Monday, December 10, 2012

Mind Over Matter, I Wish

I stood on the precipice of a 15m fall, daring myself to move closer to its edge. My legs tingled. I inched closer and the tingling spread to my chest, arms, then finally in my eyes and I felt that strange sensation of falling while standing perfectly still. I stepped back quickly, banishing several different versions of my imaginary fatal fall. I looked back to the last point I had stood before my nerves failed me. One and a half metres from the edge. Not even close.

Does it sound like I'm trying to commit suicide? Well, the part of my brain that thinks is trying to convince the part of my brain that reacts that this is NOT suicide. Its totally safe. To demonstrate this point to myself, I go to a plank of wood laying on the floor slab. I walk on it, back and forth, finally skipping on one leg before I jump off. See? I have great balance. Now go balance myself on that plank of wood 5 times wider. Only thing different is, its balanced 15m high in the air.

It's so high, says Reacting Brain.

It's got railings, I won't fall, says Thinking Brain.

Immediately, Reacting Brain comes up with 23 different scenarios to overrule this safety feature. My slim frame can slip between the rungs. The bolts holding the railing can come loose. The wood plank will break under my weight, slight as it is. Others are even more unlikely, but it managed to scare the shit out of me all the same.

Sighing, I change tact. I went to the larger platform, built over the drop I had attempted to approach. I'm not as frightened at this area as the platform is wide. There is a small area where there is a gap in the supporting wood, present to make way for taller prop supports. I try walking down this small walkway, holding on the the concrete column and steel props on either side of me. The journey should have been over in two medium-sized steps. Instead, I shuffled along on shaky legs, knuckles white from gripping for dear life. I am annoyed at my pathetic attempts to overcome this silly fear. I've seen the workers and other engineers traipse around this part without a single thought to spare for the act. I know I can do this, too. If only I believed myself.

I turn around and look at the walkway and the ground so far below it, forcefully asserting to myself that it is fine, good, okay. I stood there, visualizing myself walking across -- striding across, like the cool confident engineers gracefully loping from scaffold to scaffold. A working-class spiderman.

The tingling started again. My heart was pounding wildly and I caved again, wanting only to get away yet horrifyingly, I discover that I cannot move a muscle.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The miles to go before I sleep....

I was driving home from work late one evening. Rain was falling in a drizzle, chilling the air. The rain droplets cut a million shimmery threads in the beam of my car headlights.

Weary from the day's toil, I drove slowly, my thoughts thick and jumbled. I navigated the narrow kampung roads in a mechanical daze. Another pair of headlights shone in my gaze, causing me to move to the shoulder of the road to let the other car pass. The road, although separated into two lanes, is a tight fit for two cars. My automaton brain decided it was easier to let the other car pass first rather than squeeze by at the same time. I waited there, left tyres mere inches from the roadside gutter. The other pair of headlights inched forward and stopped. I moved forward a little more, right up to the orange traffic cone someone placed at the border of asphalt and gutter. The other pair of headlights inched forward some more. I stayed where I was, having nowhere left to go.

The other car, a white MPV of some kind, lowered its window revealing a glaring, bespectacled man with dark skin.

"Ada kon kat depan," I had no idea why I was explaining myself.

"Ke tepi la! Banyak lagi ruang sebelah saya ni," he gestured with his right hand.

I didn't understand why he was annoyed. I had willingly moved aside for him leaving what I had judged to be enough space for him to pass. Pushing that knowledge aside, I released the break pedal slightly, allowing my car to lurch forward a few more inches. As the man moved his vehicle onward, raising his window, he said, "Bodoh!".

I was stunned. I couldn't imagine how the situation warranted such a comment. My tired brain tried to think if I had done something wrong -- misjudged the clearance, maybe. I wasn't sure. Maybe I did.

Bodoh! The word was spat out with such force, such vehemence, such feeling.

