Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.

I’ve always been highly cautious about what I write despite hiding behind the veil of the web, particularly when it comes to criticism. Perhaps it’s fear – fear of getting into trouble, of offending people, of exhibiting profound stupidity because of my limited knowledge.

I wrote about foreign labourers in Malaysia and how they are treated like trash despite originating from the same species as locals here. People read it. People shared it. People said, “Good writing”. People sympathized.

And then they forgot. They might as well have not read it.

I don’t write these things to fish for comments, because I’m no longer a primary school kid writing obligatory Pharisee-approved essay full of things ‘the examiner wants to read’ to get a 100% in one of those frightfully condescending topics.

It would be the ideal even if people said, “Your style of writing is ten years too elementary for a 21-year-old. But damn, these foreign workers have it real bad. Something must be done.” Or at least something to this effect. Otherwise, I have failed in my aim.

There is a Malaysian who has been residing in the US for many years. He wrote a blog severely criticizing Malaysia and Malaysians alike. There was a Malaysian sitting behind me in a train. He complained about Malaysia the whole journey. There is yours truly who points out numerous flaws in Malaysia and offers few solutions.

Many lashed out at the first Malaysian for ‘running away’ from the challenge of setting right the nation, for being “brave” to criticise only when he’s out of the country. Although I think that his points were rather shallow and moved towards plain insults generously peppered with profanity, I know I do not want to be a gutless critique.

I know I will live and die in Malaysia. There is no better place to be vocal about the disparaging state of affairs of Malaysia than in Malaysia, social media or not. Because those stuck in the muck know the muck better than those who are miles away from the bank. Don’t tell me to put my future on a line fighting battles you ought to be fighting too while you rest your ass in a comfy environment doing the exact things you condemn. I know that for a point to come across, one has to be full and frank, words unminced. I know of risks in this increasingly Orwellian government. But let what ought to be done, be done!

Going back to the Malaysian trio, if we’re so affected by the mess, why aren’t we being radical? Why are we doing nuts? (This includes me as well.)

Then comes the answer in the form of a “sensational” video that goes to show that listening without utilizing your God-given mental faculties is the start of a tidal wave of stupidity that washes out all rationale and sense. Then the discussion about indoctrination came up. The first thing that sprang in my mind was: This is a realisation of the Orwellian nightmare.

It’s everything Orwell wrote.

In his essay Looking Back on the Spanish War:

“Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as “the truth” exists. … The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, “It never happened” – well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five – well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs.”

And then in Nineteen Eighty-Four:

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?”

Our 2+2=5:
The government has been and is always good.
Western influence (budaya kuning) is always bad.
Being Asian is being demure.
Equality is central, meritocracy is practice.
Students just need to study, get a degree, contribute to national economy and multiply like rabbits.
Getting A’s gets you Anything.
A good responsible citizen is one that follows everything the government says and is eternally grateful.
A loyal citizen is one that kisses the feet of rulers, put them on pedestals to worship and has unquestioning loyalty ala Hang Tuah.
The government listens.
Government is nation. Nation is government.
History textbooks.

As a people with functioning minds, evaluate for yourselves! Just like Winston in Nineteen Eighty-Four who was politically re-educated to love Big Brother, we’re constantly fed “education” to make us love the government albeit more subtly in the form of universities and not-so-subtly in propaganda letters in mail-boxes. Rather, we should be “educated” to love the country and all the people in it, and hence, fight for the best interests of everyone, not akur to an oppression that is self-serving and corrupt akin to the Animal Farm pigs. Loyalty to the nation is not loyalty to the government.

Melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya. We’ve been cultivated with such docility that we are afraid of a shift of equilibrium. We’re like men of the 21st century, sitting in an old sampan. There is a fantastic motorized boat just next to our sampan; all we have to do is get up and cross over. But nobody stands up because nobody wants to rock the boat. If you want to free yourselves, free your mind.

As for me, I’m freeing myself from the shackles of self-censored writing. Although the reach of my writings is extremely short and writing may be thought to be a passive means, I am consoled by the fact that the anti-colonialism movement was made possible by people who dared to write.

What are your shackles?

Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.

I’d be a ‘fool’ because conscience demands it.

