Monday, November 05, 2012

Dhaka

Whatever is here, is found elsewhere. But what is not here, is nowhere else.

One of my most poignant memories of Dhaka is of sitting in an airport cafe, alone, at midnight, sipping chai, waiting for my 1.20 am flight back home. A little surreal in the sensory aftermath of what is the intensity of the city, the insane traffic, the smiling doctors, the shameless beggars, the vibrant colours coated in dust.

I was exhausted from being awake for 20 hours although the last 7 hour wait at Chittagong was not exactly unpleasant. I found Chittagong fascinating. I have never seen so many tankers on the waterways and because it was days before eid, there were rows and rows of cattle tied to stakes alongside the main road. I felt sorry for the poor skinny cows.

Spent a good part of the day at the boat club eating chips, falooda and this dreadful thing called chicken manchurian upon the goading of my Indian counterpart. It's a Indian interpretation of meatballs done Chinese style. In the land of spice and rice and everything nice, this was an abomination. Seriously.

Of course the boat club was just a place to park after the day's mission which was essentially to visit the Chittagong general hospital. Crowded, dark, lacking in facilities, lacking in nurses, herein lies humanity at its most humble, desperate and forlorn.

From what I have seen, God does not reside in gilded houses. God walks the peeling corridors and sweltering rooms, gathering prayers of hope and fervour as only the sick and poor can offer. Its the same in every hospital. In my suit, I felt embarrassed for having so much in a place that has so little. With time people get sensitise to this. I hope never to. The professors we met were very hospitable naturally and they lament their lack of resources to save lives. It's not so different from Dhaka after all. Or the rest of the developing world.

In the previous weeks, I did get quite a bit of ribbing from the people at the office for my Bangladesh assignment. Being a third world country, it is hard for people unaccustomed to poverty to feel any affection for it. Understandable I suppose.

Still I despaired so much when I saw the poverty that I missed the beauty, music and art therein. I wondered if I was so condescending that I was blinded to happiness just because it does not conform to my ideals. Oh what a disservice.

I am reminded of the passenger seated next to me when I first arrived. Upon landing, he breathed a proud "DHAKA!" as he has not been back for the last 8 years. And while waiting for my luggage I see bundles and boxes of blankets, toys, clothes. And the families waiting at the gates! I then ardently wished that more people back home could see how our migrant workers are also dearly loved sons and fathers. But sadly too many are too blind because it's much easier to exploit the nameless.

It was a very moving trip in many ways. The disparity of course still upsets me. But then, what good is a broken heart. Self pity is self indulgence. Point is to do something.

The trip also lead me to the Mahabarata where after I confided in my colleague of my philosophical reservations in what I do, he promptly told me to seek Arjuna. But that story is for another day.

 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stream of consciousness

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.

I am certainly no Somerset Maugham and despite all solemn aspirations to write regularly, attempts have been feeble at most. Time is no friend of mine. From the premature crows feet to the open all hours purgatory that shares my employer's name, its my karmic retribution for listless days squandered in idleness.

Nevertheless the need to write overtakes me with such passion at times that I ought to get checked out for whiplash. And despite or rather in spite of turning over many a leaf, it's the familiar motivations that draw me back to the keyboard - the same desire to take stock of the world, seeking that elusive clarity and redemption.

Still, writing is an indulgence. Like a truffle, heady, arduous and mostly because some pigs have been involved in getting one to this point.

Despite trying to straight jacket my right brain so that I can crunch figures all day without wanting to throw myself against a wall, I deeply envy those whose daily jobs involve mind bending creativity. (financial creativity does not fall under this category. Mostly it's called fraud. Not good.)

Speaking of art, after my tour of museums and their respective catalogues, my observation is that yes, glory can be harnassed and nailed on the wall. Yet today, everyday creativity - pure and unadulterated, lives on the streets. No longer the vestal virgin in hallowed halls but the wise cracking, weed smoking, sex mongering, public space occupying Eco warrior. Its in your face with its subtle nuances and makes you wonder, what the hell is this all about and how do you come along for the ride.

My current infatuation is with Herakut. Hera and Akut are two German graphic designers who do awesome-est street art. Something that can and will get you arrested in Malaysia if it's slogans are too rebellious for political zealots ever ready to go the punative route to demonstrate their righteousness. My favourite piece featured here.