Why, though? The exchange lasted barely 10 seconds. Even if I was in the wrong, which I can't be sure of, was it something horrible enough to warrant such a passionately spoken insult? I was hurt more than a little. I have had a long day at work -- my mental defenses were laid bare. That one word, spoken with such careless hatred, was a direct hit to my emotional bulls-eye. My hands shook as I struggled to contain my haywire emotions.

I know I'm not stupid. I know the word that main spoke could not be applied to me in that manner. I call myself stupid all too often, knowing that I'm not stupid, not really. So, I wasn't hurt by the word itself.

What hurt me was how easily that man came to the conclusion that I could deserve to be called something undesirable with such noticeable spite. It hurt me that he said it loud enough so that I heard it. It hurt me knowing that he wanted me to hear it, that he wanted me to be offended. What have I done to him other than politely move aside to let him pass? It appalled me to know that that man became petty and mean, lashing out at another person, from a mere 10 second encounter. It this were a 9gag post, there would be a picture of that scientist dude from Futurama, captioned 'I don't want to live in this world anymore'.

“I guarantee a house in Jannah for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right; and I guarantee a house in the middle of Jannah for one who abandons lying even for the sake of fun; and I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannah for one who has good manners.” [Prophet Muḥammad - reported by imām Abu Dawud]

Do we go around with such pent up anger that even small inconveniences like kampung road ballet can cause us to spitefully attack one another?

More as a consolation than anything, let us consider the following facts:
1. That man lives in a neighborhood with narrow, winding roads.
2. He saw fit to buy a huge, expensive MPV.

Who is the bodoh one, really?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nonplussed, Nonminused

I was sitting in a mamak restaurant, supposedly preparing for my class that evening but actually talking to my mom on the phone, when a guy asks me a question.
“Cikgu ke?” the question doesn’t immediately register to me because I was engaged in a phone conversation.

“Cikgu ke?” he asks again.

I looked up in his direction. He takes my glance as an invitation to sit in the empty chair at my table, eyes looking at me expectantly, and repeats the question a third time.

My mom was in the process of telling me this complicated story about their plans for Merdeka the following day where my brother, Adam and my sister, Amelia were squabbling for the use of my father’s car to celebrate with their respective groupies. I try to attend to my mom’s story while wondering whether the reasons for the man to try to strike up a conversation with a stranger who is on a phone is because he is rude, inattentive, or lacking in common sense and at the same time puzzling how to get rid of him so I can continue peacefully with my phone conversation.

My mind overloads and goes blank. The man continues to stare. My mom continues to talk.

Finally, I nod politely to the man, point at my phone and hold up my hand in a ‘wait’ gesture. He stays seated at my table.

I try to turn most of my attention back to my mom’s story but the man now starts to poke and peer at the books strewn on my table. It was highly distracting and my mom could tell I was distracted.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

This random stranger tried to talk to me, sat at my table while I’m clearly on the phone, and is now helping himself to an inventory of my stuff, Brain says. But of course, I can’t say that, even though I question why exactly I can’t say that. I settle for ‘Some guy is trying to talk to me’, told my mom I had to go and hung up.
I look at the stranger with a politely questioning smile.

“Cikgu ke?” he asks yet another time.

“Ajar tusyen je,” I reply.

“Oh, SPM ke?” he asks. I look at the book he had pulled from under my pencil case. ‘CHEMISTRY’ is printed in big yellow letters on the cover. Underneath that is a large ‘5’. I blink deliberately.

“Ha’ah, Form 5,” I replied.

“Anak saya darjah 6,” he says with a nod.

Trying not to think about why, in heaven’s name, will I want to know that, I reply with a neutral ‘Oh’.

He takes a drink of water from the tall plastic glass he brought with him – to my table.

“Ajar kat rumah ke?”

“Tak, kat pusat tusyen.”

He takes another drink.

“Saya nak pergi dataran,” Sip. “Malam ni.” Sip. He pulls out a bit of yellow shirt from under his flannel button down. Sip.

“Kerajaan menipu,” he says with a finality, as if that explains something. Then he gets up and walks off, leaving his empty plastic cup and a puzzled me at my table.