Art Women

•November 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

‘The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.’ –Pablo Picasso

This couldn’t be truer. I stayed up late listening to music whilst drawing with my trusty ink pen. Aside from my many law books, my shelves in front of me are lined with literature – Hemingway, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Wilde, and Dickens. I can’t say I’ve finished reading all of them though.

These are six women from and in art. They are from literature and music, presented in a drawing. I really didn’t intend to draw this; it just started with some lines and voila, inspiration.

The first from the left is Jordan Baker from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s acclaimed novel The Great Gatsby. I first read it when I was in 14 and the Roaring ‘20s caught my attention. Jordan Baker is, to me, a modern woman of her time. She is a golf player, dressed flapper-style, probably with a stylish bob, as was the rage then. She goes where she pleases, attends glitzy parties, and is immensely practical to the extent of appearing shady. She is wise enough not to carry forgotten dreams from age to age. Yet, with too much time in her hands, she is ‘bored to tears’.

The book, ribbon, letter and mask are of Emma Rouault of Gustave Flaubert’s risque Madame Bovary. A romantic, she derives fantasies of love from books and expects the same when she marries a physician, but is disappointed at the bore of marriage. She desires a life among the bourgeois and subsequently is involved in affairs with two men. She also buys many things to satisfy her desires on credit from a Monsieur Lhereux, but is unable to pay her debt. Desperate, she kills herself by consuming arsenic.

The woman with different eyes is the effervescent Daisy Buchanan nee Fay, also from The Great Gatsby. She is frivolous, flirtatious, yet irresistible with a voice ‘full of money’. The subject of love of her husband and the titular character, she is a dreamer who idealises her past relationship with Gatsby, but is torn between the two men. She recognises societal pressures, but clings on to the little hope she has. While driving Gatsby’s car, she kills her husband’s mistress Myrtle who dashes out onto the road. The blame is on Gatsby and Myrtle’s husband shoots him dead.

The diseased lungs belong to Fantine, a picture of desperation from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. A beautiful grisette, she conceives an illegitimate child. Her daughter is left in the care of innkeepers who abuse her and demand money. After being fired from her job for being an unwed mother, Fantine sells her hair, her two front teeth and turns to prostitution. She falls ill with what might be tuberculosis and then dies upon finding out that her daughter will not be brought to her.

The woman reaching for the jar with the face is Eleanor Rigby from the song of the same name by The Beatles. She’s enveloped in loneliness. She dreams of company and sits at the window waiting for company while she wears a face she keeps in a jar. I feel it’s a mask of something she strives to be to gain companionship. When she is united with the equally lonely Father McKenzie, it’s too late; he conducts her funeral which nobody attends.

The final woman with the glass bottle is the young dove, Sibyl Vane from The Picture of Dorian Gray. She is chanced upon by the devastatingly eternally handsome Dorian Gray at a dingy theater as she brilliantly portrays Juliet. They fall in love. Experiencing love has dulled everything for Sibyl. Dorian watches her performance again, which she does poorly as all her passion has been channeled to her love. Disgusted, Dorian rejects her. She commits suicide by drinking prussic acid.

In drawing this, I realised we are all a little of each of the women. At least I am.

Cities²: Kuala Lumpur I

•November 7, 2012 • 4 Comments

I will be doing a photo series of cities. It’s called Cities² because photographs capture in squares (more accurately, rectangles). So very lame, I know.

I went out to the city in between two 3-hour lectures for some business and for necessity (six hours with law of trusts and land law in a day can really cause psychiatric injury!). The few months of stringing that I did last year has created this habit of carrying my trusty 2-year-old deteriorating Fujifilm FinePix F60fd (yes, digital compact) with me almost everywhere I go. On impulse, I wandered off the main roads that I’ve traveled before, taking my time snapping photos. At times, you could be your own best travel companion! I watched Malay skater boys honing their game on sidewalks, foreign workers sending money home and police officers gathering and gearing up for their shifts.

Here is Kuala Lumpur squared.

This man hides under a tree from the midday heat beside the Klang River. He sells belts, caps and umbrellas. It comes to no surprise that he could possibly be illegally trading his goods as it is not an uncommon sight to see traders bundling their goods in cloth and running off at top speed to avoid municipal officers just like at Bukit Bintang. Only that he is brighter. He has a bicycle.