Back to the hoity toity art scene. What I find, as a stranger looking in, is that while the expression and appreciation of art and even music, is all embracing, yet the fraternity is unapologetically clique-y, requiring initiation of some sort into their esteemed presence. Between snobbery and pride, who is to say which one is which. Yet, I am sure you will at some point or anther, find yourself in the company of a particularly distinguished practitioner, or worse - critic, who will forget that they are mortal and invite bodily harm by being an educated asshole. You can usually hear them from afar as they be speaking the English as if they were tutored by Princess Anne herself. And they be obnoxious as a cat and loud as a donkey. Still, I should not be insulting the animals.

Okay enough with the insults. Time for bed.

 

Monday, July 02, 2012

Peanut

Nut brown bun

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tadaa!

I lost Salem to sickness sometime back. And as my other bunny was looking so forlorn, status quo had to be restored.  Hence, introducing my debutante - Patches. 

Ohai! 
Patches is a 4-month-old broken black pedigree Holland Lop.  Yes, she is a high class bunny. 

When I got my first Holland Lop over 5 years ago (RIP, Oreo), there was no such thing as pedigree. I don't think the guy at Pet's Wonderland could even pronounce it. And I got Peanut, my tort American Fuzzy Lop, from a very pedestrian Sunday bazaar in Subang Parade. 

I iz cuteness, iz I not? 
I was surprised to learn that these days, most breeders (and there are now LOTS) sell mostly pedigrees lops now. Pedigree generally means that there is a record of the rabbit's lineage.  Since you can determine its bloodline, it supposes quality but it is of course no guarantee. 

Mai sexy profile view for RabbitFinder.com
Still, pedigree is important for serious owners participating at rabbit shows. Yes, there are now rabbit shows in Malaysia too. The latest one was just last week - the 2nd American Rabbit Breeder's Association  (ARBA) Rabbit Show 2012.  Its now turning into a business and it became quickly obvious that not all breeders are pet lovers.  

Stop stalking me already!
Anyway, do not let Patches fool you with her impossible cuteness. She is mischief on 4 paws who would pee on everywhere BUT her litter box.  Peanut is anxious for her to grow up so that she can be her groomer (that lazy git). Peanut is already shoving her nose into Patches' face and she is all WTF.  In anycase, rabbit rearing is serious and my servitude has begun once again.  

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Reading list!

And the list is done! Please check the new page and with me luck!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sense making

Sense making.
I like the word. Although I am not so sure if there is any use in embarking on such an endeavour, because the most important things in life don't really make sense and frequently won't matter either way.

Be it broken hearts, war or  irresistible attraction to high calories.  Life sucks one day and redeems itself on another.

Perhaps our human need to explain the universe is the one thing that propels us in the opposite direction. The more we learn, the less we know and we can either drive ourselves mad in trying to figure out if is it us, or if it's karma or if our marionette strings are being yanked randomly by some higher power.

I suppose what really matters is what are we going to do about it.

Postscript :
Having a change of mind after lunch  ( Tempe and  ikan kembong  I'd have you know) would warrant a rewrite of the above but I admit that I am lazy.
The left brain was a little disturbed that its counterpart suggests all abandon of dissection and critical thinking to obediently  accept the pronouncements of the fates, and just wing it as it comes along.

Surely our study of history is testament that we look upon the past to find out why we did what we did.  Sometime we even learn from it.
E.g. Don't arm dictators.
Don't buy hillside properties.
Don't drink beer and durian in same sitting.

It just occurred to me (with rare optimism) that we are on this never-ending quest of connecting the dots  all for the sake of avoiding more conflict, generating more happiness and to  finally finally arrive at the point when after the 1001th attempt, the  lightbulb will not blow out and instead shine true.

It's the mother of invention, catalyst for creation and even basis of absolution.

So do I make sense?
So in the spirit of randomness here is a picture of a  dog

Mainstream misogyny

Now, I am not one who would call herself a feminist by any traditional sense (long story, buy me tea and we will talk). Yet I am very disturbed by all the trash talk that is directed towards women in the public sphere. I can't even read the comments in stupid sites like 9gags even without leaving feeling deeply offended. Sure infantile humour is the nature of the beast of sites like these but I refuse to think that it makes it justifiable.