Note: This inexplicable story took place on the eve of 31st August 2012. It remains one of the most odd moments in my life.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Air Pollution

You just stood there screaming

I had to get out of the house. I just had to. I texted Wani, asking her what she was doing. Wani replied. She just moved into her new place and was cleaning it for habitation.

I set off for Wani's.

You just stood there screaming
Fearing no one was listening to you

I moved as if some denser matter existed around me instead of air. I kept having to remind myself to concentrate on the things around me. Cars, look, a purple one. What an interesting hairdo that lady has. *Stare until she's out of sight*. Music, I hear music. It's Charlie Brown.

I tried to let the upbeat tempo carry me out of the haze of my thoughts. For a while, it worked. But then the music ended and I felt my thoughts gravitate towards that haze again. I quickly pressed the replay button before I lost myself again.

You insist that the weight of the world
Should be on your shoulders

The music was helping. But the dark haze would not be vanquished so easily. Instead of surrounding me with its dull intensity, I kept getting bright flashes of my past stupidities.

The car I reversed into.

The bank cards I lost.

My dependence on the people who should be depending on me. Shame, shame...

Be a bright red rose come bursting the concrete.
Be a cartoon heart,
Light a fire, light a spark,
Light a fire, a flame in my heart.

I sang out the words as loud as I could. Louder than I could. Loud enough that my voice cracked and shook.

You! You're smothered in tragedy
And you're out to save the world

I arrived at Wani's. She greeted me with a smile. We made stupid jokes, I can't remember what. It felt good to laugh.

There's much more to life than what you see
My friend of misery

Monday, June 25, 2012

You're So Full of Shit

I've been cynical lately. Maybe its a side effect of the post-surgical meds I'm on. Maybe I've been hampered by negative influences. Heck, maybe I should be cynical. So much shit has been going on lately.

So there. I'm going to talk about shit.


Have you ever been constipated? It sucks. Its like having a destiny that you just can't fulfill. You feel unfulfilled. You go to the toilet, try and try, but you don't reach your goal. You end up having to exit disappointed because your colleagues have formed a line outside the toilet. And the weight of your unfulfilled destiny sits with you all the while you type out that email, as you draft that report, all through a discussion with your boss, your thoughts keep turning back to that job left undone.

But not for lack of trying. Oh, no.

I've never pushed for anything so hard in my life. Through blood, sweat and tears, I strained against the heavy presence in my gut.

Did I say blood?

I find myself shuffling in front of the registration cum dispensary counter trying to decide whether or not to see the doctor on duty. Why am I so hesitant? Because its a male doctor. But I must overcome this challenge in order to fulfill my destiny. I furtively ask the nurse if a consultation for constipation will require a rectal examination. She smiles understandingly. No, in fact. I sigh audibly and wait for my turn.

I flip through beauty magazines without really seeing them. In light of my destiny, beauty and love seem like such trivial endeavors. I gladly fling the one I'm holding back to the magazine laden coffee table as my name flashes red on the overhanging screen. I enter the consultation room to meet the man who will help me fulfill my destiny.

The first thing I noticed about him was how young he was. His abdomen bulged slightly, possibly from too-long working hours and the too-good nasi lemak that can be found at the cafe next door. He smiled at me and gestured at the seat beside his desk. As I lowered my destiny-laden romp to the cushioned seat he asked me in a deep husky voice and perfectly accented English, "So, what seems to be bothering you?"

I do the mental equivalent of a facepalm. Why must he have good English? My weak point. And now I must describe my predicament to a man I find attractive.

"I have constipation," I said. To hell with everything. I must fulfill my destiny.

"Oh?" he says, not a hint of judgement in his eyes.

I describe my journey -- the blood I have shed, the heavy burden I bear....

"I feel I have to go -- its right there -- but I just can't seem to get it out!" I finish in anguish.

Who knew I would be so passionate about shit?

The doctor nods his head and starts clicking on his desktop. He tells me not to worry, that I should drink lots of fluids and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. All this I know already but I nod my head repeatedly and thank him as I leave.