Most transitional shop houses (built circa 1880s) have Chinese characters plastered on their pillars. They usually bore good sayings or the name of the business. I can’t read Chinese, which is a shame, but nevertheless, it was not a foreign sight. With more and more foreign workers in Malaysia to hopefully strike gold, some have began to ply their trade to cater for the needs of their comrades.

I also went to the 1905 Hubback-designed building which houses the National Textile Museum at present which formerly housed the Federated Malay States Railway Station and Selangor Works Department. The wooden and marble flooring have been nicely preserved, and the museum is pretty decent for a Malaysian museum, albeit a little too dark, though I presume it is so to prevent decay of the textiles. I was mistaken to be a foreign tourist by the receptionist, probably because Malaysians don’t give two hoots about our museums or maybe I was flushed (as usual) from the afternoon heat. The many mannequins coupled with how deserted the museum was made it rather eerie.

At the washroom, I couldn’t help but notice these two signs. A sexist toilet. There was no similar ‘NO SMOKING’ sign on the ladies’ toilet door, effectively presuming that only men smoke.

And there is the Elitist Toilet. Probably gold taps, silk toilet paper and carved ivory flush handles. Unconsciously, instead of entering the VVIP, I used the ‘normal’ toilet. Why? Mental conformity? Perhaps.

Who qualify to be the VVIP? The foreign tourists from first world countries? Politicians? Guests of honour?

Who should use the ‘normal’ toilet? Locals? Foreign workers? Janitors?

What a damned class-conscious society this is. What suckers to the elite.

Tak Kenal Maka Tak Cinta

•October 17, 2012 • 7 Comments

Hi. My name is Yi Wen. In a year, I spend 9 months in Kuala Lumpur but I am not from here. I come from a small city up north called Ipoh. Ipoh folks who stay in KL complain about KL; traffic jam, the food not as good, the food too expensive, traffic jam… KL folk complain that Ipoh folk like to complain. It is true.

Bagai rusa masuk kampung (Like a deer entering a village)

I have been in KL for over a year now. In my first year, I hated it. The air is bad. The skies are grey. People always say that small town folk get cheated in big cities. So the question of security and safety was always on my mind. I was a paranoid.

I am bad at socialising. It is funny for a law student. But it is true. I didn’t have a social life. I never ventured out alone from where I stayed and Brickfields. All I looked forward to was going back to Ipoh.

Tak kenal maka tak cinta (If you don’t know, you won’t love)

There are two roads one can take in a foreign place. Actually, they are available in any situation. The first road is that of discontentment. I can choose to hate KL. But I will be miserable. I will leave KL not knowing about KL.

The second road is utility. I can utilise the opportunity of being in KL to learn and understand. I can learn to cinta KL. I choose this road.

To subject myself to misery is silly. Dostoevsky wrote of a man with a toothache: ‘..he himself knows that his groans will not bring him any kind of relief; better than anyone he knows that he is overstraining and irritating himself and others to no avail; he knows that even the audience… are by now listening to him with loathing, they no longer believe in him in the slightest and know… that he could groan in a simpler fashion… and that he is only indulging himself out of malice and spite’.

Why do so? It is pointless.

To criticise without knowing makes criticism not legit. It is unfair and baseless. Thus, like how people go on soul-seeking trips, I am going on a soul-seeking trip. It is not my soul I am seeking. I seek the soul of the city.

I lamented that I do not have a proper university life. University life as we know it. Sprawling campuses with grandiose lecture theaters and labyrinth libraries. So many have that. I don’t.

Structurally, my university is two buildings on a street in Brickfields. It is sad. But the so-called utilitarian view is: My university is not in Brickfields; it is Brickfields. It is so much part of Brickfields that my legal education is amalgamated with my education on the streets. I like the direct connection with the real world. Many universities are so far from the real world they form their own world. They don’t have a connection. I do.

A clockwork city

I had the chance to walk around KL. I must see for myself the essence of KL. What makes the soul of KL? What stories can KL tell?

Architecture always fascinate me. If walls could speak, I would listen to their tales of their glory days. I like to close my eyes and envision people of the past going about.