Having a sense of humour and a sense of decency ought not be mutually exclusive. And what is troubling is how it is flourishing across numerous online forums and communities, and unsurprisingly based in first world countries where gender equality and mutual respect have claimed their highest victory. Greta Christina has an interesting discussion on misogyny and the firestorm that was over the threats of rape of the 15 year old girl who posted on Reddit. You can read it here

Of course of course I am neglecting the numerous others which have little tolerance for such crude behavior and as the world will always have fascists, child molesters and murderers, there will still be jerks who don't know better. I am ashamed to say that I personally know a few too.

As it is terms such as bitches, whores and hoes have become increasingly mainstream. The sexualising of women remains and as new derisions creep into our daily lives through the power of language, it gives those references credence and implicit acceptance by the collective.

I feel so strongly about this that I am herewith even going to plagiaries Oprah. She derided young women from calling each other bitches, hoes and what-nots because by calling ourselves that, we are telling men what to call us. I refuse to believe that anyone will not be insulted if she was thrown a humiliating and degrading remark, and by not standing up for another woman it's sheer betrayal.

And guys, although you may think it scores points with your other mates and would make you sound street/ghetto/ whatever cesspool you think would matter, it speaks volumes of your own upbringing and strength of character.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Power of Introverts

I am not sure if it's providence or coincidence. Perhaps it's just a matter of seeing what I want in the random wilderness.

It was on Twitter I think that I first stumbled upon the fine line that read,"better write for yourself and have no audience than write for an audience and not be yourself." which of course resonated with me much since I have no audience to speak of anyway. So that kind of works out.

And today I came across Susan Cain making an excellent arguement for introversion on one of the latest TED Talks. I will post it up soon. The fact that I could related to everything she says provides affirmation that I am an introvert surreptitiously passing off as an extrovert, albeit with varying success.

Yet throughout my life I have found myself surrounded not by just any extrovert but of the most outstanding pedigree. whether it is my feeding off their gregariousness or just living vicariously or perhaps even a misplaced sense of personality envy, I find extroverts make great companions to introverts. Them whose boisterous presence and experiences give off just enough excitement but not too much that we can't later return to our comfort zones of solitude.

Yet is it true that society treasures the extrovert? Well they get heard for one. We engage the world through mediums that accommodate and propagate millions of voices. From the Internet to cable tv, the noise is deafening. Our cities are expanding, classrooms increasing, competition rising, impatience growing. On the surface speaking softly and quiet contemplation don't seem to sit well with this brave new world.

I would end this post with my favorite quote from Ms Cain's presentation - I wish you the best of all possible journeys and to have courage to speak softly

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Chinese New Year

Its the eve of the eve.

Time fled from me and I didn't even bid goodbye to 2011 properly. And in a couple of days, the Lunar New Year would be upon us. When the season's tackiness is personified in every shade of red, orange and gold.

When the soft sliding of well worn  mah jong tiles accompany the blaring of the latest New Year remix (which sounds the same every year) and visitations by flirtatious lions with fluttering eyes and wagging tails.    

Despite all my disdain for a culture which has lived up to its stereotype, I am still its heir and as I grow older, embracing my birth right becomes more poignant.

I crave for kopi o today. Black and sweet as sin. And I enjoy it best every year, pour our with a ladle through a tapis into a beer stein to be enjoyed sitting on the floor, in the eye of a whirling chaos comprising of screaming children, gambling adults and an ambling pet dog.    

And like that kopi o, the chaos becomes tradition, to be taken for granted and willed to last forever until too soon it becomes a memory, which in time, would be come distant and romanticised.

This would be my first year without the familiar din. Its been about 10 months since the passing of my grandmother, the family matriarch and the centre than held everyone together. And as things fall apart, without the centre to hold, swirling satellites drift to find new orbits, keeping some of the old and creating new traditions of their own.

It is too soon for me to say whether I miss the rambunctiousness.  But I do miss her. And I fully appreciate the significance of tradition as a way of reaching across time and space to honour, remember and perhaps find a little comfort.