My name flashes on the big screen again and I stand before the nurse cum receptionist again as she writes out little details on sticky labels and slaps them on some bottles. We spend a few minutes to gripe over the pain and suffering I must go through -- a journey she apparently has gone through as well. I feel reassured at the fact that she has survived this journey. I feel more hopeful for myself, less lost.

She hands me a plastic bag, reciting instructions -- the keys to my destiny. I look her in the eyes, smiling, and for a moment we bond as two travelers on this rough road called life. Then I turn and head home, hoping to fulfill my own destiny.

Shit is important, too, you know?

Lesson learned.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I was clicking through the clutter in my D-drive when I found the folder -- my old notebooks which I had written in while in my 6th semester of my engineering degree. My realization that those writings are from nearly 3 years ago is accompanied by a strange and undescribable feeling. Nostalgia, is the name given to that feeling.

It was like discovering a horde of treasure valuable only to me.

I scroll through the many drafted blog posts which will never reach this echelon called internet because I had deemed them either too private or too pathetic. Other sections hold drafts and ideas for books I might never write. I even had sections for the books I wanted to read, the places I wanted to see, and the things I wanted to do.

I take a closer look at the section labeled "To Do". I had filled its pages with things I had envisioned for my future. There were things I wanted to do for myself like 'learn piano' or 'go to Japan' once I had my own money to spend. There were longer term goals like "build Mummy and Abah a house". And then there was a page for my innermost dreams, those I have shared only with the people closest to me, Pepper and Aliph.

Its funny how I have lost sight of those dreams while in pursuit of other things. Not even important things but materialistic and mundane things, I regret to say. I'm glad I rediscovered my dreams when I was naive enough to even dare to envision them.

Who says growing up is a good thing? Age and experience does not necessarily bring wisdom. Most of the time we only learn to fear. Fear to do lest we fail, fear to dream lest we fall, fear to love lest we lose.

If you have a good idea, write it down. Store it somewhere safe and secret. You may laugh at it now, scoff at your own innocence. But keep it all the same. One day, you will look back at that memory, marvel at your own wisdom, become inspired by the person you were -- and have higher hopes for the person you will be.

Internal GPS

Everything that you know is as wrong as the next
So you hold on to something and hope for the best.

I've been living my life from day to day. I've always gone with the flow. Sure, I make plans. But most of the time those plans get sidetracked, delayed, confuddled and confounded by the unpredictability of things known and unknown. Maybe I'm just a bad planner. Maybe I'm impulsive. Maybe I'm just taking the straightest path I chance upon. Or maybe fate is screwing with me. Whatever. Take your pick. Choose your poison.

But we're all like that, aren't we? We're all confused. We're all scared. And none of us have any idea what we're doing here, really. Take this post -- when I composed it in my head it was very different (it was much better). Then I decided to start it off with a bit from Travis' I know nothing. Then I forgot how I wanted to go on next -- so I just started off with "I've been living my life from day to day". And I went on from there, thinking I know where I'm going...and I find myself here. *Looks around* Where is this?

What am I doing?

But that's life, isn't it? You think you know, till you find out that you have no idea. I dare say everyone has gone through that moment of panic when you wonder where you're headed in life. That moment where you stop to catch your breath, look around, and all these unanswerable questions come crashing unto you like a philosophical tsunami.

Why am I here?

I don't know so don't ask me.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

One Day at a Time

Today is Thursday. I like Thursdays. I like Thursdays because after Thursday comes Friday.

I like Fridays because after Friday comes Saturday. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I like Saturday best. I can sleep in and don't have to work (most of the time). Then I can go to the bookstore. Saturdays are good.

Then comes Sunday. I don't like Sundays. After Sunday comes Monday. It's just too depressing. I sit at home and read my books, thinking how boring and depressing life is.

Mondays are the worst. The weekend is over. I have to work. My horizons are dark. I trudge through the day.

Tuesdays all meld into one tolerated (forgettable) experience.

Then its Wednesday. I start to feel hopeful. Tomorrow is Thursday and I can start feeling good about life again.

RPG character