In the chaos, who makes the city run like a clockwork every day? A city does not stand on its own. The people make the essence of it. The people can be the tuck shop aunty, the banker, the vagrant, the civil servant or the foreign worker. They give character.

A melting pot

Recently, I did something I don’t usually do in KL. I joined a walking tour of Brickfields alone. I am glad I did so. Otherwise, my experience would be quite different.

Although I spend a lot of time in Brickfields, I have never explored it. I have read of how culturally diverse it is. I have seen part of it but not all.

Brickfields is notorious for vice activities. It is also a thriving business centre of everything Indian. But it is also serves the Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Taoist, Buddhist and Orthodox Syrian Christian communities. The people are mainly the proletariat. People of different colour and faith live, work and play side-by-side. These make Brickfields the melting pot of the good, the bad, and the multitude of cultures and faiths.

This is the epitome of unity and harmony. Not the quack unity in textbooks that divides or the phony harmony preached as a national doctrine that seeks to desecrate or relocate places of worship in the name of ‘national development’.

That day, I saw Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Taoists, Hindus, atheists entering temples and churches, listening to Hindus chant ‘Hare Krishna‘ and the azan, dancing and clapping to Christian youths playing Christian songs, and watching devotees approach mediums.

That day, I also saw Muslims refusing to enter a church. But I respect his view.

But on the whole, it was so real. To pen that down would be to reduce the experience to a mere preachy Form 3 student essay on how to promote racial unity. You just have to see it yourself.

Yang dikejar tak dapat, yang dikendong berciciran

In light of Johor’s unending hype for billion ringgit Iskandar to be the new tourist attraction, this tour accentuated how unnecessary it is. There is so much Malaysia already has to offer. It just needs to be properly preserved, improved and promoted. Why construct something new and expensive when what we have already is so unique and peculiar to Malaysia? What we have is what attracts tourists. We just need to work on it.

With sadness, the Hundred Quarters on Jalan Rozario and Jalan Chan Ah Tong, built in 1905 and one of the last KL government quarters, are gazetted for development.

You, Our Unelected Mayor. We, the Uncivic-conscious Citizens.

•September 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Here in Malaysia, you’d be a minority if you cared about cleanliness. Because even the city council doesn’t seem to care. Ipoh used to be the cleanest city in the country. Unfortunately, we didn’t drop just a rung below the top Kuching. Over the years, we fell down the ladder to be precise.

Early this year, a load of coconut husks were dumped outside the Ipoh Mayor, Roshidi Hashim’s house. The enforcement officers swooped down immediately to clear up the mess. Undoubtedly angry, he said that there would be “no compromise when it comes to illegal rubbish dumping” and those responsible were “traitors to our [city council’s] cause to keep the city clean”.

I wish I could laud what Mr. Roshidi said. Regretfully, I can’t. While swift action was taken to clean up the dump in front of the Mayor’s house, no similar action has been taken in so many areas around Ipoh. I don’t see sweepers cleaning anywhere else except outside the Menteri Besar’s residence. No other road in Ipoh is as well landscaped as that. Shrubs are replanted every few months. Tour the suburbs and you won’t see council-planted trees. But I guarantee plenty of poorly maintained parks and trash-filled drains around shop houses. Talk about traitors. (Though personally, ‘traitor’ seems to be an over-the-top word to use.)

All these despite it being Visit Perak Year 2012. It’s like having an open house although the house is a mess. Yes, welcome, tourists to Perak! See our efficient city councils, our civic-minded citizens and our hills of trash besides our rolling limestone hills.

Mr. Roshidi has been Mayor since 2008, but no difference has been made except the installation of many unsightly billboards and useless so-called aesthetic structures. The public bus services are still using the omnibuses my mother used as a student. Then there is privatisation. Increase your efficiency, MBI, then privatisation is not necessary!

I believe, in the practice of democracy, that mayors be elected, not appointed by state governments. A mayor’s task is to champion our cities, not be political pawns to the reigning party. Although elections may be farcical to some who have been disillusioned by so-called democracy, it is a means of implementing a manifesto that receives the approval of the people. And if the Mayor doesn’t champion the city, we can always give him the boot.

