Saturday, February 01, 2014
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Behind the Chinese restaurants that dot Penang Road and the maze of other knotted lanes, very late at night, the neighbourhood would be enticed by a delicious waft of sour spicy soup.
Leftovers from the day's wasteful patrons, uneaten prawns, poultry and pork collected from serving plates, would be tipped into a large pot with tamarind, chillies and vegetables, then stewed over a fire.
The restaurant's less well-heeled patrons, the ones that approach the kitchen door from the back lanes, would carry the hot soup in recycled tin cans of about 5 inches high, back into the night from whence they came. Dinner and comfort for a few cents.
My mother remembers that it was delicious.
After her training in Alor Star, class of '66, my mother was posted to Baling, Kedah in 1970.
The hospital was tiny, sitting next to a mountain. The doors were weaved mengkuang leaves that swiveled. The hospital served the community consisting of rubber tappers. Not that her salary was generous. About a few hundred ringgit.
She stayed at the nurses' hostel just beside the hospital with 4 other nurses. The hostel was primarily a house on stilts, with an Ammah who would come to cook and then go on her way.
As there were only four nurses living there and duty rosters being what they were, it was not uncommon to be the only person at the hostel at any particular time. Being next to said mountain, there was hardly any discernible TV or radio reception. So afternoons were spent, not doing anything much. There was a cinema showing Hindustani movies in town. But that would entail a lonely walk back after the show.
Bear in mind, this was during the height of the Emergency and curfew was imposed after hours. There were soldiers in the area, as there were Communist guerillas.
She was serving here when the infamous Baling talks were held between the nation's founder, Tunku Abdul Rahman with Chin Peng, leader of the Malayan Communist Party. To say that the residents were not nervous would be a stretch.
She stayed for three years until her posting to Jerantut, Pahang.
We visited Baling today. The old hospital could not be traced. Development or perhaps, MRSM, has descended upon the sleepy hallow and there were so many people that to my mother, it is no longer recognizable.
Friday, December 20, 2013
St Google, patron saint of the interwebs, has said that in walling away one's heart against sorrow, one also runs the risk of shutting off any lurking joy or any chance encounter with happiness.
At times I am not sure that it is such a bad trade off.
As I think of reinvention, I wonder what is it that I need to change. Who is it that I want to be.
I think often of the fool's errand of hoping a different result by doing the same things. Hence by deduction, the only way I can live differently is by doing the opposite of what I tend to. Or more extremely, being a different person than I was before.
I came across an old letter I wrote but didn't post to a friend in HK. Written more than 11 years ago, I was saddened that it ranted about more or less the same issues of low esteem, of desperation for acceptance, of not applying one's self and the lack of courage. How clueless i was and how lowly I aspired.
I still can relate to that frightened young woman. She has never truly grown up or grown out of her insecurities because she never really had to. Until now.
Soul searching has never been easy for the lost especially when the spirit and compass are broken.
My habit of relinquishing decision making to others is a thinly veiled ceding of responsibility stemming from a dislike of making the wrong decision and having others blame me. Apparently I dislike being unpopular hence I take no chances and stand on the fence. Unconfrontational and eager to please, I let people use and step all over me, thinking that I am being kind and accommodating. A fool and a doormat. Neither heard nor respected. Wearing my heart on my sleeves.
Hence the first course of action is to kill that weakness. I found out the hard way that in the end, nobody would stick up for me. My battles are my own and I have to wield my axe and be my own hero.
Second, to never expect kindness or charity repaid. It should be dispensed for its own sake to the deserving. People will judge and precious few would offer empathy when tables are turned. Harsh but my first priority is to safeguard my own interests and protect my own happy. unless its for dogs, then provide freely.
To stop worrying about other people's feelings especially to those who have not extended the same courtesy. To collect whatever that is left of my pride and nurture it back to life. Nobody respects a weeping mess.
To make decisions and bear responsibilities. Be it financial investments or dinner.
To have courage against loneliness and rejection. this basically means getting a dog.