It isn’t all about the city council at times. That democracy that we love isn’t just about elections but about the people doing their part with the freedom they have. I participated in an on-site public protest against the construction of a columbarium just 200 metres from a housing estate. The protest went ignored so another was held outside the council building. We won.

But, it isn’t all about protesting. There is civic-consciousness as well. If you don’t stop dumping/littering, the mess won’t end. How do people be civic-conscious? Education. But I’m not talking about our Moral Studies and Civic Education in our schools at present, because as you can see, it has failed us. Learn from Hong Kong. The level of civic-consciousness is so high, I have complete respect for them. When I mean education, it is not education in the sense of formal means or qualifications. At the end of the day, the highest education is useless if the mind is not educated and the actions don’t speak education. You, litterbug with the PhD, are less educated than the petty trader who keeps his premises clean.

These are several water-based oil paintings I did for a proposed clean-up campaign in KL. (It was a new experience painting with oils, but I was sad to realise they are bad for the environment!) It didn’t turn out, but I hope it speaks a message here.

This one was just bad. Too messy.

My favourite piece. 🙂

I Want to Live a Thousand Years More!

•August 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

After several months of planning and work, the Perak state Boys’ Brigade NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) Training School is over! Hats off to the team, coaches and Capt. CK Wong (whose birthday is today!). This is my first NTS as an officer, and I am convinced further that being an officer is not a matter of just wearing that white uniform, badges and glengary.

I once asked, “Can an officer dye his/her hair?”

“Preferably not,” was the answer. “It’s setting an example for the Boys to follow.”

Epiphany. The weight of an officer’s duty is immense. It encompasses every aspect of his life. It is not about commanding respect, but about reflecting Jesus’ example for them to follow. Bearing this in mind, the job suddenly seems extremely tough. In a way, I feel it keeps check on my own life too. How can an officer coach the Boys to become people of good character, when they themselves justify lying or are unreliable? Though the Boys may be still young to know hypocrisy like the back of their hand, when they do, it makes everything they ‘learnt’ in BB trash to them. I cannot stomach preaching what I don’t practise either.

In service, losing heart halfway is common and easy. Especially when you labour but see no fruit. Admittedly, I do. This NTS wasn’t perfect in every sense, but in its good and imperfection, it spoke volumes to me.

This NTS was a distraction from my (sigh) dismal first year LLB results released two days before. I passed everything (thank God), but it wasn’t up to my expectations. I didn’t bawl my eyes out. Tear duct malfunction. Sad, yes, though. Taking Chairil Anwar’s Aku a tad too literally, I put on my sneakers and ran 2 km. (Go read this famous poem if you haven’t!)

Luka dan bisa kubawa berlari
Hingga hilang pedih peri

Dan aku akan lebih tidak peduli

Aku mau hidup seribu tahun lagi!

After ridding the bodily toxins, shedding natural EyeMo and talking with my darling course mate in the field, the resolve to do work harder in Part 1 is greater. God has a purpose for keeping me here. Two years. In two years, Perak will be hosting 2000 people for the national BB Pesta. And we desperately need manpower. Our Company faces a dire need for local officers too. The timing is right. After two years, a different story. I shall get to UK by merit, not by money.

At the same time, to ease financial burden, scrimping and saving like a stingy poker is necessary. I think twice buying a can of Nescafe. I only hung out with my college mate after exams twice. I need to cut on shopping trips though. It’s a sick disease. As much as I hate the idea of loans, a partial loan is what I have. And trust the government for being punctual with the money.

“Oh, you’re parents are civil servants? Then it should be easy to get loans or scholarships what…”

I’ve gotten this countless times. I will shove a dictionary down the throat of the next person who says it. Because it’s not true. Teachers’ children can’t lie and fake pay slips. And we won’t. Being in the middle income group is a fat inconvenience too, because you’re not poor enough for a needy scholarship or rich enough to pay for education.

My college won’t read my scholarship application e-mail. The front desk scoffed at my results because it wasn’t an A*. A nosy coursemate sat close by trying to get my results out of me. I told them they were ridiculous. Hello, UOL, not A-levels! And Tris brought me for pork noodles to cheer me up.

Apologies for ranting and digressing. But the point is that they say the journey is more important than reaching the destination, or some rubbish to that meaning. Realistically, only the end matters to others, not the means.