This does sound like i am turning into an ice queen. For now perhaps that is what I need to be. Being an emotional mess has not done me any good in the past few months. Now by sealing off the emotions I can get back to functioning again. At least that is the plan.
In my last post I referenced being enough. The fallacy that being who you are is good enough is perpetuated by well meaning parents (well some anyway), feel good gurus and a beauty industry that can't make up its mind whether it is selling to normal women or destroying them.
The preoccupation about weight and looks both disturbs and disappoints me. More so now than ever in my life. People are shallow despite whatever intellectual veneer they put on. It is hypocrisy when they themselves cannot claim to any outstanding intellectual or physical superiority.
As I am coming to grips with reality, I get more 'truth' and 'advice' thrown at me. The last thing I ever expected is to be told that I need to go on a diet, that I will have a chance to succeed. That I am SO fat. That I don't qualify as attractive.
Yes it hurts. For one's self to be reduced to a dress size to be worthy. And I don't buy into the faux concern of "its only to be healthy" crap because I don't see anyone asking about my mental health or creatinine levels.
Despite the magazine articles that say girls should have a positive self image, the reality is that if she does not fit a certain size, she would need a gigantic personality to make it up. Or money.
Men can look like Larry King and still marry a Playboy bunny. I am sure they click on an intellectual level.
It is not that I have been ignorant to this truism but what I didn't expect was the people I actually once respected and thought to be above this rubbish are the ones dishing it out.
So it is then. The way the cookie crumbles.
Judging and disdain can go both ways. people forget that beauty wanes, money dries up and youth fades.
I would be waiting. With "advice" ready and blades sharpened.
Lying with my back on the ground, to my left and right, the trees tower so tall. Like redwoods. And the cacophonous wilderness chatter chatter chatter curious, jeering, encouraging, judging.. Or are they sounds echoing in my head.
Like Enid Blyton's Enchanted Forest ..they go Wisha wisha wisha..wish a..?
Wish that I am enough, with my strengths and mostly failings. Yet it appears being human is the one thing that we have to guard ourselves against.
Wish that I can accept things that I can't change. That burying the dead is not so hard.
Wish that courage can be found in facing an uncertain future.
Wish that when the sky fell, the moon and stars didn't all fall in together and bury me further into the dirt.
Wisha wisha wisha
So now that I have to wriggle my toes and climb up again, I don't know which way anymore. All lessons learnt only make me suspicious of the world and people and my own choices.
This week I awoke with a distinct fear that I may not live. It is one thing to contemplate ending one's life, which admittedly is a popular pastime with the morbidly depressed, but to actually face with its actual possibility, it's a different kettle of mackerel altogether. To die on one's terms is presumably preferable to having it imposed on one, which would leave most people quite annoyed and indignant no doubt.
A fear then sets in. Not so much of the end itself but all the things left undone. Suspending Belief for just a second, contemplate the chance that there is no rebirth, kingdom of god, spirit world - assuming just for a little while that THIS is all you have, the fear and regret that time has been squandered in procrastination can be quite moving. Of course I can't speak for everyone. Some are very happy with their mark in life - be it beautiful offspring or sponsoring clean water in Rwanda, legacies and life experiences make time on earth worth something.
My past 10 years have been mostly about existing. Easing myself in a work-life environment where I thought would eventually lead to a house with a picket fence, kids terrorising the dog in the yard, friends over for currypuffs, annual holidays to play snow or ride elephants, you know, a domestic goddess, the hostess with the mostest. No surprises that I am not living like a Weasley but what on earth made me think that I deserve a story book ending. Fairy tales are cruel things to inflict upon the young and not so young.
I thought that by now I would have everything figured out. I just expected things to fall into place magically as they should. The loud buzzer and red lights flash WRONG and just like vaudeville - a long curved cane yanked me off my feet and deposited me right where I am now.
Its humbling to start back from ground zero again when the redwoods loom above. But maybe its my second chance to start again. Alone and afraid, this time a little wiser of the world.